Parish duties resume as per normal this coming weekend and the clergy look forward to seeing you at Mass on Saturday and Sunday. So what did we do on our holidays?

Father Nicholas had the more exotic break having toured the far East before catching up with his eldest son who now lives in Hong Kong. And who should he bump into whilst ambling along the street? Only the Ordinary, Monsignor Keith Newton, who was passing through on his way to an historic meeting of the three Ordinaries (UK, American and Australia) in Australia. He sent the picture above as evidence that you can never hide from ecclesial authority!

Meanwhile the family Tomlinson were fortunate to spend a delightful week in Brittany, thanks to the generosity of a priest friend who owns property there. The coastline there is breathtaking and many a day was spent on the beach and in the sea. The photograph at the top of this blogpost shows me holding the ‘alien head’ seaweed the children discovered and not the head of a modernist as somebody suggested on Facebook….

When out of the sea the children enjoyed exploring the local Chateaux. Which, as this photograph shows, can be very thirsty business. Well what does one visit France for if not the wine?

I do hope blog readers managed to have a little down time over the summer. Now to some hard work over the coming weeks when the daily parish round, new stained glass windows and fonts and exploring opportunities for the local Ordinariate will take precedence.  Two days of holiday left….perhaps I could empty another bottle of wine for the children to play with?

Isn’t this a wonderful photograph of our refurbished Sacred Heart chapel? It really shows off the fine quality of our C. R Ashbee reredos in all of its beauty. The beauty of the celebrant is a more subjective matter on which I have no desire to comment.

This post is to alert locals that, as of this morning, I am away from parish duties until Saturday 2nd September. As Father Nicholas is also away- on his tour of the far East and spending time with his son who is resident there- it means there will be no midweek worship until the 2nd of September, when 9am Mass will be offered.

Next Sunday Deacon Robert Smith will conduct an 8am service of holy communion from the reserved sacrament in place of Low Mass. We then welcome Fr. Simon Heans, of the Ordinariate, as celebrant for the 9:15am and 11am Mass. Having subbed for us a few times already he is known to the parish and we are very grateful to him. Welcome back!

Meanwhile I shall be spending a few days in Brittany. The children inform me that there is much work to do;sand to be dug, castles to be constructed and ice cream to consume. I myself am thinking more of crepes, cider, beer wine, cheese, snails and good wine! It should be lots of fun and I will try to share news on this blog.

A big thank you, in my absence, to our extra-ordinary ministers who will ensure the sacrament gets to the sick. Dishonest crooks please note that the presbytery will not be empty but in regular use and under close scrutiny! If you need a priest in an emergency then telephone St. Augustine’s parish in Tunbridge Wells on 01892 522525.

There is a theme to blog posts this week, it must be something in the air!

Today’s love-birds are Benjamin Harwood and Sophia Small who are getting married today at St. Dunstan’s Church in Southborough at 12 noon. The setting has been chosen because it has long been the worshipping community of Sophia’s family. I was invited to be the celebrant because Ben and I are friends and members together of Tunbridge Wells Rugby Football Club!

Over the last few months Sophia and Ben have been given spiritual preparation at St. Anselm’s and today crown their love in a celebration of holy matrimony according to the Ordinariate Rite; the language of which is rich, beautiful and steeped in the English spiritual tradition. Here is an excerpt:

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the sight of God and in the presence of this congregation, to witness the joining together of this man and this woman in Holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God himself, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church; which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence, and first miracle that he wrought, in Cana of Galilee, and is commended in Holy Writ to be honourable among all men; and therefore is not by any to be enterprised, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly; but reverently, discreetly, soberly, and in the fear of God, duly considering the causes for which Matrimony was ordained.

First, it was ordained for the increase of mankind according to the will of God, and that children might be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name.

Secondly, it was ordained in order that the natural instincts and affections, implanted by God, should be hallowed and directed aright; that those who are called of God to this holy estate, should continue therein in pureness of living.

Thirdly, it was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity. Into which holy estate these two persons present come now to be joined.

Therefore if any one can show any just cause, why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him now speak, or else hereafter for ever hold his peace.


Congratulation Ben and Sophia! The 9am Mass at St. Anselm’s is being offered for you this morning. May God richly bless you and bind you together in love and fidelity.

Congratulations to Tom & Eireana who are getting married next autumn. Before moving to Bournemouth, to be closer to his fiancé, Tom was a a regular worshipper at St. Anselm’s and, for a period of time, our Director of Music. He was also a part of the original Ordinariate Group who moved across from St. Barnabas parish in nearby Tunbridge Wells.

I am sure the entire congregation will join me in wishing the couple all the best for the future as they embrace the holy estate of Christian matrimony.

Tom will never be forgotten in Pembury due to our purchase of a digital hymnal, used when regular organist Peter (and Francis) cannot play; it has been nicknamed ‘Robot Tom’! But although it gets us through services without missing a note- it could never replace the real thing! Congratulations to them both…by which I refer to Tom and Eireana not Tom and Robot Tom.

Tomorrow is major feast of the Church, the Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven and a day of holy obligation. We shall be offering a Sung Mass at 7pm followed by devotions at the Marian Shrine.

It often surprises people to learn that the feast is a very ancient one, celebrated universally by the sixth century. The earliest printed reference to the belief that Mary’s body was assumed into Heaven dating from the fourth, in a document entitled “The Falling Asleep of the Holy Mother of God.” The document is written by St John to whom Christ on the Cross had entrusted the care of His mother, and recounts the death, laying in the tomb, and assumption of the Blessed Virgin.

Tradition places Mary’s death at Jerusalem or at Ephesus, where John was living. On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII, in one of the rare moments in which papal infallibility was exercised, declared the assumption to be a dogma of the Church “that the Immaculate Mother, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.

I need to come clean. It is me. And others like me. We are the ones out of favour with certain members of the hierarchy and therefore find ourselves marginalised, even demonised at times, and called names like ‘rigid’ and ‘neo-palagian’.

It is us who frustrate the desired programme of change by refusing to liberalise on matters of faith, morals, doctrine and scripture; that the church might be in vogue with the world. It is us. We are the rigid. But why? What compels us to swim against the tide and not join this modernist revolution?

Here is what I would say to those who label me as rigid.

First it gives us no pleasure. It isn’t much fun existing on the naughty step, even if God has blessed me as I sit here! Like many who attempt to be faithful to the magisterium, when so many prelates favour the ‘modernist approach’, my ministry has involved glass ceilings, invisible walls and alienation. This doesn’t bother me much – for I love my parish- but its worth noting because this cost speaks of conviction. We rigid are not being difficult for the sake of it. Nor scared, backwards, stupid or uncaring- as claimed by those who dislike us- rather it is a matter of conscience. We believe modernism is wrong. Very wrong. A heresy in fact. And therefore feel compelled to state it even to the point of suffering if necessary.

Why do I think modernism wrong? Because, in multiple ways, it has failed to convince me. Ultimately us rigids have weighed up the evidence and, sorry modernists, your calls for liberalisation just don’t add up…and I speak as a Christian with a lot of experience. All my Christian life I have witnessed decline in the Christian faith and culture of the West. And the hours I spent studying and praying and examining and experiencing Christianity, at one time in a very liberal Anglican seminary incidentally, in two different denominations and across a raft of churchmanship, has led me to one conclusion; its modernism silly! That is the problem. Not the faith.

The claim has ever been that a more liberal/modernist/progressive direction guarantees renewal for the Church. But there exists no evidence whatsoever to support the claim. Quite the reverse. Which is hardly surprising given that the entire history of Christianity teaches the polar opposite; that radical fidelity and witness lead to sanctification and God. Nevertheless many Christians have embraced modernism and I have witnessed first hand how they then tend to fall away, to become more secular in outlook, more faithful to the beliefs of the present secular age than to the revealed Word of God.

Why do many still choose it, given its awful track record? Partly because some know no better, its all they have experienced, others because modernism is convenient; it demands little and promises a life of comfort and ease in this world. It allows for a cafeteria faith- the tribal belonging but without the rigour and discipline. Which is to say it chimes with the West at present. And because 1970’s clerics (the fathers of this revolution) are now in the ascendancy it is experiencing revival. Yet let us not be so foolish as to confuse popularity with success. The awful television programme ‘Love Island’ may be popular- it doesn’t make it any good!

So leaving aside the unsurprising popularism of a loose and easy faith let us explore its fruit. And here we reveal a paucity of spiritual edification. Most Catholic schools opted for modernism since the seventies and what did they churn out? Not many authentic Christians, if we are honest, but militant lapsed atheists with a strong social conscience are two a penny. What we seem to have taught was a type of Marxist activism- a focus on the philosophy of man not God. Little wonder the budget for worship in most of these schools is less than negligible and few of the teachers practice themselves.

Next we might consider how it was on the watch of a modernist leadership that rot set into Western faith to the point that we enabled the secular mindset, so hostile to Catholic faith, to take over. So many dioceses are run like businesses today and not as houses of prayer. Modernist prelates have become line managers not pastoral shepherds and defenders of faith. They are seldom seen in parishes for their time is taken up in so many meetings and with bureaucracy. Priests too are sidelined by a strange understanding of lay ministry that encourages everyone to take up occupancy of the sanctuary, therby emasculating clergy and stealing their sacred functions,  instead of going out into the world to serve as evangelists!

And who can deny a loss of beauty and reverence in modernist worship? Little wonder seminaries emptied and parishes closed where houses of God became mundane and unappealing. And statistics back this up. Liberalisation leads to decline no matter the denomination. Yet still the trend persists….and for some reason it is the prelates whose own dioceses have experienced the greatest decline who currently have the loudest voices in this papacy. Why are we listening to the voice of the church in Belgium where zero growth is found? Why don’t we listen to the voice of China and Africa where growth is impressive?

And consider liturgical experience in recent decades. My experience of modernist worship is dreadful. Sorry but it is. Awful music, poor teaching and chummy embarrassing attempts at entertainment have become normative. The emphasis is all wrong- it seems to be on championing man and celebrating the community- not worshiping the God of scripture. Where is the reverence? Where is the awe? Where is the righteous fear of the Lord? So much seems off where worship is banal and dumbed down and devoid of supernatural awareness. Whereas I find a more traditional hymnody centred on Christ and I find the use of altar rails and historic Christian art stirs my soul to worship. So worship proves another nail in the coffin for modernism in my book. Where is the depth and  beauty? The holiness and  fidelity to Christ?

And, whilst I am on a roll, there is the intellectual life. Sorry modernists but your arguments seem shallow in contrast to orthodox thinkers like Pope Benedict XVI and the desert fathers. You ever hide behind clever ambiguity but you avoid both truth and clarity. The very things that appeal to me. So this again fails to convince.

In modernist praxis I see only impoverishment of living faith then and this makes me suspicious of real motives. It cannot be coincidence that many of the voices calling for a downplaying of moral teaching are the ones embroiled in scandals; lurid murals involving sexual licentiousness to the erection of a St Gallen Mafia to subvert the role of the Holy Spirit even to reported orgies in the Vatican. How do these men survive? It seems only the orthodox are punished- the modernists protected at all costs.

So there you have it modernists. Understand nobody who knows me personally views me as rigid. Only you. Because you have failed to convince me.  Failed because, as I see it, liberalisation breeds only surface popularism and fails to win souls for Christ. Oh I know it  delights those who want faith neutered- including atheists, nominal Christians, those enslaved to particular sin etc, – but it does not encourage real and living faith. The sort I want for my children. Which means instead of baptising all nations in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you stand with Pilate, asking  ‘what is truth?’and visibly shrinking from certainty, integrity and obedience. For that reason I am out. I stand with the saints not you.

See I didn’t give my life to the priesthood to make the church like the world, or to excuse the sexual revolution. I did it for Jesus because I believe the Gospel! I am for the magisterium. The dubia reflects my concerns and I thank God for those who raise it. For if traditional Christian faith built the West it still has much to offer. And if saints and martyrs lived by this faith by grace and flourished – so can we! And in defence I refer you to Revelation 3:16 and the entire letter to Timothy.

Therefore I mean to remain rigid in the faith of the Apostles until my dying breath, hopefully beyond that. Though not being a very good Christian I cannot guarantee it. But nevertheless I shall not apologise for it.

With that said by all means let us debate mercy- how might we reach out in love and help the church become a hospital for sinners not just a club for the holy? I love the way you think that important. So do I. I will debate this with joy -for I am actually quite a liberal chap underneath it all- it is just that when it comes to the faith itself well that is not up for grabs. Non negotiable no matter my feelings. On that I am rigid. I think its what God asks of us. Struggling sinners that we all are.

Father Nicholas is currently holidaying in the Far East ahead of visiting his eldest son in Hong Kong. This week he travelled to Japan where he hunted down Fr. Kajiwari; a most fascinating cleric occupying a unique role within the Catholic church.

For Fr. Kajiwari is a former Anglican, and one time student of the Cuddesdon theological college, who has gone on to establish the only Ordinariate Group in Japan. The group is only small but very committed to the vision laid down by Pope Benedict and is linked to the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross whose Ordinary is based in Australia.

Fr. Kajiwari was delighted to welcome Fr. Nicholas, not least because the group is, for matters of geography, somewhat isolated. Not that they are the most remote group within the Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross…that honour goes to a group in a most remote part of Papua New Guinea whose services can only be accessed by canoe!

There is something heartwarmingly eccentric about little offshoots of the Ordinariate springing up across the globe in the most unlikely of places. It certainly reflects an Anglican Patrimony! But it serves as a reminder to us that our mission is not only local but universal, a call to be part of the reform of the reform, with its dedication to good preaching and liturgy, that lay at the heart of Benedict’s pontificate.

May God richly bless Fr. Kajiwari and the Japanese Ordinariate. And all groups of Christians throughout the world who witness to something special despite being small in number. Where two or three are gathered….


And this morning we had holidaying visitors too. Father Andrew Starkey of the Ordinariate group in Manchester concelebrated the 11am Mass and a good portion of his family were in the congregation. We were especially grateful to his son, Thomas, who stepped in and played the organ.