This week we celebrate two great feasts within the Catholic Church.

On Wednesday the white/gold vestments will be out to celebrate the feast of All Saints. A day of holy obligation meaning that all Catholics, save the gravely ill and very young children, should be present at Mass. In Pembury we shall hold a special Sung Mass at 7pm to which everyone is invited. In the morning I celebrate Mass for our local Catholic Secondary School and in the afternoon for Catholics in a local prison.

This will be followed, on Thursday, by the feast of All Souls when we shall be using the beautiful black vestments. A time when the church throughout the world prays for the holy souls in purgatory. A time to consider our own mortality and eternal destination.

It has become a custom in Pembury to offer a different from of intercessions than usual at this Mass; in place of spoken petitions, we make time for silent prayer, the lighting of candles and bringing forward of crosses, inscribed with the names of loved ones, to place before the altar as the choir sing the Kontakion- or vespers from the dead. Mass at 7pm.

There is something special about evening Mass. Let us come together and support these occasions in number to deepen our personal faith, to support one another and to show the centrality of the Christian feasts within our lives.

A big thank you to all those who helped with the cake and craft sale that took place between the 9:15am and 11am Mass this morning. I am delighted to announce that all but ten of the cakes were sold – the 11am worshippers hoovering up what those at 9:15am did not purchase themselves. The contribution to the window and lighting fund will be totted up on Tuesday and announced next weekend.

Because a few raffle books are still outstanding- and we want to maximise profits- we delayed the raffle draw by one week until next Sunday. We have LOTS of wonderful prizes for people to win- including a carvery for two at the Black Horse public house and tickets to the current exhibition at the National Gallery. Purchasing more tickets becomes a sound investment then. Thank you to all who have already done so and to those who have donated prizes.

Don’t be the person who arrives an hour early for Mass tomorrow morning and looks bewildered. Remember the clocks go back tonight. Enjoy the extra hour of rest and then comes the darkening nights, the log fires, firework displays, All Saints and All Souls, Christ the King and the approach of Advent!

The parish website has been updated- with some new pictures and more up to date information. The only remaining piece of the jigsaw is to replace the photograph of outgoing (long gone) Tom on the music page with a mugshot of incoming (already in place) Aidan; who assures me he is sending a suitable picture post haste…Don’t forget that the website contains a link to the parish bulletin to keep people up to date with our news and service programme.

Meanwhile there is great news on the parish restoration front. The Worshipful Company of Glaziers, who have kindly gifted us the magnificent window pictured above (click to enlarge), have finished cleaning and restoring it. The next step, which Fr. Nicholas is overseeing, is to have the window fixed into a sturdy frame. Once framed we shall then liaise with our builders and fix a date for it to be placed into the sanctuary to replace the existing window which is more suited to a hall. Exciting stuff!

So far we have raised £5774.50 pounds of the £10,000 target we set at the beginning of August. A huge thank you to everyone who has contributed. The generosity shown means we now have the funds to get the window in place but are still working towards a target to enable us to update the lighting in church; which is woefully inadequate and will become worse once the window is in place and we lose some natural light. A card and cake sale is being held between the 9:15am and 11am Mass this Sunday to further boost the fund. Please bring your wallets!!

Forgive me for beating my favoured drum but this needs repeating ad nauseam.

The church is currently split between those who imagine conforming the church to the ‘Spirit of the age’:

  • brings greater credibility/relevance and leads to growth.

And those who believe conforming the church to the ‘Spirit of the age’:

  • erodes credibility and authority and leads to decline and fracture.

The evidence is with the latter group. The power with the former.

For evidence consider the liberalisation of Anglicanism which has led to a such  toxic climate that members of that communion no longer stand together- even at the altar! What was a united body has been reduced, by the modernist experiment, to an umbrella organisation for bitterly divided factions.

Should the Catholic church take the same road, and many of the current hierarchy seem to desire this, the result will be no different. Schism is the only possible endgame when current praxis and historic doctrine are brought into conflict.

SHARED PROCLAMATION OF TRUTH GUARANTEES UNITY- not touchy feely half truth designed to make faith palatable to the world. No matter how clever the sophistry provided to hold such compromise together. That is why liberal congregations are dying, losing vocations and closing parishes. But orthodox congregations experience growth where enabled to flourish.

Alas, many in ecclesial authority today are the instigators of the 60’s and 70’s modernist experiment. And having given their entire lives and ministry to said experiment, they are now too blind/ stubborn to concede its obvious failure. So they continue to marginalise/undermine authentic Catholicism- the expression of faith that works- and strain every sinew encouraging change that the magisterium does not allow- the expression of faith that always flounders.

That, in a nutshell, is the crisis of the church in our day.

We are going to support the shoebox appeal again this year as a parish. It is such a simple but effective way of showing care to those living in poverty and sharing the good news of Christ’s birth in a way that reflects an authentic Christian outlook.

The deadline for receiving the boxes is 7th November. The boxes we fill as a parish will then be added to those being organised by the children and families at St. Augustine’s school. They will then be collected by the organisation running the programme and driven to Albania in time for Christmas.

There are six steps to filling your shoebox. Forms are available in church.

  1. An obvious first step is to source an empty shoebox.
  2. Wrap shoebox in festive wrapping paper.
  3. Pack the box with suitable items
  4. Fill out form to inform if box is best for child, man, elderly etc…
  5. Add a donation – at least £3 to cover postage.
  6. Deliver the box to church or St. Augustine’s school

The best items to pack are soap, toothpaste and toothbrush, hat, scarf and gloves, socks, small toys, sweets, stationary, etc…

I am delighted to announce that, this coming Sunday, Fr. Alexander Sherbrooke will be our guest preacher at the 9:15am and 11am Mass. Do spread the word locally and make sure you get there. He is an absolute gentleman and always, in my opinion, worth listening to. Beneath the bushiest eyebrows in Christendom lies a towering intellect and great sense of humour.

Fr. Sherbrooke has overseen the transformation of St. Patrick’s Church in Soho. Today that church is an impressive hub of activity – offering all night adoration to the passing night life, running activities for the homeless, teaching the young, etc.. The church has also been transformed architecturally and is now a dignified and beautiful worship space. Do call in if you are ever in that part of London. It stands on the corner of Soho Square.

Congratulations to Tom Davis, one time member of our parish, who married his bride, Eireana in the ancient church of St. Andrew’s, Tolpuddle on Saturday. The two now fly off to Italy for honeymoon and I am sure the entire congregation here, and all readers of the blog, will join me in praying that their future life is a happy and fruitful one.

The service was interesting professionally as it was conducted according to the Apostolic Pentecostal tradition, to which Eireana belongs. A liturgical expression, it is fair to state, at the opposite end of the liturgical candle to St. Anselm’s. It wasn’t quite enough to raise aloft the arms of Fr. Leviseur or myself… though we might have raised an eyebrow; stiff and boring English gentlemen, like us, never were suited to charismatic worship!

After the service the guests travelled to a superb venue to enjoy a delicious wedding breakfast, and evening’s entertainment. Above you see a good photograph of the couple ruined by some grandad in a bib. Does he look a little familiar to those of us in Pembury?

The venue was Athelhampton House, a gorgeous 15th Century residence in Dorset. The food really was first rate and so were the musicians. And as the evening drew to an end it was delightful to enjoy time away from children and parish to sit in the gardens with Hayley, chatting, as we gazed up at the night sky in all its magnificence. No matter how many years married – we need such time together.

As you see below the one obvious flaw is that the guest list could have been pruned. That grubby white feather, christened Macaroni, having been located in the grounds where Father and I took a tour of the gardens before dinner. Dickens anyone? I had planned to wear my own clerical frock coat but, can you believe it, it seems to have shrunk in the wardrobe over the last year….

Congratulations Tom and Eireana- God bless you both.

Here are eight things I wish Western Christendom would ponder for the sake of its soul and the Gospel.

1: The passion, death and resurrection of the Lord make clear: there is no crown without a cross. So if your faith isn’t leading to self sacrifice and personal struggle…you are doing it wrong. Stop seeking a broad path that, scripture warns, cannot lead to God. It is akin to joining a gym but refusing to break sweat.

2: Liturgy should be focused primarily on God. Hence where it celebrates self or man it is not only indulgent but deadly. Worship should be reverent, sacred and oriented on the divine. So can we leave the Spirit of the 70’s behind us, with all its banal melodies and theologically fuzzy messages? It is beyond time to restore beauty and dignity to the sanctuary. To demand high standards of all. For where this is done- there we witness revival!

3: Doctrine requires clarity. The Western church has invested much time and energy transforming faith, from something radical and demanding into something wet and easy going, with one result; epic failure. A faith overly nuanced and subjective is soon rendered meaningless. Hence data shows that those who liberalise faith are only one step from losing it altogether; their children tend to lapse in great number. Christianity is centred on objective truth not subjective opinion.

4: Seeking cultural relevance is no priority for Christians. We must seek God’s admiration. Not least when the culture around us is degenerate and opposed to our beliefs. “Opening windows to the world” seemed wise to liberal Christians in the 20th Century, they made it the abiding priority, but it proved akin to a submarine opening windows to the sea. Our faith always was counter-cultural so stop watering down moral teaching. Try and live it instead. You cannot be faithful to the teaching of the Gospels and the sexual revolution- no matter how hard you try!

5: Obedience isn’t optional. A pick and mix philosophy is fine for confectioners but  folly for the faithful. So if you claim to be Christian… but don’t accept points X. Y or Z- you delude yourself and make yourself the god! The arbiter of truth. Rejoice then if you disagree with aspects of the teaching but obey anyway; here is proof  you are not about the business of transfering your own image and agenda onto the divine.

6: People are not attracted to weakness. Just look at the reputation of poor old Tim Farron- once he conceded faith to the vox populi!  Contrast that with the respect gained by Rees-Mogg when he stood firm to his theological principles. We need bishops (and priests) who are authentic successors of apostles, like St. Paul, Fulton Sheen, Newman et al, not the effeminate, smooth vanilla businessmen who dominate episcopacy today. Who are so often silent when they should stand up for Christian truth with zeal. Who was it said that every crisis the church endured has been a crisis of bishops?

7: We must look outwards not inwards. Salvation of souls is a priority but urgency has been lost where the claptrap of universalist thinking dominates. Lay ministry has become a buzz word to encourage stealing priestly function for the empowerment of self. When the authentic lay role is not to swan around the sanctuary as a faux priesthood but to go out into the world and preach the good news; to build faith in the home and work place and maintain its voice in the public square. The church is not a club but a mission. So where are the missioners?

8: We cannot be silenced by personal limitations or a desire to be polite. So learn to take risks- to take your faith seriously but your self not seriously at all. Laugh at the pathetic witness you are when you rely on self! Rejoice at how much God achieves when you unite your will to his. And do not let the enormity of the task slow you down. If you start inviting people to church and speaking about faith then you probably wont save the world. But if you save one person- it is worth it. To do the work of evangelism makes a difference and it is time we took that work seriously at every single level of the church.

The Sevenoaks Ordinariate Group has been meeting at St. Thomas’ church in Sevenoaks on alternate Thursday evenings. But this will not be possible over the coming months when the church is used for catechesis of first communion candidates. There are an army of them- well done Sevenoaks parish!

So the Ordinariate group is on the move and will now meet at the Catholic church in the village of Otford. A setting akin to Pembury which, I suspect, will prove a better fit not least as the smaller size of venue will afford greater intimacy. Also I have long held an inexplicable hunch that it is where the Sevenoaks group is meant to be. Certainly it was where the Group was originally invited to settle, though that didn’t work out at the time.

Divine Worship Mass will be offered this coming Thursday at 7:30pm. The doors will open from 7pm for those who wish to pray before hand. Everyone is welcome to attend and my thanks to Deacon Robert for organising the transition smoothly- what an asset to have a deacon- and to Fr. David Gibbons at Sevenoaks for continuing to support us in friendship. (NB: He is not to be confused with Fr. Paul Gibbons who leads the Maidstone Ordinariate – as is frequently happening!)