A couple of years ago we held a competition to design a parish logo. There were some excellent ideas and strong entries. Unfortunately I lacked the technical ability to make any of them work well in digital form. Since then I have been using a temporary crest but it was not really suitable as it lacked any script informing people what the logo actually was.
I am therefore delighted to have finally solved the logo problem having been tipped off about an excellent website called Fiverr that enables people to hire artists for single jobs at competitive prices. There you can flick through a catalogue of work and I was soon drawn to Arialstudios who, once selected, came up with this beautiful design. I absolutely love it!
Here is the homily for All Souls this year which a few people have asked me to reproduce:
One of my favourite books as a child was an old fashioned anthology of short stories for boys. One of them touched me deeply because it was based on a true story. It told of a family who were moving house when their beloved dog went missing. They delayed the move for days searching for him but, alas, to no avail. The dog couldn’t be found. So, with heavy hearts they moved to other side of the country without him. Hundreds of miles away. Two years later a bedraggled, filthy creature appeared on their porch. Painfully thin but impossibly friendly. They decided to care for the stray dog and so washed the creature. It was then they realised, with shock and joy, it was their dear old dog. Somehow, and nobody can explain how, he had found them. A similar tale inspired the film the incredible journey.
In wider society people often view death as tragedy. But we Christians should think differently because we believe death is not the end but rather the time when we, like that bedraggled dog, finally make it home where we belong. When after that long difficult journey that we call life, with all its bumps and bruises, we can finally come before our master with joy.
Death for us is about homecoming. So we do well to remember that the pain loss and horror of death are reserved solely for those who remain behind. For the departed, who died as friends of God, death is a wonderful moment. Perhaps the best. For it is the moment we meet our master face to face, when having been washed in the waters of purgatory, as the bedraggled dog was washed on the porch, we are made clean again that we might claim our place with the Saints in heaven. As the well known hymn puts it:
When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation and take me home- what joy shall fill my heart!
Death for Christians is wonderful news then. But that doesn’t mean we can glib or insensitive in the face of death. As stated, for us who remain behind, there is pain. And if you are presently grieving and struggling with death at present, don’t feel guilty. It is not a sign of bad faith. Such feelings are natural, healthy and normal. Jesus, despite full knowledge of heaven, wept at the death of a friend. And we weep too when loved ones die. Taking our place with Our Lady of Sorrows standing at the foot of the cross.
There is such a thing as holy grief. A period when, because we have loved, we experience the pain, loss and suffering of Good Friday. A time to weep with Mary as we too feel the sword that pierces the heart. And Christ is close to those who mourn, they are, he told us, blessed. The first stage of bereavement then leads us to Calvary. To pray with the suffering Christ and stand vigil at his cross. Trusting in his promise that death is not the end.
Mercifully this time will pass. And eventually, as we are healed by grace, we can move on. After the initial horror of death we then enter Holy Saturday. And it is interesting to ask why God did rise on the third not second day. Clearly time between death and resurrection is important. A time of introspection and coming to terms with loss. A time to look back and remember with fondness. A time when God can perhaps seems absent and we wrestle with feelings of hurt and confusion. As did the disciples on that first Easter Saturday.
This time, which can be dark, mercifully passes. Grief is a process not a permanent state. And the miracle of faith is that death is not the end. The dark tomb that seemed so desolate and impenetrable was later blasted open and Christ triumphant rose. Then the angels sang. Then the disciples understood that the grave was but a resting place on a journey home. Eventually the same disciples who wept at the cross and were bewildered on Holy Saturday rejoiced with hearts of hope. In Christ death lost its sting.
Whichever stage on the Easter journey bereavement finds you in, now or in the future, remember to pray for those you have loved, especially in this month of November which is given over, in the Catholic church, to praying for the faithful departed. And in those prayers thank God that, as he told us, his house has many rooms and, even now, he is preparing a place for us.
Finally let us remember today the one certainty in life. I used to say there were two certainties but since giant corporations found ways to stop paying taxes…One day you will die. This life is given to you in order to prepare for this unavoidable fact. Death can come at any moment. Are you ready to stand before God in judgement? Are you ready to give an account of your life? Make sure you go to confession, work hard on your relationships and seek a life of grace. Make a will to ensure loved ones are cared for. Have a funeral plan ready.
Tim Stanley, pictured in white puzzling the ever eccentric Fr. Leviseur, will be a familiar face to all at St. Anselm’s given that he is a member of our congregation and regularly serves the 11am Sunday Mass.
A local lad Tim was educated at the Judd School in Tonbridge and went on to study modern history at Cambridge University. Whilst at Cambridge Tim became an Anglican, having been raised a Baptist, and attended Little St. Mary’s Church; a delightful Anglo-Catholic shrine known for clouds of incense, ad orientem worship and high liturgical standard. A church where, co-incidentally, I also learnt the ropes serving as sub-deacon whilst preparing for ministry at Westcott House theological college. We missed each other by a term – a lucky escape for Tim that wouldn’t last!
At Cambridge Tim was involved in student journalism and politics, writing for the famous student Varsity magazine. This experience birthed a paid career as a serious political journalist. Today, as well as writing for the Daily Telegraph, Tim is a regular guest on Newsnight and a regular contributor to Thought for the day on Radio 4.
Tim’s encounter with Anglo-Catholicism at Cambridge led him, as it has so many, to consider more seriously the claims of the Catholic church. He was received into it some years ago and came to serve mass, for a while, in Brighton under the wonderful Fr. Ray Blake. Since moving back to Kent he has found himself at home within an Ordinariate setting which is, perhaps, unsurprising given his overall faith journey.
Tim will deliver the third talk in our current lecture series on Wednesday 27th November. Low Mass at 7pm, refreshments at 7:30pm and lecture at 8pm. Do please come along and support what has been an excellent series of lectures to date.
A reminder that the second lecture, in our special series to mark the Canonisation of Saint John Henry Newman and a decade since the announcement of the Ordinariate, takes place tomorrow evening, Wednesday 23rd October. The talks follow the theme of the ‘Our Father’ and so, following on from Fr. Holden’s talk on ‘Our Father who art in heaven’, Fr. Hunwicke will help us consider ‘hallowed be thy name’.
Low Mass at 7pm, refreshments at 7:30pm and the talk itself at 8pm.
The guest speaker for this second address is the ever delightful Fr. John Hunwicke a founder members of the Ordinariate. In Anglican days he was, for nearly three decades, a master at Lancing College in Sussex; where he taught Latin and Greek, was Head of Theology, and also served pastorally as an Assistant Chaplain. As an Anglican he also served as Parish Priest in Oxford and was Senior Research Fellow at Pusey House. He has written many articles and regularly takes on the herculean task of producing an Ordo- the annual liturgical calendar setting out the feasts, festivals and rules for the Church year.
In 2011, Fr Hunwicke entered into full communion with the See of St Peter as part of the first wave of the Ordinariate. His blog, which is in equal parts intellectually rigorous and deliciously humorous has won him a devoted following across the world. It is a great pleasure to welcome him back to Saint Anselm’s. Do please make every effort to be present and give him the support he deserves. Any offerings of cakes and biscuits gratefully accepted.
Scripture teaches us that prayer is a powerful tool. So effective it moves mountains. The book of Acts suggests it’s the key to unlocking mighty miracles; it stills storms of life, drives away evil and unlocks prison doors. Why then do modern Christians see few mountains moving if any? Why are prisons overflowing? Why is the pagan culture winning out? There can only be one answer, if scripture speaks truth, we have forgotten how to pray.
And little wonder as, over the last Century, great energy has been invested driving God out of the culture, out of schools, universities, even out of the Church. The last century saw a dumbing down, not only of doctrine which was bad enough, but worship and liturgy too; the very lifeblood of the Church. And where this happened a shift of focus occurred from the unchanging Word of God to the obvious agenda of man. Witness, just this week, in the Vatican gardens no less, prelates bowing (in the name of political correctness of course) before an idol of the Amazon goddess Pachamama. Such syncretism is obviously wrong. This is not edifying prayer. And there are other widespread examples of bad prayer. We might consider the banal narcissistic services that have become the norm throughout the West- where the community gathers to celebrate self above all else. Or the skilful flowery language of what masquerades as prayer on the BBC; “Lord ban plastic straws and advance my favoured political cause”. In both examples prayer is obviously faulty because man not God is the object and focus. The words are delivered in ecclesial language but the prayer is the wrapping not the gift.
Lex Orandi, lex credendi is an ancient motto of the church. ‘you are what you pray’ meaning how we worship effects what we believe. Ergo reverent God-centred worship forms reverent God-centred Christians. Naff self-centred worship forms naff self-centred Christians. Is the church in crisis today? Ceertainly where we find worship performed as fifth rate entertainment and in which God is marginal if not entirely absent.
Such prayer fails the church because it is fake. And situation that is not only dangerous but deadly for ego-centric worship chokes the divine presence. It cuts off access to grace. Prayers continue to be thrown up, but because they are of man not God, they fall to earth unanswered. Divested of power and purpose. And that, my friends, explains exactly why we live in an age when every denomination claims God answers prayer… but pews continue to empty, vocations dry up and we see little by way of miracle and genuine Christian progress.
Ironically ego-centric Christians mourn the very decline they cause. Like authentic Christians they love the church though often for different reasons. They love the institution, it’s a great vehicle for transmitting political desire. So they do want to help the church. But their rescue efforts again display their primary fault. Instead of looking to God and trusting the historic faith they look only to themselves and the world. Because prayer has grown sterile and unanswered for them they think nobody desires it. They don’t trust that grace is enough. And that is why we find them turning to gimmicks in desperation; crazy golf in the nave or scheduling extra business meetings for the diocese– as if PR exercises are a solution to a spiritual problem. Yes post-Christian Christians will seemingly do anything to fix the church save the one thing necessary; falling on knees in humility and obedience , turning to the faith of the ages and allowing God to replace self as object of devotion.
If we are to be part of the solution and not the crisis we need to go back to basics and learn to pray afresh. We must open our bibles and study how Jesus wants us to pray. Today’s Gospel is an excellent start point. For Jesus presents a feisty woman to learn from. A woman seeking justice who exhibits tremendous qualities that we do well to mirror: desire, determination and deliverance.
DESIRE. A widow but no fool. Her husband had died but she refused to roll over and be helpless. She would not simply shrug shoulders, as modern Christians do, but determined to make something happen. The judge was fobbing her off. But she would not be swayed. If we want change- in our lives, in the church, in the world. We must learn to roll up our sleeves and make it happen. We must be prepared to embrace struggle to bring about change for God. Keeping praying until our petition is answered. Never giving up as we seek to bring about what God is asking. Where oh modern church is thy desire for change?
DETERMINATION. She pounded on his door. The servants tried sending her away but she would not be intimidated. This wonderful woman would punch them in the eye if need be. Unlike Christians today she did not think her vocation was simply to be nice or non-confrontational. She wasn’t wet. but up for a fight and good for her! She was prepared to upset the peace in pursuit of truth and goodness. And it was this persistent nuisance that finally made the judge succumb. How different to today where the church has forgotten how to fight. How to stand up for the faith in the world. Perhaps we would stop abortion and the creeping secularisation of our institutions if only we stood up for our faith. If only we didn’t shrug shoulders and slink away. So often the devil advances when good people are too cowardly to speak out. Evil happens when good people do nothing. Where oh modern church is thy zeal?
DELIVERANCE. She won, returned home with head held high. Like all great saints in history. Her desire and determination to embrace struggling and make a difference eventually led to miraculous change. That is how it works. We still cheer St John Fisher- whilst the bishops who said nothing, like so Christians in our day, are rightly forgotten. See how prayer becomes effective! It is charged -to the point of being dangerously exciting -when it comes from a pure heart given over to truth; when the person praying is in a state of grace and blameless before the enemy and ready to stand up and fight for what is right. So now go and be that widow. Pray for the church and the world and return to authentic worship and authentic belief via the authentic power of true God centred prayer.
PEMBURY LECTURE: Next Wednesday evening, 23rd October, Fr. Hunwicke is our guest speaker for the second of the Pembury lectures. Mass at 7pm, refreshments at 7:30pm and talk at 8pm. Please make this one as successful as the last.
REQUIEM FOR MIKE BLANDE: The funeral for Mike Blande, which will take the form of a Solemn Requiem Mass, will take place on Friday 25th October at 10am. All are welcome. A private wake will take place the previous day in his home at which the family tributes will take place.
FUNERAL FOR MICK COVILLE: The funeral of Mick Coville will take place at 10am on 1st November. His widow, Cis, hopes as many of the congregation as possible will be there.
COFFEE/PLAY DATE: several of the parish mums are organising a play date for children on Thursday 24th October from 11am until 1pm. All those with young children are very welcome to attend. The children play and the mothers chatter and all go home happy.
ALL SAINTS PARTY: Children aged 0-12 are invited to a special All Saints party on Sunday 3rd November from 3pm until 4:30pm. They are encouraged to dress as a favourite Saint. This is a healthy alternative to the Halloween parties at this time of year. Encouraging our children to celebrate the occult and dark things is manifestly not Christian.
The beautiful church of St. John Lateran is the mother church of all Catholics for it is where the throne of Peter resides. It is the Cathedral of Rome. And it was the setting yesterday morning for a special mass of thanksgiving, organised by the Oratorians, for the canonisation of St. John Henry Newman; the first English person to be canonised for something other than martyrdom since 1401.
The celebrant of the Mass was Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, and many other English prelates were in attendance. The new Archbishop of Southwark,++ John Wilson, was amongst them and it was good to meet him in person for a brief chat after Mass. So too was our Ordinary, Monsignor Keith Newton and some three hundred concelebrating priests. It was quite moving seeing the huge procession walk in to Newman’s hymn ‘Praise to the holiest in the height.’
After Mass several of the Ordinariate wandered to a cafe for a simple lunch and in the afternoon I purchased new birettas and clerical shirts from Barbeconi. A trip I found deeply irritating as the place was swarming with a camp clientele overly excited at the sight of clerical attire. Worst of all were two Anglicans making a silly fuss about choosing the right sort of collar. It’s not something rugby players will ever understand I guess. I was therefore glad to get away for a recovery drink with Fr. and Mrs. Lashbrook and Fr. Nicholas. Much saner company.
The evening was spent at a restaurant near St. Peters for a supper organised by Fr. Tad Oxley of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith who is a great supporter of the Ordinariate. It was good to be able to share with him the hopes and challenges of Ordinariate life in the U.K. and to hear from him about the support we have in Rome from the CDF.
Today, Tuesday, will be spent at an all day symposium organised by the Vatican on the subject of the Ordinariate being held to mark a decade since it was first announced. The day runs from 9am until 6pm and there are lots of good speakers lined up. I shall then return to Kent on Wednesday to catch up with the family and return to parish duties.
It was good to catch up on the first evening here with Fr. Joe, who has long established links with our parish in Pembury due to his charitable work in Ghana. He was on fine form and joined Father Nicholas, Mary and myself for supper. The Roman Aperol Sprtitz certainly helped. It was still the drink of choice the following evening when I briefly met another friend of the parish, Fr. Marcus Holden.
It hasn’t all been drinks and food I can assure you. On Saturday morning the Ordinariate held a Mass at the Venerable English College where the recently deceased of the parish, Mike Blande and Mick Covill, were prayed for. An afternoon of lectures followed ending with a Vigil of Prayer and a musical concert. After which Mary and Joe Hoare, pilgrims from Pembury, met up with us for supper.
Then it was Sunday morning and an early walk took us to St. Peter’s square for the reason of the trip. The canonisation of Saint John Henry Newman. It was a wonderful occasion so full of meaning and importance for the whole church but especially for those of us within the Ordinariate. More on this in a separate post.
In the evening over 50 members of the Ordinariate present in Rome gathered for a celebratory supper. I especially chatting with our two Japanese priests, Fr. Kato and Fr. Masaki. They were raising their glasses in a toast to the Japanese rugby team whose remarkable progress to the quarter finals of the World Cup is impressive indeed.
Today a trip to St. John Lateran for a special mass of thanksgiving presided over by Cardinal Nichols at which English Catholics aplenty will be in attendance. And tomorrow we have a day long symposium of lectures before the journey home on Wednesday.
St. Peter’s square is prepared for a very special weekend during which, for many of us, the Canonisation of Blessed John Henry Newman will be the highlight. It is an auspicious day for the English church especially as one of our own countrymen is made a Saint. How good to see his image displayed.
It is amusing and pleasant walking the streets of Rome today. Around every corner is a familiar face and friend. It seems like most every priest in England is here. And little wonder for Newman is an important figure for us, and especially for Oratorians and the Ordinariate for whom he is patron.
Lunch saw three members of St. Anselm’s in Pembury meeting up. The journalist Tim Stanley joining myself and Father Nicholas in entertaining our good friend Deacon Stephen Morgan who is over from Macau.
It was a fortuitous encounter because Tim is producing an article on Newman for the newspaper and he couldn’t have hoped to meet a more learned scholar on the subject than Deacon Morgan. The good deacon is also an entertaining man, so amidst much serious talk about a soon to be Saint was also much laughter and jollity.
After lunch I took a gentle stroll with Father Nicholas through the streets of Rome. We bumped into dear Joanna Bogle resting by an ice-cream parlour and saw several brethren from the Ordinariate. This evening we dine with our dear friend Father Joe from Ghana before the serious business begins. Blessed John Henry Newman pray for us.