On Saturday afternoon it was a great joy to baptise one of the youngest members of our regular congregation, Harry, into the Catholic fold.

His father, Gary, and mother, Hannah, attend Mass regularly, along with big sister Ruby. The family are pictured here, alongside Godparents and the other children who attended the service. It was a delightfully sunny day and it was just a shame I couldn’t join the family for a drink afterwards due to long standing commitments.

I am pleased to report that Harry took the sacrament in his stride, beaming throughout the ceremony and then threatening to fall asleep during the photographs. He is a dear little chap and now officially a Christian one! Please pray for him.

I am delighted to announce a special series of Pembury lectures, based around the Lord’s prayer, to run from Autumn of this year. They are being held in celebration of ten years since the document Anglicanorum Coetibus was released; announcing to the world the establishment of the Ordinariate. And, as if this wasn’t enough, this autumn is the anticipated date when our beloved patron, John Henry Newman, will be canonised as a Saint of the Catholic church.

We have some amazing speakers lined up and I do hope lots of people will get these dates into the diary early to ensure the talks are all well attended. Here is the full line up of speakers:

Fr. Marcus Holden: is priest at St. Bede’s Clapham Park. An author and presenter he co-established the English branch of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy and co-authored the Evangelium course. 

Fr. John Hunwickewas, for many years, chaplain at Lancing College. His eccentric genius has gained him a cult following in the blogosphere. He is a priest of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham

Tim Stanley is a journalist and historian known to many as a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Thought for the day’

Fr. Alexander Sherbrookeis priest of St. Patrick’s Soho Square. His self effacing holiness, coupled with the outreach work of his parish, has gained him a loyal following among the student population  via the ‘Night Fever’ project that invites partygoers into the silence of Eucharistic adoration!

Fr. Michael Ward is a priest of the Ordinariate and Senior research fellow at Blackfriars Hall in Oxford. He is the leading expert on the theology and writing of C. S. Lewis. 

Mother Winsome is Mother Superior of the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the first convent of the Ordinariate. Based in Maryvalethe convent  follows a Benedictine rule of life.  

Fr. Benedict Kiely was incardinated into the Ordinariate in May 2019 having served for years as a Catholic priest in America. His life is devoted to supporting the persecuted church and he continues to travel to some of the most dangerous places on earth to help endangered Christians. 

Fr. Michael Halsallis a priest of the Ordinariate who spent most of his Anglican days as an army chaplain. He is now on the teaching staff at Allen Hall Seminary in London. 

Each year our parish hosts a special summer holiday club for primary school aged children. It all began with ‘Catholics on Safari’ which was followed by ‘Catholics in Space’ ‘Catholics under the Sea’ ‘Catholics in India’ and, last year, ‘Catholics in the Wild West’ (pictured below)

This year we head East for ‘Catholics in Japan’ which will run from 29th – 31st July. Children bring a packed lunch each day, drinks and snacks are provided, and they will enjoy lots of craft activities and games as well as instruction on the faith. We end with a special Mass, to which parents are invited, and share the good work which the children have done.

The club is always popular and for the last few years has been over-subscribed. So get names in early if you wish to book a place and avoid disappointment. One of my son’s best friends is half Japanese and his mother has been signed up to help and bring some authentic Japanese culture to the children. Until the summer- sayonara!

Understand that St. Anselm’s Pembury is a modest village church situated only a few miles, in either direction, from larger established Catholic congregations. Our building, to be honest, is drab from the outside and we are set back from the road and hidden. Many people do not know we even exist! As for the clergy- we are no McCarricks, thank God, but nor are we St. John Vianney! We have a long way to go, in truth, to achieve sanctification. The congregation is patient with us as we try to be with them.

So it is something of a modern miracle that, since the Ordinariate arrived and we began the beautification of our liturgy, church and grounds, returning via that process to a deeper appreciation of the ancient traditions of the church, we have been blessed with steady growth. Also the average age of the congregation has gone down. And whilst our numbers are still small by Catholic standards (our roll is c. 150: with 90-130 on any given Sunday across three services) there is a vibrancy to this parish which visitors notice and delight in. And that devotion is now paying dividends.

Take for example the statistics for 2019. We have 4 candidates for first communion and 8 for confirmation this June. 1 man is to be made deacon in July and another will be ordained priest this June. That is pretty solid for a congregation of 150. Regarding vocations we now number 7 men who have come through St. Anselm’s on their journey towards Holy orders. This includes 2 deacons and 5 priests. And we currently have two men within the congregation considering testing a vocation.

Such things I give thanks for daily. They strengthen my conviction that the Ordinariate has a healthy future and is wanted by God. Certainly the changes in our parish suggest that rejecting modernism, by embracing the faith in fullness, leads to growth and blessings from above. If only more parishes would follow suit I think the effect would be amazing. Please pray today for our first communion, confirmation, diaconal and priestly candidates. It is going to be a busy spring and summer!

This gorgeous photograph was taken on Good Friday. The parents of the little boy in the picture found him sat, his hand on his heart, praying to Jesus before the Calvary in our church grounds. Nobody had asked him to do this and nobody posed the picture.

They say a picture speaks a thousand words and this one surely does. And each of those words is profoundly beautiful. I have noticed in life that many people with special needs are very spiritually aware. It seems to me that God comes close to them and gives them many special graces.

The simple trust, the heartfelt devotion, the lack of cynicism and total trust captured in this photograph help us make sense of Jesus when he said “unless you become as little children you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” May we learn to love Christ as does this little boy…

Congratulations to baby Finn who was baptised yesterday at St. Anselm’s surrounded by his family and friends. It was a lovely service which everyone entered into. Once again I was most impressed with the Divine Worship liturgy for baptism which really does spell out to the parents and godparents their duty in regard to teaching the faith. Children follow examples not words- we have to live the life we want them to lead.

St. Anselm was born in Italy around the year 1033. In 1060, just before England switched from the Anglo-Saxon era to the Norman era, he entered the monastery of Bec in Normandy where he later became the Abbot. With Norman success in England he was called from the Bec to Canterbury where he was enthroned in the most senior post in Catholic England in those pre-reformation days- he became Archbishop of Canterbury.

Anselm was a brilliant academic whose works of theology and philosophy were of enormous benefit to the Western Church. He is perhaps the most important Christian philosopher to have existed after St. Augustine of Hippo and St. Thomas Aquinas. His books and theories are still in use today at seminaries and universities the world over. Most famously he came up with the ‘ontological argument’ for the existence of God which is almost impossible to refute with logic.

As Archbishop of Canterbury he had a rocky ride at times. King William II of England had no fondness for the Church and, because Anselm resisted his efforts to interfere in Church business, found him a source of constant irritation. Eventually he sent St. Anselm into exile in Italy where he remained until the King died three years later. During his exile he was not idle but wrote books and helped settle Catholic doctrine on the matter of the dispute with the Eastern Orthodox regarding the Creed.

In 1100 Anselm returned to Canterbury at the invitation of the new monarch Henry I. However he proved just as irritating when he refused to allow the new King to select bishops and abbots. So back into exile went our patron for a further seven years until the two brokered an uneasy peace and he returned to England in 1107. He died two years later, on the date that is now his feast day, 21 April.

St. Anselm’s feast fell on Easter day this year. So we have moved our patronal festival to this coming Sunday. We thank God that he ever showed courage to protect the faith from error both by his intellectual arguments and by standing up to the secular powers of his day.

St. Anselm pray for us. A fine saint for an Ordinariate charged with reviving and preserving an authentic English spirituality.

Yesterday we highlighted how the venerable school of Old Vatacanians has suffered a crisis ever since it embarked on a modernisation project in the 1960’s. Several staff members became disenchanted with the proven curriculum of their founder, Mr. Logos, and have been colluding with rivals (Mr. Luther and Mr. World) to bring down the school from within. Worst still some of these renegades have been found guilty of terrible abuse bringing the school into disrepute and damaging confidence in the process. Faced with this mess the old headmaster, Mr. Benedictus, took early retirement and a new man was elected- one Mr. Argentinus…

Mr. Argentinus caused quite the stir when elected. For the first time in history he refused to appear for first assembly in academic dress preferring to turn up in mufti. It was a divisive move. Staff members and pupils most faithful to the vision of Mr. Logos felt outraged, whilst those hungering for a new curriculum were delighted. But more sinister yet was the fact that disgraced former teacher, Mr. Marx, was suddenly back from private study leave standing proudly at the side of the new headmaster. A move which did nothing to allay the fears of his critics.

Things went from bad to worse when Mr. Argentinus announced his promotions from within the staff. Inexplicably the new heads of subjects included several school figures mired in lavender scandal. From Mr. Paglia the art teacher who had commissioned a homo-erotic mural in a classroom to Mr Maradiaga, the bursar, rumoured to have spent the school dinner money on hiring some company after dark. Those not personally linked to sandal were nevertheless chosen from amongst the staff most enamoured with breaking away from the traditional curriculum as laid down by Mr. Logos. It is little wonder that the tongues of the PTA were soon wagging and a general sense of mutiny, chaos and confusion fell over the school. There has been infighting ever since.

Mr. Argentinus has, in fairness, proved an excellent salesman for the school. Rarely missing a photo opportunity he soon gained the admiration of the local press. Labelling him ‘ever so ‘umble’ he has become something of a media darling. This has paid off for Mr. Argentinus. Because whilst many of the senior staff are indeed worried about his leadership skills they are nevertheless grateful that those nasty stories about the school have ceased. Being more in love with the institution of the school than in education generally they seem happy to look the other way as infighting continues, turning a blind eye to obvious abuses just so long as they retain preferment, a school house and can lead a quiet life.

Mr. Argentinus is not only favoured by the press. Those who have never stepped foot in the school think he is admirable. Because his politics chimes with their own they view him as a necessary reformer. And as for the staff at Old Lutherians- they cannot get enough of Mr. Argentinus, who is ever happy to assure them that their own break-away school is every bit as good as his own, suggesting Mr. Logos would love it. Which is strange because Mr. Logos was at pains to explain he only believed there should be one school?

Mr. Argentinus’ flirtation with non school members does not end there. Recently he stepped over the county border to praise bitter old rivals, Old Mohammedanians, which proved a step too far for the old Latin master, Mr. Americanus, who immediately wrote to the board of governors demanding answers. Mr. Americanus hasn’t taught the boys for some time having been dismissed by Mr. Argentinus who, despite preaching to the boys about mercy every day, doesn’t practice it where critics are concerned.

And so it is that the longer Mr Argentinus has ruled the more he has proved a divisive figure. ‘The Marmite of headmasters’ as one boy quipped! Another bemoaned that he was an illusive figure, never explaining his teaching methods but ever hinting, by gesture and tone, that he sides with the renegades who want to overhaul the curriculum of Mr. Logos and replace it with something new.

A handful of outspoken staff members, from amongst those who oppose his leadership, even go so far as to suggest that Mr. Argentinus and his band forced old Mr. Benedictus out of office quite deliberately. Others have written to the governors to complain about questionable appointments. Which brings us to this term and the nub of the matter. Clearly the school is in crisis. Clearly the new head, regardless of his many gifts and faults, is proving one of the most divisive figures in its history. But what should be done? How can Mr. Argentinus quell the storm and bring some unity and hope to the school?

The answer has to be this: Mr. Argentinus must answer the letters sent to governors and be candid about both his vision and methodology. But to date he steadfastly refuses. The letters sit unopened on his desk. He prefers to allow his trusted allies to smear the letter writers and act as if the matters these letters raise are of no importance at all. Now this tactic might work short term, it certainly ensures that many of his doubters are too afraid to speak out. But it will not work long term. Why? Because every day that the letters remain unanswered is another day his authority is reasonably questioned. Which is to state that a lack of answers, from one who very job is to provide answers, inevitably smacks of desperation. It rather gives the impression he might be unable, rather than just unwilling, to defend his actions and agenda. If he can answer the charges – why doesn’t he?

The other problem with the approach being taken is that the parents of the school are not stupid as many of the teachers imagine. And many of them, sickened by the abuse and frustrated by the confusion, have recently threatened to withdraw their children altogether or else hold back on paying the fees.

And understand that many of the teachers, in private if not in public, are also grumbling about the leadership and confusion. One detects that unless the letters are dealt with soon, and honourably, then the divisions will only increase. Modernisation is permissible within Old Vatacanians but only if it can be shown, without doubt, to be in fidelity to the original vision of Mr. Logos.

At the time of going to press Mr. Argentinus still refuses to engage with his critics. He continues to call for mercy whilst delivering a daily message to the boys about the evil of rigid critics. He continues to hint at making changes that will change Old Vatacanians forever and indeed to making those changes. In the last few weeks he downgraded the office for academia whilst increasing the budget for visits…

Imagine a venerable school of impeccable pedigree whose alumni are second to none. We might call it…Old Vaticanians! Since its foundation, generations before, the central aim of the school has been to instruct pupils in strict accordance with the vision of its founding father, Mr. Logos, whose understanding of education has never been surpassed and whose curriculum guarantees success but only if adhered to faithfully.

For many years the masters of Old Vaticanians faithfully did as they were instructed which helped forge an impeccable reputation for the school as a centre for excellence. Headmasters came and went, some more inspiring than others, but all stuck to the curriculum in the main. The school went from strength to strength and Old Vaticanians, the world over, were respected as outstanding citizens being formed in the image of Mr. Logos.

Not that it was all plain sailing. Teachers are fallible after all! So scandals arose. Once the infamous Mr. Luther stormed out of the staffroom and set up a rival school down the road! It caused much confusion. Then there was naughty Mr. Alexander whose moral lapses were legend. That caused quite the stir, naturally, and he is not remembered fondly but he did, at least, respect the curriculum enough to guard it from error.

Back to the present day and the biggest scandal of all rocks the school to its foundation. It started with a major modernisation of the school buildings in the 1960’s. A project which has ever proved somwhat controversial because the instructions from the architects were largely ignored and people just did their own thing. The end result being that Old Vaticanians today looks a bit too much like Luther’s establishment down the road.

The renovation of school would not have been catastrophic save for the strange effect it undoubtedly had on the teachers. Many of them foolishly imagined that a new looking school meant they could dispense with the ideology and curriculum of their founder Mr. Logos. Bit by bit they undermined all that had gone before, striving to replace the old ways with a trendy new curriculum inspired by Mr. Luther’s new school and the fallen standards of the world around them.

So that today many of the teachers now refuse to wear academic gowns and are totally indifferent to the founding principles of of Mr. Logos, especially in matters of moral conduct. Yes the staff and pupils have grown ill disciplined and academic standards are at an all time low. Not many of pupils leaving the school today shine with the light and virtue of those who went before them.

It gets worse for it transpires that the worst of these renegade teachers had the temerity to pick up salaries despite secretly abusing the pupils in their care. Yes many of the current staff live double lives and struggle with honesty and purity. The problem compounded in that the majority of these rotters are amongst the senior not junior staff. The faithful old head, Mr Benedictus, was broken by this news a few years back. He took early retirement and a successor, Mr. Argentinus, was appointed.

Tomorrow we will look at how Mr. Argentinius is handling the crisis at Old Vaticanians and ask if there is hope for the dear old school that is beloved by so many despite its ongoing problems…

We have lots of special liturgical occasions lined up this month to enrich and deepen our faith and joy in this season of Eastertide.

First up, because May is Mary’s month within the Catholic church, is the May Devotion which will take place this coming Sunday. At 8am we shall have special devotions at the conclusion of the Mass. At 9:15am and 11am we end Mass with a special procession of Our Lady, led by children, through the church grounds.

The feast of our Patron, St. Anselm, fell on Easter day which meant we were unable to observe it. We are therefore going to transfer the feast of our Patronal Festival to the following Sunday, May 12th. Mass will end with benediction at 9:15am and 11am and we shall focus on his life and example.

On the final Sunday in May we welcome a guest preacher, Mgr. Matthew Dickens. He is currently caring for the Kent area of the Archdiocese of Southwark until a replacement for Bishop Paul Mason is appointed and it will be good to introduce him to our parish.

A busy May lies ahead then but full of joyous things. We very much hope the encouraging attendances of recent weeks and months will continue.