Congratulations to all the St. Anselm’s students who sat examinations in recent weeks be they at degree level, A-Level, GCSE level or just end of year tests. We have been praying for you at Mass.

As your church family we want for you to flourish in accordance with God’s will and your working hard is a necessary part of this process. If the exams have gone well that is excellent news. If you struggled then do remember that your dignity and worth is not found in examination scores. So pick yourself up, try again or look to other pursuits for your flourishing. Several of the most successful business people I know struggled academically!

Do let me know results as they come in so we can celebrate with you. Amongst those graduating this year I know Cam has done very well but still awaits confirmation of his final grade. Meanwhile Lydia, a member of our choir, gained a 2:1. Fantastic! She is one of the beautiful voices in the clip above singing some Tavener to devastating effect as part of the Exeter University Chapel choir. I know her love of singing began in our more modest choir. So they should all take a bow as well. From acorns…

There was justifiable outrage across the world last week when Justice Nathalie Lieven made the horrific decision to use the law to force a mentally unwell woman to have an abortion against her will. A decision made all the more macabre and grotesque given that the maternal grandmother was offering to raise the child in the event that mum cannot cope. Just who did Lieven think she was imposing the will of the State over and above the will of this poor family and the right of that child?

Pro-life groups quickly swung into life and petitions sprang up to challenge this inhumanedecision. MP’s were lobbied, voices raised and, drum roll please, it worked. An appeal has now overturned the decision and the baby will live not die. This is great news because every one of us, from conception to the grave, has the right to life. We each have dignity and worth and nobody has a right to take this from us. Especially the State.

Judge Lieven’s nasty decision was troubling on a number of levels. Not only because a life was placed in jeopardy but also because this ruling swung our nation further towards an erroneous modern belief that views the State not the Family as prime educator. Who did Judge Lieven think she was over-ruling the desire of a mother to keep her baby? Big brother? Why was the State here seeking to trump the right of the family in making this decision? Sorry but no amount of hand-wringing language of profound regret, such as she used in announcing her decision, gets Lieven off the hook. By favouring the cold detached will of the State over the loving desire of the mother she was ushering us into a dystopian world of 1984.

We touch on one of the gravest developments of recent years. The creeping intrusion by the State into our private lives. Libertarians and Catholics alike have long understood that the State exists to protect our freedoms only not to guide our behaviour and make our decisions for us. Otherwise the rights of individuals are easily crushed and the very things that protect the individual from the State, like faith and family, come under attack.

It is vitally important then that every time the State behaves like an Orwellian Big Brother we fight back. Noisily and with gusto! Look at how protest helped in this case. The bottom line is that the State has no right to tell us what to believe or how to behave and nor does it have the right to take our children from us. We must fight for our freedom!

Have you discovered the Spectator’s Holy Smoke Podcast yet? Run by Damian Thompson, editor of the Catholic Herald, it focuses on current affairs in the religious world and is always worth a listen, especially for Catholics. I particularly delighted in the episode entitled ‘Why are bishops so boring?” It made me laugh out loud!

If you have a mobile phone then you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or the Windows equivalent and download the episodes when released. Or you can visit this site and click on the episodes to hear them without downloading them via the internet link. Running at around 20 minutes they make an excellent coffee break treat or something to listen to whilst cooking and doing the household chores.

The latest episode has a distinctly St. Anselm’s feel to it as both the guests are drawn from our parish community. Fr. Benedict Kiely, our preacher this Sunday, and Tim Stanley of the Daily Telegraph are pondering the reason why so many business are meddling in politics and showing blatant liberal bias whilst then hypocritically dealing in nations whose human rights record, where liberality is concerned, is frankly appalling.

Father Benedict Kiely is an English priest who has spent most of his ministry thus far working in America. After reading about the terrible persecution of Christians in the Middle East he decided to leave parish ministry and dedicate his life to helping the suffering church. In recent years he has travelled to some of the most dangerous places on earth to support Christians there and ensure their plight is not forgotten in the West.

Last year Fr. Kiely returned to the U.K. where he will continue to work for the persecuted church. He has also joined the staff of the Catholic Herald and will write for them about his important work. But best of all, as far as I am concerned, two weeks ago he was incardinated into the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham meaning we have just gained a fine priest indeed.

As our newest recruit Fr. Benedict attended the recent plenary for clergy in London where he introduced himself to the clergy of the Ordinariate and explained something about his work to them. Afterwards I took him for a pint and a catch up and we further discussed the possibility of him finding a spiritual home at St. Anselm’s Pembury for those Sundays when he is not helping out elsewhere or campaigning on behalf of the persecuted church.

Fr. Benedict will be preaching in Pembury this coming Sunday, for the feast of Corpus Christi, at both the 9:15am and 11am Mass. I shall preach at 8am. Don’t forget to bring flower petals for the children to scatter during the special procession. Mass will then end with benediction.

Welcome home Father Benedict Kiely and welcome to the Ordinariate! And for those looking for signs of hope in the world today- the beer in this photograph, as well as my own, was purchased by a random stranger who insisted we clergy deserve it being under appreciated in life. It certainly put a smile on our faces!

On Saturday Fr. Alasdair Ferguson was ordained priest of the Catholic church at an ordination service that took place within the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption and St. Gabriel in Golden Square, London. He then offered Mass the following day at our daughter church in Wateringbury. It was very pleasing to see him reach this important milestone.

On Sunday our usual 8am Mass was replaced with a baptism for one of the youngest members of our congregation, Philip. The baptism was arranged to coincide with first communions because his sister, Sara, was a candidate. This meant visiting Polish family could be present at both services. It proved a delightful service during which we reflected on the need to teach children by example not words. If we want our children to grow in faith we must model living faith for them.

Father Nicholas celebrated the 9:15am Mass which was surprisingly busy given that many came at 11am. Meanwhile I heard the confessions of the confirmation candidates. It was then time for the principle service of the day at which Monsignor Keith was celebrant. He admitted four children to Holy Communion and eight candidates were confirmed.

Meanwhile some of those who attended the 9:15am Mass swung into action. Trudy and Janet headed up catering in the kitchen, the laying out of salads and deserts and preparing the tables. Meanwhile Liz and Mike braved the last of the inclement weather to get the BBQ going. We have been enduring a dismal June so both were sensibly wrapped up in their raincoats!

Despite showers in the morning the rain held off once the BBQ began. And everyone enjoyed the food. In addition to burgers and hotdogs we had some Polish sausages donated by the family of Sara and Philip.

One of the mothers of our congregation made a special cake which was cut by the newly confirmed and distributed amongst the congregation. It was delicious. And many enjoyed washing it down with local ale brewed a few miles away in Tonbridge.

Our congratulations then to those who so richly received God’s grace this weekend. It was a joyous occasion for our little parish. It might also have been one of the best attended Sundays in St. Anselm’s history with standing room only at 11am, leaving Mgr. Newton to note that we are outgrowing our church. What a wonderful problem to face…

We are set for a busy weekend of rejoicing. Today, after 9am parish Mass, I travel to London to be present at the Ordination of Rev. Alasdair Ferguson to be made priest of the Catholic church. He will then have full pastoral care of our daughter church in Wateringbury where the Maidstone Ordinariate Group is based. He is pictured here in Anglican days planting a tree!

Tomorrow we have baptism at 8am, a said Mass at 9:15am and our principle celebration- a Solemn Mass with first communions and confirmations -at 11am. With 8 confirmation candidates and 4 first communion candidates, all bringing guests, seats will be on a first come and first served basis. So do get to Mass in good time and do bring a warm coat if staying for the BBQ.

The forecast is for a pleasant day with mainly sunny spells but there could well be an occasional shower. On the plus side we have a full barrel of Tonbridge Coppernob (biretta tip to Tunbridge Wells Rugby Club for provision) as well as wine and soft drinks, and we have lots of delicious food being prepared. Don’t forget to bring a salad or desert with you for the table and a crisp £5 to cover the cost of meat. Our expert chef, Mr Michael Bland, is doubtless polishing his spatula in anticipation!

The celebrant at the 11am Mass will be Mgr. Keith Newton, the Ordinary. The baptism in the early morning is for the youngest sibling of one of our first communion candidates, Sara. They are having the baptism the same day to enable visiting family from Poland to attend. What a lot of sacramental grace is sweeping through our parish this weekend!

It has been announced today that Bishop John Wilson, currently an auxiliary in Westminster Diocese has been appointed as the new Archbishop of Southwark Diocese. He will replace Archbishop Peter Smith who is retiring.

Members of St. Anselm’s parish have good reason to be pleased about this appointment as, being a former Anglican himself, he should be very supportive of the Ordinariate and the work we are doing in Pembury. We shall, of course, be praying for him as he prepares to take up this post.

June is a busy month this year with so many wonderful celebrations about to take place that impact on the life of our parish. We kick off tomorrow, on the feast of Pentecost, with a baptism for one of our adult confirmands, Mark. He is to be baptised at the 11am Mass. Mark has been worshipping with us for some time and is now ready to embrace the faith in fullness. He will become the newest member of the Catholic Church via the Ordinariate!

Next Saturday deacon Alastair Ferguson will be next in line to receive sacramental grace as he is ordained a Catholic priest at Golden Square in London. He will serve as priest to the Maidstone Ordinariate group who meet in Wateringbury. The Ordination service is at 12 noon and all are welcome to attend.

The following day Mgr. Newton will be present in Pembury to admit 4 children to first communion and 9 to the sacrament of confirmation. This will be followed by a parish BBQ in the grounds of the church. Please sign up so that we have a good idea of numbers attending for catering purposes. A barrel of real ale is on order courtesy of Tunbridge Wells RFC…

July will follow on from June in a similar vein as we have Roy to be made deacon on 6 July at a service in St. Georges Cathedral and another great celebration on the 13th when we have the day pilgrimage to Canterbury. And all of this before the children’s holiday club at the end of the month. Phew…I feel the summer holidays will be well deserved this year. What great news for our parish!

Each year the Ordinariate groups in the Kent, Sussex and South London area organise a day pilgrimage open to all. This year it is to be held at Canterbury Cathedral on Saturday July 13th. The day will begin with Divine Worship Mass at 11:30am at St. Augustine’s college. We will then move to the Cathedral undercroft (by kind permission of the Dean and Chapter) for a lecture, on the life of Cardinal Pole, to be delivered by world renowned historian Eamon Duffy.

The day will end with us joining the Anglicans for Evensong in the Cathedral and a visit to the tomb of Cardinal Pole-  the last Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury. There will also be an opportunity for members of this congregation to gather at the tomb of our patron, St. Anselm. 

This pilgrimage takes place in the tenth year since the Ordinariate was first announced. We really hope that lots of you, Catholic and Anglican, will support the day and ensure its success. We are going to organise a coach from Pembury and lunch is provided, for those who give advance notice, at a cost of £5 per person.

Eamon Duffy is Emeritus Professor of the History of Christianity at Cambridge University and a former member of the Pontifical Historical Commission. He is an expert on reformation history and we are extremely fortunate that he wants to support the Ordinariate by speaking. Let us show our appreciation by being there to hear him.