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.

Apologies- but the audio link for last night’s talk just refuses to load on the blog as normal. So for that reason I have produced the talk as a Youtube post.

Do listen to what was a fabulous lecture, delivered by the always wonderful Fr. Hunwicke, on the sacrificial heart of Catholic faith.

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.

Yesterday was a profoundly sad day because my dear friend Michael Blande, pictured left with his great friend Martin, died very suddenly after suffering a heart attack. He will leave an enormous hole in a great many lives for he was a rock within his family , community and also in our parish in Pembury. A generous, kind and funny man who always had time for people and always looked for the best in them. This photograph was taken last weekend when I was his guest at his beloved Crystal Palace. How happy and healthy he looks. None could have suspected it would be his last visit.

A few months ago I posted a video of the transformation of our parish in Pembury. What struck me as I put the video together was how ever present big Mike was in every phase of work we undertook. He helped move every item of church furnishings and masterminded the felling of trees. In short he was always first to volunteer and he put a lot of sweat, blood and tears into building up a church in this place. He attended meetings and always accompanied me for a beer or two afterwards. It seems impossible than a man so full of life and energy can have been cut short like he was. I am going to miss him so much.

In time there will be more to share. But for now prayers. For him that his sins may be forgiven and that he may be held close to the sacred heart of Christ. For his wife, Liz, who brought him to faith and to whom he owes so much. For his children James and Becci- who he adored and loved so much. For his sister Liz and for all his extended family and friends. Rest in peace Mike Blande- I don’t think you ever quite realised the impact you had on those who knew you. May saints triumphant lead you on your way.

Here is the video of that transformation which serves well, for now, as a tribute to Mike. Thank you so much for all you did for our parish.