Last night a goodly congregation gathered for our fourth lecture, entitled ‘thy will be done’ it was delivered by Fr. Alexander Sherbrooke of St. Patrick’s church in Soho. It was a wonderful talk and is well worth your time. Enjoy.

A reminder that our current lecture series, marking 10 years since the announcement of the Ordinariate, resumes this coming Wednesday, 29th January. Low Mass at 7pm. Refreshments at 7:30pm and talk at 8pm. Do come along and support it.

The lectures follow the theme of the ‘Our Father’ and this fourth lecture has the title ‘thy will be done”. The speaker will be Fr. Alexander Sherbrooke.

Father Alexander Sherbrooke is a priest of Westminster diocese who has served the parish of St. Patrick’s in Soho Square since 2001. In that time he has overseen a £3.5 million pound renovation which enabled him to open the church up like never before. The parish runs various courses and a soup kitchen and does tireless work amongst the poor in Soho. A monthly nightfever event sees the church open all night for confession, counselling and adoration.

Fr. Sherbrooke writes “You get a knock on the door and it can be someone who is successful in business, someone who wants a sandwich or someone caught up in the sex industry. We leave our SOS prayer line calling cards in telephone boxes – where you might see other services advertised! One man who called said he was a pimp and wanted to break out of his occupation but that it was too lucrative for him to leave. Do we just accept the way people are? People get into ruts they find it difficult to break out of. We can say, as Christians, that God can and does intervene…. In this part of London you don’t have resident parishioners. It is a place where people can rest their weary feet. There is a little bit of bucking the trend going on. The loneliness of this city is more intense than you can imagine. Soho has a darkness as well as the bright lights.”

In recent years I have fallen in love with podcasts. These are short radio programmes which are not broadcast live but rather downloaded by users to be listened to at leisure. Users may also subscribe to favoured programmes, via an app on their phone or computer, to ensure they do not miss latest episodes.

Of course podcasts are only as good as the content. Some are total rubbish and soon discarded, others genuinely fascinating. ‘Stuff you should know’ is a favourite of mine as each episode is on something totally different but explored at depth by two infectiously enthusiastic characters. It is a delight for lovers of trivia. Another guilty pleasure is true crime but I also use them to catch up on current affairs, sport, politics and, of course, religion.

The latest episode of the Holy Smoke podcast, a religious affairs podcast hosted by the journalist Damian Thompson, is well worth a listen. If you don’t use podcasts then you can visit this website to listen online.

In this latest programme Gavin Ashenden, a former chaplain to the Queen who recently left Anglicanism to become Catholic, is interviewed. What he has to say about the malaise of the Church of England in the present day is important for it affects certain trends in the Catholic church too. I especially applauded his point that churches fail us all when they cease being spiritual supernatural entities and descend to the realm of human politics.

The irony of the modern age is that the more we promote tolerance as an ideal the less of it we witness. In fact ours is increasingly an enraged and selfish age in which toleration of other people and viewpoints is at an all time low.

Consider the political landscape. In America democrats no longer conceal their hatred of republicans, especially President Trump. And the republicans barely hide their loathing for leftism and socialist ideals. Centrism is dying. The left and right abecoming more extreme, more outspoken and less tolerant of alternative view points. The situation is no different in the UK where the entire fiasco over Brexit highlighted a similar division which shows little sign of abating.

One cause of rising division in the 21st Century is the modern media which long ago abandoned even the pretence of impartially to promote narratives and ideologies instead. This leads to subjective demonisation and adulation of people, parties and groups and does little to bring people together. Social media is especially toxic serving as a virtual petri dish for the cultivation of hatred. When nobody is physically present we easily lose sight of our opponents dignity. We begin to pigeon hole and dehumanise instead.

Another reason for division, seen in growth of hard right and hard left, is due to a collapse of centrist liberalism which was the politics of choice in the 20th Century. Lies over weapons in Iraq, the financial collapse, the discovery of widespread abuse and corruption in institutions and political parties, the growing gaps between rich and poor; these have led to a loss of faith in the globalist centrist project. People no longer trust those in authority and, it must be said, often with good reason. A shift to the fringes and to a politics of protest is the inevitable outcome. This loss of confidence in a globalist vision can also be seen in increasing success of nationalist governments. A situation that makes peace between nations increasingly fragile.

Sadly this loss of tolerance and rise of division can also be seen in the church at present. Where previous papacies held a fragile truce between modernist and traditionalist, elevating a balance of both and seeking to broker peace, the latest trend is for demonisation of one by the other in a bid for total domination of power. Cardinal turns against cardinal and the threat of another schism is real.

Against this sorry back drop of division in the church and world a need becomes obvious. Jesus said ‘blessed are the peace makers’. How could you be a peace maker; at home, in school, in the workplace? How can you show acceptance and tolerance of those with whom you disagree? We have to learn to live alongside one another in the end. This does not mean losing integrity. After all a pursuit of goodness and truth always trumps pursuit of peace because you don’t do deals with the devil! But it does mean learning how to better disagree, even bitterly if necessary, but in love. Not all who vote a certain way are bad, not all who believe a certain way are wicked.

Republicans go buy a democrat a beer and vice versa! Leavers make supper for a remainer and discuss football not politics. Rugby clubs, churches, clubs and societies are excellent places where a coming together can be done. And remember when debating online- a real person is on the other end. We must not lose sight of their dignity and they deserves as much care and attention as you.

Our associate priest, Fr. Benedict Kiely, who does heroic work for the persecuted church in the Middle East, was interviewed on EWTN this week regarding the situation for Christians in the middle East in light of the increased tensions between Iran and the USA.

You can visit the page of Fr. Benedict’s charity, Nasarean.org, by following this link. Do please make a donation if possible. This coming Lent our parish will be supporting the work officially.

It is the feast of the Epiphany which is one of my favourite seasons in the church year. Not only because there are so many wonderful Epiphany carols but also because there are some lovely little customs as well.

One of these is the marking the doors of the faithful with blessed chalk. Why not mark your door as well? If your parish does not follow the custom then non-blessed chalk could be used.

Simply gather the family in front of your front door for a short time of devotion. Somebody must then chalk the following inscription 20 + K +M +B + 20 as the following prayer is recited:

The 3 wise men

K      Kaspar

M      Melchior and

B      Balthasar followed the star of God’s Son, Jesus, who became man

20    two thousand 

20   and twenty years ago. 

+ +   May Christ bless our home

+ +   and remain with us throughout this new year. 

Almighty God, incline your ear. May you bless us and all who are gathered here.  Send your holy angel who will defend us and fill with grace all who live here. May our home be a place of love, hospitality and welcome. May you always be made welcome here. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen. 

You can then write ‘ora pro nobis’ (pray for us) underneath and chalk a small crown above each of the three letters representing the magi.