This year’s St. Anselm’s Lent Charity is Nasarean.org, a charity founded by Fr. Benedict Kiely, an associate priest in our parish. Do visit the website to learn more about the wonderful work this charity does to support the persecuted church in the Middle East.

Via the charity Father Benedict Kiely devotes his life to advocacy on behalf of the persecuted church, especially in Syria and Iraq where the horrors unleashed by extremist Islam has caused devastation on a terrible scale. His work includes writing and speaking and fund raising as well as working with governmental organisations and others of goodwill who are seeking to help the suffering Church. 

The charity has worked to rebuild shattered homes and businesses and enable Persecuted Christians to receive priority for immigration as victims of Genocide. Father Ben has visited Iraq on multiple occasions since early 2015 and is working hard to establish relationships in Syria.

Please give generously to help our Catholic family who are suffering so much for their faith in Jesus Christ. The charity is based in America, where Father Benedict lived until recently, but a UK branch is in the process of being established. And I am honoured to have been asked to serve on it as a trustee. Helping the persecuted church is close to my heart.

Saturday evening’s Bollywood Ball, held as a fundraiser for our church, was absolutely magical and I could easily run out of superlatives trying to convey this fact. 85 dinner guests gathered in the local village hall and were treated to authentic Indian food and culture courtesy of the Keralan community.

As the photographs clearly show the Keralans came dressed in gorgeous costumes ready to perform traditional songs and dances. It was all so colourful and exotic and everyone in attendance went out of their way to express their gratitude to me. One said ‘it was an honour to be present’ I agree. The standards and effect were almost worthy of the West End. And the children, who performed most of the dances, were just charming.

Some of the Keralan community are well known to us as, being Catholic, they regularly worship at St Anselms. But their number on the night was boosted by friends from the Hindu community as well. What a wonderful example of people of different faiths working together in love. As is often the case on the ground where media distortion is absent.

As for the food it was delicious. We started with home made samosas and chutneys followed by chicken or vegetable curry with rice and popadoms. The kitchen was very much a male domain on the night and the chaps deserve praise not only for feeding us but doing the washing up as well. Here we see the first of them arriving before the hard work began.

As for liquid refreshment the Anselmian brewery unveiled two new ales. They tasted similar to the local ales of the Tonbridge brewery but were re-named as ‘Old Nick’ -an eccentric brew with an addled head’

The second guest ale was the “Rob- Roy” advertised as a fuller bodied beer. We are grateful to Tunbridge Wells Rugby Club for their help in supplying ale. There was also wine and orange juice. But I wouldn’t know about that.

The Bollywood Ball was a tremendous success then. I want to put on record here my sincere appreciation to the Keralan community who pulled out all the stops to make it so. They are not guests in our parish but full members and friends. And they really enrich our lives not just by their presence but also by their devotion. A perfect picture to illustrate this unity shows my daughter, Jemima, with a best friend from Primary school. They often meet up since leaving for secondary school and much enjoyed each other’s company on the night. One as guest and table setter, the other as a dancer.

What a privilege it was to attend. Who knew that, hidden within our parish, is so much talent and culture? Thank you Keralans and thank you all who helped in any way. It truly was a night to remember.

This year something VERY exciting is happening in the Catholic world. England is to be re-dedicated as Mary’s Dowry, a dedication she held in pre-reformation days. As part of this important spiritual moment Catholics are asked to take part and prepare by prayer and devotion. I hope every member of St. Anselm’s congregation will take part.

The Re-dedication will take place on March 29th, 2020. It will be fulfilled by a communal act of prayer across the country through the The Angelus Promise  and The Act of Entrustment. These devotions and pledges will take place at St. Anselm’s as part of our worship that day. A Plenary Indulgence will be granted for all who make The Re-dedication.

Leading up to the re-dedication Catholics are asked to spend 33 days consecrating themselves to Jesus through Mary by following the method of St. Louis de Montfort recently updated. To participate visit THIS PAGE and sign up for the daily emails. This will also lead you to the main website for the re-dedication where you can find full details of all that is happening.

On March 18th an image of Our Lady of Walsingham will go to Parliament and a Mass and rosary will be offered in the Chapel of Our Lady in the undercroft. This is a private occasion for Members of Parliament and on that day those taking part in the 33 days of devotions will pray for those set in authority over us.

On the 25th March, the Solemnity of the Annunciation, all who have followed the 33 days are invited to make their act of formal consecration. This will take place locally before Mass- at 6:30pm. Mother Winsome will be present for Mass that day and deliver a lecture to us afterwards, as part of our special series of lectures.

Then from March 26-28 three days of prayerful preparation focused on Eucharistic adoration will take place. We will ponder and treasure the words of Mary, asking for her intercession for the intentions of the Church, and the world. And on the 29th the official rededication will take place across the nation by all those parishes taking part.

In the Gospel passage (for last Sunday) Jesus states his purpose was to fulfil not replace the law. This he achieved in two distinct ways. First by living himself in obedience to scripture. As a man he voluntarily fulfilled Jewish law. Second, as God, by literally fulfilling the Old Testament prophecies.

On the road to Emmaus, when evangelising, he explained the Scriptures concerning himself. In other words, he preached the Old Testament precisely because it all pointed to him. The Old Testament is ever relevant because Christ is always relevant. It is fulfilled in Christ.

Now note how Jesus uses a fascinating phrase when quoting scripture “But I say to you.” No prophet would dare say this! They said, “Thus spake the Lord…” apostles said, “It is written…” only Jesus says, “But I tell you…” Because he is the ultimate authority. The divine author of sacred scripture. It should not surprise us then that when Jesus says “I say to you” he always enlarges our understanding, drawing us away from mere following of rules into an authentic life of holiness.

We see that in today’s Gospel reading where Jesus reveals the law is not a dusty rule book but a way into a relationship with God. Hence it is not enough to simply avoid adultery whilst lusting after women. God’s law must penetrate our very being. We must become holy leading to the keeping of God’s law from the heart. The quality of relationship counts, the authenticity of faith. We must learn to love God and delight in his law. 

This requires obedience. Jesus said ‘if you love me you will keep my commands” Full obedience, by the way, not sneaky partial obedience. Hence Jesus stressed “until heaven and earth disappear, not one letter will disappear from the Law” Now Modern Christians need to better understand this point. We cannot simply dismiss the parts of scripture we don’t like. We cannot bend church teaching to the Spirit of the age ever watering down the faith martyrs died for. As St Paul wrote God’s word is true “yesterday, today and forever” meaning it is eternal and reliable. So what was true regarding, say sexual morality, in our grandparents day remains true today.

Isaiah wrote: “The grass withers but the word of God stands forever.” Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass, but my words will never pass away.” Don’t fall for modernist lies then. Don’t be seduced by those voices in Christianity today that delight in suggesting scripture or church teaching is outdated and must be modernised to become “relevant”. Relevant to who exactly? God or fallen man? The historic faith or the modern culture?

The word of God, sacred scripture, is not a political manifesto for man to tinker with according to his will. But a sacred deposit of faith that Christians are called, at cost take note, to obey in fullness. Ultimately that is what it means to be holy. Now half-baked Christians in any generation assure us that it is not so; in seeking comfort and ease they insist God’s word needs updating. The challenges removed. This argument is, however, just an attempt to fashion a get out of jail card; usually over one moral issue or another! An attempt to bridge the gap between the fallen demands of this world and the standards of God. Not one Saint ever stood in that gap. Not one martyr died for such illogical compromise.

You cannot cherry pick scripture. Of course, you must properly understand it. You do need the context; to understand how fallen things in the Old Testament, take marriage, are redeemed in the new. So in the old testament we see polygamy with Solomon’s concubines, and many other shoddy examples of family life, but after Christ, in the new Testament, marriage like man has been redeemed. And all we see is that call to lifelong fidelity.

 2 Timothy says: “All Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” God’s Word is truth. So save us, Lord, from meddling doubt filled theologians with clever arguments. All that is needed, in truth, in any generation, is not new ways of approaching God’s laws. But greater obedience. Greater fidelity to scripture not compromise with the world.

Jesus said: “Anyone who breaks the least commandments- and teaches others to do likewise -will be least in the kingdom.” Once you start deviating from God’s word, you don’t just harm yourself you lead others into error. As we belittle Scripture, we ourselves become belittled. Just look at the loss of respect for the church wherever it has apostatised! We only find decline where the church has liberalised. Growth is found where orthodoxy remains. Something that is true regardless of denomination. It is hardly surprising – what is the point of an emasculated faith that simply endorses whatever you already believe in?

To be credible, Jesus says, practice and teach my commands. His emphasis was not only to practice but teach. “If you love me, obey my commands.” We don’t pick and choose which ones. If we love Jesus, we keep all his commands. As Jesus obeyed the commands of the Jewish faith in his day. And we will cherish scripture because, in the end, it points to him. If you really believe in Jesus, you will believe in Scripture. You will read it; study it and treasure it; and God will speak to you through it. 

Fake Christians- to make the faith fit their desires- pick choose and compromise. Authentic Christians- to make their lives fit the faith- repent, sacrifice and seek grace. It really is that simple in the end. To obey or not to obey – that is the question.

There is only a short turn around between the January and February lectures. Meaning that our next talk is taking place next Wednesday, 12th February, when our guest speaker will be Revd. Dr. Michael Ward, a senior research fellow at Blackfriars Oxford and a priest of the Ordinariate. The title of the February lecture is ‘on earth as it is in heaven’ and, as ever, it is Low Mass at 7pm, refreshments at 7:30pm and talk at 8pm.

Father Michael is a leading expert on C. S. Lewis having written a highly acclaimed book, ‘Planet Narnia: the seven heavens in the imagination of C. S. Lewis’ and co-edited ‘The Cambridge Companion to C. S. Lewis. On the 50th anniversary of Lewis’s death Fr. Ward was honoured to unveil a permanent national memorial to the writer in Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey. As part of this initiative, which he helped organise, he produced a volume of commemorative essays entitled ‘C.S. Lewis at Poet’s corner’. As well as writing prolifically Fr. Ward presented the BBC1 documentary ‘the Narnia Code’ in 2009.

Though based at Blackfriars in Oxford, Fr. Michael is also employed as a professor of Apologetics at Houston Baptist University in Texas, where he teaches a course every year. From 2009-2012 he served as Chaplain to St. Peter’s college in the University of Oxford but left this post in order to join the Catholic church as a member, and now priest, of the Ordinariate.

His great claim to fame, however, is none of the above but rather that he was an extra in the James Bond film ‘The world is not enough’ when he handed some x-ray specs to Bond himself. Now that is most impressive!

Today is the feast of the presentation of Christ in the temple, known as Candlemas. On this day, when we recall the light revealed to all nations, it is an ancient custom of the church to bless the candles for use throughout the liturgical year. At every Mass today we shall bless candles and light them at various parts of the liturgy.

Several superstitions surround the feast of Candlemas. In England people used to look out for snowdrops on this date. If they were found then spring was not far off. But if not bad weather was expected. In North America it was not flowers that people observed but animals. Because candlemas occurs around the time bears and wolves emerge from winter hibernation to inspect the weather, people came to make their own predictions too. If the animals chose to return to their lairs on this day it was interpreted as meaning severe weather would continue for another forty days at least. In the United States and Canada, Candlemas evolved into Groundhog Day.

An ancient Candlemas poem from England goes as follows:

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright
Winter will have another fight.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain,
Winter will not come again.

So if the weather is nice today you can expect more weeks of winter weather, if it isn’t nice the weather should get better soon. Hmmm we shall see…the forecast is mixed in any case!

Candlemas also brings an end to Christmas and Epiphanytide. So the eve was the day on which decorations were taken down. It was said that if all traces weren’t removed there would be a death among the congregation before the year was out! Staying with the macabre, another Candlemas tradition holds that anyone who hears funeral bells tolling on Candlemas will soon hear of the death of a close friend or relative; each toll representing a day that will pass before the unfortunate news is learned. Best wear ear-plugs I guess?!