Thursday, 30 June 2011

New Auxiliary Bishop for Westminster

The news has been announced today that the Holy Father has appointed the Revd John Sherrington to be Auxiliary Bishop in the Diocese of Westminster. Fr Sherrington is currently the parish priest of The Good Shepherd, Woodthorpe in the Diocese of Nottingham. He will have responsibility for the Hertford area of the diocese and replaces Bishop Stack who is now the Archbishop of Cardiff.
Further information can be found on the Diocesan Website.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Feast of St Peter and St Paul

Saint Peter and Saint Paul, have both been depicted, either individually or together, by artists through the centuries. To celebrate their Feast Day today, here is one of those images, painted by Carlo Crivelli (c.1435-c.1495) with a reflection by Sister Wendy Beckett.

"Carlo Crivelli is a distinctive artist. All he paints is hard edged, sharply outlined. It is as if his bodies are hewn from the rock, and the fruit which so often decorates his work (see the apple on the lower right) is carved from marble. This makes for compelling and sometimes disturbing pictures.

There is certainly an element of disturbance here, if we look at the tense veins on St Peter’s hand or the swollen joints of the apostles' feet. What I find so enthralling here though, is a rare touch of comedy. When we read the Acts of the Apostles, we are told how the church developed from its Jewish origins and, with difficulty, came to terms with them. The apostles in Jerusalem were disturbed by the freedom with which St Paul had been baptising the non-circumcised gentiles. Christianity was the predestined development of Judaism, its fulfilment. But, which element of the original covenant were to be preserved and which had lost their force after the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus?

This was a legitimate area of concern and St Luke gives it full weight. There is a so-called "Council of Jerusalem" and an agenda is agreed, the most important item being the non-necessity of circumcision. In St Luke’s account all is sweetness and light, Peter and Paul embrace. However, when we read St Paul’s letters we realise that this peaceable agreement is an oversimplification. All would indeed come right, and Peter and Paul, equally sanctified, would both be martyred in the holy city. In the meantime though, there were difficulties. St Paul minces no words when he writes to the Galatians. "When Cephas (Peter) came to Antioch I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned... fearing the circumcision party. And with him, the rest of the Jews acted insincerely... but when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the Gospel, I said to Cephas before then all ‘if you, though a Jew, live like a gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the gentiles to live like Jews?’"

We can imagine St Peter accepting the rebuff and acknowledging the truth of it. How could St Peter, that great lover of Jesus, not warm to a man who can say "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lies in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."

Crivelli offers us a delightful vignette of these two great apostles, not quite at odds with each other, but not wholly in sympathy either. St Peter is rather distracted searching for a proof in his bible, while St Paul awaits his vindication. They loved each other and worked together for the glory of God, but they were not kindred spirits."

Picture Saints Peter and Paul by Carlo Crivelli © The National Gallery London.
Text from Sister Wendy Contemplates Saint Paul in Art by Sister Wendy Beckett © ST PAULS Publishing.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Corpus Christi

Some thoughts on the Blessed Sacrament from the Holy Father.

"The sacred host exposed to our view speaks of the infinite power of Love manifested on the glorious Cross. The sacred host speaks to us of the incredible abasement of the One who made himself poor so as to make us rich in him, the One who accepted the loss of everything so as to win us for the Father. The sacred host is the living, efficacious and real sacrament of the eternal presence of the Saviour of mankind to his church."
Meditation during the Eucharistic procession in Lourdes. 14 September 2008

"It is important that you participate in the Eucharist, in which Jesus gives himself for us, the heart of your life. He who dies for the sins of all desires to enter into communion with each one of you and is knocking at the doors of your hearts to give you his grace. Go to the encounter with him in the Blessed Eucharist, go to adore him in the churches, kneeling before the Tabernacle: Jesus wil fill you with his love and will reveal to you the thoughts of his Heart. If you listen to him, you will feel ever more deeply the joy of belonging to his Mystical Body, the Church, which is the family of his disciples held close by the bond of unity and love."
Message to young Catholics of the Netherlands. 21 November 2005

"How very significant is the bond between the Church’s mission and the Eucharist. In fact, missionary and evangelising action is the apostolic diffusion of love that is, as it were, concentrated in the Most Blessed Sacrament. Whoever receives Christ in the reality of his Body and Blood cannot keep this gift to himself, but is impelled to share in courageous witness to the Gospel, in service of brothers and sisters in need, in pardoning offences. For some, then, the Eucharist is the seed of a specific call to leave all and go to proclaim Christ to those who still do not know him."
Angelus. 23 October 2005

Top picture © CNS.

Quotations © from The Eucharist, one of seven books from the Spiritual Thoughts Series published by ST PAULS.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Changes at the Cathedral

Congratulations to Fr Slawomir Witon, Sub-Administrator of Westminster Cathedral, who has been appointed Parish Priest of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St George, Enfield. Fr Witon has been a great supporter of ST PAULS during his time at the Cathedral and we give him the assurance of our best wishes and prayers as he prepares to move to Enfield.
He is to be replaced by Fr Gerard Skinner, currently Parish Priest of St Gabriel, South Harrow and St Bernard, Northolt. Fr Skinner is already well known to us at ST PAULS, not least as we are the publisher of Priests of Jesus Christ V.II, one of his many books. We look forward to welcoming Fr Skinner to the Cathedral and give him the assurance of our best wishes and prayers.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

George Basil Hume OSB, OM

17th June marks the 12th anniversary of the death of Cardinal George Basil Hume.

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1923, Hume joined Ampleforth Monastery in 1941, taking the name Basil, and took solemn vows in 1945. After studying in Oxford and Fribourg, he was ordained priest in 1950 and returned to Ampleforth, where he was elected Abbot in 1963.

In 1976 he was appointed Archbishop of Westminster and made a Cardinal the same year. Her Majesty the Queen rewarded his remarkable achievements by making him a member of the Order of Merit, shortly before his death on 17th June 1999.

His mortal remains are buried in the chapel of St Gregory and St Augustine in Westminster Cathedral.

The following extract from his book Light in the Lord (now out of print) was reprinted in Priesthood: A Life Open to Christ, compiled by Canon Daniel Cronin, to celebrate the Year for Priests (2009-10).

"I would like you all to pray for me – and as time passes I see increasingly the urgency of that request – and I also pray that I may be ‘a genuine sign of Christ’s loving presence among you.’ That applies to each of you as well. You are to be ‘a genuine sign of Christ’s loving presence’ among those entrusted to your pastoral care. As ‘genuine’ signs of that presence, we must ourselves, as St Paul says, ‘put on Christ’, that is to think as Christ thought, to act as Christ acted, to speak as Christ spoke. It is our task to ensure that the word of God is solemnly and properly acclaimed and the Catholic faith is taught, to make certain that the Eucharist and other liturgical services are celebrated with sincere devotion – and all this for the glory of God and for the well-being of the people we have been sent to serve. This last phrase could sound as if our laity were not more than the passive recipients of what we, as priests, have to offer. What an error that would be.

Just as the laity are expected now to play an active part in the liturgy – and this in consequence of their baptism – so must they also play an active part in the mission of the Church. It is part of our responsibility to work for the Kingdom of God in whatever way is most suitable and to enable the spiritual energies of the baptised to be released. It is for us to encourage them to learn more about their faith, to teach them how to pray, and to provide them with whatever assistance they may need to be missionaries, evangelisers and catechists in the circumstances of their daily lives.

Do not forget, too, that our lay people have been anointed with the Holy Spirit. He is at work in them as he is in us, and our leadership as priests – for bishops and priests must be leaders – will take account of this. Ours, priest and people, is a partnership. We have different roles, but one purpose which is to give glory to God and to serve our neighbour – it is an adventure of love."

May he rest in peace.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Poor Banished Children

Commuting in London is far from an enjoyable experience, often made worse by the activity of one’s fellow commuters. Some people try to make their fellow commuters oblivious by burying their head in a copy of the free newspaper which is scattered all over the tube carriage or by reading a trashy novel. Others are oblivious of their fellow commuters and perform activities which are best kept to the bathroom or dressing table (should such pieces of furniture still exist). Having to watch a woman on public transport apply a variety of coloured substances to her face first thing in the morning is not a good start to any day.

Occasionally, one sees a fellow commuter (not "customer" as announcements at London Underground stations insist on calling us) reading the bible, which is a very productive use of time, as well as being an excellent form of witness. Now, thanks to Fiorella de Maria Nash, there is a another book which everyone can benefit from reading - Poor Banished Children.

Don’t take our word for it, have a look here at what Fr Tim Finigan has to say about it, then purchase it here from ST PAULS.

Saturday, 11 June 2011


We hear them preaching in our own languages the marvellous works of God. Acts 2:11

The extraordinary event that was Pentecost gave birth to the Church. The mighty wind and tongues of fire were symbols of the divine power that would infuse the apostles and the Church in their mission of proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord to the world. In all four gospels Christ had promised that the Father would send the Holy Spirit in his name, and now that promise has come to pass. The Spirit so transformed the disciples that the courage and eloquence they previously lacked now became their hallmark. Luke, the author of Acts, relates that Jewish pilgrims present from many different nations heard the apostles speak about Christ in their own particular language. He probably has in mind the disunity of the human race from its early history as recorded in Genesis (11:1-9), when God confused and scattered humanity because of its pride. Now, at Pentecost, unity is again restored through the Holy Spirit when representatives of many nations could understand the one language of the gospel of Jesus Christ. With good reason the Second Vatican Council could describe the Church as the Sacrament of Unity.

The apostle Paul had a keen awareness of the essential place of the Holy Spirit both in the life of the baptised Christian and in the Church at large. The anointing with the Holy Spirit conferred on believers at baptism enables them to make a full profession of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and the Son of God. With the unity of the Church in mind, Paul teaches that the diversity of spiritual gifts which individual members of the Church enjoy have their single source in the Holy Spirit, and must therefore serve the common good. The Apostle introduces the concept of the Church as a single body with many parts. He is referring here to the Church as the Body of Christ into which believers are incorporated through baptism. This is a profound analogy which seeks to underline the mystery of the Church as the unity of the baptised in Christ, who have a mutual responsibility for each other. The safeguarding of that unity both in fidelity to the tradition of the apostles and the witness of the Christian life is the work of the Holy Spirit.

The Easter evening scene of the risen Lord encountering his disciples in the Upper Room presents us with John’s understanding of the Holy Spirit and his function in the life of the Church. The Evangelist had noted earlier (Jn 7:39) that the Holy Spirit could be given only after Jesus had been glorified. Now the victorious and glorious Jesus was able to share his life-giving Spirit with his disciples as he had promised. At the creation the Lord God breathed into the dust and created man (Gen 2:7); the Church is now the new creation animated by the Holy Spirit. The power of the Spirit, conferred by the risen Christ, will enable the Church to be the means of reconciliation between humanity and God, described here as the forgiveness of sins.

Text © ST PAULS Publishing

This reflection is taken from You Will Be My Witnesses by Bishop Michael Campbell OSA, Bishop of Lancaster, and published by ST PAULS.

Friday, 3 June 2011

No Cardinal for Westminster

Despite a petition to prevent the re-naming of the pub which is situated across the road from Archbishop's House in Westminster, following major refurbishment the pub has re-opened with the name Windsor Castle.

It appears that Westminster will have to wait a little longer before it has another "Cardinal".

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Ascension Day

Some parts of the world are celebrating the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord today whilst others, including England and Wales, have to wait until Sunday. However, depending on the outcome of consultation and reflection by the Bishops of England and Wales, the celebration of the Feast of the Ascension as a Holy Day of Obligation in England and Wales might revert to its proper place within the Easter season. Which ever day you are celebrating it, Sister Wendy Beckett offers the following reflection.

The forty days after the Resurrection of Jesus must have been the most extraordinary period in Christian history. Once the Apostles had finally come to terms with the overwhelming miracle of His Presence, every day must have held out the ecstatic possibility of His appearance. We are told that, "He appeared to many". Mary Magdalene knew well that this state was only temporary, but perhaps there were those among the Apostles who persuaded themselves that He would be among them always, visible and beautiful. It was not to be. He remained on earth long enough to make it inescapably clear that He was alive – more than alive – transcendently alive. But while He was physically visible, His power was limited. He could not send the Spirit, He could not be alive in their hearts, until their knowledge of Him sprang from faith and not from sight.

This is a very early icon showing that climactic moment when Jesus said farewell in the flesh, and ascended into heaven. Western art has always been challenged by the sublimity of this image, and usually shows Mary and the Apostles, looking upwards, while there are only two feet appearing below the upper edge of the painting. For the Orthodox, this is lacking in respect. This is a damaged icon, but the image will be repeated over the centuries. Jesus is central, held in an oval mandorla of glory, the most eye catching element in the icon. This is what we notice above all, Jesus, ascending heavenwards. Translucent angels bear him up. Soon He will disappear from sight, and only the eyes of faith will see Him, interiorly, within the heart. Meanwhile, on earth, Mary stands astounded, lifting up her hands in praise and wonder. On either side the Apostles look upwards, bewildered, bereaved but believing. Mary does not need to look upwards. Naturally, she will miss her Son, but supernaturally she understands that this is how it must be. It is how He will draw all to Himself. He is set free from the limitations of time and place. "He has ascended to His Father". Most later icons add further elements to the story. When the Apostles got over their shock, they found "two men in white robes" rebuking them for their folly in gazing up into the heavens. Jesus will come again, they told them, but only on the last day. Meanwhile, Christians were meant to get on with life, and to live in the Spirit of Jesus, rather than hankering after His material presence. Perhaps the iconographer imagined that two of the angels, so blissfully bearing Jesus upwards, would then come down to the earth, to give sound advice to His rather hapless followers.

There are very few early icons of Jesus that survive. We are privileged to possess this image of our Blessed Lord held between heaven and earth. His garments are gilded as opposed to the earthy clothing of His mother and His Apostles. He stretches out a hand in final blessing, while His other hand holds the rolled parchment of His teaching. That teaching has yet to be written down, to comprise the Gospels and, through His union with Jesus, the letters of St Paul. There might seem to be two worlds here, the eternal world of Jesus, and the temporal world of Mary.

The text of this article is © from our recent publication Sister Wendy Contemplates the Iconic Jesus

The Ascension icon picture is © St Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai.

Sister Wendy's book can be ordered here.