Saturday, 18 June 2011

Priestly Ordinations Yesterday (Friday 17th June)

Bishop Budd performing the laying on of hands
In Plymouth Cathedral yesterday evening, members of the ordinariate, former parishioners, friends, well-wishers and family gathered to support the eight men to be ordained priest in the Catholic Church, by Bishop Christopher Budd, Bishop of Plymouth Diocese. Seven were for the Ordinariate, one for the diocese (a former Anglican too).

It has been quite a journey for us all, and there was not a little bit of relief being felt. It was also very humbling as we considered how soon we were being ordained after leaving our ministry in the Church of England. It was humbling to thus receive so much joy and warmth at this celebration.

Bishop Budd commented that it had been some time since the cathedral had hosted an ordination for such a number.

Priests laying on with hands
The first two lessons were read by two of the wives of the candidates, the psalm sung by one of the candidates' son. The candidates had chosen hymns and lessons as they felt was appropriate:

Introit: All my hope on God is founded
Setting of mass: Dom Gregory Murray's New Mass
First lesson: Jeremiah 1:4-9
Ps 109 "You are a priest for ever, a priest like Melchizedek of old" by Dom Sebastian Wolff OSB

Second lesson: 1 Peter 5:1-4
Investiture with stole and chasuble
Gospel: John 20:19-23
Litany - cantor a diocesan priest

After anointing with Chrism: Come Holy Ghost
Offertory: Alleluia! sing to Jesus
Communion: Sweet sacrament divine, Be still for the presence, All for Jesus
Recession: Ye who own the faith of Jesus (daily,daily)

The lessons were taken from RSV (Catholic Edition).

Following the mass, the bishop had arranged for refreshments. Sadly because of the rain the refreshments were not in the marquee in the bishop's garden, we went to the school hall instead. However clearly the children present found this very agreeable as screams of delight were heard from some distance away as they played games in the school playground. The young children did particularly well getting through a long liturgy, but they still seemed to have plenty of energy afterwards.

It was very touching to be greeted by former parishioners who had taken the trouble to come. I am sure some sadness or at least mixed emotions were present to them. But there was also much warmth and congratulations offered to the priests, and not a few asked for new priestly blessings.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

To Buckfast Ordinariate Group

Dear brothers and sisters

This coming Sunday is the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity, that is, a very special feast day in the church's calendar.

It is also a special moment in the journey we have made.

In many ways it seems so very long ago, when at the beginning of Lent we left our home in the Church of England and began our journey to find our home in the Catholic Church. Following the priestly ordinations tomorrow, I will be in a position to celebrate the mass for you, the 'Buckfast Group' of the Ordinariate. It is a special moment for me; it is a special moment for all of us.

I want to say thank you to each of you for accompanying me in this quiet and gentle conversion. It has been all the easier for our companionship along the way. Now we embark on a new phase and a new set of challenges. We begin in a very small and poor way. We don't even have a bank account yet! We don't have any property (which is a relief). We do have the friendships we are building with each other, and the new friends we have found in the Abbot and Abbey community. And we have our faith renewed by God's grace, so what else do we need?

God called us here and we have answered. We have tried to be obedient to him. But now we begin something new within the Catholic Church: what is called, the Ordinariate. What is that?

I don't know about you, but I feel a very ordinary sort of person. I am the son of a boiler-maker, who did moderately well in his education, but is no academic high-flyer, that's for sure. I am not the life and soul of a party (although I do enjoy a celebration now and again). I have not done extraordinary things in my life. But maybe this Ordinariate is for ordinary people like me. Some people are expecting exceptional things from the Ordinariate, but I do not feel capable of extraordinary things, do you? My belief is that we are not called to excitement so much as faithfulness; not called on special missions as obedience; not called to be extraordinary witnesses as to live an ordinary Christian life depending not on our own abilities but on the grace of God alone. It would be a privilege if you would continue to accompany me in this and I could serve you as God has called me to.

Please remember me in your prayers for I need them all. I will continue to keep you in mine. I, and Frs Robin and Colin, will be offering Mass each Sunday at 3pm in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel of the Abbey. I look forward to seeing you, but above all I look forward to the future of the Ordinariate. Thanks be to God for His mercy and love.

A very ordinary pastor,


Monday, 13 June 2011

Interview with The Catholic Herald

Again there is no end of fascination with my particular circumstances, this time by The Catholic Herald. Again I publish my responses in case some of you are interested:

1) You commented that in the last 10 years you felt increasingly uncomfortable in the CofE and questioned its direction and decisions. What are the specific areas of concern?
I have been concerned with the way in which the C of E tries to discern the will of God through its governing body (General Synod) particularly in matters of faith and morals. It has increasingly seemed to many of us that this process has become political. Decisions made less on a consistent theological position and more on balancing the opinions of various groups within the church. Specifically I am troubled by inconsistent approaches to the life issues, especially at the beginning and end of life, and the church's confusion over what it understands ordained ministry to be about (is it purely functional or is it ontological too). Some of these specific issues come to a head in the decision of GS to admit women to holy orders.
2) How did your parishioners react to the news?
My parishioners were somewhat shocked at my decision because I was forbidden by my Anglican bishop from announcing my resignation in advance. The day we announced our decision was the day we began gardening leave. So many were shocked I was going like that. However many of them knew my discomfort within the C of E and most seemed to have come to terms with it. They gave very generously to us as a thank you for all that I had done since 2001.
3) You spoke of your amazement at the Ordinariate¹s respect for Anglicanism. When the news of the Ordinariate broke, some sections of the media understood/portrayed the Ordinariate as little more than a poaching exercise by the Catholic Church, namely lacking in respect for Anglicanism. How would you respond to this?
The Catholic Church made this provision for Anglicans because groups of Anglicans asked for it, i.e. "how can we come into full communion with the Catholic Church in groups?" Also, Anglicanism respects a person's conscience and essentially what my Anglican bishop wanted to know is whether I was testing my conscience properly, he was not against me following my conscientious decision. Equally every person in my ordinariate group discerned for themselves whether they believed God was calling them into the Catholic Church.
4)You referred to the Catholic Church evangelising in such a way that¹s most appropriate in our age. This is a very interesting observation. Can you elaborate on what you mean by this?
Well I find Blessed Pope John Paul's phrase "the new evangelisation" a very inspiring notion. It is not that there is new content to the Good News, but that we need a fresh start in how we live it, how we apply it in daily life, and how we communicate it in the world today. Somehow we need to find more effective means of communicating the gospel in our world today. And, of course, to be ready to field the sorts of questions and problems modern people have with the Catholic Faith. To be more effective in evangelisation we need also to be visibly united; I believe Christians' lack of unity is a great barrier to effective evangelisation. I understand the Ordinariate as an instrument for unity, and to have a prophetic aspect to this.

Sunday, 12 June 2011


And just as dry soil cannot bear fruit unless it receives moisture, so we, who to begin with are dry wood, can never bear the fruit of life unless the rain from heaven falls upon our wills. St Irenaeus

These words impressed themselves upon me as I read them during the Office of Readings today, not least because the rain was pouring outside my study window! As we drove to Buckfast Abbey for the Mass of Pentecost, the rain was drenching everything. As I reflected on the saint's words I thought, indeed I need the rain of heaven to fall on my will.

Making Right Connections
Father Abbot was in very fine form today vested in his pontificals, not least in his homily. In the quest for human knowledge and endeavour there is always the need for linking things together, or, we might say making right connections. Imagination stimulates this, it is the fire that stimulates us to make the right connections. Not only is this true for human advancement in science and invention, but also in the religious sphere of life. Yet as we consider the human search for that which is noble and that which is true, there seems to be much confusion (the tower of Babel comes to mind). The more human influence, the more confusion, it seems, yet we say that we have access to the Spirit, to know the way, the truth, and the life. And on this day, Pentecost, connections were made in those who received the Holy Spirit. A light dawned in which connections were made between the salvation history of Israel and their experience of Jesus Christ, especially their encounters with the risen Christ. It was not an individual subjective experience. It was a shared experience. The Apostles, the other disciples (men and women) and the Blessed Virgin Mary shared this Pentecost outpouring of the Spirit. Minds were set on fire. The confusion of the human spiritual quest was replaced by the order of the descent of the illuminating Holy Spirit. A new Light was shed upon them. Faith and reason were united as never before. Yes it was a small group, a small spark, but it was a spark that set the whole world on fire.

How could they not be on fire, not communicate this to the world? How can we not be on fire today, and not communicate this to the world? And so the Church was born that used its sacramental weapons, brought forth sacred Scriptures for illumination, and guided people in the way by the Tradition, the faith handed on.

All of us have a vocation in the Body of Christ and need the Spirit to fill us with Christ. The Holy Spirit moulds us into sons and daughters of God, and we become sharers in the divine life.

The Sequence
It seemed to me that nearly all that we need to meditate upon regarding the Holy Spirit was contained in some way in the liturgy of Mass today, but for me the Sequence brought me gentle gladness. It was sung very beautifully in Latin, but with the help of the translation, we could rest in the beauty of the truth that bathed us through these holy words. I will pray it each day now before my ordination on Friday.

Blessings upon all God's people and may the sevenfold gifts of the Spirit be warmly received by us all... as rain pouring on parched earth.

DAY NINE (Eve of Pentecost)