Sunday, 22 December 2013

First ordinariate monastery to be founded on New Year’s Day

Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary (photo courtesy of the ordinariate)

The first monastery of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham will be founded on New Year’s Day, it was announced today.
On January 1 2014 the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary will formally become the first autonomous monastery within the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, under the jurisdiction of the Ordinary, Mgr Keith Newton.
Ten Sisters, formerly members of the Anglican Community of St Mary the Virgin, Wantage, will profess their solemn vows at a Mass in the convent in Birmingham where they have been living since August 2013. Mgr Newton will preside. 
The Sisters were received into the full communion of the Catholic Church on New Year’s Day 2013. During the initial stages of their life in the Catholic Church, the Sisters have existed as a Public Association of the Faithful, following the Benedictine spiritual tradition and wearing the traditional wimple of the Benedictine order.
This new step – approved by the Holy See – establishes them formally as a stable religious community and gives them the chance to re-affirm their religious vows for the first time publicly, within the Catholic communion. At some future date, the monastery may seek to associate itself with a particular Benedictine family.
During the Mass on January 1, in accordance with Benedictine tradition, the Sisters  will sing three times in English, the Suscipe: “Lord, establish me according to your word, that I may live; and do not disappoint me in my hope”. 
As part of the ceremony, each Sister will receive a leather-bound copy of the Rule of St Benedict.
In order to give effect in civil law to their religious vows, the nuns will also make their wills and sign a deed of covenant ceding all their possessions to the monastery. Mgr Newton will appoint one of the nuns, Mother Winsome, as the first Reverend Mother for an initial period of three years. Subsequent Reverend Mothers will be elected in accordance with the constitutions of the monastery.
Mgr Newton said: “On the one hand, this occasion on January 1 is simply a formalisation and renewal of the vows which the Sisters have already taken as Anglicans, but it is also a new and exciting step, for the Sisters themselves, for the ordinariate and for the Catholic Church as a whole.
“The strength of their conviction of calling to the ordinariate and their bravery in leaving their home in response to it is inspiring. They are the praying heart of the ordinariate and our prayer is that their example and witness will lead to more vocations to the religious life.”

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Rejoice the Lord is near!

Gaudete Sunday - 3rd Sunday of Advent Yr A

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice. Indeed the Lord is near.

We begin mass today with St Paul's exhortation to rejoice – and indeed this Sunday is traditionally designated “Gaudete Sunday” - a Sunday for rejoicing in the midst of the season of Advent, which is traditionally a somewhat penitential season. As Laetare Sunday (or Mothering Sunday) is to Lent, so Gaudete Sunday is to Advent. And on our Advent wreaths we light a rose coloured candle, and the priest's vestments can also be rose in colour. Rejoicing is what today is all about!

But why? What do we have to rejoice about? St Paul was exhorting the Philippian Christians to be patient and forbearing in all their troubles, knowing that the Lord was near.

The nearness of the Lord is the nearness of deliverance – the nearness of our salvation. For Christ is in Himself “salvation”. And thus our hearts are gladdened as we contemplate such a great and mighty wonder.

As the prophet Isaiah put it, let the wilderness exult, and the wasteland rejoice and bloom! Without Christ there is indeed only wilderness and wasteland. Within us, without Christ there is indeed wilderness and wasteland. With Christ there is blooming fertility – abundant life.

We, as Catholics, have a rich feast because of our faith; for we can look back to our Lord's first coming, we can look forward to being united to Him in His second coming; but also, as Catholics, we can also know Him in a very special way: His close and intimate presence in the Sacrament of the Altar. Every time the priest says “This is my body”, Christ draws near, truly present even though the accident (outward appearance) remains the same. He is near, and we rejoice. He is near! He is salvation! And He is near wherever the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in the tabernacle!

There are times you know, when I wonder how the ordinariate is to grow and develop. Usually it is at those times in the middle of the night when all sorts of despondent imaginations cross the mind. But they are of course the fruit of a lack of faith and hope. Despondency can come perhaps because of our small numbers. If only we had more people we could do X, Y or Z! But what we must all remember, just as the Philippian Christians needed to remember is that our joy comes not from 'success' (usually defined by ourselves of course!) but from the nearness of the Lord. We must always come back to this point and remember that 'unless the Lord builds the house, they that labour, do so in vain.' We rejoice not because we have been a success, but because we are close to the Lord, we have been faithful. Bl. Teresa of Calcutta said, “God has not called me to be successful; he has called me to be faithful.” Focusing on being faithful to God, on remaining close to Him, rather than what we would like to see as the outcome of our work means that we are recognizing that it's not all about us. Rather, we are “pencils in the hand of God” (Bl. Teresa of Calcutta) and, in so many ways, God's plan for our lives and for the lives of the people that we love and serve, will be a mystery. We depend on our Lord; we wait on Him; for with Him alone is salvation.

To use Isaiah's prophetic vision today, for our wilderness to spring to life, to flower and blossom, we need to be close to the Lord.

I have a small book of devotions of Blessed John Henry Newman. In it is a devotion to say whenever we visit the Blessed Sacrament. This is recited before a meditation on Christian doctrine. It is a beautiful thing to do when we enter the presence of the Lord, when we draw near to Him – when He draws near to us. The Lord's near presence brings joy as we contemplate the truth of He Who is before us. It is a practice I would recommend. We should not take for granted the presence of the Lord, but when we come to Him, acknowledge that He draws near to us – He who is salvation and the bringer of joy.

Let us then, in what remains of this glorious Advent Season, continuously remember that the Lord is truly near – for we are indeed nearer to Him now than when we first believed. He is near! And we draw near as we recall and treasure His first coming, and as we look forward in hope to His second coming, but perhaps most of all let us not forget that He draws very close to us in His Sacred Body. Let us make the effort to visit Him in the tabernacle whenever we can, and take with us the joy of His presence, so that as we face the trials of life we can do so with patience and forbearing. He is truly near. For that we have everything to thankful for.

The Lord can indeed make the barren desert fertile, and by placing our trust in Him, in His drawing near to us, He can do the same for us.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Being led astray

Sunday per annum 33rd C

It was Herod the Great who had begun to renovate and expand the Jerusalem Temple in 19 BC. We know that the structure was immense and that some of the stones in it measured 12 metres in length. So the impression the building gave was of great solidity and permanence. Something which people would have appreciated especially given they were currently occupied by the Romans. It is not too different to people today visiting a Gothic cathedral or abbey, and remarking on its impressiveness. In the gospel, as the people were commenting on the Temple's immensity and impressiveness, Jesus responded by saying that this is all an illusion, for the day would come when it would be torn down.

A generation later our Lord's words would be proved true. In AD70 the Romans trampled the city of Jerusalem to dust, including the complete destruction of the Jewish Temple. No more could the practice of the Jewish religion be centred on the Temple.

Our Lord is clearly aware in this gospel passage that His disciples (including you and I) can be easily impressed and He warns us against being led astray. We can be led astray by the impressiveness of human achievement, like those who gazed in wonder at the Temple, or those who gaze in wonder at Gothic Cathedrals today. There is in principle nothing wrong with them, except that we must remember that they are actually pointing away from themselves. For they both were meant to lift us from Earth to Heaven. I think Gothic Cathedrals do this very well. But we must make the connection between this earthly building and the heavenly Jerusalem. This earthly building, however magnificent it is, points to something much more magnificent, unimaginably magnificent. So to just comment on the fine workmanship of the crafters of the building is really to lose the point.

When I studied theology in the city of Lincoln, one of our tutors would occasionally take us on tours of the Gothic Cathedral there. There were many tours available at the Cathedral but almost all of them spoke of the history of the building, and very little about what it pointed towards. Our tour however spoke exclusively of the symbolism of the way in which it was designed. So we were helped to see that in every detail there was something pointing us to the heavenly, to the truths of our faith. In fact the whole Cathedral was a Catechesis of our Faith.

Merely to see how wonderful the making of such a building is, is really to miss the point of that building. And that is what the people were doing near Jesus – missing the point.

But there is also something more that is in the mind of our Lord. Because for our Lord the time of the Temple is really over. The time for the Temple being the place of meeting between God and Man was over, because our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, is the unique and perfect place of unity between God and Man.

In His very being is now the perfect place of worship. You see before the coming of Christ, before the Incarnation, there was constructed, under the direction of the LORD God, an earthly Temple which would point to the heavenly realities. It was the place ordained by God for His people to come to Him, to offer sacrifice and offer worship. It was incomplete and it was imperfect, but it served for the time until God Himself would come amongst His people. Then, people would no longer need to offer sacrifice for sin, for God would come amongst them and Himself forgive them their sins.

So our Lord sees this Temple building as no longer needed, no longer serving a purpose, and indeed clearly the people were not even properly understanding its purpose anyway! Later Our Lord would enter the Temple, drive out the money-changers, and predict the destruction of the Temple, and that He would rebuild it in three days. The three days of course was not to build a new structure out of stone, but the Resurrection of His own body, which is the New Temple. Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is the New Temple of God, because He is the perfect unity of God and Man, the One by whom we can all come to meet the LORD. The One by whom we can all make the perfect sacrifice for our sins. The One by whom we can all make worship in spirit and in truth.

This is what we all need to be focused upon. That is why in our earthly church buildings, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ should be the focus of those buildings. Everything should point towards Christ, and the sacrifice of Himself on the Cross. The greatness of Gothic design is that it does that, it points to Christ, it lifts our gaze to heaven. And in Gothic Cathedrals we should see Christ there at the heart (unless of course they have been vandalised by subsequent generations – which has happened in this country).

In Christ the King the design of almost everything is to point towards the sanctuary here, to first Christ on the cross dying for our salvation, sacrificing Himself so that uniting Himself to our suffering and death, we might be able to unite ourselves to His rising and new life in His Resurrection. And here in this Church, we see below the Crucifix, the Tabernacle of His Sacred Body. Here His Resurrection Life is poured out in Grace in the Sacrament of His Body. Here is the Altar of Christ, where His Sacrifice of Himself is re-presented day after day, so that members of Christ's Church may receive the Grace that Christ died on the Cross for. The people of God, receiving the Grace of Christ, can then go out into the world, in order to share the Good News of Salvation by their very lives. This earthly building is so constructed so the people of God can return regularly, because they need continually to repent of their sins, to restore themselves to the life of grace, and to receive the sacred body and precious blood once more, and then go out again.

The danger of being led astray is very real. We are so easily attracted by human achievement that we forget the awesome work of God. We neglect the wondrous truths of our faith, and instead seek after human wisdom. Or we go after signs and wonders, prophecies and predictions – again because they thrill us. But where we should really be focused is the person of Jesus Christ, true God and true Man; He alone is our salvation, and in Him alone should we trust.

IH 16th November 2013

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Do we believe in a "flying spaghetti monster" or "sky fairy"?

Here is Fr Barron on top form....

Martyrs, Eternal life, Heaven and Hell

32nd Sunday per annum C
Today’s first reading from Maccabees is harrowing yet also very moving and deeply impressive. The Jewish martyrs were willing to receive torture and even death rather than renounce their faith in the LORD. They could easily have lied, and avoided suffering and an early death. There is a certain worldly logic that suggests that lying, or pretending to renounce the LORD, is obviously a lesser evil than the suffering they endured and the death they went to. Many Jews chose to renounce their faith rather than suffer the fate of a martyr.   (continued here)

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Next Bishop of Plymouth announced

Mgr Mark O'Toole

The Rector of Allen Hall Seminary in Chelsea, has been named as the next Bishop of Plymouth, and will succeed Bishop Christopher Budd at the end of January.

The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in the Southwest congratulates Mgr O'Toole upon his new vocation as diocesan bishop, and looks forward to working alongside him and the diocese in the mission of Christus Totus into the future.

Clergy in the Ordinariate received their initial formation at Allen Hall Seminary, and remember Fr Mark's gracious acceptance of us and his support in our training. We look forward to working with him.

We pray for Mgr O'Toole as he prepares his heart and mind for this new service in the Church. We also pray for Bishop Christopher as he prepares for his long-awaited retirement.

Monday, 4 November 2013

The Ordinariness of White

A good blog article from Corpus Christi Watershed....

The importance of the liturgical color white is perhaps something which we too often overlook. After all, white is quite an uninteresting color that, if we even give it a first glance, merely serves as a canvas upon which our eyes can feast on the far more vibrant colors that are on offer. We do this so often that on feasts such as today’s celebration of All Saints, we find that we need to use chasubles which are adorned with gold brocade or fringes or tassels — all in an effort to make up for the seeming ordinariness of the color white.

continued here

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Zacchaeus is visited by Salvation

Zacchaeus is visited by Salvation

The first reading from, the wisdom of Solomon, presents us with something truly awesome to contemplate. In this short reading we are presented with two truths about God that we must hold together. And it is almost too much for us to hold those things together, and I think that's why we are filled with awe and wonder when we consider them.

The two things we are presented with here are as follows:
  1. First the truly wondrous, greatness of God, who is not just a very great being, but in fact the ground of existence itself. Wisdom says we are like “a speck that tips the scales” compared to God, but not only that, all our existence is only according to the will of God: “How would anything have endured if thou hadst not willed it?” You see what we are reminded of is that God is not just a being like other created beings in the universe; who happens to be very powerful, the most powerful. We cannot say, “Oh here I am, there you are, there you are, and oh there is God...” God is not one being among many. God is not like a human being but just more powerful, more wise etc. God is not one being among many but the very ground of all our existence. Nothing exists without God willing it. Being-ness itself, is of God. Wisdom says, “Your immortal spirit is in all things.”
    (Incidentally that is what most atheists get wrong – they want proof of a great being that is out there amongst many other beings. If other beings can be proved to exist or not, so can God. But they categorize God wrongly and therefore come to the wrong conclusion. For God is not just a being among many, but being-ness itself. So there can be no scientific proof of the ground of all being.)
    So you can see we have on one hand a truly awesome truth about who God is, the ground of all existence – every created thing is contingent on God, owes its being to the divine. And thus that poetic phrase of Wisdom, we are like “a drop of morning dew on the ground”, compared to our living God.
  2. Yet at the same time, our God, is concerned about us! Now we make the mistake again of thinking about God as if he were a man but much more powerful. We tend to think that the more powerful someone gets the less concerned they are about individuals. It does tend to be the case amongst human beings. But we cannot project this onto God. With God, the very opposite is true. Because God is not merely the most powerful being in the universe, but is the ground of all being, God is concerned about every single minute detail of the universe. God is in fact infinitely concerned about everything that has existed, does exist and will exist. God's attention to detail is unlimited. He knows every single hair on our head, and not a sparrow falls to the ground that He does not know. Yet what is still yet more remarkable is that God waits patiently for us to repent! “Therefore you correct little by little those who trespass, and remind and warn them of the things wherein they sin, that they may be freed from wickedness and put their trust in you, O Lord.”
    We offend God in our sin, yet even though He is the ground of all being, God waits for us to repent – He gives us time. He waits for us to put our trust in Him.

And so we can make the words of the Psalm our own today, “I will extol thee, my God and King, and bless thy name for ever and ever. … Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.” Indeed “The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The LORD is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made. All thy works shall give thanks to thee, O LORD, and all thy saints shall bless thee!”

Brothers and sisters let us never, ever, take for granted the supreme graciousness, and the unfathomable mercy of God, who condescends to wait for us to repent, to turn to Him and to trust Him.

Let us turn to the Gospel account of our Lord Jesus Christ and Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus got the shock of His life! Zacchaeus thought that he was seeking out Jesus, only to find that our Lord was seeking him out!

In all of us, our hearts are longing for the living God, and we seek Him out. The problem with the human search for God is that we tend to keep God far away. We, as it were, try to carefully creep up on God, as it were, stalking a deer, lest God flee away. The human search for God tends to put God in a frame, or keep God at a distance.

And there was Zacchaeus in the tree looking down on Jesus; observing Him from above. But how shocking! When our Lord comes to the tree where Zacchaeus is, He looks straight at Him, “Zacchaeus, come down. Hurry, because I must stay at your house today!”

And this is the truth for each and every one of us. You might think you are keeping God at a distance. Looking and pondering Him from afar. But sooner or later He will, as it were, look you in the eye and call you!

And all credit to Zacchaeus for His response is absolutely what it needed to be. He is a wealthy man – he gives away half his property to the poor, just like that. And he says, if he has swindled anyone he will repay fourfold – which is exactly what the law required as a restitution for thievery. Zacchaeus is not the man he was!

And Jesus makes that statement which is just one of those wonderful, wonderful statements in the Gospel. “Today, salvation has come to this house...”

It is a wonderful, wonderful statement of the truth of what has happened. Zacchaeus searched for God, and discovered that God was searching for Him! God called, Zacchaeus responded. He divests himself of half of his property – for Zaccheaus knows his wealth gains him nothing, and it all belongs to his Lord. And “Salvation” comes to his own home. Jesus Christ is Salvation. Our Lord Jesus Christ is not just our Saviour, the one who brings salvation, but He is in Himself “Salvation”. He is in His being, “Salvation.” His name is “God saves”. And “Salvation” visited Zacchaeus' house.

Remember brothers and sisters that “salvation” is coming to you. He who is Salvation is coming to you today! We shall say, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” Let us mean it! Let us be like Zacchaeus. We are little – we are in fact not even like a speck, or a drop of dew, but Jesus Christ, our incarnate God, who is Salvation, chooses to this day to come to you and to me. What will you say to Him?

2nd November 2013

Monday, 23 September 2013

Anglican Orders, Catholic Orders and the Ordinariates

The question of validity of Orders is a very sensitive one especially for Anglican clergy considering entering the full communion of the Catholic Church. If one accepts the magisterium of the Catholic Church it can seem that one has to reject the validity of one's ministry as an Anglican. It is both very sensitive and very difficult to talk about this subject objectively and helpfully. However I came across this article today which I think (as a former Anglican clergyman and now Catholic priest) is very helpful by looking a little more deeply at the theology, beyond the usual discussions that one finds on this topic on the internet. I highly recommend it.

The Invalidity of Anglican Orders and the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter

 While Apostolicae Curae holds that Anglican ordination does not confer the fullness of Catholic orders, this by no means implies that Anglican ordination is without its own value and purpose.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Ordinariate Pilgrimage to National Shrine of St Cuthbert Mayne, Launceston

Launceston, Cornwall

Sat 14th September, Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
12noon Sung Mass of the Feast
time for veneration of the relics of the martyr
2.30pm Talk by Fr David Annear
3.15pm Benediction

Calling at Exeter, Torbay, and Plymouth
If you would like a place please email
Fr Ian Hellyer -
or telephone: 01752 266523

21 Mayne Close
St Stephen's Hill
PL15 8XQ


View Larger Map

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Sisters have a home!!

The new religious community of the Personal Ordinariate, the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary, have a permanent home for the first time since they were received into the full communion of the Catholic Church on New Year’s Day. They are to move on Tuesday (August 27) into a convent in Birmingham which is the former home of the Little Sisters of the Assumption.  
Mother Winsome, the Superior of the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary, said: “We are absolutely overjoyed to have been given the opportunity to live in this convent.  We have prayed long and hard and the Lord has opened up this way for us. It is a gift from God.”
The community, established as part of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham adopting the Benedictine rule, includes eleven sisters who had been part of the Anglican Community of St Mary the Virgin in Wantage Oxfordshire and one, Sister Carolyne Joseph, who belonged to an Anglican  community in Walsingham.
With no endowments to keep them afloat financially, the sisters have been living for the last eight months as guests at an enclosed Benedictine abbey on the Isle of Wight. “The abbess and the community there shared their Benedictine life with us and welcomed us into their hearts in the most wonderfully generous way”, Mother Winsome said. “It has been a life of complete harmony and joy and it will be a wrench to leave. But we are pleased beyond measure that our journey of faith has taken this new direction”. 
The provision of Benedictine hospitality through retreats is central to the community’s charism. Their intention is to earn a living at their new home by offering retreats and the ministry of spiritual direction.

DAY NINE (Eve of Pentecost)