News Archive

Saturday 14 October 2017

The Forty Hours 2017


Our Forty Hours' Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament began last night with a Solemn Mass, a vigil for Young Oratory and Gaeta, Compline sung by the Dominicans, and then watching all through the night until Matins and Lauds at five o'clock.

IMG_3634 The Blessed Sacrament continues to be exposed until midnight tonight. At 5pm today there will be a Musical Oratory of hymns and readings: "Sweet Sacrament Divine".

There will be a Mass for Peace at 6.30pm.


On Sunday the Blessed Sacrament will be placed once more on the throne after the Solemn Mass of the Sacred Heart at 11am, and there will be Solemn Vespers, Procession and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament at 5pm.



Wednesday 11 October 2017

The One Fold of the Redeemer

Monday was the feast of Blessed John Henry Newman, our Cardinal, and on Sunday night the traditional Night Walk to Littlemore took place, marking the arrival of Blessed Dominic Barberi to receive Newman into the "One Fold of the Redeemer" on 8th October 1845. We stopped and prayed on the way outside Trinity College, where Newman was an undergraduate, the University Church, where he was vicar, Oriel College, where he was a Fellow, St Alban Hall, where he was vice-Principal, the Angel Inn, where Blessed Dominic alighted the coach, two houses where Newman's mother and sister lived on Rose Hill, in Littlemore at the church and school built by Blessed John Henry, and then finally at the College, where he lived and then was received into the Church.

Here, outside the church of SS Mary & Nicholas in Littlemore:


For the feast, Fr Richard Biggerstaff came to preach. He was for three years Director of the St Barnabas Society, which assists clergy who become Catholics. Fr Biggerstaff is now Parish Priest of Molesey and Hersham. Here is Fr Biggerstaff's sermon:

When Blessed John Henry Newman left Littlemore he tenderly kissed his straw bed, the mantelpiece of his room and as he describes, ‘other parts of the house…..’

His set up there had been contentious. It was thought that he was instituting a high church monastery and the Bishop of Oxford, Dr Bagot called him to account. He assured Dr Bagot that this was a common house, shared between clergymen and others thinking of clerical life, and there was a school master too.

It was a house with a discipline: there was one joint meal, generally meat, often cold, taken at 5 in the afternoon.

The day began at 6 in the morning, but at 3 during Advent. How like the life of the Oratory here in Oxford!

By going to Littlemore, it is clear that John Henry Newman was embracing something new. He was not replicating collegiate life with an intense devotional twist, but rather embarking on a fervent time of prayerful reflection in good praying company. His home for four years, he was not to return for over twenty. And yet how significant Littlemore is in the story, for this was the place of his reception in to the full communion of the Catholic Church, for this reason his tenderness towards simple fixtures and furnishings.

And this is our reason for a pilgrimage to Littlemore. That place where he had asked Fr Dominic to do the deed. Warmed and willing, Blessed Dominic Barberi had arrived on 8 October, and now we mark the feast of Blessed John Henry Newman at the time of that great event, the reports of which were said to have rocked Protestant England.

At about the time Newman left Oxford for Littlemore subscriptions were being raised for the Martyrs’ memorial in the centre of the city. Newman’s opponents mischievously sought some contribution from our Beatus, together with others like Keble and Pusey. Pusey apparently gave reluctantly. Evangelicals, objecting to a cross, wanted a church.

Eventually Gilbert Scott won a competition and the memorial, in all its ambiguity stood as a sign of no popery. The slate honours board of the University Church tells the story and the Catholics have their cost of conscience fleshed out by a very helpful pink pamphlet from Blackfriars.

I have often stood near the pulpit in St Mary’s and, thinking of it as Newman’s with convert clergymen, said a prayer. On one occasion, Methodist preachers from Oklahoma were making a similar pilgrimage; although for them church and pulpit were Wesley’s.

For the last three years I have been at Wolvercote, spending privileged time with that movement of the heart which inspires a minister or a religious in another Christian community, to follow what Blessed John Henry Newman did on that October night in 1845.

Littlemore, that memorial, and the pulpit (or at least the site of the pulpit if not the original), have been part of the tour for our visitors. And in God’s providence Wolvercote has had its own Newman association, for although Blessed John Henry Newman would not have known the old vicarage (the base of the St Barnabas Society), he would have been a frequent visitor to the church.

A series of temporary curates served St Peter’s Wolvercote until the middle of the 19th century. In 1834, on several visits, JHN was amongst that happy band. And this simple fact has delighted our converts’ aid visitors.

Amidst the richness of thoughtful theological thinking, in the faithfulness to prayer and the ascetic life, in the connections and the profile, it is consistently the moment of conversion which has been the Newman point of reference for those who come our way.

And whilst this is a journey (a pilgrimage and a coming home…) as they are fond of saying in parish instruction and preparation for the sacraments for adults, it is first and foremost a moment. A moment of sacramental grace in penance, confirmation, and Holy Communion through which a Christian of another confession becomes a Catholic.

For some, especially those who have been clergymen, this is the stage of the journey seems an illusive, a shaky, shadowy time, put off and agonised over; but for many it is a moment which is, yes painful, but gloriously inevitable.

And so there is much to kiss tenderly, as an act of farewell., of course there is, but at the heart of Blessed John Henry’s moment, which this feast marks, is the conviction of the One true fold, the fullness of faith at the heart of the Catholic Church.

And the religion of memorials and special pulpits and even medieval chancels and old vicarages will no longer do for those who allow the heart of John Henry, as well as his mind, to speak.

Tuesday 10 October 2017

Brother Benedict is made a Lector

Along the path to the Sacrament of Holy Orders, two Ministries are conferred, the first of which is that of Lector. This gives a man the special task of meditating upon the Word of God, of proclaiming it in the Sacred Liturgy, and of teaching and catechizing others.

Br Benedict was made a lector on Saturday, the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. Please pray for him as he continues his priestly studies.

The candidate is addressed on the duties of a lector:IMG_2599

The new lector receives a blessing, before being presented with a Bible as a symbol of his new office:


Do note that the sling around Br Benedict's neck is not a sign of his lectoral dignity, but because he has broken his arm. We pray for a swift recovery.

Thursday 28 September 2017

Feast of Blessed John Henry Newman

On Monday 9th October we shall celebrate the feast of Blessed John Henry Newman, our Cardinal.

From 6th-8th October there is a triduum of preparation each evening with Benediction. (6.30pm on Friday and 6pm on Saturday on Sunday)

On Sunday 8th October we have the traditional Night Walk from here to Littlemore - see below.

On Monday 9th October itself there will be a Solemn Mass at 6pm, at which Fr Richard Biggerstaff will preach.

Poster NightWalk 2017

Thursday 21 September 2017

A Journey of Faith to Fatima

In this hundredth anniversary year of the apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima, forty-four pilgrims from Oxford and York joined Fr Daniel and Fr Richard to pray at the shrine of Our Lady.


On 13th September 1917, when Our Lady appeared for the fifth time to Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco,  30,000 people defied the atheistic press and government to join them. On 13th September 2017, many more hundreds of thousands gathered at the Cova da Iria for Mass celebrated by Cardinal Piacenza, who preached forcefully about the need for Christians to be counter-cultural.



At the end of Mass, Our Lady's statue was returned to the Chapel of Apparitions. The special crown which the statue wears on the 13th of each month was given in 1946 by the mothers of Portugal, in thanksgiving that their country had stayed out of the Second World War. When on 13th May 1982, St John Paul II brought one of the bullets which had shot him exactly one year before, the bullet was found to fit precisely under the cross and orb of the crown. He said of the assassination attempt, "One hand fired, and another guided the bullet."



The Basilica of the Holy Rosary contains the tombs of Jacinta and Francisco, who were canonized on 13th May this year, and of their cousin Lucia, who died in 2005:




In 1917 Our Lady asked for Russia to be consecrated to her Immaculate Heart. Large numbers of pilgrims from behind the former Iron Curtain come to give thanks for their deliverance from Communism. At the end of Mass on the 13th, Cardinal Dominik Duka of Prague presented a copy of the statue of the Infant of Prague to the sanctuary of Fatima. A portion of the Berlin Wall stands as a reminder of Our Lady's intercession. Here are Mrs Asta Simpson, originally from Berlin, and Dr Masha Unkovskaya, who was born in St Petersburg, which was known at the time as Leningrad:


In the evening we prayed the Rosary in front of the Chapel of the Apparitions and joined in the beautiful torchlight procession:




Mass in St Joseph's Chapel on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross:


Along the Way of the Cross we were able to gain some idea of what Fatima must have looked like in 1917 when Francisco, Jacinta and Lucia grazed their sheep:



Only one of the visions of Our Lady of Fatima in 1917 took place away from the Cove da Iria. This is because the children were prevented from going there on 13th August by being kidnapped and imprisoned by the local authorities. They refused to deny the visions even when they were separated and threatened with being boiled in oil. Our Lady appeared instead on 19th August at Valinhos. It was there that she told the children that on 13th October she would perform a miracle. This was to be the Miracle of the Sun.

At Valinhos:


At the Calvary which concludes the Stations of the Cross:


In the Spring of 1916, the first vision of the Angel of Peace took place at Chousa Velha:


The village of Aljustrel is where the three child visionaries lived. There are still sheep next to Lucia's house:


The second vision of the Angel of Peace took place by the well of this house in the summer of 1916:


On the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows we had Mass in the Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows:


This chapel has a striking window showing the Miracle of the Sun, which took place on 13th October 1917:


On one day of our pilgrimage we went out to visit Batalha and Nazaré. Batalha has a magnificent abbey, where many of the kings and queens of Portugal are buried, including Philippa of Lancaster, Queen of Portugal from 1387-1415. Her marriage to João I brought about the Treaty of Windsor, beginning the alliance between England and Portugal which still lasts to this day, and is the longest-lasting treaty of friendship between two nations in the history of the world. Long may it continue!

The Abbey of Batalha:



The shrine of Our Lady at Nazaré recalls the saving of the local mayor (and his horse) from tumbling to the death in the fog over the cliff top. An ancient statue of Our Lady was found where she appeared.


Fr Richard in holiday mode:


The sea at Nazaré is rather treacherous, which precluded swimming, though some of the more adventurous members of our party dipped their toes:


After consuming some of the freshly-caught sardines, we still had time to visit the unmissable Museum of Dried Fish:


On our last day in Fatima, we were able to celebrate Mass in the well-equipped chapel of our own hotel, the Tres Pastorinhos:


From Fatima we headed up to Galicia to visit the tomb of the Apostle St James:


Even though we had travelled by coach, rather than the accepted methods of foot, bicycle or horse, we embraced the statue of St James and took part in the Pilgrim Mass. We did in fact see a group of equestrian pilgrims arriving in Santiago. At the end of the Pilgrim Mass the famous botafumeiro was swung:




St Martin's Abbey has a statue of St Philip, looking rather Spanish!


From Santiago, we went back down into Portugal. In Braga the shrine of Bom Jesus do Monte has many steps with chapels recreating the journey of Our Lord to Calvary:


At the top is the church, where we celebrated Mass:


On our last day we were able to celebrate Mass in the Cathedral of Oporto. We prayed particularly for the bishop of that diocese, who recently died immediately after returning from pilgrimage at Fatima, where he had preached a sermon that deeply affected its hearers.

After Mass we caught a glimpse of the former Oratory church of Oporto:


We were able to enjoy the sunshine of Portugal for a little longer:IMG_2466