Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Catholic Underground in London?

Last night I had a great meeting with Paul Thomas who spent some time with the Friars of the Renewal in New York. He told me of a great youth initiative over there: Catholic Underground.
It describes itself as "a direct response to the call of Pope John Paul II urging Catholics to bring the Gospel into dialogue with the culture" and consists of a time of Eucharistic Adoration followed by conversation and music provided by a house band and guest artists.

In New York it is now so popular that it attracts thousands of young people to its monthly meetings. Catholic Underground has expanded to other places in the States and I've asked Paul to contact the organisers to look into the feasibility of starting something here in the New Year. There is a need in London to break into contemporary culture and to dispel the prejudice that anything to do with the Church must be cheap or cheesy!

Catholic Underground wouldn't be to everyone's taste but it might just provide a stimulating alternative for those who would otherwise spend a Saturday evening kicking their heels. What do you think?

Monday, October 30, 2006

In Service Training Day

Next week, as part of the Diocesan Ongoing Formation, we are holding an In-Service Training day on promoting priestly vocations. So far not many priests have signed up for it - in fact only one! I hope we will be able to generate more interest.

I think it is interesting that courses on how to use computers or offering pointers on how we might improve our sermons seem to be well attended. There is something deep within the English psyche that makes us very pragmatic - if something is of immediate use and application we value it. If it's usefulness is more obscure we tend to dismiss it. This probably explains why English seminarians find it so hard to get to grips with philosophy. There is an inherent danger in our mentality: it makes us vulnerable to the possibility that the urgent will take priority over the important. It makes it hard to plan for long-term objectives and can leave us always reacting to situations, in effect chasing our tail.

I hope more priests will sign up for the study day on 10th November and not just because it would be good to see that the priests of our diocese really see vocations work as a priority. Additionally, we have a lot to learn from the experience of our priests. Having just taken over as Vocations Director I hope to learn from them as I begin to think about our plans for the future of vocations promotion in the diocese.

For more information please contact me by clicking here.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Glastonbury Y2K

Yesterday I drove down to Glastonbury for the youth festival taking place in the parish there. It was a surprisingly long journey: three hours there and three and a half coming back. Good job the clocks changed last night!
Glastonbury is a lovely old village with profound Christian roots but these days it is also a focal point for all sorts of new age and pagan groups. I was amused to hear that there has been a split amongst the town's pagan inhabitants - no doubt over the language used for incantations or the acceptable length of one's broomstick. I have to say, it was rather disturbing to see people wandering round the town dressed as witches and to come across the following advert outside the pub where some of us had lunch:

Chesterton once commented along the lines that when men stop believing in something, it's not that they believe in nothing, rather they begin to believe in anything. I didn't see any green men although I was tempted to sign up for 'sound healing with ancient Tibetan singing bowls' but decided to give it a miss and instead was very pleased to catch up with Tim Ritchie whom I hadn't seen for a while. Tim was with his new girlfriend Kate. It was great to hear Kate's story: she had been a Pentecostalist, but was always uneasy at the way some people she met would deninigrate Our Lady. Then, as God's providence would have it, she went to World Youth Day with some friends and realised there that she had to become a Catholic. Her brother has also become a Catholic and, she tells me, ought to become a priest...

One of the activities was to walk to the top of Glastonbury Tor as a sort of pilgrimage in honour of the Martyrs who died at the time of the Reformation. At the top there is a tower where we gathered to read and account of their martyrdom, pray and sing hymns.

In the evening, as at all Youth 2000 retreats, we had a reconciliation service. John Pridmore was there and spoke about the need for forgiveness and reconciliation in our lives. He always has a profound effect on the lives of the young people who listen to him and I could see that a number were moved to tears. As usual we priests were kept busy afterwards with lots of Confessions. I found it a bit awkward and hard to hear at the back of the Church(obviously a mistake to have missed the 'sound healing'), so was grateful to Roberto who would feed people my way and we could then go for a walk for Confession or a bit of advice.

I left at about 10.30pm and encountered all sorts of strange things driving home, getting back here at about 1.30am! But it was worth it. I was able to renew contact with a number of lads thinking about the priesthood and to fix up another meeting with some of them.

To give you a flavour of the prayer service on Glastonbury Tor here's a short video clip:

Who am I (Part 5 - Still in the Seventies)

I began to ask myself about the meaning of my life. No matter what I did I couldn't get out of my head the image of my friend lying on his deathbed. Dying in the very bloom of his youth! I looked around and couldn't understand how other people could go on living as if they wouldn't one day also die. Why was I still alive? What was life for? I felt as if there was a wound in my soul. I knew that God could cure it. But I didn't want anything to do with God.
I continued to live like an idiot chasing after my usual distractions. But I was restless. I would read anythat came into my hands. I was searching. I didn't know what it was that I was looking for but I knew that I would find an answer within me. For a while I began reading books about the occult until a friend of mine, a scientist, told me not to waste time on such foolishness.

In the end I decided to read the Bible. My friend had become a Christian and from the Bible I was sure that I would get an answer to my questions. It was a disaster. I had read a lot - the greatest works of literature available to me. To me the Bible was a joke: inferior, unworthy of comparison. I laughed at the poor quality of the Gospels.

Little by little I was descending into utter darkness, worn out and consumed by a desire to know the truth. I began looking for it, not with my mind - which is what distinguishes us from the animals - but with my fleshly senses. And all the time the truth was within me, more intimate than I am to myself, more elevated than the most elevated faculty I enjoyed.
I tried everything...

Friday, October 27, 2006

Cheeky, but worth thinking about...

Kurt was over today on his half-term break from the seminary. Between sorting my Outlook files and teaching me to post videos to Youtube, he mentioned that there was a German version of one of my posts on this blog. What? Had he gone mad? No, he was quite sure that, as he randomly googled a Spanish phrase from the post, he had turned up two occurences, one in English & one in German. So after lunch we checked and did indeed find the post "How Generous are you?" on the Berufe der Kirche Speyer site. I was amused to see it introduced with the comment: "Frech, aber wert, mal drueber nachzudenken" - "Cheeky, but just worth thinking about!". We get a number of hits from Germany & Austria. Now I know why.

New Year Retreat

Each year in the parish we are pleased to host the Youth 2000 New Year Retreat. This year it will take place from 29th December until 1st January. For more information contact our parish youth worker Marie Jones or consult the Youth 2000 website.
We've posted this video to whet your appetite! :o)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Word in his Ear?

Searching the wonderful Catholic Press Photo site today I spotted this picture of Pope Benedict XVI looking very much relaxed in the company of Cardinal George Pell of Sydney. It reminded me that a friend 'phoned the other day to say that Cardinal Pell will be staying in London tonight and 'was there anything I wanted to let him know?' All wonderful cloak and dagger stuff!
It is always fun meeting the Cardinal and generally at some point there's a good meal guaranteed!
At our recent Vocations Directors' conference the director of COPCA, Eileen Shearer, said that it was nonsense to suggest that under 18's & over 18's couldn't be mixed in our vocations work, or that the two groups couldn't go together to events like World Youth Day. 'We're not here to stop you doing your job', she said. So if I had a message for Cardinal Pell it would be simply that we're looking forward to seeing him in Sydney.

Applying for the Priesthood

At what point in his university career does a student seriously start thinking about the future? In my experience the asnwer is often 'as late as possible'! Careers' Fairs are a typical part of the last year of university life as big firms seek to entice the brightest graduates into their companies. But there is something about one's last year, and not just the prospect of Finals, that means we don't really like looking to the future. "Who will give all the parties?" asks one of the cast in 'Salad Days', receiving the rueful reply, "There won't be any parties!".

Why do I mention this? It's because the selection process for diocesan priesthood takes time. There is an old saying: "Last in. First out". There are very few dioceses that would take an unknown candidate at the last minute. Apart from this, there are various forms to be filled in, references and baptismal certificates to be gathered, medical checks and the annual conference of the Selection Advisory Committee.

This year the process will be overseen by Fr Stephen Langridge, the new Vocations Director. It would be important to start processing applications as soon as possible. For more information please contact him by clicking here.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Seekers' Meetings

Last Friday we had our first Seekers' Meeting of the new term. It seemed a long time since the last time we met and, of course, since then a lot the regular members of the group had started at seminary. One of our new seminarians, Kurt, was able to join us for the evening and both amuse and edify us with tales of life at St. John's, Wonersh.

Seekers' Meetings take place each month on a Friday evening. There is an input on some aspect of Christian life which we follow with a bit of a get-together and a meal. They are a good way for young men to be encouraged by the presence and example of others like themselves who are considering a priestly vocation.

There will be two more Seekers' Meetings this term. They will take place on the third Friday of the month: 17th November & 15th December. For more information, or to join the Seekers' Group please email me by clicking here.
Please pray for our Seekers.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Where I will be tomorrow

Tomorrow morning I am driving to a small village in Hertford-shire called Hare Street. I'll be staying overnight at Hare Streeet House, which was once the home of Mgr Robert Hugh Benson. On his death it was left to the Archbishops of Westminster and, with Papal approval, was subsequently established as a house of re-creation for priests.

It is a wonderful old house which is used by a number of priests' groups. There is an in-Chapel where we can celebrate Holy Mass and reserve the Blessed Sacrament for our prayer and devotion. Sadly this is not the fine old Chapel Benson would have known - which has been converted back into a bedroom - but it serves our purposes nonetheless. In the garden a small Church has been built and it is here that Benson is buried.
I will be there overnight. Tomorrow afternoon I'm giving a talk on 'Pastoral Approaches to Humanae Vitae'. In some sectors the phrase 'pastoral approach' has meant 'ways to get round the Church's teaching'. What I hope to show is that 1. the Church's teaching makes sense, 2. ignoring it damages human relationships, and 3. we can teach it convincingly to our people.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Who am I? (Part 4 - the '70s)

The Seventies were wild years even though I spent the first half of the decade studying. I went up to university in '71 and graduated in '75. I was a bright student and as always I got excellent marks. But if I'd hoped for a new start in my personal life (and I don't know that I did) it wasn't to be. The campus was a hotbed for everything. It was like a pressure cooker about to explode and as soon as I arrived I dived right in!
I started living with a girl. We were only eighteen at the time but before long she gave birth to a child. And although I should have been there for her I kept indulging my passion for shows, especially for anything morbid or obscene.

I was getting worse. I was always on the look out for new 'experiences'. I began to take pleasure in making people suffer and started developing an interest in evil. I used to hang out with a gang. We called ourselves 'The Destroyers'. When I look back I didn't really enjoy much of their jokes or the way they took the mickey out of each other, and yet I liked being with them. It was an escape. We had the wrong name. We should have been called 'The Perverters'.
I finished university quite well. I had never had a problem with studies. I worked for a few years and then went back to visit my home town. While I was there something unexpected happened that shook me completely. One of my best friends took ill and, despite everything that was done for him, he just seemed to keep getting worse. His sickness brought about a deep change in him and eventually he embraced the Christian faith. Not long after that he died.

That sudden death shocked me deeply. I was saddened to the the very core of my being. I couldn't bear the pain of remaining in that town. I couldn't stay at home. Everything made me suffer. Everything reminded me of him. It was a continuous torment. I felt as if he should still be there but when I looked he was gone. In the end I hated everything about that place.
I remembered his faith and I began to think: "Trust, hope in God!" But God was seemed to me to be a waking dream, an unreal phantasm! I desperately sought consolation but found it only in my tears.

Father Benedict Groeschel

A few weeks ago I mentioned that Fr Benedict Groeschel OFR will be coming to the parish in November. I now have more details of that visit. Fr Benedict will be here for an open meeting with lay people on Thursday 9th November from 7.00pm until 9.30pm. He will give a talk on "The Spirituality of Pope Benedict XVI" and there will be a time of prayer in the Church with confessions available. Afterwards there will be a chance to meet Fr Benedict and the other friars in the school hall.

The Holy Ghost Church is in Nightingale Square, SW12. You can get a train or underground to Balham Station then it's a short walk down Chestnut Grove to the Square. Balham is on the Northern Line, and links up with Victoria Station via Clapham Common.

I warmly invite anyone thinking of the priesthood to come and listen to the talk and meet up with us afterwards. Why not bring a friend?

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Persecution Returns

This weekend, at the request of our bishops, we bring to the attention of our parishioners the current attempt by the British Government to undermine Catholic schools. The bishops have asked all Catholics to lobby their MPs to defend so-called 'faith schools' against an attempt by the Government to force them to reserve a quarter of their places for children from other faiths and none.

The parishioners of the Holy Ghost will not be surprised that this issue has come to the fore as I have been predicting it for some years, ever since a 'Code of Practice on Admissions' was published describing such quotas of 'community places' as 'good practice'. Unfortunately I think someone at the Catholic Education Service has not been reading the smallprint, or has been excessively naive in recent years.

This latest move is only the latest in a series of policies which seriously affect Catholic education. It is probably because there has been no effective opposition to these measures that the Government has felt emboldened to act now, even without consulting the Catholic Church in this country.

The argument is that 'faith schools' are socially divisive. The facts, produced by OFSTED - the government's own schools' inspectorate, demonstrate that the opposite is the case. Trevor Phillips, Chair of the Commission for Racial Equality, commented last year that: "Data from OFSTED shows that when we look at the ethnic mix of schools, Catholic Schools tend to be far more mixed than local authority schools".

The truth is that this move has nothing to do with social inclusion. It is simply part of the secular humanist agenda to abolish faith-based education. One of the first acts of our present government when it took over in 1997 was to introduce a clause to its Education Act which says that if a voluntary aided school (as Catholic schools are) were to be closed its land and buildings would be forfeited to the local education authority.

At the time of the Reformation Henry VIII took control of all the monasteries in this country. It was an asset grabbing act of massive proportions: in those days it was barely possible to go a day's journey without coming across a monastic institution. Today our present government is planning something similar for our schools in the name of social inclusion.

For more information visit the website of the Catholic Education Service. To find the contact details of your local MP click here and insert your postcode. We have only until 30th October to mount an effective opposition to this measure. If you live abroad but want to help us in this campaign you might contact the MPs in Labour's marginal seats. You can find out where they are by clicking here.

Marriage Preparation Day

Today we had our Marriage Preparation Day which was attended by the six couples who appear in this photograph. Although they have completed their Marriage Prep here only two of the couples will be getting married in our Church. It's the nature of our parish that lots of our parishioners who live and work in London go home to other parts of the country for their wedding ceremony. Three of today's couples are marrying abroad: in Ireland, in Australia and in Chile.

After two talks on the meaning of marriage our first guest speaker is Joanna Bogle (who has her own blog called 'Auntie Joanna Writes'). In our marriage preparation classes we cover marriage as a vocation and as a sacrament, we also look at the meaning of human sexuality and explain why sex outside marriage and contraception just don't make sense. We invite co-habiting couples to reconsider their position and explain the importance of Confession as both preparation for and a vital part of married life. For many of our couples these days (and not just the non-Catholics present) all this is totally new and takes some getting used to. We also speak of marriage as a defence of life and warn them about the dangers of prenatal testing, and other things that can affect the culture of life.

Joanna speaks challengingly on the joys and sufferings involved with married life. She gives a really upbeat talk with lots of hard-hitting points as well. It always goes down fantastically and generates a warm applause from the audience.

Joanna's talk is followed by Nicole's on Natural Family Planning (see previous blog). Again, for most of them, it is the first time that they've heard any of this and becomes a truly liberating experience.

Congratulations James & Nicole

Today we have marriage prep-aration. There are about ten couples signed up for the course which we run three times a year. It's a small group today because winter weddings aren't that popular.
As part of our marriage preparation couples are taught a different understanding of human sexuality from the one most of them have picked up from their secular backgrounds. We draw on the theology of the body to help them understand love in a new way and the sexual expression of that love as the most intimate gift of self which belongs, therefore, within the stable and life-long commitment of marriage.
We also teach Natural Family Planning. Our teacher is Nicole Syed who runs an NFP centre in Soho. Nicole has been a tremendous success and has really helped couples to change lifestyles and understand their sexual love in a more complete way. She has been an inspiration to our couples. One our parishioners even gave up a high-powered job in order to learn how to teach NFP herself. Nicole has also helped some of our parishioners achieve pregnancy when they were experiencing difficulties, and to spot the signs of hormonal imbalances that could have led to miscarriages.
In September Nicole married James Parker and so will come back to the parish today as Nicole Parker. This morning I received an email from her with a wedding photo. I am sure you agree they look a great couple.
Dress Sense

At our conference I explained why we try to use images of clearly identifiable priests in our publicity material. To one lay person present it seemed the most natural thing in the world. "After all, it worked for Stella..."

Friday, October 20, 2006

Meeting with the Cardinal

I'm just back from the Vocations Directors' Conference at Wonersh. Before tonight's Seekers' Meeting there is just time to post a photo from Wednesday's meeting with Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor.
We gathered for tea and cakes in the magnificent throne room and were fortunate to have a preview of the new portrait of Pope Benedict XVI which was to be unveiled at a special reception that evening. The Cardinal came in and greeted all of us individually before inviting us to join him in the library where, he said, he was anxious to hear from us.
In a very relaxed meeting the Cardinal asked us about the current situation with regard to vocations in England. Some Vocations Directors spoke of questions to do with young people and their knowledge of the faith. We were also able to speak about the need for evangelisation and the possibility of developing new forms of youth work which would be more challenging in the presentation of Christ to young adults.
We were pleased that the Cardinal listened carefully to our comments and showed his understanding for the points of view expressed. We were also impressed by his evident love for the Church and his great appreciation for the work we are doing.
There were also one or two amusing moments. At one point he had to ask his secretary what 'Speed-dating' is. Explanations were again sought when he was asked for a photo for this blog - although his suggestion that we might go to the stairwell to photograph the blog did leave us wondering whether his grasp of the internet matches his understanding of diocesan structures.
We were very grateful to the Cardinal for taking time out of his busy schedule to see us - especially at a time when the Church is being mobilised to head off the Government's attempts to undermine Catholic schools by forcing us to take quotas of non-Catholic children.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Vocations Directors' Conference

This week the vocations blog will probably fall silent again as I have to be away for the Vocations Directors' Conference taking place at St John's Seminary, Wonersh. The Conference takes place annually and is an opportunity for Vocations Directors those involved with Vocations prmotion to come together to discuss policy and share good ideas. It is generally a very agreeable affair, although personally I find eleven 90 minute sessions over three days gruelling!

Wonersh is a very attractive building as you can see from the photo. Inside you are met by the sweep of the wonderful ambulacrum which joins the two wings of the College. If it looks familiar, it may be because you saw it in a recent episode of Foyle's War. The producers of the programme used it as a hospital on that occasion.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The New Men in Spain

The new students at the English College in Spain have now been formally welcomed to the seminary at a special Mass during which they were presented with a Crucifix. The idea is that a priest should model his life on that of Christ, particularly in the sacrifice of himself on Calvary.
Congratulations, lads. We keep you in our prayers.

Golden Jubilee Mass

As part of my summer holiday I try to attend an 'in-service training' course for priests. Usually I get to one in Spain. This year we had classes on Deus Caritas Est and bioethics. There were about forty of us on the course and as usual I had a great time. It is good to be in the company of so many priests of all ages and from different parts of the world.
This year a number of those present happened to be Golden Jubilarians and so, to celebrate their fifty years of faithful ministry, we had a special concelebrated Mass of thanksgiving.
I don't like posting pictures of myself but the beady eyed among you may spot me as sixth from the left.

Who am I? (Part 3 - Still in The '60s)

I haven't finished telling you about the Sixties. All my friends were just like me and to us it seemed like an incredible decade. We would meet up and swap stories about what we had gotten up to. It was really savage. At first I was embarrassed becuase they seemed to have had much more experience than me - but that only served to make me go even wilder. And, because, I had to be the best, when I didn't have anything to tell I would just make it up...
Even as I was preparing for my exams to go to a university in the city, I made sure that I didn't miss out on a single opportunity to go binging. What was it that produced so much pleasure? I thought it was being different, going against the establishment, pushing the envelope over the edge. I did things precisely because they were not allowed. I did them with my band of friends. Looking back, if I had been alone, I wouldn't have done them at all.

And yet, all that time, I wasn't happy! Sometimes I knew that God could cure my soul. I knew it. But I didn't want it. I didn't have the strength to want it. I wasn't helped by the fact that the idea I had of God was false: a sort of ghost. Nothing real or definite. Did I try to pray? Yeah, sometimes. And each time I did I was like someone slipping on a banana skin: I'd fall flat and end up talking to myself. I was trapped in my own little world. A world of my making and I didn't like it. I had set out to be myself, to find myself - and I didn't like what I had found. It was as if I was locked in a room where I couldn't bear staying but from which I couldn't escape. Where could my heart go to escape from my heart? How could I flee from myself?
It was only at the very end of the Sixties that I was able to leave home and get away...

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Hello Hawaii!

The little 'site meter' icon that appears on this blog is a clever device that enables me to see how many visitors I get and also where they come from. The occasional visit from China reminds me to pray for our brothers and sisters in the faith who suffer persecution in that wonderful country. Dubaii and various such like places also remind me of the suffering Church.
Today we had our first visit from Hawaii...
Hello Hawaii!
How are you doing for vocations over there?

New Vocations Director

It was announced today that the Archbishop has appointed a new Vocations Director for the diocese. The Archbishop expressed his gratitude to Mgr William Saunders who has had that responsibility for a number of years. 'Fr Bill' continues as Archbishop's Secretary and diocesan Press Officer.
The new Vocations Director is Fr Stephen Langridge, parish priest of the Holy Ghost Parish, Balham.
For more information about vocations to the diocesan priesthood in Southwark email us at Southwark Vocations.

Monday, October 09, 2006

On Retreat

The Southwark Vocations Blog falls silent this week as I will be away making my annual retreat. This year I am going to Thornycroft Hall near Manchester.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Papal Pic (Captions welcome)

Fr Richard Hearn

While attending the ordinations yesterday, I met up with Fr Richard Hearn, until then Southwark's newest priest. He was ordained on 15th July at St Lawrence's, Sidcup and is presently working as assistant priest in the very busy parish of St Thomas a Becket, Canterbury. Today he emailed me a couple of photographs. Please keep him in your prayers.

Who am I? (Part 2 - The '60s)

Here's part two of the biography of our mystery character. Any guesses who it is? Send us a comment.

My folks were really quite cool and laid back about things most of the time: they generally let me do whatever I wanted. By the time I was 16 I had tried everything. Although my parents were quite liberal I nevertheless used to deceive both them and my teachers with a myriad of lies. I was too young, but I used to get into all sorts of shows and then act out in my life the things I saw there. When I was playing with my friends I was always intent on winning - even if it meant I had to cheat. I just had to excel in everything and be better than everyone else.
One day I was seen at the pool by my father in a compromising situation. He must have said something to my mum because she came down on me like a ton of bricks. Recently she'd started taking her Christian faith seriously and was beginning to worry that I was going to be 'lost'! Anyway, she gave me a right going over about how I shouldn't sleep with a girl - especially one who was married. I didn't pay her any attention. To me, it seemed like the typical advice mothers had to give their children...
Before long I was burning with a desire to experience the most diverse and basest satisfactions even though I felt myself being made unclean and brutalised by this need to placate my lusts. I was restless and anxious, only wanting to please myself, swept along by the desire to have sex.
If only there had been someone to help me out of my misery...!

Saturday, October 07, 2006


Today I was at the Cathedral for the ordination of two new priests for the diocese. Please pray for Fr Sean O'Connor and Fr Behruz Rafat as they begin their priestly ministry. Both Fr Sean and Fr Behruz studied at St John's Seminary, Wonersh. They have a great love of the priesthood and have always been very supportive in our vocations work.
Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of the ceremony (I don't believe in taking photographs while I am concelebrating) but hopefully someone will send me some photos for the blog before too long.
Ad multos annos, plurimosque annos, vivant!

Friday, October 06, 2006

How nerdy are you?

These days dioceses insist that students accepted as candidates for the priesthood undergo strict selection procedures. A candidate's 'nerd factor' is an important tool in establishing personal development targets.
So go on.
Take the test.
How nerdy are you?
I am nerdier than 2% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Wonersh - the first picture

Today I attended the annual meeting of the St John's Association - the Old Boys club of St John's Seminary, Wonersh.
This year there are thirteen new students, of whom nine are diocesan seminarians. Five of these come from Southwark.
After lunch I was able to get our new men together for a quick photo in front of the altar of Our Lady (invoked at Wonersh as Queen of Clergy) facing the main entrance on the ambulacrum.
I was pleased to find that our men are settling in well and are happy. I was also pleased that a number of staff members commented on what a good group we had from Southwark.
Here's the photo with (from left to right) Jonathon, Kurt, Jason, Steven and Ola. Please keep them in your prayers.
God in the Streets of New York City

This impressive and thought-provoking vocational short is produced by Grassroots - the people who brought us "Come, Follow Me". In it the diverse cultures of New York are seen as united by the Catholic faith and in particular by devotion to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. At the end we hear the voice of Pope John Paul reminding us not to be afraid to go out into the streets to proclaim Christ.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Ma, Monsignore, 'cosa fai?

Can anyone come up with a caption for this photo?

Save the Date...

Many of you will have heard of Fr Benedict Groeschel OFR. Perhaps you've seen him on EWTN. You may have read one of his books are seen one of his videos. But how many of you have actually met him?
Fr Benedict is one of the founders of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, who already have two houses here in England (in the East End of London and in Leeds) and have also chalked up a number of fine English vocations! If you've ever been to a Youth 2000 event you'll have met the Friars (all about 8' tall and sporting beards). If you've ever plucked up courage to talk to one, you'll know that they are all very fine men - as impressive as their beards.
So here's your chance to meet the man who started it all (with a little prompting from the Holy Spirit and support from seven fellow friars). Fr Benedict Groeschel will be talking at the Holy Ghost Parish on the evening of Thursday 9th November. There will be a get-together with him afterwards. Don't miss it!


One of the villages I visited while in Spain was the parish of Santorcaz, just outside Alcala de Henares. It's a lovely little place made famous by the remains of the episcopal palace that was the summer residence of the bishops of Toledo. The name betrays the village's Roman origins: St Torquatius was a Roman martyr (does anyone know anything about him?). The main Square still bears his name Plaza de San Torcuato, although the town has become Santorcaz.

It is a fascinating place in many ways. When he was a humble Fransiscan friar the young Cisneros was imprisoned in the castle by (you've guessed it!) the Spanish Inquisition. He was a friend of Erasmus and Thomas More. Such contact with European humanism meant that one or two checks needed to to made before he could continue preaching! Later, of course, he became the famous Cardinal Cisneros who founded the historic Complutensis University in Alcala, was twice regent of Spain, and swiftly converted the city of Granada to Christianity. A plaque on the wall of the Church commemorates his early detention in the town. It reads: To Cardinal Cisneros, the historic villa of Santorcaz, in whose Castle he was detained.

The baptismal records of Santorcaz also make interesting reading. They date back to the reconquest and note any Moorish converts. In fact, there are surprisingly few of them - at least if you believe the accounts that claim the wicked Christians attacked all the Moors and forced them either to convert or to leave. Over several decades there were a number of converts. They were generally young men (late teens - early thirties). The books record their Arabic name as well as their baptismal names. There really does not seem to have been any wholesale or forced conversion at the time.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Seekers' Meetings

Each month, as part of our Southwark Vocations programme, we hold a "Seekers' Meeting". We generally attract between a dozen and sixteen participants - but with eight men just starting their new lives at seminary I guess we will be fewer this term.
The Seekers' Meetings serve a number of purposes. First of all, they provide an opportunity for young men to come together and meet others who, like them, are considering God's call to the priesthood. In that way friendships are born and encouragement it given.
Secondly, the Seeker's Meetings give candidates a chance to meet and get to know the diocesan vocations team. It works both ways of course. If I know a student through the Seekers' Meetings I feel more confident about giving my opinion to the Archbishop.
Thirdly, the Seekers' Meetings have some spiritual input: their is a reflection on some aspect of Christian life and the generosity of our response to God's call. In that way everyone who comes can benefit even if they realise eventually that they are not being called to priesthood.
The seekers' Meetings consist of a talk at 7pm followed by a meal. The meal is important not just to feed those who come, but also by giving them the chance to exercise virtues and to serve each other by preparing everything and washing up afterwards!
This term the Seekers' Meetings will take place on the third Friday of the month. For more information email me by clicking the following link: Seekers Meetings.

No Guesses so Far...

Yesterday I published 'Who am I? (Part 1). You are welcome to leave a comment suggesting who the character might be (yes it is a real person). There will be a 'Who am I?' post every Sunday until the identity of the mystery character is revealed...

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Who am I? (Part 1 - the '50s)

I was born in the '50s.
I wasn't baptised. My father was probably against it. He probably thought that was a step I would have to take for myself when I was old enough to make up my own mind. My dad was the only one in our family who didn't go to church. My mother did her best to give us some Christian doctrine but this would always lead to problems with my dad.
At school I was a brilliant student :o) The trouble was that what I learnt there went against all the advice I was getting from my mum. Bit by bit I was going off the rails, and the more I left God behind the more I would hear my friends praising me.
Despite that, when I was a child I was enchanted by the idea of truth and would think a lot about things. I had a good memory and a quick mind. I wasn't going to let anyone deceive me. And that's the approach I took to my education: bit by bit I was going to discover the truth.

Valladolid - The First Picture!

Here is a photo of the new men studying at the English College in Spain this year. There seem to be eighteen of them and we wish them all well, promising to keep them in our prayers. Three of them - Sam, Tom and William - are from Southwark. And we also recognise Frankie Doodle (Mulgrew) from Salford.
Come on Wonersh - where are you?