Monday, December 15, 2008

Archive Photographs VIII

Paul Lansley (L) & Douglas Perkins (R) serve food to David Brecknell (L), an unknown Bishop (middle) & Fr Arthur Couratin (R)

John Andrews reads in chapel

L to R: Bishop Harry Carpenter (Bishop of Oxford), a student,
Fr Derek Allen, Fr Eric Abbott (Dean of Westminster)

L to R: Fr Couratin, John Andrews, ?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Archive Photographs VII

The church in these photographs is thought to be Holy Redeemer, Clerkenwell.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Archive Photographs VI

Immaculate Conception - Fr Robert Farmer

At the start of the Advent Retreat, Fr Robert Farmer preached at the Sung Mass of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady. The theme of the Retreat was the French School of spirituality and so his homily, which is reproduced here, draws on the Fathers of the French School and their devotion to the our Blessed Lady.

You have to feel sorry for poor old Bishop Knox of Manchester. A convinced evangelical and a renowned persecutor of Anglo-Catholic priests and parishes at the beginning of the last century, he also found time to father four sons. One became an atheist, another an agnostic. Wilfred Knox was a faithful Anglo-Catholic priest till the end of his life and a member of the Oratory of the Good Shepherd. Ronald Knox, of course, after an Anglo-Catholic period became a Roman Catholic priest, a well-known writer, and controversialist. But the bishop had no understanding or sympathy for any of these alternative trajectories, the Catholic variants least of all. His grand-daughter, the novelist Penelope Fitzgerald, records him saying to Mrs Knox:
Between ourselves Winnie, I can’t understand what it is that the dear boys see in the Blessed Virgin Mary.

What is it that we ‘see’ in the Blessed Virgin Mary and what brings us together this evening to celebrate her Immaculate Conception? Well, Catholic Christians have seen a good deal in the Mother of Jesus and have proclaimed the fruits of that sustained, contemplative gaze in dogma, liturgy, devotion, music, art and poetry over many centuries. As we prepare to enter into our Advent Retreat and to meet some of the central figures in the French School of spirituality, this evening let’s glance at what some of them saw in the Blessed Virgin Mary. Perhaps we can make their ‘seeing’ our own.

Jean-Jacques Olier was the founder of the Community of St Sulpice, a fraternity of priests dedicated to the formation of candidates for holy orders which continues to staff seminaries around the world to this day. It isn’t surprising then that Olier spoke frequently of Our Lady as the Queen of priests, Mother of priests, Advocate and model of the clergy and so on. Baroque sentimentality gone mad you might think, but Olier’s devotional language was rooted in his perception that Mary’s mission was to bring Jesus to a waiting world. That Marian mission is ours too and just as Mary fulfilled her mission through her motherhood so priests, in their preaching, sacramental ministry and pastoral care, also make Christ present. So powerful was this perception that Olier chose the feast of Mary’s Presentation, the 21st of November, as the day on which all the members of his seminary-community were to consecrate themselves to the service of Christ and his Church in their respective vocations, just as Mary’s life had been consecrated in the Temple. As he wrote:
She surrendered herself wholly to God with a marvellous confidence... and teaches us to live in the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ, given up to the will and the care of God the Father.
Another important figure (more or less contemporary with Monsieur Olier) was St John Eudes, who was also the founder of several communities, both of men and women. Some of these communities were responsible for priestly formation, but others were primarily engaged with front-line mission activity throughout France and especially in Normandy. Once again, St John Eudes’ baroque vocabulary is rich, extravagant and can be misinterpreted. You will remember the novel in which a caricature of this House begins with a contretemps about images of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Well, this is a devotion rooted in the writings of St John Eudes, but it is not a devotion that easily commends itself to many of us today and it can have an irritant effect upon Protestant hackles. Suffice to say that a ‘return to the sources’ is almost always a good thing and I think that actually reading Eudes will calm jangled evangelical sensibilities, at least to some extent. What does Eudes say about Mary whose ‘heart’ is, for him, the symbol of her human depth, capacity for love and God-given vocation? He tells us that Jesus is ‘the spirit of her spirit, the soul of her soul and the heart of her heart.’ For St John Eudes, it is the Son who chooses, graces and empowers his Mother.

But lying behind Olier, Eudes and all the other figures who are part of the French School is the remarkable Cardinal Berulle – the theological engine who drives the movement. Berulle offers us some very clear words on this feast of the Immaculate Conception, words that remind us of that one source in which all that Mary is and does is rooted:
[Jesus] happily preserved her from all offence. He adorns her with all grace. He makes her worthy of carrying him and receiving him into the world. Her comes into her as his tabernacle. Her rests for nine months in her as on a throne. He comes to us through her.
These are words which might have allayed Bishop Knox’s fears a little, though I doubt it. Yet here we have the clearest statement that Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception is all the work of Jesus and is part of the preparation for his Incarnation - not a grace bestowed randomly upon an individual, but rather an essential part of the drama of salvation. Elsewhere Berulle writes:
Conceived without sin, sanctified from the first moment of her existence she was born with little attention or clamour... If earth did not think of her, the most tender gaze of God upon the earth was reserved for this humble, unknown, unrecognized virgin.
We see something characteristic of Berulle here, and of his circle: a concern to balance grand theological statements about the Mother of God with insistent reminders that she is also the biblical, historical ‘lowly virgin of Nazareth’. It is this same woman in whom Berulle finds the model of Christian silence, prayer and contemplation. He says:
And the Virgin is silent. This is her state, her way, her life. Her life is one of silent adoration of the Eternal Word. Seeing this same Word, the substantial Word of the Father, before her eyes, on her breast and in her arms, being unable to speak and reduced to silence by the state of his infancy, she enters a new silence where she is transformed by the example of the Incarnate Word who is her Son, her God, and her only Love. And thus her life goes from silence to silence, from the silence of adoration to the silence of transformation.
I find this account of Mary’s interior life profoundly convincing and profoundly moving. The immaculate and ever-virgin Mary responds in adoration to the Word within. She is the true model of all Christian contemplative experience, in which our adoration is called forth in response to God’s Word spoken deep within us. Like her, we are to become sounding-boards and echo-chambers in which the Word can be spoken, as Dom Cyprian Smith once wrote. This is both our challenge and our invitation this evening as we prepare for two days of retreat together – days which will go from silence to silence; days in which we offer our adoration in the hope that God may speak his Word in us as he spoke it in Our Lady; days in which his transforming love may touch us once more. So we pray in Monsieur Olier’s words:

O Jesus, living in Mary,
come and live in us your servants,
in the spirit of your holiness,
in the fullness of your power,
in the perfection of your ways,
in the communication of your mysteries;
and conquer all the powers that work against us
to the glory of God the Father.

Tuesday of Advent II - Mrs Lucy Gardner

During Advent and Lent there are daily homilies given by staff. Here is one given by Doctrine Tutor, Mrs Lucy Gardner. The readings for Mass were Isaiah 40:1-11; Psalm 95; Matthew 18:12-14. The photograph above is detail from a window in the Holy Name Chapel of St John's Church.

Advent is a time of watching, waiting and searching. During this season, the church reminds herself of the ways in which she belongs to advent; she reminds herself that she is marked by the fact that her time is the time of waiting; she belongs to the time between the withdrawal of the Lord’s Anointed and His glorious return.

And as Christians wait and yearn for the coming Day of the Lord, as they watch and long for Christ to appear on earth again, so too they search out their own true identity, stripping away all that clutters and obscures their true task, making a straight path through the chaos and disorder of their lives (see Isaiah 40:3), laying bear their hearts , and the hopes and fears which they harbour.

As we keep retreat this advent, not by fleeing the busy-ness and chaos of our everyday lives, but by allowing God to lift the burden of them and show us a straight path to the heart of the reason any of us is here at all, we with Christians the world over know that we must learn again our calling and vocation as Christians, as Church.

This is not only to make ready for the coming of Christmas this is not only as a preparation for Christ’s Coming Again. It is in order to learn again what to look for, it is in order more truly to understand the nature of our waiting, its tasks and demands. It is because we must learn ever anew to long and work with God for the salvation of the world.

Great treasures, as well as guilty memories, are buried in the secrets of our hearts. In paying attention to our inmost thoughts, in straining to hear God’s voice amongst them, in laying them out in prayer before him, we shall learn the better who we are, who we have been and who God is calling us to become.

As the words of Isaiah resound in our services and pound in our hearts, we are reminded that one aspect of the Church’s identity which we are challenged to make our own is a sharing in Christ’s prophetic office.

Now this prophetic task, as you well know, is not simply about doom saying or foretelling the end of the world. It has to do to with looking to and for the future, looking to and for the future that God is calling us towards and blessing us with already. It has to do with faith and hope in the future of eternal life promised by God and already foreshown in the raising of Jesus Christ and in the Church’s sharing in His life.

Our hope comes from the past and just as our faith comes from the future. Our task is to treasure both aspects. Holding on to the tradition, in which our identity is buried, we are called to hand on, to share what we have received, which is our future, in which our identity is also buried: we are called to share now in the eternal life which has been promised to us and which comes to us from the future.

Our prophetic task is to show both the past and future aspects of our faith and hope to the world. In one sense, what the Church has to offer is nothing other than herself, except that she does not even have herself to offer. For she belongs to Christ; she is wholly owned by Christ; she is nothing other than a relationship to him; she can offer neither more nor less than Him.

Within this horizon, within this dynamic of our past propelling us to the future and our future returning us to the past, our prophetic task is also one of discernment about the present. We are called to name and challenge sin and corruption; we are called to rejoice in goodness, beauty and truth; we are called to reflect on how things are in the light of how they could be; we are called to make judgements; we are called to tell the truth about the world around us; we are called to tell the truth about ourselves and the Church.

So we are called to tell forth the Glory of the Lord (see Isaiah 40:5, 9, 10); we are called to tell forth the contradictory goodness and sin of the world; we are called to tell forth the wonderful fact that God longs to save the world: he longs to shepherd his flock, to gather his lambs to his bosom (see Isaiah 40:11 and Matthew 18:14), and perhaps most wonderful of all, despite his longing, his patience is long (see Hans Urs von Balthasar).

All this we can only do out of silent, patient waiting, seeking and listening, for our task, our prophetic task, is to hand on, out of love, the faith and hope that come from what has been seen and heard from the Word of God (see Romans 10:17).

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Archive Photographs V

L to R: ?, ?, John Andrews, Lloyd Caddick, ?

L to R: John Andrews, ? , ?

John Andrews preaches in St Michael & All Angels, New Marston

L to R: John Andrews, ?, ?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Alma Redemptoris Mater - Video

At yesterday's Sung Mass of the Immaculate Conception, the students and staff gathered at the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham to sing the Alma Redemptoris Mater and to honour the image with incense. St Stephen's House has a long tradition of pilgrimage to Walsingham and the next House Pilgrimage will take place in Lent 2009.

Apologies for the poor quality due to low light.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Immaculate Conception

This evening saw the House celebrate a Sung Mass of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady. We welcomed Fr Robert Farmer, Vicar of St Mary the Virgin, Wellingborough, as our preacher and to lead us in our Advent Retreat. Canon Ward celebrated the Mass and Fr Andy Hughes (SSH 05-06) deaconed. Here are some photographs from the celebration:

At the end of Mass, the clergy, staff and students processed the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham to sing the Alma Redemptoris Mater.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Church and Liturgy 2008-9

Some photographs from the past twelve months

Monday, December 1, 2008

Advent I - Canon Charlotte Methuen

Canon Charlotte Methuen, Lecturer in Ecclesiastical History at the University of Oxford, preached at the Sung Mass for Advent Sunday:

In the Name of God, who creates, redeems and sanctifies us.

What I say to you, I say to all: “Keep awake.”

Advent, as we all know, is a time of waiting. Waiting wakefully, waiting expectantly, waiting actively. Of watchful waking. Advent is a time of preparation – for the coming of the incarnation, which is already with us – for the coming of God into the world, where he already is. It is a time of waiting for the unexpected moment when God breaks into the world anew; a time of joyful expectation of the coming of Christ. But the purple that we put on for Advent reminds us that this time of preparation, of waiting, is also, and importantly, a time of preparation for the end of time, in which Christ comes again in judgement. This time of preparation, of joy at God’s coming, of rejoicing as the God who has been hidden is revealed, points us not only to the incarnation but also to the second coming of Christ at the end of time. And so Advent is a season in which, as we do in Lent, we ponder on what it means to be ready for God’s coming; in which we open ourselves to be enriched by the knowledge of God. Like Lent, Advent is – or should be – a time of prayer and repentance.Advent then is a season poised in the midst of time, a time of past made present and present made future, a time which reminds us that the Kingdom of God is amongst us but is not yet fully here. Margaret Hebblethwaite writes of Advent as a time of “exquisite balance”: “a time of exquisite balance between the sadness of the mess we live in, and the bliss of the world we would like to live in. … Advent is when we acknowledge that bliss is not the blotting out of pain with port and plum pudding, but a process, a pilgrimage, a pregnancy, and—amidst the chaos of the world’s governing—a cry for the coming of the reign of God.”

So much of what we hope for in Advent has been covered with some kind of schmaltz. That is not how it should be. Our readings today – and throughout this season – remind us that what we are waiting and longing for in this season is not sweet or trivial. This is not about the dawning of some kind of romantic idyll; not about some sweet, idealised image of peace. The visions of the prophets which we read through Advent—the lion lying down with the lamb, the beating of the swords into ploughshares—may sometimes sound that way, but to read them so is to misunderstand them. The prophetic vision of peace is a vision of a radical reordering of the world: lions have always killed lambs – now they will not. The foundations of the mountains quake; mountains become valleys and valleys become mountains. Rivers wash into the dry places, and the desert breaks into flower. Mark’s small apocalypse sees it this way too: The sun and moon will go dark; the stars fall from heaven. The coming of God’s peace is on one level not at all peaceful; rather, it is accomplished to the accompaniment of dramatic upheaval.

That upheaval is not just about the behaviour of animals or the natural world, but about the whole of creation, and that means also about the order – or reordering – of society. In a text which is set this year for Advent 3 [Isaiah 61], Isaiah describes the coming of the Messiah in terms of justice: the oppressed are brought good news; the broken-hearted comforted; captives and prisoners released. This is a conviction that the coming of the Messiah, the coming of the kingdom, will bring radical change in the structures of the world. That vision of the coming of the kingdom is echoed in Mary’s exultation in the Magnificat, as she responds to the news that she is bearing God’s Word within her: the mighty are fallen; the humble and poor are raised up. God’s coming will bring radical upheaval; it will change all the givens of how we expect the world to work: war is no more, but neither is poverty. The blind see; the lame walk; the deaf hear. The visions of the prophets are visions of a time in which what has been secure and ordered is no longer—in nature, in society, in human lives. A time in which the landscape of how we have perceived the world is radically altered. The coming of God, we are told, brings healing through upheaval, peace through radical change, salvation through the judgement of what has gone before.

So how do we respond to that? It might make Advent a lot more scary, awe-full, awe-inspiring, than we are used to thinking of it. In this passage from 1 Corinthians, Paul talks about the need to be strengthened by the spiritual gifts which God offers us, that support us to live in faithfulness; surely part of our Advent discipline is not only about being awake, watchful, but also about praying for eyes to see God when he breaks into the world, and strength to bear what that expects of us.

The prophetic accounts of the shifts in nature and society that are predicted with the coming of God’s kingdom into the world surely suggest that this is not a faithfulness that can be satisfied on a purely individual basis. “Turn, turn, turn to the Lord; you who have two suits, give to the naked; if you eat well, share with the hungry; in business and authority, deal with compassion—and be ready for the One who comes with fire,” advises the Australian Bruce Prewer. That is, the call of the kingdom takes us to the edge of what is possible for us. And they remind us that what we do matters. Be awake, be ready to be taken beyond what is comfortable to you. That is, be aware—beware—for the choices we make now shape our relationship to God for all eternity. God shapes the world—and will shape us, even unto to eternal life—according to what we choose, how we live, the choices we make now. “Give me grace to live now, in the hour of your Advent, in such a way that I may merit to live in you forever, in the blissful hour of your eternity,” prays Karl Rahner. But as we contemplate that bliss, be aware—beware—of the huge demands of God, of the divine, the awe-fullness and the terror of what we proclaim in Advent.

Part of our preparation in Advent may be facing up honestly to the terror of the demands of a relationship to the living God and the way, sometimes, we would rather not. “The Holy not only gives humans an overwhelming feeling of being loved but also makes demands on them just by appearing to them,” writes Morton Kelsey in his book The Drama of Christmas. “I knew of one man who started a practice of praying and keeping a journal and was making great progress, and then he stopped; he told me he had seen some light, and he didn’t like it.”

He had seen some light and he didn’t like it. Perhaps it had shown him up for something he didn’t want to be. Or his actions as something he didn’t want them to be. Placed him before a judgement that he couldn’t bear. Advent is the preparation for the coming of God into the world. It is a time in which we prepare for the light of God which shines in the darkness – of the world, and that means also into the darkest corners of our lives, our souls. It is a time in which we may catch a glimpse of God’s glory, and see ourselves revealed in it. Will we like it?

Advent calls us to prepare for God’s coming into the world. To prepare for the coming of the kingdom. But the message of Advent is also a warning: a warning that to enter into the vision of God’s peace is to have all our expectations turned upside down, to be prepared to be judged, to allow ourselves to be set straight. Yes, be awake. Be prepared. Be ready to recognise the Lord whenever he chooses to come, to enter into his clear light, to enter freely into the encounter with God, who judges us for what we are and what we have been. And may God give us the strength and the wisdom we need to enter into the Advent of the Lord. Amen.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Archive Photographs IV

John Andrews at Mass Practice

John Andrews at Mass Practice with Fr ?

L to R: Fr Coggins, Fr Couratin, Fr Allen & Fr Walser

Roy Fellows reading

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Archive Photographs II

Christopher Rothwell Jackson (back middle)
Front Row (south side): ?, ?, John Andrews

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Archive Photographs I

Over the next few days a series of photographs taken of life at St Stephen's House during the 1950's and 1960's will be published on the blog. These formed part of a slide show detailing the everyday life of a seminarian at the House during this period and many feature Fr Arthur Couratin. If any readers of this blog have information about the photographs or have any of their own photos from time spent at the House, they are asked to contact us in order to include them in the College Archive. The photos appear in no particular order, mainly because whilst an original order was intended, it is not possible to recreate it without notes of what was intended.

Fr Walser welcomes John Andrews