Saturday, March 31, 2018

Easter Greetings


You might be on top of the world right now, with everything in your life working out just as you would wish. Or you might be struggling with tragedies and difficult circumstances that severely try your confidence in the goodness of God. Truth be told, most of us know both those polarities. Ask anybody who tries to follow Jesus. They'll tell you that the Christian way is not an insurance policy against Gethsemanies and Calvaries. But it IS the means of experiencing the dynamic of the Lord's resurrection in our lives here and now (and not just when we die!). So, whoever you are and wherever you are, I beckon your gaze to the crucified and risen Saviour who loves you so much. 

The late Bishop Geoffrey Rowell, Church of England Bishop in Europe from 2001 to 2013, was a pastor, a scholar, a holy priest and a faithful Anglo-Catholic. He was also deeply aware of the power of the Lord's resurrection. So I share with you here a stunning piece he wrote for publication in the Sunday Times, Easter Day, 8th April, 2007:

Jesus dies. His lifeless body is taken down from the cross. Painters and sculptors have strained their every nerve to portray the sorrow of Mary holding her lifeless son in her arms, as mothers today in Baghdad hold with the same anguish the bodies of their children. On Holy Saturday, or Easter Eve, God is dead, entering into the nothingness of human dying. The source of all being, the One who framed the vastness and the microscopic patterning of the Universe, the delicacy of petals and the scent of thyme, the musician’s melodies and the lover’s heart, is one with us in our mortality. In Jesus, God knows our dying from the inside.

How can these things be said, and sung, and celebrated, as they will be by countless millions this Easter? Only because the blotting out of life by death is not the horizon. The definitive line is not drawn there. From that nothingness and darkness and the seeming triumph of the darkest powers of evil, new life was born, a new creation came to be. On Easter morning a tomb was found empty, a stone rolled away, and a new order broke into the world. The Easter stories of the Gospels are not about “the resurrection of relics”, but about an amazing new life and transfiguration. It is not the resurrection of a principle but of a person, who calls us by name. In St John’s Gospel, Mary Magdalene hears the calling of her name by the risen Christ, though blinded by her tears she thinks Him to be the gardener. Clutching his feet she tries to pin him down, to shut him up in the old order, but he tells her not to touch, not to seek to hold down his risen life. She is to go and tell the Good News of resurrection, that all may be drawn into the ascending energy of the love of God.

Jesus breathes on His disciples His life-giving Spirit, the divine life of the new creation. “Go and live that life, live out that love”, for “Christ is risen and the demons are fallen”. The principalities and powers are dethroned. They have no ultimate control of our lives. From the nothingness of death and the absence of God and meaning, Christ rises in triumph and love’s redeeming work is done.

A great Holy Saturday Poem

This poem, "Limbo", by Sister Mary Ada, from THE MARY BOOK, a collection edited by F.J. Sheed, is always good to read on Holy Saturday. The entire book is available HERE

The ancient greyness shifted
Suddenly and thinned
Like mist upon the moors
Before a wind.
An old, old prophet lifted
A shining face and said:
“He will be coming soon.
The Son of God is dead;
He died this afternoon.”

A murmurous excitement stirred
All souls.
They wondered if they dreamed –
Save one old man who seemed
Not even to have heard.

And Moses, standing,
Hushed them all to ask
If any had a welcome song prepared.
If not, would David take the task?
And if they cared
Could not the three young children sing
The Benedicite, the canticle of praise
They made when God kept them from perishing
In the fiery blaze?

A breath of spring surprised them,
Stilling Moses’ words.
No one could speak, remembering
The first fresh flowers,
The little singing birds.
Still others thought of fields new ploughed
Or apple trees
All blossom-boughed.
Or some, the way a dried bed fills
With water Laughing down green hills.
The fisherfolk dreamed of the foam
On bright blue seas.
The one old man who had not stirred
Remembered home.

And there He was
Splendid as the morning sun and fair
As only God is fair.
And they, confused with joy,
Knelt to adore
Seeing that He wore
Five crimson stars
He never had before.

No canticle at all was sung
None toned a psalm, or raised a greeting song,
A silent man alone
Of all that throng
Found tongue –
Not any other.
Close to His heart
When the embrace was done,
Old Joseph said,
“How is Your Mother,
How is Your Mother, Son?”

This strange day

An early Christian writer once described Holy Saturday as being a day of great quietness and stillness as earth awaits the Resurrection. It is a day out of time — no sacraments to affirm the bonds between this world and the next, no warmth or colour to assuage the interior desolation, no activity to distract us or give us a false sense of security. We are simply waiting, all emotion spent, with our Holy Saturday faith, entering into a dimension of reality we cannot truly comprehend, a kind of little death that prepares us for the death we shall all one day undergo. In this state we can do nothing; God must do everything.

Holy Saturday prepares us for the newness of life that comes with the Resurrection, that we will experience at the great Easter Vigil Mass tonight and in our celebrations tomorrow.  Today’s silence and stillness, the apparent inaction of this day out of time is part of our preparation to receive the Risen Christ into our hearts; and the only way we can do that is by allowing God to do all the doing. (Adapted from iBenedictines.)

* * * * * * * * * *

O God for whom the whole creation lives 
and in whose hands are the depths of earth 
and the heights of the mountains; 
the crucified body of your beloved Son 
was laid in a new tomb 
hewn from the rock in a garden 
and rested on this holy Sabbath day. 
As your Church awaits with Christ 
the dawning of the third day
 and the beginning of your new creation, 
grant that all who are buried with him 
in the waters of baptism may rise with him to new life 
and find their perfect rest in that glorious kingdom 
that he has established by his Paschal Mystery. 
We ask this through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, 
our Passover and Peace, 
who lives and reigns with you 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
God forever and ever.
(Adapted from Benedictine Daily Prayer.)

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Wednesday in Holy Week - more on the Betrayal

FIRST READING (Isaiah 50:4-9a)
Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, sons who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged. Why will you still be smitten, that you continue to rebel? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and bleeding wounds; they are not pressed out, or bound up, or softened with oil. Your country lies desolate, your cities are burned with fire; in your very presence aliens devour your land; it is desolate, as overthrown by aliens. And the daughter of Zion is left like a booth in a vineyard, like a lodge in a cucumber field, like a besieged city. If the Lord of hosts had not left us a few survivors, we should have been like Sodom.

GOSPEL (Matthew 26:14-25)
O one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him to you?”

And they paid him thirty pieces of silver.

And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.

Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the passover?” He said, “Go into the city to a certain one, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at your house with my disciples.’” And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the passover.

When it was evening, he sat at table with the twelve disciples; and as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” And they were very sorrowful, and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me, will betray me. The Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Is it I, Master?” He said to him, “You have said so.”

“I looked for sympathy, but there was none; for comforters, and I found none.” (Psalms 69:21)

Many great spiritual writers have written about “the dark night of the soul.” This is a time when we experience a sense of complete abandonment and aloneness. We are slowly being surrounded by the darkness with no one there to help us or even walk with us. One religious sister told me of her experience with the dark night. She was in chapel praying and was overcome with a sense of God’s complete absence. There was nothing there to pray to. She was so scared she had to run from the chapel!

Of all the days in Jesus’ life, today is one of the darkest. The readings show us a Jesus Who is abandoned and betrayed. He is facing His most difficult moment, His death, and the people He most relied on are deserting Him. Isaiah prophesies that the Messiah will face His pain and tortures alone. The responsorial psalm echoes his soft cry for help: “Lord in Your great love, answer Me!”

We have all faced dark nights of the soul when everything seems lost and we are forsaken. In this darkness, we stand with Isaiah, and Sso many Saints down through the ages. Mostly, though, we stand with Jesus. And we trust the voice of God, as it did in the first moments of creation, to create a dawn in the darkness.
(Reflections On The Passion by Charles Hugo Doyle)

In 1943, Dorothy L. Sayers wrote a series of radio plays “Man Born to be King” on the life of Jesus. She had also written commentaries on the Gospels, not as a textual scholar so much as a playwright interested in human nature. She wanted to show how the story hung together with truly believable human characters. 

For Dorothy Sayers, Judas is an idealistic young man, genuinely seeking the coming of God’s Kingdom here on earth. He wants Jesus to establish a political kingdom and drive out the Romans (and, of course, give him an administrative role!). As the plays go on, Judas becomes increasingly disillusioned with Jesus' humility, and finally decides to force his hand by putting him into a situation where he will have to either overthrow the Romans or face humiliation and death. Of course, Jesus, does not do what Judas thinks he should do, but embraces the way of suffering and death in order to redeem all us from our sins.

Judas as understood by Dorothy Sayers is very believable, very human, and all too common. He's like us. Aren't we prone to betray Jesus in order to get our own way or forward our own advancement? Let us cry out with the publican, “God have mercy on me, a sinner,” (Luke 18:13).

O Gracious Father,
we humbly beseech thee for thy holy Catholic Church;
that thou wouldest be pleased to fill it with all truth, in all peace.
Where it is corrupt, purify it;
where it is in error, direct it;
where in any thing it is amiss, reform it.
Where it is right, establish it;
where it is in want, provide for it;
where it is divided, reunite it;
for the sake of him who died and rose again,
and ever liveth to make intercession for us,
Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord.
Archbishop William Laud (1573-1645)

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Tuesday in Holy Week: Betrayal

The Mass readings for Tuesday in Holy Week focus on the betrayal of the Lord. I share with you this powerful article, by a Poor Clare Colettine Sister, from the website of the Boston Catholic Journal.

One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, 
"What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?" 
They paid him thirty pieces of silver, 
and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over ..."
St. Matthew 26.14-25

We betray others — and sell ourselves — so often for such a paltry return, for some trifling personal gain or some fleeting temporal recompense.

More often than not we betray others for profoundly selfish reasons, as a means of extricating ourselves from blame, as an act of subtle or less than subtle revenge, for emolument ... in one way or another we are all guilty of betraying the love and confidence of others, of something which has been entrusted to us.

The very word itself is fraught with withering darkness. Betrayal means calculated disloyalty to another, the breaking of innocence in the breaking of trust; it is to lead, with purpose, another astray or into error. It has a rich and varied parlance: to sell down the river, to mislead, to stab in the back, to misguide, and all of us have known of its bitter, bitter fruit.

Until we ourselves are the victims, we do not fully comprehend the compromising of trust as a tremendously and intrinsically destructive breach between individuals, the effects of which can be far reaching beyond our anticipation, and long lasting, perhaps even irreparable.

Judas betrayed Christ. His name has become synonymous with betrayal, infamy. Bt none of us may stand in judgment of Judas. His weakness is within us all. However reluctant we are to concede the weakness, it intrinsic to our fallen human nature from which none of us can prescind. It is just one deleterious aspect of a deep moral fissure resulting from the Original Sin we inherited from Adam and Eve.

The heart of Christ was one of perfect love and forgiveness. Judas knew this. He saw it day in and day out as he walked beside Jesus. He saw it in everything Christ did. Judas' betrayal is, in the face of this, a great mystery, something the Father allowed for His purpose – but Judas's greatest sin was not his betrayal of Christ, but his despairing of God's forgiveness.

Both Peter and Judas betrayed Christ. The paramount difference, as most know, is that Judas despaired ... while Peter repented.

We have ALL betrayed Christ ... 

What is very important to understand is that while Judas is the paradigm of betrayal, each of us has been, at one time or another, an inflection of it. Yes, Judas betrayed Christ. But so did I. So did you. Our betrayal has simply been less publicized, but so often no less notorious. 

For this reason, the consequences of betrayal and the endemic nature of betrayal through sin, should be kept in our minds and hearts. It is a necessary remembrance, for it will assist us in resisting sin — which is always a betrayal. resist the terrible sin of breaking the trust of another human being, and at the same time, what one is really doing is breaking a child's trust, for we are all, each of us, despite the masks and pretences that we wear, we are each children, vulnerable and fragile.

Trust, to be trusted, to be found trustworthy, is not simply conducive to love, but enhances love, enabling it to grow beyond all the uncertainties that would would otherwise impede it, constrain it ... it is the nurturing of a beautiful bond between persons.

This point is well illustrated in the story of the father who placed his young son on a table and urged him to jump into his arms. While apprehensive of the height, the trusting child nevertheless flung himself toward his father — who let the child fall painfully to the floor. "Let that be a lesson, son. Trust no one." It is very likely that the child never did. We must never be that parent, that spouse, that friend. For everyone who leaps in trust to our arms ... is a child.

Broken trust can be healed through the renewal of trust. It is possible. All things are possible with God. But if the breach has been deep, the journey to renewal may be long and arduous – and that is all the more reason why we should reflect well upon our words before we speak and give thought to any act in anyway that may damage that innocence implicit in trust. 

If truly you can find no occasion within yourself in your dealing with men, know that you do with God. How often we betray God. All of us. Every time we sin. How often! ... and how are we requited? We encounter His great love and mercy ... His forgiveness.

Having been dealt with mercifully, can we do less to those who have betrayed us? Whatever their purpose, our purpose is Christ — in Whose love, by Whose love, we are bound to requite them as Christ requited Peter ... and you ... and me ...

* * * * * * * *

And this by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861):

The Saviour looked on Peter. Ay, no word,
No gesture of reproach! The heavens serene,
Though heavy with armed justice, did not lean
Their thunders that way: the forsaken Lord
Looked only on the traitor. None record
What that look was, none guess: for those who have seen
Wronged lovers loving through a death-pang ken,
Or pale-cheeked martyrs smiling to a sword,
Have missed Jehovah at the judgment—
“I never knew this man”—did quail and fall, call.
And Peter, from the height of blasphemy
As knowing straight THAT GOD—turned free
And went out speechless from the face of all,
And filled the silence, weeping bitterly.

I think that look of Christ might seem to say—
“Thou Peter! art thou then a common stone
Which I at last must break my heart upon
For all God’s charge to his high angels may
Guard my foot better? Did I yesterday
Wash thy feet, my beloved, that they should run
Quick to deny me ‘neath the morning sun?
And do thy kisses, like the rest, betray?
The cock crows coldly. —GO, and manifest
A late contrition, but no bootless fear!
For when thy final need is dreariest,
Thou shalt not be denied, as I am here;
My voice to God and angels shall attest,
Because I KNOW this man, let him be clear.”

More photos of last week's Induction at All Saints' Benhilton

Here, as promised, 
some more photos from my Collation and Induction 
on St Joseph's day (19th March), last week. 
(Click the photos to enlarge them)

Friends from other places,
including St Luke's, Kingston upon Thames, 
braved the ice and snow to attend.

All Saints' is within the Diocese of Southwark.
The Lord Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Rev'd Christopher Chessun, 
is also the Patron of the parish.

The Archdeacon of Croydon, the Ven. Christopher Skilton,
is pictured here with the Bishop of Southwark,
and also the Bishop of Fulham, the Rt Rev'd Jonathan Baker.
All Saints' is part of the "Fulham Jurisdiction" of parishes and clergy.

Bishop Jonathan Baker had preached the sermon. 
He is pictured here as the Celebrant of the Mass.

At the end of Holy Communion
I reserved the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle
for the prayers of the people and Communion of the sick.

L to R: Lewis Owens, Subdeacon,
The Lord Bishop of Southwark,
The new VIcar,
The Bishop of Fulham,
the Deacon of the Mass, Fr Philip Kennedy.

Chatting with the Bishop of Southwark.

The Bishop of Southwark chatting with Lewis.

Cutting the cake while the Churchwardens and others 
look on at the reception.

Time for a few words of thanks.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Monday in Holy Week: Extravagant love - the Anointing at Bethany

Artist: Daniel F. Gerhartz

FIRST READING (Isaiah 42:1-7)
“Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him, he will bring forth justice to the nations.

“He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not fail or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law. “

Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread forth the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it: “I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.”

GOSPEL (John 12:1-11)
Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at table with him.

Mary took a pound of costly ointment of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment.

But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?”

This he said, not that he cared for the poor but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box he used to take what was put into it.

Jesus said, “Let her alone, let her keep it for the day of my burial. The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”

When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came, not only on account of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus also to death, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.

(Word of Life Community) 

“Before the triumphal procession moved towards Jerusalem, Jesus stopped at the home of His friend Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. There were two persons at the supper that distinguished themselves by their behaviour: Mary, the sister of Lazarus, and Judas, the disciple of Jesus, whose surname was Iscariot.

“Mary, sensing somehow that the earthly ministry of Jesus was drawing to a close, takes a pound of pure and expensive alabaster and anoints the feet of Christ, wiping them with her hair. The house was soon permeated by the sweet fragrance of the alabaster.

“Judas, however, always acutely conscious of the monetary value of everything, censured the pious act of Mary, charging her with the wanton waste of that which ‘might have been sold for much, and given to the poor’ (Matthew 26:9). We then see Jesus in His role as Defender of the poor and the oppressed. Chrysostom remarks that the piety of Judas here is certainly hypocritical, as is his condemnation of Mary.

“St. Paul tells us that Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. (II Corinthians 11:14). Judas is unsuccessful at hiding his real motive; he would have liked to have stolen the ointment, and sold it for his own personal profit. Many of us today are guilty of this sin of Judas, particularly those that would rob the church of its liturgical appointments, condemning them as luxuries. Not that they would steal from the church; but whenever a new chalice is needed for Holy Communion they will object that the money is being squandered foolishly, and the same with vestments, icons, and even with Bibles for the Sunday School. Any money spent for religious purposes, and especially for bringing others to the saving faith of Christ, is, according to these people, not necessary. It would be superfluous to comment upon the spiritual condition of these avaricious souls.”

“. . . anointing with such expensive oil was the traditional practice reserved for the deceased, the dead. But Jesus was not dead yet, he was very much alive. Then why did all this happen now, you may ask? Mary was foretelling the crucifixion of our Lord on the cross, and His burial in the tomb by her simple actions motivated purely by love. Our Lord specifically states that ‘she (Mary) has kept this for the day of My burial.’ (Jn 12:7). Here the actions of Mary teach us that Jesus was already dead to this world and to His human temptations. We too who attempt to live a life in Christ must also be dead to this world if we ever want to receive Christ.”

Alone to sacrifice thou goest, Lord,
giving thyself to Death
whom thou hast slain.
For us thy wretched folk is any word?
Who know that for our sins this is thy pain?
For they are ours, O Lord, our deeds, our deeds.
Why must thou suffer torture for our sin?
Let our hearts suffer in thy Passion, Lord,
that very suffering may thy mercy win.
This is the night of tears, the three days’ space,
sorrow abiding of the eventide,
Until the day break with the risen Christ,
and hearts that sorrowed shall be satisfied.
So may our hearts share in thine anguish, Lord,
that they may sharers of thy glory be;
Heavy with weeping may the three days pass,
to win the laughter of thine Easter Day.
- Peter Abelard (1079-1142)

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Holy Week and Easter at All Saints' Benhilton

This is YOUR invitation to join us for our journey through Holy Week and our celebration of Easter.

Our regular worshippers come from a wide range of backgrounds and age groups, and quite a few from outside the parish. What we have in common is the discovery of God’s love in the ups and downs of everyday life. Joining together at Mass we lift our hearts and voices in praise to the Lord as brothers and sisters together, we gain insights into his ways as the Scriptures are taught, and we draw strength from him for our daily life as we pray and receive him in the miracle of Holy Communion.

It is possible that, like many other people, you have a suspicion that there is more to life than what you have so far experienced. You might even be wondering if there is, after all, a spiritual dimension to reality. 

Or you might look back half nostalgically to a time when you were very conscious of God’s presence and love; but your career, your ambitions, or just the stresses of keeping up with modern life, have caused you to drift away.

What better time than Holy Week to think about these things, maybe for the first time, or maybe dipping your toe back in the water after years of trying to make it through just in your own strength? What better time to reach out to God? 

You’ll find a real welcome at All Saints Benhilton.

There are many ways of looking at what happened when Jesus died on the Cross that first Good Friday. Some speak of the Cross as a demonstration of God’s love, others as a battle in which darkness and evil are conquered, and others, still, as the sacrifice that takes our sins away.

I find it really helpful also to see the Cross as God’s way of sharing with his people - and with the whole of creation - in the anguish and pain we know only too well, not just “helping us through it”, but, even in the midst of it, pouring his love and strength into our lives. Orthodox Bishop Kallistos Ware puts it like this:

“ . . . there was a Cross in the heart of God before there was one planted outside Jerusalem; and though the Cross of wood has been taken down, the Cross in God’s heart still remains.  It is the Cross of pain and triumph - both together.  And those who can believe this will find that joy is mingled with their cup of bitterness.  They will share on a human level in the divine experience of victorious suffering.”

The Cross is God’s way of loving the world back to himself - transforming it - and that includes you and me.

The services of Holy Week are arranged with music, Bible readings, art, drama and traditional ceremonial so as to draw us deeply into the suffering, dying and rising of Jesus.
We do not pass glibly to the joy of Easter Day without treading the road to Calvary with its pain and sorrow. Our journey is measured and reflective. It changes us. Holy Week is a fresh experience of God’s wonderful transforming love, a deeper knowledge of sins forgiven, and a new grasp of the victory God is trying to win in our lives over sin, evil and hatred.
I know that if you make the most of Holy Week 2018, you will emerge on Easter Day a new person. That is just as true for those who have been through 70 or 80 Holy Weeks as it is for those experiencing Holy Week for the first time.  If you tread the way of the Cross and journey to the Empty Tomb in sincerity of heart and - however falteringly - reach out to God, your relationship with him will be made new.

Sharing in these special services will help you put the world’s problems and tragedies in perspective, and make a little more sense out of your own life. 

See you at Mass!

8.00 am Low Mass
9.30 am The Commemoration of the Lord's Entry into Jerusalem
and Procession leading into the SOLEMN MASS OF PALM SUNDAY

7.30 pm Mass & Homily

7.30 pm Agape Meal & Mass

procession to the Altar of Repose,
stripping of the Altars
and watch of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament until midnight.

9.00 am Morning Prayer
with Veneration of the Cross and Holy Communion
7.30 pm Evening Prayer

10.00 am Morning Prayer

8.00 am Low Mass

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Induction at All Saints' Benhilton (Sutton) U.K.

Yesterday, 19th March, was St Joseph’s Day, and in the evening I had the great joy of being “Collated and Inducted” as Vicar (parish priest) of All Saints’ Benhilton, one of the Sutton parishes in the south of London.

All Saints’, within the Diocese of Southwark, is a Forward in Faith parish and part of the Fulham Jurisdiction. 

The celebrant of the Mass, and preacher, was the Rt Rev’d Jonathan Baker, Bishop of Fulham. The Collation was done by the Rt Rev’d Christopher Chessun, Lord Bishop of Southwark, and the Induction by the Venerable Christopher Skilton, Archdeacon of Croydon.

Many more people braved the snow and ice than I had expected. Visitors came from the other Fulham parishes and from further afield, too.

So many parishioners worked hard behind the scenes to make last night a celebration that glorified the Lord and inspired his people. Please pray for me, and for the parish family, as we begin this new chapter of life and ministry together, proclaiming the Gospel and living the Catholic and Apostolic Faith.

The photo was taken by Father Stephen Trott, who drove a hundred miles to be with us! Left to right: Subdeacon Lewis Owens, the Lord Bishop of Southwark, the new Vicar, the Bishop of Fulham, Deacon Father Philip Kennedy from St Michael’s Croydon.


Thursday, March 1, 2018

Thomas Merton's prayer reflection on the Seven Deadly Sins


Trappist monk, Thomas Merton (1915–1968), was one of the best known Christian writers of the 20th century. One of his early books, New Seeds of Contemplation, has become a source of life giving inspiration for many people. Recently republished in 2007, much of this edition is available online HERE.

I share with you today, from that book, the following prayer. Part of Merton’s reflection on the Seven Deadly Sins, it is very appropriate for Lent:

Justify my soul, O God, but also from Your fountains fill my will with fire. 
Shine in my mind, although perhaps this means “be darkness to my experience,” 
but occupy my heart with Your tremendous Life. 

Let my eyes see nothing in the world but Your glory, 
and let my hands touch nothing that is not for Your service. 

Let my tongue taste no bread 
that does not strengthen me to praise Your great mercy. 

I will hear Your voice 
and I will hear all harmonies You have created, singing Your hymns. 

Sheep’s wool and cotton from the field shall warm me enough 
that I may live in Your service; 
I will give the rest to Your poor. 
Let me use all things for one sole reason: 
to find my joy in giving You glory.

Therefore keep me, above all things, from sin. 

Keep me from the death of deadly sin which puts hell in my soul. 

Keep me from the murder of lust that blinds and poisons my heart. 

Keep me from the sins that eat a man’s flesh with irresistible fire 
until he is devoured. 

Keep me from loving money in which is hatred, 
from avarice and ambition that suffocate my life. 

Keep me from the dead works of vanity 
and the thankless labour 
in which artists destroy themselves for pride and money and reputation, 
and saints are smothered under the avalanche of their own importunate zeal. 

Stanch in me the rank wound of covetousness 
and the hungers that exhaust my nature with their bleeding. 
Stamp out the serpent envy 
that stings love with poison and kills all joy.

Untie my hands and deliver my heart from sloth. 
Set me free from the laziness that goes about disguised as activity 
when activity is not required of me, 
and from the cowardice that does what is not demanded, 
in order to escape sacrifice.

But give me the strength that waits upon You 
in silence and peace. 
Give me humility in which alone is rest, 
and deliver me from pride which is the heaviest of burdens. 
And possess my whole heart and soul 
with the simplicity of love.

Occupy my whole life 
with the one thought and the one desire of love, 
that I may love not for the sake of merit, 
not for the sake of perfection, 
not for the sake of virtue, n
ot for the sake of sanctity, 
but for You alone.

For there is only one thing that can satisfy love and reward it, 
and that is You alone.