Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Newman's 'most brilliant' paragraph

Even during his Anglican years, John Henry Newman remarked that the popular exhibitions of devotion that so scandalised the 'English Protestant visitor to the Continent', even with corruptions of 'excess' or 'superstition', were preferable to the 'arid indifference' of the English laity and clergy. After all, as Newman puts it, these devotions to Our Lady derived from the real (versus notional) idea that she was the Mother of God. Later in his life, towards the end of his famous 'Letter to Dr. Pusey' (p. 86) Newman wrote what I have heard (justifiably) called the most brilliant paragraph in all his work:

'And did not the All-wise know the human heart when He took to Himself a Mother? Did He not anticipate our emotion at the sight of such an exaltation in one so simple and so lowly?  If He had not meant her to exert that wonderful influence in His Church, which she has in the event exerted, I will use a bold word, He it is who has perverted us. If she is not to attract our homage, why did He make her solitary in her greatness amid His vast creation? If it be idolatry in us to let our affections respond to our faith, He would not have made her what she is, or He would not have told us that He had so made her; but, far from this, He has sent His Prophet to announce to us, ‘A Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel,’ and we have the same warrant for hailing her as God’s Mother, as we have for adoring Him as God.'

Thursday, June 25, 2020

A superstar who hit rock bottom and came up again

I want to tell you about someone whose life was changed - a man in the depths of despair who found new life and hope. He had been a great musician. As a child he had overtaken all his teachers. He had begun composing in childhood, and by his twenties he was fabulously wealthy - the highest paid composer in the world, packing in the crowds wherever he went.

At the same time, he was rude, arrogant, and self-opinionated. He drank too heavily, and he could swear like a trooper in three different languages!

For forty years he composed breathtaking music for the royal family. But musical tastes change, and his works fell out of fashion. He tried everything, but he couldn’t resurrect his career. He became bankrupt, poverty-stricken, depressed and physically ill. Things were so bad that he thought he might end up living out his days in a London debtors’ prison.

Who am I talking about? George Frederick Handel (1685-1759). As if things couldn’t get worse, in 1737 he had a cerebral haemorrhage which left him paralysed down his right side and unable to walk or write. Very slowly he managed to regain some of his strength.

One night in 1741 he shuffled listlessly down a dark, creepy London street, bent over - a man seriously old before his time. England was in the grip of an extremely cruel winter, and Handel was physically and emotionally worn out.

As he trudged on he came to a church. He paused, and suddenly from the depths of his being he cried, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ Eventually he went home to his very modest lodgings. On his desk was a package - a set of words that he had promised a friend he would try to do something with musically. In fact the words were all Bible verses arranged in such a way as to emphasise the salvation won for us by Jesus. Handel opened the package and his eyes fell on the verse, ‘He was despised and rejected of men.’

He reached for his pen and began to write. Then something mysterious - even ‘miraculous’ - happened to him. He just kept writing . . . page after page after page! He actually worked non-stop for twenty-four days, hardly eating, and having almost no rest. He refused to see friends. But on the day he finished, a friend managed to get in. Handel was sitting at his piano, sheets of music strewn all around him, and he had tears running down his face. ‘I do believe I have seen all of Heaven before me, and the great God Himself,’ he said to his friend. He then flopped onto his bed and slept for seventeen hours. He woke up renewed in body and in soul. Looking back on this experience, and borrowing a phrase from the Apostle Paul, he said, ‘Whether I was in my body or out of my body I know not. God knows it’!
Right from its first performance, Handel’s Messiah has been regarded as one of the greatest masterpieces ever composed. It has stunned multitudes. To this day it is performed at Christmas and Easter all over the world, and people who know nothing else about classical music always recognise the Hallelujah Chorus! More than that, Handel’s music has brought a vision of the glory of the Lord to countless unsuspecting souls.

Why have I recounted the story of George Frederick Handel? Simply because I know that so many of us find ourselves exactly where he was. We think that life is useless. We feel that there is no hope. Maybe it’s related to a business failure or the disintegration of our relationships. Or we might be successful financially, in our careers and in our family life. But for reasons we can’t understand we’re there, right at rock bottom in other ways.

Of course we can speak to friends. And professional counselling is a good idea, too. Medication can often make a big difference. These things are important.

How bizarre it is, though, that we so easily neglect the ‘spiritual’ aspect of our being, when ‘God . . . has put eternity into man’s mind’ (Ecclesiastes 3:11). There are even in our universities today professional observers of human behaviour who agree that we seem to have an inbuilt instinct to reach out to ‘the transcendent’. So many people discover that ‘giving in’ to that instinct is the most important life choice we ever make, because in the context of the relationship with God that develops, deep spiritual and emotional healing begins to take place. 

On the other hand, if we refuse to come to terms with our deeply spiritual needs, all other measures are a bit like putting sticking plaster on symptoms rather than treating the real illness. (Sticking plaster is, of course, handy. But on its own it’s not going to heal us!)

Those facing big issues in our lives, or who are on the brink of despair - as many are right now at this stage in the ‘lockdown’ - ought to need very little encouragement to open up to the Lord’s love and healing. Maybe the story of George Frederick Handel will inspire us to do it!

An intriguing insight in the Bible is that we can drift spiritually without even realising what is happening to us.  One of the saddest bits of the Old Testament is when Samson, so full of promise and raised up by God to deliver his people, became captive to his lusts. Do you know what it says? Judges 16:20 tells us, ‘He knew not that the Spirit of God had left him.’ Isn’t that so sad. He drifted. 

We are warned about that happening to us in Hebrews 2:1: ‘... we must pay the closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.’ In his commentary on this verse, William Barclay points out that in the original language the expression for ‘drift away’ is meant to conjure up the idea of a ship drifting to destruction because the pilot is asleep!

We matter to God. He loves us with an everlasting love. He doesn’t want us just to drift along. Whatever tangles or trauma we are in the middle of, he wants to help us, support us, strengthen and sustain us, so that we come through. We don’t have to drift. Nor do we have to be strong enough or wise enough in our own strength and wisdom. We can rely on him. We can let his love reach us through prayer, through the Scriptures, through receiving the Sacraments, through the support of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We really can open up our lives to his healing love.

Speaking through the prophet Jeremiah God says to us: ‘You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart.’ (Jeremiah 29:3)

S. James says, ‘Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.’ (James 4:8)

And Jesus himself said: ‘Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you . . . for he who seeks finds.’ (Matthew 7:7)

George Frederick Handel had his life turned around and put on track because he encountered the Lord in a new way. Isn’t it time for each of us to seek the Lord with our whole heart, to draw near to him, and to experience his love and healing more deeply than ever before?

Handel's memorial in Westminster Abbey

Sunday, June 21, 2020

All Saints' Benhilton open for Private Prayer

The Blessed Sacrament exposed on the Nave Altar
for private prayer
each Sunday morning, 8.45 a.m. to 12.00 midday
until public celebrations of the Mass are permitted.

Yesterday at All Saints' we had a working bee to dust, clean and tidy the church in preparation for opening this morning for private prayer, for the first time in twelve weeks of ‘lockdown.’ It was really wonderful to see people from our church family working together again (socially distanced, of course, and many wearing gloves and face masks!), enjoying renewed fellowship and interaction, and sharing a great sense of anticipation. 

We do not know when public worship will be allowed, but permission to open the church for private prayer is a very welcome first step in that direction.

So, over the next few Sundays, the church will be open from 8.45 a.m. to 12.00 noon for private prayer in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament which will have been placed on the nave altar beforehand, surrounded by candles and flowers. We invite you to visit All Saints’ for prayer and reflection during that period each Sunday, and to stay for as little or as long a time as you wish.

Jesus, our Lord and our God, 
Son of the Living God and Son of the Virgin Mary, 
we believe that you are here, and we adore you. 
Veiled beneath the whiteness of the Sacred Host, 
we believe that you are present, 
in all the perfection of your manhood and divinity, 
and we adore you. 
With all the angels of heaven, 
with your holy Mother Mary, 
and with all your saints, 
we kneel in humble adoration.

We come to you, dear Lord, like the apostles, saying: 
“Increase our Faith.” 
Give us a firm and lively faith in your Real Presence. 
Give us the faith of the beloved disciple to recognise you and say, 
“It is the Lord.” 
Give us the faith of Peter to confess you and say, 
“You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” 
Give us the faith of Mary Magdalen to fall at your feet crying 
“Rabboni, Master!” 
Give us the faith of Thomas who in the end believed and said, 
“My Lord and my God.”

Give us the faith of all your saints 
to whom this Blessed Sacrament was heaven on earth. 
In every Communion, at every Mass, 
at every visit to you in the Blessed Sacrament, 
increase our faith, and inflame our hearts with love for you. 

Lord, help us by your grace 
always so to believe and understand, 
to feel and firmly hold, 
to speak and think 
of the exceeding Mystery of this Blessed Sacrament, 
as shall be pleasing to you and profitable for our souls. 
And may your priests continually offer the Holy Sacrifice 
in the beauty of holiness, 
and your people more and more with delight gather at your altars.

And grant us, Lord, 
that, adoring and receiving you upon earth, 
we may finally by your mercy be admitted to the heavenly banquet, 
where you, the Lamb in the midst of the throne, 
in unveiled majesty, are perfectly worshipped and glorified 
by countless angels and saints for ever and ever. 

Thursday, June 18, 2020

The amazing truth about the miracle of Holy Communion


Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s there was a huge sign painted on the side of a building facing the railway line between Redfern Station and Central in inner Sydney. Tens of thousands saw it daily on their way to work. I read it almost every day for my first two years at University. I cannot remember the product being advertised, but the sign said: ‘WHAT YOU EAT AND DRINK TODAY WALKS AND TALKS TOMORROW.’

It always made me smile and think of S. Augustine, bishop of Hippo in Northern Africa in the 4th century, who some friends and I had begun to study. It was he who said that as we eat the Body of Christ in Holy Communion, we become the Body of Christ in the world. We also know that as he gave Holy Communion to his people, Augustine would actually say to them, ‘Eat what you are, and become what you eat’! 

We are in the aftermath of Corpus Christi, having celebrated in a special way the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. With the vast majority of mainstream Christians down through the ages we know that he comes to us supernaturally as FOOD so as to share his life with us, to deepen our union with him and with one another, to strengthen us for our lives here in this world, and to sustain us on our journey to heaven. He comes as Food to nourish and transform us.


‘But it’s just symbolic’ is what some Christians still say, and they criticise what they sometimes call 'that high church catholic nonsense'!

Well, the extraordinary realism of S. Paul’s language in 1 Corinthians 11, also in the Gospel narratives of the institution of the Eucharist, and in John 6 where Jesus feeds the five thousand and then explains that he himself is the ‘Bread of Life’ seems to be very clear. So clear that one of my predecessors here at All Saints  Benhilton, - Father Marcus Donovan, Vicar from 1945 to 1961 - could write:

‘In the Holy Sacrament Jesus conceals Himself under the veils of bread and wine. He is as truly present as in Bethlehem or in Galilee. Outwardly the “veils” are all we can see, but after the Consecration they become the Body and Blood of Christ. He chose the most ordinary things (‘“elements” as they are called) in which to give us this treasure. In Holy Communion we receive the life of Christ, and so we must regard the Most Holy Sacrament with the utmost reverence. It is the greatest of all Sacraments, for while they give us grace, Holy Communion gives us the Author of grace Himself.’ (in Faith and Practice SPCK, 1950

Is this really the faith of the Church? Well, if we have any doubts about that, we can turn to those generations of the early Church nearest to the apostles for an indication of how the New Testament’s language about Holy Communion was understood in their day.


Writing between 80 AD and 110 AD, - most likely while the Apostle John is still alive - S. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, calls the bread of Holy Communion, 

‘the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, the flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in his graciousness, raised from the dead.’ (Letter to the Smyrnaeans, 6)


S. Justin Martyr says the same kind of thing a little later on - around 150 AD: 

‘We do not consume the Eucharistic bread and wine as if it were ordinary food and drink, for we have been taught that as Jesus Christ our Saviour became a man of flesh and blood by the power of the Word of God, so also the food that our flesh and blood assimilates for its nourishment becomes the flesh and blood of the incarnate Jesus by the power of his own words contained in the Eucharistic prayer.’ (First Apology)


And then,  in 189 A.D., S. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons writes: 

‘If the Lord were from other than the Father, how could he rightly take bread, which is of the same creation as our own, and confess it to be his body and affirm that the mixture in the cup is his blood?’ (Against Heresies 4:33–32)

He also writes: 

‘He has declared the cup, a part of creation, to be his own blood, from which he causes our blood to flow; and the bread, a part of creation, he has established as his own body, from which he gives increase unto our bodies. When, therefore, the mixed cup [wine and water] and the baked bread receives the Word of God and becomes the Eucharist, the body of Christ, and from these the substance of our flesh is increased and supported, how can they say that the flesh is not capable of receiving the gift of God, which is eternal life - flesh which is nourished by the body and blood of the Lord, and is in fact a member of him?’ (ibid., 5:2). 


The realism of this language is startling. It comes from a time when the successors of the Apostles were defending the Gospel and the Faith, which is all about the coming of God into real human life and joining himself to it (and to the creation of which human life is part) in order to redeem, renew and transfigure it. And who were they arguing with? You guessed it . . . the SPIRITUALISERS who couldn’t conceive that ‘the flesh’ could be saved. So - did these early Christian leaders expect to be taken ‘literally’ in their language about Holy Communion? You bet they did!

Since the dying and rising of Jesus, his followers have gathered at the altar Sunday by Sunday (and where possible more often than that!) in order to receive him in what is the most precious, sacred, awesome, life-giving encounter possible this side of heaven.

'O come, let us adore Him - Christ the Lord.'

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Would you consider making a financial gift to my parish?

This blog started back in April 2008 when blogs were far more popular a form of social media than now. Primarily it has been my way of sharing more widely with orthodox Anglicans who love the Gospel of Jesus, believe the Catholic Faith, yearn for the Church’s unity and work for the evangelisation of the world. 

Over the years many people have emailed and said how they have been blessed by the blog. Indeed, the reason I keep it going is a steady rise in readership over the last 12 years. During the last few months there has been a remarkable increase.

Regular readers know that since March 2018 I have been the parish priest of All Saints’ Church of England, Benhilton, Sutton, in the south of London, UK. All Saints’ is in the Diocese of Southwark. It is an enthusiastic Forward in Faith parish of the Society of Saint Wilfrid and Saint Hilda, in the episcopal care of the Bishop of Fulham. 

We believe in our mission to proclaim the Gospel, teaching - and living - the full Catholic Faith that comes from the Apostles. In other words, as well as being the ‘parish’ church (with our school right next door), we are also the Forward in Faith/ Society parish for this part of the Diocese (and the only one in this Deanery), with about half our regular worshippers coming from outside the parish boundaries. 

As a parish we are facing major financial challenges in sustaining our vital mission, including the financial hit some of our people have taken as a result of the Lockdown. The (temporary) suspension of Sunday worship has also had its impact. Thank the Lord that already, in advance of our forthcoming stewardship programme, some parishioners have been increasing their sacrificial giving to the work of the Lord through the parish. We are very grateful, because in addition to balancing the books, we have to begin work on the expensive problem of the subsidence of our historic church building.

So, basically, I’m asking readers - especially long term readers who have said what a blessing this blog’s ministry has been over the years, and who are able -  to consider making a gift to the parish of All Saints’ Benhilton . . . i.e. to the parish, not to me! That might be a ‘one off’ gift, or some might even like to make a regular standing order. What a blessing it would be for the Parish Council and other parishioners to know that those who read their parish priest’s blog have joined with them to help meet the challenges that face us at this time.

May the Lord bless you and keep you.

Ft David Chislett SSC

Account Name: PCC ALL SAINTS
Bank sort code: 60-50-01
Account number: 50520695

Account Name: PCC ALL SAINTS
Bank sort code: 60-50-01
Account number: 50520695
IBAN number: GB15NWBK60500150520695

Account Name: PCC ALL SAINTS
Bank sort code: 60-50-01
Account number: 50520695
IBAN number: GB15NWBK60500150520695
BIC number:  NWBKGB2L

Please make cheques payable to:
Then post to:
The Treasurer
C/- All Saints’ Vicarage
All Saints’ Road
Sutton, Surrey   SM1 3DA

Saturday, June 13, 2020

The Bishop pf Fulham's teaching for Corpus Christi

Click on this link:

Saturday, June 6, 2020

The best video you'll see this Trinity Sunday!

Our friends at S.James' Sussex Gardens have done it again. 
Watch, enjoy, learn, and worship!

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

S. Charles Lwanga and his companions, Martyrs

Today is when the Church commemorates S. Charles Lwanga (1860-1886), who was ‘Master of Pages’ for the Ugandan royal household, aas well as a lay catechist. With great courage he led around forty teenage boys, Roman Catholics and Anglicans, on a forty-mile forced march to martyrdom. As they journeyed they prayed and they sang the Lord’s praises, teaching each other the hymns of their respective churches. In this way they were strengthened for what lay ahead. 

The young King Mwanga had ordered their execution for being “those who pray.” But in fact they were martyred for refusing the sexual demands of the king.  Some of them were clubbed to death; most were burned alive.

In 1964, Pope Paul VI canonised the young Roman Catholic martyrs and praised their Anglican companions, recalling the heroism of all the early Christian martyrs in Africa. Here is part of his homily from that Mass: 

The African martyrs add another page to the martyrology – the Church’s roll of honour – an occasion both of mourning and of joy. This is a page worthy in every way to be added to the annals of that Africa of earlier times which we, living in this era and being men of little faith, never expected to be repeated. 

In earlier times there occurred those famous deeds, so moving to the spirit, of the martyrs of Scilli, of Carthage, and of that “white robed army” of Utica commemorated by Saint Augustine and Prudentius; of the martyrs of Egypt so highly praised by Saint John Chrysostom, and of the martyrs of the Vandal persecution. Who would have thought that in our days we should have witnessed events as heroic and glorious?  Who could have predicted that to the famous African confessors and martyrs such as Cyprian, Felicity, Perpetua and – the greatest of all – Augustine, we would one day add names so dear to us as Charles Lwanga and Matthias Mulumba Kalemba and their 20 companions? Nor must we forget those members of the Anglican Church who also died for the name of Christ. 

These African martyrs herald the dawn of a new age. If only the mind of man might be directed not towards persecutions and religious conflicts but towards a rebirth of Christianity and civilisation!  Africa has been washed by the blood of these latest martyrs, the first of this new age (and, God willing, let them be the last, although such a holocaust is precious indeed). Africa is reborn free and independent. 

O God, who have made the blood of Martyrs 
the seed of Christians,
mercifully grant that the field which is your Church,
watered by the blood shed by Saints Charles Lwanga 
and his companions,
may be fertile and always yield you an abundant harvest.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.