Sunday, 25 February 2007

Theology of the Body - Have you got anything better to do?

Sorry for the lack of posts in the last few days - essays get in the way of everything... This Friday evening we will be having another Theology of the Body session. Last week's was given by Robert Colquhoun, a seminarian at Allen Hall, and though his presentation was very good there was unfortunately a poor turnout of people. Please come this Friday if you can, and suggest it to others! There will be a talk on 'Celibacy for the Sake of the Kingdom' by Fr. Mark Withoos (pictured looking suave below), an Australian priest doing a degree at Durham. He knows some of the students here and has given a talk before, so we can say with some authority that it will be an interesting and worthwhile evening. Supper at 6.30, talk around 7.00. Be there or be square! The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Thursday, 22 February 2007

St. Mary Moorfields

Today we helped Fr. Peter Newby of St. Mary Moorfields parish in the City by handing out leaflets with local Mass times. Unlike a Friday evening in Leicester square, it was impossible to talk to anyone beyond Hello-Mass times in the area-Thank you, because everyone was in such a rush to get somewhere or other. It is not a residential area but rather a place where many people work so the weekday Mass congregation is primarily one of people on their lunch break. We have been to St. Mary's once before and are impressed both at how full it is and how many younger people are there - the average age is probably about 40.

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Ash Wednesday

'I feel like a Massing priest' Fr. Alex said today in between Masses, which I can only assume means a priest who is forever saying Masses... No sooner was the first lunchtime Mass over than he was ringing the bell for the next one. In the evening the first preparation talk for Perpetual Adorers was held - St. Patrick's is planning to start Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament here before the month is out. If you can give time to adore then please get in touch with the parish through the website. A blessed Lent from all the students here.

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Pancake Tuesday

Today, having a free day to study for our next Catechism essay at home, we followed the venerable English tradition of making pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, glutting ourselves in preparation for Lent. Ewa told us that in Poland they have Greasy Thursday on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday, during which they have doughnuts instead of pancakes. She doesn't know why it's on a Thursday though - does anyone else?

The essay we're working on is about a particular paragraph in the Catechism concerning our life in Christ. There St. Paul says, 'for me, to live is Christ.' What a beautiful statement! In his encyclical Veritatis Splendor Pope John Paul II says that Christ is the 'living and personal Law' which fulfills the Old Law through a complete gift of self. So don't give something up for Lent because you have to - do it for love of Christ!

Sunday, 18 February 2007


On Friday evening we hit the streets to evangelise the people of London... We went to the French Catholic Church in Leicester Square, where once a month a Pentecostal choir sings and gets people to stop by and listen to the music. We go there to talk to people and give them prayer cards and Scripture readings. It often happens that we have good conversations with them, about their background, their faith, and they will ask questions about our life as young Catholics dedicating a year to being formed in and serving the Church in London. I think that the first time we went out to evangelise we were all pretty unsure of how to begin, but now it comes a bit easier to us and we can share more of our experience with others, as well as accept if people don't want to have anything to do with us. We would really like to see more Catholics coming to witness to their faith, so if you're free on the third Friday of the month come to St. Patrick's in Soho Square at 6.30 and from there we will go to Leicester Square. If Christ's love means so much to us then it is natural that we will want to share it with others. And anyway you'd be hard pressed to find better music or a more fun way to evangelise!

Franciscan Friars of the Renewal

During this past week we had a chance to visit the friary of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in Canning Town, East London. There are five friars there, including Fr. Angelus and Brother John Paul (left) who both gave us talks last week. Brother Martin, who is currently away, has also been involved with SPES in the past, and in December we went to help him with the Live Nativity Play which he put on in Upton Park.

The friary is divided into the friary proper, where the friars live and sleep, and the apostolate where the friars run a daytime soup kitchen four days a week. Brother John Paul who showed us round said that a lot of Lithuanians and Romanians come to the soup kitchen, many of whom are living in abandoned warehouses while looking for work.

The friary is very simple, with very few images. Where they live the friars only have one image per room, in order to emphasise the nature of an image as something to aid prayer rather than to cause distraction. In the chapel there are two images, one of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of the Order, and the Cross of San Damiano, which is the cross that St. Francis saw when Our Lord asked him to rebuild the church at San Damiano (before rebuilding the Church itself through his apostolic work and his spirit of poverty). The chapel in the friary is beautiful
but very sparse - there aren't even any kneelers! Think of spending over an hour a day kneeling on a bare wooden floor... While we were there we were able to join in the community's night prayer and rosary, joined also by young men from all over the world who are there for a vocations weekend, discerning if the Friars of the Renewal are where they are called to serve God. It was interesting to see the small basketball court outside the friary as we left, where the brothers sometimes play with the local youths. Asking Fr. Angelus about it he said, 'Oh some of the other guys play with them but I'm getting too old for that. Now I just run.' The Friars are certainly never idle, physically or apostolically!

Thursday, 15 February 2007

Happy feast of St. Claude!

Today is the feast day of our patron St. Claude de la Columbiere, a missionary from the Lyons diocese who was the spiritual director of St. Margaret Mary Alocoque. St. Margaret Mary had the revelations of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and she told these to St. Claude who later went on to introduce devotion to the Sacred Heart in Protestant England. Put in the Tower of London on the false grounds of involvement in the Titus Oates plot to assassinate King Charles II, St. Claude was sentenced to death, and was only saved by the French king who demanded him back. He was sent back to France, only to die there from ill health which was brought about by his time in the Tower. What an inspiring life for we who aspire to be missionaries of God's love in a country slumped in despair!

We had a beautiful homily about St. Claude from Fr. Angelus, who came to celebrate Mass and spend the day with us in the East End, concluding our few days of Life in the Spirit. Along with Gabriele Sedda and Kate Moir, who are involved in the charismatic prayer group at Westminster cathedral, Fr. Angelus prayed with each of us for a greater outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our lives. He said to us: 'How often we sit in the driver's seat, deciding where to go and what way and how fast... But we need to hand the keys over to the Holy Spirit, and let him decide where we go, and how we will get there, and when we stop, and how fast we go, and only then will God's true plan for us be fulfiled.' Gabriele Sedda gave us a talk about growth in the life of the Spirit, saying that through the Eucharist and the Scriptures we can be transformed. It was a very intense day for us, so we're having a free evening to reflect and prepare for tomorrow, when we will be evangelising outside the French church in Leicester Square. There will be a Pentecostal choir there singing from around 8, so please come and join us if you can!

St. Valentine's Day

Yesterday we celebrated Ss. Valentine, Cyril and Methodius in style with candles, cards and a pudding at lunch. Fr. Alex told us that the reason St. Valentine's day is a day for lovers is because people realised it was the time of year when robins begot little robins, so it became associated with courtship. Ss. Cyril and Methodius were monks and brothers who are responsible for the Cyrillic alphabet.

In the evening some of us visited the friary of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in Canning Town. More of this is another post!

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Life in the Spirit

'I'm calling on people to hold seminars of New Life in the Spirit...' (Fr. Cantalamessa)
Goodnews magazine - front cover of current issueWe've begun our seminars today on Life in the Spirit, a call within the Church to surrender ourselves in a deeper way to the action of the Holy Spirit, through conversion and faith in God's grace - as well as a means of receiving the charisms of the Spirit that were made possible for us in baptism. The papal preacher, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, commited himself to the Holy Spirit in a particular way as a priest when he came across some students who suggested they pray for him, and he said it has rejuvenated his faith. We had engaging talks from Kristina Cooper, the editor of the National Catholic Charismatic Renewal's magazine Good News, as well as Fr. Angelus, a Franciscan Friar of the Renewal based in their community in Canning Town, East London. The Franciscan Friars are always wonderfully on fire for God, and can certainly teach us a thing or two about growing in our spiritual lives...

Church cleaning

We spent some time yesterday after dinner helping out with the monthly church cleaning. So this is the spirit of poverty!

Sunday, 11 February 2007

A weekend in Wiltshire

Hello everyone, we're back! We went to Wiltshire county with Fr. Alex to visit some friends of his, Sarah and Paul and their daughter Emily. On the way there we stopped off in Salisbury to see the the Anglican cathedral, which has the highest spire of any cathedral in England. We discovered from Fr. Alex that his great uncle, Geoffrey Lunt, was bishop of the cathedral from 1946-48! The cathedral is one of only four to house an original copy of the Magna Carta, signed by King John.
I still wouldn't trade it's pristine whitewashed columns though for the wear and tear of St. Patrick's!

At Sarah and Paul's we did a lot of walking in the English countryside. Paul led us through the woods and the fields to the delights of an English pub where we refueled. Paul and Fr. Alex also kept slipping out for 'important meetings', which meant watching the cricket and the rugby. Yesterday we celebrated the memorial of St. Scholastica at Mass, which had beautiful readings. Fr. Alex gave a homily about St. Scholastica's good relationship with her brother Benedict, and how one time she prevented him from ending a visit so soon by praying for rain, which meant that he was forced to stay and they spent the whole night talking about the things of God. I don't know, maybe it's because he's Italian - the English certainly aren't kept from the outdoors by a little rain, as we found out on our walks!

Coming back last night we met Bishop Bernard Longley who was saying the weekend Masses in the parish where some of us live (St. Mary and St. Michael's in Commercial Road, East London. The rest of us live in St. Anne's presbytery off of Whitechapel, which is a very Brazilian parish). So we got to chat with him for a bit. Overall we've had a very restful time, and are ready to begin the new week, which promises to be good as we have Life in the Spirit and lectures from the Fransiscan Friars of the Renewal. Have a happy feast of Our Lady of Lourdes!

Thursday, 8 February 2007

Going away!

We'll be going away with Fr. Alex for a couple of days, so look out for a post on Sunday. The thing is we don't know where we're going because it's a surprise, but we've been told to bring hiking boots! That rules out the Bahamas...

Wednesday, 7 February 2007

Fishers of Men

We had a visit today from Fr. Chris Vipers, the vocations director of Westminster Diocese, who showed us a promotional video for the priesthood called 'Fishers of Men'. The video, which has been around for a while now, was made in the Bronx with the help of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. It's well worth seeing in order to get an idea of what it's like to be a priest in today's world - one thing the video emphasised was that the priesthood is counter-cultural. You can watch the preview here. The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

SOS and Open House

Once again Tuesday came round and we helped run Open House meal for the homeless and SOS prayer line in the tower chapel...

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

The American Experience

On Saturday the boys drove to Ascot to visit with Ann and Dan Hill, two great supporters of SPES who had the girls over the previous weekend for time away. American and Canadian, the Hills have been in England for some years doing wonderful work with the Missionaries of Charity and St. Patrick's parish among other things. It was great to be there and just listen to their stories!

This evening we had our American culture night, organised by Angela who hails from Kansas City Missouri, assisted by Henry who is originally Texan. The monthly culture nights are a good way for us to share our own particular background with the rest of the community, even if it's a bit spicy for their tastes! Above is Susie greedily reaching for the tortilla chips, and below is our Polish chef Arnold dressed in state for the occasion (with two of last year's students: Jeanine who helps run the school this year, and Rachel on the right, who is now Fr. Alex's pastoral assistant).

Theology of the Body

On Friday we had Fr. Mark Withoos come down from Durham to give our fortnightly talk on Pope John Paul II's work Theology of the Body. The Theology of the Body was given as a series of Wednesday audiences over the Pope's first years in the Vatican, in order to elucidate the meaning of our bodies and the beauty of sexuality. We are meant to give ourselves to one another through our bodies, and a man and woman do so most perfectly in marriage. Fr. Mark's talk looked at the portrayal of the human body in art, and what the boundaries are between art and pornography. He drew from JP II's insistence that the artist portray the body as the expression of a person, and not just as a mere object.

For anyone who is interested the talks on Theology of the Body happen every other Friday at St. Patrick's at 6.30 (free meal, then talk at 7.15). It would be a great opportunity to discover the Church's real and radical teaching on human sexuality. Every other Friday, including next Friday, is an evangelisation evening, in which we a) learn how we can evangelise others, b) go out and witness to our faith to people in the streets of Soho, in a relaxed and conversational way, c) come back to share our experiences during the evening. If you're free next Friday please join us.

Friday, 2 February 2007

Happy Feast of the Presentation!

Happy Feast of the Presentation, and a final farewell to the Christmas season. We had a lovely Mass today in St. Patrick's starting in the narthex with a special blessing of the candles and a procession into the church.

Yesterday we went to the Imperial War Museum, followed by Mass at Southwark Cathedral just across the road (those lunchtime Masses are quick - we'd said Mass and Rosary in 45 minutes!).

Then we had lunch on the Thames, joined by a few unexpected friends...

In the evening we went to the monthly prayer group Jesus Christ Fullness of Life in St. Andrew's Church, Holborn, a prayer group for Christian unity organised by Dom Peter (of the monastic community Family Fraternity of Jesus in Italy!). It is largely in the spirit of Taize, with four-part harmony chants, but there were some more lively songs as well, particularly a violin-accompanied piece written for one of the superiors in Dom Peter's community after a miraculous heart recovery. For anyone who is interested JCFL takes place every first Thursday of the month at 7.30.

The Little Flower

To love is to give everything and to give oneself.

- St Thérèse of Liséux