Friday, 21 December 2012

Veni Domine et non tardare!

As we approach the end of Advent and our thoughts turn to the final preparations (spiritual and material) for the celebration of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the flesh, may I wish each of you a blessed and holy Christmas. GJ

Thursday, 20 December 2012

St Mary's Guildford

Two SSIM members visited the oldest building in Guildford, Surrey yesterday. It is the Church of St Mary, which has architecturally remained pretty much the same for the last 750 years.

The building itself is at least 200 years older than that, with the tower being built even before the Norman Conquest of 1066.

Prayers were offered for all SSIM members and for the Anglican community which worships there today as well as for the souls of our forebears who built the church and offered the Mass there for hundreds of years.

Monday, 17 December 2012

O - the final countdown

Today at Vespers the Church will recite the first of the Great Antiphons before and after the Magnificat. These ancient antiphons, known as the O Antiphons, change each day and accompany us on the final approach to our Lord's Nativity in a week's time.

Today's antiphon is O Sapientiae (O Wisdom). Even if you don't routinely recite Vespers, you might like to google these beautiful texts and use them in your private devotions during this final countdown.

The book, The Rites of Durham (h/t the Abbot of Farnborough) describes how the monks there, after singing Vespers on this day, would gather and have an O Sapientiae small feast or dolce, consisting of wine, walnuts and raisins. Why not incorporate that into your advent traditions? Here we will be having a slight variation, Mulled wine, dates and chocolate covered raisins. Well why not......?

Saturday, 15 December 2012

The Durham Martyrs

Although I was born and raised in Co Durham, I had no knowledge of the Durham Martyrs until instructed about them by the Abbot of the monastery where I am a novice Oblate.  Fr Abbot, the Rt Revd Dom Cuthbert Brogan, OSB is also a 'Durham boy' but has the advantage on me in having converted to Catholicism as a youth while still living in the 'Land of the Prince Bishops'.  My time in Durham was as an Anglican and whilst I was formed in the lives of other great Northern Saints, such as Cuthbert, Bede, Benet Biscop, Hilda, Aidan all confessors, the local Martyrs never got a mention.

I'm speaking of, for example, three Yorkshiremen. Blessed Richard Hill, John Hogg and Richard Holiday.  The three entered seminary at the English College in Rheims between 1854 and 1857 and were all ordained priest together on 23 September 1589 before being sent to the English Mission on 23 March following.  They were arrested in the North of England and executed under Queen Elizabeth's statues on 27 May 1590 at Dryburn, Durham.  Two felons who were executed at the same time also professed their Faith on the scaffold.  These and other executions were not popular with the people of Durham who failed to cry 'God save the Queen' when each of the severed heads of the martyrs was held aloft with the words 'Behold the head of a traitor'.  Durham folk were perhaps still loyal to the old religion and to the former Benedictine monks of Durham who had sung mass in the Cathedral in the aftermath during the Northern Rebellion.  Witnessing the deaths of these holy men were the protestants, Robert and Grace Maire, who were both converted to the faith as a result.

St John Boste, is one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales,canonised by pope Paul VI in 1970.  Again trained for the priesthood at Rheims, he as ordained on 4 March 1581 and travelled to England, landing at Hartlepool.  His missionary efforts were so energetic that the agents of the Crown were moved to make equally strenuous attempts to capture him.  Fr Boste made use of many priest-holes and hiding places but was eventually 'taken' at Waterhouses, near Durham at the home of Willam Caxton on 5 July 1593.  He was taken to London, raked in the Tower and allegedly questioned by the Queen herself.  Despite the torments of the torturers we are told he was 'resolute, bold, joyful and pleasant'.  The future saint was eventually sent back to Durham to be tried at the July Assizes of 1594.  He was subsequently martyred at Tyburn, reciting the Angelus as he mounted the scaffold.

Blessed George Swallowell or Swalwell was the last person to be publicly executed in Darlington, Co Durham.  he was born in Darlington in 1564, became a clerk at Trimdon (natal town of the afore mentioned Abbot Cuthbert) and after his ordination in 1577 became a curate there before moving to work in Houghton-le-Spring.  it was whilst visiting a prisoner (held for his catholic beliefs) in Durham Gaol in 1590  that he himself came to understand the gift of faith and subsequently converted to Catholicism himself.  He had no intention of keeping this brave act to himself.  He ascended the steps of his pulpit in Houghton, announced to his people that he had been living in error and quit his living.  He was arrested, imprisoned and then reprieved but the authorities decided to have another go a year later, in 1594.  He was tied for treason alongside John Boste and John Ingram, found guilty.  At the moment of sentence cowardice took hold and he renounced the faith and pleaded for his life.  Fr Boste however asked "Geroge Swalwell, what hast thou done?"  Seeing his error he recanted of the renunciation of the faith.  His execution date was to be July 26th.  Wrting in 1741, Bishop Richard Challoner says, "To terrify him the more, they led him by two great fires, the one made for burning his bowels, the other for boiling his quarters,"  As the rope was put around his neck he asked any Catholics present to say three Paters, three Aves and the Creed for him.  He made the sign of the cross and was hanged before being cut down whilst still conscious and was then diem bowled, his bowels beign cast into the fire.  After his quarters were boiled in the cauldron they were buried in a spot which today is under the market quire in Darlington. 

Blessed John Ingram was ordained in Rome in 1589 at the English College and sent to Scotland in 1592.  He was arrested on the Tyne on 25 November 1593, tied with John Boste and George Swallwell. Despite some of his Scottish supporters offering a ransom of a thousand crowns to the English Crown for his life, he was martyred at Gateshead on 26 July 1594.  His last words were:  "I take God and His holy angels to the record that I die only for the holy Catholic faith and religion, and do rejoice and thank God with all my heart that He made me worthy to testify my faith therein by the spending of my blood in this manner."  

We shall return to the story of Durham, its Cathedral and people in the history of our faith in a future post.


All Holy Martyrs!  Pray for Us!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Pope Benedict grants an audience to the students of the Venerable English College

The Holy Father's address to the staff and seminarians of the VEC, whom he received in the Apostolic Palace on 3 December, reminds us of the link between our own country and the See of Rome, sealed with the blood of the martyrs.

Cradle of the Reformation

There are multiple Churches and Chapels in Cambridge, serving the University and Town, one of those is the Royal Peculiar and Anglican Church, of St Edward King and Martyr.  Edward was King of England from 975 until his martyrdom in 978.

The present Church was founded in the 13th century, although substantially rebuilt in around the year 1400.  An anglo-saxon church is believed to have stood on the site originally. 

Fulfilling the SSIM duties there has an added poignancy because it was in this building at the Christmas Midnight Mass of 1525 that Robert Barnes, Prior of the Austin Friars convent in Cambridge preached a sermon in which he accused the Catholic Church of heresy.  Scholars believe this is the first openly protestant sermon preached in any English Church.  English reformers often met there and in the years following 1525 many of the infamous names of English protestantism preached there, including Hugh Latimer.  For these reasons St Edward's is often referred to as the Cradle of the Reformation, although undergraduates still refer to it as Teddy's.

What an ideal place, consecrated as it was with the Holy Chrism as a place where the Catholic Mass was to be celebrated daily for the 'quick and the dead', to offer prayers of reparation for all that happened to undermine England's ancient title of Dowry of Mary.

Incidentally in the large and impressive cemetry at Brookwood in Surrey, there is an Orthodox Monastery, which was established in 1982 to house and care for the relics of St Edward, King and Martyr.  It is well worth a visit and you can see there blog here.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Admission of a new member

This evening the Master will admit our newest member, James Hinchcliffe, in Glasgow. Please pray for him and members of SSIM.

Friday, 19 October 2012

St Philip Howard

Today, at least in the Diocese of Arundel & Brighton, is the Feast of St Philip Howard.  He is one of the martyr patrons of SSIM.  Please pray today for all members of SSIM, especially Steven McKenna whose seat on Chapter is that named for St Philip.

Here is some information about St Philip from Wikipedia:

Born in the Strand, London, he was the eldest son of Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk and Lady Mary FitzAlan, daughter of Henry FitzAlan, 19th Earl of Arundel. He was baptized at Whitehall Palace with the Royal Family in attendance, and was named after his godfather, King Philip II of Spain. At the age of fourteen, he was married to his stepsister, Anne Dacre. After years of estrangement, they were reunited and built a very strong marriage.
Nineteenth-century engraving byWilliam Barraud depicting the Earl of Arundel in the Tower of London.
In 1569, on 1 October, Philip Howard's father, Thomas Howard, was arrested for his intrigues against Queen Elizabeth I. His father was attainted and executed in 1572, but Philip Howard succeeded to his mother's heritage upon the death of his grandfather, becoming Earl of Arundel in 1580.
Howard, and much of his family, remained Catholics during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, when it was very dangerous to do so. They also attempted to leave England without permission. While some might have been able to do this quietly, Howard was second cousin of the Queen. He was committed to the Tower of Londonon 25 April 1585. While charges of high treason were never proved, he spent ten years in the Tower, until his death of dysentery. He had petitioned the Queen as he lay dying to allow him to see his wife and his son, who had been born after his imprisonment. The Queen responded that "If he will but once attend the Protestant Service, he shall not only see his wife and children, but be restored to his honors and estates with every mark of my royal favor." To this, Saint Philip replied, "Tell Her Majesty if my religion be the cause for which I suffer, sorry I am that I have but one life to lose." He refused and died alone in the Tower. He was immediately acclaimed as a Catholic Martyr.
He was buried without ceremony beneath the floor of the church of St Peter ad Vincula, inside the walls of the Tower. Twenty nine years later, his widow and son obtained permission from King James I of England to move the body to the Fitzalan Chapel located on the western grounds of Arundel Castle. His tomb was moved to the Catholic Arundel Cathedral in 1971 and remains a site of pilgrimage.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Ss Peter & Paul, West Wittering

News has just come in of the visit made recently by Dom Anselm to the Church of Ss Peter & Paul, West Wittering in the Anglican Diocese of Chichester.  Once a Catholic Church, its early history is related on the parish website:

The church building, dedicated to St.Peter and St.Paul, who were the two great leaders of the Christian Church in its early years, is either the third or fourth church on this site. Shortly after St.Wilfrid started converting the South Saxons (from whom Sussex takes its name) to Christianity, a small wooden church was built here around 770AD. It is possible that after a couple of hundred years or so, that building was replaced by another, which may have been of wood or stone. What we do know is that between 950 and 1010 AD, the church was destroyed by fire during a raid by Vikings from the Isle of Wight.
font-WWDuring the reign of King Canute (who reigned 1016-1035) the villagers rebuilt their church in stone. It lasted not much more than 100 years, because when the Normans took over following the Battle of Hastings in 1066, they set about rebuilding almost every church they came across. They knocked down the Saxon church, and re-using some of the old material they built a new one, the present building, in about 1150.
If you stand at the west end of the church and look about you, you can see evidence of over a thousand years of the history of the building. After just thirty years, in 1180, it was extended by piercing the south wall and supporting it with pillars and arches, to provide a south aisle. Alternate pillars are circular and octagonal in cross-section, and their tops are decorated with delicate carving, now very much eroded.

More on the Year of Faith

Recently we posted some suggestions (here) for what SSIM members can do to observe this current Year of Faith.  It might be helpful to record here some other sensible suggestions that are being made.

Friday Observances
Bishop Kieran of Arundel and Brighton suggested that Catholics may wish to pause at about 3pm on a Friday afternoon to recall our Lord's saving passion and death on the cross.  Other things from our tradition which one might do on a Friday to witness quietly to the Faith include observing the Church's discipline of Friday abstinence, that is refraining from meat flesh for the entire day.   One might alos recite the Litany of the Sacred Heart and /or attend Mass on the first Friday of the month in honour of the Sacred Heart.

Visual Signs and Symbols
The Catholic tradition values external symbols of our Faith and endows them with blessings and the use of them with indulgences.  The newly consecrated Bishop of Portsmouth, Bishop Peter Egan has suggested, for those of us who drive, that we display a rosary or other devotional item in our cars.  This is a simple and effective witness to our Faith and one that is visible not only when we are present but also wherever the car is parked.  Another way is to wear a cross or crucifix or perhaps a holy medal or scapular (such as the Carmelite Brown Scapular) - dare I say it, even the SSIM lapel badge!

Our outward behaviour
Bishop Egan has also suggested we make the sign of the cross and say grace when out for a meal and when eating at home as well as saying 'please God' when someone tells you there hopes and aspirations and 'thank God' when they give you some good news.

All of these are small simple things we can do to show our Catholic culture, which is rooted in Faith, in un-obtrusive and un-pretentious ways.

Lastly, one of our members, Dom Anselm Carpenter, OSB sent this link to a video of Bishop Malcolm McMahon of Nottingham delivering the first in a series of talks about the Faith.

Sung Mass at Tewkesbury Abbey

Steven McKenna, a member of the SSIM Chapter and a teacher, recently took years 3-13 of his school to Tewkesbury Abbey to celebrate the feast of their school patron (St Edward) and the 25th anniversary of their current foundation.

Mass was celebrated in the medieval abbey.

Please pray for the Anglican community who now worship there and for the unity of the Church.

St Buithe Monastery, Ireland

Our friend and member, John Shanahan, sent us the following:

Nearby Drogheda is the 5th-century Monastery of St. Buithe. On the grounds of the ruined monastery is the 5.5-metre Muiredach's High Cross, regarded as the finest high cross in the whole of Ireland. It is named after an abbot, Muiredach mac Domhnaill, who died in 923 and features biblical carvings of both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. 

We are reminded of the devotion of those who have gone before us, especially to the Holy Scriptures. The cross at Monasterboice reminds us of the visual form of the catechism from ancient times.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Bl John Henry Cardinal Newman, Cong. Orat.

Today is the feast of Blessed John Henry Newman.  Strict rules govern how those beatified but not yet canonised are celebrated liturgically so in most of England and Wales today's celebration has the rank of an Obligatory Memorial.  In the three houses of the Congregation of the Oratory (which he brought to these islands) today is a Feast.  Likewise this will be the case in Churches dedicated to him as also in the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham who claim him as their secondary patron.

For most, if not all, former Anglicans who have made the same journey as Newman to the peace of communion with the See of Rome, the 'one true fold of the Reedemer', Cardinal Newman will have been an important part of the transition from 'shadows and images' to the fulness of truth.

Below is the appointed hagiographical reading for the Office of Readings/Mattins for today.  In it Newman describes the way he was able to accept without doubt the doctrines of the Catholic Church and so be in a state of intellectual calm.

May Blessed John Henry Newman pray for us all!

From the writings of Blessed John Henry Newman, Priest

(Apologia Pro Vita Sua, Chapter V: Position of My Mind since 1845, London 1864,pp. 238-239, 250-251)

It was like coming into port after a rough sea.

From the time that I became a Catholic, of course I have no further history of my religious opinions to narrate. In saying this, I do not mean to say that my mind has been idle, or that I have given up thinking on theological subjects; but that I have had no variations to record, and have had no anxiety of heart whatever. I have been in perfect peace and contentment; I never have had one doubt. I was not conscious to myself, on my conversion, of any change, intellectual or moral, wrought in my mind. I was not conscious of firmer faith in the fundamental truths of Revelation, or of more self-command; I had not more fervour; but it was like coming into port after a rough sea; and my happiness on that score remains to this day without interruption.
Nor had I any trouble about receiving those additional articles, which are not found in the Anglican Creed. Some of them I believed already, but not any one of them was a trial to me. I made a profession of them upon my reception with the greatest ease, and I have the same ease in believing them now. I am far of course from denying that every article of the Christian Creed, whether as held by Catholics or by Protestants, is beset with intellectual difficulties; and it is simple fact, that, for myself, I cannot answer those difficulties. Many persons are very sensitive of the difficulties of Religion; I am as sensitive of them as any one; but I have never been able to see a connexion between apprehending those difficulties, however keenly, and multiplying them to any extent, and on the other hand doubting the doctrines to which they are attached. Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt, as I understand the subject; difficulty and doubt are incommensurate. There of course may be difficulties in the evidence; but I am speaking of difficulties intrinsic to the doctrines themselves, or to their relations with each other. A man may be annoyed that he cannot work out a mathematical problem, of which the answer is or is not given to him, without doubting that it admits of an answer, or that a certain particular answer is the true one. Of all points of faith, the being of a God is, to my own apprehension, encompassed with most difficulty, and yet borne in upon our minds with most power.
People say that the doctrine of Transubstantiation is difficult to believe; I did not believe the doctrine till I was a Catholic. I had no difficulty in believing it, as soon as I believed that the Catholic Roman Church was the oracle of God, and that she had declared this doctrine to be part of the original revelation. It is difficult, impossible, to imagine, I grant;—but how is it difficult to believe? …
I believe the whole revealed dogma as taught by the Apostles, as committed by the Apostles to the Church, and as declared by the Church to me. I receive it, as it is infallibly interpreted by the authority to whom it is thus committed, and (implicitly) as it shall be, in like manner, further interpreted by that same authority till the end of time. I submit, moreover, to the universally received traditions of the Church, in which lies the matter of those new dogmatic definitions which are from time to time made, and which in all times are the clothing and the illustration of the Catholic dogma as already defined. And I submit myself to those other decisions of the Holy See, theological or not, through the organs which it has itself appointed, which, waiving the question of their infallibility, on the lowest ground come to me with a claim to be accepted and obeyed. Also, I consider that, gradually and in the course of ages, Catholic inquiry has taken certain definite shapes, and has thrown itself into the form of a science, with a method and a phraseology of its own, under the intellectual handling of great minds, such as St Athanasius, St Augustine, and St Thomas; and I feel no temptation at all to break in pieces the great legacy of thought thus committed to us for these latter days.


O God, who bestowed on the Priest Blessed John Henry Newman the grace to follow your kindly light and find peace in your Church; graciously grant that, through his intercession and example, we may be led out of shadows and images into the fulness of your truth. 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.

Monday, 8 October 2012

The Year of Faith

The Holy Father in Rome, yesterday opened the Synod of Bishops on the 'New Evangelisation'.  Specifically this refers to the evangelisation of those already baptised.  To many of us the phrase 'bringing back the lost' has resonance here.

So what is it that SSIM is proposing to its members for this upcoming Year of Faith which begins on October 11th and will run until the Feast of Christ the King 2013?

Our apostolate as members and friends of SSIM involves visits to places of former Catholic worship and so for us, bringing back former Catholic worshippers to the practice of the Faith is very closely linked to what we do. We would propose three very practical things for this Year of Faith:

1) Read the Apostolic Letter of His Holiness, Porta fidei.  In this way we can conform our thinking in this area to that of the universal church as articulated by its Chief Pastor.

2) Actively participate in diocesan and parish activities to deepen our understanding of the faith.  In many churches these will include studying the documents of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Revisiting these authoritative texts, prayerfully and under the guidance of our pastors will help us understand how we in our own generation, must interpret and hand on the faith in conformity to the continuos apostolic tradition.

3) Organise a visit to a former Catholic place of worship nearby.  Ideally this will be a place associated with a local saint or important event in the history of the local Catholic Church.  Invite someone you know, a friend or family member to join you, someone who no longer practices their faith.   In this way we can re-introduce people gently to their Catholic heritage and open up discussion about our shared patrimony.  A pic-nic or pub lunch thrown in for good measure will do no harm and may well do a lot of good!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Pilgrimage to Walsingham

I was delighted to join our friends the monks of Farnborough and His Lordship the Bishop of Lismore (New South Wales) on a day pilgrimage to Walsingham today. After the low mass of a bishop in the Slipper Chapel it was a privilege to fulfil the SSIM duties in St Mary's parish church.

All members of SSIM and friends were remembered at the feet of Our Lady. GJ

Friday, 14 September 2012

O Crux ave spes unica!

Fest of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

The Pope in Lebanon

We offer our prayers for the Holy Father's visit to his Apostolic Journey to this group of diverse local churches.


Vatican City, 13 September 2012 (VIS) - [Today] Benedict XVI is due to begin his twenty-fourth apostolic trip abroad, taking him to Lebanon where, in the country's capital city of Beirut on Sunday, he is due to sign the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, which took place in the Vatican in October 2010.

The name of Beirut is thought to be Canaanite in origin (bis'rot, the plural of bir meaning a well, a reference to the water tables under the city). The city is mentioned in Egyptian chronicles of the second millennium BC and became famous for the activities of Phonecian sailors and merchants. In the year 14 BC it obtained the status of Roman colony and took the name of Julia Augusta Felix Berytus. Destroyed by an earthquake and tidal wave in 551 AD, the city was in ruins when the Muslims arrived in 635. It was conquered by the Crusaders in 1110 and, following their definitive expulsion in 1229, passed under the control of the Mameluks, becoming an important regional port for the spice trade with the Italian Maritime Republics of Venice and Genoa.

The city was occupied by the Ottomans in 1516 and in subsequent centuries its population grew steadily due to its commercial importance. Following the massacres in Mount Lebanon in 1860 the city witnessed a massive influx of Christian refugees. Pacification, brought about by the Great Powers, was followed by the arrival of Protestant missionaries (from Great Britain, the United States and Germany) and Catholic missionaries (above all, from France). The American Protestants founded the American University of Beirut in 1866, while the Jesuits established the Universite Saint-Joseph in 1881. Thanks to the development of printing in Arabic, English and French, Beirut became a hub for journalism and publishing in the Arab world.

At the end of World War I, with the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Lebanon fell under the French mandate. It gained independence in 1943 and, thanks to a prevailing atmosphere of intellectual openness and economic liberalism, became a regional centre for trade, business, finance and tourism, gaining the sobriquet of the "Switzerland of the Middle East". The expulsion of the Palestine Liberation Organisation from Jordan in 1970 was a key moment in the country's history, as the organisation's political and military centre moved to Lebanon where it became a catalyst for the tensions between the various religious communities. The Civil War between 1975 and 1991 wreaked widespread destruction on the economy and infrastructures.

The scale of the destruction meant that the centre of the city had to be almost completely rebuilt. In the absence of an official census, it is estimated that the inhabitants of "Greater Beirut" currently number around 1.5 million, slightly less than half the population of the entire country.

Beirut has five dioceses: Beirut of the Maronites (episcopal see since 1577), an archieparchy with some 232,000 faithful under the care of Archbishop Paul Youssef Matar. Beirut of the Greek-Melkites (dating from the fourth century) and Jbeil of the Greek-Melkites (suburbicarian 1881), a metropolitan see with 200,000 faithful under Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros. Beirut of the Armenians (1928-1929), metropolitan see and patriarchal eparchy of Cilicia of the Armenians, serving 12,000 faithful and led by His Beatitude Nerses Bedros XIX Tarmouni, patriarch of Cilicia of the Armenians. Beirut of the Chaldeans (1957) with 19,000 faithful under Bishop Michel Kassarji. Beirut of the Syrians (1817), eparchy of the patriarchal church of Antioch of the Syrians with 14.500 faithful under the care of His Beatitude Ignace Youssif III Younan, patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians.

The city also has one apostolic vicariate, that of Beirut of the Latins which has 10,000 faithful and the vicar of which is Archbishop Paul Dahdah O.C.D.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Waverley Abbey

Waverley was the first Cistercian Abbey in the British Isles. It was founded in 1128 and despite not being well endowed survived until it was dissolved in 1536 on the orders of the King.

We are grateful to our friends the monks of Farnborough for this picture, taken during their recent visit with some of their guests

Thursday, 6 September 2012


A number of members of SSIM and friends visited Walsingham today, accompanied by the Abbots of Farnborough and Christ in the Desert (New Mexico) and a Maronite Religious from Lebanon.

The visit included the SSIM duties in St Mary's Church, Little Walsingham, as well as on the site of the original Holy House and at the Church at Great Snoring with its marvellous medieval choir screen.

In St Mary's we were blessed to hear Frere Elie Abou Assaf sing a beautiful hymn to God the Father in syro-aramaic (very close to the language of Our Lord). In the Abbey ruins we sang the Salve Regina on the site of the Holy House.

All members of SSIM were prayed for at the feet of Our Lady.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

St Alban

A member attending a Benedictine gathering at St Alban's in Hertfordshire tells us that he performed the SSIM duties at the Cathedral there today. the Cathedral was a Benedictine Abbey until the reformation.

The Shrine of St Alban, dating back to the 13th Century contains a part of St Alban's shoulder blade, a gift from St Pantaleon's Church in Cologne in 2002. St Pantaleon is also a former Benedictine Foundation.

A further major relic (the thigh) of St Alban is preserved at St Michael's Abbey, Farnborough and was also taken from the St Pantaleon reliquary (1950s).

The cult of St Alban was noted by St Bede in 731 although he is first mentioned in literature in circa 480.

St Alban, Protomartyr of Britain; pray for us!

St John the Baptist, Stokesay, Shropshire

A member of our Chapter recently marked the feast of the Passion of St John Baptist with a visit to Stokesay. He writes:

" The church was founded in the 12th Century, largely destroyed in the maelstrom of the Civil War with Royalists and Parliamentarians shooting at each other.

The building has many hints of its former Catholic past and several pre-reformation memorials in the building and it's environs. "

Friday, 31 August 2012

St Dunstan's, Mayfield

St Dunstan’s, Mayfield was founded in 960 AD by St Dunstan, who was then Archbishop of Canterbury. Believed to be originally a wooden church it was replaced by a stone structure, in the twelfth century, by the Normans.

In 1389 this church was virtually destroyed by fire. Only the tower, the lancet window in the west wall and the base of the north aisle survive to this day. The local congregation probably used the private chapel at the Archbishop’s Palace nearby until the church was rebuilt between 1410 and 1420.

St Mary's, Easington in County Durham

St Mary's Church dates from the early 13th century and stands proud over the medieval village of Easington and the later former coal mining community of Easington Colliery on the Durham coast.

Opposite the Church is one of the oldest extant domestic buildings in England. Seaton Holme was used for various purposes over the centuries including, originally as a residence for the Bishops and then Archdeacons of Durham. Pope Adrian IV as Nicholas Brakespere is rumoured to have lived here whilst possibly holding the title of Archdeacon of Durham.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Surprised by joy

I have lived a mile from St Mary and All Saints Church in Willingham, North of Cambridge since 1997 but I had never been inside until this afternoon, when I called in after visiting the local grocers.  The church has been there since 1230 and if ever anyone doubted that England was once a Catholic country they should visit this church or others like it that give vibrant witness to the public piety of the people of our land prior to the protestant reformation.

Here one is struck by so much of beauty but perhaps especially the wall paintings, most of which are from the 14th & 15th centuries.  The first painting one is invited to look at by the guidebook however dates from around 1244 and is believed to be the oldest known wall painting of St Etheldreda, foundress of Ely Abbey.  St Bede wrote of Etheldreda sustaining a wound to her neck where a tumour was removed during her last illness.  This can clearly be seen in the painting although my picture doesn't do it justice.  Her picture is on the opposite side of a vault window to that of her sister, St Sexburga

St Etheldreda
St Sexburga

14th Century wall paintings on the north wall of the nave depict St George and the Dragon and also, very clearly, St Christopher as can been seen here. 

St Christopher

There are also three carved oak screens.  One in the traditional place was the rood screen and includes some fine carvings.  A second screen enclosing what was once a chapel on the north side and the third surrounds the chapel on the south, near to the main door.

Detail of carving of a fish on the Rood Screen doors
Screen enclosing the organ with remains of paintings on the base. From 1320 and the oldest in Cambridgeshire
Hammer-beam roof with (modern) carved angels
One particularly exciting part of the church is the stone 'sacristy' built on the north side of the chancel in the 13th Century.  This was probably originally as Anchorage as its floor are is 140 sq ft as prescribed in the Bavarian  anchorite rule.  It also has a squint doorway for the occupant to see the altar during mass without being seen himself and a small window to the outside world for receiving food and drink etc.

What a privilege to say my Pater, Ave and Gloria Patri there today as many thousands of loyal Catholics had also done in earlier centuries.  

Oh Mary our Mother, reign o'er us once more; be England thy Dowry as in days of yore!
SS Etheldreda and Sexburga pray for us!

The Visitation 
Sacristy / Anchorage

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Memorial of Pope St Pius X

Wednesday, 15 August 2012


Some photographs of the Assumption at Fontgombault Abbey

Assumption at Fontgombault

Three members of SSIM, accompanied by a priest from the Southwark Archdiocese, celebrated the Assumption at the Benedictine Abbey of Fontgombault in the centre of France. (photos to follow)

The Abbey is a part of the Solesmes Benedictine Congregation and celebrates the traditional forms of the office and Mass. The Pope, when Cardinal Ratzinger, stayed and lectured there as part of a liturgical conference a number of years ago and it is an oasis of stillness and prayer, soaked in the monastic spirit of St Benedict.

Fr Abbot celebrated Pontifical First Vespers on the 14th as well as Pontifical High Mass and Second Vespers and Benediction on the 15th. Vespers was followed by a solemn procession in honour of Our Lady in which at least 56 monks participated with lots of young people and families as well as seminarians and other guests of the Abbey.

Our Lady of the Assumption is patroness of France and the solemn procession is held in consequence of the act of consecration of France to Our Lady of the Assumption by King Louis XIII made in 1638. This he did to thank Her (in advance) for the birth of his son, the future Lois XIV.

Prayers have been offered for all SSIM members at the feet of Our Lady's image in the Abbey Church.

Thursday, 9 August 2012


The C of E parish church of St Mary the Virgin in Watford was built in 1230 on the same site as an earlier Saxon church. It was extensively restored in 1871 and is now very firmly rooted in Evangelical Anglicanism.  None the less one of our faithful members recently visited to execute the SSIM duties.

Of interest nearby is the gorgeous Church of the Holy Rood a parish church in the Archdiocese of Westminster.  The Grade 1 listed gothic revival church was designed by John Francis Bentley, the architect of Westminster Cathedral.

Holy Rood is usually only open at Mass times, so check out their website if you want to visit:  

Holy Rood Catholic Church, Watford