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.