“The only worthwhile striving is after the highest ideals: If you aim for an easy target, your standard will inevitably decline, and no progress is ever made, except through real effort and real suffering.” - Servant of God Fra' Andrew Bertie                                                                                                                                                 "Work as if everything depends on you, pray as if everything depends on God" - Saint Ignatius of Loyola

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ARCHBISHOP NICHOLS' PASTORAL LETTER FOR THE FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY

On this Feast of the Holy Family, and during this Christmas season, we have in our minds the image of the crib. The scene of the birth of Christ is portrayed in so many different ways. Yet, in essence, it is always the same: a child, a mother and father, a stable, animals and some surrounding shepherds.

It is a picture of simplicity and poverty. Yet it is rich in meaning and bears much reflection, from many points of view.

Look at it this way. This scene contains all the elements of our created world. The hay and straw of the stable represent the fruit of the cultivated earth. The ox, ass and the sheep are the animal kingdom. At the centre is the person of Jesus. And, without ever romanticising poverty, there is a certain harmony between all these elements. Each one has its place. Each one has its space. And all serve the well-being of the weakest and most vulnerable person, the new-born child.

This simple reflection may have a special resonance at a time when we are intensely conscious of the fragility of our world and the threats to its stability.

Today we have to find a balanced and sustainable relationship between ourselves and the natural world, and between all people who share this planet. Unless we do so the chances of peace in our world are slim and the careless exploitation of our environment will continue. These right relationships have to begin in our homes, just as the readings we have heard suggest: respect between the generations, patience with each other, sensitivity to each others’ wishes and needs.

Indeed the crib reminds us that we are really dependent on each other, on the created world and on God. Only when this dependence is acknowledged have we a hope of realigning ourselves and our way of living into something more appropriate to the needs of each other and of our environment.

Of course over Christmas we have been spending hard-earned income in order to express our love and thanks for each other. We must also have felt the pressures of advertising and expectation to spend more than we could afford. Yet, at the end of the day, in our family celebrations what counts is sincerity rather then extravagance, sensitivity rather than excess. When this is understood, then we can probably live far more simply without any loss of enjoyment. Then we can be more attentive to how much we consume, to what we throw away, to what we have to give to the poor.

The crib, then, is a lesson in right living, in the regard we have for each other, in our support for the poor and in our care for the created world.

Yet there is another element in the crib I almost overlooked. There are the angels. I nearly forgot them. Angels are just glimpsed, often at critical moments. They remind us of our hidden spiritual selves, for there is a life within each one of us which is open to God and only fully satisfied in the knowledge and love of God. In this world such knowledge and love is only ever partial, although the promise of its fulfilment lies ahead of us all. Yet even now God dwells with us, not least in the gift of forgiveness of which St Paul speaks in the Letter to the Colossians, as we have just heard: ‘The Lord has forgiven you; now you must do the same.’ (Col 3.13) Whenever we need to give or receive forgiveness this is the truth to remember: for us it is almost impossible; but for God working in us, it is not.
 
And this comes about all because of the Incarnation, the birth of the Eternal Word of God into the family of the stable of Bethlehem. He is Emmanuel, God with us. Because He shares in our human life, then we can share in his divine life. This is the miracle of our salvation.

Remember the lovely words of the poem about the crib:

‘Welcome, all wonders in one sight
Eternity shut in a span,
Summer in winter, day in night
Heaven in earth and God in man.
Great little one,
Whose all embracing birth
Lifts earth to heaven,
Stoops heaven to earth.’

May God bless you and your families on this day and throughout this Christmas season.

+Vincent Nichols


You may listen to the Archbishop deliver his letter here.

HODIE CHRISTUS NATUS EST



Today we celebrate the wonderful feast of the birth of our Saviour.  When we come to admire the crib in our church, let us recall that it was for our sake God made himself a tiny child, entirely dependent on others for all His human needs.  If God did that for love of us, how much more must we humble ourselves to serve him and our neighbour.  Let us make this our resolution for the coming year.

I wish you all a very happy and holy Christmas,

Fra' Freddy
Grand Prior

MASSES OVER THE CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY

The following Masses will be celebrated in the Conventual Church, in addition to the normal timetable:

Thursday 24th December
CHRISTMAS EVE (MIDNIGHT MASS)  9pm Sung plainchant Mass  (1962) with carols and procession to the Crib.

Friday 25th December
CHRISTMAS DAY  11am Sung Mass

Thursday 31st December
NEW YEAR'S EVE  6.30pm Mass

Friday 1st January
NEW YEAR'S DAY  No Mass

Wednesday 6th January
EPIPHANY (Obligation is transferred to Sunday)
No lunchtime Mass.
6.30pm Sung Mass (1962)

A Very Happy Christmas and blessed New Year 2010 to everyone!

CONCERT - "CANDLEMAS"


The renowned choir, MUSICA CONTEXTA, who have given such wonderful concerts in the Conventual Church in the past, will give a concert of sacred music on Wednesday 27th January at 7.30 pm.   The concert will raise funds for Saint John's Hospice, for which we are very grateful to MUSICA CONTEXTA.

The programme will include:
John Sheppard's Six-part Cantate Mass
and motet Gaude, gaude, gaude, Maria Virgo;
Thomas Tallis's Videte Miraculum and Quod Chorus Vatum; William Mundy's Videte Miraculum;
plus other festal motets from the English Renaissance by Robert White and others.

For more information on booking and tickets visit their site.

The concert is open to all, and you are warmly encouraged to attend.

REPORT ON CAROL SERVICE

Many thanks to all concerned for a most wonderful Advent Carol Service, particularly to the choir "Cantores Missae" and their director Mr Charles Finch, for exquisite motets, and to the many people who attended and sung the carols with such joy.

It was an excellent spiritual preparation for a true appreciation of the Christmas Feast, and raised a considerable sum for Saint John's Hospice, for which Matron has expressed her gratitude to all who gave so generously.  The Hospice is in permanent need of funds, all the care provided is entirely without charge, and you are encouraged to continue to give throughout the year.

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodidisti,
attingens a fine usque ad finem,
fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia:
veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,
reaching from one end to the other mightily,
and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.

ARCHBISHOP NICHOLS' CHRISTMAS MEDITATION


Below is the text of the Mediation preached by His Grace the Archbishop in the Cathedral on 16th December.

In 1847 a French wine merchant approached his parish priest for permission to write a Christmas poem. His name was Placide Cappeau de Rocquemaure. History does not record the quality of his wines, but we all recognise the words of the poem he then wrote:
‘O Holy Night,

The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth.’

And it is true. At least here in the Cathedral, the stars are shining brightly, the star on the top of our tree and, I would like to believe, those in our hearts as we are enthralled by the beauty of this moment.
Star light, as we know, takes a long time to reach us. The measurement of light years is not something I understand, but I know that light from distant stars travels for much longer than we might think. Indeed it is a fact that the light of a star can come into our sight long after the star itself has ceased to exist. Stars collapse, yet their light still reaches us.

Is this an image for the light of faith today? Here we are, celebrating that light, the story of the birth of our Redeemer over two thousand years ago. The story has come to us over the centuries, in a long, slow process. But must we now face the possibility that for many in our society the source of that light, the gift of faith given by God, has largely collapsed. We might catch a glimpse of its light in the innate goodness of so many people. But is its source something for which we no longer have a place?

Or this beautiful music. Its words and sounds thrill the hearts of us all. But are these words, is this beauty simply an echo of a lost faith, a cultural inheritance which we treasure and enjoy, but no longer a message which shapes our lives, for which we might be prepared to give all?

This evening let us strengthen the connection between this beautiful light, this enchanting music and their true source. Without such a reconnection this is simply a performance, a beauty without its true soul. Then it is like a life which lacks a coherent narrative. Such a life is no more than a series of moments, some wonderful, some nostalgic, some poignant or even painful. Yet it lacks an inner meaning which gives purpose, which summons us to self-sacrifice, which opens for us a lasting hope.

Yet tonight the narrative is clear: God, in his infinite love, enters our world in one unrepeatable, transforming moment. The Eternal Word of God takes flesh and is born of the Virgin Mary. From that moment all is changed. The horizons of our consciousness are expanded. Now the instinct, the desire, for ‘more’, which always stretched us beyond the present towards an inexpressible future, finds its full meaning. God has shared in our human condition so that we might come to share in God’s own divine life. This is the wondrous exchange, this transformation of our existence, this revelation of truth, of meaning, of enduring hope which gives rise to this beauty as our hearts sing in thanksgiving and praise.

Let us play our part in the recovery of this true Christmas story. Let us tell it in its fullness within our family circle, around a family crib, passing it on in wonder and loving awe, from generation to generation. Let us not be dismayed by the inevitable streak of cynicism which emerges out of the culture in which we live. But let us with faithful simplicity share our joyous faith in the God who comes to meet us. He comes to welcome us and to uplift us.

This is a truth for everyone, without exception. Much of the time this is hard to grasp. But at Christmas time our defences are down. We are ready to go to the crib. There, on our knees, we can again sense the source of the music; we can glimpse its true origin. There we intuit the truth: that the mystery of God, awesome as it must be, comes to us in a darkened night so that we are not blinded but intrigued, its light beckoning us to come closer and receive.

When the feast of Christmas comes, go to the crib as I will. Take a reluctant friend. Then let us piece together our broken story so that our world may receive a measure of healing and find again its true source of happiness and peace. Amen.

+Vincent Nichols

GAUDETE - THE THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT

INTROIT: PHILLIP. 4. 4-6
GAUDETE in Dómino semper: íterum dico, gaudéte. Modéstia vestra nota sit ómnibus homínibus: Dóminus enim prope est. Nihil sollíciti sitis: sed in omni oratióne petitiónes vestræ innotéscant apud Deum.
REJOICE in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice!  Let your tolerance be evident to everyone: the Lord is near. There is no need to worry; but if there is anything you need, pray for it, asking God for it.

We were very happy that Fr Dominic Robinson SJ was again able to celebrate the Mass this Sunday. He preached on the importance of silence, and particularly the silent retreat which forms an important part of the life of members of the Society of Jesus, and invited us to use these days of Advent, notwithstanding all the noise of the material world, to allow silence into our spiritual lives as a preparation of our hearts for the coming of Our Saviour at Christmas.

In the afternoon, a group (rather a small group) of faithful, Companions and members of the Order braved the cold, the wet, and the rampant consumerism of the High Street, to sing carols around St John's Wood to raise a respectable sum for Saint John's Hospice.  Thank you to all involved!

THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION


This year the feast of the Immaculate Conception fell on a Tuesday and this gave the opportunity for a Sung Mass offered with all due solemnity in the Conventual Church. There were about twenty knights and dames present amongst them the Chancellor of the Grand Priory who was seated on the sanctuary.  It was good to see around six Companions there as well together with a good number of the Sunday faithful.  Mass was offered by our old friend Fr Ian Dickie who made the journey from rural Hertfordshire to be with us.  We are extremely grateful to him for taking time out of his busy parish to come to the Conventual Church.

Cantores Missae lifted our hearts and minds heavenwards allowing for contemplation of that great mystery of the Immaculate Conception.  In his sermon, Fr Dickie reminded us of the absolute nature of Our Lady’s “Fiat” – the ultimate blank cheque so to speak – and how her example of quiet service and fidelity whilst on this earth is the model for both religious, priests and indeed lay people to follow. Hers is the perfect example of vocation accepted and fulfilled.  As our Mother she is close to all her children and as Mediatrix of All Graces intercedes for us with her Son – often with marvellous results.


A buffet supper followed in the Chancellery which was well received as a restorative and a chance to relax before the next stage of the evening – a Marian Liturgy for the Immaculate Conception in the Church organised by Eoghain Murphy (whose birthday by happy chance it was – ad multos annos!) with a twenty-strong choir of impeccable standard performing a motet after the Alma Redemptoris Mater, Tallis's Videte Miraculum.  It was extremely moving and we are grateful to all those who took part.  A “dessert” followed - again in the Chancellery - this time consisting of festive fare and around fifty people were there.  All in all it was a most enjoyable evening and a highly appropriate way to celebrate this very important and beautiful feast.

Tota pulchra es, Maria, et macula originalis non est in te.

DECEMBER 10th - ADVENT EVENING OF RECOLLECTION

Following the successful evening last year, there will be an Advent Evening of Recollection in the Conventual Church on Thursday 10th December 2009.

The Evening will begin with Mass at 6.30pm followed by a conference and Holy Hour, concluding with Benediction. The conference and Holy Hour will be led by our confrere and Chaplain Emeritus of the Hospital, Canon John McDonald.

All are warmly encouraged to attend, and to avail themselves of this useful opportunity to add to their spiritual preparations of this Holy Season.


DECEMBER 2nd. FEAST OF OUR LADY OF LIESSE, "Causa Nostrae Laetitiae"

Memorial in the Missal of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order
of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta

In 1134 three Knights of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem,
prisoners of the Muslims in Egypt,
miraculously found or received in their prison a statue of Our Lady,
which they named "Notre Dame de Liesse" [Our Lady of Joy in French].
In response to their prayers, a young Muslim princess, named Ismerie,
took an interest in the Knights and through the intercession of Our Lady
and the mercy of God the princess was converted.
The princess arranged the escape of the pious crusaders
and joined them on their journey to France.
They carried the statue with them, and in the region of Laon, about 35 miles northwest of Reims,
they founded a church as a resting place for the statue.
Through local devotion the church took on the name of the statue,
and gave that name to the whole region,
so that "Notre Dame de Liesse" came to mean both "Our Lady of Joy"
and "Our Lady of [the place called] Liesse".
The statue came to be venerated by many,
and "Our Lady of Liesse" became the Patroness of the Diocese of Soissons.
In 1620 the titular Bailiff of Armenia, Fra' Jacques Chenu de Bellay,
built a church to Our Lady of Liesse at Valletta in Malta.
It is today the chaplaincy church of the Port of Valetta.  The pediment is illustrated above.

The shrine statue in Malta (click photo to enlarge)
The original statue was destroyed during the French Revolution,
but the medieval basilica at Liesse remained a center of devotion to the Mother of God,
and a new statue was installed and crowned there in 1857.
It is still the focus of pilgrimage, especially on Whit Monday.

The Collect
O God, who brought joy to the world
by the incarnation of Christ your Son,
grant to us, who honour his Mother as Cause of our Joy,
the grace to follow your commandments
and to set our hearts on the true joy of heaven.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.

BASMOM ANNUAL REQUIEM

The annual Requiem for deceased members of the Order and benefactors took place as is customary on the last Thursday in November.  Unlike the occasion of Thanksgiving though, which fell on the same day, the purpose of the Requiem is not only to remember the dead but to pray for them.  As last year, the Formation Day for new candidates was arranged to occur on the same day, and so around fifteen candidates for the Order were also present for both the Mass and Vespers of the Dead – the latter sung by members of the Grand Priory before the beginning of Mass.

Mass was offered by Mgr Antony Conlon, Chaplain to the Grand Priory, and in his sermon Mgr Conlon contrasted the culture of “celebrity death” popularised by the tabloids, with its implicit fear of death and the almost improbable situation of anything beyond it, with the traditional Catholic understanding of death as merely the first part of our journey towards God.  We will all die one day and we will all need the prayers of those left behind as well as those of the saints in Heaven.  Both the Grand Prior and Chancellor of the Grand Priory (himself a member of the Sovereign Council) were on the Sanctuary, adding to the decorum of the occasion.

The music was provided by our friends Cantores Missae – the Dies Irae, alternating polyphony with chant, is always hauntingly prayerful and an aid to prayer.  The sanctuary party was of its usual high standard and it is good to see some new faces amongst the number – all the more so as they are mostly young and are now Companions.  Their dedication and hard work is exemplary.  To them and indeed to the Celebrant and choir we are grateful for taking time out of their busy schedules to ensure that the Requiem was celebrated in due and fitting manner.

ADVENT PREPARATION


The Holy Father presides at 1st Vespers of Advent in Saint Peter's (Picture copyright Fotografia Felici)

ADVENT PREPARATION can be compared to the activities we undertake the month before a baby is born into our family, with all the buying of baby clothes, repainting the nursery, making new curtains for the cot etc. In the same way, we must prepare the nursery of our souls, clean out all the dirt of accumulated and unrepented sins, by devout confession, for the coming of the Christ into our midst. we must deck out the cot of our hearts, to welcome Him, the baby who longs to reside within us, but who can only come and share our lives, join the family of our body and soul, if we have fully prepared for His birth.

People often say that the commercial side of Christmas is a distraction to a truly Christian approach to the real meaning of this great festival. This can be so, but only if we give in and allow it. In a strange, but really positive way, we can use all the present-buying and food-preparation to our own spiritual advantage. Let us think of it just like preparing for the arrival of a new baby in the family: when you are in the toy shop, or the department store, or working in the kitchen, remember who the baby is, and all these activities become an invitation to prayer, to meditation on the mystery of God's love for us. If you join your colleagues and friends for parties, remember that this is not the real party, but a preparation, and discretely maintain your abstinence. After all, what parents or family would open the champagne or eat the christening cake before the Baby is born?

If you have children, use this time to teach them in a practical way: do not put up the decorations until Christmas eve, and make sure the crib is set up, in the centre of your home, at least a week before, without the Holy Family, so that everyone can see that Jesus has not yet been born.

When at last Christmas comes, the day of great Joy, some people will say to you, "thank goodness it’s all over"; but you will smile to yourself, because you know that it has only just begun, and in your heart you feel the warm glow of a new born Baby.

ADVENT CAROL SINGING IN AID OF SAINT JOHN'S HOSPICE

Members of the Grand Priory and friends will be carol-singing in the environs of St John's Wood on the afternoon of Sunday 13th December.  Last year a group of six singing for just under two hours managed to raise almost £400 for Saint John’s Hospice, and with increased numbers this year we hope to build on this.

The afternoon will be great fun and the quality of singing is not the most important thing; rather the numbers who are able to swell the overall sound.  It is a relaxed and jolly affair and will start from Fortescue House, 58 Grove End Road, (beside the Hospital main entrance) at around 2.30pm finishing in time for (restorative!) tea with crumpets and mince pies at around 4.00pm.  Everyone is welcome; the only prerequisite is enthusiasm.  Companions and members of the OMV are especially encouraged to come if they are able.

If you are able to come, it would help with catering if you replied to this post, giving numbers (not your name, of course), in the combox below.

Please note:  this is in addition to the Carol Service (see here) on the 15th, to which you are also very warmly encouraged!

SATURDAY 28TH NOVEMBER

As part of the monthly Grand Priory Day of Recollection, Sung Mass of Our Lady's Saturday will be celebrated in the Church at 12 noon.


The office of Lauds will be sung at 10am; and Vespers, Holy Hour and Benediction at around 3.30pm, to which all are most welcome.

This is a very good preparation for the season of Advent, which begins the following day.

PURGATORY - A MEDITATION

We are very grateful to Fr John Hemer MHM for providing the following meditation on Purgatory, based upon the homily he preached in the Conventual Church on All Soul's Day.  Fr Hemer is a scripture scholar, and formation adviser at Allen Hall, the diocesan seminary.


All Souls

Purgatory and prayer for the dead is one of those areas which sharply divide Catholics from many other Christians. Why is this? It’s to do first of all with the different understanding that Catholics and some of the churches of the Reformation have regarding what exactly salvation means. In classic Lutheran theology, when a person stands before God for judgement, Christ (in Luther’s words) “wraps the cloak of his virtues around the sinner”. So when God looks at you or me on judgement day what he sees is not the sinner that I am, but the virtues of Christ which are then imputed to me. God declares me to be ‘just’ and that’s salvation. This means that I remain the same lousy sinner, but God pronounces another verdict on me. Luther described the Christian before God as a “dung heap covered with snow”
Catholic theology is rather more positive about the way God deals with the human condition. When the priest mixes the wine with a little water at Mass he says this prayer: “By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity” That’s an amazing claim. As Catholics we claim that we become like God; that our share in the life of God grows to fullness. (The Orthodox churches of the East are much stronger and clearer on this than we often are. They say that the point of Christian life is ‘divinisation’) Bear in mind that on the first page of genesis the Bible tells us that we are made in the image and likeness of God. That image is tarnished and obscured through sin so God makes sure that when we join him finally and for ever, we bear that image fully.
This process of being made like Christ begins at Baptism, and many of us, most of us, die before it is complete. It must somehow be completed since that is God’s original intention for us. So after death there is still room for God to purify us, complete us, make us fully the people he wants us to be. That’s what we call Purgatory, it is the finishing off of that process.
You may ask: “why can’t God just forgive, wipe the slate clean? In the story of the Prodigal Son, the father just runs and forgives the boy, end of story. But it’s not the end of the story. Jesus deliberately doesn’t tell us how it all ends. The Father’s loving embrace, one of Jesus’ most powerful images of God, is only the beginning of a story When the father embraced him the son knew he was loved, forgiven welcome, but it would take time maybe years for him to feel fully at home and allow that love to turn him into someone who would never feel the need to leave home again. He still had to repair his relationship with his older brother (and the brother had plenty of room for improvement too.) So although the father’s forgiveness is immediate and unconditional, it was the beginning of a process of healing and reconciling which could perhaps be quite lengthy.
The same is true with the woman who had a bad reputation in the town who wipes Jesus’ feet in Luke 7. She is forgiven, there and then, but her many sins will have done all sorts of damage to her character and self-esteem. Although she knows that she’s fully accepted by God, it may take many years to repair the damage her dissolute life has done.
So when we are forgiven of our sins we are truly forgiven. I once heard a priest say: “After confession your sins are buried at the bottom of the sea, and God puts a sign there saying ‘No Fishing’”. That’s true but we know how sin damages all sorts of things and even after forgiveness, complete forgiveness, we may have to work quite hard to repair that damage.
In classic Lutheran theology the accused man walks out of court acquitted, with a verdict of innocent recorded against his name, but he’s still the same lousy no-good. In Catholic theology God is not content just to acquit him, but he wants to turn him turns him into someone truly good and loveable and beautiful, the person he intended him to be in the first place.
Most of us I suppose would be happy for God to just let us off the hook, but his purpose is much bigger, he wants us to become holy – like him. We would settle for mere acquittal, but God will settle for nothing less than our full transformation and the Catholic Church will settle for nothing less than insisting on God’s purpose being realised in all its fullness.
Chapter 6 of St. John’s Gospel gives us the sense that by continually partaking in Eucharist we become like Christ, we draw his life. As St. Augustine says we become what we eat. We offer Mass for the dead because they took part in Eucharist here and that began the process of transformation into Christ. In another way the Eucharist offered for them continues to help them in that growth and transformation.
I’m not much of a craftsman or an artist. If I have to make something with my hands I settle for the easiest solution, usually involving nails or glue and probably quite a lot of grunting and shouting. A craftsman won’t do that. He’ll take his time and make something both functional and beautiful. God is just such a master craftsman, he wants only the best for his children. He intended us to be like him and he isn’t content until that is fully realised. Purgatory is the place where the last stages of that process take place.
An unfortunate trend has grown in some places whereby a funeral Mass is called a “Memorial Service for Joe Bloggs” or sometimes even “A Celebration of the Life of Joe Bloggs” It’s important to realise that a Requiem Mass is nothing of the sort. It is like every Mass, a celebration of the life, death and resurrection of Christ. If you want, it’s a memorial service, but it is Christ who is remembered and made present, not the dead person. And in doing that, Joe Bloggs has the chance of salvation, of eternal happiness. Yes we do give thanks for his life, but we do that in union with Christ. The Mass is first and foremost about Christ, not the person who’s being buried.
A memorial service is something people do when they don’t believe they can do anything to help the dead person. My father was not a Catholic and when he died the local Vicar came to pay his respects, and I must say was very gracious and charming. We’d brought Dad’s body back home, and the Vicar went and looked in the coffin for a moment but said no prayer. As an evangelical I suppose he didn’t believe in praying for the dead. But I remember thinking to myself that if as a priest all I had to offer bereaved people was sympathy I’d be very badly off indeed. Sadly for many people the best they can do for their dead loved ones is keep their memory alive. That’s well and good and necessary but it’s for the benefit of the living. It does the dead no good. As Catholics we can help actually them, with our prayers. In fact the only thing we can do which helps the dead is praying for them. That’s why the Catholic Church does it incessantly every day hundreds of thousands of times, at every single Mass.
Often people die and we have unfinished business with them. All too often we see the tragedy of someone dying with broken relationships before they or their estranged loved ones had chance to do anything to mend the rift. People feel particularly powerless and feel the loss very acutely when that happens. Praying for the dead means that even in that dreadful situation we are not powerless, we can do something.
Someone once said that the Church is the only organisation that doesn’t loose members through death. We believe in the communion of saints. We here on earth, the Church Militant, the souls in purgatory, the Church Suffering and the saints in heaven, the Church Triumphant are all in this together. The saints can help us, and we can help those who have finished one phase of their journey towards union with God, but haven’t quite made it to the end. 

8th DECEMBER - SOLEMNITY OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION

This most important Feast of the Church will be marked in the Conventual Church with a Sung Mass at 6.30 pm, at which the music will be provided by the choir 'Cantores Missae'.

The music for Mass will be:
Missa Trahe me post te Victoria
Tota pulchra es Palestrina
Sacerdotes Domini Palestrina
Alma redemptoris mater Palestrina

Later in the evening, at 9 pm, the solemn Alma Remptoris Mater will be followed by Tallis's Videte Miraculum, sung by the choir 'Schola Baptista', in honour of Our Blessed and Immaculate Mother.

Videte miraculum matris Domini: concepit virgo virilis ignara consortii,
stans onerata nobili onere Maria; et matrem se laetam cognosci, quae se
nescit uxorem. Haec speciosum forma prae filiis hominum castis concepit
visceribus, et benedicta in aeternum Deum nobis protulit et hominem.



Behold the miracle of the mother of the Lord; a virgin has conceived though she knows not a man,
Mary, who stands laden with her noble Burden; knowing not that she is a wife, she rejoices to be a mother.
She has conceived in her chaste womb one Who is beautiful beyond the sons of men,
and blessed for ever, she has brought forth God and man for us.


The painting shows Saint Francis and Blessed John Duns Scotus venerating Our Lady's Immaculate Conception.  Duns Scotus preached this Dogma in England in the 13th Century, nearly two centuries before the Feast was established universally in the Church by Pope Sixtus IV, when this was truly a Catholic country.

Dos tua, Virgo Pia, hæc est.

ADVENT CAROL SERVICE IN AID OF THE HOSPICE


You are warmly invited to attend


A SERVICE OF ADVENT LESSONS AND CAROLS


in the Conventual Church of Saint John of Jerusalem,
at 6.30 p.m. on Tuesday 15th December, 2009


The renowned choir ‘Cantores Missae’, under the direction of Charles Finch, will sing carols and motets.


There will be a retiring collection for the 
much-needed support of
Saint John’s Hospice.


Following the service, all are warmly welcome to join members of the Order for mulled wine and mince pies in Fortescue House, adjacent to the Hospital.

ASSISTED SUICIDE - URGENT APPEAL BY THE BISHOPS FOR YOUR HELP

The Bishops of England and Wales have asked us all to write in response to the Consultation Document issued by the Director of Public Prosecutions.


Visit the Bishops Conference webpage HERE for more information about why this is so important, or read the Diocese of Westminster commentary HERE.


You might wish to listen to Archbishop Peter Smith explaining the gravity of the situation:

from Catholic Church (England/Wales) on Vimeo.


As the Bishops' website is rather complicated, you can more easily download the form HERE
The questionnaire begins on page 7.  The answers are 'yes' or 'no' from drop-down menus, the Bishops offer advice on how to reply. 


When you have filled it in, either email it to:
assistedsuicide.consultation@cps.gsi.gov.uk


or post it to: 
Assisted Suicide Policy Team
Crown Prosecution Service Headquarters - 6th floor
50 Ludgate Hill
London
EC4M 7EX



Responses must be received by 16th December.


PLEASE ACT, DO NOT IGNORE THIS APPEAL.  THIS LEGISLATION THREATENS THE LIVES AND DIGNITY OF EVERY PERSON IN THIS COUNTRY.


Our Lady, help of Christians, pray for us.

1st NOVEMBER - ALL SAINTS DAY.

It was a great joy on this Feast of the Church, that the Mass, in the presence of the Grand Prior with a congregation of over 80 faithful, was celebrated by Fr Dominic Robinson, SJ, to whom we are most grateful for all the support and assistance he has given us over the past months.

On All Souls Day, November 2nd, a Requiem Mass was sung by Fr John Hemer MHM, to whom we also extend our profound gratitude.

OCTOBER 10th. ROSARY CRUSADE OF REPARATION

The Annual Rosary Crusade procession in honour of the Immaculate Heart of Mary this year was attended not only by several member of the Order, as has become customary in recent years, but also by a group of the Companions and Faithful of the Conventual Church, including our youngest altar server, who walked with one of the Order's Lourdes banners.
The weather was fine and, as usual, the Holy Rosary was recited all along the route from the Cathedral to the Oratory, and hymns sung as we passed through the crowd of shoppers on the busy streets of Belgravia and Knightsbridge.


The Crusade was well attended by over 2,000 people, in spite of the Cathedral also being packed for a Day with Mary.  Benediction at the Brompton Oratory was celebrated by Mgr. Emmanuel-Marie de St Jean, Abbot of Sainte-Marie de Lagrasse.   The sermon was preached by Fr. Nicholas Schofield of this Diocese.

May Our Lady shower blessings upon our Country and upon the Church.

"FAITH MATTERS" LECTURES - THE FUNDAMENTALS OF FAITH

Your attention is drawn to a series of lectures designed to deepen our awareness of our Faith, in the face of questions and misunderstanding in the world around us.  The talks are given by some outstanding speakers, and promise to be very worthwhile.


They are to be held on Wednesdays during November and December at Vaughan House, 46 Francis Street, SW1, the Diocesan offices behind Westminster Cathedral.


For more information, and how to book, click here to visit the Diocesan webpage.

NOVEMBER - MONTH OF THE HOLY SOULS

The month of November is traditionally dedicated to the Holy Souls, when we pray for the release of the souls in Purgatory, including our parents, family and friends.

Simply put, Purgatory is where those who have died in grace, but who have not fully atoned for the punishments resulting from their sins, go to finish their atonement before entering Heaven. A soul in Purgatory may suffer, but he ultimately has the assurance that he will enter Heaven when his punishment is complete.

As Christians, we don't travel through this world alone. Our salvation is wrapped up with the salvation of others, and charity requires us to come to their aid. The same is true of the Holy Souls. In their time in Purgatory, they can pray for us, and we should pray for them that they may be freed from the punishment for their sins and enter into Heaven.

We believe that those Holy Souls for whom we pray will continue to pray for us after they have been released from Purgatory. So if we, too, should die after confessing our sins, but before atoning fully for them, those souls for whom we have prayed will offer prayers for us while we are in Purgatory. It's a comforting thought, and one that should encourage us, especially in this month of November, to offer our prayers for the Holy Souls.

Monday 2nd November is the COMMEMORATION OF ALL THE FAITHFUL DEPARTED, and a Requiem Mass will be celebrated at 6.30pm.

During the following week, 1st to 8th, a Plenary Indulgence applicable to the Holy Souls may be obtained every day by a visit to a cemetery, or prayer for the dead if you are unable to visit, under the usual conditions of Holy Communion, sacramental confession, and prayer for the Holy Father's intentions.  On the 2nd November, the same indulgence applies to prayers for the dead in any church or chapel.

SATURDAY 31st OCTOBER

As part of the monthly Grand Priory Day of Recollection, Sung Mass of Our Lady's Saturday will be celebrated in the Church at 12 noon.


The office of Lauds will be sung at 10am; and Vespers, Holy Hour and Benediction at around 3.30pm, to which all are most welcome.

OCTOBER 15th. VISIT OF THE RELICS OF SAINT THERESE TO THE HOSPICE




In the evening of Thursday, after they left Westminster Cathedral, the relics of St Thérèse came to the Hospital of Saint John and Saint Elizabeth, and Saint John's Hospice.


The relics have been touring the country as part of their continuous mission around the world, following the Saint's wish to be a missionary, formally recognised by Pope John Paul II's declaration of her as Patron of Missions.


The visit to St John's Wood was planned to be for the benefit of the sick and dying, and several hundred pilgrims came to venerate the relics in the Conventual Church.


Many Hospice patients came to the church, and other pilgrims came from the local parish of Our Lady, Lisson Grove, and the neighbouring parishes of Swiss Cottage and the Rosary Church, Marylebone, and local convents and old-peoples' homes, including Barbara Brosnan Court.  We were also very pleased to welcome the Little Sisters of the Poor from St Anne's Home, Stoke Newington, where Canon McDonald is now Chaplain. Some of the Order of Malta Lourdes pilgrims were also present.


At the invitation of the Chairman of the Hospital, Bishop Alan Hopes, auxiliary of Westminster, celebrated a sung Mass at the close of the visit, which was attended by more than 200 people. The 18th century vestments worn had been restored by one of the patients present at the Mass.


We are very grateful to the many teams of carers and helpers who made the visit such a success.


As the relics left the church, a piper played "The Little Flower - St Thérèse of Lisieux" a new composition written specially for today's visit to the Hospital.


We pray that the many graces the visit of the relics have brought will renew the life and work of the Hospital and Hospice, and bring hope and faith to those who were present. (Click on the photographs to enlarge them.)


FAREWELL PRAYER 
Loving Father, We thank you for the visit of the relics of St Thérèse to our country. We ask you to draw us more deeply into your love And to fill us with confidence in your mercy. Help us to become, like St Thérèse, love at the heart of the Church. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, Who lives and reigns, forever and ever. Amen.

Further updates and images will be added when they are available.

St Thérèse of the Child Jesus of the Holy Face, pray for us.

OCTOBER 13th. FEAST OF BLESSED GERARD, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER. VISIT BY THE GRAND MASTER AND SOLEMN VOWS OF FRA' DUNCAN GALLIE



Tuesday 13th October is celebrated in the Order of Malta as the Feast of the Founder, Blessed Gerard, and this year the celebrations in the Conventual Church were of particular joy and solemnity, before a crowded church.


The Grand Master, with the Grand Prior, the Chaplain of the Grand Priory and professed knights

We were greatly honoured by the visit of the Prince and Grand Master, Fra' Matthew Festing, who received the solemn (perpetual) vows of Fra' Duncan Gallie, Chancellor of the Grand Priory of England, and Member of Sovereign Council.


The vows take place during Mass, and are in two parts.  Firstly, following the Epistle, the creating as a Knight – the giving of the sword and spurs; and secondly, after Communion, the religious vows, sworn upon an open Missal, by which the candidate comes into full membership of the Order.

The insignia prepared for the sword to be blessed

The giving of the sword
The spurs

The lighted candle

The first part of the vows is followed by the Gospel of the Mass, during which the Postulant stands holding his candle.
The homily was preached by Monsignor Antony Conlon, Principal Chaplain to the Grand Priory.  Click here for an extract from the text.
After the Communion, the postulant returns to the Grand Master for the clothing in the habit as a religious.

I, N. VOW TO ALMIGHTY GOD, IMPLORING THE ASSISTANCE OF MARY IMMACULATE, OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST AND OF BLESSED GERARD, TO OBSERVE POVERTY, CHASTITY, AND OBEDIENCE IN PERPETUITY TO WHICHEVER SUPERIOR I WILL BE ASSIGNED BY THE HOLY ORDER AND I INTEND TO MAKE THESE VOWS IN THE SPIRIT OF THE STATUTES AND LAWS OF THE ORDER OF MALTA.


The Grand Master embraces the Postulant: 
M.  I now acknowledge you and truly count you as one of our brothers.
P.  I, too, so consider myself, by the grace of the Lord our God and by your favour, my Most Eminent Lord. 


He is then clothed in the religious habit of the order and receives the Stola, decorated with the symbols of Our Lord's Passion, the yoke of the Knight, to remind him constantly of his life of service and charity, following the pattern of our Saviour.


The Mass, presided over by the Grand Master who has the rank of Cardinal, was celebrated by our chaplain, Fr Ronald Creighton-Jobe of the London Oratory.  It was followed by a reception in Brampton House.


We all wish Fra' Duncan many congratulations, and join in replying to his request for our prayers.


PRAYER OF THE ORDER OF MALTA
Lord Jesus, Thou has seen fit to enlist me for Thy service among the Knights of St John of Jerusalem. I humbly entreat Thee through the intercession of the most holy Virgin of Philerme, of St John the Baptist, Blessed Gerard and all the Saints, to keep me faithful to the traditions of our Order. Be it mine to practise and defend the Catholic, the Apostolic, the Roman faith against the enemies of religion: be it mine to practise charity towards my neighbours, especially Poor and sick  Give me the strength I need to carry out this my resolve, forgetful of myself, learning ever from Thy holy Gospel a spirit of deep and generous Christian devotion, striving ever to promote God’s glory, the world’s peace, and all that may benefit the Order of St John of Jerusalem.  AMEN

The Grand Master with Fra' Duncan Gallie after the Mass



SAINT HUGH, RELIGIOUS OF THE ORDER OF SAINT JOHN OF JERUSALEM. 8th OCTOBER


Saint Hugh was born about 1168 at Alessandria (Italy).
He became a knight of the Order of St John of Jerusalem.
After lengthy service with the Order in the Holy Land,
he was elected Master of the Commandery of St John di Prè
in Genoa (Italy), where he worked in the infirmary nearby. 
He was renowned for miraculous powers over the natural elements. 
He is believed to have died in 1233.


St Hugh's name is inscribed in a panel of the outer wall of the Conventual Church in London.


From the Collect
Saint Hugh,
God gave you the power to heal the sick by the sign of the cross.
Pray that God will give all our members
the spirit which inspired your own love
to serve God in our sick brothers and sisters.

THE RELICS OF SAINT THERESE OF THE CHILD JESUS


The relics of St Thérèse of Lisieux are being exposed for veneration in churches throughout England & Wales.   St Thérèse (1873–97), the “Little Flower”, was a Carmelite nun inspired by an intense devotion to the person of Jesus Christ. Her practice of complete fidelity to Him in the smallest events of daily life, her “Little Way”, gives an example that shows how a profound spiritual life can be within the reach of ordinary men and women.   This teaching, as she lived it, is described in her autobiography, “The Story of a Soul”. It led the Church to declare St Thérèse a Doctor of the Church, a teacher of the most profound truths of the Catholic faith.
The visit of her relics to our busy capital city teaches us that the most important work in life is to learn to know and love God in our own lives.   Relics remind us that God himself made human life holy when he became a man, Jesus Christ. He continues to make himself known in the words and deeds of holy people.
Relics are a sign of God’s presence in his saints and a focus for our prayer. The relics of St Thérèse recall her “Little Way” of complete fidelity to Jesus Christ. In them she comes to us and invites us to follow Him.  To prepare as a community to receive the relics into our Diocese, and to invite St Thérèse to pray for us and open our hearts to the grace of God, a Novena is recommended.
Click here for the leaflet describing the arrangements for veneration at the Cathedral.

NOVENA PRAYER

Come Holy Spirit and fill the hearts of the faithful, and kindle in them the fire of divine love.

V. Send forth Your Spirit and they shall be created.

R. And You shall renew the face of the earth.



Let us pray: O God, who have instructed the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit; grant that by the gift of the same Spirit, we may be ever truly wise and rejoice in His consolation, through Christ our Lord. Amen.




Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be
St Thérèse of the Child Jesus, pray for us.



A PRAYER TO SAINT THERESE OF LISIEUX
Lord Jesus, through the life of St Thérèse, you have brought new hope to all who long to open their hearts to you. Teach us the secret of her ‘Little Way’ and help us to realise that we can always talk with You and bring You our gratitude, our smiles and our tears. Stay with us, Jesus, so that in the midst of our busy hours, we may turn to You in loving trust. Transform each passing moment of time into a moment of prayer. Fill every troubled heart with the confident faith of St Thérèse. In joy and in sorrow, in every circumstance, may our hearts rest in Your peace, who live and reign for ever and ever. Amen.


St Therese in Westminster from Catholic Westminster on Vimeo.

SAINT THERESE'S PRAYER FOR PRIESTS
O Jesus, I pray for your faithful and fervent priests;
for your unfaithful and tepid priests;
for your priests labouring at home or abroad in distant mission fields;
for your tempted priests;
for your lonely and desolate priests;
for your young priests;
for your dying priests;
for the souls of your priests in Purgatory;
but above all, I recommend to you the priests dearest to me:
the priest who baptised me;
the priests who absolved me from my sins;
the priests at whose Masses I assisted and who gave me Your Body and Blood in Holy Communion;
the priests who taught and instructed me;
all the priests to whom I am indebted in any other way.
O Jesus, keep them all close to your heart,
And bless them abundantly in time and in eternity. Amen.

HYMN TO SAINT THERESE
From clear high mansions of that shining palace
Where you enjoy the light of God's dear presence,
And plead our causes, mindful of your promise
Shower down your roses.

Roses of faith to shed its light supernal,
Roses of hope when obstacles surround us,
And for our strengthening in daily living
Roses of pure love.

Through your own childlike confidence and candor
Send us the rose of quietly discerning
Love of a Father, shining in each happening
Both sweet and bitter.

This be our portion, God forever blessed,
Father eternal, Son and Holy Spirit,
Whose is the glory which through all creation
Resounds forever.