“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'S PASTORAL LETTER ON THE PAPAL VISIT

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We have been very blest indeed by the Visit of Pope Benedict during those four marvellous and unforgettable days. His presence has brought such joy and given a great boost to so many. I am immensely grateful to Her Majesty The Queen for extending the invitation to Pope Benedict to come on a State Visit to the United Kingdom.

There is so much to talk about. But at this point I offer some brief initial reflections.

The Holy Father has given us new heart for our mission. In our Cathedral he spelt out that task. He said we are to be witnesses to the beauty of holiness, to the splendour of the truth and to the joy and freedom born of a living relationship with Christ.

We have glimpsed the beauty of holiness especially in the moments of prayer during this Visit. The holiness of God is reflected in the reverence shown in the liturgies, in the actions of the Mass, in the music and song we have offered and most vividly in the silence of prayer. The beauty of this holiness permeates us from within as ‘heart speaks unto heart’. I will never forget the richness of the silence of 80,000 people at prayer before the Blessed Sacrament in Hyde Park. I hope every celebration of Mass contains times of shared silence in which we can draw close to the Lord.

We witness best to the splendour of the truth of our faith when we follow the example given by Pope Benedict. In speaking of our faith he was always so gentle and courteous, so sensitive to the achievements and anxieties of his listeners, so clear and reasoned in presenting difficult points, so humble and open-hearted. We must strive for these same qualities when speaking about our faith, in witnessing to its truth.

The Holy Father has also asked us to witness to the joy and freedom born of a living relationship with Christ. He certainly did so himself, with his own serenity and unfailing generosity of response to both individuals and great crowds. We can do the same, day by day, as long as our focus remains on the Lord and, particularly, in his power to forgive and heal us. We find our joy and freedom in the saving sacrifice of Christ. From it we draw the strength to be generous and self-sacrificing ourselves. Young people, too, gave witness to this joy and freedom. Outside our Cathedral they exclaimed their desire to be saints in the third millennium! Their pathway will be that of heartfelt prayer and generous service.

With the blessings of this Visit we can be more confident in our faith and more ready to speak about it and let it be seen each day. A small step we can all take is to be quicker to say to others that we will pray for them, especially to those in distress. Prayer is the first fruit of faith in the Lord and we grow so much by giving prayer its place in our homes and in our hearts. Even the simple step of more regularly using the greeting ‘God bless you’, gently and naturally, would make a difference to the tone we set in our daily lives as would the more frequent use of the Sign of the Cross. Making faith visible is so much a part of the invitation the Holy Father has extended to us all.

In these ways we can begin to respond to the urging of the Holy Father ‘that the Catholics of this land will become ever more conscious of their dignity as a priestly people, called to consecrate the world to God through lives of faith and holiness.’
I thank everyone who worked so hard in preparation for this Visit, through difficulties, doubts and criticism. I thank all who came to show their love for the Holy Father. Travelling with the Holy Father in the Popemobile gave me a unique experience of the joy, delight and love in the faces of so many. I thank God for our Pope and for all the blessings of this Visit from which we have so much to ponder and learn for a long time to come.

+Vincent Nichols
Archbishop of Westminster

REMINDER - Wednesday 29th SEPT - CONCERT "O MICHAEL"

Renaissance choral music for the Feast of Saint Michael featuring three monumental works from the early 16th century:

TAVERNER Mass ‘O Michael’
ISAAC Angeli, archangeli
DE LA RUE Credo ‘Angeli, archangeli’

All of which are gloriously complemented by more intimate festal settings, from gregorian chant to motets and hymns, including:

CLEMENS Concussum est mare
WILLAERT Tibi Christe, splendor Patris
JOSQUIN Benedicite omnia opera
PORTA Factum est silentium
PALESTRINA Venit, Michael Archangelus

Performed by HEXACHORD, Director Simon Lillystone

on WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 29 at 7:30pm in the
CONVENTUAL CHURCH OF SAINT JOHN OF JERUSALEM


This concert inaugurates the St John’s Concert Series, arranged in collaboration between St John’s Hospice and the Order of Malta.
The series aims to raise funds and awareness for the only independent Hospice in Central London.


For more details of future concerts please click the "St John's Concerts" link in the sidebar.

REPORT ON THE VICTORY MASS - FEAST OF OUR LADY OF PHILERMO

The Feast, last Wednesday the 8th of September, was celebrated with great joy in a packed church, in the presence of Their Excellencies the Grand Prior and the President of BASMOM. Canon Christopher Tuckwell, Administrator of Westminster Cathedral and Canon Daniel Cronin were very welcome guests in choir. The High Mass was celebrated by the Chaplain to the Grand Priory, Monsignor Antony Conlon.

Following Mass devotions to the icon of Our Lady were accompanied by Schubert's Salve Regina.  A new page of images and the history of the Icon of Our Lady of Philermo may be seen here.

During Mass, Mr Neil Ward made his Promise of Obedience, and Mr Raoul Fraser was invested in the Order as a Knight of Honour and Devotion. There were also three investitures in the Order Pro Merito Melitense after Mass, which was followed by a Reception in Fortescue House.




ARCHBISHOP NICHOLS ON THE PAPAL VISIT

Archbishop Vincent Nichols has written in the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, commenting that the forthcoming visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United Kingdom is a chance to 'see that faith in God is not a problem to be solved but a gift to be discovered afresh.' Below is the text of His Grace's letter, which will assist Catholics to be correctly disposed to participate fully in the Papal visit.
Photo courtesy Mazur/Baranik/CNN
'The visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United Kingdom is, without doubt, uniquely historical. The invitation for the Visit has been extended by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and it is she who will greet the Holy Father on his arrival on September 16th 2010. This Visit, therefore, marks a new phase in the long and complex history of the relationship between the monarchs of this land and the Papacy.

Pontiff and Queen share some profound concerns: about the well being of people around the world, about the role of Christian values and teaching, about the importance of stable institutions for the well-being of society. I am sure they will have much to reflect on in their time together.

After this opening ceremony of welcome, at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Holy Father then celebrates Mass in Glasgow before travelling to London and to the residence of the Apostolic Nunciature.

The second day of his visit is dedicated to reaching out to many different facets of society. It begins with an event celebrating Catholic education and the part it plays in the education service of this country. The Holy Father will be able to address every school in the land, by means of an internet connection, and invite children everywhere to follow the events of his visit and to support him with their prayers.

St Mary’s University College, Twickenham, where this event is taking place, is also a training site for the forthcoming Olympic Games, in 2012. This will give an additional dimension to this event, appealing to the interest of many people in sport.

Later that morning, the Holy Father will meet with leaders of different sectors and enterprises who are themselves men and women of faith, drawn from the different faiths present in this country. He will speak with them of the importance of faith in God as shaping and inspiring effective leadership for the common good.

On the afternoon of Friday 17 September, Pope Benedict will visit Lambeth palace, the residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and then go to Westminster Hall, the great historic hall in the seat of power in London. There he will address the political, civil, diplomatic and enterprise leadership of the United Kingdom. Westminster Hall is the place in which St Thomas More was condemned to death in 1535 for his adherence to the Catholic faith. The event will be full of historic and contemporary resonance.

This day will come to a close in Westminster Abbey, with the recitation of Evening Prayer in company with all the diverse Christian communities of the United Kingdom. The Holy Father and the Archbishop of Canterbury will pray together at the tomb of St Edward the Confessor, the King of England who died in 1066 and was the refounder of Westminster Abbey. He represents the deep and shared Christian roots of these lands.

The next day the Pope will celebrate Mass in Westminster Cathedral, visit a home in which the elderly and dying are cared for and lead a vigil of prayer in Hyde Park, the great open space at the heart of London.

Sunday 19 September sees the Holy Father go to Birmingham to celebrate Mass and the proclamation of the Venerable John Henry Newman as Blessed. This is such an important moment in this Visit. Cardinal Newman’s beatification holds before the Church a scholar of great distinction, a poet of considerable merit and a parish priest who was deeply loved by all who knew him. He was a man who understood that mind and heart had to go together in the great enterprises of life, the greatest of which is the search for God and for that life-giving relationship with Him. Newman spoke and wrote eloquently of this inner personal search and of the joy it brings. He expressed the emptiness of life without God in these terms:  

‘If I looked into a mirror, and did not see my face, I should have the sort of feeling which actually comes upon me, when I look into this busy world, and see no reflection of its Creator.’

The overall hope which we entertain for this Visit may be expressed very simply. We hope that the illuminating presence and words of Pope Benedict will help many in our countries to see that faith in God is not a problem to be solved, but a gift to be discovered afresh. For many in our society, faith has become a problem, something to be kept hidden or removed from the public forum. Yet the truth is very different: faith in God brings such richness and joy to human living. It is the liberation and guide for which we search, the source of inspiration and endurance, the fount of forgiveness and compassion.

The invitation to faith is, of course, deeply personal. For this reason, the motto chosen for this Papal Visit is the same motto chosen by John Henry Newman for his coat of arms as a Cardinal: ‘Heart speaks unto heart.’

I hope and pray that this Apostolic Journey of Pope Benedict XVI will bring great blessings to this land, and to many who follow it throughout the world.'

+Vincent Nichols
Archbishop of Westminster.

SEPTEMBER 8th. NATIVITY OF OUR LADY, THE 'VICTORY MASS'

The Icon of Our Lady of Philermo, as she would have appeared 
annually on this day in Malta, wearing the festal 'dress' given by
Grand Master Villiers de l'Isle-Adam (16th to 18th centuries)
Wednesday 8th September is the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the day upon which the Order of Malta particularly honours the Mother of God under the title of Our Lady of Philermo.

It is also the Anniversary of the lifting of the Siege of Malta in 1565, the victory over the Ottoman forces attributed to Our Lady's gracious intercession.

The Annual Victory Mass will be celebrated in the Conventual Church at 6.30pm, followed by a Reception in Fortescue House, to which all are welcome.

The choir Cantores Missae will sing Missa 'Ave Maris Stella' by Victoria, and motets 'Ego flos campi' by Alonso Lobo and 'O sacrum convivium' by Giovanni Croce. The Salve Regina will be to a setting by Schubert.

PAKISTAN - PLEASE CONTINUE TO HELP

photo © AFP.com
Malteser International, the Order of Malta’s International Relief Service, is continuing its assistance to Pakistan’s flood victims. The mountain districts of  Swat and Kohistan are often difficult to reach as roads and bridges have been destroyed and relief teams are forced to abandon their vehicles and proceed on foot. The Order of Malta’s medical teams are working with five Pakistani health units. Moreover, two mobile clinics offer daily services to the inhabitants of villages and towns where access to health facilities cannot be assured. Skin diseases, diarrhoea, pneumonia, dehydration and anaemia continue to be widespread. Medical treatment is accompanied by hygiene awareness sessions and the distribution of water purification tablets.
photo © Associated Press
The latest figures given by the Pakistani government report over 17 million victims of the severe floods, covering a vast area stretching from the Chinese border to the mouth of the Indus River. A total of 1.2 million houses have either been damaged or destroyed.

Last weekend, Malteser International organized an assessment in the Punjab. The idea was to provide medical assistance for at least three months with three additional teams carrying out similar tasks to those in northern Pakistan.  Unlike Swat and Kohistan, Punjab is in a lowland area and the waters tend to recede more slowly than in the mountainous regions. In the long term, Malteser International will be involved with disaster risk reduction. In Swat, several health units will be rebuilt and re-equipped and, together with existing centres, prepared to resist any future disasters.

“Medical supplies and equipment are absolutely insufficient so far,” reports Roland Hansen, head of the Asia Department at Malteser International”. To date, Malteser International’s operations in Pakistan are estimated to have cost over three million Euro. “But,” Hansen concludes, “even  the most elementary needs are still far from being met”.

This short video, courtesy of Russia Today, gives some idea of the tragedy of the situation. Nothing can give an idea of the scale.


VIDEO OF GRAND MASTER'S VISIT TO HOLY FATHER

As we draw to the close of what has been a busy summer in the Conventual Church, we can perhaps allow ourselves a post which is not directly relevant to the daily life of Saint John's Wood.

It has been brought to our attention that there is a video available, which you can watch below, of the annual audience granted by His Holiness Pope Benedict to His Most Eminent Highness the Prince and Grand Master, accompanied by members of Sovereign Council, on the 25th June 2010. The evident intimacy and warmth even within this formal setting is something of which the Order may be justly proud, and which allows it to strengthen and develop its missionary work fully conformed to the mind of the Church.

It is good to see this report as we await with joy the visit of the Holy Father to these shores. The report is lent further local relevance for us by featuring the homage of Fra' Duncan Gallie, Member of Sovereign Council, and Chancellor of the Grand Priory of England and Vice-Chancellor of the British Association.


Please remember to pray for the Holy Father every day, and also for the Grand Master and the spiritual and humanitarian work of the Order of Malta.

Our Lady of Philermo, pray for us
Saint John the Baptist, pray for us
Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us

SAINTE JEANNE JUGAN, LITTLE SISTER OF THE POOR

Sainte Jeanne Jugan, pray for us.
Monday was also the first year's celebration of the feast of Sainte Jeanne Jugan, foundress of the Little Sisters of the Poor, canonised last October by Pope Benedict. Click here to read more about her. The Sisters first came to London from Brittany and opened their first home here in Portobello Road in 1869.

In recent years the Conventual Church has developed links with the Little Sisters at Saint Anne's Home for the Elderly in Stoke Newington. Several of the sisters and residents joined us for the visit of the relics of Sainte Therese last year, and our Chaplain Emeritus, Canon McDonald, is now Chaplain at Saint Anne's Home.  Some members of the Order joined the Sisters and residents on Monday morning for this joyous feast, a sung Mass in the beautiful new chapel, followed by devotions at the new statue of the Saint in the grounds, and a delicious barbeque buffet lunch in the dining room and garden. Rarely does one see such a happy atmosphere in an old-people's home.


The New Chapel (Photo courtesy The Architect's Journal)
Saint Anne's Home provides residential care for 34 elderly people, as well as some self-contained flats for the  more self-sufficient, and a day centre for people in the local community.  The constitution of the Sisters ensures that they may not make any investments, the money they collect must be spent directly on the poor, relying entirely on Divine Providence. Their funding comes from local authority grants, private donations and the appeals around parishes and offices with which many Londoners are familiar.  Saint Jeanne laid great store by the humility of begging for alms for the poor, and this remains a great part of their life today. It is in recognition of this extraordinary work that the Holy Father will visit the Little Sister at Saint Peter's Home in Vauxhall later this month.

Please consider making a donation to the Little Sisters and their work. You may send it to: Mother Josephine Storey, Saint Anne's Home, 77 Manor Road, Stoke Newington, London N16 5BL. For more information, or to become a friend, telephone 020 8826 2500.