Friday, August 03, 2012

You say goodbye, I say hello

One of the oddest things about Newman House is that it doesn’t begin and end, but rather has seasons.

Over the past few weeks, figures who have been so much a part of the life and landscape have bid adieu, and set off on new exploits. Of course, being Newman, few were allowed to flee quietly, and the standard was set with Kenneth's departure: speeches made, anthems sung (British and American) and Holy Water generously sprinkled!

Some will be back after the summer- and I get the feeling that few ever truly leave- but many more are off to pursue the next adventure, including Paula, who will shortly take up a permanent position with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, and Alex, who is off to hone his Scrubs routine in Glasgow. Others have already had their fun for the summer- Paul’s tending to Miss Sharapova’s needs at Wimbledon being the obvious example!

The plethora of summer guests, many of whom have wasted no time making their mark, will soon give way to the September intake, whose names have started going up: it is always odd to see the process of your being replaced, but we leave the rooms and halls which have been our home over to the next set of characters in Newman House’s endlessly bizarre and good-humoured story.

Our Lady Seat of Wisdom and Blessed John Henry, pray for us-
and for those who succeed us in this place.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Jubilee Boat Party

Now that miles of bunting are beginning to be brought down, millions of flags are put aside and everyone gets ready to head back to work, a little word about the Roman triumph that was the Newman House summer boat party- complete with a tiara-wearing, 5’4” special guest.

Residents, friends and guests got a sneak peak at preparations for the river pageant as we sailed the Thames an hour either way from Westminster, joining the cadets rowing in the evening sun to the west, spying the night-time lights of the Docklands and Canary Wharf in the east, and even passing a vast image of the balcony scene from the Silver Jubilee (complete with Lord Mountbatten- imagine if the cake had shared in the name change?)

There is something about the sight of the Queen, dressed for a state dinner, heading up a conga-line; but she’s clearly a game girl, even after 60 years. Of course, while none of us were glinting with diamonds, no one let the side down. Special mentions, of course, to the kilt-clad Will and Stephen, who clearly set the standard for the chaps. As for the ladies, it would be to take my life in my hands to attempt to pick out a best, as all were gloriously and beautifully attired, but I might give special mention to Mini and Eimear- such is the writer’s privilege to do so!

It was a marvellous night, with thousands of photos taken (and retaken after realising the first attempt was inscrutable) and scores of friendships renewed and basked in. So many of our number have been hunkered down with revision, exams and essays; many still are, but already, people are beginning to bid a fond farewell as they head out for the summer. The party was a joyous way to shake off weeks and months of work and let our hair down, but also to ensure that we none of us stay apart too long. Many thanks, then, to all of the organizers, and to the revellers!

(Pictures stolen shamelessly from Hannah, Ruth and Adam, who are all fine examples of humanity)

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Holy Week

Is it just me, or has Lent passed very quickly? Of course, for those who gave up more than they wish they had, the last few days will drag, but it seems only yesterday that we were having the ashen crosses marked on our foreheads. Now, we have marked our Lord's entry to Jerusalem, with the traditional procession up Gower Street (congratualtions to one of our number who took the time to explain the bizarre sight to a passing taxi driver- you know who you are...), and Holy Week is upon us.

Lent has been a time of reflection and spiritual preparation, with residents taking to the prayer partners initiative with gusto, and the offices growing in popularity- but we have also had fun. From the impressive talent night, with song and dance from all sorts of unexpected figures, to the recent games of Risk, which have shown us new and slightly scary sides to certain residents and clergy (again, you know who you are), spirits have remained as high as ever- all the more important with exams and deadlines hitting hard once again.

But now, the scholars have a few days grace for Easter. Unlike Christmas, a great many people are staying for the the Triduum, and the cry of 'all hands on deck' will very soon ring through the corridors and stairwells. We eagerly await the reception of new Catholics into the Church at the vigil- always a moving sight to witness- and Fr Peter joined his brother priests at the Cathedral on Tuesday for the Chrism Mass, where the oils that will be used for the sacraments throughout the coming year- including at the vigil- were blessed by Archbishop Nichols.

From the joy of that concelebration, we descend to the Mass of the Lord's Supper, ahead of our commemoration of the Lord's crucifixion at 3pm on Friday. The purple has long since gone up, but there is something almost painful about the sight of the stripped altar and the empty tabernacle, so much a focal point of our lives as Catholics, and indeed, there is something physically exhausting about the Easter liturgies. Finally, after the tumult of past days, the Easter fire is lit, the furnishings of the church restored, and the risen Lord is recognised by us, his 'Easter people'.

You are urged to enter into the next few days as fully as possible. At Newman House:

Holy Thursday - 7:30pm
Good Friday - 3pm
Easter Vigil (Saturday) - 8pm
Easter Sunday - 10:30am (no evening mass)

We ask you to pray for those entering into full communion with the Catholic Church this Easter, and for the hundreds of millions of Christians around the world who we will be joining in these commemorations and celebrations, including the many who do so in the face of persecution or oppression.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Lent- a time for 'sacrifice' in more ways than even we imagined..

Presumably as a means of shoring up all of those Lenten resolutions (we're hitting the 'puppy dog eyes' stage now- there were one or two very sad faces on those who've given up meat at dinner this evening), Eimear and her boys- aka NuM3n- have prepared a little light relief. The house was gathered together under a shroud of mystery, and when the lights dimmed, what a masterpiece we beheld!!

Saturday, January 28, 2012


It’s normally a week into January that half of us realise that we never got around to thinking up a New Year’s Resolution. A fortnight in, that same half will realise that they still haven’t thought anything up. I’ve heard of a few people finally having thought some up in time for Chinese New Year, but doubtless the rest of us will give it up as a bad job. Which seems a little defeatist really, doesn’t it?

Newman House is long since back up to full strength now; some poor souls have already had their first taste of the library again, and even the exam hall. Over Christmas however, we were spread all over the place, and while I don’t know how everyone else’s priests preached on Christmas night, I thought I would share with you a little wisdom that my own parish priest imparted.

As Catholics, we look to Christ’s death on the cross, and the resurrection that lies behind, as the centre of our lives. Father made the point that, often, we perhaps focus too much on the wood of the cross, able to see nothing beyond our own failings. He suggested that we must always remember the wood of the crib. The nativity is a tale of journeys: Joseph and Mary going to Jerusalem; the Magi and the shepherds following the star; the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt. All were journeys of great courage, however insignificant they may have seemed to many of the people around them at the time.

As Catholics, we do not need January 1st to begin again. Christ healed all those who came to him, whatever their sins, if they really wanted forgiveness; we can begin again in him on any given morning. It is important that we recognise our failings, but Christ’s death on the cross, the ultimate sacrifice, served to save us. So here’s a little suggestion for those still clinging to the idea that they might yet come up with a resolution.

Every time you look at the crosses which we see up on walls, remember also the wooden cribs now safely stowed away until December, and then that first crib. If we remember the unlikely people who made those journeys at the time of Christ’s birth, we might feel brave enough to begin again in the morning. And then the morning after that, too.

Picture: Glimpses of Grace blog,

Monday, January 16, 2012

Week Commencing 16th January

Week Commencing 16th January

Weekday Mass Monday - Friday 5.30pm

UCL CathSoc: Karol, The Man Who Became Pope - Part 2
Journey in Faith - for those preparing to be Baptised, Confirmed or Received into Full Communion with the Catholic Church
Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament 6-9pm
Tea with the Chaplains 3.30pm

OASIS: Happy Are We - The Teachings of Jesus - 7.30pm
Shema (Scripture Study & Reflection) - Jesus & Women, 8pm

Check out the Website Calendar for more information

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Another Term Begins

And so with the Turkey long since banished and the Christmas Decorations back in the attic, Students are arriving and returning to their studies in London. Don't neglect the life of the Spirit!

This week at Newman House things are already kicking into action very quickly! Here goes:

Monday 9th January
UCLU CathSoc: Louise Zanre from the Jesuit Refugee Service
Tuesday 10th January
Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament from 6-9pm.
Wednesday 11th January
Tea with the Chaplains 3.30pm
OASIS: Amazed and Afraid - the Revelation of God Become Man. (Part of Fr Robert Barron's Catholicism series, of which, more later. Click for Facebook Event
Thursday 12th January
Shema: Exploring God' Word - Called to be God's Voice
Sunday 15th January
Identity & Love: Dreams - God's Forgotten Language

Click below for the Full Programme.

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Exams, exuberance and exodus

These have been busy weeks in Newman House! Up until a few days ago, increasing numbers of residents had been setting up home in the library, with all manner of revision and essays being packed in, night after night. The work is, however, now done; the essays are in, the exam scripts have been sent off to… wherever exam scripts get sent off to, and people have begun leaving for Christmas. Very quickly. In the course of a few days, droves of our number have headed off for all sorts of fun in any number of countries, and Newman House is getting really very quiet. This morning’s mass was the last of the year, and those still in the House or area will have to go a little further afield until January.

Despite all the business and stress, there has been all manner of fun. The Apostolic Nuncio, who joined us for the Freshers’ Mass earlier in the semester, hosted a group of residents at the Nunciature in Wimbledon. They were treated to true diplomatic hospitality, and we look forward to a long friendship between Archbishop Menini and Newman House.

Everyone was dressed up to the nines for the black-tie Christmas Party on the 9th December. From the mulled wine and mince pies to the fine food courtesy of our own Heather, through to the display of, shall we say, skilled and energetic dancing, it was a brilliant night. We were even visited by Father Christmas himself, who was quickly assured that Fr Peter had indeed been a good boy all year!

Three months after moving into Newman House, we had the test of taste with Secret Santa, and all came up trumps. The tree did look like it was suffering after the Friday night, but I am told that it was tied to the wall more because of its venerable age. Of course, we also remember those alone or struggling especially so at this time of year, and all those who donated gifts to the Giving Tree appeal are thanked most warmly- they will be appreciated more than we will know.

(Pictures by Hannah, Eimear and myself)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Duck days, darker days

As promised, if a little later than planned, here are a few pictures from the Student Pilgrimage to Aylesford Priory a few weeks ago, and couple of reflections following the day.


I am truly grateful for the opportunity of going to the pilgrimage to Aylesford. It was a beautiful day and this helped everybody present to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of this holy place. The countryside, the trees, the river, the silence, the shrine and chapel helped me to reflect on the beauty of God’s creation and on His love for us. Throughout the day we had the opportunity to meet students from other Universities in South East England, to pray together, to listen to God’s word and to spend some time with God in silence. The day ended with an adoration and Benediction.

The pilgrimage gave us all a wonderful opportunity to celebrate Mass in a beautiful setting, to deepen our faith and to learn to listen to God's words as he speaks to us personally

(Picture Credits: Paula Muldoon)

This coming week at Newman House:
Monday 14th November
     1900- UCL CathSoc: “John Paul the Great” Film Showing
Tuesday 15th November
     1800-2100: Adoration
Wednesday 16th November
     1930- OASIS
     2000- Shema: Exploring God’s Word- “How many ways are there to Jesus”

Finally… on Friday 18th November, Fr Christopher Jamison will give CAFOD’s annual Pope Paul VI Lecture, on the topic: “Charity begins at home, but what is charity and where is home?” Newman House has a few tickets for what promises to be a fascinating evening with the Director of the National Office for Vocations. If you would like to purloin one, get in touch with Chris (preferably by e-mail)

The sound of silence

Recent posts on here have taken in the remembrance events and the silence in Hyde Park last year, and those two came together this morning. I toddled down to Whitehall for the Remembrance Sunday events at the Cenotaph, and while I would have had a far better view if I’d stayed at home and watched it on television, I’m glad I went. Once again, it was the silence- at 11am- that struck me.

(Said cheap seat view)

It struck me that silence is a great leveller. For those of us in the cheap seats, the prayers and the music of the bands were relayed by speaker and big screens, just as those at the back of Hyde Park had the image of the monstrance relayed to them by big screen. It’s a worthy effort, but it’s not quite the same. But silence… well that’s something different. An active silence is something that cloaks everyone present, no matter how large the crowd, and everyone who wishes to be so is equally integral to it. This morning that meant everyone from the Queen down, just as last year everyone from the Holy Father down shared in the silence of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament- even if they could barely see the sanctuary.

The Holy Father has spoken often on the subject of the importance of silence. A little over a month ago, he said that “retiring into silence and solitude, man, so to speak, is ‘exposed’ to reality in his nakedness”. Silence in situations like these is incredibly intimate, and maybe one of the legacies of the visit is a deeper appreciation of the value of silence.

Picture credits: Whitehall my photo, Hyde Park taken from
(His Holiness was speaking in Calabria on 9th October 2011)