Friday, December 08, 2006

Our Blessed Lady

Today is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, celebrating God's marvellous love for us when he prepared a worthy dwelling place in whom his Son could become incarnate. Many people have asked whether we will be having the usual Holy Day Masses - well, no, because the Immaculate Conception is not a Holy Day of Obligation in England. Each Bishop's Conference has to select one Feast of our Lady as a HDO - in the USA it is the Immaculate Conception, in South Africa it is Mary Mother of God (1 January) and in England it is the Assumption (15 August). We will have a sung Mass tonight. Just because it's not a Day of Obligation does not make it less important. So we shall sweetly sing the praises of Mary as we offer the sacrifice of her Son.

The special title of our Lady for Universities and students is our Lady, Sedes Sapientiae, or "Seat of Wisdom". Jesus is the Word of God, the Eternal Wisdom, and it is through Mary that the Word, the Wisdom of God, is made flesh. Jesus seated on the lap of Mary, Mary the seat of Wisdom.

Pope John Paul II received a gift of a mosaic icon of our Lady, Sedes Sapientiae, from Slovenian artist Ivan Rupnik. The Holy Father gave this mosaic to the universities of the world during the Great Jubilee Year 2000. The image has been travelling around the world ever since, and was with us here at Newman House for the Feast of the Imacculate Conception in 2004. A group of about 20 students then accompanied the icon to Rome, where it was presented to Pope John Paul at what in the event was his last major public appearance, the Academic Mass in St Peter's Basilica on 14 December 2004. We were part of a united choir of students which sang the Mass. It was a spine-tingling moment when the choir burst into Tu es Petrus - You are Peter: and indeed there with us was Peter, Vicar of Christ.

Our happy band in the Piazza of St Peter's Basilica, before the Academic Mass.

Inspired by the pilgrim icon, a group of residents then began work on a mosaic based on the original. Led by Ian Mannion and Russell Hearn months of work ensued. It is not an exact copy, nor is it professional, but it is our very own! It is still awaiting framing (everything takes a long time at Newman House!!!!!) but it will be hung in our Chapel in due course. The mosaic was blessed by Cardinal Arinze when he visited Newman House following the Academic Mass.

We hope, in the new year, to start regular devotions to our Lady, Seat of Wisdom, to inspire us as students as we pursue knowledge in seeking truth as we follow the Wisdom of God, Jesus Christ.
Sedes sapientiae, Ora pro nobis

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Photos of our lads in training

Jerome Santamaria - Corpus Christi College, Melbourne

David Wingfield - Venerable English College , Rome

Daniel Jeffries - Dominicans, Cambridge

Ian Mannion - Ampleforth Abbey

Robert Colquhoun - Allen Hall, Chelsea

Here I am Lord, send me

There are currently five young men in formation for the priesthood or religious life who have had a connection with Newman House in the past few years. Each of them were a significant presence while they were with us. It's the way of things here that each year we have a completely new set of residents and community members, so those from even one year ago are easily forgotten! Alan Paton wrote a little poem about his (and my) old school, Maritzburg College, which had these lines:

Old walls that echoed to our cries,
our tears, our voices,
our laughter,
and echo now
to those who follow after.

There may be new voices now, but these lads certainly made our walls echo while they were here! We are immensely proud of each of them!

So here are our five:

Jerome Santamaria
Resident at Newman House 2004/2005

Jerome must have been the tallest resident of Newman House ever! He had some pretty neat dance moves, and a dry, sardonic humour which could at times be unnerving, and a natty line in hats! He certainly was a presence in the House. A lawyer by training and profession (he was in London for further studies) Jerome discerned his vocation and made his response while he was at Newman House.

Jerome is now studying for the priesthood at Corpus Christi College, Carlton, for the Archdiocese of Melbourne.

Robert Colquhoun
Member of King's College Cathsoc until 2004; Received into Full Communion with the Catholic Church at Newman House, 2004

Robert is the odd man out here, because he was not resident at NH. He nevertheless has a connection with us because it was here he was received
into full communion with the Church. Robert had been an active member of the KCL Cathsoc, and under the guidance of Fr Tim Calvert OP, the then chaplain, he joined the Catholic Church. After a spell in the city, Robert joined the World Youth Alliance and was then sent for a "pre-seminary" year to the Royal English College, Valladolid.

Robert is now studying for the priesthood at Allen Hall, Chelsea, for the Archdiocese of Westminster.

Daniel Jeffries
Resident at Newman House 2002-2004

What can we say about Daniel? A person with a great sense of fun and deeply committed to his faith, he also had a fashion sense that made the rest of us gasp, heehee. There are lots of witty sayings from Daniel that continue to echo around the walls of NH - like the time he described the image of our Lady veiled for Holy Week: "She looks like our Lady of Afghanistan now!" Daniel arrived at NH with a clear sense of his vocation, which is now being actualised. He was President of KCL Cathsoc, and after NH moved to More House. He spent a year as a Dominican Volunteer in the Philippines before joining the noviciate of the Dominicans.

Daniel is now in formation with the Order of Preachers in Cambridge

David Wingfield
Resident at Newman House 2004/2005

David was received into the Catholic Church shortly before coming to NH. Very early on he was given the nickname "The Brigadier", which he relished! This reflected his very English sense of style and his general demeanour. Yes, David is a thoroughly English gentleman. After leaving NH David taught for a year, before being selected for training for the priesthood. A few posts below are some photos of David in Rome.

David is now studying for the priesthood at the Venerable English College, Rome, for the Archdiocese of Westminster

Ian Mannion
Resident at Newman House 2003-2006; Received into Full Communion with the Catholic Church at Newman House in 2004

Ian arrived at NH as an Anglican and left as a Benedictine postulant! Another renowned wit who had a great sense of fun alongside his deep commitment to his faith, Ian was an invaluable member of the community because he seemed to be at the heart of so much of what went on here. He certainly kept the Senior Chaplain on his toes! My famous early remark to Ian was: "I have three things planned for you: first, we are going to make you a Catholic, next we will get you ordained and then we will find you a job with the CDF!" This is because Ian is immensely intelligent with a razor sharp ability to analyse. His training is in biochemsitry, but he also has a great interest in languages (let's see, he speaks Italian, French, Danish, Icelandic, Greek, Hebrew, Latin ... did I miss any?) and is a very fine musician.

Ian is now a postulant at Ampleforth Abbey, Yorkshire

Please pray for our alumni in formation. And pray that there will be many who come after them.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Ann Widdecombe speaks to UCL Cathsoc

Tory MP Ann Widdecombe visited Newman House on Thursday 23 November to address the UCL Cathsoc on "Faith and Politics". A large number of students gathered for the talk, which was a real tour de force by the veteran politician and famous convert to Catholicism. Miss Widdecombe spoke for about 20 minutes and then took questions from the floor. In all the meeting lasted about an hour and a half. Her engagement with us was very well received, being both humorous and serious.

See how far Newman House residents go......

While we were entertaining Cardinal Arinze in London, our former resident David Wingfield (2004/5) was mixing with even MORE prominent people! David is now a seminarian at the Venerable English College, Rome, and sent us the following pictures of a momentous day - when the Archbishop of Canterbury visited the Holy Father. Students from the VEC joined the Office of Midday Prayer in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel in the Apostolic Palace.

Spiffing, Brigadier!