Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Christological Constellation

We were delighted to welcome Sr Cathy Jones r.a, who spoke after lunch to the title ‘The Heart of Vocation.’ Cathy was a resident at Newman House as a student in the year 1999-2000.

She elucidated several threads concerning the nature of the Church, drawn largely from the writings of Hans Urs von Balthasar.

We began by recalling the many and diverse individuals and groups who Jesus called to himself during his ministry. From the Gospel, we can see very clearly that Christ is not a merely abstract concept, but a real person whose ministry took place within the context of human relationships; as such our discipleship also takes place within relationships. The place in which these relationships take shape is within the community of the Church

Von Balthasar calls this ‘Christ in his constellation’, that throughout the Gospel it is the person Christ who accompanies, who invites, rebukes, who brings people out of their isolation and into relationship with him. Within this network of relationships that Jesus sets up there is a certain tension between those of his disciples whose responses to his call take varied emphases.

Peter’s pastoral office, Paul’s freedom, James’ tradition and John’s love: all of these might at first glance seem incompatible. The contribution of the apostles to this network of relationships, however, is partly one of tension: they each retain their own unique authority, their own charism. There are moments when they appear to compete. It is their unrelenting gaze upon the risen Christ, however, that holds these diverse people together and enables them to move forward with their mission at his command.

Balthasar places Mary firmly at the centre of this network as the model of discipleship, who points our way to fidelity by her own example, and it is this fidelity which makes it possible for the other ‘thrusts’ within the Church to be held together by Christ.
‘The Marian fiat, unequalled in its perfection, is the
all-inclusive, protective and directive form of all ecclesial life’ (The Office
of Peter and the Structure of the Church
, p208).
Mary’s ‘yes’ sustains and renews us, because it is a ‘yes’ that never sets itself above Christ, but is born from a contemplative gaze on God.

Von Balthasar tells us that there has always been tension in the Church between those with different emphases and approaches, and that there is a theological justification for this. It is Christ himself, however, through the faithfulness of those at the centre (typified by Mary), who enables that tension to be creative and fruitful, maintaining his Church in love, and keeping her children open to the call to love.
There was plently to take away from this talk, and we are very grateful to Sr Cathy for coming to be with us. Pictures to follow.

Thought for the week from Cardinal Newman

To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Tutoring in Brick Lane

Posted by Carl Fernandes, co-ordinator of our tutoring scheme

Every Wednesday afternoon, a group of volunteers sets off from Newman House. We are a varied bunch, comprising students from diverse fields of study and country of origin. What unites us is a small school in the east end of London – situated 47a Brick Lane, to be precise. It is there that we, the Newman House tutors, spend our Wednesday afternoons occupied with a spicy blend of addition, subtraction and, oh yes, sometimes even a little multiplication!

We teach the eight-year-old pupils in Year 4, with one tutor per child. We do our best to provide wholehearted encouragement, give the children our undivided attention and… hopefully make mathematics fun! To many, that may seem an impossible task. However, the kids’ smiling faces say it all - somehow we manage it.

The continuing presence of our volunteers in Christ Church School seems to have made a real difference. In the past couple of years, Newman House tutors have contributed to improved mathematics exam results and even got a mention in the school’s official inspection report. And from the tutors’ point of view, influencing a young person’s education always gives great personal satisfaction. But maybe we take part in something deeper still. After all, Newman House is Catholic, the school is Church of England and many of the pupils are Muslim. Thus, it is into a special ecumenical relationship that we, unthinkingly, enter as we set off every week. Through continuing links between the Chaplaincy and the school this special relationship will endure. Hopefully it will.

Well then, that’s what we get up to every week. If you are passing by the Chaplaincy on Wednesdays you may well spot us. If so, be sure
to give us a nod, a wave and a big thumbs up!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Ash Wednesday at Newman House

Mass at Newman House on Ash Wednesday


5.30pm (Sung Mass)


Also check out at your College for Mass there.

Ash Wednesday is not a day of obligation, but it is a day of devotion, so all should make an attempt to be at Mass.

It is also a day of fasting and abstinence, which is binding on all Catholics.

Abstinence means no meat - despite the fact that a few years ago one of our very committed residents decided to be very charitable and cooked bacon and eggs for his fellow-housemates! Fridays throughout Lent (indeed, throughout the year) are also days of abstinence. I know there are some vegetarians about - you should exclude something else from your staple diet, such as dairy or eggs.

Fasting means only one main meal, with a "light collation" at other times. However, try to be as disciplined as possible. We are all so overfed that it might do us good to eat as little as possible, even for our main meal.
At Newman House we have an "austerity supper" at 7.30pm: simple soup, bread and cheese, for which a small donation is asked as a gift for the poor and needy. Anyone is welcome to join us for this.

Thought for the week from Cardinal Newman

Christ is already in that place of peace, which is all in all. He is on the right hand of God. He is hidden in the brightness of the radiance which issues from the everlasting throne. He is in the very abyss of peace, where there is no voice of tumult or distress, but a deep stillness--stillness, that greatest and most awful of all goods which we can fancy; that most perfect of joys, the utter profound, ineffable tranquillity of the Divine Essence. He has entered into His rest. That is our home; here we are on a pilgrimage, and Christ calls us to His many mansions which He has prepared.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Bishop Bernard Longley to visit Chaplaincies and Cathsocs

Bishop Bernard is a real friend of the University Chaplaincy and has visited us at Newman House several times. Most recently he celebrated our "Freshers' Mass" for the opening of the Academic Year. His wise and gentle presence is always a great encouragement to the students and chaplains.
Much of our activity of course occurs at the various Colleges, and this semester Bishop Bernard will be visiting many of them. Please do come and support these events, meet Bishop Bernard, and bring your friends! Ask your chaplains at each College for more details.
  • King’s College, Strand - Tuesday 13th March at 1pm for lunch and discussion with CathSoc and Thursday 3rd May for 1.10pm Mass with staff and CathSoc
  • LSE: Mass on Wednesday 28th February at 1.15pm followed by refreshments
  • London Metropolitan University - a visit on Tue 6th March 1.30pm-3.30pm

  • University of Notre Dame London Centre – Mass at 12.10pm on Wednesday 2nd May

  • Queen Mary College, University of London - Mass on Wednesday 14th February at 1.05pm

  • Goodenough College - Mass on Sunday 25th February 9.45am-10.45 followed by social 11am-12 noon
  • SOAS and Bloomsbury and University of Westminster - to be confirmed

Bishop Bernard at Newman House for the 2006 Freshers' Mass

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Thought for the week from Cardinal Newman

I wish the intellect to range with the utmost freedom, and religion to enjoy an equal freedom; but what I am stipulating for is, that they should be found in one and the same place, and exemplified in the same persons.... It will not satisfy me, what satisfies so many, to have two independent systems, intellectual and religious, going at once side by side, by a sort of division of labour, and only accidentally brought together.... I want the intellectual layman to be religious, and the devout ecclesiastic to be intellectual.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

UCL Cathsoc has a new President

UCL Cathsoc had its AGM on Monday night at Newman House, and elected a new President and Commitee. The new President is Ellie Kirby, the Treasurer Charles Gallagher and the Social Secretary is Liz O'Nions.

The outgoing committee were a major success this past year and had some truly phenomenal speakers as guests, ranging from Ann Widdecombe MP; Fr Aidan Nicols OP; Dom Aidan Bellenger OSB; Viscountess Clare Asquith and others. Well done! And thank you to Claire Hack (President) and Ed Bennet (Treasurer) for their stirling work.

Below is Ellie's Speech before her election.

Some of you may ask why is a girl like me from Essex a Catholic and why does she want to run the UCL Cathsoc? Well, I share this vision with Elizabeth Jennings... “take my unlove and despair and what they lack let faith repair”. As some of you are aware, as I bang on about it so much, my faith has deepened since coming out of illness and living in Newman House. I really believe that the way we continue Christ’s ministry is to be open to other people and listen to their experiences. I have volunteered on a listening line which I feel has helped me be more approachable. I combine an outgoing, friendly personality with an organised and responsible approachable to work. These are the personal qualities that would help me make a worthy president of your Cathsoc.

As president, I propose a three fold approach: faith, fun and

1) FAITH — I would like to continue Claire’s work by asking speakers to talk on issues ranging from how to personally deepen our faith and how to act upon it in the world. I am very concerned about social justice and support Cafod, The Landmine’s Action Group and Amnesty International. I would like to invite speakers from these groups along with Pax Christi, AFP and The Colomban fathers engaged in work in China. I have supported the White Fathers/White Sisters since childhood and propose inviting them. Also, following Claire’s work I’d like to get some more MPs in, trying IDS my area MP and a fellow Ursuline girl Cherie Blair...
2) FUN — The last Cathsoc meal was a success. We need to enrich our lives with social events and perhaps even raise some money for charity in the process.. possibly even organise a trip to Rome!
3) FRIENDSHIP - I am aware that the Newman House crew can take over Cathsoc events. I’d really like to make the Cathsoc a place where Catholics can hang out and make friends as well as providing for residents. I propose making links to other Cathsocs, especially in London. At Leeds Uni, where I was joint secretary of the Cathsoc, we had footie matches against Manchester Cathsoc, maybe this is something we could do here too. I would like to establish friendships with other societies, such as the Irish, Chinese and Polish societies and advertise through them. I’d also like to deepen our friendships with other faiths by advertising events through the interfaith, jsoc and Muslim societies when events may interest these groups.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Who is my religious neighbour?

Living as a religious believer in our era and context is immensely complex and challenging. While seeking to understand our own faith and live faithfully as disciples of our own faith, we are also challenged by outside influences - secular denial and even ridicule is one such challenge. Another is engaging with people of other faiths. How do I justify what I believe when that belief encounters the equally sincere belief and practice of people of other faiths?

Often the response is ignorance - we just do not know enough about other faiths, often because they are beyond our experience. As part of our formation in faith at the Chaplaincy, we have an occasional series called "Who is my religious neighbour?" It takes the form of visiting the place of worship of another faith, and allowing them to tell us about themselves, in their own context.

Earlier this month a small group accompanied Sr Mary to the Regent's Park Mosque, where they had a very frank encounter and were shown around the mosque and introduced to some of the key elements of Islam.

The next such visit will be to a Jewish synagogue. Relations between Jews and Christians have been fraught with difficulties down the centuries, and tension obviously still exists. But the great document of the Second Vatican Council, Nostra Aetate, tried to instill in Christians a new way of encounter with people of other faiths. Nostra Aetate reminded us that God's first covenant, with the Jewish people, has never been rescinded. Amazingly, Pope John Paul II was the first Pope since St Peter to visit a synagogue! He described the Jewish people as "our older brothers" in faith, and described followers of both faiths as "brothers in Abraham".

Sr Mary will be leading the visit to The Liberal Jewish Synagogue in St John's Wood on Wednesday 28 February, at 2.15pm. If you are interested in joining Sr Mary on this visit, please contact her at

Sunday, February 04, 2007

A Thought for the week from Cardinal Newman

Everyone who breathes, high and low, educated and ignorant, young and old, man and woman, has a mission, has a work. We are not sent into this world for nothing; we are not born at random; we are not here, that we may go to bed at night, and get up in the morning, toil for our bread, eat and drink, laugh and joke, sin when we have a mind, and reform when we are tired of sinning, rear a family and die. God sees every one of us; He creates every soul, . . . for a purpose. He needs, He deigns to need, every one of us. He has an end for each of us; we are all equal in His sight, and we are placed in our different ranks and stations, not to get what we can out of them for ourselves, but to labour in them for Him. As Christ has His work, we too have ours; as He rejoiced to do His work, we must rejoice in ours also.

Sermon: "God's Will the End of Life," from Discourses Addressed to Mixed Congregations, 1849,

Bridges, not walls - Baroness Cox at Newman House

We were honoured to welcome Baroness Caroline Cox today at Newman House as our Sunday Lunch speaker, who spoke to us about 'Reconciliation through Realism' with Islam. Lady Cox, a member of the House of Lords, was described by Fr. Peter as a heroine of our time, and few who heard her speak today could disagree with that.
She initially spoke about the work of the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (, of which she is the Chief Executive, describing in terms of her own experiences the dangers and daily problems and tragedies faced by Christians in certain countries in Africa, and of how so many of our fellow Christians are persecuted simply for their refusal to convert to Islam. Lady Cox has travelled to many countries, often crossing borders illegally, and has witnessed first-hand the suffering of so many people. Her testimony is both shocking and moving, and the situations she described are a far cry from the comfort of student life in London.
Following this, Lady Cox introduced the subject of the risk posed by militant Islam to the world, touching on such issues as the enforced culturalisation of regions such as southern Sudan, the incompatibility of Sharia law with the ideals of human rights and liberties, and the tactics employed by Islamists in their attempts to create a 'new cultural hegemony' using education, politics and legislation.
Many questions followed, during which a range of issues were discussed, including the 'guilt trips' felt by the Western world with regard to Christianity and the misuse of Western foreign policy decisions by militant Islam, deliberately misconstruing them as anti-Islamic Christian offensives.
The talk was without doubt an eye-opener for all those who heard it, and Lady Cox kindly donated some of her books on this subject to the Newman House library - for those who missed the talk, or who would like to know more. She also encourages anyone who is interested to get in touch with her -her email address is
Many thanks indeed on behalf of everyone at the Chaplaincy to Lady Cox, and also to Denis Criado for organising the talk.