Saturday, March 31, 2007

Thought for Holy Week from Cardinal Newman

Icon by Br R. Lentz ofm

[An] important truth is in various ways brought before our minds at the season sacred to the memory of Christ's betrayal and death. The contrast displayed in the Gospels between His behaviour on the one hand, as the time of His crucifixion drew near, and that both of His disciples and of the Jewish populace on the other, is full of instruction, if we will receive it; He steadily fixing His face to endure those sufferings which were the atonement for our sins, yet without aught of mental excitement or agitation; His disciples and the Jewish multitude first protesting their devotion to Him in vehement language, then, the one deserting Him, the other even clamouring for His crucifixion. He entered Jerusalem in triumph; the multitude cutting down branches of palm-trees, and strewing them in the way, as in honour of a king and conqueror . He had lately raised Lazarus from the dead; and so great a miracle had given Him great temporary favour with the populace. Multitudes flocked to Bethany to see Him and Lazarus; and when He set out for Jerusalem where He was to suffer, they, little thinking that they would soon cry "Crucify Him," went out to meet Him with the palm-branches, and hailing Him as their Messiah, led Him on into the holy city. Here was an instance of a popular excitement. The next instance of excited feeling is found in that melancholy self-confidence of St. Peter... When our Saviour foretold Peter's trial and fall, Peter at length "spake the more vehemently, If I should die with Thee, I will not deny Thee in any wise." Yet in a little while both the people and the Apostle abandoned their Messiah; the ardour of their devotion had run its course.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord

Sunday 1 April
Solemn Commemoration of the Lord's Entrance to Jerusalem, Procession and Mass of the Passion

We have the privilege this year of having Bishop Alan Hopes to preside at our Palm Sunday celebrations. Like Bishop Bernard, Bishop Alan is a great friend of the Chaplaincy and tries to visit us at least once a year.

Here he is after the Freshers' Mass in 2005, with the then Presidents of the UCL, LSE and KCL Cathsocs (Tracey Barret, Arthur Krebbers and Joe Matlak).

Our Palm Sunday Celebrations begin out on Gower Street, opposite the Waterstone's bookshop. Every year we have some bewildered looks from people travelling by to do their shopping in Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street. We also have the annual wave of greeting from a minibus full of people, with The Jesus Army sprayed across its sides. What are we up to, people may well wonder.

The first part of the Mass is a commemoration of the Lord's Entrance into Jerusalem. It's not a commemoration like a nativity play is a commemoration of the Lord's birth. Rather, we ourselves welcome the Lord into our own vicinity, our own city. By our public witness, we are proclaiming Christ to be present even on Gower Street! The great Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner described mission thus: "The mission of the Church is not to carry Christ to the world as if he were absent from it. The mission of the Church is to help the world recognise Christ, who is already present".

The palms that we bless are carried triumphantly. They are little sacramentals, blessed objects, which we should then keep reverently. It is a good custom to place them behind the crucifix each one of us should have in our rooms. Next year, they are returned and burnt, to make the ash for Ash Wednesday. Triumph and tragedy, acclamation and betrayal are so often close companions.

After the joyful procession, the Mass takes on a more sombre tone as our minds are turned to the Passion of the Lord. The Passion is solemnly proclaimed, of course, on Good Friday, from the Gospel of John. But it is an event so immense, intense and profound that we hear it twice. On Passion Sunday it is proclaimed from the Gospel we are following for the year - this year it is the Gospel of Luke (Year C). The method of proclaiming the Passion varies, from a solemn chant to exquisite singing (some famous composers have set the Passion to sublime music) to a simple Proclamation in the usual way. At Newman House we follow the common Catholic custom of a narrative proclamation, with various people reading parts, and the whole congregation reading the parts of the crowd. It's a reminder of the theological point that we all in some way accuse Jesus and reject him, through our sinfulness. The sombre tone is emphasised when we reach the moment of Jesus's death, when we pause to kneel in silence.

Following a short homily, Mass continues in the usual way.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


A few years ago one of our resident wags commented, when he saw the image of our Lady veiled for Passiontide, "Ooh, she looks like our Lady of Afghanistan now!"

Veiling images for Passiontide is part of our liturgical history and tradition. Passiontide is what the two weeks before Easter Sunday is called. It seems that it is in fact an older season than Lent itself. It is divided into the week after Lent V, known as Passion Week, and the week after Palm Sunday, known as Holy Week.
In former days, today, the Fifth Sunday of Lent, used to be called "Passion Sunday" because it began the season of Passiontide. In fact, that was just shorthand for "Passion Sunday I", the following Sunday being "Passion Sunday II". But Passion Sunday II was also better known as "Palm Sunday", for obvious reasons. Historically, the much earlier usage of the name "Passion Sunday" belonged to Palm Sunday, not to Lent V. This is because on Palm Sunday, after the joyful Procession commemorating the Lord's triumphant entry to Jerusalem, the mood of the Liturgy shifts and the Mass becomes the Mass of the Passion, with the solemn reading of the Passion narrative as the Gospel. This shift was also marked in the old rite by the priest changing vestments, from red for the procession, to purple for the Mass (this no longer happens).

When the Liturgy and Liturgical Calendar were reformed after the Second Vatican Council, this more ancient usage of the name "Passion Sunday" was restored. Except, people knew what Palm Sunday was, and were not about to start calling it Passion Sunday! An attempt at compromise was used by some liturgists and parishes in calling it "Passion/Palm Sunday", which was inelegant in the extreme. What we now have is the much better description of it as Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion - though we still tend to call it simply Palm Sunday!

The veiling of images probably has a simple origin, based on cultural customs, with a theological meaning later added. One such is that it comes from the former Gospel reading for Lent V (the old Passion Sunday), John 8:46-59. The last verse reads:

So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.
This hiding of himself was represented by the veiling of images of Jesus, later extended to all images in the church.

There are other reasons given by some in an attempt to provide a more theological explanation. Some authors suggest that it is a sign of Christ's divinity being hidden at the time of his Passion. Or that we should make a concerted mental effort in contemplating the Lord's Passion at this time, and not have images to focus on. On Good Friday, one option for the Veneration of the Cross is for it to be uncovered in stages while the refrain is sung: This is the Wood of the Cross on which hung the Saviour of the World. Come, Let us worship! (At Newman House we use the other option, which is to process the Cross through the Church, so it is not ritually uncovered).

So that is why we now have "our Lady of Afghanistan" in our Chapel!

Thought for the week from Cardinal Newman

We are now approaching that most sacred day when we commemorate Christ's passion and death. Let us try to fix our minds upon this great thought. Let us try, what is so very difficult, to put off other thoughts, to clear our minds of things transitory, temporal, and earthly, and to occupy them with the contemplation of the Eternal Priest and His one ever-enduring Sacrifice;—that Sacrifice which, though completed once for all on Calvary, yet ever abideth, and, in its power and its grace, is ever present among us, and is at all times gratefully and awfully to be commemorated, but now especially, when the time of year is come at which it was made. Let us look upon Him who was lifted up that He might draw us to Him; and, by being drawn one and all to Him, let us be drawn to each other, so that we may understand and feel that He has redeemed us one and all, and that, unless we love one another, we cannot really have love to Him who laid down His life for us.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Holy Week & Easter

The term may be over, but the community at Newman House keeps pressing on through to Easter. We celebrate the whole of the Sacred Triduum fulsomely and in all its richness, and it is always a wonderful time. The Celebrations of Holy Week this year:

Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion: Mass at 10.30am, Celebrated by Bishop Alan Hopes.

Holy Thursday: Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper at 7.30pm, followed by the Watching of the Blessed Sacrament until Midnight.

Good Friday: Celebration of the Lord's Passion at 3pm.

Holy Saturday: The Easter Vigil of the Lord's Resurrection 8pm

Easter Sunday: Mass of the Lord's Resurrection 10.30am

Here are a few snaps of Palm Sunday and the Easter Vigil from the last couple of years.

Bishop Bernard Longley visits Bloomsbury & Westminster

As part of his round of visits to various institutions around the Diocese, Bishop Bernard Longley this week arrived at SOAS, the Institute of Education, and the University of Westminster, where he met with students and staff and celebrated the Mass.

The chaplains are always very grateful that Bishop Bernard is always so willing to come and visit, and for the generous support that he gives the work of the Chaplaincy. A few snapshots of this week’s visits follow:

Fr Joe talking to Professor Gerald Grace, the Head of the Centre for Research and Development in Catholic Education (CRDCE) at the Institute of Education.

(SOAS, ISA, Birkbeck, the Institute of Education and the many specialised institutions in the vicinity group together under the banner ‘Bloomsbury Catholics’, and the Chaplains to these institutions are the formidable team of Fr Joe Evans and Sr Catherine Cruz.)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Brick Lane to Gower Street - an exchange visit

We were delighted to welcome children from Christ Church School who are taught by students from the Chaplaincy in our Brick Lane Tutoring Scheme every Wednesday afternoon. The Scheme runs every week throughout the term, and the faithful band of tutors makes their way across London to help the children with basic skills. As an end-of-term treat, the children visited Newman House, and were later taken on a tour of UCL. Some snapshots:

The Tutoring Scheme is a great success, and our thanks go to all the tutors for their enthusiasm and dedication. Special thanks must go to Carl Fernandes who has led the team with his customary aplomb, and to Prof John Hirsch for his boundless enthusiasm for the project.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Statements from our Cardinal for reflection by all

Our bishop, Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, today released statements on three important topical issues. He has commended these to the reflection of all Catholics in our Archdiocese of Westminster

1. On the Holy Father's recent Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist

Comment from Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor on Sacramentum

Returning to London this weekend from retreat, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Archbishop of Westminster welcomed the publication of the Post Synodal Exhortation, Sacramentum Caritatis. The Cardinal, who was a member of the Post-Synodal Commission and was therefore closely involved at the drafting stage of Sacramentum Caritatis, said

“I am full of admiration for the subtle way in which Pope Benedict has woven throughout Sacramentum Caritatis an appreciation of the Synod reflections with the themes he considered in Deus Caritas Est. Like me, I am sure that the Bishops who attended the Synod will find echoes of our discussions throughout the whole document. Referring in every part of the exhortation to the propositions of the Synod the Pope links together in a beautiful way his own reflections on the traditional teaching of the Church on the Holy Eucharist.

Pope Benedict recognises the human thirst for God even if this seems so often to be eclipsed by modern life. He writes “The Lord Jesus speaks to our thirsting pilgrim hearts, our hearts thirsting for the source of life”.(SC 2). In the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist Jesus reveals the love which is the very essence of God. This is the reason why the Church finds in the Eucharist the very centre of her life.

I know that my fellow bishops in England and Wales will use Sacramentum Caritatis in helping their priests and people to deepen their love of the Holy Eucharist. I have already asked in the Diocese of Westminster, that the Holy Eucharist form one of the key priorities in these next few years. As Pope Benedict says, “What the world needs is God’s love, it needs to encounter Christ and to believe in Him. The Eucharist is thus the source and summit not only of the Church’s life but also of her Mission….truly nothing is more beautiful than to know Christ and to make him known to others.”(SC 84).

I commend Sacramentum Caritatis to everyone and ask them to understand how “this most Holy Mystery needs to be firmly believed, devoutly celebrated and intensely lived in the Church” (SC 94).

Sacramentum Caritatis will be published shortly by the Catholic Truth Society.
The full text is available at
An introduction is available at

2. On the impending legislation regarding gay couples and adoption


Noting the fact that the Sexual Orientation Regulations are being voted on in the House of Commons today (Monday 19th March, 2007), I again express our concern at their impact, not only on adoption services, but on cooperation between faith based voluntary agencies and public authorities in public funded services.

It is, surely, an abuse of Parliamentary democracy that these Regulations are being considered by Parliament only through a hurriedly arranged and very brief meeting of 16 appointed MPs, and a short debate in the House of Lords. During the House of Commons Committee meeting opportunity for serious debate was denied.

Profound public concern about aspects of these Regulations has not been heard. The debate on Wednesday in the House of Lords, although important in itself, will hardly compensate for the lack of a full debate in the House of Commons.

Our society’s understanding of the pattern of family life and of the role of conscience and religious belief in public life remains a very important part of the political agenda.


3. On the anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade

Comment from Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Archbishop of Westminster re Anniversary of Slave Trade Act.

Next Tuesday, 27th March I shall be joining with fellow Christians and people of other faiths in the National Commemoration in Westminster Abbey of the 200th anniversary of the passage of the Slave Trade Act. This Act outlawed the slave trade throughout the British Empire and made it illegal for British ships to be involved in the trade, marking the beginning of the end for the transatlantic traffic in human beings. This is a deeply humbling occasion when we recall the great suffering of the many millions of people who were enslaved and forcibly taken from their homes in Africa. I am conscious that the consequences of slavery have affected many people in my Diocese and that in our parishes there are many descendents of former slaves. I want to assure them of my thoughts and prayer on the occasion of this poignant anniversary. I also ask everyone to reflect on the determination of many Christians in the 19th Century to outlaw the evil of slavery.

I am also conscious that although today slavery is illegal in every country of the world, as Christians we need to be aware of the assaults on human dignity through contemporary forms of slavery. These include those forced into bonded labour, the exploitation of child labour and, evident in our own city, the evils of people trafficking.

I commend to the parishes of the Diocese an Intercession which should be included in the Celebration of Mass this weekend:

“As we recall the anniversary of the passage of the Slave Trade Act, we remember those who died and whose freedom was extinguished by slavery. In the words of William Wilberforce: We pray to Thee for all the dark corners of the earth, for all who are suffering under the evils of slavery, or from injustice or cruelty of any kind….Lord in Your Mercy….”

Sunday Lunches - some snapshots

Sunday lunches at Newman House have gone from strength to strength this year, under the very able guidance of Tina Paciorek and Ellen Dougherty. They are a good opportunity for students to meet and chat, and also to listen to some interesting speakers. We reserve some Sundays for people just to meet and enjoy each others' company, while on most Sundays there is a guest speaker who gives a talk about something we might not ordinarily get a chance to hear about.

Tina and Ellen, our star co-ordinators, top, and a team (hard?) at work in the kitchen in the bottom photograph!!!!

Well, yes, it does take a lot of hard work - and then it's service with a smile!

We are a marvellously diverse and international community, and our Sunday lunches provide an opportunity to share culinary traditions from around the world. Recent lunches have included Asian (noodles etc); Caribbean (jerk chicken); Indian (curry); Italian (pasta and tiramisu); American (burgers and chips); and not to forget the incredible Scottish (haggis with bashed neeps and tatties) this last Sunday!

Some of our recent speakers: Baroness Cox, top, and Sr Cathy Jones (who also happens to be a former resident!)