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)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A little red flower

Newman House is very much an international community, and it hadn’t occurred to me before that the wearing of poppies is very much a British thing; thus, those of us wearing poppies have attracted a few quizzical glances. It began as a mark of respect for the war dead in the UK in 1921, inspired by a famous 1915 poem written by Canadian medic John McCrae. He had noticed that amidst the carnage in the fields of Flanders in Belgium, only poppies still grew. Their blood-red petals set against the churned mud stand today as a vivid metaphor for the massive loss of life, and the sale of millions of these paper flowers serves to help ex-servicemen & women, those serving today, and their families. Lt Col McCrae is himself among those that we remember: he died in a field hospital in the final year of the war.

Official Remembrance events are usually presided over by the Church of England, but we Catholics also have distinctive ways to mark their sacrifice- all year round. At Holy Thursday services, the priest washes the feet of the congregation, recalling that Christ lowered himself to wash the feet of the disciples at the Last Supper. The concept of Christ’s servanthood is part of the wider theme of sacrifice; indeed, sacrifice in a world that often forgets to be thankful. It was entirely appropriate then that in Westminster Cathedral this year, Archbishop Nichols washed the feet of a group of Chelsea pensioners.

Picture credit: © Mazur/

So you might wish to pause for a few moments at 11am tomorrow, the 93rd anniversary of Armistice Day, and say a small prayer for those serving in uniform around the world today and those who have fallen in conflict, including some 42 British servicemen & women who have died on active duty since last Armistice Day.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

"the Eucharist is like a beating heart giving life to the mystical Body of the Church”

The above image may be familiar to many of you: the Holy Father holding aloft the Blessed Sacrament during the Hyde Park Prayer Vigil last year. I was among the pilgrims present that evening, and no sound has ever stunned me quite like the total and utter silence of all those many tens of thousands of people, shoulder to shoulder at the end of a beautiful day in the heart of one of the busiest cities in the world.

Pope Benedict’s predecessor taught that through adoration, “the Christian mysteriously contributes to the radical transformation of the world and to the sowing of the Gospel. Anyone who prays to the Saviour draws the whole world with him and raises it to God. Those who stand before the Lord are therefore fulfilling an eminent service. They are presenting to Christ all those who do not know him or are far from him; they keep watch in his presence on their behalf.” (Blessed John Paul II, 1996)

We are fortunate at Newman House to have the Blessed Sacrament permanently reserved, but even more fortunate to have adoration every Tuesday evening. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s worth mentioning again.

The Sacrament is exposed from 6pm until 9pm, and while individuals can of course come and go as they see fit, residents and non-residents alike are invited to commit to specific time slots, so that constant prayer before the host is maintained. The three hours include evening prayer, the rosary, the reading of the Gospel and benediction; there is also talk of including different forms of prayer and worship, as well as of a longer period of adoration, stretching through the night.

There is a sign-up sheet on the notice board near Chris’s office, which can also be found outside of the chapel on a Sunday morning; alternatively, if you’d like to talk to Paula Muldoon who organises adoration here to discuss signing up, prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, new ideas or maybe trying adoration for the first time, contact her at:

(NB: For this week only, due to masses for All Saints’ Day, adoration will last from 1830 to 2045, beginning with evening prayer but without the rosary, Gospel readings and benediction. Go sign up now!)

Title quote: Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus, 26th June 2011
Picture credit: Mazur /
Blessed John Paul quote: “Letter” (26th June 1996), quoted Adoratio 2011 ( )

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Now, November

As millions of paper poppies once more begin appearing on our streets, we this week mark All Souls' Day, and throughout the month of November we will pray for those we have known and loved who have gone before us. On Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday, we will pause to acknowledge the sacrifice of those who have fallen in the service of their countrymen and in defence of freedom. We pray also for those who get caught in the crossfire of war and conflict, and ultimately we pray for peace in our world. These commemorations, held in ever shorter and colder days, could easily leave us feeling sombre, but our prayers for the faithful departed should be made not with a sense of loss, but with a sense of hope.

"Each one of us cherishes the memory of someone… who has helped us to grow in the faith and has made us feel the goodness and closeness of God… Let us remember that… in the tombs, only the mortal remains of our loved ones rest, while awaiting the final resurrection. Their souls -- as Scripture says -- already 'are in the hand of God.' Hence, the most appropriate and effective way to honour them is to pray for them, offering acts of faith, hope and charity." (Pope Benedict XVI, 2009)

This coming week at Newman House:
Sunday 30th October
     1800- Identity and Love: How can my self-esteem grow? (part 2)
     2030- All Hallows' Eve Party (fancy dress!)
Monday 31st October
     1800- UCL CathSoc: Catholic Ghost Walk
Tuesday 1st November
     1230, 1730, 2100: Masses All Saints’ Day (Holy Day of Obligation)
     1800-2030: Adoration (TBC)
Wednesday 2nd November
     1230, 1730: Masses for All Souls’ Day (Commemoration of the Faithful Departed)
     1300: Mass @London Met, City Campus
Thursday 3rd November
     2000- Shema: Exploring God's Word- Listening to Our Hearts

Coming soon: images and reflections from the student pilgrimage to Aylesford Priory!

Picture credit: hazelsheard, "milan cathedral candles 1" (

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Newman House Houses, and the week to come

Last Sunday evening, a motley crew of us met (with varying understandings of the meeting time- mea culpa) to go for our first house meal, and had a grand old time in Zizzis. The House system at Newman is a great way of mixing people in new ways, and throughout the course of the year, there are meals, socials and sports days organised along those lines. So residents, if you haven’t already, find out which house you are in, and let’s see if we can’t get a little inter-house rivalry going!

Bourne House
Named for Francis, Cardinal Bourne; 4th Archbishop of Westminster 1903-35
Head of House: Magdalene Wong

 Heenan House
Named for John Carmel, Cardinal Heenan; 8th Archbishop of Westminster 1963-75
Head of House: Ellen Kitetere

Manning House
Named for Henry Edward, Cardinal Manning; 2nd Archbishop of Westminster 1865-92
Head of House: John Wye

Wiseman House
Named for Nicholas, Cardinal Wiseman; 1st Archbishop of Westminster 1850-65
Head of House: Louisa Lim

This coming week at Newman House:

Sunday 23
rd October
     1400-1700- Newman House Sports Day
     1800- Identity and Love: How can my self-esteem grow? (part 1)
Monday 24th October
     1900- UCL CathSoc: ‘Stuff of the Saints’
Tuesday 25th October
     1800-2100- Adoration
     2000-2200- Identity and Love Sharing and Reflection Group
Wednesday 26th October
     1930- OASIS
Thursday 27th October
     1730- @SOAS: Faith and Doubts- Why do you believe in God or not?
     2000- Shema: Exploring God's Word- Reaching Out
Saturday 29th October
     South Eastern Region Student Pilgrimage to Aylesford, with Most Rev Vincent Nichols

Picture credits:
Bourne: Idle Speculations, “The Cardinal, the Prime Minister and the Catholic Relief Act 1926”, 18th April 2009 (
Heenan: Solomon, I Have Surpassed Thee: A Blog from Westminster Cathedral, “Cardinal Heenan” 20th December 2007 (
Manning: Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman, “Cardinal Manning—1870”, (
Wiseman: Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman, “Cardinal Wiseman—1861”, (

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Moving swiftly on

Last Sunday with the Papal Nuncio (to Great Britain of course, 10 points to those who spotted my previous mistake) was great fun. Everyone was very excited beforehand, with Fr Peter swooshing (three cheers for the return of that word) around with great authority in his cassock- prior to announcing that His Excellency was stuck in horrendous traffic due to a large protest, and so mass went ahead without him. The music was especially fine, with three of Blessed John Henry's own hymns, and when the Nuncio arrived just before the final blessing, he was greeted by Elgar's Ecce Sacerdos Magnus, before delivering a stirring homily.

 After mass, he blessed the new Littlemore cafeteria, named of course for the place of Blessed John Henry's conversion...

...before cutting an aptly (and courageously) decorated cake...

...and then consorting with some Newman House ruffians!

It was a grand day, and one which will no doubt stay with us. Fr Peter observed shortly before mass that he was standing in for the Nuncio, who stands in for the Pope: we might now have to bow a little as we pass him in the corridors!

(Thanks to Adam Paciorek for the photos)

Last night (Friday), the bar downstairs had its offical reopening, so do remember to head down there.

This coming week at Newman House:

Sunday 16th October
     1330- Called by Name: A Culture of Vocations (Introductory session)
     1800- Identity and Love: Discovering our hidden treasure
Monday 17th October
     1900- UCL CathSoc: World Youth Alliance
Tuesday 18th October
     2000-2200- Identity and Love Sharing and Reflection Group
Wednesday 19th October
     1300- @London Met. North Campus Mass
     1930- NewLaw: Katie Fudakowski- My First Year at the Bar
     1930- OASIS
Thursday 20th October
     1730- @SOAS: Why and How is Christianity booming in China?
     2000- Shema: Exploring God's Word- Loved in my strengths and weaknesses

Two last things to bear in mind:
  • Paula Muldoon is coordinator for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on Tuesday evenings; all are of course welcome for as little or as much time as they please, but she is rightly keen to ensure that there are constantly people there, so contact her if you would like to sign up for a time slot.
  • Contact Sr Mary if you would like to find out about volunteering at St Patrick's Church, Soho, where there is a drop-in centre for the homeless 1730-2100 Thursday evenings.
See you all in the morning, bright and early for mass!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pilgrimage to Aylesford

Saturday 29th October

A wonderful way to start off the academic year, meeting and praying with students at universities in the south of England!
Rosary Procession in the Rosary Walk of the Shrine

12 noon
Mass with Archbishop Vincent Nichols

Picnic Lunch (bring your own picnic)

Fr Christopher Jamison OSB 
reflections on Vocation

Adoration and Benediction

Travel to and from Central London, only £10
Bring a Picnic Lunch

Book your place at Newman House Reception (

Saturday, October 08, 2011

A new year begun

The new academic year has well and truly begun here at Newman House, and everyone is now settled in and working hard. The experience has been odd for those of us new to the house, as we've already had to say goodbye to some of last year's stragglers, including Chris, the great thespian, and Tamara, whose sendoff party in the garden was great fun. A large group of us sought out Ronnie Scott's jazz club a few nights ago, and the live band was fantastic. It was suggested that we might properly organise another outing, and dress up to the nines- take the whole enterprise that much more seriously!

While the builders continue their mysterious but admirable work upstairs, the cafeteria area is constantly abuzz at really any time, and will itself be blessed by the Papal Nuncio after the Freshers' Mass. Talking of which (and in all honesty, getting to the point):

His Excellency Archbishop Antonio Mennini, Papal Nuncio to the United Kingdom, will be joining us for the Freshers' Mass here at Newman House at 10:30am tomorrow- all are most welcome!

If anyone would like to include anything on here, be it news, announcements or general insights, do let me know. I'm Daniel, one of the Parliamentary Interns, and if the red hair doesn't give me away, Chris Castell will.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Treasures of Heaven: British Musem

Archbishop Vincent Nichols explains the significance of some of the artefacts on display at the British Museum's Treasures of Heaven exhibition.

Treasures of Heaven at the British Museum from Catholic Westminster on Vimeo.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Thanks from the Ordinariate

The Ordinariate group have kindly sent this message to us, via their weekly newsletter:

A Thank You:  A very big thank you on all our behalves, to Fr Peter Wilson, Fr John and Fr Mark for all their hard work to make our Receptions and Holy Week the wonderful and Sacred time that it was.  It’s clear that they, supported by the Students, who are extremely impressive Christians, worked so hard to make us welcome, part of the family, and to make Holy Week a truly, holy week.  Thank you Fathers, and thank you Students of the Chaplaincy. 
Thank you for a lovely message!

Not only did we receive the sentiments above, but the Ordinariate group presented Newman House with a beautiful framed copy of the famous portrait of Bl. John Henry Newman, by Millais. Thank you dear friends!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham: Receptions into Full Communion

15 members of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham were received into Full Communion with the Catholic Church at Newman House, Gower Street, in the Archdiocese of Westminster on Wednesday of Holy Week.

The group included former Anglican priests Mark Elliott-Smith, Peter Andrews and  Alan Griffin, who are preparing for ordination to the Diaconate on the 6th May, and to the Priesthood on 10th June this year.

The Principal Celebrant was Fr Peter Wilson, Senior Chaplain to the London Universities in the Diocese.
“It has been an immense privilege and joy for all of us at the Chaplaincy to be invited to accompany this group on their journey into full communion with the Catholic Church.”

Monday, April 18, 2011

Holy Week 2011

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Monday & Tuesday
Mass 5.30pm

Mass with Reception of Members of the 
Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham

Holy Thursday
Mass of the Lord's Supper 7.30pm

Good Friday
Celebration of the Lord's Passion 3pm

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

Easter Sunday Morning
Mass of the Resurrection 10.30am ONLY

Read our guide to the celebrations of Holy Week here.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Newsletter Issue 6 - Holy Week

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Saturday, April 09, 2011

Raising Lazarus

The Lord does not go to Lazarus immediately after his death. He is making a point: Lazarus is left long enough in the tomb so that when Jesus acts in this extraordinary way, it will be all the more powerful. No-one will be able to say ‘Very clever, but he wasn’t really dead.’ Jesus satisfies the Rabbinical authorities, fulfilling what the law demanded - but transforms its meaning.

We have an incidence of what scholars call an ‘I am’ sayings in this Gospel. ‘I am the resurrection and the life.’ Again, this is an extraordinary claim. Even in first century Judaism it was fairly commonplace for people to talk of the resurrection of the dead (with the well-known exception of the Sadducees), but for Jesus to identify his own person, his own being, with this concept is startling.

We might expect Jesus to lay his hands upon Lazarus, anoint him, maybe. He does nothing of the sort. Last week we saw how he took the earth (adama) and applies it to the man’s eyes in order to ‘complete’ the creation of the man born blind. Today we are looking to the creation narrative once again. God said ‘let there be…’, and so there was. Jesus said ‘Lazarus, here! Come out.’ Jesus himself is enough to raise Lazarus from the dead, because he is the very Word spoken by the Father.

Jesus acts in extraordinary ways, with extraordinary deeds: in doing so, he raises our expectation of what is ‘ordinary’. It is a matter of course for us to say during the Creed ‘We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.’ This is not just a metaphor for heaven. It is something more complete, more challenging, more transforming than simply ‘going to another place.’

The raising of Lazarus takes place before the glorification of Jesus. To the eyes of those observing this event, it is Lazarus, as he was, who is raised. To the eyes of those who see from our side of the Paschal Mystery, it tells of a different hope: the body will be transformed. This is the promise of Baptism, because we are washed in the living water that flows from the side of the risen Christ.

And so onwards, towards Jerusalem.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Papal Audience

Bishop Alan Hopes, Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster, and Mgr Keith Newton, Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham were received in a private audience by Pope Benedict XVI this morning.

They were accompanied by H.E. William Cardinal Levada, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Newsletter Issue 5

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Second Sunday of Lent: The Transfiguration of the Lord

When Jesus was baptised by John the Spirit descended upon him and we hear the words: ‘this is my Son, the Beloved, my favour rests on him.’ On that day the heavens opened, and the Spirit descended upon him like a dove.

Today he gathers Peter, James and John with him. As far as they understand, they are going off to be alone with him, for some peace, for some prayer. They got more than they were expecting!

What would my reaction have been if I were on the mountain with Jesus? How would I respond when ‘he was transfigured; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as the light’? I would probably respond with a mixture of awe, fear and confusion,

The presence of Moses and Elijah is wonderful, however, and Peter wants to capture it: ‘I will make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah’. Peter has missed the point—this is not a moment to linger. Symbolising the whole of the Law and the Prophets, their appearance underlines the importance of this event, that Jesus is central to God’s plan for creation, everything leads to him, and what he must do cannot be delayed for long.

The disciples are given a glimpse of who Jesus really is: the power of God shining forth in his very body, a foretaste of the power that will raise him from the dead. His nature is being revealed in a way that is striking and sublime.

We have in many ways forgotten how to speak about ‘nature’, about ‘being’. We have to some extent replaced it with talk of something being ‘in my genes’. To be technical for a moment, we tend to replace metaphysics with biology, among other things—partly because we can analyse them, and even control them. The Transfiguration reminds us to look more deeply.

It is not Jesus’ genes that are revealed to Peter, James and John; nor merely his thoughts laid before them. His very essence, he is the Son of God, Light-from-Light: they are given a glimpse of eternity.

This tells us something about how God works: his action in the nature of things, creating, sustaining, renewing . He has raised Christ from the dead, and so we do not fall on our faces, overcome with fear: we know what the power of God can do and if we trust him, fix our gaze on the risen Christ and leave behind all the things that keep us from him, we will be transfigured and free—and Christ will be known. There will be no need for anyone to start building tents.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Reply to "A Well Meant Lent": Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust

Penny Phillips-Devaney, Director of Newman House, offers a reflection on Lent in response to Andrew Duncan's post.

What will I give up for Lent this year?  Is Lent just about giving things up?  And if I give up something, is it just as a test or a trial?  Or is there a deeper purpose to the fasting, abstaining and almsgiving we are recommended to practice during the six weeks? 

This year, I have found more than ever that Ash Wednesday has set the tone for Lent:  “Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return.” 

I am much nearer, in all probability, to the time when I shall return unto dust than Andrew, or indeed most people who are reading this!  But for everyone, Ash Wednesday can be a profound moment when we stop and remember that all our materialistic striving, ambition, drive towards pleasure and achievement, will one day come to an end, and not by our own choice.  And then what?

How do we prepare for that eventuality?  What does it mean in terms of how I see my life now while it still seems to stretch far out in front of me?  Is God waiting for me at the end or with me now?  Am I here, alive to the call of the present, or stuck in some time or setting of my own imagining?  Am I walking with God this moment, every moment, aware of the reality that is death and the gift that is life?

Lent ends, as Andrew so rightly says, in victory – the victory of the Resurrection (and also in Easter eggs!).  But before the glory of Easter Sunday - and unfeasible amounts of chocolate - there is the Cross.

This Lent has started with the terrible disaster in Japan, our televisions and newspapers filled with pictures of human suffering on a horrific scale.  We cannot escape it, the fact of death and loss, the lack of human control over natural events all too painfully evident. 

In Lent, we set ourselves personal challenges in order to focus our minds, to re-direct our thoughts, to reflect and to prepare.  But on Ash Wednesday, we are not alone as we go to receive our ashes.  Lent can also remind us that this business of life and death is not purely personal.  We are all in it together. 

How do I acknowledge that truth in my faith, in my relationship to God and to others, in my everyday living?  What helps me to do this and what in me and outside me hinders my open-ness to God, my ability to love and be loved?  

Giving things up, taking on extra spiritual practices, these are traditional ways of observing the six weeks of Lent.  But the ashes we receive at its outset are a great and humble symbol that sets it all in perspective, giving us the opportunity to look at life differently and more deeply, and to emerge at the other end transformed. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Rationalism and mysticism in a world in crisis

We have been asked to advertise a talk called Rationalism and mysticism in a world in crisis, which will take place on Monday 4th April at 7 pm at St James's Church, Spanish Place.

The speakers are Dr Luis Casasus - Senior Lecturer in Mathematics at the Universidad Politecnica of Madrid. He is the Superior of the Idente Missionaries Catholic congregation.

Dr Luis Miguel Romero - ex-Chancellor and Lecturer in Biology at the University Popular de Loja in Ecuador; ex-president of the Inter-American Organization for Higher Education. Missionary of the Idente Congregation.

The website of this congregation can be found here.

A Well-Meant Lent

Andrew Duncan, Parliamentary Intern and Resident of Newman House, reflects on the Season of Lent.

I don’t know where the word Lent comes from, and sparing you time (and me a Wikipedia search) I’ll forego an exploration of etymological roots here.

When I was younger (and with a poorer grasp of English) and heard the word or sound “Lent” the following images were conjured up:
  • borrowing and lending
  • leaning or being propped up against something
  • or that fluff-stuff that accumulates in the tumble-dryer (I know, I know - lint).
And funnily enough, I reckon there are tenuous links for all three as I’ll tell you later.

It’s only as I write this that I’m reflecting on what Lent is for me in practice. Up to now I’ve treated it like a game, an endurance-test where I try and give up something for 6 weeks or so. I’ve attempted to give up puddings, tea, chocolate and swearing in the past. Tea was the worst – after just 12 hours I was being struck by cranial-crunching caffeine-withdrawal headaches, guiltily reaching for the kettle with one hand and the PG Tips caddy with the other.

Reaching Easter Sunday with my Lenten promise intact, was (in my head) like winning a proverbial egg-and-spoon race – with real chocolate Easter eggs waiting on the podium. I reckon my Lenten competitive career probably is on a par with the England football team’s successes in World Cups; lots of hype, lots of promise but only making it to the quarter-finals.

But is this what Lent is all about – just giving up something for one-ninth of the year?

Just today, after a group discussion with Fr James Hanvey SJ and other Parliamentary interns, I’ve come to appreciate Lent differently. And maybe I was correct when I was younger (see above).
  • It’s a gift. We are being “lent” borrowed time to use creatively, to re-order ourselves.
  • It’s a time to gain freedom from material and non-material things we don’t really need. No more “he leant upon caffeine/cigarettes/cursing to get him through the day” – instead, “he was free, and claiming back his independence”
  • It’s a time to purify. Just as the Newman House tumble-dryer humbly requests you clear the filter, we all operate best when clean.
Now I’m looking at early Spring differently. Lent is a time to get creative and use. It’s not a game about giving something up, but a chance to carefully look at what I’m doing. And do something clever, creative or contrasting. Maybe I could commit to quiet, focused reflection, or donation of time and money to those who need it. Perhaps kick that Facebook habit and really talk with your friends.

I’m not too sure where I’m going with Lent this year, but I know I’m on a journey and steering. Aren’t we all?

Monday, March 07, 2011

The Ordinariate of our Lady of Walsingham at Newman House

Down the years a number of students have described Newman House as akin to an Oasis for them: a place of respite from the often harsh realities of the spiritual desert in which they spend most of their time.

The Archbishop has asked us at Newman House to be a welcoming community for one of the Ordinariate groups which are forming in London. These groups are part of a mechanism the Holy Father has erected by which members of the Anglican Church can come into full communion with the Catholic Church while retaining some elements of their Anglican heritage – what is known as patrimony. This is a bold move by the Pope and a new approach to ecumenical relations. The Pope has indicated that those Christians who have a different religious and spiritual history from our own need not abandon that altogether, but can rejoice in it and be proud of it. As long as their traditions and beliefs are consonant with the Catholic Faith, they can find a home within the one body that is the Church. The Holy Father has judged that these particular Anglicans are one such group. A new venture is thus beginning in the Church’s long and venerable history.

I hope that the group who will be joining us will come to see Newman House as a bit of an oasis for them as they step into the wilderness. They will leave behind much: friends who do not wish to join the Catholic Church, their cherished and cared for church buildings, their familiar way of doing things. They can see the goal toward which they are travelling, but they still need to get there. As they spend this time between Ash Wednesday and Pentecost with us, we will try to make them as welcome as possible and assure them of our esteem and affection as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. We pray that they will find among us spiritual nourishment and refreshment for their journey ahead. No doubt they will have many questions for us – as will our own students for them! This will be mutually enriching.

We have a great spiritual patron in common: the Holy Father has placed the Ordinariate under the patronage of Blessed John Henry Newman. He too knew the pain of separation in the “parting of friends”, he was misunderstood and had to make his famous Apologia pro vita sua, (explanation for his life); he sought wisdom, truth and holiness. His great devotion to our Lady was under her title of Sedes Sapientiae, Seat of Wisdom, with which we are so familiar. The Ordinariate is dedicated to our Lady of Walsingham – whose shrine many of our students as well as our new brothers and sisters know well and love deeply. There is already far more we have in common than we might imagine!

How delighted we are to be able to share our little oasis with our new pilgrim companions. Welcome, brothers and sisters.

Fr Peter Wilson
Senior Chaplain

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Newsletter Issue 4

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Monday, February 28, 2011

Notre Dame Retreat

Last weekend, eleven intrepid London Centre students left the comforts of central London for a retreat adventure to the seaside, near Portsmouth. Typical of intrepid frontiersmen, two of the company nearly missed the bus, due to their fascination with the architectural wonders of Victoria Bus station or some such excuse. All however arrived safely at Portsmouth Harbour where, thanks to mobile technology, Fr. John managed to meet them at the Gosport Ferry. Boarding our ferry on this naval-themed weekend, we passed the cream of the British Navy past and present, before alighting at Gosport and getting to our retreat centre St John Bosco House, Alverstoke. Sister Ann welcomed us with tea and home made cakes, a foretaste of what was to come.

'Cooking up a storm' or 'cooking for victory'  would be an accurate motto for Sister Ann. Mountains of pasta with three sorts of sauce followed the soup, which was succeeded by mouthwatering home-made dessert, 'all of which is to be eaten!' as Sister Ann said. Only the first of our endless succession of meals, cooked breakfast, lunch and supper were to follow. One might wonder whether Jesus saying that 'those demons can only be driven out by prayer and fasting' had been mixed with that other saying of Jesus about not fasting while the Bridegroom was with them. Our retreat experience was a wonderful celebration of feeling at home in Sister Ann's wonderful home from home, sitting round the log fire, walking along the beach and talking into the wee small hours.

The theme of our retreat was 'Story,' and one of the highlights was Sister Ann's own story of her vocational journey, which involved being rescued by Bedouin in the desert after having turned over her car. She was at death's door for weeks in a Cairo hospital and made a miraculous recovery thanks to, by her account, a novena said by --- [I forget which students or friends]. Following this ordeal, and her decision to enter the convent, Sister Ann's father left her his house provided it wasn't sold, meaning it could become a centre for welcome and retreat for groups like ours.

Another highlight of the weekend was our visit to the flagship of the British navy, the HMS Victory, in which 200 years ago Admiral Lord Nelson defeated the combined French and Spanish fleets at the battle of Trafalgar, thus saving Britain from a Napoleonic invasion. To stand at the spot where Nelson was wounded and in the bowels of the ship where he died three hours later left another vivid impression of continuity of British history and tradition.

All in all a memorable weekend, where as we listened to one another, we recalled that text from the Gospel of Luke: 'Did not our hearts burn within us as He talked to us on the way.' As we listened to one another and reflected ourselves, we sometimes recognised the voice of the Master himself calling to us.

Fr John Dickson SDB

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Torch of St Benedict

London is to host the lighting of the Torch of St Benedict in March 2011 with ceremonies due to take place at Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral.

The Torch of St Benedict, a symbol of peace, hope and unity, is the main feature of an annual pilgrimage to the Shrine of St Benedict in Monte Cassino led by the Abbot and monks of Monte Cassino.

At Westminster Cathedral at 10:30 am on 3 March 2011, Mass will be celebrated by the Archbishop of Westminster, The Most Reverend Vincent Nichols. Present will be all the Abbots of Benedictine monasteries in the UK and a delegation of monks from the Abbey of Monte Cassino. 

More information is available at:

Source: RCDOW.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


Matthew Howson, President of NewLaw, which is a group for Catholic law students or people interested in a career in the law that meets once a month at 7.30pm in Newman House to discuss issues such as careers and legal ethics, reports on the speakers they have hosted so far this year.

When NewLaw speakers come, they come not single spies, but in battalions. This term, due mainly to the astonishing persuasive abilities of Fr John, the Newman House Law Society has had a veritable legion of high-powered speakers (and attendees) with more to come. And if we had to produce a theme, I think it would be, like the Prince of Denmark, a concern for the reality of power. These are lawyers who are aware that law does not always create justice; lovers of justice who long to see it achieved through the law.

Dr Peter Roebuck, former Provost of the University of Ulster, is an English Catholic who has lived and worked in Northern Ireland for thirty years, and as such has a unique, penetrative and clear-sighted view of the province. He graphically described the difficulty of removing sectarian emotions in even the young people growing up even after the Good Friday Agreement, including his own children: educated, liberal, born to an English father, yet who are still fighting the old wars.

Rt Rev Abbot Richard Yeo, Abbot President of the English Benedictines and former Abbot of Downside Abbey, argued strongly from his experience of the Cumberlidge Commission for a more full-hearted yet thought-out to the clerical church abuse scandal. By rooting out abuse we are doing more than appeasing the world: what we do for the least of these, we do for Christ. But it must be an approach that acts with purpose and swiftness, and not waste years of innocent priests' lives in suspension from their duties, as happens now.

Joe Glacken, Africa Director of the national charity Hope and Homes for Children, similarly emphasised the reality behind pious platitudes in a heartfelt but witty discussion. He described how charities compete for government funding with eye-catching short term proposals,and how a high-level charity worker worked with street children for many hours in silence because she assumed they could not speak English. If you wish to learn what would really, actually, help a local community, you should sit and listen.

And then our very own Ellie Kirby, long-time and beloved resident of Newman House. Ellie will shortly begin a training contract with an ultra-sharp corporate law firm. Yet she saw that the South African constitution she explored by day, despite being one of the most progressive and articulate pieces of legislation in the world, was vastly different from the reality she saw in her Cape Town evenings. Law may ban wife-beating, but if the police consider it normal and do it themselves, what is law? Law may try to support the abused, but if the abusers misuse legal processes to get round the law, what is law?

Next month we have Paul Ridge, a partner at Bindmans LLP, arguably the top Human Rights law firm in the UK, and also my Bible teacher, so I love him dearly. Originally an atheistic socialist, his eyes were opened at Bindmans to the fact that it is not the law that makes people good.