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.