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Thursday, 16 October 2014

Family Day at Ramsgate


A day for families, celebrating Pope Saint John Paul’s teaching on family life: Saturday 25 October, St Ethelbert’s Church, 72 Hereson Road, Ramsgate. CT11 7DS.

There will be talks for adults, teenagers and children, and games and activities. An opportunity to pray, meet and grow in fellowship with other Catholic families. Confession will be available. Please bring some food for the shared lunch. Starts at 10.15am with the Rosary; ends at 5pm with closing prayers, followed by the parish 5.30pm Mass.

I have two Masses, six baptisms and a convalidation that day, but I hope to get over for a brief visit in the afternoon.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Richard Collins RIP


The family of Richard Collins have posted an obituary notice on his blog Linen on the HedgerowAnima eius et animae omnium defunctorum per misericordiam Dei requiescant in pace. Amen.

Last Thursday, Holy Mass was said in Richard's room. He died fortified by all the rites of Holy Mother Church, and his final moments were accompanied by his family praying the holy Rosary.

Richard was a fine Catholic man and I particularly appreciated his solid, sober and sensible contributions to various meetings of bloggers which he attended at some considerable cost and inconvenience.

His funeral will be celebrated according to the usus antiquior. As soon as I have details, I will post them here. In the meantime, please pray for the repose of his soul, pray for his family in their loss, and give thanks to God for the great good that he did for others in his life, especially through the apostolate of his blog.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Yoakley, QEQM, Vespers and the King's Steps

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The past few weeks have gone by in a whirl with so much to familiarise myself with, various bits of paperwork to keep on top of, and more importantly, key people to get to know. Every now and again, the parish priest of Margate takes a turn at leading a Christian service at Yoakley Care Home, founded over 300 years ago in the Quaker tradition. I took a photo of the grounds:

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The parish has a one-and-a-half form entry primary school so I made my third visit last week, to celebrate the Harvest Mass, and am beginning to find my way around. Likewise, the geography of the Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother Hospital (known locally as QEQM) is now becoming clearer after I have done a few rounds to see the Catholic patients and have responded to some sick calls to anoint people.

The Benedictine Sisters at Minster Abbey have Vespers each evening (sung in Latin) and last Sunday, after October devotions at St Austin's, I went along and was pleased to meet up with others from the Deanery.

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After arranging seven baptisms for an extended family of Czech people who live near the Church, and after catching up with the great people who run the food parcel scheme, I seized the opportunity of the midday sunshine to go down to the harbour, have a sandwich for lunch, and get a couple of photos - the one that is at the top of this post, and this attempt at perspective from the King's Steps.

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Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Stained glass, Aldi, works of mercy and migrants

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My latest "stock photo" for the Church: the stained glass window on the (liturgical) North of the sanctuary, showing our two principal patrons at Margate, St Austin and St Gregory. Since Robert Dalby Reeve is recorded as dedicating the window in memory of his wife Iesse who died in 1905, I should ask you to say a prayer for her.

Moving to more mundane matters, I have discovered Aldi. I did visit a Lidl at Foots Cray once, but it was a bit rubbish. The massive Aldi on Northdown Road, however, it another thing all together. On getting home, I looked up the website and saw the funny adverts that they have been running. I was particularly pleased because I had been looking for a cheap laminator and had got fed up with one of the large stationery stores who ran the old con of having a cheap one on display but then not having it in stock. Aldi supplied me with an A3 machine for £18.99. I also managed to find a good office stationery store which, like another one I saw a few days ago, does a line in cheap printing. These things all help to save money: an important concern in a small parish where not everyone is flush with cash by any means.

In fact, we have a long-running scheme whereby parish volunteers collect funds, go shopping, and then staff the door for several hours to give out about fifty food parcels each week to the needy, containing a variety of basic essentials. Parishioners also support this work by fundraising and direct donations of food and it has been going for decades - long before the recent "Food Bank" thing. It is great to inherit such a going concern putting into practice the corporal works of mercy.

Another feature of the parish is illustrated by this photo I took while I was exploring Northdown Road:

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I have already met many Eastern Europeans, some of whom have little English, and tried an excellent Lithuanian restaurant, Rickus, which overlooks the Main Sands. So as well as a few more words of Polish I'm going to need to try and learn some simple expressions in several other languages. With all these different languages being spoken in the parish, it would be nice if the Church had some universal language that was the same for everyone. Oh wait ...

Sunday, 21 September 2014

A visit to Minster, the Abbey, and my new satnav

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Minster is highly significant for English Catholicism since St Augustine landed in the parish, and monastic life began there in the late seventh century. The first Abbess of the associated nunnery was St Mildred, and the remains of the Saxon Abbey are still part of what is now the Benedictine Abbey of Minster, making it the oldest inhabited house in England.

I was taken to Minster for Sunday lunch today ("The Corner House" if you are interested - excellent family-run restaurant) and had a chance to see the Norman Church (above), and the Abbey, and to walk around the village. The Abbey is a place that I shall be visiting often: as well as their lovely chapel, the nuns have a conference centre called "Parkminster" which is a venue for many things organised in the Deanery. I understand that Vespers is at 6pm each day and that my brother clergy are often to be found there, so I am glad to have learnt the route.

Speaking of routes, I decided that it would save me a bit of time in a new place if I finally bought myself a satnav. So I got the cheapest TomTom the other day. Once I have discovered all the built-in options and used it for a few months, I'll probably hack it just for fun :-) This evening I used it to get over to Ramsgate without having to study a map for the best route.

I'm getting to know more parishioners, the children from the school did the readings beautifully at the early Mass, the servers were great, it was another glorious day in Thanet, and I am still tempted to pinch myself to check that I am not dreaming.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Stained glass in the Lady Chapel at Margate

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The beautiful Lady Chapel at St Austin and St Gregory Margate is certainly one of the highlights of our Church. I posted the above picture after my first visit to see the parish back in June. You can see something of the altar, but not much detail of the stained glass windows above it. One of the parishioners took some photos a while back and let me have copies of them. I put together the two windows so that you can see them side by side (click to enlarge):


I think these are absolutely gorgeous examples of Victorian glass.

There is a rich devotional life in the parish as part of the normal weekly schedule, with Lauds before Mass on Tuesday, Rosary on Wednesday, and adoration on Thursday. On Saturday after Mass, there is the Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. It is great to come to a parish and find all these things already in place. The Novena is said at the Lady Chapel, and I have started saying the Monday evening Mass there. Notice also the fine votive candle stands which are in regular use - and are kept spotless.

The devotional life of the parish is matched by real practical work for the poor. More about that soon.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Visiting the hospital, the hospice and another bay

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Each parish has its own local acronyms. Here in Margate, everyone knows "QEQM": Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital ("part of the East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust") One of my standing-start tasks is to get to grips with all the procedures for visiting, being on call, managing other visitors and managing incoming information about who needs to be visited. I think I'm getting there and managed a full pastoral visit today (I hope) seeing everyone on the list that  we have. There is also a hospice next to the hospital and I visited there today as well.

First impressions are of a very friendly place. Before I came to Margate, several people said to me in a slightly mystical way that Kent people are different from South London people. One thing does seem to be that everyone is a bit more peaceful. When I was looking at the hospital maps to try to learn by heart where the various wards are, several staff members of different ranks asked me if they could help.

By way of getting to know the area, I thought it would be a good idea to find my way to Broadstairs once I had finished at QEQM. The photo above is of Viking Bay this afternoon where I got something to eat. After evening Mass, I took a walk down to the sea front back in Margate, hoping to get a photo of the sunset, but I left it just a little too late. Nevertheless, my new camera got its first outing and caught the "fast departing light" over the Main Sands.

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The walk back through the old town and up Hawley Street involves a moderate hill and I am already feeling a little fitter and more physically energetic with the sea air and a bit more exercise. Maybe I will get that bicycle people were talking about! Not yet, though.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Thanking God for Margate

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Last night I was as physically tired as I have been for some time. Although I had some generous help moving my stuff down to Margate, I had just finished several days of increasingly urgent packing, taking boxes of books downstairs, and taking other boxes of things to the skip behind the Club in Blackfen. My first day in Margate was wonderful in respect of the lovely people here, the beautiful Church and getting to know the presbytery, the warren of rooms next to the Church, and taking a long walk all around the town centre, the Harbour Arm, the Turner Contemporary and round the old town a couple of times.

After checking through various papers kindly left by my predecessor and getting to know where everything is, I finally set up my own computer temporarily in the parish office, hence the opportunity to post something this evening with just a few photos from my mobile. I now have a new Big Camera, so there should be more Margate sunsets and photos of the Church from different angles before too long. Above you can see the seafront from the Harbour Arm, and here is the Clock Tower:

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I went shopping at Morrisons early this evening and decided to take a short drive afterwards to Palm Bay - because I can now! This is my first attempt at capturing the Margate sunset:

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Here is the view over the sea from the Turner with a minimalist work by Edmund de Waal with vessels displayed to capture the changing light. There are mats to borrow so that you can lie on the floor to view them from underneath (I didn't):

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I find myself thanking God heartily for so many things here, not least the welcome that I have been given, and the wonderful state in which Canon Smith has left the parish. This morning started with the regular holy hour from 8-9am before Mass, part of a rich devotional life that has built up over the years.

I'm not quite so tired this evening, but expect to sleep soundly and well thanks to the healthy sea air.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Holy confessors and martyrs of Iraq, pray for us


Simon Caldwell recently published an inspiring account of elderly Iraqi Christians in the village of Karamless. (See: Elderly Iraqi Christians defy terrorists, flee to camp H/T Transalpine Redemptorists) When the IS terrorists overran Karamless, on the night of 6-7 August, everyone fled except the elderly who were too weak to run.

The masked terrorists demanded that they convert or be killed by the sword. All of the elderly people said "we prefer to be killed rather than convert." In the event they were ordered to leave the village with only the clothes they were wearing.

This moving and inspiring story of courageous witness to Christ is redolent of the days of ancient Rome. Those who refused to deny their faith yet were not actually martyred yet were called "confessors" because of their stout confession of the faith. Penitents could go to them and ask for a note to say that the confessors had prayed for them; this note or "libellus pacis" could then be taken to the Bishop who could choose to remit all or part of a canonical penance, in view of the power of the prayers of the holy confessors.

There are also many in recent times who have actually been martyred in Iraq because they chose death rather than agree to renounce Christ. They are martyrs because without doubt they were killed propter odium fidei, "on account of hatred of the faith." I hope that a list is kept of their names, along with at least some evidence from witnesses, so that the sacrifice they have made is given due recognition in the life of the Church by their eventual canonisation, and so that people down the ages can remember their heroism and invoke their prayers.

Holy Martyrs and Confessors of Iraq, pray for us.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

When the validity of baptism is doubtful

Ramsgate 033Fr Hunwicke's Mutual Enrichment is not a blog that can be usefully skim-read. His articles are not long, but they repay more close attention than those of the "5 reasons why Pope Francis didn't really say what everyone thinks he said" genre.

When I find time, as I have just now, I read a number of his posts in sequence. It is always a rewarding experience for me, especially since quite often he tackles something that I have wanted to say but not found the time, and writes on it with erudition and wit. During the past week, we have had, among other things, a discussion on whether Muslims and Christians worship the same God, a gently provocative piece on the lack of Latin among the clergy, and an important post arguing for baptism sub conditione for Anglican converts whose only evidence of Baptism is a certificate.

A baptism certificate was formerly regarded as sufficient, since baptism "according to the rites of the Church of England" is certainly valid. What is now uncertain is how often baptisms are conducted according to a rite that is not approved by the Church of England, specifically, baptism with the form "I baptize you in the name of the Creator, and of the Redeemer, and of the Sanctifier." Baptism using such a form is certainly invalid: the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2008 answered a dubium on the matter, saying that persons baptised with such a formula have to be baptized in forma absoluta (that is, not conditionally.)

We must pick a careful path through doubts. Since the practice of using an invalid formula is certainly used in some places and is becoming more common, it is, as Fr Hunwicke says, no longer safe to assume that a baptism is valid simply because it has been carried out in the Church of England.

Sometimes we have other reasons to assume that the baptism is valid: one might know the local vicar, and know that he would always use the proper form (that would be true of my own Anglican neighbour) but we are not usually looking at certificates issued by the local vicar. The convert himself might be able to give assurance that the Rev Blenkinsop of St Mildred's in Thrampton was a sound man and would not have used an invalid form. In such cases, there is no need for conditional baptism.

But without such further evidence I agree with Fr Hunwicke that the doubt that now exists makes it necessary to baptise many converts conditionally since there is a reasonable doubt about the validity of their baptism. If on the other hand, there is evidence that the convert was indeed baptised by a feminist who used the invalid formula, then the baptism was certainly invalid and the convert must be baptised without condition, as the CDF laid down. In modern practice, such a convert would be a catechumen and not a candidate.
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