Thursday, 16 September 2010

Associated Press

An Associated Press photographer happened to be walking down our road just as we were formally renaming the House (this basically involved covering over the old plaque with a laminated piece of A3). We made it onto 'the wire' but, frankly, I can't imagine this one stopping the world's presses...

(Photo credit: AP)

Preparing the way

(Welcome to any newcomers, following links from either the Hermeneutic of Continuity or Catholic and Loving It. Further details about Benedict XVI House can be found in our very first post.)

So it’s finally happening! We’ve all been getting excited this morning watching the BBC coverage. Lovely scenes from ‘Edinburg’ – especially the seemingly impromptu meeting with the schoolchildren at the Archbishop’s House – and we were pleased to see that the College’s (Scottish) chaplain has been roped in as a pundit.

The real excitement for us, of course, will be tomorrow morning. SMUC is hosting three events – a meeting with religious in the chapel; the Big Assembly with several thousand schoolchildren out on our running track; and the ‘Faiths Working Together’ summit with non-Christian faith leaders and public figures (I’m told the first event of his kind to ever happen on a Papal Visit). Two of the community are involved as volunteers – myself helping with the interfaith event, and Catholic with Attitude (who did some sterling work on the radio this morning too) at the Big Assembly. One will be watching from across the road (the exit Benedict’ll be leaving from is in sight of the House). And one, unfortunately, has to be in Oxford for most of the day. 

This is certainly the biggest thing ever to happen here, and preparations have been intense. Walking around campus today, things seem to be all coming together… no doubt everything will be set for the festivities tomorrow. (We have lots of photos, which I'm hoping to add in an edit later on.)

Speaking of preparations and festivities, Benedict XVI House is hosting a post-Papal Visit afternoon tea party, for various of our friends who are around tomorrow. Various jams, banana bread and a couple of Jamaica cakes are already done; a lemon polenta cake and some lemon curd are the tasks for tonight; and a mountain of scones will be baked in the morning (heroically by someone who won’t even be around to eat them). Praying lauds on Wednesday morning, I was struck by the intercession: 'May we bring joy to our homes, to our work, and to all whom we meet'. Cake and scones have a genuine role to play here, I think...

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Our Oratory of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati

As it was in the beginning... now...

... and (eventually) ever shall be?

(Photo credit: Fr. Z)

Monday, 13 September 2010

'With the Lord...a thousand years are like one day'

Or rather: 'At Benedict XVI House... a week is like an afternoon'.

I signed off the last post on Monday morning of last week with a cheery 'More later!', and with every intention of posting again later that day. In fact, I had in my head a whole series of posts to gradually roll out over the week. But it was not to be.

The past week has passed very quickly indeed. Jo has come and gone again. The students - Shaun and Emily - have each come, gone, and come back again. (In fact, they're preparing dinner for the three of us as I'm typing this - which is rather nice of them, I have to say.) Various jobs to get the House up to speed for the new term - sorting out the internet and phone, getting someone to come and fix the boiler, putting up a bookshelf or two - have been done. Most importantly, as far as I'm concerned at least, we now have a bird table (albeit a fairly ricketily-assembled one), plus several bird feeders. Not that we've fed many birds with them yet: the squirrels have seen to that. This morning, though, I did say some magpies, a crow, a couple of woodpigeons and a fairly ballsy robin braving the rodentine hordes. Not that I mind feeding squirrels of course, it's just that I wish they'd leave some for the birds.

Last week was also the annual conference of the Catholic Theological Association, conveniently this year located just across the road at St Mary's. It's been up at Ushaw College near Durham the past few years, but they had a bookings clash this year, so we relocated. The theme was 'The Theology of Cardinal Newman', for obvious reasons, and it was as enjoyable as ever: all the usual faces, plus several new ones.

This week, of course, is another busy one. We're gearing up not only for the new term (freshers week, as well as teaching for the 2nd and 3rd years, kicks off next week), but also - naturally - for the Holy Father's visit across the road on Friday. It's only really started sinking in how near it is now: Mulier Fortis has recently written well about the mounting excitement. I'll write about the preparations at St Mary's in the next couple of days - and then, hopefully, about what actually happened on the day itself. (Though that may prove tricky - Benedict XVI House will be hosting a post-Papal Visit afternoon tea party immediately after - then a visit to friends in Surrey in the evening - then a trip to north Oxfordshire on Saturday in order to travel to Cofton Park with our former parish on Sunday morning... Ah well, it all get fitted in somehow.)

Off to Compline...


Monday, 6 September 2010

'They've taken away my Lord, and I don't know where they've put him'

Having got the keys - and endured a 3-hour run-through of the inventory - on Wednesday, I've been away for a few days, and came back yesterday evening. Two of the students, Shaun and Emily, are moving in today. My wife, Jo, is arriving in a few days' time. Other members of the community will, hopefully, be joining us over the next few weeks.

Praying lauds alone this morning was somewhat strange. As you can just about make out from the photo in the last post, our chapel is by no means the most inspiring room in the House - aesthetically-speaking, that is (more on this later). The Presentation Sisters who recently moved out were fortunate enough to have the Blessed Sacrament reserved here. This has rightly been removed - though when and by whom I'm not sure - and so we're left now with an empty tabernacle. Before long, of course, we hope to have the Blessed Sacrament residing in it once again. We'll be starting the canonical procedure fairly soon (i.e., once we've worked out exactly what we need to do!), and praying for its success. For the time being, though, we're left to pray before 'the empty tomb'. It's a little unsettling, but thinking theologically, by no means inappropriate.

More later!


Wednesday, 1 September 2010

In principio

Well actually, the real beginning happened 6 months ago in the Holy Land - but that's a story for another time...

Benedict XVI House
In just a few hours, I'll be collecting the keys to Benedict XVI House - a brand-new, residential community here at St Mary's University College, Twickenham. The Holy Father will be visiting the college on 17th September (details here), and the House will form a major part of the Visit's legacy. I'm sure you'll agree that the House itself - formerly known as 'Wellspring', and leased from the Presentation Brothers - is a fitting tribute. For our own part, we hope and pray that we live up to the name!

The lounge
 The basic idea is for a small group of staff and students to live together, pursuing a communal life of prayer, study, and service. Many of the details are still to be decided, but we'll certainly have community meals, and daily lauds and vespers. Plans are also afoot for regular rosary, film nights, 'theology on tap', speakers, barbecues, cake mornings, pilgrimages, processions... Above all, we hope to practise the corporal works of mercy. We plan to be of service to each other, to St Mary's as a whole, and to the wider community.

Our chapel/oratory (work still to be done here!)
The purpose of this blog is, primarily, to let others know how we get on - and to invite them to participate, in person or in prayer, with certain of our ventures. Hopefully, several members of the House can be persuaded to contribute here, at least occasionally. Unfortunately one of our residents, Catholic With Attitude, is currently on 'sabbatical'. 

Though today is the birth day of Benedict XVI House, it won't be until next week that the House starts properly filling up... 
Whatever else may come of it, it's sure to be an interesting and challenging (initial) 12 months! Still, as the servant of God Dorothy Day was fond of saying, 'by little and by little...' And as Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati was fond of saying, 'Verso l'alto!' ('To the heights!'). (You'll be hearing a lot more about both of those in the months to come.)

Needless to say, we'd be very grateful if you'd - in descending order - a) pray for us; b) follow us; and c) link to us.