It was a Sunday in January when the announcement came that was greeted with particular joy at Allen Hall Seminary, that Archbishop Vincent Nichols was to be created a Cardinal at the next public Consistory. I use the word ‘joy’ for two reasons: Firstly, because Allen Hall is the seminary of Westminster Diocese, and secondly because the Archbishop of Westminster is the President of Allen Hall – so for those two reasons we feel very close to the Archbishop.
It just so happened that the Consistory was to take place on the exact same day as the staff and students of Allen Hall would be undertaking one of our regular days of recollection. A day of recollection is a time when the whole house enters into silence for 24 hours or so. We normally turn off mobile phones, computers, TVs etc, try not to do any academic work, spend extra time in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and enjoy spiritual conferences led by a director from outside the seminary.
Some of the students were getting anxious as the time of the Consistory approached and it looked as though they would have to miss the broadcast. Mercifully, the Rector, recognising the importance of what was happening and sensing the possible disappointment, decided to rearrange the timetable so as to afford the students (and I’m sure staff) the opportunity to catch this historic moment in the life of the Diocese.
It was pretty evident at the supper on Saturday evening that a lot of the House had watched it (silence is over by supper), as there were many conversations about the Consistory – ranging from how wonderful it was to see Westminster Cathedral Choir singing, to some sadness at how frail Benedict XVI, Pope emeritus, seemed to be.
If you will allow me this chance now to fast-forward to the 28th February and the Mass of Welcome at Westminster Cathedral.
Thousands of parishioners, about 170 priests, 30(ish) seminarians, numerous religious and a number of bishops (from England and Wales) including Cormac, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor and Archbishop George Stack of Cardiff – all were present in the Cathedral to greet Vincent Gerard Cardinal Nichols to his Cathedral Church yesterday (28th February) evening. And what an event it was.
Cardinal Nichols was greeted at the West Door by the two Westminster Auxiliary Bishops, Rt Rev. John Sherrington & Rt Rev. John Arnold. Prayers were offered and His Eminence was offered a crucifix which he duly reverenced. The procession from the West Door to the Sanctuary comprised the two Auxiliary Bishops, Cardinal Nichols, as well as, and rather excitingly, the episcopal ring of St John Fisher, the pectoral cross of Reginald Cardinal Pole and the crozier of William Cardinal Allen, founder of the college at Douai, whose inheritors we are at Allen Hall – Cardinal Nichols spoke of the importance of each of these items in his homily.
The choir sang beautifully, the homily was a reflection on the Consistory, on the role of a Cardinal and the importance of Cardinals from England, especially those who had, in penal times, been true stalwarts of the Catholic Faith – one of whom, St John Fisher, was martyred.
It has been a most interesting few weeks and ones which I am unlikely to forget.
Vincent Gerard Cardinal Nichols, Ad multos annos! – to many years!
Article written by Robert James, a second year student for the Archdiocese of Cardiff.