Archive for category: Allen Hall
The Seminary moved into its present buildings in 1975, following the departure of the Sisters of Adoration Réparatrice, a congregation devoted to perpetual adoration, and it was soon felt that the layout of the Chapel was unsuited to the very different needs of a seminary community. Substantial structural work was carried out on the sanctuary in particular, but it was never finished, leaving us with a gap on the wall behind the altar. A new wooden altar was made by the seminarians themselves, but the entire scheme had not been rethought.
Nearly 40 years on, and with failing heating and the place in urgent need of cleaning and redecoration, thanks to the Growing in Faith campaign we were finally able to celebrate the completion of a beautiful new scheme for the chapel. The previous Rector, Bishop Mark O’Toole, returned on Wednesday 9 December to join us for the consecration of the new altar by Cardinal Vincent. The Nuncio and Bishop John Sherrington led the other concelebrants.
Stephen Foster the artist and Colin Kerr the architect responsible for the work were in the congregation, and brought up the altar cloths and cross after the consecration.
The entrance procession included the relics of Saints Clement I, Liberatus, Justa and John Southworth, which were placed in the altar. The altar was consecrated by prayer, by anointing with chrism and by burning a bowl of incense, and the Schola sang the plainchant texts for a dedication, each of which picks up and reflects on the moment.
The former altar has now been installed in the Oratory, where it continues to be used for early weekday Masses and during House retreats.
This is the Cardinal’s homily from the Mass:-
This evening we come to make an irrevocable act, the consecration of this stone, making it holy, setting it apart for ever. This is done, by the work of the Holy Spirit, at the request of the Church made through the mouth of Jesus, himself.
This moment brings to the surface a central aspect of our faith: that God acts with astonishing particularity: this stone, this place, this land, as Jacob said in the first reading, with connotations that echo strongly in our world to this day.
There is something potentially very shocking about this particularity and the claims that it can set up. This is so if the choice of God, the particular choice, this stone, this place, this land, is taken in an excluding or exclusive sense. We are always tempted to say: Yes, this place, and therefore not that place; Yes, this land given to me and therefore not for you; me not you as the chosen one.
We only get beyond this interpretation of God’s choice as an excluding choice only if we truly understand the purpose of this particularity of God’s actions.
Surely the pattern of God choosing ‘this place, this people, this moment’ is to point to, prepare us for, the ultimate particularity of God’s actions: the coming in the flesh of one man of the eternal Word of God. This is the most shocking thing of all: that the infinite reality of the Godhead should be expressed and made present in one time, in one place, in one particular person. Yet, and this is the key, this particularity is precisely for the benefit of all. This one man, unique in his two natures, is literally and always ‘for all’, in the shedding of his blood and in his rising from the dead.
In the reading from the Book of Genesis (Gen. 28:11-18) we are already presented with this deepest purpose of the particular choice of God in giving a land to a people. It is not for them to keep, exclusively, for themselves, but it is given so that ‘all the tribes of the earth shall bless themselves by you and your descendants.’
In the gospel reading which we have heard, it is clear that all previous particularity now finds its fulfilment in Jesus. Worship, that key relationship between God and his people which holds a people together and directs their thoughts, words and actions, is now ‘neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.’ Old particularities are surpassed. Worship is now ‘in spirit and in truth’, in Jesus who is the fulfilment of all that Jacob glimpsed: the ‘awe-inspiring place, the house of God, the gate of heaven.’
In this particular place, here, this evening, everything points to Jesus, or it risks losing its purpose and becomes a place of exclusion. Everything points to him, and in him finds its meaning.
This is the way to understand this stone which we consecrate tonight: the five crosses carved into its surface speak of the five wounds in his body; the anointing of this stone is the anointing of his body, carried out with such love by his faithful friends; the altar is clothed and made beautiful just as he appeared in glory; from this stone, this person, the incense of our prayer arises into the presence of our Father; here the one represented offers himself and is the one by whom and with whom we are nourished for we are his bride, his body, his gathered people, his church through whom, we pray, all will people will be blest.
It is no wonder, then, that we kiss this stone with great reverence.
Just a few days ago, Fr Raniero Cantalamessa gave his first advent homily. It is well worth reading. It is a Christological reflection on ‘Lumen Gentium’ in which he explores how everything about our life in the Church flows from this bonding of ourselves to Christ. We are first of all, he insists, the spouse of Christ, joined to him in his flesh. In this way we become one body with him, and through this union, and by no other means, we become fruitful as his Church.
These are thoughts on which we can ponder as we enter into this wonderful ceremony, seeing ourselves again, and only, within this saving relationship with the Lord, seeing how all that this altar signifies, all that takes place here, is the sole source of all we aspire to be, in our human experience, in our sense of vocation and mission. From this stone flows our very life; in this stone we see our Saviour, around this stone we remember again, and again, who we are and what we are to become. ‘How awe inspiring this place is!’
Fr Cantalamessa leaves us with a particular appeal, one which should always resonate loudly, and silently, in this chapel, especially every time we gather around this altar. We proclaim and hear the words of our Lord, ‘This is my body given for you.’ Our response must always be to say with all our being: ‘Yes, Lord, and this is my body given to you, that we, you and I, Lord, may be one and that through us, Lord, from this place, may your world be blest.’
On Saturday 21 November, we not only celebrated the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, but also welcomed the Bishop of Portsmouth, the Right Reverend Philip Egan, to ordain two men to the diaconate, Ross Bullock from Portsmouth diocese, and John Scott from Westminster. The Chapel was well-filled with friends and supporters as the Church received two new deacons with prayer and with joy. The ceremony was followed by a buffet lunch which allowed old friendships to be renewed and new ones begun.
On Friday 13 November, most of the house travelled to Ware to spend the day with the sisters at the Carmel. Arriving fresh from the hazards of London traffic, we received a warm welcome and coffee, tea and home-baked biscuits to console the inner man.
We moved to the Chapel where Sister Zoe delivered an inspiring talk about Saint Teresa of Avila, whose Quincentenary of birth has been celebrated this year. Sister reminded us of Teresa’s teaching about prayer, particularly her common-sense approach to many of the problems we encounter in our spiritual lives. This was followed by Mass, when we had the joy of anticipating the feast of the Saints of Carmel. An abundant lunch of soup, cheeses, pâtés and fruit with bread and hot drinks fortified some of us for brisk walks round the local countryside, and others to visit our roots at St Edmund’s Ware and to venerate the relics kept there. We came back together to celebrate Vespers.
A most enjoyable day, which affirmed the long-standing links between our communities, ended with tea and cake, and heart-felt thanks to the sisters not only for the warmth of their welcome, but more importantly for their ministry of prayer for vocations to the priesthood and the religious life. Ware Carmel was founded almost ninety years ago to pray for vocations and seminarians. We, the present generation, rejoice that we are sustained by this ministry as were our predecessors.
Catholics often use the word acolyte as an alternative to altar server, usually to mean a boy or girl carrying a candle. But just as the Church’s life is fed both by Word and Sacrament, so there are two official ministries that reflect this, those of Lector (or Reader) and Acolyte. Formal institution into these ministries takes place here at the seminary normally in the second year for Lectors and at the beginning of the fourth year for Acolytes. So we mark our progress in formation and in discernment of vocation. The ministry of acolyte has particular significance as it focuses on service at the altar and in connection with the Blessed Sacrament, including duties such as exposition for adoration and taking Holy Communion to the sick and housebound.
Bishop Marcus Stock of the Diocese of Leeds came to celebrate the Institution Mass for us and preached a homily (below) which we all found extremely thoughtful and which made us consider our vocations to priesthood deeply. Seven of us received the ministry: Julio Albornoz (Westminster), Joshua Hilton (Leeds), Robert James (Cardiff), Michael Maguire (Westminster), Rajiv Michael (Westminster), Carlos Quito (Westminster), and Jonathan Whitby-Smith (Nottingham). As acolytes may they continue to grow in love, prayer and service.
INSTITUTION OF ACOLYTES
Feast of St Ignatius of Antioch
Saturday 17th October 2015
Allen Hall Seminary, Westminster
We celebrate today the martyrdom of St Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr.
In the Office of Readings for his feast, we are encouraged by our Holy Mother the Church to contemplate St Ignatious” words from his Letter to the Romans. In preparing for his martyrdom, he said: “I have no taste for the food that perishes nor for the pleasures of this life. I want the Bread of God which is the Flesh of Christ, who was the seed of David; and for drink I desire His Blood which is love that cannot be destroyed.” These are fitting words for those who, in this Mass, are to be instituted as acolytes; ministers, who are being called to “strive to live more fully by the Lord”s Sacrifice and to be molded more perfectly in its likeness”.
We need to remind ourselves often that our Catholic Faith is Apostolic, and relies upon each generation of the faithful being an instrument of sacred Tradition, that is to say, of truths handed down by word of mouth and example, from one generation to another.
St Ignatius of Antioch bears witness to this because his writings testify to the faith of the 1st-century Church, linking us to the apostles and the sacred Tradition they taught. So we celebrate today one of the early witnesses to our Apostolic Faith; one who knew the Apostles and learnt the Faith of the Risen Lord from them.
In recalling this, we recall too the ancient Church of Syria, for when St Ignatius was sent to Rome to be executed, the historian Eusebius says that Ignatius “was sent from Syria to Rome and became food for wild beasts on account of his testimony to Christ”. On this journey to Rome through Turkey and Greece, Ignatius wrote seven letters to the local Christian communities through which he passed.
These letters are a precious witness to the living Tradition of the Church and our Apostolic Faith. As Benedict XVI once said of St Ignatius” letters: “In reading these texts, one feels the freshness of the faith of the generation which had still known the Apostles. In these letters, the ardent love of a saint can be felt”.
St Ignatius’ writings show his deep desire for union with God through love, which was reflected in the unity of the Church as a communion of love, held together in charity by her bishops, priests, and deacons. He extolled the priests in Ephesus for being fitted to their Bishop as the strings are to the harp. He urged priests and deacons and all people to work together with their Bishop; strive in company together; run together; suffer together; walk together as the stewards and servants of God.
For those of you who are about to be instituted as Acolytes, and all of us who are ministers in the Church, these words of St Ignatius are worth remembering. He said: “Christianity is not a matter of persuading people of particular ideas, but of inviting them to share in the greatness of Christ”.
It may be tempting for us to see the ministries of lector and acolyte as only brief liturgical roles, required to be undertaken en-route to ordination as deacon and priest. Whilst being an acolyte may indeed be a transitionary ministry for those of you to be instituted today, it is not without significance that our Holy Mother the Church requires that you are formed in this role prior to ordination. In the Apostolic Letter Ministeria Quaedam of Pope Paul VI it states that: “candidates for ordination as deacons and priests are to receive the ministries of reader and acolyte and are to exercise them for a suitable time, in order to be better disposed for the future service of the word and of the altar”
In the Rite of Institution of Acolytes, each man kneels before the bishop and receives a vessel used in the celebration of the Eucharist, symbolic of the new role the acolyte fulfills at Mass, caring for the Eucharist and the Eucharistic vessels. As the bishop presents the vessel to the new acolyte, he says, “Take this vessel for the celebration of the Eucharist. Make your life worthy of your service at the table of the Lord and of his Church.”
Make your life worthy of your service at the table of the Lord and of his Church. These are powerful and moving words: words that merit contemplation and are worth you carrying with you, may it please Almighty God, into your preparation for your ordination to the diaconate and to the priesthood.
Those words are a summons to each of you to seek integrity in your Christian life and ministry. They are a reminder to you, and to us all, of the immense holiness of Christ, the One whom we are called to serve at the altar, and of our need to constantly allow our lives to be configured to His, through prayer and penance. For those of us who are ministers at the altar of God, those who have the immense privilege of holding in our hands the precious body and blood of the Lord, we do well to remember that we are in the very real presence of Him before whom even the angels veil their faces. So, we must indeed make our lives worthy of our service at the table of the Lord and of his Church.
The writings of St Ignatius of Antioch teach us to seek union with God through union with Christ and through union with his Church. St Ignatius had no thought for keeping his own life but only giving it for the eternal life. In the witness of his martyrdom, he embraced without reserve the Lord”s words in the Gospel: “Unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest… If a man serves me, he must follow me, wherever I am, my servant will be there too. If anyone serves me, my Father will honour him.”
Julio, Robert, Rajiv, Joshua, Michael, Carlos and Jonathan.
Through the integrity of your life, like that of the bishop and martyr St Ignatius of Antioch, be a witness to the Apostolic faith which has been handed down to you. Strive to invite others to share in the greatness of Christ. Through the careful exercise of your ministry at the altar, demonstrate humility and the desire only to serve your Lord and Saviour. May the prayers and example of Saint Ignatius help you in your ministry as acolytes to attain integrity in your Christian life and to worthily, and reverently, serve at the altar for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. Amen.
Marcus, Bishop of Leeds
After Homily – Conclusion from the Rite of Institution
Dear sons in Christ, as people chosen for the ministry of acolyte, you will have a special role in the Church”s ministry. The summit and source of the Church”s life is the Eucharist, which builds up the Christian community and makes it grow.
It is your responsibility to assist Priests and Deacons in carrying out their ministry, and as special ministers to give Holy Communion to the faithful at the liturgy and to the sick. Because you are specially called to this ministry, you should strive to live more fully by the Lord”s Sacrifice and to be moulded more perfectly in its likeness.
You should seek to understand the deep spiritual meaning of what you do, so that you may offer yourselves daily to God as spiritual sacrifices acceptable to him through Jesus Christ. In performing your ministry bear in mind that, as you share the one bread with your brothers and sisters, so you form one Body with them.
Show a sincere love for Christ”s Mystical Body, God”s holy people, and especially for the weak and the sick. Be obedient to the commandment which the Lord gave to his Apostles at the Last Supper: “Love one another as I also have loved you.”