Sources: the Beginning of the Sodality

This talk used to be available elsewhere and several people have asked me for it recently. In the Sodality we are in a review period as we prepare for a new Superior and for the first cohort of life commitments (which will new in 2022). It seems appropriate therefore to post this here for reference. I put this talk on my then blog, there was. amigo response which led to organising the first gathering at St Saviour’s, Pimlico and after that the creation of. aFormation Group who wrote the Manual together. And thus began the Sodality …

A talk to the Southwark Chapter at Trinity All Through School, Lewisham on Wednesday 14th January, 2015
Fr Richard Peers SCP
UIOGD

Father David (our co-Rector) has suggested that we reflect on our Rule and life as a Society. I hope you will forgive me for doing so in my usual forthright, headmasterly manner; even though I do feel a little trepidation in the presence of some of our founders. I suggested a ten minute talk which he thought wasn’t quite long enough; so blame him when you look at your watches.

It is not good, the accepted wisdom has it, to label people. Clergy don’t like to be labelled. Or they claim so many labels that they become meaningless, everyone seems to be a ‘liberal catholic with charismatic tendencies and an evangelical love of the bible’ or a ‘liturgy loving evangelical with a celtic hinterland’.

So let me be clear: I like labels, I am happy to claim a few for myself and when it come to ‘churchpersonship’ mine is pretty clear, I am an Anglo-Catholic. That is to say I am an Anglican who looks to the great heroes of our faith in the Oxford movement and the ritualist pioneers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. I delighted in being a parish priest and then school chaplain in the same patch of Portsmouth where Father Dolling had ministered. Where he built the magnificent mini-basilica that was St Agatha’s (now a church of the Ordinariate) and from which he fled when his bishop opposed the erection of a requiem altar. I delighted in serving my title in the biretta belt along the south bank of the Tees, where the Catholic faith was strong and a minibus collected the clergy for all the deanery patronal festivals and delivered us home gin-soaked, following the after-party.

Back in those heady days of the early 90s I fully expected to become a member of the Society of the Holy Cross following in the footsteps of my hero priests. We used the Roman Rite, we prayed the Divine Office from the Breviary and we considered ourselves priests of the latin rite hoping one day to be re-united with the successor of Peter. In addition to daily Office and Mass; daily Rosary and meditation were part of the priestly life we were signed up for. Deep devotion to Our Lady and to the saints were the backbone of who we were.

The ordination of women has forced many of us to take positions. But the positioning of the catholic organisations since then has followed a division in the catholic movement that dates to an earlier period and perhaps has always been present. The division between the Sarum and Roman forms; the division between the Percy Dearmers and the Father Tooths.

For those of us who feel most comfortable with, for want of a better word, the ‘Romanisers’, but who believe profoundly in the ordination of women and equal marriage, there is a key question: Where is home?

SCP has clearly inherited the Dearmer style of Catholicism. All organisations are coalitions; span spectrums of belief and practice; but is this Society wide enough to include people like me? Many of my friends, many members of the Society have said to me in one form or another over the years ‘it’s not catholic enough for me’. I have had a few conversations about forming another grouping of Catholic clergy, a more devotionally minded sodality. Perhaps there is room within the Society for some such sodality? Or perhaps the Society itself can change and grow to provide enough for the needs of those like me who look to a more Anglo-Catholic, even Anglo-Papalist position.

It is well known that in education there has been, certainly since the 1970s, a predominant mind-set that was hugely committed to multiculturalism among other things. Superb work was done that challenged prejudice and ignorance and gave many children experiences of other cultures and faiths that they would never otherwise have had. However, the shadow side of this was a watering down, a secularist led agenda that sought to create a neutral, religionless space. To make everyone the same. I’m afraid that many church schools took a similar route, one book about church schools describing them, in its title, as “An Uncertain Trumpet”.

As many of you know we have taken the very opposite path here at Trinity. My great mentor and time of apprenticeship at this was at St Luke’s school in inner city Portsmouth at the turn of the century where I was Chaplain to an amazing Headteacher, Krysia Butwilowska.

All theology is, of course, contextual, and specific. Anglo-Catholicism is tied inexorably, I believe, to the margins; it is an option for the poor and has always been practised, at its best, among and by those on the edge. St Luke’s was very much on the edge, serving the same area as Fr Dolling had served a century earlier. In the same way I am aware that what we do here at Trinity works because we are a black majority school in Lewisham. It works because of the overwhelming influence of Pentecostal christianity on our families and children.

So I would characterise the form of Anglo-Catholicism practised here in a number of ways:

it is pious and sentimental

unapologetic

maximalist

The Mass is at its heart and priestly ministry and vocation are unashamedly a key ingredient – as they must be if we are to be properly ecclesial – the church being an ordered, hierarchical society.

Brother Alois the current Prior of Taizé says that “God wants nothing but that we live intensely.” It is a strong catholicism, an intense catholicism that we seek to live out in the school.

Inclusion has taken, I believe, a wrong turn when it becomes a watering down; a lowest common denominator. Inclusion works best when everyone can most be themselves. The more we are ourselves the more we give others the permission to be themselves. Inclusion does not diminish difference but celebrates it.

At Trinity our Muslim and Hindu families have no problem with what we do. We have an Arabic school for Muslim families that meets here every Saturday. When our Muslim children want a prayer room we provide it. The current Head girl is a Muslim – one with a great devotion, as it happens, to Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta – and Muslim pupils have travelled with us regularly to Taizé where we provide a tent for them to use for prayer, although they are also expected to join in the community prayer as well – so a mere 8 prayer sessions a day for them.

I am second to no one in my affection and respect for our former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, but like all of us he is a man of his time and I think he has been unduly influenced by the multiculturalism of the last part of the twentieth century. In an introduction he once wrote for the Society of Catholic Priests he said:

“Anglican clergy identifying themselves as within the Catholic tradition used to have all sorts of ‘tribal’ habits, in dress, speech and style of life, to set them apart from those they thought of as less enlightened. No-one is going to regret that we have begun to grow up a bit in that respect.”

Well, perhaps I haven’t grown up, but I do regret that passing and I think it is to our detriment. The human need to belong is profound and deep. Gangs attract teenagers precisely because they give a sense of belonging. A place to belong is nothing more than a home, a family in which we can genuinely grow and flourish. It is a mark of the Incarnation that all human existence is specific, it belongs to a time and a place, it owns its culture and community.

This is really the heart of inclusion, that we accept and celebrate difference and diversity; we do belong to different groups and clubs; to some extent these are exclusive; but we are richer for that. Inclusion would mean nothing at all if it didn’t involve difference. We might even consider the possibility that the arrangements required to pass the legislation on the ordination of women is itself God’s will, an opportunity to test our inclusiveness.

Perhaps part of the problem – if there is one – is that our Society is just too establishment. One of my favourite and one of the most influential books for me as an educator is Teaching As a Subversive Activity by Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner. Anglo-Catholics were always subversive, perhaps we have become too comfortable, too used to promotion and acceptability. Perhaps we need to fight a few battles?

I think we do need to because I don’t think the key battles have been won. In fact I think we have capitulated on some of the victories that our forebears in the Catholic movement won at such a price.

So let me try to be a little more specific in thinking about what would make our Society or some sort of sodality within it a place where I felt more at home:

First and foremost a recognition that Anglicanism is a current that flows within western, catholic, Latin-rite Christianity. We’re not ‘a church’; the Archbishop is not a Patriarch. Lets look forward hopefully to the day when he or she will once again receive the pallium (displayed on the archiepiscopal coat of arms) from the Bishop of Rome.

This fundamental orientation is one shared by the ecumenical community at Taizé who look to the proper exercise of the universal ministry of Peter.

Our liturgy is a liturgy of the Latin rite. Even Cramer’s Communion service is clearly such. So let’s not be afraid of that rite. Like our forbears in the Catholic movement lets use as much of that rite in its current, ordinary form, as we can. The Divine Office is not only a much more convenient way of praying time it also unites us with the whole western catholic church and provides a lifetime of reflection on the catholic faith.

Lets acknowledge that our liturgy is deficient in some ways: all those collects for saints days that treat the saints as mere examples and not as friends in heaven interceding for us constantly. The lack of intercession in the Eucharistic Prayers; the weak sacrificial language.

Lets not be afraid of piety, sentiment and devotion.

Lets not give up our birthright: the daily Mass, sacramental confession, reservation, exposition and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Lets fight for an increase in devotion to the Mother of God.

Lets be radical in our politics.

Lets explore what a healthy priestly spirituality would look like. A truly sacrificial life for ourselves and our families. Here, as in other areas we can learn much from our evangelical brothers and sisters who are not embarrassed to make their homes and families part of their Christian, public ministry.

Lets not be afraid to be teachers of the faith; again, this is another area where I think we can learn from Evangelicals. If we believe that the Catholic faith is the best possible manifestation of Christianity we need to teach people how to be Catholics. The technology of prayer and liturgy: genuflection, the sign of the cross, prayers to be learnt by heart. Catholic teaching on the sacraments and the moral life. We should not be content to leave people as they were but to change their lives and behaviour. I am a great believer in the Religious life and in the vocation to celibacy; but we need to teach that Marriage is the normative and best way to live a life. That marriage is sacrificial and hard, that love is about choices. We can’t be inclusive of every lifestyle. The mis-use of sex damages lives and with money, food and power are the areas where we are most flawed and subject to sin.

A recognition that we are called to leadership and must negotiate the difficult art of exercising power without being embarrassed or ashamed.

I suppose what I am saying is that we do the ‘liberal’ bit quite well. Although I would argue that I am not a liberal and that the ordination of women and equal marriage are highly traditional. I am by nature a conservative and it is that part of what we do as a society, our catholic life, that I am concerned about. All sorts of attempts at renewing the catholic movement have been attempted, Anglican Catholic Future being the latest but none of them have captured hearts and minds, none of them have gained traction because they are simply not devout enough. It is our life of piety that needs renewing so that our public life of radical politics can bear fruit.

In retrospect I suspect that the pontificates of Benedict and Francis will need to be seen together:

– From Benedict we need to take some elements of the reform of the reform. The Roman Canon was of utmost importance for many Anglicans in the Catholic movement, I have often celebrated Mass from Missals designed to interpolate the Prayer Book Mass and the Roman Canon. With its deep chiastic structure in which intercession, sacrifice and the communion of saints draw us into the Eucharistic mystery; we are impoverished if we forget it. The Roman Canon is the prayer of Augustine the first Archbishop of Canterbury, and – although the trendy faux liturgy books would hardly suggest it – the Prayer of the ‘Celtic’ christians.

– Eastward celebration another key aim of the Catholic movement dating back to the 17th century is also something we should not forget as it is re-discovered by many Roman Catholic Christians. A Vatican II Catholic, I didn’t discover it until I was a school chaplain in Portsmouth and had to use the parish church for Mass for a while, that Evangelical Parish only had one altar, pushed against a wall. What amazed me is that children preferred it, particularly the boys. All that eye contact and performance is not what they wanted. I now find it suits my introvert nature and is a calmer and more contemplative way of presiding at the liturgy.

– From Francis we need to be reminded of the political vision of the Catholic movement in the Church of England. We must seek an alternative to the un-restricted capitalism of our time if the planet, let alone the human race are to survive. Francis will soon make protection of the planet a key element of his papacy. We should do the same.

– But also we could learn from Francis a deep, traditional Catholicism full of Latin American piety and devotion. His devotion to Our Lady Untier of Knots is one that we Anglicans who tie ourselves in so many knots could well emulate. I have a prayer card and leaflet for each of you on this important devotion.

The founders of our Society were largely priests who had been formed in the Society of the Holy Cross. I have copied for you the Rule of that Society, many who have joined later may not be familiar with it. I wonder if we could learn a little from its emphasis on personal sanctification and the Mass? Perhaps we could even share with them further development of what it means to be a holy priest. How we seek to convert our own individual sinfulness. Perhaps we could invite one of the brethren of that Society to address us on just that subject; share in the things we can share: Rosary, Stations of the Cross, Office, perhaps even Benediction.

Looking at the Rule of SSC I am conscious of the heavenly patronage it claims for itself: St. Mary at the Cross; St. Vincent de Paul; St. John Mary Vianney, the Cure d’Ars; and Charles Lowder. Yet for us in the Society of Catholic Priests who are our heavenly patrons, who intercedes for us daily at the throne of grace?

One of the phrases I like most from Teaching As A Subversive Activity is that we should teach children to develop an inner ‘crap detector’. I have now spent most of my adult life working with teenagers. It is a total joy and delight. They have so much energy; they cut through so much crap; they have such an instinctive sense of justice and injustice. Before I began work here as Head Master I visited many Pentecostal churches, I saw at once that Anglo-Catholicism and Pentecostalism feed from the same spring. They really believe it. They really feel it. They are unapologetic. They are also intensely ordered and visual communities. I hadn’t seen a figure of 8 procession in church for years until I visited one of our local African churches.

Working with teenagers, vocation is a huge part of what we do. Abbot Christopher Jamison former Head Master and Abbot at Worth once said that enabling children to discern their vocation was the key task of schools.

I worry that the key public models for priesthood are so dire. Which aspirational teenager, let alone which black aspirational teenager, would want to be like the Vicar of Dibley or The Reverend Adam Smallbone?

I think these two dire characters are indicative of a deeper problem with our spirituality of priesthood, and perhaps of the Christian life. It is a spirituality of woundedness or brokeness. I’m afraid the writings of Henri Nouwen are saturated in this. It is ‘victim’ like obsession with the wound and very far from a fully adult acknowledgement of sin; our flaws and guilt; or an adult recognition that suffering, pain and unsatisfactoriness are part of every life, every day. Here we need to turn to Saint Paul, especially 2 Cor 12:9, he makes it clear that in our weakness God is strong, God actually says to him “My power is made perfect in weakness.” The point is not the weakness but the power, and that it is God’s, not ours. Again I think we could learn much about powerful leadership from evangelicals. At Trinity we attempt to teach our young people to be powerful men and women; but never to rely on themselves. I hope one day we will produce powerful catholic priests and Religious.

Many of these problems have their origins in person-centred, Rogerian counselling. One of the things that is at the heart of what we do here at Trinity is to reject ‘child centred’ education. We are a God centred community. This is a totally orthodox theology: human beings only make sense when we are oriented towards God and not to ourselves.

Having suggested some areas which I think we, as a Society, could reflect on, I would like to conclude with three of the things I think we do best:

the monthly prayer list of this Chapter is hugely significant; to pray for one another

concelebration: this really is one of the fruits of Vatican 2; it teaches us that our priesthood is never our own; always derived from our bishop and ultimately from Christ our High Priest

hospitality: our fellowship over lunch or supper is warm and genuine; our fellowship and friendship to one another in the Society is a strength to build on

I am in no way disheartened. In the ebb and flow of the various parts of the Anglican tradition our Catholic movement has been ebbing for some time, but God, as we know, is never unfaithful, in his good time, if we are faithful, there will be renewal.
May we as a Society be renewed in priestly holiness; may Our Lady Untier of Knots help us to deal with the complexities of life in our church and in our world with great humility, simplicity and love.

The Rosary: Jesus Centred, Spirit Filled, Bible Based

Talk to the Sodality at the Admission of new members and Aspirants, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception 2020, Fr Richard Peers, Superior

Last summer, my brother, sister and I sat around the bed in St Gemma’s Hospice in Leeds where our mum was dying. Over the weeks she had been there we had the great gift of being able to visit her daily, and for me the great gift of praying the Rosary with her. No matter how tired or exhausted she became she would push at the beads on the hospital table and I would pray a set of mysteries. Initially praying strongly with me, as she weakened I would hardly be able to hear her say the second half of each prayer until I needed to say the whole prayer for her. Summoned by the staff early on a Friday as we gathered for her last few hours I started on the Rosary. There was no sound, her lips moved to the prayers and Brideshead-like she raised her hand slightly from the sheets as I made the sign of the cross at the start. A couple of hours later her lips stopped moving and soon we noticed that she had stopped breathing. The Rosary was deeply embedded in Mum’s consciousness and, as it became clear her sub-conscious too. When so much else in her memory had fallen away the Rosary remained.

The Rosary has always been part of my life. I remember my grandmother – who I lived with for part of my childhood – praying the Rosary each evening. Sometimes tuning in to Vatican Radio to pray it in Latin. Rosary with her before weekday Masses in her church in Bolsover. Rosary at home with mum. Rosary on camps as a teenager, Rosary at theological College in the chapel and with friends in our rooms; Rosary in the parishes I’ve served in. Rosary with the brothers of the Jerusalem Community in the car driving through the French countryside back to the centre of Paris after their retreat day.  Rosary at Lourdes, and Rosary at Walsingham, in the Holy House, and, of course, through the loud speakers at the national pilgrimage.

I’m only going to speak briefly today but I want to do so with some intensity, some considerable conviction because as I get older I find the Rosary is becoming increasingly important as part of my prayer life. Not least because like many others of us it is almost the only form of prayer (with microphone and camera switched off) that I can bear on Zoom and really feel enriched not drained by.

Like many others I probably read too much mystical literature as an adolescent and young man. I imagined that I would attain to the height of Mount Carmel, pass through the Mansions of prayer and by the time I got to my age now be a master of the contemplative life!

Well, it ain’t like that. I am content now to paddle in the shallows of the spiritual life; to enjoy the playful waves not of a crashing sea but of a quiet day on the beach. My prayer life is definitely of the bucket and spade variety with an occasional ice-cream. I am more than happy to leave the depths to others or until such a time that God calls me.

I want to do two things today. To make some simple suggestions for the way we pray the Rosary as a community and as individuals and to do so by recommending we all read a short text, an Apostolic Letter of Pope St John Paul II: Rosarium Virginis Mariae. I have put a PDF version of the whole text in the files on our Facebook group and also a shortened version with some key phrases highlighted by me.

My Twitter profile at the moment includes three two word phrases that have appealed to me for some time as I consider my Christian life and seek to be:

Jesus- centred

Spirit-filled

Bible-based

I believe the Rosary is all these things.

Near the end of his letter John Paul II writes:

“The centre of gravity in the Hail Mary, the hinge as it were which joins its two parts, is the name of Jesus.”

The Rosary is hinged on Jesus, centred on Jesus. The opening prayers and each Mystery include the prayer that Jesus taught. And to be Jesus-centred is to be profoundly a person of the church,

“The Our Father,” Pope John Paul writes, “makes meditation upon the mystery, even when carried out in solitude, an ecclesial experience.”

And, beautifully, he describes the beads themselves, as physical objects that illustrate this Jesus-centred, ecclesial spirituality. “the beads converge on the Crucifix”.

And “the beads remind us of our many relationships, of the bond of communion and fraternity which unites us all in Christ.”

This is such a beautiful thing for us in the Sodality. Our bonds are in many ways not very substantial, but we are a chain of relationships, now across the world, that I hold on to day in day out as I pray my beads.

The Rosary is Jesus Centred.

The Rosary is Spirit filled because it is contemplative prayer. In it we follow the example of Mary who “pondered these things in her heart”. As we ponder the mysteries of the Rosary it becomes a “way of assimilating the mystery”. It is an act of remembering that creates us as people who are formed in the likeness of Christ because we are what we remember. This is why we can’t pray the Rosary too often. It is a constant work of conversion as it shapes our minds and identities.  As its “quiet rhythm and lingering pace” become a “training in holiness”, that phrase alone make sit a suitable prayer for us as Sodalists with our single aim of “growing in holiness because the world needs holy priests.”

As you know charismatic renewal is an important part of my life. The gifts of the Spirit are real and necessary for me. But the Spirit’s gifts are not all fireworks, they include the gift of contemplation, of stillness, of “attentive listening”.

By its rhythms and its concreteness I find the Rosary can bring me to a place of stillness even in times of great stress and anxiety.

The Rosary is Spirit-filled.

The Rosary is bible-based because it feeds into our memories, our identities the great mysteries of the Christian faith, beginning with the creed and extending into meditation on the individual mysteries. The prayers of the Rosary are the “warp into which is woven contemplation of the mysteries.” I really like this image from the Apostolic letter because sometimes, especially when people start praying the Rosary, it can feel like there is too much to do, too much going on. But if we imagine ourselves weaving a strong, and beautiful, fabric using the warp and weft of prayer and contemplation it may help us to see what we are doing. Pope John Paul also addresses the use of the imagination, specifically mentioning the Ignation method of ‘composing the scene’, picturing in as much detail as possible the scene of the Mystery. We can become very words in our prayer and should not be afraid of using our visual memories as much as our verbal minds.

The Rosary is bible-based.

So from these reflections based on Rosarium Virginis Mariae, I want to make some practical suggestions for the way we pray the Rosary together.

In particular I want to reflect on the place of specific intercession – which is so important. Those of us who are familiar with praying the Rosary at Walsingham stood or sat around the Holy House will know what a major part intercession and the lists of those to be prayed for plays in that devotion. But as I hope I have shown intercession needs to be balanced with the biblical-contemplative dimension of the gospel. “No other words can ever match the efficacy of the inspired word.” Pope John Paul II writes of the Rosary.

I also notice that in our Zoom Rosaries we can have a good deal of intercession at each mystery and then requests for prayer at the end of the meeting which means both a good deal of intercessory material and also that we end with material without being able to process it or talk around it. So I suggest that we remove requests for intercession from the end of our meetings entirely and we end with the Hail  Mary and Sodality Prayer. At the beginning of the Rosary having made the sign of the cross and recited the creed the leader then ask for any prayer requests. 

We hold these in silence before moving to the mysteries.Individual intentions for each decade are still possible on occasion thus combining the specific intercessions of our community and the intentions offered by the leader of the Rosary. But while there may not always be intercession for each mystery there ought always to be Scripture and silence.

It may also be appropriate at the end of the Salve Regina before the versicle (Pray for us Holy Mother of God etc) that a time of silence be punctuated by anyone calling out names of those to be prayed for as they wish. I think this can work quite powerfully on Zoom. That way the time after the Rosary is for conversation and news and does not end on too undigested a heavy note.

There are other elements that John Paul II suggests which used judiciously might enhance our praying of the Rosary:

Scripture

Every praying of the Rosary should involve some reading of Scripture; there are lots of Rosary books around with shorter and longer suggestions, and these can be found online as well and can be used before each mystery.

Silence

Each of these Scripture readings could profitably be followed by a period of silence, not just a moment but a minute or two.

Prayers

Additional prayers often in Collect format can enrich our understanding of the mystery and usefully follow the Glory be …

There are also many other short meditations that can be used without adding huge amounts of time to the Rosary. Fr Steven Shakespeare and I are hoping to work on some of these, he is writing poems and I am compiling other material – I hope that now the first few months of the new job are done I can find time to work on that. I often mention Bishop David Konstant’s Mysteries of the Rosary as a great source of material.

I don’t want to suggest overwhelming the Rosary or extending our time too long but I think some light tweaking of our prayer would be helpful. Pope John Paul II talks of the ‘sobriety’ of the Rosary and the ‘noble simplicity’ of Latin Christianity should be respected. But I do want to encourage some light creativity!

Most of all I want to thank the 20 or so new members admitted today and next week (in Australia and New Zealand) and all Sodalists for committing to this community in which the Rosary has found such a natural home, or rather in which we as a community have found our natural home.

“If ever I come to the end of a day without having said the Rosary,” Blessed Columba Marmion declared, “I confess that I feel disappointed.”

I hope that each of us will find deep joy and satisfaction in being faithful pray-ers of the Rosary.

The Sodality Year of Review: Preface to the Ordo 2021

Dear Mothers, Fathers, Aspirants and friends of the Sodality,

What a year it has been for us as a community. The lockdown has seen extraordinary growth for us in numbers and particularly remarkably our growth internationally. I have always described our charisms as being about joy, friendship, seriousness and diocesan priesthood as fruits of the goal of holiness. It seems to me now that the Lord is leading us to deepen those bonds of friendship that are the Anglican Communion. The friendships that many of us are forging with sisters and brothers around the world will remain one of the many blessings of 2020 for me.

An equally significant blessing for us is Archbishop Stephen becoming our patron. As priests we are servants of the church and called to love the church. We each exercise our priesthood on behalf of our bishop; we are called to belong to a presbytery around him or her. This is a wonderful antidote to the individualism of our times. This link with the Archbishop of York is an important signal of our ecclesial identity; our joy in belonging to this part of the Catholic church. Archbishop Stephen’s personal gifts of joy in his vocation as priest and bishop and confident evangelism further indicate the Spirit’s life in our community.

2019 – 2020 was always going to be a significant year for us because it marks five years since the first members made a commitment to be a community. I am grateful to Liz Jones and Frankie Ward for conducting our review to help us discern the next steps for us.

This will also be the last Foreword to an Ordo that I write. I have always said that I would do just one term as Superior. Moving on to the next Superior will be an important step in the community’s life. I am immensely grateful to the support given me by members of Council, not least Mother Imogen as assistant Superior and Fr Simon as Clerk this year. Thank you too to Fr Sam for his work, significantly on this Ordo which is no small task. Bishop Gregory our Episcopal Visitor has been a great gift to us and to me. His gentle friendship is a source of much joy.

It is impossible for me to state how strongly I believe the Holy Spirit has been leading us in this way we are following and how much joy it brings me. My love of the Rosary and sense of the closeness of Our Lady to me in my priestly ministry have never been deeper. I feel her presence daily at the altar with me just as she stood with St John at the cross. His presence as the beloved disciple is deeply significant for us as priests. Jesus calls each of us his beloved friend and he entrusts each of us to the care of Mary, and Mary into ours. This gift brings tears to my eyes. As we celebrate Mass here in Christ Church Cathedral at the High Altar we do so under the reredos showing Our Lady with St John at the cross. I find it almost unbearable to look at and have to stop myself weeping when I do so. Each of us as priests, each of our dear aspirants in formation for priesthood is stood there gazing on Jesus.

For our year of review Fr Steven Shakespeare wrote these prayers I hope as we prepare for our general chapter next year we will all continue to use them to pray for God’s continual blessing on us.

With my love and prayers and deepest affection,

Fr Richard

Canticle of the Priest

I call for glory to come

like dewfall on the grass.

I call for the hour of truth

when love will speak its name.

I call to the One Who Is

from before the world was made.

Let us break the bread of blessing

and raise the healing cup.

Christ is the Gift and the Giver

love on the altar laid.

Through him we are made one

our joy is rendered whole.

With him we are known and kept

safe in the Fathers name.

In him we are freed from the world

made holy by the grace of God.

With Mary, Heart of the Priest,

we offer the Word made flesh.

Like her, we are known and called

and sanctified in truth.

As the grains of earth are gathered

and the vine gives up the grape,

as the water of life is poured

and the oil of anointing flows,

may all we are be offered in prayer

a living sacrament of praise.

(after John 17)

Prayer

God of demanding grace:

your desire for us 

is holiness and fullness of life;

you called Holy Mary 

to share in your work of salvation

and become the Gateway of New Life.

As we daily renew our commitment,

bind our offering to hers,

that in the welcome of her heart 

and the strength of her prayers

we may be faithful to our priestly calling:

to nurture Christ within us

to labour for his birth

to bear his life-giving body in our hands

and to sing his sacrificial love.

We ask this through Christ, 

our High Priest now and for ever.

Amen.                                             

Canticle and Prayer by Fr Steven Shakespeare