St Thomas of Canterbury Church is now a Diocesan Shrine

This week I received from Archbishop John Wilson the Decree designating and approving St Thomas of Canterbury Church as a Diocesan Shrine. I thought it would be important for you all to see and read the Decree:

“St Thomas Canterbury opened on 13 April 1875, holds the relic of St Thomas Becket. The relic consisting of a fragment of his vestment and two pieces of bone acquired from Gubbio in Umbria, Italy. Another relic was presented to the parish during a pilgrimage in 1953. Father Thomas Becquet made the presentation of the relic: a piece of the finger bone of St Thomas of Becket. The relic originated in the Cistercian monastery of Pontigny, where St Thomas stayed during his years of exile, and reached Chevotogne via the Bishop of Tournai. Consequently, St Thomas of Canterbury Church has been a pilgrimage Church, as well as a parish Church from its early beginnings. As early as 1889, The Guild of Our Lady of Ransom was organizing pilgrimages to Canterbury from London, which began with early Mass at St Ethelreda’s, Ely Place and then journeyed (with Devotions on the way) by special train on the London, Chatham and Dover Railway. These pilgrimages have continued with the Knights of St Columba organizing the “Penitential Mile” from St Dunstan’s to St Thomas and the Guild of Ransom organizing its pilgrimage on a day in July, among several individual and small group pilgrimages.

WHEREFORE, having carefully considered the law and the facts and having carefully studied the Statues of St Thomas of Canterbury Church, I hereby approve, by means of this Decree, its Statutes in accordance with the norms of canon 1231 §§1,2.

FURTHERMORE, for the good of souls, I, the undersigned Archbishop of Southwark, do hereby, by means of this Decree, designate and approve St Thomas of Canterbury Church as an Archdiocesan Shrine, in accordance with canon 1230.

At this Shrine, the means of salvation are to be supplied more abundantly to the faithful by the diligent proclamation of the word of God, the suitable promotion of liturgical life especially through the celebration of the Eucharist and of penance, and the cultivation of approved forms of popular piety. (Canon 1234 §l of the 1983 Code of Canon Law).

Seeing that this Shrine has been so designated and approved, in virtue of the ordinary power granted me by law and in virtue of canon 1233, I do hereby grant a partial indulgence from temporal punishment to any member of the Christian faithful who visits the Shrine on the liturgical feast day of the Shrine.”

Signed by The most Reverent John Wilson Archbishop of Southwark and Monsignor Matthew Dickens, Chancellor & Vicar General. Given on this sixteenth day November 2019 On the Feast of Saint Edmund of Abingdon, Archbishop of Canterbury

We are Relational Beings

Most of us have heard of the internationally renowned sculptor, Antony Gormley, and his piece “The Angel of the North”. It was completed in 1998, and is a steel sculpture of an angel, 20 metres (66 ft) tall, with wings measuring 54 metres (177 ft) across and stands on a hill overlooking the A1 and A167 and the East Coast Main line. Well, he has an exhibition at the Royal Academy in Piccadilly, London which ends on 3rd December. The human body is at the core of his wide ranging practice. He says that he sees the body as a vessel for feeling. I was there last Thursday and came away admiring his ingenuity and creativity but feeling myself not uplifted but somewhat downhearted and depressed.

I have been trying to understand why his sculptures evoke this reaction in me. In the notes on the exhibition it says that Gormley describes the body as; “a place of experience, emotion, consciousness, memory and imagination.” The first piece you see as you enter the courtyard in front of the Royal Academy is a small sculptor which is a life size form of a new-born baby made of solid iron. It is just lying on the pavement, lost and abandoned. Throughout the exhibition he depicts various forms of the body. One room is full of iron cast figures, some standing on the floor, others suspending from the ceiling and still others projecting out from the walls at different angles. I know Antony Gormley is trying to get us to reflect on ourselves, and the space we occupy but what I get from this is a deep sense of isolation, detachment and loss. We are relational beings and this sense of the need for companionship and the other is nowhere to be seen, experienced or hinted at. The medium he uses is iron and concrete that seems to emphasise hardness and coldness.

Perhaps my reaction to his art says more about me than about him. Our bodies are made for relationship and love. We experience this through family and friendship. The greatest act that we can be part of each week is the Eucharist, the Mass. We are called to come together to pray and listen and be fed. We become more closely the Body of Christ. Jesus shares his very self with us. When we receive the Host and the Chalice we hear the words: “The body of Christ, the Blood of Christ.” In faith we say “Amen” We are responding to the invitation to share in the ultimate act of love which is his death on the Cross and his resurrection. Our bodies are sacred and made in the image and likeness of God. When we receive communion we become what we eat. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. It means we need to look after our bodies, cherish and value them and therefore we treat each other as unique and special. Through the body we express love and kindness, compassion and service. We are relational beings not destined to live in isolation and loneliness.

Musings of a Parish Priest

Today’s Gospel is very familiar to all of us. It is a key scriptural reading we use when preparing our our children for the Sacrament of reconciliation. This is also a great passage for us to reflect on in our prayer. Zacchaeus was a man apart, collaborating with the Romans in his office of tax collecting. He was determined to see Jesus and not standing on his dignity he climbed a tree. He was making great efforts to catch a glimpse of him. To what extent to I really desire to see Jesus and come to know him? What efforts do I make to see him? Jesus stopped under the tree and looked up and he called him by name. Jesus knew his name. “Zacchaeus come down quickly for I must stay at your house today”. Imagine Jesus looking at you, calling you by name, and inviting himself into you home, your heart. Zacchaeus we are told “received him joyfully”. How would we react if Jesus said that he wanted to come into our heart? Imagine yourself joyfully receiving Jesus. How will the awareness of Jesus in you this effect you? Do you find yourself wanting to put things right? As someone wrote: “I find happiness in putting things right, ordering my life, finding the springs of generosity and justice that have been stifled by old habits”. Zacchaeus was hated by the crowd and rejected but the acceptance and welcome of Jesus somehow changed him. If I allow Jesus into my heart what would I want to change about myself? It is Jesus presence and love that effected a change in Zacchaeus. Jesus didn’t stand beneath the tree wagging his finger at Zacchaeus, telling him that he must change. His treatment of the tax collector was the opposite of the attitude of the crowd who grumbled “He has gone to the house of a sinner as a guest.” The response of Zacchaeus was beyond what was expected. He was willing to give all. The name Zacchaeus comes from the Hebrew and means “the pure one”. As Fr Lane writes: “Before reforming his life and meeting Jesus, Zacchaeus was the pure one only in name but not in deed. After meeting Jesus, Zacchaeus was the pure one both in name and deed.

Newsletter for week starting 27 October 2019


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Jesus is sharing with us an important story this weekend. It is directed at you and me. Are you listening? What do you hear?  The reason he was telling this story was because there were some people who prided themselves on being virtuous and despised everyone else.  It is a good thing to be virtuous but it is a bad thing to think that if we are virtuous we are better than anyone else.  The man praying at the front of the synagogue was telling the truth about the good things he did. But he was blowing his own trumpet. Perhaps he was doing all this so that others would look up to him, they would admire him, and he would look good in other peoples eyes. 

The tax collector was also telling the truth. His prayer came straight from the heart. “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” He acknowledged his need for God. He knew his own poverty, weakness. Why was this the better prayer? It was an honest prayer. He was speaking from the heart. He desired to be at one with God and that meant knowing his need for God. The man was humble.  St Benedict in his rule spoke at length in chapter Seven about humility. He lists twelve steps like twelve rungs on a ladder. Then among the things he says, these two are important.

Firstly we need to accept ourselves as we truly are before God, we need to admit our failings. This is not a guilt trip or false pride at being worse than others. It simply means we are to face our own shortcomings without pretence. When we do, we discover more about the depth of God’s love for us. It is this love of God which starts a process of transformation in us.  Secondly, cultivating a little more humility in our lives is not only good for ourselves but is a necessary part of being in community with others. When we truly experience God’s acceptance and love for us, in spite of our own shortcomings, we gradually become better at not minding the imperfections of others.

Here is a prayer for humility.

God, I am far too often influenced by what others think of me. I am always pretending to be either richer or smarter or nicer than I really am. Please prevent me from trying to attract attention. Don’t let me gloat over praise on one hand or be discouraged by criticism on the other. Nor let me waste time weaving imaginary situations in which the most heroic, charming, witty person present is myself. Show me how to be humble of heart, like you. 

Newsletter for week starting 20th October 2019


This message is only for the use of the intended recipient(s). It may contain information which is confidential and legally privileged within the meaning of applicable law. If you are not the intended recipient, please contact the sender as soon as possible.
Any copying, disclosure, distribution or any action taken or omitted to be taken in reliance on it is prohibited and may be unlawful. Unless stated to the contrary, any opinions expressed in this message are personal and may not be attributed to Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Southwark CIO. Registered Charity No.: 1173050
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Extraordinary Missionary Month

How are you doing in this Extraordinary Missionary Month? The Parish was very generous in its support of the Missionary congregation of the Spiritans. After Fr Patrice’s preaching on the first Sunday of the month you raised £1,633. 54. Also some of you give regularly to the Churches missionary work through the Red Box that that you have at home. Thank you to all of you who give to missionary work. Today is World Mission Sunday and Pope Francis in his message to us says: “We must also remember that the soul of the Church’s mission is prayer. In this extraordinary missionary month, let us pray that the Holy Spirit may engender a new missionary spring for all those baptized and sent by Christ’s Church.”

Pope Francis invites us all to pray this intention with him and, from that prayer, to be mobilised to whatever missionary action that we might discern, each in our own situation and circumstances. Our prayer should always include a readiness to be mobilised for action, or at least an openness to receiving that grace. In prayer the spirit can lead us to be more aware of what Jesus is asking us to do as missionary disciples. This is the calling of each of us. Pope Francis writes in Evangelii Gaudium “Each one of us is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: we no longer say that we are “disciples” and “missionaries”, but rather that we are always “missionary disciples”.’ Praying with the Pope this month could include pondering this quotation. Have I encountered the love of God, and how, where and when has this set me on a path of missionary discipleship? Can I ask the Holy Spirit to give me, or renew in me, this experience? Here is a prayer for the spread of the Gospel from the Roman Missal:

O God, whose will it is that all should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, look upon your abundant harvest and be pleased to send workers to gather it, that the Gospel may be preached to all creation and that your people, gathered by the word of life and sustained by the power of the Sacraments, may advance in the path of salvation and love.