Tag Archives: Westminster Cathedral

Advent – The Lord is coming

Lighting the Advent Candle at Westminster Cathedral, Vigil Mass November 30 2013

The Latin word Advent means coming. In Advent, we await the first coming of the Lord. It is a time of expectation and joyful anticipation. We prepare for Advent and look forward to the coming of Christ. And when He comes He will bring peace

Nation will not lift sword against nation,

there will be no more training for war,

O House of Jacob, come,

let us walk in the light of the Lord

-Isaiah 2:4-5

Picture: Lighting the Advent candle at Westminster Cathedral


A Saint Remembered

It has become a recent custom at Westminster Cathedral that in marking the feast day of St John Southworth, the feretory containing the relics of our saint is moved from its usual resting place in the Chapel of St George and the English Martyrs into the nave of the Cathedral where visitors and worshippers may pray and light candles around the relics.

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Father John Southworth was born into a family of Catholics in Lancashire in 1592. His family had been subject to persecution including having to pay heavy fines for not renouncing their faith. John Southworth’s father had himself been imprisoned for harbouring the Jesuit martyr-priest, Father Edmund Campion. Despite those times being very dangerous for Catholics in England and Wales, John Southworth travelled to Douai in France to study for his vocation which would conclude with his own martyrdom.

Following his ordination, Father John returned to England in 1619 and for most of the next 35 years carried out his pastoral duties and was arrested on no less than four occasions. Much of John Southworth’s work was in Westminster which in the middle ages was an area noted for its crime and abject poverty. Despite the reputation of the area and in the face of constant mortal danger, John Southworth  served the poor, the ill and the needy in Westminster and Clerkenwell . During the years of the plague, at great personal risk he worked among the infirmed and dying and raised funds for the families of victims.

While John Southworth was released on three occasions of his arrest as a result of the intervention of Henrietta Maria, the French Catholic wife of King Charles 1, he was again detained in 1654. Refusing to renounce his faith and saying instead,

“My faith and obedience to my superiors is all the treason charged against me; nay, I die for Christ’s law, which no human law, by whomsoever made, ought to withstand or contradict… ”

John Southworth was condemned to death at Tyburn despite the pleas of many including those of several foreign ambassadors.

His remains were sent to Douai for burial and then transferred to and hidden in an unmarked grave during the French Revolution. They were discovered in 1927 and returned to England. When he was beatified in 1929, John Southworth’s relics were enshrined at Westminster Cathedral. On October 25 1970, Pope Paul VI canonised John Southworth in company with the other martyrs of England and Wales.

Today, The St John Southworth Fund in carrying on the spirit of it’s patron saint, supports the work of parishes and organisations on a wide range of issues including poverty, old age, infirmity, disability and deprivation in the dioceses of Westminster, Brentwood and Southwark and in the county of Hertfordshire.

In Ordinary Time

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The faithful will all be aware that when the season of Easter comes to a close, the Paschal Candle which has been on display and lit at masses since the Easter Vigil is moved from the sanctuary to the baptistery where it is used at baptisms. At funerals it becomes a symbol signifying Christian passing as a true Passover. This period between Trinity Sunday and Advent is known as Ordinary Time. During this part of the liturgical calendar, we celebrate the mystery of Christ in all its fullness.

Christ’s whole life is a mystery. In the Creed we learn of the mysteries of the Incarnation and of the Paschal mystery. It reveals nothing in particular about the life of Jesus of the form one would read in a biography. Yet, that which is written was recorded as it says in the Gospel of John so that we may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this, we may have life through his name. Thus there can be no denying the richness of the mysteries of Jesus.

Through the Gospels and the writings of men who were among the first to have known Christ, in the case of John, instructed by Jesus to write down all that he saw or as in the example of Paul, called by God to the faith, the deeds, miracles and words of Jesus himself are made known to us. They also reveal the Father since Christ himself had said

“To have seen me is to have seen the Father”

John 14:9

In undertaking his redemptive mission, Christ ensures that as we receive the sacrament of his body, we are also in receipt of his divinity and the salvation he brings.

The mysteries of Christ are not in the realm of a whodunit. Instead they are something unquantifiable, something that is of unlimited richness which when revealed to us assures us of endless grace and the continued love of the Father.

In his death through which all our sins are taken away and by his Resurrection, Christ justifies us and brings us once again to the Father. In the picture of man’s journey then, what we had lost in Adam, we would recover in Jesus.

Just as Christ himself made his journey from a boy into manhood and as we heard at this past weekend St Paul made his own unique journey from persecutor of the church to Apostle of Christ, it too is our unique and personal journey when we are called to follow Christ and in going with him, complete our journey to the Father.

Time to Give Thanks

At Westminster Cathedral, Fr Alexander in his homily at the vigil mass of Corpus Christi referred to the occasion as one of the great solemnities of the liturgical year and one by which we have the opportunity to thank God for the gift of Christ.

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Man has much to be grateful for Christ, predating even the days when our Lord walked the earth. You may remember of course St Paul’s reminder to  the brothers in Corinth about the journey of their fathers through the desert. He spoke about how they were guided by the cloud above them, that they drank from the spiritual rock which followed them as they went and indeed that rock was Christ. So Christ himself has been with us from our early days. It reminds me of the poem of the footprints in the sand, when the person observing two sets of footprints while walking along the beach with the Lord, upon looking back at the various scenes of his or her life noticed that during the lowest and most difficult moments only one set of footprints were to be seen. When questioned on being supposedly abandoned, the Lord’s reply was that during those trying times it was the Lord who was carrying that person. We know from the Holy Trinity, that if the Father did the carrying then so did the Son.

Thus it is fitting that we should always remember Christ and not only in the sacraments but in our daily lives since who could and would understand us in the way that he does. It is not as St Paul says that we have a high priest who was incapable of feeling our weaknesses with us but instead we have one who had been tempted in every way that we are. So we should be confident that in Jesus we have one in whom not only will we always enjoy kindness, generosity and understanding  but we will also find his grace when we are in need of his help.

Returning to St Paul again who in referring to the partaking of the sacraments said,

Until the Lord comes therefore,

everytime you eat this bread and drink this wine,

you are proclaiming His death

Corinthians 11:26

it would be good that while we reflect on his words and give thanks for the deed and great gift that it is, to live a life that reflects the worthiness of the gift.

Easter Triduum 2013 – Christ Is Risen

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At the Easter Vigil on the sanctuary at Westminster Cathedral, Father Alexander a priest, comes before the Archbishop and announces 

Most Reverend Father

I bring you a message of great joy

Christ is risen


In his reply, Archbishop Vincent Nichols spoke of  this Easter Vigil as a celebration of light and life, a triumph of light over darkness and of life over death. That in celebrating these truths and taking them to heart will every moment of our lives be transformed. 

He then referred to the night’s liturgy which placed the truth into its boldest context and invited us to grasp the deepest meaning of the triumph of our Risen Christ, the triumph over evil.

Reflecting on the beginning of the ceremony when the Paschal candle was lit Archbishop Nichols explained that the Paschal Candle symbolised Christ as the Light of the world, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning of all things and it’s end, The one to Whom all time belongs. He went on to say that nothing was beyond the reach of the victory won for us in the flesh and blood of Christ. That as St Paul had written, that when Christ died, He died once and for all to sin so we may have new life, so we could live free from the slavery of sin. 

Drawing on the recent words of Pope Francis, he focussed our thoughts on the ills of today where the reality of sin manifests itself in the wounds inflicted on humanity, a world riddled with economic conflicts that hit the weakest, where man’s  greed for money which could not be taken from this earth in any event, caused great suffering.  How indeed habits of mind and heart become actions often repeated. Thus the importance of the light of this night, the light of Christ, was a reminder to us that the victory of Christ over sin was always available to us and that  His mercy and healing were to be found in every mass, in every confession. Tonight too therefore, we thank God for the ministry of the church through which this mercy comes to us. 

However there was too another aspect of which we should be aware this Holy Saturday and it was that in Christ reaching out to Adam to bring him out of the deepest pit into the glory of new light and life, we too as a result of this enjoy the grace of the redemption of our past. It was vital too to reflect that this peace was only possible through the work, life and light of Christ. While the world would make different demands on us in seeking full payment for our past, in God’s world, a different economy was at work. One, in which the offer of a redemption of the past and a surety for the future was always available. Even the most deep-seated of all our burdens, that of sin which hung like a  millstone round our neck, Archbishop Vincent reassured the congregation,  will be struck and shattered by Christ. 

Thus as it was written all who are thirsty would come to him and listen and our souls will live.  It was not though without taking on a special task, that of witnessing for Christ and taking the lead again from  Pope Francis that we should be looking to the youth of today to  bring us joy of faith which itself must be lived with a young heart. Then having extended his Easter wishes to the congregation along with his  blessing, the Archbishop had his customary meeting with his flock at the steps of the Cathedral.


Easter Triduum 2013 : Good Friday – A ransom paid

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Antiphon : God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all

Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness.

In your compassion blot out my offence.

O wash me more and more from my guilt

and cleanse me from my sin

Consider the extreme cruelty suffered by Christ Jesus at the hands of his executioners. 

His inner garments adhered to his torn flesh. Yet they dragged them off him so violently that the skin came off with them. Those who sought His life used violence against him. And when extending his hands and feet upon the cross, they then proceeded to nail them to the wood so Jesus would die in anguish.  Each blow of the hammer was taken for each and every one of us and each minute of the three hours that Christ was held upright on the cross when under the weight of His body, those very wounds would bring further agony to our Lord, was every minute of additional suffering endured for us.

Consider then that it would not be for nothing if we turned our sorrows into something good. As Pope Francis himself said the cross was the way by which God had made his reply. In response to evil God’s answer was Christ on the Cross. Thus the ‘ Cross of Christ ‘ which is  about love, mercy and forgiveness should encourage in us that the response to evil is to do good, the more than equal opposite of evil. The beautiful prayers, lamentations and meditations on this Good Friday should be a help to us to focus on how we respond to the sacrifice made which is an example to us. Christ died for us on Good Friday so the Good in this day is that love which the Father has shown to us through His Son. We can continue this good if we take up the Cross of Christ and do good ourselves. There is much that needs our attention not only in the world but in our own communities. Sad but it is still evident in the twenty first century that children are impoverished and going hungry, lacking opportunities which would give them a way forward in their lives while the homeless live on our streets.  

Christ came to die for us and once and for all, do away with sin by replacing evil with good. If Christ on the cross means something to us then we could turn the sadness into something good in doing something good and positive. The ransom has been paid.

Picture – The congregation at Westminster Cathedral join a queue to venerate the cross on Good Friday. With the numbers attending The Celebration of The Passion of the Lord, it would be nearly two hours before the next phase of the day’s events, that of the Stations of the Cross would begin.


Very Typically Vincent

At the close of a special thanksgiving mass for the election of Pope Francis 1, Archbishop Vincent Nichols met with members of his congregation as they made their way home having attended Westminster Cathedral.


Not for the first time has Archbishop Vincent meet with and warmly greet his flock. Just as on every procession at the conclusion of each mass that he says, the gathered have a feeling of being specially connected with him when he blesses them while walking by

” Feed My Lambs…… Look after My sheep ” ( John 21:16-17)

Man of the people and for the people. I think too someone who himself, is very specially connected.