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Regular services: The Cambridge Mission will be celebrating the Holy Communion from Divine Worship: The Missal at St Edmund’s College Chapel as a Sunday Vigil on Saturdays at 4.40pm on a regular basis during Term. Wine afterwards in the SCR, by all means followed by a group excursion to a pub on Mount Pleasant. For Michaelmas 2018-19 this means from 29th September through to 1st December. Lent and Easter Term dates will be provided in due course.

Additional services: Will be announced as and when and added to the list below.

  • Monday 24th September – Sung Mass for Solemnity of Our Lady of Walsingham, Fisher House, 6pm. Celebrant: Fr Allen Brent. Fr Simon Chinery in quire.
  • 9th October – John Henry Newman, a simple gathering for Evensong from the Customary 
  • TBC – All Saints
  • 8th November – All Saints of England, Sung Mass, Fisher House, 5.30pm. Celebrant: Fr Thomas Mason.

More dates for the diary:

Choral Evensong at Christ’s. On 21st October at 6pm, the curate from the Other Place’s Ordinariate Mission, Revd Dr Michael Ward, is preaching at Christ’s College Chapel. Do come along to hear him.

Apologia (a Fisher House apologetics and social event) on the evening of 6th November will be a talk by Fr James Bradley on Our Lady. Fr Bradley is a priest of the Ordinariate at Holy Family church, Southampton, and is chaplain to the University of Southampton.

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Sermon for 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Trinity XX) – Year B

A sermon preached by the Revd Professor Allen Brent in St Edmund’s College Chapel 

Year B, Sunday 28. 

We have, in the Gospel for this evening’s Vigil Mass, our Lord making some of his most radical claims. In addition to keeping all the commandments, the Rich Young Man is invited if he wishes for his faith in Jesus to be complete, to sell all his goods and give them to the poor and to follow him. And then Jesus tells Peter that those who have left ‘house, brother, sister, father, children, or land for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel’ will receive them back with persecution in this world, but will in the world to come receive eternal life.

If we were required as an individual, like someone on a desert island, isolated and alone, to apply these demands of Jesus to ourselves and others, chaos, indeed often a moral chaos, would result. We are given logical or legal principles that would enable us to derive the validity of certain practices that follow from these demands of Jesus and by means of which we could declare other practices invalid. The words of Jesus have been used to justify celibacy and the religious life, but also some individuals have used them as justifications for abandoning their wives and marriage vows. As I was told in no uncertain terms by a representative of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, the Catholic Church holds in highest esteem the marriage vow. And notwithstanding the Catholic Church’s regarding of Jesus’ words as the challenge to the religious life, although you have no spouse, if your mother or father, sister or brother are ill and need you, your prior will soon tell you to get the hell out of the monastery for a time on a trip to see and support them. The form of Jesus words is accompanied by no logical or juridical formula that prescribes where and where not they apply. They take root not in an individual but in the community of faith that lives them in its own corporate life, led by the grace committed to the apostolic and Petrine ministry that will not allow that community to err fundamentally.

The great, spectacular example of how the meaning and application of Jesus words are lived out and experienced in the living community of faith is to be found in the Acts of the Apostles. Jesus had said ‘sell all your goods and give them to the poor, leave lands and possessions for my sake and the Gospel’s.’ So the first community of disciples held all things in common: private property was abolished. A millionaire like St Barnabas sold all that he had and laid the proceeds at the apostles’ feet.

It seemed like a wonderful existence but it was an economic experiment that failed. The community was in Jerusalem and rapidly became ‘the poor of Jerusalem.’ Let not the admirers of Maggie Thatcher gloat. St Paul in Galatians, following a blazing row with Peter, James, and John, ‘those who had been apostles,’ Paul says, ‘before me’, Paul agrees with them that ‘we should remember the poor’ which, Paul adds, ‘I was most anxious to do.’

Nothing is not always as it seems. The Jews of the Diaspora paid a temple tax to Jerusalem if they could not go there for the annual Passover, and this was the sign of the primacy and authority of Jerusalem within Judaeism. The irascible Paul might well avow that his revelation that made him an apostle came direct from the risen Jesus, owed nothing to these ‘so-called pillars of the Church’ let alone St Peter the rock on which that Church was founded. So why, Paul, take your gospel to them for approval that you say they quickly gave? And why acknowledge their authority by paying the Jerusalem Christian authorities something that looked like the Christian equivalent to a temple tax? Well Paul might say, this was no acknowledgement of apostolic authority from Jerusalem: he was simply worried about those poor people who had impoverished themselves in a failed economic experiment.

But despite Paul’s nonchalance about ecclesiastical authority, he now not only remembered the poor at Jerusalem but spent a major part of his ministry for the next few years organising a collection for the Jerusalem community: a considerable part of his second letter to the Corinthians is taken up with the task that finally becomes ‘the offering of the gentiles’ that he as apostle to the gentiles is to offer up in Jerusalem.

As Newman once said, there has never been a system of authority to which there was no resistance: resistance indeed shows why authority is necessary in the first place.

In the life and experience of the living community that is the Catholic Church, the intentions of the words of Jesus, living and creative, is worked out in our journey together as the community of faith that Christ founded. We discover under the protection of the Holy Spirit and the Petrine ministry what Jesus really meant. His particular words became the program for monastic communities and the religious life. We do not reject that life as individuals, it is part of us, it is the fulfilment of our common mission to act as the body of Christ.

There are other foundational principles that likewise guide our thinking to their proper outcome. One of which Newman was fond is the ‘incarnational’ principle. Not in strict logic but in our experience of living the life of faith we realise, not only that ‘the word was made flesh’ and Jesus and his words continue to live amongst us. That is why no view of the sacraments that deny their reality, that denies that at the Mass we receive Christ’s Body and Blood, truly and actually and not in symbol or in allegory is a sufficient view.

May God continue to give to his Holy Church the grace to live out his words as the body of Christ.

 

Sermon for 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Trinity XIX) – Year B

A sermon preached by the Revd Professor Allen Brent in St Edmund’s College Chapel 

Year B, Sunday 27. Mark 10: 2-16

Our Gospel for this evening’s Vigil Mass is about family life, it is about the marriage bond and its indissolubility, and it is about the love and welcome owed to children. Parents bring their children to Jesus for him to touch them, the disciples turn them away, but Jesus rebukes them and takes them into his arms, and in love blesses them.

Gospels were formed from the memories of early communities of what Jesus said and did, and the four that are in the New Testament are those that the whole community of faith that is the Catholic Church came to acknowledge. But any memory of what has taken place – indeed all history – is selective. All that has transpired in the last seven days is history, but only a small part of it will be remembered and recorded. Indeed, it has been noted that all four gospels could be read out aloud in the space of 16 hours. So what we have read this evening is a selection representing a particular interest.

These remembered pictures of Jesus, welcoming children, taking them into his arms and blessing them, were remembered because they expressed and reinforced the practice of living, contemporary communities. And the Catholic Church, the Body of Christ, continuing to express the love and welcoming of Christ for children, welcomes and has always welcomed the children of believing parents in baptism.

The baptism of children was universal in Christian history and practiced both by the Catholic Church as well as those groups that departed from its unity in schism in the early centuries. Indeed, one only needs to visit those early Christian cemeteries in Rome and elsewhere that are popularly called ‘Catacombs.’ There are thousands of epitaphs inscribed in memory of children who have lived for a few hours, a few days, or a few years in a world in which death was a too common experience for those who are young. And the compassion of Christ, who gathered the children in his arms, and who claimed that they were part of the kingdom of God, with indefeasible logic, compelled the reception of children and making them sacramentally a part of Christ’s mystical body.

And in the early Church, in fact for the first 1500 years, approximately, of Christian history, the baptism of young children was never challenged to the extent that it was rejected. It was only at the Reformation, with the rise of ana-baptist communities, that the slogan ‘for baptism believing adults only’ was heard. And inherent in the intellectual movement of the Reformation, however intellectually confused before it became the Enlightenment, was an obsessive individualism. The universe was composed of individual, indestructible atoms that combined together into molecules and organic wholes. Human societies were created by individuals, like individual atoms, who came together and drew up a social contract as an agreement for mutual benefit. Churches were created by individuals coming together, lead by the Spirit, with the Bible in their individual hands. And the baptism of so-called ‘believing adults’ expressed that individuality. And ‘believing adults’ became so as the result of a wondrous conversion experience, a god-like miracle of grace, that made one once and for all a redeemed Christian. Personal experience of Christ’s grace, personal experience of his overwhelming love and sacrifice, is indeed a wondrous thing to be treasured. But to make it alone sufficient for redemption and a prelude to the sacrament of baptism is the product of 16th century, European individualism.

As our holy Father, Pope Emeritus Benedict has taught us, the European Enlightenment was indeed a good development leading to intellectual, moral, and artistic progress. But its individualism was flawed. We do not arrive at a true picture of the world by inhabiting a desert island, escaping the distractions of society, and alone by oneself forming a veridicial picture of the world. As the later Wittgenstein, in Cambridge our Wittgenstein, taught us, truth is explored and discovered in community, as we explore it in those developing language games in our university that are our academies of science and the humanities, of art and history, of physics and biology, of religion and philosophy. We play our language games in which in community we seek to find the truths of our multifaceted human world.

I always wonder at the historical phenomenon of the practice of Christian baptism. That practice never originated from St. Paul, St. John or any other Christian theologian providing a theology of individual conversion and devising a rite using water and themes of death and resurrection to express that theology. That was not the way it came about. Tertullian, the North African, Latin theologian around AD 170, in one classic passage noted that the Catholic Church in its universal practice baptises infants. But then Tertullian asks why? Baptism is for repentance from sins. Well, yes, the majority of those baptised were adult pagans, children of Christian parents were a minority. But why baptise children who had committed no sins of which they needed to repent? It was St Cyprian who was to begin to develop an answer that only St Augustine was fully to give. Cyprian formulated embryonically a doctrine of Original Sin.

The sacrament and its practice came first and expressed the human understanding of the unfolding mystery that is living as the Body of Christ. But we celebrate sacraments because we are the Body of Christ: we cannot help but do this. Theological justifications come afterwards, and are always provisional: theology is a man-made creation for interpreting a divine mystery, though in the Catholic Church we are granted the grace of the Petrine ministry that we will not fundamentally err in our task.

Jesus welcomed the children into his arms, loved them and blessed them. May we find grace to always do the same.

Sermon for 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Trinity XVIII)

Sermon preached by the Revd Professor Allen Brent at St Edmund’s College Chapel 

Year B, Sunday 26 

One of the most expressive of our Lord’s show of feelings is found in the Gospel that we shall read next week. Jesus loved the children, gathered them in his arms, and blessed them. This is the human experience beyond all human experiences, it is the love for children that makes us so enraged at child abuse. Indeed the rage that I have felt about a minority of my brother catholic priests in child abuse I have sometimes, not very often, felt guilty about. So I take great consolation from the words of our Lord, in his unfallen humanity, holy, blameless, and undefiled, found in our Gospel lesson.

If anyone causes one of these little ones… to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.

A fundamental principle of the Christian faith is that all human beings are redeemable, are capable of being redeemed. Human beings are not angels, but neither are they daemons. We live out our experience of this life of ours poised between life and death, heaven and hell. And here is, I suppose, why Christians tend to oppose the death penalty: no one is so irretrievably lost that they are beyond redemption.

There is no one that is so alien and lost that God in his love and mercy cannot enter into it and redeem it. There is no human soul so depraved and estranged from God that divine love cannot claim, heal and reconcile it. Indeed, that is the principle of purgatory, that even lost souls there can finally be brought into the light of God’s own presence. Everyone is capable of redemption.

That is the principle. But what of the practice, what of the people with whom we have to deal? What of those British troups who liberated Belsen and Buchenwald, what of Adolf Hitler, how can we believe that even those who perpetrated such atrocities are capable of redemption? We can forgive, if we can find the grace that is God’s gift to forgive those who have caused us hurt and harm, but how can we forgive on behalf of others? Can I forgive, am I in any position to forgive, for what others suffered in the Holocaust? Can I forgive what a child abuser has done to innocent children, and the pain caused to their parents?

Yet I remember reading a reference of a prayer scratched as graffiti on a wall of one of those horrific gas chambers. That prayer asked for forgiveness for those who were in process of gassing to death the one who prayed. That example of sanctity, of forgiveness, should convince us of a human nature that is redeemable, that by divine grace can find itself transformed.

And what of child abuse, of paedophilia, and all the shocking and revolting cases that have come to life over the past fifty years or so, the trauma of the victims? The Catholic Church has had its fair share (but only a share) in the total of such cases, in which a gross betrayal of trust has been committed by its officers. That it is still a minority of clergy, religious and lay persons who have been so involved I realise is not the point. It is the damage to our witness that has been done, the witness of the Catholic Church whose teaching defends the life of the unborn child, and yet has been betrayed by some members in this way.

Although we must believe that everyone is capable of redemption, our Lord makes it clear that God’s anger is against what unredeemed human beings are capable of. And Christ’s holy anger is expressed at its greatest where children are concerned. The defenceless require from us no less concern and protection, in Christ’s name and for his sake. And the fires of hell are no less fearful, however much we must believe that in the end God’s love will be irresistible and will prevail. Everyone is capable of redemption, but redemption is not an easy process: repentance requires its own deep suffering. And our Lord was to mark this truth so graphically when he spoke of hands, and eyes and feet being cut off. The love of God is undefeatable, but purgatory is still a place of judgement.

Sermon – Our Lady of Walsingham (24.09.18)

A sermon preached at Fisher House for the Solemnity of Our Lady of Walsingham, 24th September 2018, by the Rev’d Professor Allen Brent D.D:

There on the cross, our blessed saviour hung and suffered, soon to give up his spirit in faith and trust into God our Father’s hands. Here and at this moment Jesus fulfilled the obligation to which he hardly needed compulsion to fulfil. For this was an obligation felt from love, from the love of his blessed mother, and his return of the love that she had given, the love beyond all telling. And it was to the Beloved disciple, at the foot of the cross, that our Lord entrusted the care of his dear mother, mother of God and mother of the Church.

And the disciple’s home was her own home, symbol of the Church, the Holy House of Nazareth, and the home of every one of us with whom she comes to dwell.

It was in vision that the Lady Richeldis saw in ecstasy blessed Mary who showed her the holy house of Nazareth. In vision, time and space cease to be. In the Eucharist barriers of time and space are removed and the eternal priest comes to us once more on the night of the Last Supper giving us his own body and blood to be shed, in space and time, the following day. So too here, not so much transported back in time but in a state where barriers of space and time no longer hold, the Lady Richeldis saw the Holy House at Nazareth, that place of love beyond all telling, and ordered a copy to be constructed. And so Nazareth found its place in England, the place of our pilgrimage, the place that is the National Catholic shrine in England.

A colleague and academic, of evangelical protestant persuasion, recently poured scorn on the miracles that the Catholic Church acknowledges. They were ‘old wives’ tales’ the fantasies of simple children and how could anyone credibly believe them. My reply was that there was little difference, as Newman pointed out, between biblical miracles and ecclesiastical miracles: there are parallels here on which I have no time here to elaborate. But in mentioning ‘women and children’ and ‘shepherds’ tales’ my reply was: yes ‘idle tales,’ like those told by women and children, like certain reported events in a garden and by an empty tomb, at a Lakeside, in an upper room, and on the open road to Emmaeus. But women and children have told us that they happened, in accounts that are so coherent with what those groups of disciples also claimed separately to have witnessed, and we believe them, with the grace given to us.

We have today an increasingly secular society, and particularly British society, and it is a mission to that society that the Catholic Church has committed to the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham and the Blessed John Henry Newman. We are part of the Western Latin rite of the Catholic Church one approved form of which we celebrate this evening: we are not bi-ritual: I am a normal, Latin rite, Catholic priest – as far as any of us can be called ‘normal’ – celebrating a restored Western rite healed and made whole from its Reformation mutilations.

It is easy, particularly in Cambridge, for Catholics to ignore the British mission. We are the Catholic Church of the World and of the Ages. Our congregations in a multi-cultural multinational world are so full with – God bless them – those of Afro Caribbean descent, from the far east, from Africa, from Europe and Latin America whose faith and devotion is truly breathtaking. But our Holy Father, pope Emeritus Benedict conceived our mission that he committed to our Ordinariate and our Ordinary Mgr Keith Newton and that we seek to fulfil.

God give us grace to realize the Holy House of Nazareth in England.

Our Lady, mother of God and mother of the Church, pray for us.

Article on Cambridge in The Portal

Download this month’s edition of the Ordinariate Magazine, The Portal

This month’s edition of The Portal contains an article on the Ordinariate in Cambridge, which is an interview with Ordinariate laymen put together with an abridged version of an article from the Cambridge Group, and commentary from the editor. Here is the unabridged article, for those interested: Continue reading