SAINT BARNABAS SOCIETY HEADQUARTERS

MASS – 27 JULY 2019

It is not ourselves that we are preaching, but Christ Jesus as the Lord.

At the very heart of today’s celebration in these new headquarters for the

Saint Barnabas Society is the continuing mission of the Church in England

and Wales to preach the truth about Jesus Christ as the Lord. Those words

from the Second Letter to the Corinthians complement another insight of St

Paul when he says: We are preaching a crucified Christ. He is the power of

God and the wisdom of God.

At the beginning of this Mass we blessed the magnificent new crucifix which

proclaims so eloquently St Paul’s faith and ours that the crucified Christ is the

source of every grace and blessing. This is wonderfully symbolized in the

imagery surrounding the figure of our Lord. To his right, pointing to the water

that flowed with blood from the wound of Longinus’s spear in our Lord’s side

is the prophet Ezekiel.

Ezekiel holds a scroll with the Latin words: Vidi aquam egredientem de

templo, a latere dextro – I saw water flowing out of the temple, from its right

side. In Ezekiel’s vision the water flowed through the whole earth with its

sanctifying power. So the water of sacramental grace flows throughout the

Church, bringing the grace and peace of redemption to the world.

This message of redemptive grace was central to the preaching of the two

great pastors whose memory we commemorate here today.

Blessed Dominic Barberi was formed as a Passionist in the tradition of St Paul

of the Cross. In his many missions travelling around England, whenever he

preached a large crucifix was held in front of him. That same crucifix is in the

church dedicated to St Anne which Blessed Dominic built at Stone in

Staffordshire. He wore on his habit the Passionist symbol of the Cross and

Passion which can be clearly seen in the beautiful icon to be blessed in a few

moments.

The life of Blessed John Henry Newman, soon to be canonized in Rome, was

also formed through his contemplation of the cross of Christ. We recall the

insight of his great hymn in The Dream of Gerontius:

And in the garden secretly

And on the Cross on high

Should teach his brethren and inspire

To suffer, and to die.

Blessed John Henry is shown in his Cardinal’s robes exchanging the pax, the

sign of peace with Blessed Dominic. This is not only the embrace of friends,

but it symbolizes the sacramental grace that transformed both their lives,

especially in that pivotal moment a nearby Littlemore.

Although the circumstances of our time are very different from the England

that Blessed John Henry and Blessed Dominic knew in the 1840’s, their faith

in Christ and in his Church is the same as ours. Like them we have also to be

prepared to adapt ourselves to new circumstances and challenges in order to

help others to find Christ in their lives and to experience life in Christ within

the Catholic Church.

Both Blessed Cardinal Newman and Blessed Fr Dominic persevered in their

mission, establishing communities of Oratorians and Passionists to continue

this apostolic work and winning people to Christ by their patient and loving

example. By the manner of their life, by their words and gestures, people

were drawn to them, realising that in them could be seen Christ himself.

Blessed Cardinal Newman first received the Sacraments in the Catholic

Church from Blessed Dominic at Littlemore. It was a privileged encounter for

both of these holy men and a reminder of what Blessed John Henry Newman

had recognised in Blessed Dominic and what he had been searching for – a

moving example of goodness and holiness within the Catholic Church that

would complement his intellectual conviction that the claims of the Catholic

Church were true.

We recall the words of Blessed John Henry quoted by Pope St Paul VI in his

homily for Blessed Dominic’s beatification in 1963: Father Dominic was a

marvellous missioner and a preacher filled with zeal. He had a great part in

my own conversion and in that of others. His very look had about it

something holy. When his form came within sight, I was moved to the depths

in the strangest way. The gaiety and affability of his manner in the midst of all

his sanctity was in itself a holy sermon. No wonder that I became his convert

and his penitent. He had a great love for England.

I think this lovely icon captures the spirit of those touching words. Both of

these holy men remind us that the world still needs moving examples of

goodness and holiness for our preaching of Christ Jesus as the Lord to be

accepted and for the message of the Good News to take root afresh in

England and Wales.

We pray for the work of the Saint Barnabas Society assisting so many on their

own journey into full communion with the Catholic Church and we ask for the

intercession of the saints:

St Barnabas Pray for us

Blessed John henry Newman Pray for us

Blessed Dominic Barberi Pray for us

IMG_9548.jpg

It is always a privilege to be able to share in the celebration of Holy Mass at the college at Littlmore, but this year it had a special significance. Since our last Trustees meeting in May the announcement has been made from Rome that Blessed John Henry Newman will be canonised by Pope Francis on Sunday, 13 October – an event at which the St Barnabas Society will be represented – and yesterday we were on the very spot where Newman’s journey to sainthood began in earnest. It was good to welcome Fr Gerard back among us and it seemed only right that he should be the principal celebrant. It was significant for me too as it was the 21st anniversary of my ordination to the Sacred Priesthood. Yes…21 again! As St Thomas Aquinas reminds us: “Sight is deceived!”

Newman never believed himself to be the stuff of saints. “I have no tendency to be a saint” he wrote. “It is a sad thing to say so. Saints are not literary men.” Yet the truth is that God calls men and women to sainthood from all conditions of life. It is not your family background, your social status or your choice of career that qualifies you for sainthood. It is the depth of your friendship with God and the way that depth of friendship is radiated, in such a way as to become a source of inspiration to others. Throughout his life Newman sought only God, whom he believed to be the centre of his life. The motto he adhered to from the time he was a young man was “Holiness rather than peace.”

IMG_9553.jpg

Newman believed that the way to holiness was to be found in the faithful fulfilment of daily duties. He would have identified very closely with the words of John Keble’s famous hymn “New every morning.”

“The trivial round, the common task

Would furnish all we ought to ask.

Room to deny ourselves, a road

To bring us daily nearer God.”

IMG_9552.jpg

The last few weeks have been very eventful. After a beautiful London Festival Mass at the Ordinariate Church of Our Lady of the Assumption & St Gregory, Warwick Street, I was able to take a week’s holiday with friends in northern Cyprus. We were staying in the beautiful port of Kyrenia and St Barnabas is buried not far away there on the outskirts of the city of Salamis on the east coast. This meant that we were able to visit his tomb and pray there for the Society and its work. The last time I did this was shortly before taking up my appointment as Director and a great deal has happened since then. There was so much to thank the “Son of Consolation” for and so much more to entrust to his on-going intercession. I have always felt him to be especially close to us and his selfless sacrifice for the sake of Christ and His Gospel which culminated in a martyr’s death continues to inspire us in the mission we exercise under his patronage.

IMG_0404.JPG

Just days after our return we heard the joyful and not entirely unexpected news that Blessed John Henry Newman is to be canonised in Rome on Sunday 13th October by Pope Francis. It will be a wonderful moment in the life of the Church and a special blessing for those who have followed Newman upon his journey of conversion. Since the story of our Society is so closely connected with his, it is our intention to be present at the Canonisation Mass and to bring back from Rome a lamp which will burn beside the icon of Newman and Blessed Dominic Barberi in our chapel. We are now eagerly awaiting the visit of His Grace The Archbishop of Birmingham on Saturday, July 27th, when he will bless the icon and our new crucifix.

The day of the announcement of Newman’s canonisation was a day of mixed emotions. As a family we received the sad news that my father, Barri Martin, has entered end of life care and is unlikely to live very much longer. He is a retired Master Mariner and a former Harbour Pilot and during the course of his long life he has travelled the world and enjoyed many amazing adventures. Despite many years of failing health he has remained astonishingly alert and his memory has remained as clear as ever. He has never been happier than when sharing his salty tales with visitors but now at 89 years of age the time has come for him to set sail for his eternal home. I mention this only to ask you all to pray for him, for my mother, Joy, and for all of us as a family at this sad time. In particular, I entrust my dear old Dad to the intercession of Our Blessed Lady, Star of the Sea, and Blessed (soon to be Saint) John Henry Newman, that they will help him steer a steady course as he prepares to journey from this world toward the harbour of Heaven.

Hail, O Star that pointest

Towards the port of Heaven,

Thou to whom as maiden

God for Son was given.

Bound by Satan’s fetters,

Health and vision needing,

God will aid and light us

At thy gentle pleading.

So, as now we journey,

Aid our weak endeavour,

Till we gaze on Jesus,

And rejoice for ever.

The London Festival

We were honoured to have the Abbot of Farnborough, The Right Reverend Dom Cuthbert Brogan OSB, as this year’s Principal Celebrant and Homilist and we are grateful to him for the willing support that he and his community give to the Society’s mission.

We are also deeply grateful to Monsignor Keith Newton and Father Mark Elliott-Smith for allowing us to use the beautiful church of Our Lady of the Assumption and St Gregory on such an important occasion. Additional thanks go to the musical director, Keith Brown, the members of the choir and to all those who contributed in any way to the evening’s liturgy. Your help was deeply appreciated

The Argentinian artist Marcelo Lavallen who last year decorated so beautifully the altar in the chapel of the St Barnabas Society has made a return visit. He has just completed a new crucifix for us and, as I write, he is in the process of painting (or to put it more correctly “writing”) an icon of Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman and Blessed Dominic Barberi. The Archbishop of Birmingham will be visiting the Society on Saturday, 27 July, to celebrate Mass for us and to bless the crucifix and icon. He made a visit to Wolvercote shortly before I took up my appointment and it will be lovely to welcome him to our new location on the outskirts of Littlemore. 

The timing of Marcelo’s visit could not have been better as Blessed John Henry Newman is almost certainly to be canonised later this year. To have an image of him and of the saintly Passionist priest who received into the Catholic Church in 1845 will be a very special blessing for us not least because we are now based within walking distance of where it all happened. Marcelo is uniquely gifted and we are very privileged that he has so readily agreed to undertake this project for us. We hope that in time his beautiful artwork will help to attract more visitors to the St Barnabas Society – clergy and laity – so that they can join us for the celebration of Mass and we can talk to them about the work we do. Any Catholic priest in good standing is welcome to celebrate Mass here and anyone may join us for Mass each day. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you wish to do so. 

The crucifix has yet to be hung but the accompanying photograph shows very clearly how much research Marcelo has put into it as well as the skill he has exercised in painting it. The Lord Himself referred to His Death as “a baptism” – “There is a baptism I must still receive, and how great is my distress till it is over!” (Luke 12:50) - and Marcelo’s crucifix incorporates strong baptismal themes. Above the Crucified is the image of the dove which descended from Heaven at Christ’s Baptism by John in the river Jordan. The figure of the prophet Ezekiel is on His right side with the inscription “Vidi aquam egredientem – I saw water flowing”. On His left side is John the Baptist with the inscription “Ecce Agnus Dei – Behold the Lamb of God”. The body of Jesus is immersed in flowing water which symbolises the new life which Holy Baptism effects for us through His Saving Death. Finally beneath His feet is the figure of Jonah emerging from the mouth of the whale, an episode which foreshadowed the Death and Resurrection of Christ.  

Although the St Barnabas Society is open to providing help to former clergy and religious of other world faiths the majority of converts who make contact with us are from other Christian denominations. As a consequence there is a precious gift which they bring with them on their conversion journey and which they already share with their Catholic brothers and sisters. It is their Baptism. Marcelo’s beautiful crucifix will be a powerful reminder of this as it hangs above the altar where the Sacrifice of the Lord is perpetuated. It is much more than a beautiful work of art. It is a powerful symbol of the life made possible for us by the Death of Jesus – a life in which we totally share within the fold of His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. 

IMG_7587.jpg