One of the most rewarding parts of our work is to see the conversion journey of one of our beneficiaries end in ordination. Not one, but two of them, are about to make that step. On 8th December, John Owens will be ordained as a Deacon for the Diocese of Nottingham and on 19th December Jack Lusted will be ordained as a Priest for the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. I commend them both to your prayers along with their families. They have already made significant sacrifices simply by choosing to become Catholics albeit with the help of God’s grace. They will now make the supreme sacrifice of offering themselves for service to the Lord as Ministers in His Church and at a time in history when vocations in this country are fewer than perhaps ever before. To do this is no small thing. It requires a generous heart. They will both be a blessing to the Church and the St Barnabas Society feels privileged to have played a small but significant role in helping to bring them to this special moment.
Recently I read a biography of the famous English novelist, biographer and journalist, Nancy Mitford. She is buried in the churchyard in the beautiful little Cotswold village of Swinbrook, not far from Oxford, along with her parents and three of her equally famous (or should I say ‘infamous’) siblings. The Mitfords have always fascinated me. I once wrote to the youngest Mitford sister, Deborah (Debo), the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, and received a lovely handwritten reply which I still treasure. I had hoped to bump into her one day in the Chatsworth farm shop which she founded. Sadly it was not to be. She died in 2014 and an Elvis Presley recording of “How Great Thou Art” was played at her funeral. She was still a great fan of his at 94 years of age!
Inside Swinbrook church there is a memorial to Tom Mitford, the only Mitford brother, who was killed fighting in Burma in 1944. The touching inscription at its base says simply: “God Careth for Us.” During our journey through life we all experience periods when God can seem absent or, at the very least, remote. And when someone has had to give up everything that once represented security to embrace what they believe to be true there are times when they must ask themselves the question “Was it worth the price?” Conversion is in many ways a little martyrdom. It is an act of supreme faith and trust. It is the placing of your entire self into God’s hands seemingly without the promise of any security. Yet “God Careth for Us.” I can never look at Tom Mitford’s memorial without remembering that it was placed there by a family whose hearts were broken with grief. Yet they still had the faith to believe that “God Careth for Us”. Undoubtedly that same belief has sustained innumerable converts on their personal faith journeys especially when times have been tough. The conviction that however hard life becomes and whatever hurdles and obstacles appear on the road they are never insurmountable and we are never left alone. “God Careth for Us.”
The headstone of Unity Mitford in the churchyard outside bears another inscription. “Say not the struggle naught availeth.” It comes from a poem written in 1849 by Arthur Hugh Clough. As with “God Careth for Us” the words apply to life in general. They deliver an important message for everyone. But it is a message of particular significance for converts. God never abandons us. Instead he unfailingly bestows his “kindly light” to reassure us and show us the way.
Please pray for all converts and those who feel drawn to make the conversion journey.