Fr Paul reflects on the life of David Jones, and the daily work of the Society today


Recently I have been reading Thomas Dilworth’s biography of the engraver, painter and poet David Jones. It was a Christmas present from our chairman, Roland Hayes, and provides a fascinating insight into this deeply complex yet hugely talented man whose life was irreparably scarred by his experiences in the trenches during the First World War. His finest writing is to be found in two book length poems – In Parenthesis and The Anathemata – both informed by his deep Catholic faith. Jones was a convert to Catholicism.

Yet despite the depth of thinking which his writings reveal, there was a side to Jones’s character which was very ordinary and down to earth. The book records a lovely incident in 1956 when Jones asked one of his parish priests to say a Mass for a friend who was suffering from painful rheumatoid arthritis. To Jones’s surprise, the priest asked, “Is he a Catholic?” Jones was dismayed that anyone’s religion should be thought to have a bearing on whether he or she is remembered at Mass. Then comes the remarkable line – Priests, he thought, “what chaps they are!”

Almost every day Mass is offered in the beautiful little house chapel created by my predecessor, Fr Richard Biggerstaff, in which Archbishop Bernard Longley has kindly allowed us to reserve the Blessed Sacrament. I am conscious of the fact that many of those for whom Mass is offered are not Catholic although some of them are certainly on the way! Personally, I see the offering of a daily Mass as a form of evangelisation, in fact I would go so far as to say it is the most important part of the work we do, for however effective we are through the support we give to others, the Mass is able to touch and transform their lives in a way that human concern alone never can. With the new website, we make a point now of publishing our weekly Mass Intentions. You are always welcome to request a Mass for someone – Catholic and non-Catholic – but I would also like to encourage those of you who support us to unite your own daily prayers with the Masses that are offered each day in Wolvercote. And please pray for the repose of David Jones, this remarkable man who was so gifted by God and who has given so much that is beautiful and profound to our world. He was a true genius and needs to be more widely known and admired. May he rest in peace. Amen.