Thursday, January 19, 2012

Day 16: Stateside

Zero degrees never felt so good.

We're back on American soil after our two week sojourn to England. Stepping outside of MSP Terminal 1, we were greeted by a refreshing blast of arctic air. But it wasn't so bad; after all it's a dry cold!

What a blessing to experience the history of the English church, to walk in the footsteps of a saint, to celebrate the same sacred mysteries that Blessed Newman did – and in some cases even in the same place,  to know his life and works, to immerse ourselves in the church's catechetical wisdom, to meet seminarians and priests and sisters from another culture but from the same faith, and to touch and venerate the stones where the martyrs witnessed to Jesus Christ.

Our class would like to thank everyone who made this trip possible. To the Saint Paul Seminary, Monsignor Callaghan, and all our generous benefactors and prayer partners, please accept our gratitude. We also owe a big thank you to Fr. Tom Margevičius who was our leader each day, and to Dr. Don Briel who passed on to us his knowledge and love of Blessed Newman over the course of several lectures and meals together.

Blessed John Henry Newman, pray for us!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Day 14: Birmingham

We are on the train leaving Birmingham for London-Ealing Abbey as our destination. I am seated at the window, which gives me a nice and clear view of the midlands here. The swiftness of the train brings back a series of memories about the past few days we have spent in Birmingham.

Saint Mary’s Seminary Oscott, one of the oldest seminaries in England, built in 1838, is a magnificent place to behold. Pope Benedict XVI himself paid it a visit, to see the beginnings and revival of the Catholic religion in England.

During our stay in Birmingham, the Sisters of Mercy at St. Mary’s Convent Handsworth have been very hospitable to us. Founded in 1841 by Venerable Catherine McAuley, the sisters are committed to prayer, charity, providing a quality Catholic education and reaching out to the marginalized groups in society. Their generosity knows no boundaries. In conjunction with the interreligious council in the city of Birmingham, they have been instrumental in improving the standards and welfare of the people in the local area. They have been recognized in curbing crime in the neighborhood which is known for its rival gang activity.

The Maryvale Institute was also another awesome place to pay a visit. Notable here is that Newman lived there, and facilitated the building of the chapel in which we celebrated Mass. St. Marys Seminary Oscott was housed here before it shifted to its current location a few miles away. Maryvale houses the first Scared Heart Chapel in the whole of England. And it is from here that the devotion to the Sacred Heart spread out to the rest of this beautiful country.

Posted by Joseph Kavuma

At prayer after Mass

The sanctuary in Oscott's chapel

Monsignor Crisp shows us around the seminary

Woodcarving inside St. Mary's convent

Mind the gap!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Day 8: Littlemore

Littlemore - 'The College'
Today was our second day of visiting Newman's past  residence at Littlemore; what is known as 'The College'.  Through the lectures from Oxford University priest, professor and renown Newman scholar, Fr. Ian Karr, and ongoing presentations from our very own University of St. Thomas professor, Dr. Briel, Newman's life as a pastor has come alive to us.  During his conversion experience, Newman resigned from his prestigious position as university priest and professor.  Flowing from his great love for the people of Littlemore, Newman retired to this quaint suburb of Oxford and established 'The College'.  The settings of which are much like that of a hermitage.

Eucharistic Adoration
Our day began with Mass and Eucharistic Adoration and was followed with 'tea and biscuits' (i.e - tea and cookies, what has been a staple on our journey).  We then continued on with lectures and later visited near by sights such as the Church of St. Mary and St. Nicholaus, the church built by Newman and the site  where Newman preached his very last sermon as an Anglican priest.

Church of St. Mary & St. Nicholaus
Littlemore is a place of transition of however.  In the coming days we shall be moving on from examining Newman life as a priest to an examination of the Church of today, and the impact Newman's writing and witness continues to have on it.  Many of us have confessed to a sort of 'spiritual adoption' that we believe to have received, from Blessed Newman, while on this trip.   The blessings of this journey continue to blossom for each of us.  What began as our class trip, has become our pilgrimage.

Mitchell Bechtold
Diocese of Saint Cloud

P.S. - We enjoyed lunch today at a local restaurant which bears my dad's namesake.  
Thanks for all the love and support Dad!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Day 7: Oxford

“He was the greatest Catholic Convert since the Reformation.” – Fr. Ian Ker

Tuesday, January 10th began for us at the Oxford Oratory with Morning Prayer, Holy Hour, and Mass. After Mass, we embarked upon a tour of Oxford with Dr. John White, a fellow (professor) at Oriel College. An historian himself, Dr. White shared with us his love of Oxford and his knowledge of the city, including the background and beginnings of many of the colleges that together constitute the University of Oxford. Dr. White brought us back to the 19th century Oxford of John Henry Newman’s time – a much smaller, quieter, slumbering Oxford that was also intellectually abuzz. It was a town where grass grew up on the muddy streets during the summer when students were out of term, and where farms bumped right up to the university buildings. Now, of course, the town has become more of a city that transcends the University. Today Oxford runs on a modified tutorial system: students live in the various colleges (dorm buildings with refectories, sports teams, and the like), and, rather than attend classes or regular lectures, they read common texts and meet one-on-one with a tutor to present a paper once per week. The tutor freely interrupts, challenges, or presses the student’s claims and thinking. Sometimes a student will have more than one tutor per term, if they have two subjects. John Henry Newman himself helped establish this tutorial system.

But why is Oxford important to us as seminarians? It’s important for what happened there during the 1830’s and 1840’s known as the “Oxford Movement,” and it’s important because of the life of Blessed John Henry Newman, one of the leaders of the Movement and perhaps the sharpest mind of the whole 19th century. During the 1830’s and early 1840’s, Newman and the others of the Oxford Movement attempted to recover for the Church of England an understanding of Apostolic succession to unify the Anglican Church. In the end, however, they failed; even the Bishops of the Church of England didn’t claim such a prerogative. Many of the Oxford Movement thus became Catholic, including Newman. These converts studied themselves into the Catholic faith, and opened the way for hundreds of thousands to follow them. Newman’s writings and thinking have had an incredible impact: during and since his time, an estimated 600,000 souls have entered the Catholic Church under his influence, including several current bishops in the American Church. Thanks be to God for this man, for his writing and thinking, and for his recent beatification (September 2010)! He was, simply, “The greatest Catholic convert since the Reformation,” as Father Ian Ker, respected Newman scholar, shared with us in the Tuesday afternoon lectures. Newman remains a man for the Church of today.

Our tour with Dr. White therefore heavily followed the life of Newman: where he studied as an undergraduate in Trinity College, where he preached his University Sermons in St. Mary’s Anglican Church, where he lived as a tutor, where he worked as an Anglican priest, and finally, where he made his Confession and was received into the Catholic Church. It was to Littlemore – a quiet, poor village three miles from Oxford – that Newman retreated during his last days as an Anglican, and it was there, after much prayer and fasting, that he could not tarry any longer: he felt he had to become Catholic, and it was Father Dominic Barberi (now Blessed Dominic Barberi) that heard his Confession and received him into the Church on October 9, 1845. And it was to Littlemore that we went in the afternoon for prayer, tea, and lectures as we follow in the footsteps of a great soon-to-be Saint of the Church. A blessed day indeed, as we continue our pilgrimage, our field-trip through the history of ideas and conversions in the 19th and 20th centuries. Thanks be to God!

Our tour with Dr. White begins right in front of St. Aloysius Church, to which the Oxford Oratory is attached. 

Tim and Marc by a bust of Newman at Trinity College

Inside St. Mary's Church in Oxford. Newman gave many of his famous sermons from this pulpit.

At the entrance to The College at Littlemore. Our thanks to the religious sisters who brought us into the homestead of Newman and showed us wonderful hospitality!

Posted by Tim Lang.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Day 5: Free Day in London

On Sunday all of us had the day off to explore London on our own. Marcus, Colin, and I met up with Colin's friend Malcolm. A longtime London native, Malcolm took us all around center city, describing the people and places. Malcolm's a history buff. At each sight we saw he masterfully retold its tale, painting a vivid picture and accenting it with non-stop english quips. Here's some photos from the day.

Our first step was St. Etheldreda's Catholic church. Built in the 1200s, it is known for being the first Anglican church to revert back to Catholicism once it was permitted by the state. The Church was absolutely beautiful. Most of the stained glass is very new, but some of the statues are very old. We attended the 9 AM Mass. Some others from our group went to the sung Latin Mass at 11 AM. We heard the schola rehearsing beforehand. For more information on the history of the church, go to:

The great west window depicts five of the English martyrs – 3 monks and 2 priests. Tortured horribly, some of their relics remain hundreds of years later, kept in secrecy by underground Catholics.

The foundation of the crypt below is said to go back to the 7th century.

Salted beef bagels!
 Our next stop was Old Spitalfields Market, one of five major markets in the city. It is extremely diverse, with food vendors of every flavor and smell lining the street. Malcolm's favorite place is a Jewish deli across from a fruit stand. We some some grub and then moved on toward the London Tower Bridge.

Years ago, the area thousands of immigrants from Bangladesh arrived in the area, hence the street signs in Bengali (?)

The Tower of London, revered and feared

On a hill overlooking the tower lay a plaque commemorating the execution site of dozens of religious dissenters and political prisoners. Simon of Sudbury, Archbishop of Canterbury, St. John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, and St. Thomas More, chancellor of England, were all executed on this spot.

Standing here in silence made me think of John Paul II's encyclical Veritatis Splendor. In it, he writes that martyrdom is the highest moral act one can perform. To give one's life over to God fully, even under pain of torture and death, maximizes all our human capabilities. It gives witness to the truth that we are made for God above all else.

Tower Bridge of London

A view from the Monument, a tower commemorating the 1666 London fire. The fire consumed over 400 acres and burned for days.

We also visited Trafalgar square, Leicester square, St. Paul's Anglican cathedral, Buckingham Palace, St. James Park, London Bridge, Parliament and Big Ben, and the monument of Queen Boadicea. A huge thank you to Malcolm for his amazing tour guide skills and his great spirit!

At the end of the evening, at Trafalgar square

Posted by Marc Paveglio

Friday, January 6, 2012

Day 2: Canterbury

We awoke early to the “caw” of ravens outside our windows and stumbled out of our comfortable beds, trying to shake off our jet leg. Down the long staircase and to matins, Mass and lauds at Ealing Benedictine Abbey, a very long parish church in a western suburb of London. The monks here are most gracious hosts and allowed us to sit with them in choir as we chanted the office. This abbey is only a hundred and fifty years old as it wasn't until the middle of the 19th century that the Catholic Church was allowed some legal provisions again in Great Britain.

A bit of breakfast tea, yogurt and some delicious Nutella on toast and it was off for the day. First things first, today was dedicated to the survey of the birth of Christianity on this Island, so naturally we headed to Canterbury, south east of London. The bus followed virtually the same route as those pilgrims, made famous by Geoffrey Chaucer's 1387 book Canterbury Tales, had taken. We went through some very old towns, and rolling green hills spotted with sheep when our eyes finally caught a glimpse of that most iconic tower of Canterbury Cathedral looming over the trees and quaint row houses of the town. The city is one of the oldest in England and was originally settled by the Romans as a military outpost. In the centuries to follow it became a great trading center as the only stop between London and the English Channel. Charles Dickens stayed here for a while as he wrote his most famous novel David Copperfield, which took place in this same city. A point of interest for Americans: it was here that the Mayflower was originally commissioned by the puritans. Today Canterbury's population is made up of merchants, students and tourists.

In the 6th century Pope Gregory the Great saw some fair skinned English slaves in the streets of Rome and remarked “They are not Anglos but Angels.” The saintly successor of Peter's love for this people was made most evident when he sent the reluctant Augustine (not of Hippo) to re-evangelize the pagan Island. Although he faced much adversity in Normandy, Augustine eventually established the first Cathedral here in Canterbury. The Benedictine abbey and Cathedral were home to some famous bishops such as Saint Anselm and B. Lafranc but most beloved of them all is Saint Thomas Becket. Sir Thomas was Lord Chancellor and friend to the Norman King Henry II. The King wanted to install a Bishop that would be more favorable toward his own political endeavors. Thomas however took his appointment much more seriously and worked hard against his royal pal to defend the rights of the Church, all of which to Henry's disappointment. The King apparently asked in passing “who will rid me of this meddlesome priest,” but some of his entourage took his words seriously. So at 4:00 in the evening on December 29th 1170A.D. the King's men brutally murdered Bishop Thomas on the sanctuary steps. It became the fourth most visited pilgrimage shrine in all of Europe until another conflict between another King Henry and another Sir Thomas. During the English Reformation the tomb of St. Thomas Becket was destroyed. Now only a single candle sits where this majestic shrine once stood - perhaps as a sign of hope that one day a true successor of Saint Thomas will again sit on his cathedra.

Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas, pray for us!

Enjoying dinner at Pizza on the Green, Ealing

Inside Canterbury Cathedral

On the roof of Buckton Palace

Inside Ealing Abbey Church, where we have prayed with the Benedictines over the last week

Posted by David Gockowski

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

England Day 1: Ealing

After a long day of planes and trains, we have finally settled in to Ealing Abbey. Fr. Andrew OSB has been a very gracious host, true to the Benedictine tradition of hospitality. The abbey church is a beautiful structure with high gothic arches and an enormous window of the coronation of Our Lady above the choir loft. We joined the monks for Vespers. Despite the cold and rainy night, about twenty folks from the neighborhood came to pray also. The chanting of the Benedictine office has always been very moving for me; truly the interplay between human voice and divine word pierces the heavens. It was a reminder that this trip is in God's hands. He is the author, guide, teacher, and sanctifier during our time here. As we prepare for the feast of the Epiphany, may we be aware of his revelations to us during this time, especially in our brothers and sisters we meet this week.

It's been difficult to find internet connections so far, but we have more posts in the pipe! Stay tuned.

The front of St. Benedict's Abbey Church 
Fr. Tom gives us the low down on the monastery and our plans for the day
Posted by Marc Paveglio