Today we welcomed some of the couples who will be marrying at St Wilfrid's next year for a day of marriage preparation. Many thanks to all who came, who spoke, or helped in various practical ways. We aim to have two of these days each year and combine this for each couple with sessions with the clergy and with mentor couples from the parishes. Marriage is the foundation of the family which in turn is the bedrock of society. We hope to use all the resources we have to share the wisdom of the Church and of families' experience to give our wedding couples as much help as we can. Readers of the website may be interested in this video of a talk which we play as part of the session. It was given by Jonathan Sacks the former Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom.
This Sunday, 12 November, is Remembrance Sunday. The 9.30am Mass at St Joseph's and the 12 noon Mass at St Wilfrid's (Extraordinary Form) will be Requiem Masses for those fallen in war. [A number of people rang up enquiring about this. Fr Richard would like to apologise for not returning the calls. The messages were accidentally deleted before they could be written down!]
Archbishop Maurice Couve de Murville, Archbishop of Birmingham from 1982 - 1999, died ten years ago today, 3 November 2007. Archbishop Maurice invited the Birmingham Oratory to make a foundation in Oxford in 1990, the centenary of the death of Blessed John Henry Newman. This was an imaginative and courageous decision which has brought blessings to many people in the last twenty-seven years. We remember him in our prayers today with gratitude and affection.
Wednesday, 1 November is All Saints' Day and a Holy Day of Obligation. There is Mass at St Wilfrid's at 12.10pm and a Solemn Mass at 6pm in the Extraordinary Form. There is Mass at St Joseph's at 9.15am.
The Bishops of England and Wales have decided to restore two of the old Holy Days of Obligation to their original days, that is Epiphany on 6 January, twelve days after Christmas; and Ascension Day on the Thursday forty days after Easter Sunday. You can read about the reasons for the change on the Bishops' Conference Website.
In this hundredth anniversary year of the apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima, forty-four pilgrims from Oxford and York joined Fr Daniel and Fr Richard to pray at the shrine of Our Lady.
On 13th September 1917, when Our Lady appeared for the fifth time to Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco, 30,000 people defied the atheistic press and government to join them. On 13th September 2017, many more hundreds of thousands gathered at the Cova da Iria for Mass celebrated by Cardinal Piacenza, who preached forcefully about the need for Christians to be counter-cultural.
At the end of Mass, Our Lady's statue was returned to the Chapel of Apparitions. The special crown which the statue wears on the 13th of each month was given in 1946 by the mothers of Portugal, in thanksgiving that their country had stayed out of the Second World War. When on 13th May 1982, St John Paul II brought one of the bullets which had shot him exactly one year before, the bullet was found to fit precisely under the cross and orb of the crown. He said of the assassination attempt, "One hand fired, and another guided the bullet."
The Basilica of the Holy Rosary contains the tombs of Jacinta and Francisco, who were canonized on 13th May this year, and of their cousin Lucia, who died in 2005:
In 1917 Our Lady asked for Russia to be consecrated to her Immaculate Heart. Large numbers of pilgrims from behind the former Iron Curtain come to give thanks for their deliverance from Communism. At the end of Mass on the 13th, Cardinal Dominik Duka of Prague presented a copy of the statue of the Infant of Prague to the sanctuary of Fatima. A portion of the Berlin Wall stands as a reminder of Our Lady's intercession. Here are Mrs Asta Simpson, originally from Berlin, and Dr Masha Unkovskaya, who was born in St Petersburg, which was known at the time as Leningrad:
In the evening we prayed the Rosary in front of the Chapel of the Apparitions and joined in the beautiful torchlight procession:
Mass in St Joseph's Chapel on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross:
Along the Way of the Cross we were able to gain some idea of what Fatima must have looked like in 1917 when Francisco, Jacinta and Lucia grazed their sheep:
Only one of the visions of Our Lady of Fatima in 1917 took place away from the Cove da Iria. This is because the children were prevented from going there on 13th August by being kidnapped and imprisoned by the local authorities. They refused to deny the visions even when they were separated and threatened with being boiled in oil. Our Lady appeared instead on 19th August at Valinhos. It was there that she told the children that on 13th October she would perform a miracle. This was to be the Miracle of the Sun.
At the Calvary which concludes the Stations of the Cross:
In the Spring of 1916, the first vision of the Angel of Peace took place at Chousa Velha:
The village of Aljustrel is where the three child visionaries lived. There are still sheep next to Lucia's house:
The second vision of the Angel of Peace took place by the well of this house in the summer of 1916:
On the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows we had Mass in the Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows:
This chapel has a striking window showing the Miracle of the Sun, which took place on 13th October 1917:
On one day of our pilgrimage we went out to visit Batalha and Nazaré. Batalha has a magnificent abbey, where many of the kings and queens of Portugal are buried, including Philippa of Lancaster, Queen of Portugal from 1387-1415. Her marriage to João I brought about the Treaty of Windsor, beginning the alliance between England and Portugal which still lasts to this day, and is the longest-lasting treaty of friendship between two nations in the history of the world. Long may it continue!
The Abbey of Batalha:
The shrine of Our Lady at Nazaré recalls the saving of the local mayor (and his horse) from tumbling to the death in the fog over the cliff top. An ancient statue of Our Lady was found where she appeared.
Fr Richard in holiday mode:
The sea at Nazaré is rather treacherous, which precluded swimming, though some of the more adventurous members of our party dipped their toes:
After consuming some of the freshly-caught sardines, we still had time to visit the unmissable Museum of Dried Fish:
On our last day in Fatima, we were able to celebrate Mass in the well-equipped chapel of our own hotel, the Tres Pastorinhos:
From Fatima we headed up to Galicia to visit the tomb of the Apostle St James:
Even though we had travelled by coach, rather than the accepted methods of foot, bicycle or horse, we embraced the statue of St James and took part in the Pilgrim Mass. We did in fact see a group of equestrian pilgrims arriving in Santiago. At the end of the Pilgrim Mass the famous botafumeiro was swung:
St Martin's Abbey has a statue of St Philip, looking rather Spanish!
From Santiago, we went back down into Portugal. In Braga the shrine of Bom Jesus do Monte has many steps with chapels recreating the journey of Our Lord to Calvary:
At the top is the church, where we celebrated Mass:
On our last day we were able to celebrate Mass in the Cathedral of Oporto. We prayed particularly for the bishop of that diocese, who recently died immediately after returning from pilgrimage at Fatima, where he had preached a sermon that deeply affected its hearers.
After Mass we caught a glimpse of the former Oratory church of Oporto:
We were able to enjoy the sunshine of Portugal for a little longer:To see more photographs from Fr Richard's album please click here.