Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Fr Tim's Cathedral Blog

Some readers have asked how to reach my blog. Here's the URL:

The title of the blog is:

 'The years of our lives are like a tale that is told'

Also, if you happen to be on the home page of the Westminster Cathedral Website there are links both for the new blog and the Mark Langham Archive, a record of all the former Administrator's postings over the last few years.

Monday, 22 September 2008

The Monsignor Vanishes

With Mgr Mark Langham now in Rome (with the Congregation for the Unity of Christians) this may be the last posting on the 'Solomon' blog. It now becomes the Mark Langham Archive, which you can always access via the Cathedral website. I say it MAY be the last because, he might suddenly reappear with Roman adventures - like Jason Bourne, but without the car chases. Meanwhile I have started a new blog which I hope will keep you up-to-date on behind the scenes goings on. Fr Mark's roof garden which he created ex nihilo will now be needing the attention of the remaining Clergy House residents. (It turns out Fr Kingsley knows a thing or two about plants.) Let's hope we remember to water.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Guests from Douai, Diocese of Cambrai

On Monday, 8 September, a group of priests from France visited the Cathedral, concelebrated Mass and were welcomed by the Adminsitrator and the Chaplains. They were accompanied by two monks from Douai Abbey in England and joined us for lunch at Clergy House. It was a happy occasion as there is a good link between Westminster and Douai. It was in that town that English priests were trained and prepared for the mission in this country - many being subsequently martyred. The body of Saint John Southworth was discovered during road building works in the 1920s. Our guests were delighted to be shown the shrine of the saint in the Cathedral, as there is a commemorative shrine to St John in the main parish church of Douai.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

The Christopher Legend

Here's the upper part of the mural at Horley. Now you can see that the Child Jesus is sitting on St Christopher's shoulder. There's a scroll inscription (medieval speech bubble) which has St Christopher marvelling at how heavy the Child has become, to which Jesus replies: 'That's because you are carrying the King of Bliss.'

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

I promised Canon Christopher...

...that I would try and photograph a medieval mural of St Christopher in the Church of St Etheldreda, Horley (N. Oxon). where I have been staying.

It's said to be largest mural of the saint in England. The Christ Child IS on his shoulder, but my picture doesn't quite show "the King of bliss" as the inscription describes him. What you can see is a chap fishing in the river below. It's thought to be the earliest representation of an English angler, waiting for a bite.

Signs of life !

Like most people I've been away, so apologies for going off the air. Unforgiveable in the blogosphere, I am told. There are stirrings at the Cathedral - nothing more, you understand - to suggest that life is returning to the complex. People are trickling back from all directions. There is a new Organ Scholar called David who has taken up residence. I will introduce him shortly but let me first say a word about Oliver Brett, his predecessor, who left this summer. In August he was in Kansas City to give a recital at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Now, he is about to start a teaching post in England. Back in June, Oliver gave a superb recital for the Friends in the Cathedral Hall. It was a memorable evening, Schubert's last three piano sonatas which we enjoyed enormously. Here he is - unruffled - at the end of that very demanding performance. A remarkable musician, it seemed to me. We wish Oliver well.

Friday, 8 August 2008

Distinguished visitor (2)

We also welcomed Cardinal Ivan Dias, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, who was in England for the Lambeth Conference where he spoke to the assembly. During his visit to London, I had the privilege of giving him a tour of the Cathedral which he certainly enjoyed. He seemed a most serene and gentle bishop. Cardinal Dias is a former Archbishop of Bombay (Mumbai). He is a renowned linguist, speaking many languages. In May this year, Pope Benedict appointed him to the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts. He holds a number of Curial resposibilities.

Distinguished visitor (1)

We were honoured to receive a visit from the Governor-General of the Solomon Islands in July. Canon Tuckwell gave him a tour of the Cathedral. He is Sir Nathaniel Waena GCMG, GSI, KStJ and he called to see us with Lady Waena and members of his staff. He represents the Queen in a tropical paradise, a chain of a thousand islands in Melanesia, east of Papua New Guinea.

One last goodbye

The chaplains, under their new Administrator, have been hosting one or two farewell events recently. First Fr Dwayne, to wish him bon voyage to Ohio, then Fr Michael Seed - and this week, an evening in Drury Lane with Fr Mark Langham, to wish him godspeed to Rome. (Not the Theatre, you understand, but a jolly hostelry where you listen to live opera and a very handy string quartet.) Somebody had the foresight to order a cab to return us to Clergy House. Taking the Tube, we thought, might expose us to comment on the platform.

A memorable end to the summer party season. Now we go our separate ways...

Friday, 18 July 2008

Steps in the right direction

Work on the new steps at the entrance to the Cathedral is going ahead fast. Here's a view of the work from above. Many thanks to Simon Lloyd (Acting Precentor, last year's organ scholar) for this shot and earlier pictures of the interior scaffolding. I'm not quite sure how he got up there. In truth, I don't think I want to know.

The work is being done before our eyes and already the steps are looking very fine. But the Cathedral's Appeal for funding to pay for everything is as urgent as ever...

A great many specialist services are required to make this radical modification to the exterior.
The work which fulfills the legal requirement for wheelchair access has taken years in the planning. One day, we'll ask Fr Mark how many meetings he attended over recent years before the final plans were given the go-ahead. Everyone from Westminster City Council and the Victorian Society to the Local Residents Association will have had strong views.

A high level of craftsmanship is required of the stonemasons. One of them told me the new steps are made of Cornish granite. The same stone exactly as the Cathedral's High Altar.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

A Franciscan cake

Cardinal Cormac has such an unrelenting schedule that he missed the start of our farewell lunch for Fr Michael Seed SA. The Cardinal made a little speech thanking Michael for all his years at the Cathedral and his ecumenical work for the Church. A fine cake appeared, decorated by Sister Mericia of Clergy House with the Franciscan 'Tao'. We watched in thoughtful silence as the good friar made the first incision. It was not - although it could have been - a Seed Cake.

Laughter in the Base Court

L to R: (back) Mr. Oliver Brett, (organ scholar), Sister Bridget, Mr. Martin Hambulo (Intern) Canon Christopher Tuckwell (Administrator), Mgr Mark Langham (outgoing Administrator) perhaps the most outgoing in recent memory, Fr Denis Sarsfield. Front: Fr Michael Archer, Fr Michael Seed (also outgoing), Fr Michael Durand, Fr Michael Marchlewski SJ., USA, (on his customary summer 'supply' at Clergy House), Sister Clement (Archbishop's House), Bp George Stack, Bishop of Gemellae in Numidia, Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster and himself a former Administrator.
To the trained eye, Sunday lunch is clearly in the offing. There may even be one or two contemplating a second sherry. My steady hand on the camera suggests that I have yet to have my first.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Cardinal Manning's birthday

Tuesday is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Cardinal Manning, the second archbishop of Westminster. After each Mass we will be going to his tomb in the crypt to say a prayer.

I will not perturbate Thy Paradisal state With praise Of thy dead days; To the new-heavened say, -"Spirit, thou wert fine clay:" This do,Thy praise who knew.

Francis Thompson; To The Dead Cardinal of Westminster

Friday, 11 July 2008

Canon on Grade I

I thought that was Mr Wilson - but it seems the Administrator himself has taken to the keys. Let's hope it was 'after hours'. Ahem!

Monday, 7 July 2008

New organ?

Not really. This replica of a 17th Century Italian instrument (Lucca) is here for a recording by the Cathedral Choir. New CD recordings are always addressed at this time of year. Mr Thomas Wilson, Acting Assistant Master of Music at the console.

'John the organist' tells me this instrument normally lives at St John the Evangelist, Upper Norwood, a large, very fine church in the Anglican Diocese of Southwark, whose main instrument is a splendid Lewis organ.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Moving Saint John

This is the second year that we have moved the feretory containing the body of St John Southworth into the nave for his Feast Day on 27 June.

Canon Christopher supervised the operation this year with the Welsh Guards.

The casket is extremely heavy so all these men were really needed.

The Cathedral's own martyr-saint, safely returned to the Chapel of St George and the English Martyrs.

Steel Yourself

It's going to get worse before it gets better. BUT - it has a certain beauty of its own.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Novissima Hora Est

I do hope you will continue to follow this weblog, and draw inspiration and grace from this magnificent Cathedral. I have had the privilege of serving here for thirteen years of my priesthood, and will miss it mightily. My new appointment will be announced in the next few days - thank you for your support and kind comments and, above all, for your prayers.

A Final Visit to the Terrace

.. at least, under current management! The fine weather of the last few days has really brought on the flowers.

The sunflowers surge upwards; it will be interesting to see how they fare!

During my time here, the terrace has been a haven of peace away from the busy life of the Cathedral, and I have found much heart's ease at the end of the day in tending the plants.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

The Blog Continues ..!

Many of you have sent kind messages about the blog, and wondered whether it might continue. I've been in discussions with the Administrator (who is very keen that the blog continue) and with several other chaplains, and am delighted that Fr Tim Dean will take over the blog ( - he is already attired for business, above!), with other pictorial contributions from Fr Michael Archer (who has just purchased a super new camera).

I've hoped that this weblog has given some vision of the life behind the scenes at the Cathedral, as well as recording some of its great moments, and presenting (and indeed archiving) some of its rich history. Above all, I hope it has helped bring this extraordinary and glorious House of God to a wider audience. It is one of the duties of an Administrator to raise the profile of the Cathedral, and I have been gratified at the number of visitors who have told me that they have become aware of Westminster Cathedral through the blog.

I'll give my final posting tomorrow - but it is good to know it will mark only a stage in the continuing life of the blog!

Pond Life

The irises have come out in the pond, making a spectacular contrast with the flaming nasturtiums.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Congratulations, Fr Kingsley and Fr Edward

Today we had an opportunity to celebrate in Clergy House the priestly ordinations of Fr Kinsley Arulananthem and Fr Edward Houghton, last weekend. Both are of particular joy for the Cathedral; Fr Kingsley has been posted to the Cathedral, and moved into Clergy House this weekend. Fr Edward has been deacon with us for the past year, and will remain with us for the summer, until moving to his new appointment at Chiswick.

For the occasion, Sister Mericia delighted us again with an extraordinary cake - all set up ready for Mass!

It is particularly fitting that this joyful occasion should be one of my last postings, before the blog concludes next week. Please keep both Fr Kinsley and fr Edward in your prayers.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

The Choir School at work

Dominic Marshall, head of religious studies, takes a class in the Clergy House Library. Note the lap-top computers - how different from the pens and exercise books of my day!

Friday, 6 June 2008

St Francis Takes Shape

Amid building works within and without, another set of scaffolding goes up, as the Mosaic Workshop moves in to begin work on St Francis. With its pair of St Anthony, these are the work of Leonard McCombe RA - you can see the proposed design here.

Full sized cartoons are being applied; since the background features dozens of intricately detailed birds, it is something of a jigsaw puzzle. We hope that work will be finished by the autumn.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Working on the Steps

Not only is the interior of the Cathedral filled with scaffolding; work has also commenced on the new steps, which will incorporate ramps and so provide access for all.

This week, a wooden framework was put in place, marking the extent of the new steps and giving some idea of the scope of the finished project.

Work is due to continue until the autumn.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Padre Pio Premieres

Last night, the Cathedral hosted a concert of sacred music, performed by the Cathedral Choir and the celebrated musical ensemble 'The Sixteen'. The concert highlighted settings of the words of Padre Pio, set by the prominent Catholic composers James McMillan and Roxanna Panufnik.

These pictures were taken at rehearsals during the afternoon. The concert itself was a sell-out.

Spotted, during rehearsals, was the noted composer James McMillan, listening to the first performance of his new work.