Well it’s been a full four months since my last move, so it must be time for another. After a wonderful sixteen weeks (or so) in Soho, I will be moving on Monday to the parish of Saint Mary, Cadogan Street, Chelsea.
It has been a great privilege to serve here in Soho: a place, as Fr Alexander puts it, ‘of contradictions’. On the street where I live there is a strip club, a significant number of Gay Bars, and at least one property whose front door is lit by a flickering red bulb. In the heart of that, too, is the Church of Saint Patrick – proudly presiding over Soho Square, yet waiting humbly with doors open for those who find the need to come to the living waters which pour forth from the tabernacle, from the monstrance, and from the confessional. Christ is here amongst the prostitutes and drunks and drug-dealers: he is here patiently awaiting the calm and gentle return of his beloved children.
And whilst the Lord awaits their return – our return – the Church reaches out to them in the streets, in the work of the New Evangelisation: the young people who form the St Patrick’s Evangelisation School (SPES), who learn the faith of the Catechism by day and help feed the poor, pray for those who need it, and take Christ to the streets by night; the beauty of the Sacred Liturgy lavishly celebrated to reveal the beauty, goodness and truth of Christ in his holiness; the transformation of a dark and dingy church into a beacon of hope – a radiant, striking beacon of the radiant, striking love of Jesus Christ. Each of these is a sign of the contradiction which sits in the very heart of the West End.
This is a parish where Christ is truly present. In the Real Presence, of course, but also in those true acts of Christ – of his charity in the outreach to the destitute and lonely, of his faith in the proud proclamation of his truth, of his hope in the seemingly pointless task of spreading his sweet smelling fragrance in a place where people (at least on the surface) couldn’t care less. This is the missio Dei, and it has been a source of great renewal for me to sit alongside it and offer what I can.
My move to Cadogan Street will see me much closer to the Ordinariate office, and will give me a place to park my car – which I need more and more as I visit parishes for talks about the Ordinariate and our work. Of course I won’t miss the noise and the gentle rumbling of the house when the diggers start, I won’t miss the dirt nor the unpleasant comments walking home after dark, but in the contradiction that the Church gives in this context – like a searchlight piercing the darkness of the night – you can’t help but see Christ more clearly, and so be ever more fervently drawn to his redeeming love.
I’ve been greatly blessed to be here, and my heartfelt thanks go to those who I have lived alongside, the students of SPES, and particularly Fr Alexander Sherbrooke. His ardour and vision are an example to any Christian, but particularly a young inexperienced priest. I have much to be thankful for.
My last Mass in the parish will be the 6.00 p.m. Mass on Saturday evening (for Christ the King). Some seminarians will sing the Propers from the Graduale Simplex, Missa de Angelis, and the plainchant Christus Vincit. If you read this blog (unless out of irony), you’ll like it: come.