As you may have picked up, I am currently living at St Patrick’s, Soho Square, where I’ll be based over the summer whilst I complete my dissertation and await news of my next move. It’s a fantastic parish to be living in – lots of people my age, daily holy hour, public Morning and Evening Prayer, meals together, and so central I can walk to almost anywhere in central London in about 20 minutes.
St Patrick’s is now well-known following a significant and impressive facelift overseen by Fr Alexander Sherbrooke, the Parish Priest. I was fortunate enough to deacon the reopening ceremonies with Archbishop Nichols, Bishop James Conley, and Cardinal Pell, last year, and it really is a pleasure to enter the church each morning and pray. There are very few churches where you can walk in and be content with where everything is – this is one of them.
The parish is also home to the St Patrick’s Evangelisation School (SPES). This provides young adults with nine months of formation in the Catholic faith, in a context where there is daily Mass, communal meals and offices, and community living in central London. It’s tough work – regular essays and daily conferences and seminars – but it’s so impressive to see the result: Catholic adults who are ready to lead catechesis in their parishes and institutions when they leave.
The parish also hosts visitors. At the moment (aside from me!) there is a Spanish seminarian here from Valencia, and during Nightfever last week (see this post) we also had a German seminarian from St Boniface’s home town of Fulda.
What has been so encouraging for me is the immediate sense of solidarity between us. The SPES graduates, the seminarians; all of us share a vision and hope for the Church which – I think we would all say – is so well articulated by Pope Benedict. It’s a confident Catholicism which looks out to the world and speaks boldly of the love and grace of the life lived in communion with the Church, and which is not afraid of proclaiming unfashionable truths firmly, but with the charity and gentleness which our Lord himself shows us when we err.
When I was an Anglican seminarian we used to joke about the termly get-togethers between the theological colleges in Oxford. So varied were they that we called them “Interfaith Worship”.
The Catholic Church is not by any means uniform – a healthy plurality which reveals a genuine unity of faith is no bad thing – but there is an immediate universality between Catholics, and it’s something which only shared communion can produce. This is what the world needs if we are to bring about a change, and particularly as the Global Village becomes a smaller and more intimate place, we need to draw closer together so the voice of Christ can be heard above the noise and bustle. Ut unum sint!