A report from the Fr Ignatius Pilgrimage

Joseph Leycester Lyne (1837-1908), Fr Ignatius, was undoubtedly an enthusiastic, colourful and challenging figure. He was also a pioneer in monasticism in the Church of England. A biographer of Fr Ignatius has written “In life much that he did and said was clouded by bigotry, narrowness and self deception. But now the sediment has settled, we see as his conspicuous quality the purity of faith which was the essence of his enthusiasm.’

In the 1870’s Fr Ignatius attempted to establish a monastery at the ‘new Llanthony’ near Abergavenny, a beautiful location in the Black Hills. Fr Ian, with Fr Michael Burgess, recently attended the annual Fr Ignatius pilgrimage day there – an annual pilgrimage is held ‘to the glory of God, in honour of our Lady, and in memory of Father Ignatius as a holy man, who pioneered the revival of religious life among men in the Anglican Communion.’ During the enjoyable and inspiring pilgrimage Abbot Cuthbert OSB, RC Abbot of Farnborough gave an excellent address. (Click here to read it).

Abbot Cuthbert suggested we should avoid being judge and jury on Fr Ignatius – a life which looks like a life and enterprise full of hopes and enthusiasm, but with little fruits now – just the ‘bare, ruined choir’ of the Abbey church he built and the history of a community that seemed to fall apart and then re-form on a regular basis. This is probably because Fr Ignatius tried to be both an abbot of a monastery following the Benedictine rule of dedication and stability, and also a missionary – travelling around the country and across to America to raise funds for his enterprise.

Fr Ignatius

Fr Michael remarked that the nearest analogy he can think of is St Francis of Assisi – who in his day was regarded with great suspicion by the church authorities because he was on the edge of the institutional church of his day – with followers wandering from town to town, and village to village. The church authorities could not tie him down – and Francis only received papal approval for the order late in his ministry.

Fr Ignatius was also regarded with that same suspicion – and even mockery – by the church authorities of his day. But that did not dampen his enthusiasm and vision. The sadness is that, although a deacon in the Anglican church, he was priested by a bishop outside the Anglican fold (probably in desperation to ensure his fellow monks could be sacramentally fed). This meant that no Anglican bishop would recognise Fr Ignatius and his order – and so after his death, the monks went to Caldey Island and then inevitably, because of the attitude of the Anglican bishops, into the Roman Catholic Church. 

Pilgrimage prayers at the statue of Our Lady of Llanthony, the site of apparitions in the 1880s, near the ruins of Fr Ignatius Abbey Church

Fr Michael comments, “When we gathered at the pilgrimage I saw it as a celebration of one of the inspiring figures of the Church – joining that  great cloud of witnesses that Hebrews writes of – running with perseverance the race set before him, looking to Jesus as the pioneer and perfecter of faith, and enduring the cross to be faithful to the vision of a new era of monastic life in the church.  Ignatius endured much hardship – days when food was short for him and the monks, the anger of mobs, the disapproval and even ridicule of bishops and so forth. He was a mixture of St Benedict and St Francis, giving his life to revive and revitalise the church of his day – so he also had the spirit of the revivalists of his day.” Fr Ignatius life and witness challenge, enthuse and inspire us to this day, and invite the Church to be open to challenge from unusual places.

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Biblical women: Judith

Few of us will have read the Book of Judith – its there in some Bibles but not others.  It is a also a book of the Apocrypha – a section of the Bible which is not read as often as other parts.

In our Summer series on Women of the Bible Fr Chris spoke on Judith. He writes:

Judith at the Banquet of Holofernes (Rembrandt)

We read in the book of Judith about a strong, just and beautiful woman. Women don’t get a good deal in my opinion in the Bible, or indeed the Church.  In Judith we see many positive attributes.

In the Summer Sunday series, we heard of Judith decapitating the General in Chief of the Assyrians – Holofernes.  The Assyrians had been occupying Israel and ill-treating the people.

Judith does not just throw her hands in the air and walk off.  She points to a God who she knows visits them where they are, and who gives hope, and who frees folk from the unfair treatment of Society.

Judith was no stranger to hardship and adversity, yet she keeps hope alive.  She encourages her people to look around for God’s activity, she acts in her own way to make God be seen at work.

God needs all of us to do this today – for us to challenge society, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to care for one another – God can’t do it without us!

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A candle for Winnie, A candle for Keith

Winnie Johnson death

18th August, is the anniversary of the death in 2012 of Winnie Johnson.

Winnie was known throughout England as the mother of Keith Bennett, the child victim of the moors murderers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. Despite extensive searching Keith’s body has never been found.

Winnie campaigned tirelessly to find Keith’s grave, and it was this aspect of her life which was well known in the media. However, as we recalled at Winnie’s funeral, at St Chrysostom’s, there was much much more to Winnie. She was a woman who engaged fully with life, and was an inspiration to so many. Despite the tragedy in her life she was cheerful and a direct speaker. She was a member of our congregation, regularly coming to Sunday Mass on her electric scooter and sitting right at the front. She was ever the same, cheerful and frank in her manner. The local community misses her. We miss her at church.

The leaves hanging in memory of Keith Bennett

The leaves hanging in memory of Keith Bennett

The hanging behind the font in Church is in memory of Keith. He loved to collect leaves and local children drew different leaves and members of the textiles department of Manchester University made the hanging. We hope soon to have a plaque placed in church to remind us of this.

Winnie’s example encourages us to pray for, and have a heart for mothers of the world whose children have disappeared in terrible circumstances.

Winnie’s example encourages us to have courage, and remain faithful and strong in the face of tragedy.

Each Sunday when she came to mass Winnie lit a candle for Keith. Two candles will burn in church on August 18th – one for Keith and another for his mother, Winnie. May they both rest in peace and rise in God’s glory.

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Our Assumption

NonoPaintings of the Assumption into heaven of Our Lady can be very beautiful. Mary taken into glory often surrounded by angels. At the same time they can feel rather remote, and somewhat removed from Mary’s simple humanity.

In this striking painting, by the French Symbolist artist Maurice Denis (1870-1943), the artist shows his daughter, ‘Nono’, crowning, with flowers, her mother, the artist’s first wife, Marthe.

Denis was a committed Catholic christian. In the painting, as in much of this artist’s work, the boundary between the sacred and the everyday dissolves.

This is a family scene. As we celebrate the  Feast of the Assumption this lovely painting encourages us to contemplate Mary, the mother of Jesus. Nono, the little girl represents us, who in our generation, call Mary blessed. (Luke 1.47).

We call Mary blessed, and in the Assumption (August 15th) we celebrate her entry into glorious divine dimensions, we crown her Queen.

Look! In the painting Nono and Marthe are painted in the same colours. We share the same humanity as the everyday peasant girl of Palestine, Mary. The Assumption, the ‘chiefest joy of Mary’ is an Easter feast. It has been described as ‘a poetic meditation on the resurrection.’ The human Mary is received into heaven. On this feast of her Assumption we dare to hope, in faith, that like her we too will share in the glory of her son’s resurrection.

(An edited version of the address given by Fr Ian at Mass on the Feast of the Assumption 2018)
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Mother Mary’s home

I cannot help but think of my mother, Mary, when I come to Walsingham. She loved the companionship, the fun, the quiz evenings and the variety of our pilgrimages here. She loved the worship and beauty of this place.

As I remember her I remember her home in Sedgefield, County Durham – the village of my birth. She loved our family visits to her home. As soon as we arrived tea would be made, family news would be exchanged, old family stories recounted and we’d hear about more recent goings on in Sedgefield. We’d have a ‘Nana Mary tea’ – sandwiches, teacake, cakes she had specially baked for the visit, and, of course, her famous cheese scones – still a fond memory we share in my family. Her house, her home, was a place of welcome, acceptance, comfort and being. Of course there were sometimes difficult moments – she was a strong woman, the daughter and granddaughter of determined women. Whatever, there always was acceptance, understanding and love.

Yesterday evening I sat in the Holy House, the centre of Walsingham while an evening liturgy took place in the main shrine church. As I listened to the worship, I wondered. I wondered about the style which so often pervades this place. Lavish liturgies encrusted with traditional and arcane words – Mother unstained, Virgin most clement, Seat of wisdom, Tower of Ivory… Elderly white male priests predominate, apologetic complex sermons are frequently heard, women priests are excluded from participating …

Yet, as I sat in the Holy House I recalled how Walsingham began very simply. The Lady Richeldis, encouraged by Mary, in a vision, built a replica of the home of the Holy Family. A simple place of welcome in a remote place.

A Holy House, a holy home of welcome, is at the heart of Walsingham. May our pilgrimage be, above all a pilgrimage, in prayer and imagination, to this place of  a mother’s love, Mary’s home. Here may we find comfort, acceptance and love. Here may we share stories and food. Here may we share memories of our Christian story in the home of our mother, Mary.

While not wanting to devalue what is beautiful and holy in the traditional devotions and liturgies here at Walsingham I do want to question some aspects of it.  I wish to encourage a spirit of generous welcome and inclusion here. I wish to encourage strongly our personal, quiet and gentle prayers in this holy place. I wish to encourage our fun in pilgrimage together.

A happy band of pilgrims – Walsingham 2018

Two final thoughts to share. First of all a favourite poem by the Czech poet, Vladimir Holan, who reflects on Resurrection and home:


Is it true that after this life of ours
we shall one day be awakened by a
terrifying clamour of trumpets?

Forgive me, God,
but I console myself that the beginning
and resurrection of all of us dead
will simply be announced
by the crowing of a cock

After that we will remain
lying down a while
The first to get up
will be mother

We’ll hear her, quietly
laying the fire, quietly putting
the kettle on the stove and
cosily taking the teapot out of the cupboard.

We’ll be home once more.

and secondly, a quotation encouraging us to have a simple personal approach and look to Mary for comfort and help. Mother (St) Theresa of Calcutta said “If you ever feel distressed during your day, call upon Our Lady, just say this simple prayer Mary, Mother of Jesus, please be a mother to me now. I must admit this prayer has never failed me.”

Here, at Walsingham, I pray and hope all will find in their hearts, and rest in, the simple, comforting, love and peace of Mother Mary’s home.

This is a slightly revised version of an address Fr Ian gave during our 2018 parish pilgrimage to Walsingham.
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Biblical women: Mary Magdalene


Mary Magdalene, sculpture by Donatello c. 1455

Mary Magdalene was the first in our 2018 Mass series of sermons on Women of the Bible. Alma Servant spoke, and writes here:

Mary Magdalene was a faithful disciple of Jesus from the early days of his ministry. Three gospels tell of her presence at the Crucifixion, her visit to the tomb, and her witness to the Resurrection. She is the first to take the message  “Christ is risen” to the disciples. She was faithful, she never ran away. She loved her Lord.

Luke 8:2, tells how seven devils had been cast out from her. She endured great suffering and was transformed by Jesus’ healing.

Like Mary, Mary Magdalene is a saint of the church and a New Testament women.  Because Mary Magdalen was sent to the apostles with the Resurrection message she is honoured with the title “apostle to the apostles” –  “Apostle” meaning one who is sent

Many churches are dedicated to her. However, as much as she is honoured, and given a special place, she has also been dishonoured for centuries especially in literature and art.

Chambers dictionary defines a Magdalen as a repentant a prostitute. It has been assumed that she was the “sinful, immoral woman” in Luke 7. 36 -48 who anointed Jesus’ feet and wash them with her hair. Luke does not say that. She had real prominence, unlike the other women she was apparently unmarried, and she had a troubled past – which would today be seen as mental illness.

Mary was a woman who had suffered greatly before Jesus healed her.  This is shown brilliantly in Donatello’s wooden statue, which shows the lines of pain on her face. She is ravaged by mental torment. She suffers again witnessing the crucifixion and then weeps for her lost Lord.

The statute does not make her a temptress, but a woman who was alienated from normal society before being honoured and a disciple and witness.

The church has honoured, and dishonoured, her by allowing her name to be made equivalent to an outcast, and to invent her past. The still happens today to people who suffer and are different and take a brave road through live.  Her tale is an extraordinary one of transformation and honour, and if we want to do her the justice she deserves we must go to the Gospels and perhaps Donatello.

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Pronouncing Chrysostom

We all like to hear our names pronounced correctly, and we are pleased when an effort is made to get the pronunciation right.

So how do we pronounce our patron saint’s name?

Chrysostom is a special word, coming from the Greek ‘Chrysostomos’ Golden Mouth. It is a nickname of honour, given to John after his death and referring to his great eloquence. He was a great and tireless speaker.

But how is it pronounced? Well many attempts have been heard – some light hearted – St Chrysanthemums and St John the unpronounceable are two examples.

Some are pronunciations are simply mistaken. Extra consonants or even syllables are added, sometimes one suspects in a moment of panic by the speaker seeing the name. We’ve heard ‘Christostum,’ ‘Chryostum’ and many variants.

The Prayer of St Chrysostom from the 1662 Prayer Book here in the 1762 edition printed by John Baskerville at the Cambridge University press

Of course those familiar with the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, or familiar with Early Church Doctrine will know the pronunciation. However, we have to say it isn’t actually that difficult if we pause for a moment and read it.

Two ways of pronouncing are found, and in fact there is a difference here between our church and our church school. At Church we generally say the traditional English way:

  • KRI-sus-tum (with emphasis on the first syllable) Hear it here.

While at St Chrysostom’s School the alternative form (common in the US) is used

Either is acceptable, and we have to say the second way is probably closer to the Greek form which Chrysostom himself would have known.

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