Blessing of Font, Ambo and Icon of St George at Harrow-on-the-Hill


Given at the Mass of Blessing of Font, Ambo and Icon of St George at Our Lady and St Thomas of Canterbury Church, Harrow-on-the-Hill on 24th May 2019 

It is a great joy this evening to celebrate this Mass and bless the new font and ambo, as well as the icon of St George, in the reordered Church of Our Lady and St Thomas of Canterbury It is in many ways a preparation for the consecration of the altar in due course by the Cardinal. Our celebration this evening focuses on the gift of baptism and the Word of God.

On Ascension Day, Jesus gives his apostles the Great Commission to take the message of the gospel to the ends of the earth baptising people in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Across the ages the Church has been faithful to this call to spread the gospel as well and reminds us of the need to be missionary disciples who can invite people into the faith and help them find true life with Jesus Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Pope Francis has called us to reach out into the peripheries, to the margins and find people to whom we can bring the joy of the gospel, through our good works and message of the hope in Jesus Christ. It is more likely that it will be through our love and the joy on our faces that we will attract people to the Church, rather than simply by words. For many it will also be a question of how the Church leads them into what is beautiful, good and true, the via pulchritudinis (the way of beauty). The refurbishment of this church is a step on the way to the beauty of the liturgy that it may lead them upwards to God and outwards to their neighbour. Pope Francis writes in the Joy of the Gospel, ‘Evangelization with joy becomes beauty in the liturgy, as part of our daily concern to spread goodness. The Church evangelizes and is herself evangelized through the beauty of the liturgy, which is both a celebration of the task of evangelization and the source of her renewed self-giving’ (EG 24).

Our Christian Catholic life begins in the font with the celebration of baptism. There we experience a new birth as we are freed from original sin and receive the gift of sanctifying grace to strengthen us and make us a new creation, members of ‘a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people set apart to sing the praises of God’ (1 Peter 2:9). Through the gift of the sacrament of baptism we become a people of white garments called to shine the light of Christ into a world where many people desire to hear a message of hope and joy in the midst of their confusion. The joy of the celebration of baptism at the Easter Vigil fills our churches with the Easter joy of the resurrection and Christ’s triumph over sickness, sin, evil and death. From the cross, there flowed from the side of Christ, water and blood, when his side was pierced by the lance of the soldier. This stream of water flows into the font to become the baptismal waters of new life as a child of God. The blood of Christ flows out into the chalice to be the blood of Christ received in Holy Communion. Through the mystery of the cross and resurrection, the sorrow of Good Friday becomes the joy of Easter Sunday.

The blessing of the ambo prepares us for the nourishment of the Word of God received from the Holy Scriptures. From the scriptures there flow out treasures old and new. The Old Testament receives its meaning and sense more fully in the light of the New Life of Christ. The scriptures are food by which we, disciples of Christ, grow in faith and strength. We meet the God who speaks his Word. The word of God not only encourages and supports us but also challenges and pricks our conscience towards conversion. Through his word and the paradox of life God draws people into relationship, through ways that prod, cajole, encourage, hint and guide them into the mystery of his ways and the path to holiness.  As St Jerome warns us: ‘Ignorance of the scriptures is ignorance of Christ.’ (GIRM 42)

The third blessing is that the icon of St George, the martyr and patron of England, and the Scout Movement. He reminds us that baptism is a baptism into the death and resurrection of Christ which is often lived in suffering, persecution and death. Many of our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world experience this on a daily basis.

The window in the church depicting the brother priests, Blessed Francis and Anthony Page, reminds us of the martyrs of the Reformation who preserved the Catholic faith and the way in which Uxendon Manor was a post-Reformation forerunner of the Catholic community in Harrow-on-the-Hill. The intercession of St George, in the words of his prayer, ‘show us how to wield our weapons of steadfast courage, love of truth’ and help us witness to the truth of the Church’s teaching and the dignity of every man and woman as equal and created by God, from the womb to the tomb. In many contemporary debates about life, gender, marriage and family, we will need courage to speak the truth with charity and clarity.

As Cardinal Vaughan said in his homily said on May 12 1894, ‘we have a great work before us. The Church is always young; she is always full of the vigour of her infancy. You may banish her ministers, you may pull down her altars, you may discredit and dishonour, and persecute those who profess her doctrines, but do what you like, persecute as much as you can, the Church of God will survive and will spring up again…(and later)  We are here, I say, at the bottom of the hill, but we are toiling upward; we are working upward as year follows year, making still further progress in the minds of the people of England, and showing them doctrines which the land once professed…’

We pray that St George, Our Blessed Lady and St Thomas of Canterbury will help us faithfully spread the gospel and teach the Catholic faith.

Our Blessed Lady, pray for us.

St Thomas of Canterbury, pray for us.

St George, pray for us.