Given at the Anniversary Mass of St Mary’s College, Crosby, at the Metropolitan Cathedral, Liverpool, on the Vigil of the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, 15th June 2019.
Some time ago, I was given this: the programme for St Mary’s College Prize Day for 1958! It evoked many interesting memories including a performance by Victor McLellan of a trumpet voluntary that I still remember well. But I had to hunt long and hard to find my own name in it: Form One Alpha, prize - you guessed it - for Religious Knowledge. Alongside my name were those of Arthur Gee, a really good cricketer, Vincent Cunningham, who I think later became a priest in this diocese and Stephen Glover, a person of such evident and memorable goodness.
So much water has passed under the bridge since 1958, so many fine achievements and moments. The list of such high achievers is long and stretches across business, politics, creative writing, diplomacy, broadcasting and entertainment. I name just one: the sporting achievements of young Trent Alexander Arnold, which have contributed to a moment of such joy to this city, and to me too! I remember, with special affection, my two brothers, Peter and John, who was Head Boy in 1965.
Quite a number of people have written of their memories of St Mary’s, some with very mixed feelings. For my part, I remember my years there with equanimity and gratitude, even if at times they were tough. Challenge was never shirked. Nor was there any lack of encouragement. I trust that that is still the same today!
Much has changed in these hundred years, but I am glad to see that the musical tradition has not, even if the School Song has changed. The school motto, I see, remains the same: ‘We show our faith by the way we live,’ ‘fidem vita fateri’.
Pondering on these words again, I have been struck by the strength of the Latin word ‘fateri’, translated as ‘show’. It carries much stronger meanings, too: ‘acknowledge’, ‘confess’ ‘give proof of’. So we are called, by our heritage in St Mary’s, to give proof of our Catholic faith by the way we live. Quite a challenge, not least for a Cardinal.
Today, with this Mass, we begin the celebration of the Feast of the Holy Trinity. This calls us to acknowledge again the mystery, the inner life, of God which is at the heart of the faith we are to confess. We profess this faith, without much thought, every time we make the sign of the cross: in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Perhaps making the sign of the cross is the first action of your day. It is so for me, taught by my mother. It sets off the day in the right context, the right direction.
This profession of faith, simply expressed, holds within it clear imperatives. These are some, of which we are to give proof in our lives.
The Father: we profess the Father to be the creator and giver of life, all life, my life. Here is a huge challenge to much of our contemporary culture which claims life to be our own possession, fashionable and disposable as we think fit, whether at its precarious beginnings or its frail endings. Here is a challenge to our view of the created world as being simply for our use or exploitation. The ecological challenge, of which we hear a great deal these days, takes on a radically different dimension and motivation once we seek to give proof in our daily lives to our belief that the created world is a gift to be received in thankfulness and cherished in trust.
The Son: The Word through whom creation comes into being and in whom we embrace our Way, our Truth and our Life. Every time we profess the name of the Son, we are called to remember that our faith is not a set of rules, not a ‘members’ club,’ not a competing ideology, but a living relationship with God, opened for us afresh in and through Jesus of Nazareth, the Eternal Word of God in our flesh. In his life, in every word and deed, and most dramatically in his death and rising from the dead, we receive the only truth that can guide us with utter certainty through the maze of modern living. His life is the ultimate lesson in love, breaking open our self-centred focus and freeing us for service, service to others, service to the truth he teaches. That triumph over death is the defeating of our last enemy, death itself. He opens for us a greater horizon to life. He floods each day with a greater hope than any other. As St Paul said to us today: ‘Through Our Lord Jesus Christ, we can boast about looking forward to God’s glory.’
Then we speak, too, of the Holy Spirit. Classically in this person of the Blessed Trinity, we profess our belief in the eternal flow of love that passes between the Father and the Son and which is poured out on our world and into our hearts. The first reading of our Mass this evening spoke beautifully of this hidden, creative nature of the Holy Spirit. In confessing the Holy Spirit, we proclaim that the deepest motivations in our life, our deepest desires, are the promptings of this Spirit of God, which cannot be contained, or tamed, or claimed as an exclusive possession. When we claim ourselves to be ‘self-motivated individuals’ we are heading down a blind alley for we cut ourselves off from the hidden depth of God's grace working in our lives and in our world. This Holy Spirit is the deepest source of energy that can truly bind us together in a corporate effort, the innermost strength that fashions true resilience in hardship, the ebb and flow of love that alone fulfils our hearts.
In my time at St Mary’s, every day was punctuated with prayer. I hope that is still the case. It was truly formative. Every moment of prayer began with the sign of the cross. It is in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit that we pray. It is also in their names that we try to live and give proof of our faith.
I pray that this moment of great celebration will strengthen in each of us a desire to show our faith by the way we live. To allow this faith to fashion and guide every professional and personal achievement is to witness to the true wellsprings of courage, mercy, forgiveness and love, so needed today. This witness, in deed and in word, is the greatest service we can give in and to our society. So many from St Mary’s have done so in the past. May it be said also of those who are at St Mary’s today and in the many years to come.