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Remembering our deceased clergy

At the annual Requiem for deceased clergy at Westminster Cathedral on 7th November, priests from around the diocese gathered to pray for the souls of their deceased brethren.

Presiding at the Mass, Cardinal Vincent recalled the names of the priests who have died in the past year:  Frs Robert Barry, Seamus Nocter, Adrian Walker, Gerry Burke, Denis Watters, Tom Quinn, Christopher Gawecki, and Barry Ffrench.

In his homily, he said: ‘We gather to pray for the repose of their souls, that they may be drawn into the embrace of God.’

In this year marking the 450th anniversary of Douai College and ‘the roots of our tradition of priesthood’, he said it was fitting to remember ‘those who have gone before us’. Among the priests of the Diocese of Westminster he mentioned were Fr Daniel Gilbert (d 1895), Rector at St Mary Moorfields and author of devotional books; Fr Henry Hardy (d 1918), the ‘Apostle of West Hertfordshire’; Fr Frederick Higley (d 1934), ‘Guardian of the Poor’; Mgr Ronald Knox (d 1957), well-known preacher and writer; and Fr Clement Parsons (d 1980), who, while at St John’s Wood baptised the future Archbishop Derek Worlock.

Noting that, for these priests, and all who follow them, Jesus is ‘the centre of our lives and our hope is in him, made visible in the flesh, attested by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed to the pagans, believed in by the world, and taken up in glory,’ the Cardinal added: ‘This is our itinerary, our journey, marked with small successes and marred with failures: successes of proclamation of the Word, failures of obscuring it behind the fog of our ambiguity and complacency.’

‘This is where the power of our prayer is so important,’ he added. In this prayer is ‘the invocation of the Holy Spirit “to be with us in our weakness” in daily life, in sickness and darkness, in death and in judgment.’

The Cardinal observed that ‘recent weeks also contained great joy, embracing us and our deceased brother priests. We and they rejoice in a newly-proclaimed saint, one of our company, among the deceased, but now, most certainly, interceding for us before the Father: St John Henry Newman.’

Newman is an ‘inspiration for us in shaping our priorities’. In his pastoral ministry, he called and formed people in holiness in a simple way: by exhorting them to ‘live this seen life always awake and responsive to the Unseen: the company of angels, the embrace of Mary, the presence of Jesus who says “I am with you always”, the guiding hand of the Father in whatever may be happening.

‘It is the Unseen, for which by the grace of God we have eyes, the eyes of faith, that is lasting, real, enduring, shaping all we do.

‘This holiness of daily life which we seek is described by Newman in such a quintessentially English manner: “The Christian has a deep, silent, hidden peace which the world sees not…The Christian is easy, kind gentle, courteous, candid, unassuming, has no pretence…with so little that is unusual or striking in his bearing, that he may easily be taken at first for an ordinary man.”

‘Faith gives extraordinary depth to our humanity. That is why we can always hear the words: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God and trust in me.”

‘And when we each approach our death and the world of the Unseen draws nearer, we add the Lord’s words: “There are many rooms in my Father’s house; if there were not, I should have told you for I am going to prepare a place for you.”’

At the end of Mass, the Cardinal blessed the Memorial Book containing the names of deceased clergy, praying that the Lord may ‘grant them the reward of their labours, that having celebrated the sacred ministries here on earth, they may rejoice at [his] Heavenly Banquet.’

Additional photos from the Mass are available here.

Photos: Mazur/CBCEW.org.uk