MY Lord, you were ordained by Bishop Wall of Brentwood in November 1950, at the age of 23. Which seminary were you at? THE seminary in Paris called St Sulpice. This was an unusual step but Bishop Beck, who was our Bishop in those days, thought it was rather good if students went to different seminaries around the world which ensured a wider variety of formation among his priests. Looking back on it I was so pleased to be in France, not only learning French, but since it was just prior to Vatican II there were many exciting ideas around at the time, especially as the Jerusalem Bible was just appearing in France and much discussion and experimentation regarding the liturgy, which was always very much my interest.
On the whole I feel it gave me a much broader outlook to have spent time studying abroad.
AFTER 13 years in parishes, you were appointed Chaplain to Essex University where you remained from 1972 to 1980. Was it a full time appointment or did you have other responsibilities outside the university?
NO, it was not full time because it is such a small university. I was in a parish at the same time and I enjoyed those two kinds of pastoral ministry. I liked being based in a parish but going out to work among young people which I found very challenging and rewarding. There were a whole range of problems one had to cope with.
Many of the students had not been away to school and so it was the very first time of leaving home and consequently I came across much uncertainty, much loneliness; strangely one does not associate that always with young people, but you have the adult emerging within the young person so that uncertainty is there.
It was the age of great permissiveness and Essex was very radical and very left wing at the time which challenged very much their Christian faith and their Christian values.
DID you find that the young people at Essex University questioned the Church or the relevance of God and if they did so, in what sort of way did this present itself to you?
I THINK on the whole they were reasonably open-minded. Some, of course, were very dismissive and very intolerant of the institutional Church and the hierarchical Church. On the other hand, there was a genuine openness because there was a sense within many of them that the secularism and materialism offered was not answering the deep need within themselves; they were searching for something that was behind and beyond.
ordained just before the Vatican Council and so I've known the Church both before and after, and seeing the very far-reaching changes within our Church and within other churches, and the coming together of the Churches I feel that it can only be the work of the Holy Spirit.
I would very much agree with the remark of the Pope when he visited this country and he said: "You cannot really be a Christian and stand apart from this work for Church unity".
I myself believe that it must take place at three levels: at the national level obviously great work is being done, especially though ARCIC; at the diocesan level, between Church leaders; but I think the most important of all is the local level.
For a movement to be real it must be local and so I think that it is in the parish where ecumenism really matters. I try to be guided by the words of Pope John who said: "I may not see unity achieved, but what matters is that I have prayed for it, I have worked for it and I have suffered for it."
the importance of liturgy in the life of the Church?
LITURGY is fundamentally about worship and about celebration and, of course, the source of this celebration is the Paschal mystery and this mystery is eminently celebrated when the people gather together for the source and the summit of all celebration, which is the Eucharistic celebration of the Mass. It is from this that all the sacraments flow and in this celebration we are nourished on word and sacrament and empowered with the Holy Spirit.
There are two points that seem to me extremely important concerning our liturgy. The first is how our Sunday celebration is linked to our work and our care and our service for others. All forms of pastoral caring and all our work for justice and peace and social welfare, for example, flow from this. There is no ministry that takes place in the parish that is not, in some way, clearly related to what is celebrated at the altar every Sunday and, indeed, every day. So our liturgy will only be true authentic if it expresses in celebration and genuine response in faith, in love and in service to others.
The second point that I think is so very important, and I am sure that a large number of people feel this, is that we need to improve the level and the quality of our celebration today. We frequently have many inspiring and prayerful celebrations of the liturgy but quite often also the average Sunday Mass can be very banal in its liturgy and celebration very uninspiring and so what we need to do is to improve this by educating and forming both priests and lay people in basic liturgical principles. THE development of liturgical music has given rise to areas of concern from time to time. I know that you have responsibilities here so would be grateful if you could talk about this.
YES, I think you are quite right. You see, again since we have only had the vernacular for just over 20 years it meant that a lot of Church music has been very recent and so I think during the last 20 years a great deal of indifferent music has been written but also quite a lot of what is good is coming through and will endure. A number of first-class church musicians are around and on our national Music Committee, and producing very good music.
Music is an integral part of the liturgy and therefore we should take tremendous care about the sort of music we have in the liturgy.
I think if each parish can have a cantor then it enables the parish to have very simple responsorial music and a number of dioceses now have Diocesan Directors of Liturgical Music, both in the Cathedral narish. which is the mother-Church of the diocese and also in the parishes around the diocese. Music plays a vital part in helping the whole celebration to be prayerful and inspiring.
YOU have a particular connection with South Africa because your diocese is twinned with one in that country and I know it is close to your heart and that you have recently been visiting there. Would you like to give a message to your brethren in your twin diocese?
WELL, what I prefer to call it is our "Sister Diocese" because it has this great link of showing how we are all brothers and sisters around the whole world, in communion with God and with one another, through, of course, the Church and so we try to be very close to them both in prayer and in concern and understanding for their problems which are very similar to our problems.
When I was in South Africa just a few months ago I found it to be very much a First-World country and a Third-World country and with similar problems of unemployment and violence and racism, as we also experience over here and so it's a feeling of oneness for our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world who are suffering very much indeed at this time, and seeing how we can help them in promoting human rights, justice and peace.
WHAT is the single most important message you can give to another person?
PUTTING it very simply in our materialistic age, I would say to try and get the very centre of their lives right, because if at the centre they put Jesus Christ and His Gospel and His values and His attitudes then they get everything else in their life in the right perspective.
Christianity alone answers the great Whence, Whither, Why and Wherefore of life. It is all summed up in that quotation from C S Lewis: "I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen, not only because I can see it, but, by it, I can see everything else."