BEHIND the scenes at Farm Street, in London's Mayfair, it's like Kennedy airport as visiting Jesuits come and go from all over the world.
I had the privilege and pleasure of enjoying a frugal Jesuit lunch last week, in Farm Street, with Fr Anthony Nye Si, the recently appointed Superior and Parish Priest of the Church of the Immaculate Conception, and his Jesuit companions.
Personally speaking I know of few churches where the liturgy is celebrated with such perfection, where the sermons are so superb, mercifully brief and to the point, and where the Sacrament of Reconciliation is ministered with such pastoral care and love.
Having said that, I must admit to having been educated by Jesuits, and to have learned that they are tops at humility!
Fr Anthony is a genuinely humble Londoner, a convert, who was received into the .Church while a student at 'University College, London, in the early 50's, reading English.
He joined the Jays in 1955 and was ordained in 1966. Old Boys of the Mount will remember him as headmaster of St Mary's College, near Sheffield, as he was headmaster there for eight years.
He did a stint in Zimbabwe during the troubles, and in South Africa, and spent four fruitful years as University Chaplain in Cardiff. He also served as chaplain to Catholic students at Atlantic College.
The young people of Cardiff, as John Paul II discovered when he addressed them, are among the most fervent and articulate of Catholics. Fr Nye specialised in Retreat work from Loyola Hall, Rainhill, near Liverpool, all of which put him in touch with lay spirituality and he has
come to Farm Street with a great
reputation for listening.
_What dues Fr Nye hope from Farm Street? At first he prefers to look and listen, to get the feel of the diverse and versatile people with whom he is involved both as Superior of the Jesuit Community and as parish priest.
He thinks of this process as "setting up a telephone exhange". Obviously there is a great tradition at Farm Street to be treasured and respected. The liturgy and music are beautiful and dignified.
There is also a deep and quiet tradition of priests being available throughout the day to the many people who come from the surrounding distict, and from far afield, at home and abroad, to make their confession or to receive spiritual counselling.
Farm Street offers opportunitiesfor preaching to a congregation that listens attentively and likes to discuss points from the sermon over coffee afterwards. Could the old tradition of pulpit dialogues be revived? There are opportunities for sermon courses and talks drawing on Jesuits in many fields including theologians at Heythrop.
There are opportunities for bringing together past students from a wide range of Jesuit schools and for working with the Christian Association of Business Executives under the guidance of Hugh Kay.
Farm Street offers useful and central facilities that are used by several groups such as Amnesty. Central London also offers ample opportunities for ecumenical contacts and for developing the social concerns which are a high priority of the Church since Vatican II and of the Society of Jesus.
The "special option for the poor and needy" has to challenge those who live and work in such an area — not least in the care of those who are emotionally and psychologically in need, a traditional Farm Street ministry.
It also means giving support and direction to members of the congregation in their undoubted generosity to many charities, and also making sure that all sincerely examine themselves on social issues in the light of the gospel.
W such an international and varied congregation Farm Street is called upon to be a window on the Church and the world, both looking out and deep within.
Farm Street under Fr Anthony Nye, it seems to me, is going to uphold the great tradition of St Ignatius whose motto was, "I came to send Fire", the Fire of the Holy Spirit, of the Father, and the Son.