ABBOT CUTHBERT Johnson OSB was the principal celebrant and preacher at a sung High Mass in Latin held at Cardinal Newman's Oratory in Birmingham. The event was held to celebrate the feast of St Philip Neri. founder of the Congregation of the Oratory. on May 26, writes Peter Jennings.
Among the 10 concelebrants was Fr Paul Chavasse, Provost of the Oratory. Postulator of the Cause for the Beatification of the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman.
In a challenging and thought-provoking homily Abbot Johnson, who has recently been appointed chaplain to the Benedictine Nuns of Oulton Abbey in Staffordshire, said: "In our days where many false ideologies flourish under the banner of liberalism, John Henry Newman is a witness to tradition, faithfulness and loyalty which are at the root of true freedom and progress "Abbot Johnson said that the gospel of the Beatitudes could be described as "the Charter" for those who are seeking perfection.
He reminded the congregation that "the saints are those who put that teaching into practice to a heroic degree during their lifetime. These holy servants of God are set before us not only as an example but also as an encouragement because what was accomplished in them through divine grace can equally be wrought in us."
He stressed: "To imitate the saints. however, requires maturity and character, courage and strength. Devotion to the saints means not only honouring their memory but imitating their example."
Abbot Cuthbert said: "In these days, when we see the sufferings of the peoples of China and Burma, and experience difficulties closer to home. St Philip Neri reminds us that our faith brings us a deep and abiding joy that no one can take from us. He always manifested joy, kindness and good humour even in times of trial and tribulation." He emphasised: "Today the Church needs something of the spirit of St Philip, something of his enthusiasm for the things of God."
Abbot Cuthbert concluded: "Let this celebration help us to look to where Christ is in glory with St Philip Neri and all the saints. Let us renew our faith. hope and love as we seek to live the Beatitudes and so by sharing in patience in the sufferings of Christ we may come to share the kingdom that he has promised us."
The Oratory Choir under the direction of Mr Nicholas Johnson sang the Mass in D by Anton Dvorak. In accordance with the custom of the Oratory great care was taken in the external adornment of the church and its surrounds.
The flowers and the numerous candles burning brightly on the High Altar and the sanctuary, side altars. and especially the chapel of St Philip Neri, all contributed to the beauty of what was a deeply spiritual and memorable occasion.