And on returning to Britain from a busy trip to EWTN in Alabama, everyday life swept me back in with a rush. Mass at the Church of the Most Precious Blood at London Bridge, run by the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. The congregation just keeps growing and growing – when your correspondent arrived (admittedly a bit late…allow for jetlag!) at the 11 am Mass it was necessary to hunt a bit for a seat.
The Mass was, as always, punctuated by the wailing of babies and the noise of toddlers running about at the back of the church. But there are other sounds – perhaps the sweetest being the Sunday School children in the front rows, who join in the Angelus at the end of Mass with great enthusiasm, carolling the responses with joy.
Afterward, a cheery pub lunch. American offers a magnificent range of places to eat, and food to enjoy there, but there is nothing quite like a London pub, near the Thames, on a Sunday lunchtime…
Catching up on news…
And there is good news from the Archdiocese of Birmingham – that’s our Birmingham, here in England – with the appointment of Fr Robert Byrne, of the Oxford Oratory, as an auxiliary bishop. This makes history – an Oratorian Bishop is a rare and excellent thing.
I learned the news from relatives who live near Oxford, and went immediately to the Archdiocesan website, where there is a message from Fr Robert:
‘I am deeply honoured and humbled that the Holy Father, Pope Francis has appointed me as Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham. His example will continue to inspire and shape my ministry in Birmingham, especially to serve the poor, the marginalised and those who may feel alienated from God and society. In the spirit of St Philip Neri – the founder of the Oratory and a saint with a great sense of humour – I am committed to helping share the joy of the Gospel message with others.
‘I began my priestly ministry in Birmingham twenty nine years ago and I look forward to renewing my friendships and to making my home once again in this great city. I have a great love for the Malvern Hills and the music of Elgar, so was particularly pleased when I learned that my ministry would include the pastoral care of the Worcestershire deaneries.
‘I have been richly blessed in these years by the people that I have met and the work that I’ve been asked to do – as a parish priest, in prison chaplaincy, and latterly as the Bishops’ Conference National Ecumenical Officer. I look forward to building upon this experience and to working closely with other Christians and people of all faiths and none.
‘I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to my Oratorian community for their priestly example, friendship and support. I shall miss them greatly and also the parishioners of St Aloysius parish in Oxford.
‘Blessed John Henry Newman, the founder of the English Oratory has inspired me as a priest. I hope in some way to be able to follow his example, particularly in the care and love that he showed for his priests and people.”