The Archdiocese of Birmingham - The Parish of the Immaculate Conception

Bicester Advertiser, 15th June 1917.



            On Thursday last week the afternoon was perfect. All nature in its varied beauty seemed to be offering a hymn of silent adoration to its Creator, and the bird-kingdom vied with its song of praise. An overflowing chapel listened to an address from Father Parker, O.S.B.[1], M.A. (Master of Parker’s Hall, Oxford). He did not wish to dwell as in former years on the sacred thought that filled the minds of Catholics worshipping round that altar on the feast-day of God’s great sacramental mystery. Rather he took a thought common in its appeal to all present of whatever church and he wished, he said, to give his message as a minister of the Gospel through his audience to the people of Bicester. Man’s nature was very limited; the earth with its ties, cares, duties, and pleasures absorb our minds and distracts our attentions. Further, sin often comes to darken the intelligence and fetter the will. Yet man’s spirit, made unto God’s likeness and destined to endless glory, yearns ever and anon for God, its first beginning and last end. When obstacles are removed it raises itself as the storm-trodden field of corn when the genial sun-shine returns. To-day an awakening to God was manifesting itself in this country; the humble recognition of how religion has failed to attract many, a stirring among irreligious hearts, a deepening of this yearning among those hitherto religious. This was partly due to circumstances – most were face to face with hardship, sorrow, bereavement, death and the great realities. Partly also to the fact that many were casting aside their grossness of heart and selfishness, by the cultivation of natural virtues – diligence, voluntary privation, sympathy and self-sacrifice, and as the parched ground when broken up can receive the rains of heaven and bear abundant fruit, so more human hearts were, he thought, admitting God’s benign influences again. Men were understanding more that religion is the conscious, deliberate and personal dealings of the soul with God, their Father and loving Friend. Though inarticulately perhaps, men were asking or considering more deeply: Who is God? Who an I? Does He really care for me? How can I get in touch with Him? What means has He given for me to remain true to my purpose? The answer, the first answer, said Father Parker, is Jesus Christ, He is God revealed to us in terms poor human nature can understand. Men would never know real religion, if they had the opportunity of being Christians, except through Him who called Himself the door, “By whom we must have access to the Father,” and they would never understand Him nor know the appeal of His love nor respond to it with heart-felt affection unless they had certain dispositions. (1) He is the truth. He speaks with authority. Men must have a perfect trust and confidence in his teaching. It is unthinkable that before Him men should pick and choose for themselves according to taste, or temperament, argue Why? or reason How? All must have unquestioning faith. (2) He is the Way. Men must obey Him wholeheartedly, not this or that command as it suits them, but in everything He commands. They must follow hithersoever He leads. (3) He is the Life. Men must look to him for all helps and respond with their service and the devotedness of their hearts. And why, he asked, were so many irreligious and unchristian to-day? Christ had exhausted every appeal; there was no shortcoming in His wisdom or love. The failure was due partly no doubt to sin and self centeredness. It was due also to a widespread misunderstanding of our Lord’s designs, and a disbelief in many of the helpful means He had left to keep Himself real, living, and personal, to this generation. The preacher wished to emphasize this, though not to apportion the blame. Our Lord had founded a kingdom on earth, adapted to our human needs, One Church, at once visible and invisible. A God worked once through His visible human life, so now He works through the Church. It is obvious to any Gospel-reader that He came not only to reveal God, but also to found a Church to perpetuate his [sic] work of teaching and life-giving. Through its ministrations and sacraments He poured the Divine Life, His Holy Spirit, into each one, as the vine gives sap to the branches. Provided men have the opportunity of knowing about His Church, never except through the Church, which embodies His purpose, will they ever know real religion. Christ is empathic on this point, “As the Father hath sent Me, so send I you. All authority hath been given unto Me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples baptizing them and teaching them, , , , , He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned.” As Christ in His incarnate life is the first answer to man’s yearnings and the must have those dispositions mentioned, so the Church is the complimentary answer. Men must have the same dispositions towards Christ in dwelling in His Church, which St. Paul calls His Mystical Body, and helping men through it. The preacher was leaving aside the question which was Christ’s Church, or where it could be found, or, what was each one’s theory of the Church, He knew, he said, the difficulties of many and sympathized; he knew that not all Churches offered all the helps which he was convinced Our Lord left for the people of this as of other generations. But his (Father Parker’s) message to all was this; living up to your best lights, use your Church to the full, have this same dispositions towards the Church, faith in Christ’s teaching coming to you through it, obedience to its commands, loyalty to its wishes, as to Christ Himself; service to Him through it, promoting His Kingdom on earth as best you see how, looking to supernatural helps from Him through it, responding to Him through them. Men of all creeds were earnestly desiring the fulfilment of Christ’s prayer that all should hear His voice, and there should be one fold as one shepherd. Those dispositions alone would bring back the irreligious, the Churchless; those alone would provide the elemental basis of reunion. He concluded by asking the Catholics, and others too, each in his own point of view, to thank God that day for the help He had provided through His Church, in order to keep them in real living , personal relations with Himself.

            In the procession round the convent grounds Father Parker carried the Most Blessed Sacrament, escorted by Rev. Miller (Benedictine), Fathers Robert and Francis (Franciscans), in sacred vestments, under the canopy carried by students of the Franciscan College at Buckingham, preceded by candle bearers, incensers and little girls clad in white, strewing flowers (Misses Wright, Lang, Haynes). Father Permasse conducted the ceremonies. Mr. Walker and Mr. Bard led the hymn-singing. Among the many (more than on previous occasions) who took part were the nuns, visitors from Heath [sic] and Mrs. F. Morrell, of Oxford. The solemn Blessing was given at an altar erected by devout hands on the Priory lawn.[i]

[1] Order of St. Benedict.

[i] Bicester Advertiser, 15th June 1917.