Sunday, May 06, 2012

St Thomas More, the river, and Allen Hall...

...on a strikingly cold May Sunday. JB leading a Catholic History Walk that took us around Chelsea,honouring St Thomas More and thus telling the story of Henry VII and the frail sickly Prince Arthur and young Princess Catherine of Aragon and her subsequent marriage to Henry VIII and all that followed... Henry VIII's book on the Seven Sacraments is perhaps a classic example of a book that while attempting to defend doctrine somehow dramatically fails the Church. It's a mistake that today's self-proclaimed "Catholic traditionalists" also too often make. Prof Jack Scarisbrick described the book once in a lecture at Maryvale as "an unloving book" and he was right... In the end, St Thomas More did something far greater and nobler and of more lasting benefit to the Church with his heroic witness that culminated in martyrdom on Henry's orders on Tower Hill... We stood where Thomas More once lived, and walked along by the Thames to Chelsea Old Church where his first wife Jane has her tomb in a side-chapel where he had planned that he too would one day be buried. The church is not quite the one that More knew - Luftwaffe bombers removed most of that - but the More chantry was rebuilt from the ruins and today's church also includes a number of other retrieved features of the original building. Our walk finished at Allen Hall, the seminary for the diocese of Westminster. In what is now an annual tradition, we were welcomed to tea and a team of seminarians took groups around the building explaining its associations with Thomas More (it stands on the site of his garden) and with the later hero martyrs of the 16th and 17th centuries. The Rector, his team, and the students made us really welcome. We gave three hearty cheers for the students - it made a very rousing sound as we were a good-sized group and enjoying our tea after the cold walk! - and it is really good to meet them and to see the future of the Church in their strength and faith. We finished with Evening Prayer and Benediction in the chapel, the strong voices of the young men singing out the psalms and the Tantum Ergo...

2 comments:

Malcolm said...

Yes, Henry VIII was awarded the title of "defender of the faith" for his theological works, and British monarchs have used it ever since. It just goes to show that there's more to life than being orthodox.

Thomas More I chose as my confirmation saint. He was also a very scholarly man, but, unlike the King, when the crunch came he chose principle over political factors.

Beatrix Phocas said...

I just saw your Catholic History Walk episode about Thomas More and his home(s) in Chelsea. I found it fascinating, but when you filmed the segment on his Manor and how it was lost, the camera panned across the cemetery of the Moravian Church and I thought I recognized it. It's a silly bit of trivia but that is in fact the cemetery where Christian the lion and his two owners played before moving to the country and eventually to Africa with George Adamson of Born Free fame. I think Thomas More would have loved that coincidence too.