Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Pro-Life Video

John Smeaton has published a moving video that highlights the numbers of abortions worldwide each year. It was found by his son, Paul, on the That the bones you have crushed may thrill blog.

The best bit for me is at the end where a woman who amazingly survived a saline abortion says: "If abortion is merely about women's rights, than what were mine?"

Monday, 19 July 2010

Walk for Vocations

The weather held out for the Walk for Vocations, which attracted more than 100 people from all over the Middlesbrough Diocese.

We set out from Madonna House at about 2.45pm and made our way to the sea front at Robin Hoods Bay. The seven mile walk along the ciff top up to Whitby was absolutely stunning. The route is part of the Cleavland Way. The coastline is rugged and there is plenty of wildlife to spot.

From what I could see the youngest participant was just a few years old while the oldest could have been in their 70s. In total, there were three seminarians from our diocese and myself, with two students for other dioceses also joining in. It was great to receive words of encouragement ahead of my start at the Royal English College in Valladolid in September. Several people said they would keep me, and the other students, in their prayers.

For the younger participants, there was an opportunity to chat with the several priests who took part, including Bishop Terry Drainey, the Bishop of Middlesbrough. Some clusters of walkers prayed the rosary together while others walked alone for a while to pray.

The weather was not too hot and there was a nice breeze along certain stretches. As we hit the outskirts of Whitby, we met some other people from Middlesbrough who had been busy and were only able to join later.

We arrived at St Hilda's, that has a papal flag flying high on a pole outside the church. There was about an hour and a half before Mass started and some of us went for fish and chips in the town I consider to be the universal home of the popular meal.

It was great to be asked to serve Mass with three seminarians. I've never served for a bishop at an official occasion before so I was kindly prompted by the other servers on when to take and receive the bishop's crosier, the job that was assigned to me.

As well as my interview on BBC Radio Humberside, Philip Cunnah, a good friend and second year student at Ushaw College, appeared on BBC York and Tees yesterday morning. He was fantastic at answering the questions in depth and managed to do so without stuttering, which I find difficult to match. Phil said some great things about the walk as being a kind of pilgrim journey towards Christ in the Mass. He was also asked about his own journey. From BBC York, he faced some challenging questions about women priests as well as the love and the sacrifice involved with Holy Orders. He gave some impressive answers. To listen to the BBC Tees interview, click and fastforward to 2.12.40. For the BBC York interview click here and fastforward to about 0.48.18.

(p.s. I forgot to take some pictures while actually on the walk. This one is outside the Church after Mass. I'm sure some of the walk will appear on Facebook and elsewhere soon.)

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Vocations Walk

After Mass today, I'll be picking a couple of people up on the way to the beautiful Robin Hoods Bay in North Yorkshire, where a walk for vocations for the Diocese of Middlesbrough will start at 2pm. It will follow part of the Cleavland Way to Whitby along the North Sea coast.

This morning, I was up early to get to the BBC in Queens Gardens, Hull, to be interviewed on the Sunday Breakfast programme on Radio Humberside. I was asked about the walk and my vocation. It was rather a gentle chat which was good as it was the first time I'd been interviewed live before. To listen, click here and fastforward to 1.13.37.

Monday, 12 July 2010


With religious from about 30 different orders, diocesan priests, and lots of young people, the first ever national vocations event earlier this month was a joyful Catholic weekend in the heart of England.

Invocation, that was held at St Mary’s College, Oscott, brought together more than 200 young people, many of who are discerning their vocation. And there was an added excitement with anticipation for the papal visit, particularly as Pope Benedict will speak to bishops in the college chapel, the scene of Cardinal John Henry Newman’s ‘second spring’ sermon.

There was no confusion as to what the event was intended for – to help young Catholic discern what God is calling them to do. People who signed up to go pretty much knew what they were letting themselves in for. In this atmosphere, there was nothing uncomfortable about talking to youngsters about the ‘p’ (priesthood) word or the ‘v’ (vocation) word. Everyone was generous in finding quiet time to discover - as the first speaker of the weekend, Abbot Christopher Jaimson, said – an inner sanctuary.

I went from Hull with Tom Parr from Bridlington and we were joined by Father William Massie, the Diocese of Middlesbrough Vocations director, and three others from the diocese. Apart from Fr Massie who obviously got a nice en-suite room, the rest of us took tents and camped like most of the attendees. It was that kind of event where you knew quite a few people already and were able to catch up. Also, there were a lot of familiar faces that I was finally able to put names to and chat with. It was good to meet four lads that will be going to Valladolid with me in September.

The meals were served in two tepees and the large marquee that had been especially put up for the festival. Both queuing up for lovely food and sitting down at the table made it easy for us to meet new people at each meal. Many made the point of sitting down with different people each time and introducing themselves.

The Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, gave the keynote address on the Sunday morning. He talked about the three stages of Cardinal Newman’s conversion as an example of how to consider a vocation. He said Cardinal Newman described himself as possessing a natural religion and a having personal belief in God, which was followed by a realisation of the importance of dogmatic truth. His gift of presence with a Church of infallible teachings was the final stage at which point Cardinal Newman decided to become a Catholic.
The former archbishop of Birmingham also explored “heroes of faith”, having a goal in mind, and being in company with others in pursuit of that goal as the three themes of a pilgrim’s badge. He said that an interior space, so that people can “hear the echo” of God, was a key part of discerning a vocation.

As a ‘seminarian elect’ as I seem to be getting called this summer, I enjoyed my first privilege as being a student for the priesthood in having a special meeting with the archbishop for the seminarians who were present. Afterwards, I switched roles and went to the press conference that had been called for the event, as I was doing something for The Universe. The regional BBC were there, asking questions about the papal visit. A handful of young people who attended the event put themselves up to answer questions and do interviews if required afterwards.

There was an excellent talk by Dr Andrew O’Connell, communications director for the Presentation Brothers in Ireland, about the challenge to answer God’s call in the modern digital world. I think this presentation deserves its own blog post. Sister Gabriel Davison, a Poor Clare nun, was one of a number of religious who came out of an enclosed community for the weekend. She spoke about her own journey, from an engineering degree (finding herself the only woman in a class of 80 men) to joining the Poor Clares and taking on radical poverty. She spoke about being one among equals in the community and being in a love affair with God.

A sense of how historic and significant the weekend was came as the Holy Father’s Apostolic Blessing for Invocation was read out at the final Mass celebrated by Archbishop Nichols. Part of the message read:
“Particularly during this period of preparation for the Apostolic visit of the Holy Father, when this country has a special place in his thoughts and prayers, Pope Benedict XVI encourages all those present to continue to stay close to Our Blessed Lord as they strive to discern his will for their lives, and to put their trust in the power of the Holy Spirit who will give them the courage to say ‘yes’ to the Lord’s invitation.

“His Holiness cordially imparts to all the participants in Invocation 2010 and to their families and loved ones a special Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of abundant graces from Our Blessed Lord.”
As well as the main talks, we had the chance to go to four workshops throughout the weekend on various different topics. I went along to the ‘priesthood’ workshop. It was encouraging to see a good number of lads, between 6th Form and university student age, listening attentively to three priests and a seminarian talk about the work of a priest and the journey to ordination. There was opportunity to ask questions after each of the talks and things like a deeper explanation of the celibate priesthood were explored. I also went along to sessions on witness and the theology of the body.

Youth 2000 had a lot of input into the liturgies, but there was a mix of ‘praise and worship’ and more traditional hymns at the Masses. In the large marquee on the Saturday night, there was a moving reconciliation service. Dozens of priests were dotted around inside and outside and there was some reflective praise and worship music as confessions were heard. Afterwards, there was a Blessed Sacrament procession around the college grounds, ending with Benediction and a blessing for Birmingham.

The college’s chapel was full for the three Masses, two of which were celebrated by Archbishop Nichols and Archbishop Bernard Longley respectively. The sight of people standing outside the doors to the chapel for Mass and for morning prayer highlighted how encouraging the numbers were.

There was no sense of teenagers being badgered by their diocesan vocation directors or by the representatives of the different orders. Instead, all were easily available for youngsters to chat to for information and about what their calling might be. Evenings in the bar provided a more informal setting for people to chat to priests and seminarians. To see a Catholic event dominated by young people who were actively open to the possibility of a vocation to the priesthood or religious life was a delight. Father Stephen Langridge, staff and students at Oscott College and volunteers who helped organise and run the event should be warmly congratulated.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

New deputy speakers

The good thing about John Burcow's election and re-appointment as speaker of the House of Commons is that a strongly pro-abortion politician became non-partisan. He cannot take part in debates or vote on any issue (unless there is a tie) and has an obligation to be impartial. The Rt Hon Burcow has been an outspoken pro-abortionist and supported the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. It is good that he is now effectively "nutralised".

On Tuesday, the three deputy leaders of the House of Commons for the new parliament were elected. These stand in for the speaker when he is busy with other things or is on leave. One of the new deputies is Dawn Primarolo. The fact that she has been "neutralised" is great news.

Ms Primarolo was the minister in charge of that hideous Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Bill that removed the need for a father, legalised the creation of human/animal hybrid embryos and widened the scope for human embryonic experimentation. As I reported at the time, she claimed that the bill was "a handshake" between science and ethics.

The MP for Bristol South is also pro-abortion, voting against all amendments to lower the time limit for abortion (even thought, as I've said many times, these proposals were the wrong way to go in attempting to restrict the Abortion Act). The fact that she will no longer be able to vote on these issues (unless there is a tie when she is in the chair) confirms that there is one less pro-abortion member of parliament who can have their say.

However, another new deputy speaker, Nigel Evans, appears to be a loss to the pro-life lobby. He was one of only 72 MPs that voted for a reduction in the time limit to 12 weeks, indicating he is sympathetic. In addition, the winner of the deputy speaker election, Chorley MP Lindsay Hoyle, also appears to be a loss. He was a rebel on the Mental Capacity Bill and even called for a free vote on the clauses that legalised euthanasia by omission. He also voted against several aspects of the HFE Bill and wrote to the Prime Minister to ask for a free vote. However, he did not vote for the 12 week clause.
I qualify my observations by saying I don't have any detailed knowledge of these two MPs views on the all important life issues (please leave comments if you know anything more).

Since 1801, there have been only 49 instances of tied divisions. Interestingly, however, one of the last occasions came on 21 June 1990, on an amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. If it comes to that sort of scenario again, I think we've got a better chance with Evans and Hoyle than Primarolo and Burcow.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Personal announcement

Today has been a very joy filled day. As some of you may already know, I have been applying for the seminary for the Diocese of Middlesbrough and Bishop Terry Drainey today accepted me. I'll be studying at the Royal English College in Valladolid for a year, starting in September.

I would say that my discernment has grown more intense over the last two years as I found myself deepening my prayer life and asking God what he wanted of me. A sense of a vocation to the priesthood started to niggle away at me to the point at which the most comfortable thing to do was apply.

As I've said all along in interviews, the main reason I can give for going for priestly formation is an understanding that, as a Catholic, you want to do God's will whatever vocation that may be. I have developed a sense that God is directing me towards priesthood and, as a natural conclusion, and through a lot of prayer, I am where I am today.

It's a particular joy to make this decision during the Year of the Priest. Many priests have been a great example to me over the years and their ministry has inspired me to consider a vocation to the priesthood. I would like to thank all those who have helped me encounter Christ and deepen my knowledge of the faith. And, of course, I continue to ask for your prayers.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Abortion advert letter

Readers will have heard the sickening news that Marie Stopes International is to air an advertisement on Channel 4 on Monday evening to promote abortion. SPUC is urging people to write to the Secretary of State for Culture to ask him to use his powers to stop the advert from being broadcast. Details of how to write to the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP can be found on John Smeaton's blog. Here is my submission sent tonight:

Dear Mr Hunt,

I am writing to plead with you to intervene to stop the scheduled Marie Stopes International advertisement from being broadcast on Channel 4 this Monday. I find this development deeply concerning and would ask you to use your powers relating to OFCOM to prevent this shameful commercial from going ahead.

Last year, a public consultation on the question of allowing abortion advertising received more than 4,000 submissions, most of whom opposed the proposed move. The Broadcasting Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) was so inundated with responses that they had to put back the conclusion of the consultation. Now we have it confirmed from the Advertising Standards Authority that non-commercial providers, or “charities”, are permitted to advertise “post-conception advice services”.

Marie Stopes International might be a registered charity, but it also has a financial interest in the abortion industry. This advertisement will help the organisation to cash in on the killing of innocent and vulnerable human beings and on the distress of women in crisis pregnancies. Marie Stopes is an abortion provider; its crisis pregnancy advice is centred on the abortion option. The general TV watching British public should not be fooled into thinking Marie Stopes will provide impartial advice. Its advice centres are essentially abortion factories.

According to English law, abortion is a criminal offence. The 1967 Abortion Act only allows the procedure to be carried out in certain circumstances. Advertising of a criminal offence is not permitted and Monday’s proposed advert should be treated no differently to this. European law also prohibits the advertising of restricted medical procedures, such as abortion. In addition, the Broadcasting Act 1990 requires that advertising is not offensive or harmful. Abortion is offensive to the countless women damaged by it and is deadly to the hundreds of unborn children aborted every day. There is no sound legal basis open which this commercial should be allowed to be broadcast.

The advert will be deeply immoral because, by implying that abortion is a way out of a crisis pregnancy by not actually mentioning the procedure, it will mislead viewers about the reality of abortion, which is the brutal killing of unborn children.

For these reasons I ask that you act immediately to prevent this advert from being aired on Monday evening.

Yours Sincerely,

Richard Paul Marsden