Archbishop Nichols addresses an enormous congregation at the London Oratory Mass of Thanksgiving for the papal visit

After work, I dashed over to the London Oratory for the Mass of thanksgiving for the papal visit. I was just in time for Archbishop Nichols’ sermon. Verily it was like Christmas day, the pews were packed and everyone looked joyful – and thankful for the amazing success of Pope Benedict’s visit. I, the old cynic, had not expected there to be so great a crowd. I always find people are slower to give thanksgiving, like the way only one leper out of ten came back to thank Our Lord. But not tonight! People assembled at the sides of the church too, and hung on the Archbishop’s every word.
A religious, who is a good friend of mine recently remarked that she finds ‘that gathering at the Oratory elitist and really only one sort goes there – all tweed and wads of dosh.’ But a brief sconce at the congregation for tonight’s Mass of thanksgiving showed both young and older generations from every walk of life and social class (I hate the word ‘class’). The United Nations couldn’t have beaten the crowd for representing a huge spectrum of races and nationalities. A huge variety of young people dotted the Church, from the crisper-than-crisp shirted young professionals to young parents. The sort of young people who don’t get a mention when there’s some trite article in The Guardian about ‘youth disillusioned with the Catholic bishops and the Vatican…blah-dee-blah.’ I second Damian Thompson’s view that the Oratory is a major centre of evangelism for today’s young Catholics.

Some earnestly devout Filipino ladies proudly and elegantly wearing beaded mantillas sat in the middle section of the Church. I always feel such a fraud in comparison to these Filipino ladies. They are not snobbish and boastful about coming ‘to hear the Archbishop’, but take to heart his message. When they leave the Oratory, they will tell the bus driver or the waitress in the coffee shop about Our Lord Jesus and why going to Mass is important. I admire the balance they maintain in doing something supposedly ‘elitist’ by going to Mass at the Oratory, but then evangelising to whoever they meet next, no matter how ‘ordinary’ that person may be.

Archbishop Nichols’ spoke about ‘the glorious ceremony at Cofton Park’ (see the video below for more) for the beatification of John Henry Newman. Archbishop Nichols’ sermon traced the relevance of Blessed John Henry Newman from his time to ours, in that Newman understood and taught how prayer can and may transform. Archbishop Nichols pointed to Deacon Jack Sullivan’s prayer to Newman that won Deacon Jack the grace for his miraculous healing as a fine example of how prayer can truly transform.
PS - You may like to sign the petition of thanks to the Holy Father for visiting our country. 


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