Tuesday, November 25, 2014

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Cancellation of the Oxford debate on the culture of abortion

Many of you may have read of last week’s cancellation of a debate organised by the Oxford Students for Life. The proposition to be debated was: “This House Believes Britain’s Abortion Culture Hurts Us All’ and the explanatory background text for the debate was the following: “Last year in Britain, over 185,000 abortions were carried out. What does this say about our national culture? Is it a sign of equality, or does it suggest we treat human life carelessly?” The proposed speakers were Tim Stanley for the motion and Brendan O’Neill against, both of whom are journalists for national publications with large followings.

Tim Stanley and Brendan O'Neill who were to have debated the motion

Sadly, the debate was cancelled due to protests from a feminist group in Oxford, and its 300-strong backers, who threatened to “take along some non-destructive but oh so disruptive instruments to help demonstrate to the anti-choicers just what we think of their 'debate'.” In the face of this threat of physical intimidation the Christ Church College Censors capitulated, failing to uphold their legal duty under s.43 of the Education (No 2) Act 1986 to “ensure that freedom of speech within the law is secured for members, students and employees of the establishment and for visiting speakers”, and they decided to cancel the debate.

Many have already commented on the disturbing implications, in so many respects, of this decision: the infringement of free speech; the censorious attitude of the feminist group and its underhand tactics, both threatening disruption and then campaigning against the debate on the grounds of safety; the promotion of the new “right to be comfortable”, the “right to not be challenged in my current opinions”, the “right not be offended”, and the “right not to have what offends me discussed by anybody else”. These have all been well dealt with in both the national and international press. See here http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2014/11/the-top-students-who-are-too-lazy-to-argue/ and here http://blog.oxfordstudentsforlife.co.uk/2014/11/20/our-debate-was-censored-this-week-heres-our-side-of-the-story/  for two good examples.

However, there are some other aspects of the campaign and the decision to ban the debate which I wish to comment on this piece, in particular the individualist and atomised mindset that the arguments of the self-appointed censors seem to manifest.

Should gender exclude you from discussing the “abortion culture”?
One of the main arguments that the campaign against the debate used was that it was wrong that two men had been invited to debate this motion. Now, in the context of the remainder of their arguments, this particular point was either superfluous (if charitably viewed) or a cover against the incontrovertible accusation of undermining free speech, because they went on to argue that abortion should not be up for debate full stop, implicit in which is that they would have opposed the debate irrespective of the sex of the speakers.
The main reason given for the argument that men should not be debating this proposition was that men will never be in a decision to decide whether or not to have a baby aborted or not. Immediately in this, one sees the reactionary and unthinking nature of the campaign against the debate. The proposition to be debated was about how a culture of abortion hurts us all. Therefore it would seem uncontroversial that two men be invited to debate this issue (if gender is to be an issue for deliberation at all in deciding on speakers. It does seem strange that most of the protesters state that gender is a fluid concept and then protest against someone on grounds of it). For whilst it is patently obvious that abortion most directly affects women – they are the only ones who might ever go under the procedure to have a baby they are carrying terminated; they are the ones who will feel most directly the societal pressure to abort a baby with disabilities; and they are the ones most likely to be aborted, given the number of abortions of female babies on the grounds of their gender – it would seem to be the case that if one is seeking to argue that abortion affects more people than just women, i.e. men as well, then having a male voice is not such an outrage. In fact, it strikes me that a man would be well-placed to make the claim that the abortion culture hurts us all by virtue of nothing more than being a man who claims that he feels affected by the culture of abortion and thinks that others are too. Similarly, Brendan O’Neill arguing against the motion would have been ideally placed to state that, not being a woman, and by virtue of the fact that he will never have to consider as an individual whether to have abortion, he does not feel affected by the fact that some women may choose to do so, and that he does not think that their choice is his business or the business of any other men. He could argue that, in fact, there is no such thing as an abortion culture, just individuals exercising their rights.

However, the mere mention of the word abortion, irrespective of context, seemed to cause a red mist to descend and led one of the most vocal opponents, Niamh McIntyre, in her article in the Independent boasting of her pride in shutting down the debate, to write the following:
They thought it was appropriate to let men discuss if and when women should be able to make fundamental decisions about their own bodies. Neither will ever have to consider having an abortion. As you can imagine, those of us with uteruses were incredibly angry that they were able to speak for and over us.” - http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/i-helped-shut-down-an-abortion-debate-between-two-men-because-my-uterus-isnt-up-for-their-discussion-9867200.html

What this debate was absolutely not supposed to be about
Now this is to miss the point of the debate completely. Even a most cursory consideration of the proposition would make it clear that this debate was not about whether abortion should or not should be allowed. It was about the number of abortions now occurring and whether this said anything about our society and whether it is damaging us. Thus her campaign was to deny those normally left voiceless in debates about the rights and wrongs of abortion – i.e. men, precisely because they tend to be shouted down in pro-abortion debates – a voice in a debate about the broader effects of abortion on society, which includes men. Effects that immediately spring to mind are the distress caused to fathers where the mother of their baby chose to have it aborted against their will, fathers who felt guilt at having pressurised mothers into having an abortion, and how men’s attitude to women might be altered when there are seemingly no long-term risks to casual sex, and the corresponding pressure on women.

Or to argue on another tack and to use the language of some of the pro-choice lobby, the possession of most women of “a clump of cells” that I do not have should not preclude me from speaking in a debate. What about a woman who has had a hysterectomy? Is she not entitled to an opinion? This might sound facetious, but what exactly is the claim about having a uterus supposed to mean; does it give you some insight into the nature of the foetus and whether it should be accorded the most basic human rights - the crucial question - and if so how? If not, why is it relevant?

There were also other sexist arguments against the men speaking, such as: “We don't want two cis men pontificating and theorising the very real issue of abortion, a discussion that should be dominated by uterus-bearers. Clearly they are able to have this debate elsewhere, but we won't have it hosted here.
Cis’ was a new term to me and on looking it up I found out that: “‘Cisgender’ refers to people who feel there is a match between their assigned sex and the gender they feel themselves to be. You are cisgender if your birth certificate says you're male and you identify yourself as a man or if your birth certificate says you're female and you identify as a woman.” I have to admit that the nuances of how the speakers being ‘cis’ was relevant to the suitability of these men to speak (or whether in fact anybody asked them if they were comfortable in their own skin) was beyond me, but it does strike me that you should not be able to discriminate against people on the basis of it. If they were transgender how would this affect their ability to have a legitimate opinion on the matter? I am unsure.

Incidentally the previous two speakers for Oxford Students for Life had been women, and at the last abortion debate each speaker had had an abortion.

The next point I want to consider is what else, apart from illogicality, the argument against the debate on grounds of their gender might point towards.

Do you have to have a self-interest to have a legitimate opinion?
First it seems indicative of a highly individualist mindset. Implicit in the argument of Niamh, and others, seems to be the following proposition, “I am not qualified to discuss an issue unless I have a self-interest in the said issue”. Again others have dealt with some of the disturbing implications of this argument towards a politics of identity rather than ideas.

Might empathy and altruism overcome the hurdle of self-interest?
However, I think there is another aspect less well-discussed. Do we genuinely live in a society where we are so distrustful of other people that unless they share my particular concerns then they could not possibly represent my concerns? Am I excluded from arguing for better provision for the homeless because I live in a home and have never been homeless? Am I discounted from arguing for or against the legalisation of drugs, just because I have no intention of taking drugs either way? Was David Steel wrong to introduce the Abortion Act 1967 because he was a man?

It is sad if somebody considers that only those who directly experience the issues that they face could have a reasonable concern for them. It’s also patently false. The repeated and immensely generous charitable responses of the citizens of this country to all sorts of pleas regarding things that do not have a direct impact on us demonstrate an innate goodness in those who give motivated by their concern for the good of others, whose plight more often than not they are unlikely ever to share. The argument that because I am a man I cannot argue in respect of any issue that affects women (this is not to concede the point that abortion only affects women) therefore appears to be a non-sequitur, and all that it seems to suggest is a false idea that all men are misogynists.

Our self-interests are regularly debated by people who do not share them
Contrary arguments where people of one sex let those of the other represent them are not hard to come up with. After all, we live in a parliamentary democracy, where an individual is returned by the electorate of a constituency to represent their interests in parliament. We do not require one male MP and one female MP for each constituency; our society is not that fragmented. I do not believe that my MP will not argue for adequate resources for prostate cancer, just because she will never have it.

The argument for only women being able to debate “women-only issues” implies a society where we are all entirely self-interested and where we are unable to empathise with the concerns of anybody of the opposite sex. This is simply not the case in this country, as I am pleased to observe every day, and I do feel a genuine sadness for those who go through life thinking the opposite. To disagree does not always mean not to care.

If it is not men’s selfishness that is the sub-text of the argument that men cannot debate “women’s issues”, then the other alternative seems to be that it is considered that men are incapable of empathy. It implies that men are so completely trapped in solipsistic existences that unless ‘it’ affects me, I cannot conceive of what it might be like to be affected by it. There seems to be an argument that our experience of reality is so profoundly shaped by our gender that it shuts us off from those of the opposite gender, although this does not appear reconcilable with the position of many of the campaigners that gender is a fluid concept.

Yet again, I profoundly disagree with the principle behind this. I believe that I am not so cut off by virtue of my gender that I cannot conceive of the anguish of someone carrying a child but feeling unable for whatever reason to be able to raise that child. I appreciate there would be a gap in understanding between me and someone who has had an abortion, or indeed between me and someone who has never, but might in the future, become pregnant. But I do not believe there is such a gulf in empathy that the woman in question could legitimately hold a public opinion while I am condemned to silence.

Even if I cannot relate to a woman’s experience of abortion, should I be precluded from thinking it to be an issue?
What this type of argument does seem to demonstrate though is a total failure on behalf of the campaigners to understand the basic argument of the pro-life lobby. They may disagree that a human life is present from the moment of conception, but if they attempted to understand the pro-life argument they would see why those who are pro-life do not think this issue is off-limits for half the population. They might vehemently disagree with our analysis of when life begins, but hopefully there would be an appreciation that if you held to our analysis and thus that what was being aborted was a human being with potential (not a potential human being) you could understand why people who held this view could not just stand by and say nothing whilst close to 200,000 innocent lives were taken each year. Similarly I can understand that somebody who thinks a foetus is just a clump of cells is not wilfully perpetrating a moral evil, and therefore I’m not going to be hostile towards them or treat them with a lack of respect. However, I will attempt to persuade them of the correctness of my view. In the same way however painful to me it might be to know that I had in the past committed, in ignorance, some great wrong, I would want to know about it, rather than live in ignorance and potentially do it again. I would rather be in pain and in possession of the truth than delightfully deceived. I would expect to be thought less of if I remained silent in the face of what I thought was an atrocity. The key point in all the above is that nothing about being a man or a woman makes me more or less qualified to answer the scientific and philosophical question of whether the living being in the womb is a human life that should be accorded fundamental human rights.

Is objectivity rather than subjectivity such a bad thing in an argument?
Returning to self-interest, not only do I think that it should not be a criterion for expressing a view, but I find it surprising that in the university environment where “critical distance” is amongst the most-lauded of values, that those who are “self-interested” should argue for the exclusion of those at a “critical distance” from any debate. Why is the opinion of Brendan O’Neill, who could never be in the position of wanting to have abortion, less worthy of attention when he argues that women should have open and easy access to abortion and that this access has no effect on men? I would suggest that it makes his argument, in some ways, stronger. He is arguing out of genuine concern for others, with no particular concern of his own, other than the common good. The rationale of the campaigners against the debate sadly seems to preclude any genuine notion of altruism from men.

What does banning men from having a voice say about fatherhood and men in general?
There’s also another disturbing implication of the desire to ban men from having an opinion on the issue of abortion and the wider-culture. It’s reductionist towards men, suggesting that a man might not have any interest in his child before it was born, any excitement, any expectations. It reduces men to mobile sperm banks. The last thing today’s society needs is further abandonment of fatherhood, and yet when abortion is a women-only issue and men are banned from having an opinion, then men are probably going to start treating women with less respect. The sort of man who gets a girl pregnant and then refuses to stand by her and support her in raising a child so that she thinks that an abortion is her only option, probably isn’t the sort of man who respects women very much. This isn’t a necessary outcome, it’s wrong, but it seems all too likely. Men’s sense of responsibility towards women and the children they conceive is likely to diminish, if they’re not allowed a say, and abortion is always an option. This is not a good thing and so we should discuss if it’s a possibility and if so what we should aim to do about it.

The Oxford Students for Life Committee with Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson: men and women working together for the common good

There is such a thing as society
And the use of ‘we’ in the sentence above is very deliberate. We do not live in a vacuum. Our decisions do affect one another and so whilst, as a man who has not been aborted, abortion can never affect me directly in the way that it can a woman who has an abortion or the child she aborts, the decision of hundreds of thousands of people to have abortions is going to have an effect on society. At the most basic level, there’s the provision of all these abortions, there’s the fact that they’re funded by our taxes, and the fact that people are employed in the facilitating, carrying out and promotion of abortion. Immediately you see an effect beyond those having abortions and being aborted, but it doesn’t stop there. If hundreds of thousands of woman are having abortions then how will this affect our attitude towards pregnancy in general? Do we consider the status of the foetus to depend upon the intentions of the mother towards it? Do we consider miscarriage less of a tragedy? If large numbers of abortions are being performed on foetuses with disabilities because of their disabilities, how does this impact on our attitude towards the disabled people who are alive and active in our society? How do we reconcile our lobbying for better provision for disabled people, with the fact that they have a lesser status in the womb, being at risk of abortion up until birth in many cases? This surely has an impact on our culture? And you don’t have to take my word for it. The Disability Rights Commission has the following to say about our abortion law:
[It] is offensive to many people; it reinforces negative stereotypes of disability and there is substantial support for the view that to permit terminations at any point during a pregnancy on the ground of risk of disability, while time limits apply to other grounds set out in the Abortion Act, is incompatible with valuing disability and non-disability equally.

It’s worrying that as a culture we shouldn’t be permitted to have a broader discussion about abortion, to go beyond the rights and wrongs of it, and say even if there is a right to abortion, is there not potentially a stage at which, if it’s being treated as emergency contraception, it might be damaging to us as a society? If disabled people feel less valued because they’re the ones society is sending a message to saying “it would have been better had you not been born”, then it strikes me we need to have a conversation about it. Somebody might disagree with me that if a segment of society feels unvalued because of the frequency with which they are aborted, then that is a concern not just for them, but for all of us, but I would hope that they would concede that it is at least a conversation that there is some merit in having?

No faith in reason in the Universities?
Finally, it seems to me that those seeking to ban the debate have abandoned all trust in reason and this is particularly sad in the university environment. They argue that abortion is an issue that should not be up for debate because it is so clear that it should be a fundamental women’s right. However, this is clearly not the case. Abortion is not enshrined in any charter of human rights that I am aware of, and in most states where it is permitted, it is only in certain situations in order to prevent what are considered to be greater evils. So, if you’re going to argue that it’s a fundamental right, you’re going to have to argue this case in order to change the law, and that’s going to require ... a debate!
Christchurch College Oxford, institution of learning, home of Oxford's Anglican Cathedral
Educator of Thirteen Prime Ministers
Educator of John Locke, John Searle, Daniel Dennett
Educator of Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury
Place where College Censors decided a debate on the culture of abortion was unsafe

However, those who want to ban these sorts of debates claim to have reason on their side, whilst at the same time being so reluctant to allow others to exercise their own reason. It is a totalitarian mindset: “I am so convinced of the correctness of my opinion that I will not attend a debate to have my opinions challenged because I am so certain of them and their rationality . . . and furthermore I do not wish other people to attend a debate because they are less intelligent than me and might be persuaded of the arguments of the other side.” However, that’s not the end of the lack of trust in reason because I’d say to the protesters that by banning the debate what you lose out on is opportunity to persuade me that I am wrong and that you were right. Not only will I not get to hear Brendan O’Neill speak, but I won’t get to hear you either, I won’t have the chance to meet you in person and engage in civil discourse, I won’t get to hear your intelligent probing of the arguments of Tim Stanley's views and mine. I won’t get to understand you a little better, which again is a shame, because I would like to, but you won’t let this debate occur. You’ll probably go on thinking I’m a misogynist for having a view on abortion. I’ll go on thinking that perhaps you haven’t entirely thought this through. Rather than discourse, you would have disruption. You've decided that you don't want to hear a debate and you don't want others to hear it either. You've decided that pro-choice protesters who wanted to debate with us should not have that opportunity to change my mind. You’ve decided that the right not to be offended trumps the exchange of ideas and for somebody at university that’s pretty closed-minded and a bit of a shame. Perhaps the only thing sadder is that there were Oxford Dons at Christchurch who agreed.


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Monday, November 24, 2014

Dominican priories: Lille, France

The Priory of Lille 
Fr. Lacordaire
The arrival of Dominican friars in the city of Lille in the North of France dates from 1224 and the presence of a Dominican community there has lasted until today, except for two periods: the French Revolution in 1789 caused the extinction of all religious life in France and the Dominicans didn't come back to Lille until 1869, a few years after Henri-Dominique Lacordaire restored the Order of Preachers in France in 1843. Then a second expulsion of the religious orders in France took place in 1905, due to the law of separation between Church and State. This law was later softened, allowing the Dominicans to return to Lille in 1927 and they settled in the centre of the city. 

The bell Tower of the priory

But in 1952 they decided to build a new, larger priory, able to accommodate the novices. It took nine years to build the priory, but the community moved in in 1957, before its completion. The brutalist architectural style of the building, with the use of rust-coloured bricks, brings to mind the factories that are to be found in the North of France. Furthermore, the priory is situated at the heart of a beautiful park, that has a peaceful and quiet atmosphere, suited to prayer and study. 

The church
Indeed, the Priory of Lille is currently the house of formation for the Province of France. The student friars are taught in philosophy and theology by some brethren of the community during the time of their simple profession. Like the English, the French Studentate also write for a blog called Tabella - which provides a glimpse into the life of a French Student Brother. 

But other friars in Lille are also committed to pastoral works: prison, hospital chaplaincy and parish curacy. The Priory runs a Hall of Residence for 26 lay students as well. And for more than ten years, the management of the “Retraite dans la Ville” websites has been based in Lille. Under this banner, the Dominicans of the Province of France offer preaching and reflections on Scripture, retreats, Liturgy of the Hours, spiritual advice throughout the liturgical year. More than 80,000 people followed the online retreat during Lent 2013. The next retreat for Advent 2014 will begin soon. Here is the teaser:

All are most welcome to visit the Priory and join the community for the prayer !

The church lit at night

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

O how glorious is the kingdom...

Today is the Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, which falls on the last Sunday before Advent, i.e., at the end of the liturgical year. At the 6.15pm Mass & Vespers tonight at Blackfriars, Oxford, the Schola Magna will sing Tomás Luis de Victoria's setting of O Quam Gloriosum, whose text is below.

Later, I hope to post the text of the sermon on Christ the King which I will deliver tonight during Evensong at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.

O quam gloriosum est regnum,
in quo cum Christo gaudent omnes Sancti!
Amicti stolis albis,
sequuntur Agnum, quocumque ierit. 

O how glorious is the kingdom
in which all the saints rejoice with Christ!
Clad in robes of white
they follow the Lamb wherever he goes.
(cf. Revelation 7:9)

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Our Father: Musical Settings of the Lord's Prayer

To round off our commentary on the Our Father, we come to the ways it has been set to music. Prayer rightly inspires and nourishes theological reflection, but it's always important to come back to prayer. Singing is an excellent way to pray, because it can give voice to the deepest desires of our hearts, and these will lead us to a greater love of God. As St Augustine says, 'Singing is a lover's thing'!

There are many beautiful musical settings of the Lord's Prayer, which vary in many ways. Here is just a small selection which may inspire your own prayer.

1. Roman Missal chant in English (Our Father), adapted from the Latin tone:

2. Roman Missal chant in Latin (Pater Noster, Tonus Solemnis), based on a very ancient melody:

3. Josquin des Prez, early C16th polyphony:

4. Rimsky-Korsakov (Otche Nash, English version), C19th:

5. A modern setting from the Philippines (Ama Namin):

Our Father, 
who art in heaven, 
hallowed be thy Name; 
thy kingdom come, thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven. 
Give us this day our daily bread, 
and forgive us our trespasses, 
as we forgive those who trespass against us; 
and lead us not into temptation, 
but deliver us from evil. 

For the kingdom,

the power and the glory are yours
now and for ever.


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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Dominican priories: Zwolle, The Netherlands

The Dominicans arrived in Zwolle in 1465 as part of the newly established 'Congregatio Hollandiae' (1464-1517). The 'Congregatio Hollandiae' was a reform movement, started in 1515 at the priory of Rotterdam, aiming at a more strict observance. One can imagine how the arrival of the brethren must have struck a chord with the already large presence of communities of another reform movement in Zwolle: the Devotio Moderna. The first priory church was built between 1466 and 1480.

The priory was closed and the friars kindly but firmly sent away in 1580 during the Reformation. From 1640 until 1982, with a brief Dominican interlude between 1673-1674, the old priory church was whitewashed and used by a community of the Nederlands Hervormde Kerk (now part of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands). During a more recent restoration, medieval Dominican-themed paintings in the vaulting were discovered and lovingly restored.

Today, the church contains an award-winning bookshop and is open to the general public. The former library of the medieval priory is now a 3-star Michelin restaurant.

Between 1900 and 1902, the Dutch Dominicans, at that time called the Province of Germania Inferior, built a new priory in Zwolle on the fringes of the old town. The house was designed by architect J. Kayser in the neo-gothic style. He was advised by father Raymundus Boilley OP of the Belgian Province. The design took its lead from the old Dominican priory at Dusseldorf (1888-1895). The patron saint of both the church and the priory is Saint Thomas Aquinas, who had also been the patron saint of the medieval priory in Zwolle.

The new priory functioned as the Philosophicum of the Province and in its hey-day it housed more than 80 friars. In January 1933 disaster struck as a fire broke out in the priory, destroying the upper floors. These were quickly restored and 10 months later the friars returned to the priory.

The interior of the priory church

In 1966 the Philosophicum closed and for a while the future of the Dominican community at Zwolle remained unclear. However, in 1977 the Dutch province decided the revitalise the community. Added to the life of the community were new projects, including a centre for spirituality (Thomashuis) and a project for students living in one of the (separate) corridors of the priory, who are invited to take part in some aspects of the communal life ('Spotters'). The students share the first floor with the current Dominican community and some parish-offices. In order to help maintain both the church and the priory, a conference centre was established using the extensive facilities on the ground floor of the complex.

At this moment in time plans are being discussed for the future of the priory and church.

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Our Father: Doxology: For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and for ever. Amen.

Dürer, Adoration of the Trinity, 1511
“Doxology” comes from the Greek words “Doxa” and “Logos” which mean “Glory” and “Word”. Doxology is thus a word of glory. Such words are common in the Scriptures and in the liturgy. The words, “for the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and for ever”, are an example. Through these words, we celebrate the glory of our God, the chief end of all our prayers.

The doxology of the Lord's Prayer has been included as an independent item by Latin Church Roman Catholics, especially in the Roman Rite of the Mass. However, some Lutheran and Anglican books of prayer attach the doxology to the Lord's Prayer. Apart from this slight difference, it remains the case that all Christians identify with this doxology.

Indeed, although the doxology of the Lord's prayer is not contained in Luke's Gospel, nor in Matthew's, one of its first known uses is in the Didache, an early Christian treatise which constitutes the oldest surviving written catechism. Furthermore, it has similarities with the prayer of David in the first book of Chronicles: Yours, O Lord, are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours; yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all (1 Ch 29:11).

The doxology takes up again the first three petitions of the Lord's prayer: the glorification of his name, the coming of his reign, and the power of his saving will. But these prayers are now proclaimed as adoration and thanksgiving.

Moreover, the doxology opens the Lord's Prayer to the adoration of the Trinity and manifests our waiting for our salvation. As Saint Paul says, God, the Father of Glory, puts the power in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places (Ep 1:20). Then comes the end, when Christ hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority power (1 Co 15:24). The mystery of our salvation will be thus brought to its completion in the Holy Spirit, because God will be all in all (1 Co 15:28). To which we answer: Amen!

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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Remembering fr Owen Peter Worrall OP

London Underground used as an air raid shelter. 
Fr Owen was born in Richmond, Virginia, in the United States of America on 26 June 1917. He soon emigrated to the United Kingdom and was raised in the south east of England. He first trained as an electrical engineer and then joined the Order after the war, as soon as he could be released from his reserved occupation. During this interim period he worked alongside the influential friar Conrad Pepler OP with his work in the London air raid shelters.

He finally made profession on 26th September 1946 and was ordained priest on 24th June 1951. He was then sent to the Angelicum in Rome where he wrote a doctoral thesis subsequently published in Recherches de Théologie Ancienne et Médiévale (1956-7).

Angelicum, Rome. 

He then returned to England to begin a intense teaching career. He taught in Hawkesyard and from 1957 at Oxford, at the Charles Plater College on Boars Hill as well as at Blackfriars. He was a skilled moral theologian and a popular confessor. In 1966, at the personal request of Cardinal Heenan, he joined the staff of the seminary at St Edmund's Ware (now the modern day Allen Hall Seminary in London). He taught ethics and moral theology at the Seminary, and was a highly  sought after spiritual director.

After dedicating so much energy into his teaching as a lecturer, he became exhausted. After a short illness, he died on 18th May 1968 in the National Hospital, Queens Square, only aged 50. He could however boast of 21 years in profession in the Order and 16 years of devoted service as a priest. Cardinal Heenan presided at his funeral, and he is buried in the cemetery at St Edmunds, close to the college grounds of the seminary to which he gave so much energy and love.

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