One friend looked at me with rather more than a little surprise the other day when I said that I wasn’t going to the Oratory next Wednesday evening when Archbishop Nichols is going to dedicate the new Altar to Blessed John Henry Newman following a High Mass of the said Beatus.
I hasten to add that I should love to be there : it is just that on consideration I recognized that there are some things that are more important even than that . . . not least because the Altar will be there for the rest of my life.
fr Robert Verrill OP, however, will only make Solemn Profession once . . . and he is doing that on Wednesday as well.
The altar – from what I have seen – is a splendid and fitting tribute to the good Cardinal; and I have little doubt that, over the years, I shall hear Mass at it more than a few times : but it is an entirely abstract thing, and has no need of my prayers.
fr Robert, on the other hand, is taking a – perhaps even the – decisive step in his life; and I think it behoves all his friends and supporters to be there with him, to add their prayers to his at this momentous moment . . . not least because he will continue, throughout his life, to fulfil an active ministry in God’s service, and not merely the passive one that the altar will provide.
I suppose that, in years to come, when fr Robert has been ordained a priest, I may gently try and persuade him to celebrate Mass on that altar, if only because of the fortunate coincidence of them sharing a ‘starting point’ : but that’s neither here nor there.
What matters for the present is that I believe that, however valuable the altar is, it is the ministry of one of God’s Order of Preachers that is ultimately more valuable in advancing His cause; and so it is to support that ministry that I shall give myself next Wednesday . . . and whether you think I have made the right choice or not, I do ask all of you to keep fr Robert and his Dominican future in your prayers that day as he makes his solemn vows into the hands of his Prior Provincial – on behalf of the Master – at Blackfriars, Oxford.