Download the 3 churches newsletter for Sunday 14 August 2022.
On this Feast of the Assumption we learn about one of the oldest Catholic churches in London, hidden behind Regent Street, from their website warwickstreet.org.uk.
“The church of Our Lady of the Assumption and St Gregory is located on Warwick Street in Soho. At a time in England when Catholic churches and chapels were not permitted, foreign embassies had the right to have their own chapels, and the Portuguese Ambassador had a chapel constructed at the back of his house. When the Portuguese moved out, the lease was taken over by the ambassador of the Bavarian sovereign. The embassy was occupied in Golden Square until 1788, so it was the Bavarian ambassador’s chapel that was destroyed during the Gordon Riots in 1780.
The current church was built in 1789 – 90 on the site of the Bavarian chapel. With the patronage of the Elector of Bavaria, the bishop appealed for funds for the erection of a new church. Building began in the spring of 1789 to a design by architect Joseph Bonomi, and the new church was opened the next year.
Catholic life in England developed steadily during the first half of the nineteenth century. Mrs Fitzherbert, morganatic wife of the Prince of Wales (later George IV), worshipped regularly at the church. Saint John Henry Newman, when a boy, was taken to the church by his father. He later wrote: “All that I bore away from it was the recollection of a pulpit and a preacher and a boy swinging a censer”. The church developed a strong musical tradition early on and became well-known for its musical excellence. In 1875, the sanctuary was remodelled according to a design by John Francis Bentley – later the architect of Westminster Cathedral. An apse was constructed and decorated with marble and mosaics.
Warwick Street’s location in the heart of London’s West End between Piccadilly Circus and Soho imparts a special character. Surrounded by both great wealth and extreme poverty, it is a destination for pleasure-seekers and revellers as well as an assembly place of the lonely, the addicted, and street-sleepers. The church remains open throughout the day and offers welcome and consolation to all.”
Saint Clare of Assisi (1194 – 1253) is venerated as patroness of many things including television!
But Clare is perhaps best remembered as the closest follower and dearest friend of Saint Francis of Assisi. More than eight centuries ago, she founded the Poor Ladies of San Damiano, now known in English as the Poor Clares. Perhaps more than any other Franciscan, Clare most faithfully lived the gospel life of prayer, fellowship, simplicity and service.
Although Saint Clare lived all of her post-conversion life within the confines of a cloister, she was a person of great courage, faith and perseverance. When mercenary soldiers attempted to breach the walls of her convent, she confronted them with the Blessed Sacrament and they retreated. When a bishop asked her to compromise her principles and accept gifts of property and riches, Clare declined and said: “I must be absolved from my sins, but not from my obligation to follow the Poor Christ.” And when a pope refused to approve her strict rule of life, she declined to die until the rule was approved. Just two days after it was given papal authorization, she quietly and contentedly passed away.
This prayer was written by an anonymous Poor Clare, and speaks of this remarkable soul who cast aside the spirit of the world in order to live the adventure of the gospel…
Saint Clare, ardent lover of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament
help us to grow in love for Christ Jesus, our Redeemer.
With your strong faith and unwavering hope, gather our wounded Church, our suffering world, and all people into your loving heart
and lift us up to Jesus with your absolute confidence in his merciful love. Saint Clare, help us to be like you: peaceful, kind, gentle,
strong patient, and persevering in the face of all difficulties.
Trusting in your powerful intercession, we confidently praise and thank God, our Father, for all of the blessings we have received.
Glory, praise, wisdom, and thanksgiving, honour, power, and might to our God
for ever and ever.
(Edited from a publication of The Assisi Project, an association of people trying to follow Franciscan spirituality assisiproject.com)
It’s good sometimes to share the reflections of our great writers. This is a prayer by Thomas Merton, one of the great spiritual masters of the twentieth century, an American Trappist monk, profound mystic, and brilliant writer. He wrote more than 50 books in a period of 27 years, mostly on spirituality, social justice and a quiet pacifism, as well as scores of essays and reviews. Among Merton’s most enduring works is his bestselling autobiography The Seven Story Mountain (1948), his account of his spiritual journey. He inspired men and women from all walks of life with his dedication to prayer and contemplation.
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
Does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always
though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
From “Thoughts in Solitude”