Postcard from Valladolid

By Joseph Champion-Williams

"Allora, andiamo avanti" 

This was the cry of Pope Benedict XVI on the night of his election to the papacy – in other words: "Now, let us move on." Much like the Pope Emeritus, our beloved Archbishop Emeritus, Patrick Kelly, had the same cry in his student days in Rome and this shaped his entire ministry and continues to do so today.

This past month in Valladolid, we have been graced with many blessings, not least the celebration of our College Martyrs. For over 425 years, San Albano has served England and Wales in the formation of priests, many of whom, upon leaving the college, knew they were being sent to their deaths through their radical love of preaching Christ and the truth of the Gospel. This past month we marked the lives of these holy and courageous saints, many of them serving in Lancashire, such as Saint John Plessington.

Thus, during Martyrs' week, we were blessed to be joined by many old boys from the college, including priests of our Archdiocese. Archbishop Kelly was the main celebrant for this great feast and in his homily he preached: "Our mystery of faith, the wonderful event wherein we encounter an event, a person who gives life a new horizon and so decisive direction. This is always threefold: we proclaim your death, past; profess your resurrection, and that means not he was raised, but is risen, present.

"In the word of Blessed John Henry Newman: 'It is to know that He is close by. On this day and in this place, we know just where we come from. We come from a side, pierced, while His mother took her stand right up against His cross to become for us the Vulnerata, with space in her heart for us all.'"

Until celebrating the lives of our Martyrs, I took for granted that I was walking the same hallways that they had walked, and praying in the same chapel where they had prayed before setting out to their certain deaths. The Martyrs, through their fidelity to truth, preached Christ at all times and this is what we are called to do.

Evangelising means the Church must come out of herself. Pope Francis explains: "Sacred Scripture refers to His knocking from the outside in order to enter but I think about the times in which Jesus knocks from within so that we will let Him come out. When the Church is self-referential, inadvertently, she believes she has her own light; she ceases to be the mysterium lunae, reflecting the light of Christ the way the moon reflects the light of the sun."