Letter from Wonersh: February 2019

By Peter Murphy

The seminary here in Wonersh is dedicated to St John the Evangelist. As I mentioned briefly in my letter last September, I am very pleased to be being formed for the priesthood under St John's patronage. As many of you will be aware, the Church celebrates St John the Evangelist during the Christmas Octave, on 27 December. In years gone by, the seminary community would stay at Wonersh until this day had been celebrated. More recently it has been the practice to have another 'St John's Day' celebration in the weeks between Christmas and Lent.

This year our celebration of St John's Day will be on Tuesday 5 February when the community will welcome many bishops – including this year, for the first time, Archbishop Malcolm McMahon – as well as those former seminarians who are celebrating particular jubilees of ordination to the priesthood.

The centrepiece of the day will be the celebration of Mass. Like at other large Masses, such as an ordination or the Chrism Mass, there is something wonderfully inspiring – especially for me, as a seminarian – in witnessing the procession of bishops, priests and deacons who have committed their lives to Jesus Christ in this particular way for the service of the Church.

After Mass there will be a festal lunch but while the Mass is rightly the highlight of the day and the lunch will be extraordinarily delicious, my favourite moment of this feast day has always been the celebration of Morning Prayer. As this takes place before the arrival of the majority of the guests, it is a much more intimate affair and this liturgy has some of the richest words in the antiphons accompanying the psalms, my particular favourite being: 'John, the apostle and evangelist, was chosen by the Lord because of his virginal purity. He was the disciple whom the Lord especially loved.'

There is much that this antiphon gives us to ponder when we consider the relationship that John has with Jesus; and there is also much that we can reflect upon when considering our own relationship with the Lord.

For many people from across the Archdiocese, including myself, this month sees the beginning of our formal involvement with Synod 2020. As we begin together on the road, I will be asking St John the Evangelist to be a patron to me again. Inspired by the Beloved Disciple I hope to: know Christ as John did at the Transfiguration; love Christ as John did whilst he rested on the Lord's breast at the Last Supper; be faithful and obedient to Christ as John was at the foot of the Cross; and rejoice in Christ as John did on Easter morning. I trust that the Beloved Disciple who was 'chosen by the Lord' will support us with his heavenly prayers in becoming the Church we are called to be.