Thursday, January 8, 2015

Christmas and New Years in England

Seminarians studying at the North American College in Rome are not able to go to their homes for Christmas until they are ordained a deacon or a priest.  So, I began thinking about where I would feel the closest to home.  The first place that came to mind was somewhere which had family, english speaking people, and snow.  Well, I was able to experience all of these in a greater or lesser amount this Christmas in England.  
Some of you may remember meeting an English seminarian friend of mine studying in Rome who came to visit Michigan this past summer, his name: David Irwin.  He is directly to the Bishop's right in the first picture below.  He kindly hosted myself and another Michigan seminarian Jeff Hanley of the diocese of Kalamazoo.  The stay in England ended up being full of wonderful blessings of which one of the first was serving midnight Mass at the Shrewsbury Cathedral for David's bishop, His Excellency Bishop Marc Davies.   Bishop Davies was an amazingly generous host and a holy and humble man.  I will save the rest of the comments for the captions under the pictures.  But first I want to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!  May the Lord bless you abundantly through the intercession of our patron, Our Lady of Mount Carmel.  Know of my prayers always, please continue to pray for us men in formation.  We count on them.  Ave Maria! 

This is right after Midnight Mass.  From left to right: (Stephen [seminarian for the diocese of Shrewsbury] David Irwin [my friend from Rome and seminarian of Shrewsbury] Bishop Marc Davies, Canon Jonathan Mitchel [Rector of Cathedral] Me.
Back row: Jeff Hanley [Seminarian diocese of Kalamazoo Michigan] Robert [Shrewsbury seminarian]
The really cool thing about this Mass was that it was streamed live on the internet so family and friends were able to watch it from 4000 miles away.

This was a plate on the mantle in the room I stayed in in Shrewsbury at the Cathedral which commemorated the visiting of Pope JPII to Shrewsbury in 1982.  I took the picture because I have a special devotion to him and he seems to always be watching out for me.  My Mom always puts him to the task in doing so as well.  The interesting thing was that I was born in 1982.  JPII, Prayfor us!

 This is a picture of the sanctuary of the Cathedral there in Shrewsbury.  It was done by a popular archetect in the mid 1800's named Augustus Pugin who is remembered for having brought in the Gothic revival style in the Church.  During his time the Catholic Church was just coming out of a long persecution by the Protestant rulers following King Henery VIII.  Pugin's idea was to help Catholics pick up the pieces of their faith in England by building Churches and designing vestments and other sacred things in the Gothic style to help them remember their roots.  He is responsible for many religious buildings and secular structures including much of the work on the Palace of Westminster which he was asked to do by Sir Charles Barry another architect.  The palace is pictured below along with a couple other pictures of the inside of Shrewsbury Cathedral.

Shrewsbury Cathedral:  Mary and Joseph by Pugin

Just had to add this one for any of those out there wanting a modern speed fix.  That is a Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse. The fastest and most expensive car in the world.  I saw some of the sweetest cars ever in England, they like their wheels.   The Bugatti was our rental for the week.  haha, I wish.  Our actual rental is below.  Fiat 500.  I think it had a weed whacker motor in it. 

This is a shot of the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.  I have never seen so many people in one place in my life.  As it turned out, we made a wrong turn the next day and ended up driving through the changing of the guard in our red Fiat 500.

Here is a shot of me and another seminarian from Denver who we met up with at the place we were staying at in London.   Behind us is the parliament building. 

This is the entrance to the Churchill War Rooms which were fantastic.  They were the secret rooms under a building in London where Winston Churchill conducted the British forces during WWII.  After the war ended in the late 40's the lights were pretty much turned off and it was left as it was so we really got a look into the past.  Below is a picture of one of the rooms in the bunker.

This is a picture of 4 of us seminarians before the Altar at Westminster Cathedral in London.  Pope Benedict XVI said Mass there when he visited in 2010.

This is all that remains to mark the spot where hundreds if not thousands of English Catholics were hung, drawn and quartered just for being Catholic by the protestant hierarchy who took power after the reformation between 1534 and 1680.  It was not legal to be Catholic in England until the 1800's.
As you can see the spot says, "The site of Tyburn tree."  It was on Tyburn hill where the huge gallows stood in which so many died for their faith.  All you English Martyrs, Pray for us!

Picture of us driving on the wrong side of the road... oh wait, the right side... oh wait, the left side which is the correct side.  Wow, so confusing. 

This is a picture in the small chapel in Welsingham.  It was one of the biggest pilgrimage spots in all of Europe in the late 11th century up until the 1500's when the Catholics began to be persecuted.  This spot was taken over by King Henry VIII, the religious were either told to convert or taken to London for trial and martyred, and the buildings where either destroyed along with everything in them or given to non-Catholics.  The original statue of our Lady of Welsingham was taken to London and publicly burned.   The one you see behind me in the picture was commissioned in the late 1800's when the Catholic hierarchy was re-instated and the persecution ended.  The Catholics of England suffered much for their faith.  They are an inspiration for us.


  1. Those photos and the descriptions you give are fascinating, Chris. Keep 'em coming. Judy Evans

  2. Awesome, Chris. Thanks so much. Very well written.

  3. Chris, thanks for your insight into so many places of our Faith that most likely many of us will never be able to visit. Through the intercession of our Mother, may the Lord Bless and watch over you.
    Shirley and I wish you a great and holy New Year,