29 October 2023

Daily prayers in Ordinary Time
with USPG: (154) 29 October 2023

Saint George’s Cathedral, Southwark … first designed by AWN Pugin in 1848 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

We are in Ordinary Time in the Church Calendar, and today is the Last Sunday after Trinity (Trinity XXI, 29 October 2023). Later this morning, I hope to be present at the Parish Eucharist in Saint Mary and Saint Giles Church, Stony Stratford.

Yesterday (28 October) was Greek National Day, or Oxi Day (Επέτειος του Όχι), so I may call into the Greek Orthodox Church in Stony Stratford later this morning. But, before today begins, I am taking some time for prayer and reflection early this morning.

Throughout this week, with the exceptions of All Saints’ Day (Wednesday 1 November) and All Souls’ Day (Thursday 2 November), my reflections each morning this week follow this pattern:

1, A reflection on a church or cathedral in Southwark;

2, the Gospel reading of the day in the Church of England lectionary;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Inside Saint George’s Cathedral … chosen as the cathedral of the new Diocese of Southwark in 1850 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saint George’s Cathedral, Southwark:
Saint George’s Cathedral, Southwark, is the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Southwark.

Father Thomas Doyle (1793-1879), the son of Irish immigrants, first came to Saint George’s Chapel in Southwark in 1820. He acquired the site of the future Saint George’s Cathedral, then the Royal Belgian Chapel, and bought part of Saint George’s Fields, a site associated with the anti-Catholic Gordon riots in 1780. The local Roman Catholic community was served by a small chapel, but the arrival of large numbers of Irish immigrants made a larger church a pressing need.

The cathedral was designed by AWN Pugin, the prime figure in the Gothic Revival in church architecture in the early 19th century. Pugin was critical of Henry Rose’s work at this time in Saint Saviour’s, later the other Southwark Cathedral. The funds available did not match Pugin’s first ambitious plans for Saint George’s, however, and he was forced to compromise his designs. The money for the upper part of the tower and a spire was never found.

When Saint George’s was built, it was seen as the most important Roman Catholic Church in England. It could seat about 3,000 people, and the building was 240 ft long and 72 ft wide.

The church was solemnly opened on 4 July 1848 by Bishop Nicholas Wiseman, later Cardinal Nicholas Wiseman, Archbishop of Westminster. Pugin was the first person to be married in Saint George’s, when he married his third wife Jane Knill there on 10 August 1848.

Two years later, when Pope Pius IX restored the Roman Catholic hierarchy in England and Wales in 1850, Saint George’s was chosen as the cathedral of the new Diocese of Southwark, which was to cover the whole of southern England.

Saint George’s was one of the first four Roman Catholic churches in England and Wales – and the first in London – to become a cathedral since the English Reformation. Thomas Doyle, who became the Provost of Saint George’s, died in 1879.

Thomas Doyle had the vision that inspired Saint George’s … his memorial is on the north wall of the cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

For half a century, Saint George’s remained the centre of Roman Catholic life in London until Westminster Cathedral opened in 1903.

Saint George’s was the venue for the funeral Mass of the nationalist Lord Mayor of Cork, Terence MacSwiney, in October 1920 after he died on hunger strike in Brixton Prison.

A German bomb hit the cathedral on the night of 16 April 1941, starting a fire that destroyed the wooden roof and much of the cathedral. An adjoining hall became the pro-cathedral, and the architect Romilly Bernard Craze (1892-1974) was commissioned to rebuild the cathedral.

Work began in 1953, and in the new cathedral, Craze tried to blend the Arts and Crafts and Gothic Revival styles with surviving elements of the pre-war building. He used different types of Gothic to suggest age, as in ancient cathedrals built over different time periods. The Day Chapel (1963) has a Tudor-derived pattern, while the Baptistry (1966) was inspired by the Perpendicular.

The addition of the clerestory introduced light, air and a grandeur that were previously lacking. But, once again, there was no money for the upper part of the tower and a spire.

The rebuilt cathedral was consecrated on 4 July 1958 and solemnly opened by Bishop Cyril Cowderoy. When the Diocese of Southwark became a metropolitan see in 1965, Bishop Cowderoy became the first Archbishop of Southwark.

The Blessed Sacrament Chapel and the Petre Chantry date from 1848 and are among the few surviving parts of Pugin’s original work in the cathedral. In the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, the altar, reredos, encaustic floor tiles and wrought iron gates are Pugin’s original work, the tiles are by Herbert Minton of Stoke, and the gates are by John Hardman of Birmingham.

The Petre Chantry commemorates Edward Petre (1794-1848) and his wife, Laura Stafford-Jerningham (1811-1886), who later became a nun. The Knill Chantry (1857), by Pugin’s son, Edward Pugin, commemorates the family of Jane Pugin, including her cousin, Sir Stuart Knill, who became Lord Mayor of London.

The Lady Chapel holds a small 18th century Flemish statue of the Virgin and Child known as ‘Our Lady of Saint George’s.’ The Baptistry, the newest part of the cathedral, has a window by the Harry Clarke Studios depicting the Resurrection.

The Sanctuary was re-ordered in 1989 by the architect Austin Winkley to emphasise the focal points of the liturgy. The East Window depicts the crucifixion and saints in the history of the Church in England and Wales. The glass is by the Harry Clarke Studios, but the stone tracery is Pugin’s original.

Archbishop John Wilson, a former auxiliary bishop of Westminster, was installed as Archbishop of Southwark in 2019, in succession to Archbishop Peter Smith.

These two cathedrals in Southwark have a close working relationship. They are a few minutes’ walk from South Bank and the Thames, London Bridge, Westminster Bridge, the London Eye, and landmarks such as Saint Thomas’ Hospital and Waterloo Station.

The East Window in Saint George’s Cathedral by the Harry Clarke studios depicts the crucifixion and saints … the stone tracery is Pugin’s original (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Matthew 22: 34-46 (NRSVA):

34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35 and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ 37 He said to him, ‘“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’

41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: 42 ‘What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?’ They said to him, ‘The son of David.’ 43 He said to them, ‘How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,

44 “The Lord said to my Lord,
‘Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet’?”

45 If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?’ 46 No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

The Petre Chantry (1848) by AWN Pugin is a perfect Gothic gem in the Perpendicular style (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s Prayers: USPG Prayer Diary:

The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), is inspired by a Reflection – ‘He restores my soul’ – by Revd Dale R Hanson:

‘I believe that a connection with God’s creation can speak to us at the deepest level of restoring the soul. I remember the first time that truth hit home to me. I was facing tough decisions and I went on retreat to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne in North East England. Whilst there that phrase from our Psalm spoke to me in a way that I had never experienced before – I had all sorts of reading planned, study of thick theological tomes but God invited me to spend the time walking with Him in His creation. Through it, He restored my soul.

‘In the week before Palm Sunday, I was privileged to visit Lake Hornborga in South West Sweden. At this time of year, it hosts up to 15000 migrating cranes. The prophet Jeremiah contrasts the natural wisdom of migrating birds with human disobedience, “Even the stork in the heavens knows her times, and the turtledove, swallow, and crane keep the time of their coming, but my people know not the rules of the Lord.” (Jeremiah 8:7 ESV) “here - my experience of being amid God’s creation again restored my soul as I prepared for Holy Week and Easter, the fundamental source of the abundant life that Jesus offers us”.

‘Why not reflect on how can you connect with creation and encourage others so to do in ways that “restore the soul” and lead to a deeper appreciation of our Creator and the providential Shepherd care we receive?’

This reflection is adapted from a sermon from Preaching for God’s world: www.preachingforgodsworld.org

The USPG Prayer Diary today (29 October 2023) invites us to reflect on these words:

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul – Psalm 23.

The Blessed Sacrament Chapel, with its altar, reredos, encaustic tiles and wrought iron gates, is Pugin’s original work (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Collect:

Blessed Lord,
who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:
help us so to hear them,
to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them
that, through patience, and the comfort of your holy word,
we may embrace and for ever hold fast
the hope of everlasting life,
which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Post-Communion Prayer:

God of all grace,
your Son Jesus Christ fed the hungry
with the bread of his life
and the word of his kingdom:
renew your people with your heavenly grace,
and in all our weakness
sustain us by your true and living bread;
who is alive and reigns, now and for ever.

Yesterday’s Reflection

Continued Tomorrow

The Knill Chantry (1857) by Edward Pugin is dedicated to the family of AWN Pugin’s third wife (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The Lady Chapel was completed in 1963 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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