Robert Ladds


Church of the Holy Trinity, Hempton. An intimate, mystical and little known church in North Norfolk. Pevsner refers to two lost medieval churches in the parish, but Holy Trinity is redolent of its Tractarian origin in architecture and continuing witness to Catholic Faith and practice. The less interesting 1850s building by J H Hakewell was added to more imaginatively in the 1950s, by JP Chaplin’s westward extension, using material from a bombed church in Norwich. His nave-like addition at right angles to the original Nave linked by a kind of chancel arch. We gather for the inauguration of an Interim and additional ministry to be offered by the Vicar of Walsingham, supported by those from a collegiate circle of priests. From Chaplin’s quirky and altogether out-of-proportion bell turret, this new mission and ministry rang out over village green and duck pond

Catholic Mission; a reminder of Collegiate history and the ancient Church of All Hallows, Mitton, in the Blackburn Diocese. A ‘church of the heart’ because the heart of St Margaret Clitherow is thought to have been placed there in the mausoleum of a noble family at the time her martyred body is said to have been secretly interred in nearby Stydd Chapel. A ‘church of the heart’ too, because collegiate churches provided, and might yet provide, a place of relationship and mutual support among groups of Priests to enable them to go out and minister, in the love of Christ Jesus, supporting the parishes and communities who otherwise might be deprived of leadership, worship and the sacraments

London for the Sacrament of Confirmation at a Woodard Associate School. The church wrapped in scaffolding; the interior furnished with vibrant young people, eager to support those of their number being baptised and confirmed and, for the first time in two years, have the opportunity to sing as part of their worship experience. Having been a ‘singing school’ this a powerful expression of the truth that joining together in a holy place for communal worship and active participation in the sacraments is a fundamental need of humanity and response to faith.

There can be few places where opportunity is given so bountifully for relationship with, and ministry in, a religious community, a shrine and a parish church and benefice. In this centenary year of the restoration of the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, it is potent to recall that Shrine Prayers form an unbroken chain of worship at England’s Nazareth. As the beads of the rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary are told, the work of prayer and intercession make real the truth and mystery of the incarnation

Return to London. Only recently have meetings of the Executive and General Councils of the Society of Mary replaced the remoteness of Zoom. A responsibility and joy responding to young people and others making pilgrimage to shrines of Our Lady or to provide, renew and revitalise local Shrines in honour of Mary. In so doing, spread devotion to her in reparation for past neglect and misunderstanding and in the cause of Christian unity. Our Lady, Help of Christians, ora pro nobis

The Church, it is said, has been short of spiritual directors since the 13th century. And who would dare to offer this ministry or to expose their inadequacy in following in the way of the spiritual giants of Catholic spirituality? Yet, in trepidation and trust in God’s grace and mercy, some must venture to offer what they can, praying that it might be a sharing of a journey and not of mutual stumbling

The Chapel of Saint Joseph in the Shrine Church is cell-like; tomb-like. This, together with the image of the Resurrection Christ above the altar, whose banner declares ‘Resurrexit’, makes a potent place at which to offer the holy sacrifice of the Mass. Thomas Merton reflects on a wonderful and mysterious contradiction in the sacred host: ‘There on the Altar, in the midst of these various discrete sounds, in the midst of the order ruled by love of him, the Lord of all things said nothing, but filled the room with peace.’

In material terms, the bread of the host could not be more representative of death. Through aeons, thousands of species have gone to extinction and even then, the germ of life in the grain has been ground to death and baked to lifelessness that this bread might rest on the altar.

The bread of death becomes the bread of life. A complete parable of life from death, but altogether the more so! Not a parable but a reality and truth. By the everyday miracle of the Mass the Host is become the Bread of Life; the Mass making real the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ. In so doing makes active what God had done in Christ; what he does in the present and what will be done in eternal salvation. In Holy Communion is shared a foretaste of heavenly union of Christ and his bride, the Church. And all this in the space of the Chapel of Saint Joseph.