First Sunday of the new FSSP apostolate

Fr. Goddard said the first Mass of the new FSSP apostolate in Bedford this morning, with almost 60 people there. He delivered a wonderful sermon on confession and how to improve on our faults, and spent a long time chatting to parishioners in the hall afterwards and hearing what they wanted – a monthly Sung Mass was mooted, if we can get a choir. A great start to the new apostolate! 

Fr Verrier will be saying Mass next week; he has already celebrated in Bedford once before, but we will be seeing him much more often now!


Fatima relics

This weekend, the relics of Saints Jacinta and Francisco will be at Northampton Cathedral and some of us will be visiting. 

It’s a great opportunity to venerate the relics on the 100th anniversary of the apparitions, and pray for the intercession of these Saints at a time of such confusion in the Church and in the world. 
One of the Fatima visionaries, Sister Lucia, wrote to the late Cardinal Caffara that: “The decisive battle between the Lord and the Kingdom of Satan will be over marriage and the family.” 

Sounds about right. 

Birth of Mary – a beautiful prayer

On Our Lady’s birthday the Church celebrates the first dawning of redemption with the appearance in the world of the Saviour’s mother, Mary. The Blessed Virgin occupies a unique place in the history of salvation, and she has the highest mission ever commended to any creature. We rejoice that the Mother of God is our Mother, too. Let us often call upon the Blessed Virgin as “Cause of our joy”, one of the most beautiful titles in her litany.

“Impart to your servants, we pray, O Lord,
the gift of heavenly grace,
that the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin
may bring deeper peace
to those for whom the birth of her Son
was the dawning of salvation.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.” (Collect Prayer)

Ancient Prayer In Honour of Our Lady’s Nativity by St. Anselm

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The Pope’s Intentions for September

The Intention of the Holy Father for September is for parishes at the service of the mission:

“That they not be simple offices, but that animated by a missionary spirit, may be places where faith is communicated and charity is seen.

Parishes must be in contact with homes, with people’s lives, with the life of society.

They have to be houses where the door is always open so as to go forth toward others.

And it is important that this going-forth follows a clear proposal of faith.

The doors must be opened so that Jesus can go out with all of the joy of his message.

Let us pray for our parishes, that they not be simple offices, but that animated by a missionary spirit, may be places where faith is communicated and charity is seen.”

For some background to the Pope’s Intentions, please see here: and

The Santa Marija Convoy and Malta – 75 years ago today

As Malta edged inevitably towards starvation and surrender in the summer of 1942, a major naval undertaking was being put in train to enable Malta to survive. The suspension of Arctic convoys until the shortening days of autumn released a number of warships from the British Home Fleet for service in support of Operation Pedestal.

On June 18, 1942, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was in Washington, where the chiefs-of-staff cabled him, urging him to request the loan of the tanker SS Ohio, on the same basis as SS Kentucky. Also requested from the American administration were two other merchant ships, Santa Elisa and Almeria Lykes. The remaining merchant ships were British and all of them were armed with anti-aircraft guns. A large escorting force was assembled to protect the convoy, comprising two main groups of ships, Forces Z and X.

The overall operational commander was Vice-Admiral E.N. Syfret. The convoy was codenamed WS.5.21.S. Just prior to sailing, Rear-Admiral Burrough met with the Convoy Commodore A.G. Venables, and the masters of the individual merchant ships on board his flagship.

The convoy entered the Mediterranean on the night of August 10, 1942. Its codename became Operation Pedestal. Protecting the vessels, the Royal Navy had the three aircraft carriers HMS Eagle, HMS Victorious and HMS Indomitable, the battleships HMS Nelson and HMS Rodney, besides seven cruisers, 32 destroyers, eight submarines and other units.

The following is a chronology of events following the departure of the convoy from Gibraltar:

Wednesday, August 11
1.15 p.m.: The German submarine U-73 fires four torpedoes into HMS Eagle, sinking it in eight minutes. Some 927 survivors out of 1,160 officers and men were picked up from the sea by the tug HMS Jaunty and two destroyers, HMS Lookout and HMS Laforey.

2.50 p.m.: HMS Furious successfully flies off 38 much-needed Spitfires to Malta (Operation Bellows).

Thursday, August 12
4.16 p.m.: The Italian submarine Axum fires four torpedoes and hits three ships, two of which are HMS Nigeria and the anti-aircraft cruiser HMS Cairo, severely damaging the latter. Cairo had to be sunk by gunfire from HMS Derwent north of Bizerte.

8.50 p.m.: MV Empire Hope suffers 18 near misses before a bomb bursts a stove in its side, stopping the engines. In seconds, ammunition fuel and aviation spirit explode, setting the stern of the vessel ablaze. The crew abandon ship and are picked up by HMS Penn, the latter firing a torpedo into the doomed merchant ship to sink.

9.20 p.m.: Two Junkers Ju88s attack Deucalion. One bomb strikes the ship, a tremendous fire breaks out and the aviation spirit and kerosene explode. Captain Brown orders abandon ship and HMS Bramham approaches the merchantman to pick up survivors.

Friday, August 13
12.40 a.m.: The first torpedo attack by Italian MAS-boats and German Schnellboote in the narrows between Pantelleria and the Tunisian coast. MS 22 and MS 16 speed towards the passing cruiser HMS Manchester, loose their torpedoes and withdraw into the darkness. Seconds later Manchester is hit in the starboard side.

Later, many of the survivors reach Tunisia and are taken prisoner by the Vichy French, who intern them in Bon Fichu, with the survivors from MV Glenorchy and MV Clan Ferguson.

2 a.m.: MV Glenorchy is hit by torpedoes from the Italian torpedo boat MS 31. Captain Leslie, mindful of the aviation spirit stowed all over the deck, orders his men to abandon ship. Some 124 souls, including the 25 passengers, survive the attack and are ordered to take the boats. MS 31 approaches the sinking ship and picks Chief Officer Hanney and eight men as prisoners.

3 a.m.: A second wave of Italian MAS-boats and German Schnellboote attack the convoy. MAS 552 and MAS 554 torpedo the Wairangi in its port side. Captain Gordon decides to scuttle the ship. The boats are lowered and later the ship is sunk.

3.30 a.m.: Schnellboote S30 and S36 torpedo the American Almeria Lykes and the ship is hit forward in No. 1 hold, where a stow of bags of flour absorbs much of the explosion. However, Captain Henderson orders the crew to abandon ship and 105 men board three boats.

4.15 a.m.: An Italian torpedo boat, MAS 564, closes in from the starboard side of the American ship Santa Elisa and fires a torpedo at point-blank range. The detonation takes place amid aviation spirit. The master orders the crew to abandon ship and the survivors are picked up by HMS Penn.

8 a.m.: Two Junkers Ju88s make a concentrated attack against Waimarama. Four bombs explode amid spirit and ammunition. A vast sheet of flame roars high up into the sky. The survivors are picked up by HMS Ledbury.

6.30 p.m.: Rochester Castle, Port Chalmers and Melbourne Star enter Grand Harbour. As the battle-scarred vessels slide between the arms of the breakwater, the Royal Malta Artillery band plays from the ramparts of Fort St Elmo to welcome the surviving ships.

Saturday, August 14
6 a.m.: Brisbane Star, which was hit by a torpedo two days before, has been sailing independently, heading round Cape Bon and keeping inshore. Spitfires fly over the ship and remain flying over until it enters the harbour early in the afternoon.

9.55 a.m.: HMS Tartar sinks HMS Foresight with a torpedo and heads at high speed to Gibraltar.

11 a.m.: Captain Tucket of Dorset orders the crew to abandon ship and they board the boats. During the evening the ship is hit by bombs and sinks.

11.30 a.m.: A tremendous effort is made to tow the crippled tanker Ohio into harbour. Speed is worked up to a gratifying six knots, with a steady enough course. Morale rises accordingly and to cheer everyone up, Chattanooga Choo-Choo, is played loudly from HMS Penn’s PA system.

Sunday, August 15
2 a.m.: With HMS Penn and HMS Bramham edging Ohio along the shore, HMS Ledbury lends its power to shove the tanker’s bow to make the turns off Delimara and Żonqor Points.

8 a.m.: On the feast of Santa Marija (the Assumption of Our Lady), the broken-backed and almost derelict hull of Ohio makes the tight turn inside the mole, rounds Ricasoli Point and heads up Grand Harbour. The crews on the ships are greeted by crowds, cheering deliriously, lining the ramparts and bastions while bands play God Save the King, The Star-Spangled Banner and Rule Britannia. However, at the same time Maltese children start shouting “We want food, not oil!”

Tears sting red-rimmed eyes as the Ohio proceeds towards Parlatorio Wharf in French Creek.

Churchill recognised the sacrifices made to resupply Malta at all costs: “In the end five gallant merchant ships out of 14 got through with their precious cargoes. The loss of 350 officers and men and of so many of the finest ships in the merchant navy and in the fleet of the Royal Navy was grievous.

“The reward justified the price exacted. Revictualled and replenished with ammunition and vital stores, the strength of Malta revived. British submarines returned to the island, and, with the striking forces of the Royal Air Force, regained their dominating position in the Central Mediterranean.”

As Operation Pedestal drew to a close, the unloading of the merchant ships, code-named Operation Ceres, also reached its final phase. The cargoes of Port Chalmers, Rochester Castle and Melbourne Star had been unloaded, and the discharge of Ohio and Brisbane Star was rapidly completed. For the authorities, the 568 Pedestal survivors remained a liability, and they were moved out of Malta as quickly as possible.

Although 53,000 of the 85,000 tons of supplies loaded on the merchant ship finished on the bottom of the Mediterranean, the remaining 32,000 tons enabled Malta to stave off the target date for the island’s surrender, which was the first week of September 1942.

Mr Debono is the curator of the National War Museum in Valletta, where relevant artefacts and information can be seen.