Solemnity of the Dedication of the College Chapel (Homily)

Homily given by College Spiritual Director Fr. Hugh Sinclair at the Solemn mass of the anniversary of the dedication of the Oscott College Chapel.

How lovely is your dwelling place Lord God of Hosts.

Ezekiel’s wonderful vision reveals an abundant stream “teeming with new life” flowing from the temple; a stream which produces copious fruit and abundant healing.  Jesus claims, and we believe, that this prophecy is fulfilled in him. He calls us to be healed and renewed in this stream which flows forth from him and makes us one with him so that we can become a visible presence of Jesus in the world and be channels of his grace.

We are God’s building, his temple and the Spirit of God lives within us. In the words of St Paul: “the temple of God is sacred and you are that temple.”

Because of who we are by God’s grace, we gather here today to celebrate the Dedication of this beautiful chapel for it is the heart of our life here in the College and powerfully symbolises our faith. It speaks too of the faith of those in whose footsteps we tread and whose faith we share.

Today is a day of remembrance, of thanksgiving and of commitment.

We remember with gratitude the faith of those who brought this place into being.

Fr Andrew Bromwich, who though he never saw the Chapel or the College made much of what was to follow, long after his death, possible.

Bishop Thomas Walsh who laid the foundation stone of the Chapel on 28 April 1836.

Augustus Welbey Pugin, born 200 years ago this year, who designed and furnished the Chapel and who was MC at the Chapel’s Consecration on this day in 1838. A service attended by 68 priests, including William Ullathorne who would become the First Bishop of Birmingham. A service which lasted for seven hours at the end of which Bishop Walsh admitted that his back ached a little!

Two days later came the solemn dedication of the Chapel.

Speaking later to students of the College, Pugin said:

“The Church in which we worship God is no ordinary edifice or erected to suit the exigencies of the moment; but it has been set aside in a more particular manner for its sacred purpose. The ornaments used here in the celebration of the Holy Mysteries, and the sculptures which decorate our walls were, for the most part, executed by ancient artists in days of faith….they once more fulfil the object for which they were designed, by increasing the glory and splendour of religion.”

The 16th March 1839 saw the first Ordinations to the Priesthood.

This whole building is hallowed by the faith and prayers of all who have followed in their footsteps and we are the recipients of a wonderful heritage. Down through the years a steady stream of priests have flowed from this place to minister in the Dioceses of England, Wales, Scotland and further afield.

This Chapel has witnessed the First Synod of Westminster in 1852, the preaching of Blessed John Henry Newman and unforgettably the visit of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. The arrival of Priests and students from Dioceses in the north following the closure of Ushaw College has brought a new vibrancy to the life of the College and the beginning of a new chapter. The Chapel has witnessed new initiatives in the cause of evangelisation with the Schools Outreach and Invocation and also the training of men for the Permanent Diaconate

Beautiful and unique though this Chapel is, it would stand empty or maybe be a museum but for the activity of God in calling men to Priestly and Diaconal service in the Church and drawing from them a generous response.

There are many treasures here but the most important are Him who resides in the Tabernacle and you who are the next generation of priests called to continue the mission of the Church in building up the Body of Christ.

We are called to be the temple of the Lord called to be channels of grace, ministering the streams of living water flowing from the side of Christ. Before we can be channels however, St Bernard reminds us that we must first become reservoirs. So here in this holy place we must follow the example of our forebears and drink deeply of the life giving water of the Spirit.

How lovely is your dwelling place Lord God of Hosts.

[Click here to read more about the history of Oscott College and it’s Chapel]

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