A sermon preached at Vespers for the Opening of the Academic Year at Fisher House, the Roman Catholic Chaplaincy to the University of Cambridge by Sr Ann Catherine Swailes o.p.
A Dominican and a Carmelite walk into a bar…
This isn’t the opening line of a terrible joke, but an invitation to a kind of thought experiment for the opening of the academic year. Those of you who are new to Cambridge will doubtless have been bombarded already with well-meaning, and more or less helpful, advice about what to expect from your time here and how to make the most of it. Some of this will have been in official induction sessions in college or faculty, but more useful information is often communicated in more informal settings.
A reflection by Sr Valery Walker
JOHN 6.60 – 69 Ben Ant. Sunday 21 “To whom shall we go, Lord? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and we know that you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Alleluiah! Our Lord says in today’s Gospel, “It is the Spirit that gives life, the flesh has nothing to offer.” And yet in last week’s Gospel we heard him say, “ If you do not eat the flesh of the Son of man …you will not have life in you.” Clearly, therefore, since the flesh offers life, but it is the Spirit that gives life, we must hold “flesh” and “Spirit” together and understand that by this union something new is brought about.
Dr George Corbett reflects on another long-weekend of Thomistic philosophy and theology at CEPHAS 2018.
‘What is man? What is the meaning and purpose of our life? What is good and what is sin? [...] What is freedom and what is its relationship to the truth towards which we tend? What is the role of conscience in man’s moral development?’ These are just some of the questions posed by the encyclical Veritatis Splendor [The Splendour of the Truth] (1993), published on the 25th anniversary of Humanae Vitae (1968) and on the 15th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s death (6 August 1978). In it, Pope John-Paul II provided a new presentation of the ‘Thomistic doctrine of natural law’ which, he affirmed, the Church has always included ‘in her own teaching on morality’ (VS, 44).
By Sr Ann Catherine Swailes o.p. Address given at the Fisher Mass 2018
Why are we here this afternoon? Another way of framing that question would be to borrow words from our first reading and ask, with the seer of the apocalypse, who are these, clothed in white robes, and whence have they come? When we speak of St John Fisher as a member of that white robed army of martyrs, what kind of a claim are we making for him, and what can it possibly have to do with us? What, in other words, is martyrdom, and why should we care about it? Is there even any sense we can possibly make, on this sunny Bank holiday afternoon in Cambridge, of the notion that martyrdom might be our vocation? After all, there must have been sunny spring time afternoons in the Cambridge career of St John Fisher when this would have seemed as unthinkable as perhaps it does to us.