At last I can put down a few thoughts for you about or trip to Cofton Park……..


Here are a few of my reflections on the Papal Visit to our Country:

If anyone had asked me a year ago if I had ever been to a Papal Mass or will I ever get a chance to go to one I would have said NO to both these questions, but  as things turned out I did have the Privilege to go to the Beatification Mass at Cofton Park. So it wasn’t just a Papal Mass it was a Beatification too. Truly amazing!

Pilgrimages are an ancient tradition of the Church and one in which is usually associated with a person going to a Holy place or a place where a holy person (saint) lived and grew up. We were known as ‘pilgrims’ as we made this historic journey to Cofton Park to celebrate this special mass with someone who is very special to all the Catholic world – The Holy Father himself Pope Benedict XVI.

For me and many others that day (and of course the previous three days) it meant having a very early start and this is how things developed: ‘It is still 11.45pm on Sat night of the 18th Sept – at what could be described at an ungodly time of day if you’re not used to it and also as what could be described as a cold, dark and wet morning – I am looking forward to Pope Benedict’s visit to Cofton Park, and I think that the body is running on adrenalin at the moment and I don’t want to fall into deep slumbers. Our coach is due to  leave Stafford at 3.15am so there is time to have something to eat and go through a quick ‘check list’ of what to bring and what not to bring. Up to this point the message I am receiving from Pope Benedict’s homilies is one to a call or holiness and following on to what John Paul II said about building a civilisation of love, not being afraid t be saints of the 3rd millennium. It is a reminder to what we are called to, that each one of us is called to be saints, to be holy and it is not something which is impossible, it is possible with God’s grace. After gathering all our food and chairs and anything else we needed as a precaution such as torch, camera etc…. we set off on our journey to Blessed William Howard School in Stafford which was our pick up point – it was a short journey of 20 mins or so and it was a good job we left slightly earlier than we were going to as once in Stafford we soon saw a line of cars and said to each other, ‘ I bet this is the queue for the pilgrims?’ and it was. However, we had a while to wait and soon the coaches came, it emerged that there were 6 coaches in total. When we finally boarded a coach and received our ‘orange wrist band’ we set off at 4am. The journey took us an hour to get there and we wondered why we had to leave so early but soon found out why. There were already about 50 or so coaches in the park, we took a short walk of about half a mile or so to the entrance and there was a buzz in the air. When we got there, as expected was a entrance check and a bag check. We made our way down to the main park area and promptly found a place to set up our chairs, our position ended up being just perfect. We were not near the front but were in the bottom half of the crowds, perched on a hill and had a direct view of the altar (maybe about 100 yards or so) away from us. The time passed by so quickly and although it was raining slowly it didn’t matter – and most of us I guess were praying that the weather would change and it did about ¼ hour before Mass was due to start. For those of you who watched it via BBC2 or EWTN you would have noticed the awe etc, and the atmosphere was really quite something. People were so happy and calm, and to see so many from different parts of the country and from abroad was truly something.  

There were three things which stood out for me in particular in what our Holy Father said and they were:

1)   I thank you for your presence at this celebration, in which we give glory and praise to God for the heroic virtue of a saintly Englishman. It is fitting that we should recognise the holiness of a confessor who bore witness in the priestly ministry.

2)    The logo chosen as the theme for this papal visit ‘Heart speaks unto heart’  gives an insight into his understanding of the Christian life as a call to holiness, with a desire for the human heart to enter into intimate communion with the Heart of God, and that faithfulness to prayer gradually transforms us into the divine likeness.

3)     Quoting Blessed Newman, Pope Benedict said, ‘I have my mission, I am a link in a chain, I shall do good, I shall do his work, I shall be an angel of peace, keep his commandments and serve him in my calling’.

It reminds me that the call to Holiness is not out of our reach, it can be achieved even today in our society if we co-operate with God’s grace and allow him to work in us, it is after all God’s heart speaking to our heart, and we all have our mission in life no matter what that may be, and I also do get the impression that an awful lot of good will have come from Pope Benedict’s visit and will create an atmosphere to follow God’s call more generously in the Priesthood and the Religious Life.  I really felt honoured and uplifted by his presence among us and you also got the impression that he did indeed confirm us all in our faith!

After a long day and a quick bite to eat we went home mid-afternoon but not before a walk round the park and it was absolutely amazing to see how many people I knew who I had bumped into both ‘old and new’ friends, but apart from that we all went home happy and united!