Today was observed as Founder's Day at the John Fisher School in Purley where I was a pupil between 1969 and 1976. This year I was asked to be the guest speaker and to celebrate Mass. I spoke about the school hymn to St John Fisher, what it told us about our patron saint, his relevance for the needs of society today, and the inspiration of his wisdom, courage and pastoral care which makes him a good role model for young men. I even managed to include a rugby analogy, comparing St John Fisher to a small scrum-half, tackling the opposing prop forward even though all his team mates had hung back. (St John Fisher was the only bishop in England to refuse the oath of supremacy. All the others caved in to King henry VIII and took it.) At Mass, I spoke about the Chapel as a sacred place and about St John Fisher's defence of the Catholic doctrines of the real presence and the sacrifice of the Mass.
The school has a good tradition of altar serving, the boys being directed by a senior pupil who is their regular (and very competent) MC. The Choir, led by Mr Murdoch, was stunning: their rendition of Mozart's Ave Verum after Holy Communion, was flawless and interpreted with a highly disciplined use of dynamics. Not only did the choir obviously understand what they were singing, they also made possible that participation of which Pope Benedict has spoken, where a congregation can be assisted to unite themselves to the sacred action by listening to a choir singing sacred music to the glory of God.
I met the Headmaster Mr Scully for the first time today: an old boy and a former teacher at the London Oratory School, he is now in his third year at the school. I was shown round the latest building works that will result in a new library for the school, and I was able to see some fascinating photographs from the archives that I have not seen before. His promotion of the Catholic ethos of the school was shown in his enthusiasm in speaking to the boys about the purpose of the day. He spoke very kindly about this blog and so welcome to any new readers from the school.
At the end of the Mass, as is traditional at the school, we sang the school hymn to St John Fisher. I asked the Headmaster whether someone might film this on my video camera and he kindly offered to do so himself. It is a little late now but I should be able to put the video onto YouTube within a day or so.
After Mass, I joined the staff for lunch in the school Hall and had a chance to chat with Sir Dan of the Nesbitry, Mr Liddiard and several other old friends. I was delighted to hear that there is a good number of boys entered for Latin GCSE (John Fisher is a comprehensive school, not a selective school) and I met several of the classics department who were considering, not without some trepidation, taking the boys on a visit to Rome to see Fr Reginald Foster. Over lunch, we were entertained by the Choir singing the three items that they have chosen for their entry in the BBC Radio 3 Choir of the Year competition.