Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Fr Fawssett RIP

Please say a prayer for Fr Richard Fawssett who died earlier today, aged 87. During my time as a pupil at the John Fisher School in Purley, Fr Fawcett was the "Senior Discipline Master". This meant that he was the one you got sent to if you misbehaved in the 4th or 5th form (in modern currency, Year 10 or 11). He exercised a stern, effortless and unquestioned authority: if he came into a class, the room went quiet immediately. His discipline was entirely just and fair-minded (and never in the slightest way brutal or sadistic) but there was little point in trying out feeble excuses. If "Sticks", as we called him on account of his tall and slender frame, caught you, you were 'bang to rights' and that was that.

After I left the school, Fr Fawssett was released from the position of discipline master and took on more of a chaplaincy role: quite a transition for a priest to make but he managed it with great enthusiasm and, looking back, I am filled with admiration for his priestly devotion. I don't think he particularly wanted to be the disciplinarian - he did it out of obedience and, thank God, as a man of prayer, he did the job efficiently and fairly. Once released from it, his other pastoral gifts were allowed greater freedom.

He was a man who lived all his life the ascetical discipline that he had learned at the seminary. His study was spartan: an open breviary, a simple desk and some bookcases with tomes that he had studied at the seminary and referred to for the rest of his life. He also had some modern books of the "new theology" type that he studiously read up with after the second Vatican Council. In his later years, he came to see the value of the revival of orthodoxy in the Church and enthusiastically supported of the work of the Faith Society run by Dan Cooper. Dan has visited him regularly during his illness over the past few years and phoned me this evening with the news of his death.

At Days of Recollection for the boys which I have given over the years, he would always chip in to speak sincerely and fervently on the importance of prayer. This was entirely authentic, coming from his faithfulness to the breviary, his daily meditation, and his daily Mass, often celebrated at a small side altar of the Fisher School chapel where in winter months I sometimes served for him.

May the Lord greet him with the antiphon he would know by heart: "Euge serve bone et fidelis..." (Well done, good and faithful servant...)
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