The Christian Heritage Centre


Our Lady, the Rosary and Europe

11th October 2021

Our Lady, the Rosary and Europe

Stefan Kaminski

Since the end of the 19th century, October has been dedicated to the Holy Rosary. Of all the devotions to Our Lady, the rosary is the most notable, of course. Indeed, the place of the Rosary at the forefront of Marian devotion particularly, and Catholic prayer generally, is reinforced by the fact of the Church having established a universal Feast of the Holy Rosary, which is celebrated on the seventh of October, and from which grew the dedication of the entire month to this prayer.

In this month of October then, it’s worth calling to mind both the origins of the Rosary as well as its historical role in the fortunes of Christian Europe. Although the challenges facing Christians and Catholics today have a different aspect and character, the nature of those challenges to the Faith remains the same.

Tradition tells us that it was St Dominic who received the Rosary from Our Lady in response to his plea for help in the face of the Albigensian heresy. Surfacing near Toulouse in the eleventh century, this corruption of the Christian faith took a particular hold in the southern French territories in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The Albigensian heresy, though formally speaking long extinct, is not entirely irrelevant to today’s dialogue with a secular world.

The Albigenses held a belief in two opposing principles of existence: a good principle and an evil principle. They held the good principle to be the creator of the spiritual world, and the evil principle to be the creator of the material world. Thus, a fundamental rupture with the Christian faith takes place: the good principle is not all-powerful, being co-equal to the evil principle; and material creation is not good, being the work of the evil principle, and therefore not redeemable. Morally speaking, this resulted in a dualistic view of the human person, where the body – and all activity related to it – seen as something to be supressed and denied.

On the face of it, this does not seem to bear much similarity to today’s attitudes to the body, which simultaneously exalt bodily desire, justifying all forms of its expression, and degrade the body by objectifying it. Underneath however, lies the same problem: an inability to grasp and to accept the intrinsic goodness of the body’s natural ordering. If for the Albigenses the material world was evil, today’s secular world sees the material world as meaningless. Thus, where the Albigenses repressed, we manipulate according to our desires. And we forget that these desires remain profoundly marked by sin.

In the midst of the division and conflict caused by this heresy, St Dominic presented the Rosary to the Catholic faithful as an antidote. This might strike some as slightly strange, if we consider St Dominic as a great preacher and founder of an order that has a particular charism for teaching. Why not combat an error of thinking with an irrefutable piece of writing or speaking? And here lies a two-fold lesson.

Firstly, our rational knowledge or understanding of the faith can never be separated from the life of prayer. At both a corporate (i.e. the Church) and individual level, that which we pray informs that which we believe. This is summed up in the ancient axiom, lex orandi, lex credendi (the law prayed is the law believed). The rosary is a particularly powerful instrument in this respect, as it directs us to meditate on the key moments of the story of God’s Incarnation, Life, Death and Resurrection amongst us.

Pope Pius V Credits Our Lady of the Rosary with the Victory at the Battle of Lepanto, Grazio Cossali , 1563-1629

Secondly, Our Lady has a particular and active part to play in nurturing and defending the Church, of whom she is the Mother. An appeal to Mary was not just successful in the case of the Albigensians, where the Rosary was seen as securing their final defeat at the Battle of Muret in 1213, but has a strong track record since. Most notably is the Battle of Lepanto, where the threat of the Turkish empire overrunning and extinguishing Christian Europe was, and has ever since, been attributed to the plethora of rosaries offered publicly and privately in response to Pope Pius V’s call for prayer.

Less-known, but equally important, was the previous Turkish attempt to gain a foothold in Europe in 1565, with the Great Siege of Malta. Again, after much Marian invocation, the Turkish fleet – the largest recorded in history to that date – sailed away from Malta with its army and weaponry, never to return, on the Feast of Our Lady’s birthday. Similarly, the victories of Christendom at the Battles of Vienna in 1683 and of Peterwardein (Hungary) in 1716 against the same Turkish aggressors were attributed to the intercession of the Virgin Mary. Numerous other histories of victory or protection, not just physical but also spiritual, exist, which this article will have to leave to the reader to discover for themselves!

Although the Faith and its practice may be on something of a decline in modern-day Western Europe, a powerful reminder of our historical devotion to Our Lady and her concern for us remains emblazoned on the very flag of the European Union. Aside from the devout Catholics who were behind the original EU project – such as Konrad Adenauer, Robert Schuman, Alcide de Gasperi – the designer of the flag, Arsene Heitz, told Lourdes magazine how his inspiration had come from the Book of Revelation: “a woman clothed with the sun… and a crown of twelve stars on her head”. Coincidentally (or perhaps God-incidentally!), the flag was adopted on 8th December 1955: the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Our Lady of Europe, pray for us!

Christian soldiers in the Three Cities of Birgu, Senglea and Bormla are surrounded by the Turkish army on Malta
The EU flag designed by Heitz draws from the Book of Revelation
Blog Media

The Tolkien Trail – Exploring the Ribble Valley

30th April 2021

The Tolkien Trail - Exploring the Ribble Valley

After a year of restrictions, isolation and lockdowns it’s been wonderful to see so many people returning to the local area and experiencing the beauty of the countryside surrounding the Stonyhurst Estate.

The gorgeous landscapes of the Ribble Valley have inspired many visitors, including J. R. R. Tolkien, the author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, some of the world’s most loved and bestselling books. Tolkien was a regular visitor to the area – while his son John trained for the priesthood during the Second World War, and later when his son Michael was teaching at Stonyhurst.

Tolkien’s books are known to have been heavily influenced by his own life and experiences, so his familiarity with the Stonyhurst Estate and its surroundings are likely to have inspired some of the landscapes in his stories. Tolkien was writing the second volume of The Lord of the Rings trilogy when he first spent time at Stonyhurst in the 1940s.

The Tolkien Trail is a walk which was prepared by the Christian Heritage Centre at Stonyhurst, in conjunction with Ribble Valley Borough Council. It’s a stunning way to explore the local area. The trail exposes walkers to some of the area which Tolkien would have been familiar with and may have used as inspiration in some of his stories. Some local places (such as Shire Lane in Hurst Green, and River Shirebourn) are even similar to the names of places in the books.

Cromwell Bridge - River Hodder
Cromwell's Bridge over the River Hodder
Walking route for the Tolkien Trail
After you have completed the five and a half mile walk, why not stay the night with us at Theodore House, a Grade II listed building previously known as the Old Mill dating to the 1840s?

The building was rebuilt and restored with funds raised from trusts and private donors by the Christian Heritage Centre. We offer B&B accommodation, with 25 single and twin rooms (all with ensuites) in a clean, comfortable and modern environment.

With plenty of excellent pubs nearby, Whalley Abbey and Clitheroe to explore, as well as Pendle Hill and other more challenging walks, the Ribble Valley is an excellent and beautiful spot for a few days’ break!

We are offering a 10% discount for all our visitors this June and July, so send us an email now at

Media Video

Tolkien’s Cosmology

The Logos & Literature: Elaborating the Divine
#1 Tolkien's Cosmology: Understanding our World

***The talks are made available freely with the request for a donation to support our costs.***

Please donate here:

JRR Tolkien’s mythical world captured the hearts and minds of millions. His world is one that speaks to us because it is anchored in a profound truth: that of a cosmos brought into being and continually guided, whilst simultaneously respecting the free choices of its creatures. Rev. Dr Halsall will explore the beauty of Tolkien’s vision as a reflection of the Catholic understanding of the cosmos, as defined in its relationship to the Creator.

About the speaker:

Fr Halsall is a priest of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, and teaches Philosophy at Allen Hall Seminary in London. Fr Halsall’s recent book – Creation and Beauty in Tolkien’s Catholic Vision – explores the philosophical themes in Tolkien’s crafted creation narratives, alongside those of the Christian tradition, influenced as they are by varieties of Christian Neoplatonism.

Other videos in the series:

Blog Media

St Catherine, Patroness of Europe and Italy

29th April 2021

St Catherine, Patroness of Europe and Italy

Stefan Kaminski
View of the Court d'honneur at the Papal Court at Avignon, France

Europe has six patron saints, amongst them St Catherine of Sienna, who is also shared with Italy as patron saint and whose feast is today.

The remarkable Catherine is known, amongst other things, for her hard-hitting reform of Church politics, including persuading the Pope to return to Rome from Avignon and reconciling his successor with the Roman Republic. What is even more remarkable though, is that she did all this before dying at the age of 33.

Neither was Catherine brought up in the sort of circles that were used to such high-level diplomacy. She was the youngest of the large family of a tradesman, who nonetheless was one of a faction that ruled the Republic of Sienna for a brief period in between revolutions. Born in 1347, she was graced with a deep love for Christ and with visions from her earliest years. This put her firmly on the path towards a consecrated, religious life as the means to unite herself to her one, true Love. Her hard-headedness was quickly revealed as this course of life was not quite what her parents hoped for. Indeed, aged 16, she cut off her long, beautiful her in protest against their desire for her to attract a suitable husband.

Giovanni di Paolo, Mystical Marriage of St. Catherine of Siena
The tomb of St Catherine in the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Rome

However, in her active and practical mind Catherine was equally sure that she did not want a cloistered life. She therefore joined the lay branch or third order of the Dominicans, choosing to wear the Dominican habit and making a promise to God of celibacy. After three years of enclosed prayer (aged 16 to 19) and mystical experience, she emerged to begin serving the sickest and poorest in the Sienese community. Her joy, deep spiritual insight and practical wisdom quickly attracted a group of men and women disciples around her. Together, they began travelling the country, calling both the laity to conversion and the clergy to reform.

In 1370 (aged 23), Catherine received a particular vision of the next life and, together with this, a call to enter public life. She began to write letters to influential public figures, extending her call to conversion to them. The depth of philosophical and theological knowledge that she had gained through prayer, and her complete dedication to God, resulted in this young lady quickly gaining the attention of the day’s leaders, including Pope Gregory XI.  The latter was currently residing in Avignon, which had been sold to the Papal States in 1348. Catherine was adamant that the Pope should reside in his own see (like any other bishop), wanting him to reform the clergy generally and also the administration of the Papal States, and so to help bring peace to a fractured Italy.

In 1376, she was sent as an ambassador for Florence to the Pope in Avignon to sue for peace in the war that had broken out between the two. Although she was unsuccessful at that moment (mainly due the constant shifts in power in the Florentine government), the impression she made on the Pope convinced him to return to Rome, despite the opposition from his cardinals and the French King. Back in Rome, the Pope in turn sent her to Florence to negotiate peace in 1378. After a tumultuous six months in Florence, during which she narrowly escaped an assassination attempt, peace was finally achieved. In the meantime however, Gregory XI had died and been succeeded by Urban VI.

The election of Pope Urban VI was followed by a schism within the Western Church, as the electing cardinals, influenced by political concerns and pressures, backtracked on their choice. Claiming an invalid election, a small number of cardinals elected another candidate, who settled into Avignon as Clement VII.

Catherine, in the meantime, returned to Rome, continuing to work strenuously to effect reforms amongst the clergy and to serve the destitute in the city – as she had continued to do in Siena. She also took up the cause of Pope Urban VI and the unity of the Church, sending streams of letters to low and high alike, in all directions. At the beginning of 1380, she began suffering a mysterious agony after imploring the Lord to take her body in sacrifice for the unity of the Church and for the sins of the world. This suffering culminated in her death on 29th April, but not before her last diplomatic coup of bringing about a reconciliation between the Roman Republic and Urban VI.

St Catherine’s remains are buried under the high altar of the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome, next to the Pantheon. She leaves us some 400 letters, besides her prayers and key work, the “Dialogue”, which together are recognised as having greatly influenced Italian literature.

Giovanni di Paolo, Saint Catherine of Siena Dictating Her Dialogues
Blog Media

St George, the Martyr-Knight

23rd April 2021

St George, the Martyr-Knight

Stefan Kaminski

Celebrating our martyr-patron, St George, necessarily involves some distinguishing of fact from fiction. Even some of the earliest narratives from the 5th-century that relate to St George claim some rather incredible stories of him. We automatically associate him with a dragon, but ironically this story can’t be traced further back than the Golden Legend of the 12th century.

What is clear is that the St George did exist as a historical person. An ancient cult, and the accounts of several pilgrims in the 6th to 8th centuries, all speak of Lydda as the resting-place of his remains and of the veneration which had been accorded him since his death in about 303 AD. His martyrdom would have therefore occurred under the tyrant-Emperor Diocletian, who was also sometimes allegorised as a dragon – one possible explanation for the associated story.

The veneration of St George spread quickly in both East and West. A church in Rome was already dedicated to him by 512AD, and it still stands today. His cult was “exported” to England by the 8th century, and churches had been dedicated to him by the time of the Norman conquest.

The crusades brought about an increase in the popularity of such “martyr-knights” as St George, whose patronage was invoked to support righteous causes. George was particularly seen to personify the ideals of Christian chivalry, and so was quickly adopted as a patron of various city states and countries. King Richard the Lionheart is said to have been responsible for introducing St George’s coat of arms. However, by 1222 his feast had already been proclaimed a holiday. By the 14th century, English soldiers were bearing St George’s coat of arms, but the official seal of Lyme Regis already consisted of a ship bearing the “George cross” in 1284. His cross remains the British Navy’s ensign today.

Gustav Moreau, Saint George and the Dragon
San Giorgio in Velabro, Rome
An image of the remains of the Temple of Janus, showing San Georgio in Velabro to the right, by Etienne Duperac
Events Talks

The Logos & Literature [online evening talks]

The Logos & Literature:
Elaborating the Divine
[online evening talks]

29th April-8th July 2021 @7:30pm

Explore some of the great themes of Catholic Christianity,
in writing old and new

Online at 7:30pm every second Thursday, beginning 29th April. Talks last 45-60 minutes, followed by 30 minutes Q&A.

Please register at the bottom of this page for a link.

29th April
Rev. Dr Michael Halsall
Tolkien's Cosmology: Understanding Our World

JRR Tolkien’s mythical world captured the hearts and minds of millions. His world is one that speaks to us because it is anchored in a profound truth: that of a cosmos brought into being and continually guided, whilst simultaneously respecting the free choices of its creatures. Rev. Dr Halsall will explore the beauty of Tolkien’s vision as a reflection of the Catholic understanding of the cosmos, as defined in its relationship to the Creator.

Fr Halsall is a priest of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, and teaches Philosophy at Allen Hall Seminary in London. Fr Halsall’s recent book – Creation and Beauty in Tolkien’s Catholic Vision – explores the philosophical themes in Tolkien’s crafted creation narratives, alongside those of the Christian tradition, influenced as they are by varieties of Christian Neoplatonism.

13th May
Searching for Truth: Fact and Fiction Today

Fiction plays a powerful role in the search for and perception of truth. Historical fiction offers a means of accessing the past, and contemporary fiction often helps to shape the way a society is perceived. Fiorella Nash will explore the importance of both genres in seeking and reclaiming truths both religious and about ourselves, and in a particular way, the role of the murder mystery genre in the search for truth and justice.

Fiorella De Maria is an Anglo-Maltese writer who grew up in Wiltshire, England and studied English literature at Cambridge University. A winner of the National Book Prize of Malta, she has published ten books including: Poor Banished Children, Do No Harm, We’ll Never Tell Them, A Most Dangerous Innocence and the Father Gabriel mysteries which have been described as “Miss Marple for the twenty-first century”. She lives in Surrey with her husband, four children and a dog called Monty.  

27th May
Catechetical Poetry: Presenting Christianity in China

The beauty and structure of poetry presents a particular form of literature that is at once attractive and easily memorised. Roy Peachey will examine how Wu Li, one of the masters of early Qing Dynasty painting, used traditional Chinese verse to evangelise the people of China. Even after he became a Jesuit priest in 1688, Wu Li continued to paint and write poetry, using his elegant art to present the essentials of Christianity to the Chinese people at a time of great political and religious uncertainty. Despite the very different conditions in which it was produced, his work therefore offers an intriguing example for our own times too.

Roy Peachey was educated at Oxford, London and Lancaster universities, studying Modern History, English and Chinese Studies. He is has held several senior educational roles whilst teaching, and pubilshed a number of books, including 50 Books for Life: A Concise Guide to Catholic Literature.

10th June
Fiction as Formation: CS Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia

The Chronicles of Narnia draw much of their depth from CS Lewis’ appreciation of the Christian vision of education and the liberal arts. Dr Rebekah Lamb will focus on the formative elements of Lewis’ fiction, with special emphasis on The Silver Chair.

Dr. Rebekah Lamb lectures at the School of Divinity, University of St. Andrew’s. She specialises in Religion and Literature from the long-nineteenth century to the present, with  emphasis on the Pre-Raphaelites and their affiliate circles. Prior to St. Andrews Rebekah was an inaugural Étienne Gilson Post-Doctoral Fellow at the University of St. Michael’s College (USMC) in the University of Toronto and also taught Literature and Humanities Studies at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College (SWC) in the Ottawa Valley.

24th June
Educating in Virtue: Appealing to the Young Mind

Stories are a fundamental and important means of communicating principals and actions by which to live life: namely morality and virtue. They have played a central role in education in every civilised society, adapting to the specifics of each era and place. Acclaimed author, Corinna Turner, will explore the challenges of presenting and exemplifying virtues in literature to the modern, young mind.

Corinna Turner is the Carnegie medal nominated author of the I Am Margaret series, The Boy Who Knew (Carlo Acutis), and other works for young adults and adults. She is a Lay Dominican, and lives in the UK.

Inspiring Heroism: Counter-Reformation Catholicism and English Drama

The Catholic Church’s response to the challenges posed by the Reformation was often embodied in drama and performance. Even among England’s persecuted Catholics, cultural activity of this kind occurred: secretly or discreetly on the mainland, and more openly in plays put on by the colleges set up on the Continent to educate English youths. Both at home and abroad, such plays encouraged Catholics to hold onto tradition, and celebrated saints and martyrs in a way intended to inspire both actors and audience.

Prof. Alison Shell is Professor of English at University College London, and runs the MA in English: Shakespeare in History. She is an editor and critic, reviewing for the Times Literary Supplement, the Church Times and a number of academic journals. Principal works include: Catholicism, Controversy, and the English Literary Imagination, 1558-1660 (1999), Oral Culture and Catholicism in Early Modern England (2007), and Shakespeare And Religion (2011)

***Admission is free. We kindly request a donation to support the costs of our activities.***

Please register below:

Blog Media

G.M. Hopkin’s “God’s Grandeur”

2nd April 2021

God's Grandeur

By Gerard Manley Hopkins
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

A discussion of G. M. Hopkins's poem "God's Grandeur"

Dr Michael D. Hurley (University of Cambridge, Chairman of the Christian Heritage Centre at Stonyhurst), Dr Rebekah Lamb (University of St Andrews, Trustee of the Christian Heritage Centre at Stonyhurst), and Dr Jan Graffius (Curator of the Museum, Library, and Archives at Stonyhurst) discuss Gerard Manley Hopkins’s “God’s Grandeur”.

The podcast offers an accessible overview of Hopkins’s life, the literary and theological richness of his poetry, and some of the ways in which his religious, scientific, and creative imagination was shaped by his experiences at Stonyhurst.

In collaboration with Stonyhurst College and Jesuits in Britain.

About Gerard Manley Hopkins

Gerard Manley Hopkins was an English poet and Jesuit priest, one of the most individual of Victorian writers. However, because his style was so radically different from that of his contemporaries, his best poems were not accepted for publication during his lifetime, and his achievement was not fully recognised until after World War I. Hopkins was a former seminarian pupil and teacher of Stonyhurst. His poem ‘God’s Grandeur’ is thought to be inspired by the grandeur of the building and the beauty of his surroundings whilst at Stonyhurst, finding ‘God in all things’.

Events Retreats

Loving Holiness [weekend retreat]

Loving Holiness:
St Joseph & Our Lady
[weekend retreat]

31st July - 2nd August 2021

Meditations on the holiest of married couples, in honour of the year dedicated to St Joseph by Pope Francis

A weekend retreat for any adult, whether single, married or consecrated

Conferences preached by Fr Armand de Malleray, FSSP

Daily timetable includes Holy Mass (Extraordinary Form), Eucharistic Adoration, Rosary, Latin Compline and Confession.

Theodore House Oratory and St Peter’s church available for prayer.

Enjoy the beautiful surrounding countryside.

Comfortable en-suite accommodation in a quiet setting.


  • Arrivals from 3pm (Saturday)
  • Retreat commences at 6pm (Saturday)
  • Departures from 3pm (Monday)
About the speaker:

Fr Armand de Malleray, F.S.S.P., was born in France. After military service in Hungary and seminary studies in Germany, he was ordained a priest in 2001. As a priest, he has spent much of his time in England, working with youth and in parishes. He established the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter in England, and has become well known as a retreat director for priests and laity alike.


Single room:  £160 per person

Twin room (sharing): £110 per person

Costs include full board from Saturday dinner to Monday lunch inclusive.

Precautions against Covid-19 are implemented at Theodore House as advised by the Government.

In case of cancellation or postponment resulting from Covid-19, deposits and payments will be refunded or carried over.

All places are now sold out. If you would like to register your name as a reserve in case of cancellation, please email

Please register below (includes £50 p.p. deposit payment):


Events Talks

Saints, Scholars and Spiritual Masters [online evening talk] – #8 St Francis of Assisi

Saints, Scholars & Spiritual Masters 8 - St Francis of Assisi
[online evening talk]

Thursday 10 December @7:30pm

God & the Crib:
St Francis & Greccio

Eighth of the online series: Saints, Scholars and Spiritual Masters

In the weeks before Christmas, the final talk of Saints, Scholars and Spiritual Masters appropriately turns to St Francis of Assisi, who built the first crib on a hillside above Greccio, in the Rieti valley, Italy. St Francis’ love for the mystery of God’s Incarnation spilt over into his radical choice of a life of poverty and prayer, following in the footsteps of his master, Jesus Christ. His profound and intense spiritual life powered a charismatic life of preaching. Fr Gabriel Kyte, of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, will offer insights into the Christmas-orientated spirituality of this ever-popular saint.

About the speaker:
This talk concludes the Saints, Scholars & Spiritual Masters series

For the flier, please click here


***Admission is free. We kindly request a donation to support the costs of our activities.***
Please register below:

Events Talks

Margaret Clitheroe [book launch]

"Margaret Clitheroe"
by John & Wendy Rayne-Davis
[book launch]

30 August, 7:30pm [2019]

Book launch of "Margaret Clitheroe"

A presentation of “Margaret Clitheroe” by the authors, followed by questions, drinks & nibbles

“Margaret Clitheroe” is a fresh look at one of England’s best-loved saints. It includes an overview of England’s transition to Protestantism and Elizabeth’s role in the anti-Catholic movement of the time, as well as a consideration of the various claims to St Margaret’s final resting place.

Join us for a presentation by the authors, an opportunity to ask them questions and complimentary drinks and nibbles!

Books will be on sale at the event or can be purchased direct from the publishers.

Join us @10am on Saturday 31st August for Mass at Stydd Chapel

Stydd Chapel, according to various historians, is considered to be the most likely resting place of St Margaret Clitheroe.

By kind permission of the Revd Canon Brian McConkey, vicar of the Anglican parish in Ribchester, we will celebrate Holy Mass at Stydd Chapel on Saturday morning.

Mass will be followed by a short talk on the history of the chapel.

All are invited to join us on Saturday morning.




B&B Special Offer
Guests of the book launch are invited to stay overnight at Theodore House, at a reduced price:
*Single room, bed and breakfast: £40
*Twin room, bed and breakfast: £55

Please indicate your attendance and any accommodation requirements by contacting us at

Please register below:

This event has closed.