Bishop Peter Doyle of Northampton celebrated a special Mass in Northampton Cathedral on December 8 for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The Mass was also celebrated in thanksgiving for the recent visit of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, to Great Britain. The bishop referred in his homily to a verse in the second reading for the feast from St Paul to the Ephesians: “Before the world was made, he chose us, chose us in Christ to be holy and spotless.” (Eph 1.4).
Bishop Doyle said: “Like Mary we have been chosen and called to be holy and spotless, and to live through love in the presence of Jesus. That call to holiness was a major theme of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Britain in September. The Holy Father urged us to see that this vocation does not separate us from the world but encourages us to engage more fully in the world, bringing the grace of God into all aspects of our lives. He taught that religion has a large part to play in our society and that all people of faith have an important and necessary contribution to make to the common good. The Holy Father called us to enter into dialogue confidently with other churches, other faiths and the state.
“Springing from the motto of Blessed John Henry Newman – ‘heart speaks unto heart’ – he wants us to speak from the heart of Jesus to the hearts of all people. The Holy Father’s visit has given us more confidence to do just that. It has also helped to give fresh impetus to our identity as Catholics, as experienced by ourselves and seen by others. I know that my brother bishops want to strengthen this identity which is rooted in the gift of faith and which is the well-spring of much generosity.”
At the end of the Mass, in a darkened cathedral, Bishop Peter presented the lighted candles blessed by Pope Benedict at the Vigil in Hyde Park to representatives from the parishes of the Diocese. He encouraged them to be beacons of the hope at the heart of the Pope’s apostolic journey to our country. He sent them forth with this blessing: “May God, who sent his Son into the world as the Light that shines in the dark, help you to bring his light to the world.”
Bishop Peter Doyle originally comes from Lancashire. He was educated by the Jesuits at St Ignatius Prep School, Buckhurst Hill, Essex and at St Ignatius College, Stamford Hill. He was due to go to Sandhurst after his A-levels and then the Royal Artillery. In his final year at school, however, he decided to offer himself for the priesthood. Later he was ordained as the 12th Bishop of Northampton on June 28 2005, at Northampton Cathedral.
To relax the bishop plays golf with his fellow clergy – “badly”, he says. As a rule, he comes last in the clergy golf contests. In addition, Bishop Doyle played squash until recently and he goes skiing once a year, usually to Wengen.
In earlier days he played rugby for Windsor and Portsmouth as a prop forward. He now enjoys watching rugby and was pleased at the prospect of local matches in Northampton where, fittingly, the Saints Rugby Football Club has its home.