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Priest who said future of Church rested on family rosary dies aged 95

By on Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Fr Thwaites ‘spoke in a gentle manner while firing off spiritual advice that could blow you off your feet'

Fr Thwaites ‘spoke in a gentle manner while firing off spiritual advice that could blow you off your feet'

A Jesuit priest who inspired Catholics across the country has died at the age of 95.

Fr Hugh Thwaites converted from Anglicanism to Catholicism following his experience as a prisoner of the Japanese during the Second World War and later became a Jesuit priest.

He was a strong supporter of the Extraordinary Form Mass and the Legion of Mary, and he linked the abandonment of the rosary with a loss of faith, writing: “If we want in any way to be like Jesus, we must do what His Mother asks. If we do not, can we expect things to go right? We cannot with impunity disobey the Mother of God.”

Following his conversion, Fr Thwaites was passionate about evangelisation and he was renowned for asking people: “Are you a Catholic?” and then adding: “But you would like to be, wouldn’t you?” He also once compared the Anglican Church to “whisky with three parts water”, while saying Catholics were “straight out of the bottle”.

Fr Thwaites was instrumental in the establishment of the annual Rosary Crusade, which will make its 28th year in October. During the crusade, Catholics process from Westminster Cathedral to London Oratory reciting the rosary.

In his booklet, Our Glorious Faith and How to Lose It, Fr Thwaites made a passionate case for the importance of the rosary to the Catholic faith.

He wrote: “I know that Fatima is only a private revelation, but nevertheless the Church has endorsed it, and that makes it rash for us to disregard it. If the Church informs us that Our Lady really did come to Fatima and tell us these things, then we must harken to her words. It really seems to me that those Catholics who do not take Fatima seriously and say the rosary every day in their homes are very akin to the Jews who laughed at Jeremiah.

“If God sends us His prophets and we do not take them seriously – well, we have the whole of the Old Testament to tell us what happens as a result. But at Fatima, God sent us not His prophets, but His Immaculate Mother. So I think that the abandonment of the family rosary is a main reason why so many Catholics have lost the faith. It seems to me that the Church of the future is going to consist solely of those families who have been faithful to the rosary. But there will be vast numbers of people whose families used to be Catholic.”

Priests and laymen have paid tribute to Fr Thwaites following the announcement of his death on Tuesday August 21.

Fr Tim Finigan, parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen, in the Archdiocese of Southwark, wrote in a blog post: “I had the privilege of meeting Fr Thwaites when I was a young student and from time to time since then. He converted to the Catholic faith as a result of his experience as a prisoner of the Japanese during the Second World War. He never bore resentment for his treatment, reasoning that the Japanese guards did not have the benefit of the Christian faith. His approach to evangelisation was direct and simple because he understood the truth and beauty of the Christian faith and wished others to benefit from it.

“Fr Thwaites always spoke in a kindly and gentle manner while firing off spiritual advice that could blow you off your feet; he was a priest who made many converts almost instantly by his sincerity and holiness, and converted countless lukewarm Catholics to a deeper following of Christ. He was passionately devoted to the rosary, loved the older form of the Mass and remained faithful to the traditional Jesuit daily spiritual exercises.

“May the Lord have mercy on his soul, forgive any sins he committed through human frailty, and bring him speedily into the presence of Our Lord, in the company of Our Lady whom he loved so faithfully and St Ignatius whose way of life he followed with fidelity. Requiescat in pace.”

Joseph Shaw, chairman of the Latin Mass Society, also wrote about Fr Hugh Thwaites.

He said: “Fr Thwaites has been a familiar figure on the traddy scene more or less forever. Despite his advanced age, by the time I met him, he had an extraordinary air of boyish innocence. Innocence, not ignorance.”

Dr Shaw went on to quote Fr Thwaites’s comments on his conversion to Catholicism. Fr Thwaites had said: “In that first letter home I told my parents I’d become a Catholic since leaving England, and that in spite of everything I’d had the happiest three and a half years of my life. I forget how I tried to explain it, but it would not have been more succinct than King David’s ‘Thou has put into my heart more than when corn and wine abound’ in Psalm 4. I expect my family thought I had gone off my head.”

Fr Thwaites’s funeral Mass was due to take place on Friday at noon at Corpus Christi church in Bournemouth, Dorset.

A Requiem Mass in Latin is also due to be celebrated at noon on Saturday September 29 at St Bede’s Clapham Park, London.

  • teigitur

    I had never heard of this Holy Man until today. Strikes me from reading this, he was just the sort of Priest the Church is in need of, and to a large extent today,lacks.

  • Cjkeeffe

    A sad loss to the Catholic church on these Isalnds. I hope and pray that the Father in Heaven he served so well will call him home to Him. We should pray for the re[pose of his soul.

  • Bob Hayes

    A holy man. R.I.P.

  • Tyburn Tree
  • Parasum

    R. I. P. 

  • Ælfrid the Mercian

    “Priest who said future of Church rested on family rosary … “.

    Traditionalist Catholics = real Catholics.

  • Ælfrid the Mercian

    Interview with Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, published today in “Vatican Insider”: sentiments that Fr. Thwaite would heartily endorse.

    “I must emphasise that the form of the post-conciliar liturgy with all its distortions, is not attributable to the Council or to the Liturgy Constitution established during Vatican II which by the way has not really been implemented even to this day. The indiscriminate removal of Latin and Gregorian Chants from liturgical celebrations and the erection of numerous altars were absolutely not acts prescribed by the Council.
    With the benefit of hindsight, let us cast our minds back in particular to the lack of sensitivity shown in terms of care for the faithful and in the pastoral carelessness shown in the liturgical form. One need only think of the Church’s excesses, reminiscent of the [Iconoclastic crisis] which occurred in the [8th] century. Excesses which catapulted numerous faithful into total chaos, leaving many fumbling around in the dark.Just about anything and everything has been said on this subject. Meanwhile, the liturgy has come to be seen as a mirror image of Church life, subject to an organic historical evolution which cannot – as did indeed happen – suddenly be changed by decree par ordre de mufti. And we are still paying the price today”.

  • Marshall Kinsey

    Father Thwaites is one of my heroes. A light in the darkness!

  • gillibrand

    Sadly a priest who only said the Old Rite was buried according to the new- but that is the stern unbending face of modern Jesuits for you.  The predecessors in the Jesuits lived and died for the Mass of ages, in Latin and facing God. 

  • Tim T-Robertson

    Regarding dear Fr Thwaites’ directness of style, I remember telling him on one
    occasion how much a certain situation was causing me suffering, why did it have
    to be like that, how was I to deal with it, etc. He looked at me with his
    charming smile, and simply remarked – my dear Timothy, the saints were hammered
    ! Quite so, except that clearly I was not and am not a saint.

  • Ælfrid the Mercian

    But we are all called to be. So his directness was spot on.

  • Jtarpley

    One laments the loss of a holy priest. RIP

  • Alexander VI

    May he rest in peace. But he was an arrogant man who hid his arrogance beneath a veneer of sentimental piety.

  • Ggrimer

    I went to his requiem mass today and while it was a new mass it was about as reverant and dignified as I have ever seen one celebrated. All the priests were manly, mature and serious, nobody told jokes or tried to entertain the crowd and any mention of Fr.T did not imply or suggest he had gone straight to heaven and skipped Purgatory as Novus Ordo requiems oft do. I am a 30 year plus trad aged 44 and with 20 plus years at SSPX masses.

    The Jesuits on this occassion should be congratulated. Short of giving him a Tridentine Rite they did a marvellous service with great hymns.

  • Nesbyth

    On what grounds do you say such a thing?
    I imagine that by choosing to be known by the name Alexander VI you enjoy being abusive and nasty?
    Father Thwaites is a far cry from you.

  • Sue Sims


    The only awkward element was the applause after the eulogies (and the latter, thank goodness, were placed after the post-Communion prayer and immediately before the blessing). I noticed, though, that many of the congregation didn’t join in the applause, including the young priest sitting next to me. The church was so full!

  • Paul, Bedfordshire

    He preferred the old rite but said both OF and EF. He wasn’t one to let his personal preferences get in the way of the business of saving souls

  • gillibrand

    I stand corrected on his willingness to say the new Mass.  However, it is clear that the implementation of the post-Conciliar reforms were catastrophic when it came to the salvation of souls, as churches emptied throughout the world, although especially in Europe and the US.

  • Prudenter

     Yes the New Order hates the True Mass……….

  • The Big Fella

    Both forms are the true Mass! You would do yourself and this site some service by withdrawing that comment.

  • The Big Fella

    There is surely a case for the moderator to delete this offensive post.

  • The Big Fella

    RIP Fr. Thwaites. Anyone unfamiliar with this truly great priest may hear recordings of numerous excellent talks by him, including a reading of his brilliant pamphlet “Our Glorious Faith and How to Lose It” at

  • teigitur

    If only the Bishops believed that!

  • D Somers

    I am one of Father Thwaite’s nieces and it was I that did the eulogy.  I find your remarks about the applause offensive.  It was a very difficult time and both my family and I found the response heartwarming and knowing my Uncle he would have been amused.  It was a tribute to him and I think you would do better to talk about he man and his work.

  • Prudenter

    I guess if you say so… are more in authority than I….However maybe you should acquaint yourself with the Bull of Pope St Pius V….which trumps Vatican II…….I am sure Father was a holy Priest….Just confused about Vatican II or…..Tradition..

  • Sweetjae

    The encyclical by Pope Pius V was taken out of context, hijacked by the so called ‘traditionalist’ movement who can not even agree amongst themselves on the same pre-VII tradition!

  • Sweetjae

    Fot the first time i totally agree with you. You must clearly distinguished between the teachings of a legit Council and the false spirit (interpretarion) of VII by willful acts of modernist clergy with agendas.

  • Prudenter

    ok..I surrender……to your authority

  • Sweetjae

    Wrong…catholics are catholics who adhere to ALL Councils and Magisterial teachings regardless of time!

  • Sweetjae

    A closet Sede…so you consider yourself the magisterium to interpret Tradition and Scripture eh? Good luck on your new church.

  • Sweetjae

    May he rest in peace.

  • Prudenter

    What are you afraid of?  That your Novus Ordo Church maybe not be the church at all? 

  • Prudenter

    Ahhh Yes ..Blind Obedience

  • Parasum

     “A closet Sede”

    ## ??? No.

  • Parasum

    Which is no virtue at all. One word: Nuremberg.

    If obedience is blind, it is not a human act, and not morally good. If our moral sense does not show us that a particular act of obedience is good, but leaves us purely passive & unthinking, we might as well be cattle. But God has made us men, not cattle, or robots.

    That said, STM you & the OP aren’t actually contradicting each other.

  • Padraig

    While both forms of the Mass may indeed be valid we know which one Martin Luther would be most comfortable with and its not the one that all the English,Welsh and Irish Martyrs sacrificed their lives for.

  • Priscilla Gray

    I have holy envy that you are his niece! He was so helpful to me and my two children. 

    I agree he would have been patient about the applause as he was about handshaking during Holy Mass. As he pointed out to us at a “traditional” retreat in southern California, circa 2001, so many of those who assist at Mass look forward to the handshake (kiss of peace) as it is likely their only human contact all week. He intimated that Jesus Christ would prefer our charity for those who appear alone. I never heard him criticize the Novus Ordo. He was perfectly beautiful in his charity and that is good for traddies who tend sometimes to be melancholic and overtly critical.
    I love Fr Thwaites. You are so blessed to have known him so well!

  • John

    Only recentlly I heard of Fr Thwaites passing away as I was out of the country in August.  Sad I couldn’t be present for the Requiem Mass. Just wanted to add that Fr Hugh was also the person on whose request SDC – a Roman Catholic society of which I am part of started a presence in London.   SDC and its members work in Catechesis within parish setups and was founded in Malta by St George Preca.  It was back in 1988 when Fr Thwaites asked for members to help him running the ‘Brixton Youth Project’ which he had recently set up.  We are very much indebted to him.