K.V. Turley writes from London.
On Feb. 15, 2019, Lord Nicholas Windsor opened Theodore House at Stonyhurst College, Lancashire, England.
Lord Nicholas, who is the great grandson of King George V, and youngest son of the Duke and Duchess of Kent, unveiled a plaque on the site of the converted corn mill in the presence of Lord Shuttleworth, the Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire, and more than 200 dignitaries and invited guests.
Lord Nicholas became a Catholic in 2001 and is a Royal Patron of Theodore House along with his wife, Lady Nicholas Windsor. At the opening, Lord Nicholas said: “It is a very exciting moment. Theodore House will be a centre of excellence in the fields of formation, study and retreats — part of the ‘New Evangelisation.’”
The event marks the culmination of a £4 million ($5.13 million) project of the Christian Heritage Centre, a charity, to convert the Grade II-listed disused mill into a center for study, retreats, Christian renewal and for the training of the laity in Christian leadership.
The center is named after St. Theodore of Tarsus, a seventh-century Archbishop of Canterbury who worked for Christian unity within the British Isles. At the heart of the project is an ecumenical vision shared by British church leaders.
The head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, said: “I pray that this initiative will enrich spiritually all those who spend time in these beautiful surroundings and may they, like St. Theodore, be inspired to become a powerful force for reconciliation and healing within a divided Church.”
While the head of the Anglican Church of England, Archbishop Justin Welby who, commenting on the centre’s patron saint, said: “[Theodore] came from a far land, fleeing persecution, and exercised his ministry as a bishop, teacher, evangelist and pastor here in England. It is fitting that this place of faith, prayer, education and hospitality is named after him. I pray that God bless the work of this centre, those who serve here and those who come to benefit from it.”
Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London, noted the Eastern origins of St. Theodore’s mission to England saying: “Coming from the ancient Coptic Orthodox Church, founded by St. Mark, and with a centuries-old relationship with the Church of Syria, I hope and pray that Theodore House will deepen the understanding of our rich Christian heritage, and help to form a new generation of Christian leaders who spread the Gospel and serve the nation. It is my earnest prayer that Theodore House, and the Christian Heritage Centre, will renew the vision and mission of St. Theodore to the Britain.”
The seventh-century St. Theodore of Tarsus, after whom Theodore House is named, was eighth Archbishop of Canterbury, and a Syrian Christian of Byzantine descent, who was forced to flee from Tarsus when it fell to Islam. Subsequently, St. Theodore studied theology, medicine, Roman Civil Law, Greek rhetoric and philosophy, Latin literature (both secular and ecclesiastical), astronomy and mathematics in Antioch, Constantinople and Rome. Eventually, he was sent to Britain by Pope Vitalian and, thereafter, his ministry was establishing unity among British Christians following the Synod of Whitby.
Theodore House has 39 beds and will offer accommodation to visitors, retreatants and scholars. This includes an Oratory named after St. Teresa of Calcutta and Pope St. John Paul II. Relics of the two saints were loaned to Theodore House for veneration during the official opening.
The house will also have greater access to the magnificent collection of historical and religious artifacts and relics amassed by the Society of Jesus and held at Stonyhurst College on behalf of the British Catholic community.
That collection includes the prayer book that Mary, Queen of Scots took to the scaffold at Fotheringhay Castle when she was beheaded; the rope that bound the Jesuit martyr St. Edmund Campion to the hurdle on his way to Tyburn; a cope made for the coronation of King Henry VII; and a pearl-laden crucifix given by St. Thomas More to his wife, Lady Alice, as well as two hats worn by the former Lord Chancellor of England and martyr.
Theodore House sits amid the countryside of the Ribble Valley, and within a site frequented by such literary figures as Gerard Manley Hopkins, the Jesuit poet; J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, who, as a Stonyhurst pupil, carved his name on a desk at the school, very close to the engraving of a contemporary called Moriarty.
Chairman of the Christian Heritage Centre at Stonyhurst, and one of the main driving forces behind Theodore House, Lord David Alton of Liverpool said: “Whether for groups preparing for Confirmation of First Communion, or for parish or school retreats, Theodore House and the Christian Heritage Centre should be a ‘must-visit’ destination. Set in stunning countryside, at the heart of the Tolkien Trail, it will also be the perfect place for families and individuals wanting to spend a few days recharging their batteries. With tailor-made facilities for disabled people, a family annexe, self-catering or fully-catered stays, and with accommodation for up to 39 people, it is a versatile and beautiful venue.” Lord Alton added: “The name Theodore means ‘gift from God’ and hopefully time spent at Theodore House will prove to be a gift to anyone who is searching for Him, or wanting to know God better.”