Fr. Hugh Thwaites

The well known Jesusit priest, Fr. Hugh Thwaites died on 21st August. He converted to the Catholic faith as a result of his experience as a prisoner of the Japanese during World War II. 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.

Father 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 Old Latin Mass, and remained faithful to the traditional Jesuit daily spiritual exercises

Father Hugh Thwaites was one of those giant figures who had laboured zealously in the service of the church amidst the great storm in which he found himself. He had a great love for his flock; seeing the good in everyone. He promoted the family rosary and the name of our blessed Mother was forever on his lips.

Here on the Island Fr. Thwaites made three visits (2001 – 2002) to offer the Old Mass during the times when it was almost necessary to plead with the Church authorities and local clergy to have that form of the Mass. At the three Masses he insisted on arriving early at the church so that he could hear Confessions.

“With a declining number of the faithful availing themselves of this Sacrament:; he remarked; “it behoves us as priests, to give every opportunity for people to come to Confession, particularly before Holy Mass”.

He offered the first Post-Vatican II Latin Mass at St. Thomas of Canterbury Church, Cowes on Easter Monday, 2001. He returned a few months later to offer Mass at St. Mary’s, Ryde and for the Patronal Feast at Holy Cross, Seaview. We include here an extract from his sermon at that Mass:-

“I am delighted to be able to offer Mass for you today on your patronal feast. Let us not forget that the Cross and the Mass are intertwined to the extent that the Mass is the unbloodied Sacrifice of Calvary in which Christ Himself is the victim, an object of our worship and a means of eternal salvation. The holy cross (to which this lovely little church is dedicated) will assist us to gain that eternal salvation.

This sacrifice of the Mass, instituted by Christ himself, and offered by the apostles and by their successors, the bishops and priests of the Church, is most important event to take place in a church; be it a cathedral or a simple, small village church like this one.

The cross should be prominent in every Catholic home as a permanent reminder to the whole family that the cross was the instrument of our salvation. Even while he was suffering, Our Lord was thinking of others.

He spoke to the women of Jerusalem, admonished one thief and rewarded the other with the promise of eternal life, and finally he commended his mother to St. John. This surely puts into perspective our own disappointments and sufferings in life”.

A Requiem (E.F.) Mass will be offered for the eternal repose of his soul on Thursday, 6th September at 7-00pm in St. Elizabeth’s Chapel at St. Mary’s, Ryde