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"Heart Speaks unto Heart": Part Two - St Richard's pilgrims at Cofton Park

Maria Whitehouse writes; "Our trip to Cofton Park was characterised by warmth, joy and friendship as we gathered as Catholics from all over the world to greet the Holy Father and witness the beatification of an Englishman who has so much to teach us about Christian life.

At midnight about 12 of us from Chichester set off by coach from St Philip Howard School with others from Arundel and Goring parishes. We arrive at the coach park on the former Longbridge car factory site and walk half a mile to Cofton Park.

In the dark and cold at 4.45 a.m. we queue to have our bags searched and contraband (such as cans of coke) confiscated.

We‘re greeted by improving messages on the large screens shining out in the dark.

We find a place to set up camp next to friends from St Joseph’s convent in Bognor. Other pilgrims from St Richard's were elsewhere on the site - Caroline Bullen, Marysia, Sheila Lyons and John Hutchings.

The next few hours are spent defending our territory against the tens of thousands of people arriving in a constant stream.

The hours wear on and we pass the time reading out excerpts from the Magnificat handbook and Newman’s Apologia and trying to keep warm.

The screens show pictures of places and people associated with Newman, and the choir rehearses.

Dawn breaks in the east above the empty altar.

Time passes relatively quickly and, somewhat bizarrely, soon we find ourselves at 8 a.m. singing gospel rock in the rain as we’re led in “worship warm up” by an ecumenical team of evangelical singers and, I think, Catholic and Anglican auxiliary bishops.

The mood changes to eager anticipation as we watch for Pope Benedict’s arrival by helicopter.

Great cheers greet Pope Benedict as he drives through the crowd.

Everything is in place for Mass to begin on time at 10 a.m. and it flows smoothly, beautifully and reverently.

The rite of Beatification is immediately after the Kyrie and was simple and direct - a request from the Archbishop of Birmingham with a short Biography of Cardinal Newman

The declaration of Beatification by Pope Benedict, then a portrait of the now Blessed John Henry Newman is unveiled.

His relics are placed beside the altar. Our hearts are filled with joy and pride to be counted among those Catholics celebrating the beatification. The papal visit motto "Heart Speaks Unto Heart" is fulfilled as we sing "Praise to the Holiest in the height, and in the depths be praise: in all his words most wonderful, most sure in all his ways!" The Mass then flows smoothly, beautifully, reverently. In his homily Pope Benedict spoke of Blessed John Henry's teaching that faithfulness in prayer each day gradually transforms us into the divine likeness, committed to the "definite service" God has for each person. The Pope said the definite service to which Blessed John Henry was called involved applying his keen intellect to the most pressing subjects of the day, and his pastoral ministry as a priest.

Many, many priests distribute Holy Communion to the 50,000 pilgrims then gather near us in the congregation for the final part of the Mass.

Flag waving and lusty singing accompany the final hymn – what else but “For All the Saints”. There are banners from parishes all over the country and flags from all over the world.

After Mass we’re entertained by accomplished musicians from nearby St Augustine’s High School in Redditch while we eat our packed lunches in a relaxed and happy atmosphere watching a young priest leading his troupe of parishioners in line dancing to the music.

A final photocall as we leave the park after over 9 hours of a most marvellous day when we experienced in a wonderful way the presence of the risen Lord.

Photos - Maria, John and from BBC tv