Fr Peter Hocken, a founding Trustee of Bible Alive and member of its Editorial Board, died on June 10 2017. A diocesan priest, he was ordained in 1974 for the diocesan priesthood; shortly after ordination he was appointed professor of moral theology at Oscott College, Birmingham.
In 1976 he moved to Washington DC and was a member of Mother of God, the Charismatic Covenant Community. During his time there he obtained a doctorate in Charismatic studies from the University of Birmingham. He returned to England in 1997 to take up duties as the private secretary of Bishop Leo McArtie, Bishop of Northampton. In 2008 he moved to Austria and became involved in an unofficial dialogue with Catholic-Messianic Jewish dialogue and was also a member of the Theology Commission for the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal.
Fr Peter had a lively sense of the work of the Holy Spirit through the Charismatic Movement but also in creating unity between believers, as well as reaching out to the Jewish people, our elder brothers and sisters in faith.
Bible Alive owes him a great debt. His emphasis on the Holy Spirit, his commitment to Christian unity, his conviction that Baptism in the Spirit was a ‘naked grace’, a great gift to the Church, and that it was the Holy Spirit who enlivened and animated the reading of scripture, informs our editorial vision today.
He, along with the other members of the editorial board, recognized that our emphasis, from June 1996 when we launched Bible Alive, to the celebration of the Year 2000, should follow the teaching of Pope John Paul II outlined in his prophetic exhortation for the new millennium, Tertio Millennio Adveniente.
Our editorial vision since then has always looked to the teaching of the popes for inspiration and guidance, first with Pope John Paul II, then Pope Benedict and today with Pope Francis.
Fr Hocken first heard of the Charismatic Renewal in 1971 when studying in Rome. However, it was in England in that year, after attending a weekend conference on the gift of prophecy, that he had his first experience of the Holy Spirit.
Reflecting on this many years later he said: ‘The first effect I noticed was a joy and delight in the Lord. But also an inner conviction that Jesus is Lord. What was especially strong for me in the beginning was that Jesus is Lord of my life and the Lord of history. He isn’t just Lord theoretically, but Lord for today and of my life which means he rules today, he acts today, he is at work today and he’s at work through the Church and is working directly in people’s hearts. The scriptures came alive for me in a new and exciting way. This had a direct impact on the way I prepared my sermons. Before my experience of the Holy Spirit I used to prepare my sermons as I would a theological paper. However, from then I felt drawn to the chapel to pray and spend time before the Lord, on my knees.’
Central to Fr Hocken’s understanding and experience of Baptism in the Holy Spirit was the way through it the scriptures came alive in a deeply personal and real way. One of the effects of this grace was that the Old Testament became a rich treasury of the revelation into God’s plan of salvation and the sending of Jesus. He would often point out that one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit through Baptism in the Holy Spirit was the realization of how true are St Jerome’s dictums: ‘Christ is latent in the Old Testament and patent in the New Testament’, ‘The Old Testament is pregnant with Christ’ and ‘Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ.’
The Bible as the living, breathing, inspired word of God has informed our approach to publishing Bible Alive and everything we do as a Catholic Publishing House.
The editorial board celebrate the work of the Holy Spirit in our time and rejoice in the way in which, for lay and clergy alike, the Bible is a living book: alive, active, dynamic and life-giving.
Fr Hocken looked to the scriptures, the living tradition of the Church, the saints both ancient and new, the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, Pope John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis and of course, the Holy Spirit, for inspiration, guidance and light. Our magazines, books and newspapers are rooted in a vision which is informed by the Holy Spirit, guided by the teaching authority of the Catholic Church and strengthened by daily conversion, repentance and prayer.
He drew a special strength and guidance from Dei Verbum and the Gift of Scripture, a document published by the Bishop’s Conference of England Wales. He saw in these documents a light and wisdom in both praying and living the scriptures in our daily walk with Christ. He always pointed to the bishops at Vatican II who urged each believer ‘to learn ‘the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ’ (Philippians 3:8) by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures. . . .
Let them go gladly to the sacred text itself, whether in the sacred liturgy, which is full of the divine words, or in devout reading. . . . Let them remember, however, that prayer should accompany the reading of sacred Scripture, so that a dialogue takes place between God and man. For ‘we speak to him when we pray; we listen to him when we read the divine oracles’’ (Dei Verbum, 25).
Through all our publications, but in a unique way through Bible Alive, our hope is to encourage our readers to respond to this invitation.
Fr Hocken had a great sense of how time was charged with God’s presence. He saw Pope John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation as prophetic in the light of our mission in launching Bible Alive. ‘In November 1994, Pope John Paul II wrote a document called Tertio millennio adveniente, concerning the coming of the third millennium. The Pope reminds us that all of time has been made holy because of the coming of the Son of God into our world. Since the Incarnation, the death and the resurrection of Jesus, and the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, every moment in time has become charged with the presence of God and the salvation he offers the human race.’
This understanding of time was at the root of the daily meditations we write month after month. For each day is an opportunity to meet God, through his Son. As the Holy Father says: ‘Christians should turn with renewed interest to the Bible. In the revealed text it is the Heavenly Father himself who comes to us in love and who dwells with us, disclosing to us the nature of his only-begotten Son and his plan of salvation for humanity’ (TMA 40). As you pray and read the scriptures each day, allow God’s word to speak to you.
Fr Hocken believed it was our vocation as Catholic publishers to be faithful to this vision and encourage our readers, Christians of all denominations and men and women of good will, to know the fruit, blessing and grace of scripture and in so doing draw close to the Father who loves us and gave his Son for us.
Fr Peter, along with other members of the editorial board in 1996, named the magazine ‘Bible Alive.’ They felt that the name Bible Alive was itself very much grounded in scripture. The writer to the Hebrews described the word of God as being like a two-edged sword, living and active (Hebrews 4:12). Our contributing writers testify that the Bible coming alive was a major part of a renewed experience of God, the grace of a second conversion. It is precisely from this experience of God, the rich treasure we have in the daily liturgy and an active prayer life that grace and insight is found to write the daily reflections which give life to thousands of readers around the world every day.
Since the launch of Bible Alive in June 1996 the magazine has gone from strength to strength, with over 60,000 readers, a worldwide outreach to prisoners and missionaries and a lively book publishing division which publishes the popular seasonal Walk with Me booklets in collaboration with Cardinal Vincent Nichols as well as a wide range of books and Christian resources.
We will always be grateful to Fr Peter for the key role he played in helping inform the editorial vision of Bible Alive and Alive Publishing in 1996!
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.