Thursday, November 14, 2019

...and after an overnight journey on the Caledonian sleeper...

...another History Walk at Westminster. We walked from Westminster Cathedral  exploring the story of Horseferry Road, the Greencoat and Greycoat and Blewcoat schools,  Mary Sumner House, the Church Union, and more...(and if you want to know about any or all of these, book in for a History Walk in due course! We are now planning Walks for the New Year...).

We finished at the crosses and wreaths in the Garden of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey, the scarlet poppies bright against the showers of golden and russet leaves, and just as I finished the Walk and we were all shaking hands and so on,  the glorious bells began to peal out,  adding their own message to the  London Autumn day...

TO GLASGOW...

...for a meeting re FAITH magazine. Always great to connect with the beautiful work being done  by the Sisters of the Gospel of Life.

The day finished with an invitation to a magnificent ice-hockey match. It began with a passionate singing of  what was announced as the  Scottish national anthem.  Written in the 70s, but with older echoes,  it  carries deep resonances - Battle of Flodden etc...

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

An Act of Remembrance...

...yesterday at the University where I have spent the past two years as Visiting Research Fellow. A goodish number of staff and students gathered, and the service was traditional, reverent, and moving. It is sad to see that large numbers of young people do not know the Lord's Prayer -  or perhaps are shy and uncertain about saying it -  and are unfamiliar with traditional hymns.  But there was solemnity, silence, and  - attendance at such events being voluntary - something touching about the gathering.

With ecumenical goodwill...

...and in a spirit of real friendship and co-operation, the Schools Bible Project has thrived for 30 years. In a couple of weeks' time we will have our 2019 Prizegiving, with pupils from schools across Britain arriving at WESTMINSTER ABBEY to receive their prizes for essays on  New Testament themes. The  project is simple: pupils are invited to imagine themselves present at a major event in the life of Christ - we offer a choice of six events, including some of his great miracles etc - and to write about it. Some choose to be, for example, a bridesmaid at the Wedding at Cana, or a Roman soldier  at the Crucifixion, or one of the Apostles during the storm at sea. They can invent a character  or be some one who is actually recorded in the Scriptures as being present. The aim is simply to offer the opportunity to encounter Christ and to understand the significance of it all. The Project fulfils the requirements of the standard RE curriculum, and  has proved popular with pupils and teachers alike.

Preparing the arrangements for the 2019 prizegiving, my mind goes back to the very first,  with the then-chairman of the whole venture, Bishop Maurice Wood, the retired  Anglican bishop of Norwich...I remember him reading from his pocket New Testament, a battered volume which he had carried with him on the Normandy landings...and I remember, too, a splendid Tea given to us all at the headquarters of the Salvation Army at a later prizegiving, and the gentle, thoughtful words of Cardinal Basil Hume at Archbishops House in Westminster on a further occasion, and the wonderful welcome at Lambeth Palace with Dr George Carey...

The project is open to all secondary school pupils in Britain, and a brochure goes to every school. More info here...




Monday, November 11, 2019

GREAT CELEBRATIONS...

...to mark the 10th anniversary of Anglicanorum Coetibus,  the call  to groups of Anglicans to come into full communion with the Catholic Church. Cardinal Vincent Nichols preached at a splendid Mass at the Church of the Most Precious Blood at The Borough, London Bridge, and you can see it all in pictures here...

....and a Mass to launch....

...the new initiative Catholic Women Praying Together.   This has grown out of the splendid Catholic Women of the Year event which reached its Golden Jubilee last year. All the main Catholic women's groups - Union of Catholic Mothers, Catholic Women's League, Assn of Catholic Women, LOGS etc - are represented on the committee and it was agreed to have an annual Mass, the inaugural theme being prayer for our young people. With so many young people in our country losing their lives and their happiness through drugs, knife crime, suicide and addiction to social media etc, we felt that one thing we could do was to pray together. Mass was celebrated at London's Farm Street church  by Mgr Keith Newton of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham and there was glorious singing from the choir of Coloma Girls School.  Their young voices were so beautiful: many of the older ladies were moved to tears.

A  talkative lunch afterwards in Farm Street's panelled parish hall - familiar to me as the current home of the Catholic Writers' Guild. Each member of the choir was given a bag with a holy card and a medal.  We had a raffle and funds raised will go youth projects run by the Salesians.

Chairman of the event, Anne Emblem of the UCM is to be warmly congratulated for taking on the running of this major new project.  We have a committee meeting next week to evaluate it and plan ahead. I think this is a venture which holds real promise...

Graduation...

...of students at the Maryvale Institute. The traditional ceremony  at St Chad's Cathedral in Birmingham. There is now a sense of familiarity as I walk in the academic procession. The teaching staff come from a variety of universities and I enjoy wearing my Challoner-rose MA hood from St Mary's, Twickenham.   There is a special joy at Maryvale this year  because of  St John Henry Newman's canonisation:  Maryvale was his home after leaving Littlemore, and it was he who gave the house its name...

The graduation  ceremony concludes, as usual, with Vespers, led by Fr Guy Nichols Cong.Orat.  and we sing Newman's Praise to the Holiest  with the music surging up to the  great gothic arches

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

EVERY YEAR....

....the Schools Bible Project organised by Christian Projects, of which I am Chairman, invites the young authors of the best essays to a prizegiving in London, held at the Houses of Parliament. the prizes - books, and a cash prize for the schools - are presented by our Trustee, Baroness Cox. It's always a very happy day, with a tour of Parliament, and a happy gathering of the young people with their parents and teachers.

All was arranged for December 2nd....and then the General Election was announced, and the Chairman of Christian Projects had to reorganise things quickly. Parliament will close from this week. No events, no meetings, nothing happening in  the Palace of Westminster until the people have elected some new Members of Parliament and Her Majesty invites the leader of the majority group to Buckingham Palace and urges him to form a government...

What to do? All the invitations to the schools had gone out, everything was arranged.  I fled to Westminster Abbey, where the splendid team in the Education Office  rescued the situation. They organise wonderful tours for schools and will make this a very special day...

Then on  to Mary Sumner House nearby, owned by the Mothers' Union, which  has attractive meeting-rooms which can be rented out...

And so the annual prizegiving will happen as usual.


Tuesday, October 29, 2019

I LOVE THIS TIME OF YEAR....

....and I love rain and cold, and buses looking cheerful through the evening gloom, and the joy of everyday things that have sudden value in Autumn: mugs of tea, buttered toast, a house with a warm kitchen.

History Walks are satisfying: the Thames grey and surging, and sudden shafts of sunlight dappling the water. Come and join us!

CATHOLIC HISTORY WALKS
Join in a Catholic History Walk!
Friday Nov 8th ISLINGTON: meet at St John's church, Duncan Terrace 3.30pm
Tues Nov 12th WESTMINSTER Meet on steps of Westminster Cathedral 3.30pm
Thurs Nov 14th WESTMINSTER Meet on steps of Westminster Cathedral 11am
Sun Nov 17th  ISLINGTON   meet St John's church, Duncan Terrace 3.30pm
Wed Nov 20th THE CITY Meet at The Monument  EC3R 8AF 3.30pm

Each Walk last about one and a half hours. More information:07495205568

-Suggested donation: £10.




Monday, October 28, 2019

The weekend...

...described below, with a wonderful Newman conference, began for me with a busy Friday. I  spent the afternoon helping to fold and pack letters for the Friends of the Ordinariate, inviting people to the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Ordinariate at the Church of the Most Precious Blood on November 9th. We were a cheery group of volunteers, enlivened by fresh brews of tea and lively conversation.

On to Euston station for the trip north, with enough time to check some emails and do some proof-correcting, using my laptop in a station bar,....and then as it got more and more crowded, and news began to spread, came a growing mood of dismay....the whole station was closed, no trains were running at all, because some people (???we don't know who, or why, or what happened to them) had been trespassing on the railway track some miles up, and so all journeys were cancelled.

A vast trail of refugees began to make its way to nearby Kings Cross/St Pancras, as some journeys could perhaps be made from there, depending on the destination. And so, after various delays and the inevitable difficulty of obtaining information (St Pancras also serves the Channel Tunnel so most notice-boards seemed to be directing people for trains to Paris) I found I could reach Stoke-on-Trent via Derby...thanks to a mobile 'phone I could contact my hosts who met me at a small station at a late hour, and all was well...


To a fascinating Newman conference...

...at Thornycroft Hall, with speakers  examining aspects of  St JHN's  message on education.  Paul Shrimpton spoke extremely  well on  the Idea of a University which he noted was published in 1873 and written some twenty years earlier, but remains "a defining text to this day". He emphasised that Newman saw university education not as the acquisition of knowledge but the cultivation of the mind", and that a university is a secular institution "yet partaking of a religious character".  Roy Peachey, a teacher at The Cedars School   spoke about Dorothy L. Sayers ' Lost Tools of Learning in which she showed how the Medieval trivium - grammar, dialectic, rhetoric - could and should be rediscovered today. He mentioned the "pedagogy of place" which echoes Newman's  emphasis on the genius loci  which hands on "a tradition, a bond of union, an ethical atmosphere". And Mrs Lynch \Kelly of St Martin's Academy  Stoke Goulding spoke about how to do it all: the school aims to teach  pupils "the best that has been thought and said" and that they are loved by their teachers and by God...

It was a wonderful weekend, as I stayed with old friends nearby...delicious meals,  long and lively conversations, the warm welcome of an old farmhouse.  Torrential rain flooded parts of some roads so we made our way out to Thornycroft on a roundabout route. The next day we walked muddy lanes in sparkling sunshine, water gurgling in streams alongside.  Sunday Mass at St Wulstan's church , Wolstanton, with a superb choir...

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

THE FEAST DAY OF ST JOHN PAUL THE GREAT ....



....and an evening of celebration.  Well attended and in a mood of great goodwill and friendship. We heard the story of St John Paul, and had readings from his poetry, by Sarah de Nordwall.  Delicious refreshments provided by LOGS, a good video  reflecting on John Paul's life...all with a great atmosphere...

Things finished late and agreeably, with prosecco and talk...