Sunday, May 29, 2016

Back in London...and First Communion Day...

...at a very overcrowded church. So much so that after squeezing in  I had second thoughts, and pondered briefly the possibility of going to Mass elsewhere. But it was going to be too difficult to get out of the church again due to the press of the crowd, so I stayed put. Modern London is mission territory: there were a number of baptisms as well as First Communions, and it was an impressive Mass. Then followed a great Corpus Christi Procession through the streets....for this, I joined the team of volunteers handing out small cards to passers-by explaining what the procession was about. I found that the quickest way to introduce it was simply to say "It's First Communion Day" and then to proffer the card.Most took it with a smile and a thank-you, a few refused, a few looked baffled...but the intriguing thing is that a great number said "Oh yes..." or words to that effect, and seemed vaguely to know what it was all about. Whereas words like "Corpus Christi" or "Blessed Sacrament" would not have any effect, somehow "First Communion" strikes a chord: is it because these days the white dresses and other trimmings  are are a much bigger feature than they used to be, and so there is a commercial element which attracts attention? Even some local pubs make a feature of the thing, as families hire rooms for the celebration...

As J. was away for the weekend, I stayed in central London for the day, enjoying a lingering pub-and-chat lunch with friends, and then made my way to St Patrick's, Soho, for the annual International Procession through Soho's streets, with Benediction at St Giles-in-the-Fields. I walked to Soho Square from London Bridge, along the river and then across, and up through Seven Dials and along the Charing Cross Road. The tide  was out along the river, and people were down on the beach, one group building a cairn from rocks and pebbles, others just pottering about. A lovely cool summer day, London busy and noisy but without the scorched heat of July/August and the full tourist crush.

The tradition in the Soho procession is to distribute medals and holy cards as well as leaflets, and I was given a large packet of all of these. Here, among the crowds spilling around pubs and clubs and bars and restaurants, the "It's First Communion day..." introduction proved even more effective in establishing contact. Lots of people said "Oh yes..." and there was a sort of nostalgia, or vague sense of involvement, or a cheerful instant recognition ("We're all Catholics - give me a couple more medals for my friends!") or a fleeting, slightly sad sort of "Oh...um...yes..." indicating mild regret...it's fairly rare to get a direct snub, and even refusals are mostly just people who are busy, or baffled.

Benediction in the churchyard at St Giles, the Tantum Ergo wafting up above the traffic noise.  Then lots of talk over wine and  fruit juice offered by the local (Anglican) clergy and team, much enjoyed after all the singing...


Friday, May 27, 2016

Archbishop Georg Gaenswein...

...and an interesting  and useful conversation. He gave me a rosary from Pope Francis  and one for my husband

Working with EWTN in Rome is a privilege and although this week has been busy it has also been deeply satisfying: I think that the feature on which we have all been busy will be worthwhile.

I don't tend to write about projects while they are still in hand...faithful readers of this Blog, along with everyone else,  will  be able watch the results of this week in Rome in due course, and I'll keep you all posted about it.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Just been to...

...the Ven. English College and the Pontifical Scots College here in Rome.  Extremely impressive young men, some of whom will be ordained priests this summer. It was encouraging and good to meet them - and also oddly moving. The number of young nmen coming forward to be trained as priests in Britain is small - much too small. But the quality is good: these men are dedicated, devout, cheerful, well-balanced, and full of enthusiasm. They are well-read and have been formed and influenced by, for example, Ratzinger on liturgy, and by a strong emphasis on studying the Fathers. - and above all by an emphasis on Christ and a personal relationship with him. They are well aware of the bleak spiritual void in which many of their generation in Britain live, the loneliness and lack of love. They are ready for mission and are open and realistic about what it involves - and have an evident joy in being part of the Church. They are men of prayer.It's inspiiring.

...and meanwhile...

... something about England and Catholicism this summer...read here...

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Monte Cassino...

...is one of Europe's most stunning sights,  the great Abbey set like a fortress on the mountain top.  Its history - over a thousand years of it - and its glorious setting make a visit unforgettable.

Great arches and gushing fountains, cool slabs of marble and vast thick walls, and from every side the views of distant mountain ranges, and the somehow cosy ordinariness of the town far below...

Somehow the WWII history is just all part of the ever-continuing drama of this place...

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Rome...

...and mercifuly, a cooler day...and a very busy one with lots of work for a new EWTN feature.  It was, as always, a great pleasure to spend time with Joan Lewis, an excellent journalist and one with whom it is always a delight to work.

THE THIRD SECRET HAS BEEN REVEALED IN FULL SAYS POPE EMERITUS BENEDICT...

...in a special commique issued in Rome on Saturday.  It is rare for Pope Emeritus to speak out, and this is a most  significant intervention.

Here it is...



Monday, May 23, 2016

Pilgrims...

...are pouring into Rome, and there are signs signs directing them to the "Porta Sancta", with "Holy Door" in English underneath.  A tent on the St Angelo Bridge is labelled MISERICORDIA and welcomes pilgrims, giving information and tickets, dealing with facilities for wheelchairs etc.

Yesterday as we went through the great door, we were behind a group of  young Sisters, one of whom kissed the door devoutly  as she entered, another reverently  placed her hand on the feet of the crucified Christ on one of the panels...

The pilgrims are all sorts, all ages, all races - the main  common item of dress is a baseball cap, sometimes worn over a nun's veil as the broad peak makes a good protection against the searing sun. Another crucial item is of course a mobile phone - and for many also a selfie-stick.  A  bright coloured scarf worn Scout-style  around he neck is also a must, identifying the group and making it easier for the leader to gather them together.  For younger pilgrims, obviously a teeshirt completes the outfit.... all this is esdsentially the modern equivalents of the Medieval pilgrim cloak and scallop-shell...

The Vatican Post Office is kept busy selling stamps and so on...they are endlessly patient. I hurried in today with a gift to be posted for a niece's 21st  birthday...despite a cosmopolitan crush of people, the atmosphere was friendly and  had something of the pleasant bustle of the suburban Post Offices of my youth, complete with friendly queuing.

Filming in  Rome means getting special accreditation from the Holy See's press office in order to be allowed access to sites within the Vatican...and struggling against traffic noise and all the usual hassles when filming everywhere else. Just when you are well into your stride, on the third or fourth retake.... nee-naw, nee-naw, another police car or fire engine screams above the general roar...

I think we are getting there...and the work is satisfying and in many ways a great privilege.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Under a piercing blue sky...

...Rome sizzles in summer heat.  A most beautiful Mass for Trinity Sunday in the blessed coolth of St Peter's.  A choir sings the Missa de Angelis , sundry cardinals and bishops sit in the stalls, a priest preaches about the Trinity quoting much from Benedict XVI.  We stand  packed together, some people take pictures and are swiftly reproved...but there is surprising dignity and reverence, despite the crowding, as people go up to receive Communion. There are lots of pilgrim groups, wearing scarves or teeshirts and badges...  Around the basilica, people wander, talk, pray, go to confession  (yes, we took the opportunity of that too)...

We pray at the tomb of St John Paul II...always a good many people here, but as the crowds diminished after Mass   I was able to go and kneel right up at the altar rails by the tomb, resting on the lovely cold marble...

Outside, a vast crowd in scorching St peter's Square greets Pope Francis  as he leads the Angelus,, a tiny figure at that upstairs window,  but made larger on immense TV screens at a couple of points in the Square. The great bells clash out across Rome.