Wednesday May 9th
Newsletter of the Campaign for Real Education - excellent organisation which promotes and defends educational standards in Britain. Depressing news - one result of the new arrangements in Northern Ireland looks like being the demise of the 69 grammar schools. Govt regulations threatened the end of these fine schools, and now their fate is in the hands of the new system in the province, which has handed over the education department to the Sinn Fein party which is committed to their destruction. Also depressing news about the merger of schools in Kent and in Lincolnshire, two places where grammar schools have been doing good work. And there's something called "Personalised Learning" which is being foisted on teachers and pupils, funded by top banks, and is committed to "deep learning" (????) which is "the transformation of full personalisation". It's all a gloomy picture. Looks as though the only children who will get a fair chance of a decent education in the immediate future in Britain are those whose parents can afford to make private arrangements. It's as though all the gains made by the 1944 Education Act are being undone. It's all so thoroughly unfair.
ST PATRICK'S SOHO SQUARE
A happy morning atthe School of Evangelisation at St Patrick's. Cycling through the streets of Soho and meeting this lively and delightful group of young people in the basement, ready for me as the guest lecturer, gave one something of the feeling of a Roman Christian meeting a group in the catacombs! I spoke on the Church's calendar of feasts and seasons - they were lively, attentive, and engaging. AS we finished, they invited me to join them for the Rosary in their small day-chapel. Then they went up to Mass in the main church, while I had to cycle off to deal with various other tasks....St Patrick's is a centre of good Catholic activity and lots of prayer - a church with a fine history and a magnificent presence in London. But it desperately needs funds - damp and with massive need for repairs and redecoration - everything from basement up needs attention, some of it urgent. There are lots of American readers to this blog - if you really want to help the Church here in Britain, look up the St P's website and give it some thought. Incidentally, Archbishop Fulton Sheen had this church as his base when in London and the parish is proud of its links with him.
Last night (Tues) to Tyburn for the annual Tyburn lecture. This convent is a shrine honouring the memory of the English Martyrs, and stands near to the site of the great Tyburn Gallows where many of them, including St Edmund Campion, gave their lives. The annual Tyburn Lecture is part of the sisters' commitment to being a part of Catholic and community life in London, and attracts a large invited crowd each year.There is always a guest speaker, usually a man or woman prominent in public life, who speaks on his or her chosen topic - to honour the idea of genuine debate and free speech in a spirit of courtesy and open enquiry. But I think people mostly go simply because of the nuns - their serenity, their joy, their hospitality, their faith. The Blessed Sacrament is a centre of veneration and prayer here hour after hour - even while we were all at the lecture in the main chapel, the sisters took it in turns, as always, to pray with Our Lord in a temporary chapel specially set aside for that purpose. Later - while of course some of the sisters still prayed, the routine unbroken - we were all entertained to wine and refreshments and it was a wonderful opportunity to meet old friends, to chat, to engage with all sorts of people. BTW, a note for readers who are not Catholic, the sisters, wile having the Catholic Faith at the centre of their lives, always pay due tribute to all of sincere conviction who lost their lives in a tragedies of the Reformation in our country, and the message of the shrine is one of reconciliation and hope, not of point-scoring or any sort of religious bigotry.
I am always touched, at Tyburn events, to see the way in which the sisters, always beaming and welcoming, arrange for everyone to have lovely things to eat and drink but quietly never have anything themselves. And I love their traditional habits, white veils for novices etc, and the quiet purposeful feel of their convent.
If you ever have toothache, or heartache, or exhaustion with a wakeful baby, or something, in the middle of the night, there's a sort of solidarity in knowing that nuns are praying and praying, there at Tyburn.