Thursday, May 31, 2007


BBC NEWS 24...
....telephoned just as I was finishing work on a feature for an American magazine and congratulating myself on having a quiet day to get on with such things.

Apparently Cardinal Keith O'Brien had said some strong things against abortion at a special event in Scotland to mark the 40th anniversary of the tragic 1967 Abortion Act. Would I take part in a TV discussion about this? Yes, definitely - especially when I discovered that they were also having some one from the bogus "Catholics for a Free Choice" organisation.

I expect I did not do as well as I could and should have done in the discussion but the chap from CFFC certainly got all muddled up. He went on about needing more contraception if we genuinely wanted to stop abortions (more??? They teach children about it every school, fund vast advertising and promotional campaigns with taxpayers' money, have contraceptives on sale at every motorway service station and High Street chemist's shop and supermarket, distribute them in youth clubs, promote them at every health centre and doctors' surgery...and the abortion rate has gone steadily UP, especially among teenagers who are now using contraceptivces on a vast scale) and he also said that a politician's job was simply to say what the majority of his electors wanted - which is surely a most ghastly idea that could only suit some one bereft of any moral conscience. Suppose a majority of people wanted to introduce public lynchings of alleged criminals without due trial?

Anyway, I don't know if one can watch the thing on the Internet, so if any readers of this blog are interested, perhaps they would do so and tell me their opinion.

One Anonymous correspondent always writes in, incidentally, whenever I report some media activity or speaking engagement, and tells me I am ghastly and should not bother to do such things - so I know he will favour me with a comment this time too....but I'd value hearing from others too....

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


VOICES the name of a quarterly magazine produced by Women for Faith and Family in the USA. You can read the current issue o-line if you click on their website, and please do, as I have a feature in it....and there is also a very good piece about World Youth Day written by a young British WYD fan who is known to me.

Today, in heavy rain, I cycled out to drop a couple of copies of the magazine (which had just arrived by post from the USA) to the neighbouring parish where the priest is organising the World Youth Day local group. Home to dry out and get on with some work, but when I was ready to set out again for London, my blue waterproof was still soaked and clammy and dripping. Rain still relentless outside. Rummaged among Jamie's Army things...found a magnificent camoulflage-jacket, gloriously waterproof. Much too large, so had to turn back the sleeves. Removed badges of rank, and cycled off in it. Extremely comfortable. I remember that the Army improved all its wet-weather equipment after the Falkalnds War, when the soldiers found their boots and other gear weren't too efficient. A new style of boot was introduced, and also a new helmet. They came with instructions on how to wear them, and the helmet - I think Jamie still has his - had a large sticker inside which read "WARNING:DO NOT MAKE TEA IN THIS HELMET.

Long pleasant chatty supper with friend, catching up on news and views. Headlines and pix in the evening papers showing the Holy Father meeting the tragic couple who are searching for their lost little girl...

Yesterday evening, in gentle rain, to Bayswater for a supper-party. Some of the people there were involved with KIds Net which is a Catholic prorgramme for children involving a monthly pack of materials covering doctrine, ideas for activities celebrating the feasts of the season, information on saints and Christian traditions...lots of nice things. I liked it.

All the forecasters say we are in for a hot summer, so I am frankly enjoying this rain. Cycled past Buckingham Palace, Royal Standard hanging damply against flagpole. Swished through puddles gleefully. And Hyde Park rather glorious at night, trees uniting overhead to make a dark avenue and cyclists exchanging the briefest of greetings-in-silent-solidarity as we pass each other in silence along the designated paths.

Monday, May 28, 2007


On Saturday evening I cycled to Brompton Oratory for the evening Mass, at which I was due to hand out leaflets about the Martyrs' Walk planned for June 23rd, organised by Miles Jesu. I arrived early, so dried off a bit in the Hotel Rembrandt opposite. Then into that big solid reassuring church. I used to be a regular at this Mass, as a godson used to sing with the London Oratory Schola...years whizz by and he's now grown up (Hi! if you're reading this!)... the memories are very cheery ones. This Saturday evening, it being Half term, the Mass was without music, but the rhythmic back-and-forth responses, and mixed crowd, and the warm rumble of voices saying the Creed and the Our Father, gave a sense of welcome. The Canon of the Mass in the Oratory is always said "facing God", which feels just right. Being there, on a rainy evening, in the London I love, I had one of those moments of being so glad to have all this...

It was still raining as I cycled home, and still raining again on Sunday morning when I set out for the morning Masses. I didn't make the early ones, but got there for the 10 am - this has a lovely children's choir and is attended by lots of young families. They sang "Jesu, joy of man's desiring" at Communion and it was so beautiful...Then the famous main Mass at 11, followed by a quick one at 12.30. The high Mass is done in splendid style with glorious music - if they change it to a Tridentine one when permission for this comes from Rome, few people will actually notice. There's a sense of continuity here, a sort of Oratory hallmark. For London Catholics, this is a great meeting-point. Giving out leaflets was a chatty business. There were lots of people I hadn't seen for a while, and lots I'd seen just recently, and lots who just wanted to was all v. agreeable, but complicated because I was also trying to keep the door open as people poured out, and hand out leaflets without missing anyone.

It was still raining as I made my way home again....


....when I woke this morning, and still again when I met Mother by pre-arrangement in Carshalton Village for what we had planned as a leisurely walk in May sunshine. Instead, we fled to the very agreeable Greyhound hotel and enjoyed mugs of hot coffee, then went back to her flat for Scrabble (she won, with a clear lead of over 30 points)and in the early evening I cycled back, through rain of course, home. The suburban streets were absolutely deserted.

Saturday, May 26, 2007


Jamie off to France on a pilgrimage. He is among a large group walking from Paris to Chartres, and hurried off after rummaging among his Army kit etc for the neccessary equipment, sleeping-bag, etc.

Yesterday I had a slightly frustrating day, travelling to give a journalism workshop (Tamezin magazine) in a school in great heat, hurrying to various meetings in London, feeling hot and bothered...but then spent yesterday evening at Mother's, where we began by watching a DVD sent from New Zealand - awesome scenery, vast blue seas, people in boats with billowing sails scooping along under clear skies, fabulous Maori carvings, beach barbeques...we were transported away from London suburbia and loved it! We followed this with a DVD given me the other day when we visited my nephew and his wife and baby - scenes from baby H's first year, great fun. I had forgotten how noisy and dramatic a baptism is - lots of splashing of water over a font, and the baby yelling.

Today I'm off to give a talk at Holy Ghost parish in Balham, to young engaged couples. . Incidentally, I have just discovered that HG has a rather good parish blog.

Yesterday (Thursday) a most enjoyable evening at a book launch for a new work on education published by Communion and Liberation. I knew very little about this group, except that it's Italian-based and is one of the new movements in the Church...well, it's impressive. The hall was packed, and everyone (er...except Auntie Joanna and a few other cronies) was young. Atmosphere light and friendly, and some first-rate talks, notably by Professor John Millbank and Professor Peter Hodson. Read more about all this here.

The theme was education, and we got some wholly fresh insights - light years away from the current Govt-backed obsession with exams and social manipulation - there was a zest and freedom of spirit here which was just a delight.

Many of the young people present were Italian, and one could tell this because the girls, in particular, looked so ..oh, I don't know, just sort of more chic than their British equivalents. Over drinks and (very good) canapes, it emerged that there is a whole C-L network of groups across London, mostly I think founded by Italian young ex-pats. I would like to get to know more about this very delightful group.

Cycled home across Westminster Bridge (the C-L event was in Great George St, just off Parliament Square) feeling rather good about life.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Interested in my views on fashion, on silence and noise, and more....??? Read me on this website MercatorNet If you enjoy Auntie Joanna's blog, you will definitely enjoy Mercator.
Wed May 23rd


Woke to a sudden realisation that I had forgotten a niece's birthday. Felt awful. Rushed to shops and bought gift, wrapped it quickly as it looked v. inviting and I wanted to try some of it myself, rushed to Post Office.


...for the Sponsored Cycle Ride are going ahead!! Spoke yesterday to Fr Peter, our super parish priest - he was enthusiastic and helpful. Funds can be collected through the parish office. Spoke to the excellent young priest who is organising the deanery's gathering of young people who hope to go to World Youth Day. He was thrilled too. Lots of plans now going planning to spread the trip over 3 days and have contacted friends who live on the route (New Malden to Brighton) who might put me up overnight on the way...

In due course I'll be posting more details of all this, including arrangements for anyone wishing to sponsor me via this blog.


If today's heat is a sample of what is to come through the summer then a sponsored cycle ride will be quite a trial. I'm glad I'm spreading it over 3 days...and that on arrival at Brighton there's the sea...

Monday, May 21, 2007

Monday May 21st 2007


In the post comes a copy of New Directions, magazine produced by traditional Anglicans. It's a v. good read. The current edition isn't available on-line, but some archive editions are. There is a lot of very amusing stuff, especially when quoting silly jargon and the absurdity of Church bureaucracy. I took it with me as I cycled off on various errands this morning, and was very glad when pouring rain drove me to a coffee-shop and a good excuse to sit and read for ten minutes...oh, I could perhaps add coyly that the reason I was sent a copy is that I have a feature - on the subject of marriage and horrible new Sexual Orientation Regulations and how they may crush religious freedom to speak on this issue - in the current edition (and if you want to see what I look like, it has my pic too). You can get a copy by sending £3 to New Directions at 2a The Cloisters, Gordon Square London WC1H 0AG


I actually love rain and find it daft that weather forecasters always seem to treat the arrival of this absolutely neccessary item - water - as a source of gloom and apprehension. For goodness' sake, where would we be without it? Some of the most terrible places on earth are those bereft of water, where people and animals die of hunger. To live in a well-watered land is a great blessing...


I have been toying with the idea of doing a sponsored cycle ride in aid of World Youth Day. A neighbouring parish, where the priest has been a fellow-writer in the Catholic press, is acting as the focal point for young people in our diocese who want to attend, and I'd love to help...It is going to cost a good deal for young people to attend, but judging from the experiences of those who went in 2005, it will be a great experience. The prospect of cycling around a (rural) bit of England with people sponsoring me at so much a mile is pleasing. Do you think it would be worth my trying to organise this?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Saturday May 19th


Spent part of today dealing with letters etc and couldn't resist some internet browsing. If you haven't read the Holy Father's speech to Brazil's bishops then you really should, as it's applicable to a much wider audience than just chaps in mitres in Brazil.


And in the evening, a most enjoyable drinks party given by (noted liturgist and author!), Dr Alcuin Reid. I arrived well before Jamie as I travelled by bike and the HUGE roaring football crowds were no worry to me...roads were cleared by police to accomodate them and cars were banned but a bicycle was allowed everywhere...Excellent food, drink, and conversation, a good party. Afterwards, I put by bike on the Tube to get it home. Football crowds were rowdy but genial on the whole, and the mood cheery. Horrible, gross, sexual expletives, however, are now just a normal part of standard football songs and rants. It was not always so.
Saturday May 19th


Spent yesterday in Cambridge with young relations E. and F. and their enchanting baby, Hugh. This was a trip with my mother so that she could enjoy an afternoon with her great-grandson, and it was lovely to see them together. He had been unwell (very very messily!) before we arrived and there had been a lot of frantic cleaning-up, but...well...that's family life, and soon we were all happily together and he was snuggling the small fluffy dog from his great-granny, and then sleeping while we nattered over a pub lunch. Later more cuddles and fun with him. He found the sight of me frankly hilarious and simply laughed - I too find the notion of being a great-aunt deliciously absurd. A happy day.
Saturday May 19th 2007

World Youth Day....

I got very interested in World Youth Day as a young relative went to the 2005 event and talked non-stop about it on coming home, subsequently giving a lively report to a Catholic women's group describing it all...and the 2008 event is to be in Australia, we have a number of friends who are involved, and it looks set to be a big success.

So I was concerned when some one sent me a link to a website with quotes from the Australian pop star who is to sing the 2008 WYD song. He's Guy Sebastian and the song is on the theme of the Holy Spirit and spreading the Gospel across the world:"Recieve the power". But it seems that, back in 2006, in response to some comments - he was offended by some one using a vulgar expression to insult homosexuals - he was asked to expand on his views and he said he didn't oppose gay marriage as he wasn't "anti-anything",thinks we shouldn't be "fundamentalist" etc. His remarks are decidedly confused. But the website that was sent to me quotes some of what he says - slightly out of context - and suggests that it's quite wrong that his song should have been chosen for the Sydney event.I think this is going to be made into something of a campaign, and would like to know a bit more. There's good background material on this Catholic News Agency website, which gives some flavour of his muddled thinking, in a quoite from him posted in the comments section. So far I'm unconvinced that this means he's a dedicated gay-rights campaigner, but perhaps it would be useful if he could be urged to clarify his understanding of the Church's teaching...

The website that was sent to me seems to be run by a crusader of whom I am slightly wary as it seems that his main concern is in denouncing the whole of World Youth Day and advertising "a new DVD set - only $19.99" which offers to expose the whole thing as an appalling corruption and which shows - oh, horrors! - pop singers at the 2002 event on a stage waving their arms about. On the DVD the presenter offers offers to show secenes of "rioutous charismatic sessions" and in italics "much more". He says that on attending a World Youth Day he searched in vain for "something, anything that Popes Pius 1X, Leo X111, Pius X, Benedict XV, Pius X1 or Pius X11 would recognize as Catholic" and found nothing at all. So he evidently missed the million young people at night adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at Cologne 2005, the Pope's sermon focussing on the importance of Sunday Mass and prayer, the long lines of people going to confession...

Friday, May 18, 2007

Friday May 18th

Yesterday at Westminster Cathedral, evening Mass was a glory of Latin, glittering candles, flowers...larger numbers than usual for a weekday Mass so probably quite a number of people assumed they were celebrating Ascension Day....what a great pity we weren't!

I met a number of friends there, and afterwards lingered agreeably over coffee in one of the innumerable eating-places on the new Cardinal Place opposite the piazza. You get the most fabulous view of the cathedral from there. The buildings near Victoria station have now all been ripped down, revealing the pleasing facade of the station, and this too is to become part of the whole new look for the area. It's all about time: for decades this was such a shabby part of London, for all its nearness to Parliament and the Abbey and so on.

I spent the morning with members of the Catholic Women of the Year committee - the Luncheon is in October and plans are well under way. We have had a huge number of nominations for the Women of the Year, and there are so many magnificent stories of service, courage, neighbourly service, and goodwill. Many letters say something like "She'd be appalled if she knew she was being nominated..." "She would be so embarrassed to be thought of as special...." etc. The CWOY project began in 1968 and has gone from strength to strength - in the past couple of years we have had a number of new young members on the committee which has proved a great boon.


Home late, and then sat up watching a preview of a new EWTN programme which I made with a team a few months back and has now been beautifully edited and put together with the right music etc brought back memories of the week we spent on location, the hard work and the rain and the great fun and the laughter, the planning and the researching and the re-takes and the utter enjoyment of the whole thing. I am actually thrilled with the results...But I won't give the details on this Blog until I know when it is all to be broadcast.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Thursday May 17th


A really successful Summer Drinks Party yesterday at the home of a kind friend in Chelsea - to raise funds for the Association of Catholic Women's education work (of which more later) and Nicole Parker's excellent London Fertility Care Centre. Wine, nice sausages rolls and savoury things to eat (we had to rush out and get more, as so many people came), lots and LOTS of lively talk, a packed room of young people simply enjoying each other's company. There are a number of Catholic groups in London that meet to pray, hear talks on the Faith, and also help with various projects, and they all seem to link with one another by e-mail and social contact, so the result when you run some Catholic event is that LARGE numbers turn up and the buzz is just splendid. It was fun opening the door to one group of newcomers after another - "Emma sent me an email" "I heard about this through the Adoration group...."
Thursday May 17th


Weekday Mass at 10 am in our parish is always well attended anyway,so anyone attending specially because it's Ascension Day will feel perfectly comfortable.

One of the arguments that has been used to defend the idea of moving Ascension Day to a Sunday is that people find it hard to get to Mass on a weekday. They don't. It's easier than ever. If you are elderly and live in a country village with limited transport, then getting to Mass might be difficult - but for most Catholics in Britain, in suburban churches with morning and plenty of evening Masses, in busy city churches with plenty of lunchtimes Masses, getting to Mass on a feast-day has never been easier. City-centre churches are always packed for several Masses on Holy Days, often with people in the porch or round the door as every space inside has been taken...and, of course, figures for Mass attendance in Britain have been rising (all those Poles? Well, for whatever reason, numbers are up) so why not ride on the crest of that wave and enjoy the rising morale and sense of hope?

Another thing: unity. By accident or design, our Bishops have emphasised by their actions that of course one can still mark Ascension Day by attending a Tridentine Rite Mass, and presumably a number of people will. But should the Bishops be deliberately fostering the idea that some thus celebrate a feast on one day, and some on another? Until now, this has not been an issue - why create one? It runs absolutely contrary to the need to live out a "hermeneutic of continuity".And this at a time when, with the new Motu-thingummy from the Holy Father, the T. Rite is - or I thought this was the plan - going to become a normal option and part of Catholic parish life.

One of the best things about the Church is that normal, muddly,look-we-are-just-Catholic-and-go-to-Mass families are part of the same Church as the seriously-devout-I-know-how-to-find-a-special-Mass types. Why drive a wedge between them?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Wed May 16th


Last night Rt Hon Ann Widdecombe addressed a meeting of The Keys, the Catholic Writers' Guild of England and Wales, at our Guild Church of St Mary Moorfields in London. Mass first in the church, then an agreeable and very talkative supper in the crypt.

At the start of her talk, Ann presented the 2007 Catholic Young Writer Award to Bernadette Pfang, of South London, whose essay on St Thomas More was judged the best of this year's field of entries - Bernadette wins a shield which she will keep for one year, a cash prize, and a stack of books. These are traditionally presented by Catholic writers and publishers, and this year they include the beautiful illustrated book on the Rosary,just produced by St Omers Press at Stonyhurst.Second prizewinner is Thomas Carver of Durham, and joint third prizes go to Elizabeth Parkes of Birmingham and Elena Cahill of Nottingham. A number of certificates of merit were also awarded, notably to pupils at the Sacred Heart School in Camberwell and Oaklands Catholic School in Hampshire, and to an entrant from the USA and one from Australia!

It was fitting that the young prizewinner had wriiten about St Thomas More as Ann Widdecombe's talk was on "Law and Conscience". It tackled specifically the ways in which recent legislation has restricted the rights of us all to live and work according to our deepest beliefs and convictions, and cited, specifically, ways in which the Government's (horrible!) new Sexual Orientation regulations will work. She read aloud an exchange of correspondence with the Secretary of State Ruth Kelly - who had replied to the letter only after the new laws were introduced: it is clear that some one who, for example, runs a printing firm and would rather not print publicity material for a homosexual-lobby rally would face serious legal penalties for refusing. This is scary. And it is up to the Church to speak out and stand up for what is right.

Incidentally I note that in Italy families have held a big rally to stand up for marriage and family values - in the face of planned new legislation which will effectively create a form of "civil partnerships" for various sorts of relationships including homosexual ones. In Britain, we seem to have been able to produce rallies n issues such as hunting...

Monday, May 14, 2007


What will you be doing on Thursday? I shall be doing what Catholics across Europe will be doing - attending Mass. True, our Bishops have announced that in England the Mass for Ascension Day is not to be celebrated on its proper day, but arbitrarily and bleakly switched to Sunday. But there is nothing to stop me - or you , or all your friends - attending Mass on what most of the rest of the world, and notably our nearest Catholic neighbours, will be enjoying as Ascension Day.

And no, I don't mean that you have to seek out a Tridentine Rite Mass and go there - though generally I'd be in favour of people going to that if they want to do so. But not on Thursday. That will only serve to let our Bishops claim that Ascension Day, or any other special and important feast-day, is now for people who have specific tastes, WHICH COMPLETELY MISSES THE POINT. The whole point is that we want to celebrate with the whole Church, with people in - for example - Poland and Germany, Switzerland and Spain (who even get a holiday from work on this day).

Go to Mass on Ascension Day - preferably at your nearest Cathedral. I'll be at mine. Pass the word, and join in. And while you're about it, mark your diary: June 7th, Feast of Corpus Christi.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Saturday May 12th 2007


To Brompton Oratory, where couples from various central London parishes were gathered for a day of talks etc as part of Marriage Preparation. My task is to speak from the perspective of a married Catholic...then there's a time for discussion which is guided to explore issues like the values and virtues that should guide our lives, and how these relate to our hopes and plans for marriage. The day is part of a full programme which includes talks week by week on topics ranging from the place of prayer in our lives to the discovery of Natural Family Planning.

It was pouring with rain, and Father Charles Dilke, who was there to be part of the discussion and lead a prayer at the end, hurried off to lend me a large cycle cape - - which was immensely useful as I cycled off to Kenington High Street to a rather grand hotel where the


were taking place. I have mentioned Tamezin elsewhere on this blog - an excellent initiative, it is a magazine for teenage girls, written by and for young people. Its readership is growing rapidly - you could join in by simply taking out a subscription - and the Young Journalist Awards ceremony was the culmination of the various talks and Journalism Workshops I and others have been giving in schools. A team of top journalists were there to hand out the Awards and certificates, led by Cassandra Jardine of the Daily Telegraph. The young writers had been invited to do an interview with "some one inspirational" and there was an excellent field of entries which gave the judges a good deal of work. Prizes included a week's work experience at a TV station, including a chance to watch the News being broadcast live, and a week with a national newspaper. Looking out at the sea of faces in a packed room - with a delicious tea to follow, and an atmosphere of great celebration - made all the work of running those workshops in schools worthwhile. Among the schools that I have visited which produced winners and certificate-winners for the Award were Babington School in Kent, Wilmington School in Kent, and Prior Park College in Bath.

I cycled back along past Kensington Gardens and the Albert Memorial - which on this cool spring/summer evening looked simply splendid, glittering in gold. It's one of my favourite London landmarks. Have just been reading - and have reviewed for the current issue of the Catholic Times - the excellent biography of one of Victoria and Albert's granddaughters, Grand Duchess Ella of Russia, who was slaughtered by the Bolsheviks and is honoured by the Orthodox Church, and rightly, as a saint (new biography by Christopher Warwick, Wiley books £16.95p, hugely recommended).

at home with emails and trawling through the Internet I looked up the latest on the Holy Father's visit to Brazil and came across this lovely picture (connect and then scroll down) which shows him in a wonderful hug with four happy children...and they are clutching COPIES OF THE CHILDREN'S BIBLE DONATED BY AID TO THE CHURCH IN NEED!! For years, people have been generously giving money so that children could have copies, of their very own, of this delightful children's Bible with its bright red cover and lovely illustrations, produced in innumerable languages and distributed across the globe. It's very, very satisfying to know that the Holy Father was himself giving out this little gift, and the small recipients were responding with a glorious hug. Supporters of ACN across BRitain, please, please do take a look at this pic! Launched initially as part of the International Year of the Child, and expanded year on year from there, this project has meant that many, many children who have never owned a book and had had no prospect of owning one, have recieved this most important book of all....and all through the simple system of encouraging people to give one to a child in Britain (where children also need Bibles!) and make a donation to fund a couple of books overseas...

Next time you hear a grumble about charities being over-bureaucratic and the whole thing getting too complicated, remember ACN and this simple but magnificent project, and those children in Brazil (pic taken, incidentally, at a drug rehabilitation project also partly funded by ACN....)

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

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.


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.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Monday May 7th


The fine spring weather was much too good to waste, so with Jamie spending the day playing cricket, I packed some sandwiches and walked all the way to Carshalton (bike has puncture, so couldn't use it). Stopped at a local parish for Mass on the way. Packed church, lots of young families - much very well-intentioned and extremely noisy music led by a hearty dad with a guitar...This is the sort of style that seems to work well for young married couples and their children, but isn't terribly appealing to young singles (although of course, in the London suburbs, these do have the option of going elsewhere, esp to one of the big London churches with a v. different style). These families are exactly the sort with whom I get on best - they're the ones whose values I share, whom I meet at Catholic events, to whom I give talks and who buy my books. They support the pro-life movement and are active in lots of good things in the local and wider community. They are there in force at big events like "Celebrate!" where they enjoy family-based activities, inspiring talks, calls to evangelise neighbours, and a sense of mission. The church notice-boards were crammed with items promoting EWTN, Days with Mary, a retreat at a traditional-style monastery, information on vocations to the priesthood, pro-life material. But the guitar throbbing, the microphones, the beat, the sheer noise....Can't we get something going in the spirit of Sacramentum Caritatis, to get people singing some Latin, and enjoying something of a great heritage of music that belongs to the Church and us all? Is this guitar-beat enough to sustain a generation's faith in what could be very tough times ahead?

I met Mother as planned outside Carshalton's old church (where there was a wedding going on, which was nice) and we enjoyed an afternoon looking round Carshalton House. THis is an 18th century house with some lovely rooms, open to the public on guided tours from time to time - and I was at school here, St Philomena's. As we passed the swimming-bath, I rushed to see if my name was still there, carved into one of the bricks and it is, it is!!! It took me some while to do it, one summer term when I was in the Lower V1, and we used to spend lunchtimes sitting and talking on the steps in the sunshine.

We visited the Hermitage in the grounds - which we girls used to call the Grotto, a lovely 18th century folly, set into the rise of the hill overlooking what used to be the lake (I have a picture of my sister posing as a saint in one of the niches there!). This corner of the grounds is badly in need of some care - massively overgrown and if water did start to return to the lake, which is sometimes does depending on the water-table, it would just be a mess because it's all filled with grass and trees and tangled growth. Difficult to get funds to enable maintenance work to be done on the scale needed - and in its wildness it was all rather glorious anyway.

The tour finished in the Water Tower, which M. and I had visited last week. We had tea there and I got chatting to the Chairman of the Friends of Carshlton Water Tower - would like to help with their fund-raising etc.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Friday May 4th 2007


To the parish of Our Lady and St Joseph In London N1, nearest tube: Highbury and Islington. I arrived as Father Nicholas Schofield was preaching at the evening Mass, honouring the English Martyrs. It was something of a rallying-call to us all to think about our country...then followed a Holy Hour as it was the First Friday. Glowing candles on the altar, people praying the Rosary, a good number of people with a wide range of ages and races, a sense that being a Catholic means belonging to something that goes on from century to century...

After this, the meeting at which I was to speak. The parish has regular gatherings with guest speakers, under the title of the "William Lockhart Society", Fr Lockhart being a contemporary of Newman, and a convert shortly before him, later a Rosminian priest. He worked here at O.L. and St Joseph's, before going on to St Etheldreda's, Ely Place, then newly re-acquired as a Catholic church after centuries of other use.

Theme of my talk was "Celebrating Traditional Feasts and Seasons", explaining the Christian calendar and how it all fits together (Lady Day is 9 months before Christmas, St John the Baptist's Birthday at midsummer, Lent and Easter, fasting and feasting, etc etc etc). It's the quirky bits of information that people enjoy - the Tube Station that commemorates the Annunciation (The Angel, Islington - named after a pub of that name which dates back to Medieval times and depicts the Angel greeting Mary); the flowers and herbs named after Our Lady (marigolds, rosemary); the traditions for Maundy Thursday; the origins of words and their links with one another (eg simnel cake from the Latin similia, same word as the modern Italian semolina)...etc....etc....

(Interested? There's LOTS more in my "Book of Feasts and Seasons" (send me £7.95p or equivalent in US dollars, plus say £1 for postage: Mrs J.Bogle, c/o 34 Barnard Gardens New Malden Surrey KT3 6QG).

The meeting was well-attended and the atmosphere was great: friendly, chatty, talkative, neighbourly. This must be a v. good parish. Afterwards a hugely enjoyable supper with Fr Nicholas and friends.

Home v. late, happy after a lovely evening...waiting at local bus stop, the joy rather evaporated as hordes of adolescent children streamed out, shouting, vomiting, swearing. One lad sat next to me eating chips and drinking from a can: he looked about 14, but presumably must have been older as he and his mates had clearly spent the evening in the pub. None of these young people looked at all as if they had been having a happy time. Police hover about, and there is an air of menace. No, nothing special - just a Friday night in a prosperous London suburb. Depressing.

Thursday, May 03, 2007


A glorious spring day and a train trip out of London, alighting at Bicester destination was the extremely agreeable book club run each month by Breff and Jill Kelly at which I was to be this month's guest speaker. Topic: Pope Benedict XV1 and if you haven't bought my book on him, simply send me an immediate comment to this blog INCLUDING AN EMAIL ADDRESS WHERE I CAN REACH YOU and I'll arrange for you to get one...

The room filled up in a friendly atmosphere, freshly-brewed coffee was served,and it was a delight to speak in this pleasant sunny room to an eager audience. I hugely enjoy talking about Papa Benedict, dispelling the media-myths, explaining about his books, his teaching work, life in post-war Germany, and more...afterwards I was entertained to a delicious lunch out on the terrace, seated next to an adorable Kelly baby grandson, lots of talk and laughter...oh, the best, best possible way to spend a day...

Breff K. has a delightful story about Papa B: when, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he came to speak in Cambridge, Breff attended and found it basolutely fascinating. He later wrote to the Cardinal to say so, adding that it had happened to be his birthday and the talk had been a perfect way to mark the day. He didn't expect a reply but....the next year, on his birthday, he recieved a card from Cardinal Ratzinger!


And then, in the evening, a meeting of my Catholic Cultural Group, at which the guest speaker was Fr Nicholas Schofield,: I had invited him to speak on "The Pope's Bavaria" as he has made several trips to that land, and indeed has just returned from one. He really made it all come alive for us - glorious baroque churches, and tasty sausages, and all. He spoke at some length about the heroic priests of Dachau - about young Karl Leisner, secretly ordained in this concentration camp and now beatified by the Church - surely a patron saint for today's young men training for the priesthood...If you want to catch some of the flavour of Fr Nicholas' talk, visit his own blog which has pictures and lots of descriptions of his travels...

As it happens, on Friday I am guest speaker at Fr N's parish, which rounds things off rather nicely.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Tuesday May 1st


Some happy news from Australia. A longstanding family friend, Mgr Peter Elliott, has just been appointed auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne. This is very good news for the Church and for Australia. Father Peter is the author of several books - his first was in the early 1970s when he produced a delightful "Thoughts of Jesus Christ" to counter the "Thoughts of Chairman Mao". He has long experience of parish life, and also of work in Rome where he was for some while at the Pontifical Council for the Family. While in Rome, he'd often visit Britain, and stayed with us amid cheerful chaos when we were just moving in to our present house - sleeping on a put-you-up bed next to a not-yet-fully-unpacked refrigerator. I remember some happy days out to all sorts of places, including an unforgettable day with Malcolm and Kitty Muggeridge in their Sussex cottage...memorable talks, walks, exchanges of ideas, laughter...

LONDON... horrid in hot weather, and one can feel things warming up for the long stretch of summer heat ahead. Current fashion rules dictate very tight, black trousers, or of course tight denim jeans, for women and girls - they all look dreadfully hot. Waiting at Clapham Junction today I surveyed the crowded platform opposite. How same-ish and dreary we all look, compared to the way things used to be when there was a much greater variety in dress: today black or blue trousers are the rule for virtually everyone, except for a few, very very few, men in suits (but most men who wear suits at work leave them at the office and travel home in jeans). A woman in a dress is a rarity in a London crowd - some do wear skrts and shirts (as I do) but the summery look of a light-coloured dress is very rare. Will people still feel obliged to be in black and dark blue trousers throughout June, July, and August?