Sunday, September 30, 2007

What an extraordinary experience... be part of a glorious Sung Mass in Westminster Cathedral with the Archbishop of Galilee as preacher! Beautiful music, the timeless words of the Mass, swirls of incense, vast crowds, some chattering tourists awed into silence as the First Reading from the Book of Daniel was announced, the usual great mixture of ages and races and types of people in the congregation...

Archbishop Elias Chacour has been in Britain as a guest of Aid to the Church in Need, and was the top speaker at a conference this weekend at Westminster. The Mass launched the conference and he made a notable figure as he walked to the lectern to preach: the Archbishop is of the Melkite Rite and wore his traditional robe, cross and headpiece - he had us spellbound as he told us about what it is like for Christians today in the Holy Land, caught between the Israeli authorities and the world of Islam, forgotten by much of the rest of the Christian community in Europe and elsewhere, seen as tiresome and an irritant, living almost as refugees in their own homeland.

His message was absolutely rooted in a appeal for kindliness, common sense, neighbourliness, and peace - there was no rancour here and no politicking. Jews and Christians in the Holy Land, he said, do not need to be taught how to get along with one another - they only need to remember how they have managed to do so over many centuries, and claim that heritage. His plea that we should know abut the Christians there, holding fast to their faith and traditions, facing poverty and exile, uncertain of what the future holds.

He spoke with humour - enjoys pointing out that Christ too was "a man from Galilee" - and with a love of his heritage, talking about the olive groves, the smiles of the children, the language and the customs of his people. He spoke with passion and with warmth, recognising the tragic history of the Jewish people in the 20th century, appealing for understanding.

After the Mass, crowds waited in Ambrosden Avenue to pack into the Cathedral Hall for the conference. In addition to hearing about the Holy Land, we had a young speaker from China (a member of the young international team based at St Patrick's, Soho Square), and ACN's own John Pontifex talking about his recent visits to Eritrea and Ethiopia, plus Director Neville Kyrke-Smith giving us the latest news from the former Soviet was a terrifically interesting, inspiring, and challenging day.

You can help the Christians in the Holy Land by buying some of the lovely Christmas gifts they make out of olive wood - and while doing that, don't miss the beautiful cards and notelets printed with designs drawn by a Bishop while imprisoned in China - this brave man has since died in prison, a hero of the faith - and the range of inspiring books also now available from Aid to the Church in Need.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Bishop Peter Elliott...

newly-appointed Bishop in Melbourne, Australia, is visiting Britain. Our friendship with him goes back nearly thirty was an absolute delight to see him. We joined him at St Patrick's, Soho Square, (see pic) for a wonderful talkative dinner on Wednesday, hosted by the splendid Fr Alexander Sherbrook. Bishop Peter had just come from Rome, where he was attending a sort of "staff course" for Bishops. In Australia, one of his main projects is the John Paul 11 Institute for Marriage and Family - I wish we had something like this in Britain.

St Patrick's is of course a wonderful place - a church packed with history, prayer, good activities, young people, and a great sense of mission. A soup-run takes food, faith and hope around Soho, young people attend a School of Evangelisation, it is home to a big Chinese community which meets for Mass, ditto Brazilians and various others, it is involved with the Cenacolo project helping people move on from drugs-and-alcohol addictions...oh, and lots more. And it's desperately in need of funds. This is one of London's great institutions - linked with Archbishop Fulton Sheen (he worked here when in London and wrote extensively about his experiences here), with various show-business people who worshipped here or were married here or came here for hope and help...It was fairly badly bashed in WW11 and then repaired, but now time and wear-and-tear have taken a terrible tool of ceilings, walls, fabric, wiring, you name it...and it needs a great deal of money to get the work done. There's an appeal, and a lot of goodwill - and you could join in, if you simply log on to the website I've given...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

This is...

...the church of St James, Spanish Place, in London, where the Association of Catholic Women held its annual meeting at the weekend. I went along with Mother - a most enjoyable and interesting day. There was an talk from Mgr Langham of Westminster Cathedral, giving a sort of "behind the scenes" view of Cathedral life and explaining the role of a cathedral in relation to the diocese and the parishes, and then a wonderful look at some traditional English shrines of Our Lady in an illustrated talk by Anne Vail, whose book on the subject (published by Gracewing) is the fruit of a great deal of careful research and an evident love of her subject. I had not known there was once "Our Lady of Coventry" and "Our Lady of Doncaster". I did know about Our Lady of Caversham, as we have been there more than once, and indeed one of my godsons made his First Communion there.

The church's address is always given as Spanish Place, because of its historic links - its predecessor was a Spanish embassy chape. The present magnificent building retains strong links with Spain, the Ambassador attending an annual Mass in honour of St James, etc - but it is really in George Street, in that slightly villagey part of London around Marylebone High Street and not far from Baker Street. There is a fine statue of Sherlock Holmes near Baker Street tube station. Oddly, the only time I have ever had my handbag grabbed from me by a thief in a London street was in Baker Street, near Holmes' fictional home.

After the AGM, Mother was met by my brother who took her off for a family weekend at their new home.

The ACW has had a successful year, with activities ranging from fund-raising for a clinic for children with Downs, to organising the annual Religious Education project for primary schools...oh, and we'll be running, as usual, the refreshments at the Towards Advent Festival on November 3rd at Westminster Cathedral Hall (some of my blackberry jam on sale). Weve had correspondence with various Government departments about such horrors as the revolting and vicious notion that gravely ill pateints should be denied water in hospital

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Thames in September...

...can be glorious. We had niece L. staying with us over the weekend and spent Sunday afternoon on the river. Things began with Sung Mass at Westminster Cathedral (if you live in or near London and haven't heard that glorious choir, you are missing something excellent) and then some hurrying about arranging which boat and where to meet etc...a picnic lunch in St James' Park - reached via streets packed with cyclists as there was a massive and very cheerful cycling rally in London all day...and then a splendid bit of just-to-the-minute timing as Jamie joined us on the pier moments before the boat was due to leave - and off we all went together, chugging along past the Palace of Westminster and down on towards Hammersmith and Putney and Mortlake and Kew.

The commentaries on the boats are priceless, as anyone who has experienced one of them will know...and there are some nuggets of information there: I had no idea, for instance, that the (Latin) words of the Our Father are carved in the stonework of the Houses of Parliament, along with all the kings and queens and heraldic devices...

At Kew, we disembarked, and walked down to the Green - where one can have tea in the churchyard of St Anne's church - all done by volunteers, and proper scones with jam and cream, and cake. There was cricket on the green, and the golden September sun filtering through the trees, and the bell ringing for Evensong.

Friday, September 21, 2007

If you enjoy Auntie Joanna's blog... might enjoy this feature, just published in the new on-line version of an American magazine, Crisis...

Another kind donation for World Youth Day (following my cycle ride) arrived today, from an elderly lady of 88 in Cornwall...saying she'd love to meet the Holy Father, but is too old to travel and couldn't afford Australia anyway, but here is something for the young people...things like this make one gulp. I am saving up some of these letters to show to some of the young people when I speak at one of their meetings in a couple of months' time.

Further to the information on my blog yesterday about Aid to the Church in Need, a young staff member there is running a half-marathon in aid of Christians in the Holy Land. Read about it here.

My niece is coming to stay for the weekend, and we are hugely looking forward to this: we have planned a "Thomas More day" with a trip to Hampton Court, because we have been watching (OK, re-watching) A Man for all Seasons with its lovely scenes of a particular stretch of the river that we know extremely well: we've often walked along that path, with the little steps that run satisfyingly up and down along the wall to the Home Park near the Long Water...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Auntie will be off to America...

...though not for a few weeks yet. I fly to the USA in a month's time, Oct 20th. But there is a great deal to do in preparing for the programmes I will be doing with EWTN in Alabama. These involve doing some cookery - no, I won't give away details. But golly, it's complicated working out recipes, listing what is needed, and arranging what I need to bring myself...especially as, in order to get things right, I have to test some of the recipes here first...

Some good news about religious frreedom in Britain - read this on the Christian Institute's website.

Worked today on the computer virtually non-stop all morning till a late lunch . Is this good for one's eyesight? Cycled off to bank etc, returned to further work. While I type, I enjoy music: I have a set of "100 Popular Classics" which probably makes me seem like a complete musical twerp but there you are...I also have some lovely CDs from the Schola Cantorum of the Cardinal Vaughan School.

Today is our wedding anniversary. I emailed a request to Classic FM that they play "Sheep may safely graze", which we had at our wedding - and J's parents had at their wedding a quarter of a century earlier...I wonder if it will be played?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Mellow fruitfulness... all around us. Cycling from Kingston yesterday, I passed under a tree postively groaning with glowing rosy crab-apples. I've made as much c/a jelly as anyone possibly could (and if you want some, go to the Fayre being held at St Joseph's, New Malden, on Sept 30th to raise money to send young people to World Youth Day). But I simply had to gather some of these...and it's not scrumping, is it, if the tree is on a public highway? They made a superb apple puree, which I turned into a crumble-topped pudding which J. really enjoyed.

I wish we made more of the Harvest Thanksgiving tradition in Catholic churches in Britain. It needn't be all Thomas Hardy-ish and nostalgic... with golden Autumn sunshine, and gardens and hedges filled with good things, it seems bleak not to celebrate a bit...Papa Benedict seems keen on all things eco-friendly and so on, so perhaps he'll encourage us...

Coffee today with A., a friend who is a Catholic born and brought up in Iraq. The news from Baghdad about the Christian community there is just so tragic: churches blown up or abandoned as Christians have been forced out of their homes...

Co-incidentally, latest material from Aid to the Church in Need reveal it is doing what it can to give help to the Christians of Iraq, and of the Middle East generally. They have just produced a catalogue of beautiful Christmas cards, books, and gifts...why give your money to supermarkets when you can get things from this excellent charity which can do so much good with what you send?

I've been sent a number of lovely books to review over the past couple of weeks. Anna Melchior's Mothering: a spiritual and practical approach (St Paul, £8.95p) is a good read: I thought it might be pious and unrealistic, but it isn't - it's up-to-date, honest, and with good useas and much usefuyl information. Recommended.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Poor Clares...

...of Arkley, near Barnet, hosted a Family Day for local families today. It began with a picnic in the September sunshine, and then Fr Daniel, from the Oratory, gave a talk to the young people, and there were activities for the small children - which seemed to include making hats out of cardboard plates, as some good-natured parents were later seen wearing some of these creations - while I spoke about "Feasts and Traditions" to the grown-ups. We were invited to use the sisters' Parlour - which in traditional style is a room with a divider built across it, so that the sisters can welcome guests while still remaining within their Enclosure. We were too many for the guests' bit, so spread over the two, with me perched on the dividing ledge. The sisters were busy around their daily routine - we saw some in the garden - and were happy simply to have us all there, which was very kind, and the whole atmosphere was welcoming and delightful. It was well worth the long cycle ride - there's a good deal of Barnet and it goes on Barneting for a good while as you toil along from the station out towards Arkley...all pretty and pleasant. Things finished with a Mass and then Benediction - which I couldn't attend as I had to get back home. For those interested in such things, I'll note that the Mass was in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite!

Yesterday evening I did a very cheery and pleasant interview for the Catholic Times - with my own parish priest, Fr Peter of St Joseph's, New Malden. The current edition features an interview with Fr Stephen of Balham.

Saturday, September 15, 2007


...are particularly splendid this year, large and glossy and bountiful. I have always found that the problem is that they are so beautiful that of course one must collect some up - and then, what to do with them? But in the Daily Telegraph the other day there was a list of Useful Hints for Saving the Planet, or something - noting that what used to be thrift is now being green and eco-friendly and not having carbon footprint and things. And apparently, conkers are excellent as an alternative to mothballs! So there you are. A good reason to collect them and put them in with Jamie's socks.

Also collectable are quick jokes. Thanks to B. for this one: Luciano Pavarotti arrives at the Pearly Gates. St Peter is pleased:"Squeeze in Luciano - good to have you here. I'll go and tell the boss." And he goes off to tell God: "I've got the tenor I owed you..."

I am off to speak at a Family Day tomorrow, but today, with so much to do and write and tackle at home, it's urgent that we leave some of it, get out into the glorious blue and golden September.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Today was a rush... London for a discussion on the Jeremy Vine Show (BBC Radio 2), then back to write up a feature interview with Josephine Robinson of the Association of Catholic Women, for a Catholic newspaper, then on to Mother's, where we enjoyed a evening together watching a DVD about England's countryside and the writers and artists who have celebrated it..and both joined in with a lot of the poetry especially Rupert Brooke on Grantchester and the corner of a foreign field that is for ever...and all the while I was sticking stamps on envelopes (over 300 of them) for RC parishes across London and the South East, with handbills about the Towards Advent Festival on Sat Nov 3rd.

I love this time of year, the fresh exciting mornings and the reassurring promise of Autumn that you get around teatime.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

In reply... various kind enquiries: YES, you can most certainly obtain my books even if you live in America. Simply look up the books you want on my website and once you have chosen the book, contact me, by sending me a cheque (oh, very well, check, if you want to spell it the American way...). You can reach me by writing to me c/o 34 Barnard Gardens New Malden Surrey KT3 6QG. I can accept American cheques, and I keep a supply of my books - just write to me listing the one(s) you want, and send me a cheque for the amount, plus about five dollars extra for postage (or say ten dollars if you want the book airmail). To find out how much to pay, look at the price in £s and send about twice that plus a bit more, ie a book costing £5 would be about thirteen dollars. Make the cheque out to Mrs J. Bogle. I will hurry to the Post Office with your book. I will sign it if you like. I will put a ribbon round it if you like...

If you want my latest book, it's not yet listed on my website and I haven't got any copies until October. But you could still order it from me! Just allow a little while for delivery... It's A Yearbook of Seasons and Celebrations and sells for £7.99p.

By the way, Australian readers of this Blog can get my books from Freedom Publishing, 582 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne VIC 3051

Please do buy my books!!

To the kind enquirer who asked about my next EWTN series: it will be broadcast in the spring and is a series of six programmes with ideas for things to make, cook, eat, and sing for Lent and Easter. I also have two new series of Catholic Lives coming up - these are interviews with Catholics who are doing interesting and useful things in London...I am filming some of these in October, and have already done several interviews already too. They include Fr Tim Finigan, of Hermeneutic of Continuity fame, Charles Cole who directs the Schola of the Cardinal Vaughan School, and Sister Chiara who works in Holy Ghost parish, Balham.

We badly want to do a seies about the recusant houses of England, priest-hides, etc. Prayers, please, for this venture...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

To St Mary Moorfields... London for a meeting of The Keys, the Catholic Writers' Guild - the first after the summer break. Speaker was Mgr Henri Brincard, Bishop of Le Puy in France, who gave us a superb talk on the Holy Father's encyclical Deus Caritas Est.
It was really illuminating - I had not really considered the full impact of this remarkable document. Speaking to a culture obsessed with the notion that the Church is always saying "No!", always nagging people about not doing things, Papa B. asserts the biggest truth of all: that God is love, and loved us first, and that the essence of Christianity is to be found in this and in our response to this love...
Autumn with all its freshness and new activities is upon us. Yesterday was Mother's birthday and I cycled over for a cheery lunch with her (pizza at an Italian restaurant) and then Tea with the neighbours, M. and I serving cakes and pouring tea like anything...
I have spent most of today working on plans for my next EWTN series - I fly to Alabama to record it in October - and some interviews, also for EWTN, which I'll be recording here in London before I go.

Sunday, September 09, 2007


... are one of the joys of life, and we went to a lovely one on Saturday: James and Melissa marrying in the Little Oratory of the the famous Brompton Oratory. Glorious music, a radiant bride, a most beautiful wedding Mass, and then a reception at the Travellers Club, with lots of talk and laughter and small bridesmaids and pages romping about, and some splendid hats, and delicious food served in the splendour of candlelight and white roses and crisp damask napkins.

Malta Day held in London every year at Westminster Cathedral to mark the feast of Our Lady of Victories. There is a great procession through the streets of Westminster with the "bambina" statue of Our Lady, and a splendid Mass in the Cathedral - all preceded by a fair in the Cathedral Hall with Maltese foods and crafts on sale, and a band playing, and speeches from the Maltese High Commissioner. This year, an award-winning young author was among those invited to the niece-in-law Fiorella, whose latest book, Father William's Daughter was being launched that day as part of the celebrations. Her first book, The Cassandra Curse, won her an award - the impressive engraved plaque was on display at the bookstall - and this new one is also a very good read. It was all very exciting. You can order her book via the link I have given. F. was accompanied by her husband E and their enchanting little boy H.who has the most beautiful eyes and delicious smile, and was very happy indeed playing with the lovely curly red-and-white ribbons which had been decorating the door of the Cathedral Hall for the opening ceremony and were solemnly cut by the High Commissioner (they were then just tossed aside until rescued by Auntie Joanna for H - it seemed such a pity to waste them...) Fiorella's sister Cecilia was also there - she is a talented young musician whose beautiful playing of the harp is a joy.

It was... birthday on Friday. A lovely parcel from my sister in New Zealand, containing the most beautiful skirt - she has long been my best fashion consultant and this one is really just perfect.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Hugely enjoyable... to launch Fr Martin Edwards' book The Bread of Life, designed to prepare children for First Confession and First Communion. It's available from Gracewing Books and also from Aid to the Church in Need. I had said I would help with pouring wine etc, but in the end got talking to lots and lots of friends. Bishop Bernard Longley was there and v. kind and interested in my recent Cycle Ride, and among other guests were author Ruth Rees, whose book on the Rosary is also published by Gracewing, Gillian van der Lande who runs Devotium, selling beautiful statues of saints etc - will have a stall at the Towards Advent Festival of Catholic Culture (Sat Nov 3rd, Westminster Cathedral Hall - be there!).

Some one sends a comment to my Blog asking if it's true that there are 1600 redundant churches in Britain being made into dance halls, pubs etc. No, that's not true. There are a great many redundant churches - probably at least 1600 - but they can't be made into pubs or dance halls as many are in remote places, lovely Suffolk villages, or places where there were villages in the Middle Ages but aren't any more, or small hamlets that were once large and now boast three great churches which can't be sustained, etc. Many of these Medieval churches are glorious - if you visit Britain and don't tour at least a few of the fabulous churches of, say, East Anglia, then you haven't grasped a whole crucial reality of English life and history. Many (most?) Americans who come here don't even think about such things - and that includes devout souls who would probably be very interested if only they stopped to think about it all for a moment. There is an official body that looks after many of our glorious old churches, and there are others that badly need some funds and cherishing and could be open for worship more often if these were available...all this is a great burden for the C of E. There are also some newer, Catholic, churches that are likely to be closed over the next years - some of these are fine buildings, others may be deemed less so. It is most unlikely that these will be turned into pubs. The irony is that while some churches are not needed, others are being built - for example, the rapidly growing Black Pentecostal movement is turning cinemas and bingo halls into churches, raising funds for this from devout and dedicated people who turn up in large numbers. In the Catholic church, there are groups and movements which could almost certainly make very good use of some church buildings that might otherwise be left vacant: it is to be hoped that our Bishops will approach this subject with generous hearts and large minds.

Oh, and those comments about why the BBC didn't send a car for me for that radio broadcast - in the middle of a Tube strike, cars couldn't be found, and London was one big traffic jam. Even on a normal evening, a car is a ghastly risk - the last time the World Service offered one, I rashly took it, got stuck in traffic, and never made the broadcast at all...

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Much media talk about...

Mother Teresa, as a new book of her letters has just been published, to mark the 10th anniversary of her death. Phone call from BBC World Service, as I was about to cook supper: would I go and do an interview about M.Teresa, her "dark night of soul" etc? Quickly prepared supper, left in oven so J. could switch it on when he got in. Cycled to station, padlocked bike, rushed to get train to Waterloo. Tube strike, so Londoners walking everywhere. Fabulous golden evening, slanting sunlight over the Thames. So many cranes, though, around St Paul's and the City - more vast sky-scrapers going up, reducing city to faceless anywhere-place...

To Bush House in the Strand. Interview was easy, interesting, and done by intelligent interviewer - all v. agreeable, World Service a contrast to much other media (incl. much of BBC!).

Home to J., supper, mugs of tea.

Wow...'s great to be able to get news, video clips etc over the Internet. Vast crowds at Loreto in Italy, over 500,000 at a youth gathering which is a sort of localised version of World Youth Day. If Sydney is going to be anything like this, then I am very glad to be helping young people to get there. Superb scenes in Italy, glowing lights as dusk falling, prayer vigil, opera singer Andrea Bocelli pouring out glorious music...I hadn't known he is blind, wondered at first why he seemed to be singing with his eyes closed, then realised.... The Italians organised this huge gathering extremely well and as a spectacle it was terrific: young people talking to the Holy Father about their ideas, worries, hopes, aspirations - all youthful and idealistic and hair-tossed-in-the-wind and so on - and then the silence of the Holy House, and pilgrims trickling in, and scenes of prayer there flashed up on giant screens...

Today a friend from Oxfordshire, Sara, 'phoned. She is keen to attend some meetings of the London Faith Forum. Sara is blind, and finds it easier to get around in London if she is accompanied, so I generally meet her at Marylebone ands she stays overnight with us. One of life's extraordinary coincidences: one night last year as we were coming home, quite late, we met a neighbour, Robert. We all got chatting and he mentioned that he happens to keep braille machines in his house, as he helps a society for the blind. I regard this as one of the most extraordinary and useful coincidences I have ever had. A couple of days later I followed it up, and he gave me lessons in braille, and lent me one of his machines. So I am able to drop notes to Sara regularly. I am not good at braille but am getting better and it is a useful thing to acquire, I think.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Watch this one, it's inspiring...

Yesterday evening we watched Amazing Grace which tells the story of Tory MP William Wilberforce who led the fight to abolish the slave trade in the British Empire: it's a splendid and inspiring story, well told. Makes one realise that we're here to do large and noble things, forces a re-evaluation of one's own life and contribution. There are criticisms one could make of the film, some voices and styles of talking are all wrong (v. 21st-century vowels) and we don't see enough of W's Christian beliefs tho' these are assumed all the way through - but the story is carried well and the result is terrifically powerful. You can this DVD through most Blockbuster shops and I recommend it.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Crab apple jelly... not complicated to make, though it takes a good many crab apples to produce just one jar. I gathered the crab apples - there's a little tree simply bowed down with them - from the same place where I gather blackberries and rose-hips, which is the local cemetery. The bit where the blackberries grow is alongside the Moslem bit. The graves are all slanted, as they think they have to point towards Mecca. The cemetery is vast - it was created at the end of the 19th century to serve the rapidly-growing suburbs of Greater London. There are a number of famous people buried there.


...there is a big youth festival at Loreto in Italy, which the Pope will attend. Which wouldn't be of special interest to a Catholic journalist in Britain except for its size and enthusiasm, and for this comment from the leader of a local religious community, which I think is v. relevant. Look down the link - the bit to which I am referring is a thoughtful, timely and interesting one, echoing young Catholics' dislike of endless pop junk battering their ears: they hear pop all the time and want something different at a religious event. Since Papa Benedict's views on this are known, and he is (deliberately? or just fortunately for him?) missing the pop-noisy bit of this gathering, there is a general sense that the mood is veering in a new direction. Grown-up organisers of these things are going to have to connect with the newer trend among youth and ditch the sense of obligation to invite pop groups to blare out junk noise at such events. Organisers of World Youth Day in Sydney and elsewhere, take note...Incidentally, the debate on this is not helped by those who postively want modern liturgy to be horrible, because they are worried that a "reform of the reform", more beauty, and wider use of Latin at Ordinary Masses, will marginalise the Extraordinary (er - what used to be called the Tridentine - let's get used to new labels!) Rite. They are wrong - it won't, and it shows a lack of faith in the E-rite to believe it will. But more importantly, it shows a sour and narrow approach which doesn't seek the greater glory for God of having as much beauty in all worship as possible, at all times, and especially at large events which have a sense of marking a major moment in the life of the Church.

Money is still coming in for my sponsored cycle ride - a cheque arrived yesterday from a kind anonymous pensioner, and another £20 was pressed into my hand by another supporter.