Friday, November 30, 2007

A blessing...

...of the new offices of Aid to the Church in Need in Sutton took place yesterday, with a great crowd of friends and supporters from Britain and from other ACN offices abroad, an Archbishop, lots of holy water, a great sense of prayer, the Papal Nuncio, and a general atmosphere of gratitude and enthusiasm.

The British section of this great international charity has flourished under the direction of Neville Kyrke-Smith and his team, and the new office is efficiently organised, with separate sections for the sales of Christmas cards (they have a range of most beautiful designs) and books and other items, the different departments such as accounts, media, publishing, and so on. We prayed specifically for the various groups of people we try to help, including those persecuted for their Catholic Faith in Sudan, China, and other countries.

From the generous gifts of people here in Britain, ACN is able to send help to hard-pressed people living in extremely difficult conditions, struggling with poverty, oppressive Government, war or its aftermath, and more...there are areas in the world where running a Christian orphanage, teaching the Faith, distributing Catholic literature, or simply gathering for Mass, mean risk of imprisonment. It all seems remote from suburban London. But the young team in the Sutton office, working with dedication and care, are part of a crucial link which does untold good.

Archbishop Kevin McDonald, Archbishop of Southwark, led us all in a most beautiful prayer, referring to work, and the fact that Christ Himself worked, daily, as a craftsman, for years. Taking holy water, the Archbishop then carefully blessed all the offices, and all of us - friends and supporters, staff from Sutton Carers who have an office in the same block and had been invited along to join the celebrations, visitors from overseas, volunteers, members of the ACN Board, and Trustees...as he went from room to room, the staff began the Rosary and we all joined in. Afterwards, there was lots of talk and quantities of wine and trays of delicious snacks, and the joy of meeting old friends and chatting away with all sorts of people...

To crown things, by coincidence, that evening ACN's John Pontifex was due to speak at The Keys, the Catholic Writers' Guild. He did a superb job, telling about his recent visit to China, and with a popwer-point presesntation with snippets of film and other items, he was able to bring alive for us the complex problems facing that huge nation, and the life of the Church withion it. A truly fascinating evening, one of the best we've had. We meet, as regular readers of this Blog will know, at St Mary Moorfields in London.,..anyone who writes for a living, whether full-time or part-time, or who works in media or in publishing, or related fields, is eligible to join. Send a Comment to this blog, giving me an email address to which I can reply...

Of teddies and things...

...Oh dear, I was a bit too arch in my comments about naming a teddy-bear. I had meant to indicate that, as a gesture of solidarity, I was giving him the same name as that given to a teddy bear by an innocent British schoolmarm trying to work with a class of little children in Sudan! I did this because it occurred to me that perhaps many of us could name objects of affection - teddies, goldfish, whatever - by this name in order to show that it was just meant as a friendly thing to do...

Well, I have given my poor teddy that name, but he will only have it for as long as the poor woman remains in prison. Then I shall take pleasure in re-naming him, and will give him the name of Benedict. And he will be a reminder to pray that the grace and blessing of a good Christian name may soon be given to many of those who currently bear names associated with other religions.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Naming my teddy bear...

...hasn't been a priority so far. (I was presented with him the other day, as regular readers of this Blog will know, after speaking at a school). Today, it occurred to me that as a gesture of solidarity I would name him, and I have done so. From now on, he will always be known by that name.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Yesterday...

...while we were working on this Blog, a man came to the door to ask if I'd take part in a survey about London. Turned out to be on behalf of the official government-of-London bureaucracy headed by Ken Livingstone - they've commissioned an opinion poll. The first question - I'm not inventing this - was about whether or not I considered London to be a good place for homosexuals and lesbians to live in. Then followed a whole series of questions with a list of approved answers to be selected. It was all slanted to ensure a certain response - you couldn't just give your own answer but had to select from a list - so watch out for the headlines when it is published. There'll be things like "Majority of Londoners say they are glad to live in a city that offers diversity/ want more done about global warming/ believe the Mayor's office should give out more publicity about its work" etc etc. Asked which policies of Livingstone I opposed, I said that I disagreed strongly with his promotion of homosexual and lesbian lifestyles, but this wasn't on the approved list of replies.

The young man - he was v. pleasant - also had to ask ritual questions about my age, work, race, etc. I explained I was a Catholic journalist and gave him a couple of pictures of the Pope, which he accepted very nicely and put in his pocket. He was absolutely correct all the way through the interview, so I don't know if he found the questions as ludicrous as I did.

It all felt vaguely reminiscent of stories I heard from eastern European exiles twenty years ago, about how the official bureaucracy was always announcing the results of surveys proving the rightness of their ideological line. A major difference, however, as Mac pointed out, is that at least in Britain taking part was optional - I could simply have refused - and of course we will be free to criticise the report when it is published. Long may this freedom remain.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Look! I've learned how to put up a video...

video

...on my blog!! V. exciting. Mac has been here helping me. We ate lots of chocolate biccies. And here is the dear Holy Father, looking so reassurring. I really like just knowing that he's there in Rome, and doing us all proud.

Christmas and angels...


...go together, and I think a perfect stocking-filler is this delightful book about angels, produced by ResSource, with illustrations by David Clayton - mentioned on this blog recently as he gave a talk to my Catholic Cultural Group. There is so much ugly stuff around for children this Christmas - think of Bratz dolls with their nasty faces, or just all those plastic monsters, destined to litter the floor and be discarded...let's start getting a few more beautiful things into circulation, and things that children can really relish and to which they will return again and again with pleasure and interest.
Every year I collect greenery from a neighbour's evergreen for our Advent wreath: this involves knocking on her front door to ask permission, and her saying "Of course, yes, go ahead - as much as you like" and both of us having an agreeable ritualistic glow about this seasonal interchange, and knowing that it means Christmas is on its way...our parish bookshop also has something lovely Advent wreaths and other things for Christmas, and there's a book about St Nicholas which I am itching to buy for a small niece. Last Sunday I bought lots of Advent calendars - they are good to send to godchildren. And why only children? I found some nice ones that older people would enjoy, too...

Monday, November 26, 2007

Holy Ghost parish, Balham...

...runs Marriage Preparation talks, at which I occasionally speak. There was one on Saturday - a roomful of cheery young couples, a delicious lunch, lots of talk and a very happy mood all round. It is a joy to be part of this and to speak about the Church's message on marriage - a good atmosphere, one of real seriousness as we covered important issues, some good conversations afterwards...I am always touched by the non-Catholic fiance(e) who comes along with prospective spouse and almost invariably shows huge interest, listens, asks questions, becomes really involved. There can be deep and important conversations, an atmosphere of profound respect for the sacredness of marriage...Nicole Parker of the London Fertility Care Centre also led a session during the day. Parish priest Fr Stephen Langridge presides and the beautiful church is open to all for prayer. This is a large parish with its own blog and lots going on, but the church always seems peaceful even with lots of coming-and-going.

On Sunday J. and I had a lovely walk over Wimbledon Common - we enjoyed a glorious pink and glowing sunset and then almost got lost for a bit when darkness fell (J says my sense of direction is hopeless).

I am sending J's parents a copy of the latest Universe newspaper as there is a pic of J. in it at the launch of the Catholic National Library last week. He is with Rt Hon John Gummer MP and the headline says something about Top Catholics being at the event. I think they will be amused at having a son who is a Top Catholic.

Later this week Mulier Fortis is coming round for supper to help me with technical aspects of this Blog. I have promised her chocolate cake.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A happy day...

...as I went with Mother to see the newest member of the family, baby Francesca, my great-niece and Mother's GREAT-grandchild. Utterly adorable baby - see pic, which parents E. and F. have given me permission to put on my blog. In particular, please do notice not only the dear baby but also the QUILT, hand-made by Great Auntie Joanna... Oh, it was all so LOVELY being together, and the baby's big brother H, an enchanting little boy with the most beautiful eyes and delicious smile, is now toddling about and just at the happiest age for cuddles and giggles and agreeable times with doting aunts...

Incidentally, F. is a writer and journalist, and produced a most useful report on BBC bias a while back - now you simply must read this on Fr Tim Finigan's blog, which tells the story of an appalling example of BBC reportage. Ask yourself - or, better, contact the Director-General of the BBC and ask him - whether or not the BBC is now going to apologise for the distortion made in the programme in question, in the light of the information now made public?

To dinner...

...with friends: a really beautiful evening, candelight and delicious food and wonderful company and lots of good talk. Topics covered of course included education - the HUGE worry for parents is getting their child into one of the few - massively over-subscribed and enormously popular - good schools, such as the Cardinal Vaughan School or the London Oratory School. The Government solution appears to be to make all schools equally bad, in the name of eliminating "elitism". So they have whittled away at the good schools that exist within the State system - such as those I have mentioned - hindering them by various administrative restrictions and chipping away at their independence.

We also got talking about traditions and seasonal customs: the wife of an Ambassador said her impression was that Britain has retained more of these than some other European countries...I am a lot less sure...as Christmas draws near, all Western nations seem to be swamped with the same massive consumer-spending, ensuring that children will be knee-high in plastic junk toys , many of which will soon be discarded, while old customs, carols, family games, etc will be less evident. But there are lots of families - including our hosts this evening - where wonderful traditions flourish, with children singing and making music and all sorts of happy things are passed on down the generations...

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Chelsea...

...is a corner of a London with a villagey feel to it. I arrived by bike at the Church of Our Most Holy Rdeemer and St Thomas More (above) to a cheery gathering in the crypt, fresh coffee brewing, and a warm welcome. This is a parish with a packed congregation each Sunday, traditional-style liturgy with beautiful music, standing room only, and with lots of lots of young families...some of the ladies at this coffee-gathering are among those who help with instructing the children and other parish activities. It was fun to be part of this very friendly group - very open to everyone, as I quickly discovered: one of the people at the table where I happened to sit was a newcomer and soon we were all talking away like old friends...

I had been invited to give my talk on Celebrating Traditional Feasts and Seasons, and this went well and led to a good and interesting discussion afterwards, as we explored all sorts of things...St Lucy's day...some London history...origins of various symbols and traditions...local Chelsea history...and more...

Patti Fordyce, a mainstay of the parish, made a delicious lunch over which a group of us lingered with pleasure, the newcomer and I now thoroughly feeling at home...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Memo to Karen...

...who sent a Comment to this blog. Your email address doesn't seem to work. Did you send it correctly? Could you send it again? Many thanks

To St Etheldreda's



..in Ely Place, for a glorious Mass to mark the opening of the Catholic National Library at St Michael's Abbey, Farnborough. The Abbot of Farnborough, Dom Cuthbert Brogan, celebrated the Mass and there was a feast of wonderful music, and an inspiring sermon from Father Ian Ker, who noted that the initiative of Catholic laymen in re-establishing the Library and launching it as a new venture in this way was absolutely what the Vatican 11 document Lumen Gentium had in mind when it spoke of the nature of the Church and the various roles within it...

Afterwards, a wonderful reception in the crypt, wine and talk and so many friends to meet and enjoy, all in the glow of candlelight. I talked to author Philip Trower who is a friend of many years' standing who is always a joy to meet...also the team from Miles Jesu . Now, why don't our Bishops, faced with a tragic task of closing down some parishes and abandoning beautiful churches, simply hand one over to the Miles Jesu team? They badly need somewhere to live, have so much good work to do, and could breath new life into a presbytery and into a church. They are a new movement, lay-run, no threat to any parish, and would give so much in service and enthusiasm. They would use the church for their daily prayers, have Mass there when they could, keep it open and loved and cherished. COME ON, BISHOPS!! WAKE UP and do what is necessary!
Jamie v. busy - speaking today at a conference for doctors and nurses at Guy's Hospital on the Mental Incapacity Act, and deep in discussions about the new legislation going through Parliament on human embryology. We met at the party but didn't get the chance to talk, so many people to meet etc, and finally were on the train home together, almost too tired for speech...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

In the post...

...comes a batch of wonderful magazines from the Malcolm Muggeridge Society. A glorious read: some of Muggeridge's superb prose, and many articles by other fine writers. I am so grateful to hear about this Society: reading Muggeridge, especially his comments on the World Council of Churches, back in the 1970s, was so exciting to me that I can recall exactly how it felt - how everything stopped for a moment, everything felt refreshed and new and interesting, it was as if I'd just discovered the map of a strange place and knew where I was.

And then a memory of a visit to him and Kitty - the walks, the talk, and being made to laugh so much that it it was hiccuping. And that particular corner of Sussex, the fields and the rise of the hill, and coming in to tea with fresh brown bread and butter.

Monday, November 19, 2007

To Cumbria...

...to St Cuthbert's Retreat Centre at Wigton, near Carlisle. This is an extraordinary place!

Members of the Cor et Lumen Christi movement have settled here, and the plan is to restore this wonderful old building - once a convent and orphanage - into a centre where families and groups will come to celebrate and learn about their Faith, pray, evangelise, and be evangelised...

And they will do it, too. There is so much faith and devotion here. The project is going to be a huge challenge because although solidly and beautifully built, the building needs a good deal of basic repair and restoration work, as it was left abandoned for over a decade after the last nuns left...but the team here is young, dedicated, joyful, hard-working and prayerful. Already, one good-sized room has been magnificently restored, with some lovely original features to enjoy - magnificent crucifix in an alcove, beautiful warm-coloured red brickwork - and a good working kitchen alongside. We gathered here for a "Family day with God", hordes of cheerful children, a talk from me about (yes, you've got it...) "Traditional Feasts and Seasons", a lovely lunch with hot sausages, and an atmosphere of prayer and goodwill. The music was...um...not to my taste (Oh please, can't we sing some decent hymns?) but everything else was simply perfect: devotion, a young priest with an attentive congregation at Mass, friendship, a sense of relief as people felt they could talk about things too often covered by grim silence such as the challenge of raising a family with good values in the face of a sordid modern culture, the tragic abandonment of the Faith in too many nominally Catholic schools...

I was given wonderful hospitality, had some great conversations, felt hugely encouraged and cheered, and learned a lot. I explored the building - there is an old chapel just waiting to be restored ("But have you seen the dreadful 1960s addition?" I was asked "That'll have to go - and we found the original stained-glasss in an outbuilding and hope to put it all back...") and there is a wealth of local history here which simply must be recorded.



Saturday, November 17, 2007

News that Traditional Anglicans...

...may be united formally with Rome is delightful. Apparently there's a group called the Traditional Anglican Communion, with various parishes in Britain and the USA...it conjures up agreeable visions of dear tweed-jacketed clergymen with families of Trollopian fecundity, and wives slicing up Victoria sponge sandwiches in damp marquees at rainy summer fetes, and people singing from old-fashioned hymn-books at gentle Evesongs. Oh, I do hope it all works out.

I am off on travels this weekend...off to Carlisle to give a talk there. I may not be able to blog while travelling...

Friday, November 16, 2007

The John Fisher School...

...in Purley, Surrey, was where my brother went to school and it was lovely to be there this beautiful fresh Autumn afternoon to speak to the Faith group, meeting after school. This is a group with a distinguished history - top blogger Fr Tim Finigan is an Old Boy, as are several other noted Southwark diocesan priests. The John Fisher School is a great Catholic boys' school with a heritage of wonderful service to the Church, and today's boys still wear the blue blazers and the splendid golden Fisher badge that has been seen locally for almost a century.

A warm welcome from Mr Dan Cooper, a great chorus of voices joining in the Our Father and Hail Mary as we started the session, and I enjoyed giving my talk about Pope Benedict XV1. Afterwards, a most agreeable chat with the Headmaster, himself an Old Boy of the splendid London Oratory School (of which I was once a Governor: the school choir sang for Jamie and me at our Wedding Mass in 1980 and then, a new generation of choristers, at our Silver Wedding Mass a quarter of a century later).

Cycled on to Mother's where the Coopers arrived with a splendid fish-and-chip supper - a cheery evening of talk, a get-together of old friends.

The Faith Movement is organising its Winter Session soon - a gathering for young people with daily Mass, talks on aspects of the Catholic Faith: this year's theme is "Hearing God's word", with talks on The Bible belongs to the Church, Christ, the Key to understanding the Old Testament, the Gospels - historical and true, The Bible and prayer in our lives....

Catholic artist...

...David Clayton was the speaker at the Catholic Cultural Group last night and was excellent. Explaining how he was inspired by Pope John Paul's Letter to Artists, and by the liturgy at Brompton Oratory, he explained how the ideas of truth, beauty and goodness should be at the core of art...a fascinating talk, which led us to think about architecture and the proportions of buildings, music, liturgy, and more...he works closely with Stratford and Leonie Caldecott at Second Spring and you can find out more by clicking here...

Our hostess, Alexandra Eversole, will be hosting a sale of Christmas gifts and jewellry on Dec 5th, with wine and mince pies - all in aid of ALERT, the anti-euthanasia group. Find out more from 0207 730 2800.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Tradition...

... and celebrations and so on, is a popular theme as Christmas approaches so I have a lot of invitations to speak at this time of the year on "Discovering traditional feasts and seasons", in connection with my book (which you can order by clicking on this link, and scrolling down. The book has recipes, games, stories, ideas for all sorts of activities...). Canterbury was a delight - it was a pleasure to be with the students and to talk with Fr Peter Geldard, with whom I did an interview for Catholic Answers a while back...

Hurried back from Kent to London, recorded some talks for Premier Radio (they will, I think, be broadcast in the week of Nov 26th as an early-morning "Thought of the day"), then went on to relatives where I was to babysit for niece E. We had a very happy evening. I helped her with maths homework, enjoying her comments: "A boy drinks half a litre of milk a day... Ugh, that's really greedy of him. He shouldn't drink that much..." We played a game of snakes-and-ladders, and one of chess, and it was all v. agreeable.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

To Canterbury...

... yesterday to give a talk to the Cathsoc at St John Stone House, at the University of Kent at Canterbury, in the charge of the chaplain Father Peter Geldard. The chapel is small and plain, but absolutely packed for Mass on this ordinary weekday November evening. Afterwards a cheery gathering in the room down stairs, where an open fire made a glorious glow, and there is a a proper bar, The Barque. I enjoyed the evening, and after my talk (Traditional Feasts and Seasons") there was a good time of chat and conviviality over pizza before I went upstairs as I was rather tired. I was given a comfortable room and went to sleep with the cheery noise still going on down below. A happy evening.

Earlier, I had a most agreeable lunch with dear nephew - and godson - G. It's always enjoyable to see him, and there he was at St James' Park tube station as arranged, in tartan scarf and giving me a big hug, all so reassuring and joyful. We chatted very happily of big mugs of coffee.

Monday, November 12, 2007

St Edmund's College, WARE...

...is in a most glorious setting, looking beautiful on this crisp clear Autumn day. I was given a warm welcome, and shown around - the chapel is by Pugin and is glorious, with no horrible modernist wrecking having been done, and the boarders gather there each evening for prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.

I gave a talk on "Journalism and the Media" to a big gathering of senior pupils, and a number clustered round afterwards to talk further and ask questions. I was presented with a commemorative School Teddy Bear, very cuddly and wearing a St Edmund's jersey. It was all enormously enjoyable and I received agreeable impressions of England's oldest post-Reformation Catholic school.

Busy weekend...

...began on Friday evening at Mother's: much talk of Christmas plans, news of baby great-grandchild etc. On Saturday I made my November visit to my father's grave, russet and golden and orange leaves strewing the path in beautiful sunshine as I walked along. In death as in life, we are among friends and neighbours in the suburbs - the other graves in this quiet and beautiful graveyard carry so many familiar names. The local parish always has an All Souls grave-blessing, the priest sprinkling the graves with holy water...

Jamie has been away in Ireland for a few days so I seized the opportunity of a big cleaning-and-tidying session. Took several things to local charity shop, threw away lots of unwanted paper, etc. An old propaganda booklet from the Equal Opportunities Commission gave me pause for thought: produced in the late 70s, when all this non-sexist-let's-pretend-we-are-all-identical stuff came in, it looks terribly dated now, when the worry is about boys falling behind with basic skills like reading and writing and the realisation that they badly need good adult male role-models and that school is seen as all too "girly". And the pictures made one a bit sad: thirty years ago, the children's faces were actually different: less tense, more "open", the girls less angry, there's somehow a more innocent air ...

On Sunday, cycled to Mass - a beautiful arrangement of poppies with a flag at the side of the nave, making an understated and quietly poignant message - and then on to friends where I had been invited to lunch. A long talkative afternoon over a buffet, with quantities of children running about and shouting, hot sausages and chicken and salads and rolls on the table, babies being cuddled, adults enjoying wine and chat and laughter. The children all gathered like pins to a magnet when a box of doughnuts was brought in at the end of the afternoon, drawn as from nowhere.

Cycling home through the dark, I found Jamie, who had brought me some heavenly lavender-scented soap from Ireland and a lovely dark red candle all specially decorated which we'll use for Christmas. We had big mugs of tea and told each other all our news.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

On this Remembrance weekend...


...do you think the men who volunteered in the First World War did it because they wanted a Britain where there would be human/animal hybrids? Or where children would be brought into being using artificial insemination for lesbians? Or where a Christian family who fostered children would be banned from doing so because they refused to teach homosexual activity as acceptable?

No, I don't think so either.

In the case of the Second World War there are many surviving ex-servicemen still living, so try asking some of them.

The Queen's Speech outlining the plans of this present Government, sets out the plan for human/animal hybrids. Concerned? Get the info from this website right away and write to your Member of Parliament and also to members of the House of Lords. The Govt is rushing this through at speed, so we all need to act quickly.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Magnificent...


Bath Abbey.

Autumn twilight...

...in Bath was especially beautiful, and a sprinkling of rain made the pavements glisten. I loved it. Visited Bath Abbey - freshly restored a couple of years ago and stunning in its beauty, the glorious symetry as you look upwards above the nave and chancel to the intricate carving soaring above...a plaque in the floor notes that the Queen came here in 1973 to mark 1,000 years of British monarchy, as the Saxon King Edgar was crowned on this site in 973 by St Dunstan and St Oswald.

Useful notes on the history of the Abbey tell us that St Elphege was Abbot here in about 980. This interests me as I grew up in the parish of St Elphege in Wallington, Surrey, was baptised and married there: Elphege was an Archbishop of Canterbury and was martyred by the Danes at Greenwich. Bath Abbey is dedicated to Sts Peter and Paul. Bath is of course a Roman city and you can visit the original Roman Baths: all part of the same Roman Empire into which Christ was born and in which Peter became the first Pope...

I gave talks to CathSoc meetings at the University of Bath and at Bath Spa University, all organised by the excellent chaplain Fr Bill. He also runs a busy parish on the city's outskirts, is hospital chaplain, active with the Ecumenical Society of the BVM, and more. The parish is dedicated to Sts Peter and Paul. He is a Servite priest and strides around in full-length traditional habit and it's really nice to see it on a modern University campus.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

BATH IS A BEAUTIFUL CITY...

...and I am here to speak at Prior Park College, and also at the CatholicSocieties at Bath Spa and Bath Universities.

Father Bill OSM, chaplain to both universities, is organising a lecture about Edward Elgar and the Dream of Gerontius on Monday Nov 12th - see the Chaplaincy website.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Er...are you thinking about Christmas shopping?

...because if you are, might you consider buying my new Yearbook of Seasons and Celebrations for your mother, godmother, auntie, sister, wife, or best friend? Look it up on the Gracewing or Family Publications websites.

Honestly, it's a much nicer and more interesting present than bath salts or a calendar with cats on it...

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Mass at St Joseph's

...in New Malden, on an ordinary weekday morning is well-attended. I dropped in partly to be able to say thank-you to Fr Richard Whinder, our curate, who spoke so well at Towards Advent.

A crisp, fresh Autumn day with the trees in the most glorious colours.

A couple of items people have asked me to mention: a neighbour, who works at St Teresa's, our local home for the elderly, reminds me that the Friends of St Teresa's are running a Fair at the Sacred Heart Hall, Edge Hill SW19 on Saturday, from 2pm.

And the Friends of Westminster Cathedral have Clare Asquith discussing her new book on Shakespeare - about which I have written on this blog - on November 29th. Find out more about this here.

Cycled across London to St Mary Moorfields for a meeting of the Catholic Writers' Guild: Charles Moore of the Daily Telegraph was the speaker. I was asked to give the vote of thanks, and was able to recall his earlier visit to the Guild, back in the mid-1990s, when he was speaking about the Catholic Church - just a few weeks later his conversion was splashed across the features section of the Telegraph under the banner headline "Why I am becoming a Catholic".

Meetings of the Guild are really terrifically enjoyable, and we have a good programme planned for 2008...any RC who works as a writer, journalist, pubsliher, on films or TV or related work, can join. Send me a comment to bthis Blog - WITH AN EMAIL ADDRESS AT WHICH I CAN REACH YOU - if you are intertested... Members can bring guests to meetings, and frequently do, and all our meetings start with Mass and then supper, and a guest speaker...

Monday, November 05, 2007

Quantities of cheerful children...

...were scurrying about as I arrived at Highfield House in Chertsey, where I was giving a talk on "Celebrating Traditional Feasts and Seasons" to the Cor et Lumen Christi Community. I had never met this community before, but among the lovely families taking part in this Family Day were some that I knew, who enjoy the various events sponsored by this group - it was good to reconnect with old friends and to chat and exchange news. A warm and welcoming atmosphere, and a sense of great devotion at Mass: NOTE TO ANYONE CONCERNED ABOUT NOISY CHILDREN IN CHURCH - this group, which has enormous numbers of children, including babies and toddlers, seems to have discovered the secret of how to have them quiet at Mass!

The house is owned by the Community, and four families live there, each with its own flat, and all sorts of events and retreats are organised, attended by people from the local area and also from much further afield. The roots of Cor et Lumen Christi are in the Charismatic Renewal. A priest from the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal celebrated Mass - a room has been set aside as a chapel, with a most beautiful crucifix and some magnificent icons - and round the walls are pictures of saints, including icons and, in some cases, ( eg Therese of Lisieux, Padro Pio) photographs.

The Surrey countryside was a glory of golden and orange on this pleasant Autumn day, and I enjoyed my journey by train and bike.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

It was a success!!

Wonderful singing from the choir of More House School (Ave Verum, and Pie Jesu)...stalls and displays from all sorts of groups ranging from publishers such as Fisher Press ,Gracewing,and CTS and groups like Our Lady's Catechists and the Knights of St Columba ...Capacity audiences for all the talks, held in the Cathedral crypt... TOWARDS ADVENT went really well...

I woke early - as mentioned, I had been staying at an address in St Matthew Street, Westminster, near Parliament and near the Cathedral (note to correspondents - NO, that view of Big Ben ISN'T from my own home...I made it clear that I was staying overnight in Westminster!!!). I didn't have an alarm clock, but read somewhere that the Holy Souls wake you if you need it. So I said a prayer for them and asked to be woken at 6 am, and woke as Big Ben rang out its chimes for just that hour... got everything ready, grabbed a quick breakfast and was at the Cathedral Hall by 8 am.. having dropped in to the Cathedral for a quick visit first. Slight hassle about getting the hall unlocked then we got started... it is always exciting watching the Festival take shape, as groups arrive with big displays and stacks of books, all of us busy in the kitchen or the hall or greeting speakers/choir/helpers...

A happy day. Christopher Martin spoke about some of the notable Catholic churches and cathedrals in Britain, Fr Richard Whinder about Bishop Richard Challoner, Aghi Clovis about her journey to Christianity from Islam....

Browsing the bookstalls, I bordered a copy of JAMES, BY THE GRACE OF GOD, a new book just out from Fisher Press, for Christmas. When Jamie arrived in due course he looked at all the stalls too, bought various things, and when we finally met up - I spent most of the day rushing about on all sorts of errands - he said "Um..there is a new book out about James 11, but I didn't get it as I thought perhaps....." "Yes, I said. I've ordered it for you for Christmas."

After it was all over, J. and I had a quick wash-and-change and off to a birthday-and-fireworks party given by friends near Blackheath. It was a rather grand Black Tie affair, and it felt funny to be there after spending the day hectically rushing around a busy hall organising and coping with minor crises...I wore my lovely new swishy skirt and felt elegant. Urge to kick off my shoes and just flop was resisted. Wonderful fireworks on Blackheath and delicious food...home late and exhausted!

Friday, November 02, 2007

This is what I can see from my window...

...more or less. The November night is unusually warm and mild, and floodlight buildings glow against the dark sky.

All Souls Day...

...at Westminster Cathedral with black vestments and swirls of incense, solemn beautiful Latin chant, and a large congregation, and a sermon reminding us of the great reality of death and judgement and facing God...the Holy Souls chapel was full of twinkling candles all day, and, as every year, there are sheets of paper on which you can write the names of people to be remembered in prayer. I wrote my dear father's name as I have done every November since he died. The atmosphere in the Cathedral was especially solemn and reverent...

I am staying overnight near Westminster Cathedral so as to be ready for the Towards Advent Festival tomorrow morning. The chimes of Big Ben ring out through my open bedroom window. I am in St Matthew Street, just off the street-market in Strutton Ground, in a corner of Westminster which is almost like a village, but with Parliament and the Abbey ahead of us and the Cathedral just behind. This is the offices of the excellent pro-life group, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children: they will have a stall at the Festival tomorrow and material for this, along with all my items including stacks of jars of my home-made jam, wait downstairs for transportation to the Cathedral Hall.

To be in the centre of London in the middle of the night is rather exciting. I went to the Sainsbury's in Victoria Street to buy cheese for sandwiches to sell at the Festival. (The Association of Catholic Women has charge of the refreshments - all home-made by volunteers). Then, having tackled all sorts of last-minute arrangements for tomorrow, I settled here to write this blog, and relax with the Catholic Times (feature interview, by me, with Fr Peter Wilson of the University of London Catholic Chaplaincy - do read it!) and a wonderful book about the Apostles, written by the Holy Father, which I bought while in the USA...

Oh, I do hope all goes well at the Festival tomorrow...

Thursday, November 01, 2007

All Saints Day...

...and I cycled to Mother's for tea: she produced lovely cakes and I some American maple-syrup cookies. Gave her some pumpkin-scented soap(!) from Alabama. She is so happy about the arrival of her latest great-grandchild and we talked about this, and I also related my American adventures... Cycled home through one of the most glorious sunsets I have ever seen - did other readers notice it? The glow from the pink and golden clouds ripened the Autumn leaves on the suburban trees to an almost luminous orange....

To the Sacred Heart Church at Wimbledon for evening Mass. Well, two Masses actually as Fr Mitchell had given me permission to hand out Towards Advent handbills so I was anxious to reach as many people as possible. LOTS of people at Mass, as yesterday for the vigil Mass. Now: our Bishops must get this message firmly:

WE VALUE OUR HOLY DAYS!

Here we are on All Saints, with people filling a big Victorian church on a November evening - because it's the feast of All Saints and we are glad to mark it!

It is one of the few Holy Days left to us, following our Bishops silly and tiresome bureacratic reasoning. If it were Ascension Day, or Corpus Christi, we'd be told we should stay at home and only celebrate on the nearest Sunday instead.

After the final Mass, I was invited to the home of the delightful E. family - oldest son Thomas is my godson - where there was mulled wine, and a candlelit room, and good conversation, and a new baby glowing with health, a perfect way to round off All Saints' Day.