Tuesday, December 22, 2009

This Christmas...

... in Britain has an underlying seriousness not sensed in recent years. There's a sadness about. It's not just that cold weather has disrupted many poeople's travel plans, so that families are divided and people have been stranded at airports and in the Channel Tunnel. It's not just that there's a cyncism about, with one of the year's main news stories being about Members of Parliament grabbing so much money dishonestly through an inflated expenses scheme. It's not just the continuing rise in crime, and family break-up. It's more than all that. It's somehow connected with a nostalgia for the beautiful and the true. It's connected with all the current propaganda denying Christianity its rightful place in our history and traditions and culture and common life, and with a feeling that even joking about this makes one somehow vulnerable. There's a disconcerting am-I-allowed-to-say-this feel in the air when people mention the profound religious truth that is at the heart of Christmas...

Christmas carols...

...at Waterloo and Victoria stations, plus a group that went from house to house...

Carol singing is a major part of Auntie's Christmas, and if you were among commuters at Victoria or Waterloo this week and last, you might have glimpsed a figure in a bright red coat conducting the group of singers - led by a stalwart team from St Joseph's parish, Roehampton, led by Yvonne Windsor.

People love hearing the old carols, and with a willing group of people you can make the rafters ring. The accoustics at a railway station are superb! We had a violinist, and much goodwill, and soon some young people were adding descants, and we not only got huge sums of money, but lots of enthusiastic applause and comments. People didn't just hurry by and drop some money in - they stayed, and enjoyed themselves, and sometimes joined in. Two chaps joined in for fun, and stayed - "We were on our way to the pub., but this was so much fun we decided to stay!"

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Through snowy countryside...

...to Goring in Sussex, for a well-attended gathering in the comfortable barn hall attached to the church with the most magnificent of ceilings...

I was there to give a talk about English saints, and was warmly welcomed with hot soup and hugs and good cheer. It was a very happy evening. Organisers were the wonderful Bevan family, whose DVDs are proving a great success...the whole evening was fun, including a good discussion session at the end of the talk, and over tea and (home-made) cakes...

On the way there, through Surrey and Sussex, the countryside was grey with scudding snow, and bright windows glowed through the gathering dusk, an agreeable scene as the train whooshed along...everything felt Christmassy and rather enchanting. Yet there is a deep feeling of sadness over things at the moment: this Christmas sees us, as a nation, so very broken somehow. And the discussions, mentioned above, included a recurring theme "Do you not feel that there may be open oppression of Christians here at some stage? It all feels as though things are moving that way...that it will become unacceptable to voice the orthodox traditional Christian message, especially on things connected to marriage and family life..."

Auntie draws the attention...

...of her readers to this campaign to which she is sympathetic.

Auntie is sickened by the continued injustices towards decent people who are guilty only of being faithful Christians who seek to live and work according to moral principles which have for centuries been at the core of our common life in Britain.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A baptism...

...at Brompton Oratory, followed by a lively gathering, lots of children, a table spread with sandwiches and snacks and cakes, plenty of good cheer. Officiating at the baptism was Fr Anthony Symondson SJ, who writes and speaks on architectural matters and is a friend of the family.

Whenever Catholic families get together, the subject of education comes up...parents are so keeen to get their children into the good Catholic schools, which as a result are beseiged by numbers. The Government has decided that the admissions procedures - which gave priority to practising Catholic families who could show that they sought a Church-based education for their children - were "elitist", and now, alas, our Catholic Education Service is effectively supporting this view. So now the priority will be given to families living near the schools - thus giving a huge advantage to rich families who can afford to buy housing near the good schools. There are some excellent Catholic boys' secondary schools in London, and parents start worrying about how to get their children into these schools while the children are still small...To get a child into a Catholic primary school, you have to show that the child was baptised within a few months of birth and that the family attends Mass regularly...and you will be competing against a good many others. If, for some reason, the child doesn't get into a Catholic primary school, it seems practically imposible to get into a Catholic secondary school.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

To the House of Lords....

...for the annual presentation of prizes won by young people in the ecumenical Schools Bible Project. This is always a joy. The winners this year were exceptionally delightful young people, and it was all great fun - at least, I hope they found it so. We met in the Central Lobby and watched the Speaker's Procession, with the carrying of the Mace. Then a tour of Parliament, with a good look at the fine mosaics in the Central Lobby of our four patron saints, St George, St Andrew, St Patrick and St David, and the statues of our kings and queens, and then off to Westminster Great Hall with its associations with St Thomas More and King Charles I, and, in the lifetimes of many of us present , the lying-in-state of Sir Winston Churchill and HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother...then on (through pouring rain which lashed our umbrellas and made us a rather absurd and drenched procession!) to the room at 1, Abbey Gardens where we had cake and chat and the Presentation of the Prizes. These are cash awards to the schools, and Bibles and other book prizes to the young people. Baroness Cox always does us proud, and spoke most beautifully about the inspiration brought by the Christian Faith, and what it can mean. It was especially touching to hear her speak about young child soldiers in Africa, where she has recently been working on a relief project...

Sunday, December 06, 2009

On a dark...

...overcast day, an invitation to spend the afternoon with young relations. On arrival, a cheerful three-year old hurried me into the sitting-room, where a niece, niece-in-law, and assorted small children were snuggled on the sofa with a duvet watching The Wind in the Willows. It was the work of a moment to kick off my shoes and join them. The afternoon went on to include the creation of an Advent wreath, the hiding and finding of golden chocolate coins (St Nicholas Day), and a lively talkative delicious supper...

Children's memories retain all sorts of things, and I often wonder about those one helps to create. I had brought with me an old family set of crib figures. but felt that after some forty years of use they could perhaps do with a wash, so a bowl of warm soapy water was produced and the children swathed in pinafores to engage with the task. I fear they were baffled. They enjoyed watching a couple of aunties plunge St Joseph, and the manger, and various kings into the bath, they watched as the Infant Christ was gently subjected to flannel and soap. They loved putting them all back in the tin and then taking them out, and putting them back....but what strange ritual did they think this was, and what will they tell their own children some decades from now? ("Ah, in the good old days, there was a tradition of washing the manger. I remember it well...."

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Where will you be...

...on the evening of |December 16th? If you are in Sussex, why not come to English Martyrs Church, Goring, and hear about "Sussex saints and martyrs"? (Scroll down on that link under "Events" to find out more).

Golly...

...to my surprise I came across this rather good feature on the Guardian website...

We need something like this in Britain...

...and I'm talking about the Manhattan Declaration in which numbers of Christian leaders from different denominations have joined together to affirm principles on marriage and on the rights of Christians.

"Because we honour justice and the common good, we will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family," it concludes.

There has, of course, been nothing about this in our British media.

More info here.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

An extraordinary series of coincidences...

...resulted in my writing a book about a nun who was once headmistress of my old school. Interested? If you are a Philomenian, you will be. The book is "A Nun with a Difference", and tells the story a girl born into priviledge in Victorian England, who ended up founding a college in newly independent Pakistan. Contact Sun Hill Publishing, 11 Sun Hill, Cowes, Isle of Wight PO31 7HY. The book costs £10.99p (make cheque out to H. Lowe) - add £1.50p for postage and packing. Or you can buy it from the CTS bookshoop in Westminster Cathedral piazza...

Monday, November 30, 2009

To Tunbridge Wells...

...for an evening talk at St Augustine's Church, organised by Fr Marcus Holden. A packed hall on an evening of teeming rain and bitter winds. A showing of the new DVD "Arise once More" (Do get a copy...ideal for schools, Confirmation classes, youth groups...) and then a talk on "Celebrating Feasts and Seasons".

Earlier, I had spent the afternoon with relations, having tea by a roaring fire in a lovely family home in the Kent countryside. Talk was of family news, catching up on the latest on Duke of Edinburgh's Award, ballet lessons, school...

And after the meeting, on to stay with kind friends, meeting more delightful young people, enjoying a long talkative supper,swapping news and laughter round a candlelit table as rain lashed down outside...

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Taking a break...

...from some work, I found some good reading on the Internet. Columnist Mark Steyn, for example...

The Equality Bill...

...is being rushed through Parliament and will create huge burdens for churches and small voluntary groups, already worried by innumerable layers of burueacracy. Christians running small firms could find that they are forced to fight costly legal battles if accused by a customer or former employee of "homophobia" or similar. Find out more here.

It is ghastly...

...reading the reports of investigation into child abuse within the Church. Sickening. The detailed report on appalling extreme phsyical cruelty and sexual assaults inflicted on children in institutions run by religious orders in Ireland the 1940s-70s has now been matched by a report on sexual predators among clergy in the Dublin diocese with teenagers from the 70s onwards.

One Catholic commentator has announced that the abuse is all since the Second Vatican Council and that it was perpetrated by "post Vatican II, open-windows, relevant...ecumaniacs, liturgical animators" but this is wishful thinking. The Second Vatican Council cannot be blamed for what went on in children's homes in Ireland in the 1950s, and, alas, the culture of cover-up that was used in the 1970s and 80s did not begin at Vatican II either. We do ourselves no favours by trying to write bracing denunciations of modernism instead of confronting the horrid reality of wrongdoing wherever it has occurred.

Friday, November 27, 2009

At Westminster...

...the annual meeting of the Catholic Union. This organisation has been speaking up for Catholics in Britain for 125 years, and is now livelier than ever. This is just as well because its work is now more important than ever. Its President, Lord Brennan, spoke extremely well and the meeting touched on a number of crucial issues - the Govt's projected plans on "assisted suicide",questions on marriage and family issues, the renewed threats to church schools...the mood and tone of the meeting was challenging and upbeat. Recent recruitment events have resulted in an upsurge of young people joining the Union. Much talk and many plans.

Before the meeting, a sung Mass in the Cathedral, with a Bishop preaching and a special welcome for CU members who had come from across Britain. The first Reading was about Daniel in the lions' den. All too appropriate for Cath. Union members who know what it is to be in the lions' den of a TV studio or debating-hall...

The Catholic Writers' Guild...

...in Manchester meets at the University Chaplaincy, which is immediately opposite the Students' Union, so I was able to give a talk to the Guild after the Union gathering (see previous Blog entry). A convivial evening, and a chance to visit the beautiful chapel(recently renovated - exquiste altar with pre-Reformation carvings) and see something of the vibrant life of the chaplaincy, which has packed Masses, and a range of actitities that include a four-part choir,instruction in the Faith, lots of charitable work caring for the elderly and homeless etc, sports, pilgrimages, trips, talks, retreats, and more...

Student Mass each Sunday at Holy Name church at 7pm is evidently the place to be. Coming up in 2010 there is a walking pilgrimage to Compostella with a stay in Lourdes, and a public presentation of the Passion of Christ on Good Friday in the streets of Manchester...

Manchester...

...and a discussion at the Students' Union under the theme "Challenging Orthodoxy". exploring why we might usefully challenge the current orthodoxy which states that male/female marriage need not be the basis of family life, that current sex education schemes are successful etc etc. Excellent contribution from Professor Brenda Almond pointing out the need to stick to biological truths. But, alas, students preferred to remain within the comfort-zone of current orthodoxies - so they all affirmed the value of lesbian parenting, "who says that heterosexuals make betters parents?" etc etc...afterwards some came up to me to say privately that they agreed with what Prof Amond had said. But they felt they couldn't say so publicly!

Monday, November 23, 2009

It seems that we now have...

...a chap of whom no one in Britain has ever heard imposed upon us as "President" of the European Union. And we haven't been allowed to vote on whether we want to be part of a European Union, or have a President, let alone allowed to vote on who that President should be. And we are all too sick and tired of the whole wretched subject even to feel as angry as we ought.

Years ago at school we sung a hymn which had some lines that have stayed with me: "Empires rise and sink like billows/ Vanish and are seen no more..." One day the EU will be added to those empires. I rather hope it happens in my lifetime.

The Internet...

...is scarily good at turning non-events into news stories and whizzing them around the world, spreading false information. Read here to discover an example...

I'll be in....

...Manchester on Tuesday, speaking at the University, and also at the NW Catholic Writers' Guild...and next weekend I'm off to Kent this parish to enjoy an evening which will feature this film, which is worth seeing...

If you want...

...a thoughtful and interesting comment on the latest Catholic/Anglican thing, this is a good read...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A young relative...

...came for the weekend, and it was a delight. We had a happy afternoon with Granny, tea and talk and reminiscences and family news and plans for Christmas and so on. Then after a rainy walk, and a cheery pub visit, there was a Chinese meal and a film... and then this morning we went to the sung Mass at Westminster Cathedral, followed by coffee and cake...at the Cathedral there was a spolendid Mass for the Feast of Christ the King, and at the end the choir sang Christus Vincit....

Saturday, November 21, 2009

If you were near Buckingham Palace...

...on Thursday night, you would have heard three rousing cheers for HM the Queen, followed by prayers for her and for our country. This was the culmination of the third of our Catholic History Walks. We began at Westminster Cathedral where a crowd gathered - rather a larger crowd than had been anticipated, and I was glad when the organisers arrived with a good microphone...we went down Victoria Street, and across St James' Park, with stops at various points for talks, and we learned about the Cathedral's history and Cardinal Vaughan, and the Queen's visit there on St Andrew's Day for its 100th birthday, and then St James and the tradition of pilgrimage, and then the Chapel Royal and Charles I and Charles II, and Catherine of Braganza and Henrietta Maria and more...and we took in all the Georges and the Regency and Maria Fitzherbert and thence to the early 19th century and Catholic Emancipation, and by now we were walking up the Mall, and on to Buckingham Palace and Queen Victoria...it was a mellow Autumn evening and a friendly crowd, and a great atmosphere, and a great sense of loyalty as we cheered our monarch, and a great sense of deep prayer as we committed our country - the new session of Parliament just opened with yet more idiotic legislative plans to wreck what's left of our education system etc - to God. Standing there by lamplight, the voices praying the "Our Father...", people open and quite unembarrassed, I suppose it was rather British and eccentric...

Want to join us on future walks? We are doing various routes. The next two Catholic History Walks are on January 20th and February 17th 2010. Each time, we meet on the steps of Westminster Cathedral at 6.30pm, after the 5.30pm Mass...

Come and learn about reviving the Catholic Faith...

...at a screening of a new DVD on just this theme. Aimed specially at the young, but everyone is welcome. "Arise once more" sets out the steps for an authentic revival of Catholicism in Britain.

Beginning with the early arrival of Christianity in Britain, this film takes you on a tour of Catholic history, through the Medieval period and the Reformation, the Second Spring, the Modern Crisis, and ends with hopes and plans for the revival....

Commentary is provided by various speakers and authors including Fr Marcus Holden, Fr Andrew Pinsent, Fr Thomas Crean, Fr
Nicholas Schofield, and more.

SCREENING AT:

- Our Lady of Lourdes, Uxbridge, Middlesex
Friday 27th November 2:00pm

- St Joseph's, New Malden, Surrey
Friday November 27th at 8pm

- Parish of St. Benedict, Ealing Abbey
Saturday 28th November 2:00pm

- Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen, Kent
Saturday 28th November 7:15pm

- St. Augustine’s, Tunbridge Wells, Kent
Sunday 29th November 7:00pm


For further details about the DVD or to order a copy visit www.saintant.com
(promotional video clip on website) Tel: 01834 812643

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A party!

...to celebrate the launch of English Catholic Heroines, published by Gracewing Books.

Drinks and speeches and tasty snacks and talk and hugs and congratulations, all at St Wilfrid's Hall at Brompton Oratory. This is a place which is a sort of home-from-home for the Bogles, because we held our Silver Wedding party there, and I have spoken there at all sorts of meetings and conferences and taken part in all sorts of social events. It was lovely to be celebrating with some of the various contributors to this book, and it was a happy evening. Tom Longford, my splendid publisher, presided with much good cheer, and John Jolliffe, who got the whole project off the ground and produced English Catholic Heroes last year was among the guests.

Readers of this Blog can join in the fun by buying the book! Ideal Christmas gift, packed with highly readable stories. Find out about England's great Catholic women, from St Etheldreda to Maria Fitzherbert, from heroic martyrs like Margaret Clithreoe and Anne Line to writers, nurses, teachers, and founders of religious orders...

Are you coming....

...to the Catholic History Walk tomorrow, Thursday Nov 19th? Just turn up. We meet at 6.30pm on the steps of Westminster Cathedral, after the 5.30pm Mass. Our walk will take us across St James' Park, and we'll be looking at the links between the Church and the English monarchy.

Come in comfortable shoes, and be prepared to walk whatever the weather. The walk will take approx one aand a half hours. Afterwards, people tend to drift off to local pubs, of which thgere are several nice ones.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Lots and lots of people...

... hurrying into Westminster Cathedral Hall through ferocious rain for the Towards Advent Festival....we had a magnificent array of Catholic groups and organisations, ranging from the Knights of St Columba to publishers like Fisher Press, Gracewing, and the CTS, we had the Catenians and we had Aid to the Church in Need, we had the Tyburn Nuns and we had pro-life groups and we had the Catholic National Library...and more...and more...

The Schola from the Cardinal Vaughan School sang gloriously - Byrd's Ave Verum was simply superb. Archbishop Vincent Nichols spoke about the beauty and significance of Advent and set just the right tone for the day. There were talks and a tour of the Cathedral, there were delicious refreshments, there was a terrific buzz of conversation and what I suppose one could grandly call "networking", there were stalls selling DVDs of beautiful music, and cards and statues and devotional items and monastic produce and books, lots and lots of books...

Talks during the day included one on Christianity in Iraq - fascinating, sobering - and one on the Crusades with Prof. Jonathan Riley-Smith, whose books on the subject are warmly recommended.

I met Benedictine monks (young, enthusiastic) and friends from EWTN and from the Catholic press. The hall got rather hot and crowded, and there was a sudden glorious rush of cold air as one hurried out to reach Vaughan House, where the talks were being held. There was a fine display of art produced by pupils at Catholic schools. There were people to meet, and ideas to exchange, and things finished with my leading a tour of the Cathedral as dusk fell and the Festival slowly drew to a close...

No praise too high for the Catenian Association which took on much of the workload in getting the day organised, and the Knights of St Columba who loyally distributed handbills in the Cathedral piazza directing people to the Festival, and the Association of Catholic Women which produced wonderful home-made sandwiches and cakes and more...

Every year I worry that the Festival won't be a success, and every year I am shown that I needn't have worried...

A happy evening...

...at Our Lady's Convent School in Loughborough, where I was invited to present the prizes on Speech Day. I was made most welcome, and it was good to be in a friendly atmosphere where one sensed shared values. It was a warm-hearted, traditional Speech Day - we began with "God Save the Queen", in which everyone joined enthusiastically, and there was a splendid array of trophies and shields to present along with prizes (book tokens) and certificates, and there were talks and songs from the pupils, and a speech from me...on the train going home, I settled cosily with hot chocolate and a copy of a book of reminiscences produced by a former pupil. All enjoyable...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wow...




...extraordinary evening as a crowd gathered in Kensington to hear about a miracle at first-hand!

At Brompton Oratory - where Cardinal John Henry Newman once preached - a man who was healed of a grave spinal illness stood in the sanctuary and told us that the healing had come as a result of prayer through the intercession of Newman, and that this has been accepted as a miracle by the Church.

A copy of the Millais portrait of Newman stood alongside, its vivid colours glowing in the soft light beneath that great dome. History seemed to merge into the present as Deacon Jack Sullivan told his story - how he had begged Newman's aid as he sat in pain, distraught at the thought that he would have to abandon his studies and would never be ordained, his inability to walk or move making service as a deacon impossible. The miracle - initially of relief of pain so that he could continue to attend college, and then of complete healing, with doctors baffled as Sullivan bounded up and downstairs and along corridors - was described to a rapt audience.

It was a very London occasion - Catholics gathered at this great church on an Autumn evening, lamplight highlighting the golden and russet Autumn leaves, traffic humming. "Saints are our older brothers and sisters" said Jack Sullivan "We say we believe in life after death, but do we really? A miracle like this teaches us in the reality of the Communion of Saints, in which we profess our belief when we say the Creed". Across the decades, beyond two world wars and a thousand massive social and political changes, a saint from Queen Victoria's London was being honoured and remembered...

Autumn is a time for history.The Queen at Westminster Abbey for a service at eleven o'clock and our house, like others, falling silent for two minutes, along with the workmen in the road outside and people in shops and schools and offices.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Yesterday, the day that...

...the Apostolic Constitution for Anglicans who wish to have their own "ordinariate" within the Church was published, I happened to be giving a talk in a Forward in Faith parish. Evidently quite a lively parish, though not large - one main service on Sunday mornings - with Brownies and a playgroup and youth activities etc. Big redbrick church, Stations of the Cross round the walls, Angelus said at noon. Do let's all pray...

Monday, November 09, 2009

Hurrying about...

...getting things ready for the Towards Advent Festival (this Sat, Nov 14th, Westminster Cathedral Hall - BE THERE!), interspersed with family activities. Much of last week was spent assisting an elderly relative to move - she is now happily settled...sorting through the various photographs, cleaning and re-arranging etc was in many ways an extraordinary experience, and one perhaps peculiarly suited to the days just before Remembrance Day. The photographs of my uncles in wartime uniform are a sudden window on to an utterly different era. Even the faces are not modern ones - thinner, somehow more sharply defined...

...And in the middle of all this, I was asked to join in a discussion on BBC radio, about a young man caught on YouTube using a War memorial as a lavatory. What did I think would be a suitable way for him to show remorse/be punished/learn how to behave better? He's 19. My suggestion: he should go to 19 war memorials across Britain, write down carefully and accurately the names on each (this information is needed, incidentally - many of the names, especially from WWI, are being eroded by time and weather), clean and tidy the whole memorial and its surroundings carefully, removing all litter etc, and leave a poppy wreath with a short note of apology for his earlier behaviour...

A chill wind...

...across Exmoor, with scudding clouds. A family welcome, much talk. The curious mix of shops in a modern village - delicatessen and coffee-shops for visitors, jostling with a mini-supermarket. Local cider-tasting and hot sausages on sale at a Saturday afternoon village gathering. Then Sunday morning and the scarlet wreaths of poppies as a small procession winds its way through the village to the War Memorial, preceded by processional cross, choir and surpliced clergy. It all has a timeless feel,but also a sense of vulneralbility - rural life has taken a terrible bashing in recent years and there is no longer that sense of "everything just going on from year to year" that was always part of the English countryside...

Friday, November 06, 2009

A man of courage and wisdom...

...speaks out. Read the speech by the Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks in today's press His criticism of moral relativism is timely and trenchant. Wouldn't it be good if we had some Bishops who spoke out like this?

Defending the place of religion in public life, Lord Sacks said : "The place for religion is in civil society, where it achieves many things essential to liberal democratic freedom. It sanctifies marriage and the family and the obligations of parenthood, and it safeguards the non-relativist moral principles on which Western freedom is based.

“It may not be religion that is dying, it may be liberal democratic Europe that is in danger, demographically and in its ability to defend its own values.”

Lord Sacks asked: “Where today in European culture with its consumerism and instant gratification – 'because you’re worth it' – where will you find space for the concept of sacrifice for the sake of generations not yet born?"

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

"The Making...

...of Modern Britain" is a new TV series. In a review of the first part, looking at the Victorian and Edwardian era, Telegraph journalist Charles Moore takes presenter Andrew Marr to task for sneering at what was achieved during those years. Of course there have been many improvements in life for many people since the early 20th century but "As well as gaining much, we have also lost. Honour, manufacturing, oratory, worship, friendly societies, organised temperance, provincial pride, fair play, low taxes, reading and writing, public order, good trains and public clocks which kept the time – just a few of the things which our own age could improve if it bothered to admire the past rather more and itself rather less."

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Latest ghastly slogan-word...

...is "polyamory". This means any group of people who share sexual partners among themselves. Once same-sex marriage is accepted, why stop at just two people? Why not three? Or more? Logic of this=polyamory.

Commentator Dr Albert Mohler in the Bulletin published by Family and Youth Concern, notes: "Perhaps the best way to understand this new movement is to understand it as a natural consequence of subverting marriage. We have largely normalised adultery, serialised marriage, separated marriage from reproduction and child-bearing, and accepted divorce as a mechnaism for liberation. Once this happens, boundary after boundary falls as sexual regulation virtually disappears among those defined as "consenting adults".

"The ultimate sign of our moral confusion becomes evident when virtually no one appears ready to condemn polyamory as immoral.The only arguments mustered against this new movement focus on matters of practicality. Polyamory is certainly not new, but this new movement is yet another reminder that virtually all the fences are now down when it comes to sex and sexual relationships."

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Watch out for...

...this book, due out any day now...

Arriving by Royal Mail...

...rather surprisingly, given the recent strikes, have been some useful books. A rather charming little booklet of prayers produced by CHOOSE LIFE. "This devotional work is designed for private and public use to encourage people to pray regularly in reparation for the sins of abortion and euthanasia - sins against God's gift of life." Send a donation to HUMAN LIFE at 18 Chelsea Square, London SW3 6LF and ask for a couple of copies.


Also Different and Complementary, another book in the excellent "Alive to the World" series for schools. Useful for the Personal Social and Health Education now officially part of the curriculum in Britain's schools - but unlike much material produced under that banner these books are packed with wholesome and useful material, celebrating virtue and lifting the heart. Absolutely free of gross, sexually explicit or vulgar stuff, they teach real lessons for life, following the adventures of a busy family grappling with real challenges. The books form part of a whole scheme aimed at primary schools - moderately priced and ideal for your local school...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Domestic...

...life has kept me busy of late, and I have spent much time sorting through various family things preparatory to a house-move for a relative. Came across the note I wrote to my parents on the eve of my wedding...stacks and stacks of family photographs bringing back hosts of memories...sudden discoveries of oddly useful but unused Christmas presents (a nice set of matching towels) and unused and not-useful ones (embroidered traycloths)...

And books. Neville Shute, A Town Like Alice, Gerald Durrell, wartime escape classics The Wooden Horse, The Great Escape, lots of Catholic stuff, poetry by Alice Meynell, books on art featuring the pre-Raphaelites.

Several bagloads of things went to charity shops, from where I then obtained some videos for evening relaxation in the weeks ahead: a particular delight was finding a collection of some Joyce Grenfell programmes, a joy in prospect...

In essence...

...the issue the Lefebvrists have to face in Rome as they embark on discussions at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is whether they accept the "Hermeneutic of Continuity" in which the Second Vatican Council is understood as being part of the faithful heritage of the Church and its documents are presented and accepted in that light, or the "Hermeneutic of Rupture" in which that Council is understood as being a break with the Church's heritage. For two decades now, the Lefebvrists have taught the Hermeneutic of Rupture with vigour but a sense of muddle overlaid with dark comments about Masonic plots. Their position upholding the Rupture theory has been enhanced by the support for the same theory that has come from the legions of "progressivists" who have been similarly telling us that "everything changed at Vatican II" and that there were lots of things that "no one need believe in any more."

Ditching the Rupture theory will free the Lefebvrists from the straitjacket. Some won't like that and will want to stay in it, at least for a while. Others will be glad to wriggle free. We'll probably continue to hear quite a lot about Masonic plots, but will just have to cope with that, as also with some rather Jansenistic stuff on sex, love, and human relationships (but they'll gradually open up to the teachings of John Paul II).

It's clear that Rome is keen to hurry things along, and also that a way is being found to remove any elder-brother resentments (ref. the story of the Prodigal Son, see below) by showing that the way forward must always be based on generosity. Hence the Anglican Rite offer presented first, to a group with a different history but a shared common need. The parable about the labourers in the vineyard and the wages they were paid also comes to mind...

The price paid by the Holy Father has been considerable in terms of personal suffering and humiliation. He has spent much of his life promoting goodwill and theological understanding between Christians and Jews (read some of his writings on the subject, info here) and has made many personal friendships along the way. Following the anti-Jewish ranting of the Lefebvrist Bishop much of this work has been put at risk, and the public view of the Holy Father's own personal integrity along with it - a cruelty inflicted by the Lefebvrists which caused him the evident anguish revealed in his letter to the world's bishops.

I remember once a wise and kindly priest urging me, during a previous pontificate: "Pray for the Pope in his Gethsemane".

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Books, books...

...and there is one on sale at the St Paul's bookshop next to Westminster Cathedral, which might be of interest to readers of this Blog. Produced specially for the Year of the Priest, it's a new simple life of St John Vianney...

Jamie and I are meanwhile enjoying a sudden new enthusiasm for Dorothy L. Sayers and are reading Busman's Honeymoon together each evening.And I've been re-reading Walter Hooper on C.S.Lewis with much pleasure and benefit...

Meanwhile in Rome...

...the Lefebvrists have been having their first official meeting with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and everyone is being very nice to them. The general view seems to be that if the Prodigal Sons want to return, it would be right to make fatted-calf noises even if they are some way from being repentant, in the hopes that repentance might eventually follow even if it's not verbally expressed for some while...probably at some stage it will dawn on at least some of the SSPX members that they could have avoided a lot of unpleasantness if their Society had stuck to the original agreement which was signed in 1988 and on which Archbp Lefebvre then changed his mind. When he decided to split from the Church and ordain his own Bishops he made a dreadful choice,led many people astray, and the results have been tragic. If he had remained obedient, a great many things might have been different...

And what about Williamson? It would be something - I am being perfectly serious here - if he could do the right and honourable thing and make a genuine statement of contrition for the horrible things he said, and make reparation, perhaps with a visit to an appropriate place to acknowledge the truth of what occurred there and to kneel in sympathy and sorrow. He need pay no price except that of his pride...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

What will the future hold...

... for various Anglican groups? Dunno. I have had some contact in recent years with the Forward in Faith movement, and their magazine, New Directions. It is witty - has often made me laugh aloud - thoughtful, well-informed and often includes some really excellent writing. It has also often revealed much genuine sorrow and anguish over the religious state of Britain, the plight of the C. of E. etc...oh, I do hope large numbers of its writers and readers will take the oars of the boat heading across the Tiber, negotiate the rubbbish in the river, ignore the cross-currents, disregard the blathering and the cries of ohdon'tbotherthereisn'tanypoint, and come on home. There is so much that could be done for the Faith together, so much that needs to be done...

Brompton Oratory...

... on Saturday evening, and again early on Sunday morning... I was there to give out leaflets about the Towards Advent Festival after all the Masses. At the earliest Sunday Mass, I met a friend - who had just come off-shift after working all night at a media network and was hurrying to Mass before going home to sleep. She helped me hand out leaflets first. Now that's real five-star friendship.

At the Oratory, they pray for HM the Queen at all the Masses in the Bidding Prayers. We did this in the parish where I grew up, and I think it should be more regularly done everywhere...

Large crowds of course, for the 10 am Mass (lots of young families) and the 11 am Mass (all ages, and lots of visitors esp. from America and Australia) and the 7pm Mass (very large numbers of young people, many of them v. elegant in a just-the-right-of-denim-jeans sort of way, making me feel v. matronly and aunt-like with my skirt and coat).

I ran into lots of friends, and the whole day was fun. In the afternoon, I whizzed off to the suburbs to take Mother out to tea, then back again for the evening Mass...at the end of which I got chatting to a young couple, friends of one of my godsons. Conversation ranged over various topics and I mentioned that I sometimes felt gloomy about Britain, could not feel optimistic about the future. "Do you really think that?" the young man asked in genuine astonishment, despite the fact that he'd been saying the Govt is hopeless, Tories aren't going to be any better, pro-life movement doesn't seem to be going anywhere, etc etc. "But we've just been saying that London is a wonderful place, it's been a fantastic, sunny, beautiful Autumn day, day, and - well - everything feels marvellous!" He - and others - believe that the Church here has lots going for it, and there is no need to be gloomy at all. So Auntie should shake off her middle-aged despondency.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Our poor country...

...is in a mess. Of course we need a new government - anyone with sense can see that. But this won't alter the misery of so many of our young who have been robbed of normal family life, the vulgarity and crudity that hallmarks our culture, the sneering at spiritual and moral values.

Signs of hope?

The news of the Catholic/Anglican plan from Rome is good, tho' there will be attempts to wreck it (why doesn't The Times get its act together and stop trying to play 19th century politics with religion? The headline about Vatican tanks on the Anglican lawn was comically bad, worthy of a Private Eye spoof).

The Tories seem to be connecting - at last - with the reality that violence, social unrest, and youth alienation is connected with the undermining of marriage and the removal of family structures. They might just get on and do something about this when in office.

People haven't entirely lost their sense of humour, and it's a healthy sign when people joke about things like the Royal Mail strike, the ghastly BNP, and the grisly business of MPs' expenses...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

For a very good analysis...

...of what the new Catholic/Anglican plan will mean, read this from an Anglican Rite parish in the USA. And another perspective with useful insights comes from Fr Dwight Lngenecker who as always offers wisdom and humour...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

BIG NEWS....

...from Rome. Anglicans offered a safe home, with preservation of Anglican liturgical traditions and more...for a useful analysis and comment see here...

Over the past few days I've been reading the new Shawcross biography of the Queen Mother and it made me realise, with an aching heart, how important are certain aspects of a certain English spiritual heritage, and how these are slipping away...so today's news is hugely important, as the only safe home is the one built on a Rock.

And it is a home: there is warmth and a welcome, it's a bit messy and we bicker a lot, we've got some rather odd members of the family and some of the music is not always to everyone's taste, but...the foundations are sound and the food is always nourishing. Some parts of the old house are gloriously beautiful, but everyone is aware that some are shabby, and there are always parts that need cleaning.

And there are no strangers here, and in a sense no newcomers: those seeking a home find, once arriving in the hall and shedding their coats and wellies, that they feel as if they have been there all along...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A book launch...

...of a charming book The Priest and the Playwright by M. Brown...telling the story of a priest in an impoverished London parish, and a leading playwright in Edwardian England. With Christmas to think about, an enjoyable book is worth noting...

Another...

...Catholic History Walk, this time in Chelsea, with a wonderful welcome at Holy Redeemer Church where parishioner Josephine Robinson showed us round and with a joyful bonus in a visit to Allen Hall, the diocesan seminary built on what was once St Thomas More's land. There is a good-sized community of seminarians there now, as numbers of men training for the priesthood in the diocese has been rising in recent years - some of them joined us for the Walk - and it was grand to be welcomed and to hear all about the history of the place and the work that is done there. This second Catholic History Walk drew a large crowd, and our original intention of "just dropping in" gave way to a full-scale gathering in the refectory. We ended, as planned, by going into the grounds for lamplit prayers around the old mulberry tree, in the shade of which More used to sit with his family...

These Catholic History Walks are proving hugely popular. The next is on Thursday November 19th - meet on the steps of Westminster Cathedral at 6.30pm after the 5.30pm Mass.

"A new springtime...

...in the Church" - a phrase that we've heard in recent years, and on an Autumn evening in London it was suddenly gloriously,joyfully evident...crowds in front of Westminster Cathedral, voices raised in a great hymn,a splendid procession as four days of prayer were brought to a climax, and a shower of rose-petals poured down from the balcony...

As the relics of St Therese were slowly carried out as the pilgrimage around Britain concluded, it was clear that something rather dramatic had happened. We have rediscovered, on a large scale, that popular Catholicism which has always been part of our heritage and too rarely makes its presence felt. It was good to be there. As the H. Father said at his inaugural Mass, looking back on the crowds that had packed Rome for the farewell to John Paul II and the events that followed:"The Church is alive and the Church is young"...

I was on my way to record some broadcasts for Premier Radio (now available nationwide - it started as a London-based Christian radio station), and thought I would cut across the Cathedral piazza. Not possible. Vast crowds and I was caught up in them, part of a memorable event in London's Catholic history...

BTW, you can hear the radio talks in the week beginning Nov 2nd, broadcast as "Thought of the day" at about 8am and again 10 am...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

"Alive to the World"...

...is a wonderful new series of books for schools, designed to engross children in stories which also give values and form a full programme suitable for Personal Social and Health Education. Visit this website and find out more...I am really attracted to this series, which would work well in any school, whether Church-based or not. The books would also work for parents who want to teach their children at home, and parish groups working with children would also find them useful. The stories are all linked, so week by week you follow the adventures of a couple of families - the illustrations are bright and good, the characters come alive, and you want to keep on reading!

Do give this website a try, and order a couple of the books. Even if you just read them and pass them on to a local school, it would be a real service to the community...

The British Ambassador to the Holy See...

...gave a superb talk to the Catholic Union of Great Britain on Tuesday. You can read it here. He was exploring the thinking of Pope Benedict on whole question of religious liberty, with reference to the role that Christianity has in our traditions and culture, and the role it must play in the future. He is clearly a great fan of the H. Father and his analysis of the subject widened and deepened my understanding of it. Papa Benedict has devoted a great time of thought to this whole subject, and it is central to his Papacy and its message of the relationship between faith and reason. Read the Habermas/Ratzinger discussions to get more on this...it's all immensely enriching and points a good way forward...

This was the Craigmyle Memorial Lecture, an annual event sponsored by the Catholic Union, and was delivered in Portcullis House, next to the Houses of Parliament. It was well attended, with a good number of younger people. The Catholic Union is keen to attract younger members, and is holding a drinks reception in November with this in mind...see that website link for details.

After leaving Portcullis House I collected my bike from where I had left it at Queen Anne's Gate - I love these beautiful Georgian streets on lamplit Autumn evenings - and cycled up to Westminster Cathedral to see how things were going with the St Therese relics. Large crowds, a great air of genial goodwill, and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves as they queued up and moved slowly forward along the barriers to gain entrance to the Cathedral. Met lots of people I knew, including Frs Emmanuel and Jacob, Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.Fr Emmanuel was special guest speaker at the Catholic Women of the Year Luncheon, held last week...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Global warming?

I dunno. But there are beginning to be doubts about the standard orthodoxy on the subject. Read here.

You could hear...

...the music as you walked down Victoria Street. And the crowds were gathering...friendly, chatty, calm, expectant. People poured across the piazza in a steady flow to join them. On a giant screen, Mass was being broadcast from inside the Cathedral, complete with magnificent music and a mitred Bishop preaching.

The relics of St Therese were coming to Westminster Cathedral. I hadn't really planned to be there - just thought I would "look in while passing". I had a letter to drop in to Clergy House for Canon Tuckwell, the administrator, so I needed to go that way. As I approached the piazza I noticed a friend, stopped to greet her...and was hooked.

Visiting the relics of St Therese was a wonderful, prayerful experience. Everything about it was right. A delicious October evening with twilight merging into the London lamplight and the glow of the illuminated cathedral. Lots of lots and lots of friendly people. The joy of sharing all this with good friends, and making new acquaintances as the queue moved along. Dignity and beauty in the procession and the liturgy. People clutching roses. Occasional outbreaks of a Marian hymn. The quiet of the cathedral as we mounted the steps.

We had each been thinking of the prayer-intentions we were bringing along, and promising to pray for one another. As I approached the casket I suddenly remembered another, more urgent plea to put before the saint, and so in the end it was that one that actually took priority! Dear Saint Therese, please please take all my petitions and present them to God...

A glorious Mass...

...in the magnificent OLEM church in Cambridge. I was last here some three years ago for the baptism of a young relative. This weekend it was a splendid setting for the Mass celebrated for the annual meeting of the Association for Latin Liturgy. A good choir, a glory of timeless worship. A grand meeting and the delight of meeting various friends. A warm, open, friendly atmosphere with an upbeat feel. The day ended with a beautiful sung Vespers and Benediction...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

On the anniversary...

...of the reception of John Henry Newman into the Catholic Church, a great gathering at the school he founded - The Oratory School, near Reading. Launch of a magnificent book celebrating 150 years of the school, a glorious Vespers and Benediction in the school chapel - a rousing "Faith of our Fathers"... the glow of candles, the boys' strong voices singing the Psalms and leading us in Newman's beautiful hymn "Lead kindly light"...

A delicious buffet supper in the magnificent surroundings of the Georgian manor house which forms the core of the school's group of buildings, and then an excellent lecture by Prof Sheridan Gilley on Newman as a writer of novels. It is years since I first read Callista, and Loss and Gain - Prof Gilley's lecture brought the books alive and has sent me hurrying to read them again...

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Catholic History...

...is all around us in London. Come on the next Catholic History Walk! Thursday, October 15th. Meet at 6.30pm at the church of Our Most Holy Redeemer and St Thomas More, Cheyne Row, London SW3. We will be walking in the footsteps of St Thomas More, and the tour starts with a look round the church named in his honour, after which we will go down along the river, vsiting his statue on the Embankment, and Chelsea Old Church where he used to serve Mass. We'll finish at Allen Hall, the Westminster diocesan seminary, where we'll have prayers by lamplight around the mulberry tree in what was once More's garden.

No need to book - just turn up. Wear comfortable shoes. The Walk lasts about one and a half hours. We'll be walking whatever the weather!

The Tory party...

...has been chattering away at its conference. But will the Cameron team commit itself to the only policies that will really foster social cohesion and justice, reduce crime, and give people back a sense of belonging to a country that believes it has a bright future? To have hope in the future you need families. This means support for marriage as the union of a man and a woman, who establish a family together.

A happy day...

...beginning work on research about WWII heroine Mother Riccarda. Visiting Brighton, I had a very happy meeting with Fr Ray, of St Mary Magdalen's. Golden sunshine and the sea sparkled. Before leaving Brighton I skipped down to the beach and had a paddle. The Channel was calm and blue, and there were even some people swimming.

What kind of a country...

...has ours become?

You can now be in trouble as a Christian for expressing your views, in a private capacity, to the Comments section of a website. See this case.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

A weekend..

...in the West Country with family. We began in Oxford, watching the play produced at the Oratory by a young team, honouring St Therese. It was grand to see so much goodwill and energy united in a great endeavour. It shows that there are some great young people around...and the author of the play is to be warmly congratulated for getting them together and inspiring them.

The next day, on to Somerset, and a weekend of walks on Exmoor - wide and glorious and breezy and rainy and with fabulous views and the sea and visits to beautiful country churches followed by deeply satisfying family meals and talk.

On Monday we drove home stopping at Salisbury. In gentle evening rain to the great Cathedral. Evensong. Few people there, a choir singing beautifully, the perfection of those soaring arches and that great nave, a walk in the magnificent cloister. A prayer for our country, that it may not betray its Christian heritage...

Autumnal Oxford...

...was glorious. We were there on Friday for the play about St Therese at the Oxford Oratory. Arriving early, I walked in Christ Church meadow, approaching it through the war memorial gardens in St Aldgates...it was silent except for the rustling of the trees and the calling of some birds gathering for the evening, and the quietness combined with the Autumnal mood to bring solemn wonderings about what sort of a country we have made, from the one that the young men defnded so heroically and at such a cost...

Friday, October 02, 2009

Catholic traditions? The Church's heritage of feasts and seasons?

...if that's your sort of thing you might be interested in this event on Saturday October 10th in Cambridge.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

You might be...

...interested in this comment following the discovery of a great haul of Anglo-Saxon treasure in an English field...

Want to find out...

...more about the Catholic History Walks in London? Look here...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Babies and toddlers and cheerful small children...

...have featured much in Auntie's week so far, with a Monday spent assisting with small relatives, and a Tuesday morning busy with a friend on book-proofs with a gurgling baby crawling happily around as we worked. It all makes for a week that feels ordinary and real and grounded in things that really matter.

In between, much reading and essay-writing for my Maryvale course.

And speculation about the Pope's visit to Britain. He has been saying some very good things while in the Czech republic - ignored by the media here and indeed by many Catholic bloggers. "As Europe listens to the story of Christianity, she hears her own. Her notions of justice, freedom and social responsibility, together with the cultural and legal institutions established to preserve these ideas and hand them on to future generations, are shaped by her Christian inheritance." And some inspiring words to the young read here.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

"History as demonstrated...

...the absurdities to which man descends when he excludes God from the horizon of his choices and actions," said the Holy Father today in the Czech Republic. Yes, indeed.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

One of the hidden gems...

...of London is the garden at Brompton Oratory. It is used for First Communion celebrations, for the annual Summer Fete, for barbeques for the choir children, and so on. On ordinary days it is the haven of the Oratory Fathers, and they sit or pace and read. Today I was due at the Oratory to give a talk meeting in the Scout Hut - dedicated to St Michael and a proper traditional hut with a Union Jack and a nice little kitchen and a cosy atmosphere - and as I arrived early I wandered agreeably in the garden, with its magnificent trees and its old mellow walls and its happy memories...I was last here for the First Communion celebration of a godson, and before that a choir party for another godson... You feel you are in the very heart of London. The Victoria and Albert Museum is on on side, Holy Trinity Church (Anglican), known as "HTB" on the other, and the large Oratory House blocking out noise from the busy Brompton Road...

Friday, September 25, 2009

There is something of a mystery...

...about the sudden announcement of a Papal visit. Nothing from Rome or from Buckingham Palace, just something that seems to have emerged while the Prime Minister was flying to the USA. Rumours now abounding about why the news came out in this way at this time...

The Catholic History Walk...

...took place yesterday evening, starting from Westminster Cathedral. We got a huge crowd!! I started by explaining about the history of the Cathedral, and the convent in Carlisle Place, and Archbishop's House, and then we went on down past Horseferry Road - where I told them about James II's family escaping that way in 1688, with James 111, later to be called the "Old Pretender", as a small baby...and then on to Parliament and the Abbey. Although with such large numbers, I had to raise my voice and it all got fairly hard work, everyone was so interested and enthusiastic that the whole mood was simply terrific, and as we finished there was a roar of "Yes" when the suggestion was made for the next Walk.

Well, the next one is now planned: October 15th, meet outside the Church of Our Most Holy Redeemer, Cheyne Row, Chelsea, at 6.30pm We'll be exploring the story of St Thomas More and the sites associated with him in Chlsea. No need to book for the Walk, just turn up. Wear comfortable shoes and be suitably clad - we'll be walking whatever the weather. For more info about all these walks look here.

I am most grateful to the Cathedral authorities who helped to publicise the Walk, and gave it their blessing. It was a glorious September evening, and the atmosphere in the crowd was warm and friendly, and as the light faded and the lamps came on, London felt rich in history.

Our Walk ended with prayers for our country, said in front of Westminster Abbey, with Parliament behind. A strong sound as the crowd prayed the Our Father with a united voice. Our poor country is in desperate need of prayers at this time.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

GOLLY!!!

...just got the news!!!!

Papal astronomer...

...Fr Guy Consolmango, spoke to The Keys, the Catholic Writers' Guild the other day. Brilliant analysis of the Gallileo affair, presented with honesty and humour.He is frank about the Church and knowledgeable about history. There's an interesting interview with Fr Guy here.

I got rather enthusiastic...

...about the relics of St Therese of Lisieux when I read criticism of the whole project the other day. Golly, people have got cross! A leading atheist - whom I knew slightly when we were both involved with politics a good many years ago - wrote a passionate piece in The Times begging us all to denounce the arrival of this reliquary and all associated activity. Others sneered alongside, rather more politely. And I, who in my youth always felt that St Therese was a figure who seemed unappealing (nicely brought-up,keen to be an enclosed nun, ill,died young) suddenly found I had a different attitude, and was certainly committed to joining in with the whole event. She's a saint for everyday, a saint for now, a saint for life's ordinary difficulties.

Also, crowd-Catholicism is sometimes good, reminding us that the Church isn't about meetings and conferences and blogs and discussions, but about prayer, and all of us as ordinary people trying to love and serve God. Vast crowds venerating the relics at Portsmouth and at Birmingham, and a friend from the West Country phoned up with a touching description of taking along a non-Catholic friend for what turned out to be a powerfully moving evening steeped in prayer.

LOts of good things happening around the relics. I'm off to the play presented by a young team at Oxford in a couple of weeks, info here. Beautiful new CD of music just produced for St Therese - info here.

Monday, September 21, 2009

London...

...in mellow Autumn sunshine on Friday afternoon, and lots of lively talk at a meeting of the Association of Catholic Women as we plan our activities for the months ahead...do come to our study day on at St James' Church, Spanish Place (nearest tube, Baker Street) on Saturday Oct 10th. Speakers include Fr Aidan Nicholls the noted Dominican author...

On to Euston station where I parked my bike, and took the train to Birmingham, for a weekend at Maryvale...starting the 2nd year of the BA Divinity course. Superb lectures on the Old Testament, a warm welcome from the lovely Brigettine nuns and the weekend team headed by Tracey who made sure everything ran superbly. Spending a whole weekend soaking in the Scriptures made the Psalms we say at morning and evening prayer come alive and take on much deeper meaning and resonance, as also the Psalm at Mass...as always, good conversations at meals and a terrific atmosphere of friendship and shared interests, spiced with lively discussions. I didn't really want to leave...

On Sunday afternoon, after a cycle ride across London and a train journey into Kent, I was at Kemsing, for the annual commemoration of St Edith . We met to honour this Saxon saint at her Well in the village High Street, and then to the beautiful garden of a local Catholic family where we had Benediction, and a treasure-hunt, (with Biblical clues) and Tea...people from local Catholic and Anglican parishes, home-made cakes being sliced and served on a big table, children running about, a perfect September Sunday.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Want to help...

...honour John Henry Newman as his Beatification approaches?

Old Oscott House, where he went to live on becoming a Catholic was renamed by him,
Maryvale and is now a well-known Catholic educational Instuitute. It's a wonderful old house, full of intriguing nooks and pleasingly slanted staircases...but at the moment it doesn't have a proper memorial to Newman. Now there are plans to open up the internal window that joined his room to the Chapel, and to give access to this special private place where he used to kneel and pray, looking towards the Blessed Sacrament.

Maryvale needs money to do this, and hasn't got much. Why not help? You will be playing a small part in English history, and giving practical help to a place that helps to train catechists and teachers of the Faith for today and tomorrow...

You can donate here

Look...

...here is a wonderful evening out: in Oxford, a new play about Therese of Lisieux, presented by a talented young team and with original insights. Find out more here,order tickets, and go! J. and I are definitely going, and the link I have just given has lots more about St Therese, and about the visit of her relics to Britain and associated activities. Don't miss out...

Monday, September 14, 2009

Spent the day...

...at the Catholic Truth Society headquarters in Vauxhall on the south bank of the Thames. I was doing some sorting and tidying up after the big Schools RE Projects run jointly by the CTS and the Association of Catholic Women.

Later, to Westminster Cathedral. They were chanting evening prayer and then as it finished there was a time of brief quiet bustle as people drifted in for Mass, took their places in the queue for confessions, lit candles, prayed,gawped. I was standing in the Lady Chapel as the procession emerged from the sacristy heading for the High Altar for the Sung Mass - was unprepared for the force and clarity and beauty of soaring music as the choristers surged forward, two by two, singing and singing. Was suddenly struck by the timelessness of it all, of the now-and-always Mass.

Last night we watched Conspiracy of Hearts which I obtained on DVD via that link on the Internet. A powerful film, recommended.. Highly popular in its day, seems to be unknown now, features nuns rescuing Jewish children from a wartime concentration camp. It's relevant to the true story of Mother Riccarda (see blog post below). I am now getting stuck into research into the stories of M. Riccarda and Mother Kitty, sandwiching this into other writing projects and my Maryvale studies. A nice link is that the house at Maryvale - where we are all made so welcome on our study weekends - is run by the Brigettines. It's nice to feel this link with the Order as I embark on the detective work of this biographical research.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Instead of cycling to my usual parish...

...this morning I went to Mass at St Gregory's, Earlsfield, in pursuit of some one called Kitty Flanagan!

Who is she?

A nun, more specifically a Bridgettine, and she is buried in Sweden. And the point is that she might one day be canonised as a saint, and she grew up in Earlsfield as a staunch member of St Gregory's parish. It's an extraordinary story, and the kind parish priest at Earlsfield has given me some material about her. It's all part of a project in which I am researching her life, and that of another wonderful Bridgettine nun, Mother Riccarda, who grew up in the parish of St Mary Magdalene, Brighton.Both of these woman played a major role in the revival of the Bridgettine Order in modern times. Mother Riccarda's story is heroic as was in charge of the Roman convent which hid Jewish and other refugees during WWII - and would have been shot if this had been discovered.

Mother Catherine - Kitty - Flanagan belonged to a large family and two of her brothers settled in Australia, probably Sydney. Can any Australian reader help me find out more? If you are living in Australia and reading this - and especially if your name is Flanagan! - I'm interested in hearing from you. Remember that if you send a comment to this Blog, I NEED IT TO INCLUDE YOUR FULL EMAIL ADDRESS or else I cannot reply to you. I will not of course publish your address.

To Canning Town...

...in London, for a meeting on Friday with some of the Brothers of St John who are based there. I have known this community for some while as they have played a big part in the annual Pilgrimages run by the National Association of Catholic Families at Walsingham. What a delight to meet them again, and in their home setting - a young community, and it felt invigorating to be sitting planning and working with them. Watch this Blog for news of plans as they develop...

A lot happens at Canning Town: on the main Barking Road, near the church where the Brothers are based, is the great Anchor House project, welcoming homeless people and offering new hope. It's a wonderful place that has recently won a top award for the way in which it has helped people to overcome huge difficulties in their lives,to acquire new skills and to go ahead with confidence...while there I met Mgr John Armitage,whom I first got to know through his work with Youth 2000...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

GOOD NEWS....

...for all of us who are fed up with ugly modern churches, and ugly modern attempts at religious art.

The Pope has invited artists to gather with him in the Sistine Chapel, to celebrate the greatness and joy and beauty of glorious art and to explore its meaning.

REJOICE!!!

Maybe at last we'll see some tangible evidence of a new hope in art emerging...the signs have been there for some time, and there is such a longing for beauty, for art and architecture that celebrates the true meaning of things, celebrates the search for truth, and man's link with God.


Read about this here

Here is...

...a refreshing new Catholic blog. It has a special message of promoting the Christian message on love and relationships. It's well-informed, highly readable, and with good links. Try it.

Also welcome on the Catholic blogosphere is Fr Stephen Wang's Bridges and Tangents, which looks set to become a must-read among younger Catholics.

And don't just stay on the blogosphere. Get out and meet people too...dates for your diary: Sept 24th, Catholic HIstory Walk, Westminster (see below, scroll down)....Oct 15th, Catholic History Walk, Chelsea (details to follow, note date now)... Towards Advent Festival, Sat Nov 14th, Westminster Cathedral Hall, starts 10 am, runs all day with talks, displays, music etc...

Yesterday...

...was a solemn day, attending the funeral of an old friend. This was at Worth Abbey, and the day felt wrapped in a Benedictine peace. A time for memories and prayers.

In the evening: I'd been invited to Vespers of the BVM by Marcel Dupre, performed with Gregorian Chant, at St Mary Magdalene Church in London's Little Venice. Charles Cole, organist (worth checking that link,info. on future concerts). It was beautiful, and an appropriate way to end the day.

A beautiful Mass...

...at Westminster Cathedral, to mark the visit of the Patriarch of Jerusalem, who preached, asking us to pray for peace in the Holy Land, and to remember the plight of the Christian community there, under pressure from all sides and diminishing in numbers as young people simply leave to find jobs and opportunities overseas. There are excellent schools and other institutions run by the Church, which need support and help - contact here for more information.

The Mass...absolutely glorious, a crowded cathedral glowing with light and beauty in the Autumn evening...the choir sang a magnificent Ave Maria, the strength and beauty of the boys' clear voices filling all the great spaces with the sound of faith.

Monday, September 07, 2009

A Birthday...

... is a time for mild introspection. Kind cards and gifts and messages. Tea with Mother. An evening with J.

Tomorrow, September 8th, is a more important Birthday, one marked in the Church's calendar. Pleasingly, a young team has just produced a new website Totus 2us dedicated to Mary. It is worth a visit partly as it reminds us of what a remarkable, extraordinary gift we had in Pope John Paul...an outstanding man, priest, and Pope...

And recently Pope Benedict, at a great gathering in an Italian city, addressed a beautiful prayer to Our Lady which said, in part:

Clement Virgin, Mother of Humanity,
Turn your gaze upon the men and women of our time,
upon peoples and those who govern them, upon nations and continents;
console those who weep, who suffer, who struggle because of human injustice,
sustain those who waver under the weight of toil
and look to the future without hope;
encourage those who labor to build a better world
where justice triumphs and brotherhood reigns,
where egoism, hatred and violence cease.
May every form and manifestation of violence
Be defeated by the peaceful power of Christ!

Virgin of Listening, Star of Hope,
Mother of Mercy,
source through whom Jesus came into the world,
our life and our joy,
we thank you and we renew to you the offer of our life,
certain that you will never abandon us,
especially in the dark and difficult moments of existence.
Be with us always: now and at the hour of our death.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Events to note...

....Catholic History Walk, September 24th, meet 6.30pm steps of Westminster Cathedral. Do come! Bring comfortable shoes for walking. We will be looking at the history of Westminster, learning about Edward the Confessor and James II and Cardinal Manning and more...the walk will take place whatever the weather. It is organised by Continuity and is planned as the first of a series of such walks, looking at different parts of London...

And this coming week, organised by Aid to the Church in Need: Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem will be celebrating and preaching at the 5:30pm Mass at Westminster Cathedral. Afterwards he will give a speech in Westminster Cathedral Hall. Drinks, canap├ęs and other light refreshments available. Entry to the hall is free.

With family...

...this weekend, helping out with babysitting. A happy time, involving a Birthday celebration for Mother (89!), with a cake and singing and presents and fun, four generations together...

Mass today at a big local parish in Surrey - large and very crowded church, quantities of children, including the small ones in our family group. Mass feels quite different with small wriggly people under one's care...these were well-behaved and the three-year-old even put his hands together solemnly when instructed to do so in a whisper as the bell rang for the Elevation. But why do parishes insist on having lengthy speeches/announcements from various groups before the final blessing? It breaks the flow of the Mass in that crucial after-Communion part, and makes everyone feel restless: the announcements were all about excellent things but could easily have been mentioned quickly at sermon-time with more in the newsletter...

There is a report...

...in the Catholic press to the effect that the Holy Father's advisers are now reading blogs to find out people's opinions, especially following the Williamson affair. So if they are reading Auntie's blog, I contribute some comments:

It is not just Williamson's denial of the murder of six million Jews in World War II that is horrible but the realisation that until his views hit the headlines he was heading a seminary run by the Lefebvrists and thus presumably communicating something of his world-view to successive groups of new young Lefebvrist priests year on year.

Why does Williamson attempt to deny the Holocaust? I mean, what's his motive? The problems with the Lefebrivists are not - repeat not - essentially concerned with liturgy but are rooted in the huge ramifications of a breakaway group that allowed such a man to head up a seminary, to be made into a bishop and to be taken seriously by people under his direction.

I have had, over recent months, a sufficiency of nasty anti-semitic material sent to me to make be really worried about a certain noticeable faction that is apparently within the Church, or considers itself to be. Who are the people, for example, writing from a London address and sending rants about Jews to me and announcing the publication of books on the subject? Who were the people from America who sent me similar material?

Tackling the Lefebvrists means tackling the reality of a faction that apparently believes a whole set of horrible fantasies. This is a problem for the Church and merely denouncing anti-Semitism is not enough. People influenced by it need to be taught that they have been given a set of untruths that need to be unravelled, that it is time to acknowledge wrong beliefs and wrong assumptions, and that a fresh start can only be made once there has been a genuine acceptance of this.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

This morning...

...opened a perfect September day, with cool sunshine hinting at Autumn. I went to pick rose-hips. They make a delicious syrup, which can be whisked into milk to make a refreshing drink, or poured over porridge for a winter breakfast, or given by the teaspoonful to children just because it's nice.

To London for various errands. Growing encampments with tents and makeshift living arrangements in Parliament Square as different protest groups settle themselves. Sirens and police presence at a couple of other demonstrations. Tail end of summer tourism with people waiting outside Westminster Abbey etc. Friendly chat as always in CTS bookshop near Westminster Cathedral where I went to collect Bibles for the Schools Bible Project prizegivings. Sudden sense of welcome in Westminster Cathedral and the dear familiarity of it after absence abroad.

Monday, August 31, 2009

As of this week...

...British birth certificates will deliberately be allowed to state inaccurate information. A woman with no biological connection with a child can be registered as its "father". The idea is to make lesbians feel comfortable. If one of them has a child, she can register the other as a parent. The child's father will not be registered at all.

If a birth certificate isn't to give accurate information, what is it for?

When a lesbian partnership breaks up and there is a battle over the custody of the child (yes, it has been known), will the victor be encouraged to put a new name, retrospectively, on the birth certificate? Will it not be regarded as "discrimination" if she cannot? And why stop at just one new name? This might become a serial process. And some ladies might like to register two or three new partners at once. Others might want a flexible approach with "optional parenting", registering a partner in order to assert the status of a relationship, but recognising that the lady concerned might grow to dislike the child and wish to abandon her "parent" status in due course.

Once the decision has been made to turn a birth certificate into a feelgood item for lesbians, then the possibilities are practically limitless.

What is happening to our country? Collective insanity, viewed with a mixture of inertia and bewilderment, makes for a very uncertain future.

But just think how busy lawyers will be in a few years' time, as the court cases mount up and people demand to know who their real parents are, why they have been stigmatised by a certificate, etc etc...

This evening...

...I intend to settle with a mug of tea to enjoy the latest DVD from Mary's Dowry Productions: it's "St Cuthbert of Steyning", set in Sussex which is one of the most glorious parts of England and one of the corners of the earth that I love best. I'll learn about the England of Saxon days, and relish views of the South Downs where Bogle feet have often tramped with joy... Mary's Dowry Productions is doing a terrific job bringing our history alive, and its DVDs are warmly recommended.

Anxiety...

...can haunt you. I was anxious about something, couldn't get it out of my mind. Morning Mass. The lady in front of me had a lovely picture of the Pope in her prayer-book, vaguely reassurring. We get good numbers of weekday Mass in our local parish - it's a big church but felt quite full, and this is suburbia on a Bank Holiday Monday. I was suddenly struck by the consoling words of the prayer after the Our Father, in which the priest prays that we may be delivered "from all anxiety". Never felt the impact of that before. And then, chatting after Mass, some one said "if you are anxious, you should hold on to that prayer that is said following the Our Father..." and quoted it. Golly. Is our parish telepathic?. I cycled home feeling quite different.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Note the date!

Interested in history? Come with Auntie on a Catholic History Walk. Date: September 24th. Time: 6.30pm. Meeting Point: steps of Westminster Cathedral. This is the first in a series of Walks sponsored by Continuity. Wear comfortable shoes and be prepared for a walk of about 1-2 hours. We plan to finish in a pub. You'll learn about Westminster's history... the abbey founded by our last Saxon king before the Norman Conquest...the draining of the Thames marshes around Thorney Island... a cathedral built on the site of a former prison...a Royal escape on the horse ferry across the river...and more...

This evening...

..after a domestic sort of day and tea with Mother, I settled with some sewing and the beautiful DVDs of World Youth Day 08 given to me in Sydney during my recent trip. All the time in Australia I asked people about WYD: was it rated a success, were numbers up to expectations, what sorts of people came, did it all have any lasting effect? Media coverage in Britain was of course poor ('no sex, no story', so as they couldn't find lots of young people denouncing the Church's teachings on that subject, they contented themselves with a few references to clerical abuse and generally ignored the whole thing). And there's only so much you can get from the Internet. The Sydney diocese has produced books, DVDs, etc that bring the thing alive.

Filing away some mementoes from my trip brought a rush of pictures across my mind: a lovely evening at Melbourne's Catholic Central bookshop, next to St Francis Church - and a memory of dropping into that church, packed for a Saturday evening Mass...an afternoon cookery session making honey-toffee apples for St Bartholomew's Day at the Sydney diocesan adult Education Centre, lots of fun and laughter with young mums...a crowded evening session at the Centre with a wonderful atmosphere and sense of friendship... in Melbourne, chatting to Dr Tracey Rowland of the John Paul II Institute , a longstanding friend... a lecture at the Caroline Chisholm Library...dinner with Bishop Peter Elliott, who has known Jamie and me for over 30 years...

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A whistle-stop description...

...of the trip to Australia and New Zealand isn't either easy to write or perhaps hugely interesting to read, but: highlights included opening the new bookshop for Freedom Publishing at the Thomas More Centre in Whitehorse Road, Balwyn, Melbourne, and a book-launch at Portico Books in central Sydney...it was a delight to stay with old friends and to have long talks over many things, and I loved my visit to St Dominic's at Flemington, where Fr Peter Joseph is parish priest (Mass at 9am on an ordinary weekday brought a good-sized congregation that wouldn't have disgraced a Sunday) and to Brisbane where we stayed with journalist Tess Livingstone, author of a fine biography of Cardinal George Pell...in Melbourne we were guests of the indefatible Denise Cameron, nurse, crusader, and campaigner for humanitarian causes, and her warm welcome and generous care of us was simply magnificent...in Sydney we visited the cathedral (fine statue of the great John Paul, and a couple of obliging fellow-visitors kindly took my picture there - they promised to email it to me, so if they are reading this, here's a gentle reminder...)

And then on to NZ for some family time, which included a visit up the Sky Tower, the highest building in the Southern Hemisphere, and trips out into the lovely springtime countryside...and meals and talk and a log fire and glorious views over Auckland's magnificent harbours...

Friday, August 14, 2009

What to read...

...on the flight to Australia? I am taking George Weigel's Letters to a Young Catholic, and Piers Paul Read's latest novel, and also - for the return journey when I'll be getting into back-to-school mode, some study material for my Maryvale degree.

News of where I'll be speaking in Australia - various Catholic bookshops in Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane - see here.

Most Australians are well up on news about Britain, but here's a summary of various news snippets which I'm keeping in mind in case I'm asked about my country: an exam set by a local authority in Britain this week had, as one of its tests, getting to a bus stop and getting on a bus (can this really be true?; one in five Europeans will be Moslem by the middle of this century; current information shows have a massive problem with drunkeness in the 11-15 year-old age group, a rising rate of violent crime, and soaring rates of sexually-transmitted diseases among the young; planned new legislation may place restrictions on Catholics speaking openly about the Church's teachings and Catholic groups promoting a Christian lifestyle.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Thames Valley...

...and the glorious sweep of its fields and woods, bathed in summer sunshine. The Oratory School with its Newman tradition and its sense of confidence, pictures of boys at sporting activities, Cadet parades, theatre, music, a Corpus Christi procession...panels lisiting School Captains going back 150 years...

We were there for the Evangelium conference, a great Catholic gathering sponsored by the CTS. Vast crowd of young adults,packed talks, great reverence at Mass(Latin chant,some good hymns) and a roar of young voices for the "I confess..." and the Creed and the Our Father, somehow very moving. Excellent talks from, among others, Dr Tom Pink of Kings College, London, Fr Brian Harrison,Fr Tim Finigan, Fr Andrew Pinsent, Jack Valero of Opus Dei...Young people everywhere, talking and laughing, enjoying the lovely grounds, packing out the talks and workshops, singing Night Prayer in the beautiful chapel, chattering to a terrific volume over meals in the dining-hall...a volunteer concert in the evening, glorious violin music, some Irish Ballads,a teenage singer... Auntie rounded things off leading community singing ("Pack up your troubles...")

This was the second year for this event: the 2008 conference, planned as a once-off, proved so hugely popular that organisers offered another, and it drew even larger crowds. Theme:"Explaining the Catholic Faith in the Modern World". I was impressed by the quality - as well as the quantity! - of the young people present, drawn from a wide variety of jobs and backgrounds and professions, showing a lively and intelligent commitment to the faith. A good number from some of the notable new Movements in the Church (Youth 2000, Neo-Catechumenate, FAITH) with a great ability to relax and integrate together. An underlying seriousness, a recognition that things may get tough for Christians in Britain in the next years. For all the joy and laughter and intellectual stimulus, there was an underlying sobriety in the way certain things were discussed. I came home inspired, encouraged, thoughtful.

Friday, August 07, 2009

New book...



...produced as a practical response to Pope Benedict's call for a "Year for Priests" under the patronage of St John Vianney. How much do you know about St John Vianney's life? Few Catholics know very much, except that he was a very holy parish priest in rural France and that he fasted and prayed a lot and there were many miracles...now it's time for you to read the whole story, which is a very touching one and with useful messages for today.

The book is available from St Paul Publications and you can order it here

A good holiday read, also useful for schools, for parish catechists...

Thursday, August 06, 2009

An interesting...

juxtaposition. Just seen this news item about the planned new EU "equality" regulations and what they could mean for Christians.

Then I read the Pope's Mission Prayer Intention for August:

His mission intention is: That those Christians who are discriminated against and persecuted in many Countries because of the name of Christ may have their human rights, equality and religious freedom recognized, in order to be able to live and profess their own faith freely.

A wonderful, wonderful ...

...day at the Faith Movement's Summer Session, packed out with young people (they had to turn some away simply because there wasn't enough accomodation)and bathed in hot sunshine. An excellent talk from Bishop Patrick O'Dononhue, who recieved warm sustained applause following his clear affirmation of Christian teachings centred on the theme of faith, hope, and love.. Lively talk over supper. Young people streaming to the chapel for evening prayer. Young priests and young seminarians. The delightful Sisters of the Gospel of Life who somehow always seem to be joyful and are such great fun to be with...

The event was happening in the magnificent surroundings of Woldingham School, and Auntie was among many day-visitors who arrived and got swept up into the activities...a good number of young families - including several couples who met through the Faith Movement - were picknicking and talking and playing and chatting and laughing on the great lawns, with children running about...young relatives greeted me and I was soon accompanying a three-year old to explore the fabulous grounds: he has just discovered the joys of rolling down a grassy hillside and in this glorious occupation somehow captured the joy of a true summer's day.

We lingered long on the lawn after supper, us middle-aged types and marrieds-with-babies, and while roars of laughter and applause rang out from an evidently hugely successful Talent Show and Concert taking place in the panelled library beyond the mullioned windows, we drank gin-and-tonic and swapped news and cuddled babies. Dusk fell and a great moon shone out. A beautiful statue of the Sacred Heart, arms outstretched, stands illuminated on the lawn, shedding light on us as we talked. It was good to chat to Fr Patrick Burke, visiting from Rome, and to the Treloar family, long-time friends and fellow-campaigners on various issues over the years. As we left, young people were still talking on the terrace in the warm summer night. "The Church is alive, and the Church is young".