Sunday, January 30, 2011

...and on to Maryvale...

...where, as always it was a joy to arrive and to go up the drive and past the wide lawn, and plunge into warmth and friendship when barely through the front door. I had come straight from the lovely family who had hosted me for the Ordinariate meeting the night before...and found the team at Maryvale busy with a mailing to Ordinariate people!

Our weekends of lectures for the BA Divinity course are always excellent...this time we were tackling St John's Gospel, and also Moral Theology...

Brigettine nuns bustling about, a lecture hall with people gathering and swapping news as things begin, the chapel with the candles glowing. There have been new carpets put down since I first started coming to Maryvale a couple of years ago, and there is a fine Papal flag in the hall as a memory of the Holy Father's visit to Birmingham, and a sense of gentle glee over being able to say "Blessed John Henry Newman"...but the old house still has that indefinable scent of Old England, a vague feeling of the faithful from centuries past joining in the prayers in the chapel, the strange and agreeable tilt of the old stairs, the sense of being a guest in an old, old home...

The Ordinariate... developing speedily. I had a fascinating evening with a parish in Kent. A full hall, warm hospitality, good links with the local RC unforgettable evening, with much thoughtful discussion with clergy and their families, after the main meeting...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Been reading...

..from some recent editions of First Things. I picked up a couple pf copies from a friend...wish I had done this before, as it's a a great magazine, a feast of good reading, with good stuff on current social trends, bioethics (scary but important warnings from Wesley Smith about developments in euthanasia etc), educational and cultural issues, and more...

A facinating evening... a lecture on the subject of the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School. I have - like many other London Catholics - become aware of the tensions aurrounding the future of this excellent Catholic school.

Pope John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio, emphasised the central and fundamental role of parents in choosing an education for their children. Schools are to be run as a service for families, not regarded as part of an ideological battleground...


...a really good idea.

This has been launched by young Catholics who are serious about finding a spouse.

Auntie is aware that this is an important matter: I've had so many pleas from (attractive, bright, delightful) Catholic girls asking if there are any good Catholic chaps out there...preferably without dedication to specific liturgical opinions but with a reasonable range of interests and a sincere ordinary commitment to a Christian way of life, plus a sense of humour.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


The Association of Catholic Women
A Study Day
for Teachers at Catholic Schools
March 30th 2011

at The Maryvale Institute, Old Oscott Hill, Birmingham B44 9AG
12.15pm: Lunch
1.00pm: Teaching Christ through Art - Presentation by Dr Lionel Gracey
2.15pm: Tea
2.45pm: Learning Gregorian Chant - Workshop with Jeremy de Satgé
4.00pm MASS – at which we will sing some of the chant learned during the afternoon
Open to all teachers. There is no charge for this day.

A chance to enjoy a day at Maryvale – home of John Henry Newman, and today a study centre welcoming Catholics who want to explore and celebrate their faith!

An audio/visual presentation with Lionel Gracey.

Lionel Gracey graduated in medicine at Cambridge University, and completed postgraduate studies at Harvard. He was Consultant Surgeon to the Royal Free Hospital, University of London, from 1966-91. Following retirement, he obtained a pontifical degree in theology from the Maryvale Institute, Birmingham, where he is currently a Lecturer in Religious Art.

Children can benefit from the relaxation and peace that chant brings

Jeremy de Satgé had an early musical training as a chorister in Sheffield Cathedral Choir. Later, he sang bass in Clifton Cathedral Choir and decided to concentrate his efforts on music full time, enrolling at Trinity College of Music, London graduating in 1987 with a Singing (with teaching) Licentiate Diploma (LTCL) and the Fellowship Diploma (FTCL) in singing performance.

This Study day is aimed at teachers in Catholic primary schools, but we have a limited number of places available for others, e.g. leaders of children’s liturgy groups, First Communion classes etc. Contact us!
For more information on the Association of Catholic Women, visit our website:

Please complete this and return it, by email to:
Or by post to: ACW Study Day, The Maryvale Institute Old Oscott Hill BIRMINGHAM B44 9AG
YES, I want to attend the Study Day at on March 30th 2011

Name (caps please)..........................................................................
School or parish .............................................................................................
email/tel no.....................................................................................

This has been going the rounds...

“I’m thinking of joining the new organization set up by the Roman Catholic Church to assist potential Anglican converts. Would I require any special headgear?”

“No. Just an ordinary ’at.”

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A most beautiful Mass...

... organised by Aid to the Church in Need, at Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Sutton, to mark the anniversary of Fr Werenfried van Straaten. The church was very full - people squeezed up to fit me in as I arrived rather late. A beautiful Ave Verum at Communion, and also "Be still my soul" sung to Finlandia...

I am so much aware at present of how much dedication there is in the Church - here, on a cold weekday January morning, people were crowding to Mass and to hear a talk on the current needs of Christians in different parts of the world...

Tomorrow (Friday) I am due at the CTS to pack some envelopes in connection with a new project. At this morning's gathering, I tentatively asked a couple of people if they might be able to come along and help.. immediate enthusiastic response, and they started making arrangements to get to the CTS office etc.

Earlier this week, I went to a talk at Ealing Abbey, about Blessed John Henry Newman, preceded by Mass and Adoration...again, large crowds. The talk was meant to be in the parish hall but had to be moved to the church because of the numbers.

Home... hospital appointments, and a number of events:

THE KEYS, The Catholic Writers' Guild, held its annal meeting - it is always held near the feast of our patron, St Francis de Sales - and a special Mass for the late and much-loved Fr Kit Cunningham. He was our Guild Chaplain for many years. A beautiful sung requiem Mass at St Mary Moorfields and Piers Paul Read spoke in tribute to Fr Kit at the end. Fr Kit was a leading spirit in the Guild from the early 1990s onwards and our meetings in the crypt at St Etheldreda's Ely Place opened up a new chapter in Guild history...the flourishing of the Guild today owes much to this.

On Wednesday the Catholic History Walks had the first event of its 2011 programme with a tour of Westminster Cathedral. I arrived in good time and was puzzled by a large crowd gathering by the door...then came to realise they had all come for the tour! We had a grand afternoon: I love showing people the Cathedral's special places, and seeing how there is always something of new significance: the big stone marking Pope John Paul's visit of 1982, the new mosaic of St David blessed by our present Holy Father just a few months ago...

That link for the History Walks gives info about the March and April events, and also dates for the summer. Note that the list for the special; February Mass has now closed.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

HISTORY IS MADE.... Westminster Cathedral. Read about it here. The Anglican Ordinariate has been established, and honoured with the name of Our Lady of Walsingham. Its special patron will be Blessed John Henry Newman. Read the announcement from Rome here.

Over recent weeks, it's been exciting to be part of the team launching the magazine Portal, which is associated with the Ordinariate.

These are days to remember, days to cherish for always...

Quiet days with snow and John Paul the Great...

...snowbound in Alabama!

It has been beautiful.

With the EWTN studios snowbound for the first days of my stay, I rested and read and read...given free access to a good range of Catholic books, I decided that I'd find out more about John Paul II, having recently read the new tome on the subject by George Weigel. From rows of stacked and catalogued shelves of books, I chose William Oddie's John Paul the Great - a collection of essays by a number of well-known British and other Catholic writers including Leonie Caldecott, Dr Tracey Rowland, and Fr Aidan Nichols, and then added Oddie's unusually prophetic Roman Option. I also picked up Peggy Noonan"s John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father and added a newly-published book that had evidently just arrived: The Pope's Maestro by Gilbert Levine.

When the weather finally allowed things to return to normal at EWTN and we could start work on my new series, I was almost sorry: the peace and the books and the beauty of the snow and the pine trees had been a joy. But it all felt absolutely right. The new broke that John Paul II is to be beatified: the date is May 1st, the feast of Divine Mercy. I started work, and the week's filming has gone magnificently. I have never had a week like it: everyone has been so helpful, the broken arm slowed me down and made me work at a sane pace, we did everything without any problems and I even had free evenings and time to rest, and meals with friends. With daily Mass and the wonderful friendships that EWTN seems to forge, it has been a time of great delight.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Auntie in America... a snowstorm, with a broken arm (see earlier entry describing Christmas adventures)...The TV station where I'm meant to be working hasn't been able to operate fully, as snow and ice meant that people couldn't reach it. However, I've been staying in a comfortable house and these last few days have been rather extraordinary...peaceful and happy, with books and rest and daily Mass. Yesterday, supper with the Franciscan Friars of the Eternal Word - a team of young, dedicated, friars in traditional brown robes with a sense of joy about them...they were v. kind and it was a delight to be with them. It was fascinating to be welcomed into this traditional Franciscan house: we had a reading during supper (Pope Benedict XVI on St Bonaventure - as it happens, a subject that I have recently been studying, and of great interest to me) and we sat all around a big set of tables set in a horseshow formation, beginning and ending with prayer. Conversation ranged over many things, including the recent Papal visit to Britain: as their special work is the media they were well-informed, and eager and interested... A happy and convivial evening, with something gloriously medieval about it, as I was walked home carefully across treacherous icy paths by a young friar...

Today, the weather abated a little and work began on the series of TV programmes I am making. The broken arm is proving a nuisance but is not preventing me from working.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

You might be interested... read this on the Anglican Ordinariate...

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

DATES... note. Come and join me for a TOUR OF WESTMINSTER CATHEDRAL on Jan 19th. Meet 2.30pm inside the Cathedral, by the entrance to the gift shop. No need to book - just turn up! More info on this and other History Walks and Talks here.

And note this date too: FEB 8th, Holy Redeemer Church, Chelsea, 7.30pm. Dr Andrew Nash gives an illustrated talk on John Henry Newman. Everyone welcome: come and celebrate Newman's beatification and find out more about this remarkable Englishman. The talk is in the comfortable Monckton Room in the crypt, and this promises to be most delightfdul evening. Coffee and cake. Donation £3.00, funds raised will go to the work of the MARYVALE institute.

Monday, January 03, 2011

To America... a few days' time, and with much to accomplish before then,

Christmas was glorious, the English countryside glittering in bitter cold, snowy fields, clear starry skies. We stayed in a converted apple loft, cosy under a sloping roof, a skylight window open to the scent of the sea, a warm kitchen below. A round of family visits, church, chatty teatimes, games of charades, exchanges of gifts and hugs. Christmas was not without its drama - I fell headlong down some stairs as I hurried to fetch gifts from a car...and an afternoon was spent in a local country hospital, where I received excellent now bandaged up and coping rather hilariously with the various domestic tasks that usually seem so easy...

We saw in the New Year with old friends, and went to Evensong at Gloucester Cathedral on New Year's Day, driving through countryside now brown and damp after the thaw. Now home, and catching up on tasks while sorting out fresh medical appointments to ensure that I'll be OK to travel in a few days' time...(prayers appreciated...)

Young friends returned enthusiastic about the FAITH Winter Conference, which brought together over 200 young people, including a large number of priests and seminarians, for talks and prayer and daily Mass and more,in the magnificent setting of Stonyhurst, in the days after Christmas. Amazing how the FAITH Movement has grown and grown - back in the 1970s, when it was first starting, we would have 40 or so people at a summer event, and now there are a range of different conferences and gatherings, and a whole new generation is turning out to listen and learn and pray and celebrate...

In America, I'm making some programmes for EWTN. There's a lot to do before I fly, and Christmas isn't fully over yet, we are invited to a party on Jan 5th.

BTW, we were in Oxford on Sunday, and went to a glorious Mass at the Oratory, packed of course and with wonderful music. In accordance with the current arrangement being tried by our Bishops, it was the Mass of the Epiphany, as they have instructed all parishes that this feast must be observed, not on its proper day, but on the Sunday nearest. I have yet to meet anyone who thinks this arrangement has any value at all. It is infuriating for priests and people alike, and this year's Epiphany has a particular absurdity - celebrated in church on Sunday Jan 2nd fully four days before it arrives on the calendar on January 6th. Please, please dear Bishops, listen to your priests and the faithful people: WE WANT OUR HOLY DAYS BACK!