Sunday, September 23, 2012


...images on a giant TV screen above the shopping centre, rock music pounding out, vast arrays of luxury goods on sale,  a  lack of any sense of friendly bustle, instead a mood  of purposeless loitering and scowling...I found Birmingham's Bullring Centre on a Friday evening rather horrible. There are few buses out to Old Oscott and it's easiest to get a taxi...often there is a religious discussion with the Islamic taxi-driver when one asks for the Maryvale Institute, and more than once I've been warmly urged to convert to Islam, but this time we stuck to generalised observations about the weather.

Arriving at Maryvale always brings a sense of peace.  Evening prayer, a cheery supper, the pleasure of meeting fellow-students who are now old friends.

Lectures this weekend focused on the Sacraments and were fascinating.  Unwell with a bad cold, I went to bed early on Fri and Sat nights  with a selection of books from the excellent library.  On Sunday morning I was woken by music  from the chapel - but it wasn't the sisters singing their morning office, it was our Mass just starting with its preparatory  hymn. Gulp. I washedanddressedandbrushedmyhair quicker than  you might imagine a  middle-aged Auntie could  ever do. Got into the chapel just in time.

During meals at Maryvale we always have excellent conversations. But, as is often the case in Britain in 2012, this weekend's tended to be on the serious side...the restrictions on religious freedom looming with the Govt's loathsome plans to redefine marriage, the grim state of  our social fabric with its splits and tears and the resulting misery imposed on children. The people studying at Maryvale  come from a wide range of jobs and professions, and tend to be unusually active in community life: youth work, local projects - not necessarily church-based -  care of the sick and vulnerable, and of course lots of active involvement in Catholic parishes and schools. They are in general large-minded and tend towards a sense of wanting to be useful, are well-read and enjoy thinking things through.  So you don't get cliches and jargon in conversation, and instead you get the rather frightening recognition of the realities of modern Britain, from people who know what's going on.

The Church's tasks in the years ahead in Britain are huge. As Islam forges ahead, growing in numbers and influence, its adherents will be boosted in their sense of zeal and confidence by the drunkeness and lechery on display in most town centres on Friday and Saturday nights. Violent crime continues to be a major feature of life. Institutions once  justly admired are now tarnished: our police (remember how we used to be so proud of the fact that they were unarmed? That was long ago...), Parliament, local Councils, hospitals.  The number of intact families, where a strong network of people love and cherish one another and foster opportunities for goodwill and service, seems to be diminishing in the general population year on year, and schools struggle to cope with angry, disorientated and sometimes violent children.

Lots to pray about.


Anonymous said...

Your final paragraph does contain elements of truth in it but reads as if we are facing the end of civilization. A sense of proportion is required. Talk of the many sensible young people who have a purpose in life which extends beyond that of getting drunk every weekend; although our politicians are a crashing disappointment, our government is not fundamentally corrupt; our police are not routinely armed, in fact are unarmed except in defined circumstances; violent crime, while disturbing, is not widely prevalent etc, etc. People do need to rediscover a sense of duty and move away from the culture of "me, me, me".

Elizabeth said...

Hello Auntie Joanna, I just have to share with you a quote from William Wilberforce about the task before the abolishionists: what attitude they should take. (He's quoted in Michael Coren's new book "Heresy: Ten Lies they spread about Christianity"):
"Accustom yourself to look first to the dreadful consequences of failure; then fix your eye on the glorious prize which is before you; and when your strength begins to fail, and your spirits are well nigh exhausted, let the animating view rekindle your resolution, and call forth in renewed vigour the fainting energies of your soul"
I'm writing that on a card to keep on my desk, to remind me when I see another decision by Government or another letter to the editor attacking Christianity, that yes it is worth the effort of responding.

Elizabeth said...

By the way Maryvale sounds lovely.

Malcolm said...

I'd agree that Joanna is too pessimistic. What was really deadly was the silent marginalisation of religion after the Second World war. In the 1950s and 1960s numbers actually increased, but the influence of Christianity declined. You were a socialist or a Tory, and religion was irrelevant to everyone except a few Marxists.
Now that's not the case. It's increasingly becoming clear that the big issues are the religious issues.