Thursday, November 23, 2017

A reader...

...of this blog, after reading about Bishop Keenan (see the description of the Maryvale graduation),  has drawn attention to the joint Catholic/Jewish school  in his diocese. It sounds a really lovely school. Read more here...

Want to know about Christmas customs?

Why we eat/do/sing/ the things that we do?  How it fits in with the rest of the calendar?


See here


Something to ponder....

"Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection."

Who said that?

It seems extraordinarily prophetic, now that the ugly subculture of recent decades in Hollywood, the BBC, etc has been revealed by various women who have tales of molestation...

Click on to the Comments box to reveal who spoke so accurately over half a century ago.

And give him honour: he was bitterly attacked and hounded at the time, notably by people who should have been his staunchest allies.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

You can listen to...

...the Redford Lecture here....Fr Richard Conrad on "Christ as the Father's face".

CAROL SINGING...

...at London Bridge railway station on Dec 19th, with the LOGS, Ladies Ordinariate Group. We've just been finalising plans - we always enjoy the singing and a tradition has developed in which we finish by having a celebration dinner together. This year, our youngest LOGS member has offered to cook it for us and it will be a full three-course event, and promises to be a real treat.

Come and hear us at London Bridge! From 6pm.

Where the sexual revolution has taken us...

...read this...

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

St Chad's Cathedral in Birmingham...

...is a rather magnificent setting for a graduation ceremony. Maryvale holds its graduations there each year, with the Archbishop attending.  This was the first time I had taken part in such a ceremony as a member of the academic staff, and it was rather exciting to see it all from that perspective. A splendid array of academic gowns and hoods as we walked in - a great contrast to the grey concrete and car parks and traffic jams of Birmingham as the rain drizzled down on the city.

Bishop John Keenan of Paisley presented the Awards - a  large number of deacons in Scotland do their training at Maryvale - and spoke very well, linking us to the centuries of Christian history: Celtic saints and Bl John Henry Newman and more...

All the academic staff stood to make the full Profession of Faith. Rather powerful stuff: "Moreover, I adhere with religious submission of will and intellect...." Things finished with Vespers: the psalms rolling back and forth, across the Cathedral...the Archbishop gave his blessing....we had a final hymn written specially for Maryvale and echoing the words of Bl John Henry Newman, sung to a grand old tune...and the Cathedral glowed with the candelight...

And then back to Maryvale for tea, the two main lecture halls opened up to create a large space with a generous buffet. It was a great delight to meet many old friends, including Fr Guy Nichols, who lectures at Oscott seminary as well as at Maryvale. We had enjoyed greeting one another in our academic robes, and it was fun later to be catching up on family news...


It was all countryside, meadows and lush fields...

...between Old Oscott and Birmingham when Newman first came to Old Oscott House in the 1840s. The house had been a Catholic family home for centuries, and had been a Mass centre in recusant times. Following the various Catholic Relief Acts and then Catholic Emancipation in 1829, its chapel had become more or less known.  John Henry Newman and his colleagues, newly received into full communion with the Catholic church, and needing somewhere to stay while they made plans for their future lives,  were made welcome in this old house....they formed a community and Newman named the house Maryvale.

Over a century and a half later, crunchy golden leaves cascade down on the garden paths, and the old house welcomes us in the November dusk, and we talk of Newman. A most agreeable dinner, and a sense of feeling at home - I love this place. On Monday morning we join the Bridgettine sisters for Mass, and then there is time for some quiet work as well as a meeting for associate staff. I always get a lot of work done at Maryvale: the house is peaceful, with good wifi access, and the presence of others quietly busy too...

An excellent lecture in the evening: the Redford Memorial Lecture, given by Fr Richard Conrad in the Maryvale chapel.  His topic was "the face of God", a rich Trinitarian exploration.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

...and now I am off...

...to Birmingham, with my academic robes, to take part in graduation ceremonies at the Maryvale Institute: among those graduating are students to whom I have been lecturing over the past couple of years.

I will also be attending the Redford  Memorial Lecture : Canon John Redford was a superb teacher and a formative influence on so many of us...

ON a crowded Tube train yesterday evening ...

...a kind young lady offered me a seat. We got chatting, and her accent revealed her to be French. We started to talk in that language  (haltingly, on my part - haven't used French since last visit a couple of summers ago)  - and she suggested that I might be interested in the lectures held by a group of French academics in London, which she attended regularly.  The next  happened to be on Saturday, and on the subject of the Hugenots: would I like to join her there?  I gave her my email and she promised to send the information to me:  I didn't think I would follow it up but when the email arrived, it  sounded interesting so I thought I would go.

The lecture was at More House, in South Kensington...the name was immediately familiar to me as a  Catholic chaplaincy residence  for the University of London. The French group meeting there has no Catholic connection - but More House is near the French Consulate, and the Lycee, and so it's  a convenient place. The room - under the solemn gaze of Thomas More, a large bust of whom stood by the door - was packed, and I squeezed into the last available seat. I couldn't see my kind Tube passenger. The lecture was fascinating - the Hugenot story is a grim one, but there  are many fascinating aspects including John Henry Newman's Hugenot  ancestry, a subject that I have actually coincidentally been researching...

When it came to questions and discussion, I  explained how I had come to be there....but the young lady from the Tube was not present! Much amusement. "Un ange, Certainement!"  I've now been warmly invited to attend future lectures.

On arrival home, I emailed my Tube friend...and have just had a cheery email back: at the last moment she had been unable to make it to the lecture. But some day we'll meet up....

Sometimes London feels like a sort of village...

Friday, November 17, 2017

THE CATHOLIC UNION...

...a voice for Catholics in public life in Britain for over 100 years, had a packed annual meeting this week, following the Sung Mass at Westminster Cathedral.  Big topic: Catholic schools, and the Govt's promise to lift the ruling that any new such schools cannot have more than 50 per cent Catholic children. President of the Catholic Union, Sir Edward Leigh, spoke to us on this:   the Govt's concern, of course, is Islamic schools and the creation of "ghetto territory". But this is not an issue for Catholic schools, and the 50-per-cent rule is most unjust as it will mean that Catholic families will not be able to have the schools they need.

 Other issues also discussed: rights of conscience for doctors, nurses, and pharmacists, freedom to protest/offer counselling outside abortion clinics...also the rights of parents with regard to sex education...

I reported on the 2017 Catholic Young Writer Award - an initiative of the Catholic Writers' Guild, now run by the Catholic Union, and also the "Our Father" project, initiated by the Ladies Ordinariate Group and now also supported by the Catholic Union.  The Catholic Union Charitable Trust has funded a lovely Prayer Book for children - published by Gracewing -  to be used as prizes in the "Our Father" project, and I brought along some copies...they were quickly snapped up by people anxious to buy them for children/godchildren/grandchildren for Christmas, and I took further orders to be posted this weekend...

Monday, November 13, 2017

Remembrance Sunday...

...and we took part in the service at the War Memorial at The Borough, London Bridge, walking in procession from Precious Blood Church, J. wearing his medals. The memorial is a particularly fine one, and the service was all traditional:  The Mayor of Southwark,  the Deputy Lieutenant for Greater London, local Members of Parliament, "O God our help in ages past...".   And then back to the church for Mass...again traditional hymns...the children's choir sang a beautiful Pie Jesu...and then on to a long and talkative lunch...

In the evening, J. went to an Army gathering, and I walked back along the river to Westminster with a young friend. A cold, clear night, the Thames glittering.   Parliament, especially Big Ben, looks odd, lit up but all stacked with scaffolding.  We dropped in to the St Stephen's Tavern for a drink, and immediately got talking to people, ended up spending two hours there in good company...it was all older-chaps-with-medals, and it was the easy, comfortable,  feeling of a Britain that somehow gets numb and forgotten most of the time. Remembrance Sunday seems to unlock the inner normality of people.

read here for more of Auntie's thoughts on this...

Saturday, November 11, 2017

One hundred and fifty years...

...of the Catholic Truth Society was celebrated with a gathering at Our Lady of Victories church in Kensington High Street this week. It was grand to be there. Old friends, new friends, lots and lots of talk, delicious food, some lovely music from young musicians, and a wonderful talk by special guest speaker Magnus Macfarlane-Barrow of Mary's Meals.  It was an inspirational idea to have him, talking about a new venture - just marking its 25th anniversary - as we were honouring one that has thrived for over a century. There was a sense of excitement, of the Church being very much alive and all of us uniting in something large and glorious...

Plans for new work for 2018: it was fun to talk in person after good email exchanges, and there is a delight in tackling new projects, seeing the challenges and the possibilities. When I first started writing for the CTS, it was one of my first ventures with a computer - it seemed semi-miraculous to be able to check spelling and put things into italics and move things about to create
Sub-Headings
and so on, and not have to rely on typewriter-correction fluid, and carbon paper, and complicated hand-written corrections or phone messages.  But none of us knew then about the Internet, or the horrors it would unleash, or the way it would change so many things...

Litter-picking...








...was organised by our two local Borough Councillors in our road and neighbouring roads today. Volunteers turned out - I joined in with a will. We were equipped with proper gloves and pick-up sticks with useful big tweezers.  Here we all are, standing by the local railway station, with just some of the vast bags of rubbish that we collected.

At 11 am we stopped, stood still,  and observed the Two Minutes Silence.I hope all my readers in Britain did too.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Been reading...

...brand-new book, just off the press: Fr Matthew Pittam's Building the Kingdom in the ClassroomIt's a fascinating diary of a school chaplain, and is full of human interest, some touching stories, and practical ideas for evangelisation... and in a down-to-earth way has a message of hope.  I put the book in my bag with a vague idea of reading it on the train but frankly not expecting to find it particularly interesting, opened it only when I had finished with the newspaper and had nothing else at hand...and found it really gripping!

Fr Matthew shows how much of what was once a standard line on Catholic schools no longer applies. As one obvious, but often ignored, fact: for many pupils today, school can be a place of structure and stability in a disordered world and often a disordered family. In the case of a Catholic school, it can be a place where prayer can be experienced, and where the spiritual life is recognised in a way that simply doesn't happen at home. And this isn't achieved by vague offers of a friendly chat. much less by superficial gimmicks, but by what the Church truly offers: the sacraments, structured prayer, the Rosary, the reality of Christ's presence in the Eucharist. Fr Matthew describes how praying the Rosary has proved popular and helped to nourish young people's faith, bring hope and consolation, and forge bonds of community and friendship. Friendship, kindness and availability of a chaplain also matter a great deal:  he cannot be a remote figure and he must be seen around the school.

A major problem in today's Catholic schools is the large number of  teachers who are either lapsed Catholics or are agnostic or openly atheistic. Another problem is the general sub-culture of modern Britain, which marginalises the whole idea of Christianity,  and makes it easy for teenagers who are interested in the Faith to be made to feel they are stupid, bigoted or just weird.

Fr Matthew's diary format makes the book very readable. There are some touching descriptions of pupils arriving for early Mass before school, taking part in quiet adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, or enthusiastically becoming altar servers and proud to wear their new robes.  But there are also strange paradoxes: a boy who is a loyal altar-server at school but doesn't go to Mass on Sundays - either because of family pressures or because the nearest parish seems dreary and unattractive...

This is a book that will open up many aspects of modern British school life to the reader, and is much recommended.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

...and again, a good crowd...

...for the Evening of Faith, the first of a new series of talks, organised by the FAITH Movement, and held at  the Challoner Room, 24 Golden Square in the heart of London's Piccadilly (nearest tube: Piccadilly Circus). Fr Chris Findlay-Wilson spoke superbly on "Jesus - my way to the Father", a well-presented and beautifully illustrated talk which found an interested audience. These Evenings draw people from across London, all ages though mostly young, and offer an opportunity to tackle issues that do not crop up in Sunday homilies...in this case, the absolute centrality of Christ, who is not "just another teacher" or "a figure from history full of wisdom" or whatever other fashionable cliche is used about him, but is indeed God incarnate.

Interesting to have this explored with specific reference to the human body. God wants to draw us to him. We are made to hear, see, and touch - we have bodies, and Christ had a body, inviting Thomas to place his hand in his wounds...we are made in the image and likeness of God, and Christ had a body just as we do. The claims Christ  made, His statements in response to the questioning of His disciples, make it clear: to see Him was to see the Father. He and the Father are one. No other religion makes this claim: that God Himself came to join in the human race, the human race that He himself had brought into existence...

On a cold night...

...in rural Sussex, I didn't really expect that many people would turn out to hear Auntie Joanna speak on "The Church's traditional feasts and seasons".  But they did - the hall was full, and there was a great atmosphere: this parish, under the care of Fr Ian Vane, is evidently a wonderful community and there was a buzz of cheerful talk, many willing hands to brew and serve lots of tea, and a general enthusiasm for the topic with much interest being shown, and lots of copies of my book being sold etc...


Monday, November 06, 2017

Our Parliament...

...of which we are rightly proud, is surrounded with a blur of cynicism and sneering at the moment. When I lead History walks around London, we finish at the Houses of Parliament and reflect on our heritage, our constitution and what it means to live under the rule of law...

This piece by Michael Burleigh is a thoughtful read...

Sunday, November 05, 2017

I have long wanted...

...to have a go with one of those machines that are used to scoop up leaves in the streets at this time of year. There was a chap using one in the street outside Precious Blood church and I asked him if I could be allowed to have a go. He was v. kind and let me. Most satisfying.

A vast crowd....

...was waiting on the steps of Westminster Cathedral for the Guy Fawkes-themed  Catholic History Walk,  At first I wasn't sure I could cope, as I didn't have a microphone...but it all went well. In order to understand the events of the reign of James I, it is of course necessary to set them in context w. the events from 1535 onwards...and in Westminster, walking along Great St Peter Street in what were once the Abbey lands, and crossing the Horseferry Road and then on down to Millbank and the river and Parliament, the events of centuries unroll...

More Catholic History walks coming up - see info here.

And - to anyone reading this who came on today's Walk, please note that the Walk this coming Thursday (Nov 9th) is NOT at Chelsea as I announced, but is a City Walk, starting 2pm at Precious Blood Church, O'Meara Street, Borough SE1.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Bonfire Night, and FIREWORKS...

...and the delights of glorious showers of  glittering stars of gold,silver, bright red and orange and green and blue, exploding into the night sky above suburban streets....

Joe, who lives opposite, invited us all to gather at the end of the road to enjoy fireworks together. A bunch of delightful children, various grown-ups, lots of fireworks and sparklers...the cheers and whoops as a rocket swooshed up into the sky, the smell of cordite, against the damp chill of a November night.... It was great fun. Jamie supervised the lighting of glittering sparklers. I produced sausages and rolls. Joe welcomed us all with wine and beer and snacks...the children ran about waving sparklers...it is a quiet cul-de-sac and ideal for neighbourly get-togethers.  Over the years, we've had great street parties for the Queen's Golden and Diamond Jubilees...

Modern suburbia produces international gatherings: Polish, Filipino...the talk turned to the topic of languages. The children were impressed that I knew French and German. "What languages are you doing in school?" I asked. "Mandarin". And she could already say some phrases and count to 10 and so on. That's the future. Gulp

"Perhaps the best ever...."

...but people seem to say that every year after the Catholic Women of the Year Lunch.  It really is a great gathering, a big morale-boost to busy Catholics, hard-pressed priests, catechists, campaigners...Fr Stephen Wang spoke superbly, reminding us that being a Christians means being in communion and community with others, and citing great examples of saints who worked together and had networks and friends that connected and connected...Francis and Clare at Assisi...Francis de Sales and Jane Frances de Chantal...saints in families: Therese of Lisieux and her parents Louis and Zelie Martin...and we too must connect and pray and work together for the New Evangelisation...and strive to be saints.,..

Our four Catholic Women of the Year received bouquets and commemorative certificates.  There was a good lunch and much lively - noisy, laughing, enjoyable - talk, good networking, old friends reconnecting, new links forged. Ours was a young table, with members of LOGS, other friends, and a young staffer from the CTS   - we had invited the latter to run a bookstall at the event, and this proved immensely successful.

I had arranged to meet a dear niece in the evening - and she arrived to find some of us still talking and enjoying ourselves...settled in a pleasant corner in the hotel, over drinks...

Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the CWOY Luncheon...we meet in January to plan...


Friday, November 03, 2017

ALL SOULS DAY...

...and solemn thoughts and prayers for the dead. At evening Mass we lit candles and placed them at the entrance to the sanctuary, by the box that will hold, throughout November, the names of those for whom we pray...

And then we went out into the London night, into the streets of The Borough,  to pray for the dead in local graveyards. People have been living - and dying - here for millenia. There is an old Quaker graveyard by the entrance to the church, long built over...and another, now commemorated by a stone memorial and a little herb garden,  under a nearby railway arch...and then there is the bombed-out ruin of All Hallows Church, now a public garden...and St George's Church - where soldiers stopped to sing a Te Deum as they marched into London after the Battle of Agincourt - of course had its graveyards stretching out towards the Marshalsea and beyond...

Fr Chris, wearing a stole and carrying a bucket of holy water, led prayers and blessed each place. We said litanies and prayers.  Things finished with a gathering in a local pub, with drinks and a hearty meal, and some soul-cakes. And that is the right way to mark All Souls Day.

At last Russia...

...is acknowledging the horror, the fear, the unspeakable things that were done to the men, women and children who suffered under Communism....read here...

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Soul cakes...

...are an old tradition in England, all part of the marking of  All Hallows/All Souls. There's info about it all here.   I baked a batch of soul cakes this evening to take to church on All Souls...after evening Mass we will be visiting a local graveyard to pray...

A traditional soul-cake recipe produces a sort of old-fashioned rock cake, different from the rich sticky cakes that we relish today like fudge brownies or lemon drizzle or a spicy bun-loaf.  But, split and buttered, a soul cake is something to enjoy on a November evening.

The bus...

...from Westminster Cathedral trundled down Victoria Street and swept round past the Abbey, where chaps from the Royal British Legion were beginning to lay out the little white wooden markers for the annual Field of Remembrance.

I feel privileged to have grown up knowing the WWII generation, and indeed some of WWI.

It is increasingly difficult to convey the particular qualities of common sense and quiet moral courage that these people regarded as admirable and sought to reflect in their own lives as far as they could. The idea of self-promotion, as currently understood and celebrated, was seen as likely to result in misery, especially if it involved wallowing in victimhood, dishonouring marriage vows, being greedy or covetous,  using crude and vulgar speech, or expressing hatred and contempt for parents or country. To our generation, coming of age in the 1960s and early 70s, WWII language, accents, humour, and life-skills seemed anachronistic but in many ways admirable. Today, they are too often reviled and treated with contempt masquerading as moral  superiority. And important truths have been distorted in this process, so ideas of honour and freedom, neighbourliness and courtesy have been mulched and chewed up into nasty slogans and political jargon, or denounced as "hate crimes".

On November 11th, it is not just the war dead that we should remember but - if we can somehow discover something of it - the values and ideas of Britain two past generations really felt were worth defending.

Monday, October 30, 2017

As the political scene...

...gets more and more depressing, this is a trenchant and useful contribution to current disciussions and debates...

This sounds rather interesting...

...at Walsingham next year.  St Joseph has always been a popular saint, but rarely gets much deeper attention...

REDISCOVERING ST JOSEPH Dates: 16th – 20th March 2018 Venue: Dowry House, Walsingham A retreat which offers the opportunity to rediscover St Joseph, his role in the message of Walsingham and the conversion of England. To register your interest and receive further information and booking details contact: Retreat organiser: Clair-Mary Email: walsinghamclairmary@gmail.com Residential and day places available

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Figures...

....published by the Church of England suggest that a quarter of all Anglican churches have no children at all in their congregations, and others have very few. It's depressing: always v. tempting to laugh/sneer/whatever at the CofE, but  every lessening of a Christian presence in Britain is to be regretted.

No point in being smug about RC churches. London is, in any case, different in lots of ways from the general trend of things. But...a church I attend has a  good-sized children's choir, a Sunday school, a lot of boy altar servers, and that still leaves a good many children in the congregation toddling, sleeping, yelling, or just settled there alongside a parent...

Pub lunch after Mass. Discussion about this. The choir troop up to Holy Communion behind the choirmaster like a long line of ducklings.They rehearse twice a week, arrive early for practice before Sunday Mass...today they sung the Missa de Angelis, but they also tackle other settings in both Latin and in English...have been rehearsing a setting of Binyon's "They shall grow not old..." for the wreath-laying on Remembrance Day...   

Received an important appeal...

...from nuns in Cobh, Ireland, who are in desperate need of help to renovate their convent building. It's in bad shape - damp and mildew, no proper heating, everything messy and run-down. These are Tyburn Sisters, young, prayerful, dedicated...we need their prayers and the strength they bring to everything that the Church does. They need some help. Here's the info...let's be generous.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

MEN AND WOMEN ARE DIFFERENT...

..and what a relief to hear it said clearly to a major European gathering.   It's hardly a very profound point, simply a statement of what everyone knows to be true, indeed startlingly obvious. But it's reassuring to have it said in such a matter-of-fact, old-fashioned, come-along-let's-talk-common-sense sort of way.

So: HEAR HEAR!!!

...and I also came across this, which is an encouraging message with news of an American group which I intend to contact...

and you might be interested in some thoughts on the 50th anniversary of Britain's horrible Abortion Act...

Friday, October 27, 2017

A lunch-time Mass...

...at a busy London church, a quick chat with a young friend, a  rush to the train, and then an afternoon in prison with a fine chaplain and an excellent young deacon.  The latter gave a clear, simple, Scripture-filled answer when asked to explain about Confirmation,, showing its link with Baptism...I was impressed. The young men in prison, along with so many others, tend to focus on the "extras" when thinking about  this sacrament, as with other aspects of Church life. One particular young man remembered "people all dressed up - you know, in their best. And you get a new name. Do you get to choose the name?  Can it be any name?"  Once the subject had been opened up, and the reality of Confirmation explained, he became interested...

The walk to and from the prison is peculiarly depressing, even though today it was dusted with golden leaves beneath a clear blue sky. The mix of quantities of rubbish, roaring traffic, and a skyline of a McDonalds, a mosque and a motorway is somehow bleak. The motorway underpass is evidently used as a lavatory.    

Thursday, October 26, 2017

On a rainy afternoon...

...busy at home with domestic tasks, I listen to Bishop Robert Barron, warmly recommended.


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

...and just look at...

...the latest London landmark to be floodlit...

Read here...and I'd value your thoughts and comments on this.


The Church's Traditional Feasts and Seasons...

...offer a rich annual round of celebrations, prayer, and activities for families. Recipes, songs, games,  and all sorts of other things ranging from nursery rhymes to pub signs, are rooted in the annual cycle of the seasons. Of course some things are well known - but others are worth discovering or celebrating in some new way, offering opportunities for hospitality and family gatherings.  Want to know more?  Since producing my first book on the subject over twenty years ago, and several updated versions  (fifth edition is now in print)  I have relished learning more and passing it all on...there are ideas here for schools and parish groups as well as families and get-togethers of friends. If you live in Sussex, you could come and hear all about it on Monday Nov 6th, 7.30pm  at St Philip's Church, Uckfield.

Learn about the significance of the number 40 and why it is so central in Scripture and in the life of the Church...find out why we celebrate Christmas on the date that we do...discover the origins of the Advent wreath and how to make one...and why it's absurd to think Christmas finishes at teatime on Dec 25th...and more...

Cruel and wrong...

... attempt by the Scottish government to criminalise ordinary families. A relevant comment is here. What deserves greater legal scrutiny is the use of drugs on children who are deemed to be too lively and don't pay attention in class. Also the increasingly fashionable cruelty of hormonal drugs and surgical mutilation for young people who are deemed to be in need of switching to living as a member of the opposite sex.

There will be some grim legal cases in the years ahead as people try to reclaim their lost childhood and punish those who experimented on them in these horrible ways when they were too young to understand what was happening...

Monday, October 23, 2017

On December 4th...

...the CathSoc at St Mary's University, Twickenham,  is holding a special evening dedicated to exploring the significance of the University's name (speaker: Dr Jacob Phillips) and the history of the University (speaker: Joanna Bogle DSG). All welcome: 6pm, Senior Common Room, in the Waldegrave wing at the University.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Golden, orange and russet leaves glowing...

...in the afternoon sunshine...and the Thames lapping along, and  I walked from Teddington down to St Mary's University, and settled in the Senior Common Room with the history project. .  No one uses the Senior Common Room for its official purpose - it's a fine room in the Waldegrave part of the Strawberry Hill mansion, and it's used for conferences and meetings.  The whole idea of a Senior Common Room just doesn't fit into the way things work any more -  and all the teaching staff simply go to the refectory and the coffee-bar in the modern part of the University like everyone else.  But  when it's free, its dark heavy wallpaper and wide windows,  fine paintings, and reassuring bust of John Henry Newman make it a pleasant room in which to work, and a young student was playing the piano in the Waldegrave drawing room nearby, and I had a good-sized table on which to spread my notes and books. After a couple of hours or so I felt the need of Tea, and plunged back into 21st century life, with on-line topping-up of my refectory card, and fitting a plastic lid on the top of an expanded-polystyrene cup and lining up with the lads in baseball caps and girls in ripped jeans.

I continued my work in the more prosaic surroundings of the library. I needed a list of the St Mary's men who died in WWII, and asked a student if he could possibly help me by photographing the War Memorial with its list of names, on his mobile phone. He couldn't have been more helpful, and we went into the large silent chapel together, and found the Memorial and he got a good picture of it. Three long columns of names, and I started to look some of them up on the Commonwealth War Grave Commission website.

In the dusk, solemn thoughts as I swished through the golden and brown leaves in the lamplight, walking down towards the river...

Busy at...

...a meeting of the Catholic Union Education and Events Committee. Planning a day-conference for 2018, good discussion...

Partly because of something I was writing, I was thinking about the great St John Paul... the anniversary of his election fell this week.  J and I, chatting in the kitchen, raised a glass together in his memory. He is sort of our family patron saint...

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The FAITH Movement...

...is holding another series of EVENINGS OF FAITH.

All welcome.

Theme: Lord, teach us to pray

Tuesday 7 November: Jesus, my way to the Father Fr Christopher Findlay-Wilson

Tuesday 21 November: Meeting God in the Liturgy of the Church Fr Dylan James

Tuesday 5 December: Life in the Spirit: A call to continual conversion Fr Luiz Ruscillo

TIME  7:00 pm   Venue: The Challoner Room, Basement,
24 Golden Square, London, W1F 9JR Tube: Piccadilly Pizza & wine / juice served

Many thanks...

...to all who have sent kind wishes on hearing that I was unwell....

I am fine now, and back on form. I had a wonderful time relaxing w. family in the country - this  Autumn so glorious, and the company excellent!  We walked to the prehistoric (Iron Age)  White Horse at Uffington...the party included a good archaeologist and historian... we pondered Iron Age Britain...hundreds of years BC...

Also visited Wantage with its splendid statue of  King Alfred the Great...more history, all good to discuss...

We had comfortable evenings, watched the film classic  Roman Holiday (a delight - saw it on video 20 years ago, loved it then, and loved it again on DVD this time)...

I made some jam (yes, I enjoy doing that, so it was truly relaxing), bought some new shoes and even organised some Christmas presents. So it was a good time and almost worth being unwell beforehand to get this bonus holiday...








Friday, October 13, 2017

Towards the ending...

...of a busy week, I realised that it had been too busy.

Mildly enforced rest. Opportunity to catch up on reading. Recognition, on looking through the diary, that it had indeed been rather hectic. The problem is that I wouldn't have missed any of it.

A delightful visit to a delightful school to present prizes won in the 2017 Schools Bible Project.   A talk to a packed gathering of the Pure in Heart group in London.

Earlier in the week, two London Catholic History Walks...and each time there are new links with history to discover, origins of  words or place-names, folklore, battles, traditions...info on the next Walks is here

And, all week, when not otherwise engaged, busy on research work at St Mary's University and loving it.


Monday, October 09, 2017

...and then...

...a Newman Sunday....after Mass here, and a convivial lunch w. friends, off to Evensong at this church, to mark the feast-day of Bl. John Henry Newman.

There is a Night Walk through Oxford every year, retracing Newman's steps...Oriel....the University Church...and finishing at Littlemore. You can read a first-hand account of it all by Auntie here...

St Pius X...

...Church at Merrow in Surrey, is a modern building, not large, not specially beautiful, well-filled for a Saturday eve-of-Sunday Mass. Auntie Joanna is not usually among the congregation, but was there with family. If any of the congregation are reading this, and might have been puzzled by the sight of a lady carrying a small bag of squashed mushy-looking berries....it was simply that we had all been out on a last-of-the-season hunt for rosehips.  After a disappointing haul, we hurried home across the park, and there was a rush of tidying-up and getting ready for Mass...but Auntie kept the bag of hips because there might just be some more growing somewhere near the church...and in the last of the evening light, great nephew A-H and I went hunting. Alas, to no avail. We joined the rest of the family in the pew and in due course Mass began....

As a childless aunt, I am not often at Mass with family...one child was serving Mass, two more brought up the Offertory procession, another wriggled her way along the pew and snuggled up to her mother just as small children have done at church down all the years...and then at home there was a chicken supper and lots of talk...

This is the sort of day that Auntie loves best.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Auntie in action!

...giving out prizes at a school assembly. Goodness, I didn't realise I waved my arms about so much. Read here for an account of a recent prizegiving at a boys' school in Kent. I was giving out prizes won in the 2017 Schools Bible Project. More info, and a list of all the schools that won prizes, is here.   The main prizewinners will be coming to London in December to receive their prizes from one of our Trustees, Baroness Cox, at the House of Lords.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

While feeling...

...some sympathy for the poor Prime Minister, who was obviously unwell yesterday , my main concern is for our country, which must endure the nonsense which formed part of her speech. What on earth did she mean by suggesting that reinventing the legal base of marriage can in any way be regarded as compassionate? It was a cruel and mean-spirited thing to do, and has helped to undermine further the central institution on which a just society is based.

The Tories did a great deal of harm by forcing same-sex "marriage" on Britain.  The only possible thing for a just and fair government to do now is to ensure that those who defend marriage as the lifelong union of a man and a woman are given a fair hearing and not penalised. That means teachers, magistrates, school governors, youth workers, church leaders and others whose work includes teaching and guiding the young.

Mrs May is a Christian woman who personally honours marriage: it was touching to see her husband hurry to hug her as she finished her unfortunate speech. But she is Prime Minister: what matters is not her personal views on marriage, but the policies she is promoting for the rest of bus. If she cannot refrain from continuing to promote the cruel undermining of marriage, then it is probably time for her to make way for some one who will at least remain silent on the subject, and allow true freedom for policy-discussion to flourish.

The CATHOLIC YOUNG WRITER AWARD...

...launched by The Keys, the Catholic Writers' Guild, some years ago, is now sponsored by the CATHOLIC UNION CHARITABLE TRUST.

We are pleased to announce the winner of the 2017 Award, who wins the coveted Keys Shield with a cash prize and a selection of books. Two runners-up also received book prizes.  A number of other book prizes were won by pupils at various schools. You can read more here: and as one of the organisers I record my special thanks to the excellent Catholic Union Charitable Trust which makes this Award possible.


Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Today...

...the memory of Dr George Bell, Anglican bishop of Chichester, was honoured, at Evensong in the church of St Martin-within-Ludgate in the City. I went along, as I wanted to be there to honour his memory, which has been cruelly smeared in recent months by a crude and unsubstantiated allegation of sexual abuse. A number of people have been involved in seeking to clear Bell's name, and a full investigation  may well do so....but it is cruel and horrible that these smears were ever publicised. At Evensong one of his sermons was read - calling for a strong Christian renewal in the years immediately after the Second World War. He had been a courageous friend of the anti-Nazi Germans, and with equal courage spoke out against the massive slaughter of civilians in the bombing roads on German cities.

In a Traditional ceremony...

...going back centuries, Fr Alexander Sherbrooke became a Canon of Westminster Cathedral this evening. A letter was read out from the Cardinal Archbishop "by the grace of God and the favour of the Apostolic See" and then Fr Alexander and another new Canon-to-be made their solemn profession of faith and promises, and were vested with their canonical hoods... the sung Mass at the Cathedral is always glorious, but this evening had something special about it...a further chapter in the long story of the Church in our land...   After the Mass, all was joy and congratulations - there was a grand party back at St Patrick's, and when Fr Alexander arrived, we broke into "For he's a jolly good Canon!". Celebrations were unconfined - a packed, talkative, and cheery evening.

Monday, October 02, 2017

On a London pilgrimage, with a delightful...

...international group of students from Kings...honouring the English Martyrs. We began at this church, just by the Tower of London. A magnificent  church by the younger Pugin, and an active parish, with an interesting history in its own right: one of the people involved in its early stages was a nurse with Florence Nightingale and later went on to found a religious order caring for London's poor...

We stopped, of course, at the site of SS Thomas More and John Fisher's martyrdom. This area where the land rises up beyond the Tower - it's still called Tower Hill -  has remained open land down all the centuries. Once the ghastly place of executions, where crowds gathered to watch the grisly scenes,  it has long been a garden honouring the dead. Today, the execution site, adjoins the Memorial to men of two world wars who died at sea...they are honoured here, along by the Thames, because here their ships came bringing the food to this beleaguered island.

On to St Paul's and thence to Holborn...walking the route along which St Edmund Campion and others were dragged on hurdles, to face an agonising death at Tyburn.

At the convent, a beautiful Mass and a warm welcome from the good sisters...

The students were good company: sincere in their faith, open and interesting in their conversation, enthusiastic about learning the history. It was moving to be kneeling there in the lovely chapel at Tyburn, and hearing their strong young voices singing the Gloria...

This was my second walking-pilgrimage in 24 hours - my third, if you count the Blessed Sacrament Procession (see previous blog post).  After the Procession, I went with a Catholic youth group from a London parish for a Night Walk along the Southwark reaches of the Thames...again, lots of history, from the Bishop of Winchester's old palace, via the Clink Prison, to the little house where Catherine of Aragon stayed on first arriving in Britain - and on across the Millenium Bridge to St Paul's...

Late on an Autumn night, hurrying home through darkened streets, there is a curious sense of  feeling at once very comfortable and familiar - this is my London, my city, known since childhood - and faintly bleak.  A city and its history can all be very delightful - but late at night, the one corner of it that matters is home...long ago I might have travelled there by river, today it can be bus, tube, or train...having a home waiting is a mighty blessing for which to give thanks.,..




Saturday, September 30, 2017

More on...

...that LOGS pilgrimage to Walsingham here

...and in Tradition, Splendour and Prayer...

...as the annual "Two Cathedrals"  Procession of the Blessed Sacrament made its way across the Thames. This started back in 2011, in thanksgiving  to mark the first anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI's wonderful visit to Britain. It usually starts at Westminster and goes to St George's Cathedral in Southwark - but this year  we began at St G's. As we gathered, numbers seemed a bit bleak - but then as the procession started off, with Knights of St Columba marshalling us along the way, and the Bishop holding the Monstrance firmly, and  Knights of the Holy Sepulchre in white robes etc, it was all fine. Inevitably, we at the rear of the procession were out of time with the singers at the front...but that's all part of the tradition too....

A couple of people crossed themselves as we made our way through Southwark and across Lambeth Bridge. Several stared. Lots took photographs. Some asked each other what it was all about. At Westminster it was rather a fine sight as we swung out from Ambrosden Avenue and made a big loop around and into the piazza before a final approach up the main steps and through those great doors. Knights and Dames went right up into the choir stalls at the base of the sanctuary - the first time I have ever been there. A glorious Benediction with  Bishop Paul Mason of Southwark in fine voice.

An afternoon of Autumn sunlight and cascades of golden and brown leaves.  A sense of time passing. After disrobing  I made my way back to St George's to collect luggage etc...chatted to loveyl M.Teresa nuns and to various friends... it's all now become pat of this season in London...can it really be a full year since the last time I took part in that Procession?

At the Cathedral, a very grand wedding had just taken place, and I was able to duck out of sight just in time as the bride and groom emerged to a storm of cheers and rose petals.

This evening I am meeting a Catholic youth group for  Night Walk along the Thames...I'm writing this over a glass of wine and some supper beforehand...




and in joy and in peace...

...we went on pilgrimage to Walsingham. We were sent off following Mass at London Bridge, with the traditional ...blessing "May Our Lady and all the saints pray for you, an may Almighty God bless you..." and a sprinkling with holy water...and we packed everything into the coach, including a massive water-carrier - of which more later.

It was a cheerful journey. We in LOGS, the Ladies Ordinariate Group, have become a real team over the past five years, and it was joyful to be celebrating our first half-decade of friendship and  prayer and work and good humour together...

The Pilgrim Bureau, Elmham House, is welcoming and extremely comfortable. It has been my home on many a visit, notably this summer, and it was good to be back again. Our first evening was spent, after supper, simply relaxing together, enjoying a local pub, meeting other friends. The next morning's Mass opened a wonderful day. A morning of talking and planning, an overview of recent work - and of the work of the past five years - with ideas for the immediate future and for 2018, our projects for schools, our meetings and events.  For this, we gathered in the agreeable surroundings of Dowry House, run by the Community of Our Lady of Walsingham,  and concluded with time together in the lovely chapel there.

Then, in golden mellow September sunshine, we walked the Holy Mile to the Shrine, praying the Rosary. We had brought petitions with us from the parish, and added of course our own, and left them all  in Mary's good care in the Slipper Chapel. We lingered in the peaceful atmosphere of the Shrine - which I last visited when it was teeming with the buzz of hundreds and hundreds of young people at Youth 2000, and then tumbling with hordes of young families at the New Dawn event. I thought then that it was at its most delightful when busy with all these pilgrims - but somehow in peaceful September light it had a glow that held a glory of its own...

And then we picked blackberries from the hedgerows on the way back - agreeing that it was the last opportunity to do so as it was Michaelmas the next day...

And more. This has been a wonderful few days.In all sorts of ways, a time of refreshment. And then, on our final day, we filled the great water-carrier with holy water from the shrine and brought it back to London...

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

and I refer my readers...

...to this useful analysis of recent publicised events in the Church...

On Oct 2nd we will mark the 25th anniversary...

...of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

This is one of the best fruits of the Second Vatican Council, and a magnificent achievement of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Emeritus, and Pope St John Paul the Great.

Come and celebrate!

Bishop Mark O'Toole will be speaking on HOW TO BE A DISCIPLE-MAKING DISCIPLE, at St Patrick's Church, Soho Square, London W1D 4NR, at 6.30pm.

You can book your place at guildofourladyandstjoseph@gmail.com

The Catechism has now become central to Catholic life. At the big Youth 2000 gathering at Walsingham this summer, a copy was given to every young person. Copies have been sent as prizes to winners of the 2017 Catholic Young Writer Award. The  YOUCAT Youth Catechism and the Compendium of the Catechism  have proved hugely popular: the former is now standard-issue in Catholic schools in Britain, and the latter is a standard Confirmation gift...

Come and help celebrate, and learn about how to evangelise....




Monday, September 25, 2017

Not as advertised....

...and a story that collapsed.

Some media reports said that a letter had come come from leading Catholic academics, addressing the H. Father and suggesting that they were giving him some sort of formal reprimand.. But it turned out to be a bit of a damp squib.

The signatories aren't leading figures in Catholic academia. Many aren't active academics at all, none are bishops in communion with the Church, none are leaders of religious communities, colleges, seminaries or universities.The thing wasn't at all as had been advertised.

Papal statements don't have to be beyond criticism. But making a public campaign denouncing various Papal statements is not the way to help him in his pastoral office.  And getting together an assorted group of people to do such public campaigning is  a rather dreadful way to spend time.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Sunday Mass...

...at the Church of the Most Precious Blood at the Borough, London Bridge. There is a children's choir which is now singing beautifully. Before every choir practice, they line up in front of the sanctuary and genuflect together, before making their way to the choir loft, where they say the Prayer of the choristers of the Royal School of Church Music "Bless O Lord, us Thy servants..."

Today  at Mass we gave thanks for the harvest, and gifts of food and other necessities, collected for the Manna Centre, were stacked on a table.I made a  modest Harvest contribution selling home-made jam, rose-hip syrup, and other goodies. It was also the feast of Our Lady of Walsingham, so we sang a hymn in her honour, which I had never heard before joining the Ordinariate, and is rather lovely. I cannot find it anywhere on the internet so cannot provide a link - can anyone help?

The Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham...

...held its annual Festival yesterday. A glorious Mass in Westminster Cathedral, using the Ordinariate Form. Splendid, hearty singing. Conference in the big Hall at Westmnster City School . The entrance has a fine War Memorial listing the names of former pupils who fell in the 1914-18 war, with, written in gold above, "They died for England. Thou for England live."  It was fitting that the first talk of the day was on England's Christianity and the role of the Ordinariate in evangelising our country today, with an emphasis on the culture and patrimony of the centuries...Fr Ed Tomlinson spoke well, with some images of the architecture and people who have written the story of the Faith in our land...

Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith spoke in the afternoon about the blight of internet porn and how to counter it - a challenging important talk.


Friday, September 22, 2017

More on Holy Days...

...and with some interesting information on the importance of the number 40. Read here

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

We are seeing...

..new forms of abuse of children and young people. Fearsome things are happening. Read here...

John Henry Newman...

...took on the care of the impoverished village of Littlemore, on the outskirts of Oxford, as the Anglican vicar of the parish that included this area. Littlemore had no church, and he raised funds and built one, his mother laying the foundation stone. It was to Littlemore that he later retreated to pray and ponder the whole question of the  nature of the Church as founded by Christ...and it was here, on a rainy night that he was received into the Catholic Church by Bl Dominic Barberi....

The rooms that Newman established for himself in a former stables at Littlemore are today a retreat centre where his memory is kept alive and cherished. A community of sisters of The Work flourishes there, and welcomed a good crowd of us last weekend for a study day honouring their foundress, Mother Julia Verhaege.

Things began with Mass in the church of Bl Dominic, and then after a buffet lunch, a talk by Fr Joseph Welch of the Oratory. It was rather fine to sit in Newman's library, surrounded by a magnificent collection of books by and about him - many people come here to do research - hearing an inspirational talk, and to follow this with Benediction in the tiny chapel he established...

Saturday, September 16, 2017

WITH CO-AUTHOR...

...Clare Anderson - we worked together on this book about beloved St John Paul the Great -  a busy afternoon working on the Catholic Young writer Award, sponsored by the Catholic Union Charitable Trust.  The winners are to be announced next week - I'll be putting up a link on this Blog.

Clare and her family live in the country - different pace of life from mine...dogs, a big kitchen, family meals, vegetables fresh from the garden...

The first part of the day was spent helping out at a local lunch-club for the elderly,  organised by volunteers in the local Catholic parish hall. We had a grand singalong, enormously enjoyable. I  used to love ding this at the nursing home where my dear mother spent her last years...everyone singing  away together.  The songs  change as generations pass.. Mother's generation sang "The white cliffs of Dover" and "Lily Marlene" and "We'll meet again. Now it's "Edelweiss" and "My Favourite things", and "All I want is a room somewhere".



...at Paddington station...

...I settled with some coffee to tackle emails...looked up at the  TV news on the screen, and saw that the next train on the tube line I had just used had halted at Parsons Green with a great explosion...

It now emerges that the wretched terrorist's hope was to get the thing to explode at Westminster tube station, where it most certainly would have killed great numbers of people....its premature explosion while the train was not yet underground was thus a life-saver....


Friday, September 15, 2017

Don Bosco...

...the great saint of education established schools across Europe...and there has been one in Battersea since the 19th century, and one of my uncles was a pupil there in the 1940s.

Today's St John  Bosco College at Battersea is a brand-new building opened just a couple of years ago, and it was a great privilege to be there yesterday evening to present prizes at a splendid ceremony attended by pupils and their families.  I was made very welcome - there was a glass of prosecco with staff and other guests in the Headmaster's study, and then entry into a packed hall with a great atmosphere of friendliness and goodwill.

Always daunting to be the guest speaker on such occasions - but any anxiety dissipates into the general mood: things began with prayers and the blessing of the new hall, named in honour of Bl Michael Rua, Don Bosco's assistant and successor, and speeches by the Head Boy and Head Girl...

London is one of the great cities of the world and I wanted to convey to the boys and girls that this is their inheritance - their city, the city where Shakespeare wrote his plays, where St Thomas More faced death on the scaffold for defending Christian marriage and the freedom of the Church, where Elizabeth Fry launched prison reform amid the horrors of Newgate, where  Florence Nightingale established modern nursing at St Thomas's Hospital,  where Winston Churchill led the allies to victory in World War II... and where there are great things to be done, a great inheritance to cherish, great hopes for the future, great needs to be met.

South London has its own particular heroes -  among them, William Wilberforce leading the campaign to ban the slave trade from the oceans of the world, and Violette Szabo parachuting into occupied France in WWII...

We need to think about the great adventures that await us tomorrow and to be ready to serve and to do great things...and at St John Bosco College pupils are taught the Faith that is the true foundation on which real achievement can be based, and real values established...

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Oh, dear...

I have just been sent a magazine about music in church.

Its front cover  offers, all unwittingly, exactly the image of church that is most dreary and repellent to the young.

A small group of  plump cheery ladies, not young, looking rather pleased with themselves,stand, wearing their best frocks, at a lectern in the sanctuary. They look as though they have just come from a chatty lunch at Peter Jones or a weekly grocery-shop at Waitrose. They are about to sing at us. One has her hand lightly raised, in that gesture such ladies use when indicating that you must now sing the refrain of a psalm at her direction.

The message is:  Mass is about  middle-class ladies who want you watch them as they sing. They are in charge of things.

It absolutely sums up a notion of the Mass that is utterly at variance with the great reality of Christ's redemptive action and our call to worship him. It reduces the whole glory of the Mass to a ladies coffee-morning.

A more effective way of saying "DON'T COME TO MASS; IT LOOKS LIKE THIS!"  could scarcely be imagined.





Tuesday, September 12, 2017

After a morning at...

...St Mary's University (history project progressing slowly but satisfyingly thus far), I hopped on to a bus and crossed the river to Richmond, for a cup of tea with Fr Stephen Langridge at this church...

St Elizabeth's  is a church with lots of young people, a busy parish life, and a message of evangelisation and mission  - and also a rich history, dating back to the 18th century, before Catholic Emancipation.

I used to drop in here during my lunch-hour, when I was a junior reporter on the Richmond Herald newspaper - my first job after leaving school, the beginning of a life in journalism.

The Herald office in George Street has gone, of course, as has  the baker's shop  that was almost opposite,where I used to hurry to buy doughnuts, with one of the senior reporters timing me from the window  as I sped from the office, seeing if I could break my record for speed - I always dashed everywhere...

This evening I settled in one of the many comfortable coffee-and-smart-pastries places, and tackled some emails. Somewhere, the ghost of a teenager scurried about with a notebook and a passionate conviction about being a writer, giving everything an enormous amount of energy...oh, long, looooooong ago...


There is one book that I simply must read, as it is about one of the greatest men of our era...

...and I have ordered it as a birthday treat as it is published this month. Info about it  here...

and off to the seaside...

...at Bournemouth...to the magnificent church here, where a new Oratorian community  has been established.

This church - familiar to me from a wonderful family wedding held there a few years back - is ideally suited to the Oratorians, established by St Philip Neri in the 16th century and brought to England by Blessed John Henry Newman in the 19th.

We had a happy day, and it was a particular pleasure for me to catch up with a former parish priest, now an Oratorian, and to give him - as  I did when he was our popular local priest , and was glad to do again to keep up the tradition - a jar of my home-made jam, and to catch up on news and talk over so many things...

A delightful talkative lunch, lots of news to share, lots of good things to discuss...and this beautiful church, with good family memories for me, now sees a new chapter of its history...

TRUTH...

...really matters. Pope St John Paul wrote an encyclical centred on its splendour. Read here to mark an impoirtant anniversary...

Monday, September 11, 2017

In response to enquiries...

...about the Catholic Women of the Year 2017, I draw your attention to the information about the four elected women, and tickets for the Luncheon (Nov 3rd, London): HERE

...and while you're about it...

...you could also read Auntie in the latest issue of The Portal, the on-line magazine of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham....

...and if you enjoy reading about London's history...

...then you will enjoy Auntie's feature in the latest issue of Westminster Cathedral's magazine OREMUS....

With a pilgrim group...

...from Trinidad, a gathering for Mass at Ealing Abbey. Much enthusiastic singing, and a very devout atmosphere. After a pleasant walk back across Ealing Common to the hotel, a delightful dinner with lots of good conversation, and a joyful atmosphere: welcoming speeches, and a sense of a shared adventure beginning. The group will be going to Fatima, and then on to Avila, returning to Britain to finish at Aylesford before flying home.

The next morning, I joined them again  to go to Westminster Cathedral where their chaplain  Fr Haseley King concelebrated the 10.30am Sung Mass. The Cathedral choir was just back after the long summer break, and Cathedral was, as always, packed, and it was a glorious Mass...and then, after some lunch, we set off on a great History Walk around Westminster, in which they learned about the Grey Coat Hospital and the Blew Coat and Green Coat  schools, the old horse ferry across the Thames, and of course the whole story of St Edward the Confessor and the great Abbey here on the western reaches beyond London that has given its name to this whole area and to the world's Mother of Parliaments.

We rested in St Margaret's, Westminster before heading for Buckingham Palace...and then the group returned to the hotel and I trundled home...I love being involved with pilgrimage groups and helping to ring history alive....but it is also good to be home, and having a big mug of tea, and taking off one's shoes...

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Every year...

...following the wonderful visit of Pope (now Emeritus) Benedict XVI to Britain in 2010,  we hold a great Procession of the Blessed Sacrament linking London's two Catholic cathedrals - St George's in Southwark and Westminster on the northern bank of the river. The Pope visited Pope during his historic visit - as did Pope St John Paul before him, in 1982.

This year's Procession will be on  SATURDAY September 30th, starting at St George's Cathedral Southwark at 1.30pm.  It is always a glorious sight as we cross the Thames, with the Houses of Parliament as a backdrop. Knights of St Columba guide us, and we carry the Blessed Sacrament flanked by altar servers and candle-bearers...

COME AND JOIN US! Be at St George's Cathedral, Southwark, a little before 1.30pm.  Things finish with Benediction at Westminster following the Procession across Lambeth Bridge and across Millbank...

Come and help make history! The Procession was first held in 2011 to give thanks for the success of the Papal visit, and by popular demand has continued annually. This year, for the first time, it starts in Southwark -come and help make it the biggest and best yet!

Friday, September 08, 2017

This weekend...

... (ie Sept 9th and  10th) I am guiding a pilgrim group from Trinidad around London. They are flying in from Fatima, and I'll be taking them to, among other places, Westminster Cathedral, and Ealing Abbey...and, looking ahead, my diary includes a school prizegiving, a London History Walk for Uniuversity students, and an Ordinariate gathering at Walsingham...

Yesterday brought my Birthday, and it was spent very happily. At this church, Evensong and an Ordinariate Mass began again after the summer break, so I offered to do pasta-and-prosecco afterwards (my kind husband provided the prosecco!). So after a beautiful time in church - where we had my favourite evening hymn -  a good number of us  gathered around one big long table in the parish room around a long table...I'd prepared two enormous dishes of pasta, plus olive bread etc and it all worked out well...

Earlier, I had spent the afternoon at the nursing home where my mother spent - very peacefully and contentedly - her last years. It had become a home-from-home for me during that time...a place where I was always welcome...

Mother's Birthday was September 10th, and we liked the fact that our birthdays were so close together. In recent years we often merged the celebrations...so it was very special thoughts that I went to St Teresa's on my Birthday afternoon - my first since Mother died -  taking with me some home-made jam, just as I have done on all the previous Septembers...on arrival I was enveloped in the warmest of welcomes...hugs, birthday greetings, and so much love and care.

It was one of the most beautiful experiences, and a perfect way to spend my Birthday afternoon..."and your Mother is marking the day too - safely in God's care..." kind Sister P. reminded me...

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

On the feast of St Gregory the Great...to Winchester...

...for a gathering of Knights and Dames of St Gregory and of the Holy Sepulchre.

We processed - robes, swords,cloaks etc - into St Peter's Church for Mass. A fine large church with a glorious stained glass window dominating the sanctuary...

Afterwards, an excellent Lunch, and  a talk by Dr Michael Straiton telling of the origins of "Peter's Pence" - did you know that it originated with silver pennies collected by Offa of Mercia from among his prosperous farmers and tradesfolk?

Odd to be in Winchester...city of King Arthur, of St Swithun, of Jane Austen... pondering  St Gregory and his sending St Augustine to us...and to be doing so in this 21st century, with ghastly world events centred on North Korea...and the sense of a collapsing West, and fewer and fewer people in our land naming themselves as Christians..




Monday, September 04, 2017

ALLELUIA!!!

REJOICE!!!

REJOICE!!!!!!!!!

The Holy Days of Epiphany and the Ascension have been returned to us!!!

They are reinstated on their proper days, with effect from the First Sunday of Advent this year, 2017

Read here...and rejoice!

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Cardinal Gerhard Mueller...

...has given an interview in the latest FAITH magazine....

Want a copy? Send a Comment to this blog with your FULL POSTAL ADDRESS (which I will not publish). Offer limited - first come, first-served.

The summer...

...draws to its close....I spent Friday gathering blackberries and rosehips with young great-nephews and nieces. We also gathered lots of scratches and nettle-stings, but weren't bothered - we returned to the kitchen in triumph to spend a most satisfactory time producing a grand stocks of jams and syrups which will, as great-nephew A-H. put it "see us safely through the winter". He wrote the labels and the jars all look splendid stacked on the shelf, and a younger brother recorded the whole thing, plus Auntie Joanna's commentary at each stage with cookery instructions etc, for us to watch again later ....for such is the way things are in the 21st century.


Pope Francis: marriage can only be between a man and a woman...

... "we cannot change it. That is the nature of things" and he is rather emphatic about it. Also about how  teaching children they can change gender fosters mistakes about the truth... read here...

Saturday, September 02, 2017

THE CATHOLIC WOMEN OF THE YEAR....

...for 2017 have been announced. Info here...

Friday, September 01, 2017

Home...

...and I caught the train from Kings Lynn to  London Kings Cross, which was somehow pleasing...

At Kings Cross, a quick Tube ride to The Borough, where I was due to lead a Catholic History Walk - in pouring rain after Walsingham's golden sunshine. But somehow it was all great fun - splashing through the London puddles to glorious Wren churches and enjoying the riches of St Magnus the Martyr, and  The Monument, and on past the old Billingsgate Fish Market...

We finished at All Hallows by the Tower - saved from the Great Fire which didn't reach this far.

Back to Southwark and just time for a quick mug of tea before an evening Walk covering the same route...this time finishing at the site of Sts More and Fisher's martyrdom. It has its own small garden, with a plaque bearing their names and those of others who perished there. This whole area, never built over, is a place of solemn memorial...much of it dedicated to the men who died at sea bringing food to this island in two world wars. London is no longer a great port, but even in my childhood there were ships and docks and the Merchant Navy here...

At Walsingham...

...for the EWTN gathering, we stayed at Dowry House in the High Street. WARMLY RECOMMENDED It's run by the delightful young sisters of the Community of Our Lady of Walsingham, and has fascinating layers of history, from Medieval beams to a later Dutch-style gable (lots of Dutch influence on this stretch of the East Anglian coast)...and the Sisters have their own chapel across the courtyard where we gathered for early morning Mass. The community is growing fast and although they turn away many of those who apply, they badly need a new convent as their own accommodation is too cramped...

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

EWTN...

...the international Catholic TV network based in America now has a base in Britain too. Annunciation House in Walsingham was formally opened today, with Bishop Alan Hopes blessing the house, and Michael Warsaw of EWTN cutting a ribbon across the main door....and a goodly  crowd of people from all sorts of groups involved with Walsingham and with various Catholic groups and organisations all celebrating afterwards at Elmham House the Shrine Bureau.This whole project is part of a great teaming up with the Shrine at Walsingham and Mgr John Armitage its Rector...great plans for the future and many good things will flow from all of this for the evangelisation of ur country from England's Nazareth...

Monday, August 28, 2017

How to describe...

...Youth 2000 at Walsingham?

The Blessed Sacrament standing atop of a glowing stack of candles. Young faces, hundreds of them, lit by the glow. Music, singing, long periods of silence. All of this in a vast tented cathedral...and all in the glorious Norfolk countryside....

The particular theme of Youth 2000 is an encounter with God: their  specially-made stand for the candles and the Blessed Sacrament evokes thoughts of the Burning Bush, and God's presence among men.

Young people come from across Britain: they bring their own tents and they camp, and large fields adjoining the Shrine at Walsingham are taken over for this purpose. In addition to to great Tabernacle Tent, there are other marquees - this year labelled Goodness, Truth, and Beauty - where talks, workshops and discussions are held. There is a full programme, with opportunities to learn about all sorts of things, from Lectio Divina to the Church's teaching on marriage, from poetry to monasticism...

Auntie Joanna's tasks included a talk on "The Gender Agenda"  - a topic covered at the New Dawn event, and other Catholic gatherings this summer - and to lead a walk around Walsingham Village, telling its history...

All week the splendid Friars of the Renewal have been a ministering presence, and it is a joy to see them in their grey habits, along with the Sisters of the Renewal, Dominicans, and members of other religious orders, plus a great many parish priests from various parts of the country...




Monday, August 21, 2017

Spent the day...

...wrapping, packing and posting prizes for the 2017 Schools Bible Project, which attracts entries from schools across Britain. A small team of volunteers worked hard all day in the John Paul II Room at a local church - a large room in a well-equipped parish centre...we needed all the space as we worked with stacks and stacks of books, wrapping materials, brochures, and letters, with relays of parcels being hauled along to the local Post Office, and brews of tea being brought up from the kitchen.

This  nationwide project invites pupils at secondary schools to have an encounter with Christ by studying his life....they imagine themselves present at one of the major events and write about it.  Prizes are awarded for the best essays, and the main winners come to London to receive theirs from our Trustees, at a gathering traditionally held at Westminster and preceded by a tour of the Houses of Parliament. Other prizes are mailed to schools

Late at night, after tackling emails etc here at home, I browsed the internet, picked up news and views from various websites and blogs and so on...much Vatican gossip, the Pope v.v. unpopular etc. It all seems remote from the real work of Christian service and evangelisation.

Met...

...Clare Anderson, with whom I co-authored a book on St John Paul the Great and have done some TV work ....she will be spending much of this week, with me and other volunteers, packing and posting prizes for the 2017 Schools Bible Project.. We mused on the absurdities of living as Christians in the dying culture of the West...we swapped  news (weddings, babies, joyful family things - a while back, we discovered, following a  dinner discussion about family trees, that our husbands are in fact distant cousins, and we all find this rather fun and satisfying)...we talked books and ideas and current events....we agreed to meet tomorrow for Mass at the local church where we will be using the John Paul Room for the packing-and-posting work...

It's been a busy weekend. Sunday Mass  here and the children's choir is back after the summer break. Then a cheery family afternoon with a beloved nephew (helping Auntie with computer problems - see below) and his delightful wife and enchanting children, plus ice-cream and noise and fun and plans for blackberrying....

On Saturday evening a rather splendid dinner at this University where I am doing research into its history. Former students celebrating a 50th anniversary reunion....delicious meal in a candlelit setting in the Waldegrave Rooms: I was asked to speak about the history, and also gathered info, anecdotes, contact details and more...

Sunday, August 20, 2017

and...

...to update yourself on the London Catholic History Walks, read here...

I left...

...my laptop on a train, so if you are wondering why there have no entries to this Blog for the past, week, you now know the reason.  Ghastly panic....contacting Lost Property etc etc...but decision taken to buy a new laptop, and  crucial work safe because I had emailed it anyway...so...

Using various borrowed computers, I have been able to access emails and deal with all my work, but access to the Blog proved impossible. All is now rectified thanks to a generous husband and a wonderful nephew....I now have a new laptop and it is all connected and things start afresh....

And if you want to know about my work, you might get a flavour of it here...

Thursday, August 10, 2017

...and if you want...

...some of Auntie Joanna's Blackberry Jam, Bramble Cheese, or Apple Butter, you must come to the 11 am Mass at the Church of the Most Precious Blood, London Bridge, this Sunday, as there will be lots and lots on sale over coffee-n-biscuits afterwards...

If the nice "Yorkmum"...

...who recently wrote to me at this Blog would give me an EMAIL ADDRESS (which I will not publish) I would love to reply...

To Sussex...

...for a meeting with the wonderful team that run the admin for the Catholic History Walks...over a cheery supper at their home not far from the sea, we reminisced about how the History Walks project began some years ago, and looked at practical plans for the future...

Then the next morning, a glorious walk along by Chichester Harbour. Blackberries ripening on the bushes, wide fields where the harvest has just been brought in, and the great spire of Chichester Cathedral as a landmark in the distance. Out across the water, dozens of sailing boats nipping about, and at the harbour entrance, some very impressive motor craft moving through the lock gates taking people out for a day of cruising...

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

and then...

...after some repacking and organising things at home, another trip to Walsingham. But this time, a Walking Pilgrimage. The Dominican sisters of St Joseph organise an annual John Paul Walk for the New Evangelisation. It starts with an open-air Mass at Bury St Edmunds, but I joined them at Swaffham. Here, we all slept overnight in the sports hall of this school...and after an early morning start, we walk along the footpaths and lanes of Norfolk, alongside great fields of sugar-beet and rustling wheat, making our way sometimes through nettles and brambles, sometimes across mud and puddles, sometimes along comfortable cart-tracks or lovely soft grass...

Mass at this church at Castle Acre, by kind invitation of the vicar and churchwarden. A picnic in the churchyard: Sister Julie is in charge of catering, driving a minibus with supplies of bread and ham and cheese and apples and crunchy chocolate biscuit bars... Then on again, praying the Rosary, and hearing some excellent catechesis from Sister Hyacinthe.

Another warm welcome from the Anglican Rector at West Raynham, and an unforgettable Evensong, led by  him in the ruins of an old church  before a hearty supper in the village hall. The Rector's wife brought glorious rich fruit cake, and a kind parishioner brought delicious scones with jam and cream. We had use of showers and bathrooms in a local houses, where we were also able to bed down for the night.

And then, on the Sunday morning, the final march into Walsingham,singing and praying...our young Dominican priest joined other clergy to concelebrate Mass, as we joined other pilgrims in the packed church. Then a final walk - this time along the Holy Mile along the old railway line, finishing with Benediction in Church of the Annunciation...

This pilgrimage is so fabulous that it's hard to say goodbye at the end...long farewells and hugs and swapping of email addresses and so on...the minibus to Cambridge, and while the young people chattered away I just slumbered. And then the train to London, and so home...

After the New Dawn gathering at Walsingham...

...I paid an all-too-brief visit to the FAITH Movement's great Summer gathering. As always, crowds of young people. A ceilidhi was in progress as I arrived - there is always a strong Scottish contingent at FAITH events, kilted and enthusiastic, and the dancing goes on until a late hour. The week included daily Mass and prayer, talks and sports and more...it has all grown hugely from the days when we gathered, 40 years ago, in much smaller numbers, at what is now Roehampton University. But as the music swirled and the talk was warm and lively around the bar, and there was the buzz of youth and energy, lots and lots of  laughter and fun...it brought joyful memories and an enormous sense of gratitude...

The Summer Session is now held at this school with its beautiful grounds, approached by a walk from the railway station along by lush meadows in the fold of the Surrey hills - every year, I relish this lovely walk, and the peace it brings, especially as I know it will end with a meeting of old friends and a sense of homecoming.

for the Feast of the Transfiguration...

...I found this a moving and powerful read. Blessed Paul VI died on this feast-day. We owe him a debt of thanks for, among much else, the courageous encyclical Humanae Vitae...

Friday, August 04, 2017

The Rosary...

...said - and sung - as a vast procession made its way down to the ancient Walsingham Priory, and then the cool lawn beneath one's feet as we settled for Mass in the Priory grounds...this is always one of the highlights of the New Dawn gathering. An enormous crowd - if the old Priory Church had still been standing, we would have filled it. Thanks to Henry VIII we were in the ruins, and spilling out from what would have been the church, into all the ancilliary areas, and still the crowd kept coming, singing, down the Holy Mile from the Slipper Chapel at Houghton St Giles...

New Dawn was a glorious few days, and it was a delight to meet friends, to have some wonderful discussions, to celebrate the Faith and to tackle serious subjects in an atmosphere of prayer...

There is an underlying seriousness when Catholics get together at present. Things in our country feel bleak, with a sense of social and moral fragility and breakdown,  an awareness of great confusion and anger among too many of the young who have been given no understanding of what life is about or how much they are loved by God...

The poor old CofE is not helping much...read Auntie on the subject here...

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

and now...

...on to Norfolk, to the shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham, for the great NEW DAWN gathering...

I'm staying at the very comfortable Elmham House, the Shrine Bureau - and am writing this in the pub next door, where I have been enjoying a good supper and a pin-and-tonic while using the somewhat intermittent Norfolk wifi to catch up on my emails. Which gives me also the opportunity to offer you the latest Portal magazine, in which there is a feature by Auntie about Bl John Henry Newman and a recent trip to his childhood home along by the Thames at Ham...

New Dawn is  rather wonderful...lots of lovely families, a variety of talks on Catholic doctrine and moral teachings, rousing  singing - though not all to my taste (the words are inspiring, tunes and general style...not so sure) -  an atmosphere of prayer,  enthusiasm, and great goodwill,  There is a tremendous sense of loyalty to the Church  and knowledgeable, well-informed discussion about living as Catholics today and celebrating the joy of the Faith.  There is much concern about the threats to Christian families seeking to raise their children in freedom. Of course, some can and do educate their own children at home - but this is not possible for all, and anyway the Church must, as of right, be free to run schools and colleges and has a reasonable claim on public funds for some of this as she educates vast numbers of children and has done so for generations. The history of education in our country is Church history.

From the Thames Valley - via a rushed couple of days at home in London - to the wide Norfolk fields...it's been an opportunity to feast on a glory of English views...

New Dawn happens in a vast  near the Shrine, with families camping in adjoining field, and a linked youth camp in another alongside...one of the most powerful sights occurred this evening, as people were chatting in the evening sunshine, children frolicking about, strains of singing coming from one group, a buzz of talk from another....the sudden sound of a bell ringing, and a little procession crossed the meadow, a robed priest bearing the Blessed Sacrament aloft, preceded by a server.. Children and adults alike knelt down with complete naturalness and  quiet reverence. A lovely moment.

I remembered a similar moment last year and the beauty of it.  Oh, may there be, in long and happy years ahead, children at play in a Norfolk field and kneeling joyfully before the Lord in his Sacrament is borne along....

To the Thames Valley...

...and the EVANGELIUM conference, in the splendid surroundings of The Oratory School, Woodcote. This conference, now in its 10th year, draws a good numbers of young Catholics from across Britain. Excellent presentations by, among other, Dr Jacob Phillips, on the theology of Pope Benedict XVI,  Fr Andrew Pinsent on Faith and Science, Sr Hyacinthe du fos du Rau on on the Virtue of Hope...glorious singing at Mass every day in the big chapel with its poignant War Memorials...a talkative social evening in the main hall with its portraits of the Pope and the Queen and boards with listing School Captains...

I was speaking on The Gender Agenda, and began by expressing thanks to HM Govt for producing such a grossly absurd and horrible plan (changing birth certificates at will when people decide they'd rather pretend they were born a member of the opposite sex) thus ensuring me a large audience - every seat taken and I gave the talk twice.


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Been reading...

...Bernard Levin's The way we Live Now...some of his best journalism from the 1980s. Recommended. He is particularly good against cant and humbug.

It's distressing to recognise how much more open and large-minded such a commentator could be at that time: today vicious correction would result following some of his more acute observations. For example, he explores the shrieking attacks by feminists on Erin Pizzey, and is also trenchant on the subject of the relationship between rights and duties...

If we all...

...picked up just one piece of litter a day, and put it in the nearest litter-bin, how much, much more pleasant our cities, suburbs and countryside would be...please join me in this campaign. One piece of litter a day.... 

If necessary, carry the wretched bit of litter with you until you find a bin. (I carry a small packet of baby-wipes to clean my hands). You will find bins in shops and in fast-food places, and in offices and on trains...and more than once I have dropped in to an estate-agent or similar office and said "May I just drop this in the bin here?" and have never been refused.

Incidentally, one of the things I have learned in this campaign is that smoking is still very popular, but that people are uglier about it. They aren't allowed a smokers-corner in a pub or any other comfortable place.  So far more cigarette-packets are now dropped in the street, which is the only place where people are allowed to smoke. The habit of simply chucking the packet down especially applies to younger people, who have not been given any code of manners for smoking: they don't know about bins and ash-trays, about offering a light to others, or passing around a packet to share while sitting comfortably together talking. They smoke in a rather ugly, semi-furtive, greedy sort of way...it's not unlike the ugly shovelling of food that the overloaded-hamburger-in-polystyrene-box has produced. The cigarette and the hamburger are both consumed hurriedly in the street, and the wrappers discarded, and the everyday human ordinariness of eating and talking and relaxing together somehow just isn't there...