Monday, July 24, 2017

The lush meadows and glorious hills...

...of the West country...staying in a Tudor cottage... visits to family and friends...

A crowded Mass on Sunday, lots of holidaymakers in the small Catholic church of a seaside town...

In the evening, we went to see the new film Dunkirk.  If you don't understand about why it is all so central to the British tribal inheritance, you can learn a bit here.  And here.   If you were born into the tribe...be ready for what will happen to you when this superbly crafted film, with no gimmicks, shows the little ships...coming steadily across the choppy waters of the Channel...oh, I don't need to explain.

If you don't gulp a bit,be ashamed.




Saturday, July 22, 2017

It is important to read....

...this interview about Mgr Georg Ratzinger.

Irina Ratushinskaya...

...the heroic Russian poet has died. She was 63.  Imprisoned by the KGB, she became a voice for freedom.

"No, I am not afraid..." Her poems, smuggled out to the West, had drawn  her plight to our attention.

Keston College, headed by Rev Michael Bordeaux spread news of this remarkable young writer, with a leaflet carrying the message from her husband  Igor "Help me to save my wife". Campaigns, vigils of prayer...I remember sacrificing a bedsheet to paint her name on it, to make an emormous banner, held aloft on struts of wood... a memorable Christmas Eve, standing with placards outside the Soviet Embassy, and passers-by giving us support on their way home from Midnight Mass... the splendid Rev Dick Rodgers undertook a public fast...

After her release, she was flown to Britain... a vast crowd greeted her at Heathrow Airport...the conversations we had with her and Igor stay in the mind. Most of all, I remember her telling us  about the experience that she described in one of her poems -of being in a freezing, filthy prison cell at night, crouched against a wall, and experiencing a sudden glow of joy and warmth: some one out there is praying for me at this moment...


Thursday, July 20, 2017

USEFUL MEETING...

...of the Catholic Women of the Year Luncheon Committee!  Somehow, a group of ladies organising a Luncheon sounds like the last word in haven'they-got-something-better-to-do?  activity....but this is a substantial national event, bringing together Catholic women from across Britain, that marks its 50th anniversary, its Golden Jubilee next year.

The 2017 gathering will be something of a preparation for the big Jubilee celebration, but also a great event in its own right...

Today we elected the four Catholic women of the year - as always, by secret ballot, by a committee drawn from representatives of the main Catholic women's organisations in Britain.

Book the date for the 2017 Luncheon in your diary: Nov 3rd 2017 in London. Tickets £45, money raised goes to charity.  The four Catholic Women of the Year, plus our Guest Speaker and other details, will be announced next week (letters have to go to the four first!).

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Conversation with ...

...a student, training to be a teacher. He was interested in the college history, enjoyed looking through some of the archive material, helped a bit with going through papers in files from the 19th century. He was interesting and communicative and I only later realised why: he didn't use the word 'like in every other phrase. This meant that everything flowed in coherent sentences.

Is this a sign of a new trend, offering hope?




Monday, July 17, 2017

A busy day...

...organising the reading and judging of entries for the 2017 Schools Bible Project. Schools from across Britain enter this Project, which involves studying some of the great events of Christ's life and writing about them, showing some understanding of what the New Testament is all about...

The main winners come to London to receive their prizes - cash awards for their schools plus book prizes for themselves - from our Trustee, Baroness Cox. The Christian Projects group - it is a charity established back in the 1950s, bringing together Christians from different mainstream denominations - is able to cover the fares of the students and their parents and/or teachers.

There are also a number of general prizewinners, and these receive book prizes, posted out to their schools. Doing this packing and mailing is always a massive task, for which a team of volunteers assembles at a church hall in late August, so that the prizes are waiting for the pupils when they arrive back at school in September.

Today's essay-reading was also a marathon session, but one that was well organised, with a wonderful welcome in a lovely house and garden, and a light lunch, so that the work went well in an atmosphere of great enthusiasm and goodwill.


Friday, July 14, 2017

Thursday, July 13, 2017

and if you want to read...

...the latest FAITH magazine, you can do so here... features on faith and freedom, Original Sin, "Making Gay Okay"....

...and Wednesday.....

...which I also spent at St Mary's - this time busy in the archives, working my way through the records of  the 1930s and 40s...fascinating stuff with WWII bombing and so on...I found this event happening in the chapel in the evening. A lively call with something of the old-fashioned mission-hall about it, but with a loud American zest punctuated with zappy music...  Absolutely packed, a different crowd  from yesterday and again hordes and hordes of young Catholics... at the end, there was a rather splendid sound with everyone singing  "How great Thou art"...

I had spent part of the day very agreeably with Pia Matthews, who teaches at St Mary's...we went to Mass in the chapel and then had a delightful picnic (all provided by Pia - she bakes her own bread and scones etc...wonderful) in the grounds. It's a real privilege to be working here , in this glorious setting with green lawns and Horace Walpole's extraordinary Gothic toy palace with its Waldegrave embellishments...eating scones with jam and cream...

And then in the evening, to see a whole new generation rediscovering the Faith in new ways...

The Church is facing problems in Britain that were unimaginable in the 1930s and 40s...the St Mary's of those days was a vastly different place, in a vastly different country. But  the Faith is the same, and offering the same challenge with a forthright freshness that somehow has a new vigour....it is also very different, incidentally, from what was on offer back in the 1970s...and in many ways much, much more appealing.

We are going to need this vigour and strength in the days ahead. It is strange to spend a working day looking across history to the vanished Britain of the 1940s, where it was normal to assume some common values about things like human identity, marriage, parenthood, and people's rights and duties,  and then to go home to late-night headlines where same-sex "marriage" and the promotion of abortion are everyday realities...

At a Catholic University...

...a couple of astonishing events...

The first, on Tuesday,  took me by surprise. I'd had an infuriating day. Arrived early at Euston to catch a train to Lancaster for an important meeting. No trains. Everything cancelled - something had happened on the line near Milton Keynes. Spent some time emailing to explain to others at the meeting etc etc...

To avoid a waste day, I went on to St Mary's. But here, frustration again - the Library was closed for a staff training day. No access to archives so no work  possible on the history project. The study area was open, however, so I settled somewhat grumpily to some other work, After a couple of hours I happened to be looking out of the window when Fr Stephen Langridge was walking past, chatting with a group of people...he is parish priest of nearby Richmond and a great friend and I went out to greet him. And found I was in the middle of a wonderful gathering of students from across Britain and America - an event called The Commission, organised by FOCUS.

I met the founder, Curtis Thomas, and realised that here was a good feature for the Catholic press and websites, so whipped out my notebook for an interview. And then in due course I found myself sitting at the back of a well-filled chapel, listening to him give an excellent talk, and realising that I was seeing something that is a major part of the New Evangelisation.

It was all rather exciting - and I would never have encountered it, had not the trains to the North West been stopped for the day....


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Meanwhile, LOGS thrives...

...read here...

IMPOSSIBLE...

...to be ironic these days.

I wrote a spoof (see below) about a lobby group campaigning against the reality of oceans and land.

Today, this news from the Church of England.

You couldn't make it up.  You honestly couldn't.




Monday, July 10, 2017

...and you might also enjoy...

...a gentle look at a subject which seems trivial but has a message too...

The government has just approved funds for...

...the Hydro-NO! group, which is working with schools and youth groups to challenge stereotypical beliefs about artificial barriers between land masses.

"After being marginalised for so long, and subject to hydro-abuse from so many sides, it's a relief to be recognised at last"   said leading campaigner Itsa Nydea. "What a lot of people just don't realise is how prejudices about land and water over the centuries have created a complete hydro-based set of beliefs which need to be challenged by those of us who know a different reality."

Hydro-NO  is working on new material for geography classes that show that there is not necessarily water between Britain and France, and certainly none between  Europe and America.

"It's all  about recognising where we are at today. Hydro-based notions of the past are just, in various ways, forms of oppression."

A booklet for schools says: "We all know that whether there is water or not is something that can depend on feelings: mirages in the desert prove that.  So it is just prejudice to suggest that we should use words like 'ocean' to describe something that could actually be dry land tomorrow if people really felt, in themselves, that it was."

"Over the centuries people have even given names to large areas of what they describe as 'sea'.  This is really offensive to those of us who just don't accept the idea that large tracts of water exist between different continents. Expressions like 'Atlantic Ocean' and 'North Sea' really need to be banned."

Transport authorities are among those backing the campaign and are arranging that bus drivers using expressions like "seaside" or "river" are penalised.

Hoc est. iocus. Sed...





A most successful....

...Catholic History Walk, from St Martin-in-the-Fields, down to the Strand and then along the river to the Inns of Court...

A good crowd and a good spirit of cheerful friendliness...

With large numbers, it is always a question whether or not to use a microphone system. The one we have is rather heavy - for the Martyrs Walk, we had it in a suitcase-on-wheels which worked extremely well, but it seems cumbersome to take it around London on each and every walk.  So I rely on my own voice - which works well enough when we are in parks and gardens, so today's walk, along the Embankment where there are lovely gardens all the way, was a delight.

Next walks:  info here...

PRAYER...

...today and every day over the next weeks, for Cardinal George Pell, unjustly accused of crime. This is a man of integrity, courage and decency and he merits our prayers and support at this tough time.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

We were standing in Westminster,...

...on that corner of Whitehall by Parliament Square, with the Abbey behind us, and tourists surging, hot and crowded, down along past the sad imperial splendour of the Foreign Office. I had been pointing out the Cenotaph, and waving towards Trafalgar Square beyond. We'd covered some centuries of history and pondered Roman invasion and ancient Britons, Saxons and Vikings and Normans... and high Middle Ages and Reformation sorrows and Victorian gothic revival and 20th century wars...

And we had really finished the day's walk and there was still lots to discuss and the young people from Slovakia and Rumania were still full of questions and comments.

"How was it...I mean, really, how was it...that a small island, away from the rest of Europe...becomes the centre of a great Empire, and now today we all speak English - we learn it in school, and it is spoken in Africa, in America.... How was it....why was it...from just this one small island?"

And I walked back across the river with those words echoing in my heart. How was it... why was it? This island. This beloved small island with its astonishing story, its astonishing place in history.


As regular readers...

... of this Blog will know, I regularly pick up litter from the street and place it in bins. Two reactions: older (over 40) people say "Good for you" or similar, and sometimes join in to help, younger ( especially under 25) say "Why do that? It's what people are paid to do"  or similar. This latter group seem absolutely baffled by any idea of sharing a common responsibility for public places, or of doing something  slightly unpleasant for the common good. Once it's explained, they can get quite interested.

Incidentally, I always carry "baby-wipes" to clean my hands.

If each of us picked up one piece of litter a day, our streets would be much, much more pleasant for us all.


On a piercingly hot day...

...a beautiful and cool boat-trip along the Thames, with members of the Ladies Ordinariate Group and other friends, to visit Bl. John Henry Newman's house at Ham, just beyond Richmond.  The house has for many years been used as part of Grey Court School, and indeed has given its name to the school. From the outside, it is just as the young John Henry would have known it  - except that it now bears a blue plaque honouring him! - and we looked at it and wondered which window belonged to the nursery where he slept...in his writing, he recalled lying in bed and watching the candle being lit in the window, the celebrate the victory of the Battle of Trafalgar...

We'd enjoyed a talkative pub lunch at Richmond and after the walk along the riverside path to Ham in searing sunshine, it was grand to find another pub that was glad to serve us tea...

Then the bus into Richmond and the train back to London...where I went on by Tube  to Baker Street and thence to St James, Spanish Place where I met a group of lively youngsters for yet another History Walk.  This is a group organised by Fr Hugh Mackenzie and we walked through Marylebone to Tyburn, discussing the history it all - the hidden Tyburn River, the origin of Marylebone's name,  and more...


Tuesday, July 04, 2017

A reunion...

...with friends who studied with me at the Maryvale Institute.  One, like me, is now a lecturer there. We met at London Bridge for Mass and then walked back towards Southwark to find the cafe where we used to have lunch after our exams at the Amigo Hall. We couldn't find it, but settled for a pub nearby and had a long, talkative, utterly enjoyable lunch....

Afterwards, as we stood, still talking, on the street corner, Fr Chris Pearson from Precious Blood Church - where we'd been to Mass earlier - came up on his bike. He was amused to see us still chattering away...

He had been at Westminster Cathedral, where he does confession-duty. Crowds had been gathering there: the new Nuncio was being formally welcomed.

I walked on back towards the Tube, and found our cafe at once - we'd been looking so hard we missed it! next time...

In the evening, to an Evening of Faith organised by the FAITH Movement in the Challoner Room at Golden square, Piccadilly. Excellent talk exploring the Faith Movement in the context of the New Movements in the Church, 20th and 21st centuries....speaker Julie Mersey is writing a doctoral thesis on the subject... lively discussion over wine and pizza, and then some of us walked back across the river to Waterloo, in the warm summer night...down past the Duke of York's column, and on past the Foreign Office and the Guards monument,, talking history as we went. Just as we arrived in Parliament Square, Big Ben struck the hour.  There is scaffolding all along that side of the Houses of Parliament, as major repairs begin.  How odd it will feel when Big Ben goes silent - apparently the repairs may take up to six years...

...and on a current issue...

...you owe it to yourself to read this...

Monday, July 03, 2017

Young men...

... who are not academic or who have specific skills, are at a disadvantage, compared to other groups (young women, older men, babies, children, older women)  in modern Britain.  Their specific attributes - physical strength, daring, team loyalty - are not those that find an immediate use in a country which has less heavy industry than in the recent past. The current methods of education don't really suit them: they need and like a greater sense of structure and immediate purpose. History, for example,  is made dull for them by focusing on themes and messages rather than dates and information and exciting stories. And they lack role models, especially fathers.

Talking - or, better, listening - to young men in prison it is noticeable that the one thing they have in common is a lack of a good father. What are now fashionably called "male role models" are also generally missing: we need more men as teachers and youth leaders. We need more priests.

A good prison chaplain is a real blessing. They like greeting him as "Father", they listen to him, they go to his talks and lessons, and  go to Confession to him. They take hin seriously,  follow his instructions and ask his help. They will take catechetical instruction  from some one who is seen as his assistant and they like the sense that there is a strong Church of which they are a part. They need this as a clear form of identity faced with considerable Islamic pressure.

I find that the young men enjoy a structured, rather formal preparation for Baptism and/or Confirmation. They are happy to report on work done - prayers learned, information grasped, sections of a workbook completed. The sense of sitting rather formally and working on a specific topic, with a sense of  seriousness, appeals - as does the tribal sense of belonging to the Church, having a Rosary and a Bible, signing up for Mass (and working to turn the large general chaplaincy area into quite a good chapel with statues, kneelers, sanctuary, altar,  font, etc). They like a good formal liturgy and relish singing good hymns.

The prison that I visit offers plenty of sports and has generally good facilities, plus decent food and clean cells. The young men have opportunities to train for various jobs, and there is encouragement and support in making realistic plans for the future.

Pray for the people in our prisons.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

...and on Sunday....

...the Ordinariate church at London Bridge honoured the Most Precious Blood, with a special Mass celebrated by Mgr Keith Newton, lovely singing from the children's choir, and a good-sized congregation.  Then on to the Redcross Gardens for a parish picnic. The wedding couple from yesterday had, as a thank-you gift to the parish, arranged for quantities of champagne, which was trundled across to the Garden in big buckets filled with ice...


A London summer weekend...

...began w. the Mass that is held on the first Saturday of every month here, honouring Our Lady of Walsingham.  In place of the Bidding Prayers, we go to the Lady Altar, place ourselves spiritually at Walsingham  and say the Walsingham Prayer...

Afterwards, there is coffee and chat, and sometimes a talk on some aspect of Walsingham...

Then I went off to do some work, having brought my laptop with me. Like many another Londoner, I sit in coffee-shops and work...

In the afternoon I returned to the church briefly, as there was a wedding - at which, for the first time, an embroidered kneeler made by Auntie, was to be used. It's a special design, showing wedding bells and two interlocking rings, and  so on...I have been working on it, during train journeys, and in quiet moments, for the past several weeks...it was nice to see it in use, although I just stood briefly at the back of the crowded church before hurrying off...

In the evening, NIGHTFEVER at St Patrick's, Soho. To get a sense of what it's like, you could read the latest issue of OREMUS magazine, in which I have written a description of it all...

Saturday, July 01, 2017

...and on Cardinal George Pell....

...read here...





READ ALL ABOUT....

...the latest events in the Ordinariate of OL of Walsingham... here