Thursday, November 14, 2019

...and after an overnight journey on the Caledonian sleeper...

...another History Walk at Westminster. We walked from Westminster Cathedral  exploring the story of Horseferry Road, the Greencoat and Greycoat and Blewcoat schools,  Mary Sumner House, the Church Union, and more...(and if you want to know about any or all of these, book in for a History Walk in due course! We are now planning Walks for the New Year...).

We finished at the crosses and wreaths in the Garden of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey, the scarlet poppies bright against the showers of golden and russet leaves, and just as I finished the Walk and we were all shaking hands and so on,  the glorious bells began to peal out,  adding their own message to the  London Autumn day...

TO GLASGOW...

...for a meeting re FAITH magazine. Always great to connect with the beautiful work being done  by the Sisters of the Gospel of Life.

The day finished with an invitation to a magnificent ice-hockey match. It began with a passionate singing of  what was announced as the  Scottish national anthem.  Written in the 70s, but with older echoes,  it  carries deep resonances - Battle of Flodden etc...

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

An Act of Remembrance...

...yesterday at the University where I have spent the past two years as Visiting Research Fellow. A goodish number of staff and students gathered, and the service was traditional, reverent, and moving. It is sad to see that large numbers of young people do not know the Lord's Prayer -  or perhaps are shy and uncertain about saying it -  and are unfamiliar with traditional hymns.  But there was solemnity, silence, and  - attendance at such events being voluntary - something touching about the gathering.

With ecumenical goodwill...

...and in a spirit of real friendship and co-operation, the Schools Bible Project has thrived for 30 years. In a couple of weeks' time we will have our 2019 Prizegiving, with pupils from schools across Britain arriving at WESTMINSTER ABBEY to receive their prizes for essays on  New Testament themes. The  project is simple: pupils are invited to imagine themselves present at a major event in the life of Christ - we offer a choice of six events, including some of his great miracles etc - and to write about it. Some choose to be, for example, a bridesmaid at the Wedding at Cana, or a Roman soldier  at the Crucifixion, or one of the Apostles during the storm at sea. They can invent a character  or be some one who is actually recorded in the Scriptures as being present. The aim is simply to offer the opportunity to encounter Christ and to understand the significance of it all. The Project fulfils the requirements of the standard RE curriculum, and  has proved popular with pupils and teachers alike.

Preparing the arrangements for the 2019 prizegiving, my mind goes back to the very first,  with the then-chairman of the whole venture, Bishop Maurice Wood, the retired  Anglican bishop of Norwich...I remember him reading from his pocket New Testament, a battered volume which he had carried with him on the Normandy landings...and I remember, too, a splendid Tea given to us all at the headquarters of the Salvation Army at a later prizegiving, and the gentle, thoughtful words of Cardinal Basil Hume at Archbishops House in Westminster on a further occasion, and the wonderful welcome at Lambeth Palace with Dr George Carey...

The project is open to all secondary school pupils in Britain, and a brochure goes to every school. More info here...




Monday, November 11, 2019

GREAT CELEBRATIONS...

...to mark the 10th anniversary of Anglicanorum Coetibus,  the call  to groups of Anglicans to come into full communion with the Catholic Church. Cardinal Vincent Nichols preached at a splendid Mass at the Church of the Most Precious Blood at The Borough, London Bridge, and you can see it all in pictures here...

....and a Mass to launch....

...the new initiative Catholic Women Praying Together.   This has grown out of the splendid Catholic Women of the Year event which reached its Golden Jubilee last year. All the main Catholic women's groups - Union of Catholic Mothers, Catholic Women's League, Assn of Catholic Women, LOGS etc - are represented on the committee and it was agreed to have an annual Mass, the inaugural theme being prayer for our young people. With so many young people in our country losing their lives and their happiness through drugs, knife crime, suicide and addiction to social media etc, we felt that one thing we could do was to pray together. Mass was celebrated at London's Farm Street church  by Mgr Keith Newton of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham and there was glorious singing from the choir of Coloma Girls School.  Their young voices were so beautiful: many of the older ladies were moved to tears.

A  talkative lunch afterwards in Farm Street's panelled parish hall - familiar to me as the current home of the Catholic Writers' Guild. Each member of the choir was given a bag with a holy card and a medal.  We had a raffle and funds raised will go youth projects run by the Salesians.

Chairman of the event, Anne Emblem of the UCM is to be warmly congratulated for taking on the running of this major new project.  We have a committee meeting next week to evaluate it and plan ahead. I think this is a venture which holds real promise...

Graduation...

...of students at the Maryvale Institute. The traditional ceremony  at St Chad's Cathedral in Birmingham. There is now a sense of familiarity as I walk in the academic procession. The teaching staff come from a variety of universities and I enjoy wearing my Challoner-rose MA hood from St Mary's, Twickenham.   There is a special joy at Maryvale this year  because of  St John Henry Newman's canonisation:  Maryvale was his home after leaving Littlemore, and it was he who gave the house its name...

The graduation  ceremony concludes, as usual, with Vespers, led by Fr Guy Nichols Cong.Orat.  and we sing Newman's Praise to the Holiest  with the music surging up to the  great gothic arches

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

EVERY YEAR....

....the Schools Bible Project organised by Christian Projects, of which I am Chairman, invites the young authors of the best essays to a prizegiving in London, held at the Houses of Parliament. the prizes - books, and a cash prize for the schools - are presented by our Trustee, Baroness Cox. It's always a very happy day, with a tour of Parliament, and a happy gathering of the young people with their parents and teachers.

All was arranged for December 2nd....and then the General Election was announced, and the Chairman of Christian Projects had to reorganise things quickly. Parliament will close from this week. No events, no meetings, nothing happening in  the Palace of Westminster until the people have elected some new Members of Parliament and Her Majesty invites the leader of the majority group to Buckingham Palace and urges him to form a government...

What to do? All the invitations to the schools had gone out, everything was arranged.  I fled to Westminster Abbey, where the splendid team in the Education Office  rescued the situation. They organise wonderful tours for schools and will make this a very special day...

Then on  to Mary Sumner House nearby, owned by the Mothers' Union, which  has attractive meeting-rooms which can be rented out...

And so the annual prizegiving will happen as usual.