Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Tuesday Nov 29th
Jamie off to talk to the Catholic society at the University of Kent at Canterbury, where the chaplain is the excellent Father Peter Geldard. Fr Peter was, in the late 1980s and early 90s, the leading Anglo-Catholic spokesman in the run-up to the debate at the General Synod of the Church of England on ordaining women as priestesses. He was a superb speaker, a knowledgeable and convincing man whose sincere faith and absolute honesty rang out clearly during the innumerable interviews in which he took part on radio and TV at that the end the female ordination vote was extraordinarily narrow-the debate was broadcast on radio and I recall listening to it in, of all places, the Catholic Central Library which at that point was just behind Westminster Catrhedral, at the other end of Victoria Street from Church House where the debaters were sitting.

After the vote, Fr Geldard remained true to his principles. But his understanding of the Church changed: "I had thought I belonged to a Catholic Church with some Protestant elements. I discovered that it was a Protestant Church with some Catholic aspects". He had been brought up - in an Anglican Church - on the Tridentine Rite Mass said in the traditional manner (a number of Anglican parishes still have it). He had always seen his role, and that of other "Anglo-Catholics" as returning the C of E to its full bond with the Catholic Church. "Now the scales, as it were, fell from my eyes". He became a Catholic - with no expectation, at that point, of ever being ordained. In fact even when he did, after some while, put forward an application for ordination, it got held up because the papers establishing his baptism were unusual - he was baptised in an emergency ceremony by a nuirse in the hospital when he was born, as it was though he would die.

I learned all this when I did an interview with Fr peter for THIS ROCK magazine, published by Catholic Answers in the USA.

I had a comfortable evening to myself at home, tackling a lot of letters etc, and then suddenly - while I was on the telephone, as it happened, in the middle of a rather important conversation, I suddenly sensed that something had happened on my computer....and yes, it had gone down. No emails. No internet access.

So I am writing this on Wednesday morning at Sutton Library - where one is allowed an hour on the computer but can plead for extra time (unlike the borough of Merton where no such indulgence is allowed - so it was worth the cycle ride to this neighbouring borough, which pleasantly and coiuncidentally is the one where I lived for the first half of my life and spent many happy years as a Borough books on local history are still on sale here in the library!).

This afternoon I shall meet Mother at Carshalton for our usual pleasant walk and then Tea at Honeywood Lodge by the ponds, where there is also a nice little gift-shop for saome Christmas browsing.. Then I shall cycle the moment I am saying the Rosary as I ride, for a number of intentions notably the H. Father's safety in Turkey - I assume I am scarcely alone in that one - and Jamie will be home and we will have a computerless evening and I may even do some housework (I only ever seem to do any real cleaning and hoovering when allother options for activity are unavailable!).

Here it comes - a sort of strap across the front of the computer "You HAVE HAVE MINUTES BEFORE YOUR SESSION ENDS". Wrrrrghh.....

Monday, November 27, 2006

Monday Nov 26th

If anyone wants to write a letter to explain why it would be very wong to appoint Mrs Cherie Blair as a member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, they should send a comment to this blog TODAY and I will get back to them. BUT YOU MUST SEND ME YOUR FULL EMAIL ADDRESS OR I CANNOT REPLY TO YOU.

This matter is not trivial. Of course I know that Mrs B. cannot do much at the Academy and I daresay it already has members who are totally opposed to the teaching of the Church. But that is not the point. The point is that her status as an Academy member will be the best gift that Planned Parenthood has been given since she launched their condoms-for-teenagers campaign from the Prime Minister's official home at 10 Downing Street, the best boost for the Family Planning Association - Britain's premier group campaigning for abortion - since she visited their stand at the Labour Party conference , cut their celebration cake and posed for pictures brandishing a condom.

The Blairs will be leaving Downing Street soon. They are already planning their next careers. Mrs B. is an obvious successor to those who launched "Catholics for a Free Choice"....their campaign has run into the ground in recent years and needs a boost. If you want to help prevent this, contact me now.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Sunday Nov 26th
To St Dominics' priory, Haverstock Hill: midday Mass. It took me a while to find the church, as I walked right to the top of the Hill, and the church is off on one side, in Southampton Road. I arrived in a bit of a hurry in case I was late, and slipped in by a side door....and then gasped as I wasn't prepared for the hugeness of it, and the great beauty of the sanctuary all glittering with candles. It was a beautiful Mass, lots of Latin, good music - a lovely Kyrie and Gloria, and the congregation sang Credo 111 turn-and-turn about the the choir (what's the technical term for that?) and there was something beautiful at Communion. The choir is excellent. A number of young families at Mass, but no running-about or shouting - perhaps something in the size and magnificence of the place dwarfs even the most wrigglly children ....There was a dear little family just near me, beautifully behaved, and at one point the small boy whispered "Is Jesus on the altar yet?" Afterwards, nice Dominicans in their white habits greeting parishioners: a pleasing scene.

Catholic newspapers....huge headline on the Scottish Catholic Observer saying there could be a change in the Church's teaching on contraception in some circumstances....various of the world's radio TV and newspapers have been pushing this one all week. If some campaigners (in Rome?) are trying to lobby for this, we can be sure that IMMENSE damage will be done. The SCO headline says it all. Here's a warning : even if what is suggested is merely a theoretical and technical statement which says that a condom could be used for non-contraceptive purposes, be sure that this will be used as a statement that contraception isn't always wrong, and this message will be widely promoted, endlessly publicised, and used to affirm that there has been a fundamental change and that Humanae Vitae is a dead letter.

I had left my bike at Wimbledon station and cycled home in gentle rain. It's the feast of Christ the King, a notion I have always liked. The origins of the Feast, though, have a certain panicky deperation about them - it was established in 1925 in the wake of World War 1 and somehow there is an echo of a devastated Europe and a sense of the Church trying to create some fresh attempt at an understanding of spiritual of order amid the chaos of abandoned monarchies and re-drawn national boundaries, with all of what was once Christendom licking its wounds after years of savage and vicious fighting, and preparing for the next round........

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Sat Nov 25th
A wild and rainy day, and as the weather cleared we had a glorious walk in Richmond Park. As we turned towards Pen Ponds, a large group of deer, with a great stag, were running across the wide open grassland, with the Autumn trees beyond in the last of their glory. Later we went to the "Lass of Richmond Hill" for drinks - it is really lovely with lots of wooden beams and corners.

Right. Here is the link for the information about Cherie Blair. I really do think this is important. Would it be worthwhile writing to the relevant people in Rome? Ideas, please......
Sat Nov 25th
This is service report says Cherie Blair may be appointed to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. Quotes "Vatican sources".

Why should Britain's most notable supporter of Planned Parenthood become a member of this influential group within the Church?

Do people in Rome know that Mrs Blair hosted the launch of Planned Parenthood's "Lust for LIfe" campaign distributing fruit-flavoured condoms for teenagers?

To check the report, look on Google - I got the info via the "Papa Ratzinger Forum" - click on "fans speaking English", then click on to "news, pictures,....etc"

Friday, November 24, 2006

Friday November 24th
Quarant'Ore at Westminster Cathedral. I met Mother at Victoria station. There are massive rebuilding schemes at that end of Victoria Street, two major office/shop blocks are covered with scaffolding and sheets of plastic, prompting speculation of what will finally emerge. We pottered along to the Cathedral - inside it was a glorious glitter of candles and silence, with people kneeling and the Blessed Sacrament enthroned on the altar. It's very spacious to the mind just to be there without having to do anything else. We stayed on for Mass - good numbers attending - and then went off to the (extremely smart!) shopping centre opposite, called Cardinal Place, for coffee and sandwiches. There are some VERY unsuccessful Christmas decoration swinging from the high roof - it's not clear whether they are meant to be angels or Christmas trees, and Mother thought they were looked like shirts hanging out to dry.

There is a fantastic view of the Cathedral as you walk down the central part of Cardinal Place and look back. Later went into the CTS bookshop in the Cathedral piazza (excellent range of Christmas cards, also some nice Christmas candles, children's books) and then I walked M. back to Victoria. Volunteeered to walk her on to platform, manage the steps etc. "No, I'm fine. See you again soon. It was lovely, wasn't it?" and off she went cheerily....

I haven't been able to write this blog for a couple of days as things have been so busy. Supper last night with a friend, S, who works in a Catholic comprehensive school (not in London) . "It's a zoo" he said. Problems with pupils have included a recent serious vicious attack that left a teacher injured - the assailant was a girl pupil. Few pupils come from intact families with married parents: "You quickly learn that your pupil probably won't have the same surname as the main adults in his or her life". Teaching religion is a tough challenge - there is no real syllabus although battered copies of the ghastly "Weaving the Web" rubbish are still around the school (grim multi-faith syllabus that should never have been approved, incurred displeasure in Rome), along with various other books. He teaches sound doctrine, and the younger pupils are responsive (with the older ones, keeping even a rough semblance of civilised behaviour is the main task) but the essential problem is their homes - few if any are routinely taken to church. It is possible, but challenging, for an 11 or 12-year-old to get to Sunday Mass on his own, ignoring a parent's or step-parent's sarcasm or worse....but it certainly takes courage and a sense of initiative, and it doesn't sound as if most of these children have been trained in either of these.

Not all pupils are badly-behaved, but - and I have heard this from other teachers with whom I have had discussions over the past couple of years - a real problem is parents (or other adults in charge of the pupils, eg mum plus new boyfriend, or whatever) who simply cannot accept that their offspring are capable of wrongdoing. They do not set any standards of behaviour at home - and also do not eat meals together, or have any structured sort of family activities - so the world of school, with its notion of common life and rules and expectations is simply alien.

On the other hand, sometimes in spite of all this the Faith can be communicated, though with difficulty. "A big problem at the religious level is the presence of large numbers of Moslems and Hindus in the school. Often they are among the better pupils, as there is more likelihood of some family structure and committed parents. But when we have a Mass, for example on a Holy Day, everyone attends. It is explained clearly - in school beforehand, and at Mass during the homily - that recieving Holy Communion is something for Catholics only, something for the baptised.....but then you see Moslem pupils just getting up and joining the line - along with the others, they have only been half-listening to much of the Mass, but when it comes to some sort of action, they just automatically join in, because they have been still for a while, and want to move, or because it looks interesting, or for no real reason except that they do it without thinking, just following along."

On cheerier note, have been Christmas shopping. I do enjoy the shops when they are all glittering and with nice Christmas garlands etc....all much more glorious than when I was young, when a British Christmas meant pink crepe paper, tinsel, and little fairy-lights hung drooping from a ceiling.....I always buy lots of small things like bags of choc coins and choc Fr Christmasses to add to gifts, simply because it is fun and merry and I will jolly well do what I like doing with Christmassy things........ Nieces, godchildren etc get BOOKS. One is hoping for "McCavity, the Mystery Cat" and I warmly approve of this so she will get it if I can find a copy. All will get good children's classics....there are still loads they haven't read. A small sticker in each book will indicate that an equivalent sum has been donated to Aid to the Church in Need to send books to children in Sudan and Congo.....on a computer one can easily produce this as a small discreet sticker....I loathe the idea of braggart look-at-how-we-give-to-the-poor stuff, but the object is to get Christmas gifts in some sort of perspective....would value other suggestions from blog readers onm how to do something to counter gross Christmas greed/consumerism without looking Cromwellian or smug.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Tuesday Nov 21st
There's an extremely funny spoof story on the Web about the Pope being sacked for wearing a cross to work....just Google for it...tap in "Catholic Pope Benedict" and scroll through the various items until you get to Spoof, satire....

In intervals of work, rushed out to do some pre-Christmassy things, parcel to my sister and her family in New Zealand, bags of chocolate coins to post to various nieces, godchildren etc for St Nicholas Day on Dec 6th. (Easy: you just type out a short account of St Nicholas, explaining how he dropped 3 bags of gold coins down the chimney to assist a poor family, hence current tradition of S.Claus coming down chimney with gifts etc - send the story, with bags of coins, to children in jiffy-bag with OPEN ON DEC 6th written on outside).

Finally, the weather is reasonably cold today....which makes it feel a bit more as if Advent is starting soon.
Mon Nov 20th
After a satisfying morning getting a number of letters written, plus my features for various newspapers, and with a mountain of washing hanging on the line, and some housework achieved, I ate some soup and listened to the news. It was reported that an employee of British Airways had lost her appeal concerning her right to wear a small cross round her neck while working for the company. I fleetingly reflected that here was another example of a British institution displaying a now-routine anti-Christian approach (it's so daft! British Airways has the Union Jack as its logo - which has a cross as its centre and core!!). I thought: well, there is nothing I can do, and we are all getting rather tired of these idiotic debates.....Then about half an hour later the phone rang. Sky TV News: would I come and debate about this employee of British Airways who has been banned from wearing a cross.....

Changed from comfortable stay-at-home clothes into something more suitable. No time to tackle hair properly. Train to Waterloo. I am not usually so nervous any more about TV interviews, but this one was to be with Polly Toynbee, the militantly anti-Catholic, anti-Christian columnist on the Guardian. Felt slightly sick with nerves and had to rush to the ladies' at the station and then again at Westminster Bridge (Deo Gratias for St Stephen's Tavern, with a nice cloakroom!). and then again on arrival at TV studios.

The illuminated Houses of Parliament in the glow of a darkening Autumn tea-time are just fabulous, almost ethereal. SKY TV has its studios at Millbank, so I walked down past St Stephen's entrance, and that statue of Richard the Lionheart, which gave me courage. I've done this walk literally hundreds and hundreds of times, and at one point was doing it daily, when I worked at the House of Commons. Today it looked at its most glorious, and there, flying out into the cold wind from the top of the high Victoria Tower, was the Union Jack, with the Cross at the heart of it.

St Edmund Campion was tried at Westminster Hall - still there, just as he knew it - after being horribly tortured, and he gave a ringing defence of the Catholic Faith, so why should any of us be remotely fussed when all we have to do is live and defend the same faith in ease and comfort?

The debate didn't go too badly. Made the obvious points : wearing a cross is standard part of our tradition, why the fuss, get a life. Britain has been Christian for more than 1,000 years - heck, almost 2,000 years as the Faith first came here during the Roman Empire, the same Empire into which Christ himself was born.... surely the cross has a place, as of right, in our common life? The Toynbee got a bit rattled and went on and on....she wanted to see no Christian symbols anywhere in public life, no prayers in Parliament, no formal place for the Church, religion should be completely private.....

Asked for a final word, I said I didn't happen to be wearing a cross myself, but I did have this small medallion depicting not Christ, but his mother - I held it up briefly - and would give it to Miss Toynbee as a gesture of goodwill.

She wasn't happy. As we put on our coats afterwards I said "That was a genine offer - here's the medal" and she said no, thanks, it was v. kind of me but.....

If anyone feels like sending a Miraculous Medal to Miss Toynbee in place of the one she didn't want to accept from me, she works at The Guardian.

Collected bike from SPUC headquarters where I had left it on Sat - so it was useful that I was in London today after all, nice arrangement of Providence. Bought an Advent Calendar at the CTS bookshop - they have some beautiful ones - to send to my sister in New Zealand. Also bought L'Osservatore Romano, which I rarely read but which had some nice pix of the H. Father so looked somehow reassurring. Bought large cafe latte and settled down to read. Felt more settled and ordinary. I really don't like TV debates.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Sunday Nov 19th
Westminster Cathedral. Academic Mass to mark the 40th anniversary of the opening of Newman House, the Catholic chaplaincy for the University of London. Superb sermon from Cardinal Francis Arinze who celebrated the Mass (cathedral packed, with lots of young people. My nephew G, a postgraduate student, did one of the Bidding Prayers...they had them in lots of foreign languages to emphaasise the international nature of London University, and he was the English one at the end.....). His Eminence noted that it is fashionable today to suggest that all religions are of equal value, so long as people believe in them with sincerity:"Does that mean that every student entering for a maths exam should pass, regardless of any mistakes made, because all the students are sincere?" He stressed that Catholics need to know their faith "an ambassador first of all needs to be a good citizen of his country. No one would appoint an ambassador who did not recognise his country's flag, or know the names of its kings and queens, or understand its laws, or who did not know how to sing its national anthem."

Afterwards the Cardinal was almost mobbed by enthusiastic people who wanted to meet him. I had been invited to the reception in the Cathedral Hall, and there were lots of people I knew, esp. students from Newman House where I have given a couple of talks.....There was a sense of buzz and life in the hall, which you get when there are lots of young people together. It makes me feel rather agreeably middle-aged, because one looks on all these young Catholics with great delight.

Lunch with niece-in-law F. whose first novel has just won an award - she had just flown in from the ceremony in Malta. A talkative and happy time over pizza. She was staying overnight in London to do some work with a pro-life group the next day.

The Catholic Times has run my piece about the Coming Home Network. In answer to an enquirer to this blog who asks about the papers for which I write, they are the Catholic Times (based in Manchester) and the Catholic Herald (based in London). I don't think either is available on the Internet, but they do have websites....I also sometimes write for the National Catholic Register in the USA, and also for VOICES, published by Women for Faith and Family in St Louis, Missouri, USA.

Memo to anyone who sends in a comment or enquiry to this blog which they don't want published, but which asks for a personal reply: I DO BADLY WANT TO REPLY TO YOU!!!! BUT I CAN'T UNLESS YOU INCLUDE AN EMAIL ADDRESS!! There is no means of automatically replying to you - the system doesn't allow me to do that. YOU HAVE TO GIVE ME YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS!!!!!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Saturday Nov 18th
To the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (5-6 St Matthew St London SW1 - and look up their excellenmt website too) for a meeting of their general Council They have some excellent new material lookiung at the distress and problems caused to women who have been goven abortions. In a few years' time, people will look back on what we have allowed to happen over the past three decades and be disgusted: the deliberate killing of babies and the trauma caused to women who were told that this was something useful and neccessary and they should not feel bad about it......

On to the Carmelite Church in Kensington where several young couples from across London were gathered for a Marriage Preparation course. My task is to give a brief talk about the Catholic understanding of marriage. What we really need to do is communicate the Church's teaching on this, and indeed on a number of simple and straightforward issues - God, prayer, Christ and the salvation he offers. The problem is that the majority of the couples are not just muddled and ignorant about the basics of Christianity - they are also absolutely confident that they know a great deal and simply want some formulas ("anger management" "communication skills") for having a lifelong happy marriage and no divorce! So we are trying to do so much in communicating with them at this stage: they are attending the course because at least one party in the marriage is (sort of) a Catholic.....and actually they are often potentially deeply interested in the Faith......but it is only possible to offer a sort of overall vision of it while also attempting to emphasise those aspects which relate directly to marriage....

There are some superb materials available for marriage preparation, but it is hard to get to grips with some of the neccessary essentials in the atmosphere of confident ignorance. Usually they end up saying very sweetly that they found my talk terribly moving, inspiring etc....but I don't think it has really tackled issues for them at a deep level. Or they want to challenge me on something that is not really relevant but is probably a way of asking questions about other things, eg they will say "Why is the Church so against gays?" or even come up with something about the Spanish Inquisition.....

The toughest thing is tackling the fact that of course most are openly living together. This time, I failed to handle this well: generally I do convey the Church's message and a suggestion of a deep need to rethink such a relationship (sometimes, this can evolve in some discussions afterwards about when/where to get to confession etc......). But today: no. During a discussion session on "What qualities/virtues do we need to develop in ourselves for a good marriage?" one - very agreeable and pleasant - chap spoke about the fact that a cause of tension with his fiancee was that he liked to have a computer in their bedroom, while she thought it should be in the living-room.....the notion that there was any remote embarrassment about their living arrangements would have been unthinkable to him. And another chipped in with a similar topic concerning snoring!!

Caught the train to Mother's, and after the usual chat and glass of sherry and sense of welcome, we watched together the excellent "Witness to Hope" video about Pope John Paul. Now, there was a man who communicated the Faith.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Friday Nov 16th
To St James Church, Spanish Place. This magnificent 19th century gothic church has links that go back to an Embassy chapel on this site - in the days when Catholicism was illegal in England, Catholics could get to Mass in one of the Embassy chapels serving Europe's various Catholic nations, and the Spanish one was on this site. In due course a larger church was built here, dedicated of course to St James whose shrine at Compostella in Spain is world-famous. It is a pleasant cycle ride from Waterloo station - the Mall is all golden leaves as you approach Buckingham Palace, and then there are all the glittering shops along Regent Street as you head for Marylebone.

Today this glorious church is a haven for Catholic Londoners - it has beautiful liturgy, a great sense of peace for personal prayer, and useful lunchtime confessions. I decided to make use of this last, before going on to a meeting of the committee of the Association of Catholic Women in the church hall.....a fellow-committee member was in the church as I slipped into a pew "Tell the committee I'll be coming in a moment" I said "I'm just going to confession first". "Oh, you'll be an hour or two then" she said, dead-pan......

Our committee meetings are always fun. The Association was founded a few years ago to give a voice to Catholic women who sought to "give our glad assent to the teachings of the Church": we are loyal to the Church and to the Holy Father and in particular we affirm the Church's traditional and unchangeable teaching concerning the male priesthood.....and over the years the Association has grown, and thrived, and has a whole range of useful activities. Today we learned that we raised over £400 by sales of tea and sandwiches (and home-made jam etc) at the "Towards Advent" Festival, which is a real help towards our funds. We'll be running our annual Schools Religious Education Project for children aged 5-11, and we looked over the 2007 project, which concerns angels, with children studying the role of angels as God's messengers, looking up the Scriptural references, learning the prayer to their Guardian Angel, etc. As prizes, we distribute copies of the excellent new Compendium of the Catholic Catechism - which children like because it has beautiful pictures, is a pleasing book to own and handle, feels important, and is packed with useful information which they grasp as something they are meant to have for all their lives. We also have two trophies, for winners in two age groups, and every child who takes part in the project gets a holy picture (for the past couple of years, these have been pictures of the Holy Father which have proved very popular). (For details, especially of how your child or local Catholic school can participate - sorry, it's UK only! - send SAE to ACW 22 Surbiton Hill Park, Surbiton, Surrey KT5). All this costs money, so it is good that we are in funds. We also planned a coffee-morning in aid of the Clinic for Downs Children run at St John and St Elizabeth's Hospital in London, and we mapped out a response to a survey about childhood run by The Children's Society. It mentioned the question of "safe sex" for children. Just what does this mean? Er....what sort of sexual activity is deemed to be "safe" for children?

Cycled across London in teeming rain to Waterloo, and caught the last possible train before the 5pm deadline after which one can't take a bike on the train (rush-hour - trains too crowded). I am now writing this blog at Wimbledon Library, drying out and waiting until I cycle on to a parish fund-raising event organised by Sacred Heart Church (the Jesuit church) in Wimbledon. It is being held at the (very smart!) Golf Club on Wimbledon Common - all funded by a parishioner.

I live exactly between two parishes, though technically in Wimbledon. St Joseph's in New Malden suits me better (and the ride to Wimbledon is uphill!) but I keep up links with Wimbledon and sometimes go to the beautiful sung Latin Mass at 11.15 am on Sundays....which I like because the choir sings the "Domine Salvam fac...." for the Queen at the end of Mass.
Thursday Nov 16th
Well, really! One can't invent things any more. Today's Daily Telegraph has a report, of course, of yesterday's State Opening, with the Queen's Speech........ and the Government really is going to legislate for lesbians to be able to have babies! They're going to use my money, and yours, to pay for them to have "fertility treatment" to enable this to happen!!

It's so gross, and so ridiculous.

Spent the day working on various writing projects, and also doing a great deal of neccessary housework. (I mention this because people sometimes enquire gently whether we have any domestic life. Well, we do. I cooked Jamie fried-tomatoes-on-toast for breakfast too. So there). Wrote thank-you letters to people who helped with the TOWARDS ADVENT Festival a few days back ....I am so grateful and happy that it all went well. It just goes to show that I wasn't needed - because while I was in America, the whole thing went beautifully, and we are already making plans for 2007.....

The Catholic Herald has a pic of me opening the new St Joseph's bookshop, with nice Father Peter looking very happy, and me brandishing the picture of the Pope that will hang on the shop's main wall.

A phone call from a nice lady in a pro-life group in the North of England, who had read my report in the Catholic Times about Cherie Blair supporting Planned Parenthood and wanted to know more. I explained that it is indeed - alas! - true (Cherie B. ran a big fund-raising event at 10 Downing Street a couple of years ago to launch a PP campaign giving fruit-flavoured condoms to teenagers.....yes....I know....yuk....) and we need to keep alert on this topic as the sands are vrunning out for Mr Blair as Prime Minister, and so fairly soon he and Mrs B. will be looking out for their next activities.,....which, at a guess, will be something which makes use of Cherie's Catholic credentiials and enables them to do something in the European Union bureaucracy or the United Nations.....

Yesterday I mentioned meeting Sister Roseanne Reddy. Today, a nice post arrives from her, with news of an Advent Bazaar in Glasgow, Dec 9th, 104 Alberrt Road, Crosshill (Holy Cross church hall) with mulled wine and mince pies and an Advent Pageant......

I had hoped today to do some serious work on this blog, getting it right so it would look Really Good like Fr Tim Finigan's blog. Like everyone else, I'm an obsessive reader of Fr Tim's blog and it's always so exciting with its pix and videos and things you click on, and things that make music and everything, quite apart from his superb, dry, noextrawoffle way of writing. Now, I remember Fr Tim when he was at school and then went to Oxford and then went off to Rome, he was always brainy so it's not really fair - he can make things go properly on a computer and presumably never feels the urge to batter the thing and weep because it won't do what it's told.......

Anyway in Dec. I am due to speak at a series of evening talks in Fr Tim's parish. This will be fun because (a) things in Fr Tim's parish are always good fun and with a good crowd and (b) I'm jolly well going to ask him how one puts pictures on a blog and can he please write it all out so I can follow it click by click. He has been warned.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Wed Nov 15th
A correspondent to this blog asks why I didn't mention that Tamezin magazine was started by a youth group connected to Opus Dei. I gladly rectify this ommission. I think that Opus Dei doesn't get enough credit for the excellent work that it does among young people. The enterprising bunch of girls who got Tamezin off the ground were indeed part of an Opus Dei group, and the magazine still gets input and support from people inspired by Opus Dei or connected with some of its youth work. They are a great bunch and I love working with them.

Incidentally, they seem to be thriving despite or as a result of all that Da Vinci code rubbish.....perhaps that cliche about there being no such thing as bad publicity.....

Today lunch with Angie, a close friend of many years' standing, an Evangelical Christian with whom there have been so many shared hours of talk, fun, envelope-packing, praying, leafleting, event-organising, campaigning, and much more. Today, as ever we packed in lots of talk about families (we each have a widowed and much-loved parent) husbands (we both have very nice ones, and we are both grateful), friends, church, God, current events, the horrible things the Govt has done and is doing to the social fabric of the country we love, and more.....Angie works with me on the committee of Christian Projects (PO Box 44741 London SW1p 2XA - send SAE to find out more.....) running a Schools Bible Project which enables pupils at secondary schools across Britain to study the New Testament. The Prizegiving for the 2006 Project is coming up in December and we have been working on the final is always held at the House of Lords as one of our Trustees is the excellent Baroness Cox, and the young prizewinners are given a tour of Parliament, and tea, and prizes are distributed with suitable congratulations and so on....

On to tea with a nice member of a new Catholic group, the Heralds of the Gospel. Heard of them? No, nor had I until I came across them when I was speaking at an event a couple of summers ago. They are based at 35 Lower Teddington Rd Hampton Wick KT1 4HQ and have just launched a magazine....which looks like a good read and focuses on the idea of celebrating the Faith through's lavishly illustrated with some wonderful examples of Christian art going back to early mosaics and on to medieval crucifixes, wonderful churches, etc.....

Later I ran into Sister Roseanne Reddy, of the Sisters of the Gospel of Life. They are based in Glasgow and are about to celebrate 10 years of the Cardinal Winning initiative. The Cardinal announced that help would be available to any woman facing a problem pregnancy and threatened with the possibility of abortion....Roseanne took on the task of actually running the resulting network of help and care, and through this found her own vocation, and started this new religious can reach them at She was in London for a meeting of the FAITH Movement and we breathlessly caught up on news.....Sister Roseanne is always so jolly, and exudes the sort of good cheer that makes life feel larger and more enjoyable all round. I think that is exactly what a nun ought to be like.

All around Westminster there were still barriers up and traffic redirected because of the State Opening of Parliament......I usually try to get a glimpse of it, because the gold of the carriage and the crown and so on, and the people in ermine, and all the clatter and jingle of the horses, is so splendid against the backdrop of November and russet leaves and greyness and the sense that darkness will fall at teatime. But it's all tainted with the knowledge that the poor Queen will have to say all sorts of idiotic things in her speech: "My Government will legislate for homosexuals to have babies...." etc.

And so that my computer seems to have hiccuped itself back into normal working mode (maybe it just wanted a rest, or something?) I have lots of emails to answer, including a delicious one from a dear niece, whose long newsy letter is so full of good things that it makes one wriggle with be young and at university and having a great deal of fun, and to be able to pass it all on to relatives sitting with mugs of tea at home, is a great thing. I brewed a fresh pot of tea and settled down to enjoy it again at leisure, and will write back with joy.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Tuesday Nov 14th
Launch of Tamezin Young Journalist Award for 2007. What is Tamezin? Magazine for girls, started by a youth group based at Tamezin Club, run at Dawliffe Hall on London's Chelsea Embankment. Now a good glossy, attractive magazine and ready to expand. My involvement? I visit schools to promote the magazine, by running a Journalism Workshop: this means plunging into a classroom of (often sullen-faced) adolescents, and introducing them to journalism, how to write news, do interviews, understand how a newspaper/magazine works.....satisfying to watch them move from inert oksoheresavisitingspeakerbetshe'shopelesslet'sjustlookcool to real interest. I do mock interviews, demonstrate shorthand, get them writing headlines, do a mock press conference......usually have a colleague with me and we give ideas about features we need for the magazine, show them how they can write for us.....each school is a new experience. We decline (usually revolting) staffroom coffee with (invariably extremely nice, often heroic) teacher(s) and relish great mugfuls of real coffee in the best coffee shop we can find (sometimes even fleeing to our favourite one in London, near Victoria station).....

Your involvement? Right. Read on. We need help. You can;

get a subscription to the magazine for your daughter/granddaughter/god-daughter/niece
arrange a workshop at a local girls' school if you are in the UK
send a donation to help with funds
invite me to come and talk about the whole project to your church/women's group
or you can be boring and ignore the venture and allow this useful project, which offers a real alternative to the gross and pornographic magazines now pushed at girls, to drift away through lack of encouragement and support....

Over to you.

The Launch of the Young Journalist Award today was great: we offer a £300 cash prize plus a week's work experience with a TV network or national newspaper.....this year's theme for the competitoon is "inspirational interviewing" and entrants have to do an interview and then write it up.....

Details of everything connected to Tamzein magazine available from: Tamezin, 1 Chelsea Embankment, London SW3.

The launch was fun: coffee and pastries, a good presentation by one of the young founders of the magazine, a brief talk from me, and a song from Sara Mello to round things off.....

Sara is blind - she came to London yesterday and I met her at Marylebone and brought her back to stay the night. Whenever I am with her, I am always so touched by the way everyone - absolutely everyone - is terrifically helpful. The bus driver wouldn't accept a fare for Sara. People open doors, make way on stairs, proffer a helping hand. As soon as we enter a bus or train, people stand to offer seats, usher Sara to a comfortable place. At the kerbside, people chat, exchange a pleasant greeting. Ticket-sellers at the tube station, people selling coffee, fellow-passengers on the train....everyone is nice.

Sara simply doesn't notice this most of the time, although she responded very nicely to everyone who chatted to her, and was especially thrilled to talk to a couple of dear old Chelsea Pensioners! (Note to American readers: if you don't know what a Chelsea Pensioner is....look it up on any website about London tourism!).

After taking S. back to her train - where a helper from the railway staff was waiting, all pre-arranged - I hurried on to Premier Radio. I recorded five talks, to be broadcast next week. I wrote them v. late last night, had no time to revise them, but all seemed well. Also did one to be broadcast as part of a pre-Christmas series, about St Lucy (feast-day Dec 13th, nice tradition of young girls dressing up to be a "Lucy bride", a sort of Christmas angel-figure). Premier Radio is Christian radio - has too much American evangelical preaching (does anyone listen? One just tunes it out, it makes a sort of background noise!) and also much mushy wellweallgreedon'twe vaguely Christian woffle masquerading as serious disciussion about the week's news, but there is some good stuff too and anyway it's Christian and an affeort in the right direction..... they do have some awfully silly music, all 1970s American-accented folksy stuff occasionally rising to a screechy jazz noise. Yuk. Have urged them to use some of the glorious music from centuries of Christian can hear some wonderful stuff at churches across London, notably Westminster Cathgedral, Brompton Oratory, St Etheldreda's Ely Place, where this wonderful music finds its place in the setting for which it was intended ie the Mass. But it makes good radio, too!!! I think Premier has one hour a week os classical music!!! Oh, dear.....

At home, many letters and messages: I'm invited to the Academic Mass at Westminster Cathedral this Sunday, and to a book launch at Farm Street Jesuit Church in a couple of weeks' time.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Monday Nov 13th
Opening of our new parish bookshop at St Joseph's, New Malden. It was great fun: Fr Peter, our parish priest, handed me a pair of scissors and I ceremonially cut the ribbon across the door and we all trooped inside.....lots of enthusiasm and goodwill, and a happy atmosphere in this beautiful new parish centre, which is bright and clean and smells of new wood, and blends most charmingly with the church, all of it having a most welcoming feel. In my speech, I noted that it is nice to have a new St Joseph's bookshop during the time of a Pope baptised with the name Joseph....and handed over a pic of the Holy Father to be hung on the wall....the shop carries the excellent new Compendium of the Catholic Catechism which of course is his work, and I was touched to see that there were also copies of The Pope Benedict Code (pic on its cover is the same as the pic that I had presented).

Afterwards, wine and snacks in the big new hall, and then I cycled home to write this blog before rushing up to London to meet Sara, a young friend who is blind, at Marylebone station. She is to stay overnight here, as she is singing at a fund-raising coffee-morning tomorrow to launch the "Young Journalist Awards" associated with Tamezin magazine (more on this tomorrow).
Nov 12th, Remembrance Sunday
Our regular radio listening, CLASSIC FM, switched from its normal studio to go live to Whitehall for a few moments on Sunday morning, to cover the Queen at the Cenotaph, the Two Minutes' silence, and the haunting Last Post sounding out over London......

I cycled to Mass at St Joseph's.....scarlet poppies entwined around the candlesticks, and a small shrine with crosses around a Union Jack....

Met Mother this afternoon at Carshalton for a walk by the Ponds and through the park. There were so many children feeding the ducks and seagulls that there were slices of bread floating on the water, and the birds looked fat and glutted.

The newspapers are reporting the launch of a new campaign to tell children to carry contraceptives with them for social occasions. The revolting organisations that push this evil message are still pretending that it will help to "cut down the number of teenage pregnancies". As if all the evidence of the past 30 years hadn't pointed to exactly the opposite: the more children and teenagers are encouraged to be sexually active, the more the teenage pregnancy rate will rise.....and meanwhile childhood itself, its innocence, its inherent value, is being destroyed.....

Latest issue of FAITH magazine (look up their excellent website) has a fine editorial on Catholic education, pointing out that the religious education in most Catholic schools in Britain is dire, and noting that many priests ask whether it is worth spending so much time and energy on school-related matters (school governors' meetings, talks with parents on admission to school, arrangements for school Masses and other events) when there is little or no evidence that it helps to spread the Faith. What to do? No point in saying children should be taught at home by their parents - that way, most won't learn anything about the Faith at all, not even the few prayers and vague notions of Jesus that they get at a Catholic school. And, for many, school is the one place where they meet some sort of structure to the day, rules about behaviour, even some notion of obedience and fair play (though some teachers are in despair - children brought up on endless TV and computer games have very poor attention-span, and many have been taught that adults are there to serve them and attend to their whims, so they are automatically rude and offensive....) If we decide that Catholic schools, supported out of public funds, are no longer useful, what to do? Extended parish catechetics? Many children do enjoy their First Communion classes and there is now a good deal of excellent material available (especiually from the Catholic Truth Society for .... such instruction. But do we really want to assert, definitively, that religion has no place in the schools of our country? FAITH is being courageous in exploring all thisand admitting openly the BIG problems of Religious Education in nominally Catholic schools....

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Sat Nov 11th
To beautiful village and ancient house in the country, to visit Catholic author Philip Trower, an old friend. The house has been owned by his family for generations, and is a wonderful place, with a Tudor wing where Queen Elizabeth 1 once stayed.....Philip has just moved back after living for many years in Norfolk, and he has a delightful flat in what was once the stable block....we visited the peaceful old church of St James, which has box pews and has no electricity, lit only by candlelight when there are occasional services.....

Back to London for a family supper in Islington. We were meant to meet Jamie's brother and his family to see the Lord Mayor's fireworks by the Thames, but got stuck in traffic. However, we met D, J, and their enchanting daughter, our niece E, in their Islington home for a cheerful family time - E. enthusing that her school, the City of London Girls School, had been part of the Lord Mayor's procession (Jamie led the Guard of Honour one year, when he was commanding some University OTC recruits). E. thrilled with the gift I brought her from America - plastic flask for drinks, with big bendy straw! It was filled with sweets, all with odd names ("tootsie rolls" etc) unfamiliar to us and some looking fairly nasty. But it's all gloriously American and she drank quantities of fruit juice out of it, simply for the novelty of using it.... Jamie's brother D. is a distinguished academic, and in addition to his University work here is always flying off to exciting places to give lectures in various languages.

We made plans for Christmas - I always feel inadequate as I am not very good at domestic things, my mince pies often end up as hard as bullets and I lack imagination when it comes to choosing presents....but I can be useful at entertaining children as I enjoy playing with their toys.

Philip Trower's latest book "The Catholic Church and the Counter-Faith" is just out from Family Publications ( 6a King Street, Jeruicho, Oxon) and looks to be a good read.....

Friday, November 10, 2006

Friday Nov 10th
Rushed back from London yesterday, put vegetable casserole in oven (Jamie is on a diet!He claims to have lost a stone by eating only vegetables and fish and Irish soda bread. I don't believe him, but am happy to go on cooking veggies like this if it makes him happy....), tidied house, dealt with phone calls, tackled some letters, and whized out to post the latter, leaving a note saying "Back in 5 mins"....and of course while I was out our guest, Frank, arrived from Ukraine. He teaches English at the seminary there, and is on a vist to London.

I settled him down with a big mug of tea and we swapped news....he drank the tea as if it was nectar. He had had a ghastly journey, because if you own a foreign car in Ukraine, you have to prove (this sounds incredible, but it's true!) that you haven't tried to import it illegally, so every time you leave the country you are expected to take it with you! Which means that when you decide to travel instead by train and air (as he was doing) they stare at your passport when they arouse you from your sleeping compartment in the middle of the night, demand to see the stamp that indicates that you have registered official permission to leave your car behind...and if there is any debate about this, they make you get off the train, and sort it all out.......thereby missing train connections, waiting around at strange stations in the middle of the night, etc etc....imagine! They still have the Comunist-era mindset....

After a pleasant family supper Frank went off thankfully to sleep (in our small flat, all that our guests get is a bed in the study, but no one ever seems to mind), and I sat with a lovely book by the Holy Father that I bought in America. It's meditations for various feasts of the year and is so interesting: packed with all sorts of information and seeing things from fresh angles (IMAGES OF HOPE, Ignatius Pres.....a lovely hardback book, beautifully illustrated. Only fourteen dollars, and would make an excellent Christmas present, especially as the first bit is all about Christmas and the animals in the stable....)

While flying home I had to discard, at Columbus airport, my lovely jar of BEAUTIFUL (Tescos! COst £3.95p!) lavender cream because they thought it might have explosives in it or something.......I discovered later I could have pleaded medical need as it is for the horrible dry skin I get at the back of my neck when I am nervous and the doctor said to use some gentle cream on it......then at Chicago airport I found a little stall selling, quite oddly, ONLY LAVENDER PRODUCTS, all natural, and very inexpensive so I bought a tube of the most heavenly cream, French (Provencal) Bliss...... tonight I used it again and sat and relaxed and read and sipped tea.....

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Thursday Nov 9th
The latest Catholic World Report (Nov edition) is full of good things - it's an excellent, full-colour glossy monthly magazine and this edition has a super pic of the Holy father on the front and features on a wide variety of topics ranging from the West and Islam to the opening of a new college in Australia, from the veil of Manopello to further analysis of the H. Father's Regensburg address. In Britain, you can take out a subscription by contacting WORDS INK PO Box 2001 Petworth Sussex GU28 9YA.

In intervals of housework, rushed to local library to write weekly feature for Catholic Times - they only allow an hour on the computer and it switches off automatically when the time is up, with just a few minutes' warning flashed on the screen beforehand: this is good for encouraging concentration, and I am glad I was trained on busy newspapers where a tough news editor shouted at one to get on and hurry up! If readers of this blog don't get the Catholic Times they are missing out on my weekly column: hurry and get a copy either from your local church (lots sell it at the back of church, just pick one up after Mass) or direct from Gabriel Communications, St james Buildings, Oxford Street, Manchester M1.

Am about to hurry to London for a meeting of St Clare Media, the group established here to develop the work of EWTN. It is going well.....incidentally my TV series for Advent, featuring cookery ideas for the season, starts soon on EWTN....apart from the Christmas pudding coming out a funny colour (should be really dark and black, not gingery-looking!) I found the series great fun and we are planning more....lots of ideas about exploring places of Catholic tradition and heritage here in Britain etc etc...

Hecticv attempts to tidy up at home as we have a friend coming to stay, which means putting up a temporary bed in the study....moving stacks of books....

Phoned Mother. While I was busy in Ohio, and Jamie in Rome, she was marking All Souls with the annual Blessing of Graves in the local cemetery. She walked there ("Oh, I didn't like to nag anyone for a lift....") - it's about two miles and she is 86! - to be at Father's grave. There is a lovely ceremony in which people stand by the graves of family members and the parish priest comes round and blesses each one with holy water.....It is some twelve years since my dear father died, and his memory is still so bright with us: we all loved him dearly.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Wed Nov 7th (I feels a bit jet-lagged and confused after flying to the USA for the weekend)
The house felt cold and a bit bleak when I got in yesterday.... as we have both been away, heating obviously not yet on, tho' weather now (DG!) colder and more like a real November. Soon had the washing-machine going, and this keeps one fairly busy, as it involves rushing to it every five minutes to replace the jam-jar which has to stand beneath the waterpipe conection to collect the drips....yes, yes, we ARE going to get the plumber, but life has been busy.....

Jamie had obviously been home and slept the night but had to go off to work. I collected his shirts etc and got them into the machine.....dealt with a great pile of letters and some phone messages.....discovered that the WRETCHED EMAIL AND INTERNET ARE NOT on my bike and hurried of to Internet cafe to collect emails....friendly lady there said cheerily that she hadn't seen me for a bit, and did I want the usual latte-with-sugar? Well yes, I did, achingly, but didn't have enough money, so had to pretend I was OK with just an hour (£1.50p, all the cash I had on me....) on the computer, no refreshments, and flash what I hoped was a cheery neighbourly smile...dealt with emails and wrote up a bit of this blog, then whizzed home again and sorted out more housework. Then felt a bit dizzy so went to bed for a bit.

When Jamie got in he was on his mobile-phone, talking about some pro-life isue that has come up, and we just flapped hands at one another to indicate "talk later!" but he put on a bleak face so we hugged as silently as we could while the person on the other end of the phone still jabbered on......and I made mugs of tea and when he was eventually free we got comfortable and talked and talked about our respective weekends....

The Royal wedding in Rome sounds simply lovely. Guest list like a couple of pages from the Almanac de Gotha. Beautiful small church in the Vatican. Special message of greeting read out, from the Holy Father. Choir of various friends who sing with Paola in London.......Jamie is always in his element in Rome, being mildly addicted to Latin, baroque architecture, etc, and this time he was meeting a number of old friends at the wedding, including people not seen for ages, and in between various wedding events ( reception after the marriage,
a brunch the next day, etc) he met other friends who work in Rome, and also visted different churches etc.

Today I had to hurry to a meting of the Catholic Women of the Year Luncheon comittee. We raised over £1,500 for the Cenacolo charity at this year's event, which is good. In two years it will be the 40th anniversary of the Luncheon - talked about plans to celebrate, maybe with a pilgrimage somewhere.....

Just re-read this blog, and it sounds awfully silly, like a page from an old-fashioned "Jennifer's Diary"in a society gossip magazine! Put it down to jet-lag. Just off home on my bike (typing this at Internet Cafe) and will work on geting the central heating going.......

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Tuesday Nov 7th
Flying home.....

While I have ben busy with the English Reformation in OHio, Jamie has been in Rome, and our exchange of emails had me telling him about exciting American breakfasts with pancakes and syrup, and all the delights of the conference, him telling me about the beautiful wedding in Rome, with Paola and Nicholas being maried at a glorious Mass celebrated by Bishop Alan Hopes, with a special mesage from the Holy Father, and a wonderful gathering afterwards at which Jamie met a number of old friends from acros all sounds simply lovely......

At the airport, I looked at a copy of HELLO magazine but it hadn't got coverage of the wedding yet. I thought it would be fun to lok at pix of all the wedding guests etc..... The lady at the cash till didn't much like my thumbing through it (fair enough) so I was about to say "Oh, I just wanted to se if there was a picture of some friends....." but thought better of it at the last moment as I thought it might sound a bit daft ......
Monday Nov 6th
At a conference such as this, one barely puts one's nose out of doors, and I have only manged one walk - in the grounds of a nearby College, where russet and golden leaves were cascading on to wide spacious lawns and echoing the colours of a beautiful building in red turns out to be a Pontifical College, the only College in the USA owned by the Vatican, and Marcus Grodi's son is among those studying there......

This Autumn weather links one immediately to childhood.....Autumn mists and the smell of cordite with fireworks exploding in suburban gardens, and the joy of standing around a great bonfire, sparks shooting up into the cold dark sky, family faces illuminated in the glow, and hot sausages and potatoes to enjoy as the flames died down...... It is of course a useful and timely coincidence that this conference on the English Reformation should be taking place on the weekend of Guy Fawkes' Day, and I was able to use this in my speech, explaining of course the truth of the so-called Gunpowder Plot, which was almost certainly a complex set-up by Govt spies to entrap Catholics, able to make use of young Catholic hotheads and thence to establish in the minds of Englishmen for several generations the notion of "Papists" as dangerous traitors intent on handing over England to foreign rule......for a fuller treatment of this contact the COMING HOME NETWORK and get the tape of my talk......

Dr Scott Hahn has been among the speakers this weekend, talking about Saints John Fisher and Thomas More, and particularly emphasising the scholarship of each of these remarkable men, and the contribution they made to culture and learning even apart from their martyrdoms.....I had not really thought of this before, never having read any of Fisher's works, and only knowing some of More's letters. Fisher was something of a Ratzinger figure in his day, a brilliant mind given to the service of the Church, deep in theological knowledge which he comunicated well.

Dwight Longenecker, soon to be ordained a priest, is an old friend and we have worked together on various projects over the years. He trained at a very anti-Catholic Evangelical college here in the USA, but went on to think things through for himself and, loving all things English, was ordained as an Anglican and eventually became vicar of a parish on the Isle of Wight, with an English wife and the care of an enchanting old church rich in history......but the pull of truth was strong and he and his family eventually became Catholics......after an odysey which saw him writing a number of excellent books, and becoming well known as a speaker and writer, he is now back in the USA - and becoming a Catholic priest and a school chaplain near the College where he was initially trained! He has given a excellent lecture here this weekend, explaining the history of Christianity in Britain, going back to Roman times - with illustrations from his former parish on the Isle of Wight, showing features from the different eras of our history......
Mon Nov 6th Columbus, Ohio
The Coming Home Network Conference has been a feast of excellent talks on the theme "The English Reformation" - highlights include Paul Thigpen, former Pentecostalist pastor, on the English Martyrs, and author Joseph Pearce (his books include a superb biography of Belloc) on Shakespeare's Catholicism. Mass every morning - over 700-800 of us, and it is somehow extremely moving to se the Host and Chalice lifted high with great devotion in the surroundings of a big conference room transformed with candles and altar into a sort of cathedral for the Sacrifice.

Jamie emailed me a final version of his talk on Mary Tudor - at 4 am, Ohio time! - so I was able to deliver it on his behalf. Later in the day I gave my own talk, which covered the years following Elizabeth's reign, and thus involved going into some detail on things like the Gunpowder Plot and then the Jacobites, Bonnie Prince Charlie, etc. I enjoyed doing all this, and have found the whole weekend extraordinarily inspiring and informative. Tapes of all the talks are on sale from the Coming Home Network - why not Google the name, get their website, and order some?

A vast range of excellent books, children's games, DVDs, educational materials, toys, devotional items, statues, rosaries, and more on sale, from all sorts of groups and organisations, in a well-appointed display area where people could also gather to chat and to watch the talks on a TV screen. Delicious meals served very agreably and efficiently by the hotel, and large round tables with crisp white cloths and friendly staff.....everything made it pleasant and agreable for talking and meeting people. There are so many interesting individual stories of Evangelical, or Episcopalian ministers who have found their way Home to the Catholic Church. I chatted at length to Linda Poindexter (wife of Admiral John Poindexter, a leading figure in President Reagan's administration), who is a former Episcopalian minister. We met when she spoke at last year's "Path to Rome" conference in London, describing her conversion to Catholicism.

While I am here, I am able to read my emails....memo to people who want to contact me via this blog: all COMMENTS to this blog come to me first, and I decide whether or not they are published, so if you simply want to reach me, send me a mesage this way but INCLUDE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESSS!!!!!!!! I won't publish it, but it does mean I can get back to you! Marita, in Australia, this includes you! I can't reach you unless I have your email address.....

Friday, November 03, 2006

Nov 2nd All Souls Day
Spent the day in the sky. I had brought John Henry Newman's Lectures on the Present Position of Catholics in England" (reprinted 2000, Gracewing Books, with an excellent introduction and footnotes by Andrew Nash) to re-read on the plane, after I had finished the Spectator and the Catholic Herald. It is extraordinary that one can fly over the vast stretches of the Northern Atlantic, reading about 19th century England.....

My destination - reached after a brief delay at Chicago - was Columbus, Ohio, where I am to speak at the Deep in History, Deep in Scripture conference organised by the Coming Home Network. The CHN was founded by Marcus Grodi - a Bogle family friend of some years' standing and a terrific personality with his own show on the Catholic television network EWTN - to bring together former Evangelical pastors and church members who are thinking of joining the Catholic Church or exploring the Catholic Faith. In many ways, this venture belongs to the American expereince - in modern Britain, we do not have such a vast number of Evangelicals and there is no 'Bible Belt'....although of course a certain traditional Protestant culture (about which I was reading in Newman's essays) was at one time vibrant and virtually all-embracing, and has left its mark in many ways.....In the USA, the great cultural tradition of the Evangelical churches, with a whole way of life - church suppers, fund-raising events - revivalist preaching, sense of community, American patriotism - has been the standard means of communicating Christianity for many people for generations. For a pastor of such a church to explore deeper historical and theological roots, and to find himself researching the claims of Rome and the Apostolic tradition can bring heartache and make for huge decisions.....this weekend's conference will focus on the English Reformation and I am dealing with the post-Reformation period which means I have been doing a great deal of work on things like the 1688 Whig settlement, the religious history of England in the 17th and 18th centuries etc....

I am also due to read - on his behalf - the lecture by Jamie on Queen Mary Tudor. I feel reasonably confident about this, partly because I heard a fascinating lecture on this subject by Mgr Anthony Conlon (co-incidentally the chaplain at the Oratory School, Reading - founded by John Henry Newman!), who spoke at a Catholic Writers' Guild conference at Winchester a couple of years ago. Jamie's paper on the subject makes good reading, and I went over it several times on the plane so that I can do him justice....

Jamie, meanwhile, will be in Rome. Paola Frankopan is marrying Lord Nicholas Windsor.....the first Catholic Royal wedding for 400 years, and it is taking place in a church in the grounds of the Vatican. Paola is a good friend and we have worked together on various projects, always with great delight....last year she came to speak at the Catholic Women of the Year Luncheon, at my instigation, and gave everyone a great lift as it was so good to have some one young and enthusiastic, sending out just the right upbeat message about the joy of the of her engagement came as no surprise, but it gives great joy all round.....However, this wedding-day will also have a larger and more powerful significance, given our country's religious history. The newspapers have been reporting it at some length, and there is a great spread in the latest'Hello!' magazine. (Much discussion about the couple both being v. devout etc - which is true, but how embarrassing for them to have their regular attendance at Mass - they have been "seen together at Westminster cathedral, and at Brompton Oratory"! - paraded through the newspapers!)

Jamie, as ever, is keen interested in the liturgical aspects - friends of ours are forming the choir that will sing some glorious Latin. It will be a wonderful and happy day....

I'm writing this at the hotel in extraordinary to be lecturing on English Reformation history on thisd very weekend with this event in Rome......

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

All Saints Day - evening
A beautiful Mas at Westminster Cathedral - afterwards I distributed the last of my handbills about the Festival of Catholic Culture on Sat (at the Cathedral Hall) to the crowds pouring out into the chilly dark. Tomorrow I fly to Ohio for the "Deep in History - Deep in Scripture" conference organised by the Coming Home Network....I learned today there will be 600 people there.

Father Tim Finigan has a most important item on his blog about Civil Partnerships and CAFOD, and it is important to read it. Tap "Hermeneutic of Continuity" into Gogle. Do it now, and get others to read it, to.
Wed Nov 1st All Saints Day
Yesterday evening I made up a couple of little packets of ginger biscuits tied with ribbon, in case any children called, it being Hallowe'en. A knock at the door, a child dressed as a skelton with a skull-mask, waving a skull-and-crossbones flag and carrying a plastic bucket with some sweets in it. He shouted gleefully and I pronounced myself utterly, utterly terrified, and gave him a packet of ginger biscuits. Sign of the times: his (young, rather jolly) mum and dad were in the background, loyally keeping watch. They called out "Many thanks! Happy Hallowe'en!" and I reciprocated. This "trick or treat" thing is new, an import from America, having of course originated long ago in Catholic England, children going from house to house begging for "soul cakes" in return for saying a prayer for the dead of the household.....Newspapers are full of "Oh, why do we have to have these American imports?" and it does seem a pity that it's all a bit of a spending-spree: plastic pumpkins, lanterns, ready-made costumes, witches' hats, flashing headdresses etc etc. But it does provide fun and at least gets children away from staring at computer screens.... Churches ameliorate the spooky aspects by organising "Pumpkin parties" and "Hallelujah parties" and having "Night of Light" prayer festivals. Our local church ran one of these, got children to dress as saints, and had a lantern-lit procession which all enjoyed....although apparently they also enjoyed jeering at other local children who were dressed as witches, skeletons, etc "Ya! Gross! We're saints! You're horrible!"......

Crisp, fresh, deliciously cold day. So at last, with All Saints, Autumn is here. Everything feels fresh and vigourous.

Newspapers full of reports about global warming, horrors to come, cities flooded, refugees moving in vast numbers from low-lying area like Bangladesh etc.....This warm Autumn has made fears like this seem real.....

A very grand invitation has been on our mantlepiece for the past few weeks, requesting the pleasure of our company at a major event in Rome. Jamie will be attending and for various reasons it will have resonances with the topic on which I am lecturing in America, so I will enjoy writing about this.....