Monday, April 30, 2007

Monday April 30th
Young people from the School of Evangelisation at St Patrick's, Soho Square, were at Westminster Cathedral for the Chrism Mass in Holy Week with the idea of showing support for priests - and a team of us from the Association of Catholic Women had had the same idea and we joined forces with great joy : at last week's ACW committee meeting we enjoyed pix of the event and we will certainly be returning next year. Henry from The School of Evangelisation has now sent me a nice note (see COMMENTS to this blog) asking that I publicise their blog, which I gladly do. I have been invited to give a talk at St Patrick's later this term and am looking forward to it.


Yesterday a delightful visit to my old school, St Philomena's in Carshalton. Well, not officially a visit to the the grounds is a magnificent and unique water-tower, built by a former owner of the property, Sir John Fellowes, in the early 18th century. (He made a great deal of money from the South Sea Bubble scheme, bought Carshalton House and lived there in some style...much later, it was bought by the Daughters of the Cross, and they founded a school there in the 1890s). Cycling past the Tower, on my way to meet Mother for a walk and cup of tea, I saw a notice announcing that it was Open to the Public (admission 75p!) of course we went there.

Oh, nostalgia...the main room, which was originally an orangery, was the room where I first attended school: oh, I remember a rocking-horse, and little blue tables and chairs...and dear Miss Gibbons, who presided over the Kingergarten...and next door was the next class, called Transition, with Sister Mary Kevin in charge...

But what I hadn't known was that this unique building housed a magnificent water-pumping system, used to pipe the clear fresh water from one of Carshalton's many springs. There is a superb tiled bathroom, each tile hand-painted, and with steps going down to a glorious deep bath - it would be so enjoyable to have a swim in it! Of course all this was boarded over when we children ate our (horrid, horrid) lunches in that room years ago.

The nice volunteers in charge invited me to contribute memories for their Newsletter, which I'll do with pleasure. My memories of the Tower are, apart from the nasty meals, very happy ones. There is now a group called the Friends of Carshalton Water Tower (136 West St, Carshalton SM5 2NR tel 020 8 647 0984). The whole building has been beautifully restored - the Orangery is not unlike the one at Kensington Palace and it really is well worth seeing and the whole place be hired out for sociual functions etc. I do most warmly recommend it.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Sunday April 29th

In hot sunshine yesterday, to Fulham, where I got caught up in the massive football crowds. It was good to escape and settle down at my destination, the pleasant study where I handed over the entries for the judging of the Catholic Young Writer Award, sponsored by The Keys, the Catholic Writers' Guild of England and Wales. A winner and two runners-up will finally be chosen - no, I'm not giving their names until they have been personally notified - and the winner will come to the Writers' Guild meeting in a couple of weeks' time, to recieve the shield, cheque, and certificate. A number of Certificates of Merit were also awarded, including several to one particular school which sent in a good number of entries. In fact, the enthusiasm shown by this particular school, was such that it was decided to award the school itself a certificate - the first time we have done this.

Discussion on this blog re home-education, ie families not sending their children to school but teaching them at home. Of course this is an excellent thing for families that want to do it - and was standard for daughters in middle-class and upper-class homes throughout the 19th and well into the early part of the 20th century. And the families that do it today tend to be those who tackle it with great dedication, and produce superb results. But it would be terribly cruel for the Church to announce this as the norm: it's like suggesting that because some families can cope well with ill or frail elderly relatives, there is no need for any care-homes or visiting nurses, or day centres! I know a number of families who educate their own children at home - they tend to be highly committed, and if they are Catholic they tend to be v. devout, keen on lots of Latin etc etc. All very delightful and splendid. But what about all the other children in Britain? Are we meant to mumble that "it's up to the parents" and ignore their needs?

SALVE REGINA the title of a beautiful new hardback illustrated book of traditional Catholic prayers, produced by Stonyhurst College. It was an initiative of two pupils and is the result of research among some of the College's fabulous collection of old manuscripts. The result is a feast of medieval artwork, together with a collection of prayers, some taken from the Sarum Primer. It also has the whole Rosary - including the new Mysteries of Light - and an explanation of how illuminated manuscripts were made (did you know that the thick ink was made by boiling oak-apples, and that the bright blue colours came from lapis lazuli from Afghanistan?). Warmly recommended: £12.95p from St Omers Press. Contact or phone 01254 836345 Jan Graffius.

Friday, April 27, 2007


The Family Bulletin of the useful organisation Family and Youth Concern arrives in the post. It includes a detailed analysis of the Govt's new Sexual Orientation Regulations. The full implications of these, and especially the restrictions they carry on the teaching of religious and moral; values to children, have not yet been fully graped by many (most?) Christian organisations or other community groups. It looks as though even the giving of private advice might be subject to the possibility of legal action, for example a priest urging people to uphold the principle of male/female marriage and not to do anything which blurs the distinction between this and a homosexual union.

I think a lot of people are simply hoping that these Regulations will be largely ignored or will simply go away. Hmmmm. They come into force on April 30th.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


I got up early to walk by the sea and explore the town. It was bliss to be running along the seashore on the edge of Scotland on an April morning. The ruined hulk of castle and cathedral that stand up starkly against the sky and sea tell a grim story of Scotland's religious battles of long ago , and then as you turn inland there is the pleasant town and friendly people greeting you with "good morning" and freshly-brewed coffee at a cafe, and shops selling all those Scottish things like marmalade in nice jars and tins of shortbread with Bonniee Prince Charlie and Flora Macdonald.

A group of young people - organisers of last night's meeting - joined me for breakfast and were very good company. They took me for a proper tour (story of St Regulus, bringing of St Andrew's relics to Scotland, etc) and we skimmed stones into the sea and talked about university life, and plans for the CathSoc barbeque and the success of their recent celigh (sp??)and more.... I hugely enjoyed it all, and it was just such a great pleasure to be with this delightful group of young people with their laughter and enthusiasm....Finally, they went off to lectures and to write dissertations and things (end-of-term pressures loominmg) and we said our goodbyes and I was off in a taxi to Leuchars station and thence to Ednburgh and the flight home.

Every time I talk to a group of young Catholics like this I recognise what the H. Father meant when he said at his inauguration "The Church is alive - and the Church is young!"

A wonderful visit to St Andrew's, in Scotland, where I gave a talk to the Catholic Society at the University. Great fun, and a delightful bunch of young people. Mass first in the chapel - as we prayed, a glorious evening sun played on the silvery sea beyond the window and dusk fell gently...this really is a most beautiful corner of the world.

My talk was on "The Church and Women", looked at what Christianity has done for women, the role played by remarkable Catholic women down the centuries etc etc. We looked at the whole idea of the Church as the Bride of Christ, the meaning of the Cana miracle, Christ as the Bridegroom....and the Mass as having a "nuptial meaning" and that is why the Church is now Mother Church and we are all children of that all gets v. interesting. There is a useful Catholic Truth Society leaflet about why the Church doesn't have women priests, and I was glad to see copies of this - and other excellent CTS material - at the Chaplaincy.

As evening ended, we had Compline in the chapel, by candlelight, with the sea now a gleaming vision of beaten silver in the distance. The young voices sang an evening hymn and said Compline beautifully, and it reminded me of evenings at summer youth gatherings of the FAITH Movement years ago, the same sense of youthful unity, of friends praying together at the end of the day.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Tuesday April 24th


To Brompton Oratory for a Board meeting of the UK section of the international charity Aid to the Church in Need. As always, lots to plan and discuss. All sorts of good things happening: a recent wonderful pilgrimage to Walsingham, sales of v. popular Easter cards (the office actually ran out of all stocks and there'll have to be a massive printing next year. This is great for fund-raising...but my heart sinks slightly. Does this mean that sending Easter cards is going to be like the Great Christmas Card Hassle each year, with days and days spent over address-book and lists???. Oh dear...) Over lunch, a discussion on, among other things, the situation of the Church in Pakistan (where ACN is giving help to a number of churches), the plans for future activities of the charity in Britain.

Much discussion, too, about the Internet. I sometimes think that what is being cosily termed the "Catholic blogosphere" is a good deal smaller than it seems: I get a lot of hits on to this blog but I suspect that many are from people who simply like cruising from Catholic blog to Catholic blog within a limited frame of reference and they visit a rather small number of blogs but very frequently.. That doesn't mean I'm reaching many people: it means that a smallish number visit me - and a smallish group of other blogs - a lot! One can see the emergence of a group-culture within this (friendly and pleasant, but nevertheless rather inward-looking?) group: in-jokes,chatty references, etc within a limited network. No,no...I'm not objecting. But it's not quite the wide-ranging readership I had imagined might be out there...

So if you are a new reader, and/or you are some one who doesn't just like reading Catholic blogs, do drop me a comment! I'd like to know about you!

The London suburbs are all apple blossom and cherry blossom at the moment, and sometimes there is an enchanting delicate little shower of it, like confetti at a wedding, which catches you as you cycle past.

The bells of Westminster Abbey were ringing out, crashing peal on peal, as I rounded Parliament Square on my way to the City for the St George's Day meeting of the Catholic Writers' Guild. We now meet at St Mary Moorfields, after many happy years at St Etheldreda's, Ely Place. (Fr Kit Cunningham, of St E's, recently retired - I was honoured to be invited to write the tribute to him in the diocesan newspaper, the Westminster Record). It's easy to miss St Mary's - which is intentional, because when it was built, Catholics still had to be rather private (oh, well, all right, secret) so it has a hidden, semi-underground feel. This also makes the church - which is beautiful, and enormously popular as a venue for weekday Masses among the younger City workers - rather hot. Even on this mild evening, it felt very warm: there are no windows giving access to the outside air. But it was a beautiful St George's Day Mass and Fr Peter Newby, our Chaplain, spoke about St George as England's patron saint, reminding us that the very identity of our country is bound up with the traditional Christian faith, and we must pray and work for the revival of this Faith in England today.

Speaker at the meeting - held in the lower crypt after the usual delicious and talkative supper - was Maggie Fergusson, author of the much-acclaimed biography of the poet George Mackay Brown. Her book is warmly recommended. His poetry is glorious, and his story - a convert to the Catholic faith, growing ip in Orkney - an extraordinary one.

Meetings of the Writers' Guild are always so enjoyable. I sat next to David Twiston Davies of the Daily Telegraph - his daughter Bess, also a journalist, was with me on Friday afternoon as we worked on the "Young Journalist" project for Tamezin magazine.(excellent magazine for teenage girls - recommended). The vote of thanks was given by novelist Piers Paul Read, who is a former Master of the GUild and helped to shape it in its prent form. Others present included Lynette Brurrows, whose excellent book on raising children Good Children, is still popular and who is always so courageous and refreshing in sticking up for family values in debates on TV and radio.

It was good cycling home in the cool breeze along by the river, which glitters at night with all the lit-up buildings and city activity alongside.

Friday, April 20, 2007


A major part of our Easter is watching the Holy Father on TV giving the Urbi et Orbi blessing. One can now watch all the beautiful Holy Week ceremonies on TV on one's computer: you just tap in "Television Catholique" into Google and then choose from various Papal events....

I have also enjoyed reading the text of the what the H>Father actually said in his Easter words. Read here for example.

BTW, the way the way Papa Benedict celebrates Mass is a model for others to note: measured, dignified, noit drawing attention to himself but to what is taking place at the altar.
Thursday April 19th 2007


A beautiful and packed room at Brompton Oratory, where young people arrived for one of the regular monthly evening gatherings - well over 100 of them, with a friendly atmosphere and a sense of life and vibrancy. I was speaking on "Women and the Church" and the evening was really encouraging - good questions and discussion, a glorious buzz of talk over sandwiches and wine afterwards. One of the young priests got me a plate of sandwiches, as I was surrounded by a big circle of young people wanting to chat and follow up on the talk I had given.Things went on until a late hour, and when I finally got away, I found I was on almost the last Tube getting out to Wimbledon.

The Oratory is famous for being very traditional in its style of Catholicism, for its glorious music, and for being in a smart part of London and associated with beautiful weddings and great liturgy and so on and so on....and all these things make it very attractive. To have regular evenings like this, with vast numbers of intelligent, committed, interested young men and women, is a sign of life and hope in today's Church.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Off to London for a meeting of the small working team that organises the Towards Advent Festival every year at Westminster Cathedral Hall......yes, yes, I know....but to get this biggish event happening every year, we have to plan well ahead. (The date's Nov 3rd. Some brilliant speakers and a lovely choir. Lots of displays by Catholic organisations etc. Go on, put the date in your diary now, then you won't get into a muddle later on).

As we talked about the arrangements for promoting the Festival via parishes etc I found myself reflecting on the various Holy Week and Easter devotions this year....all those that I attended were absolutely packed, whether it was the Maundy Mass at Westminster Cathedral, or our own suburban parish on Good Friday, or the Oratory (St Aloysius) at Oxford for the Easter Vigil. Good Friday was especially memorable - it's always so moving to see the priest there, prostrate before the sanctuary - and the crowds spread from the church and porch right out into the street outside.......

I know we keep hearing that the Church is in a mess, Christianity fading out of everyone's lives etc etc etc....but it simply didn't feel that way this season.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Tuesday April 17th 2007


Sonntagberg: a conference on the theme "Children are a blessing". Sonntagberg is the most glorious place, a great pilgrimage church on top of a mountain, with a welcoming pilgrimage-house next door, run by our friends the Doblhof family who had organised this conference. An excellent gathering of people from a number of Catholic groups, focused on the idea of the family as the "domestic church". Not a conference of plastic folders and name-badges and self-importance, but a large-minded, friendly gathering, plenty of children joining us all for meals and spending the day in the lovely mountain-top park or in a room set aside for them with toys and with the most heavenly views in all directions....friendly Bishop opened the events with an excellent talk. Everyone very realistic about the problems facing Europe, and the Church in Europe, atmosphere well-informed, thoughtful, talkative.

Jamie and I were the first speakers on Saturday morning. For most of the weekend we all spoke German, but I was able to give my speech in English: it was about childhood, and the way the culture of childhood is being attacked in Britain and in the West (regular readers of this Blog will know about my indignation re filthy teenage mags, removal of good books from children's libraries, etc etc etc.....). Jamie followed on with information about some of the anti-family antics at the United Nations and elsewhere....including alas our latest nasty lesgilsation here at home which will force Catholic adoption agencies to hand children over to homosexual couples for adoption....

The whole tragedy of Europe's sense of losing contact with its authentic roots, and of course of the falling birthrate with all that this means, was a theme echoing through all the talks and discussions. It was so good to be able to talk in a frank, open and genuine way. Excellent bookstall (with a number of excellent new books about the Holy Father plus of course, lots by him), good conversations, useful contacts....


We hear about the problems of the Church in Austria, but on Sunday morning, at 8 am the great church (and I do mean great - think Brompton Oratory, but larger) was FULL for Mass, with lots of singing. And that wasn't the main Mass of the day - that came later, and the church was packed again, and with more music. Then, it being Divine Mercy Sunday, the whole place was full - very, very full - of pilgrims all afternoon, families with children, older people, and the church was overflowing for a big service, led by young people with songs and readings, and two looooooong lines of penitents approaching each confessional.


We spent our last evening with friends on a glorious walk through the woods and out along the mountain-path to the inn where a big jug of most was waiting (local cider, made with pears) and delicious speck and cheeses and so on....We stopped at the Turkish Chapel, site of the place where a Turkish soldier was halted en route to burn and sack Sonntagberg, his horse sinking into the ground, and the village being saved (the great basilica was built in thanksgiving - see the full story on the Sonntagberg website. Then we took the path along the line of the hill, past farms and with snow-topped mountains in the distance, each turn lovelier than the last, and all the time soft April air, and good talk with good friends,and a senser of Easttertide and of Divine Mercy.... A glowing sunset turned all the edges of the world red in the west. The old Austrian name for the West is Abendland - the evening land.....

On Monday, as a treat, J. and I gave ourselves a full day together exploring the city of music and Mozart and churches and more...a swift train to Salzburg, lots of wurzel at a pleasant restaurant, then churches this city, you can, on an ordinary Sunday, choose from a feast of fabulous liturgical music in the Cathedral, or the church of St Peter, or the Franciscan church - all offering the glories of the Mass with music of the sort most people in Britain are only likely to get on Classi FM. Here, it's all there in the setting for which it was intended, ie the Mass!, and it's free, and is simply part of the city's life! We found the convent where Maria von Trapp tried her vocation, and I found its dark Medieval chapel a great contrast to the baroque glories of the city's churches, no wonder she went running to the hills just to get a feeling of space and width and joy...of course there are now "Sound of Music" tours and special buses and so on...meanwhile we found churches and fountains, cafes and street-stalls, pony-and-trap rides and lines of fat teenagers on school-trips with, all bare-middled and in tight low-slung jeans and looking rather glum as the fashion is....

As we enjoyed our final coffee-and- thick-cream (me) and beer (J), the bell of the cathedral pealed out for the solemn Mass that was being held to celebrate the Pope's birthday, with a promise of a feast of joyful music. His picture dominated the newspapers, and special stamps commissioned to mark the anniversary, and he's visiting Austria later this year, leading pilgrims to the great shrine at Mariazell....

And then finally to the airport and the last flight out of the city at night-time, and first sight of a British newspaper for some days: the Independent, with a vicious story denouncing young doctors for refusing to do abortions and hinting that more coercive laws might be neccessary in order to crush this sort of moral and Christian tendency...

A feeling of the holiday coming to an end....British drunks shouting on the plane, and then the foul-mouthed youth next to me looked suddenly all pale and vulnerable as the descent into London was announced and he confided that he simply hated flying and was scared, and I found myself wanting to offer him a rosary to hold....

And then home, and a great pile of letters, and much bustle to get clothes washed and things organised for a busy morning start to a new week and everyday work....

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Thursday April 13th 2007


After a beautiful Holy Week, a glorious Easter, celebrated with the family and beginning with the Easter Vigil at the Oxford Oratory. Then chocolate eggs,country walks, family meals...and on to J's family in Somerset for more of the same, plus a day on the beach with the creation of a magnificent sandcastle...

Home now, but only briefly as we are off to a conference in Austria.

Note to the young correspondent who wants to send in an essay for the Catholic Young Writer Award. All you have to do is choose a hero or heroine FROM AMONG THE CANONISED SAINTS OF THE CHURCH and write about him/her - no more than four A4 pages, explaining why you admire him/her, the message of his/her life, etc. Send the entry to: Catholic Young Writer Award, 34 Barnard Gardens New Malden KT3 6QG to arrive before April 30th. Can be typed on a computer or ahndwritten. You must be of secondary school age (ie 11-18). Make sure you put your full name and full postal address on the entry.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Leafing through cookery books to get necessary recipes for Easter goodies, I found myself browsing one given to me by my sister on my engagement over 25 years ago... on the flyleaf she wrote:"If you cook with love, he'll always eat with pleasure...Always enjoy cooking and don't resort to tins. Much love...". She now lives on the other side of the world, but felt suddenly near. Sent her a mental hug.

Am planning a Simnel Cake but had to tackle some work first. Got a good deal of writing done, interrupted by bits of cooking. Discussion yesterday evening with friends about Hot Cross Buns. Is it worth making one's own? Useful kitchen activity with children/friends for Holy Week or too jolly messy what with yeast and leaving-to-rise and making pastry crosses?

Would value ideas/opinions. The query is not just a personal whim: I'm doing another TV series for EWTN in due course, re Lent and Easter traditions, to match the series I did on Advent and Christmas. This new Lent/Easter series will be broadcast next year, 2008, but we are busy planning it now...I am not short on ideas for things to make, do, eat, pray and sing for this whole season but don't want to offer ideas that are just impractical or silly. (For those who didn't see the Advent/Christmas series, it's all set in a kitchen, and is meant to show ideas for ways of marking all the seasons...)


Tomorrow sees the Chrism Mass at St George's Cathedral, Southwark. I plan to go along to be part of the "Thank you to our priests" which greets the clergy as they process into the Cathedral - excellent initiative of Mulier Fortis which, as you will have read in yesterday's posting, has now spread to Westminster and been a great success. I won't be able to stay for the Mass itself, however because I'm due at the BBC for a radio programme. Later I'll be at the evening Maundy Mass in a London church, always a central point of the whole year. "Ubi caritas...."


I don't think one blogs on Good Friday. Then on Holy Saturday I'm meeting Mother in London and we're off to a family gathering for Easter, where Jamie will join us. Later in Easter week, J. and I will go on to Bogle relations in Somerset. What with family and country walks and chocolate eggs and nieces and nephews and talkative meals and being by the sea and relishing every moment I can't see an aunt spending much time blogging. And is there any point, since it would only encourage people to be at home reading it instead of being out in the Easter springtime?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Tuesday April 3rd


We gathered in front of Westminster Cathedral with our big new placard saying "Thank you to our priests", so that we could greet them all as they arrived for the Chrism Mass....and found that a splendid group of young people from St Patrick's, Soho Square, had had the same idea and were there with their placard too! So we joined forces, and were able to give the priests a good and sustained round of applause as they walked, in white vestments, in procession up from Ambroseden Avenue and round through the great doors. They were, it has to be said, hugely appreciative and there was a wonderful atmosphere of friendship so it was really well worth doing. We gave each priest a card saying "Thank you for the service you give as a Catholic priest" and with a quotation about Melchisidech...

And the Chrism Mass was beautiful. I had not realised what glorious prayers there are for the blessing of the oils...I closed my eyes to listen better: all about the dove returning to Noah with an olive branch, and King David, and all sorts of other references to the fruits of the olive tree....and the choir sang some Monteverdi and the cathedral was packed - absolutely packed, so its whole vastness was filled, even to the side-chapels, and with people sitting on the floor and on any convenient set of marble steps. I ended up in St Patrick's chapel - though of course St P couldn't be seen, as all the statues were covered up with purple cloth for Holy Week.

Cardinal Cormac preached about the Holy Father's new Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis! And at the end of the Mass he announced that there was a copy for each priest to take home...

I should perhaps add that the priestess-lobbyists were outside the cathedral too, poor dears, with their banner. They didn't come in to the Chrism Mass.
Tuesday April 3rd


I am extending the deadline for entries to the Catholic Writers' Guild CATHOLIC YOUNG WRITER AWARD. New deadline is April 30th. Send me an email WITH YOUR FULL EMAIL ADDRESS IN IT for more information.

There is a £100 cash prize, plus other prizes. We seek essays from young people of secondary school age on the theme "Heroes and Heroines of the Faith" - choose a hero from among the canonised saints of the RC Church and write to us about him. We want evidence that you have studied his life, work, and message. MAKE SURE YOU PUT YOUR FULL NAME AND POSTAL ADDRESS, also your date of birth, on your entry. Max length - 4 sides of A4. Entries cannot be emailed and must be sent by post to:

Catholic Young Writer Award
34 Barnard Bardens
New Malden Surrey KT3 6QG

That's all the information you really need, but email me for full details.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Monday April 2nd


I was halfway through making some Easter biscuits - hands all covered with pastry - when the doorbell rang. Small girl from next door: had we got any books on ancient Greece? Mmm, yes. Several, as it happens. Washed hands, found large book on ancient Greece plus Greek New Testament. Scrambled over low fence (we never use gates and paths as all the houses are stuck together) to pass them over. Showed Greek lettering in Nt, explained ancient Greek NT Greek. Short discussion re ancient Greece. Wooden horse of Troy? Blank looks. Sparta? "Oh yes - they were brave. It was a separate city and they were Spartans". Told her about the heroes of Thermopolae (sp?):"Go stranger, tell Sparta..etc..." Scrambled back to biscuits and kitchen thinking heroic thoughts. Have always admired Sparta, and at school our classes were named after ancient peoples, and we were Spartans - our parallel class were Athenians, not a patch on us. Chuntered Spartan epitaph as I worked the next batch of pastry. ("Go, Bogle, tell biscuits....")
Monday April 2nd


Entries arrive for the 2007 "Catholic Young Writer" Award sponsored by The Keys, The Catholic Writers' Guild. This annual Award was my idea, and it's been going for several years now, but unless we get some better entries than these, we won't be awarding the shield this year. These are hopeless: ill-written and with little or no punctuation, but also, and much more worryingly, devoid of any content whatever. Pupils had been asked to choose a hero or heoine from among the saints of the Church, and write about that person, with a note about why he or she had appealed to them. In this batch of entries, all we get is "Mary Magdalen was a caring person" and "St Anne was a caring person", plus, in a couple of cases, a sudden change of style and a couple of sentences copied down from the Internet, so there is a sudden muddled statement about Mary Magdalen's links with Provence or St Anne's appearance in Christian art. Er....copying things directly from another source without attribution used to be called cheating, no? And one child has got St Anne, the mother of the Virgin, mixed up with St Anne Line, giving us the hilarious information that St Anne was born in the 16th century and was the mother of Our Lady...

I know that most Catholic schools don't teach much in the way of the Catholic Faith, but this latest evidence of how bad things are is very, very depressing.

I am particularly struck by the endless repetition of the cliche about being a "caring person". This is mantra that pupils are evidently taught, as it crops up too in the essays from small children that we get in the Reliogious Education Project run by ther Association of Catholic Women. Memo to any Catholic teacher reading this blog: if you want to give children anything of value connected with the Faith, don't give them cliches. Ditch any reference to some one bing "caring". Saints can be courageous, loving, tender, heroic, eccentric, noble, repentant, loyal, and more. To slither into saying that St Mary Magdalen was a "caring person", and to make dozens of teenagers copy out such glop, is to fail utterly in any attempt to communicate anything of value at all.
Monday April 2nd


A glorious Palm Sunday. Procession of palms at Brompton Oratory: fabulous singing in the church with both the children's choir and the professional choir, prayers and the blessing of great palm branches and hundreds and hundreds of lesser leaves held aloft, then the great doors were flung open and we went out into the sunshine, round through past the Oratory House, with the processional Cross leading, and the choirs singing, and members of the Confratenity of something-or-other (Jamie is a member and looked splendid in his red-hooded robe). A great concourse of people, out though the gates and down that short stretch of road, just into busy London for a moment as Christ went into Jerusalem...and then back into the great church and the solmen chanting of Christ's Passion and then the Mass.

Afterwards, much milling about and greeting of friends - people flock to the Oratory for Holy Week. We had already made plans to meet the E. family there, and over refreshments with them in the parish hall we made plans: the men went off to get supplies of picnic food while we organised the children and soon we were all off to Kensington Gardens. The Princess Diana Memorial playing-ground is excellent, with its pirate ship and (my personal favourite) its musical paving-stones and quiet corner where you can stand by some magic posts and hear the sounds of the sea (yes, really! Recordings hidden in the posts, I suppose, but it's a lovely corner, all planted with sea-grass and drifting with sand and pebbles). We had a delicious picnic, the four children (the oldest, T. is my godson),scrambled about in bare feet and disappeared into the glories of the playground (did I also mention that it has Indian wigwams, innumerable places to climb,and a village of wooden Goldilock-style houses?)and we all sat and talked and relaxed and enjoyed ourselves.

Home late, palm branches and all, and supper on laps while we watched a borrowed DVD "The Winslow Boy" (v. good)