Friday, June 29, 2007


Invited back by my old school, St Philomena's, to give a talk on journalism. Took along a couple of members of the team from Tamezin magazine, and we had a very enjoyable morning. The girls wear a much nicer uniform than in my day, and wear it very correctly - kilted skirts and matching brown my day the really in-crowd used their (plain, brown, made of shiny serge) skirts over and over at the waist to turn them into hideous mini-skirts, but the 21st-century girls all look very demure in mid-calf kilts and all were extremely courteous and friendly.

In the evening, another school event - a delightful prizegiving at Bromley Civic Centre for Babington House School, Chislehurst. This is a deservedly popular and highly successful school. It was a really traditional prizegiving - we began with God Save the Queen, and ended with the Head Girls' Speech and in between some enchanting children sang, and there were awards and certificates task was to do this and also to make a speech, and then in due course two very small children staggered up with a simply enormous bouquet, and it was a very happy evening. During the course of her speech, the headmistess mentioned that the school had a new website, so I give a link to it here. It was a real privilege to share this special evening with this school, and to meet the girls and teachers and parents. I went home in a glow.
Friday June 29th
Feast of St Peter and Paul. Yesterday I went to the Vigil Mass at Westminster Cathedral. The magnificent statue of St Peter near the main doors - the one with the foot worn smooth because so many people touch it - was, in traditional style, dressed for the feast with a cope and a Papal crown. And because it was the feast of St John Southworth earlier this week - hero priest of the Great Plague and a true London saint - his relics had been brought from their usual chapel and placed for some days in the centre of the nave, surrounded by red flowers and six tall candles. So the Cathedral had a solemn and festal feel. Glorious music as usual...

And, for the lady who wrote to this Blig asking if it was me, in pink, in Victoria Street: yes, it was. Next time, do stop and chat!

Opposite the cathgedral are a couple of telephone kiosks. Needing to phone Mother to confirm I was on my way, I dropped in to one of them. A youth had just emerged, having filled the wall with the usual stacks of nasty cards offering sexual services. I whisked these out, and dropped into the next kiosk to do the same. A convenient litter-bin was ready to recieve them. Could I make a plea that we all do this every time we pass a phone booth? Oh, I know the wretched cards get put up again by the sad people who earn money via the girls...but even getting them out for a short while makes a sort of contribution to civilisation...

Thursday, June 28, 2007


To the Oxford and Cambridge Club in Pall Mall for Lunch with my publisher, Tom Longford of Gracewing.. I have a new book coming out in September - but I'll keep details of that as a surprise for the moment. My book on Pope Benedict is selling quite well - have you bought a copy? Gracewing will oblige...Tom v. happy about a beautiful new book on First Communion which is coming out shortly - showed me the proofs. It really is excellent, a fine companion to the one already produced on Confirmation, by Dora Nash. which is available from Gracewing and has proved a big success.


But I feel mean writing cheerily. There is bad - really bad - flooding in parts of the country. There have been at least four deaths. There are stories of heroism with firemen struggling to save lives, and people people given emergency shelter after being rescued from flooded houses. Many families have had their homes wrecked and lost many precious possesions. Overcast skies promise more rain...
Thursday June 28th


A splendid meeting of the Catholic Cultural Group last night (informal group, meets in London for people liiving/working in the capital, has guest speakers, wine, talk) - member Amanda Hill, who is a former Mastermind finalist, ran an excellent Quiz, and the evening was hosted by another Mastermind finalist CCG member, Chantal Thompson who produced delicious food and a welcoming atmosphere. Questions included saints associated with various places in England (non-Catholic Evangelical member triumphed here as the only person who got St Swithin at Winchester, and no one managed St Wulstan as being the saint from Worcester), writers of various hymns, burial-places of well-known people and discussion so agreeable that things went on until a late hour and I was

TRAPPED IN HYDE PARK..., having cycled gleefully across it in the rain-lashed dark feeling free and London-belongs-to-me-ish, I found that there are in fact gates at the Piccadilly end and I was locked in! I don't just mean that those big Queen Mother memorial gates are locked, I mean all the exits are locked, including obscure smaller ones that give access from the riding-track that leads up towards Knightsbrdige. Gulp. Enlisted the support of stout formally-dressed respectable gentleman who was also trapped in - we hunted for unlocked gate without success. Realised that was no go, so I asked him to help me heave the bike over the railings - this was accomplished with the aid of two chaps on the other side who responded to my bleats for assistance and turned out to be Somali refugees. Getting the bike over wasn't too hard (regular readers of this Blog will know that I previously accomplished this on my own when locked in at Brompton Oratory) and then I got ready to climb over myself, at which point the nice gentleman looked scared and pottered off. The Somalis were v. nice and helped carry me safely over and we talked and shook hands and I went off to Victoria where, by a whisker, I was able to get the very last Tube chugging out to the suburbs...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Wed Jan 27th


Cycling across Green Park, I heard a great clatter of helicopters overhead, and crowds were gathering as I got near Buckingham Palace. At the kerb, I was stopped from crossing, so joined the waiting crowd...flashing lights, motorcycle was Mr Blair coming to make his farewell visit to the Queen, or Mr Brown arriving to kiss her hand on being sworn in as the new Prime Minsiter - I am not sure which.

For some reason, there suddenly came into my head the reported words of the Pope as he surveyed the signed photographs of Cardinal Newman presented to him by Mr Blair at the recent audience, that 'miracles were hard to come by in England' and I found myself asking for a minor miracle, please, that with the change in PM would come a change in policies, to make them more family-friendly and pro-life. Now that really would be a miracle. Dear John Henry Newman, intercede for your poor country...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

I don't know if this is going to work, but, when looking for a possible You-Tube video of Mr Blair visiting the Holy Father, I came across this glorious one of the European Union summit. Do enjoy it.

As regular readers of this Blog will know, I am planning a SPONSORED CYCLE RIDE to help raise funds to send some young people to Australia for World Youth Day. It's all now arranged, and I'm in training.

I cycle from St Joseph's, New Malden, to St Joseph's, Brighton, on a three-day ride, leaving New Malden on Sunday Aug 5th, amd arriving at Brighton on Tuesdsay Aug 7th, having stayed overnight en route with various friends. On Monday Aug 6th, feast of the Transfiguration, I will arrive at the Shrine at West Grinstead, Sussex, where members of the New Malden parish will be having a grand Parish Outing and we'll all celebrate together. Then I'll cycle on to Brighton the next day, and I'm taking my swimming costume so I'll be ready for a dip in the sea...

If you want to sponsor me, it is a 50-mile ride, and you could offer a modest sum for each mile. Just send me a COMMENT to this blog, which I won't publish, giving me your FULL NAME AND ADDRESS or EMAIL and saying how much per mile. A penny a mile would mean you'd pay 50p! Or a pound a mile would be £50....In due course I will collect the money from you. Cheques should be made out St Pius X Church. That is the next parish along from us, where the parish priest, Fr Dominic Allain, is co-ordinating local arrangements for World Youth Day. If American readers of this Blog want to send a dollar cheqwue, send me a COMMENT with an EMAIL ADDRESS TO WHICH I CAN REPLY and I will explain to you how it can be done.

I'll be writing a full blog account of my adventures on the trip, and have undertaken that, if I fail to make it all the way to Brighton, I'll go barefoot up the Tower of Westminster Cathedral and sing the Pater Noster from the open balcony there!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Sat June 23rd


...starting at Tower Hill and ending at Tyburn. This was the Martyrs Walk, organised by a team from Miles Jesu and it was all well worth while. A number of people came from St Thomas More parish in Seaford, Sussex, led by their priest Father Tony Churchill, who preached and gave us Benediction at St Patrick's Soho Square. . The idea was to commemorate and honour the Catholic Englishmen who died for the Faith in the years of terrible persecution - and we started at Tower Hill with honour to Sts John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, and St Thomas More, Chancellor,executed there in 1535. The site of the execution block is now commemorated with plaques listing the names of those who died there, and history has given the whole area further sense of solemnity - lying as it does near the Thames and the London Docks, this stretch is set aside as a memorial garden to the men of the Merchant Navy lost at sea in the two World Wars...hundreds of individual names on long panels lining the walls...

I was asked to give a talk there to start things off, then we divided into two groups, one led by me and the other by a fellow history-enthuasist, as we walked through the City and told the story of the various churches. My group had a route which took us to St Olave's (links with Norway) St Peter-upon-Cornhill and its neighbour St Michael (on the site of the earliest known Christian church in Britain, dating back to Roman times ie 2nd century AD) and St Laurence Jewry (right by the Guildhall - did you know there are the remains of a Colliseum beneath it? I did a BBC radio brodcast from there when excavators came across the site while digging the new Tube line to link with the Docklands Light Railway back in the 1990s).


For the final part of the Walk, following St Patrick's and an earlier stop at Greyfriars for an excellent talk by Fr Nicholas Schofield we sang a Litany of the Martyrs as we made our way to Tyburn. It's very touching to hear the names of ourMartyrs read out - they are so...well...English...They could be the names on a War Memorial...

which adjoins the site where so many Catholic martyrs died, gave us a warm welcome and the chapel was packed for Mass, with people having to spill over and go through into the nuns' choir stalls.

The rain had held off all day. After the Mass everything felt too inspiriing and one couldn't just to get on to the Tube for a mundane ride, ,so I thought I'd walk. As I was halfway across Hyde Park, there was a low rumble in the sky and then the Heavens opened, and rain poured down in torrents! There was a pop concert going on in one part of the park, which carried on regardless, and elsewhere people were sploshing through puddles and laughing and as they huddled under dripping trees - it was the sort of crazy summer downpour that cannot be resented and simply has to be enjoyed. I was soaked through by the time I finally got home, and it was hard to walk as my skirt was so heavy with water.

Friday, June 22, 2007


An excellent talk at an informal London gathering organised by younger friends, speaker from the Institute for Higher Studies on Women in Rome which is part of the Regina Apostolorum academy. We were a mixed group, not all Catholic,lots of younger people. It was all held at the home of a lovely family, enchanting small children helping to pass round snacks etc. Theme of talk focused on the intrinsic value of each human person - v. interesting to note that it is now definitely OK to affirm differences between men and women, and when in question-time I quoted examples of material from Govt-funded Equal Opportunities Commission which I had been sent in 1970s and 80s as chairman of local schools committee and instructed to ensure schools used in propaganda sessions, there was much hilarity, "Yes, we got all that stuff at school" etc. There is a dislike of ideological femimism and its assumptions. Today's discussions centre on finding identity, coping with different strands in overcrowded life, also massive financial pressures epescially if you want to get any sort of housing in London. It was v. interesting to note differences in age-groups - eg there is no question about men sharing housework, most younger men simply do, so old jokes about men not knowing how washing-machine works, can't change baby's nappy etc simply don't apply...on the other hand the big (and creative) differences between men and women were discussed at great length and with seriousness. Also the religious and spiritual aspects of this, including quotes from John Paul II, Mulieris Dignitatem etc, went down well, no shuffling or "We don't do God" sort of approach, on the contrary much interest. Golly, it made one feel middle-aged.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


To St Mary Moorfields in the City: Francis Campbell, British Ambassador to the Holy See, was speaking to The Keys, the Catholic Writers' Guild. Extraordinarily interesting: he outlined the history of the links between the Holy See and Britain in modern times, with particular reference to World War 11, and then spoke of his own work. A good discussion time allowed the raising of a range of questions including our Government's ruthless pushing of abortion and contraception as contrasted with the Holy See's defence of the family and human values, and indeed the whole question of how our Govt is apparently keen to crush Christian initiatives (freedom to speak, eg w. reference to the Sexual Orientation Regulations etc).

In discussing WW11, he highlighted the concern of the anti-Nazi Germans who, especially in the early days of the war, were exploring how the Allies would respond to a German overthrow of the Nazi regime and overtures for peace. Diplomats around the Vatican were part of all of this - a little-known chunk of history.

Meetings of The Keys are always good, and every time I think "This is the best yet!" - it is a chance to meet other Catholic writers, and publishers, plus their guests. Piers Paul Read was there - he's a former Chairman of the Guild - also Jeremy de Satge of The Music Makers, and Alenka Heyer, over from America with husband John - her weekly "Stateside" column in the Catholic Times is a delight.

I was busy working on my plans for a sponsored cycle ride to raise funds to get local young people to Sydney for World Youth Day when a friend, Dr William Griffiths rang. Would I like to go over and watch the TV programme about Chavangnes, the English school in France run by Ferdi McDermott and his team? Watching TV is a rare experience for me, and I have worked with Ferdi on his earlier publishing/bookshop ventures, so I cycled over happily.

The programme will be chiefly remembered for an absolutely sickening scene in which the boys were encouraged to learn how to kill a rabbit - which will probably be enough to put off some potential pupils without a further thought. Other than that, the place looked terrific fun, and the boys' evident freedom to give their opinions, and the hugely articulate way in which they did so, a sense of friendship and absence of teenage angst, combined with great liturgical reverence, (masses of Latin chant,Mass said ad orientem etc etc) gave a flavour of something worthwhile. Little was said, however, about academic work and the only class we saw was Latin. Not very impressive.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


On Friday evening,after a satisfying day working for EWTN,and a proper Tea, with Cake and lots of talk (see below), I made my way to Westminster Cathedral where I was due to give a lecture at the Hinsley Room. First, I dropped into the Cathedral, where for things were just reaching a conclusion after the Forty Hours devotion.

I had visited the previous day, and found lots of people praying and all the traditional settings of a Quanrant Ore, but now was was unprepared for what was there: a packed cathedral, a sanctuary glittering with candles, innumerable clergy, glorious singing. Then, as Mass had just drawn to a close, a great canopy was slowly brought forward, and the Cardinal, carrying the Blessed Sacrament in a Monstrance, led , very slowly, a vast procession down the aisle....with Latin chants later giving way to traditional hymns such as "Sweet Sacrament Divine" and "O Bread of Heaven", a vast concourse of people slowly made its way out into the piazza, round down by the side of the Cathedral - with people coming to the doors of all the flats and heads popping out of windows - along Francis Street and up Ambrosden was a really splendid procession, and all the more wonderful for simply happening on a Friday evening, a sort of bonus really...

Afterwards it took some time to get out of the Cathedral and round to the Hinsley Room but it didn't matter as most of the people who were coming to the lecture had, like me, got involved in the procession anyway.

Talk on the history of the Church in England went well, and was very well attended. People enjoy hearing about quirky bits of information relating to the Reformation, eg that the "Jack in the Box" toy was deliberately invented to mock the Tabernacle, and also about pre-Reformation Catholicism, with things like pub signs, eg The Angel at Islington which commemorates the Annunciation etc...

On Friday the excellent international Catholic TV network EWTN took over a room at Brompton Oratory and turned it in to a TV studio, where we worked all day on CATHOLIC LIVES, a new series. I interviewed a selection of people representing different strands of life in Catholic London: Charles Cole, who runs the superb Schola Cantorum at the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School and also the Junior Choir at Brompton Oratory, Sister Chiara of Holy Ghost parish in Balham who used to run a riding school (her description of instructing Princess Anne and a horse bolting halfway through a lesson was a highlight of that interview), novelist Piers Paul Read, and Fr Timothy Finigan of Hermeneutic of Continuity fame. It was great fun but I was glad I had done plenty of preparation work, briefed everyone thoroughly, worked carefully on questions and on the theme and "feel" of each interview, etc, as holding together a good TV interview of reasonable length (each was half an hour long, in two 15-minute segments) and ensuring that it has real shape and purpose, is worth getting right and not as easy as it sounds...afterwards Fr Tim and I had tea at the Victoria and Albert Museum and you can read all about that on his blog. We talked and laughed about lots of things but a good bit of the time was spent talking about getting the technical side of my blog right, and I took lots of notes. Which was scary because he's now going to notice to if I have managed to get some things done, starting with the headlines, and I haven't, I haven't. I can't make some of the things work, and I'm worried about simply clicking on to various things in case the whole thing goes wrong and I lose my entire Blog, or something.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

After Lancashire, I went on to Shrewsbury, a place I've wanted to visit ever since reading the Brother Cadfael books. It doesn't disappoint. I was there to give a talk ("Feasts and seasons" again) at the Catholic Cathedral. There was also time to explore a bit and take in some, but only some, of the layers of history which include the great abbey (destroyed under Henry V111 of course), the links with St Winifred (a Welsh saint - we're on the borders here of course), stories of the old Medieval Guilds, the Catholic heroes of the Civil War era....

I stayed overnight and am writing all this when home again. It's so good to get out of London and realise that there's so much, much more to England than the capital city.

It was a real priviledge being at the ancient and lovely shrine of Fernyhalgh at the weekend. This is Ladyewell, a place dedicated to Our Lady since before the Norman Conquest, a place of pilgrimage, and of staunch loyalty to the Catholic Faith even in the most difficult times. I splashed my face with water from the well, prayed, filled a bottle to take home to Mother and to Jamie... I was at Ladyewell to give a talk on "Traditional feasts and seasons" to a Family Day organised by a local priest. Numbers attending were not large, but the atmosphere was friendly and it was especially good to have young people in the group. On such a sunny day it was impossible to stay indoors, so we gathered on the lawn. I stood, most people sat on the chairs provided,the younger ones flopped on the ground, lay on their tummies, or sat cross-legged. It was a happy day. We had enjoyed a picnic lunch, and things finished with a most beautiful Corpus Christi procession, down the lane beside the golden fileds, with the bell ringing out to tell the land of Christ's presence, and a priest carrying the Blessed Sacrament in its Monstrance, and all of us saying the Rosary interspersed with Latin chant. At the church, we joined members of the local parish for Mass.


The next morning I visited an old friend, Sister Catherine, who used to work for
Aid to the Church in Need and now lives in Preston. It was a joy to be with her and we talked and talked. Back in the 1970s, ACN in Britain was a very small and relatively unknown charity, struggling to convey to people something of the huge needs of Christians suffering under Communist regimes in Eastern Europe. We reminisced about those days...before we had our Polish Pope (how thrilling it was when he was elected!! Remember?) gatherings with ACN's founder Fr Werenfried van Straaten...the first tiny British office in Kent and then later the one at Chichester...

Of course we spoke of current things, of the local scene, of the Church. Here in Preston the problems of the Church are all too evident, numbers for Mass slumping, fewer and fewer First Communicants and most of them from families that are not really practising...parishes closing, mosques being built...

But I slipped into St Wilfrid's church, which I last visited for a glorious family wedding nearly thirty years ago, and found it as beautiful as I remembered, and as welcoming. There was Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, people were dropping in to pray...oh, we do need Catholic Lancashire and all that it means...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


But first, a beautiful First Holy Communion celebration at Brompton Oratory - we were invited because the younger son of close friends was among the young Communicants. Lovely music(Oratory Junior Choir), and it was moving to go up up to the Communion rail past the rows of white-clad children...afterwards, a vast crowd spilled into the Oratory Garden, where tables were laden with food and wine provided by the parents, and there was much talking and meeting of old friends, while the children were photographed and videoed and the girls smirked in their dresses and veils and wreaths of flowers and, with the boys, ran about and shouted and made a noise...the E. family are very delightful and we have had so many happy celebrations with them, beginning with the baptism of their oldest - who is my godson. It was his birthday the next day, so I gave him his present (a torch which doesn't need batteries, successful present, recommended - I bought it at the National Trust shop at the Blewcoat School just off Victoria Street).

On to Euston to catch the train to Preston. On the way I read Denis and Valerie Riches' joint autobiography Built on Love, (Family Publications, King St Jericho, Oxford) which I warmly recommend. It tells the story of how they met and married, and their travels, life with their children and so on, and then goes on to describe the great work they have done in campaigning in defence of marriage and family values, through Family and Youth Concern and, latterly, Family Publications.Among the various adventures were a number of events and meetings in which I shared, and it all brought back many memories...

And so to the home of the A. family in a beautiful part of Lancashire. Mugs of tea in the large pleasant kitchen, and sitting talking to L., catching up on lots of news...last time Jamie and I were here, the children were young and now the older ones are teenagers, eldest daughter in the middle of "A" levels etc etc...where do the years go?

Friday, June 08, 2007

Friday June 8th

...and off to the cool of St James, Spanish Place, where we hold the committee meetings of the Association of Catholic Women. We always start by going to the lunchtime Mass - which incidentally is invariably very well attended,it seems there are lots of people who make weekday Mass a part of their lives in London - and it's also a handy church for confession as this is available every weekday from 12 noon to about 1pm. We hold our ACW committee meetings in the large parish room which is in the semi-basement of this massive Victorian pile, and the meetings are always talkative (well, obviously...but truly, truly it isn't just me that talks...)and teeming with ideas.

We've just reached the climax of our 2008 Religious Education Project for primary schools, and will be announcing the winners. The children who have produced the best work get copies of the new mini-Catechism, plus certificates and other prizes, and a trophy which the school keeps for a year. And every child who takes part gets a holy picture, and some of the best work is displayed on the ACW website. We do get some evidence of really good work done in Catholic primnary schools. But frankly, some of the work that gets sent in is very, very poor. It is a fact that Catholic primary schools are crippled by the poor Religious Education syllabus they are obliged to follow and the silly books they are made to use. In spite of this, some schools do manage to teach the Faith and do very well. Others sink into the mire of soggy rubbish and cliches that passes for Catholic instruction in the minds of catechetical "experts".

The winning schools this year have produced really excellent work and I will be revealing their names in due course and you can see the work on the ACW website.


According to a report in the Evening Standard, Cherie Blair is to attend the Civil Union (ie a same-sex marriage, or "gay wedding") of a friend, and play an active role by "giving away" this friend - ie sort of like the father of a bride does in a real marriage - as part of the ceremony.

If this is true, this is serious. No Catholic can in good conscience take part in such a ceremony, and a Catholic in public life has the extra responsibility of giving scandal by celebrating the "gay lifestyle", ie active homosexual lifestyle, in this way. Any sort of legal ceremony between two people of the same sex which masquerades as a marriage is a mockery of the great reality of matrimony which is the unique lifelong bond between a man and a woman which establishes a new family. The Church teaches this plainly, it was spelled out in some detail in a special document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith because of the importance of this matter, and the Holy father has made it the subject of specific teachings in recent weeks.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Thursday June 7th


Yesterday I worked all day with Patti F. on a project of the Association of Catholic Women - we have a committee meeting tomorrow, so more on this then. Patti's flat is near the Oratory Primary School, and the children were walking two-by-two to nearby St Luke's Gardens for playtime. The scene looked postively villagey. The little girls wear traditional candy-striped cotton dresses and look summery and bright, and the school has a lovely image of Our Lady over its main door overlooking the London street.

Today I was back in London again for a meeting of the Tamezin magazine team to discuss next year's Young Journalist project. Bess Twiston Davies is on the team, and we have a young trainee journalist with us for a few weeks...a really good discussion today and we've come up with some excellent ideas, and will now be working on the brochure, which will go out to schools in September... I cycled on to Mass at Westminster Cathedral for Mass (do visit their website, it has a taste of some of the gloprious music you get there) and picked up a copy of the Catholic Herald (always a good read) and also the diocesan paper, the Westminster Record. This latter was of interest because it has a lovely pic of the winners of the 2007 Tamezin Young Journalist Awards....Tamezin isn't a Catholic venture, but it does have its origins in a girls' club which has Catholic links, hence the interest of the diocesan paper, and it was good to see the cheery faces looking out from the page.

Cycled on to Waterloo. Parliament Square is increasingly acquiring the appearance of a semi-permanent urban campsite, with the tents and belongings of the anti-war protesters pitched on the green below Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, and their occupants settled on chairs in viigil or standing about engaging in discussions. As their banners and placards get smudged and battered by the rain, and their loud-hailers often distort the shouts and cries they call out, it's not immediately clear - except to regular passers-by, who have had time to study it - why they are there, and it all looks rather messy.

Here at home, preparations for the weekend: we are invited to a First Holy Communion (younger son of some family friends) at Brompton Oratory on Saturday, and then I take the train to Preston, as I'm due to speak at a Family Day at Fernyhalgh. The day will include a picnic, and a Corpus Christi procession and Benediction. I'm looking forward to it, though sorry to be missing our own local procession, in the grounds of the local Marymount School on Sunday afternoon. Incidentally, at Westminster Cathedral there will be one on Saturday evening, it was announced at Mass this will follow the 5.30pm Mass and would be worth attending, as it will be an act of witness in central London...
Thursday June 7th

will be celebrated in style at Arundel Cathedral today with an evening Mass and procession, with the traditional glorious Carpet of Flowers on the Cathedral floor, Bishop presiding, lots of candles, Knights of Malta in robes, all the trimmings...yes, that's right. This evening, Thursday.

So we can have the feast on its proper day, then? Well, I hope so - and please, Bishops, next year and the year after that, and all the years to come, can we PLEASE HAVE OUR FEAST DAYS BACK so that we can enjoy and honour them, as people will be enjoying today at Arundel?

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


CYCLING ROUND LONDON... bright sunshine today, I saw there were flags in the Mall and much activity with military bands in Horseguards: it's fun to get glimpses of pageantry as you whizz about on an ordinary day. After spending part of the afternoon working on details of the MIles Jesu Walk on June 23rd (see below) there was time for a cup of coffee with a young relative F. who works for the pro-life movement. She's great fun and we had a happy chatty time. Got talking,however, at one point about the various new laws that seem to be restricting freedom of speech especially on religious/moral ideas and values. It's worrying how often this crops up in conversations among Catholics - and all Christians - these days. Talk turned to other things: her latest novel, out soon, family news. We parted at Victoria Station and I decided to cycle on down to Waterloos. As I paused for the traffic lights at Westminster Bridge, by Big Ben, I thought: it's just silly. This is Britain - of course we are free, and our freedom of speech is a part of our heritage, something passed on to us. Of course it will be all right.

TOWER HILL the site of the execution block where, long ago, St John Fisher and St Thomas MOre met their deaths, is the starting-point on Saturday June 23rd for the MARTYRS WALK organised by the Miles Jesu/Continuity Movement. We'll be walking through London, stopping at Greyfriars (site of former Franciscan monastery) for a talk and a lunch-break and at St Patrick's, Soho Square, for Benediction, and things will finish at Tyburn, site of the heroic martyrdom of many of our greatest English saints including St Edmund Campion. The aim is to pray, evangelise, and witness to the Faith. This morning some of the organising team met at Tower Hill to check details. JOIN US THERE ON JUNE 23rd!! Just turn up! Nearest tube: Tower Hill, then walk to the Memorial Gardens (the tube station virtually opens out on to them) and at the far end you'll see the place where we're gathering.

If you can't come, you could help with a donation: Continuity Movement, 20 Fairview Rd London SW16 5PY.

The first part of the walk will take us past some of the famous London City churches like All-Hallows-by-the-Tower, St Olave's, St Lawrence Jewry and St Peter's Cornhill - I've been researching their history...

Monday, June 04, 2007

The LONDON FAITH FORUM.... which I spoke recently is running its next series of meetings. This is a friendly and lively group, and I do recommend it for any young Catholic living or working in London. Next meeting is Father Tim Finigan - so if you read his blog this is your chance to hear him in person (and he's a v. good speaker). June 18th, 7.30pm, St Vincent's Centre, Carlisle Place, London SW1 - nearest station VICTORIA. Topic: The Sexual Orientation Regulations: proving Humanae Vitae right. You can find out more about the London Faith Forum and the Faith MOvement generall from this link.

Sunday, June 03, 2007



Late last night - after I'd written this Blog - the BBC phoned again, and this time it was for a radio discussion, once more on the subject of the Church, Holy Communion, and abortion. So at a quarter to midnight, there was a debate on Radio 5 about this, with an unusually ignorant Labour MP, whose name escapes me, saying of course he was a Catholic, and who thought that "Vatican 11" had said that everything was basically different now "and this is really important, there have only ever been two Councils in the history of the Church and this was one of them"...oh dear....and that the Church "should change its teaching on contraception" and that the problem was people like me. So there we are. I held my own, and explained as patiently as I could - which probably wasn't patiently enough - that he was not well informed ( its 2,000 years of history the Church has had a good many Councils of which the Second Vatican Council was the most recent and reafformed the teachings of the others) but he claimed he had "read Vatican 11 that very afternoon" and knew all about it. To him "conscience" didn't mean a tool for examining what is right and wrong, in the light of objective moral truths and informed by Christ and the Church, but merely acting by your own feelings and making your own decisions. No wonder we so lack moral strength and goodness in public life if this is the commonly-held view.

There is something surreal about standing in the house late at night, broadcasting into a telephone in a deep debate, with bath and cocoa waiting, as it were...afterwards a nice Irish lady telephoned the BBC to express support and the Beeb arranged for me to phone her back and we chatted. I said I found these debates rather scary and she said that "Well, the fact is, God makes the waves of our lives and we just ride in on the crest of them" which is a grand way of looking at it.

Saturday, June 02, 2007



was the theme of a packed and extremely interesting meeting organised by Family and Youth Concern in London today. Speakers included Professor Brenda Almond, author of The Fragmenting Family (Oxford University Press, £12.99p) who shattered some popular myths, including the idea that cohabitation is at least as good as marriage, that genetic relationships don't matter, and that what adults do in their personal lives cannot seriously harm their children. She spoke in a quiet, almost hesitant, academic way and was thoughtful and powerfully convincing - no ranting or moralising. Her essential message was that legal and social structures have been erected that are fracturing the family unit and tipping the balance in favour of the state - a scenario that is having devastating consequences. There was a bookstall at the meeting with a range of extremely interesting books and other materials: Patricia Morgan's book on marriage and cohabitation challenging the fashionable cliches is particularly interesting, as is her report on the realities of "gay" adoption


The warm weather has begun. Cycled back from the meeting - which was in Piccadily - via Green Park and The Mall, busy with tourists. Out in the suburbs, the big stacks of litter have begun to fill the sides of main roads, including lots of bottles which shatter into broken shards to pierce cycle-tyres. I average eight to ten punctures each summer, and it's quicker (though more expensive) to fit a new inner-tube than to spend ages struggling to get the tyre off, repair the split (which is easy) and then replace tube and tyre (which is not).

The gooseberries are ripening in the garden, and soon I'll be picking them to make jam: I make lots of it (most satisfying) and sell it in jars with gingham tops and printed labels (done on computer, with bits of poetry or other agreeable quotes) to sell at the "Towards Advent" Festival at Westminster Cathedral Hall in the Autumn (Nov 3rd, mark your diaries)....

On summer evenings it's lovely to sit out with a gin-and-tonic, and talk and eat, bring out the lantern as it gets dark and brewing coffee... It's quiet at the back and we usually can't hear too many of the Saturday-night shrieks and curses from the main road nearby unless there are more than usually large gangs of drunks...though each of the past few summers has brought its share of fights and police sirens - once police asked us all if they could search our front gardens for a murder weapon (stabbing incident) and once Jamie was attacked and badly bashed on his way home from work (thugs wanted his mobile phone but picked the wrong chap, and didn't get it - he gave chase instead, called the police and eventually one got caught).

Outside my window here where I work, the tall rose-bush is blooming and beyond it is a small but agreeable lush patch of grass. Next door, the little girl, who is extremely bright and friendly, waves and grins as she comes out to play. They are an Indian family and her mother sometimes sends her over to us with a taster of spicy snacks when they're having a family party: I return the compliment with home-made biscuits or cakes. Joe, who lives opposite, is surveying his pride-and-joy garden: he has lavender bushes from which he always allows me to pick generously. Summer in suburbia.

I have discovered a German website that has lots of videos of the Holy Father, including scenes of his recent visit to Brazil. Well worth watching.

And there is also this website which has a lovely snippet showing the Pope with First Communion children (click on to the video marked "Pope Benedict loves the children").

His new book Jesus of Nazareth is absolutely fantastic: opens up whole areas of thought about Christ that I had never explored before. I got my copy from the CTS Bookshop in Westminster Cathedral Piazza, but lots of bookshops have it on display in their windows.

Friday, June 01, 2007


I thought this was a spoof at first. A lady Anglican-bishopess in America has written to an African Anglican bishop telling him not to come for an ordination to America because this would "violate the ancient customs of the church" and would "display to the world division and disunity that are not mind of the mind of Christ".

Er...creating priestesses didn't do that?


A group called Roman Catholic Womenpriests Movement in Canada has announced it has "ordained" three ladies as priests. Performing the ceremony was a lady called Patricia Fresen, who says she was made a Catholic bishop in 2005.