Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Daily Mail...

...newspaper has this week been highlighting the case of a middle-aged couple banned from adopting their own grandchildren, and forced to see them adopted by two men, who are unknown to the family. The grandparents are not elderly, and have been caring for the children since their daughter went astray (drugs, unsuitable men, etc etc) and it seemed sensible for the local Social services to formalise this arrangement - the daughter, recognising her own deficiencies, was also keen. But no - political correctness prevailed, and the children will be handed over to the men, (whom they do not yet know but to whom they are being introduced week by week) and who are in a formal Civil-Partnership-style arrangement.

There is particular concern for the little girl, who would like to have a mother/grandmother around as she grows up.

What is happening to our country?

Come and hear...

Philip Booth - whose writing I have much enjoyed in the Catholic press and elsewhere - at the Faith Matters lecture on March 18th, at Westminster Cathedral Hall.

Tickets for the lecture - as for all other lectures in the series - are free. Just order one from the link I've give. See you there!

This morning I dropped into the Cathedral and there was a glorious Mass being celebrated, the light shafting down dramatically on to the sanctuary through clouds of incense, stirring boys' voices filling the vast spaces above us with sound, a good crowd of mixed Londoners, tourists, backpackers, odd people with lots of bags, awed onlookers, drifters-in, pious-looking people, not-specially-pious-looking people, all sorts of people...the scaffolding in the ceiling has been removed, though there is lots of work still obviously being done, and more to come. On to the excellent CTS bookshop in the Cathedral Square where I spent far too much money on books by J. Ratzinger. I'm addicted to his theology. Couldn't wait to get stuck into the books, so took a coffee break in the Marks and Spencers just across the road. There is a glorious view of the Cathedral as you turn from there and face back towards it. Walked on to Waterloo in bright winter sunshine, the Abbey stark and white against a blue sky, crowds jostling to get their pictures taken along the sellers of caramelised nuts and hot-dogs on the bridge.

Friday, January 30, 2009

A meeting...

...with Josephine Robinson, chairman of the Association of Catholic Women, over coffee in London, and as always a lot of lively and stimulating talk. We are running an Art and Music Day for teachers at Catholic Primary schools on Feb 9th, with a session on Gregorian chant and one on how to teach the Faith through some of the world's great and glorious art. The day will finish with a Mass at which the Gregorian chant will be's at Coloma Girls' School, which has a fine reputation for music, and which I know well, the choir having sung at the Towards Advent Festival. Lots of teachers have booked in to come, and we are very much looking forward to the day...

On to Mother's and an evening of sewing and watching a DVD of the Barchester Chronicles, a Christmas gift. Watching the churchy intrigues gave one much pause for thought...

Thursday, January 29, 2009

On my bike... a friendly Anglican church in Mitcham to give a talk to an afternoon group re Traditional Feasts and Seasons (ref Yearbook of Seasons and Celebrations see Gracewing Books, here).

Cycling along past Mitcham Common, stretches of open land, litter-strewn but still with semi-rural feel, so near to London...after my talk, put bike on train and up to Blackfriars. Haven't been there for some while and it felt good to be pedalling along the Embankment.London looks rather...well...cosy in a curious way in the misty chilly January dusk, street-lights glowing, buses cheerful, ugly vast office blocks less daunting than in glaring summer sun. Hot cup of coffee at Waterloo station, ten minutes with newspaper, opportunity to take stock...

Well, the H. Father has spoken out clearly about how the Church views the horror of the Holocaust, and makes clear his opinion of those who make anti-semitic comments...thank God, his own personal standing on this, as well as the clear teaching of the Church, speaks volumes. But the Lefebvrists have caused incalculable damage to the Church, quite apart from the cruel insult they have given to the families of those murdered. And still no formal apology for the latter, which is honestly peculiar as it would cost them nothing except their pride...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

To Brompton Oratory...

...where we always hold meetings of the Board of the UK section of Aid to the Church in Need. A busy morning, lots to discuss. While we tackled all sorts of things connected with fund-raising, appeals, links with parishes, we also sifted through the list of some of the projects we have just funded...all sorts of things ranging from motor cycles for pastoral work to scholarships for students, heating for a monastery, a car for some Sisters, a youth centre, Bibles for children, teaching materials. People know of ACN's work in Africa and Asia but a new brochure just out focuses on various projects in the remote regions in Kazakhstan, where crosses now stand in the vastness of the steppes, in memory of the thousands upon thousands who perished there in the bitter cold and horror of Stalin's prison camps. It quotes the local bishop: "The land here was moistened by blood and tears". Today, this area is a place of grinding poverty and shanty towns...ACN is funding Sisters who are running projects for the elderly, for the children of alcoholics, and for the unemployed...

Re the continuing saga of the lifting of the excommunications on the Lefbvrists: this is a helpful analysis.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Warm thanks... all who responded to my request for prayers concerning my various domestic and other arrangements during a complicated trip to the USA. I am grateful to you all from the bottom of my heart, especially to those who sent kind and thoughtful messages. You will be glad to know that everything worked out beautifully - the elderly relative for whom I have care came to enjoy the company of the team that came in to check on her each day, and they forged a happy friendship ("She's a lovely lady!" the visitor told me this morning), and the rest of the family were of course splendid and made sure that she had a happy time. So all is well.

In the summer of 2005...

...I received an unsolicited email from a "Catholic traditionalist" newsletter, excoriating the Holy Father for visiting a synagogue. Its tone was horrid, its style pompous and self-important, its underlying message worrying.

Now the Holy Father has made a new initiative: recognising that there are numbers of good people who go to Lefebvrist churches because they seek the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, he wants to bring them into the Church, and has taken the risky path of announcing the lifting of the excommunication on the four Lefebvrist bishops.

This is the same Pope who went to the Synagogue in Cologne - and again in New York - and was well received, and who has specifically amended an old prayer in order to make it less offensive to Jewish people. It would be a hopeful sign if some Lefebvrist voices were raised in affirmation of his warmth and friendliness towards the Jewish people, if regrets were expressed for any offensive anti-Jewish sentiments expressed under a "traditionalist" banner, and if a clear indication of loyalty to the Pope were to be given at least in this one matter even before other more contentious issues were to be discussed.

Incidentally, I know of many good people who regard themselves as traditionalists and who are not remotely anti-semitic and probably as baffled as I am by the possibility that any Catholic could be. The plain fact is that we are not Catholics because we believe in some sort of anonymous thing called "Tradition" but because we believe in God and his laws, taught through his Church. Chief among these is the command (not request!) that we love our neighbours. Jewish people are our neighbours. We will be judged on whether or not we obeyed God's commandments.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Faithful readers...

...will be aware that Auntie tends to whizz about on a bike and not care very much about clothes and make-up. But America changed that - had to look OK for the cameras. So I had a session at the Clinique counter in a vast enormous shopping-place. A nice lady, Donna Keith, talked me through a whole regime of skin-care, dabbed stuff on my face, explaining how to cleanse it all and care for it properly. Then she took my pic and has emailed it to me...and followed it up with further advice and help. Now, how's that for service?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

We watched, this evening ...

...the film Valkyrie, about the July 1944 anti-Nazi coup attempts by German officers - warmly recommended. In Berlin you can visit the place where the hero Count Stauffenberg was shot: there is now a museum and memorial there. In the 1980s one of his sons was serving as Military Attache at the (West) German Embassy here in London: after a chance meeting we had a talk and lunch...I remember his description of the night his father was shot, his mother arrested and taken away by the Gestapo...


...on the 'plane going home, William Oddie's Chesterton and the Romance of Orthodoxy, a good read and recommended.

Home: letters, emails, domestic matters. Huge pile of mail, including various magazines. For those interested, I have a feature (about Catholic publishing in Britain) in the latest Catholic World Report.

News that the Holy Father has lifted the excommunication on the four Lefebvrist bishops. Useful analysis here. And here.Aim is to start negotiations to get them established in some place within the Church. I think this will lead to a split in the Lefebvrists, with some (including Williamson, the one who makes nasty anti-Jewish rants?) refusing to accept the necessary conditions.

The Holy Father will face much criticism and the risk he has taken is considerable.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

It has been terrific...

...being in America during an extraordinarily interesting time - new President etc.

Things I will remember.... daily Mass here at EWTN, said and sung most beautifully at 7am, bells chiming out to call people to church, dignified unfussy liturgy, voices raised in harmony for the Kyrie and Sanctus and Pater Noster,a sense of unity and purpose... the lively talk and laughter with, for example, Fr Mitch Pacwa , the discovery of the challenging message of Fr Benedict Groeschel eg in this new book, the genuine heartfelt patriotism of so many Americans and the way they sincerely entrust their country and its destiny to the protection of God...the vast quantities of food... the tall larch trees on Alabama hillsides against a wintry sky,the extraordinary way in which one can whizz emails across the Atlantic and thus continue journalism and domestic responsibilities from a great distance in a way unthinkable half a decade ago...

Discoveries about EWTN: the young Friars at the monastery - Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word average age about 34, cheerful, dedicated, enthusiastic...could they set up a group in Britain, please? Also: the superb standards of craftmanship in the sets and props department with top-quality woodwork and detailed historical and other research to create visual feasts, the warm and generous provision made for guests and temporary workers (I am plump with home-cooked meals made by the wonderful team presiding in the kitchens). Off-duty: the excellence of much American Catholic journalism, eg try this, the generosity of Americans in terms of their charitable giving and their attitudes towards it.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

An evening...

reading and working, at the v. pleasant house where I am staying, near the EWTN TV studios on the outskirts of Birmingham, Alabama. I am still busy with the Crusades, excellent article by Fr Nicholas Schofield in Faith magazine v. useful.

Stopped for a while to look at some TV...not having a television set at home I enjoyed tapping away at handset while sipping mug of cocoa....golly, what a lot of drivel there is out there. But a lengthy trawl produced some goodies: quantities of news-n-comment things of course on the forthcoming Inauguration, some dated but amusing British comedy stuff (what kind of impression of Britain do Americans get?), a glimpse of some soap operas abounding in cliches.

EWTN shows up rather well. Some features are definitely worthwhile, eg Marcus Grodi on "Coming Home' - genial, well-informed. (He has a website too - try here).

A breathing-space...

...between two busy sessions of work here at EWTN. When not in the studio, I have been spending much of my time reading up on the Crusades, early Medieval church history, the Church's military religious orders, for a series to be tackled with Jamie, who joins me here shortly. Yesterday I gave myself some time off, went for a walk - Alabama still sparkling in unusual frost, locals all astounded at the cold, wooded areas around the EWTN studios looking magnificent in wintry starkness, icy streams gurgling pleasingly, large all-American houses with those wide sheltered porches. It's friendly here - people smile and exchange greetings - and the atmosphere is pleasant, cheerful, neighbourly. On the other hand, it feels rather cut-off - motorways swoop and curl in the distance, and residential areas seem sealed by countryside, next patch of humanity inaccessible except on wheels. It's impossible to pop into a local shop, as there aren't any - people drive to a vast "mall' where a collosal, incredible, intimidating array of every imaginable foodstuff in enormous quantities is stacked in vast aisles stretching in every direction...

Friday, January 16, 2009

Having a wonderful time... EWTN, the Catholic TV network based in Alabama, USA. The work has been hectic, so not possible to blog before now, but all is going well, and the people here are simply splendid, and terrific fun.

Last night I was on the show hosted by Fr Mitch Pacwa, and we had an extremely interesting discussion which touched on, among other topics, the idea of home-life as culture, the significance of the fact that we are male or female, the importance of a shared meal and its quasi-sacramental quality...

And a bonus...the team here took me to a shopping-centre ("Mall") to get some make-up for my programme series, and I was treated to a free treatment by a delightful lady at the Clinique shop, great fun and a happy girly time. Followed by a delicious pizza. In-between-times I am feverishly reading up about Medieval history for next week's series, shared w. Jamie, on various Catholic chivalric orders...

If you want to find out more about the various shows with which I am involved, including timings etc, please go to the EWTN website - I tried to make a link to it via this blog but couldn't manage to do so (using borrowed computer, and no nephews available here in Alabama).

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

While stacking away...

...the Christmas decorations, I came across two old newspapers that had been lining a box. They had been specially selected for the task because they were commemorative editions (Times, Evening Standard), published to celebrate the Royal Wedding of 1981. It was unnerving to leaf through them as I threw them out. It wasn't just all the joyful celebratory reports that made sad reading - it was the realisation of how much else has changed in 30 years. Today, crime - especially lethal stabbings by and of children and teenagers - and family break-up are on a vast scale compared to that of 30 years ago, a whole sense of community identity has slithered away, marriage itself is officially regarded as a minority option not to be discussed except with complementary references to alternatives, and a common language expressive of a sense of unity with our history has been lost.

With the house tidied up (a bit) and arrangements in hand for my forthcoming visit to America (off on Saturday v. early) I settled down with one of the best Christmas gifts I have received - William Hague's excellent biography of William Wilberforce. It is exactly the right book to be reading at the start of a New Year, with its detailed and vivid unfolding of a life of hard work and patient endurance in a large and worthwhile cause. I had told myself initially that I would save it for the long flight to America, but it's been too inviting and I am now engrossed...

Good cheer...

...from all the kind messages sent to this blog in response to my request for prayers. Thank you so very much - it warms the heart, and has already helped a great deal as domestic arrangements are working out well and I will be able to tackle things in good spirits...

The Twelfth day...

...of Christmas saw me cycling through the frosty London suburbs en route from an elderly relative - with some glorious moments of beauty with a sudden vista of a park or a church or pleasant row of houses, all sparkling in the wintry morning. Christmas trees were being bundled out of houses and mulched into the big grinders-on-the-back-of-vehicles-from-the-local-Council that are now used for this. Somehow it's reassuring that people stick to the Twelfth Night tradition, and it gets mentioned in the press and so on. Here at Bogle Towers we take down the cards and decorations, but keep up the Crib until Feb 2nd (Candlemas) - although this last is a relatively new tradition as I always used to stack away the Crib too, thinking that it was only in churches that it could be kept up until the 40th day.

When I was a child, we actually used to take down our Tree on New Year's Day and generally had a bonfire in the garden - in my memory the Christmas trees in the 1960s were less grand and used to shed their needles far more rapidly...I think today they get sprayed with some sort of preservative, and there is also a greater variety of types and some are definitely bushier and more beautiful...decorations are grander too (remember modest strips of crepe paper with tinsel down the middle?) but don't let's get into a discussion about the merits of lavish over-the-top lighting displays and mammoth fFather Christmasses on rooftops...

Jamie hates having the wreath and decorations taken down so I have to do it when he's out.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

If you haven't yet seen...

...the superb DVD A Glimpse of Heaven rush and get one NOW. It tells the story of some of the most glorious Catholic churches in Britain - fabulous buildings by Pugin and Gilbert Scott, great abbeys and magnificent spires soaring over northern cities, gems of beautiful art and stained glass and superb craftmanship...and it also shows some of the ghastly destruction wrought in the 1960s and 70s in the name of "renovation" and "updating" and also the ravages of time with much-loved churches now threatened by closure and abandonment...please, please watch it and then join in the campaign to restore beauty and cherish our heritage. The DVD was a Christmas gift to a family member and we watched it this evening, by turns awestruck, fascinated, thrilled and saddened.

Now...I need your help...

...or, more specifically, your prayers. I have to be away for some days working on a complicated project, long-planned, which has already involved a number of other people in considerable expenditure of money and time and in which I am playing a necessary part. I am rather anxious about an elderly relative for whom I have primary care: the rest of the family, who are also fully committed to her care have organised themselves to ensure cover, but I am worried in case things get difficult while I am away. May I ask your prayers that all will be well? It would mean a lot to me to know of this.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Please read, enjoy, and pass on...

I heard this over the Christmas holiday and you will enjoy it.

If you don't know the original Gilbert and Sullivan song, you should. Find it on the Internet. Then enjoy this version, which I first read on the excellent Monstrous Regiment blog:

We've Got a Little List Too (with apologies to Gilbert and Sullivan)

As someday it may happen that Pope Benedict comes round,
I've got a little list, I've got a little list,
Of ecclesial offenders who'd be better underground
And who never would be missed, who never would be missed.
The diocesan bureaucracy for every single See
That garners all their pennies from the likes of you and me;
The crass renewal programmes which cost parishes the earth
And the Catholic "Intellectuals" who doubt the Virgin Birth
And the sanctuary re-orderers who hide the Eucharist.
They'd none of 'em be missed! They'd none of 'em be missed!

(Refrain: You may put 'em on the list...)

The composers and librettists of a thousand awful hymns -
We've got 'em on the list, we've got 'em on the list -
The episcopal ordinary indulging all his whims -
He never would be missed; he never would be missed.
The highly paid youth worker who knows nothing about youth,
Who sits on four committees and is too long in the tooth,
The well-connected journalist who spouts 'progressive' views
And the feminist dissenter who is always in the news.
And that universal irritant, the layman liturgist
We've got 'em on the list, we've got 'em on the list

(Refrain: We've got 'em on the list, we've got 'em on the list...)

The welcoming committee who shove hymn books in your face -
We've got 'em on the list, we've got 'em on the list -
Fr Ad Lib, Fr Make-it-up and others of his race
They never would be missed; they never would be missed.
The self-important music group who lead you from the front
The ugly new cathedral where you fall into the font
The kind of clergy jollies costing 20,000 quid
Which produce a "Vision Statement" in an hotel near Madrid
And Sister Mary Trousersuit, the trendy catechist
I'm sure she'll not be missed - I'm sure she'll not be missed!



...was no time for blogging. A packed Midnight Mass and the joy of meeting old friends there, family meals, a glittering Christmas tree, a small boy with a wooden train set, wintry walks on Exmoor, charades, green ginger wine, chocolates, and singing Auld Lang Syne in an Oxfordshire street as the New Year rolled in with bells pealing and fireworks exploding.

In an often ugly Britain the Christmas message this time rang a note more true, more important, more crucial than ever.

I am off to America shortly to make some more programmes for EWTN and over the next days will be busy with domestic arrangements to ensure cheer for elderly relatives etc while I am away.