Wednesday, September 30, 2009

You might be...

...interested in this comment following the discovery of a great haul of Anglo-Saxon treasure in an English field...

Want to find out...

...more about the Catholic History Walks in London? Look here...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Babies and toddlers and cheerful small children...

...have featured much in Auntie's week so far, with a Monday spent assisting with small relatives, and a Tuesday morning busy with a friend on book-proofs with a gurgling baby crawling happily around as we worked. It all makes for a week that feels ordinary and real and grounded in things that really matter.

In between, much reading and essay-writing for my Maryvale course.

And speculation about the Pope's visit to Britain. He has been saying some very good things while in the Czech republic - ignored by the media here and indeed by many Catholic bloggers. "As Europe listens to the story of Christianity, she hears her own. Her notions of justice, freedom and social responsibility, together with the cultural and legal institutions established to preserve these ideas and hand them on to future generations, are shaped by her Christian inheritance." And some inspiring words to the young read here.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

"History as demonstrated...

...the absurdities to which man descends when he excludes God from the horizon of his choices and actions," said the Holy Father today in the Czech Republic. Yes, indeed.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

One of the hidden gems...

...of London is the garden at Brompton Oratory. It is used for First Communion celebrations, for the annual Summer Fete, for barbeques for the choir children, and so on. On ordinary days it is the haven of the Oratory Fathers, and they sit or pace and read. Today I was due at the Oratory to give a talk meeting in the Scout Hut - dedicated to St Michael and a proper traditional hut with a Union Jack and a nice little kitchen and a cosy atmosphere - and as I arrived early I wandered agreeably in the garden, with its magnificent trees and its old mellow walls and its happy memories...I was last here for the First Communion celebration of a godson, and before that a choir party for another godson... You feel you are in the very heart of London. The Victoria and Albert Museum is on on side, Holy Trinity Church (Anglican), known as "HTB" on the other, and the large Oratory House blocking out noise from the busy Brompton Road...

Friday, September 25, 2009

There is something of a mystery...

...about the sudden announcement of a Papal visit. Nothing from Rome or from Buckingham Palace, just something that seems to have emerged while the Prime Minister was flying to the USA. Rumours now abounding about why the news came out in this way at this time...

The Catholic History Walk...

...took place yesterday evening, starting from Westminster Cathedral. We got a huge crowd!! I started by explaining about the history of the Cathedral, and the convent in Carlisle Place, and Archbishop's House, and then we went on down past Horseferry Road - where I told them about James II's family escaping that way in 1688, with James 111, later to be called the "Old Pretender", as a small baby...and then on to Parliament and the Abbey. Although with such large numbers, I had to raise my voice and it all got fairly hard work, everyone was so interested and enthusiastic that the whole mood was simply terrific, and as we finished there was a roar of "Yes" when the suggestion was made for the next Walk.

Well, the next one is now planned: October 15th, meet outside the Church of Our Most Holy Redeemer, Cheyne Row, Chelsea, at 6.30pm We'll be exploring the story of St Thomas More and the sites associated with him in Chlsea. No need to book for the Walk, just turn up. Wear comfortable shoes and be suitably clad - we'll be walking whatever the weather. For more info about all these walks look here.

I am most grateful to the Cathedral authorities who helped to publicise the Walk, and gave it their blessing. It was a glorious September evening, and the atmosphere in the crowd was warm and friendly, and as the light faded and the lamps came on, London felt rich in history.

Our Walk ended with prayers for our country, said in front of Westminster Abbey, with Parliament behind. A strong sound as the crowd prayed the Our Father with a united voice. Our poor country is in desperate need of prayers at this time.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


...just got the news!!!!

Papal astronomer...

...Fr Guy Consolmango, spoke to The Keys, the Catholic Writers' Guild the other day. Brilliant analysis of the Gallileo affair, presented with honesty and humour.He is frank about the Church and knowledgeable about history. There's an interesting interview with Fr Guy here.

I got rather enthusiastic...

...about the relics of St Therese of Lisieux when I read criticism of the whole project the other day. Golly, people have got cross! A leading atheist - whom I knew slightly when we were both involved with politics a good many years ago - wrote a passionate piece in The Times begging us all to denounce the arrival of this reliquary and all associated activity. Others sneered alongside, rather more politely. And I, who in my youth always felt that St Therese was a figure who seemed unappealing (nicely brought-up,keen to be an enclosed nun, ill,died young) suddenly found I had a different attitude, and was certainly committed to joining in with the whole event. She's a saint for everyday, a saint for now, a saint for life's ordinary difficulties.

Also, crowd-Catholicism is sometimes good, reminding us that the Church isn't about meetings and conferences and blogs and discussions, but about prayer, and all of us as ordinary people trying to love and serve God. Vast crowds venerating the relics at Portsmouth and at Birmingham, and a friend from the West Country phoned up with a touching description of taking along a non-Catholic friend for what turned out to be a powerfully moving evening steeped in prayer.

LOts of good things happening around the relics. I'm off to the play presented by a young team at Oxford in a couple of weeks, info here. Beautiful new CD of music just produced for St Therese - info here.

Monday, September 21, 2009

London... mellow Autumn sunshine on Friday afternoon, and lots of lively talk at a meeting of the Association of Catholic Women as we plan our activities for the months come to our study day on at St James' Church, Spanish Place (nearest tube, Baker Street) on Saturday Oct 10th. Speakers include Fr Aidan Nicholls the noted Dominican author...

On to Euston station where I parked my bike, and took the train to Birmingham, for a weekend at Maryvale...starting the 2nd year of the BA Divinity course. Superb lectures on the Old Testament, a warm welcome from the lovely Brigettine nuns and the weekend team headed by Tracey who made sure everything ran superbly. Spending a whole weekend soaking in the Scriptures made the Psalms we say at morning and evening prayer come alive and take on much deeper meaning and resonance, as also the Psalm at always, good conversations at meals and a terrific atmosphere of friendship and shared interests, spiced with lively discussions. I didn't really want to leave...

On Sunday afternoon, after a cycle ride across London and a train journey into Kent, I was at Kemsing, for the annual commemoration of St Edith . We met to honour this Saxon saint at her Well in the village High Street, and then to the beautiful garden of a local Catholic family where we had Benediction, and a treasure-hunt, (with Biblical clues) and Tea...people from local Catholic and Anglican parishes, home-made cakes being sliced and served on a big table, children running about, a perfect September Sunday.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Want to help...

...honour John Henry Newman as his Beatification approaches?

Old Oscott House, where he went to live on becoming a Catholic was renamed by him,
Maryvale and is now a well-known Catholic educational Instuitute. It's a wonderful old house, full of intriguing nooks and pleasingly slanted staircases...but at the moment it doesn't have a proper memorial to Newman. Now there are plans to open up the internal window that joined his room to the Chapel, and to give access to this special private place where he used to kneel and pray, looking towards the Blessed Sacrament.

Maryvale needs money to do this, and hasn't got much. Why not help? You will be playing a small part in English history, and giving practical help to a place that helps to train catechists and teachers of the Faith for today and tomorrow...

You can donate here

Look... is a wonderful evening out: in Oxford, a new play about Therese of Lisieux, presented by a talented young team and with original insights. Find out more here,order tickets, and go! J. and I are definitely going, and the link I have just given has lots more about St Therese, and about the visit of her relics to Britain and associated activities. Don't miss out...

Monday, September 14, 2009

Spent the day... the Catholic Truth Society headquarters in Vauxhall on the south bank of the Thames. I was doing some sorting and tidying up after the big Schools RE Projects run jointly by the CTS and the Association of Catholic Women.

Later, to Westminster Cathedral. They were chanting evening prayer and then as it finished there was a time of brief quiet bustle as people drifted in for Mass, took their places in the queue for confessions, lit candles, prayed,gawped. I was standing in the Lady Chapel as the procession emerged from the sacristy heading for the High Altar for the Sung Mass - was unprepared for the force and clarity and beauty of soaring music as the choristers surged forward, two by two, singing and singing. Was suddenly struck by the timelessness of it all, of the now-and-always Mass.

Last night we watched Conspiracy of Hearts which I obtained on DVD via that link on the Internet. A powerful film, recommended.. Highly popular in its day, seems to be unknown now, features nuns rescuing Jewish children from a wartime concentration camp. It's relevant to the true story of Mother Riccarda (see blog post below). I am now getting stuck into research into the stories of M. Riccarda and Mother Kitty, sandwiching this into other writing projects and my Maryvale studies. A nice link is that the house at Maryvale - where we are all made so welcome on our study weekends - is run by the Brigettines. It's nice to feel this link with the Order as I embark on the detective work of this biographical research.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Instead of cycling to my usual parish...

...this morning I went to Mass at St Gregory's, Earlsfield, in pursuit of some one called Kitty Flanagan!

Who is she?

A nun, more specifically a Bridgettine, and she is buried in Sweden. And the point is that she might one day be canonised as a saint, and she grew up in Earlsfield as a staunch member of St Gregory's parish. It's an extraordinary story, and the kind parish priest at Earlsfield has given me some material about her. It's all part of a project in which I am researching her life, and that of another wonderful Bridgettine nun, Mother Riccarda, who grew up in the parish of St Mary Magdalene, Brighton.Both of these woman played a major role in the revival of the Bridgettine Order in modern times. Mother Riccarda's story is heroic as was in charge of the Roman convent which hid Jewish and other refugees during WWII - and would have been shot if this had been discovered.

Mother Catherine - Kitty - Flanagan belonged to a large family and two of her brothers settled in Australia, probably Sydney. Can any Australian reader help me find out more? If you are living in Australia and reading this - and especially if your name is Flanagan! - I'm interested in hearing from you. Remember that if you send a comment to this Blog, I NEED IT TO INCLUDE YOUR FULL EMAIL ADDRESS or else I cannot reply to you. I will not of course publish your address.

To Canning Town... London, for a meeting on Friday with some of the Brothers of St John who are based there. I have known this community for some while as they have played a big part in the annual Pilgrimages run by the National Association of Catholic Families at Walsingham. What a delight to meet them again, and in their home setting - a young community, and it felt invigorating to be sitting planning and working with them. Watch this Blog for news of plans as they develop...

A lot happens at Canning Town: on the main Barking Road, near the church where the Brothers are based, is the great Anchor House project, welcoming homeless people and offering new hope. It's a wonderful place that has recently won a top award for the way in which it has helped people to overcome huge difficulties in their lives,to acquire new skills and to go ahead with confidence...while there I met Mgr John Armitage,whom I first got to know through his work with Youth 2000...

Thursday, September 10, 2009


...for all of us who are fed up with ugly modern churches, and ugly modern attempts at religious art.

The Pope has invited artists to gather with him in the Sistine Chapel, to celebrate the greatness and joy and beauty of glorious art and to explore its meaning.


Maybe at last we'll see some tangible evidence of a new hope in art emerging...the signs have been there for some time, and there is such a longing for beauty, for art and architecture that celebrates the true meaning of things, celebrates the search for truth, and man's link with God.

Read about this here

Here is...

...a refreshing new Catholic blog. It has a special message of promoting the Christian message on love and relationships. It's well-informed, highly readable, and with good links. Try it.

Also welcome on the Catholic blogosphere is Fr Stephen Wang's Bridges and Tangents, which looks set to become a must-read among younger Catholics.

And don't just stay on the blogosphere. Get out and meet people too...dates for your diary: Sept 24th, Catholic HIstory Walk, Westminster (see below, scroll down)....Oct 15th, Catholic History Walk, Chelsea (details to follow, note date now)... Towards Advent Festival, Sat Nov 14th, Westminster Cathedral Hall, starts 10 am, runs all day with talks, displays, music etc...


...was a solemn day, attending the funeral of an old friend. This was at Worth Abbey, and the day felt wrapped in a Benedictine peace. A time for memories and prayers.

In the evening: I'd been invited to Vespers of the BVM by Marcel Dupre, performed with Gregorian Chant, at St Mary Magdalene Church in London's Little Venice. Charles Cole, organist (worth checking that link,info. on future concerts). It was beautiful, and an appropriate way to end the day.

A beautiful Mass... Westminster Cathedral, to mark the visit of the Patriarch of Jerusalem, who preached, asking us to pray for peace in the Holy Land, and to remember the plight of the Christian community there, under pressure from all sides and diminishing in numbers as young people simply leave to find jobs and opportunities overseas. There are excellent schools and other institutions run by the Church, which need support and help - contact here for more information.

The Mass...absolutely glorious, a crowded cathedral glowing with light and beauty in the Autumn evening...the choir sang a magnificent Ave Maria, the strength and beauty of the boys' clear voices filling all the great spaces with the sound of faith.

Monday, September 07, 2009

A Birthday...

... is a time for mild introspection. Kind cards and gifts and messages. Tea with Mother. An evening with J.

Tomorrow, September 8th, is a more important Birthday, one marked in the Church's calendar. Pleasingly, a young team has just produced a new website Totus 2us dedicated to Mary. It is worth a visit partly as it reminds us of what a remarkable, extraordinary gift we had in Pope John outstanding man, priest, and Pope...

And recently Pope Benedict, at a great gathering in an Italian city, addressed a beautiful prayer to Our Lady which said, in part:

Clement Virgin, Mother of Humanity,
Turn your gaze upon the men and women of our time,
upon peoples and those who govern them, upon nations and continents;
console those who weep, who suffer, who struggle because of human injustice,
sustain those who waver under the weight of toil
and look to the future without hope;
encourage those who labor to build a better world
where justice triumphs and brotherhood reigns,
where egoism, hatred and violence cease.
May every form and manifestation of violence
Be defeated by the peaceful power of Christ!

Virgin of Listening, Star of Hope,
Mother of Mercy,
source through whom Jesus came into the world,
our life and our joy,
we thank you and we renew to you the offer of our life,
certain that you will never abandon us,
especially in the dark and difficult moments of existence.
Be with us always: now and at the hour of our death.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Events to note...

....Catholic History Walk, September 24th, meet 6.30pm steps of Westminster Cathedral. Do come! Bring comfortable shoes for walking. We will be looking at the history of Westminster, learning about Edward the Confessor and James II and Cardinal Manning and more...the walk will take place whatever the weather. It is organised by Continuity and is planned as the first of a series of such walks, looking at different parts of London...

And this coming week, organised by Aid to the Church in Need: Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem will be celebrating and preaching at the 5:30pm Mass at Westminster Cathedral. Afterwards he will give a speech in Westminster Cathedral Hall. Drinks, canap├ęs and other light refreshments available. Entry to the hall is free.

With family...

...this weekend, helping out with babysitting. A happy time, involving a Birthday celebration for Mother (89!), with a cake and singing and presents and fun, four generations together...

Mass today at a big local parish in Surrey - large and very crowded church, quantities of children, including the small ones in our family group. Mass feels quite different with small wriggly people under one's care...these were well-behaved and the three-year-old even put his hands together solemnly when instructed to do so in a whisper as the bell rang for the Elevation. But why do parishes insist on having lengthy speeches/announcements from various groups before the final blessing? It breaks the flow of the Mass in that crucial after-Communion part, and makes everyone feel restless: the announcements were all about excellent things but could easily have been mentioned quickly at sermon-time with more in the newsletter...

There is a report... the Catholic press to the effect that the Holy Father's advisers are now reading blogs to find out people's opinions, especially following the Williamson affair. So if they are reading Auntie's blog, I contribute some comments:

It is not just Williamson's denial of the murder of six million Jews in World War II that is horrible but the realisation that until his views hit the headlines he was heading a seminary run by the Lefebvrists and thus presumably communicating something of his world-view to successive groups of new young Lefebvrist priests year on year.

Why does Williamson attempt to deny the Holocaust? I mean, what's his motive? The problems with the Lefebrivists are not - repeat not - essentially concerned with liturgy but are rooted in the huge ramifications of a breakaway group that allowed such a man to head up a seminary, to be made into a bishop and to be taken seriously by people under his direction.

I have had, over recent months, a sufficiency of nasty anti-semitic material sent to me to make be really worried about a certain noticeable faction that is apparently within the Church, or considers itself to be. Who are the people, for example, writing from a London address and sending rants about Jews to me and announcing the publication of books on the subject? Who were the people from America who sent me similar material?

Tackling the Lefebvrists means tackling the reality of a faction that apparently believes a whole set of horrible fantasies. This is a problem for the Church and merely denouncing anti-Semitism is not enough. People influenced by it need to be taught that they have been given a set of untruths that need to be unravelled, that it is time to acknowledge wrong beliefs and wrong assumptions, and that a fresh start can only be made once there has been a genuine acceptance of this.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

This morning...

...opened a perfect September day, with cool sunshine hinting at Autumn. I went to pick rose-hips. They make a delicious syrup, which can be whisked into milk to make a refreshing drink, or poured over porridge for a winter breakfast, or given by the teaspoonful to children just because it's nice.

To London for various errands. Growing encampments with tents and makeshift living arrangements in Parliament Square as different protest groups settle themselves. Sirens and police presence at a couple of other demonstrations. Tail end of summer tourism with people waiting outside Westminster Abbey etc. Friendly chat as always in CTS bookshop near Westminster Cathedral where I went to collect Bibles for the Schools Bible Project prizegivings. Sudden sense of welcome in Westminster Cathedral and the dear familiarity of it after absence abroad.