Friday, April 29, 2011

Like millions of others...

...Auntie spent the day watching the Royal Wedding, with 3 generations of family gathered round the TV.

We loved the hymns and prayers - I was touched when a young niece spontaneously joined in the Our Father - toasted the Royal couple in champagne as they went off to sign the register, and we rose as one for the National Anthem.

The Catholic bishops of England and Wales issued a special prayer for the Royal Wedding, which I thought it would be suitable to post here:


Heavenly Father,
we ask your blessing
upon his Royal Highness, Prince William and Catherine
as they pledge their love for each other in marriage.
May your love unite them through their lives.
Grant them the strength to serve you, our country and the Commonwealth
with integrity and faithfulness.
Through Christ our Lord.
Amen

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

...and on the subject of the great JPII...

...this conference looks excellent, and it's rather exciting that it's happening in Britain. Young Catholic leaders, priests, teachers, parish catechists...

Come and celebrate the great John Paul...

...at Blackfen (Our Lady of the Rosary) on Sunday May 1st at 7pm. Fabulous film of JPII's life - parish lounge, O.L. of the Rosary Church. Everyone welcome - the film is suitable for all ages. Refreshments (Incl. popcorn!) served. Funds raised will go to the Maryvale Institute.

OR: at St Mary Magdalene, Willesden Green, on Monday May 2nd, 7pm. Again, no need to book - just turn up! Children welcome. Delicious refreshments, and a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the Beatification with other Catholics, in a great atmosphere of friendship and goodwill. The film will be shown in the church itself, so there is plenty of room for everyone. Funds raised will go to Maryvale.(Nearest tube: Willesden Green, and the church is in Peter Avenue).

Monday, April 25, 2011

And do read...

...this account of life in an American parish, because it echoes something of my experiences in London suburbia. Next time you are told the Church is dying, or hear sneers at the notion of a Springtime in the Church, remember this.

You will enjoy...

...and benefit from, this sermon given to an Ordinariate group this Easter.

Auntie is involved with this particular group and is following their journey with interest.

After I'd mentioned...

....that I might go to Madrid this summer as a (definitely not youthful!) journalist, I was contacted by various people planning to go, and/or able to help with various arrangements so...Auntie started to make arrangements re. World Youth Day, booking in as a journalist.

I've been thinking about going to a WYD ever since I read a pompous piece denouncing it, written by a very cross American some years ago. His splutterings were laced with hatred and a sort of bitter Jansenism - the poor chap v. indignant, urging people Not to Go to This Dreadful Event, as it brought young people together with much informality in a noisy cheerful messy way and with the Holy Father at the heart of it. It all made me think that World Youth Day was rather good and that it might be excellent to attend one day.

Then a niece attended World Youth Day in Cologne and loved it, giving an excellent report on it all at a meeting in London, and I subsequently met people who'd hugely enjoyed the great WYD in Sydney...so this year I'd like to go and see for myself.

I was amused to note that anyone booking in as a journalist has to be over 18. I'm OK on that score...

Springtime...

...and a long line of people to be baptised and recieved into the Church at the packed Easter Vigil in our local parish.

I got soaked walking to church as a thunderstorm broke overhead - it felt a bit surreal to be standing steaming in church with a lighted candle pressed against my neighbours as more and more people squeezed in, and the priest sang the Exulstet while the thunder outside rolled away and children wriggled in the seats in front. Year after year, the great story of salvation from Genesis onwards unfolding in the Vigil Readings is overwhelming. Then the blessing of the water in the font, and people coming forward for baptism... this year a very large number, and from where I was sitting at the back it wasn't possible to see the action, but only hear the priest's voice, which somehow gave the event an added drama "Cecile, I baptise you in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit....Thomas, I baptise you....John I baptise you..."

When the rest of us renewed our baptismal vows and were sprinkled with the water from the font, Father had to walk not just down through the crowded church but out through the doors and into the porch because of all the people crowded in there...

After the Mass was over, there was a gathering the parish hall with cake and wine and joyful congratulations, and then I walked home in the blissful cool of the post-thundery rain. But the sky promised a clear day to follow, and Easter Sunday was one of the sunniest we've had for years.

An Easter family gathering at the home of a young nephew and his wife, who were married last summer: this was the first time that they have hosted a substantial tribal get-together in their home, and it was all great fun and most beautifully done, with tender roast lamb and delicious puddings, and so much good talk and laughter...

In the warm sunshine some of us went for a lovely post-lunch wander in Windsor Great Park, the cool green gress so delightful beneath our feet that shoes were kicked off and we walked barefoot, the stunning Castle a backdrop to our talking. One of the great joys of Auntie's life at present is the wisdom and commonsense that comes from the next generation, unafraid to challenge and discuss all sorts of things, reassurring and upbeat when Auntie raised issues that worried her, energetic and good-humoured and thoughtful.

Home at a very late hour, with a wedge of chocolate fudge-cake and some lovely Easter eggs.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Awaiting the Easter vigil...

...on a warm, sticky evening with thunder rolling around the London suburbs.

Auntie has spent much of the week in the West Country, attending to sundry family responsibilities (prayers, please, for elderly relatives in poor health...). Traditional Maundy Thursday and Good Friday devotions at a small church in a seaside town. The Maundy Mass was not well attended, but Good Friday saw a very full church,the traditional prayers and Reading of the Passion gathering us all in solemnity...and the children of the parish placed a cross in the garden, and later rolled a stone across the mouth of a little garden-tomb...

Newspapers today are full of the Royal Wedding. Somehow it all has a slightly unreal air - or is it the thundery weather, and the sense of stillness that Holy Saturday always brings? I travelled home through countryside smothered in heat-haze.

This Holy Week and Easter have a solemn feel. There has been the dramatic and joyful welcoming into the Church of the new Ordinariate groups - I'll be putting up a link shortly to a feature I have written about that, following the beautiful and unforgettable evening in Kent as some 70 people were recieved into full communion. Tonight the Easter Vigil at our local parish will be packed and joyful, people squeezing up to make space, choir in good voice.

But for millions of people in Britain the greatness of this season is a barely-noted sideshow. It's just a holiday time, with more to come as the R. Wedding approaches.

The words of the Holy Father at the Rome Chrism Mass echo here: "Is it perhaps the case that the West, the heartlands of Christianity, are tired of their faith, bored by their history and culture, and no longer wish to know faith in Jesus Christ? We have reason to cry out at this time to God: "Do not allow us to become a ‘non-people’! Make us recognize you again! Truly, you have anointed us with your love, you have poured out your Holy Spirit upon us. Grant that the power of your Spirit may become newly effective in us, so that we may bear joyful witness to your message!"

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

...and in the evening...

...to Tunbridge Wells, for the Reception into full communion with the Catholic Church, of an Ordinariate group. Some 70 people were being recieved at this Mass, and Hayley, the young wife of the formerAnglican and soon-to-be-RC priest who is leading the group, had asked me to be her sponsor. It was an unforgettable moment standing there, my hand on her shoulder, as she was anointed.

The Anglican Patrimony includes, of course, glorious hymns, and we finished the Mass with a rousing one honouring Mary, as the candles glowed alongside her statue: Our Lady of Walsingham, under whose name and protection the new Ordinariate has been established.

The local Catholic parish had turned out in good numbers, and there was a youthful, welcoming, and warm atmosphere as the crowd poured out of the church and into the hall for drinks...later, a long late talkative supper, so much to discuss and mull over...

The Chrism Mass...

...at Westminster Cathedral drew hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people, streaming across the piazza, and packing out the cathedral, its aisles, its side-chapels, all the spaces at the back by the doors... Auntie ended up, squeezed very happily between others, perched on a stone step near the tomb of Bishop Richard Challoner...

And it's all strange, in a way, because the Chrism Mass isn't particularly advertised or promoted, and people aren't specially urged to go...word just seems to get around, and the crowds arrive and arrive and arrive...

For some years now, a group of us ladies have gathered to welcome the priests and to give each one a card thanking him for his service as a priest and assuring him of our prayers. At this Mass, the oils that are to be used for baptism, Confirmation, and anointing of the sick during the year are blessed and distributed to the priests, who take them back to their parishes. It's all rather moving, and the long, long procession of priests in white vestments, coming up Ambroseden Avenue and across the piazza, is impressive...

Our group from the Association of Catholic Women was joined by a young team from St Patrick's, Soho Square. The latter cheered and sang, while we were rather more staid, but we all united in our feelings and it was a real joy to be there...

Monday, April 18, 2011

Auntie had not planned...

...to go to World Youth Day in August (too middle-aged, too tired, much dislikes heat) but an opportunity has arisen to go as a journalist and it's beginning to look tempting...

Also this feature article made me want to be there...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Palm Sunday...

...and a great gathering of a large parish, quantities and quantities of families with small and larger children, at Balham in South London, palm fronds held aloft and the choir singing as the procession moved off from the school playground through to the church and the beginning of Holy Week.

As the prayers unfolded, I had the sighing thought that I seem to have every year:"Oh dear, I do wish I'd made a better Lent..."

And it's a sign of getting older that the gaps between each Lent become smaller, the memories of many Holy Weeks and many Easters begin to crowd in: a sudden memory of standing as a child to listen to the long reading of the Passion, with sturdy pride in not being tired or feeling any need to sit down, and then of Palm Sundays down the years in different churches and cathedrals, in London, in Berlin, and elsewhere...

Then the ordinariness of things: after Mass, people milled about in bright sunshine. Teenagers in the parish were selling cakes and books to raise funds to help them get to World Youth Day in Spain this summer, and were doing a good trade. And I bought some goodies and went on to Mother, to chat and relax and arrange domestic Easter plans...for the first time this year, the Easter Sunday family gathering is to be hosted by the next generation, a recently-married grandson and his bride...

On a Spring day...

...of almost unbearable beauty, a visit to a dear friend and a walk along a canal-path, with lush grass in the meadows, and blossom fluttering from softly-laden trees.In the cool of the evening we visited an old church. The day's thoughts were shaped by a poignant piece by Charles Moore in that morning's Telegraph.

Friday, April 15, 2011

While in Rome recently...

...I did some work with Vatican Radio. Have stayed in touch since,listening and enjoying. Try, for example, this new feature on John Paul II...

News...

...from the Ordinariate here.

We gathered...

... on the steps of Westminster Cathedral for a Catholic History Walk in good numbers - each Walk brings in lots of new people, and there are also some dedicated Walkers who just seem to enjoy coming along every time, relishing the company and the friendly atmosphere, and the chance to walk and pray together...

This time the Walk had a Royal theme, to link with the forthcoming R. Wedding, and we went by the Albert pub in Victoria Street, and stopped at the Blewcoat School nearby, and thence to St James' Park which was all blossom and evening sunlight, and then up the Mall - flags and crush-barriers already in place - and finished at Buckingham Palace. Here we gave 3 hearty cheers for HM and then prayed for our country. Really prayed. No point in pretending that this Royal Wedding represents a great national celebration of Christian marriage. There is a sombre mood about when marriage and family life in modern Britain is discussed. We invoked Sts John Fisher and St Thomas More and we prayed.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Remember? And the dear voice of the present Holy Father saying "Yes, bless us..."

The excellent...

Magnificat booklet for this Lent has a Via Crucis with some fine prayers...

For the 11th station, (Christ nailed to the Cross), there is a prayer which asks for forgiveness for harming the unity of the Church through

"prejudice, self-righteousness, resentment, or gossip".

Something for us all to think about there. Catholic Bloggers note...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

As we approach Holy Week ....

...the Chrism Mass at Westminster Cathedral is a big event in the London calendar. For the past several years, lay people in the diocese of Westminster have gathered to greet the priests as they walk in procession to the Cathedral up Ambroseden Avenue and across the piazza.We carry a big placard saying "Thank you to our priests" and hand them small holy-cards with a thank-you message. This year's includes some words of the from John Paul II, our thanks, and a picture of Christ and his Apostles at the Last Supper...

Then, later tht day, I catch a train to Kent for a very special evening, as I attend the reception into full communion w. the RC Church of an Ordinariate group.Holy Week 2011 marks a milestone in the history of the Church in Britain.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Canning Town...

...is not the most beautiful part of London, having been sliced in half by a gigantic motorway on stilts. But it's a friendly place, and the Community of St John is right there in the heart of it all. I spent a lovely morning there, beginning in the church of St Margaret - which is now their parish, and thriving - with Mass and Adoration of the Bl. Sacrament, and continuing with a cheerful time of talk in the kitchen, and then a useful meeting mulling over a number of matters that I had badly wanted to discuss...they've invited me to return one Sunday for Mass and lunch, and I will do so with huge pleasure.

They are busy - one young brother is in charge of a large group taking part in World Youth Day, there is much work done locally (Canning Town is in a very mixed, and not-at-all-rich part of East London), there is a large congregation with good numbers coming on weekdays as well as on Sundays, they are involved with work in schools and youth groups, and there are talks and conferences and retreats...and they need to expand their accomodation at Canning Town so as to be able to accomodate more people...

Monday, April 11, 2011

I have booked in...

for this lecture, which looks v. interesting.

To Oxford....

...late at night, after catching dinner in London with friends. Spent part of the weekend with the team involved with the play The Quality of Mercy being presented by a young drama group in April as part of the celebrations for the Beatification of Pope John Paul II.

The first really warm weekend of 2011, lunch in a beautiful Oxford garden, then a walk across the Christchurch meadows to St Aldates, where the drama team was in full rehearsal. A change of mood from sunny chatting-over-lunch to the voices and action of a stage production, young people coming and going, directions being given. Perched on a chair taking notes, watching the thing take shape, I had the sudden thought: the young Woytila would have been absolutely at home here...

Get a flavour of the play and its message here...

Friday, April 08, 2011

Auntie is touched, and honoured...

...to have been invited to be a Sponsor at the reception of a young friend into full Communion with the Catholic Church in the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. This is happening on the Tuesday of Holy Week.

Holy Week 2011 in Britain will mark, in a quiet way, the start of a new chapter in the country's Christian history as the Ordinariate groups around the country take these next steps towards becoming formal parishes. It is all happening during a time when other great events have been happening in Church and nation too - last year, a Papal Visit, the first such State Visit in our country's history, and then this year immediately after Easter, a Royal Wedding in London, and a great Papal beatification in Rome, the first time in history that a Pope has formally declared his predecessor to be Blessed and set him on the road to sainthood.

Both Popes visited Britain, both met our Sovereign, both prayed publicly with the Archbishop of Canterbury and leaders of other Christian denominations: both looked back down the years of our country's history and spoke of figures such as St Augustine, St Thomas of Canterbury, St Thomas More, John Henry Newman, and also great Christian men and women not in communion with the Catholic Church,such as William Wilberforce...

In his later years, Pope John Paul II spoke more than once of a "new springtime" in the Church. In Britain we know well that Spring can be a difficult, unpredictable season, with its promise often delayed or offering false starts. It can often be a time of anxiety, and historically also even of hunger (food from previous harvest used up, new crops not yet flourishing). But throughout the Church's long history, it has always been ued as an image of joy and hope, of God's faithfulness and our own commitment to work and prayer...

...and then there's the Royal Wedding:

You might be interested in this, on that subject....

Meanwhile in Oxford...

...rehearsals are in full swing for the play about John Paul II being presented by a young drama group. This looks set to be well worth watching - you can get tickets via that link, or contact the Oxford Playhouse (01865 305305). The young players are all part of the Oratory parish and the play will be presented at the University chaplaincy...

Hot weather, and evening sunshine...

...pouring in through the stained glass at the large modern church of St Mary Magdalene at Willesden Green. The whole sanctuary, dominated by its great traditional crucifix, was bathed in a brilliant, glowing light.

I was in the parish to take part in a series of talks for young engaged couples. A happy evening: parish priest Fr Hugh Mackenzie spoke extremely well, introducing the whole idea of our identity as human persons bound up in our relationship with God - there was a real rapport with his listeners, they were interested, and he was convincing, open and made you want to learn more...

Do come and watch...

...a great film about the great John Paul II. Sacred Heart Church parish lounge, Edge Hill, Wimbledon, London SW19 next Wed (April 13th). Coffee and cake, and a chance to share in the build-up to the beatification of one of the great men of our time.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

A feast...

...of good reading in Second Spring, journal of Faith and Culture. Looks at friendship, architecture,books, poetry, education, art, and much, much more.

I plunged my copy into my bag just before setting off for the hospital this morning, and am so glad I did...knew there would inevitably be long waiting for x-rays etc, so needed something to inspire, uplift, enlarge the mind. There is a depth, generosity and joy to the writing in this magazine.

To Westminster Cathedral...

...lunchtime Masses, and people of all sorts and ages and sizes and races coming up for Holy Communion. Blessed Sacrament exposed for adoration in the Chapel all afternoon.

ELECTED Silence, sing to me
And beat upon my whorl├Ęd ear,
Pipe me to pastures still and be
The music that I care to hear...

More on the JPII Beatification...

...here

It looks set to be an extraordinary few days in Rome...a number of friends are going: one couple have given themselves the trip as a Silver Wedding gift to one another.

Auntie will be watching it on TV in Walsingham...doing a talk there on the evening of Sat 30th April. BTW,separately, Aid to the Church in Need is organising a pilgrimage to Walsingham on that day...coaches depart from Westminster Cathedral, do come!

Monday, April 04, 2011

He was a great man and a great Pope...

...but that's not why he's being beatified. John Paul II was great because he was holy, because he put God first, because he was a man of prayer and penance and self-sacrifice. Like many another Catholic, I had not really thought about his "inner life", except to assume that it was this union with God that inspired and drove his pontificate: now we are learning more, and realising that he was a lasting gift to the Church. Read here for more on this...and here for a rather touching message from the H. Father, looking forward to the Beatification...

Sunday, April 03, 2011

England and the Holy Father...

...and some scenes to gladden the heart! The Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham went to Rome - in the person of Mgr Keith Newton, accompanied by Bishop Alan Hopes. They took with them a statue of Our Lady of Walsingham, and a new book, just published, about the shrine, together with an album showing recent Ordinariate events in Britain. How very satisfying to see scenes of the Holy Father warmly greeting Mgr Newton and talking eagerly with him and with Bishop Alan, and how exciting to watch each new chapter of this new venture unfolding. The Ordinariate is going quietly from strength to strength. There will be many good things happening here in the next months and years: just watch. And pray.

Friday, April 01, 2011

You might also enjoy...

...this magazine, in which Auntie has a feature on feminism...

Give yourself a treat and read...

...the latest issue of Portal magazine. Click here.