...to Mass at Westminster Cathedral on a Sunday morning, you are assailed by various group urging you not to do so. There are earnest men with tracts explaining that all you need to do is say one prayer and then you are Saved and that's that. There are bright young girls with handbills inviting you to attend services at a new church somewhere else. And there is a Lefebvrist with leaflets telling you why he thinks the Church is all wrong. And the message from each of these is:please stop and talk instead of going to Mass.
But if you gently ignore them and walk up the steps and enter the Cathedral then the atmosphere of prayer greets you and folds you in. As Mass begins, the choir sings gloriously, the timeless reality of the liturgy sweeps you up into the hugeness of the mystery.
Today,instead of a sermon, a special Letter from our Bishops re marriage. As the priest started to read it out, the atmosphere became somehow more intense, as if everyone knew that something of particular importance was happening. You don't normally get that when a letter from a Bishop is announced - it's usually the signal for people to settle back comfortably and not really bother to engage. But today was different.
There were extra copies of the letter to take away at the end of Mass, but these all ran out quickly. (You can get a copy by following that link given above). Outside, as the crowds poured out, the groups in the piazza had been joined by another - a little lobby of people with a placard being rude about the Church for opposing same-sex marriage.
The Cathedral newsletter urged people to sign up to the marriage petition on the internet, giving the link. For those that don't have internet access, there are forms...I had some with me and a friend was keen to sign then and there - lots of other people then surged round to sign too.
What will happen about this new marriage law? I expect that the initial reaction to our Bishops' letter will be sneers - especially from those who for some reason seem to delight in arousing indignation about anything a bishop says.
It's also a grim fact that the Govt will only be swayed by one thing - the possibility that the ghastly plans to rewrite the definition of marriage will prove so unpopular that it might cost them the next election.
So one small thing you can do is to sign the petition, and get others to sign too.