Wednesday, September 20, 2017

We are seeing...

..new forms of abuse of children and young people. Fearsome things are happening. Read here...

John Henry Newman...

...took on the care of the impoverished village of Littlemore, on the outskirts of Oxford, as the Anglican vicar of the parish that included this area. Littlemore had no church, and he raised funds and built one, his mother laying the foundation stone. It was to Littlemore that he later retreated to pray and ponder the whole question of the  nature of the Church as founded by Christ...and it was here, on a rainy night that he was received into the Catholic Church by Bl Dominic Barberi....

The rooms that Newman established for himself in a former stables at Littlemore are today a retreat centre where his memory is kept alive and cherished. A community of sisters of The Work flourishes there, and welcomed a good crowd of us last weekend for a study day honouring their foundress, Mother Julia Verhaege.

Things began with Mass in the church of Bl Dominic, and then after a buffet lunch, a talk by Fr Joseph Welch of the Oratory. It was rather fine to sit in Newman's library, surrounded by a magnificent collection of books by and about him - many people come here to do research - hearing an inspirational talk, and to follow this with Benediction in the tiny chapel he established...

Saturday, September 16, 2017

WITH CO-AUTHOR...

...Clare Anderson - we worked together on this book about beloved St John Paul the Great -  a busy afternoon working on the Catholic Young writer Award, sponsored by the Catholic Union Charitable Trust.  The winners are to be announced next week - I'll be putting up a link on this Blog.

Clare and her family live in the country - different pace of life from mine...dogs, a big kitchen, family meals, vegetables fresh from the garden...

The first part of the day was spent helping out at a local lunch-club for the elderly,  organised by volunteers in the local Catholic parish hall. We had a grand singalong, enormously enjoyable. I  used to love ding this at the nursing home where my dear mother spent her last years...everyone singing  away together.  The songs  change as generations pass.. Mother's generation sang "The white cliffs of Dover" and "Lily Marlene" and "We'll meet again. Now it's "Edelweiss" and "My Favourite things", and "All I want is a room somewhere".



...at Paddington station...

...I settled with some coffee to tackle emails...looked up at the  TV news on the screen, and saw that the next train on the tube line I had just used had halted at Parsons Green with a great explosion...

It now emerges that the wretched terrorist's hope was to get the thing to explode at Westminster tube station, where it most certainly would have killed great numbers of people....its premature explosion while the train was not yet underground was thus a life-saver....


Friday, September 15, 2017

Don Bosco...

...the great saint of education established schools across Europe...and there has been one in Battersea since the 19th century, and one of my uncles was a pupil there in the 1940s.

Today's St John  Bosco College at Battersea is a brand-new building opened just a couple of years ago, and it was a great privilege to be there yesterday evening to present prizes at a splendid ceremony attended by pupils and their families.  I was made very welcome - there was a glass of prosecco with staff and other guests in the Headmaster's study, and then entry into a packed hall with a great atmosphere of friendliness and goodwill.

Always daunting to be the guest speaker on such occasions - but any anxiety dissipates into the general mood: things began with prayers and the blessing of the new hall, named in honour of Bl Michael Rua, Don Bosco's assistant and successor, and speeches by the Head Boy and Head Girl...

London is one of the great cities of the world and I wanted to convey to the boys and girls that this is their inheritance - their city, the city where Shakespeare wrote his plays, where St Thomas More faced death on the scaffold for defending Christian marriage and the freedom of the Church, where Elizabeth Fry launched prison reform amid the horrors of Newgate, where  Florence Nightingale established modern nursing at St Thomas's Hospital,  where Winston Churchill led the allies to victory in World War II... and where there are great things to be done, a great inheritance to cherish, great hopes for the future, great needs to be met.

South London has its own particular heroes -  among them, William Wilberforce leading the campaign to ban the slave trade from the oceans of the world, and Violette Szabo parachuting into occupied France in WWII...

We need to think about the great adventures that await us tomorrow and to be ready to serve and to do great things...and at St John Bosco College pupils are taught the Faith that is the true foundation on which real achievement can be based, and real values established...

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Oh, dear...

I have just been sent a magazine about music in church.

Its front cover  offers, all unwittingly, exactly the image of church that is most dreary and repellent to the young.

A small group of  plump cheery ladies, not young, looking rather pleased with themselves,stand, wearing their best frocks, at a lectern in the sanctuary. They look as though they have just come from a chatty lunch at Peter Jones or a weekly grocery-shop at Waitrose. They are about to sing at us. One has her hand lightly raised, in that gesture such ladies use when indicating that you must now sing the refrain of a psalm at her direction.

The message is:  Mass is about  middle-class ladies who want you watch them as they sing. They are in charge of things.

It absolutely sums up a notion of the Mass that is utterly at variance with the great reality of Christ's redemptive action and our call to worship him. It reduces the whole glory of the Mass to a ladies coffee-morning.

A more effective way of saying "DON'T COME TO MASS; IT LOOKS LIKE THIS!"  could scarcely be imagined.





Tuesday, September 12, 2017

After a morning at...

...St Mary's University (history project progressing slowly but satisfyingly thus far), I hopped on to a bus and crossed the river to Richmond, for a cup of tea with Fr Stephen Langridge at this church...

St Elizabeth's  is a church with lots of young people, a busy parish life, and a message of evangelisation and mission  - and also a rich history, dating back to the 18th century, before Catholic Emancipation.

I used to drop in here during my lunch-hour, when I was a junior reporter on the Richmond Herald newspaper - my first job after leaving school, the beginning of a life in journalism.

The Herald office in George Street has gone, of course, as has  the baker's shop  that was almost opposite,where I used to hurry to buy doughnuts, with one of the senior reporters timing me from the window  as I sped from the office, seeing if I could break my record for speed - I always dashed everywhere...

This evening I settled in one of the many comfortable coffee-and-smart-pastries places, and tackled some emails. Somewhere, the ghost of a teenager scurried about with a notebook and a passionate conviction about being a writer, giving everything an enormous amount of energy...oh, long, looooooong ago...


There is one book that I simply must read, as it is about one of the greatest men of our era...

...and I have ordered it as a birthday treat as it is published this month. Info about it  here...

and off to the seaside...

...at Bournemouth...to the magnificent church here, where a new Oratorian community  has been established.

This church - familiar to me from a wonderful family wedding held there a few years back - is ideally suited to the Oratorians, established by St Philip Neri in the 16th century and brought to England by Blessed John Henry Newman in the 19th.

We had a happy day, and it was a particular pleasure for me to catch up with a former parish priest, now an Oratorian, and to give him - as  I did when he was our popular local priest , and was glad to do again to keep up the tradition - a jar of my home-made jam, and to catch up on news and talk over so many things...

A delightful talkative lunch, lots of news to share, lots of good things to discuss...and this beautiful church, with good family memories for me, now sees a new chapter of its history...

TRUTH...

...really matters. Pope St John Paul wrote an encyclical centred on its splendour. Read here to mark an impoirtant anniversary...

Monday, September 11, 2017

In response to enquiries...

...about the Catholic Women of the Year 2017, I draw your attention to the information about the four elected women, and tickets for the Luncheon (Nov 3rd, London): HERE

...and while you're about it...

...you could also read Auntie in the latest issue of The Portal, the on-line magazine of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham....

...and if you enjoy reading about London's history...

...then you will enjoy Auntie's feature in the latest issue of Westminster Cathedral's magazine OREMUS....

With a pilgrim group...

...from Trinidad, a gathering for Mass at Ealing Abbey. Much enthusiastic singing, and a very devout atmosphere. After a pleasant walk back across Ealing Common to the hotel, a delightful dinner with lots of good conversation, and a joyful atmosphere: welcoming speeches, and a sense of a shared adventure beginning. The group will be going to Fatima, and then on to Avila, returning to Britain to finish at Aylesford before flying home.

The next morning, I joined them again  to go to Westminster Cathedral where their chaplain  Fr Haseley King concelebrated the 10.30am Sung Mass. The Cathedral choir was just back after the long summer break, and Cathedral was, as always, packed, and it was a glorious Mass...and then, after some lunch, we set off on a great History Walk around Westminster, in which they learned about the Grey Coat Hospital and the Blew Coat and Green Coat  schools, the old horse ferry across the Thames, and of course the whole story of St Edward the Confessor and the great Abbey here on the western reaches beyond London that has given its name to this whole area and to the world's Mother of Parliaments.

We rested in St Margaret's, Westminster before heading for Buckingham Palace...and then the group returned to the hotel and I trundled home...I love being involved with pilgrimage groups and helping to ring history alive....but it is also good to be home, and having a big mug of tea, and taking off one's shoes...

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Every year...

...following the wonderful visit of Pope (now Emeritus) Benedict XVI to Britain in 2010,  we hold a great Procession of the Blessed Sacrament linking London's two Catholic cathedrals - St George's in Southwark and Westminster on the northern bank of the river. The Pope visited Pope during his historic visit - as did Pope St John Paul before him, in 1982.

This year's Procession will be on  SATURDAY September 30th, starting at St George's Cathedral Southwark at 1.30pm.  It is always a glorious sight as we cross the Thames, with the Houses of Parliament as a backdrop. Knights of St Columba guide us, and we carry the Blessed Sacrament flanked by altar servers and candle-bearers...

COME AND JOIN US! Be at St George's Cathedral, Southwark, a little before 1.30pm.  Things finish with Benediction at Westminster following the Procession across Lambeth Bridge and across Millbank...

Come and help make history! The Procession was first held in 2011 to give thanks for the success of the Papal visit, and by popular demand has continued annually. This year, for the first time, it starts in Southwark -come and help make it the biggest and best yet!