Tuesday, August 19, 2014

At Heathrow airport...

...a multi-faith prayer room. Used to be called a chapel. No cross marks it now. It is divided into three: two rooms (male and females) for Muslims, one for Christians. I went in. The Christian space had a table, with a cloth on it and a couple of Bibles, and some Christian leaflets. No cross. I prayed the Lord's Prayer aloud, and could sense the silence descending in the adjoining rooms where there had been voices.  I took up one of the Bibles (attractive, a gift from the Gideons) and read aloud from St Paul's letter to the Corinthians. I prayed silently for a while, made the Sign of the Cross aloud, and left.

Now:  let's all make a commitment. Next time you are in an airport, find the prayer-room and go there and pray aloud. Alone or with others. It is good to pray before you travel, it is an opportunity to praise God and ask his blessing, and it is an act of witness. Claim the space for Christ.

grim news...

...continues from Iraq.
 And if you want to help send some aid, you can do so via this charity...

What will happen to the young Islamic jihadists from Britain who have gone out to join in the slaughter? They have been bragging on the internet about their exploits, posing with the bodies of their victims and so on. If, on their return to Britain, they are arrested and sent to prison, they will start to recruit other young men to their cause. Islam is very strong on British prisons, and declaring oneself a Moslem brings a number of advantages, from special arrangements for meals and times of prayer-chanting, to a strong sense of mission and identity, bonding with a group, feeling strong and important, etc...

...and one of the topics...

...that came up, inevitably in our discussions during the EWTN weekend, was the ghastly imposition of same-sex marriage laws and the way this is all being used to restrict our freedom to speak publicly about the Christian teaching on marriage. On same-sex marriage, this is a good read.

In Birmingham, Alabama...

...at the conference hotel where I was staying, there was also a large group of  lovely people from one of the big Black Churches, the ladies all looking absolutely superb in the most beautiful outfits, of a sort I've only ever seen at Buckingham Palace garden parties, elegant suits and the most glorious hats. They were extremely friendly and so delightful to meet, and they were Primitive Baptists, and faith-filled and joyful. When I asked about what made them different from other Baptists they explained that they wash each other's feet, like Our Lord at the Last Supper...talking to them was a joy and we promised to pray for each other and for a great revival of Christianity in both America and Britain...

Monday, August 18, 2014

and for...

...a look back at Auntie's summer, read here...

Magnificent...

...great gathering in Birmingham, Alabama,: EWTN's annual Family Festival. Large crowds, daily Mass celebrated with glorious music and great dignity, some fabulous talks, a feast of good books and DVDs on sale, children romping about in a lovely play area, long interesting discussions over meals...

Father Robert Barron gave a superb lecture, taking in Irenaeus, Augustine, and Aquinas, explaining about the Gnostics and how this heresy is a major problem today... how to counter it...St John Paul ...Benedict XVI....it was a feast for the mind and heart.

It was a delight to meet so many enthusiastic EWTN viewers...and indeed readers of this Blog. You can find out a lot more about the Festival - including something about Auntie's talk. on this link...

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Bishop speaks...

...read here for a fine, uplifting, and important piece of teaching, from a shepherd who is unafraid.

And here is the programme...

of talks for the Evenings of Faith, starting in September.  All held in the parish room, 24 Golden Square, London WI, at 7.30pm.  Nearest tube: Piccadilly Circus.  Drinks and nibbles. No need to book - just turn up. 

Tuesday 23rd September 2014
Dealing with our wound of original sin. Mary Gray
 
Tuesday 7th October 2014
The Old Testament: Preparation for a Saviour. Fr Ian Vane
 
Tuesday 21st October 2014
Jesus Christ: Saviour and Redeemer. Fr Michael Dolman
 
Tuesday 4th November 2014
The synod on marriage: The deeper issues. David Kerr
 
Tuesday 18th November 2014
The mission of the Church in secular Britain. Speaker TBC
 
Tuesday 2nd December 2014
Loving life in a culture of death. Sr Roseann Reddy
 
 

On Sept 10th...

...the new season of CATHOLIC HISTORY WALKS begins. Meet at 6.30pm on the steps of Westminster Cathedral - we'll be walking to Parliament and Westminster Abbey.

See these pix...

...of the FAITH Movement Summer Session - and have a good roam around that site, which has lots and LOTS of good things....

As the grim news...

...from Iraq and Syria continues...this organisation is doing good work. It was a privilege to meet one of its leaders, Benedict Rogers, at the Evangelium conference a couple of weeks ago and I'll be visiting their London HQ in September...

Monday, August 11, 2014

A useful meeting...

...of the Ladies Ordinariate Group (LOGS) at Walsingham, held in an atmosphere of great goodwill  and sealed with prayer...we had major decisions to make about some long-term projects and also the next year's programme to plan,  and all this at a time when we are aware of the rather urgent need to foster, cherish and pass on the truths of our Christian faith in an increasingly uncertain world...

After our talking, planning, and organising, we went to the shrine of Mary, and prayed together there, putting our hopes and our work, our plans and our personal commitment, to God through the intercession of Mary and under her special protection...

On Sunday morning, a pilgrim walk along the Holy Mile, splashing barefoot through puddles...it was like being a child on the seashore and I loved it. Cars stopped to offer me a lift and at one point I thought it rude not to accept, so tentatively got into the car. But on enquiring about the time, it emerged that I still had a clear half-hour before Mass began, so I gently excused myself, and returned to the splashy road  and the green hedgerows and my Rosary.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

...and sunshine and storm...

...and prayer and singing and fun.  Along the pilgrim way to Walsingham, Auntie was invited to give a talk about St John Paul, and it was an extraordinary experience to be doing this to the line of pilgrims as we made our way along by great fields of sugar beet and banks of fern and bramble. People picked the lovely blackberries - they are so huge and juicy this year, and have arrived so early - as we walked along.

A good number of seminarians among the pilgrims - some for various English dioceses, some for France, one already in the white robes of a Dominican friar.  The pilgrim walk on this first day is 20 miles, and finishes at Swaffham. Here, we rested at the convent school in the town centre - buckets of cold water for sore feet, a young Dominican sister opening a great box of ice-creams for us all,  much talk and laughter. Evening Prayer, and then a hearty supper of  pasta-n-cheese. One of the pilgrims was marking a birthday, and we sang "Happy Birthday" to her, and then the French pilgrims struck up again in French, and then followed Polish, Czech...

As we finished singing, the rain fell. Then it came in torrents, and TORRENTS. We had been sitting under the wide porch of the school sports hall, and fled inside as the storm arrived. I  was due to be taken on to Walsingham, for a meeting of the Ladies Ordinariate Group (LOGS), and the indefatigable Wayne, organiser of the travel/maps/etc for the pilgrim group, saw no reason to change the plan, so off we set in his jeep, water bucketing from the sky. A jeep is a great vehicle for weather like this. I arrived as the rain was lessening, and the LOGS were there, in the lovely peaceful shrine, with wine and a welcome.

The English countryside...

...so enchanting, so glorious, and with so many layers of history there...

Mass in the ruins of  Bury St Edmunds Abbey, people kneeling on the grass, strong young voices singing, reverent lines of communicants...

Then the pilgrim walkers of the John Paul II Pilgrimage for the New Evangelisation gathered in the church hall of St Edmund's church, for a good supper and introductions and instructions for the journey. Sister Hyacinthe is a splendid leader and this is the 9th annual pilgrimage - but the first to be able to carry the word SAINT attached to the name of John Paul...

Night prayer in St Edmund's church, everyone singing the Dominican Office, turn and turn about with the verses of the psalms, already sounding a united group, voices blending together. As we knelt to pray before the Blessed Sacrament, we pulled out kneelers, and I pondered the fact that I hadn't brought a pillow for the night...so...

We made up our beds on the floor of the big hall of the parish school. The church kneeler made an adequate pillow, but a kind young sister, already seeing my plight, had come forward with her soft woollen shawl - not needed in this warm weather, urging me to use it. So with this, and the kneeler, I was perfectly comfortable.

We rose the next day at 5.45, sang Morning Prayer, then were driven in a convoy of minibuses and cars to Brandon, for Mass. The local parishioners there welcome the pilgrims every year and provide a splendid breakfast.  It was the feast of St Dominic. Our chaplain, Father Simon Heans (Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham) said Mass, there was splendid singing, and he preached about St Dominic and read from an account of the latter's adventures walking and preaching...and staying in horrid places among the poor and unwashed with the smells and the fleas...

We were in luxury, with a delicious breakfast of  fresh hot waffles and fruit and cream, and brioch and croissants, all served with such a joyful sense of welcome...and then we set off, with a processional cross held high, an a great Papal flag, and our banner of Our Lady of Walsingham, and everyone praying the rosary as we rounded our way down the lane and out through the pig farms and I nto the open country...

Thursday, August 07, 2014

The FAITH Movement...

...has been holding its Summer Session this week. You can follow it here...

Today Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury gave us a superb talk, looking at the issues facing the Church in 1914 and in 2014...it was profound, thoughtful, wise and challenging.  He himself attended FAITH Summer Sessions back in the 1970s, and is a strong supporter of  the movement.

Crowds of young people, lots of talk, Benediction with a young newly-ordained deacon, an evening of laughter with a Talent Show that was in full vigour as I left...the day had been filled with discussions, lectures, prayer, and sports, and more...

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Mass at the Magna Carta Abbey...

...on Thursday. The abbey at Bury St Edmunds is the place where the abbots of England gathered to plan the drawing up of Magna Carta, the greater charter of our land, which centres on its opening statement "that the Church in England shall be free." The abbey was destroyed under Henry VIII - a man not known for his commitment to the freedom of the Church - and its ruins still stand, surrounded by lovely gardens, in the centre of the town. Mass in such a place, in the open air, the voices of the congregation raised in song as the afternoon sun begins its descent into evening, is simply glorious.  Each year, this Mass marks the start of the John Paul II Walking Pilgrimage, which continues through the lanes and meadows of Norfolk and finishes at Walsingham, with the big midday Mass at the barn church at the shrine. The Pilgrimage is organised by the splendid Dominican Sisters of St Joseph, some of the jolliest nuns in England (do click on that site and see the pic of Cream Teas).

Plenty to pray about on the Pilgrimage this year. Peace in the Middle East...help for the exiled Christians of Iraq...an end to the crisis in Ukraine...and we also need to pray for the Church, and for the Synod taking place this Autumn...

I've been sent some panicky comments about this Synod...the media will be trying to spin things in all sorts of ways. But the Synod will conclude with the beatification of the saintly Pope who gave us Humanae Vitae, the courageous re-stating of the Church's message on the transmission of human life and the wrongfulness of contraception.  Paul VI came under such horrible attack for that encyclical, and I remember a letter from a faithful priest, writing towards the end of the pontificate:  "Pray for the Pope in his gethsemane".  The Church cannot and will not change God's plan for marriage, and the transmission of life.  Pray that the Synod will be fruitful and useful and a tool in the hands of all who are working for the New Evangelisation...