Friday, November 30, 2007
The British section of this great international charity has flourished under the direction of Neville Kyrke-Smith and his team, and the new office is efficiently organised, with separate sections for the sales of Christmas cards (they have a range of most beautiful designs) and books and other items, the different departments such as accounts, media, publishing, and so on. We prayed specifically for the various groups of people we try to help, including those persecuted for their Catholic Faith in Sudan, China, and other countries.
From the generous gifts of people here in Britain, ACN is able to send help to hard-pressed people living in extremely difficult conditions, struggling with poverty, oppressive Government, war or its aftermath, and more...there are areas in the world where running a Christian orphanage, teaching the Faith, distributing Catholic literature, or simply gathering for Mass, mean risk of imprisonment. It all seems remote from suburban London. But the young team in the Sutton office, working with dedication and care, are part of a crucial link which does untold good.
Archbishop Kevin McDonald, Archbishop of Southwark, led us all in a most beautiful prayer, referring to work, and the fact that Christ Himself worked, daily, as a craftsman, for years. Taking holy water, the Archbishop then carefully blessed all the offices, and all of us - friends and supporters, staff from Sutton Carers who have an office in the same block and had been invited along to join the celebrations, visitors from overseas, volunteers, members of the ACN Board, and Trustees...as he went from room to room, the staff began the Rosary and we all joined in. Afterwards, there was lots of talk and quantities of wine and trays of delicious snacks, and the joy of meeting old friends and chatting away with all sorts of people...
To crown things, by coincidence, that evening ACN's John Pontifex was due to speak at The Keys, the Catholic Writers' Guild. He did a superb job, telling about his recent visit to China, and with a popwer-point presesntation with snippets of film and other items, he was able to bring alive for us the complex problems facing that huge nation, and the life of the Church withion it. A truly fascinating evening, one of the best we've had. We meet, as regular readers of this Blog will know, at St Mary Moorfields in London.,..anyone who writes for a living, whether full-time or part-time, or who works in media or in publishing, or related fields, is eligible to join. Send a Comment to this blog, giving me an email address to which I can reply...
Well, I have given my poor teddy that name, but he will only have it for as long as the poor woman remains in prison. Then I shall take pleasure in re-naming him, and will give him the name of Benedict. And he will be a reminder to pray that the grace and blessing of a good Christian name may soon be given to many of those who currently bear names associated with other religions.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
The young man - he was v. pleasant - also had to ask ritual questions about my age, work, race, etc. I explained I was a Catholic journalist and gave him a couple of pictures of the Pope, which he accepted very nicely and put in his pocket. He was absolutely correct all the way through the interview, so I don't know if he found the questions as ludicrous as I did.
It all felt vaguely reminiscent of stories I heard from eastern European exiles twenty years ago, about how the official bureaucracy was always announcing the results of surveys proving the rightness of their ideological line. A major difference, however, as Mac pointed out, is that at least in Britain taking part was optional - I could simply have refused - and of course we will be free to criticise the report when it is published. Long may this freedom remain.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
...on my blog!! V. exciting. Mac has been here helping me. We ate lots of chocolate biccies. And here is the dear Holy Father, looking so reassurring. I really like just knowing that he's there in Rome, and doing us all proud.
Monday, November 26, 2007
On Sunday J. and I had a lovely walk over Wimbledon Common - we enjoyed a glorious pink and glowing sunset and then almost got lost for a bit when darkness fell (J says my sense of direction is hopeless).
I am sending J's parents a copy of the latest Universe newspaper as there is a pic of J. in it at the launch of the Catholic National Library last week. He is with Rt Hon John Gummer MP and the headline says something about Top Catholics being at the event. I think they will be amused at having a son who is a Top Catholic.
Later this week Mulier Fortis is coming round for supper to help me with technical aspects of this Blog. I have promised her chocolate cake.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Incidentally, F. is a writer and journalist, and produced a most useful report on BBC bias a while back - now you simply must read this on Fr Tim Finigan's blog, which tells the story of an appalling example of BBC reportage. Ask yourself - or, better, contact the Director-General of the BBC and ask him - whether or not the BBC is now going to apologise for the distortion made in the programme in question, in the light of the information now made public?
We also got talking about traditions and seasonal customs: the wife of an Ambassador said her impression was that Britain has retained more of these than some other European countries...I am a lot less sure...as Christmas draws near, all Western nations seem to be swamped with the same massive consumer-spending, ensuring that children will be knee-high in plastic junk toys , many of which will soon be discarded, while old customs, carols, family games, etc will be less evident. But there are lots of families - including our hosts this evening - where wonderful traditions flourish, with children singing and making music and all sorts of happy things are passed on down the generations...
Thursday, November 22, 2007
I had been invited to give my talk on Celebrating Traditional Feasts and Seasons, and this went well and led to a good and interesting discussion afterwards, as we explored all sorts of things...St Lucy's day...some London history...origins of various symbols and traditions...local Chelsea history...and more...
Patti Fordyce, a mainstay of the parish, made a delicious lunch over which a group of us lingered with pleasure, the newcomer and I now thoroughly feeling at home...
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
And then a memory of a visit to him and Kitty - the walks, the talk, and being made to laugh so much that it it was hiccuping. And that particular corner of Sussex, the fields and the rise of the hill, and coming in to tea with fresh brown bread and butter.
Monday, November 19, 2007
Members of the Cor et Lumen Christi movement have settled here, and the plan is to restore this wonderful old building - once a convent and orphanage - into a centre where families and groups will come to celebrate and learn about their Faith, pray, evangelise, and be evangelised...
And they will do it, too. There is so much faith and devotion here. The project is going to be a huge challenge because although solidly and beautifully built, the building needs a good deal of basic repair and restoration work, as it was left abandoned for over a decade after the last nuns left...but the team here is young, dedicated, joyful, hard-working and prayerful. Already, one good-sized room has been magnificently restored, with some lovely original features to enjoy - magnificent crucifix in an alcove, beautiful warm-coloured red brickwork - and a good working kitchen alongside. We gathered here for a "Family day with God", hordes of cheerful children, a talk from me about (yes, you've got it...) "Traditional Feasts and Seasons", a lovely lunch with hot sausages, and an atmosphere of prayer and goodwill. The music was...um...not to my taste (Oh please, can't we sing some decent hymns?) but everything else was simply perfect: devotion, a young priest with an attentive congregation at Mass, friendship, a sense of relief as people felt they could talk about things too often covered by grim silence such as the challenge of raising a family with good values in the face of a sordid modern culture, the tragic abandonment of the Faith in too many nominally Catholic schools...
I was given wonderful hospitality, had some great conversations, felt hugely encouraged and cheered, and learned a lot. I explored the building - there is an old chapel just waiting to be restored ("But have you seen the dreadful 1960s addition?" I was asked "That'll have to go - and we found the original stained-glasss in an outbuilding and hope to put it all back...") and there is a wealth of local history here which simply must be recorded.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
I am off on travels this weekend...off to Carlisle to give a talk there. I may not be able to blog while travelling...
Friday, November 16, 2007
A warm welcome from Mr Dan Cooper, a great chorus of voices joining in the Our Father and Hail Mary as we started the session, and I enjoyed giving my talk about Pope Benedict XV1. Afterwards, a most agreeable chat with the Headmaster, himself an Old Boy of the splendid London Oratory School (of which I was once a Governor: the school choir sang for Jamie and me at our Wedding Mass in 1980 and then, a new generation of choristers, at our Silver Wedding Mass a quarter of a century later).
Cycled on to Mother's where the Coopers arrived with a splendid fish-and-chip supper - a cheery evening of talk, a get-together of old friends.
The Faith Movement is organising its Winter Session soon - a gathering for young people with daily Mass, talks on aspects of the Catholic Faith: this year's theme is "Hearing God's word", with talks on The Bible belongs to the Church, Christ, the Key to understanding the Old Testament, the Gospels - historical and true, The Bible and prayer in our lives....
Our hostess, Alexandra Eversole, will be hosting a sale of Christmas gifts and jewellry on Dec 5th, with wine and mince pies - all in aid of ALERT, the anti-euthanasia group. Find out more from 0207 730 2800.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Hurried back from Kent to London, recorded some talks for Premier Radio (they will, I think, be broadcast in the week of Nov 26th as an early-morning "Thought of the day"), then went on to relatives where I was to babysit for niece E. We had a very happy evening. I helped her with maths homework, enjoying her comments: "A boy drinks half a litre of milk a day... Ugh, that's really greedy of him. He shouldn't drink that much..." We played a game of snakes-and-ladders, and one of chess, and it was all v. agreeable.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Earlier, I had a most agreeable lunch with dear nephew - and godson - G. It's always enjoyable to see him, and there he was at St James' Park tube station as arranged, in tartan scarf and giving me a big hug, all so reassuring and joyful. We chatted very happily of big mugs of coffee.
Monday, November 12, 2007
I gave a talk on "Journalism and the Media" to a big gathering of senior pupils, and a number clustered round afterwards to talk further and ask questions. I was presented with a commemorative School Teddy Bear, very cuddly and wearing a St Edmund's jersey. It was all enormously enjoyable and I received agreeable impressions of England's oldest post-Reformation Catholic school.
Jamie has been away in Ireland for a few days so I seized the opportunity of a big cleaning-and-tidying session. Took several things to local charity shop, threw away lots of unwanted paper, etc. An old propaganda booklet from the Equal Opportunities Commission gave me pause for thought: produced in the late 70s, when all this non-sexist-let's-pretend-we-are-all-identical stuff came in, it looks terribly dated now, when the worry is about boys falling behind with basic skills like reading and writing and the realisation that they badly need good adult male role-models and that school is seen as all too "girly". And the pictures made one a bit sad: thirty years ago, the children's faces were actually different: less tense, more "open", the girls less angry, there's somehow a more innocent air ...
On Sunday, cycled to Mass - a beautiful arrangement of poppies with a flag at the side of the nave, making an understated and quietly poignant message - and then on to friends where I had been invited to lunch. A long talkative afternoon over a buffet, with quantities of children running about and shouting, hot sausages and chicken and salads and rolls on the table, babies being cuddled, adults enjoying wine and chat and laughter. The children all gathered like pins to a magnet when a box of doughnuts was brought in at the end of the afternoon, drawn as from nowhere.
Cycling home through the dark, I found Jamie, who had brought me some heavenly lavender-scented soap from Ireland and a lovely dark red candle all specially decorated which we'll use for Christmas. We had big mugs of tea and told each other all our news.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
No, I don't think so either.
In the case of the Second World War there are many surviving ex-servicemen still living, so try asking some of them.
The Queen's Speech outlining the plans of this present Government, sets out the plan for human/animal hybrids. Concerned? Get the info from this website right away and write to your Member of Parliament and also to members of the House of Lords. The Govt is rushing this through at speed, so we all need to act quickly.
Friday, November 09, 2007
Useful notes on the history of the Abbey tell us that St Elphege was Abbot here in about 980. This interests me as I grew up in the parish of St Elphege in Wallington, Surrey, was baptised and married there: Elphege was an Archbishop of Canterbury and was martyred by the Danes at Greenwich. Bath Abbey is dedicated to Sts Peter and Paul. Bath is of course a Roman city and you can visit the original Roman Baths: all part of the same Roman Empire into which Christ was born and in which Peter became the first Pope...
I gave talks to CathSoc meetings at the University of Bath and at Bath Spa University, all organised by the excellent chaplain Fr Bill. He also runs a busy parish on the city's outskirts, is hospital chaplain, active with the Ecumenical Society of the BVM, and more. The parish is dedicated to Sts Peter and Paul. He is a Servite priest and strides around in full-length traditional habit and it's really nice to see it on a modern University campus.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Father Bill OSM, chaplain to both universities, is organising a lecture about Edward Elgar and the Dream of Gerontius on Monday Nov 12th - see the Chaplaincy website.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Honestly, it's a much nicer and more interesting present than bath salts or a calendar with cats on it...
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
A crisp, fresh Autumn day with the trees in the most glorious colours.
A couple of items people have asked me to mention: a neighbour, who works at St Teresa's, our local home for the elderly, reminds me that the Friends of St Teresa's are running a Fair at the Sacred Heart Hall, Edge Hill SW19 on Saturday, from 2pm.
And the Friends of Westminster Cathedral have Clare Asquith discussing her new book on Shakespeare - about which I have written on this blog - on November 29th. Find out more about this here.
Cycled across London to St Mary Moorfields for a meeting of the Catholic Writers' Guild: Charles Moore of the Daily Telegraph was the speaker. I was asked to give the vote of thanks, and was able to recall his earlier visit to the Guild, back in the mid-1990s, when he was speaking about the Catholic Church - just a few weeks later his conversion was splashed across the features section of the Telegraph under the banner headline "Why I am becoming a Catholic".
Meetings of the Guild are really terrifically enjoyable, and we have a good programme planned for 2008...any RC who works as a writer, journalist, pubsliher, on films or TV or related work, can join. Send me a comment to bthis Blog - WITH AN EMAIL ADDRESS AT WHICH I CAN REACH YOU - if you are intertested... Members can bring guests to meetings, and frequently do, and all our meetings start with Mass and then supper, and a guest speaker...
Monday, November 05, 2007
The house is owned by the Community, and four families live there, each with its own flat, and all sorts of events and retreats are organised, attended by people from the local area and also from much further afield. The roots of Cor et Lumen Christi are in the Charismatic Renewal. A priest from the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal celebrated Mass - a room has been set aside as a chapel, with a most beautiful crucifix and some magnificent icons - and round the walls are pictures of saints, including icons and, in some cases, ( eg Therese of Lisieux, Padro Pio) photographs.
The Surrey countryside was a glory of golden and orange on this pleasant Autumn day, and I enjoyed my journey by train and bike.
Sunday, November 04, 2007
I woke early - as mentioned, I had been staying at an address in St Matthew Street, Westminster, near Parliament and near the Cathedral (note to correspondents - NO, that view of Big Ben ISN'T from my own home...I made it clear that I was staying overnight in Westminster!!!). I didn't have an alarm clock, but read somewhere that the Holy Souls wake you if you need it. So I said a prayer for them and asked to be woken at 6 am, and woke as Big Ben rang out its chimes for just that hour... got everything ready, grabbed a quick breakfast and was at the Cathedral Hall by 8 am.. having dropped in to the Cathedral for a quick visit first. Slight hassle about getting the hall unlocked then we got started... it is always exciting watching the Festival take shape, as groups arrive with big displays and stacks of books, all of us busy in the kitchen or the hall or greeting speakers/choir/helpers...
A happy day. Christopher Martin spoke about some of the notable Catholic churches and cathedrals in Britain, Fr Richard Whinder about Bishop Richard Challoner, Aghi Clovis about her journey to Christianity from Islam....
Browsing the bookstalls, I bordered a copy of JAMES, BY THE GRACE OF GOD, a new book just out from Fisher Press, for Christmas. When Jamie arrived in due course he looked at all the stalls too, bought various things, and when we finally met up - I spent most of the day rushing about on all sorts of errands - he said "Um..there is a new book out about James 11, but I didn't get it as I thought perhaps....." "Yes, I said. I've ordered it for you for Christmas."
After it was all over, J. and I had a quick wash-and-change and off to a birthday-and-fireworks party given by friends near Blackheath. It was a rather grand Black Tie affair, and it felt funny to be there after spending the day hectically rushing around a busy hall organising and coping with minor crises...I wore my lovely new swishy skirt and felt elegant. Urge to kick off my shoes and just flop was resisted. Wonderful fireworks on Blackheath and delicious food...home late and exhausted!
Friday, November 02, 2007
I am staying overnight near Westminster Cathedral so as to be ready for the Towards Advent Festival tomorrow morning. The chimes of Big Ben ring out through my open bedroom window. I am in St Matthew Street, just off the street-market in Strutton Ground, in a corner of Westminster which is almost like a village, but with Parliament and the Abbey ahead of us and the Cathedral just behind. This is the offices of the excellent pro-life group, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children: they will have a stall at the Festival tomorrow and material for this, along with all my items including stacks of jars of my home-made jam, wait downstairs for transportation to the Cathedral Hall.
To be in the centre of London in the middle of the night is rather exciting. I went to the Sainsbury's in Victoria Street to buy cheese for sandwiches to sell at the Festival. (The Association of Catholic Women has charge of the refreshments - all home-made by volunteers). Then, having tackled all sorts of last-minute arrangements for tomorrow, I settled here to write this blog, and relax with the Catholic Times (feature interview, by me, with Fr Peter Wilson of the University of London Catholic Chaplaincy - do read it!) and a wonderful book about the Apostles, written by the Holy Father, which I bought while in the USA...
Oh, I do hope all goes well at the Festival tomorrow...
Thursday, November 01, 2007
To the Sacred Heart Church at Wimbledon for evening Mass. Well, two Masses actually as Fr Mitchell had given me permission to hand out Towards Advent handbills so I was anxious to reach as many people as possible. LOTS of people at Mass, as yesterday for the vigil Mass. Now: our Bishops must get this message firmly:
WE VALUE OUR HOLY DAYS!
Here we are on All Saints, with people filling a big Victorian church on a November evening - because it's the feast of All Saints and we are glad to mark it!
It is one of the few Holy Days left to us, following our Bishops silly and tiresome bureacratic reasoning. If it were Ascension Day, or Corpus Christi, we'd be told we should stay at home and only celebrate on the nearest Sunday instead.
After the final Mass, I was invited to the home of the delightful E. family - oldest son Thomas is my godson - where there was mulled wine, and a candlelit room, and good conversation, and a new baby glowing with health, a perfect way to round off All Saints' Day.