Friday, October 20, 2017

Golden, orange and russet leaves glowing...

...in the afternoon sunshine...and the Thames lapping along, and  I walked from Teddington down to St Mary's University, and settled in the Senior Common Room with the history project. .  No one uses the Senior Common Room for its official purpose - it's a fine room in the Waldegrave part of the Strawberry Hill mansion, and it's used for conferences and meetings.  The whole idea of a Senior Common Room just doesn't fit into the way things work any more -  and all the teaching staff simply go to the refectory and the coffee-bar in the modern part of the University like everyone else.  But  when it's free, its dark heavy wallpaper and wide windows,  fine paintings, and reassuring bust of John Henry Newman make it a pleasant room in which to work, and a young student was playing the piano in the Waldegrave drawing room nearby, and I had a good-sized table on which to spread my notes and books. After a couple of hours or so I felt the need of Tea, and plunged back into 21st century life, with on-line topping-up of my refectory card, and fitting a plastic lid on the top of an expanded-polystyrene cup and lining up with the lads in baseball caps and girls in ripped jeans.

I continued my work in the more prosaic surroundings of the library. I needed a list of the St Mary's men who died in WWII, and asked a student if he could possibly help me by photographing the War Memorial with its list of names, on his mobile phone. He couldn't have been more helpful, and we went into the large silent chapel together, and found the Memorial and he got a good picture of it. Three long columns of names, and I started to look some of them up on the Commonwealth War Grave Commission website.

In the dusk, solemn thoughts as I swished through the golden and brown leaves in the lamplight, walking down towards the river...

Busy at...

...a meeting of the Catholic Union Education and Events Committee. Planning a day-conference for 2018, good discussion...

Partly because of something I was writing, I was thinking about the great St John Paul... the anniversary of his election fell this week.  J and I, chatting in the kitchen, raised a glass together in his memory. He is sort of our family patron saint...

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The FAITH Movement...

...is holding another series of EVENINGS OF FAITH.

All welcome.

Theme: Lord, teach us to pray

Tuesday 7 November: Jesus, my way to the Father Fr Christopher Findlay-Wilson

Tuesday 21 November: Meeting God in the Liturgy of the Church Fr Dylan James

Tuesday 5 December: Life in the Spirit: A call to continual conversion Fr Luiz Ruscillo

TIME  7:00 pm   Venue: The Challoner Room, Basement,
24 Golden Square, London, W1F 9JR Tube: Piccadilly Pizza & wine / juice served

Many thanks...

...to all who have sent kind wishes on hearing that I was unwell....

I am fine now, and back on form. I had a wonderful time relaxing w. family in the country - this  Autumn so glorious, and the company excellent!  We walked to the prehistoric (Iron Age)  White Horse at Uffington...the party included a good archaeologist and historian... we pondered Iron Age Britain...hundreds of years BC...

Also visited Wantage with its splendid statue of  King Alfred the Great...more history, all good to discuss...

We had comfortable evenings, watched the film classic  Roman Holiday (a delight - saw it on video 20 years ago, loved it then, and loved it again on DVD this time)...

I made some jam (yes, I enjoy doing that, so it was truly relaxing), bought some new shoes and even organised some Christmas presents. So it was a good time and almost worth being unwell beforehand to get this bonus holiday...








Friday, October 13, 2017

Towards the ending...

...of a busy week, I realised that it had been too busy.

Mildly enforced rest. Opportunity to catch up on reading. Recognition, on looking through the diary, that it had indeed been rather hectic. The problem is that I wouldn't have missed any of it.

A delightful visit to a delightful school to present prizes won in the 2017 Schools Bible Project.   A talk to a packed gathering of the Pure in Heart group in London.

Earlier in the week, two London Catholic History Walks...and each time there are new links with history to discover, origins of  words or place-names, folklore, battles, traditions...info on the next Walks is here

And, all week, when not otherwise engaged, busy on research work at St Mary's University and loving it.


Monday, October 09, 2017

...and then...

...a Newman Sunday....after Mass here, and a convivial lunch w. friends, off to Evensong at this church, to mark the feast-day of Bl. John Henry Newman.

There is a Night Walk through Oxford every year, retracing Newman's steps...Oriel....the University Church...and finishing at Littlemore. You can read a first-hand account of it all by Auntie here...

St Pius X...

...Church at Merrow in Surrey, is a modern building, not large, not specially beautiful, well-filled for a Saturday eve-of-Sunday Mass. Auntie Joanna is not usually among the congregation, but was there with family. If any of the congregation are reading this, and might have been puzzled by the sight of a lady carrying a small bag of squashed mushy-looking berries....it was simply that we had all been out on a last-of-the-season hunt for rosehips.  After a disappointing haul, we hurried home across the park, and there was a rush of tidying-up and getting ready for Mass...but Auntie kept the bag of hips because there might just be some more growing somewhere near the church...and in the last of the evening light, great nephew A-H and I went hunting. Alas, to no avail. We joined the rest of the family in the pew and in due course Mass began....

As a childless aunt, I am not often at Mass with family...one child was serving Mass, two more brought up the Offertory procession, another wriggled her way along the pew and snuggled up to her mother just as small children have done at church down all the years...and then at home there was a chicken supper and lots of talk...

This is the sort of day that Auntie loves best.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Auntie in action!

...giving out prizes at a school assembly. Goodness, I didn't realise I waved my arms about so much. Read here for an account of a recent prizegiving at a boys' school in Kent. I was giving out prizes won in the 2017 Schools Bible Project. More info, and a list of all the schools that won prizes, is here.   The main prizewinners will be coming to London in December to receive their prizes from one of our Trustees, Baroness Cox, at the House of Lords.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

While feeling...

...some sympathy for the poor Prime Minister, who was obviously unwell yesterday , my main concern is for our country, which must endure the nonsense which formed part of her speech. What on earth did she mean by suggesting that reinventing the legal base of marriage can in any way be regarded as compassionate? It was a cruel and mean-spirited thing to do, and has helped to undermine further the central institution on which a just society is based.

The Tories did a great deal of harm by forcing same-sex "marriage" on Britain.  The only possible thing for a just and fair government to do now is to ensure that those who defend marriage as the lifelong union of a man and a woman are given a fair hearing and not penalised. That means teachers, magistrates, school governors, youth workers, church leaders and others whose work includes teaching and guiding the young.

Mrs May is a Christian woman who personally honours marriage: it was touching to see her husband hurry to hug her as she finished her unfortunate speech. But she is Prime Minister: what matters is not her personal views on marriage, but the policies she is promoting for the rest of bus. If she cannot refrain from continuing to promote the cruel undermining of marriage, then it is probably time for her to make way for some one who will at least remain silent on the subject, and allow true freedom for policy-discussion to flourish.

The CATHOLIC YOUNG WRITER AWARD...

...launched by The Keys, the Catholic Writers' Guild, some years ago, is now sponsored by the CATHOLIC UNION CHARITABLE TRUST.

We are pleased to announce the winner of the 2017 Award, who wins the coveted Keys Shield with a cash prize and a selection of books. Two runners-up also received book prizes.  A number of other book prizes were won by pupils at various schools. You can read more here: and as one of the organisers I record my special thanks to the excellent Catholic Union Charitable Trust which makes this Award possible.


Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Today...

...the memory of Dr George Bell, Anglican bishop of Chichester, was honoured, at Evensong in the church of St Martin-within-Ludgate in the City. I went along, as I wanted to be there to honour his memory, which has been cruelly smeared in recent months by a crude and unsubstantiated allegation of sexual abuse. A number of people have been involved in seeking to clear Bell's name, and a full investigation  may well do so....but it is cruel and horrible that these smears were ever publicised. At Evensong one of his sermons was read - calling for a strong Christian renewal in the years immediately after the Second World War. He had been a courageous friend of the anti-Nazi Germans, and with equal courage spoke out against the massive slaughter of civilians in the bombing roads on German cities.

In a Traditional ceremony...

...going back centuries, Fr Alexander Sherbrooke became a Canon of Westminster Cathedral this evening. A letter was read out from the Cardinal Archbishop "by the grace of God and the favour of the Apostolic See" and then Fr Alexander and another new Canon-to-be made their solemn profession of faith and promises, and were vested with their canonical hoods... the sung Mass at the Cathedral is always glorious, but this evening had something special about it...a further chapter in the long story of the Church in our land...   After the Mass, all was joy and congratulations - there was a grand party back at St Patrick's, and when Fr Alexander arrived, we broke into "For he's a jolly good Canon!". Celebrations were unconfined - a packed, talkative, and cheery evening.

Monday, October 02, 2017

On a London pilgrimage, with a delightful...

...international group of students from Kings...honouring the English Martyrs. We began at this church, just by the Tower of London. A magnificent  church by the younger Pugin, and an active parish, with an interesting history in its own right: one of the people involved in its early stages was a nurse with Florence Nightingale and later went on to found a religious order caring for London's poor...

We stopped, of course, at the site of SS Thomas More and John Fisher's martyrdom. This area where the land rises up beyond the Tower - it's still called Tower Hill -  has remained open land down all the centuries. Once the ghastly place of executions, where crowds gathered to watch the grisly scenes,  it has long been a garden honouring the dead. Today, the execution site, adjoins the Memorial to men of two world wars who died at sea...they are honoured here, along by the Thames, because here their ships came bringing the food to this beleaguered island.

On to St Paul's and thence to Holborn...walking the route along which St Edmund Campion and others were dragged on hurdles, to face an agonising death at Tyburn.

At the convent, a beautiful Mass and a warm welcome from the good sisters...

The students were good company: sincere in their faith, open and interesting in their conversation, enthusiastic about learning the history. It was moving to be kneeling there in the lovely chapel at Tyburn, and hearing their strong young voices singing the Gloria...

This was my second walking-pilgrimage in 24 hours - my third, if you count the Blessed Sacrament Procession (see previous blog post).  After the Procession, I went with a Catholic youth group from a London parish for a Night Walk along the Southwark reaches of the Thames...again, lots of history, from the Bishop of Winchester's old palace, via the Clink Prison, to the little house where Catherine of Aragon stayed on first arriving in Britain - and on across the Millenium Bridge to St Paul's...

Late on an Autumn night, hurrying home through darkened streets, there is a curious sense of  feeling at once very comfortable and familiar - this is my London, my city, known since childhood - and faintly bleak.  A city and its history can all be very delightful - but late at night, the one corner of it that matters is home...long ago I might have travelled there by river, today it can be bus, tube, or train...having a home waiting is a mighty blessing for which to give thanks.,..




Saturday, September 30, 2017

More on...

...that LOGS pilgrimage to Walsingham here

...and in Tradition, Splendour and Prayer...

...as the annual "Two Cathedrals"  Procession of the Blessed Sacrament made its way across the Thames. This started back in 2011, in thanksgiving  to mark the first anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI's wonderful visit to Britain. It usually starts at Westminster and goes to St George's Cathedral in Southwark - but this year  we began at St G's. As we gathered, numbers seemed a bit bleak - but then as the procession started off, with Knights of St Columba marshalling us along the way, and the Bishop holding the Monstrance firmly, and  Knights of the Holy Sepulchre in white robes etc, it was all fine. Inevitably, we at the rear of the procession were out of time with the singers at the front...but that's all part of the tradition too....

A couple of people crossed themselves as we made our way through Southwark and across Lambeth Bridge. Several stared. Lots took photographs. Some asked each other what it was all about. At Westminster it was rather a fine sight as we swung out from Ambrosden Avenue and made a big loop around and into the piazza before a final approach up the main steps and through those great doors. Knights and Dames went right up into the choir stalls at the base of the sanctuary - the first time I have ever been there. A glorious Benediction with  Bishop Paul Mason of Southwark in fine voice.

An afternoon of Autumn sunlight and cascades of golden and brown leaves.  A sense of time passing. After disrobing  I made my way back to St George's to collect luggage etc...chatted to loveyl M.Teresa nuns and to various friends... it's all now become pat of this season in London...can it really be a full year since the last time I took part in that Procession?

At the Cathedral, a very grand wedding had just taken place, and I was able to duck out of sight just in time as the bride and groom emerged to a storm of cheers and rose petals.

This evening I am meeting a Catholic youth group for  Night Walk along the Thames...I'm writing this over a glass of wine and some supper beforehand...




and in joy and in peace...

...we went on pilgrimage to Walsingham. We were sent off following Mass at London Bridge, with the traditional ...blessing "May Our Lady and all the saints pray for you, an may Almighty God bless you..." and a sprinkling with holy water...and we packed everything into the coach, including a massive water-carrier - of which more later.

It was a cheerful journey. We in LOGS, the Ladies Ordinariate Group, have become a real team over the past five years, and it was joyful to be celebrating our first half-decade of friendship and  prayer and work and good humour together...

The Pilgrim Bureau, Elmham House, is welcoming and extremely comfortable. It has been my home on many a visit, notably this summer, and it was good to be back again. Our first evening was spent, after supper, simply relaxing together, enjoying a local pub, meeting other friends. The next morning's Mass opened a wonderful day. A morning of talking and planning, an overview of recent work - and of the work of the past five years - with ideas for the immediate future and for 2018, our projects for schools, our meetings and events.  For this, we gathered in the agreeable surroundings of Dowry House, run by the Community of Our Lady of Walsingham,  and concluded with time together in the lovely chapel there.

Then, in golden mellow September sunshine, we walked the Holy Mile to the Shrine, praying the Rosary. We had brought petitions with us from the parish, and added of course our own, and left them all  in Mary's good care in the Slipper Chapel. We lingered in the peaceful atmosphere of the Shrine - which I last visited when it was teeming with the buzz of hundreds and hundreds of young people at Youth 2000, and then tumbling with hordes of young families at the New Dawn event. I thought then that it was at its most delightful when busy with all these pilgrims - but somehow in peaceful September light it had a glow that held a glory of its own...

And then we picked blackberries from the hedgerows on the way back - agreeing that it was the last opportunity to do so as it was Michaelmas the next day...

And more. This has been a wonderful few days.In all sorts of ways, a time of refreshment. And then, on our final day, we filled the great water-carrier with holy water from the shrine and brought it back to London...

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

and I refer my readers...

...to this useful analysis of recent publicised events in the Church...

On Oct 2nd we will mark the 25th anniversary...

...of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

This is one of the best fruits of the Second Vatican Council, and a magnificent achievement of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Emeritus, and Pope St John Paul the Great.

Come and celebrate!

Bishop Mark O'Toole will be speaking on HOW TO BE A DISCIPLE-MAKING DISCIPLE, at St Patrick's Church, Soho Square, London W1D 4NR, at 6.30pm.

You can book your place at guildofourladyandstjoseph@gmail.com

The Catechism has now become central to Catholic life. At the big Youth 2000 gathering at Walsingham this summer, a copy was given to every young person. Copies have been sent as prizes to winners of the 2017 Catholic Young Writer Award. The  YOUCAT Youth Catechism and the Compendium of the Catechism  have proved hugely popular: the former is now standard-issue in Catholic schools in Britain, and the latter is a standard Confirmation gift...

Come and help celebrate, and learn about how to evangelise....




Monday, September 25, 2017

Not as advertised....

...and a story that collapsed.

Some media reports said that a letter had come come from leading Catholic academics, addressing the H. Father and suggesting that they were giving him some sort of formal reprimand.. But it turned out to be a bit of a damp squib.

The signatories aren't leading figures in Catholic academia. Many aren't active academics at all, none are bishops in communion with the Church, none are leaders of religious communities, colleges, seminaries or universities.The thing wasn't at all as had been advertised.

Papal statements don't have to be beyond criticism. But making a public campaign denouncing various Papal statements is not the way to help him in his pastoral office.  And getting together an assorted group of people to do such public campaigning is  a rather dreadful way to spend time.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Sunday Mass...

...at the Church of the Most Precious Blood at the Borough, London Bridge. There is a children's choir which is now singing beautifully. Before every choir practice, they line up in front of the sanctuary and genuflect together, before making their way to the choir loft, where they say the Prayer of the choristers of the Royal School of Church Music "Bless O Lord, us Thy servants..."

Today  at Mass we gave thanks for the harvest, and gifts of food and other necessities, collected for the Manna Centre, were stacked on a table.I made a  modest Harvest contribution selling home-made jam, rose-hip syrup, and other goodies. It was also the feast of Our Lady of Walsingham, so we sang a hymn in her honour, which I had never heard before joining the Ordinariate, and is rather lovely. I cannot find it anywhere on the internet so cannot provide a link - can anyone help?

The Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham...

...held its annual Festival yesterday. A glorious Mass in Westminster Cathedral, using the Ordinariate Form. Splendid, hearty singing. Conference in the big Hall at Westmnster City School . The entrance has a fine War Memorial listing the names of former pupils who fell in the 1914-18 war, with, written in gold above, "They died for England. Thou for England live."  It was fitting that the first talk of the day was on England's Christianity and the role of the Ordinariate in evangelising our country today, with an emphasis on the culture and patrimony of the centuries...Fr Ed Tomlinson spoke well, with some images of the architecture and people who have written the story of the Faith in our land...

Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith spoke in the afternoon about the blight of internet porn and how to counter it - a challenging important talk.


Friday, September 22, 2017

More on Holy Days...

...and with some interesting information on the importance of the number 40. Read here

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!

Friday, September 08, 2017

This weekend...

... (ie Sept 9th and  10th) I am guiding a pilgrim group from Trinidad around London. They are flying in from Fatima, and I'll be taking them to, among other places, Westminster Cathedral, and Ealing Abbey...and, looking ahead, my diary includes a school prizegiving, a London History Walk for Uniuversity students, and an Ordinariate gathering at Walsingham...

Yesterday brought my Birthday, and it was spent very happily. At this church, Evensong and an Ordinariate Mass began again after the summer break, so I offered to do pasta-and-prosecco afterwards (my kind husband provided the prosecco!). So after a beautiful time in church - where we had my favourite evening hymn -  a good number of us  gathered around one big long table in the parish room around a long table...I'd prepared two enormous dishes of pasta, plus olive bread etc and it all worked out well...

Earlier, I had spent the afternoon at the nursing home where my mother spent - very peacefully and contentedly - her last years. It had become a home-from-home for me during that time...a place where I was always welcome...

Mother's Birthday was September 10th, and we liked the fact that our birthdays were so close together. In recent years we often merged the celebrations...so it was very special thoughts that I went to St Teresa's on my Birthday afternoon - my first since Mother died -  taking with me some home-made jam, just as I have done on all the previous Septembers...on arrival I was enveloped in the warmest of welcomes...hugs, birthday greetings, and so much love and care.

It was one of the most beautiful experiences, and a perfect way to spend my Birthday afternoon..."and your Mother is marking the day too - safely in God's care..." kind Sister P. reminded me...

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

On the feast of St Gregory the Great...to Winchester...

...for a gathering of Knights and Dames of St Gregory and of the Holy Sepulchre.

We processed - robes, swords,cloaks etc - into St Peter's Church for Mass. A fine large church with a glorious stained glass window dominating the sanctuary...

Afterwards, an excellent Lunch, and  a talk by Dr Michael Straiton telling of the origins of "Peter's Pence" - did you know that it originated with silver pennies collected by Offa of Mercia from among his prosperous farmers and tradesfolk?

Odd to be in Winchester...city of King Arthur, of St Swithun, of Jane Austen... pondering  St Gregory and his sending St Augustine to us...and to be doing so in this 21st century, with ghastly world events centred on North Korea...and the sense of a collapsing West, and fewer and fewer people in our land naming themselves as Christians..




Monday, September 04, 2017

ALLELUIA!!!

REJOICE!!!

REJOICE!!!!!!!!!

The Holy Days of Epiphany and the Ascension have been returned to us!!!

They are reinstated on their proper days, with effect from the First Sunday of Advent this year, 2017

Read here...and rejoice!

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Cardinal Gerhard Mueller...

...has given an interview in the latest FAITH magazine....

Want a copy? Send a Comment to this blog with your FULL POSTAL ADDRESS (which I will not publish). Offer limited - first come, first-served.

The summer...

...draws to its close....I spent Friday gathering blackberries and rosehips with young great-nephews and nieces. We also gathered lots of scratches and nettle-stings, but weren't bothered - we returned to the kitchen in triumph to spend a most satisfactory time producing a grand stocks of jams and syrups which will, as great-nephew A-H. put it "see us safely through the winter". He wrote the labels and the jars all look splendid stacked on the shelf, and a younger brother recorded the whole thing, plus Auntie Joanna's commentary at each stage with cookery instructions etc, for us to watch again later ....for such is the way things are in the 21st century.


Pope Francis: marriage can only be between a man and a woman...

... "we cannot change it. That is the nature of things" and he is rather emphatic about it. Also about how  teaching children they can change gender fosters mistakes about the truth... read here...

Saturday, September 02, 2017

THE CATHOLIC WOMEN OF THE YEAR....

...for 2017 have been announced. Info here...

Friday, September 01, 2017

Home...

...and I caught the train from Kings Lynn to  London Kings Cross, which was somehow pleasing...

At Kings Cross, a quick Tube ride to The Borough, where I was due to lead a Catholic History Walk - in pouring rain after Walsingham's golden sunshine. But somehow it was all great fun - splashing through the London puddles to glorious Wren churches and enjoying the riches of St Magnus the Martyr, and  The Monument, and on past the old Billingsgate Fish Market...

We finished at All Hallows by the Tower - saved from the Great Fire which didn't reach this far.

Back to Southwark and just time for a quick mug of tea before an evening Walk covering the same route...this time finishing at the site of Sts More and Fisher's martyrdom. It has its own small garden, with a plaque bearing their names and those of others who perished there. This whole area, never built over, is a place of solemn memorial...much of it dedicated to the men who died at sea bringing food to this island in two world wars. London is no longer a great port, but even in my childhood there were ships and docks and the Merchant Navy here...

At Walsingham...

...for the EWTN gathering, we stayed at Dowry House in the High Street. WARMLY RECOMMENDED It's run by the delightful young sisters of the Community of Our Lady of Walsingham, and has fascinating layers of history, from Medieval beams to a later Dutch-style gable (lots of Dutch influence on this stretch of the East Anglian coast)...and the Sisters have their own chapel across the courtyard where we gathered for early morning Mass. The community is growing fast and although they turn away many of those who apply, they badly need a new convent as their own accommodation is too cramped...

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

EWTN...

...the international Catholic TV network based in America now has a base in Britain too. Annunciation House in Walsingham was formally opened today, with Bishop Alan Hopes blessing the house, and Michael Warsaw of EWTN cutting a ribbon across the main door....and a goodly  crowd of people from all sorts of groups involved with Walsingham and with various Catholic groups and organisations all celebrating afterwards at Elmham House the Shrine Bureau.This whole project is part of a great teaming up with the Shrine at Walsingham and Mgr John Armitage its Rector...great plans for the future and many good things will flow from all of this for the evangelisation of ur country from England's Nazareth...

Monday, August 28, 2017

How to describe...

...Youth 2000 at Walsingham?

The Blessed Sacrament standing atop of a glowing stack of candles. Young faces, hundreds of them, lit by the glow. Music, singing, long periods of silence. All of this in a vast tented cathedral...and all in the glorious Norfolk countryside....

The particular theme of Youth 2000 is an encounter with God: their  specially-made stand for the candles and the Blessed Sacrament evokes thoughts of the Burning Bush, and God's presence among men.

Young people come from across Britain: they bring their own tents and they camp, and large fields adjoining the Shrine at Walsingham are taken over for this purpose. In addition to to great Tabernacle Tent, there are other marquees - this year labelled Goodness, Truth, and Beauty - where talks, workshops and discussions are held. There is a full programme, with opportunities to learn about all sorts of things, from Lectio Divina to the Church's teaching on marriage, from poetry to monasticism...

Auntie Joanna's tasks included a talk on "The Gender Agenda"  - a topic covered at the New Dawn event, and other Catholic gatherings this summer - and to lead a walk around Walsingham Village, telling its history...

All week the splendid Friars of the Renewal have been a ministering presence, and it is a joy to see them in their grey habits, along with the Sisters of the Renewal, Dominicans, and members of other religious orders, plus a great many parish priests from various parts of the country...




Monday, August 21, 2017

Spent the day...

...wrapping, packing and posting prizes for the 2017 Schools Bible Project, which attracts entries from schools across Britain. A small team of volunteers worked hard all day in the John Paul II Room at a local church - a large room in a well-equipped parish centre...we needed all the space as we worked with stacks and stacks of books, wrapping materials, brochures, and letters, with relays of parcels being hauled along to the local Post Office, and brews of tea being brought up from the kitchen.

This  nationwide project invites pupils at secondary schools to have an encounter with Christ by studying his life....they imagine themselves present at one of the major events and write about it.  Prizes are awarded for the best essays, and the main winners come to London to receive theirs from our Trustees, at a gathering traditionally held at Westminster and preceded by a tour of the Houses of Parliament. Other prizes are mailed to schools

Late at night, after tackling emails etc here at home, I browsed the internet, picked up news and views from various websites and blogs and so on...much Vatican gossip, the Pope v.v. unpopular etc. It all seems remote from the real work of Christian service and evangelisation.

Met...

...Clare Anderson, with whom I co-authored a book on St John Paul the Great and have done some TV work ....she will be spending much of this week, with me and other volunteers, packing and posting prizes for the 2017 Schools Bible Project.. We mused on the absurdities of living as Christians in the dying culture of the West...we swapped  news (weddings, babies, joyful family things - a while back, we discovered, following a  dinner discussion about family trees, that our husbands are in fact distant cousins, and we all find this rather fun and satisfying)...we talked books and ideas and current events....we agreed to meet tomorrow for Mass at the local church where we will be using the John Paul Room for the packing-and-posting work...

It's been a busy weekend. Sunday Mass  here and the children's choir is back after the summer break. Then a cheery family afternoon with a beloved nephew (helping Auntie with computer problems - see below) and his delightful wife and enchanting children, plus ice-cream and noise and fun and plans for blackberrying....

On Saturday evening a rather splendid dinner at this University where I am doing research into its history. Former students celebrating a 50th anniversary reunion....delicious meal in a candlelit setting in the Waldegrave Rooms: I was asked to speak about the history, and also gathered info, anecdotes, contact details and more...

Sunday, August 20, 2017

and...

...to update yourself on the London Catholic History Walks, read here...

I left...

...my laptop on a train, so if you are wondering why there have no entries to this Blog for the past, week, you now know the reason.  Ghastly panic....contacting Lost Property etc etc...but decision taken to buy a new laptop, and  crucial work safe because I had emailed it anyway...so...

Using various borrowed computers, I have been able to access emails and deal with all my work, but access to the Blog proved impossible. All is now rectified thanks to a generous husband and a wonderful nephew....I now have a new laptop and it is all connected and things start afresh....

And if you want to know about my work, you might get a flavour of it here...

Thursday, August 10, 2017

...and if you want...

...some of Auntie Joanna's Blackberry Jam, Bramble Cheese, or Apple Butter, you must come to the 11 am Mass at the Church of the Most Precious Blood, London Bridge, this Sunday, as there will be lots and lots on sale over coffee-n-biscuits afterwards...

If the nice "Yorkmum"...

...who recently wrote to me at this Blog would give me an EMAIL ADDRESS (which I will not publish) I would love to reply...

To Sussex...

...for a meeting with the wonderful team that run the admin for the Catholic History Walks...over a cheery supper at their home not far from the sea, we reminisced about how the History Walks project began some years ago, and looked at practical plans for the future...

Then the next morning, a glorious walk along by Chichester Harbour. Blackberries ripening on the bushes, wide fields where the harvest has just been brought in, and the great spire of Chichester Cathedral as a landmark in the distance. Out across the water, dozens of sailing boats nipping about, and at the harbour entrance, some very impressive motor craft moving through the lock gates taking people out for a day of cruising...

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

and then...

...after some repacking and organising things at home, another trip to Walsingham. But this time, a Walking Pilgrimage. The Dominican sisters of St Joseph organise an annual John Paul Walk for the New Evangelisation. It starts with an open-air Mass at Bury St Edmunds, but I joined them at Swaffham. Here, we all slept overnight in the sports hall of this school...and after an early morning start, we walk along the footpaths and lanes of Norfolk, alongside great fields of sugar-beet and rustling wheat, making our way sometimes through nettles and brambles, sometimes across mud and puddles, sometimes along comfortable cart-tracks or lovely soft grass...

Mass at this church at Castle Acre, by kind invitation of the vicar and churchwarden. A picnic in the churchyard: Sister Julie is in charge of catering, driving a minibus with supplies of bread and ham and cheese and apples and crunchy chocolate biscuit bars... Then on again, praying the Rosary, and hearing some excellent catechesis from Sister Hyacinthe.

Another warm welcome from the Anglican Rector at West Raynham, and an unforgettable Evensong, led by  him in the ruins of an old church  before a hearty supper in the village hall. The Rector's wife brought glorious rich fruit cake, and a kind parishioner brought delicious scones with jam and cream. We had use of showers and bathrooms in a local houses, where we were also able to bed down for the night.

And then, on the Sunday morning, the final march into Walsingham,singing and praying...our young Dominican priest joined other clergy to concelebrate Mass, as we joined other pilgrims in the packed church. Then a final walk - this time along the Holy Mile along the old railway line, finishing with Benediction in Church of the Annunciation...

This pilgrimage is so fabulous that it's hard to say goodbye at the end...long farewells and hugs and swapping of email addresses and so on...the minibus to Cambridge, and while the young people chattered away I just slumbered. And then the train to London, and so home...

After the New Dawn gathering at Walsingham...

...I paid an all-too-brief visit to the FAITH Movement's great Summer gathering. As always, crowds of young people. A ceilidhi was in progress as I arrived - there is always a strong Scottish contingent at FAITH events, kilted and enthusiastic, and the dancing goes on until a late hour. The week included daily Mass and prayer, talks and sports and more...it has all grown hugely from the days when we gathered, 40 years ago, in much smaller numbers, at what is now Roehampton University. But as the music swirled and the talk was warm and lively around the bar, and there was the buzz of youth and energy, lots and lots of  laughter and fun...it brought joyful memories and an enormous sense of gratitude...

The Summer Session is now held at this school with its beautiful grounds, approached by a walk from the railway station along by lush meadows in the fold of the Surrey hills - every year, I relish this lovely walk, and the peace it brings, especially as I know it will end with a meeting of old friends and a sense of homecoming.

for the Feast of the Transfiguration...

...I found this a moving and powerful read. Blessed Paul VI died on this feast-day. We owe him a debt of thanks for, among much else, the courageous encyclical Humanae Vitae...

Friday, August 04, 2017

The Rosary...

...said - and sung - as a vast procession made its way down to the ancient Walsingham Priory, and then the cool lawn beneath one's feet as we settled for Mass in the Priory grounds...this is always one of the highlights of the New Dawn gathering. An enormous crowd - if the old Priory Church had still been standing, we would have filled it. Thanks to Henry VIII we were in the ruins, and spilling out from what would have been the church, into all the ancilliary areas, and still the crowd kept coming, singing, down the Holy Mile from the Slipper Chapel at Houghton St Giles...

New Dawn was a glorious few days, and it was a delight to meet friends, to have some wonderful discussions, to celebrate the Faith and to tackle serious subjects in an atmosphere of prayer...

There is an underlying seriousness when Catholics get together at present. Things in our country feel bleak, with a sense of social and moral fragility and breakdown,  an awareness of great confusion and anger among too many of the young who have been given no understanding of what life is about or how much they are loved by God...

The poor old CofE is not helping much...read Auntie on the subject here...

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

and now...

...on to Norfolk, to the shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham, for the great NEW DAWN gathering...

I'm staying at the very comfortable Elmham House, the Shrine Bureau - and am writing this in the pub next door, where I have been enjoying a good supper and a pin-and-tonic while using the somewhat intermittent Norfolk wifi to catch up on my emails. Which gives me also the opportunity to offer you the latest Portal magazine, in which there is a feature by Auntie about Bl John Henry Newman and a recent trip to his childhood home along by the Thames at Ham...

New Dawn is  rather wonderful...lots of lovely families, a variety of talks on Catholic doctrine and moral teachings, rousing  singing - though not all to my taste (the words are inspiring, tunes and general style...not so sure) -  an atmosphere of prayer,  enthusiasm, and great goodwill,  There is a tremendous sense of loyalty to the Church  and knowledgeable, well-informed discussion about living as Catholics today and celebrating the joy of the Faith.  There is much concern about the threats to Christian families seeking to raise their children in freedom. Of course, some can and do educate their own children at home - but this is not possible for all, and anyway the Church must, as of right, be free to run schools and colleges and has a reasonable claim on public funds for some of this as she educates vast numbers of children and has done so for generations. The history of education in our country is Church history.

From the Thames Valley - via a rushed couple of days at home in London - to the wide Norfolk fields...it's been an opportunity to feast on a glory of English views...

New Dawn happens in a vast  near the Shrine, with families camping in adjoining field, and a linked youth camp in another alongside...one of the most powerful sights occurred this evening, as people were chatting in the evening sunshine, children frolicking about, strains of singing coming from one group, a buzz of talk from another....the sudden sound of a bell ringing, and a little procession crossed the meadow, a robed priest bearing the Blessed Sacrament aloft, preceded by a server.. Children and adults alike knelt down with complete naturalness and  quiet reverence. A lovely moment.

I remembered a similar moment last year and the beauty of it.  Oh, may there be, in long and happy years ahead, children at play in a Norfolk field and kneeling joyfully before the Lord in his Sacrament is borne along....

To the Thames Valley...

...and the EVANGELIUM conference, in the splendid surroundings of The Oratory School, Woodcote. This conference, now in its 10th year, draws a good numbers of young Catholics from across Britain. Excellent presentations by, among other, Dr Jacob Phillips, on the theology of Pope Benedict XVI,  Fr Andrew Pinsent on Faith and Science, Sr Hyacinthe du fos du Rau on on the Virtue of Hope...glorious singing at Mass every day in the big chapel with its poignant War Memorials...a talkative social evening in the main hall with its portraits of the Pope and the Queen and boards with listing School Captains...

I was speaking on The Gender Agenda, and began by expressing thanks to HM Govt for producing such a grossly absurd and horrible plan (changing birth certificates at will when people decide they'd rather pretend they were born a member of the opposite sex) thus ensuring me a large audience - every seat taken and I gave the talk twice.


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Been reading...

...Bernard Levin's The way we Live Now...some of his best journalism from the 1980s. Recommended. He is particularly good against cant and humbug.

It's distressing to recognise how much more open and large-minded such a commentator could be at that time: today vicious correction would result following some of his more acute observations. For example, he explores the shrieking attacks by feminists on Erin Pizzey, and is also trenchant on the subject of the relationship between rights and duties...

If we all...

...picked up just one piece of litter a day, and put it in the nearest litter-bin, how much, much more pleasant our cities, suburbs and countryside would be...please join me in this campaign. One piece of litter a day.... 

If necessary, carry the wretched bit of litter with you until you find a bin. (I carry a small packet of baby-wipes to clean my hands). You will find bins in shops and in fast-food places, and in offices and on trains...and more than once I have dropped in to an estate-agent or similar office and said "May I just drop this in the bin here?" and have never been refused.

Incidentally, one of the things I have learned in this campaign is that smoking is still very popular, but that people are uglier about it. They aren't allowed a smokers-corner in a pub or any other comfortable place.  So far more cigarette-packets are now dropped in the street, which is the only place where people are allowed to smoke. The habit of simply chucking the packet down especially applies to younger people, who have not been given any code of manners for smoking: they don't know about bins and ash-trays, about offering a light to others, or passing around a packet to share while sitting comfortably together talking. They smoke in a rather ugly, semi-furtive, greedy sort of way...it's not unlike the ugly shovelling of food that the overloaded-hamburger-in-polystyrene-box has produced. The cigarette and the hamburger are both consumed hurriedly in the street, and the wrappers discarded, and the everyday human ordinariness of eating and talking and relaxing together somehow just isn't there...


Monday, July 24, 2017

The lush meadows and glorious hills...

...of the West country...staying in a Tudor cottage... visits to family and friends...

A crowded Mass on Sunday, lots of holidaymakers in the small Catholic church of a seaside town...

In the evening, we went to see the new film Dunkirk.  If you don't understand about why it is all so central to the British tribal inheritance, you can learn a bit here.  And here.   If you were born into the tribe...be ready for what will happen to you when this superbly crafted film, with no gimmicks, shows the little ships...coming steadily across the choppy waters of the Channel...oh, I don't need to explain.

If you don't gulp a bit,be ashamed.




Saturday, July 22, 2017

It is important to read....

...this interview about Mgr Georg Ratzinger.

Irina Ratushinskaya...

...the heroic Russian poet has died. She was 63.  Imprisoned by the KGB, she became a voice for freedom.

"No, I am not afraid..." Her poems, smuggled out to the West, had drawn  her plight to our attention.

Keston College, headed by Rev Michael Bordeaux spread news of this remarkable young writer, with a leaflet carrying the message from her husband  Igor "Help me to save my wife". Campaigns, vigils of prayer...I remember sacrificing a bedsheet to paint her name on it, to make an emormous banner, held aloft on struts of wood... a memorable Christmas Eve, standing with placards outside the Soviet Embassy, and passers-by giving us support on their way home from Midnight Mass... the splendid Rev Dick Rodgers undertook a public fast...

After her release, she was flown to Britain... a vast crowd greeted her at Heathrow Airport...the conversations we had with her and Igor stay in the mind. Most of all, I remember her telling us  about the experience that she described in one of her poems -of being in a freezing, filthy prison cell at night, crouched against a wall, and experiencing a sudden glow of joy and warmth: some one out there is praying for me at this moment...


Thursday, July 20, 2017

USEFUL MEETING...

...of the Catholic Women of the Year Luncheon Committee!  Somehow, a group of ladies organising a Luncheon sounds like the last word in haven'they-got-something-better-to-do?  activity....but this is a substantial national event, bringing together Catholic women from across Britain, that marks its 50th anniversary, its Golden Jubilee next year.

The 2017 gathering will be something of a preparation for the big Jubilee celebration, but also a great event in its own right...

Today we elected the four Catholic women of the year - as always, by secret ballot, by a committee drawn from representatives of the main Catholic women's organisations in Britain.

Book the date for the 2017 Luncheon in your diary: Nov 3rd 2017 in London. Tickets £45, money raised goes to charity.  The four Catholic Women of the Year, plus our Guest Speaker and other details, will be announced next week (letters have to go to the four first!).

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Conversation with ...

...a student, training to be a teacher. He was interested in the college history, enjoyed looking through some of the archive material, helped a bit with going through papers in files from the 19th century. He was interesting and communicative and I only later realised why: he didn't use the word 'like in every other phrase. This meant that everything flowed in coherent sentences.

Is this a sign of a new trend, offering hope?




Monday, July 17, 2017

A busy day...

...organising the reading and judging of entries for the 2017 Schools Bible Project. Schools from across Britain enter this Project, which involves studying some of the great events of Christ's life and writing about them, showing some understanding of what the New Testament is all about...

The main winners come to London to receive their prizes - cash awards for their schools plus book prizes for themselves - from our Trustee, Baroness Cox. The Christian Projects group - it is a charity established back in the 1950s, bringing together Christians from different mainstream denominations - is able to cover the fares of the students and their parents and/or teachers.

There are also a number of general prizewinners, and these receive book prizes, posted out to their schools. Doing this packing and mailing is always a massive task, for which a team of volunteers assembles at a church hall in late August, so that the prizes are waiting for the pupils when they arrive back at school in September.

Today's essay-reading was also a marathon session, but one that was well organised, with a wonderful welcome in a lovely house and garden, and a light lunch, so that the work went well in an atmosphere of great enthusiasm and goodwill.


Friday, July 14, 2017

Thursday, July 13, 2017

and if you want to read...

...the latest FAITH magazine, you can do so here... features on faith and freedom, Original Sin, "Making Gay Okay"....

...and Wednesday.....

...which I also spent at St Mary's - this time busy in the archives, working my way through the records of  the 1930s and 40s...fascinating stuff with WWII bombing and so on...I found this event happening in the chapel in the evening. A lively call with something of the old-fashioned mission-hall about it, but with a loud American zest punctuated with zappy music...  Absolutely packed, a different crowd  from yesterday and again hordes and hordes of young Catholics... at the end, there was a rather splendid sound with everyone singing  "How great Thou art"...

I had spent part of the day very agreeably with Pia Matthews, who teaches at St Mary's...we went to Mass in the chapel and then had a delightful picnic (all provided by Pia - she bakes her own bread and scones etc...wonderful) in the grounds. It's a real privilege to be working here , in this glorious setting with green lawns and Horace Walpole's extraordinary Gothic toy palace with its Waldegrave embellishments...eating scones with jam and cream...

And then in the evening, to see a whole new generation rediscovering the Faith in new ways...

The Church is facing problems in Britain that were unimaginable in the 1930s and 40s...the St Mary's of those days was a vastly different place, in a vastly different country. But  the Faith is the same, and offering the same challenge with a forthright freshness that somehow has a new vigour....it is also very different, incidentally, from what was on offer back in the 1970s...and in many ways much, much more appealing.

We are going to need this vigour and strength in the days ahead. It is strange to spend a working day looking across history to the vanished Britain of the 1940s, where it was normal to assume some common values about things like human identity, marriage, parenthood, and people's rights and duties,  and then to go home to late-night headlines where same-sex "marriage" and the promotion of abortion are everyday realities...

At a Catholic University...

...a couple of astonishing events...

The first, on Tuesday,  took me by surprise. I'd had an infuriating day. Arrived early at Euston to catch a train to Lancaster for an important meeting. No trains. Everything cancelled - something had happened on the line near Milton Keynes. Spent some time emailing to explain to others at the meeting etc etc...

To avoid a waste day, I went on to St Mary's. But here, frustration again - the Library was closed for a staff training day. No access to archives so no work  possible on the history project. The study area was open, however, so I settled somewhat grumpily to some other work, After a couple of hours I happened to be looking out of the window when Fr Stephen Langridge was walking past, chatting with a group of people...he is parish priest of nearby Richmond and a great friend and I went out to greet him. And found I was in the middle of a wonderful gathering of students from across Britain and America - an event called The Commission, organised by FOCUS.

I met the founder, Curtis Thomas, and realised that here was a good feature for the Catholic press and websites, so whipped out my notebook for an interview. And then in due course I found myself sitting at the back of a well-filled chapel, listening to him give an excellent talk, and realising that I was seeing something that is a major part of the New Evangelisation.

It was all rather exciting - and I would never have encountered it, had not the trains to the North West been stopped for the day....


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Meanwhile, LOGS thrives...

...read here...

IMPOSSIBLE...

...to be ironic these days.

I wrote a spoof (see below) about a lobby group campaigning against the reality of oceans and land.

Today, this news from the Church of England.

You couldn't make it up.  You honestly couldn't.




Monday, July 10, 2017

...and you might also enjoy...

...a gentle look at a subject which seems trivial but has a message too...

The government has just approved funds for...

...the Hydro-NO! group, which is working with schools and youth groups to challenge stereotypical beliefs about artificial barriers between land masses.

"After being marginalised for so long, and subject to hydro-abuse from so many sides, it's a relief to be recognised at last"   said leading campaigner Itsa Nydea. "What a lot of people just don't realise is how prejudices about land and water over the centuries have created a complete hydro-based set of beliefs which need to be challenged by those of us who know a different reality."

Hydro-NO  is working on new material for geography classes that show that there is not necessarily water between Britain and France, and certainly none between  Europe and America.

"It's all  about recognising where we are at today. Hydro-based notions of the past are just, in various ways, forms of oppression."

A booklet for schools says: "We all know that whether there is water or not is something that can depend on feelings: mirages in the desert prove that.  So it is just prejudice to suggest that we should use words like 'ocean' to describe something that could actually be dry land tomorrow if people really felt, in themselves, that it was."

"Over the centuries people have even given names to large areas of what they describe as 'sea'.  This is really offensive to those of us who just don't accept the idea that large tracts of water exist between different continents. Expressions like 'Atlantic Ocean' and 'North Sea' really need to be banned."

Transport authorities are among those backing the campaign and are arranging that bus drivers using expressions like "seaside" or "river" are penalised.

Hoc est. iocus. Sed...





A most successful....

...Catholic History Walk, from St Martin-in-the-Fields, down to the Strand and then along the river to the Inns of Court...

A good crowd and a good spirit of cheerful friendliness...

With large numbers, it is always a question whether or not to use a microphone system. The one we have is rather heavy - for the Martyrs Walk, we had it in a suitcase-on-wheels which worked extremely well, but it seems cumbersome to take it around London on each and every walk.  So I rely on my own voice - which works well enough when we are in parks and gardens, so today's walk, along the Embankment where there are lovely gardens all the way, was a delight.

Next walks:  info here...

PRAYER...

...today and every day over the next weeks, for Cardinal George Pell, unjustly accused of crime. This is a man of integrity, courage and decency and he merits our prayers and support at this tough time.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

We were standing in Westminster,...

...on that corner of Whitehall by Parliament Square, with the Abbey behind us, and tourists surging, hot and crowded, down along past the sad imperial splendour of the Foreign Office. I had been pointing out the Cenotaph, and waving towards Trafalgar Square beyond. We'd covered some centuries of history and pondered Roman invasion and ancient Britons, Saxons and Vikings and Normans... and high Middle Ages and Reformation sorrows and Victorian gothic revival and 20th century wars...

And we had really finished the day's walk and there was still lots to discuss and the young people from Slovakia and Rumania were still full of questions and comments.

"How was it...I mean, really, how was it...that a small island, away from the rest of Europe...becomes the centre of a great Empire, and now today we all speak English - we learn it in school, and it is spoken in Africa, in America.... How was it....why was it...from just this one small island?"

And I walked back across the river with those words echoing in my heart. How was it... why was it? This island. This beloved small island with its astonishing story, its astonishing place in history.


As regular readers...

... of this Blog will know, I regularly pick up litter from the street and place it in bins. Two reactions: older (over 40) people say "Good for you" or similar, and sometimes join in to help, younger ( especially under 25) say "Why do that? It's what people are paid to do"  or similar. This latter group seem absolutely baffled by any idea of sharing a common responsibility for public places, or of doing something  slightly unpleasant for the common good. Once it's explained, they can get quite interested.

Incidentally, I always carry "baby-wipes" to clean my hands.

If each of us picked up one piece of litter a day, our streets would be much, much more pleasant for us all.


On a piercingly hot day...

...a beautiful and cool boat-trip along the Thames, with members of the Ladies Ordinariate Group and other friends, to visit Bl. John Henry Newman's house at Ham, just beyond Richmond.  The house has for many years been used as part of Grey Court School, and indeed has given its name to the school. From the outside, it is just as the young John Henry would have known it  - except that it now bears a blue plaque honouring him! - and we looked at it and wondered which window belonged to the nursery where he slept...in his writing, he recalled lying in bed and watching the candle being lit in the window, the celebrate the victory of the Battle of Trafalgar...

We'd enjoyed a talkative pub lunch at Richmond and after the walk along the riverside path to Ham in searing sunshine, it was grand to find another pub that was glad to serve us tea...

Then the bus into Richmond and the train back to London...where I went on by Tube  to Baker Street and thence to St James, Spanish Place where I met a group of lively youngsters for yet another History Walk.  This is a group organised by Fr Hugh Mackenzie and we walked through Marylebone to Tyburn, discussing the history it all - the hidden Tyburn River, the origin of Marylebone's name,  and more...


Tuesday, July 04, 2017

A reunion...

...with friends who studied with me at the Maryvale Institute.  One, like me, is now a lecturer there. We met at London Bridge for Mass and then walked back towards Southwark to find the cafe where we used to have lunch after our exams at the Amigo Hall. We couldn't find it, but settled for a pub nearby and had a long, talkative, utterly enjoyable lunch....

Afterwards, as we stood, still talking, on the street corner, Fr Chris Pearson from Precious Blood Church - where we'd been to Mass earlier - came up on his bike. He was amused to see us still chattering away...

He had been at Westminster Cathedral, where he does confession-duty. Crowds had been gathering there: the new Nuncio was being formally welcomed.

I walked on back towards the Tube, and found our cafe at once - we'd been looking so hard we missed it! next time...

In the evening, to an Evening of Faith organised by the FAITH Movement in the Challoner Room at Golden square, Piccadilly. Excellent talk exploring the Faith Movement in the context of the New Movements in the Church, 20th and 21st centuries....speaker Julie Mersey is writing a doctoral thesis on the subject... lively discussion over wine and pizza, and then some of us walked back across the river to Waterloo, in the warm summer night...down past the Duke of York's column, and on past the Foreign Office and the Guards monument,, talking history as we went. Just as we arrived in Parliament Square, Big Ben struck the hour.  There is scaffolding all along that side of the Houses of Parliament, as major repairs begin.  How odd it will feel when Big Ben goes silent - apparently the repairs may take up to six years...

...and on a current issue...

...you owe it to yourself to read this...

Monday, July 03, 2017

Young men...

... who are not academic or who have specific skills, are at a disadvantage, compared to other groups (young women, older men, babies, children, older women)  in modern Britain.  Their specific attributes - physical strength, daring, team loyalty - are not those that find an immediate use in a country which has less heavy industry than in the recent past. The current methods of education don't really suit them: they need and like a greater sense of structure and immediate purpose. History, for example,  is made dull for them by focusing on themes and messages rather than dates and information and exciting stories. And they lack role models, especially fathers.

Talking - or, better, listening - to young men in prison it is noticeable that the one thing they have in common is a lack of a good father. What are now fashionably called "male role models" are also generally missing: we need more men as teachers and youth leaders. We need more priests.

A good prison chaplain is a real blessing. They like greeting him as "Father", they listen to him, they go to his talks and lessons, and  go to Confession to him. They take hin seriously,  follow his instructions and ask his help. They will take catechetical instruction  from some one who is seen as his assistant and they like the sense that there is a strong Church of which they are a part. They need this as a clear form of identity faced with considerable Islamic pressure.

I find that the young men enjoy a structured, rather formal preparation for Baptism and/or Confirmation. They are happy to report on work done - prayers learned, information grasped, sections of a workbook completed. The sense of sitting rather formally and working on a specific topic, with a sense of  seriousness, appeals - as does the tribal sense of belonging to the Church, having a Rosary and a Bible, signing up for Mass (and working to turn the large general chaplaincy area into quite a good chapel with statues, kneelers, sanctuary, altar,  font, etc). They like a good formal liturgy and relish singing good hymns.

The prison that I visit offers plenty of sports and has generally good facilities, plus decent food and clean cells. The young men have opportunities to train for various jobs, and there is encouragement and support in making realistic plans for the future.

Pray for the people in our prisons.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

...and on Sunday....

...the Ordinariate church at London Bridge honoured the Most Precious Blood, with a special Mass celebrated by Mgr Keith Newton, lovely singing from the children's choir, and a good-sized congregation.  Then on to the Redcross Gardens for a parish picnic. The wedding couple from yesterday had, as a thank-you gift to the parish, arranged for quantities of champagne, which was trundled across to the Garden in big buckets filled with ice...


A London summer weekend...

...began w. the Mass that is held on the first Saturday of every month here, honouring Our Lady of Walsingham.  In place of the Bidding Prayers, we go to the Lady Altar, place ourselves spiritually at Walsingham  and say the Walsingham Prayer...

Afterwards, there is coffee and chat, and sometimes a talk on some aspect of Walsingham...

Then I went off to do some work, having brought my laptop with me. Like many another Londoner, I sit in coffee-shops and work...

In the afternoon I returned to the church briefly, as there was a wedding - at which, for the first time, an embroidered kneeler made by Auntie, was to be used. It's a special design, showing wedding bells and two interlocking rings, and  so on...I have been working on it, during train journeys, and in quiet moments, for the past several weeks...it was nice to see it in use, although I just stood briefly at the back of the crowded church before hurrying off...

In the evening, NIGHTFEVER at St Patrick's, Soho. To get a sense of what it's like, you could read the latest issue of OREMUS magazine, in which I have written a description of it all...

Saturday, July 01, 2017

...and on Cardinal George Pell....

...read here...





READ ALL ABOUT....

...the latest events in the Ordinariate of OL of Walsingham... here

Friday, June 30, 2017

Martyrs...

....a topic to ponder two days running, with the feast of Saints Peter and Paul yesterday, June 29th, and then the Roman Martyrs - slaughtered under Nero etc -  today...

And also, this week,  the Church honoured a Lithuanian Bishop, martryred under the Soviet occupation. 

At one time, hearing about the cruelties inflicted by the Soviets and the martyrdom of the Church in the lands they occupied, was something that we in the West did with a sense of our own security and a recognition of the valour of these other people, remote from us and worthy of honour and veneration.

Today, the feeling is different.

There is a sense - a rather frightening sense - in which the reality of martyrdom seems nearer. People talk about religious freedom not as something that is taken for granted and recognised across the West, but as something vulnerable, something that is visibly being taken away from us. And the whole idea of "the West", a civilisation honouring human values centred on profound spiritual truths, is itself under threat and seems horribly vulnerable.

Defending marriage as the union of one man and one woman,  openly opposing the deliberate abortion of an unborn baby, affirming that sexual activity outside the marriage bond is contrary to the moral law...all these things are essential to a wholesome and humane society. We can have a debate about these things, we can recognise the need to be open and tolerant of different opinions - but we cannot survive unless we are allowed to affirm the truth of male/female marriage and the protection of pre-born children.

And the cruel attempts to silence, undermine and destroy groups and individuals who seek to uphold the moral law do point the way to martyrdom...


Despatches from Rome...

...for Corpus Christi...read here...

Thursday, June 29, 2017

INNOCENT

I am convinced, and always will be, that Cardinal George Pell is innocent of the charges being brought against him.

It is terrible that this good and decent man is being hounded in this way.

What has happened to the Australian tradition of fairness?

We must pray that truth and justice will prevail.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

What is the FAITH MOVEMENT?...

Regular readers of this Blog will know of it. If you want to grasp what it's essentially about, come to the Challoner Room, 24 Golden Square London W1 - nearest tube Piccadilly Circus - next Tuesday, July 4th, at 7pm. Speaker Julie Mersey  will unpack what she has discovered about the FAITH Movement during the course of her PhD on the subject.

Come and hear her!


A splendid turn-out...

...for the annual Martyrs' Walk. This is held annually on the Sunday nearest to the feast of SS John Fisher and Thomas More, and goes from the churchyard of St Sepulchre-without-Newgate along the ancient route to Tyburn where many of our English Martyrs were killed...

I'll be writing a full report of the Walk and will put a link to this Blog.  It was a wonderful day, a grand crowd, and a warm welcome at the churches we visited en route including SS Anselm and Caecelia in Holborn and St Patrick's, Soho...

At Tyburn, we had a glorious Benediction and then the sisters - there are a large number, mostly young, and all joyful and welcoming - served a splendid Tea.

A talk to the boys at....

...the John Fisher School, Purley.

This is a school with which our family has a strong connection.

Its playing fields were once part of the famous CROYDON AIRPORT.  And it was from here that the Battle of Britain was fought in the summer of 1940.

Today, I gave a talk to the school's History Club about this, and then later attended Benediction in the school chapel, where a kneeler I had embroidered, commemorating the battle, was used.

And if you want to know more, you should read my book about Croydon Airport and the Battle of Britain.


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Fascinating talk...

...with a group of young Slovakians, on a Catholic History Walk along the Thames. They were a delightful group and the Walk went well...but what was particularly interesting was the conversations over pizza late into the warm summer night by the Thames...

The teacher remembered the Russian invasion of 1968 and the days that followed. "People filled the streets in protest but what could they do? We were all helpless. And the soldiers...they were Polish, Hungarian... They did not know why they were there. They did not even know they had crossed the border - or that this had any significance at all.  They just thought it was manouvres, routine..."

In elections, you were given a list of Communist candidates and told to make a mark against some of them. "If you didn't go to vote, they came to the house. They showed the list and said you must make the tick against the names...of course if you refused, things happened...the whole family would suffer, it would go on and on,  all sorts of things, the young people blocked from going to university,and on and on...

Talking about Communism, she used an expression that I remembered so much from the days I spent in Poland  when the system was still in force "All we wanted was normality. To Be normal."




Thursday, June 22, 2017

London in steamy, sizzling heat...

... and organisers on the Hard Left announced an attempt to bring down the government by holding a march....it didn't quite work as insufficient people turned up, but it's an announcement for the longer term. This is the voice of young, well-to-do people with a strong sense of hatred for what they have been given and a need to feel they have  actually achieved something.

There is a good deal of discomfort that can be exploited. But at the moment the mood isn't quite there: following the tragedy at Grenfell Tower, people arrived not with anger but with  practical help, stacks and stacks of gifts of food and household necessities and clothes and more...and it was volunteers, neighbours and churches that led the way with political activists arriving rather later.

However, the Left has a great deal going for it, especially as it has the student population strongly on its side, with the massive explosion in universities in recent years and a great many young people who feel they have degrees and ought not to have any debts. They feel unwanted and unloveable.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

...and this was the procession this evening in Rome...

...in full traditional style... all on foot with a great golden canopy etc...watch here...the crowds seem larger than in previous years...

It's a timeless scene...Rome the eternal city... men carrying the canopy above the illuminated Blessed Sacrament glowing in the evening light,  large numbers of bishops, cardinals, priests, deacons,and white-clad altar servers, and young nuns from a vast range of religious orders, banners, Papal Knights, men in all the robes of all sorts of traditional sodalities, small First Communicants, the surge of  voices responding to a litany, then glorious singing, prayers, more glorious singing, and again crowds and crowds following along, and crowds again lining the streets..

Corpus Christi...

...was celebrated in Rome this weekend....

I'm here to do some work, but today was Mass at St Anne's church, at the gate alongside St Peter's Square....then we went to enjoy Rome.  Found this picture of St John Paul in the church of St Maria del Populo.  The church has some glorious Renaissance art, but I was also taken with this fine portrait...I particularly like the pages of the book he is holding,m the pages ruffled in the wind...another view of the pic here...

In the fierce heat of Rome, reading grim accounts of the fierce  and stifling heat in sombre London.






Saturday, June 17, 2017

...and on the way...

...during the flight, I tackled a packet of new booklets from the Catholic Truth Society...

Golly, how this organisation has changed over time. As a child, I loved the old,grey, small-print oddness of CTS booklets. You weren't meant to disagree or be challenged: it was the CTS and somehow didn't belong to the noisier world of TV or loud family arguments, or indeed of much of modern life at all. The pamphlets had a sort of sepia tinge to them even when they were new, and a language all their own: saints seemed invariably to have been pious from their toddler years or even if they were naughty it was only in a very pious sort of way (disobediently hurrying to the beach to put pebbles to put in their shoes as a penance, or something). And statements of moral teaching had a tone of mild contempt for anyone who might disagree, with an enjoyable dash of rather old-fashioned style and phraseology.

Then things changed and  there was a  - mercifully brief  - phase of attempts to be ultra-trendy - I remember a booklet with a picture of  the (? I think) Rolling Stones on the cover, which tried to engage in language-the-young-would-like. That didn't last. In the 1990s a new look, a great team, and a consistently excellent annual output of booklets, DVDs, book, leaflets and other material of top quality, tackling Catholic teaching in attractive, well-written and engaging style.

Among the latest, a readable and helpful booklet Pathways to God offering practical advice on prayer. Among much else, it gives a wise and helpful introduction to the idea of seeking to discern what God really wants. "The will of God is not some kind of static, hidden blueprint, to which I must conform. It is rather an invitation to live creatively, using my God-given gifts and talents in a way that allows me to be most fully the person I truly am, the person God has created me to be."

Fr Andrew Pinsent has produced a useful booklet on the cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, courage and temperance. This is timely: we have need of these virtues today. For example, temperance is explored in relation to use of time and use of the internet, and prudence with regard to tackling everyday decisions and problems. A good read and a helpful one.