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.

...and late at night...

...to Gatwick to fly to Rome, where I am visiting friends and also doing some work...

The Bloc Hotel at Gatwick is the strangest place in which I have ever stayed...each room a mall soundproofed compartment, lacking windows and simply having a bed, and shower room, the latter carefully designed so that the water simply drains away across the whole floor. The only other thing evidently regarded as essential: a vast TV, somehow sinister in his hugeness, which I ignored. And  there was wifi. What more does one need?  The airport was all happening a few yards away from where I showered and slept. Up early and breakfasting in the departure lounge. All much more efficient than travelling in from some hotel on the airport's outskirts...but a strange and v. 21st-century experience.

Friday, June 16, 2017

London is sultry...

...unhappy, conscious of death and sorrow and anger and dismay...

Longstanding engagement to speak at a prayer group that meets at Westminster Cathedral Hall.  Two years ago they felt a sort of call to pray for London, and began doing so.

Topic of my talk was faith and freedom. referencing, among various matters,this ...





The Duke of Norfolk...

...began the tradition of the carpet of flowers at Arundel Cathedral in  the 19th century, and it is one of the sights of Sussex, Every year,on the feast of Corpus Christi the Bishop treads his way across the carpet, carrying the precious burden: the Blessed Sacrament, beneath a great canopy, and leading a vast crowd in a procession down to the Castle...

Yesterday, the feast of Corpus Christi, was a perfect, golden, enchantingly lovely Sussex summer day - not too warm, with a breeze from the sea...and the Mass and procession were magnificent. First Communicants led the way, the boys wearing blue sashes and acting as guardians of the Blessed Sacrament, the girls in white dresses, strewing flowers for its path...there were long rows of clergy, and a great phalanx of young Dominican friars bearing processional candles, and then rank on rank of Knights and Dames of the Order of St Gregory and other Papal Orders. ...and crowds and crowds of people, bearing various banners, and all praying and singing, or listening to the various Scriptural and devotional readings that resounded along the street (loudspeakers set up all along the way).There was a goodly sense of meeting up with friends, and of being part of something dear and familiar that is also glorious and faith-filled.

The present Duke and his family took part in the the Mass and procession, as we made our slow and measured way down the streets from the cathedral, and  across the drawbridge and into the castle grounds, then around to the great keep and to the altar set up for Benediction...

I have often visited the cathedral but never before taken part in this great event., It is all magnificently organised. Before Mass, one could admire the flower-carpet, which this year specially commemorated the 19th-century Duke who established the whole event...and there were also some little stalls selling religious and craft items and so on.  We were directed to a room in which to put on our knight/dame robes, and then shown where we would be for Mass, and what to do as the procession formed up afterwards...so there was no sense of fuss, and we could concentrate on what really mattered...


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

...and to Lambeth Palace...

...for the launch of a fascinating new book, Reunion Revisited by Fr Mark Vickers.  This fills in many of the gaps in the story of Anglican/Catholic dialogue in the early and middle 20th century, and shows Cardinal Bourne to have been more sympathetic to the plight of Anglicans than has generally been thought. It all helps to add interesting background information to the establishment of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham so many years later, in the early years of a new century.

Lambeth Palace was most welcoming and  is all that it ought to be - panelled rooms, fine portraits, glorious gardens. It was a splendid evening. Lots of friends to meet and lots of good conversations. Among many others, I talked to Father Mark himself, of course, and  Fr Richard Biggerstaff of the St Barnabas Society, and to  Fr Nicholas Schofield archivist of the Diocese of Westminster,   Incidentally, Fr Nicholas has a feature, in the next issue of FAITH magazine, about British Catholics and the 1914-18 war...

Later, an agreeable walk along the Thames...I haven't actually ever walked that stretch on the southern bank between Lambeth and Westminster bridges before. Glorious views of Parliament, all glowing and mellow in the fading light.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

To rural Kent...

...and the pleasant village of Pembury, where Father Ed Tomlinson is doing great things with this church  dedicated to St Anselm.  What was once a rather bleak hall is now a delightful church, in the care of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, with a beautiful sanctuary glowing with candles, and  rows of neat pews that are well-filled every Sunday. The parish is thriving with lots of children. Father Ed celebrated Mass in the Ordinariate Form, and then gave us an illustrated talk on the history of the parish. I was touched to see the various kneelers that I had made - in various designs all worked in cross-stitch - all lined up at the altar-rails.  It was beautiful to kneel there, with the sunshine streaming in through the windows on to us all at prayer...

And then on to a talkative lunch at the village pub - all thoroughly enjoyable.