Saturday, April 19, 2014

Eastertide...

...blossom on trees everywhere, fluttering down in the stiff chilly wind of  an English April. A round of family visits, Auntie laden with boxes of chocolate eggs and goodies. And, warmly glowing on tomorrow's horizon, a great Canonisation in Rome on Divine Mercy Sunday, a time to reflect and rejoice.

Friday, April 18, 2014

As evening falls on Good Friday...

...it was a quietly memorable London day.  Starting at the Anglican Cathedral alongside the Thames, we went on a united  Walk of Witness, the leaders taking turns in carrying a large wooden Cross, and all of us following in silence, stopping at various places to pray...the Stations of the Cross brought to London's riverside. The tide was out, and the wide beaches of the Thames were revealed. The Borough Market and all the Thameside restaurants were crowded and noisy, teeming with talk and shopping and street-theatre and music. At a Greek restaurant, some one was clipping the olive trees fronting the terrace, their grey-green leaves scattering alongside us as we walked.  Back through the Borough: one of the Stations was in a beautiful garden, once the chancel of a church. The church was damaged by bombs in WWII but one small section of it remains in occasional use: the garden is lovingly tended. We finished at Precious Blood Church.  There, after final prayers, we had Hot Cross Buns and coffee...

No point in going home before the 3pm Liturgy, so I went back to the riverside: the tide had now rolled  in, the great grey river surging along...I asked the Greek restaurant if I could have some sprigs from the olive trees, and brought some back to church with tiny olives on them, to put at  the Garden Altar from where, in due course, the Blessed Sacrament would be brought for Communion.

The solemn Good Friday liturgy, and the Rector carrying a great wooden Cross up the central aisle, later, after veneration, to be hauled into permanent position up behind the High Altar  (earlier, much work had been done with block-and-tackle, ropes, and heavy brackets, etc  to make this happen). . Beside me, a small child who had  been brought into church with - regrettably - a crumbly biscuit to munch, sat transfixed as, moment by moment, the heavy cross was hauled upwards into position. Her hand, plus biscuit, remained in mid-air, her mouth open not to receive it but in wordless amazement.

And after Communion we departed in silence...here at home I am packing things and preparing for an Easter family gathering, with chocolate eggs and bottles of wine...

...and if you want to see...

...us with our "THANK YOU TO OUR PRIESTS" at the Westminster Chrism Mass, you could look here...

...and so to Holy Week and Easter...

....the Passover of the Lord....Maundy Thursday and the Mandatum, and the Mass of the Last Supper....and Good Friday, and the Cross...and then the tomb on Holy Saturday....and then the great joyful glory of the Easter light...

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

...and...

...while on the subject of Chrism Masses (see report on the Westminster Chrism Mass, below)....I also went to the Chrism Mass of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. This took place at the church in Warwick Street, just off Piccadilly Circus. Some good photos of the Mass here.

The church was packed so Auntie joined friends in the gallery. First time I've ever been at a Mass that I've viewed from above. All rather stunning. A choir sang a very grand Mass setting, but almost more impressive was the absolutely magnificent singing of hymns by the congregation: "Praise to the Holiest in the Height", accompanied by trumpets in the last verse, was marvellous...oh, please could we have something of this great tradition passed on to the rest of the Catholic Church in our country?  We have such feeble hymn-singing, and many Catholics seem to take it for granted that when a hymn is announced, you open the relevant page and then do absolutely nothing.

St Francis...

...of Assisi died in 1226 and was canonised two years later. St Anthony (of Padua - the popular saint whose intercession people invoke for finding lost things) died in 1231 and was canonised less than 12 months later.  Just thought I would mention this because of complaints that Bl. John Paul is being canonised less than ten years after his death and there are complaints that this is non-traditional and unknown. Incidentally, recent saints like Padre Pio (d.1968), Therese of Lisieux (d.1897) and Pius X (d.1914)  have been canonised about 30-40  years after their deaths. So for JPII a little under a decade seems fair enough.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Sitting on the floor of a great Cathedral...

...is all part of the experience of the Chrism Mass at Westminster. Vast crowds, every seat gets taken long, long before the Mass begins at 12 noon, and every side-chapel is packed out too, in addition to every spare corner at the back, or around a pillar...I usually find a corner of the chapel at the back, which has a pleasing mosaic of St Gregory the Great and the Saxon slave-boys in the Trajan Market ("Non Angli sed Angeli..." etc) and sit there on the marble step, next to where Bishop Richard Challoner is buried...

Our team of ladies with our "Thank you to our priests" placard, plus a young team from SPES at St Patrick's, Soho, arrived at about 11 am to greet the clergy as they arrive, and give them our small thank-you cards. Without every really planning to do so, we have become part of the Tradition of Holy Week. Our placard announces "THANK YOU TO OUR PRIESTS" and this year's thank-you card, produced by Patti Fordyce  of the Association of Catholic Women, carries a Eucharistic picture and some words from soon-to-be-saint John Paul.

Part of the tradition is that it is always cold standing in the shadow of the cathedral on a chilling Spring morning, but the atmosphere is warm and it is fun being part of a great event as hordes and hordes of people stream in across the piazza. Clergy arrive from various directions, and we run up to them to give them our cards, and it is great to meet old friends and swap news and jokes...

Then we gather around the Cathedral steps as the great procession of clergy makes its way up Ambrosden Avenue.  "Is this something special?" asked an American tourist, guide-book in hand "We just dropped by...what is happening?" Some one started to explain that these priests were all gathering to renew their vows and to receive the sacred oils for anointing the sick etc in the year ahead.... "So this great line of priests is all the priests of England? Wow, there are a LOT..."  No, we assured her, this is just the priests from London. (And only half of London at that - the Southwark ones have their Chrism Mass at St George's tomorrow)...

The Chrism Mass is always glorious. Solemn choir-boys chanting, the beautiful prayers recalling the dove that came back to Noah as the flood receded, and  God's promise brought to fulfilment in our baptism...the deep roar of voices as the priests affirmed their vows, the soaring music, the lines of priests fanning out to distribute Holy Communion, and then the final hymn and the procession down the aisle with the  Cardinal dispensing blessings...we are at one with Peter's successor in Rome, and it is good to be part of the Church, and it is springtime and Holy Week.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Priest in biretta...

...Processional Cross (swathed, because it is Passiontide), children with home-made streamers, everyone with palm crosses, mothers pushing prams and strollers, people singing hymns - although not necessarily the same verse at the same time! -  and all of this making a good-sized crowd....that's what you would have seen and heard if you were on the Southern end of London Bridge this Sunday morning. The parish of the Most Precious Blood was processing down the Borough High Street, honouring Palm Sunday in the traditional way.

We were reminded that such a procession is more than a mere "remembering" of the events of the first Palm Sunday. All of Holy Week  is about now, and not just about "then": this is all about the great reality of our salvation in Christ...

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A highlight...

of working in Krakow, along with co-author Clare Anderson,  was the morning spent with Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz,now the Archbishop of this ancient see, and earlier and for many years the secretary of  dear John Paul II.  You can watch some of our interview with him on EWTN over the weekend of the canonisation. Meanwhile he's been writing down his own reminiscences too...read here...

...and so to Uxbridge...

to this church.

A full hall, a warm welcome, and Auntie on the subject of John Paul.  There is so much that the mainstream media gets wrong, or simply doesn't understand and cannot report properly...the significance of his having been taught about prayer by a layman (Jan Tyranowski), his style of leadership as Archbishop  and as Pope (one hundred per cent opposite to the myth that he was dictatorial), his intellectual gifts, the Fatima bond, the influence on Humanae Vitae.  And his life is itself an adventure story...

Friday, April 11, 2014

A Spring evening, and over a thousand years of history...

...and we walked through what was once Thorney Island, the land drained by the monks and turned into fields and orchards, the land that, under the safe shadow of the great Abbey, became the home to the Mother of Parliaments, the place where men gathered to parley and to offer advice and counsel on matters of state...

In a lamplit Westminster, with the Abbey illuminated, and the Houses of Parliament in their gothic glory all glowing with light too, history comes alive.

I  had arrived breathless to start the  Catholic History Walk, having  decided to walk - rather than catch a bus or Tube - from a meeting at London Bridge. The Thames was at low tide, people sitting on the grey sandy beaches or packing into the bars and cafes: London in Springtime.  But the stalwart group of walkers, including a couple of holidaying Poles plus some native Londoners, had waited for me on the steps of Westminster Cathedral. And so we set off, from Westminster Cathedral, down Victoria Street -   a good look at the  at the (hideous, modern block) Westminster City Hall with its coat-of-arms displaying Our Lady holding the Christ-child - down to Westminster Abbey and Parliament.  We went via the back roads, each name telling us something: Horseferry Road, Abbey Orchard Street, and the little alleys named after saints (St Matthew, St Anne).  And so to Parliament. And I reminisced about Papa Benedict XVI speaking there - one of the most important lectures of his pontificate, and of huge significance for the future pattern of Church/State relations as this century unfolds - and we spoke of this, and of Parliament, and of its noblest traditions, and of the good that Britain has done and could do, and the evil.