Monday, May 28, 2012

Passport (back) to Pimlico. A place to hide: 1998-2005. (A life under 6 Popes continued)

After 18 months in Camberley I managed to return to the London flat just behind Sloane Square. Then came some fairly hair raising spells of supply teaching. The last of these was in a sort of day remand centre for under-age boys who has already been in trouble with the law -petty crime mostly but there were some individuals there who had violence with knives or even fire-arms, on their records. One had to teach them in locked classrooms, nornally in a team of two, but occasionally one was alone. At the end of my fortnight's stint, the deputy head, a former policeman, who really ran the place, asked me to consider staying permanently. He explained that he had been particularly impressed by my calm temperament. Besides I was the first supply teacher they ever had, during whose tenure  there had not been a violent classroom incident. Fortunately for me I had an interview the next day......The result was that I was apponted Head of English and Drama in a small private stage school in East Acton. The proprietor was a non-academic business woman but respecting what she read in my CV allowed me  to carve the English curriculum for the entire school (5-15 yrs), whilst always following the demands of the National Curriculum. As near perfection as any teacher could want. I would stay there for 7 years until I finally retired at the age of 63.I don't think the Deputy Head at the remand centre had the slightest idea of the sheer determination it had taken me to turn up at the place each day. I am glad however that I saw 'how the other half live.' Never again would I complain about any 'normal' teaching work I was asked to do

But what about Church. Here a strange thing happened. At the time I didn't realise how much in need I was of spiritual care. I did not return to my former parish on the other side of Sloane Square, but was taken under the wing of the priests and verger (a long-time friend) of the local Anglo Catholic church.. There the form of worship was much more in keeping with what I had been used to before the Council. Any stranger wandering in could have been forgiven for thinking it was an 'unreformed' Roman church. There were two strands to its public worship. The first which attracted most of its large Sunday congregation from across London and even further afield, involved the Sunday morning 'High Mass' which was always accompanied by its superb (paid) choir. Much of the polyphonic repertoire was familiar to me. Their men sang the Propers in English to Gregorian chant. In the evening there was sung Evensong and Solemn Benediction. It was the other side of it that I found so nourishing. Every morning, except Wednesday, the early morning Mass would be preceded by Matins and Lauds according to the Roman Breviary. Aside from the two priests, there were never more than three of us in the chapel of the Seven Sorrows where the Office was recited. I benefited from this hidden spirituality, this very private devotion. But all the time, I knew in my heart and soul that it could not go on. It sustained me during the period when I was recovering from my mother's death and while I was reestablishing my professional life, until you might say, I became strong enough to wake up and realise that I had to find my way back to Rome. The Church had torn herself apart during and after the Council but that did not make any difference to the fact of her valid Sacraments, which the Anglo-Catholics did not have, or to the authority she vested in the Petrine office, tracing it as having been founded by the Lord Himself. (As has been seen, it continues to fragment because it simply does not have that authority. The Anglo-Catholic wing of the Church of England could make itself as comfortable as it liked, but in the long run, it could only be a shortlived comfort, a staging post.. I had recovered during  a time of therapeutic 'sleep' And now it was time to wake up.

 One of the priests mentioned above had become my spiritual director. He was well aware of the moment when I came round from my torpor. He used to go on retreats run by Opus Dei and arranged for me to see one of their priests. Through my conversations and eventual confession to this Father, I was able to wade into the open sea, find the Barque of Peter and sail alongside her again. 'Opus  Dei' made no attempt to recruit me. (I had been afraid that they may try.) I gave their priest copies of my books and the last time I saw him, I asked whether it was permissible to keep the Anglo-Catholic priest as spiritual director. He said that it was OK for the time being.  A bit later on my director told me that 'Opus Dei' saw no point in recruiting me because as their priest put it, after interviewing me, hearing my Confession, and reading my books, 'A strong Benedictine spirituality is already in place within her.'   I suspected at the time that the Opus Dei' priest was directing my director and know from subsequent conversations that he was hoping that the latter would convert to Rome.
I had some inkling of how difficult this might prove because I knew his history, which involved a spell at the English College in Rome in the 1970s when Seminarians there were forbidden to wear clerical dress. He was thought to be 'too Catholic'  and left because the Ven.. College was not Catholic enough. He saw at first hand some of the effects of modernist interpretation of the Council. He returned to ministry in the Anglo-Catholic movement. And there he remains. Every so often he suffers from what he calls 'Roman' fever. He has not yet joined the Ordinariate. I must have another 'go' at him soon. I owe it to him after all. There is a lot more I could say on this matter, but it is really another story.
The Publishing years:
I found my publisher via Paul Burns (of Burnes and Oates) in 1998. It took some time to get the contract sorted out because Continuum was undergoing considerable developments at the time.  But in the end I wrote three books for them - strictly according to the Faith that I had been taught fifty years earlier. Indeed they turned out to be too traditional for their market. Maybe it would be different now, that is if their editors have kept up with the change in trend since 'Summorum Pontificum'..
By 2002 we began to come to France again for holidays.
My Catholic life was centred aroud the Cathedral and more particularly the Brompton Oratory.but I was not known to anyone in either place. That suited me.

Increasingly we would spend our holiday evenings discussing the Pope and his declining health. I was here when he finally gave up the struggle. In the absence of TV and computer we heard the news on French radio In the gathering twilight I went upstairs to our little chapel, took his picture from the wall,  propped it up in front of the altar and knelt to pray for the Church. I felt that his terrible suffering had been for a reason. At the end of his life I think he showed us more of what Faith was all about than had any of the many travels and kissing of tarmacs he had done in earlier years. God saved that meaning until the end. The photo remained in front of the altar until I came back in May.

On the day of the funeral, I flew back from Bordeaux.

None of my previous experience could have prepared me in any way for what would happen now.


A Catholic Comes Home said...

Makes interesting reading Jane.Thanks.

Marylebone Ordinariate Group said...

Yes, very interesting, thank you.

To encourage you, the Anglican spiritual director to whom I think you refer did attend the Ordinariate event described in this article, and indeed seemed to enjoy himself, as did a number of Bournestreeters past and present.

Jane said...

I will phone him and find out if we are talking about the same person.

Thanks for the comment and encouragement.