Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tito's been sick...

How we have come to rely on the Pultp.it. So glad you're on the mend Tito. God bless you, and your work

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.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Dear Holy Father, we know your plate is full and send our love and prayers

But please do you have a spare 'Cardinal Dolan' up your sleeve whom you could put in place here. .

The General Medical Council of Great Britain is exceeding its moral brief (h/t 'Protect the Pope'. In sidebar here)

We have no effective leadership of the Church here. Having briefly reawakened during and after you visit our bishops seem to be fast asleep again. Please help us.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Pope's butler did it?

Yes, sure he did. As it turns out. But I'd say the odds are that it's a great deal more complicated than that. .....Already there are suspicions that powerful prelates are involved.. Apparently the Pope himself thinks this may be the case, After all why is a  forty year old man going to sign away his security and respectability, unless he had been promised recompense later on. It just isn't explicable otherwise.There is absolutely no reason why he should do it. Unless he hates Benedict and has kept it secret all these years, or has become possessed. That last is always a possibility of course. In the meantime our dear Pope must feel almost completely unprotected. But then he probably knows the truth of that, better than we will ever do. May I ask you what you felt when he gave that lunch to the cardinals he said he regards as his friends. I remember thinking, is he a complete innocent ,or is he trying to shame them?. Judging from the looks on some of the faces I think it might have been the latter. Or was it that he was utterly genuine and they actually felt guilty for a moment.

I don't know. It's worse than 'The Mystery of Edwin Drood'.

God help our Pope.

Lost in France I: 1990-97 (A Life under 6 Popes continued)

We bought this house in 1989 and for three years my mother lived permanently in it, whilst I continued to teach in London, but spent all my school holidays here, Colin joining us when his work allowed. Then one Saturday morning in 1992 I was roused from my lie-in by what turned out to be an urgent phone call from our French next-door neighbour's daughter in Paris. She was ringing to let me know that during the previous week her mother had died suddenly from a heart attack. That was shock enough but as she spoke I realised that I had only spoken to my own mother a couple of days previously and she hadn't mentioned a thing. And now here was Yvette telling me that nobody had seen my mother since before the death. The house shutters remained closed and she was not answering the door. The local grocer had been leaving bread and milk on the front doorstep and she had taken that in, although nobody had seen her do that. Yvette as very kindly ringing to alert me to the fact that something was very wrong.

Fortunately Brent gave me compassionate leave and I was able to get down here by the following Tuesday.

My mother had no history if illness, physical nor mental. Up until the death of Madme Martin she had been mentally and physically active. She was very fond of her French neighbour. The death changed her for ever. I will not go into details but it became plain that she could no longer live alone and so I brought her back to England with me. She became very dependent on me and did not like my going out to choir practice and Sunday Mass. She would plead with me not to go. Then if I insisted she would cry. Within the space of one year she began to ring me at school with all sorts of stories why I must come home immediately., the final one being that the flat was on fire. I raced home from Willesden to find that it was all an invention. Clearly the situation could not continue. In summer 1993 I took early retirement and we moved permanently to France where we could look after her. We never really got to the bottom of what was the matter with her and it was not for the want of trying I can assure you. Every kind of physical test was done. Nothing showed up as wrong. Psychiatric tests proved equally inconclusive.  Her whole personality seemed to have changed.

I had for some years been developing a spirituality of gardening and in the relative peace and quiet of my new French life continued it and finally began to write about it. In 1994 my mother had a stroke which hospitalised her for 3 months.  She came home on the day we began our first Shakespeare Festival. We were told at the hospital that they could do no more for her. She seemed determined not to get fully better. In other words she had lost the will to live. Her decline took a further three years and finally  in May 1997 she had to go into the local cottage hospital. She could not swallow; I could not feed her at home. Two weeks before the end, she sank into a semi-coma, At the time we had some Irish Catholic friends living nearby. They knew a Polish priest who would come and at least bless her. (My mother was not a Catholic but in her final year had expressed an interest in being received. My former Parish priest in London had given me permission to provide the instruction in extremis. I had begun this but as the final months approached I had to accept that she was not capable of understanding.or of communicating on the kind of level involved.) I explained all this to the Polish priest. He asked us if there were any prayers we would like to say in English, reminding us that hearing is often the last faculty to shut down. And so we said the Our Father and the Hail Mary.  I am convinced she heard them..

I cannot write more about this period. The memories are still too raw.

A fortnight after the funeral I was back in London, searching for work and looking for a publisher for first of my gardening books  The French dream had turned out to be a bit of a nightmare but it had been the context in which the idea for a whole series was born.

Shortly afterwards it became apparent that the health of the Pope had begun its long decline

To be continued

Thursday, May 24, 2012

When I began this current 'Six Popes' series.....

...I had no idea that it would reach the present stage during perhaps the most difficult week I can remember, certainly in this Pontificate.. On the one hand I am glad to be doing it. On the other hand it is very difficult to concentrate. But discipline is a marvellous thing in so many ways.
I hope to publish the next instalment tomorrow evening and that it may help to keep us occupied as the waiting approaches its end.. It's not much but it's all i can do.

God bless and guiide our Holy Father Benedict XVI.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The learning curve of the 1980s (A life under 6 Popes continued)

The Tablet years:
I worked full time for the paper from 1983-85. By then Tom Burns had retired and John Wilkins had taken over as Editor and I fairly soon became aware that he was somewhat sympathetic towards the notion of  'loyal dissent'. To me, the term, which I first met in one of his editorials, has always seemed an indefensible oxymoron. (It still does.) He was incredibly hardworking and well-informed, and on a personal level I had great respect, even affection for him. However my job was not to comment upon editorial policy. At The Tablet I learned a great deal about the direction in which the Church seemed to be going, about the stance of many of the regular writers, and from the Archive, about recent Church History. This was helped by the fact that I indexed both The Tablet and its sister journal 'The Clergy Review , later renamed 'Priests and People', according to the spirit of the period..  In fact I continued to index P & P until 1993. This enabled me to keep in touch with 'the lie of the land.. As I recall, this latter monthly journal carried a markedly wide range of articles. By 93, there seemed to be more of a progressive bent, on every subject from liturgy and architecture, to liberation theology and the social teaching of the Church. One incident exemplifies this. I can't remember which year it was, but there had been an article entitled 'Imitating Jesus and allowing divorce'. When the proofs came back to me for checking this title had been misread and printed as 'IRRITATING Jesus and allowing divorce. We had a good laugh about it in the outer office, but I remember thinking that the people in the print shop had higher expectations of orthodoxy that P&P had unfortunately been unable to satisfy.

Until 1984 the Tablet was technologically behind the times. The main computer was introduced that year I think; the office staff continued to operated electronic typewriters. Fortunately for me, it was decided to put the whole subscription lists of both journals on computer data base. As Subs. Controller it seemed obvious that I should do this. It was tedious work, which I did on Saturday mornings. It was my real introduction to the computer  and before the internet.
After leaving the Tablet for a much better paid job with the Church of England Children's Society, I spent a further two years there before finally finding my way back into teaching. I then spent six happy and producuctive years in Adult Access training with the London Borough of Brent whilst serving as a member of the English department in one of their Community Schools. Here I was in charge of the Sixth Form and Access recruitment and interviewing.

Four years after the Annulment I married my present husband in the same church where the annulled marriage had taken place in 1971. The only way that my life was affected by Pope John Paul II was that as that annulment process was nearing conclusion, he issued a directive that from now on all cases had to be heard consecutively by two  tribunals. So after Westminster, mine had to go to Birmingham. It did turn our to be 'rubber stamping' but all the same it added a further three months of anxiety.

In all the learning that took place for me in the 1980s, there is one form that held the whole thing together and that is the time I spent. every Wednesday evening and Sunday morning learning how to read and sing Chant and Renaissance polyphony.. These I value most of all.  You may think that my orthodoxy was maintained (or saved) by burying my head in the sand after the 'Marie Assumpta disaster' of 1979. The 1980s show that I was well informed about growing diversity of opinion, and decided through constant prayer and thought to remain the kind of Catholic I have always been. The one man who was to show me that I had been right all along, was not yet Pope, and I'll have to tell my story through the 90s and beyond before reaching the joy of his election to the Throne of Peter..

To be continued

Friday, May 18, 2012

1980-93 (A Life under six Popes Continud)

Yet again I was protected from rampant modernism by being in a traditional parish  with a history of Latin litugcical practice. Over the years in question, I knew from trips to various friends up and down the country that its style was definitely the exception rather than the rule. All the more reason to see that it was preserved. For the next 13 years Chant and Polyphony were to the most important things in my life.

In 1982 I began the Annulment proceedings.. I'd had to be chivied into it by a friend who knew more about the whole thing than I did. Like most people I thought that Annulments were only for minor royalty and/or the wealthy. A year later I began work at the Tablet as Subscriptions Controller. (More about that on another occasion)  Shortly afterwards tragedy struck one Saturday morning. Choirmaster Michael, aged 43 at the time, suffered a massive heart attack and died before the ambulance arrived to take him to hospital. I don't have any natural siblings, but Michael was my 'brother'.  I cannot describe the grief and shock I felt at his loss.
His parents were both dead. There was no immediate family. The local church would have to see to everything.
The Tablet generously gave me time off to attend the funeral. This was fortunate since it fell to me to do most of the organisation. My annulment came through in 1984.

The period 1979-83 was marked by such important and time consuming events in my personal life that I do not recall being terribly concerned about the Pope, although naturally I was deeply shocked by the attempt on his life.  This may seem hard, even very wrong, but you see, not that I formulated this at the time, he represented the Church who had 'let me down'. I see him differently now of course, but at the time I was far from being impressed by the vaunted charism that everyone said was such a rich blessing. To me it was just an exercise in crowd pleasing histrionics. God please forgive me. And readers, particularly those who only ever knew John Paul II before Benedict XVI, please forgive me too. Remember that he was the fifth Pope in my life. Regardless of the length of his pontificate I have to put him in context, even though he is now BLESSED John Paul II..

To be continued.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


For Ascension Eve 2012.

Clear as Mud................

I thought the CDF was supposed to communicate the results of this morning's deliberations direct to the Holy Father. There was no need for them to make a public communique. I am perhaps naive but it seems to me that they are not playing to the rules. (The reasons yet again suggest how strong the antii-Benedict faction is in the corridors of power.) Then Fr Lombardi has to throw in his two cents and something which looked as if it had a chance of fairly neat conclusion becomes  as clear as mud.  His comment on the communique was even more unnecessary and unhelpful than the communique itself.

'Smoke and mirrors.'  May the Holy Father dispel the smoke and break the mirrors. .

Monday, May 14, 2012

Hildegard von Bingen - O clarissima mater, response [De sancta Maria]

A belated celebration.

Saint Hildegarde, pray for our Pope, for Bishop Bernard Fellay, and for all of us.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

1979 Back from 'the smoke' and into the long haul (A life under Six Popes continued)

The London experience described in the last post of this series defeated my Faith in the Unity of the Church. She was allowing disunifying things to happen, of the sort I had seen, without even the suspicion of disapproval. I do not know whether anyone else had been as shocked as I was at the Kensington Mass. I was so upset that I wasn't aware whether anyone else left either before or after me. Apart from anything else, I could see that the new freedom of  the Council was not doing a great deal of good. If those abuses were allowed, then so could many others, without correction. They were in fact licence. Rome did not see it.

My life was about to fall apart in every way. Shortly after my return to Devon it became apparent that my 'marriage' would not survive . My 'husband' made it clear that he had absolutely no intention of having children. I have already covered this in my earlier series of posts on Annulment.(See Archive) I will not therefore rehearse the whole sorry business here.

Suffice to say that these two matters, occurring one after the other, cast me utterly adrift. I left the marital home in September 1979.. Until the annulment case began in 1982 I acknowledged that there had been faults on my side as well, as indeed there were. I was not to understand until later, that though those faults existed on my side, they would not have been grounds for annulment. The faults on his side provided those grounds because, as became shockingly apparent to me during the gathering of evidence, he actually had lied at the wedding ceremony about his willingness to accept children 'lovingly from the Lord'..

Back in London I very nearly came off the rails. But Michael the Choir Master saved me again. He invited me back to the choir that I'd left in 1971. It was in trouble and about to die.

By now of course we are into the reign of John Paul II. I saw his enthronement whilst I was still in Devon.
His pontificate is what I mean by 'the long haul'.

To be continued.

Apologies in Order: To Cardinal Murphy O'Connor

Thanks to Fr Ray Blake I now understand that I must NEVER believe what I read in the Tablet. The previous post here has been adjusted accordingly.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Brief comment on this morning's General Audience and the Holy Father's thanking us for our prayers.in previous difficult times.

His thanks were indeed heartfelt and very moving, but I sense they enshrined a warning that another difficult time will shortly be upon him, and therefore on us. I do not think an announcement about the SPPX is far in the distance. It may come before the next Audience. He has warned us and we must be ready to pray for him and defend him with every means at our disposal.

Anyway they'll all show their true colours or keep quiet when the announcement comes. I'll be keeping quiet and lovingly obedient to 'Peter's' request, will continue to pray intensely and incessantly for him

God bless our Pope.

The Mass that opened my eyes and blinded them with tears: 1979. (Life under 6 Popes continued)

By 1979 I had become accustomed to the new Mass in English. That is not to say that I liked it or was comfortable with it. But I was obedient. I remember wondering why  'they' had to waste all that money on a new translation when they could have just used the translation of the Latin Mass as it appeared in every Missal.
The answer is of course that 'they' wanted not only to change the Language, but as far as possible its very meaning by other subtle omissions and adjustments..

In the Spring of that year I was following a correspondence course with Our Lady's Catechists (do they still exist?) Before I sent in any of my work I submitted it to Fr Foley in Bovey Tracey. He found no fault with my answers. More importantly he found no fault with the questions or with the course itself. In the summer I decided to go on a week's catechetical course I had seen advertised in one of the Catholic papers, thinking that it would reflect the OLC syllabus that I was already following and that it would give me the support of like minded fellow students.

So off I went at the end of the secular school year to Marie Assumpta Centre in Kensington.
I did not know that the place was not at all the same as it had been when I myself had been trained as a teacher in Winchester.. One still relied on stability in those days. As I walked down from High St. Ken.  to the first 'meet and greet' session, I had absolutely no idea that this kind of certainty was about to be plucked from my heart and soul.. .

In this first session I encountered a group of young women surrounding a personable youngish man, I'd guess he was late thirties. It turned out he was an American priest and that he would be conducting the course. He insisted on being called Father Jim..

After a while, we moved to the place where the opening Mass would be celebrated. There was I believe a perfectly respectable chapel which would have been large enough for the gathered assembly, but the organisiers had chosen to have the Mass in what I assumed was the original College assembly hall, but not from the stage  but 'in the round' on the floor of the auditorium.

The Mass began (Fr Jim celebrating)

We reached the Gospel safely enough. But then as the priest read it, a pair of religious sisters took the floor in front of him and presented a dance drama to illustrate the building of a house upon the sand..That was bad enough but then came the 'homily'.

It consisted of Fr Jim's telling us about the conversion of the Belgian Cardinal Mercier. Apparently as a fairly disreputable youth Mercier was passing a church with a 'buddy', who challenged him to go into the chuch, kneel before the altar and say, 'You are Christ, and I don't give a damn.' Mercier took up the challenge but when he came to the point in front of the tabernacle, he just could not utter the words he had promised in the 'dare'. He was converted.

.Now, you may say what you like about the unsuitability of this tale for a homily  on the particular Gospel text, or about the language used by Fr Jim. Worse was to come. Just before the Communion of the faithful when he should have held up the host and said the prescribed words in the missal, this priest held up Our Lord and said to Him, 'You are Christ and WE do give a damn.'

The shock was so great that I stopped thinking. It was as if I'd been knocked into semi-conscioussness.
Communion was then distributed but not by the priest. He handed the full ciborium to the first person to his left and to the second, the chalice containing the Precious.Blood, gesturing that both should be passed from hand to hand round the entire circle.  I was on the far side, facing the priest. I could not possibly get out without drawing attention to myself by breaking the circle and walking round it and behind the priest to the exit. Truly I have no memory of what happened next but I must have got out of it. I remember walking back to High St. Ken. tube station and that was all until I reached Sloane Square and found myself in The Fox and Hounds pub (our local). Shortly afterward Michael  came in, that is the Choir Master mentioned in previous post and with whom I was staying.  It was early and the pub wasn't busy. Had it been heaving with people I don't thin it would have made any difference. When I saw him I burst into incontrollable sobs of delayed shock...It was some time before I could explain at all coherently what had happened and why I was in such a state. (I had never behaved in such a way in public before, either in in his presence or out of it.

At the end of the week I went back to Devon a changed woman.

To be continued


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Two more plugs for the Gardening booklet

At top of right hand sidebar, Mac has placed a pic of the cover and organised things so that by clicking it you can get directly to order it at CTS site. (Thanks a lot Mac!) And in left hand sidebar at CTS Catholic Compass they have published a short piece they asked me to write about the booklet.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

A Life under 6 Popes: Protected from knowledge of what was going on 1968-79

In 1966  I met the choirmaster of the local Catholic church, that was the parish next to my own in Chelsea.. He persuaded me to join the group. It was a world on its own although I didn't realise how atypical it was at the time. The main Sunday Mass was celebrated according to the new Rite in Latin (even before this was officially introduced).. This meant that all or most of the traditional repertoire could be retained. The church had an unbroken tradition of Gregorian Chant and Polyphony going back to the year dot. The choir managed to survive because there were enough dedicated  and experienced singers. I left in 1971 when I married for the first time. (I was sorry to leave. Little did I know that I would return in 1980 and spend 13 years helping to save the chor and cement its future.)  

During the intervening period two things happened which should have alerted me to the state of the Church at large. The first was the obvious storm created by the promulgation of Pope Paul VI's Encyclical 'Humanae Vitae'. In spite of this I didn't realise that the dissenters would go underground and actually  be encouraged by some priests (possibly for the sake of a quiet life, rather than conviction,) having decided they were free to conduct their lives as they pleased regardless of what the Pope had said. The second thing, which affected me personally took place during the preparation for marriage  at he church described above. We had one meeting with the priest, a curate, not the PP.  Having elicited the promise that any children of our union would be brought up as catholics, and having established that the paperwork was in order, he indicated that the meeting was concluded. I panicked because I did not think that everything had been covered.  Divorce for instance. Shouldn't the rules about that be explained.  The priest replied, 'What do you want to discuss that for. You are not even married yet.' Well I had tried. but I felt that my intended spouse was less than properly prepared. As it turned out, and unknown to me, he had no intention of having children, leave alone bringing them up as catholics. But that's another story. ( See posts about the eventual annulment. Consult blog archive.)  I don't know how many other couples were so poorly prepared by this priest but it's nightmarish to think about it now.

After the wedding, off I went to the depths of remotest Devon, Here again I was spoiled. The nearest priest was at Bovey Tracey, where he had refused to reorder his church for Mass facing the people, claiming rightly that there wasn't the space. I remember many conversations with him but one sticks in my mind particularly. I had said to him how distressing I found the growing habit of communion in the hand. He said 'Don't worry. You will live to see that abuse reversed. Probably I will not.' He was nearly 80 then and ended his days with the Dominicans at St Mary Church Torquay, where thank God he was allowed to offer his daily TLM.

Thus I came through the worst post-conciliar years without really knowing what was going on.
Came the 'year of three Popes' and we had a guest while the funeral of Pope Paul VI unfolded and then the election and coronation of Pope John Paul I... The guest was the choir master mentioned at the opening of this post. It was a turning point in many ways. Not the least because they were the first Papal ceremonies I had ever seen on TV.

The following year I was finally to grow up, and flee in tears from of a most abusive Mass at the Marie Assumpta Centre in Kensington, London. I had gone there for a Catechetics course. When I describe this Mass next time, I think you'll understand the tears, and above all the reason why I could not get out of there fast enough.

It did not occur to me at any point to blame any of the Popes for the blasphemy I was forced to witness,. and it  still does not.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A 'holy old boy' and 'a hornet's nest' (A life under 6 Popes continued)

'This holy old boy doesn't realise what a hornet's nest he is stirring up.'

If Pope Paul indeed made this remark to a friend when his predecessor called the Second Vatican Council, he obviously thought he knew far more about the current factions in the Church than did 'good Pope John'.  By the time he found himself presiding over the continuing Council the nest of hornets was abuzz. But that is to run ahead..............


For four years my father's opposition prevented my being received into the Church.. Originally he had sworn to make me wait until the age of majority at 21. To this day I do not know why he gave in when I was 19. I was finally received  in July 1962. Three months later the Vatican Council began. I was half way through Teacher Training at an Anglican college. That was because in 1960 no Catholic College could accept me, and in any case my father would definitely not have allowed it. Ironically, for the rest of my student days I was protected as a Catholic by my former Anglicanism. At a Catholic Institution I would have been exposed to 'the changes' and their 'justification'. I did not have to cope with that challenge. At parish level there was little change to start with, either at home or at the church nearest to college in Winchester... I am grateful that these early years enabled me to settle in, without distraction, to the Faith I had embraced.

The first changes were not liturgical as I remember them.. In 1963 I attended the Easter Vigil at my home parish with the gift that Sister Agnes had given me for my Reception - The Saint Andrew Daily Missal.. The vigil was followed according to that Missal of 1962. It rained when we were outside around the brazier. The relevant pages are permanently crinkled with the effects of that Easter rain..

In the autumn of 1964 I took up my first teaching post in a Catholic primary school run by the Daughters of Charity. During the first term came the day when the world was to see the white 'cornette' for the last time. Staff were warned that the next day the Sisters would appear in their new garb. I can't remember whether the children were similarly warned. I do remember we were asked for our charity and discretion..

As it happened all went off without incident. Nobody, child, sister or lay staff member threw a wobbly and the matter was not discussed in the staff room.  It was done. The erstwhile and elegant distinctive habit  of St Vincent's daughters had passed into history. I knew why the new habit was thought sensible. I could not argue with any of the reasons for getting rid of the cornette. But all the same  I still mourn its loss, particularly when I see many DCs do not now wear a habit at all.

By 1966 Pope John was dead and buried; Pope Paul was in charge; the Council concluded . .
Then came the 1970s.........................

To be continued.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

My CTS booklet: a few more particulars as promised

Table of Contents

Scriptural background: from Genesis to Revelation
Gardening in the history of European Christendom
Medieval Monastic Gardens
Modern Prayer Gardens
Basic Garden tasks and Prayer
The Divine Office
My Garden and the Liturgy
How to choose plants
Note on Houseplants
An Epilogue of Roses

My new CTS booklet now available for pre-order at their Catholic Compass site.

A happy and holy month of the Blessed Virgin Mary to all of you.

Link to CTS blog 'Catholic Compass' further down the left hand sidebar here. The booklet is entitled 'Gardening for God' and is included in their latest booklet list.  Follow the 'view here' link at the top of their current post. More details later.

Series on the six Popes of my lifetime will continue on Thursday..