Tempest charm. There were, in fact, several other prefects of discipline but I am told that the queues outside Fr Tempest's door were invariably the longest.
The fertile custom, of course, has now died out, if not in theory, at least in practice.
Repent and be saved
JOSEPHUS, Fr Crehan explains, is only saying in his own way that John did not encourage people to think that by washing in water their sins could be forgiven; what he wanted them to do was to repent first and then come to be dipped.
The fact remains that the Messianic purport of John's baptism stressed by Paul (Acts 19:4) was not mentioned by Josephus. Fr Crehan gets over this by saying that because Josephus was in a state of apostasy from the Jewish faith the idea of a Messiah would have been alien to him.
John's baptism, at any event, was very different from the later Christian sacrament, though the first disciples appear to have used John's form.
There are many other mysteries concerning baptism, not least its exact time and mode of institution. Another is "baptism for the dead" which one passage in the epistles (I Cor 15:29) suggests was an apostolic custom.
Many early Christians believed this to be the case and the Mormons still do, I believe. But Fr Crehan had an answer to all such problems, backed up by erudition of terrifying intensity.
I only hope he enjoyed "ordinary" life as he seemed the sort of man to be unnaturally upset by the omission of an iota subscript from one of his published works.
Pounding for the Papuans
JUST a year ago I became interested in the enterprising activities of Joe and Anne Leavy. In the autumn of 1983 they walked from John O'Groats to Land's End to raise money for a project in Papua, New Guinea. They had been asked by the church there to work in a small village near Karema, but funds were insufficient to pay for the project. Hence the long sponsored walk.
During the course of last year they settled down in the village of M'Bauya and 1 now hear that their work is flourishing. It is part of the Volunteer Missionary Movement which continues to achieve many small (and not so small) wonders in many parts of the world.
Its main activity is to recruit and send those with professional, medical or technical qualifications to work as lay missionaries in the Third World for a minimum period of two years. (Headquarters: Shonley Lane, London Colney, Herts.) Congratulations to Joe and Anne to whom a baby was born before Christmas.
THE 1985 Benedictine Yearbook is, as usual, packed with interesting items. It now goes up to a record number of pages 192 — as there is so much ground to cover.
Included for the first time is an account of Mother Mary Carson's Sisters of Grace and Compassion. The sisters lead a way of life described as "new and developing, yet traditional" as they carry on a community existence which is comtemplative but also extremely active.
A home for the sick and aged was opened in Brighton in 1954 by Miss Mary Carson, as she then was. Five years later she was invited, by the Bishop of Southwark, to form a Congregation with a lay branch. The Benedictine Rule was
adopted in 1974.
The Congregation has grown with amazing speed since then. There are six houses in England and three overseas. In India there is a complex with a craft centre for the training of the young, a hospital with maternity section and village clinics for the destitute sick, and an old people's home as well as an orphanage.
The yearbook contains, as usual, an interesting historical note about the Cistercians who will soon celebrate the fortieth anniversary of their return to Scotland where they had once been numerous. The return was brought about when some monks from Roscrea in County Tipperary settled at Nunraw House in the lovely Lammermuir Hills, appropriately near their original medieval home at Melrose.
I notice that the Cathusians are the only monks not included in this yearbook but gather that they may come in next time round. That would presumably mean renaming the publication the "Monastic Yearbook."
Congratulations to the editor, Fr Gordon Hoattio, OSB, who is also (how does he find the time?) a busy RAF chaplain. (Copies of the Yearbook may be obtained — El inc. postage) from St Mary's Priory, Leyland, Preston PR5 IPD.
DOWN in the country, during the somewhat staccato Christmas-New Year "break", I spent a lot of time "tidying" my library
which inevitably meant dipping, as I went along, into semi-forgotten volumes, th leaving the former confusion largely undisturbed. I also found a work I had long been missing, namely Josephus's Jewish Antiquities.
This recounts, in twenty "books", the history of the Jews from the creation of the world to the outbreak of the war with Rome. Completed near the end of the first century AD, it is one of the few historical sources apart from the New Testament to mention Jesus Christ.
Josephus also writes of John the Baptist whose baptism of Our Lord Himself we celebrate this Sunday. But do you find puzzling, as I do, the principal passage involved?
Josephus describes John as a good man who urged the Jews "to come together for baptism; for immersion, he said, would really appear acceptable to God if practised not as an expiation for specific offences, but for the purification of the body, when the soul had been already thoroughly cleansed by justice."
At first sight this seems to conflict with the familiar story of the Baptist in the gospels (Mt 3:1-12 etc). The late Fr Joseph Crehan, however, comes. as so often, to the rescue. I used to enjoy my talks at Farm Street (and the occasional walk in Hyde Park) with this exceedingly learned Jesuit who wrote on early Christian baptism as well as on a host of other subjects. His passion for detail was almost inhuman.
He was also the principal contributor to a useful but unfinished Dictionary of Theology.