Father John Sinnott
THOUGH I have much to write about this week, my first and deepest preoccupation by far is the most sad death of Fr. John Sinnott,
S.J. I was with him only some three weeks ago when we chatted together, watched the television (interspersed with some of his dry humour about ladies' fashions and the little chuckle and movement of the lips so characteristic of him), and then bile at night 1 drove him home to Manresa. Three months ago 1 had not seen him for twenty years. We met again. and practically carried on where we left off. Though in the interval he had been largely responsible for two immensely complicated tasks, a radical change of policy. to suit the times, at Wimbledon College, and the change over of Manresa from a novitiate to a training college, the two jobs overlapping with the consequence that his health completely broke down and he came near death's door, I found him looking no older. just as cheerful, incredibly brave, though he must have known he was doomed, and still right in the midst of the complicated affairs which would strain a strong man. It is this toughness and courage and complete dedication, even unto death at literally any hour of any day, which so often marks out the Jesuit who may otherwise seem rather sardonic and a trifle cynical about some of our day to day living, spiritual and otherwise.
So utterly oblivious did he seem about the state of his heart which had been so gravely affected that when I heard of his collapse I could
hardly believe it. Even then, he rallied so well as to deceive everybody into thinking of yet another miraculous recovery. And then he quietly died at the age of 55. He was one of that. happily, great army of utterly dedicated priests whose real spirituality and worth you only realise when you look back on their lives, and understand what you are missing. May lie rest in peace.
The Posterity of Spode
A CONFERENCE organised by " Fr. Conrad Pepler. O.P., Editor of the Life of the Spirit. took me for the first lime last week-end into the home life of the Dominicans. The conference was held in what is now called Spode House, which lies next door to Hawkesyard Priory. 'Ilse late 18th century mansion, given to the Order by Josiah Spode who created the famous Spode china, used to he called Armitage Park, and for a long time it was the Dominican school now at Lemon. Today it is a youth hostel and centre for retreats and conferences, under the direction of Fr. Donald Proudman.
We grumblers and critics about shortcomings in the Church here are very often cut short when we actually run full-tilt into the actual work being done here. there (though not everywhere) without any publicity. Spode House is a veritable hive of spiritual action with leadership weeks, study week-ends, youth weekends, attended by all sorts and kinds from the Midlands. and each one carried out with both spiritual zest and lots of fun. Serious lectures are varied by mediaeval style disputations on subjects like 'Is Beer Best?" Music. concerts and fun of all kinds ensure that a thoroughly
happy, as well as most valuable, time. is had by all.
Peep at Austerity
HAWKESYARD Priory itself stands, rather ruddy. in a 400acee estate, and eats only compost bread, of which I partook at supper in the refectory—and excellent it is. Dominicans always seem so gay and fresh and adaptable in the world that it may too easily he thought that their home life lacks a primitive Spartan austerity. But 1 found no evidence of this—on the contrary! The great beauty of the habit lends an air of enchantment to the ceremonies in the tine chapel with its dim lights in the very early morning. But it is the spectator who does that part of the enjoying; it is the friars who do the praying and working according to an austere rule.
Shrine of B. Martin
'WITH the many visiting priests,
the laymen had to do some Mass serving, and for the first time I served Mass in the Dominican rite. Rather nervously handling a piece of roneod paper, I managed fairly successfully not to do all the things I expected to have to do, except for a forbidden Dee Gratias here and there, a relapse into the Roman confiteor, and a failure to put out the candles as part of the rite itself. I had not realised how very different this rite is from the Roman—and how much shorter. I left Hawkesyard with a case full of literature about B. Martin de Porres, whose shrine it is, dexterously introduced into my luggage by the bearded Director, Fr. Giles Black. B. Martin. who was "a coloured man of South America "—I quote from a leaflet so as not to use the wrong terminology—is represented by a bright coloured statue in the Chapter House and an austere modern Lindsay Clark carving in the chapel. I understand that there is a difference of opinion about these two very different modes of representation.
Beauties of Staffs.
AMONG those present at the con
ference was my old friend Peter Anson, who lives in the extreme north of _Scotland, and yet never seems to miss a good gathering any
where in Europe. Amazed that I had never been to Worcester, of which I wrote some weeks hack, he said he was now looking forward to a discursus on the unknown beauties
of Staffordshire. Well, I admired Cannock Chase—such a wonderful name for a coal mining area—from a distance, and visited Lichfield Cathedral, where Samuel Johnson originated. I was distracted by discovering that Lichfield was a small country town and not an immense industrial. city. and by the best tea I have ever eaten at any hotel—in this case, the " George."
A Memory of Fr. Vincent
NE evening the conversation veered round to the bombing days at Haverstock Hill, and from much gory detail there emerged a story which deserves to survive as part of the memory of Father Vincent McNabb. After being out at rescue work for many hours, two of the Fathers returned home very late at night and fagged out. The guns were still firing and the bombs fall ing. In the midst of the din. the Fathers made their way along the corridor to their bedrooms. Father Vincent's door opened and his head peeped out. " If you most conic home so late," he could just he heard to say, " you might at least take your boots off."
WE have been talking a great deal ' at the office about pictures in the paper and what readers like best. One member is all for pictures about children; another for dogs. The more conservative stand for the usual ecclesiastical news pictures, I am for
masterpieces of the photographic art. Have you any views? If so, write and tell me. Anyway, here by the way is an obvious snap representing the new spirit of Catholic interna tional friendship. It is the Italian girl's first visit to England. Already a fast friendship with the English girl has been cemented through the poodle. likewise a lady and evidently of the opinion that she is the prettiest of the three,
Beda at the Rembrandt
GR. Duchemin presided over a
distinguished gathering and gave his guests a first-class lunch last week at the Rembrandt when he welcomed members of the Beda Association. No doubt most of these followed the proper liturgical course by first attending the ceremonies at the Oratory and then feasting. Alas, I myself took the usual journalistic course of being unable. to find the time to spend the morning in church, but finding it quite possible to make the time for the subsequent feasting. Catholic journalists will have to find a way into Heaven by a side door. There were no speeches and this added to the intimacy of the occasion and diminished the journalistic work. But Mgr. Duchemin himself informally told us that he wanted the membership of the Association to rise to 2.000 in the course of the coming year. And certainly I can think of few worthier causes than the active support of this great work of ensuring the realisation of late vocations (often of converts) --not to mention the reward of Mgr. Duchemin's friendship and so delightful an
(Continued at foot of next column) annual sent to at this lunch. Any enquiries can be Mgr, Duchemin through me office.
Dick Stokes' broadcast
THE leading article on this page .1may well he taken as a rather active support of Mr. Churchill as a result of his broadcast, The independence of a paper does not, of course, mean that it should never take sides when it feels convinced. It should be equally ready to reverse gear if and when its judgment proves wrong. Hut in fairness I feel bound to remind readers not to miss the party political broadcast of Richard Stokes on Monday. He is, after all, our leading Catholic politician today, end, anyway, one can be certain of a fine and lively microphone performance from him.