EDITED BY KEVIN MAYHEW
DURING famine in India, the old people suffer most, Mrs. Anne Faulkner of the Help the Aged fund in London told me this week. As proof she handed rue a letter she had just received from Fr. M. Balavoine of Assam, northern India.
"I am very anxious about the poor people of my mission who are already starving right now," he says. "There is not even a glimmer of hope that their situation can improve until next November, when the harvest will at last come. Famine is much more severe this year than it ever was. The stocks of rice are practicaly exhausted and the little rice that remains is sold at exorbitant prices.
"The old people, of course, are the first to suffer from this situation, and we do our best to give them some relief in clothes, medicines, pocket money and especially food.
"Entire villages come to our mission and ask for relief. Although the old people cannot come—since there is no motor road and the villagers must travel long distances on foot—we always give a special share for them and we see to it that it is really handed over to them."
With his letter Fr. Balavoine enclosed the photograph I reproduce of a "centenary woman" in the village of Mawleho. He often works until past midnight, taking supplies to the villages, sometimes by jeep, sometimes trudging miles on foot.
Mrs. Faulkner assures me that whenever someone gives Help the Aged a contribution earmarked for India, it is sent there by cable immediately. "Even a day's delay may be too late for someone," she says.
A Cockney Gospel
NEXT Sunday (July 17) there's going to be a rather unusual programme at London's Mermaid Theatre in Puddle Dock. Bernard Miles who built and now runs the Mermaid is putting on an entertainment called The Gift of Tongues with the help of some actor friends and the Salvation Army's songbirds, the "Joy Strings".
There will be readings from the Bible and the Christian poets — all in English regional dialects. "This", says Mr. Miles. "is religion lifted from the conventional rut and enlivened by the coarse and simple devotion of a thriving folk tradition."
You can hear Aramaic — the language spoken by Jesus and his Disciples: extracts from the Lindis
farne Gospels of the 10th century and from the first English Bible of 1384. episodes from Pilgrim's Progress, the devastating Crucifixion scene from the Wake
field Mystery Plays. and the Gospel stories rendered into the language of Scotland, Yorkshire, Cockney, Liverpool, Tyneside, the Black Country, Cornwall, Somerset and Australia.
And the "Joy Strings" will be there Mr. Miles explains, to answer General William Booth's question: "Why should the devil have all the best tunes?"
Thoughts on Church Music
AND apropos the General's observation, accord ing to news agency reports some Franciscans in Colombia have been getting into trouble for using folk music at Mass. They've even been called "Communists" by a local newspaper. Well, that sort of reaction is nothing new. It has happened in England, though opinion here does seem to be coming round in favour of experiments of this kind, Surely those who criticise such efforts to popularise Church music are missing the point. in this day and age a diet of Palestrina, Victoria and plainsong will satisfy only a minority of worshippers. and if the purpose of music is to give praise to God and to raise the mind to him, then this will not do.
We have either got to scrap music altogether or find a style that is more in tune with the tastes of the majority. Something that incorporates the tunefulness of traditional music, and the vitality of "pop" would probably be just as acceptable to older folk as well as the youngsters.
And its no good calling on the poor old organ to accompany this kind of music either. Guitars, piano and even drums are what's called for.
Let's get a bit of pep into our Church music. After all, we've got a good precedent in King David who told us to praise the Lord with gladness and a joyful shout. And David didn't play the organ!
Action in Ireland
y SUPPOSE it's the fear of reading about super2sentimental devotions to little-known saints and the like that leads one to pass over many Irish religious magazines. But when I did flick through the July issue of one called Irish Spotlight the other day, I realised that where this one is ()uncerned anyway, I've been missing something.
Irish Spotlight has been published each month by the Dominicans in Dublin since 1962 and Fr. Philip Rice is the editor. To say that the magazine recognises that this is the age of the Vatican Council is to understate the case: it's positively aggressive about it and the social consciousness it shows is impressive.
How about this for a paragraph to bring in a few hysterical letters?: "Ireland in the first post-Council year presents a rather sorry spectacle for a harvest field. The growth in dynamic charity is hardly the most obvious thing on the social scene." And that doesn't only apply to Ireland.
Then there are some questions: "Are our people to go on asking for the bread of a constructive sexual theology and be handed merely a set of negations long proved not only useless but destructive?"
The articles are first-rate. "Wanted: a new deal in preaching" rises above the usual destructive carping and gives, instead, something constructive. "Listen to Youth" — written by school children — is really provocative.
All praise for the brave Dominicans. It takes courage to publish a progressive magazine, and I hope they continue to be successful.
£12,000 for Westminster
LDT 33 at Sotheby's' on Wednesday last week was -1-1 the two Muntagna paintings which Westminster Cathedral had put up for .vale. Starting at a reserve of 12.000 some very fact bidding brought the price up to 1I2,000. The successful bidder turned out to be Sotheby's Head Clerk, Mr. Patch who was reprevenling an anonymous buyer.
S(otheby.s think that Westminster should he quite pleased with the price the paintings fetched. The money raised will help towards the soaring cost of keeping the Cathedral going.
If you win—STOP!
IF you just happen to walk into St. Augustine's School, Blackburn, and find the fifth formers playing with one-armed bandits, don't be alarmed because it's all part of their G.C.E. maths syllabus. Or at least, analysing the machines is. Under their senior mathematics master, Mr. John Holden, the boys have produced some interesting facts and figures:
On a properly adjusted bandit there are 252 possible combinations, and the average payout is 81.7 per cent of what's put in. You have a one in 4,000 chance of winning the jackpot. If you own a machine for every hour's play you can expect to make a profit of £3 10s, What advice have the gentlemen of St. Augus tine's for those compulsive gamblers among us? Says Mr. Holden: "If after four or five flings you are a little up on your winings, have the moral courage to take the money and push off."
Impersonal by computer
THE survey of 29 marriage bureaux in this month's Which? left out the Catholic Introductions Bureau because, they said. they couldn't persuade any of their volunteers to register at it. That made me curious. I rang up the bureau to see how it compared with Which?'s 29. Since it started 19 years ago, the bureau has navigated nearly 900 couples to the altar-900 that it knows of; undoubtedly there must he many more who met
through the bureau and later married without bothering to let the bureau know.
It is the only marriage bureau in the country that does not make a profit. No one pays more than six guineas (others charge up to £50). The applicant pays one guinea to register and five guineas for introductions. If the first is not satisfactory, he can come back any number of times until he meets the right person.
Personal interviews are not demanded. Applicants fill out a detailed questionnaire by post. The bureau sizes them up according to age, education, social-economic background, height and income. Then it sends the woman a photo and description of a man judged to be compatible with her. If she agrees that he is her type, her photo and "particulars" are sent to him, and it's up to him to write to her.
"From 19 years' experience, we think that we can assess them very well on the particulars they give us", one of the bureau's officials told me. "In any case, it does work.
"The whole thing's quite a romance, you know", said the official. He would never wish to make the selections by computer: "That would be very impersonal, don't you think?"
Working for harmony
THE new Greater London Conciliation Corn' mittee that has just been set up to handle complaints about racial discrimination, especially in theatres, restaurants and hotels, ought to make considerable progress with Bishop Joost de Blank as its chairman.
This Anglican prelate was never afraid to attack South Africa's apartheid policies during his seven years as Archbishop of Capetown. Since he returned to England three years ago because of poor health, he has repeatedly spoken out against the immorality of racialist attitudes.
His committee will meet for the first time towards the end of the month. Working under the Race Relations Board, it will examine complaints of discrimination, to confirm whether or not the offence is genuine. If it is, then they will try to talk sense into the offenders.
Unlike the board, the committee members will not be civil servants but M.P.s, trade unionists, social workers, journalists, professional and business men. It could be seen as an attempt to place the problems of integration on a cross-section of the community as a whole, instead of leaving it in the hands of those employed to cope with it,
Bishop de Blank does not feel that the situation in London is particularly disturbing at the moment. On recent visits to East End schools he often found half the pupils and staffs were white, half coloured, all getting along quite amicably. But, he says, if employment drops, then discrimination will most likely rear its head in a big way.
Dorton, Longman and Todd are shortly publishing Belief and Unbelief—sub-title "A Philosophy of SelfKnowledge"—by Michael Novak. Their representative was showing it to the buyer of a well-known Catholic bookshop. She looked at it and said: "Oh. Novak. No thank you, he's not safe," She subsequently agreed that the publishers should send her a copy to vet.