Since the Church is, as the Holy Father himself has said, in a state of crisis, we often have to read bad news. However, for the summer let me announce four pieces of good news.
First, for those who live in the North West or who travel along the M6 in Lancashire I suggest the perfect day out for a Catholic family.
Visit the shrine to Our Blessed Lady at Ladywell, Fernyhalgh, near Preston, just five minutes from the motorway.
It is an ancient but quiet place tucked in the beauties of the Lancashire countryside. Gently, with the encouragement of the late Bishop John Brewer of Lancaster, the shrine has been built up over the last few years.
It is a good place to say the rosary and to contemplate. There is a lovely chapel, a museum with relics of the English martyrs, and a shop as well as a library and secondhand bookshop.
You can buy a hot drink there and eat sandwiches. There are excellent eatingplaces nearby.
It would be a good place to take small parties of school children but ask first the people who look after the shrine so well. For more details ring: 01772 700181.
More good news for all concerned with the education of Catholic children is the excellent periodical, The Sower.
That it is produced by the Archdiocese of Birmingham's Maryvale is a guarantee of excellence.
The latest edition is that rarest of thing — an old established publication which is actually improving.
The special subject is "Focus on teaching doctrine." All the articles are excellent — sound and practical. A new feature is the high quality reproduction of great paintings with notes on how they might be used in education.
This edition has Raphael's Crucifixion. The editor Petroc Willey and his splendid team are to be congratulated as is the Archbishop of Birmingham, of course, for fostering such a benefit for Catholic education.
The magazine pronounces that it is "the teaching journal for the home, parish and school" and all of those would benefit from it.
Every school needs at least one copy and parishes should subscribe so that catechists could benefit.
With a subscription fee of only £15 annually, it is not too expensive for parents. Enquiries to 0121 360 8118.
Another joy to read was a recent book edited by the great Dominican theologian, Fr Aidan Nichols. Abortion and Martyrdom is a collec
tion of papers given at a Conference of distinguished international theologians at Solesmes.
Such things can be dull but this book is actually exciting, as it explores the question "Can the Magisterium of the Church acknowledge children killed in abortion as 'companions of the Holy Innocents' (and therefore martyrs)?"
This humble tone is a characteristic of the book where the writers do not spout their own opinions but humble submit themselves to the authority of the Church.
The book carries an imprimatur. It can be recommended to those who have given up in despair on modern theology and it would be most useful for all our secondary schools.
It can be obtained from good bookshops, such as the CTS Manchester, who operate a mail order service — 0161 8345115.
Finally, it was a joy for me to watch on television the whole of the Holy Father's World Youth Mass at Toronto and his canonisation of St Juan Diego in Mexico.
I could do this because I have the wonderful EWTN American television. I recommend it wholeheartedly, especially for all our schools and parish centres.
It is not at all expensive with just a one-off payment. You will see elsewhere in The Catholic Herald how to order it.