ADRIVE of 200 miles from the Western suhurhs of London across to the eastern end of Kent and back turned out to be one of the most inspiring that I can remember. Strange, by the way, that so much mileage can be eaten up in this part of England; but Kent is a surprisingly long county. I must confess that I made it the wrong way round, through Aylesford and Minster, and on to Canterbury. I shall describe it the other way round, as the real moral of such a pilgrimage' only emerges that way.
Beauty and tragedy
WE found Canterbury Cathedral VT looking simply incredible. In a brilliant sunshine, with a blue sky flecked with clouds, the building looked like some immense, ancient jewel of stone. To gaze at it in such a light is to be taken into existential time—if that is the right jargon. And what Catholic could help thinking that this achievement is a hundred per cent. Catholic—English Catholic. English pre-Reformation Catholic history survives dissension a n d change in those miracles of beauty and craftsmanship. Then one steps along a street or two to stand by the ugliness—the hard word must he used in this context—of the Victorian Catholic church. From the sublime . . . I'm afraid. Yet the reason why our forefathers built Canterbury is today enshrined in the shoddy Gothic of industrial England.
Benedictines of Minster
n UT the other part of the journey Isywas one of hope and real Catholic progress from the depths. Ten miles from Canterbury lies the oldest surviving Catholic foundation, Minster Abbey, where Queen Ermenburga, in 670, erected her "minster," and where her daughter, St. Mildred, governed. In 1937 Benedictine nuns, from St. Walburga's Abbey at Eichstatt, acquired the Abbey, whose actual stones go back to the 11th century. There, in return for Germany's debt to English missionary saints. they live the real Benedictine life of prayer and manual work on their small farm. Among their aims is the growth of Christian charity
and understanding between Catholics and those still non-Catholic. My picture shows a corner of the Abbey with the gay bed of hollyhocks.
Chance for girls
THE Reverend Mother—I fancied St. Mildred, must have been rather like her in her simplicity, strength and intelligence—took me round. lovingly showing me every architectural beauty of this historic house. She told me that Minster is to be the novitiate of this Benedictine foundation in this country. Perhaps men, rather than women, arc haunted today by a desire to combine liturgical prayer with work on the land. But I hope that women will be attracted by a life that seems all peace and beauty in this lovely spot where the ancient roots of English Catholicity are being tended. Allington's Superior THEN there is Allington, so often written about recently. We could only spend a few minutes there, mainly to sec the great Crucifix, painted by Teresa Fuller and illustrated on our front page some weeks ago, hanging on the wall of the Great Hall. Great is the variety of the modern Church, for by contrast with the ancient formality of the Benedictine nuns, the Superior of the Institute of Mount Carmel at Ailington could only be seen at a distance, for she was engaged, in some pastoral attire, in digging the rushes out of the moat in order to make compost with them. Anyhow, she had a unique setting, with the formidable castle walls hanging over her.
Life at Aylesford
ASTLY Aylesford again. The Limost astonishing thing about Aylesford is the amount of life it generates. An Italian builder sings beautifully as he works on a new shrine. The taps and scrapes of builders are heard in another corner where the new refectory to the architectural designs of Father Malachy is being erected. Fires here and there witness to the cleaning of the vast gardens. Men walk about purposefully, and in Father Malachy's absence in Lourdes, Major Hewitt gives all his time and natural charm to the many visitors. Here again is Catholic growth allied with the conception of beauty that made Canterbury.
The Rosary Way
y WENT especially to see the 'Rosary Way. executed in ceramics, mounted in rough masses of stones, by Kossowski. Colours and the actual lay-out of the Way identify the three sets of Mysteries. I thought the whole conception perfect—a too rare example of an aesthetically beautiful presentation of the ancient, most loved and simplest Catholic devotion The blessing by the Bishop is tomorrow (Saturday), and I recommend a visit.