SANDRA Lawrence is rapidly becoming one of Britain's best known names in the field of realist painting. This is consoling at a time when realism has been increasingly challenged by different varieties of figurative expressionism. Her recent London exhibition was her most successful to date.
She was launched into prominence by being commissioned to design and paint full sized cartoons for the famous "Overlord Embroidery", conceived as a permanent memorial and record of the effort made by the Allied nations to liberate Europe from the Nazis.
For many years this magnificent piece of embroidery — a counterpart but even longer than the eleventh century Bayeux Tapestry — was on exhibition at the Whitbread Museum, near the Barbican (and the Catholic Herald). It is the largest work of its kind in the world.
Look out for the name — Sandra Lawrence. You are likely to hear it more and more often in the future.
THE second part of a happy double event took place on Wednesday of this week at the Anglican parish church in Frinton, Essex. It was an ecumenical service in honour of Fr Donald Clover who has just celebrated his golden jubilee to the priesthood.
He became a Catholic in his days at home at Dedham Hall, through whose grounds John Constable would walk on his way to school from his native Flatford nearby.
For 34 years Fr Clover has been parish priest in Frinton. There was a special concelebrated Mass for him last week by the bishops and clergy of the Brentwood diocese.
The parish church at Frinton, the Sacred Heart, has an interesting history. It was once a "Brotherhood Hall" owned by the Plymouth Brethren. It is thought that when the Brethren sold it they never knew it was going to be used as a Catholic Church. It was bought privately by the mother of one of our directors, Sir Harold Hood; a cousin of mine, William Eyre; and a member of the Bellamy family.
When Cardinal Heenan said Mass there he said "Little did I think I would one day be saying Mass in a dance hall."
Will it remain large enough, owing to the fruitful ministry of Fr Clover who has also been highly successful ecumenically in a once rather anti-Catholic area? If not, why not consider a sharing scheme with the Anglican church such as has been so effectively adopted elsewhere? One day this could surely become common practice, to the advantage and delight of all.
A FASCINATING exhibition of memorabilia concerning Evelyn Waugh opened last weekend at the National Portrait Gallery. It comes just 20 years after his death, and will continue until the end of the year.
Perhaps the outstanding item is the only surviving oil painting of him, done by Henry Lamb. But there are also some delightful drawings by his good friend Osbert Lancaster.
There is even a Bow Street summons for drunkeness which immediately brings to mind the "Brideshead" era. This makes all the more timely last week's publication by Messrs. Michael Joseph, of Nicholas Courteney's highly diverting book In Society, subtitled "The Brideshead Years".
It sketches to magnificent effect the real life characters — some of them truly fantastic — who lived, loved, revelled and occasionally rotted during that daring but dangerous decade that followed the first World War.
ARCHAEOLOGISTS are to excavate the grounds of one of England's most spectacular cathedrals, namely that of ,Lincoln. Their objective is to discover the shrine of the great St Hugh of Lincoln who was buried in the Cathedral but whose body was later removed.
It would be marvellous if the ancient shrine could be specifically identified in this particular year which is already seeing prolific activity at the Cathedral, including a Domesday Exhibition in the library. For it is exactly 800 years since St Hugh became Bishop of Lincoln.
He was not a very willing candidate for the great honour having been earlier attracted to the much more severe and secluded life of the newly founded Carthusian Order.
He took his vows at the Grande Chartreuse in 1160 but his strong character and many talents soon became known to England's forceful King Henry II. At the specific wish of the latter, Hugh agreed to be consecrated as Bishop of Lincoln in 1186, but he insisted that he should be freely elected before accepting the office.
Would he have been a CND man today? It is not quite so silly a question as it may seem. For, along with the Bishop of Salisbury, St Hugh refused to supply money to King Richard I for his wars. This turned out to be an event of great significance in constitutional history.
Let's hope the original shrine will be found, for his tomb became second only to that of St Thomas of Canterbury as a place of popular devotion, until spoiled by Henry VIII.
THE church of St Joseph at Brindle near Hoghton in Lancashire is celebrating its second centenary in an unusual way — by raising a lot of money. At a recent meeting, the parish priest, Fr Thomas Louglin OSB, reported on the condition of the historic 200-year-old building and the evidence, over the past few years, of dry and wet rot. The estimated cost of over £100,000 for the church's restoration, however, seemed preferable to the parishioners to the building of a new church, which was the other alternative. Their traditional generosity has once more been demonstrated.
For Brindle St Joseph's, as it is usually called, is of unique historic importance and is a listed building.
The parish has close links with the martyr, St Edmund Arrowsmith, who was arrested in the parish after celebrating Mass in a house in Gregson Lane. He was taken to Lancaster Castle were he was tried, condemned and executed in August, 1628.
But within 50 years of his death, his niece Alice Gerard built a house and chapel in the parish and a Benedictine priest, Fr Leander Green, lived there as parish priest.
After another hundred years had passed the parish was large enough to need a proper church but the penal laws still in force imposed ingenious precautions. The church was built in a secluded location and in an architectural style which looked more like a farm complex than a Catholic Church.
1 HAVE a feeling that we are about to see the publication of a new classic comparable with John Betjeman's unforgettable Collins Guide to English Parish Churches. I refer to another Collins Guide, of sumptuous proportions, this time concerned with England's Cathedrals, Abbeys and Priories.
The author is Henry Thorold, the well known East Anglian, whose life has been dominated by cathedrals.
With his friend and photographer Peter Burton he set off in his ancient Bentley to visit every corner of England and Wales in search of cathedrals and monastic buildings. They had some astonishing adventures, encountering, I gather, hostile as well as (mostly) extremely helpful clerics.
They penetrated into deepest Wales to explore the tiny cathedral of St Asaph, the smallest of the ancient cathedrals of England and Wales, and one of the oldest Christian sites in Britain.
A foreword is supplied by another pioneer, along with John Betjeman, of the "school" to which Thorold belongs, namely John Piper, the famous painter and writer.
He particularly praises the skill and loving care with which Thorold has brought to life some of our lesser priories and abbeys which are thus rescued from long neglect by this industrious and brilliant observer of our monastic heritage.
MANY years ago the late King Edward VIII, when still Prince of Wales, was on a state visit to India representing his father King George VI.
At one particular ceremony he spotted a group of people very obviously separated from the main body of those whom he was officially due to meet on that particualar day. On enquiring as to their identity he was told that they could not approach or be approached because they were "untouchables". To the great consternation of the Viceroy and other notable personages present the young Prince of Wales pointedly went over to the segregated group and greeted them heartily shaking hands and talking to many.
A reminder of this was occasioned by the Pope's action in Popayan Cathedral in Colombia last week when he thwarted an attempt by the local clerical establishment to cut off a speech being made by the leader of one of the indigenous tribes, something like the "untouchables" as far as the Colombian whites are concerned.
Such incidents are often remembered long after the "big" events have been forgotten.
THEY say that this year will yield a splendid harvest, as good if not better than that of 1984. What a pity it is that, in all probability, we cannot look forward to many Harvest Festivals in Catholic Churches. Only very few have revived the custom so popularly preserved in Anglican and Free Churches from medieval times.
Rogation Days, moreover, to pray in the spring for a good harvest, have meanwhile disappeared, to be replaced in 1969 by periods of prayer for the needs of mankind, the fruits of the earth, and so on. But the special Masses for such intentions included in the 1970 Missal are not perhaps used as often or as obviously as they might be.
Long gone too is "Plough Sunday", the day on which the plough was blessed in thanksgiving for the harvest and for future fruitfulness from the soil.
Coming up soon, furthermore, is the date for the former Lammas Day (August 1). This is a long lost but once popular day of thanksgiving for the first fruits of the harvest, bread made with the new wheat being offered at Mass and solemnly blessed.
As for America's famous Thanksgiving Day (originally for the harvest) you can usually win a bet with those who say that it comes on the last Thursday in November. In fact it comes on the fourth Thursday of that month, which may not of course be the last one.