Page 9, 19th March 1976

19th March 1976
Page 9
Page 9, 19th March 1976 — A comfortable rock Fr Tom

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Locations: Rome, Canterbury, Southampton


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A comfortable rock Fr Tom

IT is wrong to write about dead men whom you have loved. Yet one longs to confer just a little extra Ciceronian immortality which is a prolongation of the memory of them on earth. I would do this if I could for Fr Thomas Corbishley of the Society of Jesus.

The Jesuits, in their prudence not their mythical guile it nderstand journalists and many of them have the good hearts of journalists. Tom was one of these. He would always help. He was a comfortable rock. He was a friend and an ally and he inspired the most extraordinary trust.

I remember once in Rome, in one of their impossible car parks. Archbishop Ramsey, then of Canterbury, saw him across the way and waved and cried: "There's old Tom!" And there's ecumenism for you. For in his sturdy and Lancashire frame he combined some delicious qualities. He was good company, so he was a welcome guest of the rich and the Press and the poor. He could listen. for he had patience and theological love. He was an admirable counsellor. He preached in the most sacred non-Catholic churches and cathedrals in the country.

He looked and acted and travelled so English, that he was a sort of Fr William Cobbett, lie seemed always to he on the move. He seemed to be always working. He was tolerant of weakness.

He once said Mass at the bottom of my bed in hospital, which brought a Spanish cleaning woman to her knees a little shocked by the Host in such an antiseptic place.

He once stood in the kitchen of my house while my wife was making bread. English Jesuits do not help with the washing-up (nor do 1). But she was making bread and had flour up to her elbows. He said, "May I watch? I've not seen this since my mother died."

But for all I could tell. he was a happy priest, rejoiced in his task, came down often to our parish to help out, once sang the Exalter there at Easter rather badly. He loved cricket and crosswords and his friends, and an apple with his breakfast. I once described him as potatofaced. Well, he was, in a splendidly English way.

Above all he was a great priest and a compassionate man and a very tolerant one. I suspect that literally hundreds of the readers of this paper feel they have lust a friend. Personall%I feel much diminished.

A moving Mass

A FEW weeks ago I wrote a thing about a Franciscan, Fr Andrew McMahon. He runs the St Dismas Society in Southampton, and someone sent me £10 for him! In all my years as a journalist I have never achieved such a thing.

Now I get letters, and I am afraid that the majority of them are mourning letters that weep with love for the old form of the Mass. But Fr Andrew says Mass each Sunday at The Spike, which is the reception centre for ex-prisoners and the downand-outs and alcoholics. and is run brilliantly and with love and compassion by the local government. Fr Andrew is a num of God doing a man's work.

Fr Andrew says Mass there every Sunday. I trail my cheap coat here a little. But someone else who went there wrote something that seems to be a resounding and a loving, alternative to the unhappiness of so Many Catholics today. It is only from these Les Religeuses Miserables that I ever seem to hear. So I print these verses, "Mass at The Spike," and I have not asked who wrote them. I do not know if it is poetry, but it is superb reporting: When you go to Mass are you moved?

Moved to some feeling, some new idea To a hope perhaps, or a promise? Move to pray?

And if there is no movement, No growth. no life From this experience. If your heart is in no way touched. Then is there any point in going Out of a sense of duty or obligation? I don't know.

We went to Mass at The Spike What was it like?

Was there anything there to move us?

The altar cloth A sheet on the table Fell crumpled on the side. carpet at one And ahove the altar In letters of scarlet It said "Fire Exit Only". • There was nothing beautiful to see In honour of the Lord.

The readings were badly done The responses feeble There was hardly any sermon ...

At Mass. the priest identifies with Christ.

Breaking the bread and saying "This is My Body", Sometimes it is very hard Watching and listening To imagine Christ.

But today. at The Spike. it was different.

The priest in this Mass was striving To icientify with Christ in another way

To reach to the men who were there And loving them, to he one of them The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.

Their hearts were touched and mine,

They *ere moved, and so was I. I was glad and lucky to have been there

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