Page 10, 1st April 1977

1st April 1977
Page 10
Page 10, 1st April 1977 — The lavish patrons of our indigent Church

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Organisations: Catholic Church
Locations: York, Liverpool


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The lavish patrons of our indigent Church

INFLATION does not respect the Church. When a national economy goes weak at the knees, the Church is one of the first to suffer.

The presentdifficulty in providing paid choirs is only

one Sy mptom of our troubles. Not many parishes can today afford to play the gentleman and regard talk of money as in shocking had taste.

in fact. the Catholic Church in these islands has survived by beggary, and the poor have behaved like leviah patrona. It has been made the duty of the Catholic wellto-do to give.

Living and dead. the Catholic body here has built and paid for its own setting of church, schools, charities and religious houses and all this from about 1850.

It's a never-ending process. Fortunately. Catholic priests, as well as being unworldly, tend to be pretty good managers. They have an armoury 01 money-rasing tools at their disposal above and beyond the proper call of the offertory plate and the covenant form.

The no longer. if you notice, ask I or money for a new statue or a window. Vestments conic as gifts, and if a parish is splashing on a new Muss vestment it is likely to be on one of the new broad stoles rather than on a precious garment made by otherwise idle ladies or overworked needle women.

But the need of money for oilheating is with us always, Medieval monks wore hillocks of clothes in their unheated churches, and cathUral canons wore fur. It remains escessively difficult to pray while you're perishing with cold. Moloch, in the form of a boiler in the basement, waits for even the most saintly pastor.

So he must raise money. There are many ways. He can sell the achool playground, back a winner. or come into money.

Failing those, there arc raffles, sponsored walks (admirable blackmail!) garden parties, film shows. coffee mornings, bring-andbuy sales. knit-ins, entertainments, outings, door-to-door collections, church socials, hat-swapping parties, wine and cheese parties and, of course, that dying horror, Bingo.

I went to a jumble sale the other day. Like most of these activities it involved parishioners in enterprise for the parish. There is no doubt that people enjoyed it and that a good deal more was gained than the respectable sum that they earned.

Jumble sales used to be a mainstay of the poor, with horrid overtones of charity. They were for ii time replaced by grander versions in which jam and plants and baked things were sold. Now. because of our national weakness at the knees the old jumble sale clearly still has a purpose. At this one the clothes, shoes, bric-a-brac and books (a lot of them about chicken-keeping) were laid out on trestle tables. To begin with they looked like the heaped-up possessions of refugees. Then the hall filled up with purposeful women.

The ecclesiastical purpose of the occasion disappeared. Extremely efficient housewives wen( through the piled clothes as if they were threshing machines. They chose swiftly, and then coldly cut down the official price.

Clothes for children and for working in were seized and engulfed. They kept the noise low. Old toys and unfashionable ornaments went more slowly. Arms stretched over other people's discards offering money. Shoes were bought untried.

People were here for bargains. A bwestopped oetside and a group of women came straight off and into the hall. They must have seen an advertisement for the sale. The money they spent was part of a family's budget and this was an uncovenanted relief for it.

The jumble sale is as fit as ever. It Fills a gap. It is no longer for the poor alone. It inhibits waste. It saves and makes money. But when this institution seems so useful and reasonable. it would be typical of the limes for the supply of "jumble'. in the attics of England to give out.

A gallon of flour a head

THE Tiehborne Dole was given out last week in Hampshire. This happens in front of the plain Regency front of the house. It has a done portico overlooking a wide park with an ornamental waterfall and the nicely arranged air of a roman

tic watercolour.

It happens in the same way every March 25. A big wooden bin is piled high with flour and stands in front of the portico. More sacks of the stuff it was Botley's Self-raising Flour from Alton were piled under the pillars.

A small crowd wanders down the drive or by footpaths to this luxuriously remote park arid stand about on the gravel in front of the stuccoed facade which is topped, like a cake with a cherry, by a coat of arms with Pupa pro Petrie under it. There were several hundred years when this sort of patriotic activity was specifically forbidden to this Recusant family.

About 2,30. the family and friends walk onto the portico. The last baronet died a few years ago. tine of his daughters inherited it.

A you n! son of the house is carrying a smoking thurible as if he thought and hoped that it would explode in an entertaining manner, The parish priest appears in a cope of antique splendour, dark and stiff with embroidery, a Tichborne heirloom, A blessing is said over the flour. Holy water is sprinkled at it and incense waved. The De Profiled& is said for the repose of the soul of Lady Tichborne who started it all. The crowd is now grown to several hundreds.

Men in white coats help move the flour. The family help with the scooping out. The priest has gone, taking his cope out of the floating flour zone.

The agent calls out the names in alphabetical 'order of all those who live within the boundaries of Tichborne parish. They arc served by households, and each adult receives a gallon of flour, each infant a half.

They hold out pillow cases or, alas, plastic bags. It is excellent flour and no one feels the least patronised by the charity. Most of them look like stockbrokers anyway. The doling out goes on for nearly an hour and the crowd is busy intermingling and the sun shines. cold and clear, The 'family is now powdered with flour, though the wise ones stand up-wind. This has happened before, It started in the 12th century, in the reign of Henry ft with a bequest 01 corn lor the poor hy the Lady Mabella Tichhorne. It 15 said that she put a curse on the family to take effect if they stopped the Dole. The curse, which looks as if it were thought up later, included the destruction of the old house, seven sons to be succeeded by seven daughters and the extinction of the male line.

Well, Use Dole was stopped at the end of the leth century because in a lime of hardship it colleeted too many undesirables. The house was pulled down and this one built while the baronet responsible was Napoleon's prisoner for 11 years. The succession did not exactly follow the lines laid down by the curse, but near enough.

It was also stopped for one year during the last war, but the Govern

ment pulled itself together and provided retest] coupons so that the Dole, like England, could go on.

And it remains a charming, unforced, unpublicised, Catholic, country occasion.

More light on a death

IT WAS SAD to hear that the Catholics in the North had got

the wrong house in The Shambles in York. It was sad, because much care and work had gone into the making of No. 35 into a shrine and historical memorial to St Margaret Clitheroe.

But now I hear that local people had long doubted the authenticity of the house on which a plaque had been set to say that the martyr had lived there.

In fact careful research has shown that John Clitheroe, her husband, was a tenant of what are now Nos 10 and I I in The Shambles. He paid rent to the Dean , and Chapter, who assigned the money to the maintenance of the

Minister's fabric. •

Incidental's , the same researcher Found that Guy Fawkes' father had the same landlords. Until he was 10 years old Guy, who was to die an even slower death than the saint, lived in what are Nos 32 and 34 Stonegate. which is close by. The site of the Fawkes house is now used by a tailor. a carpet specialist and the Hong Kong Chinese Resteurant.

A good deal of uncertainty has attended the question of why St Margaret Clitheroc had refused to plead guilty or not guilty at her trial. The result, inevitable in law, of her silence vies the penalty of being pressed to death under weights.

It was said that she would not speak lest she be sentenced as a felon and her family be deprived of her property.

It.was also suggested that she had had an affair with the priest, Fr John Mush, whom she had hidden. This was an obvious explanation for the world, such as it is, to take.

Now an inspection of the lists of her neighbours shows that one of her in-laws was a neighbour and a suspect Recusant and that her silence probably saved this Millicent culvert. who was her husband's sister.

She was the "next neighbour" in whose house the hiding-hole for Fr Mush had been built. She would have been implicated in the evidence if Mrs Clitheroe had even had to stand trial for her part in harbouring a priest. Another relation probabls would also have been implicated. Nos 10 and II. which ai-e on the site of the house or John Clitheroe, have been divided and changed but the house is basically the same. No 10 is used by the seulptor. Robert Brumby. Here he made and fired in a kiln the great. gaunt ceramic statue of Our Lady and Child which stands over a side altar in Liverpool's Metropolitan Cathedral. The Archivist of York Minster, who made this discovery, wrote a life of Margaret Clitheroe under the name of Mary Claridge (published by Anthony. Clarke Books of Wheathainstead, Hertfordshire). She is a Catholic and was appointed Archivist to York Minster at about the same time as an Anglican, Miss Poyser, was appointed Archivist to cope w Oh the papers at Westminster Cathedral.

Embarrassment Factor

IN THE PRESENT solemn and endless discussion of the state of the Church, one consideration is being overlooked. This is

the Embarrassment Factor.

In the Church it is having an in

creasingly powerful effect. Not all that many years ago, we used to go in procession with banners and candles which were firmly extinguished by the wind as we left the church.

We sang hymns, though the front

and back of the processton were on different lines of the verse and that made us sound front a distance like a despairing chain gang. But we enjoyed it. Now we are too embarrassed to indulge in this sort of thing any more.

There is no need to recall the marvellous extravagances of our past which served to unite the hands and emotions and reasons of a congregation in a joyous act of public pray

corsi Most of it had not got much to do with the essential liturgy, but whether or not we can intellectually justify those rose petals, those clouds of incense and those shoulder-borne images heaving about over the heads of happy crowds, ndwwee arc me poi o y cannot t d or t w er n e y cannot t d or t w er n e Eu God for the inability. It is not that we choose not to: we are too embarrassed to behave in this way. it It is not only the traditional highjinks which have been discarded in the face of the Embarrassment Factor. It is the new streamlined rituals. The Kiss or Peace causes a twinge of shame to a very large number. The new Rite of Penance is going to seem altogether too much. Very few now kneel before the Crib or a statue.

The only people who seem able to cope with their absurd embarrassments are the Pentecostalists_ And, myself, I write this down as one-of the must involuted Embarrassment Factor now on the rind aetive victims of the. Emloose.

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