eke Chronicle ON1. 01 the temptations towards a sentimental attitude
to ccunienism is the occasional use — as invited guests — of a medieval church now in the meticulous and learned care of the Anglicans. And, let's face it. they have become fantastically hospitable, especially since they know that half the Catholic congregation is having cross little distractions about all this being ours really.
But near where I live there is a small church vwhere one of the aisles is the private propert) of a Catholic lama). There are several others in the countr). I cannot
think how legally thev tvived Henry VIll's heart) suppression of chantry chapels. But this one has railed otT an aisle of miniature magnificence. It is lined with beautifully kept monuments. Its railing indeed SVOLlid grace a palace. It has a tilting helm high above its entrance. It has a ringed stone in its floor which gives access to the family vault, The church is of almost primitive simplicity. It has bits that are Saxon and .irt 18th Century top to its lower. it still has high walled box pews made of carved oak, of excruciating discomfort, vt here, as in a carriage, the children might perch On a ledge lace to face with the pater (a shunt "a" is used for that one).
It stands on a hillock on a hill and it looks over a piece of England that is so rich and well kept. so beautifully designed, so riehl) endoaed b),, God and good fanning. that it makes you bite your lip. Nothing is wrong here.
The Mass is always on the feast of Sts Peter and Paul. And this time the feast fell on a Sunday.
The inside of this church is \One and uneven with strange niches and blockedwmai 1 nv s II unexpected places. It was alive with flowers and candles burned on the main altar and on the old recusant altar table. a low. Elizabethan and perilous thing, in the side aisle.
I've never heard sudi a clattering as the Catholics came in, overflowed the aisle, filled the squat nave, and struggled with the unfamiliar doors to box pews and tried to find hymn books. Didn't matter. Sign of life and happy involvement.
I know one should not worry about such externals as the architecture and the ambience. But unless I am away. I always go to this Mass. And this year the seaton was there to ring the faithful in to Mass. including that slow tolling at the end which means that the priest is vesting and the faithful had better get their running shoes oa
1 le did not stop until the dot of 6.30 and our parish priest who does not dills-dany for once had to wait to begin in the rather dim religious light furnished by postSaxon chandeliers.
When I got home. I realised that 1 had left behind a small pile of CTS pamphlets thaf Nt$1110011C had returned to me lust before Mass. Dear me. ii the Vicar found them in one of his pews, here would he the old Roman diseourtesy and prosletysal ion reasserting Hach. It ads in tact simply in) carelesaress.
i have no motor ear a Lich in great things simplifies and in small complicates life. So I telephoned our parish priest wilo, audibly. blanched down the telephone. He. without reproach. drove up and fetched roam the time bomb. Phew!
Oh this screech and clamour
IT IS pleasant from time to time to dwell on the letters that people write t6 the Press. All columnists are the most frequent single targets, hecause they are opinionated and the liale beasts have a private pulpit permanentl) reserved for performances.
Charterhouse is a little surprived 111_11.% S111:111 his hate maa has grown. Perhaps his enemies have abandoned the assault as hopeless. And there is no solid wall or prejudice there to he toppled over.
But did you sec the drubbing given to Urbanus — that parvenu column that is written hy a person who uses the back doors of Bishops' palaces: and very sensible too. -That way you get to go through the kitchen and meet the secretary before he can go his coat on. It appears to reject the literal Gospel story of the hest piece of logistics in the histor) of picnics. (Loaves ;tad fishes. distribution of, 2,000, for the use of.)
Occasionally the vtorld does explode in ones face. From ireland this seek a Sister Mar) McDonnell is livid because of the way I wrote about the Irish in the British army — "sentimental whims)". She did not give her address alma] I regard as delin quent. She is in no danger from the Charterhouse Private Army (even if she in fact exists).
1 he CPA. a secret organisation. has its greatest strength in the .1.nglish home counties_ Its Manners arc beautiful: a has never yet sacked a convent: you cannot chose to join haw to be invited. Sister Mar) is sale from Lis. But are we from her?
Sister Mary included two handouts about Northern Ireland. The first was about Beating Women in Prison I Armagh) and was compiled by a 1-r. Denis 1.aul, It is a horrible still), but is it entirely true? The technical name of the game is "disinformation". I have no doubt that the producers of this broad sheet hefieve it -all. They want to believe, lhit there aremo disinterested witnesses. There are small give-aways that would alert most journalists. And it all written at the top or everv one's voice which is the least convincing sound in the world.
ller other offering was a demand for i parole for Fr Patrick rell. This, in both senses. is a pathetic document.
Now I cannot remember the details about 1.r Patrick. He was tried in Octobei 1973, on .a charge of conspiracy and got 12 ) ears. It ads for .soine alleged act
or 5, 111r.thy ithi those who iolandy oppose the British in tretand.
This propaganda must he designed to keep those who are alread) :ally informed and angry at some vertiginou.s boiling point. It :arts his trial was a farce. It does not say. with what he was charged. There is a long and loving statement by the priest's aged father, Allegedly, he took part in a prison demo about the treatment of "another Irish prisoner". Fr Patrick lost 690 days of remission and got 91 days in solitary. And he was due for parole next year. He is now in gaol on the Isle of Wight. This is what the printed sheet says.
But this is a useless document. Who, apart from Sister Mary, was it written for? Of course one pities a priest "inside", but if you practice the "morality" of liberation. especially if you are a priest, you must expect a condign version of the lay reaction.
But the sum total of this foolish lady's work is to tempt me towards the sort of Six Counties Indifferentism that is our reaction to this sort or ranting propaganda.
There is a collector's item inthe Armagh jail piece. After listing alleged horrors of cruel vulgarity, it reports that "Alienation has grown". The whole terror of the thing was that they were all totally alienated. They cannot even blame the Press, No-one will blame themselves.
Objectivity, even the shadow of it, has been frightened away. Anyway. hatred is more fun. And the visit of the Pope to Ireland seems to have flowed over the heads of women like this as if it were the passage of some marvellous and irrelevant bird.
Moral: Don't' send Charterhouse publications of such amateur hatred — however I, xpensively printed — especially if You are a Catholic.
Quite different and infinitely welcome was a classical letter. It was composed like a piece or music. After a flourish it began with a statement of its theme — that I had made a gross error. This authentic theme was developed with a secondary theme bused on quite new material, it returned to a restatement of the flourish and theme.
All of which is a way of disguising the fact that last week 1 made a squalid but not sinful error. Now I do make mistakes. usually about things ahout which I feel over confident. I invariably mix up Arch-dukes with Grand Dukes and I cannot, without painful concentration. remember to which deported Monarchy each lot of them belongs.
Quite considerable writers, even genii make mistakes. The great Dr Samuel Johnson (he once made a remark in outraged defence against some vulgar attack on the Mass, hut I cannot find it), produced a personal dictionary.
Philip Howard who is licensed on The Times to write like i. gentleman and scholar — quite a lot of them do — lists some of the errors arid extravagences in Johnson's dictionary. There is the famous one. A lady asked him why he had misdefined a horse's pastern. He replied "Ignorance, madam. pure ignorance'', . first time, about the last Emperor of Austria. Charles I whose hodv. is on Madeira. I said he was the son of that -foolish old despot" Frani Josef. My correspondent writes:
"Surely you are au fait with the basic knowledge of the First World War. (Charles) was the great nephew, being the son of "Gay Otto" who was the son of Charles Louis. brother of Franz Josef.
"Franz Josef had four children, three daughters, the eldest dying in infancy and a son, Rudolf who became a degenerate iii his early years". He was the one who haying taken drugs, wis much preoccupied with liberalism and suicide. He killed himself and his mistress in rnysterious circumstances that have intrigued flint-Milkers and historical detectives ever since. but not. apparent1), me. Once again 1 stand corrected.
Little nasties in Holy places
IT I IA D to happen. There is now a minor controversy in the United States about whether the use of a single chalice by everyone at Communion represents a health hazard.
Personally I think that this way leads to madness. Think of all the shrines that are kissed by innumerable lips and yet are never disinfected or sterilised. Think of the bronze toe of the statue of the seated apostle in St Peter's worn smooth by centuries of devout kisses. and some very distinguished ones among them.
I was once in Cioa at a time when they were exposing for veneration the body of St Francis Xavier. They had taken it from its great marble and silver shrine in the Jesuit church and carried it across the wide expanse of grass to the cathedral.
He is known, even to the local Hindu's, as the Lord of Goa and there was a picturesque queue waiting to kiss his glass coffin. It was difficult to see the blackened body, vested for Mass, because the glass had been misted with the curry powder and spices left by the kisses of his admirers. took no harm.
There are those holy baths at Lourdes in which patients and the faithful immerse themselves or are immersed and whichdo not obey the laws of hygiene. Hut then the water from the spring is so cold that it must discourage the most avid germ.
In the United States where hygiene is a tyrant. some doctors will not take Communion from the chalice even when it is properly offered. As a dentist put it, -if there is no danger of contamination then why do 1 have to sterilise all my dental instruments?"
The list of diseases that could be transmitted is formidable. Among the more respectable are mumps. cold sores and trench mouth,
But there is no record of any such diseases being transmitted. 1 am told most priests have thought, at least fleetingly, about the sabjeet If the cup were all that dangerous. monasteries ought to be hot-beds of disease instead of being peopled with aged. hale and healthily cantankerous men.
Of course the consecrated wine, which still retains the physical properties of wine — 1am in deep waters here — may act as a disinfectant and the cup is wiped and turned each time it is used.
It is true that a public health. inspector would not tolerate such an attitude to used glasses in a public house, hut perhaps at Communion there is an extra dimension at,work. I have no idea and shall continue to partake when invited.
Incidentally the liturgy coinmission of the united States Catholic Bishops Conference is proposing a severe reduction in the number of their days of obligation.
At present they have six. They suggest dropping the Assumption arid the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God (January 1st) and All Saints day. They would move the Ascension to the seventh Sunday after Easter. This would leave them Christmas Day and the Immaculate Conception.
The Vatican allows episcopal conferences to choose their own national Holy Days as long as they keep Christmas and one feast of Our Lady. But why can't they leave things alone? Change is synonymous neither with progress nor refOrrn_