Those mirthful carefree moments of Our Lord
MY APOLOGIES. You may There the paper was. lying in the pile. headlines to the fore. You have bought. presuming that your favourite columnist is at his usual post on the back page. The money is already in the box and you haven't a handy knife to get it out. (I haven't been a prison chaplain for nothing).
Alas. Patrick has gone to hospital so we must pray for him to return quickly.
I had a phone call last Friday afternoon giving me the news with a request for a Charterhouse column by Monday lunchtime ... and I reflected on Providence.
Generally I write all the notices plus sermon notes on Saturday morning but this week 1 thought I would do them on Friday morning instead. Why. I don't know. but I will speak to the Herald staff and get a decade or two of the rosary out of them in thanksgiving.
You've now seen my photograph peering out of the back page a number of times this year. I've had many comments about the photo. some not very flattering. and I regret the reality is not much of an improvement.
You may wonder why rm. even • allowed to write the Charterhouse column and I suppose that if I was the parish priest of John O'Groats, you would never have to Suffer my ramblings. but since Fleet Street is in my parish and newspapers are eternally at panic stations because someone who was to have produced some incisive comment on a topic has disappeared: his copy is lost or he is in Bolton when he should be in London and the minutes are ticking by. and hev presto. yours truly is wheeled out to try to say something useful.
Waiting for the Punch-line
WHAT WOULD you do if you had the offices Of Punch magazine in the parish? They are part of the daytime parish so duty There must be folk locked up in those offices for eight hours a day. a third of the day and nearly' a quarter of the week so I feel it is my duty to see what spiritual assistance I can give.
The offices below Fleet Street have the distinguished figure of Mr Punch in the hallway and Many has been the occasion I have passed and felt that somehow in some mysterious way he is summoning me in. He has his worries and naturally shows concern for his staff.
But how to enter the "sanctum" whose walks are probably reverberating with laughter and pounding typewriters? If I enter. will 1 be drowned in a sea of jokes about the bishop and the actress? Will I be reminded of one of Punch's ancient jokes about the curate's egg?
However. I must press on, comforting myself in the thought that I come from a profession that has had some noted practitioners in the art of humour. Anglican divines and Catholic monsignori have added' to the gaiety of nations and have given the lie to what men like Thackeray said with his comments on "The Imitation of Christ" and Swinburne with his line about the "pale Galilean-. How wrong they were for Christ was. alter all. a Jew, belonging to a race noted for its humour.
Probably we miss a great deal of the humour of the New Testament. I refuse to believe that those long walks through the hills of Galilee were not punctuated by great peals or laughter, some of the Apostles reeling from side to side as the latest witicism fell from the lips of one of them.
As we have stories of the Englishman, Irishman and Scotsman so they must have had stories of the Pharisee. the Sadducee and the Levite ... and as for what the Rabbi said to the actress ... What a jovial affair the marriage feast of Cana must have been: just because we are not told, it doesn't mean that it was solemn, as though they were all waiting for the miracle.
The guests didn't know it was going to happen; it was all done rather quietly and pssibly some of the guests were in such a state, that they couldn't possibly have known it had happened. Who knows?
I wonder how the Punch staff will react to my presence. Will it embarrass them in any way'? But I can fortify them with the thought that Christianity' is a joyful religion.
Fortified with such thoughts I summon up courage and enter.
Illuminating Ely bishops
I HAVE just been presented with U beautiful scroll listing the names of the Catholic bishops of Ely from 1286 until 1559. For these were the ones who used the chapel of St Etheldreda in what is now Ely Place, off Holborn Circus in London.
I am indebted for this gift to that admirable gentleman, James Campbell, who, among other things. organises the Catholic Caledonian Society.
You may wonder why the bishops of Ely built a chapel and indeed a majestic house here in London. The year 1260 might ring a bell in readers' minds for with the establishment of the first Parliament. the Lords Spiritual were called, as indeed some are today, to the deliberations of Parlia ment.
Many of their names would mean nothing to most observers today. but there are a few which might strike a chord from memories of history lessons.
There are four cardinals who occupied the see on their way to higher preferment. Simon Langham (1362-(,6). Louis of Luxembourg (1437-43). Thomas Bouchier (1443-54), and John Morton (1478-86).
Louis of Luxembourg is remembered for it was his brother who captured Joan of Arc. But it is the last name that should conjure up most memories.
Remember Morton's Fork in the reign of Henry VII? It was the aftermath of the War of the Roses; money was scarce: the barons must be kept on short rations. and so this highly effective if morally outrageous dictum was evolved to solve the financial situation.
Those who were thought to be rich could obviously pay, and those who were thought to appear frugal must he making hidden economies so they could obviously' pay'.
Some readers. if new to this dictum might think that it has continued in one form or another down the ages and that it is close to the heart of the Inland Revenue.
But the church and its large complex or domestic buildings (only the church remains) housed a succession of Kings and Queens. Prelates and A mbassadors.
In 1357 John of Gaunt here after his house, the Palace of Savoy was burned down. The Shakespeare in "Richard II" has John of Gaunt dying in Ely House and it was from his sick bed that he delivered those familiar lines: This royal throne of kings: this sceptred .
In 1390 Richard 11 stayed here at the time of a Great Tournament held in nearby Smithfield.
Apparently the hall of Ely House was very popular for fashionable banquets and one of particular interest in 1531 was attended by Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon.
It was about this time that. according to tradition Henry VIII met Thomas Cranmer for the first time in the cloister of the church, and what this meeting has had mighty consequence on subsequent English history.
Through the Reformation and beyond. Ely Place has figured in our history and there was the celebrated squabble between Elizabeth the First and one of her bishops when she wanted to give some of the land belonging to Ely House to one of her favourites, Sir Christopher Hatton. His presence is now commemorated by the jewellers' road, Hatton Garden.
The role of Master of Ceremonies has been downgraded since Vatican II. Prior to that they were men of power who literally commanded the -sanctuary. priest and server.
They were a special breed. Let no priest dare argue. An appeal to "Forteseue" (the authority on rubies) and they had been there before you.
Now in the more fluid ceremonies of the New Rite, it would be a foolhardy MC who insisted on his rights (rites). So it is a pity that this breed of men are disappearing and the likes of them will not be seen again.
I express these thoughts, for recently I lost by death my MC, Jim Baker. He had served at St Ftheldreda's for over sixty years. I doubt if any future server will exceed this record of devoted service.
One great quality a priest likes for service on the altar is reliability. And this was Jim's hallmark. If I speak of him, I do so as a representative of all those laymen who have made the service at the altar one of their contributions to the Church.
Many priests have had and now lament their "Jims". I know 1 speak for many priests when I say. we salute the memory or these men who have helped us in their celebration of the worship of God. May they' rest in peace.