I HAVE. BEEN doing some research at the Written ,rchives Centre of thc. BBC, . litch is housed at Cal. rsham ark, Reading, Bereseire. One's work is smoothed by an excellent a at charming staff, and the grounds with lake, woods, daffodils and a Palladian folly — are in full response to the premature spring.
The main house contains the BBC's Monitoring Service which, round the clock, listens to and records the most significant broadcasts of the nations of the world. The archives are kept in a smaller building nearby which was formerly the sanatorium of an important school.
Indeed, it is still important, and well known to Catholics. For Caversham Park was once the home of the Oratory School, founded more than a century ago at Birmingham by Newman himself. It came from Caversham in the twenties, its former site becoming what is now — St Philip's Grammar School.
Many vicissitudes seemed to endanger the high hopes of Newman on the importance of education as an aid to Christian perfection — as far at least as the Oratory School itself was concerned. Though, his general thoughts on the nature of education were of course immortalised in the series of lectures eventually embodied in "The Ideal of a University."
So it was that the Oratory School nearly became a fatal victim of World War II. It relinquished Caversham in favour of the BBC, continuing as a guest of Downside with, at one point, only about 23 boys. But the spirit of Newman did not seem to have deserted his brainchild, and the headmastership of Mgr George Tomlinson (between 1943 and 1953) became a notable turning point. Mgr Tomlinson, in fact, can perhaps be described as a man of today much after the Newman mould, a convert from High Anglicanism, after being at Kebte College, Oxioscl, and later senior chaplain to I ondon University.
Now, as parish priest of St James's, Spanish Place, London, he is active and influential in many vital Church spheres, including those of ecumenism, art, liturgy and administration.
Much of the Oratory School's pristine greatness -as kept up 50 years ago by Fr Pereira, a relation of the family who once owned Caversham Park — has meanwhile been safely restored, and the school flourishes in its new home at Woodcote, once more near Reading.
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BY COINCIDENCE I went, on Tuesday evening of this week, to a very heartening Mass at London Oratory, celebrated by a priest who has an interesting link with the Oratory School.
This was Fr Hugh BarrettLennard who told me he had just returned from the school, which he had now visited for no fewer than 75 consecutive terms. This he has beer doing in his guise as "extraordinary-that is "outside" — confessor and spiritual counsellor to the pupils.
This period of a quarter of a century corresponds to time during which Fr BarrettLennard has been a priest, and Tuesday's special Mass marked the silver jubilee of his ordination.
I have described it as a "heartening occasion not just because of the big congregation present, consisting largely of friends and well-wishers of Fr Hugh; but also because such friends represented an extraordinarily wide cross-section of Catholics and other friends.
For Fr Hugh, who is quite literally at home with dukes and dustmen, has, during his priestly life (before which he was a teacher and a soldier) done apostolic pastoral work in remarkably varied surroundings: camps, barracks, schools,
hrisons, hospitals, slums (at ome and abroad) and in sometimes almost incredible circumstances which provide fascinating and often hilarious anecdotes.
All this, of course, has been in addition to or in conjunction with his work as a member of the London Congregation of the Oratorians who were in the sanctuary in force on Tuesday evening to wish him well with their Foyers.
Ad rnaltos annos!
'TWELVE OF US sat down to lunch at an hotel in Victoria this week, seven of those present being MP's, including no fewer than three Scottish Nationalists,
The lunch was given by the Anglo-Israel Friendship League, and I was lucky enough to sit next to Scotland's most famous (and of course first) Nationalist member, Mrs. Winifred Ewing.
She is ebullient and delightful, and obviously popular with the four Conservative members present even though they had to put up with some baiting from their Scottish colleagues.
One of the former, however, got in a good crack just before Mr Benad Avital (of the Israeli Embassy) kicked off for some questions and answers, by asserting bravely and boldly that he was a confirmed "Lnalish Nationalist."
So that was that!
LAST SUNDAY'S fifth Cardinal Bea Memorial Lecture at the Sisters of Sion convent in Bayswater was packed to the doors. Dr Jack Dominion shared the platform with Rabbi Dr Louis Jacobs in speaking on "The Function of Prayer in a Time of Crisis."
Both stressed — from the different but not mutually exclusive worlds of modern psychiatry and the Old Testament the enhanced value of prayer when backed by a faith unshaken by disaster.
Dr Jacobs showed how prayer is not a form of escapism
for the man who does not need constant outward joy to holster his belief. And Dr Dominian could demonstrate from experience that communion with our Creator was not the cosy sort of comfort-seeking that some sceptics believed it to be.
I couldn't help wishing Thomas a Kempis had been there. I think he would have approved — both of the spiritual content of the lectures and the admirable arrangement-making of Dr Charlotte Klein, Sister Mary Kelly and others.
CURIOUSER and curiouser become the goings-on at Westminster. I don't just mean the "Lawson and Order" issue, but ant thinking rather of the barrages of the older guns. For hot on the heels of the return to the ranks of Lord Thorneycroft — an ageing Kojak come to catch the baddies? comes a blast from Lord Haitsham that dire emergency and possibly one-party government lie in store for us.
It is true, of course, that only complete economic collapse can make possible an early return of the Conservatives. And good old Quintin always was an optimist. Perhaps Mrs Thatcher should take up the Churchillian cry of "Love me, love my Hogg."