LAST MONTH's exhibition of the works of Antonio Ciccone at the Westminster Cathedral Galleries seems to have been a big and deserved success. All credit to its principal organiser, Lady Christina Hoare, who recently presented a Ciccone lithograph of Padre Pio to the Pope after a general audience.
The artist was brought up in the shadow of San Giovanni Rotundo, which Padre Pio made world famous.
The same exhibition will open in Liverpool on November 20 and then be shown in various places in Ireland (both Northern and the Republic) after Christmas.
A Padre Pio Exhibition Trust has been set up to fund the exhibition's touring expenses; to acquire the set of Padre Pio drawings for permanent exhibition in London; and to inaugurate a Padre Pio Centre in London.
The Ciccone drawings of Padre Pio are stunning and his studies of the surrounding Gargano landscape would surely make the artist's master, Annigoni, justly proud.
Toya and co.
CONGRATULATIONS to Lady ("Tony") Lothian for yet
another successful Women of the Year luncheon. This year's winners and speakers were Kate Adie, Toya Wilcox and Jessye Norman.
Another winner was Mrs Coretta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King, who was prevented by illness from being present. But a televised broadcast of her speech was moving to the point of being tear-jerking.
She is obviously not at all well but spoke not only bravely but with dramatic calmness about the invincibility of the human spirit provided the will to fight for justice is never lost.
I met Mrs King on one of her trips to London not long after her husband was assassinated in 1968, and she kindly gave me a signed copy of her book.
Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" address to the civil rights march on Washington in 1963 stirred the conscience of America as nothing like it had ever done before. In that same year his friend, John F Kennedy, was shot. It was largely through their joint efforts that black civil rights became legally recognised in the United States. But his widow has ever since had to continue to fight to turn the dream into reality.
HOW SAD was the death of John Braine at the early age of 64. I became a friend of his through a former Catholic Herald editor, Desmond Albrow. They had met in Bradford before the war in school days, though Desmond was several years younger.
John Braine was as fearless (but always human and good humoured) about his latter day strong right-wing views as he had been when espousing those of the left in the days which had seen him rise to fame with his first and most famous book Room at the Top.
He was a marvellous companion and a provocative occasional contributor to this paper. When I was editing it in the seventies I would sometimes ring him to give him a gentle reminder. He would invariably anticipate my comments and say "You'll have it tomorrow."
And he was always as good as his word.
TOMORROW will be yet another Lord Mayor's Day and the year of office of Allan Davis will have come to an end. It seems to have passed very quickly.
It has been a memorable year on which Allan is to be heartily congratulated. As he is a director of the ever-prospering Catholic Herald group we held some of our board meetings at the Mansion House in luxurious surroundings.
Allan was always the perfect host, ever unflappable despite his rigourous round of work and engagements. He made several memorable trips abroad during the year and it is difficult to imagine better ambassadors from the City of London than Allan Davis and his charming wife Pam.
It will soon be eight hundred
years since the office of Lord Mayor of London was created — by Richard I in 1189. The most famous holder of the office, Dick Whittington, survives more vividly in fiction than in fact. Though his cat never actually caught the Barbary mice, thereby allegedly making Dick's fortune, Whittington did make lots of money by being court banker to three kings.
His munificence greatly benefited the City and he found time to build conduits at Cripplegate and Billingsgate, to establish a library at the Newgate Street Grayfriars monastery and to lay a magnificent pavement in the Guildhall.
He missed little and when he discovered that the Brewers' Company were selling bad ale he fined then £20 — a princely sum in the twelfth century.
POOR Princess Michael of Kent has had a bad press lately, but fortunately for her she is resilient enough to have ridden the storm. Her remark that charitable works bored her "rigid" was in a programme meant to be seen by American viewers only.
Her other remark that she was the first Catholic to be married into the royal family since the time of Henry VIII was obviously made in undue haste. Many Catholics have been the spouses of reigning sovereigns since then.
The last Catholic, however, to be married to a British monarch did not achieve royal status. She was Mrs Fitzherbert, wife of George IV. Her marriage was valid but illegal, and kept carefully secret, as by that time the Royal Marriage Act had been passed, barring any member of the royal family from marrying a Catholic.
Some say that the 1772 Act may soon be repealed. I rather doubt it, but exceptions to the rule may become more common and less unpopular as time goes by.
AFTERNOON Tea is a famous Britishinstitution, though more tea is drunk in Ireland than in Great Britain.
Michael Smith, author of several unusually good cookery books, has produced an elegant volume on Afternoon Tea, the publishers being Messrs Macmillan.
The book begins with a lively historical introduction in which the author mentions some famous foreign tea-rooms, several of which I have visited with pleasure myself.
They include Matrux in Lausanne where 1 once fined in some time between interviews of surviving friends of Matrux's most famous patron, the late Queen of Spain.
Otherwise included are Rumplemayer's in Paris, Cova in Milan and Sacher's in Vienna. But, strangely, no mention is made of the most illustrious of all "English" tea-rooms abroad, namely Babington's in Rome.
The author also mentions the Angleterre in Copenhagen, but this is actually an hotel — with, admittedly, an excellent tea room.
The core of the book, however, is its rich collection of recipes for teas of almost every conceivable kind, from the lightest and most "refeened" to the traditional and substantial.
The author credits the origin of English afternoon tea to the greed of the seventh Duchess of Bedford who got her servants to serve her a secret afternoon "snack" of gigantic proportions.
The secret soon got out and was quickly adopted as a fashionable social habit and necessary supplier of gastronomic support during the long afternoons of the eighteenth century.
THE FILM The Mission (reviewed this week) is enjoying a deserved success. Ironically, however, the film's appearance in London almost coincided with the death of the original modern creator of the dramatic story of the Jesuit reductions in Paraguay.
He was an Austrian called Fritz Hochwalder who fled. from Austria in time to escape the fate later befalling his parents, namely death in a concentration camp.
His version of the story was called The Holy Experiment, and was subsequently staged in London under the title The Strong are Lonely.
It was first produced in German in 1943. The London version starred Donald Wolfitt and was performed in the late fifties.
The story has also been the subject of a book by the scholarly Jesuit, Fr Philip Caraman.
WE HAVE no such things as "non-stipendiary" priests as in the Anglican Church. But perhaps the time will come when those doing other work will also be able to minister as priests, though that day may yet be far off.
Occasionally, however, it happens that individual superiors and/or bishops take enlightened initiatives. Thus, at the moment, a certain Benedictine monk has been given "time off" from his monastery and is working in an insurance company.
At weekends he acts as parish priest in a parish that would otherwise be unmanned.
It would be impolitic to be more precise than this, but an interesting precedent has now been set which could be followed subsequently if exceptional circumstances seem to offer a chance of mutual _spiritual benefit and pastoral care.