Monday, July 20, 2009
Been back since last Thursday - arrived at 12.15am - hit the ground running since then - wedding, baptism, funeral. Vermont has, apparently, been having the wettest Summer in years; somehow those lame jokes about English weather fall a little flat! To anyone who makes sarcastic comments, I ask whether they saw any Wimbledon - no rain!
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Last Friday we went on a little pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation, West Grinstead, Sussex. Father John Boyle joined us and was an excellent map reader! The Shrine, in a lovely part of Sussex, is the first shrine in honour of Our Lady to be established in England since the Reformation. Due to the devotion of the Caryll family, recusants who kept the "old religion" throughout the dark days of persecution, a Priest's House was built on part of their West Grinstead estate. Originally just a small cottage, the priests lived there disguised as local shepherds. The hay loft which was added was, in fact, the Secret Chapel where Mass was celebrated. There were, in addition, two priest's hides (Priest Holes) in the chimney breast. This priest house became what is probably the oldest continuously occupied presbytery (Rectory) in England. One of the priests who lived there was Father John Gennings, the brother of the martyr St. Edmund Gennings. The particular martyr most associated with the shrine is Blessed Francis Bell whose relics are now in the Secret Chapel. I was privileged to celebrate Mass in the Secret Chapel, with my Mother and Father John, and to venerate the relics of Blessed Francis Bell. We also saw the Priest Hole where priests would sometimes have to hide for up to two weeks. It is only big enough for a man to stand in - no wider! The extraordinary thing about this place is that no priest was ever discovered, otherwise the house would probably have been destroyed. The beautiful Church and Shrine were only consecrated in 1896.
The Church was, of course, Hilaire Belloc's parish Church and his final resting place, hence the reason for the second part of our pilgrimage. After prayers before the image of Our Lady, we venerated the tomb of "Old Thunder." Then we went over to see the outside of his family house, Kingsland, where he wrote so much, and his windmill. The property is still in the hands of his family, but not open to the public. Then, in true Bellocian fashion, we repaired to a local inn to eat a Ploughman's lunch, washed down with a pint of wallop, which Father John pronounced to be "very tasty." Belloc would have approved.
The picture is a rare view of the Owl celebrating the Mass in the Secret Chapel. More pictures in the next post.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Time for another picture of my favourite tree in my Mother's garden: Antonio the Olive Tree. I have been spending a quiet time with my Mother and family, catching up with my sister,nephew, niece, a cousin, my Uncle and, at the weekend, my brother. I took the advice of various folks and have not rushed about, mainly due to intense weariness. However, yesterday I had a very enjoyable study day with some priests in Clapham. Together with my friend Father John Boyle, formerly the infamous blogger 'South Ashford Priest,' the notorious 'Hermeneutic of Continuity,' and about 25 other priests, mainly from the Archdiocese of Southwark, but including some FSSP priests, an Opus Dei priest and some brethren from the Diocese of Brentwood, we had a wonderful talk for the "Year for Priests" from Father Anthony Doe, of the Archdiocese of Westminster. This initiative was most impressive; a group of priests, led by our generous host, Fr. Chris Basden, organizing their own ongoing formation, and gathering both for intellectual and spiritual input and priestly fraternity. Although some of the brethren seemed to have rather rose-tinted spectacles about how wonderful everything is in the Church in the good old US of A, I think this gathering was a sign of good things happening in the Archdiocese of Southwark. On Friday, my Mother and Father John will accompany me on a little pilgrimage to West Grinstead, to the Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation, where we will celebrate Mass in the secret Chapel used by the hunted priests during the previous Elizabethan persecution of the Church (another one is coming) and venerate the tomb of Hilaire Belloc.
Saturday, July 4, 2009
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Been home now for two full days, so the jet-lag is starting to wear off. Flew on a bizarrely small plane on the transatlantic part of the flight, from Philly to Gatwick. Stuck next to the loos for the whole flight: I offered it up for the sins of my parishioners. Not impressed with US Airways, seemed more like a budget airline, but without the charm of JetBlue. Gatwick was the usual British chaos everyone seems to have got used to in this country. The weather is wonderful - very sunny and warm, with everything green and fecund. Wimbledon is in full swing, with the new roof on the Centre Court keeping any rain off - there isn't any rain! The weather people on the television are in full "nanny State" mode, warning of the dangers of the heat and "procedures to take to avoid heatstroke;" we really are that stupid, apparently. I have decided that I am not going to rush around this year, trying to see everybody; mainly because I really seem to be very tired, and have been for weeks, so I clearly need a real holiday with my family and also - people can come and see me! So I am sitting in my mother's beautiful garden, reading (John Senior's 'The Restoration of Christian Culture,' and 'The Distilled Kinglsey Amis'). Her olive tree is doing very well in the heat - yes, that's not a typo - her OLIVE TREE - in South-East England! So I fully intend to encourage all forms of global warming - please do your part and go out for a needless drive in your SUV, then grill something, but make sure the air conditioning is turned up in the house. If I can work out the technical stuff, I may even use my mother's camera and put a picture of said olive tree up on the next post. I think, in the manner of Fr. 'Z', I will name the tree Antonio, in honour of St. Anthony who, once again, got me and my bags safely home. (P.S..... the picture is an old one - that's why the trees don't have any leaves!)