Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time and the feast of St Thérèse of Lisieux

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SUNDAY 25th September – Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Antiphon:
All that you have done to us, o Lord, you have done with true judgement.

32nd Wedding anniversary. As our treat we go to the Civic Service in Gainsborough. The sermon, a good one, is on the theme of them and us. We should treat everybody as us. Good in theory but practical? Can we accommodate a million Syrians here really?

MONDAY 26th September

Mass in the Cathedral. The reading is on Job. Sometimes this summer I have felt like Job, but I remember a phrase of Winston Graham’s: a cameraman is standing in the pouring rain, waiting patiently. ‘Why do you look so cheerful?’ he is asked. ‘I’m alive, I’m well and I’m working’. What more do I want? One should remember that more often.

We drive down to Cornwall and the car stops and won’t start in the fast lane of the M4. Otherwise, uneventful.

Always a delight to arrive at Polzeath in the dark and walk out to the sea.

TUESDAY 27th September

I am reading here – ‘The Fishermen of Port Isaac’ by Geoff Provis.

In the nineteenth century all the pilchards, now gone, were sold to Italy for Lenten fast.
He quotes verse:
“Here’s a letter to the Pope, and may he repent
And lengthen by six months the term of his Lent,
It’s always declared betwixt the two poles
There’s nothing like pilchards for saving of souls”.

Now Port Isaac is just a lovely tourist venue, but still there are echoes of an age when a hundred men earned their living there.
Apparently up to 1830 Cornwall had 44 MPs (to Scotland’s 60) so a bounty for pilchards was extracted from a distant Government, with MPs comes bounties!

Mary is ill so I walk alone around Pentire Point.

WEDNESDAY 28th September

We walk past Daymer Bay to the ferry and have an anniversary dinner in Padstow. The church is locked but I wander around the gardens of Prideaux Place, wandering from the colonel’s walk a
magnificent of the Camel estuary. We have our anniversary dinner and walk back along the beach.

THURSDAY 29th September

We do a very tiring hour walk to Port Quin, a sad place. According to legend all the men died in a fishing accident and the women wandered away in grief. We walk down in Lundy Bay, the high tide waves crashing, the sea silvering in the twilight and exhausted from fresh air, supper in a cosy cottage.

FRIDAY 30th September

We drive to Downside. I start reading St Therese of Lisieux. It is her feast day tomorrow. As always at Downside, after compline, I sit alone in the great dark Abbey church.

SATURDAY 1st October – Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face

I have always found her autobiography of a soul a bit cheesy but in today’s reading, a passage grabs me and moves my soul. Perhaps it is the effect of the beautiful Saturday morning Latin Mass in the Abbey.

“In the first section, 12th and 13th chapters of the 1st epistle to the Corinthians caught my attention and in the first section I read that not everyone can be an apostle, prophet or teacher. That the Church is composed of a variety of members …
I found this an encouraging theme
Set your desires on the greater gifts. And I will show you the way which surpasses all others.
For the apostle insists that the greater gifts are nothing at all without love
… I recognised myself in none of the members which St Paul described
… love appeared to me to be like hunger for my vocation.
I knew that the church had a heart and that such a heart appeared to be aflame with love
… and I realised that love sets off the bounds of all vocations
… at last I have found my calling: my call is love”

This struck me most forcibly.

Therese wanted to be a martyr or a missionary. She did not have the strength.

She had to settle for something less but in the end it was much more, just love, and now Therese is a doctor of the Church.

Of course, love in the cloister is challenging. No doubt the other nuns are irritating sometime, but at least they are trying for the same thing. How much greater is the challenge in the wider world?

But it shows we should not be frustrated that in our way of life we cannot achieve distinction. At the end there is always love left – even for the poorest, oldest, most ill and least successful”.

Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time & the feast of St Matthew

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SUNDAY 18th September – Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

A glorious day and we have lunch in the garden, like the old times with the children after Mass.

Psalm 113
“High above all nations is the Lord, above the heavens his glory”.

MONDAY 19th September – St Theodore of Tausus

St Theodore, an interesting man. Appointed at the age of 65 to the Archbishopric of Canterbury, having not even been a priest previously.

We fly to Italy. We meet the Vice President of the Chamber, S. Mailo of the 5 Star Movement, who might become the next Prime Minister if, as is possible, they take power, and have dinner at the Villa Wolkonsky with our Ambassador who is only in her forties.

TUESDAY 20th September

There is a church very close to the square facing the parliament where we are staying. I got a brief bit of the Mass and follow it on Universalis before a full day of meetings. We have good access to the Chairmen of both the European and Foreign Affairs Committees in both Parliaments. The only subject is Brexit. Alberto Costa and I deserve a medal for repeating I don’t know how many times how much we value Italians living in the UK, which of course is true.

There is time to go to Mass at the church behind our hotel. The sermon for a little midweek Mass in incredibly long. There is nothing more frustrating than a sermon delivered in a passionate and interesting way when you cannot understand what is being said. After a bit I take refuge in a street concert and just come back for communion.

21 Proverbs:
“In the Lord’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him”.

WEDNESDAY 21st September – St Matthew

It is nice to read the Gospel first and then listen to St Matthew in Italian and listen to the familiar words in Italian during the Mass and repeat them in Latin.

Matthew 9:
“As Jesus was walking he saw a man named Matthew sitting by the custom house and said to him ‘follow me’ and he got up and followed him”.

More meetings, this time in the Senate. I love Maccari’s painting of Cicero addressing the Senate.

THURSDAY 22nd September

We have to fly back fairly early but by chance in a busy walk I stumble across the baroque façade of St Ignazio’s church. What an extraordinary feast to the eyes and one can photograph the ceiling through an upturned mirror. It seems almost to come alive in 3D.

Ecclesiastes 1:12
“Vanity of vanities, the preacher says. Vanity of vanities, All is vanity! For all his bit, his bit under the sun, what does man gain by it”.

FRIDAY 23rd September – St Pius of Pietrelcina

A sunny swim and then a drive up to Lincolnshire for a surgery and an evening event with a talk by a Prison teacher. There is, it seems, much humour thankfully even in prison.

I am reading John Hooper on ‘The Italians’. He is dismissive of Padre Pio’s stigmata. I am not sure, why should anyone deliberately wound themselves?

SATURDAY 24th September – Our Lady of Walsingham

We are not there, but at Mass in the estate church at Stainton with sweeping views over the Wolds. I worry over the reading about Lazarus. The man is just so selfish. Is it we?

Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

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SUNDAY 11th September – Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

We climb the Rock to say hello to a family of monkeys, including a baby, and go into the caves and we fly back. I get to the 7pm Mass in Westminster Cathedral.

Collect:
Look upon us o God, creator and maker of all things.

MONDAY 12th September – The Most Holy name of Mary

I ask a question in the chamber.

“Give peace, o Lord, to those who wait for you”.

TUESDAY 13th September

The hottest September day since 1911 and I spend the morning chairing the Higher Education committee and asking about Hinckley Power Station.

WEDNESDAY 14th September – The Exultation of the Holy Cross

The Cathedral has a relic and we bless it. Where, I wonder, does it come from?

THURSDAY 15th September – Our Lady of Sorrows

A long, hot chairing of the Higher Education committee. I send an email to all colleagues arguing against the complete decant of the House of Commons for six years – a typical Rolls Royce solution, over engineered. Why can we not make do and mend?

“Simeon said to Mary: Behold, this child is destined for the ruin and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign of contradiction and your own soul a sword will pierce”.

FRIDAY 16th September

A rare delight – the children come up to Lincolnshire. We take Monti for a long walk and four times let him off the lead, four times he runs away chasing pheasants and rabbits. But for Theo sprinting we would never catch him.

“If there is no resurrection of the dead, Christ himself cannot have been raised, and if Christ has not been raised then our preaching is useless”.
1 Corinthians 15:13-15

SATURDAY 17th September

Monti is now on a long rope, a more peaceful walk.

Collect:
Look upon us o God, creator and maker of all things, that we may feel the working of your mercy.

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time & birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary

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SUNDAY 4th September – Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

I go to the school mass, always a sad moment but the past has gone. An inspiring sermon on St. Theresa of Calcutta whom the Pope makes a saint today.

MONDAY 5th September

Parliament resumes and I take part in two statements on Yemen, abuse of humanitarian law and Brexit.

Psalm 5
“Lead me Lord in your justice”.

TUESDAY 6th September

Psalm 149
“The Lord takes delight in his people”.

I chair the Higher Education Bill legislature sitting.

WEDNESDAY 7th September

I meet Peter for our little prayer group and Theodore for lunch. In the afternoon of glorious weather I pay a little visit to the Chelsea Physic Garden. If you are depressed about something it is good to take delight in the plants.

Entrance antiphon:
You are just o Lord and your judgement is right, treat your servant in accord with your merciful love.

THURSDAY 8th September – The Birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary

We fly to Gibraltar for the National Day Celebrations.
The sight of the Rock revives my spirits, as it always foes as one lands.

Luke 6
“There is no sound tree that produces rotten fruit”.

FRIDAY 9th September

A series of briefings with the Military Commander, the Chief Minister and the Governor and in the evening a Mass at the shrine of Our Lady of Europe in the open air, the breeze coming off the Atlantic and less than fifteen miles away the Pillars of Hercules and the mountains of Africa.

Psalm 84
“How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord God of Hosts”.

SATURDAY 10th September

We gather with a few thousand others for the National Day celebrations in the evening. I say a few words in support of British Gibraltar.

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time & the feast of St Gregory the Great

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SUNDAY 28th August – Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

The motorway is now on our right as we complete the 242km bike ride from Migennes to Dijon. I get as far as Veuvey-sur-Ouche then Mary does the next stage and I cycle through the suburbs in Dijon.

It’s a relief now to put the bike into the back of the car and drive to Mary’s sister.

MONDAY 29th August

We picnic at La Cry.

I take the chair lift to the top of the mountain. Mont Blanc raising its noble head above the clouds. I am grateful for the bus so I don’t have to walk back to Combloux before the village church closes at 7 and I get kicked out. I sit there for an hour, lighting a candle and going through the office of readings. In front of me is the ornate baroque reredos in this otherwise simple little church. Behind me the evening sun shines yellow and bright through the west windows.

TUESDAY 30th August

We took the children to the Plan d’Eau in Combloux – the great tableau of the Mont Blanc peaks in front of us.

WEDNESDAY 31st August

We took the cable car up to 1200m. As part of a free cable car deal our friends gave us a yoga class. It was most enjoyable, even if the mechanical digger mending the restaurant didn’t quite add to the air of peace.

THURSDAY 1st September

Robin and I walked up to 3000m – two and a half hours up and down. Exhausted but an extraordinary sight of Mont Blanc in the far distance from the top.

FRIDAY 2nd September

We drove all the way back to Calais but a nice hour at the Nyon pool by Lake Geneva, again Mont Blanc shimmering over the lake in the distance. After stopping we take the crowded 11.30 boat and arrive back at 2.30.

SATURDAY 3rd September – St Gregory the Great

I go early to Downside for oblates.
After compline I am alone in the dark Abbey Church and light a candle in front of the wooden cross of Christ and think all we can hope for is that our children are happy and all we can hope for ourselves is that we are happy in this moment, with what we have now, not what we want or don’t have but what we have now.

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

bartholoSUNDAY 21st August – Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

I was supposed to be sailing today and yesterday. With gales of up to 60mph battering the Isle of Wight it is lucky we did not go out yesterday. The entrance antiphon: turn your ear o Lord and answer me, save the servant who trusts in you, my God. O Lord, I cry to you all the day long.

MONDAY 22nd August – The Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

I go down to Gosport. Have the courage to take the boat out on my own but everything works! Then a night on my own on the boat, cooking at sunset, listening to the sea birds and making myself a little supper of bread, eggs and bacon washed down with a beer and a glass of wine.

TUESDAY 23rd August

I wake up. It is a very low tide, the boat resting on the bottom. I go down gingerly and have difficulty getting back up again!

WEDNESDAY 24th August – St Bartholomew

Another hot day. London is stifling. We drive to Calais through appalling traffic and miss our boat. A good thing because we stay at Hotel des Dunes and I go for a swim and watch the sunset.

THURSDAY 25th August

We drive, though at times the heat is 37 degrees Celsius. We drove to Saint-Florentin on the Canal de Bourgogne.

FRIDAY 26th August

We go for a cycle, the canal on the left, green and barely used, shady with trees and flat. We start at Migennes and after a couple of hours I meet Mary at Saint-Florentin. I swim in the stream. I go to the Abbaye de Pontigny and find out after mass that St Edmund of Canterbury is buried there. A priest guided us around but I leave the others free to walk on and I pray before the tomb of Edmund, also exiled after having fallen out with the King. Perhaps he would be a good guardian angel, I can’t believe many pray to him each day. I drive through Chablis. Mary arrives exhausted and I cycle on. We drive to Buffon on the canal and stay the night there.

SATURDAY 27th August

I start cycling at Buffon. Little shade and very hot. Through Montbard past the Abbaye de Fontenay. One dead abbey a week is enough for me. The Abbaye de Flavigny is close and very much alive but nothing will be happening early afternoon. I find a cold shower but Mary carried on and I pick her up at Saint Thibault. Then I do the last bit to Pouilly-en-Auxois. We stay in an incredibly quiet little town. These Burgundy towns look absolutely dead in the heat but by chance we find a lovely mass, arriving just after the sermon. The priest is young; the ancient church full.

Psalm 118
“This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, but which has become the cornerstone”.

The Assumption & Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

virginSUNDAY 14th August – Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

After mass I go to Benediction at 5pm and stay for two hours. Father Robert is doing an exposition of the Blessed Sacrament all night.

I am strangely happy during the meditation. Mindfulness is fine as it goes. The breathing and concentrating on it focuses the mind on the present, but if the Rosary is added to it, it is much more powerful.

MONDAY 15th August – The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

I wake at 4am, get up and drive to church. There is a slim sliver of light to east at the top of the Wolds over to the North Sea. Mass is at 5.30am. Contemplation then back to bed. I read the Dalai Lama and try to counter any anger and hatred with compassion and patience.

Sometimes I climb the hill behind our cottage and watch the ships making their gentle and steady way up the Humber 15 miles away. What a soothing sight to bring this slow progress into focus.

TUESDAY 16th August – St Stephen

A day in Lincolnshire reading, writing and walking.

WEDNESDAY 17th August

Another quiet day.

THURSDAY 18th August

Events and worries crowd in. I am reading the mindfulness book: one must not worry about the past, it is done, or fear for the future; all that is real is here and now. I go to mass. There was no point in moping in the garden so I went for a swim in Otby Lake which is always delightful and calming.

Then with the energy left I drove to Mablethorpe Sands to watch the sunset. For once there the sea was rough, I could barely stand. I love this vast beach, it is so empty. Driving back I stop on our lane in the Beech woods and listen to the Proms. Wagner. A peaceful scene of a rustling stream in the twilight. All events, problems, are put unto the perspective of the moment.

Psalm 51
“A pure heart create for me, O God, put a steadfast spirit within me.”

FRIDAY 19th August

Another glorious day of sunshine. I go back to Otby Lake. Here at the end of the reservoir one can see looking west the vast plain of North Lincolnshire. There is a little twinkling stream. It is enough to sit here after a swim for a whole hour and forget troubles.

SATURDAY 20th August

We drive back to London after going to a summer barbecue. There are huge storms in the south.

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

06_transSUNDAY 31st July – Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

I walk alone along the coast to an utterly deserted sandy beach with view of Eigg and Rum in all their splendour, the sky a Mediterranean blue. I try and paddle round but walk back happily. By the evening the whole family is here. I swim and paint, for the first time in months, and we walk.

We walk to the village and then up forest paths and take the road back for a late lunch. I would go to church but don’t have the energy to go to Mallaig, although the first time I came to these islands fifty years ago was to assist a priest in saying Mass on the Isle of Eigg. In the evening I cook spaghetti Bolognese.

TUESDAY 2nd August

A long walk to Inverguseran through a vast empty sun spread glen. I am grateful for a picnic there and a land rover ride back. I am reading D. K. Broster’s The Flight of the Heron and A History of Knoydart to get me in the mood.

WEDNESDAY 3rd August

I swim in the Loch – cold – and go for a canoe trip. There is a white Madonna at the entrance to Loch Nevis. We drive to the cemetery to look at Donald Craigmyle’s grave with its inscription – not a bad one to put on one’s gravestone: Like the deer that yearns for the running stream, so my soul yearns for you my God. Then we walk back past a former Church of Scotland now sadly a private house, although a very nice one. In the evening we drive for fish and chips.

THURSDAY 4th August

I walk alone up the path to Inverguseran then turn right, walking through great woods and an empty valley – a scene from the long trek in The Lord of the Rings – then along the side of a stream to a waterfall. I clamber down, take of my clothes and rest next to this waterfall – a scene out of some primordial paradise. The whole journey, stopping and starting, takes over five hours. Mary comes to find me in the Land Rover. Only one group of people met in that entire time. Come back wondrously tired.

FRIDAY 5th August

Sadly it is time to leave. I sit in the drawing room reading D. K. Broster on the ’45 rebellion and look through the Georgian sash windows across the sea loch to the utterly hills, stretching away into a far unseeable distance. They have an old gramophone and I put on Bach. These old gramophones are so nice and peaceful. One looks at a pretty sleeve, takes out the record and plays it and it’s not too long.

We take the ferry back to Mallaig and end up in a hotel right in the middle of Glasgow opposite the Mackintosh School of Art.

SATURDAY 6th August – Transfiguration of the Lord

I find the Jesuit church and go to mass, then sit there for another half an hour – it is a lovely baroque place. I have always found this feast day difficult but the priest describes it well. We are catching a glimpse of what we might be like after death. What Christ might really look like in all his glory.

Two people recognise me in the city. Strange, no one does in London.

We drive peacefully up to Aberfoyle and go for a walk around Loch Ard. The house is on a bank looking directly up the Loch.

Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time & Mary Magdalene

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SUNDAY 17th July – Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

I go to the 150th Anniversary Mass of the Catholic Church in Gainsborough. A lovely occasion. They have done a history of the parish. Such quiet dedication over so many years: often with a very small parish.

Ps 15
“The just will live in the presence of the Lord”.

MONDAY 18th July

We go to a magnificent funeral Mass for Anthea Craigmyle.

Later I have a DCLG question in the House. I manage to get opposition to the Mayor of Lincolnshire into it and I speak French in the Chamber following Nice: “Nous sommes avec vous maintenant et pour toujours”. The new Home Secretary does not reply in kind.

Show favour O Lord to your servants and increase the gifts of your grace.

TUESDAY 19th July

It is the hottest day of the year. A broiling 30’C. I cool off in the lido and at the Chelsea Physic Garden.
The Cathedral in the evening is a tiny bit cooler. The difficult Gospel from Matthew 12:46
“Jesus replied: who is my Mother, who are my brothers?”

I am left alone in the Downing Street garden with Theresa May as everyone else goes off to vote on the Higher Education Bill. She likes serious discussion and is not really interested in pleasantries. I like her.

WEDNESDAY 20th July

My birthday. By chance I have a PMQ for the first time in years. I start by saying I agree with the PM and everyone laughs. She congratulates me on my birthday. A good day with all the family on the terrace for supper. Our last Mass in the crypt before Recess. From Jeremiah:
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you”.

THURSDAY 21st July

A quiet day. Our last day of the Commons before the Summer Recess. Momentous times. Great Britain leaving the EU after 43 years.

A little adjournment debate on the through train to Market Rasen.

Another difficult reading from Matthew 25:29
“Anyone who has will be given more. He will have more than enough”.
So we have to keep trying harder.

I read Cranmer’s life in the library and joke to John McDonnell that I am trying to keep up with modern politics by reading the life of Cranmer.

FRIDAY 22nd July – St Mary Magdalene

I take the train to Lincolnshire – much delayed and walk home over the Wolds.

“The Lord said to Mary Magdalene: go to my brothers and tell them: I am going to my Father and to your Father, to my God and your God.”

Theodore is put safely on the bus to his first OMV pilgrimage to Lourdes.

SATURDAY 23rd July – St Bridget of Sweden

I do a surgery and walk to Kirmond le Mire with Monty.

I read a psalm in our church: Psalm 89 King James Version
“I will sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations”.

I am reading but by bit and slowly; the Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama. It seems that we ought to try to be happy; to be content with one’s lot.

Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time & St Benedict’s day

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SUNDAY 10th July – Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

We go to Mass in Market Rasen.

We hear the passage from Luke 10:25-37 on the Good Samaritan. A new insight, the priest that passed by on the other side may have been banned by his priestly profession from handling blood. Just goes to show how fatuous rules are.

MONDAY 11th July – St Benedict

It is set to be a quiet day.

I speak to Our Lady of Victories’ school in Committee Room 10 but as I go to the tearoom I am told Andrea Leadsom is standing down. I walk over to her HQ to try and stop her but it is too late. There are masses of press and TV outside the house. It is all shades of previous leadership campaigners: IDS, John Redwood etc. Sad that the members are to be given no choice.
Earlier at Mass I am pleased to see it is St Benedict’s feast day. It gives me new inspiration for my book.

It is strange to hear a potted revision of his life at Mass when you already know so much about it. At a difficult time in politics it has been a help picking up an excellent guide to the Rule, simply and well explained.

TUESDAY 12th July

We go to the Russian Embassy for lunch. This is a quieter occasion than last time. They seem perplexed by the Brexit vote and without a clear line on where to take it from here.

Ps 119
“Train me Lord to observe your law”

WEDNESDAY 13th July – St Henry

It is David Cameron’s last PMQs. I have a Welsh question which is not reached. Later I speak in the Iraq debate. I can think of nothing better to do than repeat my speech of 2002 and its warnings even down to possible rifts between Sunni and Shia.

Today’s reading from Isiah:
“The Lord of Hosts says this:
Woe to Assyria, the rod of my anger, the club brandished by me in my fury! I sent him against a godless nation; I gave him commission against a people that provokes me”.

In the evening Theresa May starts to appoint her Government. Some immediate good choices: Liam Fox, David Davis and Boris Johnson.

THURSDAY 14th July

We were supposed to have a summer lunch with Chancellor George Osborne. Now it is ex-Chancellor George Osborne. I don’t wait for ministerial appointment. I take the train to Lincolnshire and walk over the Wolds home via the Ramblers Church.

In the evening I go to a lovely service of induction for the new Vicar of Middle Rasen. I had not realised the Church of England service was so formal.

Isiah 26:7-9
“The path of the upright man is straight
You smooth the way of the upright
Following the path of your judgements”.

FRIDAY 15th July – St Bonaventure

A surgery in Market Rasen.

The Psalm for today, The Canticle of Hezekiah:
“You have held back my life O Lord, from the pit of doom”.

I am reading the Dalai Lama on the ‘Art of Happiness’.

Happiness does not come from wanting more or from position. It comes from the state of one’s own mind, and being content with what we have: in deliberately schooling oneself to be happy with things as they are.

SATURDAY 16th July – Our Lady of Mount Carmel

We have an afternoon event at Stainton on Stow. Ben is here at the cottage and we start to clear out one tiny little outhouse crammed with cottage junk that we don’t need. Our main problem is an excess of junk: old clothes, books, pieces of correspondence from 40 years ago and an inability to throw things away. Really one should keep nothing but it is a link with the past, an affirmation that one’s life has not been wasted.

“On that day they will make a satire of you, sing a dirge and say ‘we are stripped of everything’”.
Micah 2:1-5

Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

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SUNDAY 3rd July – Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

We go to the 5.30 Mass in the Catholic chapel at Osgodby. How beautiful in this one of the first Catholic chapels in the country, began in 1793, to hear Father Robert sing the Angus Dei and Sanctus in Latin – a link with the Faith of our Fathers entrance antiphon.

Your merciful love, O God, we have received in the midst of your temple.

MONDAY 4th July – St Elizabeth of Portugal

“When Jesus reached the official’s house and saw the flute players, with the crowd making a commotion, he said ‘get out of here; the little is not dead, she is asleep’, and they laughed at him”

Matthew 9:18-26

At the hustings I ask Theresa May if she will pledge to leave the EU and reinstate border controls. A firm pledge on the first, slightly equivocal on the second.

TUESDAY 5th July

I ask a question about John Coupland hospital in Gainsborough and the first round of voting happens in the Tory leadership. My candidate Liam Fox is eliminated.

Meanwhile, every day I peddle off to the 10.30 Latin Mass in the Cathedral

Hosea 8:4-7

“Thus says the Lord: they have set up Kings, but not with my consent, and appointed Princes but without my knowledge …”
Nothing changes.

WEDNESDAY 6th July – St Maria Goretti (1890-1902)

As we are reminded at Mass Maria Goretti is the patron saint of victims of child abuse. She forgave her abuser who in repentant old age attended her canonisation.

Ps 104

“Constantly seek the Face of the Lord”

In the evening we have our summer party for colleagues. The weather is good, the house and carpet cleaned, all the junk moved into Theo’s room. About 40 colleagues turn up, including two leadership challengers Andrea Leadsom and Michael Gove, in his white tie fresh from the Mansion House Banquet, sitting musing in our little yard with candles burning on his likely fate next day.

THURSDAY 7th July

Steve Baker asks me to give permission for our home to be used as Andrea HQ. I give it but luckily they receive a better offer. A relief. The last ballot takes place and May and Leadsom are through.

A great relief that the party is over – a day spent cleaning up. Whatever happens I tell myself I must not forget to vote

Ps 80

“O Shepherd of Israel, hear us, shine forth from your Cherubim throne”

FRIDAY 8th July

Ps 50

“My mouth shall declare your praise. Have mercy on me God in your kindness.
In your compassion blot out my offence”

We travel to Lincolnshire.

SATURDAY 9th July – St Augustine Zhao

A quiet day of surgeries in Lincolnshire.

I let Monty off the lead in the fields behind our cottage and he vanishes for 7 hours. Finally we hear a plaintive bark at about 10pm in the dark from beyond the hedge. As usual I read a psalm in our village church

Ps 93

“The Lord is King with majesty enrobed, the Lord has robed himself with might, He has girded himself with power”.

St Oliver Plunkett

SUNDAY

I decided to write something down as a checklist for the new PM. No doubt anyone reading it would feel it a bit radical.

The second reading is taken from Galatians 5:

“When Christ freed us, he meant us to remain free. Stand firm therefore and do not submit to the yoke of slaveyr.”

At the moment I am reading the Dalai Lama on the art of happiness. Of course for him happiness doesn’t come from having and wanting more and more money, position, power but from one’s own state of mind, a contentment with one’s lot. That is what frees one from the yoke of slavery to unhappiness. If you do not rely on your own state of mind you will never be happy.

MONDAY – St Cyril of Alexandria

Everyone is I presume rushing around seeing who can be nominated by whom, no doubt calculating how to get early onto the winning bandwagon. I concentrate on writing my policy piece which I have to self-publish anyway; no doubt a mistake.

“Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:18)

TUESDAY – St Irenaeus

I chair Westminster Hall – a pleasant side water. During these sort of days no one is very interested in the chamber or in issues.

I too can’t sleep, wondering what will be the outcome of all this. We all feel somewhere that we would like to have a go but we know, or most of us are sensible enough to know, that we do not have the support.

“Why are you so frightened, you men of little faith.” (Matthew 8:23)

WEDNESDAY – Sts Peter & Paul

The day before close of nominations for the leadership. One friend kindly says he will nominate me but one is not enough. I ring Liam Fox with whom I agree with on everything and will support him. He ends up the following Tuesday with just sixteen votes.

We pay our last visit to St Olave’s School for their Leavers’ Eucharist. Although there are no leavers, it is Theodore’s last exam, last day at school, and last day of any of our six children at school – a thirty-year stretch.

“On the night before Herod was to try him, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, fastened with double chains.” (Acts 12:1-11)

THURSDAY

I sit glued to the television as nominations close and with three minutes to spare Boris withdraws.

Today’s reading from Amos 7:10-17:

“Amos is plotting against you in the heart of the house of Israel.”

FRIDAY – St Oliver Plunkett

I am up at 5:00 to get the special train to Thiepval for the memorial service for the Somme battle, one hundred years ago. A truly moving and memorable experience. Lord Guthrie is clutching his field marshal’s baton, standing next to Cardinal Murphy O’Connor.

50,000 dead and wounded in one day.

Psalm 118: “Man does not live by bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

SATURDAY – 2 July

I dipped into a life of Cranmer in the library, awaiting a delayed vote. His last hours and his courage in the end were truly extraordinary.

“That day I will re-erect the tottering hut of David, make good the gaps in it, restore its ruins, and rebuilt it as it was in the days of old.” (Amos 9:11)

The reading comes from today’s Mass. What does it matter when one reads Amos. Cranmer would not have agreed. An heroic age.

In the evening we have the village hog roast. At the end we all help clear up. I get more satisfaction working together with the other villagers than from weeks at Westminster.

The Referendum

SUNDAY

We drive down to Purley for Charlotte’s First Communion. It was an ordinary 12 noon Mass and the large church is packed.

Galatians 5: “You are all of you sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ.”

MONDAY – St Alban

Our first British martyr and we know nothing about him. He could have lived and died anytime between 209 and 314. All we know is that he sheltered a Christian. He didn’t have to, but he did. He took that decision.

“Do not judge and you will not be judged.” (Matthew 7:15)

I watch the Euro football outside on a big screen. A good atmosphere. Everyone calm. England is through.

TUESDAY – St Aloysius Gonzaga and St John Rigby

St John Rigby, twice given a chance to recant, twice refused. What extraordinary faith.

“The clean of hands and pure of heart shall climb the mountain of the Lord and stand in His holy place.”

WEDNESDAY – Ss John Fish and Thomas More

I go to the Lincolnshire Show for a Vote Leave photograph. I do my usual tour of the stands.

St John Fisher’s last words: “I condemn no other man’s conscience. Their conscience may save them, and mine must save me.”

THURSDAY – St Ethelreda, St Thomas Garnet

We go to the second day of the Lincolnshire Show. It is referendum day and after voting – it’s a high turnout – we drive back to London, arriving just in time to see all the commentators predicting a Remain win.

The entrance antiphon: “The Lord is the strength of his people, a saving refuge for the one he has appointed. Save your people, Lord, and bless your heritage and govern them for ever.”

FRIDAY – Nativity of John the Baptist

We are up all night. I occasionally try to sleep but it is too exciting, although I miss the moment when Brexit wins.

At 8:30 astonishingly the Prime Minister resigns. I spend the rest of the day in a different world, at the Order of Malta’s St John’s Day Mass, all togged up in our robes, and going to Madeleine Gamble’s 100th birthday tea at the French Residence. The Ambassador pops in for a minute, looking harassed, saying only just she has not slept.

The Collect: “O God, who roused up Saint John the Baptist to make ready a nation fit for Christ the Lord, give your people, we pray, the grace of spiritual joys.”

SATURDAY

I go to the Summer Gathering of the Catholic Union at St Mary’s University Twickenham. Afterwards we are shown around Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill. A strange day, the morning after the night before. Momentous changes have taken place. Already people are positioning themselves although no one me and I ring no one.

Even the Mass is quiet. I can barely hear the priest.

Gospel Acclamation: “Alleluia, alleluia. He took our sickness away…”

St Anthony of Padua

SUNDAY

I go to Mass in Westminster Cathedral. The Cardinal is there.

The second reading is from Galatians is not easy.

“We acknowledge that what makes a man righteous is not obedience to the law but faith in Jesus Christ.”

Is faith everything? The homily is on the theme of the Gospel: “They were unable to pay so he pardoned them both. Which of them will love him more?” (Luke 7)

MONDAY – St Anthony of Padua

Children from the French lycée come to the House of Commons with parents and teachers. There are sixty people in the room. When I ask them how they would vote in the referendum, nine out of ten are in favour of remain. In the afternoon I chared delegated legislation.

St Anthony is the patron saint of the lost and found… where we would all like to be in politics. Perhaps the story of Jezebel in today’s Gospel is followed by all too many – not to the murderous extent but the use of others.

“In the letters she wrote Proclaim a fast and put Naboth in the forefront of his people. Confront him with a couple of scoundrels who will accuse him.” (1 Kings 21)

In the afternoon I again ask the Home Secretary if cars will be searched at Calais. Again I get a far from full answer.

TUESDAY

I go to the National Prayer Breakfast in Westminster Hall. A bit evangelical for me and six of us have to feed ourselves up in the tea room after the scanty offerings. I am happier with going to my daily mass.

“Elijah answered, I have found you out. For your double dealing and since you have done what is displeasing to the Lord, I will now bring disaster on you.” (1 Kings)

Sadly we no longer have Elijahs to deal with double dealers.

WEDNESDAY

There is a fuss about Osborne’s threatened emergency budget which will never happen of course. I intervene on John McDonnell and say many of us feel the real threat to the economy is not vote leave or remain but the tax and spend policies he has spent his whole life advocating.

Today in Matthew 6:1-6 Jesus gives advice that politicians including myself need:

“Be careful not to parade your good deeds before men to attract their notice. By doing so, you will lose all reward from your Father in Heaven.”

Stonyhurst College make their annual visit to the House of Commons. They give Bill Cash the nameplate from his desk from 1955.

THURSDAY

I am worried about whether we will fill the hall for our Vote Leave rally the next day so I get 1,500 leaflets printed and we have a nice time distributing them in Gainsborough. Everyone I meet is voting out. I don’t know but at the same time a Labour MP is shot and killed.

The entrance antiphon today: “O Lord, hear my voice, for I have called to you to be my help. Do not abandon or forsake me, O God my saviour.”

FRIDAY

Our event is cancelled as are all others today. I visit Ferndene Care Home in Gainsborough. A delight to meet old people who remember me from years back, including bringing baby Tamara to the count – in a cardboard box as we could find nothing else at the time. And a lady of 104 who is bright as a button.

The Collect: “O God, strength of those who hope in You…”

SATURDAY

We try to re-arrange the rally but it is cancelled again, this time by the church. I have done my best.

Psalm 88: “I will keep my love for him always, with my chosen one I have made a covenant.”

St Norbert

SUNDAY

I left Downside early after Lauds and drove to Gosport for a day’s sail. Unfortunately the engine broke down three times – once while we drifted in front of a Britanny ferry. Otherwise glorious weather.

Today’s reading from Luke:

“When the Lord saw her, he felt sorry for her. Do not cry, he said. Then he went up and put his hand on the bier and the bearers stood still and he said, ‘Young man, I tell you to get up!’ And the dead man sat up and began to talk.

MONDAY – St Norbert

I ask the Home Secretary again whether peoples cars are searched at Calais and whether they are checked for criminal records. I get no answer.

The readings of the Mass are the Beatitudes. If only we attempted to live them.

“How happy are the poor in spirit: theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Happy the gentle, they shall have the earth for their heritage. Happy those who mourn, they shall be comforted. Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right, they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:1-12)

TUESDAY

A five-hour meeting in the morning.

Psalm 4 is always reassuring: “When I call, answer me, O God of Justice; from anguish you have released me, have mercy and hear me.”

WEDNESDAY

We have a House of Commons sailing match in the Thames on a windless day. We just drift with the tide. Maybe politics is like that for much of the time.

A strange reading from 1 Kings 18:

“How long, said Elijah, do you mean to hobble first on one leg then on the other?”

This is in the context of the worship of the Lord of Baal, but how often do we hobble on one leg then the other?

THURSDAY – St Columba

We drive up to Lincolnshire.

“So then if you are bringing your offering to the altar and then remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering.” (Matthew 5:20-26)

I sometimes think of this passage as I go up to take communion. Difficult to manage.

FRIDAY

We are quietly in Lincolnshire. I read a psalm in our village church.

“It is your face, O Lord, that I seek. O Lord, hear my voice when I call, have mercy and answer me.”

SATURDAY – St Barnabas

We drive down to London for a do for an African charity and hear moving stories of their work.

How little we now know of St Barnabas except that he was an early convert in Jerusalem and accompanied Paul on his first missionary journey. But he lives on in some kind of residual memory. When he was martyred, perhaps at Salamis, no one much would have cared, a small time religious zealot done to death in a small town. Little interest, end of story.

I do a debate with Adam Duguid on leave or remain in Market Rasen Methodist Church Hall. At the beginning of the debate we have 6 for Remain, 36 for Leave, and 6 undecided. At the end of the debate the result is exactly the same. But a pleasant debate – everyone good-humoured as always in Lincolnshire.

The Ascension of the Lord

SUNDAY 8 MAY – THE ASCENSION OF THE LORD

The weather is at last warm. A good day for the Ascension. It is interesting that according to the Acts of the Apostles the very last question they ask Him is “Lord, has the time come? Are you going to restore the Kingdom of Israel?” He gives no answer but: “While they looked on a cloud took him from their sight.” (Acts 1:1-11)

It is all mysterious. He does not rise like a rocket into Heaven. He quietly fades away behind a cloud. Thus His presence and departure and future return is enigmatic to us.

MONDAY

There was a debate on the Government’s leaflet proclaiming the value of Europe – it cost nine million pounds. I ask for a sense of fairness to both sides.

“His disciples said to Jesus: Now you are speaking plainly and not using metaphors! Now we see that you know everything, and do not have to wait for questions to be put into words.” (John 16)

As sometimes happens when listening to John in these passages at Mass, I get a sudden but passing insight of belief as happens this morning.

TUESDAY

Today we have the lovely passage from Paul:

“And now you see me a prisoner already in spirit; I am on my way to Jerusalem but have no idea what will happen to me there.” (Act 20:17-27)

We have a nice family supper at home – all too rare now – with three of our children there.

WEDNESDAY

I visit the Cedars Catholic school in Croydon. An inspiring start up venture already with over ninety kids and over 140 next year. And apparently they come voluntarily to the twice-weekly Masses.

In the evening we do something different. We go to ‘Brexit: The Movie’. Nice to be see so many young there and such a clear, simple, and positive message. On the train coming back from the school I ask Peter if he is absolutely convinced that when we die in twenty years time or less, he will wake up in Heaven. He is convinced by John 13. To paraphrase: God so loved the world that he gave his only son so that those who believe in him may have eternal life.

THURSDAY

At the 8:00 am Mass today I do believe for an instant as John is read out.

“Jesus raised his eyes to Heaven and said ‘Holy Father, I pray not only for these, but for those also who through their words will believe in me. May they all be one. Father, may they be one in us, as you are one in me, and I am in you, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me.’” (John 17:20-26)

FRIDAY

I speak in the evening to Lincoln Conservatives. An enjoyable, simple occasion in a pizza restaurant. I speak on the theme of Brexit: The Movie.

In the Acts of the Apostles today, Paul is sent for trial to the Emperor. I like the matter of fact way the incident is described:

“…but they had some argument or other with him about their own religion and about a dead man called Jesus whom Paul alleged to be alive.”

A dead man called Jesus. Well – he certainly has had some impact.

SATURDAY – St Matthias

We travel down to Surrey for a party in my sister’s garden. The sun setting is a glorious glow of orange and I walk through the woods with Monty to my mother’s grave. Her tree is still spindly, some of the others planted only shortly before are already large. She died just over eleven years ago. I still miss her.

In the Acts 1:15-27, 20-26, Matthias is selected by lot to be an apostle following the treachery of Judas. A poor chap called Joseph known as Barabbas is rejected and is forgotten by history. Such is fate.

Saint Mark

SUNDAY 24 APRIL 2016 – Tenth Sunday of the Year

Mass at Market Rasen. I make my plea for some Latin and feel better for it.

“Paul and Barnabas went back through Lystria and Iconium to Antioch. They put fresh heart into the disciples, encouraging them to persevere in the faith.” (Acts 14:21-27)

That’s what we all need.

MONDAY – St Mark

The long drive back to London, then I intervene in the immigration debate. Is it really humanitarian to take children from Europe? Surely take them from Syria – an unsafe country. That is the true Kindertransport.

“All wrap yourselves in humility to be servants of each other, because God refuses the proud.” (1 Peter 15:5-14)

THURSDAY – Russian Maundy Thursday

There is a row about whether the Government made concessions on its immigration bill just to get trade union support for the Remain campaign. I make a Commons point that concessions should only relate to the Bill. In the evening we go to the Russian church for the service of twelve gospels. This time I do a search on my iPhone and follow them. Unlike our passion reading there are many repetitions as the four gospels repeat incidents so the message is driven home.

All this over two hours whilst standing. I take refuge in the small bench at the back reserved for old ladies and maybe gentlemen.

FRIDAY – Russian Good Friday

I go to the evening service, this in addition to Mass in the morning, so I feel I have done my bit. In the evening service, the shroud has been taken down from the cross and we all walk forward to kiss it.

SATURDAY

We go late to Russian midnight service. Huge crowds outside the church. I am sure we will never get in as we process three times around it, but we do. Inside for an hour between midnight and 1:00 am, singing in Russian “Christ is Risen”. I have no idea how to spell it, I have just been listening to it for thirty years of married life. Then we drop into the Russian church in Ennismore Gardens, huge and also packed, with a superb choir. One is overcome with incense, scent, and sound.

Fourth Sunday of Easter

SUNDAY – Fourth Sunday of Easter

It is a shame we have no sung Latin in our Market Rasen masses. It is so easy, so beautiful to sing the Agnus Dei and Sanctus if nothing else. But why not the Kyrie, Credo, and Pater Noster as well?

Today’s Psalm:

“We are his people, the sheep of his flock.”

MONDAY

I asked the Defence Secretary if NATO, not the EU, was the real guarantor of peace in the last seventy years.

“I feel into a trance as I was praying and had a vision of something like a sheet being let down from Heaven.” (Acts 11:1-18)

How valuable are dreams? Into what depths they take us, but so often depressing. Why?

TUESDAY

I ask the Foreign Secretary about his praise of the new Libyan “Government of National Accord”. I reminded him that their rule only extends to one naval base.

I love this passage from the Acts of the Apostles:

“It was at Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians.” (Acts 1:19-26)

Something new and big is happening.

I reminded the Chancellor that he is ill-placed to forecast the result of Brexit as he can’t get his own borrowing figures right for the following year.

WEDNESDAY

We have a debate on genocide after a debate at the Italian Embassy on Brexit. I call on the government to recognise facts, stop sheltering behind the courts, and declare ISIS as a genocidal organisation against Christians, Shia, and Yazidis.

“The word of God continued to spread and to gain followers.” (Acts 12:29)

In my speech I end by quoting the Prophet Nahum whose grave I have visited:

“The gates of your land are wide open to your foes.”

THURSDAY

The Entrance Antiphon today: “O God, when you went forth before your people, marching with them and living among them, the earth trembled, heavens poured down rain, alleluia.”

FRIDAY

The Entrance Antiphon: “You have redeemed us Lord, by your blood, from every tribe and tongue and people and victor, and have made us into a kingdom, priests for our God. Alleluia.”

SATURDAY – St George

We have the House of Commons sailing match on a cold day. Fun I suppose, certainly a challenge to steer the mermaid around the course with freezing water pouring over you.

Psalm 97: “All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.”

Third Sunday of Easter

SUNDAY – Third Sunday of Easter

We go to Mass in Market Rasen. The strange book of the Apocalypse. Is it mad raving or the word of God?

“In my vision, I John heard the sound of an immense number of angels, gathered round the throne and the animals and the elders, there were ten thousand times ten thousand of them.”

Yes, it’s that: a vision.

MONDAY – St Stanislaus

I ask a direct question of the Home Secretary. Are we searching all lorries at Calais? I receive obfuscation.

While we are away the papers are full of the Panama Papers scandal. I support the PM. “Shocking” that a British Prime Minister gives up his shareholdings before he becomes PM and pays his tax in full. We have a statement on the pro-EU leaflets. I am relaxed: most of them will end up straight away in the bin,

“The members of the Sanhedrin all looked intently at Stephen, and his face appeared to them like the face of an angel.” (Acts 6:8-15)

TUESDAY

I ask about the steel industry and whether we could put tariffs on Chinese steel more easily if we were outside the EU.

The Acts continues with Stephen’s brave taunt to his persecutors.

“You stubborn people. You are always resisting the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do. Can you name a single prophets your ancestors never persecuted?” (Acts 7:51-8:1)

WEDNESDAY

I ask the Education Secretary whether her forced academisation will not force small rural schools out of business.

“Saul then worked for the total destruction of the Church.” (Acts 8:1-8)

Strange how people change.

THURSDAY

The Collect of the Day: “Almighty ever-living God, let us feel your compassion more readily, during these days when by your gift we have known it more fully.”

FRIDAY

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and divinity, and wisdom and strength and honour.” (Rev 5:12)

SATURDAY

The Acts continues. Peter is more and more confident.

“Then he turned to the dead woman and said, ‘Tabitha, stand up.’ She opened her eyes, looked at Peter, and sat up.” (Acts 9:31-42)

Washington

DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY

We don’t get to Mass because we start the day with a long walk in the Shenandoah Mountains. Huge views from the top to east and west. It all takes so long that there is no time to visit the Manassas battlefields on the way back.

MONDAY

We go in a long line for entry into Congress. About 200 of us sit in a cinema and watch a patriotic film about American history and the Constitution. All the places are packed with Americans who actually care about their country. We have nothing like it in Britain. Then we taxi to Georgetown and walk back via the oldest and only pre-revolutionary house in DC.

TUESDAY

We spend the entire day in the superb National Gallery. Not very full, every room beautifully laid out and a free audio guide. So many amazing Italian paintings.

Wonderful gathering of the fishes with a reading from the Gospel that sets it alive, and a beautiful Virgin and Child.

WEDNESDAY

We walk from the Phillips collection near Dupont Circle up Massachusetts Avenue past the British Residence to the Anglican cathedral. An extraordinary concoction. Fourteenth-century gothic, vast, all built over the last 100 years or so, with amazing embellishments such as a pulpit carved with stones from Canterbury Cathedral.

THURSDAY

I go to the Catholic Basilica, all gilt and marble, not a patch on the restrained grandeur of the Anglican cathedral. But no doubt it comes alive at great services. Afterwards a crowded visit to the Air and Space Museum and a final patriotic visit to the National Archives before we fly out.

FRIDAY – St Jean Baptiste de la Salle

Tired out we drive up to Lincolnshire in the evening.

The Acts continue this heroic journey.

“In reply Peter and the apostles said obedience to God comes before obedience to men.” (Acts 5:27)

SATURDAY

A surgery and a quiet day walking and reading.

In the Acts today the Pharisee Gamaliel seems to have the right idea. Let fate take its course.

“If this enterprise, this movement of theirs is of human origin, it will break up of its own accord. But if it does in fact come from God, you will not only be unable to destroy them, but you might find yourself fighting against God.”

Easter Week in America

EASTER SUNDAY

All too soon our retreat is over. We are driving back to London. I have always struggled with a man Jesus walking Palestine who is God who created the billions of stars. But Marina put it well in the car: He is the vessel of God. The sun is shining as I walk to lauds and we sing “Jesus Christ is Risen Today”.

EASTER MONDAY

Always a delight to come back to the Cathedral after Easter and see it in bloom. I wait expectantly for this week’s Gospel readings.

“Filled with awe and great joy the women came away from the tomb and ran to tell the disciples.” (Matthew 28)

TUESDAY

The story continues:

“Mary stayed outside near the tomb weeping. She stooped to look inside, and saw two angels sitting in white where the body of Jesus had been.” (John 20:11-18)

WEDNESDAY

And the most eagerly awaited of all this week’s readings:

“Two of the disciples of Jesus were on their way to a village called Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:13-35)

I love the way our eyes are opened at the breaking of bread.

We fly out today to see our daughter in Washington and arrive exhausted on Tuesday morning.

THURSDAY

The good part of going to America is that you wake up early. Natalia, Nicky, and I walk around the Adams Morgan district, delightful because it is the only part of Washington that has every type in it. We walk to the Lincoln Memorial and round the tidal basin to the Jefferson Memorial – the blossoms still just in bloom, blowing away and a long line for the American history museum. The Americans are so patriotic compared to us.

FRIDAY

We drive out to Mount Vernon overlooking the Potomac to see Washington’s house and tomb. Washington’s family insisted he be buried here rather than in the Capitol. Indeed why shouldn’t a Virginian stay in Virginia?

Seventeen years just as a country gentleman, and then the sudden call to service. Just imagine how different the world’s history would have been if Washington had accepted the offer of some of his officers to become king. For all its policy faults I follow Churchill in his love of the good-naturedness of the Great Republic.

We drive on through Virginia to Monticello, Jefferson’s house. I am struck by how small it seems. There all the work appears to be done underground by slaves. How could the author of the Declaration of Independence believe in slavery? But he is a great man and it is a charming place. I love the multisided bookrest on his desk so he can reed 3 or 4 books at once.

SATURDAY

We stay in a kind of pop-up wooden house on a vineyard then drive to Charlottesville for a walk around Jefferson’s creation, the University of Virginia.

Holy Week

PALM SUNDAY

Amid all the pomp and great music of Palm Sunday in the Cathedral with the Cardinal one phrase stands forth and lodges in my mind. It seems to sum up my doubts and hopes.

“Joseph… came from Arimathea and he lived in the hope of seeing the Kingdom of God.” (Luke)

MONDAY

I ask the Prime Minister about his position on Turkey’s accession to the European Union. He is in favour. Do we want 79 million Turks having the right to come live here?

This week we continue with the readings from Isaiah 42:

“He does not break the crushed reed, nor quench the wavering flame.”

TUESDAY

Chairing Westminster Hall I join the tributes to those slain at Brussels that morning. We still do not have the courage to name and shame radical Islam which is not just a tiny criminal gang. There are hundreds of thousands who feed on violent excerpts from the Koran. Muslims in the West must be convinced to integrate and accept.

Isaiah 48:

“Islands, listen to me, pay attention, distant peoples. The Lord called me before I was before I was born. From my mother’s womb he pronounced my name. He made my mouth a sharp sound. And hid me in the shadow of his hand. He made me into a sharpened arrow, and concealed me in his quiver.”

Even writing this poetry is soothing and a relief from the violence of the world.

WEDNESDAY

I ask the Home Secretary if she will search all cars and lorries coming across the Channel – “our bulwark” – and check all passports against intelligence sources. She brushes me aside saying I have “misunderstood”. Yet the next day the Times reports that only half the lorries are being searched.

I travel to St Olave’s with Mary in the car for their Holy Week service – simple Anglican and nice – then rush back for a Vote Leave photo.

“For my part I make no resistance, neither did I turn away. I offered my back to those who struck me, my cheeks to those who tore at my beard. I did not cover my face against insult and spittle.” (Isaiah 50)

MAUNDY THURSDAY

We drive down to Downside with lunch on the way. It is lovely to look forward to this best of weekends which each year passes all too quietly. The same unchanging routine liturgy and my room at the top of Roberts House. And this day the Mass of the Lord’s Supper with the hymn at the end as we process up to the flower-strewn Lady Chapel. Ben attempts to walk across Salisbury Plain from Shrewton and Mary arrives back exhausted having picked him up from the rain.

“It was before the festival of the Passover and Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to pass from this world to the Father.” (John 13)

GOOD FRIDAY

A Cross Walk from wells to Downside across golden countryside in bright warm sunlight, no need to wear a Barbour. We walk for four hours, arriving happy and exhausted, fourteen stations and a fish-and-chip lunch. I can barely stand for the Passion and intercessions yet tea and silent prayer with Father Christopher revive the drooping spirit.

I get more into “Maranatha”. It is the last sentence of the Apocalypse – Come Jesus Christ, which Father Anselm tells us is bad Greek. The extra two words, Jesus Christ, make this silent prayer more about awaiting.

Father Anselm, Leo, and Boniface sing the Passion. Leo’s voice is full of tired dignity and resignation.

“Jesus said ‘Who are you looking for?’ They answered, ‘Jesus the Nazarene’. He said, ‘I am He.’”

Not surprising. He had echoed God’s words: I am He.

HOLY SATURDAY

Mr Walters does a workshop on the Year of Mercy. An interesting philosophical point which I put: God has affective not effective emotion. Being God he is not emotional so Jesus if God cannot feel emotion, but as Man can. Is that why God has to become man? We have a library tour and the librarian opens up an original edition of Thomas More.

After all this and a swim I am tired as always for the Vigil, especially as it finished at 1am. The clocks are going forward but revived by the Psalmist:

“As the deer yearns for the running stream, so my soul yearns for thee my God.”

Fifth Week in Lent

SUNDAY – Fifth Sunday in Lent

Isaiah 43:16-21

“Thus says the Lord: Who made a way through the sea, a path in the great waters, who put chariots and horse in the field.”

A quiet day in Lincs. Mass at Holy rood and a run around the block and Monti running around me, vanishing for 20 minutes. One moment he is there, and in a flash gone.

MONDAY

I took Monty to the office. He was fairly well behaved. A lovely spring day after a long meeting in the morning.

“I am trapped, Susanna said. If I agree, that means my death. If I resist, I cannot get away from you. But I prefer to fall innocent into your power than to sin in the eyes of the Lord.” (Daniel 13)

Life is full of impossible choices.

TUESDAY

Another long meeting in the morning. I go straight into the chamber and do a point of order on the Investigatory Powers Bill. Why should the Government be allowed to snoop on hostile MPs without consulting the Speaker?

Collect of the Day: Grant us, we pray O Lord, perseverance in obeying your call, that in our days the people dedicated to your service may grow in both merit and number.”

WEDNESDAY

I am sitting quietly through the Budget and suddenly hear that we are to have an elected mayor in Lincolnshire. I complain to both the Communities Secretary and the Chancellor but I fear it is a fait accompli.

“I can see four men walking about freely in the heart of the fire without coming to any harm.” (Daniel)

I always think of this incident when to do something seems without hope.

THURSDAY

I speak in the Budget debate and quote from the 1765 incidents in Boston and Rhode Island when a sugar tax caused a riot. If not a sugar why not a salt tax?

“I tell you most solemnly: before Abraham ever was, I am.” (John 8)

An extraordinary claim.

FRIDAY

A surgery in Market Rasen and a long discussion on devolution ideas. My speech interrupted by breaking news of IDS’s resignation. We never have had such excitement at one of our meetings.

I read Psalm 79 after Monty has raced across the Wolds:

“O God, the nations have invaded your inheritance. They have defiled your holy temple. They have reduced Jerusalem to rubble.”

SATURDAY

We drive back from the St Olave’s Spring Dance – a jolly occasion not spoilt by me locking the keys in the car.

Psalm 80:

“Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock, thou that dwellest between the Cherubim, shine forth.”

Fourth Week in Lent

MONDAY

I had a question on faith schools. Why does the government impose a fifty per cent cap on people from one faith entering a school? They are not concerned about 100% Catholic or Anglican schools. They are worried about 100% Muslim schools but they refuse to admit it.

Psalm 72:

Truly God is good to the upright, to those who are pure in heart
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had well nigh slipped.
For I was envious of the arrogant, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

TUESDAY

I go to the Cosmonauts Exhibition in the Science Museum. There was a strange spiritual movement in Russia at the end of the nineteenth century which proclaimed that man’s salvation could be found in space.

Today the strange poetic reading from Ezekiel 47:

“The angel brought me to the entrance of the Temple, where a stream came out from under the Temple threshold and flowed eastward…”

WEDNESDAY

Today I speak and vote against extension of Sunday trading. One of those exciting lively Commons debates on a moral issue and we win. I quote Lord Sachs on the atomisation of society. Seven-day, twenty-four-hour shopping has not made us any happier.

A beautiful reading from Isaiah today:

“…on every roadway they will graze, and each bare height shall be their pasture. They will never hunger or thirst, scorching wind and sun shall never plague them.”

THURSDAY

We have one of our twice-yearly Public Accounts Commission hearings and I for only the second time chair a Committee of the Whole House and take a division. An amusing experience.

“O Lord remember me out of the love you have for your people.”

FRIDAY

I speak on the deportation of foreign criminals. And my ten minute rule bill on reform of the House of Lords finally bites the dust. Later we have a dinner at the Hickman Hill Hotel in Gainsborough which I always enjoy and it reminds me of my selection there thirty years ago.

Today a passage from John 7. One of those amazing monologues.

“Yes you know me and you know where I come from. Yet I have not come of myself. No, there is one who sent me and I really come from him and you do not know him.”

I could say: and nor do I.

SATURDAY

I let Monty off into the vast Lincolnshire countryside and he vanishes for twenty minutes, bounding back for his piece of chicken. It’s lovely to see him run – he is made for running. I take him to his dog den. He walks round and round in circles with twenty other dogs and is as good as gold.

I do a surgery at Market Rasen and go to our village church to read Psalm 78.

“Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old. Which we have heard and known and our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, showing to the generation to come, the praises of the Lord.”

Third Sunday in Lent

SUNDAY – Third Sunday in Lent

We spend a quiet day in Lincolnshire and go to Mass at Market Rasen. I run around the block – i.e. a three mile run through and around Stainton le Vale.

“I have seen the miserable state of my people in Egypt. I have heard their appeal to be free of their slave drivers. Yes I am well aware of their sufferings. I mean to deliver them out of the hands of the Egyptians.” (Exodus 3:1-8, 13-15)

Thus early “migrants” were helped. Who helps them now? But I suppose God had an easier task. Their numbers were finite.

MONDAY

We drive back for a lunch at Speaker’s House for the President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies. She lectures us about migrants but how many are staying in Italy? She admits that because of the close business and family structure that there are few jobs. I ask the Secretary of State for Defence on a scale of 1 to 10 to rate and compare what is more important to our national security: NATO or the EU?

Late, I make the 5:30 Mass. Good old Naaman.

“Naaman was indignant. ‘Here was I thinking he would be sure to move his hand over the spot and cure the leprous part. Surely Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus are better than any water in Israel?’”

We all think that our waters are better than theirs, but are they?

We have an urgent question on Eurosceptic ministers not being able to access civil service briefs. I ask a question. I am amused by the Times sketch the next day. I am refered to as a “stately home”. My question was light-hearted. Say for the moment I am the fisheries minister – young, ambitious, good-looking…

TUESDAY

I ask the Foreign Secretary (who is not there) about Syria and the West’s responsibility for Iraq, Libya, and Syria and our obsession with overthrowing authoritarian leaders and thereby creating an opening for totalitarian movements.

“We have at this time no leader, no prophet, no prince, no oblation, no incense, no place where we can offer up the first fruits.” (Daniel 3)

WEDNESDAY

Archbishop Gallagher, the foreign minister of the Vatican, says our evening Mass and I host a reception for him in Speaker’s House. Perhaps it is the first ever visit to the House of Commons by the Pope’s foreign minister. At supper we debate the migrant dilemma. The good Catholic side of me tells me we should let more in, the prudent conservative side of me warns against.

“Jesus said to his disciples, do not imagine that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets: I have come not to abolish the, but complete them.” (Matthew 5:17-19)

THURSDAY

My Lenten fast starts to fray at the edges. I have kept off wine for the best part of a month. Now I am in a quandary. We go to see Leo di Caprio in The Revenant. I keep my eyes shut for most of the first half hour.

“Oh that today you would listen to his voice, harden not your hearts.” (Ps 77)

FRIDAY

I travel down to Downside for an oblates’ weekend after talking for forty-five minutes on illegal immigration in the Commons.

As I arrive immediately the atmosphere of the monastery seeps in. I sit in the choir for vespers and compline. Later, alone in the great abbey, the pillars rising into the dark like the columns of Moria. I gaze at the Basano painting and yet again for an instant, a few seconds of grace, I believe. This is God, and alone in the quiet I light a candle.

SATURDAY

Father Alexander at our oblates meeting asks us to read John 9 quietly to ourselves before he talks on it.

I read it several times in modern translation and in the King James Bible. How easy it is to miss its many meetings. All are blind, the disciples who ask the silly question. Is it his fault he is blind? The Pharisees who refuse to accept his cure, his parents who want to conform and therefore dodge his sight. Only the blind man grows in sight, and eventually recognises Jesus as God.

Late after Vigils I am alone in the abbey church. At nine, the lights go off. Although I am halfway down the great church, perhaps 100 yards away, my small candle I have lit in front of the statue of Christ burns and casts an extraordinarily bright glow in the pending gloom.

Light and sight grow in steps, not from reason but experience. I see the light, the ground shifts, and for a moment I believe.