Monthly Archives: February 2011

St. Blaise & St. Theodore

There are three saints Theodore. My son’s godfather is making an icon for him with the saint he was named after and decided to put all three on it. But we celebrate the St. Theodore today who, at the ripe old age of 65, was sent over to help convert the Anglo-Saxon English and did a good job of it by all accounts.

I had been feeling ill all week. I had a cough, so I had high hopes of St. Blaise, the patron saint of throat conditions, as the candle was laid on our necks after Mass. Almost immediately after, I coughed again! But the throat feels a little better now.

I learnt Friday that a friend, Martin, who I go swimming with every day has died suddenly. One moment he was swimming. On Saturday he said he felt dizzy. On Sunday he said he was better and on Sunday night he was dead. Little older than me.

He was a night porter by trade, a man of great charm, of noble simplicity and no ambition, without an enemy in the world. Also a well-skilled painter of scenes usually from some imaginary Oriental court. To my great delight, he recently gave me one of his paintings which I shall treasure.

After swimming, I often walked with him along the side of the Serpentine. He walked very slowly, and he used to wave as I turned left. Now I will always see him walking on, into the unknown.

The divide between life and death is so brittle, a gently, wavy, threadbare curtain through which one can pass so easily and quickly.

But as I lay awake at night I was sure that I now have a friend in heaven.

Today’s Gospel is from St. Mark:

And so the Lord Jesus after he has spoken to them was taken up into Heaven.

(Mark 16:15-20)


After the beauties of Rome under a mild utterly blue cloudless white sky to return to the ordinary streets of grey London is a depressing thing.

But to cheer us up as we went to a hearty Candlemas for my son’s school in the Little Oratory. I love the moment after one stands outside the church as the candles are blessed. Then there comes a moment when the candles are lit.

For me the words of old Simeon are some of the most moving in the Gospel.

Now Lord you have kept your word. Let your servant depart in peace.

And the words of the Priest will end in a happy tale.

Forty days ago we celebrated the joyful birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Today we recall the holy day on which he was presented at the Temple.

S. Luigi dei Francesi

I set off across town to find the chapel of the nuns in the Piazza Farnesi. Frequently losing my way and going up to grumpy carabinieri: “Scusi, dove e Piazza Farnese per favore?”

Eventually as I rounded the corner of the Piazza I saw the nuns locking the gate after early morning mass. No matter. I found a Mass in Santa Maria dei Maddalena in Roma. It has extraordinary soaring baroque ceilings and a beautiful Madonna della Salute.

These churches are amazing. The day before I turned a corner and went in by chance to S. Luigi dei Francesi and found the most extraordinary Caravaggio. What an amazing life, what extraordinary genius, and then to throw it all away as a hated fugitive from justice.

In a dimly lit side chapel is a plaque on which were written in French these quite nice words about a former French Ambassador to the Holy See.

“His love of the Church was only exceeded by his love of his country.”

A nice epitaph.