A chance to go quietly to our local church.
I had put down an urgent question to the Secretary of State on same-sex marriage. The media were on the warpath and I had numerous requests to appear. Instead I went to the 5:30 Mass in the Cathedral. It was more soothing.
The day at last: the launching of my book, The Monastery of the Mind. It has taken fifteen years to publish. A reasonable turnout but the high point for me was the kind words of Father Nick King SJ and Archbishop Vincent Nichols.
I was in Paris for our amitié group with the French parliament. With total separation of church and state and education and religion, they seem less fussed by our debates over opt-outs for the church.
We went to the carol service at Downside. In the darkened huge abbey with perhaps a thousand people present it is magnificent. It is the power of the plainchant and Benediction with true Advent, not Christmas, readings which impresses.
I went to a funeral of an old lady and friend in Lincolnshire. The simple dignity of the service, the medieval church cold against the warmth of the congregation. A lady without an enemy in the world.
This prompted me to read Meditations by St John Vianney. His whole life was centred around the Eucharist.
The carol service at Stonyhurst ends with Benediction.
This is a thoughtful moment: the service is no longer just a series of readings about a distant myth or pretty folk songs about a legend. This is real here, the real incarnate God amongst us.
At mass, we were told to thank God in all things. How rarely we do this and to view all material things with indifference. We think complacently that we do this.
True, I may not care much about clothes, or money, or well-appointed houses but I care about lack of any political power. We are all held in sway by one material thing. We must fight it.
After Vespers, the church clothed in darkness. The Psalmist some three thousand years before had come from those yellow, pink hills I had seen the day before, sandy and rugged. The Psalms were they very sands of time.
What a moving experience it was to stand on the east side of the Dead Sea and look over into the Promised Land. It had been raining, the sky was setting, the sea darkening. Eventually as one drove up the hill we could see the lights of Jericho, the oldest city of the world.
Whereas in the West, the High Street would be dominated by large chains, here was all a lively bustle of small shops. Crowds everywhere. Whereas in the West, the church, a relic of Victoriana, would be locked and closed, here the mosque was open to the street, its courtyard full of men standing, meeting, sitting, praying. Islam has the great advantage of the injunction to all to pray five times a day.
I woke to the sound of morning prayers. What a moving experience: prayers ringing out of the city. What is moving is awaking to find it is coming out of the dark into the bedroom. I say awake but I was dozing, saying the Rosary. The two sounds merged as all prayers do.