Monthly Archives: September 2013

Twenty-Fifth Week in Ordinary Time


Another long train journey, this time quieter, and then Mass in the Cathedral.


Feast of St Padre Pio

I went to Mass in the Abbey. What did Padre Pio have? He died a few days after the fiftieth anniversary of his stigmata. Were they real? Did he imagine them and they appeared? What sort of man was he?

It was a glorious September day and we walked to Pentire Point.

We saw what you rarely see in England: the sun at 7.18 dipped right into the sea, no haze. Before doing so the sea became a brilliant speckled gold.


This was a glorious September day of mist and sun and cloud.

“Like flowing water is the heart of the King in the hand of the Lord. Who turns it where he pleases.”

The water surges indeed where it pleases, crowing out the rocks round Polzeath but in Daymer Bay it is quiet. So quiet the water creeps up to the hills almost by stealth. Walking back from Rock there was not a moment to lose. We hitch up trousers and wade round the rocks and into safety.


A long walk from Padstow round the point to Trevone Head and back to Padstow. Some rain and the sea calm way below. The tide so low in Padstow Bay that one can see the water rippling over the “Doom Bar”, the sandbank that has wrecked so many sailing ships desperately seeking shelter in a storm.

The 25th September it is our 29th wedding anniversary, a shelter in a storm.

“Two things I beg of you. Do not grudge me them before I die. Keep falsehood and lies from me. Give me neither poverty nor riches.” (Proverbs)


“Southward goes the wind, then turns to the north: it turns and turns again, back to its circling goes the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2)

For a time upon the coastal path I was alone. No one visible as the path wound its way to the summit, below only the sea, the waves gentle swelling before a crashing view, the sun appearing and disappearing, the wind coming and turning.


I was reading one of my son’s school books – a simple introduction to Christianity. It said something like, “We believe that Christ rose from the dead, it follows that we too can rise from the dead if He did.”

So simply put, but it struck a chord and a belief stirred. If I now believe that Christ rose from the dead, then it follows that, after all, amazing there might be life after death.


As usual, or as often happens, I was saying the Rosary in the middle of the night. I came to the Mysteries of Light and the raising of Lazarus. I saw in my mind’s eye the picture of the scene in the Abbey and now in my mind’s eye I saw an enfolding light spreading into the darkness…

“I am a man under authority myself”


Mass in the Cathedral. It is the story of the centurion who will not put Jesus to any trouble. Such certainty is unsettling.

“I am a man under authority myself.”

“I say to one man go, and he goes.”


I was walking in the hills above Walesby and looked back over the valley. Of course the view is magnificent.

You look down the line of the side of the wolds, the hills gently sloping into the great plain stretching away to the Lincoln edge, twenty miles away.

But what was remarkable about this day was that there was not a breath of wind. The trees were not moving. Looking down on this scene was like looking down on one of those large model train sets. Little brown homes and toy-like trees, so still as if they were made of plastic. No one was moving in this utterly still tableau. It was a scene redolent of the instant of time.


“We played the pipes for you. And you wouldn’t dance. We sang dirges, and you wouldn’t cry.” (Luke 7:31)

What does this mean exactly and how does it inspire the well-known modern hymn? Or rather what do its words mean?


To an Away Day in Oxfordshire. Lots of colleagues telling us how we’re printing surveys and putting up billboards advertising themselves.

I remember as a young MP doing the same and then we helped someone without telling anyone and an old man in the village, he noticed what you did. Before we just thought you were just a pushy chap, now maybe we see there’s more to you. So now I just do my duty, help people when they ask for help.


A long train journey to Edinburgh. I don’t mind the cramped feeling; it’s the constant talking. Why do we not have more desire for silence?

“Turn your ear to me: hear my words.” Ps 16


The wedding was by the side of a loch in the Trossachs. A slight early autumn joy, the heather still the same colour, no wind, the water on the loch as still as glass, the hills capped by white mist.

Sunday to Sunday


I was asked to do the reading in our local church at Hainton.

St Paul asks a Philemon to look after Onesimus, clearly a slave. He describes him “not as a slave any more but something much better than a slave: a dear brother.”


Psalm 8: Domine, dominus noster / O Lord, our God

I am working through the Psalms in our local Anglican church. Reading, sitting alone in the empty church, looking at the Latin. They are extraordinarily compelling.


I go to the Knights of Malta Mass in St James, Spanish Place. This was one of the embassy churches. It is since rebuilt, but beautiful. One has in this place and with this mass, largely in Latin, a sense of continuity.

Continuity is an aspect sorely missed.


I was invited and nearly didn’t go because I was so tired to the Copt celebration in St Margaret’s, Westminster. I’m glad I went. They had kept a seat for me, and they need supporting.

It’s a strange atmosphere: Orthodox, but with an Arabic rather than a Russian tinge. The singing and cymbals strangely rhythmic. Did St Mark really found them? Does it matter? They certainly found monasticism, the hermetic and cenobatic kind.

Through two thousand years of persecution, even into this present week of burning churches, they have kept the Faith.


The great passage from Luke 6:27-38 so majestic in its poetry, ending with the final daunting challenge: “the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back,” something we never heed, know but do not act upon, understand but ignore, accept grudgingly, give a little hope for more.


We travel to Walsingham for the OMV pilgrimage. A long drive but grateful to arrive. The priest quotes Newman. What was it? The thought sits elusive at the back of my mind.

It is in dying, in making mistakes, we learn. No it is that “in changing, we become perfect.” Or something like that. We constantly have to change, but we don’t wan’t to, so do we reject perfection? Of course we do: it is too demanding.

Later I sat in the Anglican Shrine, alone, late at night. It closes late: more churches should close late. It is at nighttime, in quiet, that thought comes easier. In the Anglican Shrine is a replica of the Little House of Nazareth. It may be a replica but in its attention to what might have been it has power.

I realise that it is irrelevant if religion is true. Because for me it has the power to make me happy. Atheists may scoff at it being a kind of opiate for the brain but it is not chemically induced. It is induced by the rationality of thought and search.


We have our final mass at Walsingham. With all the other groups it cannot have the power of the other two, but the magic of the place persists on the journey back. It is in this place where eternity is nearer, closer than elsewhere.

Going through the Psalms


In our small country church I have been very slowly going through the Psalms in the Anglican Prayer Book. I like the way each psalm in our King James version is headed by the Latin, a meditation in itself.

Thus Psalm 1:

Beatus vir, qui non abit / Blessed be the man that hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly.

I can imagine Oliver Cromwell reading that. We know he had a pretty dim view of the Parliament of his time, even those on his side: witness Pride’s Purge. I wonder what he would have thought of today’s Parliament.


Talking of the seventeenth century, my son found on Google a biography of an Edward Leigh. A Civil War Parliamentary officer, he sat in Parliament and was ejected by Cromwell in Pride’s Purge. Edward Leigh wanted a constitutional settlement with the King. A noted biblical scholar, he was very interested in religious writing. He did quote a lot of it himself. After being thrown out of Parliament he retired into private life and lived quietly well into the Restoration period.


Perhaps the seventeenth century Edward Leigh would have sat in his quiet country parish church and looked at Psalm 2 as I am doing now.

Quare fremuerunt gentes / Why do the heathens so furiously rage together


There was a little debate in Parliament on the birth of Prince George. I took the opportunity to speak on the limits to reason. Why is it that the Monarchy which is so irrational is so popular whilst so many modern-day politicians are so rational believing in modernity and equality in all things yet distrusted.

Perhaps the appeal of religion is its very irrationality.


Back in our church looking at Psalm 3 now.

Domine quid multiplicati / Lord how are they increased that trouble me


I went for a long walk down the edge of the Wolds from Sixhills into the darkening valley and up again. The harvest is still busy but coming to an end, the distant sound of great machines churning, splitting, and grinding the goodness out of the soil. Summer giving way to an earlying autumn twilight, the last of the sun glinting dully off the stones of the old priory. What must they have seen.


An important day for me. I was awake once again thinking that, deep down, I didn’t really believe in the after life. And then I reflected on what I did believe.

After thirty years of trying, I do believe in the historical Christ. I do believe He lived. I do believe He did die on the Cross. I do believe that after His death He rose and walked the earth and talked to people.

Suddenly I realised, almost reluctantly, that I do have faith. If I don’t yet have belief in my own survival after death, perhaps it is a lack of self-confidence or worth. I do believe we are individuals, not just part of a running stream.

More and more my heart is opening out to the belief that where Christ went we can follow. Because I only believe in Him. I believe Him. I believe His promises and His promises are explicit. Where or why in our huge universe He arrived here I do not know, but why should it be so extraordinary that God loves us?