Monthly Archives: October 2013

Twenty-Ninth Week


If one can do no other than remember today’s Gospel, so many of life’s problems and successes would fall into place. “Fool, this very night the demand will be made for your soul.”


We were in Rome with the All-Party Group on the Holy See. We called on Cardinal Turkson and asked him about Syria. Did the Pope’s day of prayer and fasting help to avoid a wider war? It certainly did no harm.

The first sight of St. Peter’s Square when you arrive is always awesome. It is just on such a large scale. Archbishop Muller had explained to us the difficult position of the Church on communion for divorcees. Ultimately though all the Church’s teaching has to be based on love and compassion.


Along with 110,000 other people we went to a General Audience. I nominated two of our number to shake the Pope’s hand. We, meanwhile, want to see the equivalent of the Cabinet Secretary to find out about the reform of the Curia. The reality is much more prosaic than the media hype. It was strange to be standing alone in the Scala Regia alone with the Michaelangelo and Vasparis on the other side of the door to the Sistine Chapel.

The Foreign Minister equivalent whom we met at the end of a long day for him and us seemed only to really speak with life and cease choosing his words when falling about his working relationship with Francis who really is inspiring them all. I like him but I also liked Pope Benedict who despite his deep intellect had a twinkle in his eye.


What a privilege to have our little Mass said for us in the Crypt of St Peter’s. Looking at the tomb of St Peter. The glass reflected an image of us superimposed on his tomb, an allegory of our pilgrimage toward him.


We had a debate on multiculturalism in the Council of Europe. I alone attacked the concept. We should learn from the success of Jewish immigration into England. Jewish people took English names and fully integrated. There is no anti-semitisim and they often lead the way in industry, arts, and politics. If other immigrants ghettoise themselves in their own dress, homes, and aggressive practice they will not advance. So the liberal thinktanks and politicians who addressed us on the virtue of multiculturalism are actually the enemies of Muslim progress in the West.


It was a Day with Mary in the Cathedral, which was packed. Yet the Administrator continued with the usual sung Latin Mass. This vast crowd who don’t or perhaps never are given an opportunity to hear a Mass in Latin seemed perfectly content and happy to take part. The truth is that the Novus Ordo Latin Mass is simple, clear, and easy to understand. When sung in Latin it is beautiful. Why did we ever get rid of it?

Twenty-Eighth Week


I had lunch with someone who intends to beat the world speed record for motoring round the world. I think his greater achievement was to sail an old yacht – Lively Lady – very slowly around the world. He told me it was really drifting round the world. What is wrong with drifting on ocean currents? It must be the most extraordinary physical and spiritual experience to be powered slowly at walking pace around the world by wind. What a test of patience and stolid endurance.


I was speaking against visiting on all dogs the sins of the vicious ones. More regulation, more problems. Everyone remarks on the placid temperament of our William: he gives only calmness, loyalty, and love. How can he too not have a soul?


The chapel at the House of Commons was crowded. Why do we concentrate on the irritating person in front rather than the mystery at the front of the church? Human nature or the devil? I doubt the existence of a malign and scheming devil. There is enough devilry already within human nature at every level to make the existence of a real devil unnecessary.


We had a debate on Army Reserves. With the shortage of monastic vocations will we come to rely more and more on oblates that are part of a monastic community but do not make a vow of stability for life? I think that may be the way forward.


We went to Jim Broadbent’s film, Le Weekend. He makes a long speech on the hopelessness of his life – forced early retirement, no money, wife going off.

Naturally no mention of a fall back on spirituality or religious life in any shape or form. Is this why society is so depressed?


I was in the Abbey church at dusk after Vespers. The light was diffuse and subtle. I had one of those fleeting moments of a shift in consciousness of a complete belief and acceptance. Belief to me is not a settled absolute yes or no, it is an acquired and growing experience, an accumulation of small moments, each of them valuable in themselves.


The Gospel reading today is focussed on the power of prayer. We were told rightly that there is no one good way of prayer. Going through the motions? Better to go through the motions than not try at all. Lectio Divina great, but if it doesn’t work, move on. “Pray as you can, not as you can’t.”

Reshuffle Day

Talking of jobs, its reshuffle day. More interesting the Gospel reading is that of Martha and Mary. The Marthas are the shufflers and the shuffled of life, perpetually moving, wanting more, wanting to be something else but are they ever happy? Today is the lawyer, a shuffler who asks how he can inherit eternal life.

Of course you have to love your neighbour as yourself, but, ah, how to do it? When in the quiet of the Abbey, I am happy, it is easy to do. It is always a trial travelling in the crowded train on the way back.

But you have to view everyone, even the meddler on the mobile phone as a friend and a neighbour, not as an irritant. Easy to contemplate in theory, impossible to do, but I can start to make the effort.

So today I was in a train, a mobile phone conversation started and went on and on. Did I love the mobile phone? No, I just moved a few places. During the journey I read Eckhart Tolle. It was alright but I got more out of staring out of the window and capturing a moment, a deep lake, a van parked alone in the field, a barn, a view of distant downs. But Tolle would probably accept that this experience of a moment is as important as any book.

Feast of St Bruno

We heard of his life. The most charming aspect is his constant having to flee from being given jobs. Not a problem I have ever suffered from, but happiness we know came to Bruno and to us not from being a bishop or its equivalent but in the silence of the moment, in quietness, and creeping then sudden calm acceptance and joy.


I was in the Abbey. We had a talk, a brilliant exegesis on the Gospel of St John. I had not realised that John mentions the Light of the World so many more times than the other evangelists. All this is very interesting but it was only later, alone in the darkened abbey in front of the raising of Lazarus that a sensation of acceptance came over me.

I read Thomas Merton in the evening. I love his simple style and description of his spiritual journey. Tonight I was reading of his discovery of the spiritual exercises.

St Francis of Assisi

The Mass is packed in the small chapel in the Cathedral. The priest asks us to, I think, “vivre un reve”, to live a dream, our dreams, in a dream! I am sure all due appropriate to St Francis.

Later on the boat, the sun sets in a glorious autumn brightness.

The whole sea is spottled golden. The sky, thin fillets of it were redder than I have ever seen before.

A Pilgrimage to St Odile

We went on a pilgrimage to the Monastery of St Odile in the Vosges – well a sort of pilgrimage, a friend said it was a beautiful place to visit and the photo of the buildings on a high rock looked nice. So we went. I expected another dead, half-ruined monastery.

Instead we found a vibrant pilgrim place. I realised that as soon as we arrived and saw the plaque of John Paul’s visit in 1988.

High on its celtic stones lies the Monastery of St Odile. Great boulders and huge views over the Plaine d’Alsace stretch out to infinity.

Bands of horizontal mist lie in every fold of every valley retreating into a grey insubstantial distance.

The basilica is open. We arrive and by chance a Mass starts. Here in this place we think of a celtic princess, blind from birth, rejected by her father, hidden, and somehow cured.

Down the hills is the “Source”. Here St Odile tapped the rock and cured a leper. Here we put the cooling water on our eyes and hope for her cure too.

We leave reluctantly, driving through the vineyard villages, picture postcard in their country Germanic beauty, vines even growing over the road: a great arcade.

But we remember St Odile on her high rock.

The Lord gave, the Lord has taken back


I was in the Cathedral listening to today’s Gospel, the story of the rich man and Lazarus. Of course the demanding part of the story is that the rich man actually did nothing wrong. He did not abuse or maltreat the poor man. He just ignored him or perhaps was not even aware of him. We are told not to give money to beggars. They will spend it on drink. I was careful to give money to the next person begging!


Today’s reading is the familiar one from the book of Job.

What would be our reaction to these terrible disasters? Dumb shock, misery, and despair, I suspect; certainly not Job’s words.

“The Lord gave, the Lord has taken back. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

This after he has heard the terrifying news of the loss of all his property and those dearest to him.


St Therese of the Child Jesus

I was in Strasbourg Cathedral and as usual the priest gave a most beautiful mass and sermon.

Just six exercise books of notes was all Therese left at her death age 24 after a wholly uneventful life, but what glory followed and how simple is her concept of spirituality: a love of little things.


I nearly couldn’t get up for the 7.30 Mass at the Nunciature but it is always worth going. Not least because the downstairs room is so small and intimate.

They are going to add a sixth panel to the saints of Europe in their small stained glass window in their basement chapel: dedicated to St John Paul II.