Monthly Archives: September 2014

Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time


We were in Glasgow. Interesting to stand in George Square which has been so much in the news this week. Everyone seemed quite calm. There was a sense of a bit of a let down after a great party. In the morning, we went to an Episcopalian communion. Not something I think I have ever done before. There is of course virtually no difference between it and an Anglican Eucharist or a modern English Catholic Mass. Why can we not take communion in each other’s churches?


Before driving down to London I read Psalm 31 – In te domine speravi – In thee O Lord have I put my trust.

The words flow. “I am dead, forgotten, out of mind…”


We are reading this week the Book of Proverbs.

“The hardworking man is thoughtful and all is gain: too much haste and all that comes of it is want.” (Proverbs 21)


More readings from the Book of Proverbs.

“Take nothing for the journey, neither staff, nor haversack, nor bread.”

I was picking up my boat from Warsash Marina on the River Hamble near Southampton where it was stranded with a broken engine and taking it to Gosport. There was not a breath of wind, just very bright sunlight. I was heading against the tide. The hours paused, the engine chugged; with painful slowness I passed the land. Only in a small boat with an underpowered engine with no wind and fighting the tide do you truly appreciate the value of patience and the value of time and tide and distance stopped and merging into each other. Yet time always intrudes. I had to get to my mooring in time for the last water taxi so eventually worry and time set in.


The day of my thirtieth wedding anniversary.

“A generation goes, a generation comes, yet the earth stands firm for ever.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2)

Yet our lives pass so quickly like a breath of air on a summer’s morning.


This was the day of the great debate in Parliament on whether or not to bomb ISIS. I don’t need to repeat the points I made here. In short, we caused this mess by destroying strongmen Assad and Saddam who protected religious minorities particularly Christians. Now we cannot stand by as they face genocide. What a tragedy that all these countries so rich in minorities, Christians, Jews, and others are rapidly losing their ancient cultures.

Perhaps today’s reading is apt: “There is a season for everything. A time for loving, a time for hating. A time for war, a time for peace…”


We travelled by boat to France and through the calm autumn countryside.

Yet the almond tree is in flower. The grasshopper is heavy with food. And the caper bush bears its fruit. (Ecclesiastes 11)

Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Twenty-fourth Week

SUNDAY – Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Waiting for the family lunch we went to the local church in a suburb of Paris. It was full. The priest was lovely but I had difficulty understanding his accent. Here is one of the most famous sentences in the Gospel:

“Yes, God loved the world so much that He gave His only begotten son. So that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)


All the talk, newscasts increasing excitement this week on the Scottish Referendum.

I was struck by today’s reading from St Paul to the Corinthians:

“I hear that when you all come together as a community, there are separate factions among you, and I half believe it – since there must be no doubt be separate groups among you, to distinguish those who are to be twisted.” (Cor 11:17-28)

Nothing changes.


I was talking to some children from Scampton School. They were eleven year olds. I asked them whether they are in favour of maintaining the Union. All the little hands shot up. Strange that the English are so overwhelmingly in favour of the Union, the Scots so divided. Yet they do so much better from it. It shows that sentiment is more important than economics.

“Just as a human body, though it is made up of many parts, is a single unit because all these parts through many make one body.” (Cor 12:12-14)


I went off to Clacton and Frinton, two places I had never been to before. A lovely day, the people very nice. Frinton a throwback to a gentler age: even a vicar walking down the high street in a dog collar. I felt I was in some 1950s novel of retired sea side life. Most people I meet seemed to hold similar views to me.

Today’s reading: “In short, there are three things that last: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love.” (St Paul 12)

Reminds me always of when we put my father’s ashes in the ground and I read out this passage.


Scottish referendum day. Great excitement. We travel up to Lincolnshire and stay up late, listening to the results. An extraordinary turn out. It just shows that if people are given a real question, a real choice between competing futures, they really are interested in politics. But so much of the choice is diffused. There is too much listening to focus groups, too much dumbing down.


I continued my voyage through the Book of Common Prayer in our village church and read Psalm 29. Afferte Domine. Bring unto the Lord. It is soothing to read the King James Bible – not much remains in the mind, but I’m not sure it’s supposed to. You just let it waft over you.

SATURDAY (20 Sept)

I continued my reading of the psalms, one by one. Psalm 30: Exaltabo te Domine – I will magnify thee, my Lord.

Twenty-third week


I was reading again Thomas Merton’s Elected Silence. This passage struck me:

“This means in practice, there is only one vocation, whether you are all the time in the cloister, or nurse the sick, whether you are a religious or out of it, married or single, no matter who you are or what you are: you are called to the summit of perfection. You are called to interior life, perhaps to mystical prayer, and to pass on the fruits of your contemplation to others.”

This last point seems to me very important.


I flew to Gibraltar for their National Day celebrations. It was strange to walk down such an English High Street in such a hot sun and to come across such a typically Mediterranean Catholic church in such an English city. It was a relief to sit there in the shade.


The residence of the Governor in Gibraltar is called the Convent, and once, a long time ago, it was. We sat in the Dining Room which is rather like a school refectory with the banners of all the British governors since 1704 on the walls.

WEDNESDAY – Gibraltar National Day

Exciting to stand on the stage with three thousand people in front of you. Baloons, speeches. You keep meeting the Chief Minister wherever you go, even on the beach in the afternoon. In the evening he was there again at the Mass in honour of Our Lady of Europe in the bright evening six o’clock sunlight.

When Gibraltar was captured in 1704, her statue was thrown down the cliff and her head fell off but she seems ok now and as the Host was elevated the sun was in my eyes.


I was sitting in Gibraltar airport waiting to fly out – the frontier is about a hundred yards off. There are often long queues as Spanish Guardia Civil take an agonisingly long time to check people. If during the last fifty years they had opened up the frontier, Gibraltar would now be like Monaco, indistinguishable from France, or San Marino, indistinguishable from Italy.

“To the man who slaps you on one cheek, present the other cheek too.”


We were debating international development in the Commons. There were only seven of us who voted against giving 0.7% of our national budget in aid by law. I’m not opposed to aid – quite the opposite – but it seems economic illiteracy to lay down spending requirements by statute.

Sometimes I think we are like something out of today’s parable:

“Can one blind man guide another? Surely both will fall into the pit?” (Luke 6:39-42)


This is the weekend of the Order of Malta pilgrimage to Walsingham which I enjoy but I was off instead to the 80th birthday party of a relative in Paris.

“There is no sound tree that produces rotten fruit.” (Luke 6:43-49)

Twenty-second Week


Jeremiah’s cry today is ours:

“You have seduced me, Lord, and I have let myself be seduced. You have overpowered me; you were the stranger.” (Jeremiah 20:7-9)

I think the language of seduction is right. It is all so irrational. Reason screams: the world is created by the laws of physics. Yet one’s heart is seduced, one’s heart but not yet the head.


“But he slipped through the crowd and walked away.” (Luke 4:16-30)

I always wonder how He slipped through the crowd. Did he vanish or did the enragement of the crowd blind them? Does He slip through our sight, too?


The start of a new school year. Things are resolved. We know where we are going now. There is a debate on three-parent families – mitochondrial research. Is this part of the increasing alienation of the age? That attempt at cures can always be justified. Even if we now have three-parent babies.

St Paul tells today that the Spirit reaches the depths of everything. (First letter of St Paul to the Galatians). But does it? Only of course if we let it.


I do a piece for the Today programme on the Ukraine and I take part in Prime Minister’s Questions. We have been too complacent in Scotland.

I am struck by this passage, however, today:

When daylight came he left the house and made his way to a lonely place. (Luke 4:38-44)

Mark the words: to a lonely place, to be alone, not to be with other people, to be silent. We all have this great need.


“The wisdom of this world is foolishness to God.” (Galatians 3:18-23)

The truth is that we take ourselves and the world far too seriously. We are enveloped by it. We fail to see our own foolishness and minuteness in the light of eternity, whether or not it is inhabited by God.


“The salvation of the Lord comes from the just.” (Ps 36)

I can’t help feeling however that we always foolishly think salvation comes from our efforts, as individuals or in groups, or by country. We very rarely think of something beyond ourselves.


We were at an oblates meeting and our oblate master was giving us good advice to treat things as “gifts” not possessions – everything is a gift: children, home, health, job, abilities. If something is a gift and not a possession you don’t need to grasp it tightly and fearfully in a clenched fist.

He told us also that God is not part of your history, your regrets. He does not say “I was”. He is not part of your fears for the future. He does not say “I will be”. He is for the present. He says “I am”. He says: “I Am Who I Am”.

Sometimes you feel this vastness in the present in the quiet of the night.

On Friday night I stood alone in the abbey church looking at the sanctuary lamp. At times like these, one can feel a special belief.

On Saturday evening I realised it was not just the softness of the candlelight: I was looking through the sanctuary light to the crucifix beyond and to the shadows reflecting into the nave. Thus a deeper less material beauty became apparent.

Our oblate master also reminded us that St Benedict was a layman promoting the role of lay brothers. This I feel sure is a future for our monasteries as vocations decline. But a monastery cannot exist just as prayer groups or schools: it must have more people within the monastery. This means nowadays I am sure more lay people.