Monthly Archives: October 2014

Twenty-ninth week


So how do we render to Caesar what is his due and to God what is His? This is what we are asked to do today. Today 90% of our time, goods, energy, and everything else, not least taxes, is rendered unto Caesar. God has been sent to the sidelines. Strangely enough Caesar’s world doesn’t seem too happy for most.


We went to the two-hundredth anniversary of the Duke of Wellington purchasing our ambassadorial residence in Paris, which had belonged to Napoleon’s sister. William Hague as always made a brilliant speech. The residence is indeed splendid.

Today I always sympathise with the rich man who is so pleased with everything he has. “My soul, you have plenty of good things laid by for many years to come… but God said to him ‘Fool, this very night the demand will be made for your soul’.” (Luke 12:13-21)


We are told today to be “dressed for action and have your lamps lit”. (Luke 12:35-38)

Maybe… but it’s a bit exhausting. Appropriately today we were discussing recall of MPs.


I went down to St Olave’s Grammar School in Orpington. This centre of excellence is truly extraordinary. 67% ethnic minority, 50 each year to Oxbridge or medical school, vying with Westminster which charges £24,000 per year. St Olave’s exists on £4,000 per pupil per year.

Who was St Olave? I am having difficulty in finding out. Is he St Olaf? A failure in life as King of Norway, killed in battle (1030) with his throne lost because he refused to compromise with pagans in his defence of Christianity. His cult was immediate and popular after his death and cannot be explained away just as politically useful. A strange man to understand: brutal, of loose life, a failure, but holy. Not surprising the Vikings liked him.


I led a debate on ending fixed-term parliaments. A seemingly rational reform that has unforeseen anti-democratic consequences. Often we are faced with unexpected and contrary consequences.

What does the Great Peacemaker say today, for instance?

“Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.”

And before:

“I have come to bring fire to the earth.”

Well, sadly, fire often has come.


My daughter’s graduation in the church on Rochester Row, Westminster. A great occasion and in the evening a very rare event: a Tridentine Old Rite Latin Mass in the Holy Rood. Calm, spiritual. Why didn’t the fathers of the Second Vatican Council just ask the priest to read out the prayers aloud so that they could be followed in Latin and English as we did on Friday? So beautiful, so simple, rather than the dreary English dirge we have now. The old mass is a long continuous spiritual prayer. We pray with the priest along with him as he faces in the same direction we do at the altar, looking at the cross, rather than him barking at us. But the New Order Latin Mass for all that is a good compromise and we should have that as an alternative and not gone beyond it.


They are shooting outside. The late October colours in the Lincolnshire countryside, coming into the glory stage. I have never understood shooting, or been any good at it. Why raise thousands of birds just to slaughter them weekly with guns. It seems a bit one-sided to me. But let everyone do their own thing. If they enjoy it and are good at it.

I read Psalm 33 – Exultate justi: “Rejoice in the Lord”. It seemed good for an English country church.

Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time


We were in a small village church near the town of Sancerre. I enjoy the Mass in French. The slight misunderstandings and impenetrability make it more like a Latin Mass. Little of the sermon goes in, odd words. But a memory remains of the main theme. Here which is more impressive, the man who says yes and then does nothing or the man who refuses and then works.

MONDAY – Sts Michael Gabriel and Raphael

I went to Mass in the Seminary of Strasbourg Cathedral. These masses are beautiful in their saying in this simple white chapel with a fine picture of Mary behind the altar. There is a spirit of hope with the young seminarians.

A welcome relief after the Legal Affairs Committee.

I struggled with the French but recognised the Gospel by little signs.

“I saw you under the fig tree.” (John 1:47-49)

I wonder do we really have a Guardian Angel? Is he here now in this room? Sometimes like now I feel it is so.

TUESDAY – St Jerome

We had a debate in the Culture Committee on ritual slaughter and circumcision. I argued strongly that an attack on these is an intolerant attack on the Jewish faith. One of my colleagues said an eight day old baby had no choice. Thus human rights trump religious rights and constantly make progress.

What would the grumpy St Jerome have said?

Again odd words of the wonderful poetry of Job penetrated.

“Why did I not die stillborn? And perish as I left the womb? Why were there two knees to receive me? Two breasts for me to suck?” (Job 3)

WEDNESDAY – St Therese

I got up early for the 7.30 Mass in the Nunciature. What does this phrase actually mean? So delightful yet so difficult.

“Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

We had a debate on the Ukraine. I fear I was out of kilter with calls for dialogue with the Russian deputies. But I said I wanted only to promote peace and dialogue. The Council of Europe is not an executive parliament. It is an inter-parliamentary union. Surely its whole point is that nation talk unto nation. Why should Russia be expelled for standing up for the right of self-determination of ethnic Russians and Russian speakers?


I went to the 7.30 Mass in Strasbourg Cathedral. As always, a beautiful mass.

We carry on with the Book of Job.

“After my awaking he will set us close to him.
And from my flesh I will look on God.
He whom I shall see will take my part.
Their eyes will gaze on him and find him not aloof.” (Job 19:21-27)


I was back in London for the 8am Mass before driving up to Lincolnshire. Is there any more beautiful poetry than that addresses to Job by the Lord.

“Have you ever in your life given orders to the morning? Or sent the dawn to its post? Telling it to grasp the earth by its edges?” (Job 38)


I went for a long two-and-a-half hour walk across the Wolds. After a long while I was very tired yet came across a spring. The water was gurgling out of the grass, and in its natural nascent life was curiously refreshing. Throughout this long walk I met not a single soul. My companions were the vast sky changing from dull lead to ultramarine blue and vast views across the Lincolnshire plain to a distant sight of the Pennines.

Job was right:

“I have been holding forth on matters I cannot understand. On matters beyond me and my knowledge.” (Job 42)