Monthly Archives: November 2014

Christ the King

SUNDAY – Christ the King

When something horrible happens to you, it is no bad thing in the quiet watches of the night to reflect on the day’s readings. I was mulling things over in my mind and the words of today’s Gospel suddenly came back to me:

“… I was a stranger and you never made me welcome. ‘Lord, when did we not come to your help?’ Then He will answer, ‘I tell you solemnly in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me.’”

And then suddenly, as in an inspiration, came the memory of Peter denying Christ three times. How often do we walk away from difficult situations and abandon those in trouble? I slept now soothed in my conscience.

MONDAY – St Andrew Dung Lac & Companions

I was in Strasbourg and went to the evening mass in the seminary. Looking at the picture of the Virgin and thinking of those in trouble in the world, I was filled with the most profound emotion. The Gospel read out in French made a powerful impression on me.

“For those have all, all contributed money they had over, but she from the little she had to live on.” (Luke 21:1-4)

For a moment I wanted to be like her, to embrace the outcast and unpopular causes, but of course the will is week.


The Pope was visiting Strasbourg to talk to us in the Council of Europe and the European Parliament. The readings this week are from the Book of the Apocalypse. At Mass it was read very fast in French and I failed to catch it, but I caught the words of the Gospel – “Take care not to be deceived” (Luke 21) – underlined in the sermon several times. The Pope talked a lot about transferability. I’m not sure we all understood, but I think he means that Europe, like the old, is tired, that in the young is hope, but sadly they grow old.


I went to the Requiem for deceased members of the Order of Malta in St James, Spanish Place. It is a Tridentine Mass which some might find obscure. I found it a continuous beautiful prayer and it enables the knights in choir robes with lighted candles to stand around the bier, knocked-over candlesticks on a pall. Unique to the Order.

It was strange to think that this is the same mass which has been said for hundreds of years in gothic churches, sun-drenched cathedrals in Malta and Rhodes, and embattled Norman churches in the Holy Land, with knights knelt in chain mail before battle.

“Men will seize you and that will be your opportunity to bear witness.” (Luke 21)

I was thinking, reading this, of the present, not former days.


The sermon in the Cathedral was around the story no doubt well-known of the man who goes to interview and only realises too late that his fellow interviewees in the waiting room are in fact his interviewers.

In other words, we are not judged at death, we are being judged every day. That in life’s successes and, more often, disappointments, in ultimate ill health and death, the only mark is do we see Christ in others; do we act like Christ to others.


I could not remember the reading and had to get up in the middle of the night to remember it. But here the Book of the Apocalypse meets the summit of glorious poetry.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; the first heaven and the first earth had disappeared now. … I saw the Holy City.”


I went to our local church and looked up Psalm 33: “Exalte justi” – Rejoice with God all ye righteous, the words in the King James bible glorious.

Thirty-third Week


We went to Mass in the Holy Rood. I couldn’t help thinking on the first reading.

“A perfect wife – who can find her? She is far beyond the price of pearls. Her husband’s heart has confidence. From her he will derive no little profit. Advantage and not hurt she brings him.” (Proverbs 31)

Lovely warm wise words.


I went to the funeral of Jerry Hughes SJ at Farm Street. He was very kind to me over my book, The Monastery of the Mind. He didn’t need to be. A profound scholar of St Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises, he was very polite about my puny efforts. I think he was wise to advise that I should stick to our family pilgrimage and not attempt an exegesis on the Exercises. He was also kind because as a prominent member of Pax Christi he didn’t need to welcome the views of a Conservative multilateralist but he did as he tried to help all people irrespective of where they came from.


I spoke to former Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and 130 pastors. He is thinking of standing for President again. It was a great privilege. These people have such faith and conviction and are so confident and optimistic and welcoming. They have three heroes and are on a tour to celebrate them: John Paul II, Margaret Thatcher, and Ronald Reagan. They have been in Wadowice in Poland and are here on their Margaret Thatcher leg of the tour. They have no equivalent at or near the top of British politics. Their main motivation and ideal seems pro-life.


A different sort of experience, the APPG Holy See event to have dinner with the Nuncio at the Apostolic Nunciature. Archbishop Menini is kind and highly intelligent. But like all diplomats after he has spoken for half an hour, this time on the Synod, you know that everything he has to say is right and balanced but you have difficulty in remembering afterwards the conclusion except that he is obviously a thoroughly nice chap.


I was elected president of the Catholic Union at their AGM. One has to say on these occasions that it is a great honour, but it is. I will have to speak out now on Catholic issues such as assisted dying, but that’s no change.

Before the AGM we went to Mass in the Cathedral. Today’s Psalm is 149:

“Sing a new song to the Lord. His praise in the assembly of the faithful.”


We went to Ray Hart’s funeral at Holy Rood. He was 97 and had been an altar server for 88 years and married for 74 years. He was a tailor and never missed mass either during the week or on Sunday. A kind man, he taught generations of young people to serve starting himself in 1924. What a life of simple unsung unknown service. I recall a phrase – “If there is life thereafter, he enters bliss. If not in this life, he did his best.” That’s the best anyone can say of one.


Jesus drives out the money changers from the Temple. How extraordinary that this place is still the centre of history.

Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time


We were debating the recall of MPs. I believe that Parliament is the best guarantor of liberty. All populist insurgencies start by bewailing the state of society, a corrupt elite, blaming a minority – Poles or Muslims today, Jews in the last century. Catholics or Protestants before that depending on where you were in Europe. I mentioned Titus Oates, his victims, the victims of popular clamour.


We flew to Rome. The first meetings were with Sant’Egidio. I rate them because all of them work for nothing. There is no suffocating bureaucracy of well-paid charity executives. They were formed by young people thirty years ago who wanted to help the poor of Rome. They are still there. Afterwards we went to the Jesuit Refugee Service. We were staying in a room in the wall connecting the Castel Sant’Angelo with the Vatican. I have never slept inside an 800-year-old wall before.


We went to a papal audience. I am not sure I like these occasions. Too much hero worship of the man in white for me, but it’s fun. I wish my Italian were better to understand the address. I can follow the Italian, obviously I have an English text. The evening before, in a lovely church next to the Refugee Centre, I couldn’t make out why I didn’t take in a word. I had by mistake been reading Tuesday of Week 30 instead of Sts Simon & Jude. Indeed, we know nothing about these apostles. What humility to be in at the beginning of this movement, to shape the world and leave no trace of one’s own life.


A great delight. We had Mass at the crypt of St Peter’s. Amazing to stand here in the very heart of Christendom to see past the priest’s shoulders the sign – in Latin – ‘The Tomb of Peter’, and beyond that through the glass where he is buried.


I went to the Rembrandt exhibition in the National Gallery. Stunning. “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Deyman” (1656) struck me particularly forcibly in its horror. A dead, executed criminal is having his brain cut open. It could be the Christ laying there, taken down from the Cross, but most beautiful of all is the very last picture painted: “Simeon with the Infant Christ in the Temple”. I almost wept at the poignancy of the scene as dying Simeon/Rembrandt encounters his Saviour and finds peace.

What is not here is one of the greatest pictures of all time. I have stood in awe in front of it in the State Hermitage Museum – “The Return of the Prodigal Son”. A copy of it used to be on the wall next to the confessional in Holy Rood Market Rasen. Every Sunday Mass I could look at it and marvel.


I walked the six miles from Market Rasen station through Willingham Woods – sun seeping through the towering trees up and over the wolds into our sun-setting valley, pausing not hurrying over three hours and arrived home to yellowing light, wood fire, and tea. What more restful or greater delight?