Monthly Archives: February 2015

First Week in Lent: ‘Love your enemies…’


There was an inspiring chap speaking on Songs of Praise. He was, I think, a former vicar who now had bad MS and couldn’t walk. But he was very courageous. He said he saw the love of God in the love of his wife. With all our moans and groans, here was a man afflicted with the most terrible disability – cheerful. And on the programme too was a most impressive actor who plays Martin Luther King in ‘Selma’. He just seemed extraordinarily articulate and full of hope.


“I tell you solemnly insofar as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine you did to me.” (Matthew 25:31)

We had a debate on gender-selective abortion. I was the last to be called. I had 30 seconds to speak. I just said it is morally repugnant to destroy a foetus just because of its sex, shouldn’t we made clear in law its prohibition.


“In your prayers do not babble as the pagans do.” (Matthew 6:7)

The priest at Mass today reminded us of the Communion Rite’s words: “At the Saviour’s command and formed by divine teaching, we dare to say…”

I had never really thought about these words before. But saying the first words of the Lord’s Prayer, we do it without thinking out.


“Go to Nineveh.” (Jonah 3)

What would ISIL make of him in Mosul if he arrived? Probably like the real Jonah he would have been scared of going at all.


I went in for a screening test for aortic aneurysm.

Marcus Aurelius tells us that we should think of one’s death every day of one’s life.

Is this a good idea? I think it is. It puts the days and life’s little setbacks into perspective. We are going to die, and all these other people more powerful than us are going to die too. We will all be levelled and then whatever people think and say about us will be meaningless.

Again today’s Gospel as a refrain sticks in the brain as a most beautiful counterpoint:

“Ask and it shall be given unto you, search and you will find; knock and the door shall be opened unto you.” (Matthew 7)



The answer to Marcus Aurelius is surely in today’s reading from Ezekiel 18:

“If the wicked man renounces all the sins he has committed, respects my laws, and is law-abiding and honest, he will certainly live.”


I like the day the hunt comes to our valley. I can walk in the deep hidden wood-lined valleys away from the public footpaths which normally I cannot access.

Here it is very quiet, a green carpet leads up the slopes, surrounded by birch and beech. I returned home after a couple of hours in the twilight to a cottage fire, the timeless clatter of hooves on the hunt returned.

This injunction from Matthew 5 today is so difficult to follow:

“I say this to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, in this way you will be sons of your Father in Heaven.”

Ash Wednesday


“The man is leprous: he is unclean. The priest must declare him unclean. He is suffering from leprosy of the head.” (Leviticus 13)

When people call for assisted suicide are they not ridding themselves of the unwanted? Do not the unwanted feel unwanted, which is as bad?

“A leper came to Jesus and pleaded on his knees: ‘If you want’, he said, ‘you can cure me.’ Feeling sorry for him, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him. ‘Of course I want to,’ he said. ‘Be cured.’” (Mark 1:40-45)


“The Lord asked Cain, why are you angry and downcast? If you are well disposed, ought you not to lift up your head? But if you are ill disposed is not sin at the door like a crouching beast, hungering for you, which you must master?” (Genesis 4)

This jealousy is in all of us. How shrewd a commentary on human nature is this early passage of Genesis.


The story of Noah is obviously people say a ridiculous legend but the essence of it is surely really that small groups of people must make an ark of the soul to keep their spirit alive.

A brilliant blue warm day in London. Market Rasen scouts came and had a tour and picnic lunch on the Terrace – an ark.

WEDNESDAY – Ash Wednesday

Another lovely day of blue sky. I showed an American friend around the House of Commons. Perhaps he was a little vague on Cromwell and Charles I, but he perked up at Magna Carta. Only the Salisbury facsimile, not the incredible experience of two weeks before of the four copies together.

As usual we had Allegri’s Miserere but with men’s voices as it is half term. When I hear the Gospel of Ash Wednesday I always wonder whether I should be writing this at all:

“When you pray, do not imitate the hypocrites… but when you pray, go to your private room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in that secret place.” (Matthew 6)


I had a dream. I was driving through a familiar countryside and a village well known to me seemed not empty as usual but full of people. They were all streaming in and out of the old church, usually so dark, sometimes locked. The light was unreal, a kind of bright mauve or sunrise pink, but there was a sense of joy.

As I sat in the 1030 Latin Mass, I heard these words:

“What gain then is for a man to have won the whole world and to have lost or ruined his very self.” (Luke 9)

Well this passage is some comfort. Maybe we could all progress further, but at what price?


Isaiah sets us a hard task:

“Is not this the sort of fast that please me?
It is the Lord who speaks
To break unjust fetters and undo the things of the yoke.
To let the oppressed go free and break every yoke.
To share your bread with the hungry
And shelter the homeless poor.” (Isaiah 58)


I felt depressed as I went for my morning run to the church (locked) and back at the way tabloids label people with guilt by association. I should have read today’s Gospel:

“The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples and said ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’ Jesus said to them in reply: It is not those who are well who need the doctor but the sick. I have not come to call the virtuous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5)

Afterwards I did my back in a long walk over the fields to Tealby and back, yet in tiredness my morale felt better. When you read words like that and the ‘rational’ doubts disappear and you know you are following the right path.

Fifth Week in Ordinary Time


Collect at Downside Abbey for Mass:

Keep your family safe, O Lord, with unfailing love. That, relying solely on the hope of heavenly grace, they may be defended always by your protection. We can ask for no more.

Sometimes I think I am like Job.

“Like the slave sighing for shade or the workman with no thought but his own wages, months of delusion I have assigned to me, nothing for my own but nights of grief. Lying in bed I wonder when it will be day and the night drags on. I am filled with restlessness until the dawn.” (Job 7:1-14)


Margaret Hodge was speaking of her work as chair of the Public Accounts Committee – a part of my life already receding into the past. Where did it lead? Well, it was satisfying in itself.

“May the Lord rejoice in his works.” (Ps 103)


When I wonder what I am achieving I am heartened tonight as in the launch of the Catholic Union Charitable Trust at Archbishop’s House, Southwark, I feel appreciated.

“When I see the Heavens, the work of your hands, the moon and the stars you had arranged. What is man that you should keep him in mind?” (Ps 8)

WEDNESDAY – Our Lady of Lourdes

The priest, his back to us in the Lady Chapel of the Oratory, his chasuble resplendent – what a beautiful sight.

When things seem to be going badly, say an alleluia and give praise. We are in his hands.


I took part in a debate on the destruction of artefacts in Syria and Iraq. I had research done, but I spoke more from the heart on what I had heard from Archbishop Warda of Erbil this week. 25,00 families, 125,500 people forced from their homes in the Nineveh plain. In our own time, the very places I had visited and called for a safe haven in a Westminster Hall debate in 2008 and seen the lack of interest by the Foreign Office minister.

Today’s collect:

“Keep your family safe, O Lord, with unfading care, that relying solely on the hope of heavenly grace, they may be defended always by your protection.”

Sadly they are not; they are abandoned.


I went to speak at St Olave’s School History Society on Margaret Thatcher’s premiership. A big crowd and there of their own free will apparently. The words flowed easily. I have lived this bit of history as a walk-on part.


Our local church was locked so I had to content myself with a long walk through the grey foggy afternoon and by seven it was absolutely pitch dark – no stars or moon, not even the outlines of the hills visible. Our only calls the Jehovahs Witnesses. They must feel like the wanderers in Luke 10:

“Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals…”

Fourth Week in Ordinary Time


I was watching or finishing set two of the Andy Murray match so I missed half the Mass. I don’t suppose it matters much. I missed my favourite psalm:

Oh that today you would listen to his voice,
Harden not your hearts as at Meribah
As on that day at Massah in the desert

(Psalm 94)

MONDAY – The Presentation of the Lord

There was the annual mass for religious at Westminster Cathedral, which I suppose I gatecrashed.

Luke’s reading is of course the beautiful peon of Simeon:

“Now Master you can let your servant go in peace, just as you promised, because my eyes have seen the salvation, which you have prepared for all the nations to see, a light to enlighten the Pagan and the glory of your people Israel.”

(Luke 2:22-40)


We had a debate on mitochondrial DNA. I wish I could have made some more elevated arguments to do with the human soul but they alluded me. To do the process you have to kill between two and ten embryos.

“With so many witnesses in a great cloud on every side of us, we too, then should throw off everything that hinders us.” (Hebrews 12)

Perhaps the embryos are in the great cloud of witnesses, now dead.


In Hebrews 12:4-7, 11-15, there is a difficult passage about suffering:

“Suffering is part of your training.”

But why should it be? Perhaps this is the answer:

“Of course, any punishment is most painful at the time, and far from pleasant; but later in those on whom it has been used, it bears fruit in peace and goodness.”

THURSDAY – Saint Agatha

The evening before, much as I like Wolf Hall on the BBC, I decided to go to the XV dinner. I thought I would miss stories of cardinals and Dukes of Norfolk in sixteenth century England but I found myself sitting next to the Duke of Norfolk and two places down from Cardinal Murphy O’Connor.

Much changes but dukes and cardinals are still there.

“O God, we ponder your love within your temple.” (Psalm 47)

FRIDAY – St Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs

“Continue to love each other like brothers and remember always to welcome strangers, for by doing this some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13)

This is the point. Better be nice to people we meet casually in the street. They might be angels.


I was at Downside for the Oblates meeting. Father Alexander gave me this lovely prayer to cheer me up. It didn’t seem to calm the back pain, the middle of the night which before had been excruciating.

“May the Lord bless you and keep you, and shine the light of his face upon you, and give you peace.”

I think of it now when the press just wants to be malicious.