Monthly Archives: July 2015

Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time


I am reading about the American philosopher Charles Peirce (1839-1914) who invented “pragmatism”. I like to think that my contribution probably not original is assumism.

I am reading Leslie Levine, “I think therefore I am.”

I believe that all these proofs or disproofs of the existence of God are really just a play on words and are bunk. True it is hard to imagine how the ordered material world could create itself out of nothing. But it is even harder to imagine a sungle God-like intelligence making the million million life forms of the earth let alone the billions of stars and other planets, so one is left with assumism.

Religion makes me feel joyful, that is a fact. Everything else is assumed. It is a triumph of faith over reason except that I don’t even have certain faith. Other people have it: they believe. I search – perhaps the searching like the travelling is as joyful as the arriving.

And of course in this life we shall never arrive. I sadly will probably still be searching on my death bed.

Today’s psalm:

“Near restful waters he leads me to revive my drooping spirit.” (Ps 22)


Today I am 65, an OAP without as yet a state pension. A strange feeling. In the past virtually everyone at this age would be dead or sitting in a corner of the hut in extreme decrepitude, and in the next few weeks I intend to walk the Haute Route between Zermatt and Chamonix.

Today I ask about the point of bombing Syria. It occurs to me later that instead of the phrase “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” we say in regard to ISIL and Assad “my enemy’s enemy is my enemy”. Little changes.

Today’s reading is from Exodus 11:5 – “When Pharaoh, King of Egypt, was told that the Israelites had made their escape, he and their courtiers changed their minds…”


The last day of Parliament. I speak on the Finance Bill asking whether the Government has decided that a two-child policy is the norm, and then drinks in the garden of Downing Street. I don’t get to speak to the PM. I am immensely heartened by how well Jeremy Corbyn is doing in the Labour leadership. Perhaps there still is a place for principle in politics.

Exodus 15: “I will sing to the Lord, glorious his triumph.”

Another memory of the Easter Vigil and the glorious singing of this triumphal hymn.

WEDNESDAY – St Mary Magdalene

Mass at 10:00 am is in the restored chapel of St Mary in the Oratory, bright with its new colours. After, I talk to Pete about my parents meeting at Bletchley Park. I spent the weekend reading Martin Sinclair’s history of it. What a story of the devising of random chance numbers, making sense out of chaos.

A memory today of the glorious readings, all too few, of the first weeks of Easter and encounters with the risen Jesus:

“It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark when Mary Magdalene came to the tomb.” (John 20:1-2)


I go for a sail in the Solent in my little boat and by chance encounter the great hydrofoiling yachts of the Americas Cup. At first I have no idea what is going on – I am only irritated that I have to bypass the course and sail into the wind. Then the sight of these huge creatures of the wind, sailing faster than the wind at 30 or 40 miles per hour, is amazing.

Poor Naomi cannot do more than six knots.

“Look towards him and be radiant, let your faces not be abashed.”


I came into Mass late as the parable of the Sower was being read:

“When anyone hears the word of the Kingdom without understanding, the Evil One comes and carries off what was sown in his heart: this is the man who received the seed on the edge of the path.” (Matthew 13)


I walked along the edge of the Wolds with great views stretching away thirty miles and rested in Tealby Church and read Psalm 46:

“Our lord is refuge and our strength, our help in present need.”

With a welcome drink of water from the tap outside the church, I walked home after looking at the vault of George Tennyson d’Eyncourt, MP for thirty-five years. I am still three years behind.

Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time


“… and he instructed them to take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no haversack, no coppers for your purse.” (Mark 6:7-13)

MONDAY – St Henry

“There came to power in Egypt a new king, who knew nothing of Joseph.” (Exodus 1:8)


We vote five times on the budget and I get the tail end of the French fete nationale.

Collect: O God, who show the light of your truth to those who go astray…

WEDNESDAY – St Bonaventure, Priest

Two races: one at 7.30 am in the Serpentine, then meetings all morning, then the Parliamentary Boat Race. We lose. Yet last year we over-turned. Or our House of Commons boat did. I was unduly absent so we are making progress.

A wonderful feeling of tiredness after such a physical effort. I only make the closing seconds of Mass:

“Those who are wise will shine brightly.” (Antiphon)


We stay behind in London to meet some French deputies, then drive up and I walk home over the Wolds during the wild summer twilight – a wonderful experience.

“As for me in justice I will behold your face.”


A sad day. We go to Karly Lovett’s funeral in Gainsborough, very emotional. She was so young, only 24, gunned down by a man whose cause was irrelevant to her, by chance. Horrible.

“As for me, in justice I will behold your face.”


My Saturday Psalm 135:

“O Give thanks to the Lord for he is good. Great is his love without end.”

Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time


As I listen to the readings, I look out of the window in the small upper room chapel to the line of the Wolds in the distance.

“A prophet is only despised in his own country.” (Mark 6:1-6)


I went to the memorial service in the Abbey for Srebrenica victims.

“Your right hand is filled with saving justice.” (Entrance Antiphon)


We had our APPG for France and then for Italy annual general meetings. We are now fully established. Again everyone is an officer.

“The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord to send labourers to his harvest.” (Matthew 9:32-37)


I spent a most pleasant afternoon at the dentist – surely a contradiction in terms. Yet he is an amateur filmmaker and he showed me his latest shortie – a taxi driving around London. Soothing…

It makes a change from being locked in negotiation with the Government on EVEL (English Votes for English Laws) and Barnet consequentials. For me, the preservation of the Union is much more important than English nationalism.

“You shall bring me your youngest brother; this way your words will be proved true.” (Genesis 41:55)


I was in my small boat when a ferry suddenly turned right. I tacked, was held in stays, and stalled.

At that moment the leader of the house rang me on my mobile with a compromise suggestion for an amendment to his EVEL standing orders. I was easily convinced.

“Joseph said to his brothers come closer to me.” (Genesis 44:18-21)


I went to Margate to look at the new(ish) Turner Gallery. Having seen the film I was interested in visiting the town, something I had never done before.

In spite of one bit of brutalist architecture in a block of flats – apparently in the 1960s they wanted to flatten the whole town – there is still in the remaining Georgian homes a feeling of the old town.

Psalm 36: “The salvation of the just comes from God.”

SATURDAY – St Benedict, Abbot

I get up early to swim the 2,000-yard Bridge-to-Bridge in the Serpentine. It takes me 45 minutes and I come last. Afterwards, Latin sung mass in the Cathedral before driving to Lincolnshire for the village hog roast. A good day.

Something strikes me as important in the homily on St Benedict but I only stay for the Mass by chance. One is St Benedict lived in a time of disaffection, of old values and old empires with everything changing so that in that respect he is still relevant for us. I remember Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”. The second was Benedict was not just talking to monks in a monastic community, because we all live in a community – so the “Rule” is relevant to us too.

“There was a man of venerable life, Benedict, blessed by grace and by name, who leaving home and patrimony and desiring to please God alone, sought out the habit of holy living.” (Entrance Antiphon)

Peter and Paul


What two men could be more unlike? Where would Christianity be without either?

I bought a simple guide to Western philosophy. The attempts at a rational proof of God seem pointless to me. I am not even convinced by Aquinas’s first mover argument. It seems a play on words.

As we fly past Pluto on an amazing nine-year journey over many millions of miles, I cannot get my mind around the creator of Peter and Paul sitting down one day to create the million wonders of our solar system, let alone the billions of others. It seems to me an impossible task but then so do these wonders created out of mere chance. I think it easier to assume a creator without even attempting to rationalise the concept.

And to view the life of Peter and the writings of Paul as a ladder of thought, insight, perception into an enabling inner truth. Like Plato, we dwell in a dim cave, aware that we are all unique but composed of a million parts of a unity that comprises all others and things. We are even as mere individuals a billion-piece jigsaw puzzle which can only make us a bit in this jigsaw puzzle.

In the way it is designed the pieces can make somebody and something completely different. Maybe one billion of the pieces are the same but just one thousand are different and that is why we are all the same and we are all different.

My daughter has just spent a week’s silent retreat with Fr Lawrence Freeman. In silence, in silent Christian meditation, repeating the Maranatha prayer: “Lord, come.” We even after years of silent contemplation are no more aware of the composition of the billion different pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, just more aware that it is there. We are in the middle and somewhere out of sight, if not of mind, is a unifying truth.

“I have neither silver nor gold, but I will give you what I have: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk. Peter then took him by hand and helped him to stand up. Instantly, his feet and ankles became firm.” (Acts 3:1-10)


Perhaps today’s collect can be a help, not towards rational truth, but a path:

“O God, who through the grace of adoption chose us to be children of light, grant we pray that we may not be wrapped in the darkness of error but always be seen to stand in the bright light of truth.”


“The wife of Lot looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt.” (Genesis 19:15-19)

Perhaps we stop and look back too often, or listen to these words today.

“Why are you so frightened, you men of little faith?” (Matthew 8:23-27)

WEDNESDAY – St Oliver Plunkett

My sister’s birthday – we always have supper on the terrace – and the feast of Saint Oliver Plunkett (1625-1681). I have often sat next to his remains in Downside Abbey. He always seems to be a most unlikely martyr. Martyred so late as a result of a manufactured political scandal. The last person to be executed for his faith in England, and he had spent many years working more or less (as arrangements demanded) openly in Ireland as Primate of All Ireland.

Does Hagar’s story help us believe that, out of seeming disaster, salvation can come?

“Then God opened Hagar’s eyes and she saw a well, so she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.” (Genesis 21:5,8-20)

We had our APPG for the Holy See. We are duly reconstituted for the new parliament. We only have a dozen members and they are all officers. A very brotherly setup – explained by the complete lack of power, money, authority, or anything else.


I always think of the Easter Vigil at Downside, the church black and candlelit, when I hear today’s reading:

“God put Abraham to the test. ‘Abraham, Abraham,’ he cried. ‘Here I am,’ he replied. ‘Take your only child Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him as a burnt offering.’” (Genesis 22:1-19)

I always think of my own children when I hear these words. None of us would offer our own children.

FRIDAY – St Thomas the Apostle

My reading:

“Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made and when I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.” (John 20:24-29)


As usual on a Saturday I went to our small village church to read a Psalm.

Psalm 134: “Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good.”