Monthly Archives: January 2016

3rd Week in Ordinary Time

SUNDAY 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

St Francis de Sales – always a favourite of mine. I can picture him riding thousands of miles over the beloved Chablais mountains trying to evangelise them. A prophet of the view that all can seek a devout and above all a spiritual life – you do not have to be a monk or a hermit.

“Driven more by love than the desire to win.” – “Whoever wants to preach effectively must preach with love.”

MONDAY – The Conversion of St Paul

I took Monty to Warwick Square and experimented letting him off the lead. He never came back to the irritation of the gardener so there was no time for Mass.

In the afternoon I was the only MP who questioned whether we should take 3,000 Syrian refugee children, making the difficult argument than reason is more important than emotion.

“I was born at Tarsus in Cilicia. I even persecuted this way to the death. I was on that journey and nearly at Damascus when about midday a bright light from Heaven suddenly shone around me.” (Acts 22:3-16)

If Paul was alive today we would probably not let him in as a Syrian migrant.

TUESDAY – Sts Timothy and Titus

These saints were converted by St Paul.

I had a justice question on the order paper. I made the point that if the justice department can cut its budget by 25% and deliver much the same outcome why not other departments?

Isn’t this passage from 2 Timothy 1:1-8 lovely:

“…and always I remember you in my prayers; I remember your fears and long to see you again to complete my happiness. Then I am reminded of the sincere faith which you have; it came first to live in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice.”


I miss most of the Crypt Mass at 6pm because I go along to the Young Pro-Lifers. Committee Room 16 is packed, an inspiring rally of young people. Maybe our work, we always lose, is not entirely in vain.

The Gospel which I read later on is from Mark 4:1-20:

“The people were all along the shore at the water’s edge. He taught them many things in parables.”

THURSDAY – St Thomas Aquinas

After a training session with Monty, I go to evensong at the Cathedral. The choir sings Faure’s Cantique de Jean Racine. Its tones haunt me as I drive back.

“Who am I, O Lord, and what is my house?” (1 Samuel)

How wonderful that this greatest of Christian writers should suddenly, celebrating Mass, have a vision that he said made all his writings seem like straw, and there was no need to write anymore.


Our village church is locked all this long weekend so I just read Universalis on my iPhone.

I do a surgery. Why are we taking the pension away from 60-year-old women so quickly?

In 2 Samuel today David sacrifices Uriah the Hittite to his own conscience.


The Jehovah’s Witnesses call on our cottage and as usual I talk to them.

This week’s Watchtower is on the theme of Hebrews 13:18 –

“We trust we have an honest conscience, as we wish to conduct ourselves honestly in all things.”

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

SUNDAY Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

With more energy I make it to Westminster Cathedral.

More beautiful poetry from Isaiah 62:1-5, poet of poets:

“About Zion I will not be silent. About Jerusalem I will not grow weary, until her integrity shines out like the dawn and her salvation flames like a torch. The nations then will see your integrity, all the kings your glory.”

War and Peace is on TV, Tolstoy the mystic and spiritual leader sadly dumbed down. As I write this I am listening to choral vespers on Radio 3 in Latin, Psalms 128-132.


My first walk with Monty to Warwick Square. In the afternoon the House of Commons debates Donald Trump. I defend his right to come here if he wishes.

At Mass the story of Samuel continues:

“Is the pleasure of the Lord in holocausts and sacrifices or in obedience to the voice of the Lord? Yes obedience is better than sacrifice; submissiveness better than the fat of rams.”

I ask a question or make a point about Lt Cdr David Balme who spent three hours in the sinking U110 alone in the dark to recover the codes and an enigma machine and take them back to Bletchley Park, where my parents met during the war.


“The Lord said to Samuel, How long will you go on mourning over Saul when I have rejected him as King of Israel?”

This reading gives us hope. Too many of us spend all our lives regretting who we are not or what we do not but all the sons of Jesse are rejected one by one. The youngest and least regarded, David, is chosen.

“There is still one left, the youngest. He is out looking after the sheep.”


I lead off a 9:30 debate in Westminster Hall on new government regulations on Sunday schools and scout groups. Twenty colleagues turn up, many interventions, a really good motivating occasion.

Today’s reading is the famous one of David and Goliath. In the real world, Goliath, the Government, always wins.

THURSDAY – St Agnes, Martyr

Poor St Agnes: a martyr and a saint at the age of 12. I don’t even remember being 12, perhaps one vague memory of not getting into the school rugby team. Little else.

“In God I trust, I shall not fear.” (Psalm 55:2)

FRIDAY – St Vincent, St Publius

A quiet day in Lincolnshire, Monty the dominating influence but doing a surgery and trying to help people keeps me sane.

St Publius is remembered for nothing more than welcoming St Paul and his companions after their shipwreck on Malta. You see how much you can be remembered for doing so little.


I read Psalm 80 in our village church which today is open:

“Give ear, o shepherd of Israel, that thou leadest Joseph like a flock, thou that dwellest between the cherubim, shine forth.”

We have dinner with the Bishop of Lincoln. The Church Commissioners have foolishly sold off his palace for 800,000 and put him into a much smaller house. How does it ever benefit the church to sell off property?

The Baptism of the Lord

SUNDAY – The Baptism of the Lord

I did go to Mass in the little church round the corner and that probably was a mistake. Difficult to stand but the readings are lovely.

“Let every valley be filled and every mountain and hill be laid low, let every cliff become a plain.” (Isaiah 4)


I am resting up at home after a small operation. The days go slowly. I read “Dreadnought”, a history of the origins of the First World War. I cannot even totter off to go to Mass round the corner or visit the House of Commons. If this is what retirement is like, no thank you!

Psalm 115: “A thanksgiving sacrifice I make to you, O Lord. How can I repay the Lord for his goodness to me?”


Hannah seems desperate but persistence pays off.

“O Lord of hosts! If thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thy servant and hear me and not forget your servant and give her a man child I will give him to the Lord for the whole of his life.” (1 Samuel 1:9-20)


Three times the Lord calls to Samuel. The first two, he thinks it is Eli calling out. Only on the third occasion does he listen. Why is everything in threes?

“Eli then understood that it was the Lord who was calling the boy and he said to Samuel, ‘Go and lie down and if someone calls say ‘Speak Lord, your servant is listening.’’” (1 Samuel 3:1-10, 19-30)

Are we listening?


1 Samuel 4:1-11

The Philistines take heart, defeat is not inevitable.

“Alas who will save us from the power of this mighty God!”


I was well enough to leave the house and go to the Commons. What a relief.

Samuel talks of what a king will do.

“He will make them plough his ploughland and harvest his harvest and make his harvest and make his weapons of war.” (1 Samuel 8:4-7)

Plus ca change.


I watch the latest Star Wars movie. Shame that in real life there is no really obvious good and bad.

“Samuel took a phial of oil and poured it on his head, then kissed him saying, Has not the Lord anointed you?” (1 Samuel 9)



A long drive south but first I look at Psalm 79. “O God the Father, come into thine inheritance.”

Epiphany is moved to this day from the Wednesday, a foolish dumbing down. Why not have solemnities mid-week? What harm to ask people to go to church?

“What a profound silence covered all things.” (Wisdom 18)


The Christmas trees and lights are still up in the Cathedral.

The first reading is from the sublime John 1:

“Any not living a holy life and not loving his brother is no child of God’s.”


I ask a question of the PM. Why not solve the problem of benefits for EU nationals by making our own system contributory? But actually why should a hard-working Pole be discriminated against in favour of a lazy English person.

John 1 carries on: “If you refuse to love, you must remain dead. To hate your brother is to be a murderer.”

So easy to say, so difficult to do…

WEDNESDAY – The Epiphany of the Lord

The 10:30 Mass was lovely but we were not allowed to have the readings for Epiphany even though the church was much fuller than usual. They are beautiful.

“Arise, Jerusalem, and look to the east, and see your children gathered from the rising to the setting of the sun.” (Baruch 5:5)

“Arise, shine out Jerusalem, for your light has come, the glory of the Lord is rising on you. … The nations come to your light and kings to your dawning brightness.” (Isaiah 60)

THURSDAY – Russian Christmas

Russian Christmas is always twelve days after Western Christmas. We always go to the Russian church in Chiswick, usually arriving right at the end in time for the taking of bread. Then we have a party in the evening.

“Galilee of the nations. The people that lived in darkness has seen a great light, on those who dwell in the land and shadow of death, a light has dawned.” (Matthew 4:12)


I had a small operation but under a general anaesthetic so felt tired and painful.

“My dear people let us love one another since love comes from God and everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.” (1 John)


I would like to have gone to Mass but was laid up in bed. But the readings from 1 John continue:

“No one has ever seen God but as long as we love one another, God will live in us.”

New Year’s 2016


We drive a long time up to Lincs, five and a half hours away, and our new puppy Monty immediately poos all over the kitchen.

I always find that part of the Rosary, the finding of the child Jesus in the Temple, underwhelming. But Father Christopher summed it up well. Every parents knows the agony of losing a child. The best part of the Gospel is: “His mother stored all these things in her heart.” (Luke 2:41) In her heart: not her mind.


This is the week of the wild beagle, but we think half foxhound, Monty. He cannot be let off his lead. He will run for miles. I’m not sure he’s a holy innocent.


We go to Brocklesby Park for a dinner party. A usual holiday day in Lincolnshire. A run in the morning to read a psalm in the church. An hour long walk in the afternoon, now pulled by Monty. This is the fifth day of Christmas, the Commemoration of St Thomas Becket.

“We can be sure that we know God only by keeping his commandments.”


I read Psalm 76 – Natus in Judea.

“In Judah God is known,
his name is great in Israel.
His abode has been established in Salem,
his dwelling place in Zion.”

THURSDAY – New Year’s Eve

We are alone now in Lincolnshire. A quiet evening: one firework and one bottle of prosecco.

In the morning I read Psalm 77 – Voce mea ad Dominum, I will cry out to God with my voice, in the time of my trouble I sought the Lord, my sore ran in the night and ceased not… I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart: and my spirit made diligent search.

FRIDAY – New Year’s Day, 1 January 2016

I always enjoy New Year’s Day in Lincolnshire. I watch the New Year’s Day concert from Vienna, and normally there is a golden oldie on telly – this year my second all-time favourite, the Sound of Music (second after It’s a Wonderful Life).

Today’s Psalm 66 is the Prayer for Parliament:

“O God, be gracious and bless us and let your face shed light upon us… and show us the light of your countenance.”

So much more beautiful in the King James Bible, which adds “yea” to “Let all the peoples praise you.”


Sts Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen

A day spent not so quietly in Lincs dominated by the new dog, Monty, pulling me around the block.

I read Psalm 78 in our village church – “Hear my law, O my people”. Monty obeyed no law save intoxicating scent.