Monthly Archives: March 2016

Holy Week


Amid all the pomp and great music of Palm Sunday in the Cathedral with the Cardinal one phrase stands forth and lodges in my mind. It seems to sum up my doubts and hopes.

“Joseph… came from Arimathea and he lived in the hope of seeing the Kingdom of God.” (Luke)


I ask the Prime Minister about his position on Turkey’s accession to the European Union. He is in favour. Do we want 79 million Turks having the right to come live here?

This week we continue with the readings from Isaiah 42:

“He does not break the crushed reed, nor quench the wavering flame.”


Chairing Westminster Hall I join the tributes to those slain at Brussels that morning. We still do not have the courage to name and shame radical Islam which is not just a tiny criminal gang. There are hundreds of thousands who feed on violent excerpts from the Koran. Muslims in the West must be convinced to integrate and accept.

Isaiah 48:

“Islands, listen to me, pay attention, distant peoples. The Lord called me before I was before I was born. From my mother’s womb he pronounced my name. He made my mouth a sharp sound. And hid me in the shadow of his hand. He made me into a sharpened arrow, and concealed me in his quiver.”

Even writing this poetry is soothing and a relief from the violence of the world.


I ask the Home Secretary if she will search all cars and lorries coming across the Channel – “our bulwark” – and check all passports against intelligence sources. She brushes me aside saying I have “misunderstood”. Yet the next day the Times reports that only half the lorries are being searched.

I travel to St Olave’s with Mary in the car for their Holy Week service – simple Anglican and nice – then rush back for a Vote Leave photo.

“For my part I make no resistance, neither did I turn away. I offered my back to those who struck me, my cheeks to those who tore at my beard. I did not cover my face against insult and spittle.” (Isaiah 50)


We drive down to Downside with lunch on the way. It is lovely to look forward to this best of weekends which each year passes all too quietly. The same unchanging routine liturgy and my room at the top of Roberts House. And this day the Mass of the Lord’s Supper with the hymn at the end as we process up to the flower-strewn Lady Chapel. Ben attempts to walk across Salisbury Plain from Shrewton and Mary arrives back exhausted having picked him up from the rain.

“It was before the festival of the Passover and Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to pass from this world to the Father.” (John 13)


A Cross Walk from wells to Downside across golden countryside in bright warm sunlight, no need to wear a Barbour. We walk for four hours, arriving happy and exhausted, fourteen stations and a fish-and-chip lunch. I can barely stand for the Passion and intercessions yet tea and silent prayer with Father Christopher revive the drooping spirit.

I get more into “Maranatha”. It is the last sentence of the Apocalypse – Come Jesus Christ, which Father Anselm tells us is bad Greek. The extra two words, Jesus Christ, make this silent prayer more about awaiting.

Father Anselm, Leo, and Boniface sing the Passion. Leo’s voice is full of tired dignity and resignation.

“Jesus said ‘Who are you looking for?’ They answered, ‘Jesus the Nazarene’. He said, ‘I am He.’”

Not surprising. He had echoed God’s words: I am He.


Mr Walters does a workshop on the Year of Mercy. An interesting philosophical point which I put: God has affective not effective emotion. Being God he is not emotional so Jesus if God cannot feel emotion, but as Man can. Is that why God has to become man? We have a library tour and the librarian opens up an original edition of Thomas More.

After all this and a swim I am tired as always for the Vigil, especially as it finished at 1am. The clocks are going forward but revived by the Psalmist:

“As the deer yearns for the running stream, so my soul yearns for thee my God.”

Fifth Week in Lent

SUNDAY – Fifth Sunday in Lent

Isaiah 43:16-21

“Thus says the Lord: Who made a way through the sea, a path in the great waters, who put chariots and horse in the field.”

A quiet day in Lincs. Mass at Holy rood and a run around the block and Monti running around me, vanishing for 20 minutes. One moment he is there, and in a flash gone.


I took Monty to the office. He was fairly well behaved. A lovely spring day after a long meeting in the morning.

“I am trapped, Susanna said. If I agree, that means my death. If I resist, I cannot get away from you. But I prefer to fall innocent into your power than to sin in the eyes of the Lord.” (Daniel 13)

Life is full of impossible choices.


Another long meeting in the morning. I go straight into the chamber and do a point of order on the Investigatory Powers Bill. Why should the Government be allowed to snoop on hostile MPs without consulting the Speaker?

Collect of the Day: Grant us, we pray O Lord, perseverance in obeying your call, that in our days the people dedicated to your service may grow in both merit and number.”


I am sitting quietly through the Budget and suddenly hear that we are to have an elected mayor in Lincolnshire. I complain to both the Communities Secretary and the Chancellor but I fear it is a fait accompli.

“I can see four men walking about freely in the heart of the fire without coming to any harm.” (Daniel)

I always think of this incident when to do something seems without hope.


I speak in the Budget debate and quote from the 1765 incidents in Boston and Rhode Island when a sugar tax caused a riot. If not a sugar why not a salt tax?

“I tell you most solemnly: before Abraham ever was, I am.” (John 8)

An extraordinary claim.


A surgery in Market Rasen and a long discussion on devolution ideas. My speech interrupted by breaking news of IDS’s resignation. We never have had such excitement at one of our meetings.

I read Psalm 79 after Monty has raced across the Wolds:

“O God, the nations have invaded your inheritance. They have defiled your holy temple. They have reduced Jerusalem to rubble.”


We drive back from the St Olave’s Spring Dance – a jolly occasion not spoilt by me locking the keys in the car.

Psalm 80:

“Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock, thou that dwellest between the Cherubim, shine forth.”

Fourth Week in Lent


I had a question on faith schools. Why does the government impose a fifty per cent cap on people from one faith entering a school? They are not concerned about 100% Catholic or Anglican schools. They are worried about 100% Muslim schools but they refuse to admit it.

Psalm 72:

Truly God is good to the upright, to those who are pure in heart
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had well nigh slipped.
For I was envious of the arrogant, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.


I go to the Cosmonauts Exhibition in the Science Museum. There was a strange spiritual movement in Russia at the end of the nineteenth century which proclaimed that man’s salvation could be found in space.

Today the strange poetic reading from Ezekiel 47:

“The angel brought me to the entrance of the Temple, where a stream came out from under the Temple threshold and flowed eastward…”


Today I speak and vote against extension of Sunday trading. One of those exciting lively Commons debates on a moral issue and we win. I quote Lord Sachs on the atomisation of society. Seven-day, twenty-four-hour shopping has not made us any happier.

A beautiful reading from Isaiah today:

“…on every roadway they will graze, and each bare height shall be their pasture. They will never hunger or thirst, scorching wind and sun shall never plague them.”


We have one of our twice-yearly Public Accounts Commission hearings and I for only the second time chair a Committee of the Whole House and take a division. An amusing experience.

“O Lord remember me out of the love you have for your people.”


I speak on the deportation of foreign criminals. And my ten minute rule bill on reform of the House of Lords finally bites the dust. Later we have a dinner at the Hickman Hill Hotel in Gainsborough which I always enjoy and it reminds me of my selection there thirty years ago.

Today a passage from John 7. One of those amazing monologues.

“Yes you know me and you know where I come from. Yet I have not come of myself. No, there is one who sent me and I really come from him and you do not know him.”

I could say: and nor do I.


I let Monty off into the vast Lincolnshire countryside and he vanishes for twenty minutes, bounding back for his piece of chicken. It’s lovely to see him run – he is made for running. I take him to his dog den. He walks round and round in circles with twenty other dogs and is as good as gold.

I do a surgery at Market Rasen and go to our village church to read Psalm 78.

“Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old. Which we have heard and known and our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, showing to the generation to come, the praises of the Lord.”

Third Sunday in Lent

SUNDAY – Third Sunday in Lent

We spend a quiet day in Lincolnshire and go to Mass at Market Rasen. I run around the block – i.e. a three mile run through and around Stainton le Vale.

“I have seen the miserable state of my people in Egypt. I have heard their appeal to be free of their slave drivers. Yes I am well aware of their sufferings. I mean to deliver them out of the hands of the Egyptians.” (Exodus 3:1-8, 13-15)

Thus early “migrants” were helped. Who helps them now? But I suppose God had an easier task. Their numbers were finite.


We drive back for a lunch at Speaker’s House for the President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies. She lectures us about migrants but how many are staying in Italy? She admits that because of the close business and family structure that there are few jobs. I ask the Secretary of State for Defence on a scale of 1 to 10 to rate and compare what is more important to our national security: NATO or the EU?

Late, I make the 5:30 Mass. Good old Naaman.

“Naaman was indignant. ‘Here was I thinking he would be sure to move his hand over the spot and cure the leprous part. Surely Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus are better than any water in Israel?’”

We all think that our waters are better than theirs, but are they?

We have an urgent question on Eurosceptic ministers not being able to access civil service briefs. I ask a question. I am amused by the Times sketch the next day. I am refered to as a “stately home”. My question was light-hearted. Say for the moment I am the fisheries minister – young, ambitious, good-looking…


I ask the Foreign Secretary (who is not there) about Syria and the West’s responsibility for Iraq, Libya, and Syria and our obsession with overthrowing authoritarian leaders and thereby creating an opening for totalitarian movements.

“We have at this time no leader, no prophet, no prince, no oblation, no incense, no place where we can offer up the first fruits.” (Daniel 3)


Archbishop Gallagher, the foreign minister of the Vatican, says our evening Mass and I host a reception for him in Speaker’s House. Perhaps it is the first ever visit to the House of Commons by the Pope’s foreign minister. At supper we debate the migrant dilemma. The good Catholic side of me tells me we should let more in, the prudent conservative side of me warns against.

“Jesus said to his disciples, do not imagine that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets: I have come not to abolish the, but complete them.” (Matthew 5:17-19)


My Lenten fast starts to fray at the edges. I have kept off wine for the best part of a month. Now I am in a quandary. We go to see Leo di Caprio in The Revenant. I keep my eyes shut for most of the first half hour.

“Oh that today you would listen to his voice, harden not your hearts.” (Ps 77)


I travel down to Downside for an oblates’ weekend after talking for forty-five minutes on illegal immigration in the Commons.

As I arrive immediately the atmosphere of the monastery seeps in. I sit in the choir for vespers and compline. Later, alone in the great abbey, the pillars rising into the dark like the columns of Moria. I gaze at the Basano painting and yet again for an instant, a few seconds of grace, I believe. This is God, and alone in the quiet I light a candle.


Father Alexander at our oblates meeting asks us to read John 9 quietly to ourselves before he talks on it.

I read it several times in modern translation and in the King James Bible. How easy it is to miss its many meetings. All are blind, the disciples who ask the silly question. Is it his fault he is blind? The Pharisees who refuse to accept his cure, his parents who want to conform and therefore dodge his sight. Only the blind man grows in sight, and eventually recognises Jesus as God.

Late after Vigils I am alone in the abbey church. At nine, the lights go off. Although I am halfway down the great church, perhaps 100 yards away, my small candle I have lit in front of the statue of Christ burns and casts an extraordinarily bright glow in the pending gloom.

Light and sight grow in steps, not from reason but experience. I see the light, the ground shifts, and for a moment I believe.