Monthly Archives: April 2016

Saint Mark

SUNDAY 24 APRIL 2016 – Tenth Sunday of the Year

Mass at Market Rasen. I make my plea for some Latin and feel better for it.

“Paul and Barnabas went back through Lystria and Iconium to Antioch. They put fresh heart into the disciples, encouraging them to persevere in the faith.” (Acts 14:21-27)

That’s what we all need.

MONDAY – St Mark

The long drive back to London, then I intervene in the immigration debate. Is it really humanitarian to take children from Europe? Surely take them from Syria – an unsafe country. That is the true Kindertransport.

“All wrap yourselves in humility to be servants of each other, because God refuses the proud.” (1 Peter 15:5-14)

THURSDAY – Russian Maundy Thursday

There is a row about whether the Government made concessions on its immigration bill just to get trade union support for the Remain campaign. I make a Commons point that concessions should only relate to the Bill. In the evening we go to the Russian church for the service of twelve gospels. This time I do a search on my iPhone and follow them. Unlike our passion reading there are many repetitions as the four gospels repeat incidents so the message is driven home.

All this over two hours whilst standing. I take refuge in the small bench at the back reserved for old ladies and maybe gentlemen.

FRIDAY – Russian Good Friday

I go to the evening service, this in addition to Mass in the morning, so I feel I have done my bit. In the evening service, the shroud has been taken down from the cross and we all walk forward to kiss it.


We go late to Russian midnight service. Huge crowds outside the church. I am sure we will never get in as we process three times around it, but we do. Inside for an hour between midnight and 1:00 am, singing in Russian “Christ is Risen”. I have no idea how to spell it, I have just been listening to it for thirty years of married life. Then we drop into the Russian church in Ennismore Gardens, huge and also packed, with a superb choir. One is overcome with incense, scent, and sound.

Fourth Sunday of Easter

SUNDAY – Fourth Sunday of Easter

It is a shame we have no sung Latin in our Market Rasen masses. It is so easy, so beautiful to sing the Agnus Dei and Sanctus if nothing else. But why not the Kyrie, Credo, and Pater Noster as well?

Today’s Psalm:

“We are his people, the sheep of his flock.”


I asked the Defence Secretary if NATO, not the EU, was the real guarantor of peace in the last seventy years.

“I feel into a trance as I was praying and had a vision of something like a sheet being let down from Heaven.” (Acts 11:1-18)

How valuable are dreams? Into what depths they take us, but so often depressing. Why?


I ask the Foreign Secretary about his praise of the new Libyan “Government of National Accord”. I reminded him that their rule only extends to one naval base.

I love this passage from the Acts of the Apostles:

“It was at Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians.” (Acts 1:19-26)

Something new and big is happening.

I reminded the Chancellor that he is ill-placed to forecast the result of Brexit as he can’t get his own borrowing figures right for the following year.


We have a debate on genocide after a debate at the Italian Embassy on Brexit. I call on the government to recognise facts, stop sheltering behind the courts, and declare ISIS as a genocidal organisation against Christians, Shia, and Yazidis.

“The word of God continued to spread and to gain followers.” (Acts 12:29)

In my speech I end by quoting the Prophet Nahum whose grave I have visited:

“The gates of your land are wide open to your foes.”


The Entrance Antiphon today: “O God, when you went forth before your people, marching with them and living among them, the earth trembled, heavens poured down rain, alleluia.”


The Entrance Antiphon: “You have redeemed us Lord, by your blood, from every tribe and tongue and people and victor, and have made us into a kingdom, priests for our God. Alleluia.”

SATURDAY – St George

We have the House of Commons sailing match on a cold day. Fun I suppose, certainly a challenge to steer the mermaid around the course with freezing water pouring over you.

Psalm 97: “All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.”

Third Sunday of Easter

SUNDAY – Third Sunday of Easter

We go to Mass in Market Rasen. The strange book of the Apocalypse. Is it mad raving or the word of God?

“In my vision, I John heard the sound of an immense number of angels, gathered round the throne and the animals and the elders, there were ten thousand times ten thousand of them.”

Yes, it’s that: a vision.

MONDAY – St Stanislaus

I ask a direct question of the Home Secretary. Are we searching all lorries at Calais? I receive obfuscation.

While we are away the papers are full of the Panama Papers scandal. I support the PM. “Shocking” that a British Prime Minister gives up his shareholdings before he becomes PM and pays his tax in full. We have a statement on the pro-EU leaflets. I am relaxed: most of them will end up straight away in the bin,

“The members of the Sanhedrin all looked intently at Stephen, and his face appeared to them like the face of an angel.” (Acts 6:8-15)


I ask about the steel industry and whether we could put tariffs on Chinese steel more easily if we were outside the EU.

The Acts continues with Stephen’s brave taunt to his persecutors.

“You stubborn people. You are always resisting the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do. Can you name a single prophets your ancestors never persecuted?” (Acts 7:51-8:1)


I ask the Education Secretary whether her forced academisation will not force small rural schools out of business.

“Saul then worked for the total destruction of the Church.” (Acts 8:1-8)

Strange how people change.


The Collect of the Day: “Almighty ever-living God, let us feel your compassion more readily, during these days when by your gift we have known it more fully.”


“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and divinity, and wisdom and strength and honour.” (Rev 5:12)


The Acts continues. Peter is more and more confident.

“Then he turned to the dead woman and said, ‘Tabitha, stand up.’ She opened her eyes, looked at Peter, and sat up.” (Acts 9:31-42)



We don’t get to Mass because we start the day with a long walk in the Shenandoah Mountains. Huge views from the top to east and west. It all takes so long that there is no time to visit the Manassas battlefields on the way back.


We go in a long line for entry into Congress. About 200 of us sit in a cinema and watch a patriotic film about American history and the Constitution. All the places are packed with Americans who actually care about their country. We have nothing like it in Britain. Then we taxi to Georgetown and walk back via the oldest and only pre-revolutionary house in DC.


We spend the entire day in the superb National Gallery. Not very full, every room beautifully laid out and a free audio guide. So many amazing Italian paintings.

Wonderful gathering of the fishes with a reading from the Gospel that sets it alive, and a beautiful Virgin and Child.


We walk from the Phillips collection near Dupont Circle up Massachusetts Avenue past the British Residence to the Anglican cathedral. An extraordinary concoction. Fourteenth-century gothic, vast, all built over the last 100 years or so, with amazing embellishments such as a pulpit carved with stones from Canterbury Cathedral.


I go to the Catholic Basilica, all gilt and marble, not a patch on the restrained grandeur of the Anglican cathedral. But no doubt it comes alive at great services. Afterwards a crowded visit to the Air and Space Museum and a final patriotic visit to the National Archives before we fly out.

FRIDAY – St Jean Baptiste de la Salle

Tired out we drive up to Lincolnshire in the evening.

The Acts continue this heroic journey.

“In reply Peter and the apostles said obedience to God comes before obedience to men.” (Acts 5:27)


A surgery and a quiet day walking and reading.

In the Acts today the Pharisee Gamaliel seems to have the right idea. Let fate take its course.

“If this enterprise, this movement of theirs is of human origin, it will break up of its own accord. But if it does in fact come from God, you will not only be unable to destroy them, but you might find yourself fighting against God.”

Easter Week in America


All too soon our retreat is over. We are driving back to London. I have always struggled with a man Jesus walking Palestine who is God who created the billions of stars. But Marina put it well in the car: He is the vessel of God. The sun is shining as I walk to lauds and we sing “Jesus Christ is Risen Today”.


Always a delight to come back to the Cathedral after Easter and see it in bloom. I wait expectantly for this week’s Gospel readings.

“Filled with awe and great joy the women came away from the tomb and ran to tell the disciples.” (Matthew 28)


The story continues:

“Mary stayed outside near the tomb weeping. She stooped to look inside, and saw two angels sitting in white where the body of Jesus had been.” (John 20:11-18)


And the most eagerly awaited of all this week’s readings:

“Two of the disciples of Jesus were on their way to a village called Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:13-35)

I love the way our eyes are opened at the breaking of bread.

We fly out today to see our daughter in Washington and arrive exhausted on Tuesday morning.


The good part of going to America is that you wake up early. Natalia, Nicky, and I walk around the Adams Morgan district, delightful because it is the only part of Washington that has every type in it. We walk to the Lincoln Memorial and round the tidal basin to the Jefferson Memorial – the blossoms still just in bloom, blowing away and a long line for the American history museum. The Americans are so patriotic compared to us.


We drive out to Mount Vernon overlooking the Potomac to see Washington’s house and tomb. Washington’s family insisted he be buried here rather than in the Capitol. Indeed why shouldn’t a Virginian stay in Virginia?

Seventeen years just as a country gentleman, and then the sudden call to service. Just imagine how different the world’s history would have been if Washington had accepted the offer of some of his officers to become king. For all its policy faults I follow Churchill in his love of the good-naturedness of the Great Republic.

We drive on through Virginia to Monticello, Jefferson’s house. I am struck by how small it seems. There all the work appears to be done underground by slaves. How could the author of the Declaration of Independence believe in slavery? But he is a great man and it is a charming place. I love the multisided bookrest on his desk so he can reed 3 or 4 books at once.


We stay in a kind of pop-up wooden house on a vineyard then drive to Charlottesville for a walk around Jefferson’s creation, the University of Virginia.