Monthly Archives: October 2016

Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

SUNDAY 23rd October – Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Bishop Patrick of Nottingham pays a visit to our little parish and gives a first-class sermon. It is on, of course, the Pharisee in all of us, found in the Gospel.

“I thank you, God, that I am not grasping, unjust, adulterous like the rest of mankind”
Luke 18:11-12

Do we not all compare ourselves to others?

MONDAY 24th October

I ask a question of Theresa May, whether she would support a free trade deal with the EU which is wholly in their interests. She simply says “I agree”. It is widely repeated the next day and a No. 10 spokesperson has to clarify her remarks; either she was not listening properly or was just agreeing a free trade deal was in their interests. Later I chair Westminster Hall.

I am pondering on CS Lewis’ book ‘Miracles’ – he is a superb polemicist and he uses semantics to establish a strong case, but I was wondering how God, if he listens, can bear the patience of all these prayers. How many billion people are there on the planet, say 7? A lot of them won’t believe or won’t pray, but say half a billion do every day, even for a short time. It is, of course, ridiculous that God could have the patience or time to listen even if he is completely different to us. But then I go on in-between sleeping and dozing to say most of the Rosary. It is so deeply calming.

Perhaps today’s Gospel from Luke 13:13-14 is about prayer?
“And at once she straightened up and glorified God”.

TUESDAY 25th October

I speak at the Middle East Forum on the Russian view of the Middle East. We at least must start to understand their attitude. In the afternoon, I go to the AGM of the Holy See Group. I decide to put my name in for the International Trade Select Committee.

Luke 13:18-21
“Is the Kingdom of God then like a mustard seed? Is it so tiny yet its potential so large?”

WEDNESDAY 26th October

A red letter day. To my surprise I am elected onto the International Trade Select Committee.

In the morning I am briefed on Russia by the Head of the Eastern Europe Desk at the FCO. Business will go on as usual.

As always in our Wednesday Mass, the chant at the end is the best bit.

What is Luke’s “Narrow door”, 13:22-30, where is it? How do we find it? What does it look like?

THURSDAY 27th October – St Chad

Psalm 105
“constantly seek his face”

Where do we see his face? It is easier in the autumn countryside or on a boat at sea. Sometimes you can start the day in heavy fog, everything obscured, even the other side of the harbour, then the sun burns through, the breeze gets up and the boat surges forward.

FRIDAY 28th October

A long walk in the dusk with Monti and Theo via Kirmond le Mire. On these autumn evenings, as one descends into the villages, the greens merge into a soft brilliance.

Saturday 29th October

I walk to the village church and read Psalm 9
“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most high shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty”.

A surgery in Market Rasen and another long walk in autumn golds.

Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time and the feasts of St Luke & St John Paul II

SUNDAY 16th October – Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the evening we are back at dinner with Patriarch Kirill.

I always think on today’s Gospel:
“I must give this widow her just rights or she will persist in coming and worry me to death”
Luke 18:1-8.

MONDAY 17th October – St Ignatius of Antioch

I often think on this parable too:
“‘I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’’
Luke 12:13-21.

I got my royalties cheque this week for ‘Monastery of the Mind’. A grand total of £303.74, 637 copies for 3 years of sales. £100 a year would be a modest amount to live on. I was talking to Nadine Dorries today, she has done rather better with her novels. I wish I had the imagination to write them!

TUESDAY 18th October – St Luke

I asked Boris Johnson in FCO Questions to welcome Patriarch Kirill – and the fortitude of the Russian Church under Soviet oppression. I didn’t get a very forthcoming reply. We have our last session of the Higher Education Bill.

In today’s Gospel, Luke 10:
“The harvest is rich but the labourers are few”.

Kirill told me that his services are bursting.

WEDNESDAY 19th October

I have my little prayer meeting with Peter at the Brompton Oratory. We discuss the need for prayer.

“When a man has had a great deal given him, a great deal will be demanded of him”
Luke 12:48-49

What does this mean for us?

THURSDAY 20th October

We take Mary out for her birthday. A nice day.

I was looking at a TV programme. Apparently they now think that at the centre of every galaxy is a black hole and it affects the way the whole of the galaxy behaves. Its relation in size to the galaxy is the same as a grape to the Earth. I have always wondered how something as small as Jesus could affect the whole universe but we now know something the size of a grape can affect something the size of a planet. In that sense, we are all interconnected. The whole universe if finely balanced. We all come from the same source and return to it.

I hear today that Lincolnshire County Council has voted down devolution to a Mayor. Victory!

FRIDAY 21st October

I meet with the Head of the Hospital Trust. I will help with the campaign to get a medical school in Lincoln; something positive to do.

Ephesians 4:1-6
“I, the prisoner in the Lord, implore you to lead a life worthy of your vocation”.

SATURDAY 22nd October – St John Paul II

We go to the installation of the new Dean of Lincoln Cathedral. The first woman. The service is dignified, beautiful even; the legality’s interesting but I would have liked a bit more spiritual power.

Ephesians 4:8-9
“When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people”.

Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time and the feast of St Edward the Confessor

SUNDAY 9th October – Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

A fresh, bright day with lots of autumn sun and the wind from the North East.
We sail all the way from the river to outside of Portsmouth in a few hours.
We drive home through Surrey to see my sister.

A good day.

MONDAY 10th October – St Paulinus

I meet with the Chief Whip to give him my views on a full decant of Parliament from the Palace of Westminster. I am against. Get on with the work now.

“The only sign it will be given is the sign of Jonah”
How strange that we are still talking about Nineveh, Mosul.

TUESDAY 11th October

I fly to Vienna at the invitation of the Catholic Bishops Conference to address 20 Austrian MPs on why a Catholic voted for Brexit. Lovely people from all parties. Of course they are questioning, but at least 2 say that if they were British they would vote for Brexit.

WESNESDAY 12th October

I go to 8am Mass in St Stephen’s Cathedral, a good attendance and an experience in front of a marvellous icon. Afterwards we climb on to the roof, destroyed by fire in April 1945, and peer over the gargoyles at the street below.

Vienna – a marvellous place of grand nineteenth century buildings, designed for an Empire. A happy place, not too big and unfriendly.

THURSDAY 13th October – St Edward the Confessor

Back to reality.

I spend all day chairing the Higher Education Standing Committee.
I ask a question in Business Questions about the decant of Parliament. Let’s have all the options available. In the evening, before driving up to Lincs I go to Mass.

Why was Edward the Confessor so holy? What did he do, apart from die at the wrong time in 1066 and let in William the Conqueror? But without him we could not have Westminster Abbey.

“Alas for you who build the tombs of the prophets; the men your ancestors kicked”
Luke 11:47-48

What does this mean?

FRIDAY 14th October

I open a skate park, hold a surgery and support the people of Riseholme in their battle to preserve the Agriculture College and its home farm.

But for me, the outstanding moment of the day is visiting an elderly man of 91 who, with great courage, is looking after his wife; shopping, cleaning and cooking, what a hero and an inspiration.

SATURDAY 15th October

We have dinner with His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia. I talk to him and his English is perfect. His church is growing fast: 25,000 new churches.

Soviet persecution has failed and Christianity is bouncing back.

Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time and the feast of St Francis of Assisi

SUNDAY 2nd October – Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

We spent the afternoon in Durham; it’s always a delight to sit on Palace Green having a tea with the Castle on one side and the Cathedral on the other, then to walk down the hill to the river.

MONDAY 3rd October

I went to the Party Conference to speak at a Conservative fringe event –
Is Global Warming the New Religion?

I’m not sure it is, although some approach the topic with religious fervour.

TUESDAY 4th October – St Francis of Assisi

Francis writes thus:
“Men lose all the material things they leave behind them in this world, but they carry with them the reward of their charity and the alms they give”

Easy enough to say, difficult for most of us to act upon. That doesn’t deny its truth.

WEDNESDAY 5th October

There are long meetings this week but time to take refuge in Mass and listen to the readings.

At Downside I picked up a little paper about Lectio Divina.
Of course I have tried it many times but how often do I practice it? How often can I remember the Gospel even a few hours after?

Today we are first asked to meditate on the Lord’s Prayer.
Can we visualise it, ask again what it says, what it means for us?

THURSDAY 6th October – St Bruno

How do the Carthusians cope with solitude? I imagine very easily.
Reading, meditating, gardening. Attending the Divine Office.
Silence is the missing ingredient to do so much.

FRIDAY 7th October – Our Lady of the Rosary

I usually only say the Rosary in the middle of the night when I wake, but it is strangely soothing.
I seem to remember when I fell asleep the night before and I take it up from then.

More long meetings today, as all week in airless rooms.

The reading today is a difficult one from Luke 11:15-26
“… so to with Satan; if he is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand”

SATURDAY 8th October

I take Mary sailing. For once, everything goes right: the engine works, the wind is from the East. We sail to Buckler’s Hard in the Beaulieu River. I never thought we would get there when we started but we make it and have a pleasant, well-earned supper in the pub. It is magical to sail up a twilight river and to arrive in harbour near dark and, at last, relax.

Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time and the feast of St Thérèse of Lisieux

SUNDAY 25th September – Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

All that you have done to us, o Lord, you have done with true judgement.

32nd Wedding anniversary. As our treat we go to the Civic Service in Gainsborough. The sermon, a good one, is on the theme of them and us. We should treat everybody as us. Good in theory but practical? Can we accommodate a million Syrians here really?

MONDAY 26th September

Mass in the Cathedral. The reading is on Job. Sometimes this summer I have felt like Job, but I remember a phrase of Winston Graham’s: a cameraman is standing in the pouring rain, waiting patiently. ‘Why do you look so cheerful?’ he is asked. ‘I’m alive, I’m well and I’m working’. What more do I want? One should remember that more often.

We drive down to Cornwall and the car stops and won’t start in the fast lane of the M4. Otherwise, uneventful.

Always a delight to arrive at Polzeath in the dark and walk out to the sea.

TUESDAY 27th September

I am reading here – ‘The Fishermen of Port Isaac’ by Geoff Provis.

In the nineteenth century all the pilchards, now gone, were sold to Italy for Lenten fast.
He quotes verse:
“Here’s a letter to the Pope, and may he repent
And lengthen by six months the term of his Lent,
It’s always declared betwixt the two poles
There’s nothing like pilchards for saving of souls”.

Now Port Isaac is just a lovely tourist venue, but still there are echoes of an age when a hundred men earned their living there.
Apparently up to 1830 Cornwall had 44 MPs (to Scotland’s 60) so a bounty for pilchards was extracted from a distant Government, with MPs comes bounties!

Mary is ill so I walk alone around Pentire Point.

WEDNESDAY 28th September

We walk past Daymer Bay to the ferry and have an anniversary dinner in Padstow. The church is locked but I wander around the gardens of Prideaux Place, wandering from the colonel’s walk a
magnificent of the Camel estuary. We have our anniversary dinner and walk back along the beach.

THURSDAY 29th September

We do a very tiring hour walk to Port Quin, a sad place. According to legend all the men died in a fishing accident and the women wandered away in grief. We walk down in Lundy Bay, the high tide waves crashing, the sea silvering in the twilight and exhausted from fresh air, supper in a cosy cottage.

FRIDAY 30th September

We drive to Downside. I start reading St Therese of Lisieux. It is her feast day tomorrow. As always at Downside, after compline, I sit alone in the great dark Abbey church.

SATURDAY 1st October – Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face

I have always found her autobiography of a soul a bit cheesy but in today’s reading, a passage grabs me and moves my soul. Perhaps it is the effect of the beautiful Saturday morning Latin Mass in the Abbey.

“In the first section, 12th and 13th chapters of the 1st epistle to the Corinthians caught my attention and in the first section I read that not everyone can be an apostle, prophet or teacher. That the Church is composed of a variety of members …
I found this an encouraging theme
Set your desires on the greater gifts. And I will show you the way which surpasses all others.
For the apostle insists that the greater gifts are nothing at all without love
… I recognised myself in none of the members which St Paul described
… love appeared to me to be like hunger for my vocation.
I knew that the church had a heart and that such a heart appeared to be aflame with love
… and I realised that love sets off the bounds of all vocations
… at last I have found my calling: my call is love”

This struck me most forcibly.

Therese wanted to be a martyr or a missionary. She did not have the strength.

She had to settle for something less but in the end it was much more, just love, and now Therese is a doctor of the Church.

Of course, love in the cloister is challenging. No doubt the other nuns are irritating sometime, but at least they are trying for the same thing. How much greater is the challenge in the wider world?

But it shows we should not be frustrated that in our way of life we cannot achieve distinction. At the end there is always love left – even for the poorest, oldest, most ill and least successful”.