Monthly Archives: March 2017

Third Week in Lent and the feasts of St Joseph and of the Annunciation

ANGELICO, Annunciation (1440-42), Fresco, Convento di San Marco, Florence

SUNDAY 19th March – Third Sunday in Lent

We have a rare Tridentine Mass in the Osgodby Chapel, the same mass that was said here since it was built in 1793. A moving and beautiful experience.

John 4
“whoever drinks this water will get thirsty again…”

MONDAY 20th March – St Joseph

We are in London, waiting for the baby.

It is a good day to think of St Joseph, one of the most famous people in history who did nothing more than marry and stay faithful.

Entrance Antiphon
“Behold a faithful and prudent steward whom the Lord set over his household”.

TUESDAY 21st March

I ask a Health Question about the need for a new medical centre at Lincoln so we can encourage more GPs to train and work in Lincolnshire.

We little know what is going to happen to us: disaster or death may strike at any moment.

“Peter went up to Jesus and said, Lord how often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me? As many as seven times? Jesus answered, not seven I tell you but seventy-seven times”
Matthew 18:21.

WEDNESDAY 22nd March

At 5am we have a new baby in the family. I have a PMQ and I ask the Prime Minister about the ‘symbolism’ of the Palace of Westminster.

Two and a half hours later, I am sitting in the Procedure Committee and all hell breaks out – we are being attacked. Armed gunmen round us up and we spend three hours sheltering in Westminster Abbey with a thousand other people. I wonder around for the first time ever and read all the amazing messages on the countless tombs.

Finally let out, I make my way to see our first grandchild – a beautiful little girl.

A day unlikely to be forgotten.

I wonder if it would have made a difference if someone sometime had told the attacker: “There is only one God and he is peace”.

Today’s entrance antiphon
“Let my steps be guided by your promise, may evil never rule me”.

THURSDAY 23rd March

The PM makes a statement.

I deliberately make reference to the fact that after the wartime destruction of the chamber, Mr Churchill and Mr Atlee refused to move out. I say ‘it is values that unite our nation … we will not be moved from our place or our values’.

I put it to the Leader of the Commons later that this is hardly the moment to disperse MPs and Peers all over Parliament Square.

Jeremiah 7:23-28
“… but they did not listen, they followed the dictates of their own evil hearts, refused to face me and turned their backs on me”.

FRIDAY 24th March

I take the train up to Lincolnshire for a surgery and our AGM. There are two topics of conversation: Brexit and terrorism.

I go for a walk when I get home. The church is open and I read Psalm 122
“I rejoiced with those who said to me ‘let us go to the House of the Lord’”.

SATURDAY 25th March – the Annunciation

It is the first beautiful, hot day in Lincolnshire.

I take Monty for two long walks, read Psalm 123 in our village church and in the evening we drive back to London for the grandchild.

Psalm 123
“I lift up my eyes to you … to you who sit enthroned in heaven”.

Second Week in Lent and the feast of St Patrick

DUCCIO di Buoninsegna, Raising of Lazarus (1308-11), Tempera on wood, Kimbell Art Museum

SUNDAY 12th March – Second Sunday in Lent

We go to Mass at Bad Homburg.

Of course I cannot understand the sermon, but Universalis is to hand. The reading is from Matthew 17:1-9, the Transfiguration.

MONDAY 13th March

I attend a debate to liberalise abortion laws. We lose of course, as we always have done for fifty years.

Today’s Psalm is number 78
“… let your strong arm reprieve those condemned to die”.

TUESDAY 14th March

I speak in the budget debate supporting the Government’s difficult decision to balance the books through raising national insurance contributions. The very next day, the Government does a U-turn and reverses the policy. I make no friends by saying the present funding formula of the NHS is not sustainable with an ageing population. We have to get people to put more of their own money in through social insurance.

Matthew 23:1-12
“… do not be guided by what they do, because they do not practice what they preach”.

In the evening we have our last Mindfulness session.

We need it.

At dinner afterwards, Father Christopher of Worth Abbey comes up and I introduce him to our teacher. He says “we have been practicing mindfulness for fifteen-hundred years” and my teacher says later that the Buddhists have been practicing it for two-thousand years.

WEDNESDAY 15th March

I ask a Northern Ireland Question urging a deal on power sharing. Ten days after the election it is still not there.

Today’s Psalm is number 30
“Save me in your love, O Lord
Release me from the snares they have hidden
For you are my refuge, Lord
Into your hands I commend my spirit”.

THURSDAY 16th March

I take part in a statement on the takeover of Sky urging non-interference by politicians and later I chair Westminster Hall.

The reading is the one about Lazarus, the most difficult of all:
“They will not be convinced, even if someone should arise from the dead”
Luke 16.

FRIDAY 17th March – St Patrick

A day driving up to Lincolnshire.

“Above all, never let your love for each other grow insincere, since love covers over many a sin”.

SATURDAY 18th March

Psalm 102: “The Lord is compassion and love”.

First Week in Lent

BOTTICELLI, Three Temptations of Christ (1481-82), Fresco, Cappella Sistina, Vatican City

SUNDAY 5th March – First Sunday in Lent

I am up for Lauds early, then I go to Mass at Downside Abbey and then travel back to London.

“Next, taking him to a very high mountain, the devil showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. ‘I will give you all these’, he said, ‘if you fall at my feet and worship me’”
Matthew 4:1-11.

MONDAY 6th March

I chaired a meeting of the Henry Jackson Society with a former Obama staffer talking about the White House’s interactions with Russia. What is amazing is that they and the Foreign Office seem to have so little knowledge of Russian history and sensitivities. One assumes these people are well resourced and very knowledgeable.

I meet with a Minister to discuss my amendment to the Children and Social Work Bill the next day to give space to religious people in “relationship” education.

Matthew’s Gospel today, 25:31-46, is the most difficult –
“I tell you solemnly, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me”.

TUESDAY 7th March

I move my amendment on the Children and Social Work Bill to take out compulsory “relationship” classes in school. There is no point in forcing a vote. We would get so few votes because most people just come in at the end and vote according to the party whip. I quote the Supreme Court. The first thing a totalitarian government does is to decree what is taught in schools.

Isaiah today, 55:10-11, as always is beautiful
“As the rain and the snow dome down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth, making it yield and giving growth to seeds for the sower and bread for the eating, so the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty”.


The Budget. As usual, I have endured over 34 of them, it will unravel within a few days. We have to be honest about raising money for the NHS and social care through self-reliance, social conscience and charging.

The reading today is about Nineveh
“Only 40 days more and Nineveh is going to be destroyed”, Isaiah 3:1-10.

As I sit in the crypt Mass listening to these words I can’t help thinking that Nineveh is none other than modern day Mosul, located on the eastern bank of the Tigris in the suburbs of the modern city. It was the largest city in the world for over fifty years until it was sacked in 612 BC. It has just, in January 2017, been recaptured from ISIS.

In 612 BC there was home to home fighting in Nineveh, which was then destroyed building by building and left in utter ruins, its people were massacred and deported. The Assyrian Empire was divided between Medes and Babylonians.

The prophet Nahum, whose tomb I’ve visited, foretells the city’s desolation.

Until the eighteenth century and the excavations of Austen Layard, all knowledge of the site passed by the minds of men. I am reminded of a phrase from ‘The Lord of the Rings’. All knowledge is passed from the minds of men.

THURSDAY 9th March

I take the train to Market Rasen and walk home via the Ramblers’ Church – the incomparable view and silence compromised by an irritating call on the mobile phone.

“Great peace they have which love thy law”
Psalm 119.

FRIDAY 10th March

I go to Riseholme College to meet with the Head of the Skills Funding Agency. They are taking Lincoln University to court to protect the farm for future generations of agriculture students.

In the evening I go to the AGM of the Gainsborough Conservatives branch.

Ps 119 is exceptionally long. I have been reading it day by day in our village church
“Blessed are the undefiled, who walk in the law of the Lord”.

SATURDAY 11th March

We fly to Bad Homburg near Frankfurt and in the museum there Mary finds a relation, a Mecklenburg, a daughter of George III, Elizabeth, who married a local Prince. A visiting group of ladies in the museum say they spot a likeness.

Eighth Week in Ordinary Time and the celebrations of Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday

TINTORETTO, The Temptation of Christ (1579-81), Oil on canvas, Scuola Grande di San Rocco, Venice

SUNDAY 26th February – Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mass in Holy Rood.

Entrance Antiphon
“The Lord became my protector. He brought me out to a place of freedom”.

MONDAY 27th February

We drive back from Lincolnshire to London.

Entrance Antiphon
“The Lord saved us because he delighted in us”.

TUESDAY 28th February – Shrove Tuesday

Archbishop Cushley of Edinburgh and St Andrews says Mass in the crypt. An obviously calm presence.

I chair Westminster Hall and go to the International Trade Select Committee.

I come home to pancakes after my mindfulness course.

WEDNESDAY 1st March – Ash Wednesday

Here it goes. The start of Lent. I will give up chocolate and alcohol – only a glass or two of wine in the evening before I get bored at some dinner.

A usual highlight of Ash Wednesday is Allegri’s Miserere in the Cathedral.

We agree our first one hundred and thirty page report in the International Trade Select Committee and have witnesses on the Great Repeal Bill in the Procedure Committee. Until my question no one seems to have spotted that the 2018 bill can do the opposite of the 1972 bill which was very short; simply signing in all the ECC acquis very briefly.

THURSDAY 2nd March
I meet with the Quebec Minister who has some interesting ideas on how Canada has dealt with the Quebec issue. They have full fiscal autonomy which is what I argued for for Scotland, and a comprehensive equalisation grant to ensure all provinces end up the same. Much more sensible than us.

In the evening I join local residents to object to the siting of the Holocaust Memorial taking up half a Royal Park. Generations of Londoners have fought for these parks.

Psalm 1
“Happy the man who has placed his trust in the Lord”.

FRIDAY 3rd March

We go to my cousin John Reeves’ funeral in Norfolk – a good service in Reepham’s church. Unusually there are two churches there side by side. After fifty years he did not want to leave Norfolk and he did not; he fell over and hit his head the day he was moving to Hampshire.

A lovely man, he was widowed with four boys when the youngest was only eight and he sacrificed his career to look after them.

Psalm 50
“A humble, contrite heart, O God, you will not spurn”.

SATURDAY 4th March

I am at Downside for an Oblates meeting.

In the afternoon I am sitting alone in the Abbey Church. Outside I can hear some very young children laughing and playing.

Like a piercing truth, I understand the importance of the life of every child and the sadness of all the lost ones. To bring a child into the world is always worth the sacrifice.

Later I am standing in the lounge in the guest wing and I decide to take a book out of the bookcase randomly.

My hand lands on a book by a Canon of Wells Cathedral – ‘God is nearer than breath’.

What a coincidence. I am doing a mindfulness course where we are told to meditate by concentrating on breathing.

The author here is making the point that God is very close; indeed is everywhere. If only we could see this and realise it our life would be transformed.

As usual I sit in the choir for Vespers and Compline. I am beginning to understand my way around the Hymnal and other books. Sadly I won’t here be able to sing but I can listen.

I think often of God, closer than my breath.

“The Lord will always guide you, giving you relief in desert places.
He will give strength to your bones.
And you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never run dry”
Isaiah 58:9-14.