Saturday 30 June 2012

The Great Condom Con (again)

I have just found the 1flesh website, which has a good infographic on condoms...

It's a while since I blogged about this, but rather than repeat myself, I refer you to previous posts tagged 'condom con', especially this one, this one and this one. Also, this one, this one and this one.

These were a series of posts on the subject which I wrote back in 2009, when fewer people read this blog than do now - so unless you are one of my old faithful readers, the odds are you won't have read them.

Needless to say, I think they are worth reading!

H/t @blondpidge for pointing out the 1flesh infographic

Friday 29 June 2012

Tu Es Petrus

I posted a chant version of the Tu Es Petrus last weekend, so here, for the Feast itself are three contrasting polyphonic versions.  The first is possibly the most famous, by Palestrina.
The second is by one of my favourite modern composers, Maurice Duruflé.  The third is by James Macmillan, at the Papal Mass in Westminster Cathedral.

Happy Feast Day!




Tu es Petrus et super hanc petram ædificabo ecclesiam meam et portæ inferi non prævalebunt adversus eam. Et tibi dabo claves regni cælorum.

Thou art Peter and upon this rock, I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against her; and I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.

Remember to pray for our Holy Father, Benedict XVl today - and every day.

Tuesday 26 June 2012

A Musical Weekend

On Saturday we went to Bernie's university music society concert.  She was playing in the main orchestra and in several other smaller groups, which always makes for an entertaining evening.

The variety of talent on display was nearly as impressive as the quality, ranging from barbershop (and barbieshop - the female version) a cappella singing, through swing band, flute choir, string ensemble, and brass band to the full orchestra.  The finale was an unashamed re-run of the second half of the Last Night of the Proms,  complete with flags, balloons and party poppers.  All in all a very enjoyable evening.

On Sunday morning, it was the EF Mass at Lancaster Cathedral, which was strictly unaccompanied Gregorian chant, fo the feast of the Nativity of St John the Baptist.  The Schola there is certainly improving over time, and sounded much better yesterday than it did only a short while ago - apart form the communion verse, which struggled to start... (but once underway, it was fine.)

Then on Sunday afternoon, Charlie was playing a few pieces in a local concert in one of the village churches.  It was really a show case for the wind band and the brass band from one of the local schools (not his), but he and a couple of others were invited to participate, to add some variety, I suppose, and to make the concert feel long enough (even with his three pieces, and the guest cellist's and guest flautist's, it was finished in an hour.)

As with anything involving Charlie, it was highly entertaining.  His first piece was over rather quickly (he had decided the repeats were boring) and so there was a moment's silence before anyone clapped.  He looked over his shoulder from the piano, with a look of complete bewilderment mixed with incredulity - and was there a hint of contempt? - at the audience, which caused me to crack up.

The second piece was fine - reasonably performed and unremarkable. But the final piece, a moody jazz piece that he normally plays with great panache, was again fraught with interest.  The piano provided was an electric one, which had been ok for the first baroque piece, which had probably been written for the harpsichord anyway.  But it didn't have the resonance in the bass which he required, and just from the shape of his back I could sense his growing disgust.  Then the loose first page of the piece fell onto his keyboard.  He thought he could keep going, then wasn't so sure, then ground to a halt. He re-started fine, but then did a repeat (on auto-pilot) that didn't seem to correspond to the music on the page, and then, it seemed to me (though he subsequently denied this) busked his way through his favourite passages of the piece in a somewhat disdainful way.  He was not at all happy with the performance; I had enjoyed it heartily; and most of the audience seemed pleased enough.  It is fair to say that he and the other soloists were older, and significantly more advanced on their chosen instruments, than the school ensembles, who opened and closed the event.

And then home, to start work on the music for the 8th Sunday after Pentecost (the next Lancaster Mass).

All in all, a weekend of mixed and rich musical entertainment!

Sunday 24 June 2012

Latin Lesson: Tu es Petrus and the future tense

Last week, we looked at the Angelus, and that led to interesting reflections in the comms box and a subsequent post on the meaning of mens and cor.

So for your revision, pray the Angelus in Latin.

This week, we are moving on to the Tu Es Petrus (as inscribed around the interior of the dome of St Peter's in the Vatican, see above [Mt 16:18-19]).  

That is because it is both seasonal (and if you start learning it by heart today, you should know it in time for Friday's feast one of our last holy days of obligation, but don't get me started...) and also because it has some verbs in the future tense, which we have not yet encountered.

As ever, I do recommend rote learning, and here is a recording.

Tu es Petrus

Two things to note about this: one is that if you were at an EF Mass today (the feast of the Nativity of St John the Baptist) you will have heard remarkably similar music, though with different words.  The second is that this does not include all the words we are going to examine below.

Tu es Petrus
Thou art Peter

et super hanc petram ædificabo ecclesiam meam

and upon this rock, I will build my Church,

et portæ inferi non prævalebunt adversus eam.

And the gates of hell will not prevail against her.

Et tibi dabo claves regni cælorum.
And to you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven.

A few notes on vocabulary:

Petrus/petram is not so much a pun as the whole point of Our Lord's re-naming Simon.  When God names something, it effects what it proclaims.

Aedificabo - I will build, from which we get the words edifice and edifying.

inferi - the place below - from which we get inferior.

But the main thing I want you to focus on is the future tense.

Here we have:

Aedificabo, and dabo (1st person singular, future tense) and 
Praevalebunt (third person plural, future tense)

Let's fill in the gaps.

The Future Tense

1st conjugation verbs  (infinitive ends -are)

Infinitive Dare (to give) (and aedificare follows the same pattern)

1st person singular:  dabo  (I will give)
2nd person singular: dabis  (you will give)
3rd person singular: dabit (he, she or it  will give)
1st person plural: dabimus (we  will give)
2nd person plural: dabitis (you  will give)
3rd person plural: dabunt (they  will give)

2nd conjugation verbs (-ēre: long e)

Infinitive: Praevalere (to prevail, to overcome) 

1st person singular:  praevalebo  (I will prevail)
2nd person singular: praevalebis  (you will prevail)
3rd person singular: praevalebit (he, she or it  will prevail)
1st person plural: praevalebimus (we  will prevail)
2nd person plural: praevalebitis (you  will prevail)
3rd person plural: praevalebunt (they  will prevail)

I'm struggling to think of many more uses of the future in Liturgical Latin off the top of my head, apart from the very obvious: Introibo at altare Dei (I will go into the altar of God) which opens Mass in the Extraordinary Form.

However, for completeness, you should know that the other regular endings of the future tense in Latin  (third (-ere: short e) and fourth  (-ire) conjugations) follow this pattern

Infinitive: Benedicere (to bless)

1st person singular:  benedicam  (I will bless)
2nd person singular: benedices  (you will bless)
3rd person singular: benedicet (he, she or it  will bless)
1st person plural: benedicemus (we  will bless)
2nd person plural: benedicetis (you  will bless)
3rd person plural: benedicent (they  will bless)

Friday 22 June 2012

More on Hearts and Minds

In comments on my recent post about the Latin of the Angelus, there was a bit of a discussion about mens meaning mind or heart, and how cor fitted in with this.

Interestingly, Lewis and Short give both heart and mind as possible translations for either word.

We tend to associate mens primarily with mind (English derives mental etc from this root). Cor certainly means heart, anatomically speaking.

It all started because I translated (provocatively)

Oremus: Gratiam tuam, quaesumus, Domine, mentibus nostris infunde; 


Let us pray: Thy grace, we beseech thee O Lord, into our minds pour forth; 

The traditional (and better, I would argue) translation is Pour forth we beseech thee O Lord, thy grace into our hearts.

But the discussion set me off thinking about the link between mens and gratia, as found for example in O Sacrum Convivium.

And I have just remembered another, the Veni Creator Spiritus, where we find: 

Veni, creator Spiritus
mentes tuorum visita,
imple superna gratia,
quae tu creasti pectora.

Again, that association of gratia with mens.  Later the heart, cor, is mentioned, of course, and associated with amor  (love): 

Accende lumen sensibus,
infunde amorem cordibus,

I am not sure what conclusions, if any, one can draw from these examples.  I think I will continue to collect them as I come across them, and hope that while I procrastinate, someone better informed than I am will offer some wisdom!

St John Fisher's example

Thanks to links posted on Twitter by both @PartTimePilgrim and @Johnthelutheran, I read the Universalis post on today's saints: Sts John Fisher and Thomas More.

St Thomas More is the only member of the English bar to be canonised (so far, and I'm not holding my breath for the next one...)  So happy feast day to all lawyers.

St John Fisher, of course, was the only bishop to stand resolutely against Henry Vlll.  Here's how the  Universalis entry ends:
 He was the only bishop to oppose Henry VIII’s actions, on the grounds that they were a repudiation of papal authority, but even so he avoided direct confrontation with the other bishops, not holding himself up as a hero or boasting of his coming martyrdom: I condemn no other man’s conscience: their conscience may save them, and mine must save me. We should remember, in all the controversies in which we engage, to treat our opponents as if they were acting in good faith, even if they seem to us to be acting out of spite or self-interest.
That brings me to something I was planning to blog about anyway. 

Time and again, I see people falling out, both in real life and especially on Twitter, Facebook and blogs, because they disagree.

Just yesterday @sitsio tweeted: 'I've had 1 person I thought a 'friend' go off on a rant & de-friend me 4 this blog. It's a fine line between teaching & alienating.'

And that is more typical than abnormal.

But notice what has happened there: friendship and agreement have been conflated, so that when one goes the other follows.

That strikes me as profoundly problematic.

If we are to engage intelligently with important issues, we need to learn how to disagree and stay friends, or more importantly, stay in charity with each other.

Instead, we all too often seem to have a working assumption that anyone who disagrees with me is either insane or evil, and probably both.

That is why St John Fisher's example is so important, as summarised above: 'We should remember, in all the controversies in which we engage, to treat our opponents as if they were acting in good faith, even if they seem to us to be acting out of spite or self-interest.'

If we can learn to disagree without abusing each other, without over-doing the rhetoric to the point where the other is bound to take offence, without assuming evil-intent on the part of the other, and then seeking evidence to 'prove' that (at least to our own satisfaction), and without seeking and taking offence ourselves... if we can do that, then there is the possibility that we and others may learn from disagreements.

To put it another way, relationship does not have to be predicated on agreement. 

So when we disagree, if I make the effort to continue to respect you, to trust you in so far as I reasonably can, to assume that your intentions are good, to treat you with respect and courtesy,   I lose nothing, in terms of our disagreement.  That does not involve conceding an inch of the intellectual substance, but rather increases the likelihood of my being heard.

Whereas if I indulge in bombast, sarcasm, point-scoring, abuse, patronising and so on, if I play to the gallery to 'prove' (to my satisfaction at least) how morally and intellectually superior I am, then the likelihood of either of us benefiting from the exchange is reduced dramatically.

So why do we so often do the latter rather than the former? Could it be that our egos get in the way?  Is it just bad habits learned from the prevailing culture? Or is it, at root, fragility and pride?

That's not to say there is no place for rhetoric, or for confronting wrong ideas head on - but that we need to be very careful of both our intentions and our means: to attack the ideas, not the person, to strive for veritas, certainly, but recognise that cannot finally be at the expense of caritas.

Thursday 21 June 2012

LCP - Pathway to Euthanasia

There has been a lot of controversy, not least in the Catholic blogosphere, about the Liverpool Care Pathway.

It was originally developed by Marie Curie hospice in Liverpool, to ease the pain of patients dying from cancer.  

I have immense respect for Marie Curie nurses, from my personal experience - but that does not mean that they necessarily get everything right, and still less that an approach they piloted is not open to abuse.

According to Professor Patrick Pullocino, the LCP is frequently used to dehydrate and starve to death people who are not already imminently about to die.

He told a Medical Ethics Alliance conference in London: If we accept the LCP we accept that euthanasia is part of the standard way of dying as it is now associated with 29 per cent of NHS deaths.

He also revealed that he had taken a patient off the LCP (which had been implemented by a stand-in doctor on a weekend shift), and the patient then lived on for more than a year.  Given that LCP is meant to be for the last hours of life, that is deeply disturbing.

Disturbing, too, is the official line, given by A Spokesman for the Department of Health: ' A patient’s condition is monitored at least ever four hours and if a patient improves, they are taken off the Liverpool Care Pathway and given whatever treatment best suits their new needs.'  If you are sedated, starved and de-hydrated, improvement in your condition is a remote contingency: but that doesn't mean that you would otherwise have died...

I do not know Professor Pullocino, who is the latest in a number of concerned medical professionals to raise questions about the way in which the LCP is used (or abused).  But I do know Dr Philip Howard, both by reputation, and as a friend of friends - and I have heard him speaking on pro-life issues.  So when he speaks, I take it very seriously. 

He says: It (the LCP) is a decision with an end in view. The patient is dying. Why? Because we say they are dying. Why? Because we have decided.

He scarcely needed to add: “That’s a worry when you have the problem of getting it wrong.
Before I get the outraged response of all those who have seen their dying relations' last minutes eased by the LCP, I would simply point this out: I am not saying that the LCP cannot be used ethically; merely that it can (and apparently is) also being used unethically - and that should concern us all.

H/t Diocese of Shrewsbury 

Sunday 17 June 2012

Requiem Mass Sanctus

Apologies for the long delay in this series of chants from the Requiem Mass.

For sheer simple beauty, the Sanctus is hard to beat...

Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus dominus deus sabaoth.  Pleni sunt caeli et terra gloria tua. Hosanna in excelsis.  Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini. Hosanna in excelsis.

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of Hosts.  Heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.

Latin Lesson: The Angelus

For your revision, recite the Pater Noster, the Ave Maria and the whole of St John's Gospel in the Vulgate (to help you get started: In principium erat Verbum - take it from there...)

Good: well done on the first two; perhaps some work to do on the third. (If I were Dom's piano teacher, I'd persecute you for not having learned the third, regardless both of the nigh-on impossibility of doing so, and the fact I'd never asked you to - but that's another story...)

So let's look at the Angelus.  I imagine there is some correlation between those who pray the Angelus regularly (whether via #twitterangelus or not) and the wise people who await this Latin Course avidly...

So with luck this will be familiar to you.  Whether it is or not, I do recommend rote learning (mainly because it is so unfashionable, of course, but there are other, serious, benefits.)

So here is a recording of it sung in Latin:

The Angelus

(I have omitted the Aves as you know them already, and I have at times used an over-literal word order and translation, to make the relationship of Latin to English words clearer)

Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae
The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary
Et concepit de Spiritu Sancto.
And she conceived of the Holy Spirit
Ecce ancilla Domini 
Behold the handmaid of the Lord
Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum. 
May it be done unto me according to thy word.
Et Verbum caro factum est 
And the Word, flesh was made
Et habitavit in nobis 
And dwelt amongst us.
Ora pro nobis Sancta Dei Genetrix 
Pray for us, Holy Mother of God
Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi. 
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Oremus: Gratiam tuam, quaesumus, Domine, mentibus nostris infunde; 

Let us pray: Thy grace, we beseech thee O Lord, into our minds pour forth; 
ut qui, Angelo nuntiante, 
that (we) who by the message of an Angel,
Christi Filii tui incarnationem cognovimus, 
 the incarnation of Christ Thy Son came to know; 
per passionem eius et crucem ad resurrectionis gloriam perducamur.  
by His passion and cross, to the glory of his resurrection may be led.

Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum. 
Through the same Christ our Lord.
Divinum auxilium maneat semper nobiscum
The Divine Assistance may it remain always with us
Fidelium animae, per misericordiam Dei, requiescant in pace. Amen. 
The souls of the faithful, by the mercy of God, may they rest in peace.  Amen.


If you have been paying attention as we have progressed, you should be looking at texts like these and spotting, for example, that Domini and Dei are in the genitive case (of the Lord, of God); moreover, you will have been able to deduce that nuntiavit and concepit are third person singular, past (perfect) tense (declared, conceived);  and so on.

You may also have spotted some subjunctives: Fiat, Oremus, maneat, and  requiescant (may it be done, let us pray, may it remain, may they rest).

So you should be at the stage where, with the simultaneous translation, you can see why most of the Latin words are the shape they are.

There are a few exceptions: efficiamur is something we have not seen.  It is a verb, of course (efficio, - I bring to pass, accomplish etc).  Here we have the first person plural (we) subjunctive passive (may be made).  Thus 'ut digni efficiamur' is 'that we may be made worthy.'

In passing, the Latin word 'ut' meaning 'in order that'  is normally (always?) followed by the subjunctive; which is logical, when you think about it: in order that something may be the case or may be made to happen etc: classic subjunctive stuff.

That's all I have time for today, I'm afraid, so more of a revision class with a new text, than a lot to learn.  However, I do propose to continue the classes, and maybe next week we'll add some more grammar.

If you feel short-changed, have a look at this week's new vocabulary, and spot parallels with English words, to help you remember the Latin (eg habitavit and inhabit, habitat; Auxilium and auxilliary; animae and animate and so on ...)

Wednesday 13 June 2012

Catechism of the Catholic Church - online

I have just discovered (thanks to a tweet by Diane Korzeniewski @TeDeumBlog) the online Catechism   of the Catholic Church.

It is fully searchable, the cross-references are hotlinks, the footnote numbers are links which bring up a pop-up box giving the reference...

All  in all this is a fantastic online resource, and should be bookmarked by every Catholic who has internet access.

Tuesday 12 June 2012

Sir Terry Leahy

There was a fascinating, though brief, interview with Sir Terry Leahy, the recently retired CEO of Tescos, on the Today programme this morning, which you can hear here.

He talks about his poor background in Liverpool, his Irish immigrant parents, and attributes his success in business in part to his Catholic junior school, which got him into the grammar school, and instructed him  in moral absolutes.

'The most damaging tendency of all is our sleepwalking into the quagmire of moral relativism, an obsession with tolerance, a wish to please everyone.'

He makes clear the importance of moral absolutes in the world of business: whatever fun academics may have in denying such concepts, in the world beyond academe, they are essential for any human commerce.

Sunday 10 June 2012

Latin Lesson - apology

Apologies for anyone eagerly awaiting this weekends Latin Lesson. I have been too busy to write it.  I hope that normal service will be resumed shortly.

In the meantime, read the proper prayers for Corpus Christi in your missal, in both Latin and English, to keep your hand in!

And say a prayer for me.


The youth chapter on the Chartres pilgrimage, about which I bored you all for several posts a little while back, was under the auspices of Juventutem.

I have been asked to give them a plug and am happy to do so.  They are a group of young adults (18 - 30) with a particular attachment to the traditional forms of the Sacraments.  They organise retreats, pilgrimages etc, and have chapters in London and Bristol.

Forthcoming events include the LMS pilgrimage from Ely to Walsingham, a retreat at Douai in September, and the LMS pilgrimage to Lourdes.

Their website may be found here, and their facebook page, here.

Friday 8 June 2012

Left in Charge - Elizabeth Jennings

This is a sonnet which Elizabeth Jennings dedicated to my mother, after she stayed in my mother's house in Oxford while my mother was away.

It captures something of both of them, so is particularly special to me...

Left in Charge

No ghosts haunt here or, if they do, they are
Kindly and gentle. When I climb the stairs
There are no creaking steps. I see one star
Greeting me through a window which lays bare

A happy street.  Young voices come and go.
A train moves in the distance and it brings
Back echoing times when childhood days went slow
And sleep came quickly. All about are things -

Books, paintings, statues - chosen with large care.
Nothing is unsafe for the children who
Come often to meet my host who is elsewhere.

Her love has left this house to me.  I know
Trust and joy which fill the scented air
Took quiet days and nights to stay and grow.

Elizabeth Jennings

Fountains Abbey

Yesterday Anna (Mrs T to you) and I took the day off to celebrate the feast day, and went to Fountains Abbey for the day.

The abbey dates from the 10th Century, although most of the site was destroyed by fire in 1146.  As is usual with such sites, the buildings were enlarged, developed and re-modelled extensively over the centuries.  For example, the tower over the North transept is much later (15- 16th Century)  Previously there had been a central tower over the crossing point of the nave and the transepts.

The origins of the foundation lay in an abbey in York that had grown riotous: several monks left or were expelled and ended up in this valley.  There they started a new community, seeking to return to a stricter adherence to the Rule of St Benedict, and applying  to Clairvaux for support and direction.  Thus they became a cistercian foundation, and rapidly expanded.  With various ups and downs (including the Black Death, of course) they survived until Henry Vlllth ordered the dissolution of the monasteries.

The architecture is wonderful, with solid Norman pillars and rounded arches in the Nave of the Church, but increasingly pointed arches and a perpendicular style taking over.

Despite it being a wet day, we had a very enjoyable, and strangely moving, visit.  The combination of some parts more or less intact, such as the cellars, and others in various stages of ruin, combined with the sheer scale of the site gave a real sense of the scale of the loss.  It made me want to re-read Duffy...

Fountains shares the site with Studley Royal, the whole site being designated a World Heritage Site.  Studley Royal is a wonderful, formal 18th Century Water Garden.  It was created by John Aislabie, one-time Chancellor of the Exchequer, and one of the men behind the South Sea Bubble, after the Bubble burst (and his subsequent expulsion from parliament) in 1720.

His son acquired the adjacent Abbey lands and ruins, and extended the garden in a more romantic, picturesque style.

The whole site makes for a wonderful day out - even in the rain.


Thursday 7 June 2012

A Corpus Christi treat

Today, whatever you may hear to the contrary, is the feast of Corpus Christi.

We have this feast because the obvious time to celebrate this - Maundy Thursday - is hardly appropriate for the great high holiday the Institution of the Blessed Sacrament deserves.

The liturgical celebration of this Feast in our country has been moved, legitimately but in my view extremely unwisely, by our bishops to the nearest Sunday.

That does not, of course, mean that we cannot celebrate the feast today, in solidarity with Rome and many other parts of the world.

I am taking the day off work, and am going with Anna to visit Fountains Abbey as a Corpus Christi treat.

In the meantime, here's your treat: O Sacrum Convivium, by Thomas Tallis.

O sacrum convivium!
in quo Christus sumitur:
recolitur memoria passionis eius:
mens impletur gratia:
et futurae gloriae nobis pignus datur.

O sacred banquet!
in which Christ is received,
the memory of his Passion is renewed,
the mind is filled with grace,
and a pledge of future glory to us is given.

Wednesday 6 June 2012

On re-reading C S Lewis...

I have just finished re-reading C S Lewis' trilogy: Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra and That Hideous Strength.

I hesitated as I wrote the word trilogy, as they are such different types of book.  I enjoy all of them, but in different ways and with different reservations.

Out of the Silent Planet is in one way the most conventional: it is a traveller's tale, recounting the adventures of someone forcibly abducted and taken to a strange world.

It is, of course, much more than that, and Lewis puts into practice his own insight as a literary critic that the creation of place is a very important part of fiction.  Certainly, Malacandra is well-conceived, from its geography to its social structures.

These all reflect Lewis' interest in conveying theological ideas within his story.  This is a story designed to show that Earth, as we know it, after the Fall, is an exception in God's creation.

The strong interest in language - and indeed the protagonist's profession as a philologist - reflect among other things his friendship with Tolkien.  Indeed, the book started when he and Tolkien agreed to write a thriller each: Lewis was to deal with space travel, and Tolkien with time travel.  Tolkien never delivered on his side of the bargain, but was a fan of the Silent Planet.

Perelandra is different again.  Another world is created with great and loving  imagination, and the vividness and intensity of life there is powerfully conveyed.  But the essence of this story is a re-playing of the temptation of the Eve of that world at the start of their history.

Lewis makes it clear how simple and practical the choice between obedience and self-will is, and also how subtle and seductive are the temptations to disobey.  The spiritual struggle becomes a physical one, but it is in some ways the pettiness of the devilry that haunts one.

As ever with Lewis there are insights that touch a chord or strike a raw nerve and live on long after the story is finished. Also, and again typically, there are inconsistencies of detail both within the book and between it and its predecessor.  However, it remains a favourite.

That Hideous Strength is in some ways the most unsatisfactory, and partly, I think, that is due to Lewis' friendship with Charles Williams.  Under Williams' influence, Lewis introduced an Arthurian theme into the story, and Williams' whole concept of Logres; this seems to me to be a distraction from, rather than an enrichment of, the central plot and theme.  Nonetheless, it is a good story, bringing the supernatural struggles witnessed on Perelandra back home to Earth.

So I enjoyed reading all three, and will doubtless come back to them again in a decade or so; and in the meantime, I think I'll get out my copies of Till We Have Faces (Lewis' own favourite, I think, though his biggest flop with the reading public) and The Great Divorce, neither of which I have read in this millenium.

Elizabeth Jennings

I was pleased to hear Jocelyn Bell Burnell, the distinguished astrophysicist, on the Today programme this morning lauding, and indeed quoting, a poem by the late Elizabeth Jennings. 

It was the poem which started her on her interesting path of lecturing on Astrophysics and Poetry.  She mentioned to James Naughtie that when she lectures on Astrophysics, it is nearly always to an almost exclusively male audience, but when she adds 'and Poetry' women come along...

The poem quoted was Delay:

The radiance of the star that leans on me 
Was shining years ago. The light that now 
Glitters up there my eyes may never see, 
And so the time lag teases me with how
Love that loves now may not reach me until 
Its first desire is spent. The star's impulse 
Must wait for eyes to claim it beautiful 
And love arrived may find us somewhere else.

Elizabeth Jennings

It is fairly typical of Jennings' verse: formal, clear, profound and moving.

Jennings was a Catholic poet, whose poem about Euthanasia I have quoted before.

Her poetry is well worth exploring: no easy answers here, but a real exploration of many themes, including her own mental health issues, but shot through now and then with a Faith to which she always returned.

I had the pleasure of meeting her on a few occasions many years ago - she was a friend of my mother's - and one of the delights of her verse, for me, is the complete contrast it offers to her conversational style.  In conversation, she was more like Henry James' writing - constantly interrupting one thought with a parenthesis, non sequiturs abounding as her mind moved faster than her conversation.  Yet she distilled this into lucid, clear, concise, formal and elegant poetry, which I often find profoundly moving.

Tuesday 5 June 2012


Last night Anna and I took Charlie and Dominique (and Goldie of course) up the local hill for the lighting of the jubilee beacon.  As we walked up the hill there was a wonderful full moon: low, orange and huge.  We could see other beacons lit: nearby on a limestone scar, and beyond to the South - apparently one of those we could see was in Yorkshire.  Looking East, there were several in the Pennines, and North, on the Lakeland fells.

Our own was simply a pile of hay bales, but it burned spectacularly:

It was a good event: most people from the three local villages seemed to have turned out, and it was an occasion when people whose paths don't normally cross mixed in an atmosphere of high good humour.

We gave three cheers for Her Majesty and sang the National Anthem before walking back down to the larger of the local villages in a long procession, most of us carrying flaming torches (the village shop had done a great trade in them, and had to limit the number they could sell to each family) 

There was to be a burger and a midnight dip in the open air pool for the hardy (or fool-hardy) but none of us fancied that, so we walked back to our village by the dying light of our torches.

I am, as you might expect, in favour of a constitutional monarchy.  At its best, it should demonstrate something about hereditary duty.  I am of the view that we can never get rid of hereditary privilege: the children of those who have done well (even in the strictest meritocracy) will always start with advantages.  What I would hope is that they also start with a sense of responsibility, of duty, to repay something...

Here I think our current Queen has been both a success and a failure.  On the one hand, there can be no doubt that she takes her duties seriously and strives diligently to accomplish them.  On the other hand, she has demonstrably failed to raise an heir worthy of the throne.  But perhaps today is not the day to be over-critical of her.

At the very least, the institution of the Monarchy provides for high days and holidays that can unite all but the most doctrinaire in ways that few other occasions in this country can do.

Domine salvam fac reginam nostram Elizabeth: et exaudi nos in die qua invocaverimus te.

Sunday 3 June 2012

Chartres 2012 - Part 4

... in which our intrepid pilgrims complete their pilgrimage...

The kind French organisers let us have a lie-in to celebrate the last day of the pilgrimage.  It wasn't until 5.25 that the PA System started playing Handel, and it was 5.30 before we were greeted with 'Bonjour chèrs amis pélerins...'  

This being the last day, the routine was slightly different.  Those of us travelling on the coach back to England had to put our luggage on the coach, rather than on the Etrangers lorry.  The coach was parked just outside the campsite, so that was no great problem.

However, that meant that a number of lazy pilgrims realised that they could wait there to join the procession, which meant that those of us searching the campsite for the English were somewhat bamboozled - not least as the Union flag was also waiting by the bus.

However, a valiant few rallied around St Alban's flag, and managed to cope with the misdirection of the French organisers and find our place in the Normandie chapter.

On this final day, the first Region to march was Paris Nord, followed by the other Paris regions.  Normandie were about 7th again, so we left camp at about 7.45, and picked up the lazybones by the bus on the way out.

I realise that my days are all blurred together.  It was in fact on this day, Monday, the final day, that we passed the cemetery on the way out and sang the Requiem Introit. We were walking along a sunken lane at the time, which made me think of Waterloo, though I didn't mention that to my French friends...

We only had three marches: the first for 90 minutes or so, then 2 hours' march to the lunch field at Oisème, and finally 2 hours into Chartres.  We covered a mere 22.5 km (14 miles) - it was scarcely worth putting our boots on.

However, we sang merrily, prayed our rosaries, had our confessions heard, and chatted animatedly for the whole way.  Over the whole pilgrimage, we had walked 100 km which is about 62 miles.

We got to Chartres and found that we were not going to be in the Cathedral for Mass. I think ours was the first chapter not to make it, so we had good places on the square outside.

This was new for me.  Each of the previous years I've been, I have managed to get in, either because the English were all inside, or by being in a makeshift choir, or (last year) by being with the Americans who were let in as they'd come so far...  However, it was a better experience than I'd imagined.  When inside the Cathedral, I had always ended up at the back, behind a pillar or something, and unable to see anything.  The kids had always fallen asleep for most of the Mass...  The atmosphere and the sound was fantastic, of course.

Whereas out in the square, there was a big screen, so one could see the Mass much more clearly, which was wonderful.  The atmosphere and acoustics were not as good, but on balance it was fine.

The Mass was a High Mass, and finished with the Christus Vincit and the wonderful Marian hymn Chez Nous.

You will notice the huge number of (mainly young) priests who were in choir for the Mass, as well as the wonderful banners representing the various patron saints of the chapters as well as some national flags.

After Mass, we made our way to our hotel for a very welcome bath or shower, followed by a dinner for British and Australian chapters.  Ant and some of the hardier folk went on to the pub after dinner, but I sloped off to bed (to supervise Dominique, you understand).

And so the pilgrimage proper was over, officially, for another year.

But not for us.  Next day, we had a High Mass in the crypt of the Cathedral, sung by Fr Withoos, with an impromptu schola of Joe Shaw, Jamie Bogle and me.  The crypt chapel Notre Dame Sous Terre (Our Lady below the ground) is fascinating as it may be the oldest Marian shrine in Christendom.  Apparently the Druids had had a revelation and had inscribed an altar with the words virgini pariturae: the virgin who will conceive.... This is one of the wonders of Chartres, and we were very blessed to have a Mass there.

The other great sights are the Black Madonna, and Our Lady's Veil.  Unfortunately, due to the (wonderful) work being done inside the cathedral to clean the stonework, the chapel containing Our Lady's Veil was not accessible this time.

After Mass, we returned to the hotel, collected Ant's passport, which had duly arrived, and boarded our coach.

The drive home was fun but relatively uneventful, and we left each other at Westminster Cathedral - all determined to come again next year, if we may...