Monday, 22 May 2017

A Chartres Surplice - a school and God's own county

The first of the final two coats of arms is that of Chavagnes International College, of whose Scouts I am privileged to be chaplain. Fine and brave Scouts they are indeed! Search on the search thing to the right of this post and find out the most wonderful and marvellous things that they do.

This very blog is thanks (or curses) to Chavagnes. It is because of this that I am a 'chaplain' (to the school) 'abroad' (for France is sadly no longer under the British crown).

And this last one is the flag of Northumberland. This windswept county is beautiful, simply stunning. It retains the rugged honesty and integrity of place which is lost in so many areas of the country. Northumberland has it in spades. It is the place of my family and birth. The flag, though a recent invention, is based on an account of St Bede the Venerable of the flag draped  on St Oswald's tomb in the 7th century. To my intense irritation, it is often flown upside down. Top left should be gold. Not red. Gold.

So there you have it, my Chartres surplice. I hope that it survives more than one year, but if it does not, then it will have been worn to the glory of God and in honour of the Blessed Virgin. I beg the intersession of the saints and blesseds who are thereon, and I carry with me in my heart all the rest.

Come to Chartres! Come because of a sweet love of Our Lady. But if you cannot, then pray for us. And we will pray for you - for the whole world.

Let us, like knights of old, ride into battle against sin, the world, and the Devil carrying Our Lady's token, knowing that should we fall in the attempt, that she will cradle us in her arms and when this life ebbs away, smooth away our troubled hearts, and kiss our brow as only a Mother can.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

A Chartres Surplice - 2 English Saints, 1 Blessed and 1 kind Bishop

And so here are the coats of arms of St John Fisher, and St Thomas More. Behind St Thomas More's are maces of office. These are two great figures in English Catholicism. Both of them stood up to the bed-hopping, wife killer Henry VIII.

Next (above) is Blessed John Henry Newman. Very fond of him I am indeed. Even more so, as he was at my college in Oxford (or should that be that I was at his college?!). I like the idea that I, as a callow youth, walked the same quads as this great man, this great Blessed, this great sign of true ecumenism.

It was through his rigorous intellectual searching that he was led to the Catholic Church, but it was the inspiration and example of Blessed Dominic of the Mother of God Barbari, who was the instrument of God's conversion of Bl. John Henry Newman. Simple piety and fiendish brain in perfect harmony!

The final coat of arms today is that of Bishop Mervyn Alexander, who was Bishop of Clifton. I know that his arms are not right as there should be more tassels, so don't bother hunting me down like the dog I am. Bishop Mervyn was a holy man with a true humility. He let me into the Diocese and sent me to seminary, and I was privileged enough to anoint him when he was ill in hospital, and carried his coffin when he died. Say a prayer for the repose of the soul of the good and kind successor of the Apostles.

Friday, 19 May 2017

A Chartres Surplice - plotting death and theft

One of the next two coats of arms should be easily recognisable for it is the one I made up for myself. As I may have said, I'm very fond of coats of arms. It is the first one that you see above.

I thought that as I had not put my name in the surplice, and if was stolen by an enemy, then I could easily get it back with a swift

"HA, that's my coat of arms, and if you think it's yours, then tell me of the mystical symbolism within it!"
You have to have all your bases covered when you're a chaplain abroad, abroad.

But the second one is not mine at all, but a Clifton comrade,  Fr Redman. You can see him consulting Lenin here. He 'persuaded' me to put it on, but I suspect that his motives were nefarious. You see, should I come to a terrible, suspicious end as we go along, then he can swipe my surplice and claim that it is his own!

You cannot trust Priests when it comes to surplices. If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand time, "Never trust a Priest with your surplice."

Thursday, 18 May 2017

A Chartres Surplice - the Popes

I was ordained under the pontificate of St John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI  is still wonderfully alive in the Vatican. I included them both on the surplice as I have such a high regard for them.

St John Paul stood up against the world and won.

Pope Benedict through his razor sharp theology pieced to the heart of the issue.

I wish I had the courage of John Paul, and in the intellect and kindness of Benedict. So I wear their shields as I walk along. St John Paul, I pray, looks down from heaven to to help me to be strong in my faith, and I carry the wonderful Pope Benedict as he is too old to walk to Chartres now.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

A Chartres Surplice

Getting ready for Chartres is one of the best times in the year. You have to dig out your walking boots from the place where you threw them last year, and then realise that you should really have cleaned them before making them disappear. You have to check you French Elastoplast stock (different from the English stuff and absolutely essential). And where did you put you spectacles fixing kit?

And then you have to decide what you are going to wear. We Priests walk in cassock, cotta and purple stole to hear confessions as we go along (and in my case a quat' bosse scouting hat - well you would, wouldn't you).
Poor cotta from last year, not too well.
My poor cotta from last year, however, had worn out. It was pretty old to begin with, and the rubbing of the backpack finally made too many holes appear. And I feared that even if I fixed them, they would not last the rigors of the first day.

So, I bought a surplice. Now, these are known almost exclusively as 'Anglican' things, but they came from the English Tradition, so must have been Catholic. And I think we should claim back/celebrate our heritage. And I've always liked the flappy sleeves.

But when it came, it just seemed so PLAIN. And I'm not sure that Our Lady likes plain. So out came the cotton and needles, and the result is as you see it above.

I think I might have to add to it for next year, as the pink bits don't  really come out. But we shall see,

As I like coats of arms (and arms of coats) there are a few. I'll explain them in the next few posts. But to begin here are the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart.


Any lecturers reading, this is not why I am about 3 weeks behind in my thesis!

Labour still in the running

The Catholic Herald reports, here, that the Labour idea of legislating to extend abortion in Northern Ireland has been 'watered down'.

This is a good thing, but you can't help thinking that things which were not in manifestos (anyone remember gay 'marriage') can suddenly be pushed through. Now it is "we will work with the Assembly to extend that right to women in Northern Ireland". Not, presumably, female babies.

Let's hope that Labour's 'for the many, not the few' will extend to full human rights for those in the womb.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

I'm VERY excited...

Browsing through the bulletins of the parishes of one's Diocese can be very instructive. Especially when you are a Chaplain Abroad! And even more when you are a Chaplain Abroad waiting to hear which Parish the Bishop has put you in.

So, this much I know from the website of Corpus Christi Weston-super-Mare. There is a chain (we priests are rather like house moves), which is:

Our Lady, Churchdown Gloucester goes to Corpus Christi, Weston-super-Mare:
Corpus Christi, Weston-super-Mare goes to St Catherine's, Frome

That's all I know. I know that the Bishop and his council met just before Easter, about four weeks ago, so I'm hoping that he will tell me soon where I am going. I still have no idea, but it is not beyond the realms of possibilities that someone out there knows already, so if you do know, send me an email. Go on, go on. As the title says, I'm VERY excited.

And if I am your new parish priest and you are scoping me out, then "HELLO!" We'll have a great time... I have a large number of hats and an inordinate love of GCSE mathematics.

And our Lady.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

If not Conservative, then definitely not Labour

I mentioned, rather a little skittishly, that I thought that our Bishops might be telling us to vote Conservative (sorry about that Bishops! I know you would never tell us what to do).

However, the leaked Labour Manifesto surely means that no Catholic can vote Labour. Of course, the Official Manifesto might change, but the Catholic Herald, here, shows that Labour will legislate for abortion in Northern Ireland. Labour will “continue to ensure a woman’s right to choose a safe, legal abortion – and we will legislate to extend that right to women in Northern Ireland.”

The sanctity of human life has to be the irreducible priority of any Catholic opinion. We cannot have rights or obligations if we do not exist.

Bishop Egan asked us to "find out where election candidates stand on abortion and assisted suicide", link here. He said

First, and foremost, how far will this or that candidate protect the sacred dignity of each human life from conception to natural death, opposing moves to liberalise the abortion laws, to extend embryo experimentation and to legalise assisted suicide and euthanasia?
Can any of us in good conscience support a party which intends to extend the abortion of poor children in the womb?

I'd like to hear that one argued on Judgement Day: "I know they wanted to kill infants in the womb, but on reflection I thought that nationalising the Railways and Mail service outweighed it in the end."


Thursday, 4 May 2017

When Bishops are Conservatives

I have been mulling over the interview with Archbishop McMahon, and I think it is very instructive that it has come out at just this time.

You see I have been reading Vatican documents for the past three years and so now know all about half quotations, spurious supposition and dodgy theology. So I know that timing is everything. After all, can it really have been a surprise that my own beloved Nostra Aetate was presented at the last minute of the third session of Vat II. They had two days to look over a whole new document and then vote on it. It was passed. They all wanted to get home.

So back to the Archbishop. It seems (according to EVERYONE) that we're sick of election, so I think that this is all a sneaky episcopal plot to brainwash us into voting in the way the Bishops want. I am sure that this is not a plot by any individual bishop, but by the whole episcopal conference. They were created for this, they came into the world after vat II for this...

Who can forget "The Common Good" in 1996, (download it here). It tells you how to vote. Of course some bits are now old hat. Take section 100 for example " It is possible to be both British and European." Not anymore matey.

So I think, that then as now, the Bishops are trying to guide us in our voting intentions. And good for them. Keeps them busy.

If the Bishops think that we should be able to have grammar schools and Labour says no, and the Lib Dems say no, and the Greens say no ...

... we are left with UKIP or the Conservatives.

The Bishops told me to do it!
My Lords, in this, as in all things, I will obey!!!

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Wonderfully Refreshing

In a generally negative interview with Archbishop Malcolm McMahon, the Archbishop puts forward many interesting points. The full interview is here, and here are some highlights...

McMahon says the proportion of pupils in Catholic schools from deprived areas and the proportion from ethnic minority backgrounds are both above average, as indeed they are. 
 “The Church of England runs schools for the wider community,” McMahon says. “Ours are different. They are for the Catholic community.” Though non-Catholics account for a third of pupils, and nearly 10% are Muslims, the archbishop is clear: by canon law, schools are forbidden to turn away Catholic parents in favour of non-Catholics.
Is it fair that non-Catholics should pay for schools from which their own children may be excluded? “Parents’ rights to educate their children as they wish is fundamental,” he says.
“It’s not just the faith school sector which is faced with mono-cultural schools. Many community schools comprise predominantly one ethnicity and faith.”
“We are not anti-grammar schools,” says McMahon. “There are already seven existing Catholic grammar schools and we welcome a diversity of provision that promotes parental choice.” It will be up to individual diocesan authorities, he says, whether to open new ones.
Did some pupils have same-sex parents? “Why would same-sex parents want to send their children to a Catholic school? 

Read the whole thing, it really is quite excellent. The writer, of course, simply doesn't get Catholic Education, but perhaps that says more about the liberal intelligensia, than it does Catholic Education.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Overheard in Budapest

From one dictator to another, Vladimir Illych, how do you deal with pastoral councils?

Thursday, 27 April 2017

How you can tell...

... I'm on holiday.

I have to say that these two have almost finished me off. The beer is fine, but my goodness the sundae is almost too much.

Almost, I tell you. Almost. If you're ever in Budapest then go to Gerbeaud for cakes and stuff. Pure indulgence... Well I am on holiday.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017


My goodness! How can they do such things? God made piggies to have little feet... trotters if you will.

He did not make them to wear sling-backs or brogues or the like.

So why is there a shop for pig shoes???!!!

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

I'm sitting here...

... minding my own business with my dog and my hawk.

So why is this priest taking my photo?

Monday, 24 April 2017


On holiday: this is how I want to live!

Binary choices

I hate these binary choices! Why is it not male/female/eunuchs for the kingdom?

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Through the Day with Our Lady

This is the image of Our Lady of Meritxell. As you can see it is a modern statue as the original one was destroyed in a fire in 1972. Originally it dated from the 12th century.

The devotion is from Andorra, indeed she is the patroness of the country. Her feast day is September 8th. 

In the late 12th century, on January 6, a wild rose in bloom was found by villagers from Meritxell going to Mass in Canillo. It was out of season and at its base was found a statue of the Virgin and Child. The statue was placed in the Canillo church. However, the statue was found under the same wild rose the next day. The statue was taken to the church of Encamp. However, as before, the statue was found under the same wild rose the next day. As in similar legends elsewhere, the villagers of Meritxell took this as a sign and decided to build a new chapel in their town after they found an open space miraculously untouched by the winter snows.

The best thing about it is that the name comes from merig, - meridiem - midday.

So she is 'Our Lady of Noon'.  

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Easter Ceremonies

Maundy Thursday

7.00pm Bellingham
9.00pm Swinburne

Good Friday

1.00pm Bellingham
3.00pm Swinburne

Easter Vigil

8.00pm Bellingham

Easter Sunday

9.00am Swinburne
11.00am Bellingham

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

I came, I saw...

I went away. I wonder if this is the same plane I came on?!!
A good few days, a certain teaching of maths and the Old Testament (not together). Together with despair at the continued belief that -1 squared is still -1, or 2, or anything really... But it's nice to get exasperation out of the system.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Vagaries of flight

Im n my way to Chavagnes. Flight from Newcastle to Southampton, then Southampton Nantes.
My flight was delayed so I arrived at Southampton with five minutes to go. Rushed through arrivals. Then security. Then departures. Just in time for the plane.
And then I thought... I asked the nice air steward, because I suspected something... And yes, I have just got back on board the plane that I had got off a moment before.
There is a moral to all this. I'm sure there is...

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

St Joseph's at St Joseph's

Fr Michael Brown, whose Church is dedicated to St Joseph, and who celebrated the High Mass in his patron's honour, has pictures of the event here.

Usual suspects indeed!

Thursday, 16 March 2017

St Joseph, the first of the usual suspects

There is a High Mass on Monday 20th March at St Joseph's Gateshead at 7.00pm. Fr Brown's post here.

I am pleased to be included in the usual suspects with such fine company. I hope I shall be able to celebrate him with similar splendour next year in Clifton Diocese.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

They will not defeat me.

Sitting as I am in the library in Durham (oh, how you can tell that there is less that six months to go before I return to the bosom of mother-Clifton) I find myself cowed and arraigned from all sides by sporty types of chaps. Now, although I can talk a good game of rugby as well as the next man (woman/transgendered ‘X’ – I can’t keep up, I really can’t), I find myself oppressed. Yes oppressed!

What has brought this about? I hear you cry! Is it the fact that they are fine specimens of young men at the peak of their physical prowess? Or that they have the nonchalance to walk from the library and leave their wallet behind, there on the desk! (I have lived in too many dodgy places to risk such a thing – I was in seminary for three years after all). Or think that they can get away with not shaving in the morning.

We, the nonchalant, shall cow you by our nonchalance
No I tell you, no. It is because they are studying maths, and it looks SO difficult that it took me a moment to realise that it was maths in the first place. Me, I’m a GCSE maths teacher, strictly quadratics and sample sizes. I get a frisson of excitement when thinking of solving simultaneous equations with matrices. But not these chaps. They laugh (I’m sure) in the face of translation vectors, the scorn (without doubt) the solutions to a quartic equation, and I dread to think how they would react if I suggested working out the angles in a circle.

If you think this is hard, then try teaching a French boy
that there is another way of doing long division
So I have done what any self-respecting Priest does when faced with such a terrible sight, I took out my breviary and started saying Vespers, muttering Latin for all I was worth. And with an open book of Unanswered Questions in the Catholic-Jewish Dialogue in front of me.

If in doubt, mutter Latin prayers

I might scribble down some meaningless algebra with a few squiggles of my own making, followed by a hovering question mark in a moment. And then ponder it, mid Latin Psalm, while muttering 
“surely Feuerbach’s hypothesis would never work in that matrix paradigm”
I will not be defeated! Never!

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