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Monday, 27 October 2014

Holiday time and visitors to Margate

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What a glorious day it was today in Margate! This week being half term, I have several visitors coming "Down to Margate (you can keep the Costa Brava...)" Fortunately it is starting off as a week of beautiful sunshine in which the old town and the harbour are at their best. Visitors quite understandably like to experience the excellent Ambrette with its well-deserved Michelin star so I am being spoilt.

The above photo was taken from the Harbour Arm just after ten to four, so about half an hour before sunset now that we are back to proper organic, natural, eco-friendly, astronomically correct, Greenwich Mean Time. (What exactly is the point of British Summer Time?) No messing with this photo: the rich afternoon colour is just as the mobile phone camera picked it up.

Excellent papal address at Synod conclusion

The Synod of 1980, that is. At the end of the Synod on the  family. St John Paul had this to say:
“So the Synod—when speaking of the pastoral care of those who after divorce have entered on a new union—rightly praised those couples who in spite of great difficulties witness in their life to the indissolubility of marriage. In their life the Synod recognizes that good news of faithfulness to love which has its power and its foundation in Christ. Furthermore, the fathers of the Synod, again affirming the indissolubility of marriage and the Church’s practice of not admitting to Eucharistic communion those who have been divorced and—against her rule—again attempted marriage, urge pastors and the whole Christian community to help such brothers and sisters. They do not regard them as separated from the Church, since by virtue of their baptism they can and must share in the life of the Church by praying, hearing the word, being present at the community’s celebration of the Eucharist, and promoting charity and justice. Although it must not be denied that such people can in suitable circumstances be admitted to the sacrament of penance and then to Eucharistic communion, when with a sincere heart they open themselves to a way of life that is not in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage—namely, when such a man and woman, who cannot fulfill the obligation of separation, take on the duty of living in total abstinence, that is, abstaining from acts that are proper only to married couples—and when there is no scandal.”
That puts things well, both doctrinally and pastorally. Catholics can take this clear papal teaching as a good point of reference in the current discussion.

Thanks to a priest reader who directed me to the excellent Catholic Household for the above quotation. Do see their post John Paul II’s Ignored Synod Speech: 3 Highlights You Need to Read for further commentary and for the full text of the address of St John Paul at the end of the 1980 Synod.

It is also well worth reading Ross Douthat's op-ed piece for the New York Times: The Pope and the Precipice which is an intelligent and well-informed commentary. In his article, he says,
In the week since [the Synod] many Catholics have downplayed the starkness of what happened or minimized the papal role. Conservatives have implied that the synod organizers somehow went rogue, that Pope Francis’s own views were not really on the table, that orthodox believers should not be worried. More liberal Catholics have argued that there was no real chaos — this was just the kind of freewheeling, Jesuit-style debate Francis was hoping for — and that the pope certainly suffered no meaningful defeat.
In addition to the links provided, it will be of interest to readers from England that Cardinal Nicholls essentially offered the second of the above reactions in his Pastoral Letter on the Synod on the Family.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Attempts at arty photo manipulation, and a strange version of Margate rock

Harbour neon sm

With the Turner Contemporary at the harbour, and Tracey Emin as a home-grown celebrity, Margate is establishing a reputation as a mecca for enthusiasts of modern art. This is combined in a quirky mixture with a focus on retro-chic that makes the old town fun. I wondered how I might get into the arty culture, with the trauma of my third form art teacher's report etched on my psyche "Tries hard - but results not good."

So I thought that in the absence of artistic ability, I might use some of the effects filters in Paint Shop Pro. (I use that in preference to paying lots of money for Photoshop, but intend to get to know Gimp better.) Above you can see the harbour on an overcast day, and below is a part of Lombard Street in the old town with the Olde Sweet Shoppe, Beaux Interieurs, and the Lifeboat, one of the many micro-pubs in the area.

Old Town charcoal

A couple of weeks ago, the owner of Kiss me Quick, the seaside gift emporium on the parade, dropped in a sample of some special Margate rock - Chicken Balti flavour. I had a piece. It tasted of Chicken Balti.

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Heroes in the midst of knavish imbecility

Well that wasn't a very edifying spectacle was it, the Synod? An outrageously dishonest attempt at procedural manipulation at the highest level, publicly shoved into the turf nose-first by decent men who just couldn't stomach any more of it. Thanks be to God for Cardinal Pell and Cardinal Burke: at least we have heroes to sing of after the debacle. Which reminds me to revive the "Backbone Award" that used to feature on blogs.

I suppose in advance of the follow-up Synod, we now have to face another year of false hopes and unnecessary confusion over Christ's teaching on marriage and the family while the wrong targets are routinely chosen for praise and blame, promotion and demotion.

Sorry - I have been very busy with pastoral work, haven't much time to post, wanted to say something, and find it hard to be patient with what has gone on. I was glad to be able to quote Belloc recently to a concerned young man who had not heard his famous words:
“The Catholic Church is an institution I am bound to hold divine, but for unbelievers, here is proof of its divinity, that no merely human institution run with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight,”
For more reasoned comment than mine, you might like to read some other post-Synod articles. Sandro Magister has an excellent, though hardly reassuring summary report: The True Story of This Synod. Director, Performers, Assistants; Fr Ray Blake has a thought-provoking piece Was that why he was elected?; and Fr Z offers some helpful observations, concluding with an amazing twist after looking up the Lectionary for the date of the next Synod. See: Extraordinary Synod on Family is, thanks be to God, over.


Thursday, 16 October 2014

Family Day at Ramsgate


A day for families, celebrating Pope Saint John Paul’s teaching on family life: Saturday 25 October, St Ethelbert’s Church, 72 Hereson Road, Ramsgate. CT11 7DS.

There will be talks for adults, teenagers and children, and games and activities. An opportunity to pray, meet and grow in fellowship with other Catholic families. Confession will be available. Please bring some food for the shared lunch. Starts at 10.15am with the Rosary; ends at 5pm with closing prayers, followed by the parish 5.30pm Mass.

I have two Masses, six baptisms and a convalidation that day, but I hope to get over for a brief visit in the afternoon.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Richard Collins RIP


The family of Richard Collins have posted an obituary notice on his blog Linen on the HedgerowAnima eius et animae omnium defunctorum per misericordiam Dei requiescant in pace. Amen.

Last Thursday, Holy Mass was said in Richard's room. He died fortified by all the rites of Holy Mother Church, and his final moments were accompanied by his family praying the holy Rosary.

Richard was a fine Catholic man and I particularly appreciated his solid, sober and sensible contributions to various meetings of bloggers which he attended at some considerable cost and inconvenience.

His funeral will be celebrated according to the usus antiquior. As soon as I have details, I will post them here. In the meantime, please pray for the repose of his soul, pray for his family in their loss, and give thanks to God for the great good that he did for others in his life, especially through the apostolate of his blog.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Yoakley, QEQM, Vespers and the King's Steps

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The past few weeks have gone by in a whirl with so much to familiarise myself with, various bits of paperwork to keep on top of, and more importantly, key people to get to know. Every now and again, the parish priest of Margate takes a turn at leading a Christian service at Yoakley Care Home, founded over 300 years ago in the Quaker tradition. I took a photo of the grounds:

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The parish has a one-and-a-half form entry primary school so I made my third visit last week, to celebrate the Harvest Mass, and am beginning to find my way around. Likewise, the geography of the Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother Hospital (known locally as QEQM) is now becoming clearer after I have done a few rounds to see the Catholic patients and have responded to some sick calls to anoint people.

The Benedictine Sisters at Minster Abbey have Vespers each evening (sung in Latin) and last Sunday, after October devotions at St Austin's, I went along and was pleased to meet up with others from the Deanery.

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After arranging seven baptisms for an extended family of Czech people who live near the Church, and after catching up with the great people who run the food parcel scheme, I seized the opportunity of the midday sunshine to go down to the harbour, have a sandwich for lunch, and get a couple of photos - the one that is at the top of this post, and this attempt at perspective from the King's Steps.

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Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Stained glass, Aldi, works of mercy and migrants

SSAG window

My latest "stock photo" for the Church: the stained glass window on the (liturgical) North of the sanctuary, showing our two principal patrons at Margate, St Austin and St Gregory. Since Robert Dalby Reeve is recorded as dedicating the window in memory of his wife Iesse who died in 1905, I should ask you to say a prayer for her.

Moving to more mundane matters, I have discovered Aldi. I did visit a Lidl at Foots Cray once, but it was a bit rubbish. The massive Aldi on Northdown Road, however, it another thing all together. On getting home, I looked up the website and saw the funny adverts that they have been running. I was particularly pleased because I had been looking for a cheap laminator and had got fed up with one of the large stationery stores who ran the old con of having a cheap one on display but then not having it in stock. Aldi supplied me with an A3 machine for £18.99. I also managed to find a good office stationery store which, like another one I saw a few days ago, does a line in cheap printing. These things all help to save money: an important concern in a small parish where not everyone is flush with cash by any means.

In fact, we have a long-running scheme whereby parish volunteers collect funds, go shopping, and then staff the door for several hours to give out about fifty food parcels each week to the needy, containing a variety of basic essentials. Parishioners also support this work by fundraising and direct donations of food and it has been going for decades - long before the recent "Food Bank" thing. It is great to inherit such a going concern putting into practice the corporal works of mercy.

Another feature of the parish is illustrated by this photo I took while I was exploring Northdown Road:

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I have already met many Eastern Europeans, some of whom have little English, and tried an excellent Lithuanian restaurant, Rickus, which overlooks the Main Sands. So as well as a few more words of Polish I'm going to need to try and learn some simple expressions in several other languages. With all these different languages being spoken in the parish, it would be nice if the Church had some universal language that was the same for everyone. Oh wait ...

Sunday, 21 September 2014

A visit to Minster, the Abbey, and my new satnav

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Minster is highly significant for English Catholicism since St Augustine landed in the parish, and monastic life began there in the late seventh century. The first Abbess of the associated nunnery was St Mildred, and the remains of the Saxon Abbey are still part of what is now the Benedictine Abbey of Minster, making it the oldest inhabited house in England.

I was taken to Minster for Sunday lunch today ("The Corner House" if you are interested - excellent family-run restaurant) and had a chance to see the Norman Church (above), and the Abbey, and to walk around the village. The Abbey is a place that I shall be visiting often: as well as their lovely chapel, the nuns have a conference centre called "Parkminster" which is a venue for many things organised in the Deanery. I understand that Vespers is at 6pm each day and that my brother clergy are often to be found there, so I am glad to have learnt the route.

Speaking of routes, I decided that it would save me a bit of time in a new place if I finally bought myself a satnav. So I got the cheapest TomTom the other day. Once I have discovered all the built-in options and used it for a few months, I'll probably hack it just for fun :-) This evening I used it to get over to Ramsgate without having to study a map for the best route.

I'm getting to know more parishioners, the children from the school did the readings beautifully at the early Mass, the servers were great, it was another glorious day in Thanet, and I am still tempted to pinch myself to check that I am not dreaming.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Stained glass in the Lady Chapel at Margate

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The beautiful Lady Chapel at St Austin and St Gregory Margate is certainly one of the highlights of our Church. I posted the above picture after my first visit to see the parish back in June. You can see something of the altar, but not much detail of the stained glass windows above it. One of the parishioners took some photos a while back and let me have copies of them. I put together the two windows so that you can see them side by side (click to enlarge):


I think these are absolutely gorgeous examples of Victorian glass.

There is a rich devotional life in the parish as part of the normal weekly schedule, with Lauds before Mass on Tuesday, Rosary on Wednesday, and adoration on Thursday. On Saturday after Mass, there is the Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. It is great to come to a parish and find all these things already in place. The Novena is said at the Lady Chapel, and I have started saying the Monday evening Mass there. Notice also the fine votive candle stands which are in regular use - and are kept spotless.

The devotional life of the parish is matched by real practical work for the poor. More about that soon.
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