My flight to Inverness last Sunday took me to Inverness in the early evening, too late to be barging into a monastic community. I was also rather interested to see Inverness, the capital of the Highlands. Frankly, I was a little disappointed with Inverness itself (more of that in due course) but I was delighted to find the Catholic Church on the banks of the river Ness.
St Mary's is a homely and well-kept parish Church; the newsletter is packed with events that speak of a parish full of life and confidence. The Church is finely decorated in what I have heard referred to as "wedding-cake" victorian gothic. Who cares! Better that than the kind of building Rowan Atkinson once referred to as "something that looks like an upturned dustbin with an old bicycle on top of it." It rather reminded me of St Mary's in West Croydon, a rather larger Church in which I made my first Holy Communion and learnt to serve Mass.
Here is a close-up of the statue of Our Lady:
The old High Altar is still in place and, thankfully, unspoilt:
I say "thankfully" because it could easily have been destroyed when the people's altar was built:
The pulpit is also still intact although it has obviously been repositioned, looking for all the world as though it has arrived randomly, a little like an ecclesiastical tardis:
I am sorry if that sounds unkind. Doubtless, the "re-ordering" of the Church was done with the best of intentions and it would have been practically impossible to continue using the High Altar in the fervour for "renewal" that would have prevented such a tradition until recently. Perhaps one day, Churches such as this will be able to return to the magnificence of their original design, freed from the constraints of Mass "facing the people". In the case of this Church, the reluctance to tamper too much with the original structures may well be a cause of great gratitude in years to come.
I also saw this indication of an important recent development in the life of the Catholic Church in many parts of Scotland:
The Polish-language version of the newsletter is needed because of the great influx of Poles to Scotland in recent years. Tomorrow sees the Diocesan Pilgrimage to Pluscarden. This is firmly billed as a "Diocesan" event in the interests of integration. However, the subtext makes it clear where the impetus is coming from. The Pilgrimage is to honour "Our Lady of Czestochowa" and has been increasing in numbers enormously. Several hundred Poles make the Pilgrimage on foot from Elgin to Pluscarden; at seven or so miles, this is a mere hop and a skip compared with the great pilgrimages to the shrine in Poland. The monks told me that many of the people arrive at the Abbey with tears of devotion. On a more mundane note, last year, the numbers were so great that the marquee erected for refreshments proved inadequate for the numbers arriving.