Newsletter 24th May 2020.
Today is the Sunday within the Octave of the Ascension, also now known as the Seventh Sunday of Eastertide. I think that this is not Eastertide – it is Ascensiontide.
On this day we think of the Apostles gathered with Our Blessed Lady in the Upper Room at Jerusalem awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit.
I hope that you are all keeping well and working out how to interpret the new rules. The provisional date for opening the Church again is July 4th but there is a lot to be done. I am awaiting guidance as to whether there will be restrictions on numbers and how will we work out distancing. A possibility might be to increase the number of Sunday Masses. Also there will be the need to catch up on outstanding Baptisms and Marriages. I anticipate a very busy summer. The general consensus is to defer First Holy Communions to September and I will fix a date once the new regulations are in place.
Several Saints this week. Monday is the fest of St. Bede the Venerable, the great English Saint whose ancient history of England is a classic. He was a monk of Jarrow and died in 735.
Tuesday is the feast of St. Philip Neri, a very popular saint who lived in the sixteenth century and founded the first Oratory in Rome. Some of the early students from the English College in Rome, who were later to be martyred in England used to visit him.
Wednesday is the feast of St. Augustine who was sent by Pope Gregory to England and was to become Archbishop of Canterbury.
Here is Bede describing the arrival of Augustine in England:
In this island landed the servant of our Lord, Augustine and his companions, being, as is reported, nearly forty. They sent greetings to King Ethelbert and said that they had come from Rome, and brought a joyful message, which most undoubtedly assured to all who took advantage of it everlasting joys in heaven, and a kingdom that would never end, with the living and true God.
Many of us have to be alone in these days and here are some thoughts from Thomas Merton: When solitude was a problem, I had no solitude. When it ceased to be a problem I found I already possessed it all along. Yet still it was a problem because I knew after all that a merely subjective and inward solitude, the fruit of an effort at interiorisation, would never be enough. Solitude has to be objective and concrete. It has to be a communion with something greater than the world, as great as Being itself, in order that in its deep peace we may find God.
During these days, a time to review some familiar dishes. I am sure that you all have your own methods of roasting potatoes. Here is my method. I choose some large flowery potatoes, cut them in chunks and boil them until they are just soft. Then I transfer them to a deep fryer with a mixture of corn oil and vegetable oil. Watch them closely until they just start to crisp and do not let them brown too much.
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, the locomotive hauled trains have now disappeared from the London-Norwich service and have been replaced by new units. This has always been an interesting route. In 1950 the Britannia class steam engines transformed the timetable with a two hour journey. In the late 1950s they were replaced by some of the early diesels, first the type 40s and later the type 47s. Electrification with an electric locomotive came in the mid-1980s and lasted until this year, of late with Mark 3 coaches displaced from elsewhere.
Quite a lot of garden work in recent days. I have been clearing the beds near the house and looking after the herbs. We now have a new garden firm to cut the grass and this seems to be a great improvement. The monkey puzzle tree at the end of the garden never seemed to take and it is now dead. I will remove the stump. Lots of cherries on the trees near the house and I am waiting for them to ripen. It seems it takes three or four years for cherry trees to establish themselves and to produce a good crop of fruit. It will be remembered that these trees were planted by some of the First Communion children a few years back.
A prayer for today:
O God the King of glory, who has exalted thine only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph unto thy kingdom of heaven; we beseech thee, leave us not comfortless, but send to us thine Holy Spirit to comfort us and exalt us unto the same place whither our Saviour Christ, is gone before; who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.
Here is Pepys again talking about the plague. Up, and being ready I out to the goldsmith’s, having not for some days been in the streets; but now how few people I see, and those looking like people that had taken leave of the world. In the afternoon I sent down my boy to Woolwich with some things before me, in order to my lying there for good and all.
I like this: Thomas Hardy speaking about Old Furniture:
I know not how it may be with others
Who sit amid relics of householdry
That date from the days of their mothers’ mothers
But well I know how it is with me
You will remember the famous lines from Airplane: “Surely you can’t be serious.” “I am serious: and stop calling me Shirley.” I also recall the line by Joy from Shadowlands to one of the Oxford Dons: “Are you trying to be funny or are you just stupid?”
The boy and his sister are coping with the daily routines of home schooling, some reading and Lego, though I understand, in common with many young people, they are finding it quite boring and look forward to the restoration of normal days.
Kindest wishes to you all,
Monsignor Nicholas Rothon