To Candlemas & Beyond

Melanie McDonagh is a writer on ecclesiastical matters and this week she was advocating the extension of the Christmas season beyond the usual twelfth night (January 6th) to Candlemas (February 2nd).
Her reasons are simplistic but valid.
It’s been a rough old year, what with the pandemic and everything that has gone with it from the furlough, to working from home to being on benefits and possibly not on benefits.
Her suggestions this year include foregoing a dry January and forgetting the so called Veganuary.
Now is not the time for abstinence.
This year, we need cheering up. People have died, businesses have gone under, we can’t meet our friends. This is no time for abstinence. It’s a time for embracing a cheering drink – in moderation. There are moments you need just a little inebriating uplift, and proper food. That time is now.
Abstinence in January is rubbish any year. When the outside is depressing, you want to make inside as cheerful as possible…and that doesn’t mean a diet. It’s still Christmas. We need all the comfort we can get.
But why stop on the February 2nd?
February brings us Valentine’s Day on the 14th followed by Shrove Tuesday on the 16th. Even Lent can be manageable as it is suspended on Sunday’s and on St. Patrick’s Day (March 17th). Easter (April 4th) gently leads us forward to Pentecost (May 23rd). After which is full throttle until November, when we remember the Holy Souls and get ourselves in trim for the next set of Christmas festivities.
So, let’s ditch dry January and put Veganism in its place.
Melanie McDonough’s article may be found on:!preferred/0/package/462/pub/462/page/68/article/117613

Rome is calling

No, not in the sense that my New Year Resolution is to be elected Pope by acclamation like St. Fabian. It’s just that the New Year’s Eve Spectator contained the gem that best food market in Rome is the Mercato Testaccio and the thing to eat there is a smordi-e-vai-aandwich from Mordi e Vai called el panino all’allesso which is a bread roll dunked in dripping then layered with tender slices of beef. Just the thing to stock up the waistline prior to Lenten contemplation. Meanwhile the Spectator’s weekly competition focussed on meaningless, pseudo-profound statements. The prize winners (£5 each) included the following:
The camel of forgetfulness knows more than the python of curiosity.
It is sometimes wiser to circle the square than to square the circle.
No snail by wishing can become an elephant.
But my favourite is: A ceiling keeps thing in, a roof keeps things out. – just the sort of thing a budding realtor should  know about.

Relic of the True Cross

Wood of the True Cross Reliquary

Wood of the True CrossEarlier this month I was in New York and one of my delights was to stroll along to the JP Morgan Library on 36th Street. You can pay for the tour of the galleries and the library (very worthwhile) or you can take a gentle lunch or coffee in the cafeteria. One of the more interesting items on display in the general area is the Stavelot Triptych, It is a Reliquary of the True Cross, comprising three triptychs. The main triptych dates from 1156-1158. Inside the triptych are two smaller ones which are Byzantine and date from the late 11th or early 12th century . The central panel – contains two Byzantine triptychs. The upper triptych depicts the Annunciation and the Crucifixion. The lower triptych depicts the four Evangelists, four Byzantine military saints, and Constantine and Helena flanking the relics of the True Cross. Wings – contain six enamel medallions (three in each wing) telling the legend of the True Cross. The upper Byzantine triptych depicts the Annunciation (outer wings) and Mary and John beside the Crucifixion (centre panel). The lower Byzantine triptych depicts the four Evangelists (outer wings), four Byzantine military saints (inner wings): George and Procopius on the left, Theodore and Demetrius on the right. In the centre, beneath busts of the Archangels Gabriel and Michael, and flanking the True Cross composed of the relic itself, are Emperor Constantine and his mother, Empress Helena. The triptychs were possibly made for Abbot Wibald, who headed the Benedictine Abbey of Stavelot (in present-day Belgium) from 1130 to 1158. The triptych was in the possession of the abbey’s last prince-abbot when he fled during the French Revolution in 1792. It was purchased by J. Pierpont Morgan in 1910 and bequeathed to the Library. Altogether a quite uplifting experience.

Prayers for the Armed Forces

Prayers for the Armed Forces 150111Last week I was at Mass at the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Raleigh, North Carolina. A cathedral can always be counted on for a decent choir which can more than offset the sermon!
What I found really interesting was the inclusion in the parish newsletter of a request for prayers for the men and women of the parish serving in the Armed Forces. A very valuable lesson in civic responsibility – you may not like the war(s) but once your Commander in Chief has decided to get involved – then you are in it to win it and the whole community is involved.
Such civic collectivity was uplifting to say the least.


Heaven for Dogs

Margot 0407 110909 H&S aI was not surprised to see an article on the Pope’s supposed statement about dogs going to heaven on the front page of the New York Times.
I always thought that as dogs had a sense of humour they were created in God’s image and therefore worthy of a place in Heaven.
Apparently the Pope spoke his words to comfort a little boy whose dog had just died. The Italian press quoted the Pope as saying: “One day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures.”
Father James Martin, (Jesuit priest, writer and Culture Editor of the Jesuit magazine America) seemed unconcerned with the reality of what the Pope said, and took the opportunity to understand the statement as saying that the Pope’s statement means that “God loves and Christ redeems all of creation.” Therefore, according to Fr. Martin, “He said paradise is open to all creatures. That sounds pretty clear to me.”
Not to be outdone, the New York Times quoted the Professor of Religion & Environmental Studies at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas and “an expert on the history of dog-human interaction”, as saying that she believed that there would be a backlash from religious conservatives, but that it would take time.
“The Catholic Church has never been clear on this question; it’s all over the place, because it begs so many other questions,” she said. “Where do mosquitoes go, for God’s sake?”
As another response, animal rights activists are heralding the advent of a “vegan world”.
All very good issues, no doubt. But dogs display loyalties which are not always present in other animals, dogs feature in a significant supporting role in the Book of Tobias and dogs deserve their place in Heaven.
It’s good to know that Pope Francis and myself are thinking as one.
What more can one say?
For more discussion please see Father Richard Gennaro Cipolla

The Great London Dock Strike

Courtesy of Catholic Westminster Last Sunday I attended Mass at St. Mary & St Michael’s Catholic church in Tower Hamlets. No ordinary Mass, however, this was celebrated by Cardinal Vincent Nichols and was a Thanksgiving Mass for Cardinal Manning in commemoration of the 125th Anniversary of the settlement of the Great London Dock Strike. Manning was a key player on resolving the Dock Strike as the following from Ben Tillett’s Memories and Reflections (1931) indicates “From the first the Cardinal showed himself to be the dockers’ friend, though he had family connections in the shipping interests, represented on the other side. Our demands were too reasonable, too moderate, to be set aside by an intelligence so fine, a spirit so lofty, as that which animated the frail, tall figure with its saintly, emaciated face and the strangely compelling eyes. I could not withstand this gentle old man, who touched so tenderly the heart-strings of his hearers with solemn talk about the sufferings of wives and children, or impress him with a summary of social needs and economic complexities multiplying in the prolongation of the Strike. I never look back on that meeting without a sense of nightmare, but there was a final judgment and the Cardinal won”.
Manning’s contribution to Catholic Social Action went on to inform Pope Leo XIII’s first social encyclical Rerum Novarum (New Things). Today such attitudes inform the campaign for paying people a Living Wage instead of the Minimum Wage. As might be expected from a visit by the Westminster Team the homily was spot on the button, very well delivered and engaging with the congregation. At the end of Mass, Cardinal Nichols took his place by the door of the church and like any other Parish Priest greeted people and exchanged kind words.

Hadleigh Open Gardens

Hadleigh Open Gardens 2014The Friends of St. Mary’s are the fund raising arm of The St. Mary’s Hadleigh Church Trust – a charity formed to assist with the benefit and upkeep of the Church building and its surroundings.
Today they hosted the second Hadleigh Open Gardens Day – sixteen gardens were open to the public throughout Hadleigh. We opened our garden last year but this year we stood back and put our focus elsewhere. I had in any case seen some of the gardens as I delivered the “garden pack” to a few exhibitors.
s Lunches (an innovation this s Lunch as well as taking the money.
The food department served over fifty meals, so despite the poor weather and competition from the World Cup, Wimbledon and the Rugby Club Beer Festival I think they did quite well. The event attracts people from outside Hadleigh and last year we even had visitors from Texas. Elsewhere in the Church were the home made cake and plants stalls.
Next week the Deanery are holding the fundraising event Stand Up for Chairs. This is focused on raising funds to purchase the chairs which are to replace the pews. Over thirty thousand pounds has been raised so far but more is required.
The Church currently has a selection of chairs on display and you have the opportunity to vote for your preferences.
So turn up on Saturday and if you can’t find as excuse to spend money on the stalls then just donate it!
I look forward to seeing you there.


Genesis 18 b (2)Yesterday’s first reading at Mass was from Genesis and dealt with the visit to Abraham by Yahweh and two companions (minders?). Abraham plays the part of the unreformed man, calling for his wife Sarah to make loaves from three bushels of flour (that’s a lot of bread, unless bushels were a lot smaller in those days), the servant has to kill and prepare the calf and when all is ready Abraham serves everything to his guests. The reading ends with “Then his guest said, ‘I shall come back to you next year, and then your wife Sarah will have a son.’”
But Genesis continues with:
“Sarah was listening at the entrance of the tent behind him. So Sarah laughed to herself, thinking, ‘Now that I am past the age of childbearing, and my husband is an old man, is pleasure to come my way again?’ But Yahweh asked Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh and say, “Am I really going to have a child now that I am old?” Nothing is impossible for Yahweh. I shall come back to you at the same time next year and Sarah will have a son.’  Sarah said, ‘I did not laugh,’ lying because she was afraid. But he replied, ‘Oh yes, you did laugh.’ “
Paul Johnson in his book “Humorists” describes this episode as the first joke in the Bible and points out that it is also a smutty one (is pleasure to come my way again?).