Monday 28 January 2008


Over here at bara brith, we are able to take an almost personal interest in all visitors as you are so few. A blogging hamlet. I am perfectly happy with that and have no wish to be a big blog.

So I am pleased to say that I've had a few visits from Warsaw today, so, 'welcome.'

Lots of Poles in the UK just now of course and I look forward to going to Mass at Westminster Cathedral next Wed for Ash Wednesday. Last year (as every year I am sure,) the Cathedral was packed and many people looked young and East European. It seemed on leaving that everyone in Victoria Street had a cross on their foreheads. 'This is what it must be like in a Catholic country,' thought I.

Wednesday 23 January 2008


Thanks Mac.

1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
In my ruck sack
Arise from Darkness by Fr Benedict J Groeschel, C.F.R.

(I was thinking his name was pronounced GRERschel in a kinda German umlauty way til I heard him on EWTN and found that he is GroeSHELLE. Touch of the Zee/Zed situation.)

2. Open the book to page 123.

yup, opening.

3. Find the fifth sentence.


4. Post the next three sentences.

Here in this world, we poor men who are called priests stand in for him according to his command.

(New Paragraph)

Make up your mind to use death as we are suposed to. It can lift our eyes to eternity.

FrG; even disjointed sentences are good stuff.
It's an excellent book, puts everything into perspective and then concludes that if everything has gone wrong, try to find someone else to help and don't sink into feeling sorry for yourself. Then it ends with lots of scriptural quotes and prayers. Oodles of great anecdotes (of which I am most fond,)and straight talking, but I'm sure you know his style better than me.

5. Tag five people.

Not great at this mainly because, by the time I get tagged everyone else already has been and I don't like creating work for people, but hey this isn't as long as the Christmas one (just finished it, what will Lent bring, one asks faintingly?) so if you want to be tagged (2008 a bit meme deficient thus far perhaps?) open that book at page 123 and let me know.

Sunday 20 January 2008

Extreme Pilgrim

I watched the programme on BBC2 on Thursday, despite the slating it had in The Times TV Guide. I decided that St Anthony's Monastery and a hermit was well worth seeing and I could choose to screen out the vicar bloke if he got too tedious. I didn't watch the other two programmes because I'm not interested in other religions to that extent.

As it turned out the I just felt sorry for the vicar as he was in a mess and admiration because he did stick it out for three weeks. It certainly proved that you could live somewhere very beautiful and be deeply unhappy and then live up a mountain on your own and actually get somewhere. (Aided by the offices he was saying six times a day and the help of the resident hermit.) He had a beautiful garden in Sussex. (I was imagining orchards, cottage gardens, rows of veg... Think of the dinners you could cook with the produce, but I digress.) He was separated from his wife and children and that was obviously a great sadness.

Fr Lazarus, the hermit, was of the shining with holiness variety of person - wow. He also spoke highly educated English, was very light hearted and physically very strong as well as having a perchant for coffee.

The bedouin who took aforementioned English man to the monastery were also very impressive and into camels in a big way. Two humps being the thing apparently.

I wanted to see St Anthony's Monastery because one year I happened to go to Mass at Westminster Cathedral on his Feast Day. No special reason, just randomly there. I was early, so thought I'd catch the end of Vespers. Instead, it being Christian Unity Ocatave, it was the Choir and clergy of St Paul's Cathedral and I was surprised to see a woman 'priest,' who kept going on about woman. This I found rude and then they left the tremulant on the organ so it was like having a helicopter in the place. We ordinary folk sat in silence waiting for the Mass to start. Resigned politeness.

After all of the fuss and noise of what had gone before a very elderly, frail and small priest appeared, tiny in the huge building. The Gospel I seem to remember was the rich young man asking Jesus what he had to do to inherit eternal life. The Priest said that that was what St Anthony had heard and responded to, which for some reason really struck me, that what I was hearing was just what he had, only he actually went and acted on it big time.

James MacMillan

The composer, has an article in The Catholic Herald this week that has already been commented on by Fr Z and Fr Ray (who has a rather younger photo of him. That's what he looked like when I was a student. ) I like the way he thinks Fr Z is not that scholarly and analytical. Erm?

I like his music quite a lot and by some strange fluke recorded the premiere of The Confession of Isobel Gowdie from the R3 relay of the Proms in 88. Back in my happy teeneage 'tape it off the radio years.' I got most of the Shostakovich symphonies that way.

Anyway, MacMillan is now a very big name composer in the UK and writes good stuff, including a Mass in 2000 for Westminster Cathedral, which I went to on Corpus Christi. (Remember when it was on a Thursday.)

I also like him because he did a PhD at Durham with my tutor John Casken. Alas he left the year before I arrived, but he did come back whilst I was there. Didn't speak to him, too shy, but I did used to wonder if he went to Mass at St Cuthbert's.

Schubert Lieder

We took the A2 students to the Barbican on Monday to hear a Lieder Recital. (Tough eh?)It was so good I swear the guys were playing the dreaded Schumann Piano quartet better the next day. That and the two hours of slog we put in earlier on the Monday.

There was one moment when antiphonal coughing (Venetian style, pity the Gabrielis never got with it really,) across the auditorium threatened to obliterate the music. New colleague turned to me in amazement at one point. Then we reached the final cadence and in the moment just before the pianist lifted his right foot off the pedal and we heard the dampers make contact with the strings, an almighty cough. At this point the baritone suggested politely that the audience saved its coughing until the end of the music and we all applauded. Having a cough is not fun, but these were not stifled ones. It really did sound like a coughing contest, or a new form of signalling. I once walked out of a piano recital, taking my cough with me. I was nearly choking, as it goes and no end of cough sweets did any good.

Viva il Papa!

Having followed Fr Tim's e mail link and sent my support for the Holy Father yesterday, I popped over to Fr Ray's blog, because he always has photos of Papal appearances so quickly. Does he have a Rome correspondant?
I broke my no clock watching at Mass or in concerts rule to see when it was 11am and therefore noon in Rome and lit a candle for him on the way out. Can't be too careful in these nasty times.

Anyway, blatantly borrowed from Fr Ray, a few people in Rome at lunch-time. No news on the BBC, how strange... Pages of hostile comments on their website, sadly. This about a man who, as he said today, has spent much of his life in a university and has a natural sympathy with students. Oh yes and he's rather clever too.

Saturday 12 January 2008

Early Lent

The ever instructive Fr Z, has a post on his blog about thinking how you are going to observe Lent. Lots of ideas in the comments.

My New Year's resolution was to read good stuff on the train to and from work. That's an hour a day of potential reading time, so quite a luxury, not to be wasted on stupid free sheets. I'm also listening to the radio news less, hence my surprise at lunch time. where did that come from?

So far I've gone back to my Bede book and read one by Fr Benedict Groeschel. Bede is full of freshness, enthusiasm and energy. He mentions the new translation of the Bible by St Jerome. Fr G, meantime is very direct and points out all the nonsense of this world with lots of quotes from the Saints and anecdotes, of which I am very fond.

Have to get some good stuff lined up, lest I be tempted to read the doomladen rag called Metro. The Fr G book was so good, that I read it very quickly, so any suggestions for lengthy tomes that don't weigh too much, gratefully received.


I visited a friend of mine on New Year's Day and was talking about the destruction of the Reformation Period in this country - as y' do - and mentioned having heard the above term in use and she has now adopted it enthusiastically!

Strange Headlines

BBC Radio news ran a story this lunch-time that Catholic parents wanting to get their children into popular schools are to blame for the rise in baptisms of children over the age of one.

'Blame' seems an odd word to choose. Is it a terrible problem? A new social scourge?

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the situation, I'm not sure what it's got to do with the BBC.