Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Papal Postcards from Great-Aunt Bella

Good day to all supporters and followers of the Pro Papa League.

Whilst contemplating the possible subject of this post, I decided to rummage through my bookshelves in the hope of some inspiration, and came across an old photograph album, complete with photographs, which was given to me some 55 years ago, by my great Aunt Bella. She gave it to me not long before she died, asking me to take care of it, and she also gave me a small picture of the Sacred Heart which I have to this day, suitably reframed and now hanging on a bedroom wall. I was about 15 or 16 years old at the time.

Miss Isabella Crabb, or, as she was known to me, Auntie Bella, never married and spent the greater part of her life employed as priest's housekeeper. At one time she was housekeeper to Bishop Cahill, of Portsmouth. When she eventually retired, she moved to Goring on Sea, Sussex, to live with her sister, my great Aunt Maggie. I remember as a boy visiting and staying with them, and being taught by my great Uncle Harry (Auntie Maggie's husband) how to play draughts, and possibly even chess. Uncle Harry was an intrepid walker, and I remember walking with him to 'Chanctonbury Ring', a relatively small area of woodland situated on the South Downs more than 750 ft above sea level, in which can be seen the remains of an Iron Age fortification, and where over many years, numerous artefacts, including Roman coins and items of pottery, have been found. Auntie Bella, Auntie Maggie, and Uncle Harry must have been in their late seventies, and of course all are now dead. Throughout her life Auntie Bella collected postcards of cathedrals, churches and other religious places, people (usually religious) and religious events, many of which she kept in a photograph album which she finally gave to me. Remembering that these postcard/ photographs were taken more than 100 years ago, they represent the Church on a different world stage to that which exists today. I think it true to say that at that time the Church in this country was growing rapidly, with new dioceses being established, new churches being built, new religious establishments being set up throughout the country, new schools, and this in spite of considerable prejudice, real poverty, and many other obstacles. Among the photographs in Auntie Bella's album, are four which all merit inclusion in this post. The first you will probably recognise as Pope Leo XIIIth (1878 - 1903); the next, Pope St Pius Xth (1903 - 1914) - inscribed His Holiness Pope Pius X in the Gardens of the Vatican, and in script on the reverse, a few hand-written lines with a date Dec 1906, and addressed to Miss Isabella Crabb, The Bishop's House, Portsmouth; then Pope Benedict XVth (1914 - 1922) - inscribed His Holiness Pope Benedict XV. The final photograph could almost be part of the 'Pro Papa League' armada, but actually in this context, it isn't. But it is a ship with spiritual connotations, for it is inscribed on the front, 'The "Duchess of Edinburgh" crossing to the Isle of Wight with the cortege of the Bishop of Portsmouth, D.B.Cahill'. Bishop Cahill died in 1910 and there are several additional photographs of the funeral procession in the album.

Bishop Cahill of Portsmouth RIP (1910)


Two readings from 'Thoughts from St Alphonsus' for month of October

"If we are in affliction, let us invoke Jesus, and He will console us. If we are tempted, let us invoke Jesus, and He will give us strength to withstand all our enemies. If we are in aridity, and are cold in divine love, let us invoke Jesus, and He will inflame our hearts" (October 6th)


"Often during the day make acts of love for Jesus Christ, beginning from the time you wake in the morning, and trying to make an act of love as you fall asleep. Acts of love, says St Teresa, are the fuel with which the fire of divine love is kept burning in our hearts" (October 13th)

God bless our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVIth, and protect him from all evil.

Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, pray for him.


Jane said...


Thank you for sharing these pieces of history handed down through your Aunt. And thank you as always for the contribution of St.Alphonsus.

The spiritual bouquet for Pope Benedict went off as planned and full text of email in on 'Thoughts from an Oasis....' I'm starting the November one today. Any contributions will be gratefully received.

God bless,

In Christo pro Papa,


Confiteor said...


Thank you for this lovely post. Very uplifting!

The second quotation from St. Alphonsus is well timed, in view of my latest post on the Flagship. :-)

God bless!

Prima said...


Thank you for the postcards. They are beautiful. I collect postcards of Pius XI, but I have a few of Benedict XV.

Best wishes,

Prima (Pro Papa USA)

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