Thursday, 30 October 2008

Three Cheers for BT: hip,hip; hip,hip; hip,hip; ......

Hello friends and fellow mariners of the Pro Papa League armada!

Disaster, disaster! Owing to fierce storms and lightning last week, we have been without the Internet since last Saturday. I have been as it were, lost at sea, confused and desolate, with no sight nor sound of fellow mariners. But now what joy, all is well! Three cheers for BT (British Telecom)! The Internet is back, and here I am bashing away (yes I have to confess that I am a keyboard basher!), desperate to renew contact with the fleet!

Recently I came across a rather delightful poem written by my favourite poet, John Betjeman, entitled 'Diary of a Church Mouse', and I can think of nothing better to cheer myself and I hope others, than to share this little gem with you. Interestingly the poet has included the following prefix - 'Lines, written to order on a set subject, to be spoken on the wireless'.

Diary of a Church Mouse

Here among long-discarded cassocks,
Damp stools, and half-split open hassocks,
Here where the Vicar never looks
I nibble through old service books.
Lean and alone I spend my days
Behind this Church of England baize.
I share my dark forgotten room
With two oil-lamps and half a broom.
The cleaner never bothers me,
So here I eat my frugal tea.
My bread is sawdust mixed with straw;
My jam is polish for the floor.
Christmas and Easter may be feasts
For congregations and for priests,
And so may Whitsun. All the same,
They do not fill my meagre frame.
For me the only feast at all
Is Autumn's Harvest Festival,
When I can satisfy my want
With ears of corn around the font.
I climb the eagle's brazen head
To burrow through a loaf of bread.
I scramble up the pulpit stair
And gnaw the marrows hanging there.
It is enjoyable to taste
These items ere they go to waste,
But how annoying when one finds
That other mice with pagan minds
Come into Church my food to share
Who have no proper business there.
Two field mice who have no desire
To be baptized, invade the choir.
A large and most unfriendly rat
Comes in to see what we are at.
He says he thinks there is no God
And yet he's rather odd.
This year he stole a sheaf of wheat
(It screened our special preacher's seat),
And prosperous mice from fields away
Come in to hear the organ play,
And under cover of its notes
Ate through the altar's sheaf of oats.
A Low Church mouse, who thinks that I
Am too papistical, and High,
Yet somehow doesn't think it wrong
To munch through Harvest Evensong,
While I, who starve the whole year through,
Must share my food with rodents who
Except at this time of year
Not once inside the Church appear.
Within the human world I know
Such goings-on could not be so,
For human beings only do
What their religion tells them to.
They read the Bible every day
And always, night and morning, pray,
And just like me, the good church mouse,
Worship each week in God's own house.
But all the same it's strange to me
How very full the church can be
With people I don't see at all
Except at Harvest Festival.

John Betjeman


Two extracts from 'Thoughts from St Alphonsus' for November, the month of 'All Saints' and the 'Holy Souls'.

"In heaven you have all you can desire. There everything is new: new beauties, new delights, new joys. The sight shall be satiated with beholding the beauty of that city. The hearing shall be satiated with the harmony of the heavenly choir. How delightful must it be to hear the saints and angels singing the Divine Praises!" (November 11th)


"Of all the pains endured by the holy souls, the greatest is caused by their being at a distance from their Spouse, and by their privation of the sight of Him." (November 10th)

'Our Lady Queen of Heaven, pray for us, and guide and protect our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVIth'

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Father William Doyle S.J. (1873-1917)

Good day friends of the Pro Papa League.

We have recently received the latest edition of ‘Catholic’ published by the F.SS.R Transalpine Redemptorists, Golgotha Monastery, Papa Stronsay. This is the first edition published since the reconciliation with Rome, and it maintains the high standards that we have come to expect over the years. There is an excellent editorial by Fr Michael Mary FSSR, Superior General, together with the usual wide range of learned and interesting articles, Church news past and present, announcements, photographs, quiz, etc. I fully recommend this publication, which maintains its traditional Catholic ethos, to those who have not yet subscribed. Each edition of ‘Catholic’ includes a book of specifically Catholic interest, abridged and reprinted in soft-back format, produced by ‘The Desert Will Flower’ Press. The latest book is ‘Trench Priest, The Life of Fr William Doyle, S.J.’ This is the abridged biography of an Irish Jesuit priest who died in 1917, aged 44 years, nr Ypres, on the battlefields of Belgium, whilst serving as Chaplain to several Irish regiments. This book vividly brings to life the selfless devotion and courage shown by Fr Doyle in the terrible blood-bath and horror of the Western Front, an account of heroic faith and true charity which genuinely brought tears to my eyes. The deep faith, trust in God, selfless love for others of whatever creed, courage, and devotion to duty, exhibited by Fr Doyle in all circumstances, shines like a beacon in the darkness of hell. It is only possible to include here a few extracts from this absorbing book, but it is appropriate to do so, particularly as we will soon be in November, the month of ‘All Saints’ and the ‘Holy Souls’, and I have absolutely no doubt that ‘Fr William Doyle S.J.’ is inscribed on the Roll of Honour for both.

‘All through the worst hours an Irish Padre went about among the dead and dying, giving Absolution to his boys. Once he came back to headquarters, but he would not take a bite of food or stay, though his friends urged him. He went back to the field to minister to those who were glad to see him, bending over them in their last agony. Four men were killed by shell-fire as he knelt beside them, and he was not touched – not touched until his own turn came. A shell burst close by, and the Padre fell dead’ ( Philip Gibbs, in the Daily Chronicle and Daily Telegraph)

‘The Orangemen will not forget a certain Roman Catholic chaplain who lies in a soldier’s grave in that sinister plain beyond Ypres. He went forward and back over the battlefield with bullets whining about him, seeking out the dying and kneeling in the mud beside them to give them Absolution, walking with death with a smile on his face , watched by his men with reverence and a kind of awe until a shell burst near him and he was killed. His familiar figure was seen and welcomed by hundreds of Irishmen who lay in that bloody place. Each time he came back across the field he was begged to remain in comparative safety. Smilingly he shook his head and went again into the storm. He had been with his boys at Ginchy and through other times of stress, and he would not desert them in their agony. They remember him as a saint – they speak his name with tears’ (Percival Phillips, in the Daily Express and Morning Post)

‘Fr Doyle felt fear deeply. He had a highly- strung nervous system and a vivid imagination that visualised danger fully, and realised the risk before him – all the physical elements of cowardice were his. He went out to perils, not at the word of command that meant death to disobey, not with the lust of battle surging in his veins and sweeping him along with a primitive savage longing to kill, not in the company of cheering, sustaining comrades. Fr Doyle had no word of command but his conscience and his sense of duty. He had no violent emotions to blind him to danger. Usually he had no comrade to bear him company save grim Death, who walked very close to him at times. It may sound a paradox, but it is perfect truth: Fr Doyle was the biggest coward in the 16th Division, and the bravest man in the British Army! An even more striking description was given by one of his men,, who declared emphatically that Fr Doyle was ‘the bravest man in the war’. (A Colonel who knew him intimately)

Fr Doyle was awarded the Military Cross at the battle of the Somme,, recommended for the D.S.O. at Wytschaete, and the Victoria Cross at Frezenberg. Though recommended for the VC by his Commanding Officer, by his Brigadier, and by General Hickie, commander of 16th Division, ‘superior authority’ did not agree. Possibly the fact that he was an Irish Roman Catholic priest influenced the decision of those ‘superior authorities’? Beyond the tributes of this world, numerous favours and cures have been attributed to his intercession, and to the use of his relics. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. To order please use the ‘Transalpine Redemptorist’ link on my sidebar which will take you straight to their blogsite.


More from ‘Thoughts from St Alphonsus’ by Rev C McNeiry CSSR

‘Humiliation is the touchstone of sanctity. You will acquire
more merit by meekly receiving an affront, than by fasting ten
days on bread and water.’ (October 24th)


‘Ecclesiasticus says that her bonds are a healthful binding,
and that in the latter end thou shalt find rest in her. You will
be indeed fortunate if at death you are bound with the sweet
chains of the love of the Mother of God. These chains are chains
of salvation.’ (November 17th)

All ye holy angels and saints, guide and protect our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVIth
O Holy Mother of Christ, pray for our Holy Father and for us thy children.


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.