If you are able to help by making a
donation, please contact Claire Peters, our Parish Secretary on 01297 32135 or
send a cheque made payable to the account below. Please include your name
‘PRCDTR St Michael & St George
Sort code: 56-00-63
Account number: 46900322
Please remember the prefix ‘PRCDTR’
and the office address is: The Parish Office, The Priests House, St Mary’s
Church, Lyme Road, Axminster, EX13 5BE
Our community very much appreciates
your support in helping to restore our much loved church in Lyme Regis with its
attendant general history.
Please note: Funds raised by this
appeal will create a ‘restricted fund’, and will be accounted for as such. If
for some good reason the appeal project cannot be completed or if a surplus
arises, the remaining funds will be used for general charitable purposes for
Our Church in Lyme Regis is part of
the RC Parish of The Most Holy Trinity and part of the PRCDTR registered
charity number 213227
RESTORATION OF ST. MICHAEL & ST. GEORGE RC CHURCH,
22nd October 2020
We have some good news!
Having made an application to Historic England for a grant
of over £250,000 to complete all the work required to the Church, Bell Tower
& Presbytery, the Parish has been successful in receiving funding of
£140,800. This, with the other grants
received and our own fundraising will enable the EXTERIOR work on the Church to
Fr. Anthony has instructed our appointed specialists, Philip
Hughes & Associates, to proceed to draw up the detailed Specifications and
Tender documents so that the work can go out to tender without delay. It is a condition imposed by HE that the work
be completed by 31st March 2021 so there is an extremely tight
Actual costs will be confirmed in the quotations received from the contractors but on the assessed costs, the figures come out as follows (£):
Cost of Exterior works including professional fees
Grants and Fundraising
The actual cost will be calculated when we receive the
responses to the Tender documents, probably around the end of November but the
work on the EXTERIOR will use up all the funds we have raised and currently
held in the Lyme Regis Church Restoration account.
Therefore, the bad news is that the INTERIOR still has to be restored and it has been decided this should be undertaken as Stage 2 in Spring 2021, subject to raising sufficient funds. The assessed costs of the interior works, which involve investigation & repair to cracking in the plasterwork, remedial work on damp in the Lady Chapel & Sanctuary as well as redecoration of walls, ceiling & woodwork, is as follows (£):-
Cost of works & professional fees 57.544
VAT 11,509 (probably not all recoverable)
We are applying for further grants towards these costs but
we do need to continue our fundraising firstly, to cover the assessed shortfall
of £13,278 on the EXTERIOR work and
secondly, to raise as much as we can over the next six months, towards the
INTERIOR work. Our original target for
ALL the work was £50,000 and we have raised just over £30,000 to date, so our
target must now be to raise the balance of £20,000 by the end of March 2021.
To this end, the Parish Social Committee will be arranging a
Christmas Draw and you will be contacted shortly with a request to buy tickets;
please be as generous as you can in these hard times as all profits will go to
the Restoration Fund. Further events
will be arranged in the New Year so far as any restrictions will allow.
If you would like to make a donation to support the Appeal,
please contact Claire Peters in the Parish Office on 01297 32135 or email email@example.com
Well done and thanks to everyone for your efforts to date,
which has shown a good result!
A BRIEF HISTORY OFST MICHAEL & ST GEORGE CATHOLIC CHURCH
It all started with £100….
In the 1830s Lyme Regis was a fashionable resort (as it is now!) and its Catholic families met for Mass in some of the larger houses, such as Coram Court in Pound Street, where Monique Bellingham lived. She was widowed and had five daughters and a son, who died while serving in the Army in India. After his death, she found £100 in his desk (worth about £13,000 now) and decided to use it to start a project to build a Catholic church in Lyme, which would have been illegal only a few years earlier, before the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829. The scheme was enthusiastically supported by the new Catholic parish priest at Axminster, Father Charles Fisher, who bought a plot of land at Silver Street for £275 in 1835, and commissioned a leading architect from Bath, Edmund Goodridge, to design a magnificent church – in which he is now buried.
The church is Neo-Gothic, influenced by Salisbury Cathedral
(particularly the roof vaults), and the original design included an elegantly
tall and thin octagonal spire. This was a new challenge for the builders of
Lyme, so a less ambitious tower was eventually built in 1855 and this had to be
rebuilt in 1936, after it was badly damaged in a storm. Sadly the bell it
houses needs repairs which we cannot yet afford.
The first mass was said here on 27th August 1837 – just 2
years after the foundation stone was laid on St George’s Day (23rd
April) 1835. A fitting day because the patron saints of the church are St
Michael and St George, who are depicted on the seal of Lyme’s royal charter of
1284… and in stained glass above the altar.
Another saint is associated with this church because within the High
Altar (designed by George Goldie) lies a relic of St Francis Xavier. He was a
16th Century Jesuit priest who brought Christianity to many parts of
India, Malaya and Japan. The altar was moved forward in 1972, to allow the
priest to face the people during Mass. The Gothic stone reredos and arcading on
the altar were originally painted and gilded, which were lost as the stone
decayed. There is also a fine neo-Norman octagonal baptismal font at the foot
of the Sanctuary.
Overlooking the Sanctuary on the right is a gallery which connects to
the priest’s home (Presbytery), which is beside the church. This was designed
by Edward Welby Pugin, another famous Neo-Gothic architect who designed over
100 Catholic churches. It was built in 1839, followed soon after by the old
School building behind the church, which originally had three storeys and
provided education by nuns for a century…until it fell into disrepair. In 1993
it was restored as a parish social room.
The Lady Chapel
The Lady Chapel with its two lovely windows of the Annunciation and two
others of St. Cecilia and St. Monica was built in 1851, the gift of Burnard
Farnell in memory of his wife who was one of Mrs. Bellingham’s daughters. The
Lady Chapel contains a family vault where Mrs. Bellingham and her daughters are
buried. The Lady Chapel also has plaques
to the memory of parishioners who fell in the Two World Wars, and one
commemorating Admiral Sir John Talbot GCB, who lived nearby at Rhode Hill,
Uplyme. He and his wife Juliana (nee Arundell) were generous benefactors of the
Church and are both buried under the aisle below the Sanctuary, with their son
Reginald being buried in a grave to the South of the door to the Church.
The Stations of the Cross
The Stations of the Cross were also installed in 1851, and are made of
unusual papier mache in bas-relief.
The Stained Glass Windows
The stained glass windows over the High Altar were donated by Mrs Ann
Wray in 1883, a convert to Catholicism. The centre light is a figure of “Mary
Immaculate” and in a small medallion below is St. John on the island of
Patmos. Below the side lights depicting
St. Michael and St. George are scenes of the Visitation and Nativity. These
windows are the work of Westlake, Lavers & Co. of London. Ann Wray is buried in a grave to the North of
the path leading to the main door of the Church.
The current two-manual and pedalled organ has a wonderful tone, which is
heard every Sunday morning. The original organ had to be replaced in 1978. It had been donated in 1909 by Alban
Woodroffe, who was Mayor of Lyme and started the Woodroffe School, and was a
stalwart of the parish.
Salt and Wind
With its exposed position above the town, and the sea air and strong
winds, the Church buildings require frequent maintenance and re-rendering. Because the church and presbytery are Grade
II* Listed buildings, no work can be done without the approval of the Historic
Churches Committee and supervision of heritage architects, ensuring that
historic materials and standards are maintained… which makes maintenance very
The last major restoration was carried out in 1990-91. This was led by
General Sir David Mostyn KCB, CBE, who lies buried in a grave with his wife
Diana, outside the Church. He was Admiral Talbot’s great great grandson, and
Alban Woodroffe’s great nephew.
Further restoration of this beautiful and historic church is already overdue, particularly to the exterior, roof and guttering, which are fast deteriorating. Grants are being sought from national organisations and charities, but the proportion of the funds that this small parish must still find is substantial – about the equivalent of £500 in 1835!
Catholic Lyme seems to have begun in
about 770 AD when the West Saxons were converted to Christianity – which of
course was Catholicism. According to the earliest history of Lyme that I have
found (G Roberts 1823), the town was probably used as a harbour and supply
station by the Romans, and more recent archaeology supports this. But its name and prominence dates from 774 AD
when Cynewulf, King of the West Saxons, gave to the Abbey of Sherborne a plot
of land on the west side of the river Lym where it meets the sea, to make
salt. Salt was vital for preserving
food, and the sea at Lyme is particularly saline. So the Saxons boiled sea-water in pans there
and sent it inland to Sherborne, which explains why Sherborne Lane in Lyme is
The Domesday book records 27 salt-workers, fishermen and small-holders at Lyme, and the original Catholic church of Lyme, on the east side of the river, had apparently been in existence since Saxon times. The church was enlarged by the Normans in about 1120. In a Papal bull in 1145, Pope Eugenius III confirmed the grant of the Church at Lyme to the Abbey of Sherborne, who retained it until 1284. The church was dedicated to St Michael the Archangel in 1405, it is believed.
In 1284 the royal title of ‘Regis’ was
granted to Lyme by Edward I, partly perhaps because while fighting France he
sheltered his fleet in the newly built wooden harbour known as the Cobb, but also
possibly because the revenue from the town would go direct to the crown – Lyme
was by now an established trading port. The Royal charter given to Lyme was
witnessed by the (Catholic) Archbishop of Canterbury, 4 bishops, 3 earls and
Prince Edmund (brother to the King). It
granted considerable independence to Lyme, which only lost its status as a
borough in 1974. One of the privileges that came with the royal charter was
that Lyme had two members of Parliament, which it retained until 1832. The
royal seal of the charter had St Michael on one side of it (for Lyme’s patron
presumably), and St George (patron saint of England) on the other, which
probably explains why our new Catholic church in Lyme has these saints as its
In about 1295, a priory was established in Lyme for ‘White Friars’ of the order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, which paid rent of 15 shillings and 10 pennies to the King annually. This is said to be where Stiles House now stands, above Langmoor Gardens. By 1336 there was a hospital for lepers in Lyme, dedicated to St Mary and the Holy Spirit. We know this because in that year Pope Benedict XII granted indulgences to collect donations for its repair (now there is a fund-raising idea for the current church maintenance needs!).
The original church was improved again
by the Tudors in around 1506, and it contains a tapestry made in around 1500 recording
a royal wedding, probably of the future Henry VII. So Lyme’s loyalty to the
Crown was strong at this time, and it is not surprising that when Henry VIII
broke with Rome in 1534, the loyalty of Lyme to the crown was greater than to
the Pope. Less than 20 years later,
Henry’s daughter Mary became Queen and tried to re-establish English
Catholicism. But Lyme remained “that heretic town” in the words of Queen
Mary. After becoming increasingly
Puritan from around 1600, Lyme’s opposition to both the Church and the Crown
reached its height in the English Civil War when Lyme was Parliamentarian and
Protestant, and suffered a bitter and long siege in 1644, which it
survived. Lyme’s hostility to Crown and
Catholicism explains why the Duke of Monmouth landed there in 1685 in his
unsuccessful attempt to replace his uncle King James II, the last Catholic king
of England. Perhaps Lyme’s hostility to the King contributed to it seldom using
the ‘Regis’ part of its formal name until very recently. Jane Austen always
described it just as ‘Lyme’, and coastal town of Lyme in Connecticut (USA) was
named after it (Lyme’s Disease is so-named because it was first diagnosed in
that American town in 1975).
Lyme remained hostile to Catholicism
for most of the next 200 years. Which
makes it all the more remarkable that in 1835, only 6 years after the Catholic
Emancipation Act, work began on building the current Catholic Church in Lyme,
which is the oldest post-Emancipation Catholic church in this area. For most of the previous three centuries, the
few Catholics in and around Lyme sustained their faith by secretly attending
Mass in hiding and in safe houses. Apparently
the ruined chapel of St Gabriel’s on the west side of Golden Cap was one such
site. The most prominent centre of underground Catholicism was Chideock. Of the
360 men and women martyred for Catholicism in England between 1535 and 1681, 8
were from Chideock. Among them was
Father Hugh Green who was arrested in Lyme in 1642 and hanged, drawn and
quartered in Dorchester. He was beatified in 1929.
Even before Emancipation, Catholicism
was quietly tolerated, particularly amongst people who had influence. John
Knight had a Catholic chapel in Hilary House in Axminster from as early as
1763. His family funded the building in 1831 of the original St Mary’s Church
on the site of the current church built in 1862. Over time, and as Emancipation
became a future possibility after the loyal military service of Catholics in
the Napoleonic Wars, local Catholics became less secretive: my great, great,
great grandfather, Admiral Sir John Talbot, had a Catholic chapel in his house,
Rhode Hill, in Uplyme. He married
Juliana Arundell from Wardour in Wiltshire, which had been a Catholic
stronghold for centuries, and both are buried in the nave of our current Lyme
Before the current Lyme Catholic church
was built, mass was being said in the old Vicarage, owned by Edward Hebden,
just 75 yards south of the Catholic church, and at another site near the Cobb
harbour. Mass was also heard at Corum Court, about 100 yards west of the
current church, this being the home of Mrs Bellingham, who started the fund to
build the current church – using £100 she found in the desk of her dead son. She
and her daughter are buried in the Lady Chapel.
The foundation stone of our current Catholic church of St Michael and St George was laid on St George’s Day (23rd April) 1835 by Father Charles Fisher, who had been appointed to St Mary’s Axminster less than a year earlier, and whose tomb is in the church. The first mass here was said on 27th August 1837 by Father Joseph O’Dwyer, and in 1838 Father William Vaughan became our parish priest. He had the Presbytery designed by the renowned Catholic architect Welby Pugin, and built the church school, a three-storey building of which the remaining ground floor is now our parish room. He later became the second bishop of the Diocese of Plymouth. By 1851 it is recorded that mass in Lyme was regularly attended by 60-80 people.
The church school was run by an order
of nuns who arrived in 1890, the Servants of the Sacred Heart, and when they
moved on, they were replaced by a small community of the Holy Child. The last
order of nuns to run the school were the sisters of Christian Instruction, who
survived until the late 1960s, and one of our parishioners remembers being
taught by them.
Lyme has had three Catholic mayors:
John Talbot (grandson of the Admiral), Alban Woodroffe (John Talbot’s
brother-in-law) who was made a Papal Knight of St Gregory by Pope Pius XII, and
John Broderick who ran the Volunteer Inn and was a stalwart of our parish. Lyme
can be more proud of the 6 vocations to the priesthood from amongst its
parishioners (Bishop David Mathew, Canon Talbot, Monsignor Dewey, Monsignor
Mostyn, Canon Bethell and Dom Ralph Russell).
2002 “The Camino Santiago”. I was walking half of the ancient pilgrim route with a friend. The first day after registering at St Jean Pied de Port you are recommended to follow “Route de Napoleon”, a strenuous uphill walk of 15.6 miles with injury likely on the steep downhills to Roncesvalles. It is longest and most arduous route but most beautiful and spectacular. It was brutal and we were carrying 10 Kilos packs!
By Judith Burke
to “The Way of St James” to complete the 500 miles / 800 kms. We encountered
various conditions of peoples’ feet.
Pilgrims were nursing sore feet and my friend and I would often stop and
either gave advice or treat blisters. In
Santiago quite a number of pilgrims came up to us and thanked us for treating
them as they had completed their pilgrimage having often travelled from the
other side of the world.
army massage their feet with a smear of Vaseline. Should a blister occur, burst it, remove the
dead skin and immediately apply zinc oxide tape onto the raw area, within a
week – Voila new skin!
two days before Santiago we walked through forests of eucalyptus. That aroma
will always remind me of the Camino.
returned to the “Camino de Santiago” same French route – Camino de Frances but
on my own.
elderly men came out of a pub in a back street of a small town. On seeing me and without warning one started
to sing an “aria” accompanied on rudimentary instruments. It was incredibly beautiful, I was in tears
and even the tenor who managed to hit the high notes, shed a tear.
has become incredibly popular since the film “The Way”. It is very busy, full of litter and has lost
some of its reverence. I needed
space. I walked one night under a full
moon it was so bright I couldn’t see the “milky way”. I left behind the built up environment and
entered the relative wilderness of the Meseta, walking on earth tracks across
the peace and quiet of endless fields of crops.
Around the hills above Burgos, I was stunned by flashing lights, they happened
to be attached to the ends of turbine blades of windfarms!
At night I
heard the deafening sound of cicadas. I
passed through one village about midnight, the women were still sitting on
their doorsteps and a gentleman (the Mayor maybe) came towards me. I don’t speak Spanish so I mimed what I was
doing. He mimed back walk straight don’t
veer right or left and gave me the thumbs up.
told me about “Four of the World’s Loveliest Pilgrim Trails”, an alternative to
the Camino de Santiago. One is in Japan
“Kumano Ko” another “Mount Kailash Circuit” in Tibet, both a step too far.
third loveliest pilgrim trail which I walked alone in six days is the Tuscan
leg of “The Francigena” the main pilgrim route from Canterbury to Rome. It was empty!
having a picnic lunch surrounded by rolling hills topped with Cyprus and
Chianti vineyards when a tall lady in shorts with a dog stopped and said in
perfect English “Hello”. She continued
“I’m Russian and I am married to an Italian and have four children and I have
lived here since I was 20 years old”.
“Oh yes” I
said, stunned. I asked her what she did
in this “off the beaten place”. She said
she was an embroider; the reply was so unexpected my heart fluttered and she
continued that her greatest wish was to see the embroidery in the V and A in
London. I didn’t take her photo, dam!
2017 Finally, the fourth loveliest
pilgrim trail is “St Cuthbert’s Way in Northumberland from Melrose to
Lindisfarne. Walking across rich wild
landscapes, up high hills with “epic” views and wading in bare feet 2 miles
across the sand to Holy Island. The
route wasd quiet and the facilities were limited. However, one night my sister and I stayed in
a “Land Army Hostel”. We were allocated
Eileen Slater’s room; her photograph and biography were on the door. At the time it was very poignant.
Jo. – beloved mother, grandmother, sister, auntie and friend – was born in 1947 to Eddie & Mary, the 3rd of their children, sister to Brian, Rosemary, Kate and Clare. She spent the first couple of years of her life in Stanmore before the family moved to Southgate, where they would live until she left home many years later. She grew up close to a much larger extended family – aunts, uncles, cousins and her great aunts who had raised her own mother after she lost both her parents at a very young age. In many ways hers was a fairly typical suburban, post-war childhood, but even during her early years her qualities that were loved by so many – fun loving, determination, and a concern for the wellbeing of others – were there for all to see.
She spent her first holiday in Lyme in 1948 – the start of a lifelong love
for the town – and at the age of 5 started at Vita et Pax school where she was
one of 3 Josephines in the class, one of whom would become a lifelong friend.
Always bright, though by her own admission not necessarily the keenest to apply
herself, she was nevertheless made house captain in her final year, due in part
– so they say – to some enthusiastic lobbying of fellow classmates by her
A little later on she attended St Michael’s Grammar school until the age
of 16 when she went to work as a nursery nurse at Camden House children’s home
in Southgate, where she had already been volunteering in her spare time.
Countless children were lucky enough to be cared for by her during this time – she
still spoke very fondly of them decades later – and remained lifelong friends
with one of them – Victor – who had been in her care from a very young age.
In 1970 she gained a place on a Social Administration course at LSE,
where she met Roger, and they were married in 1972. Shortly afterwards they
both qualified from Newcastle University as social workers and their work took
them initially to Northamptonshire, then Bristol for 3 years during which her 2
eldest sons, Nathaniel and Jacob were born, before finally settling back in
Northamptonshire in 1979. In 1981 the family was complete when her youngest son
Sebastian arrived on a snowy day, Jo waving to her older sons through the
hospital window as they built a snowman for their new baby brother in the park
across the road.
As a mother she was the most loving of people who did everything she
could to set her children on the right path in life, never spoiling them but if
they really wanted something she’d always do her best to find a way for them to
work hard and earn whatever it was. She had a wonderful nurturing side – for
example recording herself reading bedtime stories so that she could still be
there at bedtime when she had to work late.
She was also the life and soul of the party as many friends and
relatives will tell you – her high kicking on the dancefloor, not to mention
her unique dress sense and infamous multi-coloured boots often leaving 3
mortified teenage boys!
Since she passed away many former work colleagues in the home finding
team at Northants County Council have paid tribute to her, all commenting on
what a pleasure she was to work with even if her infectious laugh did cause one
or two to complain anonymously on occasion! She was a great manager who led by example,
not to mention a loyal friend to her colleagues in times of need. The number of
lives she must have positively impacted during her time working in foster care
is immeasurable; one particular source of pride for her was the culmination of
years of hard work leading to her finding a family to adopt 4 sisters and
enable them to remain together through their childhood, a truly remarkable
After more than 25 years in Social Services the opportunity to leave the
world of work presented itself and she moved to Lyme Regis. Far from taking her
foot off the pedal however she soon settled in and began volunteering with vulnerable
adults at the Connect centre in Bridport, as well as the Gateway social club
that many of the same adults attended in the evening. She also set up the Lym
Zim Link charity with her sister Kate, due to their brother, Brian’s links with
Zimbabwe. For the first 7 years, mainly through selling their own crafts as
well as the monthly Lym Zim draw, they supported the Leonard Cheshire home, a
residential school for children with physical difficulties near Harare. Initially
they paid to equip the home’s bare physio room, but eventually they were able
to go even further and fund the construction of an entirely new residential
block, transforming the home into one of the best facilities in the country for
disabled children. The impact of this really can’t be understated – for some
children having access to these facilities really was the difference between
being able to walk independently or not; being able to return to live with
their families or remain away from them in a residential school.
Perhaps with a sense of ‘job done’ at Leonard Cheshire, the charity then
moved on to support girls at the Emerald Hill School for the Deaf, covering the
fees for impoverished children who might otherwise be unable to receive an
education. It also helped to improve the living conditions for deaf children at
the Pedro Arrupe Centre, a home for 25 children with hearing impairments in
rural Musami, paying to install water and electricity at the home and replace
the thatched roofs of various buildings. An amazing legacy & something to
make those who knew her feel immensely proud.
In her later years she was thrilled to become Granny to 7 grandchildren
– Daniel, Evie, Leo, Oliver, Louis, Grace and Benjy – and loved nothing more
than having them to stay for trips to the seaside here in Lyme, just like her
own children, and indeed herself, had enjoyed in days gone by.
Her 3 sons, as well as their wives and partners, recall with fondness
her help, advice and patience during some of those difficult moments that all
new parents face. Although her health prevented her from being as active with
them as she’d liked in the last couple of years, she nonetheless played the
role of Granny with typical love and enthusiasm, whether through Skype calls, homemade
cards and other treats that she loved posting to them, and watching their
joyful faces as they spent hours in her house discovering many of the same toys
that she’d enjoyed her own children playing with many years earlier.
Her life and the mark that she left on the world can best be summed up
in the words of her older brother, Fr. Brian Enright:
“Her life-long concern for
the marginalised, whether deprived children in North London and
Northamptonshire, or vulnerable adults in Lyme Regis, was truly
remarkable. She was a kind, generous and
loving person and her death leaves a huge gap in our lives.”
I think most married men here today, would agree that their wives are
very good at asking a question in such a way that whatever answer is given,
it’ll be wrong!
To be fair, I expect that ladies probably make the same kind of criticism
of their husbands, and maybe that’s why today’s gospel story leaves us all with
deep admiration for the way in which Jesus answered the trick question which
his enemies put to him.
When Jesus was living in Israel, there were two main powerful parties.
One group, the followers of King Herod, collaborated with the Roman
occupiers, and in return were allowed quite a bit of authority in everyday
But the other group, the Pharisees, were noted for their religious
purity, and had as little as possible to do with the Romans. Now, even though
each group thoroughly disliked the other, they realised that the teaching of
Jesus threatened them both.
So they joined forces and asked him a very tricky question.
If he answered that it was OK to pay taxes to Caesar, then he would lose
the hearts of the ordinary people who were following him. But if he said that
it was not OK, then he would have been arrested and tried for treason.
So, Jesus made a very clever answer. He said: “Give to Caesar, that which
is Caesar’s and give to God, that which is God’s.”
You see, a true Jew wouldn’t even carry a Roman coin stamped with the
image of an emperor who claimed to be divine. So, “Give to Caesar”
could be taken to mean that they should give this money back to the place from
which it came. Or, in other words “Romans, go home”, a good reply, which
didn’t open him to a charge of treason.
And the other half of his answer was just as clever.
“Give to God, that which belongs to God” surely means that
because human beings are made in the image of God , we all owe our very lives
to him and should give those lives back in service, just as one might give a
coin to Caesar.
And so, one short sentence, spoken by Jesus, did more than just show up
the hypocrisy of those who wanted to be rid of him. It also pointed out quite
clearly that the kingdom of God goes beyond the silly questions which crafty
people asked Jesus then, and which they continue to ask us today.
You see, we mustn’t let life be divided into two parts. A religious bit
and an everyday bit. But sadly, many Christians would be quite happy with this,
because they see the worship of God as a private affair, which is just the
concern of themselves and their little group. A group that doesn’t interfere
with anyone else and who, in turn wants to be left alone to worship God.
And there are also many politicians who want to be left alone to get on
with the business of government. They don’t want to interfere with religion and
they certainly don’t want the Church to start telling them what to do, thank
you very much.
You will know it’s very common to be called a “do-gooder” if you happen
to be a Christian, who tries to make your Christian principles influence everyday
life. Many people will tell you that you should concentrate on your religion
and leave the real world alone, to be run by those who can handle it, without
God getting in the way.
These people will often ask you trick questions, intended to trip you up
into saying something which they can use against you. For example, they’ll use
your answers to questions concerning sex and morality to try and show that the
church is hopelessly out of touch with ordinary folk who don’t have any
problems with sexual issues which as far as they’re concerned don’t do any
harm. Just try criticizing the legislation concerning same sex unions and
you’ll soon see what I mean.
And yet, the whole Christian tradition is against separating religion and
everyday life. Jews and Christians have always seen the entire world and
everything in it as created by God. All aspects of our world fall under his
control, and so it just isn’t possible to separate things out like this.
Once we start to separate religion from everyday life, we’re placing
ourselves on a very slippery slope indeed. Because it’s not much good
praying for the sick, the poor and the homeless if you aren’t prepared to back
up your prayers with action.
So, the answer which Jesus gave showed two sides of the same coin, if you
You can’t love God without loving your neighbour.
And if you love your neighbour, then actually, you’re very close to God.
If Sunday is for praying, what about the rest of the week?
I can remember, a long, long
time ago, when I dutifully went to Church with my parents with the idea that
this would set me up for the rest of the week. In those days praying apparently
involved kneeling beside your bed with your hands clasped together, this did
not come easily to me.
Then came school, the war,
air raid shelters and a closer look at what life was all about. I was also
lucky enough to have a headmaster who talked to his sixth form about the
historic theories about the existence of God. So, maybe, here the mustard seed
was planted, what it grew into is work in progress!!
Although I was bombed and
machine gunned whilst still a schoolboy, in a long military service, I never
had to fire a round at an enemy target. Furthermore, in a relatively short
time, we were standing with our previous enemies against a new huge threat. I was aware of the adage “you don’t find
atheists in foxholes” and of the horrors of the trench warfare and he
blitz; more serious thoughts came to mind.
At last, the penny began to
drop, you did not go to Church to be with God, He is with you every moment of
your life; if you do your best to follow his example of selfless love for all
things and accept whatever befalls you as His will, you can take whatever comes
and begin to know His peace.
Do not think that He is in
your pocket or o your back; you have to ask Him in to help you tackle whatever
it is concerning you. You do not have to get on your knees to ask for his help,
He probably knows what you need already, but you have to ask.
A bloke called Fenelon, of
whom I know nothing, writes
“If you are with God in
faith and love you are in prayer”
Nobody said it was easy.
– England’s Nazareth – a-a-h! That’s the place my late husband and I visited
several times during the 80s and 90s. We’d always stay for a couple of weeks
covering the Feast of the Assumption (August 15th). That day was
like no other. With bunting flying, a certain feeling descended on the place
with everyone looking forward to the finale which started late afternoon with a
short service at the parish church with its floor strewn with crushed lavender
– a heavenly fragrance to begin with – then a grand procession round the
village, stopping at various points for prayer and hymn singing, finishing in
the dark back in the church grounds for food and fireworks.
we would join the midday procession which walked the Holy Mile from the village
to the Slipper Chapel reciting the Rosary en-route. Other days we would go
visiting, and what great places to visit, such as The Lavender Farm at Heacham,
the worlds collection of theatre organs, Wurlitzers and steam engines at
Thursford, West-facing Hunstanton for its glorious seas, Houghton Hall, built for
Sir Robert Walpole, and where outside one would find heavy horses, ponies and
peacocks strutting the lawns and spacious park. The National Trust property at
Blickling Hall with its fabulous Long Gallery; Holkham Hall, built in the
Palladian Style ad home of the Earl of Leicester and containing Gainsborough,
Rubend, Van Dyck and others: West Runton for its Shire Horse collection and
churches too numerous to mention but mostly all steeped in pre-reformation
history. I could go on but last of all I must mention the coastal town of
Blakeney where we visited its Seal Island, where I bought a very expensive
dress in a very posh shop and where I leaned that Baroness Orczy got the
inspiration for the surname for her “damned elusive pimpernel”.
Walsingham and its Holy Shrine; sadly, during the time we were going there, the
golden crown from Our Lady’s statue was stolen and a plea went out to members
of the Walsingham Association to donate any old pieces of jewellery they might
be prepared to part with. These could then be sold on to help pay for the
replacement. I remember having quite a large silver snuff box and stuffing it
with a gold bracelet, a chain and a few other odd pieces and sending it in.
our weekly newsletter here at Seaton when I read in church that Our Lady’s
Statue was coming to Plymouth Cathedral as part of her Dowry Tour I immediately
thought I must go! I spun around in my pew to tell the person behind me – and
that turned out to be a newcomer to our church – Paul Bennett. I really gave
him an earful, telling him all about the crown, my connection with it, as much
as I could about Walsingham and my need to get to Plymouth and the dear man
promised to get me there if all else failed. A notice appeared at the back of
church for names to go by coach. We put our names on it, but no-one else did.
Father Anthony then told us to contact Joe Harrison for he was going and
offering seats, so that is what we did.
7am on the 18th May slowly up my drive purred one Audi Quatro. Wow!
What a sight! How I wished my neighbours were up early enough to see it, but
they weren’t. Joe turned off the engine while we discussed where we were
picking up Paul, turned it on again and away we purred to Seaton. Paul got in
and away again quietly until we picked up the A38. Now I had only known Joe as
the quiet, gentle “incense swinger” who served on our Seaton Altar on High Day
Vigils. Mind you, he created such a fug some of us at the back had to fan
ourselves to stay alive! However, once he hit the A38 he became like a madcap
racing driver, swerving, cutting in and letting nothing overtake us. I hung on
to my Miraculous Medal for dear life thinking we’d never make it- but we did
and in good time.
At 9am the
Exhibition opened with a guide explaining certain artefacts and relics and
whilst I was writing out a petition, I became aware that he was telling the
story of the crown theft and the people who donated jewellery to help get a
replacement. It was then that good old Paul shouted out “There’s a lady here
that was one of them!”. Well, that did it. The guide was on me for all I could
tell him and asked if I would remain behind at the end for a photograph.
The program for the day included the Rosary, sung litany of the English Saints and Martyrs, Adoration of the Bless Sacrament (reconciliation available), an extremely interesting talk on the Dowry of Mary given by Monsignor John Armitage who is the Rector of the Walsingham Association and with whom I am very privileged to be photographed.
requested we remained behind while all the Tour items were packed away into a
van. I was placed in front of certain staging expecting just to be photographed
when on to my hand was placed the crown. I could hardly believe what was
happening to me until, looking away from the camera I looked again at the crown
and thought to myself “this is nothing like the crown I contributed too. It can’t
be a real one. Its too flashy, too many so-called jewels on it. It must be a
mock up just for show, not genuine! Yes, that is what I thought.
picked up a booklet from the souvenir table and at home later that night I
opened a page and quite by chance read, “fortunately – if it can be put that
way- it was the “daily” crown and not the precious one which is only used on
Great Feasts. “Yes, it was the daily crown I had donated to and not the
precious one which I had never known about. Finally, in a phone call from HQ I
just had to find out which crown I had been photographed holding and was told
it really was the Precious one – and the value of it? I dare not tell you.
Thank you, Joe and Paul, also thank you Blessed Mother.
The problem with St. Augustine is that there are two of them who have
prominent positions in the history of the church, each being important but in
different ways. Take heart if you are already experiencing theological
confusion: you will not be the first – or last. Medieval historians frequently
mixed up Augustine of Canterbury (6th century) with Augustine of
Hippo (5th century) and even today we are not always sure about
which one they are writing about!
Augustine of Canterbury who died in May 26th 604 is best known
to readers and those who have visited Canterbury cathedral. He was a
Benedictine monk, sent by Pope Gregory the Great to convert the English,
establishing his monastery at Canterbury, and who later became the first
Archbishop of Canterbury. Augustine was soon revered as a saint and this
tradition continues both in the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches.
The other Augustine, also considered a saint in both Catholic and
Anglican traditions was Bishop of Hippo a pastor, a theologian, and is revered
as a Doctor of the Church, despite what today we might consider as holding some
views, unorthodox even unacceptable. It is about this Augustine that I want to
write, if only briefly.
Hippo is in North Africa, present day Algeria, and by the 5th
century Christianity in its various forms was exercising a growing influence in
that part of the Roman Empire. I say this because Catholic Christianity was but
one branch of the faith along with Arianism and Manichaeanism and possibly
others, with competing theological views.
Augustine was born 13th
November 354 and died 28 August 430. He is best known for his views on sex, his
mistress with whom he lived for over 15 years and their son, Adeodatus whom he
loved throughout his life. But his sexual exploits as a young man, important
though they are, form an important but not all- consuming totality to his
Augustine, by birth, therefore, was an African and was proud of his
African heritage: how interesting that one of Christianity’s greatest thinkers
should come out of Africa! Monica, his mother was a devout Christian and his
father converted in later life.
Before coming to faith himself, Augustine, furthering his education
highly intelligent and gifted, was influenced by the great thinkers in Carthage:
while maintaining his hedonistic life-style he decided to become a Manichaean,
which in its Christian form began to draw him into faith. However it was in
Milan that Augustine’s Catholic theology began to take shape, particularly
under the influence of the preaching of Ambrose, bishop of Milan.
Ambrose was a spectacular orator
and it is impossible to overestimate the influence of this great bishop had on
Augustine. He wrote of Ambrose “that man of God received me as a father would
and welcomed my coming as a good bishop should.” The influence of this pastorally-minded,
intellectual bishop, along side Monica’s Christian faith and his friendship
with a Christian student led Augustine to seek Baptism at the age of 31, along
with his son. Later priestly ordination and eventually episcopal ordination led
him back to Hippo where he became this bishop.
Many people remember Augustine for two things: first his famous saying “Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet.” And the other, hearing a child’s voice say “take up, and read” (the Bible): the reading was St Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 13 verses 13-14, which includes the phrase “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Augustine did and it changed the church.
More on what he wrote and Augustine thinking that shaped the church, Protestant as well as Catholic for well over 1000 years may be found in a later edition of the magazine.
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