Sancte Stephane ora pro nobis

Sanctus Stephanus

I was for nearly forty years the Anglican parish priest of St Stephen’s, Lewisham. Though afflicted by the darkening shadows of the Church of England’s infidelity, they were happy years. Now a Catholic layman, I will not pretend that I do not miss the daily round of Mass, visitations and pastoral ministry. There can be no greater privilege than to share the fellowship of good people seeking the face of God.

I was privileged also to follow in the footsteps of diligent priests, not least the great Arthur Couratin, who taught the faith without fear or favour.

St Stephen’s thrives still – though for how long, one must wonder, in an increasingly secular Church. How it would rejoice the hearts of those parish priests who so assiduously taught the Catholic Faith and have gone to their rest, if St Stephen’s were to find its way home.

Truth himself speaks truly*

And is it true? and is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window’s hue,
A Baby in an ox’s stall?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me?

And is it true? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare
That God was Man in Palestine
And lives to-day in Bread and Wine.

*’Truth himself speak truly, or there’s nothing true’ – from Hopkins’s translation of the Adoro Te

Christmas Cheer

It is not all bad news.

Though the Vatican concordat with the People’s Republic of China brings little joy to many, for some the news that at least one of the Chinese bishops who have received Papal endorsement is married has put a spring in the step. It is Good News for that small group of Anglicans bishops which has been leaning on the door of the CDF for some time to no avail.

We send the season’s greetings to Mr and Mrs HInd.

Christmas Fare

It is a duck this year. And this is how it will be cooked.

The duck should be pricked and its skin well salted and anointed with a mixture of ground cloves and cinnamon, and balsamic vinegar. Put a handful of crushed juniper berries into the cavity. Dry it in the air for twelve hours.

Place the duck on a trivet over a pan of chicken stock and red wine, and roast in a hot oven (220) for fifteen minutes. The oven should then be reduced in temperature and the duck continued roasting until the juices run clear. The fat should then be drained from the pan and the juices reduced to half. Add (to taste) a little red currant jelly and a dash of Pedro Ximenes sherry. Serve with goose fat roast potatoes and cavalo nero, sweated and tossed with sliced cloves of garlic browned in olive oil and a sprinkling of dried chillies.

A happy Christmas to all our readers.


The Catholic Bishops of Italy, it is said, have taken to their hearts the Bergoglian translation of ‘Et ne nos inducas in tentationem’.

What reports have been shy to relate is the unanimous appeal by the Conference of Bishops for the Holy Father to provide a new translation of ‘Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie.’

Said Fr Thomas Rosica: ‘Scholars have puzzled for centuries over the meaning of this obscure phrase. We can be sure that the Holy Father, who is gifted by the Holy Spirit in all matters, including Greek morphology, will unlock the mystery, not only for Italians, but for us all.’

Joyful Remainers

Kind readers have sprung to the defence of the European Union.

One reader points out that the UK already has negotiated opt-outs from the Euro, and from ‘ever closer union’. And there is currently no chance of unanimity over a European Army. All this is true. But it inevitably raises the further question of why there should be enthusiasm for membership of a body to the aspirations and intended direction of which the UK is declaredly inimical?

Another correspondent claims that the European Union has been the principal guarantor of peace between France and Germany (war between them having been the bane of the twentieth century). Such a view, in the opinion of many, hugely underestimates the role of NATO and the United States, and of the pressure exerted by the Soviet Union in the Cold War.

A Question to Be Asked

As the British Government continues its humiliating negotiation with the European Union, and former Prime Ministers advocate a second referendum on leaving, one thing is conspicuous by its absence from general debate. That is a positive argument in favour of remaining.

 The disadvantages of leaving are being spelt out in lurid detail: but where are the arguments in favour? Who is singing the praises of ‘ever-closer union’? Who is rushing to embrace the Euro? Who is enthusiastic for subsuming the MoD in a European Army?

 The case being made is the defence of a status quo which is clearly not available. The European Union is nothing if not dynamic. What is needed, surely, is a willing embrace of the expansive future which is the declared aspiration of the EU 27.  

Surely there needs to be a positive case for a decision so significant and, considering the difficulties in exiting this time, effectively irreversible.