Monday, 31st August, 2020
Today is the last day of Mr Sunak’s ‘Eat out to help out’ offer. Many people have obviously availed themselves of this culinary opportunity. One lady, as reported in a newspaper, said she had saved £150 by eating out everyday of the offer. This struck me as an interesting use of the word ‘save’. Strictly speaking, she didn’t save £150 but, rather, spent £150. She only saved if she had planned to go out and spend £300 and found it only cost £150 – that would be a saving but to spend £150 you wouldn’t otherwise have spent is not a saving. ‘Save’, of course, can also mean prevent or rescue (which may have been Mr Sunak’s motivation) and it occurs many times in the Psalms: O God, save me by your name; by your power uphold my cause. O God, hear my prayer; listen to the words of my mouth. (Psalm 53)
Sunday, 30th August, 2020
In today’s gospel Jesus says, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine…’ (Qui vult venire post me). These words have often been set in sacred music. This a setting by the Dutch composer Jan Sweelinck (1562 – 1621).
Saturday, 29th August, 2020
Leaving aside the controversy surrounding the singing (or otherwise) of Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory, it was good to see The Proms performed live on the television last night from the Royal Albert Hall albeit with no audience. The orchestra would have faced some challenges by having to sit so far apart from each other but they acquitted themselves very well, the moreso as they would not have been playing together at all for the last six months. In 1975, yours truly played at a Proms concert in an international youth orchestra conducted by the late Claudio Abbado. The Proms always takes place with the bust of Sir Henry Wood looking down from a pedestal just below the organ. For the rest of the year, that bust lives at the Royal Academy of Music in the concert hall where I spent most of my time when I was a student there.
Friday, 28th August, 2020
On my way out to post a letter yesterday afternoon, thinking it might rain, I put on a raincoat and picked up an umbrella but just as I was stepping out of the front door the heavens opened. I am sure we all saw the ferocity of the hail storm but I pity anyone who was actually caught out in it. The storm was followed by the most amazingly clear blue sky. Psalm 147: O praise the Lord, Jerusalem. Sion, praise your God!…He hurls down hailstones like crumbs. The waters are frozen at his touch; he send forth his word and it melts them; at the breath of his mouth the waters flow.
Thursday, 27th August, 2020
Since March, the furthest I had travelled was to Wimborne until this week when I went away just for a couple of days. In many ways the rest of the country looks fairly normal – but it isn’t. For the first time I went to a coffee shop – virtually empty – and because I was drinking the coffee in the shop I had to give my name and telephone number and, of course, masks everywhere. A change of scenery was a good tonic though the break was cut short a bit by the atrocious weather. Today is the feast of St Monica, the ‘patron saint’, as it were of mothers who worry about their children. Her concerns paid off, as things turned out OK for her son, St Augustine whose feast is tomorrow.
Sunday, 23rd August, 2020
On the Feast of Ss Peter and Paul I posted the motet Tu es Petrus by Palestrina. The gospel passage where Jesus says, ‘You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church’ is the gospel for today. There is a fine organ piece Tu es Petra by French composer Henri Mulet which continues this theme. What’s the difference between Petrus and Petra? Basically, Petrus (Latin) or Petrus (Greek) is the person and Petram (Latin) or Petra (Greek) is the rock. The video also shows how complex playing an organ can be.
Saturday, 22nd August, 2020
It would be interesting to know what is in the mind of news editors, why they chose one story rather than another. Are they responding to what they think we want to see or are they giving us what they think we need to see? Today’s Times has a front-page photograph of a footballer (weekly salary £180,000) who has been apprehended by Greek police after some alleged altercation. Why should we be remotely interested in this? It certainly isn’t earth-shattering news, nor is it amusing or entertaining. What is interesting is that the footballer in question is wearing a cross – fashion accessory or symbol of faith? – difficult to tell.
Friday, 21st August, 2020
Yesterday was a lovely day – weather-wise – beautiful sunshine with a gentle breeze and not too hot. Overnight, fierce winds blew up and it is still stormy this morning. This was, of course, forecast and we generally have little bad weather that has not been forecasted. The disciples, out on a calm lake were caught unawares when a violent storm blew up putting them in some danger. On my one visit to the Holy Land I saw at first hand a terrific storm that seemed to come from nowhere. This was not on the lake but at Tel Aviv but one can imagine how frightening such storms can be. Other, unexpected ‘storms’ can blow up – not weather but some other disrupting event, such as the pandemic. The disciples on the lake experienced not only the storm but the tranquility that Jesus could bring into that situation simply by his presence.
Thursday, 20th August, 2020
Today is the feast of St Bernard (1090 – 1153) the founder of the Cistercian Order and an important theologian. He is represented in one of the fine stained glass windows in our church where he is shown with the figure of a dog. This St Bernard may have had a dog but the legend of the brandy-carrying St Bernard dog belongs to a different St Bernard – St Bernard of Montjoux (996 – 1081) who was based in Aosta and had pastoral responsibility for local alpine passes.
Wednesday, 19th August, 2020
Gosh! According to the news, doctors are to be advised to prescribe honey for colds. Whatever next? They are also being advised not to prescribe antibiotics for colds. I’m no scientist but even I know that antibiotics can’t deal with viruses (if only they did) and that a cold is caused by a virus. A hot drink of honey, lemon and a bit of something else generally helps but basically you just have to let a cold take its course.
Tuesday, 18th August, 2020
Pre-Covid I would sometimes drive over the Kingston Lacy to enjoy a walk around the grounds but, of course, that has not been possible recently. The National Trust is now open in some places but you have to book. Yesterday, I was in the area of Kingston Lacy and hadn’t planned to go and hadn’t booked but I drove in anyway expecting to be turned away. However, as I was on my own and as it was a bit of a quiet moment, I was surprisingly let in and was thus able to enjoy a lovely, peaceful, bucolic walk. Equilibrium was therefore somewhat restored after the Barclaycard fiasco of the previous day.
Monday, 17th August, 2020
Two unrecognised and suspicious payments appearing on my credit card statement obviously required action. Phoning Barclaycard the automated voice said calls could take up to an hour. So I went online and referred one of the payments but having done so could not then refer the other and my access was further blocked. It was now essential that I actually spoke to someone so I tried the phone again and was put on hold for – wait for it – 2 hours 40 minutes! Finally, someone did answer and we dealt with the matter fairly quickly, although I do now have to wait for a week for a new card. It looks like unauthorised repeat payments. The worst part was probably the inane ‘music’ that wouldn’t stop and some cheerful chap occasionally saying, ‘we very busy now but we’ll get to you as soon as we can’. Even worse, however, was the sense of rage that I felt both at the company that made the false charge and at Barclaycard for not having enough people to answer the phone. It is not good enough that, because of other peoples’ incompetence or sharp practices, otherwise well-mannered people – as I hope I am – can find the worst aspects of human behaviour well up inside them. The Review page for Barclaycard shows my experience is fairly typical. In the grander scheme of things my frustration is, of course, small beer; I feel sorry for those living in Beirut who will be dealing with much worse, or students spending hours on phones trying to sort out the unbelievable and stressful mess surrounding the exam results and university admissions. Some consolation, perhaps, that even Our Lord got angry when he drove the money changers out of the Temple.
Sunday, 16th August, 2020
Today we keep the Feast of the Assumption of Our Blessed Lady. Many musical pieces have been written in honour of Our Lady and yours truly has written several. I don’t think I have put this none up before. I wrote this Ave Maria some years ago now for the girls at St Mary’s Shaftesbury who sing on this recording. Sadly the school has now closed down.
Saturday, 15th August, 2020
Confused? I am. Yesterday afternoon the BBC had two contradictory headlines running at the same time on its website:
- UK sees biggest daily rise in cases since 14 June with 1441 new cases.
- Coronavirus cases stable across most of England.
They can’t both be right. The difference is that the first is a fact, the second might only be an opinion.
Friday, 14th August, 2020
A useful point of reference for Catholic literature and important documents and publications has long been the Catholic Truth Society, otherwise known as the CTS. Looking for a new book and not having the internet address immediately to hand, I googled CTS and immediately it came up with ‘CTS online’. CTS, however, doesn’t only stand for Catholic Truth Society, it also stands for Cattle Tracing System which is obviously something quite big.
Thursday, 13th August, 2020
‘And lead us not into temptation’ – a phrase we are all familiar with from the Our Father. This phrase can also be translated as ‘Do not put us to the test’. Today, anxious students (and parents) will be getting the results of some ‘tests’, otherwise called exams and much hangs on the outcome of those results. As no actual exams were taken it is very difficult to see how an equitable assessment can be made. Universities and employers will have to make decisions based on what limited information can be gleaned from today’s ‘results’ and will have to take a wider range of factors into account. It’s almost half a century since I was bothered by such things as exams but I have had to face a great number of ‘tests’ since and most of us are tested regularly. Indeed, we are all being tested by present circumstances in one way or another.
Wednesday, 12 August, 2020
‘Where two of three meet in my name, I shall be there with them’, words from today’s gospel which have long underpinned the Church’s practice of physical gathering for prayer and liturgy – be that large or small. However, in these times of social distancing and, for many, continued isolation it may seem hard to feel those words of Jesus. But elsewhere Jesus also said, ‘when you want to pray go your private room and your prayer said in that private place will be heard by my Father.’
Tuesday, 11th August, 2020
Useless piece of information. I have been reading a new biography of Beethoven and it mentions that the Missa Solemnis was dedicated to a Prince Kinsky. The name rang a bell. There was an amiable monk at the monastery in Austria that I have visited regularly for many years whose surname was Kinsky and I remember being told that, although a monk he was also a Count. The wonders of the internet quickly turned up the fact that he was a direct descendant of the Prince Kinksy mentioned in the book. This puts me at seven handshakes from Beethoven. As it happens I believe I am only three handshakes from Brahms (my conducting teacher was a pupil of Henry Wood who once met Brahms) and through him I’m six handshakes from Mozart.
Monday, 10th August, 2020
Newspaper headline: Refrigerate eggs but not potatoes. As it happens, I do exactly the opposite but then, so do the supermarkets: potatoes are in the chilled aisle but eggs are not. Conflicting advice and example like this may not be the end of the world when it comes to potatoes and eggs but, as an advert says, there is too much confusion about so much else, some of which really does matter. Talking of adverts; how can online bingo ‘be all about community’?
Sunday, 9th August, 2020
If we were assembling for mass today we would be singing the hymn Dear Lord and father of Mankind because of its connection with the still small voice of calm of the first reading. Today’s musical offering is a recording of that hymn to remind us, not only of the words and the spiritual sentiment, but also of the church singing that we are missing at the moment. The still small voice line comes right at the end.
Saturday, 8th August, 2020
The Pope is distinguishable from the Cardinals and others by being dressed in white. Have you ever wondered why the Pope wears white? Popes haven’t always worn white. The tradition dates to the late 16th century and the election of Pope Pius V. He was a Dominican and the Dominicans to this day are marked by their white habit. He decided he wanted to keep the white and so the tradition was born. Today is the Feast of St Dominic, the Spanish preacher who founded the Order of Preachers, otherwise known as the Dominicans.
Friday, 7th August, 2020
It is about thirty years since I last did it but yesterday I made some jam. There were a lot of raspberries reduced in one of the supermarkets so I bought some, together with some lemons and some sugar and successfully made three jars of quite tasty jam. Cost-wise it probably came in about half way between the cheapest and the most expensive shop-bought varieties. Very satisfying.
Thursday, 6th August, 2020
Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration recording the moment when Jesus appeared to his disciples in a state of glory that presaged the glory of the Resurrection. It is not a feast that immediately resonates in a way that Christmas, Easter or Pentecost does but is nonetheless important in understanding the overall picture of the Incarnation. On my one and only visit to the Holy Land, about twenty years ago, I was privileged to preside at Mass in the church of the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor, the supposed site of this special event.
The 6th August may recall the promise of divine glory but it is a date that also recalls humankind’s darker side as it is also the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945.
Wednesday, 5th August, 2020
Poor Lebanon. The horrendous blast yesterday, which appears to be more a consequence of sheer incompetence and corruption than a deliberate act of terrorism, has left many bereaved and thousands injured and will cause unimaginable practical problems for the people of Beirut. Lebanon has many problems yet still managed to accommodate large numbers of Syrian refugees, and a significant outbreak of Covid-19, so this disaster will exacerbate those problems. Surprisingly for a Middle East country there is a large Christian population (apparently 40%) and they are mostly Maronite Christians, an Eastern catholic tradition, who are in full communion with the Catholic Church. We remember them in our prayers at this time.
Tuesday, 4th August, 2020
Excellent interview this morning on the Today programme with Dr David Nabarro of WHO talking realistically about the pandemic, how serious it is and what is required of everybody. I say ‘interview’, but he was so good that Mishal Hussein, for once, didn’t interrupt. Refreshing to have some clear unambiguous language, no false hopes, no optimistic kite flying, no muddle, no point scoring.
Sunday, 2nd August, 2020
Yesterday was the Feast of St Alphonsus Liguori, an Italian bishop, founder of the Redemptorist Order who produce the cover of our Sunday Newsletter. St Alphonsus was something of a polymath, an artist and a musician. He wrote the words (but not the tune) to the hymn O Bread of Heaven. But he was also a composer and here is a rather nice piece that he wrote:
Saturday, 1st August, 2020
Have you noticed the local post boxes recently? Over the last few days they have all been freshly painted – in pillar box red, of course. The other day, quite early, a man was painting the two boxes outside the post office and he had a van but not the usual red post office van. His was white but was marked ‘Post Office Painting Division’. All the things that go on behind the scenes you don’t know about.