Spiritual Matters

Lockdown restrictions will continue to be eased this week. Of particular interest to me is the resumption of public worship in our churches and the re-opening of pubs – both of which will happen on 4th July.

Reopening of Churches
The Diocese of Westminster has not yet, as far as I am aware, issued any guidelines regarding measures to keep priest and congregation as safe as possible. I imagine, though, it will look something like the Diocese of Portsmouth’s:

(I nabbed this from my friend Stuart on Twitter, so thank you to him!)

Portsmouth’s guidelines mention that there will be limited numbers at Mass ‘based on capacity with 1m between seats’. They also say that the church should be cleaned between Masses.

My parish church can seat several hundred people. It isn’t a huge church but cleaning it between each Mass might take a fair bit of time (depending, of course, on volunteer numbers). If we currently have four Masses on Sunday, I wonder if the Parish Priest will reduce it to, say, two to allow time for cleaning to take place. I could only see four Masses happening if there were two in the morning and two in the afternoon, and I am not sure there will be the volunteer numbers for that. Any reduction in the number of Masses, and the more limited numbers allowed to attend, as required by the one metre spacing rule, could make attending at all difficult. What to do?

Our cardinal offers an answer in this video.

He says that the obligation to hear Mass on Sunday remains suspended, and suggests going during the week. I think that is what I might do. Although I live very close to my parish church so could probably guarantee getting a seat every week, I like the idea of combining Mass attendance with exercise and walking to the cathedral. It would be a three hour plus round trip.

Happily, the cardinal also says that confessions will resume. This is very good news. I last went to confession in February so am in good need of a spiritual scrub.

The Reopening of Pubs
Like any other sane Englishman, I like visiting the pub (!). I doubt very much, though, that I will visit one after they reopen. Not for a while, anyway. For privacy’s sake, I am not enthusiastic about passing my contact details to the bar staff. The pubs will be very clean and tidy in order to ensure that they are safe places to be. I respect that but the thought of drinking beer in such a sterile environment does not appeal to me. In time, I might become reconciled to the thought of doing so. In the meantime, I think I will stay at home and stick to sipping a little wine in the manner of St. Paul (1 Tim 5:23) even if my stomach is in better shape than Timothy’s.

Bringing The Two Together
In the past, I have often celebrated being absolved of my sins after going to confession by going to the pub for lunch and a glass of wine. I don’t think I will be doing that next time but I wouldn’t bet against it! Being in a sate of grace is a rather marvellous state to be in and well worth celebrating.

The Path to Rome and Other Journeys

Last Week
It has been a week of up and downs. I won’t go into the downs; I’d rather leave writing about those to another day, but they have certainly made me grateful for the ups.

What ‘ups’ have there been? Chiefly, Duolingo and Efrén Gonzalez.

Duolingo
Last Sunday I reached the one year mark for my streak on Duolingo. For 365 days in a row I managed to earn a minimum of 50 XP every day in learning German. On Monday, I set my account to private so that I would be excluded from the league system and took the day off learning anything. From Tuesday to Friday I started learning at my own pace without having to worry about relegation (I was already in the top league). It was great! No more doing the same stories over and over again just to learn the XP to stay above the relegation zone. I know I should not have been concerned with that in the first place; I am too competitive for my own good.

Films
I think The Bookshop and Corpse Bride have worn me out in terms of watching films while exercising for the next few days, or foreseeable future. I just wasn’t inspired to watch any this week. Instead, when I did exercise (because my Belloc work – see below – is taking up the time that I would use for that), I started watching my favourite Camino series on You Tube.

In 2017, Efrén Gonzalez walked the Camino Francés. He recorded his journey and then uploaded it to You Tube. You can watch it here. It is really well edited and even includes some beautiful drone footage. Gonzalez brings out the joys and pains of the Camino really well. I watched the first five episodes in one exercise session last week and was so lifted by seeing the places that I walked through last year.

Hilaire Belloc The Path to Rome
On 4th June 1901, Belloc left Toul in eastern France at about 8:30 in the evening to begin the first stage of a pilgrimage to Rome that he hoped to complete on 29th June – the Feast of SS Peter and Paul. The Path to Rome is his account of that journey.

Four or five years ago I started reading the book on the anniversary of his departure from Toul through to 29th June when he did indeed arrive in Rome. The book doesn’t contain any chapters but Belloc always states (with only one exception) when his day started and ended so it is easy to follow him on a day-by-day basis.

Almost as soon as I started my tradition of reading The Path to Rome on the anniversary of Belloc’s pilgrimage, I started writing about it. In previous years, I did so on my Tumblr and Twitter accounts. Last year, I followed his journey on this blog.

This year, I created a new Twitter account (@PathtoRome1901) to tweet his journey from there. I was inspired to return to Twitter because the platform has just introduced a scheduling function, meaning that I can now fulfil something of a dream by tweeting his movements as close to the hour as possible in which they occurred.

In truth, this is a fool’s hope. Belloc does sometimes say ‘it was noon when this happened’ but he rarely names the hour so precisely. A lot of guesswork is therefore involved in working out where he is at any given time. Sometimes, you can’t even guess – you just have to plump for a likely sounding time.

Still, I love The Path to Rome to heaven and back so reading and tweeting it is a joy. The latter is also a labour of love. One thing it means I don’t do, though, is read each entry on the appropriate day (as I write this post, I have written and scheduled the tweets for Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday). I wouldn’t have time to both read and tweet it on the same day. That’s a shame but a small sacrifice.

ChurchTalk
Churches open again – though only for private prayer – from this Monday (15th). As matters stand, I doubt I will return to my parish church just yet. I can pray at home, after all. My heart yearns for Mass and particularly confession.

When Carlo Maria Viganò burst onto the scene two years ago he seemed to have something important to say. Nowadays, though, he increasingly resembles a character from a Dan Brown novel. He has hit the headlines again with the claim that ‘that restrictions to prevent the spread of Covid-19 were part of a Masonic plot to establish a new world order.’ (The Tablet). Because of course.

In the last few days, Church Militant – to which I will not link; you can Google them – has accused the Archbishop of Washington D.C., Wilton Gregory, of lying over an attack on Donald Trump’s visit to the Pope St. John Paul II shrine last week. In so doing, it called him an ‘African Queen’. African because he is black, and queen because he is allegedly gay.

I saw Church Militant’s response on Twitter to criticism of this racist and homophobic appellation, which was that it was fine because that’s what homosexual seminarians used to call him.

Where does one start with this wicked and spiteful nonsense? Church Militant don’t deserve to have the name ‘Catholic’ in their title. They are as bad as the Militant organisation that ruined Liverpool in the 80s. Every member of it, every supporter of it, ought to get him and herself to confession. I want to hate them but all that would do is ensure that the cycle of hatred continues. So, I gotta pray for them, instead. This is all the more needful because I’m a sinner, as well. Maybe one day one of them will pray for me.

In the meantime, I hope Archbishop Gregory is gay and that this was known as he progressed up the clerical ranks and that because he was celibate it was not seen as a reason to hold him back let alone push him out because then the Church would be a lot more loving and open armed body than it currently gives the impression of being.

Books (I)
I can’t end this post on an angry note so let’s talk about books.

A few weeks ago I finished Anthony Beevor’s account of The Second World War. It is very long (just over 900 pages) and very readable. So much happened in the war that despite its length the book almost feels like a glorified overview. When I closed it for the last time, these were the things uppermost in my mind:

  1. All the leaders – political and military – made big, big mistakes. We were very fortunate that Hitler’s were the biggest of all
  2. Allied soldiers committed war crimes. Only a few and not for the same reason as the Nazis (for example, some Allied soldiers summarily executed Nazi guards after entering a concentration camp and seeing what they had done there) but it still happened
  3. The Allies were sometimes hardly that (unsurprising in respect of the USSR and Britain/USA but surprising in respect of Britain and USA) and some of the generals had monumental egos.

I learnt a lot from the book – chiefly about the Pacific campaign, about which I hardly knew anything, the eastern campaign (of which I only knew a little), and one or two other aspects of the war. For example, I never knew that only the Red Army entered Berlin at the end.

Books (II)
Over the past few months, I have been engaged in a programme of cleaning my book shelves and getting rid of books I no longer want. I have got rid of a lot. As a result the shelves are now looking a little more tidier and cleaner. I’m sad to have got rid of so many books but I decided to do so because I knew I would never read them. I only want to keep those that mean something to me. It doesn’t matter on what level, but they have to mean something.

A Living Metaphor

I have just finished saying Compline and a Rosary for Boris Johnson who has been moved to intensive care this evening after the symptoms of his illness got worse. Although his condition has deteriorated, the reports are that he is not on a ventilator so we can only hope and pray that he will get better.

When I prayed, I included in my intention all who are ill with the coronavirus at the moment, those who had died, and their loved ones. Boris Johnson is one name among many but because he is the Prime Minister he is more than just himself; he is a representative of this country – second only in importance to the Queen – a living metaphor for its health. To hear about him going into intensive care, therefore, even though his situation could be a lot worse, feels like a blow to the stability of the country, and by extension, to oneself. Whether one likes Johnson or not, we need that stability because it breeds hope.

Right now, I feel mostly okay. Thanks to the Novena I’ve been saying, the last week hasn’t been too bad. I can’t fool myself, though. Hearing about Boris Johnson makes me feel anxious. Every time I cough I wonder is this the start of a persistent cough. Every time my room gets a bit too hot (because the radiator has come on) I wonder if this is the start of a fever. The Novena is helping, but I am in the foothills.

I finished watching Divergent this morning. I rate the film 8/10. A pretty entertaining watch. It’s set in a dystopian future where, following a war, the citizens of Chicago have been divided into factions according to their dominant personality – Erudite, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, and Candor. The film follows the adventures of Tris who joins the Dauntless faction but who is actually divergent – she holds all the above mentioned personality traits within herself. This is a problem as the divergent are outcasts because they can’t be controlled. We watch as Tris goes through her Dauntless training before she discovers a plot to usurp supreme power by the leaders of Erudite and Dauntless. The film is by no means a classic but it has a good heart, decent story and acting; well worth a night in to watch. There are three films in the series and subject to their availability I will definitely try and watch the next two to see how the story resolves itself. The new film is Frozen.

A Marvel

Corona Chronicles VIII

Home
Last weekend was all about me trying to get on with things in the face of low level anxiety about the coronavirus. There was a moment on Saturday when I lay down on my bed because that was all I could do but I soon got up again and, while the day perhaps wasn’t the most productive one ever, I still got a few things done – Duolingo, physio exercise and one or two other bits and pieces.

Sunday was a much better day in terms of activity. I gave myself a day off physio and exercising (I had gone light on Saturday because my leg was aching a bit) but managed to keep myself busy all day. I watched the live-stream of Mass from my parish church at 8am, wrote two posts for my Alexander the Great blog (this and this one), met my Duolingo target, and did a big load of washing up in the late afternoon. The Alexander blog posts were my big achievement. They take time and patience to write. Because of this, I usually only write one on any given day. On Sunday, however, I was inspired to write both Saturday’s and Sunday’s.

Monday went well. I still felt anxious but I managed make good use of the hours. In the late afternoon, I left a message for my friend C. (she is the saintly person I mentioned in last Thursday’s post. Because she is busy, I try to leave a voice mail message for her every weekend to let her know how the family and I are getting on). She called back and we talked and prayed together. We talked about how I am feeling and she gave me a Novena to say. It’s this one.

Today has been the best day I have had for the last week or so. I haven’t felt anxious at all. For once I have felt physically okay. Who knows how tomorrow will go but right now, I am grateful.

Saturday: I finished watching Hook. I rate it 7.8/10. Robin Williams plays Peter Banning who cares more for his work than he does his family. When Captain Hook kidnaps his children, Peter meets Tinkerbell who tells him that he is Peter Pan. She takes him back to Neverland where she and the Lost Boys successfully make him remember who he used to be. Pan defeats Hook in the showdown and wins the day. I might have rated Hook 8. but I would have preferred it to be set in its original time (Edwardian) time period. I love period dramas. With that said, there is nothing objectionable about its modernisation so don’t take this ‘criticism’ too seriously. Any film with Robin Williams in it is always going to be worth watching.

Saturday/Monday: After finishing Hook, I moved onto Captain Marvel. I did a bit of extra exercise yesterday and so finished the film in two days. I rate it 8/10. I really enjoyed this film. The story was okay to good. Brie Larson plays Vers, a woman from the planet Kree, who comes to earth to stop the Kree’s mortal enemy, the Skrull, from stealing an advanced piece of technology here. Nothing is as it seems, however (SPOILERS AHOY); Vers turns out to be a human woman named Carol Danvers, and it is the Kree who are the enemy not the Skrull. The plot twists were well done but what really made the film for me were the characters. It was great seeing a younger Agent Coulson and Nick Fury as (the film is set in the mid 90s). Most of all, though, I really like how they wrote Carol Danvers. She is very cool, determined and measured. No screaming, no deferring to the male characters (there’s a neat scene where she is talking to an old friend and sends Fury out of the room with the child, a complete reversal of goodness knows how many films when the woman is sent out), no nonsense. I hope Captain Marvel made enough to ensure a direct sequel. I finished the film today just before finishing my exercise so I haven’t decided what film to watch next.

Abroad
Shopping went well on Friday afternoon. The Sainsbury’s that I go to now only admits people a few at a time so we had to queue up but not for so very long. Most people seemed to be respecting the two metre rule. Soon, I was inside and running around so that I could get my shopping done as quickly as possible so that those after me didn’t have to wait to long. On Saturday, I went to the chemist for my parents’ prescriptions. Another queue but this time only two or three people. After the chemist, I popped over to my favourite corner shop, but forgot to buy the one thing I actually went there for. So, as soon as the live stream of mass finished on Sunday, I dashed over again to pick it up.

A.O.B.
I watched Pope Francis’ extraordinary Urbi et Orbi address on Friday afternoon. I didn’t mention it in my last post so I must have finished writing it before he started. The address took place in an empty St. Peter’s Square. Watching this small figure in white advance slowly, with a pronounced limp due to Sciatica, up the long ramp to the lectern amidst the vast expanse of grey stone and under the rain was very striking. This image, of the Pope lifting the Blessed Sacrament up, was also very powerful.

I downloaded this photo yesterday, I think from the Opus Dei website, here. Apologies if it came from somewhere else.

I watched a video today in which our own Cardinal Nichols confirmed that due to the lockdown the obligation of Catholics to go to Mass/Confession at Easter is removed. As you saw in my last post, I have my arguments with (members of) the Catholic Church sometimes, but I really do miss going to Mass, and confession.

I read a little over the weekend but I need to read more. There is also something else I am not doing: being creative. The problem is I am busy all day so that by the time I get to evening, I just want to relax. I need to try harder.

BVM, CSL, and more

Corona Chronicles VI

Home
So, yesterday I wondered if I might be able to sleep through the night as I didn’t nap during the day. Nope. And in fact, I woke up twice. And had another disagreeable dream. On the plus side, though, I did get back to sleep again pretty quickly.

This morning, I changed my routine a little and did my exercise straight after my morning physio session. I just wanted to see what effect, if any, it had on me. The answer to that is not much. I had a couple of short naps this afternoon but I might have done that, anyway. I might try it again tomorrow as I felt pretty good afterwards.

While exercising, I watched Tomb Raider to its end. I rate this film 5/10. It was a very average action film. As with so many films, the script let it down. It wasted a more than half an hour with Lara Croft’s backstory before getting her to the action. As a result, there was not enough time to do anything more than bounce her from danger to danger to showdown to end. If I had written the script, I would have obeyed the rule of In Medias Res by starting the story ‘in the middle of things’ and explained Lara’s background during the course of the main narrative (her search for the ancient queen Himiko). After all, who really cares about Lara’s background? I mean, it’s important, of course, but the really important thing about Lara Croft – the reason we care about her – is her puzzle solving and combat, not first and foremost her family history. This film, though, but it front and centre.

One thing about the film made me laugh, if grimly: Himiko was said to have been imprisoned on the deserted island of Yamatai by her generals to stop her killing people. It turned out, though, that she wasn’t evil, just carrying a fatal disease in the manner of Typhoid Mary. It all reminded me of the coronavirus a bit too much. After finishing, Tomb Raider I started watching Big Boys – an action film starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. It’s directed by Michael Bay so my brain is already mush, and I have still two days of the film to go.

This afternoon, I did a bit of book re-arranging. The desire to read C. S. Lewis has been growing on me again, recently, so I have put the books that were on my chest of drawers on the book shelf and the C. S. Lewis books that were on the shelf, on the drawers. I’m hoping that by having the books physically closer to me, I will be more likely to read them.

From whence comes this desire to read C.S.L.? Goodness knows – God, I hope, but it started when I watched a clip of Shadowlands the other day.

Speaking of C. S. Lewis, as I am sure you are aware, he was for many years good friends with J. R. R. Tolkien. Speaking of whom, 25th March is the day on which the One Ring was destroyed when Gollum fell into the lava of Mount Doom. Today is also Lady Day for Christians. Tolkien was a committed Catholic so the destruction of the Ring on the day that Gabriel announced the good news to Mary is not a coincidence. Here is one of my favourite paintings of the great event.

I love baroque art and architecture but sometimes it is good to have simplicity, and here Dante Gabriel Rossetti gives a very simple interpretation of the Annunciation. I am not much of an art critic, but things to look out for in the painting are,

The flames at Gabriel’s feet indicating his angelic status
Gabriel and Mary’s halos indicating their saintly rank
The lily that Gabriel is handing Mary; this is one of her symbols (I think it is a symbol of purity). There appears to be a lily on the red stand but I’m not sure if its placement there gives it a different meaning
The colour blue, which you can see behind Mary, is also a Marian symbol. I think it is a ‘royal’ colour, hence its association with her (Mary as Queen of Heaven)
Mary appears to have red hair. I’m not sure how to interpret that as I’m sure red is a colour more to be associated with Mary Magdalen (being the colour of licentiousness)

This evening, I am writing this post and just muddling along. I read earlier that one of the early signs of having contracted the coronavirus is a loss of smell and taste, so naturally I am now sniffing things wondering if its lack of smell is my fault. Every time I get a twinge of a headache I wonder if this is the start of a persistent one. It’s pathetic, really.

Abroad
This morning, I visited the local chemist to pick up prescriptions for my parents. They were only letting two people in at a time. The rest of us had to queue up outside – six feet apart. I used to the time to do some more Duolingo lessons. Afterwards, I came straight back. My dodgy right leg was a bit stiff, and got stiffer later. This is a repeating thing now – it feels wonderful(ish) and loose after I have done my physio but then stiffens later. I still have a way to go in sorting those muscles out.

Heroes and Villains

Corona Chronicles V

I had an unpleasant dream last night. It wasn’t a nightmare, just disagreeable. I won’t record what happened in it because I don’t want to remember it. What I will say is that it was one of those dreams that is based on a normal part of one’s life – a normal part that, unfortunately, my subconscious corrupted. Thanks, mate. I stand in solidarity with Cobb.

(Full marks to you if you get the film reference there)

Today went better – work in the morning, Tomb Raider during exercise this afternoon, work in the afternoon, then finish. I rarely sleep straight through the night these days – for reasons I don’t know, I am very prone to waking up around three in the morning – but I wonder if I might manage it tonight as I didn’t nap this afternoon.

At the weekend and today, I joined the Discord servers of two live streamers whose streams I enjoy watching. Doing so wasn’t easy – you don’t just give them your email address and a password but have to verify your e-mail. Discord seemed very fussy about that. Maybe I was just being a bit simple. Anyway, the two live streamers were MB Hammer and Nova of the Sea who has just finished playing The Last of Us and its DLC Left Behind. Why am I watching so much entertainment where people die due to infections at the moment?? That aside, The Last of Us was the first game I ever saw livestreamed on Twitch so quite aside from its excellence as a game, TLoU is very dear to me.

A.O.B.
Last night, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson announced a much stricter ‘lock down’ in Britain. It was a lovely sunny day, today, but very few people outside (we have a good view from our kitchen windows!)
There were two corona villains on social media today. The first was a recalcitrant 75 year old woman who couldn’t understand why the young presenter on Radio Solent was so worried about the coronavirus as he would obviously survive it. Neither did she care about the risk to herself on account of her age. The lady was completely blind to the fact that the reason we have a lock down is not for ourselves who might be healthy enough to beat the virus but to protect those who aren’t (for example, her husband, who, she said, had suffered a stroke). Her blindness was so complete that I wondered if she was mentally ill or ill in some other way that made her not care about anything, anymore. The only alternative seemed to be malice but she didn’t sound a malevolent person. It was a very sad interview to listen to. The second villain was Mike Ashley, owner of the Sports Direct sports store who wanted to keep his shops open on the grounds that (as I read on Twitter) they were providing an essential service. As important as exercise is while we are cooped up, no one on Twitter was having that.
Earlier today, there was one corona hero: a hospitalised priest in Italy who gave up his ventilator for another person, and subsequently died. Unfortunately, this story appears to be false. Happily, though, the same reports said that the priest was a holy man. Requiescat in Pace.
Going back to the corona villains, I wonder how people who behave irresponsibly during the pandemic will write the narrative of their lives in a few years time. I don’t mean the lady on Radio Solent or Mike Ashley but those who flout the social distancing requirement. I strongly suspect that in five or ten years time, you will find very few people who will admit to having visited the park or pub when they were being asked to stay at home.
This is a note to myself to mention C. S. Lewis in tomorrow’s post.

By The Book

Corona Chronicles IV

Home
The parents and I remain well. In the early hours of Saturday morning, around two or three AM, I woke up and although I felt alright, I could feel worry about the coronavirus at the back of my head. Fortunately, I was still able to get back to sleep again.

On Sunday morning, my parish church live-streamed two Masses, the 8am (which I usually serve at) and one at 10am. Being able to watch it was very comforting.

Today, I got on with my work, and this afternoon, did my exercise and finished The Terminal. I rate this film 8/10. Tom Hanks plays Victor Navorski who is forbidden to enter the USA after a coup in his home country renders his passport invalid. Unable to return home, he is forced to live in the airport’s international transit lounge. The airport authorities do their best to get rid of him but without success. In the meantime, Viktor makes some friends, plays Cupid, and enjoys the friendship of the lovelorn Amelia Warren (Catherine Zeta-Jones). The film is sweet and kind hearted. It’s the type of picture where even the baddie, in this case, airport director Frank Dixon (Stanley Tucci), is actually alright. I was going to give this film 7.8 out of 10 but rounded it up because it is so sweet. Once The Terminal finished, I started Tomb Raider – not the Angelina Jolie version but Alicia Vikander’s from 2018. Review to come on Wednesday.

Abroad
On Friday I did my shopping. As I thought might be the case, the Sainsbury’s store I went to was better stocked than the one my father visited on Thursday. Of course, there were still empty shelves, but overall it was in better shape. This week, I will be helping my father with the shopping again, though probably not until Wednesday.

Over the weekend, I saw photos and video of people out and about in parks and at markets in London. On the one hand, it of course made me very frustrated; on the other, who knows how the camera was being used. By that I mean, even if cameras don’t lie, they can still be used to present a manipulated image. This is the case even when they present the truth – in publishing it, the intention of the photographer or cameraman could be to use it to arouse our emotions positively or, unfortunately, negatively. I felt mine rising in the latter way so moved on.

A.O.B.
I continued Duolingo this weekend. As of today I am on a 289 day streak! If I get there and remember, I will record Day 300.
Today, I read a book for the first time in probably about two weeks (excluding Lent spiritual reading). I started with Anthony Beevor’s The Second World War and Clare Lydon’s lesbian romance Nothing to Lose. Now, can I read some more tomorrow, and the day after that, and…
I bought two little bottles of wine at the weekend and am now enjoying them. I shall end this post here so that I might continue to do so!

From 1208 to Dunkirk to the Present

Corona Chronicles II

Home
All remains well in my house. My brother, who stays here during the week for his work, has returned to his home in Suffolk to be with his wife, and help look after his mother-in-law who is very unwell (not with the coronavirus). We won’t see him again until the pandemic is over.

For my part, I have managed to keep my home exercise going this week: just simple on-the-spot walking while watching a film on Netflix. I exercise like this for one hour. I would do more but with all the other things I want to do there isn’t the time. Today was the day of my follow-up appointment with the physiotherapist. Unfortunately, after writing my last post, I received a text message to say it had been cancelled. I shall take a day off tomorrow and then continue the exercises until such time as I see him again.

On Monday and Tuesday I watched Dunkirk again. It is a great film. I love how Christopher Nolan not only doesn’t name but barely ever shows the enemy. In doing so, he forces you to pay that much more attention to the British soldiers and their suffering. I was once more very stirred by Admiral Bolton’s, Mr Dawson’s and George’s heroism. For the last couple of days I have been watching Kursk: The Final Mission. I’ll say more about it when I have finished it, today or tomorrow.

I continue to work. I wonder how long for? Will the company I work for decide that since their work is impeded it isn’t worth keeping me on? As that decision is out of my hands, there is no point worrying about it. All I can do is just the best job in the time given to me.

I have discovered a really good new livestream to watch during my downtown. Check out Nova of the Sea on Twitch. She is currently playing the brilliant The Last of Us. This game is all of a sudden a bit on the nose, being set in a post apocalyptic world where Mankind has been decimated by an, er, incurable infection. Oh dear.

Abroad
On Tuesday, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York said that Church of England services should stop. I’m not sure how things work in the C of E, if ABC & ABY have the power to stop services or if they can only advise it, but either way, I doubt that there will be a church that defies them. At least, I hope not.

On the day that this announcement was made, an Anglican priest who I follow on Twitter said that it was the first time since 1208 that ‘all public worship has been banned in the Church of England.’ which was a bit cheeky as the C of E didn’t exist then. His argument was that the Reformation led to a ‘change of management’ (I’m sure that was the phrase he used but I haven’t been able to find the tweet) but that the church remained the one that existed before. That is, shall we say, not quite the Catholic understanding but let’s leave that for the theologians and historians to argue about. Back in 2020, the Catholic bishops of England and Wales followed the ABC’s and ABY’s lead (as well as the Scottish Catholic bishops) by calling a halt to Masses as of Friday. So, on Sunday I’ll get to lie in. We take the positives where we can! I must say more about the Church of England as I think about her more these days than I ever did before.

This morning, I will start work earlier as later on I am accompanying my father on his weekly shopping trip. He usually does it by himself but because people over 70 may soon be told to stay indoors I might have to take over. He’s taking me along so that I can see what he does. I wonder what we will find – if anything – and what state we will find out fellow shoppers? Anything less than panicky will please me.

Inspired by a friend I’ve never met

Corona Chronicles I

I follow Niall Gooch on Twitter. He is a clever and compassionate person and I always benefit from his tweets. A few days ago, he tweeted,

This seemed to me a good idea so on this blog, until such time as the coronavirus abates, I will try and record what’s going on in my little corner of the world – Islington, London, U.K.

First of all, home life.

Yesterday, our Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, ‘urged everyone to avoid unnecessary social contacts, to work from home where possible, and to stay away from pubs and restaurants.’ This doesn’t affect me too much as I work from home, and don’t have the money to go out very much, anyway.

The above quotation comes from the BBC website, here. The same report states that ‘[p]eople in at-risk groups will be asked within days to stay home for 12 weeks.’ My mother and father are 79 and 80 so are definitely ‘at risk’. I still live in the family house so am now part son, part shield. The latter fits my love of chivalry perfectly. Are there any medieval romances where the Knight washes his hands a lot?

A concern for my parents now informs all my actions when going out. For example, yesterday (16th March) I had intended to take a walk across town to Westminster Cathedral to go to confession. Because of the worry that I might pick something up, at the cathedral if not along the way, however, I decided to stay at home. Now that we are being told to avoid unnecessary social contact, I suspect I will not go to confession again until the summer. It’s not ideal but the thought of bringing an unwelcome guest home is even worse.

Now that I am avoiding going out, what about my daily walks? I am going to do more exercise at home, even if it is just walking on the spot while watching a film on Netflix or a You Tube video.

Speaking of exercise, you may recall me mentioning my dodgy leg in last year’s Camino posts. Well, back in January I finally – FINALLY – got round to submitting a request for a physiotherapist appointment with the NHS. I thought I might not get an answer until later in the year but within a week or two, I was offered an appointment. Three weeks ago, I met the physiotherapist and he gave me some exercises to do. I have been carrying them out religiously ever since and let me tell you, while my leg is not perfect, it is SO MUCH BETTER than before. The old pain is almost entirely gone. Not quite, but almost. I am amazed. And all it took was ‘some’ stretches. Unless the medical centre has been closed, I am meeting the physio again this week to let him know how I have been getting on. I can’t wait to tell him.

There is one fly in the ointment – part of the physiotherapy involved walking in a slightly different way and I haven’t managed to perfect that yet. In fact, I am a long way off it, so that’s something I need to work on whenever I do go out.

Away from home.

I mentioned above not going to confession. I will keep going to Mass unless one of us in the house falls ill or until/unless the churches are closed. How extraordinary it is that I have to write these words. Who could have foreseen it, even at the start of the year? It’s like we have gone back to the time of Shakespeare with the closing of the theatres. The other day, someone on Twitter said that when W.S. was quarantined he wrote King Lear. The implication was that you should do something similar. Nonsense, of course, but I hope I can be at least a little creative. I have one or two ideas in this regard and will mention them if I can realise them.

All sporting events in the country have been cancelled or postponed for the time being. The one that affects me most is the calling off of the first few Formula 1 races. I can do without football or even rugby but F1 I miss. Depending on how things go we won’t get any races until May or June.

As I said above, I don’t go out the often. I am the secretary of The Keys Catholic literary group, though, so attend its meetings every month. I had already decided not to go to this month’s meeting but yesterday the Master decided to postpone it. I immediately sent the e-mail to all the members confirming this. Thankfully, the ones who have responded have been very understanding. We haven’t decided what to do about April’s meeting, but as with the F1, I don’t expect there will be another one until the summer.

Further Afield

There is just one thing I would like to write here. Business Insider reports that the American President, Donald Trump, ‘tried to poach German scientists working on a coronavirus vaccine and offered cash so it would be exclusive to the US’. You can read the report here.

If the report is true – the German government says it is, the company for whom the scientists work say it is not – it really is the most diabolically selfish act on Donald Trump’s part. Of course, given his past behaviour, we should not be surprised by this, but I think we may be surprised by the depth of his selfishness in this regard.

Thank you to Niall for letting me quote his tweets in this post! (It’s true I’ve never met him so I hope he doesn’t mind me calling him a friend).

An Unexpected Reader

The coronavirus in London, U.K.

I attend and serve at the 8am Mass in my parish. Today, there were definitely fewer people there, but I don’t think a lot were missing. Not yet.

We were missing two important people, though: our Readers.

In case you aren’t familiar with the Mass, we have four readings: one from the Old Testament, one from the New, and one from the Gospel. Sandwiched between them is a Psalm. Lay people read the OT, NT and Psalm, while the priest reads the Gospel.

At the 8am Mass, one person reads the OT and Psalm, while the second reads the NT and then returns from the pews to read the Bidding Prayers a few minutes later. When a Reader is away, someone else usually takes their place. This morning, however, that didn’t happen. On seeing this, the Parish Priest asked me to do the readings.

It was rather nerve wracking! Ito be fair, it could have been worse – I have been a Reader before, but only a long time ago (the Church doesn’t encourage people to do more than one ‘ministry’ at Mass and mine for some years now has been to altar serve). There were two complications – I wasn’t wearing my reading glasses, and while I had already read today’s readings after completing Lauds this morning, I had tripped over St. Paul once or twice due to his long run-on sentences. This meant I wasn’t very confident about having to read him aloud.

Happily, though, the readings went well. I didn’t make any big mistakes and managed to hold it together with St. Paul. I think I even understood him better than when I had read him silently earlier. The Holy Spirit was definitely working through me.

I returned to the lectern to read the Bidding Prayers. By now, I had had two or three minutes to get properly nervous so my heart was pounding away. When I started reading, I had to contend with having to read one or two prayers that, let’s just say, were written in a very general way, as well as with one or two typos. Neither were huge issues, though, and I got to the end just fine.

Mass continued. The coronavirus has put an end, for now, to the handshake that accompanies the Peace and the distribution of the Precious Blood so lay people no longer bring the chalices containing the water and wine to the Sanctuary. The priest still needs both but they are placed on the credence table (the table at the side of the Sanctuary where the various chalices and other items needed for the celebrating of Mass are kept until required by the celebrating priest) before Mass and are brought over to him by the altar server.

Because I am not used to bringing them to the priest before bringing the other things that he needs, I almost got lost in working out what to do first this morning. I had to pause, take a breath and think before moving on. Looking back, I can only shake my head at how easy I got confused but at the time I was a bit flummoxed! At least next week I will remember what happened and be prepared. I hope!

I wasn’t the only one getting flummoxed today – whoever prepared the credence table forgot to put a corporal on the chalice to be would be used for distribution of the Eucharist. When the priest realised this, he asked me to go and fetch one. Cue me dashing ‘backstage’ to pick one up. I almost took the wrong cloth before remembering and picking up the right one!

***

When I decided to write this post, I thought it would be a very quick and short one. Having written it, however, I see that I have used quite a bit of Catholic jargon. Apologies for that. Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s any way to avoid it. There are a couple of words I’d like to explain here: a corporal is a large piece of cloth that is unfolded on the altar. Its practical purpose is to protect the altar surface. I can think of one or two other reasons for it being there but that will suffice for now. The Sanctuary is the area in which the altar is located. In some churches, the Sanctuary is cut off from the congregation by an altar rail (or even, in old churches, a wooden rood-screen).

Another effect of the coronavirus outbreak is that the people doing the collection today (which in my church is done by passing round a bag that is then brought to the front of the church and taken by me to a safe, ‘backstage’) wore rubber gloves. Finally, when I say ‘backstage’ I mean either the corridor leading to the sacristy, where we get ready for Mass, or the Sacristy itself. In this post, I mean the former.