18 May 2007

Tagged for a Meme - Five Catholic Places in England

Fr Ray Blake tagged me for this one.

First, Lancashire, the County Palatine, the Duchy ("The Queen, the Duke of Lancaster!" as we toast her, loyally) and the place where the faith was never extinguished. As early as 1611, a new public Catholic cemetery was consecrated in Little Crosby.

We had six houses at school, and each was named for a Lancashire Martyr: Almond, Barlow, Cottam, Hurst, Rigby, Southworth. Lancashire was where Shakespeare came as a young actor to work for the Stanleys and be able to practice his Faith while he learned his art. Lancashire welcomed the Irish immigrants who came to fuel the Industrial revolution.

Second, the Church of the Holy Name on Oxford Road in Manchester. When I was at the University of Manchester, this was a Jesuit Church, and the Jesuits ran the Chaplaincy next door. The "spirit of Vatican II" was abroad and the Chaplaincy was in the van, but one of the priests, Fr Orr, took an interest in my spritual, moral and intellectual development, and allowed me to serve at his private Mass. The Jesuits gave the church over to the Oratorian Fathers, and I pray that Manchester's Oratory will become as London's and Birmingham's.

Third, the Hidden Gem, St Mary's, Mulberry St, Manchester. I can't find a non-copyright photo, but here's a map. This is Manchester's church, the home of the shrine of Our Lady of Manchester. The nun who knew me from when I was born until her death last Autumn (and who discovered Paul Scholes) was sufficiently Irish to be annoyed by Manchester's having its own Marian shrine, though not annoyed enough to refuse to go inside . According to the editor of the Universe, the parish Priest refuses to stock his newspaper.

Fourth, Westminster Cathedral, the Cathedral of the Most Precious Blood, and our national church. Bentley's design is both inspired and inspiring. When I go to Whitehall, I always get off the tube at Victoria so that I can walk up Victoria St and pop into the Cathedral. If I'm lucky and the times are right, I get to Mass. I always pay a quick visit to the Chapel of St Patrick where the Irish Regiments which fought in World War One are commemorated to say a prayer for all the loyal Irishmen who died for their country and those who survived but were never allowed to vote on whether or not their country should become independent of the United Kingdom. I have never yet met anybody who was not stirred by the cavernous interior of the Cathedral, and can never forget my wonder as a thirteen year old, visiting for the first time, on being told that one day all of the ceilings and walls would be covered in mosaic.
Fifth, and no picture, every Catholic Church in the country which is open and which allows people to wander in and pray before the Blessed Sacrament. I grew up in an area where men and women unselfconsciously crossed themselves every time they passed a church, on foor, on a bus or in a car. I long for a return to those days.