Saturday, September 18, 2010

September 18, 2010

On this partly sunny day on two sides of the planet we witness some grand Catholic narratives, not unrelated -- beginnings and endings, bookends in a sense. My television screen shows me thousands of people lining the streets of London, England, cheering on the present Pope as he makes his pilgrim way around various sites and encounters, all leading to tomorrow's Mass of Beatification for John Henry Cardinal Newman, England's great man of letters and holy priest, famously ex-Anglican turned Catholic.

Now concluded, over there in the Greenwich time zone, are the Mass at Westminster Cathedral and an evening prayer vigil under the open skies of Hyde Park, the former a polyglot affair of English and Latin, with quite glorious music provided by hoards of men and boys, everyone sporting blood-red under the magnificent Giotto-esque painted crucifix.

The doubters of just a few years ago could not imagine this beady-eyed scholar (Papa Ratzinger), with his long term as whip-hand of Church discipline, ever inspiring the gathering of such crowds, especially of the young, as compared to his warm and personable predecessor, the "rock-star" Pope John Paul
II. But his whip-hand has fitted itself comfortably around the shepherd's crook, and he has moved forward with a charity as uncompromising as his faith -- and the crowds have massed, even in this land where much quieter expressions of Catholic faith once brought a sentence of death.

To his great credit, Pope Benedict has not hesitated to refer to these martyrs, many of whom met their grisly deaths just up the road at Tyburn Tree.
Ostensibly, one of the aims of this visit is to strengthen ties between the Catholic Church and its Anglican love child, in the name of Christian solidarity facing off with creeping secularism. It is impossible to speculate how real might be this prospect of ending five centuries of enmity. But it is fairly certain that this pilgrimage will play its part in the flood of new beginnings to be seen everywhere in the Church, leaving the doubters to fume and sputter.

Over here, on this side of the planet, in the unglamorous west end of Toronto, a few score people gathered today to bid farewell to one of the Chu
rch's great warriors. In a truly splendid Tridentine black-vestment Requiem, author and activist for faith and life Anne Roche Muggeridge was sung and prayed into her everlasting rest. I never met her, for by the time I met her husband and some of the children, she was already in the iron grip of early onset Alzheimer's, in which darkening prison she served a sentence of many years, always the recipient of the love and care of a family she no longer knew.

In her warrior days she was the author of two books [
Desolate City, and Gates of Hell] chronicling what she saw as a coordinated attack on the life and breath of the Church she loved. For many years I purposely avoided reading the books, because I knew they would be a concise compendium of horrors I had lived through and felt powerless to counter. But in recent times, various friends had urged me to give them a try, because in showing how terrible things once were, they would unwittingly tell the story of how far we have come in turning a new page.

Difficult as they can be to find, I laid hands upon the two books from internet book sellers within half an hour of reading of Anne Muggeridge's death. And I will soon set myself the task of seeing how grim the world once looked, and how prescient Ms. Muggeridge was in seeing the cracks of light on the dark horizon.

Requiescat in pace
, courageous lady, and a merry meeting with your dear John, whom I knew a bit and much enjoyed, and proudly sang to sleep just a few years ago.

September 20

As I understand it, today has been informally declared "Pray for Christopher Hitchens Day."

Have a go. Couldn't hurt.