Congratulations to Charles Coulombe on his fine article on Glastonbury, and especially for his update on recent developments such as the new Benedictine community. My first book, King Arthur’s Avalon, concluded with a quote from Austin Ringwode, the last surviving monk of Glastonbury Abbey: “The Abbey will one day be restored and rebuilt for the like worship which has ceased, and peace and plenty will for a long time abound.” I believe that the new community is beginning to fulfil this prophecy.
I am glad Mr Coulombe included a few words about the neo-mystics, who have caused confusion over the years. But I must make a humble protest at being included among them myself.
I never was. My Avalonian writings have been before the public for a long time. The original inspiration came from a passage in the works of GK Chesterton, a very great Catholic. I was, and remain, within the fold.
Geoffrey Ashe Glastonbury
Charles Coulombe writes: My deepest thanks to Dr Ashe for his kind words, and for his correcting my misapprehension about his religion. I have admired his work since I was a teenager, and am overjoyed to find out that he too is Catholic. I fervently hope that he is correct about the return of the Benedictines to Glastonbury being the beginning of his cited prophecy’s fulfilment. Despite the doom and gloom about us, Jerusalem may yet be built “in England’s green and pleasant land”. May the Glastonbury Thorn always bloom!
Sadness at monks leaving Downside
As a former Downside pupil from the early 1980s, I was shocked by the news that the monks are leaving the abbey. As the world evolves ever more towards a godless state, even the Benedictines are giving up. What is the meaning of Downside without a Christian monastic presence?
My time there was only useful because of the monastery and the influence of the monastic community with its life of prayer and contemplation. Fr Ambrose, Fr James, Fr Martin and others were all exceptional influences in my life. What they taught me has kept me on the right track through thick and thin. God bless them, it wasn’t an easy job.
To see the community retire from its amazing pastoral duty is extremely sad. The West is facing a wave of political correctness, identity politics and Marxist propaganda set to destroy the Christian values that have built the most successful and civilised countries in the world. How will we rebuild this if the Church gives up on offering an alternative?
In my view, the reason for sending one’s children to a Catholic boarding school is not so much for the quality of its academic education, but for the religious pastoral environment, and above all the Catholic values that come with these institutions. And focusing on those values is a good business strategy: the Catholic boarding schools are mostly too far from London to compete in today’s arms race for the best teachers and facilities at any price. Catholic schools must offer something deeper.
Selecting the most academically gifted pupils is not enough. I believe Catholic schools have to be focused on an all-round education including a strong foundation in the Faith: an education which is not distorted by political agendas, but can produce young adults who – as well as being ready for today’s competitive world – understand moral questions, are genuinely humane and can bring a wider perspective to life.
This can only be achieved by having a robust religious presence within the school. Yet this seems harder and harder to achieve – and how many schools are even making the effort? Catholic schools, including those linked to religious orders, quickly buckle under pressure from the “progressive” left. Where is the promotion and communication of the truth the Church brings to the world – and its works of mercy through Catholic organisations, funded by the faithful and supported by millions of volunteer hours a year all around the world?
The monks may be leaving, but let’s not give up on Catholic education assisted by a monastic community.
Thomas Faure Romanelli London
At last Adam and Eve make sense
Kenneth Kemp deserves a divine pat on the back for his article (“You better believe it: Adam and Eve”). How often have I mentally squirmed while listening to some non-Catholic friend pour scorn on the Bible – based on Genesis. The best I could do was mutter about metaphor, symbolism, and faith.
At the age of 77, I feel that at last I possess a logical and intellectually satisfying understanding of the Adam and Eve story – while continuing to enjoy re-reading Milton’s grand poetic version, accepting it for what it is: a great work of art/literature.
I wish Prof Kemp had been lecturing to me while I struggled with subsidiary philosophy at Leeds University in the 1960s. Thank you, Professor.
John Rogers Nantymoel, Wales
Covid-19 reminds us not to forget the sick
Since the Covid-19 pandemic caused many of us to experience social isolation, prevented us from attending churches and deprived us of the sacraments, more of us know something of the normal experience of people who are sick – and their carers. Now, more of us recognise the longing to kneel before Jesus present in the tabernacle, to receive Him in Holy Communion, and to be in the midst of a Christian community.
Most of us can hope that this is a temporary condition, but for many who are permanently sick, there is no such hope (and many do not even have access to Mass on the internet). We must keep the sick, their carers, and their needs in our thoughts and in our prayers.
In recent years I have seen sick lists deleted from Church bulletins because their maintenance was thought to be an unnecessary inconvenience. But these lists are an important reminder. I hope that recent experience will make us all more aware of aware of the needs of people who are sick, and their carers, and keep them always in our prayers, at the very least.
P Whitney Doncaster, South Yorkshire
British people still yearn to celebrate
Although not himself a Christian, Ronald Hutton, professor of history at the University of Bristol, writes well of pre-Reformation England’s “many feast days” when “the churches were filled with ritual” which “fostered a lay festive culture of plays, pageants, parades, church ales, village revels, maypoles, Morris dances, Christmas games, wassails and midsummer bonfires”.
All these were done away with by the Reformation, which might explain why the BBC’s decision to offer only a muted version of the Last Night of the Proms has gone down so badly with viewers. With no audience, pared-down choirs and orchestras, and the patriotic songs Land of Hope and Glory and Rule, Britannia! performed without words – allegedly because of coronavirus – this exuberant music festival is one of the few occasions on which the British are allowed to make merry in public. Granted, it is the nation that is being celebrated, but it is a nation under God.
As for the view of patriotism as incipient fascism, true patriots can empathise with the patriotism of other peoples – hence the varied forest of flags held aloft at the Last Night, which has on occasion included the papal flag, a reminder that “Catholic” means universal.
Perhaps it is no coincidence that Thomas Arne, who wrote the music for Rule, Britannia! and Sir Edward Elgar, who composed Land of Hope and Glory, were Catholics – although it might be better not to mention it, lest it give the BBC yet another reason for dropping them.
Apart from sporting occasions, which are by their nature divisive, without the Last Night we are left with the Queen’s birthday parade and the Lord Mayor’s parade in London, the latter coming right before the nation’s most solemn day, Remembrance Sunday – not a very appropriate occasion for jollity – and although all are tremendous spectacles, they are still spectator sports.
The British people still yearn for a national outlet for their positive feelings – an opportunity to celebrate hope over despair – and perhaps, once the pandemic is under control, the Church should look to making more public professions of our faith, such as Eucharistic and other processions, which can evangelise through the senses and the heart.
And perhaps those friends outside the Church, like Prof Hutton, may come to realise that the festivities flow from the feast, which springs from the theology; because God came in the flesh to redeem us, and we possess not just minds and souls, but senses too.