SIR – I would like to congratulate David Keys for his article “The return of St Eanswythe” (Cover story, March 13). My husband had an Aunt Eanswythe, who passed away in 2004 aged 95. He also had a Great Aunt Eanswythe, living in Canada and we have wondered for years why they received this name. My husband and I both had Anglican fathers and Catholic mothers and were raised as Catholics. My husband’s Grandfather and Great grandfather were both vicars. Rev Russell Edward Brown, the grandfather, had a parish in Caterham, Kent, before his final parish at Silver End, near Chelmsford Essex. My husband attended St Edmund’s School, in Canterbury, having his Catholic Instruction from a very kindly Miss Cahill, who lived in a basement flat in the precincts of Canterbury Cathedral.
Learning that St Eanswythe played an important part in the conversion of England to Christianity and lived in Kent, now explains how this family name was chosen.
Evelyn Brown Llandrindod, Powys
Let’s hear about the Four Last Things
SIR – Communion on the tongue has been the norm throughout most of history. Sixteenth-century Protestants (former Catholics) introduced Communion in the hand so as to remove from the minds of the faithful any notion that what they were receiving was in any way connected with the Real Presence. Communion in the hand was never on the agenda of Vatican II, being the work of bishops acting on their own initiative without reference to Rome. In time, the popes granted an indult subject to certain checks being made, but these have never been implemented.
The current virus scare raises supposed safety questions over continuing with Communion on the tongue. Is there any record of anyone being harmed in this way? Before the suppression (rightly or wrongly) of public Masses, it was already observable that, while we place great faith in alcoholic gel, we apparently show no faith in holy water which was promptly removed well before civil government declared a heightened state of emergency.
Then, where goeth the Church more generally? However much we applaud the various clerical “musical chairs” the fact remains that our present Novus Ordo Church is not attracting priestly vocations in sufficient numbers. Benedict XVI spoke of a “smaller” Church and this surely is no exaggeration. More than that, we have become a Church of environmentalism rather than evangelisation. We speak incessantly about our carbon footprint while remaining very quiet about what it is to be in the state of grace, let alone the merest mention of the Four Last Things even in these difficult times.
Josef Bubez Burgess Hill, West Sussex
After the virus, a new reverence?
SIR – Elizabeth Price (Letter, March 20) suggests I attend some celebrations of the Ordinary Form to see the “joy” of people receiving in the hand.
It appears necessary to remind her, and perhaps others, that Catholics attached to the Extraordinary Form are not some strange breed inexplicably arrived from outer space.
I grew up with the Ordinary Form, and went to it exclusively into my 30s. During those decades I saw many hundreds of Holy Communions, and made them myself. “Joy”? In some cases, no doubt. I also saw people wandering off with the Host to dip in the Chalice. People dropping the Host and spilling the Chalice. The Precious Blood being poured from one vessel into others. The routine use of lay people to distribute Holy Communion while the celebrant sat down. People taking the Host away as a memento, or making a YouTube video of the sacrilege they later performed with it.
But above all I saw a great deal of routine, with a complete lack of preparation, thanksgiving or reverence. And indeed, I was on occasion guilty of this myself.
I and many others know the value of the traditional manner of receiving Holy Communion from personal experience. In the words of Benedict XVI, it marks the Real Presence “with an exclamation mark”.
When we get the chance to receive Our Lord again, I would urge readers to show their gratitude by doing so in the most reverent manner possible: kneeling, and on the tongue.
Chairman, Latin Mass Society, London WC2
A tragedy emerges
SIR – I was really saddened and disappointed by the lack of spiritual urgency in the bishops’ letter suspending Mass.
There was no reflection on our duty to God and the need in some way to commemorate the Lord’s day. Even whilst Mass is suspended we are obliged to pray and make the day special, as a day of rest.
If churches are to be open, what of the sacraments of confession and holy anointing?
As this tragedy emerges, we need to be made mindful of our need to repent and reflect on our lives. A world which has rejected God in its moral compass can only be under judgment. Before we have the good news, we need to see the bad. As Scripture teaches us, “For God is not mocked, and as a man sows, he reaps” (Galatians 6:7).
St John Southworth, whose body is so beautifully enshrined in Westminster Cathedral, ministered to plague victims. Throughout history of the Church clergy and religious continued ministering in the face of persecution, war and pestilence, admonishing sinners and bringing the Good News and sacraments.
I was disappointed at the letter. May the Lord have mercy on us all.
Robert Ian Williams Bangor-is-y-coed, Wrexham
SIR – Mary Kenny (March 20) points out that, for now, the only way to do an international pilgrimage is the medieval way, by emulating “Chaucerian modes of transport: on foot all the way”.
The reference to Chaucer is all the more appropriate as he wrote his Canterbury Tales in 1387, in the wake of the Black Death, the most destructive pandemic in human history, which peaked in Europe between 1347 and 1351. He describes what one historian has called England’s “new post-plague society”.
The Black Death significantly weakened the Church, claiming the lives of many able clergy. Their successors were widely thought to be of lesser quality. This is thought to be why clergy (with the exception of the Parson) are depicted so harshly in the Canterbury Tales.
John Torrance Sheffield
SIR – Thanks to William Doino Jr for his guide to saints to pray to during an epidemic (Feature, March 20). Might I add another – the appropriately named St Corona? Little is known about her, other than that she was an early Christian martyr. She is much venerated in Austria and Bavaria, and her feast day is May 14. There is currently a lively debate online over whether she is “the patron saint of pandemics”.