Letters & Emails

Comments of the week

What we lose when Holy Days are moved

SIR – Fr Matthew Pittam’s article on Marian devotion (August 18) makes an interesting point, namely that abandoning traditional devotions to Our Lady did nothing to advance Christian unity, and resulted in a whole generation having little or no experience of the power of praying to Our Lady.

I think the same argument also applies to the liturgical calendar. I find it incredible that local bishops decide whether crucial feast days such as the Epiphany, the Ascension, Corpus Christi, the Assumption and the Immaculate Conception should be Holy Days of Obligation. Presumably, this change was made in order to encourage a greater turnout on the nearest Sundays. In fact, it has done nothing of the sort and resulted in many of these great feasts being devalued. It has also left a whole generation of Catholics with no real sense of why and when these feast days are celebrated.

Let’s support the rededication of England as Mary’s Dowry, and the return of celebrating our great feast days on their proper dates.

James J McDevitt

Kipling and the Turin Shroud mystery

SIR – Thank you for your excellent cover story on the Shroud of Turin by Fr Dwight Longenecker (August 4). The main problem, if we trust the carbon-14 dating of the Shroud of Turin, is that we need to find a sensible medieval solution for what it is. A starting place is the suggestions put forward by the carbon-14 scientists themselves. Professor Edward Hall from Oxford said someone “got a bit of linen, faked it up and flogged it”. As we can’t make a Shroud today, with all the technology available to us in the 21st century, it is unlikely it is a work of art.

Professor Michael Tite, then of the British Museum, said in a BBC interview that “there is no real evidence for paint” and “there was a body in there”. He continued: “It was the time of the Crusades. A very appropriate way of humiliating a Christian would be to crucify him, like Christ … then the cloth is put over the body and … bodily fluids resulting from the stress of a crucifixion react and cause this discolouration and ultimately a certain degree of decay in the Shroud.”

A problem with this explanation is that it is difficult to find any historical evidence that Crusaders were crucified, apart from the Freemasonry legend of the alleged crucifixion and survival of Jacques de Molay, grandmaster of the Knight’s Templar, on October 13, 1307. In an interesting quirk of history the carbon-14 results were announced on October 13, 1988.

Rudyard Kipling wrote: “I keep six honest serving-men / (They taught me all I knew); / Their names are What and Why and When / And How and Where and Who.” It is wise advice. If we believe that the Shroud wrapped Jesus of Nazareth, there are extensive answers to all Kipling’s questions except “how”, because we still don’t know scientifically how the image was created. If it wrapped a medieval Crusader, we have no historically reliable answers to any of Kipling’s questions. The short film A Grave Injustice by David Rolfe, available on YouTube, examines some of the reasons why we should question the carbon-14 results.

October 13, 1917 was the date of the apparition of Our Lady at Fatima. I am praying that Our Lady will intercede to shed light on the origins of the Shroud of Turin.

Pam Moon
By email

Uniting Ireland

SIR – I may have missed something, but nowhere have I seen explored the ancient and obvious solution to the ex-EU borders problem of the establishment of a single (presumably federal) national government for the whole island of Ireland.

The old Unionist slogan of “Home Rule means Rome Rule” surely no longer applies, given the state of Catholicism in Ireland for a start, and the benefits of scrapping this nonsensical border on a permanent basis would be this generation’s historic contribution to peace and justice in a troubled world.

A proudly united Ireland, perhaps with a new capital at St Patrick’s city of Armagh, could decide for itself whether or not to be a member of the EU, ending the ridiculous debate over hard and soft borders which is taking so much of our politicians’ time.

J T Miller
By email

Dunkirk’s mistake

SIR – I shared Ed West’s return to his 14-year old self when I saw Dunkirk (Arts & Books, August 4). The stunning aerial sequences brought to mind the film Battle of Britain, made between showers in the rainy summer of 1968; by contrast, 1940 was a magnificent summer, weather-wise.

Personally, my only disappointment with Dunkirk was the sequence when our weary troops all flop asleep on the train, having been delivered from the beaches over the Channel. This film had great attention to detail, until our heroes are seen in a late 1960s/70s British Railways carriage with bright blue seating. The irony is that a more authentic-looking carriage can be seen outside when the 1940s schoolboys are pushing a newspaper and bottles of beer to the soldiers through the windows. Surely anyone knows what a Southern Railway corridor or compartment coach looked like in 1940 – all leather straps, moquette and dark brown panelling, maybe with the odd carriage print. It is unfortunate when they go to such pains and then cut corners. I can just see some researcher, maybe someone under 40, thinking “Oh, this looks old enough!”

My only other slight misgiving was the presence of some suspiciously modern warehouse-type buildings by the Dunkirk beaches. Sorry to appear nitpicking about this, but in 2017 there really is no excuse when trying to achieve authenticity and, no, one does not need CGI ad infinitum.

However, it is still a magnificent film and will go down in the annals of great British war movies.

John Roberts
Wakefield, West Yorkshire

A ‘saint’ in action

SIR – I was very interested in the article about Leonard Cheshire (Home news, August 4). Not only did he have an eventful career in the RAF, as you mentioned, but he also represented the UK as an observer with the American bomber force when the Atomic bombs were dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

His life after his retirement is well known and I count myself so very fortunate to have known him after being appointed architect for a new form of residential complex in Bournemouth where, for the first time in the UK, a Cheshire Home for the disabled, social housing and special needs accommodation for the disabled were built on one site.

Leonard Cheshire attended several of the site planning and construction meetings and he was always clear, thoughtful and positive in his contributions to the design and construction processes. I count myself fortunate in having met someone who through his faith showed a love for people and their welfare through actions which – as the saying goes – speak louder than words.

Colin Morrell
Poole, Dorset