Comment Opinion & Features

Letters: Do English Catholics still cherish Our Lady?

Our Lady of Walsingham (Mazur/

SIR – Nowadays one rarely sees Saturday Masses of Our Lady in parishes. Masses celebrated on Saturday are mostly vigils of the Sunday, and even genuine Saturday Masses are usually kept as ferias, the commemoration of Our Lady now being an optional memorial. I count no regular Saturday Masses of Our Lady in the entire deanery of the Diocese of Westminster from which I write. Indeed, England probably now celebrates fewer Masses of the Mother of God than at any time since the Emancipation; and this is an especial travesty as we prepare for the re-dedication of England as the Dowry of Mary in 2020.

May I suggest a simple solution? All parishes that say Masses on Saturdays should prefer the commemoration of Our Lady to the ferial liturgy, and all parishes that do not should celebrate one votive Mass of Our Lady – of which there are plenty in the Missal – one free weekday every week outside of Advent and Lent. Some, I know, deprecate votive Masses, and even the keeping of optional memorials, on the grounds that the New Order of Mass has different readings for each weekday which form a carefully crafted sequence. But let’s be honest: no layman actually follows the ferial sequence really closely, as one “green” day blandly succeeds another; at any rate, not unless he has done some homework reading, which daily Masses shouldn’t presuppose.

Votive Masses and optional memorials add colour, interest, variety, and speak to us through the distinctive stories of particular mysteries or saints; they are good instances of true liturgical “accessibility”. Let us hear some Saturday Masses of Our Lady, then; and some votive Masses of Our Lady Queen of Apostles, of Our Lady, Mother of the Church, of the Most Holy Name of Mary, and so on. Let her Dowry not neglect her!

Peter Day-Milne
Sherborne, Dorset

Bishops must provide reparation for abuse

SIR – Jim Graves’s article (US news analysis, September 13) shows that a number of American bishops have taken to heart the damage to the Church’s credibility, caused by clerical sexual abuse scandals in so many countries. It is most important that British and Irish bishops should follow their example.

Reparation for the harm done to the victims and survivors is what is needed. This means developing the ministry of healing, in the first place for victims of clerical wrongdoing, and then more widely for others who have suffered from similar violence. This can be widespread in a society where sex has been over-emphasised and removed from its proper context in marriage.

The Church has long been concerned with people trapped in prostitution and those driven to abort unwanted children. This energy should now extend to making reparation to those deeply harmed by the Church’s official ministers.

A small start has been made, but much more is needed. It should be given discreetly and over many years, in collaboration with medical and counselling professionals.

Lord Hylton
House of Lords, London SW1

A church reborn

SIR – I welcome Bishop Mark Davies’s decision to re-order Shrewsbury Cathedral and I applaud his reasoning behind the move, designed to uplift and inspire his diocesan faithful and those in the wider Catholic Church (Feature, September 13).

Perhaps I’m a mite cynical, but is it any wonder that the Second Vatican Council’s deliberations were going on at precisely the moment in the 1960s when brutalistic modern architecture triumphed, especially among architects of our civic, public and church buildings?

At a time when the secularist modern age is seeking to vanquish all that is beautiful and speaks of our awe of Almighty God, making our souls rise in response to the wonders produced by centuries of glorious art and architecture inspired by Catholic Christianity, it is encouraging to witness an episcopal leader who is not afraid to proclaim this message.

No doubt there are plenty of people who disagree with Bishop Davies, but the history of the Church in these islands and beyond solidly reaffirms the wisdom of what he is trying to achieve.

Back in the early Middle Ages, at the same time as seeking practical ways of addressing the tangible ills of poverty among Christ’s people, the Church, its patrons, architects and skilled craftsmen sought to convey a rightful awe of Almighty God and knowledge of the Gospel by magnificent buildings, fine works of art and fabulous stained glass.

After Catholic Emancipation in the mid-19th century, while many of our people were living in human misery in the East End, Liverpool and the towns of the “dark Satanic Mills”, our churches symbolised beauty and inspired faithful Catholics to soldier on and proclaim their faith.

Now, in our challenging secular age, when to be a loyal, orthodox Catholic requires real commitment and potential sacrifice, Bishop Davies is nobly challenging us to re-order our churches and put a loving God at the centre of them – where we’ll joyfully but reverently celebrate Holy Mass, and not what more resembles a “parish beanfeast”.

Richard Eddy
Bristol, Somerset

Edges of honesty

SIR – Ann Widdecombe poses the question “can democracy survive without trust?” (Comment, September 13). Part and parcel of trust is honesty. Can our culture in the UK and our unwritten constitution survive in these current turbulent times without honesty to create trust?

Ms Widdecombe has surreptitiously made politics central to the theme of her article, and names just three politicians who she believes should heed her article. Two of those named are the leaders of the main political parties, the third being the Speaker of the House, whose work has embodied fairness and impartiality in standing up for Parliament.

Apart from our principal political parties, there are certainly fringe parties emerging and some who seek to make their presence noticed by outrageous presentation of our current political situation, which frays the edges of honesty.

It is an essential element of trust that the persons involved meet each other in freedom, and trust cannot establish itself (or indeed grow) if the truth is not presented honestly and without coercion by any of the involved agents.

Eleanor Care
Barry, Vale of Glamorgan

Singing in Cornish

SIR – Dolly Pentreath was not, as frequently claimed, “the last speaker of Cornish” (Feature, September 6). Daines Barrington, a historian, wrote of his encounter with Dolly after seeking a Cornish speaker in 1768. Certainly, she was one of the last – but even in the late 19th century Cornish was still being taught by speakers born earlier. My father, born in 1911, used Cornish words, and could sing the National Anthem in Cornish, which he had learnt at school.

Pauline Harvey
Bristol, Somerset