The christening of Archie, the infant son of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, at Windsor Castle’s private chapel last weekend drew much speculation about the identity of the godparents, much comment on the ladies’ apparel – Kate was “wearing a pink Stella McCartney dress with Diana’s Collingwood pearl earrings” – and criticism, too, of Meghan and Harry’s decision to keep the ceremony private.
But there seems to have been scant interest in the actual baptismal ceremony. What rite was used? Was Charles’s beloved Book of Common Prayer pressed into service, or, as social media is suggesting, did Meghan insist on something more “woke”? (I am told that the gender-neutral version of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is “Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer”.)
There is frequent criticism in Ireland of the way that First Holy Communion has become more about the money and the frocks, while the meaning fades into the background. Something similar seems to be happening with royal christenings.
Someone has composed a prayer for older people, requesting spiritual help not to fall into some of the typical character failings of old age. This was a point of discussion at an 80th birthday party I attended recently, which has inspired me to compose my own version of the oldie’s prayer.
“Oh Lord, let me not become too garrulous, talking too much, hogging the conversation.” I heard an older person say on the radio recently, and while she knew a great deal about the subject discussed, she just gasbagged too much. I’ve fallen into this failing myself.
“Let me not be, either, the elderly know-all.” It’s irritating when younger people are talking through their hat because they just don’t remember how things were. But let me remember how ignorant I was at 22. (When being despatched to interview the retired Clement Attlee, I remember asking “Who’s Earl Attlee?”)
“Let me not complain overmuch about declining health problems.” Getting old means there will be more infirmity – get used to it! And practice the virtue of fortitude. Let me not begin every conversation with what the late Maeve Binchy dubbed “the organ recital” (of ailments).
“By the same token, let me not bore people with a litany of the medications taken.” Just be grateful the medications are available.
“Let me not be too critical and let me be sparing with the phrase ‘young people today’ – except in the strictest confidence, in the company of other oldsters, or when saying kind things, such as ‘young people today can be so courteous about giving me their seat on public transport’.”
“Let me not become stingy.” A trait which, as Balzac highlighted, can be a failing of old age, even though, with the bewildering changes in the cost of goods and services, prices can seem alarming. I remember my mother exclaiming, when visiting Paris in the 1960s: “Ten shillings for a cup of coffee! Imagine!”
“Let me not become too neglectful about hygiene.” I’m inclined to think people wash and launder too much these days. But when I embraced an old mate recently I got a whiff of non-washing – which can be a sign, too, of self-neglect, and perhaps lead to depression.
“Let me not be bitter or sour, even though it’s understandable that time brings many regrets and rueful thoughts about opportunities wasted, time spent foolishly, love not sufficiently expressed.”
“Let me not yield to the resentment that in our youth we didn’t have the chances available to generations that followed. (I’m still struggling with my anger about leaving school at 16, and having to get a job, rather than lolling around at university.)
“Let me not make a fuss about trifles that annoy me.” As when the shop assistant calls a young man respectfully “Sir”, but addresses me, patronisingly, as “Darling”.
Let me invoke St Augustine’s prayer: “Trust the past to God’s mercy, the present to God’s love, and the future to God’s providence.”
Last week I referred to the “Cardinal-Archbishop” of Paris, Michel Aupetit, who was a doctor and a specialist in medical ethics before being ordained. It has been pointed out to me that the archbishop is not, actually, a cardinal, as his predecessor, Cardinal Vingt-Trois was. “But,” adds my corrector, “hopefully he will be.”
Follow Mary Kenny on Twitter: @MaryKenny4