These are my immediate memories and impressions at the close of a stupendous few days. Just now I still feel too close to them to provide a more judicious summary:
Huw Edwards from the BBC was everything one would wish: respectful, dignified, sensitive. Thank you, Auntie, for getting the papal visit completely right.
If only Blessed John Henry hadn’t written that rash wording of his famous toast in his Letter to the Duke of Norfolk. Liberals have been trotting it out and dining out on it ever since. Catherine Pepinster of The Tablet was the latest on Thought for the Day on Saturday. I wanted to throw my pillow at the radio.
Dr Joyce Sugg, who has edited Newman’s Letters, spoke of his genius for friendship during the beatification ceremony. The funny business of the unquiet grave seems to have died down: a small mercy or a small miracle.
It is the first time I have heard the Reformation described as “the new foundation of the 16th century” (the Archbishop of Canterbury on Friday). The archbishop spoke of “fraternal love” between the two churches. We may be a long way from unity – but not from fraternity.
Fr Roderick Strange described the Holy Father as “Peter was among us like a parish priest”. How true that was. And Pope Benedict himself told his Anglican congregation at Westminster Abbey, “I come today as a pilgrim from Rome”. Simple and humble; marvellous. It struck me that for this quiet, scholarly man to be in public and constantly at the centre of attention must involve heroic obedience on his part.
How moving it must have been for the Pope to use Newman’s own chalice for the Mass of the beatification.
It is a shame Cardinal Kasper couldn’t be with us. The bidding prayers at Cofton Park were very multicultural and he would have enjoyed that.
An Irishman from County Mayo with a thick brogue informed me on Saturday night that “Tousands at the vigil would niver tink o praying.” According to my spy within the gates, the reality was very different: “A huge number of people, very united, very noisy, very peaceful; very tiring and at the same time very inspiring.”
My mother, watching the Pope at the end of another exhausting day of events: “I think he should be allowed to go straight home, put his feet up and have a glass of whisky” (which was what she herself was doing at the time).
Our parish priest, on the theme of priestly celibacy, recently aired in the news: “People don’t realise that young single men in Afghanistan are also laying down their lives. People forget that.”
All in all, as Newman himself might have remarked, “What a turn up!”
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