Visiting as a tourist for the first time has given me a glimpse of a wonderful country where I spent twenty five years of my life through a new lens, and of course I felt nostalgic for England. Who wouldn’t on a perfect June day in the Norfolk countryside?
This was my first visit as a “working Catholic priest”. Before I have visited for family reasons. Therefore to celebrate Mass at Tyburn, Canterbury Cathedral, Oxborough Hall, Walsingham and Oxford Oratory has been extraordinary. Suddenly one is connected with all the deep and tragic history in a fresh way.
One can’t help but mourn the loss of Catholic England. One can’t go on a pilgrimage like this without loathing the monstrous tyrant Henry VIII and his cruel daughter Elizabeth. One can’t help but weep for the blood of the martyrs and tremble at terrible Tyburn, mourn the destruction of Walsingham and despise the iconoclasm and destruction that was the English Protestant Revolution.
On the other hand, one must admire and respect the recusant families who braved the worst of times and lived through three hundred years of persecution. One has to admire the brave missionary Jesuit martyrs, the ordinary folks like Anne Line, John Roche and Margaret Clitherow who gave all. One must also admire the Catholics who fought so hard and gave so much to bring the Catholic church back to life in this island, and one cannot forget the courageous converts who pioneered the path to Rome when they sacrificed so much: Bl John Henry Newman, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Robert and Henry Wilberforce, JRR Tolkien’s mother and so many more.
So, as I travel to Italy, lest I seem to loathe England too much and not love her I’ve dug up this list from my archives on what I love about England.
Walking the South Downs Way with a black labrador. The Long Man of Wilmington. Visiting castles. Fawlty Towers. The North Cornwall Coastal path. Sausages. Mustard. Sticky Toffee Pudding. Custard. Flemish paintings in the National Gallery. Staying in farmhouse Bed and Breakfasts and eating lunch in country pubs. Watt and Co, Little St Mary’s, Cambridge. A pint of English bitter. Dad’s Army. Really good fish and chips. Rievaulx Abbey. St Laurence, Bradford-on-Avon, Choral Evensong at New College, Oxford. The upper reaches of the River Thames. WH Smith. Westminster Cathedral. Christmas Cake, crackers, pudding and carols. St Ethedreda’s Ely Place. Canals and canalboats. The Church of St Mary and St Alphege, Bath. Roast potatoes. Downside Abbey. those gas water heaters they have over their bathtubs that sound like engines on airplanes. Glastonbury. Tea with old ladies. Brown Sauce. Squash (the game, not the drink) Anglo-Catholic Churches. Medium Dry Sherry. The Isle of Wight. Lawn Tennis. Tintern Abbey. The Bird and Baby, the Perch and the Turf all in Oxford. St Mary Magdalene’s, Oxford. Old Libraries. Pusey House. Roast Potatoes. Mesopotamia. North Oxford. Private Eye. Merton College, Those soldiers with bearskin hats and scarlet tunics. Yaverland. BBC Radio 4. The Belles of St Trinian’s. Denis Thatcher. Christmas pantos. King’s College, Cambridge. Stonehenge. Charity shops. The Daily Telegraph. Gin and Tonic. pre-1985 Anglican vicars, Strawberries and cream. The Royle Family. Newman’s Rooms at the Birmingham Oratory. St Aloysius, Oxford. Croquet. Little Gidding. East Coker. Blackpool. Quarr Abbey.
And what do I love about the English themselves? Continue Reading