Guest blogger, The Rev’d Humphrey Blytherington is Vicar of St Hilda’s, Little Snoring with All Saints, Great Snoring. He is a graduate of Plymouth University. He completed his studies for the ministry at Latimer Hall, Durham. He is married to Daphne and enjoys home brewing, model railroading and is an avid member of the Great Snoring Morris Dancers.

What’s that Nigel? What did I make of the Holy Father’s visit to Birmingham? Well, you’ve certainly put the cat among the pigeons with that one! Ian, instead of topping up my lager shandy do you think you might just manage a whisky? Ice? Thank you so much. Yes, I don’t mind if you do make it a double. Very kind. Very kind.

I must say I wasn’t at all inclined to go all that way with Daphne. Birmingham’s a long haul, and the prospect of standing in the rain with thousands of Irish washerwomen, Philippino nurses and Polish plumbers didn’t really strike me as the idea of a good time. No, indeed, Nigel. I don’t think I’m being ‘racist’ as you put it. I don’t mind that sort of person at all, they’re perfectly alright in their place, it’s just that one can’t understand the language, and they might be as nice as can be, but it makes one feel awkward being in the midst of so many foreigners.

Still, “Anything for peace at home” as the saying goes! So Daphne and I tootled off together with some folks from her church, and I must say, when the Pope of Rome arrived it really was rather impressive. I have to hand it to them, whoever organized the whole shooting match, certainly did a good job. Thousands of people there, all of them waving flags and singing. Rather good fun, and I have to admit I got into the spirit of the whole thing even though I was rather dubious. I was feeling a bit peckish and a rather sweet Polish woman shared her picnic with us. Some sort of dumpling affair. Funny looking, but jolly tasty!

The numbers and the enthusiasm was rather disconcerting I must say.  I mean to say, the dear old Archbishop of Canterbury would never get that many out on a rainy Sunday morning. Then, when the old fellow arrived the sun came out. A very nice co incidence if you believe in that sort of thing. Yes indeed, rather impressive in its own way. Of course, I asked Archdeacon Huffington-Post about it and he pooh poohed the whole thing. Pointed out that the Catholic priests demand total, unthinking obedience from their flock, and that is why so many turned up. He was really rather amusing. Said, “Farther Murphy O’Malley says, ‘Now ye all better go along and see the Holy Farther, and don’t ye fergit to bring your sons and brothers and husbands and the whole clan.’ So they all turn up–with their endless broods of snotty young uns, and no wonder there’s a crowd of em.”

Har, har. Not very kind, of the old Archdeacon, but he does have a point I must say. What did I make of Blessed John Henry Newman? Now then, I don’t mind singing a few of his hymns. Lead Kindly Light Amid the Encircling Gloom is one of my favorites for Evensong, but I must admit, I can’t really bring myself to call him ‘Blessed’. It’s not manly, if you know what I mean, and I don’t understand this obsession with ‘Venerable this’ and ‘Blessed that.’ After all, we’re all saints aren’t we–each in his own way? Also, I have to admit that I’m a little bit biased. After all,  Newman was an Oxford man, and that doesn’t bode well. You never can trust an Oxford man. Then he went and converted to the Romans. That was a rum thing to do. Not trustworthy at all. No, as a matter of fact, we didn’t read him at theological college. Old Canon Farnsworth said we were better sticking with the good old Anglican writers like Wodehouse or Conan Doyle. Said Newman was hard going and likely to confuse us, and besides he was a papist.

So all in all, not that impressed really. The Romans put on a good show, it must be said, and Daphne and her chums were certainly beside themselves. I did promise her to read that Newman book–something with a funny Latin name in which I think he apologizes to a couple of gals named Vita and Sue for embarrassing everyone by becoming a Roman. I’ll give it a go, and let you know how it goes, but I’m not very hopeful I must say.

I hope the visit of the Pope hasn’t upset you too much, and hope you haven’t all got ‘Roman Fever.’ I remember a lad at theological college who I  went to school with went all funny about the Roman Church and ‘swam the Tiber.’ Name was Geoffrey Swann. He wasn’t a strong fellow at the best of times. A bit over sensitive if you know what I mean. Always crying off rugby with a note from his mother. I think the Principal should have given him a stern talking to and sent him out to do some parish visiting. That always knocks some sense into a fellow. Ended up as a monk somewhere in Wales, poor chap.

Well, thanks so much for the extra shot of ‘Dutch courage’ as they say! Must head home. It’s been marvelous chatting with you lads. I expect Daphne will be waiting up with her Catechism in one hand and a cup of cocoa in the other, ready to fire away with more of her infernal theological questions. Never mind. Must soldier on! Chin chin!