The Rev’d Humphrey Blytherington is our guest blogger. Rev’d Blytherington is Vicar of St Hilda’s, Little Snoring with All Saints, Great Snoring. He is a graduate of Plymouth University where he earned a degree in ornamental horticulture. 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.

The other evening down at the Goose and Garter, Dave, one of the lads asked a very good question. “Vicar, my missus is a Catholic and she’s wondering why the vicar of St Denis calls hisself ‘Father Bruce’. She said, ‘He ain’t a father, so why’s he call himself one?”

It’s not always easy to explain complicated theological concepts to the lads down at the pub, so I took a moment, sipped my lager shandy and thought of the best reply.
“Well, lads, it really comes down to what happened about five hundred years ago. You see, the Catholic Church had become rather corrupt. It was full of fat and jolly monks who were living the high life at the people’s expense. Lots of them had lady friends in the local convents and they sold something called indulgences which were pieces of paper which were rather like a ticket out of hell. They sold these indulgence thingies to help the Pope in Rome build bigger and bigger churches and palaces for himself. Then along came somebody who finally decided to clean things up a bit. King Henry VIII closed down the corrupt monasteries and put things right. The Pope didn’t like that much so he kicked King Henry out of the Catholic Church.”
“Yeh, but why does Father Bruce call himself ‘father’ when he ain’t?”
“I’m coming to that…” I said, “So you see, the Church of England has been Catholic all along, it’s just that we’re Reformed Catholic. We’re the old Catholic Church in England, but we’ve got our act together and cleaned things up. You can see we’re the original Catholic church because we still have all the old cathedrals and churches. Some vicars like doing things more in the way of Roman Catholics, and so they like to visit Italy together and dress up in fancy clothes like Roman Catholics and they like to worship the Virgin Mary and so forth and there’s nothing wrong with that. If they like that sort of thing, it’s perfectly alright in my book. I’m sure that what they do is perfectly harmless.  I myself don’t go in for all that superstitious fol de rol. I don’t think it’s manly. But I wouldn’t want to stop them.”
“Yeh, but why does Father Bruce call himself ‘father’ when he ain’t?”
I could see that I wasn’t really getting through. “Well, Dave, I think it’s a good thing that Father Bruce calls himself ‘father’.” I said. “It helps to remind us all that in a way we’re Catholics too and always have been. We may not do things just the way Father Bruce does, but in our own way we’re all Catholics aren’t we? After all, ‘Catholic’ simply means ‘universal;…
Kevin, who I’m afraid is not one of the brightest buttons, interrupted, “You mean like when we go to the pictures and there’s this globe going around and it says, ‘Universal Pictures’. Does that mean all them movies we see are Catholic?”
“Not quite” I smiled, “Catholic means ‘universal’ because it includes everyone, and in that sense we are speaking about the great brotherhood of man which includes people of every race and religion. You see Dave, all of us, you could say, are ‘Catholics’–why even our Muslim and Hindu friends, if they are sincere in their religion are also Catholics.
So when we see Father Bruce we’re reminded that we’re all Catholic in our own way because we all belong to God’s family.  Just because I don’t worship Mary or wear lacy cottas or kiss the Pope’s toe doesn’t mean I’m not Catholic, no indeed! Remember Father Bruce and I have both been ordained by the Bishop of Jeeves and Wooster so we’re both equally Catholic in that sense. Does that help Dave?”
“Nah. Not really, but don’t worry about it Vicar. Do you want another half pint of lager shandy?”
“I’d better not. Mrs Vicar is waiting at the Vicarage and she’ll be wanting to watch Keeping Up Appearances. She’s very fond of Hyacinth Bucket you know.