Tuesday, 27 October 2015

A 12 year old murder victim teaches us how to forgive. A note on how to avoid 'the bitterness trap'

Presently America has the honour of having the relics of St Maria Goretti tour from church to church, the virgin-martyr born 125 years ago this month.
125 years ago this month, Maria Goretti was born in Italy. Poverty had a vice-like grip on her family. When she was six, her parents lost their farm and had to up sticks and earn a meagre living working for other farmers. Following the untimely death of her father, Maria, her mother and siblings moved again, and not begin able to afford a house of their own, had to share with the Serenelli family, which is where little Maria Goretti got to know their son, Alessandro.
Three years later, the 18 year old Alessandro started lusting after 12 year old Maria. One afternoon while her mother was working in the fields, Alessandro sexually harassed little Maria. She stood up to him, warned him his salvation would be in jeopardy if he defiled her, and cried out, “No! It is a sin! God does not want it!” Enraged by her refusal to submit to him (and probably because she pricked his conscience) Alessandro lost all inhibitions and stabbed Maria 14 times.
While Maria lay on her death-bed, she forgave Alessandro. Alessandro was jailed, but remained unremorseful, indifferent to the grief he had caused Maria’s mother.
A few years after her death, Maria Goretti appeared to Alessandro in a dream, assured him that she forgave him and put lilies into his hands. Alessandro broke down and admitted that he was wholly guilty of her death. On being released from prison, he sought out Maria’s mother and begged her forgiveness. Copying her daughter’s example, Maria Goretti’s mum told Alessandro that she readily forgave him.
St Maria Goretti’s capacity and desire to forgive puts most of us to shame. Those of us who find it agonising to forgive small slights have only to compare our reluctance to forgive with St Maria Goretti’s total, unconditional willingness to forgive, and it shows us how far off the mark we are.
Her example seems so simple, and yet is crushingly hard to emulate. St Maria Goretti showed no hesitation in forgiving Alessandro. There is a lesson here for us, it is easier to set your will to forgive no matter what, instead of letting in the doubt of “will-I-forgive-or-won’t-I”. Our will is like a block of wood, and debating as to whether we are to forgive or not is like a sharp metal wedge that divides the will between bitterness and forgiveness, weakening the will to the extent that only half its power is dedicated to forgiveness.
Alessandro offers an essential lesson in asking for forgiveness. Admittedly, Alessandro was a child murderer and the vast majority of people are not guilty of so heinous an evil act. Thus, most people would take umbrage at being told that if Alessandro Serenelli can ask to be forgiven, then so can they. Yet those who have been hurt, even in small ways deserve the soothing balm of a sincere apology so they may heal.
Forgiveness is not a feeling, and some people may still feel angry and traumatised even after they have forgiven someone. The scars of trauma are like that from surgery, they need time to fade. I see Christians grow impatient with fellow Christians and non-Christians, who have suffered at the hands of others, telling them that they are “bitter” and “not living like Jesus”, if they have difficulty recovering. This is bad for both parties: there is little emphasis on asking the perpetrator to ask for forgiveness so the victim is less likely to enjoy healing, and without being told precisely how their actions have hurt others, the perpetrator may imperviously hurt others in the same way.
The Bitterness Trap
Bullies often berate their victims by calling them bitter and taunting the victim’s apparent inability to forgive – as a way of control freakery. The victim feels under pressure to prove they are not bitter by allowing the bully into their lives again.
I wrote this blog for The Catholic Herald on-line. To see all my work for the Herald to date, visit my author archive

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Surviving ISIS: "At night they would torture me, during the day I was giving these young men advice on their marriage problems"

At my parish of the London Oratory, Fr Douglas Bazi gave a talk in St Wilfrid's hall, the long drawing room with dazzlingly high ceilings.  Aid to the Church in Need have brought Fr Bazi from Iraq. He gave one of the most fascinating talks I've ever heard; it was both inspiring and heartbreaking.  He says that if a young Catholic man in Iraq decides to become a priest, he knows he will be martyred, 'to be a priest in Iraq is a one way mission; you will be killed.'

Fr Bazi knows this viscerally; ISIS terrorists kidnapped him for nine days. He was driving in traffic, when two cars sidled up and blocked him. Chaining his hands, they took him to a toilet where he was kept for several days with the instruction, 'if you open your eyes, we will shoot you.' They starved him and gave him no water for four days.  When he thought things were at their worst, Fr Bazi tried off-beat humour to show them they were not getting to him, and thus make them

Mary O'Regan,  Fr Douglas Bazi

doubt their efforts to hurt him, by saying to the young men of ISIS, 'this is a picnic'. But he concedes that this was, 'a very bad idea' and only motivated the very young Islamic men to torture him more brutally. They went from chaining him to a toilet, to taking a hammer and breaking his back teeth and smashing a disc in his back.  When he was alone, Fr Bazi would use the chains that bound him as a means of saying the Rosary, each link would be used to count Hail Mary's.  Fr Bazi used all his remaining strength to forgive them and this was the secret of his survival:  he didn't grow bitter and cold towards them and when these emotionally disturbed young men needed a friendly ear, they told Fr Bazi their problems.  

Fr Bazi was clear that he readily forgave these unstable young men at every moment. During the day, these jumpy young men who had been lured by promises of being a prince in Heaven (ISIS teaches their wards that if they kill an infidel priest, they will be made princes in the next life) would ask Fr Bazi for advice on their marital problems and their other issues. One complained about his lady saying, 'Fr Bazi, my wife is so picky, I can't please her!' 

At this point in the talk, me and my fellow parishioners surprised ourselves by chuckling at the hapless young men. Fr Bazi said smiling, 'I advised him to be sweeter to his wife, and try a little gentleness.' 

Getting inside the mind of these young men who are desperate to prove themselves, Fr Bazi said, 'I knew that these young men were under orders from their higher-ups, after they had asked me to listen to their problems, they would get new instructions and then torture me at night.'  Fr Bazi tackled the question of forgiveness directly, 'yes, I forgive them, but I can't forget.  And I am not here to tell you to hate them or their religion, but to tell you the reality.' 

After ISIS had let him go, Fr Bazi has dedicated himself to running a refugee camp for persecuted Christian families who are fleeing Mosul.  The families are given this choice, they either convert to Islam or pay taxes. If they don't pay the ransom for their souls, they are hunted out of their homes. Fr Bazi said it is very tempting to harass Christians so that their houses can be seized and looted, once the Christian family have fled their neighbourhood. 

The persecuted families now live cheek-by-jowl in the camp, but 'they never call each other refugees, they call each other relatives.' Conditions are cramped: each family has a tiny container, about five foot by ten foot.  Married men say to Fr Bazi, 'my wife has become like my sister, we never have any privacy.' Fr Bazi says it is difficult on girls and young women, 'who have to wait until night fall to change their clothes.' 

Fr Bazi said that when Iraqi Christians meet each other for the first time, they ask each other, 'do you live in a house or a container?'

If the current persecution continues, Christianity will have disappeared from Iraq in five years.  Even more precise details of the plight of the Iraqi Christians is to be found in, Persecuted and Forgotten? A report on the countries worldwide where Christians suffer for their faith. 

After the talk, some red wine was served and Fr Bazi got to mingle with the audience. There was a collection for Aid to the Church in Need. I'm going to get in touch with Fr Bazi and give him a copy of Drunks and Monks, John Carmichael's humour and his amazing conversion story will buoy Fr Bazi's spirits as he works all hours in the refugee camp. 

Neville Kyrke-Smith of ACN and Fr Bazi

A million thanks to Daniel Blackman for taking photos at the talk and putting them on Flickr. See the full album here. 
Neville Kyrke-Smith,  Mary O'Regan

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Such truth in parody: let's re-name Amnesty, Shamnesty

Liam Neeson lent his voice to the Amnesty International video calling for the repeal of the Eight Amendment of the Irish Constitution.   A most patronising piece, it puts forth that Irish women are in 'chains' because the Eight Amendment introduced a constitutional ban on abortion, and that people who are against the mutilation of the unborn are locked in the past.  

Manipulative in that it attempts to evoke the stigma that many Irish people feel when they think of 'poor Catholic Ireland'. I find it very offensive that they think Irish people will be so easily manipulated, apparently the only way Ireland can prove it has gotten over its past, is if abortion is legalised.

The most infuriatingly derisive statement is, 'it is the shadow of the country we'd hoped we'd left behind.'  Working on the assumption that we or all of us share their driving ambition to allow the legalised destruction of babies, evades acknowledging that there are Irish pro-life people who do not want Ireland's pro-life laws scrapped at the behest of pro-abortion lobbyists. 

Ripe for parody, a You-Tube site has been launched with the intention of poking fun at Liam Neeson's patronising pro-abortion posturing.  The Amnesty 
propaganda has Liam Neeson spouting, 'it is the shadow of the country we'd hoped we'd left behind,' the satire responds, 'here my use of the collective pronoun 'we' applies the opinion that this amendment is outdated is shared by everyone'.  

Share the video as widely as you can, and let's re-name Amnesty, Shamnesty. 

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Guest post from John Carmichael on how YOU can discover the secret of the Rosary

The Secret of the Rosary

When my dear friend and editor, Mary O’Regan, asked me to contribute a guest post on the subject of the Rosary, the first thing that came to mind was the old line that, “writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” What I wish I could say about the Rosary seems so often to be beyond language.

Many disciples of Jesus Christ much more advanced than me have had their comment on this great prayer of the Church, but I have found them all wanting.  

Take one for example: Saint Louis de Montfort, a glorious writer on our Blessed Mother. His True Devotion to Mary is for me a transcendent and exhilarating read. So, after having experienced my own startling encounter with the Rosary, I was very much looking forward to reading Saint de Montfort’s The Secret of the Rosary to find out why the Rosary was so powerful.   

Unfortunately I tried several times but could not get through it. There it sits, The Secret of the Rosary does, silently mocking me for my lack of diligence. And such has been the case with each book I have tried to read about the Rosary. Nothing can live up to or fully explain what actually happened in my interior and exterior life when first I began to pray this powerful and mysterious prayer.   

I think the difficulty I have is this: the true secret of the Rosary is revealed to each individual soul by (brace yourselves) actually praying the Rosary. And I do not mean to suggest that this great prayer is in any way gnostic, or that it will provide through some obscure manner a specialized knowledge available only to in-the-know practitioners. No, the Mother of God, given to us so pointedly by God the Son at the Cross, will do what she has always done since the time she was first asked by the hapless figures at the wedding in Cana to intercede about the wine situation. She will direct a soul to her Divine Son, and instruct the soul to do whatever He says.

And in the mysterious scope of God’s economy, such instruction may come by way of signal graces, just one of the many promises made to those who pray the Rosary. How lovely it is to see the few steps ahead lit with the warm glow of an amber light, even though the rest of the landscape so often remains covered in a grey mist.

In my account of conversion, Drunks & Monks, I tried my best to follow the cardinal rule of good literary fiction and memoir: to show the reader and not merely tell about the dramatic experience of what the Rosary is for me. Yet the two most difficult things for me to write about as they pertain to the Catholic Faith are the Rosary and the Eucharist, both of which seem to hover well above the limitations of human language, and represent a true bridge to the supernatural life of grace in the soul.

When first I ventured to pray it, a humble and holy soul from my choir thrust into my hands a fresh copy of The 54 Day Novena Booklet and a little plastic rosary, and bid me pray this grand prayer every day for 54 days. I had no understanding of its history, no knowledge of the promises made to those devoted to the Rosary, no real faith that anything at all would happen.

The spiritually dynamic events that followed included a general confession, deliverance from evil, readmission to the Sacraments and a deep and deepening faith.

There was a vast chasm that separated my young witness to a devout Irish grandmother who had a daily devotion to the Rosary and my own visceral experience of praying the Rosary. I found I cannot borrow my grandmother’s life of prayer, nor can I rely on de Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary. 

Instead, I saw what now seems obvious: that I must bend my own knees and finger my own beads and dare to venture into the deep meditation on the life and mysteries of Christ for myself. It is only then that I begin to truly discover The Secret of the Rosary.

Many Thanks, dear John for writing this beautiful meditation 
on the Feast of the Most Holy Rosary.  

John's masterpiece, Drunks and Monks is available on Amazon, it chronicles John's seven year descent into darkness and brushes with death before embracing renewal through discovery of the means for our salvation. John's physical, psychological and soul-survival are aided by the many denizens of the great swath of Southern California who come alive in the book, but none so well as members of a monastery who help heal the author's spirit and teach him timeless truths. 

John Carmichael's Drunks and Monks

Friday, 2 October 2015

'The author gives credit to grace...'

A reader has given Drunks and Monks a five star rating, and has written that, ‘the vulnerability and honesty of this conversion story give us a profound example of every human's experience to some degree...’

The second part of the review called to my mind, St Thérèse of Lisieux’s truism that everything is grace, ‘the author gives credit to grace and the grace received through the sacraments for his ability to see Truth. Great read.’

It was St Thérèse’s feast day yesterday, and I would like to wish everyone a belated happy feast. 

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Today, Drunks & Monks garnered its 44th review

Drunks and Monks was published on the auspicious day of Tuesday, July 7th, and today September 30th, feast of St Jerome, it garnered a total of 44 reviews. Here are a few tasters.   

Scott Woltze
Scott Woltze, an early and enthusiastic reader has been spreading the word about Drunks and Monks in various places around the internet with apostolic zeal. Scott's review got to the heart of Drunks and Monks:

"Like the other reviewers, I couldn't put this book down. It's a raw and honest book that lays bare the confused and brittle life away from Christ, and the little workings of grace that lead to conversion...The mystery of God's grace and timing is evident as he slowly moves toward conversion while many around him unwittingly seem to sabotage the Lord's work. Demons seemed to be aware of the workings of grace, and took an unusual interest in trying to prevent his conversion...On a personal level, I could relate to his loss of faith (and that of nearly all his peers) after growing up Catholic in the 70s-80s, and his subsequent materialistic, secular creed. I could also relate to his wonderful discovery of the old Latin Mass. Since I'm writing my own book-length conversion story..."

On the contrary, one reviewer, TCannon felt that too much of the book was dedicated to the author's life before finding Christ, "I would recommend this book. It was pretty intense--so much time was spent on the super dark life prior to Christ (over half the book) and that was emotionally draining. I almost gave up the read because I was losing hope with/for the author. But it was still a valuable conversion story, as are all, and displays the power and grace in Christ."

Drunks and Monks may take a warts and all look at life which excludes Christ, but many of the reviewers are able to see mirror images of themselves in the former parts. Testament to the way so few enter by the narrow door, fewer people identify with the latter parts of the memoir that is devoted to being a Catholic convert.  It's not surprising that the review voted the most helpful states: "After reading this book, I can say that it has brought questions to my mind about my own spiritual and sober state. This is a must read for people who are on the fence about their sobriety."

One reader echoed Jennifer Fulwiler, "Drunks and Monks is the spiritual autobiography of a 21st century Thomas Merton."

Thursday, 24 September 2015

John Carmichael's Drunks & Monks, a look behind the scenes

I got to know John Carmichael in April 2014.  He got in touch with me via the comments section here and here after he saw me presenting the pilot episode of the show Extraordinary Faith on EWTN which was set in John’s parish church of Mission San Juan Capistrano in Southern California. John was eager to learn all about my experience as a TV producer – he was the first person that I ever met who truly ‘gets’ the joys and pains of making television.

John Carmichael 
I was fascinated to learn that John is an agile legal eagle whose wings swooped high and low around Hollywood for many years when he represented a number of celebrity clients and handled big cases for film studios and record companies. As he says in the opening of his masterpiece, Drunks and Monks, ‘litigation is blood sport in Hollywood…I’ve seen more of what goes on backstage than I ever wanted.’

After he got to know me a little he told me he was working on a memoir that chronicled his conversion from being an unbelieving cultural Catholic to being a devout, repentant Catholic striving to follow in the footsteps of the saints. He asked me if I would like to read it – he had shared the draft with no one else – and I felt honoured to be asked.  I was quite confident that John was writing a great book. I think that the multitude of emails John has sent me over the past year could be compiled and would make a best-seller. But I didn’t open the file with the opening chapters for some time. 

The truth is that I was scared.

John warned me that there would be a minor exorcism along the way.  I am that same girl who stayed up all night after reading Fr. Malachi Martin's Hostage to the Devil.  My first conversations with John had concerned such cheery topics as demonic possession and exorcism, the thinly veiled hatred that Satanists have for sincere Catholics and how Padre Pio was physically beaten up by the devil.  When I was doing pro-life work in the South Bronx, I met very poor people who would spend their few dollars going to devil worshippers to get ‘favours’.  The raging battle for our souls is not something that is academic and abstract for me – oft times I’ve been burned by the sparks from the clashing swords.

I told John that I would read it when I was sure that I would sleep after reading the opening chapters. So, last winter, on a very frosty evening in central London, I resolved that I could read Drunks and Monks, because a friend and I were going for a hot toddy which I knew would send me to sleep, even if I found the memoir so nerve-shredding that it would render me unable to close my eyes. I only drink whisky a few times a year; those of you who know me well know that I much prefer gin. So, before going for the honey, lemon and scotch drink, I opened the first chapter of Drunks and Monks…


I never thought that I would be the first reader of what I consider to be one of the best books ever written.  Not long after, John invited me to be the editor, and to make suggestions.  If I do nothing else noteworthy in my life, I can say I’ve edited the book that Jennifer Fulwiler called, ‘our generation’s Seven Storey Mountain’.  Jennifer is one bright lady and she invited John onto her show, which you may listen to. John is interviewed at the 43:33mark.  
Thank you, Jennifer for generously inviting all your listeners to buy the book.

Find out if you agree with Awkward Tertle, a young woman who blogged that Drunks and Monks is written in an ‘intoxicatingly beautiful way’ and that John is ‘a modern day Augustine’.

Drunks and Monks

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Dog of the Week

Here I am near Paddington with this charming Chihuahua. You can see a lot of Chihuahuas and 'toy breeds' in the vicinity of Paddington Train Station because they are dogs beloved by commuters who can easily travel with a Chihuahua on their lap in the busiest train carriage at rush-hour. 

I've often been tempted to get a Chihuahua, and become a walking cliché: walking in kitten heels, wearing a cocktail dress on my way to some party with a Chihuahua sticking its fluffy head out of my handbag. The joy of having a Chihuahua is that they are so light they can be carried for long periods of time. They say that a Chihuahua is 'a little dog with a big personality', and Chihuahuas can have very dominant personalities, evidenced by the way many owners need strong dog harnesses to restrain a dog with such a slight build. Chihuahuas can have very mild personalities. Their genetic inheritance dictates the kind of personality they will have, and someone looking for a Chihuahua with an even-temperament needs to ask a lot of questions of the breeder as to the personality traits of Ma and Pa Chihuahua. 

I will resist the urge to get one. My heart belongs to Greyhounds and whenever I go on a date, my friends have started asking me, 'is his place big enough for a Greyhound?!'  An important question indeed.  So far, my favourite Dog of the Week is the the Lady Greyhound, whose paws reached my collar-bone.  

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

The heroism of St Peter and St Paul still has power to win souls

Over at the Herald, I have a post that was done for the feast of Ss Peter and Paul, celebrated yesterday June 29th.  Were they alive today,  I think Paul would have fallen victim of a PR guru who would have told him to soften his words and not rebuke the Pope in public...

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

The dangerously contradictory elements of Laudato Si'

Over at the Herald, I wrote a piece on saints who could be models for the green movement, even if they didn't intend to be. 

I share with Pope Francis a devotion to the Little Flower and St Francis who had a great role in the formation of my favourite saint, St Anthony. 

I don't, however, subscribe to climate change theories and so I am at odds with Pope Francis here. 

But even if I did agree with the Pope on 'human induced climate change', it is still a cause for great concern that Hans Joachim Schellnhuber is so close to the Holy Father and exerts such an influence on His Holiness.  Hans Joachim Schellnhuber is pro-population control.  William Oddie's latest piece raises a disturbing issue, regarding Hans Joachim Schellnhuber's views on educating young girls to use contraception so that they may have smaller numbers of children and thus limit population growth.  I would go one step further than William Oddie and say that Schellnhuber does not state any opposition to abortifaciant contraception.  It does seem contradictory that Pope Francis's encyclical Laudato Si' denounces abortion,  yet gives a seat at the table to Schellnhuber who shows no opposition to abortifacient contraception. 

The Holy Father is from a family of five children. He is the first born and is very close to his youngest sister, who is number five.  I doubt that Schellnhuber has been so crass as to suggest to the Holy Father that his mother, Regina Bergoglio had too many children in having a metric half-dozen. Oh, silver tongued Schellnhuber would never raise a point so close to home, he's too clever for that. Such a personal and even rude assertion might anger the Holy Father and mean that Schellnhuber would be shown the door, thus limiting his public platform that he uses to place the responsibility for population growth on the shoulders of women who we must 'educate' so that they don't reproduce so much. 

I have thought very carefully before writing the next part, and have debated with myself as to whether it is rude or crass, or if I'm crossing the line to the commentators who endlessly pick at the Holy Father.  Bear with me, because I would like to raise a question. Maybe it is not my place to raise this question, being an ordinary lay-woman who has always supported the Holy Father. But why is His Holiness happy to bolster the career of Schellnhuber who chauvinistically opines that millions of ordinary women should have less children?

I hold that it is my place to ask such a question. Let me explain: I am certainly not a feminist, but I am one of those ordinary women in my child-bearing years, who is the target of Schellnhuber's number one solution for reducing the population: controlling women and teaching that women's fertility is the enemy of the earth.  The Holy Father may not agree with Schellnhuber on the point that women must be trained to have less children,  but in not clearly articulating where he does not agree with Schellnhuber, there is no stopping Catholic women becoming targets of green chauvinism. 

Precisely because I am one of Pope Francis' flock and I would like to think that his fatherly care to all women who follow him would extend to decrying the means of population control extolled by Schellnhuber which works on the basis of making women feel guilty for having the reproductive system that bears babies. 

Perhaps I'm in good company, Pope Paul VI was the first to argue that contraception would be used as a coercive force in Humanae Vitae and Pope St John Paul II's encyclical Evangelium Vitae developed many of the points made by Paul VI in the light of the events of more modern times. 

PS -  LMS Chairman, Joe Shaw has a post on 'the contraceptive mentality'
where he explains that a married couple's intention not to have any children (while still having a sexual relationship within marriage) is contrary to the vocation of marriage. Maybe I should have written, "marriage", because it is grounds for annulment when two people go through a marriage ceremony and become "married" while all the while having no intention of *trying* to have a baby. 

Sunday, 21 June 2015

"Nobody else can offer Mass, nobody else can absolve sins"

I think there ought to be many more videos made just like this. It is something that I would love to do. For starters, I would like to learn film-editing so that I can made very short films like this.  The content is what sets it apart, the structure and the detailed and clear answers make it as good as anything on commercial TV.  Brogan Martin is the film-maker and her film series is called Modern Lives. 

Short, succinct and straightforward. Fr Jonathan's precise sincerity won him credibility. 

Twitch of the mantilla to both Fr Ray and Bones who posted this video on their blogs, where I first saw it. 

Saturday, 20 June 2015

A simply marvellous time at the Oremus garden party...

Yesterday, I popped along to the courtyard behind Westminster Cathedral for the Oremus summer party.  It was hugely enjoyable. A high summer celebration of the magazine Oremus and the people who make this magazine such a success.  Oremus is Westminster Cathedral's monthly magazine.  It became free in 2013.

On arrival, we were greeted with glasses of Pims, but I sought out a glass of dry white wine and soon I had a plate that was heaped with delicious salmon sandwiches, canapés of mushroom and goats cheese and strawberry shortcake. My only regret is that I did not take a photo of the lovely spread. 

Oremus is edited by my friend of many years, Dylan Parry who commissioned my piece on Padre Pio's vocation story. Dylan made it onto The Catholic Herald honours list at Christmas 2011 for his role in founding the bloggers' guild. 

Dylan spoke a few words, in the presence of Cardinal Vincent Nichols. Reflecting on the role of Cardinal Vaughan who died 112 years ago that day, Dylan spoke on the fact that +Vaughan had not only built Westminster Cathedral, but also founded the Cathedral magazine.  Dylan placed the magazine under the protection of Our Lady, something that will keep it in good stead.

Dylan Parry, editor of Oremus

Then it was Cardinal Nichols turn to take the floor.  Cardinal Nichols said that Dylan's decision to make Oremus a free magazine was 'brave', gave credit to Dylan for attracting advertisers and said that the magazine was doing very well on account of it being a free publication that reaches so many people. 

A celebratory cake with candles in the form of champagne bottles was brought out, which had an Oremus cover done in icing, the cover being the re-decorated interior of Westminster Cathedral.  

The garden party was a lovely occasion for meeting with friends old and new. I bumped into my friend of ten years, John Newton, whoops, I mean Dr John Newton.  John and I were both teachers at Chavagnes International College in France and he was a great colleague, whenever I had a teaching dilemma, I could say to John, 'I've no idea how I'm going to teach this!' And John would find me a solution. Here we are with Farm Street's Fr Dominic Robinson. John and I had a fascinating conversation with Fr Dominic about the real-life exorcism that inspired Blatty to write The Exorcist. John has corresponded by email with Blatty and Fr Dominic knows the Jesuits in Georgetown where the film was set.   

Dr John Newton, Mary O'Regan, Fr Dominic Robinson

Dylan introduced me to Philip Smyth, who hails from Northern Ireland. Philip knew Sr Gen O'Farrell, the gusty sister who defied the IRA and who was known as 'the only man on the Falls'

Ben, Fabio, Philip and Dylan

Many more photos are available on the Flickr site. There's also a photo of me and Keith Day, who shares my love for dogs. His dog, Cocoa has her own Facebook page and Helen Mirren has sent Coco a friend request. Peter Sheppard, Chairman of The Catholic Herald and I had a chat about The Go-Between, LP Hartley's most famous novel, and the meaning of the infamous line, 'the past is a foreign country, they do things differently there'. 

A great evening was had by all, in the surrounds of the warm red brick walls. A big thank you is due to Dylan for his hard work and painstaking efforts in making Oremus a great magazine: everyone who has a role in the mag can be very proud of their work. 
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