Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Please can we have our Church back?

I found myself in a local churchyard a few days ago (actually, at the bottom of my lane). The small and beautiful Church is Pre Reformation and my purpose was to obtain both physical and spiritual exercise. Physical in walking the half mile or so briskly and spiritual, in praying for the dead.
I could not help but ponder on the whims of history - what once was Catholic became Anglican and now, under Anglicanorum coetibus, is about to become Catholic again!
This little Church is used infrequently but it is one of many hundreds of places of worship that were taken illegally from its owners, the Catholic Church, by a sex mad serial killer aka Henry VIII.
St David's Cathedral, Bishop's Palace, Pembrokeshire - trashed by Henry VIII

Why can we not reclaim what was once rightfully our own? American Indians have successfully been compensated or had their homelands returned to them, Germany has paid many millions in compensation to those whose goods and property were seized illegally during the war; I am sure there are many other examples over the years. What is our legal position? What is our moral position?
The downside is that, in all probability, our dear Bishops would not know what to do with this wealth of Catholic heritage and architecture if it was dumped, on a plate, in their laps. Much of the Church Commissioners property portfolio contains buildings that require many millions spent on them just to contain the ravages of time. We do not have the cash or the priests to restore them to viability.
But it would be nice to have St David's back and, oh, while we are about it, what about Westminster Abbey and Canterbury Cathedral? Just for starters.
Before I get too carried away and forget my true purpose let me say that the indulgences gained from praying for the deceased in a churchyard are just as obtainable in a Protestant graveyard as a Catholic one and, as a priest friend used to tell me: "Prayers for the holy souls buried here may never ever have been offered, so seize the chance to pray whenever you are able". Thank you Fr Lessiter.

The headstone of one, John Marlow - Died 2nd October 1865 aged 25 years

Dangers stand thick thro' all the ground
To push us to the tomb;
And fierce diseases wait around
To hurry mortals home

John Marlow's epitaph

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
And let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace. Amen

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