Saturday, 21 May 2011


It happened in the mid 1950s when I was a ten year old altar boy arriving to serve the early morning Mass at St Michael's and St Martin's, Hounslow.

I only got as far as the sacristy when Fr Steer, the curate came out looking grey and flustered and told me that a terrible act had taken place and that I was to go straight home. As I left the church I was aware of various men moving around the aisles, looking under benches and generally, poking around.

Later, it transpired that the church had been broken into during the night, the tabernacle forced open, consecrated hosts removed and the altar and hosts had been defiled.
My friend and fellow server, Anthony Tilley, had arrived five minuted before me and had been assigned to accompany a detective around the church grounds and extensive orchard. Coming across a host on the ground the CID man had bent down to pick it up but was stopped by Anthony who bravely told him that he could not touch it. Now Anthony was a bit of a rogue; wherever there was trouble he was to be found but he came shining through that morning, a little lad of ten commanding a police officer not to touch the consecrated host.

The whole parish went into a state of shock and all Masses had to be held at a side altar for many months after until a new tabernacle was installed and a Mass of Reparation held, celebrated, no less by Cardinal Griffin.
We went into penitential mode; daily rosaries in the side altar, acts of penance in the home; it was a dark and dismal period. Meanwhile, the main altar was shrouded off with echoes of Good Friday except that it was not just for a couple of days; more like a couple of months and the white shroud where the tabernacle used to be haunted us with its memories.
The old Canon who suffered from a bad heart had the news witheld for a few hours but had to be told before the day was out. I am sure this sacrilege reduced his life span because he was never quite the same and died within 18 months.

Needless to say, no one was apprehended for this crime, that really did not matter. What affected all was the thought of the gross act against the Body of Christ.

                                          Act of Reparation

Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, I adore You profoundly and  offer You the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifferences by which He Himself is offended. And by the infinite merits of His Most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of You the conversion of poor sinners.


  1. What a childhood memory for you to have. This will have worked for good, in your spiritual walk Richard, I am sure. When I think of how Jesus allows himself to be treated (He could have struck the men dead who broke into the tabernacle), it shows us how amazing His love for us, while we are yet sinners, must be. It is also an encouragement to us, to try to love with the same attitude. To suffer, to be brave, to continue to trust, no matter how bad things seem to be. To endure and occasionally enjoy. That's the deal. So let's deal with it.

    Very thought provoking post.

  2. Wonderful presence of mind by your friend Anthony. I imagine that, sadly, few 10-year-old altar servers nowadays would have any idea that there is anything wrong in anyone picking up a consecrated host.

  3. Makes my blood run cold to hear of such things. We had a rash of desecration of Hosts at our parish a few years back. A dozen or so were found in the HVAC vents, leading me to believe that one person did this over a period of time. We prayed the Litany of Reparation at Stations of the Cross every week and measures were taken for all of us to be more mindful and observant. Thankfully, it did not happen again, at least not in that way.

    Every time a person who is in mortal sin receives Holy Communion, that, too, is a desecration of the Sacred Host.