Wednesday, 10 April 2013

The Church where G K Chesterton worshipped

Over the last week I have been ducking and diving betwixt Westminster and Northampton and even Birmingham Dioceses and, at one stage found myself near the Buckinghamshire town of Beaconsfield.

This semi rural town is home to the parish of St Teresa (de Lisieux of course) where GKC attended Mass on High Days and Holy Days.

GKC's gift to the parish of St Teresa

It is to this church that he donated a rather beautiful statue of Our Lady and the Christ Child and I have long wished to visit to gain first hand knowledge.

The church is most beautiful in a sort of 1920s (?) style but has had a carbuncle of a porch (foyer, really) added fairly recently.
This is all plate glass and swing doors and it jars greatly with the rest of the architecture.

Playschool catechetics

A display signifying Easter (three twig crosses on a pebble and grass Calvary) commands the left hand side, naturally, while, on the right is a pre Reformation font originating from Buckfast Abbey.

What a joy to dip one's fingers into a font that may well have received the hands of More and Fisher and countless other saints.

Redundant after 800 years of use

But that joy is short lived as the font is bone dry.

Inside the church a large holy water stoup made of what appears to be rosewood formica and stainless steel, blocks the aisle.

Other than that, I guess the church is pretty much as the great man would have left it (apart from the NO altar main stage.

How incorrect that faux altar looks when you peer to one side and view the original against the wall. Really very hard to comprehend.
It is rather like having a grand auditorium with a slick but trashy modern one set in front of the old.

The statue of Our Lady is, indeed, very fine but why, oh why, must so many priests set statues several yards above the head of the people?

It is hard indeed to appreciate the full beauty of the image when all you have is a worm's eye view.

Now, I have not checked my facts here but the Stations of the Cross deserve a mention on the plus side.
The work of Eric Gill?
No way of telling

If I am not mistaken they are the work of sculptor and artist, Eric Gill.
Each of the stations are carved in bas relief from stone and are exquisite in their simple style.

It is a great shame that the parish website carries no information regarding the statue or other works of art present in the church. Or, indeed, of its past illustrious parishioner

It is almost as if the PP is ashamed of his Catholic heritage.

Needless to say, there is zero evidence that the EF Mass is celebrated here or, that it even exists.

Why is it that so many of our churches feature displays that would look more at home in year one of Playschool than on church property?

The clergy must think that we are a simple old bunch who will accept whatever pap they push in our direction.

Sadly, I think that they may be right.

A fine altar and sanctuary - obscured by the modern


  1. Apparently one of the first ever churches built and dedicated to St Therese (who had only been canonised the previous year). I may be wrong, but I think St Theresa, Hirwaun (Aberdare) in the Welsh Valleys might be another early one.

    Had to take a peep at the website. They do seem to get full houses, and are quite a jolly little parish (very lovely donk in the nave in Holy Week). Judging by the activities shown they were Pope-Francis-Ready.

  2. Check the parish newsletter..I am most definitely pleading the fifth in this regard as I know the parish and its priests over the generations...

  3. They have a Latin Mass six and a half miles away in Chesham Bois every Sunday at 10am.

    Lovely post Richard, is there a series of posts on churches you've visited and criticised?

  4. Thank you Tony, no series I'm afraid, I think that it would be too samey.
    Jadis, I like "Pope Francis ready" - excellent.
    Paul, I try never to read parish newsletters as they depress me too much. I would have expected a 'History' tab maybe?

  5. Why do they depress you? Do you hate to see things going on in the parish? Like the First Communion Catechists meeting, the cleaners rota, the prayer meetings etc?

  6. It's depressing to see churches that once had three priests each amalgamated into a "Pastoral Area" with one harassed and one elderly priest trudging between them - with 30 minutes of confessions a week. It's also depressing to see centering prayer and other new-age malarkey abounding. Oh - and trite little soundbites that remind me of something from the wastepaper basket of "Patience Strong" circa 1965, and anything by the nu-Redemptorists.

  7. TF - I dislike the drab and the inane. There is more to our Faith than making crib figures out of pipe cleaners.
    Jadis, Patience Strong, now there's a name I had almost erased from my memory, grim stuff.

  8. TF....and news should be in a newsletter, not just parochial news but also reports from the Vatican, Catholic Herald and the Catholic blogosphere.

  9. You edit your parish newsletter? Very little happening in your parish then, if you have room for all that.

    Perhaps you should get a few things going in your parish, like a few drab prayer meetings or a few inane soup runs for those in need, then you'll understand the logistics behind a parish newsletter.

  10. Tony, I have no parish, I am a wandering Catholic, not lost but homeless.
    At various stages in my career I have edited five plus monthly magazines at a time, more or less single handedly.
    A Parish Newsletter holds no fear for me.

  11. I suppose if you have no parish it leaves you free to knock everyone else's and all the work that goes on therein.

  12. Phil SteinackerApril 12, 2013 6:33 pm


    Give it a rest. I DO belong to a parish and participate quite fully in a number of activities there, yet I have zero interest in reading the parish newsletter or its website for the same sort of reasoning cited by Richard.

    Having an appreciation for the logistical challenges of obtaining "relevant" content, assembling it, and distributing it does not negate or refute the reality that the content of most of them (occasionally there are exceptions but too few and far between) are filled with the kind of fluff he mentions, and worse.

    I, for one, have a long standing tradition of not bothering to read them or Sunday bulletins where they are handed out, as is done here in the states.

    Finally, your own final word is especially preposterous. I do not recognize arguments which preclude anyone's right or ability to mount a criticism of something they MIGHT know nothing about, or whether that criticism is correct.

    If this were true, none of us would be posting here or anywhere - including you.

  13. There's no challenge to collecting parish news, it floods in, I don't know a parish were it doesn't.

    I've always taken the view that criticising is easy for those that are not involved, I read an awful lot of criticism on this blog, which make one think how involved the naysayers may or may not be.

  14. Tony Flavin - you only have to read your last comment to realise that you are shooting yourself in the foot.

    Phil - thank you for your comment, a breath of fresh air.

  15. Definitely not Eric Gill. Nowhere near the quality of Gill's carving.

  16. Kwak, it is well documented and recorded as being Gill's work.