Saturday, 17 January 2009

North and South

Holy Name Church, Manchester

If there is one thing I’m learning in life is that I’m incapable of making a financial profit out of anything. This is no bad thing, I suppose. I’ve been putting money into a saving’s scheme for 9 years and 6 months, it was due to come up trumps when it got to 10 years but I defaulted on the last few payments so the money has been handed back to me minus “bonus”.

Suddenly in possession of a little much needed cash we have been discussing what should be done with it. Both of us are desperate to go on retreat and have decided that some of this money should go towards this.

What interests me is the fact we feel such a need for this and both for exactly the same reason.

It has now been 6 years since we moved from the north of England. We can’t say Catholicism was rosy up there but it was the major religious force, its life blood still flowed through the mill towns even if the pulse was a little weak. We could easily find a church that held confession on a Saturday morning. Most priests held monthly benediction. Most parishes did the “40 hours” devotion, fortuitously at the beginning of the school year and it was a glorious way to start back at work. We were also lucky enough to be able to attend the perpetual novena and benediction each Thursday evening. Priests willingly did the stations of the cross during lent and rosary before Mass was common. We had our fair share of felt banners, prissy altar girls, ghastly vestments and inappropriate cleansing of the sacred vessels but it didn’t seem to matter so much. It felt Catholic and we felt nourished.

St Michael's Ancoats, Manchester. Does anyone know if it is still going? It was a delightful church.

What have we found in the Southern diocese of Clifton and Portsmouth? A complete absence of Eucharistic Adoration. We’ve heard priests say they don’t think it is appropriate because it may not be promoting true devotion. Apparently we get too wrapped up in ourselves in adoration, it isn’t participatory enough. Finding regular confession is difficult. Before coming down to the south we’d never heard of “gathering”, we’re still not entirely sure what it is, but apparently we have to sing gathering songs. We’d never heard of Paul Inwood. We’ve forgotten what incense smells like and we’ve not seen a monstrance since we went on holiday to Spain, 3 years ago. Some priests will reluctantly place the ciborium on the altar so we can mediate on the Real Presence.

Our snap shot is not reliable. We have been living in rural areas, the towns of southern England are probably better served. However surely there is no need to be this lacking in catholicity even with the shortage of priests and the low density of Catholics.

Southern England feels Anglican. It is Anglicanism that runs through the towns and villages. Catholicism is an outsider and it lacks a sense of direction or history and seems fearful of having its own unique identity. Anyone would think northern Catholicism was full of animal sacrifices, the awe and mystique and near revulsion with which it is viewed by some in these parts.

BTW does anyone know of a good monastery for retreats for married couples who just want to go on retreat and not a "marriage encounter" experience.?


mum6kids said...

Hope you find somewhere for a retreat.
With the lack of places to go I am increasingly grateful for the rosary and Universalis online Office.

Ttony said...

Dear Rita

you've hit on a real North/South divide, but you note yourself that it's not black and white. In the larger towns in Clifton, Portsmouth and A&B, it's possible to find parishes which are unselfconsciously orthoprax, and where the orthodoxy might actually run deeper than what I might characterise as (sometimes) merely cultural Catholicsm in Salford (Hundred of Salford rather than Hundred of Blackburn).

ukok said...

It's the north south divide Rita, that's what it is. Up north (and in the midlands, which is technically north of the south) we keep it real, we know where it's at, we know we are a bunch of dirty souled buggers and we know our need. The only PC we care about is the one we sit and type emails on and maybe not all, but at least a good proportion of our priests don't encourage hand holding during the Our Father and singing Graham Kendrick songs with all the accompanying actions during the Sacred Liturgy.

I will pray that you find a parish/parishes that offer all of those elements necessary to enrich the soul and spiritually strengthen.

Where abouts are you and i will google for retreats for you!

Rita said...


We are in Berkshire/Oxfordshire/Wiltshire land otherwise known as the ancient kingdom of Wessex.

Douai Abbey is looking favourite but we are a little apprehensive as it is quite some money to shell up.

berenike said...

St Cecilia's let married couples stay in their wee guest house, but they're just in a suburb of the town, so not very retreaty.

Pluscarden! Take the megabus, the pain will make it a pilgrimage at the same time. Pluscarden is wonderful.

Rita said...


Very tempted with Pluscarden, but it will have to wait till we have a bit more time.

la mamma said...

Oh, I feel for you both! Having grown up in the shadows of Pluscarden, I'm obviously biased but would recommend there. Down here, I'm not so sure (not having been on retreat since I moved South - telling in itself). They do day retreats, or 'quiet garden days' at some place near Trowbridge if you're desperate and can only fit in a small time. Can't remember what it's called but could dredge it up if you'd like. Prinknash? I've only been there once (it being the 'Mother' of the present Pluscarden community, I felt an obligation). Don't know.

Have you come across St. George's in Warminster? I bet Paul Innwood doesn't get a look in there!