I spent last Sunday in complete silence, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in Westminster Cathedral. This was done, by special arrangement with the Cathedral, as an act of witness and to pray for the success of the visit to Britain of Pope Benedict. And I was sponsored; people could leave a donation and all funds raised went to help with the costs of the Papal visit. Many of my friends – and I suspect, most of my family – simply couldn’t believe that this talkative woman could remain silent for an entire day. But I did it, and loved it.
I got the idea from a prayer which was one of several sent in my children at Catholic primary schools across Britain as part of a project organised by the Association of Catholic Women and the Catholic Truth Society to mark the Holy Father’s visit. One child wrote a prayer in the form of a poem, ending with, “Please let the voice of Benedict be heard.”
She knew, as we all do, that there are those who seek to silence the Holy Father. Secularist campaigners have promised a campaign against him when he arrives, and have already been crusading vigorously against the visit, against the Church, and against Catholic teachings.
The St Joseph chapel was set aside for me on Sunday – the Holy Father’s baptismal name is, of course, Joseph – and people came in all the time to pray. It was beautiful to sit there as Mass after Mass was said or sung in the Cathedral; Londoners and tourists, people of every age and from a great range of races and nations coming and going. The Cathedral is packed several times each Sunday for Masses that start at 8 a.m. and include a glorious sung Mass at 10.30 a.m.
Details are now beginning to emerge of the various events planned for the visit. At the Hyde Park prayer vigil, various Catholic organisations will be represented, and we will all pray together before the Blessed Sacrament. At Westminster, the Pope will visit Westminster Abbey, and then go to the Cathedral for Mass and for a general gathering in the Cathedral Hall. He will be staying at the Nunciature in Wimbledon, and local Catholics are already preparing to greet him there, lining the nearby roads to cheer him…