February, pasta, and Aquinas

A cold London night, a warm church, and Evensong in the Anglican tradition, followed by a Mass with Latin chant. Afterwards, an American voice gathers us all in the comfortable parish room. It’s the “Pivotal Players” DVD with Bishop Robert Barron, and we are the Ordinariate parish at the Church of the Most Precious Blood at London Bridge. Evensong and Mass on a Thursday evening is a fixed part of the weekly routine – Bishop Barron, supper and a good teaching/discussion session have now been added and it is all proving very popular.

Preparing supper beforehand (pasta bake, since you ask) brought an opportunity to see the coming-and-going of a busy parish life. Children came for a choir rehearsal, and their mums sat chatting over mugs of tea – or came into the kitchen offering help – with smaller offspring running about. Fr C. was busy with various visitors and then came in to brew tea for the choirmaster and organist, the children jumping around to greet him with shouted bits of news. A discussion about schools was happening at one end of the kitchen while I interspersed chopping onions with queries about a Catholic arts-and-writing project launched by a colleague. Then as the choir practice came to an end and the children dispersed, another meeting began and then a bell began to chime and it was time for Evensong…

The Bishop Barron DVD is excellent – especially as it is so visually glorious, taking us to Paris and Rome and into great cathedrals and basilicas and down busy streets and into groups settled with cups of coffee at wayside cafes. Our pattern, as we gather after Mass, is to watch the Dvd first, then talk about it over supper and then, led by Fr C., open up a more formal and structured discussion using the questions and worksheets provided with the DVD along with our Bibles and copies of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Everything is kept to time, and although the discussion gets wide-ranging, the questions keep us on track, and ensure that the evening doesn’t become just a talking-shop. We’ve been having some wonderful sessions, tackling issues about the relationship between faith and reason, exploring the teachings of Aquinas, relating all this to other topics – and often finding gems in the Catechism that we hadn’t really examined before, or had taken in a superficial way.

The evening finishes with prayer and a blessing. It feels comforting, somehow, to go out into the sleet and rain of a February night with a sense of that protection.

People sometimes ask “How’s the Ordinariate going?” Well, on a winter evening in London, six years into its life, that’s how it’s going. Undramatic, but it’s happening.