Passion or Carlin Sunday

Carlin peas ready to eat

This Sunday, between Mothering Sunday and Palm Sunday, is Passion Sunday.

The name comes from the Latin passio meaning suffering and refers to the suffering of Christ as he approached his cruxifiction.

Sunday is the start of the week during which we shall be able to begin following Christ’s last days of his ministry on earth in real time.

Jesus was recently at Bethany and will be again at the end of the week. He has just raised Lazarus from the dead and, this year, that event is the Passion Sunday Mass reading: John’s Gospel 11: 1-45.

It is a story of hope as well as prefiguring Jesus’s death and resurrection.

Carlin Sunday peas

A popular and better known name for this Sunday in the north-east is Carlin (or Carling) Sunday when pub snacks and lunch include warm Carlin peas.

The tradition may have started with peas arriving in Newcastle as relief from hunger after a siege.

Anyone who bought their carlins before the shutdown will certainly be cooking the peas as usual. In these difficult times they are a good legume providing protein and fibre. Any left over should be enjoyed cold on Monday.

Today: Looking to Christmas

Annunciation flowers in Southwark Cathedral last year

Today, Wednesday 25 March, is a bright moment in Lent when we can look ahead to Christmas and the time when we might have conquered the virus.

If today is the feast of The Annunciation then it’s nine months to Christmas, the normal length of a pregnancy.

Were churches open then flowers might be making a brief reappearance and hymns would have a Marian theme reminding us of the moment the Virgin Mary knew that she was to give birth to Jesus.

In some countries, such as France and Lebanon, the Feast of the Annunciation has recently become a time when Christians and Muslims meet together to honour Mary.

At present churches and mosques are closed. Let’s resolve to meet together next year on The Annunciation.

Mothering Sunday 2020

Flowers on Mothering Sunday

Not so many flowers will be presented to mothers this Mothering Sunday.

But we shall be seeking, maybe via phone and email, to help and thank our mothers who have looked after us and, in many cases, worked hard to make home a special place for the coming months.

We pray for mothers alive and deceased.

The origin of Mothering Sunday is St Paul’s description of Jerusalem as ‘mother of us all’ which was read on this mid-Lent Sunday.

Mothering Sunday was not just a time for going home to see the family but also visiting the mother church. This usually meant the main church of a rural cluster or the cathedral.

Today our cathedrals are through social media and live feeds suddenly the focus for those who are looking to the church during this disturbing time.

Archbishop William Temple said: “The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members.”

Pray for clergy and musicians who are suddenly called to this online ministry which is giving comfort and a shape to lonely days.

St Joseph’s Day without doughnuts

St Joseph doughnuts

We know Joseph as the faithful husband of the Virgin Mary. Together they brought up Jesus and watched over his early years.

St Joseph’s Day 19 March often passes without much notice in the UK but today we could think of those who usually keep today with much celebration.

It is a holiday in Malta.

It is Father’s Day in several countries including Italy, Portugal and Spain.

In Leichtenstein it is both a holiday and Father’s Day.

In Sicily there would normally be lots of St Joseph tables laden with food in a tradition which has evolved into a food bank for the poor.

There will not be many this year enjoying the Zeppole di San Giuseppe, the St Joseph’s Day doughnut which has regional differences across Italy.

But St Joseph is patron of fathers. We can pray for them at this very difficult time as we shall pray for mothers on Mothering Sunday at the weekend.

A quiet St Patrick’s Day

St Patrick’s tomb at Downpatrick

This may be the quietest St Patrick’s Day for many young people as they face a 17 March without a parade in Dublin.

Mary Kenny, writing in The Catholic Herald, suggests that “maybe it’s no bad thing, if St Patrick’s Day is a little more focused on Patrick himself, and a little less on pints of Guinness and silly hats saying ‘Kiss me, I’m Irish!’”

Within living memory St Patrick’s Day was quiet with all pubs closed. It was a little like an old fashioned Christmas Day: Mass in the morning followed by a family lunch and a snooze. A big day off.

This year we might have a moment to remember that it is also St Joseph of Arimathea’s Day.

Did he come to Glastonbury with teenage Jesus? Did he supply the cup for the Last Supper? He did look after Christ’s body after his crucifixion. This is what confronts us in Holy Week early next month.

Keeping Lent in our hearts

Graymoor, near New York city, is a focus for Christian Unity

As we move deeper into Lent many are finding it difficult to attend church due to the threat of Coronavirus.

In Rome and Venice there are no services on Sunday or weekdays.

Those elsewhere who are able to go will find communion only in one kind and a ban on shaking hands, kneeling and using hymn books. Coffee afterwards is often being cancelled as a precaution.

This is a time to understand how those who are unwell or far from church feel when trying to keep the Christian year.

Thanks to new media it is possible to look up the Mass readings. You can follow worship on RTE online from Ireland. The Pope’s daily Mass is also available live online.

There is a huge choice of live feeds from fixed cameras in churches across Britain on Church Services TV.

Look at Twitter on Wednesday 25 March and you will find lots of references to The Annunciation. Many will be keeping the day in their hearts.

“The Holy Spirit has a way of getting to places and to people that we don’t always understand, and we certainly can’t package,” says Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Vincent Nichols.

“People will take what steps they can to associate themselves spiritually with the celebration of Mass, and my guess is, will treasure it more when the freedom is back to attend Mass when we want.”

Writing from Rome in The Tablet this week Christopher Lamb observes: “Church teaching is that a virtual celebration of the liturgy does not fulfill the obligation to attend Mass in person, but digital technology has suddenly become a lifeline that enables Catholics to remain connected to their faith, albeit remotely.”

Magnificat and Keeping Lent and Easter can be companions through this season of Lent and the fifty days of Easter when the virus will possibly be at its height in the UK.

Fat Thursday

Doughnuts on sale at a Polish shop in Bournemouth

It’s Fat Thursday today which means that Lent is approaching.

Lent starts next week on Ash Wednesday 26 February.

Pancakes are the great feature on Shrove Tuesday but Fat Thursday means doughnuts in Poland and Polish shops.

Beales first to welcome Father Christmas

J.E. Beale

Today’s confirmation that Beales department store in Bournemouth has gone into administration is sad news.

The flagship shop on the original site and its many branches remain open but the future is uncertain.

Beales in Bournemouth is one of Britain’s oldest department stores having opened in 1881.

In 1885, with the shop’s upper floor devoted to German toys, John Beale introduced Father Christmas who had never appeared in a British shop before.

Since 1870 he had, as Santa, been found in New York at Macy’s.

Bournemouth’s Father Christmas, in a costume made by Mr Beale’s wife Annie, was always bare headed but had lots of white hair as well as a huge beard.

His arrival by carriage in an annual street procession and a balcony appearance was a major event which could be compared to a Papal visit by the crowd and excitement the occasion generated.

John Beale did visit America but he and his sons probably took many elements of the welcome for St Nicholas staged in Nancy as a template.

Certainly we know St Nicholas in Britain as the red Father Christmas mainly due to Beales presenting a standard for other shops to follow including Harrods and Selfridges.

Christmas 2019 at Beales
Beales in Bournemouth staged a pre-Christmas sale in 2018

Plough Monday revival

Tilney All Saints Church (picture: Explore West Norfolk)

The village school in Tilney All Saints near Wisbech in East Anglia, which has been awarded a grant to look at the village’s Plough Monday custom, is involved in reviving the tradition.

For many years until the 1550s the village’s plough was suspended with ropes from the beams of All Saints Church on Plough Monday.

Candles, or plow lyghts as the records read, were lit near the plough. This annual ritual happened from from early times until at least 1544 which was six years after votive candles had been banned by national edict.

The clamp down on traditions and fun was part of the creeping Reformation which eventually saw an end to the Plough Monday celebrations in the last years of Henry VIII’s reign and during the accession of his son Edward VI .

However, the Monday holiday continued to be observed in remote Tilney All Saints for some years after Plough Monday had been banned in 1547 .

This year around sixty children from Tilney All Saints School and its partner school Anthony Curton in Wisbech will perform the traditional molly dance in the village on Plough Monday 13 January.

The revival project is called ‘Sharing The Plough’ and at 10.30am on Monday 13 January, the first Monday after the Twelfth Night, pupils will follow a plough from the school to the church.

The dancing will be performed to music collected in the village by Vaughan Williams whose famous visit is being featured in the project research.

The plough service in the church at 11am will include the lighting of plough lights.

Holy Family replaces Becket

Holy Family by Kenneth Hughes in Southwark Cathedral churchyard next to Borough Market

Today would normally be the Feast of St Thomas of Canterbury because on 29 December 1170 Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered in his cathedral.

Next year is the 850th anniversary of the martyrdom when, thanks to 2020 being leap year, the day will be a Tuesday and much highlighted.

But this year 29 December is a Sunday so Holy Family Sunday takes precedence.

You will also find it referred to as the First Sunday of Christmas in many Anglican churches including Southwark Cathedral where there is a Holy Family sculpture.

Canterbury Cathedral observes St Thomas today with a special evensong and vespers.

Both Canterbury Cathedral and Southwark Cathedral are part of the Becket2020 programme of special events.