Family Fast Day

CAFOD Family Fast Day is on Friday 23 February.

Over the past sixty years this has become part of Lent for many.

The idea is to give up the day’s main meal, by just having maybe soup, and send the cost to CAFOD.

CAFOD is the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development working alongside Christian Aid.

This year’s appeal will be going towards the funding of a three-year project to improve nutrition in Zimbabwe.

All money donated in Britain will be doubled by HM Government. So a £5 lunch can, with match funding and gift aid, raise £11.25.

A family deciding that lunch cots £24 will see their donation turn into £54.

CAFOD Fast Day donation page is here.

Archbishops of Westminster and Southwark at CAFOD headquarters

First Sunday of Lent

Lent Prose Attende Domine dates from the 10th century

The first of the six Sundays of Lent is this weekend.

Church is a little plain from this Sunday.

There are no flowers or Gloria.

Vestments are purple.

You might hear the haunting Lent Prose which is derived from the Mozarabic breviary.

This comes between the readings with the theme of water and baptism,  which will feature at the Easter Vigil, and the gospel account of Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness.

We are travelling through forty days of Lent.

Ash Wednesday fish


Ash Wednesday cooking in Piazza Lamamora in Ivrea

This morning the people of Ivrea, near Turin, are recovering from spending the last few days throwing oranges at each other.

Ivrea carnival is unusual.

The split and squashed fruit is now lying mushy in the streets which  have a smell reminiscent of marmalade.

But the main square is already hosed down and chefs, still wearing their red Phrygian hat from carnival, are cooking fish and polenta which on this day of fast and abstinence replaces any meat dish.

In Spain tonight a fish features in a putting to bed of carnival ritual. The burial of the sardine is strange custom painted in Madrid around 1810 by Goya.

Although this is the first day of Lent it is not a church holy day of obligation.

But many will go today and emerge with a smudge of ash on the forehead. It is the remnant of ‘sackcloth and ashes’ worn in early days to acknowledge our repentance and unworthiness.

Burial of the Sardine poster

Shrove Tuesday: Pancakes & street football

Shrove Tuesday poster in Binche

Shrove Tuesday remains deep within the English culture so there are lots of pancake races today.

In London you will find one at the Houses of Parliament, Borough Market and Guildhall.

The oldest race is at Olney in Buckinghamshire at 11.55am. It takes just five minutes to dash from the Market Place to the church.

In the country ancient football games will take over the streets of Ashbourne, Atherstone and Sedgefield. They are traditions which are fiercely maintained by local people.

This football game in various forms is England’s equivalent to Carnival coming to a climax today in Binche (from where the get the word binge) Cologne, Ivrea, Venice, Viareggio and Rio.

Tomorrow some of those now partying will start Lent.

Keeping Lent makes Easter richer and more meaningful.

Viagreggio’s Burlamacco carnival logo


St Valentine’s Day cancelled

St Valentine statue decorated with oranges at Vico del Gargano in Puglia

This year you will not find St Valentine in the Church calendar.

Wednesday 14 February is Ash Wednesday which takes precedence.

It’s 73 years since these two days clashed. As the Second World War drew to  a close there was little mention of St Valentine’s Day.

Should we decline to give chocolates and refuse flowers?

The Archdiocese of Chicago, which describes Valentine’s Day as a “largely secular celebration”, suggests that those wanting to mark the day should do so on Shrove Tuesday which is  “a traditionally festive time”.

Dublin’s Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church, which has Valentine relics, is observing St Valentine’s Day on Saturday 10 February with Masses at 11.30am and 3pm.

On the same day St John the Baptist Church in Coventry will be open 10am to 2pm for a rare showing of its Valentine finger bone fragment relic.

Ruth Gledhill has an interesting piece on reaction to the collision of days on The Tablet website.

You can follow the important days of Lent which begins on Ash Wednesday with a new book Keeping Lent & Easter (DLT £9.99).

Fat Thursday doughnuts

Doughnuts on sale this morning in Bournemouth

Here is an early reminder that Lent starts next week.

It’s Fat Thursday in Poland today when doughnuts are eaten all over the country.

There are always debates over which shop is selling the best.

The doughnut top is either dusted in sugar or covered in icing.

The traditional filling is rose jam.

Look out for the Tłusty Czwartek, or Fat Thursday, sign in Polish shops.

Mamuska at the Elephant & Castle has ordered five hundred.

Polski Sklep in Bournemouth is expecting to have over a thousand Pączki  or doughnut sales.

Rose jam doughnuts

The special days of Lent can be followed in a new book Keeping Lent & Easter: Discovering the Rhythm and Riches of the Christian Seasons (DLT £9.99).

Candlemas at Ripon

Ripon Cathedral

Candlemas at Yorkshire’s Ripon Cathedral is always dramatic.

On Friday night there were around 4000 candles.

Lighting them started at about 5.45pm in order to have every one lit by the start of the Choral Eucharist at 7.30pm.

Ripon has a tradition of decorating every ledge with a light and even creating patterns and pictures with lights.

You could say that it is a bit like Lyon on the Immaculate Conception or, if you think it’s all a bit over the top, the Backpool Illuminations might come to mind.

However, Ripon Cathedral has a good reason for having  its own tradition.

Whilst Candlemas was downgraded after the Reformation there was little change at remote Ripon.

On 2 February 1790 a visitor recorded the building being ‘one continued blaze of light all the afternoon from an immense number of candles’.

This weekend there were around 600 people at the evening Choral Eucharist. The congregation formed a procession with lighted candles round the cathedral.

Some people had come a long way including a group from Preston in Lancashire. Most unusual was the party from New Zealand accompanying Ripon’s new Bishop, Helen-Ann Hartley, to be installed on Sunday.

Candlemas Bells, or Snowdrops, are out in profusion among the ruins of nearby Fountains Abbey.

Getting ready in the afternoon
Ready just before the congregation starts arriving
Lighting som oef the 4000 candles
A new design for 2018 on chapel floor
Lights are all round the sides of the cathedral

Candlemas: 2 February

Southwark Cathedral’s Candlemas Eucharist notice

Candlemas today is the final day we enjoy Christmas in real time as we note Mary and Joseph leaving Bethlehem with Baby Jesus to go up to the Temple in Jerusalem.

The name Candlemas is appropriate for we say that Jesus is the Light of the World. Today’s candle procession in church, representing Christ being carried into the Temple by his mother, began in Rome when Mass was so early in the morning that it was still dark.

Today was a turning point for the Holy Family as their encounter in the Temple with Simeon was a look to the future beyond Jesus’ largely hidden childhood to his trial and crucifixion.

The Holy Family was on its way home although maybe via Egypt for safety from Herod’s soldiers we heard about on Holy Innocents 28 December.

But Candlemas is also a cheerful occasion. It is the ancient day for farmers to move cattle off the land needed for growing hay and wheat for the Lammas harvest in August.

In Provence the church candles this morning are green to indicate the approach of spring.

In Marseille there are not only green candles but the special Navette biscuits in the shape of a boat on sale after the 6.15am Mass at St Victor’s Abbey.

Which church has the most candles today? Probably Ripon Cathedral which claims to have ‘thousands of candles’ ready for tonight’s Festal Eucharist and Candlelit Procession at 7.30pm.

In 1424 King James I of Scotland chose this special day to marry Englishwoman Joan in Southwark Cathedral.

Navettes: hard biscuits is the shape of a boat enjoyed at Candlemas in Marseille

**Lent is approaching. Carnival has already begun in Venice and Rio. Next Thursday is Fat Thursday in Poland and Tuesday week is Shrove Tuesday.

Keeping Lent & Easter is available online and in bookshops including Church House Bookshop in Westminster and Southwark Cathedral Shop.

Still Christmas

Stars in Southwark Cathedral

As we approach Candlemas on Friday 2 February we should remember that it is still Christmas.

The Holy Family has not yet left Bethlehem. They leave on Friday  by way of Jerusalem.

The Crib is still in church.

In some homes and even public places there are signs of an authentic slow Christmas.

La Couronne in Rouen, France’s oldest inn  dating from 1345,  has had lavish outside Christmas decorations firmly in place all this month.

In Southwark Cathedral the dramatic and colourful constellation by Andrew Logan is still hanging from the tower at the crossing.

It will remain until Candlemas when there is Choral Eucharist at 12.45pm and Evensong at 5.30pm.


Week of Prayer for Christian Unity highlights

Rouen’s Unity Week poster with a ‘breaking the chains’ theme

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity which ends tomorrow 25 January has seen many services and gatherings where Christians have prayed for and talked about unity.

New film
Last Friday a film about Chevetogne was launched at Farm Street Church in London’s Mayfair.

May They all be One  is a 52 minute documentary made by Alexia Veriter of KTOTV (French Catholic TV) telling the  story of an Orthodox-Roman Catholic monastery in Belgium dedicated to the search for unity.

The first half of the film can now be seen now  online.

Another example of co-operation was the weekend trip to Rouen by representatives of Southwark Cathedral. The two places share several formal and historic links.  The English party had the opportunity of experiencing the French city’s Week of Prayer events.

La semaine de prière pour l’Unité Chrétienne is taken as seriously as in the UK or America where there are many more divisions.

This year Rouen’s main gathering was at the Protestant St Eloi Church. Here Anglican, Calvinist, Lutheran and Roman Catholic church members shared a service.

English Anglican Michael Rawson, Southwark Sub Dean, carried the Bible in procession and speakers included the Archbishop of Rouen who sat in the front row as an equal with other church ministers.

On Sunday Canon Rawson and Rouen’s Protestant minister James Lowe both took part in the Solemn Mass at Rouen Cathedral.


The Week of Prayer ends tomorrow Thursday 25 January with a focus on St Paul Outside the Walls Church in Rome where Pope Frances, joined by representatives of many denominations, will preside at Vespers. St Paul’s is the Rome church dedicated as a centre for promoting Christian unity.

Leigh Hatts