October/November/December 2020

Here comes everybody?

Anthony Towey

Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker is a character in Finnegans Wake by James Joyce whose initials ‘HCE’ become a shorthand for a variety of not so flattering descriptors in the novel including ‘Here comes everybody’. Interpreters of Joyce had revelled in the fecundity of his nomenclature and the theological resonance of HCE has not escaped attention. Anthony Burgess once wrote a guide to Joyce’s literature using ‘Here Comes Everybody’ as his sextant and which with artful device concludes with a chapter entitled ‘In the End is the Word’. In more recent times, American theologians such as William C. Graham have popularised a reading of ‘Here Comes Everybody’ as a shorthand (sic) for ‘Catholics’ which in his view lends literary support for more inclusive readings of the ecclesial tradition.

I am reminded of ‘Here Comes Everybody’ because the feast of All Saints – celebrating holiness among the calamity of our community – is at the centre of the season covered by this issue of the Pastoral Review. The great celebration of the Church mundane and celestial may be losing its grip on the public imagination in the face of the relentless promotion of Halloween, but as a festival of the sacred in the secular, the extra-ordinary among the ordinary, it is a jewel of the liturgical calendar which will have extra poignancy for me this year having recently lost a sister, an uncle and a friend.

My eldest sister, as the firstborn of six siblings, exuded a sense of duty sprinkled with Celtic sparkle. At grammar school – prefect; in the parish – she did outdoor collection; at university – chaplaincy stalwart; choosing teaching – she went to Belfast at the height of the Troubles. Marrying in Ireland, she dedicated her prodigious energy to both her family and her parish, generously giving her time to the choir, the parents groups, the credit union, the Brownies, hospitable even to the travellers who came to the door selling pegs. Beautiful in every sense of the word, she sent a video message from her deathbed assuring us of her prayers. Under threat of being haunted by her if he messed up, the priest who conducted the Requiem was brilliant, and the Covid restrictions which meant the majority of mourners were outside served only to emphasise her impact on the community as they lined the route all the way to the graveyard. Saint.

My uncle was different. A bank manager by trade he was possibly the most careful and precise man I ever met. He seemed to measure everything, starting with breakfast, his cereal, his sugar, his milk and (long before it was fashionable) his nutritional supplement. After a precise day which included daily Mass and a daily swim, his nightly routine included prayer, yes, but also a quasi-devotional 15 minutes spent listening to the World Service. I wince now at how we would cake his spotless car with sand and drip melting ice creams all over the back seat. Yet our transgressions went unremarked, and his metronomic kindness guaranteed that well into his nineties, wherever I was in the world, a Christmas card and gift would arrive as a sign of his unstinting affection. Saint.

My friend was a classmate in Rome. He was opera; I was rock. He was gin; I was beer. He was gallery; I was cinema. He was radio; I was TV. He was gourmet; I was guzzle. He wore clericals; I wore anything. You might even say he was Vatican I; I was Vatican II, but indubitably his idea of a good time was wandering round an archive full of letters, parchments and forgotten periodicals, while mine was playing footy. Yet his kindly disposition belied his bravery; his resolve saw him serve the Church faithfully, despite chronic illness and the constant need for medication. He was a priest of great compassion and his courage in the face of death was the stuff of martyrs. Saint.
I make mention of these good people because this issue of the Pastoral Review is about finding ways to be Church in strange and changing times in which a variety of gifts, charisms and characters will be needed and the generosity of saints like these will be decisive. There is no single template for sanctity – thanks be to God – and it takes all sorts to make All Saints in a Church which celebrates a feast of Here Comes Everybody, a day when ‘We shall be finding an embarrassing joy in the commonplace. Seeing the most defiled city as a figure of heaven and assuming, against all the odds, a hardly supportable optimism.’ (Burgess, Here Comes Everybody, p. 291).

Church of Lima, I say to you, arise!

The naming last year of Carlos Castillo Mattasoglio as Archbishop of Lima has been described as the most dramatic appointment made by Pope Francis. A professor of theology and humble parish priest in a shanty town suddenly became Primate of Peru. This Pastoral Letter is the result of a synod of the local church.

A new spirit arising from the shadows
I write this Pastoral Letter to you thankful to God for this first year, and as we begin this time of Lent 2020, I ask you to continue ‘walking together’ – this is the meaning of ‘synod’.

All the citizens of Lima face several acute problems, which make up our national and urban tragedies. On the one hand, we see the murder and disappearance of women; attacks against human life at every stage; the destruction of our Amazon; and criminal violence. We also face the crisis of families; uncertainties about the future for the young; ever increasing insecurity in the streets; insufficient education; the frailty of social links; human abandonment; marginalisation; and cultural and racial prejudice. We have to contend with increasing global warming; the growing problems of debt and the frailty of the popular economy; the corruption of organised groups in society; the economy and the state; the complication of political life; growing religious division; and the slowness of the Church in reacting to the changes in society.

But at the same time, there is a new and positive spirit: the effort of solidarity to support all life and the life of everyone, being manifested in educational movements and processes; the ongoing struggle of the Amazonian people defending themselves and humanity; attempts to uncover illegal associations; the praiseworthy effort of the struggle against corruption; collaboration to improve family relationships; the establishment of groups of volunteers to construct supportive links in situations of abandonment, destitution, and poverty; care of the environment, developing a greater ecological conscience. People are ready to demonstrate in the streets and squares in order to participate actively in the life of the city and the country. There is the search for a more open democracy and a proper system of political life; strengthening and broadening the participation of the citizens; and the growth of a faith that is less indifferent and more responsible in social and political life with a deepening of the religious sense based on the gospel.

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Black Lives Matter: A prejudice observed

Recent protests by Black Lives Matter are part of our duty to act over racist murders, writes Evleen Mann, a retired GP and practising psychotherapist.

As a psychotherapist, I don’t have to have experienced everything my clients bring to me to be able to explore it and ‘process’ it, as we say in the trade. I might attune to their body language, using empathy to gain insight into their situation, to put my feet in their footsteps, like Thomas, put my hands in their wounds, so I can believe.

Or I can use my imagination to get to that place they are in: I may not have had a miscarriage, but I can imagine what I might have felt had that happened to me. Somewhere in my long life, I will have experienced someone’s death or hopes dashed. In the same way, I don’t claim to have experienced how it feels to be black. But I have suffered degrees of prejudice from something as small as my Yorkshire accent, something in between like having Irish heritage, and something as obvious as being a woman.

In fact, the closest I have come to meeting raw unadulterated racism is when I am on my own, because I am white and the racists are not guarded when they speak. They don’t know that I married a brown-skinned person of Indian origin forty-three years ago and have four mixed-race children and four even more mixed-race grandchildren.

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Neither here nor there – in a good way? Mission and young people in a post-Covid Church

Káren North, Programme Director of the Catholic Certificate in Religious Studies at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, looks at recent research on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Catholic participation and finds ground for hope.

The Covid-19 outbreak and the public health responses to it have changed our world. Still only six months in, daily life has changed so significantly that it is getting hard to imagine how things were before now – when social spaces were all open, public transport was safer than the car, coffee shops were full, and concerts had audiences as well as musicians.

The daily challenges of this ‘new normal’ are difficult enough, but as we are painfully aware, Covid-19 has also impacted profoundly on spiritual as well as temporal realities. The term ‘practising Catholic’ is suddenly up for review as attendance at Mass on Sundays and Holy Days has gone from being physically forbidden and virtually encouraged to something that is now possible but restricted in an eerie masquerade where nobody sings.

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Covid-19 and the ministry of deacons: Reflections of a hospital chaplain

Alfred Banya, Lead Chaplain at King’s College Hospital, London, writes of how he re-evaluated his role as a deacon during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In July this year, I had the privilege of joining my healthcare colleagues in a series of multifaith services where we paused and reflected on our experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic. When Covid-19 broke out in China, it may have seemed to many people as quite a distant problem that had nothing to do with those of us in Britain. I must admit, I was one of those who in hope, harboured the thought that Covid-19 would not reach us. At worst, if it did, it would be just like the yearly flu that we usually get warnings about. Around the end of January, I placed a prayer at the back of our hospital chapel for victims of Covid-19. The prayer was for the people of China but did not mention us in Britain, or people in other parts of the world. This perhaps reflected my naivety and misplaced sense of security.

The situation changed one morning when a colleague approached me. She was looking very anxious and concerned. This was around the time when news reports about the first cases of Covid-19 infection in Britain broke, and my colleague advised against the use of the holy water stoup at the entrance to our chapel. I promptly put the holy water stoup out of use. This was the first of what was to become several actions I had to take to ensure safety in response to the pandemic.

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