The Vicar on the Papal Visit

Guest blogger, The Rev’d Humphrey Blytherington is Vicar of St Hilda’s, Little Snoring with All Saints, Great Snoring. He is a graduate of Plymouth University. He completed his studies for the ministry at Latimer Hall, Durham. He is married to Daphne and enjoys home brewing, model railroading and is an avid member of the Great Snoring Morris Dancers.

What’s that Nigel? What did I make of the Holy Father’s visit to Birmingham? Well, you’ve certainly put the cat among the pigeons with that one! Ian, instead of topping up my lager shandy do you think you might just manage a whisky? Ice? Thank you so much. Yes, I don’t mind if you do make it a double. Very kind. Very kind.

I must say I wasn’t at all inclined to go all that way with Daphne. Birmingham’s a long haul, and the prospect of standing in the rain with thousands of Irish washerwomen, Philippino nurses and Polish plumbers didn’t really strike me as the idea of a good time. No, indeed, Nigel. I don’t think I’m being ‘racist’ as you put it. I don’t mind that sort of person at all, they’re perfectly alright in their place, it’s just that one can’t understand the language, and they might be as nice as can be, but it makes one feel awkward being in the midst of so many foreigners.

Still, “Anything for peace at home” as the saying goes! So Daphne and I tootled off together with some folks from her church, and I must say, when the Pope of Rome arrived it really was rather impressive. I have to hand it to them, whoever organized the whole shooting match, certainly did a good job. Thousands of people there, all of them waving flags and singing. Rather good fun, and I have to admit I got into the spirit of the whole thing even though I was rather dubious. I was feeling a bit peckish and a rather sweet Polish woman shared her picnic with us. Some sort of dumpling affair. Funny looking, but jolly tasty!

The numbers and the enthusiasm was rather disconcerting I must say.  I mean to say, the dear old Archbishop of Canterbury would never get that many out on a rainy Sunday morning. Then, when the old fellow arrived the sun came out. A very nice co incidence if you believe in that sort of thing. Yes indeed, rather impressive in its own way. Of course, I asked Archdeacon Huffington-Post about it and he pooh poohed the whole thing. Pointed out that the Catholic priests demand total, unthinking obedience from their flock, and that is why so many turned up. He was really rather amusing. Said, “Farther Murphy O’Malley says, ‘Now ye all better go along and see the Holy Farther, and don’t ye fergit to bring your sons and brothers and husbands and the whole clan.’ So they all turn up–with their endless broods of snotty young uns, and no wonder there’s a crowd of em.”

Har, har. Not very kind, of the old Archdeacon, but he does have a point I must say. What did I make of Blessed John Henry Newman? Now then, I don’t mind singing a few of his hymns. Lead Kindly Light Amid the Encircling Gloom is one of my favorites for Evensong, but I must admit, I can’t really bring myself to call him ‘Blessed’. It’s not manly, if you know what I mean, and I don’t understand this obsession with ‘Venerable this’ and ‘Blessed that.’ After all, we’re all saints aren’t we–each in his own way? Also, I have to admit that I’m a little bit biased. After all,  Newman was an Oxford man, and that doesn’t bode well. You never can trust an Oxford man. Then he went and converted to the Romans. That was a rum thing to do. Not trustworthy at all. No, as a matter of fact, we didn’t read him at theological college. Old Canon Farnsworth said we were better sticking with the good old Anglican writers like Wodehouse or Conan Doyle. Said Newman was hard going and likely to confuse us, and besides he was a papist.

So all in all, not that impressed really. The Romans put on a good show, it must be said, and Daphne and her chums were certainly beside themselves. I did promise her to read that Newman book–something with a funny Latin name in which I think he apologizes to a couple of gals named Vita and Sue for embarrassing everyone by becoming a Roman. I’ll give it a go, and let you know how it goes, but I’m not very hopeful I must say.

I hope the visit of the Pope hasn’t upset you too much, and hope you haven’t all got ‘Roman Fever.’ I remember a lad at theological college who I  went to school with went all funny about the Roman Church and ‘swam the Tiber.’ Name was Geoffrey Swann. He wasn’t a strong fellow at the best of times. A bit over sensitive if you know what I mean. Always crying off rugby with a note from his mother. I think the Principal should have given him a stern talking to and sent him out to do some parish visiting. That always knocks some sense into a fellow. Ended up as a monk somewhere in Wales, poor chap.

Well, thanks so much for the extra shot of ‘Dutch courage’ as they say! Must head home. It’s been marvelous chatting with you lads. I expect Daphne will be waiting up with her Catechism in one hand and a cup of cocoa in the other, ready to fire away with more of her infernal theological questions. Never mind. Must soldier on! Chin chin!

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  • Pilgrim

    Very amusing, as always, Father. And almost spot on. But it was the morning (10 am) and not the afternoon. And, while it had been raining since we arrived at 6 am, the rain stopped at 10 and the sun came out (the "second miracle"?). I'm with Daphne; it was amazing. Very, very moving. We sang Newman hymns. We sang Credo III in Latin. We concluded, all 60,000 of us (including Irish, Filipinos and Poles) by lustily singing "All the Saints", very English, very Anglican, very moving. I'm can imagine the poor old vicar is still a little shell-shocked. Hope the whisky helps.

  • Elizabeth

    Hmm still not convinced eh?? I wonder what he will make of "vita and sua", he may be a little out of his depth don't you think?

  • Mike Cliffson

    Dear fr (NOT b.Willis)Maybe that's what the vicar would have said once: my reports are that noncatholics of similar opinion patterns have been moved and impressed.NB Vicar's take on crowd size:Not there in Brum,M'sister was,Alone, originalyy she'd 've been with her own family and 4-5 relatives.soActually, quite a small crowd, compared to the(100s of thousands?) people who wanted to go but couldn't.The visit has I suspect wiped away the beginnings of feeling on the subject: out of charity, one shouldn't expect wordly efficiency from the church, let's say.But onne undeniable issue IS security,which reduces numbers and magnifies hassle and cost: like air travel, I suspect we'll soon accept more murders, and bomb casualties, or the whole thing'll grind to a halt-Bottom line: whole thing magnificent! God bless our Pope!

  • Whimsy

    So the Vicar went to see the Pope with Daphne. (I'm so jealous!) He didn't mention anything at all about what the Pope said. Did he hear any of it? Did he disagree with any of it?I'm confused; did Daphne really put her foot down and drag him there, or did he find himself going for her sake even without pressure from Daphne?I wish he'd said more before hitting the whisky so hard!

  • anthony

    II Book of Bertie…my fav'Do unto others, old girl…just spiffing

  • Nârwen

    Doyle an Anglican author ? He was a lapsed-Catholic agnostic who eventually got involved with Spiritualism . Or does the Vicar assume that every English author is Anglican until proven otherwise ? :)

  • Paul

    What makes it all the more "amusing" is the certain knowledge that there was a wee tear in the eye of a former Anglican priest, now "Father", who no doubt was deeply moved by every word and picture.

  • The young fogey

    Pretty good. Only a couple of nitpicks: Brits don't put ice in their drinks and a snob like Blytherington, possibly a public-school and university man, would know what the title of Newman's book means.

  • StevieD

    The Vicar would, no doubt, have attended a decent 'prep' school and then a minor public (i.e. a private school to confused Americans) and people of his (our)generation would definitely have a smattering of Latin at the very least. Come on, this guy may only be an alter ego and a caricature but let's show some respect to accuracy. (PS I'm English and always have ice in my whisky)

  • Gail F

    Archdeacon Huffington-Post! HA HA HA HA!!!