Saturday, 27 August 2011

It is hard to believe that young Samantha Cashen has at last been taken from us.   Our sincerest condolences to Julia, Mike, Bryony, Richard and to all of her family and friends.


Eight hundred members of this year's Catholic Association Pilgrimage went to Lourdes last week.    More than one hundred were from the Portsmouth Diocese, including assisted pilgrims and their nursing staff. 

At social occasions, both arranged and informal, the pilgrims got to know each other.   One pilgrim was Bishop Crispian, who seemed very relaxed, assured us that his most recent scan had shown no secondary problems, and chatted with all his fans, young and not-so-young. 

Sunday's International Mass was concelebrated in the great underground St Pius X Basilica by Cardinal Dias and almost two hundred other bishops and priests.    The 25,000 seats were all taken some time before the ceremony began, and thousands more stood round the outside and on the surrounding internal roadway.

 Pilgrims came from all parts of the world, and many of the Europeans had made long overnight journeys by road.   About half an hour before Mass began  we spotted this exhausted group of youngsters flat out in the furthest corner of the basilica, trying to snatch a few minutes rest before taking their places.


After every ceremony the wheelchairs moved out in groups.   The pilgrimage director of the diocese of Rouen obviously believes in training his leading brancardiers at the earliest possible age.

We are good most of the time, but when challenged to find something tackier than the clockwork pope which when really wound up delivers a full papal blessing, we cannot resist the temptation.  So here is our entry, found within the domaine itself, surrounding a fine carved statue of the young Bernadette.    It is a  flock of glossy moulded sheep, like some monster children's farmyard set, gently grazing on the roof of the Basilica Pius X, who, fortunately, having been canonised, can presumably no longer turn over in his grave.

But there's nothing tacky about this line-up.    These patient pilgrims are waiting for the opportunity to pass into the grotto where Bernadette went to collect driftwood, and feel the actual rock above which Our Lady appeared.   Petitions from Lymington parishioners were among those placed by us in the "intentions" box.  

 Our Lady's first request was for processions to be arranged, and that is done here every day.   Here the Portsmouth contingent are walking behind one of our brancardiers proudly bearing the banner, and two handmaids wheeling assisted pilgrims.    It's not always as tidy as this!

Once the procession is under way we raise our candles to salute and honour Our Blessed Lady, and it's easy to forget about vehicular traffic coming alongside.    A careless collision with a thoughtlessly directed wheelchair can result in a nasty case of Lourdes ankle!


The nightly torchlight procession is the most popular event of the day.   The candles aren't really bright enough to allow us to capture the eight hundred yards of the main part of the procession up to St Michael's Gate and back, but the front of it can be seen on the right just entering the Rosary Basilica courtyard, while on the left the rear part of the procession is still leaving the grotto area. 

The moving finale which begins when all the pilgrims have returned to the main square includes the singing of the Salve Regina and the Credo.     Most evenings this is  followed by Mass at the Grotto for those who are able to keep awake that long!     This pilgrimage has been a truly memorable experience, as well as being a very special way of venerating Our Lady.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011


The fact that our parish rooms will not be able to host the Saturday and Sunday coffee mornings for a few weeks is not the reason why Jo, Patricia and Joan appeared to have taken over the smart new kitchen at the front of the United Reformed Church on Tuesday. For on that day those of Lymington's wonderful carers who could get away from their charges for an hour or so met there for a cuppa, and this week it was the turn of our parish to have the privilege of serving these super people who spend every day of their lives serving someone else.


Of all Lymington's coffee houses, we think the Ark in St Thomas Street is the most pleasant. The menu of this specifically Christian café and bookshop also displays a surprisingly good range of really well-cooked light lunches.

 Jane is one of the many volunteers who help in the beautifully laid out bookshop, which often holds a better selection of good greeting cards than can be found anywhere else in the town.

 Not everyone's needs are the same, but Claudia not only takes care to see that everybody gets good helpings of really well-cooked and well-presented food, but she also ensures that even the youngest of her customers receives caring service appropriate to his wishes.

In the back room is the hub of the organization, with Catering Manager Lynn baking lovely cakes, Olga at the monitor advising on book purchase, and Sarah who deals with the administration.    On the right is Ginny Ayling, the founder and owner of the Ark, whose vision and direction has been behind this splendid example of Christian practice in a commercial world.    She would now like to step back, and is willing to sell. What a wonderful opportunity for an active Christian seeking a worthwhile career in retirement! (see


Françoise and Len enjoy their last Sunday morning after-Mass coffee before renovations to our Parish Centre begin. Among the first items to be upgraded are the windows, which will be double-glazed. After rewiring and plumbing has been completed it is planned to give our restored Parish Centre modern internal toilets where there are now store rooms on either side of the main entrance.

We shall be at Lourdes this coming week with the Diocesan Pilgrimage, and hope to return with some scintillating photographs (and possibly even the occasional trenchant comment if the local Châteauxneuf-du-Pape doesn't seize up our intrepid reporter's cerebral faculties.)  

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Please note that, because of holiday commitments, next week's posts on this blog will be put up on Thursday morning, a day earlier than usual.


The Church of Our Lady of Mercy and St Joseph is now more than 150 years old, so it is not surprising to find that the building has undergone several radical changes during that time. This photograph was taken during the recent work on the Sanctuary arch. When the statue of Our Lady and the backing board behind it had to be moved so that scaffolding could be erected, this doorway was revealed. It must have been the entrance to the confessional, which would have been in that tiny space where the sound system is today. We can only hope that none of the penitents suffered from claustrophobia!

 In contrast, here is the latest stride towards modernity, a spiral holy water stoup, no less. A remarkable piece of work and a striking design, perfectly fitted to the top of the font. The earlier rumour that Fr Danny had intended to put a sprinkler over the door and intone the Asperges as the congregation entered can now be discounted.


                                                                                                                         photo by Frances
Giselle has come all the way from Brighton to visit us, so how do they welcome her? They make her do a stint at the Sunday morning coffee counter! It really isn't fair, is it. Meanwhile Liz is about to struggle back across the room with cup, saucer, biscuit, crutch ..... and boot. Is nobody going to help her? Where have all the gentlemen gone?  

                                                                                                                        photo by Frances
Now here are two splendid fellows. Peter and Leigh do so very much appreciate our special Parish Centre de luxe coffee, even if it does look as though neither of them is quite sure what to do with it.


                                                                                                                             photo by Barbara
A little to the left, no, no, back a bit now - that's better. Margaret and Bernie are determined to make life as comfortable as possible for the lucky ladies of the CWL whom they have invited to lunch in their beautiful garden.

                                                                                                                    photo by Barbara
Now here's a lady whose very presence would enlighten any scene! And isn't it a pleasure to see Ramona looking so well!
                                                                                                                                photo by Barbara
An attractive garden, an immaculate lawn, a shady tree to sit under and a peaceful atmosphere ....... where nicer could Ellen, Jo and Joan relax after such a pleasant lunch!   

Thursday, 4 August 2011


Last Sunday evening, in the tranquil setting of All Saints Church, some fifty or so Christians from all Lymington's major denominations gathered for a short service organised by the Methodists. The Rev Roger Gisborne, after a brief dramatic interlude, persuaded us to think about the unity which Our Lord wanted us to achieve, not by talking about details of doctrine, but through the united action which comes about at local level when folk take the risk and actually do something, by taking on Christ's yoke. In a vigorous and comprehensive appeal for unity he reminded us of the many examples of Christians of different denominations working together to care for the homeless and the needy, instanced Lymington's own Basics Bank, and reminded us that although much was already being done, much more could and should be done in this area. Christians can also unite in bringing hope to those suffering from chronic illness and from loneliness arising from family divisions and from other causes of despair, for they should not be afraid to lift the bringing of the Good News out of its usual denominational socket. Even unity in rejoicing, although difficult to arrange because of limitations in the sizes of venues, has been done with success and is well worth the effort. The Reverend Gisborne's powerful appeal concluded with a call for unity in trust, so that,  yoked together with Christ, we may work as in a marriage, trusting in each other. The congregation then united to consume the teas and cakes which had been provided, and to refresh the friendships we have with each other across the denominational boundaries.


On Monday the Friendship Club were invited to a cream tea in Pam's lovely garden at Norleywood. It was such a sunny day that for most people the first thing to be sought for was shelter from the solar rays. At this table Ellen, Joan and Eileen found shade under the big brolly and whilst Hazel didn't cover her head, Maura and Ivy borrowed sunhats.

Pat and Sheila have wisely chosen to sit in the partial shade, so they're able to concentrate on keeping Daisy out of mischief. We shall see just how effective Pat's restraining technique is when the cake appears!

The cream's arrived at this table, but nobody's going to make the first move. Better not leave it too long in the sun, though! Noreen and Tom have borrowed hats from Pam, and Stan may be intending to set up a new endurance record for the Guinness Book, but Veronica is not going to allow a little bit of sunshine to worry her.

As the scones, the cream and the jam have all been distributed now, our hostess Pam gets free of the kitchen for a few minutes, and comes round to greet her guests. Adele is determined to keep out of the sun, so she has borrowed that white hat from Pam.

No, Daisy, that cake's not for you.  We are pleased to report that she was a good girl, and made no attempt to steal from anyone's plate.   Nice clean teeth, hasn't she!

Here's Margaret, Pam, Pat and Louise, very properly waiting for someone to say grace. Unless they make a start soon, it looks as though they're going to have to drink that cream!

Anyone for a second cup? Anne and Pam see that Noreen gets a refill. Ouch, that teapot's hot! What a pleasant afternoon it's been. Many thanks to our generous hostess, and to all those who helped to make this lovely day so enjoyable.