Oscar Romero Birthday Mass

The Romero Cross being dedicated by Archbishop Peter Smith at St George’s Cathedral in 2013

Oscar Romero is the 20th-century Thomas Becket.

Archbishop Romero was killed in a church by the El Salvador dictatorship because it did not like his defence of human rights .

The St Oscar Romero national shrine is in St George’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Southwark (opposite the Imperial War Museum).

Pilgrims from Southwark to Canterbury can start out at St George’s Cathedral and head for Canterbury either via the Anglican Southwark Cathedral or walk direct to the Elephant & Castle and down New Kent Road joining the PW at the Bricklayers Arms junction.

More exciting is that on arriving in Canterbury they will find relics of Becket and Romero side by side in St Thomas of Canterbury Church near the cathedral.

This Saturday 15 August the annual Romero Mass to celebrate the birth of St Oscar Romero is being live streamed from St George’s Cathedral on YouTube at 12.30pm. Note that the cathedral will not be open to the public for this Mass due to the virus.

The booklet is here and the live stream links here.

St Thomas Becket relic in St Thomas of Canterbury Church at Canterbury where St Oscar Romero vestments are also displayed.

The Book in the Cathedral

New ‘Hardback Penguin’ on Becket

Published this month, between the 800th anniversary of the Translation of St Thomas Becket in July and the 850th anniversary of his murder next December, is a book which would have been part of the Becket 2020 programme.

But the pandemic has not stopped the appearance of this lovely hardback Penguin The Book in the Cathedral: the Last Relic of Thomas Becket by Christopher de Hamel.

The author, former Librarian of the Parker Library, tells the story of how he was lunching at Corpus Christi Cambridge when suddenly by chance a mystery was solved.

His guest Eyal Poleg, senior lecturer at Queen Mary University London, mentioned a book listed in the 1321 Sacrist’s Roll at Canterbury but never located. The description fitted a book in Christopher de Hamel’s possession. Coffee was abandoned as both made for the library.

Becket’s Psalter had been discovered.

It appears to be the book of psalms taken by Becket into exile and read in many places in traumatic times. A case is made for the book having returned with Becket in 1170 and even being in his hand as he died.

Is it, as suggested, the book being held by Becket in the 12th-century window in Canterbury Cathedral? And in the Old Kent Road pub sign?

There is another fascinating conjecture made. Becket admired predecessor St Alphege, preached about him in his last sermon and invoked the name as the knights murdered him. Did Becket love the book because it had once belonged to Alphege?

The de Hamel book is only 58 pages long but it is packed with information and gets close to Becket as archbishop.

It is also a book where the notes (nine pages) are rewarding.

Becket’s Psalter is due to be exhibited at the postponed Becket exhibition at the British Museum. The dates will be announced shortly.

The Book in the Cathedral: the Last Relic of Thomas Becket by Christopher de Hamel (Allen Lane; £9.99).


Lammastide at Southwark Cathedral

Lammastide postage stamp issued in 1981.

The Lammas Fair in Exeter and the Ould Lammas Fair in Ballycastle have been cancelled due to Coronavirus. But Borough Market and Southwark Cathedral are together maintaining ancient tradition.

The word Lammas is derived from Loaf Mass and refers to bread made from the first harvested wheat for the Mass of Thanksgiving. This is Old Harvest Festival at the start of Harvest.

Lammas would have been observed on 1 August in villages along the Pilgrims’ Way.

This year Southwark is giving thanks on the fifth day of Lammastide: Wednesday 5 August.

The service starts at 12.30pm in Bread Ahead bakery in Borough Market. After the blessing of the bakery, bakers, grain and flour, clergy and Bread Ahead bakers process to the Cathedral with the first loaf, a wheatsheaf and other loaves for the Eucharist at 12.45pm.

There will be limited seating in church due to social distancing but the service is being streamed live on the cathedral website

The order of service and a PDF booklet can be downloaded.

Sub Dean Michael Rawson and Borough Market’s Bread Ahead team with a wheatsheaf and Cathedral loaves
Lammas Day in the Book of Common Prayer

St James’s Day

St James as o pilgrim with a shell on his bag

Saturday 25 July is St James’s Day which is special to pilgrims old, new and intending.

St James the Great, one of the core apostles and John’s brother, is now found in Santiago de Compostela cathedral where he draws thousands of pilgrims arriving on various trails across Spain from France and Portugal.

From England you start by walking the Pilgrims’ Way to Canterbury.

James’s shell logo is the badge for pilgrims to Santiago and other places including Canterbury where the shell is found on the cathedral’s gatehouse door.

“Pilgrimage is physical travel in pursuit of a spiritual goal,” says Vadis VR founder Professor Amy Giuliano when writing about St James as the patron of pilgrims.

“It is a microcosm of the soul’s lifelong journey to God – the greatest of all adventures.

“A pilgrim lives each day with radical intentionality and utter dependence upon divine providence. When he leaves the comforts and security of home behind, illusions of self-sufficiency and control quickly dissipate.

“He traverses unfamiliar terrain, encounters new people and customs, and sleeps each night in a different locale. He is vulnerable to the elements and the road’s many pitfalls. He experiences his own physical limits, his dependence on others for aid, and the necessity of pairing down his baggage to the bare essentials.

“At the same time, his spirits are buoyed by prayer, progress, and the natural beauty that surrounds him. He is encouraged by the charity of strangers and enjoys a deep camaraderie with fellow travellers striving toward the same goal.

“These lights and perils, ecstasies and elations involved in the pilgrim’s physical journey point to greater spiritual realities, thus imparting life-changing lessons.”

Information about St James and pilgrimage to Santiago is available from Camino Pilgrim.

St James depicted with pilgrim staff, water bottle and book decorated with a shell in a window at Wrotham Church. Thomas Becket stayed next door on his last ride back to Canterbury from Southwark in December 1170.

Southwark’s lost St Margaret’s

Bridge Tap on St Margaret’s site (photo: www,LondonSE1.co.uk)

Today is St Margaret’s Day.

Before Southwark Priory became the parish church (and later also cathedral) there was St Margaret of Antioch Church in Borough High Street.

St Margaret’s in Borough High Street, rebuilt in the 13th century, was Southwark’s parish church until 1540.

As you left the Tabard Inn you would have seen the church opposite on an island plot . The site is now The Bridge Tap pub with the war memorial outside its front door. Here Borough High Street was known as St Margaret’s Hill although the incline for London Bridge was little further north.

The church became a court and was destroyed by fire in 1676.

Plaque on The Bridge Tap (Photo: Alan Patient of www.plaquesoflondon.co.uk)

St Swithun’s Day 2020

St Swithun’s shrine in Winchester Cathedral with the side of the canopy depicting rain. The other side has sun rays.

Public worship has returned to Winchester Cathedral in time for St Swithun’s Day on Wednesday 15 July.

Swithun (800-862) often gets a mention in the weather forecast at this time of the summer thanks to the saying:

St Swithin’s day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St Swithin’s day if thou be fair
For forty days ’twill rain nae mair.

This derives from the report that a violent storm broke as Swithun’s body was being moved on 15 July 971 from his outdoor grave to a shrine inside the Old Minster which preceded today’s Norman cathedral church.

Before the change in calendar 15 July would have fallen on today’s 26 July so the forty days refers to the possibility of a wet August which is not unknown.

Pilgrims setting out from Winchester would have been able to visit Swithun’s shrine containing his body knowing that at Canterbury they would find his head.

This skull is now in Évreux Cathed­ral in Normandy although not displayed.

Pilgrims starting at London’s Southwark Cathedral can look for the figure of St Swithun in the Great Screen at the east end.

At Winchester Cathedral this year the St Swithun’s Day Eucharist is at 12 noon. Evening Prayer at 5pm will be broadcast on Zoom.

A reconstruction of St Swithun’s shrine before Henry VIII’s reign
St Swithun’s Church at Martyr Worthy in Hampshire seen from the Pilgrims’ Way
St Swithun, second left, on Southwark Cathedral’s Great Screen built 500 years ago this year by order of Bishop Fox of Winchester. St Thomas Becket, holding a sword, is next to Swithun.
A St Swithun rose blooming this year: ‘St Swithun Rose’ was bred in 1993 by David Austin who was also responsible for introducing the red ‘St Thomas À Becket Rose’ introduced at Canterbury in 2013.

The Pilgrims’ Way, out of Winchester and as far as Farnham, is waymarked ‘St Swithun’s Way’ with the pilgrim shell and the croziers of Becket and Swithun.

William Cash walks to Canterbury

The Catholic Herald’s July cover marking the St Thomas Becket anniversary

William Cash was planning a Catholic Herald readers’ Becket anniversary pilgrimage to Canterbury when the virus struck.

In this month’s Catholic Herald he writes about St Thomas Becket and recounts own recent walk from Southwark.

There are some delightful illustrations.

According to The Times William Cash is thorough for he also went solo from Winchester being the first person to ask for a pilgrim stamp at Winchester Cathedral after its reopening.

He arrived in Canterbury last week on the 800th anniversary of the consecration of St Thomas Becket’s shrine.

Maybe the magazine’s readers can walk with William in 2023 to mark the 850th anniversary of Thomas Becket’s canonisation.

Thomas More Service live from Canterbury

The Thomas More window in St Dunstan’s

The eve of the Translation of St Thomas of Canterbury is the anniversary of St Thomas More’s death in 1535.

He is a Becket figure who put God before the state and as a result lost his life.

Today pilgrims ‘meet’ him at Southwark, Dartford, Farningham and Canterbury.

In Canterbury every 6 July there is a lecture within a service at St Dunstan’s Church where St Thomas’s head is buried in the family vault. His daughter lived along the street on the PW.

The church is the last one on the PW to get your pilgrim passport stamp before reaching Canterbury’s city gate.

The St Thomas More Commemoration Service will go ahead on Monday 6 July at 7pm and can be followed live on the parish Facebook.

The order of service is available on the church website.

Entrance to home of Thomas More’s daughter Margaret in Canterbury

Can we walk?

Window in Canterbury Cathedral next to shrine

On this coming Saturday 4 July some pubs, bed & breakfasts and cafes will reopen.

Does this mean that we can now walk to Canterbury and get there by the 800th Translation anniversary on Tuesday 7 July?

‘Probably not’ is the best answer.

Not all pubs or accommodation will be open on 4 July. Some are anxious to welcome us but others are being cautious and reopening later in the month.

Don’t expect to be able to collect lots of stamps in your passport.

Pilgrimage is most rewarding when taken slowly so you don’t want to have to walk long distances at speed to reach a bed. Booking ahead will be essential for some time.

Also, public transport does not have much capacity at the moment. Southeastern Railway has a new timetable from Monday but there will still only be 80% of normal services.

If you do go on the PW follow physical distancing guidelines and limit your contact with others and anyone you meet. Your party should be restricted to five others from different households.

Looking at the PW from London to Canterbury, the good news is that Southwark Cathedral will reopen on Saturday for private prayer and reflection between 10am and 3pm daily.

Public services will resume on Monday.

Tuesday 7 July, Translation of St Thomas of Canterbury: Canterbury Cathedral will be open from 10am (Sun 12.30pm) to 4pm from Saturday 4 July with free entry during the first week. Becket 2020 celebrations and events have been postponed but on Tuesday there will be The Eucharist at 8am and Evensong (without singing) at 5.30pm.

Door in Christ Church gateway at Canterbury Cathedral is closed at present.

St Swithun’s Day in Norway

Stavanger Cathedral (picture: Visit Norway)

Today Thursday 2 July is St Swithun’s Day in Norway.

Norway’s Stavanger Cathedral, built in 1125, is dedicated to St Swithun. Its first bishop, Reinald, came from Winchester and was responsible for the construction by English builders.

He arrived with one of the saint’s arms which was last seen in 1517. The other one was in Peterborough.

2 July marks the day of Swithun’s death in 863. In Norway it is known as Syftesok meaning Swithun’s wake.

St Swithun’s Day in Winchester and the English calendar is 15 July and marks the moving of his grave in 1093 which it is claimed triggered forty days of rain.

To Canterbury from Winchester and London / Leigh Hatts