Sacred shrines were visited as far away as Assisi, and as close as
Walsingham; plus St Winefride’s here on our very door step! Indeed,
animal sanctuaries were also a focal point of interest as were our
annual church services of animal blessing. The earliest occurred in the
prestigious St James’s Church of Piccadilly where I shared the
officiation and blessing of the animals with the retired Dean of
Westminster abbey. Then in following years – at my suggestion - we moved
for our venue to that most prestigious Cathedral Of The Good Shepherd in
Stamford Hill. Yes, a church of the Ancient Catholic denomination which,
amongst its beautiful trappings, had a delightful side chapel dedicated
to the animal kingdom. For, sadly, no Roman church at that period seemed
willing to loan its premises for the blessing of our four legged
friends; and as for the renowned Anglican church of St Martin In The
Fields which overlooked Trafalgar Square, they were eager to invite us.
But their charge for the day was astronomical!
Thankfully - and not before time - other cathedrals and prominent
churches are now happy to be host to annual services for animal welfare.
But what good are they when pets are excluded from entrance, and their
fees are so ‘over the top’? Nevertheless, some things are beginning to
change. But - as I personally view it - not all change is for the best.
For example, with the older past stalwarts of the former ‘Catholic Study
Circle For Animal Welfare’ either retiring gracefully, or ‘dying on
their feet!’, the secretary ship of this renamed ‘Catholic Concern For
Animals’ has past to a most zealous young lady with plenty of fire in
her bones. Debra Jones. As a true convert from the Protestant world, is
naturally anxious to promote further Roman involvement – who can blame
her! -; and both Doreen and myself wish her all the luck in the world.
But as one consequance, my patronage is now annulled..
Indeed, the last holiday, cum – retreat, that we had the privilege to
partake in was at delightful Rhos-On-Sea. I’d recommended the venue,
which, though it was one of many Christian Endeavour homes, bore a truly
Catholic name: St Winefred’s. Yes, it appeared to be a most appropriate
compromise! A sympathetic Catholic priest was invited to offer the daily
Mass, while I led the daily Bible devotions relevant to the animal
creation. Indeed, the fellowship was superb; and whereas I do not think
the other guests and staff - being ‘born again’ Protestants -
appreciated us returning from a local tavern, rather well refreshed,
after 11.pm when (believe it or not!) all lights in the rooms were
expected to be out by that time, what happened the next evening proved
more hilarious still.
Our devout colleagues, who were mostly Catholic, were as loyal to
their church as to the animal cause. Indeed, they were convinced that
they alone were of the one true church; and more than once one had
gently suggested that as she was a convert, I might care to consider the
same! Indeed, this was a far cry from five years previous when it had
been suggested that the name Catholic be dropped from their Study Circle
and that Christian be put in its place. (Something that I, out of
respect to the founder, had disapproved of). However, five years on and
here I was, encircled by devout and caring Romans possibly feeling sorry
for the likes of myself who hadn’t evolved towards embracing the one
true church outside of which there was possibly no salvation.
However, that night a group of Protestant evangelicals came to our
venue to conduct an open meeting who were as eager for getting converts
as were any holy Romans. “It’s not confirmation but conversion!” was the
gist of their spouting “It’s not accepting a dead creed but accepting a
living Christ!”. And then, of course, the full force of an appeal
followed at the end: “There is no salvation to any except in accepting
Christ as Saviour and Lord: you must be born again! Who will accept Him
tonight?” Well, appreciating both sides one was able to laugh at both
dogmatic stands and think of a past ditty:
They drew round them a circle, that kept me out,
I was a heretic, a schismatic! A thing to flout!
Ah, but Christ’s love and I, had the grace to win
For, we drew our circle, which included them in!
And, let’s be quite frank, it’s no doubt due to my scepticism of this
new Pope Benedict – plus many references in my latest book (Young
Spiritual Tramp) to a post war brand of Catholicism I encountered - that
retaining me as a patron of Catholic Concern For Animals has been
considered inappropriate. Consequently, my name has been gently dropped;
and for this I bear no bitterness towards those responsible. Rather, I
wish them all the luck in the world!
The above is just the latest kind of price I’ve become accustomed to
paying over the years, for either my own outspokenness or for possibly
being an embarrassment to any cause that may not have been as void of
diplomacy as myself. But then, in contrast to priests who went through
daily motions of ritual and sacrifice; who amongst the prophets was ever