Catholic Herald, 8 June 1990
The wife of Jupiter is not exactly the first person one thinks of as May gives way to June. Admit it – when did you last give the old girl a thought? But it was Juno who bequeathed her name to this month.
Reputedly a big girl, the regal matron’s junoesque proportions would, in these days of fashion for stick insects, find favour with the fight the flab ads. In the ancient Roman world Juno was the protector of women, childbirth, and goddess of marriage. No wonder June is such a popular month for weddings.
Weddings are not the theme of this Chronicle but a diversion is almost irresistible. Every mother who has married off a child (myself included) has a little hoard of sound advice and dire warnings she longs to share with other mothers. Well, one tiny observation won’t take up too much space.
The Orientals traditionally near-bankrupt themselves on weddings. The recent trend in this country is to do the same. The Bishop of Nottingham worried over the lavish expenditure on modern weddings in a Lenten pastoral letter and I must say he’s got a point.
The other day I went to the wedding of an everyday Catholic couple. Or was it a fancy-dress party? Theme: Victorian. Colours: pink through brown. Music: old English. Flowers: cottage garden. Conveyance: hansom cab.
Surprisingly, the guests were allowed to turn up in ordinary clothes, and the presents were encouraged to be 20th century. A film crew was present to record the event for the home video. Bride and father were preceded down the aisle by a backward-walking cameraman, his attendant staggering alongside with spotlight and mike.
In order to receive communion the company had to negotiate an obstacle course of cables and technical equipment.
At the reception the happy couple posed (like the dollies on the cake) in a purpose-built flower-bower to receive their guests – under arc lights strong enough to give everyone an instant sun tan. The director of the film directed the wedding (will he do as much for the marriage? ) and very uncomfortable and unnatural it was.
It cost thousands.
Forget the moon and spoon, let’s go back to June. No other month in the Christian calendar contains so many high holy days: Pentecost, Holy Trinity, the Sacred Heart, Corpus Christi, Saints Peter and Paul, to say nothing of John the Baptist’s birthday, and the feasts of saints Justin, Ephraem, Barnabas, Norbert, Boniface, Anthony, Romuald, Aloysius, Cyril . . .
Today in this country the feast of Corpus Christi doesn’t enjoy the high-profile it deserves. The British are not given to public processions, unless protesting. When did you last see a really jolly and joyful march-past that wasn’t royal?
In fact I’ve only seen one Corpus Christi procession, and that was High Anglican. Returning home from a low mass one mid-June, I heard the strains of Aquinas’ Adora Te above the evening rush hour. It was the “smells and bells” people, taking their procession through the town. A small affair compared to those of our continental cousins, but touching – and brave, considering the disgruntled shoppers, lager louts and furious bus queues they had to thread between.
But ill-temper, weariness and frustration were visibly lightened for a few moments as the procession passed by. Who could fail to be charmed? The clergy were beautifully vested, acolytes supported tall candles, the choirboys’ precarious treble vied with the rumble of traffic and the piquant drift of incense mingled with the fumes. There was a crucifix, and a monstrance, held aloft while tiny white-clad girls scattered flower petals in its path. I’ve never forgotten it.
No, I, don’t want the clock turned back, but sometimes reflect on what else we threw out with the smells and bells.
Then there is the feast of Saints Peter and Paul; that reminds me of a group of Friends of the Holy Father, launched just ten years ago. In addition to praying for the Pope’s intention, studying and making known his teaching, the group supports a fund to assist the Pope in his ministry.
The Knighthood of St. Gregory the Great has just been conferred on the group’s honorary secretary, Dr. Michael Straiton. He was inspired to found the Friends after the example of the Society of St. Augustine of Canterbury, which offers funds for the upkeep of the Archbishop’s House in Westminster.
He felt that a similar arrangement could offer practical help over and above Peter’s Pence to the Holy Father. Support gradually increased and there are now nearly 500 members.
This year the Friends have sent eight personal computers (and £11,200 for installation costs) to each of the eight officials in the English-language section in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. This generous gift should ease the huge burden in one of the busiest sections.
If you wish to join in the group’s work, click here.
Knocking the Pope is a regular sport amongst many of my Catholic acquaintances. As for me, so far no-one has given me evidence that he was not elected under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Let us dig deep in our pockets on June 29 for the annual collection of Peter’s Pence. There is an interesting CTS pamphlet, written by Rosemary Rendel, that outlines its history from the synod of Chelsea (yes!) in 787 to modern times. As the author says, it is a contingency fund which the Pope uses for sudden crises or unusual expenditure.
Part of the cost of the second Vatican Council was borne by Peter’s Pence; the victims of natural disasters, or refugees, can be helped at short notice; or when poorer countries need to send their bishops to Rome, their expenses may be met by Peter’s Pence. The collection is an expression of the family aspect of the universal church.
Feast of football
And, of course, June embraces the opening matches of the World Cup. Scotland plays Brazil on the feast of St. Alban. England’s opening match against Ireland is on the feast of St. Barnabas: he is sometimes depicted standing on a pile of stones. Not, I hope, the remains of the Cagliari stadium after the match.