Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

24 March 2012

Roman Catholics Have Long Memories

My late father-in-law lived in this circa 1740 house in a village in Kent. It was next to St. Mary's, a 13th century church that, at the time I took this photograph, was shared by both Anglicans and Roman Catholics, each having their separate services.

To make ends meet (it was an expensive house to run) father-in-law took in paying guests, typically old gentlefolk. One such was a retired Roman Catholic canon who was both unsteady in his mind and his body (but he still drove a Volkswagen beetle whose mudguards were so smashed up that they looked like moulded papier maché).

I asked him if he still performed any duties as a cleric and he told me that he heard the confessions of the nuns in a nearby convent. He confided in me that hearing their confessions was like being pecked to death by penguins.

My most memorable of his bon mots was when an ecumenical garden fête was held in the churchyard. I came across the canon chatting with the C. of E. sexton by a pillar upon which was posted a list of incumbent priests dating back to the early 14th century. Coming from a young New Zealand I said I was impressed that such a long historical record had been preserved, at which point the canon jabbed a bony finger at a name somewhere about 1530 and said, rather angrily, I thought, 'Yes, and what's more this church was ours until then!'

Long memory; Henry the Eighth's theft of St. Mary's from its Roman owners was still fresh in the canon's mind four and a half centuries after the event!


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By Don Donovan