Prayers by Heart

  It is a sunny Sunday morning in a typical London suburb. I am doing some quick work in the garden before Mass. My next-door neighbors are Evangelical Christians, originally from India. This morning, the grandmother, wearing a sari, is walking up and down with her little granddaughter, and when we stop to chat, she [...]

Our Lady on the Highway

A while back, on the fateful day of April 15 that reminds each of us how much worse off we are than medieval serfs -- whose "tax" to the feudal lord was typically capped at 10 percent -- I promised to counterbalance my consideration of the Seven Deadly Sins with the Seven Contrary Virtues. Then, [...]

The Practical Power of Public Prayer

I had just boarded the late afternoon train from Paddington Station headed west to Bristol. Commuters were jostling for places, bags were being stashed, and those of us who managed to find seats were settling down with a book or a sandwich for the journey, when suddenly a voice came over the intercom. It was [...]

Britain and the 1950s

  There's a certain type of pleasant American one meets at parties who likes to reminisce about visiting Britain in the 1950s. Standing, glass of wine in hand, in a room filled with people dressed in that muddy mix of clothes described as "smart casual," he tackles his subject with enthusiasm.   Oh, he remembers [...]

Christmas in Britain

Recently my eye was caught by a news item announcing that teenagers are to be handed "morning after" abortive pills over the Christmas season as they attend clubs and parties. Meanwhile, a firing of muskets in a Christmas tree ceremony in a country town has been banned because people might be frightened by the noise.  [...]

Musical Diary

  At the annual fundraising dinner of the Morley Institute, the sponsor of InsideCatholic and the late Crisis magazine, I have sometimes been asked by polite guests if my work as a music critic is full-time. I have smiled painfully and said, "No," usually without revealing my day job as a warmonger at the Defense [...]

The House in North Street

  I cycle past the house often. It stands at the end of the street, next to what was once, long ago, the village green -- still a pleasant area in busy suburbia. It's a solid Victorian house, one of several in a row. They look out across the road to the grounds of a [...]

A Buckingham Palace Garden Party

  These are perhaps the most famous gates in the world -- certainly among the most photographed.   We gathered outside, a vast crowd of us, forming a neat line -- as British people still do when in traditional mode -- talking, taking photographs, fussing about.   This is a Buckingham Palace garden party, one [...]

Boris and London

It was impossible not to feel a thrill of pleasure. The newspapers were heralding Boris Johnson's triumphant win over his socialist opponent Ken Livingstone as mayor of London -- part of a nationwide sweep as Conservatives romped to power in local authorities across Britain, trouncing Labour in the local elections. Media commentators started to talk [...]

The Island of Saints

This year marks an anniversary for Catholics in Britain: 230 years since the first Catholic Relief Act. In 1778, the law banning Catholic worship and making it a capital offence to be a Catholic priest was relaxed for the first time since the reign of Elizabeth I. For several years I worked at the House [...]

London, 1947

The diamond wedding anniversary of Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh last November brought pages of nostalgic images in the British press. The people of 1947 look so physically different from those of modern Britain: thinner, more cheerful, more formally dressed, more active, the faces less inert, the features somehow more defined. Is it [...]

Holy Land

God's Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe's Religious Crisis is a rather scary book if you happen to be reading it on the island where I live, off the coast of North West Europe.     God's Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe's Religious Crisis By Philip Jenkins Oxford University Press, 2007 $28.00     God's Continent: [...]

A Handsome Lie

Five years and $180 million later, The Golden Compass is at last opening in movie theaters across the country today. So what's the verdict?   Five years and $180 million later, The Golden Compass is at last opening in movie theaters across the country today. While Philip Pullman -- the author of the His Dark [...]