Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Well Said: I could never be a Catholic because ...

9 May. Miss Shepherd's funeral is at Our Lady of Hal, the Catholic church round the corner. The service has been slotted into the ten o'clock mass, so that, in addition to a contingent of neighbors, the congregation includes what I take to be regulars: the fat little man in thick glasses and trainers who hobbles along to the church every day from Arlington House; several nuns, among them the ninety-nine-year-old sister who was in charge when Miss S. was briefly a novice; a woman in a green straw hat like an upturned plant pot who eats toffees throughout; and another lady who plays the harmonium in tan slacks and a tea-cozy wig. The serve, a middle-aged man with white hair, doesn't wear a surplice, just ordinary clothes with an open-necked shirt, and, but for knowing all the sacred drill, might have been roped in from the group on the corner outside The Good Mixer. The priest is a young Irish boy with a big, red peasant face and sandy hair, and he, too, stripped of his cream-colored cassock, could be wielding a pneumatic drill in the roadworks outside. I keep thinking about these characters during the terrible service, and it reinforces what I have always known: that I could never be a Catholic because I'm such a snob, and that the biggest sacrifice Newman made when he turned his back on the C of E was the social one.
Alan Bennett, The Lady in the Van
This might be one of the biggest compliments to the Church I've ever read.


  1. It also reminds me of J.R.R. Tolkien's comment that it's best to attend Mass with attendants who offend your sense of taste because then you will pray for them and also remember the rabble multitude that Our Lord fed. - Jean

    1. I didn't remember that one, though it is good. Lately the biggest help to me in that respect was thinking of The Lady in the Van when I'm at Mass. How am I holding myself above those who are offending one of my standards? It is every effective, I agree, however one gets there. :-)