Tag Archives: England

Crying for Paris

Paris MapThe horrific attacks in Paris this week brought home once again the precarious nature of our freedoms. 

And so we cry for France and the rest of Europe, so vulnerable with porous borders, weak military, costly social welfare, and alarming inclusivity. 

As the daughter of England, America looks to France, and all of Europe, with anguish and tears. America was birthed by the English, explored by the French, settled by the Spanish, and later enriched by Germans, Italians, Irish, East Indians, Africans, Asians and many others. America has gloried in inclusivity, insisting this great experiment in democracy will after all succeed. Yet, in the last fifty years it is showing signs of serious failure. 

Since her birth, America has welcomed all who escaped to her sanctuary of sacred space, of liberty and life and the peaceful pursuit of happiness. All who came desired safety and a chance to live a better life in which to raise their children. Some sought life itself. This stream of grateful immigrants continues, legal and illegal, crossing borders, running around and over borders, desperate to get in. 

As America grew in strength and wealth, she defended England and the countries of Europe, as any good son or daughter would defend their family from harm. She became a force for good, sometimes through might, sometimes through love of all humanity, usually well intentioned. 

But as Europe aged she grew complacent about defense, counting on America’s strength. Americans looked across the seas to Europe’s villages and history, her cobbled streets, her quaint ways, her saints, her cathedrals, her vineyards and her civilized way of life. We were wealthy and could afford a military that could defend the free world, protect our Western Civilization. Europe rested, relaxing borders. With American might, Europe could afford generous social welfare programs. She could house, feed, nurse, and school all who crossed into her lands, even those who broke her laws. Giving and giving, Europe self-righteously distributed her benevolence. Americans, those coarse fellows across the sea, could provide troops as necessary. 

But no longer. A little like Robin Hood, America robbed from her defense to protect her domestic welfare. She too wanted to feel self-righteous, to “care” as Europe cared. To pay for these programs, programs that buy votes, the CIA was cut and we were attacked on 9-11-01 in New York. To pay for these programs, the military budget was cut and policies of disengagement and “dialog” with our enemies were preferred over shows of strength. 

Islamic State took notice. And so, the barbarians are no longer at the gates. They are here. Living among us, networking their creeds of jihad. National boundaries no long keep the bad guys out. They keep them in. 

It has been predicted by many that Europe as we know or knew it is over. Demographics prophesy that France will be a Muslim state within the next decade, and a sharia state soon after. Put simply, free French are not having children; sharia French are. The same could be said for England. 

In America we are teaching our surviving children to hate our culture, its history, its freedoms. They will not be a generation interested in protecting us. 

In America we rob our children of religious faith and leave them to wander in a nihilistic desert. They will fill this void and find meaning in a Facebook network of suicide warriors. 

In America we slaughter our unborn and euthanize our aged, blinded in our selfishness, not seeing that we are assisting in America’s own suicide. 

But in spite of all the wars and rumors of wars, all the fear on city streets, all the anguish in the once glorious city of light, we hope and do not despair. Those who can see are seeing for others. Those who can teach our children the truth are teaching them the truth. Those who can pray are praying. 

We prayed for Paris this morning in our little chapel in Berkeley. And I prayed that the eyes of the West have been briefly opened, hopefully long enough to change course, to destroy this cancerous evil spreading through the free world. We need a strong America again, one clear-eyed and courageous, yet humble enough to sacrifice for others. We need to wave the flag and revive old-fashioned patriotism.

We need an America that will defend the streets of Paris, once again showing the world and its tyrants that we will ensure peace through strength.

Nelson Mandela and Raymond Raynes

Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), a reconciling man in a divisive time, passed into eternity recently. May his soul rest in peace and may light perpetual rest upon him. His passing reminded me of an earlier divisive time and another man of love (perhaps saint?), Raymond Raynes C.R., an Anglican monk who was born a generation before Mr. Mandela, whose work in South Africa has not been forgotten by those for whom he cared. 

Father Raynes (1903-1958), late Superior of the Community of the Resurrection in Mirfield, England, built missions, schools, and churches in South Africa, first in Johannesburg (Rosettenville) and later in the Southwest Township, Soweto. This Anglican monastic Community had a missionary presence in South Africa since 1902; Father Raynes arrived in 1933, shortly after his profession as a monk. After ten years of devoted work, his asceticism and labor took a toll on his body. He became severely ill and was recalled to England in 1943. Father Trevor Huddleston was assigned to nurse him, and it was Father Huddleston C.R. whom Raymond sent to South Africa to continue his important work. 

Nelson Mandela came of age in the early 1940s about the time that Raymond was recalled. In the course of the next half century, it was Trevor Huddleston who stood alongside Nelson Mandela, working to reverse the curse of apartheid that gripped the nation from 1948 to 1994. Father Huddleston did indeed continue Raymond’s work. He died in 1998 having seen his friend Nelson Mandela released from prison and elected President of South Africa.

I became interested in Father Raynes many years ago, having read his biography by Nicholas Mosley, a remarkable man in his own right, a novelist and Lord of Parliament. Raymond Raynes converted him to Christ, brought him home. When Father Raynes died, Lord Mosley paid him tribute by writing his biography, with the support of the Community of the Resurrection in Mirfield. 

My husband and I visited Mirfield in 2002. We saw the church and the cluster of buildings set in park-like grounds; we honored the grave of Raymond Raynes in the monks’ cemetery. Some of my impressions found their way into my third novel, my story set in England, Inheritance, about the great Christian inheritance we have been given, about the call not to squander it or take it for granted.

My Mirfield impressions and my introduction to Father Raynes by way of Lord Mosley’s biography has since led to a new edition of the biography, recently released by the American Church Union, an American Anglican publishing group. In this biography the South African story is told with color, poetry, and insight. It was a great privilege to edit this biography and see it once again in print. 

So with the passing of Mr. Mandela, I think with gratitude again about the Anglo-Catholic Father Raynes. Father Raynes loved the African people. In the 1930s the black South Africans lived in shanties and worked long hours for little wage in the mines, but aside from the poverty which was dire in itself, they were denied basic rights: the right to own land, the right of due process and other legal rights, the right to vote. For any reason, for no reason, they could be arrested, sent away, and never seen again. Into this setting came this young, handsome, energetic priest with his long black cassock who walked the neighborhoods sharing the love of God and also sharing his food, shelter, and knowledge. The children loved him and followed him around on his home visits. Father Raynes built a huge (“barn-sized”)  church with a high altar and colorful frescoes. The church was packed with thousands of worshipers weekly. He led his people in processions with incense and candles and chanting, often through the dusty lanes of the community. He gave them a vision of another, a more beautiful world. He showed them God and His love for each of them. He gave them dignity and worth in the love of God their creator. 

Father Raynes also became their political defender. He rescued many from prison who had been falsely arrested. He fought for sewers and lighting and water pipes in the neighborhoods. He campaigned for schools and teachers. He prayed night and day for these people whom he loved so. He fasted.

The children did not forget Father Raynes after he was called back to England. They grew up to become the future leaders and priests and teachers of South Africa. They had been educated in Anglican schools; many had become devout Anglo-Catholics with a mission for the poor. This generation birthed the new nation, brought it into a hopefully more democratic world of freedom and reconciliation.

So, with the passing of Mr. Mandela, I feel great pride in the timely new edition of Nicholas Mosley’s The Life of Raymond Raynes. This biography reminded me what one person can accomplish, with the grace of God flowing through his or  her mind and heart. I have read that Nelson Mandela was also a devout man in his own way, a Methodist, who kept his faith to himself, not wanting to cause division. But in his efforts to forgive those who persecuted him, I see a man who had been touched by Christ. In his long years in prison on Robben Island  and his waiting and his patience through it all, you can see the soul of a martyr willing to sacrifice himself for others.

2013 has been a year of remembrance for South Africa: Father Raynes’ life remembered with gratitude and thanksgiving; Nelson Mandela’s life remembered also with gratitude and thanksgiving. 

To learn more about the biography, The Life of Raymond Raynes, and ordering information, visit the American Church Union at http://www.anglicanpck.org/resources/acu/index.html.  To read an excellent review by Father Ian McCormack of New Directions, the magazine of Forward in Faith (Anglican), click here: Review New Directions


On Truth and Lies

I am nearly finished typing up The Life of Raymond Raynes, copying with minor changes the original work by Nicholas Mosley (thank you, Lord Ravensdale, for your blessings on this project). Those fortunate enough to have read Father Raynes retreat addresses, given in Denver in 1957, The Faith, will have a sense of what dipping into his biography would be like. Much of the three hundred pages comprises direct quotes from letters and speeches, so the text is largely Father Raynes’s words.

I am so honored to type these words. It is as though as I type the words enter my heart and mind in sacramental fashion. So I have spent a lot of time of late with Father Raynes, with him in South Africa, with him when he was Superior of the Community of the Resurrection in Mirfield, England, with him as he chatted about the faith in some of the great homes in rural England. (“House parties,” one retreatant called them, “all gin and confession…. they were wonderful…”)_

Our small publishing group hopes to produce more of these out-of-print books that tell of our Anglican way of Christianity. The more I live and experience Anglo-Catholicism, the more I am fulfilled by its rituals, sacraments, theology, and the more I appreciate our place in history and the telling of the Gospel.

Which brings me to interpretations, and ways of expressing the Incarnation and what it means. It brings me to the Gospel – what is it, what does it mean for me, for my family, for my community, my nation, the world. There are numerous answers to these questions, numerous interpretations.

Just as there are many interpretations of sacred texts. There are, our preacher reminded us today and I had to smile at its appropriateness for me at this time, interpretations of interpretations.

And this all leads to the question of truth. Can we know it, does it exist, are we merely beings of impulses and instincts. Is science so very incompatible with religion. I think not. They support one another.

My fifth novel, I hope and believe, will be released in May. The Magdalene Mystery asks these questions of interpretation, of truth. Can we know Mary Magdalene? Can we know who she really was? This question leads to the next, can we know what happened in that first century of the Early Church? Which of course leads us to Holy Scriptures and the challenge posed by many doubters in the last fifty years, can we know that a man named Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead? Indeed, can we even know that Jesus of Nazareth ever lived and walked the earth?

I suppose much of this quest for truth is personal for me, since my father left his Christian faith and his pastorate in the sixties’ upheaval of doubt. He believed what he read, what so-called New Testament scholars were writing. The Jesus Seminar soon “validated” his new creed of unbelief. American culture, drunk with freedom from moral restraints, and celebrating the birth control pill, launched into a party that is still going on (the devastation caused by the sexual revolution is a topic for another day). My parents read themselves out and away from their living faith and into something sterile and self-serving.

So today I type quickly, my fingers tapping the keys. Father Raynes’s telling of the truth will be one more expression that will feed a culture starving for the real thing. Of course each of us must read, evaluate, and judge. That’s what free will is all about. But this biography that seems to be emerging through my fingertips, like The Faith, encourages each of us to decide on our own and not be swayed by media and false testimony. Father Raynes’s words point to true authorities, not bestselling journalists and sensational novelists and fads. His words inspire us to embrace the traditional morality of the Gospel, to see that right and wrong do exist, that selfishness is not an admirable trait. His words encourage us to have backbone, to stand up and be counted in our world today. His words encourage us to meet God and enjoy him forever.

And my little novel, soon to be in print, hopefully will do the same thing in a different way, with a love story set in Rome and Provence, and a mysterious quest with clues in breathtaking basilicas. A predator stalks, and folks spread lies like spiders spinning webs.

So I must get back to my typing and back to the joy of telling, retelling, and telling once again, making all these words come alive on the page.