...was an important aspect of life at 9DR. It didn't interfere a great deal with the happy holiday time which we spent when we came over though. We went to mass on Sunday, and at some early stage we did have a go at the Sunday school which was held at the back of Saint Monica's Church. But only later did I really recognize how religious all the dwellers of n°9 and n°7 had been, or at least, understood what it must have meant to live in such a religious environment. For example, mass was daily: perhaps this was a later development, because I don't know whether they would have managed when working. Of course, Monsieur Père was the prominently catholic figure. His stern ways, along with the occasional preachy aspects (see here) I remember well. Here's a recording of what he had to say (perhaps at the Catholic Evidence Guild) on the "job of the Church": And what would you say that was? To announce Jesus-Christ? To enable the faithful to lead a worthy community life? Wrong! Listen to Grandpa!
Here's a very interesting speech which he delivered to an audience of would-be speakers in public (perhaps at Speaker's Corner, where I know he was wont to go), with advice as to what to do and not to do, and which subjects were appropriate to listeners:
I have other, more directly theological speeches which Noël recorded - and which he therefore must also have listened to, bless him - but I'm not sure you'll be so interested. A good part of it contains such things as a discussion of the relative positions of the Son and the Father as seen in the gospel of saint John. If some are interested, I can upload them. On the whole, I think one can say that Monsieur Père was a staunch believer, a statement which for me is very positive; but I think one should also stress that he was dogmatic and rather naive in his rigid adherence to the teachings of the Church, even if this was the right way then. I cannot but admire his faith, which led him to publicly show it, and not be afraid to say it was the truth.
On the Saint Monica's parish website, I have been surprised to find a text which it is said had been written (in 1960) by "Cecil Hughes who, with his family, had been resident in the area for some time."
Here's what you can read:
At this point it is appropriate to include some of the memories of Cecil Hughes who, with his family, had been resident in the area for some time. He wrote as follows in 1960 in celebration of the golden jubilee of the parish under the title:
We were children then
"The tenth of July 1910 was a Sunday and Father Heditch said Mass that day at the house in Grovelands Road that was to do duty for some months as the parish church of Palmers Green.
We were not there long but amongst my recollections are of two men and the bell. One of the men was Sydney Joseph Carreras, a veteran doorkeeper who welcomed us warmly in the manner one associates more, alas, with the Free Churches than with our own and who did his job faithfully to the last. He died on duty, in the porch of St. Monica's at the half-past nine Mass on Palm Sunday 1927.
The other man was Joseph James Gamage who took up the collection (such as it was) with an almost ducal dignity. His death, too, was memorable to those of us who served the altar in those days for it was one of those rare occasions when priest and servers went to the house (50 The Mall) with holy water and then, all vested in cassocks and cottas and with the processional cross escorted the body to the church.
The bell, of course, was the one used at Mass but although no doubt very similar to the one at Wood Green, it sounded so different in the small space - just two sitting rooms knocked into one. The congregation hardly numbered fifty but we certainly hadn't that many chairs so the children sat on the floor right in front, a yard from the priest. And the bell was very close!
I'm afraid we didn't get on very well with the neighbours. It can't have been the bell but perhaps the hymns we sang were the wrong sort to make us popular in Grovelands Road - or perhaps it was our plain popery. Anyhow, we soon had to move. Thus it was that early in 1911 we found ourselves in a larger house standing in its own grounds in Green Lanes opposite St. John's Church, named Hazelwood House, a stone's throw from our present church. We were the last tenants - shops are there now.
Fr. Heditch, however, was a sick man and in the spring of 1912 he went on pilgrimage to Lourdes, a pilgrimage which was far from being the streamlined travel agency arranged sort of affair that is normal in 1960. He never came back to us and on June 29th our new rector came - that giant of purposeful drive and energy, Fr. Gallagher.
Those who knew him only in his declining years can form no idea of his former energy and those of us who knew him then can never forget it. For eleven years until his serious illness of 1923 he never rested, never tired. He did everything.
Within a year he had bought land which the owners (Barratt's the Sweet makers of Wood Green) didn't want to sell, put up a temporary church that lasted till 1930 when it had to be taken down to make room for our new hall, started a school and completed all the preliminaries for our new church which was opened by Cardinal Bourne on the feast of St. Monica in 1914. The chalice used on that occasion was given by the Cardinal to Fr. Gallagher with a letter written in his own hand which was always kept in the chalice case. One day – in 1925 I think it was - a casual thief walked in before Mass and went into the sacristy just as Fr. Gallagher had left it after putting the chalice, still in its case, on the vestment press. I was a little late, he came out as I went in. Of course we never saw the chalice again; but its replacement was the gift, anonymously at the time, of the late Theodore Singer whose other gifts, also made anonymously, included the mosaic work in the Sacred Heart chapel and its stained glass window."
I think it's rather fascinating to plunge all the way back to when Cecil was a boy attending mass in Saint Monica's back in the 1910s! Plus, it's a very interesting perspective on a Catholic parish and its classic trappings in pre-Vatican II times.
The church today
Here, you've already heard Grandma speaking about the Virgin Mary. Even if you're like me and you don't find what she says completely boring, I can well understand you might have preferred her when she was acting rather than preaching. Her faith was indeed active, and made her who she was, a warm and open-minded person with no dogmatic attitude that I can remember. Others don't share my point of view, I know, and certainly I was looked upon as not needing to be preached at, so this left me in greater peace than others... Still, I'm sure that Grandma's attitude, perhaps idealistic, perhaps even childlike when it came to her Catholic faith (I'm thinking of her passion for John Paul II), can even today be a model for those who wonder how faith can translate in our lives.
Both Monsieur Père and Grandma had been on pilgrimages to Jerusalem, to Rome, to Lourdes, and as I said, all of them went to mass every day - amazing feat when you come to think of it, every day! Of course Monsieur Père was the Church organist, and the three Aunties would be the community Frontbenchers - I can still see them kneeling on the front pews with their lace head scarves - devout, that is the word. But if devotion inspires you to be of material help to an increasingly large family, if it suggests you ways of assisting the young to climb the slope towards maturity, if it keeps a room open at home for those in need, and if it inspires to place life and its greatness before the individual needs and little worldly pursuits...
To be continued...
30/10/2014: during my visit to Mary and David in Woolpit, David mentioned Fr Gallagher's last period as vicar of St Monica's, saying that he "had gone gaga" and when preaching would turn not towards his parishioners but towards the Cross on the other side, much to everyone's dismay...
Noel also sent me this link, which contains some information about St Monica's church, on the occasion of its 100th anniversary:
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