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. . . through a chink in the blind

 

Bishop Lindsay Urwin OGS, the Shrine Administrator writes:

DOWN THE STREET in which I lived as a boy there was a Roman Catholic family. In the middle class minor public school Anglican world of the 1960’s Melbourne  I inhabited, Irish Catholics were treated with  a slight sense of suspicion, and to be friendly with them had a vague air of condescension about it.

I had no idea why we rejoiced with exceeding joy when any of our school teams managed a victory over either of the two catholic grammar schools we competed against. Neither did I know the origin of  why Catholics were known by the derogatory term  ‘the Micks’. But I knew they were a sort of different tribe and their schools and parishes had, to me,  strange names like St Ignatius, Marcellin  or The Assumption.

If we began as a churchgoing family it somehow dribbled away. My parents stopped attending though we children continued to be sent to Sunday school. I well remember my dear mother giving us no choice. “You’ll go to Sunday school until you’re confirmed, and then you can give up…” I became a choir boy and that kept me in when all my siblings did indeed follow her expectations (though nearly all have returned to active participation in later life, one sister ordained!)

Though a little bit of church involvement and influence was considered by my parents a good thing, it didn’t much impact on home life.  Aside from the occasional hymn played on an old harmonium we had in the back room, I have no memory of us ever praying at home, not so much as a Grace before meals, which in any case would have had to compete with the black and white T.V!

‘John and Noel’ were the two Catholic brothers who lived down the street. We rarely entered each other’s houses. It was the tradition to just knock and ask if they could come outside to play, to ride our home made ‘billy –carts’, play cricket or, if I was feeling generous,  swim in our new ‘above ground’ pool. My father was hopeless at getting the chlorine level right. That no one ever contracted some ghastly disease from that algae-infested water is itself a miracle.

In those days back doors were inevitably open, the house protected from the ubiquitous Australian flies by a wire screen door.  What lay beyond in that Catholic house was an intriguing mystery to a low churchy boy like me. I remember once spying through the screen what must have been a not very tasteful painting of Mary on the wall in the hall, and wanting one! 

We boys often complained to each other about the sacrifices asked of us by our families and I discovered from John and Noel there was none greater for them than the nightly praying of the rosary, led by their fearsome Irish grandmother or their wonderful and it seemed to me long suffering mother. The evening I sneaked down the street into their garden to watch this entirely foreign practice through a chink in the blind remains a vivid memory for me. I like to think I prearranged this with the brothers but I’m not sure. What I do know is that I was strangely jealous. To see a family gathered together in this way; to overhear prayers offered in the home, albeit ones which at that time were so strange to my ears, seemed even then to be both wonderful and right.

Even if my friends didn’t appreciate it, as they spoke to Mary in prayer, that family down the street was entering in to a great inheritance each evening, an inheritance which began with the Lord, and is a gift from him.  It was Jesus who gave his mother to John, knowing that he would take her to his own home to be at the heart of his domestic life there. In our own way, we can do the same. Like John we can and should welcome Mary into our homes.

It seems to me so important to make prayer at home a natural and regular thing. To use the beads, to pray the rosary is a great way to do so, and a very wonderful way of inviting Mary to be with you there. As with our Shrine Prayers here it is also a good framework in which to intercede for others. It allows you to contemplate the joys belonging to Christ’s birth, the sorrows that belong to his passion and the glories that follow upon his resurrection in company with she who was with him all the way, and is with him now joining faithfully in the prayers of heaven.

If you don’t do it, why not try it!

+Lindsay OGS

‘Take Mary to your home’ is the pilgrimage theme and invitation this year in Walsingham.

 


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