Canada and the SCP
I’m loving my very first visit to Canada, and wondering why I didn’t do it long ago. Of course, I’ve seen only a little bit of Toronto, but I’m enjoying it very much. The first thing to strike a Brit who has lived in the USA for eleven years is the welcome sight of Her Majesty the Queen of Canada on most of the coins and bank notes. The second thing is that the bank notes are made of some sort of plastic and there are bits of them that you can see right through. Talk about a transparent currency!
The architecture of center city is stunning. As well as the lovely collection of old ivy-league the colleges which make up the university campus where my conference its being held, there are some stunning ultra modern buildings such as the Museum of Toronto’s extension which is all glass triangles leaning over the street in preposterous but satisfying planes. Utterly pleasing to the eye, unlike the ghastly Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh which tried the same sort of thing but ended up looking as appalling as the childish politics that go on inside it. (You will be glad to see that even in early retirement I haven’t lost all my prejudices!)
Our conference is the sixth annul meeting of the North American bit of the Society of Catholic Priests, and is half-way through. I was honored to be asked to give an hour-long meditation at the very beginning, and ended up doing it in twenty minutes, since the traffic from my hotel moved at snail’s pace and I was late. But it gave my brothers and sisters extra time to drink coffee and chat, and the twenty minutes was quite enough to say what I wanted to say, since all I missed out was the pious silences between sections which would have turned a talk into a meditation. I simply took the three words of our Society’s title “Society of Catholic Priests” and mused upon each of them. I said each was vitally important: “Society” (pace Mrs Thatcher) was the only way humans could exist, and the more loving their societies and their loving intermingling with others, the more like they were to the Society of Societies, the Blessed Trinity, where we have three Persons so in love that we can call them One God. Then “Catholic” was obvious in that we are all Anglo-Catholics, but I did emphasize how happy I was the we just said “Catholic” with no hyphenated bits. That might annoy our Roman Catholic brethren, but not half as much as it annoys me when I see other quite sensible RCs say that an Anglican who has decided to be an RC was “received into the Church”! And then “Priests” because all eighty of us at the conference and the many more who couldn’t come are either priests or seminarians. I was, I’m afraid, rude about those clergy who hardly ever wear their dog collars and say they are a barrier to contact with ordinary people. Nothing could be further from the truth. How often I am asked to bless people or pray with people in the streets of Philadelphia, and the brethren enjoyed my tale of being picked up by a young Irish cop driving his cruiser in Philly who got me to climb in and hear his confession as he drove around! He wouldn’t have done that if I’d been in jeans and a sweater. Anyway, though I compressed this and a lot more into twenty minutes it was well received, and those who asked for the script will just have to read this instead, since of course there was no script.
But there were scripts from the two main speakers yesterday who delivered talks on our conference’s theme of George Herbert. One was incredibly academic and compressed, with dates and names and wonderful quotations from George Herbert’s poetry flowing fast and furious. It will have to be read in a quiet hour. The second was just as learned but delivered in a throwaway English manner which made its points about demythologizing Herbert by a wide-ranging comparison of his 17th century rural parson’s life with the life of a priest in the 21st century. Both were splendid.
And on a sunny but sharpish autumn day in Toronto, I’m about to set forth to hear more wisdom, and I’ve said nothing yet about the lovely chapel where we have sung Matins, Evensong and Compline, and the lovely High Mass in St Thomas’s celebrated by the Archbishop of Toronto. By writing this I’m afraid I have missed public Matins today, but I did say the modern Roman version in Italian an hour or so ago, so the loving and blessed Trinity may just forgive me.
To be continued.