Tuesday, January 24, 2023


 In the summer of 2010 I was able to travel to England and Ireland. One of my parishioners from St. Jospeh Church, Tammy Rowan,  recently deceased in 2022, God rest her soul, worked each summer at C.S. Lewis home as a tour guide and actually lived there as part of her work assignment. I had a wonderful lunch with Tammy and another tour guide in Lewis’ home/kitchen. Delicious. 

This home is known as the Kilns in Risinghurst, Oxford. C.S.Lewis wrote all of his Narnia books and other classics there and the house was featured in the Narnia books. 

Prior to my pastorate at St. Joseph Church, I was pastor of the Church of the Most Holy Trinity in Augusta. My parishioners, a married couple, had lived in Oxford for a time and became best friends with j.r.r.Tolkien’s daughter, Priscilla. She would visit them in Augusta and each time they were sure to invite me for dinner at their home when she was there. 

She told me that her dad, J. R. R., thought C.S. Lewis writings were inferior to his own and he was disappointed that Lewis never crossed the Tiber to Rome although he seem to wade into the river but never quite getting to the other side. 

Aidan Mackey, G.K. Chesterton scholar, Tammy Rowan, Fr. Pat Foley and Fr. Allan McDonald at the C.S. Lewis Home.
                                 My friend, Priscilla Tolkien


rcg said...

Very interesting! What a small world.

TJM said...

Father McDonald,

I have been to the Oxford Oratory. Did you make it there?

Mark said...

I am glad you had those experiences, Father McDonald.

I am sorry to hear about Tammy. I did not know that.

John Nolan said...

JRR Tolkien cordially disliked the vernacular Mass and was at pains to make the responses (loudly) in Latin. If he were still around he would no doubt frequent the Oxford Oratory whose Latin Novus Ordo is even more 'traditional' than it would have been when TJM visited.

Tolkien famously likened the Roman liturgy to a tree which over the centuries develops deeper roots and more luxuriant foliage; some might prefer the sapling to the tree, but cutting the tree down does not restore the sapling.

Sadly the two watering holes favoured by Tolkien and Lewis, the Eagle and Child and the Lamb and Flag, both in St Giles and near the Oratory, closed during the pandemic and have not re-opened.

On a personal note, I have recently relocated and Oxford is no longer within reasonable driving distance. The local Catholic church does the English Mass reverently but the music is deplorable - paraphrases of liturgical texts made to fit catchy tunes in 'pop' style, modern 'hymns' and the like. Yes, I know I've been spoilt, but I couldn't endure this week in, week out.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

John welcome back. I was quite worried that you may have been ill. Are you in the London area or what part of the UK?

TJM said...

John Nolan,

Welcome back! Sorry to hear the Oxford Oratory is no longer feasible. Maybe you can get on the “Liturgy Committee” and help change the culture in your new parish!

John Nolan said...

Fr McDonald,

Thank you for your concern. I am back in Grantham (Lincolnshire) where I grew up, and the Catholic church in question (St Mary's) is where I served Mass from 1962 to 1967. It's of historical significance as it was one of the first Catholic churches to be built following the Emancipation Act of 1829. Unfortunately it was rebuilt in the 1960s in an ultra-modern style which was reflected in the liturgy which has only recently improved ('Benedict' altar arrangement, traditional use of chalice veil and burse, strict attention to rubrics) although the mostly female servers don't seem to know what they're doing. I get the impression that the middle-aged parish priest has traditional leanings but doesn't want to push too hard. I tried the Saturday evening Mass; it was the usual dreary four-hymn sandwich but in the merciful absence of the choir he had the congregation sing a Gregorian Kyrie and the Latin Sanctus and Agnus Dei from Mass XVIII.

Nottingham Cathedral (25 miles) has a good choir (chant and polyphony) and the nearest Oratory is Birmingham (1 hour 40 minutes) which ten years ago put all its Latin Masses, including the principal Sunday Mass into the Extraordinary Form.

Like many others I am thoroughly disillusioned with the current leadership of the RC Church; the only consolation is that the longer PF is spared to wreak havoc, the less likely his successor will be of the same ilk.

Oremus pro Ecclesia Dei, necnon pro invicem.

Dave Thoman said...

Reading “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis in my 20’s about 40 years ago played a pivotal road in re-energizing my faith and eventual return to the Church after straying from it. I recall the book explaining the human condition and the need for God and the reasons for believing in God in simple, yet profound ways. One of these days I will have to find time to read another one of his books - the “Screwtape Letters”.