WRITER, broadcaster, retreat director and Catholic Herald columnist Fr Bernard Basset died during the early hours of Monday Morning.
Fr Basset, who celebrated 60 years with the Jesuits last September, was born in 1909 and educated at Stonyhurst, Heythrop and Campion Hall. He was ordained with his brother Edmund in 1941 and six years later began writing a regular column for the Catholic Herald. "Basset's All Sorts" appeared until 1962, and was a lively mixture of amusing stories, scripture quizzes ("How many individuals are named in the Old Testament?") and provocative views on the liturgy and birth control.
In 1957 he complained about "the contraceptive literature sent by post. .which is filled with dubious sex instruction" and a year later was campaigning for "tip-up seats such as we find in cinemas and theatres to be used in chapels".
Fr Basset also used his column to publicise the Sodalities of Our Lady, an organisation he had revitalised through the methods of the cell movement. By 1962 he has left Sodality work and thereafter divided his time between lecturing engagements in the USA and a home base first in Bournemouth and then as a parish priest in the Scilly Isles.
It was during these years that his writing was at its most prolific. Apart from popular works on spirituality like We Neurotics and Let's Start Praying Again, he also completed a history of the English Jesuits and a very successful biography of his ancestor, St Thomas More.
There was a strong tradition of religion in the Basset family, and both of his sisters, Anna and Elizabeth, became nuns in the Order of the Sacred Heart. During the 1960s Fr Basset was, typically, at the heart of the action. Based in Rome for much of the Second Vatican Council, he turned his journalistic skills to broadcasting and worked for Vatican Radio.
Fr Basset has a knack for events on a grand scale. He twice filled the Royal Albert Hall in one day to celebrate the centenary of St Bernadette, and one year persuaded the owners of advertising hoardings nationwide to fill any spare spots they had with a specially designed "Put Christ back into Christmas" poster.
"He was something of a loner.
He did a lot of travelling and had lots of contacts but not many close workfriends" according to Assistant to the Jesuit Provincial, Kevin Fox.
In 1978 he moved to Oxford, where he had taught during the war years. Here his love for Newman dominated his writing and despite having both legs amputated he never lost his famous sense of humour.
His funeral is to take place in London's Farm St Church at 11.45am on Tuesday June 21.