THE SPENCER family have, of course, become very famous since Lady Diana became Princess of Wales. But not everyone knows that the Princess's father, Lord Spencer, is a brilliant photographer.
He and his wife. Raine, who is responsible for the text, have combined to produce an excellently written and illustrated book called The Spencer. on .Spas, published last
week by Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
The Spencers make a marvellous team, not only as coproducers of first class literature, but in other far more important ways as well. For it is true to say that this book could never have been produced had Lord Spencer's life not been spared in seemingly miraculous fashion.
About five years ago he was very ill and his life was despaired of for many weeks. Both of them, however, were determined to meet the challenge and overcome it. Lady Spencer, for one thing, is the daughter of the famous Barbara Cartland in whose life-long study of good health she has always been interested and involved. Raine's husband was the recipient not only of her constant care, as well as a new and possibly wonder drug from Germany, but also of the prayers of the couple's numerous friends, specially asked for by the family.
Johnny Spencer's recovery was marked by a moving service of thanksgiving at the Church of All Saints in Northampton on May 10. 1979. The celebrant was Bishop Mervyn Stockwook and the address was given by the man who had just then become Leader of the House of Commons, none other than Mr Norman St John-Stevas.
The church was packed and most of the congregation went back to the Spencers' beautiful house at Althorpe where 400 people sat down to a magnificent luncheon. It is rare, in such circles, to be asked so unselfconsciously to come and share in a thanksgiving and not merely to "celebrate" by wining and dining.
The subject of spas, with their history of healing, is an appropriate one for Raine Spencer whose vivacious style is positively bracing! The photographs are not only technically excellent but also, in a subtle way, delightfully witty. It is a happy book.
Women and the Papacy
IT WAS A shock to read last week of the death of -Mother Pasqualina Lehner& but I suppose it should not have been. She was, after all, nearly 90 and cannot be said not to have led a highly fulfilled life.
Her role as servant, companion and confidante to Pius XII is well known but not all the secrets, naturally enough, were revealed when, earlier this year. her book I had the Privilege of Serving Him, was published.
People have been heard to say that no other woman in history has ever had so much influence within the Vatican. A slight exaggeration! There were other women who were once far more powerful in Papal circles, though one scarcely likes to mention their names in the same breath as with the good and worthy Mother Pasqualina.
For a surprisingly long time, for example, it was seriously believed that Leo IV was succeeded as Pope in the year 859 by a certain John Anglicus who reigned for two and a half years and was in fact a woman. The fable of "Pope Joan" was sedulously kept alive by the ambitious and unscrupulous women of the house of Theophylacius who dominated the papacy in the tenth century. I here was the formidable Theodora, maker and breaker of Popes, and her friend Queen Agiltruda of Spoleto. And there was, above all, the former's luscious and insatiably ambitious daughter, the famous, or infamous, Marozia.
Agiltruda bore an undying grudge against the only Pope in history to be called Formosus. He died of a stroke (or poison?) in 896. Thanks, it is presumed, to Agiltruda's inter fention, his successor, Boniface VI, only lasted 15 days on the Papal throne. The next Pope was Agiltruda's puppet, the mentally unbalanced Stephen VI, who was persuaded to have Formosus's body dug up, arrayed in pontifical vestments and tried before the Pope and Cardinal for serious crimes, propped up all the while on the papal throne. This was the celebrated "cadaveric" synod.
Marozia, as a small child, witnessed the "trial." Her mother now took up the running in the Pope-making stakes and
one of her proteges, PopeSergius III, took Marozia as his
mistress. Their son was eventually to reign as Pope John XI.
Thanks to the wily ladies,
few Popes in the years that followed, did not owe their preferment to them; but not all died peacefully in their beds. Stephen VI had been strangled in prison; John XII, Marozia's grandson, (955-64) an incestuous Satanist, who had become Pope at eighteen, died while in the arms of a Roman matron at the hands of the jealous husband who smashed his head in with a hammer. He was succeeded by Leo VIII, a blameless layman, who nevertheless had a most turbulent reign. Marozia meanwhile got her come-uppance and thereafter things were comparatively peaceful. Never, it was vowed, would a woman be allowed to take over the Papacy again.
A papal vision
kS I SAY, and must repeat it to stress the point most heavily, one does not speak in the same breath about any other period of papal history compared with that mentioned above. For that was the nadir of life in the Lateran Palace, where the Popes then lived.
As for Mother Pasqualina, she was a very great woman. She first came into the service of Cardinal Pacelli, as he then was, when he was Nuncio in Munich, in 1918 and scarcely left his side for more than 40 years. She and the future Pope almost always spoke German to each other. When Pius lapsed into Italian, it might well be a sign that all was not well with him.
This happened on a certain December evening in the year 1954. That night, December 1 to 2, was possibly the most dramatic for Mother Pasqualina during all her years with the Pope.
She let in Cardinal Bea to visit the Pope who seemed very low and depressed. The Cardinal tried to console him, but both were disheartened and the Pope was expressing regret that he might have been wrong during the war to bow to the pressure of President Roosevelt by collaborating in the soothing of religious objections to the Western alliance with Soviet Russia. The Pope, at that time, had agreed with the argument that Hitler was the greater of two evils.
Perhaps, as late as 1954, the Pope was having the scruples of a sick man. So at least thought the Cardinal. He even thought the great Pius was going to die, maybe that very night.
As Mother Pasqualina let Rea out, he said to her "Call me if things get worse." But the nun merely said: "Men always bother about the future. The Lord will protect His Holiness. The Church still needs him. And you, Father, go home to bed."
It was nevertheless a night of crisis for the Pope and of agonising vigil for his faithful servant. Three years later the Pope confided to Pasqualina that he had indeed thought the end was near and that he had failed his Maker in many ways. But as he had fallen into a fitful sleep he had heard a voice crying "There will be a vision."
Mother Pasqualina had meanwhile summoned the Pope's doctors. Despite what she had said to Cardinal Bea, she had been very frightened by
the Pope's uncharacteristic
depression and deathly pallor of the night before. But when she came to his room soon after six to prepare him for the doctors, he seemed a new man. "Good morning gentlemen." he said in a firm voice. "I am glad to sec you."
Pius did not recount to his friend Pasqualina all the detail
of his vision that night. It had been more of a revelation from God that those millions of souls he had tried to serve and save had not been failed by Pacelli. He even saw the faces of those whom he thought he might have failed; but he was reassured that he had not.
So he was to tell Mother Pasqualina three years later. For despite the reports in all the papers at the end of 1954 that the Pope was on the point of death, he did not die until four years afterwards. What he owed to Mother Pasqualina is known only in heaven.
It was a strange relationship, often misunderstood and criticised. but, at the end of the day, living proof that Pius XII was no cold, aloof and calculating diplomat-Pope, but a man of painfully deep emotions and passions. But the full story we will never know, especially now that the last important living link with him has gone for ever.
'Deliver us Good Lord'
AT THE END of a splendidly media-bashing speech to the Catholic Writers' Guild, "The Keys-, last week by Malcolm Muggeridge , he revealed that, while composing his forthcoming Apologia, a prayer had taken shape inside him.I reproduce it here: "Dear God, humble my pride, extinguish the last stirrings of my ego, obliterate whatever remains of worldly ambition and carnality, and, in these last days of my mortal existence, help me to serve only 'rhy purposes, to speak and write only Thy words, to think only Thy thoughts, to have no other prayer than: Thy will be done."