FLEET STREET wits, who know that the CATHOLIC HERALD and the "News of the World" are near neighbours, refer to us sometimes as the "News of the Next World". Both papers stand upon the site of the ancient Carmelite Friary from which Whitefriars Street (where our front door is) takes its name. Down in the cellars of our basement can still be seen some of the foundation walls of the friary. In the "News of the Worldentrance hall, there is a plaque which refers to a stone angle, built into the marble floor below indicating where one of the old friary walls once turned. Sometimes, when working late at night, I fancy I hear a ghostly rustle and rumble as some of the tough old friars, rising from their graves in the bowels of the earth beneath us. wander in amaze through the "News of the World" editorial room, raising perchance a quizzical eyebrow at some solemn account of human frailty entitled "Incident in Cinema" or "The night she went to the party . . . " Their capacity for astonishment, however, probably wore itself out long before the newspapers came upon the London scene. For this area between Fleet Street and the Embankment was the site of the famous Alsatia of Restoration days, a hideous quarter of thugs and thieves, vagrants and vagabonds, brothels and brawling taverns. political and criminal intrigue. After that. the revelations of our Sunday newspapers are probably rather tame. And the haunting Carmelites have seen it all.
HUMOUR is. many would claim, an essential element of true piety. So the occasional insertion of deceptively innocent lines in some of the jauntier hymns must be the work of a monastic humourist who wanted to take the mickey out of the established order of things. The hymn for Sunday Lauds with its clarion call of "Surgamus ergo strenue . " was surely composed by a sleepy-eyed monk whose first reaction to the cock's crow was probably anything but piously prompt. And what about the monk-sculptors who carved the Abbot's face into the gargoyle? A wonderful case for a little pious vulgarity in the service of truth is made out—perhaps quite unintentionally—by Fr. Copleston. S.J., in his essay on "The Crazy Gang" (some of the materialists and idealists of "modern" philosophy) in the current issue of the "Month". His application of the linguistic analysis technique to the historic plea of our British Railways— "Gentlemen lift the sear —(with or without a comma)—is a touch to remind a world taking itself far too seriously that. in the Catholic Church, the basic values are still sound.
THE imminence of the national dock strike gives topicality to this unusual statue— almost life-sized —which has stood for over fifty scars in the church of St. Alban, Liverpool. It is known as "Our Lady of the Docks" and has a curious history. Early in the century a box marked Liverpool was discovered in one of the dock sheds. It was found to contain this statue. Not consigned to any address it was thought to have arrived by mistake. It was then shipped to London. From London it went to Glasgow and then back to Liverpool. Weeks passed and the dock authorities wondered what to do with it. A docker from the nearby St. Alban's suggested his parish priest might be interested. He was and it was sold to him for a very modest sum. He installed it in the church. Exquisitely fashioned in papier macho the design is based on devotion to the Sacred Heart of Mary. It is almost certainly of continental origin. During the recent war the adjoining presbytery, the parish school and four hundred houses in the vicinity were completely destroyed. But the church suffered only superficial damage. The people attribute its safety to Our Lady of the Docks, whose shrine is a centre of incrensing devotion.
ILEARN that there has been some coolness between the Ministry of Health and the committee organising the tenth international congress of Catholic doctors which will be held in London from July 913. 'To mark the first time the Congress has been'held in Britain— or indeed in any non-Catholic country—the Minister of Health, Mr. Enoch Powell, was expected to give a Government reception to the 800 delegates expected. Mr. Powell has disappointed these expectations. He has. however, accepted an invitation to the reception given by the Hierarchy at Archbishop's House, Westminster, in the evening after the ceremonial inauguration at Church House, Westminster. That morning. Cardinal Godfrey will preside at Congress High Mass in Westminster Cathedral and a sermon will be preached by Archbishop Gray of St. Andrews and Edinburgh.
THERE has also been some criticism among those who took part in the Tyburn Walk last Sunday about the way the police once more diverted the procession from Oxford Street into Rathbone Place and Wigmnre Street. This has been done only since the war. Before 1939, the silent procession followed the traditional route —between Newgate Prison and Tyburn Tree—over which the martyrs were dragged on hurdles. The police. I understand, have offered to permit the procession to use Oxford Street if the march is held on Sunday morning. This is, of course. an unsuitable time. in any case. Ban-the-Bombers. nurses and Communists have all been allowed to use Oxford Street for afternoon marches. One wonders why the discrimination?
DERBYSHIRE'S first official archivist is a Catholic. a woman. who comes from Leigh in Lancashire. She is Miss Joan Sinar who, before her new appointment, had been the first qualified archivist in Devon.
Quite a tack faces Miss Sinar in Derbyshire. She will probably have to build up the county's Records Office from scratch. She said, before leaving Exeter; "There is a man who has been looking after their official records extremely well, but 1 do not think they have been running an archives service for the county. If they have got any deposits they have got very few." During the ten years that Miss Sinar has been in the Devon Records Office more than 1,000 collections of documents of historical interest have come into its archives. As any one collection might contain 10.000 documents or more, this means that Miss Sinar has handled millions of valuable pieces of written records of Devon's past. Some papers will not be seen for 100 years, since people who deposit records often want them to remain out of public sight, and the secrecy of private papers can be assured for a century.
MY tailpiece recently about coffin-nails (cigarettes) reminds Fr. M. I. Walsh, S.M.A., Manchester, of the story "related as true by the late Patrick McDonald" of the parish priest who employed a handyman who was fond of his drop. The P.P. decided to put him in good humour by giving him a tot of whisky. remarking in doing so: -Every one of these is a nail in your coffin." To which the handyman. holding out the now-empty glass, replied: "Well, Father, while you still have the hammer in your hand, you might as well drive home another nail."