It's been quite a week.
On Tuesday I was in Kendal (on the edge of the Lake District, one of England's most beautiful regions) to conduct my aunt's funeral - the first family function of this type that I've done as a priest. Since my father was unable to make the journey due to poor health, I was also the 'chief mourner.' I was greatly helped by two permanent deacons, who wore dalmatics and were very competent on the sanctuary. The Mass was followed by burial at Kendal Cemetery, at the foot of the old castle where the last wife of Henry VIII, Katherine Parr, is said to have been born. I then had the chance to revisit my aunt's house, perhaps for the final time.
Without boring you, this was the site of perhaps the happiest of my childhood memories since my grandparents once lived there. It was a magical place to visit as a child and the imagination really ran wild in the large garden and field behind the house, all against the backdrop of the Westmorland hills. I particularly remember walking up the field with my grandfather, who used to speak about his experiences at the Battle of the Somme. We would stand under this tree (see below), with three large rocks, which (he said) had once been used by the local Viking leaders for their council meetings. I suspect I might be rather disillusioned if I looked for historical evidence for this!
On a happier note, last night I went to the London Oratory to speak to their hugely successful young adults group - at least a hundred people, mostly young professionals, packed into St Wilfrid's Hall. My topic was the Spanish Inquisition - that old chestnut. One person made the very good point that we should stop being so defensive and apologetic about it (the natural reaction to the familiar 'Black Legend'); instead we should celebrate the positive contributions it made to Europe, especially in the field of legal procedure. Such was the care taken in following the strict procedures, that if you were innocent you had a better chance in an Inquisition court of being cleared than you would in the secular equivalent. The basic points I made can be found here.