Tuesday, 3 July 2007

A Humble Priest

This morning I attended the Funeral of the Reverend Sir Hugh Dacre Barrett-Lennard, Bart, Priest of the London Oratory. He died on 21 June, just before his 90th birthday. I remember him well from my childhood (I attended catechism classes at the Oratory), and also as a young student, when he received me into the Brothers of the Little Oratory. Fr Hugh was a humble and utterly unassuming man, who often wore a shabby, stained cassock and shared St Philip Neri's sense of eccentric fun.

During the Second World War he served as a Captain in the Essex Regiment and was mentioned in dispatches. A convert to Catholicism, he was ordained at the Lateran in 1950 (one of the many others ordained that day was my uncle, Richard Stewart) and faithfully served as a priest for 57 years. May he rest in peace!

In 1977 he succeeded as the sixth Baronet Barrett-Lennard (a title dating from 1801), though this did not entail any great inheritance - indeed, the family home of Horsford Manor (Norwich) was sold some years ago and is now the head office of Anglian Windows.

During his last years Fr Hugh had lived away from the Oratory in a nursing home, but there was a sizeable crowd at today's Requiem. It was good to catch up with Fr Sean Finnegan, formerly of Valle Adurni, and to see the writer of Emitte lucem tuam carry Fr Hugh's biretta on a black cushion in the final procession!
I'm proving to be a rather unfaithful blogger as of late. Although things are supposed to calm down in the summer, life is hectic. Amongst other things, I'm preparing a retreat which I'm giving to some Carmelite nuns in August and I've fallen behind in preparing the sixteen hour-long conferences. Much of my spare time is spent doing this, but distractions continue to arise. Tomorrow, for example, I'm joining Year 6 of our primary school for their week's holiday on the Isle of Wight. I'm staying two nights and I doubt I'll be able to catch up on much work! So you probably won't hear from me now until the weekend.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Father, good to see you there.

1:07 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

May he rest in peace

1:28 am  
Blogger Fr Ray Blake said...

Father are you sure he was a convert? His mother was a parishioner here, still remembered thirty or more years after her death, for her own Phillipine unconventionality, as he is for his gentle encouragement of vocations here.

There is a plaque on one wing of a local hospital, saying it was laid by a Lady Barrett Lennard, nearby there is another one testifying to its laying by Sussex Freemasons
It is possible both were converts.

6:07 am  
Blogger Fr Nicholas said...

Fr Ray - I believe he was a convert at an early age, together with his mother. This is suggested at: http://www.thurrock-community.org.uk/historysoc/fatherh.htm

7:37 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I well remember Fr Hugh, when he was still in residence at the O., following the Stations of the Cross and kneeling, with visible effort, at each one. Such edifying devotion he had; but such a sense of fun with it. RIP

11:32 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fr Barrett Leonard was a wonderfully kind and unassuming priest with no airs and graces. He did not need them. He was a good confessor. I wish there were more priests at the Oratory like him these days. While always being distinctively different from the majority of London Catholic churches, it seemed more generic at one time than it is now.The spirit of St Philip seems to be subsumed in self-consciousness and contrivance that can be extremely tiresome. I was a parishioner for many years and I can't help noticing the difference.

12:53 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We don't mind waiting a while for your posts! Because they're so good when you do! God bless & God help you with all those kids! Only joking!

8:07 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Father,

It was my privilige to live at the Bromptom Oratory during the summer of 1979 on my pastoral intership as a deacon (then studying at the North American College, Rome). There I met Fr Leonard. I was deeply impressed both by his piety and his eccentricities! Your blog brought back happy memories of that holy man and true son of St. Philip Neri. Fr. Chris Armstrong, Cincinnati USA

9:26 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

VATICAN CITY, JUL 6, 2007 (VIS) - Tomorrow, Saturday July 7, the Vatican
Information service will transmit a special service for the publication of
the Apostolic Letter "Motu Proprio data" of His Holiness Benedict XVI,
"Summorum Pontificum," concerning the use of the pre-1970 Roman liturgy. The
document will be accompanied by an explanatory Letter from the Holy Father.

7:55 am  
Blogger Aspidistra said...

I found your blog when I googled "Father Barratt Leonard" as I remember him very well. I was a pupil at St. Thomas More Secondary School and his impromptu visits to classrooms were a real treat. He would invariably be talked into telling a ghost story and managed to keep us absorbed and breathless until the moment when he would make us all jump out of our seats with fright by banging his hands down onto the nearest desk. This even worked with sixth formers... He was one of the few people to whom I would apply the word "jolly" but we were all aware that he had done something brave in the war and many of us wondered if the eccentricity that was his trademark was down to that experience. I wonder how many people know that he was an expert on the history of the London Underground system? I will always remember him as funny and kind and I am grateful to you for giving me the chance to share my memories of him.

1:14 pm  

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