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Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Happy 80th Birthday Father Michael Clifton!

On the Feast of St Boniface, 5th June 2015, it was Fr Michael Clifton's 80th birthday. 

Fr Michael was archivist for Southwark Diocese, a role which has given him an encyclopediac knowlege of Catholic history and the characters involved, including Catholic eccentrics, infamous and saints alike. He has also authored 5 books, one of which was "The Alliance of Dissent" - written in the 1980s - to expose disident 'Catholic' organisations, trying to undermine the Church. Although written some time ago, it is an important work as it shows how dissent has flourished in the Catholic Church - certainly in England anyway. Some of the names and groups he exposes no longer exist, but newer groups have emerged such as  ACTA (A Call To Action) - again another 'group' which plots to undermine church teaching under the guise of evolving dogmas and other nonsense. Thankfully ACTA has been exposed and several bishops have warned their parishioners not to take any notice of it. 

Father Michael recently moved into "Holy Cross Priory" - which is also called "Holy Cross Care Home", in Cross-in-Hand, East Sussex. His flat is one of the new conversions in the old listed building, which was designed after Pugin. It is at the top of the building overlooking the car park and the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes. Walk into the flat and you instantly witness a priest of many interests. His love of pictures of trains and old buildings - he has a painting of Scotney Castle - Lamberhust, in his sitting room (he told us of the priest hidey hole in the tower of Scotney castle). There are bookshelves full of books and archival materials. In the corner is another great hobby - his train set - which he is still building. 

On the TV and laptop there are various soft animals - a cat I think and other soft toys, possibly childhood memorabilia.

I collected Father Michael and another resident of Holy Cross to take them to Pam Talbot's farmhouse, 5 minutes away, where Father was to say Old Rite Mass, followed by a birthday lunch. The farmhouse has a chapel in the grounds. I wrote about the chapel in the post before this.

The fun and games began, when a sparrow flew into the chapel and perched himself on the wooden crucifix. Father Michael was getting ready to say Mass. Anyhow, this young sparrow wasn't a bit scared and sat still on the right arm of the crucifix (but left from the pew view). Father with all his knowledge said that in the Armenian Rite, the crucifix has a bird in exactly that spot on the crucifix, to symbolise the Holy Spirit. The bird was there for a considerable time.

Birdie started flying around the chapel. Luckily one of the other guests was the formidable Marigold Turner - who is the Latin Mass representative for Southwark Diocese. She suggested we get a fishing net, which Pam Talbot had 2. Eventually the sparrow flew out having avoided both nets.

At the end of Mass, Father sang "Panes Angelicum". 

Lunch was a combined effort. Sharon, a serene nurse from Hailsham provided a very tasty cooked salmon. Pam supplied vegetables from her garden, and an array of sauces. This was followed by Pam's exquisite homemade banana icecream - out of her ice cream maker, which must be one of the earliest machines. Meringues accompanied the ice-cream, followed by cheeses. Then birthday cake and coffee.

The guests were, Pam Talbot (hostess), Father Stephen Hardaker - dean of Mayfield deanery, Marina Napier, Marigold Turner, Sharon and myself.

Father started telling us eccentic stories and I think he had a jolly time. At 80, his mind is razor sharp and I put this down to his avid reading and writing. He had a blog up until 2011 or thereabouts, but a well-known monseigneur, who writes for the Catholic Times threatened to sue him (on unsound grounds) so Father decided to stop the blog. However, he has a weekly email letter, which he sends to people on request. I can supply his email if you contact me.

Now I must mention the delightful Marigold Turner. Her pink lipstick did not move throughout lunch. I had to find out which brand it was - a Bourgois in shade No7, from Boots. Apparently it is made by Chanel but a fraction of the price. Her dress was an animal print by Mulberry and her shoes were by a famous Italian designer, as was her bag. She is quintessentially  English but favours Italian designers - presumably because she goes to Rome quite often. She is a great lady - and has done great work for the Latin Mass Society - managing to arrange Latin Masses every Sunday in her part of Southwark Diocese.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Bethany - "A Priest Hole" in East Sussex. A place of retreat for priests.

Bethany chapel is in the grounds of Diamond Farmhouse, owned by the Talbot family.

The front page of the brochure says,

 "Every priest needs a place to get away from parish life and chill out. A place where he can re-charge his batteries, physical, mental and spiritual. Bethany is just such a place".

Pam Talbot runs the estate or small-holding - where there are many animals such as chickens, ducks, and fish, not to mention a dog and even a hedgehog. These all have names. The farmhouse sits in the East Sussex countryside with lovely views.

Bethany chapel forms part of the old outbuildings of the farm, and is attached to a 2 bedroom single-storey building, including a combined drawing-room, dining room, a kitchen and a shower-room. 

One of Pam's sons is Father Anthony - and he built the altar in the chapel. See the photo below. The chapel is fully equiped for Mass and provides a tranquil space for prayer.

The brochure says priests can be totally independent - cooking for themselves, or they may have a meal prepared for them by Pam (a jolly good cook too! Pam's homemade icecream is amazing!). There are a number of country pubs nearby, and there are a number of takeaways in nearby Uckfield. 

There is a wood within walking distance, called Slays Wood. This is a great place for walks.

There is no charge to stay at Bethany but donations are much appreciated to help defray the maintenance costs.

If you would like to enquire further, please contact

TN22 5JH


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