Ian Innes MBE RIP

A few weeks ago my Uncle Ian died. He was my day’s elder brother (by one year) and they were very close. Ian and his wife Marie lived in Headingly, Leeds and used to come up several times a year to spring Dad out of the Twilight Home for the Bewildered and take us all out for a lovely lunch. Ian and Marie were great characters, having lived and worked for many years in Kuwait, with great stories and love for us all. We always enjoyed their visits.

Sadly, just over a year ago, Ian was diagnosed with Alzheimers. Last year was their last visit to Edinburgh and it was shocking to see how quickly he was forgetting things. There was dad with dementia who hasn’t improved or got worse really since his diagnosis 14 years ago, and within months Ian was forgetting us so quickly.

Ian’s wife Marie is a Roman Catholic and decided that they should move house into sheltered accommodation where they could have help on hand. Marie’s church is a convent which has rooms and all the help she needed so they moved in there. But within six months Ian was too much for her to look after and he had to go into the Nursing Home part of the convent where she could visit him every day.

Then he died peacefully with Marie, nuns and a priest by his side. It was a comfort for Marie and I’m sure for Ian, if he was aware. My sisters and I and my youngest son were able to go to the funeral last week which was held in the chapel of the convent. Marie had told her priest, Fr Dan, that I too was a priest and he asked if I would like to take part in the funeral. It was a generous ecumenical offer and so I took my robes.

Fr Dan and I met the coffin at the door of the convent and I noticed that all the nuns had come to watch and pay respect. We processed in with the coffin behind us and as I turned I realised that it was not the undertakers wheeling the coffin in but four of the eldest nuns. It was really so beautiful to see. The chapel was full with standing room only, Marie was brave and dignified, and the overwhelming scent of lilies were in the air. I had been asked to do a reading and the Commendation which was an honour and privilege.

After the funeral the family went on to the Crematorium while the guests tucked into the ‘purvey’ waiting till we returned. At the Crem Fr Dan asked if I would do the prayers. He really was exceedingly gracious to me and I know it meant a lot to Marie.

It was good to leave Marie knowing that in her mourning she will be looked after and cared for my the clergy and nuns in the convent.

Our journey home by train was a complete and utter disaster, but that’s another story!

Rest in peace, Uncle Ian. May the angels lead you by the hand into paradise, a place where there is no more sorrow.

DadIan 2009

Ian on the left and Dad singing, I think, on the right!

Thinking of nuns

Finding somewhere to go to church when you are on holiday is always something to ponder. Do you want to try something new, something local, something later, or something familiar? Yesterday I went for the latter and went back to St Michael & All Saints for that instant “Aaaahhhh…” feeling. I don’t quite know what it is that does it so instantly for me. Is it the building, the smell of incense and beeswax, the lighting, the people, the memories (my first church, my Confirmation, etc), the pews (yes the pews are just the right height for kneeling) or just the familiarity and the sense of anticipation that something great is being done for God in this place? Maybe it is a combination of it all and yesterday was no different. I felt safe.  A smile of recognition welcomed me and I knew I could relax.

Of course it was not exactly the same. There are some changes: children chattering with no frosty looks; readings done in a different place without the hassle of moving the Legillium; procession and dismissal slightly different; choir and organ on the other side. But none of that mattered one iota. It was still my taste of heaven.

Then this morning I was chatting with a friend about an article in the Church Times by Sister Rosemary.  Talking about a book Stolen Daughters, Virgin Mothers: Anglican sisterhoods in Victorian Britain she says:

…the great Anglo-Catholic slum-priests who are so justly celebrated and honoured tend to be represented as heroic figures tackling the problems of their neighbourhoods single-handed. It is rarely remembered that they were probably assisted by a small army of Sisters who visited parishioners in their homes and cared for them, ran Sunday schools and mothers’ meetings, and under-pinned all the work of the parish with regular prayer.

In the olden days All Saints had a convent, a hospital and a school. Fr Holmes had January and February off each year. But he is the one who is remembered so fondly. Suspect that wouldn’t be the case if I took 2 months off each year after Christmas!

Bring back the nuns, I say.

Priest cancels nun beauty contest

From the BBC News

Nuns at Rome's Gregoriana University in November 2006

Father Rungi said the idea had been suggested by nuns themselves

An Italian priest who said he wanted to hold the world’s first beauty contest for nuns has decided to cancel the project, saying he was misunderstood.

Antonio Rungi said he had never intended to put sisters on the catwalk, but had wanted to erase a stereotype of them as being old and dour.

He had wanted to hold the contest online on his internet blog.

Father Rungi said he changed his mind after the local religious authorities expressed their displeasure.

“My superiors were not happy. The local bishop was not happy, but they did not understand me either,” Father Rungi told Reuters news agency from the town of Mondragone, near Naples.

“It was interpreted as more of a physical thing,” he said. “Now, no one is saying that nuns can’t be beautiful, but I was thinking about something more complete.”

He said he had intended to showcase the good works that nuns do, especially in education and health care, so as to boost interest in religious vocations.

“We have to draw more attention to the world of nuns, who are often not sufficiently appreciated by society,” he wrote in his blog.

“Nuns are – above all – women, and beauty is a gift from God,” he told Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper before he cancelled the project.

He had wanted nuns to send their photos to him, so that internet users could then choose the winner.

Father Rungi said the idea of the contest had been put to him by nuns themselves.

Is it just me, or is this just too much like an episode of Father Ted?

The Convent

Watched new programme on TV last night – The Convent. (Like The Monastery or The Abbey or whatever it was called, but with more tears.) Four women go to live with the Poor Clares for 40 days. Poor Clares indeed. Never mind the poverty thing, these poor nuns had to put up with four women who seemed to care little for the routine and order of the convent. It all kicked off with a little story telling as they all told their innermost stories. Thank goodness the nuns decided to do theirs too because I suspect that none of the four would have taken to time to ask about anyone else, they were so wrapped up in themselves.

However it was compelling viewing and I look forward to the next episode. Reminded me that I’ve not had a retreat this year…