A marvellous day or two last week at Ramsgate during their S Augustine's Week.
I took the train along the North Kent coast ... which was a bit of a disappointment. Passing through Rochester, I failed to see, from the train, Rochester Cathedral. The train then reached Margate, where of course, like any good Catholic, I scanned the platform carefully to see if I could catch a glimpse of the magnificent Fr Tim ... but, sadly, no sighting. Soon we slowed down to enter Broadstairs ... Ah, I thought, surely a glimpse here of a certain dignified episcopal presence ... but there was not a sign of His Excellency to wave me on my way with a Dickensian benediction or to cheer me with a snatch of Beethoven.
But Ramsgate was no disappointment. From the superb between-the-Wars Railway Station onwards, every prospect pleased. Not least the sight of the hospitable Shrine Rector, Fr Marcus, and of my old friend and colleague from Lancing, Fr Simon Heans of the Ordinariate, a considerable Historian. The Catholics of Ramsgate are very fortunate in their clergy.
If you don't know Ramsgate, as I didn't, you should follow my lead and remedy the omission (preferably during S Augustine's Week). I peered out through the sea fret almost hoping to see a phantasma of S Augustine's boat bringing the purest Roman Christianity to the people of Kent; then i looked round the Church which now houses a relic of the Saint. Forgive me for going all wet on you, but I felt a great sense of being 'in on' the foundation of the English Church, a millennium and a half ago.
And Ramsgate had the luck to be favoured by Pugin, the architectural wizard who breathed more than a little life into the memories of the Age of Faith. His house ... his Church. Apparently, he had a tunnel from his house down to where his boat was moored, so that he could rescue sailors (and their cargoes) who navigated carelessly close to the Goodwin Sands. Believe it or not, he built his Church out of the money he made from salvaging.
The next morning I said a private Mass of Corpus Christi in S Ethelbert's Church before setting off back to the Midlands, leaving as the clergy and laity were about to go on a boat trip to look at the sandbank and to see England, aka Pegwell Bay, from the point of view of an approaching Italian missionary band.
I do so very much hope they got back safely. Perhaps someone could reassure me ...