Written by Edmund Matyjaszek (June 2023)

Saturday June 17th was a busy day around Piccadilly. It was impossible to get from one side of London to the other, as the Trooping of the Colour had shut off Whitehall, St James and Green Park. Traffic was reduced so the pavements were thronged with pedestrians. And at about 1pm the thunder in the skies began with helicopters, then Hercules transports, the Battle of Britain Memorial flight, ground-shaking typhoon jets and finally the roar of the Red Arrows. But at 1pm there was also the most delightful anniversary celebration in one of the most historic churches in London, that of the Assumption and St Gregory – a church that dates back to penal times when as an Embassy church Mass could be said there with impunity. By an inspired gift it has been given into the care of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham which incorporates part of the patrimony of the Church of England into full Catholic adherence. St Gregory who sent St Augustine in 597 to convert the Saxons (picture – below), and of course Our Lady whose dowry England is, and whose national shrine adorns the Ordinariate.

It was actually a Thanksgiving Mass for the Portal – the magazine of the English ordinariate and the only active publication we understand of the three ordinariates so far erected – the others being in America and Australia. The Portal is a monthly publication and there is also an excellent podcast every week, focusing on the Sunday liturgy, on the feast(s) of the time, on scripture, on news, with hymns and sometimes poetry. And a very happy occasion it was. There is a great energy and vigour in the Ordinariate, and I for one see it as a true ecumenical fruit that brings not only unity but also truth and very much truth embedded in our own English history and culture. However, to arrive at Warwick Street Church (picture – below) one had to cross Regent Street. And there in bold, bruising array were sets of banners at about 100-yard intervals hanging from overhead wires that spelt out a very different God and a very different kind of belief.

They were the new Pride flags adorned with the trans triangle of lighter colours. Gavin Ashenden in his recent article on June 15th in the Catholic Herald on Pride had the amusing clip of the workmen putting up these banners and taking down Union Jacks agreeing with the comments of passersby “You’re taking down the wrong flag, mate?” “Don’t you think we know that!”. But the all-pervasive influence in corporations – you cannot do any banking at Lloyds now without being assailed by videos of LGBT proclamation “Proud to be by your side”– in local authorities, in railway stations, in every kind of shop window and display, and above all in schools. Katharine Bennett wrote about this just recently. The suffocating conformity of modern orthodoxies. Question the Pride flag and “homophobic” or “transphobic” are spat out as insults. Or worse you lose your job as a teacher.

At Mass, the second hymn was the melodic “O Purest of Creatures, Sweet Mother, Sweet Maid”. The second verse in the light of what now adorns Regent Street and so many parts of town suddenly took on a very contemporary significance.

“Deep night hath come down on this rough-spoken world.
And the banners of darkness are boldly unfurled”

Well, a clearer description of London that sunny Saturday could not be found. Really, you might say? Banners of Darkness? All those bright colours? But it is what they mean in particular in schools where their darkness falls with terrible effect. And this is what we can all address, in our families, parishes, in our schools, with our friends, even with those who oppose or despise or condemn us. The drive to make same-sex and transsexual practices normal, honoured and “celebrated” is a campaign of adults. But with Department of Education active complicity and generous funds down the years, this drive or campaign has been taken into schools from the youngest level upwards. It is of course they say to eradicate prejudice and bring up children with open, inclusive and diverse minds that will ensure those who engage in such practices never have to doubt or question or experience discrimination again. Curiously, the language – to eradicate prejudice – reminds me of an earlier attempt at state “thought control”. In the injunctions of 1559 of Elizabeth 1, it was stated of “pilgrimages, …candles, praying upon beads …they shall take away, utterly extinct and destroy so that there remains no memory of the same”. Such is to be the fate of a world view that there is male and female, that their vowed conjunction is how children are born, and those children’s right is to know and love their father and their mother, and to carry from their witness of joyful fidelity the template not just for their own adult life but also in that to see a reflection of the profound marriage of Christ and his Church that our scriptures speak of and our belief assures. But all that must go in our new age as it discriminates and offends.

That is where the final two lines of the hymn become so apposite today:

“And the tempest-tossed Church – all her eyes are on thee,
They look to thy shining, sweet Star of the sea”.

Yes, in this country in our time we need to unfurl the banners of light. And those are above all banners in our life based on prayer, pilgrimage, the Sacraments and the rosary. This is the English way, this is the English task – through the intervention of Our Lady in the affairs of her own beloved country, her Dowry, our country, England, to show what these modern banners of darkness do and how they imperil our children by sexualising them from the youngest age. How they are turning schools into grooming factories, and dividing children from parents and breaking up families; in the name of an eradication of prejudice, feasting on the flesh of our children.

Each person can do something whether they have children or not. Each time you see the banner of darkness, make the prayer of light and invoke Our Lady. Each time you are told “you cannot say that!” give an explanation of your belief in God’s creative plan for men and women; when challenged that your beliefs are patriarchal or sexist or homophobic, quote Winston Churchill in his speech of June 18th 1940 “The Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilisation”. Speak of how this “Christian civilisation” with its view of the inalienable dignity of each human being as a son or daughter of God underpins all our human rights and alone brings true equality. And quote and recall our history – which is where we return to the Ordinariate (Coat of Arms – below).

Do they want persecution and imprisonment for beliefs? Do they want to make outlaws of their fellow citizens? I am afraid they do and they will. And that is where we must summon from our shared history – more deeply shared now across our old religious divide of the Reformation through the Ordinariate – that love of freedom, of truth, of God, and be prepared for the persecution to come. A persecution which, if our Bishops and clergy and faithful stood as one against these banners of darkness, we would not have to endure, but the betrayal of Pride Masses undermines that. We must pray for those deceived Bishops and priests as well. But they should know – and be told – they are unfurling banners of darkness in the very houses of light. For in fighting for our freedom to speak of the things of Christ and how he would suffer little children to come unto him, we are not just fighting for our children, not just for our faith, not just for our freedom but for our very country. And our guiding star is that “shining, sweet star of the Sea” who still has this England as her own, and will not let it, I for one believe, fail in the mission of her Son she has entrusted to us.