I recently attended the National Conference of Deans - this year at Liverpool.  We divided our talks and worship between the two cathedrals - Anglican and Roman Catholic. The legacy of David Shephard and Derek Warlock of the 1980s lives on and there are warm relationships between the two denominations- and this in a city which has seen great sectarian violence in the past.  One of our talks was given by Archbishop Paul Gallagher - now a high ranking Nuncio in the Papal diplomatic service. I remember him from when I was a student, in 1981-2 at the English College in Rome.  Two Anglican theological students, each year, spent four months living and working at the Roman Catholic college, right in the heart of Rome.  It was an experience which left a huge impression on me and I’ve kept in touch with quite a few since those days.  It was a challenge - how we maintain our Christian love and charity when sometimes holding very different views.  It had its hilarious moments, too...from my diary for 22 October, 1981:

“The neighbouring church of San Lomezo is having a ‘forty hours devotion’ of the Blessed Sacrament, so I go next door to look on.  As the procession of the Sacrament is forming up, one of the servers turns to me and asks if I’m from the college.  On replying ‘si’ he gets me to carry one of the 8 poles attached to the canopy over the Sacrament.  Dressed in my jeans, the only religious garments provided are a pair of white nylon gloves, which I don.  The procession sets off - alas my ‘other half on the canopy is an Italian man about four feet tall, so our end of the canopy bucks and stutters, rather like a pantomime horse ”

I mention this, not only to re-iterate my oft-made plea that humour and laughter in the church are really rather important but also so make a more serious point about a feast which happens this month.  Corpus Christi - Thursday 26 May.  A day when we remember that the Holy Sacrament is a vital part of our spiritual life.  A day when we remember that we should always try to prepare properly to receive the Sacrament - when we examine our lives - when we make ourselves ready to meet ‘the king of kings and lord of lords’ in Holy Communion.  At the cathedral, the feast is kept with great splendour - there’s a period of silent prayer before the Blessed Sacrament 3.30 - 4.30 and then the Eucharist and Procession at 5.30pm.  But if you can’t come to that, do remember the feast in your prayers - review how you prepare to receive the Sacrament regularly - and recall those wonderful words of St Thomas Aquinas:

‘O Christ, whom now beneath a veil we see, May what we thirst for soon our portion be, To gaze on thee, unveiled, and see thy face, The vision of thy glory and thy grace.’

Michael Tavinor

A letter from the Dean of Hereford

May  2016