5th November 2023

This weekend there’ll be bonfires and fireworks a-plenty around our two towns. Bonfire Night was always a big ‘do’ at our house when we were kids. I distinctly remember making a fantastic Guy Fawkes one year with a mate of mine and we made a fortune on ‘penny for the Guy’. That was the year when I realised through my history lessons that I was sponsoring the burning of an effigy of a Catholic and that’s when I stopped making Guys. Admittedly, Guy Fawkes wasn’t exactly playing by the Catechism of the Catholic Church when he and others plotted to blow up the king and parliament along with members of the royal family. But, if you know a little bit about history, you’ll know that parliament and the monarchy hadn’t exactly been playing fair with Catholics for many a year up to that point. Little wonder that to some of the Catholics of his day, Guy Fawkes was a martyr? Certainly, the Church has never recognised him as such. But, anyway, it’s all a long time ago, isn’t it? And we’re not so primitive in our manners, are we? Hmmm.

This weekend, the goodly people in the Bonfire capital of the world, Lewes, will not only burn an effigy of Guy Fawkes but, as they do every year, they will also burn an effigy of the Pope. (Technically, it’s Pope Paul V who became Pope in 1605, but an effigy of the pope is an effigy of the pope, innit?!) I was thinking of burning an effigy of the current Ayatollah on the green in Heckmondwike this weekend. I wonder how that might go down? The protestants of Lewes remember their 17 martyrs who were put to death by Queen Mary and you have to hand it to their ‘remembering’: it’s a prolific thing to keep such hatred going for 500 years. But we have not a few Catholics who play fast and loose with the memory of our own martyrs. I wonder if the goodly protestants of Lewes or our own righteous Catholics tut-tut at how those Gazans and Israelis just can’t seem to bury the past.

The most persecuted religion in the world at present is Christianity, the majority of whom are Catholics, though that fact is barely ever reported by the main news outlets. And how should we respond to the institutional prejudice of our own country (i.e. the monarch cannot marry a Catholic nor can a Catholic PM advise the King on the appointment of Bishops) and the violent bigotry directed to our brethren in the Middle East, South East Asia and China? Should we respond with gunpowder, burnings, butchery and more bigotry? No. It is to be met by the Bonfire of Love that burns in the Heart of Jesus, that His disciples are asked to imitate. That being the case, is it any wonder that few take up Jesus’ challenge to live non-violently to its maximum effect? And yet, where our forebears have done so, and maybe even lost their lives in the process, it has a far greater effect than the brute elemental fire that only destroys. Jesus’ Heart on Fire consumes hatred and makes converts who begin their lives anew. Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, make our hearts like unto Thine.

Last Laugh: My mother always used to say “The older you get, the better you get. Unless you’re a banana.” Rose from the Golden Girls.

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