Thursday, 1 February 2018

Ordo Sancti Graal

Extract from Seán Manchester's autobiography Stray Ghosts:

“But now in Christ Jesus you 
who were formerly far off
have been brought near by
the blood of Christ.”

~ Ephesians 2: 13


On Good Friday 1973, along with eleven others, I founded Ordo Sancti Graal on the summit of Parliament Hill, at London’s Hampstead Heath. After three months of spontaneous organisation, we developed into a dispersed Order of disciples. By this point I was in minor orders with Ecclesia Vetusta Catholica, an autocephalous branch of the Body of Christ that seceded from the Roman Catholic Church on 15 October 1724 with the consecration of Cornelius Steehoven as the Archbishop of Utrecht. The succession reached these shores on 8 April 1908 with the consecration of Arnold Harris Mathew as the Regionary Old Catholic Bishop for Great Britain and Ireland. Proliferations followed bifurcating into traditional and liberal directions. 

The founding of the Order at Easter 1973 led to processions of the Cross.

Seventeen years later, I would take holy orders within Ecclesia Vetusta Catholica. In the interim ― notwithstanding pilgrimages, processions, preaching, healing and exorcisms ― I embarked on a number of quests. The Sacred Cup of the Last Supper was the first of these. A local newspaper assisted in this endeavour by quoting me: “In the autumn of ’77 I intend to embark upon a search for the Grail itself ― commencing from Glastonbury. … In brief the Holy Grail ― the vessel used in the Last Supper ― is believed to have been brought to Britain by Joseph of Arimathea some time after the Crucifixion.” (“Grail Searcher,” Hornsey Journal, 27 May 1977). The newspaper invited readers to contact me if they wished to assist. The outcome of the quest would not be recorded by the media; though I did agree to contribute to a Channel Four British television programme about the Holy Grail in February 1997, and a documentary film for America’s NBC Channel in early 1998 where I was filmed at Glastonbury Abbey in Somerset. These transmissions included the Nanteos Cup, the remnant of a wooden bowl thought by some to be the Holy Grail. The Rev'd Peter Scothern, who had access to the vessel for the purpose of immersing prayer cloths in holy water and chrism in the gnarled bowl to facilitate healing, was to become my acquaintance. The location of the Nanteos Cup is undisclosed; though Reverend Scothern and I were privileged to share that much sought piece of intelligence.

The Nanteos Cup.

Another item that became newsworthy was the search for an artefact known as the Glastonbury Cross. This occurred some five years after the 1977 Grail quest had begun. “The whereabouts of the lead cross, about eight inches long, are known only to [an] amateur archaelogist [Derek Mahoney] … who first found it in the grounds of Forty Hall. … The British Museum said it was either the original Glastonbury Cross which lay on King Arthur’s tomb or a 17th century copy. He refused to hand it over to Enfield Council who own Forty Hall, or the British museum and hid it. He also refused to comply with a court order to hand over the cross and is now serving a two year sentence for contempt of court.” I was quoted in the same article, saying: “We are most anxious to recover it as there is a terrible risk that it could be lost for a few more centuries. There is little archaeological evidence from that period.” (“Magic Cross Search,” Enfield Gazette, 3 September 1982).

The site of King Arthur’s tomb in Glastonbury Abbey.

The inscribed lead cross was allegedly recovered by Mahoney from the bed of the lake near Maiden’s Brook in the grounds of Forty Hall. A student on duty at the British Museum was allowed to photograph the artefact, but did not keep it for further examination. The mysterious cross was never seen again. Derek Mahoney served only half his original jail sentence of two years, became unwell, and later took his own life.

Ecclesia Vetusta Catholica was to provide a means to be in valid orders without compromising my position on the Church of Rome from which Old Catholics felt obliged to break from in 1724. The growing movement across Europe witnessed a sizeable number of hitherto Roman dioceses becoming Old Catholic for reasons not entirely dissimilar to my own. Jurisdictions beyond the Continent were to become predominantly autocephalous. I was, therefore, able to remain within the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church whilst still retaining that degree of independence necessary to remain true to what I believed. The twentieth century witnessed both Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism moving further away from sound doctrine. The contaminating influences at work are discussed in my work about Christianity. I conclude: “Whether institutionalised Churches are being eroded from within by Masonic secret societies or have been so steeped in apostasy for so long as to make no real difference, the volume and pitch of distressed humanity’s evocative cry set into motion the awakening of the Church of the New Covenant.” (The Grail Church, Holy Grail, 1995, page 72).

My introduction to an acceptable alternative to the post-Vatican II Roman Church happened in the 1960s. I was rehearsing with a group of musicians in Stamford Hill when I felt like having a breath of fresh air, and took a walk. On that particular night, having walked for about ten minutes, I found myself in Rookwood Road where stood the Cathedral Church of the Good Shepherd, which belonged at that time to the Old Catholics. The wooden doors to the Cathedral Church, in common with most churches at that time, remained unlocked. Inside I discovered an atmosphere both sombre and spiritual. When I tentatively approached the dimly illumined high altar ― with its stunning depiction of the Last Supper ― nothing disturbed my contemplative mood. The fragrance of incense still lingered from any earlier rite. Other church buildings had not quite managed to provide anything as close to this experience. It was a sense of being outside time. Fifteen or so minutes passed. Perhaps longer. Time seemed suspended. Afterwards I retreated through the dark streets, and back to the rehearsal hall. Not being at all familiar with the district, when I tried to find the church on later occasions it completely eluded me. However, the communion with the divine felt in the Cathedral Church would be followed up in the next decade when I pursued the minor orders of ostiariate, lectorate, exorcistate, and acolytate. Two decades later, I entered the diaconate, followed by the priesthood, and the episcopate.

*       *       *

The girl I met in October 1986 over whom the powers of Light and darkness fought ― yet whose soul remained intact and heart was innocent has her story told in From Satan To Christ.

Sarah reading at the lectern in our church.

In the end, Light prevailed over darkness ― and the sacraments joined Sarah and I in sacred union. Her quality of childhood purity, which had allowed her so easily to drift into the enchantments of witchcraft, would also prove to be her salvation. What she thought was a dream had revealed itself to be a nightmare, and I am privileged to have helped her awaken from it. A cold and ominous shadow had briefly invaded her life, but now she stood in the warmth of the Light again. The pale creature with dark circles beneath her eyes, encountered by me on a chill October day, would soon transform into a beautiful young lady, abundant with health and energy. An innocent who went astray, and was now found, but also someone with whom I felt an immense affinity, recognised to be a soul mate, and, moreover, was in love with from the first moment. It was the same for her. Such moments seldom happen in life, and when they do they need to be held and treasured.

On Passion Sunday, April 1987, whilst staying at her parents’ rambling Wiltshire home, I asked Sarah to marry me. She accepted and the following week, on her birthday, I presented her with a solitaire engagement ring. Four months later we were married in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, at 11.15am. Sarah arrived in a vintage 1930s Roche-Talbot.

She made a beautiful bride. On the last evening together as single people we had walked in the moonlight at twilight in a wooded area close to her parents’ house. Bats suddenly filled the darkening sky, some swooping to touch us as we stopped to look at them. It was somehow fitting, symbolic of a last brush with a world we had both encountered from completely different perspectives.

The bride arrived holding a bouquet of flowers with a circlet of more flowers in her hair. I gasped at how beautiful she looked. Our vows were exchanged enthusiastically, and those present broke into spontaneous applause at the moment we were declared man and wife. The drive back to the neighbouring town for the reception, drinking champagne all the way, in the Roche-Talbot with its roof down, left us feeling ecstatic. When we arrived at the wedding banquet, held outdoors in the grounds of Sarah’s parents’ home, we cut the cake with a sword, which was followed by my eight minutes’ speech to the guests.

It sometimes happens that a man and a woman meet and instantly recognise the other half of themselves behind the eyes of each other. Such a meeting occurred between Sarah and I. From the first moment we met and gazed upon each other, our spirits rushed together joyfully, ignoring convention and custom, driven by an inner knowing ― too overwhelming to be denied. It is more than coincidence that, out of the whole world, Sarah and I should be drawn together at the appointed time. Through each other we found wholeness. For I did not know how empty was my life until it was filled with Sarah.

Wedding day in Wiltshire ~ 8 August 1987.

My new bride’s eyes brimmed with tears. I sat down. This was the happiest day of our lives without a doubt. The banquet continued all day with much merriment and music. My close friend and surrogate sister, Diana, stood in for my “best man,” who lost his way in Trowbridge, and waited patiently outside until it was all over, not wanting to interrupt or intrude upon the ceremony. It was a fortuitous delay because nobody could have matched Diana. 

That night Sarah and I repaired to an Old English manor house to begin our honeymoon where a heated swimming pool, and just about everything anyone could want was waiting. But all we wanted to do was climb into our four-poster bed and relax with a couple of mugs of drinking chocolate after taking a long, relaxing bath. Sarah switched on the television at the foot of the bed, as room service brought us our drinks. It was a little after midnight, and the film that came on was Brides of Dracula.

We laughed, and I explained that this was the first of that genre of Hammer Horror Film I had watched as an adolescent at the Essoldo cinema in London. Those days now seemed so many years away. The England I had once known had practically disappeared. Little did I realise that by the end of the century it would be unrecognisable in terms of the Christian values that had held it in good stead for millennia. But right then I only had eyes and thoughts for my new bride.

Sarah had placed everything connected with her dark past on a fire in a field near our cottage in Hertfordshire. Acrid fumes billowed from the pyre until everything was consumed and reduced to ashes. She came home and took a purification bath as a symbolic relinquishment of the Left-hand Path. Only then could we make preparations to have our union blessed by Father Charles Owen in the Lady Chapel at St Joseph’s Catholic Church in Highgate. Sarah occasionally made cakes for Fr Charles, which he shared with his fellow priests. He was to become a good friend, but even he would become depressed by the deterioration of life in his parish. His church frequently suffered vandalism and theft. There was also a sharp increase in drug related crime. Diana attended St Joseph's Church for the Latin Mass that was made available to those who wanted it.

In 1993, my father asked to be baptised at our private oratory in Hertfordshire. I had entered the priesthood on my birthday on the feast of St Bonaventure 1990. “An interesting observation was made [as reported in The Visitor magazine]: ‘During the anointing ceremony, at which time Come Holy Ghost, Creator Come was being sung, a shimmering light hovered over the head of the candidate being ordained. This was noticed by a deacon and also appeared on some photographs. The phenomenon remains unexplained save it being the presence of the Holy Spirit.’ There were three photographers present and the inexplicable golden illumination (appearing to descend and enter the rear of my head) was recorded on several of their independently taken pictures. Four of these photographs were later published in our Church magazine.” (The Grail Church, Holy Grail, 1995, page 94).

My ordination was not received well by everyone. It proved to be a catalyst in many ways. Certain people, including some who considered themselves allies, cooled. While my parents welcomed this calling to the priesthood, others were less able to cope. Sarah's mother contacted Westminster Cathedral. The cardinal’s spokesman was exceptionally supportive and understanding. I was even asked by him whether I would consider becoming a Roman Catholic priest. There are some married priests in the Roman fold, but their duties are limited and low key. There are also those already in holy orders elsewhere who convert to Rome. I had been a Roman Catholic in my youth. Sarah's parents and siblings did not welcome me with open arms largely because I am considered to be "out of the ordinary," which Sarah thought was a good thing. Indeed, Sarah was "out of the ordinary," for which she was made to feel an outsider by her own family even before she met me.

The miscreant David Farrant discovered Sarah's parental address by looking for our wedding certificate via the public records office. Consequently mail was received from him at the Wiltshire home of her parents. Some of it was addressed for me. None of which we were told by her parents. My mail from Farrant was opened by her mother. Sarah much later discovered the contents in a draw in the house. It comprised malicious pamphlets in which I am ridiculed and defamed by Farrant. Sadly, this would provide ammunition to use against me in the mind of her parents, ergo I became a convenient scapegoat, who were already wary of me due to my published works and appearances on television. They were essentially country folk, and suspicious of what they considered to be a sophisticated person from the capital with an artistic bent. All the things that brought Sarah into conflict with her siblings long before she knew me, eg her artistic nature, her university degree in the performing arts, applied one hundredfold to me. But that, of course, is partly what attracted Sarah to me.

Sarah made a chance discovery in 2017 that annual dividends from her father's company, paid annually to her four brothers, Philip, Stephen, Mark, Paul, and sister, Ann, excluded her. She asked her eldest brother, Philip, who handled these matters on behalf of her father (and, when he died, her mother), why she had not been told by any of her siblings about this, and, moreover, why she had been left out? It was explained it is due to her being my wife. The sum her siblings have received to date amounts to millions of pounds. Sarah was shocked that nobody thought to inform her, and that her parents acted so normally in our company. When her father died in 1996, her mother continued signing over everything to Sarah's siblings who happily share Sarah's portion on top of what they are already receiving. This disloyalty of her four brothers and sister, plus the behaviour of her parents, naturally upset Sarah, but the money itself did not bother her in the slightest. Nor I. For, joined as man and wife, we have found riches beyond imagining or earthly things.

Entering holy orders was a pivotal moment, as I always knew it would be, and led to my eventually accepting the precious mitre on the feast of St Francis of Assisi on 4 October 1991, and later being installed as the Bishop of Glastonbury. Sarah and I felt a strong affinity with this ancient place of Christian pilgrimage ― it was such an obvious location. Once we were away from London and the dark shadow of the past, Sarah seemed to blossom like a beautiful flower and find herself. It was wonderful to behold.

"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth
and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor
rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal."

Sarah dancing in the fields ~ Glastonbury Tor can be seen in the background.

*       *       *

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Finis tantum principium est

"Where the beginning is, there the end will be. Happy is he who stands at the beginning: he will know the end and will not taste death."

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Quodam tempore

Extract from Seán Manchester's autobiography Stray Ghosts:


Sightings of people who are mistaken for stray ghosts are probably few and far between because the circumstances that make such apparent hauntings possible seem to require precision not easily comprehensible to us. This does not rule out the genuinely supernatural manifestation of either angelic or demonic origin, as my late colleague Professor Devendra Prasad Varma would have been quick to point out ― and as I would have been equally quick to agree. Yet all along I have wondered about time. That is not to say that much of what we sometimes mistake as shades should always be viewed as figures from the past or future passing through our present. However, it is quite possible that we are experiencing a glimpse of the same space in a different time frame. Albert Einstein showed us that time and space are linked. Einstein’s relativity theory, some might argue, was superseded in 1984 by string theory, ie the concept that everything is connected by tiny vibrating strings, smaller than atoms, across eleven dimensions ― leading to the M theory. Yet nobody seems to know what “M” stands for in this latest theory.

Dr Mallett, who is a professor of theoretical physics at the University of Connecticut, is in the process of constructing a time machine that he claims will enable him to send sub-atomic particles into the past. To do this he proposes to create a time warp where light slows down to a crawl and is contained in two opposing beams using a ring laser. Mallett calculates that at high enough intensities, space and time could be twisted in the circle within. His time machine might resemble a long light cylinder. “Once it can be done, even in the simplest situation, in the most primitive way, the engineering obstacles will be overcome,” says the professor, adding: “I honestly believe this will be the century for time travel.” There is one inescapable drawback. The machine being designed by Professor Ronald Mallett will only be able to travel as far back as the moment it is switched on.

Mark 9: 23 tells us: “All things are possible to him who believes.” However, the possibility of time travel poses ethical and theological quandaries. Stephen Hawking has proposed a “chronology protection conjecture” ― an as-yet-unknown law of physics that would preserve causality and safeguard history from meddlers. I would not be able to return to that fateful afternoon in August 1970, for example, and execute, instead of the spoken exorcism rite inside the vault, a more effective, albeit illicit, remedy to expel the demonic presence with the possible direct consequence of victims after 1970 still remaining alive. Moreover, an astrophysicist would quickly point out that most of the blueprints for a time machine stipulate that the traveller cannot journey back to an era before the device was first switched on. Yet it is claimed that a time machine able to take the traveller into the past, far beyond when it was constructed, was built in the 1950s. It is described as the Chronovisor.

Father Pellegrino Maria Ernetti (1925-1994) was a Benedictine monk, scientist and foremost authority on archaic music (2000 BC to AD 1200). Along with the help of scientists Enrico Fermi and Werner von Braun, Ernetti is said to have developed the Chronovisor, a time machine that could reach back into the past way beyond its own invented existence to reconstruct the sights and sounds of history. A world-class scholar of prepolyphonic music, he also held a degree in quantum and subatomic physics. His principal research was in the field of time travel. Father Père François Brune knew Ernetti well, and, based on his own experience, concludes that Ernetti was too upright, knowledgeable, intelligent and accomplished to have any need to fabricate a story, and wonders if the Chronovisor, or information pertaining to it, may lie somewhere in the Vatican where it remains hidden from the rest of the world.

My own immersion in music, the arcane and indeed ecclesiasticism led to impressions of an understanding of a form of time travel not so removed from those of Ernetti. Using his knowledge of the physics of chordal structures, and based on a new principle he had uncovered, involving musical frequencies, harmonic resonance and the relationship of these things with the astral plane, Ernetti constructed a time machine from which he claimed to have taken photographs of the past. Such images from across the millennia were gained by an approach and perspective significantly removed from Mallett’s dependance on s²=x²+y²+z²-ct² where s stands for space-time (based on Einstein’s revolutionary concept of space-time, ie time is distance and distance is time) and a Lorentz transformation invariant, ie the distance has the same value for all inertial observers. That notwithstanding, Einstein’s conclusion that space and time are aspects of the same thing, and that matter and energy are also two aspects of the same thing (E=mc²), is invaluable to all potential builders of time machines. Venice-based Father Ernetti, of course, incorporated rather more than theoretical physics into his calculations when inventing his camera that allegedly could focus into the past or future and take pictures of events.

My early career as a professional photographer, life-long involvement in music, and later embrace of ecclesiasticism made the Benedictine monk’s approach to time travel at once comprehensible and something I naturally felt empathetic toward. Whether it was, is, or ever could be a reality, is not something I feel qualified to conjecture ― for I have already experienced enough to know that all manner of things are possible. Yet it is patently the final frontier to tempt those who might seek a future in the past.

Compassion, courtesy, gentleness, integrity, honour and dignity might have all but departed this world. Yet there remains this one possibility of catching a glimpse of such lost innocence of truth and beauty ― rare qualities that still exist somewhere in time.


*       *       *

My father introduced me to Edgar Allan Poe, and my mother introduced me to St Teresa of Avila and, later on, to St Thérèse of Lisieux. My mother’s death on the day following the feast of the latter was the most difficult moment of my life. Her last breath came at twenty minutes past five o’clock on that fateful Friday of 2 October 1992. All I can remember is my father’s distant voice proclaiming: “She’s gone.” Two little words that were devastating ― yet I knew in my heart she had not gone at all, but had passed into the Lord’s safekeeping where she would be for the rest of time as we know it. Emotionally, however, I would never recover from the loss. Folk found her special and unique. She was greatly loved by virtually everyone who met her.

My parents at my Hampstead Garden Suburb home ~ March 1984.

Two words uttered a few hours earlier that my mother repeated as I left the room: “… love you.” We smiled. But we were seeing each others smile for the final time. For these two words were the very last we exchanged. Within a matter of hours she breathed her last.

Like her favourite saints, my mother remained somehow fragrant in death, resisting decomposition until the last; even when I replaced the lid on her coffin in the stone chapel for the very last time. She became the “first person I would anoint and on whose behalf I would recite the prayers for the newly dead, since receiving the mitre.” (The Grail Church, Holy Grail, 1995, page 102).

My mother’s funeral was also the first I would conduct in my new office as bishop. It was held at Islington and St Pancras Cemetery on the feast day of St Teresa of Avila.

Funeral vestments.

I also conducted a funeral service in the same cemetery chapel some eight years later for my father. Whereas the voice of Mario Lanza singing Ave Maria accompanied the conclusion to my mother’s service, a jazz piece in gospel mode, titled A Love Divine, quickly followed by Lynn Howard’s beautiful rendition of Softly & Tenderly closed my father’s funeral. He, at least, had seen the opening of the new century and millennium. Yet ― in his own mind ― he felt he had little reason to remain much longer after the death my mother; he just lost the will to live in a world without her. It was all terribly sad, but understandable. Diana Brewester, my London secretary and dear friend, who was present at my father's funeral, would sadly pass away herself in December 2003.

Only three days separated Diana’s and my own birth. We had much in common, sharing an appreciation of the arts, music and literature. Her sudden death, after being diagnosed with cancer only a couple of month’s prior, came as a terrible shock. Father Hubert Condron of St Joseph's Catholic Church and I attended to her funeral at that same chapel where I had conducted my parent’s services. Diana had known both my parents and was especially close to my mother. I sprinkled her coffin with holy water, and spoke to those assembled about her life, and about her generosity of spirit and kindness. Colleagues of mine from the 1960s and 1970s, whom Diana had also come to know, assembled in the cemetery chapel. Now we were joined once again by her death. One later remarked that even in death Diana brought us together. And we were all grateful for that reunion.

When I wrote these reflections, it had to be dedicated to my parents from whom I inherited some of the qualities that set me apart. In early 2003, as I began to put pen to paper, I received an 1814 edition of Holy Dying (The Rule and Exercises of HOLY DYING in which are described the Means and Instruments of Preparing Ourselves and Others Respectively for A BLESSED DEATH, etc by Jer. Taylor, D.D., Chaplain in Ordinary to King Charles the First, Printed and Published by J. Keymer, 1814) from a total stranger who, in the previous month, had commented on an internet forum managed on my behalf:

“Reality is not limited to the extent of your own experience. Thankfully, I have never experienced a vampire, but I have experienced other things which suggest that vampires (as described by Bishop Manchester) are possible and probable. If one has faith in God in all His Glory, one must believe in Satan in all his abhorrence. You cannot disable one side of the scheme of things. Faith is only as strong as its foundations. How many of those who criticise Bishop Manchester have no faith in God? How can their criticism of his redemptive ministry be valid when it is extracted from the context of a more general criticism of Christian faith? Vampires, why not?”

The above comments were made by Elisabeth Harrington, a post-graduate theology student at an Anglo-Catholic college within a university, whose gracious surprise of presents, including the rare and valuable Holy Dying, followed her remarks. I responded:

“What a delight to receive your kind gift of Holy Dying which shall doubtless provide much to ponder. Our gratitude also extends to the no less welcome English Sonnets [1882], and the Horæ Tennsonianæ [1832], where much pleasure will be derived. The etching from one of Cassell’s photographs of Highgate Cemetery is, of course, poignant in the extreme. A suitable frame has already been ordered. You are most generous and considerate in forwarding these wonderful items. Pax et benedictio.” (Correspondence, 30 March 2003).

The foot of my notepaper carried, as it frequently does, the words of Our Lord and Saviour from John 20: 29:

“Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”

Keith Maclean in Highgate Cemetery shortly after I met him.

Keith Maclean, who had joined our Order at its foundation, presented me, on the occasion of my birthday in 2003, with The Hours of Catherine of Cleves, comprising one hundred and sixty colour plates. When opening this book upon its receipt, the first plate to greet my eyes was Saint Michael Battling a Demon. A resplendent St Michael is locked in combat with a demon, who claws at his armour as he is pierced by the archangel-saint’s long cross-staff. Although both St Michael and the demon are winged, their struggle takes place on the ground. The patron saint of exorcists impales the demonic manifestation in order to remove it from our earthly plane. Such are the images from this most popular devotional book of the later Middle Ages.

My decision to withdraw from ever being interviewed again by television and radio was not linked to any one experience. However, by the time I retired from giving interviews, general standards had slipped considerably with attention to accuracy being of little or no concern to the programme makers. I nevertheless still continue to provide talks to select groups, organisations, colleges and churches.

Sarah accompanied me on a live television programme (“Pagans,” Central Weekend Television, 30 March 2001). It was to be a discussion about the advisability of witchcraft and paganism being taught in school classrooms. Sarah explained about the oath made by some witchcraft initiates to Set-an, which, in her case, was later revealed by the coven leaders to be Satan. She also told of how some members are lured into crime. I raised the spectre of Crowley and how many would not be witches were it not for this self-confessed drug fiend and diabolist.

Anthony ~ at the rear ~ waiting to receive the Blessed Sacrament during Mass.

Having worked part-time for me in the days of the portrait studio in the 1960s, Anthony, like many others, had long abandoned the fascination he held in his youth with Aleister Crowley and sundry occult mumbo jumbo, returning to his roots when he was a choirboy at Kilburn Grammar School. It begs the question: what roots will the children of today have when, if need be, they seek sanctuary? He and his wife attended church together where I was celebrating the Eucharist. Anthony received the Host (the Body of Christ) from me. It was a defining moment in our relationship along life’s journey. Anthony had known “Screaming Lord Sutch” at secondary school. Sutch went on to become a pop star, later notorious for standing as an independent candidate. Few people will remember that “Lord” Sutch tried to insinuate himself into the Highgate matter in the summer of 1970, and was pictured as a consequence on the front page of the Hampstead and Highgate Express, 7 August 1970. The report largely concerns the gruesome discovery of the body of a woman in the cemetery exactly one week earlier. The newspaper also recorded: “Pop singer Sutch was the victim of actress Carmen Du Sautoy. They are in a film about the daughter of Dracula and Jack the Ripper combined. ‘Horror intrigues me,’ said Sutch, ambling between tombstones in his pale lilac tunic and cape. … Mr Sutch is no novice at horror. For some time it has been part of his stage act. His speciality is leaping from a blazing coffin.” He was unwisely photographed in immediate proximity to the afflicted area of the subterranean vaults.

Sutch, who changed his name by deed poll to “Screaming Lord Sutch, 3rd Earl of Harrow” in the 1960s, went on to fight more than forty elections as the candidate for the Monster Raving Loony Party, which he founded in 1963. When his mother died, he became extremely depressed. Two years later, he committed suicide by hanging himself at his South Harrow home on 16 June 1999. He was fifty-eight-years-old. The following day, Cardinal Basil Hume, who I had known personally for nine years, died of cancer at the age of seventy-six. The very tall, white-haired cardinal was greatly admired throughout the Catholic community and beyond. The following year witnessed the untimely death of the television personality Paula Yates whom I had worked alongside for a Channel Four programme in February 1990. Nothing like her image, I found her smaller, prettier and rather more troubled. She was quite moody. Yet there was a gentle and intelligent side to her that did not always translate via the television screen.

Paula would later make the discovery that her real father was not the television presenter Jess Yates, but the Canadian game show host Hughie Green. Resemblance between her and Green was transparent. Someone telephoned Paula on the morning of 17 September 2000, and Tiger Lily, Paula’s young daughter, said her mother was asleep. Paula was later discovered naked, half in and half out of her bed, and a very strange colour. Coroner Dr Paul Knapman’s verdict was that she had died of non-dependent abuse of drugs, and was “an unsophisticated taker of heroin.” The 0.3mg of morphine found in her body would not have been enough to kill her had she been a heroin addict. That notwithstanding, she had apparently been taking illegal drugs, including cocaine, for nearly two years before the day she died. Illegal drugs have wrecked much of modern society. I noticed their availability when I was a professional photographer and musician throughout the 1960s. Heroin and cocaine were much less common then, but the abuse of almost any illegal substance was apparent and growing. Police and politicians nowadays admit that drug abuse is out of control, and responsible for much of the violent crime the majority of law-abiding citizens have to endure.

Greeted by Anastasia Cooke on behalf of London Weekend Television.

All those wonderful qualities that made Great Britain attractive to the rest of the world would now seem to have been sacrificed to meet what is invariably the lowest common denominator. This constant lowering of standards to appease liberal modernists leaves a radical traditionalist like myself in the wilderness. 

My calling to the priesthood and episcopacy alienated a small number of so-called “admirers” who reacted with hostility, even malice; but for me it was unavoidable in the morally bankrupt times I find myself. Degenerate behaviour and its attendant drug dependency, still in its infancy in the 1960s, has now become endemic throughout all strata of society. Absent is any political or even mainstream church leadership with the courage to address this continuing slide by returning to traditional spiritual values. Instead, they opt to "move with the times" and in doing so abandon doctrine central to the Christian faith. They, indeed, become heretical.

*       *       *

Christianity came to Britain in the first century and is the essence of our civilisation. Lose it and we lose everything. Tertullian of Carthage (circa 208) said that the Christian Church of his day “extended to all the boundaries of Gaul, and parts of Britain inaccessible to the Romans but subject to Christ.” Eusebius of Cæsaria (circa 260-340) in his Demonstratio Evangelica said: “The Apostles passed beyond the ocean to the Isles called the Brittanic Isles.” Sabellius (circa 250) revealed: “Christianity was privately confessed elsewhere, but the first nation that proclaimed it as their religion and called it Christian, after the name of Christ, was Britain.” Polydore Vergil, court antiquary to Henry VIII and a foremost scholar of his day, wrote: “Britain partly through Joseph of Arimathea, partly through Fugatus and Damianus, was of all kingdoms first to receive the Gospel.”

Gildas, the British historian, in the sixth century, wrote: “We certainly know that Christ, the True Son, afforded His Light, the knowledge of His precepts to our Island  in the last year of Tiberius Cæsar.” Elsewhere he affirmed that “Joseph introduced Christianity into Britain in the last year of the reign of Tiberius Cæsar.” Tiberius died on 16 March AD 37, which supports the traditional date for St Joseph of Arimathea mission to Britain of AD 36. Britain was outside the Roman Empire, as the Claudian invasion did not occur until AD 43.

Martin of Louvain, in his Disputoilis Super Dignitatem Anglis it [sic] Gallioe in Councilio Constantiano (1517), recorded: “Three times the antiquity of the British Church was affirmed in Ecclesiatical Councilia. 1. The Council of Pisa, AD 1417. 2. The Council of Constance, AD 1419. 3. Council of Siena, AD 1423. It was stated that the British Church took precedence over all other churches, being founded by Joseph of Arimathea, immediately after the Passion of Christ.”

On page 87 of The Grail Church, I say: “To the native Celts the Grail Church became known as the British Church; so as to distinguish it from the Anglo-Saxon English Church. When the Anglo-Saxons adopted Roman Christianity the British Church receded until it eventually vanished. Yet the memory of the Holy Grail could not be eradicated; indeed, its symbolic potency only grew with the passing of time.”

The year I began my personal quest for the Holy Grail ― 1977 ― is also believed by some scientists to be the pivotal point for mankind from which there is no turning back. The quest led to me eventually finding that gnarled piece of olive wood known as the Nanteos Cup. Like Wagner in 1855, whose discovery of the relic inspired his opera Parsifal, I sought the Nanteos Cup in the hope of resolving whether or not this was indeed that venerated vessel wherein the first Eucharist was celebrated. Yet the intervening two decades has taught me that such a spiritual journey is within oneself; that these riddles are seldom, if ever, resolved by viewing an artefact deemed sacred.

The last Abbot of Glastonbury, Richard Whiting, entrusted the wooden Cup to his monks. They fled with the vessel to escape the appalling vandalism wrought by Henry VIII where it remained temporarily safe in the remote, now ruined, Cistercian Abbey of Strata Florida in Wales. When the King’s men extended their search, the monks fled again with the Cup and took refuge in the isolated house of Nanteos, which was owned by farmers some seventeen miles from the Abbey. The final words on the breath of the last remaining monk as he died were that the resident Powell family should guard the Holy Cup “until the Church shall claim her own,” which, in a sense, now it has.

The Nanteos Cup, as it was now called, remained at the house for over four centuries. It remained in the house, as stipulated in the Powell family will, when the estate passed to Mrs Elizabeth Miryless, a daughter of the late Mr Powell’s cousin. The new owner became a devout believer in the healing properties of the Cup and, for a period, met with countless appeals for water that had been left to stand in the vessel. One week witnessed at least one and a half thousand pleas via correspondence from far and wide. The strain became too much, and in 1967 Elizabeth Mirylees sold Nanteos House and moved to a secret address in Herefordshire. The Cup, now pitted with teeth marks from over-zealous pilgrims, darkened with age, and reduced to one third of its original size would at one time have measured five inches in diameter at the top and about three inches in depth, tapering to a base about two and a half inches across.

Neither I, nor anyone else, can know whether this is the holy vessel of the Last Supper, but reports of amazing cures are real enough. And a foremost authority on Palestinian archaeology, Sir Charles Marston, who travelled to Nanteos in 1938, would not dismiss the possibility that it was the Holy Grail. Such a quest, in truth, has no end. Perhaps we must remain uncertain about matters of this kind? Faith must be sufficient; not faith in an ancient relic ― but faith in what it represents, ie union with God, in the certain knowledge that the only way to the Father is through the Son.

Three years before the end of the last century, the Nanteos Cup (and the healing ministry that has sprung from it) was revealed to the world in a British television programme, and an American documentary. The healing properties attributed to the Cup via cloths anointed with oil and water given to the afflicted persons were examined and discussed in both television films. The cures would ultimately be the effect of the Holy Spirit (Acts 19: 11-12), and the phenomenon of Divine Healing. The American documentary is regularly transmitted on a channel somewhere in the United States, or another part of the world. Every week requests are made for prayer cloths that have been anointed and blessed in the Nanteos Cup. Any healing that takes place is a gift of God’s grace made available to us through the atoning ministry of Jesus Christ who suffered and “Himself took away our infirmities, and carried away our diseases” (Matthew 8: 17); “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross … for His wounds you were healed” (1 Peter 2: 24)

The Holy Grail was considered to be a relic of inestimable value as the Cup of the Last Supper that was later used by St Joseph of Arimathea to collect a few drops of the Saviour’s blood. Apocryphal writings credit St Joseph with possession of the Cup. Cardinal Baronius, curator of the Vatican Library and certainly the most outstanding historian of the Roman Catholic Church, writes in his Ecclesiastical Annals in reference to the exodus of AD 36:In that year the party mentioned was exposed to the sea in a vessel without sails or oars. The vessel drifted finally to Marseilles and they were saved. From Marseilles [St] Joseph [of Arimathea] and his company passed into Britain and after preaching the Gospel there, died’.” (The Grail Church, Holy Grail, 1995, page 30). Thus the Holy Grail came to the British Isles where, six centuries later, it went missing. In later legends, as a result of the Holy Grail being lost, the country was strangely afflicted with large areas becoming an uninhabitable wasteland. Those who ventured there died. And a sixth century monk named Gildas wrote a history (Gildæ sapientis de excidio et conquestu Britanniæ) which spoke of a great famine and disease that rendered the island of Britain virtually uninhabitable, resulting in mass migration to the Continent. He attributes the catastrophe to the Britons’ loss of faith. There are parallels with then and now. A steep decline in moral attitudes and social behaviour, plus, more significantly, the distortion and loss of faith, makes us ripe for a coming wasteland. But there is a difference. This time it might be on a global scale.

Perhaps we need to reflect on what he have allowed to be inflicted on our world, and are continuing to allow, on a legacy of two thousand years of civilisation under Christian influence. Perhaps we should examine the corruption which permeates everywhere; look long and hard into ourselves; and start to reclaim the lost ground, restore what has been taken, and return to Christ.

I was born in the closing months of a terrible world conflict, and have witnessed the world waging war on itself ever since. Man’s inhumanity to man leaves me convinced more than ever that our only salvation is in Him who shed His blood for the atonement of our sins. But it must be to the Christ of the Gospels, revealed through the Word of God, and not to a distorted image that we look.

The kiss of peace from the bishops ~ 4 October 1991.

When the precious mitre was placed upon my head on the feast of St Francis of Assisi in 1991, I already understood that a crown of thorns was contained within. I said as much in my last UK radio interview. And for those who make the choice to take up their cross and follow Him, there begins a journey where space and time is transcended ― a journey that will never taste death.

Mine has been a blessed life through amazing and certainly defining times for all of mankind. I am especially blessed to have found Sarah, an angel in many ways who makes every day a sheer joy. Her love of Creation ― particularly the injured wild animals she takes in to protect and care for before returning them back to nature healed ― is just one of a myriad of facets that make her so ideal. Her green eyes and glorious smiles fill my days with all that is delightful; her tenderness and affection keep me alive and inspired, reminding me constantly of God’s plan for us on Earth ― to love Him, love one another, and to rejoice in Creation.

This life is a dream from which death is merely an awakening. Be not afraid . . .

Man’s life is death. Yet Christ endured to live,
Preaching and teaching, toiling to and fro,
Few men accepting what He yearned to give,
Few men with eyes to know
His Face, that Face of Love He stooped to show.

Man’s death is life. For Christ endured to die
In slow unuttered weariness of pain,
A curse and an astonishment, passed by,
Pointed at, mocked again
By men for whom He shed His Blood – in vain?

Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)