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After the Eclipse

Torch of The Faith News 

[Image: an_eclipse.jpg]
We all took our evening meal in picnic form with us to Crosby Beach last night and opened the sliding side doors of our vehicle, in order to get a decent sea breeze running through on such a hot and sunny evening.

After eating together, I went for a ''time out'' walk alone, along the grassed area, looking out to sea, again. In the 19th-Century, a First Lord of the Admiralty suggested that, on a good day, the views from this place were second only to the Bay of Naples, and it was such a balmy evening that it would have been easy to agree with his assessment last night.

I sat down on a bench to start praying the Rosary in the baking sunshine, when I suddenly spotted a majestic cruise ship making her regal way out to the mouth of the River Mersey. At that range, she perfectly dwarfed both the radar station at Waterloo and the massive Dome of Home church of the ICKSP on the opposite headland at Birkenhead.

At that point, I did not know the name of the vast ship and reminded myself, as I've done before, that I should check the lists of sailing times, and always bring my camera, before setting off for the beach.

Even as I was thinking these things, it became clear that the vast liner was so enormous, that it was going to actually obscure the view across the river to the Dome of Home; and this, even though that church is itself so tall and so close to the horizon on the Wirral streetscape.

Like so many things these days, this caused me to reflect on the events in the Church.

In the first instance, it called to mind the various prophecies, which speak of the True Church being eclipsed by a false ''church'', to such an extent that it will appear to have disappeared altogether.

So swiftly was the ship cutting through the water, that it was not long before her bow and forward decks began to block out the Dome of Home, as expected; now looking tiny nestled atop her hill of close-knit streets.

How modern and sophisticated the cruiser looked at this angle, with her resplendent white paint scheme, streamlined nose and bows jutting purposefully like a chiselled jawline. There was even a fancy heli-pad out front there, beneath the sun-glinted windows of her rakish forward decks. 

I knew I should have brought my camera, I thought to myself.

Remembering the prophecies of the Eclipse, as the Dome disappeared from view, I thought of how the ''nu-church'' had obscured the Barque of Peter in recent decades; a vast, dazzling and trendy superstructure, cutting away from the past and attracting the nodding acceptance of the post-modern world.

As the ship's angle changed, she began to seem a little less elegant; perhaps even a little ungainly. Don't get me wrong, for such a gigantic vessel, she still provoked amazement regarding her ability to manoeuvre with such finesse. If Jonathan Swift could have thought of a speedboat for Gulliver to wash up in Lilliput, this could have been it. It's just that, from that angle and proximity, the countless grey looking windows, running back along the ship's starboard beam, began to take on the appearance of an enormous, wide and long high-rise apartment building. It was no longer the ship's shape, but the sheerness of her proportions which impressed.

Measuring 122,000 gross tonnage and with double-occupancy room for up to 2,852 passengers, plus crew, perhaps this should be no surprise to us.

Still, that angled side-view began to remind me of that theme of the eclipse again.

How the post-modern world had rapidly tired of the ''nu-church'' and its ever more crazy gesticulating to gain attention; a bit like an embarrasing older relative weaving on the dance floor at a family wedding. Remember those? Family weddings, I mean! The more the ''nu-church'' had seemed to be just like the world itself, the more the world had become bored and discontented with it. ''Nu-church'' had promised much, but ended up being just a bit too impersonal, even a little clinical. Her initial dazzle had given way to homogeneity. When the church is so like the world, then why would people choose to give up the world? ''Nu-church'' just did not seem to satisfy that inner longing for goodness, beauty and truth, which lies at the heart of every person in all ages. Only God's Truth can fill that need, can soothe that ache, can slake that thirst.

And with that the huge ship was past.

And all of a sudden the Dome of Home was still there in the evening sunshine. Standing there so redolent of Catholic Tradition, the church looked the very picture of that Beacon of Hope, which Bishop Mark Davies had described her as when he launched the church as a shrine of the ICKSP. A sort of spiritual lighthouse, if you will.

The post-modern had come and gone, the Church had been eclipsed but had then returned; revealing that, in all truth, she had never gone away anywhere in the first place. Firmly anchored to the Rock of Peter, it only seems for a moment that she has left us. Obscured, yes, hard to see, certainly, but still as surely and soundly there as is a mountain hidden by thick fog.

Blow me down if I didn't chuckle when the ship came closer along the coast and, through the haze of heat, I spotted her name emblazoned in big blue letters down her starboard bow.

Celebrity Eclipse...

''Eclipse'' - yes, that was really her name!

And ''Celebrity'' to boot.

I thanked God for this amusing little turn out and began to walk along the coast parallel to the vessel as it slid gracefully through the glassy sea; which stretched between sand and ship like a ruffled and steel coloured sheet, all glittering and merry with sun-sparkled diamonds.

Beyond the ship, a heat haze was obscuring the Welsh hills in the far distance; causing their lower halves to be obscured in a pale-blue, at times almost white, curtain, and allowing their upper reaches to be seen only as traces of feint bluish-grey against the light blue July sky of evening.

So rapid was the Celebrity Eclipse's movement that, before long she was turning out into sun-painted golden waters of the Irish Sea. The ship looked impressive again from this angle, with the rear and stepped forward decks at her stern giving her a lean and purposeful, ''go faster!'' look. That is quite remarkable when you think of the sheer scale of this hulking great ocean-going liner. Impressive indeed.

Bon Voyage, big ship!

As she became somehow ghostly-looking in the evening haze, I reflected that, just for a minute, the Celebrity Eclipse had seemed to resurrect the spirit of those glory days of Liverpool's maritime past. As she sailed away into the evening horizon, one remembered the stories of the White Star Line, the old movies of the busy docks, reports of the clatter of hammers on metal and books about views from the overhead railway, (the ''ovie'' in Scouse parlance). Of course, the frequent arrival and departure of such cruisers these days, and the immense cargo traffic going through the deep docks of Liverpool 2, now mean that the city is in many ways as buzy as she ever was. Still, it was a special moment seeing that beautiful big ship gliding across the Liverpudlian bay.

As I walked along, I passed an elderly fella in a baseball cap. He was looking wistfully out to sea and one could only imagine what memories he was drawing on. 

So easily distracted as I still am, I picked up with the Rosary again. At this, I turned to look back across to the Dome of Home and remembered the Real Presence of Our Blessed Lord on the High Altar in that noble old church.

That church which has come through so much: homecoming landmark to returning sailors during the Battle of the Atlantic; huge marker during the hottest fiery nights of the Luftwaffe's Blitz on Merseyside; years of Masses, confessions, weddings, funerals, processions, silent prayers; controversy and closure; lying dormant in the lean times; and its simply amazing resurrection as a popular, and life-giving, centre for the Traditional Liturgy and Eucharistic Adoration, in our own times. Yes, Ss Peter, Paul and Philomena, the Dome of Home church on the Wirral peninsula, has seen it all; and is still standing tall to tell the tale to yet another generation.

That proud church looked somehow homely now; nestled on the skyline, like a glazed honey pot on a cluttered shelf. Rotund and chummy, there was almost something maternal about her. A bit like your mother when a boisterous carnival has passed, ''Alright now, let's get the kettle on, luv!'' And normality returns. 

I like to think that this is how it will be when the eclipse of the Church finally passes. Eclipses, let us remember, do always pass. And certainly, those prophecies say it will be so with this one. And if they were so right about the coming of the eclipse, something which no one could have thought possible at the time they were given, then how can we doubt that they will also be right about its going away again? 

Of course, our job is to remain faithful in prayer and fidelity to the Truth in the meantime. The war is really already won by Our Blessed Lord, it is a case of both convincing the enemy that it is over, and of remaining on the winning side. 

Or of getting on it, if we are not already there! 

When the dust finally settles on the present, unprecedented, crisis, Holy Mother the Church will still be there, doing business as usual, as she always has, always is and always will be. 

A Beacon of Hope to a passing world.