My aunt Marie was a Catholic on her mother’s side and, though she was not especially ostentatious about this, it was clearly a vital aspect of her life. I remember once, when I was young and staying with her and her father at Palm Court, she was delighted when I said that I preferred to go to the Catholic church with her for Christmas. It was a time when I was trying to assert my independence, but did not feel quite bold enough to miss going to church altogether on days of obligation.
My uncle the Bishop was disappointed. He remarked when he came to lunch that day, in the tones of mock heartiness I had begun to realize meant he was serious, that he had not seen me in his church.
‘He came with me,’ Marie answered quickly, before I could say anything. ‘I took him to midnight mass last night. It was packed, but he enjoyed it, even the smells.’
She had warned me about these before, in explaining that her church attracted a vast range of people, some of whom would not be as hygienic as our own class. Some pride about this however came through in her tone of indulgence. I think that in a way this signified to her the universality of her church, as opposed to the essentially middle class character of the Anglicans.