A great place for catching up with old friends, is Walsingham. The last four days FCP held its annual Pilgrimage/Retreat/Conference, and very good it was. Well attended, but also very well addressed. Fr Owen Higgs spoke about Keble, Fr William Davage tackled Pusey, and Fr Jonathan Baker gave his paper on Newman. When the next FCP Acta comes out, it will be worth binding in vellum and putting on library shelves - terrific talks all of them, making us re-assess our (or at least my) rather simplistic ideas about Keble the Poet, Pusey the Scholar and Newman the giant of them all. Especially good to be given these progenitors of the Oxford Movement in the new dawn of Anglicanorum Coetibus.
The Administrator of the Shrine, Bishop Lindsay Urwin OGS, gave us generously of his time - and spoke from the heart about the competing pressures he feels just now; pressures which, in smaller ways, many of us would echo.
Brother Paschal SSF made up the Staggers quartet. He was our Chaplain, and I have never found the holy mile from the slipper chapel more devotional or helpful than under his leadership.
The organisation of these few days is in the hands of the FCP executive, but none works harder than the Chairman, Fr Stephen Bould, or the Secretary General, Fr Brian Tubbs. Both will continue in office (by acclamation) with the intention of keeping the Federation on as even a keel as possible during the impending next stage of the 'parting of friends'. Many of the younger priests are likely to have moved on before the 2011 Pilgrimage.
Among other friends who just turned up while we were there I met Fr Paul Berrett and June, who were holidaying nearby. They are an advertisement for retirement, looking and sounding well and happy. I am due at Fr Paul's former church, St Francis' Bournemouth, on Sunday, so shall be able to take their greetings to his ex-parishioners.
It was not all old chums; there were new ones, too, and it was a delight to meet Fr Lee Kenyon and his people from Canada. I had heard about their parish from Fr Ed Tomlinson's blog, and it was good to discover such an enthusiastic bunch, delighted to be able to respond to the Pope's offer.
A Retreat is partly a time for looking back; and although priests are tempted to say "Parish X where I served has gone to the dogs" or "I wonder what good I did in parish Y" it was a great personal boost for me to recall that our three main speakers and the chaplain had all been students at St Stephen's House in my time there. I claim no credit for myself in their scholarship or piety; only, perhaps, in having had the wit to offer all four of them places at the House.