Fr. George Rutler sent me an article about Oratorian Fr Sir Hugh Barrett-Lennard when he died.
Father Sir Hugh Barrett-Lennard, 6th Bt, who has died aged 89, was a greatly admired if highly eccentric priest of the London Oratory.
Pursuing a busy and eclectic apostolate in Knightsbridge, he was a dedicated parish visitor, so unconcerned about his appearance that he sometimes wore odd shoes; thus attired he would knock firmly on the doors of rich and poor alike.
He visited the Household Cavalry, and served as a chaplain to both the local St Thomas More school and the St Christopher cycling club, though his cassock occasionally became tangled in a bicycle wheel and had to be cut free. For a time (until his absentmindedness with keys led to concerns about security) he acted as an unofficial chaplain at Wormwood Scrubs prison, where his masses were said to be served by two prisoners known as Hammer and Sickle. He enjoyed recalling how he had once been served at Benediction by a thurifer who was a murderer and by two acolytes who had been convicted of causing grievous bodily harm.
In addition Barrett-Lennard gave devoted service as prefect of the lay organisation, the Brothers of the Little Oratory. He accompanied its youth club to the Isle of Eigg in the Inner Hebrides, where he was known as the "Pope of Eigg" and was in the habit of organising hunts for an imaginary haggis, which he encouraged with high-pitched shrieks like a peacock.
Noted for his piety, he was also admired for his unshockability and flexibility. He was once summoned to a room at the Oratory to find a woman who had removed all her clothes; Barrett-Lennard swathed her in a carpet. On another occasion, during the 1950s, a woman asked for confession outside church and he held up a tennis racket to serve as a grille, so that the separation of confessor and penitent was maintained.
As they say, read the whole thing.
Eternal Rest grant unto him O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
What an extraordinary man! He sounds like one of those delightfully daffy but deeply holy English priests in the tradition of Tony Hendra’s “Father Joe” or Chesterton’s Father Brown–almost a real life Father Brown, in fact. For that matter, I think Gerard Manley Hopkins had a couple of screws loose, too–and the world is richer for it because of his marvelous poetry. Oddballs make the world interesting.
The New Yorker always used to end stories like this tale with “There will always be an England.”
There is a wonderful story about Fr Hugh before he became a priest. He was commanding an advance party pursing German soldiers after the Normandy Landings,and found himself entering a village just as the Germans were retreating. To the cheering populace he announced ‘Je suis l’armee Brittanique’.
Wow, just two degrees of separation between me and the great Fr. Rutler – you’ve emailed me and he’s emailed you.
What a wonderfully eccentric priest! And what a colorful life he led! He was in the right Order-the Oratorians’ founder is St. Philip Neri, who had a delightful sense of humor!
jeff, isa ring katulad mo. pagpalain kayo ng maybahay mo lagi ng Diyos.