Tuesday, November 27, 2012

St Edward the Confessor

Edward dies, and his soul is received into heaven, attended by St John and St Peter. (image 63, page 29r)
From Life of St Edward the Confessor by Matthew Paris c. 1250
University of Cambridge

Cures at King Edward's tomb. (image 71, page 33r)
From Life of St Edward the Confessor by Matthew Paris c. 1250
University of Cambridge

One of the Treasures of the University of Cambridge Library Collection is the only copy of an illustrated Anglo-Norman verse Life of St Edward the Confessor, written in England probably in the later 1230s or early 1240s and, as preserved in a manuscript, executed c. 1250-60

There is strong evidence that Matthew Paris (d. 1259) was in fact the author

Edward was the  last king of the House of Wessex, ruling from 1042 to 1066. He was canonised in 1161 by Pope Alexander III

Pope Benedict XVI recalled his trip to Britain and in particular his visit to Westminster Abbey:
"In that same solemn atmosphere, I then went to Westminister Abbey. It was the first time that a Successor of Peter has entered that place of worship which symbolizes the very ancient Christian roots of the country. The recitation of Evening Prayer, together with the different Christian communities of the United Kingdom, was an important moment in relations between the Catholic Community and the Anglican Communion. When we venerated St Edward the Confessor together at his tomb, while the choir sang "Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor", we all praised God who is leading us on the path to full unity" 
(General Audience, Wednesday, 22 September 2010)

The Coffin of St Edward the Confessor in the Shrine at Westminster Abbey

Monday, November 26, 2012

Jesus cures the Deaf Man

Bartholomeus Breenbergh (1599-1657)
Jesus cures the Deaf Man / Jésus guérissant un sourd-muet 
Oil on wood
0.900 m. x 1.220 m. 
Musée du Louvre, Paris

The story behind this picture in the Louvre is from the Gospel of Mark

Not only is the man deaf but he has a speech impediment:
The Healing of a Deaf Man.  
31  Again he left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis.  
32 And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him.  
33 He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue;  
34 then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”)  
35 And [immediately] the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly.  
36 He ordered them not to tell anyone. But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it.  
37 They were exceedingly astonished and they said, “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and [the] mute speak.” 
(Mark 7 : 31 - 37)

The theme of the painting is an unusual one. It is the only example in the Bible of a deaf person where his deafness is the centre of the episode.

For modern readers, it is quite difficult to understand the magnitude of what Christ did in this event

If one was born deaf, then the ability to speak is impaired

In past times, the deaf and those unable to speak were harshly treated. 

Some advocated that hearing was a requirement for understanding. 

In the Code of Justinian, the deaf (from birth) could not hold property or marry.

A few days ago, 24th November 2012 was  the three hundredth anniversary of the birth of a French priest who helped to radically alter the status of people who were deaf or who had a speech impediment: Abbé Charles-Michel de l'Épée (November 24, 1712,  - December 23, 1789)

French school
Abbé Charles-Michel de l'Epée (1712-1789)
Oil on canvas
0.360 m. x 0.260 m
Châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon, Versailles

Like many other priests and religious whose names are now revered today, he did not find it easy to pursue his religious vocation. He was refused ordination and after eventually being ordained, was restricted heavily in his priestly ministry

His particular problem was deemed to be Jansenism

As a result he devoted himself to the education of the deaf and those with speech impediments and founded a school for their instruction at his own expense. It was the first free public school of its type in the world, open to all

By his sign system and his public advocacy he laid the foundations of all systematic instruction of the deaf and speech impaired

His work amomg the poor led to comparisons with Vincent de Paul

It has to be said that this did not go well with the hierarchy and Church establishment of his time.

It was his great fervour for religious education which led him into this field. The deaf and the speech impaired were marginalised. 

He was convinced that deaf people were capable of language and  that they should be able to receive the sacraments and thus avoid going to hell.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Porta Fidei ?

Pope Benedict XVI at the Famiglia Sagrada in Barcelona

Pope Benedict XVI kicked off The Year of Faith thus:
“The “door of faith” (Acts 14:27) is always open for us, ushering us into the life of communion with God and offering entry into his Church.
It is possible to cross that threshold when the word of God is proclaimed and the heart allows itself to be shaped by transforming grace.
To enter through that door is to set out on a journey that lasts a lifetime.
It begins with baptism (cf. Rom 6:4), through which we can address God as Father, and it ends with the passage through death to eternal life, fruit of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, whose will it was, by the gift of the Holy Spirit, to draw those who believe in him into his own glory (cf. Jn 17:22).
To profess faith in the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – is to believe in one God who is Love (cf. 1 Jn 4:8): the Father, who in the fullness of time sent his Son for our salvation; Jesus Christ, who in the mystery of his death and resurrection redeemed the world; the Holy Spirit, who leads the Church across the centuries as we await the Lord’s glorious return.”
Pope Benedict XVI  Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei – Indiction ofthe Year of Faith

The Jesuits in Britain have announced that they will be handing over the set of keys for one Door of Faith - the Sacred Heart Parish in Wimbledon -  to the Archdiocese of Southwark.

The Jesuits have been in the Parish for 130 years

The Father Provincial explained the reasons in a letter to parishioners:

“The development of the Wimbledon mission took place when the British Jesuits were expanding their works and apostolates across the world. The needs were many, but the resources (thanks be to God) were forthcoming and that allowed this expansive dynamic to gain traction – in the Caribbean, Southern Africa and in other parts of the globe as well as major city and rural areas across England, Scotland and Wales. Schools, parishes and retreat centres began at the service of a growing Catholic population in Victorian society.
However, these times have changed; and although the Church is now growing strongly in parts of the globe which were formally seen as ‘mission territories’, the resources now available to the British Province in 2012 are a fraction of what were available in years gone by. I will share one fact with you that hopefully will illustrate this: in the early 1960s the British Province numbered almost 1000 Jesuits; whereas today, scattered across the globe, there are fewer than 200 British Jesuits.”

As Good Jesuit, Bad Jesuit pointed out, the number of British Jesuits has shrunk by almost 80% in less than a generation

As at 1st October 2011, the number of Jesuits in Britain was 189: 159 Priests; 16 Brothers; and 14 scholastics (training to be priests)

Only three novices were accepted in 2011

18 members of the Society work in the South Africa Region. 21 members of the Society work in the Guyana Region

In this connection, the annual accounts of the Jesuit Order in Britain in terms of The Society of Jesus Trust of 1929 for Roman Catholic Purposes (incorporating The Society of Jesus Trust of 1921 and the Society of Jesus Charitable Trust) can be inspected on the website of The Charity Commission forEngland and Wales

From the report of the Trustees one can see that there are also references to other Jesuit sponsored or linked Charities in Britain which are not included in the main Report and Accounts (e.g. St Aloysius Charitable Fund)

From the 2011 accounts, the Jesuits appear to be committing a great deal of their resources to Heythrop College in London. They seem to be betting the house on it

A note to the accounts says:
“Heythrop college was purchased in February 2009. 
£27.176m was paid in cash at the completion date. A further £10m is payable over a period of 5 years in £2m instalments with the first payment due in December 2009. 
At 30 September 2011, £9.5m was payable, £2m due within one year (shown in deferred creditors- amounts falling due within one year) and £7.5m is payable with 2- 5 years (shown in deferred creditor-amounts falling due over one year). 
Interest at 3.5% per annum will be charged on these amounts, totalling £1,330,000 of interest payable. This will be included in the accounts when due. 
A further amount of £3.5m is also payable as part of the purchase price. This is included as grants committed - creditors due over one year. This relates to the payment for St Catherine's House and is due when the current occupiers vacate the premises."
 Of the College, the Report states:
“The College, formerly the Jesuit seminary, receives substantial support in staff and other resources from the Trust. The intellectual apostolate of the Society in Britain is centred on Heythrop. Last year, over forty Jesuits from other Provinces come to study and live in London, which is now a Jesuit European centre for formation. 
Honorary Degrees were this year conveyed on Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Rt Rev. Professor Tom Wright, Rev. Kevin Fox SJ, and Rev. Roy Dorey”

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

To see a Landscape as it is

Roni Horn, (born 1955) 
Aluminium and plastic 
51 x 1623 x 1222 mm, 250kg 
Tate Modern, London

The line is from 'Gravity and Grace' by Simone Weil (3 February 1909 – 24 August 1943) the French philosopher, Christian mystic, and social activist.

Simone Weil is buried in Brybrook Cemetery, Ashford, Kent. She died in exile as one of the Free French Forces during the Second World War

Pope Paul VI said that Weil was one of his three greatest influences

Albert Camus in a letter to Weil's mother in 1951 wrote:
"Simone Weil, I still know this now, is the only great mind of our times and I hope that those who realise this have enough modesty to not try to appropriate her overwhelming witnessing."
Others greatly in admiration of her and influenced by her were: the politician Maurice Schumann,and  the poets T. S. Eliot and Wallace Stevens

She described the three great experiences on her road towards Christianity

The first was in 1937 in Assisi:
""In 1937 I had two marvelous days at Assisi. There, alone in the little twelfth century Romanesque chapel of Santa Maria degli Angeli, an incomparable marvel of purity where Saint Francis often used to pray, something stronger than I was compelled me for the first time in my life to go down on my knees." (Spiritual Autobiography).
In 1938 she went to the abbey of Solesmes to follow the Easter week services. She heard Gregorian chant and was introduced to  the English metaphysical poets, and in particular the works of the Anglican divine George Herbert 

Later that year while  reciting Herbert's poem Love III  she felt Christ's presence. She said of this experience 
"It was during one of these recitations [of George Herbert's poem, Love] that, as I told you, Christ himself came down and took possession of me.... Moreover, in this sudden possession of me by Christ, neither my senses nor my imagination had any part; I only felt in the midst of my suffering the presence of a love, like that which one can read in the smile on a beloved face"
In 1941, she prayed for the first time  by reciting the Our Father in the original Greek.Of this experience she wrote:
"At times the very first words tear my thoughts from my body and transport it to a place outside space where there is neither perspective nor point of view. The infinity of the ordinary expanses of perception is replaced by an infinity to the second or sometimes the third degree. At the same time, filling every part of this infinity of infinity, there is silence, a silence which is not an absence of sound but which is the object of a positive sensation, more positive than that of sound. Noises, if there are any, only reach me after crossing this silence.  
Sometimes, also, during this recitation or at other moments, Christ is present with me in person, but his presence is infinitely more real, more moving, more clear than on that first occasion when he took possession of me.
She wrote on many subjects and her works have inspired many

In Gravity and Grace she wrote:
"“There are four evidences of divine mercy here below. The favours of God to beings capable of contemplation (these states exist and form part of their experience as creatures). The radiance of these beings, and their compassion, which is the divine compassion in them. The beauty of the world. The fourth evidence is the complete absence of mercy here below.” 
Also she wrote:
"“In all that awakens within us the pure and authentic sentiment of beauty, there, truly, is the presence of God. There is a kind of incarnation of God in the world, of which beauty is the sign. Beauty is the experimental proof that incarnation is possible. For this reason all art of the first order is, by its nature, religious.”

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Seventh Seal

The iconic scene above is from Ingmar Bergman`s The Seventh Seal

It shows the scene of  the knight's first meeting with death

Death appears to the knight and tells him it is his time. The knight challenges Death to a chess game for his life. Part of the famous scene is at YouTube at the following link

The film is highlighted in an exhibition entitled Death: A Self-portrait which is a free exhibition at The Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road, London 

The aim of the exhibition is to explore "the iconography of death and our complex and contradictory attitudes towards it."

Unfortunately the exhibition seems to take a very superficial view of the subject. It seems to adopt  a "scientific" sociological viewpoint

One "bright spot" in the exhibition is the section is "Stories from the Day Hospice"

Chrissie Giles spent time at the day hospice at Princess Alice Hospice, Esher, running a creative writing group and posted on her experiences there 

Unfortunately again there seems to be lacking a discussion of the Christian vision which underlies the modern hospice movement in Britain and in particular the work of the great Anglican Dame Cicely Saunders

One should also be aware of the sterling work in this area of the Daughters of the Cross of Liège

Thursday, November 15, 2012

American Sublime

Frederic Edwin Church 1826 -1900 
Oil on canvas 28 x 42 in. (71.1 x 106.8 cm)

Frederic Edwin Church 1826 -1900  
Cotopaxi 1862. 
Oil on canvas, 48 x 85 inches. 
Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit

Frederic Edwin Church 1826 -1900  
Eruption at Cotopaxi, ca. 1865. 
Oil on canvas, 9-9/16 x 17-1/16 inches. 
Private collection.

Frederic Edwin Church 1826 -1900 
Aurora Borealis
Oil on canvas 56 x 83 1/2 in. (142.3 x 212.2 cm) 

Ten years ago the Tate Gallery in Britain had a wonderful exhibition entitled American Sublime: Landscape Painting in the United States 1820-1880

It featured revelatory, epic landscapes painted in nineteenth-century America

The works of these American artists were shown in nineteenth-century London and admired by Queen Victoria. However in present day Britain the works of the Hudson River School have been scarcely seen outside the United States and therefore not largely known about outside the US and not properly appreciated

One of the American artists celebrated was Frederic Edwin Church (May 4, 1826 – April 7, 1900)

While committed to the natural sciences, he was "always concerned with including a spiritual dimension in his works"  See William H. Gerdts The Worlds of Frederic Edwin Church

What they celebrate are what Turner and the early English Romantics tried to capture in their works and what Hopkins called “God`s grandeur” or Man`s response to the great works of creation

At the heart was the popularisation of Burke`s philosophy of the sublime

It was this response which Pope Benedict XVI referred to in his recent catechesis on Faith when he said:
“St. Augustine, who during his life long sought the Truth and was seized by it, has a beautiful and famous page, in which he states: 
"Question the beauty of the earth, question the beauty of the sea, question the beauty of the air, amply spread out everywhere, question the beauty of the sky... question all these things. They all answer you: 'Here we are, look; we're beautiful'. Their beauty is their confession. Who made these beautiful changeable things, if not one who is beautiful and unchangeable? "(Sermons, 241, 2: PL 38, 1134). 

I think we need to recover and help our contemporaries recover the ability to contemplate creation, its beauty, its structure. 
The world is not a shapeless magma; rather the more we know about it, the more we discover its amazing mechanisms, the more we see a design, we see that there is a creating intelligence. 
Albert Einstein said that in the laws of nature "a mind so superior is revealed that in comparison, our minds are like a totally insignificant reflection" (Il Mondo come lo vedo io, 'The World as I See It', Rome 2005).  
Thus, a first way leading to the discovery of God is the careful contemplation of creation.”

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Père Lachaise

Paul-Albert Bartholomé 
Monument aux morts.
700 cm x 1400 cm
Cimetière du Père Lachaise, Paris

Père Lachaise Cemetery was opened on 21 May 1804

More than one million people have been buried there. It is estimated that the remains of more than 2 million people are there

It is of course renowned as the cemetery of the famous such as Peter Abelard , Honoré de Balzac , Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres and  many many others

Bartholomé`s monument is dedicated to all the dead, known and unknown, in the cemetery

It is also the front of the cemetery`s ossuary

The French conception of the cemetery has changed over the years. The middle class had its « un culte des morts ». The Rationalists had their « champ des morts ». With family tombs one had the « ville des morts »

In the late nineteenth century the idea of  «honorer les morts » was fanned by commercial interests

All of this was before the twentieth century where the experience of « mort de masse »  or« mort de tous » began with the First World War

Recently in the Mass of Suffrage for Deceased Popes and Cardinals, the Pope discussed what on the face of it appears to be the rather strange practice of visiting graves in a cemetery, a practice which in some places is fast falling into desuetude

"[V]isiting cemeteries has helped us to renew our bond with the loved ones who have left us; death, paradoxically, preserves that which life cannot hold onto.  
The way our dead lived, what they loved, feared and hoped, what they rejected, we discover, in fact, in a special way precisely at their graves, which are almost a mirror of their existence, of their world: they speak to us and lead us to renew the dialogue that death brought to a crisis.  
Thus, the cemeteries constitute a kind of assembly in which the living meet their dead and strengthen the bonds of communion that death was unable to interrupt.  
And here in Rome, in these unique cemeteries that are the catacombs, we notice, as in no other place, our link to ancient Christianity, which we feel quite near to us.  
When we enter into the corridors of the Roman catacombs – just as when we enter the cemeteries of our own cities and towns – it is as if we have crossed over a spiritual threshold and entered into communication with them whose past, with its joys and sorrows, failures and hopes, they safeguard.  
This happens because death regards the man of today in the same way that it regarded the man of the past; moreover, even if many things of the past have become foreign to us, death has remained the same. 
In the face of this reality, human beings of every age seek a glimmer of light that permits hope, that still speaks of life, and visiting cemeteries expresses this desire too."

Thursday, November 08, 2012

St Paul addressing the Corinthians

Attributed to Manerius
St Paul addressing the Corinthians
Initial `P` at the beginning of Chapter 1 of St Paul`s First Letter to the Corinthians
From the Bible of Manerius 
About 1185-1195 
Ms. 0010 f. 256v 
Bibl. Sainte-Geneviève -Paris

St Paul addressing the Corinthians
Initial `P` at the beginning of Chapter 1 of St Paul`s First Letter to the Corinthians
From the Bible of  Souvigny 
End of 12th century
Ms. 0001  f. 369v 

Saint Paul and Sosthenes addressing the Corinthians
From Commentary by Petrus Lombardus  on St Paul`s First Letter to the Corinthians
End of 12th Century
Ms. 0077  f. 065 
Bibl. Sainte-Geneviève - Paris

Each illustration from the 12th century shows the beginning of the First Epistle of St Paul to the Corinthians

The epistle was written at Ephesus between the years 56 and 58

The third set above shows Sosthenes ("saving strength") beside Paul who was  with Paul when he composed the epistle . A rather mysterious figure who has intrigued scholars. 

"1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, 
2 to the church of God that is in Corinth, to you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy, with all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours. 
3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. ... 
10 I urge you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose. 
11 For it has been reported to me about you, my brothers, by Chloe’s people, that there are rivalries among you. 
12 I mean that each of you is saying, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” 
13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 
14 I give thanks [to God] that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 
15 so that no one can say you were baptized in my name. 
16 (I baptized the household of Stephanas also; beyond that I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 
17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with the wisdom of human eloquence, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning. 
18 The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 
19 For it is written: 
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the learning of the learned I will set aside.” 
St Paul  First Letter to the Corinthians 1: 1 - 3, 10 - 19

It was the beginning of this epistle which was referred to extensively in the Report of the Joint Commission for Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Methodist Council

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Memento Mori

In the early 1990s the BBC produced an excellent film version of Muriel Spark`s Memento Mori

It starred many notables of stage and screen including the incomparable Dame Maggie Smith as the villainous Mabel Pettigrew

There are also great performances by Dame Thora Hird (a British institution) as Mrs Taylor and Stephanie Cole as Lottie

Also but not least in the cast were Michael Hordern, Maurice Denham, Cyril Cusack,Zoe Wannamaker, John Wood, and Renée Asherson

It can also be seen in Youtube in 7 parts. Here is the link to Part 1 of 7:

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Memento Mori, or Do not Live on the Whites of Eggs

Andy Warhol 1922 - 1987
Skull 1976
Acrylic and silkscreen ink on linen 
182.9 x 203.2cm  
The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh 
 © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Inc

In his Blog recently Father Z recently exhorted  his readers Memento mori!

He linked to the blog  Art of Manliness where there was a good post about Memento Mori art and its history

The call to remember death is a recurrent theme in the history of art from the very beginnings

Father explained the Latin command: “Be mindful of death!” or more expansively“Don’t forget that you are going to die so repent, confess your sins, and live a virtuous life!”

It is a welcome reminder of the Catholic position when the newspapers in the United Kingdom 
have been filled with stories about the so called Liverpool Care Pathway

Once on the pathway, it would appear that there is no turning back

One is of course also reminded of the great novel by Muriel Spark simply entitled Memento Mori

It has been described as one of the great novels of the 1950s

It is a humorous novel, a subversive satire in the guise of an English detective novel

"Reading detective stories was one of the characteristic aspects of the British middle classes in the interwar years. Their emphasis on rationality, the inevitable triumph of justice and the existence of an unofficial super-detective tells us much about interwar Britain. So, too, do the stock characters and unstated prejudices in these works: country folk and domestic servants were almost always depicted as halfwits, butlers (who almost never ‘did it’) were always too fond of their master’s wine cellar; women were usually highly moral and often depicted in a two dimensional way"
Spark turns this all upside down

Set in 1950s England the novel concerns a large number of elderly characters who have been receiving phone calls from a disembodied voice telling them, “Remember you must die.” 

The police are called in. They suspect the elderly complainants are hallucinating. For many the "victims"  live in a world in which the reality of death is not quite believable. 

The police chief inspector called in to investigates fails to solve the mystery. No culprit is discovered and all including the police inspector die.

All the victims are in their 70s. All have lived through the First World War, the Second World War, the Korean War and now the horrendous threat underlying the Cold War

“Being over seventy,” one of them observes, “is like being engaged in a war. All our friends are going or gone and we survive amongst the dead and dying as on a battlefield.”

But we see snobbery, greed, blackmail and  even violence on the battlefield. We hear stories  of disappointed lives, and see how  the ravages of time can reduce crotchety adults to behaving like spiteful children

It is the reaction to the telephone calls which triggers the drama

One of the real villains of the piece Miss Pettigrew receives one call inviting her to remember her death. She dismisses it and promptly forgets it. She continues on her merry way to Hell

The Sparkian disdain for this character is unforgettable:
Mabel Pettigrew thought: I can read him like a book. She had not read a book for over forty years, could never concentrate on reading, but this nevertheless was her thought

Some react in fear and change their Will for the umpteenth time Granny Valvona and Granny Barnacle residents in the Maud Long Ward in the State Hospital are among those of the cast of characters who punish those have slighted them by making and remaking their Wills. Even although they have absolutely nothing to leave

The great Rationalist, the detective, Henry Mortimer, a good man, sees the caller as Death itself. He merely sees this life as all we have and we must do good and not evil. Why is not explained.

He suggests that ""to remember one's death is, in short, a way of life" 

He says:
'If I had my life over again I should form the habit of nightly composing myself to thoughts of death. I would practise, as it were, the remembrance of death. There is no other practice which so intensifies life. Death, when it approaches, ought not to take one by surprise. It should be part of the full expectancy of life. Without an ever-present sense of death life is insipid. You might as well live on the white of eggs.'

The other Rationalist is Charmian`s husband Godfrey Colston who considers Charmian`s memory   lapses are the sign that she is losing her humanity

For him the human power of memory is central to being human:
‘Memory’ labels a diverse set of cognitive capacities by which we retain information and reconstruct past experiences, usually for present purposes. Memory is one of the most important ways by which our histories animate our current actions and experiences. Most notably, the human ability to conjure up long-gone but specific episodes of our lives is both familiar and puzzling, and is a key aspect of personal identity. Memory seems to be a source of knowledge. We remember experiences and events which are not happening now, so memory differs from perception. We remember events which really happened, so memory is unlike pure imagination. Yet, in practice, there can be close interactions between remembering, perceiving, and imagining.. 
Much of our moral and social life depends on the peculiar ways in which we are embedded in time.
Sutton, John, "Memory", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2010 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)

At first we are invited and do share this view of Charmian and others. The great dread and disgrace is to be considered senile/

The two heroines of the novel are two women: Charmian and her former housekeeper and companion MissTaylor, both Catholics. 

They are the ones who deal with the telephone calls best

Charmian was a novelist and in the beginning is presented as almost senile but as the novel progresses we realise that she is not

Charmian gets a call to which she replies
“My memory is failing in certain respects. I am gone eighty-six. But somehow I do not forget my death, whenever that may be.”
“Delighted to hear it,” he said. Goodbye for now.” 
Charmian practises in the context of her Christian faith a self-examination of her day. Her husband argues that is important for the preservation of memory. But Charmian will have none of it. It is
conducted as part of her belief in Judgment and Eternal Life. The self evaluation is founded on a desire to lead a better life.

Miss Taylor is now an invalid hospitalised in constant and chronic pain. She is the patient Job like figure who is  the moral centre of the book

It is she who maintains a balanced proportionate and wise response to the "crisis"

When her visitor, Dame Lettie, complains about the telephone calls, Jean recommends that she should try to do what the caller says. "It is difficult for people of advanced years to start remembering they must die," she says. "It is best to form the habit while young." The unregenerate Lettie concludes Jean must be getting senile

Jean Taylor says, “In my belief, the author of the anonymous calls is Death himself, as you might say.” 

Both Charmian and Miss Taylor have a belief that "The four last things to be ever remembered are  Death, Judgement, Hell and Heaven." 

This quotation from The Catholic Cathecism is in the prologue of the novel and repeated at the conclusion. At the end after Spark provides a rollcall of the dead we are told thatJean Taylor “lingered for a time … meditating sometimes … upon Death, the first of the Four Last Things.” 

The doctrines of the last things (Eschatology) remind us that  the fact is that death can come at any time and after that we shall have our Particular judgment, when our fate will be sealed for eternity. 

Yet the great consolation  is that nothing is settled yet and that we have it completely within our power to opt for God, for Heaven and for happiness

But the centre of  eschatology is the Resurrection of Christ

"The subject of the Resurrection on which we reflected last week unfolds a new perspective, that of the expectation of the Lord's return. It thus brings us to ponder on the relationship among the present time, the time of the Church and of the Kingdom of Christ, and the future (éschaton) that lies in store for us, when Christ will consign the Kingdom to his Father (cf. 1 Cor 15: 24). 
Every Christian discussion of the last things, called eschatology, always starts with the event of the Resurrection; in this event the last things have already begun and, in a certain sense, are already present.... 
The same thing and the same connection between parusia the return of the Judge/Saviour and our commitment in our lives appears in another context and with new aspects in the Letter to the Philippians.  
Paul is in prison, awaiting a sentence that might be condemnation to death. In this situation he is reflecting on his future existence with the Lord, but he is also thinking of the community of the Philippians who need their father, Paul, and he writes: 
"For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the flesh, that means productive toil for me and I do not know which to prefer. I am strongly attracted by both: I long to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; yet it is more urgent that I remain alive for your sakes. This fills me with confidence that I will stay with you, and persevere with you all, for your joy and progress in the faith. My being with you once again should give you ample cause to glory in Christ" (1: 21-26). 
Paul has no fear of death; indeed, on the contrary, death indicates being totally with Christ.  
Yet Paul also shares in the sentiments of Christ who did not live for himself but for us. 
Living for others becomes his life and plan thus demonstrates his perfect readiness to do God's will, to do whatever God decides. Above all he is prepared, in the future as well, to live on this earth for others, to live for Christ, to live for his living presence and thus for the renewal of the world.  
We see that his being with Christ creates an broad inner freedom: freedom in the face of the threat of death but also freedom in the face of all life's commitments and sufferings. He is simply at God's disposal and truly free."