Clearly the grave had been freshly disturbed. There had been movement. This was visible by the raised earth, and dislodged crucifix. The lush, thick blanket of virgin snow around the grave, glistening in the night under a full moon, showed no sign of footprints. Unusually at this hour, the tall, heavy iron cemetery gates were wide open, and a faint smell of incense mixed with car fumes hung in the crisp, cold air. There were no tyre tracks!
The cemetery, (Fairmile, Henley on Thames), faded into the snowy background as the curious object, a hearse-like, shiny black limousine sped silently down the Marlow Road, leaving in its wake no tyre tracks but just a faint gust of wind, which traded playfully with the spidery trees, their spindly branches shedding puffs of powdery snow. Otherwise, all was serene. A white darkness.
This ghost of a limousine with three figures, draped in black and purple capes, and large hats, peered out of the windows, and bore down on its destination – Fawley Court! The limousine glided effortlessly through Fawley Court’s infamous, and impenetrable gates – ’The Gates of Cherrilow’ – momentarily fragmenting them into a million diamond snowflakes, and raced on.
The mysterious limousine drew up outside the portal of Christopher Wren’s, and Polonia’s magnificent Fawley Court palace. Out stepped Pope John Paul II (Karol Woytyła), Prymas Stefan Wyszyński, and Father Józef Jarzębowski.
“We have with us Fr. Józef, we have re-claimed him!” They exclaimed loudly, mischievously and joyfully – like naughty schoolboys. Our magnificent brick, Christmas-red building, lit up like a firework; “Hurrah” whooped the boys.
The three holy personages were greeted by no other than the Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman, and… Father Andrzej Janicki – “Mousey” as the boys at the school nicknamed him. Rector of Divine Mercy College (1960s-1970s), and then Superior at Fawley Court, Father Andrzej Janicki was a staunch and tireless opponent of the sale of Polonia’s unique heritage. He earned the nickname “Mousey” thanks to his uncanny way of often (legitimately) creeping up on the boys, and uncovering their pranks, and misdeeds – “Now you see me, now you don’t…”. All not unusual, given Father Janicki’s love of science fiction, and the Godly forces of the world beyond us. His novel Porwany w przestrzeń (Kidnapped in Space, Veritas, 1959), makes wonderful reading. A marvelous cartoon by the talented pupil Waldek Wiecieżyński, depicting Mousey with twitching whiskers, and grin, from ear to ear, hangs in Father Janicki’s headmaster’s office in the barracks.
The group, the snow crumpling under their feet against the pea-shingle, and under the watchful, serene stare of the silver winter moon, made their way into the main building. Here all was boisterous fun. The boys were excited by the thought of more presents. Św. Mikołaj (St Nicholas), had of course been and gone, but now there was Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to deal with. The marble chessboard-floor of the main vestibule as well as the adjoining refectory were decked out in long tables, waltzing white table-cloths (under which at one spot was the traditional hay representing the manger in which the new born Jesus was laid in), together with an array of shining plates and cutlery, (and one spare plate for the special unexpected guest), all ready for a Polish Christmas banquet – WIGILIA !
The boys assembled excitedly in the Grinling Gibbons Room. Father Józef was the first to speak. He spoke of his pleasure at seeing all the boys, and paid homily especially of course to the birth of Jesus. As always, a lovely Christmas tree with the star of Bethlehem atop, and crib, with baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the three wise men, sheep, and whole menagerie, was proudly visible by the ornate mantelpiece wherein glowed a warm log fire. Vyvian Ekkel, our organist, was gently playing the touching gospel pop song Crying in the Chapel a hit by Elvis Presley.
Then, somewhat surprisingly Father Jozef offered the boys a large silver platter, but with just one grain of rice on it! The boys’ dumbfounded expression said it all. Father Józef went on: “The solitary rice grain represents both how to deal with little, frugality, and how best to make the most of what little in famine (spiritual, moral as well as material), we have... Alternatively it speaks of greed, the greedy, and how they remorselessly gnaw away at our resources, leaving little – if anything at all.”
Father Józef explained that during his time in Japan, he had picked up all kinds of wondrous stories, parables if you will. This was just a little bit much moral philosophy for the boys, especially with the enticing smells of delicious food dancing teasingly under their nostrils. But they got the message; need against greed. Let’s all chew (feed) on one grain of rice. Hardly. Father Jozef teased the boys no longer…
The boys, teachers, priests, brothers, and staff, all took their seats, with of course Father Jozef, Pope John Paul II, Blessed John Henry Newman, and Father Janicki at the head of the table. And what delicious fare was bought in. All the traditional delights, sumptuously and expertly cooked (for a change – perhaps Gesslers were already here?), of a Polish Wigilia were served under candlelight; grzybowa z pęczakiem, śledź, pierogi z kapustą i grzybami, pierogi wileńskie (słodka kapusta i rodzynki), barszcz w filiżance i paszteciki, karp faszerowany, jajka faszerowane, karp wędzony, kapusta z grzybami… and karp duszony po polsku!
This ninth item on the menu, karp duszony po polsku was the special idea of, and gift from Pope John Paul II, who as the young Karol Wojtyła thrived on the special Carp fish netted from the Zator lakes, around Krakow. Its taste, and freshwater succulence was something to behold. Indeed, the boys normally very fussy about taking on fish, ate this carp, dish-fish, with relish! And so the resplendent repast continued… pierogi z makiem polane miodem (niebo w gębie – heaven for the palate), kompot z suszu, ciasta (dwa rodzaje)… all accompanied by moderate portions of superb Lafitte, Montrachet, Puilly Fume, or Talbot wines. The boys were even allowed a glass of Champagne! (Vintage Ruinard, no less…).
And so the fun continued. Presents, masses of them were distributed. Everyone got what they wanted. But now the magic moment, Pasterka, was descending.
The five ‘holy’ personages took their leave of the table… but first they inspected Father Jarzębowski’s museum and library. All was intact in the magnificent James Wyatt rooms. Just as Fr Jozef and Polonia had so painstakingly toiled for. The precious books, old Polish bibles, paintings, manuscripts, sculptures, busts, swords, medals, coins, and so on, they were all here. Even the old Japanese kimonos, and wood prints/designs (Ubiko uye), Father Jozef had brought with him from his far eastern travels, were back at Fawley Court. He was pleased.
The five personages leave behind them the din of merriment, and trudge through the heavy snow, their shadows caught by the moon’s vigilant gaze towards St Anne’s. They walk, with all due solemnity, by Magdalena Sawicka’s fourteen stations of the cross. From St Annes’ Church,can be heard the most wondrous rendering of Crying in the Chapel:
…You saw me crying in the chapel,
The tears I shared, were tears of Joy,
I know the meaning of contentment,
I am happy with the Lord.
Just a plain, and simple chapel,
WHERE ALL GOOD PEOPLE GO TO PRAY.
The five ‘holy’ luminaries enter into much serious discourse about the plight of Fawley Court, and Father Józef in particular, who laments his own extraordinary treatment at the hands of his Marian ‘family’ and ‘brothers’: “Heaven – if that is the right term – only knows what they want of me. I arrive in my casket from Switzerland, feted by all, rest in Peace at Fawley Court, for near half a century... then there is a formal request to cremate(!) me... I am confused on the exhumation papers with Father Wojciech Jasinski MIC... It is he who (as a living person) is put down to be exhumed(!) My candidature for beatification is hushed over... withdrawn. The same Jasiński MIC is charged by the Police, prosecuted by the CPS, for the illicit removal of human remains of our beloved Wituś (Orłowski)... Jasinski MIC then absconds to the Vatican City, Rome. Tombstones of mine, and Wituś’s are mishandled... Wituś’s in fact is desecrated and left abandoned in the Oxford Road... I am mercilessly, and mercenarily tossed about from one plot to another... All against my wishes, and the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church... Quo Vadis... Pontius Pilate, where art thou..?! All so strange... stranger than fiction...”
Indeed, very strange and so unedifying remark in compassionate unison the other four, calming the slightly agitated Father Jozef: “Look, the boys are on their way to join in the Pasterka, (Midnight Mass).”
The boys, all merry and in high spirits, are making the most of the lush snow. Pockets of snowball fights ensue among different groups. They jump around as if in a pantomime. Snowballs are flying everywhere: “he’s behind you... oh no he isn’t... oh yes he is,” Oops ! There goes one of Christopher Wren’s panes – a huge glass window. English Heritage won’'t be pleased. But that is the least of Fawley Court’s problems for 2013, as more court actions are planned, with more mysteries to be revealed.
The White Darkness lifted... Wesołych Świąt everyone cries out Father Józef... Wesołych Świąt echo back the boys...