Sunday, 9 August 2020

The gentle breeze

Today's first reading in Mass spoke of Elijah's hearing God in the gentle breeze. The icon shows him listening hard. That breeze does not have to be purely spiritual or "internal". It can be something small, even casual or passing.

Twice today people have thanked me for small efforts. And one was nothing but a quick response to a Facebook posting.  A lady who was one of our housekeepers in St Francis, Ely,  had her 88th birthday today and her daughter took her out for a meal then posted pictures of it on her page. It brought back many memories of important years there, 1989-97, difficult sometimes but very fulfilling. The birthday girl was very much part of the team, keeping the presbytery going and Father's tummy well supplied. So I just added a comment for best wishes and love, remembering old times.  Quick as a flash, daughter came back and said my quick comment had made her Mum's day.


As the saying goes, it doesn't take much to reach out.  I suppose doing work in 3 churches and a big job for the diocese in canon law, it can be easy to forget these little things. I always remind myself, the Church - and the world - is made up of people, each with a story, all of us with our joys and hopes, our fears and sadnesses. 

So let the gentle breeze of your words and love blow this week, and, through that, the very breath of God. 

Friday, 7 August 2020

If it's September...

We're in August, so September is on its way. For 30 years September has meant pilgrimage time for me with the aptly named "September Pilgrims". Last year unfortunately it was at the time of our lovely trip to Burgundy that my arthritis flared up, so I withdrew from any plans for this year. A reduced plan for some to go to the Holy Land was got together, but of course the wretched pandemic put pay to that.... 

Just in the last few days I've been toying with the idea of putting together a virtual pilgrimage to the Holy Land, using YouTube, Zoom etc. One advantage over real pilgrimages is that we could visit the sites according to the chronological order of Our Lord's life, something it's impossoble to do there. So Nazareth - Bethlehem - Nazareth - Galilee - Jerusalem could work well, perhaps linking the events of Holy Week to their appropriate days of the week.  It's in very early days and may prove impractical, but we'll see...

Meanwhile, a couple of pictures from the gorgeous Senanque Abbey in Provence, where we visited and celebrated Mass in 2011. First with the lavender in full bloom, and second a monk harvesting the lavender in the last few days.

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

Yesterday, today, tomorrow

Many people appreciated words that Fr Andy quoted at the end of his homily at St Brigid's on Sunday and asked to see them.  So here they are.... author anonymous.
PS In looking up the poem on the net I discovered there is also a flowering plant called Yesterday today tomorrow plant, brunfelsia pauciflora (picture below).

There are two days in every week about which we should not worry,
two days which should be kept free from fear and apprehension.

One of these days is Yesterday with all its mistakes and cares,
its faults and blunders, its aches and pains.
Yesterday has passed forever beyond our control.
All the money in the world cannot bring back Yesterday.
We cannot undo a single act we performed;
we cannot erase a single word we said.
Yesterday is gone forever.

The other day we should not worry about is Tomorrow
with all its possible adversities, its burdens,
its large promise and its poor performance;
Tomorrow is also beyond our immediate control.
Tomorrow's sun will rise,
either in splendor or behind a mask of clouds, but it will rise.
Until it does, we have no stake in Tomorrow,
for it is yet to be born.

This leaves only one day, Today.
Any person can fight the battle of just one day.
It is when you and I add the burdens of those two awful eternities
Yesterday and Tomorrow that we break down.
It is not the experience of Today that drives a person mad,
it is the remorse or bitterness of something which happened Yesterday
and the dread of what Tomorrow may bring.

Let us, therefore, Live but one day at a time.

Monday, 3 August 2020

Faith in the family

As a parish priest I often have access to people's lives, both everyday and at special moments. I never cease to be fascinated by family life, with all its varieties, variations, virtues and, sadly, sometimes vices.

How heart-warming is a loving family, and what a difference it makes at that most difficult of moments, the death of one of its own. Yet in those very tears there can be something particulalry heart-warming. This was the case in a funeral today where one could sense the love that a family has had and will continue to have for Mum, grandma and so on. I referred to this in the homily, talking about the two 'f's  of Faith and Family, which were at the heart of Maria's life.

Sometimes an image can capture this unique and beautiful reality of family love. I came across this little video today when it popped up in that righthand list that appears down the side of YouTube as users of that will know.  Take a look then at some random dad at Disney in Florida, joining a resident pianist for an impromptu "Ave Maria".  But, more particularly take a look at his daughter, gazing at daddy with utter pride and love. Call me a big softie, but I love it...  Click on this link

Saturday, 1 August 2020

Come back, drink and believe

This evening I celebrated my first Mass in Christ the King church since the beginning of March, when the works started there before the lockdown. The church is looking lovely and brighter, and the floor of the sanctuary, which is  large stone tiles, has been very well restored. Everybody was very carefully following instructions that had been worked out based on Church and national directives. I was told there were 32 present, which was also good. All in all, it was great to be back there.

I felt a good strong message in the readings today. The Lord in the Old Testament through the prophet Isaiah invites us to come to the water, no matter who we are. In the Gospel Jesus invited all the 5,000 to come to him for food. When the apostles wondered how that was going to work out, a little divine frustration with them shows through, as the crowds are fed through the loving generosity of God.  Then in the second reading St Paul, in Romans, steeped in the OT has immersed himself in the person and mission of Jesus. This leads him to consier that nothing can separate us from the love of God made real in Jesus. I love this reading for its positive faith-filled message. In fact I chose it for my parents' funerals because of that. Great stuff, Paul! 

Here is John Foley SJ's well-known setting of the first reading from its original recording:

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Past, present and future

Afte celebrating Saturday and Sunday Mass in public, now I celebrate Thursday and Friday at St Brigid's, then my first at Christ the King on the weekend.  I am 90% very very happy to be back doing this - after all, it's a central part of what we priests are here for.  yet, at the same time, there are other emotions too. There is the whole sitation in which we find ourselves, there are the missing faces, not just those who are not yet venturing out, but also some who have gone home to the Lord. And there is some kind of apprehensiveness after a long gap, made a little more so with my arthritis.
However, over all this I am overwhelmed by the kindness and spirit of our people, who are really great, and of course, the mercy, patience and grace of our loving God. 

So much of this comes together in the Mass. So here is a talk about the Mass, why should we  go back and what's it all about anyway. It's given by Fr Matt Roche-Saunders, the youngest priest in Menevia and probably Wales. I've known him for about 15 years, great man and great sign for the future.


Monday, 27 July 2020

The Pearl of Great Price

Our first public Sunday Masses went well yesterday, Deo Gratias. People followed the guidelines of the stewards, but we could certainly do with more stewards (hint hint).

We are not allowed congregational singing, but that doesn't stop yours truly from having a go. As the Gospel was about the Pearl of Great Price, I was trying to think of a hymn that mentions that. Then I remembered one I heard in Canada back in the 80s, so I had a go at that. People seemed to like it, so I searched for a video version, and found this very nice one...

Saturday, 25 July 2020

Day and Night

Well, we had some teething problems with our webcam - connections, as always - but we are now up and running 24/7 as planned. If you want to watch just click on the picture in the right column of this blog >>> and it will take you to the parish website. Click the enlarger on your device and the "Start arrow" and you're there.

I celebrated my first Mass with congregation this morning, and felt very happy about it. I guess there were about 15 there, and it was great to be together. Now tomorrow I'm celebrating 10.30, so I expect there will be a larger number, so we will see.

Some of you really liked my little video from 8th July of the King's Return singing "Ubi Caritas" - beautiful. So here is another of their films, this time done live, and filmed on a  phone I think. It's "Silent Night", and who doesn't like "Silent Night"?

Thursday, 23 July 2020

Open and Streaming

I think we are all geared up to open for Mass tomorrow, Friday. Meetings have been held, stewards prepared, sanitisers, gloves and other stuff bought. It will be strange for priest and congregation to be together after four months. For us priests it will be strange to not celebrate Mass on our own or just gazing into a camera.
Talking of cameras, we have invested in a new camera system at St Brigid's which wil be able to stream 24/7, that is for all Masses and when the church is empty. The new camera is positioned discreetly rather than on a stand at the front of the centre aisle. Most of the cost has been met from the revenue from parish social events.  Experience shows that some people like to just pay a "virtual visit" from their home, maybe even in the dark hours of the night. The sanctuary light flicker that shows up on the camera can be a moving and reassuring witness to our faith.

 This "snip" that I just took from the trial feed is what people will be able to see on closer up mode...   Of course all these things will take time to "bed down" so we hope we will all be patient with one another. I'll try!   

Monday, 20 July 2020

Churches and reservoirs

We have made great progress in moving towards public Mass. I'm delighted to say that we will be back in St Brigid's and Christ the King (below) from this Friday, 24th July. There has been a lot of work done by some folks to get us this far, and more to do before then. We are particularly in need of stewards to assist on the days when there is Mass. We just held a meeting for them in St Brigid's this morning and will do likewise for Christ the King tomorrow evening. St Paul's are holding a meeting on Wednesday to start the ball rolling there as well. I hope that people will respond and come to Mass. We are all aware of the difficult journey over the last months, and it is by no means over. But as Christians we should be full of hope - hopeful - and step out in faith.

 On a different tack, a communication from Welsh Water dropped through my letterbox this morning outlining their plans for the reservoirs - Llanishen and Lisvane Reservoirs that is - and very ambitious the  plans are too. After years of wrangling etc they took on the site in 2016.  We, the public, are invited to make our comments in the absence of public meetings. Looks good to me, but I'll give it further thought. Meanwhile here is their video, emphasising the Visitor Centre. It's in the form of a "flythrough" a kind of virtual drone view....