Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Our great schools

The current Covid stuff affects every aspect of life at the moment. This week I have been reminded of one section of our society that is hugely touched, namely our schools. Yesterday I attended Zoom governors' meeting for both Christ the King Primary and Corpus Christi High schools. I am very happy to report that they are both doing a fantastic job in such difficult circumstances. I felt I should share with the Christ the King Governors my experience of last Thursday...

Year 4 (Standard 2 Juniors for oldies!) look at the priesthood in their RE syllabus and we often are asked to pop into the schools to chat with the kids. This year, of course, this was not possible so I "popped in" to a meeting with them and their teacher by Teams (that's Microsoft's version of Zoom for the uninitiated). I enjoyed it a lot, answering their 8/9 year old questions and chatting with them in their homes. Their questions were good, they were well-behaved and engaged with what was going on. When did I decide to be a priest, where did I train, what's good and what's difficult, were among the questions, the last one being did I think Fr Andy's jokes were funny!

Anyway, I told them how I trained in Rome, which caught their imagination, so when a thankyou card arrived, this was what they had drawn - that's the Colosseum of course, beautifully drawn, with me in front looking very clerical. Sorry the pic is a bit blue - my scanner is too old for my one year old computer and they won't talk to each other, so the pic is taken off a computer camera shot. Thankyou, Year 4!

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Hotel California - live!

Time for some more music!

"Hotel California" was one of the greatest songs around in my earlier years.  It comes from 1977 and was written and played by the Eagles, one of the top American bands at the time (some would say of all time). It was taken from an album of the same name, and went on to win all sorts of awards.

What's it about? Who really knows? And yet it make sense - passing pleasures, emptiness, claustrophobia, being trapped. Great lines abound, such as "Some dance to remember  Some dance to forget".  "You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave". The band themselves have described it as an "interpretation of the high life in Los Angeles", while Don Henley, the drummer who is the lead singer in the song said that the song was about "a journey from innocence to experience... that's all..." and on another occasion "it's basically a song about the dark underbelly of the American Dream and about excess in America, which was something we knew about." Very appropriate now maybe...  What is it that draws each of us in off our desert highways? Maybe that is our Hotel California. But be careful, in case "you can never leave".

In addition to the lyrics there is great music, with outstanding and, unusually, two lead guitars. Listen to the extended instrumental coda at the end of the song - great stuff. In fact it is all great stuff, mysterious, amazing. Here are the band playing it live in 1977. It mirrors the recorded version exactly, but with the extra bite that comes from a live performance. The lyrics are below.

On a dark desert highway  cool wind in my hair
Warm smell of colitas   rising up through the air
Up ahead in the distance   I saw a shimmering light
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim  I had to stop for the night
There she stood in the doorway  I heard the mission bell
And I was thinkin' to myself   'This could be heaven or this could be hell
Then she lit up a candle   and she showed me the way
There were voices down the corridor   I thought I heard them say
Welcome to the Hotel California
Such a lovely place   such a lovely face
Plenty of room at the Hotel California
Any time of year  
You can find it here
Her mind is Tiffany-twisted    She got the Mercedes bends,
She got a lot of pretty, pretty boys    that she calls friends
How they dance in the courtyard   Sweet summer sweat
Some dance to remember,  some dance to forget
So I called up the Captain    "Please bring me my wine"
He said, "We haven't had that spirit here since 1969"
And still those voices are calling from far away
Wake you up in the middle of the night  just to hear them say
Welcome to the Hotel California
Such a lovely place    Such a lovely face
They livin' it up at the Hotel California
What a nice surprise    Bring your alibis
Mirrors on the ceiling     The pink champagne on ice
And she said, "We are all just prisoners here of our own device"
And in the master's chambers    they gathered for the feast
They stab it with their steely knives    but they just can't kill the beast
Last thing I remember    I was running for the door
I had to find the passage back    to the place I was before
"Relax", said the night man    "We are programmed to receive
You can check out any time you like   But you can never leave"

Saturday, 9 January 2021

The storm calmed

Today, just a painting by Amedee Varin, an artist unknown to me, illustrating today's Gospel. Jesus goes out on the Sea of Galilee to calm the storm, an experience we can all understand in our present circumstances.

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Epiphany according to Pasolini

Today is the Feast of the Epiphany, when we remember the visit of the Wise Men to Bethlehem. 

Here is Pier Paolo Pasolini's version of the scene, taken from his "Gospel According to Matthew" from the 1960's, one of my favourite Bible films. It has all the contents, but only the contents of Matthew's Gospel. Where there is no dialogue in the text, as in this scene, there is no dialogue in the film. So everything is done through looks, glances etc. All the actors are amateurs in the film except the man who plays the adult Jesus.  Observe the dynamic between Mary and Joseph, and the faces of the Wise Men and the children. For more about the film see here


Sunday, 3 January 2021

Entering the New Year


Here is a prayer I used in Mass today...

God of all time,
help us enter the New Year quietly,
thoughtful of who we are to ourselves and to others,
mindful that our steps make an impact
and our words carry power.
May we walk gently.
May we speak only after we have listened well.

Creator of all life,
help us enter the New Year reverently,
aware that you have endowed
every creature and plant, every person and habitat
with beauty and purpose.
May we regard the world with tenderness.
May we honour rather than destroy.

Lover of all souls,
help us enter the New Year joyfully,
willing to laugh and dance and dream,
remembering our many gifts with thanks
and looking forward to blessings yet to come.
May we welcome your lavish love.
May we cast off the small, vindictive god our fears have made

May the grace and peace of Christ bless you now and in the days ahead.

Friday, 1 January 2021


Today, New Year's Day, in the Church's calendar is celebrated as the feast of Mary, Mother of God. More accurately translated as "God-bearer", the title theotokos is maybe the most ancient one for Our Lady.

 Two images today, very different to each other.  The first is an interesting one depicting a tired mother and caring Joseph in a somehwat realistic fashion.  The second image is a traditional Mother and Child, a tiny watercolour that I own, decorated with goldleaf.  Both capture aspects of today's Feast, so as they used to say in essay titles "compare and contrast"...


Tuesday, 29 December 2020

Josh Groban - O Holy Night

'O Holy Night' is one of the most popular carols nowadays, and here is Josh Groban singing it - a very good version I think.   Enjoy!


Thursday, 24 December 2020

Merry Christmas

 A very happy, holy and safe Christmas to all who visit the Canon's Stall - and a big thankyou for making it worth it.

Here is our sanctuary and crib at St Brigid's as of Tuesday. Baby Jesus was in the crib for our Bambinelli hour that children could visit.

Sunday, 20 December 2020


I never tire of reflecting on this version of the Annunciation. Painted by Antonello da Messina, it hangs in the gallery at Palermo. It offers us an archangel's view of the one to whom he has just delivered the greatest message of all time.  

Her veil, her book, the dark background, but most of all her hands and face say it all...


Saturday, 19 December 2020