Sunday, 27 December 2009

Towards 2010

There will be a pause in postings for about six days, as I will be spending time with my family after the Christmas liturgical "rush". My brother is married and lives in the Midlands, and is an academic; my sister lives in Hampshire and is married with three sons. I hope to spend time with both, with Wednesday being a family day when we will all get together.
I was reviewing who visits this blog via blogspot.com and it seems about 10% come from the USA. So I had better wish a special Happy New Year to our stateside readers - but I hope that you're not intending to visit Charleston Illinois on Jan 1st...
Indeed, a very blessed 2010 to everyone.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Roots and wings

Today we move from Christmas itself to tomorrow's feast of the Holy Family. As I was in Bethlehem a few months ago, today's picture is one I took myself of a wall plaque I saw in the Milk Grotto, which commemorates the Holy Family stopping as they moved on from the manger.
The child is a little older, but I like the way that Mary's gestures are portrayed. One arm is around her precious Son as he reaches out to the world. Meanwhile, her other arm is somehow letting him go, in a movement which echoes his. This seems to be the dilemma of parents with their children (and of God with us) - to protect and to let go, and both at the same time! To give roots and wings... Getting it right isn't always easy, and it wasn't for Mary and Joseph either, as we find out in this Sunday's Gospel, of the Finding in the Temple.
We pray for all our families and for family life itself in our time.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Happy Christmas everybody!

I just celebrated a beautiful Vigil Mass at Christ the King, and am going back for Midnight Mass in a short while, with Morning Mass at St Brigid's. So - a very happy, holy and peace-filled Christmas to all my blog-friends!!
Here's another interpretation of the Christmas story, this time "The Adoration of the Shepherds" by one of my favourite artists, Giorgione.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Bright neighbors

And now for something frivolous! That house in North Road in Cardiff with all the Christmas lights better watch out. It seems the in thing in the USA now is computer controlled LED lights on your house - maybe 20 or 30 or 40,000 lights! To get a taste, watch this video. For the best effect double click and then click on High Quality. Enjoy!

Monday, 21 December 2009

Together at the manger

Just a few days to go now before Christmas. Well, yesterday we had our first 3 Churches Carol Service at St Brigid's. As with anything new, I was a bit apprehensive - how many would come? Would all the groups that had prepared their interpretation of the eight readings come up trumps?
The answer - yes! A great crowd came, and I think it was a big success. All the groups were excellent. Some were simple in their presentation, others more elaborate, so there was great variety. The Year 11 Performing Arts group from Corpus Christi High School were very good, as were all our wonderful parishioners, really.
For me personally, it was the the tableau that was the high point. Instead of the usual children portraying Mary, Joseph and the shepherds and kings, we had adults. They came into the sanctuary slowly and with extraordinary dignity as Tanya played some classical choral music on the CD player. Simon from Christ the King and Sue from St Brigid's were Joseph and Mary, while the shpeherds were from St Brigid's and the wise men from the Catenians. Then I called all the children present to gather around in front of the scene for "Away in a Manger." Simple, moving, beautiful. And you know how you can tell something is a success? It's when the people don't want to leave. And loads came across to the Hall for mulled wine or tea and mince pies.
Big thanks to Stephen, June and Tanya who were the steering group with me. Not for the first time since the summer, Fr M is a very proud parish priest...
The pic is by Welsh poet and engraver David Jones

Saturday, 19 December 2009

A painting on celluloid

Another approach to the Nativity story is through film. Maybe my favourite Bible movie is the Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini's 1964 "The Gospel According to St Matthew". This black and white version contains everything in St Matthew's Gospel, but only what's in the gospel. A scene without words has no words in the film either. All the actors are amateur, except the adult Jesus. So, here is the very opening scene of this beautiful version of the Gospel. These 90 seconds illustrate Matthew 1:17 and have no music or other sound...
Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a man of honour and wanting to spare her publicity, decided to divorce her informally.
If I can find other scenes I'll put them up too. Watch and enjoy...

Thursday, 17 December 2009

A world in a painting

Had a phonecall from my very good friends in Aberystwyth today, talking about this n that. Another of my favourite paintings came up in conversation, so I thought I'd hunt it out on the net and post it on here for Advent.
Painted over 500 years ago by the Sicilian Antonello da Messina (1430-1479), it depicts the Madonna of the Annunciation. Mary has just received her News, and is beginning to digest... and think... and wonder... and feel. Study her face and her eyes, then her two hands. Contemplate this great painting for a little while. I use it in meditations and days of recollection to help us get into the humanity of Our Lady, a human being, a woman, and a wife and mother.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Humbled

The aftermath of the so-called Murphy Report into the handling of child abuse cases among the clergy of the archdiocese of Dublin continues. Archbishop Martin of Dublin has been in Rome with Cardinal Brady, and he seems to be a man of integrity, having opened up all the files of his archdiocese, and of courage, where his tenacity must surely affect his relationship with other bishops. I remember how his appointment a few years ago was greeted with some scepticism, as he had a reputation as a Vatican "pen-pusher" - not someone who would have attracted many votes if it were left to local feeling, as some people wish episcopal appointments were, like a sort of ecclesiatical X Factor...
It seems that some kind of major "reorganization" of the Church in Ireland will be promulgated in the New Year, including, presumably some high-ups being "reorganized" out of a job. It does seem impossible to imagine continuing as a bishop with such negligence behind you, and the consequent lack of trust around you.
Personally, I believe that all these horrific matters must come out. The New Testament urges us that the truth will set us free. Sounds nice - until the truth hurts. In early 1998 when I was in Penarth, with the wonderful parishioners there handling their parish priest being on trial for abuse, the Lord seemed to give me a line from the letter of St James "Humble yourself before the Lord - and He will lift you up." I decided that God wants a truly humble Church, and if we don't do it ourselves, he will allow others to do it...

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Dancing for joy

So Joe McElderry has won "The X Factor" for 2009. Not a very big surprise really. Joe certainly has a great voice and is a goodlooking lad, but I'm not sure if he will last... However, I left the telly on after the results programme, and one came on next about Susan Boyle. Now, if the programme is to be believed, there is a fascinating story, where Susan has come through the initial stages anyway of stardom and is really blossoming. I'm really glad most of all that she at least appears to be enjoying herself. Good luck to her, I say.
The only thing is, all these so called commentators tell us that she shows us how even an ordinary person can achieve their dream, and, by implication, happiness. As if happiness is only achieved through celebrity - what a cruel message to the millions who will never achieve in that way. I prefer the joy of today's first reading from the prophet Zephaniah:

"The Lord will exult with joy over you, he will renew you by his love; he will dance with shouts of joy for you as on a day of festival."

And the "you" is you, and me, and all of us, and in His love we can all be ever new, and we are all celebs in His eyes.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Marriage and Mary

As some people know, as well as my parish work I have a finger in a few other pies. In particular I head up in Wales that branch of the Church's pastoral work with those who are divorced/remarried etc - the National Tribunal for Wales. The aspect we are best known for is marriage annulments. Without going into the whole explanation of these, I am basically the sort of head judge for making these decisions. (Handy information about our work and annulments can be found on some websites like Shrewsbury diocese here).
Today we had a particularly bulky case to judge. Usually the 3 judges are faced with up to 80 or 100 pages of evidence, but this one had over 150. I'm always a bit edgy on judging days - it's a huge responsibility affecting the rest of people's lives - and I'm equally relieved to get it over with! It was great tonight to switch into a completely different mode and give the repeat of my first Advent Reflection on Our Lady. There were 25 or so there, so with the 20 at Tuesday's group that's a very healthy 45+ The folks are very appreciative, and I love breaking open the scriptures with the people. So, with finishing and emailing my bits of the newsletter and answering various emails and phonecalls, many of them about the forthcoming Carol Service, plus Mass, prayer and the daily routine - a good day!
Here's the unusual painting of the Nativity that I'm showing to everyone this Advent... it's by an American artist Gari Melchers from the 1920s. The colouring has been slightly darkened.



Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Blessed Mother

Today is the beautiful feast of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady. Our Lady is patroness of our archdiocese under this title. We had the first of our Advent Scripture Reflections looking at Mary in the Gospels this afternoon.
To celebrate the feast here is a Bruckner setting of an ancient prayer for today "Tota pulchra es" (Wholly beautiful are you). For something equally beautiful to read for the feast, follow this link to Rocco Palmo's blog in order to read the Pope's excellent sermon given at today's traditional ceremony at Rome's statue of the Immaculate in Piazza di Spagna, adjacent to the foot of the Spanish Steps. The posting is headed "Dear brothers and sisters, we are the city!"

Acknowledgements to Fr Ray Blake at marymagdalen.blogspot.com for finding this video

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Blessed memories

A trip down memory lane this evening, as we showed the DVD of this year's pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Loads of people came to see it at St Brigid's hall, many of them pilgrims but also lots of other parishioners too. I'd asked Teresa and Linda, two of the pilgrims, to say a little about their experience, and both did - very, very well. The DVD lasts over 90 minutes and we had a tea break half way through. The more often I watch it, the more special I feel is the sequence showing our 7am service by the lakeshore of Galilee on our last morning. Bernard, who made the DVD so expertly, intercut scenes of the brief prayer time with shots of the lake, the fishermen, and flashbacks to highlights of the trip. It sums up so much of this beautiful, beautiful trip, and brought a tear, I think, to not a few eyes.
The Holy Land will certainly be one of my highlights for 2009, and I thank God for it, along with Billy and Rita, the organizers, and all my fellow pilgrims. What about you, bloggers? Don't forget to look back... and give thanks to God and to the people who have enlightened your 2009.
The pic shows me celebrating Mass at the Sea of Galilee, with my hero St Peter being forgiven, loved and sent out by Jesus in the background.

Friday, 4 December 2009

The wrong Yorath

One of the websites I use in family tree research is Genes Reunited. It was an offshoot of the more famous Friends Reunited, but I think it has outgrown its parent! You can put your tree on there and search for other people with whom you may share a relative. Every month the site runs each tree past every other one and sends you notification of which people may have a "hot match" with you. To be honest, as I have about 2,000 people on my tree I don't bother to check these monthly matches - but plenty of people do, and I recently had contact from a lady in Australia who was born in Cardiff, just two years after me.
It turns out that her great-grand-father's brother, Joseph Yorath, married my great grandmother's sister, Elizabeth Morgan. Not only that, but she has traced back this line of Yoraths all the way to a Richard Yorath, born in Kenfig in 1681. That's about the same period as my furthest line back, the Williamses of Llangynwyd and Llangeinor, north of Bridgend.
Someone told me that there was a programme recently on BBC Wales about the family of Gaby Logan and her dad Terry Yorath. Naturally, as it's a rare surname (from the Welsh Iorwerth), ever since I discovered a few years ago that I had Yorath relatives I've wondered if I was connected to famous ex-football player and manager Terry. So I watched the programme on i-Player - and the answer is... no! His line originated in St Lythan's west of Cardiff. But you never know, further back the Yoraths of St Lythans and the Yoraths of Kenfig may have been connected...

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Advent gets going

After a good weekend, more great signs of things moving on... I was at two meetings one after the other yesterday at Christ the King, the first for the 3 churches, the second just for C the K. 6.30pm I was with the little group I have looking at a strategy for our 3 churches to reach out to our lapsed/resting/inactive/returning Catholics. We've only had two meetings of this group which is six plus me, but we've already made plans for Christmas and into the New Year. We are investigating taking on a programme for later next year to provide something for such people to plug into if they decide they want to look at coming back.
Then straight into C the K parish council and a special meeting to look at the forthcoming refurbishment and extension of the Parish Centre there. After gaining the diocese's approval a few weeks ago to use money that we have deposited with them, things are forging ahead and we learned last night that it is hoped work will start in January. Excellent!
Again and again I am reminded of all the great people we have in our 3 churches here who give of their time and talents. There will be plenty more on display in this busy time of Advent as different events take place.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Advent begins...

First Sunday of Advent today, and a new Church year begins. We're now in year C of the three year Sunday readings cycle, and this is the year of St Luke, when most of the Sunday Gospels are from St Luke.
I was involved in training new auditors (=evidence takers) for the National Tribunal yesterday, so I missed what I gather was a great afternoon at Christ the King. We're realising more and more the importance of sharing our faith, especially if we are to share it with returning Catholics or new converts. A great way to learn how to do it - and get built up in our own faith - is to hear others do it. So several parishioners gave a testimony to aspects of their faith to an audience of about 50. Apparently it went well, with a few tears here and there, and the hall was abuzz.
Then this morning I was at Christ the King for Mass. I decided to refer to the dreadful Dublin report that is in the news. 10.30 was a Family Mass, and when I came to mention the Report, and was faced with our wonderful young people with their Advent candles and excellent adults who had organized the Mass, I got emotional and lost it for a few moments. People were very kind, and thanked me for something that seems to have spoken louder than words.
With September's pilgrimage, St Therese's relics, our Eucharistic Ministers day, and now this weekend, I'm more and more convinced that the Lord is "up to something" among us. So bring it on Lord, that's what Advent is all about!
ps Three more visits tomorrow, and November will overtake October as most visits month at the Canon's Stall...

Friday, 27 November 2009

Re-occurin'

So "Gavin and Stacey" has returned to our screens. Just watched episode one of the new series on i-Player. I got hooked towards the end of the second series a year ago, and bought both series on DVD. Brilliant. I love the tragedy-comedy bit, the excellent acting, neat music, and, of course, setting half of it in Barry was just magic. And even Gavin's family home, supposedy in Essex, is actually in Dinas Powys.
Well, what's the verdict on this, the first episode of the new, and we're told, the last series. Since the last series the boys have made a rather disastrous TV show on their own, and a film that I don't know much about, but whose title was something about vampire lesbians... er, yes. The characters are still good, and there are some new ones - I don't think we met Smithy's narcoleptic/alcoholic mother before. They have all come together for the baptism of Smithy n Nessa's baby, Neil Noel Edmund, but, I don't know, it didn't seem quite the same. Whether it's just that two series were enough, or that what's happened since the second series kind of interfered with my enjoyment of this one, I don't know...
But then the whole thing was redeemed - I was just about to turn off the computer when I saw that you can watch last year's achingly painful and wonderful Christmas episode on i-Player too. Every family Christmas is wrapped up in this gem. I particularly love the embarrassing moments! It's all so accurately stolen from life for our disturbance and delight. Plenty to laugh at, loads to think about, and some to cry about. A Fr M all time great.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Fine Wild Horses

Susan Boyle returned to "The X Factor" on Sunday evening. Bloggers will know that X Factor is my weekly dose of flow-over-your-head weekend TV relaxation. Susan Boyle first hit our screens on "Britain's Got Talent" where she originally came second, but here she was back after a gap on Simon Cowell's other programme. The song she chose - or someone chose for her - was, I must say, a complete surprise, namely the Rolling Stones "Wild Horses". This was a track on the Stones classic album from about 1970 "Sticky Fingers", of which I am the proud owner of a copy. On that album Mick Jagger's raw voice tears into the actually touching words of this ballad.
When Susan Boyle sang it, it was such a different take on the song that I didn't even recognise it until the chorus came along. I have to confess I found her version very beautiful and moving. If you missed it - or even if you didn't - give it a listen... Fr M approves


Monday, 23 November 2009

Feasts

The Feast of Christ the King was great. I enjoy celebrating Mass, especially on Sundays, and the Church's annual liturgical cycle is studded with beautiful feasts like yesterday's. The Gospel was Jesus before Pilate, and in my homily I talked about choices - Our Lord's decision to go ahead that he made in the Garden of Gethsemane the previous night, and then our decision. Will we choose Pilate's way of success, celebrity, glamour, money and so on, but racked by fear and suspicion, precarious and eventually forgotten, or the way of the Other Man, humble and without the trappings of human fame and glamour... I stood right in front of the altar and imagined Pilate and Jesus standing to my right and left. On Saturday evening at St Paul's I then sat down for a few moments. It came to me that at this point we stand for the Creed, but only if we believe. So, I said "If you choose Pilate and his way - stay seated. But if you choose Jesus and His Way - then stand for the Creed." There was a momentary pause, but I think everybody stood up! Sometimes it's good to remember that to follow Our Lord is a decision, that we have to continually make, again and again, whether we are "cradle Catholics" or not.
We were invited for lunch, along with four others, at the house of the family of someone whose Requiem I celebrated earlier this year. A little thankyou I suppose. As usual, I enjoyed a meal at the home of parishioners. When we do this we meet people literally on home ground, we are admitted to that sacred place, and share for a few hours in the warmth of their family life. Tasty food, good wine, great company. A lovely feast of Christ the King.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Christ the King

I love the feast of Christ the King - it's such a positive note on which to end the Church's year this weekend. I think we need all kinds of music, worship and prayer in the Church. We have many different things that we want to say to the Lord and to one another, and an infinity of different moods. So, for this great feast here is a video that is loud, joyful and gutsy. Gospel singer Judy Jacobs leads a crowd of thousands at Anaheim , California, in singing "These are the Days of Elijah" a storming worship song. Unfortunately it can't be embedded into the blog so please follow the link here.
The picture shows the huge statue of Christ the King overlooking Lisbon from across the River Tagus.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Taking on the government

I'm a Governor of our primary and secondary schools, Christ the King and Corpus Christi. It sort of goes with the job - although many priests don't like it and some don't become governors even of their own parish primary school. I'm the only priest on both of our Governing Bodies. Personally I disagree - if only because those pupils and staff constitute a sizeable community of Catholics, deserving our involvement. But also we bring a lot to the role - knowledge of the area and its families, maybe experience of being a governor elsewhere, and so on. The responsibilities have grown a lot since I was first involved back in 1981 at St Cuthbert's and Archbishop Mostyn (as was, now Mary Immaculate). We have responsibilities for who teaches in our school (we are the employers in Catholic schools), who attends there (we control the admissions), and what gets taught (we oversee the curriculum), not forgetting what gets spent on what (we set the annual budget).
There is at least one meeting of the full Governing Body each term, twice in this first one usually. The GB comprises the headteacher, teaching and non-teaching staff rep(s), local education authority rep, and parents reps. Then in a church school the total number of those plus a few more are appointed as Foundation Governors, who have the particular responsibility to represent the Church and protect the Catholic identity of the school. In addition to the termly meeting a governor will also be appointed to one or more of the three or four committees of the Body, who handle specific issues relevant to Finance and Buildings, Curriculum, Staff and Pupils. There also smaller sub-committees to handle admissions, appeals etc etc. In addition, of course a Governor should make himself or herself familiar with the school through visits etc. So it's not an easy responsibility, and in some parishes it's hard to find folks ready to take it on. Especially burdensome is the role of Chair of Governors, who is elected every year. She or he must have an ongoing involvement and knowledge of all aspects of the school really.
We are very very fortunate in both our schools to have excellent GB's. This came through in the fine Inspectors Reports both received during the last academic year. I'm proud to be associated with them.

Monday, 16 November 2009

This year, next year

So, it's now officially out - our 2010 pilgrimage is to Krakow in Poland, and will be entitled "In the Footsteps of Pope John Paul II". We made the announcement at the reunion of our 2009 Holy Land pilgrims this evening at Christ the King Hall. After dabbling with Bavaria and Salzburg (too busy with the Oberammergau Passion Play) and Belgium, Billy and Rita and I decided two or three weeks ago to go back to a plan we had 10 years ago, when flights etc to Poland were not as developed as now. Our current idea is to fly to Krakow 6th September, where we'll be based for seven nights. We'll visit the shrines of Divine Mercy and Our Lady of Czestochowa, make trips to beautiful Zakopane in the Tatra Mountains and to Auschwitz with its shrine to St Maximilian Kolbe, and go down the famous salt mines at Wielicka. And, of course we'll celebrate Mass everywhere - including down the mine! We seem to have got a superb hotel, very modern and very convenient both for the historic centre of Krakow - and for the biggest shopping centre in this fine old city.
Anyway, no doubt I'll be posting more about pilgrimage 2010 during coming months. This evening, after making my pitch on Krakow to this year's pilgrims, who get first choice for 2010, we then had a real treat. Bernard, one of this year's pilgrims, has made an absolutely superb DVD of the trip. It is beautifully edited with soundtrack and captions, and lasts about 90 minutes. It brought back so many wonderful memories to me and the others. I don't usually like watching myself, but seeing this I was able to thank God again for the whole pilgrimage and, personally, for the inspiration He kindly gave to me. A dozen of us stayed to watch the DVD all the way through, and I detected a few tears in the audience as we remembered what for me was, I think, one of very our best pilgrimages.... Bernard and I have decided we will have a "public" showing of the DVD on Sunday 6th December at 7.30pm at St Brigid's Hall. A beautiful evening.
Pictures show Our Lady of Czestochowa, the "Black Madonna" and patroness of Poland, and me elevating the chalice during Mass at the church of Dominus Flevit, marking the spot where the Lord Wept over Jerusalem.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Looking back

A day for looking back... First we celebrated our annual Mass of Memories at Christ the King this morning. Over 120 people attended this year, including many who had been bereaved since last year's Mass. As is my practice, I read out the names of the 38 who had died during that time at the beginning of Mass. Each of the names brings back memories to James and myself, and reminds us of the great privilege it is to be allowed into people's lives at this most painful of times. Some funerals can be, it must be said, the most uplifting of occasions. Who can forget, for example, that of Teresa Walsh at St Paul's during the summer? After Mass today everyone enjoyed a cup of tea or coffee and a chat in the hall. I'm very grateful to the C the K bereavement group for organizing this celebration so well.
Then, still on the theme of looking back, we had a great concert in our other hall, St Brigid's, this evening. We were hugely entertained by the Siren Sisters, a 1940's style close harmong trio. They were very good, with a lovely sound, and very well rehearsed I would say. Then after a hot meatballs-and-rice supper excellently prepared as usual by our St B & St P Social Group, we all watched a DVD called "Songs that Won the War" introduced by Dame Vera Lynn, and had a good old singalong.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

1982 vintage

Ummm, a kind parishioner came across this photo in the archive pages of the Western Mail. They thought that this fine young priest looked familiar!! Actually this pic was taken at Pontcannna on that unforgettable day 2nd June 1982, the day John Paul II came. I had become parish priest of St Cuthbert's the previous autumn at the tender age of 28. For the papal visit I tried to encourage what you might call a festive spirit in the parish, and some sort of took to it big-time, especially a nice group of teenagers there. Some of them dressed up for the occasion, and so I thought I'd add a festive note too - hence the hat! I didn't expect to be on the front page of the Western Mail though...
As a city parish we had to set out walking at 3 or 4 in the morning, and the youngsters insisted on singing our way through Grangetown and Riverside. "Our God Reigns" was the favourite - but not with one irate resident who flung the window open to complain, only to be told by one, er, fervent lad "We're Catholics, we're gonna see the Pope, and we don't care!"
One priest from each deanery could join the Pope up on the podium for the Mass - and yours truly, secretary of the deanery at that time, pulled my own name out of the hat - honestly!
Any of you got memories of The Day the Pope came to Cardiff??

Monday, 9 November 2009

The Berlin Wall - my part in its fall!

Back in May 1989 I was asked by Archbishop Ward to attend a conference in Basel, Switzerland. It was the first European Ecumenical Assembly, with representatives from all the denominations and all the countries of Europe, East and West. It was historic as it was the first time this had happened. The theme was "Peace with Justice", but in fact the main achievement seemed to me to be the fact that it happened at all.
It's hard for us now 20 years later, isn't it, to recall the days of Soviet Communism. The Berlin Wall seemed to be a permanent and sad fixture. During that Assembly I was overwhelmed with a sense of the unity of Europe, but a unity that appeared to be so far beyond our grasp.
Nevertheless, we prayed together, Catholics, Anglicans, Protestants and Orthodox, from Britain and Romania, from Finland and Portugal. We prayed hard for the issues at the heart of the Assembly, but we prayed above all for Europe. I remember clearly the final great act of the Assembly, the voting for the adoption of the Final Report. The chairman invited us all to stand in silent prayer and then vote. As all the hands started to go up I was overwhelmed with a sense of a new unity. I think everyone present was aware that we had just done something extremely profound, but perhaps we didn't realise quite how profound, for as that year progressed cracks started to appear in the East-West barrier, and exactly six months later the Berlin Wall fell.
Gorbachev, Pope John Paul and many others were all credited with igniting the events of that year. But in that crucial year of 1989 in an exhibition hall in Switzerland, and for the first time ever, the Christians of Europe had prayed together. Coincidence? I don't think so...


The graphic was the logo of the Assembly

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Amazing nuns

Came across this video of an amazing convent of Poor Clares in Lerma, Spain which has 140 sisters, mostly very young. Read more about it here. Here they are with one of my favourite priests, the truly charismatic Fr Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher to the Papal Household. He has just given them a retreat. I have had the privilege to hear him several times. Just catch the joy in this Capuchin friar, and especially in these young women...

Friday, 6 November 2009

Not so fast

Went for a blood test yesterday. Like half the population I've got a blood pressure thing - well under control thankyou. It means a blood test every year or so, and as I hadn't looked at the envelope thing they give you to hand in, I presumed it was a fast-from-midnight one. So, no cereal and orange juice and tea on Friday morning. I get to the lovely nurse and she says "Oh, no fasting today then"! Aaaargh... and I was going straight to Mass too. Luckily someone tempted me with a cup of coffee and bickie (biccie? bicky), to keep me going.
Llanishen Court surgery is a doddle. In one of my former parishes, I had to run the gauntlet of various parishioners to get to see the doc. "You arright father?? Wassamatta with you?" would be shouted across the crowded waiting room. I'd be identified with a "Thass the vicar oo done my neighbour's kid". I was glad my baptismal ministry was appreciated. "Yeah, ee's nice innie? Better than that vicar down the other church." All ecumenical niceties were out the window as my Catholic chest swelled up in pride. In Llanishen Court it's a quiet murmuring, with the odd "How are you, Father?"

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Holey AND holy?

Phew! Just watched on iPlayer a recent programme from Horizon on Black Holes. These are those weird things at the centre of galaxies and elsewhere which are so dense that their gravity doesn't let anything escape, not even light! So we can't see 'em but we know they are there. They are such strange things that they don't obey Einstein's laws of relativity either. When scientists ask what is going on at the centre of them, they shrug their shoulders and say "Dunno!"
The scientists on the programme were comparing these infinitely small infinitely massive points with the similar phenomenon we call the Big Bang, which they say also started with what is now everything in the universe sort of contained in one tiny point. Yes, I know, it's enough to make your brain hurt.
What particularly interests me is that here we have the most advanced physicists in the world struggling to understand reality in terms that are almost spiritual. Mystery, infinity, nothingness, and so on - it's as if faith and science are sort of meeting at the far end of the garden, while up on the decking of ordinary life we are led to believe that they are totally separate and exist in different worlds. The media, in particular, will portray faith and spirituality as a kind of lifestyle option for the rather deluded or eccentric.
I don't think you could watch this edition of Horizon without having some sense of awe at, well, reality. Or as God said to Moses at the Burning Bush, "take your sandals off, laddy - you're standing on holy ground!"

Monday, 2 November 2009

Remember

I was wondering what to post for November 2nd - All Souls. Something religious... but I couldn't settle on anything. Then I thought of one of my "Desert Island Discs" - Chopin's Nocturnes. So here is Claudio Arrau playing Op 9 no 1, composed in Chopin's early 20s. Relax, reflect, remember...

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Mass with the Sick

We celebrated a Mass with the Anointing of the Sick yesterday. We used to have these once a year, but the two parishes Liturgy Groups decided to increase it to twice a year, maybe in the two months of Our Lady, May and October. St Brigid and St Paul would do one and Christ the King do the other.
So this time it was held in St Brigid's, and was a moving occasion as always. A little group had planned the liturgy and printed an order of service. We repeated what we did last time it was held in St Brigid's, namely having intercessions while the Sacrament of the Sick is being administered, and then people being invited to mention out loud other people who are sick and not present.
At the end of the Mass I reminded the sick that they are very much at the centre of parish life, showing us the hidden face of Jesus, the suffering face of Jesus. I asked them to pray for the parish and especially, in this Year of the Priest, for the priests of our diocese and for Vocations.
After Mass we enjoyed a light lunch organized by our ever efficient St B & St P social group, and I was able to catch up with some of those whom we don't normally see.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Move over, JL, coz WGT is here

Well done, blog-readers! The Canon's Stall site has received more visits in October than in any previous month. Have a little something to celebrate. Make it a nice cup of tea if you wish, even...
What? A cup of tea to celebrate? Yes, why not. I helped my sister and brother-in-law to celebrate their wedding anniversary today by taking them to the place everyone in Cardiff is talking about (after they've fallen asleep talking about That Shop in town), the Waterloo Gardens Teahouse. And I'm sure the owner would like to know that - Fr M approves!
Remember that little row of shops down the bottom of the hill off Waterloo Road? Well, the butcher's has become a shrine to good tea (what's all this with the shrines, Fr M?). Huge selection of teas, scrummy cakes (I had courgettes and lime), lovely atmosphere and wooden chairs - no cushions no nothing - that are so comfy. Spotted Sian, my producer at the BBC across the room, so as regards clientele, need I say more? OK, costs a little more than your average cuppa, but, hey, it's not everyday that it's your sister's wedding anniversary.
Now what celebration is it next week?

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

The road to JL

So I eventually went to visit the new St Davids 2 development, including our famous shiny John Lewis (complete with its 350,000 different products) Verdict? Well, OK....
I started off at the old Queen Street entrance. The whole combined thing is now to be called just "St Davids Dewi Sant" from what I could see. Well I always used to like the main part there behind Marks and Boots, but I found the new decoration a bit drab, the floor a boring colour and the shops in that first short arcade from Queen Street a bit, well, past it. So then I turned down to the new section, where the crowds started to become more dense (it is half-term!). You can cross Hills Terrace into the ground floor of the new part or go up the escalator straight onto the upper floor, which is what I did. Strange that you can now walk from Queen Street to Bute Terrace without going outside!
I liked the upper gallery very much - very airy and a great sense of space. I like the way the arcade gently curves around, drawing you further on (as if you wouldn't, with JL beckoning you!) Loads of the units are still unoccupied, with many promising an arrival at Christmas or the Spring, but I wonder...
And so I arrived at the Promised Land of JL. Verdict? Well, like I said, OK... Four floors, all similar with a big hole in the middle with the escalators. I made my way up to the top where two blokes were betting with each other that someone would throw themselves off the top balcony into the shopping abyss...
JL stuff is very nice, and it is still early days, and it is half-term, but I have to say, JL Cardiff didn't grab me like the one in Glasgow did two years ago. Sorry! The queue for food there was huge, and I slunk off elsewhere for my lunch
And so outside to the Hayes. I see from the St Davids website that they wanted to turn the whole of the Hayes into a kind of European-style piazza. There are certainly more people around making it a lively space rather than the backwater it was once you got past the cafe on the island. I'm not sure however if it's quite the Piazza Navona in Rome, the Plaza Mayor in Salamanca, or the Grand' Place in Brussels. The outside of some of the buildings especially around the bottom end towards the new library I find look a bit brutal and not very friendly. I read somewhere that out of the six or seven towers of New Luxury Apartments (aren't they always?!) only one is being done up for occupation at the moment. Sign of the times...
So... we'll see. Are there enough shoppers with enough cash to merit this huge new development? If not now, then - soon? What will the effect be on St Mary Street and the old arcades? And what about Queen Street itself? As I made my way back in that direction Queen Street was absolutely heaving in the pleasant warm autumn half-term sun. The Cardiff crowds were out, the children with their parents, the teenagers slouching around, the students trying to look cool, and everywhere chat and busy-ness... I love it. I sure hope that dear old Queen Street doesn't lose its special place to the new kid on the block.
And I couldn't help wondering what Saint David, a man of simplicity and austere but joyful spirituality, thinks about having such a temple to consumerism named after him...
ps I couldn't find any nice pics of the Hayes, so these are of the squares in Rome, Salamanca and Brussels!

Monday, 26 October 2009

It's in the blood

After blogging about my trip to Lithuania to visit the home-town of my great-grandfather George, a few people wanted to know more about my discoveries in the family tree. Well George was my mother's mother's father, and another interesting character was my father's father's father, David Jones.
David was born in 1841 in the small town of Pontyberem in the Gwendraeth Valley of south-east Carmarthenshire, between Carmarthen itself and Llanelli. His father, John, was from a local family well-known in Calvinist Methodist circles, and numbered not one but two CM ministers among his uncles and great-uncles. Like many in the nineteenth century David headed for the industrial areas of Glamorgan, and I found him in 1861 working, like his father, as a tailor in Maesteg. However, by the mid-1860s my father recalled hearing that David was a policeman, and records show there is indeed a policeman called David Jones in Penarth at that time.
And then the Lord intervened! In 1866-1870 David Jones is studying for the ministry at the Baptist College in Pontypool (now in Cardiff) and by 1871 is living in Cardiff where he is a Baptist preacher, and where he meets his wife Jane Lewis. They are married at Tabernacl Chapel, on the Hayes in Cardiff on 13th May 1874. That same year he is ordained a minister at the village of Pontrhydyfen near Port Talbot where he was probably preaching at the time (later the birthplace of Richard Burton). In 1876 he takes up his first post at Gilgal Chapel in Porthcawl. This was only to last, however for three or four years, because by 1881 he is a minster and bookseller in Bridgend. He would never be a full-time minister again, but was ever after in great demand as a preacher and for his powerful gift of public prayer. David and Jane had six children, including my grandfather John Daniel. Somtime in the 1890s the family moved to Cardiff, perhaps after the opening of the new Market, where he opened the religious bookstall, perhaps because a relation of his was now minister at Tabernacl. From his base in the market he supplied, as he had done at Bridgend, many of the Chapels in the Cardiff area. He died in August 1921, aged 79 or 80.
So that's how the Joneses came to Cardiff, and while Baptist David was selling his books and preaching in Bridgend in 1881, with his wife who was born and brought up in Cardiff, with roots in the Vale of Glamorgan, poor old George Gudwen from Prussia was drowned in Cardiff's East Dock, leaving his young Irish and very Catholic widow Annie. An unlikely foursome, yet these two couples' grandchildren married and produced - yours truly, a Catholic priest. It's in the blood, as they say...
The pictures show Capel Ifan, old St John's Church, Pontyberem, where David's parents were married, and Cardiff Market.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

PPP - a proud parish priest

A good day spent with our Eucharistic Ministers at Llantarnam Abbey. This was our second such day, and it was a great success. Fr James started us off by celebrating Mass at St Brigid's, before everyone headed off for the Abbey. I was timetabled for the talk in the morning, but at 9.30 I still didn't have a central theme. Then, a flash of inspiration, as I thought of some of Cardinal Newman's writings. So I used two of his reflections.
After tea and coffee at the Abbey, I settled us down with a little imaginative exercise on the hands of God the Father, then offered my thoughts on the two Newman passages, giving everyone a sheet with them printed on that I'd run off during James' Mass! Then I asked everyone to go and find a quiet spot for half an hour and focus on a word, phrase or sentence that spoke to them from the two passages.
Half way through the 30 minutes the sun suddenly burst throught the grey, wet and windy morning. It was as if the Lord was telling me not to worry about the day.
After a packed lunch we gathered again. I invited James to kick off with his own thoughts and he shared about the word "shining" in Newman's prayer, telling us about a recently deceased lady who always spent an hour in our church at lunchtime, and the shine in her face. Then we opened up the discussion for other people's thoughts and - that's exactly what many did! One after another, our wonderful people spoke about their experiences and what they felt the Lord was saying to them. There were some tears and some amazement, above all at the openness of our youngest minister who talked about his being autistic. Others talked about their experience of cancer and so on, while there was also much affirming of one another. I found the whole thing moving, and a tribute to the faith of the people of our 3 Churches.
Finally we repaired to the Chapel for half an hour's Adoration, during which I commissioned two more ministers for Christ the King, to add to the eight new ones last weekend.
It may sound strange, but I was one very proud parish priest today, and I don't mind saying so.

Here are the two passages...

I am created to do something or to be something for which no one else is created; I have a place in God's counsels, in God's world, which no one else has; whether I be rich or poor, despised or esteemed by man, God knows me and calls me by my name. God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission - I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. Somehow I am necessary for His purposes, as necessary in my place as an Archangel in his--if indeed, I fail, He can raise another, as He could make the stones children of Abraham. Yet I have a part in this great work: I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught.
I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling.
Therefore I will trust Him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us. He does nothing in vain; He may prolong my life, He may shorten it; He knows what He is about. He may take my friends, He may throw me among strangers, He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me - still He knows what He is about.


Dear Jesus, help me to spread Your fragrance everywhere I go. Flood my soul with Your Spirit and Life. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that my life may only be a radiance of Yours.
Shine through me and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel Your presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me but only Jesus!
Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as You shine, so to shine as to be a light to others. The light, O Jesus, will be all from You; none of it will be mine. It will be You, shining on others through me. Let me thus praise You in the way which You love best, by shining on those around me.
Let me preach You without preaching, not by my words but by my example, by the catching force, the sympathetic influence of what I do, the evident fullness of the love my heart bears for You.
Amen.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Where are you going next year Father?

As many of you know, I've been involved with leading pilgrimages for almost twenty years. This year's - to the Holy Land - was one of, if not the best ever. But what about next year? Well, Billy and Rita, the organizers, have been working hard over the last weeks to put something together. Actually it was Billy who came up with our current proposal. It's not an obvious destination, and is not as ambitious as the Holy Land. But it does have its attractions - and not only for the soul either! There's a shrine connected with Our Lord, and another one that's very "in" at the moment. And we will have to face a rather cheeky little child. Confused? Well, you'll just have to wait and see...
Meanwhile, here is one of my favourite things in the Holy Land - an icon of St Peter weeping after he denied Our Lord. It's from the church of St Peter in Gallicantu (St Peter at the Cock-crow) built on the site where it happened. Again, thanks to Paul for the pic - click on it to enlarge it.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Ordained and married

Very strange coming together of events these last two days. Wearing my Canon Law hat, one of the things I'm involved in is laicisations, that is, the process whereby a priest petitions the Pope to be returned to the lay state. Very often this involves the desire to get married in Church. On Monday I was working on one of these cases.
Now today it seems that the Vatican has announced some kind of arrangement for Anglicans who become Catholics, whereby they will be able to hang on to some aspects of their Anglican practice. And, of course, as we have been seeing for some years now, this can include their married clergy being ordained as Catholic priests.
I can see the argument behind this arrangement, and I would be the last one to deprive someone of being a priest if that is what it is felt he is called to. But being involved also with men who are "cradle Catholics", who go through great trials and tribulations and eventually leave the priesthood, sometimes because they feel a calling to both marriage and priesthood, it does seem to point to some sort of inconsistency. The Church is living with this at the moment, but for lots of people it's not a comfortable cohabitation ...

Sunday, 18 October 2009

All in a day's work - and play

A variety of special occasions these last few days. Friday evening St Brigid's Hall hosted a concert by the Wroxton Players entitled "A Night at the Musicals". This group of amateurs put on a great show that I enjoyed a lot. Our wonderful Social Group put on a supper halfway through the evening - a scrummy chicken bake. It was all in aid of the Heath Hospital Lourdes Group. Excellent.
Saturday lunch-time in St Brigid's Church we held a Memorial Service for Professor John Pathy, whose Requiem I celebrated a few months ago. The church was full of family, friends and eminent people from the medical world. All were unanimous in their praise of John, a remarkable human being and great Catholic Christian. From there Fr James and I moved on to a party at the TyMawr for a parishioner celebrating her 80th birthday. Another happy family occasion. As priests we are so privileged to be invited to share people's special moments in their lives like this.
Lastly, 10.30 Mass at Christ the King today was for the deceased members of the Catenians. I am happy to be chaplain to this group of men, many of whom come from our 3 Churches. They are a great group, sound Catholics and family men. They do a lot for charity and support the church and one another.
So you see my life is not all meetings! I am always amazed how varied a priest's life can be, and how we can be part of so many moments and aspects of the human journey - and sometimes all in one weekend!

The pic is another one from the Sea of Galilee - thanks to Paul

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Madre Teresa

Today is the Feast of St Teresa of Avila. She has been one of my special friends "up there" for many years, going back to when I studied her as Spanish literature in university. I was blown away by her powerful spirituality, joined to a profound humanity. She lived in sixteenth century Spain as a Carmelite nun, and succeeded, after many years trying, in founding a reformed version of the order. Her writings are beautiful classics of Catholic spirituality, earning her the title of Doctor of the Church. I paid two flying visits to Avila in the 1990s and love the place. In 2001 our September Pilgrimage was based there, and I was in my element! We visited some of the beautiful old towns and cities of Castile, such as Toledo, Segovia, Valladolid, Salamanca and the smaller town of Alba de Tormes, where the great lady died and is buried. I celebrated Mass there as well as in her convent in Avila.
Here is the well-known prayer usually known as "St Teresa's Book Mark", found after her death on a card in her prayer book.
Let nothing disturb you; let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing. God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
Nothing is wanting to him who possesses God.
God alone suffices.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

A helpful tour guide

The relics of St Therese are finishing their visit to Britain this week. I found this helpful video from Westminster diocese, which explains her importance and message very well. Archbishop Vincent Nichols introduces it. The outpouring of faith which has accompanied the tour continues to mystify the media. I hope it also challenges the Church to ask itself about how we connect with the faith of the people.

St Therese in Westminster from Catholic Westminster on Vimeo.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

An appeal beyond money

I've been thinking a lot about the Year of the Priesthood at the moment. Last Thursday we had a meeting of the priests of Cardiff, and in some ways things are not looking good. The number of Rosminians is dwindling, some priests are resigning in the diocese, there's a kind of fatalistic atmosphere in some quarters.
In contrast, think how wonderful the visit of the relics of St Therese was. I continue to be uplifted by what was achieved on our pilgrimage. This weekend the Hereford Conference was a great success, with people so buoyant in their faith. And all these things are organised largely by the lay members of the Church. This isn't by way of criticising my brother priests - nothing could be further from my mind. Rather it is my observation that we all, the whole Church, need to get behind us priests, so that we can be the shepherds Jesus wants us to be.
This coming Thursday we have our four times yearly meeting of the diocesan Council of Priests, of which I'm chairman at the moment. This is a sort of priests' "parish council" to the archbishop. At our last meeting we looked at various ideas for the Year, but I'm concerned that those ideas don't really involve our people.
So I'm talking to lay people who have a heart for that, so that I can maybe talk about it on Thursday. I'm thinking that there is a huge love for our priests among Catholics, and that we should be tapping into that, at the very least by way of prayer. Perhaps some of you out there have ideas how we can all support our priests and especially their spiritual lives as they come under more and more pressure, by prayer and any other means you can think of. How can we mobilise the great Catholic faithful?

Thursday, 8 October 2009

The Mission to England!

I'm off tomorrow to Hereford to attend the annual Hereford Catholic Conference. This is a weekend of talks, worship and sharing, running from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon, and aimed at building up the Catholic community in the county of Herefordshire. It's held at St Mary's, Lugwardine, the Catholic High School for Herefordshire, and is organized by a team from several of the parishes there, especially Ledbury. Take a look at the Conference's website here.
Herefordshire is part of our diocese, although it is, of course, in England. This is a quirk of Catholic history, where Belmont Abbey outside Hereford was originally the cathedral of our diocesein its early days in the second half of the nineteenth century.
I was parish priest of Ledbury from 1981 to 1983, and it was in some ways a different world from what I was used to. I had served in the Sandfields estate in Port Talbot, in Ely and then in Cardiff Docks. Now I found myself in a very English small country town. It couldn't have been more different. The parish was small but very welcoming. In particular it was in many ways very open to moving forward, and I gained experience in some important areas of church life, especially in the ecumenical and liturgical fields. It was also where I had my first experience of broadcasting.
As with all past parishes, I have a soft spot for Herefordshire, and so I was only too glad to accept the invitation to help with this year's weekend.
ps The pic shows charming Church Lane in Ledbury.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

My biggest congregation

I spent some of yesterday and today writing my "Wednesday Word" to be broadcast tomorrow, Wednesday afternoon. I do these "God slot" talks for the BBC roughly ever other month. The routine is that the Religious Broadcasting producer assigned to the slot phones on the Monday and we talk about topics. I have to scour the paper over breakfast for something appropriate. Once we have agreed, then the main business of writing has to be done during the rest of Monday so that I can email the text to the producer, who will then phone me back on Tuesday with her comments. That's the nervy bit, but now that I've been doing it for a few years I'm not too bad at judging what kind of stuff they are looking for. So having agreed a final version, on Wednesday afternoon a taxi picks me up about 2pm and I do the broadcast live at about 2.40pm with Roy Noble. Everyone puts you at your ease, and Roy himself is great, exactly the same off the air as on.
So what's my topic this time? Well, my attention was caught by the discovery in Yorkshire of an ancient helmet. From there I get on to the way we tend to indulge ourselves in "What if?" type questions, and even "If only..." type regrets. But if you want to see how I get from helmets to "If only...", well, you'll have to tune in, won't you? Radio Wales 2.40pm or on iPlayer.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Falling for the Fall

Well autumn really is making its way in now, as the trees start to turn. I suppose New England is the most famous place for watching the Fall and the spectacular colours (or should that be colors?) that can be seen at this time of year. However, these wonderful scenes also spread into Canada, including around the capital Ottawa. This is where I spent two years back in the 80s studying Canon Law at St Paul University. It was on my very first weekend there that some second year students took a few of us up into the Gatineau Park on the outskirts of the city. I will never forget the sight of hundreds of maple trees lining the roads and lakes and the magnificent display of colour. I had been thinking that perhaps this was exaggerated in photos that we've all seen, but no, the reality was even better. I discovered that this is a speciality of maple trees. Unlike other trees which tend to turn colour together, each maple tree has its own speed, and this is what gives the beautiful variety in shades. So, don't forget to stop and look and enjoy - the wonders of creation!

Friday, 2 October 2009

Coughs, smiles and Streisand

Tis the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness - and coughs and colds. After a few coughs on Monday and Tuesday, my voice took a nosedive on Wednesday evening, just in time for a Liturgy Meeting at St Brigid's. It stayed in hiding for most of Thursday, but is making a bit of a comeback this evening. Interesting thing isn't it how we all cope with these set-backs. I tend to battle my way through. When you're a priest everyone wants to tell you their own personal remedy. Tunes, Smoothers etc etc appear from all sides. I notice that those who recommend whiskey are not so quick to offer some of their remedy! So far, it doesn't seem to be developing into a cold.
Rio de Janeiro has won the Olympics for 2016, which I'm glad about. It's about time Latin America had them. And is it me or does there not seem to be much fun in the air about the London Games? As The Times pointed out this morning, at least we'll have a fun Games in Rio. So the evening news is showing lovely sunny beaches where the Brazilians are celebrating. That brings a smile to my sorry-for-myself face.
As did Barbra Streisand on Jonathan Ross this evening. I thought she came across very well, and then performed two songs, especially a moving rendering of "If You Go Away (Ne Me Quitte Pas)." Beautiful. Feeling better already.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Great video on priests

Don't forget that we are still in the Year of the Priesthood. I was taking a look at one of the blogs I visit from time to time - Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston. He had a link there to a beautiful video on the priesthood which was made for his diocese. After an introduction by the Cardinal, it consists mainly of short interviews with priests and some parishioners too. I think we need material like this, just hearing one another share our faith. Listen to the young priest, he looks like he may be Italian, talking so sincerely. The video is only 10 minutes long. Full marks, your Eminence!

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

All together now

The normal run of meetings has begun again after the summer break. Parish councils, liturgy groups, Churches Together, school governors, First Communion catechists, prayer group, etc etc. I am very glad that the Church has gone down the road of collaborative ministry - everybody working together for the good of all and the coming of the Kingdom. However... it all means more and more need for people to get together, whether in formal meetings or not. And if priests are to give a lead in this collaborative approach, we must be seen to be committed to it - which means a lot of meetings!
Many older priests were trained to be the administrators of a particular part of the Lord's vineyard. The people's job was to therefore do what Father asked. With the Church now asking us all to work with each other, without losing our distinctive roles and ministries, many priests find it very hard to "work with" parishioners. They don't mind telling the people what to do, or delegating, ie telling them to get on with it without him - but doing it together is something different. People now are more educated, not least in religious matters, and infinite information is available, especially on the internet. Part of the priest's task nowadays is to know when to work together, when to stand back and when a task is rightfully his - so get on with it!
My experience is that working together can, perhaps surprisingly, be the most difficult way. But in the end it is also the most rewarding. As examples I give our 3 Churches Mass, our recent REFRESH youth event, or our September Pilgrimages.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Also this week...

Well besides the relics of one of the modern world's greatest saints visiting the cathedral, what else has been happening in Cardiff??? Ah, yes - John Lewis!!!
John Lewis Cardiff, the Partnership's first department store in Wales, and its largest outside London, opened for business on Thursday. The website tells us that "the 280,000 sq ft, four-floor shop, giv[es] shoppers access to more than 350,000 lines." It's the beginning and anchor of the St David's 2 development in town, and is the biggest branch outside London. Actually, though I'm no great lover of biiiig shops, based on my visits to two John Lewis branches, most recently the one in Glasgow two years ago, they seem pretty good. The food court in Glasgow was excellent! And, yes, I will be paying the new one a visit in the near future. Anyone care to own up to already going there and make a comment here?
The thought crosses my mid that where John Lewis is built was the site of some of Cardiff's oldest ninetennth century housing from the very begiinings of its boom-time. Many Catholics lived in town in the streets between the Hayes and the prison, and in very humble conditions. Ancestors on both my parents' sides lived in the area, in David Street and Love Lane, in Canal Street and Frederick Street. I wonder what they would think of a 280,000 sq ft, four floor shop with 350,000 lines on the shelves? Maybe if we listen hard among the bustle we will be able to hear their voices behind the busy-ness of our sparkly new store? What would they say to us? Well, at least their cathedral still stands around the corner in Charles Street - so let's commend them all to the prayers of the great St Therese herself.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Something's up...

People who were on our pilgrimage to the Holy Land are still coming up to me to talk about it and thank me for my contribution. It was the nineteenth of our journeys, and I have to admit that in many ways it was my favourite. I think folks will have gathered by now how much I love our Holy Land trips more than any others, but there was something particularly special about this one. Maybe it was just that everything came together so well, but I suspect that it was more than that - I can detect definite traces of the presence of the Holy Spirit in what people are telling me. They were touched very deeply, and many have said how they feel that it will take quite a while for everything to sink in and for them to digest it all. I can echo that feeling - the Lord seems to be around and active at the moment, what with St Therese's relics in Cardiff and so on. And when Jesus is about - you better watch out! So I suppose it's a case of - watch this space... Meanwhile here's another of my own photos, this time of Gethsemane.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Therese in Cardiff

Amazing sights at St David's Cathedral yesterday for the visit of the relics of St Therese of Lisieux. I went hoping to have a half hour there before Mass at 6pm, but the traffic and the crowd at the cathedral meant I only got to the sacristy with ten minutes to spare. The cathedral was heaving - I don't think I have ever seen so many people there, even at Chrism Masses. All three Welsh bishops were concelebrating, along with priests from all corners of Wales. I was asked to proclaim the Gospel, which was a great privilege on so special an occasion. Huge number of people are going to Confession too.
The relics are contained in a casket which was placed in front of the altar, and immediately after Mass a huge queue reformed to come up and venerate with a touch, a kiss or just a moment's prayer. Altogether, a great display of faith, and confirms my thoughts that the Church needs shrines, pilgrimages etc. We are in danger of making our faith so refined, even intellectual, and possibly "respectable", and we are so careful not to offend anyone inside or outside our Church, that we lose these reminders that the Church is a community of people, that we enflesh the Word, that ever since Bethlehem Christianity has been about real people trying in their real lives to live their faith. When they manage to do so, as young Therese of Lisieux did, it is right that we both honour them, and seek their help for us who are still struggling on the way. Further visits that teh relics are making include York Minster and the chapel at Wormwood Scrubs.
The first picture shows the relics being brought into the Cathedral, while the second is a scene during veneration at the altar. More pictures of the Cardiff visit can be seen here and here.