Saturday, 31 January 2009

Under Inspection

There's been a lot in the news this week about the lifting of excommunication on four bishops of the St Pius X Society, including one who is a Holocaust denier. The first thing I noted was that they are still suspended from their ministry - they can't celebrate the sacraments. Next - it all seems a mess on the face of it, and in particular a PR mess. The Holocaust looms so large in all our minds that anyone making any decisions with an angle connected to it has to tread very carefully. Only this September on pilgrimage in Normandy we went to the excellent Memorial Museum in Caen, and there saw appalling evidence of what went on. I suppose being Pope is one of the most exposed positions in the world. Every word, every decision is examined minutely - and quite rightly - by us and especially by the media, who very often don't care to pause and reflect on any other angles or on the Big Picture. We must always remember to pray for the Pope.

Closer to home, our High School, Corpus Christi, is being inspected in two weeks' time - and that includes the Governors, of which I am one. Most governors are "linked " to a particular department or aspect of school life, and guess which is mine? Yes - R.E. As that aspect of school life gets its own inspection, I have to be ready to speak to the Inspectors about it. So this week I went up to the school for some "homework" with Pat, the Head of the R.E department. We went through all aspects of the matter, not just the teaching of R.E., but the whole Catholic ethos of the school. All the Governors meet the Inspectors prior to the event, but then I get my own grilling during the week itself. I hope they will be gentle...

Monday, 26 January 2009

Paul, Burns, Dolls, Unity

You can sometimes tell that people are thinking to themselves "What do priests actually do?" This weekend was an interesting combination. Pope Benedict has asked us all to observe a "Year of St Paul" to mark 2000 years (roughly!) since the great man's birth. In particular, we could observe 25th January as the feast of the Conversion of St Paul, instead of the normal Sunday. So, especially as one of our churches is St Paul's, we did observe it this weekend. In my homily or sermon I let St Paul speak for himself, using half a dozen passages from what I call his Greatest Hits, with a few of my own comments in between. It seemed to go down well, anyway. After Saturday evening Mass at St Paul's, which was helped along by our lively 3 Churches Music Group, I went over to Christ the King Hall where we were having a Burns Night. We do things properly around here - haggis, neeps n tatties , bagpipes (well, on a ghetto blaster) and loads of Burns poetry. Last year I recited "Holy Willie's Prayer" and was asked to do it again this year. It's an attack on hypocrisy in church life, and is a combination of religion and sauciness which always goes down well, especially as spoken by the parish priest!

After our Sunday morning Masses, Fr James and I spent Sunday lunch-time with a lovely couple from St Paul's, enjoying some beautiful lamb cooked Moroccan style. I went straight from there to Christ the King, where the First Communion children were learning about Baptism and wanted me to do a pretend one with a doll. It had pink trimmings on its clothes - but the first of the two groups still wanted it called Nicholas! The second group were more safe and called it Anna... 7/8 year olds are great, full of enthusiasm and searching questions and no preconceived ideas about pink and blue!.

Then I went from there straight to Park End Welsh Presbyterian Church for the United Service of Churches Together in Llanishen & District, marking the end of Christian Unity Week. I did a reading from a Bible whose print was just too small, and I was afraid I was going to let Mother Church down in that embarrassing environment by making a mistake. I managed to get through it. Must remember next time - "Protestant Bibles, smaller print, bring reading glasses". The organization is 50 years old this year and we had a cake; as this year's chair of Churches Together, I had to cut it. I asked were there any kids to help, and one blushing teenage girl came forward so the two of us proceeded to stab the birthday cake together. Two of my ancestors were ministers in the Calvinist Methodist Church, forerunner of the Welsh Presbyterians. Must be turning in their graves at the thought of their Catholic descendant performing there. Or maybe not. I fancy it all looks a little different from the point of view of eternity.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Almost forgot

In our 3 Churches here in Cardiff we publish a weekly newsletter. I usually write a front page article for it, so I thought I'd put that on here too. At least that will be something each week! So here's this week's, for the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul

If I looked out of my window in seminary in Rome, I could see nearby the front of the Basilica of St Paul-outside-the-Walls (or as the Victorians delighted in calling it St Paul-without-the-Walls). It marks the spot where tradition tells us St Paul is buried. If it was sunset, then the whole view would seem to glow, as the sun lit up the beautiful golden mosaics adorning the venerable church.

And that’s what the great man himself did for Christianity. He shone the light of his faith, his bright evangelizing fervour, on the teachings of Jesus, making them seen to burn in our hearts as they burned in his. We see so much of our faith, and the person of Jesus himself, in particular, in the light of St Paul’s writings.

Sometimes we would take the bus out to Tre Fontane (Three Springs) where Paul’s martyrdom is commemorated, and reflect on his final act of witness. Strange that he who persecuted the first Christians, himself died for being one...

But most of all, during siesta time on a rainy afternoon, I would slip across to the vast and now semi-deserted church and sit for a while, maybe in the beautiful cloister of the adjoining Benedictine Abbey. There I would ask the man himself to obtain for me in my future ministry just a little of his faith, hope and love. “Nothing can separate us from the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8) Sometimes, I would ask him to be able to string together just a few words like that. St Paul, pray for us.

Here we go...

Welcome to the Canon's Stall! This is my first attempt at blogging, so be patient. I wasn't going to do one, but I've come across some really good ones recently, so I thought - I can do that! I don't know how often I'll be able to post, but we'll see.