Thursday, 26 February 2009

Busy Thursday

End of a long day...

After one of my postings a few people commented on how many meetings I attended. It's not that bad every day, but, well, today was pretty heavy!

After Mass at Christ the King I set off for the Pastoral Centre to chair the Council of Priests, which happens 3 or 4 times a year. It's the 8 deans, 8 elected reps and a few other ex officio priests. The main topic was to be Vocations, but we had a go first at what other areas can learn from Newport's experience of planning and organizing parishes for the future. As we are doing the same in Cardiff, I thought it would be useful. Then we got on to Vocations. Fr Paul Millar, our Vocations Director gave a useful short talk with some good quotations eg from Cardinal O'Malley in Boston. (That's him on the left - he's a Capuchin friar, and he's got a blog too, so I'm in good company!) I read out some comments from Fr Bill Isaac, until recently the Vocations Promoter, who couldn't be there.. We had a good discussion, and the Archbishop said he would take the points to the Consultors - a kind of inner sanctum of priest advisors. Some dioceses have really got their act together on this one. So we shall see what happens...

After a chat back at the presbytery with Fr Paul on how it had gone, I had to switch gear and receive the body of Bernard Jones into St Brigid's. I've known his family since I was in school with two of his sons. Bernard was a great character as is Noreen his wife, and he had tremendous faith. When I asked if they minded Bernard's body being in the church during evening Mass, the family said how much he would enjoy that!! Faith and humour - a great combination...

Then off to Corpus Christi High School where the Inspectors were reporting their findings to us Governors. We are not allowed to reveal the findings until they are published on 13th April - but suffice it to say that we are very, very, VERY pleased and proud of our local Catholic high school. Fantastic! The Governors come off very well too - and I even get a mention as Link Governor for R.E! They're a great bunch - very dedicated and of course all voluntary.

Then back to St Brigid's for the latest planning meeting for REFRESH, our May event for 16-30s. Another great bunch! Lots of practicalities to look at, and we were particularly looking at publicity this time. Someone has prepared a poster which will be appearing soon. There's a real buzz in the group. It looks like the Archbishop is going to celebrate the opening Mass, and speakers will be from London, Bradford, Ireland and Scotland, including John Pridmore (right). Watch this space, as they say.

And so some nice salmon pasta prepared by Mary, our faithful housekeeper. A cup of tea while I'm typing this, some time to unwind, and get ready for Bernard's Requiem tomorrow...

Monday, 23 February 2009

Bishops and Brothers

The Vatican announced today that Archbishop Tim Dolan of Milwaukee is to be the new Archbishop of New York, which many see as the most important diocese in the USA. Like Westminster, they had been waiting quite a while for an appointment. Archbishop Dolan seems to be a good man, and I have his book on the priesthood. Meanwhile Westminster still waits. Our own Archbishop Peter is mentioned a lot, especially over recent months, along with bishops like Vincent Nichols in Birmingham and Malcolm McMahon in Nottingham. What a difficult job - you have to be bishop of the largest diocese in England & Wales - AND be seen as the leader of the Catholic Church here.

Talking of Archbishop Peter - he was sadly unable to join our Fraternity of Priests this evening for our dinner to celebrate 20 years of meeting. 9 of us enjoyed a scrummy meal over at a restaurant in Penarth. I had garlic mushrooms, lamb shank and creme brulee - slurp. It's great to get together with fellow priests, especially when you've got something to celebrate. In it's own quiet way the Fraternity has achieved great things ove the years. Priests need support now more than ever - from lay folk, but also from one another. Pray for your priests.
P.S. I just discovered how to set the timer on here to the real GMT - just for you Brynnaman ;-)

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Peace at the Heath

Yesterday evening I answered a call for a priest to go to the Heath Hospital, where a gentleman had died only 24 hours after being admitted. I never cease to be overawed by the whole question of death. It is such a privilege to be admitted into the tight family circle of people - people that you have never met before - at this sacred time. I made my way through what are usually bustling corridors of the hospital, now quiet in the late evening. The man's wife was there and about 6 or 7 of the relatives. When the doctor had finished his part, most of the family came in with me for the Prayers After Death. As I continued, some gently sobbed in the light of one lamp left on, and then I always add a spontaneous prayer, inviting the family to link hands around the bed of their loved one, leading to the Our Father together.

After a little while, and a word with each individual, plus advice for what they have to do next, I quietly slipped away. I made my way back down through the silence and so off home. Up there on the ward one family will never be the same. One daughter said through her tears "Nothing prepares you for this" - and she is right. But I sensed great love among the family, and a deep faith too. Things will never be the same for them, but with the help of God they can move on together to a new place. Eternal rest grant to Felix, Lord.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Marriage at Miskin

What a beautiful celebration at All Hallows Miskin on Saturday! The church was almost full of couples who had come along to celebrate God's gift of the Sacrament of Matrimony, many of them marking special anniversaries. Our own parishioners were involved in the liturgy, and I met loads of people from parishes where I have worked before. It's always great to meet up and find out what's been happening in people's lives. The atmosphere was a bit like it was in the days when Lenten Station Masses were more fluorishing.

At the end of Mass Archbishop Peter thanked those who'd taken part - musicians etc. He mentioned me at the end of his list, as I had given the homnily. I gave a grin at this exalted mention - and got a big laugh from those who were close enough to notice. It all went well and was very enjoyable.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Marriage thanksgiving

I'm preaching tomorrow at the special Mass at All Hallows, Miskin near Llantrisant organized by our diocesan Family Life Commission. They have extended a particular invitation in this year's event for National Marriage Week (coinciding with Valentine's Day...) to couples who are celebrating any special anniversary - 1, 10, 25, 40, 50, 60 etc. The Mass is at 11am. It's a privilege to be asked, and I've been talking today to various married people to get some ideas. As always, I'm very moved by the commitment of married people - a great inspiration for everyone, and especially for us priests in our commitment. Thankyou to all you couples out there - and God bless you!

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Getting heard

So we are meant to be looking at these 5 questions on the future of the Church in the city of Cardiff. I've now attended 4 sessions looking at questions 2 and 3. It takes a while to get into the real issues, but then some very good ideas and views come out. Most people agree that there are a whole variety of questions that they just don't usually think about. I'm a great believer in the presence of the Holy Spiriti in all the people of the Church. Getting together like this really helps people become aware of our shared responsibility for the Church now and into the future. Please do make sure that you let your voice be heard.

Talking of which, my radio broadcast on Darwin etc yesterday went OK. I was pleasantly surprised that Sian the producer only asked for a few changes in one paragraph, so letting me off lightly! I asked if I can put the text on here - but was told firstly that once broadcast the copyright belongs to the BBC. Secondly - it might have been wiser not to ask!! Ho hum...

Oh, and it is Fr James' birthday today - so wish hiom a happy one next time you see him :-)

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Wednesday Word

My next Wednesday Word "God slot" broadcast is this Wednesday 11th February on Radio Wales at about 2.40pm. It's on Darwin, science and religion... which is a bit more "heavy" than we normally do on this slot...

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Bless 'em

I've just finished watching Wales beat Scotland, and really should finish some Canon Law work now, before going up to Christ the King for the monthly Justice & Peace group meeting. However, well it is Sunday... so I'll have a cup of tea instead!

At this time of year Fr James and I are very involved in the preparation programmes for First Holy Communion and Confirmation, for years 3 and 8 respectively. This morning James hit both at the same time in St Brigid's at 10.30 Mass. The Confirmation youngsters were having their Election, when they make their commitment to go ahead after several sessions of the programme, while the younger children, on a longer programme, were getting formally enrolled. On top of that a few altar servers were being admitted to the St Stephen society for servers. Meanwhile, up at Christ the King, our First Communion children celebrate a programme called "God's Greatest Gift", and we incorporate several Masses on the various themes, so today it was "God's Gift of the Word." The children stayed in for the readings etc, while the other age groups went out for their Children's Liturgy as usual.

I'm always amazed at how beautifully our children carry out their ministries and roles in Mass. We had one reader this morning who was particularly good, full of meaning and clarity. Some people don't seem to feel comfortable at family type Masses such as 10.30 at C the K. I, on the other hand, think our three Childen's liturgies are some of the best aspects of our 3 Churches. We are blessed with many dedicated catechists/leaders, and the kids are so well prepared, and (yes, on the whole) very well behaved. I suppose on an average Sunday across the 3 Churches we would have over 100 at Childrens Liturgy.

One of the things that comments about Family Masses reveals is the different "flavour" of our various Sunday Masses, and how the various congregations get used to, and attached to, their respective style. We could say well they're lucky to have such a choice - but that's another whole topic! Why do you like your particular Mass - why not add a comment here?

Thursday, 5 February 2009

'S no problem

Snow hasn't been too bad in Cardiff, but lots of things affected. The School Inspectors meeting with Governors at Corpus Christi is off until next week... The Council of Priests, which meets four times a year to advise the Archbishop and of which I'm currently chairman, is postponed until later in the month etc. Fr James haqd better hurry up if he's going to make his first snowman, as it is disappearing!

People are starting to discuss the future of the Church in Cardiff. We had a good go at it at last night's Parish Council at Christ the King. Once people start to go beneath the surface issues - that's when it starts to get interesting. See the "5 Questions" on our website

I'd dashed to that meeting from a previous one at Christ the King School where we we
re looking at the admission applications for September. Thank the Lord we have exactly the right number of Catholics for the 30 places! I'm really proud of our school for its straight 1's Inspection recently. Everybody works very hard there. Also the school Governors, like all governors, are completely voluntary. It's a task that has got progressively more demanding over the last 20 years. The Church is so grateful to those who volunteer to represent us all in this vital aspect of life.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Some Celtic Cross-Fire

These last two Sundays we've been celebrating the feasts of the patrons of two of our three churches. It was the Conversion of St Paul last week and St Brigid this week. I think it's important to mark days like these. Someone said to me after Mass that he'd learnt more about St Brigid today than he ever knew before. The saints are part of the family of the Church; their statues, images etc are similar to having photos of your loved ones in your home. I can't understand people (especially priests) who seem to be uncomfortable with this kind of thing. Like so much in our Catholic theology and spirituality it's an extension of the Incarnation - if the second Person of the Trinity can be born in Bethlehem among the animals, then a woman in Ireland 1500 years ago can certainly teach us about our faith and life.
In this icon you can see two of the symbols associated with Brigid. She carries in one hand the Cross of St Brigid fashioned from reeds. You'll find one of these in many Irish people's houses. In her other hand she carries a flame, commemoratinmg the eternal fire that was kept burning at her community in Kildare for a thousand years. If you want to find out some more about St Brigid, try the website of the Sisters of St Brigid in Kildare, her hometown