Sunday, 31 May 2009

The Spirit and the Church

The end of a long day, but a great day - Pentecost! Lots of people saying good things about liturgies today. I celebrated 8.30 and 10.30 at Christ the King this morning. Coffee 'n' chat after both, then back to the ranch where James and I got micro-waving the lovely sausage and bacon casserole housekeeper Mary had left for us. Then, after a quick 30 minutes feet up, it was off with James to take part in the Pentecost walk, service and picnic marking 50 years of Churches Together in Llanishen and District. We parked as recommended at Christ Church in Lake Road North, and joined the walkers for the stroll down Lake Road West in the sunshine to the patch of grass reserved for us behind the playground area. As Chairman at the moment, it had been down to me to prepare the brief service, which went well. Then we all sat down in wonderful Roath Park for a shared picnic. I suppose we were 70 or 80.
James and I strolled back to the car, and I was pleasantly tired. However, it was also my turn for evening Mass - and there was no lead altar server or organist! Our two lovely evening Mass younger girl servers turned up however, despite their grandad dying last week. I was pretty whacked by the end, and was rather reuctant to go to the Prayer Group which meets after Mass on Sundays. However it IS the feast of Pentecost, and, as it turned out it, was a very positive and enriching group this evening, and I felt refreshed by the end. So, after a sandwich and a little drivel on TV, it's catch-up on blog! So, happy Pentecost, happy feast day!

Friday, 29 May 2009

Chains that bind

So we have all this horrific news from Ireland about abuse among some religious orders. In a month or so we will have another report, this time about the archdiocese of Dublin. After my experiences in Penarth in the late 1990s, I would like to think I know a few things about the fall-out from these cases. Jesus said "The truth will set you free." Either we believe that or not. Personally I do, and so let's get it out, all of it. Some of our fellow human beings, often among the weakest or most fragile, are in chains and have been deeply, deeply damaged. Our society, and perhaps our human nature, is fractured by a tendency to play games, wear masks, bend the truth whatever you want to call it - all variations on a theme. We are so paranoid about litigation etc that we run from the "S" word - "Sorry." And so we don't face one another, or ourselves, and are bound by chains of fear. I don't think the Church is at times all that different, as we are part of that society, and reflect it more than we sometimes want to believe. But the difference is, we preach someone whom we proclaim to be the Way, the Truth and the Life, who called us to love another, and called the children to himself.
In the letter of St James it says "Humble yourself before the Lord and He will lift you up." That was our theme in Penarth for the most meaningful Lent I have experienced. The Lord will have a humble Church. If we don't humble ourselves, then maybe He allows it to be humbled.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Love at the heart of the Church

One of the most loved saints is St Therese of Lisieux, "The Little Flower". Our September Pilgrimage visited Lisieux in September, and we were able to celebrate Mass at her convent chapel and spend an afternoon at the Baslilica dedicated to her. For a while now her relics have been brought to different countries for people's devotion, and they are coming to Britain in September. On 22nd September they will be at St David's Cathedral here in Cardiff until the following day. I know that for some people the whole idea of relics doesn't sit well, but for many others it's a way of "coming close" to one of the most venerated members of the family of the Church in heaven. You can find out all about the visit and about Therese here on the Bishops' website. Sr Patricia Mary explains the message and importance of St Therese in a short video here. When Therese accepted that her health would not allow her to be a missionary, this woman of God proclaimed "I will be love at the heart of the Church."

Monday, 25 May 2009

Michael W Smith

A year or two ago I came across a religious song entitled "Breathe" as sung by an American called Michael W Smith. The picture shows him recording his latest CD at a "little" gathering in Houston, Texas. On a smaller scale, at REFRESH we sang one of his own songs called "Step by Step". So I've been looking him up on YouTube etc and I like a lot of what I've heard. You may not be into "happy clappy" stuff, but stick with it. You can catch him doing the lively "Step by Step" also known as "God you are my God" live here. "Breathe" is more reflective, and can be found here. Lastly, a song called "Agnus Dei" from the same live performance I think. It lasts around ten minutes and shows how a good worship leader can bring a crowd of many thousands to a time of profound - and unaccompanied - worship. Enjoy it here.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Year of the Priesthood

On March 16th Pope Benedict announced a Year of the Priesthood to run from 19th June this year - Feast of the Sacred Heart - to June 19th next year. He told us that this was in an effort to encourage "spiritual perfection" in priests. During this jubilee year, the Pope will also proclaim St. John Vianney to be patron saint of all the world's priests. At present he, also known as the Cure of Ars, is considered the patron saint of parish priests only. In his March address, Pope Benedict said the priestly ministry consists of total adherence to the Church's tradition of participating "in a spiritually intense new life and a new lifestyle which was inaugurated by the Lord Jesus and which the apostles made their own." The pope underlined the "indispensable struggle for moral perfection which must dwell in every authentically priestly heart." You can read the letter on the Year by Cardinal Hummes, of the Congregation for Clergy here.

We are going to mark the beginning of the Year in our parishes by hosting the annual Sacred Heart Mass which is normally celebrated in St Peter's. Specially invited are those who attend Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in their parishes, but all are most welcome to join us - Friday 19th June at 7.30 in St Brigid's. Other events will be announced as the Year of the Priesthood unfolds. See what other Catholic bloggers are saying about the Year here.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

The case of the disappearing church...

St Brigid's church has disappeared under a cloak of scaffolding this week. Over the years since it was opened in the early sixties the rendering on the outside walls has deteriorated, as has all the woodwork in the fascias, soffits, downpipes etc. Over the last months we have been negotiating the diocesan financial apparatus to get out some of our money to get the work done. As so often with the archdiocese, you take months to get the agreement - and then the job itself happens superfast! I was told on Monday that it will take about three months, which was longer than I thought, but as a veteran of building a hall from scratch at St Francis, turning a hall into a church at St Clare's, doing up the hall at St Cadoc's etc, I'm not fazed...
People have various opinions about moderrn architecture. Not everyone likes St Brigid's for example. Some wag did suggest that actually the scaffolding was an improvement - and in terms of modern architecture I suppose St Brigid's does now look rather like the Pompadour Centre in Paris, that amazing Museum with all its services on the outside. Come to think of it, what do our readers think of our three churches as architecture and as places of worship?

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Happy faces

Ah yes - First Holy Communion. Don't those words bring it all back? The excitement, the preparation and then the Day. Anxious teachers, proud parents - and boiled eggs for breakfast if, like me, you are of a certain age. Big White Veils went out a little in the eighties, but seem to be back in now.

And then soon after there was Corpus Christi, and maybe a school trip to Bristol Zoo (I remember enjoying myself so much there one day that I cried almost all the way home!) One mum at First Holy Communion in Christ the King today said she had tears all the way through our Mass - and she is just one of the catechists! Yes it has it all, doesn't it as a happy day, and it shows on the children's faces.

Seven and eight are such lovely ages - past the initial blank pages of the first few years, but not too scribbled over by life, as they soon will be. When seven to nine year olds look up at you when you are preaching to them, they seem to absorb every word. Earlier in the week I celebrated Mass with Year 4 and told them the story of
the apparitions of Our Lady at Guadalupe in Mexico. I could feel 30 pairs of eyes fixed intently on me, and loads of them wanted to ask questions. I had explained that nobody knows how the image of Mary is imprinted on the cloak of Juan Diego which is preserved at the shrine of Guadalupe in Mexico City. One bright angel, however, had that one sorted. She told me that maybe Our Lady would come back and explain it for us! Brilliant...

Thursday, 14 May 2009

A straight run

Another interesting run of appointments yesterday evening showing our varied lives as priests. 5.40pm the phone rings. It's the Christ the King First Communion catechists. Am I, er, coming to the practice for First Communion which started 10 minutes ago?! A mad dash and I make it. Now I was already intending to get to CK for 6.30, because I had a wedding practice. I had clean forgotten about the children. As 6.30 drew close, sure enough bride, groom and entourage appeared outside. We gently edged the kids and their mums out and then I got into the wedding practice. All went well, especially as I did the marriage of the bridesmaid a year or two ago, so at least she knew the routine - and so did dad.

No time to stop. Evening prayer at 7.15pm before Mass at 7.30. Usually Fr James does Wednesday evening at CK, but he was in London getting his visa renewed. Afterwards, back down to St Brigid's, where I was expecting at 8.30 a visit from someone who had been away from the sacraments for a long time. An hour and a half later, and amid tears, they were back on track.
So there you are - 5.30 8 year olds; 6.30 starry-eyed couple; 7.30 "regulars" at Mass; 8.30 a joyful reconciliation. Eventually, 9.50 a bit of supper - and the last 10 minutes of "The Apprentice".

p.s. I did catch up on the rest of Sirallan on iPlayer today!

Monday, 11 May 2009


Well, our REFRESH weekend happened, and it was VERY blessed. The number of young adults was not huge, though if you add together all those who came for part of the weekend to those who stayed for the whole thing, the numbers really mount up. But what was obvious was the presence of Jesus, and of Mary, his Mother. The number of blessed conversations that people have told me about, the number of people who came to Confession after many years, the people young and not-so-young who came up to touch the fringe of Our Lord's cloak at the Saturday evening Healing Service, the really anointed way in which the music group played, the fantastic catering done by Caroline and her team of parishioners... the list goes on of the ways that God has responded to all our efforts for this event. For myself, one of the abiding memories will be the members of the three religious orders that we invited to come along. Sister Mary Trinity from Carmarthen just smiled a beautiful smile through the whole weekend. A whole bunch of Mother Teresa's sisters from Merthyr radiated peace and inner beauty, and attracted the young people to them like bees after the honey. And Fr Augustine and Brother Benedict, two young Friars of the Renewal in their full grey Franciscan habits spent the whole weekend just making themselves available - in Confession, in the canteen, wherever they were needed. Sadly, many of our young people have never encountered men or women from religious orders who are so at home with youth, so down to earth and yet so inspiring. It's not just because these ones wear their habits; rather it's because they are so transparently given over to the Lord.

I was really tired by Sunday evening, having been on the go throughout the weekend. Now I'm looking forward to the "post mortem" of the organizing group, and to a reunion meeting of those who attended - to see where we go from here.

So, readers, make no mistake, the Church is alive and active. Bring people together, gather them around Our Lord, light the spiritual touch paper and stand back!

Saturday, 9 May 2009

One Church, two faces

Well, I'm back at base and survived my conference at Aviemore in Scotland. As it turned out, yesterday I went straight from Bristol airport to REFRESH at Corpus Christi, and didn't get home until after 11 last night.
In a way, you couldn't get two more different faces of the Catholic Church. On the one hand, 100 church lawyers in conference, mostly priests, talking about some of the most "difficult" aspects of life as Catholics. On the other, a group of young Catholics having a great weekend, especially when gathered around the beautiful Burning Bush, which is a sort of tower about 6 feet high with 70 sanctuary lamps on it and the monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament on the top. But, you know what, what they both have in common is the wonderful people involved. In both cases I'm with committed, faithful, yet down-to-earth Catholics. I'm reminded how, next to the Lord, the church's greatest resource is simply one another - you and me, the people of the Church.

Come along to REFRESH - you'll find the timetable at

Sunday, 3 May 2009

And it's not a skiing trip!

Alas, alack, I will be out of blogreach for a few days now. I'm going to Aviemore in Scotland to attend the annual conference of the Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Ireland (CLSGBI). There I will, er, enjoy thrilling lectures on exciting subjects such as "Public Juridical Persons"!!
However, I'm sure I'll meet some nice folks, and if all else fails, there is the beautiful mountain scenery, my iPod - and a wee dram!
I'm flying back from Inverness to Bristol, and then it's straight into REFRESH on Friday evening. Please keep up the prayers for that. I'm feeling that it's going to be something very special. Let's hope so - let's pray so.