Sunday, 26 July 2009

Bye for now

Well folks, I'm off for a while on my hols. Fr Christopher has settled in well, so I'm leaving the ranch in the safe hands of India and Africa. I'll be "off air" for two weeks, until 10th August, though you never know, if I see a free internet place in deepest Latvia, you may get a posting from there! But I won't go out of my way!
It was February when I started this blog. Since then there have been 2,323 visits and 5,141 page views to the blog site. But many more of you view this on, the parish website, I know, and it's impossible to know how many visits are specifically to the blog part, but that site is getting thousands a month so...
Actually I'm a bit surprised that the blog is still going. Thanks everybody for the interest, and see you soon... To keep you going, here's a video of "In Christ Alone", one of the best modern hymns I've heard. It's accompanied by some scenes from "The Passion of the Christ" including the beautiful one with the woman taken in adultery...

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Welcome Fr Christopher!

Fr Christopher duly arrived this evening. He's originally from Lesotho, though he is a priest of Klerksdorp diocese in South Africa. He didn't realise that Wales is twinned with the small country of Lesotho (yes it is, honestly!). The twinning arrangement is called Dolen Cymru, and has been going for quite a few years. We have a young teacher from Christ the King out there at the moment in a school. So it will be interesting to hear about Lesotho and South Africa. There are 7 diocesan priests and about 15 or 20 religious ones in Fr Christopher's diocese, serving a Catholic population slightly bigger than in ours...
Over the years I've arranged for priests from several other countries to spend the summer here - Colombia, Mozambique, Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana, Poland. It's enriching for both sides, I think, and at least give the folks a change from us in the summer! So - welcome Fr Christopher!!

Tuesday, 21 July 2009


One of the main organizers of our REFRESH event in May was Dom, who hails from Brecon and is a student at Cardiff University. At the moment he's spending some time working in Father Stephen Langridge's parish in south London where Youth 2000 has its headquarters nowadays. But at this very moment he and his friend Phil, who also came to REFRESH, are cycling - yes cycling - from Rome to London via Medjugorje. They are currently somewhere in northern Italy! It's a sponsored ride for the big Youth 2000 event in August at Walsingham. You can follow their epic ride on their site here - where you can also donate in order to sponsor them. The picture shows Dom 'n' Phil at the Vatican, getting a send-off from Maria and Miriam, who also came to REFRESH!

Monday, 20 July 2009

Pleasures present and past

Lunch in Cowbridge today. Is it me, or is Cowbridge a bit sort of twee? Nice shops, caffs, etc but just a little, er, I'm not quite sure what. Lots of ladies-who-lunch were about and I suppose I was a priest-who-lunches among them! Bit like tourists complaining about all those pesky tourists in the beauty spots abroad, or the folks in Lourdes who, having bought all their own souvenirs and gifts, then proceed to complain about all the commercialization... I remember someone on one of our September pilgrimages complaining that the food in Rome was too - Italian!
When we were kids my Dad would sometimes drive us all out to Cowbridge Common, near that obelisk thing. After running about and working up an appetite we would, on a special occasion, go down then to a farmhouse nearby for egg and chips - anyone else ever do that? It was the height of excitement on all sorts of levels. Real countryside, fresh air, a real farmhouse and scrummy eggs to dip your real chips in. Ah, yes...

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Sheep and shepherds

I was up in Brecon today for a few hours to celebrate a wedding in the Catholic Church there. St Michael's is one of the oldest in Wales, and has recusant roots. The priest was gladly telling me that they have received the go-ahead to do some restoration work on the church which dates back to the 1840's.
Coming through the Beacons, which I always enjoy, I noticed the sheep scattered all over the hillsides. It took my mind straight to this Sunday's readings, all about shepherds and sheep. I'm sure our Welsh sheep are secure in knowing their shepherds (and their dogs!), but it would be awful to be a poor old sheep and be really scattered, without any shepherd at all, in a country where you would depend on him for the next patch of green field and fresh water...

Thursday, 16 July 2009

A good Tallinn off

The school term is finishing, meetings are slowing down and it's time to start thinking of holidays. Two weeks tomorrow, after a few days with my brother and sister-in-law, I'll hopefully be on my way to Eastern Europe, to the Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. I've been reading up a bit on the history etc. Basically lots of other countries and peoples have ruled them at different times, most notably and recently, of course, the Nazis and then the Soviet Union. The Russian influence still seems to show itself in different ways. In Latvia the large Russian minority do not have the vote. In Christian terms Lithuania is the most Catholic of the three, while the other two are more secularised, but more Lutheran and Orthodox. I'll be part of a tour group, staying in "westernised" hotels I suppose, but some of them are former Soviet Intourist hotels, that is official government run establishments where visitors were compelled to stay in Soviet days... I'm really looking forward to getting away - no phones, meetings or, if I'm honest -parishioners!! We priests are very public and very available people, so to be anonymous and private is a great change. I know a few people who have made a day trip to Tallinn in Estonia from Helsinki, or called in on a Baltic cruise, and a colleague went to a conference in Kaunas in Lithuania. Otherwise, I guess I'm breaking new ground among my acquaintances. So roll on Tallinn on the 31st. I just hope it's a bit warmer than it looks in this lovely photo!

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Back to the sixteenth century

Quick visit yesterday to St Fagans to see the church they've rebuilt there from Llandeilo Tal-y-bont near Pontardulais. What an amazing place! They decided to restore it to its state immediately before the Reformation, that is, when it was, like all other churches in Britain, Catholic. So consequently it's whitewashed outside and covered with mural paintings inside. We see so many medieval churches as the Victorians left them, or as in the case with Cwmyoy a fortnight ago, as the 17th and 18th centuries left them. But we never see how the Catholics left them! I can really recommend a visit this summer. It's not very well signposted within the park - find the Gwalia Stores, go down the left side and on past the Oakdale Institute then take the path into the woods, and you'll find this beautiful building in its own clearing. Hopefully you won't get absolutely soaked in the rain as we were!

Monday, 13 July 2009

Perpetuum Jazzile - Fr M's music tip...

While I was having my morning cuppa I came across something on another Catholic blog. Do you remember the group Toto back in the 90s? Bit cheesy maybe, but some good tunes. One of their best known songs was "Africa". I discovered a version of it done by an a capella choir from Slovenia, of all places, called Perpetuum Jazzile. It is an astonishing performance, especially the opening interpretation of a tropical downpour. Have a listen, and close your eyes during the opening part.

Sunday, 12 July 2009


Went down to some friends' home in Porthcawl for a few hours yesterday. The plan was to have a BBQ - but the big question was would the weather hold out? Well, it did, although a few times over the tasty lunch a few spits 'n' spots fell on us. The collective prayers of everyone there managed to keep the rain up in the clouds at least until desserts, which we were happy to have indoors.
I've always felt that it's vital for priests to have some really good friends among families. After all, our living situation is out-of-the-ordinary, and we need to be well "earthed" not just so that we can relate to family life and fulfil our ministry - but also for our own sanity! It's easy sometimes for clergy to sort of drift off into a churchy dreamworld, or allow things to get dramatically - and sometimes tragically - out of proportion or off track. It's surely one of the roles of a good friend to sometimes pull you back from the brink, tell you the truth, or just put an arm around you to let you cry - whichever is appropriate! Sometimes people refer to me as "down to earth" or some such phrase. If that is true, I take it as a compliment, but I put a lot of it down to the friends that God has given me over the years.

The picture shows an icon from Taize in France. It's called the Icon of Friendship, showing Jesus with his arm around a saint.

Friday, 10 July 2009

The Big Questions

Oh my goodness - the dilemmas we face in the Church. Yesterday at Christ the King we accidentally had today's first reading at Mass. So the dilemma was, which reading should we have today - repeat today's or go backwards in the ongoing story of Joseph in Egypt to yesterday's first reading? One of the parishioners said that a previous parish priest had opined that nobody was listening anyway - so we went back to yesterday's...
To matters of far greater importance - whatever happened to Chelsea buns? We were talking after Mass about my recent rediscovery of Eccles cakes, and we got on to Chelsea buns. They used to do nice ones downstairs in David Morgan's, didn't they? But we won't go into the demise of Morgans... Brian at the Presbytery has chipped in that they are also good at the Lakeside stores. But where have all the Chelsea buns gone? If anybody knows - put a comment on here....
ps I just Google Imaged "chelsea bun" and was directed to 123,000 images!!
pps Brian has also asked about Big tea-cakes that you cut up for several portions and also polony, if that is the right spelling - anyone seen any recently?

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Blessed John Henry Newman?

So I haven't yet got round to saying anything about the news concerning Cardinal John Henry Newman. On Friday, Pope Benedict recognised the healing of Deacon Jack Sullivan in 2001 as a miracle resulting from the intercession of the Venerable Servant of God John Henry Newman. The miraculous healing from serious debility of the spine occurred in Boston in the United States following prayers for Cardinal Newman’s intercession. This paves the way for Cardinal Newman to be beatified, which means he would be known as BLESSED John Henry Newman, and is one step away from canonization as SAINT John Henry Newman. Commentators think that beatification could be this autumn, and could lead to a papal visit next year. We shall see...
Cardinal Newman is of great importance in the history of Christianity in Britain, both as an Anglican and later as a Catholic. Ironically in some ways he's better known abroad than here. Take a look at the press release on the Bishops' site here and at their general pages on him here.
It would be a great boost for the Church here if this all goes ahead. I remember visiting the little community at Littlemore outside Oxford, where he was received into the Church - very moving. Then there was, of course, the strange episode a while back when they opened his grave and found - almost nothing! I'll be returning to Newman in the future here, as there is so much to say about him. Meanwhile, a beautiful prayer of his...

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 may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next.
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.
Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever 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. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about.
He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me.
Still, He knows what He is about.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Saints and scholars

I was busy at St Brigid's and at St Paul's yesterday. At 10.30 Mass we welcomed Christ the King School. I always enjoy celebrating Masses that bring out the presence of children - school Masses, First Holy Communion Masses and so on. C the K school "visits" its three main feeder parishes once a year, one in each term. Both Rachel Woodward in the liturgy and Les Collins in the music, brought everything together - as usual! I've always been a great supporter of our Catholic schools, and we are particularly blessed in the ones we have here.

Then it was a quick transfer to St Paul's for the morning Mass shifted from 9am to 12 noon in order to celebrate the end of the Year of St Paul (did you spot the disappearance of the logo for the Year at the top right of this blog?!) We had a lovely celebration with lots of parishioners involved in the different ministries. Ansti and Jude did a great job here in coordinating the celebration. Then about a hundred of us sauntered over Cyncoed Road to enjoy the annual Buffet Lunch hosted by Madeleine and Hugh McManus. The St B and St P social/catering group were wonderful as usual, and thank God, the weather held off. Two out of the previous four Lunches had to be transferred to St Brigid's Hall, including when the Archbishop came. Clouds loomed yesterday and one or two sprinklings of rain, but we all had a great time.

So, after our 3 Churches Mass last weekend, another special one this weekend. And all with the willing help of our wonderful parishioners. July and August usually get a little quieter - maybe!

Saturday, 4 July 2009

An Easter poem

I found this moving poem on Llantwit Major parish website. Another site says it is written by a Sister Mary Ada. Easter from an unusual angle.


an Easter poem

The ancient greyness shifted suddenly and thinned
like a mist upon the moor before a wind.
An old, old prophet
lifted a shining face and said:
“He will be coming soon.
The Son of Man is dead.
He died this afternoon.”
A murmurous excitement filled all souls.
They wondered if they dreamed.
Save one old man who seemed
not even to have heard.
Then Moses, standing, hushed them all to ask
if any had a welcome song prepared;
if not, would David take the task?
And, if they cared, could not the three young men
sing the Benedicite, the canticle of praise
they made when God kept them from perishing in
the fiery blaze?

A breath of Spring surprised them,
stilling Moses’ words.
No one could speak, remembering
the first fresh flowers,
the little singing birds.
Still others thought of fields new·ploughed
or apple-trees, all blossom-boughed.
Or some the way a dried bed fills
with water, laughing down green hills.
The fisherfolk dreamed of the foam
on bright blue seas.
The old man who had not stirred
remembered home.

And there He was, splendid as the morning sun
and fair, as only God is fair.
And they, confused with joy, knelt to adore,
seeing that He wore five crimson stars
he never had before.
No canticle at all was sung;
none toned a psalm or raised a greeting song.
A silent man alone of all that throng
found tongue.
Close to his heart when the embrace was done,
old Joseph said “How is your Mother?
How is your Mother, Son?”

Thursday, 2 July 2009

A Father in Christ

First time I've done two postings in a day! We had a good discussion about the Year of the Priesthood this morning at the Council of Priests. In particular, two initiatives for the Year were agreed in principle - to reorganize our Vocations promotion and direction, and secondly to hold a three-day coming-together for priests of our diocese on the changing role of the priest. While fishing around on the 'net in preparation for the meeting, I came across this picture of the new and impressive Archbishop of New York, Tim Dolan, whom readers will remember me mentioning a month or two back. Here he is greeting, I think, a new priest he has just ordained. Immediately after the laying on of hands, the moment of ordination, the bishop embraces the priest in a sign of peace and welcome. All the priests present then welcome him in similar vein. The moment of ordination is one of great joy and solemnity, but it is often tinged with a kind of wistfulness as there is now no going back, as it were. So often this embrace is a rather formal gesture, but this picture conveys, I think, a real fatherly embrace...

Perspiration and priesthood

A morning posting for a change... Mass at Christ the King is not until 9.45am today as a class from the primary school are joining us. I found sleeping very difficult last night - so hot. I've never known a house like our Presbytery for being so warm upstairs and cool downstairs. No matter how many windows you open etc, the heat just seems to form an upper layer in the house, reaching into every bedroom corner. I almost came downstairs to sleep, but eventually I dropped off.
This morning is our four times yearly Council of Priests. This is the consultative body to the Archbishop made up of priests of the diocese - the eight deans, eight elected members and a few ex officio members. I'm the elected priest for Cardiff East Deanery and currently chairman on my second three year term. Today we're continuing to look at the Vocations situation and then the Year of the Priesthood including plans for our own on-going formation. Could be very interesting...