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.

Monday, 21 September 2009


One of the great things about pilgrimages is that you make them together. There is something deeply human about journeying to a special place, an anointed spot, a meeting place of the everyday and the extraordinary. And to do so with others, especially those close to you, adds yet another profound dimension.
So here we are at the Church of the Annunciation at Nazareth. In the background is the cave believed to be part of the house of Our Lady, and the remains of the Byzantine basilica have been incorporated into the twentieth century church. Here a young woman made her decision, gave her consent - and the Word was made flesh, the Son became one of us. Here we are, as one, praying the prayer that Son taught us, at the place where he entered into an eternal oneness with the human race. Here Mary started her mothering, which he asked her to continue past his crucifixion and on into her mothering of us, his Church.

ps Thanks to Paul for the photo.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Come back to earth, Fr M...

I'm having problems coming back down to earth from our pilgrimage. Tomorrow my sister and one of my nephews are coming to visit, then on Tuesday friends from mid-Wales are coming to see me - and the relics of St Therese in our cathedral. Then on Wednesday our Fraternity of Priests is meeting here at St Brigid's. All with the usual run of meetings and stuff interspersed. In the middle of all that I promised the Administrator of our Marriage Tribunal that I would draft a sentence (decision) on an annulment case by this evening. These require fairly intense attention and careful analysis, not really what I felt like this weekend. However, I finished it an hour ago... and I think I'm just about ready for the next few days. Meanwhile, another photo from the Holy Land, this time the morning view from my bedroom balcony over the Sea of Galilee...

Friday, 18 September 2009

Mary's Diary

Most of the places we visited in the Holy Land I had been to before. Somewhere new, however, was the Notre Dame Centre in Jerusalem. This is a hotel and welcome centre for Catholics under the control of the Vatican. They have a chapel where we celebrated Mass and an exhibition called "The Man of the Shroud". Our guide at the exhibition was a young German lady from Munich, and after showing us around she delighted us by singing a song. It was her own translation of a Spanish song entitled "El Diario de Maria" (Mary's Diary). We were all entranced, and so I searched for an English version on the net. I could only find an original Spanish one with English subtitles. If they are too small for you, doubleclick on the video to take you to YouTube, then leave The Canon's Stall, or you'll have two versions running together. Enjoy!

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Tired but happy...

Just checking in after my wonderful pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Everything went very well. The group gelled excellently, the hotels were fine and the weather hot, sometimes very hot! No doubt I'll share my musings about the Holy Land over coming days here. For now, a pic of yours truly at one of my favourite places on earth, the Sea of Galilee. The photo was taken in the beautiful gardens at the Mount of Beatitudes, but I don't think you can actually make out the Sea in the background. This was on our last day, and I'm looking a little tired but very happy - which just about sums it up!

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Can't wait

Well, folks, there'll be another gap in postings while I'm in the Holy Land. We're off early on Monday morning and will be back a week Wednesday. I'm not sure if I'll get time to post tomorrow, and I very much doubt if I'll get a chance to post in Israel.

This will be my fourth visit to the Holy Land, and I must say, as a veteran now of many pilgrim destinations, this one puts all the others in the shade. It quite simply is the best. All those many places we have read and heard about since we were children - and suddenly you're there! Bethlehem, Nazareth, Jerusalem - they're woven into the tapestry of our faith and lives, and indeed the very life of Christian civilization and history.
Emotions can be touched very deeply while there, and one of my tasks and privileges is to spend time with individuals there, and sometimes back home afterwards, to help them "make sense" of what they are experiencing. At times, someone will just be overcome, amd fall silent or gently cry, and needs to be left alone. We have made our trip this time a little longer, to allow more time at places like the lakeshore at Galilee or the Mount of Beatitudes, places where the peace and atmosphere can often lead to moments like those. I myself on our first visit in 1990 experienced the presence of Jesus very simply and deeply at the Mount.

So, never fear if you hear nothing for ten days - you'll be hearing plenty afterwards! To keep you going the picture shows the beautiful modern statue of Jesus with Peter at Tabgha on the lakeside entitled "You know I love you."

Friday, 4 September 2009

Love at Llantarnam

Back in the world of real weddings after my last posting - I celebrated my last one of the year earlier today in the beautiful setting of Llantarnam Abbey. In case you haven't heard of, or been to Llantarnam, it's located on the outskirts of Cwmbran near Newport. The site was originally that of a Cistercian monastery in the Middle Ages. Much later a mansion was built there, and this eventually came into the hands of the Sisters of St Joseph of Annecy, who are the largest women's religious congregation in our diocese. It is the home for their retired sisters, and until a few years ago, also the base for their Sister Provincial (ie boss for the British Isles). Now she lives in Newport, and that part of Llantarnam is a retreat centre called Ty Croeso (House of Welcome). The Abbey is situated in lovely grounds, with trees and meadows, and sheep grazing.
Parish groups etc can hire Ty Croeso for a day, and small groups can even stay there. My priests group has done so on several occasions. Near the Abbey is their cemetery, where not only many sisters, but also some clergy and two of our archbishops are buried.

What a blessed and charming place for a wedding, and the Lord also came up trumps with the weather. So say a prayer for Christina and Russell as they embark on married life.