Sunday, 27 December 2009

Towards 2010

There will be a pause in postings for about six days, as I will be spending time with my family after the Christmas liturgical "rush". My brother is married and lives in the Midlands, and is an academic; my sister lives in Hampshire and is married with three sons. I hope to spend time with both, with Wednesday being a family day when we will all get together.
I was reviewing who visits this blog via and it seems about 10% come from the USA. So I had better wish a special Happy New Year to our stateside readers - but I hope that you're not intending to visit Charleston Illinois on Jan 1st...
Indeed, a very blessed 2010 to everyone.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Roots and wings

Today we move from Christmas itself to tomorrow's feast of the Holy Family. As I was in Bethlehem a few months ago, today's picture is one I took myself of a wall plaque I saw in the Milk Grotto, which commemorates the Holy Family stopping as they moved on from the manger.
The child is a little older, but I like the way that Mary's gestures are portrayed. One arm is around her precious Son as he reaches out to the world. Meanwhile, her other arm is somehow letting him go, in a movement which echoes his. This seems to be the dilemma of parents with their children (and of God with us) - to protect and to let go, and both at the same time! To give roots and wings... Getting it right isn't always easy, and it wasn't for Mary and Joseph either, as we find out in this Sunday's Gospel, of the Finding in the Temple.
We pray for all our families and for family life itself in our time.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Happy Christmas everybody!

I just celebrated a beautiful Vigil Mass at Christ the King, and am going back for Midnight Mass in a short while, with Morning Mass at St Brigid's. So - a very happy, holy and peace-filled Christmas to all my blog-friends!!
Here's another interpretation of the Christmas story, this time "The Adoration of the Shepherds" by one of my favourite artists, Giorgione.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Bright neighbors

And now for something frivolous! That house in North Road in Cardiff with all the Christmas lights better watch out. It seems the in thing in the USA now is computer controlled LED lights on your house - maybe 20 or 30 or 40,000 lights! To get a taste, watch this video. For the best effect double click and then click on High Quality. Enjoy!

Monday, 21 December 2009

Together at the manger

Just a few days to go now before Christmas. Well, yesterday we had our first 3 Churches Carol Service at St Brigid's. As with anything new, I was a bit apprehensive - how many would come? Would all the groups that had prepared their interpretation of the eight readings come up trumps?
The answer - yes! A great crowd came, and I think it was a big success. All the groups were excellent. Some were simple in their presentation, others more elaborate, so there was great variety. The Year 11 Performing Arts group from Corpus Christi High School were very good, as were all our wonderful parishioners, really.
For me personally, it was the the tableau that was the high point. Instead of the usual children portraying Mary, Joseph and the shepherds and kings, we had adults. They came into the sanctuary slowly and with extraordinary dignity as Tanya played some classical choral music on the CD player. Simon from Christ the King and Sue from St Brigid's were Joseph and Mary, while the shpeherds were from St Brigid's and the wise men from the Catenians. Then I called all the children present to gather around in front of the scene for "Away in a Manger." Simple, moving, beautiful. And you know how you can tell something is a success? It's when the people don't want to leave. And loads came across to the Hall for mulled wine or tea and mince pies.
Big thanks to Stephen, June and Tanya who were the steering group with me. Not for the first time since the summer, Fr M is a very proud parish priest...
The pic is by Welsh poet and engraver David Jones

Saturday, 19 December 2009

A painting on celluloid

Another approach to the Nativity story is through film. Maybe my favourite Bible movie is the Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini's 1964 "The Gospel According to St Matthew". This black and white version contains everything in St Matthew's Gospel, but only what's in the gospel. A scene without words has no words in the film either. All the actors are amateur, except the adult Jesus. So, here is the very opening scene of this beautiful version of the Gospel. These 90 seconds illustrate Matthew 1:17 and have no music or other sound...
Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a man of honour and wanting to spare her publicity, decided to divorce her informally.
If I can find other scenes I'll put them up too. Watch and enjoy...

Thursday, 17 December 2009

A world in a painting

Had a phonecall from my very good friends in Aberystwyth today, talking about this n that. Another of my favourite paintings came up in conversation, so I thought I'd hunt it out on the net and post it on here for Advent.
Painted over 500 years ago by the Sicilian Antonello da Messina (1430-1479), it depicts the Madonna of the Annunciation. Mary has just received her News, and is beginning to digest... and think... and wonder... and feel. Study her face and her eyes, then her two hands. Contemplate this great painting for a little while. I use it in meditations and days of recollection to help us get into the humanity of Our Lady, a human being, a woman, and a wife and mother.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009


The aftermath of the so-called Murphy Report into the handling of child abuse cases among the clergy of the archdiocese of Dublin continues. Archbishop Martin of Dublin has been in Rome with Cardinal Brady, and he seems to be a man of integrity, having opened up all the files of his archdiocese, and of courage, where his tenacity must surely affect his relationship with other bishops. I remember how his appointment a few years ago was greeted with some scepticism, as he had a reputation as a Vatican "pen-pusher" - not someone who would have attracted many votes if it were left to local feeling, as some people wish episcopal appointments were, like a sort of ecclesiatical X Factor...
It seems that some kind of major "reorganization" of the Church in Ireland will be promulgated in the New Year, including, presumably some high-ups being "reorganized" out of a job. It does seem impossible to imagine continuing as a bishop with such negligence behind you, and the consequent lack of trust around you.
Personally, I believe that all these horrific matters must come out. The New Testament urges us that the truth will set us free. Sounds nice - until the truth hurts. In early 1998 when I was in Penarth, with the wonderful parishioners there handling their parish priest being on trial for abuse, the Lord seemed to give me a line from the letter of St James "Humble yourself before the Lord - and He will lift you up." I decided that God wants a truly humble Church, and if we don't do it ourselves, he will allow others to do it...

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Dancing for joy

So Joe McElderry has won "The X Factor" for 2009. Not a very big surprise really. Joe certainly has a great voice and is a goodlooking lad, but I'm not sure if he will last... However, I left the telly on after the results programme, and one came on next about Susan Boyle. Now, if the programme is to be believed, there is a fascinating story, where Susan has come through the initial stages anyway of stardom and is really blossoming. I'm really glad most of all that she at least appears to be enjoying herself. Good luck to her, I say.
The only thing is, all these so called commentators tell us that she shows us how even an ordinary person can achieve their dream, and, by implication, happiness. As if happiness is only achieved through celebrity - what a cruel message to the millions who will never achieve in that way. I prefer the joy of today's first reading from the prophet Zephaniah:

"The Lord will exult with joy over you, he will renew you by his love; he will dance with shouts of joy for you as on a day of festival."

And the "you" is you, and me, and all of us, and in His love we can all be ever new, and we are all celebs in His eyes.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Marriage and Mary

As some people know, as well as my parish work I have a finger in a few other pies. In particular I head up in Wales that branch of the Church's pastoral work with those who are divorced/remarried etc - the National Tribunal for Wales. The aspect we are best known for is marriage annulments. Without going into the whole explanation of these, I am basically the sort of head judge for making these decisions. (Handy information about our work and annulments can be found on some websites like Shrewsbury diocese here).
Today we had a particularly bulky case to judge. Usually the 3 judges are faced with up to 80 or 100 pages of evidence, but this one had over 150. I'm always a bit edgy on judging days - it's a huge responsibility affecting the rest of people's lives - and I'm equally relieved to get it over with! It was great tonight to switch into a completely different mode and give the repeat of my first Advent Reflection on Our Lady. There were 25 or so there, so with the 20 at Tuesday's group that's a very healthy 45+ The folks are very appreciative, and I love breaking open the scriptures with the people. So, with finishing and emailing my bits of the newsletter and answering various emails and phonecalls, many of them about the forthcoming Carol Service, plus Mass, prayer and the daily routine - a good day!
Here's the unusual painting of the Nativity that I'm showing to everyone this Advent... it's by an American artist Gari Melchers from the 1920s. The colouring has been slightly darkened.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Blessed Mother

Today is the beautiful feast of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady. Our Lady is patroness of our archdiocese under this title. We had the first of our Advent Scripture Reflections looking at Mary in the Gospels this afternoon.
To celebrate the feast here is a Bruckner setting of an ancient prayer for today "Tota pulchra es" (Wholly beautiful are you). For something equally beautiful to read for the feast, follow this link to Rocco Palmo's blog in order to read the Pope's excellent sermon given at today's traditional ceremony at Rome's statue of the Immaculate in Piazza di Spagna, adjacent to the foot of the Spanish Steps. The posting is headed "Dear brothers and sisters, we are the city!"

Acknowledgements to Fr Ray Blake at for finding this video

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Blessed memories

A trip down memory lane this evening, as we showed the DVD of this year's pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Loads of people came to see it at St Brigid's hall, many of them pilgrims but also lots of other parishioners too. I'd asked Teresa and Linda, two of the pilgrims, to say a little about their experience, and both did - very, very well. The DVD lasts over 90 minutes and we had a tea break half way through. The more often I watch it, the more special I feel is the sequence showing our 7am service by the lakeshore of Galilee on our last morning. Bernard, who made the DVD so expertly, intercut scenes of the brief prayer time with shots of the lake, the fishermen, and flashbacks to highlights of the trip. It sums up so much of this beautiful, beautiful trip, and brought a tear, I think, to not a few eyes.
The Holy Land will certainly be one of my highlights for 2009, and I thank God for it, along with Billy and Rita, the organizers, and all my fellow pilgrims. What about you, bloggers? Don't forget to look back... and give thanks to God and to the people who have enlightened your 2009.
The pic shows me celebrating Mass at the Sea of Galilee, with my hero St Peter being forgiven, loved and sent out by Jesus in the background.

Friday, 4 December 2009

The wrong Yorath

One of the websites I use in family tree research is Genes Reunited. It was an offshoot of the more famous Friends Reunited, but I think it has outgrown its parent! You can put your tree on there and search for other people with whom you may share a relative. Every month the site runs each tree past every other one and sends you notification of which people may have a "hot match" with you. To be honest, as I have about 2,000 people on my tree I don't bother to check these monthly matches - but plenty of people do, and I recently had contact from a lady in Australia who was born in Cardiff, just two years after me.
It turns out that her great-grand-father's brother, Joseph Yorath, married my great grandmother's sister, Elizabeth Morgan. Not only that, but she has traced back this line of Yoraths all the way to a Richard Yorath, born in Kenfig in 1681. That's about the same period as my furthest line back, the Williamses of Llangynwyd and Llangeinor, north of Bridgend.
Someone told me that there was a programme recently on BBC Wales about the family of Gaby Logan and her dad Terry Yorath. Naturally, as it's a rare surname (from the Welsh Iorwerth), ever since I discovered a few years ago that I had Yorath relatives I've wondered if I was connected to famous ex-football player and manager Terry. So I watched the programme on i-Player - and the answer is... no! His line originated in St Lythan's west of Cardiff. But you never know, further back the Yoraths of St Lythans and the Yoraths of Kenfig may have been connected...

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Advent gets going

After a good weekend, more great signs of things moving on... I was at two meetings one after the other yesterday at Christ the King, the first for the 3 churches, the second just for C the K. 6.30pm I was with the little group I have looking at a strategy for our 3 churches to reach out to our lapsed/resting/inactive/returning Catholics. We've only had two meetings of this group which is six plus me, but we've already made plans for Christmas and into the New Year. We are investigating taking on a programme for later next year to provide something for such people to plug into if they decide they want to look at coming back.
Then straight into C the K parish council and a special meeting to look at the forthcoming refurbishment and extension of the Parish Centre there. After gaining the diocese's approval a few weeks ago to use money that we have deposited with them, things are forging ahead and we learned last night that it is hoped work will start in January. Excellent!
Again and again I am reminded of all the great people we have in our 3 churches here who give of their time and talents. There will be plenty more on display in this busy time of Advent as different events take place.