Sunday, 26 December 2010

See you later this week

I hope everybody had a happy and peaceful Christmas Day. For us the Christmas season now continues at least another week.
Fr M is having a few days with his family this week, so no postings until the weekend.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Pope Benedict's "Thought for the Day"

Today, an historic first for Christmas Eve - Pope Benedict gave Radio 4's "Thought for the Day". For my Christmas gift to all of you out there in the blogosphere, I reproduce here his words.
Recalling with great fondness my four-day visit to the United Kingdom last September, I am glad to have the opportunity to greet you once again, and indeed to greet listeners everywhere as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ.
"Our thoughts turn back to a moment in history when God's chosen people, the children of Israel, were living in intense expectation. They were waiting for the Messiah that God had promised to send and they pictured him as a great leader who would rescue them from foreign domination and restore their freedom.
God is always faithful to his promises, but he often surprises us in the way he fulfills them. The child that was born in Bethlehem did indeed bring liberation, but not only for the people of that time and place - he was to be the Saviour of all people throughout the world and throughout history.
And it was not a political liberation that he brought, achieved through military means; rather, Christ destroyed death forever and restored life by means of his shameful death on the Cross. And while he was born in poverty and obscurity, far from the centres of earthly power, he was none other than the Son of God. Out of love for us, he took upon himself our human condition, our fragility, our vulnerability and he opened up for us the path that leads to the fullness of life to a share in the life of God himself.
As we ponder this great mystery in our hearts this Christmas, let us give thanks to God for his goodness to us and let us joyfully proclaim to those around us the good news that God offers us freedom from whatever weighs us down: he gives us hope, he brings us life.
Dear Friends from Scotland, England, Wales and indeed every part of the English-speaking world. I want you to know that I keep all of you very much in my prayers this Holy Season. I pray for your families, for your children, for those who are sick and for those who are going through any form of hardship at this time. I pray especially for the elderly and for those who are approaching the end of their days.
I ask Christ, the light of the nations, to dispel whatever darkness there may be in your lives and to grant to every one of you the grace of a peaceful and joyful Christmas.
May God bless all of you!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

TCP, carols and a 2010 Christmas

Snow is still everywhere in Fr M world.  I'm ogling a scab below my knee, the likes of which hasn't been seen since childhood. Memories of grazed knees, witch hazel, TCP etc etc.
We had a wonderful Carol Service last night, which everybody seemed to appreciate. Simple, well prepared and carried out, thoughtful, warm and joyful. Congrats to the 3 Churches team - Fr M approves.
In the i-Phone Facebook Twitter age, digital Nativities were inevitable. There is a clever but, I'm told, rather disrespectful digital nativity video doing the rounds, but I found this one, and I think it is good. Fr M approves. As usual, double click to see full width. Enjoy...

Acknowledgements to Fr Tim Finegan

Monday, 20 December 2010

Shins, rings, and maybe sings

Thanks for enquiries about my shin bone. A very neat little plaster thingy left over from my earlier ankle thingy is protecting my right shin fine. I will survive. In fact, on Sunday we returned to the scene of the fall-flat-in-the-flowerbed-melodrama, when we were invited to lunch back at the golf club. I snarled at the offending wall. Grrrrr...
Snow... is falling even as I type on Monday morning. Folks turned out for all of our Masses over the weekend. Attendance was about 25-40%. Aren't Catholics wonderful! Here's a picture I took of Fr Tomy clearing snow on Friday before our heavier fall that day.
My nephew was due to propose to his beloved on the Acropolis in Athens this weekend - but had to resort to plan B, which was Basingstoke, where he lives. At the moment my brother and sister-in-law are stranded at Milan airport, where they were supposed to leave yesterday.
I was in Canada for two years in the 1980s, doing my canon law studies. Winters there were of course very, very cold - 20 below was common. But the winters were also very predictable, the same every year more or less. So although it's good to complain about how the authorities here are never prepared, I have some sympathy, given that we had about 25 years without serious snow!
Meanwhile, we have a 3 Churches Carol Service planned for Wednesday evening - not looking good. But the thing is, some of our wonderful Catholics will turn up, no matter what the weather!

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Have a nice trip

Yesterday the Lord saw fit to allow me to fall flat on my face. Literally. In a flowerbed. I was on the way to the Christmas Dinner of our two ladies' groups, the UCM and the CWL (note that I said "On the way to" not "coming back from, at a late hour"). Walking across the car-park, I was looking over to my right at the clubhouse of the golf club where it was being held, and didn't spot the low wall surrounding a flower bed in my path, shrouded in darkness. Next minute, a bang on my two shins, hands out in front of me and into the earthy flower-bed I go. Damage to me was minimal, one grazed top of my shin, just about where you touch down when genuflecting. Damage to flower-bed - dunno, and don't care. Get some lighting in your car park!
I'm sure there is a sermon in this somewhere, but as it feels like it might be something to do with humility, I'm not going to rush into that one. At least it gave the good ladies of the 3 Churches something to laugh about...

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Mind the gap?

The months continue to pass by, and we still do not have an Archbishop. Yes, we know that the Roman summer has come and gone, when the Vatican shuts down, the Pope too has come and gone in September, and, sadly, the Nuncio, one of the key people in the process of appointment, is gone as well, through ill health. 
I'm told that one or two other British appointments have taken as long as this - getting on for eight months - over the last few years. There is much reference among the clergy at the moment to that fact that we seem to be getting on fine, thank you very much! Some whisper that they are finding it hard to get someone to come here, that Bishop X or Y has turned it down (yes, you can).
All joking aside, the bishop in a diocese has absolutely the key role. Canonically he holds full power - judicial, executive and legislative. Pastorally, he is first shepherd and father of the diocesan family. He has the potential to influence every single aspect of diocesan life, and personally I would see one of his primary roles as being to inspire and uplift the people of God.
In a circular to the clergy today Mgr Bob Readon, Diocesan Administrator, urges us to keep up the prayers for this vital appointment. Will do, Bob!
Picture shows the "Cathedra, or bishop's throne, of St Gregory" in the church named after him in Rome.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Thankyou and Hallelujah!

Many, many thanks to all those - eight at the last count - who sent me links to this Christmassy flash mob. So I thought I'd better put up a link here. Folks at a shopping mall food court near Niagara Falls got a surprise just a few weeks ago....  Enjoy - 17 million already have! 

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Mass with a swing

Fr M loves a bit of (melo)drama with his religion, and you can't get much more dramatic than the botafumeiro. This is the enormous thurible in the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela, the great shrine in north-west Spain. We went there on our September pilgrimage about ten years ago, and witnessed the botafumeiro in action. It swings from the roof 80 or 90 feet up, and at its wildest almost swings horizontal. Sparks fly everywhere, and the whooooosh as it passes over is very loud. It's very difficult to film it, so I was delighted to find a link to this video of Pope Benedict in Santiago a few weeks ago. It's the best film I've seen for giving an idea of what an amazing experience it is to see, hear, smell and almost feel the thing flying over your head. Check out too the looks on the faces of the Vatican officials. Enjoy a little Catholic drama. Thanks to Catholic and Lovin It.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Faster, faster, faster

Sorry guys - a six day gap between blogs. Partly it's just Advent busy-ness, and partly this cold weather sort of slows down the canonical braincells, I think.
Now, this week I'm due to do one of my "Wednesday Word" broadcasts for Radio Wales. A few moments ago, I had just put on the kettle for my post-Mass cup of coffee when the producer rang. We decide the topic on Monday, I write the piece during the day, email it to her, then she comes back to me on the Tuesday with any, er, observations, then I go in to do the broadcast live on Wednesday.
So this time it's going to be based on the news today that the Government want us all to be on "superfast broadband" by 2015. Faster, faster, faster - everything must be faster. Don't get me wrong, I couldn't imagine going back to dial-up broadband myself. But we just seem to worship at the shrine of instant everything nowadays - and life, especially some of the most important aspects of life, ain't like that.
All of this is very Advent, when we are asked to wait, to pause and to reflect - to slow down and appreciate. My producer thought this was an excellent theme, and proclaimed it to be appropriately "countercultural" - which is BBC language for a good idea. So I'd better get down to it, and see where I can get with it. If you would like to hear it, it is on Radio Wales this Wednesday roughly 2.40pm.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Fished and frozen

Well, a very happy St Andrew's Day to any Scottish readers. At Mass at Christ the King I was pondering how it felt to be someone like Andrew. One day you are a fisherman by the Sea of Galilee, with your brother Peter and your mates James and John. The next thing, this Jesus from Nazareth comes into your life, and suddenly the whole picture changes. The Gospels tell us that actually it was Andrew who met the Lord first and introduced Peter to him.
I wonder whether Andrew was a little quieter, and, if so, how he handled various moments with his brother. Like when Peter steps out on the lake at the Lord's bidding. "What you doing? Are you crazy?" Or, did Peter confide in Andrew when he denied Our Lord? Well, of couse, we'll never know. But I think it's good to ask ourselves these sort of questions, as it brings the apostles to life, makes them more real. And therefore we can learn more from them.
Well, I haven't posted on here since Thursday. Strange how the snow slooooows everything down - even blogging! The weatherpersons got it wrong on Friday and didn't predict snow for Cardiff. Our car park at St B's is like an ice-rink. Personally I'm glad to hear the drip drip drip of the thaw...

Thursday, 25 November 2010

The great James Cagney

One of Fr M's all-time favourite stars is Jimmy Cagney. Love the gangster films - Angels With Dirty Faces, Public Enemy No.1, White Heat etc. But he was, of course, also a brilliant dancer and entertainer. So here are two videos. The first is Jimmy with Bob Hope doing a fantastic dance routine from the film "The Seven Little Foys" (1955). Boy, could they teach some of today's dancers a thing or two. Thanks to Lorna for drawing my attention to this one.

Next, I could only find a small snippet of one of the best TV interviews I ever saw - Jimmy Cagney on Parkinson. Here he is with buddy Pat O'Brien, reminding us how in real life Jimmy was very different to his gangster persona. Cagney fans will get his story about the kid who asked him whether he really did chicken out. In the interview Parky was trying to draw Jimmy out - surely he had a few little dalliances in Hollywood during his long marriage?  Nope. What, faithful for all that time?  Yep.  So here are Jimmy and Pat, two great old-timers. And for once on TV, I think the emotion is real...

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

A people rich and varied

All kinds of different things have been happening recently.
On Friday evening a special service in Christ the King brought together many who have been through the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) over the last twenty years or so there. We started in the Hall talking about and sharing our own faith stories, then after scripture readings we moved across to the Church for the Liturgy of the Eucharist. I built my parts of the Mass around the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. It all went well and people seemed to get a lot from the celebration. (ps I pinched the pic from another Christ the King parish - shhhh)
Saturday morning it was good to see Sister Margaret of the Little Company of Mary at 9.30 Mass in St Brigid's. She was one of the sisters in Ty Gwyn Road who started off what is now the George Thomas Hospice, but who left us about five years ago. Margaret was elected provincial of the sisters, but she likes to keep in touch with Cardiff.
Later on Saturday many Iraqis gathered here at St Brigid's to celebrate a special Mass in their Chaldean Rite for those who were murdered a few weeks ago in a cathedral in Iraq. They laid fifty or sixty roses and candles over the sanctuary steps, each with the name of a victim, and some of the congregation had relatives among them. Several thanked me for supporting them in their terrible plight.
Sunday was the Feast of Christ the King. Fr Tomy celebrated the Youth Mass on Saturday and the School Mass on Sunday, and he certainly enjoyed them. I had a baptism down at St Brigid's. Then later, in the evening, was the official opening of the refurbished and extended Parish Centre at Christ the King. Monsignor Bob Reardon performed the ceremomy as Diocesan Administrator and former parish priest. Everyone brought food to share and we all chatted for a long while.  Everyone continues to be delighted with the project. Lovely occasion.
Meanwhile, the annual cycle of sacramental preparation, for First Communion and Confirmation is gearing up, and kicked off this evening with the parents meeting for children receiving Communion at Christ the King. I'm so glad that the catechists team who took this on last year have pledged themselves to carry on for another four or five years. They're a great group of mothers, and have clearly gained a lot from it themselves.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Cameras and bottles

So I did my filming bit on Irish immigration into Cardiff (see previous posting) and on the tradition of Corpus Christi yesterday afternoon, and all went well. It was out at the ITV studios at Culverhouse Cross, and took about an hour. First I chatted with the director/interviewer, who told me that the main audience would be children of about 10-11, and was I OK with explaining Corpus Christi to kids with no religious background at all? Oooh yeah, of course... Anyway, lights - camera - action and we were off. I was sat in front of one of those green screen things, enabling them to put videos etc behind me. I took with me, for them to use, some pictures of my great-grandmother who came over from Ireland as a tiny baby. I wonder what she would have thought if she'd known that her picture would be seen by thousands of kids a century later. The exhibition, on Immigration into Cardiff, will probably start at the Old Library in the spring.
Now, time for a Fr M feel-good video. Meet Michel Lauziere, a man who makes music by very unusual means. Watch - and enjoy. Acknowledgements to Charles McD.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Anointings and filmings

After our Mass of Memories last week, we celebrated a Mass of Healing with the sick of the 3 Churches this Saturday. As always, this too was a very meaningful Mass, with the Anointing of the Sick. Afterwards we repaired to the newly refurbished Parish Centre at C the K. Everybody delighted with it. The hall itself is almost unrecognisable - so airy and light. Toilets, kitchen, meeting rooms etc etc, all are great. I'm looking forward to the official opening this coming Sunday - the Feast of Christ the King.  
Talking of the sick - I was called today to a 97 year old in a neighbouring parish where the priest is on holiday. What a lovely lady, so dignified in her advanced years, and so appreciative of the visit. Originally from Grangetown, we knew a few people in common, not least the late and very much missed Fr Jack Fahy, the former parish priest of St Patricks.
This coming Thursday - something different. They are putting together a new museum in town, in the Old Library building. It's going to be all trendy with video displays etc. One of them is going to be about the waves of immigration into Cardiff, including the Irish in the nineteenth century. So yours truly is going to feature in the film, talking about the Catholic dimension and sharing a bit about my mother's forbears, who came over during and after the famine. So this Thursday I've got to go out to Culverhouse Cross to record it. Should be interesting!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Destroy or rebuild

I was checking up on a few other blogs I look at once in a while. It never ceases to amaze me what is out there. Here are two morsels I came across, both absolutely extraordinary in very different ways.
First, here is "The Independent" columnist Virginia Ironside telling us what "any good mother" would do...   Health warning - even the BBC presenter is shocked , so prepare to be upset/annoyed!
Thanks to Fr Ray Blake for that link. After that, here is something very different. I found this site on a youth ministry site. Very creative and challenging, it's a series of images with commentary that gets us to reflect on the Eucharist. Scroll the main images left or right then click on one. It will open up and then just follow the text and images. Close each section at the bottom of its page. It's called Tabled and here's one image from it. Acknowledgements to Rethinking Youth Ministry, which I think must be Methodist or Baptist.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Arles, Anglicans and eye-drops

"Sur le pont d'Avignon...." Bienvenu au blog du Pere M. Yes, the September Pilgrims are heading to France next year, to Provence to be precise. And we are already full with a waiting list - and that's on the day of our reunion meeting from this year's trip. Each year I am bowled over by how folks will put their deposits down in such numbers. After I proposed Provence for 2011, organizer Billy has been working extra hard to put a deal together, with problems concerning companies, hotels etc etc. We're going to stay in Arles (left), visiting Avignon, Nimes, the Camargue, Aix-en-Provence, the Pont du Gard and many other sites. It's somewhere I've wanted to see for ages, so it looks like I'll have 49 others with me when at last I get there!
Now, in the news we've got this business of Anglican bishops becoming Catholic, and joining an Ordinariate. In theory sounds like "a good thing", but I don't quite get it. Why can't they just become Catholic? What are these bits of Anglican inheritance that they are going to be allowed to keep?  I'd like to think that I'm as ecumenical as the next man, but, like so much else in life and particularly in religion it's no good if it ain't real. And I'm not sure that this is... I need to look into it a bit more, I think.
Poor old Fr Tomy had chicken pox two weeks ago and now he's got a viral infection in his eye from it. Welcome to Britain!  Seems that as it's not so common in India, their immunity is lower, and the chicken pox virus, which lies dormant in all of us once we've had it, decided to make a bid for freedom and go for his left eyeball! Anyway, he's fine, and taking loads of eyedrops and stuff. He'll survive.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Love revisited

Some peace and quiet at the end of a good weekend. A chance to catch up with myself and reflect on some good things.
One good thing was our Mass of Memories yesterday. 140 people came this time - a few more each year... We remember, we listen to the words of Jesus, we offer our loved ones to the God who gave them to us, we give thanks and praise for them - and for everything. We receive Jesus - and ask him to receive us too in our bereavement. And we ask Him to hold them - and us - for ever, as he sends us back out into our world. I am very grateful for the Bereavement Group which works so hard to organize this annual event. And, as I tried to say at the end of the Mass, I thank all the wonderful people of our 3 Churches, who give me so much as I try to walk with them.
Another good thing this weekend - the beautiful singing of Matt Cardle on "The X Factor". Don't knock the programme if you haven't heard the likes of him and Rebecca. The song "The First Time" takes me straight back to 1971, my first year in university at Cambridge. I can remember hearing this song sung by Roberta Flack late one evening in my buddy's room - it blew me away as they say, and it still does something special. I've never liked other singers trampling on the sacred ground of Roberta Flack - until I heard Matt sing it last night. What he can do with his voice and his heart is just amazing, and extraordinarily beautiful.
And lastly, something hilarious from a different Matt - one of my friends on Facebook: ‎1. Go to Google maps  2. Go to "Get Directions"  3. Type Japan as the start location  4. Type China as the end location  5. Go to direction #43  6. Laugh.    Excellent.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Where God weeps

Last Sunday, the Syrian Catholic Cathedral in Baghdad was attacked, leaving 58 dead and 75 wounded. Fathers Wasim Sabieh and Thaier Saad Abdal were killed during the attack. A third priest, Father Qatin, was wounded and died later in hospital. The event has shocked and horrified the people of Iraq, as well as Christians around the world.
Our Lady of Salvation Syrian Catholic Church was attacked by men with suicide bombs attached to their belts who took the priests and many people hostage, demanding the release of people being held in Iraq and Egypt. They also made the preposterous claim that Muslim girls from Christian backgrounds were being held prisoner in Egyptian Coptic monasteries and demanded their "release." In response, the Iraqi security forces stormed the Church, killing eight of the terrorists. Unfortunately, the ninth activated his suicide bomb.
At the recent Synod in Rome on the Church in the Middle East, the Iraqi bishops told of the terrorism and violence Christians, as well as other minorities, are facing: kidnappings, bombings of churches, schools and other Christian properties, and threats to Christian businesses, as well as to their lives. Christians have been forced to leave their homes in search of safety, with little hope of returning to Iraq in the near future.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols has said "This massacre has taken a terrible toll on a vulnerable and diminishing Christian community that, along with other religious minorities, continues to suffer persecution. My thoughts and prayers are with all those Iraqis who struggle against violence and extremism. The Christians of the Middle East have a special vocation as peace builders, as the recent Synod emphasised. I know that they will continue to be faithful to that mission and that Catholics in this country will continue to support the Iraqi Church". Pope Benedict declared during the week “Our Lord asked Saul ‘Why do you persecute me?’ He is being persecuted today in the suffering Church of Iraq.”
For a good succinct introduction to the position of Christians in Iraq watch this brief video "Where God weeps", from Aid to the Church in Need. The photo above shows the image of Our Lady damaged in the shooting.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Six months later

So the day arrived, as announced last week. I have been discharged, signed off, dismissed by the nurses of Llanishen Court surgery, God bless 'em! My insect-bite-cellulitis-nasty-remaining-ulcery-thing has been left to my own tender care now that is has ceased its crying and appears to be a small and reassuringly normal scabette. No more Tuesday trips... no more meeting with surprised parishioners a little embarrassed to ask what the parish priest is doing at the surgery etc etc.
In celebration of this momentous event, a little fun video I came across on another Catholic blog. Just five minutes of the human race doing wonderful and crazy things - fellow doing a ski-jump type thing in a  wheelchair, a guy running on water, another one vaulting on a moving car, various mad skateboarders and skiers and basketball players, a man standing on two fingers, people running up walls, moonwalking, and my favourite, a chap balancing on a chair on the edge of a highrise building. Enjoy.

Acknowledgements to James Preece

Monday, 1 November 2010

As November begins

Every so often someone asks me to put the front page article from our 3 Churches newsletter on here, as some folks read the blog but not the newsletter. So here's what I wrote for this week...
I’ve always loved music, and recently I’ve been recalling some of the songs that I remember being around when I was a very little boy (I was, once upon a time!). “Under the Bridges of Paris with Me” was written in the 30s but made popular by Dean Martin (and Eartha Kitt) in 1955. To a little lad Paris might just as well have been on the moon, but thet song just somehow hung in the air.. Another Dean Martin song that I remember being hummed was “Memories are Made of This” from 1956. Memories are so powerful, and they are made up of all kinds of things too... which leads us nicely into November, the month of memories and of the Holy Souls.

Memories and remembering are important parts of our life - and our faith. The very Eucharist itself is a “memorial sacrifice”, where the Jesus whom we remember becomes present among us. In turn, we also bring into the gathering all those whom we wish to remember. We pray for the living and the dead, “those who have gone to their rest in the hope of rising again.”

So let’s bring all our memories into this month of the Holy Souls. You can enter your loved ones’ names in the Book of Remembrance that you will find in each of our 3 Churches. Mass will be offered for them all. You can come along to our very special annual Mass of Memories this coming Saturday at Christ the King 10am. In your day, make a little extra time and space for remembering, praying for those you remember - and don’t forget those who have left few or none to remember them.

The words of “Memories are Made of This” invite us to bring all of our memories together, like a beautiful feast. Then Dean Martin ends by urging us, “With his blessings from above, serve it generously with love”. To my surprise I find myself saying : Amen, Dino.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Polish puzzles, Roath Park leaves, Waterloo teas

So, one of my nephews is representing the UK at the World Puzzle Championships in Poland. The what? Yes, and if you don't believe me that there is such a Championship, visit competition ends tomorrow, Friday, and at the moment he is 69th in the table.   Click on "results" and you'll find him - Gareth Moore.
I found out about this yesterday when my sister came to visit. After lunch at the Traveller's Rest we went for a walk at Roath Park Lake. Aren't the autumn colours stunning this year? I thought of Fr James in his parish in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, who loves our autumns. None of that in Florida, James - I know you read this blog! Loads of kids were happily playing, the sun was shining, the swans and ducks seemed particularly happy...
Then we drove on alongside the park to my old favourite the Waterloo Gardens Teahouse. Hadn't been since Easter, and we were glad to see it's keeping up its high standards (and, er, pretty high prices too, but worth it for something special).  We had a lovely day and it was good to be out and about after a heavy week or so of Saturday's day of recollection, Sunday and Monday's busy funeral, Tuesday's all day clergy meeting, and Tribunal judgement session - and Fr Tomy being off the map with chicken pox last week.. 

Monday, 25 October 2010

Heal me, honey, honey, heal me

Everything going well on the optical and medical front. Despite someone telling me on Saturday that because of her vari-focals she fell off a chair she was attempting to sit on, and ditched them after a  few weeks, I have not fallen off any chairs or down any stairs, and seem to be doing OK.
Amazing news this morning from my weeky visit to the nurses. After weeks of trying to get rid of the last ulcery bit of my cellulitic ankle thing, a switch to HONEY therapy has done the trick in two weeks. A check-up next week should be my last visit. Llanishen Court nurses gain the coveted award - Fr M Approves.
On a less optical/medical note, I confess to watching "The X Factor", all in the cause of what Pope John XXIII and the Lord Himself called "reading the signs of the times" - of course!  I was really taken this week with painter-decorator-plasterer-whatever Matt Cardle's rendition of Britney Spears's "Hit Me One More Time". No fuss, no dancers, no fireworks, good voice, good interpetation, nice combination of gutsy and vulnerable - and rapturous reception from the audience. Take a listen. Fr M Approves - goodness, that's two awards in one blog posting...

Friday, 22 October 2010

New perspectives

Hmmm... so these are vari-focals... Picked up my new specs this morning. Everyone says how wonderful varifocals are, and I'm already aware that I can read the paper and look out of the window without changing 'em! So I'm told I've got to give them a week or two for me to adjust. Watch this space for the vari-verdict.
Meanwhile, in preparation for my day on the Eucharist tomorrow, I was hunting on the web for an image I wanted. When we were in Czestochowa with our September Pilgrimage, many were struck by the modern painted Stations of the Cross there. The group gave me the accompanying book as part of my thankyou gift, and the commentary I find very useful. The one that I'm going to incorporate tomorrow is the tenth station - Jesus is stripped of His clothing. You can see the whole set on a Catholic blog I found called Lioness Blog. Take a look - I think they are stunning. Notice how the presence of Our Lady is represented by the image of Our Lady of Czestochowa. And here is the tenth station 

The artist brings together two senses of the exposing of Christ - in the Eucharist and at Golgotha. The one Jesus we surround with candles, flowers and processions. The other one we deserted, and left to the criminals, to the soldiers and to those who could stand the humiliation - his mother and a few others. Nobody is looking at that Jesus in the picture... Yet it is the same Jesus, the same body.
Indeed, a different perspective.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

A free hug from Italy

Hot on the heels of Flash Mobs come free hugs. Personally I love hugs - can't get enough of 'em! I would hug my mum and dad right up until the day they each died. I wonder if we're a little more reserved in the UK when it come to hugs? In church circles, hugs are I suppose more freely shared in charismatic circles. 
Well, here is a lovely little video from the town of Sondrio, in the very north of Italy. Beautifully made, in terms of editing, it builds nicely, and I found it surprisingly moving. I love the lady who dances down the street, just for a few moments. We don't know what joy that hug may have brought her... Who's your favourite?  And when did you just share a hug?  Thanks to Anna and Monica.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Salzburg to Cardiff via Antwerp

A while ago I posted a few flashmob videos, including the famous Antwerp Station one. I didn't realise that we had a copycat one made in dear old Queen Street last year. Never a city to be outdone, Caaaardiff. So here's the Sound of Music - a la Queen Street.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Varied focus

Mixed sort of week. My voice slowly came back in first few days - and I seem to have managed to stave off a cold. Newbie Fr Tomy is getting his feet under the parish table as it were. Monday we met with Rob Coyne, chaplain at Corpus Christi High School, and are paying the school a visit a week today. I was up there on Wednesday for a Full Governors' Meeting. I'm the only priest on the Governors there, which surprised me when I first came here, as the four High Schools I'd previously been involved in - Mary Immaculate, Lugwardine, St Richard Gwyn, St Illtyd's - all had more than one priest governor. I know it's not an easy task, but well, Corpus is a community of over 1,000 Catholics, and I think it's part of our pastoral ministry to have a say in the welfare of that community.
On Tuesday Fr Tomy came with me to meet the folks at the local GPs that I attend. I'm still not finished with my ankle from earlier on this year - though I don't see the nurses so often now. They're trying a honey dressing thing to try and budge the last bit of ulcer. No, not the sort of dressing you put on salad! So, anyway, when I had a bad throat, I was tempted to "lick my wounds", haha.
Bernadette Charles' Requiem on Wednesday was a good celebration. Someone observed that my homily was more like a meditation, with me thinking my way through it. I thought it was a very good comment, actually. Husband Peter was very well supported by the Christ the KIng 8.30 congregation and others. Another nice observer said that it was a day for the parish priest to be proud of his parishioners - and vice versa. Great people!
Today I eventually got round to getting a replacement for the reading glasses that I left on the plane coming back from Krakow. Optician asked why I have been on different pairs of specs instead of varifocals, so I'm going to try 'em. Anyway, next week I'll get my new specs and we'll see (I hope)...

Monday, 11 October 2010

Soothing for the hacked

Throat's a bit better today, but a cold may be on its way, and stayed in. So, of course, even more people than usual have phoned!! Apologies to anyone that I've been a little curt with - it hurts in more senses than one!
Anyway - "hackings". Yes, a hacking cough but worse than that, somebody hacked into our parishes' website today, so you get a skull and crossbones when you visit it. SImon, our excellent webmaster, is on to it even as I speak, or, rather, as I type.
So, with all this hacking going on, something to soothe us all. During the summer we had a Baptism during Mass, and as the family were all musical, they had a small choir sing a John Rutter piece "For the Beauty of the Earth." If you want to chill for four minutes, click below.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

...But not speaking for long!

Had a great visit to the Hereford Catholic Conference on Friday and Saturday. Very impressed with a speaker who was new to me - Derek Williams (right), a Catholic lay evangelist who specialises in scriptural teaching. Visit his website here. I think my talk on Friday evening went OK. I connected Catholic Charismatic Renewal to Vatican II, to the sacraments, to the Mass and so on, and people seemed to appreciate it. On Saturday I preached at Mass continuing my theme from Poland of not letting the wounds of life deflect us from our tasks. This time I went on to distinguish between wounds and scars, quoting my two ankles as examples!
However, by the afternoon, when there was time for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, my voice was failing. By evening, when I got home, it had disappeared, and when I got up this morning it was nowhere to be seen. Somehow I got through 9 o'clock at St Paul's and 10.30 at St Brigid's. I suggested at homily time we all take a few minutes' silence to run through in our minds those things and people for which we wish to thank God. Several wags thought it was my best homily ever, hahaha.
This afternoon our St B & St P Liturgy Group had suggested we have Rosary and Benediction, which went very well. I thought it was clever of Ol' Nick to have a go at my voice the day I should be leading Our Lady's prayer and giving her Son's blessing, however, with five people leading the decades and everybody praying together, it was all very dignified, and my voice even managed to sing the Collect pray in Latin! However, that's done it in now, and so I'm back to croaking....
On the way up to Hereford on Friday afternoon, we diverted to Hay-in-Wye, partly because it's a nice route via Abergavenny and Talgarth, and partly to try tea at the highly recommended Old Stables Tearooms, only to find it shut at 3 and this was 4. No tea after 3? What kind of tea-room is that? Blow me, Oscar's, where I've had a nice lunch or two, was also shut. Luckily Shepherd's Ice Cream Parlour and Cafe was open and I had a tasty panino and cappucino. Well done, Shepherd's - you get a picture on Fr M's blog !

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Speaking personally

A few speaking engagements coming up this month. This weekend I'll be at the Hereford Catholic Conference on Friday evening and Saturday. This has been organized for the last half dozen years at St Mary's High School Lugwardine just outside Hereford. Speakers, Mass, ministry and other activities attract a good crowd from across the county and beyond. My connection was that I was parish priest in Ledbury 1983-1986, when I got to know several of what are now the Conference organizers.
Later in the month on Saturday 23rd October I will be at the University Chaplaincy leading a day on "The Real Presence". I love talking about the Eucharist, and you might think that's no surprise for a priest. Yet it seems sometimes that chaps aren't confident enough in their own faith to share it. I'm looking forward to a good day, and spent an hour or so this afternoon planning the day.
Also in the planning at the moment is the Requiem Mass for a special lady from Christ the King, Bernadette Charles, who died on Sunday. She was a regular at 8.30 Mass, and in latter years her husband, of Baptist background, joined her. Indeed, I think that the 8.30 congregation more or less became their family. What a loving person, and such a great Yorkshire sense of humour! In the best possible sense, I am sure it will be a good funeral...

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Up in the Air

Picked up a new word this morning. I was visiting a few other blogs, and dropped in on Fr Stephen Wang's. He had a link to a beautiful 5 minute BBC film about Britain from the Air, based on an exhibition in Bath. It's a lovely little piece, with Vaughan Williams music, and commentary from the Director of the Royal Geographical Society. As a lifetime lover of maps and stuff, and GoogleEarth addict, this is right up my street! Fascinating that the Director's favourite shot is of the multi-coloured spoil heaps at Port Talbot steelworks!
Further down the page I then saw further links to other short films, including one on what is my new word "Noctilucent Clouds". These are clouds that are 50 miles up in space, only visible in summer at dusk looking north. And beautiful they are, too. Latin scholars will see that "noctilucent" indeed means "night-shining." These special and mysterious clouds are new to me, and are well worth a quiet and restful viewing. Enjoy both of these lovely films.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Across the Church

Some very interesting conversations about the Pope's visit. He seems to have got through to many, many people. I'm annoyed, really, that the media spun such uncertainty in folk's minds before the visit. But the people tuned out in great numbers, especially on the streets at Edinburgh and London.
Some have been asking me where they can see various parts of the visit again, or read in more detail what the Holy Father said. Well, I'm glad to say that the official papal web-site has it all on its pages. Just go to, and you will see it all laid out there in excellent fashion. Did you see the wonderful young guy from Brentwood diocese address the Pope after Mass at Westminster Cathedral? Here he is being thanks by Benedict. 
No news yet on a successor to Archbishop Peter here in Cardiff. A few clergy have been heard to observe that we are doing OK so far without one... I would imagine that if the wheels have been turning fast it would be within the next month; if they have been turning at a more leisurely pace, and taking into account factors such as the Visit, the rather, er, slow Roman summer, the illness of the papal nuncio etc, it might not be until after Christmas...

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Settling in and moving on up

Fr Tomy, our new priest, attended his first parish social function this evening. The regular St Brigid's Film Night presentation was "The Glenn Miller Story". I hadn't actually seen it before, and enjoyed it a  lot. Funnily enough I've been sort of getting into 40s and 50s music a bit in recent weeks. I was remembering some of the songs my mother used to sing or hum, like "Stranger in Paradise" from Kismet, or Alma Cogan singing "You me and us" which I always remember as "Peaches and Cream". "Under the Bridges of Paris" was one of Mum's favourites. So I've added "Moonlight Serenade", "String of Pearls" and "In the Mood" to my I-Tunes list now...
Tomy is settling in very well, and very eager to learn. I noticed he sat with some of the ladies from St Paul's this evening - a good start! We're all different, and he's different to Fr James. We're going through the same procedures as with James five years ago. National Insurance, bank account, motor insurance, GP etc etc. It all takes time, as they say.
The photo is one taken deep in the saltmine at Wieliczka in Krakow. Nowadays you move from level to level on very sturdy wooden staircases or stairs cut into the rock. But centuries ago the poor miners had to drag the salt up narrow roughcut steps, and the photo shows some of them. You have to have a posher camera than mine to get a view like that, and its mysterious lighting seems to be saying something about our ascent through life, sometimes clean and sharp, sometimes rough and obscure. Click on the beautiful picture to see it much larger.
Thanks to Paul for the pic

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Crumble and pasta

Went in to BBC Llandaff to do my regular slot on "The Roy Noble Show" this afternoon. They are trying to make the show flow more easily from feature to feature, so instead of just doing my slot and scarpering, they now warn you that Roy will attempt to make a link between you and the next item. This afternoon that was the winner of "The Great British Bake-off" a charming baking competition on TV. So - they asked did I bake? No - but we have a lovely housekeeper who does a bit. Any specialities? Well, I just finished last night a very good apple crumble, Mary's apple-crumble. The production staff already wanted to know more about this "Mary's apple-crumble", and when I got home Mary, who had heard the broadcast herself, was delighted, and told me she would wait for the orders to pour in. I said that was fine, as long as it didn't mean she would leave the presbytery to concentrate on her new business!
Talking of businesses, St Brigid/St Paul's parish council this evening wandered from talking about St David's Cathedral to the rumour that Raymond Blanc is going to open a restaurant in the Chapel building opposite. Then we discussed the prices in Jamie's Italian place in the Hayes, and finally someone informed me that there is now a Carluccio's in town too. A lunch for two at Jamie's had cost somebody £52. I myself have had a good Italian lunch in two different Carluccio's, and will give it a shot in Cardiff soon, I hope. I will report back to your good selves!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Of Newman... and, er, me

Pope Benedict's wonderful visit to the UK reached its climax today at the Beatification Mass in Birmingham. Cardinal Newman is probably better known outside Britain than inside, so hopefully all this will spur people on to find out more about this towering presence in the British Christianity of the nineteenth century, whose influence flows through the twentieth into our own.
My last pictures from our Poland pilgrimage are of myself "in action". The first one is me at the shrine of Divine Mercy. At one point in my homily I left the centre of the chapel and moved over to stand below the famous painting. The slightly blurred image is, I think, partly the photographer not using flash, and partly me getting excited to be celebrating Mass in such a special place!
The second picture is during our last Mass, at St Florian's Church in Krakow, where John Paul II was curate. Here I tried to bring together all the threads of our beautiful pilgrmage. Pope John Paul carried the wound of his assassination attempt in 1981; the Virgin of Czestochowa carries three slashes left by an attack by soldiers; Auschwitz leaves a gash across the face of the twentieth century. And Jesus himself had to pass through Calvary on his way to Easter. Yet he took his wounds into heaven, teaching us that our sufferings are part of our journey, and that we must not be deflected by them from our task as Easter People, to bring new life. The war against evil has already been won, but the skirmishes continue to ravage our world and our lives. We can make a difference.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Of Westminster and Wieliczka

As I write today, the Pope's Mass at Westminster Cathedral is being shown again on EWTN. A votive Mass of the Precious Blood, the dedication of the cathedral, the vestments are bright red. With the beautiful music chosen for the occasion, the whoel celebration seems very dignified and splendid. I'm not sure about the Latin for the Eucharistic Prayer, but the visit as a whole continues to be a great success as far as I can see.
One of the most splendid sights in Krakow is the vast salt-mine at Wieliczka. With hundreds of chambers and kilometers of passages, this is an astonishing experience. Every single thing is made of salt. The public descends as far as about 400ft but the mine goes far deeper, and has been worked since the early Middle Ages. There are several chapels down there, including an enormous one carved by three men. My photo shows the lovely Flight into Egypt carved into the salt of the wall there. 

Friday, 17 September 2010

Of Westminster... and Auschwitz

The Pope's visit seems to be going very, very well. With Fr Tomy I just watched Evening Prayer from Westminster Abbey, which was very beautiful. Rowan Williams quoted from Pope John Paul's letter on Christian Unity "Ut Unum Sint", which explored among other things the role of the Pope himself, so it was interesting that he quoted it. This morning I caught part of Benedict's meeting with youth and children, and that seemed very joyful too. I missed the Westminster Hall address, but hope to catch up on that also. So far, it seems all the media searching for headlines has been lost among the peace and joy of the Holy Father's visit.
"Peace and joy" are the opposite of what we felt in Poland when we visited Auschwitz. At Auschwitz I, where the museum is housed in the former prison blocks, we were led by our excellent guide through the exact nature of what Auschwitz was and how it worked. Then we witnessed the piles of hundreds and thousands of shoes, glasses, hair, pots and pans and more... Next we filed through the Block of Death, including the starvation cell where St Maximilkian Kolbe perished, and the terrible, terrible "standing cells" where four people were crammed into a tiny dark cell where there was only room to stand - and left there.
And then finally I found myself standing in the gas chamber and the adjacent Crematorium I. The outside was so innocent-looking, like some warehouse (see my photo). Inside was a place of torment; it will stay with me for a long time.
We then moved on to Auschwitz II-Birkenau, where all is silent and deadening. The famous railway track passes through the gate and fans out into three branches where the "separations" took place as the poor victims spilled out of the cattle waggons. Most went straight to death, the minority to a few months of unimaginably hard labour. As we stood looking in the rain under a grey sky, the rail tracks seemed like the claws of some terrifying, bloodthirsty Bird of Death.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Of Edinburgh and Czestochowa

I watched Pope Benedict's arrival at Edinburgh Airport through to his popemobile drive through Princes Street on the BBC. The BBC did it well, I thought, and the crowds were out in great numbers. Benedict had a nice chat with the Queen, some of which could be picked up on the mikes, and the Pope's opening address was good. I'm going to take a look at Mass in an hour's time from Bellahouston Park in Glasgow. It's looking good for the visit...
The second day of our pilgrimage to Poland took us to the National Shrine of Our Lady at Czestochowa. It was the Feast of Our Lady's Birthday and the place was HEAVING. We had to make our way through the devout throngs in a rather undignified way. Eventually we celebrated Mass in the Sacred Heart Chapel, which slightly resembled an obstacle course for a vestment-wearing, book-carrying, shoulder-bag-swinging priest like me.
A very jolly religious called Fr Simon gave us a great tour of the whole sanctuary, including, of course, the Chapel containing the centre of devotion, the Icon of Our Lady. We had to keep moving through the Chapel, but it was enough to convince me of the very special nature of the place. The photo is not mine, alas, but captures the ebony, silver and gold decoration of this wonderful place. I decided to keep a look out for a copy of the picture which captured what I felt at the Chapel, and spotted one later on in the trip, at Pope John Paul's birthplace. It became the group's gift to me...

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Krakow counterparts

So here we are back from Krakow, all safe and sound. Everything went well, deo gratias. Hotel very modern, very good (except for mushy frozen veg!). The group worked very well (nobody mushy or frozen there). Organization was terrific as always with Billy and Rita.
I liked Poland. After the Baltic republics last year, I could see how Poland is further down the westernized route, but you never have to scratch very far to be reminded of its history. So, I'll put some of my pics on here over coming days, starting with a street in Krakow that I couldn't resist - Canons Street. This is where my opposite numbers lived, the canons of Krakow cathedral which is hidden in the Wawel fortress that you can see high up in the background. We had a guided wander through the old streets of the city on our first full day after a visit to and Mass at Lagniewiki, the Shrine of Divine Mercy. I'll say more about that when I get hold of what looks like a very nice photo of me taken during Mass there by one of the pilgrims.
Meanwhile, we are looking forward to the visit of Pope Benedict that starts tomorrow. Please remember to pray for him and for God's blessing on the next few days.

Monday, 6 September 2010

In Him we Trust

So, we are off to Krakow today. Therefore there will be a week's gap in postings. As always, we in the September Pilgrims will take all our parishioners' intentions with us on our pilgrimage. I suppose now I also have to include those of this blog-parish too - so, yes, although I don't know you all, I will be praying for you and your intentions too on this journey of faith.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Bishops have hearts!

Rushing around today trying to get everything organized ready for a) Fr Tomy's arrival tomorrow,  b) my trip to Krakow on Monday, and c) - the consequences of a) and b) coming together!
So here's something different to calm the nerves: some bishops sharing part of their faith stories. As part of the preparation for the Pope's visit, which is on the theme of "Heart speaks unto Heart" from the writings of Newman, someone had the idea of asking our English and Welsh bishops about times when they feel that God spoke to their heart. The results are simple and uplifting. I think it's a very good idea, not least because it makes our Bishops more human. You'll find the videos here. Check out, for example, Archbishop Kelly of Liverpool or Bishop Seamus Cunningham of Hexham and Newcastle, one of othe more recent appointments.

On an even lighter note, do you want to see George Clooney's villa on Lake Como? NO? Well here it is anyway. His villa is the one with the grey roof towards the right of my photo. Further left in the centre of the picture is the second one that he bought... especially for his visitors. Bless.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Ravishing Radnorshire

Something must be wrong - the weather's been great on a Bank Holiday! Definitely time for a day-trip, and the Welsh countryside beckoned. So we took the A470 and zipped up to Brecon in no time. Then we slowed down and took the hill road over to Builth Wells via Upper Chapel, a favourite road with many people, I know. Then time for a coffee stop, and lo and behold "Cosy Corner Tea Rooms" appeared across the road from where we parked. Very nice, too.
Now it was time to venture into uncharted territory for me. We headed east then south, making for a tiny church called Rhulen or Rhiwlen. I found a reference to this in Simon Jenkins' guide to churches, houses and castles in Wales. He didn't let us down, as one lane led to another, and eventually we found ourselves in an idyllic hidden corner of silence in deepest Radnorshire. The church is medieval - humble  and whitewashed in and out. Churches don't come any simpler than this. Vases of flowers stood in the sunlight on the window-sills, and a deep quietness enveloped us. Outside a cow was mooing somewhere, and hundreds of sheep were on the hillsides, doing what sheep do. And the combination of whitewashed walls, bright blue summer sky and astonishingly green grass was stunning. My photo captures some of it I hope.
Simon Jenkins describes the road over the hill from Rhulen to Painscastle as "one of the loveliest in Wales", and again he was 100% right. We parked to look back on the hidden village and its church from high up on the sheep pastures, then a few moments later we had to stop again to take in a jaw-dropping view southwards. It took in the whole stunning panorama from Black Mountains in the east, through the Beacons in the centre, to Mynydd Epynt and beyond to Black Mountain in the west. Definitely into my Top Ten Views.
We were now in need of sustenance, and the Roast Ox at Painscastle soon appeared in our sights. A very pleasant Ploughman's with an enormous hunk of tasty Cheddar was washed down with a pint of Thatchers draught dry cider. Fr M approves. In fact Fr M approves of the whole day - cafe, church, views, pub, good company - what more would you want on a sunny Bank Holiday in Wales?...