Saturday, 27 February 2010

Jones and also Smith

Archbishop Peter will be visiting us no fewer than three times between this coming Thursday and next Sunday. Thursday evening he celebrates Confirmation at Christ the King, Saturday he hopes to call in to the meeting of the Justice and Peace Forum of England and Wales, taking place at St Brigid's Hall, and lastly on Sunday he returns to St Brigid for Confirmation during 10.30 Mass. It's good to see our bishop - but three times?! (I'm only kidding).
We forget sometimes that the diocese, the area entrusted to a bishop, is the basic unit of the Catholic Church. We priests are his co-workers - in a sense we are here because he can't be everywhere. At our ordination, just before the central laying on of hands, the bishop asks the candidate "Do you promise me and my successors obedience and respect?" We swallow hard and answer "I do". As one American bishop said to his about-to-be-ordained man before that question at an ordination at my seminary in Rome, "Now, Pete, this is the really important part"!
So, it's an archiepiscopal week ahead, as it were, so let's hope it all goes well...

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Lento ma non troppo

I find that on the whole Lent is the busiest time of the year, and I have to be careful that I can keep all the necessary balls in the air!
Take today... 9.30am at Christ the King for monthly site meeting on our Hall refurbishment and extension plan. While we are very blessed with parishioners who are able and willing to take projects like these forward, it is vital that they know that they have my support, and that I represent the parish on such big jobs. 11.30 I'm back at St Brigid's, check mail, hellos to housekeeper, Fr James, anyone else around the place, then down to getting done my bits of the newsletter and email em off to editor Luke. Phone rings for me about 6 times before lunch at 1.00. Mmm, stir fry. Hall secretary calls in during lunch to help ease a  problem there, then 30 mins relax before getting ready for the afternoon version of my Scripture talk (see last blog posting). So I set up from about 2.30, then conclude Adoration at 2.50 ready for talk at 3.00.  4.30 pause for cup of tea, and receive email from brother-in-law giving me info about his family tree - info that I trawled the net for a  few days ago!!
Then lock the church and start preparing for evening. I was leading Way of the Cross at 7.00, so I had to check my collection of versions and choose one.  I integrated the Stations into Mass - and managed to start the Mass dead on at 7.30 still (little smug smile to myself!) despite someone appearing for Confession too at 6.55.    After Mass, time with the little group looking at our outreach to inactive Catholics. Very good group, making great progress, but a lot to get through, so don't finish until 10.00.  Bit of supper (yes, I know it's late to eat) and half an hour of "Question Time" from Caaaardiff. Plonker from the UKIP Party, so turn off telly and take refuge in my blog...

Monday, 22 February 2010

Lenten graces

So Lent is well and truly underway. On Saturday we had the second of our faith-sharing afternoons in the parishes, this time it was held in St Brigid's Hall. I was asked to kick off, and talked about some of the very significant stages in my journey of faith. Then we had a man, a woman and a couple from Christ the King, St Brigid's and St Paul's respectively. All spoke very beautifully, and the response was as good as last time before Christmas - a tremendous buzz in the hall. We introduced mention of the "Landings" programme that we will be introducing later in the year, and quite a few signed an "interested" sheet". I also mentioned in public for the first time  - other than here dear blogophiles - my ideas about a Catholic Men's Breakfast. Wherever I mention it, the ladies' first question is "Who's going to do the cooking?"!  I think it's now about time to start pushing the boat out on this one.
We also had a good Prayer Group on Sunday evening. We started the group very soon after I came here. Numbers vary a lot, from about 4 to 10 or 12. We had 10 on Sunday and there was a real sense of the Lord's presence.
This evening I led the first session of this year's Lenten scripture reflections, which I'm doing on Monday evenings and repeat on Thursday afternoons. I was searching for a theme other than the Sunday gospels, but not feeling happy about it really, until I went to the Three Aches pub at lunchtime today. Regular visitors to this blog will know the 3 A's is my local, and in particular it's home to the regular lunch of the local clergy. Today we were just Catholic, Welsh Presbyterian and retired Anglican, but the Lord was kind, and out of the mouth of Rob the Welsh Pres came the info that he is adapting this year's BBC/Churches Together in Britain and Ireland Lenten programme - and did I want to use it too? (That's its "logo" left) I looked it up as soon as I got home, and Rob sent me his slightly adapted version - and hey presto, we had a great first session this evening. 
So there we are. My great-great-great uncle David and great-great-great-great-uncle John, both Welsh Pres ministers, must have been looking down on me!

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Of Roath and Kragero

On Monday my sister and eldest nephew, Gareth, came to visit. He hasn't been very well recently so it was great to see him. We went out for a bite of lunch and later repaired to the Waterloo Gardens Tea House. I was pleased to find it still a good place. Scrummy cakes, and this time I indulged in ginger and apple. Mmmm, not that sort of slightly synthetic tasting ginger you get sometimes - a good genuine gingery taste mixed with the freshness of the apple. Fr M still approves!
Enough of that - it's Lent now!
We had good attendance at our three Masses on Ash Wednesday, especially evening Mass at Christ the King. Some priests report falling numbers at weekday Masses, but some of ours are growing. This morning at Saturday 9.30 here in St Brigid's I counted almost 40 (including, I'm told, some refugees from neighbouring parishes - shhhhh!). Life gets even more busy in Lent, with extra commitments like Stations of the Cross and my weekly Reflections.
To add to the mix, BBC Radio Wales have asked if we would like to record 2 editions of their Sunday morning "Celebration" service. One would be for the Ascension in mid May, and the recordings would be in the first week of May probably. It's good to be asked, of course - I've done three lots of such doublers before, in St Francis, in Penarth, and St Peter's where I preached a few years ago. However, there's quite a lot of work involved.  I've got a few days to think about it... 
Talking of St Peter's, I celebrated a Requiem there yesterday for Barbara Gelsomini (known as Wendy). A passing comment from her sons that her maiden name was Torjussen revealed that I am sort of related to them. Thanks to my family tree interest I know that one of my mother's cousins married a Torjussen - a very unusual name, from Kragero in Norway (as in the pic left). And it turns out that this chap was a cousin of Wendy's father. Small world eh?  Someone suggested this week that I should charge as a genealogical consultant...

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Sacred silence?

So the Irish bishops have been to Rome for a few days in the aftermath of the abuse reports across the Irish Sea, especially the Murphy one into the handling of the issue by the Archdiocese of Dublin. Having been quite involved in the events surrounding similar cases here in our diocese, it's something I've thought about quite a lot. The whole matter of clerical child abuse is so dreadful that one reaction is to refuse to imagine that it happens. I saw such a reaction from some people in my experience. The handling of the whole matter by the "system" of the Church is something different and more complex, but I suspect at least some of its roots lie just as much in denial, sometimes a deeply buried denial.
I love the line in the film "American Beauty" which tells us to never underestimate the power of denial. As individuals we have all kinds of ways of avoiding confronting the truth, and we can multiply those ways when we come to bodies like our Church. A few weeks ago, when I was preaching about the priesthood and mentioned my first Sunday at Penarth following the arrest of their parish priest as a formative experience in my journey, several parishioners thanked me for naming and handling clerical abuse as a fact of our diocese. The American priest author Donald Cozzens opens his book entitled "Sacred Silence" with the question "What are we afraid of?" He's talking about church life in general, but in my experience it could refer in particular to this lamentable aspect. 
Each Lent we are invited to spiritual renewal and conversion and penitence. It seems to me that when we stop the denying, whether it's our own, or that of the systems of which we are part, then the renewal can begin...

Saturday, 13 February 2010

The Christian vote

An interesting proposal came up at the recent meeting of Churches Together in Llanishen, and I was talking about it with someone yesterday evening. Could we Christians hold a pre-election public meeting for Cardiff North in the weeks leading up to the forthcoming general election? The idea would be to get as many of the candidates as possible together in a hall in a kind of "Question Time" format. People from all our member churches would be invited, and the candidates would be asked to speak for up to about 3 minutes each on 4 or 5 subject areas, followed by audience questions on that same area.
We did this once in Ely, and far more people came than we expected, so I don't know how it would go down here in Cardiff North.  Julie Morgan, wife of Rhodri Morgan, is the present MP, but it's seen as a very marginal seat, which could work in our favour. We'll see if the fish bite...
Talking of events, I'm not sure if a repeat of last year's REFRESH event is going to run. For various reasons many of the main people involved last year are no longer around or available. We were in discussion with Youth 2000 on a national level also about making it a Y2000 event, but that seems to have stalled with them having a change of personnel  in London. These events, beautiful as they are, take a huge number of man-hours to mount (not to mention woman-hours).

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

From Virginia to Bristol

I keep an eye on stuff to do with vocations, and saw a reference to a website run by the Vocations Director of the Diocese of Richmond in Virginia, which gets a steady stream of young men. It's called "Behind the Collar" and it's well put together, clear and informative. Fr M - although he has just realised that the site hasn't been updated since Advent - approves.
Meanwhile we had our fortnightly Fraternity of Priests meeting today and we hosted it here at St Brigid's. There were eight of us here today, including newcomer Fr John. He has been living in the diocese a few years and was in Clifton diocese. It turns out he was one of the founders of the project at St James, Bristol, where all-day Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is combined with a centre for addiction rehabilitation, which grew out of a drop-in centre almost twenty years ago. St James is a beautiful Norman church, on a long lease from the Church of England (who I suppose you could say had it on an even longer lease from us!) You'll find it right next to the Bus Station on the way to the shops and offices. Their website tells me that unfortunately the Church is closed for very expensive repairs until next year - otherwise I would be warmly recommending you to pop in when you are next in Bristol. So you'll have to make do with a nice picture - there are more on the site and via the BBC.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Pantmawr and Poland

Been a while since I mentioned a pub here, hasn't it? Went over for lunch today to the Pantmawr, that most hidden of hostelries. Until I came here to the northern leafy Cardiff suburbs I didn't even know it was there. Then there was some kind of threat to close it and build 36 flats, which now seems to have passed. In fact on a grey chilly February day like today it was warm, friendly and very reasonable.
I had some gammon with Billy and Rita, my friends who organize our September pilgrimages. Good food, good beer, good company - excellent. You can find the Pantmawr in Tyla Teg off Caer Wenallt, itself a turning off Pantmawr Road in Rhiwbina. I hope it's a long time before it has a makeover - but I gather that my local, the Three Arches, is to have exactly that in the near future. It's good to have a smarten up, of course, and pubs need doing up like any building, but I think their place in the community is quite a subtle thing, and depends on people feeling "at home". That can be easily lost, as I saw at an Old St Mellons pub I used to visit with some chaps from the parish when I was in St Cadoc's.
I was glad to learn from Billy that our Krakow pilgrimage this year is right on track. Unusually, we have had no cancellations since our usual sell-out back in November. There is a very healthy waiting-list, and Billy told me that eleven people have actually put themselves on a list for 2011, even though we don't know if we will be going, let alone where! Today we were firming up where and at what times to celebrate our daily Mass, which forms the centre of our daily timetable.  Our churches will range from the Divine Mercy shrine to the chapel in the salt-mines (pictured left), so variety is assured...
I paid the next instalment for the trip, which brings me up to date, and noticed that in seven months we'll be there!  

Friday, 5 February 2010

Nice one, my Lord

Just got in from giving a talk to the members of the Third Order Carmelites down at St Peter's. Lovely group of people, and very attentive. During Mass before the meeting one of them was making her first profession as a member. At the meeting I spoke about the involvement in my own vocation story of St Teresa of Avila, the great reformer of the Carmelites, then went on to repeat two points from my Sunday homily about praying particularly for the sanctification and confidence of priests. To conclude, I did my reflection on the Annunciation with the help of Antonello da Messina's painting. 
Talking of talks... I went to the licensing of the new priest-in-charge of Christ Church last night. There were loads of Church in Wales clergy all in cassock and surplice, and the service was led by someone new to me, David Wilbourne, assistant bishop of Llandaff since last year. Great preacher! I can actually remember much of what he said - which unfortunately doesn't happen often... The choice of Gospel was a surprise at first - Peter's denials.  The Church was too often like that, he said, quietly warming itself, chatting with the world, and denying Christ, who, meanwhile, was shivering in a cold cell, alone. The parish priest's job was to lead us away from that cosying up, past the Cross, and on to the Resurrection. 
Strong stuff, but memorable and challenging. Excellent. Fr M approves! Keep an eye out for our Bishop Wilbourne...      If you want to get his style there are two of his sermons here.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010


Whoops - missed a few days more than usual on the old blog... but lots going on at the moment.
Fr James and I decided a while ago to devote our homilies one Sunday to the Year of the Priest, and we eventually got round to it this Sunday. I talked about some pastoral incidents from my own experience of priesthood where I and others had really felt the presence of God. I have believed for a long time that one of the jobs of the parish priest is to point out how and where Jesus is alive and active. People responded very positively, with many saying how they found my thoughts very inspiring and uplifting. I also shared two moments in my own development as a priest - the Worldwide Retreat for Priests in 1984 and my arrival in Penarth parish in 1997. On both these occasions I was profoundly challenged in different ways, and grew as a result. I urged our people to pray for priests - first for their sanctification, their growth in holiness, and secondly for a deepening of their confidence, not in themselves but in God and in the Gospel we are sent out to preach.
Over the weekend I watched the wonderful film "Romero" on DVD. It's 30 years since Archbishop Romero was gunned down at his Cathedral in San Salvador, and we are hoping to remember that on Romero Day, March 24th.
Talking of good and holy priests.... This morning I attended a gathering of about 20 priests where we reflected on the promotion of vocations to our diocese. We have precisely zero seminarians at the moment. There was some good and honest discusion and putting of opinions, which is always a help. I hope that something practical comes of it.
Tomorrow I'm representing Churches Together in Llanishen at the licensing of a new incumbent at Christ Church, one of our local Anglican churches. I'll give a report... 
Pic shows me celebrating Mass in September at the Church of Dominus Flevit - the Lord Wept - in Jerusalem.