Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Holy Week : Wednesday

Busy now, getting everything ready for the great services that start tomorrow. I'll be at our Cathedral in the morning for the Chrism Mass. It may not be the most inspring of liturgies - we've had the same opening hymn for as long as I can remember - but its inspiration lies in the coming together around the altar of all the priests and a huge number of people. Only the Mass during the visit of St Therese's relics in the autumn will have surpassed the numbers that come.
Then, in the afternoon we will be preparing for our evening 3 Churches Mass of the Lord's Supper. This was described by someone today as "experimental". I don't know about that, rather it's the result of a committed group thinking and praying through what we think this wonderful liturgy is about. Yes, it will be a little different, but not, preserve us, gimicky. All the ingredients will be there, just some of them presented differently. I'm really looking forward to the Watching taking place in the garden at the centre of Corpus Christ School where we hold our 3 Churches Masses.
In between everything else, I got to the bank today - huge queue as it is the last day of the month plus being just before the long weekend. Then to the barber's - another queue. The boss lady came out, and and as I was next she did mine first. Naturally, as I was having a haircut, the weather got colder today! And no, that's not me, it's just a picture off the internet on the right!
And so to the second of my Pietas. This one is from the Cathedral at Florence. It was sculpted my Michelangelo several decades after the St Peter's one, when he was older and wiser. The body of Jesus looks more dead. Some of the piece looks rough and unfinished, which was a hallmark of Michelangelo's later work. The figure at the top is Nicodemus, believed by some to be a self-portrait of the sculptor. Nicodemus seems to be contemplating his own mortality in the presence of his dead Lord. His attitude is very touching, I think, in this wonderful depiction of a very touching scene. Look and think...

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Holy Week : Tuesday

Good news  blogfans - March has broken my previous monthly record for visits on this blogspot site. Many thanks to all readers.
Just came in from our annual Passover Meal, which was excellent as always. It's organized by the St B/St P Social Group, with outside caterers for the actual meal part. We do all the proper prayers, sing hymns, and "enjoy" the bitter herbs etc. At the end we sing "Green Grow the Rushes - O" with great gusto, helped by the four glassess of wine that you are supposed to have consumed by then...
Gremlins were at work earlier today with the Risograph reprographic equipment - we couldn't get the roll of masters to slide into its feed thingy properly. Two of us tried for half an hour. Fresh pair of hands to the rescue in the afternoon - worked second time. Secret? A little dab of spit on your fingertips to ease the darned thing in.
For Holy Week I thought I might show Michelangelo's four versions of the "Pieta" theme - Mary holding the body of Jesus. So this first one is the famous one in St Peter's, Rome. Sculpted when M was still young, it portrays an idealized Jesus and Mary. They are very beautiful, but we might ask if they are very real? If you remember, a vandal attacked this Pieta a few decades ago, since when it has been shielded by bullet-proof glass. Ponder awhile...

Monday, 29 March 2010

Holy Week : Monday

After the busy-ness of Palm Sunday, I lie low today a lttle, stay at base, and get various office type jobs done. One of a parish priest's important jobs is to say thank you. I always bear in mind that everyone who works for the church is a volunteer. Money counters, cleaners, housekeeper, chairman of maintenance group were among folks who drifted in and out of my day - all wonderful people, and I try to spend a little while with all of them.
Someone who was looking for an annulment 15 years ago has resurfaced at the National Tribunal, and so we had to retrieve their documentation from our archives in Archbishop's House. I re-read it all this afternoon, and must remember to get in touch with them tomorrow.
This evening there was Parish Council at C the K. We raised the issue of the forthcoming reorganization of the Church in Cardiff, which will be announced on 25th April. I encourage the Council to have a strategy for handling the 5-6 week period set aside for parish reaction to the proposals. Knowing our lot, they will have plenty to say!
Lent, and especially Holy Week, sometimes feels like a little period where things are frozen, so that we can take stock. And talking of things frozen - did you ever see that amazing video where a few hundred volunteers stood absolutely still in Grand Central Station, NYC for five minutes. The public's reaction was amazing and interesting at the same time. It's good sometimes to be made to stop - and watch, and listen, and think... If you want to see more similar short vids  double click on this one to go to YouTube and look in related vidoes for more ImprovEverywhere films. Check out "Invisibe Dogs" and "Food Court Musical".

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Holy Week : Palm Sunday

Thought I might try to do a posting each day this week - Holy Week, so I'll see how it goes...
Palm Sunday is long. I was at St B and St P, so it was a three Mass day.  Three blessings of palms, three Passions, four including yesterday evening. Three little homilies (should that be homilettes?) Then we just showed "Romero" in the hall here, which was very well attended. It's a beautiful film, I think, but sort of heavy, and very challenging. Everybody afterwards was asking themselves what they would do in the terrible circumstances that faced Archbishop Romero.
As I've progressed in priesthood it's become more and more of an emotional journey. I suppose that as with lots of important things in life, you grow into priesthood. Yes, it's something that you are given, as it were, at ordination, but the process of assimilating it is a lifelong task. If you are to do it well, you have to let it filter through to every part of your being, including your emotions. Very often the Church has told its members not to trust the dodgy area of our feelings, and I can see why, but that is a different question. Our emotions are a very important part of us human beings, including priests. Over the years I've faced various situations where I've been aware that I can either bluster my professional way through the problem, or I can allow the man and the priest to be one. I would say that almost without exception, those situations are the ones where most good has come of it.
So this business about "it's a vocation not a job" is much deeper than it might appear. I find it increasingly hard to understand  how casually some colleague priests seem to treat their calling. Just today someone was telling me with deep emotion in their voice how their priest very often just doesn't appear for Mass, and some limp excuse follows later. Yes, I know I shouldn't criticise, but the Church is not doing too well in some ways at the moment, and too many of those ways are directly to do with us clergy.
Anyway, let's pray that this Holy Week will inspire all of us. As we witness the total dedication of Jesus, let's ask for some of that for ourselves. And may the Lord who uttered "Father forgive them for they know not what they do", have mercy on us for when we give in to our weaknesses.
I'll see if I can get a video each day this week too. This one I first posted last April or May. Beautiful stuff for Good Friday from the Latin-Byzantine Monastery of Chevetognes in Belgium. Instead of kissing the Cross, they venerate an icon. Relax and enjoy.

Thursday, 25 March 2010


Yesterday was the 30th anniversary of the death of  Archbishop Oscar Romero. This great man of God was archbishop of San Salvador, the capital of the Central American republic of El Salvador. In his short time as bishop he moved very quickly from being a puppet in the hands of the establishment to being the great advocate and voice for his people. He was shot dead as he celebrated Mass 24th March 1980.
A Religious Sister who was present at the assassination recalls the horrible event: "When he finished his sermon, he walked to the middle of the altar; at that moment, the shot rang out," says Sister Luz Isabel, who was among the congregation at a private chapel in El Salvador's capital, San Salvador. "It sounded like a bomb explosion. Monsignor Romero held on to the cloth on the altar for a moment and pulled it off. Then he fell backwards and lay bleeding at the feet of Christ," she says, standing a few metres from the exact spot where the Archbishop lay fatally wounded.
We built our Penitential rite last night at C the K around his words, and this Sunday 7.15 at St Brigid's Hall we will show the excellent film of his life, simply entitled "Romero". At a time when some of the Church's bishops are giving us cause for shame, we need to hold up this great man of our time, Archbishop Oscar Romero.
The BBC have a good page on Romero at the moment here.
Here is the famous prayer associated with him. There seems to be some doubt whether it was actually spoken by him, or inspired by his life. In any case I always find it inspiring.

It helps now and then to step back and take a long view.
The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection,
no pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives include everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water the seeds already planted
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything,
and there is a sense of liberation in realizing this.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning,
a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Broken bread

Hmmmm. Returned to the Waterloo Gardens Tea House with sister and nephew. Thought we'd try a little bara brith. It was indeed scrummy, but boy was it heavy - I think the densest cake I've ever had. Of course, it didn't help that we feasted at the Mason's Arms carvery several hours before!
Preached on the woman taken in adultery yesterday and took along my pebble from the Sea of Galilee to drop at the appropriate point in my homily when I ask what the next sound you would have heard was when Jesus said "Let him without sin cast the first stone."  I was a bit worried about the posh marbley tiles at C the K when I dropped the stone - but in fact it was the stone that broke instead! Meanwhile a lovely lady of some maturity in the front row almost jumped out of her pew when the stone hit the floor... 
Tomorrow is a big day for the Church in Cardiff. The Archbishop will be meeting with all the city priests to offer his response to our latest consideration of the way ahead for the Church here. This has given me a lot of concern over the last few weeks, in that the proposals as they stand would a big effect on our 3 Churches here. We shall see...
Folks have been asking about the Pope's Pastoral Letter to the Church in Ireland. If you want to read it and have not yet done so, it can be seen on the Vatican website here. Some are saying it should haver gone a lot further, and that may be so. But it certainly goes a long way, I think, as it is. These are very, very deep issues, firstly the damage to individuals, and secondly in what all of it says about our Church as a "system", which sometimes seems to resemble a dysfunctional family. It's certainly not easy for a system to bare its soul, but as I like to say, the foot-washing and crucified Lord will have a humble Church, and if we do not do it, maybe He allows others to do it. "Humble yourself before the Lord and He will lift you up" (Letter of James 4:10).

Friday, 19 March 2010

Any of His dreams will do

Great evening just finished at St Brigid's Hall - "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat."  The Social Committee had worked so hard. They were all in fancy dress, as were many of the 80-90 audience. We had streamers for the multicoloured coat song, we had those light tube things for the bit when Joseph is in prison, and we had party poppers for the great reunion with his brothers. And it all kicked off with very tasty fish 'n'chips. Yum. These film evenings are now in their fifth year I think. Well deserved too. Lovely evening.  
Talking of evenings - Wednesday I was with the 3 Churches group that has recently been looking at "Faith Matters" - our Christmas, and now Easter, outreach flyer, liaising with the organizers of our Faith Sharing Afternoons, and most of all, planning the launch of our outreach ministry to inactive and returning Catholics called "Landings"  We have an info evening next Thursday followed by a training day on 24th April - both at St B's. It all is looking very good, even if one or two of the team wish it was all a little more professional - like their work. Welcome to Mother Church!
Yesterday, Thursday evening I was with another wonderful team, the First Communion catechists from Christ the King parish. Most of this group of mums are new to this work and I have had several meetings with them along the way to listen, encourage and empower them for their beautiful if awe-inspiring task of handing on the faith to the little ones. Every one of them testifies to the good effect it is having on their own faith too.  Great.
This afternoon it was the turn of St Paul parishioners. Our St Brigid's/St Paul's Good Friday liturgy is at St Paul's this year, and they were anxious that it all go off well, so suggested that I meet with them. Very good hour's chat over a cuppa, and we got it all organized. I invited them also to help plan the shape and choose the options in the liturgy. For example, I have the custom of reading the Passion on Good Friday on my own with everyone just listening. In St B and C the K I also moved around the church for the different scenes, but I had already thought that in a smaller church like St P's that would be a distraction. And they made the same comment. See how the Lord works through his people when they work together...
"Landings", First Communions, Good Friday liturgy - these and many other things are the warp and weft of parish life, and especially of a parish priest's life. I thank God that the Church is moving us all to a place of greater collaboration in so many aspects of parish life. I know that  many colleague priests find all this difficult - working with parishioners, but I must say I enjoy it and it gives me great pleasure - and often pride - when we achieve things like a beautiful liturgy, a successful pastoral programme, a sacramental preparation that gives life both to the kids and to the catechists. Achieve them - together. "Any dream will do" - but especially a dream of the Lord for His Church.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

It's September 16th...

So there are now more details published about the Pope's visit to the UK in September. As we thought, he won't be coming to Wales, but he will be beatifying Cardinal Newman. There is a new site specially dedicated to everything you want to know about the visit, helpfully called Unlike the visit of John Paul II in 1982, this is a state visit, so he'll be popping in on Her Majesty who'll be up in Scotand at the time.  The visit runs from September 16 - 19, ie exactly six months away, so no doubt we will be hearing a lot more over the next months.
Oh, and it's just turned midnight - so happy St Patrick's Day!

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Oases of hope

Excuse me while I slide one of my Oasis Cds into the computer CD player.  I just came in from an 18th birthday party in the Hall. The band playing (with birthday twins Kieran and Hannah's brother Sean on lead vocals) did a few Oasis tunes - and did them very well. "And after all - you're my wonderwall" etc etc. Lots of kids saying hello to the poor old parish priest, who was feeling ancient in such company. We really do have some great families in our churches, and I like the fact that cool 18 year olds think it's Ok to say hi to Father. "So don't look back in anger...."
Earlier today more great youngsters, but this time a little younger, with Christ the King 7 and 8 year olds making their first Reconciliation (Confession to our older blogreaders). The catechists have worked particularly hard, as most of them are new to the job this year. I've had a few chats with them and have really grown to appreciate their conscientious approach, as they come to grasp the importance of what they are doing with the little ones.  
Earlier in the week on Thursday I celebrated Mass with Year 6 from the school (10-11s). What a beautiful Mass on the theme of New Life. Gospel was "Come to me all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest."  I had kids on the floor pretending to be oxen pulling the plough. The yoke Jesus was talking about was for two animals. Jesus helps us pull through life - and he asks us to help pull the load for one another too. This is bringing New Life to those we meet. Great kids, so well prepared by teacher Luke Mussa, so confident and attentive.
Thank God for our families and young people. A clergy gathering on Wednesday about the future of the Church in Cardiff was a bit depressing - but a while spent with our youngsters fills me with joy - and hope.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Pork, peace and pardon

Well it was a delight to have Archbishop Peter on our premises three times between Thursday and Sunday - but, on the other hand, it was a bit of a relief to see his car pull out of St Brigid's after a hearty roast pork lunch on Sunday courtesy of housekeeper Mary, who came in specially.
Thank God, both of our Confirmation celebrations went very well, with no major hitches at all. The young people always impress me and I know we have a very dedicated team of catechists. What struck me this year in particular was the quality of the worship, and especially of the music, at both Masses. I think those who complain about a lack of reverence or dignity at modern celebrations should have been present. 
Saturday we welcomed Justice and Peace people from dioceses all over England and Wales to the Justice and Peace Network, a quarterly gathering held alternately in London and out. A great gathering of such dedicated folks. And, again, our own United for Justice and Peace Group turned up trumps. The hall looked bright, welcoming - and Welsh, with plenty of daffs and welsh cakes for those from across the Severn Bridge to enjoy.   Everyone was commenting on the warmth of the welcome. Fr M a proud parish priest this weekend...
Back to parish and canon law business today. This afternoon I was taking evidence for an annulment case - not my favourite pasttime. It was 1 3/4 hours of concentrated work, drawing out the witness's knowledge of another sad story of a broken marriage.   Then straight up to Corpus Christi High School where the team who are planning our 3 Churches Mass of the Lord's Supper for Maundy Thursday were having a site meeting. All is building up well there.  Then back to base for a cuppa and to prepare for this evening's Lenten Bible group, which was looking at Judas. Look at Caravaggio's stunning depiction of the betrayal, with that hard, shiny unrelenting metal armour sprawled across the centre of the painting. Very interesting discussion took off on the question of forgiveness. Are there people who are beyond forgiveness?  And betrayal - how do we handle it in our own lives?  It's great when these sessions really get down to some basic human predicaments and we try together to bring the light of the Gospel to bear on the mess of life...

Thursday, 4 March 2010

One down...

Well, Confirmation went well at Christ the King this evening. Archbishop Peter confirmed 30 youngsters, and then we will have another 10 at St Brigid's on Sunday. 40 was a big group to prepare for our trusty catechists, so ably led by Peter and Marie. This evening was a tribute to all of them, as everything went so well. The Archbishop very much approved too!
Earlier start than usual tomorrow, as I'm leading the monthly First Friday prayers at Christ the King School at 8.15.  This is an open gathering, when staff, governors and parents can come together for 10 or 15 minutes before the busy school day begins. I usually offer a thought, have a time of silence, maybe play some music and use something visual. Obviously it will be along a Lenten theme, so I better go now and get some thoughts together - tomorrow morning will be a little late to start, even for me, who can work well under pressure! 

Monday, 1 March 2010

Well, well, well

At last, our central heating is back on after it slowly ground to a halt over a period of two weeks, and finally died a week ago. So this morning, the pleasant gas man was busy mending the darned boiler and servicing it for its new service contract, and I was in my office, signing parish money away with a few bills, when Brian, one of our money men tells me there are a Mr and Mrs Davies to see me. Who? I wonder. I make my way to the front door, to be greeted by a very respectable gent saying "Hello, cousin! I'm Herbie."
It was one of those genealogists moments....  I had encountered third cousin Herbie on one of the family tree websites, and we'd lobbed a few e-mails back 'n fore. And sudddenly, unannounced, there he was!  Well he timed it right, coz a lovely lady from the parish had just given me some homemade Welsh cakes for St David's Day. Herbie observed that they must be "perks of the job"... and tucked in.
We spent a pleasant hour swapping notes about our common Casey ancestors, who came from somewhere in Co Waterford to Cardiff at the time of the Famine. I took Herbie and wife onto the inner sanctum of my office to show them my family tree stuff on my computer - and to show him himself, number 1953 out of 2524 currently listed!
Before they went, they kindly invited me to visit them, and as they live near one of my favourite places, Wells in Somerset, I may just well do that... Well, well, well...