Sunday, 30 May 2010

Great kids, healing legs and Moody Blues

It's the First Holy Communion season, and yesterday we had the Thanksgiving Mass that Christ the King parish always has a few weeks after the actual First Communion. This year, it was held in St Brigid's, so that the party that goes with it could be held in the Hall. Next Sunday, it's the turn of St Brigid's and St Paul's. They have the biggest group since I have been here - I think it's 21 or so. For us priests there is always a lot to watch out for to make sure that everything goes well on these occasions, so they're quite demanding. One of the most important jobs is to support the catechists, who are, of course, all voluntary. We're very lucky in the 3 Churches to have excellent ones.
My leg continues to improve slowly. It's a matter of getting the wounds to heal over, and they're classed as ulcers now. Well, actually I should say "it" as one of the two has healed over already. The nurses are very pleased with progress, so I hope the second one won't take long. What's annoying is that the bottom end of the tubigrip which goes over most of my foot rides up under the foot and makes it painful to walk on. Then I say to myself Shut up Matthew - that's nothing compared to people who are in real pain. Like the man whom I anointed today at one of the Homes in our parishes. Once again, I am made aware of the sacredness of these last moments of human life, and the privilege it is to be able to help a fellow human being on their last journey.
More on the music nostalgia front... After Roxy Music - the Moody Blues. I remember circa 1970 buying a Moodies LP (Wot's that??) in City Radio in Hills Terrace - or was it Roath Radio - one was there and one was in the Morgan Arcade... With their orchestral effects, mellotron etc the Moodies were oh sooo progressive. Anyway, their biggest single was "Nights in White Satin" and here they are performing it only a few years ago.  As with Roxy, if anything it sounds better now! At the time we lads thought it was much girlier than the LPs and wouldn't be caught dead listening to it...

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Oil, candles, ice-cream and unity

A good weekend, starting with our Mass with the Sick on Saturday morning. Many said that there seemed to be a very special atmosphere in the church, which I sensed too. As the sick came up for anointing, especially two parishioners who have particularly difficult conditions, I was strangely aware that it wasn't just my hand reaching to hold and anoint theirs. Jesus is so strongly present in the sick and suffering, and in our reaching out to them. They show us what Mother Teresa used to call his "distressing face".
Pentecost, and I was at Christ the King for Sunday Masses. I suggested that the Paschal Candle is outed after this day, not because it has disappeared, but because the light is to burn in each of us - we are all paschal candles now. In describing what happens at the Easter Vigil, the thought also came to me that as the darkness slowly disappears with the lighting of our own candles, we get to see the flickering image of one another's faces. Seeing each other in the light of Christ - a nice thought...
Monday and I had a day off, welcoming my sister visiting for the day. It was scorching and so we headed for the Bay. A pizza, a stroll, a coffee, a stroll, an ice-cream, a stroll. Lovely day.
And so to today, and a small ending for me as I chaired my last meeting as chairman of our local Churches Together organization. I've always been committed to local ecumenism. I believe that Vatican II leaves us no choice, in fact! But besides that, it's great to broaden your horizons, and, indeed, fly the flag for the Catholic Church. I must say in our local set-up I've met nothing but a welcome and appreciation for being involved. I'll miss being chair. Well, sort of - it's one less hat to wear, and I sometimes think I end up wearing too many.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Sand genius

The Fr M award for unlikely YouTube megavideo (viewed over 14 million times) goes to the winner of "Ukraine has got Talent" 2009, Kseniya Simonova. This lady is astonishing. She is an artist with sand, and what she does with it is unbelievable. As her act goes on, people come and go across her screen, historical figures flash past, and human situations are evoked. Some of the themes she handles bring the audience to tears as she touches their history of war and communism. I've never seen anything like this, and I suspect you won't have either. After watching the first video, you can find a few others of her in the other rounds of "Got Talent". I particularly liked one where she depicts everyday scenes of family life and characters that we have all met...
The Ukraine certainly does have talent.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Take the Ferry

Time for a music posting. From sixth form on, through university and then seminary and after, one of my favourite bands was always Roxy Music. In fact, a few days before I went off to seminary I went with my friends to see them at the Capitol (remember the Capitol?). A kind of pre-seminary stag night, I suppose... Eno, Phil Manzanera, Andy Mackay and the inimitable Bryan Ferry - their music lasts and I still listen from time to time. Their first ever single, in 1972, was "Virginia Plain", and I was delighted to come across a video of them still performing it live over 30 years later, because, you know what, it actually sounds better now than then! Ferry, Mackay and Manzanera are all playing, and it speeds along at a cracking pace. Ferry was always a great entertainer and the audience absolutely loved it by the look of them. So, if you are of a certain age, and even if you're not, and you want to know what kind of stuff your reverend blogger was, and is into - then pin your ears back for Mr Ferry.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Bishop's move

And so, the Peter Smith years slowly ebb away... Tomorrow, in order to mark the Year of the Priests, the priests of our diocese were due to all celebrate Mass together at the Cathedral and then have a meal in one of the city centre hotels. Now the celebration has also taken on the role of our farewell to Peter who has been our archbishop for 9 1/2 years. I was in his company yesterday, and he said he was moving at the end of next week, in preparation for his installation as Archbishop of Southwark on 10th June. 
The Vatican Council had much to say about bishops and their role in the diocese. A pastor, a father, a special relationship with his priests etc etc. None of us, I suppose, fulfils all the expectations put on us. He also confirmed that the present consultation on the city of Cardiff will continue.  
The nurses continue to take care of my leg for me. They gave me a huge prescription for dressings, creams, tubigrips and goodness knows what. The chemists didn't have enough of most of the stuff. As I'm feeling better in myself, I don't mind the long haul that it's probably going to be to get rid of the aftermath of my infection, cellulitis, whatever...
Fr James goes away on Saturday for a fortnight. I'll have help on the weekends but not on weekdays. So we'll have a reduced Mass timetable and I'll be kept on the go etc. So I don't want any bother over this fortnight OK?!

Monday, 17 May 2010

LIttle angels, iPlayers, nurses and canon lawyers

Busy, busy as usual. Lovely First Holy Communions at Christ the King on Sunday. Everything went well. Also on Sunday, lots of people listened to the broadcast of our first recorded "Celebration". I caught it on iPlayer later, and thought it all sounded good. At some points I thought the singing sounded thinner than it was on the night. Darryl and Geoff's intro to "Do not be afraid" came across beautifully, and added a touch of class, if that's possible or appropriate in an act of worship!
We had a Christ the King parish meeting about the reorganization proposals on Sunday afternoon, and people expressed their views very well.
I reported to the nurses today, who I like and trust a lot. Thank goodness, the nasty little wounds on my ankle are slowly shrinking, and the leg swelling is not quite so pronounced now. So I seem to be on the mend, but the nurse observed, peering down at my foot "these things can be little divels" which I took as nurse-speak for "it might be a bit of long haul to clear these wounds". They gave me a huge prescription for ongoing self-care. As long as I know where it's going, I'm fine. I'm seeing them again Thursday. Good news is that most of the time I'm feeling much more myself over the last few days. 
Tomorrow I've got a meeting of the officials of the National Tribunal for Wales, my canon law body, to review the first few years of our working together and plan for the next stage of our development.

Friday, 14 May 2010

And the winner could be....

So, we had our canons' meeting, which was an unusual experience. We were told that the Vatican wanted a list of three nominations (which, of course, they can totally ignore if they wish!). So, eventually, we came up with them. The atmosphere was a slightly eerie combination of solemnity and bonhomie.
Meanwhile, the old foot is slowly getting there. Made my return visit to the nurses, where we found that the original infection has cleared up, but it has caused some cellulitis and stuff, so more care needed for that, and so my left leg is bound up like Lazarus.
We've held two open meetings for St Brigid's and St Paul's about the proposals for the future in Cardiff. Not a huge number turned up, but a good discussion, carried out in good spirits. I encouraged folks to get involved, to send in their thoughts, and, if they wish, also to be creative in suggesting alternatives. 
Amazing goings on in the government. I feel a real sense of us entering a new phase of national life. In fact, the impression I get is a bit like the atmosphere with us canons on Wednesday - a mixture of solemnity and bonhomie. So the question is the same in both cases - where is it all going?
Meanwhile, in this Year of the Priest, I found a video about my seminary in Rome, the Beda. The college has changed in some ways since the 70s, but the place looks the same. The lower age limit is now 30 - it was 24 in my day, and I was "illegal" at 21! Anyway, take a look, it's only 2 1/2 minutes... It's part of a series on Rome, some of which also look interesting.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

PPs, PMs, and ready-loaded canons

Wow. Great evening with the BBC at St Brigid's. Everything went very well - music, readers, a good crowd - everything. Karen, the producer, was pleased too. Fr M happy PP.
And while we were enjoying ourselves, Britain got a new Prime Minister!  I tell you what, it's all happening.
Well, the fun continues tomorrow when the canons of Cardiff, including yours truly, gather to propose a list of three candidates to be considered as our next Archbishop. We are one of the bodies whose view is sought. Each canon is asked to suggest three names anonymously, and then the three top names are forwarded to the Nuncio in London.
Well, actually, I haven't really got much of a clue who we should have! I've been checking out the form by looking up all the bishops in England and Wales on their website. Hasn't got me much further. Fr James suggested that I shoud pray about it. Hadn't thought of that! So I'll have a bite for supper now, and have a chat with the Lord. I can't tell you what He might say, because the voting and result of the august canons' deliberations is... shhhhhh... secret.
Picture shows canons' stalls at Lincoln Cathedral - couldn't find a pic of Catholic ones!

Friday, 7 May 2010

A Spanish smile

I enjoyed this little video that I found on Fr Tim Finigan's blog. It's in Spanish, but with English subtitles. It brings together an elderly priest and a group of young people who remind us of the good that priests do, and what we can do about it.
Made me smile as I wait for the old foot to get back to normal!
Double click to get the full width on Youtube.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Foot, vote, and flowers

At last found out why I haven't been feeling 100% for a while. I've got an infection in a graze on my ankle. I hadn't paid much attention to the graze from a while back, stuck a plaster on it etc. Then my left foot got swollen and red, and yesterday when I took off the plaster it was all yucky. The surgery gave me an appointment in 45 minutes and diagnosis instant. So, antibiotics to the rescue - and I'm already feeling the difference. I was told to try and keep the offending foot elevated - and in my mind I was instantly transported back 10 years, to when I broke the other ankle, and had all that business for months. Anyway, isn't it great how just knowing what is wrong itself makes you feel better in some way?
As I was going to the surgery, Rhodri Morgan was canvassing outside the shops in Llanishen, because today, of course, is election day. I think that the Conservatives will win, and that Labour do a bit better than we might expect - and the Lib Dems a little worse. Though there has been a lot of fuss about them, especially in the media, I'm not sure how many will actually vote for them in the booth...  We'll see.
Meanwhile, a good blog I came across is one by Fr Stephen Wang, a Westminster priest who is currently Dean of Studies at Allen Hall seminary in London. Stephen blogs about what's going on in the world today, or as he puts it "looking across the landscape of contemporary culture." Good, intelligent, and Catholic. Fr M approves.
So here to finish is a little fun thing I found on Fr Stephen. Grow your own garden! Click here to go to the site, then just click on the black screen or drag your cursor across it, and watch those flowers grow!  Enjoy.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Red face

Fr M embarrassed. In my posting about the transfer of Archbishop Peter, I got what happens here in Cardiff from here on in wrong. Sorry folks!
As it is a transfer, not a retirement, Archbishop Peter remains here as administrator (ie restricted authority) until he takes up his post at Southwark, on or before 10th June. It is then that our consultors elect an administrator to keep things ticking over, until a new archbishop is appointed.
Don't worry, I'm just a canon lawyer who is supposed to know these things. Well, come on now, archbishops don't get moved every week...

Monday, 3 May 2010

A day with Harry and Oliver

Need a break from pastoral planning and episcopal roundabouts? Where better than a day in the edge-of-the-Cotswolds? So, took off after Mass for the famous village of Lacock in deepest Wiltshire. It's an unbelievably pretty little place frozen in time and completely owned by the National Trust, to whom it was given by the last member of the Talbot family. Unfortunately half of Britain had also decided to descend on this Mecca on May Bank Holiday. However, the village held its own very well against the swelling tide of cars that spilled into the reserve car park and beyond. Jewel in Lacock's crown is the Abbey - a convent for Augustinian nuns that was taken over at the Reformation  by a posh landowner, who converted into a fine house, having pulled down the rather in-the-way-church.
Loads of kids around, coz scenes from the first two Harry Potter films were shot there, but also bits of various Jane Austen and other 19th century novels were also filmed here. 
Unusually, a lot of the original monastic rooms survive, especially the beautiful cloisters.
After a tasty pub lunch, we meandered through Wiltshire and Somersetshire greenery to a living monastery, Downside Abbey. Now why this wow-factor place is not better known I don't know. If its huge nineteenth century Gothic church were in some cute English town, it would be crammed with visitors. As it was, other than two other tourists and some young prospective pupil and his mummy and daddy being shown round, we had the place to ourselves. One of England's best kept secrets, and all the better for it.  Said a prayer to St Oliver Plunkett, who, as regular readers will know, has his shrine there (left, on an old postcard). Beautiful. 
A cup of tea on the way back, and once again aware of the countless wonders of nature and of human ingenuity in our country.