Saturday, 31 July 2010

Back home

So, I came back from my break yesterday, and am already into the swing of parish life and issues.
I had some lovely time with my brother and sister-in-law in Leamington, and the three of us managed to link up with my sister and brother-in-law for a meal in Oxford - roughly midway. The five of us had a very nice family lunch in the restaurant on top of the new part of the Ashmolean Museum. The museum had a big renovation and extension a few years back and the eatery is right on the top floor, with a large terrace area that we went out on for our lunch. Very nice - Fr M approves 
In the middle of my holiday I took off to Milan for a week. I love Italy and have been to many parts of it, but hadn't hit the second city - Milan. The Cathedral, Leonardo's "Last Supper", Michelangelo's "Rondanini Pieta", La Scala Opera, San Siro Stadium, loads of very old churches, museums, good public transport, etc etc. I had a nice hotel with a quaint view over Milan rooftops and little leafy courtyards.
I went out of the city on two of the days. One trip was to see the Carthusian Monastery or Certosa at nearby Pavia, and the other was to Lake Como - but they deserve a posting of their own. Meanwhile here are a few holiday pics to be going on with - the Duomo or cathedral, and inside the nearby Galleria or arcade where everybody strolls and shops, drinks coffee, and watches everybody else... 

Sunday, 18 July 2010

The empty place

OK folks, it's that time of year when the batteries are running a bit low, and I'm lucky enough to get away for a bit of recharging. So there'll be a pause in postings for about 12 days, while I'm on holiday. I'll be spending half with my family, and half in warmer climes, visiting an area I've never been to before. With  so much uncertainty in the air in my little world - about a summer supply, about a replacement for Fr James, about a new archbishop etc, it's time to throw up my hands and say "I'm off!"
I'll take the opportunity to thank you, gentle readers, for your support. I'm amazed this blog is still going - and, indeed growing. One of my aims was to try and put across something of the everyday life of priests, and something of our ordinary backgrounds - we aren't parachuted into this world with dog collars already around our necks!
So, if you are also lucky enough to get away this summer - enjoy, and come back refreshed, ready to labour in the Lord's vineyard.
Meanwhile, here is Andrej Rublev's famous icon of the Trinity at the Oak of Mamre from Sunday's first reading. God came to Abraham and Sarah in the form of three men. Rublev shows them sitting around the table with food prepared. All that's missing is someone at the fourth side of the table - and that, of course, is you...
Click on the icon for a bigger version

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

E viva Italia!

After Spain winning the World Cup, I'll move on to my other favourite European country - Italy. What a beautiful land! I first visited there in about 1966 with St David's Choir, then in 1972 with friends on EuroRail, then I studied there for four years 1974-78 in seminary in Rome. Been back many times since, and I'm looking at a short visit this summer. Lovely landscape, cities and people, music, food and ice-cream - what more could you ask?
On the other hand, not always the most organized place, or, maybe, just organized differently. There's often, well, an Italian way of doing things. Check out this video to see what I mean. And before anyone accuses me of racism or whatever, it's a homage to things Italian and it's made by an Italian - and I love Italy OK?  Thanks to Fr J who passed it on to me.

Sunday, 11 July 2010


Boy, do I wish I'd put some money on Spain in the World Cup. Just like lots of people say about music, so I say about sport "I know what I like." And I liked what I heard and saw about Spain. On top of which, Spanish was my main subject in University and the foreign language I'm most at home in. So for all kinds of reasons, I fancied 'em from the beginning in South Africa. Oleeee!
Meanwhile, back home, Fr J has been down with a kind of chicken pox thing for most of the last week. It was a bit touch and go to find supply priests to cover his Masses this weekend. He tells me he is now on the mend...
Still no definite news about the arrival of our temporary summer cover, who is supposed to be here from three weeks' time, or our hoped-for replacement for Fr J, who could arrive any time this year! In order to get any time off for myself, I'll need to do so this month - so scouts are also out to find someone to cover for me later this month. Ho hum...
All quiet on the diocesan front. Time to time rumours about who is in the running to be our next archbishop. The Vatican isn't exactly a hive of activity during the summer, so personally I'm not expecting much on that news front for a few months yet...   Thing are starting to move on the papal visit front, but if I'm honest I'm not sensing a huge rush, at least not in our parishes. Each diocese has been allocated a number of places for the two main events, the Prayer Vigil in Hyde Park and the Beatification Mass in Birmingham. We'll do a sell next weekend and see what happens... 

Friday, 9 July 2010

A little bit of history

Over the last weeks I've caught some of the programmes in Radio 4's "History of the World in 100 Objects" series. Recently they've been appealing for people to put onto the BBC website things of their own which have some historical meaning. So I thought I'd have a go, and managed to put on there one of my special possessions - an altar missal printed in Antwerp in 1614. This was given to me by my parents when I was training to be a priest in the 70s. The missal is well used, especially the pages with the Canon of the Mass - what we would now call the Eucharistic Prayer. The picture shows the missal open at the Consecration, which you can see in large letters "Hoc est enim corpus meum" and "Hic est enim Calix sanguinis mei, novi et aeterni testamentum: mysterium fidei: qui pro vobis et pro multis effundetur in remissionem peccatorum".
I wonder how many priests in those dark times for the Catholic Church prayed those sacred words from this book. Perhaps one of the martyrs...
You can see the missal on the BBC site here. Click on "Explore", wait for the Flash video to load and find the year 1600. You'll see the same picture as on this posting, with more info.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Amazing stories

Folks have told me that they like the video links I put on here - so here are two. First is Andrea Bocelli, the famous Italian singer, telling a story with a strong pro-life message, and second is a piece about the amazing Stephen Wiltshire. Stephen is autistic, not speaking until he was 5, but some call him "the living camera" for his ability to memorize views from the air. Both these videos tell us something about human life, its uniqueness, its value, its surprises. I'm grateful to Fr Tim Finigan for both of them.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

6 x great grandad (continued)

A few weeks ago I blogged how I had firmed up what I have on my oldest known ancestor, Jenkin William(s). Born 1650 in the beautiful Glamorgan village of Llangynwyd, just south of Maesteg, he died and was buried there 78 years later in 1728. This was one year after the death of the legendary Ann Maddox (nee Thomas) the "Maid of Cefn Ydfa".
So today I made a pilgrimage to go and see Jenkin's gravestone at Llangynwyd, and the farmhouse where he lived. After a coffee at the well-known local hostelry, the "Old House", we crossed over to the church where, as arranged with the vicar, Mandy the church warden was waiting for us with her Mam. I quickly found the gravestone of Jenkin and his wife Elizabeth nee Powell. It was, as the guide to the graves there said, bolted to the wall under the tower. It seems that the chancel, or altar area, was extended in the nineteenth century, disturbing some graves, and it looks like Jenkin and Elizabeth's was one of them. So their bodies probably lie somewhere under the floor near to the altar. Another surprise - Ann Maddox's original stone is bolted to the wall right next to theirs! In the picture, left, Jenkin and Elizabeth's is the arched stone to the right, and Ann's is the lower half of the left one. As a celeb, Ann has a new stone set into the floor of the chancel, as I showed in my 17th June posting. Mandy 'n' Mam were great, and after a wander round we returned to the Old House to digest what we'd seen - and partake in some very nice ham with parsley sauce. Fr M approves.
After lunch we drove the mile or two out of the village along a narrow lane to a point where we could look down from a hill over Gilfach Farm, where Jenkin's stone says he lived (right). We were just taking photos when the owner of the neighbouring farm stopped his car and proceeded to give us permission to drive down to his property, from where we could get a better view of Gilfach. It's a Grade II listed building dating, it's believed, to the 15th century. Perhaps another time I'll manage to pay a visit... and also I'd like to see the relevant entries in the registers at the Church.
1650 - a long time. I'm astonished that I have got back 360 years in my family tree research. It just shows that it is possible, with a little luck and lots of hard work! As the Bible puts it, Jenkin begat Morgan, Morgan begat Thomas, Thomas begat Evan, Evan begat another Morgan, Morgan begat another Evan, Evan begat Edith, Edith begat John Lynn - and John Lynn begat Matthew.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Children's wisdom on friends

Our Mass with children from Christ the King School today was on the theme of “Friends”. We thought about our friends around us, but also, of course, we thought about our Friend who never ever leaves us... After Holy Communion, the children celebrated their friendship with Jesus. Included was this reflection...
When things are confused...
I talk about them with you until they make sense.
When something good happens...
You are the first person I tell so I can share my happiness.
When I don’t know what to do in a situation...
I ask your opinion and compare it with mine.
When I am lonely...
I call you because I never feel alone with you.
When I have a problem...
I ask for your help because your wiseness helps me to solve it
When I want to have fun...
I want to be with you because we have such a great time together.
When I want to talk to someone...
I always talk to you because you understand me.
When I want the truth about something...
I call you because you are so honest.
It is essential to have you in my life...
Thank you for being my friend