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.