Sunday, 26 December 2010

See you later this week

I hope everybody had a happy and peaceful Christmas Day. For us the Christmas season now continues at least another week.
Fr M is having a few days with his family this week, so no postings until the weekend.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Pope Benedict's "Thought for the Day"

Today, an historic first for Christmas Eve - Pope Benedict gave Radio 4's "Thought for the Day". For my Christmas gift to all of you out there in the blogosphere, I reproduce here his words.
Recalling with great fondness my four-day visit to the United Kingdom last September, I am glad to have the opportunity to greet you once again, and indeed to greet listeners everywhere as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ.
"Our thoughts turn back to a moment in history when God's chosen people, the children of Israel, were living in intense expectation. They were waiting for the Messiah that God had promised to send and they pictured him as a great leader who would rescue them from foreign domination and restore their freedom.
God is always faithful to his promises, but he often surprises us in the way he fulfills them. The child that was born in Bethlehem did indeed bring liberation, but not only for the people of that time and place - he was to be the Saviour of all people throughout the world and throughout history.
And it was not a political liberation that he brought, achieved through military means; rather, Christ destroyed death forever and restored life by means of his shameful death on the Cross. And while he was born in poverty and obscurity, far from the centres of earthly power, he was none other than the Son of God. Out of love for us, he took upon himself our human condition, our fragility, our vulnerability and he opened up for us the path that leads to the fullness of life to a share in the life of God himself.
As we ponder this great mystery in our hearts this Christmas, let us give thanks to God for his goodness to us and let us joyfully proclaim to those around us the good news that God offers us freedom from whatever weighs us down: he gives us hope, he brings us life.
Dear Friends from Scotland, England, Wales and indeed every part of the English-speaking world. I want you to know that I keep all of you very much in my prayers this Holy Season. I pray for your families, for your children, for those who are sick and for those who are going through any form of hardship at this time. I pray especially for the elderly and for those who are approaching the end of their days.
I ask Christ, the light of the nations, to dispel whatever darkness there may be in your lives and to grant to every one of you the grace of a peaceful and joyful Christmas.
May God bless all of you!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

TCP, carols and a 2010 Christmas

Snow is still everywhere in Fr M world.  I'm ogling a scab below my knee, the likes of which hasn't been seen since childhood. Memories of grazed knees, witch hazel, TCP etc etc.
We had a wonderful Carol Service last night, which everybody seemed to appreciate. Simple, well prepared and carried out, thoughtful, warm and joyful. Congrats to the 3 Churches team - Fr M approves.
In the i-Phone Facebook Twitter age, digital Nativities were inevitable. There is a clever but, I'm told, rather disrespectful digital nativity video doing the rounds, but I found this one, and I think it is good. Fr M approves. As usual, double click to see full width. Enjoy...

Acknowledgements to Fr Tim Finegan

Monday, 20 December 2010

Shins, rings, and maybe sings

Thanks for enquiries about my shin bone. A very neat little plaster thingy left over from my earlier ankle thingy is protecting my right shin fine. I will survive. In fact, on Sunday we returned to the scene of the fall-flat-in-the-flowerbed-melodrama, when we were invited to lunch back at the golf club. I snarled at the offending wall. Grrrrr...
Snow... is falling even as I type on Monday morning. Folks turned out for all of our Masses over the weekend. Attendance was about 25-40%. Aren't Catholics wonderful! Here's a picture I took of Fr Tomy clearing snow on Friday before our heavier fall that day.
My nephew was due to propose to his beloved on the Acropolis in Athens this weekend - but had to resort to plan B, which was Basingstoke, where he lives. At the moment my brother and sister-in-law are stranded at Milan airport, where they were supposed to leave yesterday.
I was in Canada for two years in the 1980s, doing my canon law studies. Winters there were of course very, very cold - 20 below was common. But the winters were also very predictable, the same every year more or less. So although it's good to complain about how the authorities here are never prepared, I have some sympathy, given that we had about 25 years without serious snow!
Meanwhile, we have a 3 Churches Carol Service planned for Wednesday evening - not looking good. But the thing is, some of our wonderful Catholics will turn up, no matter what the weather!

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Have a nice trip

Yesterday the Lord saw fit to allow me to fall flat on my face. Literally. In a flowerbed. I was on the way to the Christmas Dinner of our two ladies' groups, the UCM and the CWL (note that I said "On the way to" not "coming back from, at a late hour"). Walking across the car-park, I was looking over to my right at the clubhouse of the golf club where it was being held, and didn't spot the low wall surrounding a flower bed in my path, shrouded in darkness. Next minute, a bang on my two shins, hands out in front of me and into the earthy flower-bed I go. Damage to me was minimal, one grazed top of my shin, just about where you touch down when genuflecting. Damage to flower-bed - dunno, and don't care. Get some lighting in your car park!
I'm sure there is a sermon in this somewhere, but as it feels like it might be something to do with humility, I'm not going to rush into that one. At least it gave the good ladies of the 3 Churches something to laugh about...

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Mind the gap?

The months continue to pass by, and we still do not have an Archbishop. Yes, we know that the Roman summer has come and gone, when the Vatican shuts down, the Pope too has come and gone in September, and, sadly, the Nuncio, one of the key people in the process of appointment, is gone as well, through ill health. 
I'm told that one or two other British appointments have taken as long as this - getting on for eight months - over the last few years. There is much reference among the clergy at the moment to that fact that we seem to be getting on fine, thank you very much! Some whisper that they are finding it hard to get someone to come here, that Bishop X or Y has turned it down (yes, you can).
All joking aside, the bishop in a diocese has absolutely the key role. Canonically he holds full power - judicial, executive and legislative. Pastorally, he is first shepherd and father of the diocesan family. He has the potential to influence every single aspect of diocesan life, and personally I would see one of his primary roles as being to inspire and uplift the people of God.
In a circular to the clergy today Mgr Bob Readon, Diocesan Administrator, urges us to keep up the prayers for this vital appointment. Will do, Bob!
Picture shows the "Cathedra, or bishop's throne, of St Gregory" in the church named after him in Rome.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Thankyou and Hallelujah!

Many, many thanks to all those - eight at the last count - who sent me links to this Christmassy flash mob. So I thought I'd better put up a link here. Folks at a shopping mall food court near Niagara Falls got a surprise just a few weeks ago....  Enjoy - 17 million already have! 

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Mass with a swing

Fr M loves a bit of (melo)drama with his religion, and you can't get much more dramatic than the botafumeiro. This is the enormous thurible in the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela, the great shrine in north-west Spain. We went there on our September pilgrimage about ten years ago, and witnessed the botafumeiro in action. It swings from the roof 80 or 90 feet up, and at its wildest almost swings horizontal. Sparks fly everywhere, and the whooooosh as it passes over is very loud. It's very difficult to film it, so I was delighted to find a link to this video of Pope Benedict in Santiago a few weeks ago. It's the best film I've seen for giving an idea of what an amazing experience it is to see, hear, smell and almost feel the thing flying over your head. Check out too the looks on the faces of the Vatican officials. Enjoy a little Catholic drama. Thanks to Catholic and Lovin It.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Faster, faster, faster

Sorry guys - a six day gap between blogs. Partly it's just Advent busy-ness, and partly this cold weather sort of slows down the canonical braincells, I think.
Now, this week I'm due to do one of my "Wednesday Word" broadcasts for Radio Wales. A few moments ago, I had just put on the kettle for my post-Mass cup of coffee when the producer rang. We decide the topic on Monday, I write the piece during the day, email it to her, then she comes back to me on the Tuesday with any, er, observations, then I go in to do the broadcast live on Wednesday.
So this time it's going to be based on the news today that the Government want us all to be on "superfast broadband" by 2015. Faster, faster, faster - everything must be faster. Don't get me wrong, I couldn't imagine going back to dial-up broadband myself. But we just seem to worship at the shrine of instant everything nowadays - and life, especially some of the most important aspects of life, ain't like that.
All of this is very Advent, when we are asked to wait, to pause and to reflect - to slow down and appreciate. My producer thought this was an excellent theme, and proclaimed it to be appropriately "countercultural" - which is BBC language for a good idea. So I'd better get down to it, and see where I can get with it. If you would like to hear it, it is on Radio Wales this Wednesday roughly 2.40pm.