Wednesday, 30 March 2011

The Fosse Ardeatine

I noticed that on Sunday Pope Benedict paid a visit to the Fosse Ardeatine outside Rome, a place that we used to walk to from the Beda seminary when I was there in the 70s. It's a fascinating place marking the spot where over 300 Italians were murdered by the then retreating Nazis late on in World War II. The Resistance set off a bomb in the city killing over 30 soldiers, and reprisals were ordered, 10 Italians for every German killed. These were rounded up in a fairly random way, taken outside the city to the area where many of the catacombs are, and shot in a cave. The entrance was then blown up, but some locals spotted this happening.
After the war all the bodies were dug out and reburied under a massive symbolic concrete tambstone and the cave turned into a place of prayer and reflection. It has a powerful presence about it, and is a place of pilgrimage for Italians, though not so many foreign visitors are aware of it. To get a sense of the place visit this WWII Landmarks site and click on the panorama images.
On a lighter note I did the latest of my "Wednesday Word" broadcasts this afternoon - on the subject of April Fools' Day, which is also the anniversary of my priestly ordination. It seemed to go down OK. I managed to get in St Paul, Shakespeare, John Cleese, Ricky Gervais and Miranda Hart!

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Tears of welcome, tears of joy

A huge group of people gather in a valley in West Papua, Indonesia. They are the remote Kimyal tribe, and they are awaiting a celebrity arriving on a plane.  When the celebrity lands they sing, shout - and cry, especially cry. They embrace and hug the celebrity, awith a heartfelt welcome. At last, at last, for the first time...
Who can it be?  Please watch this 10 minute video, and maybe you'll find that you also need to appreciate more and open your heart to..... well take a look!

Acknowledgments F Tim Finegan

Monday, 21 March 2011

More children's Lenten wisdom

So here's another example of the work of the inspired children of our 3 Churches. Yesterday's Gospel was the Transfiguration and this drawing was brought down in the Offertory procession with the gifts of bread and wine. The picture here is just the top slice of a very, very big mountain.
On the top you can see three figures in gold - Jesus (with a sort of halo), Moses and Elijah. Rather unconventionally Moses and Elijah are both to one side. Then further on the right side is a large figure who I'm thinking must be Peter. As the mountain is rather pointy in a children's way, there's no room for him, so he's hanging precariously off the edge!
Then I zoomed in on the peak, and saw that - maybe accidentally or maybe not - Peter's hand is actually being held by that of Jesus. So there you have it - as we stand in faith before the Lord revealed in all his glory, we may feel like we are truly being knocked off our little perches. But the Lord who is blowing us away is also the same one who is holding us tight, and stopping us from falling right off the whole great mountain of life itself. "Out of the felt-tips and  crayons of children"... so to speak.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

What we have to do


I couldn’t have put it better myself. This was one of the many, many inspiring contributions that you, the people of our 3 Churches, made towards our dream of how the Church, and our churches, could be. And this response was written by a child! Incidentally, if she or he wants to come forward, there may be a little reward for such a stunning summary of what it’s all about.
Members of our two parish councils have been busy collating all your responses. They met this week to review how we are doing, and to plan the route towards a Pastoral Council for our 3 Churches. It will be the job of that body to oversee our growth towards the vision that God has given us. Our goal is to produce by Easter a neat vision of where we believe God would want us to be going, and to launch the new body with an interim group to run for six months. We hope to celebrate all this at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Maundy Thursday. But let’s get back to that child’s vision.
God came down from heaven” Our vision must be firmly rooted in Jesus, our Lord and Saviour – this is God’s Church, not ours. The Word came into the world and became flesh, and therefore we are to put flesh on that Word for our own time and place. “Love one another as I have loved you”.
He came into the Church” Jesus and his Father breathed their Spirit into us at Pentecost, firing up those first followers to truly be the Church of Jesus Christ. St Paul teaches us that we are nothing less than the Body of Christ. Now we are that same Church for the twenty-first century in north Cardiff.
He started what we have to do” Brilliant. We are to do what He did! Simple, but so profound. Our vision must be that of the Gospel. The risen Jesus said, “As the Father sent me, so am I sending you”. Our agenda is His agenda...
So let’s move on together into the next part of our journey together. It started with the man whose Death and Resurrection we will celebrate in a month’s time. It is still His journey and mission, carried out through and with us. That is our privilege, that is our challenge.

The front page from this week's newsletter

Monday, 14 March 2011

Young Church

So young people are at the fore this week.
Yesterday and this coming Thursday we are having our annual celebrations of the sacrament of Confirmation. In the absence of an Archbishop (yes still) these are being celebrated by the local Deans in our diocese. Fr Allan Davies-Hale did an excellent job for St Brigid's and St Paul's yesterday. There were ten youngsters, and thanks to the dedicated catechists and parents, they were very well prepared. All went well, and now I'm looking forward to Christ the King on Thursday.
Also in St Brigid's church is the Corpus Christi Cross. This is a large bare cross that travels around our High School's partner parishes during Lent, spending three or four days at each church. It moves on to Christ the King and then St Paul's later this week. As a strong supporter of our Catholic schools, I'm very happy that we are reminded in this way of the bonds of faith that bind us to our schools.
Also in St Brigid's - as I write, there is 24 hour eucharistic adoration going on. This is organised by Jesus Youth, a movement that originated in Kerala, India. They have organised 100 days of adoration which started in Birmingham diocese a few weeks ago, and now passes to Cardiff. Young people are pledged to come for one, two or four hours throughout the next 24 hours from Mass this morning to Mass tomorrow morning. Very impressive.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

60,000 ashes and 16 voices

A brief p.s. to yesterday's post... Flicking through Whispers in the Loggia, one of the zillions of Catholic blogs out there, I noticed that St Patrick's Cathedral in New York, one of my favourite churches in the world, was expecting about 60,000 - yes 60,000 - people to receive the ashes yesterday. There would be 12 liturgies during the day, but the demand meant that ashes would also be continually available at different points in the cathedral.
I'm also grateful to Whispers for a link to a performance of Allegri's stunning setting of Psalm 51, the Miserere. I think I saw this on TV not long ago, in one of Simon Russell Beale's programmes, and it's The Sixteen singing under Harry Christophers at St Luke's in London. Music for starting Lent...

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Ashes, barbs - and emails

Although Easter is about as late as it can be this year, and therefore so also is Lent, nevertheless Ash Wednesday seems to have arrived very quickly. There were a lot of people at 9.30 Mass at St Paul's, after which Fr T and I went up to our parish primary school, Christ the King, for a liturgy with the juniors. As always with Christ the King, it was imaginative and thoughtful, centring on the three images of ashes, water and seeds. Then I also celebrated evening Mass at St Brigid's - not so full, but still a respectable number of folks.
For the season of Lent I've changed the header picture for this blog. I've used a close-up of barbed wire at Auschwitz, where I went on our September Pilgrimage six months ago. Auschwitz had an enormous effect on me, greater even than I expected in fact, and the wire there seems to stand for everything that traps us, from within and without, everything from which Jesus came to set us free. The wire at the camps was beautifully crafted, but hard and inpenetrable. It also, of course, bears a distinct resemblance to many images of the Crown of Thorns. Just something to contemplate this Lent... (acknowledgments to Paul for photos).
I have decided to give a series of so-called Twilight Retreats this Lent on Wednesday evenings for people involved in different ministries. These will replace the series of talks on various themes that I have given over previous Advents and Lents. It will be pretty demanding each week, but I am convinced that many people would enjoy and benefit from a little time apart, with some spiritual nourishment and challenge. We'll see how they go.
The use of email is great for a large organization like the Church, but it does, of course, have its drawbacks. One of them came back and bit me today when I discovered that a series of emails that I had sent over several months to a colleague, and which I had sort of concluded he was chosing to ignore, had, in fact, never reached him because he had changed his email address. So I had to repent of some evil-ish thoughts - and resend them!

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Heavy week - light intervals

Whoa - bit of a busy week folks, and sorry about longish gap without postings...
Several bereavements and funerals going on, inside the parish and elsewhere. These included the funeral of Rita, of the lovely couple who organise our September Pilgrimages. Bill asked me to celebrate her Requiem Mass on Friday, which I felt privileged to do, after being present at her death a while ago. Funerals, I find, take a lot of what I may call inner energy, especially of course when it is that of someone whom I would call not only a parishioner but also a dear friend. However all went well on Friday and also for the funeral of Tim on Wednesday, Tim being only 39 years old.
So with quite a lot of issues around at the moment on the Canon Law side of my work, and with Lent around the corner, it's been a little on the heavy side. Vital, then, to lighten up too. So I went out Friday evening with friends for a drink, and last night spent a lovely evening at Christ the King parish's Quiz Night. I got a Bible question wrong, and will take ages to live it down - ho hum!!