Sunday, 29 May 2011

Surprise menus

So yesterday I was at a lunch to celebrate a parishioner's 80th birthday. There were about 20 of us at one of South wales' best known hotels. The food and service were both excellent, and the company was very good too - half family members and half friends, many from the parish. But the star for me was the birthday lady herself.
Before we started to eat she got up and gave a speech, which I would put up with the best I have ever heard on a social occasion. She recounted a potted version of her life-story, but the brilliant thing was the way she wove into it a passage about each of the guests present. Her words were ones of gratefulness and friendship, emotional but not gushing. She had notes in front of her, but didn't refer to them once. We all felt part of not only the party but of her life itself, and she of ours too. May - you're a star!
This weekend all the parishes in England & Wales had to read a "National Pastoral Letter" from the Bishops on the new translation of the Missal. Actually, it was pretty good, especially the section on the principles behind the changes. 
Shame, then, that at 6pm Mass at St B's someone had accidentally removed the copy of the Letter from the lectern where I had seen it earlier in the afternoon. So when I finished the Gospel and reached down for the text - nothing! Arrrghhh - speakers' nightmare! Anyway as I had already read it 3 times at earlier Masses, I could remember the gist, so gave my own version. One parishioner felt sure that it was better than the Bishops' original. Bless. Parishioners - doncha just love 'em...

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Catholic in faith, catholic in taste

Got a bit of a sore throat today, didn't sleep well, and feeling sorry for myself. So I thought it was time to post a couple of nice videos, from two very different aspects of the Church, both of which I love. The first was recorded on 12th May at Fatima, the shrine in Portugal. 13th May is the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, marking the first apparition there in 1917, when Our Lady appeared to three children, an apparition repeated each month until October. So the 13th of each month is the big day in Fatima.
Celebrations start the evening before, when the statue is processed from its shrine chapel across the huge piazza to an outdoor altar, where it remains all night during a vigil, through to a great Mass in the morning, at the end of which it is processed back to its chapel amid great emotion. The video shows the torchlight procession of the first evening. It's not "dramatic", just an image of the faith of 300,000 Catholics in God and Our Lady - with the singing of the Fatima hymn and thousands of candles held high, let it sort of wash over you. It's got a commentary in Portuguese, but don't let that put you off. If you haven't been to one of the great shrines, this will give you a taster... I found it on the blog of Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, who leads the procession.

The second video is very different, and from the modern charismatic strand of the Church. It is a song written by someone called Paul Baloche, of whom I'd never heard before today. I found this song, called simply "Glorious" on a Salesian priest's blog.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Hello great Harrogate

So here I am, back from my conference in Harrogate, and I'm glad to report that it went very well. Phew!
We travelled up on Monday and it took about five hours, with a stop somewhere in the middle of England. I think we notched up six motorways altogether - M50, M5, M42, M1, M18 and A1(M). Rather weary, we arrived at the very nice Old Swan Hotel which turns out to be an old nineteenth century Hydro establishment, but completely done up about five years ago. Its claim to fame is that it's where Agatha Christie turned up when she did her famous 11 days vanishing trick in 1926.
I soon met up with colleagues from all over the UK and Ireland, plus faces from Canada, USA, Australia. And India - yes a CMI from Kottayam in Kerala sat next to me in the talks - that's Fr T and Fr James' religious order and province. They are everywhere!  I spotted Fr Frank Morrissey - my professor from Ottawa in the 1980s and Canon Law hero - if that is possible... Food was good, rooms were big and very comfy. I slept well, which I needed after Holy week etc. The conference organizers always get top speakers, and this year we welcomed Cardinal Burke, an American who is sort of minister for Justice at the Vatican.
Wednesday afterrnoon and evening were free, so we went for a drive in Wensleydale and discovered the lovely ruins of Jervaulx Abbey with accompanying tea-rooms. In the evening we were guests of the Southwark guys at a lovely restaurant in the town, William and Victoria. Unfortunately some of my gorgeous lamb shank fell in its scrummy gravy and splashed all over me - shades of another incident in the bar at our hotel in Krakow... 
Thursday afternoon the five of us present involved in the National Tribunal for Wales held a summit to review our progress over almost four years. It all needed streamlining and I have taken my time in pressing for reform in our procedures. To my amazement everyone agreed to the proposed adaptations, and we were all done in 75 minutes. Alleluia! Seriously, it is a great relief to me...
And so the last day came, and some of us realized we had not ticked off the main site in lovely Harrogate. It's a beautiful town, hilly, green with trees, flowerbeds and lawns, strewn with fine hotels and residences, scattered with little shops and tearooms. But reigning supreme is Betty's Tearooms, so after our last session and having put our bags in the car, three of us repaired to Bettys' for some excellent coffee and cakes.
Another five hour journey brought us back after a high-scoring five days. Harrogate - Fr M approves, Old Swan - Fr M approves, William and Victoria - Fr M approves, new-look National Tribune Fr M approves (well he would). Last and not least,  Betty's Tearooms - Fr M approves - defo. 

Saturday, 14 May 2011

"Celebrate" Part II

So our "Celebrate Wales" just got better and better. On Sunday I stayed in the parish for our two morning Masses then shot up to Corpus Christi where they were just finishing the coffee break. The atmosphere was really good and we then all made our way into the Hall for an hour's Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. During this there was the opportunity to be prayed with or have Confession. There were some really good things happening.
At lunch-time stuffed rolls and crisps were provided for the workers and speakers etc on the two days, and that was a good opportunity to meet and chat with some of the best Catholic speakers and leaders in the UK. I think it's vital in the Church to widen our horizons, learn from others, share experiences - whatever you want to call it. I was hugely impressed with the commitment and energy of some of the younger leaders. Oh that our diocese will be able to produce and support similar young people here...
After lunch we had a special treat. The four or five age-groups of children and teenagers each put on something that they had worked on. Wow, were they well-prepared! "Celebrate" bring in some excellent leaders and it showed. Nothing "childish" - good, appropriate material exactly right for the age-group concerned. 
Christian mime artist Steve Murray then performed for the last of three or four times during the weekend, and that led into the Final Mass, at which I was main concelebrant. Well, the whole congregation was by now ready to pick up the hall and carry it to St Peter's Square in Rome. The singing came close to blowing the roof off... it was great. I felt it a privilege to be presiding at such a true celebration of faith. From the priest's perspective, of course we can see how people are reacting, and I noticed that I seemed to be "connecting" with the young people, especially with the lads, one of the hardest age-groups, so that was reassuring!
One of my favourite aspects of a beautiful weekend was the music, led by Hanna Zafar from Leeds. Her choice of songs, her timing, her leading of the small group - as good as any I've seen and heard. And to end the whole thing we all sang "Bread of Heaven". It was a fantastic end to a fantastic conference.
And, guess what, we are about to decide the date for next year's!

Friday, 13 May 2011

Disappeared and disappearing

Hey, I did a new posting on here on Wednesday and it has disappeared! It was a report on the second day of our "Celebrate Wales" event. It's gone. Ummmm.... where is it I wonder?   In particular I wonder is it to do with the fact that I upgraded to Internet Explorer 9 that day? That shouldn't affect it, surely? It had 2 pictures etc - I'm baffled. Did I dream it? No - the two pics are still in "My Pictures". If you find a wandering post,  let me know!
Meanwhile I'm off to Harrogate next week at the annual conference of the Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Not as, er, heavy as you might think - all great people trying their best to help the People of God.
P.S.Later that night...
Oh, my Wednesday posting has reappeared after its flight around the blogosphere. Deo gratias.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

"Celebrate" takes off

Just got in from Day One of our "Celebrate Wales" weekend. What an amazing day! Everything went very well - music was great, Steve Murray's mimes were great, the organization and catering were great - everything was great! Well, you get the idea... Mgr Bob Reardon came to be main celebrant at the Mass in the morning.  There were about 180-200 people around, I think, during the day.
I hope my talk was OK - it became more simple the more I prayed about it. The theme of the weekend is "Who do you say that I am?" I talked about the "you" to whom Jesus asks this question. Who am I? In the leaders' prayer at 7.45am before the day started, I had a new thought which I brought into the talk. If we are made by God, loved by the Father and the Son, then in our mother's womb we already know the answer to that question "Who do you say I am?" What happens is that we forget it! So our Christian journey becomes one of re-discovery of our deepest identity as children of the Father, loved by the Son.
Anyway, tomorrow I've got 9 o'clock at St Paul's and then 10.30 at St Brigid's, after which I'll be back at Corpus Christi. In the afternoon I'm chief concelebrant at the final Mass at 3pm, so I'll sign off now to do some preparation for that. Meanwhile - if you are within travelling distance of Corpus Christi and you read this tonight or in the morning - get up there, it's all happening at "Celebrate"!!

Thursday, 5 May 2011

News and celebrations

So voting has just closed, and once again our three sites have all been used as voting stations. Seems to me people aren't desperately bothered about the yes/no one...  News also this week dominated by the death of Osama bin Laden. I'm hearing quite a lot of people not entirely comfortable with all the hoo-ha surounding this killing. I feel humble when I think of all his victims, but still a bit queasy about it all...
Meanwhile, I've recovered from Tuesday's arduous Marriage Tribunal judging session here, which went OK. I'm now preparing my talk and homily for our "Celebrate Wales" weekend at Corpus Christi High School. The other two speakers, Charles Whitehead and Jenny Baker are much better known than me, so I'm in exalted company! However, it would be wonderful if this event gives a boost to the Church here in Wales, which it so much needs.
I haven't posted a video for a while, so here's one I pinched from another priest's blog. It's a great combination of sound and vision. The music is an Easter piece of music with calm choral singing combined with glorious organ - turn it up loud for the full effect. At the same time you are watching stunning photography of mountains - the Alps and maybe others as well - beautiful.
Acknowledgements to Fr Ray Blake.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Branching out

So the Royal Wedding came and went. Yes, I did watch it, and I thought it all went very well and looked beautiful (especially Pippa, but that's another matter!).  The Abbey, the music - everything played its part magnificently. I just hope folks here in our 3 churches don't ask for trees down the aisle...  Bishop Chartres had some good things to say too, I thought. And at the heart of it the couple looked very happy. Good luck to 'em! I wonder what the Benedictine monks who ran the Abbey for 500 years before the Reformation would have thought? 
I read in "The Tablet" that our new Archbishop is concerned about the vocation situation in Wales. Good - so he should be, and I hope that this means some serious attention to the issue - watch this space.
Tomorrow I have a meeting of the Welsh National Tribunal here, in fact the biggest we have held, involving four of us judges resolving four cases. They're coming from North Wales and Swansea as well as here in Cardiff, so I'm hoping that ll will go well.  Then next weekend we have our great "Celebrate" weekend at Corpus Christi High School. I'm giving the first talk on Saturday morning and presiding at the Mass on Sunday afternoon, so once tomorow's meeting is over that is the next thing on my agenda in addition to day-to-day stuff. Then there are weddings to think about, three lots of First Communions, preparing for the new Missal, etc etc. Yes, I know what you are saying, it keeps me young and beautiful... Hmmm...