Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Faith in Russia and Oxford

A happy St Peter and Paul feast day to everyone. In this week of feasts - Friday is the Sacred Heart, and we had Corpus Christi on Sunday - and further to the interesting Eucharistic video from Preston, more news of an Eucharistic nature comes from a rather unexpected place - Russia! today has an item about what is going on in St Petersburg. 
"JUNE 28, 2011 The streets of St. Petersburg became witness to the Real Presence of Christ on Sunday, after 93 years in which there had not been a Corpus Christi procession. The Eucharist was processed along Nevski Avenue, carried under a canopy and followed by a series of banners with images of Our Lady and saints, and a group of Dominican religious and numerous priests, Vatican Radio reported. Archbishop Paolo Pezzi, of the Archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow, carried the Eucharist. That archdiocese includes St. Petersburg.
According to the organizers, the historic procession was viewed with satisfaction by leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church, as a manifestation of love for the Eucharistic God."
A Corpus Christi procession down the main street of St Petersburg, formerly Leningrad. My picture shows the same street during the Russian Revolution where Communism was born... Amazing!
I notice that the Dominicans seem to have organized or animated this beautiful event. I am a great admirer of the Order of Preachers, to give them their proper name. So here is their new British vocations video, featuring among others Fr Timothy Radcliffe, who was formerly the Master of the whole order. Much of the video is filmed at Blackfriars, their formation house in Oxford. And let's not forget that in past centuries they had a monastery in Cardiff, whose remains are in the Castle grounds (see picture right).
Lastly, folks, a little push today and tomorrow and this will be record month for visits to this blog-site. Previous record was this January - so come back tomorrow!

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Belmont and Glastonbury

Yesterday, Saturday, I dashed up to Hereford to conduct the wedding of the daughter of good friends of mine. Unlike here in Cardiff, the weather was beautiful and Belmont Abbey looked wonderful. However, the crashing tones of Widor's Toccata were hardly fading on the organ than I was back in a taxi to the station and home to get ready for evening Mass at St Paul's.
By late evening I was ready to relax, and turned on BBC2 to see Coldplay at Glastonbury. I've listened to Coldplay more than any other band in the first decade of this century. I wasn't disappointed last night - they were on top form, serving up all the favourites, mixed with new songs from their forthcoming album. Particularly wonderful was their sequence of three encores. "Clocks" got 'em going, then they moved into their anthem "Fix You" and finally a new song "Every Teardrop a Waterfall". Fantastic - and I couldn't help noticing the parallels with religious occasions like pilgrimages. Crowds with a common purpose, music full of feeling, an overwhelming sense of community.  Chris Martin even repented at one point of having just made a mistake. I love many kinds of music - always have. This was sheer enjoyment for the thousands and thousands who were there - and for me. Fr M approves.
To catch highlights of Coldplay at Glastonbury follow this link to iPlayer. Put it on full screen - and turn up the volume.  The three encores are at about 29:00.

Friday, 24 June 2011

The Body of Christ

Corpus Christi - the Body of Christ. The one whom we receive to become more deeply who we are.
I celebrated Mass with the whole school (minus year 11) at Corpus Christi High School today. A congregation of 800 teenagers is not always the easiest to celebrate with, but it seemed to go OK this morning. A good sign was that the teachers felt it was the "easiest" feast-day Mass for a while. After Mass they have a free day with loads of different activities available, including Corpus Staff's Got Talent! It's a great school, and I told them all at the end that the whole Catholic community of north Cardiff is proud of them and loves them.
On the way home I called in to Waitrose to collect a cheque for just under £200 for St Brigid's. They have 3 charities each month who receive a donation in proportion to how many shoppers drop their little green tokens in the appropriate box. I don't know who nominated St B's - but thank you very much. And thank you Waitrose.
Now, we haven't had a flash mob video for a while, so here's one with a difference - what you might call a very Catholic one, specially for the Feast of Corpus Christi... enjoy. Fr M approves.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

A new shepherd

So, at long last Archbishop George has been installed as seventh Archbishop of Cardiff - my fourth boss since ordination. I tell you - I didn't wash my hand all evening after the Mass yesterday because I gave the sign of peace to one cardinal and three archbishops!
But seriously it was a beautiful celebration in my opinion. 
Fr T and I took a taxi into town and joined the huge gang of clergy robing in the crypt of the chapel opposite the cathedral, where the (digital) bells were ringing out. At 11.20 the clergy started to process in, but we canons (ahem) loitered outside as we were to form part of the main procession, just before the bishops of England and Wales. And so I took my place in the Canon's Stalls (hooray!).
Eventually at the stroke of noon Archbishop George arrived at the doors and knocked hard on them. Soon the Bull of Appointment was being read and accepted, and he was being led to his cathedra or throne and receiving the crozier from Archbishop Peter, his predecessor. We canons were one of the groups to welcome him personally so I got to shake hands. He has a charming smiling face. And so the Mass progressed in a very dignified way. I was sat behind Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor and Archbishops Nichols, Longley and Smith - and grandstand view.
Afterwards we all strolled over to the Marriott for a hot buffet lunch, and we got home soon after 4.
When the archbishop was seated on his cathedra he was alone for a few moments, and I thought about how lonely a position it must be at times. The buck truly stops there in many aspects of church life. Then a little later the thought occurred to me that behind this wonderful ceremony, hidden as it were, lay scenes of some fishermen called by the lakeshore of Galilee, an intimate supper on a Thursday evening in Jerusalem, and another gathering in Jerusalem when a gale started to blow. I pray that the Holy Spirit will guide George, that the Father will shepherd him so that he can truly shepherd us, and that he will know that Jesus walks by his side through every moment of the times to come.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

A 2 cappuccino morning

So Thursday morning I paid one of my infrequent visits to "town" ie Cardiff city centre. First call, the CTS - Catholic Truth Society, to lash out on all the stuff needed for the new translation of the Roman Missal. 3 big missals, 3 temporary inexpensive ones for September-November, 1 medium size missal for school Masses etc and 1 small version for pilgrimages, study etc, plus several hundred pew-sized cards for the people's bits of the Mass. Total? Heading for £1,000. Canon Peter Collins, parish priest at the Cathedral next door popped into the shop. I must have looked a little pale, as he offered me a coffee, so we had a quick chat, mainly about our new boss and the Installation on Monday.
Then onwards to the Cardiff Story, the new museum installed in the Old Library. Followers may remember I recorded an interview for one of the video displays here back before Christmas. So I literally went in search of myself. Lad on duty at the door wasn't sure what I was on about when I said I was looking for the section concerning immigration. Another young attendant suggested I might be looking for the children's section downstairs... which indeed turned out to be correct. Yes - and there in a section called "Settling In", or something like that, is a video console on various religious aspects of Cardiff's history and life. I watched myself for a minute, then answered 3 questions on Irish immigration (correctly, thank goodness), and continued on to hear me talking about Corpus Christi, followed by another 3 questions. This leads to a section with Shelagh Maher, a former parishioner of mine from St Cuthbert's in the Docks. Sorry, the Bay. 
The young attendant there stopped me and asked if I had been in a  few days before, coz she knew me from somewhere. I pointed to the 6 or 8 photographs on the wall behind her, at which point she squealed "Oh it's you". Fame at last. Awash with celebrity and to recover for the second time that morning, I slipped across to Cafe Nero in House of Fraser for another coffee. Cardiff's fastest most efficient barista was on duty, a marvel to behold, serving three at a time politely and efficiently. 
What's your order of preference for Nero, Costa and Starbucks? That's mine...

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Through a glass darkly

I just watched Terry Pratchett's TV film about assisted dying on iPlayer, and found myself crying at the screen, not a common thing.
The programme followed two men going to Switzerland to die. Pratchett was accompanied by his assistant, who seemed disturbed by the whole thing. When we went to view the actual death of one of the men, although the assistant was there, we didn't see his reaction. We did see the dying man gasping for water, quickly denied him by the Dignity helper. Sir Terry was asked his reaction within moments of the death, and replied "I'm fine" - with tears in his eyes. A few moments later he told the camera how he'd been at something so beautiful. And at the end of the programme he claimed that the man whose death we witnessed was the bravest he had ever met. Really.
As a priest I have been present at a good few deaths. I have to say that they are some of the most awesome moments in my ministry and life. Those moments, even though sometimes surrounded with such suffering by all, are filled with an aura, as if something is happening on a plane that is different to anything else we encounter in this world. I am deliberately trying not to use specifically Christian language here. Here we are dealing with something other, touched by a preciousness that surely all can appreciate.
Yet the euthanasia agenda elevates the so-called rights - actually the desires - of the person involved to a sacredness higher than any sacredness that Christians or anyone else for that matter would want to give to life itself. 
I found this programme with its specially composed music and its strange Doctor Who-like background for Sir Terry's pieces to camera disturbing. I was very tempted to turn off my computer, but wanted to see how they handled that sacred moment of death. 
The picture shows the tomb of the first person on my family tree, Jenkin Williams 1650-1728, my father's mother's father's father's father's father's father's father. It just seemed appropriate to remember nine generations who would not have doubted the sacredness of life. We must all be on our guard against the drip-drip of attacks on life, at its beginning and its end. I feel it is on these issues that we will be judged in years to come.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

A new tongue?

Preparing for Pentecost, reflecting on the gift of tongues or languages given to the apostles, I thought that maybe one of the tongues that would be given to the apostles today would be Twitter-language. So here's a video you may have seen, called "Follow" - the Gospel according to Twitter. I like the clever and poignant use of the "Unfollowed" button - and especially the end...

Thursday, 9 June 2011

One up to Archbishop George

Well, our clergy meeting with Archbishop-elect George went well in my opinion. We started with Mid-day Prayer and then the Archbishop introduced himself via the beautiful Philippians reading : "I want you to be happy in the Lord", and then shared with us his life story. After a lunch-break we continued with a question-and- answer session, in which he spoke at some length on vocations. Throughout the day I felt his approach was pastoral and scriptural, spiritual and solid. We ended with a "Holy Half-hour" in the church, with Archbishop George leading a meditation on the Road to Emmaus. 
So, a new start, a new language and maybe atmosphere... we'll see. I greeted him pointing out I am his Judicial Vicar. He expressed a hope that I wouldn't report him to Rome. Well, not so far anyway!

Monday, 6 June 2011

George - the first

So - big day tomorrow. Our new Archbishop, George Stack, is meeting with all the clergy of the diocese. We're gathering for 11am and starting with prayer. Two sessions will be separated by lunch, and then we finish with another period of prayer, this time in front of the exposed Blessed Sacrament.
I'm really looking forward to the day, as there are several good omens about it. First. that it's happening at all! Second, those two times for prayer. As I have posted before, I know little about Archbishop George, and have never met him, so I go with a clean sheet. What will get written on it - well come back in the next few days and find out...  Meanwhile, pray for him and for all priests. 

Friday, 3 June 2011

Mega mime

After flash mobs comes mass lip-dubs. In a tea-break flit around other blogs, I came across this little gem from the American city of Grand Rapids. A cast of hundreds sing along to the classic "American Pie". The rehearsals needed boggle the mind, as it is all filmed in one long take, but I enjoyed this swoop through American city life and general "have-a-nice-day-ness". As usual, a double-click on the video will open it up to full width.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

The wonders of Pontargothi

Bank Holiday Monday was going to be wet, but drying up from the west. So, having accepted an invitation for a day-out somewhere, we headed west, and I did some quick homework in Simon Jenkins' "Churches, Castles and Houses of Wales". I thought we could combine a Place of Interest with maybe Llansteffan or Laugharne. My eye fell upon a church I'd never heard of before - Holy Trinity, Pontargothi (3 stars in Simon!), so off we went.
We turned off the A48 past the Botanical Gardens and crossed the Tywi to the little village of Pontargothi between Carmarthen and Llandeilo. A mile down a green narrow lane brought us to this Victorian wonder set in what looks like a field. A chap who'd made loads of cash from metalworking in Swansea built a big house and wanted his own English-speaking Anglican church as opposed to the Welsh-speaking parish one. So he built himself one, upsetting the local bishop who wouldn't consecrate it. So the neat field is actually an unused graveyard. 
The plainish exterior hides an interior that can be called stunning. It's decorated with murals from floor to ceiling, in a tasteful monochrome reddish-brown on cream, They acquire some gilt and colouring as they get closer to the altar. Restored about 5 years ago, I found the church absolutely delightful. But that wasn't all.
We were greeted by Maldwyn, born and bred locally, who knew and loved every single thing about his church. He was charming and helpful, as was a lady who was serving tea, coffee, Welsh cakes and Scotch pancakes. You were invited to take your mug and wander around the church... So wander we did, mug in hand and Maldwyn at hand to answer all questions. He even said that there was a belief that the local Catholic bishop had stepped in to consecrate the church! I may look into that...
Umm, what else? Morning coffee at one local pub was OK, lunch at another - also OK. But what a wonderful church - building, welcome, everything. Holy Trinity, Pontargothi - Fr M really approves.