Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Time for a break...

Today I have that sense of pleasant panic, if there is such a thing, that tells me I'm off on my hols. Yes, I've got loads to do before I take off tomorrow, first for time with my family, and then some time off away for myself. In the last few years I've gone back to a habit of the 1990s when I was also in a very busy parish, and took off for a week on my own. This year I'm going to Munich and Bavaria.
As priests we so often come across as a collar first and a person second. I know that's how it is, but it's good also to just be nobody, melt into the background and relax. Some priests go so far as to claim another profession if asked on holiday what they do. I don't go that far, but I don't offer the info unless directly asked. All clergy know that opening line "I know you're on holiday, but do you think I could just have a little word....?"
So I won't be around for a fortnight. Thanks to all readers for your support. Visits continue to rise - roughly 700 a month a year ago, and over 1,000 now. UK visitors far outnumber everyone else, but other top nationalities in descending order are USA, Germany, Netherlands, Canada, France, Russia, Italy, India, and the Philippines.
See you soon.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Re-laying and renewal

Since I came to these churches seven years ago I've always felt that the carpet in my sitting-room is a lovely colour - but not in that particular room. We did a lot of decorating about three years ago, but didn't touch the carpets. But this week all that has changed.
It all started with redoing the kitchen in the Parish Hall, including the flooring. Then we realised that the tiles in the servers' sacristy and toilet were coming up, and so put the same flooring down there. Then, well, the little carpet in the presbytery downstairs loo was really grotty, so we put the same stuff there. And then... a brainwave. Take the carpet up in the sitting-room and re-lay it in my bedroom immediately above, where it looks much better, and of course is a great fit. Then bring the rug out of the parish office and put that in the middle of the very nice now exposed wood-block floor in the sitting-room. Finally, get some hard-wearing carpet for the office and reception room, and some bedroom carpet for two rooms upstairs.. 
So with some careful interior re-cycling we've managed to spruce the place up without spending a huge amount. And I should point out that one of the above-mentioned now gone bed-room carpets we believe to have been original to the house, ie 50 years old... 
All a bit like renewal in the Church - some bits new, some bits recycled, a little inspiration, a little planning, and hope it's OK for a while!

Monday, 18 July 2011

The apple or the tree

So I've been reading the so-called "Cloyne Report" today. This looked into the handling by the diocese of Cloyne in Ireland of allegations of child-abuse by priests. It strikes me that there is something in common between this report, the current phone-hacking scandal with its ever-widening implications, and other events such as the financial melt-down. Besides all being scandals, they all involve institutions or individuals who believe themselves to be safe from disaster, immune to the ills of the human race. Banks, politicians, journalists and publishers - and people in authority in the Church - can so easily see themselves at the best as "it'll never happen to me" and at worst as "it can't happen to me".
The apparent shocking lack of concern for victims in the handling of various abuse cases in different parts of the world, sometimes in favour of the protection of the good name of individual, diocese or the Church in general, is worthy of the condemnation it has received. It's akin to the fact that the very newspapers which have delighted in exposing the wrongs in society, now find themselves exposed. 
I like the word "systemic" - in so many things in life, the Church included, we have to look at the system that produces the individuals or institutions. Mind you, we may have to - sometimes - be open to the possibility that somewhere along the line the system may include us. 

Friday, 15 July 2011

Let's get organized

And now it's time for some more music. This evening I watched one of my favourite modern classical pieces from the Proms, Janacek's "Glagolitic Mass". The Mass ends with an organ piece followed by a final orchestral piece. They have to be two of the most exciting moments in twentieth century music. Here is Andrew Davies conducting and Simon Preston on the organ at a previous Proms.

And secondly, also on an organ theme... At the end of the wedding I celebrated up at Belmont Abbey three weeks ago, the organist, Tony Hemson, a friend of mine let rip with Widor's "Toccata". Here it is, played on the organ at one of my favourite American churches, the Catholic cathedral in Newark, New Jersey.

Monday, 11 July 2011


Busy, busy, busy - a longer gap than usual between postings. So today a quirky one.
I do like a nice bridge. Today I went down to Pembroke Dock for the burial of parishioner Anne Bermingham. After the interment we went for a cup of coffee to a nearby hotel which overlooked the Cleddau Bridge. That's the high-level one that spans Milford Haven, joining the town of that name to Pembroke. It famously buckled or collapsed or something not long after it was originally built. Its high and gentle arc is elegant, if now a little stained. The first Severn Bridge, the Humber and both Forth Bridges, the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, the Rialto in Venice, the Golden Gate in San Francisco - there's something special about a good bridge. It joins together, it leaps into space, it unites the separated.
Bishop Edwin Regan of Wrexham has as the motto on his coat of arms "A fo ben bid bont" - "let him who would lead be a bridge". The ancient Roman title "Pontifex maximus" taken over by the Popes means "great bridge-builder".
A friend of mine in Canada, a great mixer of metaphors, when discussing a particular step on the way to the priesthood told me that he'd burn that bridge when he came to it. 
But what do we make of the experience of anyone approaching us at St Brigid's along Crystal Glen from Heathwood Road. For, along our street you cross two bridges on branches of the Roath Brook - without even knowing it! "I'll cross those bridges without knowing it"....hmmm.... what does that mean?
The pictures show two of my favourites - the Skye Bridge in Scotland, joining the Isle to the mainland in a way which only adds to the beauty of the landscape, which I have seen, and the Millau Viaduct in France, 800 feet above the Tarn valley - which I haven't... yet.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Matters pastoral, family and priestly

Friday evening we hosted the annual Mass for people from parishes where there is regular Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. This is always a lovely celebration even if numbers were a little down this year.   
On Saturday I had an enquiry from a lady about becoming a Catholic. It looks like we may have at least five prospective converts for next Easter, which is great, and it's still only July. 
Sunday was a scorching day weather-wise and we were invited to a parishioner's house for a lovely lunch. It was almost too hot to sit in the garden so we relaxed in the conservatory before and after. I always have thought to share a meal is just about the best way to get to know parishioners. 
This weekend it was the turn of Christ the King parishioners to be urged by me in the homily to "sign up" to the Vision we have been developing this year. As at St P and St B last weekend, we passed the signature book around as I spoke, and most seemed to sign. I have a sense that this pastoral project is slowly gathering steam, and I hope that by the autumn we will be able to make real decisions and start action to put the vision into place. You can see the statement on the parish website.
Yesterday, Monday, my nephew and his fiancee came to visit along with my brother-in-law. I always like to see my family, and this visit was particularly to firm up the liturgy for their wedding next month which I am celebrating in Cambridge. That's the church, Our Lady and the English Martyrs or OLEM, in the picture. I'm really looking forward to it, and I'm sure I'll be posting more about it...  Then in the evening I had a very interesting chat with someone in connection with another of the plans I've got bubbling under. I would love to have a small 3 Churches choir that could sing music from the great tradition of church music that we have. 3 or 4 part Masses, motets, anthems, whatever.... I'm sure we could muster maybe 16 folks from our churches (plus a few friends maybe) to sing on a small number of occasions in the year. We'll see...
Then today we had the first Fraternity of Priests meeting for quite a while, what with the new Archbishop's installation, Sts Peter and Paul and a clergy funeral. Eight of us met at Caerphilly and we had a good time with our usual hour prayer/hour lunch/hour sharing format. During the last part it was suggested that we pray with one of our number who's had a trying time pastorally speaking, and that was very special, as it always is on the occasions when we do it. A group of priests praying with and for a brother is a great blessing. Thank be to God. 

Friday, 1 July 2011

Red hot June

Just checked stats for June - hooray!  Visits to this site passed 1,000 in June, 1,056 to be precise, a record for my little site. Pages viewed passed 1500, also a record, and pages viewed today passed 100, also a record I think.  All these don't count unknown numbers of people who view the blog on the parish website. Seems to have been helped a lot by my Coldplay posting a few days ago, which got linked to on the Coldplay fan site. I don't suppose festivals like Glastonbury often get compared to pilgrimages. Good night - and thank you!