Friday, 30 September 2011

A Pastor's Visit

And so the Archbishop came to visit us on Wednesday afternoon. The weather was perfect and, as he pulled up, St Brigid's was looking good in its white-washed splendour against the green lawns and trees, and blue, blue sky. After a great chat and cuppa with Fr T and myself, we took off for a tour around the territory of our parishes. 
Fr T drove and I tried to give a running commentary, while the Archbishop popped his questions as and when he liked. We visited all three of our churches and considered calling in at Christ the King School but it was 3.30 at that point - not a good time. After a tour of Llanshen, Thornhill and Lisvane by the time we got to Corpus Christi High School it was 3.45ish and the kids had gone. Nothing like a surprise visit! Headteacher David Stone gave an excellent intro as we strolled through the grounds, looking their best in the bright sun. Back at the ranch, His Grace had intended to leave at 4.30, but didn't get away until some time later as he and I got into good discussion about all kinds of things.
The Archbishop paid great attention in our visits and discussion, and was really interested in all kinds of aspects of our 3 Churches, and I was very happy to be able to share with my Bishop some of the wonderful things we all get up to here, and of course some of our problems. It's a wonderful thing that he has given such priority to getting to know his parishes and especially his priests. It all bodes well - very well - for the future.
Pic shows some of Corpus Christi's "pavilions" and part of the "lagoons". Picture of the Archbishop is in the right column...

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

3 Churches, 1 Archbishop

We held our 3 Churches Forum last night at Corpus Christi School, and I think it went well. About 70 people turned up, and there was lots of useful and lively discussion as we tried to lift the propositions of our vision statement off the page and translate them into reality and action. There was a great buzz at the wine-and-nibbles break, which is always a good sign, so we'll be watching where it all goes.
And so from yesterday to tomorrow, and the visit to us of Archbishop George Stack. He has been making his way through the diocese since July, visiting all his priests. He's almost finished now, so hopefully he's gained a good picture of his new diocese. One of the things he likes apparently is a drive round the area, so I'm working out an itinerary for him.  We'll cover all the areas - Heath, Llanishen, Lisvane, Thornhill, Cyncoed, Penylan, Roath Park, show him the schools - Christ the King Primary, Corpus Christi High and St David's College, point out the homes for the elderly and so on... It's quite a list when you put it all down. Maybe I'll interview him a little too!
Picture : Fr M gives Archbishop G something to think about...

Friday, 23 September 2011

Rhiwbina, Relativity, R.E.M.

Strange things you see considered as news in the papers. In the Times today it says that the speed camera on Rhiwbina Hill here in Cardiff only recorded one person speeding last year - it was the lowest in the South Wales Police area. This is a well-used cut-through to the M4.  But was it the northbound camera on Rhiwbina Hill or the southbound one (right)? Hmmm...
Another weird thing... scientists have discovered a particle that goes faster than the speed of light. Nothing is supposed to do that according to Einstein.
Anyway, this pales into insignificance in a week when American band R.E.M decided to call it a day. For those asleep (or not born) in the early 1990s, this band from Georgia USA provided the soundtrack for life during those years. In "Out of Time" (1991) and "Automatic for the People" (1992) they put together two absolutely classic CDs, including such tracks as "Losing my Religion", "Shiny, Happy People", "Man on the Moon" and the classic "Everybody Hurts".
The BBC write "REM have often used their music and power as a band to carry a message. 'Everybody Hurts' .... started out as a song to comfort 'younger people'. Its 'don't give up' message has most often been associated with suicide prevention but the song has also been used to mark the Dunblane massacre, Princess Diana's death and more recently the earthquake in Haiti."
Some music takes me back to a particular occasion, but R.E.M. take me back to a whole period from 1991 on. Even now, my well-worn CDs transport me to my time at St Francis Presbytery. And it's very R.E.M that it seems they have disbanded not amid acrimony and bad-feeling but calmly and together. Great style, great band, thanks R.E.M.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Missal launched

So we in the 3 Churches had to be different, and introduced the new translation of the Missal two weeks or more after everyone else. This weekend I was at St Paul's and St Brigid's, and so at homily time I took everybody through the "shiny card" as I called the material we bought for the pews. Actually, it all went fine - plenty of fumbling and "And with you"-ing, but all in good humour. 
A lady who had come for a Baptism after Mass said she had heard several priests explaining the changes, and that I was the best. Then, after the Baptism she asked could she wrap me up and take me home as my celebration of Baptism was also better than what she was used to! 
Anyway, enough modesty - you may have noticed the new format on the blog. I just thought that it could do with a makeover, and spent half an hour finding some alternatives. What do you think?
Fr Patrick left us on Friday afternoon, and within twelve hours Fr Tomy had returned, looking refreshed. He's been telling me that his family are fine, but were sad to see him leave again, especially his Mum. Priests' mums are indeed a special breed. Sometimes perhaps we forget that priests have families too - that's partly why I refer to mine from time to time in Church and here. And that's got implications for vocations promotion too. If we are going to get more priests then we have to have the families that are going to produce them. I read somewhere that one of the American dioceses that is doing well for vocations - they currently have 25 men in formation - is Madison, Wisconsin. You might want to see what can be done too  here on their website. There's a dropdown menu to look through.
These are the Madison seminarians with their Bishop. The picture above is Van Gogh's "Night Cafe" painted in Arles. Unfortunately, this cafe, which still exists, is where my camera disappeared...

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Aix and no pains as summer ebbs away

We've had two lovely days weather-wise, but as my Dad used to say the evenings are drawing in. Summer is starting to drift away... Another sure sign is that our summer supply priest Fr Patrick is leaving tomorrow, and Fr Tomy is returning the next day.
Fr Patrick has brought a lively presence to the liturgy with his mixture of Nigerian and East London flavours. Fr Tomy has been back to his homeland of Kerala in India. Amazing that prior to coming here last September he had not lived or worked very far from his family home, other than for holidays. It'll be good to have him back, anyway, and our best wishes and prayers go with Patrick, who's taking a break at a retreat house and then hoping to pursue further studies in London.
Over the last years we have welcome priests from Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa/Lesotho in Africa, Poland and Ireland. All bring something different and help us to stay open to new perspectives, as well as providing them with parish experience here in the UK.
Pic shows the square in Aix-en-Provence where I had lunch last week...mmm...

Monday, 12 September 2011

A week in Provence

Hello again! We're back from our September Pilgrimage to Provence, and I'm glad to say that it all went very well. What a beautiful part of the world... Unfortunately one of the few blackspots in the week was the fact that I lost my camera on our first day - so I haven't got any of my own pics here.
We stayed at Arles, with its Greek theatre, amphitheatre and memories of Van Gogh, and went on to visit other big towns like Avignon with its Palace of the Popes, Nimes with its amphitheatre, the Maison Carre, the best-preserved temple in the whole Roman Empire, and the famous nearby Pont du Gard aqueduct, and lovely Aix-en-Provence, home of Paul Cezanne, and one of my favourite places of all. 
We also went to smaller places like St-Remy, where I tried ginger-flavoured ice-cream, Fontaine de Vaucluse, (blood orange-flavoured ice-cream), and the hilltop villages of Gordes and Roussillon. A day was devoted to the Camargue, famous for its gypies and flamingoes. We visited its towns of Les-Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, where I saw bulls being run through the streets by the local horsemen, and Aigues-Mortes, a lonely walled city founded by St Louis as port of departure for the Crusades.
Each day, of course, we celebrated Mass somewhere appropriate. Four of these were cathedrals or former cathedrals - Arles itself, Avignon, Aix and Nimes. At Les-Saintes-Maries the church and town celebrate the tradition that Martha, Mary, Lazarus and the two Marys from the crucifixion sailed across the Med and landed there. If it's true, that would make it the oldest Christian site in Europe! For many of our group their favourite celebration was at the Cistercian Abbey of Senanque, in a fold of the Luberon hills - just stunning.
It rained on our first day, but after that it got hotter each day until it was pretty scorching in Nimes on Friday. The company was great, as always, enlivened by the nightly ritual of Chase the Ace. On one of the nights that I played, I actually won a round - not to be sniffed at  when 15-20 are putting in 1 euro each...
Anyway, more of the pilgrimage in future postings... as I get back to routine. 
Pics show Senanque Abbey across its lavender-fields, Camargue horsemen and the village of Gordes.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Of Archbishops and Arles

Everything's a bit frantic this week as we're getting ready for our annual September Pilgrimage which starts on Saturday. 
For the first time in the seven years that I've been in these parishes, neither I nor the assistant priest will be here for one week. The parishes will be in the capable hands of Fr Patrick, our summer supply. So guess which Sunday Archbishop George chooses to want to come and celebrate Mass? Yes, you've guessed it, this Sunday. I suppose that's a bishop's idea of a joke.. He phoned yesterday and invited himself over.
Anyway, actually, I'm delighted he's coming. We've got nothing to hide! And it's a good sign to everyone of his wish to get to know the diocese. But then a further thought struck me. We decided long ago in our 3 Churches to not introduce the new translation of the missal until 18th September, when everybody else is doing it this weekend. That weekend will be the first that both I and Fr Tomy are back. And to make it worse, the archbishop has written a small pastoral letter about it - which he'll be able to read himself here - in a church that isn't introducing it this weekend! Well, as the kids say, "Whatever...."
So I'll be off the map again next week. We're going to visit Provence, staying at Arles, visiting all the famous sights, and celebrating Mass in all sorts of beautiful cathedrals and abbeys. Normal service at the Canon's Stall will be resumed from the 10th.