Monday, 26 December 2011

Venite adoremus

Phew - Christmas Day over, and chilling out on Boxing Day. 
Good attendance at Christmas Masses, especially at the Christmas Eve vigil ones. We have to have three to accommodate the crowds - one in each church. As there are only two of us, we have to "import" a priest, and this year one of the Rosminian fathers obliged at St Brigid's. I was at Christ the King, where the welcomers counted over 700 on their clicker...
After our morning Masses, it was out to parishioners for a scrummy lunch and civilised chat, then home for an hour or two gentle repose in my favourite armchair, and phonecalls to family. I spent the evening with other parishioners, where we indulged in the full two hour glory of "Downton", where you had to wait until the closing minutes to see Matthew ask Mary to marry him. Thank the Lord!!
Today I celebrated Mass at St Brigid's, and was joined by altar servers on their feast of St Stephen. Two were enrolled in their Guild, and I ordered them to finish off a pack of "Celebrations" from among a gluttonous pile of chocs and cakes given to us. With my post-Mass coffee I caught up with the Christmas episode of "Doctor Who" - a great take on "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe".
So now i'm off for a few days with my family, which I'm looking forward to. Catch up soon!

Saturday, 24 December 2011

In royal David's city...

The annual Carol Service from King's College Cambridge is now a part of Christmas tradition. It always starts with a treble singing the first verse of "Once in Royal David's City". So here is that carol, sung in what I would describe as maybe the finest single building in Britain, the chapel of King's College, Cambridge. A very happy and holy, peaceful and joyful Christmas to all out there in the blogosphere!

Thursday, 22 December 2011

In heavenly peace

We celebrated a lovely 3 Churches Carol Service yesterday evening at St Brigid's. Each of six sections had four parts. First a child brought a lamp to place in front of the relevant crib figure, then after the Gospel reading there was a reflection. Finally, of course we sang a carol. Four of the reflections were specially written for the service, while the other two were musical. Our wonderful 3 Churches choir sang the Taize "Magnificat" and young Ami sang "What child is this?" as a solo. Beautiful. Afterwards we all repaired to the Hall for mince pies and mulled wine.  The Christmas atmosphere has certainly begun...
Meanwhile, a little nostalgia. One of my 2011 highlights was our visit to Provence in September, and particularly to the Cistercian Abbey of Senanque, where we celebrated Mass. To see a beautifully edited video of Senanque accompanied by a piece written by Hildegard of Bingen (soon to be declared a Doctor of the Church apparently) please click here - and enjoy 9 minutes of peace...

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Verbum caro hic factum est

Nazareth the place is not up to much. The modern basilica sits near the middle of the, well, basically average town. The courtyard is lined with representations of Our Lady from many countries of the world, including Wales. On entering the huge church, you notice a large gap in front of the main altar, where you can look down to the level of the earlier churches that have stood on this spot. At a modern altar down there I have been privileged to celebrate Mass four times, just a few feet from the actual grotto which traditionally marks the place of the Annunciation. There you find a much smaller altar, and on the front a brief inscription in Latin:
Word for word: "The Word flesh here became" = "The Word here became flesh". That all-important litte word "hic" telling you that here, or hereabouts, the eternal Word of God became united with one human life, that God the Creator entered his own creation. Here, in this quiet backwater, then as now, Mary gave her accord...
Just think... No Annunciation would mean no Christmas. Just like no Gethsemane would mean no Calvary or Easter Tomb. These are the Places of Decision, where the "No!" of Eve and of Adam are reversed by the "Yes!" of Mary and her Son. Yes, God, yes! Yes to your plan, your desire, your way, your Word. In one word : "Amen!"

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

God reached out his hand...

Our Archbishop, George Stack, led a day of recollection for the priests of our diocese just before Advent. Among the handouts given were reflections for the Sundays of Advent. Here is an edited version of the one for the Third Sunday of Advent that I put on the front page of our newsletter this week. It seems to have touched people...
Someone is coming, a greater one than John the Baptist. If the 20th century did anything it certainly tested our hope. Sometimes we forget to tell the Good news because we feel the mud of human sin is sinking us. Advent is a time of hope. Someone is coming. He is coming into the genocide and ethnic cleansing, into our hunger and thirst. We are waiting with Hope because we trust in the promise.
More than faith or even love, I believe that it is Hope that tests our idea of God.  Hope asks “Do you trust God to be God?  Am I confident about God?  Am I sure about God’s promise? It is hope which asks me to put my hand in His hand and plunge into the night, to leave the shore, to put my face to the wind, to confront the waves and do battle with the tide... The darkness will never overcome. That is the hope of Advent.
For those who wait every hope is a great hope – we hope that the wounds of yesterday will close, that memories will heal, that the telephone will ring, that a son will come home...
Once we start hoping ourselves, we start bringing hope to others. Advent calls us out of the rut, to leave Nazareth and to follow the star to Bethlehem... God reached out his hand in the silence of the night and love entered the darkness. We put out into the silence of the night. The face of God is emerging. We feel the deep water around us. At this Advent moment we feel ourselves letting go to a higher power. This is a sacred space, an Advent space, a Hope space.
Pictures are from our 2009 Pilgrimage - sunrise ove the Sea of Galilee and Mass at the Grotto of the Annunciation, Nazareth

Sunday, 11 December 2011

MML - Modern & Medieval Languages - The Movie?

I saw a reference to this video in the newspaper yesterday. It's a kind of advert for the languages faculty at Cambridge, where I got my first degree. Produced by some students and staff, I thought at first it was a bit weird, playing up to the rather sentimentalised view of Oxbridge that lots of people have. Then, when I thought again, I remembered that in fact it was there that my vocation to the priesthood found its roots - not in the study of religion as such, but in Spanish literature, when I "discovered" St Teresa of Avila. So, yes, study, life, love and even life-long commitments can all happen among the lanes, courts and leafy Backs of Cambridge to the background of Baudelaire et al!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Wisdom and joy from across the Pond

Today is the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady, who is patroness of our diocese under this title. Hot on the heels of "2 minute Advent" - 2 more videos that have come my way.
I explored a little, and found this one on today's feast. Go for it Fr Jack!

Then in my email today someone sent me this charming one all the way from Quinhagak, Alaska, where they are anxious to share their seasonal joy with us. Lovely.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

A snappy Advent

Mega busy these last few days. We're handling five funerals over these ten days, and four baptisms on Sunday. I had to prepare for my Advent Twilight Retreat this evening (which went well, I hope!) and for my next Wednesday Word tomorrow (Radio Wales approx 2.40pm). As well as, of course, all the usual stuff...
All of which sounds like the cue for something different. Here's a simple little video from somebody named, which turns out to be "a magazine for spiritual seekers" from American religious order the Paulists. It's called "Advent in 2 minutes", and I think it's pretty good. Enjoy.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Parish life fiction and fact

As I mentioned a few postings ago, I have become a fan of "Rev." on BBC2. Last week's, I felt, was a bit weaker. This week, however, it came back with a vengeance. Plot lines involving ecumenism, sexism, pride, jealousy and other aspects of the human and pastoral predicament, after making you wonder where they are going, suddenly come together without warning in an amazing last scene that I couldn't help watching three or four times straight off. Great acting by Tom Hollander and the whole cast, great script. If you're not offended by a few swear words, then make sure to catch it on iPlayer, but don't skip straight to the end, it's worth the 30 minutes journey. Wonderful.
Meanwhile, a few people outside our 3 Churches have been enquiring about our "Vision" process that has been going on through this year. So over the next few postings I'll share stuff about it. Things started back in the New Year when I felt that it was time for a pastoral overhaul of things 3 Churches. We had redecorated the outside of St Brigid's and extended and refurbished Christ the King Parish Centre. Time for something more pastoral! 
I recalled a "dream exercise" led by Fr Tony Nolan with our two Parish Councils some years ago. We were invited to dream our ideal parish and then note down how it would be different to the present. I tried this with our two Councils and then across all seven of our weekend Masses... This timetable takes up the story.,..
January My prayer and reflection on where our 3 churches “are at” suggest a major review of our pastoral life.
February I share these thoughts with our 2 Parish Councils, inviting them to share their “dream parishes”. This involves my leading a prayerful reflection: they fall asleep on Saturday, and dream that the parish has become their perfect one; they find that on Sunday this has become the reality, and then write down what is different from the present reality. This avoids too heady an approach, and hopefully catches a word from the Lord via his people! (acknowledgements to Tony Nolan for the exercise!) We also decide to move towards one 3 Churches Pastoral Council, supported by smaller bodies in each parish.
March  I repeat the “dream exercise” during all Sunday Masses homilies, with a very large response. The councils collate and reduce all the responses down to one Statement (attached). We decide to set up the new Pastoral Council by Easter.
Maundy Thursday At joint 3 Churches Mass of the Lord’s Supper at Corpus Christi School I speak, in the context of service, about the Vision, and commission 8 members of the 2 Parish Councils as the new 3 Churches Pastoral council. Their first task is to continue and implement the Vision process.
June All parishioners invited to sign a book in each church containing the Vision statement, in order to continue their ownership of the project. The Pastoral Council reflects on how to move from vision to reality.
September All parishioners invited to express willingness to get involved in one of the 4 main areas that had emerged in the process. Then a Forum evening held at Corpus Christi with the 4 resulting groups produces practical ideas and targets. The Pastoral Council refines them into decisions and actions, with at least one from each group for implementation by Christmas.
November  We publish and “sell” the decisions via newsletter and pulpit. First group of actions starts.
2012  Second group of decisions/actions happen, and work on “Big Ideas” begins.