Sunday, 29 January 2012

Can I live? Videos of life 1

Another busy week... more bereavements than usual, so funerals to arrange... usual variety of pastoral problems in the parishes etc. 
In our prayer group this evening we talked and prayed a while about pro-life issues. I remembered a song that I meant to put on here a while ago, but forgot. It's an American hiphop singer/TV personality called Nick Cannon, currently married to Mariah Carey, as an unborn baby singing to his mother. Song is called "Can I Live?"  If you can handle rap, then give it a listen. It's hard to imagine this being produced in the UK - it would be soooo uncool. I know we may not always be comfortable with some American approaches to pro-life matters, but noone could say it's not on the agenda over there.  Problem here is that by people staying sort of British low-key, well, the opposition is winning  by default. Mums sometimes just don't know - that's a child. Somebody pointed out this evening that we often hear sad news about a mother "losing a child" through miscarriage or still birth. But we don't hear the same phrase used with regard to abortion...
You can catch the song with its accompanying video here, but the quality isn't very good, or here, with the words on screen. I like the last words, "Thanks for listening, thanks for listening... Mom."

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Communication and conversion

Bit of a gap since my last post -  we lost our BT phone and internet on Sunday afternoon and it stayed off all day yesterday. I called BT and went through the whole process of - well, you know the feeling if you have encountered BT or one of the other utilities call centres. This morning the phone line sprang back into life, though we're told it sounds crackly from outside. Meanwhile the internet is coming and going at will!  Five years ago the same happened and it was the wire from the house to the pole rubbing against the ridge on the roof of the Hall until the insulation had gone. I'm thinking it's the same again, even though they were supposed to have raised it last time.. The engineers are coming this afternoon, so we shall see. Grrr...
One of the nuisances yesterday was that I'm doing my regular radio spot tomorrow, and the Monday before is when I communicate back and for with the BBC to choose my topic and send the script to the producer. Anyway, I've managed to get it all done this morning in the gaps when the internet is working. If you're interested, I'm talking about the Conversion of St Paul, tomorrow's feast, during Roy Noble's programme on Radio Wales, Wednesday at about 2.40pm.
The picture is Caravaggio's striking depiction of the Conversion, in the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome.
LIve update! 12.45 BT man has just been with amazing gadget. He stuck it into the socket - and, yes, phone line crackly, internet intermittent etc. Then he pressed a few more buttons to find where the problem is, and on his little screen up comes "40 metres" - exactly the distance to the roof of the hall. That process took a couple of hours last time, this time a few minutes. The wonders of modern science, eh? So he's coming back this afternoon with his buddy and his cherry-picker to put up a new line with extra special binding stuff. Watch this space...

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Runny noses, shimmering lights, new possibilities

Brrrr... cold snap as they say. I was up in Pontypool today for a Marriage Tribunal judging session. We three judges, ably managed by the adminstrator, concluded three cases. I'm always relieved when these sessions are over - so now I'm going to chill for the evening.
After a freezing few minutes' wait on Cwmbran Station, the train brought me back to Caaaardiff, joined by a bloke who got on at Newport who had a runny nose. He sniffed n snorted every 10 seconds to everyone's annoyance. Too much information, I suppose, but that's Newport for you (only kidding - a Cardiff joke!)
Coming back through Cardiff city centre, I had never noticed before the dancing lights display on the outside of the "helter skelter" ramp to the St David's multistorey car park. I know, I should get out more... Anyway, I though it was fascinating and even beautiful to watch, especially when you're caught in a rush hour traffic jam. Apparently it's called "The Shoal" and was installed last May. Catch 2 minutes of it in this video.

Lastly, a few little thoughts from Sunday's homily. Ponder, if you will, Jesus' brief words in the Gospel. First, "What do you want?", then "Come and see", then "You are Simon, you will be called Cephas." These three little phrases, so everyday sounding, can take us so far into faith. When Jesus asks you what you want, I think he's asking, or lets you ask yourself, a bit more than just "Why are you following me?"  What do I really want  - in life. His invitation to come and see is rather more than just asking if we want to see his house in Capernaum. Come and spend time with me, listen, watch, get to know me. And to change Simon's name to Peter-Rock is much more than simply giving him a new nickname. Come with me, be with me, learn from me, receive from me. I will lead you to where you could be, my Father's dream for you, that I can see, but you can't yet. You think that those hills across the Sea of Galilee are the limit of your vision. I can see Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome, the world...
So this year of 2012, what do we want? Do we have the courage to move, to come and see? Are we ready for the Lord to maybe change our agenda, broaden our sights, expand our horizon? Here, in an icon at the church of St Peter in Gallicantu ("at the cockcrow") in Jerusalem, is Pete getting his new job...

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Ahhh, Santiago...

Readers will know of my fascination with, and love for, pilgrimages. Admittedly, most of those that I have taken part in, and to varying degrees led, have travelled by plane. Santiago de Compostela, the shrine of St James in Spain - now there's a serious pilgrimage, if you're going to do it properly. I'm afraid the one time I went to Santiago - yes, you've guessed it - we flew there, direct to Santiago airport. The real pilgrimage is on foot, El Camino - The Way, and that is the title of an excellent film that came out last year, and that I watched on the newly out DVD last night. 
I'm having a rather heavy canon law-filled week, interspered with meetings every evening so far. So last night I was in need of relaxation, and a kind parishioner shoved the DVD in my sweaty little palm, as we had been chatting about "The Way" a while before. The film is about the pilgrimage, which dates back to the Middle Ages. It was usually done on foot, starting from various points around Europe (such as the Rue St-Jacques or St James Street, in Paris). The routes came together at the Pyrenees between France and Spain, and then it wounds its way across to Santiago, which took about a month.
The movie stars Martin Sheen, a Catholic, as Tom, a father who goes out to bring back the body of his son who has died while making the pilgrimage. The son is played by Emilio Estevez, Sheen's real son, who also directs. Tom ends up making the pilgrimage himself, and the film, beautifully shot across some stunning landscapes in the real locations, follows his journey to the shrine. The soundtrack uses music of different sorts, including a Coldplay song and a David Gray track.
It turns out to be a journey in many senses of the word, as pilgrimage so often does, and Tom's story is interwoven with that of three principal other pilgrims, plus several lesser characters. It is a spiritual (or just human) rather than a Christian film, and I found it compelling, watching  it until after midnight. At some points it is really intense and brought a tear to my eye, calling up all sorts of memories and reflections. It would have meaning for everyone, I think, and especially for those belonging to any group such as a church, where people journey together in life and faith.
If you haven't seen it, look out for it. We hope to show it at St Brigid's as our annual Palm Sunday evening film this year. Fr M approves very much.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Ahhh, Sicily...

At last, a sunny day after weeks of greyness in the weather. My thoughts turned to sunnier climes last night as I relaxed and turned on the telly. After a little brain-training with "Mastermind" I came across a wonderful new series called "Sicily Unpacked". Brit culture-person Andrew Graham-Dixon has teamed up with Italian food-person Giorgio Locatelli to present a short series on this amazing island, its history, culture - and food. For an hour I was whisked away on a diet of Baroque stucco and sardine pasta. Mmm...
I visited Sicily I think it was in 1991, 20 years ago now. I couldn't find anyone who wanted to come with me (ahhh), so I took a sharp intake of breath and booked myself onto a coach tour, my first ever. Stunning. Palermo, Monreale, Erice, Agrigento, Catania, Siracusa, Messina, and unforgettable Taormina. Even their names are beautiful aren't they? The history of the island is one long catalogue of invaders who become settlers. Greeks, Romans, Moors, Normans, French, Spanish etc etc.  The resulting architecture, culture (and not forgetting food!) carries this rich concoction through to today.
Our TV guides whisked us through some of the delights of Sicily, pausing for a few moments here and there, including the mosaic-covered Palatine Chapel in Palermo, certainly one of my candidates for Top Ten buildings in Europe. It was a beautiful programme in every sense, well made and presented, a delight. BBC2 Friday. Fr M approves.
Pics show the Palatine Chapel in Palermo and the pool at Fr M's Hotel in Taormina (I think - it's a long time!)

Monday, 2 January 2012

Passing it on, celebrating it together

A very happy New Year to everybody. Like I said, Christmas went very well here in our 3 Churches, and then I had a few days off with my family. So, a few thoughts for the beginning of 2012...
While staying with my brother I popped in one day to the parish church for a quiet minute. A dad came in with his two young sons and his own father. I couldn't help hearing their chat, as I was looking at the fine crib alongside them. It seemd young dad was not a church goer (evidently a lapsed or as I prefer "resting" Catholic), and so his boys weren't either. Grandad was determined that the lads should have an experience of the crib. Their faces lit up as he gave them a guided tour of all the figures in the stable, and they bubbled over with questions. They seemed to roughly know who Jesus was, but not much more... Grandad told the story with faith and love as the boys drank it all in, and even dad slowly seemed to move from an impatient embarrassment to a, well, warm-ish enthusiasm. How sad, I thought that the boys needed it all explained to them, but good on you, grandad. What it says about where we are in Britain today, I'm not quite sure... Evangelization is going to be one of our main areas for 2012 in our parishes, and here it was.
On a more, um, stomach-centred level - a tale of meals. Christmas lunch was with parishioners of Scottish-Italian-Polish-Welsh influences and, as I said in my last post, scrummy. Then my visit to my brother and sister-in-law was punctuated, as always, with equally yummy food, such as a light but filling avocado and prawn salad or a tasty sardiney type of pasta. Then off to my sister's for our annual Christmas time family get-together with added new wife-of-nephew, around the cold ham and turkey, pickles, spuds etc.
Finally, back home and out to another parishioners' home for New Year's Day lunch with a French angle. Merveilleux!  A little salmon and prawn on rice n salad hors d'oeuvre was followed by a new one to me, Moroccan tajine or tagine. This is a kind of slow-cooked lamb stew with all kinds of veg, fruits and spices in, that is usually cooked in a special pot. Mmmm. Then we moved on to "les treize desserts", which is Provencal custom for this time of year, where thirteen different fruits and nuts are served. Finally a scrumbotious egg-custard was served with whipped egg-white on top. I had to guess what the flavour of the custard was, and was mystified with a strong taste that I was sure I knew, but could not identify. Eventually our hostess revealed the secret ingredient to be... lavender! Apparently it's very fashionable at the moment. Provencal heaven.
All of these meals shared with family, friends and parishioners give me enormous pleasure (as those who know me would confirm by my waist-line!) What a wonderful way of celebrating this joyful season - with lovely people around a table with good food. The Lord sure knew a thing or two when He left the gift of Himself in the form of a meal. There is nothing like sharing a meal - however simple or elaborate, at a table or at an altar - for building up all that is good in being human. Or in being Christian.
PS Pics are off the net, not as eaten!!