Friday, 26 October 2012

Scorpion alert

It's interesting to watch another large and respected organization - the BBC - struggle to come to terms with child abuse in its midst.  So much of what has emerged in recent weeks has echoes of the Catholic Church handling these matters - or not handling them...
 When I was faced with many of the issues back in 1997 and the following years, I came to realise how powerful denial is, for individuals, but even more for systems and organizations. To admit that you've been "had" is a mountain for directors, editors, governors, priests, bishops, and indeed most of us, a mountain that some seem unable to climb or get over. The revealing of shocking facts about your own Corporation - or Church - I felt was like coming to realise that the scorpion was crawling out from under your own stone. However, it must come out, the boils must be lanced, or as Jesus said "The truth will set you free" (John 8:32).
Things seem to have gone quieter nowadays in Britain on the question of abuse and the handling of it by the Church. It erupted of course in Ireland, and has had an enormous effect on the Church there by all accounts.
How strange that the BBC is now facing all this in its own backyard. Back in 1998 I sometimes upset people by thanking the media for bringing it all out - otherwise it could have gone on. I came to the conclusion that the Lord will have a humble Church. If we do not do it ourselves, he will allow others to do it. 

Friday, 19 October 2012

The seeker sought

So we've started the Year of Faith. I attended the talk in our Cathedral on the special day, 11th October, anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, given by Fr Stephen Wang. I'm a fan of his blog, "Bridges and Tangents", and he didn't disappoint. Very clear, he developed themes from Pope Benedict's letter for the Year. It's the image of Christ crashing through the roof of the chapel at Allen Hall seminary, where he teaches, that stays in my mind. You can find the text of that part of his talk in his current posting for 19th October.
In our deanery we are compiling a list of events for the Year of Faith. Colleague Fr Garteh Leyshon at St John Lloyd's parish is giving a series of ten talks entitled "Catholic Roots : Why we believe what we believe". There will be one each month through to July. By some strange coincidence, just as the Year begins, our deanery has floundered in its efforts to plan for the future in the city parishes. The project "Facing the Future" has been going for several years, but seems to have reached something of an impasse.

Against this background I have been wondering how I can make some contribution to the Year of Faith. I have been homing in on a project that bears a distinct resemblance to that of Fr Gareth - but a different topic. I would like to lead a series of monthly reflections on Gospel passages. How can my faith make that journey from the head to the heart? Each talk will describe an encounter between Jesus and an individual, and the plan is to call it "Meeting the Master." I hope to start in November and run through as far as I can right until the end of the Year next autumn.
My idea is to try and join together our faith and our life by watching how Jesus did it in the lives of those he met. Meeting Jesus made a difference - it did then and it does now.  So, how and where might we meet him?  And what might happen if I do meet him?...  We would hold it in church, give a talk about the passage, a brief time maybe for sharing, then a time of prayer to absorb and reflect. Perhaps we could finish with a cup of tea in the hall.
Meanwhile, I picked up this short film on another good blog, "Da Mihi Animas" called "The Pursuit". It's based on the beautiful 19th century poem "The Hound of Heaven" by Francis Thompson, a favourite of my mother. The film seems to have been sponsored by the diocese of Wheeling-Charleston in West Virginia - very enterprising. Watch out for the dark figure on the stairs at the beginning...

You can get the text here, and hear Richard Burton reading it in the video below. To get both together you could open a second window.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Pray for these...

A very distressing phone call yesterday... A young man claimed that his girlfriend was being forced to have an abortion - by her family and her church!  Quietly spoken, he told me that they had had to move away from their hometown, and were living in one room, found by Shelter. If they did not go ahead with the abortion, they would be cut off from the church and the family.
So, what kind of family is that.... and what kind of church? Well, I don't know about the family, but the church turned out to be the Scientologists. He claimed that the church itself was paying for the abortion, and that it was scheduled for today. They had spoken to LIFE, who had offered accommodation, clothing etc for mother and baby etc, and SPUC too, but he and his girlfriend could not face banishment, and so the help offered by the charities - and anything I could do - was in their eyes "too late".
Ironically, he claimed that if she were 24 weeks pregnant instead of 19, then the Council would have to offer them accommodation, but they have nothing.  He would not divulge his address as he didn't want anyone "knocking at the door". What he wanted was my prayers, but his own parting shot was that he and God were "finished".
As regards the Church of Scientology, I know little about them. All I will say is that their website claims that nothing of this sort ever happens. However, search for "Scientology" and "Abortion" and a different picture seems to emerge... 

Friday, 5 October 2012

Welcome, welcome, welcome

'Tis the season of school Welcome Masses. I've now celebrated three in a week - at our own primary school, at a primary school in our neighbiouring parish, and last night at Corpus Christi, our local High School. This is also in our parish area, although it serves many parishes in north Cardiff.
Some priests have problems with celebrating Mass with children and teenagers. I suppose the little ones are unpredictable and teenagers often have that laid back "couldn't care less" look about them. I have learned to just relax and be natural. Don't try to be one of them, but language is often the key. Kids will just look blank if you talk over their heads or in church-speak, in a way that most adults are too polite to do!
However, it's not easy, to adjust to 11 year olds ot whatever age it is, and quite demanding. 
Yesterday the school had many youngsters involved in the Mass - I counted over  a dozen just in the BIdding Prayer. It all went well, and great credit is due to the school chaplain Deacon Rob Coyne, who brought the whole thing together. Demanding or not, at the end of the day I just really enjoy celebrating Mass -  and especially with kids.