Sunday, 24 February 2013

Benedict wakes us up

Well, there we were, all wending our way through life, when Pope Benedict suddenly dropped a bombshell. When I heard the news I'm afraid my first thoughts were back to my Canon Law studies in the 80s (how sad is that?), when the obscure canon (law) was dismissed with a flick of the hand "Well, that would just cause too many problems..." The offending rule in the Book of Rules states "Should it happen that the Roman Pontiff resigns from his office, it is required for validity that the resignation be freely made and properly manifested, but it is not necessary that it be accepted by anyone." (c.332/2 Code of Canon Law 1983).
Nevertheless, here we are. On Thursday evening Joseph Ratzinger will cease to be Bishop of Rome, and therefore Pope. And so we enter relatively uncharted waters... Their eminences will gather and eventually enter conclave (Latin = "with a key") and stay there until they have it in the bag. and the white smoke can float out into the Roman air.
Many people have as it were sympathised with him - he is 85, after all, and it has caused some of us to ponder how difficult it must have been for him to assume the mantle at 78 in the first place...  
Their Eminences now have a task which can truly be called awesome. Will they look to Africa, perhaps to Cardinal Turkson from Ghana, or maybe to North America, to Canada's Cardinal Ouellet (one of Fr M's Tips), or will they kick for papal touch and go back to Italy, perhaps to Cardinal Scola of Milan. The Pope is Bishop of Rome, don't forget. Maybe they will be a little more adventurous and go Filipino and younger - to Cardinal Tagle of Manila? In a word, who knows... It just amazes me that the whole thing is hoped to be concluded in time for the Holy Week liturgy, from resignation to installation in about six weeks... For a church which thinks in centuries, we can sure move when we want to! I hope they don't pick the one in this photo... (but  PS see comment below!)
Let us pray for Benedict, for the cardinals and for "X"!
PPS When i Googled "cardinals" the first image of their Eminences was only after 240 pics of birds and American sportsmen... good for their humility!

Saturday, 16 February 2013

A nice cappuccino

Fr T and I often go out for a pub lunch on a Saturday. I'm afraid neither of us is much cop in the kitchen, so the Three Arches, the Ty-Glas, the Ffynnon Wen and the Nine Giants regularly profit from us. We are experts in the various 2-for-1 or 2-for £10 deals around. In the ones that don't do these deals, the meals are cheaper anyway - oh, yes, you can't fool the clergy on matters combining food and money! Last Saturday we helped out in a neighbouring parish at their First Reconciliation and popped into the local Harvesters, where we were told that we could expect at least 20 minutes' wait, so we tried another local that hadn't welcomed us before, only to find a mere handful of people in what I would have to describe as rather drab surroundings. My steak and ale pie was fair enough, but it would have been nice to have a pastry top nicely browned instead of sickly yellow... I won't embarrass anyone by naming the hostelry - partly because I was from time to time seen in there in my pre-priesthood days when it was buzzing. Nostalgia can excuse a lot.
Now, Fr M has been seen also from time to time in coffee shops, and I got round this week to trying a post-Mass cappuccino with some parishioners at Coffee Plus in Rhyd-y-penau Road. And very pleasant it was too. It's been well converted from its previous incarnation as a store. My coffee was good, toasted tea-cake good (but not as nice as Sainsbury's), and things went swimmingly once we had established that the boss's family came from one of my previous parishes. We were there at 10.20ish, and by the time we left it was packed. Good sign, good place. Fr M approves.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Doing the Dusting

As I place ashes on the head of people on Ash Wednesday, the Church gives me a choice of two sets of words. I can say “Repent, and believe the Gospel” – which is indeed a concise summary of what Lent is about. Or I can use the traditional formula “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” That’s the one I usually choose.
I love the down-to-earthness of our religion. Jesus told us to use things like bread, wine, oil and water in our faith lives. He would fill these mundane things with spiritual power, and even with his own Presence. Yet sometimes in our worship we recoil from using language that is seen to be too earthy.
“Remember you are dust…” The words come from Genesis 3:19, and the ceremony of ashes finds its roots in the ancient tradition in the Middle East of the throwing of ashes over our heads to signify repentance before God. I like the idea of reminding ourselves of our humble origins and dependence on God. Ashes bring us down to earth.
The ashes are put on in the form of a Cross, and so we are launched on the way of Lent. This way will lead us to Calvary, and there we leave ourselves at the foot of the Cross of Jesus. In his dying breaths he cries out over us, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do” – and we hope that the “they” includes you and me…
And because it does include us, we will then journey on past Calvary through an empty tomb in a garden. The Father lifts up His Son, and on his shirt-tails, as it were, we hope we can hang. New life, new hope, are possible for the sinner - and life eternal beckons.
Eventually we will arrive at the Fire of Pentecost, when we once again remember that the same God who made us and redeemed us, also wants to literally fire us up. We are whipped into new liveliness by the winds of God. We are reconstructed by the fire of the Holy Spirit.  And so the journey that will start this Wednesday in ashes, symbol of ending, of finality and destruction, will lead us to bathe once more in the warming, inspiring and purifying flames of the love of God.