Friday, 26 April 2013

Reading Francis

I was talking with a couple who are getting married next year. Somehow (no idea how) we got on to body language. You can take all these things too far, of course, but we are indeed "reading" one another all the time, I think. 
So what would we make of Pope Francis' body language?  I found a video of him greeting the other cardinals soon after he was elected, and I find myself "reading" tremendous warmth and humanity into our new Holy Father (no, that doesn't mean it was not there in previous Holy Fathers!). 
See what you think here.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Tabgha thoughts

A few folk suggested I put the front page of last week's newsletter on here...
Do you have favourite places? Are there spots where something happened in your life, or that are just so overwhelmingly beautiful? I love the Canadian Rockies – and the view over Snowdonia from Beaumaris on Anglesey. Horsehoe Bay in Antigua as the sun set and sipped a pina colada – or Rhossili beach stretching away into the distance. I could go on… so could we all, I expect. And high on my list would be Tabgha, and the area around it, on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee.
Tabgha is the place where tradition says today’s Gospel happened. On a pebbly beach Jesus was cooking fish for breakfast. Into water such as Tabgha’s St Peter jumped, and a small chapel encloses some bare rock called the “Mensa Christi” or Table of Christ, where breakfast was perhaps served – by the Messiah. Over there, perhaps, Peter was asked by the Son of God whether he loved him – or not.
The Franciscans have built into the rock overlooking the Lake a Greek theatre style area for Mass. A tree, olive I think, overshadows the circular altar next to which a cat slept the last time I celebrated Mass there. A little further out a modern sculpture depicts Jesus raising Peter up from his knees. The whole setting is quite simply beautiful – altar, tree, statue, beach, lake. And after Mass you walk down to the little beach and paddle where Jesus paddled. Here the smell of a charcoal fire wafted over the rippling waters as Peter swam ashore, instantly taking him back, as only a smell can, to his three denials, also by a charcoal fire.
Here in this beautiful spot called Tabgha, creation held its breath, as it had some thirty years before not too far away up in Nazareth, where a young woman called Mary considered her answer to an Invitation. Here in Tabgha we wait again – with Jesus. He declared this fisherman to be the rock on which he will build his church, but the rock has crumbled into three denials. So now, in order to be sure, Jesus must wait for an answer to his question – the question – “Do you love me?”

Saturday, 13 April 2013

The other Tissot

Every Lent our local Council of Churches - Churches Together in Llanishen and District - organizes discussion groups. This year they were particularly popular, drawing over 60 people. The sharing each week was inspired by several works of art depicting scriptural themes. Then after Easter a get-together/reflection/thanksgiving is held, and this year it was the turn of Christ the King to host this, so I went along on Tuesday.
As well as several works that I knew, there were plenty that were unknown to me, and among them was one called "Crucifixion : the View from the Cross" by a painter new to me, James Tissot. As its name suggests, this painting attempts to depict what Jesus may have seen on Good Friday afternoon. In a way it connects with Dali's famous Crucifixion, itself based on that dawn by St John of the Cross (left), both showing the Cross from above.
Tissot (nothing to do with watches!) turns out to be an interesting chap. Born in Nantes in 1836 he mixed with Delaunay, Whistler, Degas and Manet. Later he moved to London for over 10 years, returning to Paris in 1882. In 1885 he seems to have experienced some kind of re-conversion to Catholicism, and devoted the rest of his painting career to religious, and in particular scriptural scenes, completing about 350 works before his death in 1902. Most are in the Museum in Brooklyn, and many are online at While some critics are sceptical about this re-conversion, as it was fashionable at the time, the works seem very sincere, and this "Crucifixion" has become the best known.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Some Easter joy - or nun fun

We are just coming up to one month since March 13th when Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires was elected Pope and took the name Francis. It was an exciting evening, and I came across a fun video of a convent in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Their recording of an album was interrupted by news that there was white smoke...   Take a look here.  
These are the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. Founded in 1997, they have grown from 4 sisters (pictured left with late Cardinal O'Connor of New York) to 115. Average age is 28, average age at entering is 21. Check out their own website here to see a religious order really making excellent use of modern media. 
But more than that, look at the video and the website if you want to see some happy young women... who also happen to be Catholic nuns in 2013!

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Under (Frozen) Milk Wood

Brrrrr... Easter week, and it's still cold.  Monday I visited Laugharne in west Wales. I was invited to take a trip, partly to mark 35 years of priesthood, and chose the little town where Dylan Thomas spent his last four years. The M4 was busier than I expected - I suppose everyone was determined to get out and about despite the cold. Pont Abraham services where we stopped for coffee, could do with a bit of a spruce-up...
We turned off the A40 at St Clears and were soon at the top of the long and fine main street, with many fine 18th and 19th century houses. The Castle loomed up at the bottom of the hill, where the main square is on the site of the town quay, silted up many centuries ago. It was lunchtime, and we repaired to a friendly fish 'n'chip place where I had some very nice haddock. Then we set out along the seashore walk (left) to the famous Boathouse, home of Dylan.
Oh... my... goodness. I have never been so cold since Canada in the 1980s. In addition to the general chilliness, the wind was whipping in across Carmarthen Bay. . With a shirt, thick woolie and winter anorak zipped and buttoned, but no hat, scarf or gloves, it was my head that suffered. We peered through the glazed door of the famous shed  where Dylan wrote (right) , and pressed on to look down on the Boathouse itself. I'd had enough by then - and we headed back via the backstreets of what I discovered is a lovely little place. Slowly my head reconnected itself to the rest of my body, which process wasn't really completed until a cuppa back home. 
Note to self : must go back to Laugharne, of which Fr M. approved - but only when it's warmer!