Tuesday, 10 May 2022

Archbishop-elect Mark O'Toole.... 8 years ago

This was an interview when he became Bishop of Plymouth...

Saturday, 16 April 2022

A prayer for Holy Saturday

For Holy Saturday, here is the new video, published in the last 24 hours, by the King's Return, one of my favourite choirs, just four Americans singing a cappella and in rich harmonies.  Here the Lord's Prayer carries us through to the great feast of Easter.

 

Friday, 15 April 2022

From Thursday to Saturday

 Some pictures to accompany these days...







Sunday, 3 April 2022

John Rutter's "Prayer for Ukraine"

This is the contribution of famous British composer John Rutter, recently written at short notice.   The words are "Good Lord protect Ukraine. Give us strength, faith, hope, our Father." 

He is now 76 years old and is best known for his choral compositions, mostly of a religious nature.

 

Sunday, 27 March 2022

We are still here!

The crowd belt out "Yma o Hyd" before Wales' victory over Austria in football on Friday. They're led by Welsh writer Dafydd Iwan who wrote the song in the 1980s. The chorus means "We are still here, despite everyone and everything" and the verses trace Wales' history back to Macsen Wledig or Magnus Maximus in Latin, from the time the Romans left Britain in the late fourth century and Wales started to have its own identity as it were, which it has never lost.  The song has been taking on the status of almost a second national anthem in recent years. You can see why, as the crowd give it everything.  Stirring and inspiring. 

 

Saturday, 26 March 2022

Prodigal Son

This Sunday's Gospel in song...

 

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Our Lady of the stairwell

As we move towards Advent, we are always close to Our Lady, who joins us on the way to Bethlehem.  She has been the centre of many many great works - especially of art and music. This Advent I'll be trying to share some better and less well known of these.
Meanwhile, here is one of the best known and loved pieces dedicated to her, Schubert's "Ave Maria" sung unaccompanied, in their own arrangement and in their favourite stairwell, by the impresive King's Return, whose "Ubi Caritas" I posted a while ago.   Enjoy - and happy Advent!
 

Sunday, 14 November 2021

Everything is possible

Time to stir after a rest from posting! This video is one I discovered recently of a performance of the Lord's Prayer in Swahili sung at the Llangollen Eisteddfod in 2018.  What is remarkable is that it is sung by the choir of famous Stellenbosch University in South Africa, formerly a centre of Afrikaans culture. A mixed choir singing in Swahili in South Africa!

We live in difficult times, COVID is still around, people are questioning COP Glasgow, and the grey days of November are with us. Perhaps we are feeling a bit down, that we're getting nowhere. This video reminds us that everything is possible if we apply ourselves.

This choir is very, very well practised and produce a beautiful sound, and full of life. Catch them also singing the worldwide dance hit "Jerusalem" and the South African national anthem.

  

Friday, 17 September 2021

"Help" *****

This morning I am still haunted by the face and performance of actress Jodie Comer in last night's "Help" on Channel 4. I was not at all surprised to find it got a ***** review in this morning's paper, where the reviewer said that some government ministers should be forced to watch some of the scenes in this astonishing drama. Jodie Comer played a young assistant in a care home in Liverpool, where she finds an unexpected connection with the residents. It is set in the early months of last year. starting pre-pandemic but then showing us what happened across Britain in our care homes as Covid struck from March onwards.

One night she finds herself on duty alone, with several residents already having died. She discovers another victim and wants to turn him on his front but can't manage it.  I could hardly watch as she wanders around the darkened and silent  home, desperately trying to get help over the phone but "noone's coming". So she enlists the help of Tony, a resident played by the wonderful Stephen Graham, suffering from early onset dementia.  A fantastic script and excellent acting meant that it was easy to forget that we were in a TV drama and not a documentary.  

Admittedly it perhaps went off the boil a little in the last part. When the manager returns from sickness himself he puts Tony on strong medication, knocking him out, so Jodie Comer decides to spring Tony and takes him to a caravan on the coast. I agree with the reviewer who asks whether we can imagine this happening. It reminded me, and the reviewer, of the excellent "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest". At the end we were reminded of some statistics, notably that between March and June 2020 40% of deaths were in care homes. At breakfast today Fr Andy reminded me that one of our parishioners is a resident in a home where there is only one assistant on duty at night.

A lot of the time I am dealing with "serious stuff" in my work and ministry. So in the evening I am often glad to chill with my music or something light on the telly. But every so often something serious comes along that begs to be watched. I am so glad that I watched "Help" with its 5 stars. Anyone who doubts whether TV can produce programmes that are not only great works in themselves, but social realism polemics at the same time - you need to see "Help".


Monday, 13 September 2021

Jesus and R.E.M.

Often in preaching, especially at Sunday Mass, I like to try and explore what happens in the Gospel passage from a human point of view. What was it like to be there? What was Jesus thinking or feeling? What was everybody else doing and thinking? What can we now learn from that? The great St Teresa of Avila said something about how we can only come to know the divinity of Jesus through his humanity.

 

Yesterday we heard Jesus ask the apostles who people were thinking he was, and then who the apostles themselves thought he was. Now as one commentator pointed out, we all want people we love to know us well. Jesus loved them, so he wants them to know him well. He loves us too, and so he wants us to know him personally too. 

Another commentator observed that "we probably all find it easier to tell people who we think they are, than to actually listen to them and find out who they really are! Finding out who the other person truly is, requires listening, walking together, sharing, helping and being open to see the other person’s fragility and hurt. In doing so, we participate in our friends’ brokenness. And that is exactly why Jesus offered Himself for us: He broke the bread for the broken people we all are…" (Patrick van der Vorst).

So much can be going on behind the eyes. R.E.M were an impressive American band who were at their most commercially successful in the early 1990s, though they only broke up ten years ago. One of their most popular songs was "Everybody Hurts", and it is accompanied by a video reflecting this theme. In some ways it was not a characteristic song of theirs, but it has touched a nerve for many people.

 

When your day is long  And the night, the night is yours alone
When you're sure you've had enough of this life, 
well hang on 
Don't let yourself go
'Cause everybody cries 
Everybody hurts sometimes
Sometimes everything is wrong
Now it's time to sing along
 
When your day is night alone (hold on, hold on)
If you feel like letting go (hold on)
If you think you've had too much
Of this life, well hang on
'Cause everybody hurts
Take comfort in your friends
Everybody hurts
 
Don't throw your hand, oh no
Don't throw your hand
If you feel like you're alone
No, no, no, you are not alone
 
If you're on your own in this life
The days and nights are long
When you think you've had too much
Of this life to hang on
Well, everybody hurts sometimes
Everybody cries
Everybody hurts, sometimes
And everybody hurts sometimes
So hold on, hold on, hold on....
Everybody hurts

Tuesday, 7 September 2021

Abba, Coldplay, holograms and a higher power

Abba are back!  Well, we weren't expecting that, were we?  Well I wasn't.  Their new single is good, high on emotion but sort of reflective too. They're gong to do a concert too?   No, actually they're not, they'll be at home, while holograms (I think) of their younger selves "perform"  at a purpose built place in London's Olympic park.

Like most people, I suspect, I don't really understand holograms. They're there but not there, aren't they? Also using holograms recently are Coldplay, one of the great bands of the last 20 years or so (in my humble opinion etc). I remember buying their first CD - I think in my Penarth phase 1997-2000. One of their great gifts is to fill and energise whole stadiums - so-called, sometimes disparagingly, "stadium rock". But don't knock it - giving pleasure to so many people can't be bad.  

Coldplay are using holograms this year in performing their single "Higher Power", so here is a video of them doing so at New York's 4th July celebrations two months ago. You can catch the same thing but at the 2021 Brits on another Youtube video, but without an audience. And it's Chris Martin's connection with the audience that is part of the phenomenon. Oh, and yes, that title - "Higher Power". Coldplay are also notable for moving from the emotional to the spiritual from time to time, not always obvious in modern music. This seems to be clearer on their forthcoming album and its video filmed in Damascus.

Enjoy "Higher Power" - and the holograms..

Sunday, 5 September 2021

Be opened!

 The man who was deaf and impaired in speech - one of my favourite Gospels, and the one for today. Watch and hear the Master at work, giving a lesson in how to be sensitive to one another. Notice especially how the way Jesus heals here seems undignified or even silly, as he puts his fingers in the man’s ears and his spit on the man’s tongue.  But first...

1. He takes the man aside in private, someone who is only too used to being looked at, laughed at etc. Thee then followsd what cane be seen as a silent show. It has to be as Jesus is trying to communicate with someone who can’t hear. In other cases, before Jesus does a miracle, Jesus talks to the person for whom the miracle will be done. In this case, he does charades.

 

2. Jesus' charade begins by letting the deaf man know that he is putting a part of himself into the deaf man - his fingers into the deaf man’s ears, his spit into the deaf man’s mouth. Jesus is inviting the man to accept him into himself, literally.  

3. Then Jesus looks up to heaven to show the deaf man the source of Jesus’ power. It doesn’t come from some magic in Jesus’ fingers or spittle. It comes from God, whose power is in Jesus. 

4.  Even the sighing or groaning and the speech of Jesus to the deaf man make sense if we think of them in this way. First, the deaf man sees Jesus open his mouth to make the inarticulate sound of groaning. This deaf man doesn’t speak, but even those made mute by deafness can groan. In groaning, Jesus joins the deaf man, who can see Jesus groaning even if he can’t hear him. 

5. And then the deaf man sees Jesus speaking an articulate word to him, to the man who cannot hear. In doing this, Jesus is inviting the deaf man to trust in him - to choose to hear the word that Jesus speaks to him.

And so Jesus humbles himself to share the limitations of this man. By an apparently undignified dumb show, the love of the Lord heals the deaf man’s soul as well as his ears.So we can hear and learn from the love of the Lord in this story.

Saturday, 28 August 2021

Feeling love

It's already 12 years since Adele burst onto the music scene with her album entitled "19", her age at the time. She went on to become one of the biggest-selling artists in the world,with albums  "21" and "25" and the theme song from Bond movie "Skyfall", though we haven't heard much from her in recent years.  

On her first album was a song called "Make You Feel My Love", written by Bob Dylan originally, which became a favourite.   The joys and pains of love are the main themes of her songs, something we can all relate to. You can even give this one a religious application, and put the words of the song into the mouth of Jesus, as we did one year for the Confirmation class.  It takes on quite an impact then.  Try it as you listen along to a young woman aged 19. 

When the rain is blowing in your face    
And the whole world is on your case
I could offer you a warm embrace    
To make you feel my love
 
When the evening shadows and the stars appear
And there is no one there to dry your tears
I could hold you for a million years
To make you feel my love
 
I know you haven't made your mind up yet
But I would never do you wrong
I've known it from the moment that we met
No doubt in my mind where you belong
 
I'd go hungry, I'd go black and blue
I'd go crawling down the avenue
No, there's nothing that I wouldn't do
To make you feel my love
 
The storms are raging on the rolling sea
And on the highway of regret
Though winds of change are throwing wild and free
You ain't seen nothing like me yet
 
I could make you happy, make your dreams come true
Nothing that I wouldn't do
Go to the ends of the Earth for you
To make you feel my love, to make you feel my love

Tuesday, 24 August 2021

Six hours

Back after a three week break from posting.  I spent the first week away, out, gone. I went to stay with family for seven nights, the first seven that I had spent out of the house for almost two years... For me the arthritis-related problems really got going in September 2019 and soon the pandemic was added to the mix.  It was reasuring for me in those months to have the same house to find my way around, especially in the morning when the mobility is most difficult.

My wonderful sister and brother-in-law came to pick me up to whip me off to their place, a house which they had moved into since I last visited. I soon found my way around, and all in all I had a great time there. A big part of that was to meet two out of my three nephews and their children, who I also had not seen for two years. How they had grown in every sense!

We did all sorts of lovely family stuff like children's Monopoly, a pub lunch, and a drive-though coffee. However, I think the highlight for me was the barbecue. Nine of us gathered in the garden on what was the only really sunny and warm day of the week. I realised when the last nephew left with his family that I had been sitting in my garden chair for six hours. Anyone who has known me during the past two years will know how amazing that is. Six hours of sun, sausage and burger. But, far more important, six hours of family and fellowship, laughter - and love. Can't put a price on that.

Here is the little message Eva aged 6 gave me. It reads "Dear Unckle Math   I am feeling relly happy and joyful to see you XOXO  with all my love  To unckle Math  from Eva" and on the back it said over a rainbow "Friendship for everyone" with Eva and me under it. 


  

Tuesday, 3 August 2021

Time for a break and some Roberta Flack

Along with many other people, I haven't ventured overnight from my home during the pandemic. In addition, as I have been acclimatising to my arthritis-related difficulties, it's been good to be able to stick to one familiar house layout to get around. However, it's now time to break out! So this Friday I'm heading off to stay with family for a while.  It will be strange to be somewhere else, but it will also be fantastic to have a change.

This gives me the opportunity to thank all those who take the trouble to read these ramblings on my blog. I've discovered followers in all sorts of places. Earlier this year there was a rush in Romania, and more recently there has been a large number of viewings from Sweden! If my friend or friends there would like to share who they are in the comments, which I don't have to publish, that would be interesting.

Quite a few people have appreciated my music postings, especially those from my "early days".So here is a classic from university days: Roberta Flack singing "The First TIme Ever I Saw Your Face". This was written back in the 50s by Ewan McColl and recorded by various people in following years. But it was Roberta Flack's version that really took off, especially after it was played in Clint Eastwood's film "Play Misty For Me" in about 1972. The song was shortened a little for that, but this is the original version from 1969
 
See you in a while...
 
 

Tuesday, 27 July 2021

From 5000 then to us here and now

This was my message on Sunday - with acknowledgement to Bishop Barron!

These three Sundays we hear from John chapter 6. John's Gospel has no account of the institution of the Eucharist  - but it does have chapter 6 instead. This is a kind of meditation on the Eucharist.  On Sunday we heard the first part - the feeding of the 5000, a moment recorded in all four Gospels. As John tells the story, we see an account, a symbolic presentation of the Eucharist itself, but we need to decipher it, just as we do in the story of the Road to Emmaus.

First we are told that it takes place up a mountain. Mountains and hills are places of encounter in scripture between God and us. Think of Sinai, Sion and Tabor.  We go up, God comes down. What is the Mass?   It's a mountain top experience, of communion and of transfiguration. 

Secondly, we see Jesus sit down - the attitude of the teacher, with his disciples at his feet. When we have gathered at Mass, we sit down to listen to God's Word in the readings. We sit down with Jesus!

Then the Liturgy of the Eucharist follows, just as Jesus proceeds to feed the crowd. We are told  this happens before the Passover, just as the Last Supper did. The crowd will be fed by the Lamb of God himself, just as we are

.

But with what did he feed them? He could have fed them - and us - from nothing. He's God! But he delights in drawing on our cooperation. His desire is to feed us with his Body and blood, but in order to do so he invites us to present our little, so that he can transfigure it. This is the Offertory Procession or Presentation of the Gifts.  What do you have? Jesus asks the apostles. We present some little round breads, a drop of wine and some of our cash. He proceeds to elevate it into food for eternal life.

Then St John echoes the words of the Last Supper in his account. Our Lord took, and gave thanks, and gave - bringing us to the heart of the Mass in the Eucharistic Prayer. At this point the priest is operating in the person of Christ (hence vestments) as he speaks the words of the Last Supper.

The people receive as much as they needed - yes for their stomachs, but we receive for our deepest hunger too, the deepest longings of our hearts. The little bread and wine will never satisfy our bodies, let alone our spirits, but transfigured they do.

Lastly we learn that the fragments are collected in twelve baskets - 12 the number of the tribes and the apostles, the number symbolic of all the people. We also collect up what is left over, and place it in the trabernacle for those unable to be present.

In the description of this miracle from so long ago we can find the miracle of every Mass. There, in a mountain top experience we can indeed be fed at the deepest level of our souls.

Thursday, 22 July 2021

Led Zeppelin 2007

So here's something different. I'm back to music from my earlier years, but this time it's not exactly Simon and Garfunkel - it's Led Zeppelin instead.  Guitarist Jimmy Page and bassist John Paul Jones, singer Robert Plant and drummer John Bonham got together in 1968, when I was 15 and getting into pop music big time. There followed ten years of fabulous sound that remains influential today. All four members were stars of their field. Page's guitar sound and Bonham's drums are distinctive, Plants vocal aerobatics were unique and Jones' bass and keyboards, sometimes underestimated, helped create the Zeppelin sound. Sadly Bonham died in 1979 and they disbanded, feeling they would no longer be Zeppelin without him.

They have rarely reunited since, but one very notable occasion was 2007 when they did a charity concert at the O2 in London (left). The performance I have chosen is from that night, when Plant was 63, Plant 58 etc. Drums were played by John Bonham's son, Jason Bonham. They have already been playing or about 90 minutes, hence Page's slightly dishevelled look! The song is "Kashmir" written in 1975, and often claimed to be their finest achievement. Even the band themselves claim this, it is said. The strange thing is that I remember listening to it once or twice at the time, and then leaving it aside for years as being  bit odd or complicated. Until recently. 

I realise now it is the very qualities of the song that put me off when I was younger (like whiskey or Stilton, some might say!)  For instance, it is written largely chromatically, ie not only using the normal notes of a tonic scale.  Secondly it is in (new word for me) polymeter, that is to say it has two diffferent rhythms going on at the same time. In the opening section the guitar is in 3 rhythm while the drums are in 4. At other points the musical subtelty get too technical for me, with changes of major and minor, of mode etc. As for the words, which varied sometimes according to performance, especially towards the end of the song, there is no direct meaning to the reference to the place Kashmir. In fact it was written after a drive in the desert of Morocco. It's sort of about searching, the unattainable, and companionship on the journey....  possibly!

It is a wonderfully constructed piece, slowly gathering layers and energy. At the end Jones, adding tones of organ and orchestra, underlies a climax of rising sections with Page, while Bonham goes absolutely crazy on the drums, and Plant wants to take us there... where? I'm not sure  - but I love the journey, especially as played by a band with the three survivors averaging 60!.   If you want to read some analysis of the song  look here.

 

Oh, let the sun beat down upon my face  And stars fill my dreams
I am a traveller of both time and space  To be where I have been

To sit with elders of the gentle race  This world has seldom seen
They talk of days for which they sit and wait  All will be revealed

Talk in song from tongues of lilting grace Whose sounds caress my ear
Though not a word I heard could I relate The story was quite clear

Oh, baby, I been blind  Oh, yeah, mama, there ain't no denyin'
Oh, yes, I been blind  Mama, mama, ain't no denyin',

All I see turns to brown    As the sun burns the ground

And my eyes fill with sand  As I scan this wasted land
Trying to find, trying to find the way I feel

Oh, pilot of the storm who leaves no trace  Like thoughts inside a dream
Here is the path that led me to that place   Yellow desert stream

My Shangri-la beneath the summer moon   I will return again
Sure as the dust that floats high in June  When moving through Kashmir

Oh, father of the four winds fill my sails   Across the sea of years
With no provision but an open face   Along the straits of fear

Oh, when I’m on my way,  And when I see, I see the way to stay

Ooh, yeah yeah, oh, yeah yeah,  But I'm down oh, yeah yeah, oh, yeah
Yeah, but I'm down, so down  Ooh, my baby, oh, my baby
Let me take you there
Come on, oh let me take you there    I can take you there

 

Sunday, 18 July 2021

Our young people

I was talking about young people in Mass today, and several people said they really appreciated it.  I put it in the context of a shepherd reporting about the flock, as in today's readings.

I started on Monday with a Zoom marriage preparation for a lovely couple living in London, but where the bride-to-be comes from Christ the King and is known well here. So I was in my office and they were in their respective flats. And they were great - great young people, switched on to life and faith. I'm really looking forward to their wedding in a month's time.

Next on Tuesday Andy and I celebrated a funeral, with the deceased mum beng remembered by husband and family. Family life, good example, passing it on...

Thursday evening and Saturday morning I confirmed twenty of our young 12 and 13 year olds. Their whole preparation programme has been via Zoom with three catechists and myself. They have been, and I'm sure will be, fantastic, again very switched on... We will meet again with them in September to talk about where they go from here.

In between the two Confirmation Masses, on Friday, was our first weding for two years.  Another lovely couple, this time both former pupils of Corpus Christi, our Catholic high school. Loads of other past pupils there. Great.

 Then tomorrow we drop a year to the school leavers of Year 6 in Christ the King Primary, with their Leavers' Mass.  I've been missing Mass with kids for too long during the Covod stuff. They have something very special, to do with chidren's spontaneity, directness, and, yes, innocence and simplicity. Again, I'm really looking forward to tomorow.

 

So - children, young people, couples - family life, parish life, school life.  We can get fearful about the future based on the present, but how well do we now the real situation?  I've been so impressed by these diffferent age groups this week.  And so my faith in the future is strengthened. 

Monday, 12 July 2021

Celebrating together

 

So here we are, or were, back in 2013 at one of our 3 Churches Masses. This was one of the last of several that we celebrated at Corpus Christi High school in July. Each was on a theme, and that year it was "People of Faith", centred on the Sacraments. Look closely and you will see the symbols of the seven sacraments on the wall behind the altar. I was joined by Fr Tomy and Deacon Rob Coyne in the sanctuary. As you can see, helped by the rousing hymn "10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord my Soul)" participation was very active!

Holding these celebrations was part of my plan to bind our 3 Churches together in my first years here. The planning and running of the day, which orignally included a shared lunch and even afternoon activities, was entirely shared among people from the churches. It wasn't without some strife, but on the whole these celebrations were successsful, with everyone getting along great.  After some years we transfered the idea and method to Holy Week, notably celebrating some Maundy Thursday evening Massdes tigether followed by Watching until late in the garden at the centre of the school. 

I very much enjoyed these Masses, and allowed myself some pride in how we all planned and worked together, and, more important, celebrated together.

 

Tuesday, 6 July 2021

Acapella peace

A while ago I shared a piece sung by Kings Return from America.   They have just released another song, a spiritual called "Motherless Child". This was made famous in a version sung years ago by Odetta. Find that here This was used by Italian film director in his "Gospel According to St Matthew".  Here the a cappella group sing it very beautifully in their inimitable style.  Relax and let it wash over you... 
 
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child,
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child,
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child,
A long way from home, a long way from home.
 
Sometimes I feel like I'm almost done,
Sometimes I feel like I'm almost done,
Sometimes I feel like I'm almost done,
And a long, long way from home, a long way from home.
 
True believer,
True believer,
A long, long way from home,
A long, long way from home.