Saturday, 24 December 2022

Christmas warmth

I have loads of pictures on my computer of all sorts. Not surprisingly, the "religion" folder is pretty big, then you select "Christ", then "Nativity". There you find about 10 different images, and I've chosen this one for Christmas 2022. I've forgotten who painted it, undoubtedly Italian, 15th century, maybe Giovanni di Paolo. 

So often the colours of Nativities are a bit cold, maybe with snow etc.   I like the warmth of the colours this painting gives, spreading a Christmas glow. So may you feel the warmth of our Saviour's love fill you this Christmas!


Saturday, 17 December 2022

Christ the King webcam live!

Today we move on a step in our communications, as the live webcam at Christ the King church is now on stream.  We have had 24/7 live streaming from St Brigid's since early on in the pandemic, and now it's joined by Christ the King. 

It took Fr Andy and me a while to get used to being on camera all the time in St Brigid's, but after a while you get used to it.  A few parishioners like readers said the same, but I'm sure it will all go well at our first streamed Mass, which is this evening at 6pm.  Sunday Mass from St Brigid's can also be viewed a few hours later via Youtube, search "3 Churches Cardiff".

As with St Brigid's, you can access the streaming at any time either via our 3 Churches website or drectly from here by clicking/pressing on the button to the right >>>>>



Saturday, 5 November 2022

Separation (2)

Separation isn't only at death.  We have to handle all sorts of separation in life too, don't we, and I suppose those that happen in relationships, friendships, love, are the hardest. We all have to work hard sometimes to keep relationships going, to stop them growing stale, but, of course, there are times when they have just run their course. When it's at its worst, I catch a glimpse on occasion of the suffering that can follow in my work with people from broken marriages

There are many poems and songs about such events in life, but not many capture the raw emotion that can be involved as openly as Irish singer Sinead O'Connor's song and video from 1990 "Nothing Compares To You".  The song was written by American Prince, but her version became better known than the original. The video must be one of the most dramatic and best-known ever produced for a song. Sinead O'Connor went on to have a complicated life but continues to produce music.  But I don't think she ever matched this classic outpouring. Watch out for the real tears in the last chorus.


It's been seven hours and 15 daysSince you took your love awayI go out every night and sleep all daySince you took your love awaySince you been gone, I can do whatever I wantI can see whomever I choose
I can eat my dinner in a fancy restaurantBut nothing I said nothing can take away these blues'Cause nothing compares,  nothing compares to you
It's been so lonely without you hereLike a bird without a songNothing can stop these lonely tears from fallingTell me baby, where did I go wrong?I could put my arms around every boy I seeBut they'd only remind me of you
I went to the doctor, guess what he told meGuess what he told meHe said, "Girl you better try to have fun, no matter what you do"But he's a fool
'Cause nothing compares, nothing compares to you
All the flowers that you planted mamaIn the back yardAll died when you went awayI know that living with you baby was sometimes hardBut I'm willing to give it another try
Nothing compares,   nothing compares to you...

Wednesday, 2 November 2022

Separation (1)


Here is a poem/reflection by priest-poet John O'Donoghue that I used in Mass for All  Souls today. The sculpture is the late "Pieta" by Michelangelo in Florence.

When you lose someone you love,
Your life becomes strange,
The ground beneath you gets fragile,
Your thoughts make your eyes unsure;
And some dead echo drags your voice down
Where words have no confidence.
Your heart has grown heavy with loss;
And though this loss has wounded others too,
No one knows what has been taken from you
When the silence of absence deepens.
Flickers of guilt kindle regret
For all that was left unsaid or undone.

There are days when you wake up happy;
Again inside the fullness of life,
Until the moment breaks
And you are thrown back
Onto the black tide of loss.

Days when you have your heart back,
You are able to function well
Until in the middle of work or encounter,
Suddenly with no warning,
You are ambushed by grief.

It becomes hard to trust yourself.
All you can depend on now is that
Sorrow will remain faithful to itself.
More than you, it knows its way
And will find the right time
To pull and pull the rope of grief
Until that coiled hill of tears
Has reduced to its last drop.

Gradually, you will learn acquaintance
With the invisible form of your departed;
And, when the work of grief is done,
The wound of loss will heal
And you will have learned
To wean your eyes
From that gap in the air
And be able to enter the hearth
In your soul where your loved one
Has awaited your return
All the time.

“For Grief” by John O’Donohue, from To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings (Doubleday, 2008)

Saturday, 8 October 2022

Ritual, Royalty - and Rosary : the procession to Westminster Abbey

I wanted to put on here something to do with the funeral of Queen Elizabeth, watched by millions across the world.   I've chosen the procession from Westminster Hall, where her body had lain in state, to Westminster Abbey where the Funeral Service then followed. The sequence lasts some 16 minutes, with no commentary, and my choice might seem surprising. It consists mainly of military marching, and is highly ritualised, the bagpipe and drums music accompanying the rhythm of the young ratings, the royal family and others as they make the short journey. Yet this ritual holds me each time I have watched it, interspersed as it is with simple but moving moments such as the sailors bowing their heads when they arrive at the Abbey. 

As Catholics we are very familiar with ritual, especially that of the Mass itself. Very often it can "carry" a lot, say so much with its few actions and words.  I have noticed this is particularly true at funerals, when the very thing that Catholics fear might put off non-Catholic visitors actually can speak to, enable and help each and every mourner to feel whatever they are feeling and enter into the occasion.  I remember celebrating the funerals of my parents, where I think I was only able to do so because saying Mass is what I do every day.  I was "carried" by the ritual. The funeral of the Queen "carried" if we wanted it to, maybe our own bereavements too, and the passing not only of our monarch, but also of an era - stretching back through such a long life to the Empire, the two World Wars, and who knows whatever else the Britsih carry in our collective memory.

Perhaps this helps us to understand other ritual type prayers and practices, such as the Rosary.  The repetition of Hail Marys puts off many people. But I believe that it is this very aspect of the Rosary that enables it to carry whatever is going on in our mind, heart or life at that moment.  Each morning nowadays I experience a period of stiffness and/or pain as my lower limbs "wake up". As part of this process I pray five decades sitting on my bed, and try to put into the ritual and repetition the day ahead and whatever else is going on - stuff good and not so good - and the pain of the moment. The very ritual at the very least helps the process, and perhaps even helps to make sense of things that are too deep or painful to put into words -  just like the marching of those sailors for a quarter of an hour at Westminster.

Sunday, 11 September 2022

When God Ran

A while ago I shared a video of a song based on today's Gospel - the Prodigal Son.    Here is another one, entitled "When God Ran".  This one I also heard in my Canada phase back in the 80s.   Enjoy.

Saturday, 27 August 2022

We have come to Mount Zion

Here is a song to accompany my theme this Sunday. It's called "Singing Hallelujah" and is bsed on the second reading from today's Mass. I love the uplifting and inspiring visonary quality of this reading.

I came across the song in my Canada period 1986-8.  St Mary's parish where I assisted in Ottawa used some of the music of Jim Cowan in the liturgy and this is one of his. He was music diector at the Franciscan University at Steubenville Ohio for more than twenty years. I visited there for an amazing priests' retreat in 1987. Here it is sung by a choir in the Philippines.

We have come to Mount Zion...

Sunday, 21 August 2022

Kings Return do "Bridge Over Troubled Water"

Just released today, this is a coming together of two of my favourites.  American four man a cappella group King's Return sing Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water".   Enjoy.


Wednesday, 25 May 2022

"The Making of a Catholic Priest"

Fr Stephen Gadberry from Arkansas tells his story.  It's quite a long video, just under an hour, with a high-powered opening section, but filled all through with wisdom and inspiration.

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