29 April 2009

The Resurrection changes everything.

The joy of the Easter season is now in full swing. Indeed, there are some who may feel that it is time to look forward now and move onto the next stage. Look to Pentecost and even to ordinary time. Maybe there are those who long to see the green again. This would be typical of me. I rarely stop to smell the grass, to take in that which is present now, to just be.

One of my friends here at Oscott, recently, gave a post communion reflection at Mass. His central theme was “the Resurrection changes everything” and when I reflect on his inspired words, I see the need to respond to the resurrection, the wonder of it, by relishing in that which has changed. Stopping and smelling the grass is now not seen just as relaxation, appreciation or even meditation, it is nothing less than wonder at the new creation. Yes, I need to slow down and enjoy the wonder of the resurrection.

Here are Michael Glover’s words, which he has kindly agreed to let me post on this blog.

During Lent we embraced a sombre tone in the celebration of the liturgy. We took on works of penance, fasting and almsgiving. As we approached Holy Week the chapel was shrouded in purple, hiding all its beauty. On Holy Thursday the Blessed Sacrament was removed and the chapel was made as bare. And on Easter Sunday there was a change…

No more trying to look happy as we aim to fulfil our Lenten observances, the chapel was unveiled and looked better than we can remember, the Blessed Sacrament was brought back and the chapel was filled with flowers, candles and the resounding song of Alleluia!

The Resurrection changes everything. Eastertide celebrates the change from death to life and everything is changed and seen in a new way. Even works of penance are changed; they now have a “post resurrection character”. Ratzinger relates a story of Haydn, who, while he was composing remarked “As I came to utter the words of supplication, I could not suppress my joy but loosed the reins of my elated spirit and wrote ‘allegro’ over the Miserere”. The Resurrection changes everything.

26 April 2009

Santa Maria Del Mar, Barcelona

Hey folks. Back in the land of the blogosphere and back to seminary today. This will, in fact, be the last time I 'return' to seminary as a seminarian. Or at least, to be specific, there is no more major holidays, half term holidays or even mini breaks from seminary. Thus, the next time I 'return' to seminary will be as an ordained priest, please God. Not that this makes it any easier to return, I hasten to add. Ah, return it must be. Pray for us all, that we may have a fruitful final term of the year, that we may listen ever more attentively to the prompting of the Spirit and that we may be truly disciples of the Lord.

Right now, I am basking in the memory of my trip to Barcelona. Such a wonderful trip with so much done and yet such relaxation at the same time. Truly, I recommend this wonderful city. Some highlights include, of course the cathedral of the Sagrada Familia, being on Las Ramblas during the festivities of St George's Day (they make us English look such miserable dour faces) and the wonderful Santa Maria Del Mar. Tony had put me onto this Gothic church, the size of a cathedral, and suggested a great book about a young Spaniard's relationship with Our Lady of the Sea. I read in the guide book that this church was built in just 59 years, resulting in only one style of architecture, rather than the mish mash one associates with major church building, and that style is consistently Gothic. It was, indeed, beautiful and splendid and noble. Well worth the visit.

19 April 2009

¡Hasta la Semana Próxima!

¡Hablaré con usted en unos pocos días!

The Gift of Peace

Having just been blogging with shadowlands on pain, I want to say to you: If you read nothing else this month, read The Gift of Peace by Cardinal Bernardin. It may just change your life!

18 April 2009


Spent an interesting morning blogging around the sphere - is that even making sense? The best of the lot, for me, was eastangliaseminarians with an interesting post on What IS the Priest? Also worth a look was lovingit found via catholicmomof10journey. Lovingit is described as: Ella and James Preece are a Catholic couple living in Kingston Upon Hull in Yorkshire in the UK. This is our blog. Particularly good to read was The Death of The Catholic Church. Cannot say that I agree with James' conclusions, at all, but a good read nonetheless. I rather wish I had more time to spend blogging as finding sites as interesting as theirs is something of a joy. Still, we enjoy the gifts we have, yeah?

15 April 2009

Moving on

A brief post today. I am moving on in the morning to have a short break before returning to seminary for the final stint. It will be sad to leave the parish, here in Wolverhampton. So many wonderful memories, so much growing and such prayer and love shared with me. Thank you, to one and to all. One is tempted to quote Shakespeare, or the like, but maybe it's best just to say thank you, and leave it at that.

The three month mark has, as noted today, passed by in the excitement of Easter. Less than three months now folks! Get your hats ready and your shoes polished. I've heard that there are going to be a couple of coaches coming up to the cathedral: so get there early to be seated. As if!!

Finally, thank you for all your wonderful words of encouragement. Thank you most especially to God, for bringing me to this wonderful point in my life. I read the new Archbishop of New York's homily today, here, on Whispers in the Loggia. Timothy Dolan is such an inspiration. His book, Priests for the Third Millennium, is a great read. In his homily, he talks so warmly of the love and grateful thanks he has for God. Truly worth taking a few minutes to read it.

So, my fellow bloggers, keep doing what you do best.

Oh, and thanks, humblepiety, for this great pic!

PS You cannot see me, or at least I cannot see me, but be assured I am in the midst of them all, and carrying the Chrism oil to boot.

14 April 2009

Easter Greetings

Phew, life in the parish has returned to a more reasonable pace. An instant reflection of the holy week/triduum: not so much busy as in lots and lots of frenetic things to be accomplished so much as stress getting it right, worthily, responding to the dignity of the occasion; that sort of thing.

Happy Easter to one and all. I was struck, indeed preached on, the fact that we move immediately from the resurrection on Easter Sunday to Pentecost. As though the purpose of the resurrection is the outpouring of the Spirit. There is no time to be sat idly reflecting on what the Father has done for us through the Son, rather we are driven in response and guided by the Spirit. In other words what we have received, we pass on. To be a good christian, is to live as a good christian. By their fruits you shall know them.

This period of 'quiet' proves an excellent opportunity to catch up on relationships that may have suffered in recent times. Therefore, I will not spend hours on this machine, so much as get out there and be with people. Nonetheless, let us pray for one another through this most holy season. It is, most especially in this octave of Easter, a chance to reflect on just how wonderful is the gift of life, to gift of faith and, indeed, the gift of communion.

11 April 2009

Holy Saturday and the dark night of the soul...

Often, Holy Saturday has, for me, been a long day filled with grief and sadness as we await the resurrection of Christ. The living out the Triduum is a wonderful realisation of the words "do this in memory of me", giving a sublime reminder of the Jewish notion of remembrance; the reliving of the events in the same way we relive the moment when someone says, do you remember when we were....

This year, the day is filled with organising, and getting ready for the Vigil. This is, I suppose, life in the parish. In fact a friend of mine, who is a priest in Wales, warned me not to expect too much self-indulgent naval gazing, or words to that effect, when I was talking about the loss one felt on this Saturday. The horrible realisation that Christ has died, even if we know Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

So, there you have it. Busy parishes demand busy deacons, it would seem. Tell you what, though, I'm really, really looking forward to Easter lunch. Going home to get black face lamb flown in from the lowlands of Scotland and to be featured on Hairy Bikers in their next series, it would seem. Yum!

10 April 2009

9 April 2009

Jesus in the Electric Chair

Cathcon are carrying a story about the above sculpture which is being displayed in a cathedral in France during Holy Week. They accuse the bishop, who defends the piece, as venturing "on the path of fideism", which I think a bit harsh. What do you think of it? I'm enclined to agree with the commentator to the site, not as an object of devotion, but most certainly a tool to make you stop and think. What will the crowd be shouting out tomorrow, I wonder?

8 April 2009

Westminster Cathedral

I have far too much time on my hands. When googling the largest catholic cathedral in the UK, I was directed to this amazing site all about Westminster Cathedral. Called eyerevolution, it seems to be a company specialising in 360' photography and they feature Westminster Cathedral. The scaffolding is a little annoying, but a great way to spend time admiring the wonder of the place. They say of themselves:

Welcome to the Eye Revolution web site. Eye Revolution is not simply a virtual tour company. We are professional photographers, with a photographer's eye for detail and quality. So you can be assured of the highest possible quality tour. Your space can inspire, excite and intrigue - for a virtual tour that will do the same, come inside.

Will Pearson, the guy who does the photography, I think, has some stunning work. Check out this Hyde Park. More available via this link.
Wow, go check it out. You'll love it!


Do please, when you can, pray for me. I'm trying to sort out a chalice for my ordination and it is proving not very effective! I'm beset with difficulties. Firstly, I planned to just go and order a new one (it's what almost every seminarian I have known in the past six years has done) but it is not really what I want. Long story short; I've not been overly impressed with what I've seen and most certainly don't want an 'off the shelf' job. Why? Because I'm fussy? No; because I am far more concerned with provenance, above all. Please don't lecture me about this - I get it nonstop from the guys at Oscott. For me, the best Chalice I have seen for an ordination, has been the one with the best tale of how the guy came to have it. I'll say no more than this (because I don't want recriminations).

Anyways, anyways, anyways: I went to the Jewelry Quarter, yesterday, and it was shut. Is this a sign? What does God want me to know? Can it really be "don't buy a chalice". Time is marching on - I think you'll find it is less than 100 days and they usually take three months to get made!Obviously I need to sort myself out. So I planned to go this afternoon. Then Archbishop Vincent talked of the need to ensure that material things, of even the Church, can prevent us from accessing God if we allow them too. What does he mean - of course, stop dithering about the Chalice. The Lord will provide - pray to him and stop being materialist. I decide I'm NOT going to the Jewelry Quarter (now I see the sign, thank you God) Minutes later, I leave Mass, thank you for your kind considerations, God, but I think we all know that I KNOW BEST, and so I'm going to the Jewelry Quarter. It's sorted, I'm going. I'm off the fence. I have decided.

Outside the Cathedral, I'm asked if I'm going straight back to Wolverhampton. Well, I wasn't, but I could if you want, yes, of course I can give you lift. Oh, the Jewelry Quarter - nothing important. I can come again. It'll wait. So, I have still not gotten to the silversmiths. I have still not sorted my chalice. It is just such a mess.

Can you feel my angst? Please, please pray for me. Not that I get a chalice sorted, so much as God will give me peace. Or at least the Grace to know that I'm beat!!!!

Chrism Mass

Just back from the Chrism Mass with Archbishop Vincent, his last and my first as a cleric, with Birmingham. I was reflecting, that it is, probably, my favourite of all Masses at the Cathedral. I love the Vigil, but for me, at least, that is better celebrated in a parish setting. However, the Chrism, with the wonder of over 200 priests and a packed Cathedral. When the final doxology is sung, it gets me every time. You just can't beat the it.

This year, His Grace preached very well indeed on prayer together with some reflections on the strengths of the diocese. It was good to hear his words. Given that he was a stranger to the diocese, one might say that he has a disinterested view of what he has come to love about our diocese. Certainly, he spoke with sincerity, warmth and not a little sadness at leaving us. Someone said to me, "it must be a daunting task, taking Westminster at 63!" and you know he's quite right. When most people in this country would be turning their mind to firming up retirement plans, here is Archbishop Vincent taking on more and more. Good luck to you, Your Grace. You have my prayers and support.

There were many aspects of the Mass which moved me deeply, but if I may mention just two (to paraphrase +Vincent) it was the first reader (who I am reliably informed is Head of RE in a Catholic school) and Mike Stanley starting off the responsorial. In the first instance, the intonation of the reading was perfect. I really, really felt it was the Lord speaking, such that when she said, This is the Word of the Lord, I was tempted to respond, indeed, it is! Thank you God for such great liturgy that the appropriate response is Thanks be to God. In the second instance, Mike hit his note right on the nose; solo in the cathedral and with the inevitable practice that there must have been and no accompaniment - perfect. What was so good, in my mind at least, was that it was only on reflection that I was struck it was Mike's skill and ability which had made this moment so spiritual. At the time I was just struck with the awe of God's almighty word.

So, Liturgy of the Word, leading to prayer, just as you would want in the perfect Mass. A happy deacon!

6 April 2009

The Turin Shroud

Ruth Geldhill has an interesting article on the Turin Shroud on her blog. I think this is such an amazing item and seems, for me at least, to have featured large in my faith journey. Never a central issue, but it has been there all along. When I was younger I was absolutely convinced it was the genuine article. There was no doubting in my mind.

Then, as I grew, and perhaps true to say as I grew more cynical, I became convinced it was a fake. The evidence for this shift? Because the Church (or probably because the Pope as I would have seen it) was keeping the information from the public. There's no smoke without fire and if they've nothing to hide, then they'd tell us all about it. Wouldn't they? Anyway, had it not been leaked that the carbon dating 'proved' that it was a fake? Surely! And we all now know that science doesn't make mistakes. The facts cannot lie.

My faith was reignited and suddenly the shroud was probably the real thing. I journeyed ever closer to the Lord, saw the documentary on the TV a couple of years back (was it Martin Bashir?) and was utterly convinced it was genuine. I got over-excited and was busy sharing my new found confidence in it's authenticity was everyone. Sorry, to all my friends!!

Now it seems that there is to be a new documentary, there is more Vatican commentary and it all starts over again. What do I think today? Is it real? Well, probably, yes. Does my faith depend on it being real, as it once probably did? No it does not, and if truth be known, nor did my faith ever depend on the authenticity or otherwise of the Turin Shroud.

Want a better conundrum - what if archeology unearthed the bones of Jesus. Now, what would Dan Brown have to say on this, I wonder?

11 April - update Fr Longenecker writes: We watched The Passion of the Christ last night, and it was cool to see that James Caviezel's make up was designed to make him look like the man on the shroud.

5 April 2009

Communion on Good Friday

Someone was asking me why we receive Communion on Good Friday, of all days, when there is no Eucharist celebrated. I was a bit stuck for an answer, and wondered what your views are. I read a few interesting comments on an EWTN thread, here. There is also a little history here including the tradition of the Mass of the Presanctified. As ever, I now feel more informed, and will give a better answer next time, but what do you think? What would you think if there were no Communion at the solemn liturgy on Good Friday?

4 April 2009

Palm Crosses

Since we're now celebrating Palm Sunday, or at least we are about to be, I thought I'd share some thoughts about a dying tradition, probably due to creeping secularism. When I was a child (yes, I know, it was long ago) one of the pleasures of this time of year was my grandmother folding the palms into crosses. In those days we went to church for Mass and were duly issued with our palm leaves of about 2 feet length. Generally, they were very flexible and were great to wave about. I remember you always tried to get the longest one you could. You really got the spirit of waving your palms as Jesus rode by on his donkey. Not that we actually had a reenactment with donkey; but you get my drift.

Today, what do we do? We have palms, but sadly they are, all too often, in the shape of the cross. It makes no sense to wave a cross at Jesus whilst shouting Hosanna. Fr Peter says

And this weekend, as we hold our Palm Crosses, which at the same time represent both the cheers and jeers of the crowds, we share in this hard road which leads
to his victory.
So I can see that there is justification for the palm in the shape of the cross. It's also true to say that after the entry into Jerusalem, the liturgy turns clearly toward the passion. I'm sure this is why the priest where's red also, to show the blood of the passion, which looms ominously ahead. Knowing what is to come, whilst living the moment again and again, as it were.

I cannot help, however, but think that my gran had the right idea. We wave our palm for the procession and then, when we are leaving, we are firmly set on the cross becoming the symbol of our salvation. So we turn our palm into a cross, pin it to our door, and then remind ourselves, every day, that Christ died for our sins that we might be saved.

This, then, is the problem. If I gave you a two foot palm, would you be able to fold it into a cross? I know, for sure, that I couldn't do it myself. So what do we do? We buy them already folded. Maybe we justify it by saying they're from a particularly good cause, some charity or other. Maybe we see the symbolism in waving the means of our salvation at Jesus upon his entry to Jerusalem; as though he doesn't know this already. I think he probably does.

A modern approach to our problem of having long palms that we can then not fold would be, of course, to go out and buy them already folded? Do you, like me, think this is what happened? Perhaps my growing up, and our tradition, was different to your growing up, and your tradition. Maybe you always had palms folded into crosses. Maybe somebody in your parish spent hours folding up the palms before Sunday. Or maybe, just maybe, like me, your gran taught you.

There was a time I could fold a palm, I think, but now I can't. I stayed away from the Church, I let the secular ways creep in, and now I'm surprised that I cannot fold a palm leaf. How tragic is that? Well, I'm not entirely railing against the modern ways. In fact, I went to the most modern of ways, to the Internet and googled it. I found this website, which has a guide to folding a palm! Trust the good old scouts to be prepared. Sacred Heart in Sittingbourne also have an excellent page, here. (click on the picture to enlarge it)

I also made a decision, I'm going to encourage the parish, of which I'm entrusted in the future, to use long palms and to fold them ourselves. Join me in bringing back our tradition.

3 April 2009

Our loss, but still our gain, too

Westminster announces that the Holy Father has appointed our Archbishop to Westminster. It's a loss for Birmingham, of course, but great news for Westminster, especially, and for all of us as Catholics in England and Wales. I know, I know: he's not 'technically' the leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, but many, many people will look to him for guidance and comment on matters Catholic in these countries.

Well done, Ruth Gledhill, on the scoop, too.

Congrats, Your Grace.

2 April 2009

100 days and counting....

Phew, scary or what? Time has crept upon me and I see it is but 100 days until I am ordained to the priesthood. Today will be a good day to start sending out the invites; do you think? If you are able to be in Birmingham, then let me know, and I will ensure you get an invite. You can email me directly at paulgeorgejohnson[at]googlemail[dot]co[dot]uk. Whatever your persuasion, please, please pray for me. God hears all, and will answer your prayers.

Pope John Paul II, Servant of God

We remember you.

O Blessed Trinity, we thank You for having graced the Church with Pope John Paul II and for allowing the tenderness of your Fatherly care, the glory of the cross of Christ, and the splendor of the Holy Spirit, to shine through him. Trusting fully in Your infinite mercy and in the maternal intercession of Mary, he has given us a living image of Jesus the Good Shepherd, and has shown us that holiness is the necessary measure of ordinary Christian life and is the way of achieving eternal communion with you. Grant us, by his intercession, and according to Your will, the graces we implore, hoping that he will soon be numbered among your saints. Amen

1 April 2009

Where have you been?

This question was asked of me, since I have blogged so little in recent days, by an interested party. The answer: about the missions, my dear boy, about the missions! Perhaps, in sympathy with the Lord upon being found in the Temple, I'm surprised that I was even asked, since it is clear to me that I have been busy in the parish. How often we forget to communicate, though. How often we make assumptions that others are able to read our minds, or can, some how, telepathically know what we are doing.

It has been a most humbling few days. Truly wonderful and a foretaste, I hope, of the years that lay ahead of me. I have preached, last weekend, on reconciliation and this has had a most profound impression upon my own prayer life. It has led me to think about how we think about sin. What it means to sin and how we judge others whom we assume, almost certainly wrongly, to be better or worse than ourselves. The many people I have talked to about this very issue have felt quite confident to put themselves down and assume that they are far worse sinners than their neighbours. It's left me thinking that people, perhaps, need to love themselves a little more. Maybe allow Jesus to do the judging and assume that they are doing the best that they can.

Also, during the week, I've be wined and dined by some wonderful parishoners who asked only that I said some prayers at their late husbands' graves. What a fantastic and special privilege to be asked! You get fed for this, folks, too. Don't tell me a cleric's life is hard. I was just so touched to be asked to do it, and so pleased that I was able. Listening to their combined wisdom and experience and humility was wonderful. Between them that had over 200 years of humanity under their collective belt. Talk about a lot to learn from them. Thanks, you know who you are. You are amazing, and I hope that I lived up to the cost of a Naked Gourmet Burger, even if the thought of a man in a collar ordering anything naked did cause a titter!

Finally, I've been able to catch up with a friend for a curry. If you are going to be in Wolverhampton - get yourself to Jivan's in town. The most fantastic curry is to be had. What was wonderful? It's easier to list the reasons why it was one of the best nights I've had in a long time

  • the food was great
  • heat(spiciness) just perfect
  • it was cheap (£17.70 for two of us, todos)
  • fantastic company
  • great chat (deep, deep stuff)
  • rough part of town
  • just wooden seat (uncomfortable, but worth it)
  • acute indigestion at 4am (it must've been good)
  • still making me smile 24 hours later
Enjoy life, it's almost Easter, though manic amounts to be achieved before then. Eek!


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