28 July 2009

Mgr Richard Moth

Great news from Rome of the appointment of Mgr Richard Moth as the new Bishop of the Forces.

Someone said to me, recently, that since the restoration of the hierarchy in 1850, in England and Wales, there has been a Benedictine in the team. I was, therefore, interested to read that the Bishop elect "has been a Benedictine Oblate for 30 years." Does this count?

I wish you the very best, My Lord, and you remain very much in my prayers.

At the same time, join me in offering prayers to the Holy Spirit, that He might send us a Bishop, too, for Birmingham.

24 July 2009

Praying where we want?

Independent Catholic News are carrying the story "Turkish government allows Christian worship in birthplace of St Paul" by Dan Bergin. The old haunts of St Paul are one journey/pilgrimage I am yet to make, but perhaps one day. This story got me to thinking about the places in the world which mean so much to people who want to be able to pray and worship and yet are denied. Sometimes, perhaps, we take for granted the places where we can celebrate the liturgy together.

For my 'first' Mass I was very blessed to be able to celebrate with friends in the chapel at Oscott. This meant an awful lot to me. Countless holy men and women have graced that chapel and countless prayers and celebrations of the Mass have sanctified the place. Truly, to sit in the chapel, one just knows that it is a holy place. Yes, of course when the blessed Sacrament is reserved it is clearly a holy place, yes it has been consecrated as a chapel but beyond this there is the trace of the supernatural there. In it's literal sense of something beyond the natural world is present here. There is, if you like, a trace of all that has gone before, and with the Grace of God all that is yet to come. In this space there is the making of the saints and you can feel it rub against your skin as you sit and wonder at the place.

When I think of where St Paul was born, it is no wonder that people should want to worship there. There, too, is the place involved in the making of a saint. Last summer, in the Holy Land, I was lucky to visit the acknowledged site of the ascension of Our Lord. It is a tiny rock within a tiny shrine next to a mosque and owned and run by Muslims, as I recall. We were able to visit and yet I never, for a moment, thought how privileged I was to go there. It has nothing of the majesty of Holy Sepulchre or Church of the Nativity or countless other holy sites. It could so easily just be closed down and not open to access for anyone to offer up a prayer.

Maybe, this weekend, as I go up to Newcastle for an ordination, I will think how lucky I am to be able to freely go and celebrate with my friends. Perhaps I will give thanks to God that through his grace and abundance he has given us the example of both the guys to be ordained and the places where we are able to gather and celebrate. Most surely, I will give thanks for those who have gone before us and marked the way that we may follow.

Perhaps we can all take a moment and pray for those outstanding examples of Christians within Muslim countries who relentlessly pray for the simple pleasures which we take for granted and maybe in our prayer we will ask God to intervene in the mess which humanity has created in the holy land. Lord, in your mercy...

21 July 2009

Canon Frank Grady RIP

Today was the funeral, at St Gregory's in Longton, Stoke on Trent, of Canon Frank Grady and I had the honour of being able to be there. It was my first clergy funeral Mass as a priest and it was really good just to be someone in the background - if that is ever possible. When you have time, please do say a prayer for his soul.

One of the issues of leaving seminary, it seems to me, is that you can go from being a large fish in a small pond to a small fish in a large pond. Certainly the Archdiocese, though not the largest, is a large diocese and it is possible as a priest to melt into the background. I know from other priests that this transition has been a difficult time for them. For me, I suspect, it will be less of a problem since I am not really one to seek the limelight nor do I enjoy being the centre of attention. Do not misunderstand me: there's nothing finer than to spend a while talking about my favourite subject - me - but generally I do prefer to fade into the wallpaper, the unsung hero. So, today, it was good to just be there and not to worry about making sure everything was just so.

There have been fewer posts of late, and this will continue for the next three weeks or so as I enjoy my holidays before heading to Coventry to take up my post as Assistant Priest at Christ the King Parish with Canon Tom Farrell. Do please pray for the people of Coventry.

19 July 2009

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, Homily

Let me start by saying Thank You. To Fr Peter for allowing me to celebrate Mass here today, especially on his own anniversary of ordination, to you for being here in such numbers and for all the prayers, cards, gifts and well wishes not just for my ordination but over the seven years of my formation. This is not the end, of course, but rather the beginning. Someone very wise once said that when you leave seminary, then you learn how to be a priest – so I look forward to your guidance and support over the years to come, that I may be the priest you need.
Our first reading gives me ample warning of what can go wrong when you don’t listen to the constructive criticism offered. Woe to those shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock, says the Lord. This, in essence, is the call of the priest: to lead and unite the people of God. Often, I have pondered on what it is to be a priest. Why is the priest different? The Second Vatican Council fathers taught us that we are all sharers in the royal priesthood of Christ and so why, therefore, do we need to have an ordained priesthood? Why is it necessary that God should chose, from amongst us, men to serve as priest?
This question is one we all ask ourselves from time to time, I hope, and now is the suitable time, in this year of the priesthood, to ask this insightful question. When we reflect on the priest, we reflect on ourselves. Before we can know what a priest is, we need to ask, what the priesthood of Christ is all about. Why is He a priest for us? Then we ask in what way do I share in that priesthood? How am I a priest for others?
Well, the Lord says, through the prophet Jeremiah, he will gather the people together into one land and then they will multiply. In other words, Jesus came to call the people to the Father. We, in our own way, share in this mission of Jesus to call people to God. We can do this best by simply leading good Christian lives. The clue is in the name – Christian: a follower of Christ. A good motto, taken from the American Congregationalist, Charles Sheldon, is: What Would Jesus Do? It is a form of imitatio Dei, an imitation of God, in whose image we are all created. In his novel, Sheldon puts the following words into the mouth of a homeless man, who in turn is challenging the priest:
“But what would Jesus do? Is that what you mean by following His steps? It seems to me sometimes as if the people in the big churches had good clothes and nice houses to live in, and money to spend for luxuries, and could go away on summer vacations and all that, while the people outside the churches, thousands of them, I mean, die in tenements, and walk the streets for jobs, and never have a piano or a picture in the house, and grow up in misery and drunkenness and sin.”
By just asking the simple question, what would Jesus do, we answer, for ourselves, what we need to do in order to be the person we want to be; the person we were created to be and to follow the call of Him who calls us out of darkness. When we do what Jesus does then we can rest, as Mark tells us in today’s Gospel, because the people will come, they will follow and they will be drawn. How often, when you look at people who you admire, do you want a little of what they have. You want what they have, not because of envy, but because you believe it will make you a little like them. If you want to be like Christ and to minister to his people, then you need a little of what he has and that, my friends, is utter reliance upon his Father, such that it is all He wants to do.
Like Nelson Mandella, whose 91st birthday we celebrate this weekend, we can join him in Mandella Day by acts of kindness: visiting the sick, feeding the homeless, reading to the blind, even helping someone to cross the road – these are all acts of charity which teaches our faith. More than this – they are the way to build our community, to become one in the Spirit. Most especially we can teach our faith by sharing it. Any gift, and faith is most certainly a gift, is truly alive when it is shared with others. Truly the joy of receiving is in giving to others. Are you a person who prefers to receive or to give?
So, when I ask; what is a priest, I can see the answer lies in knowing Christ in a particular way, and in asking the question, what would Jesus do. More than this, the priest is the one who says: the Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want. There is nothing beyond the love of Christ which I desire and because He loves me, I want you to know how much He loves you, too. I want to share my gift of priesthood with you and, in so doing, to draw you to know that you, too, are a sharer in the priesthood of Christ. You have been called no less than I. I am, for you, a priest. You are, for me, the one who shows the way.
Again, I say, thank you. Thank you for showing me the way to the priesthood, and thank you for continuing to pray for me and with me, and finally, thank you for all that you do to show the love of Christ to those in most need.

14 July 2009

Ecce sacerdos...

Those, who are observant of these things, will notice some minor changes to this blog. Namely, the title and description. I am filled with joy on such a profound note that it is almost impossible to share with mere human words! On Sunday I was ordained to the priesthood and, therefore, there are need of some changes. I'm pretty shattered with it all, but will write more soon.......
Thank you for your kindness, your prayers, your cards, your gifts, your love and, most importantly, your faith. Px

10 July 2009

Belmont Abbey

I have to go grovelling on my knees in apology for any I may have offended with my last post!

What horror; what can this be; who could have made such a gaff, I hear you cry out.

Well, it appears I made a comment which may, in some quarters, have been taken in the vein other than it was meant. I said the community of Worth Abbey were "possibly the friendliest community of Benedictines in the country" and I stand by this statement wholeheartedly.

My dear, dear friends at Belmont may, perhaps, have succumbed to either the sin of pride or the sin of jealousy or indeed any number of those pesky deadly seven sins. I ought to clarify - Belmont is my second home and of course they ARE the friendliest of all monks and, therefore, I was only able to say of Worth that they are possibly the friendliest.

So, if you meet any monks of Belmont these coming days, do reassure them that I remain their greatest fan and never tire of bigging them up! Tell them they are wonderful and funny and warm and inviting and great. To whom else would I run when in need, but to Belmont. Tell them I love them!

So, humble apologies, and long may I be invited to the home of the Bastions of Bonhomie at Belmont!

6 July 2009

In the final days...

Well, it's good to be back, and eager to blog. So many people keep saying to me; "are you going to blog about this" which leads me to wonder do I blog too much? What do people expect me to blog about? Having been away from the computer for so long (I think it is maybe ten days) there is an awful lot of news to catch up on. In reality I have skim-read most of it and there is a huge pile of 'must go back and read in more detail...' which, of course, means I am rather unlikely to do so. Sometimes it is just good to know where the information is, just in case.

Worth Abbey - thank you to the wonderful monks of possibly the friendliest community of Benedictines in the country. The pre-presbyterate retreat was wonderful, prayerful, quiet, stimulating and, as for everyone I think, hot. Not as much walking done as I would have liked - but every moment a treasure.

Congratulations to my friend, and sometime-partner-in-crime, and now Father Paul Leonard. Paul was ordained on Saturday by Bishop Crispian Hollis and has been appointed to St Edmund's in Southampton. It was a privilege to Deacon the Mass of ordination and possibly my own last major engagement this side of the priesthood too. What a great way to end my diaconal year. Thanks, Paul, for allowing me to serve!


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