31 December 2009

Happy New Year

I'm currently taking some holiday, but hope to return to blogging sometime soon. Please God, you will have a wonderful 2010 and who knows, you may even get to meet the Pope!

30 December 2009

On the sixth day...

On the sixth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

Carols.org.uk explains the religious significance of the twelve gifts given over the Christmas period: a catechesis for children, which I note the excellent blog godzdogz have invited readers to work out. I'm afraid I'm rather lazy and simply googled it - thus eliminating myself from the contest. Anyway, the answers, according to carols.org are:

1 True Love refers to God
2 Turtle Doves refers to the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens refers to Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds refers to the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings refers to the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying refers to the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming refers to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking refers to the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing refers to the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping refers to the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping refers to the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming refers to the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

29 December 2009

St Thomas Becket

Hereafter, I want you to tell me, candidly and in secret, what people are saying about me. And if you see anything in me that you regard as a fault, feel free to tell me in private. For from now on people will talk about me, but not to me. It is dangerous for men in power if no one dares to tell them when they go wrong.

Let us pray.

Almighty God, you granted the martyr Thomas the grace to give his life for the cause of justice. By his prayers make us willing to renounce for Christ our life in this world so that we may find it in heaven.

28 December 2009

Happy Birthday, Dame Maggie Smith!

Happy Birthday to Dame Maggie Smith and the following 47 'celebs' who were born on 28 December. Listen out for the line where Miss Brodie tells her girls what comes first in life (it's not safety, at 3:54). Stunning. Inspiring. Wonderful acting. It's only a wonder it took so long for her to be recognised as one of our truly great actors!

  1. Alexander Young. December 28, 1938. He was a Scottish guitarist and musician. August 4, 1997-†
  2. Al Klink. December 28, 1915. He was an American jazz tenor saxophonist. March, 7, 1991-†

  3. Anita Doth. December 28, 1971. Dutch singer-Group, 2 Unlimited.

  4. Ashley "Mr Fat" Titus. December 28, 1970. He was a South African rapper, musician and TV presenter. November 28, 2007-†

  5. Alex Chilton. December 28, 1950. American songwriter, guitarist, singer and producer-Bands, the Box Tops and Big Star.

  6. Alex Dimitriades. December 28, 1973. Australian actor.

  7. Bernard Youens. December 28, 1914. He was a British actor. August 27 1984
  8. Billy Mackel. December 28, 1912. He was an American jazz guitarist. May 5, 1986-†

  9. Carol Gracias. December 28, 1978. Indian model.

  10. Charles Neville. December 28, 1938. African-American musician-The Neville Brothers.

  11. Celia Bressack. December 28, 1956. American actress.

  12. Chas Hodges. December 28, 1943. English musician, singer and guitarist-Music duo, Chas & Dave.

  13. Chad McQueen. December 28, 1960. American actor, film producer & race car driver.

  14. Charles Maxwell. December 28, 1913. He was an American actor. August 7, 1993-†

  15. Dorsey Burnette. December 28, 1932. He was an American Rockabilly singer--Group, The Rock and Roll Trio. August 19, 1979-†

  16. Dick Diamonde. December 28, 1947. Dutch musician and bassist-Rock n roll band, The Easybeats.

  17. Dick Sudhalter. December 28, 1938. He was an American jazz musician and trumpet player. September 19, 2008-†

  18. Dan Trimble. December 28, 1978. American actor.

  19. Duilio Coletti. December 28, 1906. He was an Italian film director. May 22, 1999-†

  20. Elaine Hendrix. December 28, 1970. American actress, producer, singer and dancer.
  21. Gayle King. December 28, 1954. Magazine editor.
  22. Henry Rowland. December 28, 1913. He was an American actor. April 26, 1984-†

  23. Harisree Ashokan. December 28, 1963. Indian actor.
  24. Hildegard Knef. December 28, 1925. She was a German actress, singer and writer. February 1, 2002-†

  25. Ian Buruma. December 28, 1951. Anglo-Dutch writer and academic.

  26. James Blake. December 28, 1979. American tennis player.

  27. J Mack Slaughter, Jr. December 28, 1983. American actor and singer.
  28. Joe Diffie. December 28, 1958. American country music singer-songwriter.

  29. Keith Floyd. December 28, 1943. He was a British chef and TV host & personality. September 14, 2009-†
  30. Lee Bowman. December 28, 1914. He was an American actor. December 25, 1979-†

  31. Lonnie Liston Smith. December 28, 1940. American jazz, soul, and funk musician.

  32. Lou Jacobi. December 28, 1913. He was a Canadian actor. October 23, 2009-†

  33. Moe Koffman. December 28, 1928. Canadian jazz musician and composer. March 28, 2001-†

  34. Marty Roe. December 28, 1960. American musician-Country music band, Diamond Rio.
  35. Michel Petrucciani. December 28, 1962. He was a French jazz pianist. January 6, 1999-†

  36. Malcolm Gets. December 28, 1963. American actor. Richard-TV, Caroline in the City.

  37. Maris Wrixon. December 28, 1916. She was an American actress. October 6, 1999-†

  38. Martin Milner. December 28 1931. American actor-Adam-12 and Route 66.

  39. Nigel Kennedy. December 28, 1956. English violinist.

  40. Oscar Andriani. December 28, 1905. He was an Italian actor. July 17, 1987-†

  41. Phil King. December 28, 1967. English former football player.
  42. Richard Clayderman. December 28, 1953. French pianist.

  43. Richard Whiteley, OBE. December 28, 1943. He was an English TV presenter and journalist-TV game show 'Countdown'. June 26, 2005-†

  44. Sajid Khan. December 28, 1951. Indian actor.
  45. Sam Levenson. December 28, 1911. He was an American writer, TV host & journalist. August 27, 1980-†
  46. Sven-Olof Sandberg. December, 28, 1905. He was a Swedish singer and songwriter. August 20, 1974-†

  47. Terri Garber. December 28, 1960. American actress.

27 December 2009

Feast of the Holy Family

Holy Family, Year C

“Coventry dad delivers baby in bath thanks to TV help”: this is the headline in the Coventry Telegraph today. On this Feast of the Holy Family, whilst it is true to say the Telegraph isn’t always the best advocate for the Catholic Church, this story speaks volumes about our belief in what it means to believe in God.

It is the story of the birth of Baby Beatrix Spencer. Her parents, Victoria and Gregg, went to the hospital during labour but were told to return home and run a relaxing bath; Beatrix would be hours before she arrived. The medical experts were wrong! Beatrix was born in the bath less than two hours later and was delivered by Gregg thanks to having seen it on the TV and having memories of the birth of his son, little Louix, two years ago.

Isn’t it true that we know, deep down, that a true family comprises mum, dad and children, preferably lots of children, since they are blessings from God. Yet at the same time, how few of us find ourselves living the ideal? We are surrounded by so many variations on a theme of family that we can easily lose sight of what it means to be a family. Or we even start to change our view on what a family should be. We say things like: so long as there is love in the home, that is what matters. Well, it’s not the full picture, but it is a helpful start.

In recognising that we need love we are crying out to mimic God who is love. All we ever want is to be loved and this is never more so than when we think of our parents and how much we desire to be loved by them. Please God many of us know the love of our parents all our lives, but when it goes wrong the effect can be devastating. This is why St John encourages us in his first letter to “think of the love that the Father has lavished on us, by letting us be called God’s children; and that is what we are.”

The model for how we live our lives is not our own experience but the love of God for each of his children, his love for us. St John continues by telling us to keep God’s commandments: “that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and that we love one another as he told us to.” This is exactly the truth of our two families, whom we meet in the scriptures today: Hannah and Elkanah; Mary and Joseph. They keep their faith, love one another and God bestows greatness upon them. He gives them children. Samuel who will play such a crucial role in the history of salvation: Jesus who is the summit and source of that salvation.

Coming to Mass is one way in which we clearly show our belief in the name of Jesus, though I know we all doubt from time to time. “Of all human activities, man's listening to God is the supreme act of his reasoning and will.” said Pope Paul VI. We show our belief most especially through our witness. Few can witness more to the love of God than those who have made the commitment of Marriage and, to this end; we are inviting all married couples to renew their wedding vows today. During the Rite of Marriage, everyone present is asked to stand during the vows and, in this way, become witness to God’s love made manifest in the love between a man and woman. St John of the Cross affirms, "The smallest movement of pure love is worth more to the Church than all works put together."

Baby Beatrix Spencer’s mother, Victoria, had wanted to deliver her second child at home but because of very serious complications during the birth of her son, Louix, this option had been firmly ruled out. Any yet, through whatever circumstance, her prayer was answered and Beatrix was born at home, safe and, no doubt, very lovingly into the arms of her father, Gregg. The Lord works in the most mysterious of ways. May God bless the Spencer family, and all families, at this most wonderful celebration of the Feast of the Holy Family.

26 December 2009

Altar Servers

Please pray for several of our Altar Servers who will, today, be enrolled into the Guild of St Stephen. Two will be presented with silver medals for long service! During the enrollment the priest will say:

The worship of the Church is centred on the celebration of the Mass, but also includes other services of prayer and the administration of the Sacraments.

The Ministers, who are ordained for this, are the Bishop, the Priest and the Deacon. But, from the earliest times, the Church has called other Christians to assist at these services, principally to assist the ordained ministers, but also to be at the service of the entire Christian Community. To be called to assist the Church in this manner is a privileged function and should be carried out to the best of one’s ability.

You must always try to serve in such a way as to help all present in the church to pray. Remember, always, the three promises that you are about to make:

• to serve regularly, at the times when you are asked
• to serve with care and reverence
• and, above all, to serve with understanding

A good server is the one who not only knows what to do, but also understands why it is being done.

Try to learn more about the worship of the Church, in which you are being called to participate in a privileged way.

I offer myself to God Almighty to Blessed Mary, our Mother and to our Holy Patron, St Stephen and I promise to do my best to serve regularly with reverence and understanding for the glory of God the service of his Church and my own eternal salvation.

25 December 2009


Christmas Mass During the Day Year C

Loving God, Help us remember the birth of Jesus,
that we may share in the song of the angels,
the gladness of the shepherds,
and worship of the wise men.

Close the door of hate
and open the door of love all over the world.
Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting.
Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings,
and teach us to be merry with clear hearts.

May the Christmas morning make us happy to be thy children,
and Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts,
forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus' sake.


This prayer, written by Robert Louis Stevenson, brings home to us that in the celebration of Christmas we share in the song of the angels. You may be familiar with the expression or idea of the hierarchy of being. This notion places all ‘beings’ in an order or hierarchy from the highest, clearly God, to the lowest, inanimate matter like rocks. This scholastic order has been around for centuries as a way of understanding where we fit into the whole spectrum of creation. Above us, in the hierarchy, are the angels. They are pure spirit, no matter at all, and yet in the letter to the Hebrews we read that God, no less, says: “let all the angels of God worship him”, because he is “far above the angels.”

So what gives us the right to even expect that we may share in the song of the angels? The answer lies in the gospel we just listened to. The beginning of the Gospel according to John makes very clear to his readers exactly who Christ is: “in the beginning was the Word.” John was the last of the evangelists to write. Mark began his story of Jesus with John the Baptist. By his genealogy, Matthew began the story of Jesus with Abraham, and Luke began it with Adam. John went back to where the bible began, “in the beginning”. Even then, the Word was. It had no beginning.

And yet, the Word became flesh. In other words, God became man. He lowered himself from the very top of the hierarchy of beings to become just like you and I. He knew firsthand what it was to experience life as we do. He didn’t stop there, of course. He also experience death in order to bring about our salvation, he delivered us from evil. He closed the door of hate and opened for us the door of love all over the world, and he did this in one simple yet profound way. He forgave our sins!

To quote from the song: “I believe forgiveness is the key to your own happiness”. Listen again to the prayer from Robert Louis Stephenson: May the Christmas morning make us happy to be thy children, and Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven. In our opening prayer, we prayed “your Son shared our weakness: may we share his glory.” If we want to share his glory then we have to live as he would have us live and what he spent most of his time on earth doing was forgiving sins! How many times does Jesus say: your sins are forgiven, go in peace?

Close your eyes. Humour me, close your eyes! Now think of someone you hate. If you are struggling to think of someone you hate, think of someone who irritates you, someone who annoys you. Now imagine a life where you have forgiven that person, a world in which love abounds, a time where Christ reigns in your heart. What you are witnessing is nothing less than “the Lord baring his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” It really is that simple. If you can forgive, unconditionally, one person this Christmas, then you have allowed our God to reign, and what is more, you have brought meaning to the incarnation of God before us this very day!

If you chose not to forgive: well, close your eyes and think again!

24 December 2009


Midnight Mass Year C

As a newly ordained priest, well new in so much as it’s less than six months; it can seem that there is much pressure to preach well. Many good Catholics will come to Mass only at Christmas, or perhaps Easter if you’re lucky, so you have to make it count! Or so people say. This is the wrong approach. No matter my skill at preaching; it just doesn’t cut the mustard compared to the coming of the Son of Man as He does this night. And because He enters into the mess of humanity it requires not some great thoughts or pearls of wisdom but outstanding deeds! What Jesus asks of us is that we live good lives. Mahatma Ghandi said, “An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.”

St Paul tells Titus “what we have to do is to give up everything that does not lead to God.” But why must we give up anything? Why do we have to live our lives in a certain way? What’s wrong with how I’m living my life now? I’ll tell you why, because “today a saviour has been born to us; he is Christ the Lord.” The reason we have to change isn’t because of what happened in the past, nor indeed because of what is happening now or what may or may not happen in the future. It is not because of what, but whom! And if you don’t get that simple lesson: well, I’ve rather failed!

Listen to the prophet Isaiah, “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone.” Are we walking in darkness, do we live in a land of deep shadow? Well, I don’t know. Let’s think about? There’s war ravaging the earth, nations fighting against nations, economic catastrophe, and environmental catastrophe. Hmm, not looking so bright, the earth, is it? What about people losing their jobs, the growth in crime, burglaries, muggings, gang culture, the prevalence of drugs, teenage pregnancies, prostitution and people trafficking? We even have people who should know better saying its okay for us to rob a supermarket if it’s to stop us from starving to death!

It seems to me that we are walking in darkness and there is, indeed, a deep shadow over the land. We need that light more than ever, we need its shining glory and yet we find ourselves denied even to speak out about our Faith. There is terrible pressure that what we experience here tonight is not to be shared in the market place, in the work place or even amongst our own families! I want to share with you a true story that happened here in Coventry:

It was Christmas Day in the children’s ward and I arrived, an Anglican volunteer lay chaplain expecting to find at least two longer term patients still there. I was greeted cheerfully by the ward sister, a Roman Catholic, whom I knew. “No, David, they’ve all gone home for Christmas” she said. “There’s only one boy, an emergency, and you won’t want to see him: he’s from a young offenders institute and has two guards.”

Luke was in a four bed side room with his foot heavily bandaged and propped up. “I caught it under a heavy door” he said. Two Asian men, informally dressed, were sitting on two of the spare beds. One was a fine looking Sikh with beard and turban; the other shorthaired. Both welcomed me warmly. The later saw the badge first. “Hey, look at that, a chaplain. Luke was just asking me where he could get a rosemary, you know, prayer beads!” “I want to wear it for good luck” said Luke. “They’re more than that” said I, “people of many religions use beads to help them to pray.” “Yes, we Muslims use them to count our prayers and make sure we don’t leave any out” the guard contributed. “I personally have never used a rosary but the Roman Catholic Christians do and I could try to get one for you” I said. “I know all about that” said the Sikh, “I went to a Roman Catholic School.” “Wow, what a multi faith meeting this is!”

“I’ve got one at home” said Luke. “But where Luke is living right now he hasn’t got one” chipped in his guard. At no time did either of Luke’s minders reveal he was an offender from a detention centre: they had an impressive concern for his welfare and dignity.

At this point the ward Sister came in to give Luke some medicine. “Sister, Luke has asked me for Rosary. Do you know how we could get one for him?” “I think I have one in my handbag; let me go and look.” She returned almost at once with a beautiful wooden rosary with a crucifix hanging from it. “Here you are, Luke.” “But Sister this is your own!” “I’ve got several at home. You’re welcome” and she bustled out with a warm, thoughtful smile. The Muslim said “that’s very special, Luke, you must treasure that Christmas present. We can hang it on the bed head here.” As a sort of lucky charm?” “Much more than that, Luke; as you hold it, try saying your prayers” said his Muslim guard.

This beautiful story, written for me in a Christmas Card, highlights to truth of our Faith: it’s not perfect; it is sometimes confused but at all times it is for sharing!


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