Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas and Beyond

Having got back from Ars just in time for Christmas Eve it has been understandably busy here in the parish. I'm glad to say the Christmas ceremonies went very well. As usual we had about twenty servers for Midnight Mass - all drilled to perfection! The Choir was great and the Church was packed - this year we had over 1,600 people at our Christmas ceremonies. On my return from France I found a package waiting from me from Malaga. It was a gift from some of the seminarians who had been here over the summer and included some 'Three Kings Incense' - the stuff they use in Seville. We used it for the first time at Midnight Mass and filled the Church with clouds of sweetly smelling smoke!
Boxing Day was spent preparing two things: the weekend and the Archbishop's visit on 27th December for the Feast of st John. This is traditionally a day on which the seminarians and those thinking of the priesthood gather with the Archbishop simply to relax in each others' company. After Mass we had a meal together followed by some light-hearted fun and an exchange of Christmas presents.
Sunday was quieter than usual not only because lots of parishioners are away but also because those who stayed in town took the opportunity fo the weekend to visit friends and relatives. That was just as well because I needed time to get things ready for the New Year Retreat which began last night. The first impression is that numbers are down a bit on previous years but that there are lots of new faces. We're expecting quite a lot of people to turn up today.

Some of you may have seen this video of a previous retreat but I'm posting it again just to give you a flavour of what the retreat (or "prayer festival") is like. Typically we found that the heating in the school had broken down yesterday but our excellent school-keeper soon got it sorted. More worryingly the eight of us staying in the presbytery got up this morning to find that the heating had also broken down in the presbytery and that, with a thick frost on the ground outside, a freezing shower was the only thing on offer at home. I've now fixed the boiler (I hope) and the house is beginning to warm up again.
Oops! Time to go - some ladies have turned up wanting to cook soup for three hundred in my kitchen???!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Yours, Mine and Ars

Just before Christmas we took a group of ten lads on pilgrimage to Ars. They were all respectable and responsible, prudent and pious. There's always an official version of events. So far we've not had time to put that one together...

And then, sometimes, there's an unofficial version... So here, courtesy of Eddie and "Lord of the Flies Productions", is the one the priests didn't get to edit before it appeared on Facebook!

PS lads
- and you think we'd take you to Rome!??! And risk you playing practical jokes on the Swiss Guard? Ma siete pazzi?

I Guess 'Otec' means 'Father'...

Judging by the number of notifications I'm receiving from Facebook lots of my fellow pilgrims have been uploading their photos (and even videos...) from the trip to Ars. I've not had time yet so we will keep you in suspense a little longer.
However, take a look at the picture above. It will get bigger if you double click it. I was sent it recently by a Slovakian seminarian who used to attend Southwark events while he was living in England. It's an article on vocations published in a Slovakian newspaper. As I say in the title, I guess 'Otec' means 'Father'!
I'm grateful to Erik for sending it to me. Do please remember him in your prayers.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Reversus ad Altarem

I've just gotten back from a wonderful pilgrimage to Ars with a group of ten young men considering a priestly vocation. There's no time to edit and post photographs tonight but I'm sure I'll get some ready before to long. We also have hours of video footage to get through - so watch out for something on YouTube before too log as well.
I must say I am relieved to be back - not at all because I didn't enjoy being away but because I was worried about not getting home in time for Christmas! Tomorrow morning, apart from the Mass, we have servers' practice and several hours' worth of confessions. Fortunately there were no air-traffic strikes to stop me getting back to the Altar!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Where I will be tomorrow...

Aficionados of Facebook may have seen an event entitled "Pilgrimage to Ars and Paray le Monial". Fr Julian Greene, Fr Richard Aladics and I are heading off to France tomorrow for another vocations group pilgrimage. I have to admit that when it was first suggested - way back in August - the prospect of being away from the parish just before christmas didn't seem too daunting. Now I'm not so sure! Be that as it may, tomorrow a group of thirteen of us will be catching an Easy Jet flight to Lyon and then taking three cars to the town where St Jean Marie Vianney was parish priest for so many years.
We will be staying at the international seminary. I am sure it will be good for the ten lads with us to meet the seminarians there. The plan is also to visit Paray le Monial. It will be my first visit to Ars and I am looking forward to it. Over the years I've occasionally had visitors from the seminary and l've always enjoyed their company. It will be good to see it for myself.
Please say a prayer for the pilgrims - and also that there are no delays when we fly back the day before Christmas Eve!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Save the Date

Please put the word out that I will be giving a retreat for young women thinking about a vocation to the Religious Life. It will take place at the Dominican Convent in the New Forest from the evening of Friday 13th until after lunch on Sunday 15th February.
The Retreat is for young women aged 16-30. It will cost £30.00.
For more information or to book a place (there are only 9 places available) send me an email at Southwark Vocations.

Monday, December 15, 2008

What can bring us happiness many say...

A young man left the Church very upset yesterday. Not annoyed. Just upset. The homily for Gaudete Sunday was about happiness and joy. In particular I preached about difference between the false joys promised by the world: the joy of a momentary gratification that leaves us alone and unfulfilled, and the joy of being loved and giving oneself in love. As befits the theme of Gaudete Sunday it was a hope-filled: the very experience of the Real Absence for many will give way to a longing for the Real Presence. That's what happened to that young man who just happened to have accompanied his girlfriend to Mass. He looked at his life and found everything he held important to be a lie. He had embraced what the world had promised and found it to be a rotting corpse that collapsed even as lay hold upon it. He came to realise that there must be something more to life. His problem, as he wept into his arms leaning against his flash car - would he be able to leave the past behind and begin again. Could he extricate himself from the world of shadows to walk along the path of light?
Who knows? Pray for him.

Omnia in Bonum

'For the man who loves God all things work together for the good' - so we read in the Scriptures. Here is the story of a young man whose diagnosis of cancer led him to deepen his relationship with God - and ultimately to the seminary....

Monday, December 08, 2008

Vocations Retreat for Women?

Yesterday Sr Jacinthe OP gave her third in a series of three talks on the Theology of the Body. I was only able to be there for the end of it but what I heard was excellent. Sr Jacinthe was talking to our young adults group which meets after the Sunday evening Mass.

Because it is a long way for her to get back to her Convent she stays overnight with our parish sister. We were able to have a quick chat this morning before getting a lift to the station and one of the things that came up was the possibility of holding a Vocations Retreat for women. I already do an annual retreat for men and I know it has helped a number of them discern their vocation. Something similar for women might also be helpful and I hope Sister might find an available weekend at her Convent in the New Forest. Another possibility might be to join the Benedictine nuns at Minster but I don't know anyone there.

However, there's no point organising anything unless there is going to be some take up. I would have thought we need a good dozen women to make it a viable proposition. Do any reader of this blog know of any takers?

Saturday, December 06, 2008

What's been happening?

Yesterday we had another meeting of the Quo Vadis Group at St Osmund's in Barnes. We were very much reduced in numbers because - as we all know - December is an impossibly busy month. Even so four young men, including a new member, is not bad at all. It also gave us a lot more time for questions and discussion which was really good. As usual Fr Dominic had prepared a great supper!

Today we had our 'Come Home for Christmas' service here in the parish. The idea was that the parishioners would invite non-Catholic or lapsed friends as well as any new neighbours. You never really know what to expect with this sort of event but it went really well. There were lots and lots of new people who really enjoyed the carols in the Church (who doesn't enjoy a good carol or two?!). Afterwards we had mulled wine and mince pies outside which meant that wewere able to linger, chat to new people and generally enjoy the break from the Advent rush. At the end we gave them all a poster for their windows to advertise Christ's birth. The 'Come Home for Christmas' service was the brainchild of a few parishioners last year who organised everything themselves. If you were asked to do something that would reach out to those who didn't ordinarily go to Church, what would you do?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


I've never met Fr Stan Fortuna but I'd like to. I've read some of his books and I've certainly heard some of his music - which of course isn't everyone's cup of tea. But it is reaching to a whole generation of unchurched youngsters and introducing them to Christ and the demands of the Gospel. That's what matters.

When I was at seminary we used to hear a lot about 'being pastoral' and 'using a language the people can relate to'. The trouble was that there wasn't enough said about being true to yourself - because you are the person Jesus called. Sometimes students would pretend they wanted to be 'right on' and 'hip' in an outdated sort of way. I've often thought of that since ordination because in my experience young people are much more comfortable when they witness authenticity in a priest than when they see them pretending to be something they're not. Now that's a consolation to someone like me!

So there's no point me trying to learn to rap in order to be more 'pastoral'. Thanks be to God. I'm quite happy to leave it to the experts. And that includes Fr Stan. He's not faking it. He's the real thing which is why he's so popular with young people. I don't suppose he'd be enormously at home with our polyphonic choir and I certainly would be able to do what he gets up to. God uses all our different talents in different ways.

But that's the great thing about a vocation. We're not all the same. There is no pro-forma. Some of us are pretty useless in the eyes of the world. And yet Jesus calls us and, if we are faithful, through us he continues to restore sight to the blind and make whole the withered limbs of our society.

Enjoy the video.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Could it be You?

Those of you familiar with the old adverts for the National Lottery might think the title of this post is something to do with either winning a fortune or a big finger coming out of the sky telling you to go off to seminary. Actually it's neither!

It's really an invitation for you to xroll down the side bar as far as the site meter counter. If you are visiting this blog on Tuesday 2nd December the chances are you will be our forty-thousandth visitor. Pretty impressive! Do leave a comment to say you were here. You don't need to leave your name, although it would be great if you did.

Ignore the second (lower) counter. For some reason the top one disappeared for a while and I added another. Then it reappeared just as suddenly. Now I can't tell which one to eliminate and I've probably forgotten the password anyway!