Monday, 26 May 2014


Around this time of year parishes are preparing for the Sacrament of Confirmation.  The children from our primary schools have been preparing since last September for the celebration of this this Sacrament. 
Our first celebration took place at St Joseph's Church and even though the church building was not at its best due to the renovation works we still had a very enjoyable celebration.
Please keep the children in your prayers as they now prepare to make their First Holy Communion next month.


With the building work going on in both churches it has been difficult for us to have the traditional Crowning of Our Lady and the procession of flowers. 
However we did not want to let Our Lady's Month pass without some recognition of Our Lady.  Her statue was taken down from the altar and decorated with flowers.
At the beginning of Mass on the First Sunday of May the Parish Priest crowned the statue in a simple, yet moving ceremony whilst the traditional hymn 'Bring flowers of the Rarest' was sung with gusto.
O Mary we crown Thee with blossoms today
Queen of the Angels and Queen of the May.
After the lovely Crowning Ceremony on the Sunday it was back to work for the electricians on the Monday and Our Lady was enveloped in scaffolding!!!
 Over at St Joseph's we could not use the statue of Our Lady from the altar as it was blocked in by the scaffolding.  A temporary Lady Altar was erected for the crowning ceremony.  Unfortunately there were no pictures taken on that occasion. 


Scaffolding Tower at St Marie's
The building and renovation works continue in both churches.  At St Marie's the work is not as disruptive as it is at St Joseph's.  The electricians continue to work on the re-wiring of the church.  They can, thankfully for the most part work from a scaffold tower that is moved around the church as needed.
Over at St Joseph's the work is more disruptive and messy.  Scaffolding was first erected in the side chapels so that work on the roof could begin.  Unfortunately when parts of the roof were exposed the problem was bigger than first thought and scaffolding had to be erected over the main sanctuary area

The main altar with scaffolding
 Even with the building work going on the life of the parish has to continue as best we can under the circumstances.  For baptisms a temporary font has be arranged outside the sanctuary area.  It is still possible to celebrate Mass at the High Altar but you have to be careful in swinging the thurible around the scaffolding poles.

The improvised font for baptisms

Maybe the time has come to invest in a different style of biretta!!!

Thursday, 15 May 2014


All of us (whether clergy or laity) are bound to foster vocations to the priesthood and the religious life.  The Fourth Sunday of Eastertide is a day set apart for the Universal Church to pray for an increase in vocations.

Here is the written version of a homily that I delivered viva voce on Vocations Sunday.
My dear people today is the Fourth Sunday of Eastertide.  Traditionally called Good Shepherd Sunday.  And we can see why because of the references to the Good Lord being the Shepherd and we being the sheep of His flock.  Today the Lord refers to Himself as the gate of the sheepfold. 
Today is also a day traditionally set apart by the Church to pray for an increase in vocations to the priesthood and the religious life.   At this point most of you will probably switch off - thinking that 'he's not talking about me. I haven't got a vocation.'
The danger is that when the word vocation is mentioned we automatically think of the priests and nuns.  I supposed as Catholics we are conditioned to think that way.  But let us look at the word vocation in a wider context.
Each and everyone of us has a vocation.  The seeds of this vocation were planted when the priest poured water and said 'I baptised you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.'  This was the beginnings of our vocations.
Years later we were strengthened by the Sacrament of Confirmation - to be witnesses - soldiers of Christ in this world. 
Some of you here present will have received the Sacrament of Matrimony - so that you can mirrored the love of Christ for His Church in the fruitful married life.
These are all means given to us by Christ and our Holy Mother the Church so that we can preach the Gospel.  All of us are bound to do this not just those who are ordained.  It is the responsibility of EVERY BAPTISED CATHOLIC to preach Christ.  Please don't leave that task to those of us who ordained.  If you do that it is doomed to fail.
It is also true that from the laity the Lord calls folk to serve Him as priests and religious.  Today is a day when we are called to pray for an increase in vocations to the priesthood and religious life.  Given the statistics can I suggest you stop praying!!! 
I arrived at St Marie's in the November of 2008.   Before that Father Lawton has faithfully served the parish for twenty or more years.  Sadly he had to retire due to ill health and he was replaced by Father Paul Carr.  Father Carr was here for about two years before being appointed to an new apostolate in the diocese.  Then I came.
In the May of 2009 as well as retaining St Marie's  I replaced Father Morrow who began his well deserved retirement having served as PP of St Joseph's for twenty five years.   
Let us also remember that the former parish of St Bede was amalgamated into St Joseph's parish.  This parish too was once served by its own PP.
In days gone all of these parishes would have been served by a Parish Priest and at least one curate. And now there is only me to try and fulfil the role undertaken by man priests in the past. 
So please stop praying for vocations!!!  Either the Lord is not answering our prayers or the we need to try a different ways.
I am convinced that there are young men out there who would answer a call to the priesthood and the religious life, if only they were asked.  We have to be bold in asking them.
Why is there a decline in vocations?  There are many factors that contribute to this. People often say that the priesthood is a lonely, hard life.  Yes I have to be honest that sometimes it is. 
The media do not always help u with their negative portrayal of the priesthood. We have to rise above some of the crap that is put on the Catholic Priesthood by the media.   yes it is truly that sadly there are some 'bad apples' in the priesthood v- but let us never forget that THERE ARE BAD APPLES IN EVERY PROFESSION.  Why should the Church be immune when She is made up of frail human beings like ourselves?  
[Addressed to the altar servers]
Lads, do think about the priesthood and the religious life.  Ask yourself if God is asking this of you.  Please do not leave it till I am too old and past it to say Mass, visit the sick and get out of bed in the early hours of the morning to tend to the dying.  Think NOW and ask yourself if God is calling you to the priesthood. 
My dear people pray for the young lads in front of me today.  Pray that the Lord will bless them and open their hearts to the possibility that He is calling them to be priests.
Pay that they will listen to the voice of Good Shepherd who is calling them to this wonderful way of life.


The work at St Joseph's is going on a pace.  The builders have been hard at it this past week and half.  There have been a few minor interruptions along the way but it will be worth it in the end. 
My constant 'response to the psalm' is IT WILL BE NICE WHEN IT'S FINISHED!!!
Plaster knocked off near the roof at the High Altar

Repairs due to ingress of water
over many years around the windows

The organ has been protected with plastic sheeting

The life of the parish has to continue
so an improvised font for baptisms had to be arranged

More plaster hacked off by the choir loft


Whilst I was away at Belmont Abbey (see previous post) work began on St Joseph's Church. 
As I came to look at the church on my return I was reminded of Sir John Betjeman's poem about church restoration.
The Church's Restoration
In eighteen-eighty-three
Has left for contemplation
Not what there used to be.
How well the ancient woodwork
Looks round the Rect'ry hall,
Memorial of the good work
Of him who plann'd it all.
He who took down the pew-ends
And sold them anywhere
But kindly spared a few ends
Work'd up into a chair.
O worthy persecution
Of dust! O hue divine!
O cheerful substitution,
Thou varnish'd pitch-pine!
Church furnishing! Church furnishing!
Sing art and crafty praise!
He gave the brass for burnishing
He gave the thick red baize,
He gave the new addition,
Pull'd down the dull old aisle,
To pave the sweet transition
He gave th' encaustic tile.
Of marble brown and vein'd
He did the pulpit make;
He order'd windows stain'd
Light red and crimson lake.
Sing on, with hymns uproarious,
Ye humble and aloof,
Look up! and oh how glorious
He has restored the roof!


It is often thought that once a seminarian has finished his training and been ordained that there is nothing further for him to study or learn.  This is a ridiculous attitude to have as we learn things throughout our lives - even when the formal training is over.
In every profession there is need for on going formation and professional development and the priesthood is no exception. 
With this in mind during Low Week I went to Belmont Abbey near Hereford to teach at a Conference organised by the Latin Mass Society for priests who wish to learn how to celebrate Mass according to the Missal of now St John XXIII.  This is very commonly referred to as the Latin Mass or the Tridentine Mass. 
Over a period of four days we had the opportunity to look closely at the celebration of the Mass and to re-examine what Pope Benedict often referred to as the ars celebrandi - the way that we celebrate Mass so as to lead the people in prayer.
Here are a few photos taken by Joseph Shaw - the Chairman of the LMS.  One of them shows me as celebrant of the opening Solemn High Mass of the Conference which I was able to offer for John and Agnes Lee - two of my parishioners who were celebrating their Diamond Wedding that day.
Not only do these conferences provide an opportunity to learn about the celebration of Mass they provided an opportunity for priests to come together and share a time of fraternity and fellowship together.  This is so important as the vast majority of us live alone.

Belmont Abbey

Celebrating the Solemn High Mass