The decorations are down, the bare Christmas trees have been sent to the tip, and there are no more flashing fairy lights outside houses to brighten up my early morning walks. It’s mid-January, it’s already the third week back at work, and it’s not always easy in these dark days to find motivation and meaning. And it’s no wonder that many people take now to booking their summer holidays, with the lure of long sunny days ‘away from it all’. Continue Reading
St Mildred’s Church in Canterbury was packed full for a celebration of the life of a great friend of mine, Denise Rigden. And in honour of a woman who almost every day wore party dresses, fancy shoes and a flower in her hair, the invitation had been for us to dress as if coming to a wedding. Continue Reading
My wife and I were staying with friends in Liverpool and Paul was telling us about his voluntary work as Chair of the St Bart’s & Friends Community Sponsorship Scheme, by which careful preparations are made for the welcome of a Syrian refugee family into a parish. Paul mentioned the excellent input the group had received from Sean Ryan of Caritas Salford who is the national lead for the scheme. “Sean the musician?” I asked. It was indeed the same Sean that I had been in Rome with a few weeks ago for the Caritas Leadership Week and with whom I’d enjoyed a couple of great sessions of music. Continue Reading
Mass with the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference in the magnificent St Patrick’s Chapel at Maynooth was the start of a 5 night trip that would take me across Ireland, up a holy mountain, and finishing with a fundraising walk with two Gaelic footballers and a bishop, among others. Continue Reading
I get the chance through my work to meet a lot of great people, in some interesting places (from prisons to palaces), and the Caritas Leadership Week near Rome did not disappoint. We were a group of fifty, representing a range of Catholic charities and dioceses in England and Wales, staying at Villa Palazzola, a 13th century Cistercian monastery perched above a volcanic lake, Lago di Albano, and according to the website ‘Rome’s best kept secret’. Continue Reading
I was in Dublin for the World Meeting of Families, attended by Pope Francis, and was very touched by the whole occasion. The positive and joyful atmosphere around the various events was a welcome tonic and a sign of hope for a Church which, especially in Ireland, has taken a bit of a bashing in recent times. Continue Reading
Which is most beautiful: the Connemara coast or Cardigan Bay? I was discussing this with Chris, a Traveller from Galway, as we stood on the seafront at Barmouth. It’s the little seaside town in North Wales where I spend a week every August, staying in the same place with the same group of people.
Maimie, who is 87 and one of our Seniors, was convinced there was a bishop coming to visit her, and as each of her guests came into her flat and turned out not to be a bishop she seemed to grow more and more disappointed. First in were Paul the Seniors’ Project manager and Joe, one of our wonderful volunteers. They were followed by two special visitors from Ireland: Alan Brogan, former Dublin Gaelic footballer, and Harry Casey who works closely with the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference (which is where she must have got the notion that there was a bishop flying over to see her). As I trooped in last, Maimie asked be, almost in desperation “are you the bishop?”
“It’s true; Irish people are everywhere!” So said to me Quitterie, a Frenchwoman (with an Irish mother), as we made our way out of mass at La Grande Chartreuse in the South East of France. I had just explained to Quitterie (who is named after a popular saint in the South West of France where she grew up, and who has a brother called Patrick!) that the Carthusian monk of 30 years who had said the mass in that incredible monastery nestling in the Alps had been born in Dublin.