Monday, 11 December 2017

The Nativity Scene

The Nativity Scene

Part of our Christmas celebrations (and preparation for them) can come from having Nativity Scenes in our homes. Indeed, we will have one in Church. They are depictions of the moment of Our Lord’s birth in a way that we can see and touch. They come in many shapes and sizes. I have a few of them, but I think my favourite is one that my mother knitted. Don’t ask her to make you one, she has sworn that it is the only one that will ever come off her knitting needles!

St Francis of Assisi invented the crib scene in 1223 to help people to experience the birth of Christ in a more tangible way. He had been to the Holy Land and had seen the place of Our Saviour’s birth, and was so moved that he wanted the people back at home in Italy to experience something that had touched him so deeply. So in a cave near Greccio, St Francis staged the first nativity scene. This first one involved human beings and live animals (so the did the original one as well!), but soon the people and animal were replaced by statues and pictures. The point of it, however, was always the same - to help devotion to the Christ-child, and to focus our minds at Christmas. This is needed in every age, as we can always get caught up in the material celebration of the season and forget the heart of it.

I hope you have a nativity scene in your homes. If not then you might think about getting one this year. You can hunt one down for just a few pounds. The point is not that they are expensive extravaganzas, but that they help your spiritual life. And try to make sure that the baby Jesus is not there until Christmas day (or if He is, then cover Him up - He won’t mind, I promise). And your cribs can be wonderfully personal. Mine includes an elephant (long, long story) and a robin. If you have family around you (especially little ones) then make the crib something special that they are involved in, perhaps with short prayers, or they could add their own animals. And if you are alone, then remember that you are not really. Because there in your hearth or on your sideboard, you have angels poised to sing the glory of God, and Shepherds, and St Joseph, and Our Lady. You have animals, and the whole world of God’s love for you. Because this is the true message of Christmas. God became man that we might know His unending love.


This first appeared on the back of the bulletin of St Mary of Glastonbury and St Michael Shepton Mallet

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Christmas Mass Times

Why the UK Parliament is simply wonderful

Browsing Youtube last night, looking for kittens playing the piano, or the like, I came across the clip above. Actually it is not really a clip, it is one and a half hours long.

I began by thinking "I'll watch a bit of that" and ended up watching it all. It is a fascinating dissection of the issues surrounding human rights, and although I have not followed the argument which they are talking about to any great extent, this debate is simply one of the best things I have seen in a long time.

Why? Well I think any undergraduate studying philosophy, or theology or politics should be forced to watch it and take notes. Rory Stewart's explanation of the discussion is masterly, and although I may not accept all of this conclusions, nevertheless you cannot fault his skill.

Also, they are not speaking with notes. They know this stuff, they are intelligent men who have this information at their finger tips. Love them or loath them, they are not playing to the crowd. They are able to put forward detailed arguments in a clear way, not reading someone else's hand out.

And they are doing it for the simple reason that it has to be said. This is not the cut and thrust of Prime Minister's Questions, the point of which seems to be to get a headline for that day... it doesn't really matter if is it right or not, just that it is snappy. The debate between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Rory Stewart may be many things, but it is not snappy. They are not doing it for the cameras (Jacob Rees-Mogg is almost horizontal!) and not for the crowds (Youtube has 35000 views, and, let's face it, the chamber is not exactly bulging), but because the issues deserve an in depth discussion.

So, I would prefer to trust these men rather than the men and women who will say just anything (especially when they know nothing) just for a cheap vote.

And this is why the UK Parliament is simply wonderful. Because this debate between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Rory Stewart took place in the House of Commons. This debate, at an hour and a half, and watched by few, is part of our governmental system.

Would that there were more of it.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Off to Medjugorje!

We can all go now. Link to the Catholic Herald here. We'll have to see exactly what that means about the messages, but that's for another day. I suspect that Mrs May sorted it all out, when she was on a roll with Brexit negotiations etc.

Mir, Mir, Mir!

A wonderful thing

It's been around for ages, but it is excellent. It might be a secular tune, but it is all done very respectfully.

Enjoy (as Americans say).

Thursday, 7 December 2017

It's all about the bees

I guess that it all must have begun when I was a school boy. Others went off on rugby club, I did orienteering. Others joined the CCF, I joined bridge club. I preferred fencing to basketball, and long distance running to the 100 yards.

All of this is of no consequence.

The importance of today is the connection with bees. You see, I was part of bee-keeping club at school. Now, don't judge me. Yes, my school had a bee keeping club. The link to my school is here. I do not know if they still have a bee-keeping club. I suspect not, not now that they have ditched the school song.

From this I have always had a great affection for bees. And one  of my ambitions in life is to have some bee-hives. I don't like honey, but I think you can give that away and everyone will be happy.

When I went to Chavagnes, I found it difficult to remember boys names, and there was this boy called Amboise. In French, as you know, Amboise is Ambrose, whose feast day it is today.

But how was I to remember his name??!

Well the key was that he had (and still has) a profusion of muddy blond hair atop his head. And, being a school boy, was seemingly allergic to the use of a comb. (Ah how I remember the days when I myself had to use a comb!).

So this mop of locks atop a chap called Amboise fixed in my mind, and all at once I could see bees coming from it, as if his hair were a bee hive!

Bee hive, extraordinary hair hive, St Ambrose... YES his name is Amboise!

So every year, on this day, St Ambrose's, I remember bees, and Amboise.

Happy bee-hair day.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Hap- hap- happy

St Nicholas day. This St Nicholas above is making sure that he has enough bags of gold to save those poor unfortunate girls. He is keeping then safe by wrapping them in special paper, and has a reindeer to protect them from nefarious types.

It is strange to think how St Nicholas became a fat man on the roof. I suspect Coca-cola and Henry VIII. The first because of the colours, and the latter because Henry was a fat man who stole the roofs of monasteries and convents and the like.

St Nicholas, of course, just wanted to help those in need - not push carbonated drinks or the destruction of Christianity (well, the type founded by Christ anyway).

So merry St Nicholas day.

May your drinks be sticky, and you kings fat.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Can I trust you? Can you trust me?

"One day all this will be mine. Trust me, I'm a weather forecaster."
"Britons ‘more likely to trust weather forecasters than priests’" 

Now there's an interesting thing. You can see the article here at the Catholic Herald.

My first thoughts were that this must be a result of the scandals which have beset the Church by Priests. And then I thought that it might be the result of people who no longer believe in God and so would not naturally think that a priest would be more likely to tell the truth than anyone else.

And then I though, "Would I trust what a Priest tells me?"

I've made the whole of America a rainbow flag
An odd thing for me to say, you might think, me being a Priest and all. But let me just run through a few things I've had to face since being a Priest. I hasten to add that these are not directed at my predecessor here in Glastonbury and Shepton, but are gathered from my experience of many people who have approached me.

Priests who have told people in irregular unions that they can receive Holy Communion. This is before Pope Francis I has done whatever it is that he has done (frankly I have no clear idea what he has done, all I know is that it is Parish Priests who will have to deal with the fall out - not Bishops, not Cardinals, not Popes). So those Priests have not told the people the truth.

Priests who have told people that their marriages are valid, even though they are not.

Priests who have 'married' couples in Church, again when it was impossible because they still had a spouse living (its called simulating a sacrament, Father, and you are excommunicated for it).

Priests who have told people that they do not need to become Catholics, and that its even better if they don't.

Priests who have said deliberately missing Mass in not a sin, or using contraception is not a sin, or that you don't have to believe in transubstantiation/hell/angels/judgement etc. etc.

Priests who have said that clerical celibacy is just a man made thing and that anyway the Church just imposed it in the eleventh century (a lie).

Priests who say that Jesus did not know what He was doing when He just chose men to be His disciples, and that we can ignore Him because He was just a first century Jew who didn't know better.

Priests who joyfully eat meat on Fridays and tell their people that the Friday rules of abstinence are not binding.

...oh believe me, I could go on and on and on.

Trust me, I'm a Priest
So, would I believe what a Priest says?

Hmmmm, I think I'll ask a weather forecaster what they think about it all.

Monday, 4 December 2017


The Altar of Our Lady St Mary of Glastonbury without a Frontal
I'm fond of a frontal, especially when they can express the change of the Church's seasons. So after a trip to an ecclesiastical emporium, and a few days with my trusty sewing machine (what Priest can be without one?) we have new frontals.

Sunday, 3 December 2017



Advent brings with it a new Marian Anthem, the Alma. Please read the translation below the chant. It is simply beautiful. I know that they take a bit of getting used to, and many of you may never have sung the Alma before, but it is worth it… believe me!

On 18th February 1013, a little boy was born in Altshausen in Swabia. His name was Hermann and, crippled from birth (we think now that it was probably a form of motor neuron disease), he could not walk or get about; even his speech was limited. He would be known as Hermannus Contractus, or Hermann the Lame. When he was seven, his parents (Count Wolverad II and Hiltrud) could no longer care for him, and so gave him into the care of the school at a Benedictine monastery on the island of Reichenau. In 1043 Hermann took his monastic vows at the Abbey and his intellect flourished. He was renowned in theology, astronomy, mathematic, Latin, Greek, Arabic, music, etc. He introduced the astrolabe (a kind of portable sundial) from Arabic Spain into Europe. He calculated the diameter of the earth, and the correct latitude of his monastery at Reichenau. He wrote works on multiplication and division (Durham Cathedral Library has a copy dating from the twelfth century), and he calculated the average length of the lunar month. In all of this his calculations were correct. On 21st September 1054, God took him to Himself, and Hermann von Reichenau died.

I tell you all this, because it was Hermann who wrote the Alma Redemptoris Mater. It makes a difference when you know something of the background to the chant that we will sing until  February 2nd. So as we offer this most wonderful hymn to Our Lady, instead of thinking “Gosh I wish Fr Bede wouldn’t do all this new Latin stuff, just as we were getting used to the Salve Regina”, think of Blessed Hermann, and ask for his prayers: that your devotion to the Mother of God may increase, and that all those with physical limitations may overcome them and sing the praises of God, just as Blessed Hermann did.

And as if that were not enough, Blessed Hermann also wrote the Salve Regina!



From the back of the bulletins of Our Lady St Mary of Glastonbury and St Michael Shepton Mallet

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