Archive for July, 2013

I love this Pope Francis more and more. He seems such a happy soul; his smile is genuine, his happiness is infectious and his ideas are very positive. Today during his first visit abroad in Brazil, he went to visit a slum area of Rio de Janeiro called Varginha. He simply went about walking among the people, though he also spent time in prayer with a very poor family in their tiny house; he was mobbed by the people who wanted to touch him and they pulled at his clothes; he also spoke to them in a way that touches the heart.

pope francis

“Dear Brothers and Sisters, 

It is wonderful to be here with you! From the start, my wish in planning this visit to Brazil was to be able to visit every district throughout the nation. I would have liked to knock on every door, to say “good morning”, to ask for a glass of cold water, to take a cafezinho, to speak as one would to family friends, to listen to each person pouring out his or her heart – parents, children, grandparents … But Brazil is so vast! It is impossible to knock on every door! So I chose to come here, to visit your community, which today stands for every district in Brazil. How wonderful it is to be welcomed with such love, generosity, and joy! One need only look at the way you have decorated the streets of the community; this is a further mark of affection, it comes from your heart, from the heart of all Brazilians in festive mood. Many thanks to each of you for this kind welcome! 

From the moment I first set foot on Brazilian soil, right up to this meeting here with you, I have been made to feel welcome. And it is important to be able to make people welcome; this is something even more beautiful than any kind of ornament or decoration. I say this because when we are generous in welcoming people and sharing something with them – some food, a place in our homes, our time – not only do we no longer remain poor: we are enriched. I am well aware that when someone needing food knocks at your door, you always find a way of sharing food; as the proverb says, one can always “add more water to the beans”! And you do so with love, demonstrating that true riches consist not in material things, but in the heart!”

For me, it is so refreshing to hear these ideas – and – moving away from Brazil to ourselves, we too have the poor and marginalized around us, those with low self-esteem, those who are ill, above all the lonely and also those who can hardly make ‘ends meet’. Our food bank in Leyland is increasingly busy!

It is the young people at the World Youth event that has brought Pope Francis to South America. The atmosphere among them is ‘electric’. The young people are enthusiastic, joyful, hopeful and in solidarity with one another, though they come from all over the world.

jesus statue

 Liverpool youth at the Statue of Christ Risen from the tomb at Rio de Janeiro

At the shrine of Our Lady of Brazil, Pope Francis called for Christians to be hopeful, open to being surprised by God, and to live in joy.

About hope he said:  “Always know in your heart that God is by your side; he never abandons you! Let us never lose hope! Let us never allow it to die in our hearts! The “dragon”, evil, is present in our history, but it does not have the upper hand. The one with the upper hand is God, and God is our hope!” 

About being surprised by God he added: “Anyone who is a man or a woman of hope – the great hope which faith gives us – knows that, even in the midst of difficulties, God acts and he surprises us.

Then about life in joy: “Christians are joyful, they are never gloomy. God is at our side. We have a Mother who always intercedes for the life of her children, for us….. Christians cannot be pessimists! They do not look like someone in constant mourning. If we are truly in love with Christ and if we sense how much he loves us, our heart will “light up” with a joy that spreads to everyone around us.” 

I have asked myself if I am hopeful, open to being surprised by God and living in joy. Yes! I think there are those gifts in me, to some extent. Are they there in you?

Father Jonathan

Do you ever ask yourself about the Holy Spirit, about who He is, what He does?  I always think that He is surrounded in mystery.  Not so very long ago we used to call him by the name of the Holy Ghost, and I suppose that title made Him even more mysterious – especially to children.  Perhaps, that is why the powers-that-be changed the name to Holy Spirit, the name we now most always use.  Myself, being that bit older, and having used the former name for many years, I can still hear myself saying ‘Holy Ghost’ in some of my prayers.  I don’t think it really matters; what matters is that the prayers get heart and soul behind them and they will then get through to Him – I have no doubts.


Blessed Sacrament Chapel – St. Mary’s Leyland

(Tapestry Identifying the Relationship(s) in the Blessed Trinity)

(Designed by Architect Jerzy Faczynski)

Now we think we know a lot about God the Father – we don’t actually – but we think we do.  We know that he was the Architect and Creator of the Universe – with everything it contains and has contained – then and now.  We know he created the lands, the skies and the seas, the animals that roam the earth, the birds that fly and the fish that swim in the waters.  We know he made us in his own image and likeness – to love him in this world and to be happy with him forever in the next.

The person of Jesus, the Son of God, is also familiar to us – perhaps, even more so than the Father – because at God’s bidding, he became a man like us, to bring redemption for the Original Sin of Adam and Eve, and for all the sins committed by our own mortal selves.  We know that without Jesus, we would have had no hope of a life of happiness after death.  And, in his short life on earth, Jesus taught us such an awful lot about His Father in heaven, and about many other things – how we should live our lives, for example.


The Holy Spirit as a Dove – Connection between Creator and Cross

So where does the Holy Spirit come in?  We know he is the third person of the Holy and Blessed Trinity – but what is his special role – what does he contribute to life in this world and the next.  I repeat – it’s all a bit of a mystery.  People say he is the ‘Breath of God’ – but that doesn’t tell us much.  Some say that He is the love that exists – that flows – between Father and Son – that he ‘proceeds from the Father and the Son’ – a phrase that always sounds to me as if He is not quite as important as they are.  But, that cannot be right, because the doctrine surrounding the Holy Trinity makes Him one with them and equal in every way.  We are getting ‘bogged down’ now in ever more mysterious truths and all of this analysis is getting us nowhere – fast!

Without being in any way disrespectful, I think he is a kind of postman.  For the Royal Mail, a postman sorts the mail and brings it to us.  This heavenly ’Postman’ sorts the gifts of God and brings them to us.  From God we all receive the gifts that make us what we are – gifts to even those who do not necessarily believe.  The Apostles received many gifts from the Holy Spirit – among them the gifts of fortitude and wisdom, the ability to be understood in different languages – according to the ‘tongues’ of the various members of their listening audiences.  But I think there is much more to this Holy ‘Postman’.  I am convinced he brings us God’s love, he brings us faith and hope and understanding, coupled with all the other well know gifts of the Holy Spirit.  And, although spirit, I know from my own experience, He is real, the fount of goodness, the fount of love and kindness, the fount of hope and expectation of a supernatural life in paradise, once we have done with this ‘ordinary’ and ‘natural’ life of ours.  I also know in my heart that if we lay our hearts ‘on the line’ and ask him to help us, in any way that is for our good (and the good of others), He will always listen and come to our aid.

We ask him in our prayers to:

“Come O Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.  Send forth your Spirit that they may be created – and they shall renew the face of the earth.

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.”

Then again:

“Come, Holy Spirit, come
Let thy bright beams arise,
Dispel the darkness from our minds,
And open all our eyes.
Revive our drooping faith,
Our doubts and fears remove,
And kindle in our breasts the flame
Of everlasting Love. Amen!”

I think there is much more to the Spirit of God than many of us suspect.  What is more, I am beginning to come to the conclusion that the more we think about him, the more we pray to him, the more we try to understand his great role in the entirety of things, the more we try to love Him, then, perhaps, some of the mystery that surrounds him may begin clear and make sense to our tiny minds.  We will never understand Him completely, because that would be impossible for us, but perhaps, just a little bit of the mystery might begin to thin and disappear; thus we may find ourselves a little closer to Him, and not quite as frightened.  All little children are a bit frightened of spirits and ghosts, and we are all a bit like children, sometimes.  Of the Spirit of God, there is no need to feel afraid; if we’re trying our best to be good, to lead good lives ourselves, and to help others, He will always help us!

And all of this says to me, to all peoples very clearly, that we should devote more of our prayers and spend a little more of our time in devotions to Him, than perhaps we are wont so to do.


Gaudeamus omnes in Domino:

‘Gaudeamus omnes in Domino (Let us all rejoice in the Lord)’

We have very joyful news in our parish, and they (parishioners with whom I have discussed the following) and myself are of one mind – joyful news. Although not strictly a parishioner, the subject of this blog is very much one of our very own; he will retire this September as the head of one of our primary schools, St. Anne’s.  Mr Michael Barrett has been head teacher at St. Anne’s for 23 years, and, as I have been in Leyland as parish priest for the last 21 years, we have worked closely together. As I say, he does not ‘belong’ geographically; he is active in his own parish of Our Lady’s, Tarleton, but I calculate that, over the years, Mr Barrett has educated well over 700 of our young boys and girls, and got to know their families. He has been an influence for good to many, many people at St. Mary’s, Leyland.

st. annes

Pupils at St. Anne’s School

Over the centuries, teaching has been considered by leaders in the Church as one of the vocations nearest to the heart of Jesus. Jesus came to teach us all about God, a task he performed to perfection, and any teacher who proclaims goodness, love and knowledge, in the living of a coherent life, is also doing the same – following in the ‘footsteps’ of Jesus – as best as he, or she, can. A teacher in our schools, whatever his or her parish, is also a parishioner, in that sense, of St. Mary’s, Leyland. Good parents are considered to be the first, and best of teachers, in the ways of God for their children. What a privilege to be a mum or dad!  But also, what a responsibility!

Mr Barrett is a widower; his beautiful wife, Jackie, died a few years ago at a young age, leaving him with two lovely daughters. That very sad and deep personal experience will have its effects, be felt deeply throughout the whole of life; however, despite his loss, he has followed the personal call of the Lord, and has decided to try his vocation as a diocesan priest, in our Archdiocese of Liverpool, and has been accepted by the Liverpool authorities, and the news is out in the open; moreover, the news is joyful. To become a priest is to be another kind of ‘teacher’ – another type of ‘father’.


 Beda College – Ministry of Acolyte with Cardinal John Foley – March 2010

He will study at the Beda College, Rome, beginning in the autumn of this year. The Beda College is under the ‘wing’ of the English and Welsh Bishops, and is a college for ‘late’ vocations, to which resort English-speaking men from all over the world. Michael will be one of the older ‘students’, in all probability, and his course will take four years to complete. God willing, many people of St. Mary’s will attend his ordination, wherever that takes place, in 2017 or 2018.


Beda College – A weekend for Year 4 – 2010

Why do “we”, why do “I” feel so joyful at this news? For me it is because in this ‘event’, concerning Mr Barrett, somehow I sense that God is more real for me, in my own context. A person, known and highly respected by many and by me, has decided “to give himself to God and God’s people”, and to do so with great joy and happiness. We humans really do belong, one to the other; what one does, what one does not, has its impetus on others, in this case me.  People of any age may take note of this; perchance, it may act as a ‘spark’ to encourage them also to ‘believe more strongly’ that they could find happiness and joy, in this direction. For me, I will only ever find my true happiness, corresponding to my deepest inner feelings and yearnings, in union with God and his will.

Myself, I may not be free to leave everything behind and begin a new life, but I can, in my own circumstances, renew my trust in God himself.  A chosen few may have the freedom, may be  given the courage to do something similar to Michael Barrett, but my faith and trust in God, and his immense love for me, is strengthened by what we witness happening in these days. There is a new joy, that a man I know, and respect, who has already, positively and greatly, influenced me over the years – a man who is a friend, to myself and many others who come into this category –  should make such a decision. It reflects the living existence of God in a way that is much deeper than words.  Little wonder, then, that I feel a kind of exultation.

Little wonder, that this is such joyful news.

Father Jonathan

The other morning, I was at home, relaxed and at ‘peace with the world’.  I was listening to music on CD – music composed by John Barry – to whom the title of this blog must be attributed.  It is the title he gave to the album of music, composed and conducted by him, and I was totally absorbed by its beautiful melodies; and, as I say, relaxed and at peace.

john barry

John Barry – September 2006 – at the Royal Albert Hall, London

The following quotation, taken from the sleeve notes of the CD, begins to explain – gives us a hint of – what was in the composer’s mind when creating and compiling the CD:

“As a young boy growing up in the North of England, our family would on occasion drive out to an old mill house in the country for lunch.  After a meal of the best York ham and eggs, and home-made bread and butter with tea, we would take a stroll through the woods by the river before setting out on the journey home.  Driving across the plain of York one would see the magnificent Minster silhouetted against the setting sun.  In  the years to come, I would commence my serious musical education in composition with Doctor Francis Jackson, the Minster’s Master of Music, in the shadows of this great cathedral.

In the late 70’s, I decided to make my home at Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York.  On journeying back and forth to New York City, one is faced with possibly the most spectacular skyline in the world – with its inherent feeling of vitality and excitement, the dynamic hub of the western world.

Both these visions, past and present – ‘The Old Country’ and ‘The New World’ – harbour so many dreams, memories and reflections beyond the norm: The Beyondness of Things.”

(For my son Jonpatrick – John Barry 1998)

Born 1933 in York, John Barry Prendergast, later to be known as simply, John Barry, was educated in the city and received his first lessons in music, as he says, at the hands of Dr. Jackson, one time organist at the Minster. Later, whilst fulfilling his National Service in the armed forces in Cyprus, he began to perform as a musician, having learned to play the trumpet. He first formed his own band, called The John Barry Seven, in 1957.  Shortly after this he developed his interest in composing and arranging music; he made his debut for TV in 1958, and from then on, he was consistently composing and arranging music – mostly for TV and the film industry – for the next 50 years and more.  He moved to the United States in 1975 and lived there for the remainder of his life, until his death in 2011.

york minster

York Minster – Floodlit at Night

As his career developed, he became known world-wide for his ability to assimilate the essence of a film into the film music he composed to accompany and enhance what was being portrayed on screen, and among his most beautiful scores are the themes for  films such as ‘Out of Africa’, ‘Dances with Wolves’, ‘Midnight Cowboy’, ‘Born Free’, and his last score for the film ‘Enigma’ in 2001.  In addition, he composed a great deal of light music and was perhaps most famously known for his arranging and compositions associated with many of the ‘James Bond’ 007 films.  He became the winner of many ‘Grammy’ and ‘Academy’ awards.  In 1999, he was given the MBE for his services to music.

But, in all this and not to get too ‘tied up’ with his career, what is most intriguing to me is the title he gave to the music I was hearing – ‘The Beyondness of Things’.  I began to ask myself the obvious questions as to what he was meaning; what was the composer getting at; what was running through his mind as he put this music, this album, together?  In reply, I can point to only one source for inspiration – the notes he penned to accompany the music – his ‘harbour for ‘so many dreams, memories and reflections beyond the norm’.  In the music, one can hear imponderables such as mystery, longing, yearning, peace and, for me, the spiritual essences of life.

All of us live lives in two quite different worlds.  In the first, we experience all that is real and tangible.  We have our possessions, our homes, our families around us, our jobs, our businesses – food, money and the like.  We are well used to all of these.  There is nothing puzzling about this life.  It is something we see and feel every day of our lives.  We know about birth, about death and all that comes between.  But, there is another very different life – a life of intangibles, of many things beyond our senses – things we cannot see, things we cannot hear or feel, touch or taste.  This life is one lived in the world of many unknowns, a world where there is no proof – no certainty; it is beyond logic and, to all intents and purposes, beyond reason.  Yet, this world most definitely exists.  It forms an important part of our lives – just as the physical one does.  In this ‘other’ world, virtually all of it must be taken on faith, on belief, on imagination and on feelings that are found, perhaps, only in our ‘sixth’ senses, in our very soul ; it is a world full of those delicious intangibles that John Barry refers to in his sleeve note – the dreams, the memories and the reflections beyond the norm.  And, it is this world we hear in the music of his album.

I have thought long and hard about this ‘other world’.  For me, it is world which belongs not to this ‘hard nosed’ earthly life of ours, but to that ‘other world’ in which the spirit governs.  It is a life which has its centre in our innnermost selves, our thoughts, our prayers, our sorrows, our joys, happiness – and its opposite; for me, it is all about the soul which is our ‘true life-blood’.  This is the life that yearns for God, for Jesus our Saviour, for the Holy Spirit, the last named person of the holy Trinity being the One who, in my mind, gives us this life of the spirit.  In this way, He is teaching us about the ‘other things’ that matter – the things that transcend our ‘hum-drum’ lives in the ‘ordinary’ – and pointing us to the dynamic and, ultimately, magnificent life that God wishes us to know and love, a life in the extra-ordinary.  This ‘second’ life is one of beauty and imagination beyond all comparison – if only we allow ourselves to recognise and follow it.  It is this we can sometimes hear in music – and see in great works of art – a life that can be truly wonderful to behold.

It is also, by its very nature, a life on earth that holds open for us the door to something much greater than the norm – a life of promise – a life of hope – a life of eternal happiness in heaven, for, come what may, that is our destiny.  Out of his infinite love, God designed this destiny for each and every one of us.  All He asks is that we do our best to love Him in return.