Sunday, 16 September 2018

'No Car' Day in Paris

Today from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. no cars will be in Paris. The city will breath a little easier and I look forward to a walk in the middle of the Champs Elysées.

Today at St Joseph's Church, 200 children and young people will begin their course for First Communion and Confirmation that they will receive next year. This is totally voluntary as they and their parents have requested this religious formation. If nobody turned up, there is nothing the church can do about it. It is such a joy when you find such a great response. The only cloud is that there are more applicants for these classes than there is space to accommodate them.

Yesterday, over 30 volunteers turned up to prepare to take these classes in two sessions, 9.30 a.m. and 11.00 a.m. Each class must have two adults present at all times and in the corridors there must always be a 'monitor' to ensure that only those who should be there are present.      

At yesterday's meeting, three of the volunteers were from the class who received the Sacrament of Confirmation in St Joseph's Church at Pentecost 2018. They have now come back to share their faith with the Confirmation Class of 2019.                                                                                                     AT

Monday, 10 September 2018

Back to School

Paris schools opened last week and the traffic increase was noticeable! As a child, I never liked 'Back to School' adverts. It was nice, though, to welcome back friends from last year and to meet new people.

This past weekend after Mass people at St Joseph's had a variety of activites: voters from USA were signing up for postal votes in the November mid-terms elections. [Pity the Irish 'Diaspora' gets no vote in any Irish or European elections!] The bookstall offers Bibles and Religious goods while coffee, tea and orange juice are served as people chat and children play.

Arrangements were being made for next week's beginning of CCD (preparation for Sacraments for children and youth). This year once again, there are more applications from families for places than we have space for classes. No a bad complaint! There will be 200 students each Sunday over two sessions, 9.30 a.m. and 11.00 a.m. with 40 volunteers and assistants taking a one-hour class. Most volunteers are not trained teachers but follow a clear and definite programme of Religious instruction and formation. These parishioners have a desire to share and hand on their faith. The high-point will be on 8th June 2019, with First Communions will be celebrated and the next day, Pentecost Sunday, Confirmations. That weekend is always special with relatives coming from all over the world.

This is not me 'blowing my own trumphet'. With me the one priest now here and for the foreseeable future, all that happens is laity-driven, as it should be. But, I am not alone! Each weekend 2,000 people cross the threshold into St Joseph's Church to take part in five weekend Masses. These come from over 40 different countries to worship in English. Being in the heart of a tourist area of Paris, beside the Arc de Triomphe, St Joseph's Church welcomes many tourists who join us for Mass.

That is my 'bit of religion' for the moment! Maybe next time I will tell about a great French/Irish wedding I was at last Saturday!                                                                                                AT

Friday, 31 August 2018

Last Day of August - Feast of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne

It must be my age! Time passes so quickly. The summer seems to be just begun and then it is over. For most of the month of August, the city of Paris seemed to be 'empty' except for the many tourists. They add so much to the city during the time that many of the locals are away. There were few cars parked in the street in front of the church where it is normally hard to find a space. All that has now changed during the past week, as people returned and shops and businesses opened again. With schools reopening on Monday it will be back to business as usual. Still, there is a great buzz around the city. This afternoon I was in Notre Dame Cathedral for a while and it was thronged with people. It is estimated that 14 million people visit the Cathedral each year. It is a magnificent place of historical interest and a busy and functioning church with regular Masses, Confessions, Evening Prayer and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Over the years I have been privileged to preach there a few times. Security of bag searches when entering continues following sad events of recent years in Paris.

Last weekend the Papal Visit and all that went with that occasion. This weekend, Tyrone taking on the Dubs. I would like to have been in Dublin last weekend and also this weekend! What a delight it is to be in Croke Park on All Ireland Day - both Hurling and Football. At risk of tempting fate - the Dubs will keep Sam for at least another winter. Though I am a native of Co Wicklow, my support for the Dubs goes back to my childhood. If Wicklow were ever to get to an All Ireland Final against the Dubs, I don't know what I would do. Somehow, I don't see that arising any time soon.

I'm still 'home alone' as the only Passionist assigned to St Joseph's. Prayers are being offered by parishioners, and by me, that soon another priest will be assigned. It is tough on the people coming to Mass and having me each time, except for the rare occasions when a visiting priest offers one of the five weekend Masses. It is with a sense of real gratitude that I have the strength to continue fulfilling some service to the approximately 2,000 people who enter the church on a weekend. 

With these few words, I'll leave you in peace. But be warned - I'll be back soon again!    AT

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Papal Visit to Ireland

Pope Francis' visit to Ireland has come and gone. I would love to have been at Croke Park and at the Mass in the Phoenix Park. But it was not to be. The positive side was that I had a great weekend among great people here at St Joseph's in Paris. A wonderful visiting priest from USA kindly took one of the Sunday Masses, which had two positive effects:

1. people who come to Mass regularly here got a break from me! and 
2. I was able to watch Pope Francis' visit to Knock Shrine. 

Well done to RTE for such sensitive and extensive coverage of the Papal visit. Life is strange - the weather in Ireland was sunny and warm this Summer. Come the weekend of the Pope's visit and yes, you have guessed it, we had enough rain to begin filling up Irish reservoirs again! 

A little funny aside was when France 24 in Paris asked me if I would be available on Sunday last to help with commentary on the Papal Mass from the Phoenix Park. When I asked in which language it would be - French or English - the answer came back - French! My refusal was instant out of deference to the French language. Strangely when the teacher who gives me weekly French class heard this, he was not pleased! He thought I was capable of carrying this broadcast in the French language. Bless him for his confidence in me! 

Still, last night, 27 August, France 24 (English language) invited me to their studios to take part in the 'The Debate'. I did the best I could but reaction after the programme varied from criticism about some things I said to some very complementary messages. That is the best about communication - I try to learn from all shades of opinion and most of all, I admire people who go to bother to make contact.

There are so many wonderful aspects to our life of faith today alongside so many 'clouds' over the Church. As Pope Francis asked of us in his recent letter to all of us, prayer and penance are needed at this time. I hope to continue this reflection soon again. Thanks  for reading this.                           AT 

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Back after a long silence!

It is impossible to come up with a good excuse for not attending to the blog since May this year! Mea culpa! I like writing the blog and some most kind people recently brought to my attention that I had gone silent and no words were to be found. Thanks to those for their interest and encouragement.

A lot has happened since May. At this moment I am thinking of the many people in Kerala, India, who have died in the worst rainfall for a century. May those who died, rest in peace. Many others have lost everything and must start all over again. At Masses this past weekend, prayers were offered for the people who have died and suffered. A man from India came along after Mass to express thanks for St Joseph's community remembering his people. The collapse of the bridge across the beautiful city of Genoa, was an appalling tragedy. Having lived in the '90's in Italy, I know Genoa well and love the beauty of Italy. May those who lost their lives in this tragedy rest in peace.

Our church is going through a time of learning more horrific details about what has happened to God's special ones - children - by sexual abuse by priests and consecrated people who not only broke the law of love but also broke the law by these crimes. It is my hope to come back to this tragedy soon again and perhaps by this blog we could examine together how we might be able to say and most of all, do something. At present, words are weak. Strong action is long overdue and more needed than ever.

This weekend, Pope Francis arrives in Ireland for the World Meeting of Families in Dublin and to visit the Shrine of Our Lady in Knock. The pain of many people who have suffered at the hands of priests and religious in Ireland must be part of this visit. The Pope can't change the past. He must continue to give guarantees about the conduct of clergy and religious for the future. I hope that I can find something more to say on this in the near future.

It had been my hope to be in Dublin this weekend for the visit of Pope Francis.
However, since last week I am the only Passionist assigned to St Joseph's, Paris. It is my hope that the Passionist superiors will be able to send at least one other Passionist to join me here. There are priests, both in Ireland and here in Paris, who are always willing to help out when an urgent need arises. I have written my thoughts on this and if you wish to read my reflection, you may wish to follow the link 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

If you read this far - thank you for your perseverance! Hope to be back with you soon. AT

Monday, 21 May 2018

Whit Weekend

Just finishing a great weekend enjoyed by a lot of people. Glorious sunshine and all the emotion of First Communions for 35 girls and boys on Saturday. Grandparents and relatives came from far and wide. The cutting of the cake in the church garden afterwards brought a lovely morning to a close. Visits to some of the families in the afternoon, gave me the privilege of sharing the joy of families on a special day. A factor is that each family freely chooses to have their child prepared for Communion. There is no compulsion. The faith and love shown by families year after year, leaves me in admiration of these people.

Then, yesterday we had over 30 young adults receive Confirmation. Another occasion of joy and happiness. 

On Saturday night, I was at Notre Dame Cathedral for the Confirmation of 400 adults whose average age is 30 years. Again, freely chosen. My only slight negative comment, is that the Mass started at 9 p.m. and it was 11.30 p.m. before I was on the train back to St Joseph's Church. A tiny price to pay for being part of such an amazing outpouring of the Holy Spirit.              AT

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Pentecost Weekend

This weekend will be a busy, but great, weekend at St Joseph's. On Saturday morning over 30 young people will make their First Communion. They have prepared over the past year for this great day. Each child has attended class on a Sunday morning beginning either at 9.30 a.m. or 11 a.m. and lasting one hour. Parents bring the children who are instructed by a team of over 40 volunteers from the parish of St Joseph. On Pentecost Sunday afternoon there will be Confirmations for St Joseph's parish and Marymount School Paris. Again, these students have prepared either on a Sunday morning at St Joseph's or at Marymount School, where I serve as chaplain. 

When I read about the controversy in Ireland about the 'Baptism' requirement to get a school place, my heart goes out to all parents and families who are doing the best they can for their children to get a good education. The issue it seems is a lack of sufficient school places provided by the Government and the large number of schools under the patronage of the Catholic Church and a lesser number by other Churches. Historically, I quite appreciate how these arose. I wonder if the local church, believers who could spare an hour sharing their faith with God's little ones and families could come together to ensure that those who wish to have the Sacraments taken by their children could do so outside of the school context? This does not mean that a school would have a 'neutral' ethos, but it would leave it to the local community, religious and not religious, to work this out. If Catholic or other Church schools are chosen by a local community, I would be delighted to hear this. But, bringing the Sacrament of Baptism into the area of school admissions, does neither the Church nor the School any favours.   AT