Monday, 31 December 2018

New Year 2019 - Greetings

No excuses for my long "silence" on the blog. Apologies to regular readers.
On New Year's Eve this year I am in Sri Lanka where I celebrated a Wedding on Saturday with two parishioners from Paris with their families and friends. It was a wonderful experience filled with joy and happiness. The local priest could not have been kinder or more welcoming to me. We concelebrated the Nuptial Mass with a beautiful mixture of languages - Sinhalese and English (me). The decorations of flowers and materials in the church were beautiful.

In the coming days I hope to have opportunity to see some of the beauty, and especially the wildlife of Sri Lanka.

Like all else, this too will end. I return to Paris and St Joseph's early next week.

Christmas Masses and celebrations at St Joseph's Church, Paris, were a joy with overflowing numbers at each of our four Masses.

'Home alone' in the Passionist community of St Joseph's this year, I had the privilege of speaking to all who joined in Christmas worship. The disadvantage for parishioners was that they could not avoid me irrespective of which Mass they came to! It was a delight to see the beauty of God in the eyes of the children.

A feature I noticed particularly this year was the great number of visitors to Paris who joined us at Christmas. Many phone calls came to St Joseph's from hotels asking for Mass times for their guests.

A blessed and peaceful New Year of Our Lord 2019 to one and all.               AT

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 

Thursday, 10 May 2018

English-speaking Parishes in Europe Symposium

From Monday to Wednesday this week, seven parishes across Europe offering a full religious ministry in English, gathered at St Joseph's, Paris for an exchange of news and provide a network between us. We meet every two years in one of our parishes and have come to know each other. Each two years, there are some new faces at the gathering. It is wonderful to listen to the issues arising and to seek ways of improving our service of people of great diversity who wish to worship in English. 

The parish here on Avenue Hoche was started in 1869 and is still on the same site offering, as best we can, a service to all who come to St Joseph's Church or to our door. One busy aspect, is witnessing Irish passport forms and photogrpahs for people renewing or applying for a passport. The Embassy of Ireland is just a few minutes away from Avenue Hoche. Another recently group of callers are newly-arrived refugees. We are blessed to have over 40 nationalities in the congregation and at five weekend Masses we welcome close to 2,000 people. There are over 200 children each Sunday morning at various stages of preparation for 1st Reconciliation, 1st Communion and Confirmation. The weekend of 19th and 20th May, we will have First Communions and Confirmations. It is such a wonderfully blessed time each year. Today is Ascension Thursday and besides being a Holy Day it is also a public holiday.  AT                                 

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

English-speaking Parishes of Europe

For three days this week, I have been delighted to host a Symposium of eight Catholic Pastors of parishes who offer pastoral care to people in the English language. From Austria, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Poland and France, we have exchanged news and searched for the best way forward in this interesting time for the Church. Our group meets ever two years and this year I have had the privilege to host the gathering. It is a wonderful opportunity to hear of the working of the Spirit.
In France today, 8th May, is a holiday marking end of World War II. Then, our Thursday, we will have a holiday and a 'Holyday' for the Feast of the Ascension. Never a dull moment!               AT

Friday, 4 May 2018

May in France

The month of May is interesting in France. It has a series of holidays and feasts. 1st May, earlier this week, is Labour Day. 8th May is Victory Day in Europe. Thursday, 10th May, is Ascension Thursday. This is a public holiday in France as well as being a Church holyday. Then, Monday, 21st May, is Pentecost Monday and is also a public holiday in France. It is a bit more complicated if you add in the 'pont' dealing with a day before or after a public holiday. I'll spare you that!

A visit to a High School to discuss the film "In the Name of the Father" was fascinating. The class had watched this some weeks ago. Their teacher was keen to give the students some background to the conflict in Ireland over the years. The students were great and eventually we got onto 'Brexit'. During this 55 minute session, my mind went back to the many school retreats that I have been privileged to engage in over many years. This School is part of the Ursuline Sisters network and is a great example of Catholic Education at its best. My thanks to the teacher and the students for the warmth of their welcome. I was presented with a school mug at the end of the class and I will treasure this in the time ahead. Now into a busy weekend! But, it will be helped by the beautiful weather that is now with us.                                  AT

Thursday, 3 May 2018

School Class

Tomorrow, Friday, I am invited into a Paris School to take a class for one hour. Some months ago, the class watched the film, "In the Name of the Father" with their teacher. This tells the story of the Guildford Four who were wrongly imprisoned for 15 years for offences they never committed. Gerry Conlon's Father, Giuseppe Conlon, died in prison. Prime Minister, Tony Blair, apologised for the miscarriage of justice in 2005. One of the class told her teacher that the priest in their parish had lived in Belfast before coming to Paris. Her parents had told her this, as I have never spoken publicly in this parish of my time in Holy Cross parish in Ardoyne. The teacher contacted me some time later and asked if I would come into the class who had watched the film. She asked if I could offer some background to the Northern Ireland situation and take any questions the students may have. For better or worse, I am going into this school tomorrow morning for a class lasting one hour. This is a first for me in France and I don't mind admitting that I am apprehensive. If the students benefit and grow in understanding and appreciation of life and its challenges, I will be so happy. It is totally about them and not about me.                                         AT

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Back Again

This is to show that yesterday's post was no 'flash in the pan'! 

Yesterday in Paris there were some clashes following May Day gatherings. Having seen some street violence in Belfast, there is nothing pleasant about violence from any source. It happens, but at the end of the day, dialogue is the only path to conflict resolution. This may sound defeatist or being afraid of facing issues, but the force of a water canon, the stinging sensation of tear gas or the throwing of missiles will never lead to a lasting peace. 

Early next week, I look forward to welcoming to St Joseph's, Paris, a group of priests and deacons from English-speaking Catholic parishes in other European countries. This network of clergy gets together every second year to learn from each other and to have a support network. 

In the past at St Joseph's, the Passionists had a community of at least three priests to serve a parish of 45 nationalities who worship here in the English language. Now we are two and when one is away, as at present, it leaves a lot to be done. This includes 200 children every Sunday morning for preparation for 1st Communion and Confirmation. With a separation of church and state in France, families make a choice about the religious future of their children. There is great freedom in this choice with no compulsion to follow any particular course of action. When it comes to the celebration at St Joseph's Church of 1st Communion on 19th May and Confirmations on Pentecost Sunday, 20th May, the joy and happiness are tangible. This model could work in other countries?

Hope to be back with you soon!                                                  AT

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

First in 2018

It is hard to believe that I have ignored this blog since last Christmas 2017! No excuses. Of course, I could suggest reasons for my absence, but that would change nothing. Life goes on well here at St Joseph's, Paris. I had a great Christmas and Easter and now looking forward to First Communions and Confirmations. Hope to be a more regular blogger from now on.    AT