Thursday 1 December

As the weekend approaches will we all witness another electoral surprise in Italy? I have just heard a news report in which an Italian lady supporting the establishment proclaimed that “if it’s a choice between Jesus Christ or Barabbas the people will always choose Barabbas! The people will always make the wrong choice.”

It is difficult to say anything other than Trump is the peoples’ choice and he in turn continues to make surprising choices for those who will form his cabinet and advisors. The appointment of the ‘Mad Dog’ General Mattis as Secretary for Defense is one such decision although some of his more outrageous statements reflect those of Trump.

I awoke on Monday to learn that Pope Francis has chosen a new bishop for the Diocese I currently serve. Robert Lynch was required to submit his resignation when he reached the age of 75 earlier this year. He was hopeful to be replaced by the end of the year and I must admit to being sceptical about this. Bishop John Rawsthorne in my old and dear Diocese of Hallam waited almost 3 years for Rome to appoint the current Bishop Ralph. Yet in the closing days of November we discover a new Bishop in Bishop Gregory Parkes of Tallahassee. He has only been ordained 16 years and has already served almost 5 years as a bishop! Also noteworthy is the fact that he is 6ft 9in tall! He’ll be installed in St Petersburg on 4 January so this part of the New Year will be  a busy one indeed.

Since my last posting we have celebrated Thanksgiving over here. This seems to be a signal for most of my colleagues to take an extended break. I however had to maintain services as usual with choir practices, funerals and Thanksgiving Masses. It was a delight to receive an invitation to join the family of one of my colleagues for their celebration. The generosity of their hospitality was immense and as the evening drew on I became slightly worried about falling into the pool around which we all ate!

Tuesday of this week was a full-on day. I had discovered over the weekend last-minute requests for sound equipment from the church to resource three major events during the week. I got into work very early on the Tuesday to get an overview of all the requests and then went to a meeting I’d called to establish whether needs could be met. In the event through the miracle of communication solutions were found and stresses eased. This left me free to drive to the next event on my schedule. I attended a workshop on iconography at the Diocesan Pastoral Centre. A Benedictine nun gave the presentation and without doubt she was a skilled iconographer and historian. However she was in a wheelchair and the 50 persons attending could not see the icons she held up. I would have hoped that the organisers might have seen this coming and prepared accordingly but they did not. On the more positive side I was asked whether I might deliver next year’s presentation to Directors of RE and Youth Formation folk. I have indicated that I’d be delighted to take this on.

Another unexpected outcome of the day was a chance encounter with a nun who fronted interfaith and justice action in the Diocese. I had been searching for a way into this expression of faith for a while and this chance encounter opened the doors immediately! I have a meeting with someone on Tuesday which may take this further.

The workshop ended with a great lunch provided at the centre for which I was entirely grateful given that I had a full day ahead. On my return I rushed to get the music for the weekend together as we had a choir practice later that evening. In the event all went well and I ended a 14 hour day by seeking the refuge of my bed.

Wednesday began in the usual way with a School Mass. I had intended to work a further hour before returning home for the afternoon. in the event I was asked to entertain some visiting nuns who would be speaking at the evening’s Advent Gathering. This turned out to be a 2-hour affair by the end of which it was barely worth going home. The Gathering was a little disappointing and raised questions for me.

I took my time getting to work on Thursday since the only significant item on my agenda was the meeting of the Parish Pastoral Staff. I take the minutes for these meetings which is tricky since I also tend to have a lot to say. No change there, my UK friends will comment.

I hadn’t enjoyed a drink (alcohol) since Saturday so I dropped into my local bar to meet up with friends and ‘blow the frost off a couple’!


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