Saturday, 7 January 2012

New Blog -

Hi All,

Just a small post to let you know that since my ordination I feel it's not appropiate to continue to post my homilies and thoughts on the formation website. So as of this weekend a new site is up and running and you can find various writtings there.

My brother and sisters in formation, Gail and I very much miss the frequent time spent with you and always look forward to opportunities to meet meet up with you.

Good luck in formation and God Bless you all,
Gail & John

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Thank you Tom & Fiona

It was a wonderful evening at a beautiful location, and it was so nice to see old freinds from the last ten years of formation there. For me it was an honour to Deacon the Mass, and the current students did us all proud with a lovely presentation afterwards. The video of the speaches can be seen below.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Stations of the Cross

I have been leading Stations of the Cross in St. John Fisher each Sunday in Lent at 4pm. It's a lovely intimate church and each week our journey with Christ through his passion has been moving and wonderful. I am trying to use different reflections each week, and today I will be using a fictional letter from a Roman solider to his father. The solider witnessed many of the events of the passion and in the letter we see the stations through his eyes.

I wrote this a few years ago now and loved re-reading it when I found it on my PC. I have added a little bit to it now so I can use it to lead the meditations at church.

Please feel free to us it yourselves and if you do please let me know what you think.

Stations of the Cross - Roman Letter.pdf

Homily – Third Sunday Lent Year A

Homily – Third Sunday Lent Year A

Notes All about thirst and Living Water

Old Exodus 17:3-7
Psalm 94:1-2, 6-9, R8
New Romans 5:1-2, 5-8
Gospel John 4:5-42

What is the longest you have every gone with out drinking anything. No water, no tea, no coffee, no lemonade, no orange squash, no beer, no wine. Can you remember that thirst you would have had. Or after playing a fast paced game of football or going for a long walk on a hot day. How thirsty does that make you feel. Can you remember the feelings, your month is so dry your lips stick together, your throat is parched and feels like sandpaper, your stomach feel empty and hollow, your legs and arms get heavy and tired, your head starts to pound with a headache that wont leave you.

Can you recall your desire for water. Clear, cool, sweet water.
And can you recall again the taste of the first drink, the wetness hitting the back of your throat, the compulsion to keep drinking even when you have to stop to take a deep breath air.

Those feelings are what today's readings are all about.

Except, they are not about water. They are about thirst, desire and compulsion, but they are not about water. They are about Living Water and that's a completely different thing. Living water is God's Love being poured into our hearts by the holy spirit.

The scene of our first reading is a desert, with him Moses has 600,000 men, their families and their herds and flocks of livestock. They have left their homes in the middle of the night, been chased by an army, escaped literally through a the middle of a vast sea, they have been hungry and have just been feed on Manna and Quails and now the are complaining bitterly that they have nothing to drink. In some ways they seem ungrateful but they also seem human. Scared and in a strange place, they are striking out against their leaders. What they are after isn't just water to quench their thirst it's, it's love and care. And that's what they get, God doesn't direct them to a water hole or stream, but gives them water that can only come from him. He shows them he is with them. He gives them the cuddle they need. But like any loving parent he must have been hurt by their challenge “Is the Lord with us or Not?”

Our Psalm today is a reflection on that challenge. It's a sorrowful reflection on that doubt, that challenge, that test of a loving God. When we said together the response, we are asking that today, right now, we all listen to the Lord's voice. We have no need to challenge him, to test him. But we have great need to just listen. Which brings us nicely to our Gospel reading.

We find Jesus on a journey between Judaea and Galilee. The quickest route goes through Samaritan territory and it's here next to a well we encounter Jesus. He is joined by a women and for a few minutes they have a rather disjointed conversation about drinking water. To start with the women is surprised that Jesus talks to her at all. He is a Jew and Jew's don't talk to Samaritan's. Then Jesus reverses the conversation and talks of living water, she misunderstands and probably get insulted. Living water to her would have been a stream or river, free flowing water, which was considered much better than well water. If Jesus could find living water here he was claiming to be greater than Jacob who first dug the well. Then Jesus describes his living water and she still misses the point, maybe even laughing at him as she asks him for this magical water. It's not until he demonstrates that he really knows her that she takes him seriously. Her eyes begin to open, and she starts to listen. She realises that the water Jesus is talking of is spiritual water, God's Love. She realises Jesus is someone special, maybe even the Christ.

There is a strong lesson here for us. When Christ speaks to us through our lives, though scripture, through our prayer, we may think we know what he's talking about, but we could so easily have got it wrong and be missing something special. It's worth taking the time to really listen, and to understand that He is talking to us because He loves us.
The Samaritan woman listened and was filled with His Living Water and then she introduced others to Christ so they could listen as well. And they were all filled with His Living Water. The work He started here, or the harvest as He described it, is to bring all people to God, not just the chosen race the Jews but everyone.

And now in the middle of Lent it’s worth reflecting on how Jesus brings all people to God. He brings people to God through his sacrifice, through his death, on a cross. He looked at us, saw everything we do wrong, the wars, the hatred, the poverty, the greed, and he loves us. He loves us so much he allowed us to kill him. He offered himself as our sacrifice for all that is wrong is in us. And through that sacrifice he offers us forgiveness, offers us grace, offers us his love.

So now it is by our faith in Christ Jesus that we can be judged righteous and at peace with God. It’s our faith that lets us accept the gift of grace. And it’s by that Grace that we can hope to enter the kingdom of heaven.

And as Paul said in his letter to the Romans, “This hope is not deceptive, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the holy spirit which has been given to us.”

Are you thirsty?

Do you need the love of God poured into your heart?

Christ is sat next to a well waiting for you, to talk with you and to give you a drink of his Living Water.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Ideas for Lent – 2. Time with God

I am blatantly stealing this from a brilliant homily I heard a few weeks ago so thanks Steve for the idea and most of the words.

We all lead busy lives and taking time out to spend it with God is difficult. So here an idea for just ten minutes of your day. Find a quiet space and light a candle then sit comfortably in front of it. One of two things will happen, firstly you may start to fall asleep and if you do that's fine, Gods telling you to deal with a physical need, or secondly you may find that you head fills with all the thoughts of your busy day. Stick with it at this point and listen, try and put those thoughts aside just watch the flame and listen for Gods voice. So often prayer is a one way thing, we are talking all the time. We seldom give God a chance to speak. If we are always asking God for help shouldn't we once in a while listen for his answer.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Ideas for Lent – 1. Kiva

A couple of Christmas’s ago my sister and brother in law gave Gail and I a Kiva voucher. At the time I had never heard of them, and I am guessing you might not have heard of them either. They are a charity that gives loans to people around the world who are trying to improve their lives and businesses. The loans I have made were for things like seed for crops, to buy stock for a shop, or parts for a taxi man who’s taxi was off the road.

You don’t give your money to Kiva as you do to many charities, but your buy credit on the site and then use that credit to make loans to the people they have pre-vetted for you. Once the loan is repaid you can loan the money again to someone else. Finally if you fall upon hard times yourself you can get the credit back once the loan is repaid.

It’s a really clever idea that practically helps people get out of poverty. Why don’t you buy yourself or someone you love some Kiva credit this Lent.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Pancake Day

Today is Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day. So I figured it's a great time to talk a little about Shrove, Delia Smith and of course Pancakes.

Shrove is an old word and I believe it means to be absolved. Shrove Tuesday is associated with Christian going to Confession prior to Lent to obtain absolution. It's a good time to turn your mind towards the season of lent and to think about how you are going to prepare for Easter. Lent is a time of 40 days, this mirrors the 40 years the Jewish nation walked in the wilderness, it is also the same as the forty days Jesus spent in the desert being tempted by the devil.

On Shrove Tuesday we eat up the nice things in the house like pancakes before the season of Lent starts. For us Christian's Lent is a penitent time, a time to give up some luxuries, a time to start to do something positive, a time of charity and prayer. It's is often useful to reflect on some Christian reading over Lent, and there are many good books to choose from. For me I am going to turn to Delia Smith, and her book A Feast for Lent. With a reading, a reflection and a prayer for every day it's wonderful material, and she has a fantastic way for making you think.

Finally let moving to pancakes, and of course I am going to stay with Delia. Her Recipe for the perfect pancake can be found on the BBC website here BBC Food Website - Delia's Pancake Recipe.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Back to Basics-Books

For The Diaconate Formation Training and also ongoing, I was thinking about a basic book list ones that I should have on my book shelf.
The criteria being those that I would be constantly using .
My Initial list is as follows:-

Divine Office
Bible My version is The CTS new catholic Bible.
Bible Commentary The New Jerome Biblical Commentary
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Documents of Vatican II

Christian Theology An Introduction Alister E McGrath

If anyone can advise of what others should be on the list can you let me know

Ash & Ash Wednesday

The start of Lent is almost upon us and I am looking forward now to Ash Wednesday. With fasting Ash Wednesday is always a long and difficult day but it is also the day when I can talk about my faith at work more than any other day. The reason for this is that most of my conversation on Ash Wednesday start like this. “You have a black smudge on your forehead.” Then I reply, “Yes I know it’s Ash Wednesday.” Then they either look confused or ask why, either way I get to talk to them about my faith, lent, giving things up, starting things, fasting, repentance, charity, palm leaves, oils, etc…  Most people are really interested, and the questions keep coming.

I normally hate getting out of bed, but on Ash Wednesday I am a little excited. I head off to an early Mass and hope that I’ll get a good clear thumb full of ash. This year however I have been a little frustrated, my church isn’t having an early Mass. The other churches in the parish are but it’s at 9:30 way to late as I have to be at work by 9am. The Church close to work has a lunchtime Mass, but I have a meeting from 10-2 at work so that doesn’t work well either. Luckily Clifton Cathedral has a 7:30 Mass so that’s where I’ll be.

In previous years I have been working in different towns and have always managed to find an early Mass. When I was working a tradeshow in London I got up particularly early to get to a 6am Mass at Westminster Cathedral. That was a long day, 10 hours on my feet with no food but about a 500 people went away knowing both about my software and about my faith. In fact most were more interested in the ash than the software.

Lent is a great time for us Christians to witness to our faith. To make that extra effort to give up sin, to do some good for the people around us. To show Gods love and work in our actions. What will you be doing this Lent? Will you be wearing your ashes all day? What conversation will they start?

Sunday, 6 March 2011


Here's my thought from yesterdays session at Wesley. I got some excellent feedback from my fellow students making me question the appropriateness of a thought like this. I am in a very privileged position, I have a good job and steady income. Many people are really struggling in this country right now and talk about new cars could seem insensitive. I am think now about how I might re-write the start of this thought as a result. All of my thoughts start with something that happens in my life, something that gets me thinking, and here what I wanted to show and tell was the juxtaposition between my excitement about worldly things and therefore almost missing the point on the really important things. However it's published here in it's original form.

If you feel like commenting I would be interested in your views.

I have recently had to replaced my company car. The process is quite simple and great fun, first you ask for the list of available cars. Then you spend lots of time looking at brochures and websites asking yourself lots of questions like, What colour should it be? Do I want a Volkswagen or BMW? An estate or saloon? Petrol or diesel? I have to be honest, I was like a kid in a toy shop.

Then once you have made up your mind, you fill in a form, get your boss to sign it, then you have to wait. And strangely the waiting is just as much fun. It's the anticipation. I know the car is coming, I am really excited about it, I imagine all the nice features it has, and I often take just another quick look through the brochure. I even have the Volkswagen iPhone app on my phone.

But when I haven't been thinking of my new car, I have been thinking about, Anticipation. The excitement before a holiday, or Christmas. Anticipation can be wonderful and exciting. Anticipation gives us a chance to prepare for the important things, and I am no longer thinking about a new car when I say that, I am thinking about Easter, Confirmation, Marriage, or the birth of a child.

But my thoughts drifted on, don't we live our whole lives, in anticipation of heaven. We don't often get excited about that and maybe we should. Our death will be a gateway to eternal life with Christ. I should be getting excited about that. Maybe I should be grabbing that brochure called a bible more often, or quickly stealing a few moments of anticipation with my iPhone prayer app.

Anticipation about a holiday or new car is fun.

Anticipation about an eternal life spent with Christ is life changing, and that is the whole point, isn't it.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Walking down Oxford Street

Another Thought by Bogdan, and this I think is his best to date. It was delivered with confidence and a smile and is a wonderful reflection on what happen when you do and don't put yourself first. So please enjoy.

Walking Down Oxford Street by Bogdan Wasylkiw 

I was talking to a friend of mine who mentioned that he worked in London and commuted by train. I asked him how he got on with the stress of the traveling. He said that at one time it was awful but now it was ok. So I asked him how come. He said that when he started commuting he traveled by train into Paddington and then by tube to Oxford circus then walk down Oxford Street to Tottenham Court Road, where his office was. The morning trips were good, as the number of people on the streets in London early in the morning were few.

The journey home however was a different story.

He finished around 5pm so he could catch a 5:50 train, the time allowed was sufficient. However the streets at that time were packed especially Oxford Street, full of shoppers and tourists. He would battle his way through the crowds, people were just meandering, stopping looking in the shop windows or just chatting, others were trying to give him free newspapers or cards. He seemed to be held back no matter what he did, he cursed under his breath, didn’t they know he had a train to catch and it was important to him. The tube was no different, most passengers did not know where they were going, did they not plan their trips.

Eventually he would arrive at Paddington, hot sweaty and angry, most times to find that he missed the train and would have to wait for the next one. He even tried to leave work earlier but still no luck. Eventually he decided that he would leave this all in the hands of God and let everyone have a higher priority than himself. In other words all people in what they were doing were more important than him.

Guess what he found.

His walk down
Oxford Street
was pleasant, he even stopped to look at the shop windows, he let other people do what they had to do, he never stopped them or got in their way,  he took the newspapers with a smile. He always arrived at Paddington fresh and guess what, he never missed his train

Saturday, 19 February 2011

The Real Easter Egg

I really love this idea. It is so simple. A chocolate Easter Egg that is about Jesus. Wonderful!

Easter for us in the northern hemisphere is a wonderful time of new life everywhere, buds on tree, daffodils in the fields, lambs gambolling around, birds gathering worms to feed new chicks, woodland covered with blue bells. Our Christian celebration of Christ returning form the tomb, of new life for all of us as death and sin are defeated, is rightfully placed in spring time The giving of eggs as a sign of that new life is perfect, but in our largely secular society it has been more about getting chocolate than giving eggs. This Real Easter Egg is different, it tells you about Easter and Jesus on the box. It is about Easter and not about Chocolate. I will certainly be seeking out these eggs this year to give to my chocolate loving friends and family.

Please take a look at their web site
They are also on twitter @realeasteregg

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Confession App BBC Interview

I am going to get so much stick from my team if anyone heard the radio this morning. I was introduced as 'John Scanlon an IT expert from Bristol'. It's all in the context isn't it, compared to my team I know nothing about IT, they are the experts, in fact they are some of the best experts you can find in the country. But in the context of the Catholic Church in Bristol I probably am an IT expert. Well I am more of techy geek really, I love playing with the latest technology, and it was playing with the latest iPhone apps that got me invited into BBC Radio Bristol this morning to talk with Trevor Fry and Fr. Robert King about the new app to help prepare you for confession.

If you were not tuned into BBC Radio Bristol at 7:40 this morning I have added a recording below, but it's mainly there so my Mum who lives in Ireland can hear it.

or you can download the file ;  BBC Radio Bristol - Confession App Interview

The most surreal part was the drive home, as I stopped at a set of red lights the news came on and I heard myself talking. They had quickly edited a part of the interview and added it to the news. Very strange particularly as you never sound like yourself when you listen to a recording. So here for Mum again is the 8 o'clock news as well.

or you can download the file  BBC Radio Bristol - Confession App News Broadcast

Apart from setting the alarm clock for 6am it was a great experience. I find myself hoping I will get to do it again sometime.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

iPhone Confessions and My Current Top Christian Apps

There has been a lot of talk this week in the press and the social networks about a new confessions app for the iPhone. As I am known in my Christian circles as a geek and my geek circles as a Christian, so everyone has been asking me about this app. So I figured I would spend a little time a type something about it here. Then I figured that the confession app isn't the only app I use to support my Christian life so here's a little about the apps that help support my faith.

So lets start with the new Confessions app, it's called Confession: A Roman Catholic App.

It's one of several confessions apps available I it's one of the better ones I think. It is very easy to use both in preparation for confession and if you choose to in the confessional with the Priest. I typically use this app on my train journeys from Bristol to Leeds, which I have to make every 3-4 weeks for work. I can spend a quiet hour using the app to help me examine my conscience and plan what I want and need to talk about in confession. The app contains a list of questions against each of the 10 commandments that really help me examine my conscience. For example “Do I not give God time every day in prayer?” When I read this question I instantly think of the times I have missed, skipped or if I am really honest avoided morning & evening prayer. Then it also makes me consider the times I did pray but didn't give the time to God, when I just ran through the prayers.

There is a tick box next to each question and if you check it, it will appear in the next set of screen that you can use when confessing. There is also an option for adding your own items that aren't included but you want to talk about in confession.

The second part of the app allows you to use the iphone to help and prompt you in confession, It really helps me use concentrate on confessing before God and the Priest what I have done wrong and the things that I regret rather than worrying about remembering or getting confused by what I should say and when I should say it. It starts by prompting you with phrase like “Father it has been 3 weeks since my last confession”, it cleverly knows when you last used the app for confession and works out the number of weeks for you. On the next screen it list all the question you checked and on the last it has the text for an act of contrition. It works really easily and for me has been a real help.

The app allows multiple users if you share iTunes accounts, but each user is password protected so your sins and still between you, the priest and God.

Having spoken to a few people about this app, many people have jumped to the wrong conculsion about it. It isn't an app to replace confession, allowing you to confess to the phone. It isn't an app to let you publish your sins on facebook and twitter, someone actually tweeted “The official Catholic Confession app costs $2 and I can't even post my sins directly to Twitter or Facebook.” It isn't an app to automat confession, you can't phone in your confession.

What it is, is a great little app that help you prepare for and enjoy the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

My most used app is Universalis. It contains the full breviary for the divine office and very quickly and easily allows you to read and pray the office. It also contains the readings for the day at Mass and a brief but illuminating biography of the saint or saints of the day. For anyone wanting to pray the divine office this is a must have, and by far the best of the small number of divine office apps there are on the apple app store. There are two versions one which is free (and called Catholic Calendar) and one for about £15. The free version requires a data connections either via wifi or over the mobile network. For your £15 pounds you get everything downloaded on the phone so it can be used anywhere, you also get to use some addition translations most importantly for me the Grail psalms. As an added bonus for your £15 you can also download and use the Web and PC versions which are very useful if you are preparing to lead prayer for a group and need booklets printed out.

Third on my list is iRosary, it's a lovely rosary application that from my techy perspective is absolutely beautiful. The screen can be configure to show meditative artwork, or the words of the rosary, or both. The beads are shown down the right of left of the screen depending on if your right or left handed. A small stroke of the screen will move the beads on just as if you were praying with beads, and there is a small vibration of the phone each time the beads move on so you can pray easily with your eyes closed. Again this is a train favourite of mine, everyone else in rush hour has there laptop out or the paper open and I am quietly praying the rosary. It's a wonderful way to spend time between Bristol and Paddington.

The last on my list right now is PocketSword. I have been using this in various forms for years. There are versions for the PC and most smart phones. In it's simplest form it allows you to carry a bible around with you, but that's only a small part of this app. It's links to sites that allow you to download many different translations as well as commentaries and bible dictionaries. For anyone wanting to study the bibles this is great. When I am preparing homilies or lectures this is always used. I use it most though on a Thursday evening, when I sometime teach at church. If I get asked an awkward question I have an opportunity to look up the answer while everyone else is having a cup of tea in the break. Great app and Free.

I am really interested to knwo what you think of the iPhone apps particulary the confession app. And also what your favourite apps are. Let me know, Thanks, J.