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Week of Our Lady's Birthday....and the launch of Totus2us

I'm going for a 'Speakeasy' that a friend has organised for love of dancing (old fashioned, ballroom that is) at the Carisbrooke Hall, London, with Georgina Bromilow's Big Band, on Saturday, 12th September.  As Nina puts it "Get out those dancing shoes and dance yourself dizzy in your gladdest rags" - more info at

Week of 14th September - It was John Bradburne's 30th anniversary 2 Saturdays ago (5th September, for which there was a lovely celebration at Westminster Cathedral) so I'm going to recommend his biography, 'Strange Vagabond of God' (an English convert, he was a wanderer before finding his home with the lepers in Mutemwa, Zimbabwe) and a great 'Book of Days' full of his extraordinaryily prolific & beautiful verse.

Week of 21st September 2009 - As it's St Pio (Padre Pio) of Pietrelcina's feast day this week, I'm recommending to myself his motto: 'Pray, hope and don't worry".

Week of 28th September - I'm no blogger / blog-reader but am making an exception for this blog - Bridges and Tangents by Fr Stephen Wang. Started last month, it's full of interesting ideas and fun thoughts, intelligently expressed. Fr Stephen describes it like this: "It's not a 'Catholic blog', but a blog about culture and ideas - some of which will be about religion, Christianity, Catholicism, spirituality etc. This is mainly because I am fascinated by all these ideas! But also because I hope the blog will get 'out there' into the secular world and help people to see that religion and spirituality can be a normal part of everyday intelligent discussion, and not just fringe interests for religious people."

Week of 5th October - I'm following Sr Hyacinthe's October theme & recommending JPII's apostolic letter on the rosary, 'Rosarium Virginis Mariae'. JPII wrote it in 2002, but I'm only now reading it for the 1st time (& really enjoying it). You can download the letter from the Vatican website; I have got the CTS's print of it.

"From my youthful years this prayer has held an important place in my spiritual life... The Rosary has accompanied me in moments of joy and in moments of difficulty. To it I have entrusted any number of concerns; in it I have always found comfort. 24 years ago, scarcely 2 weeks after my election .. I frankly admitted: "The Rosary is my favourite prayer. A marvellous prayer! Marvellous in its simplicity and its depth.. Against the background of the words Ave Maria the prinicipal events of the life of Jesus Christ pass before the eyes of the soul. They take shape in the mysteries, and they put us in living communion with Jesus through - we might say - the heart of his Mother. At the same time our heart can embrace in the decades of the Rosary all the events that make up the lives of individuals, families, nations, the Church, and all mankind. Our personal concerns and those of our neighbour, especially those who are closest to us, who are dearest to us. Thus the simple prayer of the Rosary marks the rhythm of human life"...How many graces have I received in these years from the Blessed Virgin through the Rosary: Magnificat anima mea Dominum!  I wish to lift up my thanks to the Lord in the words of his Most Holy Mother, under whose protection I have placed my Petrine ministry: Totus Tuus!"

Week of 12th October - Friday, 16th October is the 31st anniversary of the election of Karol Wojtyla as Pope, so I'm gonna recommend a book I came across last year called 'John Paul II, We Love You - Young People Encounter the Pope' compiled by a young American priest who was in Rome at the time of JPII's death. As well as his diary of those extraordinary days, the book includes some of the many letters Father Peter Mitchell received from young(ish) people, describing how JPII had touched their lives. It's a great and very easy read, that put a smile on my face.

Week of 19th October - I've just rewatched (for the 3rd time) the 1998 film 'The Count of Monte Cristo' starring Gérard Depardieu - an 'epic' of a story about betrayal and revenge, justice and forgiveness; and this production is superb - brilliant acting, sumptuous costumes & fabulous sets. It's a whole 8 hours (split into 4 parts for easier watching!)...but it'll sure improve your French (unless of course you're fluent).

Week of 26th October - I'm recommending a musician this week - Mike Mangione. I don't know if you've listened to either of the 2 new podcasts (Man for Others & John Paul II, We Love You) but they both feature tracks from Mike Mangione's album, Tenebrae. I'd heard that Mike had played at looked up his website & really liked the sound of his music. I bought the album & then, thinking podcasts (rather a lot of my brainspace is taken up thinking such thoughts...though these days not sure how much brainspace I've got left!), I joined MySpace just so that I could try & send him a message ... I almost fell off my chair when I received an email back super-pronto from the man himself... and he has been wonderfully generous in allowing us to include his music on Totus2us's podcasts.

Week of 2nd November - This week I'm being location-specific... (so here's hoping someone from London reads this :-) ) the Movie 'Bella' (which I still haven't yet seen but have heard nothing but rave reviews about) is being shown in the cinema (Riverside Studios, Hammersmith) on the 7th & 10th November (hasn't yet made it to general release over here, though I did hear talk that it'll happen in the New Year). The main actor, Eduardo Verastegui, spoke at the Youth 2000 Walsingham festival this summer.


Week of 9th November - It was my birthday last week, which was quite brain-tiring in the run up as all I wanted to do was put the hand brake on time! Thanks to a huge dollop of love from family and friends I was reminded of what a wonderful gift life is, and how great it is to celebrate it. This youtube (which I'd like to slightly rename as 'Where on earth is Matt?') has a wonderful, 'let's celebrate life' feel to it.


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Week of 16th November - I've been waiting for a week that hasn't triggered a particular reco, to flag up to you the 'Southern musician' Burke Ingraffia. I came across his music in the summer & bought his album 'Independence, Louisiana'. I then listened to almost nothing else for about a month! He has written some great tunes, his voice is beautifully mellifluous, his words make you think and he collaborated with some doodie musicians from New Orleans on this album (which has a great cover too). On his website, Burke describes: "A lot of people sense that there is a thread of spirituality running through my songs, and I am glad that this is evident to those whose ears are open to it. I do embrace my Catholic faith and strive to create musically what writers such as Flannery O'Connor, G.K. Chesterton, and Walker Percy created literarily. This is not music to be sung at Mass or used in the liturgy. This is music to be enjoyed while living your life - sitting, driving, listening. Our culture batter us down with the new, and we forget that much of what we need to know to achieve happiness has already been passed down to us. This music is not preachy and does not exclude any listener but is rooted in a vision of Catholic humanism that hopes to unify everyone in peace."

Week of 23rd November - Zenit - "The world seen from Rome" - has a daily email newsletter (donation only if it's for 'personal use') which gives a really good overview of Church and Vatican News plus some very interesting interviews. I often don't get further than the titles at the top of the email, but am pleased just to have read them and have a clue where Pope Benedict is/who he's been meeting (it always includes his weekly Wednesday General Audience)/what's news from the Vatican (which generally refreshingly different to the UK news). The website (& I think newsletter) is readable in Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish (click here if you'd like to subscribe to the newsletter in English).

Week of 30th November - Wintershall Nativity Play (you do need to be in England for this reco) - it starts outside at the top of a hill in the depths of wooded Surrey countryside, with an angel up a tree, real animals (sheep, donkeys, horses... the lot!) and continues in a barn/stable. It's a beautiful (was about to say magical but it's real and about the most joyful story about). If you need a child to give yourself an excuse, borrow one/several - you'll all be uber chuffed you went. On from Thurs 17th - Mon 21st December (2 performances per day) - more info here.

Week of 7th December - As it's the Feast of the Immaculate Conception this week & the 3 monthiversary of Totus2us, I'm gonna recommend Henryk Gorecki's beautiful 'Totus Tuus' composed for JP2's visit to Poland in the '80s.  I rededicate Totus2us to our beloved mother, Mary - Totus Tuus.

(if you haven't ever heard it, picture me telling you in a very bossy voice that you've just GOT to have this youtube on in the background for the next 9 mins!)


Week of 14th December - I think I'm gonna sound rather too earnest, but never mind....I'm gonna recommend to myself to find some stillness/silence, to prepare my heart for the coming of baby Jesus.


Week of 4th January - By chance in a charity shop this week, I came across this recording of Jessye Norman & Kathleen Battle singing 'Spirituals in Concert' - it was recorded at Carnegie Hall back in 1990, with James Levine conducting. It's superb, & I get tingles up & down my spine when Jessye really lets rip with the power of her voice. For this New Year (I'm so grateful for new beginnings :-) I've picked them singing 'HE'S GOT THE WHOLE WORLD IN HIS HAND'.


Week of 11th January - I've just come across this youtube (recommended to me) .... the footeage and song are ACE but it's the pics of JPII's face from the top of the mountain that really got me. Hope you might enjoy it too.


Week of 18th January - It's taken me almost 3 months to get there ..but WOW if you have the smallest of chances of getting there before this Sunday, I sooooooo recommend the 'Sacred Made Real' exhibition on at the National Gallery (Trafalgar Square, London); and it is totally worth £3.50 to get the headsets & learn more about the exhibition while looking.  The whole thing has been done with such respect for the subject matter, the faith of the Spanish people really comes alive in this exhibition - 3 cheers for Xavier Bray, the exhibition's curator.  (if you're unable to get there, check out the intro vid on the National Gallery website).  

Week of 25th January - I've just seen the film Up in the Air. I didn't know anything about the story plot, but went coz I'm a Clooney fan. I'm not going to say anything about the plot either, as if you're thinking of seeing it I always think the less you know the more you take in for yourself, but I will recommend it. I thought it was an intelligent film that showed up how soulless modern life can be - it probed at some awkward questions but its humour stopped it from in anyway being hard work, the script is great & the acting superb.

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Week of 1st February - I've been meaning to take a listen to this album, Battle for Souls by Zealous) ;for ages ... & would recommend you don't take as long as me to give it a go, as it's very impressive - great, funky mix of rhythms, tunes and sound effects, all to superb lyrics - this album is full of faith and talent. Thank you, Zealous!

Week of 8th February - The Austrian/German film Die Fälscher / The Counterfeiters won Best Foreign Film at the 2008 Oscars but I only saw it last week. It's based on the memoirs of Adolf Burger, a Jewish Slovak typographer who was imprisoned in 1942 for forging baptismal certificates to save Jews from deportation, and later interned at Sachsenhausen to work on Operation Bernhard. It's an important story to be reminded of - Burger himself has spent the last decades going round telling his story to school children, to counter pro-Nazi propaganda that denies the holocaust. The film has been directed/produced brilliantly, in a way that keeps you watching while probing at very difficult moral scenarios. It has a real authenticity to it, doubtless due to collaboration with Burger throughout production (& some great acting).

Week of 15th February - Just in case someone glancing at this was on the look out for a good read for Lent, I thought I'd recommend Fr Iain Matthew's superb (could continue with superlatives for several lines) book The Impact of God - Soundings from St John of the Cross. I was given it by my flatmate (who'd been given it by another flatmate ... it's the sort of book that you want to give to all your friends when you've read it) a couple of years ago but didn't get round to reading it till last year. Every time I finished a chapter I'd want to reread it in the hope that a bit more of Fr Iain's insight into prayer and our life with God would sink in! As well as being full of wisdom, it's beautifully written and is definitely up there in my top 3 best spiritual reads.

Week of 22nd February - As it's the Feast of the Chair of St Peter this Monday, I'm recommending reading something by our beloved Papa Bene this Lent - there's his Lent message or if you haven't read any of his writings, I'd highly recommend giving 1 of his 3 encyclicals a go:
Deus Caritas Est on Christian love - readable in English, Byelorussian, Chinese, Croatian, DutchFrench, German, Hungarian, Italian, Latin, Polish, Portuguese, & Spanish.
Spe Salvi on Christian hope - readable in English, Byelorussian, Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Latin, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish.
Caritas in Veritate  on integral human development in charity and truth - readable in EnglishByelorussianSimplified ChineseTraditional ChineseDutch,  FrenchGermanHungarianItalianLatinPolishPortugueseSpanish
Then there's his book 'Jesus, of Nazareth' (so much in every page that I had to take it a little at a time).  And I've also really enjoyed 'God and the World' - a series of Q&As with journalist Peter Seewald, in his days as Cardinal Ratzinger.

Week of 1st March - This is a 'location-specific' reco - the Wintershall cast will be performing The Passion Play in Trafalgar Square (in London) this Good Friday at 3.15pm. The National Gallery, Nelson's column and all the many other landmarks around Trafalgar Square will make a remarkable backdrop. And it will undoubtedly be a very powerful and moving portrayal of Christ's Passion and Crucifixion.

You can listen to James Burke-Dunsmore (pictured on this poster) read the Stations of the Cross on Totus2us' podcast.

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Week of 8th March - I found out about this album 7 years ago (though it came out in mid '90s) and now see that it's very hard to come by! Gavin Bryars arranged music around an old recording he came across of a tramp singing the words 'Jesus' Blood Will Never Let Me Down' - the longer you listen, the more profoundly the words sink in.

It's 6 months this week since we launched Totus2us ... may we keep trusting in God's loving Providence!

Week of 15th March - I watched this poignant film for the 1st time last week, and the music has been lingering in my thoughts ever since. It's got all the charm a small independent Irish film could possibly wish for, and would be worth watching for the songs alone. Glen Hansard (who wrote the music) & Marketa Irglova knew each other before this film, & I'm sure their friendship is part of the charm. And by fluke I'm recommending Once in the week of St Patrick's day - wishing all those with Celtic blood in them a blessed feast day: 'May the road rise up to meet you.'


Week of 22nd March - Palm Sunday is also World Youth Day - 1 of JPII's wonderful ideas and 25 this year, when it's celebrated at diocesan level (next international gathering - Madrid 2011). Papa Benedetto has given a beautiful message on the theme "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mk 10:17 - from the passage where Jesus meets the rich young man).  It's also the theme that JPII reflected on in 1985 in the 1st ever letter addressed to young people.

"When Pope John Paul II commented on this scene, he turned to you and added: “May you experience a look like that! May you experience the truth that he, Christ, looks upon you with love!” It was love, revealed on the Cross so completely and totally, that led Saint Paul to write in amazement: “He loved me and gave himself up for me”. Pope John Paul II wrote that “the awareness that the Father has always loved us in his Son, that Christ always loves each of us, becomes a solid support for our whole human existence”. It enables us to overcome all our trials: the realization of our sins, our sufferings and our moments of discouragement.

In this love we find the source of all Christian life and the basic reason for evangelization: if we have really encountered Jesus, we cannot help but bear witness to him before those who have not yet met his gaze!

.....In this Year for Priests, I ask you to learn about the lives of the saints, and in particular of those saints who were priests. You will see how God was their guide and how they made their way through each day in faith, in hope and in love. Christ is calling each of you to work with him and to take up your responsibilities in order to build the civilization of love. If you follow his Word, it will light up your path and lead you to high goals that will give joy and full meaning to your lives."

I recommend reading this beautiful letter - which you can do in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, or Spanish.

Week of 29th March - I'm being greedy (.. & in Holy Week!) but I so want to give several recos this week:
1) Pray the Divine Mercy Novena starting on Good Friday, in preparation for Divine Mercy Sunday - if you can't make all the novena prayers, still pray the chaplet; if you forget to say the chaplet, say at least "Jesus, I trust in you" on each of these 9 days. This prayer was given to the Church through the Polish nun St Faustina, who JPII canonised in the Jubilee Year, and it's JPII's 5th anniversary this Good Friday... so there's gonna be extra graces about.
2) having watched the video below slightly by chance yesterday, I thoroughly recommend it - Archbishop Vincent Nichols has chosen 4 beautiful paintings in the National Gallery to reflect upon Holy Week and Easter.
3) Archbishop Vincent has also very generously given 5 reflections to accompany us through the the Easter Triduum for Totus2us's 3 2us podcast - Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, the Easter Vigil & Easter Sunday. So it's a good time to subscribe to 3 2us!

Week of 5th April (Easter week) - maybe it's because I was greedy with my recos last time... but I've had trouble thinking of anything other than recommending the film 'Up' which I saw on DVD this week. It's enchanting - full of funny moments and clever animation.

Week of 19th April - After 2 weeks by the Cornish sea, I'm back in London which is all abloom, full of the glories of Spring & unusually quiet (no planes in the sky). Bright blue skies and sunshine have seen me head to the BEST icecream parlour in London (can't believe there's more delicious icecream anywhere) - Oddano's near South Kensington tube station.

Week of 26th April - I saw this thanks to a reco by Burke Ingraffia: it's Monty Python at their best. Greece v Germany in a football match with a philosophical twist. Still chuckling a week on when I think about it & particularly appreciated their good choice of linesmen!


Week of 3rd May - Belomasan have done it again.....come up with an ACE film for May - here's MAY FEELINGS III ........ Thank you for our holy priests.  (You can watch May Feelings I & II here.)


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Week of 10th May - Thanks to going to London's Catholic Underground on Saturday, I've heard the rapper E Tizz who's got great talent ....take a listen..this is 'Loving You remix' - What's more, you can download his entire debut album, Sound of My Soul, for free from

Week of 17th May - I'm 'London-specific' this week as my reco is 'Spirit in the City', from 3rd-5th June. It's a great 3 day festival in the heart of London, around the Catholic churches of Soho/Leicester Square. It's been going for a couple of years now & the line up this year includes 2 processions of the Blessed Sacrament, talks by Fr Stan Fortuna CFR & Archbishop Vincent Nichols, & music by Crossbeam, St Patrick's Gospel Choir & Fr Stan (+ more).

Week of 24th May - I'm back from a happy, happy week in Rome ...which has just got me wanting to be a Roman! I especially enjoyed being at St Peter's (& all the other beautiful churches), spotting all the little shrines/holy images on street corners/alcoves, and relaxing over long lazy lunches. So my reco has gotta be the 'eternal city', home, sweet Rome! If you get half a chance to visit/be a pilgrim, jump at it.

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Week of 31st May - In this week of the wondrous feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (& the end of this Year for Priests) I'm recommending this fandabbydozzy track by the rapper Jahaziel, who I've only recently 'discovered' altho he's won a MOBO award (he's a good friend of E Tizz; he has also played at Catholic Underground London). It's called 'Jesus' & would have to be 1 of my desert island discs - here's a taster. For more info, visit his website & you can buy this track/album on itunes.

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Week of 14th June - my reco this week has gotta be Zealous' new track 'God has a Plan' (just released on itunes) coz it was Aaron's birthday on Sunday (happy birthday) & it's got great lyrics, but even better coz it's got a brilliantly inspiring story linked to it. Ingredients = an aspiring young rap artist in Zambia, a DJ friend & local radio stations; recipe for an invitation to Aaron to visit Zambia - read the full story here.

Week of 21st June - you need to be in England for this week's reco - it's the Wintershall Life of Christ, now in it's 10th year.

It's an all day performance (with a break for lunch) that moves around the beautiful grounds at Wintershall and retells the Life of Christ, from the Annunciation through to the Ascension.  They make the most of the animals on the estate as props/extras, and the vistas are fab (my fave scene is with Zachariah in the Temple). There are still some tickets for sale - I THOROUGHLY recommend going. It brings the story to life in a compelling way that moves the heart. Visit the Wintershall website for more info. You can also listen to Peter Hutley & James Burke-Dunsmore talk about Wintershall in TOP CHAT.

Week of 28th June - the last in this 1st series of 'Vocations Podcast' by Dan & Frankie is a real humdinger & includes a brill interview with the current Cure of Ars ... brava, brava to Dan & Frankie for all their hardwork on this podcast's hoping a new series starts in October. Listen on the Ushaw website or on itunes.

Week of 5th July - I heard Cherrie & Hal (from the band FUSE) sing a couple of weeks ago and was seriously impressed. They have got through to the finals of 'Live and Unsigned' which is happening this Saturday and they're currently 1st in the 'alternative' section. Take a listen to some of their songs here ..they're original, obviously talented (Cherrie writes the songs), with thought-provoking lyrics and really catchy tunes. Hal & Cherrie have both given 'somethings about Mary' - Hal's response is already up & Cherrie's will be on Saturday with lots of good luck wishes.

Week of 12th July - I'm recommending Mary's Meals Haiti Appeal.  The photographer Chris Leslie visited their projects in Haiti recently and took some amazing photos, that highlight the devastation and beauty there... and eloquently show how 6 months on the need remains for help.  Click here to see more photos (some in youtube), and here to learn more about how Mary's Meals are helping.


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Week of 19th July - if I had any poetry flowing in my veins it would be spurting forth right now for the awe-inspiring super-dudes who've helped me out in the Apple Store in Regents St when I've come in sporadically with my queries (not directly to do with Apple software). Most recently, on Thursday I went in coz Cyberduck was playing up (& it's a necessity for me with the podcasts) but it oddly worked immediately no prob, so instead the young Italian super-dude worked out for me how I could edit on audacity without turning the files into monster mp3s (I've been going around bleating like a lost sheep on this one for the last 9 months) now I can start working on uploading the great talks I've got recorded for Totus2us - thank you, thank you, thank you & whooo-hooooo.
And I'm gonna reco the 1st long talk up (1 of my all time faves by 1 of my fave priests) - it's on joy & Christian hope, & it's by Fr Dominique Faure CSJ.

Week of 26th July - When I bought my laptop 4 years ago it was with 0.5 GB of RAM (even more gobbledygooch to me then than now), I was cleverly advised that I could bump it up by buying more RAM from However it has taken me 3 years of working non-stop on this brave little Macbook & probably about 2 weeks of my life just watching the squiggle swirl round & most recently having to reopen my computer several times a day....before I actually went & did it! phew - how dim can 1 girl be!  I've now got 2 GB (for only about £30) on my still brave but much more lickety-split quick Macbook (yes 4 x what it was) ...& my life in front of a computer screen seems to be a breeze.  The 'RAM' arrived in the post (there was me thinking it might be something downloadable) & I was pointed in the direction of the super-cool site ifixit to help me see how to install it (due to lack of a screwdriver tiny enough I did resort to help from a bloke ... many thanks Ian).  "Our friends at iFixit are on a mission to fix the world! - fixing the world, one piece of hardware at a time."  - Rock on, ifixit (the I for me will I think always involve some help from fixit men!)  and my reco has gotta be - don't wait 3 years if you could do with more RAM!

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Week of 2nd August - I heard Amy Macdonald's 'This Pretty Face' on Chris Evans' Radio 2 programme last week (his Breakfast Show also deserves a reco - I've really been enjoying listening to it this last month) which got me going out & buying her album 'A Curious Thing' - every song is FAB & the album altogether is in my top 10. She's got a beautiful voice, the lyrics are intelligent/thoughtful & all the tunes are funky/catchy. Ace!

Week of 9th August - my recos are both UK based this week & in the ruins of abbeys - the Youth 2000 festival at Walsingham from 26th - 30th August, and Sung Vespers (an ecumenical celebration of Evening Prayer) at Tintern Abbey on Sunday 5th September at 3pm.  The Youth 2000 week-end is always brill (great collection of speakers ... and lots of young people), and I'd LOVE to be at Tintern Abbey for this prayer organised by the Friends of Our Lady of Tintern (the speaker will be Fr Nicholas James, parish priest of Monmouth & Llanwarth, in Wales).

Week of 16th August - The Butterfly Circus, starring Nick Vujicic, has just won 'Best Short Film' at the Feel Good Film Festival & I'm not at all surprised - it's story-telling at its best: engaging, life-affirming, rich in detail & colour, witnessing to the greatness of the human spirit, superbly acted & brilliantly portrayed. Many congratulations to all the cast & crew. The Butterfly Circus has been up on Totus2us for a while, but here's the 1st half below (with Spanish subtitles; total length of film - 20 mins).