Last month, the Bishops of England, Wales and Scotland wrote to the Prime Minister ahead of the G7 meeting in Cornwall. Their focus in the letter was the global ecological crisis.
“The urgency of the … crisis, and the teachings of our Catholic faith implore us to speak out, take action, and make decisions that benefit our planet and the most vulnerable in society,” say the bishops.
They also emphasise that the social, economic, and environmental crises we face are inextricably linked.
“The emergency of the ecological crisis has a human face, recently highlighted by the Vatican’s guidance on climate displaced people. In our race towards our own technological and economic advances, we have caused the exploitation of people and the degradation of our planet. Energy and infrastructure are vital in supporting the poorest in our societies out of the pandemic and out of the ecological crisis, but we must look towards a future whereby we radically reduce our use of fossil fuels – something which the countries which you represent have a shared responsibility for, in ensuring fair outcomes for the benefit of all.”
With permission from The Diocese of East Anglia,
“is one of the great gifts that life gives us. Being able to count on friends, during good times as well as bad, is a gift from God…. Let us extend a hand and listen to others so we can work together for the common good. Share this message of Francis … with friends … and people who aren't friends yet.”
With permission, ICN, 30 Jun 2021 from Pope's Worldwide Prayer Network.
… and closed mindedness that comes from habit. Be open to being amazed at God's surprises, he says, and God's "humble and hidden presence in daily life."...
Reflecting on last week’s gospel message, “(t)he Pope warned that if we let the ease of habit take over in us, it can lead to a ‘dictatorship of prejudice’ where we close ourselves to novelty and the possibility of being amazed. We see this in our daily lives when we gravitate toward experiences or people who only conform to our ideas and world view, he noted. This can affect us in our faith life as well, where we can think we know everything about Jesus and have it all figured out. The Pope warned, however, that ‘without openness to what is new and to God's surprises, without amazement, faith becomes a tiring litany that slowly dies out’. (Italics added) He stressed the importance of allowing ourselves to be amazed, which is the natural reaction to a true encounter with the Lord.”
With permission, ICN, https://www.indcatholicnews.com/ 4 Jul 2021 from Vatican News.
Pope Francis has called for a Synod of Bishops for October 2023. Leading up to that event is the process of listening, discerning, understanding and representing. It starts formally later this year (Sunday, 17th October 2021) at the diocesan level – with us, the People of God. In this information age how might we participate with the Holy Spirit and our Church in better listening, discerning and understanding? Is it the voice of the youth, of women, of the old, of the disadvantaged, of our neighbour, … that is lacking – that we must try to represent to the leaders of our Church? This lengthy process begins at our level and is truly worthy of our interest, attention and commitment to participate – to make a difference to the discussion -- in every way possible. Can one person make a difference? Why not?
“Happiness is hard to define precisely. …… [Happiness] is not something that we can make with our own hands; it is not at our service. It can only be embraced when it appears at the most unexpected moment. … Aristotle identified happiness with contemplation because, in this activity, we participate in the life that is proper to God. … ‘Such a life will be superior to the human condition: in fact, it is not in as much as we are human that we will live this way, but in as much as that which is divine is present in us.’ Every activity is a way of reaching this fullness, the true motor that constantly accompanies us and allows us to feel alive, fulfilled. Ignatius of Loyola called this final destination “the feeling and enjoyment of things interiorly” (Spiritual Exercises, n.2). … …
The modern mind has sought to make happiness a right available to everyone; in this way, it has progressively grown further away from its horizon, even speculative, to the point of disappearing. ….. Take, for example the novel, “Brave New World” by A. Huxley. In this novel, the writer imagines a world where technology allows the realization of any desire, an extraordinary abundance of goods, capable of guaranteeing wellbeing. Nevertheless, there has not been a growth in happiness: the increased tenor of life is paid for by the suppression of variety in personal characteristics, bringing about a dictatorship of technology. …..
The more one seeks to own happiness, the more it escapes and becomes unreachable. It is the parable of our times: we are too worried about ourselves and our own wellbeing, discovering ourselves to be ever sadder and less capable of living. As in the conquering of Jericho (see Joshua 6:1–22), happiness comes when we are busy doing other things that capture the heart; happiness overtakes us, as an added extra, as a free gift.”
Giovanni Cucci ‘Happiness: A delightful foretaste of Eternity” La Civilta Cattolica 15 June 2021
This free gift is the product of love that is unconditional, the Love that God offers us, through Christ. See below for Part 2 of this reflection.
You may have forgotten this: the Church’s Catechism opens with a declaration that the desire for happiness is within each of us, central to our human nature:
“The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God, and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for,”
Catechism of the Catholic Church • Pocket Edition • Geoffrey Chapman pub.
Happiness, then completes us when we participate in the life that is “proper for God” and where “that
which is divine is present in us.” (Aristotle) as we read last week.
To shape the life we lead in order to pursue and achieve happiness, God has given us the Commandments. I suppose most of us grow up to regard the Commandments as the sort of thing our grannies would say to us when we were small and irritating “Don’t do that! Don’t go there! Don’t … Don’t …” In truth, the Commandments are much more positive, in their way, and much more respectful of humanity and kind in their intent than they may seem. In effect, they tell us to follow the path they describe – obeying and serving God and avoiding the traps and pitfalls that face us when pursuing happiness.
When Psalm 22 says “He guides me along the right path”, it could be referring to the purpose of the Commandments as a guide to finding and following God. Jesus, in his mission on earth, has provided detailed directions that support and work alongside the Commandments. These are the Beatitudes*, the eight ways of filling our lives with love derived from the love God offers us, each day. Together they provide practical guidance on meeting the Commandments’ requirements positively. Happiness, Jesus is saying, can be experienced in this life if our pursuit of it is from the heart, and is shaped by the Commandments and, in this world, filled with the actions and behaviour envisaged in the Beatitudes. Such can be for each of us a life that is “proper for God” and where “that which is divine is present in us. TC
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
It is, perhaps, too easy to treat Lent as a period of gloom as we follow the road to Jesus’ earthly death. True, it is a time for reflecting on Christ’s mission and sacrifice, together with our own relationship with God. But it is not a season for wearing sackcloth and ashes for 24 hours a day. It is a time for refreshing and developing our understanding of God’s love for us and for our role in His creation. Thomas Merton’s reflections on Life are helpful in increasing our knowledge of and faith in the world Christ came to save:
“[Our] creation in the image and likeness of God proclaims that the creation was indeed a triumph of life. When God breathed into the face of Adam, everything in man came alive: not only his body, not only his mind, but also his spirit in which the image of God was hidden. And the image of God was live with likeness to God, that is to say with contemplation. …… God lived in him and he lived in God. …….
When we say that the creation of the first son of God was a triumph of life, we mean that every aspect of human living was exalted and sanctified at the dawn of man’s history. Man’s whole existence, not only in his relations with his own kind (Eve) and with the rest of the created world, were transfigured by divine insights and by an awareness of the inmost reality and value of everything that had come from the hand of God.”
The New Man Thomas Merton Burns & Oates 1962
Lent can be a time when we mourn how Adam and Eve lost this divinity; but, much more important, we can reflect on how Jesus offers to restore these gifts of God. In his mission amongst us, in his suffering on the Cross, in his death and resurrection and his ascension, Jesus invites us to follow him to a life in paradise. This is the joy we can take from Lent. This is how we can mourn death and, at the same time, celebrate life, as we put our lives in the service of our beloved Saviour.
“What does it mean to live a spiritual life?
…… This life becomes a possibility when, by disciplines of solitude and community, we slowly create some free inner space in our filled lives and so allow God’s Spirit to become manifest to us.
“We live in a worry-filled world. we find ourselves occupied and preoccupied with many things, while at the same time feeling bored, resentful, depressed and very lonely. In the midst of this world the Son of God, Jesus Christ, appears and offers us new life of the Spirit of God. We desire this life, but we also realise it is so radically different from what we are used to. …. A hard struggle is required. It is a struggle to allow God’s Spirit to work in us and recreate us. But this struggle is not beyond our strength. It calls for some very specific, well planned steps. It calls for a few moments in the day in the presence of God when we can listen to His voice precisely in the middle of our many concerns. It also calls for persistent endeavour to be with others in a new way by seeing them not as people to whom we can cling in fear, but as fellow human beings with whom we can create new space for God.”
Henri J M Nouwen “Making All Things New” 1991
At the end of Eastertide, we celebrate the Most Holy Trinity. We also call for the Trinity whenever we pray “in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”. We are perhaps, so used to calling on the Trinity that we can forget that this is the most mysterious and difficult part of our Faith to comprehend. We believe in One God and that God is three persons – the Father, The Son, The Holy Spirit. If you don’t believe in the Trinity, you cannot be a Christian.
In his book “The White Tiger”, Aravinda Adiga’s main character boasts that “These christians only have three gods. We Hindus have millions!” This is an error that many non-believers make. We believe in one God and only one. That God is three persons – not different gods. But, others object, “That is mathematically impossible. Three into one won’t go, unless each is a third of what you call God.” “No,” Christians reply, “Each are equal in being the one God. Otherwise, Jesus would only be 33.333% of God. What would the rest of him be? And what about God the Father? As for the Holy Spirit, would his spare two thirds be spent in a walk-on part in Ghost Busters? So, this 3 in 1 must be wrong. After all, 1 + 1 + 1 =3!!!”
These objections fall over, because the wrong mathematics is being used. Instead think about 1 x 1 x 1 = 1! So, our belief in 3 persons in One God is not an impossibility. This, however does not take us very far in understanding the nature of God. We could never have a complete understanding, but we can get a sense of it by following Jesus, reading the Gospels and recognising that the Church has held, developed and proclaimed the truth about the Trinity since the fourth century.
The Bible tells us, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). As a Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit love one another completely and entirely. Love is truly the essence of God’s inner life. Jesus showed us this truth about who God is to reveal God’s inner life to us. God loves us and wants us to know him. God created us out of love, and we are created for love.
Faith in the Trinity, therefore, is not merely a doctrine but a dogma that shows us who God is and who we are as creatures made in his image. TC
On the Feast of Pentecost we celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit on Christ’s followers, as they huddled, frightened and confused in the Upper Room. Pentecost is best known for the fire that struck the followers’ heads and for the Holy Spirits gift of tongues which gave them the ability to communicate with others, no matter what language they spoke. Jerusalem and the cities of the Holy Land at that times were market centres, where trade was conducted in goods from around the Mediterranean. The Spirit had not turned the Room into a Berlitz Language course! Christ had a much deeper reason for the gift of tongues, as this poem imagines it:
A Gift of Tongues
In that room the world turned upside down. This was no gift of Greek or Latin nor any patois of the world then known, These were words familiar but forgotten, grammar and syntax learnt at mother’s breast, cast off, life’s first lessons unlearnt. New understanding burst into flame, excised crisp cynicism and terror’s fear, the dull language of despair and death displaced by a lexicon of love: -
a language to talk peace, abandon war; to join, in reconciliation, minds and bodies once used to slaughter; to win what’s worth the winning for all; to deploy the strong subtle syntax of forgiving; to give and accept clemency with humble compassion; to slough despair, put on hope; to put up with, and not to put down; to proffer a hand, withhold the fist; to offer words for unity, not croak apartheid; to sing love, drown out hate. TC
See the announcement from the Vatican about the Pope's prayer initiative for May and a list of the shrines and intentions on the Prayer page, fourth section, of this website. Click here.
Praise God in his kingdoms,
extol him in his honours
acclaim him in his splendour.
Make every effort to praise him justly
when with assembled choirs
you sing to his honour!
Thus commences Johann Sebastian Bach’s Ascension Oratorio, a wonderful and devout piece of choral music, full of joy in Christ’s return to his Father and earnest, excited hope of meeting Him again. In this way it encompasses the whole meaning of the Ascension: it is not about mournful farewell, but the happy knowledge that Jesus does not leave us high and dry, but is both with the Father and us and will fulfil his promise to send the ‘Counsellor’ - the Holy Spirit – to advise and guide us.
Many remarkable things have been said about the Ascension, not least by those who deny it ever happened. It’s not surprising that there are doubters: the act of ascension sounds dubious and there are some myths about what happened. I remember being in Jerusalem many years ago and being shown the exact spot where Christ ascended. You knew it was the ‘lift off’ point, because he left his footprint on the ground. What I was shown was a hole in the shape of a 30” long foot and several inches deep, indicating that Jesus must have been 20’ high, at least.
Concern for proof that the Ascension happened is, in a sense, beside the point. If you accept what the Gospels say about it, that is sufficient. Why? Because it is a question of faith; that is, confidence and trust that something is true. Faith can be supported by our observations of the world about us and whatever evidence that can be got from the past. But it is no substitute for faith. When our confidence and trust rests in Jesus, our belief in what the Gospels say follows. Jesus’ size may be used as a metaphor for his greatness. The words of Bach’s Oratorio are the expression of feelings about the Ascension, not a historical account: but we can join in the joy and hope it expresses.
Did you know that you can buy Grace from John Lewis for £34?
Of course, when we talk about grace, or include it in our prayers, we are not usually talking about perfume. We can name children as Grace, talk about someone walking ‘gracefully’, tut-tut at ‘disgraceful behaviour’ and regret someone’s ungracefulness. But it is entirely different when we pray Hail Mary full of grace. As Catholics, then, what do we mean by ‘grace’ in praying to Our Lady or in talking about the Grace of God?
The Catechism is direct and transparent in explaining this to us. Here are the headlines:
Catechism of the Catholic Church paras.1996 -1999
Grace is given to us through baptism, reconciliation, communion and all the sacraments. It is a gift freely given. Why? Not because it is free, but, because of God’s love, we are worth it.
Lent is a pilgrimage and a partnership we embark on with God. He takes the initiative, we follow. …… Through the centuries, the Church tradition ……. [has] encouraged certain practices to encourage us along the Lenten Journey. They include:
1. Attendance at Lenten Services. These may be fewer this year because of Covid restrictions. However, we continue to have opportunities to attend Mass either in actual presence or virtually. The Liturgy of the hours is also helpful, especially because you can follow them on your own.
2. Making sufficient time for private prayer in conversation and partnership with God.
3. Daily reading of the Sacred Scriptures. If you have a missal, you have the daily readings and excerpts from the Bible in each mass.
4. Examination of conscience is extremely helpful for spiritual progress. Here, the daily reading of God’s Word is not just for hearing or reading – it must find application to our lives.
5. Works of Mercy cover almsgiving and action to help others in practical ways, from keeping company with those who are lonely to shopping for others, from praying for others to enabling others to keep in contact with family and friends. Small acts of kindness are do-able by everyone.
6. Self-control. Lent encourages us to practice control over our appetites. Traditionally this was focused on fasting and abstinence from meat. Fasting is still encouraged, but the modern era gives other and new ways of exercising control, such abstaining from watching TV, or tweeting and other distractions that the digital world offers. We can instead cultivate more time for God and helping others.
7. Silence – as we wrote last week
8. Daily ask for Jesus’ help in following Lent’s path to Easter; for example: St Ephrem’s prayer:
O LORD, Master of my life, grant that I may not be infected with the spirit of slothfulness and inquisitiveness, with the spirit of ambition and vain talking. Grant instead to me, your servant, the spirit of purity and of humility, the spirit of patience and neighbourly love. O Lord and King, grant me the grace of being aware of my sins and of not thinking evil of those of my brethren. For you are blessed, now and ever, and forever. Amen
9. Listening to Lent Music, such as the Passions by J S Bach, Vivaldi’s Stabat Mater, Handel’s Messiah, John Stainer’s The Crucifixion, James MacMillan’s Seven Last Words from the Cross, the many recordings of Gregorian Chant, or Russian Chants (apex), Rachmaninov’s Vespers, The Carmelite Friars’ Timeless Echo. The capacity to make music is one of God’s most grace-filled and loving gifts to us. As a means of reflection or discernment, music forms a background and a source of contemplation.
Source: Blessings of the Daily Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourette
BEAUTIFUL SOUP, SO RICH AND GREEN
WAITING IN A HOT TUREEN!
WHO FOR SUCH DAINTIES WOULD NOT STOOP?
SOUP OF THE EVENING, BEAUTIFUL SOUP!
Lewis Carroll Alice in Wonderland
Soup is simple. That’s what makes its appeal timeless. When young, the remembered fragrance of a warming soup on my way home from school made winter days that much more tolerable. the journey home that much more urgent, and anticipation of hunger sated that much more relishing. It was usually a soup rich in the flavour of winter vegetables, herbs and spices, or, on rarer occasions, a single vegetable, such as tomato or pea; rarer still was a meat soup.
It’s no wonder that soup is an ever popular dish. Easy to make (yes, I know you can have really complicated concoctions, but let’s leave that to the Sunday Supplements), it has a virtue not present in every food – it is classless. Soup is welcomed by the richest and poorest of our communities, from castle dwellers to the homeless. Soup is the one dish which you rely on to unite a people and bring a community together.
We now approach a season of the Church where soup comes into its own. Lent begins with Ash Wednesday on February 17th . What better way of following the stages of Lent than a regular Soup meal on Fridays. It can fulfil obligations to fast, its promise can bring the family together (Covid restrictions allowing) and help with your response to CAFOD’s Family Fast Day.
Even if you can’t get the family (or friends) together at the moment, it would still be possible to share a virtual soup meal either digitally, via FaceTime, WhatsApp, Zoom or similar, or by simply agreeing that on a particular Friday you will have the same soup recipe at the same time. Soup unites and supports community, a worthy companion to real or spiritual communion.
PEA & MINT SOUP
INGREDIENTS (SERVES 4)
50 g/2 oz/4 tbsp Butter
4 spring onions, chopped
450 g/1 lb peas
600 ml/1 pint vegetable stock
Salt and black pepper
Small sprigs of fresh mint
1 pint milk
SPICY CARROT SOUP
INGREDIENTS (SERVES 6)
1 tbsp Olive Oil
1 large onion chopped
1.5 lb Carrots, sliced
Spices: 1 tsp each coriander, cumin and chili powder
1.5 pints vegetable stock
Salt and black pepper to taste
Sprig of coriander to garnish
On May 31, the last day of Mary’s Month, we celebrate Our Lady’s Visitation to her cousin Elizabeth. Both are pregnant, one with Jesus and the other with John, who would become John the Baptist and prepare the way for Jesus. Mary’s joy is well known through the Magnificat. This poem reflects on what Elizabeth might have been thinking.
“It wasn’t enough for God to bless us, after many barren years waiting, with a child: nor to stop my husband’s tongue, though the blight on his priestly duties brought some respite as I went about my tasks without his pernickety instructions.
No. The joy of having John inside me was magnified (if I can put it thus) by Mary bearing here into our house the promised Lord. And, you know, I did not delight alone – in joy, the babe danced too.” At Hebron, on a high hill in Judah God greets his prophet: Jesus invites John to join the dance, a pas de deux to shake the world and challenge Narcissan selfish greed with selfless love, ransom for mankind’s perjured soul. The Long Awaited One dancing with his Pathfinder on salvation’s road? Not yet. These souls’ dance is a foretelling of what’s to come. Now is just a try-out, testing the eternal embrace twixt God and man, foregoing its price, future pain.
“As an upright Jewish family, Mary and Joseph want to honour the Law and consecrate their first-born son to the Lord. The family’s destination is to the Temple where they are welcomed by two ancient figures, the prophet Simeon and the prophetess Anna. In spite of being an old man, Simeon looks forward, not backwards; he looks ahead to the consolation of Israel. He is not captivated by the past, the world that populates his memory, but is attentive to the present moment and what is yet to happen.
So, we have the meeting between youth an old age: between the young mother and the old venerables: between promise and fulfilment, between waiting and completion. You watch Simeon take the child into his arms; you watch old age reach out for the flesh of a promise fulfilled, gathering this assurance into his quieting arms, as he breaks into the poetry of the Nunc Dimittis.
And Anna: she is the attentive woman who prays and waits and watches. Anna is always around the Temple night and day: she makes herself God’s neighbourhood watch. An inquisitive woman of faith, she is on permanent lookout: this valiant eighty-four-year old woman now carries her story to all who have been looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
As Mary fostered this chid within her, so she now shares him with a waiting world. This child is given, as Simeon prophesied, as a light to enlighten all peoples. That is why we celebrate Mary as a model for all Christians: we are challenged to carry Christ, not in wombs, but in hearts and minds, to carry him to those who have spent their lives waiting for the day when they can, at last, sense that good news is within their reach.”
Denis McBride C.Ss.R. Diary 2021 • Through the Year with Mary • Redemptorist Publications
Now, Lord, you have kept your word:
let your servant go in peace.
With my own eyes I have seen the salvation
which you have prepared in the sight of every people:
a light to reveal you to the nations
and the glory of your people Israel.
They returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom, and the favour of God was upon him. LUKE 2:39-40
Jesus’ mission became public when he was thirty. We know little about his life during this earlier period, but Charles de Foucauld has described vividly his idea of what it must have been like:
“Yours was the life of a model Son with your humble working parents. … This was the visible half. The other invisible half was your life in God which was perpetual contemplation. You worked and helped your parents and had holy tender exchange with them and prayed with them during the day, but in the solitude and shadow of night your soul poured itself out in silence.
Always, continually, you prayed, for praying is to be with God and you are God. But your human soul continued this contemplation through the night, as, all through the day, it was united to your divinity. Your life was a constant outpouring before God, your soul looked always upon God, always contemplating him. What then was this prayer that was the half of your life in Nazareth? Before and above all things, it was adoration, contemplation, silent adoration which is the most eloquent of all praise – a silence that expresses the most passionate declaration of love.”
Charles de Foucauld • Meditations of a Hermit • 1930
As children of God we can, each day, follow Christ in our way of life. Being “a little less than gods” we cannot hope to replicate his life in detail, but we can imitate it in leading a prayerful life. This means more than following a cycle of formal prayers, spiritually nourishing though that can be. ‘Silent adoration’, especially, can be a practice throughout the day, as we silently devote each of our actions to God’s glory, deliberately seeking God’s help and love in all we do. TC
Following Epiphany and the Baptism of the Lord is the first week in Ordinary Time -- the period between the Church’s great festivals, Christmastide and Eastertide. In our everyday lives, of course, current circumstances make our time far from ordinary. Indeed, there’s much speculation about what the ‘new normal’ would or should involve.
Ordinary Time in the daily life of the Church should come as something of a relief, in that it doesn’t change. True, we live with restrictions in important areas of our lives, but at least we can still enjoy Mass in our churches, on Sundays and through the week. Otherwise our routines of prayer, christian acts of care, helping others, friendship and love for others, especially within our families, can continue.
To understand more about ordinary life in Ordinary Time, consider Christ’s life in Nazareth. He spent the first 30 years as infant, youth and young man mostly in Nazareth, living with Mary, Joseph and other relatives and neighbours.
“The Gospels record little about this time in Nazareth, but it is extremely important to Jesus’ subsequent ministry. Those quiet years in the company of his parents and friends who so deeply loved him were the best preparation for his announcement of the Kingdom of God and the redemptive sacrifice that followed. Jesus even chose to begin his ministry in Nazareth (Lk 16-21). Jesus’ life in Nazareth was one of silence, study, prayer, friendship, work and obedience to his parents …. forever growing “in wisdom and stature and in grace with God and men.”
Blessings of the Daily • Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourrette
Here then is a clear recipe for fighting off the negatives of living with the threat of Covid Pneumonia through following Jesus and enriching our Ordinary Time and, for everyone, making it the new normal. TC
The Epiphany is one of the oldest feasts of the Church, celebrating the revelation that Jesus was and is the Son of God. As a Feast Day it predates the celebration of Christmas as December 25th . Before then, January 6th commemorated the Nativity, Visitation of the Magi, Baptism of Christ and the Wedding of Cana all in one feast of the Epiphany. At the Council of Tours in 567, the Church set both Christmas day and Epiphany as feast days on the Dec. 25th and Jan. 6th, respectively, and named the twelve days between the feasts the Christmas season. Over time, the Western Church separated the remaining feasts into their own celebrations, leaving the celebration of the Epiphany to commemorate primarily the Visitation of the Magi.
In the modern Calendar Epiphany is celebrated on different dates as its often transferred to the second Sunday after Christmas. This year, however, the bishops of England and Wales have moved the Epiphany back to its original day of the 6th January. (where it will remain for the foreseeable future) This important feast would typically be a Holy Day of Obligation, but given the current Covid-19 restrictions, Holy days of obligation have temporarily been suspended. Therefore, there will only be the usual 10:00 am Mass on Wednesday 6th Jan at Brandon, which will be streamed and recorded (allowing people to follow online later, should they wish)
The Christmas season culminates in the feast of the Baptism of the Lord next weekend. Following ancient tradition, however, the nativity scenes in both our Churches shall remain in place until the feast of the Presentation of the Lord (Candlemass) on 2nd February.
Now is the time when we are encouraged to make New Year Resolutions. We are expected to plan improvements and reforms in the way we live. Unfortunately, these avowals come with two common risks:that we will focus on irrelevant, too easy or trivial things; and that we will give up on them sooner rather than later. In short New Year Resolutions are short-lived and not to be taken seriously. So, if you are thinking about them, don’t bother, you have better uses for your breath! This not to say that we have no hope of improvement. But the hope we should have and use to set and achieve worthwhile resolutions should spring from the reality of our faith and the urgent needs of others. Pope Francis has pointed out why it is important to think this way: “What the Lord asks of you today is a culture of service, not a throwaway culture……. You have to open your eyes and let the suffering around you touch you, so that you hear the Spirit of God speaking to you …”
(Pope Francis “Let us Dream” Simon and Shuster 2020)
The Pope here calls each of us resolve to improve our lives by focusing completely on helping others to improve their lives, whether that means selfless love for neighbours, acts of charity, support for agencies that bring relief and hope to people in this country and in others, taking care of those in need, and so on. This may not be as big a challenge as it appears:
“In this past year of change and crisis, my mind and heart have overflowed with people. People I think of and pray for, and sometimes cry with; people with names and faces, people who have died without saying goodbye to those they loved, families in difficulty, even going hungry, because there’s no work.
“… I find it helps to focus on concrete situations: you see faces looking for life and love in the reality of each person, each people. You see hope written in the story of every nation … So rather than overwhelm you, it invites you to ponder, and to respond with hope.”
(Pope Francis ibid)
In the darkness, a sleeping lion cub stirs,
familiar smell of sheep a new kind
of dream, not of eating but couching lamb.
Startled, the cub wakes, crawls to its mother,
lick and growl assure, life’s back to normal.
Above Bethlehem, three sleep-robbed shepherds
wait for dawn to unlock their watch. The psalms
they sing thank God for starlight that lays bare
feared predators’ lairs and plots. They know well
their future’s in their flock. Could they know it,
the flock they’re in is in God’s waiting hand.
The eastern sky brightens, their relief grows,
not yet knowing, more than day approaches.
Under that same sky, three foreigners,
travellers from the far east, though whether
kings, rogues or refugees could not be told,
plod on, forgoing sleep, Jerusalem
bound, planning what tale would gain admittance,
waiting for dawn to announce their entrance.
Into an Untrusting world
Into an untrusting world
Faith is born,
Into a world of cynicism
Hope is born,
In the midst of hate
Charity is born.
This three-times gifted child
Is come to die that we may live,
Stewards of God’s world of love
Lived through Christ’s beatitudes.
Halket Street was built in 1832 as part of a larger scheme to house the increasing number of Irish people coming to build docks and railways, work in Iron foundries and engineering factories and build properties of all types in the growing city. It quickly obtained a reputation as a slum and as a place no ‘decent’ person would go near. By 1890 it was a place of desperate poverty, unemployment and low-level crime. Over the course of a hundred years its name was changed to White Street and Avon Street – feeble and failing attempts to improve its respectability. It was a place of degradation that never shook off its reputation, even after repairs and re-construction.
Christmas 1954 was a difficult time for everyone in the street. Autumn flooding – a regular occurrence – had damaged most of the houses. Snow now covered the ground, pretty but unwelcome to most families who had little coal to keep the house warm. In the 40 households, 23 had lost their men: 8 were in prison, 7 at sea, and 8 had run away. Money was tight and few could afford more than cheap meat for Christmas dinner. Of the 61 children in the street, only 22 would have a Christmas present, other than a small chocolate bar. Halket/Avon Street was demolished in the 1970s, to be replaced by a Medical Centre and large Shoppers’ Car Park. The Street is gone. But poverty, ignorance, child abuse, malnutrition, racism and all human failings are still around us here and across the country.
Now is the hour to make amends for the way Christmas was (not) celebrated in the past. Now is the time to take something extra to the food bank, to help out where comfort – even at a distance – can be offered to the needy, to pick up the phone and speak to someone (they may be in your family) who is isolated, lonely and alone, and to share the love that Christ has for you with others.
Advent is a time of hope when we should be completely intent upon the joy to come. It invites us to look towards the fulfilment of God’s promise, as envisioned by the Prophets especially Isaiah.
“Hope is an ‘insignificant little girl’ besides her two big sisters, faith and charity … nevertheless, it is she ‘who moves the others’. If we did not expect a great good, if we did not believe it possible, we would not be capable of any effort.” [From Advent to Pentecost: Carthusian Novice Conferences (CNC) 1999}
The confidence and joy hope gives us are crucial. As St Francis de Sales said, it is not enough to do good; one must do it cheerfully. God loves the one who gives with joy. This joy springs from our confidence that what we hope for will be granted - that is, God giving himself to us with all that he is and all that he has. “God gives himself as God… God is simple … [and] each of us receives this infinite gift …” (CNC)
Advent begins on November 29th , 3 days before the end of the current lockdown period. Let us prepare for Advent and the relaxing of coronavirus restrictions with intense hope, as we await the Christmas Miracle by reflecting on God’s goodness and our own fragility. Let us review the hope we have and rejoice that Christ’s coming will soon overwhelm our weaknesses with divine love. Let us hope that this year’s Nativity will renew our joy of, and commitment to, spreading the Good News in our community. TC
In the first Advent a large crowd must have been making their way to Jerusalem and its neighbouring towns because of the census imposed by the Roman authorities. Amongst these, either as part of a group or on their own - we don’t know which – were a young pregnant woman and her husband. This pair were ordinary people, he a carpenter, she a new housewife, young, inexperienced, but carrying with her baby a secret of awesome significance for the whole world.
Being a carpenter in those days was to be recognised and honoured as a man of skill. Joseph, this carpenter, had proved himself both skilful and courageous. He had accepted responsibility for adding to his skills those of fatherhood for a child not his. It would have taken courage to do this in the face of gossip and raised eyebrows in the close-knit village of Nazareth. Possibly with some reservations lingering, he had accepted his wife’s explanation that she bore the child of God.
Mary herself had been through an experience at first terrifying and then uplifting, as she was told that she had been selected to bear the Messiah. What courage, as well as humility, that required!
God had chosen a child to bear His Child, in the most difficult circumstances: - amongst the poor of the world, in a country conquered by a cruel empire, whose puppet kings exploited and harried the people, in a culture where religious orthodoxy and materialism fought tooth and nail.
This is the mission both were charged with: these were the challenges they faced. Mary and Joseph, beloved of God, too often forgotten as the greatest of heroes.
The Catholic Church in England and Wales has welcomed the report, published 10 h Nov from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, relating to the institutional response of the Church in its duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation.
Read more and access full statement here: https://www.rcdea.org.uk/catholic-churchwelcomes-iicsa-report-into-abuse/
Covid-19 disease is having many negative impacts on our society, over and above the suffering of those who have contracted it, and grief over those who have died from it. Anxiety and fear are everywhere. How do we cope with it, especially since we are urged by shops and social media to spook one another on Halloween and after? I listened recently to an audiobook version of the late John O’Donohue’s Walking in Wonder. That night I dreamt I had a conversation with him about Fear and Death. A wise advisor, this poem records what he had to say:
A dreamt conversation with the late John O’Donohue
A dark companion waiting at our birth, you said, lifelong at our side, Death’s mantle hides insistent fear’s root and source, as we tread across the years on roads we fool ourselves will lead in time to finding him.
For our pretence is twofold: to assume we walk to death, when he’s hand in hand with us; and to think fear’s a thing that’s ours to suffer, own, command and overcome. Fear, you say, is death’s tenacious sister, working to enable death’s triumph.
Fear is the Dark side of wonder. Wonder’s Light hosts the means to fend off fear, exchange obsessive gaze on darkness’ entrancing secrets, to bathe in the Light’s greater truth: “Could we but see through eternity’s dark glass, discern the form of everlasting life, death’s hollow valedictory as we pass could no longer wound as with a knife.”
The Light, of course, is God’s Love. TC
On December 14, 1591, just before midnight, John of the Cross was dying. He asked to have "Song of Songs" read to him. While listening, he was heard to say, "So beautiful are the flowers!' And then he died.
Born in 1541, St. John of the Cross grew up in poverty and was drawn to the contemplative life. His soul so longed for mystical union with God that his piety offended members of his order, including its head. The turning point of his life came in 1567 when he met Teresa of Avila, a kindred spirit who was looking for a partner in her Carmelite reform movement. She appointed him prior of the first community of discalced friars. Later, John of the Cross served as a spiritual director at her convent. John wrote: "Contemplation is nothing else but a secret, peaceful, and loving infusion of God, which if admitted, will set the soul on fire with the Spirit of love." In 1577, he was imprisoned for nine months during which he wrote about his "dark night of the soul." He became renowned as a mystic and poet. He celebrated his love for God through glorifying the love between the three persons of the Trinity. In the extract below he sings of the Father’s love for His Son and for those who love his Son:
“You are the brilliance of my light
My wisdom and My power divine,
The figure of my substance bright
In whom I am well pleased to shine!
The man who loves you, O my Son,
To Him Myself I will belong.
The Love that in Yourself I won
I’ll plant in him and root it strong,
Because he loved the very one
I loved so deeply and so long.”
St John of the Cross: The Poems translated by Roy Campbell • The Harvill Press 21000
The 6th December is the memorial of St Nicholas. We know very little about him. He was born (c. 270) into an affluent Greek family in Myra (now Demre, in Turkey) and, after becoming a priest at an early age, became Bishop of that area, where he served his flock until his death c.343.
Over the centuries, many tales have been told about his life and miracles, although there is little evidence that support the claims made for him in most of them. St Nicholas’ descendant is, of course, Santa Claus, who “secretly” visits families at Christmas to give them gifts. The commercial world has kidnapped Santa, and Saint Nicholas’ purpose in helping the poor has disappeared under an avalanche of goods.
This misses the point. St Nicholas was motivated by two things: first, following Christ in aiding the poor; second, following Christ in respecting the poor. So, as you go about giving presents this year, think like St Nicholas, not ‘Santa’, and seek out someone who needs your gift. This doesn’t have to be money.
A CAFOD World Gift can change the life of a poor person elsewhere. Or again, ten minutes talking to a lonely person may be a bigger, better gift than a box of chocolates. Time spent with others can be more blessed than an iWatch! This is not about doing something ‘nice’ because it is Christmas. Advent begins the Church’s year. Although we are halfway through it, it is not too late to make a New Year’s Resolution to follow Jesus across the coming year by using St Nicholas as a guide.
Advent and Christmas could be the time when we begin St Nicholas’ journey. He didn’t restrict generosity to this season! It is not unknown for parents to have to take on the Santa role, given the world-wide jobs commercialisation demands of him. If you are one such parent, why not be St Nicholas as well? You can the children about him and his quiet generosity, seeking God’s blessing on what he did, and not the applause of the crowd. You can tell them what you and the family have done to aid and respect the vulnerable, through prayer, companionship and other gifts.
Both Simon and Jude were ordinary men who were chosen by Jesus himself to teach others about God’s love and to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Their lives help us to understand that even the most average people can become saints when they decide to follow Jesus. Both of these men were known by other names during their lives. Simon was often called “the Zealot.” A zealot is a person who is strongly committed to something. In Simon’s case, he firmly believed in the importance of people following Jewish law. Once he met Jesus, his life was changed. Simon is the patron saint of woodcutters, tanners and sawyers.
Jude was also known as “Jude Thaddeus.” People used this formal title so that he was not confused with Judas, the Iscariot. Jude is the patron saint of hopeless cases and desperate situations. People often pray to Jude when they feel that there is no one else to turn to. They ask Jude to bring their problem to Jesus.
Simon and Jude travelled together to teach others about Jesus. Because of their eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ miracles and his death and Resurrection, many people became believers and were baptized. Simon and Jude died for their faith on the same day in Beirut. Jude’s body was later returned to Rome where it was buried in a crypt under St. Peter’s Basilica.
October 18th is St Luke’s feast. The great evangelist, as he is also known, was a citizen of Antioch in Syria, is said to have been one of Jesus’ first seventy two apostles and was a close friend of St Paul, who thought a lot of him and refers to him in the letter to the Colossians and in other letters.
He is, of course, known to us as the writer of one of the four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. He is the only one who gives us the parable of the prodigal son and so gives us this clear and moving example of God’s love and mercy.
St Paul tells us he was a physician (Colossians) and no doubt his professional skills were of great service to Christ’s followers, both in treating ailments and, through private practice on the wealthy, as a source of income.
In present times, doctors and other healthcare workers are absolutely vital to us as we face the threats not only of Covid-19, but the myriad other ailments from corns to cancer than afflict us. May we then remember St Luke and think of our doctors as respected and beloved physicians.
On October 15th , we celebrate St Teresa’s life and service to God. Born Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada, also called Saint Teresa of Jesus 28 March 1515 – 4 or 15 October 1582), was a Spanish noblewoman who felt called to the convent. Carmelite nun, religious reformer, author, theologian of the contemplative life and of mental prayer, she earned the rare distinction of being declared a Doctor of the Church, but not until over four centuries after her death. Active during the Catholic Reformation, she reformed the Carmelite Orders of both women and men. The movement she initiated was later joined by the younger Spanish Carmelite friar and mystic John of the Cross. It led eventually to the establishment of the Discalced Carmelites. A formal papal decree adopting the split from the old order was issued in 1580.
Her written contributions, which include her autobiography, The Life of Teresa of Jesus and her seminal work The Interior Castle, are today an integral part of Spanish Renaissance literature. Together with The Way of Perfection, her works form part of the literary canon of Christian mysticism and Christian meditation practice, and continue to attract interest from people both within and outside the Catholic Church.
Patron saint of sailors, merchants, repentant thieves, archers, children, brewers, pawnbrokers, and students
On December 19th, we celebrate the memorial of St Nicholas. Like many early saints we know little about St Nicholas. He was born (c. 270) into an affluent Greek family in Myra (now Demre, in Turkey) and, after becoming a priest at an early age, became Bishop of that area, and served there until his death c.343. Over the centuries, many tales have been told about his life and miracles, although there is little evidence to support the claims made for him in most of these.
The most famous story is about how he rescued three sisters from the threat of becoming prostitutes. He heard about a devout man who had lost all his money; his three daughters had no dowry and no prospects of marriage. Instead, they would be sold into prostitution. Rather than humiliate the man by a display of his generosity, Nicholas visited the man’s house over three nights and, on each occasion, threw a bag of gold coins through an external window. This meant that the girls would each have a dowry and could marry. From this and other tales, he became renowned for his generosity, modesty and discretion. St Nicholas’ descendant is, of course, Santa Claus, who secretly visits families at Christmas to give them gifts. As the commercial world has kidnapped Santa,
Saint Nicholas’ purpose in helping the poor has disappeared under an avalanche of goods. This misses the point: St Nicholas was motivated by two things: first, following Christ in aiding the poor (”Blessed are the merciful’); second, following Christ in respecting the poor. So, as you go about giving presents this year, think like St Nicholas, not ‘Santa’, and seek out someone who needs your gift. This doesn’t have to be money…A CAFOD World Gift given under a relative’s name may be a blessing for a poor person elsewhere and a blessing for the relative. Or again, ten minutes talking to a lonely person may be a bigger, better gift than a box of chocolates.
He was an Irish monk who did much to establish Christianity throughout the British Isles and particularly in East Anglia. Born in Ireland, he established a monastery at Rathmat, on the shores of Loch Corrib, and then journeyed to England where he founded another at Burgh Castle, near Yarmouth. Remembered especially on January 16th.
St Antony is the originator of the monastic life. He was born in Egypt: when his parents died, he listened to the words of the Gospel and gave all his belongings to the poor. He went out into the wilderness to begin a life of penitence, living in absolute poverty, praying, meditating, and supporting himself by manual work.
He suffered many temptations, both physical and spiritual, but he overcame them. Disciples gathered round him, attracted by his wisdom, moderation, and holiness. He lived to be 105, and died in 356.
Remembered especially on January 17th.
Felix of Burgundy, also known as Felix of Dunwich (died 8 March 647 or 648), was the first bishop of the East Angles. He is widely credited as the man who introduced Christ-ianity to the kingdom of East Anglia. Felix travelled from his homeland of Burgundy to Canterbury before being sent by Honorius to Sigeberht of East Anglia's kingdom in about 630. On arrival in East Anglia, Sigeberht gave him a see at Dommoc (possibly Walton, Suffolk or Dunwich in Suffolk). Felix helped Sigeberht to establish a school in his kingdom "where boys could be taught letters". He died on 8 March 647 or 648, having been bishop for seventeen years. His relics were translated from Dommoc to Soham Abbey and then to the abbey at Ramsey.
It is something of an oddity that we celebrate St Stephen’s feast day at Christmas, some thirty years before he was martyred. Yet, it is in the third week of Eastertide where we read of his reproof of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Council which had accused him of “speaking against this holy place (The Temple) and the law”.
In his response he turned the tables on his accusers, claiming that they were the ones who, with their ancestors, resisted the Holy Spirit and persecuted prophets. Naturally this did not go down well, and the council members drove him from Jerusalem and stoned him to death.
What Stephen did before the council was to stand up to those who had been responsible for the legal murder of Jesus. You have become his betrayers, his murderers.” [Acts 7,51-8.1] As such it is a message to all Christians to stand up in defence of our Saviour. The stones we face today are the jibes, lies, and objections hurled at Our Lord and at us, his followers, each ‘stone’ intended to hurt with dismissal, denial and claims that our faith has no meaning or goodness.
As the stones rained down on him, Stephen knelt in prayer: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” [Acts ibid.] Even as an agonising death overtook him, he called for mercy on his persecutors, as Christ did on the Cross.
Before this, Stephen had been an active follower standing for Christ, busy in synagogue and meeting places bringing the Good News to fellow Jews and irritating the Establishment to the point where they decided to get rid of him.
In these ways - standing up to Christianity’s opponents, being humble in praying for their salvation and standing amongst non-believers proclaiming the Good News - he is the very model of an active Christian we should all aim to be.
May 3rd was the feast day of two apostles, about whom little is known, Saint James and St Philip.
This James is known as James the Less, the son of Alphaeus, to avoid confusion with the other James (the Great) son of Zebedee.
We know a little more about Philip, who is mentioned frequently in the Gospels. He was from Bethsaida, as were Peter and Andrew. He probably first heard of Jesus through being a disciple of John the Baptist. Jesus seemed to trust him greatly. Selecting him to find food for the multitude.
“I am forever grateful to St Philip for some of his questions to Jesus, because it is in Philip’s request, “Lord show us the Father” that Jesus elaborates on his relationship to his Father, one of the most beautiful texts in the Gospel of John.
Jesus said to him “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” John 14: 8-9, 11
“Often, when at prayer, I seem to get nowhere. I then glance at the large ikon of Christ, the Pantocrator, in our chapel and reflect on Jesus’ response to Philip….
“I know I cannot comprehend God, that his mystery is beyond me, but I know that in the Ikon I see Jesus. Trusting his words, I know in an inexplicable way that in seeing Jesus I also see the Father.”
Blessings of the Daily Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourette
St James is the patron saint of apothecaries; pharmacists; dying people; fullers; pastry chefs.
St Philip is the patron saint of hatters and pastry chefs.
22 July was the Feast of St Mary Magdalene, one of the most maligned of Christ’s followers. Her name may refer to the town of Magdala a fishing village in Galilee, and she is mentioned in all four of the Gospels. In fact, she is mentioned by name twelve times, more than most of the apostles, and any other non-family women. Luke’s gospel (8:2-3) describes her as one of the followers of Jesus, contributing to his ministry out of their own pockets. This suggests that she was probably well-off. Both St Luke and St Mark write that seven demons had been driven out of her. In all four gospels she witnessed Christ’s crucifixion, burial and resurrection. As a messenger who brought news of the risen Christ to the apostles, she became known as the apostle of the apostles.
In later centuries, numerous myths and false accounts of her life and relationship to Jesus destroyed her reputation, regardless of the testimony of the Gospels. A central theme in the later story of Mary Magdalene was that she had been a prostitute (and, therefore, an object of scandal). This was reinforced by Pope Gregory I’s error in confusing her with Mary of Bethany and the unnamed ‘sinful woman’ who washed Christ’s feet (Luke 7:36-50) These falsehoods were refuted by Pope Paul VI in 1969 and Pope Francis raised her memorial to the status of a Feast in the Calendar in 2016. Nonetheless her status as a promiscuous woman has remained in popular culture to the present day. For example, the 2011 Film Resurrection portrays her as an experienced prostitute. It seems that bad-naming women and destroying reputations is an older game than social media trolls could ever have imagined.
Let us then celebrate St Mary Magdalene’s Feast on Wednesday next, rejoicing in the fact that she followed Christ and was trusted as the first to bring news of His Resurrection to the apostles and the world. Let us pray, too, for all those women who have suffered loss of dignity, abuse and degradation.
Remembered especially in January on the first Sunday after the Christmas period.
Patron saint of virgins, chastity, and gardeners. Remembered especially on January 21st.
Patron saint of writers and journalists. Remembered especially on January 24th.
Remembered especially on January 26th.
Doctor of the Church Remembered especially on January 28th.
A man who dedicated his life to the service of abandoned young people. Founder of the Salesians of Don Bosco. Remembered especially on January 31st.
Patron saint of Ireland
Remembered especially on March 17th.
I was talking the other day to a friend who had just finished a bout of shopping. He was quite agitated and it soon emerged that he had had a very mixed experience of customer service. In one place, the person serving him had been extremely helpful and he was impressed. In contrast, in other stores he experienced what he described as rudeness, indifference or patronising behaviour (he’s 82) and was furious about it. “I hate people like that and the shops who employ them!” he proclaimed. This friend is an ordinary man, even-tempered, friendly and kind. It must have taken some severely negative behaviour to make him so angry.
After we had parted, I thought about the way anger and hatred seem to be too common a part of daily life. It seems, and is, natural to react to insults by responding in kind. But if we stand back and think, we should recognise the encounter as a message from God, asking us to show the other person the christian way of dealing with people. Turning the other cheek is a good thing, though not always the best. On these occasions God offers us a blessing, an opportunity to demonstrate our faithfulness to Jesus, our own freedom from hate or resentment, from self-pity, freedom to show goodness and kindness to our adversary.
“To live by faith means to put ourselves in the hands of God, especially in our most difficult moments” Pope Francis
What better time to show our love for God than in the hurry-scurry of the lead-in to Christmas? What better time to show our joy in our faith and the meaning of Advent in the way we respect and honour those around us, especially those toiling with the stress of coping all that consumerism AND fear of coronavirus, who maybe vent their frustrations on us?
Remembering those – military and civilian - who have died in war and because of its consequences, pray the Beatitudes:
Although millions, or even billions of people may already be saints, All Saints' Day tends to focus on known saints -- that is, those recognized in the canon of the saints by the Catholic Church. All Saints' Day is also commemorated by members of the Eastern Orthodox Church as well as Lutheran and Anglican churches.
Generally, All Saints' Day is for us a Holy Day of Obligation. Other countries have different rules according to their national bishop's conferences. The bishops of each conference have the authority to amend the rules surrounding the obligation of the day.
The practice of commemorating the Saints grew in the early days of the Church and was celebrated on the Sunday After Pentecost. All Saints' Day was formally instituted by Pope Boniface IV, who consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Virgin Mary and all the Martyrs on May 13 in 609 AD. Boniface IV also established All Souls' Day, which follows All Saints. The feast remained on May 13 until Pope Gregory III (731 – 741) changed it to November 1st.
There are two meanings to “waiting”, depending on which preposition you use: “waiting for” means allowing time to go by until something happens: “waiting on” means serving someone, usually with food and drink.
I have experience, supported by what others have told me, of the habits of Parisian waiters. At a typical café, one can wait for the waiter to wait on you. They will then wait for you to pay and give them a suitable tip. Typically, this experience is spiced up by the waiter waiting for you to get his attention and decide to wait on you. All Parisian waiters go through a rigorous training programme to qualify for their jobs, though I’m not sure ‘Making the (foreign) Customer Wait’ is part of it. If not, they learn the art very quickly: - it is clearly an entertainment which they value as a diversion from the ennui of their daily work. I wonder sometimes whether it is actually a gift of the Holy Spirit God’s reminder to us that we have to be patient wait for things. We wait for blessings, we wait for love to come along, we wait for a pay rise, we wait for death and salvation, and so on. Also Parisian practice is a good reminder that though some may serve us, none are less than us, and, in fact, we are all servants – of God and of one another.
At this moment we wait for the ‘end’ of the Covid 19 disease, and a return to ‘normality’, even though the signs are that we face creating a new ‘normality, if only because Covid 19 is not going to go away. Our new ‘normality’ will include learning how to live side-by-side with it waiting for outbreaks which, hopefully, will be better managed as we learn more and more about its treatment.
Becoming more patient and more resilient, then, is a big challenge for generations brought up to expect instant gratification who will be in a time when ‘waiting for’ becomes both important and critical. Except in one respect. No, Parisian waiters have not been blessed by the Holy Spirit. Their practice cannot be God-given, since God does not want to place us in contexts where impatience (from ‘waiting for’) and resentment (for ‘waiting on’) breed sins of intemperance and anger. God is Love. A love we need not wait for, since it is available to us all the time. All we have to do is to stretch our hands out to grasp it, and our souls will be filled with His Love. Simple!
Last week I wrote about ‘waiting’ and its two meanings. This week is about ‘attend’ and its derivative, ‘attention’. Fear not! This is not the start of weekly lessons about words and their etymology. ‘Attention’, “attending’ and “attend” are all linked to the idea of waiting in a way that is crucial for anyone trying to meet God, especially through the Mass. To “attend” is derived from the Old French ‘atendre’ meaning ‘to wait for’, ‘to expect”, (Modern French ‘attendre)’. In turn this is from the Latin for ‘give heed to, stretch toward’: in other words “stretching one’s mind toward something’ or ‘concentrating’.
‘Waiting’ and ‘attending’ share the idea of’ expecting something to happen. However, waiting is passive, and comes to an end when something expected happens. Attending is the opposite: it is active and the person who ‘attends’ does more than letting time pass by. To attend they must ‘stretch’ their mind towards what is happening. For example, we may wait for the priest to enter, come to the altar and begin the Mass. From that point onward, we should engage in its celebration. It is unfortunate that nowadays “attend” carries with it the meaning “be there and watch”. We might ‘attend’ a wedding, or a wrestling match (there is a difference!) or the opening of parliament or the placing of wreaths on Remembrance Day. We are there, but not expected to take part, just to observe. Perhaps we sometimes think like this about going to Mass. “Oh I’ll think about it on Sunday, after I’ve been to Mass.”
Equating ‘attending mass’ to no more than “going to mass” or “being at mass” is understandable, but disappointing. Mass is the opportunity to meet and embrace Christ, experience His love for us and commit ourselves to his service. We cannot do this unless we plunge ourselves into the liturgy of the Mass, paying attention to each of its elements and taking an active part, not only in prayers, hymns and responses but also in concentrating on what is said, sung and preached – “stretching our minds to grasp their meaning” and hearing – not just listening to – God’s Word. Really, we should leave church after Mass exhausted by the effort we’ve put into it – tired but joyful that once again we have encountered God through his Son.
“Authentic simplicity implies both detachment and renunciation. The Desert Ascetics …. Deliberately withdrew from a society and a church that had been corrupted by power and materialism. In the desert, these athletae Dei, or ‘athletes of God’ gave themselves fully to ascetic practices and continual prayer, both of which paved the way that leads to union with God. ……
In contrast to the questions we might ask of ourselves today, they asked themselves instead: How much more can I renounce? What can I do without? How can I learn to love as Christ did, with true compassion and without judging others? And, ultimately, How can I truly love my God?
Seeing all things through the ‘prism’ of simplicity inspired the early ascetics to become living embodiments of the truth emanating from the Gospel. This view is antithetical to the falsehood of the ways of the world. While Society, then and now, stressed the accumulation of possessions, the manipulation of others, the glorification of the individual, and the exaltation of the self, the desert ascetics found perfect contentment in the practice of …. simplicity, humility and frugality. Such practices made ample space within for God’s love and his Kingdom.”
Blessings of the Daily • Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourette
‘Turn off the lights’, ‘Don’t put the heating on, put on more clothing.’ ‘Walk, don’t use the car’ – these are some of the many ways in which we are encouraged to live simply. They are laudable and practical steps we can take. However, they scarcely touch the simplicity, humility and frugality Brother Victor-Antione describes. the present restrictions because of the pandemic does give us an opportunity to review that value of what we (used to) do in ‘normal life’. How much have we done without and what real difference has it made? What more could we do without? How much more could we give up? How can we make amends with the people we have fallen out with? How can we stop grumbling? And what would we have instead? Hopefully, more time for chatting with God. More time for listening to God. More opportunity to experience and share His love. TC
“We are God’s work of art” Ephesians 2:10
A Message from SPUC – The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children
‘On 24 June 2020, MPs voted by a huge majority in favour of Dr Rupa Huq MP’s Ten Minute Rule Bill “to restrict demonstrations in the vicinity of abortion clinics”. The Bill comes up for a Second Reading in the House of Commons on Friday 25 September.
Sarah Olney MP is also introducing a similar bill on Friday October 30. …..
….. We are launching a petition calling upon the Home Secretary to uphold the right of peaceful, law-abiding pro-life citizens to save the lives of unborn children and to offer help to pregnant women directly outside abortion clinics…..’
“St Paul says that we are all the work of God. If we truly believe this and try to live by the apostle’s statement, it means defying all our preconceived notions about others and, above all, about ourselves. St Paul gives us a new way of looking at reality, a reality that now appears to our eyes as transfigured by the light of God and renewed in Christ.
Each element of creation is, therefore, changed and made different. We can no longer “act as usual”, as if nothing has happened. We are now in Christ, and each of us is a new creation bearing the image of God. Therefore, we must show utmost respect to one another and to ourselves, because we are all God’s handiwork.
This is not always easy to do. We are weak, and often struggle and fail. We must pray for the sort of faith that strengthens our resolution, so that the grace of God may act in each of us, according to God’s wishes. It is said of St Seraphim of Sarov that he addressed each person he met with the salutation, “Christ is risen, my joy.” He called each and everyone “my joy” because he saw in them the work of God. This is another saint who has much to teach us.”
Br Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourette: Blessings of the Daily
Pope Francis says:
“I wish to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life. In the same way, however, I can and must [state] that there is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled with the Father.” (Apostolic Letter, 2016)
“Each of us has a vision of good and of evil. We have to encourage people to move towards what they think is good... Everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them. That would be enough to make the world a better place.”
A few days ago a friend, who volunteers in a care home, told me that she had been asked to become a fulltime member of the home’s staff. “Some jobs are not filled and we have sick leave and holidays to contend with, so we really are short-staffed at the moment,” she explained.
“The thing is, I love the residents, and get on well with colleagues. But,” she continued, “the truth is. I really don’t want to do it. Not fulltime. I only volunteered until I could go back to work in my ‘proper’ job, once it’s safe to do so…. At the same time, I couldn’t let them down. So, in the end, I said I’d do it.” She paused then said, “I didn’t sign up for it, but I guess he has better plans than mine.”
‘He’ is not her manager (who’s a woman), nor her husband or partner (she has neither). It’s God. Her faith is such that she always prays to discern what God’s intentions may be before taking any major decision. This humility and ability to put aside one’s own wants and listen for our Saviour’s wishes are not necessarily easy to see, including in ourselves– a kind of hidden ability.
This was on my mind when I watched a TV news item about the way some people have been abused and insulted for not wearing face masks in shops. The victims here are people with hidden disabilities conditions that have no physical appearance, but which mean that wearing a mask can prove impossible or harmful. It struck me that these incidents indicated another hidden disability – a spiritual one, when people, possibly out of fear, cast aside the tolerance, generosity of spirit and willingness to help others that they might normally offer.
Hidden spiritual abilities and disabilities characterise every one of us, whether we are aware of them or not. Let us fight our fears through repentance, humility and prayer that discerns God’s will, and our hidden spiritual disabilities shall be vanquished, as we rejoice, like my friend, in serving Him.
“They should practice the seeing of God’s presence in all things, in their conversations, their walks, in all that they see, taste, hear, understand, in all their actions, since His Divine Majesty is truly in all things by His presence, power and essence. This kind of meditation, which finds God our Lord in all things is easier than raising oneself to the consideration of divine truths which are more abstract.”
‘St Ignatius Loyola, The Letters of St Ignatius Loyola’ William J Young
This is a classic expression of one of the foundational themes of Ignation spirituality – that God is to be found in all things. Note the practical element of this theme - that it is easier to understand and more useful than more abstract prayer.
Today, we could pay particular attention to finding God in two places that Ignatius mentions – in conversations with others (e,g. after Mass) and in walking from place to place (e.g. from home to the shops or in the garden).
Source: “An Ignatian book of days” Jim Manney • Loyola Press 2014
Pope Francis has established 1 September as the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, encouraging the Catholic community around the world to pray for our common home.
The day is inspired by Pope Francis' landmark encyclical Laudato Si’, which calls on "every person living on this planet" to care for our shared Earth.
He calls us all to celebrate this opportune moment to “reaffirm [our] personal vocation to be stewards of creation, to thank God for the wonderful handiwork which he has entrusted to our care, and to implore his help for the protection of creation, as well as his pardon for the sins committed against the world in which we live.”
The World Day of Prayer is another opportunity for us to connect with our creator God and allow the Lord to redefine our relationship with the environment: from one of consumption and control to one of care and protection.
There are many ways to respond to Pope Francis’ call to care for the gift of God’s creation – why not take some time out of your day on 1 September to walk in your local park or take a few moments to thank God for the flowers growing in your garden? For more ideas go to https://cafod.org.uk/News/UKnews/Celebrate-World-Day-of-Prayer
August 15th is the usual day for celebrating Our Lady’s Assumption, a Holy Day of Obligation.
There are some who still scratch their heads over the veracity of this event, although it was made dogmatic by Pope Pius XII in 1950 in the bull Munificentissimus Deus. As dogma, we are obliged to believe in it.
What does it mean for us on our daily journey towards God?
According to Pope Benedict XVI:
“By contemplating Mary in heavenly glory, we understand that the earth is not the definitive homeland for us either, and that if we live with our gaze fixed on eternal goods we will one day share in this same glory and the earth will become more beautiful.
Consequently, we must not lose our serenity and peace even amid the thousands of daily difficulties. The luminous sign of Our Lady taken up into Heaven shines out even more brightly when sad shadows of suffering and violence seem to loom on the horizon.
We may be sure of it: from on high, Mary follows our footsteps with gentle concern, dispels the gloom in moments of darkness and distress, reassures us with her motherly hand.
Supported by awareness of this, let us continue confidently on our path of Christian commitment wherever Providence may lead us. Let us forge ahead in our lives under Mary's guidance.”
[General Audience, August 16, 2006].
This day celebrates one of the great mysteries of Christ’s life and mission. He took his three ‘core’ apostles. Peter, James and John, up a mountain (believed to be Mount Tabor) to pray with him. The apostles did what seemed to be a regular thing – they fell asleep while The Lord prayed! They awoke startled to find Jesus in conversation with Moses and Elijah. After the shock of recognising these Patriarchs of Israel, Peter suggested that he build three tents for them and Jesus, no doubt to protect them from the heat of the day. But Moses and Elijah were about to leave. At that point the apostles entered a white cloud and a voice told them who Christ was – the Son of God.
Christ did nothing without a purpose. His intention here was to bolster the apostle’s courage before his passion and execution. By selecting these three apostles he chose a small team whose combined talents would provide strength to all his followers in the dark days to come: Peter, a strong, if hasty, leader, not afraid to speak truth to the power of the Sanhedrin; James, an organiser who would establish the structures and disciplines of the early church; and John, the mystic who would illumine and inspire the early church’s faith and vision of Christ the King.
Between them they would be able to explore and explain this mystery, after Christ’s resurrection; how Moses represented the Law of the Old Testament; how Elijah represented the prophets and, thereby, God’s promises to his people. Most of all, the meeting with Jesus represented the convergence of the Law and the Torah with Christ’s Mission as the Messiah.
Sea Sunday – our annual celebration of the work of the Mission to Sea Farers. Seafarers need our help because they are often working in dangerous conditions, with no one else to turn to. The Mission’s chaplains support both men and women they support in 200 ports, and tailor their help to each and every one of them.
The Mission provides:
As you can see, the Mission undertakes massive amounts of work to support seafarers. It depends on donations to continue and expand this effort. You can help with a donation. Do this by sending $5 or to our Parish Treasurer who will forward it to the Mission. For details of how to send, use the same method as for your weekly offertory donations. See overleaf for details.
For more information about the Mission to Sea Farers go to https://www.missiontoseafarers.org/sea-sunday
There is something desperately dull about the prospect of week after week of green vestments stretching into the future. But then, all human life is like that. After the party, or the holiday, or the exam success, we come back in the end to the old routine of putting out the rubbish and making sure there will be milk for breakfast tomorrow. Ordinary Time is repetitive for a purpose and the green vestments signify something immensely important to us. The colour green symbolises hope, just as the burning fire of love is symbolised by red. Green is the colour of growing things, and hope, like all that grows, is always new and always fresh.
Liturgically, green is the colour of Ordinary Time because it is the season in which we are being neither especially penitent (in purple) nor overwhelmingly joyful (in white). Instead, the Spirit, having come down on us, is now living in us and acting through us. This offers a different kind of excitement from that of Christmas, Easter and Pentecost – not so much one of bustling about arranging celebrations, but quiet and thoughtful actions to grow our faith and allow the Spirit’s presence within us to give us a sense of God’s enduring love for us. It is a time too to look around and take time to savour the wonders and beauties of creation, now when Spring becomes Summer and the countryside flourishes in all its God-made glory.
As Gerald Manley Hopkins put it in Pied Beauty:
Glory be to God for dappled things -
For skies of couple-colour as a brindled cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced- fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Also it is an opportunity to reflect that:
Now joy-filled Easter
and Pentecost are done,
we hear, question and once more
learn who truly is this Son,
remembered, made real, honoured
through the unvarying rite
of Ordinary Time, whose
constancy shapes, guides our sight
towards Advent, Nativity and
Lenten eager expectation.
This plain Time’s virtue lies not
in tedious repetition:
its rituals reveal threefold God’s
eternal dance of loving care
through which we, ordinary folk,
everlasting joy may share.
From ‘Ordinary Time’ • Tom Caple 2018
Now is Ordinary Time in the Church’s Calendar, at a point in which, in our daily lives, things are anything but ordinary! This period of loss and deprivation is a time of grief. Many grieve for the loss of loved ones and close friends; others grieve that they cannot be with or touch relatives; others grieve for the loss of ‘liberty’ under current rules; yet others grieve because the dangers of covid-19 remain a hidden threat .
Grief, in short, is not confined to deaths and funerals. Now is the time to show how we can cope with grief by our faith in God’s love. Here are some steps in controlling grief and transforming it into a gift of love.
1. Practising humility Opportunities to grow in humility tend to come by letting others into our grieving lives; such as unexpected weeping to a compassionate stranger or permitting a neighbour to clean our house.
2. Surrendering to God willingly all our needs Having a heart and mind that is open and willing to hand over our wants and needs into God’s hands.
3. Listening for and accepting God’s answer It does not mean we no longer care about our circumstances, only that we surrender our needs, cares, and concerns without expecting a specific outcome to our prayer.
4. Coping with the apparent absence of God When feeling as if God has forsaken or abandoned you; feeling spiritually dry or alone, you persevere courageously in trusting God’s love.
5. Showing Confidence in God’s Timing When you are feeling empty, exhausted, possibly abandoned by God and others – cultivate gratitude. Think of all the ways God has blessed you. Then, thank Him for what He is doing in your life. In this way we make everything a holy gift that He, in turn, moulds into healing, strength, and peace for us.
6. Preparing to accept what the future may bring When we pray without expectation of a certain outcome, then we will accept that our pain may not be taken away from us. Instead, it may be transformed into deeper love for Jesus, whose deep love in turn is given to us. Suffering and loss do not define us; they teach us how to love in a deeper and more meaningful way.
The Church celebrates Pentecost, one of the most important feast days of the year; it brings the Easter season to a close and celebrates the beginnings of the Church. This day is the Church’s birthday. Pentecost is the celebration of the person of the Holy Spirit coming upon the Apostles, Mary, and the first followers of Jesus, who were gathered together in the Upper Room. A “strong, driving” wind filled the room where they were gathered, and tongues of fire came to rest on their heads, allowing them to speak in different languages so that they could understand each other. It was such a strange phenomenon that some people thought the Christians were just drunk - but Peter pointed out that it was only the morning, and that the phenomenon was caused by the Holy Spirit.
People have scratched their heads over the gift of tongues that were bestowed to those in the Upper Room. However, gifts from God are have a subtlety beyond their appearance. This gift was more than the capacity to communicate with others. Those who were there were from many lands within the Roman Empire and outside, so the presence of people speaking different languages, as well as the common languages of Latin and Greek (and, for many, Hebrew) should have been no surprise. What did surprise, especially those not directly involved, was what was being said and understood.
Here is a mystery. What was said? One clue is that these were followers of Jesus, some well-established, others new converts. What the Holy Spirit must have made clear to them was the language they should use in Jesus’ name and therefore in God’s name. God is love and Jesus offered his love to all, freely and fully. The Spirit filled the apostles and followers with understanding of what and how to speak the language of love – Christ’s mission. And this is a new language, one rarely heard before in the pagan world. Live not in fear, captives of greed and oppression, but in the knowledge of the freedom Jesus has won for mankind: “God asks only that we return his love. “
No wonder the stupefied observers thought the apostles and followers were drunk. They were: but with the new understanding of what their beloved Christ was asking of them.
What is it?
World Communications Day was established by Pope Paul VI in 1967 as an annual celebration that encourages us to reflect on the opportunities and challenges that the modern means of social communication (the press, motion pictures, radio, television and the internet) afford the Church to communicate the gospel message.
Where did it come from?
The celebration followed the Second Vatican Council, which realised it must engage fully with the modern world.
Why it is celebrated every year?
In setting it up on Sunday 7th May 1967, less than two years after the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI wanted to draw attention to the communications media and the enormous power they have for cultural transformation.
Engaging with the communications world
Increasingly aware of the world as a global village and the power of the media as a free market place for philosophies and values, the Church has sought to be in there with its message and to use the media to proclaim the values it sees are beneficial for human development and for the eternal welfare of people.
Analysis and action
Two important documents of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications – Communio et Progressio (1971) and Aetatis Novae (1992) have presented an analysis of the world of the communications media and made recommendations for the Church’s action.
This year Pope Frances has a special message: “I would like to devote this year’s Message to the theme of storytelling, because I believe that, so as not to lose our bearings, we need to make our own the truth contained in good stories. Stories that build up, not tear down; stories that help us rediscover our roots and the strength needed to move forward together. Amid the cacophony of voices and messages that surround us, we need a human story that can speak of ourselves and of the beauty all around us. A narrative that can regard our world and its happenings with a tender gaze. A narrative that can tell us that we are part of a living and interconnected tapestry. A narrative that can reveal the interweaving of the threads which connect us to one another.:
Message from His Holiness Pope Francis
Get the whole of Pope Francis’ Message from http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/communications/documents/papa-francesco_20200124_messaggio-comunicazioni-sociali.html - it’s a good read!
Those who have visited the Holy Land and seen the Shrines and other holy places will probably have been to Bethany on the Mount of Olives and seen the place from where Christ is said to have ascended into heaven. This place of wondrous joy is also remarkable because one can see, it is claimed, the print of Our Lord’s foot in the ground. I can’t remember whether it was the right or left foot. What was remarkable was that it was about 20 inches long! It is things like this that can undermine religion and the faith on which it is built. It can disillusion those who have a literal view of the events described in the Bible. It can confirm the scepticism of those who reject Christianity or, indeed, all religions. It can encourage a pick-your-own attitude to belief, making it adapted to individuals’’ preferences, rather than embracing the whole rich and rewarding scope of faith, and the teaching of the Church.
I doubt there are many people who believe that Jesus had 20” feet. Equally it would be no surprise to find that the majority of Christians dismiss the ‘relic’ as, at best, a misunderstanding, and, at worst, a trick to squeeze a bit more money from tourists. Both reactions miss the point, because this is a symbol, rather than a true representation of our saviour’s anatomy. Whist we can be aware of symbols (such as road signs) we are used to interpreting them for their relationship to the ‘real’ world. We think we see a representation of an outsize foot and respond by reference to our understanding of foot sizes that humans have. That’s understandable, but irrelevant. In terms of faith and what we believe, we need to ask what it could mean to have such an image before us. Perhaps it is meant show, not how big, but how great God is, or how powerful Jesus was – or both.
This time of the year celebrates five great events and mysteries of our Faith: Resurrection, Ascension, Pentecost, The Most Holy Trinity and the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. The truth of each lies in what we are asked to believe and the strength of our belief is to be found in what the Church teaches, and our reflections on the meaning of these events. For example, why should God visit the apostles in the person of the Holy Spirit to ensure they understood their missionary role? What is the significance of the fire at Pentecost? Reflecting on these things and reading about them can help us understand both their actual and symbolic roles in our Faith.
This is important if we are to understand plagues and other disasters and what they might mean. In ancient times, plagues, floods, earthquakes and other unexpected catastrophes were often interpreted to mean that God was saying something, usually by way of warning or punishment. That belief has lasted, so that, for example, people took the Black Death (a fourteenth century pestilence) as God punishing the world for its sins. This belief in God the Awesome Avenger lingers today in some communities, and in some people’s beliefs.
Such vindictive action is nothing to do with the Christian God. As Richard Leonard points out in his article, “Jesus never sends a plague, a natural disaster, or turns anyone into a pillar of salt. If Jesus isn’t into murderous retribution, nor …… is God the Father. Jesus is the incarnate correction to false views of how God works in the world.”
It makes sense doesn’t it? If God is Love, and loves us so much that he asks his Son to take human form to guide us to a better understanding of that love and to sacrifice himself for the sake of that love, it makes no sense whatsoever to believe that the same God would act so punitively towards us. God did not send us COVID-19, whatever its origins. It is in great part the result of poor human practices and bad decisions.
“Spiritual sanity in these difficult days rests in seeing that every moment of the day God does what he did on Good Friday: not intervening to prevent humanity killing Jesus, but not allowing evil and despair to have the last word.” [Richard Leonard ibid.]
As the lockdown continues, the stress of having very limited freedom of movement and action is affecting people differently. Each of us, I guess, can get low and fret for an end to the restrictions. That end seems as far away as ever. This is particularly the case if we get bad news. For example, I have just heard that a very good friend has tested positive for the virus. Shocking and painful though this news is, I find some help in the writings of Blessings of the Daily:
“There are moments when one arrives at a point of despair and senselessness. But those moments are always God’s hour. It is then that he is most at work in us. It is out of sheer despair that I gaze at Jesus, both Crucified and Risen. I see the marks of his passion, the wounds he endured during his crucifixion, and, suddenly, I see this human body that endured so much suffering being transformed by the power of God into the glory of the Resurrection. He …. is rewarded precisely because of his immense sufferings…. It is this that gives me hope to look beyond my own struggles, my limitations, my own sense of despair …... As Christ’s disciples, we are called to follow him through his death into his Resurrection…. It is through faith that I can see light at the end oi the tunnel.”
Blessings of the Daily Brother Victoire-Antione d’Avila-Latourette
We are never alone on our journey. Even at the darkest times. Jesus is with us, just as he was with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, as we hear in today’s Gospel. Like them we may not always recognise his presence, but our faith tells us he is there, with crook and staff, the inspiration of our courage, the guardian of our hopes, the shepherd of our souls.
The Bishops of England & Wales have declared this year a Year of the Word called ‘The God Who Speaks”. During this year we are encouraged to re-discover the Word of God in our Bibles and renew our love for Scripture. To help us do this I will make available each week a resource sheet called ‘The Wednesday Word’. The sheet contains the following: Sunday’s readings and guidance for a prayerful reading of scripture in order to prepare more fully for the. coming Sunday’s Mass.
Sheets are at the back of the church and available at the website http//www.wednesdayword.org/
Please watch this space for news of other initiatives throughout the year. A deanery retreat day on the Bible is also planned for later this year.
In Western Europe, it has been customary for many centuries to include the name of a saint when naming a child– usually as the first personal name, and again after Confirmation. In the UK, there is a wide variety of first names given to boys and girls, but the most popular names seem to remain constant.
For example, the ten most popular name for girls in 2000 were, in order of popularity: -Chloe, Emily, Megan, Charlotte, Jessica, Lauren, Sophie, Olivia, Hannah, and Lucy.
18 years later the ten most popular girls’ names were: Olivia, Amelia, Ava, Isla, Emily, Mia, Isabella, Sophia, Ella, and Grace.
What seem to be significant changes are not so revolutionary, since all these names were in the top 50 list for both years. We may be in for some startling changes next year, if you accept Harper’s Bazaar’s forecast that the top ten will be Adah, Reese, Mika, Paisley, Amina, Teagan, Nova, Aura, Pearl, and Billie, completely different from what went before.
So what is happening to the convention of naming children after saints? It seems that parents now resist pressures to name their children after their parents or relatives. Instead, a growing habit is to find attractive, or interesting, or ‘celebrity,’ names. This is a pity. The use of saints’ names has a purpose over and above carrying on a ‘family name’. By naming a girl Elizabeth, or a boy John, one is seeking a spiritual ‘sponsor’ and role model for the child. (That is not to suggest that choosing ‘Catherine’ brings with it a wish for the child to be martyred! Rather it offers St Catherine’s depth of faith as a model.) Getting to know about one’s patron saint is a splendid – and often exciting – way of learning about how Christians put their faith into practice and the spiritual strengths they have to support their actions. In a community where multiple faiths (and none at all) flourish, using a Christian name is a way of declaring our identity as children of God. Getting to know more about our patron saints can also lead to more reflection about whom we name when we say In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit!
At the end of the fourth century, a woman named Etheria made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Her journal, discovered in 1887, gives an unprecedented glimpse of liturgical life there. Among the celebrations she describes is the gala procession in honour of his Presentation in the Temple 40 days later—February 15.
This feast emphasizes Jesus’ first appearance in the Temple.
The observance spread throughout the Western Church in the fifth and sixth centuries. Because the Church in the West celebrated Jesus’ birth on December 25, the Presentation was moved to February 2, 40 days after Christmas. At the beginning of the eighth century, Pope Sergius inaugurated a candlelight procession, which has become part of the celebration, giving the feast its popular name: Candlemas.
After celebrating the Nativity of our Lord, with its splendour in both the Church and the popular culture, it would be easy to overlook the significance of this feast. Yet Joseph and Mary’s presentation of the baby was no pro forma event. They did this to conform with the Law and in doing so God enters the Temple. The words of the prophet Malachi are fulfilled in the poor parents presenting their firstborn son along with their humble sacrifice of two turtledoves.
Simeon and Anna, having spent their lives in prayer and waiting in the Temple for the Messiah, have their ‘moment’ with the glorious Nunc Dimittis of Simeon. With Candlemas we celebrate the coming of the Light of the World. But a shadow also passes. Simeon not only proclaimed that he had seen his salvation, but also told the Mother of our Lord that her share would include a sorrow-pierced heart.
“The feast of the Epiphany, one of the most beautiful of the liturgical year is rich in content and meaning. We let its glow shine forth to penetrate our hearts, as we continue to contemplate the mystery of Emmanuel, who came to dwell among us.
“Though [Christ’s} birth is the focal point of our Christmas celebration, there is another birth, more intimate and personal, of which the Fathers of the Church often spoke. It is the spiritual birth of the Son of God in the hearts of those who desire and welcome Him. ……..
“The mystery of Bethlehem is renewed each year, each Christmas, each day, in the innermost parcels of our hearts where Jesus seeks comfort and shelter. It is in our hearts that he seeks to make a permanent dwelling, revealing to us the meaning of His words in the Gospel. There, He teaches us how to pray and call upon His name. It is also in our innermost hearts that He shows us the Father’s face, for ‘he who sees me, sees the Father.’ Finally, He comes to this innermost part of ourselves, the most intimate of sanctuaries, when we receive Him in the Eucharist. It is there that He remains, as he did in the crib in Bethlehem, and in the arms of his Mother, waiting for our silent love and adoration.”
Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourette OSB
“In its genuine simplicity, the nativity scene reminds us it is not the quantity of things that counts in life, but the quality of relationships. Drawing our gaze to God, who is poor in possessions and rich in love, it recalls us to what is essential.”
Pope Francis 30 December 2019
“John had done a great job of preparing the people for the coming of Jesus. St. Matthew records that “Jerusalem and all Judaea and the whole Jordan district made their way to him, and as they were baptized by him in the river Jordan they confessed their sins,” (3.6) In the harsh solitude of the desert John had made the people ready for what would be a life-changing encounter with Jesus.
“The Baptist was such a success story that in order to deflect celebrity status away from himself he had to tell the crowd there at that very moment and in their very midst was one “who comes after me is more powerful than I, and I am not fit to carry his sandals,” (3.11).
“Never for a moment did John expect that Jesus would join the crowd in seeking to be baptized by him! John vehemently objected, “It is I who need baptism from you, and yet you come to me!” The reply of Jesus was even more emphatic, “Leave it like this for the time being; it is fitting that we should, in this way, do all that uprightness demands.” For Jesus it would have been utterly wrong for Him to stand as an aloof spectator to what was most obviously a God-inspired dramatic occurrence.
“John, therefore, went ahead in baptizing Jesus. Righteousness had demanded this. In so doing the Baptist had been given a glimpse of what it meant for the Son of God to become the Son of Mary - one of us, a member of the human family, a child of Adam. In this John had received a hint of how it would be throughout the ministry of Jesus.
“Ordinary people would realize that whatever Jesus had done for them and for others, whatever Jesus had said to them in his inspiring sermons and in his kindly chatting to them, had come from ‘one of them.’”
Extract from a homily by Fr Peter Clarke OP
Laetare is the Latin for Rejoice and comes from the first words of the Introit at Mass - Isaiah 66:10-11, which begins "Rejoice, O Jerusalem" and continues "Rejoice with joy, you that have been in sorrow".
Today, the Fourth Sunday, has been viewed traditionally as a day of celebration tinged with sadness, coming in the middle of Lent when Easter is in sight and Lenten austerity can be lessened briefly to encourage people to continue with the discipline of penance. So the purple of Lent is put aside and rose vestments are used instead.
In fact ‘Rose Sunday’ is another traditional name for this day, although by far the most recognisable name is ‘Mothering Sunday’ - not, note, “Mother’s Day”, which is a modern commercial invention.
Mothering Sunday got its name during the Middle Ages, when people were expected, at this time in Lent, to go to mass at their ‘Mother’ church; i.e. where they were baptised, or their parish church or their cathedral (a cathedral being the ‘mother’ of all the parish churches in a diocese).
In later times, Mothering Sunday became a day when domestic servants were given a day off to visit their mother church, usually with other family members. It was often the only time that whole families could gather together, since on other days they were prevented from doing so by conflicting working hours. Today is not much different.
As for “Mother’s Day”, my mother got it right: she would always say
”Why one Mother’s Day? Every Day should be Mother’s Day!!”
Easter is the greatest and the most important feast in the Church. It marks the birthday of our eternal hope. "Easter" literally means "the feast of fresh flowers." We celebrate it with pride and jubilation for three reasons:
Why do we believe in the Resurrection of Jesus ?
Jesus has just ascended to rejoin his heavenly Father. Christ, of course, was not abandoning his followers. He went to fulfil his promise to send the Holy Spirit to comfort, guide and inspire us in the mission Jesus has set us - to bring all to Him and to the path to heaven.
The Holy Spirit is not an “add-on”, a worthwhile bonus to the wonders of Jesus. St Basil the Great wrote:
“All living things turn to the Holy Spirit in their need for holiness. … The Holy Spirit … extends his own light to every mind to help in its search for the truth.”
This is what those in the upper room that day experienced - not just a capacity to communicate with their world, but the insight, wisdom and language to bring forth the Good News. And the Holy Spirit offers us the same gift - not a Berlitz course in a foreign language, but a far more exotic tongue - the language of love and salvation.
Today we complete the days of the Easter cycle - exactly fifty days after the Resurrection of Jesus. Today we experience the descent of the Holy Spirit into our lives Today, he comes to reveal to each of us the hidden meaning of all that Jesus taught during his earthly years. “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you.” John 14: 25-26)
Today, the Holy Spirit is given to us as he was once given to the Apostles: to understand with greater clarity and depth the teachings of Jesus. The gift of understanding is essential if we are to continue, in our own small way, the work of Jesus. The Holy Spirit descends upon the entire universe. We realise that he descends upon people of different places, races, cultures, tongues and times. He fills all things with the gift of himself.
Thus, today, both creation and the Church are renewed by the Holy Spirit who sustains all life.
Saint Seraphim of Saros never ceased to remind his disciples that, “The only purpose of Christian life consists in the acquisition of the Holy Spirit.”
From Blessings of the Daily: Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourette
is the mystery of God within himself. A mystery in theology does not mean that something is unknowable, it refers to something beyond reason that is revealed by God. This is an important point: We can talk and write about the Holy Trinity and we can say some reasoned and necessary things–things that are true, but as true as they are, they are always going to be an incomplete truth about God. A good image for this might be a beach: Imagine a sandy beach with the sand representing the whole mystery of God. One person could pick up a few grains of sand in his or her hands and in holding those few grains they would be holding true grains of sand. In other words, part of the mystery literally could be grasped. As hard as one might try, however, it would be impossible for one person to grasp all of grains of sand in his or her hands. Basically, we can grasp something of the truth, but not all of it – and that’s okay! Humans are finite beings and trying to grasp the fullness of infinite truths is, quite simply, beyond us.
Well, from all eternity God existed both as one being but three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The masculine terms Father and Son are used, not because God is male or female but because they express the nature of a relationship between these two persons. Before there is anything there is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit: The Father loves the Son with a perfect love and the Son loves the Father with a perfect love and the love which goes from the Father and Son is a perfect person: the Holy Spirit. The Greeks used a special word: ‘Perichoresis’ to describe this relationship. A good translation in English is ‘dancing’ From all eternity God exists as a perfect dance of love: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To believe in God the Father, is to believe in God the Son and the God the Holy Spirit. It is to believe in a God who is communion of persons caught up in an eternal dance of love – and as Christians we called to share in that divine dance!
We celebrated this event on August 6th. In the Gospel accounts of the Transfiguration, we see the explicit desire on the part of the eternal Father to glorify his Son before he undergoes the sufferings of his Passion. For the moment the veil covering his divinity is lifted and, suddenly, Jesus appears clothed in unsurpassed beauty. He is luminous, translucent with the Father’s glory. The disciples present at the event instantly recognise the glory of God shining from that human face. From the mysterious, enveloping cloud, they hear the solemn declaration: “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him.” (Mt 17:5) This is the Father speaking, with nearly the exact words he spoke from on high at the baptism of Jesus. He bears witness to the fact that Jesus is the only Son of God, true God from true God, as we believe and assent in the Credo.
From Blessing of the Daily Br. Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Laturette
The Lord knows full well how His children have limited the time they have for each of the many tasks they put upon themselves to the point of exhaustion. This seems especially true today when life seems lived at breakneck speed.
So, in May we have the chance to slow a little, take time out from the daily hustle. This is because May is the Month of Mary, Christ’s Mother and, thus, the Mother of the Church.
She is the example, as well as the guide and inspiration, of everyone who, in and through the Church, seeks to be the servant of God and our sisters and brothers, and the obedient agent of the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
We have no evidence that Mary rushed about trying to do an impossible number of things all at once; nor that she scolded anyone; nor that she gossiped, argued or nagged to get her way. She took Time and did not let Time take her.
For Mary, God’s way determined her way (as in the Annunciation): she also knew that what she could not do, her Son would (Cana). Most of all, she understood that love - not the overbearing pressure of time - is the foundation and framework of a satisfied life,. Love springs from Faith and Mary lived a life of faith and piety. Piety is the virtue that protects us from reducing faith to unfeeling, loveless dogma and mindless praying.
So May is the time to renew our acquaintance of and love for God’s Mother. Saying one Hail Mary thoughtfully, or the Litany of Mary, are simple ways of renewing our reverence for her and reminding ourselves of the selfless, patient and faithful way she responded to God’s plan for her.
May this be the example we can follow in peace, freed from stress, now that the earth yields its fruits for us once more.
According to tradition, in an apparition to Lady Richeldis, the Blessed Virgin Mary fetched Richeldis’ soul from England to Nazareth during a religious ecstasy to show the house where the Holy Family once lived and in which the Annunciation of Archangel Gabriel occurred. Richeldis was given the task of building a replica house in her village, in England. The building came to be known as the "Holy House", and later became both a shrine and a focus of pilgrimage to Walsingham.
In passing on his guardianship of the Holy House, Richeldis' son Geoffrey left instructions for the building of a priory in Walsingham. The priory passed into the care of the Canons Regular of S Augustine, sometime between 1146 and 1174.
An immensely popular place of pilgrimage during the middle ages, the shrine was destroyed during the Reformation and restored in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The Slipper Chapel is now the centre of what has become the Catholic National Shrine of Our Lady and is regularly visited by people from the English dioceses and beyond. In mediaeval times this was the last staging post, where pilgrims began a 1 mile barefoot walk to the Shrine in the village. (Hence ‘Slipper’)
Carfin Lourdes Grotto, is a shrine in Scotland dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes, and was created in the early twentieth century. The "Carfin Grotto", as the shrine is locally referred to, was the brainchild of Father, later Canon, Thomas N. Taylor (died 1963), parish priest of St. Francis Xavier's Parish in the small, mining village of Carfin, two miles east of Motherwell.
Following a trip to Lourdes, Canon Taylor's vision was to build a religious memorial in honour of Our Blessed Lady. Since its opening in the early 1920s, the "grotto" has attracted pilgrims in the hundreds of thousands. For the past 90 plus years, the grotto shrine has offered a pilgrimage season with Sunday processions, rosaries, outdoor masses and dedicated Feast Day events which runs annually from early May until late September.
The evening of Thursday, 21 August 1879, was a very wet night. At about 8 o'clock the rain beat down in driving sheets when Mary Beirne, a girl of the village, accompanying the priest's housekeeper, Mary McLoughlin, home, stopped suddenly as she came in sight of the gable of the little church. There she saw standing a little out from the gable, were three life-size figures. She ran home to tell her parents and soon others from the village had gathered.
The witnesses stated they saw an apparition of Our Lady, Saint Joseph and Saint John the Evangelist at the south gable end of the local small parish church, the Church of Saint John the Baptist. Behind them and a little to the left of Saint John was a plain altar. On the altar was a cross and a lamb (a traditional image of Jesus), with adoring angels
This is now Ireland’s National Marian Shrine, and is a popular pilgrimage centre, especially for those with illnesses or disabilities.
Legend tells how, in the Middle Ages, a beautiful statue of Our Lady, her Son on her lap, and a burning taper in her hand, appeared on the banks of the River Teifi in Cardiganshire. Any attempt to move the statue to the parish church in Cardigan resulted in its reappearing at the spot where it first appeared. It became a place of pilgrimage and St Mary’s church was built on that spot in 1158. The original statue was destroyed in the Reformation.
At the beginning of the 20th century, monks from Brittany gave their abbey church the name of Our Lady of Cardigan and revived the devotion. They made the same dedication to the small church they built in Cardigan in 1912 The monks left in 1916 and the devotion lapsed.
In 1952, Bishop Petit learned that there had once been a shrine in Cardigan and decided to restore it. He commissioned a new statue, which was blessed in Westminster Cathedral in 1956.
The Shrine of Our Lady of the Taper is now the national shrine for Wales and parish for the people of Cardigan and surrounding areas.
John Henry Newman (1801 – 1890) was one of the foremost churchmen and theologians of his day. He studied and then taught at Oxford University, and became the Vicar of St Mary the Virgin, the University Church; he was known for his intellect, his pastoral care, and his preaching.
A leading light of the Oxford Movement, which was seeking to move the Church of England in a Catholic direction, Newman left his considerable prospects and many friends behind when he converted to Catholicism in 1845, at a time when there was still widespread prejudice against Catholics in Britain.
Founding the first Oratorian community of priests in Birmingham in the late 1840s, he continued to write major works of theology and philosophy as a Catholic. He founded a university for Catholics in Ireland and, in 1859, The Oratory School in Edgbaston, Birmingham.
He was made a Cardinal in 1879 and he died in 1890.
Pope Benedict XVI beatified him in 2010.
Cardinal John Henry Newman is to be canonised after a second miracle in his name was confirmed by the Pope in February 2019. The canonisation (which has been welcomed by the Church of England) took place on October 13th 2019. It will make Newman the first English person who has lived since the 17th century to be officially recognised as a saint by the Church.
"I think to myself, 'I, too, could be here.’ That is, none of us can be sure that we would never commit a crime, something for which we'd be put in prison."
"We all make mistakes in life. And we all must ask forgiveness and make a journey of rehabilitation so we don't make them again."
“It must be kept in mind that penal sanctions have the aim of rehabilitation, while national laws should consider the possibility of establishing other penalties than incarceration. In this context, I would like once more to appeal to governmental authorities to abolish the death penalty where it is still in force, and to consider the possibility of an amnesty."
"Losing our freedom is not the same thing as losing our dignity. That is why we need to reject all those petty clichés that tell us we can't change, that it's not worth trying, that nothing will make a difference."
“Prisoners who are re-entering civic society ought not be punished anew by neglect, indifference or, worse, contempt.”
If one’s work as a Catholic is not united to Christ Jesus, it is no longer the “mission” to which the Church is called, Pope Francis told a group of religious brothers on Monday 29tth October .
“Let us not forget that the condition of every mission in the Church is that we are united to the Risen Christ as branches to the vine. Otherwise what we do is social activism,” the pope said Oct. 29.
“This is why I repeat to you the exhortation to remain in [Christ],” he continued. “First of all, we need to let ourselves be renewed in faith and hope by Jesus alive in the Word and in the Eucharist, but also in sacramental forgiveness. We need to be with him in silent adoration, in lectio divina, in the Rosary of the Virgin Mary.”
On October 14th  Pope Francis canonised Pope Paul VI (1963-78). Pope Saint Paul oversaw the Vatican Council, making numerous reforms.
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The Roman Catholic Parish of Brandon and Mildenhall is part of the Diocese of East Anglia covering Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and the Unitary Authority of Peterborough within the Province of Westminster, part of the Catholic Church of England and Wales in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.