PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED ARTICLES
19TH MAY 2019
5TH SUNDAY OF EASTER
This week the parish celebrates the First Holy Communion of some of our younger parishioners. It is one of the most important days of their young lives and will remain one of the most important days forever. Let us keep them in our prayers that they may be filled with joy at this special time. May this wonderful gift also be a blessing for all their families who have loved and supported them and are endeavouring to pass on to them the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Faith.
The Holy Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith: it is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Pope Francis has called it the “Sacrament of Love”. Jesus comes to us in a unique way into our body and soul in the Eucharist. This is why the first time a family member makes their Holy Communion, it is an exciting event for the whole family. The boy or girl preparing for this sacrament is going to be profoundly united with Jesus in a way that they never have before! St. Mother Teresa said: “Jesus has made Himself the Bread of Life to give us life. Night and day, He is there. If you really want to grow in love, come back to the Eucharist.” (Catholic Company)
12TH MAY 2019
4TH SUNDAY OF EASTER
Below are some reflections this week for ‘Good Shepherd’ Sunday. The Church is the flock which belongs to Jesus Christ, The Good Shepherd. Today we also pray for all the priests and shepherds of the Church and also for new vocations to help with the mission of the Church.
‘Like most people today, chances are you do not know any shepherds. For the first Christians, who were familiar with shepherds, the Good Shepherd was a favourite image to associate with Christ. In fact, the earliest Christian art depicts Christ as the Good Shepherd, not the crucified Saviour. In the Old Testament God was called a shepherd, and God’s people the flock. For instance, in Psalm 23 the psalmist sings that the shepherd leads him to green pastures near refreshing waters. According to the Gospels, Jesus referred to himself as a shepherd. He said, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). A shepherd knows his sheep well. There is a personal relationship between Jesus and his followers. Jesus knows each of us by name. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Unlike a hired hand who flees to save his life, Jesus saved his flock from the wolf even though it meant sacrificing his own life.
Knowing about shepherds sheds light on the image of Jesus as shepherd. The shepherd uses a staff with a hook on the end to guide the sheep and pull back the stray. Today Jesus guides his flock through bishops, who are known as pastors, the Latin for shepherds. Bishops carry staffs called crosiers. The shepherd has a rod to fend off wild animals that might harm the flock. Jesus saved us from evil. Jesus restores our souls. Shepherds feed their flocks. Jesus feeds us with the excellent bread of the Eucharist and brings us to living waters: baptism and the Holy Spirit. The image of shepherds is that they are kind, loving, patient, strong, and self-sacrificing, and Jesus is the best shepherd of all. Let’s remember always: The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.’ (From Loyola Press)
5TH MAY 2019
3RD SUNDAY OF EASTER
In this Sunday’s Gospel we hear Jesus asking Peter ‘Do you love me?’ Peter is given a chance to be reconciled with Jesus after having denied him three times before his Crucifixion. Jesus shows Peter that he is always ready to forgive but that love must be restored between them. Our Christian faith tells us that love is the centre and the meaning of our existence. In his 1st Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict wrote about the love of God at the heart of our faith. May his words below help us to live our Christian lives this Eastertide. May Mary, who is Queen of Love, help us in this month dedicated to her to find our fulfilment in loving God and our neighbour.
“God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 Jn 4:16). These words from the First Letter of John express with remarkable clarity the heart of the Christian faith: the Christian image of God and the resulting image of mankind and its destiny. In the same verse, Saint John also offers a kind of summary of the Christian life: “We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us”.
We have come to believe in God’s love: in these words the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life. Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction. Saint John’s Gospel describes that event in these words: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should … have eternal life” (3:16). In acknowledging the centrality of love, Christian faith has retained the core of Israel’s faith, while at the same time giving it new depth and breadth. The pious Jew prayed daily the words of the Book of Deuteronomy which expressed the heart of his existence: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your might” (6:4-5). Jesus united into a single precept this commandment of love for God and the commandment of love for neighbour found in the Book of Leviticus: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (19:18; cf. Mk 12:29-31). Since God has first loved us (cf. 1 Jn 4:10), love is now no longer a mere “command”; it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us.
In a world where the name of God is sometimes associated with vengeance or even a duty of hatred and violence, this message is both timely and significant. For this reason, I speak of the love which God lavishes upon us and which we in turn must share with others.
21ST APRIL 2019
Alleluia Surrexit Christus, Alleluia!
This day we celebrate the Church’s greatest cry – Surrexit Christus, Christ is risen, Alleluia! This is the Gospel message, the Good News, that in Jesus, God has defeated sin and death and through him we are now born into eternal life. The Resurrection means that there is always hope, there is always a new start with God and death does not need to have the last word. For this we sing out ‘Alleluia’ in thanksgiving to God for his mercies and in joyful expectation of all that he is yet to do in our lives and our world. Below is a prayer of an ancient author to mark the great gift of knowing that Jesus is risen from the dead.
O Lord, drive away the darkness from our minds with the light of your wisdom, so that enlightened in this way we may serve you with renewed purity. The beginning of the sun’s passage through the sky marks the beginning of the working-day for us mortals: we ask you, Lord, to prepare in our minds a place where the day that knows no end may give its light. Grant that we may have within us this light, the life of the resurrection, and that nothing may take away our delight in you. Mark us with the sign of that day that does not begin with the movement and the course of the sun, by keeping our minds fixed on you.
By the grace of baptism we conceal within our bodies the treasure of your divine life. This treasure increases as we eat at the table of your sacraments. Let us appreciate the great beauty that is ours through the spiritual beauty that your immortal will arouses in our mortal nature. Your crucifixion, Lord, was the end of your bodily life: help us to crucify our will to give birth to the spiritual life. May your Resurrection, Jesus, fill our spirits with greatness: may we see in your sacraments a mirror in which we may be able to recognize the Resurrection.
Your divine ordering of the world, O Saviour, is the image of the spiritual world: let us live in it as truly spiritual people. Do not take away from our minds, Lord, the signs of your spiritual presence and do not withdraw from our bodies the warmth and delight of your presence. The mortal nature of our bodies is a source of corruption within us: let the outpouring of the spirit of your love wipe away the effect of mortality from our hearts. Grant, Lord, that we may hasten to our true home, and, like Moses on the mountain-top, let us have a glimpse of it.
(St Ephraim the Syrian 306-373AD)
A very happy and blessed Easter to all the family of St Thomas More’s parish, Eastcote.
May the light of Christ shine in our hearts.
At this time in our liturgical year we approach the great feast of Easter and our redemption accomplished by the death and Resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God. Our Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday as we recall the triumphant entrance into Jerusalem of Jesus as he is hailed as the Messiah. Yet this acclaim is drastically contrasted in only a few days as the same Jesus becomes the victim of hatred and rejection and is led to his crucifixion. Jesus allows himself to be bound and taken and offers his life as the Lamb of God, to take upon himself the sins of all the world. This is to give to the world his divine merciful love as a medicine for evil and sin and to restore us again into communion with god our loving Father. In our own days, a way we have been given to explore and benefit from the depths of this mystery of our salvation, has been through the devotion of the Divine Mercy. Below is a brief summary of this spiritual message.
The message of The Divine Mercy is simple. It is that God loves us – all of us. And, he wants us to recognize that His mercy is greater than our sins, so that we will call upon Him with trust, receive His mercy, and let it flow through us to others. Thus, all will come to share His joy. The Divine Mercy message is one we can call to mind simply by remembering ABC:
A – Ask for His Mercy. God wants us to approach Him in prayer constantly, repenting of our sins and asking Him to pour His mercy out upon us and upon the whole world.
B – Be merciful. God wants us to receive His mercy and let it flow through us to others. He wants us to extend love and forgiveness to others just as He does to us.
C – Completely trust in Jesus. God wants us to know that the graces of His mercy are dependent upon our trust. The more we trust in Jesus, the more we will receive.
This message and devotion to Jesus as The Divine Mercy is based on the writings of Saint Faustina Kowalska (1905-38), an uneducated Polish nun who, in obedience to her spiritual director, wrote a diary of about 600 pages recording the revelations she received about God’s mercy. Even before her death, the devotion to The Divine Mercy had begun to spread. The message and devotional practices proposed in the Diary of Saint Faustina are completely in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church and are firmly rooted in the Gospel message of our Merciful Saviour. Properly understood and implemented, they will help us grow as genuine followers of Christ. Why not take time during this Holy Week to learn more about the mercy of God, learn to trust in Jesus, and live your life as merciful to others, as Christ is merciful to you?
7TH APRIL 2019
5TH SUNDAY OF LENT – C
Jesus told his followers that they must become like little children if they were to understand his teaching and follow him into the Kingdom. Our practice of the faith at the heart of our complicated lives should offer something eminently simple. Below are the suggestions of a priest regarding what he called ‘The Apostolate of Smiling’. The simple practice of smiling is shown to be one that can change our own lives and the lives of others. Characteristic of our belief in God should be the ‘joy of the Gospel’ that comes from knowing God’s merciful love in our lives. Let us ask for the grace to receive and live this joy especially as the great feast of Easter approaches.
JUST A LITTLE SMILE ON YOUR LIPS: Cheers your heart, Keeps you in good humour, Preserves peace in your soul, Promotes your health, Beautifies your face, Induces kindly thoughts, Inspires kindly deeds.
SMILE TO YOURSELF: until you notice that your constant seriousness, or even severity, has vanished. SMILE TO YOURSELF: until you have warmed your own heart with the sunshine of your cheery countenance. Then go out and radiate your smile.
YOUR SMILE: has to do, work to do for God. You are an apostle now, and your smile is your instrument for winning souls. Sanctifying Grace dwelling in your soul will give the special charm to your smile which will render it productive of much good.
SMILE – on the lonely faces, SMILE – on the timid faces, SMILE – on the sorrowful faces, SMILE – on the sickly faces, SMILE – on the fresh young faces, SMILE – on the wrinkled old faces, SMILE – on the familiar faces of your family and friends – let all enjoy the beauty and inspiring cheer on your smiling face.
COUNT: If you will, the number of smiles your smile has drawn from others in one day. The number will represent how many times you have promoted contentment, joy, satisfaction, encouragement, or confidence in the hearts of others. These good dispositions always give birth to unselfish acts and noble deeds. The influence of your smile is spreading, though you do not always see the wonder it is working.
YOUR SMILE: can bring new life and hope and courage into the hearts of the weary, the overburdened, the discouraged, the tempted, the despairing. YOUR SMILE can help to develop vocations, if you are a Priest, a Brother, or a Sister. YOUR SMILE can be the beginning of the conversions to the Faith. YOUR SMILE can prepare the way for a sinner’s return to God. YOUR SMILE can win for you a host of devoted friends.
SMILE, TOO, AT GOD: Smiling at God is a loving acceptance of whatever He sends into your life, and you will merit to have the radiantly SMILING FACE OF CHRIST gaze on you with special love throughout eternity. (Written originally by Rev. Bruno Hagspiel)
31ST MARCH 2019
4TH SUNDAY OF LENT – C
This week we hear the parable of the Prodigal Son – below are some words from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI from his Angelus address on this fourth Sunday of Lent in 2010. He reminds us that the heart of the Gospel message comes back to mercy as we discover in our lives whether we are like the older or the younger son, we always stand in need of God’s help which always in some way comes to us as forgiving love. Pope Benedict says:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On this Fourth Sunday of Lent, the Gospel of the father and the two sons better known as the Parable of the “Prodigal Son” (Lk 15:11-32) is proclaimed. This passage of St Luke constitutes one of the peaks of spirituality and literature of all time. Indeed, what would our culture, art and more generally our civilization be without this revelation of a God the Father so full of mercy? It never fails to move us and every time we hear or read it, it can suggest to us ever new meanings. Above all, this Gospel text has the power of speaking to us of God, of enabling us to know his Face and, better still, his Heart. After Jesus has told us of the merciful Father, things are no longer as they were before. We now know God; he is our Father who out of love created us to be free and endowed us with a conscience, who suffers when we get lost and rejoices when we return. For this reason, our relationship with him is built up through events, just as it happens for every child with his parents: at first he depends on them, then he asserts his autonomy; and, in the end if he develops well he reaches a mature relationship based on gratitude and authentic love.
In these stages we can also identify moments along man’s journey in his relationship with God. There can be a phase that resembles childhood: religion prompted by need, by dependence. As man grows up and becomes emancipated, he wants to liberate himself from this submission and become free and adult, able to organize himself and make his own decisions, even thinking he can do without God. Precisely this stage is delicate and can lead to atheism, yet even this frequently conceals the need to discover God’s true Face. Fortunately for us, God never fails in his faithfulness and even if we distance ourselves and get lost he continues to follow us with his love, forgiving our errors and speaking to our conscience from within in order to call us back to him. In this parable the sons behave in opposite ways: the younger son leaves home and sinks ever lower whereas the elder son stays at home, but he too has an immature relationship with the Father. In fact, when his brother comes back, the elder brother does not rejoice like the Father; on the contrary he becomes angry and refuses to enter the house. The two sons represent two immature ways of relating to God: rebellion and childish obedience. Both these forms are surmounted through the experience of mercy. Only by experiencing forgiveness, by recognizing one is loved with a freely given love a love greater than our wretchedness but also than our own merit do we at last enter into a truly filial and free relationship with God.
Dear friends, let us meditate on this parable. Let us compare ourselves to the two sons and, especially, contemplate the Heart of the Father. Let us throw ourselves into his arms and be regenerated by his merciful love. May the Virgin Mary, Mater Misericordiae, help us to do this.
24TH MARCH 2019
3RD SUNDAY OF LENT – C
This week we read the second part of Mother Teresa’s letter describing the thirst of Jesus for the love of our hearts. May her words touch us profoundly in the centre of our souls. We are made in the image of God, God who is only love. Our hearts are restless until they rest in Him. Our life’s journey is a preparation only to know the infinite love that the Father in heaven has for us. Lent is a time to grow in our awareness of the extent of this love and to prepare with grateful hearts to celebrate once more the great feast of our redemption which has restored us to communion with God by the death and Resurrection of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit.
“Don’t you realise that My Father already has a perfect plan to transform your life, beginning from this moment? Trust in Me. Ask Me every day to enter and take charge of your life and I will. I promise you before My Father in Heaven that I will work miracles in your life. Why would I do this? Because I THIRST FOR YOU. All I ask of you is that you entrust yourself to Me completely. I will do all the rest. From this moment, now, I behold the place My Father has prepared for you in My Kingdom. Remember that you are a pilgrim in this life traveling back home. Sin can never satisfy you, or bring the peace you seek. All that you have sought outside of Me has only left you more empty, so do not tie yourself to the things of this world; above all, do not run from Me when you fall. Come to Me without delay because, when you give Me your sins, you give Me the joy of being your Saviour.
There is nothing I cannot forgive and heal; so come now, and unburden your soul. No matter how far you have strayed without a destination, no matter how often you have forgotten Me, no matter how many crosses you bear in this life; I want you to always remember, one thing that will never change. I THIRST FOR YOU – just you, as you are. You don’t need to change to believe in My love, for it will be your confidence in that love that will make you change. You forget Me, and yet I am seeking you every moment of the day – standing before the doors of your heart and calling. Do you find this difficult to believe? If so, look at the Cross, look at My Heart that was pierced for you. Have you not understood My Cross? Then listen again to the words I spoke there, for they tell you clearly why I endured all this for you: “….I THIRST” (John 19: 28) YES, I THIRST FOR YOU.” St Mother Teresa
17TH MARCH 2019
2ND SUNDAY OF LENT – C
This week’s newsletter begins a two part presentation of a letter by St Mother Teresa of Calcutta. In every chapel of her Missionaries of Charity throughout the world there are the words of Jesus on the wall next to the crucifix ‘I thirst!’ (John 19:28) Mother Teresa understood that God thirsts for our love just as deep down we thirst for his love. Our Lenten pilgrimage is a time of realising the extent of this thirst – of God for us and of us for God. Mother Teresa writes as if it is Jesus speaking directly to us. May these words help us to prepare more deeply for the great feast of Our Lord’s loving mercy at Easter and help us to persevere in our Lenten observances.
“I know you like the palm of my hand. I know everything about you. Even the hairs of your head I have counted. Nothing in your life is unimportant to Me. I have followed you through the years and I have always loved you even when you have strayed. I know every one of your problems. I know your needs and your worries and yes, I know all your sins. But I tell you again that I love you, not for what you have or ceased to do, I love you for you, for the beauty and the dignity My Father gave you by creating you in His own image. It is a dignity you have often forgotten, a beauty you have tarnished by sin. But I love you as you are, and I have shed My Blood to rescue you. If you only ask Me with faith, My grace will touch all that needs changing in your life: I will give you the strength to free yourself from sin and from all its destructive power.
Do you thirst for love? “Come to Me all you who thirst … ” (John 7:37).I will satisfy you and fill you. Do you thirst to be loved? I love you more than you can imagine … to the point of dying on a cross for you. I THIRST FOR YOU. Yes, that is the only way to even begin to describe My love for you.
I THIRST FOR YOU. I thirst to love you and to be loved by you . So precious are you to Me that I THIRST FOR YOU. Come to Me, and I will fill your heart and heal your wounds. I will make you a new creation and give you peace even in your trials. I THIRST FOR YOU. You must never doubt My mercy, My desire to forgive, My longing to bless you and live My life in you, and that I accept you no matter what you have done. I THIRST FOR YOU. If you feel of little value before the eyes of the world, it doesn’t matter. There is no one that interests me in the whole world than you. I THIRST FOR YOU. Open up to Me, come to Me, thirst for Me, give me your life. I will prove to you how important you are for My Heart.” St Mother Teresa (Second part next week)
10TH MARCH 2019
1ST SUNDAY OF LENT – C
Please click on the link below and then open the pop-up document that appears at the bottom of your screen.
3RD MARCH 2019
8TH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR – C
How is it that just a little over two months ago we were celebrating our faith at Christmas gathered in joy and happiness, encouraging each other to eat, drink and be merry and now we are preparing to start our Lenten journey this week by fasting and receiving ashes? It seems a stark contrast – is our Catholic Faith a happy faith or not? If it is a happy faith why are we being asked to do things we would rather not? Ashes? Fasting? These seem like gloomy things compared to what we might rather be doing with our time. However, we are familiar elsewhere with hearing about things that are good for us but don’t sound very appealing at first: detoxing, working out, going the extra mile, no pain-no gain, feel the fear and do it anyway and so on. The common wisdom here is that get to somewhere new and better we may have to reach beyond our ‘comfort zone’.
It is a bit like using muscles that have been unused for a while. Spiritually the same is true as we are asked at this time of year to begin to stretch our ‘spiritual muscles’ a bit. If this all seems a bit daunting then we need to remember that we are called to know the love of God most intimately in our hearts so that we might discover more and more what we were created for. Life has a way of cluttering up the simplicity and beauty of this destiny. The really Good News is that Christianity is based on the fact that God really wants to help us and that we are not meant to heroically strive to be a super-achiever on our own. It is only God’s grace working in our humility that fulfils the true destiny of the human creature.
Ashes? Fasting? These things are to make room for our humility to emerge, to learn to be a little less self-sufficient so that we can be more ready to receive God’s loving help in our lives. Lent is a time of preparation so that we might enter more deeply into the greatest celebration of God’s infinitely merciful love at Easter with a deeper communion and love for God and for one another in our hearts. Let us end with the sober but helpful words of one of our Church’s modern spokespersons:
“Lenten practices of giving up pleasures are good reminders that the purpose of life is not pleasure. The purpose of life is to attain to perfect life, all truth and undying ecstatic love – which is the definition of God. In pursuing that goal we find happiness. Pleasure is not the purpose of anything; pleasure is a by-product resulting from doing something that is good. One of the best ways to get happiness and pleasure out of life is to ask ourselves, ‘How can I please God?’ and, ‘Why am I not better?’ It is the pleasure-seeker who is bored, for all pleasures diminish with repetition.” Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen (1895 – 1979)
24TH FEBRUARY 2019
7TH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR – C
10 quotations from St Mother Teresa of Calcutta
1) If you are judging people, you have no time to love them
2) There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread, but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality
3) I see Jesus in every human being. I say to myself, This is hungry Jesus, I must feed him. This is sick Jesus. I serve because I love Jesus
4) Be kind to each other in your homes. Be kind to those who surround you. I prefer that you make mistakes in kindness rather than that you work miracles in unkindness
5) I pray that you will understand the words of Jesus, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Ask yourself, “How has he loved me? Do I really love others in the same way?”
6) The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit of service is peace
7) Seeking the face of God in everything, everyone, all the time, and his hand in every happening; this is what it means to be contemplative in the heart of the world
8) What you are doing I cannot do, what I’m doing you cannot do, but together we are doing something beautiful for God
9) When a poor person dies of hunger, it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her. It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed
10) Jesus wants me to tell you again … how much is the love he has for each one of you — beyond all what you can imagine. … Not only he loves you, even more — he longs for you. He misses you when you don’t come close. He thirsts for you. He loves you always, even when you don’t feel worthy
17TH FEBRUARY 2019
6TH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR – C
Blessed are the poor
This Sunday’s Gospel once again puts the sayings of Jesus called the Beatitudes before us. Luke’s version reads: “Blessed are the poor…blessed those who are hungry… blessed are those who weep… blessed are the persecuted…“ Luke shows a special concern for those who materially suffer and are outcasts in society; these are the ones to whom Jesus promises God’s special blessing and help. The Beatitudes describe the contradiction which we see in the life of Jesus himself, who comes among us poor, hungry, weeping and persecuted. Through Jesus, God identifies with all those who suffer in the world in any way. Through the mystery of the Cross, Jesus is able to transform suffering into the blessing of the Resurrection. Sometimes suffering is taken away, sometimes it helps to transform a person into a more authentic and compassionate human being. Sometimes God heals, sometimes he helps through the hands of others but he will always heal the heart so that we might know his love more perfectly in our lives and reach out to others who are both materially and spiritually poor. All of this helps us to understand the mystery of God’s power being made perfect in our weakness.
The Carmelite Saint Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-1897) was a spiritual genius in understanding the mystery of God’s beatitude which she formulated in what she called her ‘Little Way’. In the letter below she describes her understanding to her own sister, Sr Marie of the Sacred Heart:
Dear Sister… How can you ask me if it is possible for you to love God as I love Him?… what pleases Him is that He sees me loving my littleness and my poverty, the blind hope that I have in His mercy…. That is my only treasure… why would this treasure not be yours?… Oh, dear Sister, I beg you, understand your little girl, understand that to love Jesus, to be His victim of love, the weaker one is, without desires or virtues, the more suited one is for the workings of this consuming and transforming Love. … The desire alone to be a victim suffices, but we must consent to remain always poor and without strength…
How can this help us live our Catholic life? As a parish we are called to seek God’s will for ourselves and help others in our community as we live this together. When we know that we can rely on God’s loving power to be at work blessing our efforts which we make we can be encouraged to continue, even in the face of life’s crosses and deprivations. God is teaching us how to love. Let us pray that our parish can be a place of Beatitude as we learn to trust God and allow him to bless our weakness and all our efforts to love and serve him together.
10TH FEBRUARY 2019
5TH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR – C
This Monday February 11th we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. This marks the date in 1858 when Bernadette Soubirous first saw the ‘beautiful Lady’ appear in the grotto of Massabielle. Bernadette said when trying to describe the Lady’s appearance to others: “She is so beautiful that you would want to die just to see her again!” Of course the Lady was the Blessed Virgin Mary and so began the sequence of famous apparitions which founded the shrine of Lourdes in France. Since then Millions of people have gone to the shrine and found heavenly assistance and miracles of healing through the help of ‘the Lady’. When asked further about whom the Lady was that she saw, Bernadette said that she was told by her “I am the Immaculate Conception”. This reflected the dogma that had been formally promulgated just 4 years before by the Church; that Mary was conceived immaculate and without original sin. It was clear that Bernadette would have had no real knowledge of such a thing and therefore it was a strong piece of evidence that she was really telling the truth about what she saw. The formal dogma was presented by Pope Pius IX as follows:
“We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.” Ineffabilis Deus – Papal Bull for The Immaculate Conception Pope BI. Pius IX – 1854
Why should this be of importance to us? It is just further example of the merciful and powerful love of God for his children. Sin is the destruction of the human race and responsible for all our ills. God started again with Mary by restoring her back to the original purity of human beings. Through her purity we are able to receive the love of God made flesh in Jesus Christ and through Jesus the forgiveness of our sins and the gift of new, eternal life with God. We are encouraged as a Church to turn to Mary always with trust and faith that she will be a heavenly Mother for us in all our needs. As Pope Pius finishes: ‘Let all the children of the Catholic Church, who are so very dear to us, hear these words of ours… let them continue to venerate, invoke and pray to the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, conceived without original sin. Let them fly with utter confidence to this most sweet Mother of mercy and grace in all dangers, difficulties, needs, doubts and fears. Under her guidance, under her patronage, under her kindness and protection, nothing is to be feared; nothing is hopeless.‘
3RD FEBRUARY 2019
4TH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR – C
Beauty ever ancient and ever new
It was a delight for those of us in attendance to experience the St Thomas More Carol Service at the end of last year here in the church. There was both a festive and a mystical feel to the collection of beautiful songs, readings, images and not least the contribution of our children recreating the wonder of the Bethlehem story. It helped us all to understand how the creative gifts that God has given to us as a parish can draw us together and deepen our understanding of the mystery of our faith. The Church has long held that creativity and the expression of beauty are essential means to help pass on the glory of the Christian message. Consider this week some words from Pope St John Paul II in his famous Letter to Artists, on this subject.
In order to communicate the message entrusted to her by Christ, the Church needs art. Art must make perceptible, and as far as possible attractive, the world of the spirit, of the invisible, of God. It must therefore translate into meaningful terms, that which is in itself ineffable.
Pope John Paul was calling out to artists and for all people to appreciate the need to create beautiful ways to witness to our faith. This can have a special meaning for a parish which contains so many diverse and gifted members. This summons to use the gift of beauty can give us permission to come together and seek ways to enhance our parish life by works such as our Christmas Carol Service. St John Paul continues:
God called man into existence, committing to him the craftsman’s task…and with loving regard, God the divine Artist passes on to the human artist a spark of his own surpassing wisdom, calling him to share in his creative power.
With this in mind the Parish Pastoral Council recently met and began plans for another parish event to take place on 5th March this year. For the astute among us it will have been spotted that this is indeed Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day, called elsewhere Mardi Gras. The suitability of this night is that it is wonderful moment on the eve of Lent to remind ourselves of the gift of the beauty of our faith that comes to us through the Risen Lord Jesus. More precise details will follow but this night intends to begin with children’s activities from 5pm involving stories, music and pancakes! Then at 7.30pm there will be a service in the church of music, reflections, readings, poetry, art and prayer followed then by a parish social with drinks and food – and yes more pancakes! It promises to be a truly beautiful evening and a wonderful moment for us to come together once more as the whole parish to gratefully share in the spiritual communion of being members of the Body of Christ. For those who would like to contribute in any way, both creatively and practically, please make your self known to members of the parish council. A final word on the power and meaning of beauty from our tradition…
Beauty is a key to mystery and a call to transcendence… It stirs that hidden nostalgia for God which a lover of beauty like Saint Augustine could express in incomparable terms: “Late have I loved you, beauty ever ancient and ever new: late have I loved you!”
27TH JANUARY 2019
3RD SUNDAY OF THE YEAR – C
Below are some words from the Jesuit spiritual director Jean Pierre de Caussade (1675 – 1751) on accepting the will of God as it comes to us in the everyday events of life. We may not recognise immediately the hand of God in our daily life, but if we pray to the Holy Spirit to grant us the grace of trust and learn to pray ‘Your will be done’ we will see that God our almighty and ever loving Father make a beautiful design out of all the different aspects of our life. Like Jesus then we will be only content with doing God’s will and bringing his goodness and love to our world.
Jean Pierre de Caussade writes: “We must offer ourselves to God like a clean, smooth canvas and not worry ourselves about what God may choose to paint on it, but at each moment, feel only the stroke of His brush … It is the same with a piece of stone. Each blow from the sculptor’s chisel makes it feel-if it could-as if it were being destroyed. As blow after blow descends, the stone knows nothing of how the sculptor is shaping it. All it feels is a chisel chopping away at it, cutting it, and shaping it. For example, let’s take a piece of stone destined to be carved into a crucifix or a statue. We might ask it: ‘What do you think is happening to you?” And it might answer: “Don’t ask me. All I know is that I must stay immobile in the hands of the sculptor … I have no idea what he is doing, nor do I know what lie will make of me. But I know his work is the best possible!”
God’s activity runs through the entire universe. It wells up around and penetrates every created being. Wherever they are, it is there also. It runs ahead of them, it stays with them, and it follows after them. All they have to do is to allow its waves to sweep them forward, fulfil the simple duties of their religion and status in life, accept cheerfully all the difficulties they meet, and surrender to the will of God in all they have to do…. This is authentic spirituality, and it is valid for all times and for everyone. We could not choose to become good in a better, more miraculous, and yet easier way than by the simple use of the means offered us by God; the whole-hearted acceptance of everything that comes to us at every moment of our lives.”
From ‘Abandonment To Divine Providence’
20TH JANUARY 2019
2ND SUNDAY OF THE YEAR – C
‘Do whatever he tells you’
As a parish we begin this New Year having celebrated the beautiful mysteries of Our Lord’s Nativity at Christmas. We now start the journey accompanied by the Church into the unknown territory of another cycle around the sun! How can we find the necessary trust and serenity from what we have been experiencing as the Body of Christ during these last weeks to help us in this – indeed in the entire journey of life? This Sunday we hear the Gospel reading of the Wedding Feast of Cana – this was also a new beginning. John tells us that this was the ‘first of the signs’ or miracles that Jesus worked in the presence of his disciples and others. By doing so he shows that he possesses extraordinary power and is willing to use it for the benefit of ordinary people. The central doctrine of Christmas – that God is with us – becomes aligned with this encouragement to see the helpfulness of God and to ask him to accompany us and help us in all our needs. This gives us peace and strength as we start the New year.
Our part is to desire to know God’s presence in our lives and even more to love him through Jesus and through the Church as we practice our faith. As a parish we form a community in the Holy Spirit to help one another to walk the Christian way of life as our ancestors have done before us. It is certainly not always easy and can be made even more difficult when elements of our surrounding culture are not sympathetic to this spiritual need of our souls. This week’s Gospel reminds us of the powerful intercession of Mary, Mother of God and our mother, who helps the wedding couple in their needs by appealing to Jesus for them. We are assured by the Church’s tradition that Mary will also do the same for us if we ask her. Mary loves us with the love of her Son and she desires that we also find our place in heaven by faithfully living and trusting in the Gospel and in God’s promises. Like the servants at the wedding Mary simply says to us ‘Do whatever he tells you’. That is to say – always have faith in the love God has for you and seek to do his will in all things with childlike trust. Whatever this year presents to us is an opportunity for God to turn the water of our experience into the wine of his salvation.
Let us pray as a parish that together we can use the gifts that the Holy Spirit gives to each one of us this year even more, to help build up our parish community and to help one another find our place at the Wedding feast of the Lamb.
6TH JANUARY 2019
THE EPIPHANY OF THE LORD
Although one of the last celebrations of the Christmas season, today’s feast of the Epiphany of the Lord is just as hopeful and relevant to our lives as all of the other stories that surround the birth of Jesus. The Gospel account today reminds us that the three wise men or Magi possess something unique. They possess the humility and the openness of mind and heart to seek and welcome Jesus. Their following of the star is a journey of faith, a constant search for meaning, for purpose, for the things of God. Nor were they deterred on that journey, even as they encountered people and events along the way that had the potential to keep them from achieving their goal. Their search mirrors our own life-long search for truth, love, mercy and grace. Therein we find the heart of the message of this Epiphany celebration.
In addition to the significance of the Magi’s search for God, we’re told that the Magi are “from the east.” They were foreigners to the people of Israel and they didn’t belong. Yet, in being welcomed into the presence of the Christ child by Mary, his mother, the Magi remind us that the gift of the Saviour Jesus is given to the whole world. Jesus comes for all who seek his presence in their lives and are looking for God. All of us to a certain extent are foreigners, not because of our country of origin, but because of our lives, our behaviour, our addictions, our sins, our struggles and our sorrows. The message of Gospel is that all of us are welcome to encounter the Christ. No one is excluded from the love of God. Finally we see that the Magi are generous in giving to Jesus what they can, from the gifts that they possess. Likewise, when we encounter the love of God in our lives we experience the desire to respond in love for God and our neighbour by using the gifts we have been given as practical expressions of our ‘homage’ and love.
This great Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord has much to offer us on our journey of faith. In Bethlehem, the Magi found the fulfilment of all that they were seeking in their lives. So will we if we engage the journey of faith honestly, if we acknowledge our need for God’s merciful presence in our lives and if we are humble and generous enough to welcome and serve others along the way.
Wishing you all a very Happy New Year.
18TH NOVEMBER 2018
33RD SUNDAY OF THE YEAR.
Life is a journey. Our destination is the Father’s house where Jesus has prepared a place for us. This whole life can be seen as a pilgrimage and a journey home. At this time of year we remember especially those who have departed this world and are in need of our prayers to be helped on the final steps home. Next month in Advent we begin the journey again of a new Liturgical Year. As a sign of this we are launching A Posada in our parish. This is a tradition which comes from Spanish speaking parts of the world, such as Mexico. As part of their Christmas celebration, traditional fiestas called posadas (inns) are held for family, friends, and neighbours. A posada is the re-enactment of the Census pilgrimage to Bethlehem by Mary and Joseph in search of a room. From December 16th to December 24th, families customarily hold a posada party one evening in each of their homes. Certain houses are designated to be an ‘inn’, thus the name “Posada”.
The head of the procession will have a candle inside a paper lampshade. At each house, the resident responds by singing a song and Mary and Joseph are finally recognized and allowed to enter. Once the ‘innkeepers’ let them in, the group of guests come into the home and kneel around the Nativity scene to pray, typically, the Rosary. The people asking for posada travel from house to house each night. Individuals dress up and play the various parts of Mary and Joseph with the expectant mother riding a real donkey, with attendants such as angels and shepherds acquired along the way with the children carrying flowers. The procession will be followed by musicians, with the entire procession singing. At the end of each night’s journey, there are Christmas carols. When arriving at each house the people sing:
“My name is Joseph,
|Inn keepers, inside
“The inn I give you,
Then the inn keeper hosts open the door and welcome the pilgrims inside. This is a symbol of each soul welcoming Jesus into their hearts. This month in our parish we have the opportunity to make the most of this tradition to help us to prepare for the great feast of Our Lord’s Nativity. Please do sign up for one of the nights in Advent.
There is a list is on the narthex table for you to add your name to a date. Take an envelope and put your contact details on the enclosed card and leave it in the basket. This can then be given to the next person on the list to make arrangements for collection of the ‘Travellers!’
11TH NOVEMBER 2018
32ND SUNDAY OF THE YEAR.
May they rest in peace
This Sunday is marked out for us as Remembrance Sunday when we recall with gratitude all those who have gone before us and given their lives for the cause of peace in armed conflict. We learn from the revelation of our Catholic Faith that it could never have been God’s desire that his children should turn against each other in conflict. Our fervent prayer and hope should always therefore be that the example of Jesus, Prince of Peace could be an abiding sign for all peoples to continue to work for peace and reconciliation in all parts of the world. However we understand that it is also a supreme and lasting sacrifice when people have heroically laid down their lives for others and have won for us the chance of peace and security. We therefore give thanks for these noble and generous souls on this day and we pray that they will be rewarded with eternal rest.
Also in this month of November it is our tradition to pray for all the faithful departed and especially our departed loved ones. We are reminded by this custom of our Christian belief that life is ‘changed not ended’ in death. For this reason we are called to consider more deeply the reality of heaven and the afterlife. We are encouraged to pray for all those souls who have departed this life but who are still in need of our prayers to share in the fullness of God’s mercy. These souls are prayed for in every Holy Mass in the Eucharistic prayer. At this time of year however, we pray with special love as we fondly recall all those whom God has placed in our lives; all our ancestors, relatives, friends and relations. Let us also pray for all those who have no one to pray for them. We can also remember the ‘un-faithful departed’, that is all those who for reasons known only to God never received a lasting sense of God’s love and mercy in this life and now truly need supernatural help to let them be included into the everlasting peace of heaven.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord
And let perpetual light shine upon them,
May they rest in peace.
28TH OCTOBER 2018
30TH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR.
‘Come blessed of my Father…’
Some years ago when I was visiting cousins in Ireland to piece together our family tree, I was happy to be hearing about all the distant relatives I had not previously known. At one point, while submerged in old photographs and explanations of marriages, family connections and of various priests and nuns, I heard about cousin TJ. Cousin TJ was a member of the Maher branch of the family in Tipperary who had started out life as a farmer and ended up as a member of the European Parliament. He was obviously held in high esteem by all the family. I heard umpteen stories about him and marvelous things said of his character. Keen to know more about how this distant cousin had managed to accomplish all this I asked what was essentially so special about him. I was then told in simple Irish wisdom “Ah sure, he was himself!”
The phrase has stayed with me since then as a testimony to a life well lived. Wouldn’t we all want to have that said about us after all? ”She was herself!” “He was himself!” To have the courage not to buckle and bow to the influence of the crowd but to pursue an authentic and dignified life, searching for the truth at the heart of life and of our selves. This week on Thursday 1st November we celebrate the feast of All Saints. It is rightly a beautiful and important feast in our yearly calendar because it is truly a feast for us all. We are all called to be saints! But in case we all start dismissing the idea as impossible and impractical. Or we imagine saintly life to be about becoming a plaster cast statue of a person, disconnected from real life. We might be helped to think that we could certainly say of each saint: “He was himself!”, or “She was herself!”
Saints are simply ordinary people who allowed the love of God to lead them to become the truly unique person they were created to be. They struggled with sin but they persevered. It is not that they didn’t fall, but that they kept getting up. They understood most deeply that through Jesus Christ, and through his mercy and grace, truly ‘Everything is possible for God’ (Mark 10:27) When Bishop John visited us recently he told us “Brothers and sisters, this growth in holiness, from which every aspect of the Church’s mission rises, is your shared task with your new parish priest. His job is to help you to become saints. Your job is to help him become a saint!” Let us desire to become truly saints and truly ourselves that we may one day hear the sweet call from heaven as Jesus finally says to us: “Come blessed of my Father.” (Matt 25:34)
21ST OCTOBER 2018
29TH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR.
‘The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’
Someone said once – “Draw a line and you will find Jesus on the other side!” What they meant was that Jesus will always be the one to surprise us and we must always be ready to be open to what he offers us. If we try and make limits for God and decide what he can and cannot do or who he can and cannot love then we have drawn a line and we will likely find Jesus on the other side. God sees more of our lives than we do and he knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows what we are capable of and he knows how he wants to help us. We may have a limited vision for what our lives could be but God sees further and better.
In today’s Gospel, James and John try and influence Jesus to give them some sort of special honours in the afterlife. Perhaps they are motivated by their love for Jesus and a desire to be near him, but in the end Jesus points out the faulty thinking in their request. They are thinking in a selfish way when Jesus has come to widen their perspective. He shows them that he will have to drink the cup and undergo the baptism of suffering to fulfil his mission. Are they willing to follow him in this? Do they understand that the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many? To understand this is to begin to think like Jesus and then to start to live like Jesus. Jesus draws no lines to limit his love, he simply gives and gives. He wants us to know this for ourselves so that we too can learn to love like him.
When Bishop John Wilson came to St Thomas More last week he spoke beautiful words to us about God’s invitation to the parish. I would like to repeat some of his words here as I think they can help to provide us with a kind of ‘mission statement’ as we learn to love like Jesus. He said: “Together let your parish reflect the love of the Lord Jesus to each other and to your community. Through the celebration of the sacraments, give witness together to the beauty of the Gospel and the power of prayer. Work together to teach others, younger and older, in the ways of faith. Welcome the stranger. Reach out to the poorest and the weakest. Care for the broken and the sick. Help people to let go of whatever holds them back from being who God has called them to be… Build up together your life in Christ, believing that with God all things are possible.”
14TH OCTOBER 2018
28TH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR.
“We have given up everything and followed you!”
The words of St Peter quoted above represent the radical dimension of following the call of Jesus in our lives. For Peter this meant being with Jesus in his missionary journeys and then going to Rome and surrendering his life for the Gospel. Each one of us in some way is being asked to evaluate what our priorities are throughout our lives and to consider what is of the greatest value for us. The ‘rich young man’ in today’s Gospel is on the edge of making a big decision about his values and beliefs when he meets Jesus but in the end he withdraws unfulfilled. It turns out he is too attached to his apparent wealth to show the necessary generosity to what Jesus is offering him.
It is not that Jesus would demand that everyone follow this radical path, but the young man did say that he was looking for more than what he had been living. The truth is there is always more to discover with God. God is infinite and we can never reach the end of him in this life. There will always be further to go with him. This is actually part of the Good News of the Gospel. It means he will never run out of mercy, love and grace for us. When we start to see the true wealth in what God is offering us then we can begin to feel more freedom from the inferior riches that this world offers in power, prestige, pleasure and plenty. Our part is to surrender in faith and trust the direction and meaning of our life into the hands of God. This is the pathway to peace that young man missed out on.
In his own way the life of each priest should follow the example of St Peter. A priest makes an act of sacrifice and renunciation in forsaking the vocation of marriage and family life. He ‘leaves everything’ to follow the call of Jesus. He does this to be a sacramental sign of the path Our Lord himself walked. Jesus gave up his life in loving sacrifice on the Cross out of love for his Father and for us. In doing this he opens the way to mercy and to eternal life through his Resurrection. In following Jesus the priest gives up what he can to share in this sacrifice but he also finds a great deal. He discovers the joy of a deeply meaningful vocation close to the heart of God and to the needs of God’s people.
Since arriving last week at the parish of St Thomas More Church, I have been struck by the very kind and loving welcome I have received. This is truly a great joy for a priest and true food to strengthen him for his work. I am very grateful for this very encouraging beginning of my time here at St Thomas More. This week we also warmly welcome Bishop John Wilson as he joins us to celebrate the official installation of your new parish priest. We are happy to have him with us as a successor of the Apostles and we pray for him as he also seeks to leave everything to follow the call of Jesus Christ and his Church.