14th April to 2 April 2020

Stop Press: I will ring the Church bell at about 11.45pm on Easter Day to proclaim that Christ is Risen!
Holy Saturday and Easter Day: As we contemplate the new world that we will be living in for weeks, months and possibly even years to come, a world of social distancing where large gatherings will be discouraged, even disallowed (especially for the over-70s), I reflect on how the Gospel message of Easter could help us rethink our lives.
Jesus rose from the dead in his resurrected body to appear to a small number of very frightened people who felt that with his death on the cross, their world had fallen apart. Indeed it had, for he came to bring a new way of life.
The new way of living was to live with the faith and certainty that their friend and leader had passed from death to life and that all who follow him have this new life. It was not to be a life of great gatherings, not for many years.
It probably started in small, socially isolated groups. Although the faith scattered to many places it probably did not grow large for decades, even centuries. It was not marked by great basilicas. Its organisation was very local, local Christians doing what they could with the resources they had and in often dangerous circumstances, to live their lives in the certainty that they had a friend in heaven.
They tried not to judge themselves by their social or economic success, nor by the size of their families or the number of their friends. Indeed they tried not to judge themselves at all. Instead they wanted to live in the knowledge that their friend who had walked with them on earth, taught them that what mattered was love and whose teaching had been proved right by God raising him from the dead and taking him up into heaven.
So let’s remember, lonely or with family, with friends or on our own, successful or failing as we and the world sees it and says it, what we learn at Easter is that love is king, love is found everywhere, and love makes the world – and the heavens- go round.
Two more things: we are praying all the time and throughout the parish for our NHS and all its people, for all the people in public services, food provision and so many other essential areas for their safety and protection and we thank God for all the work they are doing for us all,
and, does anybody know who the saint is that I feature next to the Easter candle below ( I think she appears if you expand the image)? I have had this picture of her for years but I do not know her name. Email me if you know. Thanks
Easter Candle, the Risen Christ and a saint

Further meditations on this theme until Easter have been moved to Pages and appear under date headings)

25th Day, 9th April, Maundy Thursday and the Mass of the Last Supper. As we prepare to spend these last three days so closely with Jesus we are strongly reminded today that in his birthplace of Bethlehem and amongst our fellow Christians in the Holy Land there is a grave threat to their health and lives, not from other people, but from the virus that threatens everyone. However, it threatens those most who are least able to protect themselves and as we read below, those living in the Holy Land are amongst the most vulnerable than most.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols has made an Easter appeal for us to pray with them. “As we follow Jesus’ last days in Jerusalem culminating in his passion, death and resurrection, we should remember the many people of the Holy Land enduring their own Way of the Cross in the midst of this pandemic,” he said.
“I ask everyone, as we pray for all those suffering from this vicious virus, to pray for the people of the Holy Land particularly as we approach Easter,” he through an appeal launched by charities involved in helping.
In a joint statement, three Christian charities, Embrace the Middle East, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) and Friends of the Holy Land, working in the region, say that many are at risk, especially in Gaza and elsewhere, where there is acute poverty and very poor living conditions
.It is an area, parts of which suffer from massive housing shortage, lack of clean water, acute problems with medical supplies. Fears have been expressed that the disease could spread rapidly, with many people at risk because of poor diet and underlying health conditions.
With reports of 256 ventilators in the West Bank and 87 in Gaza, there is concern that that a health emergency in a region will develop where the latest data show nearly 9,000 COVID-19 cases in Israel, with 54 deaths, and in Palestine, one death and 252 confirmed cases.
A lockdown has been in place since last month, creating an economic crisis during the peak tourist season for workers especially in Bethlehem, Jerusalem and elsewhere.
Describing difficulties of enforcing social distancing in densely populated areas where up to 15 people live in one house, Friends of the Holy Land that has an office in Bethlem’s Executive Director Brendan Metcalfe said: “In a place where there is no clean water, and where soap is in short supply and there is no hand-sanitiser, can you imagine telling people to go and wash their hands?
“While nobody is guaranteed protection from the virus, many of the people of the Holy Land are especially vulnerable and have absolutely no line of defence against this deadly disease – with no savings to fall back on, nothing.”
Neville Kyrke-Smith, National Director of Aid to the Church in Need, said: “For many of our friends and project partners this is a time of survival. I know from calls and social media that Christians suffering in the Holy Land and Middle East are praying for us this Holy Week and Easter.
“We are united with them in prayer and hope – as we know the loving kindness of the faithful benefactors of ACN and other charities.”
Tim Livesey, CEO of Embrace said: “Embrace is supporting a number of partners working in the West Bank and Gaza. With them, we are working to enable the most vulnerable in the community to access the support they need.
“In particular we help to fund Caritas Jerusalem, and other partners in Gaza, including the Near East Council of Churches and the Al Ahli Anglican hospital to maintain essential health services. With COVID-19 the healthcare system there is now more stretched than ever.”
Friends of the Holy Land has launched the FHL Pentecost Challenge, a relief fund for struggling families, and Aid to the Church in Need is stepping up pastoral relief programmes for families and Church communities, especially in Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
More details on:
Friends of the Holy Land website and on Aid to the Church in Need website
Aid to the Church in Need is a Pontifical Foundation directly under the Holy See. As a Catholic charity, ACN supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in need through information, prayer, and action.
Embrace exists to improve the lives of vulnerable and disadvantaged people in the Middle East by working in partnership with local Christians in education, healthcare and community development.
Asylum Seekers: latest news- We have had three blessings recently to help us support our asylum seeker families. The first is a very significant anonymous donation, the second is a grant of £500 from CAFOD of Tesco food vouchers (which should arrive after Easter) and the third is that we have begun to find a way to get help to our guests remotely when they cannot travel. We found one guest had a bank account and so we were able to transfer some support to that guest by bank transfer. We are now exploring how many others also have accounts. We are also asking them if they have smart phones and if so we will be able to send the vouchers (and eventually other similar support) to them in that way. Once things are beginning to return to normal we look forward to seeing them here once again. Oh yes, I heard that a detention centre that was holding many detainees has released the majority in the light of the current dangers of mass confinement. I hope that is true: a curious blessing but a blessing nonetheless.
Making an act of Perfect Contrition- how to prepare ourselves for Easter when we cannot go to Confession. A video by the cardinal:https://youtu.be/jMqeXLKT8hE
And, a message from the Pope;

Palm Crosses on the altar waiting to be blessed
Palm Sunday 5th April. The Palm crosses will be blessed today and will wait for us for when we are finally all able to come back to church. Meanwhile praise God and sing “Hallelujah! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
19th Day. Saturday 4 April. As we go into this extraordinary, probably unique Holy Week it seems best to think of ourselves each in our families or indeed on our own as a Domestic Church.
The love we have for our families and the love they have and have had for us, even if we are on our own, makes each of us a special temple of the love of God that makes the world go round.
Jesus puts love at the top of his agenda.
This Holy Week, as we see love working itself out in so many ways through the care each of us has for others and the care so many people have for those they do not even know but recognise as fellow human beings, let us say to ourselves that love is stronger than death.