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We are delighted to be able to celebrate and offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass once again in public on the day of the Lord’s resurrection. In order for the parish to adhere to safety guidelines, and reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 infection, we are required to initially operate a registrations system. This will allow our stewards to guide parishioners into the Church in a safe and orderley fashion. Please do bear with us as we seek new ways to ensure the safety of all who visit. PLEASE BOOK ONE TICKET PER PERSON ATTENDING EITHER THE VIGIL MASS OR SUNDAY MORNING MASS. PLEASE BOOK EACH WEEK.

PLEASE NOTE THAT FACE MASKS / COVERINGS ARE NOW REQUIRED BY LAW IN CHURCH.

Fr Mark

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time including Bulletin and Mass Bookings.

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19th Sunday in Ordinary Time Bulletin Download

https://www.facebook.com/Normanton-and-Altofts-Community-Sponsorship-Group-NACSG-107186684234722/

ABOVE IS THE FACEBOOK PAGE WHICH ALSO HAS THE CROWD-FUNDING LINK FOR OUR PROJECT TO WECLOME A SYRIAN FAMILY TO NORMANTON. WE HAVE ALL SEEN THE DREADFUL CONDITIONS AND HORROR IN TV. IF YOU CAN HELP IN ANY WAY, PLEASE BE GENEROUS.

Reflections on the 19th Sunday Mass Readings

“They cried out in fear. But at once Jesus called out to them, saying, ‘Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid’. It was Peter who answered, (It is always Peter who answers for the whole Church). ‘Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you across the water’. The Lord’s response is simple – ‘Come’, said Jesus”.

Peter gets out of the safety of the boat and takes the risk. It was total foolishness, stupidity of the first order as far has logic is concerned, it was an attempt to defy the laws of nature. But Jesus stands there upon the water, arms outstretched waiting for Peter to walk to Him across the water. The eyes of Peter and the Lord meet, it is reminiscent of the moment in the courtyard when Jesus is been taken for trial and Peter denies the Lord for the third time, their eyes met. Eye to eye contact or the lack of it can say a great deal about a person. In that gaze there upon the waters, Peter does the impossible; this rash and seemingly foolish man walks towards his Lord, with faith and confidence. If the Lord has called him, he must go and the Lord will enable him to do the impossible. It was an act of pure faith in the person of Jesus Christ, his Lord, his Master, his friend. All the Lord does is stand there amidst the chaos of the storm going on around him and Peter. There is a sense of calm and peace in this Gospel event. It echoes the First Reading when Elijah the Prophet running from persecution encounters the living God on mount Horeb which is an awesome place, a rocky mountain on Sinai. It has no vegetation or water, it is just red iron ore and grey granite. The children of Israel and Moses had encountered the Lord there on the mountain wreathed in smoke and wonder. Now the prophet hides in the caves and encounters the living God not in the chaos of earth-quakes, rushing wind or fire, but rather in the gentle breeze. Hearing the gentle breeze the prophet of God goes to meet the living God at the entrance to the cave, and lest he see the Lord passing by and die since no one can look upon the living God and live, he covers his face with his cloak. There amidst the chaos God and prophet meet in the gentle peace and calm of encounter

The Lord Jesus, Who is the face and presence of the living God comes to the Church (the disciples in the boat of Peter) amidst the chaos of the storm. But Peter encounters Him in a moment of calm and peace when the Lord calls him.

Peter step by faltering step walks towards his Lord. While ever Peter keeps his eyes upon his Master, Lord and friend, he does what no other human can do or has done before or since; He defies the laws of nature and water on the waters. To modern, ‘sophisticated’ people, it seems more like a fairy story for children. But look at the mess we, sophisticated modern men and women, are in. As a society we have taken our eyes off the Lord and we are sinking and sinking fast. We have felt the storms around us and instead of looking at the Lord, keeping him in view, we have turned away and put our gaze on other things, people, groups and manifestos we think will help and save us. We tell our young people that possessions, the job, the bank, media and the government will give us all we need and they believe it and why shouldn’t they? If that is the way we live, if that is the example we give then why shouldn’t they believe it? They do not have the maturity of experience to understand that life, real life, can be so much more than the endless round work and play.

Peter is like the rest of us, he is weak and all too fragile, he feels the wind and the power of the waves, and he takes his gaze off the Lord. Peter realises what he is doing and that contact with the Lord is severed. Once he takes his eyes off the Lord is can no longer do the impossible. It is no different from the vast majority of us in our daily lives.

The gospel says, ‘…as soon as he felt the force of the wind, he took fright and began to sink’. Fear can be crippling and for Peter is could have been fatal. If we keep our eyes on the Lord there is no room for fear to take hold, because ‘love casts out fear’. If we are afraid of what others will think or say or do, if we fear the future which is merely a possibility and not a reality, then we are focused not on the Lord but on ourselves.

Because of Peters’ fear all that can be heard is the cry not so much of the burly fisherman but the helpless cry of the child, ‘Lord! Save me!’ I know that I am just the same as Peter when I mess up, when I get fed up, when I get things wrong. Finally I come back to my knees and have to say the same kind of thing to God “Lord, save me, I sinking. Lord, I cannot do this on my own, help me”.

The Gospel says, ‘…Jesus put out his hand AT ONCE AND HELD HIM.’ It’s a beautiful phrase, ‘Jesus put out his hand at once and held him’. We can almost hear the sigh in the Lord’s response to Peter, it is almost palpable. ‘Man of little faith, why did you doubt?’

This man of little faith was to be appointed as Christ’s own vicar on earth, the Rock upon which the Church was set, perhaps because the Lord knew only too well that Peter was human and he knew it. Peter would take the risk of getting things wrong but would always know that he could do nothing without the help and grace of his Lord and friend.

In a similar way, we are called to be like Peter. We are called to take the risk of faith in the knowledge and belief that even if we do get things wrong the Lord will at once put out His hand and hold us. When the trails, stresses and fears of our lives come along the Lord is there ready to support, hold and protect us. But we should not wait until the trials come to call upon Him. As with Peter the Lord stands waiting with open arms calling us to come to him across the waters, to walk towards him amidst the chaos around us and to focus on Him. If we do that, if we keep our eyes on Him, if we listen to Him and only to Him then we too can do the impossible. This is not a fairly story for children it is a plan, a blue print for life, real life, life in which we can do that which world tells us is impossible. It may not be walking on water but it may well be that with our eyes on the Lord we can do all those things that others tell us we are not able to do. If we begin to sink beneath the waves of chaos around us then we have the sure knowledge that just as He was there for Peter He is there for us too, He will put out His hand, at once, and hold us

Perhaps this week we can take the risk of spending some time with the Lord in silence, placing our fears, troubles and cares before him and asking for the courage and faith to let Him hold us, and lead us, as he held and lead Peter to safety.

This august we remember the 75th Anniversary of the Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the tens of thousands who died.

The United States detonated two nuclear weapons over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima on August 6th and Nagasaki on August 9th, 1945 with the consent of the United Kingdom, as required by the Quebec Agreement. The two bombings killed between 129,000 and 226,000 people, most of whom were civilians.

The bombs immediately devastated their targets. Over the next two to four months, the acute effects of the atomic bombings killed between 90,000 and 146,000 people in Hiroshima and 39,000 and 80,000 people in Nagasaki; roughly half of the deaths in each city occurred on the first day. Large numbers of people continued to die for months afterward from the effects of burns, radiation sickness, and other injuries, compounded by illness and malnutrition. In both cities, most of the dead were civilians, although Hiroshima had a sizable military garrison.

Japan surrendered to the Allies on August 15, six days after the Soviet Union‘s declaration of war and the bombing of Nagasaki. The Japanese government signed the instrument of surrender on September 2 in Tokyo Bay, which effectively ended World War II.

Let us also remember in our prayers the city of Beirut and the people of Lebanon.

St Maxillion Kolbe. Pray for us.

Reflection for the 18th Sunday Readings:

Inigo de Loyola was born in 1491 in the Basque province of northern Spain. He was the youngest of thirteen children. At the age of sixteen he was sent to serve as a page to Juan Velazquez, the treasurer of the kingdom of Castile. As a member of the Velazquez household, he was frequently at court and developed a taste for all it presented, especially the ladies. He was addicted to gambling, very contentious, and not above engaging in swordplay on occasion. Wine, women and song were his motto and life. Eventually he found himself at the age of 30 in May of 1521 as an army officer defending the fortress of the town of Pamplona against the French, who claimed the territory as their own against Spain. The Spaniards were outnumbered and during the battle a cannon ball struck him, wounding one leg and breaking the other. He was taken back to recuperate at his home, the castle of Loyola. His leg was set but did not heal, so it was necessary to break it again and reset it. It did not go well and he was prepared for death.

On the feast of Saints Peter and Paul he took an unexpected turn for the better. But the healing and recovery were not straight forward and he would walk with a limp for the rest of his life. During the long weeks of his recuperation, he was extremely frustrated, sinking into deep depression he was a young man, proud and vain but above all very bored. He asked for some romance novels to pass the time. Books of course were precious things and very expensive and there were none in the castle of Loyola, but there was a copy of the life of Christ and a book on the saints. Desperately bored, Ignatius began to read them. The more he read, the more he considered the exploits of the saints worth imitating. However, at the same time he continued to have daydreams of fame and glory, along with fantasies of winning the love of a certain young noble lady of the court, the identity of whom we never have discovered but who seems to have been of royal blood. He noticed, however, that after reading and thinking of the saints and Christ he was at peace and satisfied.

Yet when he finished his long daydreams of his noble lady, he would feel restless and unsatisfied. Not only was this experience the beginning of his conversion, it was also the beginning of spiritual discernment which he described in his Spiritual Exercises. The Spiritual Exercises were the foundation of his spiritual life and would become the same for millions after him. They also caused problems for him with the Inquisition!

The famous Ingatian Exercises recognize that not only the intellect but also the emotions and feelings can help us to come to knowledge of the action of the Spirit in our lives. Eventually, completely converted from his old desires and plans of romance and worldly conquests, and recovered from his wounds enough to travel, he left the castle in 1522.

He went in pilgrimage to the Benedictine shrine of the black Madonna of Montserrat, made a general confession, and knelt all night in vigil before Our Lady’s altar, following the rites of chivalry. He left his sword and knife at the altar, went out and gave away all his fine clothes to a poor man, and dressed himself in rough clothes with sandals and a staff.

He continued towards Barcelona intending to go to Jerusalem and the Holy Land but stopped at a town called Manresa. He stayed in a cave outside the town, intending to stay only a few days, but he remained for ten months. He spent hours each day in prayer and also worked in a hospice. It was while here that the ideas for what are now known as the Spiritual Exercises began to take shape. It was also on the banks of the river that he had a vision which is regarded as the most significant in his life. The vision was more of an enlightenment, about which he later said that he learned more on that one occasion than he did in the rest of his life. Ignatius never revealed exactly what the vision was, but it seems to have been an encounter with God as He really is so that all creation was seen in a new light and acquired a new meaning and relevance, an experience that enabled Ignatius to find God in all things. This grace, finding God in all things, is one of the central characteristics of Jesuit spirituality.  For St Ignatius, seeing God in all things was the core of his spirituality and for us in the modern world it is a good and practical spirituality whether we are lay or ordained. Some have suggested that it is a spirituality like Buddhism. But this would be to misunderstand both Buddhist philosophy (Buddhism is not a religion, it is a philosophy since it claims no deity) and the Spirituality of Ignatius or indeed the Christian faith.

Buddhism sees all separateness, personality, emotions, perceptions, experiences as an illusion – you, me, trees, rocks, space, God are simply illusions. The material world, pleasures, food etc are merely illusions too, the material world holds us back, it hampers our spiritual development. The aim of contemplation and ‘enlightenment’ is not to see me in all things, or all things in me, but for there to be no me or you at all, there is just consciousness. Whereas the Christian sees separateness in union as profoundly Divine. The aim our spirituality is a harmony or unity of multiplicity – you, me, creation, God are separate and distinct and that diversity of creation and the indwelling of the Divine reflects the very nature of God, Who is both Three and One. For us the material world, food, pleasure, creation etc do not hamper our spiritual development but enable and enhance it precisely because it is in and through these things we can glimpse the Creator. The spirituality of St Ignatius above all enables us to see the divine, to touch the divine, to speak with and be in communion with the divine, in the person of Jesus Christ, and most powerfully in the and through the sacred liturgy and service of one another. But in truth this was not really the work or idea or revelation of Ignatius of Loyola. It was first and always the revelation and teaching of his Lord, Master and friend, Jesus.

In the liturgy God (Who revealed Himself to be Father [Abba = Daddy], Son and Holy Spirit) takes ordinary things and transforms them. In the Gospel this week the Lord takes ordinary bread and through His power as God made man feeds the crowd. But that feeding of thousands is not a conjuring trick, it is not some kind of magic, it is both symbol and reality.

In St Matthew’s Gospel we see a pattern, Jesus – goes somewhere, he says something, the does something. So Jesus visits and encounters, He preaches and teaches and He gives a confirming sign of His presence and teaching, a miracle. This week we have the miracle of the feeding of the crowds who had listened to Him preaching and teaching. The beauty of this miracle is the simplicity of the gift. A young boy offers five loaves and two small fish, simple ordinary food. The Good Lord takes what is available and freely offered. Gifts which are freely offered affords the Good Lord the opportunity to work wonders and not just with bread and fish. Here there is a beautiful exchange of gifts. The lad offers the little he has and the Lord offers in return nourishment and plenty in return.

The beauty is not what was offered, although for the lad it was everything he had brought with him and no doubt packed by his Mum. The beauty is his willingness to share and give to the Lord what he had even though it was simple gifts of bread and fish.

All too often I never even think of offering or sharing with the Lord the meagre gifts I have available to me or perhaps offer them with reluctance in my heart and mind. How foolish! The return the Good Lord makes of gifts freely offered with good intentions is staggering in its generosity.

Of course in the text we have this weekend we see clear allusions to the Holy Eucharist  – Jesus took the gifts, Jesus blessed them, Jesus gives them to His disciples to distribute. In the Eucharist it is the same pattern, Took, Blessed, Broke and Give. Since the Gospel comes from St Matthew he never misses an opportunity to remind his mainly Hebrew audience of the Jewish significance of what Jesus does. The text says there are twelve baskets full of scraps left over. Twelve is important for the Jewish people because it speaks of the twelve sons of Jacob (who was later called Israel) those twelve sons were to bring about the twelve tribes of Israel. Jesus chooses twelve men who are to ‘apostles’ (people who are sent). St Matthew draws the attention of his audience to what Jesus was doing – the twelve tribes of Israel who had wandered in the wilderness and had bread from heaven in the mana, now have the opportunity to become a new Israel had receive new bread from heaven in the person of Jesus Who fulfils the longings of ancient Israel for its Messiah. Messiah in Hebrew means ‘anointed one’ and in Greek it is the word Christos.

The crowd were truly and physically fed but they were also and more importantly, spiritually fed. We are no less fed, sustained and transformed than they were two thousand years ago.

In the Holy Mass we bring to God not only ordinary bread and wine to be transformed, changed forever into Christ Himself, body, blood, soul and divinity under the appearance of bread, but also we bring our lives, our very selves.

St. Ignatius offered himself, like Our Blessed Lady and all the saints, to the Lord completely and in the act of offering, just like the bread and wine before the consecration, God takes and uses them. God alone can transform, God alone can change the nature of creation. God alone can give bread to thousands from a single piece. God alone can take bread and wine and transform them into His very self. God alone can change a hopeless romantic layabout into a channel of grace for millions. God can, if we have the courage to allow Him, change us and our lives too. One of St Ignatius’ most famous prayers was the Prayer of Abandonment. It is worth contemplating and praying slowly at Mass or in the home:

Take Lord and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding and my entire will.  All that I am and all that I possess You have given to me: I surrender it all to You to be disposed of according to Your will. Give me only Your love and Your Grace;       with these I will be rich enough, and will desire nothing more.

PLEASE USE THE ONLINE BOOKING LINK FOR THE VIGIL AND SUNDAY MASSES. PLEASE DO NOT PRINT OR BRING THE eTICKET TO MASS. THE STEWARD WILL ASK FOR YOUR NAME UPON ENTRY. THE STEWARDS ARE REQUIRED TO ASK FOR YOUR NAME, SO PLEASE BE PATIENT AND KIND!

THERE IS NO NEED TO BOOK FOR WEEKDAY MASSES. THE STEWARD IS REQUIRED TO ASK FOR YOUR NAME AND CONTACT NUMBER. IF YOU HAVE BEEN BEFORE WE WILL HAVE YOUR DETAILS SO PLEASE JUST GIVE YOUR NAME.

Please note that from the 8th August 2020 face masks / coverings will be required by law in Church.

Normanton and Altofts Community Sponsorship Group

Community Sponsorship is a programme designed to welcome a refugee family into our local area and support them as they rebuild their lives here in the UK.

It is a project supported by National Government by centred in Local Communities and for Local Communities. Although NACSG began in our Parish Community and is supported by Catholic Care in Leeds, it is really a wide community based project. The Project involves various and varied parts of the local Faith, Secular and Community based groups and individuals.

The Normanton and Altofts Community Sponsorship Group (NACSG) was set up in March 2020, just a couple of weeks before Covid-19 and Lockdown temporarily halted our plans.

The Pandemic forced us to realise that, perhaps more than in previous recent generations, we need of other people. We have seen that reaching out to others is not only basic to the best instincts of human nature but is mutually beneficial. By helping others we are helped. By reaching out to others we become more fully human.  

In a world so scarred with inhumanity it is easy to think that we can do nothing to help. The problems seem so huge that we can be overwhelmed. But the Community Sponsorship Scheme gives real practical help to local communities willing to do what they can to help one family. One family is in fact several lives changed forever and the generations who come after them; also the lives of those who support the family concerned and one another in the struggle are changed, forever.  

Whilst it is easy to think that change is only possible with Governments and large organisations, real change is brought about one person, one family, one community at a time. Francis of Assisi said, “Start by doing what is necessary; then do what is possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible. If you want to be part of this project, if you can help in any way please do what you can do, so that we can all do something which will change lives.

The project has a page on the blog. From there you can access and download a Standing Order and Gift Aid Form and support the family we hope to sponsor and follow the work of the project. If you are unable to make a Standing Order we would be very grateful for any donations you can make, either given to Fr. Mark after Mass or via the Presbytery.

As CV-19 sweeps across the world we can only begin to imagine what will happen in the Refugee Camps of Syria! Let us, with God’s Holy Grace, work to bring one family out of hell, help their children and give new life. Isn’t that exactly what God has done for us – saved us and given us new life?

PLEASE USE THE ONLINE BOOKING LINK FOR THE VIGIL AND SUNDAY MASSES. PLEASE DO NOT PRINT OR BRING THE eTICKET TO MASS. THE STEWARD WILL ASK FOR YOUR NAME UPON ENTRY. THE STEWARDS ARE REQUIRED TO ASK FOR YOUR NAME, SO PLEASE BE PATIENT AND KIND!

THERE IS NO NEED TO BOOK FOR WEEKDAY MASSES. THE STEWARD IS REQUIRED TO ASK FOR YOUR NAME AND CONTACT NUMBER. IF YOU HAVE BEEN BEFORE WE WILL HAVE YOUR DETAILS SO PLEASE JUST GIVE YOUR NAME.

REFLECTION FOR THE 17TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

You may have seen the reruns of the Antiques Roadshow.  A recent one was filmed in Halifax when a young lady brought a large blue stone to be looked at. She had been told by various jewellers that it was nothing more than coloured glass and of no value. In fact, it turned out to be a large 36 carat sapphire surrounded with white diamonds in a gold mount, and was valued at 40,000 pounds.

Diamonds, emeralds and sapphires are all created by huge amounts of pressure. Pearls of course are something quite different. They are created when a clam or an oyster has a parasite. The clam or the oyster seeks to isolate the irritant and begins to lay down mucus around the irritant layer after layer and slowly transforms the irritant into something beautiful and precious. Apparently, something similar happens with bishops, parish priests, and marriage spouses.

This weekend the Gospel is taken from Saint Matthew and Saint Matthew likes to couple the parables of Jesus. This week he pairs two parables which speak of treasure, things of high value, things which others would want and seek. In the first parable the farmer stumbles across a hidden treasure and so he does the very sensible thing and buys the field so that he will have legal right to what he has found. Jesus told another parable about a man who discovers a great treasure. Unlike the farmworker, this man does not stumble on his find but discovers it after a long search. He is a wealthy merchant who has devoted his life to hunting for fine pearls. It is worth noting that in Palestine pearls were a byword for what was supremely valuable. The merchant is an expert. He knows precisely what he is looking for. When he comes across the finest pearl he has ever set eyes on he is in no doubt what to do: immediately he sells everything he owns, so that he can possess the pearl that is without peer.

In both parables both men appreciate the true value of what they have discovered and are willing to pay the cost of everything they have for the new treasure. To outsiders looking at them, the two men might appear totally unhinged in risking everything onthis one venture. But both are certain about the wisdom of what they must do; for them, the folly would be in passing over the main chance. In the parables Jesus is asking the crowds if they perceive the kingdom of God in the same way: do they, do we, really see it as a treasure that is worth more than everything they or we, now value in life? If the kingdom of God is not perceived as the authentic article, people will not bother renouncing anything to attain it. IF something is not important there is no investment.

Jesus’ own perception of life differed sharply from so many people. He was constantly challenging people to see and see again to understand anew. To that purpose His stories turned much of popular wisdom on its head and this was done in the hope that His listeners might catch something of another way of living. Jesus had what Solomon prayed for in the First Reading today — a heart to discern the ways of the people and the ways of God. Discernment takes great courage and endurance, it takes an openness to our mistakes as well as our gifts. Discernment takes great faith too. Solomon, who became a byword for wisdom, asks not for passing treasure or fading glory but for discernment because with that profound gift comes the understanding of what is of real worth and value.

The Serenity Prayer is at the very heart of the ethos of Alcoholics Anonymous. The Twelve Step program, originally published in 1939, emphasizes the need to recognise we have a problem we are unable to change on our own, and belief in a power greater than ourselves who is able to help us. Bill W (Bill Wilson) was one of the co-founders of AA, he was a missionary lay preacher of the Oxford Group in the US. So it is not surprising that for him the ‘Higher Power’ was the Lord, but in this secular age the ‘Higher Power can be almost anything. The Serenity Prayer was adopted by AA and there are many versions of the prayer and used by millions who are not part of AA because it is a beautiful prayer. The version I use each morning is one of the earliest 1939 versions:

Father, grant me the courage to change what must be changed, the serenity to accept what cannot be helped, and the insight and wisdom to know the one from the other.


None of us can gain anything of value without insight, wisdom or understanding what is transitory and what is enduring. Very often like the farmer and merchant we must also renounce something in order to gain what is not just important to us, but essential. Perhaps what we must renounce first is our perception of what genuine treasure in this life really is. Few of us will find a 36 carat sapphire or huge pearl in a car boot sale, or win a lottery, or stumble on an oil-field in the backyard. But we have all stumbled-on treasure and a pearl of great price, it is in truth a person. His love, His message, His life, death and resurrection are beyond price. We may have problems appreciating our find wrapped in the ordinary stuff of life. But the question we need to constantly ask ourselves is simple – is an eternity with God worth searching and fighting for? Our personal future and our future as a race is stark and quite simple, eternity with or without God. This is the treasure we are offered. Let us like Solomon and with heart able to discern the ways of God, seek and gain the treasure we are offered.

YORKSHIRE DAY – 1ST AUGUST

16TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME REFLECTION:

If, like me, you watch the news every evening or unlike me you read the paper every day, you experience a non-stop barrage of terrible things that happen in the world. A young lady testifies what her life was like after being attacked.  Doctors detail numerous beatings a little boy received before his death.  Earthquakes and other occurrences of nature kill thousands. Planes crash or are brought down, war continues, we see that Governments are in the pay of business, country threatens country, the list goes on and the world seems to be on the ever downward spiral.  Perhaps tragedy may strike our own families.  Perhaps we read about corruption within the government, or even Church. When these situations take place we sometimes are tempted to ask “Why didn’t God do a better job in creating the world.  Why is there so much evil around us? Why does God allow terrible things to happen? Why do bad things happen to good or innocent people?”

It is an age old question. It the problem of evil in the world created by a good and loving God. It is the question most used by those who choose not to believe in God, pointing the finger in accusation at those who do as though it was the ace card against belief in God. These questions are the same ones asked by the early Christian community that experienced assault from outside the community and, even then, corruption within the community.  To these questions Jesus addresses the parable of the weeds and the wheat in today’s gospel.

            The darnel, the weed referred to the parable, looks like wheat. It even has a head similar to wheat.  When the plant is young it is almost impossible to distinguish it from wheat.  Only when its fruit, or the lack of fruit, a head without grain, is seen can it be separated from the wheat and burned. It is only in its maturity or lack of maturity it that is can be seen for what it is.

            God is all too aware of the evil in our world.  The possibility of evil is the price of freedom. If humanity did not have the ability to choose between good and bad, between virtue and vice we wouldn’t be free. Free Will is that most precious of gifts, it makes us who and what we are. We can choose and know that we choose good over evil, virtue over vice. If there were no free will, no ability or freedom to choose, then virtue would have no meaning, it would simply be an automatic instinctive reaction; it would be devoid of merit. If I have no choice but to love you then what virtue, what merit is there is that? None, none at all.

Love by its very nature is built upon the ability to choose, love by its very nature must be a free choose, a free decision, a free action. If there is no freedom, no choice, then by definition it is not love, it is at best coercion, manipulation, compulsion. Only the seriously damaged or the most twisted of individuals would want the attention or seeming affection of others out of coercion or manipulation. Love needs, depends upon free will, the ability to choose not to love. The choice for evil affects all people, but it is the price of having the ability to choose good.  The farmer does not refuse to plant because he might find weeds among the wheat. He plants knowing that the result might not be perfect but there will be wheat. 

            God created humanity with the ability to bear fruit but also the ability not to bear fruit.  We call out to God in times of tragedy, in times of evil.  We want to be vindicated for doing good and suffering evil.  Like the blood of the martyrs under the altar in the Book of Revelation (Rev 6:9-11) we ask, “How long, O Lord until you vindicate your people.”  The Lord responds that He recognizes our suffering and suffers with us, but He will give others time to choose Him also, to be numbered among His wheat.

As Christians we cannot be so blind to believe that we are always wheat rather than darnel either. Sometimes we do not bear the fruit of the gift of faith, sometimes we choose bad over good, sometimes we choose vice over virtue.

            So where does this leave us?  Are we to ignore evil? Are we to ignore pain and suffering?  Should we keep our mouths shut when evil is around us?  Absolutely not! The Good Lord Himself, loved the sinner but hated the sin.  We are called to till the soil of the Lord.  We are called to bring forth fruit.  We can not allow evil to exist when we come upon it, particularly in ourselves. We are to use wisely that most precious of God’s gifts, free will, to choose, to choose to do good, to choose not to gossip, not to malign another’s character, to choose not to cheat, not to go along to get along, to choose to be kind, to choose to be courageous in defending the Lord and His Church, to choose to raise our voice rather than remain silent.

In this stage of the journey of our soul we have only a short time, we must choose wisely and courageous. In rooting our sin and evil, in choosing virtue over vice, love over selfishness we also have to be careful to love those who sin differently to us remembering that we are sinners too. Just as the Good Lord loves me, even though I sin, so too He love loves others although their sin is different to mine. There is a lovely prayer each Advent when we ask the Lord to help us to ‘use wisely the things of earth and to love the things of heaven’. This week let us ask the Lord to grant us the courage to change what needs to be changed, the serenity to accept what cannot be helped and the wisdom to know the one from the other so that we may choose wisely and love the things of heaven.

            Today, as we pray that we might withstand the onslaught of evil against us, we also pray that we might fight to eliminate evil in our lives.  With confidence, with hope, we realize the Lord who sees all will in the wisdom of his own time remove the weed from the wheat.

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15th Sunday Reflection

PLEASE USE THE ONLINE BOOKING LINK FOR THE VIGIL AND SUNDAY MASSES. PLEASE DO NOT PRINT OR BRING THE eTICKET TO MASS. THE STEWARD WILL ASK FOR YOUR NAME UPON ENTRY. THE STEWARDS ARE REQUIRED TO ASK FOR YOUR NAME, SO PLEASE BE PATIENT AND KIND!

THERE IS NO NEED TO BOOK FOR WEEKDAY MASSES. THE STEWARD IS REQUIRED TO ASK FOR YOUR NAME AND CONTACT NUMBER. IF YOU HAVE BEEN BEFORE WE WILL HAVE YOUR DETAILS SO PLEASE JUST GIVE YOUR NAME.

REFLECTION FOR THE 15TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME –

THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER.

The rabbis, and Jesus was in that rabbinical tradition, used stories a great deal because they are a good way of getting across a deeper meaning. This week we reach the Lord’s third great parable in Matthew’s Gospel.

He turns to the crowd of hungry for His teaching, a crowd who would have been familiar with sowing and reaping. “Look at that farmer sowing his field,” He says. Jesus proceeded to use the scene to open their eyes to things that they had perhaps not thought of before.

The story tells us clearly enough what happened. The birds dealt with any seed that fell on the pathway, the weeds dealt with what fell on the poorer ground, and the weather dealt with what fell on the rocks. What fell on the good, prepared and wholesome ground pro­duced either a fair, good or excellent harvest. Jesu conclu­ded with a very typical Rabbinical statement, “Listen all you who have ears to hear.” In other words, think about what I am saying, apply it to yourself and act upon it. It is a very Catholic maxim – Listen, think, decide, apply and act.

So often Our Lord’s parables do not do our thinking for us but rather they tell us to work it out for ourselves – in other words to listen and to think.

Here, thanks to the apostles asking for an explanation, we have Christ’s own commentary.  I’m not a gardener, I enjoy gardening, I enjoy tending it, planting etc, but I’m not a natural gardener. Somehow I manage to put things in the wrong place and at the wrong times and any success is more due to nature rather than my nurture. That very often seems to be the case for my own life too and especially my spiritual life. Sometimes it is frustrating and I get annoyed with myself and on occasion disheartened that my growing and maturing is one step forward and two steps back. As followers of the Lord we are not to get disheartened when results seem so long in coming, if indeed we live to see them at all. Any farmer or gardener will tell us that the growing goes on when it seems that nothing is really happening. Growth necessarily involves patience as well as hard work.

Our society is geared to speedy answers, things must be instant and we are used to quick returns. The now constant 24/7 News drives an agenda, for their own financial reasons, which demands immediate response and answer to just about everything. Half way though Lockdown I gave up on the News, partly due to blood pressure and partly due to my lack of charity toward the television and ‘Reporter’. The incessant “What about? What if? Can you just say…? had me contemplating if 4pm was too early for Gin.

When it comes to the seed of the Gospel, as in the world of nature, time moves slowly. The seed of the Gospel and the Christian faith is sown in patience and hope and the lesson is never to give in to despair.

We are also reminded that so much depends on how we listen. We have all heard or even used the expression a ‘closed mind’. There are people into whose minds and hearts the message of Christ has no more chance of entering than the seed on the hard baked summer ground. We can be so prejudiced that we do not even want to hear the message. We remain content with mediocrity and comfortable faith. We can be so proud that we can refuse to acknowledge what we need to know. We can be so scared that if we listen to the truth it may mean changing our way of life.

We may not have a closed mind but we may have a shallow one and it is like the seed falling where the soil is thin. We pick things up quickly and drop them just as quickly, especially when they begin to get difficult. It never ceases to amaze me, but it should not because of the message of the Gospel today, how many parents bring children for baptism or First Holy Communion, promising faithfully to fulfil the duties they take on, only never to be seen again.

The writer G. K. Chesterton said,

“I don’t need a church to tell me I’m wrong where I already know I’m wrong; I need a Church to tell me I’m wrong where I think I’m right”.

Our lives can be littered with things begun and never finished and the Word of God gets the same reception.

Then there is the person who listens, but whose ears are tuned in to so many things. This happens a lot nowadays when life tends to be crowded and busy and lived at a fast pace. We can get too busy to pray, too busy to read, too busy to think, to take time to be with others or even to be on our own and it is we who are the losers.

I have to confess that I have and still do fall into most of these categories, I avoid listening properly or with a generous heart, for a whole variety of reasons, to what the Lord asks of me. I make resolutions and promises only to fall back into familiar old habits; I crowd out the Lord and His message with things, meetings, other seeming priorities when in truth the only priority is Him.

Finally there is the one who listens and realises they need God and not just when things are going badly.  They are the people who listen to the Lord speaking to them in the scriptures, whether at Mass or at home. They are the ones who listen to the Lord speaking to them in their conscience or in and through other people. They are the ones prepared to hear, ready to learn and also ready to act when the time comes. We are all called to be like that, we, as followers of the Lord are called to listen to Him, learn from His teaching and to act upon it. As I said, the parables don’t do the thinking for us. So this week perhaps we can try to apply this one to ourselves.

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After the solemnity of Pentecost the Church celebrates three major feasts, the Most Holy Trinity, Corpus Christi and the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. This Sunday is the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) tells us that the Holy Trinity is the most fundamental of the Christian beliefs; it is the primary and central truth of our faith.

In our rather bankrupt ‘culture’ the idea of Mystery makes no sense. But it is also true that there is an obsession with mysteries and the esoteric. There is an almost dualist approach to so many things these days, we seem to have become somewhat schizophrenic. So many reject faith and religion but claim to be ‘spiritual’. So many claim to be spiritual but want to lose themselves in the purely material. So many reject God, the practice of faith, the idea of heaven and hell but then erect wayside shrines to the dead, rejecting the idea of praying but obsessed with placing football shirts and can of larger in memory of someone. No matter the confusion of the world in which we live, irrespective of the outward rejection of faith, religion or spirituality there seems to be a part of the human person which instinctively knows and craves ‘the Other’. There is a part of us, as the author Salman Rushdie wrote, which is ‘God shaped’. The prophet Jeremiah put it more beautifully when he wrote, ‘You seduced me,Lord, and I let myself be seduced; you were too strong for me, and you prevailed’. The great saint Augustine wrote in his ‘Confessions’ about his journey into God and away from the life which had been ‘colourful’ to say the least. He came to realise that in spite of sin, there is longing in every person to reach out to our Creator. He realizes it is the work of God. Famously saint Augustine wrote, “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.” That line sums up the theme of saint Augustine’s life and will not be bettered in all the writings that lie ahead of him, in which he will wrestle with the deepest issues of theology.

In the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity we celebrate that great truth of the Christian faith that God has made us and we are made for a purpose and a destiny. God has shared something of the Divine nature with us so we belong to God; we are made part of God, and therefore are destined to return to God. God then is one Who creates, Who saves and Who loves us. In the Book of Genesis we hear God saying ‘Let us make man [humanity] to our image and likeness’ (1:26).  We have the beautiful image of God breathing into the clay, which is inert humanity, taken from the dust of the earth. God animates us, literally gives us the anima, the soul or breath, that which enlivens us. That ‘Divine breath’ is the soul or spirit coming from the Creator. In Christ, at the moment of the Incarnation, the moment when Our Blessed Lady said Yes to God and the eternal Word took on our human nature, God re-creates us. God not only shares the Divine spirit with us but takes human nature, weak and fragile as it surely is, into the Divine. Saint Athanasius dramatically proclaimed this truth when he said, ‘God became man that man might become God’.

There is a lovely story of a saint who was contemplating the mystery of the Blessed Trinity, trying to get to grips with how the Father, Son and Holy Spirit worked as three distinct persons and yet One eternal God as revealed by Jesus. He was sitting on the beach and he watched a little boy who had dug a little hole the sand. He had a little bucket and was running to the sea, filling the bucket and running back to pour the water into the hole. This went on for some time until curiosity got the better of the saint. He went to the little boy and asked, ‘My son you seem so busy and exhausting yourself with all this running back and forth. What are you doing?’

The little boy said, ‘Father, I am going to empty that ocean into this hole in the sand’.

The saint laughed, ‘But my son,’ he responded, ‘that is foolish and an impossible task!’

‘Ah’, replied the boy, ‘but my son, I have more chance of emptying that ocean into this hole in the sand than you have of understanding the depth of God’.

There are those who complain that ‘mystery’ is a cop-out. They would hold that because those with faith call something a mystery it is simply the easy way of dodging the question. Ironically they do not use the same argument when any of the sciences state that further investigation or research is needed. For the believer a mystery is simply a truth which is so vast, so profound, that it cannot be understood in its totally at any given point. Mystery is simply a truth which needs more research, indeed constant and eternal research. For the Christian believer a mystery is a truth which requires not so much empirical research but rather experiential research. By living out the mystery we begin to understand it, however imperfectly.

Marriage is one such example of a lived mystery. No matter what others tells say about it, no matter the experience of others, understanding really only develops when lived. Each married relationship will be different from every other; no two will be the same because the people in those relationships are different. Of course there will be elements which are common to all, the need for honesty, commitment, fidelity, communication and courage. But each married relationship will be different and experienced differently. No matter how close and intimate the relationship, the spouses will also have their own personal identity, hopes, dreams, fears and concerns. In marriage they become one, whilst remaining two. Similarly in a family, each family member, whilst part of the whole unit remain distinct individuals but also work and act, as part of the whole.  Marriage and family are reflections of the God Who creates and recreates us. That is precisely why the Church has always placed so much emphasis on the marriage and family life. They are the basic building blocks of society but also reflections of the Trinity.

In family life we experience love and it is a love which requires cooperation, challenge and nurturing. Family life requires boundaries and standards, commitment and selflessness if the marriage is to last and the family is to function and prepare the next generation.

This past week I was walking Ella and a teenager walked up to the Club doors and urinated, whilst his girlfriend waited. When I shouted that he should stop being so filthy I was told where to go. Now, it may be a generational thing, but I can only begin to imagine my mother’s response if I had even contemplated doing something like that! But when young people are not taught self-respect, respect for others or property then it is hardly surprising that they do not see what the problem is. Family life is where those most basic personal, social and interpersonal skills and values are taught. Marriage and family life are meant to be not only a reflection of the intimate loving union of the Trinity to but also to make real that union in our daily lives and actions. If we as taught and understand that we are holy and reflections of, and indeed share in the very nature of God, father, Son and Holy Spirit, then self-respect, respect for others and the world becomes a part of who we are and how we relate. If those things are not taught or modelled in the family then they will be absent and we continue down the chaotic route of western ‘culture’.

The Most Holy Trinity is the revelation of the very life of God. The intimate, profound and eternal love between the Father and the Son is quite literally personified as the Holy Spirit, each equal in majesty and glory. Perhaps because human language breaks down so easily when trying to describe the nature of God symbols speak to us more easily and accurately. The Trinity has been described as the unbroken circle of love and also the three interlocking circles of love. Another symbol is the Triangle, equal sides making one shape. Perhaps the most famous in this part of the world is the shamrock used by St Patrick to describe the Most Blessed Trinity – three distinct leaves which form one leaf.

undefinedPersonally I think of the Most Holy Trinity using the icon each day. This icon is one of three I have in my room for prayer. Rublev’s icon of the Trinity is one of the most famous icons in the world. Icons are not just religious pictures, they are ‘windows into heaven’. For our orthodox brothers and sisters they are very important and have in some sense a relationship with what they portray. Colours are gestures are not random, they are very strictly used and understood.

The icon (above) takes as its subject the mysterious story where Abraham receives three visitors as he camps by the oak of Mamre. He serves them a meal. As the conversation progresses he seems to be talking with God, as if these ‘angels’ were in some way a metaphor for the three persons of the Trinity. In fact sometimes in the Old Testament, ‘the Angel of God’ simply means, God or the Spirit of God. In Rublev’s representation of the scene, the three gold-winged figures are seated around a white table on which a golden, chalice-like bowl contains a roasted lamb – clearly the Paschal lamb of the Paschal Wedding Feast to which we are all called.  

In the background of the picture, a house can be seen at the top left and a tree in the centre. Less distinctly are rocky hills in the upper right corner. The composition is a great circle around the table, focusing the attention on the chalice-bowl at the centre, which reminds us inescapably of an altar at Communion. On one level this picture shows three angels seated under Abraham’s tree, but on another it is a visual expression of what the Trinity means, what is the very nature of God, and how we approach God. Reading the picture from left to right, we see the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

On the right, the Holy Spirit has a garment of the clear blue of the sky, wrapped over with a robe of a fragile green. So the Spirit of creation moves in sky and water, breathes in heaven and earth. All living things owe their freshness to His touch. The Son has the deepest colours; a thick heavy garment of the reddish-brown of earth and a cloak of the blue of heaven. In His person Jesus unites heaven and earth, the two natures, human and Divine are present in Him, and over His right shoulder (the Government shall be upon His shoulder) there is a band of gold shot through the earthly garment, as His divinity suffuses and transfigures His earthly being. The Father seems to wear all the colours in a kind of fabric that changes with the light, that seems transparent, that cannot be described or confined in words. And this is how it should be. No one has seen the Father, but the vision of Him fills the universe.

The wings of the angels or persons are gold. Their seats are gold. The chalice in the centre is gold, and the roof of the house. Gold is not enough to express the glory of God. Only light will do and that same white becomes the holy table, the place of offering. God is revealed and disclosed here, at the heart, in the whiteness of untouchable light.

undefinedThe Father looks forward, raising His hand in blessing to the Son. It is impossible to tell whether He looks up at the Son or down to the chalice on the table, but His gesture expresses a movement towards the Son. This is my Son, listen to him… The hand of the Son points on, around the circle, to the Spirit. In this simple gesture we see the movement of life towards us, The Father sends the Son, the Son sends the Spirit. The life flows clockwise around the circle. And we complete the circle. As the Father sends the Son, as the Son sends the Holy Spirit, so we are invited and sent to complete the circle of the Godhead with our response. And we respond to the movement of the Spirit who points us to Jesus. And He shows us the Father in whom all things come to fruition. This is the counter-clockwise movement of our lives, in response to the movement of God. And along the way are the three signs at the top of the picture, the hill, the tree, and the house. The Spirit touches us, even though we do not know who it is that is touching us. He leads us by ways we may not be aware of, up the hill of prayer. It may be steep and rocky, but the journeying God goes before us along the path. It leads to Jesus, the Son of God, and it leads to a tree. A great tree in the heat of the day spreads its shade. It is a place of security, a place of peace, a place where we begin to find out the possibilities of who we can be. It is no ordinary tree. It stands above the Son in the picture, and stands above the altar-table where the lamb lies within the chalice. Because of the sacrifice this tree grows. The tree of death has been transformed into a tree of life for us.

The tree is on the way to the house. Over the head of the Father is the house of the Father. It is the goal of our journey, this is our destiny. It is the beginning and end of our lives. Its roof is golden. Its door is always open for the traveller. It has a tower, and its window is always open so that the Father can incessantly scan the roads for a glimpse of a returning prodigal.

In the icon access to the circle, into the family life of the Trinity, is through the narrow opening between the Father and the Holy Spirit. We approach the Most Blessed Trinity sharing the Paschal meal at the Altar when we keep our eyes on Jesus, seated in the middle.

Simples really!

Just keep your eyes on Jesus and you cannot go wrong – God does the rest – He’s actually quite clever like that!  

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PENTECOST

PENTECOST SUNDAY REFLECTIONS

The Feast of Pentecost or Shavuot has many names in Scripture – The Feast of Weeks, the Feast of Harvest, and the Latter Firstfruits and celebrated on the fiftieth day after Passover. Shavuot is traditionally a joyful time of giving thanks and presenting offerings of the new grain of the summer wheat harvest in Israel. (Exodus 34:22). It is one of the three major pilgrimage feasts of the Jewish faith.

The name “Feast of Weeks” was given because God commanded the Jews in the Book of Leviticus (23:15-16), to count seven full weeks (or 49 days) beginning on the second day of Passover, and then present offerings of new grain to the Lord. The term Pentecost derives from the Greek pentēkostḗ (from pénte, “five”) – properly fiftieth, referring to the festival of Pentecost – a one day festival celebrated at the end of the barley harvest.

Initially, Shavuot was a festive celebration of thanks to the Lord for the blessing of the harvest. Because Shavuot occurred at the conclusion of the Passover, it also became known as “Latter Firstfruits.” The celebration is also tied to the giving of the Decalogue or Ten Commandments Ten to Moses on Mount Sinai and so also has the name Matin Torah or “giving of the Law.”  Throughout Jewish history, it has been customary to engage in an all-night study of the Torah on the first evening of Shavuot. Children were encouraged to memorize Scripture and rewarded with treats. Traditionally the Book of Ruth was read during Shavuot. Orthodox Jews still light candles and recite blessings, adorn their homes and synagogues with greenery, eat dairy foods, study the Torah, read the book of Ruth and attend Shavuot services. Shavuot was also a pilgrimage feast when Jewish men were expected, if possible, to go to the Temple in Jerusalem. We cannot over emphasise the importance of the Temple and the city Jerusalem for Jews either ancient or modern. It is the centre of their culture and faith. For Christians (and Muslims) it is also important. Our Churches are orientated towards Jerusalem. The priest when offering the daily miracle of the Mass faces either spiritually or physically towards Jerusalem, the place of salvation and the place of the Lord’s return in glory. The destruction of the Temple in AD 70 by the Romans was absolutely catastrophic and the end of Israel as they knew it. From that moment on no sacrifice could be offered and they became ‘a people of the Book’. Synagogue worship and worship in the home replaced the central role of the Temple where God’s living presence had dwelt amongst His people on Mount Zion.

In Acts 1, before the Lord’s Ascension He instructed the disciples to wait upon the Lord in prayer and to await the gift of the Holy Spirit which would soon be given to them in the form of a powerful baptism. Baptisma means literally ‘to be dipped or immersed’. They would be immersed in the Holy Spirit. He told them to wait in Jerusalem until they received the gift of the Holy Spirit, which would empower them to go out into the world and be His witnesses to the ends of the earth.

So the Ascension was forty days after the Lord’s glorious triumphant Resurrection. Ten days later was the feast of Pentecost or Shavuot, fifty days after Passover. On the day of Pentecost, the disciples were all together when the sound of a mighty rushing wind came down from heaven, and tongues of fire rested on the believers. Scripture says, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” The sound of the mighty wind and visible tongues of fire announcing the Presence is similar to the loud and fiery descent of God, the All Holy, on Mount Sinai in Exodus 19:16-19. The believers communicated in languages they had never before spoken. They spoke with Jewish pilgrims of various languages from all across the Mediterranean world.

The crowds of pilgrims gathered for the feast heard them speaking in different languages. They were amazed and thought the disciples were drunk on wine. Then St Peter got up and preached the evangelion (Greek: euangélion, Latin: evangelium) Good News of the Kingdom and 3000 people accepted the message of Christ and were baptised. The Good News of the Kingdom is simple in fact it is just three words. The whole of the Gospel, the Good News is summed up in just three words – Jesus Is Lord.  (1 Cor 12:3) Jesus is the Kyrios, the Lord, the Almighty, God most high. Jesus is king of the Kingdom and by following the King we are part of the Kingdom. Our job is to make the Kingdom present and real for others. How?  – by proclaiming Him as King of our lives. I make the Kingdom of God present and real for others and the world at large by proclaiming simply that Jesus is My Lord, My God, My King and He can be yours too, just accept Him and live as He taught. That sounds so simple, but of course we know that in practice it can be very demanding, because it has consequences!

St Luke, the only non-Jewish contributor to the Sacred Scriptures wrote a two volume work which we know as the Gospel of St Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. In Acts St Luke continues to record the miraculous outpouring of the Holy Spirit that began on the Feast of Pentecost. This Old Testament feast revealed “a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ” as St. Paul says to the Colossians (2:17). Acts details the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the early Church. The Holy Spirit is the founding gift of the New Covenant and New Israel and is the soul that animates the Body of Christ on earth in human flesh and blood, in us.

After Moses went up to Mount Sinai, the Word of God was given to the Israelites at Shavuot. When the Jews accepted the Torah or Law, they became servants of God, accepting and entering into a Covenant Relationship with God – ‘I will be their God and they shall be my people’. They entered into this Covenant Relationship which was also a blood covenant, hence circumcision. This is really what is meant in the Scriptures when it speaks of the Mercy of God. Mercy in the Scriptures really refers the Covenant Relationship. It is a relationship which cannot be broken because it goes deeper than even family relationships – if ‘blood is thicker than water’ then oath and covenant go deeper than blood.  So, when in the Psalms they, and we, pray ‘Remember Your mercy Lord…’ or in the song of Our Lady, the Magnificat we pray ‘…according to His mercy..’ it really means ‘Remember the covenant relationship between us’.  When we ask for mercy, we are not asking for leniency but rather we are asking the Lord to remember that we are closer to Him than we are to anyone else, even our own families. We are asking God to remember that we are in a Covenant and therefore to be gracious to us in His kindness.

At Pentecost, with the descent of God the Holy Spirit, this Covenant Relationship becomes even more intimate and powerful. When the disciples received the gift of God the Holy Spirit, they became witnesses for Christ, possessing in a powerful and intimate way the living presence of the living God to share with others. They became the people of God in a very powerful way. They, and we, became the people of God, the Body of Christ, on earth. They are made, we are made, to be a means of mercy for the world. The Church is called to proclaim the Kingdom and to remind not only ourselves but the whole world of the Covenant which God has made in Christ and manifested by the Holy Spirit with humanity.

Jews celebrate a joyful harvest on Shavuot, but the Church, the new Israel and Body of Christ, celebrates a harvest and new birth, the birth of Christ’s Body on earth. The Gospel of St John tells us that the gift of the Lord’s presence brings us peace and forgiveness. “Peace be with you. As the father sent me, so am I sending you’. After this He breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained’.”

For Catholics this text is a clear instruction referring to the Sacrament of Mercy, Confession or reconciliation. It is the mandate of the Lord to continue His mission to cast our evil and sin, to reconcile and make whole in the Sacrament. But Peace and Forgiveness as fruits of the Holy Spirit are clearly linked, indeed intimately linked. If we are to be Christ’s Body on earth, if we are to proclaim and make real the Kingdom of God then we must also be people who learn to forgive and be at peace. Both those things are in short supply in our fallen world. I find it hard to forgive even the driver who cuts me up on the road, let alone the deeper hurts! But of course the Good Lord knows what I am like! (I often think of Him with His head in His hands saying ‘Oh there he goes again! Will he NEVER learn!) The Good Lord knows that if I am to have the peace He wants for me I need to learn to forgive. To quote the song – ‘Let it go, let it go!’  Very often all I can do is to sit before the Good Lord, remember that we are in a Covenant Relationship and because He has and continues to forgive me, then I am honour bound to try and forgive others and thereby have peace. It is a peace which can only come from the God Who already lives in me, a God Who feeds me and sustains me, a God Who loves me. That love of God is a living force in God the Holy Spirit given in Baptism, Confirmation and Ordination and so very beautifully displayed in the image and devotion of the Most Sacred Heart.

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JUNE

THE MONTH OF THE THE MOST BLESSED SACRAMENT OF THE ALTAR AND THE MOST SACRED HEART OF JESUS

MOST SACRED HEART OF JESUS. HAVE MERCY ON US!

There are only eighteen solemnities in the Liturgical Year, but in May and June there are no fewer than seven solemnities: Ascension, Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, Corpus Christi, and the Sacred Heart are all celebrated in less than five weeks, with two more solemnities in late June—the Birth of John the Baptist and Saints Peter and Paul.

The Friday after Corpus Christi (14th June 2020) is the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, the penultimate Easter feast. The final Easter feast, i.e. a celebration which moves according to the time of Easter, is that of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which intimately linked to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Although the revelations to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in the 17th century promoted the devotion, the origins of the honouring of Jesus and His love for humanity trace back to Scripture and many other saints and sacred writings throughout the history of the Church. The devotion is not outdated, but actually for our time. The 20th century saw almost every pope promote the devotion to the Sacred Heart, including the encyclical Hauerietis Aquas (On the Sacred Heart) by Venerable Pope Pius XII in 1956.

The actual feast began only in 1765 as a locally celebrated in Poland and certain congregations, and then in 1856 Pope Pius IX made it a feast for the universal church. In 1899 Pope Leo XIII raised it to a higher rank, and Pius XI elevated the feast even higher, and revised the liturgical texts, which are the basis of the Mass texts used today.

There seems to be a waning of public devotion to the Sacred Heart, with more emphasis on the devotion to the Divine Mercy. But the devotions are not in competition. Both devotions are connected to the same Heart of Christ, and speak of His love and mercy.

The devotion to the Sacred Heart calls for reparation of sin, and the devotion should lead us to a deeper understanding of His infinite love and mercy for us. Our Lord told St. Faustina, “My daughter, know that My Heart is mercy itself. From this sea of mercy, graces flow out upon the whole world. No soul that has approached Me has ever gone away unconsoled” (Diary, 1777).

When we look at the image of the Merciful Saviour, we see rays of Blood and Water emanating from His pierced Heart. The rays are emanating outward—they are going out to a hurting world. That is perhaps one of the differences; the Sacred Heart enables us to get a deeper understanding of the infinite mercy and calls us to reparation, yet the Divine Mercy now calls us to live that message to a hurting world.

The month of June is traditionally dedicated to the Most Sacred Heart. Although the devotion was popular in the Middle Ages and then combated Jansenism of the 19th and 20th centuries, turning to Jesus’ mercy and love and making reparation for sin is important for all Catholics, especially for our own time. This is not a personal devotion relegated to aged and traditional folks, but universal: The veneration of our Lord’s Heart, insofar as it honours Christ as the source and substance of our redemption, is no ordinary devotion. It is truly latreutical—a devotion which is rendered to God alone. For the Heart of Christ occupies a central position, as the focal point through which everything passes to the ultimate centre in the Father—per Christum ad Patrem. It is a devotion of tremendous theological richness, containing a complete synthesis of faith, or, as Pius XI put it “summa totius religionis . “The devotion …emphasizes love of God and calls eloquently to the fraternal apostolate. Pope St Paul VI observed  – The spirituality fostered by this devotion can best meet the spiritual needs of our age. It is a practical form of spirituality which emphasizes familiaritas cum Christo and therefore is marvellously suited to aid priest, religious and laity alike in their journey of growth in holiness. If practiced in the family, devotion to the Heart of Jesus may greatly help to counter those pagan elements of culture which all too often work their way into the sanctuary of the home.

Many people are not drawn to this devotion because all they read or see is saccharine-sweet devotionals with stilted or archaic language and feminized images of Christ with an image of His wounded heart. For people of other faiths, even Eastern Catholics, the image of the Sacred Heart can be somewhat off putting.

The images may be off-putting, but they are like open heart surgery or an echocardiogram, revealing what is hidden. The Sacred Heart images show Christ’s heart, the secret or invisible centre of all His work with us. He has revealed His heart to us, and made it accessible and not hidden. We can all enter in and rest in His love and mercy. And then there is the aspect of His suffering, the opening of His heart to save us. He provided the ultimate sacrifice of His body, even to the very depths of His heart for love of us sinners.

Regardless of the expression, this feast reflects the “summary of our religion” (as Pius XI said) and pertinent to our life and our secularized world today. Perhaps the traditional images and prayers do not need to be used, but turning to the Heart of Jesus should be central in our daily lives and devotion.

St. John Eudes

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, to Thee I consecrate and offer up my person and my life, my actions, trials, and sufferings, that my entire being may henceforth only be employed in loving, honouring and glorifying Thee. This is my irrevocable will, to belong entirely to Thee, and to do all for Thy love, renouncing with my whole heart all that can displease Thee.

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

I take Thee, O Sacred Heart, for the sole object of my love, the protection of my life, the pledge of my salvation, the remedy of my frailty and inconstancy, the reparation for all the defects of my life, and my secure refuge at the hour of my death. Be Thou, O Most Merciful Heart, my justification before God Thy Father, and screen me from His anger which I have so justly merited. I fear all from my own weakness and malice, but placing my entire confidence in Thee, O Heart of Love, I hope all from Thine infinite Goodness. Annihilate in me all that can displease or resist Thee. Imprint Thy pure love so deeply in my heart that I may never forget Thee or be separated from Thee. I beseech Thee, through Thine infinite Goodness, grant that my name be engraved upon Thy Heart, for in this I place all my happiness and all my glory, to live and to die as one of Thy devoted servants. Amen.

Efficacious Novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

I. O my Jesus, you have said: ‘Truly I say to you, ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you. ‘ Behold I knock, I seek and ask for the grace of…… (here name your request) Our Father… . Hail Mary… . Glory Be to the Father… .

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you.

II. O my Jesus, you have said: ‘Truly I say to you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. ‘ Behold, in your name, I ask the Father for the grace of…… . (here name your request) Our Father… Hail Mary… . Glory Be To the Father… .

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you.

III. O my Jesus, you have said: ‘Truly I say to you, heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away. ‘ Encouraged by your infallible words I now ask for the grace of… . . (here name your request) Our Father… . Hail Mary… . Glory Be to the Father…

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you.

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, for whom it is impossible not to have compassion on the afflicted, have pity on us miserable sinners and grant us the grace which we ask of you, through the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, your tender Mother and ours. 
Say the Hail, Holy Queen and add: St. Joseph, foster father of Jesus, pray for us. 
— St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

St Padre Pio recited this novena every day for all those who requested his prayers.

SEVENTH SUNDAY REFLECTIONS:

After sharing the Paschal meal with his disciples Jesus as His earthly mission draws to it culmination Jesus offers what has become known as the High Priestly prayer. The High Priestly Prayer of Jesus is made up of three parts. He offers up His approaching sacrifice and Passion to the Father, He pleads for His friends and disciples and for the Church, His body who will carry on the work of making known the Good News of the Father’s love. There is a sense in which this great prayer of the Lord echoes the Our Father. It has an intimacy which reminds us of that most profound and beautiful prayer which unites all Christians.

This is the ‘hour’ when everything is falling apart and the drama leading to his death has been set in motion. This ‘hour’ is a major theme for St John’s Gospel.  It is mentioned 17 times in the Gospel and is a singular focus for the mission of Jesus throughout the Gospel. The ‘hour’ is foremost the appointed time of the Lord’s Passion, which for all the Gospels is the climatic phase of the mission. St. John mentions throughout the Gospel that the attempts of His enemies are unable to do anything because the hour had not come. Indeed, the very first miracle of St John’s Gospel is at the Wedding of Cana. It is the curtain raiser to His ministry and mission. In response to His Blessed mother’s request He says, ‘Women, why turn to me, my hour has not yet come’. (N.B. The term ‘woman’ is NOT some kind of derogative term, quite the reverse it is a term of honour. Jesus likens Mary to Eve ‘the woman’ a name which means the mother of all who live. St John makes it clear that Mary is the new Eve. What Eve got wrong with her disobedience, Mary instead acts with obedience to the will of God).

Raising is eyes to heaven, which was and remains a traditional prayer gesture, Jesus sums up the significance of His life by recalling the past. He pours out His innermost thoughts and feelings to the Father. The text says, “When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you…’” The word Glorify, Doxazo in Greek, means to praise, honour or give glory. The verb is used 23 times in St John’s Gospel. From a Scriptural understanding the Glory of God is the weight and magnificence of His Being. St John indicates that Jesus, the eternal Son, possesses the divine nature and glory of His eternal Father. This glory shines through His loving acceptance of the Passion and Cross. The eternal Son’s obedience to His mission glorifies the Father and in return, the Father glories the Son. It underscores the intimate union between Father and Son in the Divine Godhead of the Blessed Trinity. Before His death, Jesus petitions the eternal Father to glorify His humanity that it may rise again to participate in the eternal glory that He already possesses in His divinity. Here again we see the mission of Jesus, which begins in the Incarnation. Jesus did not come to simply ‘save our souls’. Jesus, the God made man, came to save the whole of us, body, mind and soul. Jesus did not rise and ascend spiritually but as a whole person, glorified but always human and divine. Where Jesus the Head has gone we, the body and members, are called to follow.

There is a great deal of neo-pagan nonsense these days about ‘holistic spirituality’. By which is meant a kind of releasing of the ‘spirit’ from the body, or ‘being at one with oneself’. The reality is that the Gospels and the Faith of the Church, properly understood, has been ‘holistic’ from the beginning. We are whole people and Jesus the God made man, has saved the whole of us b uniting our humanity to His divinity.

From todays Gospel text we get the impression of been party to a very intimate conversation. The Lord knew that it was now time to begin handing over His mission to those He had chosen, to those who were weak, fragile creatures, but who would become the foundation stones of the building of the Church. He prays for the Church and we are included in His prayer. We are reminded too that His ‘hour’ of suffering leading to glory is also ours. He makes it clear that the Church will be a community which not only extends throughout the world but throughout time. We are united in every generation by a common purpose of proclaiming the Gospel to the ends of the earth and that we should be true images of the Lord who has taken up residence in the human heart. Because we have been Baptised we are to proclaim the Gospel, the Good News, of God’s love, not only with our lips but with the lives we lead. We are to do this in the ordinary circumstances of our lives in the home and in the workplace by living as He would have us live. We are to do this by dedicating our work, no matter how seemingly insignificant it may be, to His honour and for the establishing of his Kingdom. The Kingdom of God is established whenever and wherever we live according to the values of the Gospel; wherever and whenever Jesus is proclaimed as Lord and others are made aware that eternal life has been won and offered to us all.

Of course there is the rather Victorian Protestant nonsense that eternal life is heaven with clouds, harps and chubby little angels here there and everywhere. What a sham! Eternal life, which begins here and now rather than when we kick the bucket, is the most unimaginable adventure of love. Eternal life is that culmination of love and peace, of excitement and lavish outpouring of God, an adventure beyond our wildest imagination!

The Lord says, “And eternal life is this: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent”. This then is our mission and our destiny, to make Him known to others by trying to live our lives according to His will for each one of us.

Getting to know the will of God for is never easy and the only real way is by our openness to the Lord speaking to us through other people, the Scriptures, the Liturgy of the Church, through our conscience and through prayer. Prayer like social justice, is not and never could be an optional extra to the Christian it is an essential aspect of our faith. For most of us it is not that easy either, it takes time and discipline. But we should be able to put aside even a little time each day to be quiet and pour out our problems, cares and joys to the Lord, Who has promised to be with us to the end of time. Perhaps this week, as we prepare to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church next week we can make an effort to pray each day, even for a little time. Perhaps we can ask the Holy Spirit to be with us and to help us to know and follow the will of God for us.

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THE SOLEMNITY OF THE LORD’S ASCENSION INTO HEAVEN.

HAPPY FEAST DAY!

Yea, angels tremble when they see how changed is our humanity; that flesh hath purged what flesh had stained, and God, the flesh of God, have reigned”

REFLECTION:

The solemnity of the Lord’s Ascension is the culmination not only of the Lord’s Resurrection but also of the Incarnation. In St Matthew’s Gospel we have at the very beginning the statement that Jesus will be ‘Emmanuel’ a name that means ‘God is with us’. At the end of the same Gospel Jesus says  ‘know that I am with you, yes even to the end of time’. They are like the brackets of the Gospel of Matthew.

We often see the solemn feast of the Ascension as Jesus withdrawing, leaving us. But the Gospel makes it very clear that this is not the Lord’s intention at all, in fact quiet the reverse. Jesus as a Parakletos, an Advocate, will be with us for all time. But now He will be with us in a new, risen, glorified and spiritual way.

The Scriptures indicate that the period between the Lord’s Resurrection and Ascension was 40 days which is important since it is deeply symbolic of the 40 days the Lord spent in the wilderness, and the 40 years the children of Israel were in the wilderness. What is important is that the Lord came to His friends during this time as the Risen Lord to strengthen and support them as they grew in their new relationship with Him. In other words, He continues to strengthen, encourage and to form ‘Church’ the people called together to proclaim Him to the world. He, the Head, calls together us the members of His Body and by His presence forms us into something new and powerful.

The Incarnation of God in the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity is something which will not just be at Bethlehem but will continue throughout the world and throughout time. It is a double Incarnation – Jesus, true God and true man, God from God, light from light, but also Jesus alive and present in and through His Body the Church.

The Incarnation of Jesus at the moment of His conception in the womb of the Blessed Virgin begins the process of our healing. God takes to Himself the human nature to heal and restore it. Indeed Jesus not only ‘restores’ us but in truth raises us up to a new dignity. St Athanasius (ca 298–373), puts it more poetically and accurately when he declares “God became man that man might become God”.  By means of the Incarnation Jesus, Emmanuel, takes the human nature to His Divine nature and whilst without sin He enables humanity to become something extra-ordinary. Jesus does not pretend to be human as some of the ancient and indeed modern heretics believed, but He truly IS like us in all things but sin. Because He is like us in all things but sin and is also true God, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, He Rises from the dead not just spiritually but physically and His ascension is also a physical Ascension. But because He is the God-man Who has conquered death, physically by the sacrifice of the Cross and by His glorious Resurrection and Ascension He takes our humanity into the Godhead. There is, forever, a part of God which is also human.

The Lord’s ‘departure’ is a physical one, He withdraws physically from His disciples but remains with them spiritually, risen, glorified and transcended. He has prepared them during the forty days for this change in relationship. He will continue to help and support them and still more, He will send the Holy Spirit to be ‘another Paracletos’, another Advocate.

The Lord send s the disciples back to the Jerusalem, back to where the Paschal Mystery was accomplished, back to the upper room to wait for the Gift which will be vital in their mission. The Church, His body, will gather together in prayer. This time of waiting and prayer is really the very first novena and retreat. The Pentecost novena is really THE original novena. The disciples waited in unity and prayer for the Holy Spirit for nine days after Jesus’ ascension to heaven. Jesus asked them to pray constantly in the upper room until the descent of the Holy Spirit. “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” – Acts 1:14

Like any family they gather together with their mother, with His mother, and wait for the gift of the Spirit. This time of waiting and prayer is of course already something which the Blessed Virgin has experienced. She knows what it is to ‘wait upon the Lord’ and to bring the Christ into the world. On the solemn feast of the Lord’s Ascension let us call to mind that the Lord remains with us spiritually all our lives. The Lord calls us to wait and pray that we may continue to receive the Gift of God the Holy Spirit given in Baptism and Confirmation. Let us today call to mind our great dignity as children of God and members of His Body the Church.

THE NOVENA FOR THE HOLY SPIRIT:

Charity

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Let us bow down in humility at the power and grandeur of the Holy Spirit. Let us worship the Holy Trinity and give glory today to the Paraclete, our Advocate. Oh Holy Spirit, by Your power, Christ was raised from the dead to save us all. By Your grace, miracles are performed in Jesus’ name. By Your love, we are protected from evil. And so, we ask with humility and a beggar’s heart for Your gift of Charity within us. The great charity of all the host of Saints is only made possible by your power, Oh Divine Spirit. Increase in me, the virtue of charity that I may love as God loves with the selflessness of the Saints. Amen.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth. O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Day 2 –  Joy

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Let us bow down in humility at the power and grandeur of the Holy Spirit. Let us worship the Holy Trinity and give glory today to the Paraclete, our Advocate. Oh Holy Spirit, by Your power, Christ was raised from the dead to save us all. By Your grace, miracles are performed in Jesus’ name. By Your love, we are protected from evil. And so, we ask with humility and a beggar’s heart for Your gift of Joy within us. All of the Saints are marked with a holy Joy in times of trial, difficulty and pain. Give us, Oh Holy Spirit, the Joy that surpasses all understanding that we may live as a witness to Your love and fidelity! Amen.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth. O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Day 3 –  Peace

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Let us bow down in humility at the power and grandeur of the Holy Spirit. Let us worship the Holy Trinity and give glory today to the Paraclete, our Advocate. Oh Holy Spirit, by Your power, Christ was raised from the dead to save us all. By Your grace, miracles are performed in Jesus’ name. By Your love, we are protected from evil. And so, we ask with humility and a beggar’s heart for Your gift of Peace within us. The Saints were tempted, attacked and accused by the devil who is the destroyer of peace. When we are accused by the devil, come to our aid as our Advocate and give us Peace that lasts through all trials! Amen.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth. O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Day 4 –  Patience

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Let us bow down in humility at the power and grandeur of the Holy Spirit. Let us worship the Holy Trinity and give glory today to the Paraclete, our Advocate. Oh Holy Spirit, by Your power, Christ was raised from the dead to save us all. By Your grace, miracles are performed in Jesus’ name. By Your love, we are protected from evil. And so, we ask with humility and a beggar’s heart for Your gift of Patience within us. Oh Holy Spirit, you give lavishly to those who ask. Please give us the patience of the Saints who are now with you in heaven. Help us to endure everything with an eternal patience that is only possible with your help. Amen.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth. O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Day 5 –  Kindness

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Let us bow down in humility at the power and grandeur of the Holy Spirit. Let us worship the Holy Trinity and give glory today to the Paraclete, our Advocate. Oh Holy Spirit, by Your power, Christ was raised from the dead to save us all. By Your grace, miracles are performed in Jesus’ name. By Your love, we are protected from evil. And so, we ask with humility and a beggar’s heart for Your gift of Kindness within us. Jesus approached sinners with immense kindness. Holy Paraclete, please treat us humble sinners with the same kindness and give us the ability to treat all others with that kindness as well. Amen.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth. O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Day 6 –  Faithfulness

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Let us bow down in humility at the power and grandeur of the Holy Spirit. Let us worship the Holy Trinity and give glory today to the Paraclete, our Advocate. Oh Holy Spirit, by Your power, Christ was raised from the dead to save us all. By Your grace, miracles are performed in Jesus’ name. By Your love, we are protected from evil. And so, we ask with humility and a beggar’s heart for Your gift of Faithfulness within us. You, oh Lord, are ever faithful. You are faithful until the end. Though we are weak and distracted, please give us the grace to be faithful to You as you are to us! Amen.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth. O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Day 7 –  Gentleness

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Let us bow down in humility at the power and grandeur of the Holy Spirit. Let us worship the Holy Trinity and give glory today to the Paraclete, our Advocate. Oh Holy Spirit, by Your power, Christ was raised from the dead to save us all. By Your grace, miracles are performed in Jesus’ name. By Your love, we are protected from evil. And so, we ask with humility and a beggar’s heart for Your gift of Gentleness within us. Despite the gravity of our sins, oh Lord you treat us with Gentleness. Dear Holy Spirit, give us your power to treat all in our lives with the Gentleness of the Saints. Amen.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth. O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Day 8 – Self-Control

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Let us bow down in humility at the power and grandeur of the Holy Spirit. Let us worship the Holy Trinity and give glory today to the Paraclete, our Advocate. Oh Holy Spirit, by Your power, Christ was raised from the dead to save us all. By Your grace, miracles are performed in Jesus’ name. By Your love, we are protected from evil. And so, we ask with humility and a beggar’s heart for Your gift of Self-Control within us. Your Martyrs had the overwhelming self-control to go joyfully to a painful death without shrinking from the opportunity to join You in heaven. Give us this self-control to have command over our emotions and desires that we may serve You more fully. Amen.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth. O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Day 9 – Goodness

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Let us bow down in humility at the power and grandeur of the Holy Spirit. Let us worship the Holy Trinity and give glory today to the Paraclete, our Advocate. Oh Holy Spirit, by Your power, Christ was raised from the dead to save us all. By Your grace, miracles are performed in Jesus’ name. By Your love, we are protected from evil. And so, we ask with humility and a beggar’s heart for Goodness within us. We want to be like your Saints in heaven. Holy Spirit, renew us by your power with your Goodness that we may bring the Good News to the world. Amen.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth. O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Pentecost novena is really THE original novena. The disciples waited in unity and prayer for the Holy Spirit for nine days after Jesus’ ascension to heaven. Jesus asked them to pray constantly in the upper room until the descent of the Holy Spirit. “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” – Acts 1:14


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The month of May is a beautiful month traditionally dedicated to Our Blessed Lady. The beauty of Spring in full bloom reminds us of Our Lady, Queen of the May who in her faithfulness and response to the call of God brings forth the Saviour. St Joseph too reminds us that the first work of humanity is to respond to the call of the Lord, no matter how difficult or sometimes confusing that call may be.

Let us commend to the intercession of St Joseph and Our Lady, Queen of the May, our families, loved ones and those in need.

The Stella Caeli is a 14 century prayer to Our Lady, Star of Heaven written for and during the time of plague. People in the 14 century thought that infection was brought about if the heaven’s were out of alignment, amongst other things. In the prayer they prayed that through the intercession of Our Lady harmony would be restored, chaos and suffering would be averted. They viewed, quite rightly, Our Lady as the Star of Heaven and Star of the Sea, because of her unique role as Mother of the Saviour, and was the one who could best guide and lead us, like the Pole star, to her Divine Son.

(You can find the monastic chant below)

The month of May is a wonderful time to discover or re-discover the Holy Rosary, which has been described as ‘Scripture on a Rope’ since in previous generations the Rosary was not beads but knots in a piece of string or rope. The beads or knots are merely a way of counting. The purpose of the Holy Rosary is really the eastern practice of Mantra Prayer, the repeating of familiar prayers rhythmically which allows the mind to contemplate the Scripture Mystery.
The power of the Holy Rosary should not be underestimated. Pope St. Pius ordered it to be prayed to prevent the Turkish Islamic invasion of Europe at the battle of Lepanto. Our Lady has, during various apparitions, asked for the Holy Rosary to be prayed. Countless popes and saints have written and exhorted the use of this Scripture Prayer to deepen our faith, particularly when prayed together in families. The Mysteries are those of the Lord’s own life and those our our Lady in the Sacred Scriptures. By contemplating these Mysteries we can come closer to the Good Lord Who wants us to grow in knowledge and love of Him through the Sacred Scriptures and the mysteries of our faith. In the year of the Word it is a wonderful way to grow in faith, to pray, think and contemplate all that He has and continues to do for us. The repeated invoking of Our Lady in the ten Hail Mary’s focuses our attention on that basic and fundamental foundation of the Christian faith – The Incarnation. Jesus, the fruit of the Mary’s womb, is BOTH God and man, human AND Divine. It is in that central truth of our faith that we are saved. Join the crusade of the Holy Rosary, contemplate the mysteries of our faith, pray for those in need, for conversion of the world and seek our heavenly mothers intercession especially during the month of May.

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May Day is the memorial of St. Joseph the Worker and a reminder by Mother Church that all labour is part of and a sharing in the Creative Work of the Lord. It is valuable and worthy because we share in His creative nature. The memorial was introduced partly as an antidote to the Communist May Day celebrations. That particular ideology sees humanity as little more than a part of the process of the means of production. The magnificent Social Teaching of the Church since Rerum Novarum in 1891 dispels the rubbish reached by those who oppose the Church and faith in general. Because Mother Church has tried to combat the two extremes of both Left and Right she has often been seen as supporting Capitalism. Even a glance at Rerum Novarum or any of the Church’s Social Teaching makes it very clear, nothing could be further from the truth. St. Joseph as a father, a worker, a disciple and husband is put before us as the great example of all those who seek to be faithful, honest and hard working, not simply for themselves but for their families and the wider community.

Today also begins the beautiful month of May, traditionally dedicated to Our Blessed Lady, Queen of the May. Her ‘fiat’ or Yes to God was fruitful and uniquely effective in the plan of God’s undoing of our foolish pride and sin. As the month is marked with the beauty of blossom and new life creation itself points to the new life which the Lord offers to us and begin in the Incarnation at the Annunciation.  It is a wonderful opportunity to discover the power of the Holy Rosary, particularly prayed in families. Below is a lovely May Day song with Social Distancing in mind.

May our Lady of the Rosary, Queen of the May, comforter of the afflicted and protector of the persecuted Church, pray for us.

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Let us commend our prayers to Our Lady, Comforter of the Afflicted, as we pray: Hail Mary…

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In response to the very kind and generous requests of how to make donations during this time the Diocese has provided the ONLINE GIVING, as well as the other facilities listed in the ‘Giving’ section of the Blog. My sincere thanks to everyone for you support at this difficult time.

Online Giving – is now up and running for all parishes and accessible through the Diocesan website at

https://www.dioceseofleeds.org.uk/supporting-your-parish/

The Online Parish Offertory yellow box allows you to select a chosen Parish or fund from a list.

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church vigil2

church vigil

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This beautiful and powerful concert of 25 mins is very moving. At the end to watch Andrea Bocelli who is blind to sing the words of Amazing Grace ‘once was blind but now I see’ is very moving and powerful.

If the link does not work copy and paste into browser: Andrea Bocelli concert from the Duomo of Milan during CV19 pandemic.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huTUOek4LgU&list=RDhuTUOek4LgU&start_radio=1&t=0&t=0&t=0

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TIMES AND SEASONS

Featured

Publication4

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THE HOLY SACRIFICE OF THE MASS WILL BE CELEBRATED PRIVATELY DAILY.

THE CHURCH WILL BE OPEN FOR PRIVATE PRAYER ONLY:

TUESDAY 10-11AM

THURSDAY 6:30-7:30PM

SUNDAY 2-3PM

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ONLINE SUNDAY MASS

To participate online, please access the following new YouTube channel which will be live from Sunday:

www.leedscathedrallive.org.uk 

The link is also available on the home page of our diocesan website https://www.dioceseofleeds.org.uk/

 and also the Cathedral’s own website and may also be accessed via a link from the Cathedral’s home page:

https://www.dioceseofleeds.org.uk/cathedral

Confession and Anointing

reconciliation1g

The inability to respond to a person’s request to access the Sacrament of Reconciliation goes very much against all our instincts as priests and our desire to bring the Lord’s mercy to those who seek it. We cannot though, in this period of quarantine as well as the restrictions on travel and gathering together, provide a responsible and safe access to this Sacrament.

Recently, the Holy Father Pope Francis said something in a homily which may help at a time when we cannot make our ‘Easter duties and celebrate Confession:

“I know that many of you go to confession before Easter… Many will say to me: ‘But Father…I can’t leave the house and I want to make my peace with the Lord…How can I do that unless I find a priest’?…  Do what the catechism says. It’s very clear. If you don’t find a priest to go to confession, speak to God. He’s your Father. Tell Him the truth: ‘Lord. I did this and this and this. Pardon me.’ Ask His forgiveness with all your heart with an Act of Contrition, and promise Him, ‘afterward I will go to confession.’ You will return to God’s grace immediately.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (§1452) also says:

“When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called ‘perfect’ – contrition of charity. Such contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible.”

The Church has always taught that the Sacraments are the guaranteed moments of meeting with the Lord, since they are His gift and Grace. However, He is not constrained to them or in any way restrained by them since they are His action through the Church, His body.

So, if we are UNABLE (rather than unwilling) to go to Confession the Grace of the Sacrament comes to us through different means, namely the earnest desire and intention to repent and make amends with our deepest sorrow.

Similarly, if we earnestly desired to be anointed and absolved in the ‘Last Sacraments’ but for external or extra-ordinary reasons (such as a pandemic and its necessary restrictions) then we receive the grace by different means. In this case it is through the prayer of the Church, although spiritually rather than physically present in the person of the priest.

Requests for individual confession are almost impossible to meet within the restrictions we are obliged to follow for the safety of penitents at this time. For this reason, it is deemed both reasonable and pastorally responsible for a priest to refuse a request for individual confession in these exceptional times.

An Act of Contrition,

My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Our Saviour Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In his name, my God, have mercy.

Please note that a penitent’s confession cannot be heard, nor can absolution be given, under any circumstance, over the telephone or using any other electronic social or communication media.