Newsletter for week starting 11 August 2019

 

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The Assumption of Our Lady

This coming Thursday, 15th August, the feast of the Assumption in England is a Holy day of Obligation. It was only in 1950 that Pope Pius XII infallibly proclaimed the truth of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He wrote in his apostolic constitution “the Immaculate Mother of God, Mary ever Virgin, when the course of her early life was ended, was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven.” Even though it was only infallibly proclaimed then it has been the teaching of the Church from earliest times. The term “assumption” is a biblical metaphor expressing the final destiny of the faithful. Mary is the perfect reflection of Christ, the template of all Christians. Her assumption is a sign of hope for the world, a guarantee that God will realise his saving plan for humankind. As Mary is now, we are to be. As we celebrate this feast we remember our ultimate destiny to be with God. Father Fio Mascarenhas S.J. in his book on Mary writes that Mary’s Assumption is not a personal reward. “It is a pledge of the fulfilment of the promises of God for all of humanity – for she is the model of the people of God, and where she is now, all the elect must hope to be one day!”

The Assumption of Mary has been a subject of Christian art for centuries and its feast day was made a public holiday in England by King Alfred the Great in the 9th century. St John of Damascus describes the origin of this belief in these words: “St Juvenal, Bishop of Jerusalem, at the Council of Chalcedon [AD 451], made known to the Emperor Marcian and Pulcheria, who wished to possess the body of the Mother of God, that Mary died in the presence of all the apostles, but that her tomb, when opened, upon the request of St Thomas who arrived late, was found empty; wherefrom the apostles concluded that the body was taken up to heaven.”

The Eastern Orthodox  churches celebrate the feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God on August 15, the same day that the Catholic Church and some Protestant churches celebrate the feast of the Assumption of Mary. When I think of this feast I recall the beautiful Domitian Church in Jerusalem run by the German Benedictines. A focus point is an image of Mary asleep awaiting the assumption and the church is full of wonderful mosaics depicting the life of Mary.

In celebrating this feast this year can we pray for all those who are contemplating their own death. Some people can no longer face the pain and suffering of their illness. They want to hasten their end. I commend them to our loving Mother with the word we say in the Hail Mary “pray for us now and at the hour of our death.”

Newsletter for week starting 4 Aug 2019

 

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Live!

The challenge for me in the gospel this weekend is to understand what Jesus is asking of me when he says that I need to make myself rich in the sight of God. God looks at me and knows I am rich not because I have made lots of money or that I come from a wealthy background. I am not rich because I have great power or that I am a celebrity and have lots of friends. I am rich because of God’s overwhelming love for me and that he has given me the gift of everlasting life. I am rich in God’s eyes because he gazes on me and he delights in me. I can become blind to my true wealth by my tendency to greed. I put my faith in what I can possess. These possessions give me a false sense of security and I think that what I possess will make me happy.

Flor McCarthy tells the story of a miser who had great deal of wealth and was looking forward to years of happy living. However, before he could make up his mind as to how best to spend his money, the Angel of Death appeared before him to take his life away. The man pleaded with the angel to be allowed to live a little longer. “Give me three days of life and I will give you half my fortune, he begged. But the angel wouldn’t hear of it and began to tug at his cloak. “Give me just one day., I beg of you,” said the miser, “and you can have everything I accumulated through so much sweat and toil.” But the angel refused his request. The miser just managed to wring just one small concession from the angel – a few moments in which to write down this note: “Oh you, whoever you are who happen to find this note, if you have enough to live on, don’t waste your life accumulating fortunes. Live! My fortune couldn’t but me a single hour of life.”

True happiness lies in living in the present moment and relishing what God has given to me.

New Archbishop

This last Thursday the 11th Archbishop of our Diocese, John Wilson, was installed at our Cathedral of St George’s at Southwark.. It was a day of great joy and celebration. In his homily Archbishop John said that “if any of you are surprised of see me standing here today, then let me reassure you that you’re not as surprised as I am.”  We were celebrating the feast of St James the Apostle.. The first reading for that feast was 2 Corinthians 4:7-15. It begins “We are only the earthenware jars that hold this treasure, to make it clear that such an overwhelming power comes from God and not from us.” Archbishop John spoke of this passage when he said: “We may be fragile vessels, mere earthenware jars, only too aware of our limitations and conscious of our unworthiness, but God pours into us the gifts, and the graces, and the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Whatever we have to face, whatever problems or difficulties, we do so certain that we carry within us the very life of the Lord Jesus Christ.”  He reminded us that we are pilgrims and that “together we will continue to make our pilgrimage of faith, trusting in the overwhelming power that comes, not from us, but from God.”  He reminded us that each of us has a unique and essential place on this journey. “For my part. I will do my very best to try and love you as a father, try to walk beside you as a brother and try to serve you as a friend.” He talked about St Oscar Romero. There is a shrine to him in the Cathedral. The Archbishop John referred to a book of his homilies, entitled, “The Church is all of you”  He reminded us that the Church is all of us, “joined with Jesus Christ, our head, and continues His mission. In this, every Catholic is called to be an evangelising disciple. Each one of us has a irreplaceable part to play in the flourishing of God’s kingdom. The Lord need you. His Church needs you. This Archdiocese and its Archbishop, its parishes and its schools needs you so that united in faith, here and now, we can announce anew the joy of the Good News, so that side by side we can serve the Lord in the downtrodden and in the despairing, in the weakest and in the poorest.”

As he continued  theArchbishop referred to the words of St Oscar Romero about what was the ministry of a bishop. “A bishop is not a technician, an administrator, or a boss. A bishop is essentially a pastor, a father, a brother and a friend. He journeys with other people, sows hope along their path, shares their sorrow and joy, urges them to seek peace..justice and love, and teaches them to be brothers and sisters.” He then talked about the significance of the Pallium which he received from Pope Francis last month when he was in Rome. He said that it reminded him to exercise his ministry with the heart of the Good Shepherd. He said: “As bishops, priests and deacons, we share the social responsibility for shepherding the hundred, not just the ninety-nine.” 

Let us pray for him, giving thanks that he has been chosen to be our shepherd. His final words were “Please pray for me as I promise to pray for you. Please ask our Blessed Lady to draw us, through the Immaculate Heart, ever closer to the Sacred Heart of her Son.”

Newsletter for the week starting 28 July 2019

 

This message is only for the use of the intended recipient(s). It may contain information which is confidential and legally privileged within the meaning of applicable law. If you are not the intended recipient, please contact the sender as soon as possible.
Any copying, disclosure, distribution or any action taken or omitted to be taken in reliance on it is prohibited and may be unlawful. Unless stated to the contrary, any opinions expressed in this message are personal and may not be attributed to Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Southwark CIO. Registered Charity No.: 1173050
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Mary or Martha?

The visit of Jesus to the home of his friends  Lazarus, Martha and Mary is a challenging and thought provoking incident in the gospel for us.  You often hear people ask “are you a Martha or a Mary?” Some say, ”It is all very well Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus and Jesus saying she has chosen  the better part but that doesn’t put the food on the table.” What Mary was doing was listening to Jesus. Her whole attention was on him.  You could say that hers was an attitude of contemplation. One of my favourite writers is the Trappist monk, Thomas Merton. He died in 1968.  One of his earliest book  was “New Seeds of Contemplation” which I first read when I was twelve. He writes contemplation is an awaking to a whole new level of reality, which cannot be clearly explained. “It can only be hinted at, suggested, pointed to, symbolised.” There is an obvious tension between action and contemplation in our lives. We need both. But Jesus said to Martha, that Mary has chosen the better part. It is easy to imagine that action, work, is being down graded by that remark of Jesus.Yet he is reminding us to make contemplation an essential part of our everyday life. To be contemplative is to discover the true God at the very centre of our being and that we are nothing apart from God. With this discovery a new life dawns. We are liberated from selfishness. “The ego-self (which in reality is a false self) is discarded like “an old snake skin” (to use Merton’s words)and we come to recognise our true self which all the while has been hidden in God.” (William H. Shannon). When we were re-designing the sanctuary in my last parish we commissioned the artist to sculpt Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus on the front of the Ambo (from where we proclaim the Word of God at Mass). Mary was in an attitude of listening. She was being in the presence of Jesus. She was in an attitude of contemplation.  Without giving time to being present to God, then we are in danger of living on the surface of life. Many of us are living active and busy lives but without a time of contemplation and prayer then our life becomes unbalanced. We have a saying “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”  Perhaps we need to change this to say “All work and no prayer (contemplation) make Jack or Jill not only a dull person but not truly alive.”

Newsletter for week starting 21st July 2019

 

This message is only for the use of the intended recipient(s). It may contain information which is confidential and legally privileged within the meaning of applicable law. If you are not the intended recipient, please contact the sender as soon as possible.
Any copying, disclosure, distribution or any action taken or omitted to be taken in reliance on it is prohibited and may be unlawful. Unless stated to the contrary, any opinions expressed in this message are personal and may not be attributed to Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Southwark CIO. Registered Charity No.: 1173050
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Pause – Be Still and Know that I am God

I have been reading a book written by Chris Chapman entitled “Earthed in God”. He uses his experience and love of gardening as a way of talking about spiritual growth. He says that his book rests on the understanding that God desires and works for our flourishing much as we do when we sow seeds and watch over their development. In Chapter Five he quotes St Benedict in his Rule “Listen, what can be sweeter to us, dear ones, than this voice of the Lord inviting us?” We must not only listen but also “incline the ear of the heart”.  I was reminded of this when reading the words from the book of Deuteronomy which is our first reading this Sunday.  “The Word is very near to you, it is in your heart and in your mouth for your observance.” Chris writes that we need to allow ourselves time to stop and be open to what we are experiencing. Many of us find this difficult. We are under pressure of time. “In a garden – as in other areas of life – it is easy to be swept along by what needs to be done and to forget to be present to what we are part of creating.” I thought about this when sitting on a seat in a beautiful garden this past week.  Seats, says Chris Chapman “are invitations to stop doing for a while and being present to the sun on your face, the fresh green light of spring foliage.” We need to take time to listen to the Word that is in our heart and in our mouth. If we are constantly on the go and doing then we will not hear the word in our heart. The seat in the garden, if you like, invites us to lay aside preoccupations that guard and govern us. Yes, we do have to plant and sow and weed and harvest and the seasons make masters of when we do this. But within this cycle – just as the cycle of the Church’s liturgical calendar – is a rhythm, a heart beat of the spirit behind all we do.


How about this week finding moments in our busy hectic day to pause? Find a time when you pause to look around you and take in all you see, and hear, and feel.  Let what you see around you sink in and speak to you. Let the Word within you emerge. “ Be still and know that I am God.” sings the psalmist. We recognise the presence of God in us because God has created us in his image and God is there within us. Christ Jesus became fully human therefore it is in our humanity that we encounter Christ. Find a seat, find time to pause, switch off the phone, turn off the radio and television. God is very near to you, he is in your heart.

Newsletter for week starting 14 July 2019

 

This message is only for the use of the intended recipient(s). It may contain information which is confidential and legally privileged within the meaning of applicable law. If you are not the intended recipient, please contact the sender as soon as possible.
Any copying, disclosure, distribution or any action taken or omitted to be taken in reliance on it is prohibited and may be unlawful. Unless stated to the contrary, any opinions expressed in this message are personal and may not be attributed to Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Southwark CIO. Registered Charity No.: 1173050
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