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HELPING TO REBUILD LIVES
A big thank you to everyone who contributed to the collection for Emmaus, who help the homeless to rebuild their lives. The total received was over £1,700. Emmaus Oxford offers homeless people in our local area accommodation, support and work. Emmaus believes that those who are homeless need more than a roof over their head to change their lives for the better. Their motto is “give people a bed, and a reason to get out of it.” They take a long-term approach getting to know and support each person living and working with them, preparing individuals for life outside the community and helping them to get ready for paid employment. Our donation was presented to Emmaus by Catherine MacFarlane.
CHRISTMAS DAY GIFT BAG
The parish is organising the delivery of Christmas Gift Bags to 100 recipients in Abingdon who will be on their own on Christmas Day. We hope too to have a chat on the doorstep, and bring some Christmas cheer. Last year Peachcroft Christian Centre organised this project and this year they asked us if we would run it. The hope is that different churches in the town will take turns to organise it each year, with volunteers coming from a variety of churches.
Thank you to those who have given us grants and donations to buy the gifts - Abingdon Lions, Abingdon Rotary Club, the NEACA, the Town Council, Waitrose, St Michael’s Lunch Club, the Baptist Church, St. Edmund’s SVP and a number of parishioners.
Thank you to those who gave us items at cost price - Richard Matthews Florists gave us a succulent plant and Stephanie of Peachcroft Christian Centre gave us Avon hand cream at cost price.
Thank you to those who handmade some items which make the recipients feel special - Anne Probyn, Janine Elliott, crochet knitters of 35 Ock St. In addition OLA School Year 7 made a table decoration and St Edmund Primary School Years 1 - 5 made a Christmas Card for each bag.
Thank you to particular parishioners in the organising team who helped buy items and phone recipients - Christine Whyte, Mary Pike, Anne-Marie Reeds, Debbie Brooks, Carole Sawyers, Helen Edwards - as well as those who spent a few hours packing the bags.
Thank you very much to Glenn, Steph, John and Janine of Peachcroft Christian Centre who have been so helpful and kind and professional as we learnt how to organise the project this year.
…and thank you very much to the 32 people who will be delivering the bags on Christmas day, in pairs.
CHARISMATIC PRAYER GROUP
After many months of meeting online throughout the pandemic, our Charismatic Prayer Group was finally able to meet together for a beautiful day out at the House of the Open Door, a Christian Community near Broadway in Worcester. We were treated to a delicious roast lunch and spent the afternoon in relaxed fellowship, ending with a time of praise and worship in the chapel..
REFLECTION FROM Sr MARGARET ATKINS
Out of the blue, most of the world was invited on retreat. We were forced to ponder our mortality, our vulnerability, our weakness, our ignorance. We were prompted to repent of the collective thoughtlessness of our modern way of life and its side-effects. We have had to slow down, to abandon our ordinary routines, to wean ourselves from the addictions of 'business as usual'. Our values have been overturned: care workers, fruit pickers, parcel packers and cleaners have become our new saints, while go-getters, celebrities and billionaires kick their feet in their own homes.
We have rediscovered our neighbours, and even our own families. We have shared our fears and anxieties; we have grieved together, even at a distance, for the wonderful individual human beings we have lost. We have publicly honoured courage, fidelity, and simple acts of kindness. We have learnt to value statesmanlike modesty, honesty and truthfulness over political bluster. The religious among us have been praying more intensely, with more focus, than for decades, despite the disruption of our normal supports. And many, many others, who do not normally pray, have begun to join us, without embarrassment. We know that we cannot do this by ourselves. And we have all been in this together: rich and poor, famous and unknown, old and young, strong and weak, from every corner of the globe, together, we have shared fear, anxiety, sorrow, compassion and love.
In our own country, at least, we were blessed with a backdrop of a glorious springtime. It was filled with birdsong we could hear, flowers we had time to notice, birds and animals that grew in confidence when we withdrew. "Nature is filled with words of love, but how can we listen to them amid constant noise?" wrote Pope Francis five years ago in Laudato Si'. Suddenly, the noise has stopped, and we have a chance to listen. Let us listen to the sounds of nature, let us listen to the tradition of our faith, and let us listen once again to the Holy Father's appeal. Re-reading Laudato Si' would not be a bad place to start!
WHY DO WE PRAY FOR THE DECEASED?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.” (CCC 1030) The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification. As Catholics, we believe that heaven is a place of perfect purity, beauty, love and holiness, and only what is perfect and clean may enter it. Revelation 21:27 says that “nothing unclean will enter it.” So Purgatory is understood to be a temporary place or state of transition where souls are purified and cleansed so that they can be perfected for the perfection of heaven. God desires that we all gain eternal peace and happiness in heaven, and Purgatory confirms His endless love and mercy for each of us.
The belief that our prayers can and do assist those blessed souls in Purgatory goes all the way back to the beginning of church history. So why do we pray for the dead? We are praying to help those who are not quite in heaven yet, so that they may more quickly reach their heavenly reward. God listens to our prayers and He does answer them. We pray with confidence that God will give the souls in Purgatory the graces they need to enter more quickly into heaven.
When we pray for souls of loved ones, let us also remember to pray for those souls who have nobody to pray for them. They too need our prayers, and the month of November is a good time to remember them – they are waiting for us to pray for them!
It is very encouraging to see that Royal Mail have chosen to use Nativity scenes from stained-glass windows in churches across England to feature on the commemorative Christmas stamps. All of the stamps feature the infant Jesus being cradled by the Virgin Mary. In these difficult times which we face, it is fitting to remember that Christmas is about Jesus and that it is in Him that our focus should lie.
Advent is not far off - it begins on Sunday 29th November. As we prepare for another period of lockdown, let us Christians make a concerted effort to use our time wisely. Consider the opportunities to grow spiritually instead of bemoaning our circumstances. We can grow our faith and draw closer to God. Positive good can come from this time.
FIRST HOLY COMMUNION
Yesterday, two services were held during which 23 children received the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist for the first time. They had been preparing for many months and had to cope with the long break due to the lockdown and the ensuing restrictions. However, with the support of their families and the catechists, instruction resumed as soon as this was feasible. The celebration, therefore, although not as flamboyant as it might have been, was still a very joyous one. Fr Jamie used the Gospel reading about the invitation to the wedding feast and spoke to the children about the significance of being properly attired as a symbol of being ready and preparing for the feast. At the end of Holy Communion he also reminded them to use the time to thank Jesus for coming to them through the Eucharist. Fr Jamie also extended his thanks to the support given by the families of the children and the catechists: Hilary, Errol, Donna, Larry and Sandra. Please continue to pray for these children and their families so that they will always seek Christ through the Holy Eucharist.
BEATIFICATION OF CARLO ACUTIS
Venerable Carlo Acutis (1991-2006), will be beatified in the Basilica of San Francesco, in Assisi, on October 10th, at 4pm. At the age of 11, deeply moved by the Eucharistic miracle of Lanciano, Carlo, a daily communicant from his First Holy Communion and a computer genius, decided to collate all Eucharistic miracles and create an online and downloadable Exhibition. The project had immediate success, being viewed and displayed the world over. Shortly after completing the project Carlo was diagnosed with fulminant leukaemia, and he died a week later, aged 15. His exhibition can be viewed here. Carlo, who said that “To be always united with Jesus, this is my plan of life” is a shining example to everybody, especially all young people.
YOUNG PEOPLE CONFIRMED
22 young people received the Sacrament of Confirmation on the 25th and 26th September. Fr David O'Sullivan stood in for the Bishop, with Fr Jamie concelebrating the Mass, and spoke of the gifts of the Holy Spirit which would be received and stressed the importance of standing strong in faith and the way to live our lives after receiving this Sacrament. The occasion was a very joyous one, which had been much awaited since its postponement due to lockdown. We now need to continue to pray for all those Confirmed, that they may continue with their journey of faith.
NHS COVID-19 APP
The new NHS COVID-19 app, now available to download for free on smartphone, in England and Wales. It is the fastest way to see if you're at risk from coronavirus. The faster you know, the quicker you can alert and protect your loved ones and community. The app has a number of tools to protect you, including contact tracing, local area alerts and venue check-in. It uses proven technology from Apple and Google, designed to protect every user’s privacy.
If you have downloaded it, you are now able to scan the code allocated to us, as you enter our church. It is on the inside door and on the notice board inside the church.
IMPROVING THE LIVES OF SENIORS
As our bodies and minds change, certain tasks that once came easily gradually become more difficult to navigate. For seniors who don’t have any loved ones living nearby, everyday life can be very challenging. If you are looking for ways that you can help seniors in your community thrive in their golden years, Beverly Nelson has put together some ideas and information, which may help you, and you can download and read her short document here.
REFLECTING ON LUKE 6: 20-38
The Gospel readings this week are powerful ones where Jesus turns our values upside down! We are asked to look for the blessings in all the trials we experience in life because these trials give us the opportunity (if we seek it) to focus on God instead of the trappings of society. How many of us do that? Have we missed opportunities to reflect and grow our faith during lockdown and the continued crisis? Do we place more value on worldly comforts which are temporary and fragile than we do on eternal happiness? It's worth reading these passages in the Gospel to see what can be learned.
THE QUEENSHIP OF MARY
In this feast we celebrate Mary as the Queen of Heaven and Earth. Pope Pius IX said of Mary's queenship: "Turning her maternal Heart toward us and dealing with the affair of our salvation, she is concerned with the whole human race. Constituted by the Lord Queen of Heaven and earth, and exalted above all choirs of Angels and the ranks of Saints in Heaven, standing at the right hand of Her only-begotten Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, she petitions most powerfully with Her maternal prayers, and she obtains what she seeks." Pope Pius XII added the following: "We commend that on the festival there be renewed the consecration of the human race to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Upon this there is founded a great hope that there will rejoice in the triumph of religion and in Christian peace..."
6th August is the day in the Church calendar when the Transfiguration of Christ is remembered. It is also the day on which the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Many groups of people throughout the world float lighted candles in paper boats on rivers and lakes on this day, as a sign of sorrow for the devastation caused to human life and an act of dedication to peace. On August 9th we also commemorate the dropping of the second nuclear bomb on Nagasaki. It is the 75th anniversary of these dreadful events. Here is a poem by Ann Lewin from Watching for the Kingfisher.
Fr Shay Cullen reflects on how we can undo injustice and help indigenous communities. He is a Missionary priest from Ireland, a member of the Missionary Society of St. Columban and Founder and President of Preda (Peoples Recovery, Empowerment and Development Assistance) Foundation since 1975. He has worked protecting women and children from sex slavery and promoting human rights, peace, and non-violence in the Philippines since 1969. His mission for justice and peace is ecumenical in reach. It is based on taking a stand for human rights and protecting the dignity of every person in particular exploited women, children, and youth. His advocacy team provides community education on human rights and working for a corrupt free society. You can read his reflection here.
TIME FOR RENEWAL
Our church is open and most of us are no longer confined to following the Mass online - unless we do so by choice! The Church reminds us that the celebration of the Eucharistic mystery is “the source and summit of the whole Christian life.” Now is the time to celebrate the Mass in person and to receive the Eucharist sacramentally. Now is the time to renew and practice our faith. Now is the time to let our faith grow and to witness it to others - this is what Christ, and the Church are asking us to do. During the month of August, which is dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, let us ask her to intercede for us so that the Holy Spirit may fill us all with the courage and perseverance we need to practice our faith with renewed vigour.
What is it like to receive the Blessed Eucharist sacramentally again after so long? Words cannot express it! The spiritual and physical hunger for Christ has once again been satisfied. To take part in the Mass in the fullest sense is one of the great blessings that many of us can once again experience. The tears that were absorbed by the face masks were tears of joy.... If the enormity of the gift of the Eucharist had previously not been recognised, then this would now change and never again be taken for granted. We thank You, Lord for the amazing gift of the Mass and the Eucharist and offer our prayers that we may always marvel at this gift of love from You and pray too that You will strengthen the faith of those who are able to receive You sacramentally and those who continue to receive You spiritually. Amen.
ST PETER AND ST PAUL
We celebrate the life and work of these two great saints today. Both are a reminder of our human frailty, but especially how God's love for us is so tremendous that He can use us for great things if we want Him to. Paul started off as someone who persecuted and killed the early believers. His conversion was dramatic to say the least!. He then devoted the rest of his life to witnessing his faith by proclaiming the Good News far and wide. Peter had his weaknesses and didn't always get it right, but he was filled with the Holy Spirit and so able to recognise that Jesus is the Son of God. Both men suffered greatly for their faith, but it was so strong that they witnessed to Christ to the end. Today we ask these two saints to pray for us the Church, and especially for our pope, bishops and priests.
THE MOST SACRED HEART OF JESUS
The month of June is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and we celebrate the feast day on Friday 19th June. Devotion to Jesus' Sacred Heart is perhaps the most popular in the Church today, and it had its beginning in 17th century France. In 1672, Christ appeared to a French Visitation nun, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. Over a series of visits, Our Lord revealed to St. Margaret Mary the importance of devotion to His Sacred Heart. He asked that His heart, wounded on the cross and continually wounded by ingratitude of men for his sacrifice for them, be venerated and adored as an embodiment of His Divine mercy and love.
Jesus also gave us, through St. Margaret Mary, special promises for those who keep a loving devotion to the attribute of His infinite love for mankind as represented in His Most Sacred Heart. You can read what these are by clicking on the picture.
OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, THE ETERNAL HIGH PRIEST
Lord Jesus Christ, eternal High priest, we ask You to bless all our ordained priests. Let them be shepherds according to Your own heart, single-minded in service to You and to the Church, and shining examples of a holy, simple and joyful life. Protect them from all sinful temptations. Lord, we are reminded that all of us who are baptised share in Your priestly ministry. Accept our offerings of praise, thanksgiving and commitment to loving and humble service to You, always saying with meaning: "Here I am, Lord! I come to do Your will." Lead us into the light of Your truth, consecrate and unite Your Church in holiness and guide us all to eternal happiness. Amen.
PRAYER FOR THE GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
O Lord Jesus Christ Who, before ascending into heaven did promise to send the Holy Spirit to finish Your work in the souls of Your Apostles and Disciples, deign to grant the same Holy Spirit to me that He may perfect in my soul, the work of Your grace and Your love.
Grant me the Spirit of Wisdom that I may despise the perishable things of this world and aspire only after the things that are eternal, the Spirit of Understanding to enlighten my mind with the light of Your divine truth, the Spirit on Counsel that I may ever choose the surest way of pleasing God and gaining heaven, the Spirit of Fortitude that I may bear my cross with You and that I may overcome with courage all the obstacles that oppose my salvation, the Spirit of Knowledge that I may know God and know myself and grow perfect in the science of the Saints, the Spirit of Piety that I may find the service of God sweet and amiable, and the Spirit of Fear that I may be filled with a loving reverence toward God and may dread in any way to displease Him.
Mark me, dear Lord with the sign of Your true disciples, and animate me in all things with Your Spirit. Amen.
WHY IS PENTECOST SO IMPORTANT?
The word Pentecost is Greek and it means ‘50th day’. Fifty days after Easter Sunday, we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles and their followers, and the beginning of their Earthly ministry to make disciples of all nations. The Holy Spirit gave the apostles the gifts and fruits necessary to fulfill Christ's great commission - to go out and preach the Gospel to all nations. It was right after Pentecost that Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, preached his first homily to non-believers - resulting in about 3,000 people being baptised! Wow! For this reason, Pentecost is considered the birthday of the Church - Peter, the first Pope, preached for the first time and converted thousands of new believers. The apostles and believers were united by a common language, and a common zeal and purpose to go and preach the Gospel. We need the Holy Spirit to work in the lives of all peoples. Come Holy Spirit!
BEWARE SOCIAL MEDIA
Many of us are benefiting from using social media, especially during this period of lockdown. However, be very cautious about what you see, read or hear – and especially cautious about circulating it! The amount of misinformation is tremendous and thousands of people think that what they receive from another, often trusted person, must be accurate…. There is a small group of people in the USA who profess to be purveyors of the truth and 'guardians' of the Church. They are made up of lay people and some supposed priests. Currently, they are attacking the bishops on their decision to support lockdown. Whilst personal opinions should not be prohibited, the ignorance of these people and some of the harm they are doing should not be condoned. Would our bishops deliberately prevent people from worshipping in Church? The Bishops Conference in England have been negotiating tirelessly with the government to come to some agreement and SAFE strategy for reopening our churches. In our own diocese of Portsmouth, people are ACTIVELY thinking about what is needed in order to SAFELY open our churches for prayer. There are many practical considerations to consider, but importantly, our bishops are not going to flout the laws of our land. Christ himself did not resist authority, except when it contradicted what He was teaching us. ‘You must all obey the governing authorities. Since all government comes from God…. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgement.’ (Romans 13:1-2) Jesus gave authority to the Church and its leaders – this is His authority! We are NOT being prevented from practicing or developing our faith except that we are not able to do so as yet in a church. However, there have been rich opportunities to grow in faith through time with our families, more time for prayer and more time to reach out to others. Let us be patient and use our time well.
THE ASCENSION OF THE LORD
On Thursday this week we celebrate the solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord.
The eleven disciples set out for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them. When they saw him they fell down before him, though some hesitated. Jesus came up and spoke to them. He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.” (Matthew 28:16-20)
Lord, help us to do exactly what You ask!
Pope Francis encourages us to participate in Laudato Si' next week - caring for our common home - our planet. We could all consider this whilst praying, that we look beyond our own preoccupations and reflect that practically for us at home in our everyday lives, lockdown can be seen as a Laudato Si moment!
Why? Because we are being made aware of how all things and all people interconnect. We are perforce Living Simply. More people are cooking from scratch and eking out food resources. More of us are taking to cycling. We are enjoying clean air. We are taking a break from fossil fuel use. Children and adults are being creative with whatever we have in our homes. We are not indulging in unsustainable fast fashion. We are not dashing across the world to find leisure but appreciating our own environment.
Despite the suffering, fear, anxieties, these are moments to be grateful for. Could we pray in gratitude, for the opportunity to take pause, to appreciate the world more, to care more about each other, to be satisfied with 'enough'. Pray also for courage to influence our politicians, both local and national, to change what will be the normal in the future, on the lines of Laudato Si. You can click on the prayer on the left to enlarge it - or download it from the 'News' page.
THE BEATITUDES FOR OUR TIME
The Beatitudes for a Global Pandemic is written by Jayne Manfredi and voiced in this video compilation by David McCracken. Jayne's original text can be read on thewomanfrediblogspot.blogspot.com
The words contained within provide us with an extension to the words of Christ himself and are also a poignant reminder that we can see the work of God through others around us. We can be truly thankful and praise God that He is with us always.
THE MONTH OF MAY
The month of May is is almost upon us. Pope Francis reminds us that this is a time when the People of God express with particular intensity their love and devotion for the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is traditional in this month to pray the Rosary at home within the family - especially during these days when we cannot do so in church. Pope Francis points out that by praying the Rosary, we may become even more united as a spiritual family and will help us overcome this time of trial. His letter on this subject and the accompanying two prayers he asks us to pray, can be downloaded by clicking here.
THE WORLD UNITED IN PRAYER AND PRAISE
It brings joy and hope to see and hear young people praise and worship our Lord! The youth festival in Medjugorje may not happen this year, but this does not stop us from uniting and singing out our thanks to God and to praising Him. Keep trusting in God and let this period of trial become an opportunity to test our faith and strengthen it, knowing that God's ways are not our ways, but He knows what He is doing. Thy will be done, O Lord, on Earth as it is in Heaven. Jesus, we trust in You.
DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY
The mercy we celebrate today is the mercy whose greatest practitioner is God Himself. Because He is the seat of all authority, God is also the seat of all mercy. The private revelations of Jesus Christ to St Faustina Kowalska, a Polish nun and intense mystic who died in 1938, are the source of the profound spirituality of today’s feast. Pope Saint John Paul II first inserted today’s feast into the Roman calendar on April 30, 2000, the canonization day of St Faustina. Saint Pope John Paul II was also canonized on Divine Mercy Sunday in 2014. Divine Mercy is the face of God who leans in and waits with bated breath for us to whisper in confession, “Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.” This is the God who at the end of time, whether our own time or all time, waits to hear from our lips those few prized words “Lord, have mercy.” Having heard that, He need not hear anything more. And having received that, we need not receive anything more. Jesus's words to St Faustina were "Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity. Everything that exists has come forth from the very depths of My most tender mercy. Every soul in its relation to Me will contemplate My love and mercy throughout eternity."
To read a report of the full message, click on the image above
POPE FRANCIS' EASTER MESSAGE
Pope Francis’ Urbi et Orbi message on Easter Sunday challenges us to ban indifference, self-centredness, division and forgetfulness during this time of Covid-19, and to spread the “contagion” of hope. “Indifference, self-centredness, division and forgetfulness are not words we want to hear at this time”, said the Pope. These words “seem to prevail when fear and death overwhelm us”, and we want to ban them forever, he added. Pope Francis concluded his Urbi et Orbi message with a prayer: “May Christ, who has already defeated death and opened for us the way to eternal salvation, dispel the darkness of our suffering humanity and lead us into the light of His glorious day. A day that knows no end”.
As we celebrate once more the truth of Christ's resurrection, let us reflect on the hope that this brings. We would never have heard of Jesus if this event had not happened, because nothing else could have changed sad and despairing men and women into people who were radiant with joy and courage, willing to acknowledge that Jesus is God, and to spend the rest of their lives spreading the Good News. Today, let us pray that Christ may bring new hope to our sad and despairing world and generate in all believers the joy and courage the apostles experienced, so that we too may spend our lives spreading Christ's message of love and hope.
Holy Saturday is the period of Holy Week when Catholics remember Jesus' entombment. It is a preparation day. Today is a day of quiet and prayerful reflection on the true gravity of the crucifixion and Jesus' redemptive sacrifice. After the frantic activities of Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday and Good Frida, Holy Saturday is a pregnant pause before the realisation of the resurrection is realised on Easter Sunday morning.
This period should be prayerful and quiet, as well as contemplative of the chronological and historical events that we call the Passion. This day should also provide anticipatory happiness as we prepare to celebrate the New Passover.
When considering the immensity of the Passion of Christ, it is easy to feel despondent. Without faith, it can all seem so pointless. With faith, we celebrate the glory of God and His unconditional love for us. Consider that, despite His loneliness in His suffering and the abandonment by almost everybody, including most of His friends, the last words of Jesus were ones of love and forgiveness and finally triumph "It is finished". Christ fulfilled the will of the Father. He took on Himself the punishment for all our sins.
Today, as the thief who died alongside Jesus did, we can be repentant of all our sins so that we can confidently say: "Jesus, remember me when You come in to Your Kingdom".
We adore You O Christ and we worship You, because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.
HOLY (MAUNDY) THURSDAY
Our celebration of the Eucharist requires that we wash one another’s feet, i.e., serve one another and revere Christ's presence in other persons. To wash the feet of others is to love them, especially when they don't deserve our love, and to do good to them, even when they can’t or don't return the favour. It is to consider others' needs to be as important as our own. It is to forgive others from the heart, even though they don't say, "I'm sorry." It is to serve them, even when the task is unpleasant. It is to let others know we care when they feel downtrodden or burdened. It is to be generous with what we have. It is to turn the other cheek instead of retaliating when we're treated unfairly. It is to make adjustments in our plans in order to serve others' needs without expecting any reward. In doing and suffering all these things in this way, we love and serve Jesus Himself, as He has loved us and has taught us to do.
PALM SUNDAY AND HOLY WEEK
Palm Sunday, Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem at the start of His Passion, marks the end of Lent and the beginning of Holy Week. How different it will be for us all - everyone in the world - in 2020. However, we can be strengthened by God's love for us. Pope Francis reflects on Holy Week during the current world crisis. His message is one of faith, hope, love, trust in God - and prayer. Remember Jesus' promise: "...And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time." (Matthew 28:20)
On the Youth section of our website, there is an activity for children to make a 'palm' cross.
RCIA CELEBRATE 'HOSANNA IN THE HIGHEST'
Well, week three of the RCIA WebEx meetings now saw everyone as IT whizzes! Two minutes was all that was needed to settle in and begin!
We began, as always, with a prayer and then reflected on the Gospel of Matthew – Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Arts and Faith meditation is a key part of our programme this term and this week it was a byzantine painting, ‘Entry into Jerusalem’ by Giotto, a beautiful image depicting the celebration of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem - a time of joy ahead of the darkness that would follow.
Within our RCIA group this year Nigel will be going forward for the sacrament of baptism and Lynda, Ellen, Gertrude and Victoria will going forward for the sacrament of confirmation. Whilst the current situation means that timelines will need to be put back, happily the schedule of their preparation does not, and RCIA leader Pauline shared the joy of Eastertime, the most sacred days in the Church year. Her words reminded each and every one of us of the light of Christ that shines so brightly throughout the most difficult of times.
We ended, as always, with a prayer and with the joy of having spent a blessed time together on our individual and shared journeys in faith. Please pray for Nigel, Lynda, Ellen, Gertrude and Victoria at this special time.
Looking for activities for your children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews? Here are some you could download and try.
LIVE SIMPLY FAIRTRADE TRAIL
Thank you to the children who took part in the Live Simply Fairtrade Trail, and especially to Amaya, Freya, Benjamin, Joseph, Tess and Luke - all of whom produced very impressive entries. It hasn't been possible to present any prizes at church at the moment, but we hope to get their Fairtrade chocolate rewards to them as soon as we possibly can. The trail required children to go shopping with their parents and note down wehere things came from, what were Fairtrade items and to explain the benefits of buying Fairtrade goods.
DO NOT BE DISCOURAGED OR AFRAID
A teacher from China gives some reflections on 'lockdown' which you may find encouraging:
Accept that you have no control over the situation. Let go of any thoughts of trying to plan too much for the next month or two. Things change so fast. Don't be angry and annoyed at the system. Anxiety goes down, and you make the best of the situation - whatever that might be for you. Accept that this is what it is and things will get easier.
Try not to listen to/read/watch too much media. It WILL drive you crazy. There is a thing as too much!
The sense of community I have felt during this time is incredible. I could choose who I wanted to spend my energy on - who I wanted to call, message and connect with and found the quality of my relationships has improved.
Appreciate this enforced downtime. When do you ever have time like this? I will miss it when we go back to the fast-paced speed of the 'real world'.
You learn to appreciate the little things; sunshine through the window, flowers blossoming.
To those just beginning this journey, you will get through it. Listen to what you are told, follow the rules and look out for each other. There is light at the end of the tunnel - Jesus Christ Our Lord
THE ANNUNCIATION OF THE LORD
Today we celebrate the solemnity of the Annunciation of The Lord. In doing so, we are celebrating His Incarnation - when God became flesh. Christ's Incarnation was a gift of love from God the Father to humankind. Christ offers us peace, hope and love. Mary's wholehearted submission to the will of God is a shining example for all we should strive for. Soon we will be re-dedicating our country to Our Lady. Why not begin now by asking her to intercede for us and petition her Son to bless all those who are working during this worldwide crisis to to help us all. We ask for protection for them and ourselves and we pray for those who are sick, lonely or frightened. May we all trust in God and willingly say "Thy will be done."
GOD IS HOPE
These are extraordinary times, but we are never alone. Out of love and mercy for us all, God sent Jesus to give us hope. He is the Word, our source of hope, our strength and our protection. Let us not be overwhelmed by the world crisis, but use this time during Lent to make more time to pray, to repent of our sins and to begin a new life in Christ. Let us seek and find the good that is God in everything. Let us also remember others and pray for them and help them in any way that is reasonably possible.
PUBLIC ACTS OF WORSHIP IN ENGLAND AND WALES
In response to the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic we are no longer able to gather for public acts of worship in our Catholic churches in England and Wales. This began from Friday evening, 20 March 2020, until further notice. Cardinal Vincent Nichols offers a message of hope with Jesus Christ at its centre.
FEAST OF ST JOSEPH
Today is the Solemnity of St Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary and foster father of Jesus.
"St Joseph, whose protection is so great and so strong, we place in you all our interests and concerns and ask you to assist us by your powerful intercession to your divine son, asking for all the spiritual blessings which we need to be obedient to God and to do His will out of love. St Joseph, please pray for us. Amen."
WHO IS THE PATRON SAINT OF PANDEMICS?
There is some speculation going around that the little known St Corona is the patron saint of pandemics. However, this is not really the case, although this particular devotion to her is most common in Austria and Bavaria - and now in Italy where her remains lie and the country so far worst affected by the Covid-19 virus. The interest in her most likely stems from her name!
However, the more formally recognised patron saint of pandemics is not even our St Edmund of Abingdon, but actually St Edmund the Martyr (also known as St Edmund or Edmund of East Anglia), who was king of East Anglia from about 855 until his death in 869.
ST PATRICK'S PRAYER OF THE FAITHFUL
May the Strength of God pilot us.
May the Power of God preserve us.
May the Wisdom of God instruct us.
May the Hand of God protect us.
May the Way of God direct us.
May the Shield of God defend us.
May the Host of God guard us.
Against the snares of the evil ones.
Against temptations of the world.
May Christ be with us!
May Christ be before us!
May Christ be in us,
Christ be over all!
May Thy Salvation, Lord,
Always be ours,
This day, O Lord, and evermore. Amen.
RITE OF ELECTION
At the Rite of Election at the Cathedral yesterday, five of our candidates from the RCIA group were presented to Bishop Philip. We arrived in plenty of time and there was a buzz of excitement as we entered the packed Cathedral for the service.
It was a very inspiring ceremony with so many people filled with joy as they prepare during Lent to receive the sacraments of initiation at Easter. Please pray for our candidates over the coming weeks.
BIG BREAKFAST & CAKE & PRODUCE SALE
This Lenten fundraising event is on SUNDAY 8th MARCH. After both the 8.45am and 10.15am Masses, there will be an opportunity to enjoy a hot bacon or sausage bap, tea, coffee or juice with your fellow parishioners in the Parish Centre.
For the Produce Sale, we need donations of cakes, biscuits, bread, jams, chutneys and other home made items (perhaps a “family favourite”) and plants, potted cuttings and bulbs to sell.
All produce can be dropped off in the Parish Centre from 8.30am on 8th March. Contact Hilary on 525928 with any queries or offers of help.
DO THE FAIRTRADE CHALLENGE
This challenge is open to children. You have 2 weeks to do the challenge when you go out shopping with a parent(s).
The challenge is to list 3 things:
Products with the Fairtrade logo.
Places they come from.
A good reason for buying Fairtrade goods
Take the challenge!
St James (James 2:14-24) reminds us that having faith alone is not enough. What we do because of our faith is very important. Actions are necessary! It is not sufficient to claim that we have faith, nor that our faith is a private matter, not to be shared. Christ calls us to share our faith in order to build His Church - to build the Kingdon of God. Christ also calls us to serve others and He showed us by His example, how we can do this. Loving others - not just those we love or like - is at the centre of His teaching. This Lent, we have the opportunity to turn our faith into action by supporting our Lenten fundraising projects, both of which spread the Good News and give us an opportunity to care for and help others whom we don't even know.
YOU ARE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD
Today the youth groups spent some time considering that Christ is the Light of the World - He is the source of light. However, we can reflect this light so that God's love can shine through us on to others. To reflect Christ's light, we can, for example, be more considerate and caring to others. We can follow the example of Jesus and His teaching.
The garden was still very muddy from all the recent rain, so the fun activities for the afternoon were all done indoors. The children played games, made their own stained glass windows to let light through and made stars. Throughout, they chatted together about school life, recent birthdays and even a forthcoming year group assembly!
There was naturally some excitement when candles were lit and the children were able to see how well the light shone through their stained glass images and enhanced the beauty of their work. Of course, candles have to be blown out... more excitement! However, each child paused for a moment, and then said a quiet personal prayer in their mind before blowing out a candle.
Saturday 1st February was the date for the first Marriage Preparation day of the year for the Oxford Centre. We had eight delightful couples attending, all of them interested and engaged in the activities of the day. We talked about the preparation for the wedding taking on average 6 months, and the fact that we were going to spend 6 hours talking about how their relationship would grow and develop and the importance of working together to think about their future lives together.
The young people in the Confirmation group were on retreat at Coldash last weekend and had a very successful time. The Sisters welcomed the group and made them feel at home. The retreat included a night hike, a day walk, and sessions on the Holy Spirit and how to build on our Church. They celebrated Mass, and Saturday's night prayer was finished off with Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Those who attended commented that they felt closer to God and that they made some lifetime friends. They also reflected that it was really good that there was time set aside for praying, time for socialising and time for quietness.
PEACE SUNDAY PRAYER
Loving God of Peace, strengthen my determination to work for a world of peace and justice; my conviction that, whatever our nationality or race, we are all global citizens, one in Christ; my courage to challenge the powerful with the values of the gospel; my commitment to find non-violent ways of resolving conflict - personal, local, national and international;
my efforts to forgive injuries and to love those I find hard to love. Amen
THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD
This Sunday we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which marks the end of the Christmas Season and the beginning of Ordinary Time. It is important to recognise that Jesus did not need the baptism of John, because, being sinless, He did not need to repent. However, by accepting the baptism, Jesus points the way to our salvation. This is reaffirmed by the moment of manifestation – the epiphany or revealing to all present, that clearly Jesus is indeed divine and the Son of the Father. It also reveals the Holy Trinity - the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as one God.
And when Jesus had been baptised, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16-17)
Jesus’ public ministry to the world begins in earnest immediately after His baptism.