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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.
REMEMBERING CHRISTMAS 2019
The Christmas season is almost over.... Last Sunday we celebrated the feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Tomorrow we celebrate the solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God and on Friday this week, the Most Holy name of Jesus. On Sunday January 5th 2020 is the Epiphany of the Lord.
What a wonderful season! Enjoy some of the memories by watching this short video.
CHRISTMAS IN OUR CHURCH
Amid the hussle and bussle that is often the experience for many in the season of Christmas, it was a blessing to see so many remember exactly why we celebrate it. The Church was filled with people coming to remember and celebrate the coming of Christ through the Incarnation - God made man. What a wonderful gift from God! We celebrated the birth of our Saviour! The Carol Service on the preceding Sunday was well attended and everyone sang from their heart. For the first Mass on Christmas Eve seats were filled and many more stood. Every Mass, right through to Christmas day, was a joyous time of prayer and worship. May the joy and peace we felt then remain with us in the days to come.
In a couple of days you will be able to see some of this celebration in this blog.
Pope Francis reflects, in his Apostolic Letter, on the significance of The Nativity scene. He says that the memories of standing before the Christmas crèche when we were children should remind us “of our duty to share this same experience with our children and our grandchildren”. It does not matter how the nativity scene is arranged, “what matters is that it speaks to our lives.” The Christmas crèche is part of the precious yet demanding process of passing on the faith, concludes Pope Francis. “Beginning in childhood, and at every stage of our lives, it teaches us to contemplate Jesus, to experience God’s love for us, to feel and believe that God is with us and that we are with Him.”
PRAYER FOR THE RENEWAL OF OUR DIOCESE
O Sacred Heart of Jesus, we beg you to change us, to convert us and to make us holy.
Fill us with a deeper faith, hope and love for you.
Send into our hearts the cleansing fire of the Holy Spirit and powerfully renew all the clergy, religious and laity of our Diocese.
Unite us in love and respect for one another and unify us as your one, holy people.
Grant us a new passion and zeal for our Catholic Faith, for mission, outreach and service.
Help us to proclaim your Gospel generously to the poor and needy that many more souls may be saved by finding their way to you in your Church.
May Mary Immaculate help us. May St Edmund of Abingdon and Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati pray for us. Amen.
Holy Michael the Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray. And do though, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust down to hell Satan and all the evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.
RCIA REFLECT ON ADVENT
The RCIA group had their final meeting for this year, looking at the season of Advent, and also the custom and meaning of an Advent wreath. The group also enjoyed mulled wine and mince pies! The course resumes in January. RCIA is the way we welcome adults into the Catholic Church. If you are not baptised and would like to be, or if you are already baptised in another Christian tradition and are thinking of becoming a Catholic, then RCIA could be for you. For those who are already Catholics, and would like to deepen their understanding and faith, the Journeying Together in Faith (JTiF) course would suit you. Find out more here.
OUR YOUTH DO CARE!
Yesterday afternoon, the Mini Vinnies, together with all of their class mates in Year 6 at St Edmund's School, selflessly gave up some of their time to produce Christmas cards for the homeless. What a happy occasion it was! They sang joyfully as they worked, and knowing that this may be the only card somebody receives with the message of Christmas, they put their hearts into it and took great care to produce something special. Altogether, 36 Christmas cards were made. Well done everyone, and a big thank you!
These cards will be given by some of the adult SVP members to the homeless people who attend a Christmas lunch organised for them in Oxford later this month, together with a small gift for each person. The SVP do not organise this lunch, but do attend (as they have been for 3 or 4 years) to help with preparing, welcoming, serving, clearing up - and of course, giving out gifts and the children's Christmas cards.
YOUTH GROUPS IN ACTION
Our two parish youth groups have had a busy time recently, not least of all the secondary school group (St Edmund's Knights). Having collected empty jam jars donated by parishioners and friends, they spent several meetings decorating them. On Sunday, Marco spoke on behalf of the group after the 10.15am Mass and explained that they would be selling the jars to raise money to help Abingdon refugees. The children did this after the Mass and commented: "We chose to help Abingdon refugees so that they can get another start in life. We had fun decorating the jars because we knew we were going to help people."
The amount raised by the sale was £137.20! Well done the Knights! It was a joyful experience to see their cheerful demeanour and enthusiasm as they braved the cold in their new T-shirts and also gave out stickers with the message that Jesus is the reason for this season. They are all very grateful to the parishioners who so generously gave the jam jars and those who bought them and contributed to their worthy cause.
The primary school COOL group (Children of Our Lady), also had a busy time last Saturday. They had play time while there was still some daylight, then a fun quiz. They learned a bit more about Advent and what it meant and what they could do. Several mintes were then spent in making an angel out of paper, with a suitably joyful message on it, before watching a video and enjoying refreshments. All of them went home with a gift of The Real Advent Calendar, thoughts on what they could do every day, and with strict instructions not to eat all the chocolates in one day!
The 14th December is the last session before the Christmas holidays. Thank you once again to all the adult volunteers who faithfully attend most of the sessions and those who spend time planning them as well. If you would like to be a part of that team please contact us through:
FIRST WEEK OF ADVENT
Lord Jesus, as we embrace this Advent Season, please open our eyes to see the great value and blessing of Your Incarnation. Help us to discover Your hidden presence in this world and within our own souls. We want to understand and experience the profound effects that Your Incarnation has on our lives. May we become a sanctuary in which You dwell, so that, like Your dear Mother, we may bring Your presence into the world. You are the HOPE in our messy world. This Advent, help us to slow down, listen to your voice, and focus on what is really important. We place our hope in you as we prepare our hearts to celebrate your birth at Christmas. Amen.
TAIZÉ PRAYER MEETINGS
Taizé is an ecumenical community in France founded by Brother Roger during WWII. The Community developed a unique meditation tradition centered on the singing of simple chants and silent prayer. If you have never been to a Taizé prayer meeting do come along and experience the power and beauty of Brother Roger's music. If you have had a stressful day at work, this is the ideal way to help you clear your mind from the worries of daily life and connect again to what is important - the unbounded love that your Lord has for you. Don't worry if you think you are not a good singer - their chants are very simple to learn and if you just want to listen to the music that is fine too!
Meetings usually take place 7.30pm on the first and third Wednesday of each month, but check the Newsletter beforehand.
OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, KING OF THE UNIVERSE
This Sunday, the final week for this liturgical year, we mark the feast of Christ the King. It is one of many opportunities the Catholic Liturgical Church year offers to each of us to consider the creature which is called time, receive it as a gift and begin to really live differently. Our actually choosing to live the Christian year, in a compelling way, can become a profoundly important form of missionary activity in an age which has become deluded by the barrenness of secularism.
A robust, evangelically alive and symbolically rich practice of living liturgically can invite our neighbours to examine our lives and be drawn to the One who is its source - Jesus Christ, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End - as the emptiness of a life without God fails to fulfill the longing in their own hearts.
Jesus Christ is King and we are the seeds of His Kingdom scattered in the garden of a world which is waiting to be born anew. The Church really IS the Mystical Body of the Risen Christ. That Body is inseparably joined to the Head. Jesus Christ is alive, he has been raised, and he continues His redemptive mission now through the Church, of which we are members. (extracts from www.catholic.org)
FEAST OF ST EDMUND OF ABINGDON
"O holy and humble, St. Edmund of Abingdon, creative and courageous High-Priest of God, who fought for freedom and who did not fear to speak truth to power, we re-dedicate our Diocese of Portsmouth to your patronage, and, inspired by your example, seek your powerful intercession. You are our Patron, given to us by Jesus our Saviour, along with Mary Immaculate, the Blessed Mother of God.
We ask your prayers for all the clergy of our Diocese, that by the power of the Holy Spirit, they will ever be obedient to the Father's will. We pray for vocations to every state of life and ministry in the Church, and above all, for our seminarians and for vocations to the priesthood. We pray for the religious, for teachers, for parents and for the laity, for our country, its politicians and policy-makers, and for peace. We pray to you for our families, for the young of our Diocese, for our friends, and for all who have asked our prayers. We pray for those in need, the poor, the sick, the unjustly treated, for migrant-refugees, the dying and the faithful departed.
O glorious St. Edmund, man full of zeal, hear us now and take us under your protection. Keep us true to the practice of our Catholic Faith, and assist us along life’s journey, so that one day, when we come before the Lord Jesus, our merciful Judge, we may be found worthy of a place in the happiness of heaven. Amen.
Mary Immaculate, pray for us. St. Edmund of Abingdon, pray for us." (Bishop Philip)
BUSY MINI VINNIES
The Mini Vinnies group at St Edmund's School have been very busy recently. They threw themselves into the Shoebox Appeal, with the aim of filling 50 shoeboxes with gifts for children around the world who are less fortunate than themselves. Organising their peers to write friendly messages to include in the shoeboxes and encouraging them to contribute to the appeal, were some of the tasks which they undertook. The generosity of families in the school and parishioners was tremendous - so much so that the target of 50 shoeboxes was exceed and instead 60 were handed over to the appeal. Each had a barcode included, so that in the new year the children can find out in which countries their boxes were received.
The Mini Vinnies also attended the Parish Lunch this week, where they joyfully greeted and talked to the parishioners who attended. They helped to serve the food, clear up - and, it has to be said, sampled some of the lovely food, which they admitted was delicious! Thanks to the chefs!
It is so encouraging to see that the youth in our parish are active through their schools and the parish youth groups.
Almighty and eternal God, from whose love in Christ we cannot be parted, either by death or life: hear our prayers and thanksgivings for all whom we remember this day; fulfil in them the purpose of your love; and bring us all, with them, to your eternal joy. O God of truth and justice, we hold before you those who have died in conflict and in active service. May we put our faith in your future; for you are the source of life and hope, now and for ever. We pray to you through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
How refreshing it is to see that the post office has considered putting Christ back in to Christmas this year with their beautiful selection of Christmas stamps!
The post office states that "The Biblical nativity story has been brought to life on this year’s Royal Mail Christmas stamps. The six stamps show scenes from the Biblical story of the nativity, the annunciation, the journey of the Magi and the birth of Jesus Christ. They were designed by paper-cut artists Hari & Deepti who used layers of intricate paper and light-boxes to create three-dimensional scenes that bring the stories to life." Click on the images to see them more clearly.
On Sunday we had the opportunity to listen to a presentation on the plight of Bamenda in Cameroon, resulting from ongoing conflict between the French and English sections in the region. The realiity is that thousands of lives have been lost and numerous citizens are displaced as they try to find areas of relative safety where they can continue with their lives. Many of the schools also still remain closed, depriving the children of their education. An appeal was made for donations, prayers and petitions to local MPs to try and help relieve the situation. After the 10.15am Mass, parishioners enjoyed refreshments in the parish centre and participated in a raffle - the happy prize winner being picture here.
ALL SOULS - WHAT IS PURGATORY?
We need to be pure to enter heaven and experience eternal happiness in the presence of God. Even the best of us fall short of complete purity, but God provides us with the joy of purgatory, where souls may go through their final cleansing and purification. This is not something to be feared, for as St Catherine of Genoa said "I don't believe it would be possible to find any joy comparable to that of a soul in purgatory - except the joy of the blessed in paradise." Every moment of cleansing and purifcation in purgatory is a moment of getting closer to God, and therefore one of joy. Today and often, pray for the souls in purgatory so that their purification is hastened. Pray also for all those souls who have nobody to pray for them.
OPERATION CHRISTMAS CHILD - SHOEBOX APPEAL - WHY IT IS A GOOD THING
Please take a couple of minutes to watch the video to see how the Shoebox appeal is a good thing. Remember to check what items can be donated here, because some items cannot be sent. Please drop off your donations at St Edmund’s School after half term or use the box under the table at the back of the church - by 14th November.
Thank you so much for your support.
OPERATION CHRISTMAS CHILD - SHOEBOX APPEAL
The mission of Operation Christmas Child is to show God’s love in a tangible way to children in need around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, to share the good news of Jesus Christ.
The Mini Vinnies (St Edmund’s primary school branch of the St Vincent de Paul Society) are running a shoebox appeal. They aim to fill 50 shoeboxes by 16th November. Please support us.
The instructions on what to do and suggestions for possible gift items, is available in the flyer on the table at the back of the church, but can also be downloaded here. Thank you for helping, if you can. The Mini Vinnies will supply and pack the boxes, so you don't need to do that. Please drop off your donations at St Edmund’s School after half term or use the box under the table at the back of the church - by 14th November.
DIOCESAN DAY FOR CATECHISTS
On Saturday 19th October, after an early start we arrived at Portsmouth Cathedral in time. There were approximately 150 catechists and representatives from all over our diocese. The theme of the day was “Who do you say I am”.
We had a very interesting day which, after the introductions, started with a presentation from Fr. Mark Hogan (Winchester) on “Finding our way in Jesus Christ” This was followed by a number of the Formation For Mission team giving personal testimony on how they see Jesus in our daily lives.
The opportunity to network was great, and we swapped ideas and thoughts with different parish groups, particularly on our RCIA and FHC programmes. The day finished with Adoration and Benediction in the Cathedral giving us time to reflect on what we had learned. A very fruitful day.
MINI VINNIES AND HARVEST MASS
St Edmund's School celebrated the School Harvest Festival Mass last Wednesday. It was a joyous occasion and the donations received for the Abingdon Food Bank were displayed for all to see and appreciate. Thank you to all those who donated something for this worthy cause.
At the end of the Mass, seven new Mini Vinnies (the primary school branch of the St Vincent de Paul Society - SVP) were commissioned. They recited their pledge to make a difference to their world by:
Caring for, respecting and loving themselves.
Strengthening their friendship with Jesus by talking to Him each day and talking to others about Him.
Caring for others in their school and community by being a friend to those who are alone, in need, or in trouble.
Making their family happy by their help and showing respect, kindness and consideration.
Caring for and enjoying God's world.
Treating others the way they would like to be treated by them.
A brief explanation of what the Mini Vinnies is about was given to the school, and then the new Mini Vinnies were presented with a certificate and badge and Fr Mateo congratulated them and blessed them.
MARY'S MEALS - PORRIDGE PARTY
On Saturday 19th October a Porridge Party was held to support Mary’s Meals, who provide one good meal to some of the world’s poorest children every day in their place of education.
With only £13.90 a child can be feed for the whole year! That is an amazing thought! With this in mind, those who gathered in the parish centre for breakfast, did so joyfully, and £270 was raised for this cause, plus gift aid of 25% will be added on to about £220 of this by Head Office. By providing a daily meal in a place of learning, we meet the immediate needs of hungry children and encourage them to go to school to gain an education that can, in the future, be their ladder out of poverty.
A big thank you to all who came along and supported this worthy cause.
CANONISATION OF SAINTS
A small group of Catenians (and parishioners) travelled to Rome for the Canonisation of John Henry Newman (1801-1890) where they joined many thousands of others on October 13. On a beautiful warm day, Pope Francis canonised five people in front of a filled St Peter's Square.
A special Mass of Thanksgiving was also said the next day by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, and a full programme of events included visits to The English College (relics of Saint J H Newman), St Peter's Basilica and many churches.
The photos show the pilgrims just before dawn and their view of the proceedings during the preparation to distribute Holy Communion.
The Mass in St. Peter’s Square was attended by 50,000 people from all continents. The four women who were canonised alongside John Henry Newman are: Italy’s Giuseppina Vannini (1859-1911), founder of the Daughters of Saint Camillus; India’s Mariam Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyan (1876-1926), founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family; Brazil’s Sister Dulce Lopes Pontes (1914-1992); and Switzerland’s Margherita Bays (1815-1879), a laywoman. The first three spent their lives working for the poor. John Henry Newman, who wrote a major work on the topic of development of doctrine, which contributed greatly to the church’s understanding of that area of theology
PRAYING WITH MEANING
When we have a conversation with a friend or any person:
Are we always in a hurry?
Do we always rattle off what we want to say at great speed to get it over with?
Do we actually stop to listen to what they have to say?
Prayer is having a conversation with God, and it doesn't do us any harm to learn from this video clip, how we might change the way we pray. Although the video refers to the Rosary, we can apply the principles mentioned in it to all our prayers.
YOUTH GROUPS HAVE A BUSY AFTERNOON
A good number of young people came to the youth groups event yesterday afternoon. The COOL group (Children of Our Lady) spent some time completing 6 jars to represent the 6 days of creation - understanding that on the 7th day, God rested. They then placed these in the church for the evening celebration of Creation. Then followed well earned recreation time in the garden where they played well together in one of their favourite activities - football! This was followed by refreshments and a prayer of thanksgiving for the day. The children went home with their model of a peacock, 'created' out of paper, which they had begun making at the previous session.
The St Edmund's Knights group met in the adjoining room in the parish centre and, after playing outdoors and spending some of their energy, they began work on decorating jam jars - kindly donated by parishioners - which they hope to sell after the Sunday Masses when completed, raising money for CAFOD. The idea came from the young people themselves and it was inspiring to watch them at work with enthusiasm and concentration.
We are very grateful to the adult volunteers who come along to joyfully assist with supervision, refreshments and support for the young people as and when necessary. It is very rewarding to work with our young people.
OCTOBER - MONTH OF THE ROSARY
The month of October is dedicated to the Most Holy Rosary, mainly because the liturgical feast of Our Lady of the Rosary is celebrated annually on October 7th. It was instituted to honour the Blessed Virgin Mary in gratitude for the protection that she gives the Church in answer to the praying of the Rosary by the faithful. The practice of dedicating the entire month of October to the Holy Rosary developed toward the end of the last century. Pope Leo XIII (papacy: 1878-1903) strongly promoted the increase of devotion to the Blessed Mother by encouraging the constant use of the Rosary.
The Rosary is primarily a scriptural prayer. This can be summarised by the traditional phrase used by Pope Pius XII (papacy: 1939-1958) that the Rosary is "a compendium of the entire Gospel". The Rosary draws its mysteries from the New Testament and is centered on the great events of the Incarnation and Redemption. Pope John Paul II called the Rosary his favourite prayer, in which we meditate with Mary upon the mysteries which she as a mother meditated on in her heart.
In this month of October, let us consider this beautiful prayer of the Rosary as a means that we too can use in order to draw closer to Jesus and Mary by meditating on the great mysteries of our salvation.
PRAYER REQUEST FROM THE BISHOP
As we prepare for the Year of God’s Word (2020) and the Year of the Eucharist (2021, I wish to ask you to pray earnestly for the renewal of our Diocese of Portsmouth. Please say this prayer these next days for our clergy and laity:
"O Sacred Heart of Jesus, we beg you to change us, to convert us and to make us holy. Fill us with a deeper faith, hope and love for you. Send into our hearts the cleansing fire of the Holy Spirit and powerfully renew all the clergy and laity of our Diocese. Unite us in love and respect for one another and unify us as your one, holy people. Grant us a new passion and zeal for the Catholic Faith, for mission, outreach and service. Help us to proclaim your Gospel generously to the poor and needy that many more souls may be saved by finding their way to you in your Church. May Mary Immaculate help us. May St Edmund of Abingdon and Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati pray for us. Amen.
Holy Michael the Archangel defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray. And do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust down to hell Satan and all the wicked spirits, who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen."
YOUTH GROUPS 'DO THEIR BIT'
Yesterday, our two parish youth groups met again for an afternoon of activities. The 'COOL' group (Children of Our Lady) talked about creation and played games related to the theme, then had a go at 'creating' their own peacock made from coloured paper. The St Edmund's Knights group started with activities and then went outdoors to help with tidying the graveyard. They helped with the removal of recently mowed grass in the wild meadow and then trimmed the overhanging grass on the grave stones. One child commented that "...it felt scary because people are dead, but it was good because we were helping their family to take care of the grave." Another child observed that "...it hurt my hand, but it was okay because we were helping to take care of the grave."
The children also enjoyed outdoor games and were very grateful to the parents who kindly donated a football goal post, which the children thoroughly enjoyed using. Many thanks to that family for their generous donation.
SEASON OF CREATION MASS
In this Season of Creation, we thank God for the wonders of our world, and for the modern prophets who call on us to protect it. May we respond to the cry of the earth, and be diligent stewards of our environment. Help us, Lord, to consume less, and to care more.
During the 10.15am Mass yesterday, during the offertory procession, five symbols of our desire to care for God’s earth were brought up to the altar:
A globe represented a world of beauty and teeming with life, but despoiled by our greed.
A sapling of buddleia growing in our graveyard, which has attracted butterflies and pollinating bees represents our hope for the future.
The Live Simply banner and the record book of our parish’s endeavours as we strove to become a Live Simply parish, represents Pope Francis’s call to live wisely, think deeply and love generously in caring for our common home.
A bag of plastic waste represents our commitment to changing our lifestyle, in order to be better stewards of the earth which God entrusts to our care.
The lectern banner from our youth groups is a symbol of our determination to care.
Let these symbols help us to reflect, as we celebrate in the Eucharist the Lord’s goodness and gift of himself here in our world.
EXALTATION OF THE HOLY CROSS
Today is the feast of the exaltation of the Holy Cross. There is no greater proof of God's love for us than the sending of His Son to become one with us in our humanity and to lay down his life for us. God sent Jesus to free us from sin and to give us the promise of eternal happiness in His kingdom. The cross is therefore not to be seen as an awful tragedy, but rather, to be exalted as a victory.
“And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15)
We adore You, O Christ and we praise You, because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.
YOUTH GROUPS CARE FOR CREATION
The two parish youth groups gathered together again on Saturday in an atmosphere of joy.
The secondary school groups (St Edmund's Knights) were keen to talk about their experiences during their first week back at school and then enjoyed games of charades and pictionary, reflected on a Gospel reading and enjoyed a good run around outdoors.
The primary school group (COOL - Children of Our Lady) learned a new song about being a 'cheerful giver'. Then they had a game of pictionary based on stories from the Bible, before playing outdoors in the sunshine. Afterwards they picked up litter from the grounds and car park and discussed the part they could play in reducing litter and caring for creation. Great fun was then had as they decorated biscuits with icing, which they then enjoyed eating during the short refreshments break.
Next meeting is on 21st September - information here.
HOW TO LIVE - Based on Luke 6: 27-38
Jesus said to his disciples: “To you who hear, I say,
love your enemies,
do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you,
pray for those who mistreat you.
To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well,
and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic.
Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back.
Do to others as you would have them do to you.
For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, and get back the same amount. But rather,
love your enemies and do good to them,
and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Stop judging and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give, and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”
THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY - HOLY DAY
On Thursday 15th August, we celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven. God did not allow her to taste death or any consequences of sin. This is because she was Immaculate - perfect in every way - from the moment of her conception to the moment she was taken body and soul into Heaven to reign as Queen for all eternity.
Our Blessed Mother was Immaculate, meaning without sin, for two reasons. Firstly, God preserved her from original sin at the moment of her conception by a special grace. Secondly, our Blessed Mother is Immaculate because, unlike Adam and Eve, she never chose to sin throughout her life. Therefore, she became the new Eve, the new Mother of all the Living, the new Mother of all who live in the grace of her Son.
Our church is dedicated to Our Lady. If we ask her to, she will intercede for us and carry our prayers to her Son - who listens to her!
On Thursday 15th August, services are as follows:
THE LORD'S PRAYER
When the apostles asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, he taught them 'The Lord's Prayer'. When we say this prayer, we ought to do so with meaning and reverence.
Hallowed be Thy Name: “Hallowed” means to be holy. We pray that there will be a deep reverence of God’s name and that we will always treat God with the proper honour, devotion, love and awe to which we are called. We should not used God's name in anger or in a curse.
Thy Kingdom come: The Kingdom of God is already here among us and must be within us. He must reign on the throne of our hearts and we must allow Him. Therefore, this must be our constant prayer.
Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven: We are acknowledging that we seek to live the will of the Father by entering into union with Christ Jesus. He fulfilled the will of His Father with perfection. His human life is the perfect model of the will of God and it is also the means by which we live the will of God. We take our will and entrust it to Christ so that His will lives in us.
What a wonderful morning this was. We celebrated Mass with joyful and prayerful singing, renewed our covenant with the poor, presented the Lenten project cheques to the three charities we supported - and thanked Fr Rob for all he has done in the short two years that he has been with us. Needless to say, we are very sorry to see him move to Guernsey, but he will always be remembered - and welcomed - in our parish.
The weather was kind to us and we did not get sunburnt or wet! The BBQ team produced a sumptuous meal and there was plenty of time to socialise afterwards. The children also had a display of 'magic' tricks from Mike to entertain them. Thank you to everyone who came and helped in any way. More pictures are on our news page.
YOUTH GROUPS CELEBRATE
The final event before the summer break was well attended and everyone had a great time playing games with water 'bombs' before enjoying party snacks - and then of course, more games. The volunteers got into the spirit of things too and had a chance to throw a water 'bomb' back. Needless to say, their accuracy left a lot to be desired compared to the skills of the young people there!
Youth groups resume on Saturday 7th September, with the COOL group (Children of Our Lady) for children in primary school years 3 to 6 and the St Edmund's Knights for secondary school young people.
WHO IS MY NEIGHBOUR?
This Sunday's Gospel gives us two important messages. Firstly, when tested as to how we can inherit eternal life with God, Jesus confirms that we should “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbour as yourself." (Luke 10:27). When questioned as to who our neighbours are, Jesus relates the parable of the 'Good Samaritan' - pointing out that everyone is or neighbour.
This parable came to mind yesterday, almost literally, as a woman lay collapsed on the side of the road and two passers by (one who lived on the same road as her) only vaguely stopped to help, but quickly found excuses to move on because they obviously didn't want to be involved and interrupt what they were doing....
If we want a meaningful relationship with God in this life and the next, we need to love Him. If we love Him, then we will also be able to love all those people we come in contact with - either directly or indirectly. Loving God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength and with all our mind and witnessing for Jesus, are what we are all called to do if we wish to inherit eternal happiness after this earthly life is spent. Are we willing to do this?
FAITH, TRUST AND MERCY
There is a very powerful painting in the lower levels of the Catholic Church in Magdala (home town of Mary Magdalen) by the Sea of Galilee, that captures the essence of faith, trust and mercy. Faith, because the image depicts the woman who had been suffering from haemorrhaging for 12 years, believing that Jesus could heal her. Trust, because she believed that all she needed to do was to touch his garment. Mercy, because Jesus, with love, cured her. There is so much that Jesus did - and still does today - that it is hard to understand why some people still don't believe in Him and follow Him. The Bible readings for Mass over the last few days clearly call us to be witnesses to our faith - to spread the Good News that Jesus is the source of our salvation. We need to spread this message so that others may have faith and trust in Him and receive the grace of God's mercy.
THE POWER OF TWO....
Last Saturday, the parish youth groups reflected on Sunday's Gospel - in particular, why Jesus sent out the 72 disciples to spread the Good News in pairs and not on their own. The children then played a number of games where they had to work with a partner in order to succeed. They finished off the day with a much loved mixed game of football, where two teams are needed in order to play. The game was exciting and the goalkeepers very skilful. However, with a score of 1-1, and despite a penalty shoot out at the end, the match ended in a draw.... How fitting that there were no losers!
SAINTS PETER AND PAUL
This Sunday is the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. Both were apostles of Jesus, but they were given different missions. St Peter was entrusted with the divine headship of the Church on Earth - he was the first pope. Paul, on the other hand, was entrusted to spread the good news of the Gospel to the Gentiles - those who were not Jews. Both St Paul and St Peter paid for their faithfulness to their missions with hardships and with their lives. In the end, both became martyrs.
On this feast of Saints Peter and Paul, may Christ give all of us, and the entire Church, the courage, charity, and wisdom we need to continue to be the instruments that proclaim the good news and to be witnesses to Christ.
The Parish Youth Groups met again last Saturday and played an indoor game before reflecting on the feast of Corpus Christi and the message of the Gospel about the miracle of the feeding of the 5000. The weather being wonderful, they then went outdoors to spend their incredible energy on more team games. This was followed by much needed refreshments, before making their way to the church to reflect on the Sacred Heart of Jesus (feast this coming Friday) and saying a prayer as they placed a heart with their name on it on, on a poster.
On Sunday, some of the young people were able to give out bookmarks commemoraing Corpus Christi, to the children who attended the Masses.
A number of feast days are celebrated in the month of June. This Sunday we celebrate Corpus Christi. For Catholics, the Eucharist is God and therefore all that God is - the fullness of life, eternal salvation, mercy, grace, happiness, etc. When we worship before the Eucharist, we worship God Himself hidden under the appearance of bread and wine.
On Friday we celebrate the Sacred Heart of Jesus - a celebration of Jesus pouring out on us His whole life and all of His love.
Then on Saturday we honour the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Heart of our Blessed Mother is a sign of her perfect love for us. It is “Immaculate” in that it is spotless and perfect in love. Our Lady is always ready to bring us closer to Jesus - all we need to do is ask her to inercede for us.
THE MOST HOLY TRINITY
The Trinity is a mystery that we will never solve; rather, it is a mystery that we must enter into. Adoration and love of the Most Holy Trinity must take place, first, within our souls. Deep within each one of us God offers an invitation to adore Him. It is there, within the soul, that The Divine Mercy of God is encountered. It is there that we begin to learn what Mercy is all about. Spend time this weekend, pondering the indwelling of the Most Holy Trinity. God is there, living within your own soul. Seek Him, love Him and adore His divine presence.
Most Holy Trinity, I love You and adore You as you live within my soul. May I seek You more deeply and come to love You with all my heart.
PARISH YOUTH GROUPS
If you were in church on Sunday (the feast of Pentecost), you probably would not have missed the three banners - one in front of the lectern and two on the pillars. These were the work of the youth group that met in the parish centre the day before. The youth groups meet regularly - please see the Events list on the Youth section of this website and reminders in the Parish Newsletter. All children from Year 3 and above are welcome. Some activities are done together and others are split according to the ages of the children present. It is fun, informative, reflective and a chance to make and build friendships. Please consider bringing you children along.
FIRST HOLY COMMUNION
What a wonderful weekend (Pentecost) for our young parishioners to be receiving the Holy Eucharist for the first time. Thanks to the parents and instructors who have guided them up to this moment.Over a period of two days 42 children will have received Holy Communion. Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will not only guide them and inspire them to be regular receivers of this wonderful sacrament - Jesus's gift to us all - but will also be with their parents, guardians and teachers, who will all be instrumental in ensuring that their faith and love of Jesus will continue to grow.
COME HOLY SPIRIT
The season of Easter concludes this Sunday with the celebration of the feast of Pentecost. On Pentecost we celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles gathered in the upper room in Jerusalem - the event marks the beginning of the Church. Jesus fulfilled his promise to send to his disciples a helper, an advocate, who would enable them to be his witnesses throughout the world. Jesus greets his disciples with the gift of peace. He then commissions them to continue the work that he has begun, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21). As he breathes the Holy Spirit upon them, Jesus sends his disciples to continue his work of reconciliation through the forgiveness of sins. Jesus's message is for us too. In situations of conflict, we are to be agents of peace and harmony among people and it is our responsibility to continue to spread the Good News and to be witnesses to Christ our Saviour. Come Holy Spirit; fill us with the fire of God's love and help us to be true witnesses to Christ.
HOLY LAND PILGRIMAGE - DAY 8
We began the day by celebrating Mass in the open air right on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and the setting perfectly fitted our "In the Footsteps of Jesus" pilgrimage.
The group then travelled to Mt Tabor - attributed to be the most likely site where the Transfiguration took place. Six members chose to walk up the steep slope to the top. Once there, we enjoyed not only the tranquility of the beautiful gardens, but were also able to pray in the magnificent church and view the panoramic view of the countryside outside.
The afternoon was free time - a much needed opportunity to relax and reflect, with some members of the group enjoying a swim in the waters of the Sea of Galilee.
HOLY LAND PILGRIMAGE - DAY 7
We've moved to the Sea of Galilee - the heart of Jesus's ministry - and today's delight's after morning prayer and breakfast started with a visit to the Mt of Beatitudes close by. This was followed by a visit to the site marking Peter's Primacy - where Jesus asked him to "feed his sheep" and be the rock onto which the Church would be built. We also visited the site of the miracle of the loaves and fishes and were able to see the original mosaic depicting this miracle. Then we moved on to Capernaum and walked in Jesus's footsteps through the synagogue ruins and viewed the remains of Peter's mother in law's house. At all the sites, we reminded ourselves of the context, by reading relevant extracts from the Gospels.
After lunch we had a relaxing hour on a boat on the Sea of Galilee, where we were able to reflect on the miracles associated with the storms the apostles experienced. From there we then went to Magdala and celebrated Mass in an unusual but spectacular church with an altar like a boat - making Fr Rob's homily resemble what Jesus did when talking to the crowd from Peter's fishing boat. Magdala is where Mary Magdalen came from and recent discoveries in the area support this. We remembered that Mary Magdalen, alongside Mary the mother of Jesus, followed Jesus throughout His Passion and were the first to be witnesses to His resurrection.
HOLY LAND PILGRIMAGE - DAY 6
Travelling from Taybeh to Nazareth through the hills that make up part of the West Bank, was wonderful. Once in Nazareth, we viewed the multi-media exhibition called Mary of Nazareth, which more or less gave a great insight into the Old and New Testaments. This was followed by the much anticipated visit to the Basilica of the Annunciation, where we were able to pray at the site where "The Word Was Made Flesh". We were also able to visit St Joseph's Church nearby and see what his workshop would have looked like.
A short journey to Cana to the north of Nazareth - the site of the first public miracle that Jesus performed, gave us a chance to reflect on our vocations and our willingness to say "yes" to whatever God wants us to do. Married couples in our group were also able to renew their marriage promises and receive a blessing - all part of the Mass in the chapel of Divine Mercy in Cana. What a wonderful day!
HOLY LAND PILGRIMAGE - DAY 5
Celebrating Sunday Mass with the parishioners at St Catherine's Church in Bethlehem - right next to the site of Jesus' Nativity - was a wonderful experience. Although the Mass was in Arabic, it was easy to follow and the singing was amazing, not to mention the sound of the bells of Bethlehem!
The group then boarded the coach for the journey to Jericho, where they were able to renew their baptismal vows on the banks of the River Jordan, view the Mount of Temptation and enjoy some relaxation in the Dead Sea.
As early evening came, we made the relatively short but climbing journey out of the depths below sea level that the Dead Sea is in, up to Taybeh (biblical Ephraim), where we were to spend the night.
HOLY LAND PILGRIMAGE - DAY 4
Following morning prayers and a hearty breakfast, our pilgrims visited the Western Wall in the Jewish Quarter of the old city of Jerusalem. They then ventured out of the main city area to Abu Ghosh and Mass was celebrated at the chapel at the Kiriat Yearim Retreat Centre, followed by lunch and a visit to the Crusader (Emmaus) Church nearby.
An early return to the hotel gave some of the group time to visit the local centre where disabled and/or orphaned children are looked after by a devoted team of nuns and volunteers. We took them clothes, books and other items and a money donation from the group. Talking to the children and then dancing with them was a priviledge - and 30 minutes which we will remember for a long time.
HOLY LAND PILGRIMAGE - DAY 3
Today was an early start in Jerusalem - to shuffle our itinerary around the constraints of road closures, etc. due to it being Ramadan and Friday....
A lot was packed in, but the highlights were following the way of the Cross up to Calvary and visiting the Holy Sepulchre. Despite being exceedingly busy, the atmosphere of prayer everywhere was tangible. Before beginning the Via Dolorosa, we had the opportunity to visit St Anne's Church where originally the waters of Bethesda were and where Jesus healed the crippled man who could never get to the healing waters himself.
A walk to the site of Peter's denial of knowing Christ at the Church of St Peter of Gallicantu, was our next visit, where we had lunch and alsocelebrated Mass. We then visited the 'Upper Room' and Dormition Abbey, all in the area of where the Last Supper would have taken place and where the Holy Spirit first decended on the Disciples.
HOLY LAND PILGRIMAGE - DAY 2
Another successful day started with a visit to the birth place of John the Baptist at Ein Karem, where we had time to pray before moving to the Church of the Visitation where Mass was celebrated in the open air. On a hot day with the heatwave temperatures at 37 degrees, this was quite welcome! It was touching to think about Mary's selfless action of making the not so simple journey to visit her cousin, Elizabeth and share her joy.
After Mass and lunch we moved to the Mount of Olives, starting off at the Pater Noster Church where we prayed the Lord's prayer and then followed the 'Passion Route' which Christ would have taken on His last journey into Jerusalem. We visited the Dominus Flevit Church (where Jesus wept when looking out towards Jerusalem), and then the Church of All Nations at the Garden of Gethsemane. Here we had time to pray and contemplate on the significance of Christ's agony in the garden.
We ended the day at the Notre Dame Centre in Jerusalem, hearing about the realities of the suffering caused by crucifixion (which was a common punishment given by the Romans at the time) by looking at the scientific evidence as seen in the shroud, a lifesize copy of which was on display.
HOLY LAND PILGRIMAGE - DAY 1
Our group of 24 pilgrims enjoyed a hearty breakfast in Bethlehem before setting off for Shepherds' Fields - where the shepherds received the good news of the birth of Jesus from an angel. Fr Rob celebrated the Mass there in one of the caves that the shepherds would have been in with their sheep overnight when the angel visited them. In the chapel above, Fr Rob later also read the relevant passage from the Gospel.
From there, the group went to Manger Square and managed a quick prayer at the site of Jesus' birth - something worth queuing for.
A leisurely break for lunch provided an escape from the heatwave which is being experienced here, with temperatures at about 38 degrees! Then we went to the 'milk grotto', said to be where the Holy Family passed through when they fled because they were warned to leave Bethlehem because Herod had ordered what has become known as the 'slaughter of the innocents'.
A visit to the Church of St Catherine alongside the Basilica of the Nativity, gave a welcomed opportunity for quiet personal prayer.
YOUTH MINI PILGRIMAGE
17 young people from our pastoral area, with accompanying adults, enjoyed a very successful mini pilgrimage today, walking from Tilsley Park to the scout centre at Youlbury. Along the way they prayed a decade of the rosary and sang loudly! On arrival, they enjoyed their packed lunch, played some games, including a scavenger hunt, and then built a camp fire - a team effort in gathering the wood - and cooked some food. A great day out! Many thanks to all the adults who helped and Melanie for the organisation.
“My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)
Yesterday, two groups of young people met in our parish centre. 11-16 year olds had the opportunity to ask questions which Fr Rob answered, and very pertinent questions were put forward - whilst enjoying a pizza lunch. Thank you, Fr Rob.
Later in the afternoon, the younger group met and learned a lot about sheep and Jesus, our good shepherd! They understood that Jesus knows us all by name and we should follow Him willingly as He is our Saviour.
COME TO ME
Jesus said to the crowds: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day.” (John 6:44)
“I will not reject anyone who comes to me.” (John 6:37)
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” (John 6:35)
The Gospel readings this week have invited us to reflect on the promises made to us and invite us into a deeper relationship with Jesus who is our Lord and Saviour.
LENT THROUGH TO EASTER
Children from our youth groups recollected the events in the passion of Christ and His resurrection, by making the figures and objects for these scenes - which is on display in our parish centre.
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed, and ran to announce the news to his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them. (Matthew 28:8-9)
We celebrate Easter for eight days! It is the most important event in our calendar. During this time we should let ourselves engage in the mystery of the Resurrection. We must see it for what it is and try to understand this gift and the amazing fact that in His Resurrection, Jesus destroys the effects of sin. He destroys death itself. Like the two Mary's who embraced Jesus' feet and did him homage when they saw Him, we should try to do the same - with reverence, joy and thanksgiving.
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
While hanging on the Cross and enduring the cruelty of others, Jesus spoke words of forgiveness. Not only that, but He also entrusted His mother to be our spiritual mother too. Everything about Jesus is love and mercy! His final words "It is finished" is one that affirms that His mission of the redemption of the whole world is accomplished through His perfect sacrifice of love offered for all of us. His death, which we commemorate today, is the perfect sacrifice which takes away the sins of all. What a sacrifice! What a gift!
'WASHING OF FEET'
On Maundy Thursday some parishioners, for the fifth year running, set up gazebos in the market square to commemorate the day that Jesus washed his apostles’ feet. They cleaned shoes, handed out leaflets of all Christian Churches’ Easter services, and gave lots of hot drinks and mini Easter eggs. Additionally, this year they offered two children’s Easter crafts which were very popular. The children chatted freely about Jesus whilst making Easter cards and making patterns/words on Scratch Art Crosses. There were several meaningful discussions about Jesus and many quick conversations about what the Easter weekend is about. A few people said - we didn’t know Catholics evangelise! It was wonderful to be in the centre of the town showing and talking about Jesus and connecting with a wide range of people.
HOLY (MAUNDY) THURSDAY
Today is the start of the Triduum - the most important events over three days for the Church. On Holy Thursday we remember the wonderful gift of the Eucharist, which is not just bread and wine, but God Himself. We also remember Jesus' example of washing the feet of His apostles and His call to us as He did to Peter, that we must accept that He washes our feet too and that we do the same for others. In other words, turn to God, accept His unwavering and perfect love and mercy; be humble and love and help others.
A number of our parishioners were able to attend the Chrism Mass yesterday, which was held at St John's Cathedral in Portsmouth. The Cathedral was full with parishioners from our Diocese of Portsmouth and the Mass itself was both moving and inspiring.
PALM SUNDAY - HOLY WEEK BEGINS
In today’s Liturgy we begin b listening to the story of Jesus being welcomed into Jerusalem with great joy and exultation! “Hosanna!” they cried out. “Hosanna in the Highest!” Jesus was treated as He should have been treated. People were excited to see Him and there was much excitement. However, not much later things turn sour as Jesus is betrayed, tortured and put to death on the cross. But all this was not in vain and was part of God's plan to save us. So we should begin Holy Week with hope and joy, because no hardship, no burden and no cross can conquer us if we remain steadfast in Christ Jesus letting Him transform all we endure in life by His glorious embrace of His own Cross. Let us always say with great meaning and faith, "Jesus, I trust in You".
FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT
The Gospel reading comes from the story of the woman caught in adultery when she is dragged before Jesus to see if He would support her stoning. In this story, the woman is brought before Jesus with a harsh judgment. Emotions are high and these emotions clearly cloud the rational thinking of those who are ready to stone her. Jesus cuts through this irrationality by a profound statement. “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” His response is perfect and, in the end, she is left alone to encounter the tender mercy of Jesus. It is a reminder to us all that we are not without sin and we should not lose the opportunity in this Lenten season to repent and ask for forgiveness from our merciful God.
BIG BREAKFAST AND HOME PRODUCE SALE
This event was held today after the 8.45am and 10.15am Masses, alongside the book sale. Parishioners were able to enjoy a hot bacon or sausage roll, coffee, tea or juice and browse through and buy from a good selection of books and home produce of various types, including woodwork, jewellery, marmalade - and of course cakes!
Many thanks to all who contributed in any way. The proceeds will go towards our Lenten projects.
FOURTH SUNDAY IN LENT
Today's Gospel of the 'Prodigal Son' is a familiar one to most of us. It is a story that reminds us that God is merciful and is joyful when we, as sinners, repent, acknowledge our weaknessees and turn to Him with confidence. Our Father in Heaven will never reject us. No matter what we have done or how far we have turned away, the Father’s love is perfect, relentless, unconditional and always inviting.
Lord, I see the misery and pain that result from the sinful choices I have made. Help me to turn away from sin. Help me to see that Your mercy is far greater than anything I have done. I thank You for Your perfect love and turn to You in my need.
THE ANNUNCIATION OF THE LORD
Today is nine months before Christmas and is the day we celebrate the fact that God the Son took on our human nature in the womb of the Blessed Virgin. It’s the celebration of the Incarnation of our Lord. We celebrate the profound fact that God loves us so much that He became one of us. We also see in this event the glorious act of perfect submission to the will of God by ourBlessed Mother. Her “Yes” is a perfect example to us, because we are called to daily say yes to God. This feast day givesus the opportunity to once again say “Yes” to the will of God, no matter what He is asking of us. We are called to be an instrument of His continual Incarnation in our world. Today, let us reflect upon how fully weanswer this call and get on our knees today and say “Yes” to the plan our Lord has for our life.
Our second Abingdon Marriage Preparation day this year took place on Saturday 23rd March. Eight couples spent the day thinking about their future together. It is truly rewarding working with couples at this stage in their lives - amidst the excitement of planning the wedding we take some time out to look at how to maintain and deepen their love for each other and build the skills that nurture a happy lifelong marriage.
The programme is called Preparing Together. Couples work on a number of topics, and have the opportunity to think about their expectations and what each one of them is bringing to the relationship. The couples attend the 12noon Mass, followed by lunch, which was provided by Anne Probyn and her team of helpers. Fr Rob again gave a talk about what makes a Catholic marriage. He talked about the family being the first church for our children and the development of faith through families in our parish.
The couples had a positive approach to the day and the feedback we received was very encouraging. These days could not be successful without the support of our volunteers from the parish. My sincere thanks to everyone involved in providing such a welcoming atmosphere for the couples that attended. (Catherine MacFarlane)
In the familiar story of the Prodigal Son, we see courage in the son by choosing to return to his father, who accepts him back lovingly. This reveals that authentic love always works. It is always effective. True unconditional love is hard to ignore and it’s hard to push away. The son realised this lesson and so must we. This is the love our Father in Heaven has for each of us. He is not an angry or harsh God. He is a God who longs to take us back and reconcile with us. He wishes to rejoice the moment we turn to Him in our need. Even if we are uncertain, He is certain about His love, He is always waiting for us, and deep down we all know that.
Lent is an ideal time for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. That Sacrament is this story. It’s the story of us going to the Father with our sin and Him lavishing us with His mercy. If we enter into that Sacrament with honesty and sincerity, God will lift our burdens and put them behind us. Don’t let this Lent go by without participating in this wonderful gift of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
“Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.” (Luke. 6:37)
Reflect upon how often you do judge others and reflect upon how good you are at offering the kind of friendship others around you need. In the end, if you offer this sort of friendship you will most likely be blessed with others who offer this sort of friendship right back! And with that you will both be blessed!
Lord, give me a non-judgmental heart. Help me to love each person I encounter with a holy love and acceptance. Help me to have the charity I need to correct their wrongdoing with kindness and firmness, but to also see beyond the surface and see the person You created. In turn, give me the true love and friendship of others so that I may trust and enjoy the love You wish me to have.
THOUGHT FOR TODAY
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you…” “How much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.” (Matthew 7: 7&11)
Jesus is very clear that when we ask, we will receive, when we seek, we will find, and when we knock, the door will be opened to you. But is that your experience? Sometimes we can ask, and ask, and beg, and it appears that our prayer goes unanswered, at least in the way we want it to be answered. Ideally, every prayer of intercession we utter should be for the Lord’s will to be done, nothing more, and nothing less. Only His perfect will. That can be harder to pray for than one might first expect. Too often we tend to pray that “my will be done” rather than that “Thy will be done.”
Reflect, today, upon the way you pray. Try to change your prayer so that it seeks the good things God wants to bestow rather than the many things you want God to bestow. It may be hard at first to detach from your own ideas and your own will, but in the end, you will be blessed with many good things from God.
Lord, I do pray that Your will be done in all things. I desire to surrender to You above all, and to trust in Your perfect plan. Help me, dear Lord, to abandon my own ideas and desires, and to seek Your will always. Jesus, I trust in You.
RITE OF ELECTION
The Rite of Election was celebrated at St John’s Cathedral Portsmouth last Saturday, when those adults preparing for baptism / reception into the church / confirmation / holy communion at Easter, were welcomed by Bishop Philip. Severine and Tiarse from our parish were accompanied by their sponsors and members of RCIA team. It was a very moving and special time, especially being in a packed cathedral with so many people looking forward to becoming Catholic and receiving the sacraments. It was great to see Fr Rob in the procession of priests in the cathedral.
THOUGHT FOR TODAY
“Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)
Reflect, today, upon the dignity of each and every person. Try to call to mind anyone you may fail to look at with perfect respect. Who is it you look down upon and roll your eyes at? Who is it you judge or disdain? It is within this person, more than any other, that Jesus waits for you. He waits to meet you and to have you love Him in the weak and the sinner. Reflect upon their dignity. Identify the person who fits this description the most in your life and commit yourself to love and serve them. For in them you will love and serve our Lord.
Twenty children gathered this afternoon in our parish centre for varying activities. Some got busy making models for the Lent and Easter tableau they are hoping to complete. Others played charades centred on Bible and moral code quotes. The whole group also spent time in the church going over three of the stations of the cross and saying short prayers, before braving the windy outdoors for games. The children also enjoyed a short cartoon on birds, which helped them to reflect on what they could do this Lent.
FRIDAY THOUGHT FOR LENT
Fridays in Lent are days in which we are especially invited to unite ourselves, voluntarily and freely, with the Sacrifice of Jesus. His Sacrifice required of Him great selflessness and self-denial. The small acts of fasting, abstinence and other forms of self-denial we choose, dispose our will to be more conformed to Christ’s so as to be able to more completely unite ourself with Him, receiving the grace of salvation.
Reflect, today, upon the small sacrifices we are called to make this Lent and, especially, on Fridays in Lent.
Lord, I choose, this day, to become one with You in Your suffering and death. I offer You my suffering and my sin. Please forgive my sin and allow my suffering, especially that which results from my sin, to be transformed by Your own suffering so that I can share in the joy of Your Resurrection. May the small sacrifices and acts of self-denial I offer You become a source of my deeper union with You. Jesus, I trust in You.
PRAYER FOR ASH WEDNESDAY AND LENT
My precious and crucified Lord, I offer You this Lent with total abandonment and trust. I offer You my prayers, sacrifices and my very life this day. Do with me, Lord, as You will. I pray that this Lent will be fruitful. I know You have much to say to me and much to do in my life. May this Lent be a time through which Your mercy is poured in abundance into my soul.
Dearest Lord, help me to especially see my sin, this Lent. Humble me so that I may see clearly. Give me courage and strength to confess my sins, and to turn from them with all my heart. Enlighten me with Your Holy Word. Help me to come to know You and to deepen the gift of faith in my life. Show me the plan You have for me, and place my feet upon the path You have chosen.
Keep me faithful to my Lenten promises, and bring forth new life through these sacrifices of love. Strengthen my prayer and make me holy. Help me to turn to You, each day, seeking Your sacred and pierced Heart.
LIVE SIMPLY THOUGHT FOR MARCH
Remembering that we are a Fairtrade Parish, watch out in the local shops for special promotions for Fairtrade Fortnight 25th Feb – 10th March. Fairtrade products are also on sale in Oxfam and at 35 Ock St.
SIGNIFICANT WEDDING ANNIVERSARIES
Are you celebrating a 25th, 30th, 40th, 50th or 60th or anniversary over 60 years? If so, Bishop Philip would like to invite you to a Mass of celebration! This will take place at St Bede's Church in Basingstoke on Saturday 6th July at 11.00am. It is a wonderful occasion to celebrate and witness to Marriage.
If you would like to come, please fill in the form on the Diocesan website here, or send an email to: email@example.com Please note that this address is not monitored daily and you may have to wait for a reply, so please be patient.
Bishop Philip's visit to our parish today was a busy one for him, his secretary Fr Phil and our priests Fr Jamie and Fr Rob. For parishioners it was a rewarding experience. The Bishop celebrated all three Sunday Masses and his homily called on us all to be witnesses to our faith and spread the good news of the gospel to others beyond the church doors. The Bishop greeted almost every parishioner as they left the church and met with some of our youth and also with a few parishioners.
DIOCESAN CONFIRMATION DAY
A Diocesan Confirmation Day is planned to be held in Farnborough on 23rd March for all those young people who are preparing for Confirmation or who have been Confirmed in the last three years.
Content for the day will include:
Eucharist: deepening our understanding and making the most of Mass.
Scripture and Initiation: How Baptism and Eucharist lead to Confirmation through scripture and tradition, recognising the importance of personal desire for faith and relationship.
Reconciliation: recognising the importance of seeking God's mercy.
Plenty of social time as well!
The day starts at 10am and concludes after 4pm Mass. Talks, games, activities will be led by volunteers from around the diocese. Please email: firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested and we will get back to you.
Saturday 9th February saw the first of our Marriage Preparation days for 2019, with nine couples attending from a variety of local parishes and one couple that had come from Bath. The couples all had a positive approach and the feedback we received was very encouraging.
During the day couples looked at a number of topics, thinking about what they each bring to the relationship, looking at their expectations and how they can build the skills that nurture a happy lifelong marriage. The couples attended the midday Mass, and then had lunch, provided by Sylvia and her team of helpers. Fr Rob gave a talk about what makes a Catholic marriage. This is always popular - talking about the home being the first church, as children come along. When engaged couples are caught up in the excitement of the wedding preparation, Marriage Preparation is a place where they can take time out to think about, and plan, the rest of their lives together.
FEAST OF THE PRESENTATION OF THE LORD
It would be easy for one’s mind to drift and overlook the significance of the fortieth day after the Lord’s birth when Mary and Joseph present Him, as was the Jewish custom, in the temple in Jerusalem. In their conformation to the Law is God’s entrance into His Temple. Simeon not only proclaimed that he had seen his salvation, but also told the Mother of our Lord that her share would include a sorrow pierced heart. In Redemptoris Mater, Pope John Paul II wrote that Mary heard in Simeon’s words something akin to a second Annunciation, “for they tell her of the actual historical situation in which the Son is to accomplish his mission, namely, in misunderstanding and sorrow. While this announcement on the one hand confirms her faith in the accomplishment of the divine promises of salvation, on the other hand it also reveals to her that she will have to live her obedience of faith in suffering, at the side of the suffering Saviour, and that her motherhood will be mysterious and sorrowful.”
EXCITING AFTERNOON FOR YOUTH GROUPS
Twenty-three children from the age group 7 to 11, spent a very enjoyable afternoon in the parish centre. The degree of excitement was evident by the volume of sound! However, the older children had areas of relative quiet and calm to reflect and chat. Refreshments included decorating your own cake before you eat it....
There were various activities for the children to choose from and a short animated video about St Paul's conversion to watch. The children also learned about the meaning of being 'the salt of the earth' - through enjoying some salted popcorn!
All children are welcome to the youth events. Please look at the calendar on the youth section of this website. We are also working on establishing groups for secondary school young people - and we are looking for adult volunteers.
REFUGEES IN ABINGDON
How can we help?
The Chair of Host Abingdon is coming to talk about its work on Sunday 3rd February at 7.30pm in the Parish Centre.
Please come and explore ideas about what we can do.
PEACE SUNDAY - PAX CHRISTI PRAYER
Thank you, loving God for the gift of life, for the wonderful world that we all share, for the joy of love and friendship, for the challenge of helping to build your kingdom. 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. Strengthen 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. Strengthen my efforts to forgive injuries and to love those I find it hard to love. Teach me to share the gifts you have given me, to speak out for the victims of injustice who have no voice and to reject the violence which runs through much of our world today. Holy Spirit of God, renew my hope for a world free from the cruelty and evil of war, so that we may all come to share in God's peace and justice.
LIVING SIMPLY - CARING FOR OUR ENVIRONMENT
We would like to suggest a monthly thought on how we could Live Simply and our thought for this month is that parishioners try to cut down plastic use. One suggestion is that we buy loose fruit and vegetables rather than those pre packed. Another suggestion is that gardeners use fibre pots rather than plastic pots. For more ideas look at Abingdon Carbon Cutters‘ website. www.abingdoncarboncutters.org.uk/abingdon-cuts-plastic
THE BAPTISM OF JESUS
The Baptism of Jesus was an epiphany. It was a moment of manifestation. As He emerged from the waters, “Heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from Heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’” This manifestation of the sonship and divinity of Jesus took place in a physical, audible and visible form so that all present would know, without question, that Jesus was the Son of the Father. Thus, His baptism is a way in which the Father introduced His Son and His Son’s mission to the world. Turn your eyes to Jesus and prepare yourself to follow Him and to heed every word He speaks. He was sent into this world to draw us to the Father, allow Him to fulfill that mission in your own life.
On the second Saturday of every month, a group of people meet in the church in the chapel of Our Lady, to pray for our children. You do not need to be a mother to join in! You just need to understand the need to pray for all children and be willing to give about 30 minutes of your time to do so. Pray is powerful and wherever two or more people are gathered in prayer in Jesus' name, He is in the midst of them. Our Lady will also intercede for us and carry our prayers to her Son. Do come along. The next session will be on Saturday 12th January at 10.15am.
After Jesus had been born in Bethlehem in Judaea during the reign of King Herod, some wise men came to Jerusalem from the east. “Where is the infant king of the Jews?” they asked. “We saw his star as it rose and have come to do him homage.”…. The sight of the star filled them with delight, and going into the house they saw the child with his mother Mary, and falling to their knees they did him homage. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.
THE EPIPHANY OF OUR LORD
The word “epiphany” comes from the Greek epiphainen, a verb that means "to shine upon," "to manifest," or “to make known.” Thus, the feast of the Epiphany celebrates the many ways that Christ has made Himself known to the world, mainly the three events that manifested the mission and divinity of Christ: the visit of the Magi (Matthew 2:1-12), the baptism of Jesus (Mark 1:9-11), and the miracle at Cana (John 2:1-11). The precious gifts which the Magi brought to the Lord this day are threefold, and they are signs of divine mysteries. By gold the power of the King is signified, by frankincense His great priesthood, by myrrh the burial of the Lord.
O Lord, by the leading of a star Thou didst manifest Thine only begotten Son to the Gentiles on this day; mercifully grant that we who know Thee by faith, may be brought to contemplate the beauty of Thy majesty.
MARY, THE MOTHER OF GOD
On January 1st, the Church celebrates Mary, the Mother of God – what a beautiful way to start the new year! Mary invites us to enter it with both trust and alertness. Mary faces the future confidently. As a daughter of Israel, she has faith in the Lord and knows that God always keeps His promises. She lives in His presence. She lets herself be guided by Him. With Mary, we can also learn to trust. Trust is rooted in God and it is a fruit of the Spirit which is born through faith in God. It knows that God is with us and guides us if we entrust our life to Him. To trust is to surrender oneself into the hands of God. Trust drives away fear and is a source of great inner freedom. Enter this new year with great trust.
FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY
"He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favour before God and man." (Luke 2:51-52)
On this, the Sunday, we honour the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. In honouring them, we also honour all families, big or small. And in honouring all families, we honour the family of God, the Church. But most especially, we focus in on the hidden, day-to-day life of the Holy Family of Nazareth.
Reflect, today, upon your own family life. No matter the situation, know that God wants to enter more deeply into your family life just as it is right now. He desires to give you strength and virtue to live as the Holy Family. Surrender yourself and your family, this day, and invite the Triune God to make your family a holy family.
A MESSAGE ON CHRISTMAS
"Christmas is usually a noisy party: we could use a bit of silence, to hear the voice of Love."
~ Christmas is you, when you decide to be born again each day and let God into your soul.
~ The Christmas pine is you, when you resist vigorous winds and difficulties of life.
~ The Christmas decorations are you, when your virtues are colours that adorn your life.
~ The Christmas bell is you, when you call, gather and seek to unite.
~ You are also a Christmas light, when you illuminate with your life the path of others with kindness, patience, joy and generosity.
~ You are also a Christmas light, when you illuminate with your life the path of others with kindness, patience, joy and generosity.
~ The Christmas angels are you, when you sing to the world a message of peace, justice and love.
~ The Christmas star is you, when you lead someone to meet the Lord.
~ You are also the wise men, when you give the best you have no matter who.
~ Christmas music is you when you conquer the harmony within you.
~ The Christmas gift is you, when you are truly friend and brother of every human being.
~ The Christmas card is you, when kindness is written in your hands.
~ The Christmas greeting is you, when you forgive and re-establish peace, even when you suffer.
~ The Christmas dinner is you, when you share bread and hope to the poor man who is by your side.
~ You are, yes, Christmas night, when humble and conscious, you receive in the silence of the night the Saviour of the world without noise or great celebrations; You are a smile of trust and tenderness, in the inner peace of a perennial Christmas that establishes the Kingdom within you.
A very Merry Christmas for all those who look like Christmas.
FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT
The fourth Advent candle (the ‘Angel’s Candle’) symbolises Peace, reminding us of the message of the angels: “Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men.”
Through the darkness, I look for your wisdom. I want my heart to be open to you. Help me to be awake and aware
of the radiance you bring to my life. Help me to be grateful each day for the blessings of family and friends. Let me be a peacemaker in my own life, and in the world. Let me pray especially for this difficult world and those who are so in need of an end to violence. My heart begs for this as my Advent prayer today.
Fr Jamie (right) with Fr Rob
FR. JAMIE CELEBRATES 36 YEARS OF ORDINATION
Fr Jamie was ordained a priest on 18th December 1982 in his home parish of St Peter's in Paisley. As a Montfort Missionary, he started off in Malawi in Africa, where he served for six years. He then returned to the UK and taught at the seminary of the Missionary Institute in London. This was followed by being the Retreat Director at St Joseph's in Ashurst (New Forest). In 2000, Fr Jamie was the priest in charge at the Church of St Theresa of the Child Jesus in Totton, Hampshire. Now in the Diocese of Portsmouth, he spent seven years serving Lymington, Brockerhurst and Lundhurst, before joining our own parish in September 2010.
We thank you for your service in our parish, Fr Jamie and look forward to many more years to come! Happy anniversary!
The lighting of the third (pink) candle is a reminder that the Advent season is a season of joy because our salvation is already at hand. Today, we can rejoice.
THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT
Surely God is my salvation;
I will trust and not be afraid.
The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defence;
he has become my salvation.”
With joy you will draw water
from the wells of salvation.
In that day you will say:
“Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
make known among the nations what he has done,
and proclaim that his name is exalted.
Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things;
let this be known to all the world.
Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion,
for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.”
AFFIRMATION OF THE CONSECRATION OF OUR PARISH TO OUR LADY
On the feast day of the Immaculate Conception on 8th December, both Fr Jamie and Fr Rob celebrated the Mass with parishioners. This was followed by Fr Jamie reading the prayer (see the file below), which re-affirmed the consecration of our parish to Our Lady. What a blessed parish we are!
THE PRAYER OF
THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
"The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin." (Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus, 1854)
In 1854, Pope Pius IX's solemn declaration, "Ineffabilis Deus," clarified with finality the long-held belief of the Church that Mary was conceived free from original sin. Mary was granted this extraordinary privilege because of Her unique role in history as the Mother of God. That is, She received the gift of salvation in Christ from the very moment of her conception. Even though Mary is unique in all humanity for being born without sin, She is held up by the Church as a model for all humanity in Her holiness and Her purity, in Her willingness to accept the Plan of God for Her.
Every person is called to recognise and respond to God’s call, to their own vocation, in order to carry out God’s plan for their life and fulfill the mission prepared for them since before the beginning of time. Mary’s “Let it be done to me according to Thy Word,” in response of the Angel Gabriel’s greeting is the response required of all Christians to God’s Plan.
The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is a time to celebrate the great joy of God’s gift to humanity in Mary, and to recognise with greater clarity, the truth that each and every human being has been created by God to fulfill a particular mission that he and only he can fulfill.
Today the Catholic Church celebrates the memory of St. Ambrose, the brilliant Bishop of Milan who influenced St Augustine's conversion and was named a Doctor of the Church.
“When we speak about wisdom, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about virtue, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about justice, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about peace, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about truth and life and redemption, we are speaking of Christ.” (St Ambrose of Milan AD 339-397)
SO WHO WAS THE REAL ST NICHOLAS?
He was born to a Christian family in Patara in what is now Turkey. He became a priest and eventually was consecrated bishop of Myra. Nicholas’ patronage of children comes from an ancient legend - and there are lots of legends about Nicholas - that tells how he raised from the dead three little boys who had been murdered by an innkeeper. The most popular story about St. Nicholas, one that is still well-known, tells of his compassion for three poor young women. Their father had lost his fortune and with it all hope of providing dowries for his daughters. To save them from their poverty and the threat of having to support themselves as prostitutes, Nicholas threw bags of gold coins through an open window of the poor family’s house so that each daughter would have enough to make a good marriage.
FIRST WEEK OF ADVENT REFLECTION - HOPE
In the first week of Advent, a purple candle is lit. The first Sunday of Advent symbolises Hope with the “Prophet’s Candle” reminding us that Jesus is coming. Let us reflect on the hope we have as we prepare ourselves spiritually through penance and prayer in the Advent season, for the coming of Christ. May the candle we light symbolise our desire to bring light into a world of darkness and hope into a world of despair. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
ST FRANCIS XAVIER
St Francis Xavier was an extraordinary missionary. He converted thousands of people! He lived by the words of Psalm 71: 14-16:
"But I will hope continually, and will praise thee yet more and more. My mouth will tell of thy righteous acts, of thy deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge. With the mighty deeds of the Lord God I will come, I will praise thy righteousness, thine alone."
In this modern day, it is easy to be a missionary too! A simple text message of a short passage of scripture to your contacts, could make a big difference....
FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT
The Advent wreath's symbolism of the advent (coming) of Light into the world is clear. The gradual lighting of the four candles, one on each Sunday of the Advent season, combined with the liturgical colours of the candles (purple is the penitential colour used during Advent and Lent; rose is a liturgical colour used only on Gaudete (3rd) Sunday in Advent and Laetare Sunday in Lent) help to symbolise not only our expectation and hope in Our Saviour's first coming into the world, but also in his Second Coming as Judge at the end of the world.
The wreath itself is also symbolic. The circle of evergreen in which the candles are placed represents everlasting life. The seedpods, nuts and cones used to decorate the wreath are symbolic of resurrection, and fruits represent the nourishing fruitfulness of the Christian life.
PREPARING FOR ADVENT AND CHRISTMAS
Master of both the light and the darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.
We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.
We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.
To you we say, “Come, Lord Jesus!” Amen.
REMEMBER CAMEROON IN YOUR PRAYERS
A Kenyan priest stationed at a parish in Cameroon's troubled South-West region has been killed. He was caught in cross-fire between government forces and separatists, according to a local official. Some villagers say he was shot by the gendarmes. Others say he was shot by separatists. The recent killing comes just 11 days after the burial of an American missionary, Charles Trumman Wesco, who was killed in nearby Bamenda. In October, a 19-year-old seminarian was killed in Kumbo, North-West region, while a group of religious sisters were kidnapped in the same region by suspected separatists earlier in the month.
The fact is, Cameroon is experiencing very difficult times and needs our prayers. "Heavenly Father, bless the Bamenda priests serving in our diocese. Pour out your Spirit on the people of Cameroon to fill the hearts and minds of all parties so that peace and justice may be restored to the region and all peoples live in harmony with each other. Through Christ our Lord. Amen"
CHILDREN OF OUR LADY (COOL)
Last Saturday afternoon, the group Children of Our Lady (COOL) from our parish met up for the first time to worship, learn about our faith and build up friendships through having fun together! The highlights were adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at the church, eating donuts symbolising mana from heaven, reading the Bible and meditating on the passage read, singing, painting, playing and watching a video about St Don Bosco, while eating popcorn and drinking squash.
The children had a wonderful time and got on very well together, many establishing new friendships which children they met for the first time. The adults present were impressed wih the enquiring minds of the children, who asked very deep and thoughtful questions as they seek to understand their faith better and also the owrld around them.
The group plans to meet on a regular basis to build on all this and to support the children as they explore their faith and develop friendships.
Thank you so much to the adults who helped with this event.
FEAST OF CHRIST THE KING
This Sunday in the Catholic calendar is the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King, the last Sunday of the Church year. (Next Sunday will be the First Sunday of Advent and the first day of the Church’s calendar). The feast of Christ the King is celebrated in honour of Jesus Christ as lord over all creation. This feast of was created by Pope Pius XI in 1925. This is a medieval feast which uses the metaphor of “King”, a powerful one in those days, to describe the role of Jesus. The Kingdom of God is the central teaching of Jesus throughout the Gospels. The word kingdom appears more than any other word throughout the four Gospels. Jesus begins His public ministry by preaching the kingdom. “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14).
Oh Jesus, You are the King of Glory, You are the Lord of Lords, and King of Kings. We pray that your kingdom will reign forever in our hearts and in this world. We pray for your kingdom to come here now, bringing a kingdom of justice, righteousness, hope, love, peace, mercy and grace for all. We ask that you rule in our hearts, lead in this world and govern over your kingdom. Amen
We recently enjoyed a presentation from the whole team of Fabulous Flowers, our local florist in Abingdon. They demonstrated how to make an Advent wreath, Christmas wreath and various bouquets - all followed by a glass of wine and delicious nibbles. It was a very informative and enjoyable evening.
Fabulous Flowers are currently raising money to support the increasing number of homeless people, by collaborating with the charity Shelter. They are selling Christmas wreaths, and 100% of the proceeds will go directly to Shelter – so please consider buying your wreath from them. You can do this online a www.fabulousflowers.biz or at their shop.
The event in our Parish Centre raised a tremendous £1,045 for this worthy cause. Thank you to all those who contributed.
FEAST OF ST EDMUND OF ABINGDON
"Into Thy hands, O Lord, and into the hands of Thy holy angels, I commit and entrust this day my soul, my relations, my benefactors, my friends and my enemies, and all Thy people. Keep us, O Lord, through the day, by the merits and intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints, from all vicious and unruly desires, from all sins and temptations of the devil, and from sudden and unprovided death and the pains of hell. Illuminate my heart with the grace of Thy Holy Spirit; grant that I may ever be obedient to Thy commandments; suffer me not to be separated from Thee, O Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with God the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen." (St Edmund of Abingdon)
On Saturday 10th November we held our fourth and final Marriage Preparation day in Abingdon for this year. We had nine couples from all over the diocese attending, bringing the total number of couples we have seen to 34. The couples all enjoyed the day and the atmosphere was very positive.
Marriage Preparation days encourage the couples to look at various topics, thinking about what they each bring to the relationship and how they can avoid the pitfalls that can crop up and build the skills that nurture a happy lifelong marriage. We have a talk during the day from Fr Rob about what makes a Catholic marriage, which looks at the covenant the couples make to each other and how it mirrors the relationship that Christ has with the Church; also important is the conversation on how they will build a new family unit, with their home as the first church, as children come along. When engaged couples are caught up in the wedding preparation it is a place where they can take time out to think about, and plan, the rest of their lives together.
God of justice and peace, we pray for those who have been injured or disabled through war. For those who have lost homes and security through conflict; for those who have lost loved relatives in wars; for those who face danger and take risks for peace; for all those, especially children, caught up in current conflicts; for refugees and all those in need of aid and other help.
God of encouragement and Saviour of the despairing, comfort those who remember past sacrifices and guide us in building
a just and peaceful community for all. Amen.
POETRY IN MOTION
"Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me" (Matthew 25:40)
Walk through Oxford, and you cannot miss seeing the homeless. Take a moment of your time to talk to them and you may be surprised - they are people, just like us, but who have fallen on hard times. SVP members and other parishioners periodically help them, but you can too, just by not ignoring them - and why not stop and take a moment to read this poet's words....
NIGHT OF LIGHT
The Night of Light event held on 31st October was fantastic! 20 children and young people from Our Lady & St Edmund's, English Martyrs and St Mary's (many dressed as Saints), came to enjoy an evening of games and crafts. One of the main highlights of the event was building and cooking over an open fire with Chris Harrison. The grown ups had a lot of fun too! Anne-Marie came dressed as Saint Mother Teresa and two dads made beautiful carved pumpkins which we displayed on the sanctuary during Adoration.
Adoration was beautifully led by Anne-Marie and Phillip Kershaw and English Martyr's parish priest Fr. Phillip. The children came close to the Blessed Sacrament to adore Christ with songs, incense and devout prostrations. At the end of the event, they all left with treat bags containing their own selection of sweets.
Thank you so much to all the parents and adults who worked so hard to make this event a truly enjoyable and sacred time for our children and young people!
ALL SOULS DAY
On this day, we are called to remember those who have died,
Particularly those who have died in the past year, and pray for their joyful reunion with you, their loving creator. As your son taught us to call the stranger neighbour, our fallen are many - names we will never know, voices we have never heard, in lands we may never visit. Yet we are all brothers and sisters.
And so we pray...
For victims of war, caught in the crossfires of conflicts we could not quell; for soldiers and civilians, adults and children, we pray … Grant eternal rest, O Lord.
For those migrants who have died seeking a haven where they hoped to find safety and opportunity for themselves and for their families, we pray … Grant eternal rest, O Lord.
For victims of hunger, denied their share in the bounty you have placed before us, we pray … Grant eternal rest, O Lord.
For victims of AIDS, Malaria, Ebola, and other infectious diseases, who died before adequate care could reach them, we pray … Grant eternal rest, O Lord.
For those refugees seeking asylum from war, who died in a land that was not their home, we pray … Grant eternal rest, O Lord.
For victims of emergencies and calamities everywhere, who died amid chaos and confusion, we pray … Grant eternal rest, O Lord.
Lord, as you command, we reach out to the fallen. We call on you on behalf of those we could not reach this year. You raised your son from the dead that all may share in his joyful resurrection. In Jesus' name, we pray … Grant eternal rest, O Lord.