Newsletter for Sunday 27 September 2020

25 Sep

‘The Little Flower’

This Thursday we celebrate the feast day of St Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-1897) or ‘The Little Flower’ as she is often called. Pope St Pius X said she was “the greatest saint of modern times.” She remains very popular today and I know many of you have a devotion to her. We have a statue of her in our church by the Altar of St Joseph.

In spite of her very short life she wasn’t always a saint. She was a precocious child who would have temper tantrums when she didn’t get her own way, but she had a profound conversion when she was just 13. She felt called to become a Carmelite nun, but she was too young and was told to ask again when she was 16. She asked the Bishop to let her enter when she was 15 but was still unsuccessful. Her father who believed in her vocation took her on a pilgrimage to Rome when she met Pope Leo XIII and asked him to allow her to enter Carmel at 15. As she knelt before the Pope he replied, “Go, go! You will enter if God wills it!” And God did will it because the Bishop then gave her permission to enter at 15 and she lived in the convent at Lisieux, where three of her older sisters were also nuns for nine years until her death from tuberculosis at the age of 24. She promised to spend her Heaven doing good on earth. After her death many miraculous cures happened through her intercession.

On the face of it she seemed very ordinary, so how did she become so famous? Before her death, because her holiness and humility were so evident, her Superior ordered her to write an autobiography detailing her spiritual life now known as “Story of a Soul”, a spiritual classic which I would recommend you read. Her “little way” teaches us to become holy through the ordinary things of life. We don’t have to do mighty deeds to be a saint – we can become holy by doing ordinary things with great love. She wrote, “I applied myself above all to practice quiet hidden little acts of virtue; thus I liked to fold the mantles forgotten by the Sisters, and sought a thousand opportunities of rendering them service.” She once said, “To pick up a pin for love can convert a soul.”

Thérèse suffered poor health all her life, but in spite of her frailty she spent many hours in the convent laundry. There was a particular Sister opposite her washing handkerchiefs who would always splash her with the dirty water, but Thérèse refrained from showing annoyance, and on the contrary made great efforts to welcome being splashed so as she would come joyfully “to the happy spot where such treasures were freely bestowed.” 

St Thérèse and her “little way” show us that true holiness is within the reach of all of us. She was canonised in 1925, and in 1997 Pope St John Paul II declared her to be a Doctor of the Church, a title given to only a few of the Church’s saints, thus making St Thérèse one of the true guides in the spiritual life for us all.

St Thérèse of Lisieux, pray for us.

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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Newsletter for Sunday 20 September 2020

18 Sep

Envy

Today we hear Our Lord tell the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, (Matt 20:1-16) in which the workers fail to understand why those who worked just one hour received the same wages as those who had worked all day. In other words they were envious.

Envy is one of the Seven Deadly Sins – deadly because it can cause many other vices such as calumny, slander and even murder. Very often, due to Original Sin, we want what someone else has even though we don’t really need it. The example in today’s Gospel can be quite hard for us to accept because it does seem unfair that the workers who arrived for the last hour should get the same pay as those who had worked hard all day in the hot sun. And the landowner asked the question, “Why be envious because I am generous?” 

Basically God’s ways are not our ways. Sometimes we might think, “Why does God allow someone who doesn’t need the money to win the lottery even though I need it much more?” Perhaps God knows it wouldn’t be good for us and could cause us to lose our soul. “For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul?” (Mark 8:36). In the end we simply have to admit that God gives some people more goods than others and that this is in His Providence.

St John Vianney (1786-1859) said that whoever is envious is proud, because when we desire something God has given to someone else and not to us, we are saying we know better than God. So we have to try and remain humble seeking God’s glory and not our own. St John Vianney also suggests, “if we are tempted to thoughts of envy against our neighbour, far from letting him see it by our cold manner, we must go out of our way to be friendly and do him any service that lies in our power.” The words of Our Lord spring to mind, “Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and His justice, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). Desiring the things of this world can lead us into sin, so let us cultivate a desire for the things of Heaven, because this is the only thing that will bring us eternal joy.

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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Newsletter for Sunday 13 September 2020

11 Sep

Forgiving Seventy-Seven Times

It is not easy to forgive those who have hurt us. We can hold grudges, we want revenge, we want to get even. But Our Lord today, in response to Peter’s question as to how many times we should forgive, says no, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. In other words, always! St Stephen, the first martyr for the Faith gave us a wonderful example of forgiveness. As he was about to be stoned to death he said, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60).

We have to forgive others because God forgives us. Think of what we say in the Our Father: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Can we expect God to forgive us when we refuse to forgive our neighbour? And if it is true that our neighbour doesn’t deserve our pardon, it will be even more true that we do not deserve the pardon of God. So we have to try to forgive others even if it is difficult. The Parable in today’s Gospel of the Unmerciful Servant reminds us that if we insist on strict justice with others who have offended us, God will hold us fully liable for the offenses we have committed against His infinite Majesty. The master said to the wicked servant, “I cancelled all that debt of yours when you appealed to me. Were you not bound, then, to have pity on your fellow servant just as I had pity on you?” (Matthew 18:32-33).

During the Reformation in this country, the Jesuit priest and martyr St Edmund Campion (1540-1581) was betrayed and arrested. He was visited in prison by his betrayer, George Eliot, a Catholic, who was being prosecuted for murder and who saw a chance to save himself. Fr Campion not only forgave him, but he also urged him to leave England, because he might be in danger himself, and gave him a letter of safe-conduct to a Catholic nobleman in Germany.

The saints forgave because they knew they were sinners themselves and needed forgiveness. Forgiveness is the key to our inner freedom and peace. Once we have experienced that joy of being forgiven, we can open ourselves to forgive others. If you are holding a grudge, pray for that person’s well-being because then you have already begun to forgive them. You may choose to keep a distance from them, but it’s ok to pray for our enemies from a safe distance!

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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Newsletter for Sunday 6 September 2020

6 Sep

Inspiration from Our Lady

September is the month dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows. This September is an especially fitting time for us to find strength in this devotion, as we adjust to challenges with work and school, societal upheaval, and an unusually tempestuous weather. Our masked world can feel surreal, as we stay at least two metres apart from our each other. Our Lady offers us, as always, the best possible consolation.

Immediately following August’s devotion to the Immaculate Heart, and preceding October’s devotion to Our Lady of the RosarySeptember is an ideal time to strengthen our connection to Mary. So, what better moment is there to immerse ourselves in her sorrows? The love and compassion we feel as we meditate upon her sorrows allows us to forget or transcend our own for a time. Further, we are reminded that our Mother truly understands us and is with us with her love and prayer.

In the words of Pope St. John Paul II, “Turn your eyes incessantly to the Blessed Virgin; she, who is the Mother of Sorrows and also the Mother of Consolation, can understand you completely and help you. Looking to her, praying to her, you will obtain that your tedium will become serenity, your anguish change into hope, and your grief into love.” This month let’s unite our sorrows to Mary’s. Before we know it, we’ll actually be more joyful!

For example, we all have problems or difficulties we face and cope with, let’s offer them up this month for the reparation of Mary’s Immaculate Heart. In this month of Mary’s Sorrows, dwell less on your own troubles and cultivate joy just by thinking of the wonderful Blessed Mother we have! Feeling low? Say a Hail Mary on the spot. Offer to carry someone’s cross a bit, like Simon of Cyrene. You could send a card, closely listen when someone wants to talk about a worry, a grief or a pain. Offer to pray or cook someone a meal that tastes so good they forget their troubles! Now that’s real ‘comfort food’.

Have you heard of the Seven Sorrows Rosary? The Seven Sorrows devotion involves praying seven Hail Marys a day, each one while meditating on one of Our Lady’s seven sorrows, which are:

  • The prophecy of Simeon. 
  • The flight into Egypt.
  • The loss of the Child Jesus in the temple.
  • The meeting of Jesus and Mary on the Way of the Cross.
  • The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus. 
  • The taking down of the Body of Jesus from the Cross and preparation for burial. 
  • The burial of Jesus.

And the Seven Sorrows Rosary involves dwelling upon each of the seven sorrows as you would one of the mysteries of the Rosary, with seven Hail Marys instead of a decade. Begin each sorrow with an Our Father. 

One practice I love, is singing hymns to Mary, Marian hymns, when around the house, in the garden or the shower! Washing the dishes or hoovering up. While driving or just humming in my head, songs, and words of devotion to Our Blessed Lady. Don’t worry if you’re a bit out of tune or claim you can’t sing, by the time your words reach heaven they will sound perfect and lifted your soul!                                                                                                         

Fr David Jones, OLW

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Newsletter for Sunday 30 August 2020

28 Aug

The Value of Our Crosses

In the lives of us all there is a cross of some description, and Our Lord tells us in today’s Gospel that “If anyone wants to be a follower of Mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). And although not included in today’s readings, St Paul wrote, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His Body, that is, the Church” (Colossians 1:24). What does he mean?

When Our Lord was on the cross He suffered in the body He had taken from His Mother, Mary. But St Paul in Colossians is referring to the Mystical Body of Christ which is the Church. In other words, although Our Lord is now glorified in Heaven and the sufferings of His physical body are ended, He continues to suffer today in the members of His Mystical Body. That’s us! Christ’s Passion is still going on in the world today. Just think of all the places where Christians are persecuted throughout the world. A priest once said to a sick woman in hospital, “Do you understand that Christ has asked for your human nature? That He is saying to you ‘I cannot suffer again in this human nature which I took from Mary, because it is now glorified. But there are sinners who have to be redeemed. The work of the cross has to go on. So will you give Me your human nature so that I can suffer in you?’” The woman replied that she had never thought of it like that before.

We can all help continue the redemptive work of Christ by bearing the trials of life patiently. So if you are suffering right now, Our Lord is using you to help others. God only knows we have to save the Church and the world from the grave crisis they are in. There are bishops and priests who need to be saved, politicians, all the lapsed, the atheists and all those who persecute Christ. By offering up our sufferings in union with His we can help achieve this. In August 1917 Our Lady of Fatima said, “Pray much and make sacrifices for sinners, for many souls go to Hell because there is no one to make sacrifices for them.” This is the mission of the Church – to save souls. Never underestimate the value of your sufferings and trials.

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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