Letter from Fr Paul: Re-opening the church

9 Jun

Dear Parishioners

ON RE-OPENING THE CHURCH

As you will no doubt be aware, the Government has given permission for places of worship to re-open under strict conditions from next Monday 15th June for private prayer only. Our ability to open next Monday will be dependant on all the necessary measures being in place by then. If they are not we will have to delay. But it will soon be possible to come in on certain days and at specified times and pray before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. I will let you know those times at the weekend and they will also be posted on the front door of the church. We are not able to resume the public celebration of Mass at this stage. This is a little further down the road and even then there will still be restrictions.

So the present situation regarding private prayer is as follows:

  • People with cold or flu-like symptoms will not be allowed to enter the church.
  • There will be a limit on the numbers permitted to enter the church at any one time and a single directional walkway will be marked out. Social distancing of two metres must be observed at all times. Please do not arrange for other people to come with you unless you are a family living in the same house.
  • The main entrance on Ashby Road will be used for entering the church and the disabled entrance on the left hand side by the Lady Altar leading into the car park will be used for exiting.
  • There will be no Holy Water in the stoups.
  • Many of the benches will be taped off or closed off. Alternate rows towards the back of the church will be reserved for people to sit in or kneel. Where you may sit on the bench will be indicated. This is necessary to maintain social distancing.
  • Paper materials such as pamphlets, leaflets, hymn books etc will be removed from the church.
  • It is not permitted to touch any of the statues. However you will be able to light votive candles at St Joseph’s Altar. Existing candles must be used to light new ones. There will be no lighters or tapers.
  • Anti-viral hand sanitiser will be provided at both the entrance and the exit to the church. Please note there will be no access to toilets during this time.
  • All surfaces, such as door handles and other frequently touched areas will need to be disinfected by the stewards throughout the day. Then after the church is closed, surfaces of the pews that have been in use as well as door handles must be washed down with warm soapy water and disinfected.
  • You may wear a face mask but this is not obligatory.
  • Parents are allowed to bring small children into the church but they will need to be managed appropriately ensuring they touch as few surfaces as possible.

Thank you to all those who have volunteered so far to act as stewards. If anyone else under the age of 70 and with no underlying health issues would like to volunteer to steward and clean the church at the end of each opening, please let me know by calling 01509 262123.

The above advice concerns the opening of the church for private prayer only. New directives will be issued in due course when public worship is able to resume.

I understand these measures are going to be a little burdensome but we must abide by the rules if we want our church to remain open. I thank you all in advance for your cooperation and support in these matters.

May God bless you all.

Fr Paul

Letter from Fr Paul – 7 June 2020, Trinity Sunday

7 Jun

Dear All,

On the Sunday after Pentecost, we always celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Blessed Trinity or Trinity Sunday as it is more commonly called. The doctrine of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of our faith (Catechism of the Catholic Church #234). That is there is one God and three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. When you think about it, the Trinity really is the central mystery of our Faith.

What happens at the beginning of your Christian life when you’re baptised? The priest pours water on your head while saying, “I baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Each time we come into church we dip our fingers into the Holy Water stoup and make the Sign of the Cross which is Trinitarian. We begin Mass with the Sign of the Cross and the priest blesses in the name of the Trinity at the end of Mass. Some of the prayers at Mass conclude with a Trinitarian formula. So the Trinity really is part of our devotional life. Whereas many other mysteries of the Faith tell us about what God has done for us, like the Holy Eucharist, the Crucifixion or the Resurrection, the doctrine of the Trinity tells us Who God is. But it is a mystery that we will never fully understand.

The great St Augustine of Hippo in the fourth century was writing a treatise on the Trinity (De Trinitate). One day as he was walking along the seashore contemplating, he saw a little child running backwards and forwards from the sea to a spot on the seashore.

The boy was using a shell to carry water from the large ocean and pour it into a small hole that he had dug in the sand. Augustine came up to him and asked him what he was doing. “I’m trying to bring all the sea into this hole,” the boy replied. “What?” said Augustine. “The hole cannot contain all that water.” The boy stood up, looked him in the eyes and said “It is no more impossible than what you are trying to do – comprehend the immensity of the mystery of the Holy Trinity with your small intelligence.” Augustine was so struck by the reply he glanced away for a moment in thought and when he looked back the child had vanished. Some people think the boy was an angel while others that it was the Christ Child Himself who came to remind Augustine of the limits of human understanding in relation to the great mysteries of our Faith. But this doesn’t mean we cannot have some comprehension of it.

So… the Trinity means there are three Persons in God and only one nature. Now that’s not as complicated as it sounds! When we say ‘nature’ it answers the question “what?” So if you ask “What am I?” I am a human being. But ‘person’ answers the question “who”. So if you say, “Who am I?” I am Fr Paul. These are two distinct things. So when we apply this to God, the Trinity is telling us there is one divine ‘what’. That is there is one divine nature or one God. But then there are three ‘who’s’, who share that one divine nature: the Father (the First Person), the Son (the Second Person), and the Holy Spirit (the Third Person of the Trinity). And that is basically it. It’s above our ability to understand it fully, but God has revealed it to us. Although the word “Trinity” is not used in Scripture there are many references to it in the New Testament. It is even hinted at in the Old Testament. In Genesis when God creates the universe, He says, “let us make man in our image” (1:26) and there are a number of instances in the Old Testament where if we read it in the light of the New that we can see this. But God chose not to fully reveal it then, probably because Israel at that time wouldn’t have been able to grasp the concept of three Persons in one God and it may have evolved into some sort of polytheism (many gods). It was necessary for the Jews to first understand that there is only one God and that it is He who saves us. It is only when Christ comes that knowledge of the Trinity becomes explicit, and then it is fully revealed at Pentecost.

Let’s take the Gospel for today (John 3:16-18). It contains one of the most well known quotes from the Bible. “God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him may not be lost.” A more accurate translation of the Greek would say “that He gave His only begotten Son.” This is important because it makes clear that JESUS is a unique Son. In the Old Testament Angels are sometimes called sons of God. The New Testament refers to Christians as being sons of God or children of God because it is God Who has given us life. And in the broad sense all human beings are children of God because He created all of us. But when we say Our Lord is the only begotten Son (as we do in the Creed every Sunday), this is something different. It means JESUS is the eternal Son of God. That is He is uncreated and eternally begotten of the Father. He was always the Son and there was never a moment when He was not. This is also implied when the Gospel says, “For God sent His Son into the world.” If He was sent He already existed. When we were conceived in our mother’s womb we were created out of nothing by God. The same goes for the Angels. They had a beginning just as we do. But JESUS did not. As the Son, He was sent into the world to take on our human nature, which means that He is not just fully human, He is also fully divine. So JESUS is the eternal, uncreated Son of God who took on our human nature in time, and He was conceived in the womb of Our Lady by the Holy Spirit. But He existed before this from all eternity. And this is important to the Trinity because it shows us there is more than one Person in the one God. As I have already said, this is beyond our understanding but we need to at least grasp the basic meaning of it, so that we know what we believe in, and we must believe it, because God Who is absolute Truth has revealed it to us.

Many, of course, deny this doctrine. People like Arius and Mohammed take truths of the Christian Faith and deny first and foremost the Trinity. The Jehovah’s Witnesses also deny the Trinity. They believe JESUS is Michael the Archangel. So we do well to always keep in mind Our Lord saying, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).

The grace of Our Lord JESUS Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (1 Corinthians 13:13).

Fr Paul

“Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus”
“And they cried one to another, and said: Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God of hosts,
all the earth is full of His glory” (Isaiah 6:3).
 

Live Stream Mass – Nottingham Cathedral

5 Jun

Recognising that the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting everyone, special Masses are being celebrated for the sick, their families, care workers and NHS staff  by one of our diocesan Bishops of England and Wales, in his Cathedral every Thursday at 7pm.

On Thursday 11th June (Feast of St. Barnabas), Bishop Patrick will be taking his turn as part of this important initiative. the Bishop will be offering Mass at 7 pm, which will be live streamed from the Cathedral of St Barnabas on the Bishops YouTube account: https://www.youtube.com/bishoppatrickmckinney

Do join Bishop Patrick at Mass that evening through the medium of live streaming.

Letter from Fr Paul – 31 May 2020, Pentecost Sunday

31 May

Dear All,

Happy Feast! Today’s Feast of Pentecost is one of the greatest of the liturgical year and we can read a full account of it in the Acts of the Apostles (2:1-42), and we hear the first part of it in today’s First Reading. The Gospels do not give an account of Pentecost.

On the ninth day after Our Lord’s Ascension and the fiftieth day after His Resurrection, He sent the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, as He had promised (John 16:7). Our Lady was there too (Acts 1:14). He came with a mighty wind and appeared to the Apostles as “tongues as of fire” and they were filled with truth, love, zeal and fortitude. Previously they were timid men, but now they went out boldly into the world and preached the Good News that JESUS is the true Messiah and that it is by His Name alone that we can be saved (Acts 4:12). This Feast is regarded as the birthday of the Church.

Pentecost was a Jewish feast and literally means ‘the fiftieth day’. On this day the Jews celebrated the end of the grain harvest and the giving of the Covenant on Mount Sinai (Exodus 23:16). And now on this new Pentecost, the Apostles went out to gather the harvest of souls and announce the New Covenant. And after Peter preached, “those who received his word were baptised, and there were added that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41).

We might wonder why the Holy Spirit appeared to them in tongues as of fire. In the book of Exodus in the Old Testament, the Lord came down from Heaven and descended upon Israel in fire to give them the Old Law. So now in the New Testament, the Holy Spirit descends upon the Apostles in tongues as of fire, not to give them the Old Law, which was written on tablets of stone, but to give them the New Law, which is written on the tablets of their hearts. He is now going to put His Law within them through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

St Peter preaching at Pentecost

A question I sometimes get asked as a priest is about the ‘gift of tongues’. There is a lot of confusion today about what this really means. Some people believe you can pray for it and receive it. St Thomas Aquinas teaches that these are graces which are gratuitously given. God gives them to whom He wills, but that they are always ordered toward the good of the Church. You cannot merit these gifts and neither do these gifts depend upon the holiness of the particular individual. Some people claim they have the gift of tongues, but usually upon closer examination they clearly do not. There is a story of a priest who was a linguist and was invited to one of these meetings where they were claiming to speak in tongues, but when they started doing it he walked out. When asked why he had left he explained he had recognised one of the languages and that the person speaking the language was praising Satan. Satan can cause people to speak languages they don’t know, as any exorcist will tell you, so we should be very wary of these types of things. People speaking some sort of gibberish can also claim to be speaking in tongues. But why would God use intelligent human beings to do something so absurd, and how would this be giving Him honour and glory?

So what is the gift of tongues the Apostles had at Pentecost? It is clear from the Scriptures that the Apostles who were Galileans were all speaking their own language which was probably Aramaic, but the people who were listening heard it in their own language, whether they came from Persia, Media, Cappadocia, Asia or Egypt. This was the miraculous gift – that they heard the Apostles preach in their own language. In modern times St Padre Pio sometimes had this gift when hearing Confessions of foreigners who couldn’t speak Italian. The purpose of this gift of tongues at Pentecost was obviously to aid the growth of the Church. The Gospel was to be preached to all nations – it wasn’t just for Israel.

St Padre Pio hearing confessions

Also the gift of tongues signified a reversal of the confusion at the Tower of Babel in the Old Testament. You probably know the story in Genesis chapter 11. The whole world had just one language, and man, because of his pride decided to build a tower up to Heaven to glorify himself rather than God. So God caused mankind to speak different languages so as they couldn’t communicate with each other and build the tower. So Pentecost is the undoing of the sin of Babel, and God is showing us that the only way the world will truly be united is not through human effort and through human pride and power, but through the power of the Holy Spirit and through the Church.

One of the glories of the Church is her official Latin language as it unites the faithful throughout the world in worship. This is just one good reason why it is important we don’t let our heritage of Latin fall into disuse. While there are obviously advantages to having much of the Liturgy in the vernacular, being able to sing and say some of the prayers and hymns in Latin (which was mandated by Vatican II) is a connection with our historical roots going right back to the catacombs. Many of the Latin chants would have been known by the early Fathers and Saints of the Church as well as all the Faithful. And of course, in these days of much international travel we can unite and pray together as Catholics when we don’t all speak the same native tongue. We are the Universal Church, and so we have a universal language.

One final point. We might not always realise that a perfect understanding of the Deposit of Faith was infused into the Apostles at Pentecost. Up to this point they seemed to be in a rather confused state about what Our Lord had taught. But when the Holy Spirit came upon them they understood perfectly everything He had taught them. This was a very necessary gift, because if they were going to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth they had to understand what it meant. And as St Paul says, they were the foundation stones of the churches they would found (Ephesians 2:20), and therefore they had to be able to teach the truth without error. So the Church teaches that each of the Apostles enjoyed infallibility when they spoke officially as Apostles and Teachers of the Faith. In other words there was no error in their teaching. And that teaching is handed down to us today through the Magisterium (teaching authority) of the Church. It is for this reason that the Church also teaches that Divine Revelation concluded with the death of the last Apostle. And so long as we believe what the Church has always taught or the Deposit of Faith we are not going to be led astray. As the Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians, “But though we, or an angel from Heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema” (1:8). So beware of novelties! The job of the Pope and the Bishops who are the Successors of the Apostles is to guard that Deposit of Faith. The Bishops, unlike the Apostles, do not enjoy personal infallibility and the Pope only has infallibility under very strict conditions. The last infallible pronouncement was made by Venerable Pope Pius XII in 1950 when he defined the dogma of the Assumption of Our Lady. When those conditions do not exist there is no guarantee of infallibility, but that is a topic for another occasion.

As I mentioned at the beginning, Our Lady was present with the Apostles when the Holy Spirit came down upon them two millennia ago. On this final day of May which is her month, let us entrust ourselves to her maternal care and intercession so that the Holy Spirit may descend in abundance upon the Church in our day, fill the hearts of all the faithful and enkindle in us the fire of His love.

May God bless you all.

Fr Paul

The Holy Spirit in Bernini’s “Glory” in St Peter’s, Rome

 

Letter from Fr Paul – 21 May 2020, Ascension Thursday

22 May

Dear All,

I wish you all a very happy Solemnity of the Ascension!

But what is the Ascension of Our Lord and why is it important? It is distinct from His Resurrection. At the Resurrection, the body and soul of JESUS were reunited in a glorified state. I’ve written about this in previous letters. But forty days later, “He ascended into Heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father” as we say in the Creed each week. So both His glorified body and soul ascended into Heaven and was taken up into the very life of the Trinity. He had already said, “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world” (John 8:23). So by His Ascension He is confirming this teaching that His ultimate place is at the right hand of God in glory.

The Ascension is not the same as Our Lady’s Assumption. Her body was ‘taken up’ which is what ‘assumption’ means, whereas Our Lord, being God, ascended by His own power.

Today’s First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles, of which St Luke is the author, gives us a very detailed account of the Ascension. Towards the end we read, “…He was lifted up while they looked on and a cloud took Him from their sight.” There is great significance in this cloud. In the Old Testament it is God who rides on the clouds. You never see angels or kings on clouds – only God. So the cloud is a symbol of the fact that JESUS is a divine Person. For example, we read in Psalm 104, “the Lord makes the cloud His chariot.” And Our Lord Himself says that at the end of the world “you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of Heaven” (Mark 14:62), at which point the High Priest tore his robe because he knew Our Lord was claiming to be divine and equal to God.

Our Lord’s Ascension also gives us hope. This world is not our final end. Heaven is our destiny. This is what the world has forgotten today. St Thomas Aquinas explains that Christ, by taking to Heaven the human nature which He assumed, gave us the hope of going there too. Our hope is to be resurrected and then to be with Christ forever in our glorified bodies in the life of the Blessed Trinity. Our Lord didn’t come here to stay – He came to show us the way. There’s the famous Gospel we read almost always at funerals these days: “I am going now to prepare a place for you, and after I have gone and prepared you a place, I shall return to take you with Me, so that where I am you may be too” (John 14: 3). That’s our destiny if we are faithful to Him, do what He commands us, repent of our sins, and die in a state of grace. This is why the Church must always preach about eternal life and not become secular and only worried about the things of this world, because JESUS said, “My Kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36) and we need Christ and His Sacraments to help get us there. So JESUS is and remains for every single human being the only source of salvation whatever religion one may subscribe to. St Paul writes magnificently in his letter to the Phillipians that “At the name of JESUS every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that JESUS Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (2:10-11). All the Elect in Heaven cast their crowns at His feet and fall down before Him and worship Him, because He is worthy of all glory and honour, and because their salvation begins and ends in Him alone (Apocalypse 4:11). This is not politically correct but it is the truth.

So now that Our Lord had ascended into Heaven He would no longer be visible to us in human form.  We all know that Christ is the Head of the Church, but before He ascended, He passed His visible headship to Peter and the Apostles, and He does this in today’s Gospel:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all the 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: 18-20).

He tells them to go out and baptise all nations, to cast out demons, to heal the sick and so on (Mark 14:17). But this is the actual moment when Our Lord is giving Peter and the other Apostles jurisdiction to govern the Church which will last until He returns at the end of the world. So at the death of the last Pope, Christ will take up the visible Headship again. But until Christ comes again, there will always be a visible Head on earth – that is a Pope.

There are some people today who claim that the last ‘true’ Pope was Pius XII who died in 1958 and that none of the Popes since are valid, and all kinds of reasons are put forward for this novelty. It is called ‘sedevacantism’ or ‘the See is vacant’. This is utter nonsense and heretical. There will always be a visible Pope, and it’s an Article of Faith that the Papacy is the perpetual principle of unity. In history it has occasionally taken a while to elect a Pope but the Church will never go for decades without one. And it was at the Ascension that this visible Headship was passed on.

So we can see Our Lord has not abandoned us or left us orphans by ascending into Heaven. He even said, “It is expedient that I go, because if I do not go the Paraclete [the Holy Spirit] will not come, but if I go I will send Him to you” (John 16:7). Don’t forget to make the novena to the Holy Spirit in anticipation of Pentecost which is a week on Sunday. The novena begins tomorrow (Friday). In case you missed it before, here is the link.

https://www.praymorenovenas.com/novena-to-the-holy-spirit

If you wish, you can sign up for it and receive it by email each day. The more parishioners we have doing it the better.

May God bless you all. Let us all keep praying for each other, for the end of the virus, for all the sick and those suffering hardship, and that we may meet back in church soon.

Fr Paul

Come Holy Spirit!