Newsletter for Sunday 31 May 2020

29 May

The Gift of the Holy Spirit

Today is Pentecost Sunday when we celebrate the unique event of the Holy Spirit coming down upon the Apostles and disciples in Jerusalem. They were filled with the Holy Spirit as He descended on them in tongues as of fire. Normally we celebrate this day with a big Parish Mass and much festivity, so I hope you are celebrating well in your homes. Pentecost also marks the completion of Easter and so the Paschal Candle will be removed from the Sanctuary.

St Paul says in today’s Second Reading, “No one can say ‘JESUS is Lord’ unless he is under the influence of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 12:3). This is true because faith is a gift of grace and the Holy Spirit moves our hearts and our wills to accept the truth of who JESUS is. In Baptism and the other Sacraments we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and Sanctifying Grace into our souls which is ordered to our becoming holy. But the Holy Spirit also operates in another way so as we help other people on the path to salvation. For example in today’s First Reading the Apostles had the gift of tongues in which all their listeners heard them speaking in their own language so as they could be converted to the True Faith, and as a result 3,000 were baptised that day!

It could well be that the Holy Spirit wants to use you to touch the heart of someone who might otherwise be lost forever. Perhaps through your compassion or kindness God will heal somebody who is truly suffering. A few words of sound advice to a young person might help them find their true vocation in life. Or maybe our courage to stand up for our Faith will encourage someone else to play some major role in society or in the Church.

When the Polish Pope St John Paul II (Karol Wojtyla) was a young man, there was a mystic by the name of Jan Tyranowski living in his parish in Krakow, Poland. Following the arrest by the Nazis of many Polish priests, Tyranowski (a layman) was asked to found a group for the young people called the Living Rosary. At first he objected because he had no skills in dealing with young people and was not a good speaker, but the priest told him not to worry and that Our Lord would guide him. Many thought Tyranowski a little odd because he had a strange appearnace, a high-pitched voice and a rather intense manner. But nevertheless, he had a huge influence and led many of this group of over a hundred to a much closer relationship with Christ. He had a great concern for all of them and began to direct some of them individually including Karol Wojtyla with whom he became good friends. Wojtyla, at the time, wanted to be an actor. Well, eleven of them became priests and one of them a Pope and a canonised Saint.  As Pope, Wojtyla was one of the most influential figures of the Twentieth Century. He had a massive influence on the Church and the world and played a vital role in the collapse of the Iron Curtain. Fr Mieczyslaw Malinski, one of the eleven who also became a priest said, “I can safely say that if it wasn’t for Tyranowski, neither Wojtyla nor I would have become priests. If I hadn’t become a priest, perhaps it wouldn’t have made so much difference, but if Wojtyla hadn’t become a priest…!”

The Holy Spirit can work wonders through us if we allow Him. We might be a link in an important chain. All we need to do is spend some time in prayer with Him each day asking Him to guide us and work through us. We can’t do anything on our own but we can do much through His power. This is the good news of Pentecost. Veni Sancte Spiritus!

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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Newsletter for Sunday 24 May 2020

22 May

Get Ready for the Whoosh!

Last Thursday we were celebrating Christ going home to Heaven (Ascension Day) and our Sunday Gospel is part of His great prayer at the Last Supper praying for His disciples and for all of us, who because of their witness, believe and have faith in Christ today. His prayer was for the help and Helper we would need. The help and the Helper He and the Father would send. The help and the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whose help will get us home to Heaven too, by bringing us Grace. Jesus the Christ has ascended and now the disciples are waiting for the ‘whoosh’ of the Holy Spirit.

I bought a new ‘toy’ a week or so ago (hence the idea of ‘whoosh’), it’s a pressure washer to clean the paving in my back garden, the car and the like. It’s great fun but you have to hold on tight and point it in the right direction otherwise everything and everyone gets soaked. Jesus has Ascended to Heaven and, as it were, to turn on the hose and let the Holy Spirit bring the flow of Grace. That Grace to inspire, that Grace to encourage, that Grace to stand firm, that Grace to share our faith, that Grace to persist in prayer and self-discipline, that Grace to grow as a disciple of Christ and lead others to find and know Him, Grace to follow our vocation in life, whatever that may be. That ‘whoosh’ of the Holy Spirit comes out strong and in all kinds of ways, as we will hear in the Sunday readings in the coming months and as we can read in the lives of the Saints and, yes, know in the lives of many of those we sit alongside in St Mary’s.

The instructions said: ‘Point the hose where it needs to go!’

The Holy Spirit wants to do something new and creative in all our lives, whatever our age, old or young, and all in between, helping us and others get to Heaven, while making a ‘Heavenly difference’ here.

The Apostles show us by their example how to handle the Holy Spirit’s ‘Whoosh’ by first holding on tight, tight to our faith, tight to the Church, tight to our prayers, tight to the words and instructions of Jesus and when the time comes (God willing very soon!) receiving and making good use of the SACRAMENTS, so that we are listening to Him and be pointing in the right way for the Grace He brings to be most effective and beneficial.

Like me and many others with ‘new toys’, we so often don’t read or listen to the instructions and so get in a mess and get things wrong. And so, with the Helper Jesus and the Father wants to send us to help us on the journey of life to Heaven, let’s pay attention to the instructions Jesus gave to His Apostles and Our Lady, to Wait, Listen and remain Faithful. Remember Jesus always tells us to ASK for the Graces we need, then faithfully to wait, watch and listen for the ‘Whoosh’, as His Holy Spirit comes, often in the most unexpected ways. He is the God of surprises after all!

With every blessing in this exciting Season.                                                    

Fr David Jones, OLW

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Newsletter for Sunday 17 May 2020

15 May

Confirmation and the Pentecost Novena

This past Friday, Bishop Patrick was due to come and administer the Sacrament of Confirmation to our young people. Obviously this had to be postponed, but the First Reading today from the Acts of the Apostles (which tells us all about the early Church) has some interesting things to teach us about this Sacrament.

The events being related here took place after Pentecost – so the Holy Spirit had already come, and we’re told that Philip, who was a deacon and now full of the Holy Spirit, goes to Samaria to proclaim Christ. He casts out evil spirits and heals many people. There are some verses missed out in our reading, but in those missing verses, we learn that Philip also preached to and baptised many of the Samaritans. Then it says:

“When the Apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, and they went down there, and prayed for the Samaritans to receive the Holy Spirit, for as yet He had not come down on any of them. They had only been baptised in the name of the Lord JESUS. Then they laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.

This is the earliest description we have of the Sacrament of Confirmation. Philip, as a deacon, could preach and baptise but could not confirm. This was something the Apostles had to do. So Peter and John came all the way from Jerusalem to lay hands on these newly baptised so as they would receive the Holy Spirit. Bishops, who are the successors of the Apostles, do the same laying on of hands today in Confirmation before anointing the candidates with the Oil of Chrism. So we learn from this that Confirmation is distinct from Baptism. We receive the Holy Spirit in Baptism, and Original Sin and any personal sin are removed. But in Confirmation we receive the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit so as we can go out and witness to the Gospel in our lives. And so it is fitting that the Apostles themselves should lay hands on the people to complete their Baptism, and then send them out as missionaries, because ‘Apostle’ means ‘to be sent out’. This is why it is a Bishop, a Successor of the Apostles, who normally administers this Sacrament. The Bishop may delegate a priest to do so in his absence, which nowadays happens more often.

On Friday of this week we begin the Pentecost Novena. Before His Ascension (which we celebrate on Thursday), Our Lord told the Apostles to gather together and pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit. And so with Our Lady, they gathered in the Upper Room, and for nine days prayed before receiving the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday. This is where the word ‘novena’ comes from. It means ‘nine’. So if we pray a novena for Pentecost we are doing what Our Lord commanded the Apostles to do. I have put a link to a novena in this newsletter (page 4) and I will also post the link on the parish website so you can even sign up and have it sent to you via email each day. I would encourage you to pray this novena at home and in your families to help you all grow in holiness, and it will also help to unite the parish in prayer at this time.

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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Newsletter for Sunday 10 May 2020

11 May

The Rosary is a Sword

In April 2014, Boko Haram, a radical Islamic group kidnapped two hundred girls from a school in Nigeria. The group is responsible for many atrocities. In December of the same year Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme of the diocese of Maiduguri in Nigeria was praying the Rosary in his chapel when Our Lord appeared to him holding a sword which He extended towards the Bishop. As the Bishop took the sword into his own hands it turned into a Rosary and Our Lord looked at him and said three times, “Boko Haram is gone! Boko Haram is gone! Boko Haram is gone!” These were the only words Our Lord spoke but the Bishop said he didn’t need any further explanation. “It was clear that with the Rosary we would be able to expel Boko Haram” he said. You will find videos of Bishop Doeme explaining all this on YouTube. So he went to the priests of his diocese, explained what had happened and he began Rosary Crusades. After just two years of this Boko Haram had almost vanished from his area, and on 13th October 2016, the anniversary of the final apparition at Fatima and the Miracle of the Sun, dozens of kidnapped girls were suddenly released by Boko Haram. Then in May 2017, another 83 girls were released, and on 3rd July 2017, seven hundred members of Boko Haram surrendered their weapons and turned themselves in to Nigerian authorities.

The Rosary is the sword that slays the dragon – Satan. It might not look like it when you see beads on a string, but this is the reality. Think about it: the first and the last books of the Bible, Genesis and the Apocalypse speak of a Woman (Mary) doing battle with a serpent or a dragon (Satan). And it is her offspring, JESUS who conquers him by the saving mysteries of His life, death and resurrection. Without Mary we wouldn’t have these mysteries. And what is the Rosary? It is a meditation on these mysteries. God, with the aid of the Church crafted the Rosary over many centuries, so that when the time was right she could give it to St Dominic as the weapon to destroy the evil of the Albigensian heresy in 1208.

And so the Rosary is also the weapon given to us by our Heavenly Mother to slay the dragon in our times. St Padre Pio called it “the weapon” and St Dominic referred to it as a “battering ram”. The Rosary has won so many battles throughout the centuries. What further proof do we need? If you say the daily Rosary devoutly it will protect you against sin and evil. For decades now many have rubbished the Rosary and tried to consign it to the scrap heap. This is what Satan wants because he knows how powerful it is. He is actually terrified of it. So don’t be fooled. Our Lady at Fatima, whose feast we celebrate on Wednesday, prophesied a lot of what is going on in the world and in the Church today, and her remedy for it was the Rosary. The Rosary is the solution to the problems of our day. We are in a spiritual battle for the future of the Church and of humanity and so we need a supernatural weapon to fight it. Our Lady has given it to us, and it is the Rosary! Ave Maria!

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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