Letter from Fr Paul – 13 May 2020, Our Lady of Fatima

13 May

Dear All,

I hope you are all well. We priests remain in reasonably good shape! I am awaiting news to see whether in the light of the Prime Minister’s recent statements on the Coronavirus  we will be able to open the church at least for some hours during the day for private prayer. When this happens it is likely conditions will be attached to it, but I’m not sure yet exactly what they might be. I will let you know as soon as I hear anything official. I do not believe public Masses will resume any time soon. When they do resume a lot of thought will have to be given as to how we organise it with the social distancing rules which will clearly be with us for some considerable time. Let us keep praying for an end to this crisis particularly with the Holy Rosary.

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima and I celebrated Mass this morning at the Lady Altar in the church. It is the 103rd anniversary of the first apparition. Between 13th May and 13th October 1917 Our Lady appeared to three Portuguese children, Lucia Santos, and Jacinta and Francisco Marto, and asked them to pray the Rosary for world peace, for the end of World War I, for the conversion of sinners and for the conversion of Russia. The central message of Fatima is the same as Our Lord and the Church have always taught: repent and turn away from sin, prayer and reparation. Jacinta and Francisco are now canonised saints and Lucia who died only in 2005 is a Servant of God.

The culmination of the Fatima apparitions was the spectacular Miracle of the Sun which took place on 13th October in front of 70,000 people and had been foretold by Our Lady so as everyone would know that what the children had said was true and also the urgency of the message. Maria de Capelhina, who later became custodian of the original chapel built at Fatima, described how everything turned different colours – yellow, blue and white. Then the sun shook and trembled. “It looked like a wheel of fire that was going to fall on the people. They began to cry out, ‘We shall all be killed.’ They recited acts of contrition. One woman began to confess her sins aloud…when at last the sun stopped leaping and moving, we all breathed a sigh of relief. We were still alive, and the miracle, which the children had foretold, had been seen by everyone.”

Fr Ignacio Lorenco, a nine year old boy at the time, was an eye witness from a village eleven miles away. The sun, he said, “suddenly seemed to come down in a zigzag, menacing the earth. Terrified, I ran and hid myself among the people, who were weeping and expecting the end of the world at any moment.” He also said people were crying out to God to forgive their sins.

Another eye-witness, Dr Almeida Garret, a University Professor said, the sun looked like “a glazed wheel made of mother-of-pearl”, noting that “it spun round on itself in a mad whirl. Then suddenly one heard a clamour, a cry of anguish breaking forth from all the people. The sun, whirling wildly, seemed to loosen itself from the firmament and advance threateningly upon the earth, as if to crush us with its huge, fiery weight.”

There was another extraordinary phenomenon. When the people were arriving at the place of the apparition called the Cova da Iria, it had been pouring with rain for hours, and so they were drenched, the ground was covered in mud and so were they. Yet once the miracle was over and the sun had returned to its normal place, everything was dry, there was no more mud and the people’s clothes were clean. Countless other miracles are associated with Fatima, physical cures and healings and the even more important spiritual healings –  more important because the soul is immortal.  

The Holy Rosary, as always, featured very prominently in Our Lady’s message at Fatima. She urged the daily Rosary to bring about the end of the war, and at the final apparition in October she announced herself as the Lady of the Rosary. I have said a lot about the Rosary in the last two newsletters but I cannot emphasise its importance enough. I know many people find the Rosary hard to sustain. Lucia who later became a nun had some beautiful words on this: “Even for people who do not know how, or who are not able to recollect sufficiently to meditate, the simple act of taking the Rosary in their hands in order to pray is already to become mindful of God, and a mention in each decade of a mystery of the life of Christ recalls Him to their minds; this in turn will light in their souls a gentle light of faith which supports the still smouldering wick, preventing it from extinguishing itself altogether.” So persevere with it. God will reward us if we do. And surely if we do what Our Lady asks of us it will hasten the end of this global crisis which the whole world is now living through.

The other great message of Fatima was about making sacrifices for sinners. Our Lady told the three children in the July apparition, “Sacrifice yourselves for sinners and say often, especially when you make some sacrifice, ‘O my Jesus, this is for love of You, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the offenses committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.’ This is how we help to save souls which is the Church’s primary mission. It doesn’t mean we have to practice great austerities. Some of the saints were called to this – the three children used to tie ropes around their waists as a penance. But for most of us the sacrifice is to fulfil our duties, keep God’s Law and avoid all sin. Sister Lucia told us that when your daily work is boring or monotonous, that’s your cross. Similarly, today when we go out to the supermarket, we will invariably find we have to queue to even get in. We don’t have the freedom to go where we want. We can’t come into the church and it’s difficult to receive the Sacraments. Maybe someone ignores us or we’re passed over. Someone might speak to us in a disagreeable tone. All these things, (and you will think of others) we can offer up in a spirit of sacrifice.

St Thérèse of Lisieux who is a Doctor of the Church said even the tiniest things can be offered in this way, even something as simple as picking a piece of paper up from the floor. Sister Lucia explained the fact that they are small do not make them any less pleasing to God. We should try and cultivate the habit of this and thus we will grow in merit, atone for our own sins and help to save souls. Doing this gives a purpose to everything. Remember Our Lady at Fatima said so many souls are lost because they have no one to make sacrifices and to pray for them. So remember the prayer: “O my Jesus, this is for love of You, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the offenses committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.” So simple and yet so powerful! We just have to remember to do it.

Let us continue to keep in our prayers at this time all the needy, the sick and the suffering, those who have died and their families. Let us also remember our health workers, our teachers and those who have been so generous in making self-sacrifice during this crisis. We pray for the Pope and the Bishops that they will defend our rights as Christians, and for our government that the steps they now take to ease the lockdown will be for the good of all, both spiritually and temporally. Please also keep in your prayers our Confirmation candidates who were due to receive the Sacrament from Bishop Patrick this Friday. Stay strong and pray hard, because we may have a battle on our hands for our Church, our Sacraments and our culture.

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!

May God bless you all.

Fr Paul

Newsletter for Sunday 10 May 2020

8 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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Letter from Fr Paul – 7 May 2020

7 May

Dear All,

Today, in the traditional calendar is the Feast of St Stanislaus, Patron Saint of Poland. According to Wikipedia the Feast is kept in Poland tomorrow. Either way I wish all our Polish parishioners a very happy Feast and may St Stanislaus continue to protect Poland from secularism and help us all stand up for the truth of Christ.

In this month of May, Our Lady’s month, I would like to relate a beautiful and very fascinating story about a man named Claude Newman concerning Our Lady and the Miraculous Medal. I’m assuming people know about the Miraculous Medal because it is very famous and I’ve also written about it in the past. But originally called the Medal of the Immaculate Conception it quickly became known as the Miraculous Medal on account of the many miracles it worked. And the greatest miracle, of course, is the saving of a soul, and there are thousands of stories out there as to how Our Lady has intervened through the Miraculous Medal.

Claude Newman was an African-American, and in 1942 he shot and killed a man he caught abusing his grandmother. He was arrested, convicted and put on death row. While he was waiting for his sentence to be carried out he was sharing a cell block with four other prisoners. One of those prisoners, a Catholic, was wearing a Miraculous Medal around his neck and Claude asked him what it was. The prisoner didn’t know, but Claude was very persistent in his questions, so the man became angry, suddenly took the medal off from around his own neck and threw it on the floor at Claude’s feet telling him to “take the thing”. Claude picked up the medal and rather liked it and put it around his own neck, although he had no idea whose image was on it. To him it was simply a trinket, but for some reason he felt really attracted to it and wanted to wear it.

During the night while he was sleeping, he was woken up by a tap on the wrist. Claude later told the priest Fr O’Leary, “She was the most beautiful woman God ever created.” The Lady said to him, “If you would like me to be your Mother, and you would like to be my child, send for a priest of the Catholic Church.” And after saying these words she suddenly disappeared.

Claude immediately started to shout out, “a ghost, a ghost”, and began screaming that he wanted a Catholic priest. So when Fr O’Leary came the next morning and had everything explained to him, according to his testimony, all five of the prisoners asked to receive instruction in the Catholic faith. When the priest returned later to begin the instruction he discovered that Claude could neither read nor write. Claude told him that he had never been to school, and Father O’Leary soon discovered that his ignorance of religion was even greater. He knew a God existed but he knew absolutely nothing of JESUS or of Christianity.

Some days later, two religious sisters from Father O’Leary’s parish obtained permission to come to the prison. They had heard about Claude and wanted to meet him and hear his story. They also wanted to visit the women in the prison. Very quickly the sisters began to teach some of the women prisoners the catechism as well. Fr O’Leary taught the men, and when the time came for the instruction on Confession, Claude said, “Oh, I know about that! The Lady told me that when we go to confession we are kneeling down not before a priest, but we’re kneeling down by the Cross of her Son. And that when we are truly sorry for our sins, and we confess our sins, the Blood He shed flows down over us and washes away all our sins.” The priest and the sisters were stunned. Fr O’Leary initially had trouble believing Claude’s story and so Claude asked to speak to him privately. “She told me that if you doubted me or
showed hesitancy, I was to remind you that lying in a ditch in Holland in 1940, you made a vow to her which she’s still waiting for you to keep.”

And, Father O’Leary recalls, “Claude then told me precisely what the vow was.” The vow was that if he got out of the war alive he would build a church in honour of the Immaculate Conception. This did happen in 1947. This convinced the priest he was telling the truth since nobody else could know about it. Claude would also tell his classmates, “You should not be afraid of confession. You’re really telling God your sins, not the priest. You know, the Lady said that confession is something like a telephone. We talk through the priest to God, and God talks back to us through the priest.”

On the Holy Eucharist Claude said, “The Lady told me that in Communion, I will only see what looks like a piece of bread. But she told me that It is really and truly her Son, and that He will be with me just as He was with her before He was born in Bethlehem. She told me that I should spend my time like she did during her lifetime with Him, in loving Him, adoring Him, thanking Him, praising Him, and asking Him for blessings.”

Eventually they finished the instructions and Fr O’Leary baptised Claude into the Faith with one of the sisters acting as his godparent. His day of execution was set and Claude was asked what his last request was. To everyone’s astonishment he said he wanted to have a party to celebrate! “I’m not going to die; only this body. I’m going to be with her.” Since a wealthy patron of the parish had agreed to provide everything for the party the request was granted. After the party, at Claude’s request, they made a Holy Hour, praying especially for him and for all of them, and they also made the Stations of the Cross. A few minutes before the execution Fr O’Leary brought him Holy Communion, when suddenly the Sheriff came running and shouting, “Reprieve, Reprieve, the Governor has given a two-week reprieve!” Claude was very disappointed by the delay and weeping asked the priest why must he stay here for another two weeks. He wanted to go to Heaven.

The priest suddenly had an inspiration. There was another white prisoner James Hughs, who at eighteen had abandoned his Catholic faith due to his immoral life. James hated Claude intensely and even more so when he heard he had got a reprieve. James blasphemed God and he was also due to be executed for murder. Fr O’Leary suggested “Maybe Our Blessed Mother wants you to offer this denial of being with her for his conversion. So why don’t you offer to God every moment that you are separated from her for this prisoner, so that he will not be separated from God for all eternity.” Claude agreed. He and Fr O’Leary were the only two people who knew about this.  During the two week reprieve, Claude offered his sacrifice and prayers for James Hughs’ conversion. Two weeks later, Claude was finally put to death by the electric chair on 4th February 1944. Father O’Leary said of his death, “I’ve never seen anyone go to his death as joyfully and happily. Even the official witnesses and the newspaper reporters were amazed. They said they couldn’t understand how anyone could go and sit in the electric chair while at the same time actually beaming with happiness.” His final words to Fr O’Leary were “Father, I will remember you. And whenever you have a request, ask me, and I will ask her.”

Three months later when the time came for James Hughs to be executed, he violently refused all spiritual assistance, cursing and blaspheming even as he sat on the electric chair. He was asked if he had a last word. Suddenly, looking to a corner of the room, he screamed in terror, “Get me a priest!” Fr O’Leary who was already in the room heard the man’s confession. He repented of all his sins and showed great sorrow for his evil deeds. Everyone wanted to know from the priest what made James Hughs change his mind, but he hadn’t asked him. So the Sheriff went and asked him himself. James explained that he had seen Claude and the Blessed Virgin behind him, her hands on his shoulders. Then, Claude had obtained from Our Lady that he, James, have a glimpse of his final destination if he refused to repent. That’s when, filled with horror, he demanded a priest.

So Fr O’Leary, with Our Lady’s help, taught Claude to offer his sufferings for the salvation of others. Claude’s sufferings helped to pay the price for James’ last minute conversion. Therefore we should never underestimate the value of our sufferings, whatever it might be when it is joined to the sufferings of Our Lord and Our Lady’s intercession.

Neither Claude or James had done anything to merit salvation. Claude knew absolutely nothing about God, and while James who was Catholic should have known, he had rejected God because of his lifestyle. But both of them were loved by Our Lady. She sought them out. She will do everything she can to help us get to Heaven. Claude didn’t even ask for it, but because he saw the Miraculous Medal, loved her image on it and placed it around his neck not even knowing what it was, she fulfilled her promise which was, “Those who wear this medal around their neck will receive great graces.” This story also echoes the message of Our Lady of Fatima in showing the importance of penance and sacrifice for sinners to save them. If anyone would like a blessed Miraculous Medal, please ask me.

“O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”

God bless you all,

Fr Paul

Pope St John Paul II and Our Lady of Fatima, to whom he attributed the saving of his life after the assassination attempt in St Peter’s Square, Rome on 13th May 1981, the anniversary of the first apparition in 1917.

Letter from Fr Paul – 1 May 2020, Feast of St Joseph the Worker

1 May

Dear All,

I hope you are keeping well. We priests thankfully remain fine, and as always we remember you all daily and your intentions at the altar. Thank you for your continued prayers for us. Today, 1st May is the Feast of St Joseph the Worker and I celebrated Mass this morning at St Joseph’s altar in the church. I’d never said Mass on that altar before but it was really beautiful. That altar was in the original church and so Fr Luigi Gentili, the first Rosminian Father in England, would almost certainly have celebrated Mass on it. An awesome thought for me this morning!

Today’s Feast is quite recent and was instituted in 1955 as a response to ‘May Day’ that the Communists had hijacked to promote their atheistic ideas. In the first part of the twentieth century the Communists were in power in many parts of the world. Pope Pius XI in 1937 realised the great threat Communism posed to the world and called upon St Joseph to protect the Church from Communism’s many errors. Catholics began to pray to St Joseph fervently under the title of “Terror of Demons”. For Communists the highest good is not to serve God but the State. They stripped individuals of their human dignity and used them as machines for the prosperity of the State. But for us, the work we do, whatever it is, should always be done to the glory of God. As the psalm says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain” (127:1). So when Venerable Pope Pius XII eighteen years later gave us the Feast of St Joseph the Worker he said to the workers, “…the humble workman of Nazareth [St Joseph] not only personifies before God and the Church the dignity of the man who works with his hands, but is always provident guardian of you and your families.”

So St Joseph really is the light in the darkness for all those who are in the position of having their human rights and dignity stripped of them by evil regimes who seek to eliminate God from the minds and hearts of families and nations.

St Joseph is a very powerful intercessor. He has come to greater prominence in the Church over the last hundred or years or so, but he was always there. St Teresa of Avila wrote in her autobiography in the sixteenth century,

“To other saints the Lord seems to have given grace to succour us in some of our necessities, but of this glorious saint my experience is that he succours us in them all, and that the Lord wishes to teach us that as He was Himself subject to him on earth (for being His guardian and being called His [foster] father, he could command Him) just so in Heaven He still does all that he asks.”

St Padre Pio said, “Ite ad Joseph. Go to Joseph with extreme confidence, because I do not remember having asked anything from St Joseph, without having obtained it readily.” So many of the saints have said the same. Next to Our Lady he is the most powerful. He is one of the truly great saints for our time. He was the head of the Holy Family, and with marriage and the family (the basis of society) so under attack today, we should call on him to protect all families.

In the Litany to St Joseph the Church invokes him under many titles. He is the Protector of the Holy Church and he is also the Patron of the Universal Church.

Our Lord permitted him to be His protector while he was a child here on earth, and so he continues from Heaven to protect the Mystical Body of Christ on earth (the Church), which as Pope St Paul VI said, “is always weak, is always under attack, always in a state of peril.” Let us invoke his powerful aid today for wherever the Church is persecuted, and ask him that our own churches here and throughout the world be opened very soon, so that once again we will have access to the Sacraments which as baptised Catholics we all have a right to.

St Joseph’s Altar this morning

He is also the Patron of a happy death (dying in a state of grace) due to the assistance given him at his death by JESUS and Mary. If we invoke him in this regard he will surely obtain the same for us.

Finally, on this particular Feast let us ask St Joseph to help us do our work well, whatever that work may be. Please remember to keep in your prayers those who have no work or those who have been laid off from work, or who have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus, and those who as a result of the virus are working in dangerous circumstances.  

Let us also pray for all the sick and deceased of the parish.

St Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church, pray for us.
St Joseph, Pillar of families, pray for us.
St Joseph, Foster Father of the Son of God, pray for us.
St Joseph, Terror of Demons, pray for us.
St Joseph, Hope of the Sick, pray for us.
St Joseph, Patron of the Dying, pray for us.
St Joseph, Model of Workers, pray for us.

May God bless you all.

Fr Paul

Letter from Fr David – 1 May 2020

1 May

Dear All,

On this St Catherine’s Day Monty and I were down by Sileby Mill, on our daily exercise, and we saw our first flock of swallows for 2020! Baby ducklings next! Spring is truly here as all the wonderful blossom and blooms declare.

So as the lovely month of May arrives with hopes of the relaxing of some of the Lockdown restrictions, God is continuing to give us signs of His love and new life, as well as opportunities to draw close to Him, the saints and Our Lady. Time to grow our faith, make it more real, rooted, genuine and authentic.

Yes, I know we can’t yet celebrate Mass together, or receive the Sacraments but as always, a bit of hardship and abstinence can be good for us. It wakes us up to what is really important and challenges our often ‘weak, comfortable and flabby’ faith. When I see how my suffering Catholic brothers and sister in Syria, Iraq, China, North Korea, and Arab North Africa (to name but a few places) keep ‘the faith’, I am ashamed of my ‘whinging’. In these tough times of ours Our Blessed Lord is reminding us that faith in Him is a daily encounter, a daily conversation, a moment by moment reality.

Just think how we are rediscovering what Mother Church has always called the ‘Domestic Church.’ Our homes, with those sacred places that Fr Paul has encouraged us to make. Of learning to pray together with our loved ones and families again, say Grace before our meals, again, kneel by our bedsides, as once we used to, praying to the Lord who is with us. He is teaching us our dependence on Him and His Grace. We are learning again that we are not in charge, in control or all powerful. Learning the lessons of the Garden of Eden and why we need a Saviour.

End of ‘Sermon’!! But isn’t it great that even with all the suffering, heart ache and grief around us, when all we seem to be able to do is encourage others and pray, that God, who is working through so many caring, healing and hardworking folk, hasn’t forgot the likes of you and me. He what the best for us too, discovering anew His Graces, presence and love.

Last week on the Feast of St Mark the Holy Father wrote a letter to the whole church, encouraging everyone to rediscover the beauty of praying the Rosary at home in the month of May. This is characteristic of our Catholic culture especially in May, Mary’s month. But most especially so as millions of people throughout the world are isolated in their homes, and unable to meet with their families or in church. Someone once said that in praying the Rosary, we are never truly alone for Our Lady is always there with us, praying to her Son for and alongside us. Here I attach a little gift from the Ordinariate Of Our Lady for you all, A Rosary for Vocations to pray during this Mary’s Month of May.

Catherine is always keen to know what I’ve been reading and eating. Let’s do the eating first. This week has been bread making, Seeded wholemeal and tomato. All sliced and put in the freezer then I can have a slice as and when. It’s going nicely with some cannellini bean and leek soup. A drizzle of chilli oil gives the soup a lift.

Reading wise I found ‘Made This Way. How to prepare Kids to face today’s tough moral issues.’ By Miller and Horn, particularly good, practical and enlightening. Wish I’d had it when my two were growing up!!! Always wise after the event.

Every blessing

Fr David