Letter from Fr Paul – 2 August 2020, 18th Sunday of the Year

2 Aug

Dear All,

Today at Mass we hear St Matthew’s account of the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand (14:13-21). This miracle is unique in that it is the only miracle of Our Lord that appears in all four Gospels. And so I would like to write today on the topic of miracles. We sometimes say of miracles, “For those who believe no explanation is needed. For those who do not believe no explanation is possible.”

Miracles are important for us because they help us to believe. Our Lord said to the Jews, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe” (John 4:48). So they give us motives of credibility. If Our Lord really came from God there should be certain signs and wonders (which is what miracle means) to prove His claims. And throughout His ministry JESUS worked many miracles, not for Himself or to make money and neither did He do them to amaze people. He told us why He performed them. “If I am not doing the works of My Father, then do not believe Me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me and I am in the Father.” (John 10:37-38). And so we should expect many miracles to accompany the beginnings of Christianity because miracles are there to convince people that this is really true and that the message is really important and from God. Thirty five miracles of Our Lord are recorded in the New Testament, including curing the blind, the deaf, the lame, calming the storm at sea, and three tell of the raising of the dead. But He must have worked hundreds, even thousands of miracles because, “there are also many other things which JESUS did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25). So the miracles Our Lord worked guaranteed the truth of His message. If He worked miracles by His own power He showed Himself to be Lord of the Universe and God, with His own Resurrection from the dead being the crowning glory.

St Thomas Aquinas defines a miracle as events “which are wrought by divine power apart from the order usually observed in nature” (Contra Gentiles, 3). So a miracle has to be divine, that is by the power of God, it has to be above the order of nature and it also has to cause wonder to our senses.  Today’s Gospel would be such an event. It is the disciples who comment that the large crowd following JESUS were tired and hungry and suggest that He should send them away. And so Our Lord tells them there is no need for them to be sent away and that the disciples should feed them themselves, but there are only five loaves and two fish. But JESUS raises His eyes to Heaven, takes the bread and the two fish, says the blessing, breaks it and gets the disciples to distribute it with the two fish to the crowd. They all ate to their fill and twelve baskets of scraps were collected after and well over five thousand people were fed. So this is a miracle because it is worked by a Divine Person, JESUS, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity. Secondly it is above nature to multiply the five loaves and two fish to feed well over five thousand people, and thirdly it would have caused wonder to the crowd. This was a true miracle and was not people simply sharing their lunch as some modernist writers like to assert.

The Feeding of the Five Thousand is the only miracle of Our Lord contained in all four Gospels

Miracles of course didn’t cease when Our Lord ascended into Heaven. He promised He would be with His Church until the end of time and so the miracles continued. Just read the Acts of the Apostles and see how many miracles they worked. Peter and Paul raised the dead. People would put out the sick so that Peter’s shadow would cure them as he passed (Acts 5:15). Similarly, when the Church is being founded in a new part of the world or in a new culture many miracles accompany this work. For example in 597 AD Pope Gregory the Great (540-604) sent St Augustine (d. circa 604) here to England to preach the Gospel, and we have a letter from the Pope to Augustine warning the monks not to become too proud of their power to work miracles. The Pope was worried about the salvation of their souls if they became too proud. So something supernatural and miraculous was obviously happening.

I love the story of St Joseph of Cupertino (1603-1663), an Italian Franciscan priest who is most famous for levitating and as a result he is the patron saint of pilots. It usually happened when he was before some sacred image, or before a crucifix or an image of Our Lady. It was very difficult to get him down and they tried shouting, pinching and even burning him and poking him with needles – all to no avail, but he would always return to the world at the command of his superior! He would frequently levitate during Mass too. Many very important people witnessed his levitations including Pope Urban VIII. While bending over the feet of the Pope to greet him, Joseph became so enraptured that he rose into the air and only returned to the ground at his Father General’s command!

St Joseph of Cupertino levitating during Mass

On one occasion a sceptical Lutheran witnessed this and he was allowed into the sanctuary to put his hand under his feet and around him to make sure there was nothing pulling him up. When he realised it was genuine he converted to Catholicism.

Many of the saints had the gift of bilocation – the ability to be in two places at the same time. Perhaps the most extraordinary concerns Venerable Mary of Agreda, a Spanish nun who died in 1665. One day in 1620 she was mystically transported to New Mexico where she was commanded by Our Lord to teach the Indians the Faith. She spoke in Spanish but they understood her. They spoke in their native tongue and she understood them. The Indians didn’t know her name and called her the “Lady in Blue” because of the colour of her mantle. Reports of a nun teaching the Indians reached the Archbishop in Mexico, one of them from Mary of Agreda’s Confessor who wanted to see whether her report to him of her bilocating to Indian territory was true.

Venerable Mary of Agreda, Virgin, Abbess and Mystic

The Indians themselves testified there was a nun in blue who used to come and teach them about the Lord JESUS Christ and they asked for more missionaries to be sent. When two priests arrived they found the native Indians already very well instructed and so they baptised them. The Archbishop sent someone to investigate to see if the reports of Mary’s bilocating to the Indians were true. When she was questioned under obedience in Spain, (her humility would not allow her to reveal what had been happening unless she were ordered to do so) she told everything she knew about the visits and could describe everything in New Mexico exactly as it was, even the customs of the different tribes, the climate and so on. Venerable Mary of Agreda bilocated for eleven years between 1620 and 1631.

The saints continue to work miracles even in modern times. St Padre Pio (1887-1968) who lived during many of our lifetimes had many mystical gifts including bilocation, the stigmata and he worked countless miracles including raising the dead. He was such a gift to the Church and the world in these unbelieving secular times. God is telling us through St Padre Pio “I still work miracles through My saints.”

A woman with a suitcase was in the queue to confess to Padre Pio who was by now famous for working miraculous cures. When her turn came she opened her suitcase and burst into tears. She was coming to Padre Pio to ask him to cure her sick baby son but he had died on the way. However with great faith she put the child in the suitcase and continued her journey. She opened the case in front of Padre Pio who took the little boy’s body in his arms and prayed for a few moments. Then he said authoritatively to the mother, “But why are you shouting so much? Don’t you see that your child is sleeping?” The woman stopped her shouting to find that her son was breathing normally and sleeping tranquilly.

St Padre Pio

Then there is the well-known story of a girl born with no pupils in her eyes, and therefore blind from birth. Her name is Gemma di Giorgi. In 1947 Padre Pio cured her – she could suddenly see. Gemma who was 7 at the time is still alive today and continues to see but she still has no pupils in her eyes! So this is an ongoing miracle.

Many miracles are connected with Marian shrines. A French woman called Madame Bire had a withered optic nerve and had become blind in 1908. In the same year she went to Lourdes where Our Lady had appeared to St Bernadette in 1858 and received Holy Communion at the grotto. Later on the priest who was carrying the Blessed Sacrament in procession passed by her and at once she saw the statue of Our Lady.

The Blessing of the Sick during the Blessed Sacrament Procession at Lourdes

She was taken to the hospital for tests and her optic nerve was still withered and yet she could read even the smallest letters in the newspaper. Three months later, upon further examination the optic nerve had been restored. Now there is no natural means of a dead, withered optic nerve becoming functional again. Not only is this a miracle but it also proves the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, because it was when the Host passed her by that she was cured instantly. The Holy Eucharist really is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ.

The final miracle I will mention was the most major of the Twentieth Century and happened at Fatima in 1917. Our Lady had appeared to three children, Jacinta, Francesco and Lucia whom she told at a certain time and at a certain place she would perform a miracle so that all would believe. Tens of thousands gathered on 13th October. There had been torrential rain for over 24 hours, but 70,000 people witnessed the Miracle of the Sun in which it danced in the sky for 12 minutes before plummeting towards the earth. People thought the end of the world had come. But then the sun returned to its place in the sky and everything and everybody was clean and dry. The miracle was recorded in the secular International Press of the time and many converted. Many miraculous cures took place in the crowd who were present and the miracle was seen from 30 miles away. All this gave testimony to the truth that Our Lady was appearing there and the authenticity of the message. The message was about the importance of salvation and also a warning that many people were living lives which if left uncorrected would result in Hell. There were also prophecies about Russia and the First and Second World Wars which all came true. So the message was very grave and still applies to us today. The miracle and message at Fatima is just as important for us today as it was then to help us change and guide us towards salvation.

The crowd in the Cova da Iria at Fatima 13th October 1917 witnessing the Miracle of the Sun

The Miracle of the Sun reported in the anti-Catholic Lisbon newspaper “O Seculo” in 1917

These few miracles I have mentioned are only motives of credibility for believing in the supernatural. As I said earlier, Our Lord worked thousands of miracles during his time on earth but many chose not to believe in Him. So miracles are not enough on their own. We have to choose to accept the truth with our hearts and minds. But at the same time we have to be careful. I have known people who see a miracle around every corner. Genuine miracles are a rare occurrence. God doesn’t always work miracles when we ask Him because it may not always be for our good. Our Lord healed many but He didn’t heal everybody. Miracles have to be profitable to us. They can also point to religious truths but they are not an end in themselves but a means to an end.

May God bless you all.

Fr Paul

Letter from Fr Paul – 26 July 2020, 17th Sunday of the Year

26 Jul

Dear All

Over the past few weeks Our Lord has been speaking about the Kingdom of Heaven in the Gospel. We have been listening to a number of what are called the “Parables of the Kingdom” – the Parable of the Wheat and the Darnel, the Parable of the Mustard Seed, the Parable of the Yeast and then today we have the Parable of the Hidden Treasure, the Parable of the Pearl and the finally the Parable of the Dragnet.

Heaven is one of the Four Last Things and the Church and the saints tell us we should consider all of them frequently. The Four Last Things are Death Judgement, Heaven and Hell. Heaven is obviously the most joyous and it’s the one I would like to briefly consider today.

Heaven is our true homeland

It is a divinely revealed truth that God desires that all people be saved and get to Heaven, but at the same time Heaven is not automatic because we have free will. We have to choose God and go on choosing Him until the day we die. The Church teaches that only those who die in a state of grace will go to Heaven. It is simply not true that everyone goes there. If we die separated from God (ie. in mortal sin), that separation is fixed for eternity. If we are not in a state of grace, the way to fix it is by making a good sacramental Confession of our sins having made a good examination of conscience before. We can only do that in this life. Also Anointing of the Sick and the Last Rites will help ensure we are in a state of grace when we die, so it is important always to call the priest to anoint someone who is near death. So Heaven is something we have to strive for and pray about. We have to strive for holiness and virtue in this life so as we attain the end for which God created us.

To be anointed when one is dying is a great grace which helps ensure our safe passage to the next life

Heaven is our true goal, our ultimate destination – the other things we tend to chase after are not. They are passing and of this world. We all have a feeling of constant longing. Whether we know it or not, this longing is for Heaven because ultimately only God can satisfy us.  As St Augustine said, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.”

Things in this life often become boring because they fulfil only a part of us. Once we get what we want we want something else, and then something else and so on. But the Beatific Vision (seeing God face to face) which is how it will be in Heaven, will fulfil every aspect of our being. “But surely it will be so boring?” many say. “After all there will be no food or drink, no TV or internet, no computer games, no sport, no marriage etc so what are we going to be doing all the time?” Well it’s true that there won’t be the pleasures of this life in Heaven, but we should know that every good thing in this life is only but the tiniest reflection of the wonder and glory of Heaven. It just cannot be that God who created everything that is good is going to make Heaven less good than the good things we have here on earth now.

St Paul quoting Isaiah says, “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9). So it’s impossible for us to comprehend the happiness of Heaven, because the only thing we have experienced is earthly joy. St Bernard (1090-1153) says, “there is nothing in Heaven which gives displeasure, but everything delights.” Imagine that. Many of the people we meet in life don’t give us pleasure – but in Heaven they will! St Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) writes, “The pleasant companionship of all the blessed in Heaven will be a companionship replete with delight. For each one will possess all good things together with the blessed, because they will love one another as themselves, and therefore will rejoice in the happiness of the other’s goods as well as their own.”

I have already mentioned the Beatific Vision or seeing God face to face. St John says in his first Epistle, “we shall be like to Him: because we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2). But we won’t see Him with our bodily eyes because God is a spirit, although God the Son (JESUS), since the Incarnation has a body. So we will see God through the intellect. When we enter Heaven God joins Himself to our intellect. This is why those in Heaven are said to know all things. And we will see God in His infinite love, His infinite justice and His infinite mercy and in all His perfection, and we will also see ourselves as God sees us and we shall know everyone else as they truly are. Our thirst for knowledge will be perfectly satisfied and so this will be perfect happiness for us. There will be no faith in Heaven because we will simply know, and neither will there be any hope because we will have fulfilled our destiny which is Heaven.

The degree of glory each soul will have in Heaven will correspond exactly to how much sanctifying grace they have in their souls. This is why we aim for holiness. The more virtuous you are (virtue has to be practised), the more sanctifying grace you have, and therefore the higher degree of glory you will have in Heaven. And you obtain virtue by prayer, sacrifice and good works.

People will often ask if Heaven is either a place or a state? The answer is it depends on whether you mean now or in the future. For now Heaven is a state, but at the General Resurrection and Final Judgement at the end of time when we all get our bodies back it will be a place. When JESUS rose from the dead He wasn’t a ghost or a spirit, but His body was different to what it was before. He had a new kind of body which was glorified, and that is the kind of body that is promised to us, and these glorified bodies will never die. Our bodies will be of the same nature they were in this life and they will still be identifiably our body, and they will be whole and complete. Any deformities or imperfections will not be there in Heaven. If anyone lost a limb in life or their body was destroyed by fire, in Heaven it will be restored. Neither will there be any suffering, illness or anxiety. Our bodies will shine with the glory reflecting our virtues. Even if we were no oil painting in this life, we will be so beautiful that we would appear to be like an angel.

Our Lady appearing to St Bernadette in Lourdes in 1858

Now remember Our Lady is already glorified in Heaven. And when St Bernadette (1844-1879) was called to look at a statue an artist had made of Our Lady of Lourdes, she said, “No, that’s horrible. She was far more beautiful than that.” So we just cannot imagine how beautiful Our Lady is. The children of Fatima said the same. It’s Our Lady’s glory, and she has the highest glory of all creatures. Now if that’s Our Lady, just imagine what it must be like to see JESUS. The saints who have seen Our Lord can never describe it.

Remember Heaven is also the communion of saints. Imagine being able to speak with Our Lady, St Joseph or your favourite saint – St Mary Magdalene, St Francis of Assisi, St Anthony of Padua, St Ignatius,  St Thérèse of Lisieux, St Padre Pio or St Teresa of Calcutta. You would even be able to ask the Archangel Gabriel about the details of the Annunciation!

There are many other considerations about Heaven but this is sufficient for now. But as I mentioned at the beginning we have to strive for Heaven and this will involve many hardships. Remember Our Lord said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many” (Matthew 7:13). All the saints had their eyes fixed on Heaven. Heaven was their entire motivation. It is why they went to far and distant lands to preach the Gospel, willingly endured so many hardships and why they went to extremes to help the poor and the needy. It is what caused them to praise God even as they were put to death. Pray to have this desire for God and for Heaven above everything else.

In conclusion, listen to these beautiful verses from the last book in the Bible, the Apocalypse:

“They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. And night shall be no more; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they shall reign for ever and ever” (22:4-5).

May God bless you all.

Fr Paul

Resumption of Public Masses

22 Jul

(Page updated 14 October 2020)

Public Mass times are currently as follows: 

Monday: 9.15am 
Wednesday: 6.30pm (Latin old rite) 
Friday: 6.30pm 
Saturday: 6.00pm
Sunday: 9.00am and 11.15am 

Private Prayer with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament will continue on Saturdays only
10.30am – 12.30pm with Confessions during the first hour or by appointment

St Mary’s has signed up for the Online Mass Booking service with the Diocese. You must sign up in order to reserve seats for yourself and others. Seats can be reserved 7 days in advance and up to 4 hours before the start of Mass. The website address is https://massbooking.uk.

There is now also a phone booking system in place. Please call 07554 603972 on Tuesday and Wednesday between 2pm and 4pm or Thursday and Friday between 5pm and 7pm.

Please note:

  • A limit of 56 people in the congregation at any one time is allowed for Mass in accordance with 2 metre social distancing rules. This may be slightly increased with couples and families sitting together.
  • The church will open 15 minutes before Mass. You will be guided by the stewards. If you wish to light a candle please tell the steward as you should do so before being seated. They will fill up the church from the front; therefore, you may not be able to sit in your favourite seat. Those in wheelchairs should enter by the side door in the usual way.
  • You will also be asked to sign in and leave a phone number for Track and Trace purposes. St Mary’s will protect the data.
  • Please note that the obligation to hear Mass on Sunday remains suspended until further notice. So this is not yet a return to normal. If you feel uneasy about coming to Mass, please stay at home. Please do not come to Mass if you have any cold-like symptoms.
  • There is still no Holy Water in the stoups. There will be no singing (unless by a cantor), no Offertory Procession, no Bidding Prayers or Children’s Liturgy.
  • Holy Communion will be distributed after Mass under one kind only by the priest. You are then asked to exit the church straight away and make your thanksgiving on the way home.
  • Parents may not bring food, drink, or toys to the church. Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult to the toilet.
  • The church will close straight after Mass for cleaning, so we ask you not to linger. There will also be a collection box by the exit. There will be no tea and coffee in the Hall after Sunday Mass.

Letter from Fr Paul – 19 July 2020, 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

19 Jul

Dear All,

This month of July is dedicated to the Most Precious Blood of JESUS and this devotion goes right back to the beginning of Christianity. St Peter writes in his First Letter, “You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the Precious Blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19). JESUS is the spotless Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

Many of you will know the hymn “Glory be to JESUS” in honour of the Precious Blood. We still sing it today. Here is an extract:

  1. Glory be to Jesus,
    who, in bitter pains
    poured for me the lifeblood
    from His sacred veins!
  2. Abel’s blood for vengeance
    pleaded to the skies
    but the Blood of Jesus
    for our pardon cries.

 The story of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:1-16) referred to in verse 4 is well known. Both brothers made an offering to God. Abel’s sacrifice was pleasing to God because he gave to God from the best he had while Cain did not. This gave rise to the sin of hatred and fratricide with Cain brutally killing Abel with a rock. The earth soaked up Abel’s blood as it cried out to Heaven for vengeance. This crying out prefigured the scene on Calvary, where Christ’s Blood cried to Heaven for the sins of mankind.

Cain kills his brother Abel

In the Old Testament God is often regarded as the “Avenger of Blood”. “For your lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning; of every beast I will require it and of man; of every man’s brother I will require the life of man.  Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in His own image” (Genesis 9:5-6). So the shedding of blood always had to be avenged and so Cain would have to be punished for killing his brother. The Jews, even in the case of an accidental death, would cover up the blood with dirt for fear God should see the blood, smell it and strike the person down. But with the coming of Our Lord, the God man, His Blood was exposed to the Father so that the Father might see It and be appeased by It. At Mass, the priest elevates the Precious Blood in the chalice, certainly so that the people may see It and adore It, but also begging God to see It, be appeased by It and show mercy to us all. When God, the “Avenger of Blood” sees the Most Precious Blood of His Divine Son, He dare not strike us!

St Padre Pio offers the Precious Blood at Mass

This is because Our Lord shed His Blood and laid down His life as a sacrifice to atone for all our sins, the sins of the whole world, in all times and in all places. With sin being an infinite offence against God it demands satisfaction and atonement by the life of an infinite victim offered up in a bloody sacrifice.

But why, you may ask, is the Blood of Christ able to save us? Answer: Because Christ is God. In the Incarnation, God the Son, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity united Himself to our human nature, and so JESUS is fully God and fully man. This is what theologians call the “hypostatic union”, the union of the human and divine in the one Person of Christ. Therefore every act of JESUS, the God man is of an infinite value because of whose Body, whose Blood and whose human Soul it is. We read in the Letter to the Hebrews, without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (9:22). Neither is our ransom paid by the blood of bulls and goats but by the Precious Blood of Christ (Hebrews 10:4).Yes, the Blood of Christ is human blood, but it is also the Blood of God, and so the tiniest drop of His Blood, being of an infinite value, would have been enough to atone for every sin ever committed and to redeem an infinite number of people and an infinite number of universes, so precious is the Blood of Christ.

There is a moving scene in Mel Gibson’s 2004 film “The Passion of the Christ” where the Roman centurion, traditionally known as St Longinus, pierces Our Lord’s side as He hangs dead on the Cross with such force, that it pierces His Sacred Heart causing the Blood and water to flow from It over the centurion, bringing about his instant conversion. The centurion kneels down in adoration.

St Longinus pierces Our Lord’s side on the Cross in the film “The Passion of the Christ”

Again in the Old Testament, at the time of Moses, God was going to rescue the Israelites from slavery to the Egyptians. And you might remember God was going to punish the cruelty of the Egyptians and rescue Israel by the Ten Plagues – ten supernatural disasters inflicted on the Egyptians (Exodus 7-11). But even after nine plagues, Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened and he refused to free Israel. So God sent the tenth plague – the worst of all. He sent the ‘Angel of Death’ to strike down the first born of the Egyptians. But before that happened, God commanded Moses to make every Israelite family take a spotless male lamb and sacrifice it and consume it. And they were to put the blood of the lamb on the wooden doorposts, so that when the Angel of Death passed over, he would not dare to enter any house where the blood of the lamb had been smeared.

The Israelites smear the blood of the sacrificed lamb on their doorposts

Those who had smeared the blood of the lamb on their doorposts were saved, but for the Egyptians who had not, it was a night of grief and wailing. The blood of the lamb had the power to save the Israelites only because it was a sign, a figure, a foreshadowing of the Blood of Christ, the true Lamb of God spoken of by the prophets being poured out on the Cross.

Twelve centuries later, the greatest of all the prophets, St John the Baptist was preaching the baptism of repentance by the River Jordan, when he saw the One whom he had been called to point out coming towards him. Pointing at JESUS he called out, “Ecce Agnus Dei.” “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”  Now a new and far superior Covenant would be put in place. The animal sacrifices of the Old Covenant only had any effect because they pointed to the perfect sacrifice that would be made by Christ. The blood of animals has no power to save anybody or to atone for any sin, but in the sense that they pointed to Christ and His sacrifice they had a healing and powerful effect. And this infinite and perfect sacrifice of Christ on the Cross is made present to us at every Mass. As the priest consecrates the bread and wine, by the miracle of transubstantiation they become the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord. The sacrifice He made on Calvary two thousand years ago is made present on the altar as if we were there ourselves.

Both during Mass and outside of Mass we can offer the Precious Blood of JESUS to the Father. The Blood of JESUS is so powerful that we can obtain many graces by offering It to the Father. In a vision, St Mary Magdalene de Pazzi (1566-1607) saw many saints before the Throne of God, interceding for sinners, but their petitions remained unanswered. Then the Guardian Angels of these poor sinners approached and their petitions were not heard either. Next came the multitudes of the blessed and they made intercession for these souls, but at the same time they offered to God the Father the Precious Blood, and their petitions were granted. So it is a good practice to offer to God the Father the Precious Blood of JESUS many times throughout the day.

Offering the Precious Blood can also help the Holy Souls in Purgatory. Our Lord taught St Gertrude (1256-1302) to say the following prayer:

“Eternal Father, I offer Thee the most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, JESUS, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal Church, those in my own home and within my family.”

As we know, the saints have often been able to see the Holy Souls in Purgatory. A poor soul once appeared to Blessed Henry Suso (1295- 1366) and cried out, “Blood, Blood brother is needed, that we may obtain relief! Masses, Masses should be said, as we have promised one another!”

Masses for offered  the Holy Souls in Purgatory help them

It is through the Sacrifice of the Mass that Christ’s Blood is shed anew, but in a mystical and unbloody manner. This is why we have Masses said for the living and for the dead, because Christ’s Blood cries out on our behalf.

Precious Blood of JESUS, price of our salvation, save us!

May God bless you all.

Fr Paul

Letter from Fr Paul – 12 July 2020, 15th Sunday of the Year

12 Jul

Dear All,

It is sometimes said that apparitions are sermons from Heaven! For the past two hundred years in her various apparitions, Our Lady has been telling us of the importance of sacramentals. In 1830 in Paris, Our Lady gave St Catherine Labouré the Miraculous Medal. In 1858 at Lourdes, she stressed the importance of the Rosary to St Bernadette. In 1917 at Fatima she appeared at the final apparition as Our Lady of Mount Carmel in a Carmelite habit and stressed the importance of the Brown Scapular and again the Rosary. When she appeared to St Dominic in the twelfth century she said, “One day through the Rosary and the Scapular I will save the world.”

So what is a sacramental? A sacramental is not a sacrament. Sacraments are instituted by Christ to give us grace, and the outward visible sign in the Sacraments, whether it be bread and wine in the Holy Eucharist or water in Baptism, gives us the invisible grace. Now a sacramental is also an outward visible sign, but they are instituted by the Church. They have a spiritual effect caused by the prayers of the Church. Examples would be Holy Water, statues, Rosaries, medals, blessed candles and the Brown Scapular.

Rosary beads are a sacramental

Sacraments, so long as they are properly administered, grace is conferred on the person receiving it regardless of how holy or not the priest administering it might be. The most wicked priest in the world can validly transubstantiate the bread and wine into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ provided he uses the correct form. The holiness of the priest has no effect on the validity of the Sacrament. Similarly, if the person receiving Holy Communion doesn’t believe in the Real Presence, he or she is still receiving the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ, although they would be committing a sacrilege. On the other hand, the graces received from a sacramental depend very much on the faith, the love of God and the disposition of the person using it. So if I have a weak faith, I won’t get as much out of the use of a sacramental as if I had a strong faith. A good example of this from the Bible would be when the woman who had had a haemorrhage for twelve years came up and touched the fringe of JESUS’ cloak and she was immediately healed. And Our Lord said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” (Luke 8: 43-48). She was cured because she had faith.

One of the great sacramentals of the Church is the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. It is her feast this Thursday 16th July which is why I want to say something about it. Many of you already wear the Brown Scapular because either I or another priest have enrolled you in it. The more people that wear it the better. The Brown Scapular is two pieces of brown wool tied together with a cord and you wear it over your shoulders.

The Brown Scapular

The Scapular that most of us wear today is a scaled down version of the scapular Our Lady gave to St Simon Stock, who was a Carmelite Friar, in 1251 at Aylesford in Kent. So the Brown Scapular, although it is world-famous has its origin here in England. St Simon Stock was the Superior of the Carmelites in England at the time. Simon complained to Our Lady that his order was being persecuted and falling apart and so he begged for her protection. She appeared to him on 16th July 1251 and presented him with the Brown Scapular. The Scapular she gave him was the full version which the Carmelites wear to this day.

Our Lady giving St Simon Stock the Scapular in 1251

She gave it to him saying, “Son, receive this Scapular as a sign of the privilege which I have obtained for you and the children of Mount Carmel. Whosoever shall die clothed with this Scapular shall not suffer eternal fire.” So the Scapular is a sign of salvation and a pledge of protection. In giving us her garment, Our Lady gives us herself.

Then on 13th October 1917, the final apparition of Our Lady at Fatima, when there also took place the famous Miracle of the Sun,  she appeared to the three seers Jacinta, Francesco and Lucia as Our Lady of Mount Carmel and held out the Brown Scapular to them making them understand that she wanted everyone to wear it.

One should wear the Scapular all the time and kiss it every morning or when you take it off or put it on because it reminds us to ask our Heavenly Mother’s help to keep us out of sin throughout the day. And by wearing it we also tell her we love her and trust her, and we tell her this repeatedly simply by wearing it.

The Brown Scapular has to be the most powerful sacramental because Our Lady also promised St Simon Stock that those who fulfil certain conditions and wear the Scapular, she will free from Purgatory shortly after their death and particularly on Saturdays which is Our Lady’s day. This is known as the “Sabbatine Privilege”. So what are the conditions?

  • Wear the Brown Scapular faithfully.
  • Observe chastity according to one’s state in life.
  • Recite five decades of the Rosary every day.

This is not asking much when one considers the privileges. There are many wonderful stories or miracles of salvation brought about by the Scapular. On the same day Our Lady gave St Simon the Scapular, he was called to the bedside of a dying and unrepentant man. He placed his own large Scapular over the dying man and immediately the man repented and died as a friend of God. “Whosoever shall die clothed with this Scapular shall not suffer eternal fire.” Later that day the man appeared to his family and told them he had been saved by “the most powerful Queen and by the Brown Scapular of that man as a shield of protection.”

Pope St John Paul II (1920-2005), often spoke of how he had worn the Scapular all his life. When he was shot in St Peter’s Square by a Turkish assassin on 13th May 1981, as he was being taken into the operating theatre, he asked them not to remove his Scapular.

The two great founders of religious orders, St Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787), founder of the Redemptorists and St John Bosco (1815-1588), founder of the Salesians both had a special devotion to Our Lady and wore the Brown Scapular. When they died, as is customary, they were buried wearing their priestly vestments, but they were also buried wearing their Scapulars. Many years later, when their graves were opened, their bodies and the vestments had turned to dust, but the Brown Scapular that each wore was preserved perfectly intact. 

Pope St John Paul II as a young worker wearing his Brown Scapular

There are countless miracles attributed to the wearing of the Brown Scapular, but it is not a lucky charm. We have to wear it with devotion and strive to lead a good Christian life. We should not presume to be saved just because we wear it. Rather it is a sign of consecration to Our Lady. In these dangerous times in which we live, wear your Scapular. As the priest enrols you he says, “Receive this blessed Scapular and ask the Most Holy Virgin that, by her merits, it may be worn with no stain of sin and may protect you from all harm and bring you into everlasting life.”

If you are not already enrolled and would like to be please let me know.

May God bless you all.

Fr Paul