Newsletter for Sunday 3 May 2020

1 May

May, the Month of Our Lady

As is well known, May is the month dedicated to Our Lady. It is often said May is the most beautiful month when the flowers are in full bloom and the weather is generally good. Last year we had the crowning of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima which proved very popular. Sadly we won’t be able to do it this month but maybe in October? But we can still make this month special and offer our heavenly Mother a beautiful gift which will be very pleasing to her by trying to say the daily Rosary in our homes and in our families.

Many of you will remember back in 2010 when thirty-three miners in Chile were trapped 2,300 feet below the earth in a mine. Their plight was reported the world over each day as hopes of rescuing them were running out. Their supplies were coming to an end and it seemed they were going to die. But amazingly after seventeen days contact was made with them. Engineers had managed to drill a small shaft down to where they were trapped, and so food and supplies could reach them. However, a much larger shaft would have to be drilled if they were to be rescued and this was going to take a miracle.

What is less well known is that meanwhile in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI was asking the world to pray for the miners. He blessed thirty-three Rosaries and had them sent them to the miners so as they could pray it and so as they would know that JESUS and Mary were with them. The miners started to pray their Rosaries and wore them around their necks. Miraculously, after being trapped for sixty-nine days all the miners were rescued and survived the ordeal. And what was the date of their rescue? 13th October, the anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima. I think there is a message in that! With Heaven, dates are very significant.

The Popes have long recognised the power and the importance of the Rosary. It’s why they always hand them out to visitors. I have a Rosary given to me by Pope St John Paul II in 1981. Blessed Pope Pius IX famously said, “Give me an army saying the Rosary and I will conquer the world.” His successor, Pope Leo XIII wrote eleven Encyclical Letters on the Rosary, in preparation for the month of October which he is responsible for turning into the month dedicated to the Holy Rosary. As a boy he had worked on a farm and he knew that October was the month for harvesting, and so he chose to make it the month dedicated to the Rosary in order to reap a harvest of souls.

Today is Good Shepherd Sunday when we particularly pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. All of you, have in mind one person you will pray for and encourage to consider a religious vocation. And always remember, vocations come from families. Please keep in your prayers our Rosminian novice Brother William Rees and one of our altar servers Sam Hart who is testing his vocation with the diocese. This is just one way we can all be instrumental in reaping a harvest of souls.

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

Mass Sheet for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

Newsletter for Sunday 26 April 2020

24 Apr

This is the Mass

This Sunday’s Gospel gives the very well-known story of Christ appearing to two of His disciples on the road to Emmaus. We read the same Gospel on Wednesday of Easter Week and I wrote a letter to you about it which is on the parish website. But there is another aspect to this story which can easily go un-noticed. It gives us the Mass in seminal form.

Towards the end of this Gospel, Cleopas and the other disciple ask the Lord, whom they have still not recognised, to stay with them. Our Lord agrees, and as they sit down to eat, He re-enacts exactly what He had done a few days earlier at the Last Supper, and they recognised Him in ‘the breaking of the bread’. But then He disappeared. Of course, Our Lord is going to stay with them but in a different way – not in His earthly body but under the appearance of bread and wine in the Holy Eucharist. His resurrected and glorified body is no longer limited to being in one place at a time, neither is it bound by space or time. So now He can be in Rome, London, Paris, Jerusalem, Nottingham and Loughborough all at the same time.

It’s interesting to note in this Gospel how first of all when the disciples are troubled, Our Lord reads the Scriptures (the Old Testament) to them and explains how He is the fulfilment of them. Many throughout the ages have claimed to being sent by God, but only Christ has proved His authenticity through the Old Testament prophecies He fulfils. Then after He has explained the Scriptures to them, “while He was with them at the table, He took the bread and said the blessing. Then He broke it, and gave it to them.” This is the Mass!  The Liturgy of the Word or the Scriptures is followed by the Liturgy of the Eucharist where we have the Offertory, the Eucharistic Prayer and then Holy Communion. So every time we participate in Mass we are really participating in the same experience the disciples had in Emmaus. And the reason that the two disciples recognised JESUS at ‘the breaking of the bread’ is because they had been prepared for it through the reading of the Scriptures and then having it explained to them. This gave them the faith to recognise Him in the Holy Eucharist, and it filled them with such joy they went off and told the others all about it. What does the priest or deacon say at the end of Mass? “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.” That’s what they did, and it’s also our commission, to go out and proclaim the joy of the Gospel to the world.

Let us continue to try and to do so even in these times of adversity, but you’re already doing a great job in many different ways. And may our being deprived of the Mass and the Sacraments at this time bring us to an even deeper appreciation of these mysteries, so as we come to see even more clearly our risen Lord is with us always, and especially in the Liturgy and the Sacraments. Let us storm Heaven with our prayers that our churches will be open soon.

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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Newsletter for Sunday 19 April 2020

17 Apr

Let Us Be Instruments of God’s Mercy

Today, the Sunday after Easter is traditionally called ‘Low Sunday’ but now it is more commonly known as ‘Divine Mercy Sunday’. This Feast of Mercy was instituted by Pope St John Paul II twenty years ago.  Our Lord Himself appeared to St Faustina, a Polish nun in the 1930s, and told her to fill her Diary with the message of His mercy. Of course, this message was nothing new – the Church has been preaching it for two thousand years. God has mercy on sinners, and this mercy is available in abundance. As I’ve highlighted in previous years, an important paragraph in St Faustina’s diary reads:

“On that day [the Feast of Mercy] the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day all the divine floodgates through which graces flow are opened.” (Diary of St Faustina, # 699).

What a promise! But people have been asking how do we do this when all the churches are closed? As I’ve mentioned before, if you make an Act of Perfect Contrition, detesting your sins out of love of God and resolve not to sin again and having the intention to receive the Sacrament as soon as possible, you will be forgiven all your sins – even mortal sins. Then you make a Spiritual Communion, asking God to come into your heart and receive the graces as if you were actually receiving Him. And if we do this successfully, our souls will be as clean as they were on the day of Baptism! We all want to wipe the slate clean, so do tell people about it because this Feast is for everyone.

And it goes without saying we too should perform acts of mercy. As you know there are the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy. It’s inspiring in this crisis to see so many in the Parish looking out for each other, whether it’s doing shopping for someone, cooking for them, helping to feed them etc. But we’re limited to what we can do due to ‘social distancing’. If you are not able to do these types of things because you are unable to go out, there are the Spiritual Works of Mercy. We can phone or text people to see if they are okay. Some may have lost someone close to them. We can help comfort them in their grief. Many will be feeling anxious and so we can help reassure them. Families are spending a lot more time together these days, so it might be necessary to develop the virtues of patience and prudence so that we can bear wrongs more patiently. Pray for that gift.  

Then there is praying for the living and the dead. There are a lot of people to pray for in this crisis. We pray for all the doctors, nurses and care home workers who are doing so much and risking their own lives, and for all the sick they are looking after. Many of our teachers are still working. And we pray for all those who have died, and their relatives, many of whom haven’t been able to be with a loved one in their final moments. Let us pray on this great feast that each of us will in some way be able to be an instrument of God’s mercy in these times.

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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Newsletter for Easter Sunday – 12 April 2020

10 Apr

Alleluia! Christ is Victorious!

“This is the day which the Lord hath made: let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 117:24). Today, Easter Sunday, is the greatest Feast of the Church’s year and how sad it is we cannot celebrate it together in our church and that we priests cannot wish you a Happy Easter in person, but we will all be together again soon. When JESUS was crucified and died on the cross it seemed as if all were lost – God had died. But then on the third day He rose victoriously from the dead. He triumphed over sin, over death, over Satan and over the sufferings of this world. And because we are part of His Body, we have also triumphed if we are faithful to Him. As JESUS rose from the dead, so will we. “I believe in the resurrection of the body” we say in the Creed. Even in the Old Testament when Job was suffering terribly with leprosy and everyone had deserted him including his own family, he found comfort in this great truth. “For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and in the last day I shall rise out of the earth. And I shall be clothed again with my skin, and in my flesh I will see my God” (Job 19:25-27).

So we rejoice in Christ’s victory, and even amidst the crisis we are presently living through, we can now sing Alleluia. This crisis of the pandemic will end, we don’t know when, but it will end. Many are undergoing great hardship at the moment whether due to illness, poverty, homelessness, loss of work or simply being confined to where they live. Let us keep them in our prayers, and also our Prime Minister that he make a speedy recovery. Many are being heroic and risking their own health and even their lives by keeping public services going and nursing the sick. They deserve our admiration, our thanks and our prayers too. And thank you to all of you who are doing so much in the parish helping people get through this crisis.

But whatever lies ahead let us keep faith, keep our eyes fixed on Our Lord and not start to sink under the waves as St Peter did. The bright day of resurrection will come. So may I with Fr Simon and Fr David wish you all a very happy and holy Easter. Bishop Patrick also telephoned and sends his best wishes and assurance of prayers to the whole parish. May the joy of the Resurrection renew the whole world and may God bless you all.

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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Newsletter for Sunday 5 April 2020

3 Apr

Holy Week

With Palm Sunday, we enter now the holiest of weeks, and it’s going to be very different this year from any other Holy Week in living memory, since the ceremonies will have to be celebrated behind closed doors and in your homes. I have written more about this in my letter of 1st April which you can read on the parish website. This is a cross we all have to bear, but we accept it as in the Providence of God. In true Catholic spirit, let us put it to good use by offering up our sufferings in union with Christ’s sufferings in reparation for our own sins, for the sins of others and for all the evil in the world. Let us beg God’s mercy and ask Him to end this pandemic quickly. And let us not forget the Holy Souls in Purgatory who always need our spiritual help.

What has been wonderful to see over the past couple of weeks since the lockdown is how people are showing so much Christian charity and concern for each other in the parish – not that this isn’t the case in more normal times – but it has been particularly highlighted in these days when so many are unable to go about their normal business. We priests have also been touched by the many offers of help and kindness and assurances of prayers we have received from parishioners. This is really wonderful and truly inspiring.

One of the things that has been troubling me most as your Priest and Spiritual Father is that you don’t have easy access to the Sacraments, particularly Confession. This is not how things should be. So included with the printed edition of this newsletter is how to make an ‘Act of Perfect Contrition’ which can forgive even mortal sins when it is not possible to make a sacramental Confession. But you should have the intention to make a sacramental Confession as soon as it becomes possible. I will also post this on the parish website.

However, on this Palm Sunday as Our Lord enters Jerusalem, He knew what lay ahead of Him. He knew the terrible sufferings He would undergo to redeem us. And He also knew that on the third day He would rise again. So may the crosses we now endure in union with Him be transformed into resurrections. This is the reason for our joy and our hope. It’s through the cross that we gain life.

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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Click here for Act of Perfect Contrition and Spiritual Communion – page 1

Click here for Act of Perfect Contrition and Spiritual Communion – page 2 (A happy death and the art of dying)