Newsletter for Sunday 12 July 2020

11 Jul

Parable of the Sower

Today we hear the well-known Parable of the Sower in the Gospel. God created us with free will and we are all free to accept or reject God’s offer of salvation. But all the time there are outside influences trying to get us to choose what is bad for us.

Satan is represented here by the birds that eat the seed of the path. Satan and his legions are always trying to tempt us to disobey God’s commandments. “Oh go on. It’s nothing. God won’t mind. It’s not that serious. After all, you can always go to Confession after!” But will you get that opportunity to confess? “Oh, but you don’t need to go to Confession. Just go to God direct. Confess to a priest? That’s just medieval superstition!” The evil one uses these subtle temptations to break our relationship with our Heavenly Father who loves us, and who desires nothing more than our eternal salvation.

Then there is the rocky soil. Often God asks us to make a sacrifice and carry our cross. But our desire for the comforts and pleasures of life cause us to resist and opt for the comfortable option.

The soil that fell among the thorns represents the culture we live in. This fallen world promises us all sorts of pleasures, but they will never satisfy us because we are made for God alone, and only He can satisfy us. That’s why when we get something we have always wanted we will soon after desire something else. It’s only when we follow God’s Will that we will be satisfied. St Augustine famously said, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.”

So, we have to cooperate with God’s grace. There is a school of thought that says that we human beings are not free to change our lives because everything is controlled by instinct or other forces beyond our control. This is not true. God is ultimately in charge of everything, but we do have free will, and the choices we make can have a lasting effect on ourselves and others. This parable teaches us that that while God offers the gift of faith to everyone, people respond to it in many different ways. Some will ignore it or reject it altogether while others will accept it only in a half-hearted manner. Some though will take it to heart and make it bear much spiritual fruit. Only the last group is truly pleasing to God, and only they have the assurance of the Kingdom of Heaven. So let us give God the chance to bear a rich fruit in our lives. The wonders He can produce in us when we cooperate with His grace are truly amazing! Let us pray that we will recognise these gifts and opportunities when they are offered so that we can truly make a difference in the world.

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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Newsletter for Sunday 5 July 2020

3 Jul

Towards Resuming Public Masses

The opening of the church this past week for private prayer has been running very smoothly with a steady flow of people coming in to visit Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Some have been quite emotional. Thank you to all who have helped make this possible with the stewarding and cleaning of the church. As many of you will be aware, now, thanks be to God, the Government has given permission for churches to open for the public celebration of Mass from 4th July. It will be a great joy to see you all and be able to celebrate the Sacraments together again after all this time. However, a lot needs to be put in place before this can happen. So, regrettably, public Masses will not resume immediately, but we are working towards doing this as soon as we can. As was the case with opening for private prayer, there are risk assessments to be completed as well as many practical things to be organised; so we are probably talking about a couple of weeks time. There will be a limit of 56 people able to be in the congregation at any one time in accordance with social distancing rules. Masses will be shorter, no singing is allowed for the time being and there will be some other changes to help to ensure safety which I will communicate to you nearer the time. Hand sanitiser must be used and the church will have to close for cleaning after each Mass. In addition to those who have kindly acted as stewards and cleaners for the private prayer sessions, we will need more volunteers who are under 70, and with no underlying serious health conditions to provide help with these roles. Please let me know if you are able to help.

As the four Archbishops of England and Wales wrote in the letter I sent out last week (and which you can find on the parish website), at this stage we are clearly not returning to normal, and it is important to reaffirm that, at present, the obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains suspended. Therefore, it would be really helpful if some parishioners would consider attending Mass on a weekday instead in order to help us manage the numbers. It is likely that a booking system will have to be put in place.  Once I know exactly how this will work I will let you know. There will also be one or two changes in the Mass times to help as many people as possible to attend. Of course, some of you may still feel uneasy about coming back at this time, and that is fine.

May God continue to keep us all safe; and let us continue to implore His mercy and to pray hard for an end to this pandemic and for the full restoration of the sacramental life of the Church. Do penances and offer up your sufferings and trials. May Our Lady of Fatima, St Michael the Archangel, St John Henry Newman and Blessed Antonio Rosmini pray for us.

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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Newsletter for Sunday 28 June 2020

26 Jun

Saints Peter and Paul, Princes of the Apostles

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, the two Princes of the Apostles and the foundations of the Church. Both were martyred for the Faith in Rome. St Peter was crucified upside down because he didn’t consider himself worthy to die in the same way as the Master, in what today is a courtyard to the left of St Peter’s Basilica. He was buried in a nearby cemetery on Vatican Hill and St Peter’s Basilica was later built over his tomb. St Paul was beheaded in a place now called ‘Tre Fontane’ (Italian for three fountains, after the legend that the three springs in the spot mark the three places where Paul’s head bounced after being beheaded). He was also buried in a nearby cemetery over which St Paul’s Basilica now stands, and it’s where I, with ten others, was ordained a Deacon in June 2014.

St Peter is important because he was the first Pope. JESUS changed his name from Simon to Peter which means ‘rock’. Then in today’s Gospel we hear Our Lord say to Peter after he has confessed Him to be the Christ, “You are Peter and on this rock I will build My Church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” In these words Peter is appointed head of the Apostles and received the supreme authority to teach and govern the whole Church. This is made more explicit by the giving of the keys. “I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven; whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in Heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in Heaven.” This is what we call the promise of the primacy, but the primacy was conferred by Our Lord to Peter after the Resurrection when He said to him, “Feed My lambs…feed My sheep” (John 21:15-17). The primacy of Peter was recognised by the early Church as we can see clearly in the Acts of the Apostles. Peter takes charge of the election of Matthias to replace Judas as an Apostle (1:15-22). Peter gives the sermon at Pentecost (2:14-41). Peter works the first miracle (3:1-10). It is Peter who excommunicates the first heretic Simon Magus (8:9-24) and so on. Also St Paul, when he was about to begin his mission thought it necessary to gain recognition from Peter (Galatians 1:18). Peter became the first Bishop of Rome, and like him, his successors were recognised as the Supreme Head of the Church on earth and Pope Francis is the 265th Successor of St Peter.“Ubi Petrus ibi ecclesia.” That is, “Where Peter is, there is the Church.”

St Paul, originally called Saul, was the Apostle to the Gentiles. At first he was a Pharisee and persecuted the Christians, but one day when he was on the road to Damascus, JESUS appeared to him saying “Saul, Saul why are you persecuting Me?” And Saul said, “Who are You Lord?” And JESUS replied, “I am JESUS of Nazareth whom you are persecuting.” And Paul was converted and baptised (Acts 9:1-22). This changed his life completely and he went on many missionary journeys to proclaim Christ to those who had not heard of Him, particularly non-Jews.

The Church still stands today as Christ promised She would because She was founded by Him, the Son of God. She has weathered many storms and She will also survive the present crisis. She does not change her doctrine because “the doctrine is not Mine but His that sent Me” (John 7:16). Let us thank God that He founded the One, Holy, Roman, Catholic and Apostolic Church on Peter the Rock, and let us pray for the Supreme Head of the Church on earth today, Pope Francis, that God will give him the grace to follow St Peter and St Paul in zeal for the true religion and for the salvation of souls.

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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Newsletter for Sunday 21 June 2020

19 Jun

Why Must I Suffer?

Suffering came into the world through sin. If it were not for Original Sin (Adam and Eve eating the fruit of the forbidden tree), suffering would be unknown to us. St Paul tells us this in the Second Reading today. “Sin entered the world through one man, [Adam] and through sin death, and thus death has spread through the whole human race because everyone has sinned” (Romans 5:12). God created Adam in a state of perfection – he had no defects. But being the head of the human race, the effects of that Original Sin have passed down to us. But why must we suffer for the sin of Adam? Imagine a father who is a multi-millionaire. He has a wife and several children and they want for nothing. When he dies each child will receive their part of the inheritance. But in the meantime the father becomes a drunk and a gambler and he loses everything and is forced to beg. Now his bad conduct has affected not only him, but his wife and children too who are entirely innocent. Now they have lost their inheritance. Once they were happy and enjoyed their wealth and now they are reduced to poverty and suffering as if they had sinned. In much the same way we are subject to the loss of our spiritual inheritance in which Adam involved us by disobeying God. This is the principle reason why suffering comes into everyone’s life.

But instead of eliminating suffering, Christ has transformed it. The sufferings of this life can increase our glory in Heaven. God has drawn good out of a great evil. In the Exsultet at the Easter Vigil the priest sings, “O felix culpa.” “O happy fault.” Why happy? Because Our Lord, by suffering and dying on the Cross has made sufficient atonement for Adam’s sin, and the grace He now offers us more than compensates for what we lost. It doesn’t remove the evils and miseries of this life, but it enables us to endure all sufferings with patience and resignation and to make them holy by uniting them with the Passion and Death of Our Lord. If we do this our sufferings receive great supernatural merit and we will have a much higher place in Heaven than if we had not fallen in Adam from the state of our original perfection. All the saints suffered – some enormously.

Pope Benedict XVI gave us some good advice about this in his Encyclical Letter “Spe salvi” (Saved in Hope) written in 2007. He suggested we revive the good Catholic practice of “offering up” the small trials of each day, those little sufferings, pains,  and inconveniences  that annoy us, whether it’s being caught up in traffic, or now in many instances not being able to see members of our family, and indeed the many and varied sufferings of lockdown which we’re all enduring together. We spiritually unite our sufferings with that of Christ on the Cross, and then we share in His redeeming mission. You can offer these sufferings up for any intention you like: to atone for your own sins, for the conversion of someone to the Faith, for someone to recover from an illness, or for someone to receive a priestly or religious vocation. And doing this helps us grow in grace and holiness. These sufferings may also shorten our Purgatory since every sin we commit on earth has to be atoned for. So let us try to accept our trials with humility so we cancel out our debt of sin in this life as much as we can. A soul in Purgatory cannot obtain a higher degree of glory, but we can increase it in this life by accepting our trials patiently. Believe me, I know how challenging this is, but the supernatural reward is great. So let us strive to cultivate the habit of not complaining when trials and afflictions come our way and offer them up instead. Remember, it is because of His infinite love for us and for our eternal glory that God gives us these crosses.

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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Newsletter for Sunday 14 June 2020

12 Jun

O Sacrament Most Holy! O Sacrament Divine!

On this great Solemnity of Corpus Christi, we are called to express our faith in the truth that the Holy Eucharist, Holy Communion, is in fact a reception of the very Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of JESUS Christ, whole and entire, in His glorified state. We do not receive a symbol. At the Last Supper, Our Lord took bread ‘and when He had given thanks He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My Body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” And likewise the cup after supper, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My Blood” (Luke 22:19-20).

Then in today’s Gospel He says, “I am the living bread which has come down from Heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh for the life of the world” (John 6:51). So Our Lord is making it absolutely clear that we cannot take His words here metaphorically. He meant what He said. The Jews were really shocked by His words, but He became even more adamant and kept on repeating this teaching, and as a result many stopped following Him that day. Most non-Catholic Christians believe that the Eucharist is just a symbol. But we as Catholics believe in the Real Presence of JESUS, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist because that is what He said. The Church has taught this from the very beginning and it is in the Scriptures and the writings of the early Fathers of the Church. Orthodox Christians also believe this. The word the Church uses to describe this miracle is TRANSUBSTANTIATION, where the substance of the bread and wine cease to exist and it is changed into the living JESUS, true God and true man. He is present in the fullness of His divinity and in the fullness of His humanity in the Sacred Host and in the Precious Blood. Only the outward appearances of bread and wine remain and only a validly ordained priest can bring about this change at Mass when he pronounces the words of Consecration.

We are going through a great trial at the moment where we have been deprived of attending Mass and being able to receive Holy Communion. Hopefully this will have taught us, perhaps painfully, how much to appreciate the Mass and never to take it for granted again. We should really be looking forward to receiving JESUS again. A good Confession before will prepare you well. Also, if we believe that JESUS is truly present in the Holy Eucharist, it is only logical to conclude that we must worship Him there. And we must worship Him in the Holy Eucharist with the worship that is due to God alone (latria). So very soon now when we are able to come back into church for private prayer, let us really show our faith by genuflecting (or bowing if we can’t), kneeling and showing a real awareness of Christ’s Presence as we pray before Him in St Mary’s. The Holy Eucharist is the prime Sacrament, the one from which all the others come and the one to which all the others point. Hopefully once this crisis is over we will be able to have a splendid Procession of the Blessed Sacrament in thanksgiving and give Our Lord all the glory and honour which is His due. “O Sacrament most holy! O Sacrament divine! All praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine!”

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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