Letter from Fr Paul – 28 June 2020, Saints Peter and Paul

28 Jun

Dear All,

Today is the transferred Solemnity of SS Peter and Paul. I say transferred because the real date of the Feast is 29th June (Monday), and in normal times it would be a Holyday of Obligation. The current practice in England and Wales when a Day of Obligation falls on a Saturday or Monday is to transfer it to the Sunday.

I have written a little about SS Peter and Paul in this week’s newsletter. St Peter was the first Pope and Paul is the Apostle to the Gentiles and both were martyred in Rome around 67 AD. With these two martyrs being the foundation of the Church, I thought it might be appropriate to say a little bit about the charism of infallibility in the Church, what we mean by this, and how we can be certain the Church is giving us the truth.

Infallibility means exemption from error. This is a negative in the sense it preserves from error, but it is also something positive because it implies not only the impossibility of being in error, but it also means possessing and proclaiming the truth. Infallibility is necessary in the Church so as we can know the truths Christ gave us with certainty. If Our Lord said, “He that believeth and is baptised, shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16), He must have given us the means to know the truth, and that means is the Catholic Church. The ‘Depositum fidei’ or the ‘Deposit of Faith’ is the Church’s possession of unchangeable truth: what God has revealed through His prophets in the Old Law, and through Our Lord JESUS Christ in the New Law. When Our Lord commanded the Apostles to go out and preach the Gospel to all nations, He promised to be with them “all days even to the consummation of the world” (Matthew 28:20).  And at the Last Supper He said, “I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Paraclete to be with you forever…the Spirit of truth… He dwells with you and will be in you…The Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:16-17,26). And then, “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). So it is the Holy Spirit that is the principle source of the Church’s infallibility and thus She will be protected from error both in belief and in teaching, and it is to the Catholic Church alone that Christ made these promises. As I mentioned in my letter for Pentecost Sunday, the Apostles prior to the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost were rather confused about what Our Lord taught. But when the Holy Spirit came upon them they understood perfectly everything He had taught them and they all enjoyed the charism of infallibility in their teaching when they spoke officially as Apostles and Teachers of the Faith. This wasn’t for their benefit, but for ours. And this teaching, the Deposit of Faith, is handed on to us through the Magisterium (teaching authority) of the Church by the Pope and the Bishops.

So when as Catholics the Church gives us a solemn judgement on something we should assent to it, because it is irreformable and is guaranteed by Christ. The various Creeds we say, such as the Apostle’s Creed or the Nicene Creed which we say on a Sunday at Mass are all infallible because they are part of the Deposit of Faith. These teachings are irreformable, and they are also important so that we know what we believe.

Those of you old enough to have learned the old ‘Penny Catechism’ will know that, “The Pope is infallible when he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church.” A good modern example of an infallible teaching would be Pope Pius XII proclaiming the dogma of the Assumption of Our Lady in 1950. He said the following:

“By the authority of our Lord JESUS Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”  

Venerable Pope Pius XII defining the dogma of the Assumption of Our Lady in St Peter’s Square, 1950.

That’s how it’s done! But this was no new doctrine. It has always been believed by the Church and the Feast of the Assumption has existed since the fifth century. The Pope simply clarified it. The Pope can never invent a new doctrine. He is the guardian of the Deposit of Faith and is bound by it and by the teaching of all his predecessors. Infallibility protects the Church, as well as the authority of Scripture and Tradition by ensuring that the Pope is prevented from misusing them and thereby formally teaching error.

The Pope, when he makes an infallible pronouncement must fulfil the conditions laid down by the First Vatican Council (1868-1870). People can often get this wrong thinking that everything a Pope says is infallible. Or the other extreme is to say that if he teaches something erroneous he ceases to be the Pope. Both are wrong! This is not how the Church sees it. So the conditions for a Pope speaking infallibly are as follows:

  • That what he teaches concerns faith or morals. If the Pope speaks about mathematics, climate change, or which horse is going to win the next race, he is not speaking infallibly. Peter was made the rock of the Church to give us the truths necessary for salvation, and so his successors are infallible only when defining these eternal truths.
  • He has to proclaim it ex cathedra. This means he must say it as the Pope and Head of the Church and not as a private person. Pope Benedict XVI wrote a trilogy on JESUS of Nazareth, but he made a point of saying he was not writing it as Pope but in a private capacity as Joseph Ratzinger. Therefore it is not part of the Magisterium.
  • He must teach that this doctrine is to be definitively held by ALL the faithful and so all doubt in the matter is removed and it can never be changed. So he is not speaking infallibly if he is having a chat with a bishop on an issue or trying to solve a problem, even if it be about faith or morals.

All these conditions must exist for a Pope to proclaim something infallibly. Not everything taught by the Magisterium has the guarantee of infallibility. It would be heretical to say that everything a Pope says is infallible. Popes have made errors in their teachings in the past, but they did not fulfil the above mentioned conditions of infallibility. A famous example is when Pope John XXII (ca 1244-1334) taught the heresy that those who die do not see the Beatific Vision (see God face to face) until the Last Judgement. He later recanted. And it was left to his successor, Benedict XII to correct his wrong teaching.

Bishops when they solemnly define something in a Council are infallible when they do so in union with the Pope. For example, the dogmatic decrees of the Council of Trent (1545-63) which was the Church’s answer to the Protestant Reformation, and the First Vatican Council (1868-1870) are infallible and cannot be changed because they proclaimed dogmatic truths to be held definitively by the whole Church and were all approved by the Pope of the day.

However, contrary to what many think, the Second Vatican Council was not an infallible Council. Why not? Because both Pope St John XXIII who opened it and Pope St Paul VI who closed it said so. Paul VI said towards the end of the Second Vatican Council in 1964 that “given the Council’s pastoral character, it avoided pronouncing, in an extraordinary manner, dogmas endowed with the note of infallibility.” In other words infallibility was not used at Vatican II because it was a pastoral Council – not a dogmatic one. No doctrine was defined there. But that said, there are many teachings in the documents of Vatican II which are infallible because it incorporates infallible teachings from the past.

The Bishops of the world at the Second Vatican Council, 1962-65.

Ordinary Magisterial teaching when it is taught by all the Bishops of the world also constitutes an infallible source of what the Church teaches. This was implied when Pope St John Paul II in the 1994 document ‘Ordinatio Sacerdotalis’ reaffirmed the teaching of the male only priesthood. The Pope didn’t here use his extraordinary powers of infallibility, but instead laid down that this had always been taught by all and therefore was infallible by virtue of it being an ordinary Magisterial teaching and “that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.” The infallible nature of this was later confirmed by Cardinal Ratzinger (later Benedict XVI) when he was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and has been reaffirmed by Pope Francis. But not all ordinary Magisterial teachings are infallible. Only those which have been taught consistently by all the Bishops throughout the world.

Another source of infallibility which might surprise you is the ‘sensus fidelium’ or the faith of the Catholic people. This means that the Catholic faithful can be a source of infallibility when there is a distinct universal and constant profession of a doctrine by the whole body of the faithful, and it must be believed without ambiguity. Pope Benedict XVI referred to it as a “supernatural instinct” for knowing what teachings ring with Catholic truth.  This basically means that the Holy Spirit would not allow the whole of the Church faithful to hold to some doctrine when it is false or heretical. In recent years there have been abuses of this doctrine when people want to dissent from Church teaching. However, the Second Vatican Council taught that this Catholic instinct is “exercised under the guidance of the sacred teaching authority” to which the people of God show “faithful and respectful obedience” (Lumen gentium, 12).

This is a very complicated topic and I’ve only touched the surface of some of the main points. Books can be written on this and indeed many have been! But two thousand years ago, Truth Itself came to this earth and spoke through a physical human body like ours. That Truth is now living on the earth today and speaking to us through His Mystical Body – the Catholic Church. This is why we must be obedient to the Deposit of Faith because it is Christ speaking to us. When the Church formally condemns an error, it is Christ condemning it. When the Successor of Peter infallibly defines a doctrine, it is Christ telling us this is true. “He that hears you hears Me” (Luke 10:16). This is why there can be no changing of eternal truths to please the world. We must be like the salt of the earth to save souls (Matthew 5:13).

I will conclude with the words of the great Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen (1895-1979):

“Some there are who hate Truth and nail Him to a cross; some there are who half believe in Truth like Pilate, who turned his back upon Him; some there are who love Truth like Peter, and die like the Master died. And from that day to this – it is Divine Truth that makes the difference. It is the Divine Truth that makes the Church the stumbling-block of the sceptics, the scandal of the half-hearted, the reproach of the ignorant. But no one escapes Her, for they realise She stands in a drab civilisation as the only rock of security and Truth.”

Happy Feast and may God bless you all.

Fr Paul


“Ubi Petrus, ibi ecclesia.” “Where Peter is, there is the Church.” (St Ambrose of Milan, ca 340-397).

Re-opening the Church for private prayer

25 Jun
Dear All,
We have now received permission from the diocese to open the church for private prayer at the following times: Mondays 10.30am -12.30pm, Wednesdays 4pm – 6pm, Saturdays 10.30am – 12.30pm, Sundays 3pm – 5pm. Seven people will be allowed in the church at any one time and social distancing of 2 metres must still be observed. Hand sanitiser must be used on entry and exit and there is a single directional walkway which is indicated. So the first opening for private prayer will be this Saturday 27th June from10.30am – 12.30pm. 
The Prime Miinister has said c hurches will be able to open again from 4th July, for public worship. I do  not know at this stage how this will work. Bishop Patrick has sent out an email to the clergy about this. Here is an extract:

“Before I can send out to you clear guidance on how we shall open our churches again for public worship, after 4th July, I must wait to receive all the appropriate guidelines to be followed from the Bishop’s Conference Secretariat, who have been working with the various government agencies on how best this can be done. The Secretariat are now just waiting for final approval of this document. I hope that in the next few days I shall be able to share all the appropriate information with you.”

What is certain though as we look towards reopening our churches after 4 th July, is that every church that may wish to open for public worship will need to be able to fulfil all the various government requirements with regard to stewarding, hygiene and social distancing. Permission will only be granted for public worship to resume in a church that has put in place all these government requirements, and completed a full Risk Assessment, in order that we may keep our congregations safe, and to help to avoid the spread of the corona virus.”
I thank you all for your patience. 
God bless you all.
Fr Paul

Letter from Fr Paul – 21 June 2020, 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

21 Jun

Dear All,

This is the first Sunday in ‘Ordinary Time’ we have had since before Lent, and so the priest returns to wearing green vestments. This is going to be rather short lived since next Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of the Princes of the Apostles, Saints Peter and Paul who were martyrs and so red is worn. Red is also going to be worn tomorrow because it is the Feast of two very important English martyrs: St John Fisher and St Thomas More. Both were executed under King Henry VIII in 1535.

St John Fisher (1469-1535) was the Bishop of Rochester here in England. As well as being very holy, he had a great intellect, was a great scholar and was regarded by many as being the most holy and learned prelate in the whole of Christendom. He worked very hard as a Bishop, not only in his own diocese, but he also called the other Bishops to greater holiness in the way they led their flocks. He had also been King Henry’s teacher when he was a boy, but even this didn’t prevent Henry from having Bishop Fisher executed for opposing him many years later. Henry had held Bishop John Fisher in the highest esteem for many years as indeed did the whole of Europe. Henry once asked Cardinal Reginald Pole (1500-58) if he had met anyone in Europe comparable to Fisher in scholarship and holiness, and he replied that he had not.

St Thomas More (1478-1535) was a layman with a family and a good friend of Henry VIII. He too was very holy and prayed for long hours as well as performing many penances. Once while Thomas was hearing Mass, King Henry sent for him. Thomas remained until the Mass was finished, but sent this message, “As soon as my audience with the King of Heaven is ended, I will at once obey the desire of my earthly king.”  King Henry made him Chancellor of England. He enforced the law of the land and saw that the poor were protected against any injustice.

The story of these two men’s martyrdom is well known. Henry wanted to divorce his wife Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn because Catherine was unable to give him a son and heir. Henry at this time together with the whole of England was still Catholic, and Henry had even written against the errors of Luther which prompted Pope Leo X to give him the title “Fidei Defensor” or “Defender of the Faith” in 1521. The title was later revoked by Pope Paul III when Henry was excommunicated but then reinstated by Parliament to Henry and his successors as defender of the Protestant faith, a title the monarch holds to this day.

Henry asked the Pope for an annulment of his marriage to Catherine, but after examining the case the Pope decided there were no grounds for annulment and that the first marriage was valid. The Pope reaffirmed the divinely revealed truth that no power on earth can dissolve a valid marriage and therefore Catherine of Aragon was his lawful wife. Henry was furious and then claimed that he was head of the Church in England, and granted himself the annulment.  He then forced all Bishops and all government officials to swear two oaths: first, that the king was head of the Church, and secondly, that he had the right to name his own heir to the throne despite what the law said.  One might imagine that the Bishops would have protested at this. But no, they went along with it, even though it is clear in Scripture and an infallible teaching of the Church that Our Lord made St Peter and his successors the visible head of the Church on earth and that marriage is indissoluble (unbreakable). St John Fisher was the only Bishop who witnessed to the truth by telling Henry he was wrong. He said that even before Christ had redeemed the world, while Israel was still under the old dispensation, St John the Baptist suffered martyrdom because he criticised the invalid marriage of King Herod and Herodias. And he said this should be the example for us, and that if under the old dispensation a king could not undo marriage, then neither under a redeemed humanity can a Christian king undo marriage. This didn’t go down too well and Bishop Fisher was imprisoned in the Tower of London. It was at this time that the Pope named Bishop Fisher a Cardinal thinking Henry wouldn’t harm a Prince of the Church. But Henry only became more enraged and Bishop Fisher then suffered the same fate as John the Baptist by having his head cut off.

St John Fisher leaving the Tower of London on his way to execution

St Thomas More, being a lawyer was asked to defend Henry’s divorce but he would not. He made it clear that no king or government has authority over the Sacraments and that no king can make himself above the Church. He told Henry, “I am the King’s good servant, but God’s first.” Thomas was arrested and also imprisoned in the Tower of London. False charges were brought against him. He was tried in Westminster Hall and then condemned to death for high treason and beheaded.

St Thomas More saying farewell to his daughter at his arrest

Overnight England became separated from Rome, and the Church had to go underground. The One Holy, Roman, Catholic and Apostolic Church was outlawed. If you went to Mass you were harassed and fined. If you were found to be a Catholic priest or hiding one you would be executed.

Our Lord says in today’s Gospel, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear Him rather who can destroy both body and soul in Hell” (Matthew 10: 28). At Baptism we are given the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and these are strengthened in Confirmation to help us bear witness to the Truth. The only thing that blocks this out is sin. It blocks our courage and silences us when we should speak out. We live in an age today when the truth about marriage and the family is under constant attack to such an extent that even those who believe in Our Lord are frightened into silence. Sister Lucia of Fatima wrote in a letter to Cardinal Carlo Caffarra (1938-2017) in the 1980s, “The final battle between the Lord and the kingdom of Satan will be about marriage and the family… Don’t be afraid, because whoever works for the sanctity of marriage and the family will always be fought against and opposed in every way, because this is the decisive issue …nevertheless, Our Lady has already crushed his head.” The truth of this prophecy is more evident today than ever.

God has given us the truth so that we can live it and hand it on to others, and when necessary defend it.  God has put each one of us on this earth at this particular time in history. The recently canonised St John Henry Newman who visited our church in 1845 wrote, “God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission.” God had a mission for St John Fisher and St Thomas More that they would speak the truth in love in their time. And He asks the same of us today. “Everyone therefore that shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in Heaven. But he that shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in Heaven.” (Matthew 10:32-33). If we’re ever faced with the choice of dying for the sake of Christ or denying Him to save one’s life, we must remember that the worst thing our enemies can do is kill our body, but they cannot kill the soul. It is better to save one’s soul than to preserve one’s physical life. 

So let us pray today that through the intercession of these two great saints, John Fisher and Thomas More, God will give us the courage to proclaim our faith publicly when we are called upon to do so.

May God bless you all.

Fr Paul

Pope Benedict XVI addressing the Houses of Parliament in Westminster Hall on 17th September 2010.
This is where the trial of St Thomas More took place

Letter from Fr Paul – 14 June 2020, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi

14 Jun

Dear All,

In the year 1263, a German priest by the name of Peter of Prague was going on a pilgrimage to Rome and he stopped off at the town of Bolsena in Italy to celebrate Mass. He was having problems believing that Christ was truly present in the Holy Eucharist. And so while pronouncing the words of Consecration, blood started to seep from the consecrated Host and trickle over his hands onto the altar and the corporal (a square linen cloth). Naturally he was stunned and at first tried to hide it. But then he interrupted the Mass to go and tell the Pope, Urban IV (1195-1264) who was staying over in the nearby town of Orvieto. The Pope listened to the priest’s account and absolved him and ordered that the miraculous Host and the linen corporal stained with the Precious Blood be brought to Orvieto Cathedral. The blood stained corporal you can still see on display in the Cathedral today as a relic. It was this miracle that prompted Pope Urban to ask St Thomas Aquinas (1225-74) to compose the Mass and Office (the psalms, readings and prayers priests have to say every day) in honour of the Holy Eucharist, and then one year later he instituted the great feast of Corpus Christi. There is a famous fresco by Raphael (1483-1520) entitled “The Mass at Bolsena” depicting this miracle in the Raphael Rooms in the Vatican.

“The Mass at Bolsena” by Raphael

But this miracle is only one of hundreds throughout the centuries testifying to the truth of Our Lord’s Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament.

Today’s Gospel (John 6:51-58) is one of the most important texts regarding the Holy Eucharist. It is known as the ‘Bread of Life Discourse’ where Our Lord gives His most explicit teaching on His Real Presence in the Eucharist when 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.” The Jews began arguing with each other saying, “How can this man give us His Flesh to eat?” They interpreted Him to be speaking about cannibalism. But JESUS insisted on the literal truth of what He was saying, and this for them was unbelievably shocking. He didn’t say, “No, no, no you’ve got it all wrong. I was only speaking metaphorically.” He responds by making the even stronger statement: “If you do not eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood you will not have life in you… For My Flesh is real food and My Blood is real drink.” He is emphasising that the food and drink He is going to give will be His true Flesh and Blood and that it is going to be necessary to partake of it if we are to have eternal life.

Pope St John Paul II, Corpus Christi, Orvieto 1990

The miracle of the Holy Eucharist was prefigured in the Old Testament (Exodus 16) where God fed the Israelites with the manna (miraculous bread from Heaven) as they wondered the desert for forty years. Thus Our Lord says, “This is the bread come down from Heaven; not like the bread our ancestors ate (the manna in the desert): they are dead, but anyone who eats this bread shall live forever.” Many of the Jews rejected the manna from Heaven and said, “we’re not eating this” and God took their lives.  Those who did eat the manna did eventually die, but they died of natural causes. So in other words, the bread Our Lord was going to give is different from the manna in the desert, because whoever eats this new manna will live forever, because it will be His Divine Flesh. Now if this new manna which Our Lord was going to give was only a symbol, it would mean the old manna was greater than the new, and that’s not how salvation history works. New Testament fulfilments are always greater than their Old Testament pre-figurations. If the Old Testament manna was from Heaven, the manna in the New Testament must be the miraculous bread we need to have eternal life in Heaven.

The Apostles didn’t really understand what Our Lord was saying but they had seen all the miracles He had worked and heard His preaching and so they trusted Him. When many of the people walked away, JESUS said to the Apostles, “Do you want to go away as well?” Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69).

It was at the Last Supper that Our Lord’s promise was fulfilled when He took bread in His hands and said, “Take ye, and eat. This is My Body. And taking the chalice, He gave thanks, and gave to them, saying: Drink ye all of this. For this is My Blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many unto remission of sins.” (Matthew 26:26-28). Their eyes were opened as they must have recalled what He had said a year earlier about the heavenly food and drink that would be His true Flesh and Blood. This was the first Mass when Our Lord consecrated the bread and wine into His own Body and Blood.

It was also on this occasion that the Apostles were ordained the first bishops and priests. The Apostles could now, by the will of Christ, perform the miracle of changing bread and wine into His Body and Blood each time they offered Mass. “Do this in memory of Me.” After He had left them, this is what they did. They changed bread and wine into Christ’s Body and Blood and gave Holy Communion to the faithful. The Apostles, knowing that Our Lord wanted to be with us in this way until the end of time ordained other men as  bishops and priests giving them the power to do the same at the Consecration of the Mass. No priest can ever grasp fully the sublimity of what he is doing, but he calls God down to earth again, and through him the Incarnation is renewed. Christ is born again into a priest’s hands as he bows low over the Host saying the words, “Hoc est enim Corpus meum.” “For this is My Body.” But it is only through ordination that a priest receives the power to do this. He is acting “in persona Christi”. Christ is the true celebrant at every Mass.

St Padre Pio consecrating the Host: “For this is My Body”

The Church has given a special word for this miraculous change: Transubstantiation. This means that the substance of the bread and wine (ie. what makes them bread and wine) is replaced by the whole JESUS Christ – that is His substance plus all the human properties of His humanity. The physical properties of bread and wine (their colour, texture, taste etc) remain, but they lose their substance and are replaced by the whole Christ. So Our Lord is with us always in the Eucharist so long as the appearances of bread and wine remain, and the whole Christ is entirely present in every particle of the consecrated Host and in every drop of what looks and tastes like wine. When the priest breaks the Host in half, Christ is fully present in both halves. Furthermore, the whole Christ is fully and equally present in either form, so we do not have to receive under both kinds. The tiniest drop in the chalice after the Consecration contains the whole Christ.

Some of the Protestant reformers in the sixteenth century held that Christ is only present when and if you are receiving the Holy Eucharist. But the Council of Trent (1545-63) declared, “If anyone says that after the Consecration, the Body and Blood of our Lord JESUS Christ are not present in the marvellous Sacrament of the Eucharist, but are present only in the use of the Sacrament while it is being received, and not before or after, and that the true Body of the Lord does not remain in the consecrated Host or particles that are kept or left over after Communion, anyone who denies that, let him be anathema (Session 13, can.4). This is why the consecrated Hosts not used at Mass are reserved in the tabernacle and we always genuflect in front of It and have the red lighted lamp constantly burning by it. Look for the lighted lamp by the tabernacle in any Catholic church and you know Our Lord is there.

St Clare of Assisi (1194-1253) is often depicted carrying a monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament in it, which is rather unusual because she wasn’t a priest. This is because Our Lord worked a Eucharistic miracle through her. In the year 1234, the army of Frederick II, which included many Saracens from Sicily in its number, were plundering the part of Umbria which includes Assisi. They attacked the convent of San Damiano where St Clare and the other sisters were living. Clare, who was very sick prostrated herself before the tabernacle imploring Our Lord’s protection for the convent and for the city. She heard a voice respond, “I will always protect you.”

St Clare with the Blessed Sacrament

Clare took the ciborium from the tabernacle, and brought it to a window near the place where the soldiers had set a ladder against the walls in order to scale them. When she raised the Blessed Sacrament on high, the soldiers fell off the ladder and away from the wall as if dazzled, and they all fled.

I have mentioned just two Eucharistic miracles in this letter but many have been authenticated by the Church. You can get a book entitled “Eucharistic Miracles” by Joan Carroll Cruz. It makes fascinating reading. All of these Eucharistic miracles answer any doubts we may have about Christ’s Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament. “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1 :14). This is not only in Bethlehem, but in every Catholic tabernacle throughout the world. With St Mary’s hopefully being open for private prayer sometime this coming week (it will now be towards the end of the week at the earliest), if you are able, after this long absence of nearly three months, come and visit JESUS here in the tabernacle. There still cannot be any public Masses, but even as restrictions are gradually lifted our access to Holy Communion with all the social distancing rules will be less frequent than we are used to.  But may the Real Presence of JESUS in the Holy Eucharist always be the centre of our Church, of our Faith, of our parish and in the lives of each of us.

May God bless you all and Happy Feast!

Fr Paul

JESUS is truly present in the tabernacle in every Catholic church


Letter from Fr Paul: Re-opening the church

9 Jun

Dear Parishioners


As you will no doubt be aware, the Government has given permission for places of worship to re-open under strict conditions from next Monday 15th June for private prayer only. Our ability to open next Monday will be dependant on all the necessary measures being in place by then. If they are not we will have to delay. But it will soon be possible to come in on certain days and at specified times and pray before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. I will let you know those times at the weekend and they will also be posted on the front door of the church. We are not able to resume the public celebration of Mass at this stage. This is a little further down the road and even then there will still be restrictions.

So the present situation regarding private prayer is as follows:

  • People with cold or flu-like symptoms will not be allowed to enter the church.
  • There will be a limit on the numbers permitted to enter the church at any one time and a single directional walkway will be marked out. Social distancing of two metres must be observed at all times. Please do not arrange for other people to come with you unless you are a family living in the same house.
  • The main entrance on Ashby Road will be used for entering the church and the disabled entrance on the left hand side by the Lady Altar leading into the car park will be used for exiting.
  • There will be no Holy Water in the stoups.
  • Many of the benches will be taped off or closed off. Alternate rows towards the back of the church will be reserved for people to sit in or kneel. Where you may sit on the bench will be indicated. This is necessary to maintain social distancing.
  • Paper materials such as pamphlets, leaflets, hymn books etc will be removed from the church.
  • It is not permitted to touch any of the statues. However you will be able to light votive candles at St Joseph’s Altar. Existing candles must be used to light new ones. There will be no lighters or tapers.
  • Anti-viral hand sanitiser will be provided at both the entrance and the exit to the church. Please note there will be no access to toilets during this time.
  • All surfaces, such as door handles and other frequently touched areas will need to be disinfected by the stewards throughout the day. Then after the church is closed, surfaces of the pews that have been in use as well as door handles must be washed down with warm soapy water and disinfected.
  • You may wear a face mask but this is not obligatory.
  • Parents are allowed to bring small children into the church but they will need to be managed appropriately ensuring they touch as few surfaces as possible.

Thank you to all those who have volunteered so far to act as stewards. If anyone else under the age of 70 and with no underlying health issues would like to volunteer to steward and clean the church at the end of each opening, please let me know by calling 01509 262123.

The above advice concerns the opening of the church for private prayer only. New directives will be issued in due course when public worship is able to resume.

I understand these measures are going to be a little burdensome but we must abide by the rules if we want our church to remain open. I thank you all in advance for your cooperation and support in these matters.

May God bless you all.

Fr Paul