Newsletter for Easter Sunday

15 Apr

The Resurrection is our only hope

The Resurrection of Christ from the dead which we celebrate today means everything to us. It is the central doctrine of Christianity. Without it, everything is meaningless. The Resurrection means that JESUS is still alive and saving souls now. He is saving us now. We cannot be saved by a dead Saviour. Christ didn’t just rise from the dead. He is risen. 

The Resurrection proves that everything in the Catholic Faith is true. Everything JESUS taught and that has been handed down by the Church He founded is guaranteed infallibly, because God can neither deceive nor be deceived. If Christ is physically risen from the dead, so also will the faithful members of His Church rise physically to eternal life and victory in Him at the end of time.

Many of the Jews in the Old Testament believed in the resurrection even if they didn’t understand it fully. The Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob believed the Lord would raise us up from the dead, and so did the prophets. Isaiah said, “Thy dead shall live, their bodies shall rise. O dwellers in the dust, awake and sing for joy” (26:19). The prophet Daniel speaks of the difference between the resurrection of the good and of the wicked when he said, “Some shall awake unto life everlasting and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (12:2). And then the prophet Ezekiel said, “Behold I will open your graves, and bring you out of your sepulchres … and you shall know that I am the Lord when I shall have opened up your sepulchres” (37:12,13). Faith in the resurrection of the dead and of the life to come enabled Job to endure all his sufferings and trials. “For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that 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”   (19:25-26). 

But it is in the Gospel this truth is most clearly taught. Our Lord not only taught it but made it so evident through His many miracles, such as the raising of Jairus’ daughter from the dead (Mark 5:21-43). Even more spectacularly He brought Lazarus back to life after he had been in the tomb four days (John 11:1-44). And most extraordinary of all, on the third day He raised Himself up from the dead. This faith in the resurrection of Christ and the promise of our own resurrection is what inspired the Apostles and all the martyrs and helped them to endure all their terrible tortures. It gives purpose to life, and helps us endure our trials and sufferings. It gives meaning to our Lenten penances.

The bodily Resurrection of Christ is a historical fact, but it is also a sign to us of what He is doing to us now and of our future destiny. God created us soul and body and they are meant to be together, so God saves both and resurrects both. He is preparing our souls and bodies right now for resurrection to eternal life. This began in Baptism when the seed was planted. It was strengthened in Confirmation and fed in the Holy Eucharist and then healed through Confession and the Anointing of the Sick and finally the Last Rites. The empty tomb and the Resurrection of Christ from the dead is our hope. It is our only hope. Let us rejoice as we now sing again, Alleluia! Christ is risen! 

Happy Easter to you from all the priests!            

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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Newsletter for Sunday 10 April 2022

8 Apr

Will you be there?

The events that will be happening in church this week are better than any movie you have ever seen or ever will see. Be sure not to miss any of it, otherwise you won’t get the full plot!

Holy Week begins today, Palm Sunday, when we commemorate JESUS’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem when the Jews cried out, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” and strew palm branches and garments in His path. Palms will be blessed and we will walk in solemn procession with them. The words of today’s Second Reading summarise the whole of Holy Week: “Christ did not cling to His equality with God, but emptied Himself to assume the condition of a slave, and became obedient even unto death, death on a cross. But God raised Him high…” (Philippians 2:7-8).

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are fairly quiet, but during this time Judas plots his betrayal of Christ. Then begins the Sacred Triduum: Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. These are the three holiest days of the year.

On Holy Thursday we celebrate the Mass of the Last Supper, where Our Lord at the Passover meal with His disciples instituted the Most Holy Eucharist and the Priesthood. He changed the bread and wine into His own Body and Blood, and then instituted the Priesthood by saying to the Apostles, “Do this in memory of Me.” He also washed their feet. In the Old Testament this was done before priestly ordination. So Our Lord washed the feet of the Apostles because He was about to ordain them His first priests. Without the Priesthood there is no Holy Eucharist, there is no Mass, so let us give thanks for this double gift. The bells are rung at the Gloria of this Mass and then they remain silent until the Gloria of the Easter Vigil. At the Consecration, a ratchet or noise maker is used instead to indicate that we have now entered into a time of mourning. Then we will have the beautiful Procession of the Blessed Sacrament to the Altar of Repose where there will be Watching until 10.30pm. Adore Our Lord as He passes you in the procession and then spend some time with Him as the Apostles did in the Garden of Gethsemane. “My soul is sorrowful even unto death. Remain here and keep watch with Me” (Matthew 26:28). The altars in the church are stripped and the tabernacle is left empty.

I have explained many times how the Mass makes Christ’s sacrificial death on Calvary present. But Good Friday is the day it actually happened, so we don’t celebrate Mass on this day because we are living the reality. We don’t consecrate the bread and wine on Good Friday because it is actually happening in front of us. But after the solemn unveiling and adoration of the Cross, Holy Communion is distributed. During this Liturgy, think of standing at the foot of the cross with Our Lady, St John and St Mary Magdalene, and if you receive Holy Communion, recall that the word ‘host’ means ‘victim’. 

Then comes Holy Saturday which is a day of quiet meditation as Our Lord’s body is in the tomb, but His soul is in Limbo announcing the Redemption to the Holy Souls, who because of the sin of Adam and Eve, up until now, could not enter Heaven. Then in the evening we celebrate the Easter Vigil which is the climax of Holy Week with the solemn blessing of the Easter Fire and the Procession of the Paschal Candle into the dark church symbolising the Risen Christ Himself, Who is “the light of the world” (John 9:5). We listen to the prophecies foretelling these events, and then at the Gloria, the bells ring jubilantly, the organ is played and the Alleluia is heard again as Christ’s triumphant Resurrection is announced to the world. He is victorious over death and Satan. We will also share the joy of those being baptised, and we renew our own Baptismal Promises, being determined to follow Christ ever more faithfully. Will you be there?                                               

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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Newsletter for Sunday 3 April 2022

1 Apr

Receiving Forgiveness

Today we hear from St John’s Gospel of Our Lord’s encounter with the woman caught in the act of adultery (8:1-11). The Scribes and Pharisees brought the woman and paraded her sin in front of the crowd JESUS was preaching to. They were trying to catch Him out by asking whether she should be stoned. The Law of Moses said she should be, while the Roman law reserved to itself the right to put anyone to death. So either way, they thought they would catch Him out. But of course, He was God, and no one gets one over on God. He replied, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”. Our Lord here shows Himself to be a friend of sinners, but only to those who admitted they were sinners. As her accusers went on their way, Our Lord asked, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you? … Neither do I condemn you”. Our Lord is not making light of sin here. On the contrary, He hated sin so much that He took all our sins upon Himself and paid the price of it on Calvary. Although the woman’s sin is forgiven, JESUS expects her to live a life of grace from now on by saying, “Go and sin no more”. And this is the attitude we should have when we come to Confession. We must have a firm purpose of amendment which means to have a strong intention to amend our lives and not carry on committing the same sins. We may fall in moments of weakness, but we can only be genuinely sorry if we have a firm intention not to sin again.

So how should we go to confession? Firstly, when you come into church, ask the Holy Spirit to help you make a good confession. Your confession should be humble, sincere and entire. Then you make an examination of conscience. There are purple leaflets at the back of the church to help you do this. Think of the Ten Commandments and of the Church’s laws and if you have violated them. Think back to your last good confession and your serious sins will stand out. You must confess all mortal sins in number and kind, and it is always good to confess venial sins too. The number of times is important to say, because there is a big difference between committing a sin once and fifty times.

Then when you enter the confessional, kneel down, which is an act of humility, and say, “Bless me Father, for I have sinned. My last confession was 2 months ago”. Don’t worry about forgetting the words because there is a card on the wall to prompt you. Then you tell your sins. When telling your sins, you do not need to go into lots of unnecessary details, but you should give any circumstances that may change the nature of the sin. But only confess the things which either take away or add to the seriousness of the act. Remember, other people may be waiting to come in after you. So confess what you need to confess – no more and no less. Also, be sure to confess only your sins. Don’t make excuses by saying, “I did X because my husband or wife did Y”. When you have finished, say something like, “For these and all my sins I am heartily sorry”. The priest may give you some advice and then he will give you a penance. Then he will give you the absolution saying, “I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. Make the sign of the cross as he does so. Remember it is Christ Who is absolving you. On leaving the confessional say your penance immediately in case you forget, and thank the Lord for His great mercy in this Sacrament. “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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Newsletter for Sunday 27 March 2022

25 Mar

Breaking out for Jesus

This Sunday is ‘Laetare Sunday’, the Sunday in which the entrance antiphon of the Mass begins with the word ‘laetare’. ‘Laetare’ means ‘rejoice’. Midway through our Lenten journey towards Christ’s Passion and Resurrection, the Church invites us to rejoice He’s going to win the victory. Soon! But Christian joy is different than normal joy.

Normal joy goes away, because the things that cause it – like football championships and snowy days – go away. But Christian joy is based on something that never goes away: friendship with Jesus Christ. Loving Jesus and being loved by Him – that’s friendship! And it doesn’t change with the seasons. He is always faithful. This explains why Christians can sing hymns even in the most trying of circumstances and situations.

That’s the kind of joy the Church invites us to renew today. And we do need to renew it. For most of us, if we’re honest, have to admit that we don’t always feel that joy. Why not? What’s the obstacle? We have faith, that’s why we’re here. We believe Jesus loves us. So why don’t we experience Christian joy more deeply, more constantly? The obstacle to Christian joy is routine. It’s falling into routine in our relationship with God. That’s what happened to the younger son in the Gospel parable this week. He went looking for joy in all the wrong places, because he got tired of living with his dad. He became self-centred, and that made him bored. That’s exactly what happens to us when we go looking for happiness in sinful places and deeds, in disobedience to God’s loving will.

The older son also lost sight of his father’s goodness. He let the routine of life embitter his heart. He forgot that his father was actually giving him everything. Sometimes we do the same thing: on the outside we are good Catholics, but on the inside, we are angry and critical, because we’re just going through the motions. We have let the fire go out of our friendship with Jesus, the fire and enthusiasm of our faith in Him.

Routine in our relationship with God is the obstacle to our experiencing Christian joy. Lent is all about breaking out of the routine in our relationship with Christ Jesus. Today, let’s ask God to give us the grace we need to break out of our routines, and to help others who may not be here today do the same.

One easy way to do something is to go out of our way for someone every day this coming week. We can go out of our way to help someone in little things – like giving up the better parking space or taking time to actually find information for someone instead of just pointing them to the website. We can also go out of our way to help someone in bigger things, like taking the family to visit a sick relative in the hospital or the nursing home or inviting the new family at church or school round to your place to make them welcome. Or volunteering your most precious resource – time… to help one of our local support groups.

When we go out of our way, out of our routine, for someone, we show them some of God’s goodness, the goodness we have and do receive. And through those efforts, God will be able to reach out to the many prodigal sons and daughters who are afraid to come home.

And if God is working so closely and powerfully through us, it will also help renew our own friendship with Jesus, who is, and is to be, our joy, our Laetare!

Fr David Jones, OLW

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Newsletter for Sunday 20 March 2022

18 Mar

Mary our Mother and Protector

This Friday 25th March, we celebrate our Patronal Feast – the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Although we commonly call our church ‘St Mary’s’, its full title is ‘St Mary of the Annunciation’. You can see the scene depicted outside, above the entrance of the main door, on the large painting on the left-hand wall in the Lady Chapel and also on the stained glass window above the left-hand confessional.

The Annunciation celebrates the Incarnation – God becoming man in the womb of the Immaculate Virgin Mary. The Angel Gabriel announced to Mary the Will of God – that she conceive and bear a Son by the power of the Holy Spirit who would be the Son of the Most High. Then at her “fiat”, that is her “yes”, “the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us”. So from the earliest days of the Church, Our Lady has been referred to as the Mother of God. This does not mean that Mary created God in her womb. Rather we mean that the Child she carried in her womb was the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. Mary gave JESUS His flesh and blood and God created His human soul. The human and the divine were hypostatically joined, and so from the moment of conception, the Child in her womb was also God, and so Mary gave birth to God. Mary, therefore, truly is the Mother of God or ‘Theotokos’ which is the Greek word meaning ‘God bearer’.

On Thursday 24th March, the Vigil of the Annunciation, we will have a second Holy Hour for peace in Ukraine at 6.30pm during which we will recite the Holy Rosary in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. As I mentioned here two weeks ago, Our Lady of Fatima requested the Consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart by the Pope in union with the bishops of the world. She promised that if her requests are carried out, there will be peace in the world and Russia will be converted “following this day of prayer and worldwide reparation”. The Vatican announced last Tuesday that Pope Francis will make the Consecration of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary this coming Friday at 5pm (that is 6pm here), the Solemnity of the Annunciation. The Papal Legate, Cardinal Krajewski, will do the same in Fatima on the Pope’s behalf. As I write (Friday), it is being reported that the Pope will ask the world’s bishops to join him in the Consecration. Various popes since the 1940s have made various consecrations to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, but there has always been something missing from what Our Lady asked. She said, “If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted and there will be peace; if not she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred; the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated. In the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she shall be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.”

As the war escalates in Ukraine and there is an increasing risk it could develop into something truly terrible for the whole world, let us all pray now in earnest that this Consecration of Pope Francis will be done according to Our Lady’s instructions and will be in union with the world’s bishops, and bring about true peace, the conversion of Russia and an authentic renewal of the Church, which Our Lady of Fatima, the Mother of God, ‘Theotokos’, promised would come about as a result of this Consecration. Please make every effort to attend the Holy Hour on Thursday. It would be wonderful to see the church full.

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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Novena Prayer for the Consecration of Russia and A Prayer for Ukraine