June 14, 2018
On Saturday we celebrate the feast day of a great English saint. Richard of Chichester was born in Droitwich in the West Midlands in 1197 and died at Dover in 1253. But it is as the reforming bishop of Chichester that he is best known and loved. In the close a statue of him overlooks the Cathedral, and his shrine has been beautifully restored within the church itself.
Richard was a man of simple personal habits, great generosity, and clearly possessed the ‘common touch’. He was not adverse to rebuking his clergy and even the King when he thought it necessary, but he was gentle to the people in his charge and keen to lead them to heaven.
Richard was keen to instil a love of Christ in his people and his whole outlook can be summed up in the beautiful prayer he left us:
Thanks be to Thee, my Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits you have given me, for all the pains and insults you have borne for me.
O most merciful Redeemer, friend and brother, may I know You more clearly, love You more dearly, and follow You more nearly day by day. Amen.
Simple but profound, we would do well to meditate upon it.
June 8, 2018
This weekend we enter the ‘Ordinary Time’ of the Church’s year. Perhaps that’s a bit of a misnomer as nothing in our life in Christ is ‘ordinary’, in the sense of dull at least. It’s a time when we grow and develop as Christians. And the saints are our examples and guides during this period.
The saints, as we have said many times before, were ‘ordinary’ men and women who became extraordinary because they allowed Christ into their lives completely. They were transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.
We are called to be exactly like them. We can’t say that we cannot be because we are only ordinary so were they.
As we go through this period we will be looking at their lives and struggles so that we can see how we can imitate them, how we can learn from, and how we can become more like them.
But the saints are not just examples they are also advocates who pray for us and plead our cause. That is wonderful to know. We are not alone in our struggle to become better Christians we have this great crowd cheering us on to victory. The Communion of Saints is not some abstract doctrine but a wonderful reality at the centre of the Church.
June 1, 2018
This weekend we celebrate the wonderful feast of Corpus Christi. The phrase ‘Body of Christ’ has so many resonances and this feast brings them all together. There is the physical Body of Christ, crucified for us but now resurrected and glorified in Heaven. There is the Church which is the Body of Christ on earth. And, of course, there is the Eucharistic Body of Christ by which the Church is constituted and through which we are united to Christ in Heaven.
This feast calls us to remember especially the Eucharistic Body of Christ. We give thanks for the great gift of that Body given to us. In many parishes there is a Corpus Christi procession in which the Blessed Sacrament is carried through the streets. This is a wonderful way of celebrating our faith in the ‘real presence’ and a wonderful way in which we can give witness to those around us.
Down through the ages the Blessed Sacrament had sustained the saints in their troubles and difficulties. The Mass has been the rock of all that the Church does, says, and is.
This weekend we celebrate the fact that bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ, and that we too are transformed by our consumption of the same.
May 18, 2018
The glorious seven week celebration of Easter finally draws to a close this weekend. But it ends not with a whimper but a bang – the Big Bang of the Holy Spirit in the great feast of Pentecost. The Church does not descend into torpor but rather is invigorated to carry out the mission given to her by Christ himself: to proclaim the gospel and make disciples of all the nations.
The Holy Spirit is given constantly to the church. The outpouring of the Spirit is not a one off event. And we too, especially through the sacrament of confirmation, have received the same Spirit that descended on Jesus at his baptism.
From its very start the Church has grown in leaps and bounds, often in the face of dire opposition. When her enemies have been crowing over Her defeat God has found new ways to renew Her. And it is always through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
The saints who we celebrate week by week were the chosen vessels of the Holy Spirit. In a myriad of different ways they have made the gospel alive for the people of their day.
We are called to follow those saints and do the same. And the same Spirit has been given to us for that task.
May 11, 2018
The choice of the twelve apostles was no arbitrary decision on the part of Jesus. He wanted to choose twelve men with whom he would share his ministry and preaching. We find lists of the twelve in the gospels, and they are shown as intimately associated with Him. When Judas betrayed Jesus that group was devastated. But it is interesting to note that one of the first actions of the early church after the resurrection was to make the group complete again. In the opening chapter of the Acts of the Apostles we read about the process whereby that choice was made.
The man chosen was called Matthias and we celebrate his feast day on Monday. He was suitable because he fulfilled the criteria set by St Peter – he had accompanied Jesus from his baptism until the Ascension. And the task he was given is absolutely clear: he is to be a witness to the resurrection of Jesus.
Down through the centuries that has remained the key task of all the followers of Jesus. Although the Apostles hold a unique place in the history of the Church their role is continued by the bishops. And although the Apostles saw the risen Lord themselves we are called to be witnesses to the resurrection too. The new life of Jesus should be visible in our lives. Let’s ask Matthias to pray that it will be.
May 4, 2018
May has traditionally been seen as Our Lady’s month. We have numerous hymns and prayers which refer to it in this way. It’s good for us to devote this time to contemplating the person of Mary.
Mary is the most perfect of all God’s creatures. She was conceived without sin and throughout her life was preserved from sin. Mary was prepared to listen to the Word and enabled the Word to become flesh. Mary always points the way to Christ. Mary stood at the foot of the Cross when nearly all others had fled. Mary rejoices in the resurrection and is present on the day of Pentecost. At the end of her earthly life Mary was assumed into heaven.
Mary has thus been seen as the first Christian. She hears, accepts and believes. She’s points and puts into practice. She allows God’s Spirit fully into her life.
It is therefore fitting that we honour her and seek to follow her example. But more than that we should love her as we love our own mothers because she is the mother of all who believe.
Mary has many titles. We could well spend some time thinking about those during May. It is good that we build a shrine for her in this month, and if possible hold a procession in her honour.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.
April 20, 2018
We have four gospels that the Church tells us are authentic records of the doings and sayings of Christ. Other gospels exist (such as the ones that I suspect Pullman bases his book on) but the Church has always ruled them out as inauthentic and misleading.
One of the authentic gospels is that written by the saint we celebrate on Wednesday, Mark.
Mark’s gospel is the plainest of the four. He is no great stylist, and the language he uses is stark and simple. He is also not flattering to the apostles who are depicted as slow on the uptake and slow to believe. The core of Mark’s message is the same as the other gospel writers however. Jesus is the one sent by God, who was crucified and is now risen from the dead. Through him we are saved.
What is startling when we read all the gospels together is not that they are different in style and tell the story in different ways but rather the story they tell. They are convinced, as Mark states in his opening lines, that here is good news.
Our task is to put that good news on the page into practice in our lives. The world has grown tired and cynical about preachers and teachers but the people of our generation will be convinced when they see us living out the good news in our lives.