Message June 6
It is now 11 weeks since we were told to shut the Churches and stay at home if at all possible. What have we all been doing? Perhaps some memories have helped to keep us going. So here is something from 30 years ago. The parish where I then was serving needed a much larger car park, and we had started work, clearing the ground ready for the hard core and then the asphalt. I received a phone call from an officer of the local authority, telling me that, because of drainage problems, there was a ban on any such work. So I spoke to the architect, a foreign gentleman, about possible solutions, such as concrete grids which would hold cars but allow grass to grow through and natural drainage. He said he would look into it, and advise us what we could do.
Weeks went by, and nothing happened, no work was done, and no advice was received. Then out of the blue I received a letter from the head of the planning department, saying that they had given permission for the area to be covered with asphalt after all. I later discovered that the architect had been phoning them up every day and not understanding what they were saying to him. Eventually they got so fed up that they gave in. This reminded me of one of Our Lord’s parables.
He told the people about a poor widow who kept going to a the judge for justice, and the judge – who had neither fear of God not respect for human beings, refused over and over again. But eventually he decided to give the widow justice ‘or she will persist in coming and worry me to death’. (Luke 18:5).
Our temptation, after 11 weeks of restrictions, is to lose heart and stop praying. But, as Our Lord says to the people, if the unjust judge will give in under pressure, will not God see justice done to his people ‘who cry to him day and night’, even if he seems slow to do so? “I promise you”, Our Lord says, “he will see justice done, and at the right time.” But then he adds: “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith?”
Whether we still have faith, whether we still listen to the Word of God, whether we still pray – whether we are reliable and steadfast in all these things – these are the questions for us right now. If we are praying, listening, believing, then we will also be worshipping God in our hearts and homes, though unable to access Church; and we will still be doing the Lord’s work in loving and caring for one another even though we cannot meet together to encourage each other.
I am sure that we all know that life will be very different post-Covid-19 from how it was before; but we probably are unsure of what differences there will be, or perhaps how we will cope. There will be differences in the Church as well. We may well find that some Churches will have to close (hopefully not Narborough or Lutterworth) and our ways of worshipping and meeting together socially will have to change as well. But God always finds ways of challenging us to new and better ways. So what should we expect of the Church in future years? Last week I read some ideas.
First of all, Pope Francis would remind us to go back to the task that Our Lord gave the Church: to be his witnesses to all peoples, and to be joyful in our witness. His first encyclical was ‘The Joy of the Gospel’: we are called to be joyful in the face of all the difficulties we are currently facing, and that joy and confidence will spread the Good News.
Our focus as a Church must always be on the poor and the needy. There is always a danger – particularly when under any threat, such as the pandemic – to turn inwards and think only of ourselves. But Our Lord wants us always to look to others, and in doing so we will in turn receive God’s blessings.
As a believing people, we must also pay more attention to the natural world, as Pope Francis reminded us in “Laudato Si!”. We are becoming more accustomed to hearing comments of scientific advisors to the government, almost every day; now we need to hear what so many scientists have been saying to us about global warming and the depletion of natural resources; and we must ask ourselves whether our own lifestyles have been harmful to God’s good creation.
When we are allowed to start to meet together again, we know there will still be restrictions. We must embrace them creatively – find interesting and novel ways to worship God and to come together as a community – or as many smaller communities nevertheless united in common faith and love for one another.
Recognising that the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting everyone, special Masses are being celebrated for the sick, their families, care workers and NHS staff by one of our diocesan Bishops of England and Wales, in his Cathedral every Thursday at 7pm. On Thursday 11th June (Feast of St. Barnabas), Bishop Patrick will be taking his turn as part of this important initiative. Bishop Patrick will be offering Mass at 7 pm, which will be live streamed from the Cathedral of St Barnabas on the Bishop’s YouTube account: https://www.youtube.com/bishoppatrickmckinney .
I know that many people have found great benefit and solace in being able to access the celebration of Mass and other services of worship via the internet. I suspect that this ‘virtual worshipping community’ will be a lasting feature of the Church in the mid 21st century. Many of us (like myself) will require a considerable amount of help with this, and I would ask all of you who are good with computers and modern technology to help those of us who are not so adept, to adapt to these new ways of life.
I am very grateful to all of you who have sent in comments and suggestions about how we could celebrate again once we are permitted to worship in public. Please do continue to send in ideas.
On the door of the Church I have posted the following prayer for the Holy Spirit: “Heavenly Father, you have taught the hearts of your faithful people by the light of the Holy Spirit; grant, by the same Holy Spirit that we may have right judgement in all things, and rejoice for evermore in your holy comfort, through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
On Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Blessed Trinity. All our prayer is in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; and all that we do should be to the glory of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, who was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.
This week I will celebrate Mass at approximately 9am each day for the following intentions:
Sunday (Feast of the Blessed Trinity) the people of the parishes; Monday Intentions of Sam Whittle; Tuesday Alan Gower RIP; Wednesday the people of the parish (Mass in time of pandemic);Thursday (Feast of St. Barnabas) for the people of the parishes; Friday Jim Hadley RIP; Saturday Michael O’Rourke RIP; next Sunday (Corpus Christi) Monsignor Phelan RIP.
Please pray for Sheila Knight, Elizabeth Fullerton, Joan Lamyman, Mary Dunne, Ranjit Mann, Juanita Zaman, (all parishioners or relatives of parishioners) and Father Michael Horrax (retired priest of this Diocese) who are seriously ill; and for Sister Breege Leddy, Steven Moger, Anne Foong, Michael Ginnerty, Agnes Hanford, Father Richard Adam (of Mount St. Bernard’s Abbey), Sean O’Neill, and all who have died recently. Please let me know of any others who have died, or anyone who is ill and wishes to ask for prayers, so that I can add them to the list.
Meanwhile, please know that I am thinking of you all and looking forward to meeting you again in person. I pray for you, and ask that you pray for me and for all members of our two communities. I hope you are all keeping well, happy, and virus free. If there is any way that I can help, please do let me know.
I am very grateful to all of you who have been distributing my thoughts and messages to those who may not have been receiving them directly. Do please think of those members of our community who may not be ‘computer-savvy’ or do not have email, or perhaps may not have given me their email address. You are welcome to share these thoughts with anyone else who you feel may benefit from them or would like to read them. Please also continue to pass on to me any messages from them – including email addresses. I would very much like to reach as many members of our communities as possible, and if my thoughts are of any benefit to those who are not in our community, I would be delighted.
With best wishes to you all, and assuring you all of my prayers. Father John
An advert from the Diocese:
The Diocese of Nottingham wishes to appoint a Director of Communications for the Diocese, to work with the Bishop, parishes, chaplaincies, and schools to lead the development and implementation of an effective communications framework across the diocese, promoting the Diocesan Mission and the three themes of Encounter with Christ, Discipleship, and Missionary Discipleship. The post would suit a committed Catholic with a strong track record in communications, and experienced media professional or journalist who has been involved recently in leading communications. Salary £45-50K. For more information and application pack please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Closing date 22nd June 2020.