Last year we marked the ‘Year of Mission’ by preparing for two new missions in our parish community – combatting Trafficking and Modern Slavery, and a ministry to the Catholic LGBT+ community. Both were launched earlier this year. We are listening to Luke’s Gospel and one of his many themes is prayer. His Gospel begins with the people of Israel at prayer at the Temple as John the Baptist’s birth is announced to Zechariah the priest; his Gospel ends with the New Israel, the disciples of Jesus praising God at Jesus’s Ascension (our birth into eternal life) and gathering in the upper Room waiting for ‘power from on high’ – the Holy Spirit. If we are to fulfil the challenges of Mission, we are called to be a people of prayer, open to the Spirit, whose gifts and charisms will empower the Mission of Unconditional Love which Jesus entrusts to us: Come, Spirit!
Please keep the people of the Yemen in your prayers as they are living in a desperate situation. Their suffering is one of the gravest humanitarian crises in the world today. After nearly 4 years of war, more than 14 million people are facing starvation and 85,000 children may have already died from extreme hunger since 2015.
There is some hope in Yemen with a ceasefire brokered last month promising to restore the Hodeida Port and allow food and medicine in to Yemen.
A prayer for Yemen
Giver of Life,
Who hears the cries from Yemen;
of mothers choosing between medicine or food,
of parents grieving children lost to starvation,
of those who have given up everything in hunger.
Hear our cries for hope, for change, for peace
In your mercy,
Break political deadlocks,
Soften hardened hearts,
Change closed minds,
Open unhearing ears.
Let people come before power
Let life be holy again
Let your justice and peace
Shape the nation of Yemen
And the lives of all people
THE TRUE FAST – ACCORDING TO POPE FRANCIS
“Fast from hurting words and say kind words. Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude. Fast from anger and be filled with patience. Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope. Fast from worries and trust in God. Fast from complaints and contemplate simplicity. Fast from pressures and be prayerful. Fast from bitterness and fill your heart with joy. Fast from selfishness and be compassionate to others. Fast from grudges and be reconciled. Fast from words and be silent – so you can listen.”
WHY LENT? We enter this privileged time of personal and community renewal which we call Lent. We join with Christ Jesus’ 40 Days in the desert to journey with Him through the desert of silence and prayer, of deprivation and hunger, of thirst and yearning. Why? To grow to become more like Jesus in generosity of spirit, openness of heart, deeper communion with God, a readiness to give of ourselves to the Mission of the Gospel. These 40 Days express our communion with all catechumens of the Church journeying to the great moment of Baptism (or reception into Full Communion with the Church; these 40 Days are our journey to the renewal of our Baptism at Easter when we say again our ‘YES’ to being plunged into the Mystery of Christ and become truly Christ People, filled with His Spirit and knowing ourselves to be ‘Beloved of the Father’. Let us embrace these most precious days of renewal.
HOW FR RICHARD BEGAN MASS 24/02/2019
Today in Rome, Pope Francis has gathered bishops from around the world to confront our failures as a Church, especially as the pastors and leaders of the Church, to deal appropriately with the crimes of child abuse. As Pastors we have failed the People of God, we have failed our children, young people and families, we have failed the Gospel of Christ. I do not ask you to repent as the sin is not yours as God’s People, it is ours, priests and bishops, as your shepherds. And so in communion with the Shepherds of the Church, I repent of these failures and sins and beg the mercy of God to purify the shepherds so that we can bind up the wounds of the flock of Christ.
A CALL TO PRAYER FOR THE BISHOPS’ ‘ABUSE SUMMIT’ IN ROME Cardinal Vincent Nicholas, Archbishop of Westminster, is representing the Bishops of England and Wales and the Church in our two countries at this incredibly important meeting, called together by Pope Francis. I am sure we are all aware of the great publicity surrounding the failure of the Catholic Church to deal appropriately with the crimes of child (and vulnerable adult) sexual abuse perpetrated by priests and religious over the last 50 years or more. Public enquiries in USA, Australia, and here in UK have uncovered a catalogue of abuse and the attempts to minimise and/or cover up these crimes. We have comprehensively failed the victims and survivors. And so this ‘Summit’ of our bishops from around the world must face up to these searching questions and open to the challenging truth of the Holy Spirit for our times
WHY HAVE THESE TERRIBLE THINGS BEEN DONE?
WHAT CHANGES MUST WE, THE CHURCH, URGENTLY PUT IN PLACE TO KEEP ALL OUR COMMUNITIES SAFE?
WHAT IS IT ABOUT THE CHURCH AND THE CLERGY AND RELIGIOUS THAT HAS MADE AN ENVIRONMENT IN WHICH THESE CRIMES HAVE BEEN COMMITTED?
WHY HAS CLERICALISM BEEN ALLOWED TO GROW IN THE INSTITUTION OF THE CHURCH AND SO DISTORT THE MEANING OF PRIESTHOOD AND RELIGIOUS LIFE?
HOW CAN WE BRING HEALING AND PEACE TO THE SURVIVORS OF THESE CRIMES?
HOW CAN OUR SCARRED CHURCH REGAIN CREDIBILITY AS WITNESSES TO JESUS AND THE GOPEL OF LOVE?
So let us all pray for the outpouring of the wisdom and courage of the Holy Spirit at this pivotal and crucial meeting of our pastors, as Cardinal Nichols and Bishop Declan have asked us. Let us all recommit ourselves to building safe and loving communities where our children will be valued and protected, where the wounded will find safe places to recover and be healed, where there will be transparency, honesty and integrity. COME HOLY SPIRIT!
What are these four weeks before Christmas really about? And what is this ‘Advent’ thing anyway? Our shopping centres are filled with lights, christmas trees, reindeers and Fr Christmases! Is this ‘Advent’? The world’s advent is about presents, parties, gadgets and loads of food and drink!
The word Advent means ‘Preparing for what is coming!’ The Christian Advent is all about looking into the future. It is about what kind of world do we really want to live in … what kind of world do we want to hand on to our children and our children’s children. It is about looking beyond our immediate wants and desires. We can so easily get sucked into thinking about ‘me’, ‘mine’, ‘what I want’ – Advent calls us, in the words of the book of Genesis in the Bible, to become ‘people with far-seeing eyes’. Advent calls us to ‘wake up’ to what is really happening in the world around us. That is why such a large part of the Bible Christians and Jews share records the words of the Prophets – and in the Church’s worship during these four weeks of Advent we listen to them a lot. These prophets of old challenge us to reflect upon the quality of our lives, our honesty and integrity, to reflect upon the world around us, whether there is really justice and hope for the poor. They challenge us to change today so as to build for tomorrow a different, more united and just world – a world where the poor do not just get the left over scraps of grudging charity: to build a world of greater humanity for all the children of the earth.
But there are also Prophets today that challenge us – last Monday’s news was filled with two very different people. Michelle Obama speaking to people young and old to believe they can be more! To aspire (and work towards) their own inner greatness, to ‘wake up’ to all each one of us can ‘become’. And then an old man, 92 years old, David Attenborough, making the nations and leaders listen to ‘the cries of the earth’. He challenged us – all of us – to ‘wake up’ to the harm we are doing to our fragile and beautiful planet;
to ‘wake up’ to the sheer urgency of changing the way we live so that future generations will have a world worth living in; to ‘wake up’ to our responsibility
for the natural world around, the species we are driving to extinction, the oceans we are polluting; to ‘wake up’ to the catastrophic impact of global warming and climate change on future generations and in particular on the most impoverished people in the world – those who cannot protect themselves in the way we in the rich world perhaps can.
Will we listen to these prophets?
So Advent is not just about Christmassy ‘jingles’, flashing lights and noisy shopping centres and supermarkets! Advent is about the future you and I can – indeed must – make for ourselves and all those who follow after us – that we must make for the poorest of the earth. If Christmas is about anything – celebrating as we do the birth of this Child we call Jesus or ‘Issa’ – it is about making our world so much more human, struggling for peace, developing and using our gifts and potential to make a world where all the Earth’s children can live in freedom and hope, delighting in our beautiful and bountiful planet.
So everyone – have a courageous Advent and loving Christmas!
DIOCESAN YEAR OF PRAYER Having focussed in the past 12 months on ‘Mission’, the diocese now turns to the well-spring that gives us the energy and vision for Mission – to utter necessity of Prayer. Luke’s Gospel gives us particular insights into Jesus as the Man of Prayer, constantly turning to His Father, finding quiet spaces on hillsides (often in the dark hours of night) during which He would pray, enter afresh into His Divine Communion with Abba, Father through the bond of love that is the Holy Spirit within Him and between Him and the Father. He is our model of Prayer – a prayer that that drives us (inspires us) to action (mission) a prayer that is shaped by that action/mission! Let us deepen our prayer, our contemplative union with Father, Son and Holy Spirit this coming year.
ADVENT – THE VISION OF MISSION Advent is a time for ‘people with far-seeing eyes’ – awakened to the reality of our world, ready to listen and to gaze: in order to recognise where, when and how Jesus comes in the 21st century (in the poverty, among the oppressed, disguised as an addict or as homeless, crying out for acceptance and freedom in the asylum-seeker, yearning for peace among the women and children who are the greatest victims of our wars). But you have to have courage to see and to hear – and more courage to speak and to act! The Spirit of God unfolds a vision of Mission – to transform the deserts and wastelands of our world into places of hope, rich and fertile in humanity and justice, healing and freedom. Our Mission is world-challenging and world-changing. Let our worship empower our mission, as we gaze upon bread from the fields and wine from the hills being transformed utterly in Christ by the Spirit and the Word through the ministry of the Church!
Lord, the plight of our country
is deep and the suffering of the Christians
is heavy and frightening us,
therefore we ask you Lord
to assure our lives, grant us patience and courage
to continue to witness our Christian values with trust and hope.
Lord, peace is the base of any life; give us peace and stability
to live with each other without fear, anxiety,
with dignity and joy, glory to you forever.
Archbishop Louis Raphael I Sako, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch
Lord, send us the gift of peace
Watch over the people of Iraq who have been forced to flee their homes
and face violence and fear.
Lord, send us the gift of peace
Lead them to a place of safety, comfort those who grieve
and bring healing to those in pain.
Lord, send us the gift of peace
Convert the hearts of those who commit violence and wage war.
Turn them away from persecution towards peace.
Lord, send us the gift of peace
Turn hatred to understanding, and anger to compassion.
Through your love, transform horror into hope.
Lord, send us the gift of peace
And fill us all with your Spirit so that with one voice, throughout the world,
we may cry out:
Lord, send us the gift of peace
Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us… Catherine Gorman/CAFOD
We very much need to continue to pray that the nations that committed themselves to work to heal the planet oppose those leaders and economies that oppose this reality and policy seeking to protect the environment, remain true to their word and bring about the changes needed to be ‘merciful’ to ‘our common home’:
“O God of love, teach us to care for this world our common home.
Inspire all political leaders and the peoples of all the nations to listen to and heed the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.
Let us be united in heart and mind in responding and acting courageously.
May we seek the common good and protect the beautiful earthly garden you have created for us, for all our brothers and sisters, for all generations to come. Amen!“
POPE FRANCIS ON NUCLEAR WEAPONS
Pope Francis stated the following last November:
‘Now is the time to affirm not only the immorality of the use of nuclear weapons, but the immorality of their possession… genuinely concerned by the catastrophic humanitarian effects of any employment of nuclear devices and the risk of accidental detonation as a result of any kind of error, the threat of their use, as well as their very possession, is to be firmly condemned. They exist in the service of a mentality of fear.’
Each Sunday, indeed at each Mass we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus. We celebrate the New Life, the Hope and Inspiration that the Easter Christ is for us. If we are looking only to remember some strange event 2000 years ago – well it might appeal to historians but it couldn’t change lives. But emphatically NO! We believe we are celebrating to power of the Crucified and Risen Christ Jesus Who is alive among us now in 2018 to change lives – our lives today. So I am going to share the story of someones who has long inspired me in my ministry!
WHO INSPIRES ME? In 1978 I was still a young priest. I had been working living and working in Taunton in Somerset – a reasonably well-off county town. Then unexpectedly my bishop asked me to move to Knowle West here in Bristol, a very run-down impoverished community with very high inter-generational unemployment and over-crowded housing – a community with no hope! As I was struggling to adapt to an utterly different kind of environment to one I had been serving, I heard of this courageous bishop in a tiny far-off country in Central America – his name was Oscar Romero and his country, the size of Wales was called El Salvador (name after ‘the Saviour’).
He had been a very tame, timid man, with his own inner psychological problems. He had been promoted to be the country’s Archbishop and had been immediately confronted with the realities of poverty for the vast majority of his people. Worse than simply the poverty, was the repression by the dictatorship that ruled the country for the benefit of 14 fabulously wealthy families. He had not even been installed as Archbishop when his close friend, a Jesuit priest, Fr Rutilio Grande, was murdered on Government orders – because he spoke up for and organised the poor that he served.
As Romero encountered the reality of oppression, squalor, and government brutality, the poor literally converted him to a life of Christ-like courage. He became their voice – their only voice in that repressed land. He would not be silenced, even though they threatened his own life and blew up the Church’s radio station that broadcast his sermons every Sunday. The cries of the poor and his alignment with them also healed him – he no longer needed regular visits to his psychiatrist friend and far from being timid he was a strong prophet crying out for justice, crying out for peace in his land. Indeed the British Parliament nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Finally on Sunday 23rd March 1980,preaching in his Cathedral he ordered ‘in the name of God’ the soldiers to disobey orders and refuse to kill their own people. He knew he was signing his own death warrant but felt ‘in the name of God and humanity’ he had to speak out in this way. Next day while celebrating Mass in a convent chapel, a government assassin shot him dead.
I was in the kitchen of the presbytery in Knowle West having breakfast and getting ready to celebrate Mass when I heard the news on the radio. At that moment, I knew God was calling me to spend my life sharing with and living for the poor – of my city, my country and my world. As a priest, a shepherd of God’s people, Oscar Romero has inspired me and changed the course of my life and my understanding of the message of Jesus. I see in him, this Shepherd of the poor and Prophet of Justice, this Voice of the voiceless, the person of Jesus, risen and alive today – and a model for me and I hope many others of how to be a priest in today’s world.
On October 14th this year, Pope Francis formally declared him a Saint of the Church – a model pastor to follow – I was there in Rome when Oscar Romero was at last recognised as one of the great inspirations not only for the modern Church but also for our modern world.