Author Archives: disphoria

Important News: Letter from our Archbishops suspending public worship

All Masses suspended due to Covid 19

The text of the letter from our Archbishops suspending public worship follows: Updates will be provided on our Parish Web Site. Details of when the Church will be open for private prayer will be updated.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

 

In response to the Coronavirus pandemic, so many aspects of our lives must change. This includes the ways in which we publicly express our faith. It is very clear that, following official advice and in order to keep each other safe, save lives and support the NHS, at this time we must not gather for public acts of worship in our churches. This will begin from Friday evening, 20th March 2020, until further notice. Our churches will remain open. They are not closing. They will be a focal point of prayer, where you will find solace and strength. In visiting our churches at this time, we will observe with great care the practices of hygiene and the guidance on social distancing. However, the celebration of Mass, Sunday by Sunday and day by day, will take place without a public congregation.

Knowing that the Mass is being celebrated; joining in spiritually in that celebration; watching the live-streaming of the Mass; following its prayers at home; making an act of spiritual communion: this is how we share in the Sacrifice of Christ in these days. These are the ways in which we will sanctify Sunday, and indeed every day.

We want everyone to understand that in these emergency circumstances, and for as long as they last, the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days is removed. This is, without doubt, the teaching of the Church (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2181). This pandemic is the ‘serious reason’ why this obligation does not apply at this time.

You will find more details about the pathway of prayer and sacramental life we are now to take in the accompanying document and on the Bishops’ Conference website (www.cbcew.org.uk). Your own bishop and parish priest will provide further support, encouragement and information about our way of prayer together in the coming weeks.

The second vital aspect of these challenging times is our care for each other. There are so many ways in which we are to do this: being attentive to the needs of our neighbour, especially the elderly and vulnerable; contributing to our local food banks; volunteering for charitable initiatives and organisations; simply keeping in touch by all the means open to us. During these disturbing and threatening times, the rhythm of the prayer of the Church will continue. Please play your part in it. The effort of daily kindness and mutual support for all will continue and increase. Please play your part in this too. For your commitment to this, we thank you.

“The Lord is my shepherd, There is nothing I shall want.”

May God bless us all.

Vincent Cardinal Nichols
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales

Archbishop Malcolm McMahon OP
Vice-President

Bishop Declan’s Vision, 2017-2020

Reflecting on the question “Imagine what our Diocese will be like in five to ten years’ time”, Bishop Declan offers his own vision to guide us in the coming years:

The Church of Clifton is called to be a people who believe in Christ, who celebrate Christ, and who live the way of Christ.

The Church is created by God to live, not for itself, but for others;  to be a people who share in the mission of Christ,  to proclaim the Kingdom and to make disciples so that the world will be transformed according to God’s plan.

Our Parishes and Communities should be places where Chrst is celebrated, shared, proclaimed and lived, where everyone is welcomed and valued, and all have a snese of responsibility for the life of the community and the world.

We are called to be disciples who not only know about Jesus but also come to know Him in prayer. Our Liturgies should be celebrated in such a way that Christ’s word is heard, His presence known, and which are so connected to our lives that we joyfully take up the command “Go in peace glorifying the Lord by your life”

 

The latest Diocesan Newsletter can be found here:

 

Clifton Diocese Team Briefing – Jan 2018

Education for children in Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement Camp, Uganda.

IMG_0412b[1]This project will help pay towards the monthly salaries of teachers and cooks at a school for approximately 340 nursery and primary children.

The settlement camp was set up by the UNHCR in 1991 with each family being given a small plot of land to grow their own food. Refugees have come mainly from Sudan and more recently Kenya. Whilst the majority of refugees returned home last year a good number, particularly single mothers and orphans, remain due to the insecurity in the region. In 1997 an Education Fund project was organised by Fr John Garry, a colleague of Fr John. Students from this project are now teaching the younger children in the primary school.

Money we raise will be sent monthly to the school via Fr John’s order The Kiltegan Fathers.

Annual Choir Appeal

Why is our Choir so small? A few Iadies, 1 man, and that’s all!

It’s joyful to sing next to someone Who’s loud, It’s easy to sing as part of a Crowd. But alone – or almost- now that’s quite absurd, ‘Cause it’s scary and weird if one voice might be heard!

Limited numbers limit our choice To hymns We can sing in a unison voice. We want to sing harmonies, it’s what choirs do But that’s not going to happen unless we have you.

Of Course we’re aware you can sing from the pews But l need not remind you, it’s not really news, With the best will in the world, let me be Clear, It’s hard to learn music in 3 minutes, by ear.

Do you sing in the shower? Do you sing to the cat? Then it’s high time you joined 1 man, a few ladies…and Pat.

There is no audition, praise and prayer is our goal, Singing’s good for the body and good for the soul.

Please take the next step, and do come along To our Wednesday rehearsals and add to our song.

5th Sunday of Easter, 2014

Tuesday of this week is the world day of prayer for the sick.

Pope Francis has written a letter to us about sickness and suffering, a few copies of which are available at the door. You can also see it on the internet.

We read in the New Testament that Jesus of Nazareth ‘went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.’ In Biblical times sickness, pain, misfortune and poverty were regarded as the work of the Devil.

So the core of the message of Jesus of Nazareth, the core of Christianity is to try and bring healing to one another. Spiritual healing, physical healing, psychological healing. Basically we do this by being compassionate, forgiving, welcoming, non judgemental, generous, sharing, loving etc.

In the parable about the last judgement God welcomed many with the words ‘I was sick and you took care of me.’ When they enquired ‘when did we see you sick and visit you?’ God replied ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

On the other hand some were not approved by God because, as he told them, ‘I was sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ They also asked ‘when did we see you sick etc. and not visit you?’ And God replied, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’

I get people coming to me and reporting; so and so is sick or so and so is in hospital.

Having done this some think that they have done their bit.

What they should tell me is, so and so is sick or in hospital and I have visited them. Their condition is this and this and they would like or not like to be brought Communion or Anointing of the Sick.

I well know that many of you visit the sick. Many of you look after the sick and the housebound. This is what Christianity is about. For this your God will welcome you with open arms.

Today as we think about and pray for the sick and the disabled I must also check up on how I look after them by visiting them and helping them in one way or another.

If I do this on a regular basis then what we are told in today’s first reading will be fulfilled; ‘Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.’

We have a care group here in this parish and this is the sort of work they do.

7th Sunday, 2014

If I never read anything but today’s Gospel reading, then I would know what Christianity is all about.

It I never did anything but live in accordance with today’s Gospel reading, then I would be as near ‘perfect as my heavenly father is perfect’ as it is possible to get.

Everything to do with every true religion must flow from this Gospel reading and lead to it.

Why?

The answer is in today’s second reading; ‘Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? … For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.’

Taking today’s Gospel reading as the touchstone of religious authenticity we can clearly see how far the various religions have, from time to time, strayed from the true path and also how far each one of us have or are, straying from the true path.

Our world: that is the world as fashioned, altered and constructed by human beings is built on the very opposite of what today’s Gospel reading proposes.

This is a big part of Pope Francis’s recent letter to all of us.

This is what Jesus of Nazareth meant when he spoke of the ‘world.’ He did not speak of the world as created by God but of a world created by us human beings – a world based on greed, competition, national and tribal interests, profit, dividends and the golden calf of money.

He told his followers, “If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you.”

And again ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives.’

I cannot speak for you but for me what is proposed in today’s Gospel reading is, by and large, ‘a bridge too far.’ I can nibble at the corners of it from time to time. I would love to be able to live as it proposes, but hard experience tells me otherwise. This does not make me either sad or happy, but it tends to make me humble.

This is good, for humility is truth.

And we read in the Bible: “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

‘Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.’

This is a good default position to have when my efforts are dogged by failure.

Ash Wednesday 2014

It grieves me greatly when I read about, or listen to, some of the things we Christians say and believe about God out Creator.

If I heard someone speak about my parents as some Christians speak about my God they would be liable to get a punch on the nose.

I am not talking about ‘bad language’ but about making my God out to be some sort of sadistic ogre who commands and requires his children to ‘freely’ love him and if they don’t, will condemn them to eternal fire for their lack of compliance.

Not unlike the nasty aliens in some of the science fiction TV. programmes who demand ‘comply or be destroyed.’

Doesn’t give much room for freedom of choice. Doesn’t give much room for a loving relationship.

I and many others were brought up with this attitude towards God. No wonder Christianity is in decline all over Europe.

I find the crucifix ( not just a cross) a very convincing and graphic depiction of what actually happened. If Jesus Christ came today rather than in the time of the Roman Empire what we would have depicted in place of the cross is a man dangling from a gibbet, a man roasted in an electric chair or a man sprawled before a firing squad his body torn by bullets.

What a startling and horrifying symbol to have.

Yet this image defines Christianity.

This image defines our God.

If anybody freely undergoes this brutal treatment in his struggle to bring me freedom from debilitating poverty, from physical and spiritual oppression, how can I possibly doubt or question his commitment to my total wellbeing.

Therefore, I ask you, during this Lenten period, to rejoice and be glad.

Let your hearts overflow with gratitude and trust.

To quote St. Paul; ‘For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.’

So for the next six weeks let this joy, gratitude and trust overflow on to our families and the people we meet in our everyday life.

1st Sunday of Lent, 2014

When the persons who wrote the four Gospels were putting pen to paper their aim was not to record historical events accurately. What the man they were writing about (Jesus of Nazareth) did or said at any particular time or place was not what they were writing about. They were recording the beliefs and attitudes of the followers of Jesus of Nazareth, of a particular Christian community at that particular time. They used stories and accounts about Jesus of Nazareth that were passed down to them, orally or in written accounts, to illustrate and support their beliefs concerning Jesus of Nazareth.

Today’s Gospel reading is a good example of the latter.

The background to today’s Gospel reading is that Jesus travelled from his home in Nazareth to the river Jordan (about twenty miles) to see and hear for himself what the talk and excitement concerning John the Baptist was all about.

There, strange events happened. He, Jesus, had some kind of very deep spiritual experience, some kind of call from God and on top of that John the Baptist began to tell all and sundry that Jesus was the ‘One who was to come,’ that Jesus was the one for whom he, John, was send to prepare. John began to urge his many followers to now follow Jesus.

This was a bit overwhelming for Jesus as you can well imagine, so he ran off and hid in a lonely place to try and digest these strange events, to search out the possible meaning of it all and to consider his options.

This period of questioning, of search for meaning and of prayer for guidance is depicted as ‘forty days.’

Not actually forty days but the period of time he needed to come to a decision about the whole thing.

Just as the period of ‘forty days’ is symbolic so too the account of the three temptations is highly graphic symbolism.

These three temptations which Jesus encountered are the temptations every one of us encounter in out daily lives. These temptations are not just encountered at one time in our lives but recur regularly throughout our lives. It was the very same for Jesus of Nazareth. These were the temptations which cropped up throughout his whole life and had to be wrestled with time and time again.

The first temptation is to personal physical self indulgence with no thought to sharing with others. (Eat, drink and be merry).

The second is to spiritual pride and manipulation. (using religion and God to promote ones own interests)

The third is to seek control, ones own power, ambition and advancement rather that service to the wellbeing of others.

So in today’s Gospel reading we see Jesus of Nazareth, called by God ‘not to be served but to serve,’ struggling with this calling and the constant temptations to shelve, modify or even ignore it.

Every one of us Christians have received this very same calling. We face the very same temptations on a daily basis. So if you are looking for something to do for Lent, then look no further.

3rd Sunday, 2014

‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.’

What is repentance? Repentance is always the first step in my relationship with God.

I find that generally speaking my first step towards repentance is embarrassment.

After wrong doing, after sinning, when I come to my senses and start to think rationally again I begin to feel embarrassment for having made such an idiot of myself.

I wallow for some time, wrapped up in my embarrassment and self pity, and replaying all the mitigating circumstances leading to my fall. Everyone I can think of, is, of course, in some way, to blame for my predicament.

Eventually, through the murk of self pity, a small glimmer of rationality begins occasionally to appear. I briefly consider that, I myself may, in some way, be very slightly to blame. If I have the slightest sense of objectivity this small light will gradually grow until I accept partial responsibility, fifty percent responsibility and eventually, with the help of my God, total responsibility.

Only now am I ready to accept the gift of true repentance from my God.

True repentance, like true humility, is based on objective fact; is based on truth.

God is truth and can only work in a truthful milieu, otherwise God is supporting and fostering untruth and self deception.

Spiritual writers speak much about ‘purity of intention.’

Purity of intention means truth. I fully accept myself as I truly am with my gifts, my faults and my failings. I fully accept God, as God is, and not as I wistfully imagine God to be.

One often hears ‘I prayed to God to do this or that for me and there was no response therefore I do not believe in God any more, God does not exist, there is no God.’

Of course they are right. The God they imagined; the God they wished for, does not exist.

God is God and does not change to suit my whims or desires. Certainly God is not a Santa Clause who satisfies my every request.

I must take God as He is and I must take myself as I am. Otherwise I am living a deception and deception excludes God.

So repentance is accepting and embracing truth – the truth about myself and about God.

Repentance requires that I remove the blindfold and see myself and my actions in the light of truth.

Repentance is not self hatred. Repentance is not being overburdened with a sense of ones worthlessness.

Repentance is taking responsibility. Repentance is accepting blame. Repentance is based on a true appraisal of the situation.

Repentance is joy and gratitude in the sure conviction of total mercy and forgiveness.

A constant attitude of repentance is an attribute of every saint.

For a moment now let us pray for the gift of repentance.

Baptism of the Lord, 2014

Those who later become the Apostles, disciples, and followers of Jesus of Nazareth never met or even heard of him until the day that John the Baptist baptised him and declared him to be ‘the one who was to come’; the one for whom he, John, was sent ‘to prepare the way.’

The Gospels according to Mark and John introduce Jesus of Nazareth to us at his baptism by John. On the other hand the Gospels of Matthew and Luke begin with a lot of detail about the conception, birth and early life of Jesus of Nazareth. These details about the early life of Jesus of Nazareth we call the infancy narratives.

Scripture scholars tell us that both Matthew and Luke did not get this information from people who might have known Jesus and his family but from Old Testament prophesies which were regarded as referring to the future Messiah. Both Matthew and Luke quote some of these Old Testament passages from which they drew their conclusions.

As I have often told you the writers of the Bible, both Old and new Testaments, were not interested in historical accuracy or chronological accounting of events.

Nor were they concerned about who said what and when they might have said it.

The Bible does contain some historically accurate facts but this is by the way.

History and events were displayed and recounted in the light of their faith in, and understanding of, God. Mere historical facts were of no real concern and could be changed or invented to suit the theological message. The concern was the message, not historical facts. Events were freely changed or manipulated to bring out the message.

So the infancy narratives as recounted in Matthew and Luke were never meant to be taken literally as having actually happened in an historical sense. Whoever first told these symbolic narratives was a first class catechist and teacher as even today we are moved and inspired by them.

Today; the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, we are dealing with what can be regarded as the first reasonably, historically accurate event in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, at least insofar as Jesus was Baptized by John, At his Baptism by John the Baptist, both he and John had some life changing, spiritual experience. For John it meant that his mission, his life’s work, was completed. He now began to direct the people and especially his closest followers, towards Jesus of Nazareth. ‘He must increase; I must decrease’ he proclaimed.

For Jesus of Nazareth it was a momentous decision. He could return home to Nazareth, to his mother, relatives and friends and to his job. He could elect to follow the path of life laid out before him by tradition. Marriage, children and a quiet peaceful life and death in the bosom of his family.

Or he could respond to this unexpected call to become an itinerant prophet. A life of tramping the paths and byways of Galilee without a home or means of livelihood, depending on handouts and the generosity of those he happened to meet. Above all, he knew that the life of a prophet true to his calling was a life of confrontation, hostility, and eventual death at the hands of those who would find his message hostile to their greed, power and control.

No wonder he took time out to think things over and pray for guidance. This is what is meant when we read. “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness for forty days and forty nights.” Today we remember and celebrate the hard decision he had to make.