The Pastoral Conversion of the Parish Community

THE PASTORAL CONVERSION OF THE PARISH COMMUNITY in the Service of the Evangelising Mission of the Church. This new instruction from the Congregation for the Clergy tackles many of the issues surrounding the renewal or “conversion” of parish and diocesan structures into more missionary entities, including ways of assigning pastoral ministry within the parish, the role of the pastoral council, the provision of the sacraments, and the suppression or merging of parishes.

The impetus for this stems from new situations in which parishes now exist. Cardinal Beniamino Stella (Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy) points out that the church now labours under a scarcity of priests, that territorial boundaries of parishes have changed or “disappeared” altogether, and that increased mobility and digital dependence have redefined our cultural sense of space and time.

The instruction focusses on the reorganization in the way the pastoral care of the faithful is exercised, so as to foster a greater co-responsibility and collaboration among all the baptized.

But real conversion first requires a change in mentality – on the part of clergy and laity alike. Bringing about this necessary pastoral conversion will be a collective challenge for the Church. Yet it is who we are called to be and what we are called to do. The parish of the past will not serve the church of the future. Do take a look at this document as it contains food for thought. It is available to read on the following link: http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2020/07/20/200720a.html

The Pearl of Great Price

We’ve all heard people say, ‘I’d give anything for… good health, a better job, no financial worries, whatever. They are searching for their hidden treasure, their pearl of great price. As we gather for the Eucharist today after months of lock down, each of us has, I hope, in some way been able to rethink some aspects of our lives, our priorities, what truly matters, our pearls of great price. It has been a tortuous journey for all of us. Some of us have lost loved ones, some of us have nursed sick family members, some of us have been on the NHS frontline, some of us have lost jobs, some of us have had to deal with the psychological effects of isolation and loneliness. Yet, through this terrible journey many of us have come to appreciate the little things, that truly matter, the true pearls of great price and in glimpsing them we have glimpsed the true meaning of the Kingdom of Heaven. Having glimpsed this, will we continue with this path? Or as a society will we return to our former lives before lockdown and forget, forget those precious pearls we have been given, albeit in time of terrible crisis?

Think on this for a moment. We are God’s hidden treasure, God’s pearls of great price. When God found us God bought us, not with gold or silver but with the precious blood of Jesus. He saw those little things and what he saw was very good. God is a very frugal God and does not waste one iota of our life experience, even in this crisis. Each moment we live and breathe on this earth, God values and savours who we are and what we are doing. He delights in it.

Has God brought all possible goodness out of our struggle? Probably not, at least not yet. Our world and our very lives are, for God, a work in progress. God is not finished with us yet. We might not yet see with perfect vision the beautiful things God is doing. Yet let us just wait a while — and praise God, as great things are happening by the hand of the living God! All we need are spiritual eyes to see them.

Significantly, Jesus tells us, ‘the kingdom of God is within you.’ (Luke 17.20). The kingdom of God is in each of us; all we need to do is to look within our daily lives and activities to find and experience it. What price or more importantly, value do we put on the Kingdom of God in our daily lives? Do we do all we can to engage with it and do all we can to promote it?  Are we prepared to sacrifice other things in order to realise it when we see its beauty? This is described beautifully in the lovely poem ‘Bright Field’ by the Welsh poet R.S. Thomas; ‘I have seen the sun break through to illumine a small field for a while, and gone my way and forgotten it. But that was the pearl of great price, the one field that had the treasure in it. I realise now that I must give all that I have to possess it.’

Unlike those in the gospel, the Kingdom of God will not ‘cost’ us anything, well not money anyway. But it will cost us something else. It will cost us our personal faith and commitment, on a daily basis. Like the mustard seed, the Kingdom of God is sown within us. It is a buried and hidden treasure. It is up to us, with God’s help to find and nourish it. We are being invited to look for and dig up this treasure and bring it out into the light of our own lives and the lives of others today. And here is the challenge of finding the hidden treasure; the Kingdom of God; once we find it, we are called to share it with others, not keep it to ourselves. As we share our treasure with others, it doesn’t diminish or become smaller in any way; miraculously it grows and becomes even bigger! That’s what God’s love does!

This coming week, look for and marvel in those pearls of God’s Kingdom within yourself and in those around you – let us not forget the lessons of the kingdom we have learned in the past few months… it is there, just waiting to be discovered, even in this present crisis. Safeguard and rejoice in the pearls of great price we have discovered during this time and give thanks for them.

Sunday Parish Mass in the grounds

The Parish Mass was celebrated this morning in the grounds of the Church, our first Mass since lockdown. It was wonderful to see so many people venture out, even though some rain was forecast. Fortunately we only had a few minutes of rain and then the sun shone on St Patrick’s family.

Many people commented how safe they felt gathering outside with careful social distancing. The stewards even had temperature guns to check everyones temperature of arrival! This put many people at ease.

The weather for next weekend looks great, so book your ticket quickly as we are limited to just 50 places for another 10.30am Mass. Go to: www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/weekend-mass-tickets-112374755920

A very big thank you to everyone who worked so hard to make this celebration possible.

Resumption of Public Mass

RESUMPTION OF PUBLIC MASS We are all looking forward to coming back to Mass. In view of the fluidity of the COVID situation and recognizing that our parish has within it a number of very vulnerable people, who are in the shielding group until August, including Fr Michael, it has been decided, after consultation with our Bishop to move forward slowly and with caution. As our Church could only safely hold less than 18 people for an immediate resumption of Mass, we are looking to larger outdoor Sunday celebrations, at which 50 could be present. This will better serve the whole community and keep everyone safer. Preparations for this are taking place. A big thank you to all who have marked out the grounds and placed chairs in the garden to check capacity and sanitised and stored all of them afterwards for use! We have this week submitted our well-considered risk assessment to the diocese.  We are also looking at the logistics of live streaming the Mass from the Church into the hall.  We will obviously need to restrict numbers and introduce a booking system for Mass attendance to maintain the necessary safe distancing (see below). We plan to hold our first celebration at 10.30am on Sunday 26th July unless there is a regional spike in the virus.  If the slots are quickly filled, we will post other masses immediately for the benefit of others. Meanwhile, the Church will be open for private prayer at the advertised times.  Our Bishops have restated that the obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains suspended. The obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains suspended, so no one should feel under any pressure to attend Mass elsewhere, however, they are free to do so, being mindful of the needs of others within their respective parishes, and not wishing to overburden any parish at this difficult time. We are all looking forward to coming together for the celebration of the Eucharist once again, ensuring that this is done in a way that keeps all of us safe.

BOOK NOW FOR THE OUTDOOR MASS (WEATHER PERMITTING) SUNDAY 26TH JULY @ 10.30AM Due to social distancing measures, the number of people attending this Mass will need to be restricted  to 50 people and therefore we need to know that you are attending in advance. For this we are using a free ticketing system. We ask you to fill out an online ticketing form for each person attending. People should not come to Mass without a ticket as once we have reached distancing capacity people will be unable to enter the grounds. More masses may be advertised if this proves popular. Please note that we record the information you provide for the purposes of confirming Mass attendees. (Please see our Privacy Policy on the web site) Please use the following link to book your places: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/weekend-mass-tickets-112374755920 If you book and then find you are unable to come please let us know as we can then make the tickets available to others. If you do not have access to the web, please call Fr Michael or Lorraine Miller to reserve a place.

Resumption of Mass

With the Government permitting the return of public acts of worship (public masses) our PPC will meet  this week on Zoom to consider the necessary conditions to facilitate this. Fr Michael is ‘shielding’ so this will inevitably impact on the date we resume public worship. When we return for Mass, strict distancing needs to be observed, which will  significantly reduce the number of people able to attend each Mass.  The PPC will consider how best to meet the needs of the Parish. Some people may wish to attend a midweek Mass instead of the Sunday Mass. The letter from the Metropolitan Archbishops of the Catholic Church (see previous web post) has restated that the obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains suspended. Meanwhile, the Church will continue to be open for private prayer at the advertised times.

 We are all looking forward to coming together for the celebration of the Eucharist once again, ensuring that this is done in a way that keeps all of us safe. We will update the Parish web site when we have further details.

Parish Website Redesign

Our web site has undergone a vibrant new redesign. Please take some time to peruse our new site and visit some of the new pages now available. We have a streaming viewer facility too, which we hope to be able to enable soon. Meanwhile we are streaming masses from the Cathedral.

Our big thanks to Mike Stuart of Disphoria Design in Bristol, who has very kindly contributed much of his own time and though to the project over the last few months. We are grateful for all his help as this assists our work of building community and communication in the work of evangelisation.

Solemnity of Ss Peter & Paul

Solemnity of Ss Peter & Paul
Today we celebrate the two outstanding apostles of the Church, two contrasting personalities. Peter was from Galilee, a fisherman, poor, un-educated and probably illiterate. St Jerome tells us that Paul too was a Galilean, yet his enforced exile to Tarsus as a child opened other possibilities for him: he was well educated and knew well the Roman system, perhaps even being a Roman citizen. He trained in the rigorous code of the Pharisees. He was a lawyer but also a skilled tentmaker. How is it their stories became intertwined? What brought these men to give totally of themselves and ultimately their lives for the embryonic Christian faith?

The answer lies in the fact that both came face to face with Jesus Christ, who called them to follow him. That encounter with Christ, that call, transformed their lives forever. Peter, impulsive and rash, struggled throughout Jesus’ ministry to understand and believe in the meaning of Christ.  Limited in the area of public relations, it is a great comfort for ordinary mortals to know that Peter also has his human weakness, even in the presence of Jesus.

He generously gave up all things, yet he can ask in childish self-regard, “What are we going to get for all this?” He receives the full force of Christ’s anger when he objects to the idea of a suffering Messiah: “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do”

Peter is willing to accept Jesus’ doctrine of forgiveness, but suggests a limit of seven times. He walks on the water in faith, but sinks in doubt. He refuses to let Jesus wash his feet, then wants his whole body cleansed. He swears at the Last Supper that he will never deny Jesus, and then swears to a servant maid that he has never known the man. He loyally resists the first attempt to arrest Jesus by cutting off the ear of Malchus, but in the end he runs away with the others. In the depth of his sorrow, Jesus looks on him and forgives him, and he goes out and sheds bitter tears. It is to this seeming failure that the Risen Lord says, “Peter feed my lambs…feed my sheep”. And it is the same Peter who responds to the prompting of the Spirit and declares boldly “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”. Ultimately, Christ draws out the best of Peter to whom he entrusts the leadership of the Apostles and who will go on to preach the first sermon of the Christian Church at Pentecost, afire with the Holy Spirit.

Beyond any reasonable doubt, in the early Church, as today, the successors of Peter, the Bishops of Rome, were seen as and acted as the Church’s Rock and leading Shepherd, the centre of unity, truth, and stability for the world-wide Church.

We meet Saul in the Acts of the Apostles, full of righteous zeal against these dangerous Christians, approving of the stoning of St Stephen. On such a mission to slay such Christians in Damascus, he experiences an earth shattering encounter with the Risen Christ. Blinded, dazed and confused, stripped of all his certainty, power and assuredness, he must be led by the hand into the city, lost, frightened and powerless.  Yet through the power of the Spirit the scales fall from Saul’s eyes. He begins to see with the eyes of faith.  In the new life of the baptised, the newly named Paul goes on the preach the Gospel of Christ throughout Mediterranean as far as Rome, hoping to travel on to Spain, ‘the ends of the earth’, and leaving us the precious teaching of his epistles and the wonderful example of his life and ministry.

Peter and Paul are the two great heroes of the Apostolic Age ‑ Peter for leading the first Christian communities and binding them in unity, a role that springs from his profession of faith in Caesarea Philippi, and Paul for travel­ling throughout the Roman Empire as the Apostle to the Gentiles, ensuring that the Gospel could be heard by all. They conclude their earthly journey in Rome, the heart of the Empire, where they crowned their lives of witness by shedding their blood for Christ. In celebrating the death of these apostles and martyrs, we celebrate today, the triumph of life and death offered fully to God.

Ss Peter and Paul, pray for us and with us today.

Message from Metropolitan Archbishops

A Message from the Metropolitan Archbishops
of the Catholic Church in England

Dear Brothers and sisters in Christ,

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

On Tuesday we heard the announcement that, from the 4th July this year, places of worship will be able to reopen for prayer and services. We welcome this news with great joy. Since the lockdown began, members of all faiths have faced restrictions on how they have been able to celebrate important religious festivals. Our own
experience of Easter was unlike any other we have known. Now, in our churches, and with our people, we can look forward again to celebrating the central mysteries of our faith in the Holy Eucharist.

The recent reopening of our churches for individual private prayer was an important milestone on our journey towards resuming communal worship. Our churches that have opened have put in place all the measures needed to ensure the risks of virus
transmission are minimised. This includes effective hand sanitisation, social distancing, and cleaning. We remain committed to making sure these systems of hygiene and infection control meet Government and public health standards.

We want to thank everyone within the Catholic community for sustaining the life of faith in such creative ways, not least in the family home. We thank our priests for celebrating Mass faithfully for their people, and for the innovative ways in which they have enabled participation through live-streaming and other means. We are grateful for the pastoral care shown by our clergy to those for whom this time of lockdown has been especially difficult, and, in particular, towards those who have been bereaved. We recognise too the chaplaincy services that have played a vital role in supporting those most in need. Gaining from the experience of all that we have been through, and bringing those lessons into the future, we must now look forward.

With the easing of restrictions on worship with congregations, we tread carefully along the path that lies ahead. Our lives have been changed by the experience of the pandemic and it is clear that we cannot simply return to how things were before lockdown. We remain centred on the Lord Jesus and His command at the Last
Supper to “do this in memory of me.” We must now rebuild what it means to be Eucharistic communities, holding fast to all that we hold dear, while at the same time exploring creative ways to meet changed circumstances. It is important to reaffirm that, at present, the obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains suspended.

A significant number of churches may remain closed as they are
unable to meet the requirements for opening for individual prayer. Fulfilling these requirements is a precondition for any church opening after the 4th July for the celebration of Mass with a congregation. Please be aware that there will be a limit on the number of people who can attend Mass in our churches. This will determined locally in accordance with social distancing requirements. We therefore need to reflect carefully on how and when we might be able to attend Mass. We cannot return immediately to our customary practices. This next step is not, in any sense, a moment when we are going ‘back to normal.’

We ask every Catholic to think carefully about how and when they will return to Mass. Our priests may need to consider whether it is possible to celebrate additional Masses at the weekends. Given there is no Sunday obligation, we ask you to consider the possibility of attending Mass on a weekday. This will ease the pressure of
numbers for Sunday celebrations and allow a gradual return to the Eucharist for more people.

Moving forward, there will still be many people who cannot attend Mass in person. We therefore ask parishes, wherever possible, to continue live-streaming Sunday Mass, both for those who remain shielding and vulnerable, and also for those unable to leave home because of advanced age or illness. When we return to Mass there will some differences in how the celebration takes place. For the time being, there will be no congregational singing and Mass will be
shorter than usual. None of this detracts from the centrality of our encounter with the Risen Christ in the Eucharist. We ask everyone to respect and follow the guidance that will be issued and the instructions in each church. “As I have loved you,” said the Lord Jesus, “so you must love each other.” (Jn 13:34) The lockdown has brought forth remarkable acts of charity, of loving kindness, from
Catholics across our communities as they have cared for the needy and vulnerable. We have seen love in action through charitable works, and through the service of many front-line keyworkers who are members of our Church. Now we can begin to return to the source of that charity, Christ himself, present for us sacramentally,
body, blood, soul and divinity, in Holy Communion. As we prepare to gather again to worship, let us, respectful of each other, come together in thanksgiving to God for the immense gift of the Holy Eucharist.

Yours devotedly in Christ

✠ Vincent Cardinal Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster
✠ Malcolm McMahon OP, Archbishop of Liverpool
✠ Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham
✠ John Wilson, Archbishop of Southwark

This letter is addressed to the Catholic Community in England; the opening of the Catholic Churches in Wales
is devolved to the Welsh Assembly who are still evaluating their position on opening Places of Worship.

Corpus et Sanguis Christi

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

They say it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. This certainly applied to a Belgian nun called Juliana who lived in the 13th century. She was a great devotee of Eucharistic Adoration, and her friend was the archdeacon of Liege. Later he became Pope Urban IV and, influenced by Juliana, he instituted the Feast of Corpus Christi. The eucharist is first and foremost a sacrificial meal in which we eat and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Yet, we believe that the presence of Christ abides in the elements. So, what was bread and wine become the most perfect way in which Jesus Christ is present to his people. To adore Jesus in the Eucharist is to continue and reflect his presence in the Mass.
While he was Pope, Urban IV lived for a while at Orvieto, near Lake Bolsena, north of Rome. It was in this city that the first procession of the Blessed Sacrament took place and then spread to other parts of the Christian world. Even today on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, the procession takes place with citizens of the various quarters of Orvieto dressing up in medieval costume to accompany the Bishop, who carries the monstrance through the narrow streets. Afterwards there is eating, drinking, singing and dancing to complete the holyday. This procession takes place today throughout the world and in many parishes throughout our own country since its revival in recent years.

Most of us, have grown up calling this Feast “Corpus Christi”. But the Second Vatican Council changed its name to “Corpus et Sanguis Christi” (Body and Blood of Christ) to emphasise the fuller symbolism of eating and drinking the body and blood which is now available to us when we receive Communion. Jesus said, “Do this…eat and drink…in memory of me”. The English word ‘memorial’ is much more than a mere remembrance. The word in the Greek scriptures is ‘anamnesis’, meaning much more to ‘do this to make me present’.

“My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink,” says Jesus. Christ abides in us as we receive holy communion, this communion strengthens us to proclaim the love of God outside the walls of our Churches, in the ordinary circumstances of our lives. Strengthened for this mission as we partake of the Holy Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, let us tell others of his love in this great sacrament and witness to that love in our service to others.

‘Blessed praised hallowed and adored, be Jesus Christ on his throne of glory, and in the most Holy Sacrament of the Altar’.