Thought for the Day
Previous Days Thoughts
(Most Recent First)
Thought for the Day - Monday 12th April 2021
In today’s first reading, Peter and John, have just been released after having been arrested. They are filled with the Holy Spirit and so confidently proclaim their faith in the Risen Lord, about whom they can never be silent.
In today’s Gospel, John tells us about a leading Pharisee called Nicodemus who comes to see Jesus at night with questions, because what Jesus has been saying and doing had impressed him. He is afraid of what his fellow Pharisees might say, so he comes under cover of night to prevent others seeing him with Jesus. At the death of the Lord however, this man will act much more publicly, when he helps to ensure Jesus gets a proper Jewish burial. Using the metaphor of being reborn, Jesus answers the questions of Nicodemus. Jesus is speaking of how the Holy Spirit changes people on the inside, realising their hidden potential and awakening in them an energy that had fallen asleep.
May the Holy Spirit enable us to have the same confidence as the Apostles in speaking of our faith in the Risen Christ. However even if we have not got their confidence, may we like Nicodemus be gradually and gently open to the promptings of the Spirit guiding us and encouraging us in our journey of faith.
Thought for the Day ~ Easter Saturday 10th April
In today’s Gospel, we hear of the handling by the religious leaders of the miracle of the crippled beggar in the name of the Risen Jesus by Peter and John. The fishermen’s lives are in danger as they testify before the Sanhedrin that the crucified Jesus is risen. However, they are simply warned to be silent about the event which the disciples know will not be possible. How could they keep silent about the Resurrectionand all its implications including the healing of the cripple?
In today’s Gospel we hear a summary from St Mark of the Risen Lord’s appearance. He affirms the appearances of the Risen Jesus to Mary Magdalene, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus as well as to the eleven. Mark emphasises the struggle the disciples had in coming to terms with initially believing in the Resurrection. Perhaps it is a case that it is often easier to believe bad news than good news? Jesus seems to show a little bit of frustration with the disciples at their slowness in believing in the Resurrection, but nevertheless continues to have confidence and trust in them.
May we remember that our faith is firmly anchored on the Easter faith of the Apostles, the first witnesses to the Resurrection. This gives us a share in His Risen life each day that the Lord gives to us and the promise of the eternal life to come.
Thought for the Day - Easter Friday 9th April
In today’s Gospel, Peter and some of the disciples returned to Galilee away from all the drama of Jerusalem . They go fishing but they are not able to catch anything. The Risen Jesus appears on the shore and invites them to put out their nets again but this time from the other side of the boat. This would have felt familiar to them, as a similar scenario had occurred some three years earlier, when Jesus had called the fishermen the first time. They heed Jesus just as they had when he had first called them to follow him at the beginning of his ministry. Just as on that occasion, they again catch an abundance of fish. The Lord is on the shore cooking fish and welcomes them, inviting them to join him for breakfast. They would all be aware that they had all (apart from John) abandoned the Lord at his Passion. However the Lord shows no sign of resentment or disappointment with them, but effectively affirms his choice of them as his Apostles, the foundations of his Church.
Peter would have been particularly sensitive to his actions by which he denied even knowing Jesus three times. Jesus addresses this by taking him aside to ask him three times if he loved him. He thereby affirms Peter as a shepherd and leader of the Church. The Church is for sinners, so what better leader could we have than one who was aware of his failings but with God’s grace had come to terms with them?
As he did with the disciples, may the Risen Lord also affirm us in his love and mercy when we fall short of what he asks of us. May the joy of Easter transform our hearts towards a renewed desire to serve to Christ and proclaim the Gospel.
Thought for the day ~ Easter Thursday 8th April 2021
In today’s Gospel from St Luke, we hear the follow-up to the story of the Road to Emmaus, which we also heard yesterday. Jesus appears to his disciples and they are initially terrified. His first words are “peace be with you” which He says to reassure them that their eyes are not deceiving them and that He really is alive again. The Resurrection of Our Lord was quite shocking for the first witnesses, however once they got over their initial surprise, their fear turned to sheer joy. Jesus goes on to patiently explain to them that His Passion, Death and Resurrection were all prophesied and had to happen in order to fulfil the Scriptures.
In yesterday’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we heard of the healing by Peter and John of the paralysed man who used to beg by the temple gate. In today’s first reading, we hear of the follow-up to that story. The people are amazed at what they have done for this man. Peter addresses the onlookers by telling them that this miracle had been done by the Risen Jesus, whom they had crucified but did not realise the enormity of what they had done. He proclaims the message that Jesus rose from the dead and is indeed alive in his Church which comprises his followers and believers
Easter is at the very core of our Christian faith and the key role of the Apostles was to be witnesses to the Resurrection of Christ. An Apostle is one who is sent by Jesus. He sent out his Apostles to proclaim the Good News of the Gospel to the whole of the world and appointed them to become the foundation stones of the Church. May we, who share their Easter faith never grow tired of sharing the hope and joy that the truth of the Resurrection brings to us.
Thought for the Day ~ Wednesday 7th April 2021
In today’s Gospel set on the first Easter Sunday, two disciples are on the road away from Jerusalem, trying perhaps to put distance between the horrors of all that happened there to Jesus on Good Friday. They are already full of grief and shock but the reports of Jesus rising from the dead have left them confused. Therefore, they are walking away from it all to clear their heads. As they do, we hear that the Risen Jesus walks by their side and his conversation and explanation of how his Death and Resurrection fulfil the scriptures, lifts their spirits so that “their hearts burned within them”. It is only at breaking of bread at the supper table in the evening that they recognise it is Jesus.
We are all called to have a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus, we can do this because he is Risen ~ He is alive. We are to do this by prayer, by making time and space to listen and speak to him. He is always with us but we do sometimes forget.
As well as our encounters in prayer, we can also encounter Christ in the Sacraments because he died on the Cross to redeem us but is alive because He has Risen. Every encounter with the Lord should open our eyes to his presence, to the reality that the Living Christ journeys with us by guiding us, encouraging us and urging us on to be faithful to him and to not lose heart.
Easter changes everything for us and it especially changes our view of death. For those who have no faith, it must be terrible to think that this life is it! Without faith, you would be like the disciples on the road, down-cast, miserable, devastated, grieving and in a state of shock.
I am particularly aware of this when I reflect on the death of my parents, both of whom have died in the last six years. It gives me not just comfort and hope but most importantly a deep sense of peace to know that their lives both had a purpose and a destination; to be in God’s presence forever.
It is because of the Resurrection that once and for all sin and death have been defeated, so that they no longer have power over us. Easter helps us in our own purpose or vocation in life, but it also helps us to understand and appreciate life after death for those we love.
Thought for the Day ~ Easter Tuesday 6th April 2021
In today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear Peter preaching to the Jews about Jesus. He is filled with the Holy Spirit and speaks very honestly and openly about who Jesus is. When his listeners ask what they should do in response to what they have heard, he tells them to accept Jesus by repenting of their sins and being baptised. He clearly makes a deep impression on them as incredibly, three thousand people are baptised that day. This is a powerful reminder of the Holy Spirit at work in the spoken word.
In today’s Gospel, Mary Magdalene is weeping by the empty tomb and encounters the Risen Jesus, but something prevents her from recognising who it is and she mistakes him for the gardener. We were told she was weeping so maybe she was grieving so much that she was not thinking clearly. As soon as Jesus calls her by her name, Mary recognises who it is and she is overjoyed. She was then entrusted with telling the disciples that he would be ascending to His Father.
Like Mary, may our searching for Christ also bear fruit. Jesus told Mary to go and tell his message; may also we eagerly receive the joyful Easter message with which we are entrusted by the Lord. We are called to go and tell those we encounter that He is Risen and this is good news for all who believe it and respond to it.
Thought for the Day ~ Easter Monday 5th April 2021
We hear in today’s Gospel, that the women who were the first ones to be told the Good News of Easter that Jesus is risen, are filled with awe and great joy. To the disciples and the followers of Jesus, it is joyful news and after the sorrow and heartache of Good Friday, its significance begins to sink in.
Not everyone is pleased with this joyous news: the soldiers tell their story to the chief priests about how terrified they were at seeing the angel who rolled away the stone. For the Religious leaders, the news is very disturbing as their worst fears about Jesus have been realised. So we are told by Matthew, that they bribe the soldiers with a large amount of money to cover up the story by saying that his disciples took the body of Jesus away while the soldiers guarding the tomb were asleep.
As we will hear at Mass each day this week, the risen Jesus will make a number of appearances to disprove this cover up story. The Resurrection is news that should bring us great joy and fill us with hope. Because of Easter, we believe that Jesus is alive and therefore we can have the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and the other sacraments. May the Risen Lord continue to bring us the hope, joy and peace of Easter.
Today I will be thinking of my dad, John Featherstone ,who died on Easter Sunday morning 5th April 2015. My family and I have always taken great comfort from the fact that he died on the most important day of the year. For Christians, Easter makes sense of life and of death. May he rest in peace.
Thought for the Day ~ Saturday 3rd April 2021
Because of the death and the resurrection of the Lord, that first Easter, those who believe in him can be baptised. As we will hear in the epistle at the Easter Vigil Mass this evening, we go into the tomb with him ourselves, so that just as Jesus was raised from the dead we too might receive new life through him. We should consider ourselves to be alive for God in Christ Jesus. The angel and the Lord in the Gospel tell the women not to be afraid, to keep listening, be faithful and keep telling the Good news.
Easter changes everything for us, so we are able to enjoy the new life of God in Jesus that he wants for us. It means that sin and death no longer have the last word . The Risen Lord has conquered sin and death once and for all, so if we lead lives in accordance with the Gospel of Christ, we will be uniting ourselves to his risen power and we too can enjoy eternal life. Therefore we too should not be afraid but we should, like the women, be confident, faithful and obedient to the Risen Christ, and like them eager to share the Good News that He is alive.
Easter also totally changes our perception of death ~ our own death and the death of those we love. our departed loved ones are not dead, they share the life of the risen Christ . They are alive and that’s how we should think of them. So because of Easter, the stone can be rolled back on many things in our lives that prevent us from being free to live as God wants us too ~ humanity is reconciled with God because of the obedience of the Son of Man , O we too can have the stone rolled back that imprisons us and holds us back in life.
Thought for the Day ~ Good Friday 2nd April 2021
Today is Good Friday which is a day of sacrifice. Because of the lockdown, last year we had to celebrate the Lord’s Passion privately in a locked church without people present. That was really strange and it was a big sacrifice.
This year we have made some progress in that we can at least have people present, albeit in reduced numbers. One further restriction is that only the celebrant will be able to venerate the Cross on this occasion rather than enabling everyone present to do so as is customary.
In today’s Gospel we hear the Passion according to John. In this account, Jesus is very much in control. He allows everything to happen to him in obedience to His Father and to fulfil the scriptures.
This evening, we will spend some quiet time before the Cross and will reflect on the seven last words of Our Lord from the Cross. Of these words, three are provided by John. “Woman behold thy son” he is making Our Lady the Mother of the redeemed: he is asking for drink in saying “I thirst” but also deeply expressing that he thirsts for our love and our faith. And finally in saying “it is finished” he announces that his mission is accomplished. They all illustrate that Jesus is in control throughout.
Today, Alice, my niece is 21 and although now is a difficult time to celebrate big land-marks in our lives, it is right that we are grateful to the Lord for those in our lives who encourage us, support us and always make time for us.
On this day of sacrifices, may we renew our love and appreciation for Our Lord. As we relive the Passion, may we be filled with awe and wonder at Our God prepared to show such love for me. This is the day of the Cross, when we rejoice that a symbol of torture and death can be glorified by God and transformed into the most powerful symbol of life and love.
Thought for the Day ~ Maundy Thursday 1st April 2021
We are all tempted to enjoy privilege, status and authority Pope Francis has one of one the most important positions in the world, but has got us to rethink about privilege. He does not enjoy the trappings of high office and shows in many ways that he tries to model himself on Christ as regards a life of humble service. As a Cardinal, he travelled around his Archdiocese on buses, metro and trains rather than being chauffeur driven. As Pope he has chosen not to live in the papal apartments which he considers too opulent, but lives in a more public area of the Vatican.
So Pope Francis is telling us by his actions that priesthood is all about humble service, not about privileges. It is a great privilege to be called to serve in the Church by Christ, but we are to model our lives in living out this great gift in imitation of Christ himself. In this evening’s Gospel, Jesus shocks his disciples by kneeling down before them which is a great sign of humility. Washing feet was not a pleasant task and it meant bending down. This is symbolic of humble and obedient service. At the time of Jesus, people mainly wore sandals, the roads were dusty and so feet would get very dirty. They would be sweaty, dirty, and grimy. For all these reasons it was usually the work of a lowly servant to wash the feet.
However ,Jesus washed the feet of his disciples in order to show us we need to be generous and see no task as beneath us regardless of our position or status in society or in the Church. Throughout Lent we sought obedience to Christ by looking out for opportunities to give of ourselves. This included sharing our resources with the needy, but also essentially seizing every chance we get to give something of ourselves. We are called to lend, to teach and serve, and we are challenged to come out of our comfort zones.
Therefore we are called to keep this new commandment to love one another as the Lord has loved. This is an invitation but also a challenge to us as his disciples. So we imitate our Master by carrying out little acts of kindness and service wherever we see a chance to give our time and show a bit of love to whoever may need our care and our help.
Thought for the Day - Wednesday of Holy Week 31st March 2021
It is significant in today’s Gospel from Matthew, that mingled in with the grace and sacredness of the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper, is sin in the form of the treachery, betrayal, deceit of Judas. This means that God’s grace will always abound even in the midst of sin.
Today is called “Spy Wednesday” because Judas is like a spy in the disciple’s camp and literally sells for thirty pieces of silver, vital information about Jesus to his enemies, which will directly lead to the Lord’s arrest and death. Because of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, the darkness of sin can never put out the light of God’s grace at work in the Church.
Pride is often at the heart of the reason why we all sin and do things that we really regret. However we are able to move forward and out of the darkness caused by our sins because of the grace of God’s mercy bought at great cost by Our Lord’s Passion and Death.
Tomorrow we will begin the Triduum for Easter, and embark upon commemorating the key mysteries in the life of the Lord. As we do so, may we remember that the forgiveness of our sinful and selfish acts is at the heart of the reason the Lord had to die on the Cross. The gift of the Eucharist re-presents this great act of love for us each time the Mass is celebrated.
Thought for the Day ~ Tuesday of Holy Week 30th March 2021
When I was a teenager there was a powerful song called “Please don’t Judas me” by a rock band called Nazareth. The song’s title sadly reminds us that our own actions of betrayal and treachery towards friends and family, parallel those of Judas towards Jesus. Judas will despair on realising the enormity of what he has done to Jesus and will tragically go on to choose to take his own life.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus predicts both the imminent betrayal of himself by Judas as well as the threefold denials of Peter. Peter will feel terrible about what he has done but will quickly recover and though noticeably not around to support Jesus at his darkest hour on Good Friday, is one of the first to witness the empty tomb on Easter Sunday. Peter will beat himself for what he has done to Jesus but will choose to repent and go on to be reaffirmed by the Risen Jesus in his role as the “the rock”, after Easter.
May we reflect on the times we have betrayed or let down those we love through our selfishness, foolishness or cowardice. May we, like Peter seize the opportunities that Christ offers us to repent and rebuild our bridges that our sins have broken.
Thought for the Day ~ Monday of Holy Week 29th March 2021
In today’s Gospel, Mary anoints the feet of Jesus with a very expensive perfume ~ this is a great act of love and service. Those same feet will in the near future be pierced through with nails onto the Cross. Judas has been a disciple of Jesus for some three years, living very close to Christ and yet he does not approve of the extravagance of Mary. We are told he saw this as a waste of money and no doubt a waste of time too. He half-heartedly argues that this money could have been spent on helping the poor. Jesus defends Mary’s action as he sees what she has done as necessary preparation for his imminent Passion and death.
I know there are times in my life when I have wasted money and squandered my time seeking empty pleasures. Time is scarce resource that is precious and care should be taken to ensure it is spent wisely. However time spent doing the Lord’s work, coming to Mass and the Sacraments or spending time with the Lord in prayer is never a waste of time. Whenever we carry out these activities then we are re-fuelling our souls. Prayer is sometimes described as wasting time with the Lord, however it unites and brings us close to God, and so strengthens our relationship with Him.
As we journey through Holy Week, may we generously and wholeheartedly enter into the spirit of this Great Week with our hearts overflowing with desire to respond to the lavish outpouring of divine love which we will be remembering and celebrating.
Thought for the Day - Friday 26th March 2021
Jesus has devoted his life to caring for the most vulnerable and helping those who could not help themselves. Our Lord reached out to the poor, the sick and the outcast and brought the promise of new life to them. He presented a new teaching whereby people were at the centre of things. His approach however brought him into serious conflict with the religious authorities.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is facing much opposition, He has worked many signs and spoken quite openly about who He is but his hearers cannot accept that he is God’s Son. He has said that the Father is in him and he is in the Father. However they do not believe him so they accuse him of blaspheming. They say to him: “You are only a man and yet you claim to be
God”. They determined to kill him, however although the time for his death is fast approaching, his time has not quite arrived. His life is in danger and his opponents try to arrest him but he escapes and goes off to a quiet place.
As Holy Week draws very near, let us affirm our belief in who Jesus is for us. As we prepare to commemorate the events that lead to the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, may we gratefully grow in faith and appreciation in the One who lifts back the veil on the mystery of who God is.
Thought for the Day ~ Thursday 25th March 2021
Today is the feast of the Annunciation which is another of the beautiful feasts which act as islands in the sea of Lent.
In today’s first reading we hear the prophecy of Isaiah who says that the sign that God will give is that a maiden (virgin) will have a child and name him Emmanuel which means God is among us.
In today’s Gospel, we hear the account according to Luke of how the Virgin Mary is asked by the Angel Gabriel to fulfil Isaiah’s prophecy and become the Mother of God’s Son. In addressing Mary’s question about how this is possible because she is a virgin: the angel states that “nothing is impossible for God”
Today I am thinking of my brother Paul, who celebrates his birthday today. A number of you met Paul two years ago on our parish trip to Buxton, Derbyshire where he lives with his family. Sr Clare, our head teacher at St Anne’s Primary school often said Paul must be a special child to born on such an important feast day and she is right!
May we hand over today all our difficult and challenging situations into the capable hands of Our Lord and know that because nothing is impossible there is always a way forward if we bring God into it.
Thought for the Day Wednesday 24th March 2021
Living simply is a good philosophy to adopt. Part of living like this is to be truthful and honest about all things. ”Tell the truth and shame the Devil” was an expression my mam used to use and it contains a wise message. If we make up parts of the truth by telling lies or being slightly dishonest then this will make life less simple and in fact more complicated. If we don’t live by the truth, we have to put effort in remembering what we have said, whereas the truth will take care of itself.
The three young men in today’s first reading, stand by what they hold to be truth about their faith and for this they are spared by God from the terrible fire of the furnace and certain death.
Jesus has also rightly decided to put his trust in being obedient to the Father: In today’s Gospel he tells his listeners; “the truth will make you free”. Jesus will go on to suffer and to die but this will result in the even bigger miracle of His Resurrection from the dead.
As we head towards Holy Week and the celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection at Easter, may we share the faith of the young men and trust in God as we also trustfully place all our hopes and fears into His hands.
Thought for the Day ~ Tuesday 23rd March 2021
St Turibius of Mongrovejo, was born in Spain in about 1538 and studied law at the university of Salamanca. He was named bishop of Lima in 1580 and sailed to America. Full of apostolic zeal, he traversed his gigantic diocese three times, generally on foot, baptizing, teaching and confirming the natives.
He assembled many synods and councils to make the Church strong, organised, and above all holy; and he strongly defended the rights of the natives, who were Spanish citizens according to the law but who were nevertheless being oppressed by the colonists and the provincial governors. He died in Lima on 23 March 1606.
In today’s first reading we hear of how through Moses the people were saved by God from the bite of the serpents which God had sent in response to the sins of the people. Many people died after being bitten by these deadly creatures. The serpent is of course synonymous with Satan, who successfully tempted Adam and Eve to commit the Original Sin in Genesis. God instructs Moses to fashion a bronze serpent and raise it on a standard. All who had been bitten by a serpent and looked upon the bronze serpent would not die but would live.
In the Gospel, Jesus makes reference to his impending death on the Cross by saying “when you lifted up the Son of Man, you will l know that I am He”. Jesus will die on the Cross so that our sins may be forgiven. Those who looked upon the serpent in the desert would live after being bitten by the serpent but they would still go onto eventually die. Those like us, who look upon Jesus on the Cross and believe in him will be forgiven our sins and will live on after death in His presence.
As Holy Week looms large, we are asked to acknowledge that we are all sinners and therefore capable of being drawn towards doing what is wrong. May these late Lenten days be opportunities to humbly seek and graciously attain God’s grace to make us stronger in our resistance to the attractive lure of the world, the flesh and Satan.
Thought for the Day ~ Monday 22nd March 2021
The readings for Mass today which deal with the vulnerability of women and also addresses the darkness of our sexual sins, have a very contemporary feel about them. In our modern society it is apparent that women are still very susceptible and defenceless in the face of unwanted advances from lustful men.
In today’s First reading from the book of Daniel, Susanna an innocent and beautiful woman while bathing in her own husband’s private garden, is a victim of the sexual desires of two elderly men who had been appointed as judges. The two elders threaten that unless she gives into to their lustfulness, they will testify that they caught her with a young man, so accusing her of adultery. She calls the alarm but in a society where women had very little protection or rights according to the Law, the men turn the tables on her and say that it is the woman who was committing the sexual sins. The penalty for such a crime would be her death. Daniel, however intervenes and cleverly defends the innocent woman by allowing the truth to emerge clearly and then justice is seen to be done. With the light of truth, God is able to defend the defenceless.
In today’s Gospel, the scribes and Pharisees are looking to test Jesus’ faithfulness and understanding of the Law. They bring a woman to Jesus who has been caught in the very act of committing adultery. It is notable that they did not also bring the man who had been equally guilty of this breach of the sixth commandment. The penalty for such a breach according to the Law would be death by stoning. They want to know what Jesus has to say. The Lord is masterly in his approach and in the way he deals with the accusers and the woman herself.
He has previously taught that to even look lustfully at another person was to commit adultery, so he knew that most of the accusers would have been guilty of that sin. He invites the person who is without sin to cast the first stone at the woman. In response to his words, they all gradually go away one by one and leave the woman alone with Jesus. He is the only one in the town who is without sin, but by saying “neither do I condemn you” he grants her mercy and forgives her sins and tells her to go and sin no more. Though Jesus is innocent, we are reminded by today’s readings in this Passiontide part of Lent that Jesus will be put to death of the Cross
God’s mercy and forgiveness is offered to us most powerfully in the Sacrament of Reconciliation which is also an encounter with Christ. It is the through the power of the Cross that we are forgiven all our sins and given the grace to enable us to not sin again. However if we hope for the mercy of God for ourselves, we also need to be very careful about condemning others.
Thought for the day ~ Saturday 20th March 2021
My very first appointment as a priest in the Diocese was in 1993 as Assistant Priest to the Parish of St Herbert in Chadderton near Oldham. St Herbert’s date of birth is unknown. He was for a long time a close friend and disciple of St Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, at whose request he became an anchorite. He lived for many years on the small Derwentwater island now named after him. He ate fish from the lake and grew vegetables round his cell. Herbert visited Cuthbert in Lindisfarne every year to receive spiritual direction. After a meeting in Carlisle, with Cuthbert, whose health was rapidly deteriorating, Herbert requested that he and Cuthbert be reunited again in Heaven at the same time. Herbert, returning to his hermitage, fell to a long sickness, and purified of his imperfections, died on the same day, 20 March 687, on which St Cuthbert died on Holy Island. St Herbert has been largely forgotten and is overshadowed by the more renowned St Cuthbert. The remains of his hermitage survive at the north end of St Herbert's Island.
In the first reading, Jeremiah is aware of lots of plotting going on behind his back and sees himself as a trustful lamb being led to the slaughter. Despite this he was totally open to what the Lord wanted to reveal to him. Jesus, like Jeremiah is subject to plotting to kill him as well ~ though the life of this innocent lamb will not be spared.
Jesus was getting lots of different reactions to who he was. In today’s Gospel we hear that some of crowd thought he was the Christ or a prophet. We are told the police said they couldn’t arrest Jesus because they had never heard anyone speak like him before. Nicodemus speaks up for Jesus reminding his fellow Pharisees that they could not pass judgement according to law without giving Jesus a fair hearing.
We are called to say who we believe Jesus to be. Just as in all previous periods of history, it is still quite challenging to stand up and say that we believe Jesus to be the Christ. To do this calls for courage because we risk receiving ridicule or doing this. May St Herbert and all the saints gently urge us have the courage and confidence to place Christ firmly at the centre of our lives.
Thought for the Day ~ Friday 19th March 2021
Beginning in December 2020 and lasting twelve months, Pope Francis has marked this year to be the “Year of St Joseph”. What better role-model could Christians have than St Joseph?
Today’s first reading speaks of the promise made by God to David that he would make one of his offspring an eternal king. This eternal kingship is fulfilled in Jesus. The connection between David and Jesus is of course St Joseph, whose feast we mark today. Joseph was a descendent of King David, so through Joseph, Jesus can be rightly called the Son of David.
In today’s Gospel we hear of how Joseph planned to respond to the news that Mary was with a child that was not his own. He had decided on one course of action but is guided by God through a dream to stand by Mary and the child. In the dream the angel addresses Joseph as; ”Son of David. Joseph listened to the quiet voice which spoke to him in his sleep and promptly and generously obeyed and did what was asked of him. He provided for his family through his trade as a carpenter, and so Jesus was also called the carpenter’s son. “You say it best, when you say nothing at all” is a song by Ronan Keating which a friend of mind told me reminds him of St Joseph. The Gospel does not record a single one of Joseph’s words, but his actions speak loudly and eloquently of his love for God and his trust in Him. He says everything about his faith and love for God without having to speak. We see Joseph as a devout, just, poor, humble honest, hard- working, man but one who had a deep interior life.
On this feast of St Joseph and in this special year dedicated to him, may we model our lives on this man of faith. May we, like him, allow our actions in response to the Gospel of Jesus, to do the talking not our words. May we also strive to be humble and put God’s will before our own desires.
I finish with a prayer to St Joseph that Pope Francis asks us to use daily during this special year;
Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer,
Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
To you God entrusted his only Son;
in you Mary placed her trust;
with you Christ became man.
Blessed Joseph, to us too,
show yourself a father
and guide us in the path of life.
Obtain for us grace, mercy, and courage,
and defend us from every evil. Amen.
Thought for the Day ~ Thursday 18th March 2021
In today’s first reading, Moses pleads on behalf of the people to God after they committed apostasy by worshipping a calf they have made themselves of gold. God listens to Moses and stands by his people even though they have rebelled.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus admonishes the Jews for not accepting him or the message he has come to bring them. He tells the Jews that all the good works he has done are to testify that he has been sent by the Father. Both Moses and Jesus receive criticism from their respective audiences about their respective missions.
For example Jesus had to argue with his critics about his reasons for healing people on the Sabbath. Rather than winning arguments, what he really tried to win was their hearts. We should also look at winning hearts for God not winning arguments. Let us always trust that Jesus shows us the way to God. If we model our lives on the life and teachings of Christ, this will be a sure and certain road map for us to follow on our pilgrimage of life.
Thought for the Day ~ Wednesday 17th March 2021
Today is the feast of St Patrick, who had a lot of obstacles to overcome in his early life. Just before he was 16 years old, he was taken captive by Irish slave traders from his own people and his home, to work in the Antrim hills. He was not particularly religious as he grew up in Roman Britain but when his life was turned upside down, he was able to find new dimensions which allowed him to see that God was very close to him. After his eventual escape after six years of slavery, he felt called by Christ and returned as a Bishop and a missionary to Ireland to preach Christ’s Gospel to those who had held him captive. Through all of this, Patrick’s faith sustained him and he saw clearly the hand of God in all these events of his life.
Patrick had no bitterness or resentfulness about his experiences as a slave In Ireland as it had completely changed his outlook on life. He was not materialistic but was a friendly and humble man with a great capacity to forgive. He was driven by a love for people and a desire to share his faith with others. He was full of goodness and this led to him winning many people over to the Christian faith.
In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus sending out the 72 disciples ahead of him as missionaries, equipped only with his approval, his love and his teaching. The missionary zeal of Patrick has always been an intrinsic part of the Irish Church, believing that faith is not something to be kept to ourselves. Let us pray for the people of Ireland today on their feast day. Let us also model our lives on St Patrick by being living examples of the Gospel ourselves and imitate his desire to share the treasured gift of our faith.
Thought for the Day ~ Tuesday 16th March 2021
I am fascinated by the source of rivers ~ many of the great rivers of the world start off as a trickle or a tiny stream. These evolve into a mighty flowing river that can be a mile or more wide. Wherever the river goes it brings life. Its amazing that the rivers build up such a volume of water in them from often a very humble source. For me rivers are a sign of God’s providence and goodness.
In today’s first reading, Ezekiel prophesies that the waters flow from the holy of Holies in the temple bringing life and hope. It flows like a river with God’s mercy and brings life everywhere it goes. Ezekiel is getting us to think of being purified by God on the inside.
In today’s psalm, we are told there is a stream whose waters gladden the city of God. God is the provider of water and it brings life and hope to all.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus cures a paralysed man near the Sheep Pool of Bethzatha on the sabbath. The waters of the pool stirred periodically and had healing properties. This man had patiently waited for such healing for many years. Without taking him into the pool, Jesus brings healing to him by simply asking him to pick up his mat and walk. The man seizes the offer of mercy offered to him that day and obeys Jesus and is healed.
It is through the healing waters of baptism that we received the promise of new life in Christ. On our Lenten journey may we patiently wait for the Lord’s mercy that comes through ridding ourselves of all that is not worthy of God.
Thought for the Day ~ Monday 15th March 2021
In today’s Gospel, a court official approaches Jesus in Cana in Galilee to come to Capernaum, which was over 16 miles away, where his son is sick and on the point of death. Jesus initially admonishes the court official for seeking signs and portents, but the man is unwavering in his request, saying firmly; “Sir, Come down before my child dies”. The man is rewarded for his faith in Jesus, who tells him to set off home immediately, reassuring him that his son will live. Before the man reaches his home, he receives word that the boy was cured around the time Jesus gave the word.
John tells us that this was the second “sign” that Jesus gave as to who he is. The first one also took place at Cana. Both the changing of water into wine and the curing of the court official’s dying son are signs of new life and the hope that the Lord gives to those believe in him.
The Lord’s word was good enough for the court official to accept and he never doubted. We need to have the same attitude in petitionary prayer as he had. Sometimes we might not get an answer to our prayer immediately and we may need to wait patiently and trust before we receive an answer. It is important that we persevere in prayer and like the court official be unwavering and trusting in our faith I God’s Word.
May we continue our Lenten journey towards Easter and grow closer to Christ through our faithfulness and dedication to prayer.
Thought for the Day ~ Friday 12 th March 2021
In the first reading, Hosea calls the people to turn back to God and to move away from selfishness and sin. He calls them to have a change of heart and assures them that they will be welcomed. He calls them afresh to listen to the voice of God which promises safety, whereby “he will fall on them like the dew and bloom like the lily and there will be an abundant harvest of corn and vines. Lent is a time for us to have a change of heart and to listen again to the promises that God makes to us.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is in dialogue with a scribe, and even though the scribes often argue with Jesus over his teaching, this particular scribe agrees with Jesus and is commended by Our Lord for his understanding. The discussion arises from a question about what the is first commandment. In his answer, Jesus puts two commandments together: love of God and love of neighbour.
We are called firstly to put our all into loving God, but from this should emanate naturally a desire to love and serve our neighbour. On our Lenten journey, may we consider how our love for the Lord drives us to desire to show practical love for our neighbours, especially the poor and needy.
Thought for the Day ~ Thursday 11th March 2021
In today’s first reading, Jeremiah is calling people to turn back to God. God speaks through him and all the prophets to plead with the people to listen to His voice. The voice of God is calling them to move away from stubbornness and behaviour that is worse than their ancestors. The prophet calls us to be more consistent in the way we show our faithfulness to God.
Lent is a time for us to find more time to listen to God and to become more consistent in our response to his love for us.
The Psalm reminds us of the need to listen each day to the voice of God: “O that today you would listen to His voice, harden not your hearts”. May our Lenten journey be a time to allow the Lord to soften our hearts so that by hearing his loving words, we are moved to more compassionate with one another.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks out against those who see his signs and miracles as the work of the Evil One. All that Jesus did was good ~ he healed people, he helped the sick and the poor and he gave hope to those who had been written off by society. How could anyone possibly think that what he was doing was not good or not from God?
Especially during this Pandemic, it is easy to home in on what is wrong with our lives and what we lack or cannot do. Lent is a time for us to open our eyes to see our lives as Jesus sees us. In so doing may we grow in gratitude for the many varied ways in which God blesses our lives each day that he gives to us.
Thought for the Day ~ Wednesday 10th March 2021
In today’s first reading we hear Moses tell the people about the importance of keeping God’s commandments. In keeping and observing the laws of God, they will be considered wise and knowledgeable. He tells them to never forget all the good things that they have seen God do for them. They are to treasure all these things in their hearts and pass on the commandments to future generations.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus says that he not come to take anything away at all from the commandments and the teachings of the prophets. He says he has simply come to complete the Law and the Prophets. He says this because he is totally obedient to the Father and his mission is the fulfilment of the Prophets. He also completes the Law by giving us a new commandment and this is the commandment to love one another as he has loved us. This means that the reasons we keep all of God’s commandments is that we act out of love.
On our Lenten journey may we grow close to Christ by our faithfulness to his commandment to love God and one another. May our Lenten commitments enable us to grow stronger through our desire to be pleasing to God.
Thought for the Day ~ Tuesday 9th March 2021
St Frances of Rome was born in Rome in 1384 and was married at the age of 13. Although she had wanted to be a nun, she was happily married for 40 years and had three sons. She distributed gifts to the poor and ministered to the sick. She was remarkable for her humility and detachment, her obedience and patience in adversity (including her husband’s banishment, the death of two of her sons from plague, and the loss of all her property). She was a mystic and contemplative, part of the great flourishing of mysticism in that period, and after her husband’s death she retired to a convent she had founded, where she died on 9 March 1440.
In today’s Gospel, prompted by a question by St Peter, Jesus takes up the theme of forgiveness. This is a good reminder that at the heart of the reason for our Lenten journey is the call to be perfect. In telling Peter we are to forgive 77 times means there is to be no limit to our willingness to forgive others. In the parable of the unforgiving servant, a man is let off a gigantic debt by the king who represents our merciful and loving God. In the parable, even this fortunate person could not forgive his brother a much smaller dent. In hearing of this, the furious king tells him he was bound to have pity on his fellow servant as He had pity on him.
The Parable speaks of renewal which is also an important aspect of our Lenten journey. Our Lenten journey should get us to think of the mercy we have received in our lives. We are to open our hearts to let the Lord in more fully and to remove any hardness of heart against others. Jesus calls Peter and us to be like His Father in our readiness to forgive. May we reflect today on all those who have wronged us and against whom we hold a grudge or a grievance. May the Lord give us the generosity to let go of harbouring any such thoughts and find ourselves renewed and at peace.
Thought for the Day ~ Monday 8th March 2021
Today we remember St John of God, who was born to a poor but devout family in Portugal in 1495. After serving as a soldier under the Emperor Charles V, he devoted his life wholly to the service of the poor and the sick. He founded a hospital in Granada and a circle of disciples formed round him, which later became the Order of Hospitallers. He died on 8 March 1550, his 55th birthday. We remember today all who have a devotion to St John of God.
In today’s first reading, we hear the account of Naaman, the Syrian army commander who is cured of his leprosy by Elisha the prophet. Naaman initially has to overcome his anger and his pride when asked by the prophet via a messenger, to bathe himself in the river Jordan seven times. It is only when one of Naaman’s servants reasoned with him, that he calmed down and instead of storming off home in a rage asked the army officer to trust the words of the Lord spoken by the prophet. Naaman then agreed to do what Elisha had asked of him and was cured by the Lord. Lent is a great time for us to set aside our anger and pride in order to trust the Lord to heal us and cleanse us.
In today’s Gospel, while in his hometown of Nazareth, Jesus challenges the people’s narrow view that God belonged only to Israel by referring to the story of the healing of Naaman the Syrian as one example of where God favoured the Gentiles. This does not go down well and angers his former neighbours and town folk. They reject Jesus and intend to kill him by throwing him off the cliff. This foreshadows his brutal rejection in Jerusalem which will lead to his death. May our Lenten journey broaden our outlook of God, whose love and compassion is offered to people of all nations.
Thought for the Day ~ Saturday 6th March 2021
The Pharisees saw themselves as being righteous and they had no time for sinners..They assumed that God would share their way of thinking and that he would also have no time for sinners. In response to criticism about Jesus spending time with tax collectors and sinners , in today’s Gospel Jesus tells the Parable of the Lost Son. He uses it to tell us that like the father in the story, God welcomes sinners and has time for them, .because everyone matters to Him.
Jesus was gentle and loving in his approach to sinners. He knew that rejection and judgement never helped anyone to change. He was approachable so sinners felt welcome and loved. He also created an atmosphere where they could respond and change. At the end of the parable is a celebration which is a sign of the joy God feels when someone who has strayed from his love, comes back to him. The father tells his elder son: “ It is right we celebrate because your brother was lost and is found, was dead and has come back to life”. We can all be like the younger son from time to time, and we sometimes get tempted to sin and wander away from God’s ways.
The Lord has shown us how to live through the example of his life his teaching and the Gospel. Jesus told us that He is the way to the Father, and that He himself is the one we need to listen to, in order to imitate him and to grow with him in friendship and trust.
Thought for the Day ~ Friday 5th March 2021
In today’s first reading we get the account of Joseph, beloved son of Israel (Jacob) from the book of Genesis. Out of jealousy, his brothers want to kill him but end up selling him as a slave. However God works good out of these evil intentions and actions, and Joseph ends up prospering in Egypt and his brothers and future generations of the children of Abraham benefit greatly from this. The one that was rejected became pivotal in the establishment of a new fruitful way of living for the Chosen people.
In today’s Gospel Jesus addresses the parable of the tenants of the vineyard to the chief priests and elders, which results in the rejecting and killing of the landlord’s son and heir. This clearly refers to the Passion, death of Jesus himself at the hands of the religious leaders. Jesus then quotes the psalm that we have at Easter: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone”. He is referring to his Resurrection from the dead which will result in the joyful promise of salvation for many people. It will culminate in the establishment of the “New Israel”, the Church, whereby one family of God will result. Like with Joseph, out of what was evil God does good that will benefit all people.
There may be aspects of our own lives that we tend to neglect or reject but these can be the very channels which God can use to teach us and lead us closer to him. Our faith tells us that God continues to provide for us and work for us, working good even through our struggles, failures and sins. God’s divine grace has the power to transform what is evil and destructive into a force for good and life- giving for us.
May we use our Lenten journey as an opportunity to regularly reflect on our lives in awe and wonder. May we have our eyes opened to see how God has used challenging circumstances to bring about growth and renewal and promises to continue to do so.
Thought for the Day ~ Thursday 4th March 2021
In the First reading, Jeremiah says that those who trust in God are like a tree that has its roots near a stream so when drought comes, its leaves remain green and bear fruit. Jeremiah himself struggled with rejection and sometimes felt useless but even then he helped to keep the faith of the nation alive. He succeeded in doing this because he maintained his integrity throughout his mission.
In the Gospel we get the powerful parable of the rich man and Lazarus, who begged at the rich man’s door. Jesus tells us that although destitute, Lazarus remained close to God. At the end of their lives, Lazarus will be saved but the rich man will not. The biggest sin that the rich man committed was that he was so caught up in his own world that he did not even notice there was a poor man begging outside the gates of his house. To live in luxury ourselves and to be completely oblivious to the plight of the poor on our own doorstep is quite shocking. Jesus tells us that at the end of our lives we will be judged on how much love we have shown in this life.
May our Lenten journey get us to think about how much faith and trust we place in the Lord ~ so that in times of difficulty we retain our integrity and self respect. May we also keep our eyes open to be aware of the poor and needy especially those close to home, and have a heart big enough to show a bit of love.
Thought for the Day ~ Wednesday 3rd March 2021
I suppose we all like to enjoy privileges that sometimes come our way. We have to remember that privileges for us might come at an expense to someone else who will miss out as a result. The mother of James and John asks for the top jobs in the Kingdom for her two sons. It is understandable for a mother to want the best for her children, but in asking for this she and her sons are failing to understand the type of Kingdom that Jesus is building. They are seeking privileges but are they prepared to take the responsibilities that accompany it. Eventually they will understand what Jesus means and they will certainly show commitment to what is asked of
Jesus tries to tell them that he has come to serve not to be served. He tells them that in the upside down world of the Kingdom of God, it is the humble and the lowly who will enjoy true greatness. In today’s first reading, Jeremiah the prophet has been struggling with the resistance and opposition he faced in being a spokesman for the Lord. He is aware that those who oppose him wish to harm him and kill without a fair trial. He keeps faithful to God however because he knows that God ‘s way is the right way. In a similar way on the eve of his death in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus will resonate this same anguish as Jeremiah about his forthcoming Passion and Death and will concur that the Father’s will should be done
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is utterly open and honest with his disciples when he tells them that he is going to suffer and be handed over to the Gentiles to be crucified and will die as a ransom for many, but will rise on the third day.
On our Lenten journey, may we strive to walk the humble road and not look for privilege, recognition or status but instead to be faithful servants doing only God’s will.
Thought for the Day ~ Tuesday 2nd March 2021
In today’s first reading, Isaiah simply tells us to turn away from evil and learn to do good. Firstly, ceasing to do something that is habitual and sinful can seem to be impossible for us ~ however bringing God into the situation will make a big difference, because everything is possible for God.
Moving away from what is not life-giving for us has to begin with admitting that what we are doing is wrong. It takes humility to be able to admit that we have a problem and this means we have to take on the deadly sin of pride. Secondly in order to learn to do good we need to actively practise and pursue the “Cardinal virtues” of temperance, prudence, fortitude and justice. Ceasing to do things that take us away from God and actively pursuing noble inclinations will go hand in hand. Lent is a time to use the disciplines of prayer, fasting and giving as weapons to fight our sinful and selfish tendencies and strive towards good inclinations.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus criticizes the religious leaders for laying heavy burdens upon people and not doing anything to help them to cope with their struggles. He calls them hypocrites because they seem to enjoy the privileges of their status but do not really keep the laws themselves. Jesus reminds us that authentic Christian living calls for fairness and humility.
During our Lenten journey may we encourage one another to change and move away from areas of selfishness and sin. May we also strive to lead better more virtuous lives that allow us to become fairer and wiser in our dealings with each other. May the Lord help us overcome our pride and be humble enough to admit our need for God in our lives.
Thought for the Day ~ Monday 1st March 2021
Today is the feast of St David, patron of Wales and my own patron too. The earliest life of St David dates from five centuries after his death, probably in 589. He became eminent as abbot and bishop at the site now known as St David’s, but formerly Mynyw, from which the present diocese of Menevia is named. Monks trained at his monastery went on to evangelize South Wales and made foundations in Cornwall, Brittany and Ireland. At his death his contemporary St Kentigern, founder of St Asaph’s in North Wales, witnessed in vision his joyful entrance into Heaven. His holy relics have been found hidden in the fabric of St David’s Cathedral, where they are carefully preserved. He was canonized by Pope Callistus II in 1123.
He lived a very austere life, was vegetarian and was known as “the water drinker” as that is all he drank. In his monastery he asked his monks to plough the fields themselves without the use of oxen or other animals. I have a picture of St David in the presbytery and it depicts him dressed as a bishop and also with a dove on his shoulder. The latter acknowledges his eloquence as a preacher, filled with the Holy Spirit. It is believed in his last words, St David said; ‘Be joyful, and keep your faith and your creed. Do the little things that you have seen me do and heard about.’ This lovely phrase reminds us that our faith is lived out by doing the little things extraordinary well. We show this in our patience and kindness with each other. We can make a make a big difference by paying attention to the little things that we do.
In the response to today’s psalm, we can truly see David as one who was happy because he placed his trust in the Lord. His austerity and simplicity of life emanated from a deep faith in Christ. In today’s Gospel ,we are reminded to be like David and let our light shine in the sight of others by carrying out each little task entrusted to us with love and great care. We are to see each action that we take as being done out of love for God and so will draw others to Christ.
We remember today the people of Wales on this their feast day. May they imitate David in his purity, gentleness and simplicity and by doing all the little things well be drawn close to Christ .May the bright light of their faith attract others to the LIght of the World.
Thought for the Day ~ Saturday 27th February 2021
The First reading today is a call to walk in the ways of God. The way we do this is to keep his commandments and to listen to his voice. If we are faithful to these instructions we will indeed be a people consecrated to the Lord as he promised.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus calls us to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect. Jesus raises the bar high for his followers as this involves loving our enemies not just our neighbours. Most of us would probably not label anyone in our lives an enemy, but we all know people who have harmed us in the past or make life difficult for us even now. It is tempting to treat those who mistreat us, in the same way, but the road to perfection demands better than this. Loving our “enemies” means treating them as well as we possibly can and to remember them in prayer. Jesus prayed on the Cross for all those who were responsible for his suffering and death.
The call to perfection is attainable through an invitation to the life of grace. Lent is a time to let the rhythm of The Spirit of God take over the “rudder” of lives and to steer us at a different pace.
Today Bishop John, Fr Damien, our seminarian Mark, Mike Morris and myself are part of a team of people putting on an on-line Retreat day for the altar servers of the Diocese. This will include some of our own parish servers. The Day will hopefully include a short period live-streamed Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament from St Mary’s church. Please pray that all will go smoothly and that all the children and young people who take part will feel nurtured in their faith and encouraged in their ministry by the experience.
Thought for the Day ~ Friday 26th February 2021
Most of the commandments start off “thou shalt not..”, which speak of avoiding doing what is evil. In today’s first reading, Ezekiel gets us to think about doing more than to just avoid wrong-doing. He is telling us that we also need to actively pursue doing good in order to build up lasting, life-giving and loving relationships with each other. Healthy and honest relationships are so vital within a family or a community like a parish.
In today’s Gospel Jesus teaches the importance of dealing with feelings that can lead to anger and resentment against others. Such feelings and emotions are at the root of things that can well up inside of us and risk making us angry. We know from experience that we can sometimes let such strong feelings get the better of us. Anger can eat away at us and can urge us to feed it with our energy and our attention. Jesus says that feelings of anger and resentment can be at the heart of what leads some people to break the 5 th commandment: “Thou Shalt not kill”.
Jesus tells us that the way to avoid with this is to ensure we try to find ways forward from disagreements with one another. He places great emphasis on the need for reconciliation and healing. He emphasises the importance of this by urging us to seek reconciliation with those against whom we bear a grudge, even before we come to worship before God. It often takes courage to approach someone who has offended us and wronged us but it is the right way to deal with conflicts. Talking things through with someone who has wronged us, is not easy but can often be fruitful in achieving reconciliation.
On our Lenten journey, may take the time to reflect on what makes us angry and so avoid bearing grudges. May the Lord give us the courage and confidence to approach those who have wronged us in order to attain reconciliation. May we also regularly reflect on our own actions and words to others and have the humility to admit if we have not been as loving or as caring as we should have.
Thought for the Day ~ Thursday 25th February 2021
In today’s first reading, we get a short extract from the book of Esther. Esther was a secret Jewess, married to king Ahasuerus, a pagan; and when her fellow Jews were threatened with death, she took the risk of going to her husband to plead on their behalf. She knew that this was dangerous and could cost her own life. Before she carried out her intentions, Queen Esther prayed about it. In her prayer we hear her say that she believed only God alone could help her. Because of her heartfelt prayer, God intervened to save her people from death and destruction.
In times of crisis, our prayers are often direct, simple and heartfelt. We know what is needed to be done and we truly believe to the point of knowing for certain that God is the only one who can help. I know of occasions when due to illness causing a risk of death for our loved ones, our prayers are mighty powerful and often effective.
Esther’s example and approach to prayer is exactly what Jesus means when he tells us the approach to have in prayer. We need to be clear, confident and determined in what we ask for. Jesus says that his Father is kind, generous and compassionate, just as any good parent would be towards their children. Therefore if we have this approach to what we are seeking, searching and knocking on God’s door for, in our prayer, it will surely be granted.
Thought for the Day ~ Wednesday 24th February 2021
In today’s First reading: Jonah is asked by God to go in one direction but because he did not feel up to the challenge God asked him, he went in a completely different direction. Eventually he did what God asked of him and the people of Nineveh repented, they changed the direction of their lives which were heading away from God and started to head towards God instead.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus refers to the sign of Jonah. By this he means that we too are asked to repent of our sins and turn back to God. We have many signs in the Church and in our lives that can ensure we can stay in the right direction, i.e, towards God, and towards salvation. This includes: the Lord’s teachings in the Gospels, the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation as well as our personal relationship with the Lord through prayer, We also have the Church’s own teachings inspired by the Holy Spirit that have come from the Apostles.
Our guidance also comes from our own personal response to living out of the Gospel particularly the way we have shown “caritas” (i.e. practical love) to each other especially the poor and under-privileged.
Lent is about asking ourselves are we on the right path of life and are we heading in the right direction? The Lord points us closer to him through our Lenten commitments and promises. As followers of Christ, the sign that points us all Christians in the same direction is the Cross. Before we get to the joys of Easter, our Lenten journey will take us through the horrors of Good Friday and the Cross. We are headed towards the Cross, which is the greatest ever sign of love, sacrifice and service. It is through the power of the Cross that we can get to the glory of eternal life with God.
Thought for the Day ~ Tuesday 23rd February 2021
St Polycarp , whose feast we mark to day was born in 155 and was a disciple of the Apostles, bishop of Smyrna, and a friend of St Ignatius of Antioch. He went to Rome to confer with Pope Anicetus about the celebration of Easter. He was martyred at Smyrna in about 155 by being burnt to death in the stadium. Polycarp is an important figure in the history of the Church because he is one of the earliest Christians whose writings still survive. He bears witness to the beliefs of the early Christians and the early stages of the development of doctrine.
Today’s first reading speaks of the word of God bearing fruit just like the snow and the rain that visit the Earth have a purpose and achieve results. Lent is a time for us to perhaps reacquaint ourselves with the Word of God found in Scripture. Although the Lenten readings vary from day to day, we are generally currently in the year of Mark so perhaps reading a little of St Mark’s Gospel could be a useful daily exercise. When we have read the Word of God its always important and useful to take some time to reflect afterwards about what God is trying to tell me through that reading.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples not to babble in their prayers. Instead he gives them a structure which we know as the Our Father. This begins by acknowledging God as Father, whose name is to be sacred. We are to pray that God’s will should prevail not only in Heaven but here on Earth too. We are then to pray for all our daily needs including food and drink, love, friendship, shelter rest and sleep. We are then reminded that forgiveness is an essential part of prayer; we pray that we can forgive others if we want to be forgiven by God. The prayer finishes with asking the Lord to free us from the temptations and evil of Satan.
May our Lenten journey be punctuated with seizing the many opportunities each day presents to us to connect with the Lord in prayer.
Thought of the day ~ Monday 22nd February 2021
Today is the feast of the Chair of St Peter. This feast was first introduced in the 4 th Century to help us to celebrate as a gift from Christ that the Church is built on the “Rock” which is St. Peter. The dialogue in today’s Gospel centres round Peter’s answer to the question of Jesus about who he thinks Jesus is. Jesus tells Peter that the powerful answer he gave was revealed to Peter by God the Father. This reminds us that this honour bestowed upon Peter as the earthly leader of the Church was not merited but was pure gift from God.
After the Resurrection, Jesus will affirm Peter in this role by asking him if he loved him three times. Each time Peter says yes, the Lord appoints Peter as a shepherd to feed and look after His sheep. This indicates that this role is essentially one of service not lordship. Today’s feast also to gets us to think of the Popes as successors of St Peter. This idea of service is highlighted by the fact that when signing his writings, the Pope uses the phrase Servant of the servants of God (Servus servorum Dei).
Let us today pray for Pope Francis who sits in the Chair of Peter that he might continue to exercise his role as Successor to Peter with humility and love. May we thank God this day for the gift of the papacy and the many blessings that come with it for the Church and the world.
Thought for the Day ~ Saturday 20th February 2021
In today’s first reading we hear the prophet Isaiah say that “He will always guide” those who change their ways from being oppressive and using wicked words towards as well as those who share their food with the hungry. He tells them that their “light will rise in the darkness”.
At the heart of Lent is the invitation to change our ways and to repent of our sins. During Lent we are given this opportunity to have a think about the way we live our lives and to consider in the light of the Gospel if there is a need to change our way of thinking and our priorities at all. Particularly we are invited by Christ to make God more central to our lives.
In today’s Gospel, we hear of Jesus calling the tax collector Levi (Matthew) to leave behind his old life, where he was materially very comfortable but fairly lonely, unpopular and miserable because of the way of life he had chosen. We are told that he responded willingly and joyfully to this opportunity to change his way of living and put his trust in Christ. This joy was expressed by Levi hosting a dinner party with Jesus to celebrate this momentous moment in his life. Despite disapproval from the Pharisees, Jesus willingly accepted this invitation to dine with Levi and his fellow tax collectors. He rebus their criticisms by saying “ It is the healthy who need the doctor but the sick”.
During our Lenten journey may we invite the Lord more deeply into our hearts to gently shine his healing light upon the darkness created by our misguided choices and selfishness. May we always remember the warm welcome we will always receive from the merciful Lord whenever we seek him out in repentance and hope.
Thought for the Day ~ Friday 19th February 2021
In today’s first reading, Isaiah reprimands the Jewish people for fasting and keeping the law but not being fair to their employees and arguing and flighting with their neighbours. This should get us to see fasting in its right context because fasting should make a difference to the way we live our lives. It should not be simply seen as an exercise in self-control where we risk just going through the motions.
During Lent, the Church asks us to practise three disciplines as part of our journey to Easter; this comprises prayer, fasting and almsgiving. These three pillars of a worthy life come as a package that support each other and interact with each other. Our prayer and fasting should lead to us being kinder and more generous with everyone including those who are poor and needy.
In the Gospel for Ash Wednesday Jesus told us that our fasting should be done privately not publicly lest we risk receiving praise from others. It should also be done gladly and joyfully. When we think of fasting we probably automatically think about giving up alcohol or chocolate but the kinds of things we can fast from can be broader than that. Perhaps inspired by today’s first reading, Pope Francis has imaginatively come up with an additional list of things that we should fast from ~ this will appear soon on our web site. These include fasting from kind words and saying kind words ;fast from bitterness and fill your hearts with joy: also fast from grudges and be reconciled. These and other ideas get to the heart of what fasting is about: it is about saying “No” to something that we habitually do or think we depend on and as a result, we are able to yes to something that is good and life-giving not only for ourselves and for others.
May the Lord help us to be faithful to our Lenten promises that include fasting. May our commitment to the Lenten disciplines be reflected in the way we relate to God and to each other.
Thought for the Day ~ Thursday 18th February 2021
Today’s first reading gives us the final words of Moses , just before the Chosen people cross into the Promised Land. He tells the people to “choose life, not death. He says that choosing life involves living a life of faithfulness and obedience to God and the commandments. In order to live a life in accordance with God’s commandments we need to renounce ourselves and make sacrifices of ourselves.
Such practises are counter-cultural today in our world that encourages us to indulge our desires. Advertisers play on this need to self-indulgence. All this is part of that human restlessness that is like a thirst that is never quenched. Life in God however will bring us true happiness and lead us some way towards overcoming that restlessness of spirit.
Lent is a time when we think about what changes may be needed in our lives and is an invitation to try to allow God to help us do something about it. We might for example try to address a habit that is not life-giving for us and spiritually paralyses us. Or we might try to address some misguided
attachment to something or someone that is holding us back from being free to live as God wants us to.
Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel that choosing life involves renouncing ourselves and taking up our cross to follow him. May our Lenten journey be a joyful discovery of growing closer to God through faithfulness to our commitment to prayer, fasting and giving.
Thought for the Day ~ Ash Wednesday 17th February 2021
The purpose of all that we do during Lent is to get our relationship with God in a better place by Easter than it is at the moment. The extent of our need for that that should indicate what we need to be doing in order to achieve this during Lent. Lenten observances and disciplines are based on pray, fasting and almsgiving. How we actually put these into practise is up to each individual. Perhaps we should just do a little more of all three.
Prayer is about finding time for God, which means we are to listen as well as to speak to him more regularly. This should enable us to “catch” his help, guidance and reassurance that in the busyness of our daily lives we can risk missing out on.
Secondly, Lent involves fasting, which is doing without things that we really think we need, not just food and drink but anything other than God that we think we can’t live without. This could include; radio, tv, social media, on-line games, mobile phones etc... Doing without some of these things regularly during Lent shows our need for God is greater than anything else.
Thirdly we also have almsgiving. Lent is about being more grateful for the abundance we have and to become more selfless and more generous in our desire to share our resources with those less fortunate than we are. As well as our money we could think about giving our time, love and undivided attention to those who would appreciate it.
These disciplines form a foundation for us to be changing our way of thinking during Lent. Even in a time of lockdown we get in a rut, through the demands and pressures of life. We can have a tendency to think just of ourselves which is not the Christian way. Lent should help us to change our mentality and our way of thinking about life. Lent is an invitation to cleanse our minds, make them more pure by living more simply and making more of a priority for God and those in need.
Thought for the Day ~ Tuesday 16th February 2021
Today is Shrove Tuesday, which is not a feast day celebrated liturgically by the Church, but it does have great Christian significance. It is alwayscelebrated the day before Ash Wednesday, the start of the season of Lent. Like many of you, I have fond and happy memories of my mam making pancakes each year on this day, when my two brothers and myself were growing up. The homemade pancakes were simple but delicious and were served with just lemon juice and sugar. May today lead us to prepare for Ash Wednesday which is a day when we will fast and pray to remind us of our need for God in our lives.
Today’s first reading is the very familiar story of Noah being asked to build an ark in anticipation of the Great Flood. The message behind the account is the need to repent from sin which leads to death and separation from God. It also speaks of the fact that we need to listen, like Noah to God speaking to us and to put it into practise. It also reminds us that we can’t grant salvation to ourselves, only God can do this for us. This is a very good way of leading us into the spirit of Lent.
In today’s Gospel Jesus is portrayed by Mark as being frustrated with his disciples. They do not seem to grasp the significance of who he is or what is mission is; for example he tries to get them to the significance of the high quantity of leftovers following the feeding of multitudes on two different occasions. We are getting a glimpse of their formation being a work in progress ~ they are at this moment not the finished article. Despite further set backs Jesus will never lose faith in these men will go on to be totally faithful in their missionary success in establishing the Church and teaching the faith.
The Lord surely also gets frustrated with each of us when we fall short of what he asks of us. However like with the Apostles he will never give up on us because he also sees us as a work in progress. Lent will a time to carry out a “spiritual stocktaking” of our lives and to rid ourselves of all that things that are not of God or not life-giving. As we munch through our pancakes today, may we have one eye on how we are going to approach the forthcoming time of preparation for Easter.
Thought for the Day ~ Monday 15th February 2021
In today’s Gospel the Pharisees come to Jesus asking for a sign from Heaven. He tells them forthrightly that no sign will be given to them. Jesus had in fact been giving them loads of signs of the Kingdom with his healing of the sick and also his other miracles, such as the feeding of the multitude. This was simply a question of faith in who Jesus was and how he could do such powerful signs. We can all be tempted from time to time to ask God for a sign, but Jesus centres his teaching on the ordinary not the extraordinary ~ his parables are focused on ordinary things in life like; a man sowing seed; a man showing kindness that he sees in need on the road; or a woman adding yeast to her bread mix.
God is to be found in all his creation: so in all the ordinary events of our lives we should be able to look for signs of God’s glory and presence. Let us therefore not ask God to show us the extraordinary, but let us try to see his presence and hand in the ordinary and everyday. Ignatian spirituality centres on seeing God in everything, may we also trust that when we believe this then we are building the Kingdom of God in our lives.
Thought for the Day ~ Saturday 13 th February 2021
Following the committing of Original Sin by Adam and Eve that we heard of in yesterday’s readings, today we hear of the consequences for them. After discovered that they have disobeyed his command about the forbidden fruit, they are told they will die and go back to the dust from which they came: They are also banished from the garden of Eden. Things look desperate for the whole of humanity at this stage. However even from this moment God begins to put in place his rescue plan that will result in Reconciliation between God and Humankind.
In the Gospel we see that plan of salvation well and truly being put in place through the ministry of Jesus. Jesus welcomes sinful humanity and feeds them with his words that give the listeners hope and promise. He also feels compassion for them as they have come a long way from home and they are hungry. Thus Mark tells us that Jesus miraculously fed a crowd of 4000 people with just a few loaves and fish. This shows the remarkable love that in Christ God shows for wayward humanity.
As we approach the start of Lent next Wednesday, may we be aware of our tendency to sin and go away from God’s ways. May we also use Lent to grow in our gratitude and appreciation for the mercy of God freely yet undeservedly given to us all in love through Our Lord Jesus.
Thought for the Day ~ Friday 12th February 2021
It is only when something is take away from you that you realise how much you appreciated it: I think of the words from the Joni Mitchell song “You don’t know what you’ve got til its gone”. There is a tendency for us to take things for granted. I think this applies to our senses too. Not everyone has all their senses ~ people are born blind or deaf or without the ability to speak. We know that losing the sense of taste /smell are one of the symptoms of Covid. I am personally looking forward to getting back my sense of smell which I lost in September when I caught the virus. When something like that happens to us or those we love, we suddenly realise what a great gift our senses are.
In today’s Gospel a deaf man who also has an impediment in his speech was brought to Jesus. Just as taste and smell are linked, our hearing and speech relate to each other. Quite often those who are deaf also have difficulties with their speech. Jesus first opened the man’s ears, and then he could speak clearly. This perhaps gets us to think that the quality of our hearing is revealed in the quality of our speech. We can take that to another level and say that the better we are at listening, the better we may be at speaking.
In today’s first reading we hear of the account of Original Sin. Adam has been clearly been told by God not to eat of the fruit of the tree of Knowledge of Good and evil. However Eve listens to the voice of Satan disguised as a serpent who tempts her to disobey God and she takes the
forbidden fruit and gives some to Adam. There are lots of voices competing for our attention ~ some of them are speaking the truth, others are speaking falsely. It takes real wisdom and understanding to be able to differentiate from what we should listen to and what we should ignore. A life of faithful prayer and a love for Scripture should tune our ears to be able to clearly hear the Word of God trying to catch our attention. If we do this we will remain on the road to Paradise.
Thought for the Day ~ Thursday 11th February 2021
In 1858 the immaculate Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette Soubirous, near Lourdes in France, in the cavern called “de Massabielle.” Through this poor, fourteen-year-old girl, Mary calls on sinners to change their lives. She has inspired in the Church a great love of prayer and good works, especially in the service of the poor and the sick.
Like some of you, I have been to Lourdes on pilgrimage a number of times including a few occasions with the Salford Diocesan pilgrimage which usually takes place at the end of July. Obviously since last March, with the travel restrictions in place, many less people have been able to go on pilgrimage than in other years. What is special for me about Lourdes is that sick people get priority over everyone else. There are special “wheel chair lanes” in the streets leading up to the “Sanctuaires” where the shrine is located. These give priority to the sick over all other road and pavement users. This turns on its head the norm that we come to accept elsewhere. Today is therefore also world day of prayer for the sick. During this Pandemic when the number of people getting ill because of the Covid virus has been spiralling, it is good to pray for all who are sick or infirm. It is a good day also to remember those in the medical and caring professions that care for the sick and the dying all year round.
On this feast day centred on Our Lady and St Bernadette, today’s readings also highlight the significance of women. We hear of the creation of Eve who compliments Adam perfectly and brings him joy and companionship and so the two are united as equals “in one flesh”. In the Gospel the pagan woman wins over Jesus with her humility and perseverance and he goes on to heal her daughter of her sickness.
May Our Lady of Lourdes who told Bernadette she was “the Immaculate Conception”, leads us all more deeply into the heart of her Son Jesus, so that we like Him can give priority to the sick and infirm in our daily lives.
Thought for the Day - Wednesday 10th February 2021
Today is the feast of St Scholastica, who was born in Nursia in about 480, the twin sister of St Benedict. She was dedicated to God from an early age and followed her brother to Cassino, where she died in about 547.
Today’s first reading continues the story of creation from Genesis and tells us that God created the garden of Eden and then put Adam, the man who he had created from the dust of the earth into the garden to care for it. He issues just one rule that the man can eat the fruit of all the trees in the garden but he must not eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
In the Gospel, Jesus declares all food to be clean. He said that it is not what goes into a person that makes them unclean, rather its what comes out of a person that makes them unclean. Temptations can lead towards evil tendencies lurking in the human heart; These products of the human heart, we are told by Jesus include: fornication envy, adultery avarice, deceit licentiousness, pride. We know that Adam will go on to be tempted to break the rule of God by Satan (the serpent) and will result in Original Sin.
It is good practise to be grateful for the food we eat. God had provided the food for Adam, who would have shown his gratitude by being obedient to what God asked of him. It is a good thing to express this gratitude by getting into the habit of grace before and after meals. It simply gives the credit to God for the gift of our lives for the gift of each day and the gift of the food we need to sustain us.
Thought for the Day ~ Tuesday 9th February 2021
In today’s first reading we hear the continuing account of creation, according to Genesis. On the sixth day, God created men and women in his divine image and gave them dominion over all the rest of creation and declared what he had made to be “very good”. It is fair to say that as “stewards” of creation having dominion over all of God’s creation, we respect and appreciate the world as blessed by God. On the seventh day God blessed the sabbath day where he rests in the midst of all the beauty and goodness he has created.
The Psalm (Ps8) praises God for the great privileges God has bestowed upon humankind; “With glory and honour, you crowned, gave him power over the works of your hands, put all things under his feet”. We are reminded that we are entrusted with this role as gift to us, like any gift, the Donor hopes we will take care of the gift, treasure and appreciate the love in which it was given. We are the current generation entrusted with care for all of creation, let us take care of the little part of creation with which we connect, so that can look the Divine Giver in the eye at the end of our
pilgrimage of life and give thanks to Him for such beauty and goodness. This also means we need to also take great care of each other.
Thought for the Day ~ Monday 8th February 2021
St Jerome Emiliani was born near Venice in 1486. He started his career as a soldier but after he was taken prisoner and then miraculously liberated, he devoted himself to helping the poor, distributing his own possessions among them also. Two priests joined him in this task and in 1532 he founded a religious order, the Clerks Regular of Somaschi, for the relief of poor and orphaned children. He died at Somaschi (near Bergamò) in 1537.
In today’s first reading, we hear the well-known account of the creation of the world, from the very beginning of the Bible, with the first few verses of the first Chapter of Genesis. We believe that in those words; “Let there be light….., let there be a vault in the waters…. let the earth produce vegetation etc.. “ is Jesus, the Eternal Word, who will become the Word made Flesh.
In today’s Gospel, we hear that sick people continued to be brought to Jesus. They had complete faith and trusted that he would heal them and strengthen them. We are told that they knew that just touching the hem of his garment would bring them the healing they hoped for. Touching the hem of the garment sounds to me like making contact with the Lord. Whenever we encounter the Lord in prayer or in the Sacraments, then we are “touching the hem of his garment”. Every time we do this we should be open to be transformed and strengthened by the Lord’s deep love for us.
May St Jerome and all the saints encourage us on our journey to grow in faith and trust in the words of Jesus, the Word made Flesh. May our life-giving encounters with Our Lord. always bring us hope and healing.
Thought for the Day ~ Saturday 6th February 2021
Today is the feast of the Japanese martyrs. Paul Mikiwas born in Japan between 1564 and 1566. He joined the Society of Jesus and preached the gospel to the Japanese people with great success. When a persecution of the Catholics arose he was arrested together with twenty-five others. Mocked and tortured, they were eventually taken to Nagasaki on 5 February 1597, bound to crosses and speared.
I remember watching the 2016 film “Silence” starring Liam Neeson which depicts the persecution of the Jesuits in Japan set in the seventeeth century. I cannotsay I could recommend it, as it is so harrowing in places but it certainly visualised for me something of the scale of the horrors the martyrs of Japan went through for their Catholic faith.
In today’s Gospel Jesus heads for a lonely spot so he can rest with his disciples but the crowds guess where he is heading and they get there before him. Despite his plans being foiled, Jesus realises that the people are desperate for what he can give to them and we are told he feels compassion for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd. Thus he teaches them at length and then will go on to feed the people in abundance by performing the miracle with the loaves and fish.
It is this same compassion that surely drove St Paul Miki and his fellow Jesuit companions to generously give their lives in bringing the Gospel and the hope of the promise of salvation to the people of Japan. May we exercise that same compassion and love for Our Lord in our mission to the people we encounter.
Thought for the Day ~ Friday 5th February 2021
St Agatha whose feast we celebrate today was martyred at Catania in Sicily, probably during the persecution of Decius (250-253). Devotion to her was widespread in the Church in the earliest times and she is mentioned in the Roman Canon.
In today’s Gospel we hear of the account of the death of St John the Baptist, set at Herod’s Banquet. This turns into a Banquet of Death, whereas Christ invites us to a Banquet of life through his death and Resurrection. St John the Baptist is basically put to death for his courage to speak the truth about Herod’s marriage which he declares to be immoral. Both John and Jesus will be put to death for speaking the truth. They both show deep courage so that they are prepared to face death rather than compromise their faith in proclaiming the truth and obeying God’s will.
We like Our Lord, St John the Baptist and St Agatha are called to have a courageous faith ourselves. There is nothing arrogant about a courageous faith but it is one that enables us to stand firm and endure even stormy times in our lives especially times when our faith is challenged. A courageous faith is also founded upon the firm foundations of a loving personal relationship with Christ. We strive for a courageous faith for ourselves modelled on John’s approach to life and death.
Thought for the Day ~ Thursday 4th February 2021
The 4th of February has always been a special day for me because it was the day my parents got married in 1958. It continues to be a special day for my family because it is also my mam’s anniversary, because she died this day in 2016. My mam had been in hospital since before Christmas and was very poorly but stable. However her health just plummeted the day of her first wedding anniversary without my dad who had died Easter Sunday 2015. I have taken great comfort from such a powerful coincidence, seeing it as a sign that all was well with mam and dad because the Lord’s hand was in it. In John and Mary Featherstone, I am blessed to have had such good parents who passed on their simple faith and love to myself and my two brothers. For this I am deeply grateful and eternally thankful.
In today’s Gospel Jesus sends out the twelve to continue his work of proclaiming the Good News and bringing healing to the sick. Mark shows Jesus realising very early on his ministry that he needed others to do his work. The work of the Church carries on in the same way. The Lord Jesus continues to this day to call people to serve in his Church and to play their part in its mission of proclaiming the Kingdom and brining hope and healing to a needy world.
Jesus still needs all of us today to do his work. He wants to work in us and through us. He does this by our response to his calling given to us at our Baptism. We all have a part to play in the Church, but it takes a discerning heart and an open mind to discover what that might be for each of us.
Thought for the Day ~ Wednesday 3rd February 2021
Today is the feast of St Blaise who was bishop of Sebaste and was martyred, probably early in the fourth century. Devotion to him spread throughout the Church during the Middle Ages. He is particularly invoked for disorders of the throat, of which the tradition is to have the blessing of throats on this day.
In today’s Gospel Jesus goes home to Nazareth with his disciples. The people of his home town saw him grow up and felt that they know him well and are astonished at his teaching. They cannot see beyond him being the carpenter and the son of Mary. It was a case of familiarity breeding contempt. He was too ordinary and familiar to them for God to be at work in him so they cannot accept him. Their lack of faith resulted in him being unable to work any signs there.
We are called to see God at work in the familiar and ordinary aspects of our lives. God is present everywhere and therefore the Gospel invites us to see what is familiar and ordinary with eyes of faith. If we do this then we are giving the Lord the scope to work among us in new ways. On this feast of St Blaise, may the Lord heal of us our inability to see in the ways that he wants us to.
Thought for the Day ~ Tuesday 2nd February 2021
It is 40 days exactly since Christmas, and so today we celebrate the beautiful feast of the Presentation when we recall Mary and Joseph bringing the infant Jesus to the Temple to dedicate him to God and in thanksgiving make the required sacrifice to God. In bringing the Lord into the Temple, God has entered his own house. It is traditionally still a dark time of year, so we have the blessing of candles on this feast day to remind that Christ is the light who has come into the darkness of the world to redeem us from sin and death.
There are two memorable encounters on this occasion for the young Holy Family to experience. Firstly Jesus, Mary and Joseph meet the elderly Simeon, who had been promised that before he died he would set eyes on the promised Messiah. The Holy Spirit has led him to meet the baby Jesus on this occasion. He responds in gratitude with a short prayer which called the “Nunc Dimittis” which is used daily at Night Prayer of the Church (Compline).
In this prayer, he speaks of Jesus being the “light to enlighten the Gentiles and give glory to Israel your people”. Anna’s response on meeting the child Jesus was to speak about Jesus to others, especially to those who were waiting for the deliverance of Jerusalem.
Simeon and Anna had different responses to their encounter with the Christ child. Simeon responded by praising God in prayer, whereas Anna responded by witnessing to others about the hope that Jesus promises. May both Anna and Simeon guide us to have the right approach to having Christ in our lives. May Simeon inspire us to be people who give praise and thanks to God in prayer and may Anna encourage us to keep witnessing to having the Lord in our lives, by both our words and our actions.
Thought for the Day - Monday 1st February 2021
Today’s Gospel comes immediately after the calming of the storm by Jesus. This episode takes up a whole 20 verses of Mark’s Gospel, so it is meant to be significant for us. As they get out of the boat, Jesus and the disciples are approached by a man whose life was severely disturbed by an unclean spirit which made him howl and gash himself against the rocks. As has happened before, the spirit (“Legion”) in the man declares that Jesus is “the Son of the Most High”. This affirms what the miracle on the sea had already got the disciples to think who Jesus must be; “ that even the wind and the sea obey him”. The man’s life was a constant “storm” and with the same authority in which he spoke to the sea and the wind, he commands that the Legion of unclean spirits go into the huge herd of pigs and they all charge into the lake and perish. Freed by Jesus of his evil spirits, the man is calm again. He wanted to stay with Jesus but Jesus told him to go home and witness how his life had been transformed by God.
In the sacraments we encounter Jesus and like with the man in today’s Gospel he will confidently calm the storms of our lives which can result when sinful and evil forces control our lives. destructive forces control us. We are also called to witness to the way that our faith in Jesus brings calm, healing and peace to our lives.
Thought of the day ~ Saturday 30 th January 2021
In today’s Gospel, the calming of the storm by Jesus gets the disciples to ask the question: “Who can this be?” Their response to that rhetorical question can surely only get them to conclude that this must be God, because only God would be obeyed by the wind and the sea. This is one of the few great nature miracles performed by Jesus in the Gospels. Like the Baptism of the Lord, this is another “Epiphany” moment lifting the veil for a brief moment to reveal who Jesus is.
Most of us probably haven’t really experienced any real sea storms in our lives, but we have all experienced times of crisis which we could describe as stormy. In the Gospel story the disciples quite naturally panic in the storm when their boat looks like sinking but Jesus remains calm and comes to their rescue in their time of terror, by speaking to the wind and the sea. Jesus questions the disciples about their faith which seemed to be overwhelmed by their fear. Jesus asks us to not be afraid but to trust him at all times, especially in times of crisis. Let us ask the Lord who is always at our side to reassure us of his loving presence, which we believe in through our faith. May we know he will be with us through the “stormy” times of our lives, calmly reassuring us that all will be well.
Thought for the Day ~ Friday 29th January 2021
It is largely a mystery how plants and trees grow because its very growth is largely hidden. It’s the same with people, because we can’t see them growing but we know that they do. It is only with the benefit of time that we can see how things and people have grown.
Likewise, with our faith journey ~ faith is often hidden and its growth is also somewhat shrouded in mystery. I recall how through my lack of confidence when I was in my late teens, that I would not be very open about my Catholic faith which did really matter to me, though I was perhaps too timid to speak openly about it. The idea of becoming a priest was also closely tied up with this growth in faith. As I grew in confidence about myself, my faith grew too. I found myself speaking more openly about my faith to others without fear of ridicule or being put down. It coincided with an inner desire to express my faith through greater involvement in my local parish in South Manchester, where the family lived at the time. I also began trying to get to weekday Mass regularly in addition to Sunday Mass. Though I still kept these thoughts to myself, the idea of the priesthood just grew stronger and would not go away. It was only with hindsight that I could look back and see how my faith had silently and quietly grown.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks us to see His Kingdom as the seed scattered by the farmer which mysteriously grows day and night without us being able to see this growing or fully understanding how this happens.
Today is also Fr Damien’s birthday, so we give thanks to the Lord today for the gift of his life and especially for all the many blessings that are bestowed upon us in our parish through his ministry as a priest.
May we trust in the Lord present in our lives night and day enabling us to grow spiritually. Let us also regularly give time to reflect with gratitude on the quiet and gentle ways in which the Lord at work.
Thought for the Day ~ Thursday 28th January 2021
Today is feast of Thomas Aquinas. He was born of a noble family in southern Italy, and was educated by the Benedictines; but even against severe opposition from his family he decided to become a Dominican instead. He studied in Paris and in Cologne under the great philosopher St Albert the Great. It was a time of great philosophical ferment. Into this chaos Thomas brought simple, straightforward sense. Truth cannot contradict truth: if Aristotle the great, infallible pagan philosopher appears to contradict Christianity (which we know by faith to be true), then either Aristotle is wrong or the contradiction is in fact illusory. And so Thomas studied, and taught, and argued, and eventually the simple, common-sense philosophy that he worked out brought an end to the controversy. Out of his work came many writings on philosophy and theology, including the Summa Theologiae, a standard textbook for many centuries and still an irreplaceable resource today.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus says that “whoever has ears to hear should listen”. This means that we should pay attention to what we hear otherwise we risk missing an important message. There is a world of difference between hearing and listening. This is very much the spirit of St Thomas Aquinas. The words of the Lord is the Gospel are very rich and life-giving if we truly give them the attention they need. Good listening requires a generosity of the person doing the hearing, shown by the quality of their attentiveness.
Let us resolve to be more generous in our attentiveness to listening to God’s Word so that our lives will be enriched by the life-giving message of hope.
Thought for the Day ~ Wednesday 27th January 2021
Today we keep the feast of St Angela Merici who was born in Desenziano, in Lombardy, in about 1470. She became a Franciscan tertiary and set up a school to instruct girls in Christanity and good works. In 1535 she founded the Ursulines, an order of nuns devoted to giving a Christian education to girls from poor families. She died in 1540.
We have been hearing this last week in the Gospels of some of the difficulties Jesus has faced from the moment he began his public ministry. This included opposition from the Pharisees about his approach to the Sabbath and his own family fear he is out of his mind. In today’s Gospel we hear of the parable of the sower. The farmer knows that not all of the seed that he scatters will go onto to produce a good crop. He knows that a lot of the seed will face set-backs and obstacles like thorns, rocks and birds! Despite these risks it does not stop the sower from scattering the seed because he knows it will still produce a good harvest. For this reason Jesus is not put off by opposition and resistance and thus is determined to progress and persevere.
We all face challenges in life and especially during the Pandemic we have faced many obstacles and set-backs to our freedom and our faith. Since March we have had to find new ways of practising our faith and hearing the Word of God. Like the farmer in today’s parable we have to see beyond the obstacles and set-backs and trust that God is close to us and near us and that all will be well. The message is to remain hopeful and remember that God is always at work even in times of loss and failure.
Thought for the Day ~ Tuesday 26th January 2021
Coming the day after the feast of the Conversion of St Paul, today is the feast of Ss Timothy and Titus were converted to Christianity by St Paul, and became his companions and helpers. Paul entrusted Timothy with the care of the Christians in Ephesus, and sent Titus to Crete to look after the Christians there. He wrote them the so-called “pastoral” epistles, giving advice for pastors and people alike.
Today is the fourth anniversary of a good friend of mine called Paul Stoodley. Paul played football with my brother Paul and that’s how I got to know him. Paul and his wife Eunice became very loyal friends over many years. Paul was a printer designer and created many of the vocations resources we have used in the Diocese. He also took the official photographs at my priestly ordination in Manchester in 1993. Over the years, Paul and I went on a number of holidays together including walking holidays and a memorable trip with Eunice to Rome to mark their 25 th Wedding Anniversary. It is important to reflect at such landmarks along our journey of life and especially about those people like Paul, who have played a significant part in our life. I thank God today for his genuine friendship and that the Lord remembers all the difference Paul made with his life.
In today’s first reading, Paul tells Timothy to fan into a flame the gift of faith God has given to him. Let us be grateful today for the many gifts that God gives to us particularly the gift of this new day, our faith and our friends.
Thought for the Day ~ Monday 25th January 2021
Today is the feast of the Conversion of St Paul. The most important factor in all of Paul’s life was his faith in God. As a well-educated devout Jewish Pharisee, Saul of Tarsus believed that he would be pleasing to God by keeping the Jewish Laws. When after Pentecost, the Church began, he felt he was also pleasing God in calling the early Christians to account by arresting them and punishing them.
In today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear of how Christ appears to him in a vision and reprimands him for persecuting him through his persecution of Christians. He is thus called by Christ on his way to Damascus in a vision, to become a transformed man. He is quickly baptised and goes on to become the great Apostle to the Gentiles. As a great Missionary of the Church he is able to bring the Gospel to many people, Jews and Gentiles and to help establish the Church throughout Europe and Asia Minor. In doing so he is being faithful to the Lord’s command that we hear in today’s Gospel : “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News”.
Like St Paul, we are called to continued regular conversion away from selfishness and sin. We are called to constantly seek the new horizons that our baptism asks of us. May St Paul help us and inspire us on our journey to daily renewal and conversion.
Thought for the Day ~ Friday 22nd January 2021
Today is the feast of St Vincent the Deacon, who was born in Huesca and became a deacon of the church of Saragossa (Zaragoza). He was tortured to death in Valencia, in 304 in the persecution of Diocletian. After his death, his cult spread rapidly through the Roman Empire.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus picks his leadership team who he takes into the hills with him to appoint them. The old Israel was built on the foundation of the twelve tribes named after the sons or grandsons Jacob. These twelve men are to be the foundation of the new Israel, which will become the Church. He is to form them and send them out empowered to bring hope and healing to the world. None of them were particularly well qualified for the role and we know they were not perfect: Peter would deny him, Thomas would doubt him and Judas would betray him and be lost to him. However once they had received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost these 11 men plus Matthias would go on to be utterly faithful to Christ and take the Gospel throughout the world. Jesus saw potential in these ordinary men but he knew they were not the finished product. However he knew with his encouragement and through witnessing to all that he would do and say in his three years of public ministry, he could form them and mould them into the foundations stones of the Church.
Let us like Our Lord, look for the potential in others and assist the Lord in encouraging them to become who He is calling them to become.
Thought for the Day - Thursday 21st January 2021
Today is the feast of St Agnes. As with so many of the early Roman martyrs, very little is now known about Agnes’ life. Partly this is because the details have been obscured by the light that shines from her martyrdom and the cult that it inspired, and partly because if you are martyred at the age of 12, your life has not really acquired that many details in any case. Agnes was filled with the love of God from an early age, vowed herself to celibacy, and when the opportunity of martyrdom arose, she did not hide away but stepped forward and took it.
That is really all that is known: but it is enough. We who are used to compromising with the world at every turn, and would find excuses to avoid any inconveniences that our faith might cause us, let alone martyrdom. We should admire the simple wisdom of Agnes, realise that there are moments where compromise and moral ambiguity just will not do, and pray for the strength to live up to such moments when they happen.
In today’s Gospel, there are too many people wanting to see Jesus and touch him, that he is in danger of being crushed. We hear that the people who most wanted to be close to him were those with sickness and disease. His reputation to cure people had gone before him, so he was a real source of hope for them.
It is often in the times of our greatest need that we seek the Lord to be close to us. We do this because we recognise when we are broken and suffering that he is the one who can heal us and strengthen us. May we always know we can confidently approach the Lord and will never be left disappointed when we do.
Thought for the Day ~ Wednesday 20th January 2021
Nothing is known about St Sebastian, whose feast we celebrate today, except the fact that he was martyred early on in the persecutions of Diocletian. St Ambrose knew of him and states that he was already venerated in Milan in the fourth century. One of the seven chief churches of Rome was built over his grave in 367. All else (his youth, his martyrdom by arrows) is fiction, some of it dating from more than a thousand years after his death. But what we know is what we need to know. For the Christians of the fourth century the important, the true, the sufficient fact about Sebastian was that he was a martyr, and they venerated him as such. It should be enough for us as well.
In today’s first reading we hear of King Melchizadek who offered bread and wine to God and is seen as a priest for ever. His name will be familiar to you as he is mentioned in the First Eucharistic Prayer. The author of the Hebrews concludes that Jesus is also a priest forever and he has a life giving power that can never be destroyed.
In today’s Gospel Jesus cures a man with a withered hand in the synagogue on the Sabbath Day. He is criticised for doing this by the Pharisees who we are told immediately set about plotting his death. Like our Lord, St Sebastian would have always strived to do good but out of envy and jealousy they tried to silence him too by killing him.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan tells us it is always the right thing to do to help someone who needs our assistance. Through his actions in the synangogue Jesus is telling us that we should do good for others even on the Sabbath. He also highlights that we should also share in his mission to bring healing and life to others whenever we can.
Thought for the Day ~ Tuesday 19th January 2021
St Wulstan was born around 1008 and became a Benedictine monk at Worcester Cathedral priory, and later was made prior. He reformed the monastic observance, and became known as a preacher and counsellor. In 1062 he became Bishop of Worcester and combined effectively the tasks of monastic superior and diocesan bishop. He is the first English bishop known to have made a systematic visitation of his diocese. Together with Lanfranc he was instrumental in abolishing the slave trade from Bristol to Viking Ireland, and later he supported Lanfranc’s policy of reform. He built parish churches and re-founded the monastery at Westbury-on- Trym. He insisted on clerical celibacy, and under him Worcester became one of the most important centres of Old English literature and culture. He was known for his abstinence and generosity to the poor. After the Norman Conquest he remained one of the few Englishmen to retain office. He was buried in his Cathedral, and his cult began almost at once. He was canonised in 1203 and his feast was widely kept in monastic and diocesan calendars.
The first reading today speaks of the patience of Abraham. God promises him a son but there is a long delay in this son arriving in the form of Isaac. We are also called to be patient and like Abraham to wait for our prayers and petitions to be answered in God’s own way and time.
In the Gospel, the Pharisees criticise the disciples of Jesus for picking and eating corn on the Sabbath which they interpret as being work and therefore prohibited. The Lord teaches and enlightens them by telling them using a famous story from the Scriptures about King David at a time of hunger. He tells them that the Sabbath was made for people not people for the Sabbath. He asks us to see the Sabbath as blessing upon us as well as a help to us.
May St Wulstan help us to be patient and like Abraham to wait for the Lord to answer our prayers. May we see that the Sabbath is a gift to us from God to give us a day of rest and an opportunity to have a change of routine.
Thought for the Day ~ Monday 18th January 2021
With having to be more imaginative this year because of the Covid restrictions, I had to do most of my Christmas shopping “on-line” this year. A Christmas gifts for my two grown up nieces, I got each of them a framed image using “Word Art”. One was the picture of a dancer and the other a runner. The images were made up with lots of words that I associated with both girls; kind, confident, energetic, healthy, funny etc… I also chose words such as names of people and places associated with them, as well as activities they enjoy like running and dancing. I am pleased to report the gifts were very well received by Alice and Caroline.
If we were doing a “Word Art” as a wedding gift, you might have the image of a Wedding Cake and it might comprise words like; rings, love, Bride, Groom, joy, feasting, good food, wine, church, celebration, Best man, family, friends, smart clothes etc. In your “Word Art” image would not use words like: mourning, fasting, gloomy, miserable, etc.
The image of a wedding is a very powerful one for the Jewish people. They would treat it with the utmost seriousness and equally take seriously the need to celebrate. A wedding is about uniting a man a woman so wedding imagery was also a sign of the Covenant with God for the Chosen people. It is an occasion to feast and celebrate and give praise to God, rather than fast and be mournful. When challenged about why his disciples were not fasting in today’s Gospel, Jesus brings the Pharisees to the image of a Wedding: Christ is the Groom and all the people who choose to follow him will be part of the Church, His Bride. At Christmas we celebrated the Incarnation: Emmanuel, God among us, so that in Jesus we know we are united with God.
So it’s a time to celebrate; to bring out the new wine; its not a time to fast and be gloomy: there will be plenty of other opportunities for that.
Let us also find some moments for joy in these challenging times to know that we have in Jesus, a Saviour, the Eternal Word who comes fully present to us to unite Himself to us in the Gospel and in the Mass and Sacraments. May we daily respond joyfully and gladly through our faithfulness, to his invitation to the Eternal Wedding Feast of the Lamb in Heaven.
Thought for the Day ~ Saturday 9th January 2021
The disciples were very privileged to witness up close so many of the miracles of Jesus. Despite that they don’t seem to fully grasp the meaning of what Jesus is doing for them. In today’s Gospel they have just witnessed the miracle of the feeding of the multitude and Jesus has left them to cross the lake in the boat while he goes into the hills to pray. They would surely have been amazed to see such an incredible occurrence with all those baskets of scraps left over from feeding so many people with just a few loaves and fish. This would surely have helped them to understand more clearly who Jesus is. Building on this experience, in the night Jesus comes walking on the water near them while they are struggling to row the boat against the headwind. Understandably the disciples are terrified at such an incredible sight as they think it is a ghost. He tells them to have courage and not be afraid and gets into the boat with them and the wind drops. These are clear signs of the divinity of Christ.
It feels like we are rowing into a head-wind when we have to face many of the struggles in life which often leave us exhausted. It is important at times like these to bring the Lord into the situation. He will tell us also to have courage and to not be afraid. We are told that the incident in the boat left them dumbfounded because their minds were closed.
We can sometimes get so caught up in the busyness of life that it leaves us exhausted and closed minded. May the Lord open our minds to courageously trust Jesus and all the many things he can do for us if only we allow him too.
Thought for the Day ~ Friday 8th January 2021
In today’s Gospel, Jesus, we are told sees a large crowd who have flocked to see him as he arrives on the shore by boat. He sees the crowd and he feels compassion for them because they seemed “like sheep without a shepherd”. He sees that they are lacking direction in life and allowing the
darkness of their lives to block out the light of God’s love for them. This same compassion will drive him to carry out the miracle of the loaves and fishes so that this crowd can be fed.
In the Mass, we are fed by Our Lord on both his Word in the Gospel as well as his Body and Blood in Holy Communion. He does this out of compassion to fulfil our needs and to prevent us from being lost and getting separated from God through our selfishness and sin.
In these remaining few days of the season of Christmas, as we focus on the Magi in our crib scene, we are reminded that the child born in the stable is the Redeemer for all people. At Christmas we are reminded that God becomes human out of compassion for sinful mankind. We are all called in our day to be compassionate as Christ was, and that means we are to look upon those who are need in the same way as Christ did.
May the Lord grant us generous hearts that yearn to take away some of the misery we see in those around us and with the little we have to give, to satiate their physical and spiritual hunger.
Thought for the Day ~ Thursday 7th January 2021
Today is feast of St Raymond of Penyafort who was born near Barcelona somewhere between 1175 and 1180. He was educated at the University of Barcelona, where he taught canon law for fifteen years. After a spell at the University of Bologna he returned to Barcelona in 1222 and became a Dominican. At the command of Pope Gregory IX he organised, codified and edited canon law, which, when he started, was nothing better than a chaoticaccumulation of isolated decrees. He was elected to be General of the Dominicans and gave the order an excellent set of regulations for its better governance. He died in 1275. Among his works, the “Summa casuum “is noteworthy. This gives guidance as to how the sacrament of Penance may be administered justly and with benefit to the penitent.
In today’s Gospel, St Matthew refers to the impact of all the activities of Jesus as “the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light! “ Jesus reached out with compassion to those in need:, the poor, the sick, the outcasts and those who have messed up in life. He is a like a great light to all the people of his day through his miracles, parables and his teaching that gives great hope to everyone. We hear he was very popular because people travelled from near and far to hear what he has to say and to be in his presence.
In our own da, we have the presence of Christ in the Gospels and in the Sacraments as well. His message of hope for us can be as powerful and nourishing for us as it was for the people of 1 st Century Palestine. Through this continuing time of Pandemic and the accompanying lockdown restrictions we are asked to comply with, the sense of darkness can be quite overwhelming at times. As we move forward through the darkness, our faith in the reassuring presence of the bright light of Our Lord should help dispel our fears and fill us and those we encounter with confidence and hope.
Thought for the Day ~ Wednesday 6th January 2021
Today is the feast of the Epiphany. Epiphany means showing, revealing or manifestation. We celebrate the moment when Christ the new born king is “shown” to the whole world in the form of the wise men/kings. God allows him to be made known first to the shepherds of Bethlehem and then to the Magi/pagan kings. In many ways the Wise men represent us; the Gentiles, non Jews and that this child has come as a redeemer, a Saviour for all people.
They have followed the star because they are learned and wise and they come to adore the new born king and bow down before him. They come with amazing gifts that are so appropriate and reveal they fully understand who he is. They bring gold because Jesus is a king. They also bring frankincense which is the scented resin that we burn at the altar in church, this speaks of the child being God. They also bring Myrrh which is a perfumed ointment used to put on someone who has died this serves to show he is human, mortal and will die. This showed that the wise men had extraordinary faith as well as wisdom and intelligence.
When I was growing up in Derbyshire at one time we had an Irish called Fr Duggan and he told us that in Waterford where he came from they always used to save one Christmas gift to be opened on the feast of the Epiphany. This was in honour of the wise men bringing gifts. He said they called it “Little Christmas” as it still a very important part of the Christmas season and Christmas story. So I would like to wish you all a very happy Little Christmas.
Thought for the Day ~ Tuesday 5th January 2021
Following on from yesterday’s account of John the Baptist and Andrew introducing Jesus to others, in today’s Gospel account we hear of the calling of Philip from Bethsaida. Philip will then go on to tell Nathanael that they have found the promised Messiah. After overcoming some initial prejudices about Nazareth, Nathaniel goes on to make a major leap of faith declaring Jesus to be the Son of God and the King of Israel. Jesus promises eternal life to Nathanael, whom he has described as being incapable of deceit, so without guile. Like all the Apostles, apart from John he will show his love for the Lord by being prepared to die for his faith.
At the core of our faith is salvation. The child whose birth we herald at Christmas is essentially our Redeemer. He will be rejected despite all the wonderful signs he gives and will die on the Cross in order to forgive us of our sins. In this life we do not see God but with eyes of faith we can see his presence all around us. Our main yearning is surely for Heaven where we can see God face to face.
In gratitude for God’s merciful love for us, we should all strive to be like Nathanael and stay away from what is not true and genuine and then we know for certain that we are on the path to salvation.
Thought for the Day ~ Monday 4th January 2021
We quite often make new friends through people we already know. If someone who we trust introduces someone they know to us then we can very quickly establish a relationship with them because we trust their judgement.
In today’s Gospel John points Jesus out to two of his own disciples; they will know that John has clearly said that he is not the Messiah and that he has been preparing everyone for someone greater than he is. Therefore they immediately understand what he means when he points out Jesus to them as the Lamb of God. It must have been hard for John to allow his disciples to leave him and follow Jesus instead, however he knew this was right and it was meant to be.
We then hear that one of the disciples is called Andrew and having responded to the invitation of Jesus “to come and see” by spending time with the Christ, he is then totally convinced about who Jesus is. He goes on to introduce his brother Simon Peter to Jesus who after looking hard at Peter gives him the name “Cephas” which means rock. This was obviously an important encounter as Jesus will make Peter the rock on which the Church is built.
Like John and Andrew, we also have to take seriously our role of bringing others to Christ. Like them we need to be initially convinced about who Jesus is for us. Through spending quality time with the Lord ourselves in prayer and our love for the Gospel, may we grow in our appreciation and understanding of what being a disciple of the Lord really implies for us.
Thought for the Day ~ Saturday 2nd January 2021
Today is the feast of Saints Basil and St Gregory. St Basil the Great was born in 330 at Caesarea in Cappadocia, of a Christian family. A brilliant scholar and a virtuous man, he started by becoming a hermit but was made bishop of Caesarea in 370. He fought against the Arians and wrote many notable works, in particular the monastic rule that bears his name and which many monks in the East follow to this day. He was also generous to the poor. He died on 1 January 379. St Gregory Nazianzen was also born in 330, near Nazianzus. He travelled widely in search of knowledge. He followed his friend Basil into the wilderness, but he too was ordained and later made a bishop. He was elected Bishop of Constantinople in 381 but because of the factional fighting within the Church he retired to Nazianzus, where he died on 25 January 389 or 390. He is known as “Gregory the Theologian” in honour of his learning and eloquence.
These two very learned and well-educated saints were essentially very close friends. I always like to refer today which always falls in the Christmas season as the feast of friendship. Most of us are blessed with friends and I believe that friends to us are a gift from God. They say you choose your friends but I think God actually chooses them for us. Friendships usually form from initially having something in common ~ like living near each other or being at the same school or place of work. Quite often as a result of this a sort of bond forms and this can last for a long while, in some cases a life time. I always think true friendship needs the test of time because friends complete something in us.
I am very blessed to have one close friend called Johnny who I have now known over 50 years. We were in first year together at high school in Buxton, and for most of that time since we have not lived anywhere near each other. It takes a bit of effort on both sides to maintain a good friendship over many years with someone who lives miles away from you. True friends also are people who grow with us and stand by us through thick and thin.
Like myself you will have seen less of your friends during the Pandemic than usual and so we have had to be more creative in the ways we have kept in touch. On this feast of Ss Basil and Gregory may we grateful to the Lord for the friends he has given to us as a grace and a blessing.
Thought for the Day ~ Friday 1st January 2021
The new year is a time to make resolutions. These should be reasonably attainable so it is important to only make resolutions that we intend to keep. Resolutions should have as their purpose taking on something that makes our lives better or makes a positive difference to others.
Today’s Gospel presents Mary to us as a model of the new life in Christ that all of us wish for ourselves in this new year. There we see that Mary was prepared to do something to realise this goal. We heard that the shepherds, when they went to adore baby Jesus in the manger, related all that the angels had said to them.
"But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart" . Mary was a woman who valued the word of God, who treasured it and made time to meditate and ponder it. The holiness of Mary is attributed to the grace of God, but she needed to make an effort in order to cooperate with God’s grace. Therefore she pondered the word of God in order to discern what God was saying to her at every stage in her life.
We hear today that among other occasions, Mary ponders the word of God after the visit of the shepherds. This shows that Mary found the word of God in the angels'; words to the shepherds. This is called “divine revelation” and God speaks similarly to us today in the Scriptures as well as through the teaching and preaching of the Church. God also reveals himself to us in our personal experiences. So we need to make time to reflect on this as Mary did.
Let us today resolve like Mary to listen more to the voice of God, to treasure God's word and ponder it in our hearts. Modelling ourselves on Mary and bringing the Lord into our New Year resolutions has got to be a constructive way to start the new year.
Thought for the Day ~ Thursday 31st December 2020
Pope St Silvester I was made Pope in 314 and ruled the Church during the reign of the newly-converted Emperor Constantine. In his time the Donatist schism and the Arian heresy caused great trouble for the Church. He died in 335 and is buried in the cemetery of Priscilla in the via Salaria in Rome. His life has been so accredited with pious legends that very little else is known about him for certain, but his reign as Pope is the eighth longest on record.
Today is the last day of the year 2020 and for many of us there will be a huge sigh of relief that the year is passed. Because of the Pandemic, the year has brought with it more than its fair share of challenges and set-backs. For chunks of the year we have had our churches, pubs, restaurants and shops closed and we have had unprecedented restrictions imposed on us by the authorities. Because so many events, holidays and celebrations got cancelled it has been the first year since I was a child that I have not really needed a diary.
Hopefully in the midst of all the suffering, sacrifices, set-backs and restrictions on daily life as we know it, there has also been a reawakening of what is of real value and importance to us. Many people have commented that they have come to realise how precious family, health, friends and freedom really are.
In today’s Gospel we hear the Prologue (and beginning) of John’s Gospel; .John introduces Jesus the Son as the Word made flesh, eternally present with the Father, who brings life and light to us. He is the one who becomes one of us and lives among us and those who accept Him will become children of God. May we allow the Eternal Word to help us reflect on the last year and to see where He has been present and has touched our lives even in the darkness of uncertainty and suffering, with His light and His love.
Thought for the Day ~ Wednesday 30th December
In today’s Gospel we hear the concluding part of thestory of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, the full version of which we heard on Sunday on the feast of the Holy Family. In this part of the story, having already encountered Simeon, Mary and Joseph with baby Jesus are met in the temple by Anna, a very devout prophetess. Anna is a widow in her 80’s and now lives in the Temple, serving God permanently with prayer and fasting. Like Simeon she is gifted by God with being able to recognise that the baby in the Temple that day is the promised Christ. We are told she went on to tell everyone about the salvation that will come through this child.
The encounter between the Holy Family and Simeon and Anna in the Temple was not by chance ~ God had intended this event to happen. This encounter would have benefitted Mary and Joseph as well as Anna and Simeon. In the course of our lives we have many seemingly random encounters with people of all ages. Through all such encounters we should strive to joyfully and wholeheartedly give something of ourselves to those we meet. Equally we should try to bring all people we encounter one step closer to Christ.
Simeon and Anna were both elderly and had much to give to the young Mary and Joseph. Let us value the wisdom and experience that encounters with those who are senior to ourselves can bring to us.
Thought for the Day ~ Tuesday 29th December 2020
St Thomas Becket was born in 1118 in London and became a close friend of King Henry II. He was only a deacon when he was appointed chancellor of England. When he was ordained as archbishop of Canterbury, he underwent an abrupt conversion of life and began to defend the Church’s rights against the king. He had to take refuge in a French monastery for six years, and when he returned to his diocese four knights, inspired by careless words from the king, assassinated him in his cathedral on 29 December 1170. He was immediately acknowledged as a martyr and the king later did penance and endowed his shrine. He is remembered for his courage in defence of the rights of the Church.
In today’s Gospel, Mary and Joseph came into the temple with newly born baby Jesus, They are met by Simeon, a devout elderly Jew, who took the child in his arms and blessed God. Having set eyes upon baby Jesus, Simeon was ready to leave this world for the next. He had been told that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. He believed the promise had been fulfilled that day in the Temple. He prays to God: “At last, Master, you can let your servant go in peace.” His powerful prayer, known as the “Nunc Dimittis” is now part of Night Prayer of the Church (also called Compline).
We will not be able to see Jesus in exactly the same way as Simeon did that day in the Temple. However with eyes of faith, we are invited to look at Christ truly present in the Eucharist at the “Consecration” in the Mass. We are also privileged to hear the voice of Christ speaking to us when the Gospel is proclaimed. We can also see Christ in one another and in other ways where He makes himself present to us.
Like Simeon and St Thomas Becket let us live lives in accordance with the Kingdom of God so that we can also confidently look forward to seeing Christ face to face in Heaven.
Thought for the day ~ Monday 28th December 2020
Today is the feast of the Holy Innocents, who are the children who were slaughtered at the orders of King Herod, in the hope that by killing every boy born in Bethlehem at the same time as Jesus, he would succeed in killing the new-born King of the Jews. The feast of the Holy Innocents reminds us that in God’s eyes no-one is unimportant, no-one is unnecessary, no-one “doesn’t really matter.”
However meaningless their lives and deaths may seem to us, they shine glorious in heaven. Honouring them effectively honours also the martyrdom of the people these children could have become, and their children’s children as well.
We hear in today’s Gospel the account of the killing of innocent children by King Herod’s men, He did all this in order to wipe out the imagined threat to his power. Christ the new-born king would go onto build a kingdom that was founded on the polar opposite of the values of the unscrupulous King Herod. Jesus will become to be a humble king who serves others and builds people up rather than issue commands to destroy lives.
We are told by St Matthew that St Joseph was once again guided by God in a dream to take wise action to protect the vulnerable Son of God, whose life was at risk, because of Herod. He therefore takes heed of the guidance and takes Mary and the child into exile in Egypt until the death of Herod.
None of us will stoop as low as Herod did to try to eliminate a perceived threat, but we can all be capable of occasionally desiring to dominate others. Instead of wanting to exercise control over others, we should always look to imitate Jesus in his service and humility.
Thought for the day ~ Saturday 26th December 2020
Today is St Stephen’s Day. He is the first martyr. He was one of the deacons appointed by the Apostles to organize the distribution of food to the poor. He performed many miracles and confounded the Jews in disputation. They fabricated false charges against him. At his trial he preached the risen Christ to them, so they stoned him to death. He prayed for his persecutors as he was dying. One of them, Saul of Tarsus, who was looking after the cloaks of the stone- throwers, was later converted and became the great missionary St Paul.
The reality of the Incarnation, whereby God comes among us in order to redeem us of our sins is beautifully illustrated by today’s feast. The approach of St Stephen to the perpetrators of his death i staggeringly Christlike. There is no vengeance or hatred in him towards them at all; he is utterly forgiving towards them. He is also like Jesus in the way he commends his spirit to Jesus just as Jesus had said before he died on the Cross: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit”.
Today is a special day for our Altar Servers. St Stephen is their patron and he is a great role model to them of faithful service and a desire to grow in friendship with Christ. The Covid restrictions for many of our servers as with other ministries in the Church, has prevented them for long periods being able to exercise their ministry. We pray that they may continue to find new ways of serving Christ while the Pandemic remains with us.
In this Octave of Christmas, may St Stephen inspire all of us to imitate Christ in our faith, service and love for Christ.
Thought for the Day ~ Thursday 24th December
Today is Christmas Eve and we are on the very brink of Christmas. Our waiting is almost over but it is good to use the last day of Advent to fine tune our reflection and thoughts about the Incarnation.
In today’s first reading we hear of the promise made to David through the prophet Nathan that the House of David and his throne will be established forever. This will come about with Jesus who through Joseph is a descendent of King David. Jesus will establish an eternal kingdom and so the prophecy to David is fulfilled.
In the Gospel we hear the first words spoken by Zechariah after his long silence through not being able to speak all the time when his son John the Baptist was inside his mother’s womb. These first words are words of praise and they are prophetic in themselves. They say exactly who Jesus is for whom John will be the forerunner; “He has raised up for us a mighty Saviour in the House of David his servant”.
As we move into the Christmas Octave and season punctuated with its joyful feasts bringing out different aspects of the Incarnation, may the Lord’s coming afresh enable us to recommit to our desire to keep Christ always central to our daily lives.
Thought for the Day ~ Wednesday 23rd December
Today’s O Antiphon
"O Emmanuel, you are our king and judge, the One whom the
peoples await and their Saviour O come and save us, Lord, our
With this last antiphon our expectation finds joy now in the certainty of fulfillment. We call Jesus by one of the most personal and intimate of his titles, Emmanuel, God-with-us. We believe that in his birthfrom the Virgin Mary God takes on our very flesh and human nature God coming nearer to us than we could have ever imagined! Yet he is also to be exalted above us as our king, the lawgiver and judge, the one whom we honour and obey. And he is our long expected Saviour. The final urgent cry rises from us in our need for daily salvation and forgiveness of our sins, and confident that our God will not withhold himself from us.
In today’s first reading we hear that God will send a new Elijah the prophet ahead of his coming. We believe this to be John the Baptist who prepared the people for Jesus by asking them to repent of their sins and be baptised.
In the Gospel we hear the wonderous account of the birth of John the Baptist and his circumcision on the eighth day. We recall that John’s father, Zechariah had lost his power of speech due to his doubts which he expressed to the Angel of the Lord when his birth was announced. The Angel had told him that the child was to be called John so when he affirmed Elizabeth’s desire that the child was indeed to be called John, then he was able to speak again.
May we allow St John the Baptist in these last couple of days of Advent to joyfully prepare us once more for the coming of Emmanuel, God among us, This is what we will celebrate at Christmas and it should always fill us with joy.
Thought for the Day - Tuesday 22nd December 2020
Today’s O Antiphon:
"O King whom all the peoples desire, you are the cornerstone which makes all one. O come and save man whom you made from clay".
The earlier “O Antiphons” have already alluded to the Messiah coming not only to Israel but also to convert the Gentile nations and redeem them and make them his own. Today we have the sixth of the seven O Antiphons which clearly addresses the Saviour as the King of the Gentiles and the One desired by all nations. Christ is the cornerstone on whom our spiritual roots are founded. This cornerstone unites Jews and Gentiles into one and brings peace between them. We yearn for God to breathe new life into us and to save all humanity whom he formed from the dust of the earth.
Unusually today’s first reading flows into the psalm. In the first reading we hear of Hannah taking her baby son Samuel to the Temple to thank the Lord for the precious gift of her child, which was an answer to her heartfelt prayers. The psalm comprises the “Song of Hannah” which she made in the temple to God and this is full of exultation and joyful praise for God.
Following on from yesterday’s Gospel when Mary had visited Elizabeth whom in faith declared her to be “the Mother of My Lord”, in today’s Gospel Mary immediately makes her wonderful and powerful “Magnificant”. This prayer is very closely based on the Song of Hannah. We say or sing
Mary’s “Magnificat” of joyful praise to God daily at the Evening Prayer of the Church (Vespers). As we do this we can recall all the joys and blessings we have received throughout the course of the day and make our own Mary’s words: “The Almighty works marvels for me, holy is his Name.”
In these remaining days of Advent may we continually make Christ our King by imitating Hannah and Our Lady in their gratitude and praise for God for all the graces and blessings we discover in our lives.
Thought for the Day ~ Monday 21st December 2020
Today’s O Antiphon:
O Rising Sun, you are the splendour of eternal light and the sun of justice. O come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.
In the prophesy of Isaiah, we are told that the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. There is something very sacred about the Rising Sun, marking the start of a new day. We are to be thankful to the Lord for the gift of each new day who gives life and light to us. He will enlighten us by his teaching and his life and show us the way to dwell in perpetual light in Heaven. On this shortest day of the year in our part of the world, what better hope do we need than the promise of the light of the Rising Sun. At first light on that first Easter Sunday, Jesus himself rise from the tomb like the Sun, to bring light out of darkness and life out of death. This child whose coming we long for at Christmas will certainly bring light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.
In today’s first reading from the Song of Songs, we hear of the excitement that comes with being united with the One whom we love. An important aspect of waiting during Advent is to contain our excitement as we prepare to celebrate once again Emmanuel, God is with us.
The Gospel depicts the visitation of Mary to her kinswoman Elizabeth, who greets her with great words of faith: “Why should I be honoured with a visit from the Mother of my Lord?”. The spirit of Mary’s visitation is the spirit of generosity, desiring to share our joys and our good news with others and being prepared to bring that message into the heart of their homes. This year, because of the restrictions placed on us by Covid, we have to be more creative and discover new ways of bringing that Good News into peoples lives.
May Christ the Rising Sun, enlighten our Advent journey, with his Gospel and through our fidelity to it, bring us the promise of eternal life.
Thought for the Day ~ Saturday 19th Sepember 2020
O Stock of Jesse, you stand as a signal for the nations; kings fall silent before you whom the peoples acclaim. O come to deliver us, and do not delay.
When we hear the word “stock” in this sense, we are focusing on our ancestors. The prophet Isaiah foretold that the great days of David reign would come back -like a new branch sprouting out of the old root. Jesus is from the stock of Jesse in a two- fold sense: he is the descendant of David, who was the youngest son of Jesse, and was anointed by Samuel as king.
The Angel Gabriel said unto Mary ;The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor, David. He will rule over the house of Jacob forever and his reign will have no end. The mention in today’s “O Antiphon” of kings falling silent before him, refers to Jesus being an eternal king as well as adoration of the Magi at the Epiphany.
In today’s Gospel we hear of the Angel’s visit to Zechariah to foretell the news of the coming of John the Baptist who is the forerunner for Christ. Because Zechariah and his wife has been unable to have children, Zechariah doubts the possibility of this marvellous prophecy happening in reality, and therefore is left unable to speak. Only at John’s presentation when 8 days old, is Zechariah able to speak again. His first words after many months of silence are words of praise that comprise the“Benedictus” prayed at Morning Prayer of the Church daily: “Blessed be the Lord the God of Israel, he has visited his people and redeemed them”
In these remaining days of Advent, we ponder afresh in our current context, the unravelling of the mysteries at the heart of the Incarnation that we celebrate at Christmas. Let us find some time for silent reflection in companionship with the silence of Zechariah. May we yearn more than ever for each of us to welcome the Kingdom of God into our hearts. |Come, deliver us, and do not delay";.
Thought for the Day - Friday 18th December 2020
Today's O Antiphon
O Adonai and leader of Israel, you appeared to Moses in a burning bush and you gave him the Law on Sinai. O come and save us with your mighty power.
Adonai is a Hebrew title given to God, meaning Master or Lord. With today’s antiphon we hear reference to the familiar story of God revealing himself to Moses and giving His Law in the form of the ten commandments to Israel as their way of life. Moses was called by God who enabled him to free his people from slavery in Egypt. This also speaks to us of being freed from the slavery of our sins by our Redeemer. “The mighty power” refers to God as Master and Lord of the sea and all creation, holding back the waters of the Red Sea to save his people from the certainty of death by the pursuing Egyptians. Jesus will come to save us by stretching out his arms and being sacrificed on the Cross.
In today’s First Reading, Jeremiah tells us that God will raise a virtuous branch for David who will be a true and wiseking Yesterday we learned from the “genealogy” in Matthew’s Gospel, that through Joseph, Jesus is related to King David. So Jesus is the virtuous branch of David who will rule wisely and with integrity.
In today’s Gospel, we hear of the circumstances leading up to the birth of Jesus; that Mary was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. In order to highlight the significant place that St Joseph occupies in salvation history, Pope Francis has declared us to have year of St Joseph which began on 8 th December. We hear today of him being described as a man of honour. In a dream Joseph receives guidance from the Lord, who addresses him as “Joseph, Son of David”, to fulfil the prophesy that the Messiah would be a relative of David. In the dream Joseph is told who Mary’s child is and that His purpose is to save his people from their sins. Therefore instead of divorcing Mary, Joseph takes Mary home to be his wife, he will provide legal status for Jesus, be an earthly father to him and connect him with David.
May we like St Joseph not be afraid to listen to the guidance and direction that comes from listening to Adonai, our Lord and Master.
Thought for the Day - Thursday 17th December 2020
Today’s O Antiphon
O Wisdom you come forth from the mouth of the Most High. You fill the universe and hold all things together in a strong yet gentle manner. O come to teach is the way to the truth.
Today marks the start of the second part of Advent. During the first part of Advent we have been focusing on Christ’s coming at the end of time. In Advent II, we focus on the coming of Jesus at Christmas. In our anticipation there is a yearning and a longing for a Redeemer. One of the lovely things we have in the Church to convey this yearning, are the “O antiphons” which are used at Evening prayer of the Church (Vespers) as the antiphons to the Magnificant prayer used on each of the seven days from today until 23rd December. The word “O” illustrates our longing and our desire for Christ to come into our lives. Each of the O Antiphons home in on one aspect of who Jesus is. As you can see (above) the O Antiphon for today speaks of Jesus being the wisdom of God.
Today’s Antiphon refers to Jesus as the Eternal Word of God and of his strength and gentleness. It ends with the invitation to the Redeemer to come to teach us the way to the truth. We know that Jesus will be gentle and compassionate but will also teach us with authority and tell that He is the Way the Truth and the Life.
In today’s Gospel, Matthew answers the question of who Jesus is and what his purpose is, by giving us the genealogy of Jesus right at the start of his Gospel. He describes Jesus as the son of David and the son of Abraham. He goes on to say that through his marriage to Mary, Joseph is related to Jesus whom he calls the Christ. Some of characters in the genealogy have quite a colourful story, but they are included to show that God’s salvation even works through human imperfection.
May we use the second part of Advent to grow in our need and our desire for the Wisdom of God that Jesus brings to us. May Christ lead us to gently but firmly discover the right way to our Eternal home. May we grow in our conviction and certainty of who Jesus is for us and his place in our lives.
Thought for the Day - Wednesday 16th December 2020
In today’s Gospel we hear of some of John the Baptist’s disciples approaching Jesus to ask him if he is the one to come. John is currently in prison and although very sure in his faith, he seems to be seeking clarification that Jesus is indeed the one he had been preparing the people for. John perhaps asks this because Jesus does not seem to be as judgemental or dramatic as John had foretold. The arrival of Jesus is indeed good news for everyone. Jesus performs miracles and healings in the sight of John’s disciples and then tells them to go back and reassure John by telling them what they have seen him do. They will tell John that Jesus is the fulfilment of the prophet Isaiah who foretold that the Messiah would cleanse lepers, give sight to the blind and raise the dead to life. John would have no problem in identifying this image of the one who is to come, with what Jesus was doing. In order to further reassure John, Jesus finally tells John’s messengers: ‘happy is the man who does not lose faith in me’.
In this time of Advent, let us renew our faith in Jesus as the promised one who is to come and continues to send us each day. As we use the sacred season to reflect on the life of Christ in the Gospels, by doing so, let us be reassured like John in his prison cell would undoubtedly have been, that Jesus is the one that we are waiting for. He comes to us each day and he is one we yearn for and the one whom we need to give us life and hope.
Thought for the Day ~ Tuesday 15th December 2020
In today’s Gospel, Jesus uses the parable of the two sons who are asked by their father to work in his vineyard to illustrate his teaching about the Kingdom.
The first son in the Gospel says yes to his father then changes his mind, is like the religious leaders who have committed their lives to God but refuse to accept the message of John the Baptist. I am sure most of us have people in our lives who keep their word: people who will always honour what they say they will do. This means that they are trustworthy. I am sure there are times when we have let people down by promising to do something and something prevented us from keeping our word. I am sure we can also think of a time when someone has let us down and of how it feels to be treated like that. Inevitably in all those scenarios, the delicate bond of trust gets broken and it is very difficult to restore that in a relationship.
The second son in the parable initially says no to his father, then thinks better of it and ends up going to the vineyard after all. This son is like the public sinners such as tax collectors and prostitutes who have lived a life contrary to the ways of God, but have taken on board the message of John the Baptist calling them to repent and change their way of life. In addition to enjoying having reliable people in our lives, we also like broad-minded people who are prepared to think about what they hear and have the courage and humility to admit they were wrong and are willing to do something about it.
As we come to the end of the first part of Advent, let us resolve to continue to be faithful to the Gospel but also be willing to joyfully encourage and accept those who have turned back to God or discovered him for the first time.
Thought for the Day ~ Monday 14th December 2020
Today we keep the feast of St John of the Cross, who was born in Fontiveros, in Spain, in about 1542. He spent some time as a Carmelite friar before, in 1568, Saint Teresa of Ávila persuaded him to pioneer the reform of the Carmelite order. This was a difficult task and a dangerous one: he suffered imprisonment and severe punishment at the hands of the Church authorities.
He died at the monastery of Ubeda in Andalusia on 14 December 1591: the monks there had initially treated him as the worst of sinners, but by the time he died they had recognised his sanctity and his funeral was the occasion of a great outburst of enthusiasm. His works include two major mystical poems – he is considered one of the great poets of the Spanish language and detailed commentaries on them and the spiritual truths they convey. He was canonized in 1726 and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1926. A couple of years ago I very much enjoyed celebrating Mass at the tomb of St John of the Cross near Segovia, in Northern Spain, with other priests from England and Wales involved in Vocations work.
In today’s Gospel, which is set not long after the cleansing of the Temple by Jesus; the religious leaders ask Jesus by what authority he was acting, perhaps in respect of all of his actions and words as well as the purging of the Temple. We believe and therefore know that Jesus is the Son of God so we have no problem in accepting that Jesus has the right to cleanse the Temple, which is the House of God. Jesus replies with a question of them about the origin of John’s baptism came from, which they choose to answer by they saying they don’t know. Again we do know the answer to that question: we trust and believe like many people who were baptised by John, that his ministry was given to him by God.
Let us pray with St John of the Cross that the Lord will build on our simple faith and give us an open heart to listen and a desire to respond to God’s will. May these remaining Advent days be opportunity to grow in our certainty of the presence of God: Emmanuel, God among us.
Thought for the day ~ Saturday 12 th December 2020
Today is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, near Mexico City, is one of the most celebrated places of pilgrimage in North America. On December 9, 1531, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to an Indian convert, Juan Diego, and left with him a picture of herself impressed upon his cloak. Devotion to Mary under this title has continually increased, and today she is the Patroness of the Americas.
Today’s first reading and the Gospel both speak of the return of Elijah. They refer to John the Baptist who was a powerful prophet like Elijah and came to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah. In the Gospel Jesus refers to the fact that John was treated badly and would suffer death as he himself would too. This further reminds us of the great cost involved in obtaining our salvation. It cost the life of John the “New Elijah” who died because he spoke the truth, as well as the life of Our Lord whom the authorities also tried to silence by his execution.
Advent is a time for us to reflect on the great generosity of God who gives his only Son to us so that we might have our friendship with Him restored. It is also a time to reflect on our own spirit of generosity ~ the spirit of Elijah, the spirit of Our Lady, the spirit of John the Baptist and Our Lord. May we be inspired by them to give gladly and willingly of our own resources, time and love in response to the freely given love of God to each of us.
Thought for the Day ~ Friday 11th December 2020
Today is the feast of St Damasus 1 st , a Spaniard who was born about 305. Joining the Roman clergy, he was elected Pope in 366, in calamitous times. He held many synods against heretics and schismatics. He promoted the cult of the martyrs. He died in 384.
The thirty years of the “hidden life” of Jesus at Nazareth served many purposes. One of these was that Jesus observed human behaviour in different situations. He uses these observations in many of his parables and his teaching.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is recalling some of his observations about games children play in the public squares. He observes that some people are like the children who refuse to join in the games that are being played. He observes that some people heard the sombre preaching of John the Baptist and did not respond to his call to repent. He also speaks of those who hear and witness his own more up-beat message in his ministry and equally refuse to embrace his teaching.
Let us use these remaining days of Advent to ask ourselves how willing are we to dance to the joyful tune of Jesus? Do we prefer to dance to the rhythm of our own tune or are we willing to allow the rhythm of the Spirit to shape all the actions and words of our lives.
Thought for the Day ~ Thursday 10th December 2020
Today we keep the feast of Our Lady of Loreto. Since the Middle Ages veneration for the Holy House of Loreto has been the origin of that particular shrine which still today is visited by many faithful pilgrims in order to nourish their faith in the Word of God made flesh for us.
In the Holy House, before the image of the Mother of the Redeemer and of the Church, Saints and those beatified have responded to their vocation, the sick have invoked consolation in suffering, the people of God have begun to praise and plead with Mary using the Litany of Loreto, which is known throughout the world. In a particular way all those who travel via aircraft have found in her their heavenly patron.
In light of this, Pope Francis has decreed, by his own authority, that the optional memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto should be inscribed in the Roman Calendar on 10 December, the day on which the feast falls in Loreto, and celebrated every year.
This celebration will help all people, especially families, youth and religious to imitate the virtues of that perfect disciple of the Gospel, the Virgin Mother, who, in conceiving the Head of the Church also accepted us as her own.
In today’s Gospel we hear Jesus give very high praise of John . Jesus says there is no one born of a woman greater than John. Jesus reminds the people that they were drawn to the wilderness to listen to the powerful preaching of John because he was sent by God as the “new Elijah” to prepare people for the promise Redeemer. However, John was imprisoned and executed before he had chance to listen to the Kingdom being proclaimed by Jesus, but we have heard what Jesus said and did and are therefore more privileged than John was. This is why Jesus says of John that the least in the Kingdom of God is greater than he is.
Advent is a time to give thanks to God for the gift of the Gospel and of our response in faith to it. What a great idea one of the parishioners came up with to suggest reading a chapter of Luke’s Gospel every day during Advent. Whenever we allow the Word of God to penetrate our hearts and minds then we are surely going to grow in knowledge and understanding of our love for Jesus. Advent is also a great time to grow in appreciation of that gift, which we can often take for granted. May John the Baptist continue to inspire us to build the Kingdom in our own lives through our genuine friendship with Christ.
Thought for the Day ~ Wednesday 9th December 2020
The very thought of all the material preparation for Christmas does often make me feel weary. That’s why it is important to hear the Church’s message for Advent which invites us to slow down in order to reflect on the purpose behind what we are preparing to celebrate.
In today’s Gospel Jesus says “come to me all you who are weary and overburdened and I will give you rest for your souls” In taking time out from our busy lives to be with the Lord in the quietness of prayer should not be seen as a chore or a burden. Instead it should be seen as a quiet time to receive the Lord’s strength and goodness and to have our spirits renewed and refreshed.
So finding time for the Lord this Advent is going to make the celebration of Christmas so much more meaningful and special. Therefore we are to see it as a time to come before the Lord, asking him to give us new strength, so that we can be channels of his life-giving love to others, especially those who are weary and overburdened with the stresses and strains of daily life.
Thought for the Day ~ Tuesday 8th December 2020
Today is the feast of the Immaculate Conception. This feast celebrates the purity of Mary ~ she was without sin and from the first moment of her existence she belonged to the Kingdom of God. This is a pure gift from God and today we celebrate the fact it was given for the purposes of our salvation. This is why she was chosen to be the Mother of the Son of God.
Statues of Our Lady often show her standing on a serpent because unlike the first Eve she refused to be tempted by the lure of Satan’s empty promises. This is because Mary is portrayed as the “New Eve” the Mother of all who are redeemed by her son.
In the Gospel we get the account of the Annunciation through the eyes of St Luke. The opening words of the Angel Gabriel “Hail full of grace” underline mightily what we are celebrating in today’s feast day: Before she was asked to be the Mother of God she was already without sin and in a complete state of grace. Our Lady, like all of us was given the gift of freewill by God ~ this means that she was free to choose between good and evil. Most of us from time to time do make wrong choices but it is only right that we celebrate today that Mary remain sinless. Mary’s utter obedience cancels out Eve’s disobedience which we heard about in today’s first reading, and opens the way for the coming of Our Saviour.
We are also called like Mary to make good choices and to choose to grow in holiness through obedience to God’s will. On this feast day within the season of Advent may Immaculate Mary inspire us to allow the Lord to win the daily battle for our hearts and minds.
Thought for the Day ~ Monday 7th December 2020
Today we commemorate St Ambrose of Milan who was born in Trier between 337 and 340, to a Roman family: his father was praetorian prefect of Gaul. In about 372 he was made prefect of Liguria and Emilia, whose capital was Milan. In 374 the bishopric of Milan fell vacant and when Ambrose tried to pacify the conflict between the Catholics and Arians over the appointment of a new bishop, the people turned on him and demanded that he become the bishop himself. Coerced by the people and by the emperor, he was baptized, ordained, and installed as bishop within a week, on 7 December 374. He was renowned for his charity, diligence and eloquence. He was a true shepherd and teacher of the faithful. He defended the rights of the Church and attacked the Arian heresy with learning, firmness and gentleness. He also wrote a number of hymns which are still in use today. Ambrose was a key figure in the conversion of St Augustine to Catholicism, impressing Augustine by his intelligence and scholarship. He died in 397.
In today’s Gospel, some men bring a paralysed man on bed to Jesus. The crowd in the house where Jesus is are creating an obstacle between them and Jesus. They are driven by their faith in Jesus and their compassion to help their paralysed friend, to be imaginative. They lower the man on the bed through the tiles on the flat roof into the middle of where Jesus was. Jesus forgives the man his sins and heals him and her he is able to walk out of the house unaided.
On our Advent journey we are to allow ourselves to be inspired by the friends of the paralysed man and try to become totally focused on Christ despite the distractions and obstacles that come our way. We are also to take seriously our call to be missionary disciples and bring others closer to Christ. We do this by being authentic in the way we respond to the Gospel of Christ. We also do this by centring our whole lives on Jesus by modelling ourselves on him. We do this by being “spiritually poor” and putting the needs of the poor and sick before our own.
Thought for the Day ~ Saturday 5th December 2020
Matthew tells us in today’s Gospel that when Jesus saw the crowds he had compassion for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd. Compassion is a wonderful emotion ~ it shows he had a really deep desire to meet the needs of the people and try to alleviate their suffering and shoulder their burdens.
There are times when we feel dejected and harassed due to the challenges and set-backs that life throws at us every now and then. At times like this we are reminded by the Gospel of the nearness of the Lord whose presence should reassure us and strengthen us to persevere. The Lord needs our help in doing his work and so we are all called to share in that role as workers in the vineyard of the Lord. As such we are therefore invited to help those who feel overburdened with our understanding and our acts of kindness. The Lord will never leave us empty-handed he will always equip us with the gifts and qualities we need to do his work. Our prayer only needs to be “Here I am Lord, I come to do your will”.
Thought for the Day ~ Friday 4th December 2020
Today we celebrate the feast of Saint John Damascene who was born of a Christian family in Damascus in the second half of the seventh century, where his father was a high official under the Umayyad caliph; a post which he inherited. When the Iconoclast movement (seeking to prohibit the veneration of icons) gained acceptance in the Byzantine court, John, being under Muslim rather than Byzantine rule, was able to write effective treatises attacking Iconoclasm and attacking the emperor for supporting it. At about this time he retired to the monastery of Saint Sabas near Jerusalem, where he became a monk and was ordained. He died in the middle of the eighth century. He wrote many theological treatises in a clear and accessible style which made the issues understandable even by non-experts. His name was reviled by the imperial Iconoclast party even after his death. Sometimes known as “the last of the Church Fathers,” he was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII in 1883.
In the first reading, Isaiah looks forward to a time when there will be great rejoicing when: “the deaf will hear the words of a book and after shadow and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see”. On our Advent journey, we know that the longing that Isaiah speaks of is the coming of Christ. The longed for Christ will come to transform everything with his majesty and power.
Psalm 26, which we often hear at a funeral Mass, picks up on the theme of longing :”There is one thing of I ask of the Lord for this I long: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life”. This speaks of our greatest desire of being able to see God forever in Heaven. Our Advent journey calls us to be patient in our yearning to set our eyes on God, who will reveal himself to the world as an innocent child on that first Christmas.
In the Gospel, Jesus shows he is the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy by responding to the yearnings of the two blind men and giving them back their sight. Because they were able to see who Jesus really was through their eyes of faith, he then enables them to set their eyes upon their Lord and Saviour.
As we come towards the end of the first week of Advent, let us ask ourselves what it is that we really yearn for in our lives. If in some part this includes our desire to see the face of God, then we know that we are on the right track.
Thought for the Day - Thursday 3rd December 2020
Today we mark the feast of St Francis Xavier who was born in the Basque country of Spain in 1506. He met Ignatius Loyola when he was a student in Paris, and he was ordained priest in 1537. In 1541 the Pope sent him as part of a mission to India, and he spent the rest of his life in the East, preaching the Gospel in Goa and Malacca. He made many converts and fought against the exploitation of the native population by the Europeans. He spent two years on a successful mission to Japan, laying the foundations of many Christian communities; and in 1552, after entering China secretly to preach the Gospel there, he died of fever and exhaustion on the Chinese island of Shangchwan.
In today’s Gospel Jesus speaks of “storms” that we have to weather. We find ourselves from time to time battling against the challenges and problems that life throws at us. We all have to face from time to time difficulties with our health, with our family, our finances, career and other aspects of our life. It is inevitable that we will face such challenges but the key thing is how do we deal with them. The psalm gives us good advice in saying it is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in men or princes. A refuge is a place where we can find shelter in times of difficulty, challenge or disaster. So it is telling us that in times of crisis we should turn to God who will be utterly reliable and remind us of our value in his sight that will enable us to receive respite and reassurance. For those of us with faith, Jesus is our rock and if we hear his words and listen to them by putting them into practise in our approach to daily life, Jesus tells us that no matter how fierce the “storm” is then we will survive it. So if we centre our lives on doing God’s will, then our lives are really built on firm foundations.
Thought for the Day ~ Wednesday 2nd December 2020
Families in Burnley going hungry featured on a national TV news item this week. It is a reminder of the economic difficulties many people will find themselves in, as a result of the Pandemic-led recession we face. A large number of people are increasingly dependent on foodbanks and charity to provide for their families. The churches were depicted in the news item as helping with meeting the needs. As a result we received at the presbytery a few phone calls after the broadcast, from across the country offering to give practical support. This is very encouraging to hear of such concern, but feeding the hungry is after all one of the commands of the Lord and the Church.
In the First reading we get an image of Heaven which is depicted as a banquet on a mountain where people get an abundance of the finest foods and drink. In today’s Gospel Jesus gives a foretaste of the heavenly banquet when he feeds with a very small amount of food, a huge multitude of hungry people on a hillside. In the Psalm we are reminded that the Lord is a shepherd who has prepared a banquet for us in the sight of our foes ~ among our foes must include hunger and the risk of getting sick with the virus! Jesus is the one who shows us the right way to get to the Lord’s heavenly banquet through our love and service.
Advent is a time for us to hear the Lord calling us to be life- giving instruments of his presence in the world. This includes showing practical help for those in need, especially those on our own doorstep.
Thought for the Day ~ Tuesday 1st December 2020
One of the martyrs the Church remembers today is Edmund Campion, who was born in London on January 25, 1540 and received his early education at Christ’s Hospital. He then attended St John’s College, Oxford, becoming a fellow in 1557 and taking the Oath of Supremacy on the occasion of his degree in 1564. Two years later he welcomed Queen Elizabeth to the university, and won her lasting regard. He was chosen amongst the scholars to lead a public debate in front of the queen. People were now talking of Campion in terms of being a future Archbishop of Canterbury, in the newly established Church of England. Eventually he went to Douai where he was reconciled to the Catholic Church and received the Eucharist that he had denied himself for the last twelve years. His studies completed he left for Rome, travelling on foot and alone in the guise of a poor pilgrim. He then entered a novitiate with the Jesuits, and spent some years in Vienna and Prague.
In 1580, the Jesuit mission to England began. Campion entered England in the guise of a jewel merchant, and at once began to preach. As a result his position became increasingly difficult. He led a hunted life, preaching and ministering to Catholics in Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire, and Lancashire. And was eventually committed to the Tower of London. He was kept a long time in prison, where he was twice racked, and every effort was made to shake his defiance. He was sentenced to death as a traitor..” After spending his last days in prayer he was led with two companions to Tyburn and executed on December 1, 1581, aged 41.
In the first reading we are reminded of the promise made to King David that one of his ancestors would have an eternal kingdom. Isaiah sees that kingdom in tatters, calling it “the stump of Jesse”, who was David’s father. Living and writing in a time of exile following the devastation of the holy city, the prophet dreams idealistically about the promise of the Messianic age. We then get the beautiful vision of Isaiah about all of creation being in peace and harmony with itself. This is an image of great hope and faith in a loving God who will keep his word but might bring it about in an unexpected way.
Through St Joseph, Jesus is of course related to David and will be the fulfilment of this promise. The Gospel tells his disciples how happy they should be to witness his presence and his ministry: “For many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see and never saw it: to hear what you hear and never heard it”. Jesus ushers in an age where accepted values are turned on their head; those now rejected will be welcomed; the downtrodden will be restored to dignity and the lowly exalted.
In our own day, in the uncertain times in which we live may we also be ambassadors of hope through our Christian faith. May St Edmund Campion and all the saints inspire us to have the courage to stand up for our faith in challenging times, to build the Kingdom through our faithfulness to the Gospel, and to be ever trustful of God’s promises made to us.
Thought for the Day ~ Saturday 28th November 2020
Today is the last day of the Church’s liturgical year. We begin the new liturgical year tomorrow with the First Sunday of Advent. I see Advent as a genuine invitation from the Church to us to stop, slow down and think. During Advent we will prepare ourselves for the coming at Christ at Christmas as well as to focus on the Lord’s Second Coming at the end of time.
In today’s Gospel Jesus tells us that for both of these events we need to stay awake and be alert. We should strive for more purity and faithfulness in our lives. The Lord also urges us to be people who pray for strength. After all the uncertainty of the last year caused by the Pandemic, this Advent could be a great opportunity for allow ourselves time for reflection and thought. In this time may we try to put into perspective how the challenges and restrictions unexpectedly imposed us have allowed to see God and our lives in a new light.
May our prayer and reflection this Advent be a time to stop and think. We are to reflect particularly on our lives and the place that God has in them. If Christ is not currently at the centre of our lives then perhaps we need to change our priorities in order to place him where he should be. We also need to have the humility to ask the Lord for the strength and hope we need to deal with all the uncertainties that life can place in our path.
Thought for the Day ~ Friday 27th November 2020
Because of the Pandemic, this year has certainly been a year of change. Things that we always expected to be able to do like having a coffee in a café, coming to Mass or standing on Turf Moor to watch the Clarets, have been for a chunk of this year taken away from us. More permanent changes such as the Death of a loved one or threats to our livelihoods have left a much more lasting mark upon us.
In the Gospel, Jesus speaks of our belief in changes that nature produce such as finding blossom on the fruit trees prior to the harvest later in the year. Just as we cope well with all these changes because of our familiarity with them, we also need something familiar in order to cope with the big changes that happen in our life.
Jesus reminds us that nothing will last forever so it is important to have something to help us through all the uncertainties that life throws at us. We need faith and trust in God and in particular to trust in the words of Jesus. Jesus tells us that his words will never pass way. We think of his wonderful parables, his teachings and his merciful and powerful words in conversations with the needy and the lost. We are to hold onto the teachings of Our Lord and if we listen to these words and take ownership of them by being faithful to them, then when all else fails we know our lives are built on the solid rock of God’s love for us, which is made manifest in Christ.
Thought for the Day ~ Thursday 26th November 2020
In early October at the height of my illness with Covid 19, I received a message from an official of the Diocese who heard about me and had already suffered with the virus himself back in March. His message was simple: “I know how you must be feeling at this time but just be patient and know you will get better”. They were very helpful words to me because at that time the illness had completely taken over and made me feel dreadful and helpless. After a few days the virus flawed me and forced me to stay in bed. The virus seemed to have made itself home within me and showed no signs of wanting to leave. During such dark times, it is important to look for signs of light and hope. That message was the ray of light and hope I needed.
Today’s Gospel is quite dark and sombre, speaking of the destruction of Jerusalem , which had actually already happened when Luke wrote his Gospel. Luke was saying that this does not mean the end of human history. Jesus offers rays of light to those who listen to his words. He tells us that we are to keep trusting in his teachings, even at dark times. He also says that we are to stand firm in our faith. He says we who are faithful to him are responding to our invitation to the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, which is a powerful image of Heaven.
In these uncertain times may we look for rays of light and hope that our faith gives to us. May we daily look for opportunities to share this message of hope with others.
Thought for the day ~ Wednesday 25th November 2020
Today we keep the feast of St Catherine of Alexandria. Legends coming from a number of sources say that St Catherine was very outspoken at the time of the persecutions of Christians. She even protested openly to the emperor Maxentius who had her arrested, tortured on the wheel and decapitated in 305. St Catherine’s courage is a great challenge to all African Christians in their struggle for justice and peace. The witness of her life and her readiness to die for the faith encourages us to be brave witnesses to the Lord and to speak out on behalf of all those who suffer.
Today’s Gospel reading ends with the words of Jesus; “Your endurance will win you your lives.” It is one of those phrases that can apply to many situations in our lives. In terms of the Christian life, endurance means to keep on keeping on and not allow obstacles to get in your way of staying faithful to the Lord. We are called to persevere even in times of persecution and hardship.
We show our loyalty to God by our response to the difficulties and challenges that life throws at us. We are helped in this, for Jesus promises “I will give you an eloquence and a wisdom which none of your opponents can resist or contradict.” He is saying that in tough times he is going to at our side ~ we are trust his guidance and his faithfulness to us. Most of us will not have experienced real persecution for our Catholic faith, but we might have experienced discrimination, prejudice, teasing or ridicule for standing up for what we believe. Whenever we do experience such challenges we are in solidarity with all who profess Christ to be their King and their Lord.
May St Catherine and all the martyrs inspire us to endure despite the challenges and difficulties we might face on our road to the Promised
Land of Heaven.
Thought for the Day ~ Tuesday 24th November 2020
Today we keep the feast of St Andrew Dung Lack and companions. The evangelisation of Vietnam began in the 16th century and was formally established with the setting up of two Vicariates Apostolic in 1659. There are now about 6 million Catholics in Vietnam, some 10% of the population. From 1625 to 1886 the persecution of Christians took place. Over the whole territory of Vietnam about 130,000 Christians were killed in these persecutions. Over the centuries the names of most of them have been lost, but their memory is still alive in the Catholic community. Since the beginning of the 20th century 117 of these heroes of the Church were beatified, in four groups. They were all canonised together by Pope John Paul II on 19 June 1988.
As we approach the end of the Church’s liturgical year, the Gospel readings this week speak about endings. Today there is talk of the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple. The disciples were hugely impressed by the size and beauty of the Temple. Jesus foretells of the destruction of the temple when he says; “the time will come when not a stone of it will be left standing”. Of course no building will last forever, but it still must have been hard to imagine seeing something of such splendour and magnitude being ruined.
If that is the case, is there anything that will last forever. Jesus in response to such questions replies ‘Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.’ The teachings and words of Jesus will of course never pass away ~ they are everlasting because they come from He who is the Eternal Word. The one thing that is certain and that is eternal is God’s love for us and all His creation ~ this will never come to an end.
Thought for the Day ~ Monday 23rd November 2020
Pope St Clement I was Bishop of Rome after Peter, Linus and Cletus. He lived towards the end of the first century, but nothing is known for certain about his life. Clement’s letter to the Corinthian church has survived. It is the first known Patristic document, and exhorts them to peace and brotherly harmony.
The Christian life calls for commitment to the Lord in the way we live out our lives. In today’s Gospel, Jesus highlights the hidden generosity of the poor widow who offers her last two copper coins for the upkeep of the Temple. Jesus declares that by giving what she could not afford, what she gave was worth more than the richest donations made by anyone else. We are to be willing like the widow to give our all and to give until it hurts. In the Beatitudes, the Lord calls his followers to a life of spiritual poverty, which means putting the needs and ambitions of others before our own. Jesus revealed this in so many ways but is ultimately illustrated by selflessly giving of himself on the Cross.
The first reading speaks of the martyrs who are among the 144,000 who were prepared to give their lives in order to faithfully follow Jesus the Lamb of God, whose name is marked on their foreheads. At the end of our lives we will be asked to give an account of our lives to God. We will be asked to show how rich love we have shown to God and to one another. We can do far worse than model ourselves on the widow who quietly and humbly showed her trust and faith in God by giving she had to live off.
Thought for the day ~ Saturday 21st November 2020
Today we celebrate the feast of The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In unity with Eastern Christianity, and commemorating the dedication in 543 of the New Basilica of Saint Mary, built next to the Temple at Jerusalem, this feast celebrates Mary’s “dedication” of herself to God from her infancy, inspired by the Holy Spirit, whose grace had filled her ever since her Immaculate Conception.
From the beginning of her life, Mary was dedicated to God for His own good purposes. Because of her dedication to God from an early age, she was called by God to become a temple even greater than the magnificent temple in Jerusalem. The temple in Jerusalem wasthe place where God was to be present in a special way.
Mary became a temple of God in an even greater way, because she carried the Lord in her womb until he was born. Through Jesus , God came to dwell within her, because she was always open to God’s presence and to do his will.
Mary always did the will of God, and was therefore open to welcome Jesus, the Word made flesh, at the time of God’s choosing. We are called to do the will of the Father so that we too can become temples of the Lord by bringing the presence of Christ to others. On this feast of her Presentation, may Mary help us to be temples of God’s glory by each day doing God’s will rather than our own.
Thought for the Day ~ Friday 20th November 2020
In today’s Gospel Jesus purifies the temple of the sellers. He says of the temple: “My house will be a house of prayer, but you have turned it into a robbers’ den”. A temple is the house of God and therefore is indeed to be a house of prayer ~ for communication with God. The commercialisation of the temple did not enhance the role of the temple as a house of prayer. He aroused a lot of opposition for driving out the sellers that day. They would have questioned by what authority he carried out this act of purification. We are told that the religious leaders would have their work cut out in silencing Jesus because the people hung on his every word.
Through our Baptism when we are cleansed of Original Sin and welcomed in the Holy Spirit, we became a temple of God’s glory. However temptation can lead us to selfishness and sin and so the temple of our bodies becomes impure. Through his death and Resurrection the Lord Jesus has the power to cleanse us of our sins and all acts that contaminate the interior of our selves. Normally the best way to do this is to stay close to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which because of the lockdown due to Covid, is currently not available to us. In the meantime we can if we are genuinely sorry for our sins in our hearts turn to Christ in prayer and with genuine words of contrition, through the power of the Cross, can be assured of his mercy and forgiveness. We promise afterwards that we will celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation at the earliest chance we get.
Thought for the Day~ Thursday 19th November 2020
In the first reading from the book of Revelation, we hear of four winged creatures gathered round the throne of God. We believe these to be symbolic of the four Gospels that give praise and glory to Christ as the Son of God. Each Gospel as its own symbol which characterises the nature and purpose of that particular Gospel.
The symbol of Matthew's Gospel is a winged man. starts with the genealogy of Jesus from Abraham through to David and onto Joseph. It then goes on to tell of his incarnation and birth. Written originally for a Jewish converts, it represents Jesus; Incarnation, and so emphasises Christ's human nature.
Mark’s Gospel account is symbolized by a winged lion –The lion symbolizes the resurrection of Christ the King. We look upon the lion as the king of beasts and as courageous. The Gospel begins with the voice of John the Baptist crying out in the wilderness proclaiming the coming of Christ ~ this reminds is of the lion’s roar. As Christians we too are called upon to be courageous and to spread the good news of Christ.
The winged bull or ox is the symbol of St Luke’s Gospel. The ox is a figure of sacrifice, service and strength. It highlights reconciliation of the sinner through the mercy of our loving Saviour who as Priest offered himself in sacrifice to forgive our sins. The ox signifies that Christians should be prepared to sacrifice themselves in following Christ.
The eagle is the symbol of the Fourth Gospel , the Gospel of St John. An eagle has amazing vision and so John asks us to see Jesus as the Eternal Word made flesh. The Gospel of St. John, unlike the other Gospels, invites to hear more profoundly the thinking and insight of Jesus. For example, John alone gives us the long discussions that Jesus has with Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman, as well the beautiful teachings on the Bread of Life and the Good Shepherd. The eagle is also able to rise to great heights and so in John’s Gospel, Jesus, too, identified Himself as “the way, the truth, and the life,” and anyone who responds to Christ as such, will rise to everlasting life with Him.
I hope this little look into the symbols of each of the four Gospels will encourage you to look afresh at each of our Gospels and deepen your love and appreciation for each of them.
Thought For The Day ~ Wednesday 18 Nov 2020
Today we keep the feast of the Dedication of the Basilicas of Saints Peter and Paul Already in the twelfth century there was being celebrated today the anniversary of the dedication of the basilicas of St Peter at the Vatican and St Paul in the Via Ostiense by Pope St Silvester and Pope St Siricius in the fourth century. More recently this commemoration has been extended to the whole Church, honouring the two greatest apostles of Christ just as the anniversary of the dedication of St Mary Major (5 August) celebrates the motherhood of the Virgin Mother of God.
In today’s Gospel we get St Luke’s version of the parable of the talents. On Sunday we of course we had the more famous version from Matthew’s Gospel. In Luke, some of the plot of the parable is different but the essential message the evangelist is trying to proclaim is essentially the same. There is joy and promise of reward from the king from those who made something of what they had been entrusted with. Then there will be disappointment and punishment with the one who simply kept the “pound” safe. Luke emphasises that fear is the root cause of the reason why the man did not take a risk with the money entrusted to him.
To overcome our fears we need both courage and faith. The gift of courage enables us to face our fears head on and to know, if we are doing the right thing according to our conscience then we have God close to us urging us on. Faith gives us another dimension in facing the challenges in life ~ it tells us that we believe to the point of knowing for certain that God is always by our side, however hard or challenging life might become. Both Ss Peter and Paul were very courageous as well as very strong in their faith and trust in the Lord. May they inspire us and encourage us on our journey of life, to work through our fears and like them to use the gifts we have been to given to build his Kingdom.
Thought for the Day - Tuesday 17th November 2020
Elizabeth of Hungary was born in 1217 and also known as Saint Elizabeth of Thuringia who was a princess of the Kingdom of Hungary, Landgravine of Thuringia, Germany, and a greatly venerated Catholic saint who was an early member of the Third Order of St. Francis, by which she is honoured as its patroness. Elizabeth was married at the age of 14, and widowed at 20. After her husband's death she sent her children away and regained her dowry, using the money to build a hospital where she herself served the sick. She became a symbol of Christian charity after her death at the age of 24 and was canonised on 25 May 1235.
Today is a special day for me with it being the day on which I was born in Consett, County Durham in 1958. In emerging from a serious illness caused by the Covid virus I am very grateful and thankful to the Lord for reaching this point in the year and in my life. Today gets me to think poignantly about my wonderful departed parents John and Mary, to both of whom I have referred occasionally in these reflections over the last few months. As well as for my life I owe them gratitude for their love, their Catholic faith and their values, all of which have shaped the person I have become.
In today’s Gospel we get the wonderful story of Zacchaeus, the tax collector. I really like the last line of this section of the Gospel: “The Son of Man has come to seek out and save what was was lost”. The Lord did the seeking out of this rich yet sad and lonely man who really was lost, by literally noticing him up a tree. Zacchaeus was not the only sinner in the town, but he was one of the most high profile. The most important thing is that he seized the opportunity that meeting Jesus gives to him and promises actions in his behaviour that show he desires to change. May we like Zacchaeus also take the opportunities to change the direction of lives when the chance of offered to us. May we do this by regularly examining our conscience in a time of prayer so that we can repent of our sins before God.
Thought for the day ~ Monday 16th November 2020
St Margaret of Scotland whose feast day we celebrate today was born in 1046 Hungary of Anglo-Saxon and Hungarian parents. When William of Normandy conquered England she found refuge with King Malcolm III of Scotland, and they were married in 1070 and had eight children. She reformed the royal court, founded monasteries, and supported major reforms of Church life. She died in Edinburgh on 16 November 1093. She is remembered for the happiness of her marriage, for her devotion to prayer and learning, and especially for her generosity to the poor.
In today’s first reading we hear the complaint made that “you have less love now than you used to”. If that was really levelled against us, we would probably be quite concerned. It is possible that the knocks that life invariably throws at us from time to time can potentially make us a bit cynical. The danger of this is that then we can then be potentially less loving towards each other than we ought to be. The author goes on to say that on such occasions we ought to have a change of heart and repent. This can enable us to revert to how we once were.
In today’s Gospel, a blind man seeking help from Jesus calls out: “Jesus son of David, have mercy on me”. This shows that although physically blind, the man has great insight because in connecting Jesus as related to David, he recognises Jesus as the Messiah. In asking for Jesus to show mercy on him shows he has great faith and trust in God. Jesus does indeed restore his sight and tells him that his faith has saved him. The man we are told gives praise to God and follows Jesus.
May we have the faith and insight of the blind man to recognise our need for Christ in our own lives. This will enable us to see, like St Margaret, the presence of Christ all around us and especially in the poor and needy.
Thought for the day ~ Saturday 14th November 2020
In today’s First reading, John tells us to be welcoming of missionaries and to share in their work. It gets to me think today about the Vincentian Fathers, who are also known as “the Congregation of the Mission”. That is why they would write C.M after their name. We are very blessed to have the presence of Fr Emmanuel in our parish. It was lovely and highly appropriate that Fr Emmanuel was recently able to celebrate the live-streamed Mass from St Mary’s, on 27th September, which is the feast of their founder St Vincent de Paul. We are privileged to enjoy his infectious enthusiasm and love for the Lord. We have of course also had the services of Fr Lawrence and Fr Benneth in the last couple of years and they also made a good contribution to our community. As a Parish Priest, I can honestly say the Vincentians are all really great to work with It takes great courage to desire to bring the Gospel to people of a different language and culture to yourself.
As a Diocesan priest, I have family within fifty miles of where I am currently based and so can maintain contact with them very readily. Imagine what is like for our Vincentian missionaries who are some 5000 miles away from their family. The Vincentians very much bring a missionary dimension to their ministry. Let us continue to welcome our missionary Vincentians Fathers by encouraging them and praying for them.
Thought for the day ~ Friday 13th November
Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini was born in 1850 Lombardy, the youngest of thirteen children. Because of her frail health she was refused admission to two convents. She devoted herself to teaching, and founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, whose aim is to spread devotion to the Heart of Jesus by spiritual and corporal works of mercy, running homes for the old and the sick, orphanages, and schools. In 1889 the Pope sent her to New York, where she founded an orphanage. In all she founded 67 institutions across the United States, South America and Europe. She died of malaria at Chicago in 1917.
In today’s Gospel we are warned about thinking that the whole of lives is about eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, marrying and maintaining our relationships. These kind of activities are of course central to human life and are vitally important. However we must see that there is more to life than just these activities, important as they are. We are to look for the presence of God in all his creation and see through our eyes of faith that he is at work in them all.
We are also reminded in the Gospel that we will encounter the Son of Man fully at the end of our lives and of course at the end of time. He is of course also present in our daily lives and we are invited to engage with him. He is a quiet presence as we go about whatever we do. We need to believe this and respond accordingly to his divine presence in our daily lives.
St John reminds us in today’s first reading that we are to love one another ~ this is the most important commandment and one that can be lived out by acknowledging that in Jesus Christ, the Word became flesh. May we ensure therefore that Our faith in the Risen Lord drives us to desire to have love at the core of all that we do.
Thought for the Day ~ Thursday 12th November 2020
Today we celebrate the feast of St Josaphat who was born in 1580 in the Ukraine of Orthodox parents. In 1595 the Union of Brest brought the Ruthenian Church into communion with Catholic Rome while still preserving its own liturgy. The result was a schism within the church itself, with one party wanting to remain Orthodox and in the orbit of Moscow and Constantinople, while the other accepted the Union. Matters were complicated by the presence of the Greek Uniates, a remnant of a century-old attempt at church union (who remain a living church to this day).
Josaphat joined the first monastery of the order of St Basil to be united to the Catholic Church: he was the first person to do so. He was ordained priest and, eventually and reluctantly, appointed bishop of Polotsk in 1617. Although Sigismund III Vasa, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, supported the union, the local aristocracy were against it because it threatened their control of ecclesiastical benefices. Plotting with the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, who visited the Ukraine in 1621, they stirred up trouble and as a result Josaphat was murdered by a mob in 1623 while on a pastoral visit to Vitebsk.
In today’s Gospel the Pharisees ask Jesus about when the Kingdom of God will come. When Jesus says that “the Kingdom of God is among you,’ he was making reference to all that was happening in his own ministry, his teachings, his parables and his miracles, God was at work among them but many people including the Pharisees could not see it. However they are missing the point . The Kingdom of God is already in our midst and it finds its home within us. Establishing the Kingdom within our hearts prepares us for the promise of eternal life. The Kingdom strengthens us for the distractions and temptations that do come our way.
Like St Josaphat may our hearts provide a welcome home for the Kingdom of God. May our actions, words and faithfulness to the Gospel allow us to bring Christ to others, particularly to the lost and the needy.
Thought for the Day ~ Wednesday 11th November 2020
Today is the feast of St Martin of Tours who was born in the Roman province of Pannonia (approximating to the western half of modern Hungary) in about 316 and was educated at Pavia in Italy. He was baptized, left the army and after spending some time as a hermit on an island off the Ligurian coast, founded a monastery at Ligugé in western France, where he lived a monastic life guided by St Hilary. Later he was ordained priest and became bishop of Tours. In his actions he gave an example of what a good shepherd should be. He founded other monasteries, educated the clergy, and preached thenGospel to the poor. He died in 397. The famous story about St Martin is that while a soldier in Amiens he gave half of his military cloak to a beggar and later had a dream in which the beggar revealed himself as Christ.
Today is Armistice d ay and we remember all those who died in twoWorld Wars and other conflicts. Grateful people remember the good that has been done for them, ungrateful people tend to forget. It is a good thing therefore to remember to be thankful today for the peace we enjoy thanks to the generosity of those who fought for our freedom.
In today’s Gospel, ten lepers approach Jesus and he sends them off to find the priest, which they were required to do in order to be reinstated into the community. On their way they realise they have been cured but only one of them, a Samaritan, decides to turn back and go and thank Jesus. Jesus is pleased with the man who comes back to praise God for his healing. However he expresses his disappointment at the other nine who do not come back.
My Spiritual Director, who is also a Parish Priest in the Archdiocese of Liverpool always has on display in his office all the “Thank you” cards that he has received from people in acknowledgement of the baptisms, weddings and funerals and other occasions when he has served his parishioners. He says he does this to remind him when life is challenging of how appreciated he really is.
On this feast of St Martin of Tours may we also be as generous as he was, especially to the poor and needy. May we always try to be grateful people who remember to show appreciation to all those who serve us. May we always show our appreciation to the Lord in our faithfulness to our worship and prayer.
Thought for the day ~ Tuesday 10 November 2020
We celebrate today the feast of Pope St Leo the Great who was born in Etruria and became Pope in 440. He was a true shepherd and father of souls. He constantly strove to keep the faith whole and strenuously defended the unity of the Church. He repelled the invasions of the barbarians or alleviated their effects, famously persuading Attila the Hun not to march on Rome in 452, and preventing the invading Vandals from massacring the population in 455. Leo left many doctrinal and spiritual writings behind and a number of them are included in the Office of Readings to this day. He died in 461.
In today’s first reading, St Paul urges Titus to preach that people should live in accordance with what he is teaching them. He says for example that men of all ages should be moderate. I think this means that they should do all things in moderation and avoid being extreme in their views and their actions. Being moderate means they are to be balanced in their judgements, be willing to give the benefit of the doubt and being fair in their dealings with others. He says that the older woman should be examples to the younger women . He also says that the younger women are to be sensible and gentle. Being sensible means to be able to make wise decisions which does always mean choosing the easy or obvious choices. To come across as gentle means we have to be very strong ion the inside. These are of course values that we genuinely value when we find them in others.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us we are to be humble in our acts of service. He says we see ourselves merely as servants, doing “no more than our duty”. We should not be carrying out our acts of service and kindness with a view to receiving gratitude. However we should carry out our duties for the Lord and be grateful ourselves for all the blessings we have received and continue to receive.
Thought for the day ~ Monday 9th November 2020
Today is the feast of the dedication of the Lateran Basilica. The Lateran Basilica was built by the Emperor Constantine on the Lateran Hill in Rome in about 324.
The feast of its dedication has been celebrated in Rome on this date since the twelfth century. In honour of the basilica, “the mother and head of all the churches of the City and the World,” the feast has been extended to the whole Roman Rite as a sign of unity and love towards the See of Peter, which, as St Ignatius of Antioch said in the second century, “presides over the whole assembly of charity.
In today’s first reading St Paul speaks of us being God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells on us. The Prayer of Exorcism before a child is baptised speaks of them becoming a temple of God’s glory, because they are to receive the Holy Spirit for the first time. It is believers filled with the Holy Spirit who fill our churches with the Spirit of God.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus cleanses the Temple of commercial activity that is not fitting for the House of God. Then speaking of His Death and Resurrection says that He will rebuild the temple of His body in three days should it be destroyed. The basilica of St John Lateran in Rome is the mother church for the world. Therefore today’s feast reminds us that we belong to a large family, the universal family of the Church. It should remind us of our unity with the Holy Father and Rome. It is great to know that as a result of our baptism we receive brothers and sisters in almost every country in the world. Even in these times when public Masses and services are temporarily not permitted, may the universal Catholic Church which unites all believers enable us play our part in building the Kingdom of God in our own local community through humble and faithful prayer and worship.
Thought for the Day ~ Saturday 7th November 2020
Today marks the feast of st Willibrord who was born in 658 in Yorkshire and after being a pupil of St Wilfrid, studied for twelve years at Rathmelsige in Ireland, where he was ordained priest. He returned to England but set out again in 690 to evangelize Frisia. He was ordained bishop by Pope Sergius in 695 and founded the metropolitan see of Utrecht in the Netherlands. He preached the Gospel in Denmark and North Germany and founded several dioceses and monasteries in the Netherlands and Luxembourg. He died at Echternach in Luxembourg in 739. He was the first of the great Anglo- Saxon missionaries to Europe and is remembered not just for his devotion in preaching the Gospel but also for his joyfulness of character and his holiness of life.
Today’s Gospel is about having love for money. Coincidentally I have just discovered today that someone has fraudentally used my personal bank card details to pay their bills. With being ill and isolating during most of October, I did not go anywhere near a bank for a while, so I did not notice the fraud until the bank statement arrived today. I am amazed at how accepting my bank were in trusting my word when I reported the theft to them and that they will reimburse the full amount into my account. The matter is of course being referred to the police. I know that we live in difficult economic times and some people are resorting to crime out of desperation to keep their heads above water, but it is obviously sad when this happens.
Jesus says the man who can be trusted in little things can be trusted in great; and the one who is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in great. He goes on to describe money as tainted and says that if we can be trusted with money then we can be trusted with more important things. Trust is a verymimportant thing for all of us. Trust is like a very fine thread and once it is broken then it is very hard to win it back. There are lots of ways that we receive someone’s trust. For example we trust someone to keep a confidence or to carry out an important task for us. Let us reflect on all the little things that we are entrusted with and strive to do them to the best of our ability. May we never take that trust for granted. Let us particularly reflect on the gift of faith that has been entrusted to us to ensure that it continues to grow to its full potential despite the little knocks that real life occasionally throws at us.
So we are in lockdown again, with the churches currently unable to offer public Masses and Services. This is not quite the same as the lockdown in March and April this year. There are some differences in the approach from the Government towards the churches. We can still open for funerals and also for private prayer, however in acknowledgement of all the good that Churches have done during the Pandemic, we are also encouraged to carry on with all the outreach and practical help that we offer as Church. Hard as it is going to be, perhaps we need to have a different mindset during this second national lockdown.
In the last public Mass on Wednesday at St Mary’s on Wednesday Fr Damien encouraged us to see this lockdown as an extension to Advent which it will take us up to. In doing this we can use this new lockdown period as a time to stop and reflect on our lives and how we can prepare for allow God to come more intimately into our lives this Christmas.
The parable in today’s Gospel can be a little confusing at first hearing. Surely Jesus is not advocating us to be dishonest? However he is trying to highlight how we can be astute and cunning as regards our dealings with money. He admires the dishonest steward for his quick thinking in being able to use money something that is tainted to help him win friends and trust in the future. He says that worldly people put their energy, intelligence and desire in an intense way into achieving popularity, wealth and comfort. It is that same intensity of desire that he urges his followers to have in pursuing spiritual pursuits. Jesus urges us channel our ingenuity and intelligence into things that have eternal value to us, rather than invest our energy into material wealth which is only of value to us in this life.
Thought for the day ~ Thursday 5th November 2020
I am always losing things; keys are my speciality! I have lost count of the number of them I have lost over the years! Most recently I mislaid my much-needed spectacles and they can only be in the house because I had been nowhere else: after looking everywhere, I didn’t find them so now I have a new pair! I spend large chunks of time searching for things that I have lost , and usually I am very happy and relieved to be reunited with the lost object. Putting energy into looking and searching for something of value is never a waste of time.
In today’s Gospel Jesus gives two parables in answer to the question from the Pharisees as to why he welcomes and eats with sinners. They are both about searching for something that was lost; a sheep and a coin and both parables conclude with the deep joy felt by the successful searcher that they wanted to share the good news with their friends and neighbours.
God wants none of us to be lost from him; he is constantly yearning to seek us out when we wander away from him through selfishness and sin. He will give us every opportunity to repent of our sins and come back to him. He is overjoyed when we turn back to him and are restored in his love. Jesus says that there is more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety nine virtuous men”. St Augustine was fairly late in coming to his faith and he said that “My heart will not rest until it rests in you”. As humans we can tend to be searching for meaning in life and we often look in the wrong places and will end up disappointed. If like St Augustine our searching leads us to God we will find rest and peace for our weary hearts.
Thought for the day ~ Wednesday 4th November 2020
Today is the feast of St Charles Borromeo, a leading figure of the Catholic Reformation. He was born in 1538 in a castle on the shores of Lake Maggiore in northern Italy, to a powerful family. He was related to the Medici through his mother. As the second son, he was destined for a career in the Church from an early age. He received a doctorate in civil and canon law at the University of Pavia, and when his uncle was elected Pope Pius IV in 1559 he was summoned to Rome and made a cardinal. Among many other responsibilties he was made administrator of the vacant diocese of Milan and protector of the Catholic cantons of Switzerland and of the Franciscans and the Carmelites.
He played a large part in the diplomatic efforts that led to the re-opening in 1562 of the reforming Council of Trent, which had been suspended since 1552. Eventually, in 1563, he was secretly ordained a priest. He was soon consecrated as Archbishop of Milan, but the Pope would not let him leave Rome because he was needed there. He worked on the catechism, the Missal and the Breviary, and reformed his own diocese as well as he could from a distance through trusted deputies.
He was very kind to the poor and the sick and helped establish catachesis of children. He faced much opposition including threats in his attempts to reform the Church but this did not diminish his resolve to see things through. Charles died on 3 November 1584 at the age of 46.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus says that his followers must make a priority of loving God above all else. He asks us to be whole-hearted not half-hearted in our response to his love for us. He says there is a need to take up our cross each day ~ this means to live a life of generous giving and be prepared to suffer in the cause of what is right just as He would have to by facing His Passion and Death.
In his words to the Philippians in the first reading, when he speaks of his life being “poured out as a libation”, St Paul alludes to his own imminent death. He speaks of having no regrets about his faithfulness to Christ. He encourages the new Christians to stay away from bickering and arguing and thereby create a community founded on a shared spirit of service and goodwill.
May St Charles and all the saints gently urge us on to be faithful to Christ, to not count the cost but play our part to the full in building the Kingdom of God.
Thought for the day ~ Tuesday 3rd November 2020
Today is the feast of St Martin de Porres, who was born in Lima in Peru in 1579, the illegitimate son of a Spanish nobleman and a black ex-slave. His mother gave him a Christian education and he became a pharmacist and a nurse. Despite his father’s opposition he entered the Dominican Order as a lay brother in 1603 and spent his life working for the sick and the poor. Many people of all ranks would come to him for advice. He had a great devotion to the Holy Eucharist. He died in 1639 and has been named as a patron saint of those of mixed race.
It is on the occasion of a dinner party to which Jesus was invited, that he chooses to tell the parable of the wedding banquet that we hear in today’s Gospel. The message is clear; that those who took the invitation to the banquet too casually will lose their right to attend and instead their places are offered to those whom they might consider inferior and unworthy.
We have been given an invitation to the Heavenly Banquet and the way to accept it is to be faithful to the Gospel and the teachings of the Lord and His Church. In today’s Gospel those invited make excuses as to why they cannot attend the Wedding Banquet ~ some of them are no doubt genuine. We can also make excuses as to why we don’t respond to the invitation to the Heavenly Banquet; we can get caught up in worldly things, experience distractions or simply not make a priority of following the Lord.
May St Martin and all the saints urge us to respond to the Lord’s invitation to eternal life by being faithful to the life of grace that is offered to us.
Thought for the Day - Monday 2nd November 2020
On this All Souls Day, the Church remembers and prays for all those who have gone before us in death. We remember family members, friends, people we have worked with, people we have known over the years. We remember those who had some part in our lives and we should not forget those who were not important to us.
Our faith consoles us and strengthens us because we believe in eternal life. Jesus died on the cross for our salvation. He has been raised up in glory. He is the first fruits of the glory which awaits all of us. Reflecting on death and eternal life gives meaning and purpose to this life on earth. From all eternity God has destined us to be here in this world at this particular moment in the circumstances in which we find ourselves.
Being honest we know that we are imperfect human beings that often we sin and need to end each day asking God mercy for our imperfections and sins. After a good night’s sleep we begin again the next day. Each day is a new day in the Lord. But we are human beings and when we come to the end of our lives on earth we die in a state of imperfection. As we enter into eternity we need to be purified. It is an act of God’s love completing our salvation, purifying us for glory. It is a purification, not a punishment. It is an act of God’s saving love, preparing us to enter into heaven.
Eternal rest O Lord and Let perpetual light shine upon them …May they rest in peace.
Thought for the day ~ Saturday 31st October 2020
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is having a meal at the house of a Pharisee and he told the parable about seats at wedding feast. This is very practical advice and if we follow it we know that the chances of us being shamed for assuming we are more important than others is greatly reduced.
The parable reminds me of going to an ordination of a priest in the Diocese in a very small church and obviously space for the large number of concelebrants was at a real premium. As I made my way onto the sanctuary I headed for a vacant seat only to be told a few moments later that it had been reserved for the Dean. I ended up getting a seat in a store room facing a wall and thus saw nothing but I did manage to hear everything. I can laugh at that episode now but it was definitely a sobering and humbling experience for me that hopefully I have learned from.
Putting others first is a good philosophy to adopt and one that resonates very much with the commandment to love our neighbour. Everyone is equal in the sight of God so it is wise to remember that and avoid situations where our pride takes a tumble.
Thought for the day ~ Friday 30th October 2020
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is at a dinner in a house on the Sabbath Day with the Pharisees and other devout people. Among those present is a sick man suffering from dropsy, a swelling that is medically called oedema. Jesus asks them whether it is against the law to cure a man on the Sabbath onot. The Pharisees and lawyers present remain silent so Jesus simply heals the man of this condition and sends him on his way. Jesus then points out examples of how people already do things on the sabbath day that are naturally the right thing to do. Jesus simplifies things by saying that it is always the right day or time to do something good for someone or to help them in some way. Our Lord’s way is always to treat others with love and respect regardless of the situation.
This simple approach of Jesus as to the question as to whether or not we should help someone is the right way for us to be thinking too. By his example in today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that it is always the right thing to show love and respect for others and equally its always the right thing to help someone out and do good for them.
The Gospel today speaks very strongly about the cross. When the Pharisees warn him that there are those who want to kill him, he speaks of his impending death and Resurrection in Jerusalem. Using the image of a hen and her chicks, he laments that he is will not succeed until after his Resurrection to gather, unite and nurture those who do not feel they have anything in common with each other. He really pines for the unity that he knows he can achieve but that it will come at the cost of His Passion and painful Death.
Perhaps we can think today of people that we do not feel we have anything in common with because they are different to us. We think of those of other nationalities, generations, postcode, denominations and faiths. These differences can make us a bit fearful of others, but they should instead fill us with great joy.
Let us celebrate that God knows each person intimately and deeply loves all of them even though they are quite different to us.
Thought for the day ~ Wednesday 28 th October 2020
Today is the feast of two of the lesser known Apostles Simon and Jude. Simon is eleventh in the list of the twelve Apostles. He is known as Simon the Zealot, but nothing else is known about him. His other name of “Simon Cananaeus” simply adapts another Hebrew word for “zeal” and has nothing to do with the town of Cana. St Jude, also called Thaddaeus, is the apostle who at the Last Supper asked the Lord why he showed himself only to the disciples and not to the world. For many centuries he was scarcely venerated because people confused him with Judas Iscariot. He is the patron saint of lost and desperate causes and many of us have turned to him for help when situations seem hopeless.
Despite the little we know about these two saints, the most important thing about them is that as Apostles they are part of a building that has the Apostles and Prophets as its foundation. We hear in today’s Gospel, that they were chosen by Jesus after he had had spent the whole night in prayer. Essentially, they were chosen by Jesus to be witnesses to his Resurrection and sent out by Him to proclaim the Gospel, build the Kingdom of God and establish his Church.
Like Jesus we should also turn to God in prayer at key moments in our lives. It is always wise to bring the Lord into such moments in our lives especially before we make important decisions. By doing this we are showing that we trust in the help the Lord can give and be ensured of his strength and guidance.
Thought for the day ~ Tuesday 27th October 2020
Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a tiny mustard seed growing into a huge tree that gives shelter to the birds of the air.
This of course is true for many aspects of nature including human life ~ how a tiny baby can grow into a full-sized adult. Quite often we find in life that something on the surface very small and insignificant can grow into something huge. Many successful and ambitious projects start off initially with just the tiny germ of an idea.
An example of this is our new parish outdoor crib to be placed in December on Yorkshire St, outside St Mary’s. It started off as just as a casual suggestion from my friend Fr Martin from Newcastle when he was visiting Burnley in January. I liked the idea and mentioned this to some parishioners. We are fortunate to have been donated a lovely set of crib figures that for many years served the recently closed St Mary’s church in Oldham. Some of the beautiful figures have needed a little bit of nurturing and restoring by one of our talented parishioners. Recently I have been privy to seeing the impressive hand made crib after several weeks of hard work by a small team of parishioners. With the restrictions caused by Covid upon our churches and community, our brand new beautiful outdoor crib will hopefully be a rich source of great joy and light for a large number of people in our town this Christmas. This lovely project started off as just a tiny germ of an idea from my friend and I am confident it is going to really be something significant to look forward to.
Thought for the day ~ Monday 26th October 2020
Today is the feast of Ss Chad and Cedd. Chad was educated at Lindisfarne under Aidan. He became abbot of Lastingham and was chosen to be bishop of Northumbria, but St Wilfrid contested his appointment, and Chad obediently withdrew. He was then sent as bishop to Mercia, where he founded the see of Lichfield. His ministry there was very short (he died at Lichfield on 2 March 672), but he was immediately revered as a saint because of the holiness of his life, his outstanding humility, and his dedication to preaching of the Gospel.
Like his brother Chad, Cedd was educated at Lindisfarne under Aidan. He founded many monasteries and was sent as a bishop to evangelize the East Saxons. He established his see at Bradwell in Essex. He died at his monastery at Lastingham in Yorkshire on 26 October 664, of the plague.
Today’s extract from the letter to the Ephesians speaks of living as “children of light”. We are to do this by staying away from greed, impurity and vulgar talk. Instead we are called to be kind, tender-hearted and forgiving of each other. When someone is baptised, they have a candle lit from the Paschal Candle which speaks of them being given the promise of eternal life. The prayer that goes with this ritual calls the newly baptised “a child of the light” and bids them to “ keep the flame of faith alive in their heart” so that when the Lord comes they may go out to meet Him.
In today’s Gospel, much to the annoyance of the synagogue leader, Jesus heals on the sabbath, a woman who has been bent double for years by his words and his healing touch. Jesus, without doing a disservice to the sacredness of the sabbath day, does this act of mercy to show that God can be at work doing good at anytime. May Ss Chad and Cedd encourage us on our road to join them and all the saints in eternity through ourselves bringing light to those in darkness through our faithfulness to the Lord and our loving service to one another.
Thought for the day ~ Saturday 24th October 2020
Today we keep the feast of St Anthony Mary Claret, who was born at Sallent in Catalonia in 1807. After becoming a priest he spent several years preaching to the people throughout Catalonia and also in the Canary Islands. Returning to Spain, he established a missionary order, and founded a great religious library and publishing house in Barcelona which published millions of cheap copies of ancient and modern Catholic works. In 1851 the Pope appointed him Bishop of Santiago de Cuba. The diocese was in a terrible state and everything needed reform and renewal. He reorganised the seminary, enforced clerical discipline, and regularised thousands of marriages. He built a hospital and many schools. This was not done without opposition and he was the subject of fifteen assassination attempts. Recalled to Spain in 1857 by Queen Isabella II to act as her confessor, he did further great work for the Church. His health began to fail, and he died in 1870 at the Cistercian abbey at Fontfroide.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells the parable of the fig tree that has failed to produce fruit for three years. The gardener pleads with the vineyard owner when he asks him to chop the tree down and asks that it be given another year, that with some extra nurturing and attention might result in it producing fruit then. We are like the unproductive fig tree when we live lives that are held back by sin and selfishness, rather than embracing the life of grace, which can produce so much “fruit” for the Lord. Jesus is like the gardener who pleads for us on our behalf. He offers us another chance to change and move away from our sins and to instead lead more fruitful lives. The important thing for us is that we must take the chance to change when it is offered. The best way for us to receive the help we need from Christ is to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation, whereby the certainty of knowing are all our sins are forgiven. This is supplemented with the gift of grace to enable us to remain close to Christ and live a more wholesome life.
Today is the feast of St John of Capistrano, who was born in Capistrano in the Abruzzi in 1386. He studied law at Perugia and for some time held the office of a judge. He joined the Friars Minor and was ordained. He travelled throughout Germany, Poland, Transylvania, Moldavia, and Russia, leading an apostolic life, strengthening Christian morals and combating heresy.
When the Turks were invading Europe in the wake of the fall of Constantinople, they laid siege to Belgrade, then a border fort of the kingdom of Hungary. John preached a crusade against them and took part in the battle on 22 July 1456 in which John Hunyadi, his army and John’s peasant crusaders lifted the siege and defeated the Turks, keeping Christian Europe safe from Turkish invasion for the next 70 years. Plague spread through the camp and John died of it, at Ilok, in what is now Croatia, on 23 October 1456. He is the patron saint of military chaplains.
In the letter to the Ephesians, we hear of what unites us in the Christian life. We are called to look at what we have in common rather than zoom in on what divides us. We are invited therefore to “spiritual poverty” and to be utterly selfless ~ putting the needs of other people first rather than giving priority to our own desires. We are also called to be gentle, which is a great gift that is much appreciated and valued because it requires great inner strength in order to come across as outwardly gentle. The other quality that we should strive for is patience, which is something that all of us can lack from time to time; it call for great self-control in order to wait for others around us to take the time they need to complete what they are to do. Our Lord was utterly patient, selfless and gentle and so in order to show practical love we are also called to be Christ -like in order to establish togetherness within our families and communities.
Thought for the day ~ Thursday 22nd October 2020
Today is the feast of St john Paul II. Karol Józef Wojtyła was born in 1920 in Wadowice, Poland. After his ordination to the priesthood and theological studies in Rome, he returned to his homeland and resumed various pastoral and academic tasks. He became first auxiliary bishop and, in 1964, Archbishop of and took part in the Second Vatican Council. On 16 October 1978 he was elected pope and took the name John Paul II. His exceptional apostolic zeal, particularly for families, young people and the sick, led him to numerous pastoral visits throughout the world including his historic visit the UK in May 1982. Among the many fruits which he has left as a heritage to the Church are above all his rich teaching and the introduction of the Catechism of the Catholic Church as well as the Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church and for the Eastern Churches. In Rome on 2nd April 2005, the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday, he departed peacefully in the Lord. He was canonized by Pope Francis on 27 April, the Second Sunday of Easter 2014. Unlike many of the saints, John Paul II is known to many of us because he lived during our life-time, but also because he went to extraordinary lengths to reach out to many countries in the world. I remember a very enjoyable and powerful pilgrimage with the priests of our Diocese a few years ago, which was “in the footsteps” of John Paul II, where we visited among other places Wadowice, the Divine Mercy shrine and Kraków.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of him bringing fire to the earth. He is speaking of his coming Passion, Death and Resurrection. Fire is a symbol of change and renewal: after a fire everything has to be renewed, things are never the same again.
For those who follow Christ, the promise of renewal is not frightening but exciting. John Paul II’s deep love for the Lord courageously led him to fearlessly bring the Gospel to many parts of the world. May his prayers inspire us to be equally courageous in these uncertain times by having utter confidence and trust in Christ, our loving and merciful Redeemer.
Thought for the day ~ Wednesday 21 October 2020
A lot of things have happened during this year that I did not expect: the lockdown and the churches being closed for three months, catching the virus myself and all the other changes that we have faced. We don’t really like the unexpected to happen because its beyond our control. Our faith tells us that we should not be afraid because God is close to us and is always at our side, which is certainly a huge help in such uncertain times. On the other hand, we are also people who like surprises and like to be surprised; it might be a gift from someone to show their appreciation; meeting someone who inspires us or some event that changes the direction of our lives for the better. Such occurrences again are often out of our control but nevertheless such joyful surprises add excitement to the routine of our daily living.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us to expect the unexpected: he tells us to stand ready because the Son of Man is coming at an hour we do not expect. This speaks of the uncertainties and surprises that life occasionally throws at us. It also speaks of the likelihood of our own death and the death of those we love. This means that we should always be alert and ready for the Lord through solid commitment to living out the Gospel. The best way to deal with the lack of control over our lives is to hand over complete control to the Lord. The trust that we have in God then totally frees us from fear of the unexpected.
Thought for the day ~ Tuesday 20th October 2020
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us a parable whereby we are called to be like faithful servants awaiting the return of the Master of the house. We are told that if the Master finds his servants ready to open the door to him no matter what time of day or night he returns, he will amazingly reverse roles and get the servants to sit at the table while he serves a meal to them. The master serving them is their reward for their faithfulness in service to him. This of course has resonances of what Jesus did at the Last Supper when he took on the role of a servant to show his love for the disciples by washing their feet.
The parable speaks of our call to faithfulness. It is important for us to be always faithful to serving the Lord and one another. It is so easy to be distracted from living the Christian life and take our eye off the goal of always being ready for the Lord. These distractions can come in the form of giving in to temptation to sin; being caught up in pursuits that lead us away from the path to God; or perhaps allowing apathy or other human frailties to get in the way of our mission to love and serve the Lord. All the times when we put the love of God and service of our neighbour before satisfying our own desires will bring great joy to the Lord.
Thought for the day ~ Monday 19th October 2020
It is wonderful to be back with you in “thought” after my fairly long lay-off due to illness. I have to say that although I did not get the most severe form of the virus, it really did make me feel quite poorly for a few weeks. Throughout this period I have received tremendous practical support with what I needed in the way of food, drink and medicine from a good number of individuals in the parish and was encouraged that many of you were praying for me.
One of the unique but necessary hardships of this virus is the need to self-isolate and therefore no one could come into the presbytery and help me with something as vital yet simple yet vital as a jug of water or a cup of tea. This was of course unnatural and made looking after myself even harder. Anyway it is behind me now and I am sincerely grateful for all your support and prayers that helped get me through. The whole experience will hopefully make me a wiser, humbler and more grateful person. I am very grateful to Fr Damien and Fr Emmanuel for so ably and willingly keeping things going in the parish throughout my isolation period. I will continue to adopt the “festina lente” philosophy as I gradually but slowly return to some of my priestly duties.
Today we keep the feast of the North American martyrs. Between 1642 and 1649 these eight members of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), who had travelled to North America to preach the true faith, were killed by the native Huron and Iroquois tribes after horrible tortures. Isaac Jogues died on 18 October 1647, and John de Brébeuf on 16 March 1648.
In today’s Gospel we get the parable of the man who built bigger barns to store all his possessions and harvest in adundance and turns to a life of luxury and selfishness. The wise person would have considered sharing their abundance with the poor and needy rather than build bigger barns. Jesus is telling us to not get so caught up with ourselves that we only think of ourselves. We are to persist in doing the right thing which is to show love and need for God and to show practical help and thoughtfulness towards our neighbours.
Thought for the day ~ Saturday 3rd October 2020
We get the conclusion of the story of Job in today’s first reading. At the beginning of the week we heard of Job’s continuing faithfulness to God in the midst of adversity The story ends with Job repenting in sack cloth and ashes for his questioning of God, daring to treat God as an equal. The result is he received an enormous amount of new blessings from God and lived to a happy old age. We are also to keep faith with God in times of trials and to accept the set backs and disappointments as opportunities to grow in faith, humility and love of God.
In today’s Gospel, the disciples return delighted at the reaction they received when they were out on the mission to the people whom Jesus had sent them. He tells them to not rejoice at their successes and achievements but that their names are written in heaven. The whole purpose of Jesus’ mission was to reconcile us to the Father and to offer us salvation where we can see God in eternity in heaven. Our Christian faith should be the driving force in our lives and its main goal.
Let us rejoice at all the blessings in our lives as we acknowledge the source of them all ~ God our loving Father.
Thought for the day Friday 2nd October 2020
Today is the feast of the Guardian Angels. The doctrine that every individual soul has a guardian angel has never been defined by the Church and so is not an article of faith, but is the “mind of the Church”, as expressed particularly by St Jerome and St Basil. It is present in both the Old and New Testaments. As Jesus says, “See that you never despise any of these little ones, for I tell you that their angels in heaven always gaze on the face of my Father in heaven” Thus even little children have guardian angels, and these angels remain in the presence of God even as they fulfil their mission on earth.
The feast reminds us that us that God cares for us each, individually. Deep down we know this to be true but it is quite humbling to think that we matter so much to God that he has appointed an individual angel to help each of us through the tough, dangerous and challenging times.
As I look back over some of the scrapes and challenges that are now thankfully behind me, I can only gratefully and humbly acknowledge that the hand of the Lord was at work at getting me through these often life-defining moments.
Let us use today’s feast to remind ourselves that each of us matter to God . Let us give thanks for our Guardian Angel and humbly give credit to the lord for their occasional and regular interventions and guidance.
Thought for the day ~ Thursday 1st October
Today is the feast of St Therese of Lisieux. Marie-Françoise- Thérèse Martin was born in Alençon, in France, on 2 January 1873. Her mother, when Thérèse was four, and the familymoved to Lisieux. Thérèse became a nun at the Carmelite convent there at the age of 15, after a long battle against the superior, who insisted that 16, or even 21, would be a more sensible age. She died of tuberculosis at the age of 24.
In 1895 Mother Agnès of Jesus, the prioress, had commanded Thérèse to write her memoirs. Writing “not to produce a literary work, but under obedience,” Thérèse took a year to fill six exercise books. She presented them to the prioress, who put them in a drawer unread. A year after Thérèse’s death, the memoirs were published in a small edition of 2,000: This was just the beginning The beatification process opened thirteen years after Thérèse’s death. She was canonized in 1925, the Pope having suspended the rule that forbids canonization less than 50 years after someone’s death.
On 18 October 2015. Their feast day is 12 July. 100 years after Thérèse’s death, Pope John Paul II declared her a Doctor of the Church, joining St Catherine of Siena and St Teresa of Ávila.
In today’s Gospel, we hear of the sending out of disciples by Jesus. The Lord can use our faith and love for him to bring others closer to him. We see this in the extraordinary impact that Therese’s writings quickly had on the world after her death. We never know the fruits that come from our acts of love and service if done with purity of intention for the Lord.
Thérèse’s “Little Way” means trying to put our heart and souls into every small task each day and taking God at his word and letting his love for us wash away our sins and imperfections.
Thought for the day ~ Wednesday 30th September 2020
Today is the feast of St Jerome who He was born in Strido, in Dalmatia. He studied in Rome and was baptized there. He was attracted by the ascetic life and travelled to the East, where he was (unwillingly) ordained a priest. He was recalled to Rome to act as secretary to Pope Damasus, but on the Pope’s death he returned to the East, to Bethlehem, where (with the aid of St Paula and others) he founded a monastery, a hospice, and a school, and settled down to the most important work of his life, the translation of the Bible into Latin, a translation which, with some revisions, is still in use today. He wrote many works of his own, including letters and commentaries on Holy Scripture. When a time of troubles came upon the world, through barbarian invasions, and to the Church, through internal dissension, he helped the refugees and those in need. He died at Bethlehem.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus highlights some of the attributes required of a disciple. In the conversation with the man who says he will follow him wherever he goes, Jesus speaks of the uncertainty of life that goes with being a disciple. This lack of certainty and comfort is overcome by putting our trust in Christ.
The second and third men were both invited by Jesus to follow him. They both give reasons as to not yet being ready to follow him: “bury the dead” or “say goodbye to family”. Jesus is telling us that the call discipleship is a call to be always open to do the will of the Lord and to serve him and in one another. Discipleship, he tells us is costly, in fact it costs us not less than everything.
May St Jerome who faithfully served the Lord in so many ways, enable us to be willing to pay the price for being a Christian; may we be ever ready and willing to trust in the promise of help from Jesus and continue to look forward with Him at our side and not look back.
Thought of the day ~ Tuesday 29th September 2020
Today is the feast of the Archangels: St Michael, St Gabriel and St Raphael. Angels are God’s messengers but when a message of huge significance is needed then an Archangel with a name was sent.
St. Michael is one of the principal angels; his name means one who is like God ~ his name was the war-cry of the good angels in the battle fought in heaven against the enemy and his followers. Four times his name is recorded in Scripture. Michael is sent whenever an act of wondrous power needed to be carried out. We should call upon the help of St Michael when sin seems to be getting the better of us in the daily battle between good and evil for our souls.
St Gabriel whose name means the strength of God, appears in the book of Daniel to explain some of the prophet’s visions, and was also the bearer in Luke’s Gospel, of the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary and the news to Zacchariah about John the Baptist. We think of how like with Mary, God is constantly inviting us to say yes to his Son and to respond daily through a life of faithfulness and love.
St Raphael is found In the Book of Tobit, he is the angel who heals Tobit of his blindness. His name means God heals. The Good Samaritan brought healing to the man he found dying by the side of the road with his healing oil and wine ~ at the core of the Church, is the mission to bring salvation through healing and forgiveness of sin.
May the Archangels make us like God, bring us strength and in these challenging times especially his healing.
Thought for the day ~ Monday 28th September 2020
Today we keep the face of St Wenceslaus, who was born into the Bohemian royal family, and brought up as a Christian by his aunt. When he became king, he worked hard to promote order in his kingdom and the free exercise of Christianity. This raised considerable opposition, and he was eventually murdered by his brother’s henchmen. He was immediately acclaimed as a martyr and is the patron saint of the Czech Republic.
In the first reading, we get the beginning of the Book of Job, to whom we are told a whole spate of terrible misfortunes all happened to his livestock, his staff and his family. However, we are told that throughout all this tragedy Job remained resolute and strong in his faith in God.
In today’s Gospel the disciples tell Jesus that they tried to stop a man who was not of their number acting in the name of Jesus. This prompts Jesus to come out with the powerful words: “Anyone who is not against you is for you”. I think this urges us to look at what we have in common with other people of different faiths and none, as we can always find common ground with everyone. And as regards our fellow Christians of other denominations we should also look at ways we can work together and pray together, rather than concentrate on our differences.
Thought for the day ~ Saturday 26th September 2020
Today is the feast of Our Lady of Walsingham. The shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham in Norfolk was one of the great pilgrimage centres of mediaeval times. The lady of the manor of Walsingham, Richeldis de Faverches, had a vision in which the Virgin Mary instructed her to build in her village an exact replica of the house in Nazareth where the Annunciation had taken place. According to tradition this vision occurred in 1061, although the most likely date for the construction of the shrine is a hundred years later. The original shrine was destroyed at the Reformation, but in the 19th and 20th centuries, pilgrimage to Walsingham was revived not only for Catholics but also for Anglicans.
In the First reading we hear of the Book of Ecclesiastes that there is nothing new under the sun. This is a bit cynical and imply there is no point in trying to be creative original; but the author is urging us to pursue wisdom in this life. If we pursue wisdom this will surely lead us to God and then all our activities in life are worthwhile and have a purpose.
In the Gospel we hear that King Herod was curious about who Jesus was and desired to meet Him. I the Gospels, Herod is portrayed as being rather shallow ~ his curiosity will sadly not lead him to faith in Jesus. This should urge us away from being cynical and strive instead for wisdom ~ if our desire for Wisdom is deeper than mere curiosity then it should lead us to deeper faith in who Jesus is for us and will hopefully result in us wanting to know Him more deeply and be more faithful to his Gospel.
Thought for the day ~ Friday 24th September 2020
We chose the first reading from Mass today to use at my dad’s funeral Mass in April 2015. Forming part of the Wisdom Literature of the Bible, this famous section of the Book of Ecclesiastes speaks of there being a time for every activity under the sun: e.g ”a time to be born …a time to die”. My dad had been a manager on the railways mainly working in his native North East, as well as in Derbyshire and Manchester. One quality I hopefully have picked up from my dad is punctuality: he was very particular about him and the family being on time for everything: my mam was not like that at all, so fortunately he was also very patient! I can’t imagine any of the trains he was responsible for ever being late! Hence the reading about “time” being very fitting for my dad.
The reading does ring true with me because we do find ourselves doing all these different activities at different times in our life. These activities include; “a time to throw stones away and a time to gather stones” and “a time for keeping silent and a time for speaking”. I think the reading asks us to treasure each of the different activities that we have to carry out at different times in our lives and to put our heart and soul into doing them to the best of our ability.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus ask the disciples who they say that he is and we hear Peter say that he believes Jesus to be the Christ the Son of the Living God. At very difficult times in our lives such as the death of a loved one, we will be greatly helped if we too can put Peter’s profession of faith on own lips.
Thought for the day ~ Thursday 24th September 2020
Today is the feast of Our Lady of Walsingham. The shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham in Norfolk was one of the great pilgrimage centres of mediaeval times. The lady of the manor of Walsingham, Richeldis de Faverches, had a vision in which the Virgin Mary instructed her to build in her village an exact replica of the house in Nazareth where the Annunciation had taken place. According to tradition this vision occurred in 1061, although the most likely date for the construction of the shrine is a hundred years later. The original shrine was destroyed at the Reformation, but in the 19th and 20th centuries, pilgrimage to Walsingham was revived not only for Catholics but also for Anglicans.
In the First reading we hear of the Book of Ecclesiastes that there is nothing new under the sun. This is a bit cynical and imply there is no point in trying to be creative original; but the author is urging us to pursue wisdom in this life. If we pursue wisdom this will surely lead us to God and then all our activities in life are worthwhile and have a purpose.
In the Gospel we hear that King Herod was curious about who Jesus was and desired to meet Him. I the Gospels, Herod is portrayed as being rather shallow ~ his curiosity will sadly not lead him to faith in Jesus. This should urge us away from being cynical and strive instead for wisdom ~ if our desire for Wisdom is deeper than mere curiosity then it should lead us to deeper faith in who Jesus is for us and will hopefully result in us wanting to know Him more deeply and be more faithful to his Gospel.
Thought for the day ~ Wednesday 23rd September 2020
Today is the Feast of St Pio of Pietrelcina who is better known as Padre Pio. He was born in 1887 the small village of Pietrelcina in southern Italy, and joined the Capuchin friars at the age of 16. He became a priest seven years later, and spent fifty years at the monastery of San Giovanni Rotondo, where he was very much sought after as a spiritual advisor, confessor, and intercessor. Many miracles were popularly ascribed to him during his lifetime. He died in 1968 a few days after the fiftieth anniversary of his receiving the stigmata, and over 100,000 people attended his funeral.
In today’s first reading from Proverbs, we hear the request of God: “Give me neither riches nor poverty, only my share of bread to eat”. It is indeed wise to pray for not too much not little in order to have what we need and not have too much in abundance.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples as he sends them out on a missionary journey to only take the minimum with them: they have essentially been equipped with his power and his authority. They are will also receive confidence from receiving his love and friendship. If they trust him, then this should suffice for them.
Let us pray for our daily bread, asking the Lord to provide for everyone all that we need for the day that lies ahead: food, love, drink, shelter, friendship and hope.
Thought for the day ~Tuesday 22nd September 2020
The book of Proverbs makes up part of the Wisdom Literature in the Bible. The Proverbs are essentially based on common sense and being credited to Solomon, they are totally founded on God’s Wisdom.
The first reading at Mass today comes from the Book of Proverbs and contains such pearls as: “The hardworking man is thoughtful, and all is gain: too much haste, and all that comes of it is want”. This advises diligence as well as hard work. This makes sense because experience tells us that it never pays to cut corners in any task that we take on whether spiritual or material.
The Gospel speaks of the significance of listening to the Word of God; Jesus tells us that God always imparts wisdom when we receive His Word. Another reason is if we listen and put His Word into practise by being faithful to it then we shall be considered to be as close to Christ as his family.
Let us grow in love and appreciation of Sacred Scripture. May we create and find space in our lives to regularly listen to God’s Word and have the desire and willingness to actively respond to it daily.
Thought for the day ~ Monday 21st September
Today is the feast of St Matthew the Apostle. Matthew was a tax collector, also known as Levi. Jesus called him to be one of the twelve Apostles and he went to proclaim the Gospel and was prepared to die for his faith, he was martyred in…As with all the Apostles the most important thing about Matthew is that he was a witness to the Resurrection of Jesus.
One of my favourite paintings is “The calling of St Matthew” by Carravaggio which is found in the French Church in Rome. In the painting, Matthew is sitting in the customs house with some of his colleagues, dressed in modern dress for the era in which it was painted, and Jesus as well as Peter who are both barefoot and clad in First century dress are shown standing in the Customs House. In the painting Jesus has his arm outstretched and his hand pointing towards Matthew who is pointing towards himself as if to say “do you mean me?” Matthew’s other hand is on the coins on the table, which he and his colleagues are in the throes of counting.
Matthew’s next move will be to let go of the coins and get up from the table, in so doing he is letting go of control of his life and handing over control of it to Jesus. It is a magnificently simple way to depict the enormity and power of Matthew, the tax collector being called to a new life to follow Christ. His positive response will lead to his martyrdom but also his salvation.
Let us pray on this feast day for all whose lives are heading in the wrong direction and they are feeling lost and lonely. May St Matthew who took his chance to change his life when offered it, inspire others to take their opportunity to change with God’s help.
Thought for the day ~ Saturday 19th September 2020
Today we keep the feast of St Theodore of Tarsus who was born in Tarsus, in modern Turkey. A Greek by birth, he became a monk in Italy. He was not ordained priest until at the age of 65 he was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury by Pope Vitalian. He arrived in England in 669 and spent the rest of his life reorganising and reforming the life of the Church throughout the country, holding visitations and synods, establishing new dioceses and a great school at Canterbury, and reconciling divisions between the Celtic and Roman ecclesiastical traditions. He died at Canterbury on 19 September 690. He is remembered for his scholarship and for bringing unity and organisation to a divided Church.
In today’s Gospel we get the parable of the sower. We are very familiar with this parable so it is good to challenge ourselves to really listen to it again in order to catch a fresh message that God may be trying to tell us. The parable reminds us that not all the seed that is sown in a field by the farmer produces a harvest. There are many obstacles and factors that can prevent the seed from being fruitful. It’s the same with the seed of faith, which many outside factors can influence whether or not it bears fruit for us. The equivalent of providing rich soil for the seed of the gift of faith is to live a life nurtured by faithfulness to prayer and the Sacraments prayer as well as truly listening to the Sacred Scriptures.
May the Lord help us to welcome his grace into our lives each day and allow it penetrate the depths of our being so that we may achieve the potential he yearns to achieve in us.
Thought for the day ~ Friday 18th September 2020
In today’s Gospel, we are told that Jesus and the twelve made their way through towns and villages preaching and proclaiming the Good News and the kingdom of God. Various women who had been healed by Jesus accompanied them and supported Jesus and the disciples in his work of preaching. Luke gives the names of these women, whom we are told provided for Jesus and the disciples out of their own resources. This was essential support that Jesus and the disciples would have readily welcomed and appreciated.
We also, like Jesus, need the help and services of others. As followers of Christ, we are also called to serve. Serving calls us to be generous to others and we are asked to give something ourselves; maybe to give our time, share our gifts as well as our resources. We are also asked, like Jesus, to accept that we can’t do everything ourselves. Being served by others calls for humility, but we are to accept the fact that we need the help and support of other people.
Both generosity and humility are vital qualities, which we need in order to live the Christian life. Let us remember that we need others and others need us and that we all have something to give and much to receive. May the Lord give us the wisdom to know when we can give to us and when we need to humbly ask for others to help us.
Thought for the day ~ Thursday 17th September 2020
Today is the feast of St Robert Bellamine, who was born in Montepulciano in 1542 in Tuscany, and became a Jesuit. He taught theology in Rome, and was active in disputation against the Protestants, where his effectiveness was increased by his charity and moderation. He was a moderating influence in the Galileo affair, and gave Galileo much friendly advice. In due course he was nominated a cardinal and archbishop of Capua; but it is for his writings that he is chiefly known. He did not only write controversial works he also wrote two catechisms and some devotional commentaries on the Psalms and on the Seven Last Words. He died in 1621.
One thing that kept my brain going during “the lockdown” was the opportunity each week to catechise two different people by phone. We mainly did this on a Monday morning and so it was a real highlight and joy for me to look forward to each week. One was a lady who was received into the Church on 3rd September: the other is a young man who is to receive Confirmation and First Holy Communion at Mass at St Mary’s this evening. I was amazed at the number of genuinely searching questions the two of them asked me each week of the 24 week course. This is definitely something positive that has come out of the Pandemic.
In today’s Gospel, a woman comes into the house where Jesus was dining and showed great love for Jesus by kissing his feet and anointing them with ointment. The host is not happy with this woman who had a bad reputation for doing this to Jesus. However, Jesus sees her loving behaviour as a sign that she is genuinely sorry for her many sins, which he concludes “must have been forgiven her”.
Let us like Jesus look to give people who have messed up, a second chance. May we also be prepared to show acts of loving kindness to others as a sign that we are sorry for our own sins.
Thought for the day ~ Wednesday 16th September 2020
Today is the feast of St Cornelius and Cyprian. Cornelius was made bishop of the church in Rome in the year 251. He fought against the Novatian schismatics, and established his authority with the aid of Cyprian. The emperor Gallus sent him into exile, and he died at Civitavecchia in June 253. He is buried in Rome.
St Cyprian was born in Carthage and spent most of his life in the practice of the law. He was converted to Christianity, and was made bishop of Carthage in 249. He steered the church through troubled times, including the persecution of the emperor Decius, when he went into hiding so as to be able to continue looking after the church. In 258 the persecution of the emperor Valerian began. Cyprian was first exiled and then, on the 14th of September, executed, after a trial notable for the calm and courtesy shown by both sides. Cyprian’s many letters and treatises shed much light on a formative period in the Church’s history.
In today’s Gospel Jesus expresses his frustration at the refusal of the people to respond to what he was asking of them: he says they are being like children who shout to each other: “We played the pipes for you and you wouldn’t dance”. We are called to respond to the message of Jesus by being faithful to his Gospel message of love.
Appropriately our first reading today just happens to be St. Paul’s famous and beautiful ode to love. He tells us that love is lived out in the nitty gritty of daily life; it is expressed in the form of patience, kindness and refusing to take pleasure when other people mess up. We are also to rejoice in the truth and never be jealous. This wonderful reading is often used at weddings and funerals but we could use it as a regular examination of Conscience. The closer we find ourselves living our lives in accordance with St Paul’s definition of love then the closer we are to Christ.
May St Cornelius and Cyprian encourage us by the example of their love for the Lord, to express our love for Him by showing love to all our brothers and sisters in the everyday details of life.
Thought for the day ~ Tuesday 15th September 2020
Devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows whose feast, we celebrate today, flourished in the Middle Ages. The hymn “Stabat Mater” was composed specially for this feast. Although it is officially celebrated today, the day after the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, popular devotion in many parts of the Mediterranean celebrates it with processions on the Friday before Holy Week.
As humans we are encouraged to love other people and so we give our hearts to others, out of love. Although this is a good thing, it does however make us vulnerable because it is inevitable that we are going to end up getting our hearts broken by someone we love. On the day of the Presentation of the Lord, Simeon prophesied that a sword will pierce Mary’s heart. Surely on the first Good Friday, as she was there at the foot of the Cross, Mary’s heart was pierced with a sword. In other words, her heart was broken at seeing her son suffer so terrible.
When we are feeling broken hearted, let us turn to Our Lady of Sorrows who will comfort us and reassure us of the Divine love of her son for us.
Thought for the day ~ Monday 14th September 2020
Today is the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross ~ instead of seeing the Cross as a failure , we see the Cross as a triumph of love and goodness over sin, hatred and death.
In today’s first reading, the Chosen People are infested with fiery snakes, which brought a great deal of death. Moses is instructed by God to make bronze serpent on a standard and all those who were bitten by the snakes and looked at the bronze serpent lived. This foreshadows the Cross, because those who look upon the Cross will be saved from their sins and will live forever. Jesus is the one we believe who brings eternal life, which was bought at a great cost through his Passion and death on the Cross. Just as God in the desert transformed the symbol of death into a symbol of life, so too with the Cross does Christ transform the symbol of horrific execution into a powerful symbol of life, salvation and hope.
In the beautiful passage from John’s Gospel. We are reminded that the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross was the fruit of God’s great love for the world. He says that all who believe in God’s Son may not be lost but may have eternal life. For me the Cross is a symbol both of love and of forgiveness. It speaks of the utter generosity and love that God has for us in giving His only Son to us.
Thought for the day ~ Saturday 12 th September
In the presbytery garden at St Mary’s, we have two plum trees. In my two years plus here, they have already had two bumper crops and one fallow year. They really are the sweetest and loveliest plums I have tasted. This year, I invited a few people to pick them and everyone was delighted with what they got. I recently tried my hand at making a plum crumble and Fr Damien and I really enjoyed it.
However, it looks like we will have to wait a couple of years for the next good crop. In today’s Gospel, Jesus says that we should strive to be like sound trees that produce good fruit. I am certain that the plum trees at St Mary’s are sound because they yield delicious fruit. Jesus is talking of the importance in ensuring that our interior lives are wholesome and nourished on God’s Word. Just as fruit trees need to be nurtured, watered and receive plenty of sunlight, so also do our souls need to be nurtured by listening and reflecting on God’s Word and by remaining close to Christ through a life of prayer and faithfulness to the Sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation.
Today is the feast of the Holy Name of Mary. Our Lady’s name is most deserving of being respected and revered because of the fact the Lord chose her for such a significant role in the story of our salvation. It is good to have a day to reflect on how respectful and appreciative we are in using the name of Our Lady in our words and in our prayers. She certainly bore great fruits in her life through her faithfulness to God and her Son. Through the Holy Name of Mary may we also produce many good fruits for her Son, Jesus.
Thought for the day ~ Thursday 10 th September
Today is the feast of St Ambrose Barlow, who is a patron of our Diocese. Ambrose was born at Barlow Hall, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, near Manchester in 1585. He was the fourth son of the nobleman Sir Alexander Barlow and his wife Mary. His family suffered for adhering to the Catholic faith. In 1597, Ambrose was taken into the stewardship of a relative who would care for him whilst he served out his apprenticeship as a page.
However, upon completing this service, Ambrose realised that his true vocation was for the Catholic priesthood, so he trained at both Douai in France and at Valladolid in Spain. In 1615, he returned to Douai where he became a member of the Order of Saint Benedict and was ordained as a priest in 1617. He then returned to Morley’s Hall, Astley. From there he looked after the local Catholics. He would often visit his cousins, the Downes, at their residence of Wardley Hall and celebrate Mass for the gathered congregation. He was arrested several times during his travels. On 25 April 1641, Easter Sunday, Ambrose was arrested for the last time and taken to Lancaster Castle. He appeared before the presiding judge, Sir Robert Heath, on the 7 September when he professed his adherence to the Catholic faith and defended his actions. On 10 th September, he was taken from Lancaster Castle and executed.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks to his disciples of the persecution that will be inevitable for his followers. He himself will face his Passion and death. He prophesied that most of the Apostles will be martyred, to bear witness to their faith in him. He tells them that they will have to face having to give an account of themselves as “they will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness…”. He reassures them not to worry about what to say when they are in such situations because the Holy Spirit will speak in them. As we know, St Ambrose confidently professed his Catholic faith when held to account.
May we always appreciate the freedom we enjoy today to celebrate our Catholic faith in this country. May we never forget the faith of the English martyrs who like St Ambrose Barlow bravely helped to keep the faith alive in our part of England.
Thought for the day ~ Wednesday 9th September 2020
Today is the feast of St Peter Claver, who was born in Catalonia in 1581 and studied at the university of Barcelona. He became a Jesuit and was encouraged to evangelise the New World. He arrived in what is now Columbia in 1610 and worked to meet the spiritual and materials needs of the slaves for some thirty three years. He brought fresh food to the slave-ships and baptised them in the faith. He followed their progress and kept track of them even when they were sent to the mines and plantations. He also defended them as best he could from oppressive slave-owners. He organised teams of catechists who spoke the many languages that the slaves spoke. He worked in hospitals and prisons and was particularly caring to the lepers. His work attracted criticism from within and outside of the Church. At the end of his life, he fell ill with a degenerative disease and for four years was treated neglectfully and brutally by the servant whose task it was to look after him. He died in 1654.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus offers hope to the poor and the hungry, the sad and those who suffer. He tells the poor that the Kingdom of God belongs to them: He tells the hungry that they will be satisfied and that those who currently weep will laugh. St Peter Claver would have heard these words of Our Lord and been inspired to bring about this vision of hope through his loving service of the slaves, those for whom society had little respect.
May we foster also the spirit of St Peter Claver and always be willing to share from our abundance with those in our own day, who are poor, hungry and sorrowful.
Thought for the day ~ Tuesday 8th September 2020
Today is the feast of the Birthday of Our Blessed Lady. It is celebrated nine months after the Feast of The Immaculate Conception, which celebrates Mary’s own conception being free from sin. The first reading contains Micah’s prophecy that the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem and “His origin goes back to distant times, to the days of old”. It also speaks of “she who is to give birth, gives birth”. This for all speaks of Our Lord and Mary, the Mother of Jesus.
The Gospel gives the genealogy of Jesus and starts by calling him the Son of David and Abraham and concludes with reference to Joseph, “the husband of Mary of whom was born Jesus who is the Christ.” It is right that we celebrate Mary’s birthday because of the vital role she has in the history of salvation: Her “fiat” by which she said yes to conceiving the Son of God in her, was a moment for which God had prepared, through his Divine Grace. Mary had to trust God that all would work out as regards to Joseph. God spoke to Joseph, through a dream, to ensure that he was fully committed to play his part and to stand by Mary and Jesus.
Mary’s mission was to be the Mother of Jesus and this was a role, she was well able to carry out being that she had great love for God and so to show the love for God’s Son and her own son, was totally natural for her.
As we think of the day Mary came into the world, let us also thank the Lord for the opportunities he gives us to model our own lives on her faith and trust in God.
Thought for the day ~ Monday 7th September 2020
The parable of the Good Samaritan tells us that when someone needs our help then there is no real reason for not giving that help. There are always going to be excuses why we might not help; we might be busy, we might have an important appointment or we might worry about our own safety. The message of the parable is clear; it is always going to be the right thing to at least stop to see if you can help. The message behind the parable is about showing love to our neighbour, which Jesus classifies as the most important commandment along-side that of showing love for God.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is in the synagogue on a sabbath day and is being carefully “watched” by the scribes and Pharisees as regards to keeping their rules about the Sabbath. A man with a paralysed hand is present and Jesus asks those present if it is against the law of the Sabbath to do good. Jesus then goes on to heal the man even though it is the sabbath day. Jesus knows that the Sabbath day is important and sacred. However he wants them to know that the spirit of the law is surely to remind people of God’s love for them so doing good for someone, like healing them, is surely in keeping with that purpose. Like with the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus tells us that it is always the right thing to do an act of kindness for someone who needs our help.
Thought for the day ~ Saturday 5th September 2020
I remember being on holiday a couple of years ago in France and we ran out of milk on the Sunday morning. We thought we would try to buy some milk after going to church, but with it being Sunday, all the supermarkets and local shops were closed by the time Mass had finished. By travelling a good bit out of the area we did eventually find a shop that was open. Even though it was inconvenient for us, I think there was something good about making the Christian Sabbath day a bit different. Having one day that is a priority for God is surely a good thing.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus was challenged by the Pharisees about his disciples seemingly breaking the laws of the Sabbath by plucking and eating corn. He responds by citing an example from the Scriptures about David eating the bread of the Presence out of necessity. Jesus states that meeting your own essential needs or those of others is surely not against the spirit of the Sabbath. He goes onto say of himself, that the Son of Man is the Lord of the Sabbath.
On this eve of the Sabbath today, let us reflect on how we make our Sabbath day special ~ how do we mark it and how fully and to what extent do we make Jesus the Lord of our Sabbath.
Thought for the day ~ Friday 4th September 2020
According to tradition, St Cuthbert, whose feast day we celebrate today, was a shepherd boy, who was privileged to have a vision of St Aidan being taken to heaven on the very day that great saint died. He became a monk and later prior at Melrose. After the Synod of Whitby in 664 he became prior of Lindisfarne and gradually won over the community to Roman ecclesiastical customs. He was zealous in preaching the Gospel but was most attracted to living the life of a hermit. In 676 he left the monastery and lived in solitude on the nearby island of Inner Farne. However for the last two years of his life he served as Bishop of Lindisfarne, but he returned to his island to die on 20th March 687. His remains were removed from their resting place at Lindisfarne to escape Viking raiders and were eventually enshrined in Durham cathedral.
I love St Cuthbert for the wonderful stories such as his mysterious but powerful encounter with the eagle when he and young monk were on a long journey (see below article). He was essentially a man of prayer and a man at one with nature and nature was at peace with him. He is the Principal patron of my native Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle and St Cuthbert’s Cross is the main symbol of that Diocese. The main chapel at Ushaw College, near Durham where I trained for the priesthood, was dedicated to St Cuthbert and my second parish as a priest was St Cuthbert’s in Withington Manchester.
In today’s Gospel, the Pharisees criticize Jesus and the disciples for not following their devotional practises such as fasting. Jesus describes what he has come to bring in as “new wine” for which new wineskins are needed. This challenges us to welcome the presence of Jesus in new ways. He is constantly challenging us to change and do things in new and better ways.
We pray that St Cuthbert and all the saints may encourage us to open our hearts and minds to be guided in new directions under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Thought for the day ~ Thursday 3rd September 2020
Today is the feast of St Gregory the Great, who was born in 540 in Rome and followed the career of public service that was usual for the son of an aristocratic family. He eventually became Prefect of the city of Rome, a post he held for some years. He founded a monastery in Rome as well as some others in Sicily, then became a monk himself. After being ordained a deacon, he was sent as an envoy for 5 years to Constantinople. On this day 590, he was elected pope and thus became the first monk to attain this office. He brought about reforms in the Church’s administration and was especially kind to the poor and prisoners. He was involved in brokering for peace with the Lombards, and other tribes in order to strengthen the Church’s position. He sent Augustine and his monks to England in 596 and provided them with ongoing support and advice. He wrote extensively on pastoral care, spirituality and morals, and designated himself as the “servant of the servants of God”. He died on 12th March 604.
The successors of Peter are also given the Lord’s authority to be the rock for the Church. They are given the keys of the Kingdom to loose and to bind just as Peter was, as we heard in today’s Gospel.
St Paul tells us in today’s first reading that as missionary disciples, like him, we are also to give the whole of our lives in bringing the Good News to people.
Gregory chose St Augustine of Canterbury to be generous and give totally of himself, when he sent him and his monks to England. For this reason, Gregory is often called the Apostle to the English. May we be grateful to him for his consideration and vision in desiring to evangelize our country. May we be also inspired by St Gregory in the way we proclaim the Gospel by the example of our daily lives.
Thought for the day ~ Wednesday 2nd September 2020
In today’s first reading, St Paul rebukes the Thessalonians for getting caught up in personalities and personal preferences. It is very human to say we find some people easier to get on with or to relate to than others. However It had resulted in jealousy and wrangling that was divisive and was not conducive to building the Kingdom of God. St Paul reminds us that as regards Church, personalities should not come into it, as we are all doing the Lord’s work and it is, after all, God’s Church. He is at work in all those that He has called and sent to minister in his name.
There is much more harmony in the community life described in today’s Gospel. Peter’s mother-in-law is sick with fever and the news is brought to Jesus. This concern for someone who is sick is a sure sign of a loving and caring atmosphere. Jesus is very quickly able to cure her and amazingly, we are told, she immediately began to serve them. This is a sign that she was wholly restored to health having been bedridden with the fever.
Let us pray for our parish community under the title of “The Good Samaritan”, that we may strive for unity and harmony. May we grow in loving concern for all members of the parish family, especially those who are sick and vulnerable.
Thought for the day ~ Tuesday 1st September 2020
Today is the feast of St Edmund Arrowsmith who was born in 1585 in Haydock in Lancashire. His father was a yeoman farmer and his mother was a member of an important Lancashire Catholic family. At the age of 20, he left England and went to the English College at Douai, in France, to study for the priesthood. He was ordained in Arras on 9th December 1612 and sent on to the English Mission a year later. He ministered to the Catholics of Lancashire without incident until around 1622, when he was arrested and questioned by the Anglican Bishop of Chester. Edmund was released when King James I of England ordered all arrested priests to be freed. In 1624 Edmund joined the Jesuits. In the summer of 1628, he was denounced to the authorities, put on trial and sentenced to death for being a Roman Catholic priest in England. He was executed at Lancaster on 28 August 1628.
The unclean spirit inside of the man in the synagogue, in today’s Gospel, asks Jesus if he has come to destroy them. However Jesus has come to build up the lost and the lowly, not to destroy. He brings peace and calm to the man by healing him of the unclean spirits. Jesus astonishes the people, we are told by speaking to them with authority. He backs up this teaching by also acting confidently and trusting in his Father’s name and can therefore heal people of their afflictions and bring them peace and hope.
This evening I will be celebrating Mass in French at St Mary’s to mark the 50th Anniversary of the death of Nobel Prize winner and Catholic author, Francois Mauriac. He has been a big influence on me in both his spiritual writings as well as his powerful novels, which revolve the people of his native Bordeaux region. He is particularly brilliant, in my opinion of describing the countryside as well as his vivid portrayals of his characters and their lives. You may like the article I have put together about Mauriac, which is available on our parish website, with paper copies directly from our three churches or from myself on request.
May St Aidan and the Lindisfarne saints inspire you to bring the joy of your faith to all those you encounter.
Thought for the day ~ Monday 31st August 2020
Today we keep the feast of St Aidan and the Lindisfarne Saints. King Oswald invited the monks from Iona to his kingdom of Northumbria to evangelise his people. After initial difficulties, Aidan was made a Bishop and sent with a group of other Irish monks to begin this task. He established his monastery on the beautiful island of Lindisfarne, which became the major centre of missionary activity for the North of England. The monastery also became a valuable centre of learning and an important training ground for the education of English boys who would continue the work of evangelisation. From Lindisfarne, Aidan would travel mainly on foot throughout Northumberland. He worked closely with StOswald who found him to be a wise advisor and a good personal friend. After the death of King Oswald in 642, Aidan continued this work under his successor Oswin, but when Oswin was killed 9 years later, Aidan did not long survive him and died two weeks later in 651. According to St Bede, Aidan was a man of great gentleness and moderation. He was also outstanding for his energetic missionary work. His influence on the North of England was enormous, and his wise promotion of Christian education among the native English laid the solid foundation for the spread of the Gospel in the centuries that followed his death.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus goes to his home village of Nazareth where they expect great things of him, but he cannot do very much because they do not have faith in who he is. They think they know better than anyone else who he is, because he grew up with them. He identifies himself with the prophets Isaiah as well as Elijah and Elisha. He tells them that he has come to bring hope to the poor and needy. At first, they seem delighted, but they still don’t accept who he is saying he is and are they get angry and in the end want to kill him. We can welcome Our Lord when we especially reach out to him in our need ~ regardless of what that may be. He yearns and longs for us to trust him and need him to complete our lives. We are also asked like Aidan, to be missionary disciples of Our Lord and to do this by walking alongside people where they are at. Our role is simply to win new friends for Christ, by being faithful to his Gospel ourselves.
Thought for the day ~ Saturday 29th August 2020
St John the Baptist is such an important saint, that the Church has two feasts in the year to remember him. In June we mark his birth, but today we remember his death. Jesus himself said of John, that he was greatest born of men. John’s task was to proclaim the fulfilment of all prophecies and in doing so, to make himself obsolete. He had to work out himself through his own faith, what his mission and his role were. He had to find the humility to accept that there was one who was greater than him, for whom he had come to prepare the way. With unequalled courage, he announced the coming of the Incarnate God and spread the news that he was the least in the kingdom of Heaven and he was unworthy to undo his sandal straps. He rightly has his place and his glory in Heaven.
In today’s Gospel, we have the account of the martyrdom of John. It all seems so unnecessary; John, who was totally humble and courageous falls victim to the king’s foolishness and pride. We ought to learn from the king, the danger of getting carried away with ourselves when we are in states of elation as he was after seeing the daughter of Herodias dance. We should be aware of the danger of making open-ended promises that might expose ourselves to committing to do something that compromises our consciences, as was the case with the request made of king about John the Baptist. When this happens, innocent people can inadvertently end up becoming the victims of our rashness.
Because of his innocence and goodness, like Our Lord, John was always going to find himself in confrontation with the rich and powerful. May John the Baptist inspire us to be courageous ,trusting and loyal to Christ in responding to the Lord’s love for us.
Thought for the day ~ Friday 28th August 2020
Today is the feast of St Augustine of Hippo. He was brought up a Christian but left the Church and went on a spiritual journey in search of the truth. Eventually through the prayers of St Monica, his mother and the teaching of St Ambrose of Milan, he converted back to Christianity and was baptised in 387, shortly before the death of his mother. Augustine had a brilliant legal and academic career, but after his conversion he returned home to Africa and led an ascetic life. He was elected Bishop of Hippo and spent 34 years looking after his flock, teaching them, strengthening them in the faith, and protecting them strenuously against the errors of the time. Among his significant writings were his “Confessions” which are considered a landmark of world literature. He was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Boniface VIII in 1308.
The Gospel at Mass today is the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. It’s a Gospel at one level, that speaks about the wisdom of being pragmatic and planning ahead for a worst case scenario, in anything that we do. When a child is baptized, a candle is lit for them from the Paschal Candle which is then presented to the parents and godparents, to which the following prayer is addressed: “…may they keep the flame of faith alive in their hearts, so that when the Lord comes they may go out to meet Him with all the saints in the Heavenly Kingdom”. Our parents and godparents are entrusted to look after our faith until we are old enough to take responsibility for it ourselves. The Gospel speaks of making sure the light of our faith never goes out.
The motto for my High school that I wore on my school blazer said “Sic Luceat, Lux Vestra” which means “Thus, let your light shine forth”. We are to always b alert and ready like the five wise virgins for the Lord to call us and he expects us to be ready for him with the light of our faith proudly shining forth.
We are all quite restless as humans and St Augustine told us that our hearts will not be at rest until we find God. May St Augustine help us to have the courage and trust to keep the flame of faith alive in our hearts.
Thought for the day ~ Thursday 27th August 2020
St Monica was born in 331 in Thagaste in Africa, of a Christian family. She married Patricus, when she was quite young, and among her children was St Augustine. He had a brilliant intellect but uncertain morals and he was all over the place spiritually. She prayed unceasingly to God for her son’s conversion and her prayers were answered shortly before she died. She had a deep faith and outstanding virtues, and is a wonderful example of a Christian mother.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is telling us that we need to always be alert and faithful. He uses the analogy of a master entrusting a steward to look after his property and his servants ~ when he returns he expects to find him at his duty, if he does the master will give the steward more responsibility. If the steward is not doing what he should be doing , when his master returns, then he will lose all his privileges.
We are given life just a day at a time and we are to respond to the Lord’s love by putting our heart and soul into lovingly serving God and others to the best of our ability: we are to have time for God in prayer: and we are to use our gifts and talents. These are the ways that we respond to the trust given to us by the Lord. May the example of St Monica who never gave up praying for her son’s conversion, inspire us to always be faithful and trusting of the Lord.
Thought for the Day ~ Wednesday 26th August 2020
Today we keep the feast of St Dominic Barberi, who was born near Viterbo in Italy in 1792, and joined the Passionist Order, urged on by an inner assurance that God was calling him to be a missionary in England. In 1818 he was ordained a priest and worked in Italy as well as Belgium before finally coming to England in 1841. His first foundation was at Aston Hall in Staffs; he established four Passionist houses in all, and received many Anglicans into full communion, including John Henry Newman, who was received at Littlemore, near Oxford in 1845. He had great personal warmth in particular towards non-Catholics. In spite of his strong Italian accent, his zealous preaching drew big crowds. He died at Reading on 27 th August 1849 and was beatified by Pope VI in 1963.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus criticises the Religious leaders of his day for being preoccupied with image and appearance rather than what was within. When choosing a new king, Samuel is told that man looks at appearances, but God looks at the heart. This should get us to look at how we evaluate people and situations. There is a danger than we too can be taken in by image and appearance in a person and not look at the depths, at that which is within. Jesus invites us look a little deeper at people and at our own life,as we too are urged to look at the “heart” of a person. This implies looking at their substance and at their character.
We are to also ensure that our own hearts are sincere, pure, and devoid of hypocrisy. We all admire genuine, down to earth people, who come across as authentic and genuine rather than false and shallow. Jesus promises us that we will be happy and “see God” if we are pure in heart. We do this by a regular examination of Conscience, practising often the Sacrament of Reconciliation and deepening our personal relationship with Christ by being faithful to our prayer life.
Thought for the day ~ Tuesday 25th August 2020
Today is the feast of St Louis, who was born in 1214 and became King Louis IX of France at the age of 12. He was baptised in the church at Poissy and always used to sign state documents “Louis of Poissy” rather than “Louis Rex”. He said he did this because it was more important to be a child of God even than to be a ruler of a nation. He was married and had eleven children, to whom he gave an excellent upbringing. He was noted for his spirit of prayer and penitence and for his love of the poor. He made the spiritual needs of his people as high a priority as providing economic stability and peace for them. He was a friend of St Thomas Aquinas and he founded the famous Sorbonne University. He died near Carthage in 1270, while unsuccessfully trying to liberate Christ’s burial-place. I always remember on this day, the Sisters of St Louis, whom I worked closely with, during my time as Parish Priest in Oldham ~ may the Lord continue to bless their work among the needy. I have been a frequent visitor to the French church in Rome which is named after St Louis, and famously houses three original Caravaggio paintings including “the Calling of St Matthew”, which is dear to my heart.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus uses humorous imagery about straining out gnats yet swallowing camels, to tell the scribes and Pharisees that they are getting their priorities wrong. What God really wants them to be doing is to practise justice and mercy as well as living in faith. Being fair and merciful towards our neighbours is essential for good Christian living. They are signs of faith in a merciful and loving God. Jesus is telling us that these are essential virtues if we want to be pleasing to God.
In putting the spiritual needs of his people first, and providing for the poor, St Louis certainly got his priorities right. May we, like him, show our faith in God through being fair in our dealings and generous with our forgiveness when dealing with the transgressions and weaknesses of our brothers and sisters.
Thought for the day ~ Monday 24th August 2020
Today is the feast of St Bartholomew the Apostle, also known as Nathanael. He was born in Cana in Galilee and brought by the Apostle Philip to meet Jesus. Nothing much else for certain is known about him. Eusebius speaks of him being in India, but the Roman Martyology has him martyred in Armenia, skinned alive according to the Persian custom. Because his relics were enshrined in the church bearing his name on the island in the Tiber, in Rome, which is principally used as a hospital, he has become a patron saint of the sick.
Jesus heaps mighty praise upon Bartholomew in today’s Gospel; “Here is an Israelite incapable of deceit”. This showed that Jesus admired his openness and honesty. Bartholomew shares his prejudices about Nazareth and also declares his faith in who Jesus for him, after the conversation about being seen under a fig tree. Jesus then gives him the promise of Heaven; “you will angels ascending and descending…” Although not much is known about this Apostle, the most important thing we know about him is that he was a witness to the Resurrection and responded to being sent out by Jesus to build His Kingdom.
May we strive also to be pleasing to the Lord, like Bartholomew by being genuine, open, honest and pure in heart in all our dealings. This way we will be builders of the Kingdom and be on the road to eternal life.
Thought for the day ~ Saturday 22nd August 2020
Today we celebrate the Queenship of Mary. We do see her as Queen of Heaven. As Queen she is a perfect example of service and humility which are fitting values for the Kingdom of God. Another title we give to Our Lady is Queen of the Angels ~ she had been chosen by God to be Mother of Christ and Jesus from the Cross entrusted her to us as well when he said to John the Beloved Disciple: “ Son, behold your Mother”. It was after all, the Archangel Gabriel who had been sent to bring the news that Mary was to give birth to the Son of God. The angels would surely have rejoiced when Mary entered Heaven at her Assumption, the feast of which, we celebrated just last weekend.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is challenging the Pharisees about the spirit of intention behind their actions. He suggests that by enjoying privileges that draw attention to themselves like taking the best seats in the synagogue; wearing the longest tassles etc. that they are doing it for themselves and not for God. He suggests that they are full of proud and not being humble enough. He accuses them of not practising what they preach.
This challenges also us to look at the intention behind our own actions. Our main motivation for anything we do should always be in response to God’s love for us. This purity of intention is a major aspect of the Kingdom ~ Jesus says that those who are pure in heart are happy because they shall see God. May Mary, Our Mother and Queen help us to become faithful disciples of her Beloved Son through pure hearts desiring always to be humble servants of God.
Thought for the day ~ Friday 21st August 2020
St Pius X, whose feast day we celebrate today, was born in the village of Riese, near Venice, one of ten children of a very poor family. He was ordained to the priesthood at the age of 23. After being Bishop of Mantua then Venice, he was elected Pope, against his wishes in 1903. His mission as Pope was to restore all things to Christ. He insisted on the separation of Church and State. He revised the Code of Canon Law, founded an institute for scriptural studies and initiated the revision of the Latin translation of the (Vulgate) Bible and the reform of the liturgy. He lived in great poverty even when he was Pope and in his simplicity and goodness of heart, he performed miracles even when he was alive. The call for him to be canonized began immediately after his death on 20th August 1914, broken hearted at the outbreak of WW1.
In the Gospel today, Jesus answers the question about which of the commandments is the greatest. He replies by putting two different commandments together. By putting love for God and love for others together, Jesus is saying that the two are inseparable: so when we show love for our neighbour, we are also showing love for God.
Jesus gives us a great example of how to live the commandments by the fact he was always firstly obedient to the Father’s will, but showed love to all the people that he encountered, even his enemies. This obedience ultimately led to the Cross.
By being obedient to God and serving lovingly our neighbours, we will also embrace the cross in our own lives. May the saints inspire us, and the Lord give us the strength and courage we need to do this each day God gives us.
Thought for the day ~ Thursday 20th August 2020
Today is the feast of St Bernard, who was born near Dijon in 1090 of a noble family. In 1112 he joined the new monastery at Citeaux which had been founded just fourteen years before, in order to counter the laxity and riches at the time, of the Benedictine order. The regime at Citeaux was of primitive poverty and a life of austerity. He arrived at Citeaux with four of his five brothers and 24 friends. Within three years, he had been sent out to found a new monastery at Clairvaux in Champagne, where he remained abbot for the rest of his life. By the time of his death in 1153, the Cistercian Order had grown from one house to 343, of which 68 were daughter houses of Clairvaux. St Bernard was a man of great holiness and wisdom, and although he was often in very poor health, he was active in many of the great public debates of the time. He was a very inspiring writer and his account of imagining himself present at the Annunciation and urging Our Lady to say yes to the Angel Gabriel is an important part of Advent being used in the Office of Readings for 20th December.
In the first reading at Mass, we hear the Lord speaking through Ezekiel of removing our heart of stone and replacing it with a heart of flesh. To call somebody “stoned-hearted” means they lack compassion and mercy. The reading speaks of God’s desire for us to repent and turn to him through the mercy and forgiveness being offered to us by him.
The Gospel builds on this, with Jesus telling the parable of the wedding Feast. The message is that if those who are expected to come to Heaven refuse to respond to the invitation, then the Lord will widen his net and invite those least likely to respond.
May the prayers of St Bernard lead us closer to Christ and urge us in a gentle way to have a change of heart and turn away from sin and turn back to God.
Thought for the day ~ Wednesday 19th August 2020
Today is the feast of St John Eudes, who was born in Normandy in 1601. He organized a congregation of nuns that grew into the Sisters of Our Lady of charity, dedicated to the care of women rescued from a disorderly life. He also founded a congregation of priests dedicated to running seminaries. He actively encouraged devotion to the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. In his time the Church in France was corrupt, with the higher clergy enjoying privileges and major political power, while the lower clergy were not well educated, with the people being poor, superstitious and oppressed. Jansenism, which taught that human nature was corrupt, perfection necessary, and salvation almost impossible, was really rampant at that time. With this backdrop, the setting up of seminaries to ensure the proper education of priests and encouraging devotion to the Sacred Heart was seen as quite necessary and really radical. He died in Normandy in 1680.
Today’s Gospel is the one that I chose to use at the reception funeral Mass for Fr Michael Ryan, whose 10th anniversary we marked on Sunday. I only started to properly understand that Gospel when I saw it through Fr Michael’s eyes. Fr Michael suffered from ill health and because of this he was overlooked, left-out and rejected on a number of occasions. Seeing this Gospel through his eyes gets me to see the significance for the Church of trying to reach out to everyone, especially the marginalised. There are many people who are “11th hour workers” just waiting for their opportunity in life. The Gospel tells me that God wants no one to be rejected, forgotten or overlooked, because everyone matters to him.
Thought for the day ~ Tuesday 18th August 2020
I had always thought that I could cope with most things life would throw at me, but felt that the one thing that I would really not be able to handle was the death of my parents. I always dreaded that happening and yet when it did happen with my dad in April 2015 and my mam in February 2016, I definitely received the graces needed to cope with the challenges of celebrating their funeral Masses and the weeks and months that followed. I am certain that it was given to me because I know that without the Lord’s help I really would not have got this far.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is talking to his disciples after the encounter with the rich young man that we heard about in yesterday’s Gospel. He tells them that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. He is speaking of the impossible, however he tells them that everything is possible for God. Like me, with the great fear about my parents, there are times when we are all put to the test and face really difficult and challenging circumstances. These are occasions when we really cannot see a way to navigate them, but somehow we find the strength to get us through. I believe that the strength we receive is God-given grace and it is real and it really does transform the impossible into the possible.
Let us always bring the Lord into the our “impossible” situations and confidently trust that he will help us find the way to the other side of them.
Thought for the day ~ Monday 17th August 2020
The 1987 song “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” by Irish rock band U2 is a Gospel-inspired track which speaks of restlessness in searching for meaning and direction in life.
In today’s Gospel we encounter the rich young man who asks Jesus “What more do need I to do?”. The encounter suggests that that the young man is restless and is searching for something more. Jesus suggests that he is looking for perfection. We don’t have to be young to have a restless spirit ~ it can be a good thing if it leads us to change and to discover a new direction in our life that leads us closer to God. It can however, also be a dangerous thing if the restlessness leads us to empty self-seeking pleasure. The young man goes away sad because Jesus challenges him to get rid of all his wealth and then follow him. What Jesus asked of the young man was very radical and very challenging. The young man’s response implies that he found great comfort and strength in his wealth and riches. This was something that he felt he could not live without. Clinging to his wealth was perhaps the very thing that was holding him back from discovering what God was asking him to do with his life. He is one the few people in the Gospel accounts that leave Jesus sad. Even after meeting Jesus it seems he still hasn’t found what he is looking for.
Whenever we come before the Lord in prayer, we can dare to ask the Lord “What more do I need to do?” If we do this, we too should be prepared for a challenging response. The Lord will surely remind us of whatever is a particular barrier for us being totally prepared to give of ourselves in service of God and others.
Thought for the day Saturday 15th August 2020
Everyone loves children which is because we all have been children and most of us hopefully have had a happy childhood which is a sacred and important chapter in our lives. I think of some of those significant steps in childhood such as being able to walk and talk then learning to read and write. Then the joys of making friends and learning who you can trust and rely on as well as well as discovering not everyone likes you. Childhood is also a time for play, fun, discovery and physical, emotional and spiritual growth as well as being a time for trying out things for the first time. Childhood then takes us through adolescence when we start to become more dependent on ourselves as we grow towards adulthood.
In today’s Gospel, we hear of Jesus encouraging the little children to come to him. Jesus sees the child as belonging to the Kingdom of Heaven, so he had time for them and he laid his hands on them as a blessing and approval of all that children represent. I think he would particularly value their openness to new things and their dependence on others as making them open to needing God in their lives as well.
May the Lord bless all the families in our parish with his peace and his love. May he bless all the families who have welcomed a new arrival in this unusual year and remind them of his abiding presence.
Thought for the day ~ Friday 14th August 2020
St Maximilian Kolbe, whose feast day we celebrate today, was born in 1894 in occupied Poland and joined the Franciscans in Lwow in 1910 and was ordained in 1918. He founded a newspaper and a sodality called the Knights of Mary Immaculate which spread widely both in Poland and abroad. In 1927 he founded a community called a city of Mary at Teresin centred round a Franciscan friary. This attracted many lay people and became self-supporting publishing periodicals and running its own radio station.. In the 1930’s he spent some time in Japan and set up a Garden of the Immaculate in Nagasaki. In 1936 he returned to Poland. After in the occupation by Germany in 1939, the community at Teresin sheltered thousands of refugees mostly Jews. In 1941, he was arrested and taken to Auschwitz where he helped the inmates. Maximilian volunteered to take the place of a married man who had been chosen for extermination by starvation. He spent his last days comforting his fellow prisoners. The man whose life he saved was present at his canonisation.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives a statement ion marriage which is really the basis of the Church’s teaching on marriage and divorce. He makes the statement that when a man and a woman get married, the two become one ; they are united by God and so they no longer two but are one body. The two becomes halves of the same whole. This marriage “bond” though invisible is binding and we believe that divorce is not strong enough to break this bond.
Although a priest and therefore unmarried himself, Fr Maximilian showed his great respect and love for the dignity of marriage through his actions which led to his martyrdom. Let us pray for all those who enjoy lasting and life giving marriages. Let us pray for those whose marriages have not lasted and ask the Lord’s healing on those who have been wounded as a result.
Thought for the day ~ Thursday 13th August 2020
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells the very powerful parable of the unforgiving servant in answer to Peter’s question about how many times we are to forgive others when they wrong us.
In the parable, the Unforgiving servant is let off a colossal debt through the kindness and generosity of the king after he pleads for mercy. However immediately he is witnessed refusing to show clemency to a fellow servant who owed him a tiny fraction of the huge amount with which he had been pardoned.
In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus tells us to pray that God forgives our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. The parable shows that if we want to be forgiven the huge debt of our sins by God, then we need in turn to be prepared to forgive the sins of those who have treated us badly.
The answer given to Peter by Jesus is simply to say that God will always forgive us for our sins if we repent but we should also always forgive others time after time too. It is not easy to forgive and forget when we have been wronged but it is healthy as it is better than putting energy into bearing grudges and harbouring resentments, which are not life-giving to us.
At the heart of the word “forgive” is the word “give”, therefore we are called to be generous with our mercy just as God is generous with his. It costs us to forgive but at the heart of Christian forgiveness is the Cross.
Thought for the day Wednesday 12th August 2020
Today we celebrate the feast of St Jane Frances de Chantel, who was born in Dijon in France in 1572 and married a nobleman called de Chantel by whom she had six children, whom she brought up in the faith. When her husband died, she placed herself under the guidance of St Francis de Sales and progressed rapidly along the road of perfection. She performed many good works for the poor and the sick. She founded the Order of the Visitation and was a wise guide to the Order.
As human beings we often find ourselves taking offence at the behaviour and attitude of other people. However quite often we go about resolving it the wrong way. Our tendency might be to tell other people about what this person has done. This can lead to it being a source of gossip and before we know it, everyone but the person who has wronged us, knows all about what has happened. The transgression may well have got embellished along the way ~ after all why let the truth get in the way of good story?
In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives us good practical and spiritual advice about what to do when someone has wronged us. Jesus tells us that firstly we should make the logical but challenging step of confronting the person who has offended us with what they have done. If they listen to us, we have won back our brother or sister. If that does not work, Jesus tells us to then get other people involved in order to bring about reconciliation.
Let us ask the Lord to follow his advice in dealing with the mistakes and failings of others. May Jesus free us of all grudges and grievances that we may be harbouring against others and may this freeing from such feelings result in peace and reconciliation.
Thought for the day ~ Tuesday 11th August 2020
Today is the Feast of St Clare, who was born circa 1193 at Assisi and came under the influence of Saint Francis. She left home at the age of 18 and, under Francis’s guidance, began a community that grew to become the order of the Poor Clares (she was later joined both by her sister and by her widowed mother). In its radical attachment to poverty the Rule of the order was much more severe than that of any other order of nuns. In 1215 Clare obtained from the Pope the privilege of owning nothing, so that the nuns of the order were to be sustained by alms and nothing else. Such a rule was (like the Franciscan rule) both a challenge to established structures and a risk to those who followed it, and successive Popes tried to modify it.. Clare was a noted contemplative and a caring mother to her nuns. She died at Assisi in 1253.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples that if they want to be great in theKingdom of Heaven they need to change and become like a little child. Children know they cannot do everything themselves and know they need others and therefore they are generally more open than adults for the need for God in their lives. He goes on to state that we need to make ourselves “little as a little child” if we want to enter the Kingdom. Children also know they are not important ~ they do not have the wisdom or the life experience to be able to make major decisions on behalf of others. Because of this lack of life experience, children do often have a simple, pure and innocent way of seeing situations that adults can tend to unduly complicate by overthinking things ~ such child-like qualities are also surely the right approach for the Kingdom.
On this feast of St Clare, may we look not only to live more simply by making do with less, but also to be more child-like and simplistic in our thinking too.
Thought for the day ~ Monday 10th August 2020
Today is the feast of St Lawrence who was one of the seven deacons of the Church of Rome and was executed on this day in 258, just four days after the death of Sixtus II and his companions. Not much is known for certain about him, but he is believed to come from Toledo in Spain. Fifty years after his death, the Emperor Constantine had a basilica built over Lawrence’s tomb. The anniversary of his martyrdom was kept as a solemn feast and by the 6th century, it was one of the most important feasts throughout much of western Christendom. His name is included in the Roman Canon (Eucharistic Prayer 1) of the Mass.
In the first reading, St Paul tells us that God loves a cheerful giver. He also tells us that we should be generous with our gifts and resources and be prepared to willingly and joyfully share them with others. We all know the pleasure we get when we give something which is genuinely needed and appreciated. God will always bless in abundance all that the good that we do, and we will always receive more than we give when we do it with a glad and generous heart.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of the need to be generous with the giving of our time in service of one another. He speaks of the grain of wheat falling to the ground and dying and yielding a rich harvest. He is referring to his own death; how he has to give of himself in order for him to rise from the dead. His resurrection will result in the bumper harvest of the salvation of so many souls, it is impossible to count them.
Let us remember today Fr Lawrence Imoisili, our Vincentian friend on this his patronal feast day. May St Lawrence by his own generosity in sharing in the Passion and Death of Christ give us the courage to be generous givers of our time, our resources, our gifts and in our service of the Lord and one another.
Thought for the day ~ Saturday 8th August 2020
St Dominic was born in 1170 in Castile and became a canon of the cathedral in Osma. He joined Bishop Diego de Azevedo in a mission of preaching against the Albigensian heresy that was pervading southern France at the time. He always tried to live simply and always resorted to preaching and persuasion in his arguments. In 1216 he founded the Order of Preachers (the Dominicans) dedicated to saving souls by this same preaching and persuasion technique. The Dominicans put great importance on poverty, both of the community and the individual. They believed in the need to be involved directly in the world while living some form of monastic life. Dominic died at Bologna on 6 th August 1221.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that if we had faith the size of a mustard seed then we could move mountains. He has told his disciples that they did not have enough faith and that is why they could not cure the sick child. Faith is about having trust in God; Jesus had utter trust and confidence in his Father and so miracles and healings were easily possible because he was totally and utterly convinced that the Father would answer his prayer. He wants us all to grow in faith and wants us also to be totally convinced in what we ask for from God. This is of course to be done in a humble way not an arrogant way. God who sees into our heart always knows the purity of our intention.
As we strive to grow stronger in faith, may we put on our lips the words of the child’s father to Jesus in today’s Gospel: “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief”. May the inspiration and guidance of St Dominic guide us as we grow in faith through engaging with the world, yet doing so from the anchor of a supportive prayer centred community.
Thought for the day~ Friday 7th August 2020
Today is the feast of St Cajetan, who was born in 1480 in Vicenza and became a priest when he was 36 years old. He worked hard for the reform of the Church and particularly at serving the sick and the poor. He helped the poor by encouraging the growth of pawn shops which kept them out of the hands of usurers! He established a Congregation of secular clergy who became known as the Theatines. Their main functions included preaching, the celebration of the liturgy and the administration of the sacraments.
On yesterday’s feast of the Transfiguration we marvelled at the glory that lay beyond the Cross. We were reminded of the importance and significance of the Cross in the story of salvation.
In today’s Gospel Jesus says; “anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it”. He implies that everyone must embrace the Cross in their lives if they want to receive eternal life. This means the Christian is to be humble, obedient, merciful, be prepared to suffer and to be generous as Christ was in giving of himself utterly.
Today I was supposed to go on holiday to Bordeaux but like many other people, way back in April decided to cancel it. I have no regrets about doing this but do look forward to going there next year instead. Let us spare a prayer today for all who are unable to get away this year because of the virus but also rejoice with those who are still able to enjoy a holiday.
Today we say a fond farewell to Fr Benneth who after just a few months with us, is moving to Farnworth near Bolton to take up his new appointment there. I personally would like to sincerely thank him for his genuine warmth and lovely friendly disposition. He was “thrown in the deep end” when he first arrived and then found himself in the middle of our unprecedented “lockdown”. He has taken all this in his stride and has flourished despite the challenges he faced. I think he has made a big impact in Burnley in such a short period of time. Like myself, I know you will also desire to wish him every health, happiness and joy in his future ministry.
Thought for the day ~ Thursday 6th August
Feast of the Transfiguration
There are three occasions in the Gospels when Jesus takes only Peter, James and John with him to share a significant experience with him. These occasions are the raising of Jairus’s daughter from the dead; his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane after the Last Supper and thirdly the Transfiguration, the feast of which we celebrate today.
There is definitely a link between the three events witnessed by the same three disciples. The link is surely life and death. Apart from the parents of the little girl, only the three disciples see Jesus bring life where there is death. The three are alone in the Garden of Gethsemane as Jesus goes through his agony just hours before he faces the Cross and all the horrendous circumstances of his Passion that will result in great victory over sin and death. He has told his disciples: ”to stay awake so as not to be put to the test”. In the Transfiguration on top of the mountain, the same three disciples see the amazing vision of Jesus appearing as he does in future glory with the long-time dead Elijah and Moses as well as the voice of God the Father speaking to them saying: “this is my beloved Son listen to Him”.
In today’s feast we see Jesus as the Lord of life. He is always obedient to the Father and that is why, in the Garden Jesus will have the wisdom and courage despite his tremendous fears of what lies ahead, to conclude “Your will be done!”. For the Transfiguration vision to become reality, Jesus must of course go back down the mountain and head for Jerusalem and the Cross. The Glory and light of the Resurrection is not possible without the darkness and pain of Calvary which accomplishes the victory over sin and Death.
On this feast of the Transfiguration, may we allow the Lord of life to transform all our moments of darkness, pain and suffering by the power of his Cross into experiences of the light, life and hope that our Christian faith brings us.
At the Council of Ephesus in 431, the Church decreed that Mary the mother of Jesus was the Mother of God. Shortly afterwards the Basilica of St Maria Maggiore (St Mary Major) was built on the Esquiline hill in Rome, to celebrate her motherhood. This is the oldest church in the West dedicated to Our Lady. The title of Mary Mother of God emphasizes the central truth of the Incarnation, that Jesus Christ was not only a true man but true God also: and not only God but born of a woman. Today is the feast of the dedication of the Basilica of St Mary Major in Rome.
In today’s Gospel we see a different side of Jesus. With the Canaanite woman he initially does not respond at all to her plea for help for her sick daughter. When more blatantly confronted by her he seems to be at first quite harsh then almost playful in his comments about the house dogs and the food of the children. However her tenacious faith and refusal to give in, ultimately impresses Jesus and he granted this pagan woman what she asked, saying : “Woman you have great faith”. This is one of a number of incidents reported in the Gospels of unlikely people expressing their faith in Jesus. Examples that come to mind include the centurion whose servant was sick and the repentant thief on the cross. The Church would eventually, particularly through the influence of St Paul acknowledge and encourage the work of the Holy Spirit in all people.
May we always be alert to witness the Holy Spirit at work in all sorts of different people. May we rejoice and be grateful at expressions of faith in the least likely of people and know that when we do, that the Lord is at work in them.
Thought for the day ~ Tuesday 4th August 2020
Today is the feast of St Jean-Baptiste Marie Vianney, the Cure of Ars. Born in 1796 of peasant farmers ~ his initial years were stormy as it was difficult to practise your faith in the early of the French Revolution. He was not the ideal candidate for the priesthood as he had missed out on a lot of his schooling. Therefore he really struggled with all the studies which were in Latin. However on the strength of his devoutness he was eventually accepted. In 1818 he was sent to the isolated village of Ars en Dombes, quite a distance from Lyon. He remained there for the rest of his life because despite a few attempts to leave, the parishioners persuaded him to stay. He was a noted preacher and a celebrated Confessor. People in their thousands came from all over to see him and seek and receive his wisdom and guidance. He lived very simply and spent up to eighteen hours a day in the Confessional. Because of this, Ars became a place of pilgrimage, a status it still enjoys today.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is challenged by the Pharisees about his disciples not keeping the cleansing laws before eating. We are told that the Pharisees are shocked when Jesus tells them that it is more what comes out of someone’s mouth that makes them unclean. I think he is speaking of lies, gossip, swearing and uttering obscenities, blasphemies and other such sins that we can commit. Our tongues, when allowed to be unrestrained, can very much cause us to commit serious sins against God and other people.
The Cure of Ars was gifted in the words he used in his preaching and in the Confessional. Using direct language he urged people to be reconciled to God by naming their sins and uttering words of contrition, thereby receiving the mercy and forgiveness of God. May St John Vianney, patron of all priests urge us all to be careful about the words we use and to have the honesty and humility to confess our sins worthily and well.
Thought for the day ~ Monday 3 rd August 2020
In today’s Gospel we hear the account of Jesus walking on water. This is known as one of the great nature miracles that Jesus performs. Like the miracle of the calming of the storm, this miracle is also performed just in the presence of the disciples.
It does take a bit of accepting that someone can walk on water. However Our Lord is the Eternal Word and as we say in the Creed “through him all things were made”. Therefore we can rightly call him the Lord of the sea and the sky. It is for this reason that he is able to show who is by walking upon the waters of the rough sea towards the Apostles in the boat.
One remarkable thing about this story is that Peter is able to also able to walk on the water towards Jesus. He is able to do this incredible thing when he is focused on Christ, however when he realises what he is achieving, he allows fears and doubts to get the better of him and he begins to sink beneath the waves. The Lord of course then reaches out to rescue him. It is amazing what Peter achieved through his faith in Christ. Pope Benedict XVI once said that this Gospel reminds him of the struggle of the Christian life that operates on the fine line between grace and gravity. When we are full of faith and trust in Christ we are living the life of grace and can achieve great things; however when our sins, mistakes, set backs get the better of us then we are pulled down by gravity and we are filled with doubt and fear. The Church helps us with the Sacraments in that area of our lives that like St Peter often hovers between grace and gravity.
Thought for the day ~ Saturday 1st August 2020
St Alphonsus Liguouri was born in 1696 near Naples. He was from a large family of nobility. He was gifted at many things including music and wrote many hymns. After university he gained a Doctorate in both civil and canon law and began his career in the legal profession. Despite opposition from his father, in 1723 he entered seminary and was ordained a priest in 1726 aged 30 years old. He spent his first years as a priest with the homeless and marginalised young people of Naples. He did much other missionary work among the poor and needy within the Kingdom of Naples. In 1932 he funded the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (CSSR) better known as the Redemptorists. Their purpose was to bring the Good News of the Gospel to the poorest and most abandoned people. He wrote many works on spirituality and theology. However he is perhaps most greatly appreciated for his contribution to Moral Theology within the Church. He was made a Bishop in 1762 and died in Pagini on this day 1787. He is Patron of Confessors and Moralists.
It is a pity that St Alphonsus was not around at the time of King Herod who could have done with a bit of moral guidance after the predicament his own pride got him into in today’s Gospel. He ended up having to keep his rashly made promise to the daughter of Herodias, which resulted in the death of John the Baptist whom the king admired. The situation reminds us that we always need to be careful and measured in the promises that we make to others because we may find ourselves in a situation where we are so compromised that someone innocent suffers because of our blunder.
Today is the feast of St Ignatius Loyola who was born in Loyola in the Basque country of Spain in 1491. He was a soldier but when convalescing after being wounded in battle at the age of 30, he read about the life of Christ and the saints. This led him to discover that his true vocation was to serve God. After taking several steps over a number of years to build on these new foundations he was ordained a priest. He eventually in 1540 formed the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) based on the companions he had gathered around him on his journey. He was their first Superior General until his death in 1556. He had a deep spiritual insight and after his Conversion he wrote the Spiritual Exercises, which include a retreat and regular prayer based on the principal that God is found in everything.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus goes home to Nazareth but faces rejection by the people he knew and grew up with. They felt they knew who he was and that he could not possibly be the promised Messiah. Because of their lack of faith, he could not do many miracles there. This must have been very hard for Jesus to be rejected by the people he knew best. However he remained resolute because he knew that for many people accepting who he is and the Kingdom he had come to proclaim would be very challenging. This was all part of his mission and part of the human condition he had come to redeem.
My thoughts today are with Fr Kevin as leaves for his new appointment in Middleton. He has been in Burnley for nine and half years, so it will not be easy for him. Change is often quite scary as we are journeying into the unknown, but for those of us with faith we know the Lord remains a faithful companion to us. We know the hand of the Lord will continue to gently guide Fr Kevin in his new ministry. With gratitude for the blessings that have come through Fr Kevin’s time with us in Burnley, may the Lord through St Ignatius of Loyola and all the saints grant him good health, strength and joy in his new appointment.
Thought for the day ~ Thursday 30th July 2020
Today is the feast of St Peter Chrysologus who was born in 380 in Imola in Italy and died in 450 in the same place. He was made Bishop of Ravenna, the new capital of the Roman Empire and was responsible for many of the building works there. Peter was a gifted preacher and so the name he took “Chrysologos means “Golden speech”. Only a collection of his short sermons remain as most of his writings have unfortunately perished.
In the first reading we have the image of the potter moulding clay jars. We are told that whenever the jar turned out badly in his hands, the potter tried again and made another more pleasing vessel out of the same clay. The image of God as the potter reminds us that He can take what comes out wrong in our lives and reshape it into something good and wholesome
May the Lord transform what is not good about our lives and reshape them into something that is more pleasing to Him. May we have the humility and the trust to willingly hand over to the Lord our mistakes, our lost opportunities and the occasions when we messed up and ask him to transform them with his love into occasions of growth and grace.
Thought for the Day - Wednesday 29th July 2020
Today is the feast of St Martha ~ she was the sister of Mary of Bethany and also Lazarus. Significantly they are seen as close friends of Jesus. This implies that He would have spent time at their house and felt comfortable around them. Martha gets a bit of bad press in the famous account of Jesus coming to their house. Martha is busy with the preparing of food and the cooking to make their important guest feel at home. Jesus gently rebukes her when she complains to Jesus that her sister Mary is not helping and is just sitting listening to Jesus. He tells her that Mary has chosen the better part. Some people I know called Martha used to feel hard done by whenever that account was read at Mass and I used to say to them wait until the Feast of St Martha because the Gospel account for today more than redeems Martha.
In the Gospel for today’s feast, Jesus comes to see Martha and Mary four days after Lazarus has died. Even though suffering from grief, her faith and trust in Jesus is unwavering. In conversation with Martha, Jesus tells her that he is the resurrection and the life and that anyone who believes in him, even though they die will live and whoever lives and believes in him will never die. In response to his question about this ,she responds amazingly with a deep profession of who Jesus is for her. She expresses her faith by saying that believes in Jesus to the point of knowing for certain that it is true. She is the epitome of a person of deep faith. She more than redeems herself for her impatience with her sister in the other Gospel story about her.
May St Martha teach us the importance of hospitality of visitors. May she encourage us to welcome all guests to our homes in the spirit in which she welcomed Jesus. Finally may we imitate this woman of faith who even in the darkest of times held on to her faith in Christ being the Son of God, the one who was to come into the world.
Thought for the day ~ Tuesday 28th July 2020
Life is generally a mixture of good and bad ~ most experiences in life are a mixture of the good and not so good. The Church is good but there are bad bits too. Our own heart is a mixture of both what is good and what is not good. If we think about ourselves ~ there are bits we like and love about ourselves, there are bits also that we are not proud of and that we really don’t like.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus explains the parable of the wheat and the darnel. At the beginning of the growth process, both wheat and darnel look the same ~ the darnel looks like wheat. Only as harvest time approaches do we notice a difference ~ they all grow together. The difference between the two then become apparent. In any relationship people enter into a friendship or even a marriage with good intentions ~ it takes the test of time to work out what are the good bits and what are the bad. Everything in life needs the test of time to see what the reality is. There is no substitute for real life ~ just like the weed and darnel growing together.
Patience and acceptance of God’s ways is the only way evil can be overcome. This involves prayer and faithfulness to God. This should lead to a deeper personal friendship with Christ and this is always the best way to remove evil thoughts, words and actions from our lives.
Let us pray for the Lord’s mercy upon our lives ~ may we be careful and lenient in our thinking and our treatment of others. May we try to eradicate evil in the world and in our lives by beginning with ourselves.
Thought for the Day ~ Monday 27th July 2020
During the lockdown, Luke Bradbury taught me to make bread ~ we had a bit of mishap with the correct quantity of salt to be used in grandmother’s recipe, but apart from that, my first ever home-made loaf turned out ok. The thing I learned about making bread is you have to allow time for the yeast to mix into the flour as it “proves” and takes effect; and so there’s a fair bit of waiting around involved. The waiting is worthwhile however as it makes a considerable impact on the allows the dough to sizeably increase in quantity.
Jesus comments about something small making a huge difference. He uses the parable of the yeast and the mustard seeds as examples of this. It is amazing that the small amount of yeast makes such a huge difference to the flour. It is the same with the tiny seed that can grow into something so big that the birds of the air can shelter in its branches.
I think he is speaking of the difference a little bit of faith can make to our lives and to any situation. Our small efforts at kindness or help given to others, if done out of love for Him can make a considerable difference. This is like planting tiny seeds or mixing the bit of yeast into the flour. We are to play our part and leave the rest to the Lord. Humble beginnings can have an extraordinary outcome if we involve in our activity.
We think of the amazing impact the lives of many of the saints can have on us. Today we remember Blessed Titus Bradsma, a Dutch Carmelite who during the German Occupation of the Netherlands in WWII in 1942 penned a Pastoral letter from the Dutch Catholic Bishops which condemned the anti-Semetic measures and the deportation of the first Jews. Following the letter a few thousand Jews, including Edith Stein converted to Catholicism He himself was martyred by lethal injection in Dachau on July 26 th.
The important thing is that we play our part and we can confidently know that our faith expressed even in tiny ways will have a big impact.
Thought for the day ~ Saturday 25th July 2020
Today is the feast of St James the Apostle. He is the brother of St John and like him, a fisherman. He was one of the witnesses of the Transfiguration. He was the first of the Apostles to be martyred, being beheaded by King Herod Agrippa I to please the Jewish opponents of Christianity. He was buried in Jerusalem but from the 9th century it is believed his relics were brought to the shrine bearing his name of Santiago de Compostella in Galicia in North West Spain. This shrine of St James grew in importance to such an extent that it became the greatest pilgrimage centre in Western Europe. There are pilgrim routes heading towards Santiago in many other countries. The scallop shell is the emblem of St James and this is the emblem of pilgrims generally. As I told you in my “thought for the day” for 5th May, I was privileged enough between August 2012 and May 1214 to complete the 500 miles stretch of the Camino (Way) de Santiago, on foot, in three stages, starting from St Jean Pied de Port In France. Following the scallop shell signs and yellow arrows you pass through an endless number of villages and gorgeous scenery all serviced by a vast but personal infrastructure of hospitality, care and accommodation. It attracts pilgrims from literally all over the world and they attempt it for a variety of reasons, many of them spiritual. I confess that I completed it because my friend Fr Martin in Newcastle was keen to do it; however I am convinced from all that happened during the stages of the journey that it really is a sacred route and it is definitely the Lord’s Camino!
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells James that he will drink the cup that he must drink. The cup Jesus is speaking of is the cup of martyrdom; James will go on to be prepared to witness for his faith in Jesus by being put to death. Jesus uses the conversation initiated by a request for greatness for her sons by the mother of John and James to spell out that true greatness involves modelling ourselves on his own humility and service. Let us pray for all who hoped to make a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostells and elsewhere, this year but have had their plans disrupted by the Covid Pandemic. May St James the Fisherman encourage us all on our pilgrimage of life to safely reach our eternal home in Heaven.
Thought for the day ~ Friday 24th July
Today is the feast of St Charbel Makhlouf, who was born in 1828 in the Lebanon and his father was a mule-driver. He was brought up by his uncle who did not approve of his devotion to prayer and solitude. He became a Maronite monk and was ordained a priest. After being a monk for many years, he was drawn to the lifestyle of the Desert Fathers and became a hermit. His life at the hermitage consisted of much prayer and fasting. He considered himself to be the servant of anyone who came to stay in the other three cells in the hermitage. He spent 23 years of his life there and a large number of people came to receive his blessing or his advice. He died in 1898.
In today’s Gospel Jesus explains the parable of the sower to his disciples: He tells them that there are many obstacles that can be in the way of the Word of God taking root within us so that we can grow in holiness. He spoke of initial enthusiasm which peters out when trials come; distractions and worries of this world can also be barriers to a good spiritual life; he spoke of the lure of wealth and possessions also being an obstacle to a productive spiritual life.
St Charbel put aside all such obstacles by seeking Christ in silence and peace by setting up a remote hermitage. This “rich soil” of his faith, free from all obstacles and distractions, enabled the Lord to produce an abundant harvest of good things in this holy man. The many people who sought his guidance are testimony to his holiness and his wisdom. May he inspire us to seek the Lord in places of quietness and peace.
Thought for the day ~ Thursday 23rd July 2020
Many parish and Diocesan events have been cancelled this year because of the lockdown. One event that I hope we can still go ahead with (at least in part) is a Mass in French, on Tuesday 1st September, at St Mary’s to mark the 50th Anniversary of the death of the French Catholic author Francois Mauriac. Many of Mauriac’s novels are set in his native city of Bordeaux and in the huge Landes pine forest area south of the city, as well as the vine-growing areas along the Garonne. I love the imagery he beautifully depicts of the backdrop to his dramas with the owners and the workers involved in the forestry and wine growing industries. He writes so well that you can almost touch the leaves on the vines and see the clusters of grapes hanging from their branches.
In today’s Gospel Jesus uses the analogy of the Vine. He calls himself the True Vine and says that we are his branches. He goes onto say that if we remain in him then we will bear fruit in plenty. We remain in him by listening to his teaching and putting it into practise in our daily lives. The fruit he speaks of will be the rewards and joys that come from living a life of love and Grace.
Today is the feast of St Bridget of Sweden, Patroness of Europe. She was very much attached to Christ the True Vine and her life produced many fruits for the Lord. She was married to Ulf, a nobleman and they had 8 children. At the age of 30, she was summoned to the court of the King ofSweden and served as a Lady in Waiting to the queen. After a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella in Spain, she and her husband decided to spend the rest of their lives in monasteries. Bridget founded a double monastery for men and women as the start of a new monastic order. I have been welcomed on a number of occasions at the Maryvale Institute in Birmingham by the joyful Bridgettine Sisters who are based there. In 1350 she travelled to Rome for the Holy year and spent the rest of the year there caring for the poor and the sic, denouncing the excesses of the aristocracy and firmly telling the Pope to return to Rome from Avignon. Through St Bridget of Sweden, may the Lord bless all the people of Europe, bless the work of the Bridgettine sisters and bless all who work in the forestry and wine industries throughout the world.
Thought for the day ~ Wednesday 22nd July 2020
Mary Magdalene was healed by Jesus of “Seven devils”. She ministered to him In Galilee and was present when He was on the cross. Mary was also in the group of women who were the first to discover the empty tomb. It was to Mary that the Risen Lord Jesus first appeared. She is therefore a unique and important character in the story of the Resurrection; chosen by Christ as one of the first witnesses of the event that changed the world.
I was saying yesterday that I am still confused as to what time of year we are in, so just to add to the confusion, part of today’s Gospel is the one we normally hear on Easter Sunday! Mary is still distraught with thinking, on seeing the empty tomb, that the body of Jesus has been stolen or taken away and so is weeping outside near the tomb. She does not recognise the Risen Jesus when he approaches her and mistakes him for the gardener. It is only when Jesus calls her by her name that she recognises that it is truly Jesus. He has an important message for her to give to the disciples.
If we like Mary have got to know the Lord through a life of service and prayer, then the Lord will know us and we should recognise his voice when he speaks to us. He has an important message for us too and we need to be ready to catch this message. This is all possible because of Easter. The best way we can be missionary disciples ourselves is to have an authentic and faithful relationship ourselves with the Risen Christ.
On this her feast day, may St Mary Magdalene gently guide us closer to the Risen Christ, who yearns for us to make him known to a needy world.
Thought for the day ~ Tuesday 21st July 2020
I have to confess that I keep writing the date each day and know that we are heading towards the end of July but it really does not feel like July. I don’t just mean because the weather is a bit mixed but because of the Covid 19 Pandemic, the pattern of normality has been turned upside down. Most of the time it feels like we are still in an extended April, which is illogical of course, but I speak the truth.
It is more vital than ever therefore, to seek the presence of God in every new day. There is something that we might call “the Sacrament of the Present Moment” in which we become aware of encounters with Christ in the here and now. I suggest this is about looking for something good and life-giving each day even in these different and challenging times. This could be a kind word, a smile from a stranger or something that brings us joy. If we believe that God is in all things, then we should be able to find something good and life-giving which will lead us to God.
An important line of the Lord’s Prayer is; “Give us this day our daily bread”. For me this means; desiring that God gives not just ourselves all that we need for the new day, but it’s a prayer for everyone to receive “their daily bread”: These needs include good health, food, drink, warmth, shelter, rest, sleep Friendship, love, hope and a reassurance of God’s abiding presence even in the midst of fear, uncertainty and confusion.
As we thank God for the gift of this new day let us ask him for our daily bread and the faith to keep trusting and loving Him even if like me, we don’t really know what month we are in.
Thought for the day ~ Monday 20th July 2020
In today’s first reading, the Lord speaks through the prophet Micah. He explains what God means by doing what is right and good in His sight. “This is what the Lord asks of you, only this; to act justly, to love tenderly and walk humbly with your God.” I feel these three requests are great to bring before the Lord as the basis of an Examination of Conscience at the end of each day.
Firstly in asking ourselves about acting justly; we can think of all the people we have encountered throughout the day and consider if we have treated them fairly: have we listened to them, have we refrained from judging them, have we shown them respect, have we applied “the Golden Rule” of Jesus; have we treated them as we ourselves would want to be treated?
Secondly have we shown love to everyone we have encountered?; not just towards those we like or those we get on with, or those who love us, but also to those we find hard to get on with, those who make life difficult for us, those who get on our nerves, those who challenge us and do not seem to like us. We need to ask ourselves before the Lord if we have shown tender love towards them.
Thirdly have we walked humbly with our God?; So we ask ourselves if we have thought about God or prayed during the day. Have we had moments when we let pride get the better of us and put ourselves before God and others?: Were we aware of the presence of Christ in the events and encounters that have occurred throughout the day?: Have we allowed fears and worries to get the better of us instead of handing them over to the Lord?
May the Lord bless us on this his new day; may St Apollonaris, a late second century Bishop and Martyr inspire us and help us be committed to Christ through our faithfulness to the Gospel by being fair, loving others tenderly and walking with God in humility.
Thought for the day Saturday 18th July 2020
The crushed reed and smouldering wick refer to the weak and vulnerable members of society. Matthew applies the words of Isaiah’s servant of God to Jesus who will not break the crushed reed or put out the smouldering wick. He instead will bring them hope and life. He comes to bring healing to those who are weak through sickness: worried about those dear to them: sorrowful because of the death of loved ones: and those despairing because of sins and mistakes they have committed. Jesus comes purely to lead them out of darkness and into the light of his love.
The Gospel also reminds us from early on in his ministry, there were those who wanted to destroy Jesus and plotted his downfall and death. In contrast Jesus was in the business of bringing life and light into the lives of all those who he encountered especially the sick and the outcast.
The Lord Jesus offers the same to us when we feel that life has got the better of us and we feel broken and weak. He in turn asks us to bring hope to those that we encounter especially the poor and those who have lost their way.
Thought for the day ~ Friday 17th July 2020
In today’s Gospel Jesus is challenged by the Pharisees for the actions of his disciples whom they accuse of breaking the law of the Sabbath by picking corn, which they saw technically as “work”. Jesus gives examples from their history about David and his men eating the loaves of offering, in a time of great need, as well as the regular actions of the Temple priests. Both these situations seemed to have been conveniently overlooked by the Pharisees. Jesus tells them that God wants Mercy not sacrifice: so He implies then that the Sabbath is better celebrated by doing things that are life - giving rather than always rigidly sticking to rituals.
An example of this that comes to mind is from St Vincent De Paul who tells us that if we are doing our prayers and we get interrupted by someone who is hungry, then continuing our prayer by showing charity is more in keeping with showing mercy not sacrifice. Prayer is of course essential and I am not advocating it needs to be seen as secondary to acts of kindness and love but that Christ seems to be giving us some freedom and license to follow our heart and consciences as regards situations where human life is at risk.
May the Lord help us to see with his eyes all the opportunities for showing mercy to each other, that regularly present themselves, and may we receive his blessing and his encouragement whenever we act in his name.
Thought for the day ~ Thursday 16th July 2020
Today is the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Holy Scripture celebrates the beauty of Mount Carmel where the prophet Elijah defended Israel’s pure faith in the living God. In the 12th century some hermits took up residence on this mountain and eventually set up the Carmelite Order, which isdedicated to living a contemplative life under the patronage of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Today is also a special feast day for our Diocese as Our Lady of Mount Carmel is principal patron of the Diocese of Salford. We thank the Lord for all the blessings that come upon our Diocese, through the protection and guidance of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. We remember today to pray for Bishop Johnand all the priests and people of our Diocese. The Diocese is quite small geographically but population-wise is quite big. It has a rich heritage but also great diversity in the parishes and communities that make up our Diocese. As an outsider to the Diocese myself I have always felt affirmed and welcomed by the priests and people of this great Diocese, to which I am proud to belong. Today is also Fr Kevin’s 14 th anniversary of his priestly ordination, so we thank the Lord today for his faithful years of service.
In today’s Gospel Jesus says that those who are faithful to the will of his Father are those who closest to Him. Everything Jesus did was in obedience to the Father so whenever we do the same then we are combining our lives and our mission with Christ’s. Our Lady was totally obedient to the Father and of course deeply devoted herself as Mother of Jesus, so as a perfect disciples, we can turn to her for inspiration and guidance.
Thought for the day ~ Wednesday 15th July 2020
Today is the feast of St Bonaventure, who was born in Bagnoregio in Etruria in 1218. He became a Franciscan in 1243 and studied philosophy and theology at the university of Paris. He became a famous teacher and philosopher and was a friend and colleague of St Thomas Aquinas. Bonaventure defended the Franciscan order, who at that time were still encountering opposition and suspicion.
As General of the Order ruled it with prudence and wisdom. He was made Cardinal bishop of Albano in 1273 and died in 1274 at the Council of Lyons. Through his knowledge and understanding of philosophy and theology, Bonaventure writing made a profound mark on intellectual history. In 1588, Pope Sixtus V declared him a Doctor of the Church.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples that the greatest among them, must be their servant. At the heart of Christ’s ministry and mission was service ~ he comes to serve. He calls upon us as his disciples to also serve God by imitating him and serving one another. Service comes in all forms of activity but every little act of kindness and goodness can be seen as service. To be humble means to be grounded ~ to have our feet on the ground and to not get airs and graces about who we are. Whenever we start to get carried away about our achievements and successes, we need to remember that it is God who gives us the gift of life itself and who bestows our gifts upon us. Throughout the lockdown many people have realised, when contact with our loved ones was severely restricted, how much they value having other people in their life. This has been humbling for many people and humility surely leads us to closer to the Lord.
Thought for the Day - Tuesday 14th July 2020
Fr Kevin and myself have been taking part in a weekly online quiz during the “lockdown” run by Michael my nephew through his bar in Berlin. Recently one of the rounds was about saints and I have to confess I failed to recognise that one of the pictures which showed a priest visiting a sick person was in fact St Camillus whose feast we celebrate today.
Camillus was born in Italy of a noble family in 1550. He became a soldier but had an appetite for gambling and living a wild life. He had a conversion experience at the age of 25 and tried unsuccessfully to join the Capuchins. He wanted to improve the standard of hospitals and so devoted himself to caring for the sick. He eventually became the bursar of San Giacomo hospital in Rome. He introduced many reforms to the hospitals and founded a congregation of priests and lay brothers to serve the physical and spiritual needs of the sick; the Servants of the Sick later known as the Camillians. He was ordained a priest in 1584 and died in 1614 after visiting and looking after the sick almost every day.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus has harsh words for the people of towns where he had worked miracles but they refused to change their ways. The whole purpose of Our Lord’s miracles was to get people to see who He really is, and to turn back to God. His whole mission centred around the forgiveness of sins and to get people to repent and so be able to receive eternal life.
St Camillus became aware of the reckless life he was living and turned to the Lord after hearing a priest preach. May he help all of those who live in the darkness of sin to welcome in the light of Christ.
Thought for the Day ~ Monday 13th July
Today is the feast of St Henry. He was born In Bavaria in 973 and succeeded to the dukedom at the age of 22. He became Holy Roman Emperor in 1014. Henry was renowned for his support behind the reform of the Church. He also greatly encouraged the Church in its missionary activity. He established a good number of Bishoprics and together with Cunegunda, his wife, founded many monasteries. Henry died in 1024 and was canonized in 1146 by Pope Eugenius iii.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus continues to instruct his disciples and prepare them for their mission of building the Kingdom. Among other things, he tells them that they will be rewarded for doing something as simple as giving someone a cup of water in His name.
The Lord sees everything that we do ~ He also sees into our hearts, so knows both the intention and the motivation behind our actions. He desires that our intentions when being generous should be uncontaminated of sin and pure. Everything we do for others should be done for the Lord.
Each act of generosity, no matter how big or small should be done in response to God’s generosity to us.
May St Henry and all the saints encourage us to see Christ in all people and to be always generous, kind and helpful, each day that the Lord gives to us.
Thought for the Day~ Saturday 11th July 2020
Today is the feast of St Benedict, who is a co-patron of Europe. Benedict was born in Umbria in Italy in 480. He studied in Rome but did not like city life, so he became a hermit at Subiaco. He organised set up various small communities of monks and nuns in different places including the great monastery of Monte Cassino. He set up what is known as the Rule of St Benedict, which is seen as balanced and wise guide to monastic life. The Rule recognises that although we strive for perfection we often fall short of it. The Rule gives all people a chance to grow spiritually.
Today I also celebrate my 27 th Anniversary of ordination to the priesthood. Although I have only been in Burnley for two years out of those twenty seven, they are without doubt two very important and significant years for me. Burnley is my seventh appointment as a priest in this Diocese. I thank the Lord for all the love, kindness, honesty, encouragement and support I have received from the people of Burnley in the last two years. I also thank the Lord for all the other parishes I have served in through those twenty seven years; Chadderton, Withington, Oldham, Blackburn, Moston and
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells Peter that those who have followed him will be repaid a hundredfold and inherit eternal life. I have felt very much called by the Lord to each of my seven appointments. Even though Salford Diocese is relatively small geographically, each of those places has been different and life-giving and have brought me many joys as well as presented me with various challenges. I know that I have received much for than I have given by serving the people of God entrusted to my care. All of which helped me to grow in confidence and love for the Lord.
Thought for the day ~ Friday 10th July
I grew up in the town of Buxton in Derbyshire and in normal years this coming weekend is traditionally what they call “Wells Dressing Week” in Buxton ~ throughout the summer each town and village in Derbyshire dress the wells with beautiful floral displays. This weekend would usually also see the annual Carnival through the main street of the town and the visit of a travelling fairground. It is one of the highlights of the year because it brings people together and unites people of all ages, walks of life and backgrounds. This year of course it will not be taking place and as a result there will be some sadness about the town. As you know I am a believer in putting on all sorts of events through the Church that bring people together; hence I encourage quizzes, competitions, hikes, socials, the Strung Sung Supper and even a coach trip to places like Buxton!!!
It is great to have events that unite people and encourage people to come together, as there are many things in life that divide us and cause us to be fearful of others. Jesus in today’s Gospel warns his followers that they will face opposition and that faith in him may bring hostility and persecution even within families and communities. He tells us to keep calm and remain confident and trusting in him. Jesus tells us that we face opposition to our faith and feel rejected, then we need to remember that we are never alone because the Holy Spirit is near and will be our support and our help. We need the Holy Spirit to inspire our witness to the Lord because the Lord needs his friends to speak out for him more than ever in our world today.
Thought for the day ~ Thursday 9th July 2020
St Augustine Zhao Rong was one of the Chinese soldiers who escorted Bishop John Gabriel Taurin Dufresse to his execution. The Bishop’s patience moved Augustine and he asked to be baptised, was in due course sent to seminary and ordained as a priest. He was arrested and savagely tortured. He died in 1815. On this his feast day we also commemorate Bishop Dufresse and 118 other companions who were martyred in China between 1648 and 1930. Official persecution of Christians in China ended in 1842 but violent anti-religious sentiments persisted and in the Boxer Rebellion of 1900, Christians were particularly attacked and many thousands killed. The suffering and deaths of these Christians are a great witness to their faith and trust in Jesus Christ.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is instructing his 12 disciples; telling them how to approach their mission when he sends them out. He tells them: “You received without charge, give without charge”. He is telling them to be generous and not to think about the cost; He is also telling them to trust in him and his teaching rather than to be reliant on materials things like money. The Chinese martyrs are examples of those who understood they had been given much in receiving their Christian faith; their lives, their individual gifts and the promise and hope of salvation.
May we too desire to be faithful to the Lord in his response to his love for us by being generous in putting our lives and our gifts and our lives at the service of Christ and his people.
Thought for the day - Wednesday 8th July 2020
It always strikes me as very honest when we hear in the Gospels of the naming and calling of the disciples by Jesus and we hear mention of Judas Iscariot and they tell us he is the one who betrayed Jesus.
The word Judas has become synonymous with betrayal and to call someone who was your friend a Judas is a very powerful insult. In 1966 Bob Dylan played a concert at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester and his set included some songs played ion electric guitar which represented a new direction for the singer who up to then had played mainly folk music. On this occasion a member of the audience shouted out “Judas”. He said this because he felt that Dylan had betrayed his folk music roots in order to explore a new direction as a vehicle for his music and powerful lyrics. The American legend immediately retorted; “I don’t believe you!” This was probably because the singer was surprised that a so-called fan of his, who took the trouble to buy a ticket for the concert would insult his hero so strongly by calling him Judas.
The fact is that Judas was indeed chosen by the Lord and Judas initially said yes to this invitation to follow him. We do believe in free-will and we are always free to make choices and some of them may turn out to be bad choices. This was clearly the case with Judas.
Being chosen by the Lord however requires a response and we respond daily to our own calling by saying yes to the Lord illustrated by our commitment to his Gospel and his commandments.
I hope you don’t have any one in your life that you could call a Judas. That’s because it implies that it would need to be someone like Judas was to Jesus who was once close to you.
Let us remember in our prayers today all those who were once our friends and who now for various reasons, (some of them innocuous) no longer play a part of our lives.
Thought for the day ~ Tuesday 7th July 2020
For some reason I can remember the dates of significant and insignificant events in my life ~ in fact Luke Bradbury, because of this, jokingly calls me “Rainman”, a comment which you will understand if you have seen the film of the same name! For instance, for some reason I can remember exactly what I was doing at 7 minutes past 7 on the morning of on the 7th day of the 7th month 1977! I was actually making pork pies in a bakery in Buxton, which, having finished school, was a holiday job I had acquired for the summer. Our memories are made up of lots of snapshots from the events of our lives and it helps us to make sense of what choices we have made in our lives, many of which shape our present and our future.
I am sure the people in today’s Gospel who witnessed the healing of the man who could not speak, would always remember witnessing that wonderful event. We are told that they were amazed and said: “nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel”.
We are also told that Jesus took out the demon that was in the man. We all have our own personal “demons” that we have to live with: these might manifest themselves in weaknesses that we regularly have to struggle with; perhaps we have a short fuse, or struggle with impatience or maybe depend too much on drink, drugs or other unhealthy things. We might be tempted to think that nothing can be done about such “demons”: however whatever our particular demon maybe, we know that if we allow the Lord more fully into our lives then these demons are going to have their hold over us considerably weakened!
Let us pray on this 7th Day of the 7th month for all who all who have a daily struggle to live with that today may be the day when they begin a new chapter in their lives and are amazed at what the Lord can do for them if they have confidence and faith in him.
Thought for the Day Monday 6th July 2020
Today is the feast of St Maria Goretti was born in 1890 in Ancona Italy. She was from a very poor family. To make ends meet her father entered into a partnership with a man called Serenelli and shared a house withhim and his two sons one of whom was called Alessandro. At the age of 10 her father died and Maria remained living with the Serenellis. She was renowned for her natural purity, kindness, helpfulness and faithfulness. Alessandro lusted after her, and after escaping from one serious sexual assault from him ; he tried again a month later and this time she ended up seriously wounded by his stabbings from which she did not recover. She forgave Alessandro before she died aged 11 years, which was on this day 1902.
In today’s Gospel Jesus heals a woman who had a haemorrhage for twelve years after she simply touched his cloak. She had great faith in Jesus that she believed that that was all she had to become well again. We are told that Jesus simply encouraged her in her faith and trust in him.
The healing of the woman happens while Jesus is on his way to raise the young daughter of an official who shows tremendous faith in Jesus and asks him to lay hands on her and save her life even though she had died.
These two people had great faith and trust in Our Lord and because of that Jesus was able to perform these two miracles to show the woman and the official were very right to have trust and faith in him.
In times of illness or death of those we love may we like St Maria Gorettti also turn to the Lord to bring hope where there is despair and light where there is darkness.
Thought for the day ~ Saturday 4 th July
I was more “holey” than holy when I was growing up. I say this because I seemed to quickly get holes in my clothes but they weren’t really caused by kneeling down for prayer! I remember in the early years of High school at Buxton, I was quite active ~ playing football with a tennis ball on muddy land and other games at lunch time at school. It was great fun and enabled me to expound energy, but it meant that I was hard wearing on my shoes and constantly getting holes in my trousers ~ mainly at the knees. These were the days before it was fashionable to have holes in your trousers, so my mam who was great with the sewing machine would constantly be patching up my trousers.
This would extend the life of the trousers by quite a few months. I was a bit self-conscious of having patches on my clothes, but didn’t mind too much as I was very aware that my parents couldn’t afford to be buying new trousers for me every few weeks!
In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of the new life that He brings through faith in him. He uses the analogy of patches on a cloak as well as talking about new wine. Jesus brings a new kind of joy; a new cloak rather than one with old patches on it is far more appealing. We must seek and pray to be worthy disciples that we became through our Baptism. This was when we were clothed in a white garment to remind us of the new life in Christ that we are called to. This garment also speaks of being in a state of purity on the day of our baptism, having being cleansed of Original sin. So we are challenged to keep our “White garment” uncontaminated from the stain of sin by resisting the temptation to put our own ways before the Lord’s.
Today is the feast of St Elizabeth of Portugal who set up hospitals, orphanages. She also acted as a peacemaker in the challenging and complicated politics of the time. She was very forgiving of her husband’s infidelities and even provided for the education of his illigitimate children. On her husband’s death, she devoted herself to prayer and the service of the poor. May St Elizabeth of Portugal inspire us to be Christ-like in our own lives through faithfulness to the Gospel and to wear the cloak of righteousness with humility and love.
Thought for the day Friday 3rd June
July 3rd has always been a special day for our family, as it is my dad’s birthday. John Featherstone was born in 1927 and died on Easter Sunday 2015. Like all of our family, he hails from the North East and was a life-long supporter of Newcastle United. Unlike me he never lost his Geordie accent, despite leaving his native North East at the age of 39. He was the son of a signalman and began his own long career with the Railways as a booking clerk at Newcastle Central Station. Our lives were shaped by my dad’s job and for the first 8 years of my life we lived on a railway station on the main East Coast line. Thanks to Dr Beeching’s reorganisation of the railways, my dad needed a new job and in 1967 we left our native North East to relocate to Buxton Derbyshire. This was a very big step for us to move away from the family. He worked very hard, was very well respected by his colleagues and ended up as a senior manager on the railways based in Manchester. Having three boys to sort out and being mad about football he quickly acquired the nickname of “The Ref”. That is how he is known as by many of my friends. I learned a lot from my mam but from my dad I am grateful for teaching me; to quietly treasure my Catholic faith: for patience; for the importance of punctuality; for bringing out the best in those you work with; and being faithful to your commitments.
Today is the feast of St Thomas the Apostle. He is most famous for his initial doubts about the Resurrection of Christ. He did however go onto make a deep profession of faith in who Jesus really is When was able to say to Jesus: “My Lord and My God”. He is a saint we can turn to whenever we are filled with questions about our faith. He went on to be prepared to die for the Lord. We believe he took the Gospel to India.
Let us reflect on the qualities that we have acquired and let us thank the Lord for all the people who have influenced us and encouraged us to be the person God wants us to become.
Thought for the Day ~ Thursday 2nd July 2020
One of the things that has been very difficult for Catholics during the Pandemic has been the lack of coming together for Mass and public worship. As Christians we don’t just have a private faith, we have a one that is encouraged and nurtured by others. Equally our commitment to practising our faith by coming to Mass and even recently coming to church for private prayer, encourages and strengthens others on their journey of faith. We have been obliged during the lockdown, with churches closed and Sacraments not being available, to depend on our personal relationship with Our Lord. This has been necessary and many fruits have come from it, but many struggles have been experienced too. As Christians it is natural for us to seek a communal dimension to our faith as well. We depend on each other on the journey of life.
In today’s Gospel a man who is paralysed is brought to faith in Jesus by his friends who carry him to the Lord on a bed. The man depended at that key moment in his life on the faith of his friends. The Lord forgives his sins and then to prove that his sins are forgiven heals the man and he is able to get up and walk home.
Let us reflect today on all the people who have brought us to faith in Christ and those who sustain us on our journey of life through their commitment to their faith.
Thought for the day Wednesday 1st July 2020
Today is the feast of St Oliver Plunkett who was born in County Meath in 1625. He was ordained as a priest in Rome in 1654 and was professor of the Propagnada Fidei and appointed Archbishop of Armagh and primate of All Ireland from 1668. Oliver was in authority at a time when there was great civil and religious unrest after the interventions of Oliver Cromwell. Nevertheless he still held synods and visitations and promoted reforms introduced at the Council of Trent. Titus Oates implicated Oliver in the non-existent “Popish Plot” against the English Government which gave the authorities an excuse to act against prominent Catholics. Oliver was arrested in Ireland but taken to London for trial and was hanged at Tyburn and his remains were taken to Downside Abbey. On the occasion of his canonisation in 1975, his casket was opened and some of his remains were donated to the cathedral at Drogheda in Ireland.
In today’s Gospel Jesus brings peace to two men who had demons inside of them. The demons are sent into a herd of pigs who perish in the lake. This turns the whole town against Jesus and they ask him to leave the neighbourhood. In spite of these Jesus did good for the two men who lives were ruined by the demons and we are told made them scary to passers by.
Let us ask the Lord to take away any demons we may have that make our lives difficult and perhaps make others feel uncomfortable around us. May St Oliver Plunkett help us to remain strong and resolute even like him we amity be falsely and wrongly accused.
Thought for the day Tuesday 30th June 2020
Today we keep the feast of the first martyrs of Rome. In the year AD 64, the city of Rome was destroyed by a fire. Emperor Nero blamed the Christians for the fire and launched a campaign of persecution against them. Their deaths are documented in the writings of the Roman historian, Tacitus. They are also recorded in the letter of Pope St Clement to the Corinthians. This feast day is celebrated the day after the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, who were also martyred in Rome.
In today’s Gospel, we hear the story of the calming of the storm by Jesus. The disciples wake up the sleeping Jesus to help them, as they were afraid the boat was going to sink. He wakes up and incredibly he rebukes the wind and sea and immediately the wind drops and the sea is calm again. This story shows the two sides of Our Lord: the fact that he falls asleep in the boat because he was tired shows human side of Our Lord. Only God could speak to the wind and the sea and they would take notice of Him, so this incident reveals his divine side too.
There are times when we get frightened like the disciples in today’s Gospel, so may we trust that Christ is always at our sides even in times of crisis in our own lives. May the martyrs of Rome assist us with their prayers and inspire us to remain courageous and strong.
Thought for the day Monday 29th June 2020
There are a few occasions in my life when I have found myself without a roof over my head for the night. There have been a few such occasions when I have done this with others but the most scary was when I was all on my own.
One such occasion happened to me in in 1978 in London when I was a 19 yo student and after a series of events (a long story!) found I had missed the last train back to Leicester where I was living at the time. I was befriended that night by a young soldier returning from abroad like myself, as well as by a few homeless people. The fact I was not on my own for most of the night, protected me from the dangers that lurked; for example, gangs that were roaming round looking to rob from vulnerable individuals. The experience was a real eye-opener for me as I saw at first hand for the first time the large number of young people who slept out on the streets of London. My survival is testimony to the fact that in the face of such danger I experienced simple acts of kindness from people who genuinely wanted to help. I certainly slept well the next night back in my own bed.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus responds to a man who wants to follow him, that the Son of Man has no place to lay his head. Jesus is on one level speaking of the fact his three years of ministry comprised largely of sleeping rough and perhaps doing a bit of first century “sofa-surfing”, by staying with friends! He is saying that he was living very simply and trusting on His Father to provide for him through the offers of hospitality and kindness that he received.
When we strip away all the comforts of home that we often take for granted, it is good to be like Our Lord and humbly depend on the kindness and generosity of strangers, but no-one is of course a stranger to God. Unexpected incidents such as my night in London where we have to rely on the milk of human kindness to survive, remind us that God’s mercy and love can be found in the most unlikely of places and people.
Thought for the Day - Saturday 27th June 2020
Today is the feast of St John Southworth, who was ordained priest in the English College, Douai in France in 1618 and after returning to the English Mission was arrested in Lancashire in 1627, but the initial death sentence was commuted to that of imprisonment. In 1637 when plague was ravaging the city, he was arrested for visiting an infected house as only a priest would have made such a visit. However, it was not until 1654 that he was finally put on trial for being a priest, where he pleaded “guilty” to the charge. The judge at the trial openly wept because he knew John was an innocent man. After his martyrdom, his body was bought from the executioner by the Spanish Ambassador and taken to Douai for burial. After his beatification in 1929, his relics were enshrined
in Westminster Cathedral.
In today’s Gospel. Our Lord is amazed at the faith and trust that the pagan Centurion puts in Jesus in the way he responds to Jesus’ offer to come and heal the centurion’s servant. For the centurion the word of the Jesus that something would happen was more than good enough. Jesus says that he has never seen faith like it in all Israel. Let us also be open to be surprised at seeing expressions of faith in unlikely places and people.
May St John Southworth and all the English Martyrs help us to remain faithful to the Word of Christ even in times of trial and uncertainty.
Thought for the Day - Friday 26th June 2020
Today marks 28 years since I was ordained a Deacon. The word comes from the Greek word “Diakonos” which is actually the word for a waiter at a table. I have to admit that up to going to Seminary in 1988 I had not even heard of the word let alone met someone who was a deacon. The ministry of Deacon is actually older than that of priest as we had the first deacons of the Church commissioned by the Apostles. At the heart of being a deacon is service, assisting Bishops and priests in their ministry. According to Canon Law, a man on the road to ordination to the priesthood must spend a period (usually a year) as a deacon. Deacons can celebrate baptisms, officiate at marriage and funeral services, read the Gospel at Mass, preach and have other particular roles at the Mass.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus reveals his desire to serve others when he responds to the leper’s request for help in today’s Gospel. His response is “Of Course I want to” illustrates this desire to serve. This willingness and eagerness to help should be at the core of all Christians. A sincere desire to help others is at the heart of Holy Orders but it is also at the heart of Christian life. My prayer today is one of gratitude that the promise I made 28 years to serve the Lord and the People of God in his Church can still be fulfilled through the Grace given to me.
Thought for the day Thursday 25th June 2020
I don’t know very much about building but I do know that the most important part of a building is the foundation. If the foundations are right then the building will be solid and will stand firm for the duration of its lifetime. If the foundations are wrong, then the building will not last very long.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus uses the analogy of a building with foundations made of rock rather than on sand, to explain the importance of our lives being founded on his Word. If we listen to the teaching of Jesus and try to respond to it, then we are building our lives on the solid rock of the Gospel. When we do this we are giving ourselves a clear direction in life and therefore maintain our lives to be on course for eternal life.
If our lives are built on the firm foundations of our Christian faith, then we are going to be able to stand up to the challenges and set-backs that may come our way. These “storms” include; illnesses and death to ourselves and our loved-ones, financial difficulties, and even the fear and uncertainty that the current Covid Pandemic has brought into our lives. May our faith enable us to keep trusting in Our Lord to guide us, strengthen us and help us each day of our lives.
Thought for the day Wednesday 24th June 2020
Today we celebrate one of our parish feasts days; the Feast of the Birthday of John the Baptist.
In the Church we only celebrate 3 peoples birthdays : Our Lord’s at Christmas , Our Lady’s on 7th September and today we celebrate the birthday of St John the Baptist. As a prophet John was a sort of bridge between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Essentially through
his preaching and baptism he prepared people for the coming of Christ by repenting of their sins and changing their lives.
Just as the circumstances of Our Lord’s birth were foretold to Mary by an Angel, so too with the birth of John. This time it was told to his father Zechariah but unlike with Our Blessed Lady who believed the angel. Zechariah expresses doubts to the angel and as a result loses his power of
speech up until the day the child John is presented in the Temple to God.
There is great astonishment among those gathered when the name that John is given as they expected him to be named after his father.
His first words Zechariah uttered we are told were a prayer of praise to God. This prayer of Zechariah is known as “The Benedictus” and we use it as part of the Morning Prayer every day. Part of his prayer is addressed to John: “you shall go ahead of the Lord to prepare his ways before Him.”
Because of the pivotal role John went on to play in our salvation story, how could we not want to celebrate the birth of this humble, yet powerful prophet of God the Most High?
Thought for the day ~ Tuesday 23rd June 2020
Born in Suffolk in the early 7th century, St Etheldreda, whose feast we celebrate today, remained a virgin despite being married twice. She became a nun and a year later founded a monastery of men and women, which she ruled as abbess on the site of what is now Ely cathedral. She died there in 679. She was much venerated and renowned for her dedication to a life of chastity and for the austere regime she imposed upon herself in her latter years.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives his “Golden rule”; which is to say that the meaning of the Law and the Prophets is to always treat others as you would like them to treat you. Firstly I think I would want to be treated fairly and given a chance to be myself: I would want to be listened to be appreciated for who I am and what is important to me. I would also want people to be honest and truthful with me but to do so in a gentle way. In essence, I would want to be treated as Jesus treated people: with love, compassion and mercy.
This is a way of thinking that we can all relate to and that is easy to understand. Like many of the commandments of Jesus however, although simple it is not so easy to keep. May St Ethelthreda with her love for purity help us to keep the Golden of Rule of Christ each day that the Lord gives to us.
Thought for the day ~ Monday 22nd June 2020
Today is the feast of St John Fisher and St Thomas More. These are very well-known high-profile English Martyrs.
John Fisher was Bishop of Rochester at the time of King Henry Viii and championed the validity of the king’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. The Bishop therefore refused to assent when the king divorced, married Anne Boleyn and declared himself supreme Head of the Church in England. A month after being made a Cardinal by the Pope, he was executed on this day in 1535.
Thomas More was an eminent lawyer and a judge. He was a close friend of Henry VIII and was made Lord Chancellor in 1529. Like Bishop John Fisher he opposed the King in his divorce from Catherine of Aragon. Even though he had by then already resigned from public office, he refused to swear an oath to endorse the Act of Succession, which effectively repudiated the authority of the Pope. He was executed just a few weeks after John Fisher on 6th July. Onlookers heard him say that he remained “the king’s good servant, but God’s first”.
Both John Fisher and Thomas More even up to their moment of death, continued to show dignity to their opponents or enemies and treated them as if they were acting in good faith. St Thomas More even wrote a prayer for our enemies/opponents (see below).
We thank the Lord for these martyrs, for the courage and inner strength that they showed in standing up for what they believed in. May their example of graciousness to their opponents inspire us to treat well even those who oppose us and disagree with us.
Prayer of St Thomas More for His Opponents
Almighty God, Have mercy on N. and N. [names],and on all that bear me evil will and would me harm, and their faults and mine together, by such easy, tender, merciful means as thine infinite wisdom best can devise; vouchsafe to amend and redress and make us saved souls in heaven together, where we may ever live and love together with Thee and thy blessed saints, O glorious Trinity, for the bitter passion of our sweet Saviour.
Thought for the day ~ Saturday 20 th June 2020
Today is the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which is celebrated the day after the Feast of the Sacred Heart. Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary began in the 12th century. In 17 th century France, St John Eudes popularised devotion to it. On this feast we reflect on how Mary gives us a great example of how to listen to the words God speaks to our hearts through the Holy Spirit. Mary also shows us how to respond to the Word of God ourselves.
Luke tells us in today’s Gospel that Mary treasured in her heart some of the mysteries she experienced surrounding Her Beloved Son. This includes the account of when Jesus went missing at the aged 12 while on a pilgrimage with Mary and Joseph for the Passover at Jerusalem. After three very anxious days of searching for him, Mary and Joseph find Jesus sitting in the Temple listening to the learned scholars and asking them questions and showing great intelligence. He tells Mary and Joseph that He was busy with “His Father’s affairs”. Although we are told that the parents did not fully understand what Jesus meant by such words, the pondering of these things in her heart surely means that Our Lady realised that God’s plan of salvation, of which she played a central part, was nicely on track.
Let us pray for all parents today that on the feast of the Immaculate Heart, Our Lady will give them the patience, love and trust to accept some of the mysteries that surround bringing up their children.
Thought for the day ~ Friday 19th June 2020
On the sideboard of my grandparents house in Shotley Bridge, County Durham, there was an image of the Sacred Heart. Before he used to go out of the house whether for work or some other reason, my grandad Terence, who died in 1969, would silently stand in front of the image of Our Lord for a couple of minutes. He was a man of great faith so I imagine, in standing before the image of Christ he would be reminding himself of how loving Our Lord was and how loving and compassionate he was called to be towards all those he was to encounter on leaving the house.
Today is the feast of the Sacred Heart. The whole of the month of June is set aside to honour the Sacred Heart of Jesus. We are reminded on this feast of how much Our Lord loves us. The heart is always seen as a symbol of Divine love. In the image of the Sacred Heart, Jesus is bearing his heart for all of us to see. It tells us he is prepared to die for us, so that our sins can be forgiven and that our relationship with God can be restored.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that we are to come to him because he is “gentle and humble in heart”. Because of his immense love for us, Our Lord is very gentle and humble with us all, even though we are sinners. Therefore each of us infinitely matters to him and can always approach him regardless of what we may have done to offend him.
I always used to think how humble it was of my grandad to stand before the image of the Sacred Heart before he went to work. I think his regular time of prayer before the Sacred Heart image had allowed this gentle man of faith to model himself on His Lord and Saviour. May the Sacred Heart of Jesus have mercy on you and all those you love.
Thought for the Day ~ Thursday 18th June 2020
Jesus is talking about prayer in today’s Gospel. Prayer is really important as it is food for our souls.
First of all he tells us not to babble when praying ~ I think it is important to speak coherently but sincerely in prayer. We should talk to God like we would talk to a trusted friend. Therefore we should be respectful, sincere and genuine in prayer.
Because God knows what we need before we ask him, Jesus then gives a structure for prayer ~ the Lord’s Prayer. This prayer is direct, simple, inclusive of others and concise. We are very familiar with this perfect prayer, so it would good from time to time to dwell on some aspect of its rich content.
Finally Jesus highlights from the Our Father the lines about forgiveness. If we hope to be forgiven by God our own sins then we need to forgive others when they wrong us. At the heart of the word “forgiveness” is the word; ”give”. When we forgive someone the wrongs they have done to us, we have to give a bit of love and mercy to them. God will be as forgiving of us as we are forgiving of others. Jesus therefore tells us that forgiveness calls for generosity on our part.
Thought for the day Wednesday 17th June 2020
In the film “Chariots of fire”, featuring the famous music by Vangelis, we get the true story of two men who are athletes racing for gold in the 1924 Olympics: Eric Liddell a Christian runs for his faith, as well as Harold Abrahams, an English Jew who participates to leave prejudice behind. The film’s title was inspired by the line “Bring me, my chariot of fire” from the William Blake poem adapted into the British hymn ”Jerusalem”. Liddell says at one point when being criticised for his commitment to his faith by his sister; “ I believe that God made me for a purpose, but he also made me to run fast and when I run, I feel His pleasure”.
The original phrase “Chariot of fire” appears in today’s first reading. We have been hearing over the last few days about the story of Elijah, the great prophet, who even in times of great trial remained faithful to God. Today we hear that he is dramatically taken to heaven on a chariot of fire. This is a sign that his faithfulness has brought pleasure to God.
I believe, like Liddell, that God has a purpose for all of us and that purpose is to discover what God is asking of us in this life. In addition, through being faithful to this purpose and using the many gifts we have been given, we may bring pleasure to God and so we may reach our eternal home in
Thought for the day Tuesday 16th June 2020
Thanks be to Thee, my Lord Jesus Christ
For all the benefits Thou hast given me,
For all the pains and insults Thou hast borne for me.
O most merciful Redeemer, friend and brother,
May I know Thee more clearly,
Love Thee more dearly,
Follow Thee more nearly.
The above words are from a prayer ascribed to St Richard of Chichester, whose feast we celebrate today. He was born Richard Wych in Droitwich, in circa 1197. His parents died when he was still at school. He eventually went to Oxford and joined the school, of Edmund Rich, a future Archbishop of Canterbury, who was a great influence on him and became a lifelong friend. He went on to study in Paris and Bologna, before returning to Oxford as Chancellor. It was not until he was in his early forties that he began to feel called to the priesthood, for which he trained in Orleans. He eventually became Bishop of Chichester but got off to a very unfortunate start due to controversy with the King, who disapproved of his appointment, so initially had to serve the Diocese from the rectory of Tarring. Here he worked tirelessly visiting monasteries, parishes and homes for the poor and the sick throughout his diocese. The dispute involving the king was eventually resolved and Richard took possession of his Cathedral amidst great rejoicing. He carried out many reforms in the diocese. He lived very frugally himself but was still renowned for his hospitality. He was a man of compassion renowned for his concern for children withdisabilities and also for convicted criminals. He died on April 3rd 1253 after being a bishop for just 8 years. He was canonised within a decade of his death and his body was placed in a new shrine in Chichester Cathedral.
In today’s Gospel, the Lord tells us to be perfect as His Heavenly Father is perfect. I think that St Richard is a great example of one who strived for perfection by imitating Christ. We should all try to be like St Richard who strived to be the best he could be by modelling himself on Christ in his compassion, love and service to his country and to the Church. May we like him also be faithful to the Lord whatever tasks are asked of us and remain positive and resolute when set-backs and adversity seem to block the way that lies ahead.
Thought for the day ~ Monday 15th June 2020
Through the long days of half of the season of Lent and the whole season of Easter this year, our churches have remained locked and empty apart from the daily private Mass being celebrated in some of them. Today St Mary’s church along with a few others across the Diocese will re-open their doors for the first time since March 23rd, albeit only for private prayer. It’s a step in the right direction and it's therefore a positive sign. I am very grateful to the help that has been offered by those prepared to act as stewards in order to offer this important facility to the Catholics of the area. I hope that among the intentions of those who will visit Our Lord in the church in the coming days, will be a prayer of gratitude for all who have brought us to this moment on our journey.
In today’s Gospel Jesus asks his disciples to be merciful and generous even with those who make life hard for them. The phrase “Go the extra mile” is inspired by the Lord’s words about going two miles if someone orders you to go one mile. This phrase speaks of willingly putting ourselves out for others and of being utterly kind. The Lord Jesus himself epitomises his own words and teaching in many instances in his life. In gratitude may we imitate Our Lord by digging as deep as we possibly can in showing love to all those we encounter.
Thought for the day Saturday 13th June
Today is the feast of St Antony of Padua. He was born in Lisbon in 1598 and there he is known as St Antony of Portugal. A few years ago I had the privilege of concelebrating Mass in Italian at the church built above the saint’s home in Lisbon. He was initially an Augustinian then changed to become a Franciscan friar so he could become a missionary. He travelled to Morocco but became ill so he had to leave Africa. On his way home his ship was diverted by a storm to Sicily so he found himself taking part in the General Chapter of the Franciscans in 1221 where he met St Francis of Assisi himself. His preaching career then took him to Northern Italy and Southern France. Later he returned to Padua in Italy where as an outstanding preacher, he became the first Franciscan theologian. His sermons were full of gentleness but he was very firm on clergy who were not pulling their weight or those who oppressed the weak. Statues of St Anthony show him in a Franciscan habit with child Jesus in one hand and a bible in the other hand. He is the patron of the lost and found.
In today’s first reading we hear of the calling of Elisha by Elijah the prophet. Elisha significantly shows his desire and intention to move away from his former role of ploughing in order to dedicate himself to God’s work. He slaughters the oxen and gives away the plough to his colleagues. Like Elisha and Antony we also need to commit ourselves unreservedly to the Lord. Maybe not as dramatically as they did but nevertheless in some small way to make little sacrifices to show our love for God.
May the gentleness and compassion of St Antony of Padua bring us closer to Christ., May he especially guide us on those occasions when we feel lost and our lives are heading in the wrong direction.
Thought for the day Friday 12th June 2020
There is nothing quite like a gentle breeze to cool us on a hot day ~ it’s is so refreshing and comforting and welcoming. I often find myself saying that when I am out walking I am grateful for the breeze to prevent me from sweating and over-heating too much, which is very uncomfortable and highly unpleasant.
Elijah in today’s first reading is told to stand on the mountain and wait for the Lord. While he is waiting, there occurs a mighty wind, an earth-quake and a fire but the Lord we are told is not in any of thee. After all these have passed, Elijah hears a sound like a gentle breeze and he instinctively knew that the Lord was then present. He then comes out from his cave on the mountain having covered his face as he knew the Lord was there. God is all powerful, but he does not need show his mighty power therefore he can easily be present in something like a gentle breeze. The Lord addresses Elijah and goes on to send his faithful prophet on a mission.
I often say that only the inwardly strong are truly gentle. Let us strive to be strong interiorly through our faith and trust in Christ so that we can be graceful and gentle in all our encounters.
Thought for the day Thursday 11th June 2020
St Barnabas was born in Cyprus. His name we are told means“son of encouragement” He was an early convert in Jerusalem and vouched for St Paul when he appeared before the elders there. He accompanied Paul on his first missionary journey. He later went to preach the Gospel in Cyprus with his cousin John Mark, who is St Mark the Evangelist. It is thought he was martyred in Salamis in Cyprus circa the year AD61.
Barnabas was a great missionary of the Church. We are told in the first reading that when he was sent by the church in Jerusalem to Antioch, he could see for himself that God had given grace to the Church at Antioch, for he was a good man, filled with faith and the Holy Spirit. Grace is that freely given gift from the Lord that enables believers to live the divine life. As “a son of encouragement”, we are told that he urged the community there to remain faithful to the Lord with heartfelt devotion. I think this means that our prayer should be regular, sincere and genuine.
May St Barnabas inspire us to be missionary in the way we live out our faith. May we like him encourage our fellow Christians to faithfully practise heartfelt devotion. May we also be grateful for the grace that we see at work in those who love the Lord.
Thought for the Day Wednesday 10th June
In the first reading at Mass today we continue to hear of the story of the prophet Elijah. In today’s colourful episode we hear of the encounter with the prophets of Baal. It is a sort of competition as to who is the true God; but there are 450 prophets of Baal and Elijah alone is the prophet of the Lord God. The prophets of Baal are not successful in calling upon their god to consume their sacrificial offerings. Elijah has complete faith trust in the Lord and of course the Lord indeed shows his presence when asked.
Sometimes we find ourselves like Elijah being a solitary lonely voice as regards our Catholic faith. There are times when we are asked to stand up and make our voice of faith and trust in God heard. In times like these may the Lord give us the same confidence and courage as the prophet to speak the truth about our Lord and Our God.
Thought for the day Tuesday 9th June
One of the many things I love about being in Burnley is the strong presence of committed members of the Knights of St Columba, whose feast day we celebrate today. In my experience the KSC in Burnley joyfully witness to their Catholic faith by; their faithfulness and love for the Mass; their charitable acts of fundraising, kindness and visiting the sick; their support and encouragement for each other and their families; and also their love and support for priests. They certainly have many of the qualities that their patron successfully manifested throughout his life.
Their patron, Columba (or in Gaelic Colm Cille), was born in Gartan in County Donegal ca 521. I remember having a lovely holiday near Gartan, a few years ago and we were privileged to be able to celebrate Mass in the church there on 9th June. Columba was of royal lineage and studied under Finnian of Moville and Finnion of Clonard. He founded monasteries at Derry, Durrow and possibly Kells. He then left Ireland to become a missionary. He is most famous for his foundation on the island of Iona, from where he converted much of western Scotland. His followers took the Gospel as far as Northern England. He was to die on Iona in 597. He was an accomplished poet as well as being a scribe and spiritual guide. He is renowned in Gaelic Literature for his great love for all God’s creatures.
One of the great messages that Columba took with him to the people of England and Scotland were the words of Our Lord in today’s Gospel, that we are to let our light shine in the sight of men, so that seeing our good works, we may give praise to our Father in Heaven. Good missionaries, like Columba accepted people where they were at and by showing the good example of a life of prayer and service, would lead people to want a share for themselves in the blessed life that they were witnessing.
May we be grateful for the continuing presence of the Knights of St Columba here in Burnley, and may the Lord bless their work this day and everyday.
Thought for the day Monday 8th June 2020
In today’s Gospel, the prophet Elijah is asked by God to go out into the wilderness at a time of famine and to show his faith by putting his trust in God to provide the food and drink that he needs. He was right to do this, and the Lord provided what he needed. In times of difficulty we are also asked like Elijah to listen out for God’s voice and most importantly to respond to what we hear. We need to show the same trust and courage that Elijah showed by being open to the voice of the Lord in prayer, being willing to listen to what we hear and respond accordingly in obedience.
In today’s Gospel, we hear the Beatitudes of Christ from Matthew’s great Sermon on the Mount. These contain the approach that we need to adopt if we want to imitate Christ and seek lasting joy and happiness. This turns on its head some of the accepted values that we hold. They are a self portrait of Christ in words. Everyone of the words of Christ ring true with how he was, because they are backed up by actions from his life. For example He says that those who are poor in spirit will be happy; this refers to emptying ourselves of our own ambition and making the hopes of others our priority ~ this is perfectly illustrated by the Lord giving his all on the Cross for our sake. Another Beatitude speaks of the merciful being happy; at the heart of mercy is giving: Jesus always showed great compassion to sinners and those who were suffering from all sorts of ailments and granted forgiveness and healing to them.
May the God fill us with joy when we are trusting of His word like Elijah and merciful and selfless like Jesus.
Thought for the day Saturday 6th June
On Thursday I spoke of the generosity of a community. In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of the need for individuals to be discreet in our giving. He also says that the intention behind our generosity is important as well. He is not impressed with ostentation. He says that God will be able to see through us when we do things just to be noticed or to draw attention to ourselves. We need instead to be humble and discreet in our giving. He does not like those who claim to be well in with God but are in fact treating the poor badly.
Our Lord notices the rich people putting large amounts of money into the treasury in the Temple, but knows they have the means to be able to do this. The one who does impress Jesus was an unlikely person: a widow puts two small coins into the treasury but it was all she had to live Jesus knew that this woman made no fuss of what she was giving. She showed her genuine love and trust in God and Jesus knew that although she was poor, she was rich in faith.
May our giving also be sincere and discreet. May we do it to genuinely help others and not to impress other people. May our giving always be done in response to God’s generosity to us. May we always try to be as generous as the widow in the Gospel. If we do all these things, then the Lord will surely bless our generosity with his grace.
Thought for the Day - Friday 5th June 2020
Today is the feast of St Boniface. He was born ca 675 in Devon and was originally known as Wynfrith. He was educated at the monastery at Exeter and then joined the Benedictine monastery at Nursling, near Southampton. He was a teacher and preacher but had missionary zeal inside of him, desiring to preach the Gospel in a foreign land. It was when he was commissioned to do so by Pope Gregory II that he changed his name to Boniface. Boniface left England, never to return, and took the Gospels to Germany and achieved great success there. He became Bishop of Mainz and restored or founded other dioceses. In later years he worked to reform the Frankish Church. In his 70’s he set out to evangelise Friesland (in modern day Holland) but was murdered there on this day in 754. This martyr of English origin is honoured as an apostle of Germany.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is speaking of himself in relation to David. We believe that Jesus is Lord and Son of God. Through Joseph, He is a descendant of King David. He is therefore the fulfilment of the prophecy made to David, that one of his relatives would have an eternal kingdom. Jesus Christ eternal king is therefore also able to be called Son of David. So Jesus is the one who can bring alive the words of the psalm “The Lord, said: “sit on my right, your foes, I have put beneath your feet”.
Let us like St Boniface desire to make known the Son of God and Son of David to those who do not yet know him.
Thought for the day Thursday 4th June
On Wednesday I was in Buxton to meet up with my brother Paul and my niece, Alice in the lovely park there called the Pavillion Gardens. We walked round the park and came to Broad Walk, a pedestrian area that runs adjacent to the length of the park for over a quarter of a mile and I noticed as you can see from the below photos, there was a long line of approximately 4000 beautifully painted stones, supplied by a local builder’s merchants and decorated by the people of Buxton of all ages. As it’s a very long thin line it’s called the “Covid snake.” It’s a gesture of solidarity and togetherness in the midst of the Pandemic. There is a sign at the beginning of Broad Walk which says “please feed the snake ~ give to it but do not take!” The sheer length of the “snake” tells us how people responded to that simple invitation to give. I was touched by spirit of generosity and community that this impressive venture for fun in the face of fear depicts.
Today is the Feast of Jesus Christ Eternal High Priest. At the heart of Christ’s Priesthood is sacrifice and generosity and a desire to give of himself. In the Gospel we hear of Christ in the Garden of Gethsamane preparing for his forthcoming Passion and Death. In a spirit of generosity he prays for the Father’s will to be done, not his own. He will give of his all for the sake of everyone. He gave everything and took nothing for himself.
There have been lots of acts of kindness and discreet giving going, without the expectation of getting anything in return, on throughout the last few months. May Our Lord Jesus Eternal High Priest continue to bless all the acts of generosity and giving throughout this crisis, known and unknown, large and small in Buxton, Burnley and everywhere else in the UK.
Thought for the Day Wednesday 3rd June 2020
Today we keep the feast of Charles Lwanga and companions, the Ugandan martyrs. King Mwanga of Uganda had many Catholic and Protestant Christians killed. Some of them were even servants in the king’s palace or personal attendants to the king. Charles and 21 of his companions were executed between 1885 and 1887 for being having Christian principles and rebuking the king for his immoral practises in which they refused to take part. For this they were tortured and burned alive in a group. Seeds of faith flourish in times of persecution, and so the Catholic faith grew quickly and massively in Uganda following their martyrdom. in the St Charles is the patron of Catholic Action and of African Youth. Today is a public holiday in Uganda.
Following yesterday’s trap for Jesus set by the Pharisees and Herodians, in today’s Gospel, the Sadducees also try to catch Jesus out with a highly hypothetical question about the resurrection, which they do not believe in. Jesus answers quoting the Jewish Scriptures where God told Moses he is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Jesus goes on to conclude that: “He is God not of the dead, but of the living”. St Charles and his companions were totally convinced about the Resurrection of Christ. They knew that eternal life would be theirs if they stood up for Christian virtues and the teachings of the Church, even if this put their lives at risk.
Thought for the day Tuesday 2nd June 2020
Today is the feast of St Marcellinus and Peter, who were martyred in the year 304. Marcellinus was a priest and Peter was not. They were beheaded during the Emperor Diocletian’s persecution of the Church and were buried on the Via Lubicana outside Rome. As a boy, Pope Damasus I had heard the story of these martyrs from their executioner.
He went on to dedicate his life to establishing and strengthening the Church after the great persecution. He took much care over the restoration of the Roman catacombs and the proper burial of the martyrs there, including Marcellinus and Peter. After the persecutions, a basilica was built over the site of their tomb.
In the Gospel today, Jesus is challenged by the Pharisees and Herodians about whether it is permissible to pay taxes to Caesar, the Roman Emperor, the leader of the Romans occupying Israel. Jesus knows they are setting a trap for him but very cleverly catches out his questioners with the intelligence of his response. Jesus is advocating that worldly authorities deserve our acknowledgement. However in saying “Give to God what belongs to God”: He is saying that every aspect of our lives belong to God ; so we always need to give God our total obedience, respect and love.
The Martyrs whose feast we celebrate today, by their death witness to a life of giving to God what belongs to God by the example of lives spend in putting God first.
Thought for the day ~ Monday 1st June
Today is the feast of Mary, Mother of the Church. It is a relatively new feast instituted by Pope Francis and is celebrated the day after Pentecost.
Pentecost marks the beginning of the Church, which is the community of believers who are filled the Holy Spirit. In the first reading we hear from the book of Genesis that Eve is the mother of all people. Eve and Adam both sinned, so as a result, as humans, just by being born we all inherit Original Sin. However when we are baptised, Original Sin gets taken away and we are able to receive God’s Holy Spirit. This enables us to belong to the family of believers which is the Church.
In today’s Gospel, we are with Mary at the foot of the Cross. Before he breathes his last, Our Lord utters beautiful words to Mary and to John, the Beloved Disciple. To Mary his mother, says; “Mother, behold your son and to John he says; ”Son, behold your Mother”. By these words, the Lord is entrusting the care of all his followers including us to the care of His Blessed Mother. Mary is the new Eve, but unlike the first Eve, Our Lady is without Sin. Therefore Mary is the perfect disciple and the Mother of all the redeemed. It is right that just after Pentecost we honour Our Lady as the Mother of the Church.
May Our Lady, Mother of the Church continue to help us through these days when our churches are closed, to stay close to her Son, to stay away from temptation to sin and to show love, care and compassion to all those we encounter.
Thought for the day Saturday 30th May 2020
One of the important things that we need to do as friends of Jesus is to be people who pray. Prayer is about both speaking and listening to God. Like any friendship that we value we need to invest time into it, in order for it to flourish. Prayer is the way we build up a personal relationship with Jesus.
St Paul tells us that the Spirit is given to help us in many ways. The Spirit will help us overcome the things that we struggle with. Paul also tells us that the Spirit will be the one who gives us that desire for God. It is the Spirit who will urge us to want to pray and to overcome the things that prevent us from wanting to pray. The Spirit will even be the one who gives us the right words that we need to use in our time of prayer. The Spirit helps us to question our priorities and makes changes where needed and to get our priorities right.
The Spirit always leads us to Jesus. On this eve of Pentecost, may we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us closer to Christ and be grateful to him for being part of the universal Church.
Thought for the day Friday 29th May 2020
There is a hymn that speaks of God turning the world upside down. This speaks of the change that the Holy Spirit brings to the world. The Spirit who comes at Pentecost brings change. He will come upon the Apostles as tongues of fire. Fire brings change; after a fire everything has to change, everything has to be renewed. The disciples were never the same again after they received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. They went on to establish the Church and help to start the journey to bring its message of salvation to every part of the world.
The Spirit brings change and turns everything upside down. Jesus speaks of this when he says the last shall be first and the first shall be last.
The prophet Joel spoke of God’s spirit being given to all people ~ to men and women, slaves and free. The message of the Gospel is for all who are willing to accept it. It is not just for specially chosen people, it is for all who have a receptive heart, open to accept that Jesus is Lord. We see further evidence of the Holy Spirit turning the world upside down in the prophets words; “ the old men shall dream dreams and young men shall see visions”. It is usually the other way round; the elderly can see visions and it is only the young who can aspire. However the Holy Spirit can enable young people to be wise and close to God and can equally enable the elderly to be filled with hope.
As we prepare for Pentecost may we allow the Spirit to change us and renew us in faith and love.
Thought for the day ~ Thursday 28th May 2020
It was the sin of pride that got people to desire to build a tower to Heaven ~ they wanted to get to God and to Heaven by their own means. In the Genesis account of the Tower of Babel, we hear that God was not impressed with this. God would himself provide the way to Heaven. Because of this pride, people were scattered throughout the earth and spoke different languages so they could not understand earth other and could not therefore work together to complete the tower.
When the Holy Spirit first came at Pentecost upon the Apostles, they were changed and no longer afraid to go out and to proclaim the good news about Jesus. We are told that on that day, because they were filled with the Holy Spirit, they spoke everyone’s language so that people visiting Jerusalem that day from every race and language. They heard them and understood them cos they spoke in their Language. Everyone was amazed and filled with joy.
Pentecost is the beginning of the Church, which is people with the Holy Spirit, which we receive at Baptism. It is also called the birthday of the Church. Thanks to the Holy Spirit, the Apostles went on to spread the good news and therefore build the Church throughout the world. So the Church is now found in virtually every country in the world and people who speak every language are united.
It is through the Church, build by God himself that people can journey towards salvation and be on the path to God, and Heaven.
Thought for the day ~ Wednesday 27th May 2020
Today’s Gospel tells of the sending out of the first missionaries. Jesus sends out the 72 ahead of him to all the towns and villages he himself was to visit. They were being sent out; “like lambs among wolves”. He equipped them only with his trust and his confidence in them. He tells, to be prepared for some people to reject them, but to be essentially His ambassadors of peace.
Today is the feast of St Augustine of Canterbury, who died around 605. Pope Gregory the Great decided to send thirty monks from Rome to evangelise these shores. These missionaries chose Augustine, prior of the monastery of St Andrew in Rome to be their leader. They landed here in 597 and were welcomed by King Ethelbert who along with many of his subjects became Christian. Augustine was consecrated Archbishop in France and returned to Canterbury to set up his see. He achieved great success as a missionary here because of his faithfulness to Christ’s message of peace. He trusted that his mission to England was desired by God and was guided by the Holy Spirit.
We should be grateful to St Augustine for bringing the faith to our land. May he inspire us to be courageous in speaking of our Christian faith, by being first and foremost respectful of where people are at and be as authentic as we can be about our faithfulness to Christ and His Church.
Thought for the day Tuesday 26th May 2020
Today is the feast of St Philip Neri who was the founder of the Congregation of the Oratory (Oratorians). He was born in Florence in 1515 and went to Rome at the age of 18 and earned his living as a tutor. He undertook much-needed charitable work among the young men of Rome. He started a brotherhood to help the poor, the sick and pilgrims. He was ordained priest in 1551. He had a particular care for the students at the English College, preparing for missionary life and probable martyrdom in England. The principles of the Oratory he founded are that tradition is a good thing, but innovation also has its place. St Philip was renowned for his light-heartedness and sense of fun and could not be serious for long. He was famous for his pranks which he always did for the purpose of combating pride, melancholy or hero worship.
May St Philip Neri help us when we are taking ourselves too seriously to lighten up. In these serious times, may he inspire us to bring fun into our families and into our communities. Remember today to pray for the Oratorian communities throughout the world and particularly for those in this country and our Diocese.
Thought for the Day - Monday 25th May 2020
Today is the feast day of a fellow North-Easterner, St Bede the Venerable. He was born in 673 in what is now Sunderland. He joined the monastery at Wearmouth and spent his whole life between there and Jarrow, where he taught and wrote. He was the most outstanding Church author of his time. As well as commentaries on Scripture, he also wrote a history of the English Church. He was also the first known writer of English prose, though this has not survived. He is venerated as the “light of the Church” in the Dark Ages. He is also seen as the forerunner to the renaissance of the Western Church.
In the first reading today we hear of the Holy Spirit continuing to be at work in the Early Church. St Paul is in Ephesus and his preaching leads to twelve men being baptised and receiving the Holy Spirit. We hear of the change in them and of the new gifts that they were able to use as a result of receiving the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is always at work in the Church gently guiding us and helping us.
In these days of waiting for Pentecost to come this year, let us allow the Holy Spirit to lead us to want to pray and fill us with his love. May the Holy Spirit also enable us to be confident like St Paul and St Bede in speaking about our faith in the Risen Lord.
Thought for the Day Saturday 23rd May 2020
A friend of mine is moving to a new town after living in a different place for a long time. He knows he will be welcomed by the locals where he is going, but he has doubts over whether he is doing the right thing. I encouraged him to go with his instinct about it being the right thing to do and despite the uncertainties associated with such a big step into the unknown, to trust that the Lord will be with him to guide him and strengthen him.
We hear in the first reading today, that the early Christians and therefore the early Church was known as “the Way”. This we are told refers to those who try to follow “the Way of the Lord”. There is something nice and simple about this name for the believers. Jesus calls himself “The Way, the Truth and the Life” so that those who enter into relationship with him will be on the right path to eternal life.
It is good to compare life to a journey and this is largely a journey into the unknown. Despite the uncertainties in which this journey of life is travelled, we know that the key thing to do is to have faith. If we have faith in Christ then we are enabled to have trust in his words and in his presence, even when we make big life-changing decisions.
Thought for the Day - Friday 22nd May
In today’s Gospel Jesus is speaking to the disciples at the Last Supper about the sorrow and pain they are going to face at his imminent Death. He assures them that this will not last and will be replaced by joy ~ the joy of the Resurrection. When we lose someone that we love, we know that our world seems to have come to an end, and we cannot imagine what life in the future will be like without them.
In the days and weeks after the death of a loved-one, we usually get lots of support from those who know us, but this does not always continue. We are blessed in our parish to have groups like the Bereavement Group and the Bethany Group that work with those who are grieving and this is ongoing support that is much needed and much appreciated by those who are receive it.
Those who have had to organise a funeral during the current crisis have been hit particularly hard because the restrictions that needed to be imposed, mean they can’t receive the usual support, nor largely be able to have the type of funeral that they would have liked.
May all those who have recently lost a loved one allow their Easter faith to help them to receive comfort and hope from the Risen Lord in their present sorrow and pain.
Thought for the Day ~ Ascension Day ~ Thursday 21st May
Today is Ascension Day which marks forty days since Easter Sunday. This event in the life of Jesus, took place forty days after Easter. The Risen Jesus spent time with his disciples and told them to stay in Jerusalem, and promised that the Holy Spirit would come upon them. Then he ascended into heaven in their presence and disappeared from their sight into a cloud. He had to go home, he had to go back to be re-united with the Father so he can send the Spirit.
The disciples were still looking up into the sky and some angels appeared to them to tell them to be looking ahead not looking up into the sky. They were telling them they had work to do and they needed to get on with the task Jesus had entrusted them with. This was to go out to the world and make known the name of Jesus to all. This of course they would only be able to do with the Holy Spirit, who will come to them ten days later, at Pentecost.
This feast is also important for us because it reminds us of our mission too . Where Jesus has gone we hope to follow. In the meantime we are called to bear witness to our faith just as the disciples did. The person who despite their limitations and defects lives a simple life, taking Christ as the model, is a sign of someone who has God in their lives. The witness of a life that shows concern for people and practical help and love for the poor, the weak and those who suffer is also one that has widespread appeal. Such witness can lead people to ask questions of themselves and lead them to God.
Happy Ascension Day
Thought for the Day Wednesday 20th May 2020
In January this year, I had a lovely holiday in Athens with my friend, Fr Martin from Newcastle. It was our first time to mainland Greece and although a bit chilly for the first few days was a very pleasant break. We visited the well-known sites like the Acropolis and other historic places. However, as priests, we were very keen to see the Areopagus, where St Paul made his famous speech to the assembled Council, as detailed in today’s first reading. Curiously there is only a very small plaque marking the spot where this event took place. Despite using a very clever approach involving the statue “To an Unknown God”, Paul only had relatively small success in convincing the Athenians about Christ being the same one they already venerated. Their major stumbling block was the Resurrection, at the mention of which many of them laughed, because they could not believe it was true.
As the reaction of the people of First Century Athens proved, it does take a big step in faith to accept the Resurrection. However the Church gives us seven weeks of the season of Easter in order to remind us it is the most important tenet of our faith. We know that Easter makes sense of everything that we believe in about Christ. The Resurrection helps us to know why we can have the Sacraments, which lead us to a life of grace. It leads to an invitation to enter into a personal relationship with the Living Lord Jesus. It also makes sense of life and of death. In this Easter Season,and in these challenging times we find ourselves in, it is important that we remain strong in our faith in the Resurrection.
Thought for the Day Tuesday 19th May
May 19th has always been a significant day for my family because that is the day my mam was born in 1933. Today is also the feast of St Dunstan, who was a great English Saint. I was Parish priest at St Dunstan’s Church in Moston in North Manchester for nearly ten years, prior to moving to Urmston in 2014. St Dunstan’s people are great people and I was very blessed to serve them as Parish Priest.
One of the highlights of my time in Moston was in 2012, to mark the centenary of the parish, was to go with parishioners on a pilgrimage in the footsteps of St Dunstan. It turned out to be a great experience because it took us to wonderful places associated with the saint. It took us to Baltonsborough, Somerset near Glastonbury. Here he was born circa 909 and where he started his life as a monk in the monastery there. He later became abbot of Glastonbury, whereby he had to recreate monastic life, established a school for the locals, and literally rebuilt the ruined abbey. He was renowned as a musician, illuminator and metalworker. Dunstan personally inherited a fortune which he used to foster and encourage monastic revival in England. He was a stateman and an advisor to kings. Dunstan’s coronation ceremony which emphasises the bond between church and monarch, still forms the basis of royal coronations to this day. Not all the kings he served, appreciated his honesty!. One such king had him exiled for two years to a monastery in Ghent (now Belgium), for speaking his mind about the king’s morals. He used his time there however to good use and brought back with him many ideas for the reform of monasticism in this country. As well as being Bishop of London, Dunstan was also made Bishop of Worcester, which with its splendid Cathedral is another fine place we visited on our Jubilee pilgrimage.
Dunstan ended up as Archbishop of Canterbury , where he is buried in the Cathedral there after his death there in 988. This important position enabled him to bring about great reforms in the English Church. On our parish pilgrimage, the very kind staff at the Cathedral there kindly allowed us access to Dunstan’s tomb. May the Lord bless all who have St Dunstan as their Patron. May this very gifted English Saint and Stateman renowned for his wisdom, faithful to the Lord, charity and humility inspire us to trust in Our Lord through good times as well as the challenging times that we
Thought for the day Monday 18th May 2020
Preaching is obviously important ~ hopefully what is being said is helpful to the hearers. Sometimes people tell me that what I said must have been directed at them. I might reply to that by saying that we first and foremost preach to ourselves ~ we are sinners ourselves and so we need to be challenged ourselves. The Holy Spirit is at work in what we say and also in helping to find a receptive heart in which the words can dwell.
In today’s excerpt from the Acts of the Apostles, Paul’s words really strike a chord with Lydia, a lady who comes to listen to him. We are told that she is a devout lady and in the purple-dye trade, so a woman of means. We are told that the Lord opened her heart to what Paul was saying and she asked to be baptised along with her household. She insists that in response to the Good News about Jesus Christ that Paul has shared with her that Paul and his companions stay with her at her home in Thyatira. She will prove to be a faithful disciple of Christ.
We are also called to proclaim our faith to others. We might not necessarily use words to do this; the example of our lives should be authentic enough to do this. In today’s Gospel, Jesus calls the Advocate whom he sends upon his Church; “the Spirit of Truth”. We who have received the same Spirit ourselves at Baptism and Confirmation. should not be surprised when what we say and do in the name of the Lord, should sometimes resonate with another person who desires to share our faith.
Thought for the Day ~ Saturday 16th May 2020
The whole of the month of May is dedicated to Our Blessed Lady. We do this to remind us of Mary’s importance in the life of the Church and in our own lives as well.
This tradition dates back to the ancient Greeks who dedicated the month of May to Artemis, the goddess of fecundity. Romans also claimed May as the month to honour Flora, the goddess of bloom. During the 11th Century Christians in Italy first adopted the month of May for devotions to honour Our Lady.
We do this because Our Lady is the Mother of Christ so she is the Mother of God. She is also the Mother of the Church and she is the first and most perfect disciple of her Son. Our Lady is an advocate for us and whenever we pray to her, she always directs us to her Son.
We have some lovely feasts connected with Our Lady in May; on 1st May we remember her beloved husband St Joseph, a man of faith who with Mary brought up Jesus as his own. On 13th May, we have the feast of Our Lady of Fatima , remembering when Our Lady appeared six times to three children in a little village in Portugal. Finally, on 31st May, we have the Feast of the Visitation, when we celebrate Mary visiting her cousin Elizabeth to share the news that she was to be the Mother of the Lord.
May Our Lady, herself no stranger to uncertainty help us through these uncertain times to keep strong in our faith in her Son. May Our Lady, Queen of the Angels and Queen of the May, pray for us.
Thought for the day Friday 15th May
Yesterday I was speaking about friendship and saying that I believe that our friends are a gift from God. I have a bit of rule of thumb about friends, that I use half-jokingly but half-seriously as well: it is called “my five year rule”! It means that I don’t consider someone is a true friend unless I have known them for at least five years. That might seem a bit harsh but I think there is logic in it too. The best things in life take time to come to fruition. I think there is no substitute for the ups and downs of real life to test a friendship. We want our friends to be there for us through the challenging times as well as the good times. Friends get to know us and we usually trust our friends to enter into some of the hidden parts of our lives.
In today’s Gospel, once again set at the Last Supper, Jesus calls his disciples “friends” because he has shared himself with them. He says we can show no greater love than to lay down our lives for our friends. The very next day He will lay down his life for these disciples by dying for them on the Cross.
The Lord wants each of us to be his friend and he is the best friend we can ever have. He was prepared to die for us too. Because of His Resurrection, that we are celebrating in this Season of Easter we will never desert us and will always stand by us. He wants the best for us and like all loyal friends will stand by us even when we mess up. However Jesus is also a demanding friend, he wants us to love him and keep his commandments so that we can enjoy eternal friendship with him in Heaven.
Thought for the Day Thursday 14th May
Today is the feast of St Matthias. He is one of the least well known ofthe twelve Apostles, as there is not very much known for certai about him. He was chosen by the Apostles as we heard in the first reading, to replace Judas. His calling is unique in that he was not appointed by Jesus directly, but was appointed by the other disciples by the drawing of lots. This was a recognised Jewish custom whereby they believed choices were placed into God’s hands. The essential role of Matthias and all the Apostles was to be witnesses to the Resurrection of Christ. According to Hippolytus of Rome, Matthias died naturally of old age in Jerusalem, after a life of witnessing to the Resurrection.
I believe Matthias was not chosen by chance to be an Apostle, the hand of God was definitely in that decision. In the Gospel, Jesus, speaking at the Last Supper calls his disciples, “friends”. I think that our friends are also chosen by God. We might think we have chosen our friends ourselves, but because friendship is two-way matter, I believe that the hand of God is in these choices too. I think that our friends are sent to us by God to complete something in us. Like ourselves our friends are not perfect, but they have something to bring to us and they are gift to us from God.
On this Feast day, let us thank the Lord for choosing St Matthias as an Apostle and as a friend. I suggest we to think today about some of the particular friends God has given us and maybe also take the time to prayerfully reflect on the particular gifts each of our friends bring to us.
Thought for the day Wednesday 13th May 2020
Today is the feast of Our Lady of Fatima. This beautiful shrine in Portugal commemorates the appearances of Our Blessed Lady to three shepherd children, Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco in a nearby village which began on this day during WW1 in 1917. The message of Fatima, was one of conversion, prayer and promise of peace.
Fatima is an important place of pilgrimage for people from all over the world. In my experience it is a very peaceful place for prayer and devotion It is part of the rich tapestry of experiences within the Church.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus uses the analogy of the vine and branches to tell us that if we belong to him then his life will be in us and we can bear much fruit. The Holy Spirit is in the Church guides us and helps to prevent us from being cut off from Jesus the True Vine through selfishness and sin. The Spirit also feeds us and nourishes us so that Christ remains central to our lives.
In these times of uncertainty, may Our Lady of Fatima help us to remain close to her Beloved Son through refraining from sin and being faithful to prayer.
Thought for the day Tuesday 12th May 2020
It is tradition that a person makes out a will so that when they die their possessions and treasures can pass on to those whom they want to give them to. This is usually done in order to show appreciation and love for those you are leaving behind. Jesus at the Last Supper tells his closest friends, his disciples, that he is bequeathing to them a gift. This is the gift of his peace. He says it is a peace that the world cannot give. Like all bequests this can only be received after his death.
What better parting gift can any one give us than the gift of their peace. We all desire to find peace, to be at peace with ourselves and others, whatever that may mean for us. This for me implies that Jesus was happy with the disciples he had chosen but wanted to give them something that they needed and they would appreciate.
This will be a peace that is hard won, at great cost to the Lord, through his Passion and Death. The first words that the Risen Lord will say to his gathered disciples on Easter Sunday are; “Peace be with you”.
In these uncertain times that we are currently going through, may we treasure the gift of the Lord’s peace that he promises to us as reminders of his love and his appreciation for us.
Thought for the day Monday 11th May 2020
We are now in the second part of the season of Easter and we are preparing to celebrate Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles fifty days after Easter. In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks to his disciples at the Last Supper of the Holy Spirit (The Advocate) who will come upon them. Jesus tells them that the Spirit will teach them everything and will remind them of all that Jesus has said to them.
The Holy Spirit is in the Church and has continued to guide the Church on its pilgrimage through time. The Spirit teaches us in a variety of different ways. The Spirit certainly is the one who gives us the desire to pray and to want to worship God. The Spirit also helps us to belong to the family of the Church. It is also the Spirit who enables us want to keep the commandments and especially Christ’s new commandment to love one another as He has loved us.
In these difficult times when we cannot gather as a Catholic Community, the Spirit is clearly at work within us helping us to stay faithful to the Lord, to prayer and worship and to his Church.
Thought for the Day - Saturday 9th May 2020
Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel exactly who he is. In answer to Philip’s question about seeing the Father, Jesus says that to have seen him is to have seen the Father. He says that the Father is in him and he is in the Father. So he is telling his disciples categorically that he is Divine. He is telling them that to have seen him is to have seen the Father.
Therefore, if we want to know what God is like, we just to need to look at what Jesus was like. So in seeing Jesus being compassionate and merciful with the sick and the sinner, we know that God is like that too. In seeing Jesus passionate to his parables, his teaching and his miracles, we see something of the passion that God has for us. We know that because everyone matters to Jesus, then everyone matters to God too. It tells us that God cares about all humanity and he wants all of us to be with him forever in Heaven.
On this day of Easter, may the Risen Lord Jesus guide us and help to grow in knowledge and understanding of God through our appreciation and love for Him.
Thought for the Day Friday 8th May 2020
Today’s Gospel, for me, speaks of the mercy of God. Jesus is speaking to his disciples at the Last Supper, just hours before he dies. He says there are many rooms in the Father’s house, not just a few: there are many. This tells us of the mercy of God: that God desires not just a few people to with him in eternity but many. God wants to give everyone a chance to get into Heaven.
The whole point of the Incarnation, was so that Jesus brings God to us and thereby bring us to God. Jesus did not just speak of God’s mercy, he practised it. He did this through his teaching and his whole approach to people. He manifested this by having time for the poor, by telling them that they mattered to God. He had time for those on the margins; He did not push away the sick; the blind, the lame, the deaf and the paralysed; instead, he healed them and restored them to life. He also practiced mercy with outcasts like tax collectors and other sinners, he ate and drank with them; he encouraged them to come into his presence, because he did not condemn them and He gave them hope and a chance to change.
May we, who also hope to be in the Father’s house, model our lives on Christ by being compassionate, merciful and fair with all those we encounter. We hope to receive the mercy of God, so let us be merciful in all our dealings and encounters with our brothers and sisters.
Thought for the day Monday 4th May
Today is the feast of the English Martyrs. We think of all those men and women who died because they refused to give up the practise of their Catholic faith during penal times, when it was illegal to be a Catholic in this country.
I am proud to say that we have a Beatified Martyr in our family; he is called Blessed Richard Featherstone. He was a chaplain to Catherine of Aragon and so was put to death under the orders of Henry VIII.
We should be very grateful to all the martyrs for enabling our faith to survive those challenging times. There are resonances with those difficult times at the moment when, for quite different reasons, in order to contain the spread of the virus, no public worship is possible. May all the English Martyrs inspire us to remain patient and strong in these days when our faith is being tested and we are unable to celebrate the Mass and the other Sacraments, which give us life and hope.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel ~ Pray for us
English Martyrs ~ Pray for us
Blessed Richard Featherstone ~ Pray for us
Thought for the Day Saturday 2nd May
One of the great battles within the history of the Church and its searching for the truth, was the conflict with followers of a man called Arius. Arianism teaches that the Son was created by the Father and is no way equal to him. This was seen as more palatable for people to accept as it did not require God to undergo the undignified experience of becoming “flesh”. Today we celebrate the feast of St Athanasius who fought for much of his life against the Arians, who used all sorts of tactics in their attempt to silence him.
St Athanasius was born in Alexandria in the year AD295 and was subject to great personal suffering, including spending a total of 17 years of his life in exile. However St Athanasius persevered and his orthodox teaching was eventually adopted by the Church. He insisted on the identity of the natures of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, whereby we truly understand that Jesus is fully man and fully God. We also uphold our belief in the goodness of creation and the love of God. In the Gospel today, Jesus speaks of being “the Bread of Life”. After hearing this, many of his listeners abandoned Jesus as they mistakenly thought that in speaking of “Eating my flesh” he was advocating cannibalism. The Apostles however remained faithful to the Lord as he has the mess of eternal life. Speaking the truth is not always popular, may Our Lord and St Athanasius help us to remain steadfast and faithful in the moments when what the Church holds to true seems to be the minority view.
Thought for the day Wednesday 29th April 2020
Today is the Feast of St Catherine of Siena. St Catherine has a place in my heart: The parish under her patronage in Didsbury, Manchester is where I discerned my vocation. St Catherine’s was the place where I was able to first get engaged in parish ministry as a I discerned my vocation. As a young man in the 1980’s, I was a reader and a voluntary youth leader there. I was eventually ordained a priest there in 1993. My contact with St Catherine’s continues today as my friend Fr John Hitchen is the current Parish Priest there. He is also Vocations Director so we continue to work closely together in the Diocese for vocations to the priesthood.
St Catherine of Siena died in 1380 in Rome aged 33 years old. Her faith was so strong that she felt on fire with God’s love and emptied herself so much of selfishness that she was utterly filled with Christ’s love. This enabled her to do wonderful things with her life and particularly to reach out in love to other people. St Catherine went to see the Pope in exile in Avignon and urged him to return to Rome and to get the Church back on track. In her day, Siena was rife with warring gangs; she approached these wayward young men and allowed many of them to change the direction of their lives and turn away from sinfulness and turn back to God.
St Catherine shows us by the example of her life that we are to be beacons of God’s love for everyone through a life of love and service. Using her imagery, we can be a bridge for God’s love to be transmitted through us. I can think of no better saint to be an “adopted patron for vocations” in our Diocese than St Catherine.
Thought for the day Tuesday 28th April 2020
In today’s first reading we hear the account of the martyrdom of St Stephen. He is the first Martyr for Christ and understandably there are some parallels between his death and the death of Christ. Stephen is like the Lord when he dies, in that he offers a prayer of forgiveness for those responsible for his stoning: “Lord do not hold this sin against them”. Equally, just as Jesus had commended his spirit to his Father at his death, Stephen commits his dying spirit to Christ: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit”.
St Stephen is the patron of altar servers. Let us think of our parish servers in our three churches. Of course, like many other people they are currently unable to practise their ministry. Let us pray for our servers that St Stephen will inspire them by his example to remain committed and enthusiastic about their ministry.
We are all called to grow through the Holy Spirit in love for the Lord. This loving relationship should lead us to be Christ-like in lots of different ways especially being trusting of God in times of uncertainty anddanger. Just as Christ was forgiving of those who put him on the Cross, even in the midst of suffering we are also to be merciful to those who wrong us unjustly.
Thought for the Day Monday 27th April 2020
In the mid 1980’s, I was a member of a group called the “Search Group” for young Catholic adults organised by a nun called Sister Mary, at the Cenacle Convent in Manchester. Sr Mary knew that young people are searching for meaning in their life and their faith needed to be encouraged. We would just come together weekly to receive some input about some aspect of our Catholic faith, to discuss, to chat over a cuppa and to pray together. It was great because it was pitched at just the right level for all of us. Like myself, a number of people in the group went on to go to Seminary or to enter Religious life. We are all looking for meaning in our lives, and we are going to find the answers to a lot of our questions if our searching leads us to Christ.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus has just fed a multitude of people with only a few barley loaves and two fish, and the crowds are searching to find Jesus. However, Jesus is aware that they are seeking him out only to witness more of the spectacular. He is urging them rather to grow in faith and believe in who he is. He wants the signs he has given to draw them more deeply into a relationship with God.
These days of the lockdown are giving many of us more time to reflect and to think. May we use these unusual times to grow in faith through creating more time for prayer. When we let the Lord more fully into our lives in prayer, may we have the wisdom and patience to catch the answers he will give to our searching questions.
Thought for the day Saturday 25th April
Today is the feast of the St Mark the Evangelist. Mark was born in AD 5 in Cyrene, Libya. He travelled with St Barnabas and St Paul on many missionary journeys and went on to establish the Church in Alexandria, where he is believed to have died around this day 68AD. Interestingly he is the patron of Egypt, barristers and of course Venice.
It is commonly agreed that his was the earliest of the four Gospels accounts that we have. It is the shortest of the four Gospels, having only 16 chapters and it was written for the Church in Rome that at the time was facing great persecution and many of its members were facing the certainty of death. There is a sense of urgency about this Gospel, which makes sense when we bear in mind who it was written for. He starts his Gospel with the account of John the Baptist telling people to repent and prepare a way for the Lord. The symbol for Mark’s Gospel is the winged lion. A lion is renowned for its courage which is surely what Mark was trying to give to his first readers.
We give thanks for St Mark’s life and his faith and most importantly for his greatest legacy, his Gospel account of Our Lord. May we find some time today to allow the Lord to speak to us through these sacred pages and most importantly listen to the message we will find there. May it inspire us to have courage and to continue to trust Our Lord in these challenging times.
Thought for the Day Wednesday 22nd April 2020
In today’s Gospel we hear one of the most famous verses in the entire Scriptures : John Ch 3 verse 16 ; “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life”. These words spoken to Nicodemus are so powerful and would surely have touched the heart of Nicodemus in pursuit of answers to his questions about who Jesus really is. This generosity by God is going to manifest itself in Passion and Death of Our Lord. Eternal life for those who believe will result from the Lord’s Resurrection.
Let us dwell in our time, on the enormity of God’s love for us in showing such love for us. We can show our belief in God’s Son by listening to him and being faithful to his teachings. Whenever we make sacrifices for each other or we perform little acts of kindness and generosity however small, then we are standing up and proclaiming our faith in the Risen Lord.
Thought for the Day Tuesday 21st April
In today’s first reading we hear of how the early Church was a great community where there was unity and everything was held in common. Those with property or land would sell it and give the proceeds to the Apostles so they could help the needy with it. We hear of the generosity of Barnabas from Cyprus who gives the proceeds of the sale of his land to the Apostles. This is a sign of his faith and that he wants to belong to the Church himself. The name the Apostles gave him means “son of encouragement”. They would certainly have felt encouraged by Barnabas in their role of building up the Kingdom, and quickly discover how sincere and committed he was to prove to be as a Christian. He will go on to be a loyal companion with St Paul on his great missionary journeys, assisting many people to come into the Church.
During this Pandemic, there is a lot of good, natural kindness and encouragement quietly going on within our parish community. May St Barnabas and all the saints continue to foster in us this spirit of the early Church in helping each other to stay strong in faith and hope.
Thought for the day Monday 20th April
In today’s Gospel which is set early on in John’s Gospel, a leading Pharisee called Nicodemus comes to see Jesus at night with questions, because what Jesus has been saying and doing has impressed him. He is a bit afraid of what his fellow Pharisees might say, so he comes at night to prevent others seeing him with Jesus. At the death of the Lord, this man will help to ensure Jesus gets a proper Jewish burial. We contrast this secrecy with Peter and John, in the first reading ,who filled with the Holy Spirit are in broad daylight confidently proclaiming their faith in the Risen Lord.
May the Holy Spirit enable us to have the same confidence as the Apostles in speaking of our faith in the Risen Christ. However even if we have not got their confidence may we like Nicodemus to allow our kind deeds for others to speak of our love for the Lord Jesus.
Thought for the day Saturday 18th April
I remember meeting a young man at a soup kitchen in the North East when I was a seminarian, saying to me that he could accept everything the Church says is true but he could not accept that Jesus could have walked on water! I was amazed that this was a bigger stumbling block for him in coming to faith, than Christ’s Resurrection, which is surely the biggest miracle of all that and is not easy to accept as true.
In today’s Gospel we hear a summary from Mark of the Risen Lord’s appearances, the accounts of which are recorded more fully in Matthew, Luke and John. I feel Mark emphasises more than the other Evangelists the struggle the disciples had in coming to terms with initially believing in the Resurrection. Jesus seems to show a little bit of frustration with the disciples at their slowness in believing in the Resurrection, but nevertheless his confidence in them and love for them is shown as remaining strong.
The best way for us to show our faith in the Resurrection is to have a personal relationship with Christ. With the Sacraments being unavailable to us at the moment because of the virus, the best way to sustain and strengthen our friendship with Christ is in prayer and reading the Scriptures. While many of us have more time on our hands than usual, perhaps taking time to read the Scriptures would be very fruitful. If you want a suggestion of where to start, why not try Mark’s Gospel which could be read in it’s entirety in a couple of hours, but probably better read a chapter at a time over a period of days.
Thought for the day Friday 17th April
In today’s Gospel, Peter and some of the disciples return to what they knew best and they go fishing, but perhaps because they are “rusty” they are not successful. The Risen Jesus appears on the shore of the lake and invites them to put out their nets again but this time from the other side of the boat. They heed Jesus just as they had when he had first called them to follow him some three years before at the beginning of his ministry, and as on that occasion, they caught an abundance of fish.
By doing this, Jesus is redirecting them back to what they should be doing; to be following him and becoming “fishers of men”. The Lord is compassionate and friendly with these men who apart from John, had deserted him during his Passion and Death. This shows the Lord harboured no grudges, showed no sign of resentment or disappointment with them, but still stood by his decision to choose these men as the foundations of his Mission and his Church.
There are times when we are a bit lost and heading in the wrong direction and need guidance from the Lord. May the Risen Lord gently guide us through such challenging times, either directly through our encounters in prayer with him or more indirectly, by working through the words and actions of others.
Thought for the day Easter Wednesday 15th April 2020
Gospel today is known as the Road to Emmaus. Many artists have painted this powerful Easter account. Two disciples on Easter Sunday are going away from Jerusalem where all the drama has taken place. They are joined by the Risen Jesus and their hearts burn within them as he explains all the scriptures to them as they walk along the road. They don’t recognise He is with them. This is understandable as they have been traumatised by the events of Good Friday, with all its horrors, and now reports that he is risen have left them very confused. So effectively they are running away, perhaps to take time out in order to make sense of it all.
It’s the same with us, we are often blinded by getting too caught up in the busyness of life, or other things that blind us to the presence of the Risen Lord, to recognise He is with us on our Journey. It is good for us to stop and reflect on the richness and meaning of what Easter is about in the seven weeks of the season. Easter is at the very heart of our Christian faith and it is why we celebrate every Sunday as our Sabbath day. Easter changes everything for us because once and for all, God has conquered even death, which is the one thing that is certain about life and something that hovers over in this life, like a dark cloud.
Thought for the Day Tuesday 14th April 2020
Like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, whose story we will hear tomorrow, in today’s Gospel account, Mary Magdalene also is unable to recognise the risen Jesus.
Maybe she is blinded by confusion, grief and tears but she mistakes him for the gardener. It is only when he calls her by her name that she recognises that it is indeed the Lord himself.
The Lord knows each of us by our name; our name was most likely given to us by our parents and for that we should be grateful. There are often lots of reasons why we have been given the name we have. My own naming caused disappointment on one side of the family because I was born on my grandfather’s birthday whose name was Michael; I am sorry that there was sadness caused by the name I was given but I am very happy to be called David. At our baptism the Lord, through the Church affirms that name we have been given. Our name makes us unique: imagine the Lord calling you today by your name! He desires to know us personally and for us to grow in friendship with him. This is all possible because of Easter.
Thought For the Day ~ Monday 13th April 2020
We hear in today’s Gospel that as the news of the Resurrection gets around, it receives a mixed reception. To the disciples and the followers of Jesus, it is joyful news and after the sadness and tears of Good Friday, its significance strikes home. For most of them it makes perfect sense, because they will recall that Jesus had told them a few times; “The Son of Man will suffer death but rise again on the Third Day”. On the other hand, for the Religious leaders, the news is very disturbing and we are told by Matthew that they bribe the soldiers to cover up the story by saying that the disciples took the body of Jesus away while those guarding the tomb were asleep. However, you can’t keep the truth a secret for long and the Risen Jesus will make a number of appearances before His Ascension to disprove the cover-up story.
For Christians, the Resurrection is news that should bring us great joy and fill us with hope. Because of The Resurrection we know that Jesus can have the last word over sin and death. May the Risen Lord bring the certainty of His calm and peace to these days of uncertainty and anxiety.
Thought for the Day Saturday 4th April
Thanks to technology, I recently I attended my first ever on-line group meeting, which was effective and essential in these extraordinary times as well as an education for me. Some people dislike meetings with their protocol of chairs, secretaries, agendas and minutes etc.. but meetings by their nature are just bringing people together to share views and find agreement to make decisions.
In today’s Gospel we hear of an historic meeting of the Sanhedrin council called specially to discuss what to do with Jesus after the chief priests heard about him raising Lazarus from the dead. They all share their views amidst fear for their future, their city and their temple and so agree with the High Priest who says it is better for “one man to die for the nation”. They leave the meeting having decided to arrange for Jesus to put to death.
Jesus will of course allow the unjust decision of that meeting to be carried out. He will accept his Cross and his Death without resistance because at the heart of what we will commemorate in Holy Week is the generosity of Christ in giving of the precious gift of his life. Like Jesus, we should also be generous in giving to others not what is superfluous to us, but what is precious to us.
Thought for the day Thursday 2nd April
Jesus is very truthful in his conversation in today’s Gospel, in stating that “..before Abraham was, I Am”, he discloses his origins as the Eternal Word of God. The phrase “I Am” was a very sacred reference to God for the Jews. It is for that reason that they get so angry and instantly react to his words as they don’t believe him and instead find him to be guilty of blasphemy, and therefore want to stone him. Abraham is also our Father in faith but we believe Jesus is the Lord of all. May we constantly strive to see what we have in common with each other, rather than what is different. May we consider acts of selflessness and kindness for those we don’t even know, as ways of remembering our common origin and purpose.
Thought for the day Wed 1st April
In today’s first reading, three young Jewish men refuse to go against their faith and show their fearless trust in God. For this they are punished by the Babylonian king to face suffering and death by being thrown into the furnace. They are right to trust God, who in the face of the inevitability of death, performs a miracle whereby the three are amazingly untouched by the ferocious flames. In Jesus has also decided to put his trust in being obedient to the Father: In today’s Gospel he tells his listeners; “the truth will make you free”. For this, unlike the three young men, Jesus will go on to suffer and to die but this will result in the even bigger miracle of His Resurrection from the dead. As we head towards Holy Week and the celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection at Easter, may we share their faith and hope in God as we also trustfully place all our fears into His hands.
Thought for the day Tues 31st March
Andy, one of the voluntary gardeners at St Mary’s has quite recently put up a bird feeder in our back garden. As things are a lot quieter for me at the moment, today I actually made time to look out of the window for a change as I sat at the breakfast table and waited. As I patiently watched, after a few minutes I did see some lovely birds using the feeder and it was a great sight to see. I will eventually need to invest in some binoculars and a “bird book” to see more clearly the type of birds that they are. However, I was fascinated by this and feel it was a great privilege to be at one with nature and It made me feel at one with God and his creation. I also thought that all this goes on around me and apart from the daily flight of noisy geese overhead each morning, and I am usually too busy to notice it. In these unusual times, let’s thank God for the opportunities that are presented to us to take notice of his hand at work in sustaining and inspiring all the beauty that he has created.
PS Anyone with any suggestions as to which birds I am likely to see in our Burnley garden would be most welcome.
Thought for the day for Monday 30th March
In today’s first reading two elders try to seduce an innocent woman, but when the alarm is called, they turn the tables on her and falsely accuse Susanna of doing what is unlawful, for which the penalty is death. Daniel, a man of God intervenes and the innocent women is set free; the two men are punished for their sin. In the Gospel the Jews try to trap Jesus by bringing before him a woman caught in act of adultery, for which the punishment is death by stoning; Jesus tells the accusers “let the one who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her”: they walk away and the woman though not innocent is freed by the mercy of God and told to sin no more.
We are all sinners ourselves so we all need to receive the mercy of God and none of us would want to unfairly judged by others. We need to be very careful about falsely accusing others of things they might have done. I always feel a better way is to give people the benefit of the doubt and leave the judging to God.
Thought for the day Saturday 28th March
'Do not be afraid. You have won God's favour'.
The angel Gabriel may have said this to Mary thousands of years back as recorded in the Gospel of St Luke but these words are also addressed to us for whom God gave up His only begotten Son. Definitely we have His favour. We are important to Him because He cherishes us. He cares and will not allow us to be overwhelmed and eventually be destroyed by the menacing pandemic. The holy rosary, all other forms of devotions, like Scriptures and spiritual reading, serve to remind us of His love and closeness to us. As we spend this period indoors in our homes away from our normal Eucharistic weekly celebrations, may our faith and prayers sustain our spiritual lives and fortify us against the ravaging brutal enemy also known as COVID-19.
God has a vested interest in your life.
Thought for the day Friday 27th March
The readings for Mass today give a very strong hint of what is to come in the last part of our Lenten journey ~ when we move into Passiontide and the Cross. They speak of the mutterings of the crowd about who Jesus is and how the word is out that the authorities want to silence him, by his death. However, as the book of Wisdom says; “they do not know the hidden things of God”. In the Gospel, Jesus openly speaking of his relationship with the Father in the Temple, uses similar words: “…and you do not know him, but I know him because I have come from him”. Despite the gathering clouds of gloom, Jesus in his utter obedience to His Father, remains confident about who is he is and what his mission continues to be. May we share in the Lord’s confidence and trust with any fears we may be experiencing at the moment.
Thought for the Day, Thursday 26th March
In the Gospel for Mass today, Jesus is trying to convince the Jews to believe in who he is. He uses common ground, mentioning the role of John the Baptist, who was someone who they did respect and value. We occasionally find ourselves disagreeing with other people and we find ourselves trying to convince people about our opinion or what we hold to be true. In such encounters I think it’s important to also try to find common ground as Christ did. Therefore rather than try to “score points” off others as we sometimes try to do in our arguments, I feel it is better to put our view across clearly and calmly but at the same time seek to leave others feeling they have been listened to and treated with fairness and compassion.
Thought for the Day, Wednesday 25th March
Today is the Solemnity of the Annunciation. It is a beautiful feast day and the Gospel for today is the account in St Luke of the visit to Our Lady by the Angel Gabriel whereby Mary is asked to be the Mother of God. Mary says yes to God with the words “Let it be done to me according to your Word”. She totally meant those words and continued to faithfully affirm this commitment right through all the uncertainties, joys and sorrows that followed this momentous moment in her life as the Mother of Christ.
In these days when we are unable to come to Mass, perhaps more frequent connection throughout the day with the Lord in prayer would be good. One suggestion might to pray the Angelus prayer (see below) twice daily around Midday and 6pm. It is largely based on the encounter of Our Lady with the Angel Gabriel and only takes a couple of minutes to pray. In these days of uncertainty, may Our Lady gently urge us to trust the Lord as she did in the uncertain times in her own life.
Leader: The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary
R: And she conceived of the Holy Spirit
Leader: Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
R: Be it done unto me according to thy Word.
Leader: And the Word was made Flesh.
R: And dwelt amongst us.
Leader: Pray for us, Most Holy Mother of God.
R: That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Leader: Let us Pray.
Pour forth, we beseech you O Lord, Thy grace unto our hearts, that we to whom the Incarnation of Christ Thy Son was made known by the message of an Angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection, through the same Christ Our Lord.