Thought for the Day
Previous Days Thoughts
(Most Recent First)
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.