Previous Thoughts for the Week
Thought for the Week - 12th February 2023
I was invited to a surprise birthday celebration at the weekend. I have not seen too many people’s reactions at first hand, to the shock of a surprise being sprung; the natural reaction is disbelief. After the initial feeling of deception has dissipated, the realisation of the love that people feel for you in coming together to celebrate with you, begins to dawn. It all went very smoothly and was much appreciated by all present.
I told you last week about my friend, Fr David. He has had a bit of a turbulent week with his health, but the waters are calmer now. He still needs your prayers as he prepares for treatment and subsequent convalescence. Casting an eye over the “Litany of Thanksgiving” used at the Parish Mass on 6 th January, I next come to Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. We are blessed in our parish with a good number of Ministers in all three churches who assist with Holy Communion at Sunday Mass as well as take communion to the sick and housebound. It is without a doubt a privilege and an honour to carry out this role, because they are entrusted with the Body of Christ himself and to bring the Lord Jesus to the faithful in order to nourish them and bring them closer to Him. As we thank the Lord for those who faithfully and humbly carry out this ministry, may the Lord continue to fill them with many graces.
Talking of the Blessed Sacrament, if you see me in the coming days with my head in a book, it’s because I have been invited to give a catechetical talk in a parish in Salford next week. I have to explain the concept of the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist. I have no problem at all in believing and showing my faith in this essential doctrine of the Catholic Church, however explaining it in depth is another matter. I am not accustomed to give such talks and I am not really convinced that I am the right person to be doing this, but please pray that I come up with the right things to say and that it is a bit helpful to those who come.
Lent begins on Wednesday and many people have said to me. It has come along very quickly this year. I like Lent as it’s a time when everyone is trying a bit harder to be kinder, more thoughtful, less selfish and more forgiving. Lent is really a time of preparation: When organising a meal for guests you have to start in good time ahead of the event, plan what food and drink you are going to serve, go shopping for it, then prepare the food, set the table, cook and serve.
Lent is the time for preparing for the celebration; it’s a time to think, reflect, and using the Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting, and giving to make Christ more central in our lives so that we can joyfully celebrate the Resurrection at Easter.
Thank you for reading this reflection, I hope the season pf Lent is fruitful and joyful as you prepare for Easter.
Thought for the Week - Week Commencing 5th February 2024
As part of the Parish Sacramental Programme , we arrange to have “one to one” meetings with each of the children with myself or Fr Job. These gatherings are facilitated by the catechists and have been taking place over the last couple of weeks at St Mary’s presbytery. The child is of course accompanied by their parents/carer, but I love the fact that nearly all the children take up our offer of a drink of juice and biscuits which they are bring into their meeting with the priest.
We explain to the child that the Programme is called “My Journey with Jesus” because they are preparing to receive two Sacraments, which are encounters with Jesus. We then remind the child that they already know Jesus whom they will encounter in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Holy Communion. They know Jesus from the accounts of him in the Gospels. The priest and the catechist then share one of their favourite stories from the Gospels and explain why they like it. The child is then asked '''to share their favourite story and say why they like it. We hope this helps the families to focus on the journey that lies ahead for them in the coming months.
My long standing friend, Canon David Ryder, who is a now a retired priest of the Diocese is currently staying with me at St Mary’s presbytery. He is a bit under the weather at the moment so I offered him a room for a few weeks and he accepted. He stayed with me a few months in 2009 so my untidiness clearly did not faze him. Thanks for all the offers of help and kindness that we have received in the last few days; it is very touching. Please keep him in your prayers.
Glancing through the “litany of thanksgiving” from the 6 th January Parish Mass , I notice the ministry of reader of the Word of God. Our readers are very important because they are channels of God’s living word. Everyone has a unique voice and it is one that they lend to the Lord whenever they fulfil their ministry. In our parish we have a lot of really good readers who take the role very seriously. When training readers in the parish, I encourage readers to pause with some short silences at the beginning and end of the reading in order to allow time for the listener to prepare and the reflect on the message that has been proclaimed. Good preparation results in better understanding, , speaking loudly enough, reading at the right pace are all factors which help the listener to receive the message that God wants to communicate through the reader.
Being a reader at Mass, was the first ministry I undertook in a parish as a layman. I did this at St Catherine’s church, Disbury in Manchester. As I was unaccustomed to speaking in public as well as lacking self-confidence, after the priest had agreed to let me become a reader, I asked if I could build up gradually by firstly reading at a Wednesday evening Mass. On the very first occasion, I remember feeling sick and nervous all day at work and such feelings getting worse as the day drew on. I managed to get through it and remember the second time was a little less traumatic for me. Let us be grateful to the Lord to all our readers and give thanks for their dedication, preparation, commitment and courage.
Thank you for reading this reflection, with my apologies for the slightly later “uploading” this week.
Thought for the Week - Week Commencing 29th January 2024
On Saturday we had our coffee and cake event organised by the small parish Youth group. It was great to see our young people working together with adults as a team in order to create a lovely event that everyone who came seemed to really enjoy. The young people planned the event in a very mature way: they got the raffle tickets and sold tickets for it, they made or brought cakes, they helped pour out the tea/coffee, they welcome everyone on arrival, they mixed with all who came, and they exuded such joy throughout the event.
The event raised a nice amount for parish funds which is secondary to the way that the youth group conducted themselves. I was amazed at the commitment and enthusiasm of our young people who seemed to really love the responsibility that they were entrusted with. It is very encouraging for the parish to have young people showing such care and dedication.
A homeless man came to the door on Saturday evening to admit that he had let my tyres down on my car for a prank on Thursday evening, and had discovered it had been left unlocked by mistake and had taken some of my walking gear from the boot. He returned my rucksack but did not give me back a jacket and a fleece. It did amuse me that someone should openly admit what they had done so it took the sting out of the “offences”. I had had all of the gear a good number of years so were well past their best: so, I just took it as an opportunity to replace my walking jacket. Despite the inconvenience of this happening there was something refreshing about the courage and honesty of the man’s non-sacramental “Confession”!
Scanning down the “litany of thanksgiving” from this year’s 6 th January parish Mass, I next come to those who build our Christmas Cribs. This might seem a bit “out of season”, however I have noticed that a number of churches keep their cribs up until 2 nd February, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord. This is following the traditions of the old liturgical calendar. Nevertheless, in season or not, we are grateful for those annually build our cribs in each of our churches as well as the outside one at St Mary’s. The first ever crib was a “live” crib with a real baby, organised by St Francis of Assisi in the 13 th century in order to help people recognise the significance of the Incarnation in an immediate way. The Christmas scene looks cozy and serene to our “accustomed” eyes but to someone seeing it for the first time, it would surely be seen as shocking that the only place suitable for the Son of God to be born was a stable.
As you know, I go into Blessed Trinity College on a Monday morning to share a reflection about the chosen theme of the week. This week I spoke about humility. The root of the word comes from the word “humus” meaning “earth” or ground. Humility is therefore about always keeping our feet on the ground and overcoming our pride so that we give credit to God for our gifts, talents and achievements. It also means that we strive to not think we are better than anyone else. Jesus was of course a great example of humility, even though he was divine he humbled himself to become human. In Monday’s Gospel, Jesus has healed the “Gerasene demoniac” by sending the multitude of demons into a huge heard of pigs who drown in the lake. As result the people urge Jesus to leave the district, and with great humility he obliges. We all like to see humility and are never really impressed with “show-offs”. It is important to be aware of our strengths and gifts as well as our weaknesses and failings. I often feel as awkward when I get complimented but was recently told the best way is to simply accept them and say thanks. Equally in humility we should take criticisms but not allow them to chip away at our self-esteem.
Thanks for reading this reflection, wishing you every blessing in the coming
Thought for the Week - Week Commencing 15th January 2024
Just before I went away for my post-Christmas break, on Saturday 6 th January we celebrated, our annual parish “Thanksgiving Mass”. At this Mass we give thanks to the Lord for all those who have a role or a ministry across the three churches within the parish. This year we were hosted by St John’s church and everything went really well.
I liked the strong responses throughout the Mass and the joyful singing of carols around the feast of the Epiphany. In my words after the Gospel, I mentioned the Christmas season lends itself well to thanksgiving because the Magi brought thoughtful gifts to Jesus. We are grateful for the many gifts our volunteers give to Jesus by serving him in a variety of different ways by what they do in the Church, day in day out. I also mentioned that in generously giving their time, gifts and energy to the Lord, they are building up the Body of Christ, the Church.
One of the special parts of the Thanksgiving Mass, is the post- Communion “Litany of Thanksgiving” where before the crib and the altar we thank the Lord for all the different ministries, which totalled in excess of 60 this year. The first group of people for whom we thanked the Lord, at the Mass was for those who faithfully keep our churches and other buildings clean. This is probably not the most glamorous role or ministry however as they say that cleanliness is next to Godliness, this ministry is at the very heart of what Christian service is all about. Our cleaning teams go about their role when no one else is about, so they serve the Lord quietly and humbly. They clearly do it out of love for the Lord and in service of their brothers and sisters. We all benefit from this ministry and for these and other reasons I like to put this role as first in the Litany of thanksgiving. Our uplifting Mass was followed by lovely pie and peas in the Parish Rooms, washed down by tea and lots of home-baked cake.
At the Mass for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord on Monday 8 th January, I was honestly unsure where I was going for my break. The floods in Oxfordshire had planted a seed of uncertainty in my head about the wisdom of going there, but after Mass I decided we would go ahead with our plans. It turned out that walking on paths was not possible, unless we travelled into the nearby Gloucestershire Cotswolds, which are very beautiful too.. Like a lot of people, last week I also contracted a flu-like virus in the middle of the holiday. This meant I needed a day in bed to rest, which enabled me to recover more quickly and so be able to go out again the next day. This is something I have never previously done during a holiday, but it did the trick! Despite the challenges we faced last week, we had a lovely few days away. I enjoyed our walks and tours of the Cotswolds with its thatched cottages and gentle hills. I also loved the visits via “Park and Ride” into the centre of Oxford with its spires and academia. I feel more rested than I was prior to going away and it is really good to be back with you.
Wishing you good health and happiness in the coming year. Thanks
for reading these reflections.
Thought for the Week - Week Commencing 1st January 2024
I enjoy how quiet parish life goes in that period between Christmas and New Year but note today (Tuesday) that the phone is a bit busier now as people return to work. The Christmas season is also a chance for priests to catch up with family, friends, films, reading and sleep!
Across the three churches in our parish we currently have 19 Altar Servers, and at least half of them are in their first year of serving. They are very reliable and enthusiastic and I always feel that Servers are special because they have been called by Jesus to carry out their ministry so close to where Christ comes present on the altar, at Mass. If you know a child who has made their First Holy Communion, who could be interested in this important ministry, you could perhaps consider mentioning it to their parent/guardian. Their patron is St Stephen and I like to put on an activity for the Servers of the parish as close to 26 th December as is possible to mark the feast of St Stephen. So, on Thursday we had our annual trip to the MFA, Ten Pin Bowling in Burnley with 11 of our servers. I love to see people doing something for the first time and see them overcome the initial fear of doing a new activity and how it transforms into fun. This happened not only with most of the Altar servers who came but also one of our adult helpers and Fr Job who both loved it too. As we left the Bowling Centre at the end of the afternoon, Fr Job simply said: “when are doing this again?
On Wednesday I am going back to my former parish of St Dunstan’s in Moston, where I served as Parish Priest for almost 10 years. I am going to celebrate the funeral Mass of a man called Chris who has always kept in touch with me since I left there in July 2014. I mentioned above about what it is like doing something for the first time, but as I have now not celebrated Mass in that church for a number of years now, I am feeling a bit nervous and about it as it feels like something new.
On Tuesday we celebrated the feast of Ss Basil and Gregory, two significant 4 th century saints who were very close friends. It’s a feast that always falls in the Christmas season and so I call it the feast of friendship. Christmas often gets you to think more about those who are close to you and especially family and friends. It is obvious that family are a gift to us from God, but also so are our friends. Its not always easy to work out why you gel with some people easier than with others. It takes to work out who are your real friends and who you can trust. I do believe that friendship comes from God and friends have a gift to give you from God. I am very blessed to have a number of close friends, some of who I have known for over 40 years. I don’t have much in common with some of my closest friends but I find that sharing common interests isn’t as important as treasuring the bond which as at the core of all friendship.
I was curious to discover that people read these reflections from as far afield as Manchester. So wherever you live, as we begin this New Year, I wish you good health, happiness and peace as we journey in faith with Our Lord.
Thought for the Week - Week Commencing 25th December 2023
I am sure you will forgive me for the later than usual posting of this reflection.
One of the joys at Christmas for me, is seeing children and young families come to Mass with their parents and siblings. Family is at the heart of Christmas because God chose to come into the world as a child as part of a family, and so sanctifies all family life. It is good therefore to celebrate the start of this great season by converging round the altar as the family of the Church in order to acknowledge our gratitude for the enormity on humankind of the Incarnation. One of the other joys is singing Carols so I make no apologies for singing Carols throughout the Christmas season at the Masses up to and including Monday the 8 th January when we mark the Baptism of the Lord.
Our parish Christmas Day lunch went off well, not everyone we expected was able to make it and a few people simply asked to take a Christmas Dinner and desert home with them. All the food and the items we used were effectively donated or loaned by people from the parish. I think all those involved really enjoyed the experience. The most striking thing for me about the event was the way the group of volunteers, including Fr Job and myself, worked as a team. Such unity seemed to emanate from a desire and determination to share our time, energy and love with all those who came. After having limited sleep, the night before, like the rest of the team, I was pretty tired at the end of afternoon, but I felt uplifted by the humble generosity that evoked the spirit of Christmas.
On Tuesday, on the feast of St Stephen, we celebrated a Mass at which we prayed for our 19 parish altar Servers, because their patron is St Stephen. I have always tried to encourage this important ministry in the Church. The Servers are invited to share in their patron’s closeness to Christ, through sharing their faith and their time. It is important to remember that behind every Altar Server is usually a supportive parent or sibling who transports and makes it possible for the young person to fulfil their ministry. My brother Paul was an Altar Server when he was younger and I tried in my own way to support him and encourage him.
Providentially after the Mass, I was invited on 26 th December to my brother Paul’s in Buxton to spend the day with him and his family. In the afternoon Paul took me and Alice on a lovely walk round Buxton but did not tell us the route we were taking. Among other places he took us up the road and past the where we lived for 13years up until January 1980. I had not been past our old house for a good twenty years. It brought back happy memories of the families and friends who lived in the neighbourhood, most of whom have died or moved away. I loved this opportunity to remember what it was like growing up in that house with the magnificent view looking out onto the Paek District National Park.
Looking at the house that was once our family home, got me to remember words my mother often used: “Everything is on loan to us, nothing belongs to us!” My mam used this phrase to get us to appreciate what we have and to remind us that everything belongs to God.
After the excitement and energy round the build-up and celebration of the start of the Christmas season, parish life usually slows down for a few days and gives us all a chance to catch our breath as we gratefully ponder the grace-filled mystery of Emmanuel, God among us.
Every Blessing to you in this Christmas Octave.
Thought for the Week - Week Commencing 18th December 2023
I am continuing to enjoy the reflective Masses we have been having during Advent which create more opportunities for silence and reflection than usual. Silence can be seen as threatening but also essential in our busy world which often leaves us as Bob Dylan would say with; “no time to think”.
I particularly like the second part of Advent (Advent II) which began on 17th December, with its focus on the build-up to the birth of John the Baptist which richly parallels the account of the birth of Christ. Two figures who feature prominently in the Gospels at Mass during Advent II are Zechariah and St Joseph. Zechariah is a priest, the husband of St Elizabeth and the father of St John the Baptist. We hear during Advent II of Zechariah’s encounter with the Angel Gabriel when the birth of John is announced to Zechariah. Because Elizabeth is past child-bearing age, Zechariah doubts the words of the Angel and as a result loses his power of speech right through the pregnancy and he only regains it at the presentation of John, 8 days after his birth, St Luke tells us that first words spoken by Zechariah after this long silence, will go on to be the words of the Benedictus, a prayer that is said and sung each day by millions of people as they make this song of praise to God as part of the Morning Prayer of the Church. Zechariah teaches us honesty in his expression of doubt but also humility in accepting that miracles can and do happen as they did in the case of his son, who of course comes into the world for a great purpose. Zachariah is also a great model for us in growing in faith and how we can pit our doubts behind us if we trust in God’s grace and guidance.
I know many of you like myself have a devotion to St Joseph. He has a pivotal part to play in the build up to the birth of Christ .The angel appears to Joseph in a dream to tell him who Mary’s child really is and to guide him to not be afraid to take Mary as his wife. Joseph takes heed of the angel and marries Mary, and being from Bethlehem will enable the fulfilment of the prophesy that the Messiah would be from Bethlehem. Being of the house of David, Joseph will also enable Jesus to be called “Son of David”. Joseph is a man who trusts God and puts service of God before his own needs. For me, Joseph is the epitome of humility that we should all strive for. No words of his are recorded in the Bible yet the actions of his life speak volumes. He teaches us that often actions speak louder than words. Advent II also offers us in the Magnificat antiphon for evening Prayer each day one of the “O antiphons”. These are all titles of Jesus and include; “O Adonai”, “O key of David” and “O Emmanuel”. As well as emphasising the longing the people had for the coming of a Messiah, they also emphasise our own yearning for the coming of Christ at Christmas.
I hope you are able to find some time for silence and prayer in these remaining days of Advent and especially that you can see the events of Christmas through the eyes of Zechariah and St Joseph.
Thought for the Week - Week Commencing 30th October 2023
On Wednesday, the craftsmen from York completed the repair of the stained glass windows at St Mary’s church, following last year’s spate of vandalism. There has been scaffolding in church for the previous few weeks, making movement during Mass quite difficult, especially at Communion. I was very relieved that on request, that the scaffolding firm very kindly came early on Thursday morning, at short notice, to remove most of the internal scaffolding; meaning that the lunchtime wedding at St. Mary’s was able to go ahead without restrictions.
On Friday tea-time, I received a request to help out with a young adults event the following day. The event was a walk in the Ribble Valley and an extra pair of hands was needed. As you know, I don’t often decline an opportunity for a walk in the beautiful Lancashire countryside! Even though it disrupted my plans, I was glad I agreed to help out, as I found the company of the young adults really encouraging and uplifting.
I was in St Mary’s school on Tuesday answering questions from year 6 children about my role as a priest. I have to say the children were brilliant. Among the many questions, I was asked a lot about my favourite Bible excerpts: a quote from Scripture, my favourite Parable, my favourite chapter of the Bible, my favourite Book of the Bible I am glad that because of the “Big Picture” course we are doing in the parish, I am a bit more focused on Scripture than I usually am. I was asked about what the most important thing I do as a priest and I answered that it is to be a man of prayer, so that we have a good relationship with the Lord. I was also asked about my favourite saint, to which I replied that it was St Cuthbert, the patron saint of my native Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle.
St Cuthbert was very holy and was thus at one with nature and most sought after for his wisdom, but he always yearned to spend time with God in prayer; he is a great reminder to us of the need for a good prayer life. One other question I was given was if I wasn’t a priest, what job would I do? I replied that the only thing I have ever wanted to be was a priest, so I can’t imagine being anything else. On being pushed for an answer I replied that I might like to work in hospitality. I found it very encouraging that throughout the hour of questions, the children were all very well behaved and were very attentive.
Fr Benjamin returned to the parish on Tuesday after his short stay of helping out temporarily at St Bernard’s, Burnage. He is now back with us for another three weeks until he returns to Burnage to take up a permanent appointment there. We are blessed to have him around for another few weeks and will enjoy having him back in Burnley.
Thanks for your continuing feedback about these reflections. I am very glad you are finding them helpful.
Thought for the Week - Week Commencing 23rd October 2023
I have been encountering a few things from my past these last few days who have given me an opportunity to reflect.
On Monday I travelled to the Northeast to be present at the Induction Mass of my good friend Fr Martin Morris as Parish Priest in the Washington area. I was asked to read out the letter of appointment from Bishop Stephen Wright. This letter states the names of the churches that fall under the Parish Priest’s care. One of the churches in his care is St Joseph’s, Birtley which is where we lived for 7 years and it’s the place of my first school, and where I made my First Confession and received my First Holy Communion, so it has great meaning for me. It felt quite poignant reading out the name of this parish which is very near “the Angel of the North” statue that you may have seen. All this brought back happy memories of our time living there on the railway station at Birtley prior to the need to uproot and move to Buxton. At the reception afterwards one of those present sought me out to tell me that her brother lives in Buxton and is friendly with my own brother Paul who still lives there. All this made it a thoroughly special occasion and I am so glad that I made the journey back up to my native land.
Tuesday was the feast of St Anthony Mary Claret, born in 1807 in Spain and became the founder of the Claretian Fathers which is a missionary order. During my time at Ushaw College in Durham (1988 to 1993), I encountered the Claretian fathers as they were in the nearby village of Langley Park. It got me to remember the retired couple who lived in Langley Park whom I was assigned to visit each Monday during my first year at Seminary. Thus, it was good day to reflect on our role as missionaries of the Gospel Like with the Vincentian Fathers who worked with us in the parish, I am in awe of those who are willing to follow the Lord to serve and minister in a far away country often with a very different culture to what is familiar to them.
My first parish priest after I was ordained as a priest in 1993 was a lovely man called Fr Humphrey MacMahon. We served together in St Herbert’s, Chadderton near Oldham for just over a year because he sadly and unexpectedly died on 24th October 1994 aged 59 years. I remember him at the altar and thank the Lord for the example of his priesthood he gave to me as well as the kindness and gentleness he showed to all. May he rest in peace.
Every blessing and with continuing thanks for the lovely comments I continue to receive about these reflections.
Thought for the Week - Wednesday 19th October 2023
I am writing this on a day of prayer and fasting for peace in the Middle East. Against the backdrop of the terrible suffering going on in Israel and Gaza, it seems strange to be reflecting on the daily occurrences of life. In early November, we have agreed to host in the parish, on behalf of “Churches together in Burnley”, an hour of prayer for all who are suffering because of this conflict. This is at least something constructive and positive we can do in the midst of so much suffering and pain in the world.
When I am leading a group on a hike, I always do a “recy” walk as part of the necessary “risk Assessment” required by the Diocese. Wednesday is my main chance to do such a “recy”, but I have to go regardless of the weather. Last Wednesday in preparation for Sunday’s parish hike, was really rather wet, so I got soaked, but it was all worthwhile because Sunday turned out to be a lovely day and those who took part loved it.
Last Thursday evening I went to a concert by an American singer called Kristin Hersh in a church in the Northern Quarter of Manchester. My brother Paul had invited me to come with him to the event. I really enjoyed the evening but perhaps the best bit was sitting after the concert outside a chip shop in the city centre munching chips and enjoying my brother’s company. Some of the simplest things in life, like spending time with your family, are simply the best.
On Friday I helped lead the second session of our parish Bible course : “The Big Picture” . I am quite excited by the enthusiasm of the participants and reflected that I see this course as a pilgrimage with the Lord at our side. Like many pilgrimages this also promises to be life-changing for us if we engage in it properly and put in the time that is requested to read the required extracts from the Scriptures. As a priest I tend to concentrate on the Daily Scriptures given to us in the lectionary for Mass. I see this as a rather “vertical” way of reading Scripture, whereas this course gets us to see the “bigger picture” by reading the Scriptures in a more “horizontal way”.
Tuesday was a day of training on Safeguarding for priests , which was held near Longridge. It was for the priests of our own Deanery as well as for the clergy of the neighbouring St John Southworth Deanery. The training itself was very useful and essential but was also so good to spend time with priests that we don’t often see. Thanks to our Parish Safeguarding Reps who do such a great job as well as to all of you who will attend the safeguarding “clinic” to renew your DBS which we are holding at St Mary’s on Saturday.
Please continue to pray the beautiful Diocesan Synod prayer as we approach the time for the Big Listen, being facilitated by our Synod reps next week in the parish. It is prayed daily at every Mass in the parish so when you do pray you are part of the praying parish community. Please also try to come along to one of the two sessions to which everyone is welcome.
Thanks for the continuing feedback from those who read these reflections, it is greatly appreciated.
Thought for the Week - Wednesday 11th October 2023
On Wednesday I managed a shorter walk than usual as I needed to get my walking boots repaired. They are now repaired and ready to use again. I am really looking forward to the parish hike on Sunday, as this will be the first one since 2020. A few people are talking about it and I hope this can turn into a monthly event.
On Friday afternoon Fr Job and myself accompanied Fr Benjamin to St Bernard’s parish in Burnage, Manchester where he is helping out for the next few weeks, prior to receiving a new appointment when this comes to an end. This was parents’ parish and it was also where Fr Pat Keane went to after leaving St John’s, Burnley in the 1980’s. He was a much-loved priest and was very kind to my mam and dad, when he was at St Bernard’s. With these lovely connections, I am sure Fr Benjamin will enjoy his time there.
We hosted the Legion of Mary Vigil at St Mary’s on Friday night and although the numbers were not large, it was a very prayerful and reflective occasion. It began with Rosary at the Grotto and ended with Benediction in Church at the end of a period of prayer and reflection. I particularly enjoyed the periods of silence, because I think that silent prayer in the presence of others is so powerful.
On Sunday, there seemed to be a buzz around the parish: young people wanting to join the singing group at Mass for singing and making music with instruments: other young people responding to the invitation to come to the new young people’s group for teenagers: more children asking to become altar servers. They might only be very small things but they are evidence for me that the Holy Spirit is at work in the parish.
There is scaffolding again inside and outside at St Mary’s, to enable the workmen to repair and restore the glass and stained-glass windows that were broken during the 2022 spate of vandalism on the church. It is causing a bit of disruption to Mass especially for funerals and for the distribution of Holy Communion, but I am relieved that everyone seems to be just accepting it and taking it in their stride. It is a blessing that the church can remain open during this time. They have now begun their skilled work but I imagine it might take a few weeks as the workmen are travelling over from York.
We are continuing to pray about the Diocesan Synod at Mass each day. Please keep up the prayers and look out on the Parish web site and Newsletter for imminent news of how you can get involved in the Synodal journey On Friday we resume our monthly course called the “Big Picture” which is about getting those taking part to get to know the Bible better. It is essentially an opportunity to reflect on the Word of God and to see what impact it has on our lives.
Thank you for you reading this reflection and for the encouraging feed back I continue to receive about these reflections.
Thought for the week Wednesday 4th October 2023
I am sorry there was no reflection last week, this was because I was on holiday in Mid-Wales. A holiday is a time to slow down and with the newly introduced 20mph speed limit in residential areas throughout Wales, we literally were slowed down. It did feel a bit strange travelling so slowly but as a pedestrian trying to cross the road, it felt much safer than usual. However, we had a great time and really feel the benefit of the break from the routine and for the change of scenery and to the pace of life.
For Sunday Mass I joined the community of the nearest RC church to where we were staying. I often do that rather than concelebrating on the Lord’s Day when I am away, as its good to every now and then be reminded of what sitting in the pews is like. I got to the very small church quite early and after sitting in prayer for a few minutes, someone asked me to move because I was sitting in their usual seat! I politely smiled and obliged but did feel like saying, that I wasn’t aware of any reserved benches. I think we can all become creatures of habit but there’s a risk that some habits can lead to possessiveness that can make people feel excluded or left out. Nevertheless it was an enjoyable experience and I learned a bit of a lesson.
I arrived back on Friday, and on Saturday morning at St Mary’s we had the Reception into Full Communion and Confirmation of a young man into the church alongside the baptism of his 5 year old son. It was an uplifting and encouraging experience to ease myself back into parish life after my lovely week off. It was especially lovely to celebrate the work of the Holy Spirit at work in this young family.
On Saturday afternoon, I received a message from my good friend Fr Martin, reminding me that it was the 35 th anniversary of the day I started my formation as a priest at Ushaw College in Durham. Friday 30 th September 1988 was also the day I first met my friend (Fr) Martin. As I believe that all friendship is a gift from God, it’s always good to acknowledge the work of the Lord for such an important and enduring friendship.
Monday was the feast of the Guardian Angels; I reflected at Mass on how God has throughout my life, lovingly guided me and protected me through his Holy Angels. I think of the friends I have been blessed with, as well the times I have been enabled to find strength when life was challenging and given direction when the right course of action to take was quite confusing and unclear.
Thanks for the positive comments about this new feature and I hope you continue to find them helpful.
Every blessing, Fr David
Thought for the week Wednesday 20th September 2023
Last Wednesday we were blessed with good weather for the hike with priests which we hosted here in Burnley to mark the 30 th anniversary of the Diocesan Clergy Hikes. We walked from St Mary’s along the canal to Rowley Lake where we enjoyed our packed lunch. The route then took us into Towneley Park where we enjoyed an ice-cream in the late afternoon sunshine. Mass was celebrated at the convent for which we were joined by the sisters. At the Mass we remembered by name a number of departed priests who had either walked with us or hosted our hikes over all those years. The first reading from Isaiah spoke of the banquet of rich food the Lord of hosts will prepare on his mountain which is a foretaste pf Heaven but also a foretaste of the supper we would later enjoy in the presbytery.
The response to the Psalm said If I should walk in the valley of darkness no evil would I fear ~ in his homily Fr John Hitchen (the co-leader of the group with myself) joked that the “valley of darkness” reminded him of the times I had led the group astray through poor navigation! The Gospel was the road to Emmaus where two disciples were walking away from Jerusalem on Easter Sunday and the risen Jesus walks with them. This reminded us that the Lord has blessed us over these thirty years and that the clergy hikes have been all about getting together because time spent with our brother priests is always time well spent. We then went back to the presbytery for that banquet of food that Isaiah prophesied earlier!
Our prayers were also answered on Sunday afternoon when we had our garden party in the presbytery garden at St Mary’s. A wonderful team of people from the across the parish worked tirelessly to prepare everything and create a lovely atmosphere for all those who came along. There was an abundance of delicious food all donated and lovingly prepared by the enthusiastic team of helpers. As well as it being relaxing it was also great fun especially with all the games such as target ball, tombola and children’s darts. “Knock the cans” took me back to my childhood in the late 1960’s when we played this game as part of little fetes which put on for our friends we put on in the playing fields near our home at Buxton. “Spot the Ball” was a throwback to the early 1980’s when my brother Paul invented this guessing game which he and myself presented at Christmas fairs over a number of years at St Catherine’s, Didsbury, Manchester. Sincere thanks to all who made it a wonderful and memorable occasion.
I note that since we packed up the stuff from the garden party, it has not stopped raining. I see this as a great blessing upon us. Have a blessed week.
Every blessing, Fr David
Thought for the week Wednesday 13th September 2023
I was very pleased at the way the Mass with relics of the saints of Scotland went on Thursday. It was great to focus on our prayer through three diverse saints. I am grateful for the wonderful Knights of St Columba for facilitating a tour of England with these sacred relics, which include their beloved Patron St Columba, There was a very special atmosphere at the Mass and I thought the extended sacred silence after Communion was particularly powerful. I was pleased at the number who came to the Mass and that St John’s school brought some of their pupil chaplains to the Mass. It was good that different generations prayed together in the presence of different generations of Saints.
Friday saw the start of our new “The Big Picture” DVD course which will get us over the next twelve months to reflect on how God speaks to us through the Scriptures. It will allow us to get to the know the Sacred Scriptures more deeply and to experience them more prayerfully. The course will also give the opportunity to share with each other how our journey with the Word of God is going. There is still time to join this course, so just come along to the next gathering on Friday 13th October at 12.30pm.
Monday saw a small gathering at St Mary’s parish rooms, of some young people who had been part of our Confirmation group earlier this year. We discussed the parable of the Good Samaritan and I was amazed at their understanding and appreciation of this powerful and very important parable for our parish. I pray that others may choose to join us at our future meetings, the next of which is on 2nd October at 6.30pm.
On Tuesday of this week we had a well-attended planning meeting for the forthcoming parish garden party. I was encouraged by the willingness of those present to cooperate with each other and everyone left the meeting with a particular task and a clearer idea of what they would be doing. It was interesting to note that even though this is an outdoor event, no-one mentioned the weather for Sunday! We will leave that in the capable hands of Our Lord.
I am looking forward to a hike on Wednesday with some of my brother priests the Diocese which will be followed by a special Mass at the convent and a supper in the presbytery. I will let you know how it goes next week.
Every blessing, Fr David
Thought for the week Wednesday 6th September 2023
I hope the new week is going well for you. The week began with the feast of St Cuthbert, my favourite saint. He is the patron of my native Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle. I like him because he was very much at one with nature and with all of creation. He started off as a shepherd boy looking after sheep and later became a bishop to whom people turned to for his guidance and wisdom. Although he was good with people as a pastor and a shepherd, he was most at peace when alone with the Lord. I also admire his love for John’s Gospel which he carried with him on his journeys. He had learned all the Psalms by heart so as he travelled, he would recite them and remain close to the Lord.
On Mondays of term-time I go to Blessed Trinity Catholic College to present a reflection on the theme of the week to the staff as part of their weekly “Briefing” gathering led by the Head Teacher. On the first day of the new academic year, I spoke to them about “Mission”; I reflected that our mission as Church is to bring a message of hope and love to those in our care. In reflecting on the Gospel of the day where Jesus had gone to Nazareth and equated the words of the Prophet Isaiah with his own mission: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; he has sent me to bring Good News to the poor”. We are also to bring Good News to people: the good news is that faith in Jesus tells us that all of us matter to God and that is a message surely worth sharing.
On my walk back from school, I overheard a couple of pupils heading for their first day back; one of them said “I hope I don’t get Mr this year!”. This made me chuckle because it took me back to the similar conversations I would have had as a pupil on the first day of a new school year and got me to reflect on those important years. How strong were my opinions about the relative merits of the staff at my high school; how serious was their impact upon our young lives. I reflect on the teachers I had in my school days and the lasting impact they have had on me. Let us pray for all the staff of our Catholic schools that they may be enabled to give their best in this new academic year. May students be generous and appreciative of the staff who work with them and always look for their strengths and qualities.
I am looking forward to Wednesday evening as I am receiving a family into Full Communion with the Catholic Church at Mass at St John’s. Conversion is a big step in peoples’ lives, and it is a privilege as a priest to share the journey. It is also sign that the Lord is alive and well and continually at work, guiding and encouraging us to find the pearl of great price. I have just finished re-reading for the 7 th time “The Woman of the Pharisees” by Catholic author Francois Mauriac. What I love about this book is one of the characters who is a priest called Abbe Calou. He suffers greatly in the novel but his goodness and kindness as well as his awareness of his weaknesses have always greatly inspired me.