With this depressing spell of weather, not to mention all the other problems that may weigh heavily on us, I think we need something to lift the spirits. So, as we prepare for Ash Wednesday and the 40 Days of Lent, maybe a word of good cheer is in order.
The origin of the word ‘Lent’ is to be found in the old English word, lencten, which was used for the season of spring, reminding us of that time of the year when the days begin to lengthen and nature comes alive again. Hopefully, this will help you and me to approach this special season in a spirit of hope and expectation.
Spiritual discipline is a good thing: we know that everything that is worthwhile requires effort and commitment. Just think of the great athlete or the great musician and the amount of time they have to spend training and practising. So, for us, as we prepare for Easter, we renew our commitment to live as Easter People, faithful to the Gospel. When you receive ‘the ashes’ on Ash Wednesday, take to heart the invitation: “Repent and believe the Gospel.”
I hope that half-term will provide many of you with an opportunity to take a breather. For all my efforts to live in the present, I still find myself listening to Our Lord speaking to Martha: “You worry and fret about so many things…”
It has been a difficult week for two of our confrères, who continue to struggle with multiple health problems. Apart from a short break at the end of last week, Fr Gabby Maguire has now been in hospital for almost five weeks. Hopefully, he will soon be able to have some respite care in Christopher Grange and there regain some strength. Fr Martin Gay has also been in hospital with his serious respiratory condition. Please keep both of them in your prayers.
Likewise, Fr Andrew has had a challenging time in Vienna because the husband of the family he works with on the European Council of Marriage Encounter has been taken ill and is in hospital. Fr Andrew returns on Monday and I may be able to grab a couple of days away in the middle of the week
. However, if all goes well, I have my sights set on the first full week of Lent to have a complete rest.
A QUIET WEEK?
I had been planning to get away for a few days this week, but events have transpired to make that impossible. Nevertheless, I am hoping to have some quiet time to reflect and see how best we can manage all the issues which are clamouring for attention.
I think this must be why the Church has Ordinary Time: a time when we just keep things ticking over. The following week will be half-term and then we are into Lent. Deep breaths all round!
COMINGS AND GOINGS
You will be aware that Fr Andrew is carrying lots of extra responsibility these days, which included visiting the whole Province during the past week. He will also be away in Vienna from Monday 10 February for eight days at the European Council of Marriage Encounter.
I will be going to Perth on Monday afternoon, but returning on Tuesday evening.
Please remember Fr Gabriel Maguire in your prayers: he has now been in hospital for nearly three weeks. He has improved somewhat, but has further damaged an already weak spine and we are waiting to see what care package they will be able to put in place for him.
Next Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord.
In recent years we have followed an ancient tradition and kept our crib in the church until this feast, seeing it as the end of the Christmas season. The tradition of carrying candles in procession on this day meant that it is also known as CANDLEMAS. So, next Sunday, at least in our minds and hearts, let’s consciously carry the candle of Christ’s light with us and recognise that this is our vocation not just on a particular day, but all 366 days of this year.
And this leads me to suggest that you join me in trying to take stock for a week or two. In our families and our communities, many of us are faced with a multiplicity of demands but we know that in reality we can only live in the present moment. The saints who have achieved this have discovered the peace that Christ promised only he can give.
OCTAVE OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY:
During these eight days leading up to the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul next Saturday we are once again invited to pray for the healing of all the divisions in the Christian community down through the centuries.(A booklet with readings and refelctions for each day is available from the CTBI website Click here to read it)
It is a tragedy that we remain unable to offer a united front to the wider world in the face of all the divisions and tensions that beset the human family as a whole.
Christ’s Prayer was that “we all be one” so that everyone would know that the Father had sent him. I rejoice that relations with our brothers and sisters in other Christian traditions are generally so much better than they were when I was younger, but I remind myself and you that there is never any room for complacency
. We need to be vigilant and guard against new divisions. We sense the tension in the Catholic community especially in relation to the direction Pope Francis is striving to give us. It reminds me of St Paul writing: “I hear there are factions among you and I half believe it.” Likewise, let us be on our guard against any divisions in our own parish communities, striving to heal any hurts and ensuring that we support one another in every possible way.
I would like to thank everyone who made last Friday evening another blessed occasion and a good example of this unity among the many different groups and societies in the parish. It was less well attended than in previous years, so I do hope people are not agonising over whether they do enough to feel justified in coming.
Perhaps we should offer an added word of encouragement before next year’s event.
Comings and Goings
The meeting in Perth was a positive experience and those of us who were able to attend returned, determined to try and ensure that we do all we can to support one another in our own Redemptorist family. We also vowed to try and ensure that we give you good example at all times. So, if we don’t, please tell us! Fr Charles seems to be flourishing north of the border and sends his love to one and all.
THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD
We cannot keep Jesus in the crib. With the feasts of the Epiphany and the Baptism of Jesus, we are reminded of the reason why Jesus came: sent by the Father to redeem the world. For us, baptism marks our incorporation into the mission of Christ.
I suggest that today we reflect seriously about what this should mean in practice. At the baptismal ceremony, parents and godparents are entrusted with the responsibility of bringing their children up in the practice of the faith. I leave you to think through how best we can help one another to live our faith to the full.
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