3rd Week of Easter

3rd Saturday of Easter – 2 May 2020

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A People who Hope in Christ

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

The radiance of the risen Lord shines upon us. At a time when so many shadows are cast into our lives, and upon our world, the light of the resurrection shines forever to renew and restore our hope.

In the words of our Holy Father, Pope Francis: “In the midst of isolation when we are suffering from a lack of tenderness and chances to meet up, and we experience the loss of so many things, let us once again listen to the proclamation that saves us: he is risen and is living by our side.” (27 March 2020)

The impact of COVID-19, both nationally and internationally, has been immense. So much of what we take for granted has changed. Our health and physical interaction, our capacity to travel and gather, have all been affected. There is uncertainty in our future, especially with work and the country’s economy. As we know, very sadly, large numbers of people have died because of the coronavirus, and others have been or remain seriously ill. Keyworkers, not least in the National Health Service and care sectors, are serving selflessly to sustain the life of our nation. Our hearts and prayers go out to everyone who is suffering because of COVID-19, and to all those battling to overcome its effects. May those who have died rest in peace and those who are bereaved find comfort.

When the Prime Minister announced the lockdown, this included places of worship and therefore Catholic churches. These measures were put in place to stem the general transmission of the virus. It is right that the Catholic community fulfils its role in contributing to the preservation of life and the common good of society. This must continue until the restrictions applied by the Government are lifted.

None of us would want to be in the situation in which we find ourselves. While the live-streaming of the Mass and other devotions is playing an important part in maintaining the life of faith, there is no substitute for Catholics being able to physically attend and participate in the celebration of the Mass and the other sacraments.

Our faith is expressed powerfully and beautifully though ‘seeing, touching, and tasting.’ We know that every bishop and every priest recognises the pain of Catholics who, at present, cannot pray in church or receive the sacraments. This weighs heavily on our hearts. We are deeply moved by the Eucharistic yearning expressed by so many members of the faithful. We thank you sincerely for your love for the Lord Jesus, present in the sacraments and supremely so in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The bishops and priests of every diocese are remembering you and your loved ones at Mass each day in our churches as we pray ‘in hope of health and well-being.’ We thank our priests for this faithfulness to their calling.

As the Government’s restrictions are relaxed step by step, we look forward to opening our churches and resuming our liturgical, spiritual, catechetical and pastoral life step by step. This will also be of service to those beyond the Catholic Church who depend on our charitable activity and outreach through which much goodness is shared by so many volunteers from our communities.

None of us knows, as yet, how or when the lockdown will end. There is likely to be a phased return to travelling and gathering. As a church, we are now planning for this time and our discussions with the statutory public health agencies and Government representatives are ongoing. Together with Catholics across England and Wales we desire the opening of our churches and access to the sacraments. Until then, we are continuing to pray and prepare.

We want to acknowledge with gratitude the service of our fellow bishops and priests, our deacons and religious, our families and lay faithful, together with all our parish and school communities, for the wonderful ways the life of the faith is being nourished at this time, especially in the home. We also pay tribute to the Catholic organisations and networks that are working to support the vulnerable and needy.

On that first Easter day, the disciples were in lockdown and the doors were closed. In their isolation the Lord Jesus came among them and said ‘Peace be with you.’ May the peace of the risen Lord reign in our hearts and homes as we look forward to the day we can enter church again and gather around the altar to offer together the Sacrifice of Praise.

We unite in asking the intercession of Our Blessed Lady and assure you of our prayers and blessing

Yours devotedly in Christ,

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

 

3rd Friday of Easter – 1 May 2020

blessed-james-bell-2

Anniversary of the Foundation of the Parish of Blessed James Bell

It was on this day in 2018 that our Parish of Blessed James Bell came into being by a formal decree issued by the Archbishop. The decree merged the three former parishes of St Benedict’s, St Mary’s and St Oswald’s into one new parish under the patronage of the Warrington martyr, James Bell.  Later that year, on 26 October 2018, we had a liturgical celebration inaugurating the new parish.  Today, perhaps we could pray this prayer of rededication that I put together for that celebration.

Prayer of Rededication

God our Father,
we, your pilgrim people,
gather in your presence and ask your blessing
as we seek to serve you and your people.

Under the patronage of Blessed James Bell,
and in communion with the whole Church,
form us into a community,
built on the fidelity of those who have gone before us.

May we take to heart the last words of the Lord Jesus
and go into the world
to proclaim the Good News to the whole of creation.

Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit,
may your Word take root in our hearts inspiring us
to gather and give thanks in the eucharist,
to serve you in our love for one another,
and to reach out in welcome to all people,
especially those most in need.

United with other Christian communities in this area,
may our parish be a source of grace and blessing
for the local community,
and so help to build your kingdom of justice, love and peace.

Grant this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

St Joseph the Worker

Today is also the beautiful feast of St Joseph the Worker.  It’s one of two days in the year dedicated to St Joseph, husband of Mary.  Today’s feast remembers his vocation as a carpenter and as the patron of all workers.  St Joseph is also the patron of the Universal Church, unborn children and fathers.  At Mass this morning, Pope Francis invited us to pray for all workers – that no one might be without work and all might be paid a just wage, and that all may benefit from the dignity of work and the beauty of rest.

st-joseph-the-worker

 

 

3rd Thursday of Easter – 30 April 2020

online-masses-healthcare

Masses for the Sick and their Families,
NHS Front-Line workers and those working in Social Care

A reminder that special Masses are being celebrated for the sick, their families, care workers and NHS staff on Thursdays at 7.00 pm online from a different cathedral each week.  This evening, Bishop Richard Moth will celebrate Mass in Arundel Cathedral.  You can watch it here:  www.cbcew.org.uk

stay-at-home-protect-nhs_original

Coping with the Lockdown

Loving God,
we thank you for the wonder of our being,
but there are times when fear and anxiety
threaten to overwhelm us.
Fill our hearts and minds with peace
in the midst of the storm,
and the sure and certain knowledge
that you are with us always.
Through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Mental Health & Wellbeing

health-wellness

tips-that-may-help-during-this-period-of-uncertainty

Contacts for support:  https://www.liverpoolcatholicresources.com/mental-health

Those living with Dementia and their Carers

dementia-forget-me-not

This time of isolation and social distancing can be especially hard for people living with dementia and their carers.  The Archdiocese has provided links to resources which may be helpful:

https://www.liverpoolcatholicresources.com/dementia

a-guide-for-carers-of-people-with-dementia

activities-for-older-adults

Family Life

family-life

parenting-during-covid-19

For those who are divorced and separated:

https://www.restoredlives.org/dealing-with-the-covid19-crisis-for-divorcees

Messy Church for Children:

https://www.messychurch.org.uk/covid-19

 

 

3rd Wednesday of Easter – 29 April 2020

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Fr Chris Thomas reflects on The Word of God

It struck me that during these days of isolation when things seem to be so confusing and we can’t meet in our churches to receive Christ sacramentally that at home we might reflect on the Scriptures and so meet the same Christ who wants us to have life and life in its fullness.

When I was a child my nana lived with us. She was bedridden and my mum looked after her. My dad was an alcoholic and when I couldn’t cope with his moods I would run and hide in my nana’s bed and she would read bible stories to me. It was very unusual for a woman born in the 1890s to read the Bible but Nana did. Even when I lost faith, I would still read the Scriptures because I loved the stories that I found there, and they reminded me of times when I found a little bit of peace in what was sometimes a traumatic childhood. The Scripture stories and nana’s calm presence were pools of light for me in the darkness. There was somewhere I felt safe. When God found me, I was fifteen and one of the first things that happened to me was that the Scriptures came alive. The stories that I had read to me for so many years took on new meaning as I discovered the presence of God in and through the Word. I’m convinced that through reading and praying the Scriptures we will encounter God in a new way.

The Christian Church believes the Scriptures are the Word of God, inspired by the spirit, written by communities of faith to help others on their faith journey, that God speaks to us through them. Every time we read them God will speak challenging us, comforting us. The Scriptures draw us into an experience of God an encounter with God where we know that God is alive and with us.

For most of us who are Catholic when we think of the presence of God we think about the Eucharist. We talk of the real presence, but you know the truth is that God is as really present in the Scriptures and in people as God is present in the Eucharist. Every time we read the Word, we enter into the presence of God. What do I mean by presence? Well I guess it’s that indescribable sense of relationship, where we know by faith that another is walking with us and addressing us and entering into the reality of our lives.

the-scriptures-are-the-word-of-god-clipart-2

The Scriptures tell our story, our faith story, the difficulties we have in life, the challenges we have to face, the big questions that we wrestle with. Why am I here? Why do I exist? What’s suffering all about? They reveal the universal patterns of human experience. You know the questions that my mum asked when she was dying in a hospice in 1993 are the same questions that someone dying in first century Palestine would have asked. The Scriptures invite us to reflect on the way in which we love one another, the way we relate to one another and see one another. The Scriptures say to us that loving one another is not about coming to church services, it’s about justice, mercy and truth.

So, pray the Scriptures of the day, the ones usually read at Mass and see what it does for you. A tool that can help us pray the Scriptures by ourselves or with members of our household at this time is the ancient practice of Lectio Divina.

  • Listen
  • Silence
  • Recall the story with another person if you are able or by yourself
  • Read it again stopping wherever you want to stop, with whatever word or phrase captures your attention
  • Silence
  • If you are able, share with another person what has struck you in the reading
  • If there is no-one else with you, then record it on paper so that looking back you can see what God has been saying to you

 

 

3rd Tuesday of Easter – 28 April 2020

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A prayer from Pope Francis:

“We fly to your protection, O Holy Mother of God.”

In the present tragic situation, when the whole world is prey to suffering and anxiety, we fly to you, Mother of God and our mother, and seek refuge under your protection.

Virgin Mary, turn your merciful eyes toward us amid this coronavirus pandemic. Comfort those who are distraught and mourn their loved ones who have died, and at times are buried in a way that grieves them deeply. Be close to those who are concerned for their loved ones who are sick and who, in order to prevent the spread of the disease, cannot be close to them. Fill with hope those who are troubled by the uncertainty of the future and the consequences for the economy and employment.

Mother of God and our Mother, pray for us to God, the father of mercies, that this great suffering may end and that hope and peace may dawn anew. Plead with your divine Son, as you did at Cana, so that the families of the sick and the victims be comforted, and their hearts be opened to confidence and trust.

Protect those doctors, nurses, health workers and volunteers who are on the frontline of this emergency, and are risking their lives to save others. Support their heroic effort and grant them strength, generosity and continued health.

Be close to those who assist the sick night and day, and to priests who, in their pastoral concern and fidelity to the Gospel, are trying to help and support everyone.

Blessed Virgin, illumine the minds of men and women engaged in scientific research, that they may find effective solutions to overcome this virus.

Support national leaders, that with wisdom, solicitude and generosity they may come to the aid of those lacking the basic necessities of life and may devise social and economic solutions inspired by farsightedness and solidarity.

Mary Most Holy, stir our consciences, so that the enormous funds invested in developing and stockpiling arms will instead be spent on promoting effective research on how to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future.

Beloved Mother, help us realize that we are all members of one great family and to recognize the bond that unites us, so that, in a spirit of fraternity and solidarity, we can help to alleviate countless situations of poverty and need. Make us strong in faith, persevering in service, constant in prayer.

Mary, Consolation of the afflicted, embrace all your children in distress and pray that God will stretch out his all-powerful hand and free us from this terrible pandemic, so that life can serenely resume its normal course.

To you, who shine on our journey as a sign of salvation and hope, do we entrust ourselves, O Clement, O Loving, O Sweet Virgin Mary. Amen.

 

3rd Monday of Easter – 27 April 2020

Today, a few videos to cheer you up!

Someone sent me this video.  It’s about recognising what’s important in life.

 

Doing the weather from home… in style!  BBC weatherman, Owain Wyn Evans, accompanies the  BBC News theme on his drums:

 

And finally, the Episcopal Church in America has released this Easter Hymn performed by a virtual choir and orchestra.  It’s genius.

 

3rd Sunday of Easter (A)

emaus02

Although we can’t celebrate the Eucharist together this weekend, there are still ways we can pray together on this, the Lord’s Day.

 

1)  You can join in Mass online 

There are lots of websites that are livestreaming Mass:

cathedral

Mass will be livestreamed from Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral at 11.00 am on Facebook, with a recording available on YouTube shortly afterwards.

The Facebook address is:

www.facebook.com/liverpoolmetrocathedral

The YouTube address is:

https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCOiDR9mRmfnAu05Yg3ifyMw

st-stephen-warrington-1

Fr John McLaughlin is uploading Mass from St Stephen’s:

www.st-stephens-warrington.co.uk

online-masses-healthcare

There are plenty of Masses livestreamed throughout the day at the following websites:

www.churchservices.tv and https://www.mcnmedia.tv

 

2)  You can join in by praying at home – on your own or with other members of your household.  The following resources may be helpful:

angelo-rosa-maria-3

Celebrating Sunday at Home:    celebrating-sunday-at-home-easter-3a

Children’s sheet:    look-26-april

Fr Dave’s Prayers:    bidding-prayers-easter-3a

Sunday Plus:    sunday-plus-26-april

 

3)  For Children:

cafod

CAFOD are hosting a virtual Children’s Liturgy of the Word on Sundays at 10.00 am:

https://cafod.org.uk/Education/Children-s-liturgy

 

4)  Isolated but not alone!

‘The Tablet’ Catholic magazine has lots of links to online resources to help us during the pandemic.  The page is updated regularly:

https://www.thetablet.co.uk/news/12590/isolated-but-not-alone-resources-for-catholics

 

5)  And finally… a little humour…

wheelie-bin

With my prayers,
Fr Dave

 


2nd Week of Easter

2nd Saturday of Easter – 25 April 2020

votive-candle

‘And The People Stayed Home’ by Kitty O’Meara

And the people stayed home.

And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art,

and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still.

And listened more deeply.

Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. 

Some met their shadows. 

And the people began to think differently.

And the people healed.

And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless,

and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again,

they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images.

And created new ways to live.

And heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.

 

2nd Friday of Easter – 24 April 2020

kindness-coronavirus-cover_1

Struggling with the lockdown?  The Mental Health Foundation has some good ideas.  They’re good ideas because they take us out of ourselves and help to bring some cheer to someone else.

  • Call a friend that you haven’t spoken to for a while
  • Tell a family member how much you love and appreciate them
  • Make a cup of tea for someone you live with
  • Arrange to have a cup of tea and virtual catch up with someone you know
  • Help with a household chore at home
  • Arrange to watch a film at the same time as a friend and video call
  • Tell someone you know that you are proud of them
  • Tell someone you know why you are thankful for them
  • Send a motivational text to a friend who is struggling
  • Send someone you know a joke to cheer them up
  • Send someone you know a picture of a cute animal
  • Send an inspirational quote to a friend
  • Send an interesting article to a friend
  • Contact someone you haven’t seen in a while and arrange a phone call
  • Spend time playing with your pet
  • Reach out to call a friend, family member or neighbour who is experiencing loneliness or self-isolation
  • Donate to a charity
  • Lend your ear – call a colleague and ask how they’re finding it all
  • Give praise to your colleague for something they’ve done well
  • Arrange to have a video lunch with a colleague
  • Send an inspirational story of kindness from around the world to someone you know
  • Donate to foodbanks
  • Offer to skill share with a friend via video call – you could teach guitar, dance etc
  • Offer support to vulnerable neighbours
  • Offer to send someone a takeaway or a meal

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk

2nd Thursday of Easter – 23 April 2020

Happy Feast Day!

st-george

Today is the Solemnity of St George, Patron and Protector of England.  He was a Roman soldier, martyred on this day in 303 AD, during the persecution of Christians in what is now present day Israel.  He became a favourite saint for the Crusades and his feast day has been kept in England since 1222.  Let us ask St George to pray for us today, and for all the people of our country.

God of hosts,
who so kindled the fire of charity
in the heart of Saint George your martyr,
that he bore witness to the risen Lord
both by his life and by his death;
grant us through his intercession, we pray,
the same faith and power of love,
that we who rejoice in his triumph
may be led to share with him
in the fullness of the resurrection.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

online-masses-healthcare 

Masses for the Sick and their Families,
NHS Front-Line workers and those working in Social Care

A reminder that special Masses will be celebrated for the sick, their families, care workers and NHS staff on Thursdays at 7.00 pm online from a different cathedral each week.  This evening, Cardinal Nichols will celebrate Mass from Westminster Cathedral:

Westminster Cathedral
Westminster Cathedral on churchservices.tv

 

2nd Wednesday of Easter – 22 April 2020

walsingham

A reminder that Mgr John Armitage, the Rector of Walsingham, is leading a retreat this week which you can join in online.  The talks can be replayed so you can join in the retreat anytime.  It really is very good.

https://www.walsingham.org.uk/2020/04/15/retreat-by-mgr-john-armitage-19th-to-26th-april/

Mgr Armitage began the retreat with this beautiful prayer to the Holy Spirit:

O Holy Spirit, give me stillness of soul in you.
Calm the turmoil within, with the gentleness of your peace.
Quiet the anxiety within, with a deep trust in you.
Heal the wounds of sin within, with the joy of your forgiveness.
Strengthen the faith within, with the awareness of your presence.
Confirm the hope within, with the knowledge of your strength.
Give fullness to the love within, with an outpouring of your love.
O Holy Spirit, be to me a source of light, strength and courage
so that I may hear your call ever more clearly
and follow you more generously.

William Browning, C.P

2nd Tuesday of Easter – 21 April 2020

synod-update

During these days of isolation and social distancing, we are experiencing different ways of being Church. Our prayer and worship has become transformed as we gather remotely, online, from our own home. Our sense of community is challenged as we find creative and new ways of coming together to meet, to socialise, to work, or to check in on each other.

Today begins an extra period of reflection to consider what our Synod can learn from the experience of living through these difficult and different times. A short film together with a leaflet (below), have been produced to help our reflection.

synod-reflection-covid-19

Please submit your reflections online by Monday 4 May:   https://synod2020.co.uk/

Thank you.

2nd Monday of Easter – 20 April 2020

online-masses-healthcare

Masses for the Sick and their Families, NHS Front-Line workers and those working in Social Care

The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales recognise that this time of pandemic is affecting every person in our countries. Those who are sick, and their families, are suffering many hardships, especially isolation from those they love. Our front-line workers in hospitals and care homes are giving exceptional service to those who are vulnerable at this time.

In order to show a spiritual solidarity with all those affected by the pandemic, each week a Catholic Bishop will celebrate Mass in their Cathedral which will be live-streamed for people to join. This will take place every Thursday at 7.00 pm.

23 April
Cardinal Vincent Nichols
Westminster Cathedral
Westminster Cathedral on churchservices.tv

walsingham

Retreat from Walsingham Live streamed

Mgr John Armitage is leading a retreat from 19th to 26th April live streamed from Walsingham.  For more information and retreat notes:

https://www.walsingham.org.uk/2020/04/15/retreat-by-mgr-john-armitage-19th-to-26th-april/

 

2nd SUNDAY OF EASTER (A) – 19 April 2020

easter-2a

In this Sunday’s Gospel, the risen Lord appears to the disciples who are in their own self-imposed lockdown in Jerusalem.  His first words to them are:  ‘Peace be with you’.  Jesus greets you and I every day in the same way.  Let his greeting fill you with his peace.

Although we can’t celebrate the Eucharist together this weekend, there are still ways we can pray together on this, the Lord’s Day.

1)  You can join in Mass online 

There are lots of websites that are livestreaming Mass:

cathedral

Mass will be livestreamed from Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral at 9.00 am on Facebook, with a recording available on YouTube shortly afterwards.

The Facebook address is:

www.facebook.com/liverpoolmetrocathedral

The YouTube address is:

https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCOiDR9mRmfnAu05Yg3ifyMw

st-stephen-warrington-1

Fr John McLaughlin is uploading Mass from St Stephen’s:

www.st-stephens-warrington.co.uk

There are plenty of Masses livestreamed throughout the day at the following websites:

www.churchservices.tv and https://www.mcnmedia.tv

2)  You can join in by praying at home – on your own or with other members of your household.  The following resources may be helpful:

Celebrating Sunday at Home:    celebrating-sunday-at-home-easter-2a

Children’s sheet:    look-19-april

Fr Dave’s Prayers:    bidding-prayers-easter-2a

Sunday Plus:    sunday-plus-19-april

3)  For Children:

CAFOD are hosting a virtual Children’s Liturgy of the Word on Sundays at 10.00 am:

https://cafod.org.uk/Education/Children-s-liturgy

4)  Isolated but not alone!

‘The Tablet’ Catholic magazine has lots of links to online resources to help us during the pandemic.  The page is updated regularly:

https://www.thetablet.co.uk/news/12590/isolated-but-not-alone-resources-for-catholics

5)  God is with us

During the week, I received this beautiful card from Imogen who is in Year 4 at St Oswald’s Catholic Primary School.

imogen-card

Inside the card, Imogen wrote:  “I know this Easter is going to be different but Jesus and God will still be with us.”  Sometimes we need the simple faith of children to remind us of what is so true.

6)  And finally… a little humour…

emotional-support-dog

wearing-muzzle

 

With my prayers,
Fr Dave


The Feast of Easter 2020

Saturday of Easter Octave – 18 April 2020

Some powerful images from Cardinal Nichols at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper celebrated in Westminster Cathedral last week:

Speaking of families celebrating the Passover in their homes, the Cardinal spoke about the Chief Rabbi who said recently, “This pandemic is making us realise again that the home is a house of God and a place of prayer.”

“In the Mass, we join in the prayer of Jesus, holding our troubled world before the Father, praying with him for our healing. This is the wonder of the Mass to which we cling and for which we long. Today we thank God for this gift of prayer, in every form that it takes: candles in windows, ringing of bells, prayers said and sung together as a family, whispered quietly in the night. Prayer is our part in the sacrifice of Jesus, new for all eternity.”

“The Sacrifice of the Mass, offered in thanksgiving, flows outward in loving service. The two are inseparable: sacrifice and service, bound together in love. True service is given with humility. The knees of our mind and heart must bend if we are truly to serve one another. True service comes with a sacrifice of self-interest. True service is an act of thanksgiving for the very gift of life and the freedom we are given.”

cardinal-washing-feet

Friday of Easter Octave – 17 April 2020

For prayer today, perhaps let this beautiful chant calm you…


Calm me, Lord, as you calmed the storm;
still me, Lord, keep me from harm.
Let all the tumult within me cease,
Lord, enfold me in your peace.

Margaret Rizza © 1998, Kevin Mayhew Ltd. Admin. and sub-published by GIA Publications, Inc. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved. One License #A-632722.

Thursday of Easter Octave – 16 April 2020

A Message from Bishop Tom Williams:

For those who might need a reminder, Maisy Griffin (St Benedict’s Catholic Primary School) has designed a great poster:

maisy-griffin

Wednesday of Easter Octave – 15 April 2020

hillsborough-memorial

Today, 15 April, is the anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster thirty-one years ago in 1989. Let’s take a moment today to remember the 96 children, women and men who died, and for their families and friends.

The final Hillsborough memorial service was due to take place at Anfield this afternoon but has had to be postponed due to the current pandemic.

notre-dame

Also, it was on this day last year that a fire devastated Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. This evening at 9.00 pm on BBC4 there is a programme about the fire and the restoration of the Cathedral: Rebuilding Notre Dame. 

And finally, a thought from Pope Francis:

good-friday-pope-francis

Tuesday of Easter Octave – 14 April 2020

 easter-vigil-2

Today, the second part of Pope Francis’ reflection on the Gospel passage given to us at this year’s Easter Vigil.

Pope Francis at the Easter Vigil – Part 2

Courage. This is a word often spoken by Jesus in the Gospels. Only once do others say it, to encourage a person in need: “Courage; rise, [Jesus] is calling you!” (Mk 10:49). It is he, the Risen One, who raises us up from our neediness. If, on your journey, you feel weak and frail, or fall, do not be afraid, God holds out a helping hand and says to you: “Courage!”. You might say, as did Don Abbondio (in Manzoni’s novel), “Courage is not something you can give yourself” (I Promessi Sposi, XXV). True, you cannot give it to yourself, but you can receive it as a gift. All you have to do is open your heart in prayer and roll away, however slightly, that stone placed at the entrance to your heart so that Jesus’ light can enter. You only need to ask him: “Jesus, come to me amid my fears and tell me too: Courage!” With you, Lord, we will be tested but not shaken. And, whatever sadness may dwell in us, we will be strengthened in hope, since with you the cross leads to the resurrection, because you are with us in the darkness of our nights; you are certainty amid our uncertainties, the word that speaks in our silence, and nothing can ever rob us of the love you have for us.

This is the Easter message, a message of hope. It contains a second part, the sending forth. “Go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee” (Mt 28:10), Jesus says. “He is going before you to Galilee” (v. 7), the angel says. The Lord goes before us; he goes before us always. It is encouraging to know that he walks ahead of us in life and in death; he goes before us to Galilee, that is, to the place which for him and his disciples evoked the idea of daily life, family and work. Jesus wants us to bring hope there, to our everyday life. For the disciples, Galilee was also the place of remembrance, for it was the place where they were first called. Returning to Galilee means remembering that we have been loved and called by God. Each one of us has their own Galilee. We need to resume the journey, reminding ourselves that we are born and reborn thanks to an invitation given gratuitously to us out of love, there in our respective Galilees. This is always the point from which we can set out anew, especially in times of crisis and trial, remembering our Galilee.

do-not-be-afraid-go-tell

But there is more. Galilee was the farthest region from where they were: from Jerusalem. And not only geographically. Galilee was also the farthest place from the sacredness of the Holy City. It was an area where people of different religions lived: it was the “Galilee of the Gentiles” (Mt 4:15). Jesus sends them there and asks them to start again from there. What does this tell us? That the message of hope should not be confined to our sacred places, but should be brought to everyone. For everyone is in need of reassurance, and if we, who have touched “the Word of life” (1 Jn 1:1) do not give it, who will? How beautiful it is to be Christians who offer consolation, who bear the burdens of others and who offer encouragement: messengers of life in a time of death! In every Galilee, in every area of the human family to which we all belong and which is part of us – for we are all brothers and sisters – may we bring the song of life! Let us silence the cries of death, no more wars! May we stop the production and trade of weapons, since we need bread, not guns. Let the abortion and killing of innocent lives end. May the hearts of those who have enough be open to filling the empty hands of those who do not have the bare necessities.

Those women, in the end, “took hold” of Jesus’ feet (Mt 28:9); feet that had travelled so far to meet us, to the point of entering and emerging from the tomb. The women embraced the feet that had trampled death and opened the way of hope. Today, as pilgrims in search of hope, we cling to you, Risen Jesus. We turn our backs on death and open our hearts to you, for you are Life itself.

empty-tomb-2

Monday of Easter Octave – 13 April 2020

An Easter Message from the Archbishop:

This week, every day is like Easter Sunday. The Gospels at Mass recount all the appearances of Jesus after the resurrection as recorded by the four evangelists.

Today and tomorrow, with the help of Pope Francis, let’s reflect on the Gospel passage given to us for this year’s Easter Vigil.

empty-tomb

Matthew 28:1-10

After the sabbath, and towards dawn on the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala and the other Mary went to visit the sepulchre. And all at once there was a violent earthquake, for the angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled away the stone and sat on it. His face was like lightning, his robe white as snow. The guards were so shaken, so frightened of him, that they were like dead men. But the angel spoke; and he said to the women, ‘There is no need for you to be afraid. I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said he would. Come and see the place where he lay, then go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has risen from the dead and now he is going before you to Galilee; it is there you will see him.” Now I have told you.’ Filled with awe and great joy the women came quickly away from the tomb and ran to tell the disciples.

And there, coming to meet them, was Jesus. ‘Greetings’ he said. And the women came up to him and, falling down before him, clasped his feet. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers that they must leave for Galilee; they will see me there.’

votive-candles

Pope Francis at the Easter Vigil – Part 1

 

“After the Sabbath” (Mt 28:1), the women went to the tomb. This is how the Gospel of this holy Vigil began: with the Sabbath. It is the day of the Easter Triduum that we tend to neglect as we eagerly await the passage from Friday’s cross to Easter Sunday’s Alleluia. This year however, we are experiencing, more than ever, the great silence of Holy Saturday. We can imagine ourselves in the position of the women on that day. They, like us, had before their eyes the drama of suffering, of an unexpected tragedy that happened all too suddenly. They had seen death and it weighed on their hearts. Pain was mixed with fear: would they suffer the same fate as the Master? Then too there was fear about the future and all that would need to be rebuilt. A painful memory, a hope cut short. For them, as for us, it was the darkest hour.

Yet in this situation the women did not allow themselves to be paralyzed. They did not give in to the gloom of sorrow and regret, they did not morosely close in on themselves, or flee from reality. They were doing something simple yet extraordinary: preparing at home the spices to anoint the body of Jesus. They did not stop loving; in the darkness of their hearts, they lit a flame of mercy. Our Lady spent that Saturday, the day that would be dedicated to her, in prayer and hope. She responded to sorrow with trust in the Lord. Unbeknownst to these women, they were making preparations, in the darkness of that Sabbath, for “the dawn of the first day of the week”, the day that would change history. Jesus, like a seed buried in the ground, was about to make new life blossom in the world; and these women, by prayer and love, were helping to make that hope flower. How many people, in these sad days, have done and are still doing what those women did, sowing seeds of hope! With small gestures of care, affection and prayer.

At dawn the women went to the tomb. There the angel says to them: “Do not be afraid. He is not here; for he has risen” (vv. 5-6). They hear the words of life even as they stand before a tomb… And then they meet Jesus, the giver of all hope, who confirms the message and says: “Do not be afraid” (v. 10). Do not be afraid, do not yield to fear: This is the message of hope. It is addressed to us, today. These are the words that God repeats to us this very night.

Tonight we acquire a fundamental right that can never be taken away from us: the right to hope. It is a new and living hope that comes from God. It is not mere optimism; it is not a pat on the back or an empty word of encouragement, uttered with an empty smile. No! It is a gift from heaven, which we could not have earned on our own. Over these weeks, we have kept repeating, “All will be well”, clinging to the beauty of our humanity and allowing words of encouragement to rise up from our hearts. But as the days go by and fears grow, even the boldest hope can dissipate. Jesus’ hope is different. He plants in our hearts the conviction that God is able to make everything work unto good, because even from the grave he brings life.

The grave is the place where no one who enters ever leaves. But Jesus emerged for us; he rose for us, to bring life where there was death, to begin a new story in the very place where a stone had been placed. He, who rolled away the stone that sealed the entrance of the tomb, can also remove the stones in our hearts. So, let us not give in to resignation; let us not place a stone before hope. We can and must hope, because God is faithful. He did not abandon us; he visited us and entered into our situations of pain, anguish and death. His light dispelled the darkness of the tomb: today he wants that light to penetrate even to the darkest corners of our lives. Dear sister, dear brother, even if in your heart you have buried hope, do not give up: God is greater. Darkness and death do not have the last word. Be strong, for with God nothing is lost!

And something to make you smile:

resurrection-dont-even-think-about-it

EASTER SUNDAY (A)

easter-3

“This is the day that God has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!”
(Psalm 117)

easter-2

Christ is risen!  He is risen, indeed!
Christus resurrexit! Resurrexit vere!
Chrystus zmartwychwstał! Prawdziwie zmartwychwstał!
Khristos voskrese! Voistinu voskrese!
Le Christ est ressuscité! En verité il est ressuscité!
Tá Críost éirithe! Go deimhin, tá sé éirithe!
Atgyfododd Crist! Yn wir atgyfododd!

A very happy Easter to you all!  May the joy of this day – the greatest day of the year for Christians – lift your spirits and bring hope to your hearts.

Although we can’t celebrate the Eucharist together this weekend, there are still ways we can pray together on this, the Lord’s Day.

 

1)  You can join in Mass online 

There are lots of websites that are livestreaming Mass:

The Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster at a press conference in the Archbishops Office at Westminster Cathedral in central London, prior to being made a Cardinal when he attends the consistory in Rome on Saturday.

Cardinal Nichols will lead an Easter Sunday Morning Service at 8.00 am on all BBC local radio stations. It will not be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 as previously advertised.

cathedral

Archbishop Malcolm will preside at Mass from Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral which will be livestreamed at 11.00 am on Facebook, with a recording available on YouTube shortly afterwards.

The Facebook address is:

www.facebook.com/liverpoolmetrocathedral

The YouTube address is:

https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCOiDR9mRmfnAu05Yg3ifyMw

st-stephen-warrington-1

Fr John McLaughlin will upload Easter Sunday Mass from St Stephen’s:

www.st-stephens-warrington.co.uk

There are plenty of Masses livestreamed throughout the day at the following websites:

www.churchservices.tv and https://www.mcnmedia.tv

 

2)  You can join in by praying at home – on your own or with other members of your household.  The following resources may be helpful:

Easter Sunday at Home:    easter-sunday-at-home

Fr Dave’s Prayers:    bidding-prayers-for-easter-2020

Children’s Sheet:    look-12-april-2020       

Sunday Plus:    sunday-plus-12-april

 

3)  For Children:

CAFOD are hosting a virtual Children’s Liturgy of the Word on Sundays at 10.00 am:

https://cafod.org.uk/Education/Children-s-liturgy

 

4)  Isolated but not alone!

‘The Tablet’ Catholic magazine has lots of links to online resources to help us during the pandemic.  The page is updated regularly:

https://www.thetablet.co.uk/news/12590/isolated-but-not-alone-resources-for-catholics

 

5)  Church Bells

Archbishop Malcolm supports a suggestion made by the Bishops’ Conference and encourages the ringing of church bells at midday on Easter Sunday, where this can be done without requiring the presence of external bell ringers.  So I will do my best to ring St Benedict’s bell at midday.  If you’ve got bells of any kind at home, why don’t you ring them at the same time?  It’s a gesture of solidarity during the pandemic and a reminder that Easter Day is the greatest day of the year for Christians.  We are celebrating our hope in the Risen Lord.

 

6)  And finally… a little humour…

Social distancing and the Last Supper:

social-distancing-last-supper

wilson-working-from-home

 

With my prayers,
Fr Dave

 


HOLY WEEK 2020

Holy Saturday – 11 April 2020

holy-saturday

The Easter Vigil

On this Holy Saturday night, the holiest night of the year, we keep the ‘mother of all vigils’ (St Augustine). The Vigil begins with the lighting of the big Easter candle proclaiming “Christ is risen”.  Then, in the light of the candle, we read the stories of what God has done for his people through the ages.  After the Gospel of the Resurrection, we renew our baptismal promises.  Finally, we celebrate Christ’s risen presence with us always in the eucharist.

If you wish to join me in prayer this evening, there is a short Prayer Service below that you could use at home. Alternatively, you might like to join in one of the many celebrations online. If you scroll down the page to Palm Sunday, you will find plenty of links.

Prayer Service:  the-easter-vigil-at-home

Good Friday – 10 April 2020

free-good-friday-clipart-4

Today, all over the world at 3.00 pm, Christians stop whatever they are doing to celebrate the Passion of the Lord. Let’s read the Passion together, pray for the Church and the world, and adore the Cross.  There is a Prayer Service below that you could use at home.  Alternatively, you might like to join in one of the many celebrations online. If you scroll down the page to Palm Sunday, you will find plenty of links.

Prayer Service:    good-friday-at-home

Reflection

Archbishop Malcolm writes:

Many years ago, Good Friday was a very quiet day, it was a day when shops were closed, and people took time out of their busy lives to go to church and commemorate the passion and death of Jesus.

In these last weeks, our towns and cities have become quieter, but for a very different reason. There isn’t as much traffic on our roads and there are fewer people to be seen.  Our churches have been closed and people have not been able to worship as they normally would.

We cannot make sense of the crisis in our world today, but we have witnessed the heroism of those in the health service, those providing care, people in essential services, and the generosity of so many volunteers in giving their time and energy for the sake of others. We give thanks to God for this willingness to reach out to those around us.

The death of Jesus on the cross didn’t make sense to his followers. Only days earlier he had been hailed as a king when he entered Jerusalem, and now he had been scourged, beaten and mocked.  A crown of thorns was forced on to his head and a purple robe put around him.  He had experienced the screaming of the crowds, ‘Crucify him, crucify him!’ and was forced to carry the cross.  The disciples didn’t understand, every hope they had was being destroyed and they hid in fear; and yet their lives were about to be transformed.

Life has changed for us in recent weeks, rather than hiding in fear we must, for the good of us all, accept and comply with the necessary government restrictions and look forward with hope.

So today we have to find a different way of giving witness to the Crucifixion. Our towns and cities are once again quiet and we can’t hold a Walk of Witness, or even go to a church to pray.  This doesn’t make our prayer less sincere, instead it can become deeper and from the heart.  The psalmist prays ‘in the silence of my heart teach me wisdom’ and it is there that we can find the Wisdom of God for this day.

good-fri

 

Holy Thursday – 9 April 2020

holy-thursday

This evening, we begin the Easter Triduum – a three-day celebration of our Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection.

On this day, we recall what Jesus did on the night before he died – how he washed the feet of his disciples and shared the Last Supper with them. While I celebrate Mass for us all in church, you might like to join me by having a little celebration at home using the resources below. Alternatively, you might like to join in one of the many celebrations online.  If you scroll down the page to Palm Sunday, you will find plenty of links.

Prayer Service:    holy-thursday-at-home

Bidding Prayers:    bidding-prayers-for-holy-Thursday

Reflection

Fr Chris Thomas writes…

I remember being at a conference some thirty-five years ago and meeting a woman who had with her a child who had both learning and physical difficulties. I watched as this woman looked after her daughter each day tending to her needs with the utmost care. If you can see love, I could see it during that week, shining in her eyes. I learned as the week went on that this woman had to get up at 5.30 am each day to make sure that her daughter was ready for breakfast at 8.00 am.

She had to go through a complicated medical procedure which was what took much of the time, along with bathing and dressing. As the week went on, I learnt that the woman had adopted her daughter because she wanted the girl to experience love. There was a lot of letting go that had to happen within that woman for her to get to a place where her heart was big enough to do something that she did not have to do.

Richard Rohr, the American Franciscan, once wrote this: ‘Eucharist in John’s Gospel is not ritual or liturgy but suffering service’. That’s what I saw in that woman. Rohr’s understanding is one of the most challenging concepts to take on board in a church which loves to ritualise and dogmatise. This is not a bad thing to do because it leads us to a deeper understanding, but there is always more. We are always invited to go beyond the ritual and the dogma and ask ourselves the question: Whose feet am I prepared to wash? Who am I prepared to lay down my life for? Where do I express in very practical ways what God in Jesus has done for me? I guess it could be summed up in the question:  where do I love?

It seems to me that is the most important faith question that we have to ask. I think that we would grow a lot more in faith if we attempted to answer it rather than getting ourselves all hung up on what we usually call faith questions. Hung up on whether or not we’ve said our morning and night prayers. Hung up on whether we’re going to hell or not. Hung up on our moral lives, or our moral standards or maybe other people’s! I’m not saying those questions aren’t important, all I’m saying is that there is a deeper question that has to be asked. Is love at the core of my life? Or have I allowed myself to grow hard and selfish, refusing to respond to the needs of anyone who doesn’t fit in with my understanding of people who are worthy of my care and presuming that religious practice is what faith is about.

I love the Eucharist but the purpose of receiving the Lord is to help us love more and to help us deal with those things in our hearts and minds that stop us loving. St Augustine is reported as saying, ‘We who are the body of Christ, receive the body of Christ to become more the body of Christ.’ We are to become more like the Lord and Master we say we serve. That’s what is so powerful about the Gospel on Maundy Thursday. John presumes that we know Jesus took bread and wine and shared himself with us. He wants to show us what that means by having Jesus get down on his knees and wash his disciples’ feet.

Somehow, we have to get on our knees and serve the broken and the poor in this world. At this time of COVID-19 it is more imperative than ever. The listening ear, the ready smile, the open heart all speak of the presence of God to whoever we meet. That’s the challenge of today, to love our brothers and sisters, whoever and whatever they may be, and so to feed a world that’s hungry for love.

Wednesday of Holy Week – 8 April 2020

clipart-stations-of-the-cross-7

As we reach the eve of the great Easter Triduum or ‘Three Days of Easter’, we might take some time today to pray the Stations of the Cross. The link below provides a set of Stations prepared by the Archdiocese.

stations-of-the-cross-during-covid-19

Tuesday of Holy Week – 7 April 2020

penance-service

On this day, we usually gather together as a community to celebrate God’s forgiveness and love in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Since we can’t gather together just now, I’ve put together a little Service of Reconciliation that you can use at home, either on your own or with those who share your home.

reconciliation-at-home

Alternatively, Archbishop Eamon Martin will be livestreaming a Service of Reconciliation from Armagh at 7.30 pm this evening. Clink on this link and then click on St Malachy’s webcam:

http://armaghparish.net/

Monday of Holy Week – 6 April 2020

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Monastic Liturgy

For those who like monastic chant in English, the Benedictine monks of St Meinrad Archabbey are streaming their liturgies during Holy Week and Easter: https://www.youtube.com/user/SaintMeinrad/videos

 

Today’s Gospel (John 12: 1-11)

Six days before the Passover, Jesus went to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom he had raised from the dead. They gave a dinner for him there; Martha waited on them and Lazarus was among those at table. Mary brought in a pound of very costly ointment, pure nard, and with it anointed the feet of Jesus, wiping them with her hair; the house was full of the scent of the ointment. Then Judas Iscariot – one of his disciples, the man who was to betray him – said, ‘Why wasn’t this ointment sold for three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor?’ He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he was in charge of the common fund and used to help himself to the contributions. So Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone; she had to keep this scent for the day of my burial. You have the poor with you always, you will not always have me.’

Meanwhile a large number of Jews heard that he was there and came not only on account of Jesus but also to see Lazarus whom he had raised from the dead. Then the chief priests decided to kill Lazarus as well, since it was on his account that many of the Jews were leaving them and believing in Jesus.

mary-of-bethany

 

Reflection

Following his arrival in Jerusalem, today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus sought out the company of his friends – Martha, Mary and Lazarus. While he was in their home, Mary poured her love and compassion on Jesus by anointing his feet with expensive ointment.  St John tells us that the scent of the ointment filled the whole house.  I’ve often wondered if the scent of the ointment stayed with Jesus throughout the week reminding him of the love and care of his friends.

In our own times of suffering, it’s the little gestures of friends and family that we remember and which mean so much. They are precious moments when God reaches out to us physically through others and help us to bear our suffering.

Today, let’s take a moment to give thanks to God for reaching out to us through the kindly actions of others.

Fr Dave

PALM SUNDAY (A) – 5 April 2020

palm-sunday-clipart-palm-sun-clipart-1

Although we can’t celebrate the Eucharist together this weekend, there are still ways we can pray together on this, the Lord’s Day.

1)  You can join in Mass online 

There are lots of websites that are livestreaming Mass:

cathedral

Mass from Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral is livestreamed on Sundays at 9.00 am on Facebook, with a recording available at 11.00 am on YouTube.

The Facebook address is: 

www.facebook.com/liverpoolmetrocathedral

The YouTube address is:

https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCOiDR9mRmfnAu05Yg3ifyMw

Please note:  for Palm Sunday & Easter Sunday, the livestream will be at 11.00 am and the recording will be uploaded shortly afterwards.

The Cathedral is also livestreaming the Holy Week ceremonies.

For further details:  www.liverpoolmetrocathedral.org.uk

st-stephen-warrington-1

Fr John McLaughlin is also uploading Mass from St Stephen’s:

www.st-stephens-warrington.co.uk

There are plenty of Masses livestreamed throughout the day at the following websites:

www.churchservices.tv and https://www.mcnmedia.tv

 

2)  You can join in by praying at home – on your own or with other members of your household.  The following resources may be helpful:

church

Palm Sunday at Home:  palm-sunday-at-home

Children’s sheet:  look-5-april-2020

Sunday Plus:  sunday-plus-palm-sun-a

Fr Dave’s Prayers:  bidding-prayers-for-palm-sunday

Palm Sunday Readings:  readings-palm-sunday

 

3)  For Children:

cafod

CAFOD are hosting a virtual Children’s Liturgy of the Word on Sundays at 10.00 am:

https://cafod.org.uk/Education/Children-s-liturgy

 

4)  Isolated but not alone!

‘The Tablet’ Catholic magazine has lots of links to online resources to help us during the pandemic.  It’s updated regularly:

https://www.thetablet.co.uk/news/12590/isolated-but-not-alone-resources-for-catholics

5)  And finally… a little humour…

 

please-dont-walk-me-again

 

With my prayers,
Fr Dave