Magazine – December 2019

My Dear People

A churchwarden writes from Iberia: “Chris and I went to the service at our village church this morning. It was a case of standing room only, and with 300 seats, that’s a lot of people! It made me wonder what we are doing wrong and I am sorry to have to disagree with the experts, but if the Church at Monchique is anything to go by, I don’t think we are wrong at all. The service was a sung mass almost identical to ours. The priests vestments were the same. There were several small children sitting on the alter steps and they were well behaved and took part in all the service. Not a guitar or drum kit or messy Church to be seen! In all, it was just a normal ser v i ce l i ke our s , minus teas afterwards or welcomers to greet us, yet so many people attending. I can’t help thinking that no amount of gimmicks will cure our ills as it is no longer part of general English culture to attend Church.”

Quite so. It is interesting to note that in immigrant-predominated areas of England – and the immigrants DO go to church – more English people go too, as it is seen as socially acceptable.
This is not an excuse for us to be complacent. There are always things we can improve. But not change: if what we do is in accordance with the Gospel and the traditions of the Church.

What desperately needs changing – and has always been part of the Christian calling to change – is the society in which we live.

The main and most necessary way of changing our society for the better is by openly living a Christian life, something which is counter-cultural.

Part of which means coming to Church over Christmas – to Mass most importantly, but also to another service if you can – never-mind what else your family or friends have planned.

And inviting all your family and friends to join you at Church: for Christ is after all the reason we have Christmas!

Yours in Christ,

Fr John

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Magazine – November 2019

My Dear People

Jesus said from the Cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing”. Perhaps the best known and most classic case of mercifully withholding judgement.

Nowhere is this more important than in the present debate about abortion. One will never slow the tide of abortions by condemning the perpetrators and the victims – for a mother seeking an abortion is as much a victim as the child in her womb.

One must not condemn but convert. This story, told by a mother, may help:

The Lord gave me two sons, one born in 1974 (who died in 1994), the other in 1977. At the age of 33 I was pregnant with a third child, but for several reasons I didn’t want this pregnancy and had an abortion, without realizing that it was really a child. For me he did not yet exist. And since abortion was legal, I went ahead and did it.
Ten years later, when I had forgotten all about it, the Lord showed me this child in a dream. I was really shocked! I felt like I was floating in the air. Then I came face to face with a serene child who looked a little like my second son. He told me that he was mine and that his name was Camille. He was about ten years old, the age he would have been if he had lived. Next to him was another child, who asked him: “Aren’t you blaming her for what she did to you?” But Camille replied: “No, I forgive her.”

I was stunned! I hadn’t sought this revelation, and had suddenly learned that I had a child, that he was in heaven, that his name was Camille, and that he had forgiven me for aborting him!

Thank you, Lord, thank you Mary! What an enormous grace!

I want to testify today that a child exists from the time he is conceived, that an abortion is the murder of a child, and that it brings much suffering to the mother (and probably also to the child). But in his goodness, the Lord doesn’t abandon any of those little ones, who are happy with Mary in the bosom of the Father!

Yours in Christ,

Fr John

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Magazine – October 2019

My Dear People

St John of the Cross wrote: “Do not believe that pleasing God lies so much in doing a great deal; it lies in doing all things with good will, without selfishness, and without seeking the approval of men.

St John of the Cross died over 400 years ago, but these words are as important now as they were then, most especially the last phrase: that pleasing God is impossible for people who seek the approval of their fellow humans.

If you want to think on that and apply it to your life, I am happy if you read no further. But if you are interested in why I think the Church in the West is in the mess it is in, by all means read on.

Many church member s in the comfortable ‘First World’ seem intent on seeking the approval of our present society, despite the comparably recent warning of Archbishop Temple (Archbishop of Canterbury 1942–44) that ‘the church that is married to the spirit of the age will find itself widowed in the next’. We already find ourselves widowed from being married to the spirit of the 60s and 70s, and in a desperate bid to boost numbers, they are now trying to marry the remnant to the spirit of the present age.

Adjusting one’s beliefs, morals and practices to the outside world may lessen criticism but encourages no one to commit to themselves to Christ. Keeping firm to the truths handed down to us and being willing to be criticised and even persecuted for holding them, does. The proof is out there for anyone to see in Africa, South America, Asia, China.

Yours in Christ,

Fr John

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Magazine – September 2019

My Dear People

When last did you tell someone how much you enjoyed/appreciated/valued a service or event at All Saints or St Alban’s? When last did you tell this to someone who does not go to church? Just doing this is the start and cornerstone of mission.

You may find at first you only recognise the opportunity to do this once it is too late. But try to do it as often as you can anyway. Ask God daily to show you these opportunities, and to help you to make the most of them.

The more often you have told people how much you value your relationship with God and with the Church, (or even just one or the other) the more successful you will be at the next step. Which is to invite people to join you at what you value and enjoy. There are plenty of opportunities in this month’s leaflet to which you could invite people.

And don’t get despondent because at first people might not come. Many people will not be sure you really mean that the Church has something to offer them (and overcome their shyness) until you have asked them again. And again.

If you love God and neighbour then inviting your neighbour (and family member) is a must. Yes, with enthusiasm; but without pushiness., and never nagging. And always with lots of prayer.

For our salvation and for theirs, pray about it, and do it.

Yours in Christ,

Fr John

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Magazine – August 2019

My Dear People

During the school holidays please pray for teachers, that they may have a good rest; for parents, that they may cope with patience, and if they have to go out to work, that they may find adequate supervision for the children; and of course for the children: that they may use their time positively, and for the many that rely on school meals, that they may have enough to eat.

And pray for the guidance of the church, that they may see how best to minister to them all.

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We have six altars in our two churches. Very near three of them, and not far from the other three, are images of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is not just an excess of Catholicism, as some accuse us, it is because at every Mass the Virgin Mary is there.

During the Mass when Jesus renews his gift of himself to us on the Cross, the Virgin Mary is there at the foot of the Cross. When we hear Jesus say through the priest, “This is my body given up for you, this is my blood shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins,” we should close our eyes and imagine ourselves at the foot of the Cross. Jesus meets us there, even though he is in his Risen glory. And Mary is there too. We can hear the words: “Behold, your Mother,” and “Behold, your son.”

As you receive the Body of Christ, you receive Mary as your Mother too.

Yours in Christ,

Fr John

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Magazine – July 2019

My Dear People

When we receive an invitation, we can sometimes decide quite easily whether or not to accept it. Sometimes it is less easy. Whilst we are probably happy with most of our choices, I am sure we have all regretted accepting some invitations, and perhaps less often but more deeply, have regretted turning others down.
But when an invitation from God, it is altogether another story.

We have all received many invitations from God. They may have come to us while we were reading the Bible, or listening to a sermon, or being part of a conversation, or quietly at prayer. But we have all received them, repeatedly, whether we chose to hear and respond to them, or not.

Saint Julian of Norwich (C14) said something very interesting: “See the courtesy with which God treats his creature!” When God invited The Virgin Mary to become the mother of his Son, she could have said no.

Something else could have happened. She was free to refuse. But God knew from all eternity that she would freely say yes.

With us God uses these same courtesies; he does not insist; he never forces. He offers you this or that. You can say no (although you should always listen!). If it is not a fault, you will not fall into mortal sin, you will remain in a state of grace, but you will deprive yourself of an adventure that could have been wonderful, and which could perhaps also have been an opportunity to save someone you love.

God is always inviting us to do something with Him. We often don’t listen, we seldom say “Yes”. It will be one of the pains of Purgatory, if one day God lets us enter there, to have missed so many of these invitations of divine grace, which are as sweet as the breeze that Elijah heard on the mountain announcing God’s presence.

So, listen for God’s invitation to you, and whenever you possibly can, say ‘Yes’.

Yours in Christ,

Fr John

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Magazine – June 2019

My Dear People

Our Lord said: “I came to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already kindled!” (Luke 12:49)

Fire can destroy something totally. But fire is also necessary for creation: the creation of much food, and many artefacts. It is our main source of power. In some plants it provides the necessary stimulus for germination.

I believe our Lord was using it in all these ways: as a destroyer of everything that is wrong, and as the power, the germinator of a new world order.

“When the day of Pentecost came, all the believers were gathered together in one place. Suddenly there was a noise from the sky which sounded like a strong wind blowing, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then they saw what looked like tongues of fire which spread out and touched each person there. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to talk in other languages, as the Spirit enabled them to speak.” (Acts 2:1-4).

And the early church certainly did create a whole new way: a new way of relating to God, of relating to one another, and a completely new set of values in relation to the world.

Our bishops are their successors. That is why a bishop’s mitre is shaped like a flame.

But we are all their successors. We have each received the Spirit at our Baptism, been empowered by it at our Confirmation.

We need to rekindle that fire this Pentecost to burn away all that is not of God, and to empower us to live in that new way that leads to His Kingdom!

“I came to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already kindled!

Yours in Christ,

Fr John

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Magazine – May 2019

My Dear People

Without its feminine dimension, the Church risks to become an old boy’s club and incapable of love, so says Pope Francis.

And Voltaire asserted that a male dominated society tends to be barbaric.

So why not celebrate this, the Merry Month of Mary?

But why is May the Month of Mary? (Apart from Chaucer telling us!)

In early Greece, May was dedicated to Artemis, the goddess of fecundity. In Ancient Rome, May was dedicated to Flora, the goddess of flowers. In medieval times, similar customs abounded, all around the practice of expelling winter, as May 1st was considered the start of new growth.

So the Church Christianised it, just as they Christianised gods’ hill to become God’s hill.

The ways Mary is honoured in May is as varied as the people who honour her.

It is a long-standing tradition to crown the statue of Mary during May – a custom known as May Crowning. [Anyone offering to make a crown for one of our statues?] The crown is usually made of flowers, representing Mary’s beauty
and virtue.

May Crowning in some areas is a huge celebration and is often done outside of Mass, and it isn’t just a “church” thing. We can and should be doing the same in our homes. When we echo the customs and traditions of the Church in our homes – our domestic churches – we participate more fully in the life of the Church.

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to erect a prayer corner in your home. It doesn’t matter how fancy or simple it is. The main point is that it’s a place designated for God, and more specifically, for spending time with him. Just as you need proper atmosphere to sleep, you also need proper atmosphere to pray.

For May, give Mary a special place in your prayer corner. It can be a statue or picture, but place there some representation of our Blessed Mother.

Then, crown Mary. You can give her an actual or spiritual crown and you can make it a subtle gesture or ornate ceremony of your own device. The meaning is far more important than the action. You can do it in the beginning, at the end of May or anywhere in between.

Just do it.

Why?

Not because it’s a long-standing tradition in the Church, although it is. Not because there are any special graces connected to it, although there are.

No, do it because Mary is Mother – your mother, my mother, everyone’s mother – and because she cares for all of us day-in-and-day-out without fail, interceding for us in even the tiniest matters.

For that, she deserves an entire month in her honour. And join us, even if it is only for this month, at our cell of the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham.

Yours in Christ,

Fr John

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Magazine – April 2019

My Dear People

It is a sad thing that in ‘First World’ countries more people go to church over Christmas than at Easter.

The Three Day Festival that starts on the evening of Maundy Thursday and ends on Easter Morning is by far the most important of the year, as it commemorates the most important event in all time. It ranks way above the other two Feasts in it’s class: Epiphany and Pentecost. [Christmas, by comparison to these three, pales into insignificance.]

Christmas is popular because people can celebrate it – especially at the popular services like crib and carol services – and remain comfortably pagan. In the way it is generally presented, it does not challenge.

In contrast Epiphany presents us with the rich, wise and powerful worshipping a peasant child, and giving Him their greatest treasures. They challenge us to do the same.

Pentecost shows the disciples accepting the Gift of the Spirit, willing to be utterly changed by it, and risking everything to proclaim the Gospel. Again we are challenged to do likewise.

Going far beyond even that, our Lord’s gift of His Body and Blood, His willing acceptance of the Cross, and His Resurrection on Easter morn present us with Absolute Love: and we are asked to respond.

There can be no greater challenge; there can be no greater Joy if we do.

Yours in Christ,

Fr John

P.S. The APCM will take place on Low Sunday following a joint service in the Parish Church at 10:00 a.m.

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Magazine – March 2019

My Dear People

I apologise for having to delay the APCM. Apart from being ill, we had probably set too ambitious a date for everything to be ready.

The good thing is that this does give you a little more time to think and pray about who to nominate, and whether to stand yourself. There are still vacancies. And it would be wonderful to go a step further and have more nominations than vacancies!

Lent is upon us. This season of the Church was named in the Northern Hemi sphere and ‘Lent’ is a shortened form of the Old English word ‘lencten’, meaning “spring season”. In the Church as well as in the world it is a season for growth.

Abstinence aids growth. Which is why we give up something Monday to Saturday during Lent, and a little extra on Wednesdays and Fridays. And give the money saved to some charity.

If one is already down to the bone, or as an extra, spend a little more time helping others.

Taking more time over prayer and Bible reading is essential. This is time gained, not spent.

And some extra devotions. Coming to a weekday Mass if you don’t already. And Stations of the Cross. We do it simply, there is no need for any background, and it is very moving. The meditations are from a different perspective each week. [9:30 a.m. on Wednesdays at St Alban’s and/or 5:00 p.m. on Fridays at All Saints.]

The Church is not a club for those who think they are holy, but a community that nurtures those who wish to be. And Lent and Holy Week is when the most loving nurturing takes place. So make full use of it and enjoy it!

Yours in Christ,

Fr John

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