17TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - 30TH JULY 2017

FR. MICHAEL WRITES:-

I’m sure we should be careful in asking the Lord for wisdom because on the basis of the evidence in today’s reading from the First Book of Kings, He’s very pleased with the request and keen to grant it. In today’s First Reading the young King Solomon asks for wisdom in preference to wealth and power and receives it. But wisdom brings with it the responsibility to act according to it, not wilfully or selfishly. Jesus too implies this consistency in the last of His parables of the Kingdom in today’s Gospel from St Matthew. The person who has found the treasure in the field has to sell everything he owns in order to buy the field, just as the merchant, who finds the pearl of his dreams on offer, must sell everything he owns in order to buy the pearl of great price. Are we ready to be so radical? Are we not unsettled by the prospect? Moderate change can be inconvenient to manage, let alone a great upheaval involving everything. The danger for us is, however, that if we are actually happy with half-measures we will probably only be ready to pay half-measures. Yet God loves us passionately. He has not paid a half-measure for us! Rather He has in Christ ‘sold’ everything He owns, given His life, that we might share His life. Do we realise what we are being offered when we are offered the Kingdom of Heaven, which is to say, life in the Risen Christ? Indeed, the more we realise what we are being offered, the more likely it is that we are going some way to conforming our lives to the invitation we have received; we have begun to live the wisdom we have received. The more we realise in fact how intimately God speaks to us in the everyday reality of our lives, the readier we are to encounter Him there. “We know that by turning everything to their good, God cooperates with all those who love Him, with all those that He has called according to his purpose”, says St Paul in the Second Reading, “to become true images of His Son.”    

Priests in July / August

With Fr Andrew’s return from holiday and Lourdes, he will be priest-in-charge for the next three weeks of August while I am away. He will be assisted by Fr Dermot Mansfield SJ who has been coming to Chiswick in summer for so many years. Our thanks to Fr David Kolo, of the Archdiocese of Gulu in Uganda, who has been assisting over July, who moves on to another Westminster parish for August. Please do wish him well at the back of church today.

No Parish Newsletters in August!

With the convention that there are no newsletters in August, today’s is the last until the new term. The Parish Office is open as normal however. God bless the rest!

 

Posted on July 30, 2017 .

16TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - 23RD JULY 2017

FR. MICHAEL WRITES:-

 

Shortly after midnight last Wednesday morning 19th July, Fr Peter,   after   just   a   fortnight   of hospitalisation,  was   called  home to the Lord. He died in the odour of sanctity, many times anointed, peacefully assured in his faith and supported   in   his   keeping   watch for  the  approach  of the Lord by his friends the Phelan family and Sr   Natalia athis   bedside.   So concluded   fifty-four   years   of service as a priest to the people of Westminster   Diocese,   mainly   in our parish of Our Lady of Grace and St Edward’s Chiswick. He was in the ninety-first year of his age. This photograph of him   is   from   happier   times,   which   is   to   say   from   his   90th Birthday   Celebrations   on   New   Year’s   Day   this   year.   His birthday, in fact, was 31st  Dec, but being New Year’s Eve, and a Saturday, I thought we’d be much better off inviting him to celebrate the 12.15pm Sunday Mass on New Year’s Day, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, and then to have a party in the Parish Centre. He hugely enjoyed the day as did we the parish. It enabled all of us to recognise and to thank God for Fr Peter’s being an inspiration not just on that day, which he certainly  was,  but for decades   besides and   for  his  ministry among many thousands of fellow pilgrims. He celebrated his last Mass for the parish on his own feast day, the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul, 29th June, less than three weeks before he died. We   have much  to  thank  him  for;  much for   which   to thank   God.   May   this   gentle   servant   of  the   Gospel,   rest   in peace.

Funeral Arrangements

At 6.00pm on Monday 31st July, the Feast of St Ignatius of Loyola, we’ll have Mass with the Reception of Canon Peter’s body. His  Eminence  Cardinal Cormac  will be  the  principal celebrant.  Although   we   will   not   have   a   formal   reception afterwards,   nonetheless   the   Parish   Club   will   unusually   be open   for   those   who   wish.   The   Requiem   Mass   will   be   at 11.30am on Tuesday 1st August celebrated by the Rt Rev’d Bishop  John Wilson,  auxiliary  bishop  for West London,  on behalf of the Cardinal Archbishop who unfortunately cannot be with us. The sermon will be preached by Fr Peter’s great friend, Fr. Dominic McKenna. Mass will be followed both by burial   at   Chiswick   New   Cemetery as well   as   a   Parish Reception in the Centre.

Posted on July 22, 2017 .

15TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - 16TH JULY 2017

FR. MICHAEL WRITES:-

INSET days, that is to say, In-Service Training, must be the norm for every type of work given especially the constant technological and legislative advances applied to every sphere and then, soon after that, the accompanying regulatory framework which needs to be learned. Thus, priests, like any others about their labours, are familiar with Powerpoint presentations, small group discussions, general feedback and dodgy coffee served in un-heat-resistant plastic beakers. Where we probably fare better than most is that every INSET day has to have a ‘keynote speaker’ and if the speaker is to address a few hundred priests about an aspect of living the Gospel, there’s a good chance that the chosen subject will actually be of interest to the audience! This was certainly the case when the eminent Professor Tracey Rowland, a member of Pope Francis’ Theological Commission, addressed Westminster priests recently on the subject of ‘Creating a Parish Culture for Evangelisation in a Post-Christian Society’. Living in the charming environs of Chiswick where the holiness of time is even marked by the tolling of our own parish bell (or at least it will be soon again when the current bell-system malfunction has been rectified), it would be possible to believe that we still do live in a Christian society. We certainly live in a civilised society in Chiswick and Gunnersbury, but that’s not at all the same thing as living in a Christian society. Indeed, Prof Rowland spoke not only of our continuing ‘to live through this drama of atheistic humanism’ but that it becomes for the Church a ‘catastrophe’ when we ourselves, coarsened by the prevailing nihilism, lose our ‘sacramentality’, that ‘deep understanding of how God relates to the human person’. Her idea of sacramentality it seems to me is that which involves and engages our religious and spiritual understanding, intelligence, intuition and imagination. ‘Parishioners should have a sense that parish life is first and foremost about participating in the life of the Trinity,’ she says. ‘Making friends, and receiving social and pastoral care might be good side-benefits of parish life, but they should be secondary to the work of mediating the relationship between God and human beings.’ Thus, parishes need to be ‘islands of spiritual concentration’ in which ‘worship must be theo-centric not community-centric’ and from which ‘a new cultural purification and unification can break out.’  All very exalted stuff, the emphases of which could certainly be disputed as well as discussed. However, I did especially welcome the corollary to these arguments which I had foreseen coming, that parish liturgy should be ‘marked by beauty’. This was an excellent justification, I thought, for increasing the liturgical budget and investing even more in the liturgy in my second year than I did in my first! Onwards and upwards.        

 

Posted on July 16, 2017 .

14TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - 9TH JULY 2017

FR. MICHAEL WRITES:-

Although it is Wimbledon fortnight which, together with strawberries and cream, should certainly be enjoyed, and we’re having such pleasant weather so conducive to balmy and alluring evenings in the garden or by the riverside, mid-July retains for me a poignancy because of an un-holy anniversary. It was three years ago just about now on the 13th or 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time that the Archbishop of Erbil (in Iraq) declared that, following the fall of Mosul to ISIS earlier that summer and the fleeing of the last of the Christians from their ancient capital, that this was the first Sunday in over eighteen hundred years that Mass had not been celebrated in Mosul. It was just such an astonishing fact to contemplate. That in spite of all the vicissitudes of history, its ebb and flow and seismic shifts, all the revolutions whether  political or cultural, all the cataclysms whether natural or man-made, Mass had been celebrated continuously in Mosul since the city had been evangelised in the early second century. Some of those who brought the faith from Jerusalem or, more likely, from Antioch or Damascus, could have had parents who had known St Paul on his missionary journeys! Mosul itself of course is much more ancient still, being, in Biblical times, the great city of Nineveh, to which the prophet Jonah was sent assisted by an obliging whale as is recounted in one of the shortest books in the Old Testament to which he gives his name. Given its prominence in the region actually for millennia, it was unsurprising that the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, chose to declare the new caliphate in Mosul. In his victory speech on that occasion (still on the internet), attempting to rouse the Muslim world to arms, he invoked his ultimate determination, destination and dream: “If we hold to the struggle we will conquer Rome and own the world.” Catholics ought to be apprised of ISIS’ ambition on Rome, the Church and the Holy Father, and pray the more for those who unnecessarily hate us, and for whom we have no ambition but for the fulfilment of their destiny in God. The temptation for us in hoping to restore, God willing in the next few months, the celebration of Mass in Mosul, is to place our hope in worldly or military power, the current painstakingly slow and utterly devastating recapture of Mosul by the Iraqi army. Yet we see prophesied in today’s first reading, Christ, the King of Kings, riding on a donkey. He bids us share His yoke and learn from Him in His gentleness and humility of heart. Let us pray and think hard that in such challenging times we may truly do His will and so find peace for the world and rest for our souls.

Posted on July 7, 2017 .

13TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - 2ND JULY 2017

FR. MICHAEL WRITES:-

I’m sure we are all familiar with thinking of May as the month of Mary and November as the month of the dead. We’re probably also reasonably familiar with October being the month of the Rosary, and, for those more steeped in tradition, that June is the month of the Sacred Heart. But I wonder how many of us are aware that the traditional designation of thematic devotion in the month of July is the Precious Blood of the Lord?  Given that the theme of the Lord’s Precious Blood is so rich for reflection, it is for me one of the mysteries of the reform of the liturgical calendar in 1970, that the Feast of the Precious Blood on 1st July each year was quietly relinquished. One who, long before the reforms, was in no doubt about the importance of the Feast and efficacy of the reality of the Precious Blood itself, was the builder of Westminster Cathedral, Cardinal Herbert Vaughan. It is the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Most Precious Blood because Vaughan specifically chose this dedication for the cathedral he decided to build as the mother-church of the diocese and the country. In its interior decoration, too, there are many reminders of this dedication. On entering through the cathedral’s main doors from the piazza, you may remember for instance that you find yourself standing under the clock hanging from the organ gallery above but which is supported by two huge blood-red Norwegian granite columns. In the marble decoration around the cathedral there is the motif of five blood-red circles shaped in the form of a cross within a lozenge-shaped border, symbolic of the Lord’s Five Precious Wounds. But Vaughan’s most deliberate theological gesture was encasing a fragment of the True Cross in the cross at the top of the cathedral’s great bell-tower. He did the same at the top of the tower of St Joseph’s Missionary Institute, Mill Hill, which he also founded and built. His reputed hope was to have two other fragments of the True Cross in towers to the east and west of the diocese so that, together with those fragments to the north (Mill Hill) and the south (the cathedral), the whole diocese and the great mass of humanity, both sinful and repentant, which London was and is, would be ‘washed white in the Blood of the Lamb,’ to use the expression from the Apocalypse (7:14), redeemed by the love and mercy of God so viscerally expressed in the Most Precious Blood which streamed from the Lord’s wounds as He hung upon the Cross. “The outpouring of Christ’s blood is the source of the Church’s life,” said Pope Benedict at Mass on his visit here in 2010. “In this Cathedral of the Most Precious Blood, I invite you once more to look to Christ. I ask you to unite yourselves ever more fully to the Lord, offering Him that spiritual worship which embraces every aspect of our lives and finds expression in our efforts to contribute to the coming of His Kingdom.” Much to pray about in July therefore.             

Posted on July 2, 2017 .

12TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - 25TH JUNE 2017

FR. MICHAEL WRITES:-

Pope Francis has been praying for the victims, living and dead, of the Grenfell fire. He closed his message of ‘heartfelt condolences’ by invoking ‘God’s blessings of strength and peace upon the local community’. Certainly there is plenty of evidence of the local community’s strength. There are testimonies of the local parish priests on our diocesan website (www.rcdow.org.uk) and they make inspiring reading. For though there was the anguish of those searching for loved ones, there were also so many volunteers stacking all that had been given into one parish that cars were unloaded by human chains straight into the parish hall, the donation being categorised even as it reached the appropriate section of the hall. Bishop John, here for Confirmations last week, and Cardinal Vincent, had both been to encourage the bereaved and traumatised, as well as visiting our schools. Nine of our schools have been directly affected by the tragedy, with, in the very worst case, a missing pupil, but for many others lost family members, lost homes and friends. St Francis of Assisi Catholic Primary School is so close to the tower it has had to be evacuated and its pupils and staff have been welcomed into Sion Manning Catholic Secondary. Again, there has been an inspiring broader reaction both from schools assisting the affected schools with any teaching materials etc needed, but also with about 40,000 of our pupils, including those in St Mary’s, having a home clothes day to raise about £40,000 for the work of the Catholic Children’s Society and Caritas Westminster, both of which organisations are working with victims in the immediate area of Grenfell. But what of the Pope’s prayer for peace in the local community? Cardinal Vincent took up the much publicised theme of the community’s anger at the Mass he celebrated there on his visit: ‘Anger is energy. And the energy has to be directed in the right way. Anger can be a force for good or it can be a force that separates us and divides us. Some people want to see that. But we must be so clear that our anger becomes a source of determination that we hold together and slowly build a society where there is deep respect for each other and each other’s beliefs.’ We might join him in this prayer for the Grenfell community as well as for London and society more broadly especially in the light of the Finsbury Park attack also. Meanwhile in Chiswick I received a letter not from the fundraising office of Aid to the Church in Need, but, following their receipt of our £18,650.70 Lenten Appeal, from Neville Kyrke-Smith, their National Director. (The letter is on the board at the back of church.) He asked me to pass on grateful thanks to parishioners which I proudly do. He cites the Archbishop of Erbil saying that ACN has been ‘the life raft for Christians in Iraq’ and an archbishop caring for refugees in Lebanon asking God to bless those who have supported ACN, ‘for their love which shines in this darkness of suffering’. One of the parish priests in the Grenfell area concludes his meditation with the prayer and hope of the Benedictus (Lk. 1.79): He will give light to those in darkness, those who dwell in the shadow of death, and guide our feet into the way of peace. If that is His mission, it is also ours. Let us keep about it

 

Posted on June 25, 2017 .

THE MOST HOLY BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST (CORPUS CHRISTI) 18TH JUNE 2017

FR. ANDREW WRITES:-

The terrible fire at Grenfell has been truly shocking. What has been impressive to see is the amount of practical help and support that has been offered. It reminded me of the second reading from Corinthians today: ‘The fact that there is only one loaf means that, though there are many of us, we form a single body because we all have a share in this one loaf.’ This is indirectly an expression of Christianity in action people helping each other, especially those in need in a spirit of unity.

 This weekend we welcome Bishop John Wilson who will confirm our Confirmation candidates. These young people will receive the Holy Spirit and are sent out to live the faith out in the world. Please keep them in your prayers. 

 We also celebrate the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, the Body of Christ, something which we are united in at every Mass.  This is at the source and heart of our faith, the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. As Cardinal Canizares Llovera wrote, ‘We must remember that the feast of Corpus Christi solemnly commemorates what we celebrate every day in the simple peace of our churches: the Mystery of the Body and Blood of Christ.’ (‘Adoration as the Heart of Diocesan Life’ in Adoratio 2011: From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization, ed.by Alcuin Reid, Burns & Oates, 2012,  p. 190)

 What is Adoration? A time of prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament displayed in the altar in the monstrance outside of Mass. This will usually take the form of a Holy Hour. We have one each day here in the church, Monday to Friday 3.00 to 4.00pm and on Saturday between 5.00 to 6.00pm. Why not come along?

 Why Adoration? God is ‘worthy to be adored for His own sake, because He is our Creator, our Redeemer, our Sanctifier.’ (‘Adoratio’, p.200)

 We meditate in a special way on the Eucharist in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. St John Paul II wrote about the benefits of Adoration: ‘It is good to spend time with Him, leaning on His breast like the Beloved Disciple, to be touched by the infinite love of His heart.’ (‘Ecclesia de Eucharistia,’ Racine, ‘Adoratio’ p.202)

 ‘Touched by the infinite love of His heart’… Corpus Christi ‘is the feast of Christian joy’ (Llovera ,p. 189). The joy cannot be kept to oneself it has to be shared. There is a direct link between Mass and public witness in the dismissal: ‘Go forth the Mass is ended’; ‘Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord’; ‘Go in peace glorifying the Lord by your life.’ That is why we will have a procession after the 12.15 Mass today, to which you are also warmly invited beginning about 1.10pm.

 ‘By going out into the street on this feast of Corpus Christi, as an extension of the Eucharistic sacrifice, showing in the public square before the gaze and contemplation of men the Eucharistic Mystery of our faith, Jesus Christ Himself in person, wholly, really and truly present here in His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, also reminds us that faith is not lived in hiding and anonymity.’ (Lllovera, p.190)

 Corpus Christi a sign of much needed hope today!

 

Posted on June 16, 2017 .

THE MOST HOLY TRINITY - 11TH JUNE 2017

FR. MICHAEL WRITES:-

CABINET RESHUFFLE

It isn’t just the government which is in something of a state of flux, but also the diocese, as now is when, if priests are due a move, the new appointments for September are announced. It was already slightly unusual that our parish should have been graced with Fr Andrew for a third year, when the normal appointment of the Assistant Priest is for two, and this I’m sure was due to my own appointment here last summer. Fr Andrew has indeed been invaluable in assisting me with his immediate knowledge of so much of the parish so that I could take up ministry more smoothly. This is one of the many reasons I have to be grateful to him. He has been appointed from September to be the Assistant Priest of the City of London, at St Mary Moorfield’s Church near Liverpool Street Station, which is the parish of the City of London. He will have a dual role also of assisting the chaplaincy provision of St Bart’s Hospital and its counterparts within Barts’ Trust NHS, the largest NHS trust in the country. So it’s not so much that ‘the harvest is great’ to recall the Lord’s phrase, but that the harvest is immense. We will have an opportunity to thank Fr Andrew for his ministry among us at a later date. Thankfully, also, His Eminence Cardinal Vincent has been pleased to send a successor to Fr Andrew, Deacon Michael Maguire, who will be ordained priest by the Cardinal on 24th June. We can then welcome Fr Maguire when he takes up his post here in September. Please let us keep both Fr Andrew and Deacon Michael in our prayers.      

 GOOD NEIGHBOURS

Could you spare an hour a week, usually within the working day or perhaps on a weekend, to look in on and/or do some light shopping for, a neighbour who is also a parishioner? Some of our own parishioners, approaching being effectively housebound, would love a visit. These would not be Holy Communion visits as this ministry is already operating. You would be visiting only those who lived in your part of the parish, close to where you live. Arranged under the auspices of the parish, a DBS check (free of charge) would therefore be needed and arranged by the parish. If this is a service to Christ and neighbour you might be able to offer, please let me know.

 O NIGHT MORE RADIENT THAN THE DAWN!

The spirituality of St John of the Cross has always captivated me, which is why I quote him probably rather too much in homilies. It was suggested to me that I organise a pilgrimage to his (gorgeous) part of Spain but also in his spiritual footsteps as an encounter with his insights into faith, life and love. It’s intended as a parish pilgrimage of fifteen to twenty, though non-parishioners could come, and it’s to be from 16th to 21st October ’17. Details are overleaf.  If interested, please ask.

Posted on June 9, 2017 .

PENTECOST SUNDAY - 4TH JUNE 2017

FR. MICHAEL WRITES:-

Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Goodness, Kindness, Longsuffering, Mildness, Faith, Modesty, Self-control, Chastity. These are the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit and they are the medicine for what we can experience too much in competitive London, namely their opposites in anger, depression, stress, impatience, meanness and so on, quite apart from what is still more obviously wicked. Things are bad enough everywhere with what Pope Francis calls “the globalisation of indifference” especially when even the well-intentioned can choose not move themselves to act. Things are worse still when there is the active embrace of evil as in ISIS, for instance, or the callousness with which traffickers abandon hundreds of men, women and children to their expected deaths at sea because they have put them in unseaworthy vessels. The fruits of the Holy Spirit are an answer to many of the world’s ills and our own, but these fruits cannot grow without the fruit tree being rooted in the ground, which is to say, we must be rooted in the ground of God. Whether we know it or not, we are grounded in God but the tragedy is that we can ignore or forget the extraordinary truth of God’s tender and utterly loving intimacy with us. In a book entitled Love and Silence written anonymously by a Carthusian monk in 1951, he writes of the action of the Holy Spirit within each of us:  We know that God is one in nature and three in Persons. The Father from all eternity begets the Son, his ‘other self’, his perfect image. This is not something that took place long ago: it takes place in an eternal present, in an eternal now. The Father is perpetually begetting the Son. And the Father looks upon the Son, divine and co-eternal and, in this loving gaze that they exchange in the simplicity of the divine Essence, they breathe forth the Holy Spirit. This divine life which will be the substance of our eternal happiness has already begun in the soul, so long as we are in a state of grace. At every moment the Father is begetting the Son within us, and at every moment they together breathe forth in us the Holy Spirit. Have we given sufficient thought to this sublime truth? We bear within us the living God; the Holy of Holies we carry within us. May we live our communion with God by remembering and cherishing especially today but also at least once a day for a few minutes that God is not only with us, but that God is in us. The Holy Spirit is breathed forth, within us! We will then hardly even notice but that the fruits of the Holy Spirit will be in our lives and that the world will know a little more love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness... even in the week of a General Election!                    

Posted on June 2, 2017 .

THE ASCENSION OF THE LORD - 28TH MAY 2017

FR. ANDREW WRITES:-

The terrible memory of the events of Monday in Manchester lingers on, as does the uncertainty of the terrorist situation.  It has been touching to see basic Christian values being put into play, people supporting each other, offering help, support and accommodation.

 Someone who gave this country so much in terms of Christian values was St Augustine of Canterbury, whose Feast Day we celebrated on Saturday.  St Augustine was a great evangelist and first Archbishop of Canterbury.   He was a monk in Italy for many years at the monastery of St Andrew on the Caelian Hill, which had been founded by Gregory the Great who later became Pope.  Pope Gregory called Augustine to be a missionary.  This was a remarkable decision given that Augustine had spent all those years in a monastery and indeed was its Prior! (www.catholic.online)  

 St Augustine was sent with several monks to England.  They had heard reports that the English were warlike and hostile and when in Gaul (France) were tempted to go back to Rome but Pope Gregory encouraged them to continue.   They landed in Kent and were met by King Ethelbert and his entourage.  Ethelbert was married to Bertha, a Gaulish Christian. Although not Christian, Ethelbert was sympathetic towards St Augustine and his monks. The monks were allowed to practice their religion and built a monastery in Canterbury. Eventually King Ethelbert asked to be baptised and although he did not make baptism compulsory for his people, many of them chose to be baptised.  Apparently 10,000 were baptised on Christmas Day 597.

 St Augustine’s Feast is a celebration of Christianity in this country.  A Christian presence had been present from Roman times.  There was also the ‘Celtic’ Church but this was in a diminished state.  It was under St Augustine that many people were brought to the Faith. And this was through a clever process of assimilation, whereby pagan temples were consecrated for Christian worship and pagan days became feast days.   He also established dioceses in Rochester and London.    It has been said that St Augustine helped draft the first versions of written law in this country. (Source: Fr M Holden from ‘St Augustine of Canterbury’ in ‘A Year with the English Saints’  CTS, 2014, pp. 42-45)

 Let us give God thanks for the Christian heritage that St Augustine of Canterbury has left us and ask him to pray for us and for our country that it may continue to grow strong in the Faith and show those Christian values to the world.

 St Augustine of Canterbury…pray for us.

Posted on May 26, 2017 .