Sunday, 25 May 2014

Litany for Peace and Unity in the Holy Land

In keeping with the request of Cardinal Nichols and others we had a 3-4pm Holy Hour to pray for peace and unity at the very hour when the Pope is greeting Christians in Bethlehem.
For peace in the Holy Land
For a restoration of unity between the Churches.
Cardinal Nichols has asked us to "unite in prayer at the very hour that Pope Francis will visit Christ-ians in Bethlehem on Sunday 25 May between 3pm and 4pm (UK time)… [in] an hour of prayer before the Bless-ed Sacrament". The Cardinal also spoke of the import-ance of supporting the Pope’s mission and of “praying for peace” in the Holy Land. The Pope’s three day visit to the Holy Land begins on Saturday, 24 May – the intense programme includes a visit to Jordan, Palestine and Israel. Pope Francis will encounter the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Jerusalem. They will sign a joint declaration and then preside at an ecumenical prayer service at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre together with other Christian leaders. About the visit, Chair of the Department for Dialogue and Unity, Arch-bishop Bernard Longley said: “The meeting of Pope Francis later this month in the Holy Land with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew marks a very significant step on the road to Christian unity. This year sees the 50th anniversary of the two great documents of Vatican II on ecumenism and inter-religious relations “Unitatis Redin-tegratio” and “Nostra Aetate… I hope that the Holy Father and Patriarch Bartholomew will draw attention to the struggling Christian communities of the Holy Land. I am delighted that many of our parishes will pray in solidarity with Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Pat-riarch on the afternoon of Sunday 25th May. I am also grateful for all that the Friends of the Holy Land have been doing to highlight this important visit and ecumenical encounter.”

Lord, have mercy - Lord, have mercy
Christ, have mercy - Christ, have mercy
Lord, have mercy - Lord, have mercy
Christ hear us - Christ, graciously hear us

God the Father of heaven, Have mercy on us
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, Have mercy on us
God the Holy Spirit, Have mercy on us
Holy Trinity, One God, Have mercy on us

For the sins preventing peace and unity in the land of Your birth,
Forgive us, Lord
For hatred and division,
Forgive us, Lord
For clinging to past offences,
Forgive us, Lord
For prejudice and racism,
Forgive us, Lord
For tolerance of unjust suffering,
Forgive us, Lord
For our complacency while others suffer,
Forgive us, Lord

To the harmony humanity enjoyed at creation,
Restore us, Lord
To the peace You bestowed on Your Apostles,
Restore us, Lord
To the unity You founded in Your Church,
Restore us, Lord

For peace in the Holy Land,
We ask You, Lord
For an end to bloodshed
We ask You, Lord
For security and stability in Israel,
We ask You, Lord
For justice for the Palestinian people,
We ask You, Lord
For an end to the suffering of Christians in the Middle East,
We ask You, Lord
For an end to religious persecution and intolerance,
We ask You, Lord
For the freedom to worship,
We ask You, Lord
For unity between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches,
We ask You, Lord
For unity with the ecclesial communities of the Reformation,
We ask You, Lord
For unity across for world,
We ask You, Lord
For unity in England,
We ask You, Lord

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, spare us, O Lord
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, graciously hear us, O Lord
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us, O Lord

Let us pray
Eternal Father, give to the land of Your Son’s birth that peace that only the Prince of Peace can bring, and restore to His Church that unity for which He prayed. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

In a dropbox file:

6th Sunday of Easter, Year A, Shaftesbury

Jn 14:15-21
This week I was faced with not one but THREE BIG challenges, three things that seemed too much for me.
And yet, each thing was obviously something that was being asked of me, that GOD was therefore asking of me.
And, when I heard today’s Gospel, I remembered HOW I’m supposed to face them. Because in today's Gospel we are both asked to do something seemingly beyond us, and given the promise that makes it possible.

Today’s Gospel gave us part of the account of the Lord’s ‘last request’, His ‘last will and testament’, so to speak. These are the words He said at the Last Supper:
He was going off to die for love of us.
And what does He ask of us? What is His ‘last request’? He says, 'If you love me, keep my commandments"
And, though we don't have the text today, He sums up His commandments very simply: "Love one another, as I have loved you".
And then, at that very moment when He asked us to keep His commandments, WITH THIS request, He promised to send the Holy Spirit, "the helper".

So, this is the point I want to make to you today:
God asks great things of us, He asks difficult things of us,
He asks difficult things like commanding us to love,
BUT He never fails to give us the capacity to do them,
and the clearest sign of this is His promise to give us His Holy Spirit.
The command to love is a thing simply said, but living it out involves many DIFFICULT challenges. This week I have, like you, had a great many varied things I've needed to do. Most are small and mundane. But they are all part of how I am called to love God and love my neighbour, and in my own context, how I am called to love my parishioners:
Picking up the litter outside the church that no one else seemed bothered to do;
Being polite when someone called at an unreasonable hour;
-These and many other things are part of how I am called to love.

But then, amidst this stuff, there were three BIG things this week. Things so big I didn't really see how I could be adequate to them. And I, like any mortal, had a serious moment of FEAR. Can I do this thing? I knew it was obviously what is called of me, it's obviously part of how I am called to love, but CAN I do it?
Can I do it alone? By my own power?
But I can WITH HIM. With HIS power. With the Holy Spirit He Promised to send me.

So, to sum up:
Maybe the tedious, small details of living love for others has seemed too much this week for you.
Or, maybe, the weight of a crisis or problem has seemed too much, and you quake in FEAR about whether you can cope.
Well, Alone, we cannot. But with Him, we can.
And remember: It's His last request. He asks us to love, and to do all the small and big things that are part of that love.
He asks much, but it is possible, because He promises even more than He asks. He promises not a thing outside Himself, not something less than God, but His very Spirit.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

5th Sunday of Easter, Year A, Shaftesbury

Jn 14:1-12
I want to say a few words about two of our inner yearnings, to ‘go’ and to ‘see’, and about how only Jesus can satisfy these.
Of course, not everybody in life seems to be ‘yearning’. Many people seem to have given up the quest. But even so, there remains an inner restlessness that flows from the fact that we humans are made for something MORE than the mundane realities we find in this world.
And so we repeatedly yearn to 'go' someplace, so like Thomas we ask the ‘way’ (as in today’s Gospel text).
And we yearn to 'see' more, so we ask to be shown, like Philip.

I was reading from Pope Benedict’s book, Jesus of Nazareth, Vol 1, Introduction (he’s the retired pope now, but his book is still worth reading!), and he notes the link between ‘seeing’ and ‘going’ -because when I first read the comment of Thomas and the comment of Philip in today’s Gospel they seemed unrelated –but they’re not.

Pope Benedict starts his comments about Jesus by looking at Moses in the Old Testament. Moses, in the book of Deuteronomy, prophesied that One would come after him -the prophecy of the messiah: “The Lord will raise up for you a prophet like me”(Deut 18:15). This messianic prophecy was repeated and amplified down the centuries, a prophecy of One would HAVE even more fully, and GIVE even more fully, what Moses had had and what Moses had given the people.

What was it that Moses had had?
Friendship with God. This is what we all yearn for, even if we don't realise quite what we are seeking.
We seek the companionship of the One who will satisfy.
The Bible tells us that Moses talked with God, “as a friend speaks with a friend”(Ex 33:11). Wow!
And because Moses knew and ‘saw’ God in this sense He knew the destiny, the goal, the path to lead the People of God towards: the Exodus, the Promised Land etc.
Because he ‘saw’ he therefore knew the path to ‘go’ –so the questions of Thomas and Philip are linked.

But, even the mighty Moses, who led the Children of Israel out of Egypt, who parted the Red Sea, even he did not see God FULLY:
He spoke to God amidst the pillar of cloud, in the Tent of Meeting (Ex 33:10);
But he did not see the “glory” of God’s “face”(Ex 33:23)
–when he asked, he was allow to see the glory of God from behind as the Lord passed, but to see God’s “face” would have been more than he could have endured (Ex 33:20).
Yet, his capacity to the lead the people, his capacity to know where they should ‘go’, stemmed from his familiarity with God, from the extent to which he ‘saw’ the Lord in the cloud.

What of Jesus?
He is the One who has an utterly more profound communion with God,
because the godhead is not something apart from Him,
but is something He is a 'part' of: He is Himself God.
He is Himself the One eternal Son of the Father.
“No one has ever seen God; it is the only Son, who is nearest the Father’s heart, who has made Him known”(Jn 1:18)

To return to today’s gospel text:
“how can we know the way?”, asked Thomas
“let us see the Father”, said Philip
Jesus is the way. Jesus is the face of the Father.
To have ‘seen’ Him is to know the ‘way’ to go. He is the One we are all ‘yearning’ for.
And we recall this is Eastertide because His rising from the dead has proven the truth of His claim.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

4th Sunday of Easter, Vocations Sunday, Shaftesbury

I'm not going to say much now because two holy Dominican Sisters (from the New Forest priory) are going to speak to you at the end of Mass and I'd like you to save your attention for them.
Today is the worldwide day of prayer for vocations.
We tend to think of this as vocations to the priesthood, which is its initial focus, being always on 'Good Shepherd Sunday', the 4th Sunday of Easter.

But the simple point I want to make to you now is that one of the ways that God cares for and shepherds His Church is through vocations to 'Religious Life', to monks, nuns, and religious sisters and brothers.
This has taken a wide variety of forms through the Church's history:
We read of the order of widows that St Paul speaks in his epistles,
We know of hermits like St Anthony in the desert,
And of monks like St Benedict in abbey communities,
And nuns like St Scholastica.
And we know they did a wide variety of different apostolates:
Enclosed contemplatives in prayer like St Clare,
& Active caring for the poor and destitute like Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

As you know, for some decades there was a great crisis in Religious Life in the 1960s onwards, and many left.
But you may be less aware of the fact that there has also been a great renewal and revival, and the sisters speaking to us at the end of Mass today are a part of that:
A new congregation, doing a slightly new apostolate,
But part of an old and eternal thing in the life of the Church: 'Religious Life'
-one of ways Christ still shepherds His Church today.

Here is a photo of Sr Mary Catherine OP, speaking at the end of Mass today:

Here is a photo of Sr Mary Benedicta OP and Sr Mary Catherine OP in the hall after Mass, over tea and coffee, with Fr Dylan:

Fr Dylan showing the two sisters Gold Hill in Shaftesbury, the 'must see' sight for every visitor:

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Footprints, 3rd Sunday of Easter, Year A, Shaftesbury

Lk 24:13-35
I want to say a few words this morning about about how The Lord accompanies us in our difficulties.

Often when we are finding life most difficult, it can be at those moments that we fail to see The Lord, fail to recognise that He is with us. When things seem tough, we feel like we're alone.
Maybe when we feel that our work, our labours, our talents, whatever we're doing -we feel like we not appreciated.
Maybe when we feel the physical pains of life -burdens that seem like they just won't go away.
Maybe when we feel cut off and alone in other ways.
Being in difficulty can be a very LONELY experience, and, ironically, it can be something that prevents us seeing the presence of the very ones who might be trying to support and accompany us.

If we think of the resurrection appearance to the two men on the road to Emmaus we see a similar pattern: their absorption in their difficulties, in "all that has been happening in Jerusalem these last few days" (Lk 24:18); about how their hopes that Jesus was the Messiah had been crushed by His arrest and crucifixion. -it seems that they were so absorbed in their pain that they didn't recognise that The Lord Himself was there by their side.
There is one other resurrection appearance when we see the same pattern, when Mary Magdalene is so caught up in her grief and weeping by the tomb that she fails to recognise The Lord Himself until He calls her by name, "Mary"(Jn 20:16).

We don't really know why they didn't recognise Him at first, it's quite unlike the other resurrection appearances in this regard, all we have is this obscure phrase, "something prevented them from recognising Him"(Lk 24:16). My own thought is that it might be linked with the all-too-common human phenomenon of being unable to recognise good things, and recognise The Lord, when we're wrapped up in our problems instead -or, at the very least, I think we can interpret it as being symbolic of this human phenomenon:

In both cases The Lord was there, the Risen Lord was there to console them, but it took some time for them to recognise Him.
Let me note further: it's not just that He was there, but He was there in His RISEN form -I.e. He was there to support and console them. And yet, despite the fact that the very reason He was there was to console them, they didn't see Him.
The point, for ourselves, is this:
We too have our problems, our pains, our experiences of isolation.
We too have these moments when it seems like the very times when we most need The Lord, it seems He isn't there.
But, for us, as for the men on the road to Emmaus, despite what we FEEL like, He is walking by our side. Even more, by grace He is within us, He is strengthening us, He is the One who is enabling us to go forward at all.
This, as I'm sure you've all heard before, is expressed in the old poem, 'Footprints', a version of which is on the sheet in the newsletter and we'll be singing later in the Mass.

But to conclude by bringing this to the Mass:
Those two men "recognised Him in the breaking of the Bread"(Lk 24:35).
We too, if we bring our problems to Jesus in the Mass, when we see Him here before us in the Eucharistic species, this is what enables us to see that this same Lord and God has been with us through everything else. Even when we feel alone, He is by our side.


Footprints in the Sand
One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there was one only.
This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints, so I said to the Lord,
“You promised me Lord, that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there has only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?”
The Lord replied, “The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you.”

Mary Stevenson, 1936


Footprints Hymn
to the tune 'Londonderry Air/O Danny Boy' by Dr Robert Atkins, 2004

Upon the shore, I walked with Him at even
And I looked back upon the path we’d trod
And in the sand I traced our way at even
And I was glad I’d walked through life with God:
For side by side we’d journeyed through together
All through the world’s wide wilderness of care
And side by side we’d journeyed through to even:
Safe at His side the Lord my God had brought me here.

But in my joy I caught a strain of sadness
To give me pause when thinking of my way
For on the shore I saw He’d left me lonely
When I had most the need of Him to stay:
When I was tired He’d left me worn and wandering,
He’d left me lone when I was fighting fears,
He’d let me tread the steepest slopes in solitude
Before He came back to my side to dry my tears.

But then the Lord drew near to me in comfort
And in His tenderness He made it plain
That in the times when dread and darkness threatened
He was my shield and shelter from the pain:
For on His shoulders He was gently bearing
And on His shoulders I from harm was free:
The single trace of footprints of the Master,
The single trace of footprints shows He carried me.

So on the shore I walk with Him at even;
I face the latter days of life secure,
For if my pilgrimage reserves me sorrow
The footprints show that He is strong and sure:
If I am near the gates of heaven weary,
No longer strong enough to stride alone
The footprints show that He is there to carry me:
The footprints show the Lord my God will bear me home.