As we make final preparations for the resumption of Mass in Our Lady & St Benedict’s Church this weekend, fittingly with our first Mass on Saturday evening at 6pm on the Feast of Our Holy Father St Benedict, it seems appropriate to share with you some words from Sr Joan Chittister OSB from her book “the Time is Now” & in a chapter entitled “risk” as we take an anxious first step on our journey home to Mass, a Mass far different to our last one in Church on Friday 20 March 2020. How our lives & our faith have been reformed since then, with our own personal & collective stories still in the process of becoming, stories to be heard shared & woven into our ongoing relationships in our Parish, where already, through the first stages of amalgamation of our three Churches, it is work life & prayer in progress. “we, like Jesus, have a role to play in righting a world whose axle is tilting in the wrong direction. We refuse to accept the notion that to turn the compass points of our worlds back to the true north of our soul is what it means to be truly spiritual. Our task is to “obedient”, to keep the laws, the fasts, the dogmas, & the feastdays, we argue. But the question we so often fail to ask is “obedient to what & obedient to whom?” our task is to be obedient all our lives to the Will of God for the world, & therein lies the difference between good for nothing & good for something. Between religion for show & religion for real. Between personal spirituality that dedicates itself to achieving private sanctification & prophetic spirituality, the other half of the Christian dispensation. There is no room here for dedicating a lifetime to maintaining the perfect spiritual routine the antiseptic moral cleanliness, an acerbic & long suffering silence alone. None of that, in fact, marked the life of Jesus himself, who “consorted with sinners” healed foreigners, called women to discipleship, contended with scribes & Pharisees about the nature of the faith itself, & irritated the leaders of both the temple & the throne, both religion & government. Instead, the call of Jesus is the call to prophesy, to speak a word of God to a world that prefers religious rituals & spiritual comfort to the demands of moral maturity. It is to be a prophet’s witness in a prophetless place. The fact is that there is no one too busy, too old, too cloistered, too remote from the struggles of the world to have no way whatsoever to promote the Word of God in a world such as ours. Shall we do something to reshape the heart & soul of the worlds we inhabit? Or shall we do nothing & claim that we were powerless? Will we act like we do not know there are rallies to attend, young people to teach, peacemaking to make, public legislation to study & discuss, facilities & services to be open to the homeless, & at the very least, honest bidding prayers to say in public in our churches? It was precisely for times such as ours [“we were made for these times” remember? ] that God sent the prophets of old to wake up the world around them to its distance from Truth. It is surely time for this generation to rediscover them. Indeed, the question rings across the ages ; “& you?..what will you do?” [Sr Joan Chittister OSB]
Since we began to plan for the re-opening of Church for private prayer last month, & with the invaluable help of our planning group continuing on to help us to be ready for the celebration of Mass again this weekend, I have been in regular contact with all of you, to alert you to what was being authorised & encouraged by our Bishop & the Abbey, & to include you in on the proposals, so that what emerges has the thumbprint & heartbeat of all those who have offered advice & wise counsel, all of which was heard & considered, when, understandably, we couldn’t incorporate the wishes of everyone. It is still an initial moment in a long steady & vital journey of moving on from 20 March 2020 & our last Mass together. Since then so much has happened for “our worlds” as Sr Joan calls it, & I hope we will find various ways in which each & every story of life & faith, in & through the pandemic, can be heard & yeasted into a collective story, a gospel story; “gospel” the old English “God-sip” a sip of God; the God story of each of us, good news / god-spel, which was secularised into “gossip”, in which we know many victims & culprits. This is perhaps a “now” moment, as Pope Francis would call it, for us to begin a pilgrimage of good gossip from our home-camino & gradually, some understandably slower to re-engage for all sorts of reasons, to re-gather each & every seed & begin to share the story & sow the seeds of a new & radically different future in the Church in general & in our parish particularly. Let us pray for one another in this in-between stage, twixt the loss grief & opportunities of the lockdown, & the hope expectancy & promise of our future. Is it coincidence or the Holy Spirit our gospel/god-spel/good news this weekend shares the story of the sower & the seed, & crucially the seed being thrown “indiscriminately”?
You will have been contacted already with an explanation of our Mass provision in these first few weeks of a return to Mass in Our Lady & St Benedict’s; initially we will have a Sat Vigil Mass 6pm; a Sunday 10am & additionally a Sunday 4pm Mass, with weekday Masses on Tuesdays & Thursdays at 930am. The Sunday obligation remains suspended, so you are encouraged to try to come to Mass at least once a week, with five options. We will need to monitor attendances at our three weekend Masses, & if demand asks, we will arrange a further Mass on Sundays. You will need to be in touch with us please, as many of you helpfully have this week, via email or phone, to let us know which weekend Mass you would like to come to. Our capacity using 2m social distancing will vary slightly depending on how many of you come as a family, which is always a real gift for the rest of us believe me, so between 20 & 26/28. If you can help at one Mass as a minister of welcome, a cleaner after Mass, or a reader, do let us know please, & do please follow the gentle but firm advice our welcomers offer you, which has the one aim..to keep each & every one of you as safe as we can in our prayerful space. Like St Benedict’s PS the more we can show you it is safe to come, the more of you will gradually feel confident to return..a slow journey necessarily, & remember ours is a “3mph God” He acts at less than walking pace!
We have the Bishop’s authorisation to resume the Sacrament of Reconciliation, & I will share some details on that with you next weekend. To maintain social distancing in relation to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we may well introduce temporarily a means of booking a 15min period, which would alleviate possibly long waits in Church if we were to only designate the usual overall time slot. There will be some special practical measures to attempt to keep you & the priest as safe as possible; details next weekend, with the Sacrament resuming the weekend of 25/26 July please, & extra opportunities weekdays if there is a demand.
Our oldest parishioner aged 102 Joachim de Araoz (Max to us) is very close to death. He is being nursed at home & was anointed yesterday. Please keep him in your prayers as he prepares to cross the threshold.
June Nicholson’s Requiem Mass will take place in OL&SB on Wednesday at 1pm. We have received guidelines from the Bishop, & we would ask that only the immediate family & a close friend attend. It will be assuring for Sue & Ivan to know that the many of you who knew June, & who would have wanted to be at the Mass, will be united with them from home in love thought & prayer at 1pm.
As the economic situation worsens, & many who were being furloughed find that their continued work is in jeopardy, could I remind you of our Food Initiative in the Village, where it is possible to approach Ray & Deb in the Village Shop & quietly ask for a bag of food essentials. This has been working well since the lockdown began, & it could be that more of us in the Village will find the initiative helpful.
Please remember in your prayers our parishioners in Our Lady & the Holy Angels in Gilling as our Church there remains closed. I hope they will feel warmly welcome to join us here, especially in this in-between time, which will be, for all of us, different, strange & somewhat difficult, feelings we will share together, cradled inspired & encouraged, particularly this weekend by St Benedict. With my love & prayers. Fr Bede