“a marriage in which one or both partners act selfishly is unlikely to last. A parent indifferent to the needs of their child will damage the child. A community where the members are not willing to bear their share of the burden [or is it a gift?] of keeping going, a group of free-riders, will cease to exist. A nation without a collective sense of identity & responsibility will split apart, as the United States & Britain have split apart since 2016. You cannot build a social world out of a multiplicity of I’s. Simultaneously with the rise of “I” over “We” since the mid-1960’s, marriages families & communities have all atrophied. Fewer people are marrying. They are marrying later. They are having fewer children, more marriages are ending in divorce. The result is that more people are living alone. In the 20yrs between 1997 & 2017, there was a 16% increase in the number of people living on their own. In the mid-1990’s the Secretary of State for the Environment invited the Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, the leader of the Catholics in England, Cardinal Hume, & myself as Chief Rabbi, to meet him. He told us that because of the breakdown of marriage, more people were living alone. The resulting pressure on housing meant 400,000 new units needed to be built in south-east England alone. Could we not do something about it? could we not make marriage attractive again? I thought this showed spectacular faith in the power of prayer, but even if a miracle were to happen, it would take more than a generation to reverse the decline,. To be sure, there is a difference between living alone & feeling lonely. Not everyone who chooses the first feels the second. But there is a connection; generically we are social animals. Separated from others we experience stress. John McCain, who spent over 5yrs as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, said being kept solitary “crushes your spirit & weakens your resistance more effectively than any other form of mistreatment.” Social isolation is mild in comparison, but the resultant stress eventually weakens the immune system. That is why most people seek company, the presence of others, the touch of another soul. The less there is of “We” the more there is of loneliness. So serious the problem that in Jan 2018 Tracey Crouch became what the press dubbed Britain’s first “Minister for Loneliness”. Loneliness is hardly new..it makes its appearance in the second chapter of the Bible when Adam finds himself without a partner & God says; “it is not good for a person to be alone” [Gen 2:18]. One factor prompting the appointment of a minister was a 2017 research by the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness showing more than 9m people in Britain feel lonely. 200,000 older Britons had not had a conversation with a friend or relative in more than a month.” [ Morality; Jonathan Sacks]
Will you phone a friend neighbour or parishioner please in the person of Christ?.. now?..
Last weekend, the last for the time being when we celebrated three Masses, 41 came.. 2 at Sat 6pm Vigil; 28 at 10am Sunday & 11 at 4pm Sun at OL&HA. From this weekend we will consolidate until lockdown is lifted with 10am Sun Mass at OL& SB & 4pm Sun at OL&HA. We are grateful to those who persevere each weekend in keeping the flame of faith alive in both our Churches, with a deep sense of representing the majority who feel the risk is increasing & understandably are keeping safe at home.
My hope is that we might agree to the installation of a live streaming facility in OL&SB, which would allow all our housebound, be it through covid fear or continuing ill health, to join us for our Sun 10am Mass; however, we need three volunteers to look into it for us please, to make phone enquiries with Church’s who have it successfully working, & bring to us a costed proposal. I hoped for this in the autumn but no one stepped forward to help then, & I hope the initiative may now be taken up soon; it would provide Mass at home for our sick & elderly on a permanent basis so it isn’t just a short term proposal.
The current lockdown restrictions, & with our Monastic Community remaining in self-isolation, wise counsel is that I don’t visit St Benedict’s Primary School for the time being; Miss Carter & the children in Class 1 have made, in class & in home-learning, some splendid thank you cards/pictures to thank me for all I do for the Church the school & local community. I will put them up on the School notice board at the back of Church for you all to see. Please keep the School family in your prayers as they continue to work & pray through the difficulties. The Staff are helping the children reach impressive levels of learning, but at ongoing & considerable personal cost, & at cost to their families, in hours worked in school & then at home each evening. We are deeply grateful to them, & to those parents who are carrying the extra responsibilities associated with helping their children with home-learning.
Our Parish continues to provide food through the Food Initiative at a cost of £200 a month. I hope those in our own Village who may be struggling to provide food for their children in this ongoing & increasing crisis in health & in the economy, will be warmly encouraged to benefit from our Food Initiative, where it is possible to approach Ray & Deb in the Village Shop, & quietly ask for a bag of food essentials which will be delivered to your door. This has been working well since the lockdown began, & it could be more of us in the Village will find themselves in ever deeper need of help, & we would encourage them to ask..it isn’t charity, it is basic good bread & butter Christian discipleship which, at such times of crisis, is asked of us in our plenty. Across the Village there is deep appreciation for the good natured & generous service given by Ray & Deb throughout the crisis, who regularly go the extra mile for us. Food donations to Middlesbrough Food Bank via cash in envelope to Parish House or direct via firstname.lastname@example.org
Could I remind you of the sterling work of our own SVP group in the Parish, who are there, willing & able to help anyone in any form of difficulty, or those who would value a phone call now & again in the midst of the lockdown. Do please contact Mary Borrett email@example.com or the national website www.svp.org.uk With my love & prayers Fr Bede