You can’t help thinking of my being in prison over Christmas, & it is bound to throw a shadow over the few hours of happiness which will await you in these times. All I can do to help is to assure you that I know you will keep the same spirit as I do, for we are agreed on how Christmas ought to be kept. How could it be otherwise when my attitude to Christmas is a heritage I owe to you? I need not tell you how much I long to be released & to see you all again. But for years you have given such lovely Christmases that our grateful memories are strong enough to cast their rays over a darker one. In times like these we learn as never before what it means to possess a past & a spiritual heritage untrammeled by the changes & chances of the present. A spiritual heritage reaching back for centuries is a wonderful support & comfort in face of all the temporal stresses & strains. I believe that the man who is aware of such reserves of power need not be ashamed of the tender feelings evoked by the memory of a rich & noble past, for such feelings belong in my opinion to the better & nobler part of mankind. They will not overwhelm those who hold fast to values of which no man can deprive them. For a Christian there is nothing peculiarly difficult about Christmas in a prison cell. I daresay it will have more meaning & will be observed with greater sincerity here in this prison than in places where all that survives of the feast is its name. That misery, suffering, poverty, loneliness, helplessness & guilt look very different to the eyes of God from what they do to man, that God should come down to the very place which men usually abhor, that Christ was born in a stable because there was no room for him in the inn..these are things which a prisoner can understand better than anyone else. For him the Christmas story is glad tidings in a very real sense, & that faith gives him a part in the communion of saints, a fellowship transcending the boundaries of time & space, & reducing the months of confinement here to insignificance. On Christmas Eve I will be thinking of you all very much, & I want you to believe that I too shall have a few hours of real joy & that I am not allowing my troubles to get the better of me.! [Letters & Papers from Prison; Dietrich Bonhoeffer]
a prisoner in prison, & some of our parishioners held in self-isolation during a lockdown of 8 months so far, as they think of us, & we of them, “in a communion of saints, a fellowship transcending the boundaries of time & space” in their [& our?] months of spiritual if not physical confinement, remembering those who will arrive at our inn of a Church this Christmas, unannounced & eager for inclusion on this Christmas heritage they have for years enjoyed..& this year because of Covid restrictions & social distancing, find there will be no room for them at our inn & in our stable..
St Benedict in Ch 37 of his Rule speaks of “tender concern for those in the two extremes of age & youth, with their frailty always being given loving consideration” Class 4 in St Benedict’s RC PS have written some 25 letters to the elderly sick & housebound in the Parish, in Ampleforth Gilling & locality, to express their love & prayerful concern for them, & to share some of their news during Advent from School & from home.
Last weekend, with our University students home safe & sound for the holidays, our numbers at our three Masses were higher; 11 at 6pm Sat Vigil, 39 at 10am Sunday Mass & 15 at 4pm at Gilling. We have so far received bookings from many of you for a place at one of our four Christmas Masses, & could I encourage those who have yet to be in touch to do so very soon? We hope to have music & some singing from family mini-choirs at each Mass & I am grateful to those of you who have stepped forward to take on a ministry at these Masses. It will be a great help to all of us if you who have a place at one of the Masses would come a little early to Mass to prevent the ministers of welcome & all in Church being distracted by latecomers. We will pray specially for those of you who, for health reasons, will feel the risk to come is too great, & for those who will come along unaware of the seating restrictions & find sadly we won’t be able to accommodate them. I intend to meet them at the Church door to explain our situation, to spend some time with them in prayer, before coming in a few minutes later to begin Mass, during which time Christmas music will be played.
Do please check the times of Masses in these next 12 days of celebrations & feastdays. Do remember please you need to book in for Mass this next weekend, Sat/Sunday, the Feast of the Holy Family.
Bishop Peter Brignall ; at the Manger godwhospeaks.uk/at-the-manger-family-celebrations-for-the-eight-days-of-christmas
Teresa Brown Northampton Diocese ; youtube video on the Annunciation; From Gabriel to Mary [her own music & various artists portrayal of the event.. https://youtu.be/h-qKINUziig
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 either in the Christmas holidays, or indeed at any time in this ongoing & increasing crisis in health & in the economy, will be 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
With my love & prayers, as we approach the stable & the manger together. Fr Bede