One of the spiritual enclosures I want to share with you as we begin another week of physical if not spiritual self-isolation, is the text of an Extraordinary Moment of Prayer presided over by Pope Francis on 27 March 2020, when Italy [& Rome] found itself in despair at the height of the pandemic. He chose the gospel of the calming of the storm Mk 4;35-41 “Master, do you not care? We are going down!” & Jesus’ response? “be calm”. Another enclosure which I have had for almost a month, waiting for a “kairos” moment to share it with you, is called “be still & know that I am God” written by the Abbot President of the Cistercian Order [reformed Benedictines] on 15 March 2020.He chooses the gospel of the storm, with Jesus walking on water Mt 14;22-35 where Peter cries “Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you across the water.” & Jesus calmly calls one word “come” as he Peter does, he takes his eyes off Jesus looks down at his feet in disbelief, & begins to sink “Lord save me!” Jesus, then for him & now for us, takes us by the hand & holds him & us “man/woman of little faith, why did you doubt?” & my thoughts went back to 29 Sept 2019 when, on feast of St Michael & All Angels, a Day of Special Prayer for migrants & refugees, Pope Francis blessed a bronze sculpture called “Angels Unaware” in the spirit of Hebrews 13.2 “remember always to welcome strangers, for by doing this, some people have entertained angels without knowing it” I enclose a depiction of the sculpture for you to watch before & pray. 3 gospels 3 key moments of crisis, & each using the image of sea/boats for reflection.. & how our parish, our “nave-dwellers, the “navy” the crew of Church” have journeyed since late October, when I first introduced you to the “Angels Unaware” picture, sharing a boat journey of our own up to 21 March 2020, when we were understandably locked out of our home harbour space, when we too became migrants/refugees, in extraordinary times, almost as if we were being prepared for these choppy times at sea. There have been 10 gospels 10 homilies in those weeks which have “found” us at some stage on that journey, a time now perhaps to revisit them, to re-read & realise just how alive they were & remain for us here & now. Rather than “capsize “you with them all, perhaps we will revisit one each week in Outreach; remember Clarissa Pinkola Estes piece “we were made for these times” I shared with you on the 1st Sun of Advent in late Nov; “when a great ship is in harbour & is moored, it is safe, there is no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.”..we have a great ship of a parish.. ..this weeks offering is from 26/27 Oct 2019 which included ; “God, be merciful to me, a sinner”..the appropriate Christian model of the personal “me” self-emptied of self-performance & self-righteousness, & instead reliant/dependent on the loving mercy of God “hesed” in Hebrew..the loving kindness of God, or of love for each other..”hesed” a word & sound which calms/soothes..the grounded humility that allows/enables power grace & love of the divine to enter, & conceive within us..in me/you..the person/character of Jesus himself..the pre-Communion prayer of the real presence “Lord I am not worthy to have you under my roof; only say the word & my soul shall be healed”.. the real me meets the real Christ, heart to heart, body to body..”from a distance” yes but now respectful reverential..”not daring to give eye contact” devout humility..so few of us prepared to give priest the blessing of eye contact as we approach the real sacrament of the present moment..eye to eye..”& beat his breast” true sorrow/repentance..a prodigal son/daughter moment; even a true saint is & remains a sinner, who must remember their fallen state, & be open receptive & thankful for Gods intervention through unmerited & unearned gift of grace..the poor Pharisee can receive no grace, impotent/ignorant to his need for it..& as with most gospel stories, especially in Luke & his mantra of “hesed” spirituality, the ending/last chapter is left for you & I to imagine pray, to bring it into print & to real life 26/27 Oct 19..I would like to see it in the context of the sculpture Pope Francis blessed in Rome on 29 Sept 19; World Day of Prayer for Migrants & Refugees.. ”angels unaware” it depicts an open boat full of migrants young/old huddled together; the boat with shallow sides, vulnerable to slightest swell of sea..overloaded & in danger of capsizing..& there perhaps is the Pharisee, at front/ the bow, thinking himself the captain on bridge..ignorant/unaware that real coxswain is tax collector at very back who, with “hesed”, unseen below the radar, holds the rudder & steers the boat towards safety & salvation, reading the true compass for life..following a star as did the migrants to the manger, remember?..avoiding tragedy of the Pharisees who took their eye off the star “astra” & suffered ultimate fate of a “dis-aster”..distancing themselves from the star & the way..do please pause to look at image of sculpture at back of Church as you leave, & look out for one important traveller/migrant on it, as it heads for the safety of promised land..& notice someone you know very well…. [30thSunYrC Lk18;9-14]
as I compile this Outreach today, Thursday, Andrew Cornforth’s’ burial will be taking place with his close family present, in Kirkbymoorside. Coinciding with it, & keeping social distancing regulations, I will be sharing a few prayers with Andrew’s colleagues & those of our staff who tried to save his life here two weeks ago, on the College grounds which he tended with such skill love & devotion. Last Friday morning, Ben Cuming died in St Leonard’s Hospice in York, & he will be buried in our graveyard at 1130am on Saturday; he was a much loved & devoted parishioner who would always come to Sat Vigil Mass 20mins early to kneel & to pray. Please pray for him, for Julie & their family. Sue Kitching, a longstanding & loyal member of the domestic staff at the Abbey & College died last Sunday; her burial will be at St Hilda’s next Wed at 11.30am. Please remember her, John & their family in your prayers. For all three of these stalwarts, we will hold memorial services once the lockdown is lifted, & again we acknowledge our huge debt of gratitude to those doctors nurses & care workers who have looked after “our” three & many others. St Benedict’s RC Primary School is very much back to work & play after the Easter holidays, as they work to a carefully coordinated schedule of work from home, which equates to approx. 3hrs of work each day, roughly equating to an English [phonics/spelling], Maths & a topic lesson each day, all based on a home education approach in Class 1 termed Tapestry, & in later years Seesaw. The Government have cancelled all tests in this academic year, Year 1 phonics, KS1 & KS2 SAT’s tests. Sad for those who have put much work in preparing for the test, & further information on how the Schools will compensate for the loss of exams is under consideration in our Academy Trust & beyond. Please keep Mr Eddy & his little band of gifted staff, our children & parents in your prayers.
Remember please, & share news of, our Church food initiative, set up by Rev Catherine Reid & myself with great help from Deb & Ray in the Village Shop; those in need can go in & quietly ask for a bag of food essentials all prepared for them; our two Churches [increasingly one Church] will source funds to meet the cost. Middlesbrough Food Bank remains open & in desperate need of help, now offered direct to them by cash transfer, or by cash in an envelope please, posted at St Benedict’s House. We sent £100 on your behalf this week. Please keep all of these intentions & many more in your prayers.