Since Fr Abbot announced at our Parish Mass & meeting at the Abbey on 25 July 2021 that you were to welcome a new Parish Priest, the period in between then & now has seemed rather like an Advent moment, a time of prayerful expectancy as we await the arrival of Fr Kentigern next weekend; my thoughts went back to this reflection I shared with you all as Advent 2019 began, when we had no idea that breaking news of a strange virus in China was giving cause for some minor concern. It fitted the moment then & its title “we were made for these times” has remained live throughout the pandemic, & remains alive & relevant this weekend, as the divine invitation comes to prepare to leave harbour & set out to sea on the next stage of your parish spiritual & relational journey “together”..
..three readings; three windows on your Advent calendar, not with a chocolate behind each but a word/ phrase which, when woven /stitched together, set the tone & context for our Advent 2019..”come..know “the time” has come..so stay awake”..I received two pastoral letters this week; our traditional Advent one from Bishop Terence which I leave for you to take home to choose the time & to read/reflect on..focuses on this new Church year being “the Year of the Word..the God who speaks”..who speaks through scripture the liturgy & in person 20 times day in ordinary real life..in 3retreats I have led this last wk..in one of most difficult groups I have ever worked with in 20yrs as God spoke to me through them..second pastoral letter spoke sufficiently powerfully to me for me to want to share its wisdom with you as we begin our journey towards the manger together..”so stay awake!” no question of you falling asleep..authors name gives spice from the start.. Clarissa Pinkola Estes “we were made for these times” written 13 days ago so straw is still warm.. “my friends, do not lose heart.We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply & properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment, & often righteous rage over the lastest degradations of what matters to civilised, visionary people. You are right in your assessments; the lustre & hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor the unguarded, the helpless is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is we were made for these times. Yes, for years we have been learning, practising been in training for, & just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement. I grew up on the Great Lakes & recognise a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able vessels in the waters than there are right now across the world; & they are fully provisioned & able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind. Look out over the prow; there are millions of righteous souls on the waters with you. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow & rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own & to advance, regardless. In any dark time there is tendency to veer towards fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what you cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails. We are needed, that is all we can know; & though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us & guide us, & we will know them when they appear. Didn’t you say you were a believer? Didn’t you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn’t you ask for grace? Don’t you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater? Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portions of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip towards an enduring good. What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to & adding more continually. We know that it doesn’t need everyone on earth to bring justice & peace, but only a small determined group who will not give up during the first, second or hundredth gale. One of the most calming & powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up & show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times; the light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these; to be fierce & to show mercy towards others; both are acts of immense bravery & greatest necessity. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit & willing to show it; if you would help to calm the storm, this is one of the strongest things you can do. There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it; it is not allowed to eat from my plate The reason is this; in my uttermost bones I know something, as you do. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to earth, who you serve, & who sent you here. The good words we say & the good deeds we do are not ours. They are the words & deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall; When a great ship is in harbour & moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.”
“..come..know the time has come..so stay awake” & now let us set sail into our Advent.. [1st Sun Advent YrA ; Mt 24; 37-44]
This will be the final weekend I offer parishioners & our wider family copies of the Outreach, which goes to almost 250 of you, including over 50 of the “diaspora” [the dispersed ones] who, albeit geographically distant, are very much part of the spiritual life of the faith community we have together grown over the last 9yrs. A weekly spiritual yeasting will emerge for the diaspora & the herdwicks !
Next weekend, the Parish welcomes Fr Kentigern in his first weekend among you. Fr Abbot will come to 10am Mass on Sunday morning to “welcome” Fr Kentigern on your behalf, & the Parish BBQ from 11am onwards, which traditionally welcomes everyone back into parish life after the summer break, will be an opportunity to welcome & speak with Fr Kentigern, & also to warmly welcome our parishioners from Our Lady & the Holy Angels in Gilling, & St Aidan’s Oswaldkirk, in what will be their first weekend among us following the closing Masses in each Chapel of Ease this weekend. Please keep them much in your prayers as they face up to the reality of losing their Church building & their immediate communities there, & take courage to come & to gradually fully integrate here as one parish family in your future together.
..with my love prayers & gratitude for our time together & our ministry to each other.. Fr Bede