..from last weekend’s Outreach; “if that is the case for many, if they can spend an hour with a therapist & purchase understanding for a fee, what conclusions are we to draw about Confession? We have three things we as the Church have to learn from psychologists, whether we like it or not. Part 1 “what are we to make of the fact that now 99% of the faithful won’t take a step towards the Sacrament of Confession?” [now part 2 of 3] “we must realise that it is much more important to consider people’s motives than to judge their actions in terms of some hard & fast rule. Not so long ago the Church could pinpoint exactly the start of mortal sin; such a precise knowledge about going to hell has condemned the Church in view of the poetry, the feelings, the sensitivities, & the honesty of whole generations raised within the Church, & it may take decades or centuries for that guilt to be erased. It has filled people with anxiety rather than confidence, with self-hatred & a lack of daring in the face of life, & it has done this in the name of God, who sees everything & who can peer where no human being can. For the generations now growing up, the Church’s power to generate such guilt feelings has to a large extent evaporated, & interest in Confession has faded proportionately. People have a keen feeling for what is right & what is not right, & they are learning how to speak to one another in ways that are fair & that offer the chance to keep channels of communication open in areas of conflict. An attitude & approach to dialogue, permitting each to say what they mean. It simply is not possible to determine what is right or good by looking at externals. So it was with Jesus of Nazareth. If we theologians want to turn our noses up at psychologists, we must realise Jesus is the standard by which we are to gauge our own conduct. One day he had accepted an invitation from a group of good Pharisees. While he was with them, a prostitute dared to approach him, this man of God. She threw herself at his feet, weeping, whilst his worthy hosts waited to see how he would deal with such trash & preserve his own dignity. When he looked into the face of the unfortunate woman, Jesus didn’t see sinfulness but a boundless longing for love. As his astonished audience looked on, he assured her that God had forgiven her. The world is completely changed when we look at the hearts of human beings rather than their hands, & John’s gospel tells us that Jesus knew what was in human beings.” [part 3 next week] [the Open Tomb ; Eugen Drewermann]
Lent has begun healthily; 40 at our two Masses on Ash Wednesday; 26 at 930am at OL&SB, 14 at 730pm at OL&HA. Last weekend 46 of you came to Mass; 30 at 10am at OL&SB, 16 at 4pm at OL&HA. Do please remember the little band doing its valiant best, those taking the risk to come, are representing those of you, understandably, staying at home for self-protection or to protect a loved one, as well as the wider Church.
Earlier this month, I received a fine email from one of our parishioners, acknowledging with thanks & gratitude the presence of so many young people at our weekend Masses. [regularly 16 or more of a total of 40] & asking how we might shape the Mass to meet their gifts & needs more specifically. I wrote back to share my initial thoughts & share them now with you all, especially our young disciples.
“You know from my regular references to young people, & the inspiration & encouragement they give to me in my retreat work with them in ARH, that they are at the heart of the Church, & thereby at the heart of the Parish. I well remember being in Cardiff in 1982 with the Pope & the Mass for Young People with its theme “the Church of today & the hope of tomorrow” & they are our hope as they take on the baton from us in leading the journey of evangelisation. When Christus Vivit “Christ is Alive” was published in 2019, I took a paragraph from it each week for many weeks to share in the bulletin, food for the young & those of us young at heart to see our own calling into ministry in the Popes reflections. I also gave a personal copy on behalf of the Parish to each of our young. Indeed the Pope addressed his Exhortation “to young people & to the entire people of God” so to address them is to address us, & vice versa. A parity of esteem & shared responsibility “together” a fine Pope Francis call! I hope that all I do share with them, & with all of us, is encouraging & is grounded in the theology & spirituality of Pope Francis. Just last week, a parishioner, reading a recent papal letter with the rest of the family exclaimed more than once “Fr Bede!” & to hear that familiarity from parents & youngsters of what the Pope is proclaiming, & what I am discovering for myself, & thereby on behalf of our parish family, is enormously encouraging. We seem collectively, in spite of covid & lockdown, & reduced numbers at Mass, to be in a good fertile place & I would like to think all of us, indeed specially our young, will be sharing a similar sense of blessing & opportunity.
With social media this is surely a divine opportunity for our young to “gather” on line & share their spirituality with each other, & then hopefully to share their discoveries with the rest of us. Some years ago, on an Ad Limina visit to Rome, the now Archbishop of Liverpool, then Bishop of Nottingham, in his 15mins in private audience with the Pope was asked two questions . “how is the Church in Leicester?” the most ethnically diverse city in the UK & “how are your young people evangelising themselves?” not being evangelised by us but by themselves. Two brilliant questions, as alive now for us as for them then..read Middlesbrough Leeds or Ampleforth now.. So my hope would be that they would gather on line to begin a shared journey of accompaniment in prayer story & mission, & inspire us by what & who they find on line & off road..
My hopes so far in lockdown haven’t yet borne fruit..a tent initiative in autumn, three of them to look into the possibililty of live streaming our parish Mass, [ they being experts at IT ], of writing a letter or email to one of our 30 or so elderly sick & housebound to show we are alive & well & want to share some of their covid journey of isolation fear & loss of faith..or maybe for them it is a time of growth in faith? no one asks them.. or two or three of them to take on our website & recreate it into one of the very best parish websites to serve one of the very best parishes & beyond. ..to create a video or series of video’s we could offer to the Diocese or beyond on aspects of spirituality for different groups of parishioners..primary school, secondary school, those preparing for Marriage, first Communion, for the bereaved, for the alone & lonely, for NHS workers [we could be the very first parish group in the UK to think pray & offer a video to offer emotional relational spiritual help to our front line disciples, exhausted victims of PTSD, & wanting to believe again in God & in themselves] & we see non-spiritual organisations’ networks doing the work the gospel continuously calls us to yeast into our faith communities & beyond, & there seems, so far, to be nothing, or if there is, no one has told me about it, so I can spread the very good news among us & beyond.
If they gathered on line for prayer & lectio once a week..or once a day even?..what a message that would give of how well our engine room was being fuelled serviced & maintained..
thank you for your inspiration & prayer which yeasted this.. “how can this come about?” asked Our Lady “how can this come about?” asks Fr Bede ..in faith hope & persistence in love “for nothing is impossible to God” & the angel left her..as now us, to plant the seed in the womb space of the young & in the womb of the entire people of God..including the Sarah’s & the Elizabeth’s among us! “
Stations of the Cross; Fridays in Lent at 5pm in OL&SB. Four of us there last week, a gentle prayerful Way of the Cross 35mins “following in the footsteps of Christ” “love, following in the footsteps of Christ, in concern & compassion for all, is the highest expression of our faith & hope, particularly in these times of trouble, when everything seems fragile & uncertain.” [Pope Francis’ Message for Lent 2021]