“I see this time as a reckoning. I think of what Jesus tells Peter in Lk 22;31 that the devil wants him to be sifted like wheat. To enter into a crisis is to be sifted. Your categories & ways of thinking get shaken up; your priorities & lifestyles are challenged. You cross a threshold, either by your own choice or by necessity, because there are crises, like the one we’re going through, that you can’t avoid. The question is whether you’re going to come through this crisis & if so, how. The basic rule of a crisis is that you don’t come out of it the same. If you get through it, you come out better or worse, but never the same. We are living in a time of trial. The Bible talks of passing through fire to describe such trials, like a kiln testing the potter’s handiwork. The fact is that we are all tested in life. It’s how we grow. In the trials of life, you reveal your own heart; how solid it is, how merciful, how big or small. Normal times are like formal social situations; you never have to reveal yourself. You smile, you say the right things, & you come through unscathed, without ever having to show who you really are. But when you’re in a crisis, it’s the opposite. You have to choose; & in making your choice you reveal your heart. Think of what happens in history ..when people’s hearts are tested, they become aware of what has held them down. They also feel the presence of the Lord, who is faithful, & responds to the cry of his people. The encounter that follows allows a new future to open up. Think of what we’ve seen during this Covid-19 crisis. All those martyrs; men & women who have laid down their lives in service to those most in need. Think of the health workers, doctors & nurses & other caregivers, as well as the chaplains & all who chose to accompany others in their pain. Taking the necessary precautions, they sought to offer others support & consolation. Many, tragically, died. To honour their witness, & the suffering of so many, we have to build tomorrow by following the paths they have lit for us. In moments of crisis you get both good & bad people; people reveal themselves as they are. Some spend themselves in the service of those in need, whilst some get rich off other people’s need. Some move out to meet others, in new & creative ways, without leaving their houses, whilst some retreat behind defensive armour. The state of our hearts is exposed. It isn’t just individuals who are tested, but entire peoples. Think of governments having to choose in the pandemic. What matters more; to take care of people or keep the financial system going? Do we look after people, or sacrifice them for the sake of the stock market? Do we put the machinery of wealth on hold, knowing people will suffer, yet that way we save lives? in some cases governments have tried to protect the economy first, maybe because they didn’t understand the magnitude of the illness, or because they lacked the resources. Those governments have mortgaged their people. In making those choices, their priorities are tested & their values exposed.” [Let us Dream; Pope Francis] ..next week; crisis & the Good Samaritan.
In spite of the intense heat & holiday absences, 46 of you came to our three Masses last weekend, when I explained we had just received, on Thursday last, a 12 page document from the Catholic Bishops Conference on step 4 guidance in the Covid-19 route map, “taking account of the Government’s understanding of moving away from centralised detailed regulations to prudent local judgements, adopting a continuing cautious approach to easements.” On Friday Bishop Terence Patrick issued a really helpful statement via the Diocesan website, in which his opening paragraph echoes & clarifies further the Bishops Conference & Govt advice; “in order to help people feel safe & secure in our churches, I strongly recommend that we maintain the wearing of masks, social distancing, the service of stewards & the standard of sanitising the churches we have so far employed.” I read the statement at each Mass & suggested we follow “strong recommendation” of our Bishop, & given a lot of our parishioners are now away on a holiday, & with the increased spread of the virus in our own locality, we keep our current arrangements in place until early September, when we can reassess the situation in the light of local infections & the imminent return of our children to school. There seemed a concensus that this is best practice, with the Bishops closing sentence being “I reiterate that people will only return to our churches if they know that they are safe & secure places.” I feel we have achieved this since our Church re-opened for Mass, & I hope those of you have returned in good numbers will pass on the good & reassuring news as a stage in welcoming others “home”.
An email from Rose McCarthy on the Refugee Council in Leeds on Monday last. She has for many years brought Confirmation candidates to us for retreats from Our Lady of Kirkstall Parish in Leeds. Her work involves supporting vulnerable refugee women, to help them gain access to healthcare throughout pregnancy, & women seeking asylum in Leeds & across the UK. Please keep her & her work in your prayers.
I am afraid our government has awful plans for immigration which are going through the House Of Commons today and tomorrow. They are the biggest changes probably ever in immigration in it is saying it won't matter why you left your country but how you got here. Since the Refugee Convention 70 years ago it has been recognised that most people have to enter the UK by irregular routes - we are an Island, how are people without passports meant to get here?? We don't have safe routes by which they can enter. The Refugee Convention states that people wouldn't be penailsied by their method of entry to a country as everyone has the legal right to claim asylum. Our government wants to change this. the UNHCR and others are up in arms and I think are challanging the legality of this. This is a growing movement called Together with Refugees in the UK which is trying to build support and oppose the bill. If you want to know more you might like to look on the Refugee Council or Together for Refugees website.
This weekend you are invited to share Mass with Abbot Robert in the Abbey Church on Sunday at 330pm, followed by tea & a Parish meeting/discussion. Do please let Julia Brooke, our Delegate for the Parishes, know if you are coming; firstname.lastname@example.org or O1439 766700. For those who are unable to be with us, there will be Mass at OL&SB at 6pm on Sat night & 10am on Sunday morning; no 4pm Sunday Mass at OL&HA. Could I ask you all, whether you are able to come, or will be away on holiday, or feel a long period together in the Mass & then discussion will be too long, to pray specially please for the presence & guidance of the Holy Spirit among us, as we meet in Christ’s name for the furtherance & growth of the Parish, & our outreach, at this liminal moment.
St Benedict’s RC Primary School finish for the summer holidays this Friday 23 July 2021 & it is a fitting moment to record a momentous year in the life & faith of our School; student numbers increased 40%, a full Reception class for Sept 2021, & a year of profound progress in learning, behaviour & care for each other. It is now a truly outstanding School & we offer deep gratitude to Mr Eddy & all his staff for the lead they have given to other Schools on how we rose to the challenges of covid & succeeded in shaping a means of teaching & learning through all those months which became a template for other Schools in the Academy & beyond. Please continue to pray for the continued growth of the School & the weave of it into the Parish. With my love & prayers. Fr Bede