. Late on Saturday evening, the Government announced it was to sanction the re-opening of Churches for private prayer on Monday 15 June 2020, & on Sunday morning Cardinal Vincent Nicols, on behalf of the Catholic Church, thanked the Government & welcomed the news. He stressed that not every Catholic Church would be open next Monday as it would depend on local conditions, so that “every care is taken to ensure that the guidance given for his limited opening is fully observed, not least by those entering our Churches.” As you know we were anticipating the moment when I asked in last weekend’s Outreach for some of you to volunteer either to join a planning group to prepare the ground for re-opening or a group of ministers of welcome who would staff the Church during the periods of opening. We quickly formed the planning group who have been working tirelessly on your behalf since Sunday afternoon; Dominic Carter, Caroline Dollard, Karen Harrington Matron of the Monastery Infirmary [with experience of Covid-19 precautionary measures] Tracey Swiers our PA, & Teresa Briggs our Parish Secretary. Impressively we have been ahead of the game on some of the multitude of considerations & measures to be put in place, & it has been reassuring to read some of the documents issued by the Bishops Conference & our own Diocese & see issues we had already faced & put into our risk assessment documentation. We can be fully assured that by the time we open the Church next week for private prayer, the precautionary measures in place will reflect best practice, hopefully giving those who want to take up the invitation I sent out to all of you earlier this week the necessary confidence you need. We are deeply grateful to the small team who form the ministry of hospitality who will be responsible for welcoming all who come with warmth & firm guidance on hygiene practice, social distancing & seating arrangements. A fine moment for all of us to know that our Church will again be open for private prayer, some of which will be on behalf of those who don’t feel able to come for the time being, & those stalwarts of ours over 70 yrs of age who are actively dissuaded from coming until we get advice from the Bishop that the health situation is sufficiently safe for the elderly, & those with underlying health problems, to venture out & join us again, that great day when the Body of Christ becomes fully the Body of Christ again in our parish family. Please pray daily for that day, & for the hopeful patience to wait expectantly for it..
This weekend we celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi, the Body & Blood of Christ, as we live out the prayer recited by St Leo as he gave Holy Communion at Mass “become what you receive, the Body of Christ.” We receive Him in the Eucharist, at present for many of you in Spiritual Communion in the lockdown, in the words of Scripture & vitally in person, in the real presence of each & every one of us, each of us in St Pauls theology all parts of the one body. Physically separated by the lockdown, socially isolated, but never closer than we are now “we were made for these times” remember?..& as Fr Michael Casey said to our Community via zoom from Australia late last Saturday night, when he spoke to us about “crisis” bringing us to a point of decision, a very distinctive time. He told story of passenger plane which lost an engine in mid Atlantic some years ago & the pilot in crisis landed the plane safely using three key terms ; aviate, navigate & communicate. Firstly keep it in the air, secondly try to get to some place, a life-giving/life-saving way, thirdly make known what is happening , to the crew, to the passengers, & the people on the ground, inviting others to participate. What a real true story! Fr Michael reminded us “we are living in a golden age..crisis is a signature of a new coming of Christ in our lives”..indeed “become what you receive, the Body of Christ.”
On Sat 29 Feb 2020, we began our weekly classes of First Communion preparation with our five young disciples, always a joy for me to have the blessing of 15 Saturdays learning from them as much as I try to share with them about becoming the Body of Christ as fully partaking sharers in our Eucharist. Sadly this year we had to finish a month later on the day of lockdown 21 March, the feast of St Benedict. The candidates should have been receiving their First Holy Communions this Sunday, & I would ask you to say a special prayer for them & for their families this weekend, three of them at home locally, & two back home in Spain to where they fled just before their own lockdown there began. We will begin the sessions again once the fullness of our parish life resumes.
Our Parish Accounts up to 30 April 2020 have just been completed, & as expected, they show a significant deficit between income & expenditure. I have discussed the figures with the Chair of our Finance Committee Kevin Kaley, & he writes the following to you on our joint behalf. “the accounts to 30 April 2020 show a big fall in income, a crippling loss of £6,800. While expenses have been kept as keen as possible, in line with earlier years, our income has fallen dramatically; the deficit will be increased now month on month with our staffing expenses increasing with our new [from 8 Jan 2020] PA’s salary. Whilst our income from those of you who contribute generously through standing orders remains a constant, we have lost the plate collections at weekend Masses for the last 12 weeks, which at approx. £100 per weekend is a loss thus far in lockdown of £1200, & the small gifts Gift Aid we are able to claim on the plate collection. Whilst times are difficult for us all, it would be really helpful if each of you could consider how you might adjust your contributions to help our Parish & its future.”
So far in lockdown, only two parishioners have sent in to us a monthly cheque covering their usual plate collection; it means a lot to me, not just financially but relationally, to think they are thinking of us practically as well as spiritually. I hope you will feel able to help us. Once we do get back to the fullness of parish life, we can meet to discuss many aspects of our new life after “crisis” & the necessary financial stability our continued ministry within & without will need as it & we flourish onwards.
St Benedict’s RC Primary School continues its apostolate with six children in School this week working in two separate bubbles, & with the rest of the children fully engaged in home-learning. We are deeply grateful to Mr Eddy & the staff for such fine front line working, & the supportive understanding of the parents & encouragement of the governors. I enclose a copy of my weekly letter to them as we come to the end of our journey with Noah in his Ark as we journey on in our Arks of belonging;
Message from Fr Bede. Hello to you all !
..to you, to your brothers & sisters, your Mummies & Daddies, & to Mr Eddy & all your teachers, who keep asking to be included into my weekly letters to you. We are now coming to the end of our first week back at work after half term week, with some of you working again in School, & more of you still working hard from home. We can continue to think about each other can’t we? & pray for each other, looking forward to the time after the long summer holidays, when we will all come together in School for a new start together. Meantime, well done all of you & your teachers & families as we continue to work hard & do our best. When I was at School many many many years ago, [I am not quite as old as Noah! ] I wasn’t very clever at my studies, but the teacher would always bring happiness to my Mum when she used to say “he tries his best” & I still try to do that, as I know each of you do too! I am writing to you this week on the feast of a monk called St Columba. He lived with his family of monks on a small island off the Scottish coast, where they learned to live & pray together as a family, as you do at home & in our School. His name “Columba” means “dove” & we know from our story of Noah’s Ark that the little bird he sent out to see if he could find land & new life was a dove, the bird of peace. So I thought you could make a special place in your family Ark at the moment for the dove of peace, who will help you to keep finding & making peace in your family. I wonder what you will decide to feed your dove on?..& what name you might give to him, or is it a her?
I am sending on to you with my letter this week the last four pages of our story of Noah & his family in the Ark, & like all good stories, there is a sadness that we are coming to the end. However, we have learned such a lot about Noah & his family lockdown which is so like our lockdown in our family Ark in the last few weeks, as we still go very carefully in keeping the danger of the coronavirus away. I love listening to Noah speaking to his impatient wife & family, as well as to the hungry animals in the Ark, now they could see dry land outside & the threat of the water going down, & they all wanted to open the doors & get out. & Noah said “but for now we wait” a good wise message for us all now, not to be too quick to try to get back to normal life, but to wait & see, & keep each other safe. Three questions for you this last week of the story please;
 as they waited & waited for Noah to allow them to open the doors “it was a bad-tempered week” can you think of two times in your family Ark these last few weeks when you got impatient & bad-tempered ?..who suffered because of it? how long did it last? What did you do to try to heal it?
 when they were about to leave the Ark after all those weeks, Jenaia Noah’s wife cried “now I am afraid to leave..” she said. I wonder what you will miss most when the time comes for our lockdown to finish? What were some of the good things you learned during it? Will you be a different person now when it finishes ? how will your Mummie see the difference?
 Noah was reminded of the many thousands who had lost their lives in the flood. We have lost lots & lots of people who have died from the virus. Will you pray for them please on their journey to Heaven? & if you know someone who has lost a loved one in the last few weeks, will you make a card to send to them, to share a happy picture with them, & to tell them you are thinking of them?
At the very end of the story Noah found what he was looking for. I wonder if you can tell what he found, & how, perhaps a few weeks ago, you drew one & coloured it in? Thank you for sharing the story with one another these last few weeks, & allowing me to share it & your wonderful answers to the questions with me & your teachers, & our parish. I wonder if you might like to share another bible story from my special book in the weeks to come. let me know when you send in your answers to these latest questions please. I hope you are remembering to be really helpful in your Ark at home, keeping your room tidy, helping with the washing up, & generally being a good smiley crew member..well done! “can we do it?” asks Bob the Builder ..& we know his answer which has to be ours too..& remember how much better we get on with each other if we remember to say a prayer together..three of my special prayers are “please” “sorry” & “thank you”.
With my love & prayers to you all, to your mummies daddies & everyone in your Ark, to Mr Eddy & to your teachers too. God bless..& a fist bump from me! Fr Bede
Do listen out of for our Church bell at 10am on Sunday, ringing out through the Village our unity as the Body of Christ this weekend, & in unity of thought love & prayer each Sunday with Rev Catherine Reid & our brothers & sisters at St Hilda’s & at Holy Cross in Gilling. This Friday, the Feast of the Sacred Heart, is a Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests, on which Pope Francis asks us priests to reflect on three aspects of our heart-centred ministry; Gratitude [a grateful heart]; Mercy [a merciful heart]; Compassion [a compassionate heart ]; Vigilance [ a watchful heart ]; Courage [ a courageous heart] Please pray for me & my fellow priests of our Diocese & of our Community, particularly those you know, perhaps specially Fr Matthew, who remains safe & well cared for in the Monastery Infirmary as his dementia increases.
Please pray for me & my fellow priests of our Diocese & of our Community, particularly those you know, perhaps specially Fr Matthew, who remains safe & well cared for in the Monastery Infirmary as his dementia increases.