The weekend before lockdown on 20 March 2020, at the end of the Vigil Mass at Our Lady & the Holy Angels, a wise senior parishioner asked..or did she tell me? “the virus will never come into our valley, will it Fr Bede?” was it a statement of fear or a phrase of aloof refusal?..& last week, the first four cases in Ampleforth Village..it is here & now, & suddenly the sense it wouldn’t dare come near us has been breached. As we face the reality of deepening lockdowns & restrictions, do read the Book of Job. I find Richard Rohr’s book “Job & the Mystery of Suffering” deeply relevant with its timeless & needed truth. I have shared with you some weeks ago Rohr’s understanding of Job “he [Job] is willing to wait, willing to wait in the space of the non-answer. That is the space in which God creates faith. To this day, many people equate “religious answers” with “faith”; but faith doesn’t mean having answers, it means being willing to live without answers. Faith is having the security to be in-secure, to live in another identity [post 20 March 2020] & to find our value & significance in that larger union. Life is not just. We are really not doing our young a favour if we paint for them a world in which fairness can be demanded or even expected. The poor & outcasts [& migrants?] seem to know this much earlier; that’s their head start on the Gospel; life itself has given them an understanding & acceptance of the essentially tragic nature of human life. most of us have to learn it the hard way. I think personally I was spoiled to death, beginning with my mother, who ran to the fridge to get me milk. I meet people who are five times better than I am, & it seems everything has gone wrong for them. There is no real equality despite the promises of the French & American revolutions. It seems the real revolution, which we still have trouble accepting, is the Gospel, which tells us to work for justice for others but not to demand, expect, or even need it for ourselves. That is extraordinary freedom. “.to love our neighbour..Hamish, Joel, James in Mountjoy, & Paul..” [more next week]
Last week we held the Reception of Paul Moore’s body into Our Lady & St Benedict’s Church on the Thursday evening, with Maureen Emily Daniel & Oliver alongide the coffin, supported in love & prayer by 26 close friends & parishioners, “a vigil in waiting” keeping watch in thanksgiving for Paul’s life & faith, so generously self-emptied into the lives & hearts of the many who knew him, who loved him & who were loved by him, in readiness for his Requiem Mass in the Abbey on Friday morning, with more of his family & the few friends & former colleagues our Covid restrictions would allow, & then the burial in our own graveyard in the Village. The family were exceptional in their courage & contribution to these tragic yet sacred moments, as Emily sang Ave Maria solo at the Requiem, Daniel gave the eulogy, & Oliver shared a poem he had written about his father “let loose your feathered wings”. My abiding memory was at the burial, in warm sunshine, once the Service had finished, & with those present by then at a distance from the grave, gently sharing stories of Paul, Maureen stood alone at the foot of the grave in love & prayerful dignity, as if in footsteps of her beloved Mary at the foot of the Cross at Our Lord’s death..please keep Paul Maureen & their family in your prayers.
We had Class 4 of St Benedict’s RC Primary School in Church for Mass on Monday, sheep & goats alike, learning about Hamish, our man of the road, whose legacy in Church lives on in the stain on the Sanctuary carpet where he spilled his can of lager..shocking until you realise his mistake came as he was evidently standing in prayer next to the Easter garden our children in St Benedict’s had beautifully made & given to our Parish ..of James, our prisoner in Mountjoy Dublin, who became my priest in offering me the only thing he had to give away to show how much he loved me..a moth-eaten piece of apple pie on a paper plate, stolen from the prison kitchen earlier that day.“do this in memory of me” “love your neighbour as yourself” & by gum he did.. At end of Mass, Mrs Lally asked me to explain the significance of the crucifix we keep for 30 days in the pew where Paul & Maureen sat, their sacred home space. The children gathered to see & listen; then one said “I know Mr Moore; when we moved into our house in the Village he came to help us decorate” the gospel of our St Paul in action.
With Covid restrictions understandably tightening, & having discussed the Feast of All Souls with some of you, I would like to propose we have the following celebrations on the feast itself, Monday 2 Nov; a 930am Mass, a 12noon short service in the graveyard, particularly for those for whom a return to Mass in Church is as yet too soon, & a 730pm Mass in Church. 3 day grave candles will be available at all three moments, for you to light a candle & place it on the grave of a loved one, & I will come round to each grave to share a prayer with those of you alongside it. With likely numbers, it is really important you book for either 9am or 730pm Mass, please. Do book as soon as you can. For the 12noon short service of 15 mins in the graveyard, we can cope with any number, as long as we maintain social distance. Please let others know of this important moment in the life of the Parish as we unite, as the Church living, to pray for, & with, the Church suffering.
As the economic situation worsens, & Covid restrictions tighten, with many facing the imminent threat of redundancy, & with half term & the loss to some of the already food poor of school meals, could I remind you of our Food Initiative in the Village, where it is possible to approach Ray & Deb in the Village Shop, & quietly ask for a bag of food essentials which will be delivered to your door?. This has been working well since the lockdown began, & it could be more of us in the Village will find themselves in ever deeper need of help, & we would encourage them to ask..it isn’t charity, it is basic good bread & butter Christian discipleship which, at such times of crisis, is asked of us in our plenty. Across the Village there is deep appreciation for the good-natured generous service given by Ray & Deb throughout the crisis, who regularly go the extra mile for us. Food donations to Middlesbrough Food Bank via cash in envelope to Parish House or direct via firstname.lastname@example.org With my love & prayers, Fr Bede