In this third weekend of looking at Fr Donal O’Leary’s 8 “be-attitudes”, following “farmer of hearts” &”prophet of beauty” we look now at “the healer of fear”, each beatitude describing one facet of our servant discipleship towards others, written for priests yet relevant familiar & challenging for each of us in our shared parish ministry. “by his/your contemplative presence to what he is doing, be that listening, preaching, celebrating or silence, the healer of fear is allowing the radical truth of each situation, no matter how contorted, complicated or contradictory it may seem, to emerge. This truth is sheer gift; it is a healing wisdom that brings clarity, order & peace to confused & tormented parishioners. It is the first grace of the Holy Spirit that ends our misery by naming our journey, thereby removing the ignorance, the root cause of fear; & in some mysterious way, this happens within the very person of the priest. He heals by absorbing into himself the jagged edges & broken bits of peoples’ lives. For those priests who endeavour to live out this model of ministry, it goes without saying that it is a recipe for the kind of breakthrough that brings crucifixion & Passover in its wake. Familiar with the anxiety that stalks the lives of most people at some time or other & because of his pastoral experiences, highly sensitive to the precariousness of life at all times, the priest/you is a kind of doctor of souls. Under the microscope of faith, he/you identifies within the sick psyche traces of the health-giving strains implanted in each soul from the beginning. He reinterprets pain for those who live the life of quiet desperation. Living the Passover mystery himself, he uses pain to heal pain. In this sense he is a kind of alchemist, bringing spiritual gold out of the metals of suffering. He is like a recycler of experience, redesigning stumbling blocks into stepping stones, revealing the divine energy within the sacred wood of the cross. If we are to be healed & transformed, we have to enter with Jesus into the pain of things. It is in our woundedness, not in our power, that we find him. He is a God who weeps in our hearts, but his tears are healing tears, springs of everlasting life, cleansing, sustaining, giving hope when everything seems hopeless..”
Last weekend I shared with you the South African Catholic Bishops solidarity statement of 19 August 2020 in support of the Zimbabwean Catholic Bishops Pastoral Letter sent to the Zimbabwe Govt expressing concern at the repression resulting in oppression & hardship to the citizens. The Government responded with a 22 page retort; “the government has taken due note of the Pastoral Letter, a communication which sadly betrays a markedly unspiritual determination on the part of its authors to breach what is & must always remain the un-breachable fire-wall between politics & religion in our country.” & elsewhere in the retort “there is no crisis in Zimbabwe” please keep the people & our Community there in prayer in their crisis.
Banksy, the Bristol street artist has funded a rescue boat, named Louise Michel, with a professional crew, to save refugees in the Mediterranean Sea. The vessel is pink & white, & depicts on side a young girl holding on to a heart shaped safety float. They have saved 89 lives in the first days of its operations. “We answer the SOS call of all those in distress not just to save their souls, but our own.” [encouraging to hear the soul dimension being expressed prophetically & full-frontally in servant discipleship, challenging us as “crew” safe healthy Covid-free & crisis-free on “dry” ground..professionals or passengers?..] 443 lost at sea in the Mediterranean so far in 2020; over 40,000 have arrived in Europe by sea in the same period.
As we welcome back students to the College for the new academic year on Monday, our own St Benedict’s Primary School fully re-opens on Tuesday for all pupils, & as Parish Priest, School Chaplain & Foundation Governor, could I give all parents my fullest encouragement to ensure all our children return to School on the opening day? Mr Eddy & his staff, with expert support from the Diocese & Academy, has compiled an impressively detailed & positive four page document, which went out to parents at the end of last term, giving a careful caring & clear exposition of all aspects of life in the School under current restrictions, & wise medical advice as well as government support is now clear that a full return is the safest & best way forward for our children’s health, education & wellbeing. We need to return on Tuesday “together” a word sentiment & reality we have fostered throughout the lockdown & now again our mantra & mission. Mr Eddy finished his document with “no longer will school be a quieter building with a smaller number of wonderful children in it. It will be what it is meant to be again, a building full of children with walls echoing to the sound of laughter & learning. I can’t tell you for how long & just how much I have waited to write that” ; a wish & a prayer to come true on Tuesday, with staged drop off times for each year group.
As the economic situation worsens, & many who were being furloughed find that their work is in jeopardy, 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, & though the end of the school holidays means school lunches will return, many families 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.
I would remind our parishioners in Our Lady & the Holy Angels in Gilling, that whilst our Church there necessarily remains closed, they are warmly welcome to join us here, especially in this in-between time for all of us, as we all find it different strange & somewhat difficult. We are poorer for your continued distance from us, poorer spiritually emotionally & relationally. We are to compile a Risk Assessment document for our Church there, to go to the Trustees & the Diocese, in order to seek permission to re-open the Church for Mass for small congregations. With my love & prayers. Fr Bede