Last Monday, the day after Pentecost, the climax of the Easter Season which began 90 days earlier with Ash Wednesday, 3 weeks before our lockdown under the pandemic began, we returned to what the Church calls Ordinary Time, as if there ever was such a period in life & faith, in which we are continuously living & re-living out the Mission Statement of the Catholic Church, perhaps our most guarded secret after the secrets of Fatima “semper reformanda” [always reforming]. The Abbot President of the Cistercian Order [ reformed Benedictines ] Fr Mauro-Guiseppe Lepori wrote to his monks & nuns a letter on 15 March 2020, a week before our Churches were closed, called “be still & know that I am God” I shared it in full with you as an enclosure in our weekly Outreach on 4th Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday, as his reflections for monks & nuns in the spirit of St Benedict seemed to weave well into the life & struggles of each of you in your community Benedictine family life, particularly in this lockdown, when you & I are living much closer to each other, you in your living room, me in my cloister, with all the gifts & blessings as well as the challenges that brings to us on a daily basis. The relevance & familiarity of his spirituality continues in his latest letter of Pentecost Sunday “Seized by the Holy Spirit”; two paragraphs from it will whet your appetite.. “nothing will be as before” we all tell ourselves in this great crisis provoked by the pandemic. But everyone asks themselves how the world will start back up again after such an unforeseen & universal stop. Something new is necessary, but who can define it? who knows it? what newness does the Church need in her mission to the world & in history? Sickness & death, uncertainty & fear, in one way or another, have touched us & whether we like it or not, remain companions on our journey. What change of life & heart can be coherent with this experience?” [my own thoughts in recent weeks sharing with you the image of the journey of your at-home camino pilgrimage] “Jesus presents himself as a poor man who asks for help from poor men. He teaches us how to ask, he teaches us poverty. The way that Christ teaches us to ask for the Holy Spirit, to ask for love. Jesus shows himself a a lowly poor man who begs not only for something to eat “Children, do you not have something to eat?” [Jn 21;5] but for love, & he begs it from exactly that disciple who was most lacking in love for Him, by denying Him “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” [Jn 21;15]
By coincidence or the Holy Spirit, I have been holding on my desk, awaiting an appropriate moment, one of the finest examples of lectio divina [spiritual reading which I explained to you in outline in our Outreach of 24 May 2020 ] I have discovered, written by Pope Benedict in 2008 from his book “the Apostles” where he opens the very passage used by Abbot Lepori last weekend “Simon..do you love me ?” I will enclose his lectio on it for you to read pray & believe in. Believe me please, it is life & faith changing in its simplicity of spirituality as “Jesus adapts himself to this weakness of ours”, a real & authentic Jesus who meets us where we are..familiar, convincing & Benedictine!
Three weeks ago I began to share with the children of St Benedict’s RC Primary School, a story from “must know stories; the 10 most iconic stories from the Bible” by Robert Harrison. No 7 on his list is the story of Noah’s Ark, chosen by me to make the weave between Noah & his family’s lockdown in the Ark escaping from the Flood, & the children & their families now, in lockdown escaping from the coronavirus.
In Week I four pages with three questions, with some of their responses following; with more added to it since half term..
 if you could take an animal into your Ark, which would you choose & why?
A bunny rabbit, because they’re small & I have a little bunny at home which l love. A red squirrel, because they are close to extinction & I’d like to save them. A dog, because I love puppies, they’re really good sniffers. I would choose a leopard because it will hiss at everyone to scare scary things away from the Ark. I would take a dog, because they are really kind & I like them. Actually I would take the two animals one kind & one of the mean one, because the kind one is an example to the mean one to be kind to others. A koala bear as they are warm & furry, good to cuddle. Not so a crocodile, or a woodpecker, which would peck peck peck a hole in the Ark. I would take a fox, because they can teach us to love others, because when they start to like you, they like to cuddle & show their love to you. A cat & a dog because they are so cute & they are my favourite animals & they give me so much love.
 if you could take a friend from your class to sit next to you in your Ark, who would you choose, & why?
Agnes, because I would like to sit next to her, because she’s a nice friend to me, & she cheers me up. I would choose the kindest one because they wouldn’t upset you & they will be good company. So I would like to take Matilda because we get on really well. Frankie, because he’s my bestest friend. He loves me. Alfie, because we have a lot of fun together. Julita, because she is my best friend & I never get to sit next to her in class. I would take Hanna because she is very sweet & kind I would take two people, Ryan & Marianna, because they are so loving & caring & they are just so kind, big hearted & always look after people.
 if you have someone at home, or someone you can’t see at the moment who you love very much, who you would like me to pray specially for in my Ark at the Abbey, please can you give me their names & why they need you & me to pray for them?
I would like you to pray for my Uncle because if he gets the corona version he will not be able to fight of it. Can you pray to keep him safe please. My cousin Hannah, because she’s a nice cousin to me. Mamma and Darda, because they’re old & I love them. Mummy & Daddy, because they are the people who have looked after me since I was born. Leo, my cousin, because I love him & miss him. I would like you to pray for all of the families who have lost loved ones, & for people with the virus please! My Grandpa & Grandma because if they get corona virus they have a risk of not living, so please pray for them so they don’t get the virus,
In Week 2 another four pages, with four questions, & some of their responses;
 if your animal you chose to bring into the Ark with you began to mis-behave with some of the other animals, what gentle advice might you give to him or her?
I would give him some horrible food but I would tell him in a nice voice to stop being naughty. I would tell them, to tick them off & think about the situation we’re in
 Noah, when he was “found out” tried to blame his sons. How do you feel when you are caught out, & then blame your brother or sister? What should you have done instead, & what will you do next time?
I feel sad. I think I should always tell the truth. Embarrassed because I lied. I would tell the truth instead. I would feel regretful & try to make it up.
 Noah sent the six younger people to do a simple yet important job. When you are asked to do a simple job at home or in the classroom how do you feel? do you do it with a grumpy frown, or a beamer of a smile?
I feel good because I like doing jobs and I do it with a smile, but sometimes I do get grumpy when I have to tidy up. I’d feel like a servant & do it with a frown, but I know they are just asking for help.
 Noah, when asked by his sons if they could open the doors of the Ark, hesitated & was slow to say the word which brings rainbows into our families & my monastery “yes!”.. why do we find it hard to say “yes!” when mummies & daddies say it 42 times a day when you ask for something?.. can we do it from now on?
In half term last week we anchored the Ark safely, & we begin the next five pages of the story this weekend, part 3 of 4, with another four questions for the children to enjoy wrestling with. More answers are always very welcome from your own Ark.
I am grateful to those of you who are in touch, to express gratitude for our Outreach & to offer some of your lockdown experiences, & to assure us here of your prayers as we continue to self-isolate in Community, keeping everyone safe & well. One of you told of an evening in the garden last week.. “it has been a valuable life lesson to our children to see how different people cope & react to the guidelines. Last night we spent a wonderful evening sitting around a camp fire we made from old fencing, whilst watching the wood burn to ash & the embers disappear into the night sky. We talked about the evolution of life from birth to when our soul leaves our body like the embers we’re leaving the fire. We looked at the struggle the fire had to take hold before it gave heat & became a flaming success. We drew a parallel between the fire & people helping during the pandemic. Showing how the fire was stronger when stacked closely together, the flame held but when pieces fell to the side their flame died down & smouldered. We are blessed our children enjoy the beautiful nature God has gifted our world, & the children know how fortunate they are to have their own outside space in times like lockdown. Our family prayer has been for those people that didn’t, as we can imagine their struggles so compounded”
Do listen out for our Church bell at 10am ringing out through the Village our unity in the Trinity this weekend, & in unity of thought love & prayer each Sunday, with our brothers & sisters at St Hilda’s, & do pause on your daily walk outside the Church knowing the Good Lord is in the tabernacle with our sanctuary lamp adjacent to it, being our commitment to continue to walk with Him & one another on our at-home camino. The sanctuary lamp beams out in Our Lady & the Holy Angels in Gilling too, & if you go round the side of the Church, you can look in to see the tabernacle & lamp; a moment to pause & pray for all our loved ones in lockdown, for those at work, & for each other.. With my love & prayers. Keep safe. Fr Bede