At the gates of death, did Therese perhaps experience something of that final state of which St Paul writes in his letter to the Corinthians – that ultimate state when everything will come to nothing? Perhaps his words also apply to faith & hope, for they will have “fulfilled their task” of accompanying us in the valley of shadow of this ambiguous world – but love will endure? Was the hell of Therese’s suffering & inner darkness paradoxically the entrance to a “heaven,” where just one of the three divine virtues survives? Therese is a master of paradox; her “little way” is, quite simply, a paradox that thoroughly engrossed her, the paradox familiar from the letters of St Paul: great things are revealed in small things; God’s wisdom is revealed in human foolishness (&vice versa); God’s strength is revealed in human weakness. Therese taught a faith that is creative because it can reinterpret life situations & find a new, hidden, deeper meaning in them – one that is often the antithesis of how those situations appear to the outward gaze. Whereas the church of her day preached a dread of sin & a systematic ascent to ultimate virtue & spiritual & moral perfection, Therese, fully in the spirit of St Paul’s letters, taught the need to accept with joy & thankfulness one’s own weakness as a space that God’s kindness & mercy may enter. She writes that those who have been climbing the hill of virtue for a long time ought to accept with humble joy their own collapse & (God-willed) fall, because God awaits them not at the dreamed of “heights” but precisely at the very bottom “deep in the fertile valley of humility”. At a time when spiritual leaders were teaching believers to collect, count, & carefully record their good deeds, Therese firmly rejected that sort of accounting “I count nothing, I simply do everything out of love, & if I then stand empty- handed & utterly poor in the ranks of those who collected, counted, & recorded their merits, isn’t that, after all, the poverty that Christ speaks about in the Sermon on the Mount – Blessed are the poor?” (Providentially this fits appropriately to this weekend’s Gospel of the Rich Young Man.) [“Patience with God” Fr Tomaz Halik ]
Last Sunday, with the encouragement of Bishop Terence Patrick, we held a Holy Hour “Rosary under the Cross” to pray particularly for victims of abuse within the Church. 13 parishioners came to represent us at a special moment in the life of the Parish & the wider Church. It proved to be a most moving Service with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament throughout, the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary followed by silent reflection & the opportunity for Confession. We then had the Rite of Anointing on both hands with the oil of exorcism (to banish evil) & the oil of catechumens ( to strengthen for the onward journey), finishing with Benediction. We are grateful to those who came & to those who united with us from a distance. A week last Sunday we held the latest in a series of Parish Forums in which we are together looking at the future direction of growth of our Parish. Our Vision Group, which evolved from a Forum earlier in the year, have been meeting regularly in prayer & groundwork, & they gave a tremendous presentation to over 50 parishioners of a framework towards forming a Vision Statement, into which we were immediately immersed in giving our wise counsel under 2 initial questions. It is vital that the Parish as a whole contributes to this process & the Vision Group are exploring various avenues of opportunity to include each & every one of you in this liminal moment for our Parish & its future. In this ongoing period of consultation, the Hall will remain open daily in the hope that you will find a moment to go in, to acclimatise to the project, & then to offer your valued words on the cards provided. Last weekend a member of the Vision Group spoke warmly & encouragingly at the end of both Masses, encouraging each & every one of us to contribute their wisdom. I am most grateful to the Group for their prayerful forward thinking & for the wonderful way they are explaining & guiding us on this journey of recovery, remembrance & planning. It is thought, ministry & prayer in progress. With love & prayers, Fr Bede.