In looking gradually at Fr Donal O’Leary’s 8 “be-attitudes”, with “farmer of hearts, prophet of beauty, & healer of fear” so far, each facet describing one facet of our servant discipleship, challenging for each of us in our shared parish ministry, we look now at “midwife of mystery”. “as all experienced priests, spiritual directors, teachers & parents instinctively know, they do not heal people; they do not give to their visitors, children, pupils something they already lack; they do not pour out from their own fullness something to fill the empty spaces of those around them; rather do they draw out from the hearts & souls of those they are privileged to serve, the innate wisdom beauty & healing already waiting to be released. Mystery is the womb of epiphany. It reveals God’s plan for each one of us, & for the whole of creation, as a poem of love. The mystery in the heart of the Creator is now made known; what the prophets longed to see, what the universe has waited for, what has been revealed to mere children..everyone is a bearer of this mystery, carrying the holy seeds of wisdom. The work of the priest like the gardener, is to nourish these seeds into blossom. Like the artist who looks at the cold block of marble & sees the hidden lion, like the farmer who looks at winter fields & sees a waving harvest, like Jesus who looked into the hearts of sinners & saw the face of his God, so too the priest looks at his people & sees the damaged yet restorable handiwork of the divine artist. There is a discipline to discipleship. The priest is called to educate & purify the flawed perceptions & attitudes of his people, so as to see the agony & the ecstasy, the boredom & excitement, the failures & successes of their lives with eyes of Jesus. He can only hope to achieve this miracle of grace if he, first, in his own life’s experiences, travels this difficult but fascinating journey. [Midwife of mystery…. to continue next week]
Last weekend in Outreach I shared with you the story of Banksy & his funding of the rescue boat saving the lives of migrants in the Mediterranean. At our Masses I spoke of the latest figures of migrants arriving in the UK from France ; Tues 2 Sept 145 in 18 small boats, Wed 3 Sept 409 in 27 small boats. In the wake of the gospel “if two of you on earth agree to ask anything at all, it will be granted to you” we prayed for yet another of Boris Johnson’s [baptised RC one of our Herdwicks ] U turns & begin to welcome in Christ in disguise..& the psalm last weekend? “ “O that today you would listen to his voice..harden not your hearts.”
Please keep Paul Moore in your prayers; he remains very poorly in ICU at York District Hospital after a severe bout of food poisoning on 3Sept, & has liver & kidney complications. My own three weeks in ICU there five years ago, with double pneumonia, is testimony to the excellent work of the doctors & nurses in the Unit, & with our prayers for them as well as for Paul, we hope he will pull through.
When Jenifer Smith moved south last month, I gave Clare & her our book “the boy the mole the fox & the horse” in gratitude for all they had done for our Parish for so long. She writes “what a lovely gift. I share it with Clare when we meet. She looks long & hard at the lovely illustrations. Thank you from us both. Lockdown restrictions mean we share an hour in the garden most days. Distanced & masked but still together. I am well settled in, finding my way around & content that this was the right decision. My sons have been wonderful. My flat is on the ground floor & I have French windows onto a patio with grass & trees all around [which someone else cuts]. The nuns have a lovely bright simple Chapel & I can get to Mass Sundays & two weekdays..I have my happy memories of Ampleforth for which I am extremely grateful.” She & Clare have gifted back to us the garden bench the Parish presented to Clare in July 2008 in gratitude for all her work for us. You will see it in front of the south wall of the Parish Hall close to Clare & Jenifer’s parents grave. Please keep them in your prayers.
St Benedict’s RC Primary School returned to studies on Tuesday under carefully prepared guidelines compiled by Mr Eddy & our staff together with our Academy, St Margaret Clitherow Catholic Academy Trust, with all four classes in their own bubble, taught by their class teacher in their own classroom, with staggered arrival & departure times, break & lunchtimes, with lunches eaten in their classroom; for the time being there is no all-school physical assembly nor Collective Worship sessions; some assembly work will be done virtually across the School using the interactive whiteboards in each classroom. Teaching arrangements will be different to the usual sitting round a table in groups, with each child having their own desk facing the front. Class 1 understandably will have a slightly different less static less formal approach as younger children find social distancing more difficult to maintain. There will be a real emphasis on the core skills of reading, writing & maths, to ensure that any education that has been missed due to the closure of schools is caught up as soon as possible. You may remember in earlier editions of Outreach our School was widely commended across the Academy & Diocese for the quality of its home-learning & continued school-learning provision during Covid, & other schools have been monitoring our practices “from a distance” to learn from our successes. Please keep the children, especially our new entrants, Mr Eddy & his staff in your thoughts & prayers in these first few days of fine tuning the procedures & launching back into what we know they do very well indeed..educating our children in learning, in life & faith skills. Without doubt they receive an outstanding education, & we are fully open for newcomers. 57 children in School this year & all returned on Tuesday! A tribute to the determination of parents & their trust in the Staff to create a safe learning space & first rate education.
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 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 praise for the good natured generous service given by Ray & Deb throughout the crisis, who regularly go the extra mile for us. To help local food-poor ; cash/cheque to Parish House in envelope marked "local poor " please Cash for Middlesbrough Food Bank ; envelope marked "MFB" please or via give.net or direct Co-op Bank sort code 08-92-99 a/c 65603002 please.
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