Our fifth of Fr Donal O’Leary’s “be-attitudes”, shaped for priests as well as each of us as active front-line disciples, describes our ministry as a “soul-friend of community”. The model of a “soul-friend” anam-chara recognises that on our own, we cannot make much headway along the way to wholeness; the anam-chara held the privileged honoured position of the one who walked with the heart of another, not judging or condemning, not possessive or prescriptive. The soul friend has access to the dark places within, is privy to the secret recesses of the inmost soul, whose first work is to help each other find their own truth. Holding up to the mirror to true self of another, gently revealing the carefully concealed flaws & the strong, subtle veins of shadow that powerfully influence & control so much of what we day & do. there is no short-cut to a ready-made community. With the help of another, we must first befriend the many faced, elusive members of the community of our own hearts before we start organising community on a wider front. Unless we are willing to risk the adventure of our own human development, & the challenge of relating to God through more intimate contact with another, with humanity & with nature itself, we will become increasingly alienated from the new forms of discipleship that are emerging. The listening leader, familiar with the seasons in the year of their own hearts, who are acquainted with the deserts & oases in the pilgrimage of their own soul, personal exploration into one’s own trusting & doubting, rising & dying, there will be no foundation on which to build anything. We will need someone who will not just correct us, or just caress us, but who can say “I have been here before” we need people who understand darkness, & by their presence, can hold us through to the light.” The promised “abundant life” can’t be introduced into a parish or group en masse. It must first take root & be carefully nurtured in each individual even as it becomes a dimension of community. Before the garden as a whole is thriving & healthy, each plant & flower must have, within it, the green sap of life. The experience of the struggle for individual fulfilment contains, within it, the imperative towards spreading & gathering. Those who are trustingly encountering the mystery of light & darkness in their own lives are irresistably drawn to a divinely-implanted conviction..that the one thing that is more important than our own full life, is our own full life together.”
Our Parish Finance Committee which has representation from all three Churches met last Monday to scrutinise the three sets of Accounts up to 31 August 2020. These now go to the Trust for integration into the overall Trust accounts, & once approved, we will publish the summary of each set of Accounts with some explanatory notes of our financial situation. Understandably, income from all three Churches has been decimated by the weeks of lockdown, & now, through reduced attendance at Mass & much reduced plate collections. The PFC authorised progress on replacement lighting bollards in the graveyard at Our Lady & St Benedict’s, & replacement low energy lighting units inside the Church. I am grateful to our three Finance Chairs, Peter Smith OL&HA, Gerard Simpson SAO, & Kevin Kaley OL&SB for their wisdom & expertise in ensuring best practice in our financial operations & decisions.
With the likelihood of further restrictions to meet the rise in numbers contracting Covid,it seems the effects on all of us will continue or deepen in the longer term. I am conscious that our five parishioners resident in care homes, where current restrictions allow perhaps a half hour pre-booked visit from a single relative, are in for an even longer period of isolation than we could ever have imagined; we think about it whilst they live with it. I wonder if I might suggest some of you might “adopt” one of our parishioners in a care home & write to them say every fortnight?..some may respond, others may be unable to so, yet it gives them a vital link into our parish, to which they will always belong & be needed for their persistence prayers & loving concern for us. If you feel you would like to help, please do be in touch with me.
This Sunday 27 Sept is the feast of St Vincent de Paul, a day to celebrate the great work of service & prayer for the poorest among us, & the work of our own local SVP Conference. Please keep the members & those they help, often understandably below the radar quietly & effectively, in your prayers..& the mini-vinnies in St Benedict PS as they come to appreciate the opportunities of serving & meeting the needs of the weakest & most vulnerable, whose numbers will increase dramatically as the rate of unemployment rises across the social spectrum.
Please keep Paul Moore in thought & prayer; there are encouraging first signs of recovery with him being taken off the ventilator on Tuesday & he is now being fed high nutrition food intravenously to begin to rebuild lost strength. A long journey ahead & he remains very poorly. Maureen & family are very grateful for our prayers for Paul, for his medical team & for the family.
St Benedict’s RC PS continues to flourish as it meets the challenges of the full return to school-based learning, & the measures put in place to ensure the children & staff are kept as safe as possible in their bubbles. I have permission now from Fr Prior & from our Monastery Infirmary Matron, Karen Harrington, to come into School to season some extra grains of spirituality into each bubble, on different days, to supplement the prayer & spirituality already being shared by teachers & children alike. We will also arrange for each bubble to come up to Church on a regular basis for some gentle prayer time or to celebrate Mass.
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. With my love & prayers. Fr Bede