In your apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, you wrote: “A small step, in the midst of great human limitations, can be more pleasing to God than a life that appears outwardly in order but moves through the day without confronting great difficulties.“ What does that mean? To me it seems quite clear. This is the Catholic doctrine, it is part of the great law of the Church; the law of et et (and and) & not aut aut (either or). For some people, either because of the condition in which they find themselves or because of the human drama they are living, a small step, a small change, means a great deal in the eyes of God. I recall meeting a girl in front of a shrine. She was smiling & pretty. She said to me,” I am happy, Father, I am here to thank the Madonna for receiving grace.” She was the oldest of her siblings, she didn’t have a father, & to help support her family she worked as a prostitute. “There is no other work in my village” she said. She told me how one day a man came to the brothel. He was in her town for work & he came from a big city. They liked each other & eventually he asked her to join him. She had prayed to the Madonna for a long time for a job that would allow her to change her life. She was very happy to stop what she was doing. I asked her two questions. First, I asked her the age of the man whom she had met. I wanted to make sure that it was not an older man who only wanted to take advantage of her. She told me he was young. & then I asked, “Will you get married?” “I would like to,” she replied, “but I don’t dare ask him out of fear. I don’t want to scare him off.” She was so happy to leave the world she had been forced to inhabit in order to provide for her family. Another example of a gesture that seems small but that really is large in the eyes of God is what a lot of mothers & wives do on Saturdays & Sundays: they line up in front of the jails to bring food & presents to their imprisoned sons or husbands. They undergo the humiliation of being searched. They don’t disown their sons or husbands, even though they have made mistakes; they go & visit them. This seemingly small gesture is great in the eyes of God. It is a gesture of mercy, despite the errors that their dear ones have committed. (The Name of God is Mercy; Pope Francis)
It has been usual practice in recent years for us to hold a Parish BBQ & a Parish Pilgrimage in September. Each has proved to be an enjoyable & spiritual way of re-engaging after the holidays. We find ourselves this year in a period of transition. I have raised with the Parish Pastoral Council at our last 2 meetings my deepening concern at the lack of help within the Parish to cover the numerous & invaluable ministries in which we serve each other as well as our outreach. Special services & events now require us rightly to meet stringent health & safety & risk management procedures, & one of our key vacancies is currently a Health & Safety representative who can ensure both your safety & our compliance. As well as my ongoing Parish & School responsibilities, I have to move both my office at the Monastery, & my own bedroom as part of our move to Bolton House within the next month, so I hope you will be understanding if we don’t go ahead with the BBQ & Pilgrimage this year. I would like to seek your advice on how we might encourage others to take up a Parish ministry when we meet for our Parish Forum in the Autumn. With my love & prayers. Fr Bede.