Laudato Si’ a 6 part series of talks

The Department for Adult Education and Evangelisation is offering a six-part series on Laudato Si’, the Papal Encyclical promulgated by Pope Francis in 2015. Jason Charewicz, the Caritas and Environmental Officer, will lead the sessions. The first three parts, called Laudato Si: Into the Wilderness take place in Lent. The final three, called Laudato Si: A New Creation, take place during Eastertide. Each session will focus on a single chapter of Laudato Si’ tied in with the liturgical season, providing an overview and invitation to dive deeper into the sections which call to you specifically. The encyclical will act as a focus for prayer and reflection to help discern the Lord’s call in your life.

This series is perfect whether you have never read Laudato Si’ and want a prayerful introduction, or if you have read the document many times and seek a spiritual refreshment and refocus.

Send them an email to register.

Monday of week 8 in Ordinary Time

28th February 2022: 1 Peter 1:3-9; Psalm 110(111):1-2,5-6,9-10; Mark 10:17-27

Wealth may be taken to mean many things, but the wealth that causes most harm is the longing, or owning, of something that one can not keep. Either we can not attain it, or it is some trifle that we leave behind when we die, or it may even be something that can never exist. In this way we can see wealth as an addiction. We do not ned to feel angry about those with wealth - but we do need to let them know what Jesus said about it.

Having said that  -  now look at this poor young man in today's Gospel. We can to some extent or another all place ourselves in this man's shoes, as we all have this tendency to long for something that we can not keep. The structure of this episode recorded for us by St Mark is important:

  • Jesus Looked Steadily at Him.. or in some translations, Jesus looked hard at him. We do need at times to take a long, hard look at ourselves...
  • and He Loved Him . . despite all our faults, Jesus loves us, unconditionally. A wise confessor ones suggested for a penance that one should just spend a few minutes looking at a cross. Notice how Jesus uses his arms to indicate how much he loves you - this much!
  • Jesus said - 'go and sell what you own' - a possessive verb - reminding us that possessions can often posses us - and make better use of your wealth.
  • and then the invitation - to come and follow Him.

Readers of Laudato Si' will know that we in this country are all of us amongst the top few percent in terms of our global use of the world's limited resources. Make a note in your diary - come if you can, in person or on-line, to our Lent talks starting 17th March in St Thomas More Church at 19:00 when we explore the scriptural background to Laudato Si'. There are more details on the Parish website and in next week's bulletin.

Youth Group Starts Again

After a long COVID break, extended by the flooring issues in the old priory, we are delighted that the youth group starts again on Sunday 27th February. After 09:30 Mass, come upstairs to meet Tom and Christine. Leave parents and guardians downstairs to enjoy their coffee after Mass. Youth group includes games and art, prayer and discussion and is open to al young people.

Saturday of Week 7 Per Annum (26th February)

James 5.13-20; Psalm 140; Mark 10.13-16

The sacrament of Anointing (or Holy Unction) plays perhaps too small a part in our Christian lives. Many of us think of it primarily in terms of the ‘last rites’ bestowed upon the dying. The Catechism brackets together the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation with the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick as the Church’s two Sacraments of Healing. That may give us a clue to the role of Holy Anointing in Christian life.

The Anointing of the Sick explicitly unites Christian people to the Passion and death of Christ. We glimpse our own mortality when we suffer ill health, and the sacrament reminds us that Death, ‘the way that Christ himself hath trod’, is not to be feared. When we receive this Sacrament we are consecrated to bear fruit by configuration to the Saviour’s redemptive Passion. Suffering and illness offer us opportunities to participate in the saving work of Jesus.

Friday of Week 7 Per Annum (25th February)

James 5.9-12; Psalm 102; Mark 10.1-12

The epistle of St James bears a striking resemblance to the Old Testament books of the genre ‘Wisdom literature’; these books include much of the Psalter as well as Job, the Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, the Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) and Baruch. These writings offer the wisdom of sages who direct learners to the path of righteousness and virtue.

It is striking that James makes reference to the Old Testament character Job, the only direct reference to the book of Job in the New Testament. It is from James that we have the proverbial description of ‘the patience of Job’—a quality that the careful reader of the Old Testament might be at pains to dispute!

In counselling patience, though, St James points to the situation of the New Testament church, awaiting the Parousia or return of Christ in triumph but uncertain how long that return would be delayed. Nearly two millennia later, Christians today find ourselves in a similar position. As we patiently await the coming of Christ to judge the living and the dead we reveal Christ to others by lives in which ever-present sin and temptation are only a penultimate word.

Thursday of Week 7 Per Annum (24th February)

James 5.1-6; Psalm 48; Mark 9.41-50

James, no less in Biblical times than in our own day, was a very common name; the New Testament refers to a number of people with this name, including two of the twelve disciples. [Matthew 10.2-4] A ‘James’ is named among the ‘brothers’ of Jesus. [Matthew 13.55] (It is worth noting that even today in most of the world’s cultures the term brothers doesn’t exclusively refer to offspring of the same mother and father; the New Testament doesn’t claim that Mary gave birth to further children after the birth of Jesus.) A ‘James’ speaks at the Council of Jerusalem in the Acts of the Apostles [15.13-21]; he seems to be in a role of leadership or authority there. St Paul refers to a ‘James’ to whom the Risen Christ had appeared on an apparently unique occasion [I Corinthians 15.7]; no such resurrection appearance is mentioned in any of the Gospels.

So it is difficult to say who the author of the Epistle of St James in the New Testament was. Since James the Son of Zebedee was the first of the twelve to be put to death by Herod Agrippa [Acts 12.1-2] he seems unlikely to have been the author. The authorial James announces himself as ‘the servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ’ [James 1.1] and addresses his epistle to Jewish-Christians living in the diaspora, that is, the Graeco-Roman world.

James may well be one of the earliest New Testament writings; a large number of ‘sayings’ of Jesus that we know from the Gospels are referred to in this book, though there is no effort in it to recount the events of Jesus’ life, death or resurrection. From it we can gain some insights into the Hellenised world in which the story of Jesus first took hold.

St Polycarp (23rd February)

James 4.13-17; Psalm 48; Mark 9.38-40

Polycarp (who died around the year 155) is one of the most winsome and attractive characters of the post-apostolic generation. He tells us that he had heard the apostle John preach, and both Irenaeus and Tertullian confirm this tradition. Irenaeus describes him as a companion of Papias, who also was said to have heard St John. For Irenaeus, Polycarp was an important embodiment of the apostolic succession; movingly he writes of his own early days as a Christian: I could tell you the place where the blessed Polycarp sat to preach the Word of God. It is yet present to my mind with what gravity he everywhere came in and went out; what was the sanctity of his deportment, the majesty of his countenance; and what were his holy exhortations to the people. I seem to hear him now relate how he conversed with John and many others who had seen Jesus Christ, the words he had heard from their mouths.’

Polycarp became Bishop of Smyrna (modern-day Izmir), one of the Churches to which the Apocalypse of St John the Divine was addressed. [2.8-11] There he was a steadfast opponent of heresy. He was arrested and sentenced to death for his Christian faith, but the Roman proconsul felt pity for this gentle old man and urged him just quietly to affirm that ‘Caesar is Lord’ and offer a bit of incense on the imperial altar. Polycarp’s bold rejoinder is one of the best-attested events of antiquity. ‘Eighty-six years I have been a servant of Christ and he has never failed me; how could I now blaspheme the King who has saved me?’ Tradition holds that Polycarp was stabbed to death because the fire to which he was put failed to consume his body.

Chair of St Peter (22nd February)

I Peter 5.1-4; Psalm 22; Matthew 16.13-19

It should go without saying that this feast doesn’t honour a piece of furniture but the office that the chair represents. In Judaism a rabbi teaches when he is seated. [cf Matthew 5.1] This practice continues in the ancient Catholic Christian custom of the Bishop being seated to preach. It is the Pope’s ‘seat’ (Sede, the word from which we get the English word sedan) that is said to act in governing the affairs of the church. (Similarly we speak of the Chair of a committee or of a meeting.) And of course we are familiar with the Bishop’s chair in the Cathedral, the central focus of the building and at once the sign and the actual focal point of the Bishop’s central ministry of holding a diocesan community together.

Pope Benedict XVI in 2012 described this feast as ‘a symbol of the special mission of Peter and his Successors to tend Christ’s flock, keeping it united in faith and charity.’ As we celebrate this feast it is fitting for us to pray especially for the intentions of the Holy Father, asking God to give him strength and courage to lead Christ’s flock, uniting, not dividing them.