The visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary – FEAST

Zephaniah 3:14-18; Isiah 12; Luke 1:39-56

Who was the first human to recognise the presence of Our Lord Jesus on this earth? After Mary, His mother - it was John the Baptist, who even before his own birth, 'Lept for Joy' in his mother Elisabeth's womb! Both women were pregnant, and Mary took considerable risks travelling out to see her kinswoman Elisabeth. Elisabeth was an older mother - indeed was considered by everyone to be well beyond the age of child bearing, but wonders of wonders! so she was. Mary rushed out to greet her when she heard of this news. As they meet, Mary gives voice to the Magnificat, the prayer said by the church every day in evening prayer. It is a prayer that sings out the joy of the nation in the fulfilment of all that was promised from long ago. The visitation is assembled from passages of the old testament and is a skilful work composed by a competent scriptural scholar. The magnificat draws on 1 Samuel 2 - Hannahs' song to her son Samuel, and the journey of Mary, the Arc of the Lord, to Elisabeth, is prefigured by Samuel 6 where David takes the Arc of the covenant to Jerusalem with dancing for joy, a stay of three months, and the pondering - 'Why has this been done for me' - all occurring in both Samuel and Luke.

Luke, the evangelist may never have met Jesus but he certainly spent time with Paul and others who had seen Him. Luke was well versed in the historical documents of Israel (the old testament) and was writing for an educated greek audience. His skill in deftly connecting the old testament with the new would have reassured them that this faith was no flash in the pan new age spirituality, but was genuinely built upon the old covenants and based on a new and permanent covenant.

In this meeting of John the baptist, the pinnacle of the old covenant, and Jesus, the creator of the new covenant, the two are drawn together and connected. And it was done by the action of two women, one old, barren, and the other, barely more than a child.

Monday of the 7th week of Eastertide

Acts 19:1-8; Psalm 67, John 16:29-33

Six days to Pentecost - the birthday of the Church, when the promised Spirit, which we have been waiting for since the Ascension, comes in dramatic form, as a flame divided, yet undimmed, resting upon the heads of the disciples. The first reading today talks of two baptisms, that of John, and that of the Holy Spirit. John's Baptism was one of repentance and healing but was not sufficient for salvation - John the Baptist insisted that we be Baptised in the name of Jesus and believe in Him. There are a number of interesting questions - which we do not have the means to answer. For one - did those that Paul laid his hands on know about the Spirit of God at all? Did they perhaps believe in a God of two persons, Father and Son? They certainly seemed to believe that Jesus was both the son of God and the Son of Man.

This first reading is set after Pentecost, but those whom Paul was addressing had not received their personal pentecost. As soon as Paul laid his hands on them in the name of Jesus, , they received the full gifts of the Holy Spirit, and began to prophesy and to praise God in tongues. What might that have meant then? Since Vatican II, many Catholics (and other Christians) have experienced a renewal experience, have prayed in tongues and have seen or experienced miraculous healings. These are fruits of the 'throwing open the windows of the church and letting the fresh air of the spirit blow through' (Pope John XXIII). At our Baptism and Confirmation, we received through the same sign - the laying on of hands - the same Spirit into our lives. We may or may not have experienced the effect of the Spirit in our lives, but the spirit is, for sure, as Jesus promised, with us. In just a few days time we get our annual chance to celebrate the coming of the holy spirit to us in the feast of Pentecost.

This week now is a time of preparation for that day.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your people, and enkindle in us the fire of your Love. Send forth your Spirit, and we shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth.

Saturday of the Week of Easter 6 (28th May)

Acts 18.23-28; Psalm 46; John 16.23-28

The days between Ascension Day and Pentecost have traditionally been a time of intense prayer, following the example of the disciples and friends of Jesus, including Mary his mother. [Acts 1.14] Indeed the novena was originally the name for those nine days of prayer and expectation.

Until now you have not asked for anything in my name,” Jesus remarked to his disciples, just minutes before he would be arrested and they scattered in confusion. “Ask, and you will receive.”

Our prayers must be in accord with God’s will. [cf Matthew 26.42] In fact we will find that when by prayer we have been perfectly united with him it is his Holy Spirit who will pray for us [Romans 8.26-27] and those prayers will be answered in ways past our ability to ask or to imagine. [Ephesians 3.20] It is his will to give us all that is good. [Romans 8.32] Our first prayer must then be that he will make us know ourselves not merely in virtue but in fact to be his children [I John 3.2]—not orphans! [John 14.18]—so that whatever we receive we will recognise as the benefaction of a loving Father. [Luke 11.9-13]

St Augustine of Canterbury (27th May)

I Thessalonians 2.2-8; Psalm 116; Luke 10.1-9

In 596, Pope St Gregory the Great appointed Augustine, then the Prior of St Andrew’s Abbey in Rome, to lead thirty monks to evangelise the Anglo-Saxons. They landed at Ebbsfleet in Kent in the spring of 597, and were cautiously received by King Æthelberht. The King and his court were converted (his wife, Queen Bertha, was already a Christian who had brought to Kent the Merovingian Bishop Liudhard as her Chaplain) and he donated land for the missionaries to establish a monastery and Cathedral at Canterbury, Æthelberht’s principal city. Thousands of converts were baptised on Christmas Day of 597. In 601 a second delegation was sent from Rome (among other things, they brought Augustine the pallium, denoting his archiepiscopal authority), and by 604, Bishoprics had been established at London and Rochester and a school for the training of native clergy had been opened. St Augustine probably died 26 May 604. As we give thanks for the apostolate of Augustine, let us pray that we in our time may also be given courage to proclaim the Good News of God in Christ.

Ascension of the Lord (26th May)

Acts 1.1-11; Psalm 46; Ephesians 1.17-23; Matthew 28.16-20

You will receive power” and “You will be my witnesses.” In a sense these two assertions summarise the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, and, dare we say it, the subsequent history of the Church.

God knows we need power. Our impotence is manifest constantly and to everyone. God’s power may well have been at work in Christ, but a dispassionate analysis reveals how it is dissipated, frittered away, in our own lives.

Yet the promise remains, and remains true. “You are not lacking in any gifts”
[I Corinthians 1.7] St Paul declared to the fractious and confused Corinthian church. The Christ who filled those who met him with stupefied wonder [Mark 4.41; 7.37] is present with us, alongside us, yes, but present within us. His Spirit has been bequeathed to us. And through that Spirit we witness to his triumph over Satan and sin and death in works surpassing even his on earth. [John 14.12]

Celebration of Marriage Week:

The Celebration of Marriage Mass this year is at the Cathedral on Saturday the 2 July. Starting on 24 June and in the week leading up to this Mass we are encouraging people to celebrate the gift of marriage together, as a couple, a family and as part of the parish community. The Department for Adult Education and Evangelisation has produced a booklet for marriage week and have ‘Accompaniment in Life and Love’ as our theme for this week- long celebration. In this booklet we offer suggestions on ways to pray together, ways to celebrate as a community and further ideas for couples and families to help nurture their spiritual life and grow in love together. The booklet can be found here.

Celebration of Marriage Mass: Bishop Declan is celebrating Mass in the Cathedral on Saturday 2 July (12 noon) and is inviting all married couples to join him. He will send a personal invitation to those couples who are celebrating significant anniversaries during 2022 or those who will marry during this year. If you are celebrating a 10th, 25th, 40th, 50th, 60th, 65th, or 70th anniversary during 2022 or getting married this year please email ( so that a personal invitation can be sent out, leaving details of your names, address, and the number of years you are both celebrating.

World Youth Day 2023 Information Sessions:

If you are interested or intrigued to find out more about World Youth Day 2023, then join Jason and Simon for one of three online information sessions taking place on the 6, 9 and 15 June at 7pm. In each of the information sessions we will share what we know about World Youth Day 2023 and the pilgrimage we hope to offer. The sessions will allow us to share the exciting plans we have for formation and support before, during and after the pilgrimage. We will make sure there is time for you to ask questions and talk with a group of likeminded young adults. The conversations will take place on Microsoft Teams and start at 7:00pm. Please email and let us know which session you would like to attend.

St Bede the Venerable (25th May)

Acts 19.1-8; Psalm 67; John 16.29-33

St Bede (ca672-735) is known as the Father of English History for his monumental Ecclesiastical History of the English Peoples, completed about 731. He is the only native of Great Britain to have been declared a Doctor (‘teacher’) of the Church. Many consider him the most important European scholar of the two centuries between the death of St Gregory the Great (604) and the coronation of Charlemagne in 800.

Born near present-day Jarrow, probably of a well-to-do family, he spent most of his life as a Benedictine monk in the double monastery of St Peter and St Paul in Northumbria. At the age of about 14 he survived the devastating plague of 686; he was said to be one of two surviving monks in his monastery who were capable of singing the whole of the office. He was ordained a deacon at the age of 19. About 702 (age 30) he was ordained a priest.

In addition to his astonishing historiography, he wrote scientific and theological works, the range of his interests running from music and metrics to scriptural exegesis. He died on the Feast of the Ascension; in 1020 his relics were translated to Durham Cathedral, where they remain today. His accomplishments remind us of the importance of the monasteries in the history of these islands, and encourage us to ask his intercession for monastics and scholars.

St Aldhelm, Bishop (24th May)

Acts 16.22-34; Psalm 137; John 16.5-11

St Aldhelm (ca639-709) was from a young age a monk of Malmesbury; indeed the town took its name from Aldhelm’s teacher, the Irish scholar Máeldub, who had settled there. After a short interlude at Canterbury (where he studied with the notable African scholar Hadrian) he returned to Malmesbury and in 675 he became Abbot upon Máeldub’s death. His contemporaries described him as ‘a wonder of erudition’. As the community at Malmesbury increased he was able to establish new monastic establishments at Frome and at Bradford-on-Avon. In 705, upon the death of Hædde, the Bishop of Winchester, his diocese was divided, and Aldhelm became Bishop of the western half, centred on Sherborne. He remained Abbot of Malmesbury as he took up his new episcopal duties. Nonetheless he was an active and energetic bishop, well known for his public proclamation of the Gospel interspersed with songs in popular style and clowning routines. He died on an episcopal visitation to Doulting, Somerset. He was buried at Malmesbury, but in 980 St Dunstan translated his relics to Canterbury.