In the 1960s there were alleged apparitions in the small Spanish village of San Sebastian de Garabandal, the apparitions, to my knowledge, have not yet been approved officially, but the events there were quite dramatic. You may enjoy watching this beautifully filmed production which is free to view during Holy Week, just follow the link below. God bless!
Isn’t it strange that this, the holiest week of the year for the Church, is going to be celebrated in an almost “unnoticed” manner, in relative obscurity? I don’t know whether this has ever been the case since the time that the first disciples came to celebrate the Lord’s rising from the dead? I don’t know how you feel about that, but perhaps weird isn’t sufficiently descriptive? As you’ll know, Easter is the busiest time of the year for the Church and normally for us as priests – it being the highpoint of the Church’s liturgical celebrations – but it feels the opposite, it feels a bit empty this time round.
This makes me think immediately of the “disappointment” that Our Lord’s disciples must have felt during this week, on Good Friday in particular, when it seemed that all their hopes and dreams were dashed with Our Lord’s crucifixion. They must have felt totally deflated, amongst other things, petrified too, perhaps, fearing for their own lives as His associates… and here we are, probably feeling disappointed at the lack of our normal Holy Week Services and fearful of our lives, to some extent, and the lives of our loved ones because of the current health crisis.
This week has its ups and owns, just as life does – the high of the Last Supper, the lows and desolation of Good Friday and Holy Saturday morning, and then the glorious and awesome events of Easter Sunday. This mystery is replicated in some extent in the lives of each of the members of Christ’s Body, the Church. Where He has gone we are to follow, and this means through suffering, and death to the Resurrection.
If we are to follow the Easter Mysteries and to live the Easter Mysteries we are called both to embrace the cross, or crosses, in our lives, and to look forward with certain hope to the fulfilment of the promises of the Lord, so that where now we are sharing in His Passion we can be confident of, in the future, sharing in His glory. The current world situation, this pandemic, has highlighted the truth of this for every Christian, and it will, perhaps help us to be even more focussed than we normally are in this Holy Week. The Mysteries of this Week form the greatest hope of all humanity – for salvation and forgiveness, for healing and wholeness, for deliverance from evil and the blessings of God’s goodness. Our hope and our salvation has been purchased at that very great price – the price of the Precious Blood of the Lamb of God, God’s only Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus is with us, and He calls us to travel with Him, to keep Him company this week, as He draws us with Him through suffering to glory.
God bless you all, and keep you holy and healthy, have a blessed Holy Week!
Tuesday of Holy Week, who can believe it? Time seems more than ever to be disappearing and days and weeks merging into one, without our usual rhythms and points of focus. I hope, however, that despite the very odd nature of what we are going through at the moment, we won’t allow this particular pattern that the Church lays out for us this week to be lost, and that we will mark these holiest days of the Church’s Year in a fitting way, even if not in the ways we might normally have done together.
We have our focus:
Thursday: the Holy Eucharist, the institution of the priesthood and the Holy Mass
Friday: the Lord’s Passion and Death (a day of fasting and abstinence)
Saturday: waiting at the tomb
Easter Vigil / Sunday: the glorious Resurrection of the Lord
In these days, I would say, it is crucial that we follow the story of the Lord through the readings of Holy Mass and the sacred liturgies, and thereby unite ourselves to the journey that Christ undergoes for us. Use the many online resources to access the daily readings if you don’t have a weekday missal, Universalis is one very good resource for this and some of the other liturgical texts: http://universalis.com/
Some other resources on Holy Week for you:
My dear parishioners, wishing you every blessing on this Palm Sunday. As usual I will be blessing Palm crosses today as I’d already had them on order, but they will not be available to anyone until the current pandemic has cleared up. Although we have been dispensed of our Sunday obligation during these extraordinary circumstances we can still unite ourselves spiritually to Holy Mass and make a spiritual communion. I will provide some links to televised Masses below if you should wish to do this, but otherwise I would encourage you to spend an equivalent amount of time today in personal prayer in order to sanctify the Lord’s Day – since this is not something from which we are dispensed. Take time to read the readings of today’s Mass, to prayerfully reflect upon them, to pray the Rosary, and to remember all the special intentions that we have at this time: the dead, the sick, those caring for the sick, and those who help to keep our society up and running. God bless you and keep you and grant grace and good health to you and yours,
You may wish to look at some of the following videos to help you in your devotions:
My apologies that I didn’t post anything yesterday – probably a relief!!! I finally managed to venture out properly yesterday and do some shopping, and in some senses it brought a bit of normality to life, at least being out and about and seeing other people – even though from a safe distance. Still, it all continues to feel very unreal.
Routine is very important to most of us, I think, being the creatures of habit that we are. So being out of our routine is difficult. Trying to find a good routine, a healthy and fruitful routine in present circumstances is important for lots of reasons (and I’m not pretending to be a psychologist or anything else in saying this), we know that a routine of healthy eating, exercise, study, work, and of course prayer, are very important to our well-being, to our happiness and sanity. Yesterday, when I was out, I saw many people jogging, running, cycling, more than I’ve ever really noticed before, and, I suppose, if people are taking the opportunity to look after their physical health in what could otherwise be moments of idleness then that is a good thing.
As people of Faith, then, I hope that we’re brushing up on our own spiritual routine at this time, and setting into place some good habits that we might have neglected up until this point, because this is a great time to start cultivating some good spiritual practices: a daily Rosary (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjFYu2p_KlU), reading of the Gospels (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4HTHskfpN8), silent meditative prayer (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DyA0Qj6FFEg), prayer of intercession for others and ourselves, spiritual reading (lives of the saints, etc.). We could, if we’re sensible and committed in this time form some excellent spiritual habits that will stand us in good stead well into the future (and anyway, this is a lot of what Lenten penance is really about). This is time not to be wasted – we can see it as an opportunity from God – but time from which to profit, and the greatest profit will be that which benefits our souls, our relationship with God, and ultimately our eternal salvation. So while I’m not saying don’t watch the television, how about drawing ourselves away from the incessant and repetitive and sometimes depressing news programmes and putting ourselves into the presence of God through prayer? The God who lifts us up, who fills us with the joy of His Spirit, the God who gives us hope beyond all hope!
And, if as a family you don’t already take time to pray together how about doing that, how about actually coming together and praying for your needs and for God’s blessing upon you? I know that even families can be reticent about praying together, that in our british-ness we can feel a little embarrassed about it all, yet this is a wonderful time to be drawn together by the love and the grace of God and to pray for and share the things that really concern us at this moment, a time to come together and open our hearts in trust to the Lord. This kind of family prayer (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=93NI4uweB6k) – the family being the domestic church – is very powerful. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lw6-dmXHKvI)
I apologies for my ramblings, I was going to talk about something completely different, but there you go!
It feels very strange not having my parishioners about, although I know you’re all around. It feels very strange not celebrating Holy Mass with you in our churches, but as this greater family of faith we are united by the Holy Spirit, we are still living and united members of the Body of Christ, as that unity that we have as children of the same Heavenly Father, is always there as we live in His grace. Even though you cannot at this time join me for Holy Mass, by uniting yourself to this sacrifice in spirit, through your spiritual communion, you will still receive an abundance of God’s graces, albeit in a different fashion. Each time Holy Mass is celebrated that fountain of God’s graces is unsealed and poured out upon the world, the fountain of graces that spring from the Cross and from Calvary, and with open and properly disposed hearts we share in those graces. Continue, then, to be of good cheer, know that the Lord is with you, and use this time to draw closer to Him in the ways that you can in these circumstances. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wv-vnoUVTeI) Draw close to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and She will bring you to the Sacred Heart of Her Son.
God bless you and keep you and let His face shine upon you!
Thank you for your kindnesses over this past while, for prayers and good wishes, please know that they are appreciated and reciprocated, that you are remembered in my Mass and in my Rosary. It’s this kind of mutual support, prayerful companionship, kindness and concern that will see us through this present crisis and that will pave a way for a better future as we become more attuned to God and His will, and more concerned for one another.
I’ve just spent a holy half-hour in the church, and part of that time I was reading that book that I’ve mentioned to you earlier: In Sinu Iesu, the book written by a Benedictine monk. It’s said that the author is the Prior of Silverstream Priory in Ireland, where I have been on retreat these past two years (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZ06Rnc7AGc&t=3s). There were a few lines that really caught my attention as I was reading and which, I think are most appropriate for this time. The book is written as a dialogue with Our Lord, speaking to the heart of this monk, and in it Jesus says the following:
A week or more of silence will bring nothing but benefits to mind, soul, and body. I love silence – look at My sacramental life (i.e. the Sacred Host) – and I love those who follow Me into the silence of My Eucharistic presence. The Eucharist is the most silent of sacraments. Once the words of consecration are spoken, I am present, and My presence is wrapped in a profound silence. I am silent in the Sacrament of My love because there I am humble. There I lower Myself to live hidden, and often forgotten, in a silence that only the lowly of heart can understand.
I must admit, that first line of this passage hit me between the eyes: A week or more of silence will bring nothing but benefits to mind, soul, and body. This is what we are currently living through, and what an opportunity, then, if this is how the Lord sees silence, something that brings benefits to mind, soul, and body! It harks back to what many have already said, that our imposed isolation is like being on retreat, and that potentially, in terms of our spiritual lives and our relationship with God, there are many opportunities here to be seized. The spiritual communion that we have been encouraged to make, when most people now are unable to receive Our Lord sacramentally, is one way in which we can enter this silent intimacy with Jesus, inviting Him into our souls, and dwelling there with Him, loving Him, enjoying His presence, growing in His friendship. Indeed, this silent school of prayer that we are now experiencing will build up such a love for the Lord in our hearts, if we make the most of it, that when we can receive Him again sacramentally we will never take Him for granted, we will always cherish His presence, and seek it as frequently and as lovingly as we can.
Sometimes we can be afraid of silence, but it is only in silence that we can hear the voice of God speaking clearly. Now that there is less noise around us, fewer physical distractions, perhaps that voice of the Lord will become more intelligible. Again we can read in In Sinu Iesu:
Listen to me. It is in silence that I speak to souls. Those who flee silence will never hear My voice. Encourage silence and practice it yourself with a renewed dedication, for it is in silence that the Holy Spirit descends, and it is in silence that He works in souls, bringing them to holiness of life, and to the perfection that I desire for each one.
Maybe in our silence we should also consider doing some spiritual reading as a way of coming closer to the Lord, have a look at these videos which gives some good reasons why, and some good suggestions: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5oL06rCJL0M) or (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UiMdhKY9LtM) or (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsVeu51kozE&t=489s)
God bless you and yours, and may your moments of silence be prayerful moments, moments of intimacy with the Lord!
With prayers and good wishes,
My dear parishioners, can I please ask you to pray for the repose of the soul of Mrs. Jo Atkinson who died recently. Jo had been a regular parishioner in St. Matthew’s, Auchtermuchty, and sadly died the other day. She will be remembered by many in St. Matthew’s as attending there with her late husband, Ron. Her funeral will take place under the current restrictions on 14th April in Auchtermuchty Cemetery at 11.00a.m.. A private Mass will be offered by me beforehand for the happy repose of her soul. Please inform other parishioners of this sad loss and please pray for Jo’s family and loved ones who mourn her death. May she rest in peace. Amen.
I don’t know about you, but I’m a bit “goggle-eyed” after staring so much at the computer screen, or my telephone looking at the news, keeping in touch with folk on Facebook, answering text messages, and the such like. Social media is a great thing at such a time as thing, we’re to be thankful to God for it as a means of keeping us all in touch with each other, but I’ve found it all a bit exhausting recently – I’ve not really much to complain about, have I? All of this, the situation we’re in, the way we have to adapt to it and change our lives can be draining and challenging, and that’s without addressing the real serious issues such as the challenges to people’s health, their welfare, and their employment. Maybe, I’m just feeling sorry for myself, which can be easy to do at a time like this, and really I have nothing to worry about at all.
Isolation can make one selfish, or self-centred, and this isn’t a good thing. Even if we are by ourselves we should be thinking of others, reaching out to others, connecting with others, and most importantly praying for others. If God is giving us this time for reflection, which undoubtedly He is, it is so that we can see, in part, how much we are to love Him and to love others and to stop the selfishness that can so easily take over. As we focus on Jesus we see that love is lived in self-sacrifice, service, generosity, the outpouring of oneself for others. But how do we do that when we’re obliged to stay away from others?
I think holding others in prayer is vital, no isolation, as I’ve said before, can stop this. Maybe you want to think of people you know from church, or family members, friends, work colleagues, the marvellous people who are keeping the NHS and other vital services functioning. You will know who you need to pray for. Make a list, perhaps, and offer each day your prayers for the intentions of this particular person or group of individuals, maybe offer a decade of the Rosary for them, light a candle for them in front of a holy statue or image that you have at home. Keep with them in prayer, bringing them and their needs before the Lord. This is where we can truly exercise the priestly vocation that we all received in Baptism, by positively interceding for the needs of others. This way we can be less selfish, focussed on God, and generous to our neighbour.
We priests, and religious, are bound, as you will know, to pray each day the Divine Office, it’s a duty we take on not only for our own sanctification but for the sanctification of the Church and the world – each day we bring before the Lord the needs of all people in this great prayer of the Church. It is to be recommended to all. I’ve only recently started trying, and I emphasise trying to say the old Breviarium Romanum, in Latin, the 1962 edition – it is definitely more demanding, but also greatly rewarding. For those who are interested in saying either there are great online resources, Universalis and Divinum Officium (http://universalis.com/) (https://www.divinumofficium.com/). In both the modern Breviary and the old Divine Office there is a beautiful antiphon at the Nunc Dimittis at Compline (Night Prayer): Salva nos, Domine, vigilantes, custodi nos dormientes; ut vigilemus cum Christo, et requiescamus in pace – Protect us, Lord, while we are awake and safeguard us while we sleep; that we may keep watch with Christ, and rest in peace. This is a beautiful prayer that each of us could say every day for ourselves and for others, praying for protection day and night, and praying for the peace of Christ in our hearts, minds, and entire being at this moment. I pray that that protection and peace and Christ will be over you and yours and this time, and always.
God bless you and let us pray for each other!
Please remember in your prayers Maurice O’Hare R.I.P. whose funeral I celebrated today, and his family, and pray too for Jo Atkinson R.I.P. whose funeral I will celebrate soon in Auchtermuchty, and her family. May they rest in peace. Amen.
Below a wee video version, if your eyes can still stand it, of the Nunc Dimittis, the prayer of Simeon from the Divine Office: