Portsmouth Diocese e-News Issue 394
After months of fighting, the war in Ukraine rumbles on. Millions of civilians are unable to return home and many still in the country are forced to live without access to food, water, health care, and other essential supplies. Innocent civilians have been caught up in the conflict, with almost 20,000 casualties, and over 6 million people internally displaced. Moreover, the conflict continues to disrupt the global economy and endanger essential food and other supplies to many countries. Let us redouble our prayers for an end to violence and war, for reconciliation and justice, and for true peace. Here in the Diocese, this would be a good intention to place before the Holy Spirit. As the Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation II says: by your Holy Spirit, “you move human hearts that enemies may speak to each other again, adversaries join hands and peoples seek to meet together.” We also have other intentions to pray for this week as well, not least for the unity of Christians as the Octave of Prayer draws to a close tomorrow. Let us pray too for the parish in Somers Town after the shooting and for our Jewish brothers and sisters commemorating Holocaust Day on Friday. Meanwhile, if you are aged 16-30, why not join us for the upcoming World Youth Day in Lisbon? Prayers and best wishes to you all for this coming week.
From the Bishop
I wish hereby to thank all the parishes and individuals who responded to the consultation about our ten-year mission plan You will be My Witnesses. We have had over 60 parish responses and 46 individual responses, of which 5 were from priests, 38 from laypersons, and 3 from groups of parishioners. The feedback will now be analysed to inform the final shape of the plan. A group of clergy and lay people are helping us with this so that the detail can be further tested and refined. The work will include a small number of meetings and comment on the material as it is developed. If you are interested in helping with this aspect of the plan, please let us know via the dedicated email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
The plan focused on putting Christ at the centre and developing missionary communities, while setting the objectives, aims and aspirations. The next phase is about developing specific strategies, means and ideas to help develop the plan in Pastoral Areas, parishes and schools and not least in the hearts of all.
From the Bishop
In two of my recent Pastoral Letters – the one about the Future of the Diocese and the follow-up Letter about the Year of the Holy Spirit – I have been encouraging everyone in the Diocese to adopt and to put into practice six holy habits. First, to keep Sunday special, as a family day, by attending Mass, the ‘source and summit’ of the Christian life, supporting your parish community. Second, to resolve to spend at least five minutes a day in prayer, at whatever time you find best, using the Scriptures, maybe the Gospel of the day. Third, to keep Friday as a day of penance in honour of the Lord’s Passion, intentionally serving the poor and needy. Fourth, at least once a fortnight, to pay a private visit to church for a short period of prayer before the Tabernacle. Fifth, to go to Confession once a month or so, like a spiritual check-up when you can personally experience God’s love and mercy. And sixth, to join a small group for formation, prayer and fellowship, where you can share with others your own experience and hear what God is doing in the lives of others. I went on to say that these six holy habits, if we adopt them in the right spirit, entrusting ourselves to the Lord and His grace, offer a practical programme to bring about deep spiritual renewal in ourselves and in our parish communities. Each habit is a kind of ‘peg’ or portfolio on which we can hang further prayers, hopes and projects. Thus, Sunday Mass: how can we enhance the variety, beauty and solemnity of our parish Liturgy? Could I prepare better for Mass, arriving in good time, reading the Gospel and the prayers? Daily Prayer: what helps do I need to pray and to know the Bible better? I enjoy myself following the daily calendar and getting to know the saints. Friday penance: what does poverty mean in my area and how can I help? Visits to church: do we keep our churches open? How can I hear more clearly the voice of Jesus calling me? Monthly Confession: how can I best to prepare? Join a group: many groups would welcome new members – or why not start a new one?
Over the next weeks in e-News, I am going to explore in turn each holy habit to help us reflect more deeply on what is being asked and how we might respond.
From the Bishop
I hope you are finding helpful the prayer books I sent out to everyone in the parishes Lord I am not Worthy. They are designed to fit into your pocket and into the back of benches in church. There are more copies available as well as some splendid larger versions (A5-size) too: it you would like one, please email: email@example.com. (There is a small charge for postage). The title of the book, Lord I am not Worthy, comes from those favourite words of the Mass that we say just before receiving Holy Communion and its aim is to help you keep the Six Holy Habits we speak about, especially during this Year of Prayer to the Holy Spirit. The book contains many well-known Catholic prayers and others too. I hope you will dip into it, like a bee seeking nectar, landing on whatever you find helpful. It gives a format for making a visit to the Blessed Sacrament and an easy, three-step guide on making a good Confession.
Do make sure you get your copy! And say a prayer for the army of volunteers who have helped to deliver it to your church.
From the Bishop
Last Saturday, our Dialogue with Cultural Sectors team met. We are planning another Symposium, this time on ethical issues related to health and social care. The working title is “What does it mean to be human? Issues in Health and Social Care” and the aim is to explore and bring an authentic view of the human person (supported by our Catholic faith) into critical conversation with aspects of contemporary health and social care. What can Catholics offer? What can Catholics learn? How might we demonstrate more effectively that the teaching and values of the Gospel are the right way to human flourishing? The Symposium will probably take place in September 2024. More details in due course.
We are planning an in-person Symposium – the last one on politics and religion was online – following the same pattern as previously, with two key-note presentations on the same topic but from different speakers, and then six workshops, from which participants choose two. Plans are still at an early stage, but the suggested title for the keynote presentations is “How significant is the sexual revolution?” The workshops might include: What does it mean to be a Human Being? The beginnings of life: issues in fertility and genetics. Gender dysphoria and reassignment. The values of the NHS. Spirituality, Addiction and Mental Health. At the end of life: Dying well.
The range of this Symposium, as with the previous ones on Science and Religion (2018) and Politics and Religion (2021), is broad and as before, it will be open to everyone of good will, regardless of their personal beliefs, who are interested in these issues. The aim is to tackle some of the hot-button issues of the day, but in a humble, non-combative manner, the Church serving humanity by contributing its Divine teaching to the current debate.
I have been asked a couple of times recently, now that the pandemic seems to be subsiding, whether at Mass it will once again be possible to offer Holy Communion under both kinds. We have discussed this matter recently at a Bishops’ Conference meeting. The Church, of course, has never mandated that both species must be offered to the faithful at Mass nor that the faithful must receive Holy Communion under both kinds. The choice, when available, is left to the communicant. The Council of Trent taught that “the whole and entire Christ and the true sacrament are received under either species.” For many centuries the norm has been for the faithful to receive under one kind, the Host, and this is often the case anyway, especially at large gatherings or when for some reason, Communion under both kinds is not possible. However, as the General Instruction on the Roman Missal asserts, the “meaning” of Communion is most clearly signified when given under both species— both the Sacred Host and the Precious Blood. For many communicants, receiving under both kinds is a true, spiritual joy. So, when can the practice of offering to those who wish Holy Communion under both kinds be restored? The Bishops’ Conference hopes that the practice can be restored soon and is currently taking further medical advice in relation to the COVID safety protocols. The Bishops would also want, before any restoration of the practice, to ensure that a renewed and effective catechesis is given. So, watch this space!
Tomorrow, Wednesday 25th January, is the Feastday of the Conversion of St. Paul and the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. St. Paul, after Jesus, is probably the most influential figure in the history of Christian thought, doctrine and mission. Saul of Tarsus began life as a fervent follower of the Jewish law. At age 14, he studied as a Pharisee under the famous rabbi Gamaliel in Jerusalem and following the rabbinic tradition of studying a trade as well as the law, he learnt tent-making. Although Aramaic was his mother tongue, he had a strong Hebrew education. His birth in Tarsus automatically gave him the status of a Roman citizen and he spoke Greek fluently, which made him eminently qualified for his later role as Apostle to the Gentiles. The changing of his name from Saul to the Hellenic form Paul, traditionally associated with his conversion, may have been a Romanisation present from his childhood. As a Pharisee, he persecuted the early Christian Church relentlessly, strictly applying the Jewish law, which the new sect appeared to be flouting. The story of his conversion is in Acts 9: 1-22 and Acts 22: 3-16. While he was on the way to Damascus to persecute Christians, he was blinded by a bright light and thrown to the ground from his horse. He heard the words ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ As Benedict XVI once wrote, ‘The Risen One spoke to Paul, called him to the apostolate and made him a true Apostle, a witness of the Resurrection, with the specific task of proclaiming the Gospel to the Gentiles, to the Graeco-Roman world.’ Tomorrow’s feast reminds us that the best and most effective way to hasten the unity of all Christians is to foster our own daily personal conversion to Christ.
This Thursday, 26th January, is the Memorial of two young disciples of St. Paul, both mentioned in the New Testament and both recipients of letters from their master: St. Timothy and St. Titus. Timothy came from Lystra and as a young man studied Scripture; after his conversion to Christianity, he became the companion and at times the representative of St. Paul, who sent him to visit the Churches in Thessalonica, Corinth and Ephesus. He was the first bishop of Ephesus and in his letters, Paul directed him to correct those who were changing the original doctrines and also to appoint other bishops and deacons. He was said to have been martyred by stoning and beating in 97 AD. Titus was of Gentile birth and became Paul’s companion and secretary. He took part in the Council of Jerusalem in 49 AD and was sent by Paul initially to Corinth and then to Crete, where he became its first bishop. In his letter to Titus, St. Paul instructs him to ordain priests and to govern with firmness. Let us ask the prayers of SS. Timothy and Titus today for the Church in our land and for the work of new evangelisation to which we are called.
This Friday, 27th January, is the (optional) Memorial of St. Angela Merici (1474 – 1540). Born at Desenzano near Lake Garda, she was orphaned in early life, but became a Franciscan tertiary and devoted herself with several companions to the education of poor girls. In 1535, they dedicated themselves to this work under the patronage of St. Ursula, although they took no vows and wore lay clothes. The formal organisation of this sisterhood into a Congregation came in 1565, when the Church authorities became willing to approve what until then was a novel concept, an unenclosed and pastorally active female order. The congregation flourishes to this day and has been described as the oldest and most extensive teaching order of sisters in the Church. St. Angela was canonised in 1807.
The Ursulines come in many different communities. Please pray for the community of Ursuline sisters who were with us until recently at Bishop’s House, as they look to a new mission in our land.
This Saturday, 28th January is the Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, the great Dominican theologian, dubbed “The Angelic Doctor”. A good day to go to Mass if you can, let’s also pray on Saturday for the Dominicans, the ‘Order of Preachers.’ Here, I reproduce the short biography for the day given by Dawn Marie Beutner in her book Saints: Becoming an Image of Christ Every Day of the Year (San Francisco, Ignatius Press: 2020).
Thomas was born on 1225 into a noble family at Rocca Secca in the central part of modern Italy. When he was five years old, he was sent to be educated of the famous Abbey at Monte Cassino where a relative was abbot. At the age of 13, he was removed from Monte Cassino, probably because of the dangers of the times, but a year later he was sent to study at the University of Naples. There he became acquainted with the members and practices of the Dominicans, and he became one himself at the age of 19. His family was outraged that he had chosen a mendicant order rather than a more established and wealthy one. Although the Dominicans were able to send him away on two occasions before his angry mother arrived, she then sent two of his brothers with a troop of soldiers to capture him. He was kidnapped and then imprisoned by his brothers at Rocca Secca and Monte Sang Giovanni; during that time, he wasn’t allowed to see anyone but two of his sisters. He used his two years’ imprisonment to memorise much of the Bible and to study The Four Books of Sentences by Peter Lombard, which was a standard theology textbook at the time; he even quickly sent away a woman who was sent to seduce him. The Pope himself tried to intervene in this very public family disagreement. Eventually, Thomas was released so that he could return to the Dominicans to study.
An extremely intelligent student with a demanding, inquiring mind, Thomas studied at the University of Paris under a great teacher, Saint Albert the Great. Although some underestimated Thomas’s abilities due to his quiet nature, Albert did not. After completing his degree, Thomas taught, preached and wrote. He was highly respected by the king of France, St. Louis IX. While living in Paris, he began work on his famous Summa Theologiae, which was intended to be a comprehensive summary of Catholic teaching for theology students. His many writings, which are still studied today, addressed the philosophical and theological questions of the day with a depth and clarity that came from his deep prayer life. For example, at the university’s request and after praying fervently for divine assistance, he wrote a treatise explaining the doctrine of transubstantiation to explain the Blessed Sacrament; it was his explanation that was later accepted by the whole Church. As a man, he was noted for his chastity and fervent prayer life; as a friar, he was noted for his obedience; as a writer and teacher, he was noted for his humility and charity towards his opponents. Late in his life, Thomas was called back to Italy where, while celebrating Mass, he received a vision that affected him deeply. He explained to his friend, Brother Reginald, that he could no longer work on his Summa because “the end of my labours has come. All that I have written appears to be a so much straw, after the things that have been revealed to me.” Although he was ill, he obeyed Pope Gregory X’s order to attend the general council at Lyons to try to bring about a reunion between the Eastern and Latin churches, but during the journey, his health declined so seriously that he was taken to a nearby Cistercian abbey. Seeing that he was dying, the monks prayed with him. While he was explaining to them, at their request, the biblical book The Song of Songs, he died. It was the 7th March 1274. Often called the angelic doctor for his writings and one of the most influential theologians and philosophers in Church history, Thomas was unsurprisingly named a Doctor of the Church. His works have been praised by popes and studied by Catholic theologians ever since.
“We must point out that what we are discussing here is the contemplative life as it concerns human beings. And the difference between us and the angels, as Dionysius makes clear, is that angels look at the truth with a direct grasp of it, whereas we have to start with many different things and proceed step-by-step from there before we reach the point where we can see truth in its simplicity” (ST II.II. Q179-182)
This Sunday 29th January, is the Fourth Sunday of the Year (or in Ordinary Time). You can find the readings for Sunday’s Mass here. In his reflection on the Sunday readings, Dr Scott Hahn reminds us that the Beatitudes mark the fulfilment of God’s covenant promise to Abraham; that through his descendants all the nations of the world would receive God’s blessings…
In the readings since Christmas, Jesus has been revealed as the new royal son of David and Son of God. He is sent to lead a new exodus that brings Israel out of captivity to the nations and brings all the nations to God. As Moses led Israel from Egypt through the sea to give them God’s law on Mount Sinai, Jesus too has passed through the waters in baptism. Now, in Sunday’s Gospel, He goes to the mountain to proclaim a new law—the law of His Kingdom.
The Beatitudes mark the fulfilment of God’s covenant promise to Abraham—that through his descendants all the nations of the world would receive God’s blessings. Jesus is the son of Abraham. And through the wisdom He speaks today, He bestows the Father’s blessings upon “the poor in spirit.” God has chosen to bless the weak and lowly, those foolish and despised in the eyes of the world, Paul says in the Second Reading. The poor in spirit are those who know that nothing they do can merit God’s mercy and grace. These are the humble remnant in today’s First Reading, taught to seek refuge in the name of the Lord.
The Beatitudes reveal the divine path and purpose for our lives. All our striving should be for these virtues—to be poor in spirit; meek and clean of heart; merciful and makers of peace; seekers of the righteousness that comes from living by the law of Kingdom. The path the Lord sets before us today is one of trials and persecution. But He promises comfort in our mourning and a great reward. The Kingdom we have inherited is no earthly territory but the promised land of heaven. It is Zion where the Lord reigns forever. And, as we sing in the Psalm, its blessings are for those whose hope is in the Lord.
Next Tuesday, 31st January, is the Memorial of St. John Bosco (1815-1888), founder of the Salesian Order. He came from Piedmont; his father died when he was two years old and he was brought up by his mother in extreme poverty. He entered the seminary in 1831 and was ordained a priest in 1841. He worked throughout his life in the education and care of children, especially the poorest, principally in Turin. His attractive and charismatic personality soon drew many to his oratory and his evening classes. For a while he lived in poverty with his mother and about 40 destitute boys in the Valdocco area and later he open workshops for training shoemakers and tailors. By 1856, the number had grown to 250 with four workshops; there were also 500 children attached to the oratories and 10 priests to help teach them. John Bosco was an eloquent preacher and writer; he also had a reputation as a visionary and a wonder worker, with an extraordinary gift for handling difficult youths without punishment, but with a gentle yet effective firmness. On Sundays, he would often take the children on expeditions into the country, beginning with Mass, followed by breakfast and open-air games, a picnic, Catechism class and Vespers at the end. He believed in the spiritual value of contact with natural beauty and the uplifting power of music. 1859, he began to organise a Congregation for this work to expand and continue; it was formally approved in 1874 and specialises in pastoral work and schools. He also founded an order of nuns to do the same work for girls. He died in 1888 and his body is enshrined in Turin, where thousands still visit on pilgrimage even today.
Next Tuesday, let’s remember in our prayers the clergy, staff and pupils of Salesian College Farnborough. We wish them a fappy feast day!
Over the coming weeks, our Diocesan Director of Liturgical Formation, Fr Anthony Fyk will offer a Bidding Prayer with some catechesis on the suggested prayer petition. During this Year dedicated to the Holy Spirit and in light of our Ten-year pastoral plan, please consider adding these intentions to the Bidding Prayers in your parish…
For the Diocese of Portsmouth – that during this year dedicated to the Holy Spirit, the spirit of wisdom and understanding will keep us one in mind and heart. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
Through our Baptism and Confirmation, the gifts of the Holy Spirit were given to us. Although we may not feel them inside ourselves, they give us the ability or power to be more faithful and effective witnesses of Christ to the world. Today we pray for wisdom and understanding. Wisdom helps us to see the world and reality from God’s point of view. Sometimes we view reality or a situation in a narrow or restrictive manner, so wisdom helps see the boarder picture. We view things in terms of eternity and of God’s salvific will. Understanding helps us see the mysteries of faith with more clarity. Elements of our faith are difficult to grasp. Teachings may not always make sense for us. Understanding helps us see our faith with more clarity. Although, we won’t get the full picture on this side of eternity, understanding helps us in our journey of faith. Through wisdom and understanding, we ask that we may be kept one in mind and heart. The Holy Spirit has the role of creating and forming unity. Diversity is important as we have been blessed with different gifts and talents. But being open to the Holy Spirit always us to be one heart and mind. This is important, especially when see division and conflict throughout the world.
Thought for the Week
“The Lord hears us more readily than we suspect; it is our listening to Him that needs to be improved.” (Venerable Fulton Sheen).
Vatican and World
In The Pope Video for January, brought to you by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, Pope Francis proposes that educators “add new content to their teaching: fraternity.” Click here to watch the video…
He invites them to “become community builders” and prays that they may be “be credible witnesses, teaching fraternity rather than confrontation.” Indeed, the Pope remarks, educators do much more than teach mathematics, geography, or history: “Educators are witnesses who not only impart their mental knowledge, but also their convictions, their commitment to life.” “I would like to propose that educators add new content to their teaching: fraternity. Education is an act of love that illuminates the path for us to recover a sense of fraternity, so we will not ignore those who are most vulnerable. Educators are witnesses who not only impart their mental knowledge, but also their convictions, their commitment to life. They know how to handle the three languages well: that of the head, that of the heart, and that of the hands, all in harmony. And hence the joy in communicating. And they will be heeded much more attentively and will become community builders. Why? Because they’re sowing this testimony.”
Let us pray that educators may be credible witnesses, teaching fraternity rather than confrontation and helping especially the youngest and most vulnerable above all.
On Saturday 14th January, parishioners leaving a Requiem Mass at St Aloysius in Somers Town for a mother and daughter, who had died within a month of each other, were targets of a shooting that injured two children and four adults. The shooting made the national news headlines. Here, we reproduce the article from the Bishops Conference website in which, a few days after the shooting, the Parish Priest, Fr Jeremy Trood, writes as follows:
Last Saturday’s shooting outside our Church was a truly shocking event. How anyone can shoot indiscriminately into any group of people, let alone mourners leaving a Church following a Requiem Mass is unimaginable. Yet it happened and it happened here in our community; that is something that we have to live with today, and in the days and weeks ahead. It is not something that we can quickly forget. However we are not helpless, we are not powerless, there is much we can do and we will do. Above all we can pray and we do pray for all those affected by the shooting, especially those who were injured and remain in hospital. We pray too for the emergency services and give thanks for their swift and professional response. As Christians, confident of the love and mercy of our heavenly Father, we also pray for the perpetrators of the shooting that they may recognise the error of their ways and take responsibility for the consequences of their actions.
Our local community here in Somers Town is both strong and resilient; that has not changed. We have faced challenges in the past and will undoubtedly face new challenges in the future. We remember that this was a single incident, shocking though it is. Many people live in far more dangerous and frightening conditions than we do here; the people of Ukraine suffer so much more and continue to do so every single day. We are indeed fortunate to live in peace in such a diverse and vibrant part of London. As a local community, as a Catholic Parish with deep roots, secure in our faith, we know what we will do: Keep Calm and Carry On.
This Friday, 27th January, is Holocaust Memorial Day. Bishop Declan Lang, Chair of the Bishop’s Conference’s International Affairs department, is encouraging us to pause on that day, to remember the millions who were murdered and pray that “love will triumph over evil.”
“On Holocaust Memorial Day, we pray for the six million people who were murdered and all those affected by the Holocaust. We also remember those who suffered and died in the genocides that followed. This year’s theme is Ordinary People, recognising that it was ordinary people who fell victim to ordinary people perpetrating evil acts, while so many ordinary people stood by. It was also the bravery and selflessness of ordinary people that helped to rescue others. “Each one of us has the capacity for both immense good and for evil. As we take a moment to pause from our daily lives, let us reflect upon our own responsibility to prevent future genocides and consider how we view marginalised people in our communities. We commit ourselves to stand against antisemitism, injustice and prejudice wherever it might be found. Together we remember the Holocaust and pray that love will triumph over evil.”
Sarah Farrell, WYD Lisbon 2023 Co-Ordinator shares the latest update on preparations for this year’s World Youth Day in Lisbon…
Our WYD pilgrimage has begun! On Saturday 21st January our pilgrimage group met for the first time to begin preparing for Lisbon. We gathered at St Peter’s in Winchester, and spent some time getting to know one another, as well as diving into the theme, ‘Rise Up’, with some catechesis and discussion. We celebrated Mass together, played games and had a time of worship, adoration and prayer to end our day.
It’s not too late to join us!! We still have a few places left, so if you are aged 16 – 30, or know someone who is, and you’d like to join us for a life-changing pilgrimage to Lisbon in the summer, get in touch today! firstname.lastname@example.org
Can you help us get there? We are in need of sponsorship to help our young people get to Lisbon. If you are able to give anything, however big or small, we would be extremely grateful.
Jo Lewry offers congratulations to English Martyrs Parish in Reading for achieving the Livesimply award!
Well done to the Caring for Creation Group at English Martyrs who have been working on the livesimply award since Autumn 2021 and had their assessment on 15th January 2023.
Here is a summary of their activities over the past year in the 3 assessed areas for the award.
Ways to live simply.
- Promoted waste reduction, encouraging people to recycle.
- Installed recycling bins in the church colonnade.
- Included tips and advice in the parish newsletter and weekly email, referring to Laudato Si wherever possible.
- Encouraged everyone to make a Live Simply pledge at Lent and Christmas, eg:
- Buying presents from CAFOD
- Using recycled wrapping paper
- Shopping locally for Christmas food
- Encouraged people to make Sunday carless and walk to church if possible.
- Showed the Global Healing video to the parish community, giving everyone the chance to see it, and the Novena videos.
- Gave out Caring for Creation advent calendars to parishioners.
Ways to live sustainably with creation.
- Organised a creation prayer walk followed by refreshments in the church hall, raising £200 for CAFOD.
- Planted bulbs in the church grounds, involving the children and generating a sense of awe and wonder.
- Held a plant exchange in spring, exchanging and giving plants and offering advice on growing them; over £200 received in donations for Ukrainian refugees.
- Took part in Day of Action march on Climate Change
- Breathed new life into English Martyrs’ Bethlehem Garden, planting yellow and blue flowers in support of Ukraine; planted bulbs for the Spring.
- Organised a free harvest lunch during the Season of Creation, using produce parishioners grew; over £330 given in donations to CAFOD Pakistan Flood Appeal.
- Caring for Creation advent wreath making.
Ways to live in solidarity with the poor.
- Held a Taize Prayer evening, followed by refreshments, raising £42.00 for The Pakistan Flood Appeal
- Held a Christmas Craft Stall which raised £750.00 for CAFOD for a village water supply.
- Held a plant sale and harvest table, raising £400 for Reading refugee support group.
- Weekly collection and deliveries of food and other supplies to local Dee Caf foodbank and ‘New Beginnings’ homelessness charity.
- Craft materials regularly collected and delivered for Afghan refugee women.
Amazing! Such fantastic activities – thank you so much!
Today, Tuesday 24th January, is the Memorial of St. Francis de Sales (d. 1622). The Second Reading in the Office of Readings comes from his most famous book, The Introduction to the Devout Life, in which he insists that holiness is tailored to the individual, that is, “devotion must be practised in different ways” by different people. I reproduce it here for your prayer and meditation.
“When God the Creator made all things, he commanded the plants to bring forth fruit each according to its own kind; he has likewise commanded Christians, who are the living plants of his Church, to bring forth the fruits of devotion, each one in accord with his character, his station and his calling. I say that devotion must be practised in different ways by the nobleman and by the working man, by the servant and by the prince, by the widow, by the unmarried girl and by the married woman. But even this distinction is not sufficient; for the practice of devotion must be adapted to the strength, to the occupation and to the duties of each one in particular.
“Tell me, please, my Philothea, whether it is proper for a bishop to want to lead a solitary life like a Carthusian; or for married people to be no more concerned than a Capuchin about increasing their income; or for a working man to spend his whole day in church like a religious; or on the other hand for a religious to be constantly exposed like a bishop to all the events and circumstances that bear on the needs of our neighbour. Is not this sort of devotion ridiculous, unorganised and intolerable? Yet this absurd error occurs very frequently, but in no way does true devotion, my Philothea, destroy anything at all. On the contrary, it perfects and fulfils all things. In fact if it ever works against, or is inimical to, anyone’s legitimate station and calling, then it is very definitely false devotion.
“The bee collects honey from flowers in such a way as to do the least damage or destruction to them, and he leaves them whole, undamaged and fresh, just as he found them. True devotion does still better. Not only does it not injure any sort of calling or occupation, it even embellishes and enhances it. Moreover, just as every sort of gem, cast in honey, becomes brighter and more sparkling, each according to its colour, so each person becomes more acceptable and fitting in his own vocation when he sets his vocation in the context of devotion. Through devotion your family cares become more peaceful, mutual love between husband and wife becomes more sincere, the service we owe to the prince becomes more faithful, and our work, no matter what it is, becomes more pleasant and agreeable.
“It is therefore an error and even a heresy to wish to exclude the exercise of devotion from military divisions, from the artisans’ shops, from the courts of princes, from family households. I acknowledge, my dear Philothea, that the type of devotion which is purely contemplative, monastic and religious can certainly not be exercised in these sorts of stations and occupations, but besides this threefold type of devotion, there are many others fit for perfecting those who live in a secular state. Therefore, in whatever situations we happen to be, we can and we must aspire to the life of perfection.”
One of the Six Holy Habits I have urged everyone to undertake is keeping Fridays special as a day of penance in honour of the Lord’s Passion, intentionally serving the poor and needy. In fact, the law of the Church in England and Wales obliges Catholics to abstain from eating meat (‘abstinence’) on Fridays. Here, Fr. Anthony Barratt, parish priest of Hudson NY and an erstwhile contributor to e-News, explains what this is about.
Abstaining from meat on Fridays might provoke questions in us, or from our family and friends. Why do we do this? What does this practice or sign signify? Why is it important? If we reflect further, we notice that we have many practices and signs or marks that are very much part of our Catholic faith and life: not just abstaining from meat on Fridays! These visible and tangible things remind us that, as human beings, we live and communicate in a physical world and that this also includes our faith. For example, we pray with our bodies: the postures of standing, sitting or kneeling at Mass carry with them a deeper meaning. Most of us join our hands together when we pray. In the sacraments, God uses physical and tangible things such as bread and wine, water or oil to be the vehicles of something divine and intangible. We believe not just in the resurrection of the spirit or soul, but also of the body. The same is true of those marks or signs, gestures and practices: we have these things, not as an end in themselves as such, but rather to help us enter into a deeper, spiritual reality. So, what about the practice of abstaining from meat on Fridays during Lent? Where did this come from, why do we do it, who should do it…?
First of all, we need to make sure that we distinguish between fasting and abstinence. Both are “ascetical” practices to help bring about spiritual benefits and growth. Both involve food or drink, as well as other things too (such as the TV, the computer or even the cell phone!). Strictly speaking, fasting involves reducing and even eliminating what we eat, but abstinence means avoiding or restricting our intake of certain foods. Catholics from the age of 14 to 59 (except where there are health concerns) are obliged to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, but all Catholics who have completed their fourteenth year are required to abstain from meat on those days and every Friday during Lent. This practice of abstaining goes back a long way. At one stage, Catholics abstained not only from meat but also dairy products and some forms of shell fish during the season of Lent. This is the origin of having a feast on “Shrove Tuesday” or “Fat Tuesday” (the day before Ash Wednesday) to use up all the forbidden food before Lent began. But why do we do this? After all, we read in the New Testament that the previous dietary laws have been abolished and that all food is declared “clean” by God (Acts 10: 9-16).
Well, there are many reasons suggested for this practice of abstaining from meat. The most frequent reason offered is that it reminds us of how Jesus gave up himself (or gave up his flesh) for us on the cross on Good Friday. It is also, like fasting, an ascetical practice or discipline where we voluntarily abstain from something in order to receive a spiritual benefit. Abstinence acts as a reminder of Jesus sacrifice for us, as we have said, but also of our dependence on God as our true food and nourishment. A number of people also offer their day of abstinence as a sort of prayer for particular intentions. Others follow the practice of abstinence as a reminder about, and an act of solidarity with, so many who cannot afford meat products and who often go without basic food or even clean water. So, as one writer has put it, we may say that while absence makes the heart grow fonder, abstinence makes the soul grow richer!
Very Rev. Anthony M. Barratt
Pat Baggott, a parishioner from St Swithun Wells parish shares news from the parish…
On 15th January the Parish of St Swithun Wells held an Afternoon Tea for the Senior members of the Parish Family in St Swithun Wells Church, Fair Oak. 60 people attended a truly happy and fun afternoon. Traditional Afternoon Tea of sandwiches, scones, clotted cream and endless homemade cakes was served and after a raffle, a game of Bingo and Sing-a-Long of 50s, 60s and 70s songs. What was planned as a one off event may now become an annual event.
How well do you know our diocese? In this feature we share photos from around the Diocese of Portsmouth. Your challenge is to tell us where they can be found…
Last week’s challenge was to identify this font found (not too far away from the previous week’s challenge) in the church of St Saviour, Totland Bay, IoW. Congratulations to Barbie Straker and David Callender who correctly identified it.
This week’s challenge is to identify this beautiful stonework pelican found in a church somewhere else in the Diocese, but where is this? Just email your answer to Deacon Craig by Friday 27th January for a mention in the next issue.
When you write in with your guess, why not send a photo of a feature from your own church for us to use in a future issue?
Each day of the year the liturgical calendar gives us a variety of seasons and celebrations of saints. These are outlined in the Diocesan Ordo along with a daily prayer for a diocesan intention. I would like to encourage you to add these intentions to your daily prayers. You can find the daily intentions for January here and February here. They are also published daily on our Facebook and Twitter feeds.
The following positions are currently available within the Diocese of Portsmouth…
HEAD OF COMMUNICATIONS
Full time role, based in Portsmouth
Salary: £50,000-£55,000 per annum
Deadline for completed applications: Friday 27th January 2023
An exciting opportunity has arisen to join the Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth as the Head of Communications in a full-time permanent role.
HEAD OF FUNDRAISING
Full time role, based in Portsmouth
Salary: £50,000-£55,000 per annum
Deadline for completed applications: Friday 27th January 2023
Due to some restructuring, an exciting opportunity has arisen to join the Diocese as Head of Fundraising.
CLERGY SUPPORT COORDINATOR
Part time – 18 hours per week
Salary – £16,500 per annum
Based in Sandhurst, Berkshire
An opportunity has arisen for an experienced and compassionate professional to work within the Department for Clergy to provide coordinated support to clergy with a special focus on retiring, retired and sick clergy within the Diocese.
Hours: 30 hours per week (9.00am – 4.00pm). Term time only (39 weeks per year), based in Portsmouth
Salary: £12,296 per annum depending on skills and experience.
Closing date for applications: Friday 27th January 2023, 9am
CASO provides support and advice on all matters to do with the Catholic life of our 70 schools and academies. This ranges from the recruitment of school leaders, governors, and directors to the training and on-going support for teachers and leaders, as well as liaison with all statutory bodies involved with our schools. You would act as the first point of contact for our schools. No two days are ever the same.
MUSIC TEAM LEADER
St Peter and the Winchester Martyrs Parish, Winchester
Part time: 21 hours per week, including weekends and major feasts (for Masses)
Contract type: 18 months, fixed term contract
Salary: Competitive. Further details on enquiry.
Closing date for applications: Thursday 16th February 2023, 12 Noon
St Peter’s is a busy and thriving city centre church, one of 4 churches in the Catholic parish of St Peter and the Winchester Martyrs (Winchester, Alresford and Stockbridge). It has a tradition of music, which in the past has included an adult SATB choir and a Youth Choir, contemporary music groups, and several volunteer organists and cantors. We are now seeking an experienced pastoral musician to build and grow a strong music team at St Peter’s, while also developing existing volunteer music leaders in their own roles and skills.
PASTORAL AND FINANCE ADMINISTRATOR
Holy Family, Southampton
Part time – 15 hours per week
Salary – £11.50 per hour
Hours of work: part time 15 per week, days and times as agreed with the Parish Priest (Fr Benjamin Theobald)
Closing date for applications: Wednesday 8th February 2023, 12 noon.
The parish of Southampton Holy Family, based at Redbridge Hill, Millbrook, Southampton are seeking to appoint a Pastoral and Finance Administrator to work 15 hours per week to provide administrative and financial support for the parish.
Holy Family, Southampton
Part Time – 6 hours per week
Salary – £10.50 per hour
Hours of work: part time 6 per week, days and times as agreed with the Parish Priest (Fr Benjamin Theobald).
Closing date for applications: Wednesday 8th February 2023, 12 noon
The parish of Southampton Holy Family, based at Redbridge Hill, Millbrook, Southampton are seeking to appoint a part time Cleaner to work 6 hours per week to clean the Presbytery and Parish Office.
For further details and to apply for advertised positions, please click here.
There are a number of opportunities in our Diocesan schools which can be found here.
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