Advent

Dear one and all,

The Season of Advent has started! It is only four weeks long and can pass in the blink of an eye! So I’ve taken some time to go through some on line resources that are available for everyone to use. Please feel free to share those you find useful and let us know if you find anymore that you have found useful!

Advent General

https://www.catholiceducation.org/en/culture/catholic-contributions/the-liturgical-season-of-advent.html
https://www.catholicdoors.com/prayers/english4/p02965.htm
https://www.sciaf.org.uk/resources/542-advent-resources-for-parishes-2020
https://cafod.org.uk/Pray/Advent-prayers
https://catholic-resources.org/Lectionary/Seasons-Advent-Christmas.htm

Advent Calendars

https://cafod.org.uk/Pray/Advent-calendar
https://advent.bustedhalo.com/

Advent Retreat/Reflections

https://waterloocatholics.org/documents/2019/12/HO-Advent%20Exam%20of%20Conscience.pdf
https://bustedhalo.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/BH-AdventRetreat.pdf
http://www.liturgies.net/Advent/adventstations.htm
https://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/Advent/
https://pray-as-you-go.org/
https://bustedhalo.com/questionbox/why-do-we-read-so-much-from-the-prophet-isaiah-during-advent-and-christmas

Getting Ready for Advent

It might seem strange to be talking about Advent a week before, but it is good to be prepared and not caught unaware: exactly what Advent is all about! Advent is derived from the Latin word adventus meaning arrive, approach, appearance. It was taken by the Church from the middle ages to signify the coming of Christ. It reminds us that the birth of the Saviour is an event that we need to prepare for and be reminded of.

Advent is not just about remembering the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem just over 2,000 year ago, but being prepared for the return of The Saviour. As the Catechism says: When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Saviours first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for His second coming (No. 524).

The Advent Wreath usually consist of five candles, three purple and one rose and one white. The purple and rose candles are set in a circular wreath (usually made of evergreen branches) with the white candle in the middle of the wreath. One candle is lit for each Sunday of Advent, with the rose candle being lit on the third Sunday (Gaudete Sunday, from the Latin word for “rejoice”) and the white candle is lit once Christmas liturgies begin. The purple candles represent the penance and sacrifice we undertake to help us prepare for the Lord’s coming at Christmas; the rose candle represents the rejoicing of the faithful at the mid-point of Advent and the white candle represents the birth the Saviour.

Advent is not as strict as Lent, and there are no rules for fasting, but it is meant to be a period of self-preparation. The purple colour associated with Advent and it is also the colour of penance. The faithful should fast during the first two weeks in particular and receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The first reading at Eucharist, both weekday and Sunday, is taken from the Prophet Isaiah and talk of the coming of the Saviour. We are to be prepared for the return of our Saviour.

The colour of the Third Sunday of Advent is rose. This colour symbolizes joy and represents the happiness we will experience when Jesus comes again. The Third Sunday is a day of anticipatory celebration. It is formerly called “Gaudete” Sunday; from gaudete means “rejoice” in Latin.

Finally, Sundays during Advent, just as during Lent, should not be given to fasting, but instead to celebration because we celebrate the resurrection of Our Lord every Sunday. It is important to remember, however, there are no particular rules for how the laity should observe Advent.

From December 17th the tone of the liturgy changes. This time is often known as “O” time. This is because the “O” Antiphons are sung or recited during the last seven days of Advent (from December 17 through December 23) as part of the Liturgy of Hours. Each hymn begins with the interjection “O” followed by a title for Christ, e.g., O Wisdom, O Lord, O Root of Jesse, O Key of David, O Dayspring, O King of Nations, O God-with-Us.

Another way to count down to Christmas is the Advent Calendar that begins on December 1st. Again it is a visible way to focus our attention on the coming Solemnity of Christmas. Many families will also have a nativity scene that can both teach us about the birth of the Saviour, when Jesus was incarnate as human (God becomes human) and remind us of the Gospel narratives. It was St. Francis of Assisi who arranged the first nativity scene!

These are some of the many ways that we can get ready from Christmas, but what about ourselves? What can I do not to be caught in the consumer Christmas? As stated earlier we can make a commitment to fast (and not just to make space for the huge Christmas feast!) to remind ourselves of the coming celebration. The daily readings for Advent are a huge help in getting ready for both the birth of our Saviour and for the return of our Saviour. Given current restrictions there will be fewer opportunities for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but that does not mean that we cannot review our lives and make positive changes. The same goes for Advent retreats, but there will be some on-line resources (I’ll compile some for next week!). What will I be doing? As always, I will try and find some time and space to “feeding” myself; reflecting on the daily readings, learning more about the saints of Advent and spending time with the narratives of Jesus’ birth in Gospels Matthew and Luke.

Next week, I will have some on-line Advent resources that can be shared, used and adapted to what I need and what you need. If you have any resources for Advent that you wish to share, pass them along!

November – The Month of the Holy Souls

The Feast of All Souls is celebrated in commemoration of the faithful departed in Purgatory. The first record of this celebration took place in the Monastery of Cluny, France in 998. It was instituted by Abbot Odilo, a Benedictine, and this observance was soon adopted by other Benedictines, and by the Carthusians. Pope Sylvester II (1003) approved and recommended it. It was some time, though, before the secular clergy introduced it in the various dioceses. From the eleventh to the fourteenth centuries it gradually spread in France, Germany, England, and Spain, until finally, in the fourteenth century, Rome placed the day of the commemoration of all the faithful departed in the official books of the Western Church for November 2nd (or November 3rd if the 2nd falls on a Sunday).


One of the reasons for this could be that Autumn is a great time of year for death or being reminded of death as nature changes once again: the leaves are falling, the plants are dying and days grow shorter. Halloween was traditionally a great reminder of death, being on the eve of All Saints Day (All Hallows) and an opportunity to reflect on our own “saintliness”.

The month of November reminds us of our loved ones who have died, but also reminds us that we too face death. Forgetting the inevitability of death is not good for us. Nor is it good for those who have already died. If we do not remember death, then we will not remember to pray for the dead. And the dead desperately need our prayers. That is why we often refer to the dead in Purgatory as the Poor Souls.

The Book of Remembrance

The November Dead Lists are available for us to write the names of our family members and friends who have died and have gone before us. They may take different forms in different parishes and communities. Here, the names are collected and printed so they can be added to our Book of Remembrance. All of the souls named will be remembered daily during the prayers and Eucharist that is celebrated in the Oratory.

Prayers for the Holy Souls

Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace.

Amen

May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God,
rest in peace.

Amen.

Some Scriptural References on for the Holy Souls

2 Maccabees 12:38-46
Matthew 12:31-32
1 Corinthians 3:10-15
1 Peter 3:18-22
1 Peter 4:6

November: The Month of the Holy Souls

November is the month of the Holy Souls. During this month we pray especially for our departed friends and loved ones who are making their journey towards the eternal light of God.

As Catholics we believe that although those who have died are separated from us physically, they remain connected to us as members of the Church. Jesus has conquered death, and so those of us who are part of the Body of Christ here on earth remain a living part of that body even after our earthly life comes to a close. We know this to be true because when Jesus is challenged by the Pharisees who say there is no life after death Jesus replies ‘Have you not read what was said to you by God, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?” He is God not of the dead, but of the living.’ (Matt 22:31-32) Thus he implied that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are not dead, but alive with God.

Scripture teaches that it is ‘a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins’ (2 Macc 12:46). We also get our first example of Christian prayer for the dead from the bible, St Paul prays for his departed friend Onesiphorus saying ‘May the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day (the day of judgement).’ (2 Tim 1:18)

Following the example of Scripture, and Christian practice through the ages, we pray for all the faithful departed during this month. It is traditional to make a list of departed loved ones and remember them in prayer. During this extraordinary year, we, the Xaverian Community, have a Book of Remembrance in our Oratory. Please send us the names of those you wish to remember during this month and we will pray for them when we gather in prayer.

A Bishop Whose Heart Embraced the World

St. Guido Maria Conforti founded the Xaverian Missionaries in 1895 in Parma, Italy as a life-long dream to serve the mission of the church. His feast day is November 5th and is a feast day for we, Xaverians, throughout the world.

The son of Rinaldo and Antonia Adorni, Guido Maria was the eighth of ten children of an ancient family of Parma, Italy, landowners. The Conforti family was rooted in Parma since the Middle Ages and held administrative responsibilities for this region from the first half of the 14th century. They are remembered as early as 1285 and much information regarding their ancient roots is still available.

In 1872, Guido attended an elementary school in Parma, a Catholic school, of course. At age 7, young Guido was drawn to visit a large crucifix of Christ in a small chapel across from his school. He formed a relation this way with the person of Christ, as he later stated, He looked at me and said many things to me! … it is a miraculous crucifix: I owe my vocation to it.

This crucifix was his reference point: It speaks with an eloquence that has no equal. Years later, in seminary, while reading the biography of St. Francis Xavier, the great Jesuit missionary who died at the gates of China in 1552, it became the inspiration for the missionary vocation of Guido. But his requests to be accepted as a missionary by Jesuits and Salesians, were rejected due to poor health and a nervous condition.

In 1876 he entered the seminary and established a friendship with the rector, the future Blessed Andrea Ferrari, a friendship that lasted for a life time, even when Ferrari became the Archbishop of Milan. Conforti was ordained in 1888 and in 1892, at age 27, was appointed a canon at the Cathedral of Parma. By 1896 he was appointed Vicar General of the Diocese.

As a priest, and later as bishop, he worked out missionary calling, founding the Xaverian Missionaries on the feast of St. Francis Xavier, on December 3rd, 1895. Struggling with difficulties getting the foundation on its feet, and the challenge of a lifetime of poor health, he was a man of wisdom, insight and peace. He sought, and asked his missionaries to pursue a spirit of living faith which enables us to see God, seek God, love God in all things, intensifying our desire to spread his kingdom everywhere, and a calling to mission with a goal to make of humanity a single family.”

In 1899, Msgr. Conforti sent the first two missionaries to China, but by 1900, the Boxer Revolt caused the killing of many missionaries and other religious. In 1904, a second group of missionaries was sent to China. In the laying of the cornerstone of the mother house in 1900, Bishop Magani stated, From this nest the young eagles of the Gospel will fly to bring faith to those that still live in darkness… The dream of Conforti is still alive in Bangladesh, Burundi, Brazil, Cameroon, Chad, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Mozambique, Philippines, Sierra Leone, Spain, Thailand, Taiwan, the UK and the USA.

Inspired by St. Guido Maria Conforti and St. Francis Xavier, we, Xaverian Missionaries, serve to keep the local Church aware of, engaged with and connected to the missionary mandate of the universal Church, principally by witnessing Jesus to those who have yet to know Him.

Mission Sunday: 18th October 2020

Today, over one billion Catholics all over the world observe today as World Mission Sunday. This annual observance was instituted 94 years ago in 1926 by Pope Pius XI’s Papal decree. Every year since then, the universal Church has dedicated the month of October to reflection on and prayer for the missions. This annual celebration gives us a chance to reflect on the importance of mission work for the life of the Church. It reminds us that we are one with the Church around the world and that we are all committed to carrying on the mission of Christ, however different our situations may be.

Pope Francis writes in his 2019 World Mission Day message, Baptized and Sent. “This missionary mandate touches us personally: I am a mission, always; you are a mission, always; every baptized man and woman is a mission.” Hence the Holy Father calls on all Catholics and the Church to revive missionary awareness and commitment. In his 2020 message our Holy Father want us to discharge our mission duty by volunteering with prophet Isaiah “Here am I, send me” (6:8) to alleviate the suffering of our Covid-19-stricken brothers and sisters.

The Bishops’ Conference in England and Wales, in Scotland and in Ireland have their own mission offices and more information about how they are part of the global mission of the church are here:

The Church, according to Vatican Council II, is “missionary” in her very nature because her founder, Jesus Christ, was the first missionary. God the Father sent God the Son, Incarnate in Jesus, His Christ, into the world with a message of God’s love and salvation. Thus, the evangelizing mission of the Church is essentially the announcement of God’s love, mercy, forgiveness, and salvation, as these are revealed to mankind through the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord. How should we evangelize? By exemplary and transparent Christian life, by prayer and by financial support. The most powerful means of preaching Christ is by living a truly Christian life: a life filled with love, mercy, kindness, compassion, and a spirit of forgiveness and service. Prayer is the second means of missionary work. Jesus said: “Without me you can do nothing.” Therefore, prayer is necessary for anyone who wishes to accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour. All missionary efforts also require financial support because the love of God can often be explained to the poor only by providing them with food, medicine and means of livelihood. Hence, on this Mission Sunday, there is collection in all churches in all countries to help support the missionary work and all missionaries!

The Folly of the Cross

There is the story of the man who wakes up from an operation in hospital to be greeted by the doctor, who says to him, “I have some good news and bad news for you.”
The man says, “Give me the bad news first.”
The doctor replies, “We had to remove both your feet!”
Distraught the man begins to weep and after a few minutes asks, “And what was the good news?”

To which the doctor replies, “The man in the next bed wants to buy your slippers.”
(Sorry! I can hear you cringing from here….but bear with me!)

We’ve all told or heard those jokes or played the game “Do you want the good news or the bad news?”

Do you want the good news or the bad news? It is exactly what our faith is!
The Good News is that Jesus has liberated us from sin and shown us the way to life eternal.
The bad news is he had to suffer and die to do that!

This is the paradox of Christianty. The reason we call the day of Christ’s suffering and brutal death – “Good Friday”

It’s what is known as the “Folly of the Cross”
This comes from St Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians…
“The language of the cross is folly for those not on the way to salvation, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

The readings today ask us to reflect on the “Folly of the Cross” with the examples of Jeremiah and Peter, and wisdom from Paul, himself.

1st Reading

Jeremiah shares his experience of the cross.
Seduced by the Lord and, putting his whole life at the service of God, the prophet has become a laughing stock, the butt of everyone’s jokes.
But the fire in his heart is too strong, even amid his own personal crisis and suffering, he has to carry the cross of being the prophetic voice.

2nd Reading

The theme continues as Paul urges the faithful to “offer your living bodies as a holy sacrifice pleasing to God.” This is the worship pleasing to God, in taking up the cross and dying to self.

Gospel.

Here Jesus announces his passion to the disciples and tells them that their path is the same.

Peter, who was the hero in last week’s Gospel professing Jesus as the messiah and Son of God, doesn’t get it.

“Get behind me Satan, this is not the way of God and if anyone wants to follow me they must renounce themselves and take up the cross and follow me.”

These are the two ways of true Christianity – renouncing self and taking up the cross.
But what does that mean?

Renouncing is dying to self, to self interest, selfishness and self dependency.

Taking the cross is not just about accepting life’s difficulties but it’s an expression of complete and total love for the other, which in its most radical form, is the complete gift of self… even to death.

Jesus then explains the folly of the cross in a more logical way.

  • Whoever gives their life, will gain life eternal.
  • This life is merely transitory.
  • The eternal reward should be all the concerns us.

In today’s world where “it’s dog eat dog, be all that you can be, look after number 1…” Jesus’ logic is alien to the world but we are called to renounce that attitude, that mind set, that ideology and practice.

The COVID 19 pandemic has shown the world up for the selfishness that reigns, for the greed that abounds, for the inequalites, with which each, day get worse.

At a time when we are called to be in solidarity with those worse off… we batter down the hatches. We circle the wagons. During this pandemic…

  • The Government abolishes the Department of International Development and reduces its aid to the developing world.
  • 36,000 people’s universal credit has been reduced.
  • Landlords, hoteliers, councils can now put the homeless back on the streets.
  • Companies prefer to make redundancies rather than reduce profits.
  • WHO admits that the pandemic reveals systematic injustice and calls us to act.
  • The USA withdraws funds from the WHO during the biggest crisis in our lifetime

And we could go on!

“Renounce ourselves and take up our cross” demands that we act differently, that as Christians we say to the world “You’ve got it wrong! There is another way” And it’s the way of love, of solidarity, of compassion.

And the alternative model of Jesus is in renouncing our own selfish ways our comfortable ways and look at the other with love, not disdain or fear.
This is the folly of the Cross!

  • So what am I called to renounce in my life ? The sacrifices I need to make?
  • What are those things that make me selfish instead of selfless?
  • What are the crosses that I need to embrace to make me love more?
  • Who am I called to love more? And how can I do that?
  • What am I asked to do to follow Jesus more faithfully?

The Pandemic can be the cross which brings us hope and a better, more just life.
We can stand beating our breasts feeling sorry for ourselves at the foot of the cross or we can run with hope, faith and love to joy of the empty tomb!

The choice is ours!

Let’s pray that we choose to run from the scandal of the cross to the glory of the tomb… and you don’t need slippers for that!

News from Fr. Paddy

It has been almost 11 weeks since our lives changed: lockdown came into place, queuing at the supermarket became common place, hugs were banned, and the Churches closed their doors. In that time we have tried to cope in different ways: watching mass being live streamed, finding new ways to pass time and, at least for me, exploring those spaces that are often forgotten (cupboards, sheds and the garden).

Here, on Sharoe Green Lane I have been engaged in a battle: a battle with ivy. It has grown up walls and reached the roof! There was a need for action. As you can see from the photos, some actions have taken place! The composting bins are constantly full, the walls are clear and some of the damage has been repaired! I have enjoyed my gardening time and getting the grass cut, hedges trimmed and tidying the car park has passed many an hour.

But that is not all I have been doing. Bideri and I are celebrating mass on a Thursday evening, remembering all those who normally join us. Praying for your intentions and health. On a Sunday we shared the Easter Joy that challenged the apostles to go and proclaim the Good News. And in this post Easter time we are reminded that the Trinity about love and communication.

Keeping in touch even in challenging times.

We hope and pray that your lockdown has been an opportunity to reflect and pray. Reflect and pray for our families, our friends and those who feel alone or lost. And if you are feeling alone or lost give us a call for a catch-up, a text for company or a pray for support!

Fr Paddy

Covid-19 and your Smartphone

We all know how important intelligence is to winning a war. Think Bletchley Park and you get the idea.

Covid-19 is a different sort of threat but information will be vital to help us as we go forward.

We have all heard of the NHS app which all smartphone users will soon be encouraged to use. Less well known is an app prepared by an academic group from King’s College and a company called Zoe.

The app asks you to report how you feel each day. You can also report on behalf of others. There are currently 3.7 million people from the UK reporting how they feel each day. These reports are quick and easy to make and yet provide valuable insights into the prevalence of the disease and how it affects us.

Today, the research team has appealed for more users. As we start to emerge from lockdown we need a better insight to the way the disease operates within our communities.

If you have a smartphone then please help by loading the app and reporting daily. Encourage your family and friends to do the same.

You can find the app here for iPhone users and here for Android users.

You can read more about the project below.

Logging your health daily is more important than ever

With lockdown measures easing, there are plenty of new opportunities for ‘R’ to increase. As the weather improves and children and teachers head back to school, more people will come into contact with one another. The risk of new COVID hotspots emerging is also likely to increase without adequate monitoring.

Our app is a crucial early detection tool to understand if there is a risk of a second wave of the virus. It’s is more important than ever that you keep logging daily using our app to help us to detect new COVID hotspots earlier. Protect your community as lockdown lifts by reporting for yourself and behalf of your children to stop the spread of new infections quicker.

We would also like to encourage you to share the app with schools, parent’s associations, and other organisations within your community. The more of us there are using the app daily, the more accurately and quickly we will be able to identify potential hotspots.

How might I keep my kids safe as they return to school?

As children return to school, we know that parents may be wondering how they can protect their children from COVID. We’ve made sure to cover this topic in one of our latest blog posts. Read our six tips for keeping your children safe as they go back to school.

We encourage all parents to take just 1 minute each day to keep using our app to log on behalf of their children. This data will help us better understand how the virus might affect kids and identify potential COVID hotspots as schools reopen.

New incidence data: are the numbers falling?

Last week we published insights into the number of daily new COVID cases are occurring in England. We have now added daily case estimates for Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland, which you can find on our website.

Stay well,

Professor Tim Spector
On behalf of ZOE