It is time to get ready. Lent could be a new beginning more than ever before…
I don’t know how you are doing under the recent set of restrictions, I personally am finding this time a kind of stalemate – we are not at the beginning – but not quite at the end either. But I do think there is something to be said for starting to prepare for the end…. That is what Lent and Easter are all about…. There are many things we really want to put behind us. There are also many lessons to be learned and ground to be re-conquered. We have a chance… Lent.
Let’s do something positive We will be doing our bit from Church to bring Lent and Easter to you as best we can.
Tuesdays, we will have our **Adult Formation Zooms**. I think the theme will be around St Joseph, (we are celebrating the year of Joseph and March is the month of his feast day).
As always in Lent we will pray the Stations of the Cross on Thursdays. That celebration will also be online – so you can watch from the comfort of your home.
Our Sunday and daily Masses will take on the theme of St Joseph.
Our children should watch out for the Children’s Liturgy Zoom and the Children’s Stations that are coming up.
A Lent to remember The above is what we are offering. Be conscious in your own preparations for this time of the year, it could be the best preparation for coming out of restrictions – and into a new life for our Church – that you could make. – Do something daily Mass is available online as well as there being many prayer and meditation programs in books and apps and online. Choose something to do – even if it revolves around simply making the Sign of the Cross. – Do something Weekly Go to Sunday Mass or make a little pilgrimage on foot. There are lots of offerings online for conferences and inspiration – why not hook up with a Lenten Buddy and have a time sharing your Lenten experiences. – One off Look for an opportunity to take part in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. If your Churches are closed – or you are not going out as you are being careful – visit the Blessed Sacrament for a time of Adoration.
Do share what you are doing yourself and in your family. What you share might inspire others!
God spoke to Joseph in dreams… Do we dare to dream today…
I don’t know whether you have heard already, but the Pope has called on us to celebrate a year of St Joseph. The Church often calls these years to focus on a particular attribute of God – we had the year of the Word for example – or on a Saint or other aspect of our life of faith that can help us, through our focus, to take steps of faith.
Pope Francis has a great devotion to St Joseph. Soon into his pontificate he made sure the name of Joseph was spoken after the naming of Mary in our Eucharistic prayers. We have heard the story many times now of the little statue of Sleeping Joseph that he puts prayers underneath for safe keeping.
But why call on Joseph now…. – We are experiencing a time of great danger (not just in terms of a pandemic), our faith is challenged and our Church questioned. God entrusted his Son into Joseph’s care and they fled to Egypt. Joseph is the protecter of the Church.
– Pope Francis wants to encourage us to dream. We can get so lost in the difficulties of life it is hard to look beyond the horizon. God spoke to Joseph in dreams 5 times. Joseph can help us listen to the voice of God, but above all to act on what we hear.
– Joseph was known as the worker. There is dignity in work. Many of the social and economic models that exist today do not reflect the dignity of human life and work. St Joseph stands not as a theoretical argument, but as a shining example of how a life of family and work can form the basis of great happiness…
– We could go on…
We are lucky at St Vincent’s to have a beautiful statue of St Joseph given to us by the Sisters of Marcy, Werneth Convent. In this year let us look to Joseph to help us build our community from the experiences and challenges that this last year has brought. We can dream… We can take action… We can help one another through the uncertainties going on in the world….
It is so refreshing that the narrative around us is beginning to change. Of course, the high number of deaths is and remains shocking, but, the perspective is shifting to a time where there is no threat from COVID – this will take time – but the prospect is visible and tangible.
I don’t know about you, but I find myself in a certain sense of limbo. We are not at the thrilling beginning, the Christmas rush is over, and we are poised for something new. I certainly experience a sense of tiredness. Everything has been so “different” and that has been challenging.
Openness to what is new – what the Holy Spirit will guide us through this experience is key. It could be that we want things to “just go back to how they were”, but what can be “new?”
We will soon begin the season of Lent, a season of conversion that leads to the mystery of new life in the Risen Christ. I pray that this time of conversion will not only be key to us as individuals but also to us as a community as we are “lifted up” out of the experiences of the last year, to a newness of life only God can offer. (It will also be nice to get out for a coffee!!!)
How can we prepare for the newness God always wants to give: 1. Get a vaccine. Until it is safe we need to persevere with all the things that need to be done to protect each one of us and our communities. 2. Take time to think and pray. Don’t forget to dream. Ask God to show you what he wants you to give and to receive. 3. Share your thoughts and your prayer with others. 4. Smile. Where there is life there is hope….
Every year is different – none as different as this one…
Wanted to write a few words of thanks and of hope at the outset of our celebration of Christmas. In one sense everything is different – but so much is the same in different clothing. Our focus at this time of year is the presence of the new life of Christ born again in our midst. If you think about it – that is the focus of the whole life as a Church all of the time – keeping Christ present in our lives, our homes, our Church and our world. On the journey of the past year we have been asked to learn a lot.
What does it mean to be community. We have never been so separated “physically” from one another – and yet community has been ever more important. Not just our Sunday community – but our whole life of Caritas, receiving people into the Church, first Holy Communion of our children, our social life…. and so much more. I believe we have grown stronger as a community.
How do we communicate with one another. We are so used to meeting together physically and sorting things out in passing. There was so much to learn about keeping people up to date – more than that – the challenge of involving people when they are separated from us physically. We were in a good position as we were already up and running with live streaming – but a lot of work was done to improve and develop that side of our parish life and not enough can be said about each individual phone call that passed from one to another. It was amazing to see how many people took the plunge and became involved in social media for the first time… This also brought with it a virtual parish community – an additional group of people who had no access to their own Churches and found a home in ours…. We are one Church…
Not everyone is online. How do we keep those who do not have these tech possibilities in the loop. A new beginning for a parish SVP (that’s my understanding) was a great answer and response – lets see where that exciting development takes us.
There has been a great sense of perseverance. The world has changed and we are still there for one another and God is there for us all. So much of what was taken away has only emphasised the great gift that our faith and our Church is – but also challenged us to be open of the Spirit of Change – God’s Spirit….
What is the meaning of Eucharist for me and for you. We have grown in so many ways… Our Online presence and possibilities have taken on a new life. These once peripheral tools have become integral parts of our life and open up great new exciting opportunities…. We are a different community now – but one made up of the same people (with a few added and a few sadly who are no longer with us on our earthly journey). This external event has forced us, but freed us up to find and embrace new ways of doing things – an attitude and skill that will be of great help going forward. A crucial theme for me is how Eucharist and community belong together… This is a powerful truth that motivates me moving forward.
I enter this Christmas celebration with a great sense of gratitude for the new life in us and with great hope as we move forward as God’s family….
Apart from that I am shattered….
Have a blessed Christmas and may God continue to guide us in the New Year.
Those of you who know me well know that I get the seasons mixed up on a regular basis. When it’s Lent I have the tendency to talk about Advent – when Advent then Lent – Happy Christmas can easily become Happy Easter… On the one hand I am feeling more confused than ever. I really can’t remember having celebrated Easter this year and it seems just days ago since we were together for Christmas.
Thankfully there is a common denominator – Christ. The challenge for us is to focus on him. There is so much to see and learn, so much to change and to improve. These festivals of faith are of course about remembering the person of Christ, his life, death and resurrection – but they are more about the continuation of his mission – the salvation of the world. Focusing on faith and the action that it calls us to is what we want to focus on this week. Moving from back to basics to “belonging” with all the rights and responsibilities that go along with it.
Quick notes and reminders: – Remember to book your Christmas Mass – 07508 831238 – Monday to Friday between 9am- 5.00pm… – You can now get your raffle tickets – CLICK HERE – We are still collecting for Caritas and for our Crib Collection – We have an Advent Service on Wednesday… – We are out of Lockdown and have Masses with congregation on Saturday, Sunday, Wednesday and Friday…
These last months have been mad – to say the least. Testing certainly! But also a chance to open ourselves to lots of new ways of doing things, of reaching out to each other, of supporting, of praying. Lockdown 2.0 will come to an end on December 2nd. We will return to communal worship from Saturday, 5th December – The Second Sunday of Advent. After that our normal rhythm of Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday Mass being for the public and online. The other days will be online only.
This newsletter brings our Advent and Christmas Program. For me this marks the beginning of a new season. A new chance to open myself to the plan of God. Amidst all the planning take time to step back, give thanks, praise God and embrace the challenge of living the faith today. I know many want to just go crazy this time of year – can we go crazy doing the right things for ourselves and for others. I hope it brings us all great joy…
Please download our Advent and Christmas Flyer – CLICK HERE….
Christmas Masses – Please BOOK – !!!!! Important !!!!! For our Christmas Services, you will need to BOOK by calling the telephone number below from Monday, Nov 30th onwards.
To make a booking – Call 07508 831238 Monday to Friday between 9.00 am-5.00 pm.
Crib Visits As well as the Christmas Masses – Church will be open on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of Christmas Week from 2-4 pm. For those who are not yet comfortable coming back to a service – you can come and visit the crib – you can pray quietly – I will also be available in Church to distribute Communion and give a blessing.
I wanted to get that news out front and centre. But I would ask that you don’t forget – it is not Christmas yet – it is Advent – a really special time of the year. Don’t let this time pass by without paying attention to your heart and to God!
We are living through uncertain times. I am certainly feeling it right through to my bones. The difficulty with this is that a lot of things we would like to be “normal” to offer us a sense of control, are also not achievable…. This run up to Christmas will be very different. We are planning as best we can – but we will need to wait for Government guidance on what is possible or not. We continue to stream live – and we will add lots of stuff for Advent and Christmas… We can’t have our Fair – a real shame. But we can continue to help others through our actions…..
Advent and Christmas Action We are collecting in Church and in the Presbytery for three things:
1) Christmas Raffle We are asking for donations for the Christmas Raffle. 5 prizes will be put together from what we gather… 1 A TV…. 2 A food hamper 3 A drinks hamper 4 A smellies hamper 5 Some high street vouchers. Anything we don’t use for prizes will be used for Caritas – locally and on a Diocesan level.
2) Our Caritas Collection We are collecting to support the Diocese of Salford Caritas They need the following items…. • Cereals • Tinned Soups and Stew • Pasta, rice and pasta sauce. • Tinned meat or fish, beans and frozen vegetables and fruit. • Long life milk or natural fruit juices. • Liquid hand soaps, sanitisers and personal hygiene products. We will make sure we make provision for local families before passing on the goods to Caritas.
3) Our Crib Collection We are collecting money donations for three Charities we support every year at this time. Frances House, Derian House and the Mother and Baby Unit close by. This will be a crib collection. You can donate in the collection bucket at the crib, we have envelopes you can use – or you can donate online on our website.
Please give what you can – we will do the rest…… Just dump it on our doorstep…
It was certainly a shock to me – as I imagine it was to many of you – when we were forced to close our doors for common worship again in this second national lockdown. We had worked hard to make our Church COVID – Secure – and I think we had done a great job. Those of you who know me, know that I do tend to compliance. This time it was hard.
The key for me was the solidarity with many other organisations whose closure and whose sacrifice, to bring down the number of infections and consequent deaths, was really necessary. I certainly had no wish to be moving to the “celebration” of Christmas with a death toll higher than it normally would be at this time of year… For us life is sacred. This is not a political post, or a rant. There is a definite need for dialogue within society about the role of Churches. On the other hand there is need for dialogue amongst ourselves about what role faith plays in our daily lives. For me two major focuses on what is “essential” for us – and what makes us essential to society at large – are Eucharist and community. Of course we know the Mass going population has been decreasing over the last years – but Eucharist is “essential”. The same can be said of our social life and social action – but community is “essential.”
There is a great opportunity as we move toward the greatest festival of the year to share with one another and to learn the lessons of an incredibly different year. With that we too may experience a “new birth” of our faith in the love of the Eucharist and the joy of belonging to a community.
We are moving into the month of November, traditionally a month where we “remember”.
The month begins with the feast of All Saints. We raise our eyes to heaven and look to the example of those lives that shine a light on the way of life that we are all called too. There is of course the diversion of Halloween – that comes from Hallow or Holy and certainly is to do with more than ghosts.
All Souls is one of the most emotive days of our calendar. We think of the souls in heaven or on their way, our prayer for them and their prayer for us. God places people in our lives, they all mean a great deal and it is good to take stock.
This of course has the twofold call for us to look at how we are living our lives, and a reminder that each day counts.
November also sees us remember the fallen of the wars, Remembrance Sunday. The playing of the Last Post is something that demands reflection and gratitude. That Last Post will not be missing from our celebrations amid all the external restrictions that we are living through right now.
I think November does talk to us in a special way – but it is a reminder to make our conversations count. Life has great meaning. How important is it for us to speak to and support one another on our journey of life. To rise to the challenges and to be reminded that we are not alone.
We have wanted to ensure faith and not fear is the guide for us on our journey through this pandemic. A key to this is to take time away from the noise of the news and turn to activities that can help us deepen and broaden that faith – a faith that can be challenged.
We want to have a conversation with each other and with the Gospels of this month of November. Two great sources for us to find what faith is all about in these times. The Bible and our faith community.
Join us in that conversation – or have that conversation with friends and family….
It certainly does not always feel that way – but we are blessed. It’s really important for us to check our perspective again and again. I don’t know about you, but I certainly get moved off track by the noise of the current situation – but we are blessed. Certainly in our little community there are intentions upon intentions for people in really difficult situations – but we are blessed.
We are blessed that we have this community of sharing and caring. We are blessed that we can practice our faith. We are blessed because we have the resources to reach out and help.
Evening Blessing Am not sure if you are aware, but there is a growing group of people that check in very quickly with each other at 9 pm Tuesday to Sunday. They gather on Facebook and Youtube for a quick evening prayer and blessing. It’s great, especially at the end of the day to wind down and turn once again to God. It’s great at the end of the day to be reminded that no one needs to be alone – even in these most difficult of times.
Join us on Facebook – @stvincentbolton – @schoenstattfamilyengland – @frandrewpastore….
As the tech gets better – so do we. Over the next few weeks I will be inviting other priests to join me and share their blessing with us all….
Adult Formation Each year we have two blocks of evening sessions to deepen our faith. This year we are not going to follow a specific program, we will turn simply to the Sunday Gospel. Each Wednesday from 7-8pm in November, you are invited to join me in a conversion about the Gospel of the coming Sunday. Sharing our impressions and delving deeper into what this Gospel is saying to us today. All welcome.
If you are looking for our November List – CLICK HERE
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