I don’t know about you – but life has been very different for me over the last year. Drastically different. This has meant that there were many new lessons, challenges and opportunities to learn from. Everyone is going through things and it has been apparent how challenging this has been for all.
We live in a world that judges quickly, in binary terms and despite our diversity we shield ourselves from one another by keeping “ourselves to ourselves”. This pandemic and its isolation has highlighted how much we need each other. Also look and see how many examples there are in our community of how help and support has come from some unexpected places. It came because some people can “really” listen.
In order to learn we must listen. Listen to our own hearts and to each other. I am talking here about real listening. Not the background noise of Social Media, TV and radio, but the real listening one person to another, of one community to another. We need to come out from behind our phones, screens, and homes, look each other in the eyes and really listen.
We will soon be in Holy Week – Easter. In this week we celebrate a Triduum – three major feasts. Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It was at the first of these feasts that we are challenged by Jesus to lead lives of service. He washed his Disciples feet. An important example as we move out of this pandemic. Can we break a cycle of selfishness and self-centredness that plagues our world.
For many the goal is to move on from the turmoil and tragedy and put it behind them. For me there is a need to identify and understand the lessons of this pandemic. One lesson being that we need to learn to really listen to one another if we want a blessed world for all.
We have started off on our journey through Lent. Not sure how you are getting on – there is so much out there to try and to do – it can be a bit daunting.
If you are wondering want you can do – or if you just want a little suggestion you don’t have to think about and search for – take time to look at our Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/stvincentsbolton) – there are plenty of insights and impulses to keep you going through these days of Lent.
We’ve also had the “Roadmap” from the Prime Minister which will see us moving forward out of lockdown. Despite the announcements there is still much uncertainty.
That’s the way of progress – a map – but a certain amount of uncertainty.
This is where faith comes in. We have to journey – we have to follow the path that is laid out before us. The goal is not in question – what we experience on the way is.
Like on our faith journey, so too on this way out of the pandemic, we need to step out in faith and learn the lessons God is placing in our path. Use the time to think about yourself and your priorities. Where does Church, and, where does God fit into the picture of your life? What are you going to focus on as the restrictions are eased? What has this past year taught you that means certain things from the past have no place in your life any more….
One of the things I always associate with the beginning of Lent is the coming of Spring. There is a real move from darkness to light. The daffodils and snowdrops appear all around the Church grounds and there is a sense of optimism for the weeks and months ahead. Hopefully, another sign of hope and optimism will come on Monday 22nd, when the Prime Minister lays out his plan for us to come out of lockdown.
As with all looking forward a great deal of effort is needed. There is a promise made – but to reach its fulfilment each one of us has to put the effort in and apply ourselves, so that the opportunities that arise from this new life don’t just pass us by.
I think Lent is a time not to be harsh and bullish, but to live out the gentleness that comes from the Good Shepherd. Step back, think, relax, pray. We have been through so much this last year – bring that before God. Cry for those whom we have lost and have been badly affected by all that has been going on. Acknowledge how things have been difficult for you and for me and place everything into Gods hands…
Then… Ask God to guide you to the new life he wishes to give you in the weeks and months ahead. Does he want you to take time to heal, or pick up on a new challenge. After a long time of being “Church at Home”, is it time to visit our holy places again?
Respond to God challenging you to grow.
Fr Andrew Pastore SI St Vincent de Paul 40 Newbrook Road Over Hulton, Bolton BL5 1ER
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….
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…
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….
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