Over the past couple of years, I have really enjoyed being able to sit out in the garden when the weather allows. Last year at the beginning of the first lockdown this was a real blessing (I really feel for those who don’t have an outdoor space to call their own and use in these circumstances). This year is a little different – the weather has not been brilliant till the last couple of weeks – on the other hand work had been done to “upgrade” the space.
There is one issue though – the noise from Newbrook Road – and no – I don’t mean the neighbours – but the cars and lorries that are constantly on the move both on Newbrook Road and the motorway when the wind is blowing in the right direction. You will know that when you come to Church, there is rarely a service goes by when you don’t have at least one siren heading up or down the road.
I found a good solution for concentrating on the work I was doing whilst out – noise-cancelling headphones. A really great asset that does not shut the world out completely – but tones down everything around me so that I can actually focus on what I am doing. It can be a bit of a problem when someone walks up to me in the garden and I haven’t noticed them….
As the world opens up – with all the changes, challenges, and news reports in between. It’s good to think of how we can reduce the noise around and about us. Not shutting out the world – but reducing the noise so that we can get on with what we are called to do – love God and love our neighbour…
We have a purpose that we need to open ourselves too.
Football had a bit of a sad ending last week. It was a great achievement which should not be underestimated – well done team. Sadder than the loss was the fact of the troubles taking place around and outside the stadium. The racial abuse and the misuse of social media and the violent break-in of fans and the sight of all the litter left behind by the moving crowds.
When you listen in to the news, there are lots of phrases being banded about, like culture wars and wokeness. Influences on our culture by Social Media has been highlighted, but also after the pandemic – the challenges of clear messaging by the government.
Away from the superficial conversations, the main issues are being drowned out. There are massive inequalities in our society and the gap between the haves and the have-nots is getting ever bigger. A second issue is that so many live in fear. Wether real or perceived – it has the same effect – allowing a sense of insecurity to take root, which can provoke a response.
As a community, we can make a big difference. Looking out for one anther and those we can reach – doing what we can. We can also as a community help to replace fear with hope. Real practical, as well as moral support, is called for.
How does this fit in with our worship of God. The God we worship is a good of love who says to us, “Do not be afraid” again and again. A message we can pass on to others.
The big challenge for me at this minute is to remain calm in the midst of the perceived great insecurity. TV experts debate ad nausium about each aspect of the changes coming. You have to be careful not to be completely sucked in to the eternal debates and discussion.
The 19th July will mark a significant milestone on our journey through this pandemic. Although we have not received any direction from the diocese as yet, the key factors are clear for us moving forward.
We still have the same mission we had before, during and after the pandemic.
Rules on social distancing and other restrictions will change.
We will respond as a caring community.
We have planned through to the end of July. There will be stewards in place for all masses, so we can calmly manage the transition. Our rhythm of public masses on Wednesday and Friday – the others online only – will continue.
The suggested changes are:
We will remove the ropes to make all benches available and so be able to fit more people in.
We will keep mass as it is now – people going to communion when called by stewards at the end and leaving immediately. There will be no singing.
We want to keep the need to wear a mask to offer a sense of security to all.
It would be great if you could get in touch and let me know what you think…
Last week saw the resignation of the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock. One of the astonishing thing for me was the general consensus – he resigned for breaching social distancing rules. Where I accept that this is true, I still find it difficult.
How focused are we on the rule of man and how much do we integrate the rule of God in our lives, our Church and our society.
Social distancing aside, we were seeing 2 marriages, including 6 children, being broken.
Of course there can be many things in the story that I am not aware of and this is not about judging anyone – just the perspective with which we look at these things as a society.
There has been certain “laws” of the Church put to one side for the time of the pandemic. The Bishops removed the obligation to attend mass on a Sunday.
When are lives now get busier and things open up – what dose it mean to us to be “obliged” to be a part of the Eucharistic community of the Chruch.
Dose the Church and my community come in 1st or last place – perhaps in between.
Going to be important how we look at things as we move forward.
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.
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