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!
In every situation may the Holy Spirit cause us to contemplate history in light of the risen Jesus (Gaudete et exsultate 139).
John 20:1-9 “He saw and believe.’
We pray and beg our Lady so often: Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be worthy of the promises of Christ. What did Christ promise? He promised the Holy Spirit. What has the Holy Spirit to give us? What did our Lord say? He should introduce us into all that he (Jesus) had said (cf. Jn 14,26). … So we may expect the coming of the Holy Spirit in a special way. “Send forth your Spirit and everything will be re-created”. We want to be transformed inwardly, to become genuine human beings, real men, real women, but at the same time completely supernatural.(26 May 1958 – JK)
We share a happiness that the world will not be able to take from us (Gaudete et exsultate 177).
Luke 24:1-12 `The Son of Man must be delivered in to the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again..’
Joy, perfect joy, has to be understood as central to our religious life; an accompaniment, but also an essential means to become holy. … St Francis of Assissi said: Educate yourselves to be joyful; if it doesn’t dominate, we can be certain that the devil will. That’s not what he said, but gives the meaning. Fr Faber said that joy is the atmosphere of heroic holiness. That is why we have to see education to be joyful as a moral duty and make it the centre of attention. Why? Because joy is a fundamental drive in human nature, and if it isn’t developed, human nature will look for other satisfactions. We cannot live without joy. (Retreat 1934 – JK)
`This is our logic’ says St Bonaventure, pointing to the cross (Gaudete et exsultate 174).
John18:1 – 19:42
‘It is finished.’
I have often said that the saints only began to be saints when they were convinced that God loved them boundlessly. That is why we have to follow up the stations of our Lord’s suffering as stations of love. Saint Paul said: He loved me – not just in a general way: He loved me personally. … He emptied himself, he allowed himself to be destroyed, even to die on the Cross. … He poured out all his blood … Why? Out of love for me. Out of love for the Heavenly Father. … He loved me and gave himself up for me. (17 March 1958 -JK)
The Father readily reveals himself to the lowly! (Gaudete et exsultate 170).
John 13:1-15 `Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.’
What was Mary Magdalene? A sinner, even a public sinner, a prostitute? What did she become? It is strange how our Lord spent time with such people. He was even blamed for doing so. What was his answer? Not the healthy, but the sick need a doctor. We can apply those words to ourselves. We are all sinners. (7 April 1958 – JK)
We must not domesticate the power of the face of Christ (Gaudete et exsultate 151)
Matthew 26:14-25 ‘The one who has dipped his hand into the bow! with me will betray me.’
We can understand how the spiritual suffering of our Lord caused his body to break down. He was so completely human at this moment. What do we do when we are suffering inwardly? We run from door to door looking for a little consolation. Our Lord did the same. He went to his disciples to be comforted, but they were asleep. … They had absolutely no understanding for what moved him inwardly. …. We must even say that what caused our Lord to sweat blood was the thought, the conviction, that his loved ones, the ones to whom he had given special graces, were often so superficial in their lives, so cold, and wanted to have nothing to do with him. (10 March 1958 – JK)
They do not desert others in bad times; they accompany them in their anxiety and distress, even though doing so may not bring immediate satisfaction (Gaudete et exsultate 112).
John 13:21-33.36-38 ‘What you are about to do, do quickly.’
The quiet and deep glow of our love of God drives us to the quiet heroism of joyfully sacrificial love for others. No matter how many weaknesses and limitations we drag around, one faculty has been highly developed: warm and untiring love that leaves us no peace until we have transformed the world around us into a bit of paradise. (Everyday Sanctity – JK)
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