<![CDATA[St. Bartholomew's Catholic Church Norbury (Streatham) SW16 5DE - Thoughts]]>Sun, 20 May 2018 23:32:41 +0100Weebly<![CDATA[Pentecost]]>Fri, 18 May 2018 16:15:25 GMThttp://stbartsnorbury.co.uk/thoughts/pentecostThere is a very beautiful hymn, thought to have been written in the 9th Century AD, by Rabanus Maurus, which is very appropriate to this Solemnity and which, fortunately, has not been excluded from modern Catholic hymn books. In it we pray, “Come Holy Ghost, Creator, Come…….take possession of our Souls and make them all thine own”.
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Pentecôte - Jean II Restout (1692-1768)
Today, we open our Mass, proclaiming, in the Entrance Antiphon (Wisdom 1:7) that ‘The Spirit of the Lord has filled the whole world…’. Today we celebrate what is sometimes called the Birthday of the Church, when, enlightened and emboldened by the Holy Spirit, the previously timid, fearful and, perhaps, uncertain Apostles, the first Bishops of the Catholic Church, energetically emerged from their hiding place. Strengthened by the Gifts of the Spirit, the same Gifts given to each of us at our Confirmation, to be received by the Candidates today, through Bishop Pat, they gave, quite literally, their all. They received the following seven gifts and attributes:
 
Wisdom, which helps us choose God’s way of living, understanding the often challenging teachings of the Church, having compassion and tolerance for the weak, whilst also being ever ready to ‘grasp the nettle’, to be unpopular – in other words, ‘un-politically correct’ - pointing out error, even if we aren’t thanked for it!
 
Understanding helps us to see the deep meaning of the truths of our Faith, and to hold onto them.
 
Right Judgement (Counsel) helps us make choices to live as a faithful follower of Jesus, to see the danger of certain ‘alternative’ ways of living.
 
Courage (Fortitude) helps us stand up for our faith in Christ, avoiding anything which, while the worldly-wise might approve, will separate us from God. Such courage may even separate us from friends who cannot or will not see why we believe and live as we do.
 
Knowledge, again, helps us choose the path that will lead to God. It encourages us to avoid whatever will keep us from Him.
 
Reverence (Piety) helps us worship and serve God, and inspires us to joyfully want to serve Him and others.
 
Wonder and Awe bring us to see how utterly great God is, and to love Him so much that we do not want to offend Him by anything we say or do. This Gift is also known as Fear of The Lord, which, if explained correctly, emphasises love and devotion which move us to obey God. Indeed, far from fearing so Loving a Father, we fear the sins which can separate us from Him.
 
How childlike are we in our following of God? Let us pray anew for a renewal of these Gifts in our souls and in those of all our young people who are growing up in an increasingly godless world. Let us pray especially for all our Confirmation Candidates receiving this great Sacrament today. May these young men and women be continually inspired to be instruments of the call to, ‘Send forth your Spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth’, as they, the Church of the future, set out to fulfil the awesome responsibility they have assumed through this Sacrament!
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<![CDATA[The Ascension (Liturgical Year B)]]>Fri, 11 May 2018 16:23:42 GMThttp://stbartsnorbury.co.uk/thoughts/the-ascension-liturgical-year-bLast week, on Ascension Thursday, 10th May, the fortieth day of Eastertide, in the Entrance Antiphon (Acts 1:11), we pronounced the words of the Angel to the Apostles who, following their beloved Master’s departure from their sight into Heaven, remained for a while gazing (surely sadly and longingly) into the empty sky. The Angel assures them that, one day, Jesus will return when He comes, of course, to Judge us all at the end of time.
 
This year, as the Solemnity fell on the exact day, i.e. Thursday, that day was, of course, a Holy Day of Obligation, binding on the Faithful, as are all Sundays, giving us the very clear message that the Eucharist has an indispensable and central role in our lives.
 
The First Reading (Acts 1:1-11) narrated that familiar scene in which Our Lord took leave, so to speak, of His Apostles.
The Ascension as depicted by the Anglo-American artist Benjamin West in 1801
Jesus had, of course, promised to be with us, His Church, always. Through the Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 46:2-3, 6-9 response v6) we celebrated this continuity of our Saviour’s presence among us as, indeed, we do every time we participate in the Mass. In order to fulfil this promise, Jesus and the Father were to send the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. This word, again, has a numerical significance, coming from the Greek for 50, i.e. the number of Days after Easter that the Spirit came to transform the twelve timid first Bishops and Priests into fearless Crusaders, eleven of whom would eventually be Martyred for preaching the Truth, and with one in exile. The Apostles were Confirmed or ‘energised’ as it were, to “...Go out to the whole world…”, come what may, and ‘…proclaim the Good News…’ that Christ is, indeed, Risen and that, through His Body, the Church, with her Pope, Bishops, Priests and Deacons, and Her seven Sacraments, we have the infallible link to God and our Heavenly destiny. Only knowing and persistent refusal to live God’s Way can, ultimately, deprive a soul of the Life God wishes to give to us eternally.
In the Second Reading (Ephesians 1:17-23) Saint Paul prayed (as must we!) for the necessary Graces to aid us in understanding and living by the Teachings of Our Lord who, alone, can give us Eternal Happiness. We must recognise that those who consider themselves ‘worldly-wise’ among us will, at times, not accept Jesus as ‘…the ruler of everything…’, as is evidenced by the continual challenges to Catholic Moral Teaching around the world. We may be challenged, sometimes shunned, because we practise and profess the ‘unpalatable’! In the Gospel (Mark 16:15-20) we heard the Apostles (now ourselves!) being told to, ‘…Go out into the whole world, proclaim the Good News to all creation…’.  We are assured that we, and those we evangelise (and who embrace the Faith) ‘…will be saved…’.

In France and Germany, among other countries, the importance of this day was emphasised by its being a Public Holiday, echoing the deep Catholic Faith of former times. In the days when England proudly proclaimed herself the Dowry of Mary, Holy days were, very often, the only days off in addition to Sunday, especially, probably, for the Poor. From this extra day of rest, of course, comes our word, holiday. Hopefully the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord was a joyful day in our Families, encouraging not only us and our children but, also, through us, those of other faiths (or none) that we may encounter, to see beyond the limits of this world.
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<![CDATA[May - The Month of Our Lady - the Holy Rosary]]>Fri, 04 May 2018 15:02:16 GMThttp://stbartsnorbury.co.uk/thoughts/may-the-month-of-our-lady-the-holy-rosaryOur Blessed Mother, when she appeared to the three little shepherds in Fátima, introduced herself as,
​“…the Lady of the Rosary". She spoke of the need for us to amend our lives and to seek pardon for our sins, which, daily, offend Our Lord. She urged the daily recitation of the Rosary, a powerful weapon against the evils of Satan and, therefore, a bountiful source of Grace for those who love her Son and constantly call on Him for aid. Ever concerned for our spiritual wellbeing, and conscious of our tendency to forget even essentials, Holy Mother Church sets aside two months during which this great Prayer is ‘put in the spotlight’ so to speak, both this month of May and later, October.
The Rosary is, of course, a prayer for all people, suitable for all ages and levels of intelligence or level of education, and for all times and situations. It is not limited in its use. While it may, profitably, be recited in its entirety in church before the Blessed Sacrament, it may also be prayed wholly or in sections, for instance at home by Parents and Children, on the way to work, whilst working round the house etc.
 
In essence, the Rosary consists of four sets of Mysteries (i.e. Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful and Glorious). Look here for starters. Whilst meditating on (i.e. considering mentally) each Mystery, one prays a decade, i.e. ten Hail Marys. Before each decade, comes the Our Father and after each decade comes the Glory be to the Father. The original 150 Hail Marys of which the Rosary was composed were associated with the 150 Psalms in the Prayer of the Church; by ‘telling their beads’, even those with no education or reading ability could unite themselves with the prayer of the Universal Church. This Prayer may be said on beads, on Rosary rings or even on one’s fingers, all basic counting aids. In the dark days of the concentration camps, for example, Rosary beads might even have been made from bread pellets threaded onto string.
The prayers of the Rosary might be compared to the incidental music of a good Family film which serves to heighten awareness of emotions and actions of characters in different scenes. Almost in the background, these prayers serve to aid those praying in focussing upon the most notable scenes from the Lives of Mary and Jesus in particular. Parents are warmly encouraged to teach their children this invaluable Prayer from a very early age. As our youngsters grow in stature and intelligence, their insights into the Mysteries will deepen. Our Blessed Lady will be their constant companion throughout a lifetime in which their Faith will be strongly challenged. It is a prayer which will stand them in good stead from infancy (obviously on a more basic level) to old age, when they will, please God, draw on the fruits of a lifetime’s Rosaries. How about searching this treasure trove together?! If not the internet, then our own Catholic Truth Society is the place to go!
 
Throughout the centuries, this Prayer has developed and been presented in several forms. For example, the Luminous Mysteries, originally developed by Malta’s Saint Ġorġ Preca, were introduced by Saint Pope John Paul II through his Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae. Other forms have focussed on particular episodes in the lives of Christ and His Mother. One example is the Seven Dolours Rosary in which one concentrates specifically on the seven sorrows of our Lady: - Simeon’s prophecy that Mary would suffer witnessing her Son’s Passion and Death (Lk. 2:34, 35); Herod’s massacre of the Holy Innocents, which led to the flight of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph into Egypt (Mt. 2:13, 14); The finding of the 12 year old child Jesus in the temple (Lk. 2:43-45); Jesus meets Mary as he carries His Cross to Calvary (4th Station of the Cross); Jesus’ Body being taken down from the Cross (13th Station); the burial of Jesus in the Tomb (14th Station). There is so much out there!
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<![CDATA[5th Sunday of Easter (Liturgical Year B)]]>Sat, 28 Apr 2018 18:44:34 GMThttp://stbartsnorbury.co.uk/thoughts/5th-sunday-of-easter-liturgical-year-b
During the past week, we have been presented with two examples of the consequences of promoting Truth and publicly opposing evil. St. George, nowadays honoured as the Patron Saint of England, was probably a Roman soldier who was martyred because he refused to renounce his Catholic Faith during a persecution. He is presented in legend as a soldier who slew a dragon to which had been made human sacrifices. In a way he could stand for all who live their Faith and strive to resist the temptations of Satan.
 
On Wednesday we celebrated Saint Mark, another Martyr, traditionally held to have been an Evangelist (i.e. author of one of the Gospels), a disciple of Saint Peter, cousin of Barnabas and, at one time, a companion of Saint Paul in his missionary journey, spreading the Good News. There has been much scholarly debate on this Saint.
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St. George and the Dragon as painted by the French artist Gustave Moreau (1826-98)
The Entrance Antiphon (cf Psalm 97:1-2) expresses joy: Our Lord has very clearly shown us the way forward and, indeed, saved us and, throughout life, we must seek and cooperate with Grace so that we may attain Eternal Salvation.
 
In the First Reading (Acts 9:26-31) we hear of the newly converted Saint Paul’s meeting with the, understandably wary Disciples. Paul might be thought of as a type of Saint George, fearless unto death in his living and preaching the often ‘unpalatable’ and challenging Truth. We hear how, having declared himself a follower of Christ, Paul had immediately faced strong and hostile opposition. This fact, as well as the account of his Conversion, was enough to convince the Disciples that he (formerly named Saul) was indeed a worthy ally. Saints George, Mark and Paul, Martyrs all, are outstanding role models for us. We shall probably never be called to ‘lay our life on the line’ but, as we hear constantly through the media, many of our brothers and Sisters are still martyred for their fidelity to God. Christians, even here in England, Mary’s Dowry, can experience concerted opposition, even, at times, backed by law. Sometimes this may be through ignorance and misunderstanding, but sometimes, sadly, it is because our hearers know, ‘deep down’, that we are right. However tough a time we may have as a Christians, we can take heart, as Saint Paul did, that God will ultimately prevail over opposition to His Truth.
 
The Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 21:26-28, 30-32 response v26) again looks to the centrality of God in our lives and the ongoing and irresistible spread of Faith, Truth and Justice, as more are gathered into the one true fold.
 
Saint John, in the Second reading (1 Jn. 3:18-24) emphasises the inescapable fact that belief in Jesus cannot be merely verbal assent but, if it is to be credible to all, it must influence our relations with and our treatment of others. As the maxim states, ‘actions speak louder than words’. Our conscience, formed by the Teachings of the Church, will help us to remain faithful and confident in our loving obedience to God’s Laws, whatever obstacles may be placed in our path. The Commandments are our sure Rule of Life, our ‘Route-Map’. This fruitful closeness to our Father is echoed in the Alleluia Verse (John 15:4-5) and underlined later on in the Communion Antiphon (cf John 15:1-5).
 
The Gospel (Jn. 15:1-8) presents us with the beautiful discourse of Jesus on our essential and close, therefore fruitful, union with Him; only by growing on the Vine can Branches flourish and bear fruit. Our Lord delivers the stark warning that the roads to Heaven and Hell, to our Eternity, are our choice. We are called to oppose the materialism and the so-called ‘modern moral standards’ so widely and forcefully presented as ‘cool’ and to be constantly aware that, however much the ‘majority’ may appear to prevail, every single person created will appear before God’s Judgement Seat. Be prepared to suffer opposition now in order to, one day, hear the words’…Well done, Good and Faithful Servant…’ (Matthew 25:21, 23) from our Loving Father.
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<![CDATA[4th Sunday of Easter (Liturgical Year B)]]>Fri, 20 Apr 2018 13:58:07 GMThttp://stbartsnorbury.co.uk/thoughts/4th-sunday-of-easter-liturgical-year-bToday we continue to rejoice in the Victory of Christ over evil. Through the words of the Entrance Antiphon (Psalm 32:5-6), we proclaim God’s Goodness and Infinite Creative Power. On reflection, how have we, God’s highest creation, used (or not used) our share in these attributes, “…in what I have done and in what I have failed to do…”? How diligently do we make use of the resources, spiritual and physical, which He has given us?
 
In the First Reading (Acts:4: 8-12), our first Pope, Peter, points those who had just witnessed his miraculous cure of a cripple, beyond his actions to Christ who was working through him as indeed He continues to this day though our Pope, Bishops and Priests. Those who refused to accept the Truth, through ignorance, at that time were, as all people still are today, offered the chance to repent. We affirm our belief in Christ’s vital foundational role in the Response to the Psalm (Psalm.117:22). Where do we stand when we hear the arrogant challenges made to God’s Authority in our modern world in which, so often, we are told that we can happily achieve all we do without God! Are we prepared to correct a fellow Catholic if they act in ways contrary to Christ’s Teachings, even if, as a consequence, we might be labelled ‘unchristian’.
 
In the Second reading (1 John 3:1-2), Saint John emphasises the wonderful fact that we are loved as God’s children and that consequently, should we live as befits such children, we may often (as is evident around the world) suffer rejection as did Our Lord. Looking in hope beyond the sufferings of this world Saint John assures us that, should we live faithfully as our Father created us to do we shall, in Heaven, ‘…be like Him because we shall see Him as He really is…’. The Church, the Mass, the Sacraments, Sanctifying Grace and our gifts of Faith, Hope and Charity are ‘weapons’ equipping us in our fight against evil.
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The Good Shepherd depicted by the German artist Bernhard Plockhorst (1825–1907)
In the Gospel (John 10:11-18), John presents us with Christ’s moving discourse on His role as our Shepherd. Jesus clearly outlines the qualities of a Good Shepherd for which He is the Model. Meditating on this we need to recall that, as He laid down His Life on Calvary, so those who truly love Him may be (indeed, have been) called to give their own lives in standing up for the Truth against falsehoods / man-made doctrines. One moving example of this ‘love to the end’ is to be found in the story of the Martyrdom of Father Ragheed Ganni. In 2007, in Mosul, just after Father Ganni had offered Sunday Mass, terrorists (who, apparently believed that they were doing God’s Will) asked why he had not closed his church as ordered, thereby abandoning his flock. He replied, “How can I close the House of God?” and was brutally shot dead, together with three sub-Deacons, in front of his church. These men laid down their lives in the sure hope that, united with Christ in His Death and Resurrection, they would take them up again in Heaven. This persecution is undoubtedly ongoing!
We are reminded that Jesus came, not just to offer Salvation to those who choose to believe and be baptised, namely ourselves, but that His Mission, through us, extends to all, ‘…who are not of this fold…’ who, through faithful Catholic witness, will be drawn to seek and accept the Gift of Faith, bringing true Unity, ‘…one flock and one Shepherd…’, uncompromisingly living in the Truth.
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<![CDATA[How well do you know YOUR parish church - 8]]>Fri, 13 Apr 2018 15:25:13 GMThttp://stbartsnorbury.co.uk/thoughts/how-well-do-you-know-your-parish-church-8In the upper side windows (two above the Reconciliation room and the Sacred Heart shrine, and two on the opposite wall) we see the symbols of the four Evangelists (Gospel Writers). These images are related to accounts contained in the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel (1:1-21), the Book of Revelation (4:6-8) and the writings of Saint Irenaeus.
 
Matthew, shown as a winged man, begins his Gospel with Jesus’ family tree, His Incarnation and Birth (Mt:1&2).
 
Mark, depicted as a winged lion, begins his Gospel, quoting the Prophet Isaiah and telling of the last of the Prophets, Saint John the Baptist, ‘…the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord…’.
 
Luke is represented by a winged ox. Animals featured prominently in Old Testament Sacrifices, but would be superseded in the New Testament by the Once-for-All Sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. Luke’s Gospel begins with an Angel telling the aged and childless Zechariah of the forthcoming birth of his son, Saint John the Baptist (Lk:1).
 
John appears as an eagle. His Gospel begins at the Source of all things: the one God in Three Divine persons.
 
For further explanation of the symbolism, see HERE, and also, for a far more detailed insight, see the article by Father William Saunders in Catholic Exchange.
 
This eight-part ‘tour’, has, of course, merely ‘scratched the surface’ of the treasury of knowledge. How much of this treasury do we know? Visual symbols provide a simple, yet vital, resource in leading our children and indeed ourselves to a deeper understanding and practice of the Faith, and in keeping young ones focussed on the Mass until they can use Mass books. We are all, even the ‘not so young’, prone to distractions and may sometimes, forget why we have come into church. There is much here that can draw us back into contemplation of our Faith. Literate as we are, there is much to be said for the simpler, more visual, aids to contemplation, which, independent of language, can be understood by all, according to their ability. They graphically demonstrate our equality before our Creator.
 
Of course, whatever the Evangelists recorded for their widely differing Converts, there is one figure who, chosen by God, is a pivotal figure in all accounts of our Salvation, namely our Blessed Lady, whose, …Let it be done to me according to your word…(her “Yes!” to God; in Latin, her “fiat”), opened the way for the Incarnation. Although we can certainly pray directly to Our Lord, we may be familiar with the expression, To Jesus through Mary”. As far as we know, at every one of her appearances on earth, Mary has called on her hearers to, Pray the Rosary”.
 
With our Catholic Faith under constant threat, we are reassured by Christ’s words to St Peter, “...on this rock I shall build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it.”. (Mt16: 18-19). However, we must not be complacent. Jesus gave us the paradigm of prayer throughout His life, including His great gift to us of the Our Father, an integral part of that powerful prayer, the Holy Rosary, given to us via St Dominic.
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<![CDATA[Divine Mercy Sunday (Liturgical Year B)]]>Fri, 06 Apr 2018 14:53:53 GMThttp://stbartsnorbury.co.uk/thoughts/divine-mercy-sunday-liturgical-year-b
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The Divine Mercy image and the entry from the Diary of Saint Faustina, 1228 are used with the express permission of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the B.V.M.
Last Sunday, Easter Sunday, the Universal Church proclaimed, “Christ is Risen, Indeed!” The Gloria and Alleluia were, once more, prayed at Mass. Pope Francis, in 2015, proclaimed an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, reminding us of something which we must never forget, namely the Ever Loving and Infinite Mercy of God, ours for the asking or, indeed, ours to refuse!
 
This Sunday, the Second in Easter, sometimes called ‘Low Sunday’ is, thanks to the Apostle of Divine Mercy, Saint Faustina Kowalska and to its institution by Saint Pope John Paul II, known as Divine Mercy Sunday. In preparation for this day we have, in our Parish, starting on the Day of Christ’s Redemptive Death, Good Friday, in union with Catholics throughout the world, prayed the Divine Mercy Novena. This nine days of prayer was requested by Our Lord. For an explanation of this Novena and the nine daily Prayer Intentions on the internet look HERE. From this website you may also download a smartphone App.
The Novena may, of course, be said at other times, too. The nine intentions can provide a basis for an Examination of Conscience. On the final day, Jesus’ words are particularly challenging: “Today bring to Me souls who have become lukewarm, and immerse them in the abyss of My mercy. These souls wound My Heart most painfully. My soul suffered the most dreadful loathing in the Garden of Olives because of lukewarm souls. They were the reason I cried out: “Father, take this cup away from Me, if it be Your will.” For them, the last hope (65) of salvation is to flee to My mercy. (Diary of Saint Faustina, 1228). Are we Apostles of Divine Mercy to the lukewarm?
 
Of course, our final bliss in Heaven is dependent, not just on God’s Mercy but upon each of us having freely co-operated with his Grace. As the highest of God’s creations, we are endowed, from conception, with a spiritual Soul and Free-Will; we are capable of coming to know and understand His Will for us, aided in the formation of our Conscience by our Parents, Priests and Catholic schools and, as we mature (a status marked by the Sacrament of Confirmation) by our own careful study of the Teachings of the Church. We must pray, often, that we will clearly discern exactly what Vocation (or call) God is giving us. As we see, in following the news media, the traps set by Satan are numerous and, in some cases, presented under the guises of ‘Human Rights’ and ‘Love’, of which they are, in truth, a denial.
 
One might say that the “bottom line”, regarding our hope for Mercy, lies in the words we say, sometimes, sadly, with little thought, virtually every day of our Life: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” or, to put it another way “Do not forgive me if I refuse to forgive others”. That is not to say that to forgive is easy; ‘scars’ may well remain and it may be hard, if not impossible, to forget wrongs done to us. We have the beautiful example of Saint Pope John Paul II who, following Mehmet Ali Ağca’s attempt on his life, visited and publicly forgave his would-be assassin in prison. In the end, it is Satan who ‘thrives’ on hatred and unforgiveness.
 
As Christians, we are called to be merciful as God is merciful. That means that we must, as well as forgiving, not forget our duty to correct error; it is just as merciless to, for instance, fail to warn someone we know to be living in a sinful state as it is to refuse to forgive those who repent and ask forgiveness of us. It is NOT being judgmental and may see us fall in the ‘popularity ratings’ but this duty supersedes our possible inclinations. God, grant us the Graces we need to spread your Divine Mercy! Saint Faustina and Saint Pope John Paul II, Pray for us!
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<![CDATA[Alleluia! He is Risen!]]>Fri, 30 Mar 2018 16:39:07 GMThttp://stbartsnorbury.co.uk/thoughts/alleluia-he-is-risenOnce again, we are celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. We celebrate the momentous event which is the basis of our faith; this, more than anything, conclusively proves that Jesus is, as He claimed to be, God and, therefore, Conqueror of Death. Jesus took on our Human Nature, living (though without sin) and dying as will we all. Because He then, through His Godly, Power, took up again the life He had laid down on Calvary, He opened the way for every one of us (should we so choose) to follow Him into Eternal Happiness; the broken route to our created destiny was restored. We are offered the chance to, one day, pass beyond this limited earthly life to join Him eternally in our True Home, Heaven!
Through the Pope, Bishops, Priests, Mass and Sacraments, Christ is, as He promised, with us,"...until the end of time". Every Communion, received in the State of Grace, strengthens the Grace first received in Baptism. Should we lose this Life through Mortal Sin we are assured, should we repent, of its restoration to our Soul through the Sacrament of Reconciliation; an interrupted journey resumed. We must never fall prey to the myth that Confession is only for Grave Sins. Neither, however ‘minor’ are our faults, should we be content with doing the ‘bare minimum’ going, maybe, once a year. Just as every ‘little’ sin weakens our Spiritual health, so every Confession, however ‘trivial’ we may consider our sins, makes us Spiritually more ‘robust’. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1458) explains very clearly the immense benefits of regularly confessing what are called venial sins.
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The Resurrection - Pieter Lastman 1612
In our age of widespread education for all, ignorance is, generally, no excuse for departing from the ‘straight and narrow way’. Through the teachings of the Church, challenging as we may well find them, we can be sure of knowing what we must do (or not do) in order, one day, to share in Christ’s Risen Life in Heaven.
 
Satan, of course, is only too aware of the immense Power opposing him, a Power which will, eventually, totally vanquish him. He does not cease to try and spread confusion and dissent, sadly, sometimes among Catholics too; one may find oneself unpopular for upholding the Truth. The mass media can, as we are aware, be a tool for good or evil.
 
Alarmingly, there can sometimes be presented to us a somewhat one-sided view of Divine Love. God loves us. Of that there is no doubt; He created us to, ultimately, enjoy Eternal Happiness - again true! We do well to remember, though, that if we are to get there, we too, have a part to play. We, as Human Beings, are endowed with Intelligence and Free Will. As St. Augustine noted, "God, who created you without your consent, will not (it could read cannot) save you without your co-operation.". In other words, if we are to attain Heaven we must work at it, to the best of our ability, obeying God's Laws - challenging as they may be - or, to put things another way, to reach our journey's hoped-for end we must follow the route map!
 
If we misuse a domestic appliance and it goes wrong, it is no use claiming under the guarantee! Likewise with our God-given life; It must be lived in accordance with the Maker's Instructions in order to lead us to Heaven.

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<![CDATA[Palm Sunday of the Passion of Our Lord (Liturgical Year B)]]>Fri, 23 Mar 2018 19:04:27 GMThttp://stbartsnorbury.co.uk/thoughts/palm-sunday-of-the-passion-of-our-lord-liturgical-year-bOn Palm Sunday, we approach the climax of Our Lord’s Mission to save us. He established the One True Church which offers us the fullness of the Truth He brought and the means to persevere in Grace until death. Although God Incarnate, He atoned to the Father for our sins. The Eternal Son of the Father would be, in a ‘rigged’ trial, falsely accused of blasphemy and subsequently Crucified on Calvary. As far as those who opposed Him were concerned, ‘problem solved!’.

Today, at the 11:30 Mass, we begin our Liturgy outside the church and, starting from the hall, we process to the church, commemorating our Lord’s triumphant Entry into Jerusalem: Through the words of the Entrance Antiphon, we join the rapturous crowds who, on that day, gave Christ the King a ‘royal welcome’, lauding Him, truly, as ‘…he who comes in the name of the Lord…’, carpeting His route with palms. The Palm Crosses which we receive today should prompt us to contemplate His Offering of His Life in order to restore our Eternity. They should also inspire us to pray that we may offer our ‘Crosses’ (i.e. setbacks and sufferings) which God permits us to bear in this life, in loving union with His Passion and Death, so bringing us to live eternally with Him.

Entry into Jerusalem - from Pietro Lorenzetti’s Assisi Frescoes, 1320
Through the Gospel account, read in the hall (Mark 11:1-10), we follow the final preparations for the Entry into Jerusalem and Christ’s welcome by the crowds, many of whom would later be calling for His Death! How many times have we reacted uncharitably to someone who, perhaps out of loving concern, pointed out our faults to us?
 
The First Reading read in church, (Isaiah 50:4-7), puts before us Isaiah’s prophecy of the brutal treatment meted out to God Incarnate. While, especially in more anti-Semitic times, the Jewish People were conveniently portrayed as the ‘villains of the piece’, we would do well to consider that each and every one of us, each and every sin committed until the end of time, caused our Saviour to Die.
 
Through the words of the Responsorial psalm (Psalm 21: 8-9, 17-20, 23-24, response v2) we are privileged to join in spirit with Our Lord, hanging in agony on the Cross, uttering that seeming cry of despair, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’. Just as we must never presume that we can get to Heaven without the help of God’s Grace, neither must we commit the sin of Judas, despairing that God cannot or will not forgive us, if we repent of the gravest of sins.
 
Saint Paul, writing to the Philippians (Philippians 2:6-11), lays before us true Humility. Christ Himself, Second Person of the Trinity though He is, brought Himself down to our Human level (‘…in all things but sin…’), innocently died a criminal’s death, and demonstrated to us the immense Power of God, Who alone, can triumph ultimately over evil, however crushed we may be by it. We proclaim this truth in the Gospel Acclamation (Philippians 2:8-9).
 
Finally, in the Gospel (Mark 14:1-15:47), the Passion narrative, we hear of the betrayal of Our Lord by Judas, the Last Supper and first Ordination Mass and Christ’s Agony as He contemplated, in Gethsemane, the horrors of His coming Passion and the sins of all time for which He was to Atone. We stand witness to the desertion of the Disciples, to the sham trial and the brutality of His captors, to Peter’s denial of his Master, and then to the agonising Crucifixion and Death of our Blessed Lord, followed by His Burial in the Tomb.
 
How obviously do our lives as Catholics demonstrate our Faith and stand as a ‘sign of contradiction’? Do our words and actions show others that we really believe that, ‘Christ has Died, Christ is Risen, Christ will come again!’?
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<![CDATA[How well do you know YOUR parish church - 7]]>Fri, 16 Mar 2018 16:24:00 GMThttp://stbartsnorbury.co.uk/thoughts/how-well-do-you-know-your-parish-church-7To the right of the side-door is Saint Francis of Assisi, (‘il Poverello’ or ‘the Little Poor Man’), another Saint marked with the Stigmata, who renounced wealth and privilege for a simple life totally centred on and reliant upon God, thereby founding the Franciscan Order, in Italy. At the back of the church, to the left, is Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, a French Carmelite Nun, often called ‘The Little Flower’ (Although not a timid Soul!!). Through her ‘Little Way’ she shows us how every life, however ‘insignificant’ anyone may consider it, can be lived for and offered to God; not one of us, unless we choose, can fail to get to Heaven; each of us, as Saint Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei, also taught, is called by God to be holy, doing what we can whenever and wherever God calls us to be. This Universal Call to Holiness was later, again, proclaimed by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council.
Across the church, near to the Confessional, is Saint Anthony of Padua, a monk born in Portugal who died in Italy, often referred to as ‘the Wonder-worker’ and often prayed to when things go missing.
 
When you go to Confession you will see, in the Reconciliation Room, statues of Saint Anne with her little Daughter, Our Lady and The Infant Jesus of Prague (from the Czech Republic). Prior to the re-ordering of our church, this area was, as some may remember, the site of the Baptistery, hence the stained glass window, seen to one’s right as one enters the room, depicting the Baptism of the Lord by Saint John the Baptist, a very appropriate image when we consider that, through Confession, Grace first received in Baptism is increased or even restored. Why not research a Saint or a particular devotion to Our Lord or Our Lady originating in the Country in which you may have Roots! Our Parish is truly blessed through the many Races and Cultures which contribute to our thriving Community! “Catholic”, after all, means “Universal”, i.e. for all People / Races / Nations!
 
Before arriving at the Blessed-Sacrament Altar we may light a ‘candle’ at the Sacred Heart Shrine (a candle was first lit for us at our Baptism), a sign of the Light of Christ in our Souls); this statue, revealed by Our Lord to Saint Margaret-Mary Alacoque, shows His Heart pierced by the spear and Crowned with Thorns, recalling the intense Love for us which drove Him to Suffer and Die on the Cross. He asked Saint Margaret-Mary to spread devotion to His Heart, so saving the souls of many who had once doubted or even rejected his Love. At Christmas we see displayed here, for our veneration, the Nativity scene while, over the side-door opposite, the Three Kings journey towards Bethlehem for the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord, when Christ was revealed as Saviour of the World’s Peoples.
 
The pair of doors with a Cross and light above them next to the Sacred Heart Shrine are entrances to another small private room where, if there are several priests available, confessions may also be heard.
 
Near to the Blessed Sacrament Altar is Saint Patrick, Missionary to and Patron Saint of Ireland, ever listening for prayers for that Land where so many of us have our Roots. Also, spaced round the wall of the church you will see 12 candles and 12 crosses. These signify the Twelve Apostles who Jesus called to be the first Priests and Bishops of the Catholic Church. These crosses mark the places anointed by the Archbishop with Chrism (Holy oil) when he consecrated (specially dedicated or gave) our church to God’s Service. We, too, were anointed with this Holy Oil at our Baptism and, later, at our Confirmation. These candles will be lighted on certain occasions such as the Anniversary of the dedication (naming) of the Church by our Archbishop, at the Easter Vigil, representing the Risen Christ, and at Midnight and Christmas Day Masses, representing Christ, the Light of the World who helps us ‘see’ the way to Heaven. Looking away from the High-Altar, up towards the choir-gallery, we see the circular (rose) window, depicting Christ the King (part of this image is also on our Parish Website), Whose Feast brings to a close each Liturgical Year.
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