St Pius X Church, Narborough - Roman Catholic Diocese of Nottingham
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January 2012

"You Are Living Stones" - an ongoing parsish consultation

Homily 3
 
29 January 2012
 
 
In the USA the Primaries to select the Republican opponent to President Obama this November are starting to gather pace. The platforms of the main contenders will come under increasing scrutiny in the months to come. This is only right and proper: it is very important for the preservation of our relatively free society that we can scrutinize the policies and the characters of those who would like to be our political leaders. But it does remind me of a TV programme about 40 years ago when a studio audience was shown a photograph of a man, listened to the policies which he had proposed in his election bid, and were asked whether they would vote for him. The majority said ‘Yes’, whereupon the presenter changed the hairstyle on the photograph, added a moustache; and they had all voted for Adolf Hitler.
 
In the passage we have heard from St. Mark’s gospel, we do not hear Jesus giving an account of his policies; but we do hear an account of what he said and did, which summarise his work for the next couple of years, leading to his death for our salvation. We hear that Jesus went to the synagogue: so he begins in the traditions of his people, and in particular in a place where they would expect to meet God. We know from elsewhere in the gospels how important it was for Jesus to be at prayer. Then we hear that he taught the people; so proclaiming the Word of God was important to him. We also hear that he had authority; and his teaching with authority is mentioned again at the end of this passage. And we hear of his care for the people, as he heals a man who is suffering.
 
What would Our Lord offer to us now through his Church? Conditions have changed, of course, but I’m sure that Our Lord’s basic message hasn’t changed over the years – he is not like our own politicians, capable of changing his tune to fit the wishes of the electorate! So he also comes to meet us in our traditions and our history. In particular, he comes to meet us when we are gathered for prayer, whether in Church or at home or elsewhere, whether it is a formal Church liturgy or we have gathered for informal prayer. He comes to us in proclaiming the Word of God – which should not surprise us, since Our Lord is the Word of God made flesh. He comes to us with the authority of God, our heavenly Father, and he expects us to follow God’s ways. And he comes to us in caring for us, particularly for those in need.
 
So we should ask ourselves how we see the Church in our diocese – and particularly in our own parish – carrying out Our Lord’s programme for us. And for each of these aspects of Our Lord’s programme, we should really ask three questions:
 
Please try to answer these questions as well as some of the others found in the tear-off slip .
How is Our Lord’s work to be done in this part of Leicestershire?
How should this parish be doing the Lord’s work?
And how should I be part of the parish in this enterprise?
 
In asking these questions and providing answers, we are continuing to follow Bishop Malcolm’s wishes in his diocesan consultation. We are looking at our parish as part of the Diocese of Nottingham, and we are asking ourselves what sort of Church we think should be in this part of the Diocese, and what we think should be its priorities. It is only by doing this, that we will be able to ask the further questions about how the resources of the diocese, and in particular its priests, should be organized so that Our Lord’s work will continue to be done.
 
Where do we meet Our Lord – where does he come to meet us?
Where do we find that we can recognise him most?
How does our diocese enable us to met Our Lord?
How does our parish enable us to meet Our Lord?
How do we ensure that we do meet Our Lord and help others to do so? How does the diocese help us to pray?
How does the parish pray?
How do we pray, whether in Church or at home?
Where do we pray, and receive the sacraments, and join others for worship?
Where and when do we expect to find the opportunity for baptism, confession, Holy Communion, confirmation, marriage, anointing the sick, care for the dying, funerals, memorials for the dead?
How does the Diocese proclaim the Word of God and the teaching of the Church?
How does the parish proclaim the Word of God and the teaching of the Church?
How do we listen to God’s word, and how well do we witness to it? How often do we think about the teaching of the Church and put it into practice?
How should the Diocese be organized to ensure that the teaching of God in his Church are heard in the world?
How does the Diocese care for those in need? How does the parish care for those in need?
How do we care for those in need?
 
Some of these questions have overlapped with those which were asked last week. This is not surprising: as we continue with this process of examination of the Church in the Diocese and in our own parish, and the way that we take part in Church life, we will expect the same themes to emerge again and again. But as we continue with this process of consultation, we will also expect to face up to these themes in different ways, and to think about different aspects, which previous weeks have brought to our attention. We know that Our Lord didn’t address the people and leave them just as they had been: in meeting with them they were challenged to change. We too are being challenged, and we must expect Our Lord to lead us in some surprising ways in the weeks ahead.

"YOU ARE LIVING STONES" - an ongoing parish consultation

Homily 2
 
22 January 2012
 
For many weeks now, there seem to have been a number of programmes on TV about the second world war, and particularly about the heroic escapades of soldiers at a time when the odds against them were seemingly overwhelming. Desperate times, they say, call for desperate measures, and that certainly seems to have been true in the early 1940s for British servicemen and women and their allies.
 
As we listened to the passage from near the start of St. Mark’s gospel, we may be struck by a similar theme. John had been preaching a baptism of repentance, and many God-fearing people had gone to listen to him and to heed his advice; and John had baptized Jesus; but now John had been arrested – a very clear sign that the powers of evil were ready to fight against anyone who successfully proclaimed the Word of God and lead people to follow God’s ways.
 
It is from such episodes that we should all take heart. In the Church we may well feel that we are under threat from all sides, that all is in decline. A group of solicitors has again been attacking the Church over its past history of failure to deal properly with abuse of children and young people. There are continual threats to our system of Catholic schools. Our prayers for unity among Christians do not appear to be bearing a great deal of fruit: as we celebrate the annual week of prayer for Christian unity, we may well feel as far away from unity in faith and love as we have been for many years. And as Bishop Malcolm has reminded us, we are faced with a declining number of priests in the foreseeable future to proclaim the Word of God, to lead prayers and administer the sacraments, to gather and care for the Christian community.
 
So we take note of the actions of Our Lord: hearing of the death of John, he proclaimed a message of hope: the time has come; the kingdom is at hand; so repent and believe the good news. In our own time, we also stay with this same message of hope.  
 
The time has come to reflect on the state of the Church in our country, in our diocese, in our deanery, in our parish; and to do so with the message of our Lord in the forefront of our minds: the kingdom is at hand, repent, and believe the good news. We know that our reflections are not unaided: the Holy Spirit is with us to be our courage, wisdom, inspiration. So we can reflect in hope, that although there are difficult times ahead, God has promised that he is always with us. We begin our reflections by taking stock of where we are now, and how we have come to be here. Our parish community has a history, which is briefly told on the parish website. We must not lose sight of this history. It reminds us that there was a time, not all that long ago, when the Catholic community in this part of Leicestershire celebrated Mass once a week in an upper room in a pub! Our own church was opened only 54 years ago,  and as a parish we are not yet 50 years old. We can and must thank God for all the encouragement that we have received as this community has built up over the years.
 
On this basis, we should first of all ask ourselves; what can we say about our Catholic community now?
How could we best describe our parish?
What goes on here?
What does the parish do?
If the parish was not here, what would we miss?
What is our faith and our hope in the parish of St. Pius X in 2012?
How do we show our love for God and for one another?
How is our Catholic faith preached and proclaimed?
What Christian witness do we give to others?
How do we celebrate the sacraments?
How do we give praise and glory to God?
How do we pray, individually and in groups, formally and informally?
How do we relate to other Christian communities, members of other religions, and those of no faith? How do we look after one another?
How do we reach out to others?
How do we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked, visit the sick and those in prison, comfort the bereaved, and bury the dead?
 
In order to provide Bishop Malcolm with a good basis for providing pastoral care for this parish community, we need to be able to give an account of where we are as a Christian community, and of where we would like to be. For the moment, we need to concentrate on looking at ourselves as the Catholic community in Narborough and District, and then in a week or so we will start to consider where we wish to be, how we would like to think of ourselves, how we would like others to see us, and how we are going to progress to put this vision of ourselves into effect.
 
We are not alone in this endeavour. Bishop Malcolm has asked all parishes and all Catholic communities in the diocese to engage with him in these reflections. He will write to us all in early Lent, by which time we hope our reflections will have moved on a long way. But we are also joined with other parishes and communities in our Deanery of West Leicester, and as part of these reflections we will have the opportunity for a day of talking and discussing the themes of vocations to the priesthood and the religious life; the role of the lay person, the deacon, and the priest in our parishes and other communities; and ways in which we will all work together so that Christ may be formed in us, we may listen to his call to us just as the first disciples who left their nets and their fish and their boats to follow him, and so that God’s Kingdom, which is at hand, will be built in our parish and flourish among us.
 
 
Commenting here allows others to read what you have to say and gives an opportunity for all to respond if they wish in addition to making their own contribution.  Commenting on a comment will also be very welcome!
 
 
 

"YOU ARE LIVING STONES" - An ongoing parish consultation

 
Homily 1
 
15 January 2012
 
Bishop Malcolm has asked all parishes and communities within the diocese to consider the future given that in the years to come we will probably have significantly fewer priests available to work than we have had in the past 30 years. At present we have 94 priests of the diocese who are active in ministry, and there are around 20 priests who are members of religious orders who are also working in the diocese. 20 years ago there were 130 diocesan priests on active service, and about another 60 members of religious orders. In 20 years time, there may well be many fewer even than there are today.
 
We immediately think that there is a shortage of priests. But if we look at the Catholic Church in other countries, we discover that in England we are in comparison still very well off for priests. So it is really that we will have to get used to life as Catholics elsewhere already experience it, rather than that we will be particularly badly off for priests.
 
But it is difficult to adjust to change, and there will almost inevitably be many changes to come. However, in facing up to these changes it is comforting to remember that Bishop Malcolm does not intend to close down any place of worship. We may have to get used to fewer Masses during the week, and perhaps fewer at the weekend, but there will still be celebrations of Mass at weekends, on Holydays, and on at least some weekdays each week. Secondly, the extra work I expect to begin doing in the summer – and therefore being away from the parish more than at present – will not mean that there will be no Mass at weekends, or that the parish will just be left to fend for itself. So far as I am aware Bishop Malcolm intends me to remain as parish priest; and whether I do remain or not, he will certainly make provision to ensure that this community still hears the Word of God, that the Sacraments are celebrated here, and the community is cared for.
 
Although the fact that there will be fewer priests is an important consideration, the focus in the consultation which Bishop Malcolm wishes us to participate in should not be on the declining numbers of priests, but rather on the mission of the Church and how we will carry it out, with our hearts and minds open to possibilities for future development. As a Christian communion, we must always look forward in hope; and we look back to the death and resurrection of Our Lord as our inspiration.
 
I would like the whole of the parish community to have the opportunity to be involved in this process. This means that I will try to involve everyone at the Sunday Masses, and the opportunity will be there (via the website and by means of hard copies of the material) to be involved in the process even when parishioners are unable to attend Mass for a particular weekend. In particular, those who are housebound will be able to contribute. This is the way that I introduced the explanations of the Mass last year, to prepare for the introduction of the new English translation of the Roman Missal. That seemed to go well; so I will try the same idea for the very different purpose of consulting you all in response to the Bishop’s wishes.
 
I don’t know how long the consultation process will last – to some extent, that depends on the way that you contribute. But it will take at least three months, and probably longer. Bishop Malcolm would like us all to have reported back to the Deanery by the summer, and for proposals to be reported to Bishop’s House in the autumn. So it could take six months! The series on the Mass lasted in fact for 20 sessions. This could take a similar length of time.
 
I ask for your co-operation in this consultation. This is important for the parish and for the diocese; but this way of consulting in a sustained manner is something which I have not done before. So I would ask for your forbearance if something does not work very well; and for your assistance and your full co-operation in making it work as a whole, so that this parish can reach ALL parishioners and respond to the consultation in good time.
 
 
Commenting here allows others to read what you have to say and gives an opportunity for all to respond if they wish in addition to making their own contribution.  Commenting on a comment would be welcome too!