Whose shoes?

What on earth was Peter thinking? How did Our Lady cope? What did Simon of Cyrene think about being pulled out of the crowd?

Last week I offered some thoughts about where precisely the events of Holy Week happened – on a donkey, a wooden table, a wooden cross, a stony tomb. This week I’d like to suggest you use your imagination again and put yourself in the shoes of someone involved in Holy Week. Take it slowly. Imagine their background or “backstory” as we say nowadays! What did they feel as they experienced what happened that week in Jerusalem. Look up where they appear in the New Testament, compare the four gospels. Here as some suggestions of people…

The High Priest, one of the soldiers, Pontius Pilate, Herod
Peter, Judas, John the Apostle, Mary Magdalen.
Simon of Cyrene, Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, Veronica (careful, she doesn’t actually appear in the Bible!) What about an average man or woman in the crowd.
And, of course, there is Our Lady.

Put yourself in their shoes and, having maybe read up a bit, let the Lord guide your imagination to help bring Holy Week alive for you. God can work through our imagination as well as any other way.

Maybe you will feel like writing down some of your thoughts. This would be for yourself, of course, though I would be very interested in reading such reflections. Let’s really help our celebration of Holy Week and Easter this year of 2018 come alive.

And, most of all, make every effort to come to the central services of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and

Easter, especially the Easter Vigil and First Mass of Easter.

Fr Matthew

Donkey, Wood, Wood, Stone

It’s now just two weeks to Palm Sunday, and therefore three to Easter Sunday. The services of the Sacred Triduum or Three Days – of Maundy Thursday evening, Good Friday afternoon, Saturday evening and Easter Sunday are best seen as a single feast. These liturgies have a special and memorable character and deserve our best efforts for their celebration. They also deserve the best efforts of all of us to take part in them!

But what about where they took place, these saving events that we celebrate in Holy Week? I mean where specifically…

If you think about it the answer is quite extraordinary. Where was Jesus on Palm Sunday? Yes, he was entering the great city of Jerusalem – but on the back of a donkey! Where did He institute the Eucharist and the Priesthood? Again, in an upper room in that city – but he left us the Sacrament of the new and everlasting covenant on a wooden table, probably bare and rough. Where was the final altar on which He offered himself for us, and for our salvation? A cross of even rougher wood… And finally where precisely did the Resurrection take place, where did the Eternal Father raise His Son from the dead in the power of the Holy Spirit? On a slab of stone in someone else’s sepulchre, in darkness, on His own.

So, on a donkey, a humble wooden table, an even humbler Cross, and on the stony coldness of a grave slab. These are the places where these great moments took place, events which changed the world and brought us salvation. You couldn’t get locations more simple, could you?

So we now have a couple of weeks to prepare for the opportunity to renew our faith at its very sources. What do these profound occasions mean to you? Perhaps remembering their simple locations will help you home in on the heart of Holy Week. This in turn will help you home in on the heart of our Faith. What do you make of a God who triumphs on a donkey, gives us the gift of himself on some wooden planks, dies on some others, and rises on cold, dark stone?

Familiarise yourself with the services beforehand, reflect on the readings, and make every effort to come to the churches where they take place. Most of all, watch Jesus in this holiest of weeks, because this – all of this – was done for you!

Fr Matthew


St John of God 8th March

John of God was born in 1495 in Portugal. As a child he left home, the reason still unknown, and ended up a homeless orphan in Spain. He found work as a shepherd, and then became a soldier, but was accused of stealing and was almost condemned to death. He returned to the farm but later decided to enlist again, and for the next 18 years he served in various parts of Europe. John eventually moved south near Seville, finding work once more as a shepherd, but began to realise that this no longer satisfied him. He wanted to see Africa, and maybe work to free enslaved Christians. On the way, he befriended a Portuguese family, but when they became ill he began to nurse them. Troubled and feeling spiritually lost from his failure to practice his faith during his years of service, he returned to Spain, trying to find what God wanted from him. A vision of the Infant Jesus is said to have directed him to go to Granada.

In 1537, John experienced a major conversion while listening to a sermon by John of Avila, a leading preacher who would encourage him in his quest to improve the life of the poor. Perceived by others as a victim of a mental breakdown, he was imprisoned in a Hospital for the mentally ill, but he regained peace of heart and left the hospital. He established a house for the sick poor, at first doing his own begging, but still found himself misunderstood and rejected. Later he received the cooperation of priests and physicians, and slowly John drew to himself a dedicated circle of disciples who felt called to join him in this service.

John of God died on 8 March 1550 in Granada and was canonized in 1690. He was later named a patron saint of hospitals, the sick, nurses, and others. A church was erected in 1757 to house his remains, where the September Pilgrims celebrated Mass in 2006. He had organized his followers into the Order of Hospitallers, who still care for the sick in 53 countries around the world, operating more than three hundred hospitals, services, and centres. Commonly known as the Fatebenefratelli, the Do-good-brothers, in Italy, they serve a wide range of medical needs, supported by tens of thousands of benefactors and friends who identify with and support the work of the Order for sick and needy people across the world. Folks from Canton may remember the sisters who taught in St Mary’s.

Fr Matthew