All posts by 3 churches

LENT: PAUSE, SEE, RETURN

“Lent is the time for allowing one’s heart to be touched…” Pope Francis said at Mass on Ash Wednesday. “God does not tire, nor will he tire, of holding out his hand.” He encouraged us to pause, see, and return to the Father.

He offered suggestions of how to pause, including refraining from showing off, or from an attitude which gives rise to unproductive thoughts and self-pity. These lead us to forget our call to encounter others and share in their burdens. He urged an end to the desire “to control everything, know everything, destroy everything,” which stems from a lack of gratitude for our life and what we’ve been given. Lent is a good time for the “creative power of silence” in order to “leave behind the unrest and commotion that fill the soul with bitter feelings which never get us anywhere… Pause from this compulsion to a fast-paced life that scatters, divides and ultimately destroys time with family, with friends, with children, with grandparents, and time as a gift… time with God.” Francis warned about “haughty looks” and “fleeting and pejorative comments,” words stemming from a lack of “tenderness, compassion and reverence for the encounter with others, particularly those who are vulnerable, hurt and even immersed in sin and error.”

Francis urged us instead to see – to reflect on those actions which promote faith, hope and charity – to look upon the faces of the vulnerable and in need, like families who, despite hardship, still strive to make their homes “a school of love.” May we see the faces of children and youth, yearning for a future, the faces of the elderly reflecting “God’s wisdom at work,” and the faces of sick people and their carers, whose vulnerability reminds us of the value of every person. “See the remorseful faces of so many who try to repair their errors and mistakes, and who from their misfortune and suffering fight to transform their situations and move forward.” Finally, the Pope encouraged everyone to make time during Lent to “see and contemplate the face of Crucified Love… To see his face is an invitation filled with hope for this Lenten time, in order to defeat the demons of distrust, apathy and resignation.”

Pope Francis invited all to “return without fear to those outstretched, eager arms of your Father, who is rich in mercy, who awaits you. Return without fear, for this is the favorable time to come home.”

Full text can be viewed here.

Shaken and stirred?

“Lent comes providentially to reawaken us, to shake us from our lethargy.” (Pope Francis)

Lent begins on Wednesday, and Easter this year falls on 1 April. 45 or so days. I wonder, and let’s be honest – will we be any different by Easter Sunday? If the answer, based on pervious Lents, is more or less no, then that’s a challenge to allow ourselves to be shaken this year, and stir from that lethargy which can so easily grip our spirit.

Here are some things we can do…

* Mass On Sunday prepare at home, look at the readings, make sure you greet people, especially strangers… During the week why not attend a weekday Mass?
* Deanery Mass This year St Brigid’s hosts the Cardiff Deanery Mass when people gather from all over the city with the priests and Archbishop. Put in your diary – Wednesday 28 February at 7pm (note earlier time)

There will be Confessions available for the hour before Mass – this will replace our Penitential Service this Lent. * Confession Let the Lord speak to your heart about where you are in life. Celebrate Reconciliation at our regular times, or by appointment or before the Deanery Mass.
* Stations of the Cross Before Mass in each of our 3 Churches: Tuesdays at Christ the King, Friday at St Paul’s, Saturday at St Brigid’s, all at about 9am

* Walk With Me Reflections for each day – available in each church
* “Do You Love Me?” We now have many groups following this project already started or about to
* Holy Week Maundy Thursday this year at Christ the King; Good Friday at St Paul’s and Christ the King; Easter Vigil at St Brigid’s. More details later.

Most of all, have a spiritual spring clean. Take a good look at how you are living, your priorities, your gifts, your relationships – everything. Let’s have the courage to allow the Lord to really stir us this Lent!

Fr Matthew

Slave and saint – St Josephine Bakhita 8 February

Josephine Bakhita was born around 1869 in the Sudanese region of Darfur but at about 8, she was kidnapped by Arab slave traders. She was forced to walk barefoot for 600 miles, during which she was bought and sold twice. She was forcibly converted to Islam, and the trauma of her abduction caused her to forget her own name. Next she was bought by a rich Arab as a maid for his daughters, but his son attacked her, and her fourth owner was a Turkish general, whose mother-in-law and wife both were extremely cruel. A total of 114 scars were cut into her body.

Now she was sold to the Italian Vice Consul who treated her in a much better way, so when he returned to Italy, she begged to go with him. When they arrived, he gave her to Turina Michieli, wife of a friend, as a present, and she became a nanny. When the Michielis decided to move back to the Sudan, she was left in the temporary care of the Canossian Sisters in Venice, but when she was called for Bakhita refused to leave. A court ruled her slavery illegal, and for the first time Bakhita found herself free and in control of her own life.

She chose to remain with the sisters, and in January 1890 she was baptised. Soon she entered the novitiate and in 1896 took her vows. In 1902 she was assigned to the convent at Schio near Vicenza, where she spent most of the rest of her life. Her gentleness, calming voice, and ever-present smile became well known. Her special charisma and reputation for sanctity were noticed by her order and the first publication of her story in 1931, made her famous throughout Italy. When she died in 1947 thousands of people came to pay their respects.

In 2000 she was canonized as Saint Josephine Bakhita. She is venerated as a modern African saint, patron saint of Sudan, and a statement against the brutal history of the Arab, European, and American slave trade and its Christian endorsement, as well as Africa’s own practice of slavery. In May 1992 in Khartoum Pope St John Paul declared: ’Rejoice, all of Africa! Bakhita has come back to you. The daughter of Sudan sold into slavery as a living piece of merchandise and yet still free. Free with the freedom of the saints.’

Fr Matthew