Wait for the Lord! His day is near!

advent-candleIn Advent we await the coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ: not only his first coming in the stable at Bethlehem but also his Second Coming at the end of time.

The readings at Mass try to instil in us a sense of expectancy and hope. The Old Testament readings will provide us with ancient prophecies of a Messiah who would come to deliver his people and usher in a new age of justice and peace.

The Gospel each week will entreat us to stay awake, repent and prepare the way of the Lord, look out for God’s grace blossoming in our lives here and now, and come to a deeper conviction that God truly is with us (Emmanuel).

Advent is a busy season, both liturgically and practically, as we prepare for Christmas. However, let’s try and stay with the ancient traditions of the Church and keep Advent as Advent: don’t be too rushed into celebrating Christmas – it will come soon enough.

For now, we await with hearts full of hope, praying: ‘Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus! Come to us; free us; heal us; help us; fill us; complete us.’

Remember, remember . . .

A-field-of-Poppies‘Remember, remember . . .” runs the theme of November. From Guy Fawkes to Holy Souls, November does seem to be a month for remembering things.

A poignant example of this is the two minutes silence the nation holds each year on the 11th of the 11th. The extension of this solemn marking of Armistice Day to include remembrance of all our war dead reproaches us that in the past we have too often failed to remember: that we have tended to forget the horror of war and slipped too easily again and again into conflict.

November is also the month for remembering our deceased loved ones and for praying for those poor souls who may have no one else alive to pray for them.

We are encouraged to call into churches at times we wouldn’t normally attend and say the odd prayer for the dead or arrange to have Masses said for them.

A quaint custom, some might think, but one which is strangely reassuring. Years after we’re all dead and buried and have no one left to pray for us, someone, somewhere will kneel down and put in a word for us with the Almighty.

All Saints; All Souls

All-SaintsThis Friday sees us celebrate the Feast of All Saints, a holyday of obligation. It reminds us that we belong to a communion of saints and all those who have gone before us into heaven are our close and dear friends, concerned about us and praying for us.

The celebration of All Saints seems to have started in Ireland with the early Celtic church and was brought over to England when Irish monks settled here in Northumbria. Gradually, the feast spread throughout the whole of Europe and certainly by the ninth century it was established throughout the universal church.

All Souls Day follows All Saints and reminds us that, for most of us, when we die there is still ‘work to be done.’ We pray for the holy souls on this day, conscious that most people when they die require some sort of purification by God before being ready for heaven.

 

‘I was in prison and you visited me.’

UnknownWhen the Son of Man comes in his glory, with his angels around him, and separates the sheep from the goats in a great act of judgement, the criteria he will use, according to Matthew’s gospel at least, will be as follows:

I was hungry and you gave me food. 
I was thirsty and you gave me drink.
I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me.
I was sick and you took care of me,
in prison and you visited me.

It’s an interesting checklist to prick our consciences every now and then. When did I last provide food for the hungry and help the poor? When did I donate clothes to a charity shop or homeless shelter? How welcoming am I at Mass, when we have visitors or parishioners I don’t know? Have I even remembered to pray for those who are sick in our parish this week?

The last criterion is a difficult one though. Not many of us have the opportunity to visit inmates in prison, even with HMP Whitemoor on our doorstep. The thought of entering a Category A prison might even fill us with dread.

This week, teams of Christians from all denominations will be going into Whitemoor to take part in the third Kairos Prison Mission.

Unknown-1By spending time together, sharing stories, eating and praying together, the Kairos team hope to bring more prisoners to understand that God loves them radically, whatever they might have done.

It’s interesting that Whitemoor’s Governor and management team are keen to have Kairos back, and it’s because the previous missions have had such an impact on the prisoners involved.

Unknown-2Many of us have been baking cookies for the prisoners recently, struggling to get the regulations right about how big each cookie should be and how many chocolate chips it should contain. It sounds trivial, but past Kairos teams have explained just how much the bags of cookies can come to mean to prisoners.

The care and preparation is appreciated. The generosity of time given to their baking spills out into a generosity among the inmates and staff.

The cookies, of course, are just a sign – much like the prayer chains and placemat designs that other parishes have contributed. They are signs that Christians outside of the prison are willing to do something for the inmates.

7435811-bible-passage-god-is-loveThey are signs that we care about people who find themselves locked up, despite their crimes. And these small ways of showing we care reflect the fact that God cares too. He hasn’t forgotten prisoners and he wants them to turn to him and know his love.

Not all of us have the chance to visit Whitemoor prison, nor would want to; but we can all pray this week for the success of Kairos 3.

Catherine & the Miraculous Medal

London 2012 Olympic gold medalLast summer much was made of the many medals won by Team GB at the London Olympics. You could hardly turn on the television or open a newspaper without seeing a grinning athlete posing with their ribboned lump of gold or silver or bronze.

These medals celebrated Olympian prowess. They were the reward for months, often years, of hard and dedicated work; of commitment and discipline.

Of course, medals can symbolise other things too. Those who serve or have served in the armed forces proudly wear medals displaying their bravery in battle.

OBEs and MBEs, awarded for exemplary service to the country or local community, take the form of a medal also.

Saint_Catherine_LaboureOn 18 July 1830, a young girl called Catherine Laboure´, a novice member of the Daughters of Charity, received a vision of Our Lady in a little, insignificant chapel in the Rue du Bac in Paris.

In this vision she experienced the intense love and protection which Mary has for all the people of the world.

Later that year, Catherine experienced another vision, in which she watched as Mary lifted up a globe in an act of offering. The globe, Catherine was told, represented the whole world; not just generally: it symbolised every person individually. In the vision Catherine was being shown how Mary wishes to offer everyone to God through her intercession.

Finally, in November of the same year, Catherine had another vision and this time she was given instructions for a task. She was asked to design a medal which would remind its wearer that Our Lady cared for them and was constantly praying  to God for them.

Miraculous_medalThe Miraculous Medal, as it came to be known, is not then a medal celebrating our own achievement or prowess or participation. It is, rather, a symbol of faith: that the wearer takes seriously the last words of Jesus from the cross, who said to the disciple: ‘Behold your mother’, and to his mother, ‘Behold your son.’ It is to be worn as a sign of acceptance of the love and care that Mother Mary has for each one of us.

If you’d like to find out about more Catherine and her medal, why not join parishioners from March who will be praying the rosary with the Miraculous Medal novena prayers each Monday, Thursday and Saturday from 10.30am during October.