Tag Archives: community

8 June: Reflections on the Mass IV, Heralds of Faith.

Continuing Canon Anthony’s reflections on the Eucharist as we approach the feast of Corpus Christi.

One of the presents I received on my 60th birthday was a little book titled 101 Things To Do During a Dull Sermon. Last year a parishioner sent each of us priests a more helpful book, Preaching Better: Practical Suggestions for Homilists, written by a bishop, Ken Untener. The bishop suggests that the task of the homilist is to help the flow of what Christ is doing, for Christ is the leader of all liturgical prayer. He suggests that the first thing the priest must do in preparing a homily is to stand humbly before the Lord.

Several times, Pope Francis has commented on the length of sermons. In February this year he encouraged priests to keep their homilies to ‘no more than eight to ten minutes’ and always include in them ‘a thought, a feeling and an image,’ so that ‘the people may bring something home with them’.

But he also said that the faithful in their pews need to do their part. He encouraged us to read the Bible more regularly so we can better understand the readings at Mass. How many of us look at the readings before we come to church on Sunday? As one writer said:

‘The homily should be part of an active relationship between preacher and parish. None of us, speaking or listening, should stop trying to improve the experience. Revelation is not revelation unless it is received. All of us can help our preachers feel that they are talking to people who are listening. And those listening might get a little more out of it.’

I find as a priest, that I often don’t give sufficient time to preparing my homily. I am responding to the urgent things of the week rather than dealing with the important things. Yet, as we are reminded in the Catechism of the Catholic Church — Bishops, with priests as co-workers, have as their first task ‘to preach the Gospel of God to all men,’ in keeping with the Lord’s command. They are ‘heralds of faith, who draw new disciples to Christ; they are authentic teachers [of the apostolic faith] endowed with the authority of Christ’. It is not good enough for me to put thoughts together at the last minute.

In his letter The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis has some important advice for me: ‘The preacher …needs to keep his ear to the people and to discover what it is that the faithful need to hear. A preacher has to contemplate the word, but he also has to contemplate his people.’ In this way he learns ‘of the aspirations, of riches and limitations, of ways of praying, of loving, of looking at life and the world, which distinguish this or that human gathering,’ while paying attention ‘to actual people, to using their language, their signs and symbols, to answering the questions they ask’.

The one piece of advice that I remember from my days as a seminarian was given by Father Bob Bogan. He said that we need to come to know the people with whom we share the Good News. Be aware of their fears and joys, their anxieties and worries, their needs and the circumstances of their lives. We hear the living word of God proclaimed as we listen and the homily enables us to celebrate the Eucharist and bring this Good News into our daily lives.

Canon Father Anthony

Canon Father Anthony Parish Priest

Help Spread the Word……


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28 May, Pentecost: What indeed if they do?

A little conversation about prayer.

This dove hovers over the place where the priest vested for Mass in the Catholic Church of Our Lord in the Attic, Amsterdam, hidden away in plain view, in the centre of town. Illegal but tolerated.

Our friend Christina Chase set off this little conversation, speculating ‘What good are my prayers, really?’ Her original post follows this introduction.

Christina Chase April 20

Have you ever wondered if your prayers for others have any real beneficial effect at all? I have. I still am wondering sometimes.

Sacred Scripture tells us that praying for others is important. Jesus did not only say “Love your enemies,” but also “pray for those who persecute you.” Jesus Himself prayed for His disciples during the time of His earthly life. St. Paul continually asked the people to whom he addressed his letters to pray for him.

Praying for others seems to be the right thing to do. And I sincerely try to do it. Although, of course, I could try harder and do it better. I am merely human, after all. Life is busy and … well … praying can sometimes feel like tedious work. When I think of the many prayers that I could raise to God on behalf of countless others, it feels rather daunting. And I wonder if it’s really necessary. Even when I put in the time and effort to pray deeply for someone I know or someone who has asked me to pray for them, I still wonder.

What good are my prayers, really? Doesn’t God love all the people for whom I pray even more than I do? How does it work? I wonder as if I could actually discover the answer and understand a profound mystery of God. And then, yes, I doubt, and wonder if it works at all.

”But what if it does…?” a little voice in my heart said recently.

Maybe my prayers for other people don’t make a difference.…But what if they do?

 Christina Chase

I could not leave those questions hanging in the air, even if I couldn’t answer them properly. So here are my first thoughts.

A first response, late at night

Dear Christina,

you lay out the arguments effectively (I shall copy this post to my blog, if I may!?)

In this world there is always room for doubt, but have you never felt support from people’s prayers? Of course, you can tell yourself that that feeling could just be your imagination, but if knowing that prayer has been offered by someone else for your benefit boosts your confidence, your courage, perhaps the Spirit is at work in you, and linked to your friend that was inspired to pray for you. I think the Spirit is the missing link here.

And I’m too tired to think straight for one more sentence.



Only God knows

Christina Chase commented in response to willturnstone:What indeed if they do?

So good to hear from you! You are in my prayers, my friend. And yes, you may copy this post in any way that you like.

I do believe, like you said, that I have benefited from people’s prayers. Their prayers may not have been answered exactly the way they intended, but only God knows what is truly best.

The Holy Spirit at work within us, among us, and between us is perhaps exactly the key in understanding how intercessory prayer “works.” Perhaps our guardian angels in communication as well? I’ve been trying to be more open to the presence of angels.

God works in mysterious ways.

With much love,
Pax Christi

Pentecost! The Church of 120 believers are already on the way to being transformed. They wanted to be together – whether they were all sleeping where they met or they returned to lodgings at night, we are not told, but for sure, the Upper Room was hardly the Savoy. How did they keep the place clean?

We know that the risen Jesus appeared there at least twice, which made it a special place. His presence must have been felt in the very air of the Upper Room. It was a place of prayer; talking to Jesus, they were coming to realise, was and is prayer, ‘My Lord and my God’.

The group were praying to the Father. Just sitting around, talking about Jesus, was prayer, the Spirit at work in the disciples as they spoke and listened to each other. We too are called to open our hearts to the Spirit and to live within the Communion of Saints. Praying for others is part of this, but so too is opening our hearts to each other. Listening to each other (perhaps through e.mails) helps focus our prayer when we pray for each other but as Christina reminds us, God knows what is truly best.

And what about the gardening Morgan and I do for Mrs A? More often than I would like, as a conscientious gardener, to pull more weeds than I can when she wants, or needs, to talk, to be reassured. Mrs A has dementia and needs to make connections with her garden (among other things) because that helps to put her on her feet metaphorically. She helped create this garden with her late husband. Through pulling up a few weeds and chatting she connects with her own history and the many blessings she has received through her married life.

Laborare est Orare: to work is to pray; we can pray without being conscious of doing so. We can pray for others without being conscious of doing so, as in my working for and with Mrs A. But examining what happens shows that my work-prayer provides her with grace here and now. We can trust that a prayer mention of a distant person is also a ‘channel of thy peace’ though less obvious to mere mortals.

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26 May: Prayer to the Holy Spirit for the Synod.

Adsumus, Sancte Spiritus

We are approaching the Feast of Pentecost when the first Church gathered in the Upper Room and received the Holy Spirit with her ‘sevenfold gifts’. Let us pray at this time for the success of the Synod, using the Church’s ancient prayer.

Every session of the Second Vatican Council began with the prayer Adsumus Sancte Spiritus meaning, “We stand before You, Holy Spirit,” which has been used at Councils, Synods and other Church gatherings for hundreds of years. It is attributed to Saint Isidore of Seville (c. 560 – 4 April 636). As we
are called to follow the path of the Synod 2021-2023, this prayer invites the Holy Spirit to operate within us so that we may be a community and a people of grace.

We stand before You, Holy Spirit,
as we gather together in Your name.
With You alone to guide us,
make Yourself at home in our hearts;
Teach us the way we must go
and how we are to pursue it.
We are weak and sinful;
do not let us promote disorder.
Do not let ignorance lead us down the wrong path
nor partiality influence our actions.
Let us find in You our unity
so that we may journey together to eternal life
and not stray from the way of truth
and what is right.
All this we ask of You,
who are at work in every place and time,
in the communion of the Father and the Son,
forever and ever. Amen.

Window, Saint Aloysius, Somers Town, London, England.

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25 May: Bede’s decisive NO!

The Venerable Bede is often shown at work on his English translation of Saint John’s Gospel, which he brought to a close almost on his dying breath, dictating to a student. This post for his feast is a link to an article by Patrick Heren from The Article website in 2019.

Heren tells us about Bede’s life in Northumbria and his influence across Europe. A fascinating example is a Bible, written by hand at Monkwearmouth to be given to the Pope Gregory II by Abbot Ceolfrith.

Ceolfrith died on the way but the Bible survives to this day in Florence. Read Heren’s article to learn about Bede’s opinion on a matter of Biblical scholarship. We still have such controversies today!

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12 May: The Universe Provides, A Review.

Finding miracles and inspiration in unexpected places

The new book from our friend and contributor, Eddie Gilmore,

Darton, Longman and Todd, ISBN 978 1 915412 48 5
Paperback 192 pp

Price: £9.99

Cardinal Vincent Nichols got to see this book before we did! He writes:

‘From a faith-filled perspective, and drawing on his own personal, musical and professional experience, Eddie shows us how important it is to have hope in our lives and to be connected with each other and the world in which we live. In this way, we can glimpse the miracles and opportunities that are in our midst and use them for the benefit of all – the universe does indeed provide!’

Eddie’s first book was titled ‘Looking Ahead with Hope’, so there is a theme evident here. Hope is tougher than optimism, it means being with someone when the optimism has run into the sand, when income has gone, the home is in jeopardy, the prison sentence never seems to get any shorter, loneliness is a daily companion, health and vigour are ebbing away. Through his upbringing in an Irish family in Coventry, his education, his work with L’Arche and the Irish Chaplaincy, Eddie knows these realities, made worse by the pandemic.

Now he feels it’s time to encourage us all to recognise the daily miracles of hope and healing that pass before our eyes, the people whose lived hope is rebuilding communities across the world. Eddie takes us through some events of his post-covid year, introducing some of the characters he meets in that time. He reminds us that the Irish are a nation of singers, a gift that holds people together at home or in exile, a Gift from the Universe that he himself exercises for friends, prisoners, elderly people — and delegates to meetings!

It is important for each one of us to recognise the signs of these post-pandemic times and to bring hope to those we meet day by day or just the once, in passing.

Eddie Gilmore may not be your typical Chief Executive Officer, but he has been CEO of the Irish Chaplaincy since 2017, after belonging to L’Arche for 28 years. He writes regularly for a number of publications including Catholic Times, Intercom (the journal of the Irish Catholic Bishops), and Independent Catholic News. Eddie also contributes to BBC Radio’s ‘Pause For Thought’.

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5 May: Praying with Pope Francis: For church movements and groups.

For church movements and groups
We pray that Church movements and groups may rediscover their mission of evangelisation each day, placing their own charisms at the service of needs in the world.

This print at the Missionaries of Africa in Rome shows the disciples helping Jesus distributing the loaves and fishes brought by the boy in blue. Was this the original Church group?

Feeding the hungry is one of the Works of Mercy from Matthew’s Gospel chapter 25:

  • to feed the hungry,
  • to give drink to the thirsty,
  • to clothe the naked,
  • to give shelter to travellers,
  • to visit the sick,
  • to visit the imprisoned,
  • to bury the dead.

Some or all of these works are the charisms of various groups in the Church; we could point to some of our posts about Missio or the Irish chaplaincy for examples. Let’s pray, as Pope Francis asks us to, for all church groups and movements that they may live out Christ’s’ love with those they work among.

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25 April: Canterbury’s Old Synagogue – good neighbours.

There was a Jewish community in mediaeval Canterbury, and again in the first half of the XIX Century. Their Synagogue was purchased and demolished in 1846 to give the South Eastern Railway access across St Dunstan’s Street to the West Station and a junction with the older Canterbury and Whitstable line. The congregation, with help from other synagogues in London, and from local business people, built a new meeting place in King Street within the city walls.

This building served as a place of worship for only 50 years, for as Jewish families left the city for life in London or other big cities, there were not enough families for a recognised congregation. Before that, however, the Jewish community made significant contributions to city life.

Henry Hart in particular served on the city council being chosen three times as Mayor of Canterbury; he was also a member of the School Board that channelled government grants to elementary schools, including Saint Thomas’s Catholic School. His support extended to providing cloth and thread for the schoolgirls to make themselves cloaks for the winter.

Also on the Board were representatives of the Anglican and Methodist churches, which had their own schools. In Canterbury at least they seem to have supported each other through the grant making process. There were times when St Thomas’s needed all the help it could get. Let us celebrate our predecessors who co-operated for the good of the children and gave generously for them.

The Old Synagogue was bought by the Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral and now serves as a music room for the King’s School. It was designed in Egyptian style, remembering, perhaps, the captivity of God’s people in Egypt. Let us pray for peace and co-operation in the Middle East.

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24 April: ‘I’m going fishing’, V The Mission.

A hard road lies ahead for Peter and the disciples; and for us!

The Mission

Jesus is not about to let Simon Peter indulge in unproductive introspection, but he has picked up Peter’s conflicted feelings about being an individual follower of Jesus and being part of the group. His first question poses this challenge: “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?”

Peter in answering does not compare himself with his companions. This is between him and Jesus, though Jesus has made sure that John and the rest are within earshot and will grasp the meaning of this conversation for Peter and themselves. ‘Yes Lord, you know that I love you.’ ‘Feed my lambs.’ This command from the Lord who has just fed Peter and his companions, setting an example to be pondered for centuries.

Jesus returns to his probing of Peter: ‘Simon Son of Jonah, do you love me?’ No comparison with the others, Peter has passed that test.  ‘Yes, Lord, you know I love you.‘ ‘Tend my sheep.’ Peter is upset when Jesus asks again: “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ ‘Feed my sheep.’

Then comes the crunch: the description of how Peter will face trial, brutality, lack of earthly freedom; and execution. But then the note of complete confidence in this new Peter: Follow me!

Not that it is all so simple. Peter sees his fishing partner John standing nearby. What about him, Peter asks, and is told that’s not for him to know. And again, the call to be single-minded: ‘follow me!’

John and his editors assure us that this story and the rest of the Gospel are true and Good news for us all. The Lord will come for each of us in his own time; Let us use our time wisely, and follow him. May we be blest fishers of men, witnessing to our loving God through the way we live our lives. 

Blest Fishers

For so our Lord was pleased when 

He Fishers made Fishers of men; 

Where (which is in no other game) 

A man may fish and praise his name. 

The first men that our Saviour dear 

Did chuse to wait upon him here, 

Blest Fishers were; and fish the last 

Food was, that he on earth did taste. 

I therefore strive to follow those, 

Whom he to follow him hath chose. 

by Izaak Walton, the Compleat Angler 1653

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23 April, ‘I’m going fishing’, IV: The Barbecue

Ironically, this freshly caught fish was drawn to mark a station on a L’Arche pilgrimage a few years ago, at the Church of Saint Andrew in Buckland, Dover. Andrew was conspicuous by his absence from John 21, which we are reflecting upon in this series of posts.

The Barbecue

Now Jesus takes charge. It’s a fish feast, though with very simple ingredients: bread, which they had possibly all learnt to make on the open fire as they tramped the countryside, and the freshest possible fish. Add to that a ravenous hunger, an overwhelming sense of wonder, and the love of the cook for his seven friends. Was there ever such a breakfast? 

I can vouch for the wonderful taste of fish when freshly caught and simply cooked, straight off the boat if not caught with rod and line, and how else to taste pike or wild salmon.

And here is Jesus, Son of Man and Son of God, serving them, the friends who had betrayed him just a few days ago. They can hardly believe it is himself and that he has chosen to seek them out, although he had told them to wait for him in Galilee.  Even Thomas does not dare ask if Jesus really is Jesus. The bread and fish are real enough, the full bellies are no illusion.

Do they remember his injunction when he sent them out two by two, to eat whatever was put before them? There was no difficulty in eating what Jesus offered them, good food, good company. The powerful sensation of fellowship is not  illusory: it feels like the old times on the road, but transformed. They are beginning to understand how everything has changed, but Peter needs more headroom again! 

Please pray for another fisherman called Peter who died last year.

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21 April, ‘I’m going fishing’ II: We are going with you also.

The sea is still dangerous despite modern technology

They said to him, ‘We are going with you also’.

We are at the end of John’s Gospel, and have joined the disciples who are about to go fishing with Simon Peter. 

I don’t think Peter had set out for a male bonding session. He does not say, ‘Is anyone coming fishing?’ No, it’s ‘I am going fishing.’ Are the others concerned that he will go the same way as Judas? Are they clinging to his company because despite it all, they recognise him as their leader? Perhaps a bit of both. John looks at James, an imperceptible nod from his big brother, they are Peter’s working partners after all. They, at least, have every right to say, “We are going with you also.”

The fishers among the disciples were attuned to the ways of the lake, and would have known how to steer by the stars to where the fish were likely to be. The others were perhaps a liability in the boat, not knowing where to sit to be out of the way, perhaps apprehensive for their own safety, remembering the story of Jesus sleeping through the storm in this very craft. Tonight the storm was in their hearts.

The storm in Peter’s heart would normally have abated as the physical side of the job took over his being. There was the task in hand: with John or James preparing the net for casting, together throwing it overboard without snagging it on Nathaniel or one of the unnamed passengers, catching the wind to drag the net towards a feeding ground for the larger, saleable fish, hauling in the net, inspect the catch or lack of it, repeat, repeat, repeat.

And catching nothing.

By morning Peter is exhausted from a night’s activity that challenged muscles that were forgetting how to fish. No doubt the non-fishers wanted to try their hand; they would look to him to teach them, and as well as instructing them he was constantly trimming the boat to keep them safe. He is once again the leader. We can forgive him for not recognising the stranger on the shore.

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