Deacon Tony reflects: Feasting on the Word of God

I’ve been talking about it for weeks and on Wednesday the CAFOD Walk for Water Challenge finally started. By Tuesday evening I had reached over 80% of my financial target, it was now down to me to put the steps in and hit at least 10,000 steps each day. As I started writing this on Wednesday, Day 1, I had just come in from a 3 mile walk, it rained for the whole duration, but that, added to the steps from earlier in the day took me to more than 18,000 steps. The first day ticked off, but I was wondering how much harder it will be to beat the 10,000 steps target when I have to fit in work as well.

In Lent we often look to fast from things which may be physically unhealthy for us, like chocolate, sweets and cakes, things which we may enjoy like television and from things which are unhelpful for us spiritually like sin. Pope Francis has said that fasting is not just a time to lose a few pounds by losing weight. He encourages us to switch of the television and pick up the Bible. While we are to fast from things which weaken our resolve to be better Christians; we should be feasting on things which build up our faith and allow us to have a more intimate relationship with God.

There are lots of programmes out there, with perhaps this year bringing us far more online resources than ever before as a result of the pandemic; there is something for everyone if you have access to the internet.

For those that do not have access to the internet, perhaps picking up your Missal and spending a few minutes reading the readings of the day from Mass. Sit for a few moments and think what is this telling me? Try and put your self into the readings, what do you see? What do you hear? What does the air smell of? try and immerse yourself in the reading, imagine being there when Jesus preached, or when he challenged the Scribes and Pharisees. Imagine it is you who is reaching out to touch Jesus as He passes by or that wants His shadow to be cast over you as He passes. Imagine His smile as He turns to see you, how do you feel? Then read the scripture passage again, slowly, absorb the words, get to know Jesus personally, just as He knows you and calls you by your name.

This week, in a very short Gospel from St Mark, we have Jesus being driven out into the wilderness by the Spirit, in some translations it says Jesus is ‘at once’ driven out or ‘immediately’ driven out. St Mark’s Gospel is one of action, this passage comes immediately after Jesus’ Baptism, where the voice of the Lord was heard proclaiming that Jesus is His beloved and that we are to listen to Him. This time of temptation or spiritual low follows a time of great joy, it is a message for us that when good things are happening, when powerful things are happening in our lives Spiritually, then the enemy is sure to pop up and try to spoil things; we are to model ourselves on Jesus; we are to do all we can to resist temptation and trust in God; God will provide our protection.

The passage we have from the letter of St Peter links the first reading and the Gospel well. In our first reading we have the story of Noah, which we are all familiar with. In the reading from Genesis, we are reminded that God made a Covenant and promised that He would not destroy the earth by flood again. St Peter links the saving from the waters of the eight people on the ark with how everyone can be saved through Baptism. St Peter says that our Baptism does not wash away physical dirt, but the dirt which sin causes in our life. This is a strong reminder that we can all be saved through our Baptism if we let God work in our lives. This is a message we hope to share with the parents and Godparents of the children taking part in the Baptism Preparation programme this weekend.

Now that we have started Lent, I am looking for ways of feasting on Scripture, to help me build a more intimate relationship with Jesus. I normally increase my daily prayers by adding to the Morning Prayers and Evening Prayers of the Church (which are a requirement of being a Deacon), to this I add the Office of the Church each morning and as I need to get the steps in for the challenge I walk while I pray these prayers. As I said last week, I have started reading a short daily reflection called ‘Walk with Me’, these things require time to complete, so something has to give and for me this year I will be watching less television to create the space to put my relationship with Jesus front and centre. This will be a real challenge for me as I am a bit of a couch potato, so far we have only turned the television on to watch films with a Christian theme, either based on the Bible or which highlight Christian values.

So while we contemplate Jesus’ time in the wilderness, we look at our own lives and ask ourselves what part of our lives are like a desert experience? Are there aspects of my life where I feel alone or lost? If so, where can I turn to so that I am accompanied in my wilderness? As Christians we look towards Jesus and the examples of His disciples. When Jesus was alone, He prayed, He turned to His Father and He never lost confidence that His Father was there for Him. Jesus used His time in the desert to build Himself up for His mission; as the Spirit drove Him out into the desert, the Spirit accompanied Him. The times when we are struggling can be times which we can extract energy, these times can toughen us up knowing that God is always with us.

As we are all only too aware, this past year has been devastating to many families. The virus has caused so much distress. This does not just affect the families of those who have died because of the virus. There are people in our community who are in their own wilderness today. Some may have serious health problems and are unable to be visited by family members who are fearful of passing the virus on to them. Others may be grieving the loss of a loved one, but again are unable to have the physical support of friends and family and are left to try and grieve in a manner which is alien to us. I pray that everyone affected either directly or indirectly by this virus can take comfort in knowing that Jesus spent time in the wilderness, Jesus understands the isolation, Jesus understands your pain, Jesus, innocent as He is, took on our sins and died so that we can all have eternal life and live with Him in a place where there is no more sorrow, no more pain and no more tears.

I pray that all of us can take comfort and encouragement in the words spoken by Jesus in today’s Gospel “The time has come, and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News.”

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • Those who are in their own personal wilderness at this time, that they are able to experience the love of God and the love of their neighbour.
  • All those who are sick, all those who care for them and all Key workers who are striving to keep us safe.
  • For all victims of violence, grant protection Lord to the innocent and prompt all who would hurt others to repent and seek help for their violent urges.
  • For the seven families taking part in the Baptism Preparation Programme, that they live up to the promises they will make on behalf of their children.
  • Our doctors, nurses, care workers and health workers who are under extreme pressure, we ask for their protection.
  • For all those taking part in the Walk for Water campaign, that we all have the strength to overcome any physical ailments.
  • For those suffering from Domestic abuse in our local area that they will have the strength and courage to seek support
  • For those who do not believe in God, that this Lent and Easter will open their eyes to the magnificent wonder of our Creator.
  • For all those taking part in the online Alpha course, may they be encouraged to enter a deeper relationship with God through prayer.
  • For all those in our Parish and Diocese who are preparing to come into the Church or to receive Sacraments, many of whom would normally have attended the Rite of Election yesterday. We pray that their preparations are blessed by the grace of God and the support in prayer of their friends, families and fellow Parishioners.
  • For the success of the RCIA course next Wednesday, that all those attending will gain an understanding and develop a love for the Liturgy and Sacraments of the Church.

Once again, I thank those who have sponsored me on my Walk for Water Challenge in aid of Cafod. If you would like to sponsor me, please go to Deacon Tony’s Walk for Water Challenge | Walk for Water | CAFOD

All donations are greatly appreciated and as always if you are unable to financially support me or the others taking part your prayers are very welcome.

Deacon Tony reflects: If you want to, you can help me

Last week I set myself the challenge of trying to spend less time looking at screens; in particular, I was going to try and say my Office prayers using the book instead of doing it on the computer. Well, my week was partially successful as I managed the first five days doing my evening prayers using the book and also reading from the Bible for my ‘Bible in a Year’ instead of reading the bible passages from the links sent by email. But I must confess that as the busy-ness of the week caught up with me, the convenience of the screen helped me to find the few minutes I needed to fit in all of the things which I had promised to myself. I will try improve on this next week.

The term unclean, as used today in our first reading from Leviticus refers to being separated from God. If someone noticed blemishes on their skin, they were to go to the priest and if a case of leprosy was diagnosed they were to be excluded from the camp. They were to warn others of their uncleanness and no-one was to touch them for fear of being declared unclean themselves. These were principally Spiritual laws, but they also protected the ‘camp’ from outbreaks of illness, by quarantining the unfortunate soul from the community.

There is an irony in today’s Gospel where the leper, the one who was excluded from society can re-join his Community once Jesus cures him. However, Jesus now finds that He is unable to venture into the towns, because everyone wanted to see Him and be with Him as a result of the miracle He performed by healing the leper.

The rituals concerning all manners of life laid down in the Book of Leviticus gave specific rules about touching, and cleanliness, and purification. By touching the leper, Jesus was potentially making Himself unclean, but Jesus demonstrated here that He has authority over both the leprosy and the laws which the Jewish people followed.

I’d like to focus on one little sentence from our Gospel reading though, the leper’s first words to Jesus were “If you want to, you can cure me”. Jesus’ response was “Of course I want to”. Jesus shows the man compassion, a compassion which we are called to mirror in today’s world.

A leper was an outcast, judged by the priest of the day and by society as being unclean, shunned by their neighbours, treated worse than a dog in the street. Everyone avoided them. What must that have been like for their mental health? How could they motivate themselves to get up every morning and attend to their own basic needs? Jesus, by touching the man was signifying the start of a new law; we are to love our neighbour, we are to love the outcast, we are to love our enemies.

We might say that we don’t see any lepers in the streets of Southern England, but we still see outcasts. There are those with mental health issues, those with alcohol or drug dependencies, there are the people who can’t speak English, migrants looking for a better life for themselves and their families. All of these are sons and daughters, all of them may have been brothers and sisters in families who may have exhausted every last bit of effort before they realised, they can no longer cope with them. All of these excluded people are looking to us as the Body of Christ here on earth today and saying “If you want to, you can help me”. How do we as the Body of Christ reply?

Closer to home we may have friends and family who are lonely, maybe struggling with this lockdown; young parents, neighbours maybe struggling with home schooling. Young people who’s parents may be unable to help them with their studies and are struggling to get the right support, they are also saying “If you want to, you can help me”. We may not be able to physically go and help just now, but we are able to help with loneliness by making a quick phone call. We may not be able to go and physically help with the challenges of home schooling, but again we may be able to help with suggestions, maybe taking a session with the children online – giving the parents some respite and the children a different voice and perspective to listen to.

God gave us free will to choose what we do and what we say, today Jesus is asking us to choose to help those less fortunate than ourselves, He is asking us to seek out the outcast and bring them into our Community, Jesus is asking us to say time and time again “Of course I want to help you”.

In our Second Reading today St Paul asks people to try not to offend others, to be helpful to others and to take him as a model – just as he takes Christ as his model. He is again pointing towards Jesus as our Saviour, our King and our role model.

Lent starts on Wednesday, with the sprinkling of ashes on our heads. Have we thought about what we are going to do during Lent to help prepare ourselves for Easter this year? As I have already shared I will be taking part alongside Fr Dominic, Fr Leo and many other parishioners in the CAFOD Walk for Water Challenge. But I am also looking at reading more; especially the religious books which I struggle to get round to, as well as watching less TV and eating less. This is a time not only to give things up, but to perhaps do something extra for God. Friends have gifted me a little book called “Walk with Me” it is a daily reflection throughout Lent, I will be building this into my daily prayer time. I normally switch off my Social Media pages during Lent and Advent, but this year I will still use them to promote the CAFOD Challenge.

This week Jesus touched the leper and changed his life for ever. Whose life can we touch this week? We might not change their life; but we could certainly brighten their day.

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • For us all, that we may identify the lepers in our life and that we may find the courage to recognise them as our brothers and sisters, welcoming them into our lives.
  • All those who are sick, we pray that Jesus will heal them as he healed those in Capernaum.
  • For those who are unemployed and seeking work, we pray that the Lord guides them towards an employer who needs them.
  • Our doctors, nurses, care workers and health workers who are under extreme pressure, we ask for their protection.
  • For all those taking part in the Walk for Water campaign.
  • For those suffering from Domestic abuse in our local area that they will have the strength and courage to seek support
  • For those who do not believe in God, that this Lent and Easter will open their eyes to the magnificent wonder of our Creator.
  • For all those in our Parish and Diocese who are preparing to come into the Church or to receive Sacraments, many of whom would normally attend the Rite of Election next Saturday. We pray that their preparations are blessed by the grace of God and the support in prayer of their friends, families and fellow Parishioners.

Once again, I thank those who have sponsored me on my Walk for Water Challenge in aid of Cafod. At the time of writing I have reached 58% of my target before a step has been taken. The serious walking starts on Ash Wednesday and will go on throughout Lent. If you would like to sponsor me, please go to Deacon Tony’s Walk for Water Challenge | Walk for Water | CAFOD

All donations are greatly appreciated and as always if you are unable to financially support me or the others taking part your prayers are very welcome.

Deacon Tony reflects: We do not walk alone

In today’s first reading we have a passage from Job, where he describes his life in total dismay. He seems to be tired of life and views it as an existence; thinking that he will never see joy again. Some people can be tempted to fall into that trap, looking at life as being like a glass half empty. We have seen in recent days, great sadness in our country, at the death of a man who had the opposite view. In the lead up to his 100th birthday, Captain Tom wanted to express his gratitude to those who had looked after him so well in the National Health Service, his original plan was to raise £1000, but thanks to great publicity he raised over £30 million for NHS charities. He could have been like Job, wishing his life away, instead he inspired a nation at a time when we needed a focus to help us get through the first lockdown. May his soul rest in peace.

Our psalm this week again asks us to sing, we are called to praise God for he is good, sing to God for he is loving. God will heal the broken hearted and call back all who are far from him. God never stops calling, we, in turn, need to listen and respond.

In our second reading we have St Paul telling the Corinthians that it is his duty to preach the Gospel. This duty is shared by all of us as Christians; it is a duty which comes from being Baptised. If we live with the peace of Christ in our hearts, His joy will shine in us and people will see that we are different. This is a peace and a joy and a love which is meant to be shared.

St Paul’s example showed that he encountered people where they were in order to bring them to God. How can we do that today? How can we as a Christian people reach others during lockdown? At a time when the needs are great this is a time, this is our time to let the love of Jesus grow in the world. There are many people doing great work by volunteering for things like the Foodbank, or less organised things like helping elderly neighbours with shopping, or just checking they are okay. As Christians we need to ask ourselves what more can I do to help my neighbour?

In our Gospel we first of all hear about Jesus healing Peter’s mother-in-law, and she responds by serving Jesus and His disciples. Bible Alive1 recalls St Bede’s observation on this “The health which is conferred at the command of the Lord returns at once entire, accompanied with such strength that she is able to minister to those of whose help she had before stood in need.” This is truly Divine, to be suffering from a fever and then by the mere touch of another to be able to get up and start working.

In the evening they brought more people for Jesus to heal and to cast out devils. Jesus then went off to find a quiet place, Jesus sets an example for us to follow; we all need to find a quiet time to be with Our Father. My days are currently filled with time spent looking at screens either through work or through some of the Church activities which have moved online or when I am meeting up with friends and family through the internet. At times I feel my eyes need respite and I need to find time away from screens; find a quiet time to spend some time with God. I struggle to do this, even my prayer time is spent on a screen as I pray the prayers of the Church through an Application on my computer. This week I will try to spend less time on screens; I will pick up my Office of the Church and use the books again, spend time with my Father away from the screen and let His light shine instead of the light from my computer screen.

These times of silence which Jesus regularly practiced, were not just respite. These were times for Jesus to be still with his thoughts and be closer to the Father. As St Paul said (elsewhere) in his first letter to the Corinthians “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no-one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Cor 2:11 NIV). In spending time in silence Jesus is urging us to find that time in our days, find a quiet place free of distractions and just be still. Be present for God , just as he is always present for us.

In our Gospel Jesus gives us another example, he does not want to restrict his teaching or his healing to one town. Following his time of prayer Jesus reveals that He has to spread his message to the other towns in the country; preaching, healing and casting out devils. Jesus is telling us not to keep this to ourselves, He went out to other people He did not wait for them to come to Him. There are many ways where Jesus is reaching out to us. This week in our Pastoral Area the Alpha course continues online and is very well attended. In St Bede’s the RCIA course continues online too and the Parish is looking at more ways to reach out to our community (more news soon).

The message from God is that we do not walk alone on our journey; God is always with us. We also have the accompaniment of our fellow travellers to encourage and support us. We are one body, we are only as strong as our weakest part, sometimes we are the weakest part of the body and sometimes we can be the strongest part (without realising it). It is how we accompany and encourage each other that builds up our community. We are part of something far bigger than ourselves, far bigger than our Parish, we are part of the Body of Christ which is at the same time, an awesome privilege and a great responsibility.

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • All those who are sick, we pray that Jesus will heal them as he healed those in Capernaum.
  • For an end to Human trafficking, that perpetrators of this heinous crime will have a change of heart and that victims will get the support they need.
  • On Thursday we celebrate the Feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes, may Our Lady intercede for all the sick at this time.
  • For all those affected by inclement weather in our country and for the protection of those who work to keep us all safe at these times.
  • Our doctors, nurses, care workers and health workers who are under extreme pressure, we ask for their protection.
  • For all those taking part in the Walk for Water campaign.
  • For those suffering from Domestic abuse in our local area that they will have the strength and courage to seek support
  • For those attending the Alpha Course on Monday as they explore the subject of faith and for those attending the RCIA course on Wednesday that we can learn more about Mary the mother of Jesus and our Mother.
  • A quick recovery for Fr Patrick in Tadley, who is still feeling the effects of a fall.

Once again, I thank those who have sponsored me on my Walk for Water Challenge in aid of Cafod. The serious walking starts on Ash Wednesday and will go on throughout Lent. If you would like to sponsor me, please go to Deacon Tony’s Walk for Water Challenge | Walk for Water | CAFOD

All donations are greatly appreciated and as always if you are unable to financially support me or the others taking part your prayers are very welcome.

1 Bible Alive – January 2021, (Alive Publishing, Stoke-on-Trent, 2021)53.

Deacon Tony reflects: Ring out your joy

Last week at the Alpha Course being run online, we were all asked, ‘Who is Jesus?’ This week in our Gospel from St Mark, the unclean spirit says to Jesus, ‘I know who you are, you are the Holy One of God’. Jesus then orders the unclean spirit out of the possessed man and it obeys His authority. In our first reading from Deuteronomy we also hear about authority, Moses is foretelling the times of Jesus, by telling the people of his times about a great prophet who will come from their people and will speak with the voice of God and that the people are to listen to what this prophet says. These words in Deuteronomy parallel the voice of God heard at the Transfiguration of Jesus “This is my Son, the Beloved, Listen to him” (Mark 9:7).

The same theme is within our psalm, ‘listen to his voice!’ the psalmist warns and then we hear the verse –

Come, ring out our joy to the Lord,
hail the rock who saves us.
Let us come before him, giving thanks,
with songs let us hail the Lord.”

This jumps out at me for a couple of reasons. Recently, I realised that one of the things which I really miss during this pandemic is joyful communal worship music. Last weekend while I was out for a walk, I played the rosary in my earphones for the first part of the walk and then I normally move across to some 80’s music to keep my steps lively (it helps to pass the walking time quicker). This time however, I chose to play worship music, how can I bemoan not hearing it and then choose not to listen when I have the time?

As I walked and listened to the music it really lifted my spirit. I shared this with the Afternoon Tea group last Sunday and I proposed that we finished the afternoon tea with a sing-a-long to ‘Shine Jesus Shine’, (we played the music with the lyrics on the screen and asked everyone to mute so that we were singing together). It was really joyful, and we asked one of the others to choose a different hymn for this week’s afternoon tea. For anyone meeting virtually for church meetings or with likeminded friends I recommend this as it is a very powerful way of worship, which we are being denied; due to essential health restrictions; during our Liturgy.

The other thought which jumps out at me is the word joy. We are called to ‘ring out our joy to the Lord’. We need to remember that we are here to listen to and share the Good News. Jesus is alive, he is with us. We are here at a celebration and this should fill us with joy; fill us to the brim. Our joy should overflow and touch others. In the reflection for today’s Gospel in ‘Bible Alive’1 the author highlights that those who heard Jesus’ teaching in Capernaum recognised something ‘new’. We can be something new to others, for those on the margins we can bring joy, acceptance and love.

During this pandemic, all we hear on the news is doom and gloom, all we read about is another set of depressing statistics. But as Christians we know Jesus is risen. We know that God loves us. We know that this life is not the end. ‘Let us come before him, giving thanks, with songs let us hail the Lord.’ With this in mind, I would like to suggest that we all try to find some time every day and play a joyful piece of worship music, it could be a favourite hymn, some which lifts you or inspires you. We could choose the same song every day or put a little bit of variety into our lives by choosing a different song every day. If you have access to a computer, you could perhaps play it on a video with the lyrics and join in with those who are singing. We need to remind ourselves daily that this world was created by God, let His music fill the earth, let His music fill our hearts and minds.

Today is Racial Justice Sunday. Tragically, there are too many examples occurring throughout our world that highlight why this day is still needed in the 21st Century. In this week’s Portsmouth Diocese enews there is a powerful message from Bishop Paul McAleenan urging us all to do something to support this cause. It is not enough to condemn, or offer words of support; we have to put our concerns into action if we want our children and grandchildren to grow up in a world where Racial Injustice is something taught in a history lesson where the pupils ask incredulously ‘did they really treat their brothers and sisters so badly?’ I urge everyone to take the time to read this and to respond with love.

Last week I mentioned that I had registered for the CAFOD Walk For Water campaign, during Lent I (and other Parishioners) will be walking 10,000 steps every day to raise money for CAFOD. Our daily step total is to replicate the distance some families have to walk every day to obtain fresh water. I’d like to thank those who have already sponsored me. If you would like to sponsor me, my link is Deacon Tony’s Walk for Water Challenge | Walk for Water | CAFOD there is also a general link for Holy Ghost Parish St Bede’s Church, Basingstoke is fundraising for The Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) (justgiving.com) Whichever way you choose to donate CAFOD will be very grateful for the money, or if you would like to join in please go to Walk for Water | CAFOD. If you are not in a position to sponsor, then your prayers for all taking part would be very welcome.

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • All those who are sick, we pray for their recovery and that they do not give up hope.
  • For justice for all men, women, and children regardless of their race; for a better understanding for all of prejudice and an awareness of how much we as individuals can do to help make life fairer for all of our neighbours.
  • For the protection of those who campaign against injustice; and for a will that everyone will start to challenge injustice and will no longer tolerate prejudice of any kind.
  • For all those affected by flooding in our country.
  • Our doctors, nurses, care workers and health workers who are under extreme pressure, we ask for their protection.
  • For all those taking part in the Walk for Water campaign.
  • For those suffering from Domestic abuse in our local area that they will have the strength and courage to seek support
  • For those attending the Alpha Course on Monday help them to get a full appreciation of Why Jesus died.
  • A quick recovery for Fr Patrick in Tadley, who had a fall last weekend.

Deacon Tony Darroch, 30th January 2021.

1 Bible Alive – January 2021, (Alive Publishing, Stoke-on-Trent, 2021)46.

Deacon Tony reflects: Answering the call

This week we hear Jonah being called and responding immediately in our first reading and in our Gospel we hear about Simon, Andrew, James and John responding immediately to Jesus’s call. The reason they responded immediately was that they understood the urgency of the call. For Jonah, the urgency was that God needed to send a warning to the people of Nineveh; that unless they repented, they and the city would be destroyed. For the two sets of brothers the urgency was that Jesus had a similar message, but this time not just for one city but for the whole world – “The time has come, and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News.”

If these readings and our second reading were read in isolation we could be forgiven for thinking that all of those called responded and understood the message immediately, but we know that Jonah had originally resisted God’s call and only responded after his encounter in the belly of the whale for three days (a precursor for Jesus’ three days in the tomb). We know that there was the occasional in fighting within the disciples and that they all ran away at the time of the crucifixion. We also know that St Paul, the author of the letter to the Corinthians was a persecutor of Christians and responded after an encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus.

The important thing is that they answered the call and between them they have saved millions of people throughout the centuries by the stories they were involved in, the preaching which they took from the mouth of Jesus, the formation they gave to those who followed them and in the documents they wrote; which have been used to teach Christians ever since.

Among the prayers I asked people to keep last week, was for a peaceful transition of power in the United States. The world watched with bated breath as the Presidency transferred from one man to another and from one party to another. Thankfully, it appears to have transferred peacefully so far and we need to continue to pray for peace in this part of the world and in all of the other places were discord has been sown.

I was very impressed by the young poet Amanda Gorman, regardless of one’s politics, it would be difficult not to be impressed by the performance of this young lady. This is a young lady who has overcome a speech impediment and delivered a message which has been heard by millions. In her poem The Hill We Climb1 she spoke of justice, she quoted Scriptures and she spoke for millions of young people. She pleaded for peace; recognising that what we do today has the potential to become a burden for our children to fix in the future. She asks us all to leave the world in a better way to how we have found it.

Part of the poem refers to our first reading when she says “we have braved the belly of the beast”, Jonah needed to brave the belly of the beast in order to help him recognise that he had to deliver God’s message to the people of Nineveh, no one else had been called to do it; it was his calling.

Amanda Gorman; who is a parishioner of St Brigid’s Catholic Church in Los Angeles; also quoted from the prophet Micah (4:4) when she said that “everyone will sit under their own vine and fig tree and no-one shall make them afraid”, the next line in that verse from Micah is “For the Lord Almighty has spoken.” I believe that everyone has a right to live in peace and it is what God has called us to; if you look earlier in the chapter from today’s second reading it tells us that “God has called us to live in peace.”(1Cor 7:15).

The message being given out at the transfer of power on Wednesday was not one of glorifying the election victory, there was a genuine attempt to try and bring people together in a country which in many ways is similar to our own. Political polarity; where two sides have very strong opposing views of the way things are; and both sides feel they have the moral high ground. It was pleasing to see that the new President attended Mass before his Inauguration and that he started his first full day in power with a Christian service with his Vice-President and closest advisers, this signifies that he is not going to try and govern under his own efforts, that he and they recognise there is a greater power than the most powerful man on the earth.

What is God calling us to do today? Do we take the time to listen? Are we ready to respond to that call, or do we attach conditions to our response? I encourage us all to think and pray about those questions and to consider our response.

In an advert for his forthcoming book “Learning to Pray”, Fr James Martin SJ says that Your desire to pray is a sign that God desires you. It’s an indication God is calling you. And that is perhaps the most important reason to pray.” I think this is something I need to take forward into my prayer life. God does not actually need me, He made everything, He needs nothing. God desires me and He desires you. God has a mission for every one of us; He expresses that calling by giving us a desire to get to know Him. God does not need me. I need God!

I spoke last weekend about the Sunday afternoon teas, which we have been hosting via Zoom for a few months now. During the call last week I was inspired by a parishioner to commit to doing a sponsored event to support CAFOD, with their Walk for Water campaign.

Being a new Grandad, I am very aware of how much work my son and his wife put in to bringing up their son; people in developing countries with young families have the same commitments but in addition many have to walk miles every day to bring back fresh water for cleaning and drinking. In this country we are fortunate that water is literally on tap, anything we can do to support our brothers and sisters in these countries needs to be done, especially as many charities are finding fund raising difficult due to the pandemic, with fewer events taking place and many of their supporters having lost or reduced their incomes. I hope to put details of how to support this campaign in next week’s Newsletter and have noticed that Fr Dominic is also committed to this cause in this week’s Newsletter.

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • All those who are sick, we pray for their recovery and that they do not give up hope.
  • For peace in our homes, in our country and in our world.
  • For all those affected by flooding in our country.
  • Our doctors, nurses, care workers and health workers who are under extreme pressure, we ask for their protection.
  • Those who are struggling with relationships.
  • For those suffering from Domestic abuse in our local area that they will have the strength and courage to seek support
  • For Christian Unity, that all those who believe in Jesus will recognise that we have more in common that should bring us together than the differences which keep us apart.
  • For those attending the Alpha Course on Monday and those attending the RCIA Course on Wednesday, may they have an experience which helps them to get to know Jesus and inspires a love of Holy Scriptures.

1 Amanda Gorman, The Hill We Climb, available from The Hill We Climb: the Amanda Gorman poem that stole the inauguration show | Biden inauguration | The Guardian accessed 22nd January 2021.

Deacon Tony reflects: Share the Good News

This Sunday we are encouraged to pray for peace. It has been chosen by our Bishops as the day we will celebrate the 54th World Peace Sunday and earlier this week in the Diocesan e-news Bishop Philip shared details of the theme being adopted by Pope Francis for this year’s message.1 The theme is “A Culture of Care as a Path to Peace”, the Bishops rightly highlight that the Pandemic over the past year has put firmly into focus the value of carers in our world, emphasising how essential it is that communities work together to support the vulnerable and that caring has to be at the heart of our personal and community life; but they also point out that carelessness, callousness and violence have to be rejected with people and nations re-committing themselves to the path of peace and reconciliation.

The pandemic has generated national restrictions and national vaccination programmes, but unless the richer governments and communities look beyond national borders then the international pandemic will keep mutating into different forms and will continue to migrate across international borders. The wealthier countries must support the poorer countries with this; and a truly global response is required if we want to end this global problem.

In the passage from the first letter to the Corinthians, which we have today we are reminded that we all make up the body of Christ. We as individuals are called to glorify God with our bodies, as the Bishops have pointed out in their document publicising Peace Sunday, this is not purely about ‘sins of the flesh’, we are called to use our whole bodily existence to make the world a better place. The bishops challenge us to use our network of relationships to build a culture of care which helps others to flourish.

In our first reading we hear of Samuel, before he was able to recognise the voice of the Lord, he needed the help of someone who recognised God’s message to help him. We are called through our Baptism to help others to find God. Eli recognised that God was calling Samuel and advised Samuel to listen and how to respond. In our Gospel we have John the Baptist pointing the way to some of his disciples, showing them who to follow. The disciples in turn followed Jesus and entered into a relationship with Him. As soon as they had a relationship then they in turn told friends and family, they did not keep the good news to themselves; this is known as Evangelising or Evangelisation.

How do we share the good news? How do we let others know about the love Christ has for us and for them? It is not about standing and preaching, because we are not all called to do that; however, we are all called to ‘tell’ others about God’s love by sharing that love. This may be more difficult for some during the Lockdown, but others have seen this as a great opportunity. Helping people with shopping, keeping in touch by phone or via the computer, knocking on doors (and standing well back) to check on a neighbour. You could invite friends and neighbours to the Alpha course starting on Monday or even sign up yourself to help you deepen your relationship with God.2

God is persistent in His calling, God does not give up. I have shared before how I resisted my call to the Diaconate for ten years before I finally thought “this isn’t going away, I had better do something about it.” I didn’t think I was good enough, at times I still don’t think I am good enough. But I remember a time when my wife and I were called to take on a leadership role within Marriage Encounter; the day we received that call the Responsorial psalm was the same as today’s psalm “Here I am Lord, I come to do your will.”

When we do not think we are good enough that is normally because we are thinking about our own will, our own abilities, our strengths and our weaknesses. But the Bible is full of many people who had flaws and still did amazing things for God. I am reminded of another saying, God does not call the equipped, He equips the called. We definitely experienced that throughout our leadership time in Marriage Encounter.

The third Monday in January, has, in recent years become known as Blue Monday; it has been recognised that this is when some people start to feel the pinch from their Christmas spending, or perhaps realise the few extra pounds they put on over the festive period are more difficult to shift than they imagined, in this country the weather is also usually quite cold or wet and miserable and of course this year things are compounded by the restrictions to combat the Coronavirus.

The Samaritans are trying to turn this Blue Monday on its head and are launching Brew Monday,3 they are encouraging people to get together for a virtual cuppa, to reach out to people, have a catch up and check each other’s welfare. It can be fun, and the person reaching out more often than not will benefit as much as the people they contact!

We don’t have to wait until Monday, within Holy Ghost Parish we have been running a virtual afternoon tea for a few weeks now., We allocate an hour and a half for the call, but people can drop in and out for as little or as long as they like. A few people stay on the call for the whole duration, it is a way of keeping in touch and some new friendships have been formed as a result. There is usually a short quiz and we normally finish with Intercessory prayer for anything which those on the call offer up or request. Anyone can join in; it is not restricted to a select membership and you don’t need to live within Holy Ghost Parish either. If you’d like to join in drop an email to stbedessocial@gmail.com and we will send you the Zoom joining instructions. For either your phone/tablet/computer or for you to call in on a landline.

Peace starts with individuals; individuals having peace of mind. If those who have peace can share that with others then peace grows. If we look out for others then the love and peace of Christ will grow in our hearts and in our communities. That is what we are called to do, that is what God is calling out to us, just as he called to Samuel in the middle of the night. We just have to respond.

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • All those who are sick at this time.
  • For peace in our homes, in our country and in our world.
  • For a peaceful transfer of power in the United States this coming week.
  • Our doctors, nurses, care workers and health workers who are under extreme pressure at the moment.
  • Those who are struggling with relationships.
  • For the success of Brew Monday and the Pastoral Area Alpha programme which begin this week.

1 Pax Christi, Peace Sunday 2021, available from 2021_Peace_Sunday_liturgy_booklet.pdf (mcusercontent.com) accessed 15th January 2021

2 Details of Alpha Course, available from Latest News (stmandsto.org.uk), accessed 16th January 2021.

3 Brew Monday launch available from Brew Monday 2021 | #BrewMonday | Stay connected with a virtual cuppa (samaritans.org) accessed 16th January 2021

Deacon Tony reflects: Baptism

Last Wednesday we celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany, when we remembered how wise men or magi from the east came to the child Jesus and paid Him homage. These magi, represent the non-Jews (Gentiles) and were a sign that the “Word made flesh” did not come just for the chosen people of Israel, but that the Word would be made available to all the people of the earth. Epiphany means the manifestation (or showing in plain sight) of God. Today’s Gospel has another epiphany, in the Baptism of Jesus. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus is revealed as the Son of God as he rises from the waters of the River Jordan.

Jesus did not need baptism, as He never sinned, Jesus was baptised as an example for us to follow. On the website Catholic Answers, Cale Clark writes that at His Baptism “Instead of sin being removed from Jesus the waters were sanctified by his immersion”.1

In his book Jesus of Nazareth Pope Benedict XVI wrote that Jesus’ baptism symbolises both death and life

On the one hand, immersion into the waters is a symbol of death, which recalls the death symbolism of the annihilating, destructive power of the ocean flood. The ancient mind perceived the ocean as a permanent threat to the cosmos, to the earth; it was the primeval flood that might submerge all life . . . But the flowing waters of the river are above all a symbol of life (15-16).2

The other readings fully support the Gospel today. Isaiah speaks about the flowing waters and emphasises what is really important in life. We are advised to not waste our resources on things which fail to satisfy and told to listen; pay attention to the Lord and our souls will be satisfied. Isaiah reminded his listeners that God has made an eternal covenant, that a Son of David will be a leader who will master other nations. People who they never knew, will come to them for the sake of The Lord. Isaiah even gives an outline of how this will happen – he tells us that people will change their ways, they will turn back to God who will forgive them. He says that the Word of God will come to the earth and succeed in doing what it has to do. God’s word will plant the seeds, water them and bear fruit.

St John talks about having three witnesses to support the fact that Jesus is the Son of God. The three witnesses are the Spirit, the water and the blood. The Spirit which Jesus left us as His Advocate, the water of our baptism and the water which flowed from Jesus’ side along with his blood bare witness to Jesus. St John reminds us that the witnesses we have here are not human witnesses; but God Himself. God’s testimony can be found in today’s Gospel – “You are my Son, my Beloved; my favour rests on you” (Mark 1:11).

When we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus we remember our own Baptism, for many of us this happened when we were babies and we may struggle to remember the date. But I would like to suggest that it is a date which we should remember in a similar way to that of our birthday. It is the day we became an adopted brother or sister of Christ. So, I would encourage everyone to find out the date of their Baptism and celebrate its anniversary as you would your birthday. This sentence has sparked a search in my house to find my certificate to get the precise date of my Baptism.

Celebrating Baptisms are some of the most joyful blessings I have as a deacon. Since last year my wife Pam and I, have been getting to know the families preparing for Baptism, as we have been organising the Baptism Preparation Course. The 2021 programme starts in February and we will be running it online until the pandemic restrictions are lifted. At these sessions we go through presentations which help parents and Godparents to understand better the full meaning of Baptism and the promises they are committing to.

I would like to encourage us all to remember the promises made at our own Baptism. If we were young then the promises were probably made on our behalf by our parents, Godparents or Sponsors. There is a promise to reject Satan and all his works, there is a promise to believe in God our Creator, there is a promise to believe in Jesus, Son of Mary and Son of God and there is a promise to believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. These promises we recall every Sunday at Mass, but do we ever sit and ponder on them? How do we express our rejection of Satan and all his works? How do we express our belief in the Holy Trinity, in the Church and in the Sacraments of the Church? If we were to mark ourselves how many out of ten would you give yourself? I would struggle to give myself a pass mark. This indicates to me that I need to try harder. I need to express my faith more in action than in the words I use.

I quoted earlier from Cale Clark, who writes for the ‘Catholic Answers website, I’d like to finish with what he says about our Baptism

The baptism of the Lord also reminds us, of course, of our own baptism. The Church teaches that baptism not only lets us participate in Jesus’ victory over sin and death, but calls us to our own personal holiness and apostolate (sharing our faith). When you boil it all down, this is the essence of how we fulfil our baptismal mandate to become saints.

Who are the saints? The word “saint” derives from the Greek term hagios, which means “the holy ones.” Being a holy person just means being, with God’s considerable help, the person you were created to be.

The Bible says, “without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14, NIV). This is also why we need to share our faith! If we want everyone we know and love to get to heaven, if we want them to see Jesus, they must become saints as well—no exceptions.

The world tends to value the letters at the end of people’s names—M.D., M.B.A., Ph.D. But Catholics care most of all about the letters we hope one day will come before our names: “St.” This was the ultimate reason the Lord was baptised, establishing the sacrament, and it’s why we are baptised, too.”

I hope you all have a blessed week and that you and your families stay safe.

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • All those who are sick at this time.
  • All those seeking direction in their lives.
  • Our doctors, nurses, care workers and health workers who are under extreme pressure at the moment.
  • Those who are preparing for Baptism or who are waiting for a date to be agreed.
  • Our parents, Godparents and everyone else who have supported us on our faith journey.

1 Cale Clark, Why Jesus was Baptized, available from Why Jesus Was Baptized | Catholic Answers accessed 8/1/2021

2 Joseph Ratzinger,

Deacon Tony reflects: New year, new resolutions

Happy New Year!

Today’s Gospel is a familiar one, especially if you attended Mass physically or virtually on Christmas Day. It is the same Gospel used ‘during the Day’ at Christmas, (as there are different readings for the Vigil, for Mass during the night and for Mass at Dawn on Christmas day). The readings chosen today focus on the mystery of the Incarnation of Jesus. The use of this Gospel from John underlines in poetic majesty, what the other Gospels do narratively – The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.1

The reading from Ecclesiasticus uses the expression ‘Pitch your tent in Jacob, make Israel your inheritance.’ This is the same thing as ‘dwelt among us’ from John’s Gospel as the Israelites were nomadic people. However, John expands the promise made to the Israelites to all people who believe in Jesus when he uses the words ‘’But to all who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to all who believe in the name of him who was born not out of human stock or urge of the flesh or will of man but of God himself.”

As St John’s Gospel tells us, Jesus was present in the beginning, before time existed; Jesus was the Word., God created the world through his spoken word, as Genesis tells us, God said ‘let there be…. and there was’. St Paul reminds us that ‘before the world was made, he chose us, chose us in Christ to be holy and spotless and to live through love in his presence, determining that we should be his adopted sons through Jesus Christ.’ Remembering that those who are adopted have been carefully chosen by the parents.

These scripture readings today are extremely rich in what they tell us; the more you look the more you will find. I urge everyone to look again at these readings; find a quiet spot in your day and read them again; absorb them and take in the beauty of God’s Word as it is addressed to you.

Today’s readings talk about wisdom and coming to a full knowledge of God and in that spirit, I would like to encourage us all to make wise decisions about how we use our time. Some of us may see the previous lockdown as a wasted opportunity and may have regrets when we heard how some others utilised their time.

As we have started this new year, we may have made some resolutions to change some aspect of our lives. If you haven’t yet decided, there are a few initiatives I’d like to recommend for you to consider.

  • The first is the Alpha course which is advertised on the Parish website and in the Newsletter. Even if you have taken part in Alpha before, it is worth considering again, as you are in a different place now from when you first experienced it. I found this was a really good way of looking at my faith and exploring what it meant to me. The fact that it is online may make it easier for you to attend. To register or for more information contact geoffpoulter@hotmail.com
  • Another initiative is 100 days of Prayer, which is being run by the National Vocations Office of England and Wales, it started on the 1st of January, but it is not too late to take part. This has a short daily prayer for the first 100 days of the year, focussing on English and Welsh saints and praying for vocations within our Community. More details at UK Vocation | The Website of the National Office for Vocation
  • The next one is Bible in One Year; this can be done either by a daily email or an app and can take as little as 10 minutes each day via their express method. More details at bibleinoneyear.org |
  • If you are unable to attend daily Mass try watching online; every Mass at St Bede’s is shown online, see the most recent newsletter for details of the times.
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  • If you don’t already subscribe to the Diocesan e-news try it out, you can receive a weekly free message with lots of information, reflections and links for other activities, you can view previous issues or subscribe via this link E-News | Portsmouth Diocese
  • Sign up to Bishop Robert Barron [ Bishop Robert Barron – Word on Fire ] or the Dynamic Catholic website [ Home | Dynamic Catholic ] with Matthew Kelly et al, he is the author of ‘Rediscovering Jesus’ – gifted to us by Bishop Philip a few years ago; offers daily reflections sent direct to our email – who knows, you may even consider becoming a ‘Parish Champion’
  • If you don’t have access to computers or are nervous about joining things online, why not commit to reading the readings from the Mass each day from your Missal? Even if you don’t have a Missal with the New Translation of the Mass, the readings have not changed, so you can still use an ‘old’ Missal if you have one.
  • Maybe consider putting together a prayer list or perhaps starting a prayer journal to track your thoughts and reflect any growth in your prayer life.

I often find that I start things with great enthusiasm, but after a short time everyday things can get in the way, such as balancing time with family, full time employment & church, watching football, down time etc.. So, I use things like timers or calendar reminders on my phone to help me remember what I have committed myself to do. The daily reminder subscriptions really help too.

Our Gospel reading this week talks about the true light entering the world, I hope that with these suggestions I can offer you a small glimpse of that true light, which enlightens all men and women. That by seeking the true light we will recognise Him in our midst, serve Him and answer the call which He has for each and every one of us. I pray that whatever you commit to do this year to deepen your relationship with God and to improve your awareness of Our Faith that it is successful and I ask you to pray that my endeavours will be successful too.

I wish you all a peaceful, healthy and Spirit filled New Year.

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • All those who are sick at this time.
  • All those seeking direction in their lives.
  • Our doctors, nurses, care workers and health workers who are under extreme pressure at the moment.
  • Those who are struggling with relationships.
  • For all vocations within our Parish Communities.

1 Robert Draper, Breaking the Word Sundays, Pastoral Review Vol 17 Issue 1, (The Tablet Publishing Company, Twickenham, 2020) 77.

Deacon Tony reflects: The Holy Family

Today is a beautiful feast day, on the Sunday following Christmas Day we usually celebrate the feast of the Holy Family. The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph are a model for us all to aspire to.

Jesus the Son of God and Son of Man, the child who knew his own mind and gave his mother things to store in her heart. Jesus always did the will of his Father, he never erred away from God’s will. Like us he was tempted, every time he was tempted, he prayed for strength and was helped to continue to do the will of his Father. We need to remember that when we are tempted or facing a trial in life to turn to God, just like Jesus did and pray for the strength to succeed.

Mary the gentle mother, Mary who was given to the world as our Mother by Jesus in his last few breaths. We are encouraged to be like the disciple Jesus loved and take Mary into our homes and into our hearts. Mothers are encouraged to model their motherhood on the Virgin Mary, treasure all of the things your children do and ponder them in your hearts. Be there for their most precious moments, encourage them in their prayer life, encourage them to learn and to succeed in the calling God has for them.

St Joseph, the protector of Jesus, who brought Jesus up as his own son, the kindly father and husband. In a new Apostolic Letter entitled Patris corde(“With a Father’s Heart”), Pope Francis describes Saint Joseph as a beloved father, a tender and loving father, an obedient father, an accepting father; a father who is creatively courageous, a working father, a father in the shadows.

The Letter marks the 150th anniversary of Blessed Pope Pius IX’s declaration of St Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church. To celebrate the anniversary, Pope Francis has proclaimed a special “Year of St Joseph,” beginning on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception 2020 and extending to the same feast in 2021.

The Holy Father wrote Patris corde against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, which, he says, has helped us see more clearly the importance of “ordinary” people who, though far from the limelight, exercise patience and offer hope every day. In this, they resemble Saint Joseph, “the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence,” who nonetheless played “an incomparable role in the history of salvation.”1

In today’s reading we hear that God delivers on his promises, in the first reading God promises Abram that he will be a father and that his descendants will be as many as the stars in the heavens., the psalm reinforces this with the words that God ‘remembers his covenant for ever.’

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews recalls the promise made to Abram now called Abraham and his wife Sarah and how God delivered on his promise as a reward for the faith Abraham and Sarah showed to God. The author also recalls that Abraham trusted in God so much that he was prepared to sacrifice his only son when God requested him to. Remembering that passage from Genesis we would all do well to remember and perhaps use as our mission the words of Abraham to his son Isaac when he asked where is the lamb for sacrifice? “God will provide (Gen 22:8).”

Our Gospel also has God delivering on a promise, this time to Simeon, who had been told he will not die until he had seen the Christ. When he was prompted to be at the temple at the same time as the Holy Family, he saw the Christ child and praised God loudly with the baby Jesus in his arms.

These readings all reward those with faith, those who have put their trust in God, we are encouraged to trust in God, be faithful to Christ’s teachings, because our God delivers on his promises.

As we reach the end of the year, a year which has been very different from any other year in living memory. We look back and remember. We remember those who helped to form us, some of whom may no longer be with us. We thank God for the parents who brought us into the world. They may have been saints who modelled themselves on the Holy Family, or they may have been flawed, with so many issues to deal with that they couldn’t look after themselves, never mind a child. Or they may have been somewhere in between. We thank God for helping us to find Him, and allowing us to become part of His Family.

We remember those who we may have lost touch with, who are part of our family in some way, we pray that they are well and that God continues to look after them. We pray for the courage to be the one to reach out to any estranged family members, to be the ones to turn the other cheek to those who have hurt us and to seek forgiveness for any harm we may have done. I pray that as 2020 draws to a close and we welcome in 2021, that all families will be happy families, that all relationships will be healthy relationships and that all those who work to care for and protect us will be granted the care and protection of God.

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • All families who are grieving, all families who are apart, all families who are worried about the future.
  • All those who are sick at this time.
  • That all who have left their families to find a place of safety find suitable refuge and that all who need to be aware they are safe, are made aware.
  • All who are adversely affected by the new Covid restrictions.

Deacon Tony Darroch, 26th December 2020.

1 Vatican News available from Pope Francis proclaims “Year of St Joseph” – Vatican News, accessed 26th December 2020

Confirmation candidates’ Advent competition

The Confirmation Team recently held an Advent competition for the candidates to create something that reflected Advent and their Confirmation journey to date.

We have three winning entries, each reflecting on a different part of their journey.

We pray that they will soon be able to receive the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of Confirmation.

The four themes of Advent: Love, Hope, Peace and Joy


He will be great


Waiting without Wasting

What does this picture suggest to you?

For me, it represents the passing of time and it symbolises our waiting. Waiting for someone, waiting for something exciting to happen.

Advent is a time of waiting. Waiting for Jesus’s birth, waiting for our Saviour. During this time, we also prepare for Jesus’s coming; we don’t prepare just physically, but we especially prepare room for Jesus in our hearts.

In the past nine months or so, we have all practiced our waiting skills and often felt that our patience was also put to the test. For weeks we have waited for the daily update from the Government, giving us guidance and at times imposing strict rules to help fighting the current pandemic. We have waited to hear good news about the effectiveness of a vaccine to help us defeat the new disease.

As candidates willing to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, we have been waiting to hear when we will be able to make this important step in our life as Catholics. It was disappointing to see the original date cancelled when we were so close to the end of our preparation programme! In
November our hopes were fuelled by our enthusiasm once we received a new planned date, but we experienced another disappointment when this plan could not go ahead due to a new lockdown.

What helped us to cope with it all? What gave us a reason not to be passive in our waiting? For me it was prayer. Not being able to physically attend Mass for such a long time made me aware of how I have always taken for granted going to Church every Sunday. It also made me realise that we are too used to plan things way in advance, often without even questioning the likeliness of events to happen.

Prayer has helped me to accept that things can’t always be planned, reminding me of the importance of being ready, being ready for when the right moment comes, being ready to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation when it will be possible to do so. In a way, the uncertainty of the situation has made me feel closer to the disciples when they were about to receive the Holy Spirit: in fact, they were waiting, not knowing when the Holy Spirit promised by Jesus would come to help them, nor how this event would happen. They simply prepared and wanted to be ready. When the Spirit came, they were praying, making the most of their waiting time.

I have tried to take more opportunities for me to pray during the day, including whilst washing my hands. We have been encouraged to wash our hands thoroughly and frequently in order to decrease the chances of catching the virus. With my family, we decided that we could say two Hail Mary or a Hail Mary and an Our Father to have a rough guide on how long to wash our hands for (for us it was more productive than singing happy birthday to no one!). I have also carried on to keep alive my good feelings about being an altar server, by ringing our own bell during online Mass and remembering when I would be doing which task.

This Advent we have started a daily prayer journey reading passages of the Gospel and pondering on them. I want to carry on getting ready to welcome Jesus and to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, bearing in mind that the certainty of Jesus’s coming is stronger than any uncertainty around us.

You can use this link to find the daily readings and Pope Francis’s words.
https://www.vaticannews.va/en/word-of-the-day.html