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

Deacon Tony reflects: His throne will last forever

The Gospel today is a story very familiar to us all. In countless schools all over the world at this time of year families will normally crowd into school halls and watch young children re-enact this story. For some it is just that, a story, but to us, as Christians it heralds an announcement which fulfils the words of the prophets from the Old Testament.

St Luke’s Gospel is the only one which tells us about the angel Gabriel, he appears first of all to Zechariah (St John the Baptist’s Dad) and then to Our Lady bringing news of great joy to both families. The reaction of both to their angelic visitor contrasted each other. Zechariah’s reaction was of disbelief, Mary’s reaction was acceptance and an affirmative yes, telling Gabriel that she agreed to God’s request of her.

In our first reading David wants to take the initiative and build a house to honour God, God does not want this. Instead, God; who has already raised David up from being a lowly shepherd on his father’s land to the king of Israel; promises that He will raise a house for David. David is given a promise that his “sovereignty will always stand secure… and his throne (will) be established forever”. In Luke’s Gospel we hear how that promise is fulfilled, Mary who is betrothed to Joseph, of the house of David, will have a son who will be given the throne of his ancestor David and his reign will have no end. We have probably heard these words so often that the awesomeness of them have been lost over time.

We, like David and Mary have very little to offer God, after all, everything we have comes from God. David was a shepherd boy who would become the King of Israel; Mary a lowly maiden, who would become the Queen of Heaven. We do not know exactly what God has instore for us; but we do know that he keeps his promises. We know that through the birth of Jesus, his life, death and resurrection has opened up for us the opportunity to be like God, just as he became man.

Today’s scriptures give us very good examples, in the first reading David is being reminded that God is in charge, that His will must be done. Our Gospel shows us acceptance of that will and obedience to that will, when Mary said, “let what you have said be done to me.” Our second reading has St Paul telling us, through his letter to the Romans, that these events are so great that they must be “broadcast to pagans everywhere, to bring them to the obedience of faith.” This is our Baptismal duty, to share the Word of God to those we meet, it is not just the job of the clergy and religious.

We all need to ask ourselves, as we head closer to Christmas, what have I done to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ to others? How will I relive the Nativity this year when there are so many restrictions in place?

I think it is really important that we don’t just sit back and let the worldly Christmas happen. As Christians we need to ensure that this is kept as a Holy Day, it is not just about giving and receiving presents, or eating and drinking excessively as some would have us believe. Nor is it an event which people can cancel.

This day is when we remember that Jesus Christ was born of a Virgin, from the House of David, this same Jesus is the Son of God, he lived, died and rose again and is now seated at the right hand of His Father, where he reigns forever. Christmas Day is when we as Christians remember the past and look forward to the future; remembering that we will be judged one day and we all live in the hope of a merciful judgement.

2020 has been a difficult year for most people, with the restrictions placed upon populations all over the world to try and limit the spread of the virus. We have all been asked to be responsible as we approach Christmas and plan for how we will celebrate next weekend. Modern technology allows many of us to get together virtually; but not everyone has access to this. Please consider those who do not have access, these people may have no-one to interact with them, if you can find a way of interacting with them which keeps everyone safe, please do so. Please try and make sure that everyone has someone to speak with either virtually or physically this Christmas.

Next Saturday, we will celebrate St Stephen’s Day. St Stephen is the patron saint of altar servers. At St Bede’s we are inviting all of the altar servers and their families to come along to the 09:30 am Mass. We have missed seeing you all on the Sanctuary during the lockdown and we look forward to a time when you can all join in the services again to help enrich our liturgy.

I wish you all a blessed week, one without stress, one where you can truly enjoy the real meaning of what this celebration is all about.

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • Those who are homeless, that this winter someone will provide them a room at the inn.
  • Those who need support from Foodbanks, that they are not too proud to accept help.
  • Those recovering from operations, that they avoid infection and make a strong recovery.
  • Those looking for work at this time, that their efforts will be rewarded.
  • Those planning Christmas get togethers, that their plans do not put anyone else at risk.
  • Our doctors, nurses, medical staff and care workers, unpaid carers, and all other keyworkers, that their efforts will result in more people recovering from the virus.
  • Our priests and others who live alone; as we continue with the Covid restrictions, may we be sensitive to their needs.
  • Those with health issues who are afraid to go to the doctor for fear of wasting their time, may they seek the help they need .
  • All of our Parish volunteers who give of their time so generously, we thank them for all that they add to our Liturgy and all that they do to ensure our Churches remain open.

Deacon Tony Darroch, 19th December 2020.

If you are struggling to find resources or would like suggestions please email me on adarroch@portsmouthdiocese.org.uk or if you would appreciate the odd call from me during this time please send me a message with your contact details and I will get in touch.

Deacon Tony reflects: Prepare the way of the Lord

Close your eyes for a few moments and try to imagine being present two thousand years ago near Bethany at the River Jordan. There we have a man dressed in camel skins, with a leather belt around his waist, he ate wild locusts and honey and preached loudly, telling everyone they needed to change their ways; they needed to repent and prepare for the Saviour who was coming. I would imagine that with the hot desert sun beating down, a full immersion baptism in the waters of the river would have been refreshing to both body and soul as the waters washed away the desert dust as well as the sins of the many who thronged there.

The officials were suspicious of him, in an age and a region where most people believed and were waiting hopefully for the Messiah; they had hopes that this man may finally be the Messiah promised by God. But they were still suspicious, they questioned him, and he openly told them that he was not who they thought he might be. He pointed them towards their Holy Scriptures to Isaiah and it painted a picture of him the voice that cries in the wilderness. Telling people things, they probably knew to be true, but quite often did not want to hear.

Keep your eyes closed and take yourself back just twelve months, to secular Britain, a place where people try not to offend, a place full of traditions, which are being diluted in the pursuit of political correctness. A place where some Local Authorities use expressions like Happy Holidays instead of Happy Christmas. This was a place where many were all bumping along, preparing for another Christmas; preparing to be with our families, going out with friends and work colleagues, getting ready to say goodbye to 2019 and welcome in a new decade. For lots of people things were good, parties to go to, meals to be eaten and the new year would be a great one; a time for positive thoughts. No-one back then had heard of Covid or social distancing and not many knew about Public Health England. Lots of people were hoping for something which would take Brexit off the front pages of the newspapers and from the TV screens for a while, none of us knew what was about to happen.

In just 12 short months, life as we knew it has been turned upside down. 2020 has been a radical year. In some ways Covid has brought us closer; think back to the times when we were out on the street applauding our NHS heroes, Carers and other front-line workers with our neighbours. When people say stay safe or take care, they seem to really mean it now. More people are turning to prayer and asking for prayer for friends and family. Our Scriptures today are radical too. The first reading from Isaiah tells of the prophet being sent to bring good news to the poor, to heal hearts that are broken, freedom for captives and prisoners and to proclaim a year of favour from God. Isaiah is telling us of good times ahead, things will get better! St Paul continues this theme in our second reading by advising us to be happy at all times, pray constantly and to remember to thank God for everything; as that is what Jesus would expect us to do. Think before we do anything and never try to suppress the Spirit, hold on to what is good and avoid every sort of evil.

The Gospel from St John tells us how the ‘voice in the wilderness’ prepared a way for the Lord. He refuted any suggestion that he was a great prophet or the Messiah instead he pointed towards God; remembering who gave him life and the mission he was sent to deliver. Emphasising that he was not fit to undo his sandal strap, to his listeners this would have emphasised the difference between John the Baptist and the Messiah. In those days it would have been a servant or a slave who would remove the shoes of visitors when they came into a home. By mentioning the sandals John was saying he is beneath a servant, by mentioning the strap of the sandals he was saying look I am not worthy to be the servant of the servant who removes the sandals – the strap being deemed to be less than the sandal. (Jesus Himself emphasised this servant activity at the Last Supper, when he got down onto the floor to clean the feet of his Apostles).

In all things John the Baptist made himself smaller to emphasise the greatness of Jesus, he did not have to elevate Jesus; Jesus is already the Son of God. John the Baptist was aware of his mission – to prepare the way of the Lord. Do we ever ask ourselves what our mission is? We all have one! How do we serve our fellow man? How do we serve God? Think about those questions for a few moments.

Re-read today’s scriptures in light of these questions and consider –

  • How do I show that my soul rejoices in my God? (Isaiah 61:10)
  • How do I help the Lord to fill the starving with good things? (Luke 1:53)
  • What can I do, (today, this week. before Christmas) to avoid every form of evil? (1 Thessalonians 5:22)
  • What can I do, that I think is beneath me to serve God and my neighbour? (John 1:28)

I know that I have to improve in all of these areas, I know that the challenges I hear which are most difficult to accept are the challenges that I must accept. I have lost count of the number of times when I get exasperated at a question or a remark from my wife because I know that whatever the challenge or the question is, that I should already have been doing it or thinking about it. We don’t always like hearing a voice that goes against the flow, it is probably one of the reasons the Church comes under fire when it raises moral issues in the media or challenges what has become the norm. But the Church, like John the Baptist proclaims the truth; and it does not matter how many lies are told, the truth will always be true.

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • Those who are homeless, that this winter someone will provide them a room at the inn.
  • Those who need support from Foodbanks, that they are not too proud to accept help.
  • Those recovering from operations, that they avoid infection and make a strong recovery.
  • Those looking for work at this time, that their efforts will be rewarded.
  • Those planning Christmas get togethers, that their plans do not put anyone else at risk.
  • Our doctors, nurses, medical staff and care workers, unpaid carers, and all other keyworkers, that their efforts will result in more people recovering from the virus.
  • Our priests and others who live alone; as we continue with the Covid restrictions, may we be sensitive to their needs.
  • Those with health issues who are afraid to go to the doctor for fear of wasting their time, may they seek the help they need .

Deacon Tony Darroch, 11th December 2020.

Deacon Tony reflects: Waiting patiently

Last week I was struck whilst listening to Fr Leo’s homily about how much time we spend waiting and how Advent is a time of waiting. As a result, I asked myself – am I good at waiting? How do I wait? I recognise that I am not a very patient person; I can become very frustrated, extremely quickly.

I look back at the times I sat in the car around this time of year with my two brothers outside a large department store in Glasgow; waiting for our parents to come out. Now I realise that they were ensuring we had a good Christmas Day, but back then I got so frustrated at how they would leave us in the car for so long and how selfish I thought they were. If only I knew then what I know now! That department store was the number one place in Glasgow for being able to buy things now and pay later; my parents were going into debt to ensure that my brothers and I had something to open on Christmas morning.

I also remember a conversation I had with my late father when I said that I couldn’t wait for our children to grow up and find their own place. He advised me not to wish my life away and that when the children did leave, the house will become so quiet. My Dad was not one for showing emotion or for letting anyone see signs of weakness and for me this was a time when he opened up a little bit to let me see what was inside this hard working Glaswegian that I called Dad.

Waiting is part of life and with it we get an insight into whether we are able to practice patience, one of the twelve gifts of the Holy Spirit (CCC 736).1 Patience is also listed as one of the seven Heavenly Virtues which were proposed to counteract the seven deadly sins.2 My behaviours suggest to me that I do not exercise the gift of patience very well and that I need to try harder.

Advent is a time of waiting with patience and we have a flavour of that in today’s second reading which comes from the second letter of St Peter. He tells his readers that ‘for God a day can mean a thousand years or a thousand years can seem like a day’. For God is timeless; He is eternal. St Peter also tells us that God has shown us patience because He does not want any of us to be lost; He wants us to change our ways. God is a patient Father to us, encouraging us to grow, encouraging us to do the right thing; encouraging us to love as He loves. St Peter goes on to tell us that we are waiting for what Jesus promised us a new heaven and a new earth, which is truly awesome.

Our Gospel takes us back to the beginning of St Mark’s Gospel. He starts by quoting the prophet Isaiah, who is used extensively in the Church’s readings during Advent; both in our scripture readings at Mass and in the Office of the Church. The passage quoted tells us to ‘prepare a way for the Lord’. St Mark then links this to St John the Baptist as the voice that cried in the wilderness; he was the one sent by God to prepare the path for Jesus.

Whenever we feel impatient or downhearted, we should think about what the emotions experienced by those who heard that John the Baptist was not the Messiah. They may have had great hopes that the Messiah was finally here, but John said that he himself was not the Messiah and that the one who he was preparing the path for was far greater than he; so much so that he would be unfit to undo the strap of his sandal. How might that have left them feeling? Angry? Frustrated? Excited? I guess we will never know.

As we get closer to Christmas, how are our preparations going? Are we ready to meet the Lord? How has our prayer life been this Advent? Have we made any extra time for God? Typically during Advent and Lent I switch off the Social Media and say more of the prayers from the Office of the Church, so far I have managed to do this, despite the plethora of notifications which the Social Media companies send.

I have also been taking part in some of the messages from the Injustice Advent Calendar3 campaign which I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. One of the campaigns asks us to reconsider what we use in terms of plastics; highlighting how a lot of plastic waste is dumped in the developing world and how this harms the local residents. Small changes are advocated which when accumulated can make a massive difference. Our small offerings of help when done together can make a difference. For me this is summed up well in the prayer over the Offerings this Sunday.

Be pleased, O Lord, with our humble prayers and offerings, and, since we have no merits to plead our cause, come we pray, to our rescue with the protection of your mercy. Through Christ our Lord.

I say Amen to that!

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • Our doctors, nurses, medical staff and care workers, unpaid carers, and all other keyworkers, that their efforts will result in more people recovering from the virus.
  • Our priests and others who live alone; as we continue with the Covid restrictions, may we be sensitive to their needs.
  • Those recovering from operations, that they avoid infection and make a strong recovery.
  • For those contemplating going into debt to pay for Christmas, that they will avoid making any rash decisions.
  • For those in debt whose outlook at this time is bleak and lacking hope; that this Christmas their faith in God and their fellow man is restored.
  • Those looking for work at this time, that their efforts will be rewarded.
  • Those planning Christmas get togethers, that their plans do not put anyone else at risk.
  • Those who do not believe in God, that this time of pandemic will be a time when they turn to him for help and realise that God still believes in them.

Deacon Tony Darroch, 5th December 2020.

If you are struggling to find resources or would like suggestions please email me on adarroch@portsmouthdiocese.org.uk or if you would appreciate the odd call from me during this time please send me a message with your contact details and I will get in touch.

1 Catechism of the Catholic Church, (Bloomsbury, London, 2014) CCC736 page 170

2 The Spiritual Life, The Seven Catholic Virtues, available fromhttps://slife.org/the-seven-catholic-virtues/#:~:text=Seven%20heavenly%20virtues.%201%20Chastity.%20Abstaining%20from%20sexual,3%20Charity.%204%20Diligence.%205%20Patience.%20More%20items accessed 5th December 2020.

3 https://traidcraftexchange.org/injustice-advent-calendar

Deacon Tony reflects: What do I really want for Christmas?

In what has been a year full of disruption, we have arrived at Advent; a time when we look back fondly at the birth of Jesus (the first coming), remembering the most humble of entrances into our world and look forward to His second coming when He will reveal His awesome power as the High Priest of Heaven.

At the moment we are a country in lockdown and are preparing for the next set of Government restrictions. Our area looks to be heading into what the Government call Tier 2 or High Alert; this will allow us to reopen our churches for public services, as long as we continue with our Covid Safe arrangements. No-one likes to have restrictions imposed; but as Christians we obey when we are working towards the common good.

On Friday we had a 24-hour day of prayer and fasting, praying for God to intercede and bring the pandemic to an end. For some outside of our Faith, they may view this as a pointless exercise; but we are like the prophet Isaiah in today’s first reading. We understand that God’s very Presence can makes mountains melt; He is our Creator and whatever He wills will be done. Isaiah recalls a time when God’s chosen people were living apart from God, they had lost their fear of God and Isaiah pleads for God to return. We know that God never left, God is always present, we are the ones who need to turn to God, He is always waiting, always available, always prepared to forgive and always prepared to immerse us in His love.

The psalm today compliments Isaiah’s reading, as the psalmist cries out ‘God of hosts, turn again, we implore, look down from heaven and see. Visit this vine and protect it, the vine your right hand has planted.’ These cries from the Old Testament reflecting how some people remained close to God; despite large numbers abandoning their faith and fitting in with the society and cultures of the lands they had moved to (Does this sound familiar?). St Paul, in today’s second reading, thanks God for the many blessings bestowed upon the people of Corinth when they accepted Jesus as the Son of God; telling them that they will have all of the gifts they need until the last day, because when they accepted Christ they became joined to Christ as we did when we were baptised.

In our Gospel today from St Mark, Jesus tells us to be on our guard, stay awake, because we will never know when the time will come. This reinforces the message we have had from Matthew’s Gospel over the past few Sundays. People get ready, prepare for Our Saviour is coming. Advent, a word that means to come or a notable arrival. Advent declares the season before the Mass of Christ or Christmas. Advertisers tell us to prepare, get ready for the big day. They want us to spend money, and this year there is an even bigger emphasis on spending money. The lockdown has devasted many businesses, businesses of all sizes. People have lost their livelihoods; and this will lead to pressure within households. This will accentuate the difference between those who have and those who have not.

As a Christian body we are called to help wherever we can, remember the separation last week of the goats and the sheep. I believe this is a time for being responsible, this year we have the opportunity to break the cycle of commercialism and remember what Christmas is actually about. The arrival of a baby to a young mother and her husband, a mother who said yes, when she was asked to bring the Son of God into the world. The first Christmas was a simple affair . Despite being in a town full of their relatives Joseph and Mary could not find accommodation; they were forced to find a shelter to give birth to Jesus. The gifts Jesus received on that first Christmas morning were the amazement and wonder of the shepherds. The Wise men from the East brought more elaborate presents, which symbolised Christ’s Kingship and the sacrifices He would make for us.

I think this Christmas, more than any other Christmas is a time to ask, what do I really want this Christmas? For me, it would be an end to the virus, an awakening in people that other people are just as important as they are, regardless of their stature in life. A realisation that a society is only as strong as it’s weakest members and how that society looks after their vulnerable tells a lot about a society itself.

A few years ago, I asked my family that rather than give me something for Christmas then they could get me vouchers for a charity called Lend with Care (This is one of the organisations I mentioned last week). This charity gives loans to people in developing countries to start their own business up. Every so often I receive notifications of repayments and I will top up the ‘my account’ and lend to others. I recently received an update telling me that these businesses have now employed 12 people, who would previously have had no hope of being independent and supporting their own families. I was amazed at the impact a small donation has had on the lives of others. How could you positively impact on other peoples’ lives this year?

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • Our doctors, nurses, medical staff and care workers, unpaid carers, and all other keyworkers, that their efforts will result in more people recovering from the virus.
  • Our priests and others who live alone; as we live through this lockdown period, may they be encouraged by our prayers.
  • Those recovering from operations, that they avoid infection and make a strong recovery.
  • For those contemplating going into debt to pay for Christmas, that they will avoid making any rash decisions.
  • For those in debt whose outlook at this time is bleak and lacking hope; that this Christmas their faith in God and their fellow man is restored.
  • Those looking for work at this time, that their efforts will be rewarded.
  • Those planning Christmas get togethers, that their plans do not put anyone else at risk.
  • Those who do not believe in God, that this time of pandemic will be a time when they turn to him for help and realise that God still believes in them.

Deacon Tony Darroch, 28th November 2020.

If you are struggling to find resources or would like suggestions please email me on adarroch@portsmouthdiocese.org.uk or if you would appreciate the odd call from me during this time please send me a message with your contact details and I will get in touch.

Deacon Tony reflects: Supporting others this Advent

For some people Christmas has become a time of extravagance, of seeking things for self. I’d like to think that with the troubles faced by many in the world in 2020, that Christmas can become a time of looking out for others again.

There are many ways of doing this. Maybe this Advent (starts next week) we can look for different things to do to help us prepare for the Birth of Our Saviour, maybe we could buy our gifts from different places which share the true joy of Christmas; by helping others instead of increasing dividends for shareholders.

I have put a list of suggestions based on the words of last week’s Gospel, but if you have any others please let me know and we can share them with our Community.

When I was hungry

Donate to or volunteer at the Foodbank https://www.trusselltrust.org/ Make up a Christmas hamper in association with the Foodbank (maybe we could do this with others?) visit https://www.thebesominbasingstoke.org/foodbankhampers

When I was thirsty

Use CAFOD World Gifts to donate water for a family or to donate an emergency water supply visit https://worldgifts.cafod.org.uk/collections/frontpage

When I was a stranger

Lend with Care – help people in the developing world to start their own businesses or get projects off the ground visit https://lendwithcare.org/

When I was naked

Coats4Calais initiative – have a clear out of warm clothing which can be used to help refugees who will struggle to stay warm, visit https://care4calais.org/#coats4calais for more information or email me and I can help you with local drop off points.

When I was sick

A simple phone call to those who are sick or live alone can lift their spirits, as a lot of young people are struggling with mental health issues at the moment it might be nice for them to hear from grandparents, aunts, uncles etc.

When I was in prison

Contact your local prison chaplain, they often need things like bibles, or prayer books and sometimes need volunteers to help them or visit https://www.prisonadvice.org.uk/ which is a charity to help prisoners and their families. Or support the Bible Alive bibles for prisoners initiative visit https://www.alivepublishing.co.uk/outreach/prison-outreach/

Don’t forget that being a prisoner takes many forms, some people are imprisoned by debt, loneliness or addiction, maybe this could be a time to reach out to a family member or friend who you know or suspect this could be applicable to.


I have also signed up for the Injustice Advent Calendar, which is an initiative supported by Traidcraft, where we can be given suggestions daily in the lead up to Christmas to do a small task that can make a big difference in the world. Have a look at https://traidcraftexchange.org/injustice-advent-calendar and see if it is something you can support.

By the end of this year we may well be left with a lot of regrets; of things we wanted to do but couldn’t; let’s make sure that our Advent preparation isn’t one of them!