Deacon Tony reflects: Do not be afraid; only have faith

Two years ago as I was preparing for my Ordination to the Diaconate, I happened to attend a Diversity and Inclusion Workshop at work. During this they had an exercise, which was meant to show us how we can unwittingly find ourselves travelling along with like minded people and at the same time maybe inadvertently excluding others who have different interests or beliefs. There was around 100 people in the room, and they asked us to group together with people by using the following criteria. Group one were people who had never watched an episode of Game of Thrones, Group two were people under the age of 35, group three were people who had a faith and groups four and five were based on other cultural topics, which I cannot remember.

Regardless of what they were, the only group I really fitted into was people who had a faith. However, when I say group, I am exaggerating, because I actually found myself standing there alone, which was quite disconcerting. This is not to say that the other people in the room did not have a faith, they may well have thought that they fitted more neatly into one of the other groups. It was obviously quite noticeable, so much so that one of the facilitators came over to check I was okay and stood with me so that I did not feel alone. My biggest fear, I must admit, was that when we returned to the whole group again that they would want to ask me how it felt to be alone in my solitude; highlighting the difference even further. Thankfully for me that did not happen, but I have to admit I experienced that fear for the fifteen minutes or so that the others spent getting to know one another and discussing the things they had in common.

Today, we hear Jesus say “Do not be afraid; only have faith”. Now I am not telling this to show how good I am; that I was prepared to stand all by myself admitting that I had a faith, when others didn’t. I honestly don’t know how I would have responded if I had fitted in to one of the other groups. But as I didn’t fit into any of the others and with my imminent Ordination in my mind, my choice was made for me. Today we hear about fear and faith.

The lady who was ill, had been ill for twelve long years; her faith convinced her that just by touching something which belonged to Jesus; that she would be healed. However, she was frightened when she realised that Jesus knew that power had been drawn from Him, with courage she came forward and was rewarded for her faith and honesty. Jairus’ daughter had lived for only twelve short years; Jairus and his family were fearful of losing their precious daughter and in faith Jairus came forward to ask Jesus to help. Jairus asked Jesus to lay His hands on his daughter and make her well again. When news came that the young girl had died, Jesus said “Do not be afraid; only have faith”, that faith was rewarded. I came across a beautiful reflection on this by Dom Placid Murray, which I think is worth sharing.

The Hand of Christ

The instinctive prayer of this little girl’s father had been to fall at Jesus’ feet and say, “My daughter is at the point of death. Come lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.’ Jesus did exactly as the father had asked; he took the child by the hand. It was the same saving hand that Jesus reached out to Peter as he sank beneath the waves. It was with this saving hand that he took the loaves in the desert and the bread in the Upper room. The priests of Christ repeat his gestures and his words; the power comes from him. The words are plain and simple, whether at Mass, in Baptism, in confession, in the anointing of the sick. If we had eyes that really saw, and ears that really listened, we like the people spoken of in today’s Gospel we also ‘would be overcome with astonishment,’ we would see and hear Christ in our midst.”1

This view of priests’ hands is shared by Pope Francis, in a reflection he said “I think the hands of the priest, rather than expressing routine gestures, must tremble with excitement when administering baptism or giving absolution of sins or blessing the sick because they become instruments of the creative power of God.”2

According to Jewish laws, the lady who had been ill for twelve years would have had to live outside of society, she would have been considered unclean, in fact anyone touching her would also be considered unclean until the cleaning rituals had been observed. Jesus was demonstrating here that the old laws were no longer valid; the new way to reach heaven would be by following His example. Jesus shows compassion and love, he rewards those who believe in Him. He takes away our fears when we show faith in him. Jesus restored the older lady to the Community and raised the young girl from the dead. Through the Sacraments Jesus offers us life and life to the full. Today and every day Jesus says to us, “Do not be afraid, only have faith.” The question for us is – does our faith allow us to leave our fears behind and be touched by the hand of Jesus?

Please keep in your prayers

  • The new Confirmation programme, which started on Friday 25th June, for all the young people, the Catechists, their families and sponsors.
  • The continued success of the Belong and Believe course, as it reaches the final week.
  • Those preparing to return to Mass.
  • Tinashe Nyamagodo who will be baptised this weekend and her parents and Godparents.
  • Those preparing for ordination to the Priesthood, Diaconate and Permanent Diaconate.
  • The Year of the Eucharist, which has now started, that this will lead to a fresh outpouring of love by the people of God for the Body and Blood of Christ.
  • Those who have been unable to receive the Eucharist during the pandemic.

1 Placid Murray OSB, 100 Liturgical Homilies, (The Columba Press, Dublin, 1988) 89.

2 Pope Francis, A Year With Pope Francis – Daily reflections from his writings, (Claretian Publications, Macao, China, 2014) 211.

Deacon Tony reflects – Making a difference, together

The past eighteen months have been very different for all of us. We have been blown off course from what was our normal life and endured the storm brought about by Covid. At times for many this has been overwhelming. With a fair wind we will soon be able to start meeting more people and perhaps some things will return to how they used to be or better. This storm has given us all a chance to reflect on what is important in life, with many people recognising just how special their family and friends are to them, having been denied that most crucial aspect of human life; companionship; which community makes available to us.

In our readings today we are reminded of the sheer awesomeness of God as the creator of everything and of how available He is to us. Job, in our first reading, hears God explain how the sea is bounded and the limits set by God, so that the waves break as they hit the shore. Pope Francis in his Encyclical Laudato Si, explains that God created everything and then charged mankind with managing the earth and all it contains. Right now, the boundaries of the sea set by God are under threat because of the mismanagement of the earth by mankind. 6 years on from its launch the Pope has issued a seven-year plan known as the Laudato si’ Action Platform.1

The Laudato si’ Action Platform will focus on seven sectors: families, parishes, schools, hospitals, businesses, organizations, and religious orders.

The pope explained that the action plan also has seven goals: the response to the cry of the earth, the response to the cry of the poor, ecological economics, adoption of simple lifestyles, ecological education, ecological spirituality, and community involvement.

Pope Francis, as part of this launch said “Our selfishness, our indifference and our irresponsible ways are threatening the future of our children”.2 This call hits home for me as a parent and new grandparent, I want the best for my children and grandchild. I need to ask myself, what can I do to help? When we face an issue as large as the Climate Crisis or the Covid Crisis; which are dominating our world today; they often seem too much for one man or woman to make a difference. But when we all take a stand and do things together, as a Community, we can make a difference; as we heard last week one of the largest trees started off as the tiniest of seeds. I would like to see us as a Parish and as a Pastoral Area take up the challenge given by Pope Francis and look at what we can do as part of the Action Platform. One of Pope Francis’ quotes, which really struck me was “We have the opportunity to prepare a better tomorrow for all. From God’s hands we have received a garden, we cannot leave a desert to our children.3

CaFOD have initiated the Live Simply Awards, and have published 100 ideas of how we as a Parish Community can respond to Pope Francis’ call to live more simply, I am aware that some Parishioners have already taken part in some of these activities, but I believe it is something which more of us should be involved in; if you are interested in this please approach me after Mass or email me at adarroch@portsmouthdiocese.org.uk.4 When I look through the 100 ideas, I am aware we have already done some of these in our home, by investing in insulation and other home improvements which reduce energy costs. But there are also some which we started to do, but have allowed good habits to lapse, like double sided printing. There are ideas which can be taken up by most people as individuals or families, all of them provide a way of changing little bits of our lives for the benefit of everyone.

Making changes that have the ability to impact our lives and our planet can seem to be overwhelming, but today’s Gospel reminds us that when things appear to be too much for us to cope with, we can turn to Jesus and ask him to calm whatever ‘our storm’ is and quieten the anxieties we have. Jesus asks us to have faith in Him and to trust our worries to Him. As the creator of all, He has the power over everything. The experienced fishermen on the boat with Jesus that day were concerned enough to know that their boat was in trouble, they would have done everything humanly possible to try and manage the situation, then they turned to God in their anguish; in fear for their lives; and asked their Master to save them.

Jesus calls us to be in a relationship with Him, just as the disciples were in a relationship with Him. He does not want us to wait until a time of crisis, He wants us to communicate with Him every day, in everyday tasks, at various times of the day. This is one of the key messages we are hearing on the ‘Belong and Believe’ sessions, which is being run in our Pastoral Area. It has prompted me to think more often about my faith as I go about my day, to pray more when faced with challenges, to pray before difficult meetings and to read more about the Celtic traditions which helped to form the Church in this country. It is a very good course and I highly recommend it to everyone if it is being run again.

Our second reading today talks about a different kind of overwhelming, St Paul is describing being overwhelmed by the love of Jesus; a love which encourages us to put Jesus at the centre of our lives. In this love we are new creations, wedded to Christ, dedicating everything we do to Jesus. This is a love which calls us to repeat the words of the psalm, “Give thanks to the lord for his love endures for ever”. This is a love which calls us to come together on at least a weekly basis to praise God, to celebrate our Communion with Him and each other, which was instituted by Jesus Christ His Son, who was born, lived, died and rose again for us, so that we can live for ever with Him.

St Mark’s Gospel often challenges the faith of the disciples, today is no exception, remember they had already seen many healings; including the driving out of unclean spirits, and the curing of people who had obvious disfigurements; now they witnessed Jesus controlling the weather and the waves of the lake. They asked ‘Who can this be? Even the wind and the sea obey him’, If they had looked to earlier scriptures they would have found the answer in the first reading we have today from Job ‘Come thus far, I said, and no farther; here your proud waves shall break’.

Today is Father’s Day in the UK, I wish all father’s a Happy Father’s Day, I remember those in prayer whose Dad is no longer with them, I remember those in prayer whose relationship with their Dad was not a happy one. I pray for all dads that they can be good role models and that they take their example from St Joseph, who cared for Jesus and guided him as He grew up. I pray for our priests, who are called to be Fathers to many, may they be good Fathers, may they be holy Fathers, may they be given the gift of wisdom to guide their Parish Families in all aspects of life and may they be loved by their Parish Families as Jesus loved Joseph.

Please keep in your prayers

  • The continued success of the Belong and Believe course.
  • Those who have now completed the RCIA Course and those who continue on it.
  • Those preparing for ordination to the Priesthood, Diaconate and Permanent Diaconate.
  • The Year of the Eucharist, which has now started, that this will lead to a fresh outpouring of love by the people of God for the Body and Blood of Christ.
  • Those who have been unable to receive the Eucharist during the pandemic.
  • The nine families who will complete the Baptism Preparation Course this Sunday.

1 Laudato Si Action Platform available from LaudatoSi.org – Action Platform accessed 19th June 2021.

2 Catholic News Agency launch of Laudato Si Action Platform, available from Pope Francis launches 7-year Laudato si’ action plan (catholicnewsagency.com) accessed 19th June 2021.

3 Catholic News Agency launch of Laudato Si Action Platform, available from Pope Francis launches 7-year Laudato si’ action plan (catholicnewsagency.com) accessed 19th June 2021.

4 100 live simply ideas available from LiveSimply – A4 100 Ideas list.pdf (cafod.org.uk) accessed 19th June 2021

Deacon Tony reflects: sowing seeds of love

As humans we think we are in control of most things. We have specialists to look after various aspects of our lives. We have midwives to help bring us into the world, we have doctors and nurses to look after us if we are sick, we have teachers to educate us and we have priests, deacons and religious to help us with spiritual matters; all nicely compartmentalised in a way that we can understand; each in carefully nurtured positions to help us with various tasks or at different stages of our life.

There are of course some things which we have not quite mastered yet, one of them being the weather, however, we have managed to develop ways of predicting it. Although we try to harness nature, with for example modern agricultural techniques; we are still unable to totally stop what we would see as the wrong plant growing in what we would see as the wrong place.

In our first reading today we hear that God decides where certain plants will grow, and sometimes God makes sure that we take notice by allowing things to grow in places we would never expect them to be. In this reading a shoot of a plant is taken to a high mountain and grows to become a huge tree. The prophet is talking about the Church, with Israel being the location of the original chosen people; with God allowing the people to sprout branches and bear fruit; a people and nation teaming with life of all sorts. A people, who will be admired and respected by their neighbours; not just because they are on a mountain; but because they are favoured by God. With God all things are possible, He chose the Israelites not because they were perfect; but because they were representative of the nature and form of all human beings.

In our Gospel we have Jesus speaking in parables, using agricultural terms to share the Word of God with His listeners. While the man in the parable may have thrown the seeds where he wanted them to grow, the birds of the earth may spread them further and the seed will grow and spread where it initially was not intended to go. In the same way, the Word of God was initially spoken in a few chosen places within what we now call the Holy Land. The seeds which were scattered at that time have been picked up and blown across the world. This was no accident; the Holy Spirit is the breeze which has lifted the original word and spread it throughout the world so that the harvest will be gathered from every corner of the earth.

The Apostles could only have dreamed of how far the Church has come in the 2000 years since they walked the earth; now those same Apostles have successors in every land, so that small mustard seed which was planted all those years ago, now forms the basis for natural justice and the legal systems throughout the world, these could be seen as the ‘birds’ which shelter in the branches of the tree. While many would not profess Christ, they still live in countries, which were once Christian countries and where the laws of the land are based on Christian principals.

That small mustard seed represents other aspects of our lives too. It can be embryonic of incredible things in our lives; do we nurture and water that seed? Do we move beyond our fears and self-imposed restrictions to allow the seed to come to fruition? For me, I often allow my fears to restrict my ambitions, listening to my doubts and allowing them to supress ideas or new opportunities. This affects how I live out my faith at times too. If I am to truly live out my faith, I need to weed out the fears and nurture the seeds which will allow me to recognise and use the gifts God has given me.

As we have heard, Jesus spoke to the people in parables and explained fully, afterwards to the disciples. By preaching in parables, Jesus would give the people stories which they could relate to and which made them think. These stories were not just to entertain, they were a way of Jesus explaining the word of God in a way that they were capable of understanding to the masses; by telling them stories they would be able to remember then they would also be able to retell the story allowing the word of God to spread further. By telling the parables in a way that made them think, they were not just being retold what was in the Torah (the Jewish scriptures) but were given an explanation of the meaning behind what was in the Torah and being taught to think for themselves how these lessons applied to them. Remember Jesus wants an intimate relationship with each of us. We are not expected to listen to the word of God without thinking about what we have heard and then considering what it is that God is saying to me/us today?

Mark’s Gospel recalled what Jesus said to the people and the disciples 2000 years ago, these same words, proclaimed in our Gospel at Mass are for us to think about and consider today. Jesus wanted an intimate relationship with the people back then and He wants the same with us today.

I read earlier this week a proverb, which I had never heard before, it read – “blessed are old people who plant trees knowing that they will never sit in the shade of their foliage.” (I tried to get a reference for this, but there appear to be too many roots for it – pardon the pun!). It prompted me to think that this is similar to the way our grandparents (natural and spiritual) shared their values, beliefs, knowledge and faith with us. We in our turn are called to sow the seed of faith for those who will come after us. What have we planted within our parish or within our family to benefit those whose faith will mature when we are no longer here? Remember the parable Jesus used spoke about the smallest of seeds growing into the largest of trees. What small thing have you to offer which can help our parish grow or which will help your own family and our community to grow in faith?

In our second reading we are reminded that our physical actions must be accounted for and are urged to make our home in the Lord. Remembering that Jesus wants an intimate relationship with each of us and that through our Baptism we are called to share our faith; in what we say, in what we do and in what we fail to do. As Christians we are expected to set a good example in everyday life, we are role models to other Christians and whether we like it or not to wider society.

Everyone of us has a seed of love sown within us when we were born, that seed has been watered and fed by the love bestowed upon us throughout our lives by God and those around us. As we become mature that seed of love matures and we are able to shelter those in need within the branches of our love, this in turn feeds the seed of love within them and they grow in their love of themselves and of those around them. Their love for God will also grow as a result of this. All of this stems from the Word of God, who was made flesh and lived among us, He came to shine the light of God’s love on everyone of us and He invites you and me and every other person who has ever been born to an intimate loving relationship. It is up to us to respond to that relationship, it is also up to us to make sure that the invitation we have received is still able to be heard when we no longer walk the earth. Sow seeds of love now, we may never shelter in the branches of the seeds we sow, but those branches will shelter others in need and God’s love will continue to grow as the Kingdom of God grows.

Please keep in your prayers

  • The continued success of the Belong and Believe course.
  • Those attending the last session of the RCIA Course on Wednesday.
  • Those preparing for ordination to the Priesthood and Permanent Diaconate.
  • The Year of the Eucharist, which has now started, that this will lead to a fresh outpouring of love by the people of God for the Body and Blood of Christ.
  • Those who have been unable to receive the Eucharist during the pandemic.
  • The seven families who will start the Baptism Preparation Course this Sunday.

Deacon Tony reflects: In the name of the Father, Son and Spirit

As Catholics the Sign of the Cross is engrained in our lives, we start and finish our prayers using it, we may use it as we pass a Church building or see an ambulance pass by, it starts and finishes our highest of prayers, the Mass. Using the Sign of the Cross is not superstition, it is confirmation that the Apostles and those who have followed in Apostolic Succession have obeyed Jesus by baptising throughout all the nations in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. It is confirmation that the Cross; which the Romans used as a sign of shame, cruel punishment and death; has been elevated to a sign of salvation by the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus.

Through our Baptism we have become adopted sons and daughters of God, we are permitted, like Jesus, to call God our Father and through our Baptism the Holy Spirit lives in us and acts through us. How do we know this? We know this because Jesus told us in today’s Gospel that He will be with us until the end of time.

Today’s readings give an insight into the Trinity. In Deuteronomy we hear how God, the Creator, singled out one group of people and bestowed His favour upon them; rescuing them from slavery and actively interjecting in their lives. This tells us that there was to be a relationship between God and this people. In his letter to the Romans St Paul emphasises how Jesus changed that relationship to a far more intimate relationship; being allowed to call God ‘Abba’ which is a similar word to ‘Daddy’ and as I mentioned earlier, the Apostles were instructed to expand that intimate relationship from a chosen people to all nations. Thanks to Jesus and the Apostles who obeyed Him, people in every nation have the right to call God our Father.

The Gospel used yesterday (Saturday week 8; Gospel – Mark 11:27-33) has the chief priest, scribes and elders asking Jesus whose authority was He under? Jesus asked them a simple question relating to John the Baptist, which they deliberated on and refused to answer because it would show them up as being unworthy for their office. Therefore, Jesus refused to tell them under whose authority He was. In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives the answer, when He said “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, then and make disciples of all the nations”. As Bishop Robert Barron has said, “this is not an ordinary prophet speaking. This is the very Word of the Father, the exact replica of the Father’s being.1

As I said earlier, we use the Sign of the Cross so often in our everyday life. Do we ever stop to think about what it means? When we use the words; “In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen”; we are uniting ourselves with the Holy Trinity; we are identifying ourselves as followers of God; three persons in One God. We are calling God Our Father, we are calling Jesus our Brother and acknowledging that the Spirit which guided Jesus through His life on earth also guides us during our life on earth. This same Spirit, which Jesus gave to us, inspires us, drives us, prompts us, this Spirit is an outpouring of grace from God Our Father, to guide us home to our place in His Eternal Kingdom. Do we allow the Spirit to guide us? Do we listen to and act on his inspiration?

The feast today helps us to acknowledge both the immensity of God; who made everything; and that He allows us to have an intimate permanent relationship with Him when we follow His commandments; to love God and love our neighbour.

Please keep in your prayers

  • The 4 children being Baptised in Holy Ghost Church this weekend.
  • Those starting the Belong and Believe course this Monday. (not too late to sign up see Upcoming Events (stmandsto.org.uk) or contact geoffpoulter@hotmail.com to register your interest.
  • Those attending the RCIA Course on Wednesday.
  • Those preparing for ordination to the Priesthood and Permanent Diaconate.
  • The Year of the Eucharist, which starts next Sunday.
  • Those who have been unable to receive the Eucharist during the pandemic.

Deacon Tony

29th May 2021

1 Bishop Robert Barron, Word on Fire Daily reflections, Feast of the Holy Trinity 2018.

Deacon Tony reflects: The Call of the Spirit

When Pentecost day came round, they had all met in one room, when suddenly they heard what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven, the noise of which filled the entire house in which they were sitting; and something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire; these separated and came to rest on the head of each of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak foreign languages as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech.

Acts 2

Can you imagine what it was like to be in that upper room? Can you imagine the difference between how you entered that room and how you left that room?

The apostles had been with Jesus for three years, listening, asking questions, observing cures, taking part in miraculous events; they had even been given the power to be like Jesus in some ways when they cast out devils in His name. But then they were also present when Jesus was arrested, some of them witnessed His trial and execution. A few days later and for the past few weeks they saw Jesus alive again having conquered death; and then they were present when He ascended to His Heavenly home. They had been on what we would call a roller-coaster journey, with massive highs, very dramatic lows and then massive highs again.

But now they were alone again, there must have been quite a bit of fear as they entered that room, none of them knew what was going to happen, they had witnessed how the people had turned against Jesus in the blink of an eye; from his triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, when the crowds were with Jesus as he was carried into the city; to his trial and crucifixion when Jesus carried his cross out of the city.

The apostles must have fearful wary, if not terrified that the people would do the same to them. As we read in our first reading the Holy Spirit came powerfully to them just as Jesus had promised. The Holy Spirit removed their fears and they left that upper room permanently changed. Instead of fear they had courage, courage to go out and share the truth of the Risen Christ to the Jews who had assembled from all around the known world to celebrate the Feast of Weeks. These people from many different countries were able to hear the word of God in their own languages; being spoken through the apostles, all Galileans; and all hearing about the marvels of God. How must this have impacted on all who were present?

This weekend across the Portsmouth Diocese, and no doubt in other places around the world, many young people will celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation. This Sacrament is one of the marvels of God. This is when we ask for the Holy Spirit to come down on those being confirmed and transform them spiritually into active members of God’s Church here on earth. This is the final seal of their Baptism, the final rite of entry into the Church.

At times like this it is good to recall our own Confirmation, how did the gifts of the Holy Spirit affect us? For me, my Confirmation happened when I was still seven years old, it was a long time ago and is a bit of a blur. I probably remember the preparations more than I remember the service, some of the hymns I learned at that time in preparation for my Confirmation are still quite vivid. The main affect for me was on how I took part in the Church for several years afterwards, I had just become an Altar Server prior to my Confirmation and remained one for the next eight years; even when my family moved to a new Diocese, I switched to being a server in the new Parish, and that was where I first learned about deacons. The Parish had a transitional deacon ‘on his way’ to priesthood and the Parish Priest asked me to show him around the Parish to help him get his bearings. Taking him around the Parish gave me a small insight into the life of clergy working in a Parish.

What difference did the Holy Spirit make to you following your Confirmation? Did you have a deeper love of the Sacraments? Have you developed a care for our planet? Were you prompted to fight against injustice? Do you work to help the vulnerable, sick, or elderly? Were you affected in other ways? The Holy Spirit calls us to action, we are called to follow the directions of the Spirit, how faithfully have we answered that call? If we are struggling to think of how the Holy Spirit affected us then praying to the Holy Spirit for insight at this time of Pentecost and asking for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit would be beneficial. The Holy Spirit fills us with the grace of God and enriches our lives. Our God is a generous God and wants what is best for us.

This weekend in St Bede’s Church there will be 43 young people being Confirmed, we pray for them, we pray for their parents and guardians, their sponsors and for al of the Catechists who have put so much time and work into helping them to reach this point. We thank God for them, and we look forward with anticipation to see how these young people will positively impact on our church and our communities.

Please keep in your prayers

  • All of those being Confirmed this weekend, their parents, guardians and sponsors.
  • All the Catechists who work on behalf of us to help sustain and build up our Church.
  • Those completing the Let it Be course this Monday.
  • Those attending the RCIA Course on Wednesday.
  • That there will be a great take up on the Belong and Believe Course which starts on May 31st online Details available from Upcoming Events (stmandsto.org.uk) or contact geoffpoulter@hotmail.com to register your interest.
  • That the Confirmation of so many young people within our Diocese on the same weekend will give a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit on us all.

Deacon Tony reflects: Consecrated in truth

The events which have taken place in Israel in recent days are tragic on many levels. In Jerusalem, in particular, where a house of God has been the centre of so much violence, with both sides attempting to claim the moral high-ground is to be deplored.

Jerusalem is a city where three different faiths recognise one God, all of our faith’s and traditions are from the Abrahamic root, we are all made in God’s image and likeness and are all called to love. We have so much more in common than what divides us, but when men look at the world with worldly eyes, they fail to see the people they are throwing rocks at, are their brothers and sisters.

Our readings today, take us back to the beginning of the Church; in our first reading from the acts of the Apostles we have St Peter recognising that Jesus chose twelve apostles as the foundation of the Church, mirroring the twelve tribes of Israel. The fathers of the twelve tribes were esteemed by the Jewish people and gave their name to their tribe, people knew where they came from and to which tribe they belonged. We may see the choosing by lot as a little bit strange, but this was identical to the way the priest was chosen who would enter the Temple sanctuary to burn incense. For the people of that time, it was recognised that random events; outside of man’s control; were expressing the will of God. It was not abdicating human decision either, humans had chosen the two candidates; but it was a way of putting the final decision in God’s hands. St Peter, used the psalms to justify this, maintaining the Jewish tradition within the early Church.

Our Gospel has the beautiful words of Jesus asking for God’s protection on those He is sending out to continue His work. These words form Jesus’ prayer for our priests; these words are a prayer we should say for our priests. Just like our Gospel last week, Jesus mentions how He wants to share His joy to the full. These men, trusted by Jesus, listened to His words, and shared them with so many people that two thousand years later Jesus’ word is still spreading, His Church is still growing, and sadly His Church is still being persecuted. The world still sees the Church as a threat, but if you look at the words of the Gospel, those who listen and follow the words of Jesus will be hated by the world, because we are not of the world. Jesus says we belong to the world as much as He does. We belong to Jesus because we have been consecrated in the truth.

My wife Pam, and I, formed a strong bond with a priest, who sadly is no longer with us. We worked together in leadership of Marriage Encounter and this was a prayer he had framed for us during our time of leadership. It was very precious to him and became special for us too. We now frame it and give it to new priests we know, at their ordination.

Next Sunday is Pentecost Sunday when we commemorate the day when the Apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit; the Spirit of truth. All of us who have been Baptised and Confirmed have been consecrated in truth, because we too have received the Spirit of truth. At St Bede’s Church next week we will celebrate the Confirmation of 43 young people. I pray that they will be filled to the brim with the gifts of the Holy Spirit and that they and we, will recognise that this is not the end of their journey, but a new beginning; where they can take an active part in the Church by loving God and their neighbour. May the gifts of the Holy Spirit help them to discern the path God is calling them to.

On Friday we entered into the nine days leading to Pentecost, the Parish website has a link to the Novena used at this time, I offer my Novena for these young people as they commit their lives to being adult Christians. The link for the Novena is Pentecost Novena to the Holy Spirit – St Bede’s, Basingstoke (stbedesbasingstoke.org.uk) Even if you have missed the first couple of days when you read this, it should be straightforward to catch up. I would encourage everyone to pray this Novena, because right now, the whole world needs a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit. (also available below)

Glasgow, the city where I grew up, in is not perfect. Over the years it has had a bad press for violence and intolerance; some of which has been based on religious intolerance and bigotry. This week, however, it made headlines, which hopefully will start to undo some of those negative perceptions. The Immigration Service carried out dawn raids on the feast of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, to apprehend two men. Quickly neighbours got together and blocked in the Immigration van, before long a crowd gathered and more than 200 people took part in a peaceful protest, with cries of “These are our neighbours!” and “Refugees are welcome here!” The protest was so effective that the two men were released and the crowd escorted them to the nearest mosque. This was an example of love of neighbour in action.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this reflection, people who claim to follow the same God are in peril now in the Holy city of Jerusalem, the land where Jesus walked, houses people in fear. I pray that God will intervene and untie all of the tangles which keep these tensions going. May God bring peace to all of His children; regardless of how they choose to pray to Him. Our second reading reminds us that because God loved us so much by sending his only Son into the world then we should love one another. When we live in love then God lives in us. I pray that there will be enough people with God living in them to help restore peace to the Holy Land and to all other areas of conflict in our world.

Have a blessed week.

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • All those who are sick, all those who care for them and all Key workers who are striving to keep us safe.
  • Those who are organising and attending the Let it Be course on Monday.
  • All of those preparing to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation next weekend, that they will prepare themselves diligently to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
  • Those who are praying the Novena for Pentecost (please join in).
  • All those who grieve at this time.
  • Prayer Marathon to end the Pandemic (please join in).
  • Those who continue to attend the RCIA Course on Wednesdays.
  • The families completing the Baptism Preparation Course this Sunday.

Deacon Tony Darroch, 15th May 2021.

Deacon Tony reflects: The call to love

I have a niece; who lives in a place called Caesarea, Ontario in Canada; she became a mother last year, this seems to have sparked an interest in genealogy, with a strong desire to find out where she has come from. This is not just for her own interest, but so that she is able to inform her daughter. The latest development in this is that she has undergone a DNA test and has started to make contact online with others she is related to. Some of us may share this desire to find out where we come from; to learn the history of our development as a family or a Community.

In our first reading today, we can clearly see one of the pivotal moments of the development of our Christian Community. Peter visits Cornelius in Caesarea, Palestine shunning the honour reserved for Lords, reminding his host that he is just a man and that God does not have favourites. As he says this, the Holy Spirit came down on all present, regardless of their origin. This was a clear indication to the early Church from God, that the New Covenant was not reserved just for the Jewish people, but for everyone. Peter then baptised the first Gentiles, opening up the possibility that we could all become children of God through our Baptism. It would be very useful to read the full chapter of the Acts of the Apostles from this week, it will help fill in some of the detail of the reading to gain a better understanding of how God used Cornelius to inform Peter of God’s desire for the Word to be taken out to the whole world.

In our second reading we hear the call to love. St John reminds us that love comes from God, and states that the very fact that we have the ability to love is a sign that we come from God. He also states that anyone who fails to love can never have known God; because God is love. God made us because He loves us. And because He loves us, He sent Jesus to save us. God loves us so much that He sacrificed His own Son for us.

The emphasis continues to be about love in the Gospel reading today. The reading continues on from last week’s reading and Jesus’ words to the disciples at the Last Supper. Jesus is reminding the disciples to keep His commandments to remain in His love and to love one another as He loves. He tells them that a man can show no greater love than to lay down their life for his friends, immediately telling them; and us; that they are His friends. He no longer views the disciples as servants, but as friends.

Jesus also states that the disciples did not choose Jesus, Jesus chose them; just as He has chosen us. Jesus calls us to go out and bear fruit and speaks about the joy He has when we obey the commandments and that by loving one another our joy will be complete.

How do we express that love today? How will we express that love tomorrow? Love is putting others before ourselves. Last week at the RCIA course we discussed the seven Capital (or deadly) sins; Pride, Covetousness, Lust, Anger, Gluttony, Envy, Sloth; these are all about self, these relate to us thinking and acting only to please ourselves, all other sins come from these. God calls us to greater things. God wants us to think about and do things which positively affect other people. The call to love is for me to think not about me, but about you.

We also discussed the virtues, the virtues which oppose these sins, which are Humility, Liberality, Chastity, Meekness, Temperance, Brotherly love and Diligence. Taking just one of them as an example, Covetousness, what do I covet? For me it is probably time, if I get the chance to spend time doing a puzzle, the few minutes I plan can easily become twenty or thirty minutes. If that time is interrupted, I can become sullen and start to do things grudgingly, instead of lovingly. When we put others needs first, we are more likely to be living a virtuous life in line with God’s commandments.

When was the last time we considered the vices and virtues? Do we consider them when we reflect on our day before going to sleep? Do we ask God to help us overcome our faults? I know that I ask for God’s help in the morning before I start my day, sometimes I forget to thank God for the help He has given me. Sometimes I forget to examine my conscience at the end of the day, not only to make peace with God, but in an effort to improve the next day.

On Friday night, I attended the virtual meeting for the Candidates who will receive Confirmation at St Bede’s Church over Pentecost Weekend. I found it to be a most positive experience. I think it is sometimes difficult for us to see the effect we have on other people. I was really struck by the enthusiasm of the Catechists and the questions the young people were asking. Thank God for them all.

Our readings today, tell us where our Church has come from, these young people will help to develop where our Church is going in the future. All of this is done in love. A love we receive from Our Father, God the Creator, a love we were told about and given the greatest example of by Jesus His Son and a love which is guided, nurtured and comes to fruition through His Holy Spirit. Amen.

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • All those who are sick, all those who care for them and all Key workers who are striving to keep us safe.
  • Those who are organising and attending the Let it Be course on Monday.
  • All of those preparing to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation this Pentecost, that they will prepare themselves diligently to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
  • Those who will start the Novena for Pentecost this Friday (14th May)
  • The repose of the soul of Friday Ogbuka, who died on Easter Monday and the comfort and welfare of his family.
  • Prayer Marathon to end the Pandemic. (see below)
  • Those who continue to attend the RCIA Course on Wednesdays.
  • The families starting the Baptism Preparation Course this Sunday.

Deacon Tony Darroch, 8th May 2021.

Worldwide Prayer Marathon for an end to Coronavirus

SHRINE LIST AND DAILY PRAYER INTENTIONS

Basilica Vaticana (Madonna del Soccorso) The Vatican Europe. For the entire world wounded by this pandemic

9 Holy House of Loreto, Italy. For all seniors.

10 Our Lady of Knock, Ireland. For all people with disabilities.

11 The Virgin of the Poor (Banneux), Belgium. For all the poor, the homeless, and the economically distressed.

12 Our Lady of Africa (Algiers) Algeria. For all people who live alone and those who have lost hope.

13 Our Lady of the Rosary, (Fatima), Portugal. For all prisoners

14 Our Lady of Health (Vailankanni) India. For all scientists and medical research institutions.

15 Our Lady Queen of Peace (Medjugorje) Bosnia. For all migrants.

16 Saint Mary’s Cathedral (Sydney), Australia. For all victims of violence and human trafficking.

17 Immaculate Conception, (Washington, D.C.) USA. For all world leaders and for all heads of international organisations.

18 Our Lady of Lourdes, France. For all doctors and nurses.

19 Mother Mary’s House – Meryem Ana Evi (Ephesus) Turkey. For all people at war and for world peace.

20 Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre, Cuba. For all pharmacists and health care personnel.

21 Our Lady of Nagasaki, Japan. For all social workers.

22 Nuestra Señora de Montserrat, Spain. For all volunteers.

23 Notre Dame du Cap (Trois Rivières), Canada. For all law enforcement and military personnel and for all firefighters.

24 To be confirmed To be confirmed. For all those who provide essential services.

25 Basilica of the Blessed Virgin of Ta’ Pinu, Malta. For all teachers, students and educators.

26 Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, Mexico. For all workers and entrepreneurs.

27 Mother of God (Zarvanytsia), Ukraine. For all the unemployed.

28 Black Madonna of Altötting, Germany . For the Holy Father, bishops, priests, and deacons.

29 Our Lady of Lebanon (Harissa), Lebanon. For all consecrated men and women.

30 Blessed Virgin of the Holy Rosary of Pompeii, Italy. For the Church.

31 Vatican Gardens, The Vatican. For the end of the pandemic and the resumption of our social and economic life.

Deacon Tony reflects: Connected to Christ

Last week I spoke and wrote about the plight of India at the moment, due to the Pandemic. Watching the News things seem to be continuing to deteriorate there while we in the UK seem to be coming out of the other side of the latest Lockdown. We thank God that our country is recovering but need to remember our brothers and sisters elsewhere. As I also mentioned last week, a month-long marathon of prayer has been called by Pope Francis, with a special Liturgy to be used at the 30 Marian shrines around the world. We are encouraged to join in I have put a link for the Liturgy in the footnotes of this reflection.1 The first Marian Shrine to be used will be in Walsingham in Norfolk; it will be broadcast live on EWTN on 1st May at 6pm. If you do not have access to the internet or to satellite TV to take part in this, please set aside some time every day during May to say the Rosary and pray for an end to this Pandemic.

This call to action is very much in the Spirit of our readings today. Today we are called to be in union with Christ by serving each other. We are reminded that we cannot do things under our own power, because we need to stay attached to Christ the true Vine.

In St John’s Gospel, Jesus, speaking at The Last Supper, tells us to stay connected to Him, the true Vine. He says that unless we stay connected to Him then we will be unable to bear fruit. This is a reminder for me to ensure that before I make a decision on any new venture or request; or before I think of who to invite to assist me with anything which I hope will bear fruit; that I need to spend some time in prayer, ensuring that I allow God into my decision-making process. This does not have to be a lengthy process; but it does have to be a time of checking that I am still connected to the Vine.

In our first reading we hear that there was still some distrust of Paul from elements of the fledgling Christian Community. It was Barnabas; a name which means ‘Son of encouragement’; who looked out for Paul and encouraged the others to trust him. Barnabas told the others how Paul had changed since he met Jesus and how he had moved from persecuting them to actively preaching the name of Jesus. How do we encourage those around us to live in our Community? Would others recognise that we are still a Community despite the Pandemic?

In our second reading, we are told by St John that “our love is not to be just words or mere talk, but something real and active; only by this can we be certain that we are the children of the truth and be able to quieten our conscience in his presence.” In relation to the Pandemic, how can we quieten our conscience about the suffering if we do not join in the request from our Pope to pray for those in peril?

By staying connected to Jesus we live in union with Him and the Church. By sharing in His Holy Eucharist, we become a Community through our act of Communion. Jesus wants us to be one body in union with Him, it is only by staying in union with Jesus that we will bear fruit.

Life can be very busy at the moment, sometimes it feels like we are trying to cram more things in because technology allows us to. The essence from today’s readings is that unless we remain in union with Christ and allow that union to influence how we put our faith into action then we risk being cut off from the vine. This means making time for Jesus, maintaining our relationship through whatever way we feel called to do so. Make time for the Sacraments, make time for prayer. Remembering the words of Jesus from today’s Gospel “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask what you will and you shall get it. It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit, and then you shall be my disciples.”

How will we respond when we hear the call at the end of Mass to “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life”?

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • All those who are sick, all those who care for them and all Key workers who are striving to keep us safe.
  • Those who are organising and attending the Let it Be course on Monday.
  • All of those preparing to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation this Pentecost, that they will prepare themselves diligently to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
  • The repose of the soul of Friday Ogbuka, who died on Easter Monday and the comfort and welfare of his family.
  • Prayer Marathon to end the Pandemic.

Deacon Tony Darroch, 1st May 2021.

SHRINE LIST AND DAILY PRAYER INTENTIONS

Basilica Vaticana (Madonna del Soccorso) The Vatican Europe. For the entire world wounded by this pandemic

1 Our Lady of Walsingham, England. For all the deceased.

2 Jesus the Saviour and Mother Mary (Elele) Nigeria. For all those who have not been able to say goodbye to their deceased loved ones.

3 Our Lady of Częstochowa, Poland. For all those infected with the corona virus and all the sick.

4 Basilica of the Annunciation (in Nazareth) Israel. For all expectant women and their unborn babies.

5 Blessed Virgin of the Rosary (in Namyang), South Korea. For all children and adolescents.

6 Our Lady Aparecida (San Paolo), Brazil. For all young people.

7 Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage (Antipolo) Philippines. For all families.

8 Our Lady of Luján, Argentina. For all communication workers.

9 Holy House of Loreto, Italy. For all seniors.

10 Our Lady of Knock, Ireland. For all people with disabilities.

11 The Virgin of the Poor (Banneux), Belgium. For all the poor, the homeless, and the economically distressed.

12 Our Lady of Africa (Algiers) Algeria. For all people who live alone and those who have lost hope.

13 Our Lady of the Rosary, (Fatima), Portugal. For all prisoners

14 Our Lady of Health (Vailankanni) India. For all scientists and medical research institutions.

15 Our Lady Queen of Peace (Medjugorje) Bosnia. For all migrants.

16 Saint Mary’s Cathedral (Sydney), Australia. For all victims of violence and human trafficking.

17 Immaculate Conception, (Washington, D.C.) USA. For all world leaders and for all heads of international organisations.

18 Our Lady of Lourdes, France. For all doctors and nurses.

19 Mother Mary’s House – Meryem Ana Evi (Ephesus) Turkey. For all people at war and for world peace.

20 Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre, Cuba. For all pharmacists and health care personnel.

21 Our Lady of Nagasaki, Japan. For all social workers.

22 Nuestra Señora de Montserrat, Spain. For all volunteers.

23 Notre Dame du Cap (Trois Rivières), Canada. For all law enforcement and military personnel and for all firefighters.

24 To be confirmed To be confirmed. For all those who provide essential services.

25 Basilica of the Blessed Virgin of Ta’ Pinu, Malta. For all teachers, students and educators.

26 Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, Mexico. For all workers and entrepreneurs.

27 Mother of God (Zarvanytsia), Ukraine. For all the unemployed.

28 Black Madonna of Altötting, Germany . For the Holy Father, bishops, priests, and deacons.

29 Our Lady of Lebanon (Harissa), Lebanon. For all consecrated men and women.

30 Blessed Virgin of the Holy Rosary of Pompeii, Italy. For the Church.

31 Vatican Gardens, The Vatican. For the end of the pandemic and the resumption of our social and economic life.

1 Liturgy for Month of prayer for the Pandemic available from. – Sussidio Rosario 2021 Inglese.pdf (pcpne.va) – accessed 1st May 2021.

Deacon Tony reflects: God is calling me

Today is a day when we pray to the Good Shepherd to provide more good shepherds to tend His flock. But while today is dedicated to that prayer, I believe that we should be praying for vocations to the Priesthood, Diaconate and Religious Life everyday. Priests don’t just appear, they come from families, like your family and mine. They come from parishes like our Parishes. At the moment in Holy Ghost Parish I am aware of two young men who are responding to a vocation; we have Tom (now known as Brother Aidan) who has joined the Benedictines at Douai and Ryan who is currently studying for the priesthood in Rome. We should remember them and their families in our prayers. We thank God for them.

God calls us all to an individual mission. He has it mapped out for us and He calls us to follow it. Not everyone answers straight away, some never get around to answering. For me, my call to the Diaconate stretched out over several years, probably as many as ten years before I decided to test the call to see if it was God calling me or if it was some notion in my head. I wrestled with the call for so long as I thought there was no way God would want me, I know my faults and failings! Time and time again God calls people from all walks of life to change their direction and asks them to serve Him. I know priests who were teachers or accountants or shop managers prior to answering the call. Likewise I studied for the Diaconate with Project Managers, Mission workers, teachers, doctors, policemen, former Religious Brothers, scientists and engineers. Each of us however, had one thing in common; we all believe that God called us and asked us to serve Him.

If you have an inkling that God is calling you towards a life of service, please don’t dismiss it. Please pray about it and talk to someone about it. The Diocesan Vocations Team (see links in footnote123) have enquiry sessions for men who believe they are being called towards the priesthood. Many religious orders have open days or weekends for people to explore if God is calling them to a specific way of service.

We are very blessed in our Diocese to have priests from other countries to come and help us. It clearly demonstrates our Universal Church, and is a true sign that God is still guiding our Church. Many years ago when vocations were plentiful in Europe, Priests and Religious went out to places like Nigeria, Cameroon and India; sowing seeds and spreading the Gospel. These were known as Missionary territories; these Missions are now sending men here to help keep the flames of faith alive in our country. Through these men, we see the generosity of God in providing shepherds to tend our flock. We are grateful to God and these servants of God for the sacrifices they make to leave their families and their countries to come and serve us.

Of course, each and every Christian has a vocation, God is calling everyone of us to some sort of service. It could be to the Married Life, Single Life, Priesthood or the Religious Life. Some like myself have an additional calling to the Permanent Diaconate. Within these areas of life there are additional vocations, for example as parents, teachers, doctors, nurses, engineers, etc. these are callings which God has given people specific talents to enable them to carry out these vocations for the benefit of others.

Today the focus is on Priests as we recognise the calling to be our shepherds. At his first Chrism Mass as Pope, Pope Francis said he wants his priests to be involved in all aspects of their flock’s lives. He wants the shepherds to smell of the sheep. The call of priesthood is not one of living in isolation, it is a call to be with people at their most joyous times, their saddest times, when they worry, when they need support or guidance, helping people to live out their faith and build a truly intimate relationship with Jesus.

While we pray for vocations there is also a need to pay for those who are in training, it costs the Diocese approximately £27,000 per year for each of our 12 students for the priesthood, if you can, please support this vital work which will help to supply our next generation of priests, donations can be made through the link in the Newsletter which is reproduced here …. Portsmouth Roman Catholic Diocese are fundraising for Portsmouth Roman Catholic Diocesan Trust | Give as you Live Donate

In the past week Pope Francis, as our Chief Shepherd, has called for the month of May to be a marathon month of prayer for an end to the global pandemic4. He is asking all of us to join in by praying the Rosary, he will broadcast the opening and closing of the month long marathon on Vatican news outlets. At least 30 shrines around the world are joining in this initiative. While we in the UK are seeing improvements in our Covid situation there are many parts of the world which are in dire straits. India in particular is seeing its Health Care system on the brink of collapse. There are severe problems in other parts of Asia and in South America. We need to maintain our prayers for these areas and encourage our Government to lobby other World Leaders to initiate a Global Response to a Global pandemic, unless everyone is safe then no-one is safe. We cannot afford to be parochial on this matter. Our brothers and sisters in India and other places are depending on us.

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • All those who are sick, all those who care for them and all Key workers who are striving to keep us safe.
  • All those discerning a vocation, may God help them in their discernment.
  • All of those preparing to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation this Pentecost, that they will prepare themselves diligently to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
  • Ryan, Aidan-Keene, Wojciech and Rory who are being baptised in Holy Ghost Parish this weekend.

Deacon Tony Darroch, 24th April 2021.

1 Priest vocations – https://www.portsmouthdiocese.org.uk/priestly-vocations

2 Religious Life vocations – https://www.portsmouthdiocese.org.uk/religious-vocations

3 Permanent Diaconate vocations – https://www.portsmouthdiocese.org.uk/permanent-diaconate

4 Global Prayer Marathon – available from Pope urges Catholics to pray in May for end to Covid-19 pandemic – Vatican News accessed 24th April 2021.