23rd Week of Ordinary Time – Year A

Hello again,

At the time of writing, there has been no relaxation in the regulations with regard to the opening of our churches, and so the measures we have taken at St. Mary’s and St. Paul’s, for the safety of all concerned, continue to apply in all their vigour.

However, it was heartening yesterday to be able to accommodate over 30 People at St. Mary’s – due to the nature of Family & Couple ‘bubbles’, which allow higher numbers than if individuals only apply for seating. St. Paul’ was half that number, but also the maximum permitted.

I feel I have to let you know of an unfortunate incident that occurred the week before , when an individual, without having used the dedicated phone lines and without having received the reply confirming a ‘successful’ application for a seat at Mass, simply refused to heed the courteous attempts of our Stewards to explain that we had filled our quota of seating for that Mass and proceeded to remonstrate and gesticulate right in the face of one Steward , (who had to continually back away, to maintain the correct distancing), and all done in an unpleasant and aggressive manner.

A Couple arrived in the middle of this sad scene, and most graciously gave up their seating and returned home. Whether the irate individual appreciated this or not , I cannot say. It was a very upsetting experience for our Stewards who have volunteered to help things go as smoothly as possible NOT to be upbraided and receive an angry lecture on the ‘nonsense’, in this person’s estimation, of all these legally-binding restrictions.

Reflecting on this incident during the week, I have decided that should there be a repetition of this, or any other kind of discourteous behaviour before Mass, then I will simply sit in my allocated seat and refuse to move until the offending party vacates the church precincts. I’m sure we shall have no further unpleasantness – AND , we have learned a valuable lesson.

In the light of the above , might I repeat the outline of the system our ‘Covid Team’ has painstakingly put into place , in order to be as fair as possible to all Parishioners in this time of ‘limited-numbers-at-Sunday- Mass’ ?

We have set up TWO dedicated telephone numbers for each of the churches.

To make a request for seating at Sunday Mass at St. Mary’s , you are asked to ring 07541 036999 , and for the same at St. Paul’s , you ring 07541 025255.

You can leave a voice message giving details of the number in your party and please provide details as to how we can contact you. You can also ‘text’ your request if you wish.

Our volunteers simply cannot operate a ‘twenty-four / seven’ rota to screen your calls. Their method is to collate all messages received during the week , up to 3.00 pm. on Friday , and reply to each call, on Saturday , whether the application has been successful or not.

Of course, it’s not a perfect compromise, but the alternative is to have Parishioners queue before Mass, then put down a barrier when the requisite number permitted has been reached. We are not in the business of sending good People away. The ‘telephone-booking’ option is far more preferable.

Looking further down the line: it has been suggested to me that Christmas should be ‘cancelled’ this year: in the sense that it would be better that no-one attends Mass, rather than just a few I think we should ‘wait-and-see’, and in the light of whatever developments take place in the interim, adopt appropriate measures in due course. What would be your thinking on this ?

HOLY COMMUNION AT HOME:

I think it is high time, where all safe-guarding measures are observed, and especially where People/Families can be included in their protective ‘bubble’, that Holy Communion brought to the house-bound should be considered and permitted.

Ministers of the Eucharist would not be obliged to attend Mass in order to get a pyx and the Host. We could come to an arrangement whereby a visit to the church, at a convenient time, on the part of the Minister , would be all that is necessary. If this is of help or interest to anyone, please let me know.

PRAYERS PLEASE:

It has been very remiss of me not to have informed you earlier of the serious heart surgery undergone by Mike Bell some weeks ago. Please would you add prayers for a speedy recovery for this Good Man.

In the past week we have been asked to pray for Pauline Shorrock , Matt and the Family , with ill health being the cause of concern. Please remember them in your prayers.

We have already been asked to pray for John Celaschi at this time, and we do the same for George Phillips.

WELCOME BACK TO SCHOOL:

We begin a ‘phased’ return to full-time schooling at our Primary School this week. Obviously, we wish every Blessing on the whole School Community as the new term unfolds in this most difficult of circumstances.

CONGRATULATIONS :

I am sure everyone will want to send very Best Wishes to Gaynor and John McCarthy on the occasion of the 50th Wedding Anniversary.

ADDENDUM :

Last Thursday , (3rd September) , was the Feast Day of Pope Gregory I. He is often called ‘Gregory the Great’ , and was elected Bishop of Rome on 3rd September 590 AD , being the first to adopt the title , ‘Servant of the Servants of God’ , until called to his reward on 12th March 604 AD.

The man was truly unique and inspirational , taking on the mantle of providing for a starving population of Rome and further afield , and organising the Church to be the means of safeguarding and maintaining local government to care for the daily needs of the populace , in the absence of the Emperor and the civil service which had long decamped to Constantinople , known as ‘New Rome’ , far to the east on the shores of the Bosphorus.

It was Gregory who negotiated and dealt with the Goths, Visigoths, Ostrogoths and whichever other barbarian tribe that poured through the unmanned borders of the erstwhile Empire – saving many thousands from slavery , starvation and death as all the institutions of the Roman state collapsed. His pontificate was decisive in the subsequent history of the Church.

What I forgot to mention at Mass , was that in addition to all the reforms of Church practice he oversaw , together with his voluminous literary output – he was extremely well-educated and well-read – with much of his writings still available to us , in particular his renowned ‘’Pastoral Care’ , (later to be translated by the Anglo-Saxon king , Alfred the Great) , and which became for centuries the handbook of anyone assuming a role of leadership in the Church and in civil society.

I forgot to say that he initiated the first major ‘mission’ of the Church by sending a band of forty monks , under one Augustine , in 590 AD from his own monastery of St. Andrew in Rome , to the shores of England , where they established themselves at a site called Canterbury , from whence they spread throughout the land.

However we may imagine it , with all the vagaries , twists and turns in all the centuries since then – there is a direct link between St. Gregory and St. Augustine and ourselves. This Sunday’s Gospel pericope ends with the Lord’s promise , “……where two or three meet in my name , I shall be there with them.”

Two weeks ago we heard from First Isaiah speaking at a time of great national peril when the Assyrians were about to lay waste to Jerusalem in 701 BC , only to have their plans of conquest dashed when a deadly virus broke out in the ranks of their army and they were forced to abandon the campaign. The event is immortalised in the words of Lord Byron :

“The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold , And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold , And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea , When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee .”

The Jewish kingdom in the north of Palestine had split from ‘Judah’ in the south, after the reign of Solomon , and called itself ‘Israel’. It made its capital at Samaria. This kingdom completely disappeared in 722 BC , when it was taken by the Assyrians , with many of its inhabitants deported , destined never to return to their homeland.

These became the legendary ‘Ten Lost Tribes of Israel’ , and the name ‘Israel’ was now assumed by the southern kingdom of Judah.

Last week Jeremiah spoke to us of yet another crisis in the history of ‘Israel’, when a century later the newly formed empire of the Babylonians became the threat. The Babylonians , under Nebuchadnezzar , had just vanquished the Assyrians, with the latter making their last,futile stand at Haran, the birthplace of Abraham.

Jeremiah spent all his considerable energy in trying to convince the People and their political-religious leaders that putting their trust and hopes in pagan tyrants was going to prove suicidal – for which he was constantly ridiculed and physically attacked, imprisoned and to subject to attempts of ‘extra-judicial’ murder.

Nebuchadnezzar invaded Syria & Palestine, and 16th March 597 BC he took Jerusalem.

The Royal Family, nobility and some 10,000 craftsmen and warriors were deported to Mesopotamia , ( ie. Iraq.) A few years later a revolt in Jerusalem convinced the Babylonians that enough was enough, and after an 18 month siege , wherein all manner of suffering , starvation and disease occurred, on the 9th day of the Jewish month of Ab , (August 586 BC. , and with terrible slaughte , Jerusalem was captured.

It is said tha Jeremiah was found in the king’s prison and was even interviewed by Nebuchadnezzar. A further 20,000 Jews were sent into exile in Iraq, where, a few years later, ‘by the rivers of Babylon’ , ( in reality, irrigation canals that brought water from the River Euphrates to supply the needs of the city of Babylon) ; a new prophet would emerge with the unenviable task of attempting to persuade a crushed People that God was still continuing to work out their salvation. This was Ezekiel.