32nd Week of Ordinary Time – Year A

WEEKLY MESSAGE:

Hello again, with apologies for the somewhat late arrival of these pages.

So ,  we have emerged today , Monday 9th November , from our seventeen-day ‘firebreak’ , and having heard nothing to the contrary , this means we can resume  “Masses-with-a-limited Congregation”   –   inviting people to call the two ‘dedicated’  telephone numbers , at any time between Monday – Friday (3.00 pm.) , in order to request a place at Sunday Mass.

There is, however, a most welcome development to announce, that from this week we are able to admit a ‘limited-Congregation’ to the Saturday evening ‘Vigil Mass’.

The very same process of ringing the ‘dedicated’ St. Mary’s cell-phone number will apply. Details regarding the information you are asked to leave with your message, can be found on other pages on our website.

THE FEAST OF THE DEDICATION OF THE LATERAN BASILICA:

You might ask, “Why do we celebrate on 9th November, throughout the world, the dedication of a church in the city of Rome?”     We do so, because the ‘Archbasilica’, (no other church building in the world has that title), of St. John in the Lateran is the ‘Mother and Head of all the churches in the city and in the world.”    You can see the inscription on a plaque at the entrance to the church: ‘SACROS LATERAN ECCLES.  OMNIUM VERBIS ET ORBIS’.

St. John’s is the oldest and highest-ranking of the four major basilicas in Rome.  It is the oldest public church in Rome.  It is the oldest basilica in the western world.  Within it is the ‘chair’ of the Bishop of Rome.  In the ancient world, figures of authority always sat on their ceremonial chair to teach or to issue their pronouncements    – do you recall in John’s Gospel when Pilate seats himself ‘on the chair of judgement’ to deliver his sentence of death?

In Greek, this chair is called a ‘cathedra’, and by extension, the building that houses it is called a ‘cathedral’.  Hence, St. John’s in the Lateran is the ‘Cathedral’ of the Bishop of Rome, and ranks above all other churches in the city and in the world   –   including St. Peter’s in the Vatican.

 

‘The Mother and Head of all churches in the city and in the world’, runs the inscription, and it reminds us that the dedication of this church building is celebrated world-wide today because we are One Family, One Flock, led by the Vicar of Christ and Successor to St. Peter – a celebration of communion.    

THE SEASON OF ADVENT:

This four-week period of preparation for Christmas will begin with us at the Vigil Mass on Saturday 28th November   –   a mere nineteen days away!

In past years we were so fortunate as to be able to offer a ‘Family Advent Day’ on the first Sunday, where we enjoyed all sorts of craft-activities, resulting in lots of fun and items to display at home or in the church   –   along with mountains of home-made refreshments.  None of this is possible, of course, these days, BUT we do what we can do.

We have held several meetings to discuss ideas for this four-week period, and have already acquired something called ‘The Real Advent Calendar’, which includes a ‘Christmas Story-Activity Book’, along with 25 FAIRTRADE festive chocolate shapes.                    We are not asking for money, but I am

wondering how to distribute the Calendars to our Families with young Children.  After Sunday Mass is the obvious option.

On the website we will be publishing worksheets for the Children on the four Sundays.

ADVENT PENITENTIAL PRAYER SERVICES WITHOUT CONGREGATION:

Using the ‘live-streaming’ system, I am proposing to offer these Services on the Sunday afternoons of Advent, starting at 4.00 pm.  and lasting for an hour or so.  Obviously, people ‘streaming’ the Services can ‘drop in’ and ‘drop out’ of the period of prayer and reflection as their schedule allows.

I envisage using music from the Taizé Community, interspersed with Advent Scripture Readings and Reflections.

In an ideal world, it would be good to publish an outline of the Services on the website, so that the ‘active participation of the people’, stressed by the Second Vatican Council, can take place even in these constraining times.

SACRAMENT OF RECONCILIATION:

Those people who wish celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation on an individual basis are asked to call the Presbytery so that we can arrange a mutually convenient time to meet.

The over-riding concern is to avoid any possibility of a number of people arriving here at the same time and forming a ‘crowd’.  This would entail asking Stewards to be present, and these Good People have enough to do as it is.  With the Vigil Mass now being open to a limited Congregation, even more demands are being made of them.   So, there must be no suggestion of People gathering in the church and contravening   COVID-19 regulations that are in force for our protection.

Any other suggestions regarding ‘Confessions’ will be gratefully accepted.

REFLECTING THE WISDOM AND COMPASSION OF JESUS

On 6th November 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected the 16th President of the United States, and the first Republican to hold that office.  He was faced immediately with the secession of South Carolina from the Union on 20th December – followed by the six remaining States of the Lower South in short order.

In his Inaugural Address in March 1861, Lincoln declared that the “momentous issue of civil war” lay with these ‘Confederate’ States.  He did his utmost to avoid the conflict that ensued, (which would prove to be the bloodiest civil war in history), but society at the time was too deeply divided. The first shots were fired in April 1861 when Confederate forces under the command of the   extravagantly named   Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard bombarded the Union garrison of Fort Sumpter in Charleston Harbour.

With their overwhelming superiority in population and industrial strength it was fully expected that the ‘North’ would defeat the ‘South’ fairly rapidly.  But there was a dearth of capable military leadership with the former, while the Confederacy numbered the likes of Robert E. Lee, Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson and the best cavalry commander of either side, J.E.B. (‘Jeb’) Stuart, who won battle after battle, often with inferior numbers.

Furthermore, Lincoln faced stiff opposition among his own people.  There were many in the ‘Democrat’ party who opposed the war, who supported the evil institution of slavery and worked to cause the President as much trouble as possible.  They were insultingly called ‘Copperheads’ by their opponents, after the venomous ‘copperhead viper’, common in north-eastern America.

Things got so bad by early 1863 that Lincoln remarked if there was a worse place than hell   –  he was in it.  These were his darkest hours of, but he was sustained by his Christian faith.  Lincoln knew his Bible intimately. It was so well-thumbed that after his assassination in April 1865, people could clearly detect his favourite passages by the imprints of his fingers on the pages.

During the war a woman was shocked to hear him speak kindly of Confederate soldiers and upbraided him by saying that he would do better to speak of destroying the enemy.

“Madam”, the great man replied, “we destroy our enemies by befriending them.”

In the summer of 1863, an accidental, minor skirmish near a township called Gettysburg, caused larger numbers of soldiers from both sides to converge on the spot, and a three-day battle commenced.  The Confederates easily won the first day and thought they would finish the job on the second.  So confident were they that a foolhardy, suicidal assault, (‘Pickett’s Charge’), was ordered against the Union line which was repulsed at great cost to both sides.  Some 25,000 Confederate men were killed or captured, with 20,000 Union soldiers losing their lives.

Nobody at the time realised that the battle at Gettysburg was of telling importance. The Union side was grateful not to suffer another demoralising defeat, while the Confederates withdrew in good order on the third day – that being, 4th July.   Yet, it was decided to hold a Memorial Service at the battlefield later in the year, to dedicate the ‘Soldiers’ National Cemetery’.   On a dismal, dull and bleak 19th November President Abraham Lincoln spoke the ten sentences, comprising 271 words, that have come to be immortalised as the ‘Gettysburg Address’.

Last week I was sent a video of a recent President declaiming the ‘Address’, along with a comment that the words sound “so biblical” – and why should they not be?

Lincoln was steeped in the text of the Bible, and did his best to proclaim the Gospel in word and deed.