Parish of St Thomas More, Bexleyheath
March is the month of St. Joseph
Saturday 28th - March - Saturday 4th April, 2020 (A)
Fifth Week of Lent
Fifth Week of Lent (A)
My dear parishioners,
My dear parishioners, Greetings to you all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Many Christians from the earliest days of the church have followed our lord into the desert. They have chosen to be cut off from the world, to limit the distractions from finite earthly things to help them direct their hearts and minds on the eternity of God. Most of the men were not priests and there are many stories of them running away if they heard the bishop was coming anywhere near – they feared ordination and the demands this might bring to re-enter worldly affairs. These were men – and many women – ordinary folk like us, who chose to spend the brief life of a human being on being with God.
The church embraces this radical option for discipleship. It is not chosen by many and for most catholics the ‘desert’ experience is represented to us in the liturgical season of lent when we make token gestures of detachment through small sacrifices by prayer, fasting or almsgiving. Very often these are more a token than any genuine sacrifice. Life goes on and we give the nod to Christ’s call to the desert and then just get on with our normal life and church activities continue in their usual social and busy way.
But not this year. We have been forced to retreat to our homes. The public life of the church has all but stopped. Last week I said the church would be open for private prayer, but this was before the Prime Minister told us to stay at home. Within half an hour there was instruction from Archbishop John telling us priests that our churches had to remain locked. And even the permission for one person ( if not in a vulnerable group) to hear mass, was now withdrawn with no exceptions. Unless you are in an essential, key service, you have to stay at home. So do I.
This is our opportunity to focus on God in our lives again. Our span of life is short (three score years and ten, said the psalmist) and yes, we have the answer to what is the point of it all. Man’s highest calling is to praise and worship Almighty God who created us and we now have the time to do that.
Here is THE BRIEF RULE OF ST ROMUALD, recorded about 1006 twenty years before Romuald ’ s death by Saint Bruno of Querfurt in his Life of the Five Brothers. St. Romuald is the founder of the Camaldolese order of monks:
Sit in your cell as in paradise. Put the whole world behind you and forget it. Watch your thoughts like a good fisherman watching for fish. The path you must follow is in the Psalms; never leave it.
If you have just come to the monastery, and in spite of your good will you cannot accomplish what you want, then take every opportunity to sing the Psalms in your heart and to understand them with your mind. And if your mind wanders as you read, do not give up; hurry back and apply your mind to the words once more.
Realize above all that you are in God’s presence, and stand there with the attitude of one who stands before the emperor. Empty yourself completely and sit waiting, content with the grace of God, like the chick who tastes nothing and eats nothing but what his mother gives him.
And that’s it. A whole rule of life!
In summary, Saint Romuald ’ s seven-step Brief Rule for novice-hermits contains a set of exercises for training in contemplation which cover the following topics:
(1) posture, place, solitude, inner peace, and joy;
(2) detachment and liberation for concentration;
(3) self-observation and analysis for purity of mind and heart;
(4) attentively praying the Psalms as seeds of meditation;
(5) reverent, compunctious practice of the presence of God;
(6) intensive ascetical inner overcoming of faults;
(7) childlike humility and receptivity to grace.
Romuald’s monks followed Jesus to the desert, not by going to the desert, but entering their cell and away from the world’s distractions, they prayed. In our little homes, in our own bodies and souls we have an infinity of space, an eternity of time. For the grace of God given to us at Holy Baptism we have eternal life within us. St Paul calls us ‘temples of the Holy Spirit’. And what is the holy spirit? God, the third person of the Holy Trinity: infinite, eternal. We each have the eternity and infinity of God within our own finite selves! And we can access it: there are sets of keys, and they are not all held by the priest.
In normal circumstance you will come to Holy Mass and hear God’s word and adore the Real Presence of Christ in the blessed sacrament by being present at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and/or receiving Him in Holy Communion. This strengthens our communion with God, with each other and assists us in connecting to our own true selves and the Holy Spirit within us.
It may seem as if this has been taken from you. In a situation I never imagined, being parish priest of a busy parish and saying mass on my own, I thank God for the privilege of priesthood, that through the daily offering of the Holy Sacrifice I can still receive my Lord in Holy Communion. It is a profoundly intimate experience. I do not feel strange: I am offering mass in spiritual communion with all my people and with the saints in heaven. It is the mass, whether people are there or not and the Lord is with me. Yes I am alone, but I am alone with Jesus, my Lord and my God.
So mass is still being said day out, day in at St Thomas More and every other church. It is just hidden from the world. And the sacrifice is being offered for your intentions. And a major part of the mass is available to all the faithful, anywhere, anytime. With all that’s been going on, you’ve probably even forgotten that this is ‘THE YEAR OF THE WORD’ (this has been marked in our deanery with some great speakers at St Stephen’s, Welling which a tiny handful of you came to). Open your bibles or read the Readings of the Day, particularly the Words of Life from Jesus in the Holy Gospels: Jesus said in the desert ‘Man cannot live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’.. And the words Jesus spoke were from the mouth of God. They are one of the keys to unlock the Eternal and the Infinite within you. Read them, pray them, memorise them. Yes, and read the psalms: find ‘morning and evening prayer on line if you don’t have a book and meditate on them. The psalms were the prayers of Jesus, we join Him when we pray them.
Now is a good time to learn some prayers by heart too. I like to go for a walk from my house (still an ever unfinished project with no kitchen, so all’s normal there) and with a small crib sheet or book, learn a prayer or piece of scripture by heart while I am walking. Learning prayers by heart may be savings in our spiritual bank. We may need to draw upon them if we find ourselves in a hospital bed, an ambulance or many situations where we don’t have access to a prayer book. We many even appear unconscious or incomprehensible to others, but these prayers can be said in our heads to calm our fears and bring us comfort.
These suggestions are much more effective than going on line and watching masses, because watching mass is just that, watching it, a passive act. It is not a substitute for being present with the Real Presence at mass although I recognise it may fulfil some modern needs. I give a link below if that is what you want. In my opinion it is not equal to taking the lectionary or bible from your shelf and reading it and so actively engaging with the Word of God and then using those words to enter into prayer.
Many years ago I was working in western Egypt and I had no access to a church. I had to go months without going to church (this was not though the case in Alexandria, Port Said or Cairo where there are catholic churches) and my church was praying the office of Morning, Evening and night prayer. Everyone who says the office is saying the same prayers for that time and day. It is a communion in the Spirit with all God’s saints and people. God has given each of us this gift. The Words of Life are there for you to guide you in this time of seclusion and enclosure in your homes and lead you to the infinite space and eternal peace of God. May peace be with you. In ways Our Holy Father Pope Francis never expected, this year can truly be ‘The Year of The Word’ for all of us, if we take our current situation as an opportunity given to us to make it so.
Mass intentions for the Fifth Week of Lent are:
Sunday 29th March. FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT (‘PASSION SUNDAY’) Anthony Fernandes R.I.P.
Monday 30th March. Gerard Mc Cawley R.I.P.
Tuesday 31st March. Eric Moniz R.I.P.
Wednesday 1st April. Freny AdagraW.B
Thursday 2nd April. Fr. Henry (‘Harry’) Reynolds R.I.P. (requiem mass said privately with burial afterwards. In 2021 Solemn Requiem mass to take place with bishop, clergy and all parishioners and guests with reception afterwards)
Friday 3rd April. Cecilia Rodrigues R.I.P.
Saturday 4th April. Mary and Geoff Hewitt W.B.
I also ask you to pray for the souls of:
Domnick Pacheco R.I.P who died on 17th March.
Jemima Reid ‘Jerry’ R.I.P. who died on 16th March at Ashford hospital. Older parishioners will remember Jerry and Frank. Jerry was a founder of STM guides here and was affectionately known as ‘Mac’. Frank was in the Knights of Columba. They left Gypsy Road and our parish in 1989 to move to the Wealden peace of Tenterden where they became very active in the church there. David their son sends his greetings and shared happy memories of this parish with me.
Fr Harry Reynolds R.I.P.
Archbishop Peter Smith R.I.P.
MAY THE DIVINE ASSISTANCE REMAIN WITH THEM ALWAYS, AND MAY THEIR SOULS AND THE SOULS OF ALL THE FAITHFUL DEPARTED REST IN PEACE.
It is a very strange and difficult time to die as normal funeral arrangements cannot be made causing additional loss to the bereaved. Please keep Maria and all the friends and family of the above in your prayers, perhaps say the ‘Memorare’ for them.
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary,
O most holy mother of God, pray for all those who have lost loved ones at this time! Amen.
And that’s a very good prayer to learn off by heart too.
And here are a couple of links:
FOR DAILY MASS READINGS, MORNING, EVENING & NIGHT PRAYER:
FROM THE DIOCESE ABOUT PRAYING AT HOME:
Watching mass on TV or computer:
Link to Southwark parishes that live-stream Mass
Externally to the Diocese, The Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham offers a 12 noon Mass each day, whilst Church Services TV and MCN Media also offer Masses from around the country, and indeed, Europe.
In peace and unity with you all,
Your parish priest,
The Catholic Church of St Thomas More.
|Tel: 020 8303 2189|
|Parish Priest Fr. Jonathon Routh
Hall Bookings: 020 83047909
|Sunday 09:00 Readers Rota|