Churches are opening

Public worship resumed on July 4.

Our clergy are now able to offer ten public Masses per week (two of which will also be streamed) and two streamed private Masses. Pattern of worship Details for this week are shown in the sidebar and the Calendar.

The Sunday obligation remains suspended and you can attend any Mass or make a Spiritual Communion via a streamed Mass. The ten Masses offered will cater for around 400 people spread through the week, less than a normal Sunday attendance. Please consider carefully which Mass you attend and have regard to the needs of others who may not have as great a choice. If you are not in a position to receive the Blessed Sacrament, please consider making your spiritual communion by following an online Mass. It may be possible to add a further celebration if numbers require it. These liturgies are primarily intended for the people of the Ordinariate and the parish of Christ the King with St Joachim, to whom our clergy have particular responsibility.

Churches are also open for private prayer and devotion.

We will do our best to keep to these times, which will integrate with Masses where possible.

  Christ the King, Langney St Joachim, Hampden Pk Our Lady of Ransom Details
Sunday 3pm–5pm
Monday 10am–noon 6pm–7:30pm*
Tuesday 10am–noon
Wednesday   10am–noon* 10:30am–noon*
Thursday 6pm–8pm* 10:30am–noon*
Friday Noon–5pm* 10:30am–noon
Saturday 9am–11am
*Includes Mass. OLR Masses use “1m+” distancing and require face coverings.

Do visit to be with the Lord present in his Holy Sacrament of the Altar. The layout in each church and where you might sit or kneel may have changed from usual, and even include separate entrance and exit doors. It will be very different: but it is now possible.

Volunteers are needed!

The diocese’s stipulations for how its churches may be opened are quite stringent. One requirement is for volunteers to be stewards, whose duties will include marshalling and ensuring hygiene is maintained. If you can help in the churches of Our Lady of Ransom parish, please contact the OLR Parish Office; or if you can help at Christ the King or St Joachim, please contact the CTK Parish Office. Needless to say, you must neither be suffering from, nor particularly susceptible to, the covid-19 coronavirus.

First Holy Communion and Confirmation groups are still deferred and will resume as soon as possible. We have a page of video of our streamed Masses both in church and elsewhere: they were streamed on YouTube and continue to be on Facebook. Do subscribe on YouTube or follow on Facebook, and keep an eye out for updates. We’ll also continue to publish homilies here.

Sunday, 9:30am
Novus Ordo  NO 
from St Joachim’s

Christ the King

Monday 10:00am
Divine Worship  DW 
from the presbytery

Facebook

Wednesday, Friday, 10:00am
Novus Ordo  NO 
from St Joachim’s or the presbytery

Christ the King

While things get back to normal, we have a page entitled Liturgy in a Time of Crisis. Please make use of the resources available on that page. In the sidebar here, there are links to Offices from the Liturgy of the Hours through the day: perhaps you can call a friend who is self-isolating and say the service together. WhatsApp will allow calls between up to eight people, and many people are now used to getting together with Zoom. There are other apps too; and there’s always a simple phone call.

In an emergency which requires the sacrament of anointing for the dying, a priest will be available whatever the circumstances. Other pastoral visits can take place outdoors. Sacramental confession is available where appropriate social distancing and safety can be observed. If you’re shielding and this isn’t possible for you, do make use of an Act of Perfect Contrition.

At a time when most of the country is returning to something like normal, it is imperative to continue to think of the most vulnerable — who may now be less noticeable — and continue to have a eye for our neighbours.

If you can help in any way, please do ring the office phone or Fr Neil’s mobile. And if you need help yourself, do not be afraid to call.

God so loves the world

Fr Thomas’s homily at Mass on the Fourth Sunday after Trinity

Order of Mass

St Ignatius’ Vision of Christ and the Father at La Storta, Domenichino (1581–1641), c.1622; Los Angeles County Museum of Art

St Ignatius’ Vision of Christ and the Father at La Storta, Domenichino (1581–1641), c.1622; Los Angeles County Museum of Art

No one knows the Father, except the Son, and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

The mystery of the Holy Trinity stands at the very heart of our Christian faith, it took the theologians a while to figure some of the details out, but right from the beginning we have pointers like this. The Father and the Son are in a relationship with each other — and it is this fact, that there are Persons in the Godhead, and relationships between them, that means that one of those Persons could become incarnate — could become man, could become one of us. We are also given the reason why — to bring us into a relationship with the Father.

This makes an excellent summary of the whole of our Faith. That through the Son, through his becoming one of us, he is calling us to know the Father — to be in a relationship with him.

This was God’s free choice. The Father and the Son (and, of course, the Holy Ghost) were up there in heaven, knowing each other, loving each other, being in that perfect relationship with each other — God could have spent eternity like that, there is nothing which could add to his perfection in the slightest, he had no need of anything else. But he chose to create the universe, and he did this simply so that he could be in a relationship with us. Simply so that he could show his love for us all.

Nothing which we did caused this, nothing which we could do could ever deserve this. It is simply because of God’s loving nature. He wants this relationship to be there for us. He wants to make himself known to us. Just because he loves us.

If we pause and consider this, it goes far beyond anything which we can imagine. God in all of his greatness, in all his majesty and splendour, wants us — small frail creatures that we are. And he became man in the person of Jesus Christ simply to do that — to make the Father known to us.

By ourselves, we cannot even begin to know God. We can learn a few basic facts about him: we can know that he exists, we can know that he is one and unique, we can know that he created the universe…and that’s about it. The minds that examine the universe in such detail, which can build spacecraft, which can create artworks of staggering beauty can only come up with a few of the most basic facts about God — he is so far beyond our imagining. But yet, Christ wants to reveal the Father to us, wants to let us know him. This is the gift of Faith. It is only by this gift that we can come into that relationship of love which knowing God involves.

But we need to receive this gift, and we need to cultivate it. We don’t get to know another person simply by reading about him or her. We don’t become friends with somebody just through their reputation. We need to spend time with people in order to get to know them, and in order to develop friendships with them. This is true of God as well.

God wants us to come close to him, to spend time with him, to grow in our knowledge of him. He takes the initiative here, he sends Christ to us to draw us to God, to reveal him to us. But he needs us to respond. He needs us to spend time with him, to spend time in prayer. Because that is where we truly get to know him.

We are again able to gather for Mass — thanks be to God. This is truly to best form of spending time with him. But let us all strive to keep spending time with him through the week — let us not keep him in a small box marked ‘Mass’; let us live lives walking constantly close to him.

God has opened his loving arms to us, he calls us to come to him, to spend time with him, and to get to know him. It is up to us how we respond.

We too have a mission

Fr Thomas’s homily at Mass on the Solemnity of Saint Peter & Saint Paul

Video | Order of Mass

Giving of the Keys to S Peter (detail): Pietro Perugino (c.1450–1523), 1481–2; Sistine Chapel

Giving of the Keys to S Peter (detail): Pietro Perugino (c.1450–1523), 1481–2; Sistine Chapel

Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.

When we celebrate the Saints, whether those two great Apostles whom we mark today, or those far less familiar men and women who crop up across the year, we do not do this to exalt them as humans — what we do is praise God for the work which he has done in and through them. If there is a personal quality in Saints Peter and Paul which we should admire and seek to emulate, it is their openness to the gifts which God gave to them; it is their willingness to co-operate with the grace which he offered to them.

In both cases we find men who would very clearly have gone astray, indeed in the case of Saint Paul somebody who was so far astray that he was trying to martyr early Christians. But far more importantly we find men who tried to serve God, men who were open to his working in their lives, who were ready to be transformed by him. That is why a humble fisherman could be raised up and made into the first Pope — leading the infant Church through the various struggles we read about in Acts, facing very real threats to his life, ultimately journeying to Rome where those threats would become more than just threats. That is why a fanatical opponent of what he saw as a blasphemous sect could be turned in a short time into the greatest evangelist that sect has ever had — proclaiming tirelessly across the Roman world that message he previously denounced as blasphemy: Jesus is Lord.

What these men shared, then, was that openness to God’s working in their lives. But also they shared an encounter with Christ. For one he was summoned to be a disciple — he walked around ancient Palestine hearing his Master’s teaching, seeing the miracles which he performed, being given explanations of some of those parables, and having particular privileges such as seeing the Transfiguration. He would have got to know Christ so well, as a man. No doubt Christ’s accent, his appearance, the way he walked would all have become familiar to him. But there was also a deeper encounter — as we heard in today’s Gospel. It wasn’t through ‘flesh and blood’ that he came to recognise proclaim Christ’s divinity — the Son of the living God — it was by inspiration from God, that is to say, he had an encounter with that veiled reality which was Christ’s being part of the Godhead. His brother apostle, too, was graced by an encounter with Christ. Now there was no question of it being simply a human encounter — Christ was resurrected, and had ascended into heaven. His appearance was surrounded by great drama, knocking the persecutor about to be changed to the ground just by coming near to him.

These two apostles had missions from God — this is why they had such particular graces from God. Before Christ became incarnate he knew how we would train Saint Peter during his ministry and prepare him to be prince and leader of the apostles; he also knew how Saint Paul would be converted from persecutor to preacher. They were prepared through their lives, by the providential working of God in their lives so that when that moment came, when that encounter happened, they were ready to receive the message which Christ had for them. They would let it enter into the heart of their beings, they would let it transform them so that they could fulfil the mission which God had for them.

What was true of these great foundations of the Church can be true for us too. God has prepared us to fulfil a mission for him, he wants us to carry his message out into the world in our own particular ways. Just as these two apostles were very different characters, just as they had different (yet vital) missions; so we have our own distinct mission from God.

What we need to do is to copy these saintly forefathers. We need to have that encounter with Christ, and when it happens we need to be ready to receive his message for us. We need to have hearts which are open to God, which want to follow him, which want to let our lives by transformed by him so that we can fulfil his mission.

As they went out to fulfil their missions they didn’t have an easy time. The vestments at Mass today are red to show that blood which they poured out for him, and their deaths were at the end of a long string of lesser sufferings. But they lived lives which were united with God, and so they could bear those challenges, those sufferings. We too, if we are to fulfil our own missions need to be united with God — receiving not only the direction for that mission from him, but also the strength to fulfil it. We may not be the foundations for the Church, but we share with Saint Peter and Saint Paul a common aim — to be united with Christ, to carry out his mission, and then to join them and the rest of the Saints in heaven. Let us pray for God’s grace to support us in pursuing this journey, and for the openness of heart to follow his invitation to us.

Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom

Fr Neil’s homily at Mass on the Second Sunday after Trinity

Video | Order of Mass

Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Fear can so easily plague humanity. It is fear that so often leads to many irrational acts and illogical thinking. This in turn can lead to sin. The fear of the unknown can lead to paralysis and isolation. The fear of shame and humiliation can lead to lies and dishonesty. The fear of those who are different can lead to prejudice and racial stereotypes. The fear of being forgotten can lead to getting into peoples’ faces and being loud, demanding and over bearing. The fear of losing someone or something can lead to jealousy, controlling or smoothing behaviour. The fear of losing control can lead to bullying, domestic violence, unjust trade systems and even international war. This fear in humanity highlights the truth revealed by Paul in his epistle on the state of original sin inherited from Adam. “Sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned.” (Rom 5:12) Fear is a symptom of the state of the Fall.

In the gospel our Lord is preparing the disciples to be sent out on mission, like lambs among wolves. They have seen how our Lord was rejected and ill treated by those he sought to address and we know where that would eventually lead — Golgotha. Christ makes it clear that those who are his disciples and followers should expect no less than moments of rejection, ridicule and even martyrdom.

Our Lord speaks directly to the natural fear that the disciples were feeling. While it is perfectly normal to fear death of the body at the hands of others — yet the greater thing we must fear, our Lord reminds us, is the one who can kill both body and soul in Hell. Bodily death is terrible and feared because it is not what was originally meant to be. Death is another separation of that which is meant to be united, our body and soul. Yet bodily death is also a temporal event, in time; something to be passed through which, as a result of the fall, we must all face. The real fear is the death of both body and soul — that death in an eternal ongoing reality for those who have wilfully rejected God.

Logically, which should be feared most? How other people think about us and what they can do to us, or our separation from God and all that might mean for our eternal destiny? The sheer immediacy of the threat posed by others somehow feels more real than the spiritual and eternal death at the Last Judgement: “for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.”

After all we are born into the state of separation from God because of the fall of Adam. Yet what’s at stake could not be higher.

“Il ritorno” Charles Bosseron Chambers (1882–1964)

“Il ritorno” Charles Bosseron Chambers (1882–1964)

It was to address this very condition of humanity that Our Lord came, to free us from the reign of evil, sin and death and make possible our reconciliation with God, the Father. Fear of what the implications might be for our lives or relationships, and the changes it may well require, should not impede our embracing of the way of reconciliation with our Lord. Neither should it stop us proclaiming the truth that we have encountered, to an often hostile world. As we bear witness to Christ in what we say and do, so our Lord bears witness to us before our Heavenly Father.

Is our Lord however, encouraging a sense of terror of God that can lead us to cringe in a dark corner? Absolutely not — it is not consistent with what he has sought to reveal about his Heavenly Father. This fear that he refers to is a redeeming understanding of fear, which the wisdom sayings in scripture repeatedly refer to: “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Prov 1:7, 9:10) It carries the notion of a sense of awe and wonder at the majesty of God in all his wonder. It is a fear that recognises that God’s love for us is so profound that he will respect the choices we made and will not violate our free will.

This redeemed fear is a gift of the Holy Spirit that enables us to fear wounding the one who has loved us and whom we seek to love in return. Anyone who truly loves fears doing something that would hurt the object of their love. It is a healthy fear rooted not in terror but love.

Love motivates us to live the life of faith boldly and not fear what others might say or do. It is love that gives a true fear of the Lord and a sense of utter awe at His wonder and love, that love made manifest as St Paul says, “But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.”

Christ is the Bread of Life

Fr Thomas’s homily at Mass on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi

Video | Order of Mass

Corpus ChristiUnless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.

When Christ spoke these words they were truly shocking to those around him — at first they thought he was speaking in a metaphor, or in some symbolic sense, but as he repeated himself and emphasised that this is what he was really saying they were shocked and appalled. We even hear that many who had been following him responded by falling away — they abandoned Christ and his message rather than face up to this statement, that we must eat his flesh and drink his blood in order to have life.

These disciples knew the Old Testament, they knew that consuming any blood was strictly forbidden, because the life of every creature is in the blood (as God says in Leviticus). Blood of sacrificial animals was offered on the altar precisely because it held the life of the animal — in doing so it was made sacred.

Whatever else they were doing, they were certainly taking his words seriously. This should prompt us to consider how seriously we take these words. On approaching the Altar do we seriously believe that we are receiving the true Body and Blood of Christ — that his very flesh enters into us as we receive that small wafer which appears to be bread?

As the vast majority of Catholics have been kept away from this great Sacrament for some time now, it is a time to reflect on its importance for us all. How central it is to our lives — our lives of Faith, our relationship with God; but also our lives more generally. Christ, and the Blessed Sacrament, are far too important, far too powerful to be kept in a small box on Sunday mornings. Receiving the Body of Christ is something which should drive us out of Church, it should be the food which gives us the strength to live our entire lives: because the lives which we are called to live are lives which show Christ to the world. If we live by the power of Christ, by the power of the Eucharist, then people around us should look at us and see the way that God works in us.

By eating his flesh and drinking his blood we are inviting Christ into our lives — we are inviting him to become part of us. Truly we are what we eat, and so if we eat of Christ, then we should desire to become like Christ. If we drink of his Blood, we are taking into ourselves his life — we are also taking into ourselves the Blood offered in sacrifice to cleanse us from our sins. As we consider this, we can understand more why those disciples were so disquieted when they heard Christ say to them that they must drink his Blood.

It is to celebrate this offer which Christ makes that this great feast was introduced. The offer of eating and drinking him, that we may be transformed to be like him. The manifestation of his closeness to his people, his abiding presence in every Catholic tabernacle the world over and throughout time. By changing bread and wine into his Body and Blood, Christ continues to come into our world. He entered the material world two thousand years ago when he became incarnate in Our Lady’s womb — and since that time he has been with us the Blessed Sacrament. A great source of consolation to all who approach him in this Sacrament. How many thousands of prayers have been offered before this great presence?

It has been heart-breaking to see people deprived of this opportunity, derived of the chance to kneel and adore Christ’s presence among us, the chance to offer to him prayers, or simply to murmur words of love and affection. Thanks be to God that Catholics can again visit the Lord, can again offer those prayers before the Sacrament. Because this presence among us is the source of such strength to live the Christian life — this is no mere non-essential activity, it is the very heart of what it means to be a Catholic, this Sacrament sits at the heart of our relationship with God because it is his presence with us.

Until all are again able to receive Christ in Holy Communion, offering prayer in his presence is the best means to draw close to him. This is the place to reflect on the deep yearning to receive him in Communion, the place to ask for his strength to continue until (and may it be very soon indeed) we can all gather together for Mass.

This Sacrament is the source of our life as Christians — the words of Christ on that point are very clear. In this Sacrament we are given the chance to receive Christ’s life, the chance to become like him, the chance to live in his power so that we can carry him out to the rest of the world.

Blessed, praised, and hallowed be Jesus Christ on his throne of glory — and in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.

God is love: we also ought to love one another

Fr Neil’s homily at Mass on Trinity Sunday

Video | Order of Mass

“The Trinity with Christ Crucified”, unknown Austrian painter, c.1425; National Gallery, London

“The Trinity with Christ Crucified”, unknown Austrian painter, c.1425; Nat Gallery, London

The Lord passed before him, and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy and faithfulness.” And Moses made haste to bow his head toward the earth, and worshipped. (Ex 34:8)

Today we celebrate the greatest mystery of the Christian faith. God has revealed himself as the Holy Trinity — One God in the three Persons of Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. This complex mystery of God shapes the Church’s character, identity and liturgical life.

We are baptised at the beginning of our faith journey, not in our own name but in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Every time we enter a church and use holy water we cross ourselves, marking the manner of our redemption, while saying “In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,” in recognition of the work of the Trinity in the means of our salvation.

Pretty well every liturgy begins with invoking the three-fold name, and every true blessing we receive also proclaims the Trinity. This mystery is so important to our faith that the Catechism teaches

The Mystery of the Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life. It is the mystery of God himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them. It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the ‘hierarchy of the truths of faith’. The whole history of salvation is identical with the history of the way and the means by which the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, reveals himself to men ‘and reconciles and unites with himself those who turn away a from sin’. (Catechism of the Catholic Church §234)

Of course we recognise that this mystery of God is beyond the capacity of finite human minds to fully comprehend, and any attempt to explain and illustrate this mystery runs the danger of inadvertent heresy. What we can say is that God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are consubstantial or of one substance. St Paul puts this well when in Colossians 1:19 he says about Christ, ‘For in him the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.’ That which makes God God is present in the Son and thus the Holy Spirit in its fullness.

Therefore there is only one God in his substance or being. To try and illustrate this I run the risk of error but without intention. I am a human being in substance of species, with flesh and bone and can thus be identified as such. However, this doesn’t reveal a great deal about me as a person. Who I am in substance and who I am in person address different questions. I am one in substance and one in person. God had revealed himself to be one in Substance and three in Persons.

This ‘three Persons but one Substance’ enables us to see that it is God who created and sustains the whole of creation; it is God who has breathed the breath of life into all living things by the Spirit; it is God who after the Fall sought us out and called us to himself; it is God who has revealed himself in the Son, redeemed us and opened the way of salvation; it is through the Christ the Son that the Father-heart of God is revealed; it is God who through the the Holy Spirit regenerates us in baptism, and makes present Christ — body, soul and divinity — in the Eucharistic celebration; it is God who through confession effects forgiveness as the priest announces absolution.

Our knowing about God though is different from knowing God in relational terms. The whole story of God is one of unfolding revelation. Acknowledging the wonder of God’s majesty and abounding glory is vitally important, a sort of first move. Without this we will not understand the greatness of his love in his desire for us also to know him in relational intimacy. The three Persons of Father, Son and Holy Spirit reveal an intimacy and communion at the heart of the Godhead. This is again pointed to at the conclusion of Paul’s epistle today: ‘The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.’ (2 Corinthians 13:14) We have fellowship or communion because we share something in common. It pre-supposes a relationship for those who are in fellowship or communion with one another.

The process of reflecting and entering into the mystery of the Trinity is far from idle speculation on matters beyond ourselves, reserved only for the specialist theologian. It speaks to who we are, what we are called to do and what we will be. This reflective engagement upon the three Persons of the one God allows us to realise that we are not made to be alone but in relationship to another. It is in relationships that we become more complete and self-aware of who we really are.

The revelation of the Trinity is a revelation of God’s singular desire for humanity to once again reconcile and restore the greatest of all relationships, that between creature and Creator. For us to function in our “horizontal” relationships with each other in a manner that is healthy and life giving, we have to first restore the “vertical” relationship with God. This requires repentance, a turning away from sin and turning towards God. Without this relationship with God, or if we have a distorted image of Godhead, we will be unable to function in the manner of our true nature given us by God. To be fully human is to be in relationship with God in whose image we are created. It is truly our heart’s desire, whether we realise it or not, to enter into the gift of the life of the Trinity and its self-giving love one to another. To give ourselves in love and to be embraced in love is the same longing in all human hearts. The revealing of the one God in three Persons, the Holy Trinity, is a revelation of the heart of God, for lost humanity to know His divine embrace.

‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.’ (John 3:16–17)