Sunday, 29 January 2012

Welcomed in the name of Christ

Today the Church joyfully welcomed four wonderful people who, moved by the love of the Holy Spirit, expressed their heartfelt desire to become a part of the Roman Catholic Church, part of the Body of Christ. Alison, who is not baptised, celebrated her Rite of Acceptance and Stuart, Judy and Matt their Rite of Welcome. At each Mass the Church rejoiced in God having lead them here, His taking them by the hand and bringing them into the oneness of faith and, in prayer, welcomed them in the name of Christ.

They were each signed with the cross on their forehead by the priest and then their sponsors signed each of their senses. For the first time they all put on Christ as it were and opened themselves, every part of themselves, to God's word, to His will. It was powerful and beautiful to watch.

Receive the sign of the cross on your forehead.  It is Christ himself who now strengthens you with this sign of his love.

Receive the sign of the cross on your ears, that you may hear the voice of the Lord.

Receive the sign of the cross on your eyes,  that you may see the glory of God.

Receive the sign of the cross on your lips, that you may respond to the word of God.

Receive the sign of the cross over your heart, that Christ may dwell there by faith.

Receive the sign of the cross on your shoulders, that you may bear the gentle yoke of Christ.

Receive the sign of the cross on your hands, that Christ may be known in the work which you do.

Receive the sign of the cross on your feet, that you may walk in the way of Christ.

From left to right; Fr. Richard, Robin (Stuart's sponsor), Stuart,
Alison, Margaret (Alison's sponsor) and Fr. Aaron

From left to right; Judy, her sponsor, Fr. Aaron, Deacon Tom,
Matt's sponsor and Matt
Please pray for Alison (a catechumen), Stuart, Judy and Matt (all candidates) as they take this next exciting and life changing step into the Church...and pray that many, many more will follow them!

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Letter to Francis Maude

For those of you who haven't seen it yet this is the letter we will be asking everyone in the parish to sign and send to our local MP, Francis Maude. Copy and paste it into Word and print from there.

Rt. Hon. Francis Maude MP
House of Commons

[29th January 2012]

Dear Mr Maude

I am writing to you on behalf of the Pro-Life Group at St John the Evangelist RC Church, Horsham regarding the Falconer report and the recent campaigns for euthanasia and/or assisted suicide to be legalised in the UK.  We believe the Falconer report gives great cause for concern and should the question of the legalisation of ‘assisted dying’ be raised once again in the Commons, we would urge that you please vote against it.

Bias in the report
The Commission which produced the report was heavily biased from the outset having been funded by Terry Pratchett, a known supporter of euthanasia and the patron of Dignity in Dying, and with nine of the eleven members of the panel being strongly in favour of the legalisation of assisted suicide. The deal to run the Commission was negotiated by Demoswith the think tank run by Kitty Usher, a former colleague of Patricia Hewitt who, along with Lord Falconer, tried unsuccessfully to change the law in 2009. The Commission was founded with the clear intention to bring about a conclusion in their favour, as its stated aims betray: to ‘…investigate the circumstances under which it should be possible for people to be assisted to die; recommend what system, if any, should exist to allow people to be assisted to die; identify who should be entitled to be assisted to die and recommend what changes in the law, if any, should be introduced’.  In light of all the above over 40 organisations (including the British Medical Association), as well as many high profile individuals, boycotted the Commission.

Our major concerns
·         The report readily uses the term ‘assisted dying’ when referring to both euthanasia and assisted suicide, thus clouding the distinction between them.  This fudging of terms could potentially lead to 13,000 deaths a year in Britain should ‘assisted dying’ ever be made legal (as outlined in the 2005 House of Lords report).
·         The report over-emphasises the need for assisted dying without suggesting that any extra effort or investment be placed in improving our current long-term and palliative care systems. Sadly PCT-run palliative care facilities and hospitals vary vastly in terms of care depending on one’s postcode. Hospices, especially the local St. Catherine’s Hospice, deliver excellent care and devotion to their patients but are usually over-subscribed. This situation leaves the terminally ill and elderly in a very vulnerable position.  
·         Given the circumstances mentioned above, depression would undoubtedly play a huge role in affecting the patient’s judgement; yet the Commission did not make sufficient allowance for the possibility that some people would be pressured into choosing assisted dying at a time when both their physical and psychological health are at their most fragile.
·         We are concerned that the report will encourage pro-euthanasia campaigners to renew their efforts to have assisted dying made legal in Britain.  These efforts will tend by their very existence to promote a subtext which runs as follows: when someone can no longer support themselves due to illness or old age they constitute a ‘burden’ to family and friends or a drain upon State resources; as they are no longer economically productive there is no basis for them to enjoy a sense of self-worth; it is therefore a kindness to allow them to choose to end their lives with ‘dignity’ before their condition worsens.  
      Unless we work to change the way illness, disability and age are perceived by our society, there will be no incentive for us to concentrate effort and finance on developing pain management, aids to help patients keep their independence as long as possible and compassionate nursing care.  Legalised euthanasia will be seen as the logical and easy option for those faced with the prospect of a long, painful illness. As a result many will miss out on months or years of worthwhile life and our society will be impoverished by the lack of individuals who, by their very vulnerability, can foster the best in human nature in others.
·         We fully appreciate the apprehensions of terminally ill patients who are facing the prospect of a long, painful illness, perhaps with the loss of faculties.  However we feel that the report fails to give due consideration to the difference in quality of life that can be made through palliative care as mentioned above.  The support of other human beings can in itself make life worth living even when it involves suffering. 
·         Should it become relatively commonplace for people to kill themselves when they are at their most vulnerable this would affect the human value of each and every ill, disabled or aged person. In effect we would have defined them either as non-productive ‘second-class citizens’ or hopeless victims of irredeemable suffering.
·         In reply to those who argue that not everyone would choose to die we would draw attention to the words of Els Borst, the former Health Minister for the Netherlands, who pushed for euthanasia to be legalised in her country. She has since said that the Dutch government responded too quickly to demands for euthanasia to be legalised without correct attention being given to support for the dying. She admitted that this was ‘not in the proper order’ and that, ultimately, many have suffered and chosen to die because of this upside-down, hasty decision. This is a truly tragic set of circumstances, one we must not allow to be repeated here in Britain.
·         We are writing as a Christian group and as such have a strong belief in the sanctity of human life and the innate dignity of each and every human person, each one of whom is not only made in the image of God but is also a unique individual loved beyond measure by his/her Creator.  Whilst we appreciate that not everyone will share our belief in God, we strongly feel that the Christian voice has a right to be heard along with all others in our democratic society, particularly as Christian values have been foundational to the shaping of our country’s laws and governance, a fact the Prime Minister David Cameron reminded us only recently.  We also believe that the Christian perspective on the value of each human person in his/her own right, independent of their economic productivity or physical ‘perfection’, is equally valid across all spectrums of belief and philosophy and has an important contribution to make to this particular debate.

Our personal experience
One of our group members has a teenage daughter who is suffering from a degenerative disabling disease.  Her hope is that her daughter will be encouraged to look forward to the future with a positive ‘can do’ attitude and a real sense of self-worth, but she is witnessing first-hand, in her daughter’s psychological struggles, that it is not always easy for the disabled to hold on to their sense of dignity.  Making euthanasia an easily available and widely acceptable option will not help this mindset.

We hope that you will consider our statement along with those published by organisations such as Care Not Killing, LIFE and dozens of others along with the countless individuals who view human life as inherently dignified and valuable beyond economic price.

Yours sincerely

I know that many people become disillusioned with politics (and politicians) and believe that things like this make little to no impact on our country and society at all but if we don't try, if we don't speak out against threats to life such as this then we have no hope.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

St. John's Pro Life group

This weekend our Church is hosting the White Flower Appeal to raise awareness and money for the work of SPUC in the UK. The Pro-Life group will be helping to co-ordinate this and will be available after all Masses this weekend to answer any questions you may have.

Some of you may have seen or heard of Lord Falconer's Commission on Assisted Suicide. The report issued by the commission argues that the current laws on assisted suicide need to be changed (in this country it is still illegal). The report makes very disturbing reading and threatens to undermine the value of the lives of each terminally ill person in this country as well as the excellent work carried out by doctors, nurses and carers in hospitals, hospices and other care facilities. In conjunction with the White Flower Appeal the Pro-Life group will be asking each member of the parish to sign a letter (prepared by themselves) to our local MP, Francis Maude, asking him to vote against any renewed campaigns from pro-assisted suicide groups. You can read more about it on my personal blog here.

The group also have a brand new blog (under the patronage of Our Lady of Guadalupe) which will keep us all up to date with events and general news on Pro-life matters. You can visit it here and join our Facebook group here.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!


Who's up for a sing-song with a difference? Tomorrow night at 7:30pm the new Plainchant group (under the excellent direction of Claire Bowskill whose blog can be found here) meet in the church to explore this rich and beautiful expression of the Church's worship of God. No previous experience required (you don't even need to be able to read music), just the desire to sing!

Click on the clip to give you a flavour for plainchant.

As promised...

Fr. Richard's homily from Sunday's prayer service for Christian Unity.

Prayer Service for Christian Unity 2012 at St. Mary’s, the Causeway, Horsham

In July 1995 I was ordained a deacon in the Arundel & Brighton parish of Christ the Prince of Peace in Weybridge. It was an ecumenical occasion in that there were many visitors from other churches, not only because I had been baptised and brought up in the Church of England, but because Weybridge seemed to a very ecumenical place. Mgr Benny O’Shea, the parish priest at the time, had a theory for this. The churches in Weybridge get on so well together because all their members play golf and vote Conservative.

Things in common seem to be a very important part of our journey to Christian unity. Shared culture, shared concerns, shared contributions to society and community: these are surely significant. But sometimes we can be sidetracked by those shared things (which are important but superficial) so that we cease to engage in the dialogue which is more demanding and even painful and which will ultimately bear more fruit. Indeed, the rich diversity of difference in a community like St John’s would be considered as one of our greatest strengths.   

Two months before my ordination Blessed Pope John Paul II had issued his Encyclical Ut unim sint, May they all be one. The encyclical is the highest and most weighty form of personal papal written teaching. John Paul had set the business of Christian unity as one of his priorities of the pontificate in the early 1980s. Now his thoughts were chrystalised in that authoritative document which set the course afresh for Christian unity as a priority for the Catholic Church. This demand springs from the pope’s own commitment to that dialogue between people of good will which, if neglected, becomes more of a battle for ideas. In his experience this had been a real battle, fort out, not in the lecture theatre but on the streets of his occupied city of Krakow; the regimes of fascism and atheistic communism had sort either to replace God or build a society without God. The consequences were desperate, the cost was horrific, the legacy is lasting.

The moving sight of John Paul II arriving at the church of the Gesu in Rome to sing Te Deum in thanksgiving for the old year 1992 was my first meeting with the pope we now call Blessed. My last sight of him was on looking up at the window of the apostolic palace on Easter Wednesday 2005, three days before his death. He struggled desperately to speak to us and bless us. My 1992 had led to tough decisions about my on journey of faith, and the shadow of Peter in affecting strength and unaffected simplicity falling on me had, I believe,  helped me to make those decisions. But the experience of the Church preparing to bid farewell to Il Papa, the Polish Pope had demonstrated again to the world that the desperate weakness of old men who have lived with the weakness and suffering, the doubts and the fears of so many for so long becomes the bright light of a better future.

Pope Benedict spoke at his audience on Wednesday about Christian unity.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity which begins today invites all the Lord’s followers to implore the gift of unity. This year’s theme – We Will All Be Changed By The Victory Of Our Lord Jesus Christ – was chosen by representatives of the Catholic Church and the Polish Ecumenical Council. Poland’s experience of oppression and persecution prompts a deeper reflection on the meaning of Christ’s victory over sin and death, a victory in which we share through faith. By his teaching, his example and his paschal mystery, the Lord has shown us the way to a victory obtained not by power, but by love and concern for those in need. Faith in Christ and interior conversion, both individual and communal, must constantly accompany our prayer for Christian unity. During this Week of Prayer, let us ask the Lord in a particular way to strengthen the faith of all Christians, to change our hearts and to enable us to bear united witness to the Gospel. In this way we will contribute to the new evangelization and respond ever more fully to the spiritual hunger of the men and women of our time.

Monday, 23 January 2012

All new, all colour parish mag!

The new edition of The Eaglet is out and is, as always, well worth a read. As you can see from the stunning cover it is now in full colour and we would ask, if you are able, to donate 50p to help cover costs. Come and get yours from the back of the church today!

Horsham Churches praying together

Last night's prayer service for Christian Unity at St. Mary's in the Causeway was excellent. If you weren't there you really did miss out. It was truly wonderful to see all these people who can seem so divided come together to worship and adore almighty God. We had readings in english and polish (this year's theme for the week of prayer came from an ecumenical council in Poland), lots of well sung hymns, even more prayers and Fr. Richard preached an excellent homily (sorry for the slightly grainy picture). He referred to Pope Benedict's audience at his Angelus at the start of the week for prayer. Here is part of his message which makes marvellous food for thought.

"The theme of the Week this year -- as we heard -- is taken from the First Letter to the Corinthians: “We Will All Be Changed By the Victory of Our Lord Jesus Christ” -- His victory will transform us. And this theme was suggested by the large ecumenical Polish group I just mentioned, which -- in reflecting on their own experience as a nation -- wanted to underscore how strong a support the Christian faith is in the midst of trial and upheaval, like those that have characterized Poland’s history. After ample discussion, a theme was chosen that focuses on the transforming power of faith in Christ, particularly in light of the importance it has for our prayer for the visible unity of Christ’s Body, the Church. This reflection was inspired by the words of St. Paul who, addressing himself to the Church of Corinth, speaks about the perishable nature of what belongs to our present life -- which is also marked by the experience of the “defeat” that comes from sin and death -- compared to what brings us Christ’s victory over sin and death in His paschal mystery.
The particular history of the Polish nation, which knew times of democratic coexistence and of religious liberty -- as in the 16th century -- has been marked in recent centuries by invasions and defeat, but also by the constant struggle against oppression and by the thirst for freedom. All of this led the ecumenical group to reflect more deeply on the true meaning of "victory" -- what victory is -- and "defeat." Compared with "victory" understood in triumphalistic terms, Christ suggests to us a very different path that does not pass by way of force and power. In fact, He affirms: “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35). Christ speaks of a victory through suffering love, through mutual service, help, new hope and concrete comfort given to the least, to the forgotten, to those who are rejected. For all Christians, the highest expression of this humble service is Jesus Christ Himself -- the total gift He makes of Himself, the victory of His love over death on the Cross, which shines resplendent in the light of Easter morning.
We can take part in this transforming “victory” if we allow ourselves to be transformed by God -- but only if we work for the conversion of our lives, and if this transformation leads to conversion. This is the reason why the Polish ecumenical group considered particularly fitting for their own reflection the words of St. Paul: “We will all be changed by the victory of Christ, Our Lord” (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:51-58).
The full and visible unity of Christians for which we long demands that we allow ourselves to be ever more perfectly transformed and conformed to the image of Christ. The unity for which we pray requires interior conversion, both communal and personal. It is not simply a matter of kindness and cooperation; above all, we must strengthen our faith in God, in the God of Jesus Christ, who has spoken to us and who made Himself one of us; we must enter into new life in Christ, which is our true and definitive victory; we must open ourselves to one another, cultivating all the elements of that unity that God has preserved for us and gives to us ever anew; we must feel the urgency of bearing witness before the men of our times to the living God, who made Himself known in Christ."

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Worshipping God as one family

We all know how vitally important it is to pray for the unity of all Christians all over the world. Christ established one Church, one Body here on earth and is truly sad, heart breaking even, to think of this Body as being fractured, divided and separated. In the Roman Catholic Church we are especially blessed to know such an intimate closeness to Christ, a profound spiritual and physical communion that even our minds cannot even dream of fully comprehending. It is only natural, only right and proper, that we should hope and pray that one day (hopefully one day in the not too distant future) all Christians might be reconciled to one another, brought together and united into a fullness of faith. Tomorrow at 6:30pm Horsham Churches Together conclude their annual week of fervent prayer for Christian Unity. This year is all the more exciting as we are leading the service at St. Mary's C of E Church in the Causeway. Please come along and join us if you can. You won't regret it!

Friday, 20 January 2012


This Sunday the new parish Confirmation program begins. We are very excited this year to have 38 (yes, 38) candidates all keen to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit and enter into their lives as adult Christians called to live and breathe the Gospel. Please keep them all in your prayers as they begin this exciting journey.