Sunday, 26 February 2012

Preparing for Confirmation

This evening at Mass the parish watched and thoroughly enjoyed the chance to see our full-to-the-brim class of Confirmation candidates take part in their formal enrollment. First Fr. Aaron asked them of their commitment, were they ready to take this next step, did they understand it and would they joyfully live and embrace it. (To which they all, of course, answered, "we do.") Then to the parents he reminded them of the commitment they had made to raise their children in the practice of the faith at their baptism, asking would they continue to support and encourage them along this new and exciting step (again a resounding, "we do"). And finally to the parish community he asked if we too would support and pray for each one of these candidates both now and in the future (a very hearty "we do" there too!)

Seeing the candidates taking on their faith, making it their own, wanting to have a deeper, more personal, more intimate relationship with Christ as they mature into adulthood was very moving (even if they were a little nervous standing on the Sanctuary with everyone a-watching) and a powerful reminder to the rest of us that our Catholic faith is not something we should take for granted. It is vibrant, it is always relevant, always personal and a constant journey in which we are called to give ourselves more and more to God. Very cool stuff, eh?

Please, please, please pray for the candidates, their families, their sponsors and catechists as they prepare for this wonderful sacrament in May.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

A thought for Ash Wednesday

Thought for Ash Wednesday in the Year of Our Lord 2012 from the Parish Priest

Today is a day -one of two for Catholics- of fasting and abstinence.
We fast and abstain and it all sounds like a grand gesture. It also sounds a bit quaint, and thats partly because we dont live in a fast and feast sort of world. Fish is pricey and preferred, celebrity chefs tell us to cook so-called cheap cuts, half the world has far too much to eat the other half is starving.
So if we try to make the grand gesture we risk it falling flat on its face. Moreover, if we try to tell our friends that were fasting for spiritual rather than waistline motives, we risk being laughed all the way home.

Today then is not about a grand gesture but a deep seriousness, a seriousness about God and the things of God.

Jesus, Gods son reminds us to pray.
Let us be attentive to God.
Let us turn to Him and recognise that we are dependent upon Him.
Let us pray and pray most of all in the heart of the Church before the Heart of the Lord, the living presence of Jesus in the tabernacle.

Jesus, Gods son reminds us to give.
Let us be attentive to others.
Let us reach out to others and recognise our power to do good.
Let us give most of all for the relief of the poor and hungry.

Jesus, Gods son reminds us fast.
Let us be attentive to self.
Let us thank God for the wonder of our being.
Let us do all within our power to live a healthy, balanced life.
Let us fast most of all for our own deep cleansing of those things which clog up our spiritual selves and weigh down the dignity which God desires for each of us.

No grand gestures then, just the beginning again in a very basic course of what it is to be follower of Jesus Christ. Are you ready to begin again the course?   

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Ash Wednesday

Tomorrow the season of Lent begins. (Seems like only yesterday that Christmas ended, doesn't it?) This is a simply wonderful chance for us to strip back on our little indulgences and give more and more of ourselves to the Lord. Through renewed prayer, fasting and abstinence we see ever more deeply the truth, beauty and power of Our Lord's love for us in his life, passion, death and resurrection. Tomorrow we receive the sign of the Cross in ash on our foreheads, a powerful sign of repentance and our 'putting-on' of this season, of our taking it seriously, making it personal. By now I'm sure we all know what it is we're going to 'give up' for the next 40 days but there is much more to Lent than simply not eating chocolate or drinking coffee. Yes these things are important but we need to think and pray on why we are doing them, what these outward signs point towards. What we seek over the next few weeks is to deepen our relationship with Christ, to draw nearer and nearer to Him, to have a more intimate communion with Him. One thing that we could all try as we take something out is to bring something else in; going to an extra Mass each week, spending extra time in prayer, giving some time to help friends or family members who need extra love and support as well as a whole host of other things. They help us to live our love of God and our love of neighbour in a new way and move us in ways we don't always expect.

We are very fortunate in Horsham to have no less than three opportunities to go to Mass tomorrow. For all you early birds there is one at 6:30am, the usual weekday service at 10am and last but by no means least 7:30pm and this evening Mass will be followed by an evening of recollection with a talk, adoration, benediction and confessions. We look forward to seeing you and wish you a happy and holy Lenten season!

Thank you!

On Sunday the Pro-Life group hosted a cake stall in the hall after the 9am and 11am Masses with all of the money raised going to Aila's Fund. Well on behalf of the group I would like to say a huge THANK YOU! to everyone who baked cakes, quiches and made some wonderful jars of jam and maramalade and to all of you who came and bought them. We raised £510.00!! Aila and her family have been absolutely blown away by all of your generosity, support and fervent prayer. Thank you, thank you, thank you. It makes a huge difference. You're all wonderful!

Encouraging vocations

In the last decade the number of seminarians in England and Wales has almost doubled; rising from 26 in 2001 to 51 last year. This, I'm sure you'll all agree, is extremely encouraging news as the Church cannot continue to joyfully and faithfully proclaim the Gospel for generations to come without good and holy priests to offer the Mass and adminster the sacraments each and every day.

Whilst we all rejoice in vocations to the priesthood, the religious life, the consecrated life, single life and marriage very rarely do they come to fruition all on their own. God speaks to each and every person, calls each and every person to Himself, asks each and every one of us to do some special work. No two vocations are exactly the same just as no two of us are totally alike. We have all been given different gifts and abilities and are called to use them in a wide range of ways.

Despite this call definitely being there for us it can be very hard, seemingly impossible at times, amidst the hustle and bustle and busy-ness and noise of our modern world to discern properly what this means. One thing which we can all try, especially with Lent starting tomorrow, is to make more time, more space in our day for prayer. It doesn't have to be lengthy, it doesn't even have to be complex it just has to be there. Giving God that little part of ourselves, the opportunity to work with and within us for a period of time each day may initially seem to make little impact but, believe me, it makes the world of difference.

Another thing to consider this Lent to help you or someone you know hear God's will for them in their life is to join one of the many discernment groups in our area. Our diocesan Vocation's Director runs several, including Alive in Christ - Women Discerning God's Call, which meets again next Tuesday (for more info click here) and the annual retreat for enquirers to the priesthood (click here for the details on that one). Go on, have a look. You never know where it might lead!

But most importantly of all please join me in praying a decade of the rosary every day for vocations. These prayers are always heard and answered. Let's see if, through this gentle but powerful prayer, we can help to double the number of seminarians (and more) over the next ten years!

Monday, 13 February 2012

Aila's Fund

The above photo is of a girl that many of you may recognise. Aila was born and raised in Horsham and she and her family have been active parishioners for many years. In many ways she is like your typical sixteen year-old; she likes clothes, shopping, Lady Gaga, she is funny, clever and creative. But, on a more sombre note, there is one thing that sets her apart from her peers. Aila has Friedreich's Ataxia, a neurological disorder, which affects her mobility, balance and speech.

Since this was diagnosed two years ago Aila has had to grow up very quickly and, along with her family, try to adapt to the ways this condition has so radically changed her life. It has been a long and arduous process, something that no girl of her age should have to go through, but she and her parents and brothers have supported each other with mind-blowing love and courage through it all.

And now they need our help. With Aila's balance and mobility worsening every day (she has to use someone's arm for support when walking and will soon be in a wheelchair full-time) she is finding having to go up and down the stairs in her house both difficult and dangerous. The plan is to build a ground floor extension with a bedroom and bathroom as well as making the doorways in the living room etc. wide enough to accommodate the wheelchair. The council are funding the bulk of the project but there is a shortfall of £16,000 which the family have to meet. Her parents have therefore started "Aila's Fund" to help raise the money needed so they can get the build underway.

Horsham has always been a warm, welcoming and generous parish and many have already approached her mum and dad promising to help in whatever way they can. This weekend the Pro-Life group are holding a cake stall with all funds going to Aila and on Saturday 24th March Bousfield:PHOTO will be hosting photo sessions by appointment again with all money raised going to Aila and a whole host of other events in the near future. Please support this cause with prayer and, if you are able, come to some of the events. Spread the word!

Helping the homeless in Horsham

This weekend the SVP will be hosting an urgent appeal for supplies of food for ARK, the Horsham based charity which gives support to those whose lives are affected by homelessness, poverty, repeat offending and substance abuse.

This is a key part of our mission as Christians; to clothe the naked and feed the hungry, to give to anyone who asks with no thought of return. Sometimes it can be hard to see those truly in need in our own society, within our own community and even if we do it becomes even harder to offer assistance, although moved by the Spirit to do something, anything, we don't always know quite how to respond.

ARK, along with our very own SVP, do absolutely sterling work, they help the vulnerable in our society with dedication, gentleness and amazing charity and most of all they need our prayers to continue this long into the future. If you can please help them with the collection this weekend too, a few tins of this and that is all it takes and it makes such a very big difference.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Alpha at St. John's

If you were able to get to Mass last weekend despite the snow, you will have heard Father Richard tell us that we shall be starting the first of a series of Alpha Courses after Easter this year. Some of you may have fond memories of the ones run here at St. John’s back in the late 90s.  As Father said in his homily, it is our responsibility to reach out to those on the outer edges of our community, those who have important questions to ask about the existence of God and what it means to be a follower of Christ. Alpha is a well proven tool for providing a welcoming non judgemental environment for people to do this. Indeed some of our own parishioners set out on their journey of faith by taking part in Alpha and have subsequently been led by the Holy Spirit to their home in the Catholic Church. Liz Duncan is leading our Alpha team and wrote an article about her journey of faith in the Eaglet last year.

What is Alpha? It is low-pressure, fun and informative. It is a place for people to relax, share their thoughts and explore the deeper meanings of life. The course is designed primarily for people who don't go to church, but are interested in the Christian faith.  Each course runs for 10 weeks and includes the sharing of a meal, a talk and a discussion with an extra introductory evening and a celebratory supper at the end. There is absolutely no commitment for anyone to attend all the sessions.  People come along for the first time, no forms to fill in, and if they want to come again that’s great.

Can you think of a family member, friend or neighbour who you would like to invite to take part in the course?

Would you like to join the Alpha team? We shall need people to provide a warm and friendly welcome, cooks, helpers to set up and clear away, small group leaders and helpers and a supporting prayer group. If so please contact Liz Duncan on 07931 545492 or Ann Hanley on 01403 210073

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Working for peace in the Holy Land

Tonight we  were delighted to welcome Dr. Jordan Lancaster, a respected linguist who is also renowned for her charity work with children and families in the Holy Land.

She spoke powerfully on the difficulties faced by Christians living in Israel and Palestine and also of the things which unite the three monotheistic faiths as well as those that divide them. One of the themes she used was bread, how sharing it is common to Christians, Jews and Muslims, how the breaking of bread is a symbol that flows through the Old Testament and into the New.

She founded her charity, Terra Sancta, in 2007 (after visiting the Holy Land on a Holy Week pilgrimage to celebrate her birthday the year before) to provide educational support for Christian children in the Middle East. Most Christians attend Catholic schools and there are fees to be paid each term which, on a stretched budget, can be very hard to meet. Her organisation relies totally on fundraising and volunteers so they can ensure that all of their resources go into helping families meet these costs and all children can receive the very best education available.

I hope you will join me in praying for Jordan and her work in the Middle East.

Most Holy Virgin Mary, Help of Christians,
How sweet it is to come to your feet,
to implore your help in all my necessities,
in every sorrow, and especially in all my temptations!

I ask for your unceasing help for all who are now suffering for their faith:
Help them to stay close to Christ and to live the Gospel.

Obtain for us, O Mary, Help of Christians,
that having invoked you on earth,
we may love and eternally thank you in heaven.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

St. Blaise

Yesterday we celebrated the feast day of St. Blaise, a bishop and martyr and a man who is most frequently remembered by Catholics because of the blessing of throats. To some this seems like a strange thing to do; bless the throat alone but, as Fr. Richard said in his homily, there is more to it than simply blessing the physical organ (although there is nothing small or insignificant with that in itself.) It has with it great spiritual implications. For instance we can benefit from this saint's intercession by considering what comes out of our throat; the things we say, the gossip we spread, the lies we tell, the nonsense we jabber about all of the time. It encourages us to pray for the gift of Prudence, to ask for the grace to know when to speak and when to keep silent and to speak of the things which are important, which we should not keep to ourselves, i.e. the Gospel. It is our duty, our vocation, as Christians to tell the Good News and this blessing and the prayers of this and all the saints are invaluable tools to us along the way.

Through the intercession of Saint Blaise, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you free from every disease of the throat, and from every other disease. In the name of the Father and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit. R. Amen.