Following the successful visit to Banbury Circle on 4 January where we had 16 brothers attending from Province 6, Provincial Council has agreed to organise an out of Province visit every month. The plan is for Circles to choose a Circle to visit and then it will publicised around our Province.
This month’s will be a visit to Davyhulme Circle who are holding a joint meeting with San Pawl Group Malta. Provincial President Paul Clancy commented:
Dear Brothers, I hope you are all well and praying for an end to this pandemic? For the next five or six months I do not see us, the Catenians, being able to meet physically so we will have to put up Zoom meetings. Zoom does enable us to go literally round the world from the office chair. I suppose I was lucky when I first joined Droitwich Catenians to be privileged to go round with two Brothers, now sadly departed, Peter Swarbrick and Stan Carney who were great believers in visiting.
To encourage a few more to join in it was decided at Provincial council to have an out of province visit, once a month, where Province 6 could go, in theory, en masse, to another Circle.
This month the we have selected a joint meeting between Davyhulme & San Pawl, Malta. It will be held on January 28th starting at 7.00pm. To keep it simple for our host it was agreed that I would coordinate the Province 6 attendees. So if you wish to attend just send your names to me, with circle and position held, and I will pass on the joining instructions next week.
Please share this with all your brothers and encourage all that you can to attend. Its free and you may enjoy/ make new friends or meet old ones!
(Photo: San Pawl Group Malta at their inauguration in November 2019)
As most readers will be aware, the original ideas for a “hybrid” Catenian celebration over the weekend Saturday 7 to Sunday 8 November had to be curtailed because of the restrictions imposed by the second lockdown in England.
The Provincial Mass for Deceased Brothers and Ladies on Saturday, 7 November at 12 noon did go ahead by live stream and was celebrated by Bishop Stephen Wright. Cathedral Dean, Mgr Timothy Menezes recited the names of the deceased Brothers and Ladies of Province 6 during the Bidding Prayers.
Mgr Timothy Menezes reads out the names of our deceased brothers and spouse’s during the bidding prayers.
The following is a transcript of Bishop Stephen Wright’s homily:
The month of November is traditionally a time when our thoughts and prayers turn to those who have died. It is also a time when we reflect on our own mortality too.
Our liturgical year is coming to an end. After this weekend, there are just two more Sundays before we begin the new Church year as Advent begins. Let us pray that Advent will indeed be a new beginning for us all as we hope to gather again for the celebration of Mass in our churches.
Given recent Government decisions, may I express my thanks to all the volunteers who have helped keep our churches so safe. We are all disappointed that we cannot meet for Mass at present but as good citizens we must abide by that decision.
At this time of the year the readings and prayers at Mass focus more and more on the Last Things and invite us to be ready for when God calls us to be with him. ‘Stand ready, stay awake’ are common themes at this time of the liturgical year. This can all seem daunting and offputting, but, it should not be so.
The Gospel today speaks of ten bridesmaids. Five bridesmaids who are ready for a celebration and five who are not. Like the other “be ready, stay awake” Gospel readings, this can leave us a bit challenged, if not scared. I am forever forgetting things and I am rather fond of a snooze—am I doomed too?
But, please, I hope we see the imminent joy in this Gospel. It is about preparation, being ready, for a celebration, for a joyful occasion. It is not the gallows we face or a judgement from an angry judge. It is an invitation to a wedding party, to a banquet, an event full of joy, full of laughter, full of love and friendship. It is an invitation to be with the Lord forever. With that in mind, why would we not want to be ready for that? Why would we want to sleep through that?
May I suggest, it is not asking that much to stand there with your oil lamp lit with sufficient oil. Jesus reassures us in the Gospels, “Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.” Jesus carries our burdens. When we carry burdens, give them to Him in prayer.
So, what is being ready? “Yes, Lord, I want to be with you in the banquet” is the response of faith. “Lord be my light and let me share it with those around me.” That is standing ready to meet the Lord.
As we know, the month of November is filled with prayerful celebrations that help bring us closer in prayer with those who have died. The month began last Sunday with the celebration of All Saints as we rejoiced with all those who see God face to face. We truly hope our loved ones are among that number in heaven. On 2 November we commemorated those who, we pray, are on the way to be with the Lord. We all need to be forgiven and purified by God. May those who have died truly rest in peace as they open their very selves to that forgiveness and purification.
Tomorrow is Remembrance Sunday. As a nation we will remember those who have died in service of their country in conflict. It is right that we show prayerful respect for their sacrifice by praying for them and working for peace so that future generations are spared the horrors that these men and women and so many others suffered.
This Wednesday, at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month, I trust we will do the same. Spend two minutes in respectful prayer in memory of the fallen.
November is a fitting time of the year, then, for our Diocesan tradition to celebrate a Mass in memory of the deceased members and spouses of the Catenian Association. The names of those who have died this past year will be prayerfully read out at this Mass. We thank them all for their Christian witness, their prayers, their fellowship and their charity, all of which lie at the heart of the life of the Catenian Association. At this Mass we commend them to the Lord. May they all rest in peace.
But for us all who are participating in this Mass, through the live stream, please name out loud or in the quiet of your hearts the people who have died that you wish to pray for at this Mass. May they rest in peace.
Our readings today invite us to be wise about those who have died. We should take great comfort from St Paul’s teachings in our second reading: “We want you to be quite certain brothers about those who have died to make sure that you do not grieve about them like the other people who have no hope.”
If I stop there, please note that St. Paul is not saying we are not to grieve. He is saying do not grieve without hope.
We do grieve because we miss our loved ones and we want that physical bodily presence, do we not? Grief is learning to love the other in a new way and learning to be loved by the other in a new way.
That yearning to be with loved ones who have died is very powerful, is it not?
I had a reminder of that power, this past fortnight in an unexpected way. I was meant to be on a non-religious work conference this past week that was correctly cancelled due to the imminent lockdown. It was a secular conference about leadership and, in preparation, the ten participants were asked a series of questions about leadership that would be shared as a means of helping with introductions.
I confess, I am not a fan of writing up biographies, CVs and answering those ice-breaker type questions that will be used for an introduction, as I never know what to write most of the time. But one question really hit home for me. It may for you today or in this month of praying for the dead?
The question was “Which three people, past or present, would you invite to your dinner party and why?” The context of the conference was thinking of inspiring leaders but actually the question was very open ended.
You may rightly expect me, as a Bishop, to invite Jesus of Nazareth, surely, but the good Lord was an answer to another question so I felt I could respectfully leave him off the invitation list. So I scratched my head for a while trying to come up with three impressive, inspiring leaders, whether religious or not. There were plenty to choose from. But I confess the question went much deeper into me, from my head to firmly locating itself in my heart. I could not get past the moving and to me very prayerful thought of inviting three people who I love dearly and miss every day because they have died. To sit with them and share a meal is all I wanted. What I would give for that. What a joy that would be.
May I offer this as a very simple image of praying for the dead. When we pray for them we do indeed sit with them in the presence of God’s joyful banquet. And don’t limit your guest list to three. Heaven has room for everyone.
Back to the questionnaire, I wondered if I had been too religious and whether my answers would stick out at a secular conference. I need not have worried. As the introductory materials were shared this past week I noticed most of the other nine participants wrote down names of people they love who had died.
It was a prayerful lesson for me as to how the gospel message of Christ’s death and resurrection touches the human heart, whether that person is religious or not. It is a reminder of how people are so open to the gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection, even if they are not aware of it as yet.
St. Paul writes: “We believe that Jesus died and rose again and that it will be the same for those who have died in Jesus. God will bring them with him.” “With such thoughts you should comfort one another” This is the good news, the gospel which we bring to people every day. This is the hope with which we grieve.
We will one day, God willing, sit at a dinner party, an eternal banquet with the people we yearn to be with. But let’s be humble and correct, it is the Lord who does the inviting to the dinner party, not me and not you. On our part, we just need to be ready to say yes, with the lamp of faith alight.
The first reading similarly invites us to be wise. The first reading speaks of Lady Wisdom as a “she,” quite right too I hear the ladies say, full of wisdom, of course. Lady Wisdom is being close to God. She walks with us through life. I love the line in today’s first reading that when she, Lady Wisdom, is with us, “anxiety will quickly leave you.”
Understandably, bereavement can be a very anxious part of our lives. The emotions are so powerful and the pain so intense. But God says to us in the readings today, be wise, be hopeful, all is well as all ends in God. Grieve, yes, but do so wisely and full of hope. If you are anxious, cast your anxiety onto God and leave it with him.
Of course, our loved ones who have died are more fully alive than you and me. We pray they see God as God sees them. That they know God as God knows them. We pray they are truly wise, close to God, we pray that their hope is fulfilled.
Our relationship to those who have died should be the familiar relationship of love. We talk with them in prayers; we listen to them in prayer. We are in communion with them as if they are with us, because they are with us.
During the long American election these past few days you may have heard of the election in North Dakota of Mr David Andhal. The surprising thing was that sadly he had died in October, may he rest in peace. Due to local law, he was still on the ballot for election and, yes, he was duly elected. I am not sure what to make of all that other than this: Why not? I mean, why not?
You could say that this election is a secular expression of the value of those who have died and that our relationship with them is real, valued and carries on.
My dear brothers and sisters, if that is the secular view of democracy in North Dakota, well, how much more for us Christians is our loving relationship with our brothers and sisters who have died, in the light of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Our relationship with those who have died should be as natural and familiar as if they are alive with us. Because they are alive with us. They pray for us and love us and we pray for them and love them.
So finally, just as the Lord has called them, he will call us to his celebration. So, in our prayers today and throughout November, let us stand ready to be with the Lord and let us pray for those who have died. May they all rest in peace. Amen.
All Circle Membership Officers should now have received their email detailing the Shared Funding initiative and attached guidelines and application form.
The objective of the scheme is to assist Circles and Provinces with their Marketing and Membership plans financially so that there should be no reason why a Circle is not able to put such a plan into action. This of course fits very nicely with the Marketing & Membership workshop that the Province ran back in February and I am personally delighted that National Council have now recognised that Circles need this help. The application can be made by individual Circles, the Province and groups of Circles who may wish to undertake a Marketing initiative with a local Circle(s).
For smaller Circles with a low number of brothers or with limited financial resources, the Province may be able to assist further with resource or finance.
I am encouraged by the number of Circles in our Province that have already made considerable plans to market their Circles and therefore put themselves in a much better position to recruit new members and retain existing brothers. I do hope that every Circle in the Province takes advantage of this initiative and are able to access funds.
If anyone would like anymore information on the Shared Funding Project or need help with the application please do not hesitate to contact me.
I plan to contact each Membership Officer by the end of October to find out about your Circles plans and to see if I can help in any way.
A special Mass of thanksgiving was said for the brilliant school staff who have been bravely working throughout the pandemic. The Mass was celebrated at St Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham, at 12.15 on Monday 6 July by Mgr Timothy Menezes, the Dean of St Chad’s. Mgr Tim has kindly agreed that the details of the Mass and his homily may be used by the Province and National Catenian publications.