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The website is at last updated. Father Antony has more or less recovered from his surgery, thank God!
I would like to draw your attention to the link on the right of this page to THE MASS IN CLOSE-UP. It is a book I wrote during a prolonged period of convalescence. It coincided with the time when the texts of the Mass were being revised in 2011. It began life as a series of articles on the Mass to explain to my parishioners the reasons for the changes. But with time on my hands during convalescence, I expanded it to a full explanation of all the readings, prayers and gestures of the whole Mass, together with the history of their development. I wrote it because I have been convinced since I was a young priest that Catholics on the whole do not understand the Mass anything like they should. And as the Mass is the white hot centre of our Catholic Faith, deeper knowledge of it leads to deeper understanding of what the Faith is about and an inevitable deepening of our love for Christ and his Church
4 October 2015 Walking in the Footsteps of Christ
The Parish knows that I have been poorly for the past many months, but on Wednesday they thought I had lost the plot as well. There was at least one audible cry of surprise while an expression of bewilderment mixed with pity sat on the faces of all the congregation when I announced that the opening hymn of the Mass would be number 186. Good King Wenceslaus!
The Parish Priest had not been indulging in magic mushrooms nor had he been drinking nor had his long illness brought on some kind of psychiatric disorder. No, Wednesday was simply and sanely the feast of Saint Wenceslas, King of Bohemia.
Singing that carol around the streets of Holywell as a kid in the 1950s, hoping for a few pennies to buy Christmas presents with (not realizing then how out of tune I most surely was!), nor the thousands of times I have sung it since, have ever brought home to me, as it did on Wednesday, the profound spiritual depths of that carol.
Actually, Wenceslaus was not a king in his lifetime; he only became one several years after his death (something of a first, I should think!) when the royal title was posthumously conferred on him by the Holy Roman Emperor Otto l. But this very act of the Emperor highlighted the esteem and reverence in which this young Bohemian Duke was held by his contemporaries. He was born in 907 in Prague, then the principal town in Bohemia, now the capital of the Czech Republic. He succeeded to the dukedom at the age of 18 and was acknowledged as a most charitable and caring young man, devoting much time and energy providing for the poor and homeless in his dukedom. He founded a small chapel within the walls of Prague Castle where he himslf was eventually buried. The chapel remains to this day but has been so developed over the centuries that the little church is now the Cathedral of Prague, seat of the country’s Catholic Archbishop and the only cathedral, to my knowledge, built within the walls of a castle.
He was murdered on 28 September 935 at the age of 28 by his brother, with a prayer for his murderer on his lips as he died. He was recognised as a saint immediately, and devotion to him spread rapidly throughout the Church in Bohemia and, strangely enough, throughout England. The famous carol we sing was written by an Englishman in the mid nineteenth century, though it is a translation of a very ancient Bohemian poem. Why the English found this saint so attractive, I do not know.
But take a look at the carol. It describes “King” Wenceslaus as so concerned about the well-being of one of his dukedom’s families that, despite deep snow and bitter cold, he sets out with his page boy to take this marooned family flesh and wine and pine logs. The journey is long and arduous, the deep snow making the going very difficult. Eventually the poor page boy has had enough and says to Wenceslaus: Sire the night is darker now and the wind blows stronger, fails my heart, I know not how. I can go no longer! But Wenceslaus tells him to walk behind him, stepping carefully in the footprints he himself had just made in the snow: Mark my footsteps good, my page, tread thou in them boldly. The carol/poem relates that heat was in the very sod which the Saint had printed, and as a result the boy was warmed and energized and enabled to complete with Wenceslaus his errand of mercy.
Walking carefully yet boldly in the footsteps of the king. Isn’t that a perfect description of what Christian discipleship is, though the prints of our King were not left in snow but in blood. Our Catholic Faith, to which Duke Wenceslaus was converted by Saints Cyril and Methodius, has always preached the same message: keep closely to the footsteps of Christ and your whole life will we warmed, no matter how harsh the environment of your life may be, and you will be energized to carry on even when every fibre of your being is crying out to give up. St Wenceslaus pray for us!
Now do you think St Wenceslaus would approve of this: A Grandma’ Tea Party with Grandpas as Honoured Guests? I am sure he would. The Church is very keen that the older generation recognise just how much they are valued within the Family of the Parish. Grandparents, with their store of wisdom gleaned from the ups and downs of many years, are, or should be, recognised for who they are and where they stand in the extended family which they themselves have given rise to. In God’s Family they certainly are thus recognised and greatly valued. In this day and age, especially, when young parents are harassed by the requirements of their jobs and the demands on their time, these parents are tending to turn to and rely on grandparents more, much in a way that was the norm many years ago. A silver lining indeed, a good that has come out of the mayhem of modern living.
So, to say a sincere Thank You to these members of our Parish we have arranged this Grandma’s Tea Party. It will be held at Stella Maris from 4pm to 6pm on Sunday 18 October. I hope it will be well attended and that grandfathers recognise that they will indeed be the Honoured Guests.
On the same basic theme, may I remind you that the Holy Father is meeting in Rome with representative Bishops from around the world to continue the discussion on the Family. It was initiated, you will remember, this time last year. The Synod will continue debating throughout the month of October. I remind you of this principally to invite your prayers, for the family is the building block not only of secular society but of the Church as well. Recognition of the importance of family and reverence for the sanctity of the family are not as much in evidence today as in yester years. And the consequences are everywhere obvious.
And last but not least, the Parish Council. Because of my illness, it is over a year since we last assembled. So a meeting is being arranged for 10 November at 7pm. If you have anything you would like raised at the Council, please contact one of the Councillors before 3 November. An up-to-date list of the members of the Parish Council can be found on the Parish Council Page. Or, of course, you could speak to me.
God bless you, Fr Antony
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