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The Report on the Parish Council Meeting, Tuesday 18 March, follows this Newsletter
13 April. Passion Sunday
Today is Passion Sunday, the day when the Church, by reading to us the Passion of Christ, gives us an overview of all that will happen liturgically in the great services of Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening of this Holy Week. These three liturgical celebrations form one extended act of worship and faith and we should really not pick and choose which one we will attend but do our uttermost as believing Christians to attend all three. It is the Paschal Mystery we are celebrating, the most important events in the history of mankind, and these liturgies bring these events to life and offer us the opportunity of being personally involved.
On Tuesday last, the following words of Our Lord were part of the Gospel at Mass: When you have lifted up the Son of Man then you will know that I am He. What is Our Lord referring to when He says When you have lifted up the Son of man? What is this lifting up He is referring to? Is it the Resurrection when He will be raised from the dead? You would think so, but No. He is actually talking about being lifted up on the Cross. And He adds that when He is lifted up on the Cross, we will recognise exactly who he is. You will know that I AM HE. That was God’s personal Name, revealed to Moses at the Burning Bush.
So if we were to paraphrase the words of Jesus, this is what he says: When you have lifted me up on the Cross, you will know that I am the Lord God.
But how does the Crucifixion reveal that Jesus is truly God? Well, actually, it does and it doesn’t. It didn’t to most of the Jews who witnessed it, though the Roman soldier was heard to declare, Indeed this was a Son of God. It didn’t to the intellectuals of the time, the Greek speaking Hellenists, who thought it was sheer folly to say that a crucified Man was the Lord God Himself. That same attitude prevails even to today; the Crucifix still doesn’t mean anything to the majority of our contemporaries; to many of them it is a meaningless and even distasteful symbol.
But it is not so with us. We see the Crucifix and we know, as Our Lord said we would, that the Figure on it is the Lord God Himself. But how do we know? The knowledge that Jesus is talking about is a knowledge of the heart, not just of the head. A Christian knows in the depth of his heart that this Man lifted up on the Cross is indeed the Son of God. His head might question it; but his heart knows it is true.
How come? No one can believe the Christian message without first receiving the necessary grace of God. It is that grace, that enlightenment of the Holy Spirit coming through Baptism, which gives us this insight. And when the heart speaks to the head and the head looks again at the Crucifixion, the head says Well Yes, it has to be so, it all adds up, it makes complete sense.
Listen to what St Paul says on the subject: Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the Power of God and the Wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength (1 Cor 1:22-25)
We are among those whom God has called. By the grace of the Holy Spirit we can recognise that if God is infinite Love, then there can be no limit to what he will do for us, even to death on a cross. The Crucifixion is the supreme demonstration of Divine Love. To us, to whom this gift has been given, the Crucified Christ becomes an Open Book revealing to us truths about God and man that even the greatest philosopher could never grasp by human reason unaided by grace.
The Open Book of the Crucified speaks to us also of the peak of perfection that human nature can achieve: of perfect human love; of total self-giving and dedication; of acceptance of God’s will; of forgiveness of enemies; of care and concern for others, with no counting of the cost.
The Crucified One is the Power of God and the Wisdom of God, as St Paul so beautifully puts it. Let us rejoice in the fact that we know this. How enriched our lives have become as a result of this knowledge. Many people would give an arm and a leg to be able to believe what we believe, but who cannot because grace is not there. Let us wear with pride the crucifix around our necks, so that the sign of God’s Power, Wisdom and Love might go before us wherever we go or whatever we do. Let us put the Crucifix in a prominent place in our homes where it will speak to us and to all who visit us. Let us be proud of the foolishness of God and the weakness of God, for we know by the grace of the Holy Spirit that here lies hidden the Wisdom of God and the Power of God. We adore you, O Christ and we bless you; because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.
God bless you, Fr Antony
PARISH COUCIL REPORT
The Parish Council met on Tuesday, 18 March. As always, it was a very pleasant occasion. Mrs Sarah Dennison was in the chair and most of the delegates were present.
The Reps proceeded to give their reports.
MRS COLETTE OWEN, HEAD TEACHER OF OUR SCHOOL, gave a very thorough account of recent activities in the school. Presently we have 124 pupils attending. Colette focussed mainly on the religious dimension of the school and spoke of the voluntary rosary sessions the children hold in their dinner break, of the special prayer sessions during Advent and Lent, of the increasing use of high tech in the school and in the religious department particularly, with videos dealing with the Sacraments etc. She spoke of the BWD Food Co-op, where the children buy farm foods and sell them on to the parents, thus putting their mathematical skills etc into action. She spoke enthusiastically of the Parenting Programme, led by Margaret Hinton (Diocesan Secretary for Family Life), which was attended by eight sets of parents.
SISTER JENNIFER, SPEAKING FOR THE YOUNG PEOPLE OF OUR PARISH, focussed first on the excellence of our Altar Servers, telling us that we now have 32 of them, all of whom are faithful to their promises of serving Mass regularly and devoutly. She told us that 7 of our older young people attended the Youth 2000 Retreat in Cardiff. There were 7 of our young people out of a total of 12 from all across Wales! She told us too of the recent retreat at Loreto where, again, 7 of our younger altar servers attended, with no other youngster there at all! She spoke of the altar servers’ joyful expectation of going to Poland next year for the World Youth Day with Pope Francis. She also told us that the numbers of young children attending the Saturday morning prayer session is slowly but surely increasing, with parents and grandparents bringing the children along and staying for and enjoying the service.
SISTER PHILO, REPRESENTING THE CONVENT, spoke of the spiritual care and concern the Sisters have for the Parish. Being elderly they can help now in no other way than by prayer (than which there is no better way!- AJ). Sister spoke of the wonderful spirit of prayer that pervades the convent and how happy and contented all the Sisters are. In the course of the discussion that followed it was suggested that as the young people of the Parish hardly ever encounter the Sisters now, as they are largely confined to the convent because of age, we should hold on the Feast of the Assumption, a tea party to be shared by the Sisters of the Convent and the young people of the Parish. The PC thought this a wonderful idea and hoped that it would become an annual event, being equally good for both the nuns and for the children.
MRS PEGGY USHER SPOKE ON BEHALF OF GAS AND THE UCM. She herself is the lone remaining member of GAS. (I don’t want this organisation to bite the dust. It was serving a vital purpose: visiting the sick in our local hospital. Every Christian Community worth its salt should have a programme of care for the sick. GAS used to visit every bed in the hospital every week. I would love this to be revived. We need volunteers generous with their time. If you would like to exercise this very Christian ministry, please contact me personally. AJ)
REGARDING THE UCM, Peggy told us that there are now fourteen active members. They meet in Stella Maris fortnightly, on a Monday evening at 730pm. (Again, I would dearly like to see this important group growing in numbers. Do you know of any Catholic Parish without a UCM? They are as much a part of the Catholic parish set-up as the priest is! Please consider becoming a member. We desperately want the young mothers of the Parish to be there, so please give it some thought. AJ)
MR TONI FOSSI SPOKE ON BEHALF OF THE SVP. Toni told us how he welcomed the fact that more people are getting in touch with him and his team, telling them of people within the parish, both Catholic and otherwise, who are in need of their help. (Several times have I put the SVP onto persons in great need and have been delighted with their quick and constructive response. I am also most grateful for the help they give in preparing the packed lunches for the homeless on Saturday mornings. AJ) All agreed that the successful Tea Party the SVP held last summer should be repeated this year and regularly. After the meeting Toni told me that the proceeds derived from this event will go towards the cost of resurfacing the car-park, for which we are all very grateful.
MR JOHN DENNISON, MEMBER OF THE FINANCE COMMITTEE reported that the weekly collection is going down, reaching new low, well below the money needed to run the Parish. As we are now reaching the end of the financial year, the Finance Committee will be conducting a drive in the near future. (So, watch out! AJ) John explained that not only is the income decreasing but also we are due to have substantial claims on our finances in the very near future. Stella Maris, the Church and the Presbytery are scheduled to be painted externally within the next month or so. Once that is completed, work will start on the resurfacing of the car park. (Here we are talking big money. We will need to take a loan out from the Diocese in order to cover these costs. And, sadly, we will have to pay it all back! We need you to be very generous and to respond kindly to the drive the Finance Committee is planning. AJ) I pointed out that there is a full financial report every week on the website, but I doubt whether many people check it out.
JOHN ALSO REPORTED ON OPEN HOUSE, a weekly social activity that takes place at Stella Maris every Thursday afternoon between 2pm and 4pm. He spoke of regular attendees, and listed bridge, craft, films and even the teaching of Hebrew as some of the activities that go on. (Open House is exactly what it says: open to everyone. You are welcome to drop in for a welcome cup of tea and a chat. Or you could stay and take part in any of the activities going on. Or, indeed, if you have a pet activity of your own, you could introduce it to Open House. Please give it a go; you might well find that Open House could become a highlight of your week, AJ)
SARAH introduced to the Council something that she and I had discussed beforehand, namely that during the two hours when Stella Maris is open on a Thursday afternoon, there should be present a member of our Bereavement Team, ready to talk to anyone recently bereaved. (This is an important service the parish can offer. You will remember that a couple of years ago several of our parishioners engaged in a bereavement counselling course and are now well able to be of real help to those who need it. They are not professional counsellors, but they do have plenty of skill in this field and even more compassion. AJ)
STEPHEN WATSON SPOKE ON BEHALF OF THE MISSION TEAM AND THE BAPTISM TEAM. The Mission team has not been active for a couple of years, but did great work originally in preparing the way for the Catechumenate. (They met with people who were thinking of joining the Catechumenate and gave them a chance to talk with a group of lay people before approaching the priest. Apparently, some people are reluctant to approach the priest directly, which is another reason why all of us should be on the lookout for friends or neighbours who may be wanting to join the Church. AJ) The PC felt that the Mission Team should most certainly be revived.
STEPHEN WENT ON TO SPEAK ABOUT THE BAPTISM TEAM. He explained to the Councillors that the pre-baptism preparation is spread now over the three Sundays prior to the actual baptism. Each of the three members of the team takes a Sunday in turn. The first Sunday deals with the theology of baptism; the second, with the liturgy of baptism; the third, with the bringing up of the child as a member of the Church.
An excellent meeting finished after an hour and a half. To Sarah and all the Councillors: Thanks, you do a great job!