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Feast of St James The Great 25th July

St James (? - 44)
He was the brother of St John and, like him, a fisherman. He was one of the witnesses of the Transfiguration and one of those who slept through most of the Agony in the Garden. He was the first of the apostles to be martyred, being beheaded by King Herod Agrippa I to please the Jewish opponents of Christianity. He was buried in Jerusalem, and nothing more is known about him until the ninth century.
  At this time we learn of a tradition that the relics of St James were brought to Spain some time after his martyrdom, (perhaps early, perhaps as late as 830), and his shrine at Compostela in Galicia grew in importance until it became the greatest pilgrimage centre in western Europe. In every country there are churches of St James and known, well-trodden pilgrim routes. In Paris, the Tour St Jacques marks the start of the route and the Rue St Jacques points straight towards Compostela. In England, pilgrim routes lead from all parts of the country to the major ports that were used on the pilgrimage. This network of routes is a vital witness to the fact that the Middle Ages were not the static stay-at-home time that we often think them to be: everyone must have known someone, or known someone who knew someone, who had made the pilgrimage. The scallop-shell, the emblem of St James, has become the emblem of pilgrims generally.
  In 1987 the pilgrimage routes to Compostela were designated by the Council of Europe as historical cultural routes of international importance. The Confraternity of St James continues to work to restore and upgrade the refuges on a route which is still in active pilgrim use today.
(painting by Georges de la Tour, photo by wiki gallery)
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Feast of St Philip Neri 26th May

Saint Philip Neri (1515 - 1595)He was born in Florence in 1515. At the age of eighteen he went to Rome, and earned his living as a tutor. He undertook much-needed charitable work among the young men of the city, and started a brotherhood to help the sick poor and pilgrims.
He was advised that he could do more good as a priest, and was ordained in 1551. He built an oratory over the church of San Girolamo, where he invented services, consisting of spiritual readings and hymns, which were the origin of the oratorio (tradition is a good thing; but innovation also has its place). He continued to serve the young men of Rome, rich and poor alike, with religious discussions and by organising charitable enterprises. He had a particular care for the young students at the English College in Rome, studying for a missionary life and probable martyrdom in England.
He inspired other clergy to emulate him, and formed them into the Congregation of the Oratory. Oratorian foundations still flourish in many countries today. He died in Rome in 1595.
St Philip Neri was an enemy of solemnity and conventionality. When some of his more pompous penitents made their confession to him (he was famous as a confessor) he imposed salutary and deflating penances on them, such as walking through the streets of Rome carrying his cat (he was very fond of cats). When a novice showed signs of excessive seriousness, Philip stood on his head in front of him, to make him laugh. When people looked up to him too much, he did something ridiculous so that they should not respect someone who was no wiser – and no less sinful – than they were. In every case there was an excellent point to his pranks: to combat pride, or melancholy, or hero-worship.
Laughter is not much heard in churches: perhaps that is to be expected... but outside church, Christians should laugh more than anyone else – laugh from sheer joy, that God bothered to make us, and that he continues to love us despite the idiots we are. Everyone is a sinner, but Christians are sinners redeemed – an undeserved rescue that we make even less deserved by everything we do. It is too serious a matter to be serious about: all we can reasonably do is rejoice.
Very many of the saints, not just St Philip, have an abiding terror of being looked up to. For they know their imperfections better than anyone else, and being revered by other people is doubly bad. It is bad for the others, who should be revering God instead, and for themselves, because they might be tempted to believe their own image and believe themselves to be worthy.
We are not saints yet, but we, too, should beware. Uprightness and virtue do have their rewards, in self-respect and in respect from others, and it is easy to find ourselves aiming for the result rather than the cause. Let us aim for joy, rather than respectability. Let us make fools of ourselves from time to time, and thus see ourselves, for a moment, as the all-wise God sees us.
(from Universalis)
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First Sunday of Advent Year C

Letter from Fr. Richard
Dear Brothers & Sisters,
Advent is that season in the church’s Year when we look forward, as well as looking back. We look forward to celebrating the great feast of Christmas; we look forward to that day when Jesus Christ will come again. We look back on past history – to those figures who were so necessary for the Christmas event to take place at all. Isaiah & John the Baptist, Mary the Mother of Jesus and Joseph
her spouse.  Did God really become Man? That is a question which we have to answer for ourselves. If he did, why? Surely to engage on a more intimate level with us human beings. Can we make room for Jesus in our lives? He stands at the door....and he knocks....
Have a good Advent. 
Fr. Richard

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Christ The King - last Sunday of the Liturgical Year

Letter from Fr. Richard

Dear Brothers & Sisters,

We finish the Liturgical Year with the Feast of Christ the King. An upbeat end to our
journey of faith year. A reminder of Julian of Norwich’s encouraging words, “All will be well, all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.” What a lovely thought that the sufferings imposed on us by others, can be used if we so wish, to wish them well. We can ask God to let our suffering become redemptive of the very persons who have hurt or harmed us; by joining them to those of Jesus....and then shall good really prevail in the world.
Have a good week. 

Fr. Richard


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28th Sunday of the Year

Gospel
Mark 10:17-30

Jesus was setting out on a journey when a man ran up, knelt before him and put this question to him, ‘Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You must not kill; You must not commit adultery; You must not steal; You must not bring false witness; You must not defraud; Honour your father and mother.’ And he said to him, ‘Master, I have kept all these from my earliest days.’ Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him, and he said, ‘There is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ But his face fell at these words and he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.
    Jesus looked round and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!’ The disciples were astounded by these words, but Jesus insisted, ‘My children,’ he said to them ‘how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ They were more astonished than ever. ‘In that case’ they said to one another ‘who can be saved?’ Jesus gazed at them. ‘For men’ he said ‘it is impossible, but not for God: because everything is possible for God.’
    Peter took this up. ‘What about us?’ he asked him. ‘We have left everything and followed you.’ Jesus said, ‘I tell you solemnly, there is no one who has left house, brothers, sisters, father, children or land for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not be repaid a hundred times over, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and land – not without persecutions – now in this present time and, in the world to come, eternal life.’
(Painting by Vladimir Kush)

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27th Sunday of the Year

Letter from Fr. Richard

Dear Brothers & Sisters,
I am filled with wonder and awe at some of mankind’s achievements.  I am filled with wonder and awe at the engineering of the Hoover Dam, the Aswan Dam and the other like works.  I am filled with wonder and awe at the achievements of civil engineers, Brunel and all who follow him.  Our bridges, our roads, - so much…….. And these are the achievements of man – man’s creation.
We can imagine then how God feels about His creation and the pinnacle of His creation MANKIND.  It is from this point of view we must view all that Jesus says:  He is saying revere one another, treat one another with respect.  My creation is something you should not disrespect.  God views us with wonder and awe.  We can learn to do likewise.
Have a good week!
Fr. Richard


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Friday 2nd October The Holy Guardians


First reading
Exodus 23:20-23

The Lord says this: ‘I myself will send an angel before you to guard you as you go and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. Give him reverence and listen to all that he says. Offer him no defiance; he would not pardon such a fault, for my name is in him. If you listen carefully to his voice and do all that I say, I shall be enemy to your enemies, foe to your foes. My angel will go before you.’


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Prayer is the Light of the Soul by John Chrysostom


I came across this recently and wanted to share it with you: 
 Prayer is the light of the soul
"There is nothing more worthwhile than to pray to God and to converse with him, for prayer unites us with God as his companions. As our bodily eyes are illuminated by seeing the light, so in contemplating God our soul is illuminated by him. Of course the prayer I have in mind is no matter of routine, it is deliberate and earnest. It is not tied down to a fixed timetable; rather it is a state which endures by night and day.
Our soul should be directed in God, not merely when we suddenly think of prayer, but even when we are concerned with something else. If we are looking after the poor, if we are busy in some other way, or if we are doing any type of good work, we should season our actions with the desire and the remembrance of God. Through this salt of the love of God we can all become a sweet dish for the Lord. If we are generous in giving time to prayer, we will experience its benefits throughout our life.
Prayer is the light of the soul, giving us true knowledge of God. It is a link mediating between God and man. By prayer the soul is borne up to heaven and in a marvellous way embraces the Lord. This meeting is like that of an infant crying on its mother, and seeking the best of milk. The soul longs for its own needs and what it receives is better than anything to be seen in the world.
Prayer is a precious way of communicating with God, it gladdens the soul and gives repose to its affections. You should not think of prayer as being a matter of words. It is a desire for God, an indescribable devotion, not of human origin, but the gift of God's grace. As Saint Paul says: we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.
Anyone who receives from the Lord the gift of this type of prayer possesses a richness that is not to be taken from him, a heavenly food filling up the soul. Once he has tasted this food, he is set alight by an eternal desire for the Lord, the fiercest of fires lighting up his soul.
To set about this prayer, paint the house of your soul with modesty and lowliness and make it splendid with the light of justice. Adorn it with the beaten gold of good works and, for walls and stones, embellish it assiduously with faith and generosity. Above all, place prayer on top of this house as its roof so that the complete building may be ready for the Lord. Thus he will be received in a splendid royal house and by grace his image will already be settled in your soul.
A reading from the homilies of St John Chrysostom (Hom 6 on Prayer)
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1st October Feast of St Therese of the Child Jesus

St+Therese+of+the+Child+Jesus

Gospel Matthew 18:1-4
The disciples came to Jesus and said, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ So he called a little child to him and set the child in front of them. Then he said, ‘I tell you solemnly, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. And so, the one who makes himself as little as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’

The Little Way
"I will seek out a means of getting to Heaven by a little way—very short and very straight, a little way that is wholly new. We live in an age of inventions; nowadays the rich need not trouble to climb the stairs, they have lifts instead. Well, I mean to try and find a lift by which I may be raised unto God, for I am too tiny to climb the steep stairway of perfection. [...] Thine Arms, then, O Jesus, are the lift which must raise me up even unto Heaven. To get there I need not grow; on the contrary, I must remain little, I must become still less." (from Manuscript C of her autobiography).

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30th September Feast of St Jerome


Entrance Antiphon
Cf. Ps 1: 2-3
Blessed indeed is he
who ponders the law of the Lord day and night:
he will yield his fruit in due season.
(St. Jerome by Jusepe de Ribera)

St Jerome (340 - 420)
He was born in Strido, in Dalmatia. He studied in Rome and was baptized there. He was attracted by the ascetic life and travelled to the East, where he was (unwillingly) ordained a priest. He was recalled to Rome to act as secretary to Pope Damasus, but on the Pope’s death he returned to the East, to Bethlehem, where (with the aid of St Paula and others) he founded a monastery, a hospice, and a school, and settled down to the most important work of his life, the translation of the Bible into Latin, a translation which, with some revisions, is still in use today. He wrote many works of his own, including letters and commentaries on Holy Scripture. When a time of troubles came upon the world, through barbarian invasions, and to the Church, through internal dissension, he helped the refugees and those in need. He died at Bethlehem (from The Universalis).
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