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Lent

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Matthew 6:1–6, 16–18
 
In order that we may better love the Lord our God, with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, we practise self-denial and acts of penance, and strive to reform our lives under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
 
In the Bible the heart is understood as the apex or very essence of our being, and it is the heart that needs renewing.
 
As St Benedict Joseph Labre once said, “To love god you need three hearts: a heart of fire for him, a warm heart towards our neighbour and a heart of bronze towards ourselves."
 
It is always springtime in the heart that loves God. (St John Vianney).
 
Chris
 
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Bishop's Pastoral Letter

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PASTORAL LETTER IN PREPARATION FOR THE SEASON OF LENT

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the readings for the 7th Sunday of the year, [found in your mass sheet, please take it home with your newsletter] God is calling us “to be holy”, reminding us that “we are his temple,” that “we belong to Christ,” and that “our hearts must be set on God’s kingdom and his righteousness.” Why? Because our life is born of the love of God our Father whose desire is that we may have life to the full, and that we may be people of joy and hope.

That is the framework for our Catholic life. It is so different from the framework of so many people who think that their life is their own to do with as they will. Our framework is based on our faith in the Good News that Jesus has died and is risen, that he has overcome sin and death, and that through him we receive forgiveness for our sins and the promise of eternal life.

To refresh and renew this faith, we have the time of Lent beginning this coming Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, a day of fasting and abstinence. In his Lenten message, Pope Francis invites us to “keep our eyes fixed on the outstretched arms of Christ crucified and to let ourselves be saved over and over again. And when we confess our sins, to believe firmly in his mercy which frees us from our guilt. Jesus’ death and resurrection is not a past event; through the power of the Holy Spirit it is ever present. It enables us to see and touch with faith the flesh of Christ in those who suffer.”

So, may this Lent be a favourable time to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus on the cross. How? Give time to prayer, to opening your heart to Jesus, and letting his love overcome our hardness of heart and sinfulness. May this Lent be a favourable time for repentance, for allowing Jesus to lift the burden of our sins in our acts of penance and in the sacrament of Confession. May this Lent be a favourable time for our almsgiving to the poor, and a time for showing in small ways our care for creation, and addressing the unequal distribution of the earth’s goods.

Together, can you and I really let the love of the crucified Christ draw us into a good Lent of prayer, penance and almsgiving. Then we will be able, with renewed hearts to celebrate the great mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus at Eastertime.

I want to sign off my last Pastoral Letter to you with huge thanks for the unusual kindness and support you have given to me as your Bishop for the last fourteen and a half years. Dear brother priests and people in our parishes and schools, fellow deacons and religious, thank you for the example of your faith, prayer and commitment which has been a great grace on my own journey of faith.

 With you I remain a member of the local Church in the Diocese of Northampton, and with you I look forward to welcoming our new Bishop, David, on 19 March.

 Have a grace-filled and fruitful Lent!

With much affection and every blessing,

 

Apostolic Administrator

 

 Sunday, 23 February 2020

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Heal our Blindness

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Mark 8:22–26
 
 
The account of the healing of the blind man has great significance in Mark’s Gospel.  It comes just after a period when the disciples seem unable to understand who Jesus is, despite the miracles that they have seen, and just before the revelation given to Peter and his proclamation that Jesus is the Messiah.
 
A unique aspect of this miracle is that Jesus heals the blind man in stages; his love and patience are shown in that he does not leave him until his vision is completely restored.
 
If we have questions or doubts we can trust that Jesus wants to give us the same clarity as he gave the blind man.  If we ask him in our prayer and seek him in Scripture reading, he will reveal himself and teach us just as he taught his disciples.
 
Lord Jesus, thank you for the light that you have given me.  I know that there are many things that I do not see clearly yet; please touch my eyes every day, so that I may see more of your glory and lead others to your light.
 
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Anger, righteous or not

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Matthew 5:17–37
 
 
Jesus teaches with extraordinary clarity that 'everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgement; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, "you fool” shall be liable to the hell of fire’ (v.22).
 
Jesus’s radical teaching on anger sees it as the root of murder.  Angry feelings, if they are nursed and not dealt with, become hatred.  The fruit of hatred can sometimes be actual murder.
 
Jesus does not say that we must not feel anger, express anger or even act on it, but he does say that we do not have the right to hang on to it, nurse it and vent it.
 
We must let anger go so that we can imitate Jesus more closely.  
 
Jesus’s anger never led him to sin.  He was betrayed, insulted, ridiculed tortured and crucified, but he let go any feelings of anger and forgave his oppressors, 'Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do’ (Luke 23:34).
 
Jesus shows us a new way of living.  As his disciples we must emulate him.  Whenever we are angry we must acknowledge our anger but let it go by calling on the Lord’s grace.
 
Christ’s Spirit will give us the power to fulfil his commandment to live as he did.
 
’Be angry but do not sin.’  (Ephesians 4:24)
 
 
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Pastoral Day of Reflection on Saturday 8th February 2020

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St Francis Pastoral Area Reflection Day, Saturday 8th February 2020

– summary for St. Peter’s, Biggleswade, written by Neil Spencer

There was a great turnout from all the parishes in the St. Francis Pastoral Area (Biggleswade, Shefford, Flitwick, Leighton Buzzard, Dunstable/Houghton Regis), especially from St. Peter’s (15-20 people). Many thanks to all who were able to attend, to Bob Emmett for arranging for and driving the Ivel Sprinter, and to everyone for their prayers and other input.

Introduction to the day

Our hosts at Sacred Heart, Flitwick provided welcoming teas and coffees and Canon Bennie (President of the Pastoral Area Council) opened the day in prayer. We then watched a video of Bishop Peter outlining his vision for the future of the Diocese, needing to thrive and not just survive with fewer priests available.

Session 1

Splitting into parish groups, we looked at what we could be proud about in our parish, with a view to seeing what we could build upon for the future. We were very pleased to come up with a long list of things to be proud about, covering many aspects of parish life from spiritual to charitable to practical. A number of these could be built upon, including the successful courses of faith exploration (e.g. see the bulletin notice for the upcoming “Let It Be” course) and the valuable faith development activities for children (colouring sheets, Children’s Liturgy, First Holy Communion classes, Confirmation classes).

With all parishes back together, each shared one thing about which they were especially proud. We chose to talk about music – our parish has long had a tradition of excellent music with dedicated and talented musicians enriching our worship in a way that is unusual for a parish of our size.

Session 2

Back in parish groups, we were asked to look at what needs we had in our parish to grow our mission activities and come up with some practical first steps. At the end of the session the parishes shared their discussions and plans with each other.

Following on from our discussion in the first session, we talked about how we could improve our mission to the youth of our parish, moving from the current situation (where we have activities during Mass, for First Holy Communion each year, and for Confirmation every few years) to where we are helping our young people to develop their faith on a more regular basis, from baptism to adulthood. We decided that it would be a good idea to try and form a “Youth Ministry Team”, or similar, in some way.

We also discussed how we operate in a practical way as a parish. We have lots of people undertaking various roles, many of which are not well known to the clergy and laity. This is, on occasion, causing confusion, and we are sometimes having difficulty in operating as we would like, let alone being able to build and grow activities. The ways in which other parishes organise themselves was discussed with many having a Parish Council, Advisory Group or other body which helped the clergy and laity work together. Canon Bennie suggested that a group along these lines could be created at St. Peter’s.

Session 3

After lunch, we heard about the new “Mandated Ministry” roles being suggested by the Diocese. With fewer priests being available in coming years, it will not be possible for each parish to have a parish priest (even shared with other parishes) who can adequately look after the pastoral care of the parish on their own. Looking worldwide, we have been very lucky in this country in the past, having enough priests to look after relatively small parishes. In other countries, the laity have long taken a greater role in the pastoral care of parishes and this has led the Diocesan group set up by Bishop Peter to suggest two new roles for the laity: “Pastoral Coordinators” and “Pastoral Leaders”. Elsewhere in this country, the Archdiocese of Liverpool already has people undertaking similar roles.

The possibility of merging parishes and closing churches in the Diocese had been considered. However, it was felt that this would inevitably lead to the weakening of Catholic communities and was to be avoided if at all possible (although some very small Mass centres, served by current parishes, might be unsustainable and a number have closed in recent years).

At this stage the Diocese is still exploring how these new roles would work. One of the purposes of the Reflection Days taking place across the Diocese is to help identify what is needed in parishes and thus how these roles can be more closely defined. Both roles of “Pastoral Coordinator” and “Pastoral Leader” would be open to men and women alike and involve several years (probably three) of (part-time) training provided by the Diocese. A “Pastoral Coordinator” would probably be unpaid and would coordinate the pastoral care of a parish under the direction of a parish priest who might have responsibility for several parishes. A “Pastoral Leader” would operate under a “Priest Supervisor” who would not be the parish priest. He/she would probably be paid and would take an even greater responsibility for the pastoral care of the parish than would be expected of a “Pastoral Coordinator”.

After having these new roles explained, we met again as parish groups to discuss how they might work in our own parishes. In our discussions, there was much understandable unease about the potential weakening of the relationship between parish and parish priest, with the new roles perhaps not being able to provide the same degree of spiritual direction. However, in the eventuality of not having a parish priest located near Biggleswade, the group thought that it would be good to have someone trained and appointed by the Diocese to look after the pastoral care of the parish. It was pointed out that we have had Lay Chaplains looking after pastoral care in hospitals, prisons, schools, etc. for many years and that the Second Vatican Council allowed for the creation of positions such as these almost 60 years ago. The extension of these roles to parishes is unusual in this country but perhaps not such a great leap. Exactly how these roles would operate at St. Peter’s was a source of uncertainty, in particular the extent to which a “Pastoral Coordinator” or “Pastoral Leader” would also be involved with the practical administration of the parish. Current parish income might not be sufficient to pay for a dedicated “Pastoral Leader” but perhaps these roles could be shared between parishes. The way in which “Pastoral Coordinators” and “Pastoral Leaders” were themselves co-ordinated was an area of concern but the fact that they were to be “Mandated”/appointed by the Diocese was thought to be important. The roles also provided exciting opportunities for the laity to become more involved in pastoral work in a formal manner.

Conclusion of the Day

Following discussion of the suggested “Mandated Ministry” roles in parish groups, we joined together and each parish shared their thoughts. A question and answer session took place at which it was emphasised that this is part of a genuine consultation exercise and, as such, many of the finer details of the positions were not settled. Indeed, with Bishop Peter retiring, it was possible that Bishop Elect David Oakley might wish to advance things in a different way. However, Bishop Elect David has encouraged these Reflection Days to continue to take place and will be meeting with Pastoral Areas on 28th March 2020 at Thornton College to discuss next steps.

Canon Bennie closed the day in prayer. Many thanks must go to Catherine Davies and Avril Baigent from the Diocese who were our facilitators for the day. We were also very grateful to our hosts at the Parish of Sacred Heart, Flitwick for the efforts they made to make the day a success and for their hospitality.

At St. Peter’s we will keep the parish up to date with future developments and explore how to advance with the ideas discussed in session 2.

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Come - Join St Peter’s Lent Faith Sharing Course - “Let it be”

D94673E2B43344599A74D35FE95337BFFind out more about Our Lady in preparation for the re-dedication of England as the Dowry of Mary on 29th March 2020. 

As this is an exceptional year for Christians in England and Our Lady,  our parish will re-run the CaFE “Let it be” five-session course over five Wednesdays in Lent. The course gives us a much deeper understanding of Mary from her Immaculate Conception through to her being crowned “Queen of Heaven”; and of course why she is so honoured and blessed with so many titles (well in excess of 50) including “Protector of Christians”. 

This inspiring course involves engaging video sessions that will explore Our Lady, past & present. 
Mary is arguably the greatest Lady ever; - chosen by God, the First and Perfect disciple, Mother of the Church, Queen of Heaven and an advocate to God for all Christians. Mary is the perfect model for us to follow;  her example will help us become ever closer to her son and our saviour Lord Jesus Christ.

Each person attending will be need a course book that links to the video sessions and will help you appreciate Mary’s significance to your personal faith journey. The book includes prayers and reflections to do throughout the week at home/work and if embraced will make your Lent truly devout.

To book a place simply register on line by clicking here
  or call Alban on 07751 625942.  
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Ritual Washing

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Mark 7:1–13


Jesus always condemned hypocrisy, and however well intentioned the Pharisees they had missed the point of obeying God, which is love.

The Pharisees were blind to the state of their own hearts. There is something rather intoxicating about appearing to be holier than other people – it can make us feel superior and detach us from reality.

We can all be seduced into thinking that we are in some way more holy if we do certain things, but the truth is that the holier we are, the more conscious we become of our sin and weakness.

We pray today for the grace to avoid the trap and darkness which is hypocrisy, and to walk in the light of Christ, which is the light of humility and of grace.


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Faith in Jesus

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Mark 6:1-6
 
"And Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is only despised in his own country, among his own relations and in his own house’ . . .” (v. 4)
 
The Nazerenes who refused to accept Jesus made the mistake of allowing themselves to be constrained by their reason, as revealed by their questions about him.  Despite witnessing his miracles and hearing his wisdom they wanted to know where that wisdom had come from and how a carpenter’s son could display such gifts and charisms.
 
The Nazarenes had everything they needed to come to faith — miracles, signs, wonders, wisdom — but they sought first to understand before they believed, whereas it is through belief that we come to understand.
 
Many centures later St Bernard of Clairvaux would say, “I believe though I do not comprehend, and I hold by faith wht I cannot grasp with the mind."
 
So God guides us with the light of human reason but takes us by the hand to bring us to the joy of faith.
 
Faith means that we are prepared to put all our hope, trust and certainty in God because we are sure of what we hope for and certain of what our senses do not see.
 
”O Lord my God, give me understanding to know you, diligence to seek you, wisdom to find you and faith and faithfulness to embrace you and live by your commands.” (St Thomas Aquinas)
 
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Jesus is God, Lord and Creator

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Mark 4:35-41
Jesus and disciples in a small boat with sails in a storm and rough sea.

Jesus calmed the storm that was terrifying the disciples; everything is possible with God.  But this could be the same for the storms in our own lives, so trust the Lord to care for you.

God loves us more than we love ourselves.  God knows us more than we know ourselves.  God knows every worry, every anxiety, every overarching concern which cause us to be buffeted by the tumultuous waves of life.

The Holy Spirit is at work in us to convince us that “neither death, nor life, nor angles, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, . . . nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”. (Romans 8:38-39)
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Jesus, Son of David

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2 Samuel 7:18-19, 24-29
Mark 4:21-25
 
Jesus looked to everyday life to reveal the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven.  Yesterday it was the image of a sower sowing seed, today it is of a lamp bringing light into the darkness.
 
In both cases, however, the images refer to Jesus himself.  While the seed is his word, the lamp refers to his coming into our world to bring the light of truth — truth that will set the world free from the thrall of darkness and ignorance.
 
At one level, the hiddenness of the light is related to the apparent ordinariness of Jesus.  He grew up within a family and for thirty years was simply the carpenter’s son.
 
There is a hiddenness also because people’s minds were closed to the possibility that God’s Son could come among us.  And yet the words and actions of Jesus created a dilemma: what were people to make of  what they were seeing and hearing?
 
The mystery of Jesus is also hidden within the words of the Old Testament Scriptures.  Today’s passage from 2 Samuel 7 relates King david’s desire to build God's temple in Jerusalem.  But God sent the prophet Nathan to David to tell him that, on the contrary, it would be God that would build a house for David and indeed establish a kingdom and dynasty that would last forever.
 
With the coming of Jesus and his death and resurrection, this text is fulfilled, because the kingdom of the Son of David is now established forever.
 
The light that was hidden is now revealed!
 
Lord, may the light of your wisdom enlighten my mind and heart that I may discover hidden in the Old Testament the mysteries of God, revealed in the New!
 
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