A reflection from Fr Stephen

During the week we remembered the birthday 22nd June of the baby Luigi Orione – in his home parish of Pontecurone there was great excitement. During the month of May mothers placed many flowers to honour Our Lady, but one rose remained and people knew there was a special grace afoot…

A future saint was born and then baptised next day on 23rd June on the feast of the birthday of St. John the Baptist.

The birthday and baptismal day of St. Luigi are often passed-by without a thought as we celebrate his feast day 16th May – the day he was proclaimed Saint by Pope John Paul II on that day 2004.

In times of Covid 19, a moment to remember our own birth days and our baptismal days and to give thanks and praise to God for the people we are and above all that we may be / become what He wants us to be / become.

Today I give thanks to God for the Sisters of Charity of St. Paul the Apostle (SP) who have been and continue to be such an important part of my life. I know recipients of this email also have special connections with them. Please pray for SP communities and associates today, on this their feast day.

As you will glean from the Cardinal’s message and from stirrings within the parishes, life is beginning to pick up and a hint of normality is on the horizon. At Cardinal Heenan House things will begin to regain momentum, but it will be slow and we cannot expect regular Mass for the local community for some time. The first step will be opening for the residents only. Then its watch this space… My suggestion is for people normally attending Mass at Cardinal Heenan House to attend their own parishes, following the indications of Cardinal Nichols – to attend Mass also during weekdays, to spread numbers more evenly and with a reminder that the Sunday obligation is suspended until further notice. What matters is heart to heart – living the faith, reaching out to God and the local community as best as possible, but from the heart. That may mean from our houses or frequenting liturgies in reduced format. And heart to heart, opening our hearts with loving trust to let God into our lives, listening to His voice, to His word, to His will…

As we begin to reclaim something of normality, we reflect on what we have been for others and what they have been for us, these last three months of lockdown. Pope Francis invited us to be field workers. Fr. Joseph and Fr. Philip and myself have been field workers keeping the gardens and grounds in order. At Cardinal Heenan House we have been a team of four, as I have been assisted by Peter, Irene and Philip H. The fruit of Covid 19 is that especially on the allotment there has been a transformation that could never have happened in normal times as our busyness did not allow for it.

For us it has not only been field work in horticultural terms. As priests we have, in our own ways, been connected with the people entrusted to us – and this has proved to be enriching for us as clergy and for the people who so kindly support us or who avail of our ministries.

From the Don Orione Sisters, Sr. Gabriella PSMC wrote (before the death of Sr. Catherine Vose PSMC 23 May 2020) of the surreal times in the Mother House in Tortona on 12 and 13 March and the next two months of watching the elderly sisters going to hospital and not returning, of seeing their suffering and fear; of speaking words of false hope to them – of listening to media and switching off as incredible source of information given the awful reality and sense of hopelessness they were experiencing; of not praying and not being able to pray; of being disconnected from God, of losing sight of him; of that constant 24 hours a day service – just keeping going, aimlessly and in a daze…   

St. Vincent de Paul says our charitable works replace our prayer, but should not become the norm.   St. Paul the Apostle tells us when we cannot pray, the Spirit prays in us.  

Sr. Gabriella will have taken another hard blow with the PSMC sisters and others who knew Sr. Catherine Vose from Wigan…  I would say, without brushing aside the traumatic memories, ‘take heart’ because the Spirit prays and works in and through us, in mysterious ways, that we often do not understand, and maybe without words, and gives us the strength needed. St. Vincent de Paul would understand very well these are times when charity does replace formal prayer. Our own St. Luigi Orione is also close, side by side.

Covid 19 as awful as it is / has been, has potentially enriched and strengthened each of us … this gives us reason to step back and give thanks to God with prayerful praise and gratitude. Sr. Gabriella has said she is finding God / Jesus again…   Let us continue to pray for everyone world wide who have helped Covid 19 victims in whatever way, and however insignificant or great. Let’s pray for all those around the world who have died of Covid 19. Let’s pray to those who have died of Covid 19, and all the deceased that they may intercede for us and still be present with their loving goodness and kindness. Let’s look forward to the post-Covid 19 era with renewed faith, hope and love and a reawakening of what God asks of us in our daily  lives as we journey towards a better world and eternity …  Amen

Fr. Stephen Beale FDP

This is the youtube link message with Cardinal Vincent Nichols explaining spreading of Sunday Mass goers throughout the week for the foreseeable future: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CLsyL5yggVI