eNewsletter 28th/29th March

e-Newsletter  Lent 5A

We will live stream Mass at 9am on Sunday 29th March   This should be available on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/roystoncatholic/   As I understand it you do not need to sign up to Facebook to see this. Please note that the clocks change this weekend and this will be 9am British Summer Time! Fortunately, (and we need to look on the bright side at the moment) if you do slip up in putting the clocks back the recording will be available.

Readers etc. It would be really good to have a full roster of readers for the Easter Vigil and maybe more. Obviously this would have to be recorded readings (audio or video) but I think we should be able to do it. Thank you to those who have already volunteered. We do need more volunteers with the willingness and equipment to record themselves and send in the recording. Please e-mail me (philipknights@rcdow.org.uk) if you can help and I will get back to volunteers in the week as to which readings to prepare.

Skype Rosary We have established a regular Parish Rosary on Skype. It takes place on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings at 10.00am, and so far has proven to be an invaluable way of keeping in touch with our Parish family.  If you would like to join in please contact Anita McHugh either via Facebook or on Skype (live:anitaclayson) so she can add you to the group.

Parish Bookclub we are planning an online bookclub, the first book we will read together will be Revelations of Divine Love Julian of Norwich. The plan is to read the Long Text from the Penguin Classics edition. There will be a short meeting via Zoom on Tuesday 31st March at 6pm. Provide your own refreshments and snacks. Anyone wishing to join please go to  https://zoom.us/j/767185673 at 6 next Tuesday evening. (Meeting ID: 767 185 673) Short introductions to Julian of Norwich may be found at https://www.i-church.org/gatehouse/resources/saints/38-julian-of-norwich and http://juliancentre.org/ .

Community Stations I have created a document which includes images of the stations in our Church. It would be good if people could add a thought or two (a prayer, a reflection, a scripture verse) These could then be the basis of a shared set of Stations for Good Friday. At the current moment the link below should open a document to which anyone can contribute. This is risky but I hope is an opportunity of genuine prayerful collaboration. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1nKhwe69VX6gcuFfkyUUnn94TnLUvthPmaxNa5Ecr1zU/edit?usp=sharing

Mass Intentions I am offering intentions at the private masses I am celebrating but for reasons of privacy it seems best not to announce them on the recorded or live-streamed masses. If you would wish an intention to be offered please let the parish office know.

Holy Week and ‘Easter Duties’ The Vatican have issued some instructions on the celebration of Holy Week in these strange circumstances and the Bishops Conference and our Diocese have promised further guidance will be ‘circulated soon’. I will try and keep you informed when I have the information!

Sacrament of Reconciliation A question was raised as to reconciliation over telephone, Skype etc. The guidance we have received from the bishops is clear: that would not be sacramentally valid. Given the increased restrictions, the closure of the Church building and the demands of social distancing, it is very difficult to see how to manage the celebration of the sacrament during the present restrictions. The classic advice in this situation is that those who are in a state of mortal sin should offer a perfect act of contrition and firmly resolve to make their confession before receiving Holy Communion. When public worship begins again and it is possible to receive communion there will be opportunities to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation beforehand. The best advice is always to avoid sin and evil and do good.

Fr Philip

Funerals in the ‘new normal’

Today (26th March) I presided at my first funeral since the lockdown.

In fact I had met with the family and discussed things before the restrictions of this last week, but it was a peculiar and different experience.

I hope I feel sympathy for every bereaved family but I felt particular sympathy for this one. They suffered from the impact of this dreadful virus, even though the virus itself was not directly causative of their loss.

The funeral was limited as to who could attend — immediate family only — and those who did attend had to observe strict social isolation and sit 2m or more apart. As I told the mourners, the circumstances we are undergoing are making what is already a difficult time more difficult.

For clarity: as things stand funerals can take place but only by the graveside or at a crematorium. I would offer mass for the deceased as a matter of course, but in the first instance this would be a private mass. It would be possible to arrange a Memorial Service of some kind after the present restrictions have been lifted.

All preparations for funerals would have to be done remotely: by telephone or video conferencing, e-mail etc. I am preparing a short pack of resources I would be able to send to families who I cannot meet in person.

I do hope that everyone stays healthy and there will be very few funerals at this time.

Most other ‘occasional offices’ can be deferred until less restricted times, except in the gravest of emergencies. However, I do feel for baptism families who will have to have their celebrations postponed. I hope that this present crisis will have passed by the summer and those who have booked weddings will not be too disrupted, but of course we cannot know how things will develop.

Please pray for all who mourn and for all whose rhythm of life and rites of passage are disrupted by the current situation.

E-Newsletter 24 iij 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The announcements of the Prime Minister last night (confirmed by a message from the Cardinal this morning) mean that I will now close the Church building entirely. We had hoped to have the building open for private prayer but the new restrictions mean we cannot do that. Please note my careful use of ‘Church building’ there: the Church, the people of God, the community of faith goes on, even if the physical place of our meeting is unavailable for the duration of this pandemic. Our life of prayer continues; our caring for our neighbours continues. Clearly digital and electronic means will be an important way of supporting our community life during this difficult time. My intention is that once a week I shall send a e-newsletter like this one, which will take the place of our usual printed newsletter. If you have items for inclusion please e-mail me a short notice. The reasonable assumption is that all things which involve gathering of peoples and most Church activities are cancelled or postponed.

Distance, Digital and Spiritual Participation in Mass.

These circumstances oblige us to make the best of what is quite clearly not the best of situations. Not least, even though we cannot participate in mass in the way we would wish, we can read the readings of the day if we have a printed missal and offer prayer from our own homes in union with the Church. Amongst resources which can assist us with this are: https://universalis.com , http://www.wednesdayword.org and https://www.catholicireland.net/readings/ .

There are several available live-streams of mass: please see either https://www.churchservices.tv or   https://rcdow.org.uk/news/how-to-participate-in-mass-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak/ for many links and times.

In our own parish our current experimentation has so far been through two channels, either a live-stream via Facebook or recording the mass and posting it on Youtube. The quality of sound and picture is obviously better on the Youtube channel but there was something very moving on Sunday of all being together in real time. My intention is therefore to continue to offer a mix. I will post recordings of weekday masses on Youtube and hope to have those recordings uploaded by the usual times of weekday masses (7:30pm Tuesday and 9:15 am Wednesday, Thursday, Friday). However, I will again try to live-stream Sunday masses at 9am (bandwidth permitting). This pattern is not set in stone and we will keep it under review.

I would encourage you all to participate in this by making an act of Spiritual Communion.

Act of Spiritual Communion:

My Jesus,

I believe that you are present in this Holy Sacrament of the altar.

I love you above all things

and I passionately desire to receive you into my soul.

Since I cannot now receive you sacramentally,

come spiritually into my soul

so that I may unite myself wholly to you now and forever.


Food Bank. It is not completely clear how the food bank will be able to function during these restrictions but the need is very much there. The ‘pink box’ will be outside the sacristy door for any contributions you may be willing to offer.

Sacrament of Reconciliation. I am available to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation, while observing the limits of social distancing. At the present time this is best arranged by appointment. I will give more information next week of how I may be able to be available for reconciliation in Holy Week.

Holy Week.  Usually at this time of year we are seeking volunteers to prepare and assist with the Holy Week liturgies. 2020 is going to be very different from the usual. However, it would be very helpful to have contributions from you to our unusual keeping of the Triduum and Easter. Not least it would be very helpful to have video contributions from readers for Stations of the Cross on Good Friday and for the Easter Vigil. If you are willing to do this and have the technology to allow you to record yourself offering a station or reading a vigil reading (or singing a Psalm!) please let me know as soon as possible, and we can share out the readings between us.

Prayer with Pope Francis


Pope Francis has called on us all to pray with him on the Feast of the Annunciation. He addressed all Christians in Sunday:

Dear brothers and sisters,

In these trying days, while humanity trembles due to the threat of the pandemic, I would like to propose to all Christians that together we lift our voices towards Heaven. I invite all the Heads of the Churches and the leaders of every Christian community, together with all Christian of the various confessions, to invoke the Almighty, the omnipotent God, to recite at the same time the prayer that Jesus, our Lord, taught us. I, therefore, invite everyone to do this several times a day, but all together, to recite the Our Father this coming Wednesday, 25 March, at noon, all together. On that day  on which many  Christians recall the annunciation to the Virgin Mary of the Incarnation of the Word, may the Lord listen to the united prayer of all of His disciples who are preparing themselves to celebrate the victory of the Risen Christ.

With this same intention, this coming Friday, 27 March, at 6:00pm, I will preside over a moment of prayer on the sagrata of Saint Peter’s Basilica, before the empty square. I invite everyone to participate spiritually through the means of communication. We will listen to the Word of God, we will lift up our supplication, we will adore the Blessed Sacrament, with which at the end, I will give the Urbi et Orbi blessing, to which will be connected the possibility of receiving the plenary indulgence.

Rededication of England as ‘Dowry of Mary’

You will recall from the Cardinal’s Pastoral Letter of a few weeks ago, that the 29th March has been planned as a day to rededicate England to our Blessed Mother. Our parish plans were to have an act of rededication in our Church building. However, that is no longer possible. I would encourage as many who can to join in with the prayers that will be happening at Walsingham. These will include a live-stream of the act of rededication. More information and resources may be found at https://www.behold2020.com

May God’s blessing stay with you all.        Fr Philip

Lent 4 A Laetare Sunday – Mothering Sunday

Please find below the homily and intercessions prepared for this Sunday. NB This will make most sense if you read the readings of the day before reading the rest of this post. These are available at https://www.catholicireland.net/readings/ and elsewhere.

Lent 4A

On this, our first live streamed Mass, I have to come clean and admit before the online world that I have just been slightly naughty with the liturgical rules. We are offered a choice between a longer version of the Gospel reading or a shorter one. We had the shorter one, except I lengthened it a little by adding the first paragraph of the longer one.

In that first paragraph is the nub of what I want to say today.

As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth.

His disciples asked him,

“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents,

that he was born blind?”

Jesus answered,

“Neither he nor his parents sinned;

it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.

That is the essential starting point. Not blaming the sufferer, but responding to his or her needs. All too often we see misfortunes as punishment: when it is much healthier to see them as opportunities for love.

I say that under advisement. I have heard of an Israeli Rabbi claiming that the coronavirus is a punishment from God because of Gay Pride marches and an American Evangelical saying it is God’s judgement on Communism and also a Singapore Muslim preacher has claimed it is divine retribution on the Chinese treatment of the Uighur people. Small minded hate and fear is truly international and ecumenical.  Fortunately these examples are not typical of their faith traditions. No; Coronavirus is a virus not a punishment. God is a God of love not vindictiveness. Whatever else is before us in this pandemic, it gives us an opportunity to support the vulnerable and show love to those who suffer. This crisis demands our compassion and not cruel judgementalism. This is the time for literally washing our hands, thoroughly and regularly, and caring for each other, not metaphorically washing our hands and blaming the victims.

Sr Patricia quoted wise words to me the other day: “Fear knocked at the door. Faith answered. And there was no-one there.” I like that. “Fear knocked at the door. Faith answered. And there was no-one there.” Be guided by faith not fear: let faith nourish love. As we read in the first letter of St John: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. (1 John 4:18)

Let us state clearly and fundamentally: the Lord intends to heal the wounds of humanity. Because he cares for us, he wants to reach out and heal our suffering. He is with us in our pain and disruption. He walks this road with us.

Healing has many dimensions. The Lenten disciplines, self- discipline, examination of conscience, seeking reconciliation, prayer and active compassion for our neighbours all engage with this manifold theme of healing. Prayer, fasting and almsgiving express key medications for our spiritual, mental and physical well being.

The healing we hear of in this Gospel passage is indeed physical but it is also social, communal and spiritual. We should not diminish the importance of physical health. But as is all too obvious at the present time: physical well being is intimately connected to a healthy society; healthy attitudes and mental well-being impact on bodily health; and yes spiritual well-being underpins all other dimensions of life.

That is why in normal times I have so often encouraged people to go on retreats. A time of quiet and reflection and prayer is very good for you. I have to be honest, this present situation is NOT what I had in mind. However, it may be that a silver lining of the undoubtedly grey cloud oppressing us is that we may have more time on our hands. And part of that time can be spent in healthy quiet and reflection and prayer. The Benedictine pattern of life creates spaces for prayer and work and recreation. That may be no bad thing to have in the back of our minds. Do spend some time in regular prayer, read the readings of the Mass, participate online in live streamed or recorded masses, Do also set aside for something like ‘work’, be that literally working in the traditional sense, or reading, or study or housework or gardening. And on Mothering Sunday, I would give special honour and thanks for the vital work of parenting. Personally, I intend revising and expanding my grasp of Hebrew. Learning verb forms will pass a few hours. And yes, do relax and have time for recreation, do something you enjoy. I intend spending some time practising playing music.

Talk of music leads me to one of my favourite Lenten hymns which begins: ‘Now is the healing time decreed’. If you have the time, I’d recommend finding the Thomas Tallis arrangement of Ecce Tempus Idoneum, using the original Latin. I did wonder if I could give you a short snippet, but I think broadcasting that would contravene copyright and performing rights laws – and I have enough worries at the moment without risking prosecution!

The words of the hymn both acknowledge our need for healing and the grace which comes from God which truly heals and raises us up. The fourth verse in the English translation goes

Cleanse us, O Lord, from every stain,

Help us the gifts of grace to gain,

Till with the angels, linked in love,

Joyful we tread thy courts above.

May this time of disruption lead us into the joy God intends for us.

May our eyes be opened to see the grace and mercy before us.

May the healing time do that which it has been decreed for.

We gather before the Lord who desires healing and who will lead us into the fullness of life: let us present to him our hopes and concerns.

For the Church: that the people of God may hold on to hope and support those in greatest need.  Lord hear us Lord graciously hear us

For the Nations of the world: for those beset by economic difficulties and for international collaboration during this present crisis.  Lord hear us

For our Town and villages: for key workers in the health service and social care, for all who help their neighbours and support the common good.   Lord hear us

For those who suffer in body, mind or spirit: for those suffering from and made anxious by the coronavirus.   Lord hear us

For those who have died, both those who have died recently and those whose anniversary of death occurs at this time.   Lord hear us

May Mary, Mother of Jesus, Mother of the Church and our Mother pray with us and for us.  Hail Mary …

Loving Father, most merciful Lord, hear your people as the cry out to you: accept our prayers and give us your peace. We ask this through Christ our Lord Amen.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The threat of infection is a bad thing. However, before it we are offered choices: we can do well by each other or we can do badly.

Panic in the supermarket aisles is neither necessary nor good. Sensible stocking up is one thing, hording and denying essentials to other people is something else. Being rude to shop staff is uncalled for.

Worse, there are criminals and scammers who are seeking to exploit people’s fear and vulnerability. Do be on your guard against those with malicious intent.

However, this is a time in which we have an opportunity to do good:

  • Please be kind to one another. Please help each other. I hope natural existing relationships between people in our parish will mean we look after each other. But if you are in need, please let the parish office know (01763 243117 or royston@rcdow.org.uk) and if you are willing to help please add your name to the list of volunteers we are compiling, by again letting the parish office know.
  • Use the space given wisely: pray, read, spend time with beauty. I recommend listening to beautiful music.
  • Get on with that project you have been putting off because you are too busy.

Prayer in these disrupted times

Thee are many resources available, some of which I have already noted for you, to assist us maintain spiritual communion in these disrupted times.

I would signpost those at https://rcdow.org.uk/news/resources-during-mass-suspension/

Lent in isolation is offering daily reflections precisely for these times and includes livestreams from the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham

In particular you may find helpful the leaflets: When Mass cannot be celebrated publicly and No one is alone: prayer when confined to your home

For those able to get into Church, there will be some printed and available as hard copies of these leaflets at the back of Church.