This October sees the next Synod on Family Life. The Bishops of England and Wales invited lay people to prepare for this important Synod by reflecting on the gift of marriage and family and responding to a document entitled ‘The Call, the Journey and t…
Archives for July 2015
Sex and the Eucharist ~ the latest in the series exploring different aspects
of marriage by Jane and Charles Perryman
Fr Ronald Rolheiser’s short book “Our One Great Act of Fidelity” is a series of short reflections on various aspects of the Eucharist….
This October sees the next Synod on Family Life. The Bishops of England and Wales invited lay people to prepare for this important Synod by reflecting on the gift of marriage and family and responding to a document entitled ‘The Call, the Journey and the Mission’. This is the response of the Union of Catholic Mothers Foundation of Holy Rood, Barnsley. 1 What are the joys and hopes of marriage and family life today? All those who have enjoyed long and happy marriages want this for their families – contented and settled relationships such as they have experienced. For those who have not been so blessed, it must be even more important to see their families secure and happy. Though this is not always apparent today, those entering into marriage need a firm determination that they will make it work; this continuing effort brings many rewards and blessings which are not always immediately apparent, but which develop over the years with a maturing relationship. 2 What are your struggles and fears of marriage and family life today? All struggles – personal, financial, health issues and relationships – affect a family and all the individuals in it, either helping them to become stronger and more mature or widening the cracks until there comes a final breakdown. We feel that attitudes towards marriage are changing radically, leaving the older ones amongst us unable and unwilling to understand or accept the viewpoints of younger generations. Marriage break-up is traumatic for all concerned, especially for children who are frequently left confused, with feelings of guilt and sharply divided loyalties. 3 How can we better understand marriage as a vocation? We must be clear that marriage IS a vocation, which is something very different from a career or a lifestyle choice. A career comes with learning, acquiring qualifications, promotions and, hopefully, security. In a marriage you hope and pray for a happy-ever-after life with a loving and supportive partner, a happy family and a nice home. You may end up with all of these, some of them – or none, because marriage is a leap in the dark and there are many issues which have a bearing on its progress. Looking on marriage as a vocation, a couple will travel its road with love, prayer and mutual support, not regarding it as a career or contract of employment which can be changed or terminated at will. 4 How does your marriage enrich you? At its best a marriage enriches those in it with joy, peace and happiness, hopefully in a loving family, with mutual support in all the bad times and enjoying and celebrating the good times, each understanding the other’s needs and endeavouring to put them before one’s own. Children are enriched by the parents’ example, seeing before them a lifestyle which they can aim to replicate in their own relationships. 5 How does your family life enrich those around you? The example of a loving, happy and supportive family cannot fail to enrich those with whom it comes into contact. And this family is not only the “nuclear” family of mum, dad and kids, but also the wider family of brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts and grandparents, as well as the Church community which can offer many of these graces to those who might otherwise be deprived of them. 6 In what way through the abiding presence of God is your family “salt of the earth and light of the world” and a place of and for handing on our faith? A strong and abiding faith to hand on to one’s children is something close to the hearts of all Catholic parents. Sometimes the children accept the gift of faith, and sometimes they don’t; there are no hard and fast rules, and often parents feel guilt if their children do not choose to follow their path. However, loving example rather than confrontation is often felt to be the most effective way to go. There is also a feeling that faith can be spread through example in the wider community, taking part by appointment or volunteering roles, performing such services as well as possible for the good of others and, most importantly, being known and respected in these roles as a person of integrity AND as a Catholic. If our Church encourages us to reach out to the wider community as a result of our faith, some of that faith may “rub off” on those with whom it comes into contact. At the very least, it will bring more knowledge and understanding of the Catholic faith to a diverse range of people, and possibly motivate some of them to enquire more deeply into the faith.
The Ministry of Deacon is often described as one of service in three areas: the Word, the Liturgy and Charity. Deacons play a vital role in the life of our community. The children of St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School, Dinnington have been studying the life of St Stephen. As part of their work they enjoyed a visit from Deacon Geoff Spark. Ciara, a pupil at the school, explained what they had learnt about Deacons. Read her account below. “In our class we have been learning about St Stephen who was chosen to spread the word. Stephen was the first deacon and was also a martyr which is someone who is willing to die for what they believe in. Talking about this lead us to think about what a deacon is. On Friday the first of May, Deacon Geoff came into our class to talk about what it is like to be a deacon. Now we know I will tell you. To be a deacon you must train for at least four years although it took Deacon Geoff six, but that is because he spread out his training. Geoff told us that the first thing you have to do if you want to become a deacon is to go and see the Bishop, which in this case was Bishop John. He wanted to know what Geoff was doing in the parish already. When he had done that, he started to train. The first step of training is to go to night classes, read the Bible and pray for four years. He also had to write eight essays. What a lot of work! Deacon Geoff said that he trained in Sheffield at the Pastoral Centre. Next Deacon Geoff told us about the main responsibilities of a deacon. He has to always be a role model and to live his life as Jesus might have done. Another responsibility is to praise the Church every day. Twenty years ago Geoff was inspired to be a deacon when he was talking to someone who had retired from being a deacon. He told Geoff all about it and it stayed in his head for a long time. Finally, after two years, he decided that he wanted to become a deacon. Being a deacon has changed Geoff’s life in many ways but he had to work very hard as well. He described being a deacon (as) an Icon, which means role model. I really enjoyed having Deacon Geoff in our school.”
Fr James Shekelton relates how a group of young people enriched their encounter with Christ as they pilgrimaged along part of the Camino de Santiago. Between 2nd-11th April the Young Adults group, 20 participants from around the Diocese, walked the last 120km of the famous “Camino de Santiago” in Northern Spain. This route has been a well-trodden path for pilgrims for over 1000 years as every year tens of thousands walk toward Santiago from different parts of Europe. In the Cathedral are found the remains of Santiago the Apostle (St James). It is a very special place that talks of God to anyone, independent of their belief or religion. They arrived in the town of Sarria on Holy Thursday and began to walk on Good Friday. During the days of the Triduum they participated in the different liturgies in the towns along the way, sleeping every night in the pilgrims hostels. They arrived at Santiago de Compostela on Easter Wednesday and on the Thursday went to Finisterre, “end of the earth”, where they had Mass on what was once believed to be the furthest point of civilisation. On the Friday they spent the day in Santiago itself, visiting the Cathedral and returned to the UK on Saturday. It was, as they themselves testified, a life changing experience and had a deep impact on all the particpants. It was a moment to discover oneself and to be enriched through an encounter with Christ, receiving the Sacraments along the way, meeting fellow pilgrims and enjoying each other’s company. Bishop Ralph refers to the words from the Catechism of the Catholic Church in his Pastoral Letter, which was read in Parishes throughout the Diocese on the Feast of Pentecost. Dear Brothers and Sisters in Jesus Christ, Happy Feast! I sometimes think of the Feast of Pentecost as the “Cinderella” feast in the Church’s calendar – often overshadowed by the other major feasts of Christmas and Easter. However, the preface of today’s Mass reminds us just how important a feast it is: For bringing your Paschal Mystery to completion, you bestowed the Holy Spirit today on those you made your adopted children by uniting them to your only begotten Son. The same spirit, as the Church came to birth, opened to all people the knowledge of God and brought together the many languages of the earth in profession of one faith. Today we have Luke‘s noisy account of the first Pentecost of rushing wind and tongues of fire. In contrast, the gospel speaks of the Spirit as a gentle teacher and reminder of the truth. The Spirit of God comes to us in many forms and many disguises. But one thing is for sure: by the gift of the same Spirit, we can never be without the presence of God – that’s the promise of Pentecost. It was the Spirit that led the early disciples into unchartered waters, places of uncertainty and of the unfamiliar. No doubt, they would have preferred to have remained around the places and the people they knew. It was the same Spirit, too, that directed the early Church to gather in communities for the breaking of bread, and to proclaim the marvels of God. Today, the same Spirit invites us individually and as communities, to centre our lives on the breaking of bread and the proclamation of the Word. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, for example, reminds us that the Eucharist remains “the source and summit of the Church’s life”. The sacraments, and indeed all the other ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate are bound up with the Eucharist and are orientated towards it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch.” (CCC 1324) In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis’ clear message is that it is Church’s mission today, as in previous generations, to announce to everyone the Good News that God the Father calls us to share in God’s own life. He writes, “It is vitally important for the Church today to go forth and preach the Gospel to all: to all places, on all occasions, without hesitation, reluctance or fear. The joy of the Gospel is for all people: no one can be excluded.” (Evangelii Gaudium 23) This journey of “communion and mission” is a joy that fills the heart of the disciple of Jesus in every generation. It does not, however, come without its challenges. Part of my role as bishop is ensure that parish life across the diocese remains rooted in the Eucharist and the sacraments and that parishes are fit for mission. The priest is key to the celebration of the Eucharist and the sacraments but the mission of the Church belongs to us all through our baptism. One of the challenges we face in common with dioceses across the country today is how best to deploy priests to allow this “communion and mission’ to thrive across the diocese. In this regard, I believe we stand at a crossroads. Since I arrived in the diocese almost a year ago, five priests have died. Four priests have retired and there are others who intend to step down in the months ahead. Of the 34 active incardinated priests, 10 are over 70 and 11 over 60. There are 71 churches to be served. Some good news is that we have 3 men in formation at present and 3 more who are seeking to become candidates this coming academic year. However, making it possible for communion and mission to flourish is not solely dependent on the priests of the diocese. As I have moved around the diocese over the last few months, I cannot help but notice the treasury of gifts present in the diocese. The Spirit of God calls us to make best use of all these gifts to renew and build. In the words of Pope Francis: “These gifts are meant to renew and build up the Church. They are not an inheritance, […]