25th April 2020

Dear Parishioners,

With another weekend, comes a further attempt to get the Newsletter to you. Some recipients have let me know that they are unable to open the attachment that comes with these few lines. I suspect that this may be something to do with varying versions of software that we all use. The computer that I work on is powered by hamsters driving a wheel ! Only joking … it is really me using a treadle-system ! Apologies for the frustrations of this, however there is always a Plan B, and in this case another point of accessing the Newsletter is at the following web address: stpaulscleckheaton.wordpress.com

From next weekend I look forward to adding to this the address of an up-dated web-page for Holy Spirit which has been worked on behind the scenes in recent times.

Hopefully you continue to remain well, and like the majority of us, are doing your best to live within the Government Guidelines, which are in place to help look after as many of us as possible, together with our fabulous NHS. During the week in a three-way conversation held at a safe distance in the bank (marked out by footprints on the floor !) reflection was made on our present situation. It was noted that what could never have been imagined has become reality, how ‘normal’ now involves queuing, the evolution of working from home, traveling less, many parents and children spending much more time together, a greater awareness of the needs of others, and how the habits formed in the mists of time – such as the washing of hands – are taking on a new relevance … The list continued to grow.

The comments made were a reminder of how chameleon-like we actually are, adapting relatively quickly to the environment in which we find ourselves. This is something I often mention at the beginning of Lent, our spiritual opportunity to embrace change. Psychologists tell us that it takes about three weeks to form a habit and a couple of months for it to become automatic. At this juncture in lockdown we are at a half-way point in this process of change and adaptation. This may well be why, we have been advised to give our days shape and routine, rather than just allow one day to merge into another, so that time is not wasted and good habits are ultimately maintained for our good.

It isn’t all positive, and perhaps as much as anyone, I am aware of the frustrations and seemingly hard edges that some of today’s limitations bring to bear on people’s lives. The author of the Book of Ecclesiastes wrote that there is a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing. The latter is very hard but necessary, and perhaps we have to be creative in our manner of addressing situations where the most natural response would be a wordless hug. For those currently living in darkness, not least through bereavement, we are called upon to offer them a glimpse of the hope and optimism of Christ’s resurrection. Assuring them too, not least that when lockdown comes to an end, and it is safe to do so, a hug of compassion will be waiting for them.

Reading the Acts of the Apostles during our daily Masses, I never cease to be amazed at how quickly our forebears in Faith responded to the reality of Christ’s resurrection and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on them. St. Luke tells us that the whole group of believers was united, heart and soul, and none of their members was ever in want. Whilst it may seem somewhat Utopian it was not without issue, such as when some of the vulnerable, namely the Hellenist widows, were being overlooked in the daily distribution of help. However, through prayer and with generosity of spirit (both Divine and human), the situation was remedied in the willingness of some members of the early Church to offer helping hands and so come to the assistance of those in need. Two thousand years on from those times, we continue to hear of need, and respond to it with kindness, generosity and willingness. The human spirit being the channel of the Holy Spirit.

Unchartered waters face many of us in unprecedented times. Last week I mentioned making my first Conference Call in relation to offering continuing governance to our primary school. There was a dummy-run in preparation for this the previous day. Ever punctual, I was the first to be connected, and this allowed me to speak to some of those who work behind the scenes in the Education Department of Kirklees, giving me the opportunity to thank them for all that they do. Our own school staff continue to offer the opportunity of learning to children during these times, and are a credit to our community.

Another area of lockdown creativity that I’ve ventured into this week has been that of hair management. There comes a point when a man (or at least this man) can only carry so much hair on his head, and I felt that I had over-reached my limit. Settling myself to watch a couple of you-tube clips (no pun intended) as to how to do the deed I felt that I had completed the required theory qualification. Unsurprisingly, the virtual teachers made it look easy, displaying a dexterity, with clippers in one hand and a mirror in the other, that I subsequently discovered were gifts that I do not possess ! However, armed with the tools of the trade i.e. clippers that should have four settings (somehow the Number 3 blade has gone walk-about), and a mirror I plucked up the confidence needed to begin. The first lesson learnt is perhaps the most important: when the first locks fall to the floor … there is definitely no going back ! The result, dare I say, isn’t too bad. It feels comfortable and having been out on our relatively deserted streets no one has noticeably stared at me, neither have they asked who the skilled person was that did the deed. If some are wondering if this is the answer to their hirsute issues, all I can say is that whilst the grey hair may be less, it hasn’t disappeared.

This weekend the gospel reading is the magnificent story of the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus. It is a beautiful story, and speaks to us about what is familiar within the celebration of Holy Mass; the gift of Sacred Scripture, and the Eucharist. The Risen Christ is very much understood as the ultimate High Priest as He explains the scriptures that are about Himself to the disciples, and then as He breaks bread for the wearied and downhearted travellers returning to the country from Jerusalem where they have witnessed the events of Good Friday.

In the explanation of the Word and the breaking of bread, their spirits were renewed and, despite their previous anxieties about the dangers of the darkness that had fallen outside, they return to Jerusalem full of joy and delight, eager to share their story of meeting the Risen Lord. I’m always struck by the fact that when Jesus begins to walk with them, they fail to recognize Him because their faces are downcast. Looking downward, dwelling on the negative, and being without hope, are not the characteristics of the followers of Christ. Instead His disciples are called to be ever vigilant, filled with joyful hope and to fan into the brightest of flames even the faintest of glimmers of light. If we dare to lift our eyes to the heavens at the moment, we will see some of the most beautiful skies, blue and pure during the day, bright and vibrant at night. A tangible reminder of our Creator God, who when They viewed the work of Their hands at the beginning, saw … it was very good. A contemporary hymn, Be still and know I am with you, contains the line: the stars shine only in darkness. For those we know who are struggling in any form of darkness may we bring the gift of light.

Be assured of a continued remembrance in the Road to Emmaus event that I am privileged to celebrate each day – Holy Mass – not only of yourself, but also of those upper most in your hearts, together with the daily unfolding intentions of your lives.

United in affection and prayer,

Fr. Nicholas

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