31st October 2020

Dear Parishioners, 

Once more I greet you at the beginning of a weekend with the Newsletter and Readings for the Masses of All Saints’ Day. Hopefully you remain well and positive in these trying and testing, not to mention sometimes wearying and confusing times. There is strength in just knowing that we are a part of something greater than our own seemingly shrinking and limited environments. Our community of Faith unites us in love and keeps the bright and cheery light of hope in view.  

With November, beginning as it does with the glorious feast of All Saints, we traditionally bring to thought and prayer those who have gone before us, called home by Almighty God, commemorated on the day following – Holy Souls.  

In the early weeks of the year I was asked to celebrate a Funeral Service for a lady called Margaret. I had not met her, but she had lived latterly in a nursing home in the Spen Valley. Rich in years, long removed from where she had been brought up, and from where she had lived and worked, her nearest relatives were of a similar age and unable to attend her Funeral. In fact there was no direct next of kin to speak with and glean some insight into a life journey that had begun over ninety years beforehand. Despite an appeal in the local press via the Coroners’ Office (which is the norm in such circumstances) no one came forward. Margaret had shrewdly made some plans for her Funeral stipulating a Catholic Priest to officiate, and purchasing a grave in a churchyard of her choice. I lived in the hope that someone from her past would turn up at the grave. But nobody did. On an incredibly damp, windy, cold and rather dark day the Funeral Director and myself were alone. Before beginning the Service I mentioned to the lady Funeral Director that if she wished to return with the Bearers to the warmth of the awaiting car she could do so as I would be praying the full Funeral Service. She declined, and remained, admirably, in the wet and cold.  

Whilst I had no personal details to recount during the Homily I reflected on the fact that the quality of welcome God gives to us at the end of life’s pilgrimage is based on what He knows about us, reassuringly not on the views that other people have of us or even what they think they know about us ! I also mentioned the fact that we should befriend the dead, especially through our prayers for them.  

Walking away from the grave, wet, cold and muddy, the Funeral Director commented on the poignancy of the words befriending the dead and said that it had given her a new insight into the significance of Funeral Services. With aspirations of eternal life it seems very sensible to make friends with those who have gone before us as we are living in hope of spending a lot of time with them in the future !  

Walking away from Margaret’s grave little could I have envisaged the adaptations, alterations and changes that I would be called upon to make in regard to the manner in which I would be celebrating Funeral Services during Lockdown. At this juncture in time, I am aware of the reality that our annual Cemetery Mass cannot take place this year. This is something that over the last few years has come into its own by way of significance and meaning for the families of our parish communities. Celebrating an outdoor Mass where some of our loved ones rest, offering the highest prayer we can for those known to us, and those that in prayerful remembrance we are befriending.   

This year has been one of great ingenuity; learning to do things in new ways and also having the confidence to do different things. So, perhaps in the absence of our outdoor Mass, it may be possible to walk through one of our cemeteries to befriend those buried there and to remember loved ones of our own whose faces we have cherished, voices we vividly recall, and presence we quietly miss. Relationships and friendships are not lost or broken when God makes the call for a soul to return to Him, but simply changed and altered. On such a walk recall too those who, like Margaret, were prayed into eternal life by an unfamiliar voice and with Ritual observed by the stranger. By so doing, when one day – with hope – we too are enjoying the banquet of eternal life, we may find ourselves unsurprised by a gentle tap on the shoulder and a warm welcome from the likes of Margaret, grateful for our befriending of them as they made their final journey back to God. 

I conclude with a prayer that I’ve offered recently. 

Rest in Peace

Lord be good to them, 
And show them your love. 
Lord, be kind to them, 
And grant them peace above. 
Lord, be merciful to them,  
And wipe their sins away. 
Lord be generous to them, 
With all my heart I pray. 
Lord, be gracious to them, 
For the good that they have done. 
Lord, be gentle to them, 
For sufferings undergone. 
Lord, may we meet again at last,  
When heaven’s crown’s been won.  

Holding you in prayerful remembrance, together with your loved ones – living and handed back to God – and affection. 

As ever, Fr. Nicholas 


24th October 2020

Dear Parishioners,

At the cusp of another weekend, I am pleased be able to deliver another Newsletter and the readings for Holy Mass this weekend. The delivery comes with the hope and wish that you and yours are well and looking after one another.

Monday is bin day at Holy Spirit, and Wednesday at St. Paul’s. Dependent upon the amount of items in the respective grey or green bin I dutiful put it out for collection. If there is little in the bin, I let it wait for the next collection day. This was one such week. So on Wednesday I was stunned to see a bin collector in a high-viz jacket striding up the path of the Presbytery at Cleckheaton to take the bin and empty it ! A random act of kindness, which was much appreciated. Although I have yet to train the bin operatives not to leave the emptied bin – almost with measured accuracy – in the middle of the driveway, as I need to get a car in and out. Maybe extra Council Tax needs to be paid for that service !

Looking through the Diocesan Year Book and acknowledging the statistics attached to the Parish of Our Lady of Mount Carmel at Silsden, it is noticeably one of the smaller Catholic communities of the diocese, set in a relatively rural location, and, in addition to his parochial duties, my colleague there also takes care of the spiritual needs of patients in the Airedale Hospital. Yet in my eyes it punches far beyond its weight, as at least twice a year, I receive a card from parishioners there under their “Daily Adoption covering a Priest, Deacon or Student for the Priesthood in Prayer.” The card, depicting the parish’s patroness, informs me that the Faith community of Silsden “have decided that [they] would continue to cover a priest, deacon or student for the priesthood from the Diocese of Leeds with prayer for a day.” The prayers being offered include a Decade of the Rosary, a Private Holy Half Hour, the Reading Sacred Scripture, Offering Half an hour of suffering during sickness etc. I am always incredibly touched and moved to receive this Spiritual Bouquet. The card arrived this week, letting me know that the day on which I shall benefit from this great spiritual blessing will be the beautiful Feast of All Saints. The prayers and thoughts of others keep me going on the pathway of life, as they do us all.

Not just thinking about others, but actually letting them know you are doing so is a wonderful gift.

This weekend we change our clocks, gaining an hour extra in bed, but also shorter hours of daylight. In the initial Lockdown the days were lengthening and we were blessed with good weather, allowing many to enjoy outdoor exercise and their gardens. Even queuing at the supermarket was done beneath blue skies and not umbrellas. This change in our seasonal clock will bring its own challenges for many of our parishioners, relatives and friends, not least in time spent alone. A random act of kindness taking the form of a telephone call, card, letter or even a doorstep delivery of something home-baked may be the very thing that makes a huge difference to someone else’s day and quality of life. Perhaps you could even pray together over the telephone, a decade of the Rosary, for the intentions and loved ones of each other. With the creative ingenuity of our parish communities there is no end to what could be done to reflect a faith lived in love for neighbour.

The earlier mention of Airedale Hospital reminds me of the week or so my Dad spent in the Coronary Care Unit there after suffering a heart attack. The return journey from Dewsbury, where I was at the time, to the hospital was in the region of 70 miles per day. A junior nurse on the ward told her colleague that Dad must be very unwell as a Priest comes to see him every day. To which her fellow nurse replied that I was his son ! This second nurse, my parents had seen grow up as her family sat behind my parents at Mass week by week. It was a connection that provided her with some useful inside information.

Holding you in prayerful remembrance and affection.

As ever, Fr. Nicholas

17th October 2020

Dear Parishioners,

It is once more good to be able to send you the Newsletter and also the Readings for Holy Mass this weekend. Hopefully this short word of greeting finds you well and safe. Added to which I trust that within earshot of sometimes confusing and differing messages from public leaders you are managing, in the words of Rudyard Kipling, to “keep your head when all about you are losing theirs !” With all that we are being fed by our media sometimes there seems little to smile about, let alone be able to laugh at. Yet sometimes laughter is a good remedy, not least the ability to make light of oneself. Even St. Paul invited us to be “fools for Christ’s sake” (1 Corinthians 4:10).

When I first saw the letters LOL in a text I was a little baffled to say the least. In my naïve understanding I equated them with the demonstrative expression Lots of Love. At the same time they appeared out of context within the message that had been sent. But with keys that offer predictive text who knows what is at the tip of a careless finger end. It took several more communiques containing similar text-speak abbreviations and subsequently a face to face conversation to learn that LOL actually stands for Laugh out Loud. That understood, earlier texts took on a totally new definition. Needless to say, I did laugh out loud at my mistake.

I learnt a long time ago to smile, if not on occasion laugh at myself, even at times laughing out loud.

Recently, whilst out walking I spied a couple of donkeys in a field at the opposite side of the road to myself. Unable to resist a stroke of a welcoming muzzle, I crossed over to offer a less than socially distanced ‘Hello’ to my two new friends. Using both hands each donkey received an equal measure of fuss and attention. Eventually, one let me know that there was more to his life than being petted by moving away, leaving his companion to bask in being stroked and spoken to in a language that wasn’t donkey-speak. Eventually we parted. However, on my return journey, walking by the same field, I couldn’t help but cast a glance to see where the donkeys were. This time they were much further into the field and well beyond arms reach.

Observing them for a moment, a vague recollection came to mind that donkeys have a good memory. Just about to go on my way, one of the donkeys looked up from a light lunch of greenery, and suddenly I found myself giving him a wave of acknowledgement ! In return, I was sure I saw a swish of a tail signalling that I hadn’t been forgotten about either. Lost in the world of Dr. Doolittle, more than the reality of “All creatures great and small,” I failed to notice a couple of mature walkers approaching. Having clearly observed me waving as they got closer they began to strain and crane, attempting to see who it was I’d been communicating with. Looking this way and that, they were obviously confused by my actions, and passed by looking at me quizzically, still attempting to stand in my line of vision catching a fleeting glimpse of the recipient of my gesturing.

Virtually puce in the face, and at bursting point, I passed them, and immediately let out an almighty laugh, at my own apparent craziness, and their unsated curiosity. LOL became a reality !

On that note, I shall sign-off, hopefully leaving you with a smile on your face. May your week unfold kindly before and gently about you.

Holding you in prayerful remembrance and affection.

As ever, Fr. Nicholas

10th October 2020

Dear Parishioners,

Once again I am pleased to be able to send you the coming week’s Newsletter together with the Readings for Holy Mass this weekend. Hopefully this greeting will find you well and strengthened to know that despite the necessary differences of the particular time we are living through our Parish communities continue to be as they have always been, serving our Faith family, and many more besides.

As I have heard it said, and occasionally say myself, I couldn’t have written the script last Saturday morning as I concluded my few lines to you. Having commented on the autumnal atmosphere and darkness of the morning, the next chapter of garden life at the Presbytery in Cleckheaton, was the arrival of a very vocal duck, making its way up the driveway. Being somewhat ‘plagued’ by cats (sorry cat lovers !) I went out to see if the duck had been involved in a skirmish with one of the numerous collared felines (clearly someone’s, but not mine!) who also find their way into the garden. Boldly, and still very loudly making her presence felt, the duck and I met half way up the drive. She appeared uninjured, just curious and quite undeterred by my six feet of height peering at her. Behind me was the very friendly, and ever-present robin, clearly pleased to have a familiar wall of human being standing between himself and the new arrival, as he cautiously assessed the scenario. Returning to the Presbytery I noted throughout the morning that the duck remained in the garden quite contentedly taking a good look round, and on more than one occasion finding somewhere to nest for a while. Having had a walk around the garden after the lunchtime Mass and seeing nothing of the duck, I was satisfied that she had a arrived and departed as a visitor and was not looking for permanent lodgings. With some further land clearance taking place nearby, she had probably found herself forcibly evicted from a place of quiet seclusion and was viewing potential new sites to take up residence ! The robin is quite clearly back in situ as king of all he surveys, bobbing around without a care in the world. Hopefully he keeps an eye out for the cats and remains deft enough to avoid their stealthly approaches.

The presumed search of the visiting duck for new pastures and a new life reminded me of some words written by Cardinal Newman. Yesterday (Friday) we celebrated his feastday. The second as a saint of our Faith tradition. Some of you may well have been in Birmingham when Pope Benedict raised him to the status of Blessed John Henry Newman during the Papal Visit on September 2010. It is hard to believe that event is already a decade ago ! Throughout his life, and it was a long life, almost ninety years, St. John Henry Newman was seeking to understand God’s will for him. The reflection enclosed seems apt for our own time when many are seeking a purposeful existence amidst huge change to what had become the norm of life and living within our society. The wisdom of the words of a saint – one of our own countrymen – remind us that whoever we are, wherever we find ourselves, whatever we profess to being, God has a plan for us, which is uniquely ours, and has been offered to no one else in the entire expanse of history. Our response is very Lucan, to listen and respond, as depicted by Our Blessed Lady in the his account of the Annunciation. May we each do so generously, even if unlike the duck we don’t currently even have the freedom to wander aimlessly up the driveway of our neighbours ! One day we will.


God knows me and calls me by my name.…
God has created me to do Him some definite service;
He has committed some work to me
which He has not committed to another.
I have my mission—I never may know it in this life,
but I shall be told it in the next.

Somehow I am necessary for His purposes…
I have a part in this great work;
I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection
between persons.
He has not created me for naught. I shall do good,
I shall do His work;
I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth
in my own place, while not intending it,
if I do but keep His commandments
and serve Him in my calling.

Therefore I will trust Him.
Whatever, wherever I am,
I can never be thrown away.
If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him;
In perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him;
If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him.
My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be
necessary causes of some great end,
which is quite beyond us.
He does nothing in vain; He may prolong my life,
He may shorten it;
He knows what He is about.
He may take away my friends,
He may throw me among strangers,
He may make me feel desolate,
make my spirits sink, hide the future from me—
still He knows what He is about.…
Let me be Thy blind instrument. I ask not to see—
I ask not to know—I ask simply to be used.

from Meditations and Devotions,
“Meditations on Christian Doctrine,”
“Hope in God—Creator”, March 7, 1848


Be assured of continuing prayerful and affectionate remembrance.

Fr. Nicholas



3rd October 2020

Dear Parishioners,

There is something rather autumnal in the atmosphere as I send the latest version of the Newsletter to you together with the Readings for Holy Mass this weekend. The morning is dark, wet, and a large tree in the garden is beginning to cast her summer clothes, littering golden coloured leaves across the grass. Yes, autumn appears to have arrived. Thankfully splashes of colour and vibrancy are to be seen in the late-flowering roses and a few other hardy gifts of nature. Small signs of hope reminding me that all everything going through change at the moment will indeed come back in the spring with renewed energy. May the same be true of ourselves !

At the beginning of the month we celebrated the feast of St. Therese of Lisieux. Her short life was lived in an assuming manner, devoid of her initial ambition of becoming a missionary and travelling the far flung parts of the globe. However in the confines of the Carmelite Monastery at Lisieux she lived a most extraordinary life. One that pleased Almighty God. A profound lesson of her life, and one that she constantly reminds others of in her writings, was to seek to serve God in the small and often mundane aspects of life. She wrote: “Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, or even at their difficulty, as at the love with which we do them.” This week I received a lovely card, quite out of the blue, which contained the following kind words: “you cross my mind often and are in my Rosary prayers …” In the midst of an ordinary week, attempting to do what I do week by week and day by day, it was most touching and uplifting to be remembered in such a way.

Many of us are taking pleasure in the simple and, dare I say, activities often taken for granted in former days. What an adventure even going to the supermarket now is ! Perhaps through some small action or word, offered or spoken, by ourselves over the coming week, another life may be enriched or enhanced. It doesn’t take much to make a difference, and further the love of God in our world of today. Waiting for the rarefied climate in which to carry out an act of kindness is often an indulgent luxury. Next weekend we celebrate the feast of St. Paulinus of York, of whom St. Bede wrote. He travelled through this area and as he did so met many who were eager to be baptised. Not dependant upon the finery of an ornate baptismal font, he turned towards what God had provided, the River Calder, and, like John the Baptist, drew in the crowds as he celebrated Sacramental new life for them !

Be assured of remembrance in prayer and kindest thought. May we be united in spirit and heart.
As ever, Fr. Nicholas