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

26th September 2020

Dear Parishioners,

Time has once more passed us by with its slippers on as we arrive at another weekend, and I am delighted to be able to send out our Newsletter and the Readings for Holy Mass. In the absence of our Mass Books in church it is good to see increasing numbers bringing printed copies of the latter with them to our celebrations of Mass. At the end of each of my days, which for some may appear relatively early as I begin the ‘retiring’ process just after the headlines at 10.00 p.m., I have a conversation with the Good Lord, and eventually – no matter what time – round the day off with a little light reading. Usually this takes the form of a historical mystery, and often as I put the light out, I say to myself: The plot thickens ! And so it seems to be doing in regard to our battle with Covid-19. For some time we seemed to be doing so well, and then, sadly, we are seeing the number of cases increase, and regrettably the death toll rise. With something like a quarter of the nation’s population in ‘restrictions’ clearly there is cause for concern.

With many youngsters beginning a new chapter in their lives at universities and Colleges of Higher Education my final daily conversation with the Almighty currently includes them in a special way. Having served as a University Chaplain I am very well aware of the ‘University experience’ that many speak of in the media, adding that this can be for better or for worse ! Having got numerous student out of a variety of scrapes at different times. I ask God to care for them, open their minds and hearts to the wonderful gift of education that our universities and colleges offer, but above all I ask them to be given the friendship of the Holy Spirit – God’s sense of fun and humour, but also His Wisdom. Perhaps more than ever this is a gift they need to take with them as they pack bags and boxes, moving from the security, stability and familiarity of home, to a new environment, populated with many who will become life-long friends, and with whom they are called upon to share a domestic space. Currently good numbers of them are having to isolate for their well-being and that of others. It is far from the best way to begin a new chapter in life, but perhaps it is a part of their learning curve, and having been forced to spend two weeks alone with relative strangers the bonds that unite them will ultimately be stronger, gifts and skills shared, together with a growing sensitivity and kindness amongst those that they share a living space with. I did notice on one or two blocks of student accommodation captured by media cameras that windows contained homemade posters, not the familiar “Thank you NHS”, but those which read “Send Beer”. Clearly God’s gift of humour has arrived in our university towns and cities ! Let us also hope that the students don’t forget to unpack His Wisdom too. A wisdom that when applied will help keep them, and all of us safe and well.

Reassuring you of prayerful remembrance, not least for those still not feeling able to join us around the Altars of Word and Sacrament, uniting themselves with us in Spiritual Communion.

With affection,

Fr. Nicholas

19th September 2020

Dear Parishioners,

This Newsletter and the Readings for the celebration of Holy Mass this weekend come with the hope and trust that you and your loved ones are well and continuing to cope with the way of life that some weeks ago we began to speak of as being the ‘new’ normal. Aspects of this new way of living in society continue to be hard, tough and very demanding not least emotionally and psychologically. In the times when you feel somewhat overcome by the limitations and restrictions of life, please remember that you are not walking alone. As a faith community we are there for you, remembering you in prayerful thought, but also just at the end of the telephone, whether that is a call to me directly, or to a friend. The opportunity to chat and talk to one another is welcomed by us all. So please don’t walk alone, let us all journey together.

From recent Newsletters you will have noticed mention of the Sacraments of First Holy Communion and Reconciliation, sadly postponed earlier in the year, due to the obvious reason. However, we are now moving forward and planning to celebrate these Sacraments by the end of the Liturgical Year i.e. before Advent. These will be different celebrations to those we have become accustomed to, but nonetheless significant milestones in the faith-development of the youngsters concerned, and as such parents, our teachers in school and myself will be working closely together to ensure the children are not only well prepared but will also have a meaningful and memorable celebration of these Sacraments. Please remember these children and their families in your prayers.

Continue to keep well and safe, keeping an eye on your friends and neighbours. May our continued remembrance of one another in prayer and affection strengthen us as we face a new phase of localised restrictions which come into force from Tuesday.

As always, Fr. Nicholas

12th September 2020

Dear Parishioners,

With the arrival of another weekend I am pleased to be able to send you this coming week’s Newsletter together with the Readings for our celebration of the weekend Masses. Having asked for prayers for our primary school last weekend in preparation for the beginning of the new academic year, I am delighted to report that when the school opened it had its best attendance for about three years with just a single absentee, due, sadly, to a broken arm. Life in school is getting back to a routine, albeit that some elements are necessarily different. It has been good to see our Year 5 children gaining some life-skills by undergoing Road Safety training on their bicycles initially in the playground, and then graduating to the roads of Heckmondwike. Helmeted and forming a human caterpillar as they pushed their bikes out of the school grounds, they were clearly ready for any challenge !

As in previous e-mails I do encourage parishioners to consider attending one for our weekday Masses as a starting point to your return to church. We are stringent in relation to the Covid-Safe guidance that we receive from our Health and Safety Officer to ensure that everyone feels comfortable in a setting that is very familiar but at the same time somewhat different. That said, difference is a part of most things – if not everything – that we now do, in comparison to how we were living our lives at the beginning of the year.

As always I assure you of a remembrance in affectionate thought and above all in prayer. It is good to hear how many of you, still not back with us in person, pause in your day at the time Mass is being celebrated in our churches so that you can be united to those gathered there. As a family of faith, this unity makes us a community.

As ever,
Fr. Nicholas

5th September 2020

Dear Parishioners,

Writing to you this morning I am noticing a few seasonal changes provided by Mother Nature. The leaves on a large tree are beginning to turn a yellow colour, moving from the striking green they have displayed from the early months of the year, the roses are now far from abundant but the remaining blooms still manage to add a bright array of welcoming colour to any visitor, and even the magnolia is boldly displaying a late show of second blooms. Perhaps for most of us our own gardens, or even those of our neighbours, as well as open spaces and the fields round and about our locality, have meant more to us this year than for many a year. Let us hope that they will continue to do so for a long time to come, perhaps less as the perimeter of our world and more the welcoming familiar as we return from ventures into the dawning ‘new world’ of school, work, recreation and the necessary tasks such as a foray to the shops.

Enclosing this weekend’s Newsletter and the Readings for Holy Mass I am very conscious that as a community a new phase of life resumes this week with the re-opening of our schools at both primary and secondary level. Please remember all those who form our school communities in your prayers – staff at all levels, our pupils, parents and carers, Governors. Spiritual support for all of us is not only important but vital. Having seen at first hand all the hard work, dedication and enthusiasm that went into providing our young people with an education during Lockdown in (and from) Holy Spirit School, I cannot praise our staff enough ! These same gifts will be there to greet and welcome our children this week, as they will be at St. John Fisher’s for our older pupils.

Having recently increased the number of Masses celebrated in our churches I continue to encourage parishioners to come along to a celebration of Mass, possibly during the week, just to see what provisions we have in place to ensure that everyone is kept safe and feels comfortable. The Obligation to attend Holy Mass on a Sunday remains suspended so weekday Masses are a viable option. Under guidance, our Masses are somewhat shorter than they were before the arrival of Covid-10, and both of our churches have been given clearance to open by the Diocesan Health and Safety Officer because we meet the demands expected of us and continue to maintain the necessary on-going high standards. A number of churches in the Diocese are unable to open because of the health or age of their clergy, but for us this weekend with be our tenth of being open for the celebration of Holy Mass. The doors are open, and you’re very welcome !

With a certain bird ‘s arrival in the garden, I am getting a look to tell me that the water in the birdbath needs replenishing … so I had better attend to the needs of nature’s gift to me – a noisy tree-dwelling lodger !

Be assured of continued remembrance in the prayer, and above all in the celebration of Holy Mass, together with affection.

As ever, Fr. Nicholas

29th August 2020

Dear Parishioners,

It is good to be able to greet you once again and enclose this weekend’s Newsletter and the Readings for the celebration of Holy Mass, which I am pleased to be able to say is – for increasing numbers – once more taking place in our churches. For others, Mass via the internet and radio continues to be their spiritual nourishment, for which we have all been grateful. The option of attending a Weekday celebration of Mass in either of our churches may help boost confidence in adjusting to a new way of living for those who remain anxious and apprehensive. The invitation is there as will be the welcome when you arrive. At our daily celebrations of Holy Mass, those uniting with us in Spiritual Communion, from their homes, have a special mention in our Prayers of the Faithful.

Whilst for some localised restrictions have been lifted, we must all remain sensible in these difficult days and do our very best to keep others and ourselves safe and well. May the gift of friendship be recognised in the support and encouragement that we offer to one another, not least in practical help given and the voice of friends talking on the ‘phone or meeting up through other means of communication.

Be assured of a continuous remembrance in prayer and affection.
As ever, Fr. Nicholas

22nd August 2020

Dear Parishioners,

Weekend greetings once more as I attach the latest Newsletter and the Readings for the weekend Masses.

I trust that this note finds you well and beginning the process of adapting to a new way of life, even venturing from home to the shops, dining out with family or having an outdoor coffee with friends in one of our local public spaces. Our spiritual family has taken a momentous forward step during the last week with the celebration of a Baptism and a Wedding. Both were very moving and incredibly special occasions. For us all they are signs of the importance that families place on the spiritual dimension of life. With steps being made into secular spaces that are marked by necessary difference I continue to encourage those who have not yet crossed the threshold of churches, to consider doing so. A Mass is celebrated in one or other of our churches every day, and as the Bishops recommend, I would ask you to think about attending a weekday Mass in order to gain confidence, and also see what is ‘new’ about coming to Mass, not least the measures we have put in place to keep people safe.

Whilst we are in our eighth weekend of being open to the celebration of public Masses, there are still a number of churches within the Diocese who have not yet opened for Mass. Some of these are quite close to ourselves geographically. Please continue to pray for those communities who await what we are now taking for granted once more … open church doors.

Be assured that prayerful and affectionate remembrance continues, and in our celebration of daily Mass, those joining us though Spiritual Communion are brought to prayer during our Intercessions.

United in prayer, and grateful for all the support being given in so many ways,

Fr. Nicholas