12th December 2020

Dear Parishioners,

It is good to be able to greet you once more alongside the delivery of our weekly Newsletter, and I trust that you are keeping well and safe in these trying times. What great scenes of hope and optimism we’ve witnessed during this last week in the initial distribution of a vaccine to members of our national family. Let us continue to remain up-beat that it will be available for many more of us before too long, bringing a refreshing normality to our lives. Until then we continue to respond to the invitation to behave appropriately to our circumstances.

A statement on a school classroom wall read: “You are a piece of God’s plan.” It is a great reminder that we all have a part to play in something greater than our own unfolding lives. Kirkwood Hospice have a team of volunteers who ensure that all the pieces are in jigsaws donated to them making sure that no paying customer, having laboured for hours, arrives at the frustrating moment of realization that there is a piece missing ! Alongside attending church and preparing her own Christmas Day meal, Mary Berry ensures that there is a jigsaw in her kitchen for all comers to begin the process of putting together. If a single piece is missing from a near-complete jigsaw that solo omission catches our eye, almost to a point of compulsive captivation and distraction. When complete, we fail to see the individual pieces, focusing our attention instead on the masterpiece before our eyes. Much of life, of who we are, and what we achieve is piecemeal. A jigsaw. This extends to our Liturgy and things we are familiar with in the context of our church rituals. One of the most noticeable prayers that is made up of many parts is the Eucharistic Prayer, hopefully so familiar to the congregation and prayed well enough by the celebrant that the varying parts of it blend into a seamless unity.

One of our daily intercessions in the Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass is for our Holy Father, Pope Francis, whom we pray for by name together with our Bishop, Marcus. Without a doubt knowing that they are being supported by the prayers of the Faithful across the world must be a great source of encouragement to our successive spiritual leaders. The Holy Spirit gifted the twentieth century with no less than nine successors to St. Peter, each reassuringly a hugely different personality to his predecessor, bringing to their role and office an abundance of gifts and skills, some perhaps, like everyone else’s, more obvious than others. Of the nine, four have been canonized – Pope St. Pius X (1903 – 1914), Pope St. John XXIII (1958 – 1963), Pope St. Paul VI (1963 – 1978) and Pope St. John Paul II (1978 – 2005) – and two others are journeying toward sainthood, currently holding the title of Venerable – Pope Pius XII (1939 – 1958) and Pope John Paul I (1978). The remaining three names of the Servant of the servants of God (“servus servorum Dei”) are Pope Leo XIII (1878 – 1903), who at his death in 1903 at 93 was the oldest man to hold the office; the scholar-athlete Pope Pius XI (1922 – 1939), who was sometime Prefect (i.e. in charge) of the Papal Library, although I doubt that he stamped many books or collected fines for those that were overdue !; and Pope Benedict XV (1914 – 1922), of who, when it came to the production of a biography of him in English, was described as “The Unknown Pope.” As with anything, amongst the ranks of our Popes are personal favourites whether we have lived under their pontificates or not, often highlighted by the number of teenage boys who take the name of the first Pope, St. Peter, at Confirmation.

Amongst those that I most admire are three of the twentieth century pontiffs. The earliest of them is Pope St. Pius X, who encouraged more frequent reception of Holy Communion amongst the Faithful, and whose tomb is close to one of the doorways of St. Peter’s Basilica, from where he continues to spiritually greet pilgrims to the Eternal City.

 

 

Pope John Paul I is pictured at the Vatican in 1978.

The most recent is Pope (Venerable) John Paul I, whose infectious and captivating natural smile on his election in 1978 illuminated hearts the world over, my own included.  A smiling Pope, whose public persona was so different from that of his predecessor the rather austere looking Pope St. Paul VI. His smile, captured on a photographic image, hangs on my kitchen wall, silently reminding me of some words of St. Teresa of Calcutta – “Peace starts with a smile.”

 

 

 

The other member of my papal triumvirate is Pope Benedict XV, “The Unknown Pope.”Aged just 59 at his election in the early days of the Great War, following the demise – from a broken heart, it is said, caused by the war – of Pope St. Pius X, Benedict XV, was a relative youngster in comparison to many of his predecessors. Chosen, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, for his diplomatic skills and prowess when the world dwelt under very dark skies, he had only been a Cardinal for three months before his election in early September-1914. Within just a few short weeks he had embarked on a personal mission to bring a lasting peace to a broken world. With the initial hopes of an end to hostilities by Christmas fast fading he called for a Christmas Truce. Whilst political leaders acknowledged the goodwill behind the call, they failed to back the initiative. At grass-roots level the voice of the Pope was heard, and during the week leading up to Christmas reports were made of British, French and German soldiers acknowledging the Season by crossing, in peace, into the no-man’s land that separated them. There are varying accounts of what the ordinary soldiers actually did with some reports of an exchange of greetings and small gifts, others of carol singing or football matches, whilst others speak of soldiers on opposing sides combining forces and resources to bury fallen comrades with dignity and appropriate ceremony, and others recording the handing back of prisoners of war. It was sporadic, but significant enough for it to make headline news. Truces in successive years were not nearly as many due to the determined opposition to them by military leaders, and even amongst the ranks of ordinary soldiers a hardness of heart, borne from the daily grind of war, ended most acts of festive goodwill.

With the declaration of the neutrality of the Holy See, Pope Benedict worked tirelessly throughout 1916 and 1917 to mediate a peace between the warring nations. On 1st August 1917 he produced a seven point Peace Plan, which gained a relatively favourable hearing in England and amongst some other nations, however it was rejected by America and the German response was far from united or clear. Despite his earlier dismissal of the plan, President Woodrow Wilson’s fourteen point Peace Plan of January 1918 contained more than just a hint of Benedict’s objectives. Imitation they say is a form of flattery ! Not totally drained by the energy of his diplomatic initiatives, Pope Benedict threw an equal amount of passion into humanitarian efforts to lessen the growing impact of the war. Manifested in attending to the needs of prisoners of war, the exchange of wounded prisoners and ensuring that food deliveries reached near-starving communities in Europe and beyond, Benedict was also one of the few world leaders to both condemn and highlight the desperate plight of the Armenian people who were subject to barbaric treatment by Turkey including acts of genocide. At a local level, it would be good to think that Joseph Duddy, whose name appears on the Cleckheaton War Memorial, already a prisoner of war in the hands of the Germans by Christmas 1914, benefitted from the compassionate initiatives of Pope Benedict.

Even with the ending of hostilities in 1918, Pope Benedict continued to proclaim a message of reconciliation amongst nations, culturing and seeking tangible signs of a more harmonious relationship between people of differing cultures and backgrounds. Aware of the continuing devastation and hardship that were a daily reality in the lives of many ordinary people acts of great humanitarianism continued in his name among peoples of many nationalities until his death in 1922. He was certainly a remarkable “piece of God’s plan” in the lineage of the twentieth century papacy.

The message of the Christmas Angels to the shepherds in the fields was “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom He is pleased.” (Luke 2:14) In the cast of a nativity performance there can only be one Joseph or Mary, but there is always room for a spare angel or two ! Rather like characters mentioned last week, they can be seen to be on the periphery, but their message was fundamental: peace and harmony. In the jigsaw of the Christmas story they are small pieces, often portrayed above and beyond the central scene with its major characters. The absence of the angels would leave a very noticeable gap, drawing our eyes away from the stable, distracting us from the arrival of the Christ-child. Their role is as a “piece of God’s plan” and their message is as significant to our world of today as it was to that of two thousand years ago, and each unfolding generation. A little over a century ago, a currently untitled Pope in Church circles, was guided by the message of the Christmas angels in seeking a lasting peace amid an embittered generation of humankind. He played out his part on the world’s political stage, for many observers in a minor capacity. Whilst history may see him very much as a part-player in the events of the Great War, to those who put down their tools of destruction and walked across no-man’s land to chat, laugh, sing and exchange token gifts, for an all too brief period of time, his vision of a Christmas Truce was a reality.

Perhaps our own willingness and openness to being a “piece in God’s plan” will allow something of His Kingdom to dawn in our lives this Advent and Christmastime. That illumination of the new day may not always be where we imagine either. In the case of Pope Benedict XV one of the very few memorials to him is in Turkey, a predominantly non-Christian county, in the courtyard of St. Esprit Cathedral (Instanbul). The plaque on a statue acknowledges him as: “The great Pope of the world tragedy … benefactor of all people, irrespective of nationality or religion.” How refreshing to know that God’s peace – conveyed through a limited human channel – has the potential of reaching to all people of good will.

Holding you and your loved ones in prayerful remembrance and affection.

As ever, Fr. Nicholas

5th December 2020

Dear Parishioners,

How good it is to be able, once more, to send you the Newsletter and also the Readings for Holy Mass this weekend, with the hope and wish that you and your loved ones remain well and safe.

This week I took advantage of our liturgical new year and resolutely broke a habit that has been almost life-long. I parted company with an invited guest into my various homes, a travelling companion as I journey from place to place, someone who has shared desk and table fellowship with me, and has, in short, been an intrinsic part of my daily life. The grand action of which I speak was to turn the radio off between the hours of 12 noon and 2.00 p.m. Yes, I gave Jeremy Vine the elbow ! From the beginning of my memory storing its catalogue of events and scenarios the radio has provided its own easy-listening soundtrack against which life’s journey has been played out. My various addresses have provided homes for numerous radios dotted around living and work spaces. Although often commented on with a light air, they are in truth all tuned into one station – BBC Radio 2. Someone did once mention that other stations are available ! However, I’ve never ventured from the mountain of satisfaction to explore such rumours. There was never the need to break free from the long-held, and endanger wonderful memories of childhood played out against familiar voices and a pleasing choice of music. In my pre-school days Mum and I listened to Radio 1, but as disciples of Jimmy Young, we switched along with him to Radio 2 in 1973, and that is where the dial has remained ever since. Its programmes remain true to Lord John Reith’s mission statement that they should inform, educate and entertain. A giant of a man, he stood at six feet six inches, even taller than my former broadcasting companion, Mr. Vine.

My decision to separate from Jeremy Vine was an informed one, and came in response to the growing number of whingers, moaners and darn-right negative individuals that populate the window of opportunity he affords to listeners airing their views on news items and current affairs. Having been informed and educated by worthy and appropriate guests, not even entertainment could generously describe the views and opinions of some of those phoning-in. So, even imbued with a decent level of patience, this listener switched-off. Negativity rarely travels alone, it usually arrives with its off-spring, corrosion and destruction who, once sat at table, will soon devour any optimism and goodwill set before them.

Life experience over the larger part of 2020 has been difficult for many, and for significant numbers very tough indeed. It has thrown up many challenges and also a produced a huge number of shining stars, if not heroes. In the face of challenge I’ve heard many comments about the things that people have been unable to do or experience, in short called upon to sacrifice. Within most of us is the potential draft of such a list, more than likely quite a lengthy one, and compiled with relative ease. The harder path to pursue is to see the challenge and ask the question: what can be done about it. The words of John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s Inaugural Address as President of the United States of America come to mind: “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” In the face of adversity, and words of despairing negativity, I have often had to reassure people that even with limitations and restrictions things are possible and can become a reality through extra effort, creativity and openness. Hence even with limited numbers, doors closed, and an inability to be tactile within the context of celebrating Sacraments, as a community we have celebrated arrivals, departures and unions amongst ourselves. I can assure you that at no time in my seven years of training did anyone give us instruction on how to conduct a meaningful Funeral in ten minutes or to use cotton buds safely during the anointing of a wriggling infant with the Holy Oils on the day of their Baptism, let alone how to stage-whisper the sacred vows of Marriage through a three-ply facial covering. Like many of my colleagues, who were able to continue to minister in Lockdown, I simply got on with it, learning all the while, and at times rehearsing many times over, in order to get the balance right, and not lose the precious significance of a moment that could not be replayed.

With the celebration of Christmas drawing ever closer there are many disparaging voices, announcing their discontentment loudly, pointing out what we are not going to be able to do or have: limited numbers around a table, no public houses in which to gather, overcrowded transport networks as everyone gravitates towards family homes at the same time, the inability to purchase or exchange gifts … to name but a few of the comments that have reached my ears. Having heard a colleague preaching along similar lines in Ireland recently, he drew his reflections to an end by saying: “Imagine if all that was left of our Christmas was the birth of Christ !”

The laments voiced today had their comparisons almost two thousand years ago. The road to Bethlehem was overcrowded as those of “David’s house and line” journeyed “in order to be registered.” The public houses were open, but so crowded that as “there was no room for them [Joseph and Mary] in the living space” the newly arrived Christ-child was “laid in manger.” No mention is made of a table. The only image of feeding in that stable scene is “a breastful of milk” described by Christina Rossetti in the carol “In the bleak midwinter.” As to any form of gifts, Sacred Scripture tells us that the shepherds “hurried away and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger,” in response to the angelic message they had received, but it makes no reference to them taking any presents along. Even in the visit of the gift-bearing Magi as told by St. Matthew, there is a very large clue that the presents of gold, frankincense and myrrh arrived quite some time after the first Christmas, perhaps up to two years judging by the age of the innocents slaughtered as a result of Herod’s insecurity.

Perhaps if all we have to celebrate this Christmas is the birth of Christ, the impact of that event will be more profound than usual. Christmas after Christmas the invitation is made to worshippers in our crowded churches to spend a moment of contemplation in front of the rather rarified crib-scene. In anticipation of present-opening and the veritable banquet that awaits extended family units hasty retreats are made, with a promise to do it next time.

Amid the characters populating the Christmas scene are those who are often overlooked, even mocked or criticized. Let us be more positive about them. The Innkeeper, who despite having a full house, had the compassion necessary to offer what little was spare – an outbuilding or cave, warmed by the body heat of its animal residents. The Shepherds who heard “news of great joy” and responded by going in search of “Christ the Lord,” displayed a generous trust in providence, believing that all would be well with that on which their livelihoods depended – their own sheep. And the Magi who never gave up on the hope afforded them by the “star they had seen rising” and which went ahead of them until it “halted over the place where the child was.” Beneath ever altering skies they journeyed on, sometimes with light step, sometimes trudging.

Earlier I mentioned shining stars and heroes that our time of adversity has produced. Some maybe almost household names like Captain Sir Tom Moore or Marcus Rashford, but in our midst have shone many who have reached out to others in tremendous acts of compassion, forged dependable friendships out of the limited materials of nodding acquaintance. Those who care for others through life-choice, not just the sick, elderly and vulnerable, but also the staff in our schools, who have done so much to provide new forms of education to the children of others. Not to mention the pastoral care that comes from seeing need and addressing it. These are the people within our community and society who are called upon to take risks, and in their rising to the challenge bear contemporary witness to the providential confidence of St. Luke’s shepherds. Others trudge onward, like the Magi. For them 2020 has brought untold heartache, uncertainty and darker skies than they’ve ever known, despite which they still seek the star to guide them. They journey on with a “hope that is not deceptive” (Romans 5:5).

Listening to the negative, whether it is the voice of stranger on the radio, or even someone who lives beneath the same roof as ourselves, being dismayed by the critical and guided by those without hope is not the recipe for the feast that we are journeying toward through these days of Advent. Such counsel places us in danger of letting Gospel good news slip through our fingers, replaced by a self-centred indulgence. If all we have on December 25th is the opportunity of celebrating the birth of Christ perhaps our celebration will be more authentic, honest and contain an integrity lost in years past by the “fripperies” poetically spoken of in a John Betjeman classic. The arrival of the Babe of Bethlehem as told by the authors of Sacred Scripture revealed the unimaginable love that God has for each and everyone of us, delivered amid the obscurity and randomness of history.

Pausing to reflect on that gift this year may we discover the contagion of that priceless love. Desiring to share it will bring joy in reaching out to others. In the effort made and the opportunity embraced our redemptive history will achieve its aim and goal. It will also find us displaying the gifts of those seemingly peripheral unnamed characters of the early pages of our Second Testament; the Innkeeper, shepherds and Magi – compassion, trust and hope. As Muhammad Ali once said: “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room on earth.” Whatever our address – stable, palace or any and all postcodes in between – may our homes be places of optimism, hope and joy this Advent and Christmas.

And if you’re wondering what or who has replaced Jeremy Vine ! I have dug out, dusted down and charged up a decade old Walkman, filled with music, songs and humour, personally chosen, which makes the world I populate feel an okay place, and one with a fabulous and glorious future ahead of it ! So perhaps the voices of the BBC Radio 2 listeners described earlier as whingers, moaners and negative individuals, have actually done me a good turn after all.

May we continue to remain faithful to each other through prayer and affection, united in the great hope that one day we shall be united again in the houses of God familiar to us.

As ever, Fr. Nicholas

28th November 2020

Dear Parishioners,

Alongside this weekend’s Newsletter and Readings for Holy Mass, comes a wish and hope that these greetings find you and your loved ones well and contented.

This weekend we begin a new year in the life of the Church as we move into the Season of Advent. Personally speaking it is one of my favourite periods highlighted on the liturgical calendar, and I would happily skip Christmas, the bit of Ordinary Time which occurs briefly as we box and store our decorations, and dismiss Lent in order to be able to celebrate Easter as soon as possible after Advent ! Aware of some of the headlines over recent days, offering hope of a more ‘normal’ way of life by Easter, I suspect that my imagined leap through time would suit many others too. However, we are where we are, and that is much nearer seeing the release of a vaccine against the dreaded Covid-19 than we were even a month ago. So let us continue to journey with necessary caution and common sense but also carrying with us the Advent gifts of hope and joy.

One of the necessary jobs carried out this week was the preparation of our churches for Advent. In both churches this meant putting away our “There but not there” soldier figures, and at St. Paul’s taking down the banners which have decorated church in Ordinary Time. Across two of these are the words Let Your Light Shine. Reflecting on those words may well have inspired numerous parishioners and others to do just that: allowing their own talents, gifts and personalities to bring light into the lives of others. During recent months there have been many instances of this taking place, often very quietly, and without the trumpet blast of public praise or accolade. Perhaps two simple words – thank you – gave reassurance that where there had been darkness, your gesture, word or presence had truly brought light.

Before anyone jumps to the conclusion that all I do is watch TV, can I just correct any straying thoughts in that direction, by saying my working day begins before 7.00 a.m. as I sit down over breakfast to read through, and respond to e-mails, so by 8.00 p.m. there is some justification in being able to sit down once more, this time to relax, and eat a meal often taken in front of the TV ! And I am very choosey about what I watch. Far from being any sort of domestic god, I confess that I have very limited capabilities in the kitchen. If I am told that something needs twenty-five minutes in the oven, it usually gets at least ten minutes more due to my own doubting nature and the fact that the oven is old ! However not being able to cook has never stopped me from being hospitable. At least when times allow me to be so. As a student I long ago learnt that a few Rich Tea biscuits and a bag of Twiglets could be turned into a veritable feast !

Over recent weeks as I have partaken of my Tuesday evening meal I’ve delighted in the skills and culinary imagination of the contestants in “The Great British Bake Off” tent. This years’ potpourri of bakers seemed from the outset a near perfect combination of truly lovely human beings. Their efforts come under the scrutiny of the Marmite-figure of Paul Hollywood, and everyone’s surrogate aunt, Pru Leith. Tuesday saw the three remaining contestants Laura, Dave and Peter thrash it out in order to claim the Bake Off trophy – an inscribed cake stand. Having seen all the contestants and their creations struggle with the heat within the tent, which included on more than one occasion the wearing of ice-towels (the temperature was in excess of 36 degrees some weeks), they all deserved some form of medal for stamina alone. However out of the final had to walk a winner. This honour went to Peter Sawkins, a twenty year old Accounting and Finance student at Edinburgh University. Throughout the series he was a real star. There was nothing showy about him. But he had it all ! Week after week he not only gave of his best but produced personal triumphs and twice was accredited the coveted award of Star Baker. A self-confessed fan of “Bake Off” it had clearly inspired him as a child to dabble in the family kitchen, and constantly he referred to the fact that he was living the dream by being a contestant on the show. Even Paul Hollywood acknowledged that Peter had a mature head on his young shoulders. This was evident in a comment made by Peter in the final episode, when he reflected that in comparison to his peers his life may not have been as exciting – devoid of a gap year or overseas experiences – but he enjoyed and felt privileged for the life he had. Amazing wisdom. He also had the quirky and successful technique of listening to his cakes before removing them from the oven. It was a trick, uniquely his, picked up from observing a contestant in an earlier series of the show.

Peter Sawkins’ light shone into homes across the country for many weeks. His unflappability and stoicism when things did not go as planned, openness to the critical friendship of the judges, and an incredibly youthful face and sparkling smile that spoke of contentment and satisfaction on life’s journey. Despite the programme being aired quite some time after filming had finished the name of the winner remained a tight secret. When revealed, Peter was in his student flat along with his housemates, watching the show as they had done since returning to university. Sharing one of his cakes (lucky them !) they celebrated together when the judge’s verdict was announced just after 9.00 p.m. Perhaps not all that quietly as he apologized, during a radio interview, to others living in the same block of student accommodation who had heard the cheers and applause that had sounded as the announcement was made. Asked what was next for him by the BBC Radio 2 host, Peter simply said that he had an assignment to be completed by Friday, and exams in two weeks’ time. There is something reassuring to know that life goes on as normal even for a Bake Off winner ! Congratulations to him, and especial thanks to those who have, during his formation as a son and brother, cultured his light allowing it to shine in the triumphs and disasters produced in their family kitchen. A light that has shone brightly amid a nation of armchair bakers, revealing little less than perfection in all that he created from the ingredients presented to him week on week, but also in the pure loveliness of humanity that he conveyed by being himself.

Taking encouraging banners down does not mean that we should cease illuminating the lives of others. In fact Advent calls us to be a people of light, ultimately being drawn towards the True Light which is the gift of the Christ-child presented to us in the fragility of humanity in the darkness of Christmas night. It is from this encounter that we draw the strength to be light-bearers to and for others. In the wonderful days of Advent that lie ahead may we have the confidence to share our own light, but also recognize the illumination carried by others and encourage it to shine brightly too.

Holding you in prayerful remembrance and affection.

As ever, Fr. Nicholas

P.S. Having seen this prayer recently, I thought it was worthy of sharing !

Prayer for putting on a face mask:

Creator, as I prepare to go into the world, help me to see the sacrament in the wearing of this cloth – let it be “an outward sign of an inward grace” – a tangible and visible way of living love for my neighbours, as I love myself. Christ, since my lips will be covered, uncover my heart, that people would see my smile in the crinkles around my eyes. Since my voice may be muffled, help me to speak clearly, not only with my words, but with my actions. Holy Spirit, as the elastic touches my ears, remind me to listen carefully – and full of care – to all those I meet. May this simple piece of cloth be shield and banner, and each breath that it holds, be filled with your love. In your Name and in that love, I pray. May it be so. May it be so.

21st November 2020

Dear Parishioners,

Another weekend, and another Newsletter ! Hopefully its arrival finds you and those you care about in continuing good health.

Within all of us is there is an element that craves a feel-good factor. What satisfies this may well differ from person to person but certainly one TV programme that ticked this box for many during the first Lockdown, from conversations that I’ve had, was “This week on the farm.” Clearly it drew in the audiences as towards the end of the first run, it was announced that extra shows were being recorded. More recently it has aired again. It features Cannon Hall Farm near Barnsley, a place well known to many of the children in Holy Spirit School. Each year a class group enjoys a visit. Two of the main human characters of the TV show are the Nicholson brothers, Rob and Dave, who live, breathe, and simply ooze a passion for their chosen way of life. They are a great duo, and live a vocational life in relation to the concern that they show for the four-legged and two-legged creatures that they share their home and working environment with. Week after week it became clear that some of these enjoyed being under the spotlight, whilst others clearly found the cameras to be an intrusion into their natural shenanigans. In the earlier series one species of our four-legged friends always ready to step out into camera shots were goats. Their antics and frolicking, caught on the small screen, were often incredibly funny and most entertaining.

They certainly lived up to our stereotypical labelling of them as being adventurous, strong-minded, daring, escape artists, and being more prone to doing their own thing than showing any desire to follow, be directed or even guided. Their wiry frames, swiftness and natural dexterity allow goats, both in the wild and in captivity, to adapt readily to a wide variety of terrains. They are by nature curious, interested and nosey. When it comes to food they are browsers rather than grazers. A feature which has given them the reputation of being willing to eat absolutely anything without fear or favour ! The truth is that they have a tendency to try anything, and depending on its taste will either finish the meal or walk away from it.

Watching their enjoyment of life, simple as it might be, lived out beneath the blue skies of spring and summer, and observed during a time of strict social and travel limitations for ourselves, I could easily have been a touch envious of the goats at Cannon Hall. They seemed vastly more interesting than the grazing sheep.

The Gospel at the core of our Sacred Scripture readings for this weekend cautions me, and others, of observing the rather cute, fun-seeking, goats with the green eyes of envy. The separation of the sheep from the goats is perhaps one of the best known Parables depicting end times. At its heart are the choices we make on the adventure of life’s pilgrimage. As a man of his time and place, Jesus would have been very familiar with sheep and goats, possibly even having to shoo a curious, free-spirited, straying goat from the open working environment of St. Joseph on more than one occasion. Sheep follow, can be rounded up, and are contented when enclosed in a space of their own. On the other hand a straying goat has to be caught, carried, harnessed or tethered, and if contained spends its waking hours seeking any means of escape. Described elsewhere as the Good Shepherd, Jesus offers through his own example and skillful leadership a blueprint for His sheep to follow. Within that some skills of the goat will be needed, such as the confidence to reach out, being prepared to take risks, but not those of journeying through life in isolation, leading to a blindness that fails to see the needs of others, not least those most in need. This is summarised in the question asked by those on the left of the throne of glory: “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty, a stranger or naked, sick or in prison, and did not come to your help ?”

Our behaviour is very much at the fore of those who have guided us into another phase of Lockdown. Having come so far along the road of sacrifice this year, we have been asked to continue this often lonesome pathway. Despite the bright hope that announcements of the success of vaccines have offered in recent days, we are still quite some time away from the formation of queues to receive them. Our waiting continues. Even when they are accessible we are only one relatively small island community within a global family unit.

Our own very stringent adherence to the mantra Hands – Face – Space – within our church buildings comes from a duty of care that we have for one another. Whilst we may not like having to queue to get into our spiritual homes, grumble about being asked to stand two meters apart from people we’ve known all of our lives, or mutter about the need to wear a facial covering in God’s House, we do so because we are showing love for our neighbour, and in return allowing them to show their love for us. It is also worth remembering that whilst our churches have, since July 4th, been able to open their doors to congregations, thanks to volunteer Stewards, there are very many in the nation’s workforce who continue to work from home because their employers cannot offer a similar safe environment in which to conduct a ‘normal’ working life.

The reality of the need to adhere to guidance given, and like the sheep of the Gospel, to be counselled and directed, was brought home to me recently as I listened to a radio interview with Vaughan Gething, the Health Minister of Wales. He said: “You are most likely to get Coronavirus from someone you already know, a friend, a family member, a loved one.” It was a shocking statement. And to be sure that I’d heard it correctly I listened to it again, and for a third time. It reminds us that the things we believe we will get away with, or no one will know about can actually have serious consequences. Goats would take the risk. Sheep would listen and do the right thing, putting trust in the voice of the shepherd. Grazing at a social distance !

The sheep of the Gospel question as to when they treated others well, fairly, with kindness, compassion and as equals. The reply given clearly surprises them: “in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.” For all of us there is the opportunity to reach out to the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and those in prison. Our opportunity may have a 21st century twist on it but will be no less significant and relevant or even life changing or life saving to those who benefit from it. Perhaps it will be the extra item in our shopping trolley that is put into the collection point for the local Food Bank, the home crafted face masks that make them fun to wear, the knitting of clothing to be worn by premature babies we cannot name or the on-line donation made to an aid agency like CAFOD, the cheery card sent to someone who is unwell or on the road to recovery, a few thoughtful words of remembrance conveyed to the bereaved or a phone call to those who have not left the security of their homes for the majority of the year or who spend an entire day without hearing the voice of another human being.

Whilst our reaching out to others may take the confidence and daring of the goat, as we do not wish to seem intrusive into the lives of others, I pray that it maybe what we actually carry out in deeds motivated by love that will bring each one of us the reward given to those who sit on the right hand of the King in the Parable: “… the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world.”

I continue to carry you in prayerful remembrance, together with your loved ones – living and, especially in this month of November, those handed back to God – and in affection.

14th November 2020

Dear Parishioners,

With the arrival of another Saturday I am delighted to be able to send you the latest Newsletter and the Readings for Holy Mass this weekend. They come with the hope that you are keeping well and safe during these days. It was good to see a number of familiar faces visiting our churches during the times they were opened for private prayer during the last week, and I trust that parishioners will find in these times renewed strength and comfort as we each walk an unfamiliar pathway through life.

Recent events across the Pond, as the Atlantic is often fondly called, played out against the backdrop of The White House, brought to mind a photograph I have of one of our diocesan clergy standing on the steps of 1600, Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington D.C., Fr. Richard Barry-Doyle. He was a relative of the Sherlock Holmes author Arthur Conan-Doyle and Commodore John Barry, the credited Father of the American Navy, in whose honour he added the name Barry to his original surname. Unlike the prevailing descriptive words of celebrity or personality, he is best described as a character. It is a phrase that we hear less of than we once did, but one that conveys fondness, affection, and often, more than just a hint of admiration too. There is also something reassuringly non-judgmental in its descriptive use. Characters just are ! Perhaps one reason behind the absence of the phrase is the reality that even humankind has been touched by mass production which has overtaken the time and care poured into the handcrafted.

Despite clamorous calls seeking recognition for diversity and difference within society, somehow we still seek to label others, maybe because it offers reason or a defined root-cause for why someone is as they are. Yet in the supermarket aisle we are encouraged to cherish (not to mention purchase !) the wonky vegetable. Reflecting on some of the characters that I’ve been privileged to know, a common factor seems to have been their openness to allowing life experience to colour, texture and shape them. Somehow they learnt the lesson of real life that the harsh cold metal of a chisel being hit with the blows of a mallet or hammer is as necessary as the fine detailing tool and gentle blowing breath of the artist removing the finest dust particles in order to produce a masterpiece. Whilst eager to embrace the misshapen vegetable in aspiring to do our bit to avoid food waste, we often approach with great caution and suspicion – if we do at all – the quirky fellow pilgrim who, in the process of climbing out of the proverbial box, has managed to lose their descriptive label !

Lockdown has seen an upsurge in reading, and even demand for the book I produced on the clergy of the Diocese of Leeds last year has seen a some growth in sales. Stood on a doorstep recently, making a socially distanced delivery, the purchaser was regaling tales of some of the clergy they had known in childhood. The names of these men were all familiar to me through my research, but I invited them to look amongst the names they had not heard of to discover some real characters, and diverse life-stories. Amongst the ranks of these is Fr. Barry-Doyle (1871 – 1933). The photograph of him on the steps of the home of the President of the United States depicts not a fee-paying tourist but an invited guest of President Calvin Coolidge. Ordained for the Diocese of Waterford in 1894 (at an age when he would not have been allowed Canonically to hear the confessions of female penitents !), his academic interests were rewarded when he was elected to Ireland’s premier cultural institution the Royal Irish Academy. However, within a decade later, officially, he tendered his resignation from the Curacy that he held. Another account says that to avoid being declared bankrupt by a judge he did a midnight flit from the Presbytery decamping to England in only the clothes he stood up in !

Taken in by the Diocese of Nottingham, he later arrived in Leeds to serve initially at Halifax and then Brighouse where, as the Priest in Charge, he covered the absence of Fr. Patrick McMenamin who was serving as a Chaplain to the Forces. In Halifax during a St. Patrick’s Day celebration Fr. Barry-Doyle took to the stage offering a series of recitations of works by Irish authors to the wide acclaim of the audience, and in Brighouse his charismatic preaching on topical issues brought such numbers to St. Joseph’s Church on Sunday evenings that people had to be turned away. From Yorkshire he went to the Front, serving as Chaplain to soldiers in France, Palestine and other theatres of war. After the signing of the Armistice he returned to one of these, Constantinople as it still was, in Turkey where Allied Forces from Britain, Italy, Greece, America and Japan occupied the centre of the Ottoman Empire. It was a divided city and Fr. Barry-Doyle hovered between its opulence, which for him included being feted at a reception given in his honour at the lavish Pera Palace Hotel and being the first British Prelate (he was a Monsignor) to be granted an audience with the last Ottoman Sultan, Mehmed VI, and a tremendous poverty witnessed by him in many forms of deprivation. His charisma and dynamism became a tool for opening the eyes of the privileged to the desperate plight and needs of those living in poverty and squalor. He did so initially by opening an orphanage in Athens and subsequently undertaking speaking tours to raise funds for it. In 1924 he founded the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, which still exists, to assist where poverty, war and displacement shatter innocent lives. Travelling to America he challenged those who attended his series of country-wide lectures to raise a million dollars for the charity. His flamboyant personal appearance, wearing military dress, dripping in decorations given him by the British, French, Greek and Russian Governments, and dramatic manner of presentation brought him limited success as the American Catholic clergy became suspicious of his motives. Unfounded rumours alleging a luxurious lifestyle abounded, perhaps fueled by the green eyes of envy. Despite this he was welcomed to the home of the First Family of the land, no doubt managing to secure a donation for his beloved Association from a President who was known for his frugality ! Although handing the Association’s reins over to the Holy See and the American bishops, he still continued to fund-raise, travelling to Australia to promote its work.

Returning to England without personal funds, and exhausted, it was recommended that he travel to the south of France for a diet of pure air and sunshine (I doubt this is currently available on an NHS prescription !). In renewed health he took up an appointment in Leicester where he set about providing the parish with a new school. He addressed this with his usual enthusiasm organising an Empire Fair, at which goods from across the world were made available for sale. His organisational skills and powers of persuasion unsurprisingly won over the assistance of the local titled Catholic gentry, offering his cause enhanced kudos. Sadly he did not see the completion of his educational dream for Catholic children in Leicester as he died suddenly in 1933 at the age of sixty-one. A character to the last, a newspaper report of his demise mentioned that feeling unwell on the day of his death he asked his valet to call for the ministrations of a neighbouring priest ! His personal estate included a small treasure trove of religious jewellery, amongst which was a bejewelled ring, presented to him by British soldiers. This, he stipulated, should be presented to a priest about to become a bishop.

At the centre of our Scripture Readings this weekend is the Parable of the Talents. It speaks of gifts being given on trust for useful purpose. The recipients respond to the talents entrusted to them in differing ways through their unique perception of the One who has given them responsibility. The terms celebrity or personality are not applicable to those spoken of in the Parable, instead we are presented with part-players each fulfilling their unique role in a story. Each is a characters and a character simply is. The finest and best of characters take what they have been given and gifted with and get on with the task in hand. Without definition their chameleon-like skills of adaptation allow them to identify with their surroundings, and whilst not always blending in they become a feature, beloved and cherished for being what many dare not to be: themselves.

Fr. Richard Barry-Doyle was certainly his own man, comfortable in his own skin for which at times he also carried the cross of suffering. In this month of remembrance we commend the soul of one of God’s own characters to the safe-keeping of the Greatest Giver of all.

I continue to carry you in prayerful remembrance, together with your loved ones – living and handed back to God – and in 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

1st August 2020

Dear Parishioners,

The beginning of another weekend, and the arrival of the weekly Newsletter and Readings for our weekend Masses, all of which I trust finds you well and in good spirits.

As we are all now aware Kirklees together with other areas has moved into a new phase of Lockdown. In theory it means at a personal level that I can go (not that I ever do) for a pint of beer in a public house, but I am unable to visit the bereaved in their homes or gardens … Rapidly moving on, one impact that the new measures will have on church life is the fact that face-coverings will be have to be worn by everyone attending Mass from next Saturday (8th August), including our Ministers of the Word.

As someone who very rarely mentions the financial state of our churches, at this juncture I really do have to point out that currently we are losing a Loose Plate and social income of at least £1,000 per month from both of our communities. Clearly our social income has dried up for the time being, but offerings to the Loose Plate (i.e. monies contributed to the weekly collection not through the use of collection envelopes) can be donated through electronic means (Text Giving) as highlighted on the Newsletter. Donations may also be put through either of our Presbytery letterboxes as an alternative. Despite our current circumstance bills still arrive, including recently the annual Assessment for each church, paid to the Diocese for the funding of the central services and resources that each parish benefits from. Throughout my years in both churches, this has been paid from our cash accounts, not our reserves, it would be good to think that, perhaps later than usual, we will be able to do the same this year.

Continue to keep the Faith ! Be assured that you are remembered in daily prayer and the Masses that we celebrate, as we all look forward to better times and being united once more around the altar of the Lord to celebrate together the Eucharist.

With prayerful assurances and affection,
Fr. Nicholas

4th July 2020

Dear Parishioners,

A couple of weeks ago I offered you a literary picnic, an element of which was The Parable of the Pencils as written and told by Fr. Brian D’Arcy CP. During the course of his wise counselling to the work of his hands the pencil-maker reminded the newly made pencils not to forget you always have an eraser at your disposal! Its use being to correct the mistakes made. In practical terms Fr. Brian reminded his human hearers that no matter what mistakes I/we make, I/we can always correct them and start again. There is always a second chance. In the early days of Lockdown, I discovered that the power to erase doesn’t just lie within the brief of either pencils or human beings, but also vans !

Venturing forth as a man on a mission during what I welcomed as the gift of an hour of exercise I arrived on Hollinbank Lane (Heckmondwike) in search of a plaque erected a few years ago by the Spen Valley Civic Society. What I sought was the permanent reminder of an explosion which took place at Ellison’s Chemical Works at White Lee on 2nd December 1914. It claimed no less than ten local lives. In its wake chaos and devastation descended on many families and their properties. My interest in this event stems from the fact that one of those killed was James Alfred Morton, a Catholic, with an affinity to St. Patrick’s School-Chapel, as it was then, on Darley Street. Expecting to find a grassed area with an obviously located mounted plaque, the resulting fruit of that initial foray was absolutely nothing. Retracing my steps on the way back to Holy Spirit Presbytery, again I failed to find what I was seeking. Terrier-like I set once more, on a different day, of course, having on the first day reached the limit of my hour of fresh air. This time spying another human being – a rare sight in those late-March days – I called across to ask, as he was a resident on the Lane, if he could tell me where the plaque was located. With his directions I ventured just a few steps to find what I had been looking for. The very obvious site of the memorial which is not on a verged area, but in the middle of a footpath, led me to question why I had failed to see it on my initial outing. Was I overdue a visit to Specsavers? Not so. The answer lay, as memory recalled, in the fact that a van had been parked on the footpath on my first visit, thus erasing the plaque, taking with it the memory of both the people and events from that particular geographical area at the beginning of the Great War.

With the passage of time connections with the horrific occurrence of that far-off Wednesday afternoon naturally diminish. Today those events are mainly limited to stories shared amongst family members recalling their past, and those, like myself, with an interest in local history. Thank goodness for the plaque recalling The White Lee Disaster which reads: Near here on 2 December 1914 ten men were killed and six injured by a blast which destroyed the factory of Henry Ellison Ltd. The men were making picric acid, for use in artillery shells in WW1. Many nearby homes were badly damaged. As the Hollinbank Lane area flourishes today with numerous houses now built in the vicinity of the 1914 explosion it is hard to imagine the scenes of devastation captured on photographs reproduced in the local press over a hundred years ago are those of the same area. New life and rebirth came to that vicinity, aided and abetted by the passage of time. The opportunity to start again is the beginning of a process. Second chances are initiated by tentative steps being taken in a forward direction. The tragic events that took place at Ellison’s factory also brought forth new and green shoots in the evolving area of health and safety with the passing of the Munitions of War (Explosives) Act in July 1915 which was an attempt through legislation to better control the manufacture, storage, carriage and sale of explosives.

This weekend as a faith-community we begin the process of starting again, with the opening of our churches for the celebration of public Masses. Even in writing those words, I am aware that not all of our Diocesan churches will be opening at this time, as for a variety of reasons they are simply not ready or able to do so. Similarly a Methodist colleague told me this week that his churches would not be opening until September at the earliest. There is certainly no race in beginning this process, and behind the scenes a vast amount of work has gone on to bring us to this point. So much of which has and will continue to be reliant upon the efforts of individuals who have given generously of their time to volunteer as Stewards to shepherd and guide in good practice and habit that which is a way of keeping everyone as safe as we can. As we are beginning to put one foot in front of another in an attempt to make a fresh start, I am conscious that legs and feet may not be as strong as once they were.

Sacred Scripture gives us many images of new beginnings, some more welcome than others. Our first parents were rather nonplussed at finding themselves being turned out of the Garden of Eden to start afresh. We can smile at the imagined look on their faces as having enjoyed the comfort and security of an intimate friendship with the Creator-God, they suddenly found themselves expected to work for their living. God did offer them a leaving gift, however, before closing the gates behind them, as we hear: “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” (Genesis 3:21) Clearly the garments bearing God’s designer label were deemed more appropriate for their new way of life than the leaves with which they had covered themselves earlier!

Elsewhere, again from those rich and, oftentimes, very beautiful, beginning stories, we learn of Noah’s gratitude and appreciation towards God in the aftermath of the Flood. Having emptied the Ark, we hear that the first thing he did was to build “an altar to the Lord [on which] he sacrificed burnt offerings” (Genesis 8:20) in thanksgiving. This is exactly what we are about this weekend offering our Sacrifice of thanksgiving, Holy Mass, for the first time as a community since Friday 20th March.

A further scriptural image comes to mind as I visualize people coming to Mass this weekend, being asked to queue, perhaps, and observe social distancing, most definitely. It is the story of the blind man who is given back his sight at Bethsaida (Mark 8:22 – 26). Part way through the healing process, when asked by Jesus, “Can you see anything ?” the man responds by saying “I see people, they look like trees walking around !” (v.24) It is a strange response, and begs the question of how he knew what a tree looked like. Realistically it is probably a reference to his having had some, although very limited, sight earlier in his life. For some of those entering our churches this weekend and during the coming weeks their first impressions will be of the differences they notice within our sacred spaces – the arrival of sanitizer, a lack of votive candles, an inability to purchase a card, the use of facial coverings and gloves … things being done for the common good, and within the collective, for the well-being of each and every individual. These will be (either in thought or even vocalised) the trees mentioned by the blind man whose sight is beginning to return. At the end of the miracle-story we are told: “Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.” (v.25) The purpose of opening our churches is to bring us together, as a safe and confident collective, to return to Almighty God the gratitude and appreciation we feel in the sacrifice of Holy Mass. In essence we are doing exactly what Noah did. Scripture doesn’t record the periphery events surrounding the life of Noah and his family at that time. The primary focus was on his offering to God. The detail of the length of Noah’s hair or what he and his family looked like after having been holed up in the Ark for forty days was simply not important.

A few weeks ago we all celebrated our shared birthday: Pentecost (Whitsuntide), the birthing of the Church, ourselves as the People of God. This new beginning came no less than fifty days after the resurrection of Christ from the dead. During those days the Apostles, Our Blessed Lady and others joined in prayer, either alone or, when it was safe to do so, together. From a place where the doors were locked out of fear (John 20:26) that small group of believers, our ancestors in the Faith, were called out by the Holy Spirit to live in a new way, a manner which was both new and different. Many of us, I am sure, can relate to that first-post Easter experience this year. Perhaps never more closely have Christians walked in the footsteps of that embryonic beginning to our faith lineage.

How the early followers of Christ lived attracted the attention of others who quickly observed that “all the believers were together and held everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people.” (Acts 2:44 – 47) A couple of millennia later we too are being called to live in a new and different way. Our roots in both prayer and community-spirit remain strong and firm. Together we travel the road ahead. Like any fresh start or second chance it brings new and rich opportunities. Being less concerned and distracted with the necessary differences which surround our new beginning will give us the opportunity to focus on the significant and important. Our individual and collective joy is the ending of our Eucharistic fast and the ability, once more to be a part of something that was given to us in an upper room long ago as a taste of the heavenly banquet on earth when Jesus “took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.’” (Luke 22:19 – 21)

In ending this letter, I do so with a quiet confidence about our process of beginning afresh. If the last few of months have taught the majority of us anything, one aspect of the commonality of our learning experience has to have been a deeper appreciation and sense of gratitude for what, all too often, we’ve taken for granted whether that enrichment and enhancement on life’s adventure are people, possessions, experiences or events. As God’s people – the Church – there is no higher moment of appreciation and gratitude than in the celebration of Holy Mass. The Eucharist is our ultimate act of Thanksgiving.

With this new start will come an end to these weekly “Ramblings”, which have reached out to those both near and much further afield. As I sign-off enjoy and be inspired by these words of John O’Donohue taken from his work Benedictus – A Book of Blessings.

For a New Beginning

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the grey promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plentitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening,
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

Be assured of prayerful and affectionate remembrances,

Fr. Nicholas

27th July 2020

Dear Parishioners,

Good parents are incredible people. And it takes incredible people to be good parents! I say this very aware that not all have had the experience or come under the influence of the parental gifts and skills that my own journey to this juncture in life has been enriched and blessed with. Sadly, tragically and hugely unfairly, despite all of the advancements that are at the disposal of our twenty-first century society, we are all too aware that not all our young people experience or benefit from a positive encounter with parenting.

Acknowledging that levelling reality for some, when it comes to my parents, I have to say that I feel doubly blessed and gifted by the Mother and Dad that the good Lord chose to place me into the safe, crafting, creative and caring hands of. Professionally I hear many stories about the best Mum or Dad in the world, however for Patrick and Dorothy Hird there was no competitive element about their parenting-skills, no race to be won. Parenting for them was not about trophies and medals. Instead I view my Mother and Father as the very finest and best parents that God could provide for me, and throughout their lives I have always been enormously proud of them. As a forebear in faith recounts in sacred scripture: “my father was a wandering Aramean” (Deut. 26:5) so I have always been very proud to say that my father was a weaver! For me, our Trinitarian God’s choice reflects the vantage point of Their being able to see more than we ever can of the larger tapestry of life on which the individual threads that are brought together form only a tiny part of a much bigger and complete pattern. Parenting far from being competitive is much more of an adventure during which God’s choice appreciates what is the best and finest in another and allows the gifts and talents, hidden deep within them to find soil in which they can begin to sprout, grow and mature, their role is also to prune and cut back, allowing stronger and more appropriate development. Often a learning curve, steep at times, just as children are not identical, so parenting doesn’t come with a one-size-fits-all approach. At a time in our history when more emphasis than ever is being placed on the unique individuality of society’s members, there can be no greater need for careful, sensitive, crafting, colouring and shaping by the hands entrusted with the vocational call of parenting.

Last Sunday, Father’s Day, was a day for many of us to remember the special place our Dads have in our lives. As I once read Any man can be a father but it takes someone really special to be a Dad, and for those blessed with such a figure in their lives, those words will carry a tangible truth. For some, Sunday will have meant pausing and reflecting and remembering; perhaps a visit to a cemetery or crematoria; focusing a longer than usual stare at a much cherished photograph. Others may have had the experience of an anticipated visit being replaced by a virtual one through the use of social platforms. Whilst there will have been many, including myself, counting the experience of being able to see our Dads in person, with a sense of additional gratitude and appreciation this year. Personally speaking, Dad and I spent some very enjoyable time together, in the surrounds of the only home that I have ever known enhanced by the garden into which he has ploughed so much of his time and energy in recent weeks. His reward is seeing and enjoying that which he planted grow, and at this juncture in the summer, to have an abundance of colour on display for his own pleasure and for that of those who pass by with increasingly regularity as they embark on their daily exercise, drive out to work, or begin their school day.

A blessing of the last few months has been the opportunity that I’ve had in being able to see Dad each week, spend time with him, chat, laugh and reminisce. My own life of ministry oftentimes does not allow such a luxury, attempting to meet the needs of those I serve, and putting their demands before those of family. This was something I referred to in the homilies delivered at my celebratory silver jubilee Masses when I publicly acknowledged the enormous contribution both my parents have made not just to me as their son, but also for allowing – and never standing in the way of – my discerning the call that Almighty God was making of me. At the time I said: Both [my parents] have been, and my father continues to be, very generous in supporting and encouraging my Priesthood. It is always worth remembering that on traditional family-orientated days, such as Christmas and Easter, parents and family members of priests often get the physical, emotional and spiritual left-overs of bustling and expectant congregations. St. John’s vision of Priestly leadership involving the caring and feeding of lambs and sheep (John 21:15–17) makes demands – and presents invoices – only payable by a shepherd and his parents. To a greater or lesser degree my calling has been that of my parents too. Uncomplaining, with a door ever-open, it is good to be able to thank them for sharing my priesthood over the last quarter of a century, and before that over a decade of preparation in both junior and senior seminary.

Lockdown has provided a tiny of opportunity of payback in the relationship that I have with Dad. At its outset a letter arrived (which he tried his hardest to keep at a safe distance from my eyes!) informing him that he was grounded, and from its beginning I assumed the mantle of a weekly foray to shop for both of us. With a list of required items received on a Friday, sometimes added to on a Saturday, they have been duly delivered each Sunday. On the whole the contents of the shopping bags have met with paternal approval, although I have at times been reminded that he wouldn’t normally buy such a large bag of this or that. His fridge-freezer has never been as full! Being confined by the restrictive guidance of the Government and its relevant agencies has proved a challenge to Dad. Not necessarily how to cope with being grounded but in finding ways of escape that he thought I would be unaware of. Having read some of my earlier reflections you will appreciate he has had moments of Houdini-like absconding.

Last week saw Dad, like so many, beginning to take his first steps into a longed for, but very different and new, normality. He did his first weekly shop, although with a strict request from yours truly, that he only went to one supermarket, and didn’t embark on the usual price comparing, bargain seeking, grand tour around the Chevin towns of Otley, Guiseley and Yeadon. After a period of enforced hibernation, like the disembarking passengers of the biblical Ark, amid a world which appeared similar to the one he has been familiar with for over eight decades, Dad discovered subtle alteration and change.

Before anyone decides to report me for parental neglect, I did indeed arrive home last weekend with a shopping bag containing a small selection of necessities (I still have a use!). There was also the giving of a Father’s Day card and gifts. As a father and son we have been very compliant to the guidance about keeping each other safe and well, and blessed with good weather most of the time that we have shared has been spent outside, sitting at a safe distance from one another. On cooler and wetter days we’ve ventured into the kitchen, sat at a perhaps less than safe-distance away from each other, but without the demolition of a wall, an exact two meters was nigh impossible. Not having seen the living room since March, cards are now displayed in the kitchen, and it was with pride that Dad’s Father’s Day offering was placed within vision of both of us. As well as its own simple and profound wording, I couldn’t help adding some humour in my own handwriting: Congratulations on having me as your son! For those who have met him, you’ll appreciate that he has a good sense of fun. Relaying the best wishes of a local funeral director to him recently, Dad, graciously accepted the concern conveyed in the greeting, and went on to ask that the next time I was speaking to the said inquirer I should mention that he would not be needing their services for quite some time yet!

A personal skill cultivated out of Lockdown necessity has been that of hair management and a growing confidence in the use of electric clippers. Seeking to advance this new-found qualification, I decided that it was time my hair clippers had an airing in Otley. A further Father’s Day gift: a haircut … my father’s cup runneth over on Sunday! Having made the suggestion, Dad greeted the appearance of the clippers with no sign of fear or trepidation, having acknowledged some weeks previously that I hadn’t made a bad job of cutting my own hair. Seated, and with instructions not to talk or move, we were both surprised at just how much hair Dad had amassed over the last three months, whilst somehow also managing to make it look not too unruly. Whilst parents can often read the minds of their children, so on occasion the reverse can be true. Hence, when silent and still, I knew Dad’s thought process would be preparing a nugget of humour for when I said that I’d finished. It came when, picking up some of his fallen white locks from the floor, he began to speculate their worth and value in the hands of a paintbrush manufacturer! Needless to say that neither Dulux nor B & Q will be receiving packages containing an octogenarians hair with DNA that is shared with, or even traceable, to me. Humour and a sense of fun is something that I’ve inherited from Dad, although I clearly missed out on his natural ability to turn his hand to most things practical. Whenever I lament this limitation of my own life he reminds me that, unlike him, I always know a little man who is useful and practical, and who, above all – when I turn on the charm – is able and willing to come to my assistance!

Dad, as a pre-war child, added this ad hoc haircutting experience to a list that he can reel-off, some of which include a basin, others carried out by various, untrained or qualified members of the family standing over him with a comb and scissors. Unabashed he has also been known to give this recently much missed area of expertise in our wider society a try himself. Together with his elder brother (a ‘handful’ for their parents with just fifty-three weeks between them!), Dad was entrusted with looking after their younger brother, just after the ending of the war when the Hird family lived in rural Whitwell-on-the-Hill off the A64. The elder boys, never shy of seeking a new avenue of adventure, managed to find a set of wind-up clippers intended for use on horses. With a compliant head for use on the shoulders of my uncle, Michael, they began to test their skillfulness. With my father turning the energizing handle, my Uncle Peter did the deed with the equine clippers! Thankfully their brother survived the experience with head, ears, nose and every other part of his anatomy miraculously intact. Aged just three or four he was mercifully too young for the incident to cause any lasting or permanent psychological damage! With regard to any form of reprimand for either Uncle Peter or himself from my grandparents, Dad remains firmly tight-lipped.

One of the blessings of Lockdown for many of us has been the opportunity to appreciate and be grateful for so much of normality (whatever that may be for any of us!) that we often take for granted whether that is material, spiritual, experiential, or above all the people who share our life-journey. At the beginning of March Dad and I spent a rare and privileged time of table-fellowship indulgence at an Ilkley hotel, enjoying afternoon tea, as we took advantage of a Christmas gift that I’d received. With hindsight, a special day, yes, but more so an extraordinary moment on the calendar of events marking the passage of 2020 thus far. A random photograph taken on the day, with lamination and a few witty words became a homemade postcard received by Dad in the midst of his experience of being grounded. It was not just a depiction of happy memory, but more so, a sign of hope for better and brighter times, and more significant moments to be shared in the future.

No matter the length of time we are blessed with good parents, it is never enough. Within those of us from whom God has called back a parent lies a desire to hear their familiar voice, experience the scent of security their presence exuded, to be held, share with, or ask a question of; tangible reminders of the call to appreciate those who populate our lives whilst they still do. As a child vividly recalling the 1970’s, I share with many others of a similar age, that the majority of our childhoods were lived under sunshine and blue skies. The sunshine came in the shape of annual events such as birthdays, Christmas, holidays and days-out, the skies of which were coloured blue by the desire, energy and determination of good parents putting their all into giving of the best and finest of themselves that they could muster. The tools they used were all left backstage during those epic productions, but included hard work, self-sacrifice and finding the required patience and energy to walk the extra mile. These ingredients transformed the ordinary into the extraordinary, and brought their own magic to what in the twenty-first century may seem like overly simplistic and dated experiences involving flasks dispensing tea or coffee, Tupperware containers packed with lukewarm, well-travelled sandwiches, and the pick ’n’ mix sweets embellished with the taste of salt liberally dispensed as the wind shook from its invisible wings the sand it had collected as it flew along the beach at speed. Before the likes of Greta Thunberg were even a twinkle we were there saving the planet, because all we had used came home with us to be washed and put away in anticipation of our next outing. The disposable had been consumed and items of litter were a luxury far beyond our parents’ means!

In recent months for many there has been an epiphany of thought in regard to exceptional times into which we throw so much of ourselves. Easter came and went, and so have many other occasions, birthdays, anniversaries, university graduations and, yes, even Father’s Day. Anticipated exceptional times have worn the clothing of mere passing moments, and conversely what we often previously regarded as mere passing moments have become exceptional situations. Ultimately we will all have special times to celebrate, perhaps out of kilter with the calendar and their seasonal context. Deeper questions have also risen to the surface in quiet times and with reflection, such as why do we take the presence of loved ones for granted and visits to them as mere normality? In reality these times are a privilege, and as we cross the threshold of a loved one, we stand on holy ground. With so much of life being turned upside down reassessment of what is important in our lives is far from an indulgence but a real necessity for survival as we begin cautiously and slowly to disembark from the ark of Lockdown. The catch hauled in from our recent still water experience has reminded us of the precious nature of life’s basics, not least the priceless worth of the people closest and dearest to us. It has also given us the opportunity of discarding the worthless, the stuff of clutter, that which so often not only fills our loft-spaces, but also our hearts and fickle natures.

These days will pass, because everything passes but I sincerely hope that the positive transformation which has taken place amidst the profound pain of both loss and deprivation will enable us to culture an enriching future for all, blended and flavoured with a generous sense of appreciation and gratitude for family, friends and loved ones that we have previously taken for granted. This awareness will allow us the opportunity to celebrate worthily future momentous events.

As for Dad, that ever-present, self-effacing, supportive, encouraging source of unconditional love who never seeks much for himself, what a blessing God has given to me in him. For all God’s gifts, delivered to us in the wrapping paper of humanity let us be appreciative and thankful. After all none of us own each other, nor are we bought or purchased, only loaned and borrowed. And one day we will have to hand back, and be returned ourselves.

Be assured of prayerful and affectionate remembrances,

Fr. Nicholas

20th June 2020

Dear Parishioners,

This week I thought that I would offer you something a little bit different, a picnic of reflective thoughts which over recent months have, in one form or another, for a rainbow of reasons, found a place on my desk, either for a short or longer period of time. With the basket opened, my first offering is something that I sought in mid-March when, like the rest of society, we moved into what was frequently referred to as an unprecedented time. It comes from a well-thumbed book on my shelves, Benedictus – A Book of Blessings, compiled by John O’Donohue (1956 – 2008), entitled “For Courage

When the light around you lessens
And your thoughts darken until
Y
our body feels fear turn
Cold as a stone inside,

When you find yourself bereft
Of any belief in yourself
And all you unknowingly
Leaned on has fallen,

When one voice commands
Y
our whole heart,
And it is raven dark,

Steady yourself and see
That it is your own thinking
That darkens your world.

Search and you will find
A diamond-thought of light,

Know that you are not alone
And that this darkness has purpose;
Gradually it will school your eyes
To find the one gift your life requires
Hidden within this night-corner.

Invoke the learning
Of every suffering
You have suffered.

Close your eyes.
Gather all the kindling
About your heart
To create one spark.
That is all you need
To nourish the flame
That will cleanse the dark
Of its weight of festered fear.

A new confidence will come alive
To urge you towards higher ground
Where your imagination
Will learn to engage difficulty
As its most rewarding threshold!

For some these will be very powerful words, a reminder that courage is not something that we wear, like a set of clothing. It is not the armour worn in defence nor in the sharpness of the weaponry at our disposal to hurt and injure, but instead the ability to discover deep within ourselves the confidence needed to search the familiar surroundings of our life, knowing that the matches with which we will light the candle of illumination are somewhere very near.

A slight variation on a theme is what follows. Perhaps offering an opportune reflection as a changing Lockdown landscape begins to emerge on the shoreline of life. The strength of the sea receding taking with it the paralysis of fear, ruthless power of self-preservation, and lonely insular existence, revealing instead the fragile and virginal sands of another time, destined to be claimed by another tide:

It takes strength to be firm.
It takes courage to be gentle.

It takes strength to stand guard.
It takes courage to let down your guard.

It takes strength to conquer.
It takes courage to surrender.

It takes strength to be certain.
It takes courage to have doubt.

It takes strength to fit in.
It takes courage to stand out.

It takes strength to hide your own pains.
It takes courage to show them.

It takes strength to endure abuse.
It takes courage to stop it.

It takes strength to stand alone.
It takes courage to lean on another.

It takes strength to love.
It takes courage to be loved.

It takes strength to survive.
It takes courage to live.

A true religious broadcasting giant, Fr. Brian D’Arcy, whose reflective thoughts never fail to convey the finest and best elements of Christianity, delighted recently in the blessing of his Lockdown experience, which as he recalled had given him the opportunity to tidy his office-space leading to the discovery a floor beneath piles of papers, books and storage boxes! Amongst his findings during that period of enforced domesticity was the Parable of the Pencils:

At the end of each day a very caring pencil-maker dispensed five pieces of valuable advice to each pencil just before he placed it in the box. This will help you become the best pencil you can possibly be, he told them. Firstly, you will be able to do great things, but only if you allow yourself to be held in someone’s hand. Secondly, you will experience repeated pencil sharpening from time to time in life. It won’t be easy, but is necessary. It will help you make your mark. Thirdly, don’t forget you always have an erasure at your disposal! So use it to correct the mistakes you will undoubtedly make. Fourthly, no matter how perfect you look on the outside, it is what’s on the inside that makes you what you are. And finally, it is your duty to leave your mark on every surface that you’re used on. And so the pencil went into the box with purpose in his heart.

But now comes the tricky bit! How can I apply those lessons to myself? Firstly I will be able to do great things but only if I allow myself to be held in God’s hand. That’s how I will bring to fruition the gifts I was given. Secondly, naturally I will be painfully sharpened and hurt and feel diminished from time to time. It is always tough but it is essential if I am to become a better person. Thirdly, no matter what mistakes I make, I can always correct them and start again. There is always a second chance. Fourthly, looks really do matter but you’ll need to look on the inside to discover the real me. And finally, in life we’re meant to leave our mark, and if I always do the best I can I will be rightly proud of what I achieve. So in summary our fingerprints never fade from the lives we touch.

And what about the lives that touch ours? Perhaps at the end of each day there is space in thought for these sentiments: To those we love and see each day. And other loved ones far away. To all good friends, whose friendship means so much. And those with whom we’re out of touch. At our imaginary picnic perhaps we can raise a glass to those who’ve left an indelible mark on us. And if we’re out of touch, this may be the time to reconnect. If a telephone call is difficult, there is always pen and paper, or even a card.

Surrounded by thoughts of familiar faces at our anthological picnic let us appreciate the special people in life. For which I return to John O’Donohue’s prayerful wisdom, For Marriage, which is suitable for any relationship of significance:

As spring unfolds the dream of the earth,
May you bring each other’s hearts to birth.

As the ocean finds calm in view of land,
May you love the gaze of each other’s mind.

As the wind arises free and wild,
May nothing negative control your lives.

As kindly as moonlight might search the dark,
So gentle may you be when light grows scarce.

As surprised as the silence that music opens,
May your words for each other be touched with reverence.

As warmly as the air draws in the light,
May you welcome each other’s every gift.

As elegant as dream absorbing the night,
May sleep find you clear of anger and hurt.

As twilight harvests all the day’s colour,
May love bring you home to each other.

Those words are a timely reminder of all the special days and times families have been planning and looking forward to, which due to the current chapter of history that we’re writing are on hold. This last week should have begun with a wedding, seen the children in Year 4 of Holy Spirit Primary School celebrate their First Holy Communion and rounded-off with further wedding. Events that will now be held at a later date, together with a clutch of Baptisms and the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation for our Year 3 children, all of which have been deferred until we can gather safely (and legally) in larger numbers. Perhaps with a spare moment in the Lord’s company, we can hold our truly lovely couples Charlotte and Robert, Sarah and Luke, and our younger parishioners, who were all looking forward to their special times, and families awaiting the Baptism of their children, and those celebrating significant birthdays and anniversaries in our prayers.

Let us not forget those who began this period of time with us, but for whom, at some point on the journey, the Lord made other plans, and with a gentle voice called them back to Himself. With all too regularity our Newsletter has, and continues, to carry names, recognized and maybe unknown, of those for whom families have faced not only the pain of loss, but very limited and incredibly different ways of returning loved ones into the eternal safe-keeping of Almighty God. One such funeral left from the family home of over fifty years recently, but not before we began our liturgy of farewell with Sacred Scripture, prayer and prose. Family, friends and neighbours came out onto the symbolic shared holy ground of their street to offer support, show respect, remember and pray, as together we called God, Our Father. Even the home-delivery van driver paused, relinquishing the prospect of gaining extra nectar points by running into the Priest stood in the middle of the road replete in wind-blown soutane, surplice, and resplendent Easter stole, rather than high-viz jacket! On that occasion the following words were read; Remember Me:

Don’t remember me with sadness.
Don’t remember me with tears.
Remember all the laughter
We’ve shared throughout the years.

Now I am contented
That my life was worthwhile
Knowing that as I passed along the way
I made somebody smile.

When you are walking down the street
And you’ve got me on your mind
I’m walking in your footsteps
Only half a step behind.

So please don’t be unhappy
Just because I’m out of sight
Remember that I’m with you,
Each morning, noon and night.

A further delve into the hamper produces the following words found attached to an abandoned ladder beneath an ancient bridge linking one side of the River Aire on the road to Maltham:

Age wearies him.
Yet he still clings to his allotted task,
Steadfast, dogged, a faithful retainer
Until the end comes.
What might that task have been?
Those that know
Have also long since departed.
Alone he now stands,
Waiting for their return.
An oddment to those who now see him,
Yet he knows his worth.

They certainly echo my experience of attending to the on-going, day-to-day, unbroken publicly observable routine of our life of faith. Although, I can assure you, age has yet to weary me! Whilst the vigil of waiting for their return continues, this coming week will see both of our churches, serving their purpose of offering a sacred, welcoming space for conversations with God, known as prayer. For many others too, who have simply got on with their usual daily activities in the field of work, amid necessary isolation and incredible difference of recent months, the sentiments of these words will resonate.

What now follows has a very soft centre and there is every chance that the contents may cause an ‘oozing moment.’ Tissues, or should I say serviettes, may be needed! With something of a Beatrix Potter-esqueness (1866 – 1943) about this short story, I am being a little self-indulgent. Whilst perhaps best remembered for her children’s stories, my admiration is less for her writing than her illustrations, which were born out of a genuine passion for nature. Circumstance, and I suspect lacking a desire for it, celebrity status never touched Beatrix Potter, and perhaps her greatest legacy to our nation was her pioneering work in the area of local conservation, recognizing not only the need to retain parts of our beautiful countryside in their natural state, but also in the scale of her financial support actually doing something about it by working closely with an evolving National Trust, acquiring swathes of land, managing farms and ensuring that rare indigenous livestock breeds were farmed in such a way as to ensure their long-term preservation. Tissues to hand as you read what comes next! The Old Rabbit.

Patrick (Pat) the rabbit was very sad. He was very old, his fur was grey on his paws and around his mouth and his bones were aching. His baby rabbits had all grown up and moved away and had bunnies of their own, his Mum and Dad had died many years ago and he missed talking to them, but most of all he missed his lovely wife Pearl, all the time. Pat was also fed up of running from the mean farmer who was always chasing him with his gun, he never dug holes anymore and he only ate the carrots easy to dig up these days.

Today it was raining and grey, the sky was black and the grass was muddy and wet, and it was really windy and cold. So Pat decided to hide in the barn until the rain stopped before he went looking for carrots. As Pat dried off from the rain he drifted to sleep.

Pat woke up feeling very warm, he could see the bright sunshine coming through the walls of the barn and he could hear rabbits chilli-chilli-chat coming from outside.

Pat started to creep outside. His bones felt light and he noticed the fur on his paws as was a lovely brown colour like they used to be. Pat’s bones didn’t ache and he didn’t feel sad but he didn’t know why. Outside he noticed the grass was so green it didn’t look real. It almost sparkled. It was so soft it felt like he was walking on green clouds, and there were piles of carrots everywhere with no mud on them. He wouldn’t have to dig them up or wash them.

Then he saw a little way away under a tree there was a group of about fifty rabbits all whispering and smiling and watching him. Suddenly he saw a beautiful lady rabbit step forward and walk towards him with her arms open and crying. Pat gasped and nearly swallowed his little rabbit tongue! It was Pearl! He ran to her and he kissed her all over her face and he cried, and he said to Pearl “I have missed you so much, my love” and she cuddled him so tight and whispered in his ear

“I’ve been waiting a long time for you, Pat.”

He then realized he recognised the shapes and voices of the rabbits standing nearby, all watching him and smiling. It was his Mum and Dad. His aunties and his uncles and even his Nan and Grandad! He looked at Pearl dazed, and she smiled, and she said, “They have been waiting too.” Pat was so happy but so confused as he cried with happiness into Pearl’s fur and said “Pearl, I am so happy, I feel like I’m in heaven!”

To which Pearl replied with a smile “My wonderful, beautiful Pat, you are.”

Amazingly the author of those 500 words is just nine years of age; Lenny Tucker, a Year 3 pupil at a school in Stanford-le-Hope. Just a couple of weeks ago he became the Silver Award winner of BBC Radio 2’s 500 Words Competition for 2020, in the 5 – 9 age range. His prize is the height, in books, of the competition’s royal patron, the Duchess of Cornwall! Born out of an idea of the presenter Chris Evans to encourage children aged between five and thirteen to write a short-story, since its inception in 2011, somewhere near a million stories have been submitted during its first ten years, each comprising 500 words. Whilst this year’s entries were submitted before Lockdown began we must always recall that no one or anything can confine imagination. Perhaps when the barrel of ideas for use in home-schooling appears to be running dry, an entry befitting next year’s 500 Word Competition may be a thought for some parents, carers and grandparents. Tempting the young people in their care to tap into the wonderful God-given gift called imagination. And if you are not sure where to start, let the words of Beatrix Potter herself assist you as we continue our picnic of words: “There is something quite delicious about writing those first few words of a story … you can never quite tell where they will take you!

Just before packing away this feast of words, which hopefully have inspired some, and not caused too much indigestion for others, there is a final offering. Composed by Virginia Satir (1916 – 1988), often described as the Mother of Family Therapy, I offer them as the takeaway party-bag for us all, but especially for our secondary school children who have a special remembrance in my thoughts and prayers at this time. The clay of their formative years is extremely malleable and flexible, incredibly sensitive to word, look and so much more, at work beneath the surface of what may appear a confident, bold, defiant and rebellious exterior. Their absence from education, structured lives, the expectations that come with the formality of school, not forgetting the friendship huddles and knots so often seen on the fringes of playgrounds, will all impact upon them in some way. Like us all, they crave to be valued and cherished, their life-journey given worth, but unlike many of us their fledgling adult status often lacks the security of achievement and the strength of vision to read their unique road map of life with the eyes of wisdom gained from a university education in the classroom of lived-experience. Entitled My Declaration of Self-Esteem (I am Me), may we all benefit from these words:

In all the world,  there is no one else exactly like me -Everything that comes out of me is authentically mine, because I alone chose it – I own everything about me – my body, my feelings, my mouth, my voice, all my actions, whether they be to others or to myself.

I own my fantasies, my dreams, my hopes, my fears. I own all my triumphs and successes, all my failures and mistakes. Because I own all of me, I can become intimately acquainted with me. By so doing I can love me and be friendly with me in all my parts. I know there are aspects about myself that puzzle me, and other aspects that I do not know.

But as long as I am friendly and loving to myself, I can courageously and hopefully look for solutions to the puzzles and for ways to find out more about me. However I look and sound, whatever I say and do,
and whatever I think and feel at a given moment in time is authentically me.

If later some parts of how I looked, sounded, thought and felt turned out to be unfitting, I can discard that which is unfitting, keep the rest, and invent something new for that which I discarded. I can see, hear, feel, think, say, and do.  I have the tools to survive, to be close to others, to be productive,
and to make sense and order out of the world of people and things outside of me.

I own me, and therefore I can engineer me.
I am me and I AM OKAY!

Drawing these lines to a close, I join Fr. Brian D’Arcy in searching for a floor beneath open books and sheets of paper! Closing the imaginary picnic basket of reflective words, I note that I’ve two items have escaped my attention, the salt and pepper pots … which brings to mind these very final words: “Failure is the condiment which gives flavour to success.

Be assured of prayerful and affectionate remembrances,

Fr. Nicholas