18 June 2022

Dear Parishioners,

A very happy Corpus Christi weekend to you all ! This very Catholic Feast reminds us of the great gift that Christ gave to us in the Eucharist, and how, in turn, we are called upon to ‘give something to eat’ to those who share our life-journey. May what we offer be generous and not meagre, wholesome and not waste, in short, the finest and best that we can provide, replicating the extent five loaves and two fish reached many centuries ago.

Many stand in need of our prayers at this time, very obviously in our wider world community, the country of which we are a part, but also much nearer to home, in our own congregations of faith. Let us quietly remember and support them.

With prayerful remembrance, kindest thought and affection.

Fr. Nicholas  

4th June 2022

Dear Parishioners,

This weekend we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, often referred to as the birthday of the Church, marking the day on which the Apostles and others left the security of the Upper Room to boldly proclaim the message of the resurrection of Christ. They were able to make this transition through the gifting of the Holy Spirit to them by the Father and Son. Such generosity ! Allowing those who witnessed this event to hear the message of the Apostles in their own language. It must have been a truly awesome event.

Often the concept of Church is about an institution, buildings and almost two thousand years of history, both good and less so. The same is true about monarchy. Yet in reality both are about people and individuals. This week we have been able to acknowledge a unique moment in history: the Platinum Jubilee of our Queen. Over recent days many voices have offered considered reflections, revealing facts, trite comment and flippant remarks about a commitment to duty and service which has exceeded the life-span (thus far) of many in this country and across the Commonwealth. A striking opinion was made by a lady who was happy to have the Bank Holiday break, but less so with its attachment to the person at the centre of the jubilee celebration. She commented that it must have been a boring seventy years for the Queen marked by cutting ribbons and shaking hands with strangers. I listened with interest, and wondered if the interviewee would have the same view about those who have celebrated numerous decades of married life, worked in production from leaving school, or simply done the same thing day after day as a matter of routine within family-life without giving it a second thought. I did wonder what the lady did, and how she managed to avoid facing the routine of everyday – she was clearly of a category of humanity I have yet to meet. The ordinary and routine are a part of all of our lives, but we can transform them into extraordinary and different by placing our own mark on them. 

The same is true of Church and monarchy. As institutions they can appear cold, distant and far removed, yet at their heart are individuals, real people. The Platinum Jubilee gives us the opportunity of acknowledging the incredible contribution of a fellow human being to our country, Commonwealth and wider global family, as well as being someone who has recently known the loss of a life-partner of over seventy years, a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. Truly a vocational life is so many ways, and very much seen and understood as such by Queen Elizabeth who understood her sacred anointing on the day of her coronation as being akin to that of ordination, just as she had already given a life-long pledge of fidelity to her husband on the day of her marriage.  

Pentecost is perhaps more about acknowledging the face of our local church communities than of the establishment of an institution. It is a day on which you can be distracted by your neighbour in the pew with you, or in front of you, quietly thanking God for their presence and the witness that they offer to you and others, through their quiet presence and fidelity. This year Pentecost is marked by a call from our Bishops to take our rightful place with others in our local church buildings. Less about a boost to post-pandemic reduced numbers at Mass, and more about an invitation for us to take our rightful place at the banquet of Word and Sacrifice: the place where we belong, and where the sameness of routine and the ordinary nature of life are valued for what they are – the opportunity to become the memorable and extraordinary. A gentle reminder that thanks to the gift of the Holy Spirit given to us the people of our own place and space are able to hear the Good News in their own language.

With prayerful remembrance, kindest thought and affection.

As ever, Fr. Nicholas   

21st May 2022

Dear Parishioners,

Please find enclosed the Newsletter and Readings for Holy Mass this weekend. On Thursday we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension (a Holy Day, the final one before the Obligation returns to such special days). In light of this there will be three Masses celebrated, including a whole school Mass on Thursday afternoon for the children who attend Holy Spirit School. It is hoped that Rotas for our Eucharistic Ministers will be compiled shortly, and an appeal is made for parishioners to return to decorating our churches with flowers, and washing the altar linens. All of which are elements of ‘opening up’ to a new normal. It is hoped that with this a new enthusiasm and confidence will come, encouraging more people to get involved in parish life.

Please hold in prayer and thought the youngsters who are receiving their First Holy Communion this Sunday at St. Paul’s and the children from Year 6 at Holy Spirit who will receive the fulfilment of their initiation into the Catholic Faith in the Sacrament of Confirmation on Wednesday evening.  

With prayerful remembrance, kindest thought and affection.

As ever, Fr. Nicholas      

7th May 2022

Dear Parishioners,

Occasionally we are given an insight into what it means to belong to a Universal Church, one such moment is offered this weekend, as across the world members of our global Faith-family are encouraged to pray for an increase in vocations, especially to the Priesthood and Religious Life. It is a rich opportunity to primarily reflect on our vocation as an individual member of the Church, hearing the words of St. Paul speak to ourselves: “As a prisoner of the Lord, I urge you to lead a life worthy of your vocation.” (Ephesians 4:1) Our primary vocation is given and accepted in Baptism, and is subsequently fed and served by others, parents, Godparents, Parish clergy, catechists and teachers etc. 

This weekend I echo St. Paul’s encouragement for us all to pray for more men and women to hear and respond generously to God’s call on them to follow His Son in a life dedicated to providing the Church and beyond with the necessary food for the journey of life, not least that of the Eucharist. As a Diocesan family we lack the numbers of Priests and Religious that we once had, and this is a trend that we are both living with now, and will continue to do so – with even further reductions – for the foreseeable future. So, let us pray to the Lord of the Harvest to send labourers into His harvest !

As ever, the Newsletter and Readings for Holy Mass come with Kindest thought, a remembrance in prayer, and affection.

Fr. Nicholas

P.S. Having been approached by a member of the Spen Civic Society I wonder if any of our parishioners (particularly those with Heckmondwike roots / connections) could assist them in regard to a project undertaken with Historic England. A one-line comment / reflection / memory is being sought from anyone who (a) worked at Firth’s Carpets (b) worked at Cooke’s Carpets (c) worked at Harold Wood Transport in Wormald Street, Heckmondwike (d) used the Heckmondwike Baths for bathing (not swimming !) or (e) lived in one of the “80 Houses” of Francis Street and Powell Street, Heckmondwike.

All that is required is a single sentence containing a comment or memory, returned to myself, and these are required by 20th May, please. Thank you !     

   

30th April 2022

Dear Parishioners,

Once more it is good to be able to send out the Newsletter to you, together with the Readings for Holy Mass this weekend. It is good to hear from numerous parishioners how much this is appreciated, and I thank Nicola and Roger for making these resources available on our websites too enabling them to reach a far wider faith-family. 

Very aware of our interdependence upon one another, I ask that we are – like the early Christian community of whom we hear so much in Eastertide thanks to St. Luke’s wonderful Acts of the Apostles – united in prayer. So many parishioners are in need of an ‘extra’ remembrance at this time, so let us be strong and faithful in our spiritual communion with each other.

Wishing you a pleasant and relaxed Bank Holiday weekend.

Assuring you of prayer remembrance, kindness of thought, and affection.

As ever, Fr. Nicholas     

23rd April 2022

Dear Parishioners,

This weekend’s Gospel reminds us of the constant confusion about our image. St. John the Evangelist intended St. Thomas (the Twin) to be remembered as the individual in his Gospel who made the ultimate statement of faith revealing who Jesus really is … somewhere this high intention became clouded by cynicism giving rise to the crude nickname “Doubting” Thomas ! 

Wishing you a good weekend, as we continue to celebrate Easter. May its blessings brighten al of our lives.

With prayerful remembrance, kindest thought and affection.

As ever, Fr. Nicholas    

9th April 2022

Dear Parishioners,

This weekend we begin the most solemn and sacred of weeks in the life of the Church: Holy Week. It will be the first Holy Week that we have been able to celebrate without restrictive constraint since 2019 so I look forward to seeing as many of you as are able to attend our Liturgies over the coming days. At the end of the week we celebrate Easter, which like Christmas is celebrated over eight days (an Octave). Hopefully this invitation will encourage those who are still hesitant about a full return to Mass to set aside one day during the week that will be their Easter Day and join us for Holy Mass. 

On Thursday of this week, Holy Thursday we celebrate the gifting of the Eucharist to the Church by Christ himself. Our reception of Christ’s very Body and Blood in Holy Communion is food for both body and soul. It is something that is uniquely ours as Catholics, and – personally speaking – I could not live without. Yet many do ! Once more, as I have before, I ask that if you are keeping a distance between yourself and the Lord in Eucharistic Form you consider attending a weekday Mass … Christ in the Eucharist is waiting to welcome you to His banquet, the Mass. May next week’s Easter Octave be the spur for us all to become the longed-for Easter People !

Throughout these days may we be united in prayerful remembrance and affection, recalling the suffering of the people in Ukraine within our Liturgical commemorations of the events of the first Holy Week.

As ever, Fr. Nicholas   

29th January 2022

Dear Parishioners,

It is good to be able to greet you this weekend and send the Newsletter and Readings for Holy Mass. 

As an advocate of clinging to Christmas for as long as we can, the Season of Christ’s birth comes to an official liturgical end on Wednesday with the Feast of the Presentation. It will mark the removal of the final Advent Candle in our churches, the white one, lit for the first time at the Vigil Mass on December 24th … hopefully the joy that we felt as we gathered that evening will continue to remain with us as we extinguish its light for a final time. May the love expressed in the dark hours of the first Christmas night when God gave His Son in human form remain the beacon enlightening our life journey. If anyone is struggling to express love for others, then St. Paul comes to our rescue in the beautiful Second Reading of this weekend’s Mass as he writes to the early Christian community in Corinith. The words and sentiments may be well-worn, but they are truly timeless.

Reassuring you of remembrance in prayer, thought and affection.

As ever, Fr. Nicholas      

8th January 2022

Dear Parishioners,

A few weeks ago, a friend came to a Mass I was celebrating for his wife’s cousin who had recently died. It was great to see him as we’d not met for a long number of months. Just before leaving church after a lengthy conversation, he commented that despite continuing to work throughout Lockdown and beyond, he had ceased attending Mass on a weekly basis at the beginning of the pandemic, and had now grown used to a Sunday lie-in. His honesty was admirable. His further comment was hope-filled; that he intended to rectify this by a New Year resolution. I hope that he fulfils this, as both he and his church-family will be the poorer for his absence.   

It is noticeable that a good number of previously familiar faces have not reappeared in our two churches since we closed our doors in March 2020. I suspect that rather like my friend they have by now resumed some form of social engagement, whether that is at the hair-dressers, meeting for a coffee with friends, or indeed resuming sports or working routines. Yet they remain absent from church. Prior to Christmas encouragement was given to hesitant parishioners to attend any Mass during the final week of Advent and/or subsequently the Octave of Christmas to make that ‘their’ Mass in celebration of Christ’s birth. The response was tiny, so much so that on the Thursday before Christmas one Mass had a congregation of just one parishioner, and even on the Feast of the Epiphany we had just 18 at one of our Masses. Ever the optimist, I could see that the one person at Mass was a 100% increase on the long weeks when I was celebrating Holy Mass alone. However I personally may delight in the presence of anyone at Mass, in reality the Christmas take-up has been poor, and as a result our collective life as worshiping communities, and for those not (yet) amongst us, there is a poverty and deprivation. So, I encourage all to reach out to those they know, meet, or see who have not yet re-joined us and encourage them in some way to come along to Mass. The richness that we are privy to in the gift of the Eucharist is beyond our imaginings … yet so often we take it for granted, expecting it to be always available to and for us. The absence of ‘real’ Eucharistic participation in the Lockdown periods ought really to have made the heart grown more needy for this gift rather than culture a distance from it.

If, like my friend, you’ve grown accustomed to a lie-in on a Sunday morning, remember that there are also two Vigil Masses you could attend and still benefit from the extra hour of beauty sleep !

Be assured of remembrance at the altar, in thought and affection.

As ever, Fr. Nicholas

18th December 2021

Dear Parishioners,

It is good to be able to greet you as we enter the final week of Advent, sending the Newsletter for the coming week together with the Readings for Holy Mass this weekend, including the beautiful and poignant story of the Visitation of Our Blessed Lady to her cousin Elizabeth.

With our news stories dominated by the new Covid-19 variant and its incredible rate of transmission many will be understandably fearful and anxious about attending Holy Mass at Christmas. As I have suggested and encouraged since we opened our churches, attending Holy Mass on another day is an option. We celebrate an Octave of Christmas (meaning that the celebration of Christ’s birth is recalled in our Liturgical celebrations throughout eight days beginning on Christmas Day itself) so please do think of coming to Mass during this time. Our weekday Masses offer everyone the opportunity to social distance, should they wish to do so, and everything possible continues to be done to keep our churches safe. 

As always, I assure you (and your loved ones) of remembrance in prayer, thought and affection.

As ever, Fr. Nicholas