I thank him for you all…

Our American friends celebrated Thanksgiving this Thursday. It’s a huge deal there and the occasion for getting together as family and friends. Here in the UK we don’t, of course, have a day specially set aside for thanksgiving. Perhaps this is a shame, as saying thankyou is such an important part of being human.

This Sunday we start a new year in the Christian calendar. Advent is essentially a time for looking forward – to Christmas in particular, but also to look forward in general, and to do so with hope in our hearts as Christian believers. But before we focus on where we are going to, a little pause to reflect on where we have come from. And what a lot we have to think about in our recent journeys!

Please join me in giving thanks for the past year, whatever it may have held. Join poet Malcolm Guite in this thoughtful sonnet written for Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving starts with thanks for mere survival, Just to have made it through another year
With everyone still breathing. But we share
So much beyond the outer roads we travel;

Our interweavings on a deeper level,
The modes of life embodied souls can share, The unguessed blessings of our being here, The warp and weft that no one can unravel.

So I give thanks for our deep coinherence Inwoven in the web of God’s own grace, Pulling us through the grave and gate of death. I thank him for the truth behind appearance,

I thank him for his light in every face,
I thank him for you all, with every breath.

Fr Matthew

Christ the King

Our 3 Churches celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, the last Sunday of the Church’s liturgical year. It’s not been an easy year, for us as for everyone. Still coming out of Covid, we have all been hit by the effects of the situation in Ukraine and politics in our own country too.

So, against this background, what does this feast mean? The answer surely lies in asking ourselves another question – what kind of king was Jesus? A man of earthly power, of politics or of war? No, clearly not. A very different king emerges week by week as we watch and listen while the Gospel unfolds at Mass. He is at ease with everyone, has no earthly power, washes his followers’ feet, wears a crown of thorns and dies on a Cross.

What does it mean to you for Christ to be King? Here is a poem / prayer by Chris Thorpe from his 2019 book of liturgical ideas and prayers “Dancers and Wayfarers”

Christ the King,
You became poor that many might become rich; You emptied yourself of all power
That we might be empowered to choose.
You show us God’s kingdom in our midst
And invite us to kneel with you,
To humble ourselves, to serve those in need,
To find you here with us now.
As we gather in your name, fill us with your Spirit; Open our hearts to worship you,
Jesus the Servant King. Amen.

A happy feast day to our Christ the King community!

Fr Matthew

Our men in Rome

With the news of Canon Peter Collins’ election as Bishop of East Anglia plus the still fresh arrival of Mark O’Toole as our own archbishop, it’s interesting to know that there are at present two English bishops with very important posts at the Vatican. Considering we are a small Catholic community on the world stage, that’s very unusual.

Archbishop Paul Gallagher was born in Liverpool in 1954. He was educated at St Francis Xavier School and ordained priest in 1977. He was studying at the English College seminary in Rome at the same time as I was at the other English and Welsh seminary in Rome, the Beda, and I remember meeting him a few times. After several years in parishes he was sent back to Rome to the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, the training ground for Vatican diplomats.

His first three postings in the diplomatic service took him to three continents: to Tanzania, Uruguay and the Philippines. He then returned to Rome before becoming the Representative of the Holy See at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. He was next appointed Apostolic Nuncio (papal ambassador) first to Burundi, and later to Guatemala and eventually in December 2012 to Australia. Finally Pope Francis appointed him as Secretary for Relations with States at the Vatican in November 2014, a kind of equivalent of Foreign Secretary in the Church’s relations across the world.

Cardinal Arthur Roche was born in Batley, West Yorkshire in 1950. His seminary studies were in Valladolid, Spain, and he was ordained in 1975. After various parish experiences and time as bishop’s secretary, in 1991 he undertook further studies in theology in Rome. He took up residence at the English College and in 1992 he joined the staff of the college as Spiritual Director. In 1996, Father Roche became the new General Secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. In 2001, he was appointed to Westminster as Auxiliary Bishop to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, and the next year was transferred to be Bishop of Leeds.

From 2002, Bishop Roche was Chairman of the International Commission for English in the Liturgy, of which he had been appointed a member in 2001. Then in 2012, he was appointed as Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Vatican’s liturgy office, by Pope Benedict XVI. He served in the role for almost nine years before Pope Francis appointed him Prefect i.e. boss, of the Congregation last year, and made him a cardinal this August, 2022.

Fr Matthew