Canon John’s Pastoral Notes 2010-2011

Canon John Koenig outside the Presbytery, 2009

St. Edward’s Parish Newsletter contains weekly thoughts and teachings from our parish priest, Canon John Koenig.


June 19th 2011
This week Father Andy has his ordination anniversary (Tuesday) and in Corby, Father Stephen McGuiness (Wednesday) at St John Ogilvie. (I believe Father Jo Kizito also has his anniversary this week). It is a good time to pray for priests and for vocations to the priesthood, as well as the vocation of deacon, which is becoming more and more appreciated. In summer 2012 the diocese hopes to celebrate two ordinations to the priesthood, but we are relying more and more on everyone in our communities to maintain and develop our parishes and churches, in a new and very positive way. The feast of the Trinity gives us that picture of many different persons but in unity.
Meanwhile, congratulations to those celebrating their priesthood anniversaries!

June 12th 2011
Many thanks for the constant help given to Father Jo in the St Patrick’s Refugee Centre in Uganda. Friday 3rd June was the feast of the Uganda Martyrs, the first beheaded in November 1885, 25 others – the youngest 13 – executed on 3rd June 1886 by a cruel and degenerate king. Other executions followed, including several from an Anglican mission. Father Jo will have been celebrating with his community, remembering the canonisation of these martyrs by Pope Paul VI in 1965, when the Pope made special mention also of the Anglican martyrs. In Kettering we have been supporting youngsters thinking of becoming priests – there is a photo on the noticeboard, and a thank-you card. We have also been trying to raise money for computers for local education, now over £500, half-way to our desired total. The feast of Pentecost, with the Holy Spirit inspiring us to witness to Christ, is also a good time to remember old friends.

June 5th 2011
A Novena, or nine days of prayer for a special intention, is based on the Church’s prayer from the (old) feast of Ascension to Pentecost Sunday, when the Holy Spirit came upon the 120 men and women gathered in ‘constant prayer, with Mary, the mother of Jesus’, as we are told in the Acts of the Apostles. This is a time specifically of prayer, all of us, for the same intention, which is for God to guide the whole community of the faithful to fulfil the Church’s mission in bringing Christ’s Gospel to others in word and deed. As the Holy Spirit came on everyone at Pentecost, so we pray for everyone in the Church at this time. THE SACRED HEART IMAGE by the Reading-stand on the sanctuary is a copy of the first such image in England, brought from Rome by Bishop Milner in 1814, and placed in a chapel in Maryvale House, Birmingham, now a centre of world-wide adult education in the Catholic Faith. The original image is a stained-glass window, which was cracked in transport to England. The crack can be seen on the picture.

May 29th 2011
EDEL WEISS ? As we sang from the ‘Sound of Music’ at the Cransley Hospice Concert last weekend, I was reminded of my stay with family in Austria just after Easter this year. On Sunday we joined in a Mass in a church in Vienna which was celebrating its 680th birthday, with a Schubert Mass, not unusual in Austria, but certainly would be in England! It meant sitting for long periods listening to classical music! This weekend the bishops of England and Wales tell us about a new more formal and literal translation (from the original Latin) of our Mass. It will be used in all English speaking countries, America, S Africa, Australia etc. At Mass in these countries we will hear the same translation, but will the feel of Mass be the same? Surely not. In each country it will bear the local imprint, as even from parish to parish, or from Mass to Mass in our own parish, there is a local feel. The Church is one in faith, but also catholic, of all places. We bring to Mass our own gifts, while seeking to pray with joyful praise and quiet reflection

May 22nd 2011
The Deacons and priests of the Deanery had one of their occasional meetings recently as the Bishop asks us to work more closely together in our area of the diocese. This includes now just the four Corby parishes, Oundle, Thrapston/Raunds, and Kettering. Two of the Corby parishes (St Patrick’s and St Brendan’s) have for some time had just one priest as parish priest for both. There are three Masses between the two churches each weekend. Oundle parish has also been combined with Thrapston/Raunds parish (a huge area), with one priest, but with the help (at present) of a retired priest. (There are churches in each of these towns, with two weekday Masses each, and a number of Masses at the weekend). The two parishes of Our Lady’s and St John Ogilvie, Corby, each have a priest. Our Lady’s has recently welcomed Father Marek, a Polish priest, but who has worked for six years in Canada and speaks very good English. He is with us till September, but maybe longer, depending on the Bishop’s plans and needs for the diocese. In Kettering we still have our two priests. As the priests and deacons met on 11th May, they began to speak rather of many Christian communities in the deanery, served by a number of priests and deacons, with less distinction of parish boundaries.

May 15th 2011
The following is a short statement based on official records of 19th May 303 AD in a town called Citra, North Africa, in the time of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, at the height of persecution of Christians, showing a Christian Group just captured. A Bishop Paul was told to hand over the Scriptures. One of the Readers was then called on. There were three presbyters (priests) named, two deacons, six subdeacons (!) – a position abolished around 1971 – and a number of sextons. Nearly all were subsequently condemned for not paying religious respect to the emperor. Our priests and deacons in St Luke’s Deanery (Corby, Kettering, Thrapston-Raunds-Oundle) have been discussing further the future of our area with less priests. They have been considering temporary measures to suggest for the immediate future, while also becoming aware that leadership in our Church comes in different forms, and in a responsible sense involves us all, as members of a royal and priestly people, as St Peter tells us in the New Testament Letters.

May 8th 2011
Many children in different schools and in the various churches of our parish are again preparing for the Sacraments of Reconciliation, Holy Communion and Confirmation, outward signs of Christ coming to us, guiding us with His Holy Spirit. We thank those in our schools and in our communities who give special instruction, but we know it is a combined effort of homes, schools and parish, and the celebrations happily shared in by all at many different Masses, particularly First Holy Communion. Often in this Easter season we are reminded of the Risen Lord showing Himself to the disciples while they are at table. We think of the gathering of the Church around the table and altar of the Mass, where, however simple the celebration is, Jesus shows Himself to us in Word and Sacrament. The sacraments are not only Christ’s work, but actions of His Body the church too. As we pray for the children and their families, we pray to be also good neighbours to one another, a true witness to the presence of the Risen Lord.

May 1st 2011
Many will remember Pope John-Paul from his trip to Ireland, to Scotland, England and Wales. Others will remember him from Rome or elsewhere. He will be remembered in his care for young people, perhaps especially in Cardiff and in Scotland, or the World Youth Day of the Year 2000. Others will remember him at the special Mass for the sick in Southwark Diocese, speaking to each one, and recalling the attempt on his own life. Some will remember him in old age, and speaking of the special gifts of the elderly, especially in prayer. One priest I know remembers him saying Mass in the English College in Rome and, in spite of having met so many well-known international figures, was just like any other priest, though his youth and middle years were marked by World War II and its consequences. Perhaps we all remember him as offering priestly care to everyone he met, with a special veneration of Our Lady, and with an example of untiring service. We have another patron to pray for us in heaven.

April 24th 2011
Today is not a day for much saying, but for much rejoicing. In some countries, like Russia or Greece, Christians greet each other with the words – ‘Christ is Risen’ and reply ‘He is truly risen’. Recent Popes have laboured bravely on Easter Day to say simply ‘A Blessed Easter to you all’ in an extraordinary variety of languages! So a happy and blessed Easter to you all from your priests and deacon. The Divine Mercy devotion, celebrated the Sunday after Easter, has grown in popularity in recent years. Pope John Paul II instituted this celebration, following the canonisation of Sister Faustina, a Polish Sister of Mercy. Her own calling by Christ was to have the divine mercy picture painted and venerated, in honour of God’s infinite compassion and the feast proclaims God’s compassionate forgiveness and healing of our wounds and scars of sin, like a new baptism. Pope John Paul II wrote one of his universal encyclicals or letters simply on the divine mercy, how God draws us to Himself by His compassion and loving-kindness.
The Divine Mercy devotion includes a novena, or nine days of prayer, beginning on Good Friday, and the traditional receiving of Communion and the Sacrament of Penance during that period. Please try and make your confession before the divine mercy Mass, not on the day.

April 17th 2011
ANTI-JEWISH?
The Church teaches us that the Scriptures are the words of God in the words of men. They faithfully teach us what God willed for our salvation. Pope Benedict in his most recent book reminds us that the truth God wills us to know for our good, certainly does not include any hint of anti-semitism which is entirely contrary to our faith. The Passion stories we hear in this Holy Week and take part in are written in dramatic fashion, not for us to look back, but for us to live through now. All the elements of a religious, political or personal nature in the Gospels are just as much a challenge to us today as long ago. So Christ’s saving work is also as powerfully and truly for us today. The core message of the Scriptures is that Christ’s saving work is for all human beings in every age, with none excluded.

April 10th 2011
From this Sunday the Statues and pictures of the Church are covered. It is the season of Passiontide. Jesus is often described as surrounded by crowds, to Calvary. We prepare to share that journey together once more. Our churches are often crowded, all ages. We are all baptised individually, but conscious we become part, members of the gathering of the Church. It is reflected in the great variety of different tasks or groups in a parish, and especially in the gathering of the Mass. So a parish community is not just a random crowd that we read of in the Gospels, but like the disciples called together by name, men and women, by the one Lord. (One retired priest of the diocese used to describe the Church as like tramps who tip each other off on where some good fodder was to be found!)

April 3rd 2011
While our two schools live around our faith in Jesus, and also prepare children for their First Holy Communion, for the Sacrament of Reconciliation and for Confirmation, there are also parishioners who prepare children not at Catholic schools for these Sacraments. YOUNG PEOPLE are also supported through the many branches of the Scouter movement, for boys and girls, as we experience at Mass once a month at 10.30am at St Edward’s. Many volunteers help out, as they do with our FOOTSTEPS group for Years 7-10. There are many aspects to a parish community and many needs not met, which need prayer and new projects, but we must recognise how blessed we are, with so many helpers and groups, not forgetting care in the parish and in the diocese, for marriage preparation and support.

March 27th 2011
Throughout the year in our parish, babies and infants are brought for baptism – in 2010 there were 52, in 2009 there were 89. Baptism means also reception into the Church, but that reception already begins in the family, with all their preparations, and then in some of the instruction – seeing a priest, going through the ceremony (there is a meeting for parents once a month, or at home). Various members of the parish in the presbytery go through the service with parents and so are also part of the ‘reception committee’! In Lent adults are often coming to the end of their preparation for reception into the Church and parish community at Easter – either through baptism or, if already baptised, more simply. This long instruction of six months or more is also given by trained teachers in the parish, with the support of the priests. Coming into the community is not the end, but a beginning whether we are young or old, needing much support.

March 20th 2011
Care for the sick and bereaved in a large parish is a very important part of a priest’s life, especially in a large parish with a regional General Hospital and other health care. Week by week people are visited in hospital and brought Holy Communion by trained helpers, as you well know. We have our own Florence Nightingale! Priests are called on to bring the Sacrament of the Sick, sometimes named Extreme Unction or last anointing – but many people receive this sacrament and return home! Priests celebrate the Requiem Mass but a Deacon or trained lay person may help receive a body into church, or conduct a funeral service at the crematorium or in church. With time this has become more frequent, with less priests. Our parish serves, in the hospital, Catholics from all our area, Corby, Rushden, even Market Harborough. Their priests often try and visit their own parishioners, as do our priests try and visit those of Kettering parish or anyone, who asks, but it is very much a shared service and a privileged one.

March 13th 2011
For some time now Deacon Keith has led a Sunday service at the 8.00am St Edward’s slot, or at Desborough, Rothwell and Burton Latimer. There has been further permission by the Bishop to prepare members of the congregation to lead a similar service to that taken by the Deacon in an emergency. It is in essence the same as when a Eucharistic Minister brings Holy Communion to someone at home or in hospital: – prayers and reading of the Scripture for the day, and then moving directly to the Our Father and preparing and receiving Holy Communion. Now that we have less priests, this service has become common in many parts of the world. In this season of Lent all are welcome to take advantage of this extra opportunity, as some already do, and share in this gentle, prayerful and fairly short Tuesday morning service in St Edward’s AND AT OTHER TIMES in the outlying churches too.

March 6th 2011
The Pastoral Letter from the Bishop for this weekend was written before he went into hospital, but a reminder of his still lengthy convalescence, learning to walk well again. The ‘Footsteps’ group have produced a poster for Lent, thinking of the things that can go wrong and bringing us up to date with modern communications technology! Friday evening Stations of the Cross at St Edward’s are led by parishioners, as usual. This Thursday it seemed appropriate to re-introduce a Mass for the Bereaved, both recent and more distant. A special intention during Lent must be, not only for our own needs, but for the parish and Church at large with many challenges.

February 27th 2011
Bishop Peter has had a successful operation and was able to be at his father’s funeral in Portsmouth Cathedral on Thursday 24th February. Bishop Peter came to us from Portsmouth diocese. He is now convalescing at St John’s Convent, Kiln Green, not far from Reading, Berkshire. It is also a place of retirement for some priests, though one has to imagine less so with the closure of so many convents. We might remember our former Bishop Charles Grant, who spoke at Vatican II, but retired in 1982 from the diocese. Some will remember him as parish priest of Kettering for many years before becoming bishop in 1965. Father Reg Atkinson who was a chaplain in World War II and suffered from shell-shock, was retired in Brixworth in a small flat for many years and also spent his last years at Kiln Green. Bishop Peter has voiced his concern about arranging the retirement and pensions of priests, something which may vary considerably from priest to priest according to their circumstances. We remember how much we have been helped by retired priests in our parish, thankful they are in good health still.

February 20th 2011
There have been many funerals lately and an unusual number of requests for Mass-cards. People mostly ask for these before or after a Mass in church. May I ask you all to try and follow this pattern. (You will not be refused if you forget!) It is funny that such a small matter can nevertheless be a great help over time. The helpful practice of delivering intentions not requiring cards in writing either via the collection plate or through the letter box should continue, please. On a more positive note, please let the priests know if you wish an intention – for the living or the deceased – to be mentioned and included in the prayers at Mass.

February 13th 2011
CCTV in church may seem strange, even offensive, though it is established even in our Northampton Cathedral. The subject has been discussed at some length in the last two Parish Forum meetings. To some it seems wrong to have cameras in church, where people come to pray in privacy. Others find themselves put off coming in, knowing that thefts or the threat of theft have occurred in the past. Someone has to make a decision and on this occasion it falls to me. We are blessed with a church open every day, where I know people come daily to pray. It grieves me to think anyone should be nervous of doing so. I believe CCTV will be a reassurance, placed discretely by the Church entrances, and that in time we will hardly notice it, while those intent on misbehaviour, however infrequent, will be quietly deterred, as in many public places. Anyone is always welcome to share their concerns and new ideas are always welcome. Meanwhile, thank you for your patience.

February 6th 2011
Canon John thanks everybody for their kind enquiries and prayers while he was in hospital earlier this week. He is now away and resting and hopes to be back in action by next weekend.

January 30th 2011
Angela Merici from Brescia in northern Italy died in 1540, having founded a religious Order for the education of girls, better known to us as the Ursulines, or the Company of St Ursula. It was the first teaching order of women to be established in the Church. A community was established in Kettering in the late 1930s, eventually superceded in the 1950s by our Sisters of Our Lady. Angela, her brother and sister, were looked after by an uncle when her parents died. She came to live a very ascetic vegetarian life as a member of the third Order (lay) of St Francis. She was drawn to teaching children who lacked any serious religious instruction and companions joined her. She invoked the protection of St Ursula, the patroness of medieval universities popularly venerated as a leader of women – hence the name ‘Ursulines’. Angela’s feast was 27th January. Our prayers are for our teachers and catechists in our parish.

January 23rd 2011
A Local Saint? George Spencer (1799-1864) was the youngest son of the second Earl Spencer of Althorp, Northamptonshire, a family known to us now through Princess Diana. He went to Eton College and Cambridge University, took orders in the Church of England, but increasing doubts led him to become a Catholic. We remember him today because, like saints before and since, he was happy to give up all his prestigious background and become a poor Passionist priest and as Father Ignatius to travel all over England, Ireland and Europe preaching and seeking prayers for England and working simply and respectfully for Christian Unity. His family, unusually for the time, gradually accepted his decision and welcomed him again. He died as humbly as he lived, having a heart attack while walking along a quiet road and dying there alone. He is buried in the Passionist church at Sutton, St Helens. His cause of canonisation was introduced in June 1992.

January 16th 2011
Churches Together in Kettering & District was founded 30 years ago in 1980 and founder members from our parish, David Tinkler and Sister Liz, are still active in that organisation, of which we are specially reminded every year in the Good Friday Walk of Witness. (Sister Bernadette was also very much involved, along with other sisters over the years). In our world of great religious antagonism in many parts, it is vital that we build bridges first of all between Christians, but also with those of other faiths. (In our Hospital, Rev Lesley McCormack brought together all religious leaders very successfully in their care for their patients). Former Anglicans forming a particular community within the Catholic Church as recently publicised, has to be respected, but does not affect us directly nor the problems we face, but encourages us to pray and work together so as to deepen the faith and understanding of us all. So I do encourage everyone in prayer for Christian Unity this week and for the service next Sunday evening, 6.00pm at SS Peter & Paul, Kettering.

January 9th 2011
Basic information on the Parishes of our Pastoral Area were given to the Bishop last year. This deanery now includes – CORBY parishes: St Brendan’s & St Patrick’s with one priest, Fr Gerard Byrne – St John Ogilvie with Fr Stephen McGuiness and two Deacons – Our Lady’s with Fr Robert Preece and one Deacon, and Kettering parish with two priests and one active Deacon, with the parish church and three further churches. Last but not least, Fr Brian Leatherland cares for two parishes – Oundle & Thrapston/Raunds, three churches in all. There are semi-retired priests living in our area and helping each week – Fr Tony Whitfield, Fr Stan Condon and Mgr Pat McAleenan. Each parish has many other ‘personnel’ but here special mention may be made of Readers and Eucharistic Ministers, our schools and Hospital visitors. On 20th January 2011 the clergy meet with the Bishop; on 26th January all the clergy of the Pastoral Area, the six lay members of the steering group meet with Bishop Peter to receive and consider the Bishop’s response to the Groundplan. That document distils all the ideas expressed in general meetings and “guided Conversations” throughout the Deanery which have been ongoing since December 2008, following the “Walking Humbly” DVD. Further efforts will be made to let everyone’s voice be heard. The Bishop’s vision is of greater co-operation between our parishes which, to some extent, we have begun.

January 2nd 2011
On a Sunday once a month our parishioners from St Nicholas Owen, Burton Latimer, lead an ecumenical service at Orchard House Residential Home, in Barton Seagrave, for the resident senior citizens. This Advent was a special treat – our own fine young singers, Rebecca and Susanna, were joined by our famous Kettering young singer, Faryl Smith, at a service much appreciated by all. The service included the usual Christmas carols and readings, but is much appreciated throughout the year. This service has been arranged for seven years now, always on the third Sunday of the month at 11.00am. The next service will be on 16th January 2011. Anyone is welcome to come along, join in, or – with the help of the old hands – take a particular part.

December 26th 2010
We have enjoyed so many ‘Carols by Candlelight’ over these weeks, in various locations! We have watched the four Advent Candles gradually being lit. On Christmas Night especially we have sung with just the light of the candles to help us! And on Christmas Day we are reminded of Christ our Light, the Word of God through whom all things came to be. “All that came to be had life in Him, and that life was the Light of men, the Light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.” May we more and more hold fast to Jesus our Light, and the Light that enlightens all people. May we know his Light shining in our hearts and homes again this Christmas.

December 19th 2010
No room at the Inn? Two of our local Methodist Ministers have been trying to rally support for the YMCA Drop-In centre on Northampton Road, Kettering for homeless people. They need £6,500 to stop the closure on 23rd December and remain open until 10th March 2011, by paying staff wages and running costs. Tony and Fiona have been working hard to help secure the future for this very important support-centre for people in distress. They have asked the local churches for help so that the Centre can be retained for the long-term future. There is an opportunity to contribute to this in a second collection this weekend.

December 12th 2010
Every year at this time I am asked to sing a verse of ‘Silent Night’ at Rothwell’s Carol Concert. It is one of the most popular carols still. A good deal of argument still goes on as to what should be sung at Mass. The change from Latin to English produced a flurry of new music and hymns, many of which have fallen by the wayside and others which have become lasting favourites. We are now in a multi-cultural situation and beginning to sing some hymns from around the world. In the early days of the Church of England, the Pope allowed two of his choir members in Rome to come and teach the locals the Latin chant! Some of this music or chant goes back to the synagogue – some would say – as for example the chants used for the psalms at Sunday Evening Prayer. Christmas allows us to be specially united in song, with some carols now international favourites. May we happily sing ‘Glory to God’ with the angels!

December 5th 2010
Though the diocese of Northampton was founded in 1850, it was only on 8th December 1854 that the whole Church united with Pope Pius IX in confirming the universally believed teaching that Mary was kept free from sin from the first moment of her existence, from her conception. “This doctrine declares that Mary, through the redeeming grace of her Son, is a completely human nature. Her nature is complete, not fallen; she is the humanity which Adam should have offered his Lord, but didn’t preserve; so Mary, full of grace, was preserved from sin”. Bishop Ullathorne chose this title of patronage first, for his Birmingham diocese in 1850 – a devotion ancient in England. In 1854 this patronage was extended to all the (then) eight English dioceses, so their major diocesan feast was celebrated on the same day, 8th December, the day of the official definition of the teaching.

November 28th 2010
Edith Stein (1891-1942), later St Benedicta of the Cross, recorded this incident on her journey from her Jewish roots, through atheism to the Catholic faith, becoming a Carmelite nun, dying in Auschwitz. “We went into the cathedral for a few moments, and as we stood there in respectful silence, a woman came in with her shopping basket and knelt down in one of the pews to say a short prayer. That was something completely new to me. In the synagogue, as in the Protestant churches I had visited, people only went in at the time of the service. But here was someone coming into the empty church in the middle of a day’s work as if to talk with a friend. I have never been able to forget that”. May this ADVENT be a renewed time of friendly prayer in our churches, homes and daily lives.

November 21st 2010
As we celebrate the feast of Christ the King, we might reflect that Northampton was for long a royal town, geographically useful for the Middle Ages, between Wales and East Anglia, or York and London. Great Councils were held at Northampton Castle and at one such in 1164 Thomas a Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, was summoned to answer the king’s charges of “feudal disobedience and contempt of the royal summons”. Thomas refused the judgement of the Council, saying that they did not have the legal right to judge him, and he fled from there to France the same night. He returned some years later, but his quarrel with the king was not resolved, and he was killed by four of the king’s knights in his own cathedral in Canterbury. St Thomas a Becket is the secondary patron of our Northampton Diocese, the first being Our Lady, the Immaculate Conception.

November 14th 2010
Father Jo will be with us until 4th December when he will return to the St Patrick’s Refugee Centre in Uganda, where he is chaplain and director. The refugees come from numerous countries going through times of great civil unrest or war – the Congo, Somalia, Burundi, Rwanda – to name just a few. Father Jo has managed to have the different groups elect their own trusted leaders to help him. Not all of the over 25,000 refugees are Catholic, but certainly well over half are, coming often from very Catholic countries. Even some born in the refugee centre have gone on to become priests. Is there some way we can help a little with a farewell gift? Please let me know. I write this knowing we have had many second collections this year and this month in particular.

November 7th 2010
You may have seen in the papers the news of a terrible attack on people in church, Chaldean Catholics of a very ancient lineage, resulting in a massacre of the innocents. We must pray for them all. Father Jo and I watched a video recently of the film ‘Gandhi’ with Ben Kingsley acting. It was very moving. One of the lines, perhaps taken from Gandhi’s own writings was: ’An eye for an eye only results in both parties being blind’. Mahatma Gandhi makes us think of saintly figures in all faiths. When we read about these atrocities in the papers we might think in violent terms in return, but our faith leads us to seek even more to respect others of whatever faith, knowing that great misdeeds can occur anywhere, as Pope John Paul reminded us in the year 2000, and to work for better understanding and harmony in our own way.

October 31st 2010
We are once more on the eve of the month of November, beginning with the celebration of the feast of All Saints, followed by the commemoration of All Souls. The two feasts together remind us of our glory as children of God, and also of our awareness of our human frailty, and God’s constant help and support. We remember all the “ties of friendship and affection” uniting us with the faithful departed in various ways in different countries. In many places a whole population will visit the cemetery on All Souls’ Day in a special blessing of graves, as some of us experienced earlier this year. Here we have adopted a practice known in America of recalling the names of all who have died in the last twelve months at the All Souls Mass. We also leave names of family/friends we wish remembered in a special brown envelope left by the altar throughout the month of November. (It is always possible to fill in a form giving your Funeral Mass Requirements and leave it with the clergy).

October 24th 2010
A very warm welcome to Father Josemarie Kizito from Uganda, known to us as Father Jo, who visited us briefly many years ago, and whom we have been trying to support over this period. He is a chaplain to a Refugee Centre not far from the Congo border, with about 25,000 refugees there. They come from Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, Sudan, all places of civil unrest or war, and about half the refugees are Catholic, so Father Jo is kept busy. He has three religious sisters as helpers, members of a local religious congregation. He also has two youngsters from among the refugees who are going forward for the priesthood: we have been helping finance the first one already. With so many different nationalities to cope with Father Jo has had to ask them to elect their own leaders who work with Father Jo. Also the Legion of Mary, widespread in African countries, is a great support. Father Jo will be with us until 4th December: sorry it’s so cold Father Jo!

October 17th 2010
Some notes on the history of Kettering parish seem appropriate as we rather belatedly celebrate the feast of St Edward this Sunday. On 20th September 1891 Mass was first celebrated in a rented Hall by Rev H Stanley. A drawing in the presbytery shows another house, 13 The Grove, where the priest first lived, and on 1st June 1892 the first Mass was celebrated in the present house (we have a drawing of a sort of chapel arrangement on the ground floor). On 11th January 1893 Rev Allies first celebrated Mass in St Edward’s Church (now the church hall), and on 20th October 1940 our present St Edward’s Church was opened, and consecrated on 24th September 1946. Holy Trinity Church, Desborough was acquired and opened in 1972. St Nicholas Owen, Burton Latimer was blessed on 2nd March 1972. St Bernadette’s, Rothwell, was blessed on 19th June 1959. Earlier than all these was St Luke’s in Kettering, officially registered for worship on 1st May 1957. The last Mass celebrated there was on 25th January 1998.

October 10th 2010
First Australian Saint: After John Henry Newman being pronounced blessed on 26th September, Mother Mary MacKillop will be pronounced Saint. Born in Melbourne, Australia, 1842, of Scottish parents, she founded a new way of religious life in Australia whereby nuns lived in twos and threes among the people, often in places where there was no resident priest but great hardship. “Her life reflects the values which are at the heart of the Australian story, a sense of a fair go for everyone, a willingness to stand on the side of the battler, egalitarianism, tenacity in facing difficult situations and a pragmatic approach to life”. The novelty of her approach brought her into conflict with some bishops and she was excommunicated by the Bishop of Adelaide for insubordination and disobedience! (Not unusual for saints!) “She once said that we teach more by example than by word. Her life was devoted to doing good and guiding others to do the same”. (Mission Magazine)

October 3rd 2010
The feast of Our Lady of the Rosary falls on Thursday 7th October and so October has the title of the month of the Rosary. It remains the most popular aid to prayer, once called ‘the lay person’s book of psalms’, there being 150 psalms and the number of Hail Marys for the joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries being also 150! Pope John Paul II, however, added further ‘Mysteries of Light’ or Luminous Mysteries, filling a gap with recollection of the public life of Jesus, from his baptism in the river Jordan to the institution of the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper. The Rosary becomes more obviously a recollection of the whole Gospel. 7th October marks the Rosary Feast as the anniversary of a naval battle won by Christian forces in Lepanto in 1571, with many praying at that time. The Rosary through the ages has surely been prayed in many crucial times in people’s lives and remains a great help to prayer.

September 26th 2010
The naming of John Henry Newman last week as ‘Blessed’ was the end of a long road, which included another holy man, Blessed Dominic Barberi. He was a Passionist priest born 1792 in Viterbo, Italy, and conceived an idea that one day he would serve in England. Without knowing a word of the language, he came to England as a missionary and, curiously, was able to make himself understood, especially in the confessional and had a most successful mission. In 1845 he came to meet John Henry Newman, who recognised him immediately as a saint – it is said that saints can recognise one another – and Blessed Dominic soon received Newman into the Church. Dominic continued his missionary work until 1849 when he suffered a heart attack aboard a train, and died on the platform of Reading Station in Berkshire. We can ask the prayers of both these holy men for our missionary efforts today. Bl Dominic’s feast is on 26th August – Newman’s feast is now on 9th October, the day Dominic received him into the Church.

September 19th 2010
A different sort of miracle! “The miracle of Newman is the moral miracle of his influence for good in the Church. By his teaching and example he has transformed the lives of countless men and women, strengthened their faith, renewed their hope and deepened their love for others. One such example of the power of Newman’s influence can be found in the life of Mother Mary Theophane, a former Superior General of the Missionary Sisters of St Columban. While on official visitation to China in the 1930s she came across a book of Newman’s prayers and meditations, which gave her such comfort and encouragement on the journey that she wrote to the Birmingham Oratory to express her gratitude and great joy in discovering Newman. Her letters were among the thousands of similar testimonies sent in for the Cause of his Beatification”. (Columban Magazine, Fr Colm McKeating). As we sing Newman’s beautiful hymns may we also experience the support of his prayers.

September 12th 2010
Next Sunday, Pope Benedict will pronounce as ‘Blessed’ John Henry Newman (1801-1890). This most famous convert of the 19th century and outstanding scholar has somewhat local connections – at Oxford University and then Hagley Road, Birmingham. Other saints with not too distant connections with us might be St Alban, martyred for his faith possibly around 209AD and giving his name to a city, and St Edmund Campion, Jesuit priest, former student also of Oxford University and resident at Harrowden Hall, outside Wellingborough, in his efforts to bring the sacraments and the Mass to steadfast Catholics, martyred 1581. We might remember St John Fisher, companion of St Thomas More in martyrdom, bishop of Rochester, but also Chancellor of Cambridge University for a time. Or near Cambridge, there is St Etheldreda, royal and religious leader of the double monastery at Ely, monks and nuns, just outside Cambridge, born in Suffolk, died 679AD. We might also remember Blessed Peter Wright, born in Slipton, working in a lawyer’s office in Thrapston, before going abroad to become a Jesuit priest, and final martyrdom in 1651, one of only two martyrs in the time of Oliver Cromwell in England.

September 5th 2010
Many of the early Popes were martyrs. Over the first three hundred years the Church passed mostly from friend to friend in what were very closely-knit communities, known for allowing people of every sort – from slaves to noblemen – to mingle together in their services. They were also known for their mutual charity, and charity to all especially in times of natural disaster – earthquakes or floods – and also the witness of martyrs. An early bishop of Rome, St Clement, wrote a beautiful letter to the Corinthians, (much like St Paul) in about AD 96. He was also a martyr, as was Pope Sixtus, mentioned in the First Eucharistic Prayer. He died in AD 258, along with four of his seven deacons. One of them, St Laurence, is famous for telling the magistrate that the treasures of the Church were the poor. Laurence was burnt on a gridiron. The foundation stone of our present St Edward’s church was laid by the then Bishop Laurence Youens. His coat of arms is in the window just before you reach the confessional rooms on that side of the church. You can see a gridiron as well as a ‘Yew’ tree – a pun on the bishop’s surname

August 29th 2010
As we prepare for the second visit of a Pope to Britain shortly, we can recall that the one considered our special ‘apostle’ was also a Pope, St Gregory, whose feast we keep this Friday 3rd September. He was Pope from 590-604 AD, came from an old Roman family and was in his 30s Prefect of Rome, giving it all up to become a monk. His monastic community in Rome thrived and the Pope did not forget Gregory, eventually making him a deacon and his ambassador to Constantinople (modern Istanbul). When he finished his duties he was allowed to return to his monastery, but when the Pope died, the people pleaded for him to be their bishop. So he became Pope and sent missionaries to Britain, a group of 40 monks! It is famously attributed to Gregory that he thought the people should not be called ‘Angles’ but ‘Angels’. The missionaries he sent, monks led by the future St Augustine of Canterbury, were full of trepidation and turned back, but Gregory managed to give them courage to continue! Gregory wrote a book for bishops, which has been read ever since. It is a balanced guide for those called to be ‘shepherds’ of the flock, while lamenting that he is distracted by having so many calls on his time to do with mundane administration. Now Popes – and clergy in general – have many helpers to deal with day to day administration.

August 22nd 2010
One of the great secondary Catholic schools in the then much larger diocese of Northampton was St. Joseph’s, Ipswich, for boys (now a full comprehensive Catholic school) – and run by the De La Salle brothers, a French teaching order of brothers founded in the 18th century. The Catholic Herald (1st August) had a lengthy article about an English member of the Order in Peru today, standing up for the poor natives of the country and trying to save the Amazon Forests for the sake of us all. 23rd August is the feast of St. Rose of Lima, Peru, reminding us of the whole South American continent and how, putting God first, can make us protest against the suffering and injustice perpetrated when something else takes His place. St. Rose became a member of the (lay) Third Order of St. Dominic and lived largely the life of a hermit, in a little hut in the family garden. There are still hermits to this day, some living in big cities. It is not a common vocation, but a particular expression of God’s love seen in all things. A great friend, St. Martin de Porres, a lay Dominican brother, might be considered just the opposite, actively caring for all in need, even animals like donkeys badly used! Somewhere we have to find a place in our lives for both Martha and Mary, for active charity and contemplation.

August 15th 2010
My only visit to Israel in 1980 coincided with the feast of the Assumption of our Lady (August 15th) and, outside the great Basilica dedicated to Our Lady in Nazareth, we saw a local sword dance done by the men, which seemed to include jumping over the swords while fireworks went off to add to the danger! The feast of the Assumption was made more prominent in 1950, a Holy Year, when Pope Pius XII spoke of Our Lady’s immediate sharing in the risen glory of her Son. A memorial plague in St Peter’s, Rome, lists the notables present at that time with the Pope, including Thomas Leo Parker, Bishop of Northampton. There are very many pilgrims who now visit the traditional site of the last home of Our Lady in Ephesus, southern Turkey where St John the apostle cared for her. Followers of the Koran, knowing it expresses great reverence for the Virgin Mary, also pray at that shrine. Relics of all the saints, bodily remnants, are venerated all over the world, including at least three places claiming to house the head of John the Baptist! But there are no relics of Our Lady. But her feast encourages us on our journey, to remain faithful, in the mysterious but sure hope of the resurrection.

August 8th 2010
Over the years, our large Kettering parish has been asked to host for a few weeks or months many students for the priesthood – including Father Andy for three months some years ago! This September we will be asked once more to welcome a student for the priesthood about to begin a sixth year in Rome, which will conclude with his ordination as deacon, and sometime after as priest. (The feast of St. John Vianney, patron saint of parish clergy, was on 4th August.) As you know, it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain the number of priests in parishes that we have become accustomed to. St. Brendan’s in Corby has had to combine with a second parish, St. Patrick’s for some time. Our Lady’s in Corby has now one priest instead of two, but there is also a Deacon. The parish priest of Oundle Parish is retiring at the end of August. On the other hand, one of the priests who was with us for two years, Father John Opoku from Ghana, now has many outlying communities to care for with the help of local leaders. An example to us?

August 1st 2010
After a brief stay in Kettering General Hospital over two weeks ago, which confirmed that my heart is working well, but I needed to come off one of my pills, I was offered hospitality (for the second time in recent years) by Bishop Peter, in ‘Bishops House’, very near Northampton Cathedral. It is a good place to rest up in, as it is generally quiet, the Bishop having to travel round our three counties (Beds, Bucks and Northants) administering Confirmation (or, also that week ordaining a new deacon in one parish). At daily Mass in the cathedral I discovered that the congregation were blessed with a lengthy daily sermon! There were also a number of meetings in Bishop’s House which I was invited to join, and so the time passed quickly. It also gave me time to reflect that, in the future, it would be a great help to have a number of small tasks taken on by other in the parish. In the present climate, priests are having to do this, although a number of candidates continue to come forward for the priesthood, diaconate or religious life. In the meantime, thanks you for all kind prayers and good wishes, and so much taken on by so many willing hands to help our parish community every day.

July 25th 2010
The Feast of the founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) St Ignatius Loyola falls next Saturday 31st July. Another famous St Ignatius was a martyr bishop from Syria, died 108AD. The picture under the hymn board at present is of Ignatius Spencer (1799-1864), an increasingly well known priest of the 19th century. George Spencer was the youngest of seven children, a member of the well-known Northamptonshire family, the Spencers of Althorp, from whom came Lady Diana Spencer, the mother of Princes William and Harry. George Spencer, to the dismay of his family, was a convert to the Catholic faith. Unusually for the time, he was not cut off by the family, but was gradually made welcome again. He took the name Ignatius when he joined the Passionist Order and became famous as an early apostle of ecumenism, working for the unity of all Christians. We might ask his prayers for the present time when all Christians are facing special difficulties. As we prepare to welcome Pope Benedict, successor of St Peter, we pray especially for the light of Christ to shine more clearly for all our fellow citizens.

July 18th 2010
Sometimes on holiday people like to visit old historical sites, including the ruins of ancient monasteries, destroyed in the time of Henry VIII. Today there are again monasteries and religious houses in many parts of the country, including one Carthusian monastery of the strictest community of all. The Carthusian Order has never been reformed because so simple and experiencing constant internal reform, to keep the community on track. The founder, St Bruno, (1030-1101) established 30 ‘Charterhouses’ by the time of his death. There were seven houses in England at the time of the Reformation. Today the Charterhouse at Parkminster is re-established. At the time of the Reformation the purity and lack of corruption in these monasteries made them a special object of royal anger. The heads of three monasteries were executed, then three monks, then ten, then a further two. The rest were dispersed or fled the country, the houses destroyed.

July 11th 2010
A NATIVE AMERICAN saint, Blessed Kateri Tekawitha (1656-1680) has her feast on Wednesday 14th July. At age 4, in her Mohawk village, she lost both parents to smallpox (which she caught but survived), but she had already met a Jesuit priest, a missionary. Her Mohawk culture valued highly the ability to show physical stamina and hardiness. Kateri showed this when she grew up, walking north (to modern Canada) to find the Christian mission and was received there into the Catholic faith. She recognised the severe penance of some of the saints, but also had a great devotion to the Mass and developed a deep life of prayer in her short life. Her picture is on the table under the Hymn Board in church. WE FOLLOW ST LUKE’S GOSPEL in this year C, and the picture on the opposite side of the sanctuary draws on eight stories or sayings of Jesus, often called Master or Rabbi. Can you discover them? They blend into each other, to confuse the observer! And with a touch of typical Rabbinic humour!

July 4th 2010
As usual at this time of year, we welcome visiting priests, helping out in the parish and so allowing the local clergy to take a break. Fr Raja Dola comes to us from his studies in Rome. He is a Missionary of St Francis de Sales from the state of Andhra Pradesh in Southern India. The Church in India can look back to St Thomas the apostle as their original missionary. It is certainly true that Christian relics exist from distant Roman times, when trade between India and Europe was already taking place. Father Benny, who comes from the cathedral in Northampton once a month to celebrate the Malayalam Mass in Kettering, is also from the religious congregation, Missionaries of St Francis de Sales. Father Janusz Sniegocki from Poland is also coming to stay for a while later in July, but also helping Father Dariusz in Luton. There was a special 1,000-year celebration of the Christian faith in Poland around 1996. In our own islands, St Bede, around 730 AD put together a history of the Church also going back to Roman times. The first martyr of Britain, St Alban, a Roman soldier, suffered probably around 209 AD. You can easily obtain a copy of that history by St Bede, in translation, in Penguin paperback. The chapters are very short and readable.

June 27th 2010
Tuesday 22nd June was the feast of SS John Fisher and Thomas More, both executed in 1535 by order of Henry VIII. I was shown photographs recently of the saints’ cells in the Tower of London, one on top of the other, where Mass had just been celebrated, a rare privilege. Thomas More is better known, not least through films and books. John Fisher came from Yorkshire and was sent to study at Cambridge, becoming a fellow of the now Trinity College, and later Vice-Chancellor of the University. He resigned to become chaplain of the King’s mother, but the University owes a great deal to him and his scholarship. He later became its Chancellor and in addition bishop of the smallest and poorest English diocese of Rochester. When his house was ransacked after his arrest, his treasure-chest was found to contain a hair-shirt and an old Bible! He could not in conscience take the king’s oath of supremacy and in spite of being named a cardinal – the only martyr-cardinal – was beheaded on Tower Hill. He was 66. “I do not condemn any other men’s conscience” he wrote to Thomas Cromwell, “their conscience may save them and mine must save me”. Saints John and Thomas were canonised in 1935.

June 20th 2010
This Sunday we celebrate the feast of the dedication of our Northampton Cathedral, a day of prayer for our Bishop and Diocese. The Cathedral is dedicated under the title of Our Lady, the Immaculate Conception, and St Thomas Becket, whose martyrdom in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170 is well-known. Three knights interpreted the king’s anger with Thomas (‘Who will rid me of this troublesome cleric?’) as a request and did the deed. The king was made to do public penance by the Pope as a result. The penance of the knights was a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, not the happy holiday of modern travel! One died of the plague in Venice, another died in Jerusalem asking humbly to be buried under a stone at the entrance of the Holy Sepulchre Church. The third found his way home again and then lived as a hermit in Wales!

June 13th 2010
CONGRATULATIONS to the children of St. Edward’s School coming for their First Holy Communion this Sunday 2pm. Our prayers are with them and their families. Also to the children not at a Catholic school but prepared for their First Holy Communion this Sunday at 10:30am Mass. Our prayers are with them also and their families. Our thanks to St. Edward’s School and to Maureen and Naomi for their careful preparation of the children.

June 6th 2010
North of Rome is the hill-top town of Orvieto, famous for its wine. You can take a funicular railway up the hillside, or a bus, to catch a glimpse of the spectacular view of the local countryside. The Cathedral is also spectacular, full of carvings of Bible stories on the outside, and wonderful wall-paintings on the inside. It is in the Gothic style, similar to our own ancient cathedrals, giving some idea of how they also would have been decorated in the Middle Ages. Every Corpus Christi, there is a very colourful procession with the Blessed Sacrament, where the locals dress up in medieval garb – knights in armour on horseback, the different professional guilds in their bright, differently coloured uniforms and with their banners, and then the Blessed Sacrament. The little medieval town is packed for the occasion. The whole town is united around the Blessed Sacrament. At the time of the Reformation, young men escaped from England to the Continent, to train as priests, in order to return to celebrate the Mass in secret. The Eucharist is the point where, with all our different lives, we the Church are bound together by the Lord.

May 30th 2010
Holy Trinity Church
Our prayers today are especially for our Desborough community, Holy Trinity Church, opened in 1972. The building was purchased from the Methodist community and includes a hall in regular use by the local community, as well as ourselves, and so a source of considerable revenue. “The Holy Trinity was especially honoured in England. St Thomas Becket, having been ordained on the Octave Day of Pentecost (AD 1162) decreed that, in his diocese, the first Sunday of Ordinary time would be dedicated to the Most Blessed Trinity and the feast was gradually extended to the whole Church”. The Desborough community of Holy Trinity, situated about 6½ miles from Kettering, towards Market Harborough, has a good musical tradition, averaging about 70 in the weekly congregation. There is also Friday evening weekly Mass. Their eucharistic ministers ensure that people no longer able to attend Mass still receive weekly Holy Communion and visits. Most stop for tea and biscuits after Mass on Sunday, so that people get to know any needs in the community. Our Deacon leads a Sunday Service once a month. Altar servers have regularly been able to offer their services and occasional First Communion Masses take place. Fund-raising for charity or for the church has been very regular and the hall or the church used for concerts and talks. We wish them a Happy Feast Day!

May 23rd 2010
How many nations are represented in our parish? “Now there were devout people living in Jerusalem from every nation under heaven”, we read in the account of the first Pentecost, and they all heard the apostles “speaking their own language”. To highlight this message of the Good News being brought to every part of the world, you are invited to highlight your own country of birth by putting a red dot/sticker on the very large map provided by Father Andy, with the help of the Footsteps group, for the occasion. It is a way of celebrating the wonderful richness and diversity of our parish and of the Church as such. It reminds us that, in spite of difficulties, the Faith continues to nourish and be cherished in ever fresh ways all over the world. By the very fact of our gathering together at Mass, we give witness to the love of Christ for us all, and we recognise the part we all play in passing on the Gospel by our good example and good words.

May 16th 2010
Recently I was able to visit Rushton Hall on the outskirts of Kettering. This ancient noble house once belonged to Sir Thomas Tresham, who was imprisoned for his Catholic faith in the 16th century. Now a hotel, the house is a Grade A listed building, of great historical importance. It was only in 1979 that a priest-hole was discovered, where priests hid if the police came to try and arrest them. There is also a Chapel there pre-dating that period of persecution. In times of persecution or war people tend to support each other very much. The Catholic community at that time was very close-knit, suffering the same dangers. Today we need also to pray very much for the Church. The days between the feast of the Ascension (this Sunday) and Pentecost (next Sunday) were until very recently a period of nine days (from Ascension Thursday to the Sunday week). They were the original novena, or nine days of prayer, often adopted since in special prayer for a particular need. So this is now a time of special prayer for our communities and churches and for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

May 9th 2010
This season of Eastertide reminds us that we pray for those who have died “in the sure hope of the resurrection”, that, “to God, all are in fact alive” (Luke 20:38). We can all give support to others in time of bereavement by our condolences and prayers – and also at times with some accurate information, or pointing people in the right direction. For many years we were used to Cremation being forbidden to Catholics, a ruling by the bishops in the face of those who used Cremation to attack our faith in the resurrection. As I still find people unsure about this, I mention that Cremation is and has been for many years quite permissible to Catholics, as an alternative to burial, and we can all help by reassuring people who are concerned. Meanwhile we continue to pray for the faithful departed and remember at each Mass our continued bonds of love and friendship. My Funeral Mass Requirement forms can be obtained from the clergy.

May 2nd 2010
The months of the year have become associated with different devotions – November with the Holy Souls, October with the Rosary. Those months include relevant feasts: 2nd November is All Souls Day, 7th October the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary (with an historical background). The Church has often replaced earlier pagan feasts with Christian ones – God’s grace does not take away our human nature but heals it and deepens it. May is the month of Our Lady with the feast of the Visitation to Elizabeth on 31st May, and in past generations other feasts being kept, but perhaps also because May had a special status in pagan times too. The figure of Mary has herself been seen in different ways according to the experiences of different generations. Her prayer, the Magnificat, includes the line “God casts the mighty from their thrones and raises the lowly”, and Catholics in South America in particular have pondered the terrible poverty in the world in the light of that prayer. Most recently archbishop Oscar Romero has been proposed as a saint, shot while saying Mass, seemingly for his outspoken protests over the abuse of the poor. Our Lady’s prayers encourage us in our care for all in need.

April 25th 2010
This weekend a statement from the Bishops of England and Wales on the present well-publicised crisis in the Church will be read in all our parishes, that same statement broadcast earlier this week in the media. The Bishops express their awareness that this touches all of us in the Church, even when we are not immediately involved. They have asked for a special Holy Hour of prayer every Friday in May. This will take place, in our case, from 6:30pm every Friday, leading up to 7:30pm Mass. In that Holy Hour we have, as a special intention, first of all, those who have suffered abuse, and continue to suffer. We pray that they may find some healing and peace as the bishops resolve a just and open approach to them. We also pray that we may find a new way forward in the Church – as always, a response of faith, and hope, and love.

April 18th 2010
Many years ago I was able to take part in the Easter Vigil in a Russian Catholic Church. I arrived early to find the church still empty but for a Deacon who was coming to the end of chanting the whole of the Acts of the Apostles! A great feat of endurance! During this Easter season, we hear, at weekday and Sunday Masses, the greater part of the Acts of the Apostles, St Luke’s second book, after his Gospel, giving a general picture of the first years of the Church for our instruction. Really, only two apostles feature much – St Peter and, even more, St Paul. The whole book concludes with St Paul under house-arrest in Rome, awaiting trial (and execution). Unfortunately, no ‘Canons’ or ‘Monsignori’ are mentioned! But when the community is addressed by one of the leaders, the constantly repeated title of ‘brother’ (or, as we would say, ‘brothers and sisters’). There are occasional summaries of the life of the first Christians and elements in it. So we read: “They remained faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood (in care for the poor, in charity), to the breaking of bread (an early name for the Mass) and to the prayers (praying together)”. (Acts 2:42)

April 11th 2010
At this time of year, on the sanctuary, the water of baptism is present in large quantities, and we share in the custom of houses being blessed with that water during this Easter season. The Easter Candle is also present throughout this season, reminding us of how we received our own candle, lit from it, at our baptism. One of the early names for baptism is simply ‘Enlightenment’. We receive the light of faith, a true share in God’s own light, to guide our steps through life. At the Easter Vigil we all lit our candles again from the new Easter Candle and renewed our faith, turning from all evil, putting our hands into God’s hands again. The word ‘baptism’ also literally means a ‘soaking’, like soaking a cloth in water, absorbing more and more. As children of the light, we are praying to absorb God’s light more and more into our lives. We remember and pray for those baptised at Easter especially, and all those preparing now for baptism.

April 4th 2010
The Divine Mercy devotion, celebrated the Sunday after Easter, has grown in popularity in recent years. Pope John Paul II instituted this celebration, following the canonisation of Sister Faustina, a Polish Sister of Mercy. Her own calling by Christ was to have the divine mercy picture painted and venerated, in honour of God’s infinite compassion, and the feast proclaims God’s compassionate forgiveness and healing of our wounds and scars of sin, like a new baptism. Pope John Paul II wrote one of his universal encyclicals or letters simply on the divine mercy, how God draws us to Himself by His compassion and loving-kindness.
The Divine Mercy devotion includes a novena, or nine days of prayer, beginning on Good Friday, and the traditional receiving of Communion and the Sacrament of Penance during that period. Please try and make your confession before the divine mercy Mass, not on the day.

March 28th 2010
The diary of an early pilgrim to the Holy Land and particularly to Jerusalem has survived, giving details of the celebration of Holy Week in those days, with the local Christians taking the road Jesus took into the city on Palm Sunday, to the room of the Last Supper, to Calvary, and to the holy sepulchre. All these centuries later we still do the same: we too join the crowd waving their palms, perhaps we join, in the early morning with the ancient lamentations over the fall of Jerusalem, which the Church sings, now in a spirit of repentance and sharing in Christ’s Passion: we too take our places at the Last Supper, walk with the Lord to the Garden of Gethsemane and Calvary, we too go to hear, on Easter Day, the angels tell us: He is not here, He is risen! As we share together in this most Holy Week, may we experience a further step in our faith and welcome especially those being received into the Church at Easter.

March 21st 2010
The Sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation can be celebrated in different ways, as it has been through the ages of the Church. On Saturdays there are special times for Confession after the morning and evening Masses. People can ask a priest to hear their confession at any time, in the quiet of church or some other suitable place. In the early centuries of the Church it could be a very public matter, where penitents had offended grievously. Gradually it had become a quieter time of reconciliation. Either way it shows how – with the priest representing both God and the Church – it is a sacrament of reconciliation with the Lord and with one another. The early practice of the Church has now been revived in services of penance together, hearing God’s word, and the opportunity of an individual confession, often with the help of a visiting priest. Praying before the Blessed Sacrament, this can be a time of great blessing, even if we do not make an individual confession. At the same time, making use of the Sacrament of Penance is always a source of blessing, even if no major fault needs to be confessed. Priests, of course, try to be available at other times if anyone wishes to speak with them as fellow-travellers.

March 14th 2010
Someone said to me recently, there is a specially moving picture we can imagine of St Joseph (feast 19th March), the quiet just man, teaching the young Jesus the skills of working with wood, of carpentry. Jesus too was remembered in Nazareth as the carpenter. It is the age-old picture of passing on skills from parents to children, from fathers to sons, from master to apprentice. One ancient governor of Milan, in northern Italy, around 380AD, was terrified at being elected bishop of the city by popular acclaim, and hurried off to a holy man in Rome to learn from him! He is known to history as St Ambrose! In our very varied and more mobile society it must be harder to pass on skills – my typewriter simply causes astonishment now, as an antique! In Lent we are reminded particularly of those skills of silence and awareness, of patient learning, which we can imagine Joseph having as he taught Jesus that loving care and feel for wood which is the carpenter’s basic gift. Maybe it also helps us to care for our communities, large or small, of church or town, where so much of value can be stored and passed on.

March 7th 2010
I noticed in the latest magazine from the missionary White Fathers reference being made to a ‘Sister-in-charge’, one of the White Sisters looking after a parish in Zambia. We have not reached that stage yet, but training has now been given, with the bishop’s approval, for some parishioners, chosen by the outlying churches, to help lead the community in prayer in an emergency Sunday situation, with a priest taken ill suddenly. It has also opened up the possibility of a service of the Word with Holy Communion on a Tuesday at St Edward’s, the only weekday when there is no service in the parish church. A first offer of such a service will be on Tuesday 16th March, 10.00am, to see whether or not this is something people would find helpful. (The outlying churches have one weekday Mass at the moment, sometimes cancelled because of events in Kettering. It may be possible to provide for these situations also in the future). Please feel free to voice your views on all these matters – personally or at the Parish Forum meetings.

February 28th 2010
A special thank you to Father Fabian Radcliffe O.P. who helped us to reflect on the life and thoughts of Cardinal John Henry Newman. The letters ‘O.P.’ stand for ‘Order of Preachers’, an Order founded by St Dominic (who lived 1170-1221) for preaching and teaching. There are male and female branches of the Order, often known as Dominicans, after their founder, and also a third order for lay people. Holy Cross Priory in Leicester is where Father Fabian comes from, and other Dominican Houses are in Oxford, Cambridge and London, where they are a great help to students. Some may remember that the Dominicans also ran a school at Laxton Hall, near Corby, for some years. John Dryden, a Catholic 17th century Poet Laureate, born in Aldwinkle, near Thrapston, had a son who became a Dominican. The Dominicans started off the Mass Centre in Thrapston in 1940, and from 1946 it was served from Kettering until its independence in 1949. Father Fabian’s talk may encourage us to learn more about our faith with some helpful pamphlets, lives of saints etc. in the book-rack where the newspapers are sold.

February 21st 2010
There are some pictorial reminders of the season of Lent now in church – Jesus’s temptations (power, wealth, prestige?) and coming Passion, but also His calm walking on the waters as Lord and Master. Our baptism is renewed especially at Easter, but we are often reminded of it during this season. There is also in church a change of colour – beige sackcloth may be more traditional, but some see purple as a reflective, meditative, quiet colour. Lent is a special time of preparation for those to be baptised or received into full communion with us at Easter, a time of much prayer and reflection on their part, after many months of instruction. On the part of those already members of the Church it is a time for us to be specially welcoming to the new members, and we remember them in our public and personal prayers.

February 14th 2010
This Sunday, 14th February, is also the feast of two patron saints of Europe, two brothers, Cyril and Methodius (see Icon stand), who came from Thessalonika in Greece. Cyril was ordained priest and Methodius also became a monk and later abbot. Both brothers knew the Slavonic languages and were sent as missionaries to eastern Europe. In due course they were ordained bishops, preaching successfully in the local languages, translating the prayers of the Mass and parts of the Bible into Slavonic. (The Pope at the time defended the brothers, harshly criticised for not keeping the use of Latin!) Cyril died in Rome on 14th February 869, and Methodius in April 884, having had to fight to the end to keep the Slavonic language in use for worship, for the Bible and preaching. His funeral service was carried out in Greek, Slavonic and Latin! We welcome and pray for so many from eastern Europe in our congregation. Pope John Paul II named Cyril and Methodius as additional patrons of Europe, alongside Benedict (Italy) and St Bridget of Sweden.

February 7th 2010
As we have the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes on Thursday, we have a picture of the Lourdes Shrine on our icon stand. The feast of Our Lady of Lourdes reminds us of the first apparition of Our Lady to Saint Bernadette on 11th February (1858). There were sixteen occasions Our Lady asked Bernadette to come and receive her message, the last falling on the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, 16th July 1858. At the age of 22 Bernadette entered a religious order of nursing sisters and died at the convent in 1879. She never returned to Lourdes, nor were any further apparitions granted to her. She put up with a great deal of unseemly curiosity, doing her best to hide from the public eye. She likened herself to a broom: “Our Lady used me. They have put me back in my corner. I am happy there, and stop there”. She was 35 when she died, not unusual in one coming from such a poor background. She was canonised in 1933. Her own feast-day is 16th April, the day of her death.

January 31st 2010
At the display by the Reading-lectern at the left of the altar, you may have noticed various images of saints now being displayed. Over the years various images of saints relating to different parts of the world have been collected. In January we have had an image of Blessed Cyprian Tansi, a Cistercian monk who died in Leicester General Hospital in 1964. He may be considered a ‘local’ saint, as well as a reminder of his home in Nigeria and many African saints. There are many parishioners from parts of India in the parish. St John Bosco (through the teaching order he founded) is much-loved in India. Around the other image of the suffering Christ you can also see the script of one of the Indian languages. St John Bosco himself was Italian, living in the 19th century. Hopefully these different images can help remind us of the universal Church and to pray for one another in our very richly diverse parish.

January 17th 2010
In our three outlying churches, with weekly congregations between 60-80, it has been possible for them to choose prayer leaders for emergencies. This has been done, and the next step is to arrange adequate training/preparation to take on this particular responsibility, preparation which will begin shortly. All services in the Church are intended as responsibilities, particular ways of helping the community, and have to be seen as such. When one of our priests is away, it may be possible, with this extra help, for the outlying churches to have a weekday service, in place of the usual Mass. We know we have a relatively abundant number of priests, but gradually less than we have known. This year we have been asked to pray especially for priests, present and future, while praying for the whole community and all its members.

January 10th 2010
I would like to take the opportunity offered in this slot of the newsletter to bring everyone up-to-date on arrangements being prepared in our three outlying congregations in Rothwell, Desborough and Burton Latimer. Some months ago, when swine-flu was threatening, I wrote to the Bishop to ask what would happen if one of the priests were suddenly unable to arrive for a Sunday Mass – either through sickness or accident. Rather than send everyone away, would it be reasonable to train some members of the congregation to lead the community in a Service of Word and Communion, so that the Sunday observance could be kept as well as possible. The Bishop happily supported the idea and it was discussed at the next Forum meeting. The three communities were then asked to consider the idea over some weeks. As there was no objection forthcoming, people were then asked to put forward names of possible candidates. (More next week)

January 3rd 2010
Our first Sunday of the new year shows us the wise men using their God-given natural understanding to follow the star. The beginning of a new year is a good time to dedicate our gifts, our daily work to God, and to pray for daily perseverance – like the wise men – in following God’s light. Jesus is also given the title ‘Morning Star’ and always comes to meet us in the word of Scripture and in the Sacraments. Yet our nature, our human nature, is not taken away, but restored, healed and raised up by Christ’s coming. Theology, the study of God’s ways, is often called ‘Faith seeking understanding’. Our understanding is not taken away but given a new light to enable us, like Our Lady, to treasure and ponder all these things in our hearts. We are told of Our Lady doing that at Jesus’ birth and at the age of 12 – she too persevered. By her prayers may we grow too and flourish in faith and charity.