It has been two weeks since we announced that the church was to close. In a sense this is an incorrect statement. What happened in fact was the closure of the church building. We as the people of faith in Jesus Christ are the Church and we are not closed but very much open.
We are open with expectant faith that God will act and bring about many good things for the benefit of his Church and the world in this time of fear and uncertainty. Often in calmer times we would pray for greater faith, trust and hope; now is the time for us to put those very gifts from God into practice. Already among the parishioners and our neighbours, I have heard and seen great examples of generous, selfless and courageous actions: people offering support to anyone in need, especially the elderly, the housebound, the sick and those living alone. Whether it’s fetching shopping and
medication or simply phoning or emailing someone you know who needs to hear a friendly voice, it all counts and is a great example of faith in action. Well done to you and thank you for being such a great example and witness to me and to others.
However, I realise not everyone can be as actively involved as they would wish to be but all of us can pray – and I mean really pray as we have never prayed before. Quite often when we start praying there is the tendency to launch into set prayers or a long list of woes that need addressing. Often we adopt the attitude, “Listen Lord, your servant is speaking” rather than, “speak Lord, your servant is listening.” Our prayer time should always consist of listening, praise, thanksgiving and intercession, and all of it done in a spirit of expectant faith.
Once again, our church doors may be shut and locked, but this should give rise to a greater incentive to open our hearts wide and give the gentle breeze of God’s spirit free reign.
The Gift of the Present Moment
There is an insightful article in the latest edition of the Tablet. It is written by Roderick Strange my former Rector at the Beda College in Rome and now a professor of Theology at St Mary’s University, Twickenham. His subject in this article is Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan. Within days of Saigon falling to the North Vietnamese in 1975 on the Feast of the Assumption, Van Thuan was arrested and spent the next thirteen years in prison and a further three years under house arrest. He was then expelled from Vietnam and came to Rome.
Van Thuan’s incarceration was a dark and testing time for him but lessons would also be learned. One of the more lasting ones would be a more acute consciousness and appreciation of the value of the present moment. He writes, “This is the only time we have in our hands. The past is already gone, and we do not know if there will be a future. The present moment is our great wealth.” In this present
period of isolation from the pandemic and one another when there is a real danger of getting sucked back into the past and worrying about the future, Roderick Strange asks the question, ‘Are we able to see this present time as a gift?’
A good question, and it’s no coincidence that having read the article I should be drawn to a book on my shelf about surrender and self-abandonment to Divine Providence. The title of the book? The Sacrament of the Present Moment by Jean Pierre De Caussade.
This leads me to say something about Spiritual Communion. Some of you have been asking for a prayer to be said at the time of Holy Communion during Mass, to make the experience more tangible as you watch via the webcam. Pope Francis has suggested the following for people to say:
At your feet, O my Jesus, I prostrate myself and I offer you repentance of my contrite heart which is humbled in its nothingness and in your holy presence. I adore you in the Sacrament of your love. I desire to receive you into the poor dwelling that my heart offers you. While waiting for the happiness of sacramental communion, I wish to possess you in spirit. Come to me, O my Jesus, since I for my part am coming to you. May your love embrace my whole being in life and in death. I believe in you, I hope in you, I love you. Amen.