Summer is finally here, although in typical British tradition our weather may suggest otherwise. Nonetheless, on Monday at St Marys primary school Fr Ashley celebrated Mass to mark the end of the school year and said goodbye to our year 6 pupils as they move up to secondary school. Many of them will be leaving an authentic Catholic teaching environment, the only one that they have known, to join secondary schools with a different ethos, with values that are not necessarily the same as ours. Let’s be honest, this can be a challenge. The church relies on parents to continue bringing these children to Mass weekly so that their Catholic roots may still be nourished. We also pray that we will see them for Confirmation preparation in a few years’ time. Because by that point we already see a change in these young people, a worldliness perhaps, that is often at odds with our Catholic faith. There is only so much that the Church can do to protect the ‘deposit of faith’ in these children. In this moment I am reminded of the advice that we give to couples who are being prepared for marriage, and which I also repeat during baptisms, that the parents are the first teachers of these children in respect of their faith as in everything else. There are simply not enough Catholic primary schools to receive all children baptised into the Catholic faith, and in the borough of Bromley there are even fewer Catholic secondary school places. Which means that the role of Catholic parents is vitally important, teaching the faith by word and example.
The family is the fundamental building block of the Church, successive Popes have described it as the ‘domestic church’ and without these ‘spiritual stones’, upon which we build our faith community, then we will stumble into the future and our religion will be in danger of withering away, like the mustard plant swamped by the darnel. This may sound like too much responsibility, and as a parent I understand that, but as the parables of this weekend’s Gospel reading explain, from small beginnings great things can grow. Just like the mustard seed, one of the smallest seeds, that can produce a plant large enough to shelter birds in its branches and just as the small quantity of yeast (or ‘leaven’) mixed with flour can transform it into shewbread, the bread used in the temple in Biblical times. The Kingdom of God grows from the most modest beginnings.
There is support available from the Archdiocese of Southwark Marriage and Family Life team (contact email@example.com) to help parents and grandparents in passing on the faith to their children and grandchildren and I encourage you to take advantage of this valuable resource. We must remember that there are no guarantees; we cannot make our children into practising Catholics, but we can prepare the soil, and sow the seed and pray that in time they will embrace what we believe. This may not be at the moment that we would wish, but it will be at the moment that is right for them.
Many of you will be going away for a summer holiday and we wish you a safe journey and respite from the European heatwave perhaps. We pray for happy times spent together as a family, away from the busyness of school and work, but for some families a holiday may not be possible this year because of the financial squeeze and the summer may instead be a time of increased stress, trying to keep children occupied (and fed) over the summer. Please remember and pray for those who cannot escape the everyday grind over the coming weeks.
May we make our homes places of relaxation, joy, love, peace and safety.
May we be generous and considerate, not thinking only about ourselves,
but helping others enjoy the blessings of the summertime.
Lord God, Creator of all things, guide our steps and strengthen our hearts during these months of summer and vacation days. Grant us refreshment of mind and body.
May we constantly strive to make a meaningful difference in the lives of our loved ones and in the world around us as we enjoy the warm days of summertime.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.