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St. Mary Magdalen's
Catholic Church
Willesden Green
London NW10
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Thursday, November 30, 2006

During Advent, in order to help our spiritual preparation for Christmas, we will be saying Morning Prayer from The Liturgy of the Hours (also known as the Divine Office) publicly each morning (except Wednesdays) in our Lady Chapel. Everyone is warmly invited to join in this prayer. The Liturgy of the Hours involves reciting or singing psalms and reading passages from the Bible at different times throughout the day. Morning Prayer (which we will say at 7:45 am on weekdays, 8:15 am at weekends) normally takes 15-20 minutes.

The full Divine Office consists of Morning Prayer (which we will be saying) as well as Prayer During the Day, Evening Prayer, Night Prayer and a longer Office of Readings which can be said at any time. These 'hours', as they are known, help us to consecrate the entire day to God. The tradition of singing the psalms and praying throughout the day and night is an ancient Jewish custom and in the Old Testament we read many accounts of people praying in this way. In the New Testament, we read that the Apostles went to pray in the Temple at Jerusalem at certain times during the day (cf. Acts 3:1) and St. Paul instructed the early Christians to 'pray constantly' (1 Thessalonians 5:17). By praying the Liturgy of the Hours the Church, as the Bride of Christ, fulfils this command.

Morning Prayer is an excellent way to start the day and helps us grow closer to God. It gives us an increased appreciation of Sacred Scripture (especially the Psalms) and reminds us that we should offer each day to God. In Advent, it also helps us to 'make a straight highway for our God' (cf. Isaiah 40:3), so Christ may enter our hearts more deeply at Christmas.

The Divine Office is the 'prayer of the Church' and always follows a form approved by the Church. All priests and members of religious orders everywhere in the world are required to pray it every day. The Second Vatican Council also urged lay people to join in this prayer wherever possible, so that it truly becomes the prayer of the entire people of God.

Perhaps you might be able to pop into our Church for some (or all!) of these mornings.

posted by Sinead Reekie at 2:38 pm

Monday, November 27, 2006

At this end of the Church’s Year the theme of Judgment is prominent in the liturgy.
What is personal Judgment? The assessment in the light of the love of God upon us at the moment of our death of our fitness to share His life in Heaven.

What is fitness? Having the life of the Holy Spirit in us.
How do we receive the Holy Spirit? Normally by meeting Christ in the Sacraments, receiving them worthily, that is with a certain openness to God.
What is Heaven? Heaven is the state of being where we are sons and daughters of God the Father by adoption, together praising Him. It is the “fullness of life”.
What is unfitness? Having expelled the Holy Spirit from our lives or having never received His indwelling.

How can this happen? Through our closing in upon ourselves such that the Holy Spirit cannot dwell within us. This is through an unrepented mortal sin. That is taking a course of action that is completely incompatible with the God of Love living within us. This means deliberately doing something revealed by Christ as seriously wrong (e.g. against the ten commandments as interpreted by Christ in the Church), which we know is seriously wrong --- and (deliberately) not saying sorry for it through Confession.

What is Hell? The state of being after death where people wilfully & painfully reject the continuing love of God, in a futile attempt to be the centre of their universe, look down upon all others. It is the final and full wilful failure to follow to respond to God.

What about those who have never had the chance to know God, or Christ or His Catholic Church? If it is not clearly their fault then God can and will still get through in extraordinary ways. This lack of fault can very sadly more easily happen in our secular society. God will always give the grace to resist the temptation to mortal sin – and also to repent of it.

Does that mean it doesn’t really matter what you believe or what Church you belong to? No. The normal human means of coming to know the Father through Christ is through His Church. It will always be best, most wholesome and least risky to come to know Christ explicitly, humanly. It may even affect the depth of our capacity for God in heaven.

Is that not unfair to those who have not been able to hear of Christ or to understand the beauty of his work in the Church? In a sense yes. ‘No man is an island’. We are all ‘our brother’s keeper’. We influence each other for good or ill. We affect each other’s capacity for God. We have an incredible power delegated to us. But through the Cross Christ has ensured that none will be lost who manage to cooperate with him even in a minimal way.

posted by Sinead Reekie at 10:43 am

Monday, November 20, 2006

Last weekend leaders of the various groups in the parish met to reflect upon Pope John Paul II’s call, at the beginning of the new millennium, to develop a “Spirituality of Communion” at all levels in the Church. We reflected upon the below passage (para. 43) from his Year 2000 letter Novo Millennio Inuente. We discerned the appropriateness of basing our efforts at building communion in God in prayer. There was a desire to have a First Friday Holy Hour each month in 2007 to pray for specific intentions of our various groups, particularly supported we hope by the groups themselves. Watch this space. Based upon prayer we can grow in amazing ways as a parish family.

“To make the Church the home and the school of communion: that is the great challenge facing us in the millennium which is now beginning, if we wish to be faithful to God's plan and respond to the world's deepest yearnings.

“But what does this mean in practice? Here too, our thoughts could run immediately to the action to be undertaken, but that would not be the right impulse to follow. Before making practical plans, we need to promote a spirituality of communion, making it the guiding principle of education wherever individuals and Christians are formed, wherever ministers of the altar, consecrated persons, and pastoral workers are trained, wherever families and communities are being built up. A spirituality of communion indicates above all the heart's contemplation of the mystery of the Trinity dwelling in us, and whose light we must also be able to see shining on the face of the brothers and sisters around us. A spirituality of communion also means an ability to think of our brothers and sisters in faith within the profound unity of the Mystical Body, and therefore as "those who are a part of me". This makes us able to share their joys and sufferings, to sense their desires and attend to their needs, to offer them deep and genuine friendship.
A spirituality of communion implies also the ability to see what is positive in others, to welcome it and prize it as a gift from God: not only as a gift for the brother or sister who has received it directly, but also as a "gift for me". A spirituality of communion means, finally, to know how to "make room" for our brothers and sisters, bearing "each other's burdens" (Gal 6:2) and resisting the selfish temptations which constantly beset us and provoke competition, careerism, distrust and jealousy. Let us have no illusions: unless we follow this spiritual path, external structures of communion will serve very little purpose. They would become mechanisms without a soul, "masks" of communion rather than its means of expression and growth.”

posted by Sinead Reekie at 10:30 am

Monday, November 13, 2006

Having been employed part-time as a Youth Worker through the diocese over the past twelve months Martin Plunkett has recently become more involved, started our drama group and, again through the diocese, he has just become a lodger in Clergy House. Here he briefly describes his journey to this point.

At the age of 24, whilst the Rock group I was involved in was getting ready for the ‘big time’, I had a conversion experience. My parents had returned to the faith after a long absence and gradually I began to see that I needed more out of life than what I had received from the culture in which I had grown up. I considered the idea of a religious vocation and began to search, firstly by working for two years as part of a community which toured the United Kingdom evangelising in Catholic schools. Later I spent a year in New York in a Franciscan Community, living in Harlem and the South Bronx.

In 2004 however a friend of mine (Tillie Callaghan) and I were inspired to begin a Catholic community having recently produced a musical play, Rock of the Anointed, as part of a group called Youth 2000. (I had studied drama at University and qualified as a school teacher). We saw that this could be an effective way of working with young people in the Church and so we approached Fr Hugh. We had already met him and discussed parochial youth work. Very sadly, shortly after becoming involved here, Tillie passed away very suddenly in January this year. Since that time Fr Hugh and parishioners have been very supportive and patient and the work has gently developed, expanding from the Youth Club into drama work, aspects of Confirmation and First Communion preparation as well as numerous other areas.

Helping to put on Tillie and Edwin Fawcett’s musical Rock of the Anointed in July with the parish was a very moving experience. Tillie and I had felt originally that we wanted to contribute something beautiful to the life of the Church so it has been very significant to be able to continue what God started through us. I feel I’ve come to the right place and hope to develop my work here significantly, doing what I can to help build community. Personally I am keen to pursue the dream of developing the work which Tillie and I envisaged in which we saw ourselves as Missionaries of Love. This was in response to our contact with a European movement entitled the Opera del Amore or Work of Love which affected us both deeply. I am enjoying being part of the team here.

posted by Sinead Reekie at 10:07 am

Monday, November 06, 2006

We propose a special act by interested parishioners at the 6:30 pm evening Mass of December 8th next, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady. It involves attempting to come to a few Thursday evening preparation hours. Let us briefly explain the nature of this act.

At the Angel Gabriel’s Annunciation to Mary God gave himself to her totally. He entrusted Himself into her care to be his mother. She truly became the Mother of God! She gave herself entirely to him when she said ‘let it be done to me according to your word’. Out of all people Mary is the only one who could say this complete ‘yes’ to God because hers is the only heart that could receive the Holy Spirit so fruitfully.

John Paul II made his papal motto Totus Tuus, or All Yours, which flowed from the consecration he made to Our Lady. He had followed a plan laid down by St Louis de Montfort which involved a preparation period of about a month during which the Holy Spirit is invited to form the heart of the person, ending in a prayer in which one offers and unites oneself to God through Mary. He understood this act to be a powerful thing because by it, he said, we share in that unique relationship that Our Lady has with our God. His act bore great fruit for our world.

In Fatima on May 13th 1917 Our Lady, it seems, started appearing, predicting twentieth century woes such as communism, and, in response, she called the world to make such a consecration. Pope John Paul who was shot in St Peter’s Square on May 13th 1981 and gave thanks there exactly one year later, had a recognized significant role in the defeat of European communism. In 1985, in San Martino, near Schio, Northern Italy, on the feast of the Annunciation, Mary reportedly began to appear to a local man, Renato Baron. For 20 years Mary came as the Queen of Love calling individuals to make this consecration, as a way of returning our society towards a civilization of love. It has transformed the little village.

It may be helpful, rather than seeing such a consecration as something else to do, to see it as something less to do! By learning to live our lives as a relationship with Mary, we begin to live in love. This is because Mary helps us to live in a loving relationship with God, who is love. She can do this because of her particular relationship with him. In this situation even our weakest selves are not a direct threat to his fruitfulness in our lives. Indeed they may even be the very way that he acts most fruitfully given that his strength is made perfect in weakness.

posted by Sinead Reekie at 10:08 am