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St. Mary Magdalen's
Catholic Church
Willesden Green
London NW10
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Tuesday, February 28, 2012
First Sunday of Lent – 26th February 2012
Four Days Down and Counting...

Last week, to get myself in a happy mood for Lent I watched the episode of Father Ted where the three inhabitants of the parochial house on Craggy Island give up alcohol, cigarettes and roller-blading. Since I can’t do the latter I leave the subject of my abstinence to your imagination, although it must be said that I have some empathy with Fr Jack…

Actually, I don’t think anyone really finds abstinence easy despite the best spiritual intentions we might apply to our fasting. However, I take great comfort in the fact that we are doing it together and not as some sort of individual health craze. More importantly, there is the consolation that Christ Himself was tempted as we hear in today’s Gospel.

Mark doesn’t mention the three temptations but Matthew and Luke do. In the first – the challenge to turn stones into bread – Christ points out that those who follow Him cannot become dependent on the things of the world. And don’t we know it from our experience of the past few days? When we are so dependent on material things we give in to temptation and sin!

The second deals with the adoration of the devil rather than God. In Christ’s response that God is ultimately our destiny, we can take comfort when everything around us seems to indicate failure, shadows, darkness, temptation and evil.
Finally, the request for a revelation of God’s love for Jesus is rebuked by pointing out that no-one needs to prove God loves them. As a song that I once heard in school says, “Children of God…loved by God…and no matter what we do God loves me and God loves you.”

At the very start of His campaign to save the world Christ openly confronted the enemy with the power of Scripture during a time of temptation. We must never forget His example so that we won’t be seduced by the devil’s deception. As Pope Benedict XVI says, “The season of Lent must not be faced with an old spirit, as if it were a heavy and tedious obligation, but with the new spirit of the one who has found in Jesus and his paschal mystery the meaning of life and now feels that everything must make reference to Him.” So let us take comfort from Christ in today’s Gospel because it is the same Spirit who drives us into the desert of Lent and the same angels who can sustain us in our prayer, fasting and

Fr Kevin

posted by Sinead Reekie at 10:11 am

7th Sunday 19th February 2012
Don’t Give Up

You’re probably thinking that this is a rather strange title for an editorial on the last Sunday before Lent as we as we demolish the last box of chocolates in the house or drain the last drop of Bristol Cream from the decanter in dread of Ash Wednesday and the 40 days of fasting which it begins. However, I mean it – well, almost.

Self-sacrifice is an integral part of the fasting to which we are called during the forthcoming season. But we are called to do three things – fast, pray and give alms. Baroness Warsi delivered a fantastic speech at the Vatican on the creep of secularisation in our society. I would suggest that if we merely give up something then we encourage that because Lent merely seems to be a negative experience.

On the subject of praying more, it always strikes me that the Masses on Monday and Friday evenings are the least well attended. I know our older parishioners don’t want to come out in the dark and the cold, but perhaps those of us who get home from work or school in time to be here for 6.30pm might put off our evening meal for just half an hour. In addition, on Fridays during Lent, we will be praying the Stations of the Cross after the evening Mass when we contemplate Christ’s journey of love to Calvary.

For those who can’t make any of these formal services why not pray more on your own? Set aside time each day at home or work or pop into the church as you pass. You could pray the Stations or the rosary and to help you with the latter I have put out leaflets explaining how to say it and offer it for vocations to the priesthood. Day by Day gives daily scripture readings and Bible Alive gives a short reflection for each day. Also available are a range of booklets on various subjects to help deepen our understanding of the faith – even committing ourselves to reading a Catholic newspaper every week is something good to do.

As to almsgiving, it is always difficult to know how much we should offer but I generally try to give what I’ve saved by giving something up. That’s the principle behind CAFOD Lenten fast day which we observe a week on Friday. In addition, it is traditional to adopt a couple of other charities and dedicate a wall-safe to Lenten alms. Given the long association with this parish, the wonderful Aid to the Church in Need will be one beneficiary. The other is closer to home – the Holy Family Sisters of the Needy. They are better known to you as Sister Chinedum and Sister Joseph whose work involves trying to dissuade single mothers from having an abortion and then giving them a place to live during pregnancy and after the birth of their child.

So as we count down to giving up, lets also show the world that this is truly a joyful season which brings spiritual and practical benefits to many.

Fr Kevin

posted by Sinead Reekie at 10:00 am

Sixth Sunday of the Year – 12th February 2012
A Shared Responsibility

It’s not strictly true that I was the chaplain to Chase Farm Hospital when I was the curate in Enfield. More accurately I looked after the general hospital while my colleague answered the occasional calls to the open, secure and forensic mental health unit. It may seem that I got an unfair deal but I never complained as visiting the latter was an area of pastoral responsibility which I found very challenging.

Today – Saturday – we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, the day on which the Church traditionally celebrates World Day of the Sick. Each year there is a different emphasis and this year our Holy Father chose to focus on the problems associated with mental disturbance which afflicts a staggering fifth of the world’s population and thereby “constitutes a real and authentic social-health care emergency.”

He urges us to bear witness to the tender mercy of God towards those who suffer in such a manner, not least because in many countries no legislation to care for them exists and a precise policy on mental health is absent. Moreover, prolonged armed conflicts, a succession of natural catastrophes and the spread of terrorism have caused a shocking number of deaths as well as mental traumas in many survivors. On Thursday morning a BBC correspondent who had been secretly in Homs was talking about the hysteria that was developing among those Syrians who were under constant bombardment – we can barely imagine what it must be like.

Our country too has been affected by some of these issues but suffers also from a crisis of moral values which goes hand-in-hand with the “get rich quick” mentality. As a result there is an increased sense of isolation and loneliness, often due to a lack of commitment to the institution of the family because our work/career is so important, which easily alienates the sick, especially the mentally ill, as too great a burden to bear.

Pope Benedict identifies a need to integrate appropriate therapy and a new sensitivity towards disturbance: the former is not in our hands, but we can help with the latter and express our solidarity with families who have mentally sick people dependent upon them. He concludes, “Every Christian, according to his specific task and specific responsibility, is called to make his contribution so that the dignity of these brothers and sisters of ours is recognised, respected and promoted.”

I suspect that’s a challenge for all of us.

Fr Kevin

posted by Sinead Reekie at 9:56 am

Fifth Sunday of the Year – 5th February 2012
Not for the faint-hearted

On Thursday I had dinner in Whetstone with one of my priest friends. In his church the crib was still up. That might sound strange to those of us from these islands but many of you from continental Europe are probably used to seeing the Holy Family in the stable until 2 February. And on that subject, one particular style of these crib figures made by the Jerusalem Benedictines has Our Lady so designed that she can be kneeling in adoration of the child in the manger or cradling him her arms.

On Thursday Mary carries her son to the temple which is a place of slaughter with blood and dead animals abounding. Into this place is borne the spotless Lamb of God – the Lord enters His temple. But He cannot pass through the veil to the Holy of Holies where God dwells and so God is at once in Heaven and dwells with man. Thus, the reality and significance of the Incarnation is rejected and so Christ is rejected for the first of many times except by Simeon and Anna. Furthermore, in Simeon’s words of gratitude to God in the Nunc Dimitus he proclaims that the child will not only give glory to Israel but be a light for every nation.

So that’s all very nice if a little bit sad for those who don’t get the plot. But there is still more. The priests go behind the veil and sprinkle the animals’ blood on the mercy seat of God in atonement for sins. On the cross, the spotless lamb will shed his blood for the future of all humanity and sprinkle it once and for all on the mercy seat of God in heaven. And in that moment when he does that the veil is torn in two and His body becomes the way to pass from the earthly to the heavenly. His pierced side replaces that barrier which once kept God made man from accessing the Holy of Holies.

Simeon prophesies this by telling Our Lady that a sword will pierce her heart. Therein lies the challenge to us. As we contemplate Mary cradling her new born son in her arms consider the next time she will do that – when they take the broken lifeless body of her beloved Son down from the cross. Picture our crib scene or your own one at home and that adoring mother. Then go and look upon the pieta halfway down the church. What a contrast and what a price for our salvation.
Fr Kevin

posted by Sinead Reekie at 9:34 am

Fourth Sunday of the Year – 29th January 2012
Words and Deeds

St. Mark was obviously an action man. The way he writes about what Jesus did gives the impression that Jesus was in a hurry moving fast from one event to the next. Our Gospel reading today begins at verse 21 of the first chapter and already in the preceding 20 verses he recounts many deeds, the appearance of John the Baptist, the Baptism of Jesus, His temptation in the desert, the arrest of John the Baptist and the calling of the first disciples. All this in just 20 verses!
And today that sense of urgent action continues, as we read in Gospel, “as soon as the Sabbath came he went to the synagogue” and “his reputation rapidly spread everywhere.”

St. Mark’s emphasis on deeds is in contrast to the first reading and the responsorial psalm which both speak about words.
From the book of Deuteronomy we read Moses’ prophesy about the coming of Jesus: “to him you must listen ….I will put my words into his mouth and he shall tell them all I command him” and our response to that reading is the Responsorial Psalm where we pray “O that today you would listen to his voice!”
Words and deeds are linked together by a modern American saying. If an American says “he talks the talk and walks the walk, they mean that the person in question is believable because they not only speak the truth but they also back up their words with their deeds.

Jesus is the perfect example of someone who “talks the talk and walks the walk.” The people of Capernaum say exactly the same thing but express it differently, they said ‘Here is a teaching that is new and with authority behind it: he gives orders even to unclean spirits and they obey him.’

If there is an opportunity in the week ahead for us to speak about our faith in Jesus we should take that opportunity. It will take courage to “talk the talk” but we must not stop there, we must follow it up with the way we act, we must also “walk the walk.” More often it will be our actions (our walk) that invite a question, which is our opportunity to speak about our faith (our talk.).

Deacon Michael

posted by Sinead Reekie at 9:30 am

Third Sunday of the Year – 22nd January 2012

A big THANK YOU to all who sent me messages, cards, gifts, words of encouragement and “Leonidas” chocolates, on my departure from St Mary Magdalen’s. Unfortunately, due to a limitation on time I’ve not been able to express my gratitude on an individual basis, and by the time you read this, I’ll be fully immersed in the S.V.D. parish in Bristol, St Mary-on-the-Quay.

I’ll never ever forget my years in Willesden…so help me God!
Regards- Fr Kieran

And then there was one…

I’m sure that with me you offer Fr Kieran your prayers and fondest wishes for as fruitful a ministry in Bristol as he exercised here. But that is not our only farewell because after next Sunday we say “Goodbye” to Fr Rohitha for six weeks. He is returning to Sri Lanka for his annual leave and will be back with us in March. Thus I will be the only priest in the parish for that period.

As I write this I haven’t arranged for any regular cover but I do plan to talk to the remaining Divine Word Missionaries, Fr Kieran Flynn from the Montfort Missionaries and a few other individuals to help out from time to time.

However, celebrating Mass is not really the issue but rather, given that Sinead is off sick at the moment, there is even less likelihood now of someone being available to answer the door at all times every day. Therefore, I would advise you to call between 10am and 2pm on Monday or Thursday when Marie will be in the office to help you. Outside of those times it’ll be potluck.

On a scriptural basis, given the Gospel’s calling of the apostles and our own parish going from three priests to one – feast to famine – we are ideally placed to pray that more men respond to Christ’s call to become priests. Not that it will help much in the next couple of months but our situation does highlight what could be the norm in years to come…

Fr Kevin

posted by Sinead Reekie at 9:25 am

Second Sunday of the Year – 15th January 2012
Coastal Erosion

Wednesday marks, in the northern hemisphere, the start of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which in this country is organised by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland. For many people this is a meaningless occasion but not because they think that unity is impossible. Rather it is because they are the kind of people who would throw into a conversation about religion some statement suggesting that, “Basically, we all believe the same thing, don’t we?”

Err, no we don’t, actually. The problem with papering over the cracks in this way is that while we may get a warm feeling inside of inter-communion between different ecclesial bodies, we damage the communion with whichever church we belong to and with whom we celebrate the Eucharist which is the sacramental (for some churches) sign of that oneness. Glossing over the differences also fails to honour those who have been persecuted and given their lives for the faith to which they belong and their right to worship without fear of retribution. Ignoring the teachings at the heart of our communities also overlooks the years of work that so many theologians have undertaken to deepen our understanding of the mysteries we celebrate when we come together to worship.

Nevertheless, the Charta Oecumenica (Guidelines for the Growing Co-operation among the Churches is Europe) is unequivocal on the subject of prayer for this week. It states, “Fundamental differences in faith are still barriers to visible unity. There are different views of the church and its oneness, of the sacraments and ministries. We must not be satisfied with this situation. Jesus Christ revealed to us on the cross His love and the mystery of reconciliation; as His followers, we intend to do our utmost to overcome the problems and obstacles that still divide the churches.” A crucial part of this is coming together to pray for this unity, in faithfulness to Our Blessed Lord who prayed that His disciples might be one. But a real sense of unity is not precluded by differences.

We constantly face the relentless creep of secularism into our society and its “de-Christianisation” – for example, people who have just returned to work after the “winter solstice holiday” can no longer “sing from the same hymn sheet” because such terms might offend non-Christians.

Our unity begins with defending the Christian principles which are being systematically erased from our society. And like the coastlands of our beautiful island, if we don’t unite to prevent this, we will slowly slip into the chaos and disorder of the sea.

Fr Kevin

posted by Sinead Reekie at 9:21 am

Epiphany of the Lord – 8th January 2012
I’ve never actually heard her sing as I don’t really like Wagner and the proverb refers to Brunhilde singing the last aria in the final part of his operatic suite Der Ring des Nibelungun. But for our liturgical purposes we might think that today she would sing four little words that appear in the Divine Office book – “The end of Christmastide.”

Many people will think that this little phrase applies to the end of the Epiphany because that generally marks the time when most Christians go back to work and back to school. Indeed, given that it is now celebrated on the Sunday nearest to 6 January it marks the end of the “holiday” season even more obviously and no doubt lots of trees will be put out for recycling by tomorrow morning. But those words do not appear today. Rather they are found at the end of evening prayer for the Baptism of the Lord which we will celebrate next Sunday and so the season of Christmas continues for another week for us.

This liturgical point is important to keep in mind. Until today there is a harmony to the crib scene – there is a familiarity about it and all is contained within the people of Israel. The ultimate and final revelation of God kept hidden through the ages but unveiled and manifest in the person of Jesus of Nazareth fulfils His plan of salvation for His holy people. However, God’s plan was not only to save Israel but the whole of mankind. Hence today three figures totally out of place appear in the crib showing that the Kingdom of God is to be made up of all peoples and it is not an exclusive club.

And there is more because after their visit the Magi went back to their own countries and their lives just as we go back to work, college or school. Those who came to worship Jesus and bowed down in adoration and love understood that the Mystery kept hidden had been revealed – do you think they kept it to themselves? In their return to “normality” they shared this wonderful news with others. So must we, especially this week until the fat lady sings next Sunday evening.
On a personal note, thank you to everyone who helped make the church and our liturgies so beautiful over Christmas and the New Year. Thank you too for your kind and generous gifts and offerings. Above all, thank you Fr Kieran for your help, guidance and fraternity in my first few months here. I know that the parishioners are so grateful for your tireless, gentle and caring ministry over the past nine years and I hope we can continue that wonderful legacy you leave behind. For us, the fat lady sings a sad song but for the people of Bristol she sings a song of happiness – we join our prayers with theirs and wish you every happiness. May God bless you, Father.

Fr Kevin

posted by Sinead Reekie at 9:16 am

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God – 1st January 2012
Over 7 years ago my religious missionary order, the Divine Word Missionaries (Latin - Societatis Verbi Divini, abbreviated as SVD) agreed to take charge of the parish of St Mary-on-the-Quay, Bristol City, by kind permission of the bishop of Clifton, Declan Lang. Our man in charge of the parish at that time was Fr Michael Cleary SVD. Sadly his administration came to an abrupt end on 28th Oct 2008 when Fr Michael died of a massive heart attack at 61 years of age. Since then the on-going day to day running of St Mary-on-the-Quay has been, as the saying goes "...just limping along..." due to a shortage of personnel.
Presently Father Nico Lobo SVD is doing all he can to keep the parish up and running, but Fr Nico is the only priest there. The one priest/one parish system is, I believe, a faltering system; I usually compare this to the running of a large surgery with just the one doctor to attend to all the patients! For how long would you say the poor doctor would last in such circumstances? Give him a few months and he'd probably bowl over with exhaustion ("burn-out") or does that sound too exaggerated? Well anyway Fr Nico presently needs a full-time assistant priest to help him in the running of that parish in Bristol, and I have forwarded my name for the "vacancy." Why? Because there is no one else available to go there, so I'll go, but more than that I believe the Holy Spirit has guided me towards my decision to go to Bristol, I feel it in my soul. Therefore my departure from St Mary Magdalen's will be soon.
As parishioners presently you are blessed to have a good pastoral team with Fr Kevin, Fr Rohitha, Deacon Michael, a good secretary Sinead, good sacristans, servers, florists, catechists and a lot more. Also there are other supply priests who help out in your parish when called upon (extra masses, confessions, funerals etc.)
In March 1999 I quietly came to St Mary Magdalen's and that's the way I would like to move on, quietly with no hullabaloo!! I am truly grateful for my 9 years among you (there was a 2 year absence as I worked in the Hanwell parish) as supply priest. You took me to your hearts, prayed for me and cared for my well being. Again I am truly grateful to you all as a parish family – no words can properly express my gratitude.
I am especially grateful to God for having sent me among you as a fellow sinful pilgrim - won't we all meet again in Heaven? God bless you at this time and who knows when my time is finished in Bristol? 3 years? I might just wander back towards St Mary Magdalen's. Lastly if I let some of you down or when I wasn’t as friendly as I should have been, then I sincerely apologize. I'll conclude with one of my favourite pieces of Holy Scripture, from the Book of Tobit chap. 12:
“Bless the Lord, utter his praise before all the living for all the favours he has given to you. Bless and extol His name. Proclaim before all people the deeds of God as they deserve, and never tire of giving him THANKS…..” Fr Kieran

posted by Sinead Reekie at 9:11 am