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St. Mary Magdalen's
Catholic Church
Willesden Green
London NW10
Just some images of our church
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Friday, March 23, 2012
Fifth Sunday of Lent 25th March 2012
Hide and Seek
As we enter the last two weeks of Lent, a period known as Passiontide, and turn our hearts and minds to the suffering and death of Christ in a particular way, it might seem strange to cover up all our crosses and crucifixes.

The reality is that we see them so often in churches and religious art that it becomes very easy not to notice them. Moreover, with them being worn around the neck on chains or even hanging from rosaries dangling about various parts of the anatomy of celebrities and ordinary members of the public, the impact of this “infamous gibbet” becomes little less than just another part of the fashion world.

In the past, the Gospel on the Fifth Sunday of Lent was John 8:46-49, the discussion between Jesus and the Jewish authorities which ended in a frustrated attempt to stone Him. Following on from that day, the Gospel readings all evoked the increasing tension between Jesus and the authorities. In a way, Christ’s Passion had begun and so the period was called Passiontide. A remnant of this is the obligatory use of the first Preface of the Lord’s Passion during the Fifth Week of Lent. Thus, veiling the statues helps us to concentrate on the essentials of Christ’s redemptive work.

Today, in the New Rite, St John’s Gospel sees Christ on the cross as a lantern lifted high in the darkness for everyone to see. Indeed, he likens it to the staff that Moses raised in the desert so that everyone who looks upon it might be saved from the sting of the serpent which brought death, and today leads us into sin. But do we see it this way or give it a second glance?

On a personal note, veiling the statues always makes me reflect on how the apostles ran away leaving Christ alone in the Garden of Gethsemane as he knelt there offering up prayers “aloud and in silent tears.” This then serves to shamefully remind me just how shallow and lukewarm my devotion to Christ can be and how easily I abandon Him in the face of the small challenges of this life.

The reality is that the kind of death Christ endured was appalling, horrific and grotesque – we should be shocked by it. We should be made speechless at the thought of the Word-made-flesh and Splendour of the Father ending His life on a Roman cross choking out the last agonised words of His ministry to His executioners, to Mary and John, and to His Father.

Perhaps then the veiling of these images will give us time to get un-used to the crucifixion. Then, when our crosses are unveiled on Good Friday we will see not a successful brand of the Church, nor a fashion accessory, but the image of our Saviour in His agony and understand anew God’s love for us shining through the pained face of Jesus.

Fr Kevin

posted by Sinead Reekie at 10:02 am

Friday, March 16, 2012
Fourth Sunday of Lent – 18th March 2012
Mothers Day or Mothers’ Day or Mother’s Day or Mothers’s Day?

There is much talk at the moment over the misplacing of the apostrophe. Indeed, watching the BBC news subtitles the other day, a glaring error was fixed within moments. However, to avoid controversy today as we remember our mothers, I shall resort to giving this day its proper title – Mothering Sunday.

It falls on a different day each year because it is always held on the middle Sunday of Lent and, unlike its American counterpart (held annually in May), it is not a celebration of motherhood, but a synonym of Laetare Sunday. During the sixteenth century, people who lived in little villages made a point of going not to their local church but to the nearest large church or Cathedral – to make a visit to what is often called the Mother Church. Such visitors were said to have gone, “a-mothering.”

Often, it was the only time whole families could come together as it was the only day in the year that boys and girls “in service” were allowed to go home. The housekeeper or cook would allow maids to take home a cake they had baked, and the boys could bring eggs or flowers from the hothouse. Walking home through the village, all would pick flowers for their mothers and in time this practice dominated and the real meaning of the day was lost.

Simnel Sunday is another title for today. The most favoured cake baked was a simnel cake which consists of a fruit cake covered with a flat layer of marzipan and then 11 marzipan balls representing the 12 apostles minus Judas. Given the colour of the vestments worn, Rose Sunday is an alternative name. Part of the reason for the colour was that on this day the Golden Rose sent to Catholic sovereigns was blessed by the Pope and hence the day was sometimes called, “Domenica de Rosa.” But the best reason for the change in colour is that today is also called Refreshment Sunday because given the celebration of the fellowship of the family there was a lightening of the Lenten vows for 24 hours.

Yet another thing to thank our mums for. Happy Mothering Sunday to everyone, especially our mothers, living and dead.

Fr Kevin

posted by Sinead Reekie at 11:45 am

Friday, March 09, 2012
Third Sunday of Lent – 11th March 2012
Temper, temper

Today’s Gospel is a perplexing one as the gentle, meek and mild Jesus takes a back seat to an uncharacteristically angry Christ. But the cleansing of the temple is one of the signs in St John’s Gospel and hence the last verse tells us that, “many believed in His name went they saw the signs which He did.” Each of these signs reveals something about the nature of Jesus and this one reveals Him as the new temple – He is the place where people are to come to know the presence of God in their lives and be untied with Him in prayer.

Christ also makes two other points. The first is that destruction will be necessary and the second is that out of that ruin a new temple will appear. He is speaking, of course, about His death and resurrection. He will replace the temple; He will become the new temple. Sin could not be destroyed by the destruction of the structural temple but it was destroyed by the death of Jesus because in His body He took sinful humanity to the cross. Therefore the cross destroys the old and the resurrection establishes the new.

In His risen body there is no longer a barrier between God and man. That is why when He dies and destroys sin the veil of the temple is torn in two – the symbol of separation of the sinful from the sinless one is needed no more. In that body we have direct access to God and that body is made truly present in the Eucharist we celebrate.

Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, said that in this secularized era, Catholics should follow Benedict XVI's example and recover the practice of Eucharistic adoration. "The liturgy is, above all, adoration," he explained. "The Church is the work of God, God's action; it is recognition of what God does for men. And the adoration that the liturgy expresses, especially the Eucharist, is the acknowledgment of God that everything comes from him, that everything that belongs to us must find him." He went on to say that we should "reaffirm that God comes first…This is what will change the life of Christians and of the Church." When the Church "forgets that God is the centre of everything, it becomes a merely human institution."

I’m not proposing that anyone should start throwing their weight around on a Sunday morning if the atmosphere is less than conducive to adoration, but we all might make a little more effort to be recollected before and after Mass and save our “business” for outside. We need to remind ourselves that it is God who is at the centre of everything we do in church and that we are given the enormous privilege of being in the presence of that body which is the new temple and which offers us direct access to the Father.

Fr Kevin

posted by Sinead Reekie at 10:09 am

Tuesday, March 06, 2012
Second Sunday of Lent – 4th March 2012
Up Hill Struggle

Given that the Oscars have just been awarded and we have recently celebrated St David’s day, I am reminded that some years ago a film came out entitled, The Englishman who went up a Hill but came down a Mountain. The plot centred on the community in a Welsh village who tried to persuade a cartographer that their hill was in-fact a mountain. I haven’t actually seen the film but I suspect as with most nice British films and the give-away title it had a happy ending and the locals succeeded in altering Hugh Grant’s perspective.

The perspective of the apostles is altered enormously in today’s Gospel when they go up Mount Tabor with the Lord. Their knowledge and understanding of who Jesus is undergoes a seismic revelation. But in order for this to happen, Mark tells us that they went up the mountain so that, “they could be alone by themselves.”

It’s interesting to note that we can grasp the fasting and alms-giving sides of Lent quite easily but the prayer aspect is harder to quantify. After all, we always ask what people have “given up for Lent” or what their favourite charity might be, but do we ask, “How’s your prayer going?”

A teacher I know undertook to do a sponsored silence with the year two classes in her school this week. But rather than just sit there trying not to talk the children spent the time in meditation. Using gentle music and a prayer focus the class teacher was amazed at the absolute silence that lasted the entire lesson. When the children came out of their mediation she asked them how they felt. One boy put his hand up and said, “I heard someone call my name.”

For my current spiritual reading I’m enjoying a book by a Carthusian monk. These monks live in silence and in hermitages within the monastery walls. I’m not sure I could follow that lifestyle myself but the silence wouldn’t go amiss. There aren’t too many mountains in Willesden Green for us to climb to find an intimate moment with Christ so as to better understand Him and ourselves. But as one seven year old knows you can create that silence anywhere – even in a busy school – if you set your mind to it.

Fr Kevin

posted by Sinead Reekie at 8:45 am