St Simon's Parish Blog

Welcome to the Blog of St Simon Stock Catholic Church, South Ashford, Kent, UK. Our address is: Brookfield Road Ashford Kent TN23 4EU

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For nine years up till July 2010, I was parish priest at St Simon Stock Catholic Church, South Ashford, Kent, England. From July 2010 until June 2011 I was Associate Pastor at St Peter's Cathedral, Marquette, Michigan USA and then Pastor at St Anthony Parish, Gwinn, MI until October 2013. I then transferred to the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon to serve as Director of the Tribunal. And that's what I am currently doing. Since February 2015 I have also been serving as Pastor at St Stephen Parish, South East Portland. I miss "da UP" (Upper Peninsula of Michigan) but love being here in the Pacific North West.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Homily for 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C) 22nd July 2007

Gen 18:1-10; Col 1:24-28; Lk 10:38-42
(SC in the text refers to Pope Benedict's Sacramentum Caritatis)

Today’s readings present us with two images with two aspects: hospitality and listening. Hospitality provided to God, a word from God heard.

In the Genesis reading, set at the hottest part of the day, the Lord – in the form of three men – appears to Abraham by an oak tree at Mamre: a place of shelter. Abraham recognises these men as the Lord and begs Him to stay and offers hospitality:
- water to wash their feet
- shade from the heat of the sun under the tree
- food and drink for refreshment.

The three men ate, and they spoke: “I will surely return to you in the spring, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” Sarah laughed in disbelief at these words!

In the reading from Luke’s Gospel, the Lord Jesus enters the home of Martha and her sister Mary. While Martha provides hospitality, Mary listens to the words of Jesus. Martha, we are told, is distracted with all the serving. The word “distract” comes from the Latin “detrahere”, to pull apart, pull to pieces. You could say that Martha was at her wits’ end with all the serving. Mary, on the other hand, was sitting at the Lord’s feet and listening. She gave her full attention to the guest. Her quiet devotion displayed greater reverence for Jesus than Martha’s anxious toil.

We should not discount Martha’s role too quickly: she prepares food for the Lord – who had probably not come alone but with his apostles. He may even have come unannounced, and in keeping with the renowned hospitable nature of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern people, she set about getting food ready. Jesus, after all, did have a body that needed feeding. God chose to experience hunger and thirst, just like the rest of mankind and Martha sought to satisfy the Lord’s hunger and thirst and that of his followers.

But Jesus’ real hunger and thirst is not physical, rather is it spiritual.

In St John’s Gospel we read how Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well of Sichar, also at the hottest part of the day: “Give me a drink.” When his disciples found him talking with the woman they said “Rabbi, eat.” But he replied: “I have food to eat of which you do not know... My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work” (Jn 4) Later, on the Cross, Jesus would exclaim: “I thirst.”

What satisfies Jesus is the bread of the Father’s will; on the Cross he thirsted for the last drops remaining of the cup of suffering that could not pass him by; through the fulfilment of his Father’s will and the suffering of the Cross, the Lord Jesus would gain the salvation of the world. And in the house of Martha as at the well at Sichar, Jesus’ true hunger and thirst was for a soul who would come to him and be fed by him. This hungry and thirsty man comes not to be fed but to feed. It is Jesus who is feeding Mary: on His Word, on Truth, on His very Self: “I am the … Truth…”, and by feeding on Jesus Himself, Mary is feeding on the Bread of Life: “I am the bread come down from heaven”, said Jesus, a bread that nourishes and never diminishes.

The “better part” that Mary had chosen will never be taken from her, Jesus says. Martha’s role – service of the body – can only last as long as the body is there to be fed. Jesus would one day depart this world and return to His Father, yet he remains in the Church, in His Spirit, in His word proclaimed to be listened to and in the Eucharist to be our food. Death would overtake both Martha and Mary. Martha’s distraction with serving would be no more, but Mary’s contemplation of Christ would be perfected and continue for eternity in heaven.

Consequences for us:
1. Before being ‘doers’ we must be ‘hearers’. Before a police operation, there is a briefing to ensure everyone knows and understands his role in the operation. One error by one person could jeopardise the whole mission. To be good disciples, we must first be sure that we understand the Lord’s grand plan, his design.
2. Therefore, priority should be given to prayer in our lives: time for daily prayer, time in the presence of the Lord – at home and, if possible, before the Blessed Sacrament.

3. At Mass: to ensure we seek recollection – the opposite of distraction: putting together what has, perhaps, been pulled apart. The Mass consists of two principal parts: the liturgy of the Word and the liturgy of the Eucharist. There is a fundamental unity between these:

“From listening to the word of God, faith is born or strengthened; in the Eucharist, the Word made flesh gives himself to us as our spiritual food… From the two tables of the word of God and the Body of Christ, the Church receives and gives to the faithful the bread of life.” (Sacramentum caritatis 44)

4. “The Liturgy of the Word (must) always be carefully prepared and celebrated.” “Every effort (must) be made to ensure that the … proclamation of the word of God is entrusted to well-prepared readers.” This means that readers must always ensure they are well prepared: never reading without first having read over the text and, if possible, meditating upon it, to know already the words on which the Lord wishes to feed his people. You know what it’s like in a restaurant: you see something on the menu and you ask the waiter/waitress what a particular item is, and they have to go and ask the chef. They haven’t familiarised themselves with the menu. A reader must know what he/she is going to be serving up to God’s people before embarking on his/her ministry.

“Let us never forget that ‘when the Sacred Scriptures are read in the Church, God himself speaks to his people, and Christ, present in his own word, proclaims the Gospel… The word we proclaim and accept is the Word made flesh.” (SC 45)

In his word, Christ is present in our midst. He “does not speak in the past, but in the present.”

Our icon of the Hospitality of Abraham is really an icon of the Blessed Trinity. Both the Son and Holy Spirit are gazing towards the Father and he to them. As they spoke a word of promise to Abraham and as Jesus spoke to Mary and Martha, so we have heard them in the Scriptures and they now invite us to the table of the Eucharist and to be fed with the Body of Christ for whom we truly hunger and thirst.


Eucharistic Adoration – Lord, it is Good to be Here

(From a parishioner)

Think for a moment of any group of the most important people in the world, say George Bush, Queen Elizabeth II, Bill Gates, Pope Benedict XVI, and how excited and nervous we would be if we were just to catch a glimpse of them in public.

Supposing we were invited into their presence, think of the amount of preparation we would do; questions to ask, responses to their enquiries, a journey plan, what to wear etc.

Every Saturday morning between 10am and 11am at our parish church, and at countless other Catholic churches throughout the world where there is Eucharistic Adoration, the Creator of all these most important people, Our Lord and God, awaits.

There are no guards in attendance, no formal invitations issued, there is no fuss. As you enter His house, you bow low before your God and Creator. You immediately have His total and infinite attention. He will not look over your shoulder if bored, seek a more important person in the room to speak to, make an excuse if He finds you uninteresting.

You have His full and undivided attention, even though there are others there with you. He will not be embarrassed if you have little or nothing momentous to say. He does not mind silences. He is not looking to be amused or entertained.

You can just look at Him, and He will look at you. He is. He made you; He died for you; He loves you; He wants you. Lord, it is good to be here.

Compared to Him you are a worm and no man. Yet you are alone with Him. This is the most important moment of the week. Just me with You. I want it to go on for ever, just being with You. I am even jealous that others are sharing You.

Dear Lord, I cannot thank you enough for allowing me to enter your presence. I will never deserve this privilege. I am really blessed. You made the heavens and the stars, the sea, all living things. I am nothing compared to you. Yet here I am Lord, with You.

I do not feel embarrassed, awkward, ill at ease, tongue tied and ill prepared; yet I should be all of these things, as I look at You and You look at me.

Dear and wonderful God, how can I possibly thank you enough for being so loving yet so unloved, so powerful yet so still, so glorious yet so meek, so majestic yet so humble, so companiable yet so alone, so merciful yet so royal, so forgiving yet so strong, so joyous yet so sorrowful, so radiant yet so disfigured, so awesome yet so approachable.

I am none of these things yet I am with You. How generous is your love. I do not want You to go away into the tabernacle. I want to see You, to adore You, just to be with You.

You are Alpha and Omega, the Creator, the Redeemer, the Christ, the Holy Spirit, and yet I am with You, now. Just me. Here I am Lord. It is good to be here.

I bow very low before you, my Lord and my God.

O Sacrament most holy,
O sacrament divine,
All praise and all thanksgiving,
Be every moment thine.


Saturday, July 14, 2007

Albert Bishop RIP

It is with sadness that I report the death of Albert Bishop. He died yesterday at the William Harvey Hospital following complications after a fall. May he rest in peace. Please pray for the consolation of his daughters Amanda and Sarah and their children. Funeral details will be announced in due course. Please go here for a previous post about Albert.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Confessional and Repository works

The two rooms at the back of the church are being converted into a proper repository so that Viv and Eilleen don't have to wheel out their merchandise every Sunday morning, and a proper confessional with fixed grille and possibilty of face to face confession through the priest's door but visible from the main body of the church. Some space will still be available for use as a cry chapel. Here are a few shots of work in progress.


Day for Life Baptism

It was lovely to celebrate Day for Life with the birth into the new life of grace in Christ of Thomas James Fitzroy Leonard during the parish morning Mass. Here we have Thomas with his grandmother Evelyn and mother Elizabeth, Evelyn's daughter.

And here's the group photo after Mass: L to R yours truly, mum Elizabeth, grandparents Evelyn and husband Peter Leonard, godmother Catarina Beresford holding Thomas, godfather Guy Beresford and godmother Jada.

Thomas has usually made his presence in church known by his vocal skills, but today he was remarkably quiet, there being only a hint of a cry as the water was being poured.

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