|Letter from Fr Mark McManus (1st April)|
|Dear Parishioners of St Joseph's & St Charles,|
|As Edmund Blackadder might have observed, it turns out that Ash Wednesday saw the beginning of the 'The Lentiest Lent we ever Lented.;
' So much has been stripped away and we have been reminded on a daily basis of the fragility of human life. We "find ourselves
afraid and lost. Like the disciples ... we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm" (Pope Francis - Extraordinary Moment of
Prayer, 27 March). We find ourselves inside out homes, separated from many of those we care about and without the familiarity of the normal patterns
and habits that define so much of our lives.
Next week, we climb the holy mountain of Easter, the summit of the Liturgical Year being celebrated in the Easter Triduum — from the evening of Holy Thursday to the evening of Holy Saturday. For the first time in my priestly ministry I will celebrate this without people - some will say 'alone' or 'in private.' I however prefer to say 'non-public', for I will not be alone when I celebrate the liturgy. It is impossible. The sacred liturgy is always and everywhere a public act of the Church, celebrated in communion with the Angels and Saints, 'when heaven is wedded to earth.' The communion of the entire Church across the face of the earth is affirmed also, most especially you, you who have been entrusted by our shepherd to my pastoral care.
The single celebration of the Triduum marks the end Lent and the beginning of the season of Easter. In this we experience the reality of Christ crucified and learn that God is with us in our suffering, that he carries us with him beyond the grave to new life, a new reality: the resurrection. No matter how difficult our lives feel right now, this is the heart of the message of Easter - Christ triumphs over death, and that through this triumph we have been set free from sin and called, not only to be friends, but to be the children of God. In this we hear the words of our Lord 'Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom,' (Luke 12:32).
As we draw closer to Holy Week, I want to thank each of you in your homes and neighbourhoods for playing your part in this time of global and national crisis. We had no time to prepare, and yet I am certain that many of you have responded with generosity to others, being full of goodwill and prayer. Thank you.
As the usual structures and routines of daily life have been put on hold, we can become unsettled and afraid; I invite you to draw strength from the promises of our Lord, to bring all your anxieties to him each day in prayer, even if only for a few moments. St Peter tells us, 'Cast all your worries and care to God, for he cares about you,' (1 Peter 5:7).
The Holy Week liturgies are readily available from a number of sites online and for those with Sky, E.W.T.N. on channel 588. It may be a good opportunity to join the Holy Father, Pope Francis, as he celebrates the liturgies - although non-public the Papal Household should still be able to rustle up enough people for a decent liturgical celebration! There are others available of course much closer to home, especially here in our fair city of Sheffield where at St Marie's Cathedral Bishop Heskett will celebrate the Triduum and finally, the national shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham at Walsingham has a good daily programme of liturgy and prayer.
I know most of you will be spending Holy Week with your family while others may be alone or having to be self-isolating. Remember that though we are apart in person we are united in prayer and through the Holy Spirit. How good it will feel when this time passes, and we can return to Holy Mass and to all those things we took for granted when Lent began?
Remember also ,that even when all this is passed some of our brothers and sisters in Christ will still be unable, for fear of persecution, torture or death, to emerge in public and freely and openly go to church and take part in Holy Mass. Even now, we are more blessed than we might realise.
Our Lady of Walsingham, pray for us.
St Joseph, pray for us.
St Charles Borromeo, pray for us.
Be assured of my prayers,
Fr Mark McManus