Sunday, September 20, 2009

Pastoral letter from the new Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols - click to read more

In the reading from the letter of St James, which we have just heard, the Apostle gives us a realistic picture of family and parish life. He describes our daily struggles, “these wars and battles between yourselves” (4.1), arising from conflicting ambitions and desires. He speaks of the wisdom “that comes down from above” (3.17) and the enduring kindness and compassion to which it gives rise, overcoming our temptations to
favouritism and hypocrisy.

This wisdom of which he speaks is, of course, Christ himself. So St James insists that our relationship with Christ, expressed in prayer, is central to the stability and fruitfulness of our lives. A sound practice of daily prayer is essential for our well-being.

Three people who illustrate this truth very clearly are being held before us in the weeks and months ahead.

The first is St Thérèse of Lisieux, well known as The Little Flower. She teaches us that prayer can indeed be part of our daily routine, knitted into the regular tasks of the day. Through her own prayer she came to understand that her vocation was to love.

She wrote in ‘The Story of a Soul’: “I had discovered where it is that I belong in the Church, the niche God has appointed for me. To be nothing else than love, deep down in the heart of Mother Church.” Her direct, wholehearted love of the Lord has meant that the hidden life of St Thérèse has become a gift to people all over the world. Everyone who seeks to know God in their own heart can draw inspiration from her example. True love such as hers is always creative.

The relics of St Thérèse – the tangible remains of her holy life – are coming to the Diocese during October. On Sunday 11th October, they will be in the Parish Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Kensington Church Street. From 12th -15th October, the relics will be in Westminster Cathedral. Many people find that, in her presence, their faith is strengthened, their prayer is deepened and they turn to God afresh, through repentance and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I encourage you most earnestly to come to her in these two places during these few days. A plenary indulgence may be gained, in the presence of these relics, under the normal conditions of Reconciliation, Holy Communion and prayers for the Holy Father.

The second person being held before us at this time is Cardinal John Henry Newman. He is to be Beatified, most probably, in early summer 2010, the first English person to be recognised as a ‘Confessor of the Catholic Faith’ for over 600 years.

As you know, he came only gradually to the fullness of Catholic faith. It was a difficult journey for him. Yet, in his own words, he came to recognise our faith as “a working religion”, not concerned with ideas or vague generalities, but taking us up into the true worship of Christ himself. At the heart of Newman’s sense of the realism of our faith was the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, “as real”, he said “as we are real”.

For thirty years, John Henry Newman was a Catholic parish priest in Birmingham. When he died, in August 1890, over 20,000 people lined the streets for his funeral procession. They came to pay tribute to a fine and devoted parish priest. It is so providential that his Beatification will take place during this Year for Priests, established last June by Pope Benedict XVI....

During this Year for Priests, we are asked to pray for our priests in a special way, to thank and encourage them. The life of a priest has its own particular demands and we all know the crucial leadership given by the priest in the parish. So, I ask you, cherish your priests and care for them. Remember not only the sacrifice priests have made but also the gift of sacramental life they bring to you through their ministry and the pastoral care they give.

St Thérèse had a special love for priests. John Henry Newman was a great example of a faithful, hardworking priest. The third person in our sight at this time is St John Vianney, the famous Curé of Ars. He is the patron saint of priests. He too reminds us of the centrality of prayer and repentance in our lives, and of the astonishing gift we are given in the Real Presence of the Lord in our churches.

May these holy men and this holy woman pray for us. May these coming months bring blessings on our families and parishes. And from those sources of strength and encouragement, may we be renewed in our faith and in our generosity towards all in need.

Archbishop of Westminster

Very encouraging letter, nice thoughts about St Therese. I would love to read more about St John Vianney, patron Saint of all priests.