Called to holiness
It is the end of the month of October and I could not write our weekly message without addressing the elephant in the room: Halloween. By now many houses on the streets are covered in artificial spiderweb, adorned with spiders, bats, crows and ghosts while few pumpkins stare at the public from the doorstep with a creepy smile. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a criticism of people’s artistic talents, though I have to admit their artwork is not to my taste. And this is not an attempt to eradicate the feast of Halloween either. It would be naïve of me to do so. The expenditure of UK households during Halloween has been increasing every year, reaching the staggering figure of £474m in 2019. That makes Halloween the third biggest feast in the year. So, I could convince the few people I know that Halloween is not worth it, but as it turns out, all the other retailers in the country, having access to millions of people every day, will want them to think the opposite. Touché.
Instead I would want these lines to help us all reflect on what we are doing and what we want to achieve. Though there are some disputes, it seems that the origins of Halloween go back 2.000 years to the Celtic festival of Samhain. A day when the boundaries between the realm of the living and the dead was somewhat blurry and the ghosts of the dead could return to the earth. This was an opportunity for the spirits to cause harm but also for the living to try to obtain some knowledge of the future. At a time when life was very precarious and people´s survival depended so badly on their crops any knowledge of the future was welcome. With time these celebrations have been readapted, by the Romans first, at their arrival in 43 A.D, and allegedly by Christianity later.
The question is, how well this feast has been adapted to Christian sentiment? At the heart of every Christian festivity, shines the triumph of the resurrection, the victory of Christ over sin and death. A victory that is not only Christ’s, but is also ours. That is why every Christian feast opens up our horizon and our exitance towards eternal life. But there is more. Christ’s victory is a victory of holiness, virtue, goodness and beauty. In the way Halloween is currently celebrated, however, there is no reference to eternal life, and there is very little in it, if any at all, that is holy, virtuous, good or beautiful.
A year ago we could look back on the Celts and even look down on them, because our lives were much more secured, we were so much more advanced. But the current pandemic has closed the 2.000 years gap and now we find that our lives too are very precarious. The question is, are we able to deal with uncertainty and death better than they did? I take it that people around us will continue celebrating Halloween as they used to, some worshiping death others making fun of it, and that is probably the best they can do. But in the Catholic world there has been several initiatives to put the precariousness of human life in a more positive and creative perspective. From France came an initiative called “Holywins” which encourages children, and young adults to dress up and create fun games but this time centred on the lives of the saints. After all, they are the ones which help us put human suffering and death into perspective: We were born to reach holiness and eternal life.
Fr Daniel Herrero Pena
Sick & Retired Priest
Most priests offer their resignation as a parish priest at the age of 75, but many continue to serve their communities, working in our parishes, schools, hospitals and chaplaincies. We must ensure no priest is worried about meeting essential costs during their senior years and, as such, Cardinal Nichols and the Diocese of Westminster are committed to ensuring that no retired or sick priest is left without support.
By giving a gift to the Sick & Retired Priests’ Fund, you will help ensure all of our sick and retired priests are cared for at their time of need, after years of service to God and their parishioners. The fund will be used to meet essential costs, like making a flat accessible to a disabled priest. It could ensure a priest has regular visits from a carer after undergoing surgery.
Rest assured, the Diocese works closely with the NHS, local councils and social services, but there will nevertheless be gaps in funding and we need to ensure our priests have peace of mind in their senior years.
If you took a donation envelope last weekend, please place it in the collection bag today. If you do not have an envelope, there are some available in the pews and at the back of the church. The envelopes and posters feature a ‘QR Code’ that you can scan with a phone camera to give online. This reduces the risks to everyone of handling cash or touching the envelopes. If you are able, please consider filling out a standing order form, meaning you become a Patron and make a regular gift to support our sick and retired priests.
Please be generous and remember our clergy, in active ministry, retired or ill, in your prayers. Thank you
From Sunday November 1st we will celebrate again our Sunday evening Mass at 6.30pm. At this time it is not possible to have congregational singing. Also there will be no choir at the Mass for the time being.
We will keep the celebration of the Mass under review in light of the Covid pandemic and the demand for its provision.
November dead list. Envelopes are available for your Mass offerings and your list of names of deceased family, friends and those you wish to remember. The names are placed near the Altar and Mass is offered daily for our dead in the Month of November. In addition Masses are offered monthly through the year for the Holy souls .
Primary school applications :Catholic Certificate of Practice. If you are applying for Primary school and need a Certificate of Catholic Practice. Phone the parish office to arrange an appointment with Mgr Jim
Book tokens for the Children of Prisoners for Christmas 2020
Over years you have supported our annual drive, in collaboration with the Catholic charity, Prison Advice and Care Trust (PACT), to buy Christmas gifts for prisoners to give their children.
This year, Covid19 restrictions mean that we can’t collect and prisons won’t be able to accept toys and board games. And those same restrictions have especially impacted prisoners’ families. There have been fewer prison visits and only one adult visitor allowed, which means children haven’t seen their imprisoned parent since the start of 2020. The pre-Christmas family visits at which they would have received their gifts have been cancelled.
The good news is that prisons will allow prisoners to receive and send book tokens to their children. So this year’s Operation Christmas Elf asks supporters to buy book tokens for £10 and post them to Pact’s very own Santa’s Grotto, from where they will be distributed to the prisons.
All the details, including where to buy and send these tokens are on the Pact website - https://www.prisonadvice.org.uk/news/operation-elf
Please note that this is a pre-Advent campaign, to give the Elves plenty of time to get the tokens to prisons, from where they will be sent out in good time for Christmas.