Saturday, December 23, 2006

International Fame at Last!

In case anyone thinks that the effects of the work we do at the Holy Ghost don't go beyond the confines of this parish here's a link to show you you're wrong! You'll need a bit of German to understand it, but basically it's a post commending our Catholicism for the Curious programme to a German audience.
Now I wonder if Pope Benedict has seen it...

Friday, December 22, 2006

Message from Bethlehem

We print here the Christmas message from the Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah of Jerusalem in which he speaks of that region's fundamental need for peace, justice and freedom.

1. I wish you all a Blessed Christmas.

Brothers and Sisters here in Palestine, Israel, Jordan, and Cyprus, I wish each and every one of you joy, serenity, tranquility and peace. This year again, Christmas is coming to Bethlehem amid the same circumstances of death and frustration, with the Wall and the checkpoints on the ground and in the hearts. The occupation and deprivation of freedom on one side, and fear and insecurity on the other, continue as before. Gaza remains a big prison, a place of death and of internal Palestinian dissension. Even children have been killed. And everyone, including the international community, remains powerless to find the right road to peace and justice. Fear of the future has engulfed the entire region: Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Jordan. For everyone, the future is at stake. In this context, world terrorism is feeding on all of the open wounds.

2. That is the way Christmas is seen today from Bethlehem. And yet, the Christmas message is meant to be one of life, peace, and justice. The prophet Jeremiah said: "In those days, I will raise up for David a just shoot; he shall do what is right and just in the land … and Jerusalem shall dwell in security" (Jer 33, 15-16). And Isaiah extended his vision to include all nations: "So will the Lord God make justice and praise spring up before all the nations" (Is 61, 11). Saint Paul, for his part, in the second readings of the Advent Season, tells us that we enter into the ways of justice and peace through love of neighbor and through holiness: "May the Lord increase you and make you overflow with love for one another and for all … and may he strengthen your hearts, making them blameless and holy before God" (1 Thes 3, 11). Moreover, since the First Sunday of Advent, the Church has put before our eyes the person of John the Baptist, the Precursor of Christ. He preached repentance, and various categories of people came to listen to him and asked him questions about the ways of repentance and new life. Even soldiers asked him what they should do to save themselves: "Soldiers also asked him: 'Teacher, what is it that we should do?' He told them, 'Do not oppress anyone, do not extort anything, and be satisfied with your wages'" (Lk 3, 14).

3. Today, life in Bethlehem and its surrounding area has become very difficult to endure, in spite of the numerous initiatives of solidarity that have come from the outside. Yes, we are in need of solidarity, and we are grateful for all the messages of brotherhood we have received from around the world. But our fundamental need is for peace, justice, freedom, and an end to the occupation. Faced with this, the world seems powerless. However, we say: each and every person, even soldiers and political leaders, have the capacity to appreciate love, salvation, and life. But for that to happen, a conversion must take place, a conversion from death to life, from viewing the other as an enemy and a murderer to viewing him as a brother and a giver of life. Our political leaders also must ask the Baptist: "And what is it that we should do to find salvation for ourselves and for all those who have put their destiny into our hands?" They too must be prepared to receive the same answer: "Do not oppress anyone, do not extort anything, and be satisfied with your wages" (Lk 3, 14). They must listen to the voice of the oppressed in this Holy Land, to the voice of those who have died, of those who are still threatened by death and humiliation, those on whom they think they can impose death or humiliation in order to assure the security of the other party. Bethlehem is meant to be the city of peace. Unfortunately, it is now just the contrary, a city of conflict and death. Life and peace, however, would be easy and possible to come by if only those in positions of responsibility were sincerely determined to pursue them. Salvation will come from bringing the two peoples together, not from separating them. In that lies the salvation of the Palestinians and the Israelis, as well as of the entire region. The two peoples are capable of living together in peace and tranquility. When that comes about, murders, vengeance, rejection, and extremism will disappear little by little, as they progressively cease to feed on oppression, occupation, poverty, and humiliation.

4. Christmas brings joy to humanity. It announces salvation to everyone, especially to those who live in Bethlehem and its surrounding area, Palestinians and Israelis alike. "Let us go to Bethlehem" and see what has taken place and what continues to take place there (cf. Lk 2, 15). What is the Wall telling us today? What are the inhabitants of Bethlehem telling us today? Let us go to Bethlehem so that we too can hear the angels announce peace on earth, peace to all people of good will, peace to all who long for a sincere brotherhood that rejects all hatred and hostility, and find, in the coming together of the two peoples, both security and an end to the occupation which will bring freedom.

For all of you, Brothers and Sisters, I pray to God that you might hear and live the message of Christmas, a message of peace, joy, and new life.

+ Michel Sabbah, Patriarch Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem
Jerusalem, 20 December 2006

Thursday, December 21, 2006

De-coding your Christmas Cards

Were you sent any Christian Christmas cards this year? Reports in the media suggest that they are pretty hard to come by, so if you've received one it's because someone has made a special effort. It's worth taking time to reflect on the significance of the different elements of the card. For help de-coding your cards click here for an excellent, illustrated article.

Christmas Lights

If any of you are missing the Christmas lights that used to go up on the house on Mayford Road this video is to console you. If you're glad they're not there any more, this video is to let you know that things could have been worse... much worse!

Monday, December 18, 2006

New Year Retreat - Timetable

We are all looking forward to welcoming young people from all over the country for the New Year Retreat here in Balham. We are already getting lots of questions about the Retreat we've decided to publish the basic outline of the talks here:

Friday 29th December
Feast of St Thomas a Becket
6.00pm Registration
7.00pm Evening Meal
8.15pm "Who do you say that I am?" - Talk by Br Martin de Porres CFR
9.00pm Holy Mass celebrated by Archbishop Kevin McDonald

Saturday 30th December
Christmas Octave
10.15am "He who abides in Love" - Talk by Fr Julian Green
12.00noon Holy Hour
4.00pm "Repent and believe the Good News" - Talk by Fr Stephen Wang
5.30pm Holy Mass
8.00pm Reconciliation Service

Sunday 31st December
Feast of the Holy Family
10.15am "Pray constantly" - Talk by Fr Sylvester CFR
12.15pm Holy Hour
4.00pm "Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect" - Talk by Niall Slattery
8.00pm Healing Service
11.00pm Holy Mass

Monday 1st January 2007
Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God
12.00noon Holy Mass

It's worth bearing in mind that these are just the bear bones of the timetable. There is Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament day and night, there's also daily Rosary, workshops, Morning & Evening Prayer & much, much more....

Help Oppose Abortion

Each year BBC Radio 4's Today Programme invites listeners to send in some form of 'legislative wish-list'. When they first did it the idea was to nominate a law, they even had an MP who promised to introduce a private members Bill. He ended up with egg on his face because the public voted for the right of householders to shoot intruders and in the end he refused to support it.
This year's silly season vote, however, is more serious. This time Radio 4 is asking listeners to nominate a law that they would like to have REPEALED. The producers will select the top six nominations and put them to a listeners' vote. Please take part in this poll and nominate David Steel's 1967 Abortion Act as the one to be repealed. It won't actually change the legal status of abortion in this country, but it could be a very powerful PR coup!
You can vote by clicking here.
Feel free to link or copy this post to as many blogs as you can. The more votes the better!