Posted on the 5th May 2021 in the category Statements
The Society encourages all of its parishes, and indeed all Christians, to participate in the Thy Kingdom Come initiative which this year runs from Thursday 13 May, Ascension Day, to Sunday 23 May, the feast of Pentecost.
The Ascension of the Lord marks a new moment in the life of the community of Christ’s followers. Jesus returns to the Father in order to send upon them the gift of the Holy Spirit, and so, from earliest days, Christians have used the days following Ascension Day to wait in prayer for the renewing, reviving gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
This time of expectant waiting echoes the experience of the Apostles who gathered with the Blessed Virgin Mary in prayer before the Spirit came upon them.
This period of prayer is often referred to as a ‘novena’, which is an ancient practice of the Church to spend a series of consecutive days or weeks in prayer for a particular theme or intention. In praying this novena, we are uniting ourselves with the ancient tradition of the Church.
In recent years, this period has been given a particular focus through the ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ initiative; a global ecumenical movement that invites us to pray for strength in conviction as we live out our faith in our daily lives and as we strive to draw others into a lively relationship with God in Christ and in the fellowship of his Church.
It is very welcome that, unlike this time last year, we are now able to attend church services in person. If you feel able to do so safely, we ask that you pray in church during this special period of Christian witness.
In doing this, we seek to join our brothers and sisters in the Roman Catholic Church in looking to place attendance at the Sunday Mass at the heart of our lives in what we hope will soon be a post-pandemic period.
Parishes of The Society running events as part of this initiative are encouraged to use the hashtags #TheSociety and #ThyKingdomCome when promoting them on social media.
The Rt Revd Tony Robinson
Chairman of the Council of Bishops
Posted on the 19th Mar 2021 in the category Statements
Feast of St. Joseph 2021
Tuesday 23 March will mark the first anniversary of the National Lockdown. It will be a day for remembrance and lament for us as Christians as we reflect on the terrible damage that the Covid-19 pandemic has wrought across our nation and our world.
We as Christians will pray for the repose of the souls of over 125,000 people who have died in the UK alone after testing positive for Covid-19, and so many more world-wide, each one a beloved and precious child of God, mourned by family and friends. We offer our devotional video on praying for the dead as a support and a comfort to those who grieve (1).
We will also pray for those who have fallen ill to this disease, especially those with the chronic symptoms of long Covid. We will pray for those who face financial ruin or debt because of the loss of jobs or businesses.
We will pray for deprived urban communities, many served by Society parishes, who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and those families who are coping with hunger and destitution. We will pray for the professionals in health, education, social care, local government and other walks of life who have endured such a stressful and challenging year. And we will pray for our churches and for Christians who have felt again and again the desolate pain of being denied access to the sacraments of life.
Christians are often tempted to reach too soon for easy answers to complex problems or contrive shallow ‘good news stories’ out of the gloom. But like Our Lady who simply stayed with her Son on the hill of Calvary, 23 March will be for us a time to stand by the cross and unite ourselves in prayer with all whose lives have been damaged by the pandemic.
There are many who will ask, ‘Where is God in all this?’ But as we live through Passiontide and mark the rites of Holy Week, it is in worship that we find the answers to that question, for we have a God who in Christ unites himself with human suffering and death in order to transform them in the light of His Cross and Resurrection.
The Christ who washed feet is present alongside those medical professionals who tend to the needs of the sick and dying. The Christ who feeds us under the signs of bread and wine locates himself with the hungry and the destitute. The Christ who lays down his life on the cross assumes to himself death in order to destroy it. The Christ who rises gloriously on the third day shows that those who are baptised into him are a new creation, set free from sin and death and all that is at enmity with human flourishing.
Our worship in Holy Week is so much more than a re-telling of a story from the past. In our worship we bring the saving power of Jesus Christ breaking into the present and so bear witness to the truth that the pain and loss of this past year cannot last, for the victory has already been won. So, we are inviting all those who look to our care as bishops not just to pray on 23 March, but to commit themselves with greater dedication than ever to a devout keeping of Holy Week.
If it you are able, please make every effort to join with your fellow Christians in public worship, especially for the Triduum on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. And if you do not feel able to attend in person, unite yourself to the worship of the church as best you can through making use of our online resources.
It is a cause of huge sadness to us as Catholic Bishops that so few of our laypeople will be able to attend the Chrism Masses this year (and indeed that in some cases the rites normally associated with the Chrism Mass will need to wait until the feast of Pentecost this year) but you will be at the centre of our prayers as your bishops, priests and deacons commit their lives afresh to serving you.
St. Paul writes in the First Letter to the Corinthians, ‘…the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.’ On 23 March we will stand by the cross and pray for all the victims of the pandemic, most especially the departed. But in that instrument of death, we find life as God’s power is revealed. As you encounter the cross this Passiontide, may you also discover afresh the hope of the resurrection and the perfect joy of the new creation.
With our prayers over Holy Week and Eastertide,
(1) This year The Society, together with the Catholic Societies of the Church of England, will offer their annual Requiem Mass, which is generously sponsored by the Guild of All Souls, for those who have died during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Mass will take place at St. Stephen, Gloucester Road at 7pm on Thursday 4 November and will be live streamed. The streaming details will be made available nearer the time on the websites of The Society, the Guild of All Souls, and St. Stephen, Gloucester Road.
Posted on the 18th Dec 2020 in the category Statements
May the light of Christ be with you and your family over this season of Christmas and throughout 2021
This Christmas letter from The Society's Council of Bishops comes with our prayers as we all prepare for the season of Christmas and beyond.
In 2020 humanity has been attacked by an invisible enemy called Covid-19 which all too often is deadly or debilitating. This invisible enemy has changed our day-to-day living in a manner which we would previously have struggled to imagine or foresee. We are unable to do the same things in the same ways.
Despite the gloom and darkness that the world is facing, we are reminded at Christmas that darkness does not have any power over light. Darkness may try to prevent the light from shining, but it never holds back the light enduringly. Ultimately, the light will shine though. God as the creator of the universe is bigger than the Covid-19 health crisis. All of this will pass. All trials do. But until then, let us trust in God; God the Father who makes His Son a daily presence in our lives. Let us hand over our fears to Him so that He can conquer them.
Against this challenging backdrop, The Society's Council of Bishops met earlier this month and will do so again in early February. The conversations we had were, as ever, wide-ranging with a particular focus not only on a full resumption of our sacramental life together but also on mission and how we can best communicate the Catholic faith to our nation.
We hope that some of us will be able to gather for Chrism Masses in, or just before, Holy Week and renew our commitment to the priestly and sacramental life. We shall write again after our February meeting, including our further thoughts on Chrism Masses.
Thank you once again for your faithfulness and dedication in Christ’s service.
This year, working with others, The Society, supported by Forward in Faith, is delighted to make available two resources for Christmas: 'O come let us adore Him' and 'The Wondrous Gift'.
Posted on the 2nd Nov 2020 in the category Statements
All Souls' Day 2020
A pastoral statement from The Society's Council of Bishops on the proposed suspension of public worship from 5 November
Our nation is facing a crisis of a scale and proportion unknown for over seventy years and as we write we are acutely aware of the desperate needs of those whose work is insecure, whose businesses face bankruptcy, whose education is being disrupted, whose mental health is being damaged by fear and anxiety and who can barely afford to feed their children.
We are equally aware of the extraordinary energy, agility and imagination that so many of you have demonstrated in recent months as you have risen to the task of meeting the spiritual and physical needs of the people you serve. The dedication you have shown has been profoundly moving to witness and we take great pride in the ministry you have offered.
But all that we do as God’s people flows from our worship. The Mass is and must always be the very heart and centre of our lives, our gravest duty, our sweetest joy. As we meet the Lord at his altar, we are inspired to serve and to witness. Without the Mass, ministry becomes meaningless and any acts of love and service are swiftly rendered unsustainable. We can never allow our worship to be seen as dispensable, nor can we collude with a culture that wishes to see it as one activity amongst others. The Mass is literally a matter of life and death. Without regular re-orientation towards the life of God in the Mass, we are lost, we are nothing.
That is why the decision that has been made by HM Government and which will be debated later this week in Parliament to suspend public worship for a second time this year is such a grave one, and we write above all with the assurance of our prayers as you lead your people through this wilderness. We are aware of a profound disappointment, bordering on anger, in many of our congregations, an expression of the deep longing of the people of England to gather for worship.
We are very grateful to Cardinal Nichols and Archbishop McMahon for the measured lead they have taken and the wise words they have spoken in recent days. Our experience is that the Mass has been offered in the parishes we serve with huge care and great attention to safety and so we too would ask for clear evidence of transmission of the virus within congregations before we felt able to support even a brief second suspension of public worship. We express our solidarity with the Cardinal and the Archbishop in asking HM Government to rethink this aspect of the Regulations which will be presented to Parliament later in the week.
Of course we acknowledge our duty as subjects of Her Majesty to play our part in overcoming this deadly danger to our national life. Should the Regulations be passed as they now stand, we look to our priests to act strictly within the law and suspend all public worship as they will have been directed to do.
However the sacraments of the Church are life-giving not just for us but for the nation and we cannot simply turn off the source of sacramental grace. We therefore urge our priests to use their imaginations once again in celebrating the Mass within the law as local context allows and, where possible, to live-stream the Mass to the faithful who can unite themselves with this offering through an act of spiritual communion.
We write on All Souls' Day, a day on which we are powerfully reminded of the mercy of God in Jesus Christ who, through his saving work, draws us from death to life. It is in the sure hope of that salvation that we face the weeks and days ahead, for the God who shares his life in Jesus Christ is always faithful.
Please be assured of our thanks and our prayers.
Posted on the 15th Jul 2020 in the category Statements
On behalf of The Society's Council of Bishops, I am delighted to welcome Bishop Will Hazlewood to our number. On this the joyful day of his consecration, we pray for Bishop Will, his family and his ministry in the Diocese of Chichester.
The Rt Revd Tony Robinson, Bishop of Wakefield
Chairman of The Society's Council of Bishops