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The Parish Magazine
of Saint Faith's Church, Great Crosby

MAY 2005


From the Clergy

'When in Rome, do as the Romans do!'

Well, I have always kept this saying in mind each time I have visited Rome. I have spent money in vestment shops, eaten pizza, taken a siesta, enjoyed Sambuca and so on. However this time was very different. Thousands of people in Rome, last week, were queuing up to pay their respects to His Holiness Pope John Paul II lying in state in S. Peter’s Basilica. So I decided to do the same.

I was told the queues could last up to eight hours. So I reckoned get up at 4.30am, start queuing at 5am and by late morning I could be enjoying a late breakfast and a welcome siesta to cope with the shock of people up so early on holiday. Imagine that it took 3 hours to get from one end of S. John’s Road to the other. Then imagine that to turn a corner into the next street took an hour…. As we approached 8am I soon realised that 9/10 hours queuing was more likely. 13 hours later I entered S. Peter’s along with the hoards. It is difficult to put into words the moment of seeing the Pope lying there so I won’t try to. All I can say is that I‘m so glad I persevered with the queue and yes, it was well worth it.

As the hours passed I found my mind wandering. All around me were hundreds and thousands of young people, many of whom got up earlier than I did. But the church is losing people, I kept thinking. That’s what the experts tell us. That didn’t seem to be the case. Young people everywhere were bursting into song, applause, prayer and above all there was a great sense that even though they didn’t know who was round them, let alone share the same language, they were all part of one family.

If only one could feel that same “family feeling” in the Anglican Communion. Can you imagine thousands flocking from all over the world when the next former Archbishop of Canterbury dies? Some Anglicans can hardly bear to be in the same building as one another!

It is easy with such public displays of solidarity to think that Rome has it easy. Not so. The Roman Catholic Church is fraught with problems as is the Anglican Communion. Read the New Testament – ‘twas ever thus! People say that vocations are falling. On Monday there was a procession with over 2,000 priests. 80% of them under the age of 40!

All that said, it was an immense privilege to catch a glimpse of the body of the man whose contribution not just to Christianity, but the human family as a whole, was so great. Let us hope that some of the feeling of thankfulness and reconciliation present on the day of his funeral amongst the world’s leaders and faith communities will continue to grow as a result of Pope John Paul’s ministry.

And I felt very proud to be there, serving myself in a church where one of its former servants, Robert Runcie, had spent time with the Pope talking together, praying together, and committing themselves to the unity of the Church which is the will of Christ. It is wonderful to have an Archbishop of Canterbury committed to the same cause in our own day. Wonderful to see the Archbishop of Canterbury and Archbishop of Westminster pray together for His Holiness.

So as another chapter closes for the worldwide church we pray for the chapter that is soon to open-™ praying that it may be a time, led by the Holy Spirit, when all Christians may grow closer together as members of One Church, One Faith and One Lord.

O God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,our only Saviour, the Prince of Peace:
Give us grace seriously to lay to heart
the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions.
Take away all hatred and prejudice,
and whatever else may hinder us
from godly union and concord
:that, as there is but one Body and one Spirit,
one hope of our calling,
one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
one God and Father of us all;
so we may henceforth be all of one heart, and of one soul,
united in one holy bond of peace, of faith and charity
and may with one mind and one mouth glorify you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Fr Neil

A Reflection for Ascensiontide

From Dr Edward Norman, former Chancellor of York Minster

The Feast of the Ascension, celebrated last week, should not be marginalized, or explained in symbolic language, as modern Church leaders are inclined to do. It marks a decisive moment in the purpose of the Incarnation itself, and is inseparable from the resurrection. If Christ really did rise from the grave, his departure from the world must have been equally miraculous - equally at variance with previous experience. Legends have always persisted that he remained alive, and some have sought to identify his tomb: an indication of credulity rather than authenticity. For Christians the proof of the Resurrection and the Ascension, and the confirmation of the promises made to his followers by the risen Christ, is the existence of the Church itself - his body in the world. The life of Jesus, and the fact of his Resurrection, plainly involved ‘miraculous’ events, and it is not possible to accept the claims of Christianity without acknowledging them. But when God himself, the Creator of all things, was in the world and sharing in its very substance, the laws which ordinarily describe the acts of humans are not applicable.

The works of healing performed by Christ were within the expectations of those who followed him; they were intended, like the Incarnation itself, to make the heavenly knowable in human terms - in terms of what humans expected of religious phenomena. They were done with a certain reserve, a kind of concession to human understanding; Jesus himself wearied of the popular desire for ‘a sign’ or for ‘wonders’, but recgnized that they were part of the spiritual culture of the ancient world.

The central events of the life of Christ: the Virgin Birth, the descent of the dove at his Baptism, the Resurrection and the Ascension, were of a different nature, however. These were not folk miracles, given in order to convey or signify religious authority in the manner expected by those who heard Jesus, and therefore comparable to those supposedly performed by many spiritual leaders as evidence of their charism. The central miracle of the Incarnation itself and its consequences were unique. When God was in the world as a person the distinction between the ‘supernatural’ and the ‘natural’ disappeared, for the Creator of all things was, as it were, creating as he went along: yet he was fully a man - a man using the expectations of his day to convey his message and authority. This was a long way from the notion, so widespread today, as in the past, that all religious experience involves an acquaintance with the ‘supernatural’, and that reality today can be changed by religious faith.

The most perfect form of prayer given by Jesus to his followers was devoid of petitions for miraculous cures or personal exemptions from physical hazards - the substance of so many prayers offered by modern people. We live in a real creation, not a magic sideshow; in the world God is known about through the natural order. He is also and supremely known in Christ, the great focus of revealed truth. God’s presence in Christ was, in our terms, ‘miraculous’. Our lives, in contrast, are ‘natural’, and the world we inhabit operates wholly through the material order established by God.

Ann Birch

A prisoner describes the conditions under which he is being kept:

‘Cell. 8 feet by 10 feet = 80 square feet. One  window 7 feet up the wall. Window is 4 ½ feet long 3 inches wide. It’s hard to see out of. Cell constructed of concrete, steel. Walls are painted white, paint is peeling. Bed is a steel bunk, mattress is vinyl stuffed with cotton, pillow same, very uncomfortable and hot in summer.No TV! One radio, poor reception, newspaper must be purchased and ordered by friends in free world. All mags, books, etc, are ordered via, or publishers. No personal packages at all. Only mail, papers off the web, letters and photos are allowed in mail. The shower is often ice cold in winter, scalding hot in the hot summer, it’s mildewed, sticks and is unsanitary. No ventilation and is poorly kept. All prisoners must be handcuffed and escorted to the shower by two guards, often we are left in shower for 25-45 minutes just waiting and waiting.

Writing supplies can be ordered from outside friends, or purchased on the commissary. Paper is expensive, $2.40 for 100 sheets; writing tablets are cheaply made and cost a dollar. A pencil is 14 cents, a pen is 20 cents. All meals are over cooked, always cold, 3rd rate everything, dirt in veggies, only the stalks are served, never the broccoli or cauliflower tops, only the stalks. Carrots are either raw or over cooked and rotten. All meat is soy substituted, grease and unseasoned. Fat and often raw cooked pork is served. No desserts are served except once a week (due to state budget cuts). We are fed three meals a day, the calories are cut, and the lentil beans, navy beans, pinto beans and black eyed bean peas are served every meal, are never ate by anyone. Collard greens are served daily as are carrots and corn. The breakfast is pancakes 6 days a week, the one day a week with eggs, its not eggs, we are fed imitation eggs. Fake eggs from the carton. The prisoners on disciplinary level are fed food loaf, everything listed above is mixed into corn bread, and the loaf is fed to level 2 and 3 prison inmates. Sometimes if not most of the time the food loaf is actually better than the regular food tray.

No contact with humans at all, the only form of human contact is when we are handcuffed by guards. Deacons volunteer, chaplains all must stand back from the doors or risk losing the right to come and walk the row to preach to us. Our death row activity plan says we are to have church services, we don’t. We are to have a work program, we don’t. We have one hour out a day to shower and some food we can purchase from commissary. That’s it, read, write, draw, sing, exercise and yell to talk to others, its total isolation.

We are allowed one 2 hour visit a week on level 1; it is on a phone that is recording everything, through a bullet proof glass. Two hours, not allowed to touch anyone, you can’t even smell a lady’s perfume; hear a natural laugh, etc. It’s very desensitized and inhumane. Inmates on level 2 get two 2 hour visits a month. Those poor souls on level 3 (harsh punishment get one 2 hour visit a month). You may have up to 10 people on your visit list; only 2 people on your visit list can visit you at once, per week. All food sold in visits is marked up in price; example a sandwich; a normal deli sandwich is 3 dollars. A soda is 85c for a can. A small package of candy is a dollar. The visitor in purchasing the inmate anything from the expensive vending machines. One trip per visit, if you forget a drink, to bad you don’t get one. We are often ignored when making any request to any guard, treated sub human and made to wait for everything, food, shower, recreation, everything is limited down to minute when it don’t help the guards, if it helps them to leave us in the shower for an hour they do that.

Dayroom areas are unsanitary, no equipment, no board games, no TV, no things. Often men come out and walk around bored, letting their mind idly wonder. The cell is no better. It’s degrading, dehumanizing, humiliating, very inhumane treatment. Isolation causes many forms of mental issues and stress related health problems. People fight, argue, get paranoid and withdraw. Some try killing themselves, some give up their appeals to die, rather than endure this slow torture. Outside support and contact is a must to survive in here. Daily life is a test of one’s mental mind, his very spirituality, to the core of his soul, sadness, depression, loss of hope, feelings of hopelessness are a daily event to us all.’


A prison in a Third World country perhaps?  No, this account was written recently by a prisoner on Death Row in the notorious Polunsky Unit, Texas, U.S.A. This inmate preferred to remain anonymous but, sadly, his account has been borne out by many others including my penfriend, Dennis Bagwell, who was executed in Texas on February 17th this year and by Richard Cartwright. who is a current inmate awaiting execution on May 19th.

Whatever your feelings on the death penalty, is this any way for a civilised country to treat its citizens?  The State of Texas executes more men and women than any other State in the U.S.A which chose to reinstate the Death Penalty.

Sadly, the number of people subsequently found to be innocent after their execution continues to rise.

If you are against the Death Penalty and would like further information, you can contact the National Coalition for the Abolition of the Death Penalty on their website:


The Big Breakfast?

Rosie and Rick invite everyone to join them for Breakfast on Saturday 21st May at 9.30 when they will be hosting A Big Breakfast party to raise funds towards the St Faith’s Sierra Leone Appeal.

Tickets are just £5 and there will be the usual raffle.

Coming or Going?

There is a knock on St Peter’s door. He looks out and a man is standing there. St Peter is about to begin his interview when the man disappears. A short time later there’s another knock. St Peter goes to the door, sees the man, opens his mouth to speak, and the man disappears once again.

‘Hey, are you playing games with me?’ St Peter calls after him when this all happens a third time.

‘No,’ the man's distant voice replies anxiously. ‘They’re trying to resuscitate me!’

Contributed by Susie Greenwood


The Wrong email Address

A couple from Minneapolis decided to go to  Florida to thaw out during one particularly icy winter. They planned to stay at the very same hotel where  they spent their honeymoon 20 years earlier. Because of hectic schedules, it was difficult  to coordinate their travel  schedules. So the husband left Minnesota and flew to Florida on Thursday, with his wife flying down the following day.

The husband checked into the hotel. There was a computer in his room, so he decided to send an email to his wife.  However, he accidentally left out one letter in her e-mail address, and without realizing his error, he sent the email.

Meanwhile... somewhere in Houston, a widow had just returned home from her husband's funeral. He was a minister of many  years, who was called home to glory following a sudden heart attack.  The widow decided to check her email, expecting messages from relatives and friends. After reading the first message, she fainted. The widow's son  rushed into the room, found his mother on the floor, and saw the  computer screen which read:

To: My Loving Wife
Subject: I’ve arrived
Date: 25 Sept 2004

I know you’re surprised to hear from me. They  have computers here now and you are allowed to send emails to your loved  ones. I've just arrived and  have been checked in.

I see that everything has been prepared for your arrival tomorrow.    Looking forward to seeing you then! Hope your journey is as uneventful as mine was.

P. S.   It is really hot down here!

Fingers crossed for Good Friday
Chris Price

The ‘Daily Telegraph’, home of entertaining and unusual reports on the odder corners of the Christian world, gave front page coverage on Good Friday to the following:

‘The nation should be bracing itself for disaster today, according to legend.

Folklore says that bad luck looms when Good Friday falls on the Feast of the Annunciation, as it does this year.

It is the first time that dates have coincided for 73 years. The clash is the result of the early Easter this year.

Christian theologians have noticed that it encapsulates the beginning of Christ‘s life on earth - the moment that the Angel Gabriel tells Mary that she is with child - and His death on the cross. Some doomsayers predicted that the world would end on such a date in AD970 and others said there would be bad luck if Easter fell on Lady Day.

And early English saying ran: ‘If Our Lord falls in Our Lady’s lap, England will meet with a great mishap.’

Fortunately the nation as survived the last three dates, in 1910, 1921 and 1932. If we survive this one, the next will fall in 2016.’

Well, of course, we did survive: the sun shone on Good Friday and the birds were singing in our early spring - so we can all relax and wait until 2016.

Gladys Dunn

Gladys Dunn was new to the area and decided to visit the church nearest to her new home. She enjoyed the service, the fine church and the lovely music by the choir, but the sermon that morning went on, and on, and on. Worse, it wasn’t even very interesting. Glancing round, she saw more than one person in the congregation nodding off. Finally it was over.

After the service, she turned to a still sleepy-looking gentleman next to her, extended her hand, and said, ‘I’m Gladys Dunn.’

‘Me too!’ he replied.

From the magazine of St Mary the Virgin, Davyhulme

Medic Malawi Update

Margaret Houghton

It is my great pleasure in writing that for the second time I can report the continuing well-being of St.Andrew’s Clinic, Mtunthama and its staff.

Unfortunately the anticipated arrival of a young volunteer doctor to work at the Academy, with a built-in arrangement to work one day a week at St.Andrew’s, did not happen and so still no doctor.  However, things are moving at a fast pace and the Clinic now possesses a fully operating scanner and so can provide an up to date service to the community in modern diagnoses.  Also, thanks to Medic Malawi’s ever generous supporter making a further anonymous donation of £10,000, the laying of the foundations for the long awaited operating theatre is now underway.  Thank you so much for all you are doing to help the Clinic, which would not have progressed so much without your financial support.

St. Faith’s kindergarten is more than thriving; positively overflowing.  Orphans are now arriving to take their place, which can present a problem, how can they be turned away?  Having found a place for them at the kindergarten, it is a natural progression to take responsibility for them, no mean task without accommodation and carers.  Is this going to be another project, one might ask.  I think not; frequently Malawi children are called orphans when they lose one parent.

This year more young people are planning visits to St. Andrew;s Clinic to help in various ways.  Indeed at present two young people are offering time during their GAP year, fulfilling any roll asked of them. The feedback is great enthusiasm of being part of such a community and experiencing the warmth of the welcome they have received and the gratitude of the Malawi people for all the help given.

Over the past few months friends of Medic Malawi at St. Faith‘s have donated over £400; a tremendous help and I do so thank these people.

Footnote: Over £220 of the £400 Margaret mentions above was raised by donations received by the editor in exchange for DVDs and video tapes of the BBC TV Advent broadcasts. Many thanks to those who didn’t just take the free tapes but gave something for them!

For anyone who may be interested, DVDs entitled ‘Lord Runcie remembered’ are now available on the same basis. They contain scenes from Lord Runcie’s memorable Centenary celebrations visit, the ‘Home on Sunday’ programme in which Cliff Michelmore interviewed the then Archbishop and which is punctuated by our choir’s singing – and extracts from the 1980 enthronement service at Canterbury Cathedral. Orders to Chris Price, please


The Man for the Ministry


Hello everybody, welcome to my end of term report.  On a scale of 1-9 I’m on three!  The subject of this term has been liturgy and history. We have been lectured on the occasional offices (weddings and funerals etc) the liturgical church year, the Eucharist and the origins of daily prayer, which I chose as my subject for one of the terms assignments.  This second term has been demanding, diverse and formative. Looking back on it I can see three highlights.  Initially the term started with my placement at Ormskirk Parish Church, in March there was a weekend away in Mirfield on a silent  retreat, and the term concluded with my first Easter school.

It was necessary to complete a congregational placement in a church that was as far removed from St Faith’s in churchmanship as possible. Ormskirk Parish Church (OPC) worships in a low evangelical style and being only 20 minutes from home seemed the ideal choice.

I would be lying to you if I said I found the worship style easy to adjust to, it was a very different environment for me, and to my shame I found worship difficult. This left me at a low spiritual ebb, but this feeling was not unique to me, my fellow students were experiencing something similar as they too were submerged in the unfamiliar. This was only an initial reaction and as I became familiar with practices and began to get to know people, some of my inhibitions vanished and I found myself integrating into a worshipping community.

The time and support I was given by the clergy and people of OPC was considerable. I was able to share the ministry of the vicar, the curate and house group leaders. I observed school assemblies, took part in hospital visiting, mothers’ and toddler groups (being a granddad came in handy!) retirement home communion, funerals and bereavement visiting, leading worship and preaching for the first time.

The whole placement was such a privilege; I look back on it with warmth. I will keep in touch with a few folk and the vicar has invited me back to preach on Ascension Day.

The first weekend in March was a silent retreat at Mirfield, another first for me. As you may know I consider Mirfield as a bit of an oasis and it was exactly that. We were allowed to share the weekend with the brothers; we worshipped and ate with them.  As we ate our evening meal on Saturday, in silence of course, the Superior read to us from a book that the brothers were sharing.  It has been many years since I have been read to.  I found it strangely comforting.  For Sunday morning worship we joined with the full-time students from the College of the Resurrection.  The weekend was spent entirely on reflection and worship, save a meditation on the book of Tobit, and finished in achieving my personal intent, my Easter confession.

While some of you were getting ready for the Easter party I was back with my old friend the M62 and on my way to Wakefield for Easter school, from Easter Sunday to Low Sunday.

The staff of NOC have been extremely clever in the design of this week, each student will experience the week differently, it is hoped that all will be changed by it in some degree or other.

The theme of the week was Christian mission in a plural world, i.e. how we as Christians relate to the beliefs of other world faiths. During the week I visited a Hindu temple and a Mosque, both in Bradford, the encounter was formative and I am still reflecting on the experience.

We listened to the experiences of a Methodist minister who works with all the communities in his circuit, promoting respect, understanding and tolerance in a post riot and post nine eleven environment.

Also we heard about the life of a Roman Catholic Nun who lives with another sister on an estate in Bradford, which is predominately Muslim. One thing that sticks in my mind that she related to us was a question from (not for the first time) her neighbour who was trying to understand her and her faith, ‘tell me sister, about the resurrection.’

Back in Wakefield we were deliberately placed in stressful working conditions climaxing in an assessed assignment that could only be completed by collaboration and teamwork. I started the week with a particular view of salvation and as the week progressed through discussion, through listening and some confrontation, by mid-week I had no idea of what I believed.  Then through lectures and working groups we started to put each other back together again, only changed.  I now have a different view of salvation, I relate differently to Muslim, Jew and Hindu, the week forced me out of my Christian box and shook me about, before allowing me back into it.

It was a powerful week, well designed and executed, my views have changed but at least they were able to change and will do so again in the future.  That may sound that I have no foundation, not true. Easter school brought me closer to my fellow students and intensified my relationship with God.  Well done, NOC!

This next term is entitled, ‘The Interpretation and use of Scripture, part 1.  The Hebrew Bible/Old Testament.’  I feel a few late nights coming on!

Take care and God bless,


Who’s afraid of the Holy Ghost?

Chris Price (P.C. Watchman)

It just gets better and better on the ‘P.C. front’. The proposed Norfolk Agreed Syllabus for Religious Education, as revealed in The Daily Telegraph recently, has new guidelines which will delight those who enjoy the wilder eccentricities of our Politically Correct society.

Religious Education teachers are, in this directive, being strongly advised not to mention that Communion bread and wine represents the body and blood of Christ in case children get it into their heads that Christians are cannibals. And they are asked always to refer to the Holy Spirit rather than the Holy Ghost because the latter apparently implies ‘a trivial and spooky concept of the third person in the Trinity’.

The term Old Testament is being consigned to the dustbin of history because pupils may believe it means its contents are no longer relevant (so much for the lessons of History, then!) Jews are in line for reforms too. Teachers are told to refer to the ‘Western Wall’ rather than the ‘Wailing Wall’, just in case the children believe that Jews are moaners. Hindus have problems too: pictures of Hindu holy men caked in mud are out because they give the impression that it is a religion for ‘weirdos and masochists’.

Sikhs are no better off either. The guidance says: ‘Do be careful when showing pupils the kachs. Without preparing pupils, they seem to some like merely voluminous underpants and can give rise to a poor response’ (!)

It was in the otherwise lovely county of Norfolk, as I recall, that chestnut trees were cut down a while back for fear that falling conkers would harm children. These latest pronouncements are in line with that decree. Even the teaching unions, all too prone in my experience to jump on the P.C. bandwagon, have denounced these proposals as ridiculous and ‘modernism gone mad’.

Further comment is almost superfluous. Our supposedly multi-cultural society seems so terrified of causing any offence to anyone that it feels it has to dilute and emasculate the rich and colourful variety that makes up our life. Of course, most teachers will, with any luck, blithely ignore such lunatic pronouncements - but the fact that such guidelines can even be contemplated seems yet further proof of the ‘cotton-woolling’ of our children and the marginalizing of religion. Poor old Holy Ghost, I say.


From the Registers

Holy Baptism
6 March James Derek Birtles, son of Leslie and Paula
Burial of Ashes
27 March Queenie Goodwin
1st April George Harrison
Holy Matrimony
2 April Dominic Murphy and Jill Hardwick


Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the Ark. Professionals built the Titanic.

Dear Lord and Mother…?

Christine Spence, entirely without prejudice, has passed on the following, doing the rounds of the internet.

Three compelling arguments for believeing that Jesus was really a woman:

 He had to feed a crowd at a moment’ notice when there was no food.
 He kept trying to get a message across to a bunch of men who just didn’tget it.
 Even when he was dead, He had to get up because there was more work for Him to do....


A Proper Man

I saw the grass, I saw the trees
and the boats along the shore;
I saw the shapes of many things
I had only sensed before;
and I saw the faces of men more clearly
than if I had never been blind,
the lines of envy around their lips,
and the greed and hate in their eyes;
and I turned away, yes I turned away,
for I had seen the perfect face of a real and proper man,
the man who’ brought me from the dark
into light, where life began.

I hurried then away from town
to a quiet and lonely place;
I found a clear, unruffled pool
and I gazed upon my face;
and I saw the image of me more clearly
than if I had never been blind,
the lines of envy around the lips,
and the greed and hate in the eyes;
and I turned away, yes I turned away,
for I had seen the perfect face of a real and proper man,
the man who’ brought me from the dark
into light, where life began.

I made my way back into town,
to the busy, crowded streets,
the shops and stalls and alley-ways,
to the squalor and the heat;
and I saw the faces of men more clearly
than if I had never been blind,
the lines of sorrow around their lips,
and the child looking out from their eyes;
and I turned to them, yes I turned to them,
remembering the perfect face of a real and proper man,
the man who'd brought me from the dark
into light, where life began.

Estelle White


Dates for the Diary in May

Saturday 30th April from 9.00am
Joint PCCs Away Day at S. Luke’ Formby

Sunday 1st May at 6.00pm
Choral Evensong, Procession &Benediction (SF)
Preacher: The Reverend Irene Cowell (Rector of Sefton)

6.30 am Procession & Solemn Eucharist followed by breakfast in the Vicarage
Preacher: Fr. Toby Sherring (S. John’s  Tuebrook)
10.30am Eucharist with hymns (S. Mary’s)
7.30 pm Eucharist with hymns

11.00 am High Mass
Preacher:  The Rev. Deb Larkey (S. Oswald’s, Netherton)

11.00am High Mass
Preacher:  Fr. Christopher Cook (S. Agnes, Ullet Road)

Thursday 26 CORPUS CHRISTI - thanksgiving for the Holy Communion
8.00 pm Sung Eucharist with blessing of those who serve as Eucharistic
 Ministers in the United Benefice and licensing of Fr. Mark Waters as NSM Curate.
 Celebrant and Preacher: Rt. Revd. David Jennings (Bishop of
 Warrington) followed by ‘bring-a-bottle’ party in the Vicarage.


A Tribute to Pope John Paul II

Fr. Neil writes: The following article is written by Father Gerard King, Parish Priest of Marychurch, Hatfield with St Thomas More, North Mimms. He is a close friend of mine and has visited us on a couple of occasions. Also, as it happens, Fr. Gerard’s local Anglican colleague was Fr. Terry Ranson, our Holy Week preacher. This article came as a request from the local Anglicans wanting a tribute to the Holy Father in their parish magazine.  Fr Gerard writes:

Over the past few days I am sure that you, like me, have been watching a great deal of television. Ever since it was announced, just after 8.30pm on Saturday 2nd April, that Pope John Paul II had died, our television screens have been filled with remarkable scenes. We all knew that the death of the Holy Father and his funeral would be big news but who could have anticipated just how big it was going to be?

When I first heard that the Holy Father had died it was about 9.00pm and I had just switched on the radio news. Although we all knew that he was dying news of his death came as a shock. It reminded me a bit of when my own father died five years ago. He had been suffering from cancer and was in great distress and I had been praying for the Lord to take him. However, when he did die I was shocked and filled with grief. When John Paul II died I felt that same sense of shock. Earlier that evening we had been praying for him at Mass and saying the prayers for the dying, asking the Lord to take him to Himself and end his suffering. But when he did die sadness came over me and many others throughout the world - we only have to look at the pictures of men and women, young and old, throughout the world weeping for the Holy Father. Why? I think it was because the Holy Father wasn’t just a celebrity or a famous person “out there” he was like someone who was part of our family. We miss him because we loved him and we know that he loved all of us.

Some people have said that John Paul II taught the world a great deal by the way he lived his life and used his God-given gifts for spreading the Gospel and helping to liberate people from both spiritual and political oppression. However, in some ways his greatest teaching to the world has been in the way that he died. The Holy Father at the end of his life was a physical shadow of the man he used to be - remember how handsome and vigorous he was when first elected. However, although his physical health had declined rapidly over the years his spiritual health had grown more and more robust. The Holy Father taught us how to unite our physical sufferings and crosses with those of Jesus for the salvation of the world. He taught us the dignity and wisdom that can come with age in a world that sometimes fails to value the elderly. He taught us that inner spiritual beauty is what really matters in a world that often values only exterior, superficial appearances. When his will was read it was revealed that he left no material possessions; but who can doubt that he died a rich man.

His funeral may well turn out to have been the greatest gathering of humanity in history. Nearly two hundred heads of states along with many other VIPs from around the globe attended, showing the respect with which The Holy Father was held. However, in the midst of the pomp and ceremony, the vast crowds and the intense media coverage, one thing stood out for me - the Pope’s coffin. Simple and plain without almost any decoration, lying flat on the ground. A final sign of simplicity that teaches us the importance of humility in our own lives. We live in a world that is so often filled with greed, violence and let’s face it - sin! The events of the last week have taught us that there is another way, the way of the Gospel. In the life and death of John Paul II we see how powerful a life lived rooted in the Gospel can be. May all of us, in our own way, imitate the heroic qualities of this holy man and by doing so may we further the cause of Christian Unity which was so close to his heart. Amen


Panto 2006!

Auditions for the 2006 United Benefice Pantomime will take place in St Mary's Hall on Saturday, 18th June at 2.00 pm. The show may be ‘Dick Whittington’ - this and other details later. Watch this space - and keep the date free!


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