In total there were six apparitions of Our Lady to the three peasant children at Fatima in Portugal. When Mary first appeared in 1917 she asked the children to return to the same place on the same day (the thirteenth) of each month. During the centenary of these Apparitions we remember these incredible events. Today (Sunday 13th) parishioners are invited to a Holy Hour in St Peter’s Church from 3.00-4.00 pm with Confessions and Fatima Prayers. The story of the events at Fatima can be found in leaflets in both churches. (Look for the DVD of the film The Thirteenth Day. There are also booklets and prayer accompaniments available for sale after Masses at Our Lady’s and St Peter’s).
This week (Tuesday 15th) there is the special Marian Feast of The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is a Holy Day of Obligation where as Catholics we attend Mass in thanksgiving for Mary the Mother of the Church. Without her willingness to be the mother of Jesus we would not have the promise of salvation made possible through our faith. The magnificent windows in Our Lady‘s Church show the role of Mary in creation. On this day we celebrate when Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven to be with her Son. There are Masses at all the Catholic Churches: 9.30 am (SJ); 10.00 am (OL); 12.30 pm (SP); 7.00 pm (SJ). It is a day for all of us but we pray most especially for those whose mothers have gone to heaven. Mary, Queen of Heaven, pray for us.
As a mother Mary understood the joys and the pains of motherhood. As a priest ordained by the Church to act in the person of Christ, the joy and pain experienced by mothers is evident in the pastoral visits of the clergy. Please remember them in your prayers.
When I read the prayers written in our Parish Prayer Intentions Book they become a collective prayer for the needs of our community. Some of our best prayer is when we pray for each other, even if we don’t know them personally or even know their particular needs. We rightly take an interest in the lives and struggles of people across the world but do we pray for our fellow Christian sisters and brothers in our home community? If you are attending a weekday or Sunday Mass at St Peter’s Church, write your prayer in the book and the community can pray your prayer with you. (The book is on a lectern by The Calvary statue).
As many people have reminded me (in case I didn’t know) the Church is a community and, as such, our strength is how we as individuals interact with each other and most especially the wider world. A church which is only interested in itself and its own members, a church which only looks inwards is on a journey in the wrong direction.
Our faith requires us not to be introvert but extrovert. We are called to look outwards as we saw on the Feast of Pentecost when the apostles left the safety of the Upper Room in Jerusalem and went out to preach the Good News. This was a message for everyone who heard them speaking about the marvels of God in their native tongue. The strength of the church is the Mass which draws the community together in thanksgiving and to nourish by word and Sacrament. But the dismissal after the Final Blessing is the common commandment to us all “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord”. It puts me in mind of the words of Blessed John Henry Newman:
“I sought to hear the voice of God and climbed the highest steeple,
But God declared, “Go down again, I dwell among the people.”
PS For those who enjoy the works of Michael Morpurgo, there is a very poignant story of child migrants called Alone on a Wide, Wide Sea on BBC iPlayer (for the next 26 days).