Pastoral Letter for Advent 2018
To listen to Bishop Peter reading this Pastoral Letter please click here
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
“Stay awake, praying at all times to stand with confidence
before the Son of Man” Those words of Jesus at the end of today’s Gospel give
meaning to these short weeks of Advent. Many of us will have our heads down
with preparations for Christmas. Jesus is urging us to look up, to see how much
he welcomes us and loves us. If we open our hearts to his welcome and his love,
not only will we be ready when he comes again in glory, we can reach out in
welcome and love to our families and to everyone around us.
Prayer, our openness to Jesus, and vocation, that call to
welcome and love, have been the themes of our Diocesan Year which ends this
coming Saturday, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. I want to thank
you for the initiatives in different Parishes and Pastoral Areas during the
past year. I invite you to the Closing Mass of this Diocesan Year. It is on
this coming Saturday in the Cathedral in Northampton at 11.30 am. The Principal
Celebrant will be the Papal Nuncio, His Excellency Archbishop Edward Adams.
That Mass will be an opportunity to thank God for the graces
of the past year, and to commit ourselves anew to prayer and to responding to
God’s call to each one of us. We will be storing away the Diocesan Year of
Prayer and Vocation banners and prayer cards, but we must not stop praying or
welcoming and loving in our parishes, in our schools, and in our homes!
When the Bishops met with Pope Francis last September, we
asked him what we bishops should be doing. He answered us with a question – how
many hours a day do you pray? And in October at the Synod of Bishops with and
for young people, Pope Francis encouraged young people to have moments of
silent reflection in the midst of the noise of social media.
Together, young and old, in prayer and in the lives we lead,
we need to reflect a passionate faith and a passionate authenticity. We need to
be real, real that Jesus is with us, that Jesus is among us, that Jesus is our shepherd,
our comfort, our friend and our brother!
Already much goes on in the life of our parishes and beyond
- welcoming new Catholics, preparing people for the sacraments, members
involved in so many roles in the parish, people serving those in need and the
work of so many Catholic organisations.
To equip us to make our faith more passionate, to make our
faith intellectually and practically reliable, during the new year we are going
to provide opportunities for us to better understand our faith, and for some of
us to train as lay leaders in our parish communities.
This initiative flows from our Walking Humbly with our God and the Diocesan Year of Prayer and Vocation. It is an initiative that must
be underpinned by the prayers of us all, and by our openness to Jesus.
Times are challenging for the Church and for each of us who
are members of the Church. I think that we are being stripped of our own
resources so that we rely on Jesus alone. So, as Advent begins, let us look up
to Jesus, and let us make Pope Francis’ message to the Bishops of England and
Wales our own. He said: “Whatever challenges you face, be joyful and be at
peace. Why? Because we have a merciful Father waiting for us, the Spirit within
us, and Jesus beside us.
So, peace and joy to you this Advent!
With every blessing,
Bishop of Northampton
To be read and/or made available at all Masses for the First Sunday of Advent on the weekend of the 1st/2nd December 2018