This Blog post is Strange Times by Fr Sean from Our Lady of Lourdes
Strange Times” - words we have being hearing regularly over the past few months. Our present times are indeed strange and unfamiliar - the coronavirus has changed our lives and our world.
For myself here at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Yardley Wood life at the moment is indeed strange - so different to what I have been used to over the past forty eight years as a priest. I now celebrate Mass on my own in an empty church - empty because no-one else is allowed be present due to present restrictions - I’m grateful to have the webcam and to know that I am not alone but joined in Mass by parishioners and people from outside the parish. Due to the restrictions I am unable to visit the sick and housebound which is so much part of a priest’s ministry, unable to celebrate Baptisms, Weddings, funeral Masses. I feel so much for those who have lost loved ones and are unable to mourn and celebrate the live of someone they love. I miss the voices of the school children next door at Our Lady of Lourdes school - I can always tell when its break time or launch time! I miss the parish centre or social centre where people gather for meetings or to celebrate parties and events - of course I miss the opportunity to visit the centre have a quiet pint of beer!
There have been advantages to the lockdown - not so many callers at the door, however the phone calls don’t decrease. I have had the time and opportunity, as part of my daily exercise, to explore the walks around Yardley Wood, The Dingles and admire the front gardens as i walk around the block . There has been an opportunity to reflect on life.,to stand back from the hustle and bustle, to give more time to prayer or at least to give more attention and concentration to prayer: time to reflect on those around me and the people who are important to me: time to recognise how much we take each other for granted. It is noticable as the weeks have gone by how people have begun to notice each other - people who in the past just walked past each other now at least acknowledge each other with a greeting or a nod of the head. I have had more recognition from the people who live in my adjoining roads over the past month than I have had for the past twenty years although sometimes I still have to speak to the dog first.
My christian faith has been important to me over the years. I grew up in a loving catholic family and community. Faith wasn’t an extra, just part of who we were and part of life. This faith has been tested on a number of occasions over the years. The story of St Thomas is one of my favourite Gospel Resurrection stories - Thomas who refused to believe that Christ had risen unless he saw for himself the tracks of the nails in Jesus’s hands and feet. There is something of Thomas in all of us, I think, but I always go back to the words of Thomas when he expressed his faith in the resurrection - “My Lord and my God” - Jesus I believe. I often say that short response of Thomas “My Lord and my God” as a prayer - words to profess my faith in the Risen Lord and words asking for a deeper faith in his presence with me. I believe the Risen Lord has been present to me throughout my life ,in the joys and celebrations, in the doubts, disappointments and difficulties. I don’t claim any monopoly of the Risen Lord because I believe he is present with every person - often recognised and appreciated, sometimes waiting to be acknowledged, sometimes ignored, sometimes not acknowledged because acknowledgement may bring difficult decisions or change of way of life. This time of Easter, which we celebrate up to Pentecost or Whit Sunday, which is the last Sunday of May, is a time for us to reflect on how the Risen Lord is with each one of, young and old at this difficult and strange time. He is with us, our families and our parishes, our schools and communities. I believe he will see us through our present difficulties and worries. He is here beside us - no need for social distancing with him.
“In the midst of isolation when we are suffering from a lack of tenderness and chances to meet up, and we experience the loss of so many things, let us once again listen to the proclamation that saves us; he is risen and is living by our side.” ( Pope Francis)