Fr. Paddy’s Blog

As we begin the month of July, I pray in the brightness of summer all our families will be blessed with health of body and peace of mind. July traditionally is also a month when many take the opportunity for rest and renewal. I think especially of our school communities taking their well-deserved summer holidays and pray protection and safety on the journeys we may take.

One of the huge challenges in a contemporary culture is how to connect with one another and build our sense of community. In an age of instant social media, it is no substitute for the personal encounter. A recent psychological study on well-being placed huge emphasis on the benefits of gathering together including attending Church services. Since the dreadful COVID pandemic, there has been a noticeable absence of many good people who now have become accustomed to engaging with local Parish via the webcam exclusively. Whilst the webcam in our local Parish is a very useful vehicle to communicate, it is no substitute for the physical connection that is gathering around the table of the Lord. I think of the following story because it is very relevant to our present context.

“A member of a Catholic Parish, who previously had attended daily Mass, suddenly stopped going, not only on weekdays, but on Sundays also. The Parish Priest noticed this and was worried about it. He decided to pay the man a visit but felt unsure about what to do or say. He was conscious of the need to respect the man’s freedom, but conscious also that he should be there to help him if he needed it. After a few weeks, on a cold winter’s evening, the priest visited him. He found the man alone at home and was welcomed by him into the warmth of the house. The man led him to a comfortable chair near the fireplace, where a blazing coal fire was burning, and waited.

The priest sat down and made himself at home but said nothing about the man’s absence from Mass. The two men chatted about ordinary day-to-day affairs, a simple conversation about the news and topics of the day. From time to time, they became silent, their attention drawn to the dance of the flames around the burning coals. After a while, the priest took the tongs, carefully picked a burning coal from the fire and placed it to one side of the hearth all alone. Then he sat back in the chair in silence. His host watched this quietly. As the lone coal flickered and diminished, there was a reduced glow for some time, and then its fire was no more. It had become cold and dead. Not a word had been spoken about the question that was on both men’s minds.

After some further conversation, the priest picked up the dead coal and put it back in the middle of the fire. Soon it began to glow once more with the heat of the burning coals around it. It burned brightly, giving light as well as warmth. Then the priest glanced at his watch and said it was time for him to leave. He stood up to go. As he reached the front door of the house, his host, with a smile on his face, said, ‘Thanks for your visit, and especially for the fiery sermon. I’ll be back at Mass next Sunday’.”

We live in a society that is increasingly individualised and atomised. More people live lives that are fragmented and lonely. Some live in “secure” apartment blocks accessible only by cards or codes. They seem like prisons. It’s not a healthy way to be. The lone ranger is a poor role model for humanity. We need each other. It takes courage, and sometimes imagination, to break out of the limits, sometimes self-imposed, that keep us in isolation. But it’s worth the effort, and necessary if we are to be the human beings that God calls us to be.

“Come Summer With Me”

Come summer with me, Lord;

Summer deep down in my soul;

Restore my faith in summer’s time,

In rest, in joy, in play, in you…

Summer in my heart, Lord, and dwell there

As if time would never end,

As if all time were children’s time, eternal time

When school is always out and joy is ever in…

And let others summer in my shade, Lord,

And share whatever summer’s peace is mine to give,

Whatever summer’s light is mine to shed,

Whatever summer’s warmth is mine to share…

Good God of every season and every day this week,

Come summer with me, Lord,

And let the child in my heart spend this summer in your love. Amen.