Dear friends in Christ,
The people of St. Augustine’s parish, Carlisle, are rejoicing in the recent completion of their annex within the church, and I travelled there on Sunday morning to celebrate Mass to mark the end of an enterprise which has been years in the planning. I offered my congratulations to the parish priest and parishioners on the enhanced new space that this annex now affords them as a parish community.
The enhanced and well-planned surroundings will allow for social functions as well as an area for childrens liturgy groups and other catechetical activities. St. Augustine’s church, situated in the north of the city of Carlisle close to Scotland road, is popular and draws Catholics from the wider and often scattered Border area with Scotland.
May all who come to worship there enjoy these new, carefully planned facilities now available in St. Augustine’s church.
As a memento of the occasion I was asked afterwards to plant two trees close to the entrance of the church. Trees are often cited in Sacred Scripture as examples of sturdiness and growth.
My wish and prayer are that this may be true of the parish community of St. Augustine’s, that each parishioner may grow ever stronger in faith and that the young Catholics put down deep roots in Christ which will enable them to meet confidently and courageously the challenges of life.
The month of November for us Catholics, and for many other people, is a time of memory, when we think with affection of those we have once known and who have now left this earth, passing into the mystery of God’s eternity.
On 2nd November, In keeping with an ancient tradition, the Church offers the sacrifice of the Mass for those termed ‘the faithful departed’, i.e. all deceased believers in Christ.
It is customary for people in many countries on this day to visit the cemeteries where the remains of their family and friends are interred, lay flowers, light candles and offer prayers for the repose of their souls. It is a day of quiet reflection, of gratitude for those dead who have touched our lives in some way.
In our part of the world he days of November are dark and nature appears to be falling into a deep sleep. However, just as winter follows autumn and then comes the assurance of spring, so also the sadness and even melancholy of our remembering the dead these days is greatly lightened, indeed transformed, by our firm faith in Jesus Christ who has conquered death.
The startling announcement that Christ no longer lay in the tomb but had risen from the dead on Easter morning was at first nearly impossible for the apostles and disciples to grasp. Until then, death seemed always to have had the last word. But this now was no longer the case and things had changed for ever.
God the Father would not allow his Son to see the corruption of the grave, and by the Father’s almighty power we too with our beloved dead are destined to rise with Christ at the end of time. The earliest recorded confession of resurrection faith was possibly ‘The Lord has indeed risen, and has appeared to Simon.’ (Luke 24:34).
So together with the universal Church let us treasure prayerfully the memories of our dead, particularly during this month of November. We are encouraged to pray for them at Mass and at other times in the firm conviction that our prayers do assist them on their journey to God.
We should also reinforce our own faith in the risen Christ who has already crossed the chasm of death into the glory of his Father, and has promised us who believe in him a share in that same glory.
In our prayer we entrust our dead relatives and friends to the safe keeping of the One who is the true shepherd of the sheep, with the assurance that we too will one day join their company, for in his own words, ‘I am going ahead of you to prepare a place for you.’ (John 14:2).
Until next week – may God bless you all,
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster