Sunday, December 28, 2008

Feast of the Holy Family


Today we have a letter from the bishop so I won't be preaching. He raises, as always, some interesting points, he addresses family disfunction, the need of people to belong, the need of the Church to listen and to give people a sense of belonging. These are such an important issues especially in a parish like this which most probably has the highest single person accommodation in the diocese.

Practically all of the housing in my parish consists of tall Georgian or Victorian terraced houses divided up into single person accommodation. We don't really have families. People who live cheek by jowl with others, always conscious of the people on either side, people above, people below, people across the hall, tend to assert their independence. It can be a very lonely experience, it can very easily develope attitudes of isolation in which social skills are easily lost or forgotten.

When we have a parish event the last people who would want to come are those who live on their own, or those who are lonely. They are also the first leave Mass, if they stay behind they bury their faces in their hands and make a deep and profound thanksgiving, alone with their God.

In so many ways the only thing that binds my people together, the only thing they have in common is God and their faith, though even faith is often expressed in radically different ways dependant on age, nationality, language, class, gender, sexual orientation, education, cultural and political outlook, etc. etc. etc.

It is not that people do not care for one another, friendships form but often more slowly than the community changes, at least half of those who come to Mass here will have moved out of the parish within the year.

Over my years here I have come to realise that all I have to offer people is the Fatherhood of God, Communion with Christ and the Sanctification of the Holy Spirit. We are a poor parish, the worst of our poverty is the lack of community. Of course if there was no pastoral letter I would preach on the contraceptive mentality that has shaped the thinking of our town planners and the structure of our society, and our way of thinking about relationships with one another.

3 comments:

Pete said...

Father, From the Catholic Herald interview, I don't think bishop Conry would agree with your last sentence.

bernadette said...

I have a great idea, Fr Blake. why not publish your intended homily that was meant for today HERE on t'internet! then your wider parish family can read it.

Please. It IS the feast of the Holy Family, after all. And what could be more Family Friendly and Inclusive right now than a teaching on Humane Vitae.

Come on, feed the sheep.

gemoftheocean said...

"Over my years here I have come to realise that all I have to offer people is the Fatherhood of God, Communion with Christ and the Sanctification of the Holy Spirit."

But Father, that's the most important thing!!!

I live alone and am single. But personally, I have found the most stable thing in my life the parish church. I expect I'm more gregareous than the average single person. But I've always felt the che church was the one constant I could depend on in my life. And that's "church" really with a capital "C." We have an unusual mix in our parish. It's smack in the middle of a tourist area, so actual parish boundaries are small. We have some rich people, who live "up the hill" some poor people who live near the church in housing they've lived in forever before the big redevelopments and project in the area. They are aging. We do have a lot of elderly. No parish school (never did) so there aren't a lot of young families. We have a goodly number of singles - I'm by no means the only one. Many have died off of the "old timers" and having been here for 36 or so years myself, I "know where the bodies are buried" so to speak. PRiests come and go, but the parish remains. Community is important, and I met one of my closes friends there over 30 years ago, but it's God who sustains.

Sometimes, if you don't already do so, reach out individually to your single people to help with X,Y,Z. Some of them are naturally shy and timid to come forward and volunteer, but make them feel not only welcome, but NEEDED. Even if it's something simple like being asked to bring up the gifts. About 1 Sunday in 4 I will make a point of asking two people who came to church by themselves to bring up the gifts. I've seldom seen other parishes do this (if EVER!) when I go visiting. The ushers or whomever picks the people always seem to go for families and couples to do this. If you ask for help to a specific individual with a given task, you will often recieve it. It makes the person feel needed