Our gracious Queen Elizabeth, the most loved monarch in the history of the world, has died. Weren’t we blessed to have her for seventy years. She loved us. We always knew that. She shared her life with us, her moments of family sadnesses, accepting the responsibilities of her position with dignity, strength and love.
That smile as she greeted our new Prime Minister at Balmoral a couple of days ago is a treasure, one that many have personally shared. She looked like a lovely grandmother greeting her granddaughter – a sign of affection at a crucial moment in the life of our country: the Monarch greets the Prime Minister, the lovely lady greets the young woman whom she will appoint and obey. What a moment for us to have at the end of her beautiful life. In that warm smile and welcome she is telling Liz Truss “You will serve the people I love – and I love you for being willing to.”
Queen Elizabeth II Contd… (18th Sept 2022)…
What could we do to share in the touching devotion for our Queen Elizabeth reflected in the love of her people, we wondered, thinking of whether to produce a parish prayer card. The answer was already on its way from our bishops, a beautiful card of prayers. We phoned to say thank you and were kindly offered more so that we can share with those not able to come to church. We want to be certain of having enough for the housebound and those in hospital.
The prayer cards will be given out by stewards after mass this weekend and delivered to those who are housebound and ill during the week, including those who share our prayer in the streaming of the mass. Please contact me by phone or email.
Watching and listening to people over the past week we see and hear a nation’s outpouring of sympathy, not only because of the love and respect people have for Queen Elizabeth II, but because it has touched and revived personal memories of family loss and grief.
This witness is the inspiration behind the musical tribute video on our parish YouTube channel, which shares the words of our Watermead hymn. ‘Requiescant in Pace’ (‘May they rest in peace’). The hymn was written a few years ago, inspired by the death of one of St Joseph’s loved parishioners, Tony, and the little signs shared with us by Christine of his still being with her and the family. Those experiences truly reflected the reassuring quote from St John Chrysostom on which the lyrics were based, “Those whom we love and lose are no longer where they were, they are now with us wherever we go.”
Alison had originally produced the music video in 2020 for an internet service in remembrance of those who had died during the Covid pandemic and, on hearing of the death of our beloved monarch, edited the video to bring her into the shared prayer of the hymn – hence leaving the title ‘Requiescant in Pace’ unchanged, as Queen Elizabeth now joins with all our departed loved ones.
As you read the wording pray for our royal family, for your own family and for all families in grief, whether their bereavement is recent or past. “May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.”
God bless us with all our loved ones, living and dead,
[During her long reign (longest in the UK and second longest in the world) Queen Elizabeth met four Popes on official visits: Pope John XXIII (1961), Pope John Paul II (1980, 1982 and 2000), Pope Benedict XVI (2010) and Pope Francis (2014). In 1951, a year before she became Queen, she met Pope Pius XII.]
Queen Elizabeth II Contd… (25th Sept 2022)…
Last week’s Tablet quoted from St Thomas More’s book ‘Utopia’:
“For what justice is there in this: that a nobleman, a goldsmith, a banker, or any other man that either does nothing at all or, at best, is employed in things that are of no use to the public, should live in great luxury and splendour upon what is so ill acquired, and a mean man, a carter, a smith, or a ploughman, that works harder even than the beasts themselves, and is employed in labours so necessary that no commonwealth could hold out a year without them, can only earn so poor a livelihood and must lead so miserable a life that the condition of the beasts is much better than theirs?”
It’s a familiar picture, isn’t it, and always has been. Are you content for the world to continue as it is – wealth, privilege and power for the few? At his funeral tribute for Queen Elizabeth, the Archbishop of Canterbury seemed to pause from his script to make the point that many of those present who have usurped power cannot expect the love and devotion given to the Queen.
Why would he use his raised platform to scorn dictators and unworthy overlords? His pretend “sudden thought”, carefully scripted and placed, was unworthy. He broke his words of love and admiration to insult, then returned to his words of love and admiration. We were now looking at a man trusted to speak our love for our Queen who had used his raised position to be a champion of freedom and justice – a man who doesn’t know how to hold the Church of England together (his primary job) or to unite the Anglican communion worldwide (his second primary job).
Who listened to those few words and thought “What moral courage to speak on behalf of the oppressed of the world!” At the funeral service for our beloved Queen? He will never forget that ill-judged moment. We don’t doubt his sincerity, he does speak up for justice – but this lacked judgement. The moment passed, and so did he, a man of words. It was a reminder that God’s people are not the ‘religious people’ but those who live faith and love.
Men of religion constantly disappoint us and, recently, official women have done the same. “Official line” we hear – spoken from the careful head “I’ve been promoted, you know,” but not from a loving heart. Religious people claim God is on their side. The horrors of religious history – Jewish, Christian, Muslim, etc. – reveal the dangers of claiming to know God’s will: the reality has been that their will become God’s will – making God guilty of horrifying crimes.
God’s people are pro-life, from the womb to the frailty of age and illness. They are not religious, they are people of loving hearts who reverence life, oppose injustice, the use of nuclear weapons, military dictatorships, euthanasia, all forms of prejudice because they love their neighbour.
Would you ask someone to do what you wouldn’t do? Will they carry the guilt for you? No. The guilt is yours and how will you carry the double guilt?
A.N. Wilson talks of the broken priest who received him into the Catholic Church. As an airman the priest had been one of the crew that dropped the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, and the horror of what he had done had destroyed him. He had sought peace by becoming a Catholic priest, but was still a broken man, knowing the horror of what he had shared.
God’s people are people of love in every walk of life.
Dear Students in Years 10 and 9,
I ask for your help and share with you something good done in Italy by students of your age, early teens, who began their own school. They called it the “School of Barbiana”, the area in which they lived, and they were the teachers and students. They felt hurt that ordinary school did not seem to care about them. They came from poor families who worked in the fields, on the farms, in small factories. They felt the teachers gave too much importance to the clever and wealthy students.
So they began their own school. Anyone could join and they would teach each other. Like them, you could be teachers and students at the same time in Years 10 and 9. They wrote a book about their school. It became famous in Italy and in other countries. Your teachers and the St Thomas Academy Trust could encourage you to do something similar.
The best teachers in the world are parents who love their children, teaching them to grow up every day. One day, all of you may be like that – loving kind parents. Kind people are the best people and all of us can be kind. You could produce a newsletter ‘Ten to Nine’ and share with everyone what you are doing. We shall put in on the internet and the world will see what you are doing. We’ll start by asking everyone at the school and their families to read it.
Some of you know that studying for GCSE’s and A Levels might be too difficult for you. You are helping so much at home that you cannot do your schoolwork; you are worried about your family and trying to cope; you think you are not clever enough; you think you could never hope to go to college or university. But if you love and help people you are already good and successful.
Talk with each other about helping other young people to read and write better, to explain maths, physics and chemistry in simple ways, to make sense of history and geography. You understand how hard it can be to keep up, to catch up, to cope with homework, so you are the best to help others to do that.
The teachers can guide you to plan timetables within the usual school lessons. Every week or every month you would write your newsletter (all of you taking your turn) ‘Ten to Nine’ about the questions you ask and answer. Imagine how you might encourage young people all over the world to say “We can do that!” as they read your newsletter, girls and boys who have no schools.
Talk about it together and we can start when you are ready. Everyone at the school will support you, all the families will want you to do well. Thousands of people will read ‘Ten to nine’.
You may have heard of Mary’s Meals which provides a hot meal at school each day for millions of very poor children in different parts of the world. One man began all that. You could do so much for girls and boys who have little to have their own school and good food. When people see what you are doing they will want to help.
GCSE’s and A Levels are important, we know, but every girl and boy in a good school is important. You could show the world what students can do even though they may not go on to GCSE and A Level. What do you think? Ask your family and friends.
God bless us all with understanding and wisdom.
(11h September 2022)
Related Links: Popular Reads and Fr John’s Parish Newsletters