... to the website for the parish of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St Patrick, Liverpool.
Over the past 12 months a considerable amount of work has been done on one of our churches, Our Lady of Mount Carmel. the church was built in 1878. It is a Grade II listed building and essential repair work has been carried out.
Phase 1 consisted of replacing weather-worn brick and stonework, repointing of the north and south facing outer walls (see photograph below), replacing all the downspouts and replacing and enlarging all the gutters to cope with the increased amount of rainfall which occurs in a major downpour,
This took place from May to October 2017.
Phase 2 consisted of re-roofing the porch and replacing and enlarging the gutters. Phase 1 cost over £230,ooo, Phase 2 over £20,000.
So far we have received grants of £107,000.
The essential repair work now completed, it is hoped that much needed decoration of the inside of the church (last decorated in 1992) can begin.
If you would be so kind as to support with any contribution, no matter how small, it will be gratefully accepted.
Father John Southworth
Parish Priest OLMC Church, 27 High Park St, Liverpool L8 8DX
FAITH IN FOCUS: SIGN OF THINGS TO COME
‘Life is but a breath and my eyes will never again see joy.’We can all sympathise with Job. He feels so downhearted that nothing seems worthwhile any more. And from time to time we can all end up asking what’s the point of life and whether it’s worth all the effort. We take our fair share of knocks and it’s easy to stay down rather than pick ourselves up and dust ourselves down.
That’s why the cures that Jesus worked came as such a bombshell to a people that had grown cynical about life. St Mark tells us that from the outset of his ministry Jesus attracted large crowds eager to see him perform cures on those who were sick.
Of course, Jesus was no doctor. But it was as if, for the crowd, these miracles validated his preaching claims. Anyone can preach, but someone who can back up their preaching with healing is surely worth listening to. And for Jesus these cures were not the be-all and end-all of his mission. They were signs of something else: the setting up of the kingdom of God.
From the start Jesus never claimed any credit for these miracles. He was up-front about where he got his power from: his Father. And it was his Father who had sent him to inaugurate a new way of life, a new style of living according to the values of the Kingdom which was about to come.
Two thousand years on, the Church continues this mission of proclaiming the kingdom to a world that is often as weary as Jesus’s listeners.
In the midst of war, scandal, opposition and sheer human frailty we keep in mind that we are not trying to compete with other agencies, with governments or lifestyle promoters. Our message is radically different from any other.
It says that God intends us to live in a way that puts others first, that thrives on self-sacrifice after the fashion of Christ and that has no time for the self-centred idealism of much of what advertisers and spin-doctors present us with today. For Christians are in the world but not of it. That’s because, warts and all, they are part of the kingdom of God. And as Jesus’s audience found out, despite the problems that each day might bring, the kingdom is very near.
FAITH IN FOCUS: TELLING IT AS IT IS
Lazy preachers use religious words. It’s easier than getting down to the nitty-gritty but it doesn’t help people to connect their faith with their lives. So whenever you hear a sermon that is peppered with words like salvation, ecclesial, redemption, Christological, justification, metanoia, eschatology, sanctifying grace or beatific vision, then you know that the preacher is using shorthand.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with any of these words; they are theological ways of expressing our faith and the work of God in our lives. But they remain on a cerebral level. They engage the mind but more often than not don’t reach the heart. They are not geared to connecting faith with life in a way that most people readily understand.
When the Jewish religious teachers preached they appear to have fallen into the same trap. What they said was right, but it was stale. People found it hard to become enthusiastic when they heard them preach.
Then Jesus came along. People related to what he said because they could see that it had meaning for the way they were trying to live. It connected with their struggles, their fears and their hopes. When they described his teaching, people said that he taught ‘with authority’. By this they did not mean that he took an official stance or that he talked down to people as if they were ignorant. It meant that they could see that his teaching was going to have a beneficial effect on their lives. It made sense and they could grasp its significance.
Authority meant that his words had clout. The word authority comes from a Latin word that at its root means to increase or grow. To speak with authority meant that what Jesus was saying to them would make them grow, cause them to develop, to fulfil their potential. Unlike the scribes who simply told people all the rules that they had to obey, Jesus’ teaching was a liberating experience that spoke about the value and worth of the human person before God. It encouraged people, offered them hope, gave them confidence and made them want to be part of the message and to tell others about it. It was more than just words. And it still is today.
FAITH IN FOCUS: REPENTANCE
The very first words of Jesus recorded by St Mark are ‘The time has come and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent and believe the Good News’.
Jesus’ whole life would turn out to be an invitation to enter God’s kingdom through repentance. And the Good News was precisely that: we have a God who does not want to lose us but wants us to be happy with him now and forever.
Our first problem is usually in believing that God really means what he says. We live in a society that encourages litigation. We are urged on to get our rightful due, to press for what we are entitled to and to live in a compensation world. Yet God laughs in the face of this. Who could claim the all-time record payout when it comes to compensation? God, of course! Yet God’s time is not spent getting his own back but looking of ways to forgive.
But God’s forgiveness is not automatic; it demands repentance. Repentance originally meant regret. But it’s not enough to regret our sins; we need also to take action to ensure that they don’t happen again. In the Old Testament, repentance included a physical action. The Hebrew word ‘shuvâ’ means to turn.
Repentance for the Jewish people was like doing a U-turn and deciding to go in a different direction. In the New Testament, the Greek word used is ‘metanoia’ which means having a change of mind and deciding that we have to start looking with a fresh outlook on the way we behave. Later the Romans would use the Latin word ‘conversio’ from which we get our word conversion. But conversion wasn’t just a religious word. It meant to turn around, to transform and to return.
Whatever way we choose to think about repentance, it is at the heart of the Christian gospel and it forms the basis of Christ’s preaching. Repentance means changing our mind about the way we behave and turning our lives around. If, like the people of Nineveh in the days of Jonah, we want to experience God’s forgiveness then we need to repent. For repentance is the hallmark of being a Christian.
It’s something that never ends. We need to show it now. And tomorrow. And the next day.
FAITH IN FOCUS: JUST A QUICK NOTE
You’re probably wondering where I’ve got to over the past month or so. A few weeks ago when I was out listening to John the Baptist a rabbi passed by and John pointed him out as something really special. When I heard what he had to say I was amazed. I asked him where he lived and he invited me to come and see. I stayed with him and now I just want to be around him and hear him speak.
He’s not like the other religious leaders. You really get the impression he’s sent by God. He’s not full of himself and his teaching is so straightforward that you wonder why you never thought of it first. He cuts through all the red tape by saying that we should make sure we love God and look after our neighbours in the same way as we would like to be treated by them.
When you see him in action you soon realise that it’s the ordinary people he warms to quickly. Poor people, children, widows, sick people and those whom others look down on. He has time for everyone although he’s not slow to condemn hypocrisy.
His fame as a preacher is spreading because he has the knack of making you feel that there’s more to life than just getting and having, more important things than what others think of you. It’s as if he has the secret to living life to the full and he really makes you think.
Each time he works a miracle he doesn’t wait for applause but says it’s his Father in heaven that gives him this power, and he says that these miracles will seem like nothing compared with what life will be like for those who follow him. Apparently this new type of life will even last after death.
Simon has joined me along with one or two of the other fishermen, and people from every walk of life are turning up each day to listen to him. Everyone wants to be part of it. They say that if it carries on like this there’ll be thousands of supporters before long. Next month he’ll be back in Capernaum and I can’t wait for you to meet him. What he’s got to offer is too good to be missed, so make sure you don’t lose out!
Your loving son
FAITH IN FOCUS: EPIPHANY PEOPLE
To follow the star and become Epiphany people we have to be aware of three important challenges.
Epiphany people have first to be people of faith. Imagine setting out on a journey like the wise men and not actually knowing where you are going, following only where a star leads you. Yet this is what faith demands. To be a person of faith means that we trust in God so much that we are prepared to be led, wherever God decides to take us. Being people of faith doesn’t mean having all the answers; it simply requires us to be open to God’s promptings and prepared to act when others think we are mad to do so. Faith and trust cannot be prised apart.
A second characteristic of Epiphany people is that their faith makes them want to worship. The wise men brought their gifts and worshipped the Lord. Just knowing our God should be reason enough for worship. We bring our gold (the best we can be), our frankincense (our contribution to making the world a more beautiful place) and our myrrh (our pains and our tears as well as the comforting presence we extend to others), and with these gifts of our lives we fall on our knees before the God that our faith journey leads us ever closer to.
And finally Epiphany people are people of change. The wise men didn’t simply spend the rest of their lives fawning at the crib. They left enriched by what they had seen and heard and they headed off to tell others what they had experienced. But they heeded the warning of their dream and decided to change their plans and go back home by a different route. Every encounter with our God-made-man challenges us to change. God never wants us to stay where we are; our job is to follow the star.
Epiphany reveals Jesus to all nations. His glory is seen by people from all over the known world. And these Epiphany people are people of faith, people of worship and people of change.
FAITH IN FOCUS: WHAT’S A FAMILY FOR?
When the little family of Mary and Joseph brought their baby to the Temple, there were two old-timers who couldn’t believe their eyes: Simeon and Anna. We’re told that Simeon was an elderly man and that Anna was 84 years old. They were regular Temple-goers and they were looking forward to the day when the Lord would send his Messiah, the one who would save Israel, the Jewish people, from oppression. They recognised this in Jesus. Simeon said that at last he was ready to die because he now knew God had kept his promise.
But the child that Simeon and Anna saw was just a baby. The Son of God, yes. The Messiah, yes. But just a baby. He needed a family to grow up in. Families are where we become human, where we can rely on the support of those close to us and we can take our first steps in the lifelong journey of discovery.
At the end of today’s gospel, Luke tells us that ‘the child grew to maturity, was filled with wisdom and God’s favour was with him’. This, of course, means that Jesus had to develop; he didn’t come into the world fully formed. He had to mature like every other human being. And it was in the family at Nazareth that this happened.
Families help us to grow physically, to increase in stature. Responsible parents look after their children by feeding them the right food, making sure they’re not fed on a diet of junk food or snacks which cause obesity and fizzy drinks that rot the teeth. They provide proper clothing, suitable opportunity for exercise, a caring atmosphere etc.
It’s within the family that a child grows in wisdom, in other words, mentally. Families encourage their children to take a healthy interest in learning, rather than simply in being entertained. It’s the parents who are the primary leaders in educating their sons and daughters, encouraging them to ever-new horizons, inculcating searching mind and a thirst for knowledge.
And, of course, it is within the family that a child develops his or her spiritual understanding. Children take their cue from their parents. A family in which God plays a crucial role is one in which children learn that life is about more than having and getting, and that there are values which go beyond the material.
We all have a spiritual dimension to our being, but it needs to be developed in such a way that we begin to realise that we are part of a larger family, the family of God, and that we have duties, responsibilities and benefits that accrue from this. We are capable of having a relationship with God and with his Son who came on earth to show us how to be human, to help us to get the most out of life and live it to the full.
FAITH IN FOCUS: RECEIVING GIFTS
Tom’s parents had told him that when he graduated from university they would buy him a second-hand car. In the weeks before his results came through he went with his father to look at what the dealers had to offer and they decided on the right model. The day of his results came. He’d passed with flying colours. A few days later when he came home he expected to find the car waiting on the driveway, but instead his father congratulated him and gave him a small package.
The package contained a bible and Tom was so furious that he threw the bible down and stormed out. A week later his father died and Tom came home to be with his mother. In his father’s room he came across the bible and as he leafed through it he saw a cheque that his father had made out to him for the exact amount that the car would have cost. The gift had been there all along but he had been unaware of it.
The Christmas story is a bit like Tom’s experience. It’s not that God didn’t care about humanity until that first Christmas when Jesus took flesh as the child of Bethlehem. God has loved us from eternity and never ceases to do so. In fact, if God stopped loving us for even one second we would cease to exist, for we are held in being by the power of God’s love and compassion. Yet when Christ came among us it was to show us that God loved us so much that he wanted us to be with him eternally. It took the Christ-event for the world to be able to refocus on its relationship with its creator.
When the angel appeared to Mary it was this all-pervading love of God that was at work again. In fact the angel’s first words to Mary were, ‘Hail highly favoured Mary’. When we say the Hail Mary we translate this as ‘full of grace’ but the Greek really means someone who has had favour heaped upon her. The birth of Jesus began with Mary being reminded how much she was gifted by God.
The challenge of this Christmas is for us to be aware of this grace. What we celebrate is the birth of God’s own Son and the fact that although we might not always recognise God’s gifts, they are always there for us.