Newsletters during the Coronavirus- Lymington, Brockenhurst, Milford On Sea


The following information is for:

Our Lady of Mercy & St Joseph, Lymington,

St Francis of Assisi, Milford on Sea and

St Anne’s, Brockenhurst ONLY.

The advice we’ve received is that we should measure the safe capacity of the

Church. We’ve painstakingly measured out (and marked) seats with a 2m

space between each seat and have carried out a risk assessment.


Even though the government states 30 people can attend funerals it is dependant on how many people the church can accommodate while keeping to the 2m social distancing.

After considering the science, we have decided to keep our parishes of Our Lady of Mercy and St Joseph, Lymington; St Anne’s, Brockenhurst and St Francis of Assisi, Milford on Sea to 2m distancing, not 1m+mitigation.

These means that all our churches have restrictions and some pews are not in use.

OLMSJ: Lymington Has 8 pews available (possibly 9 depending on how many Stewards are on duty).

Each pew seats 2 people, one either end of the pew with 2m distance in between. That is 16 people.

However, if there is a family from the same household, max 5 people, they may sit in a pew together.

ST FRANCIS, Milford on Sea: Has 7 pews available (possibly 8 depending on how many Stewards are on duty).

Each pew seats 2 people, one either end of the pew with 2m distance in between. That is 14 people.

However, if there is a family from the same household, up to 5 or 6 people, they may sit in a pew together.

ST ANNE’S Brockenhurst Has 7 pews available (possibly 8 depending on how many Stewards are on duty) and 3 small pews.

Each of the large pews seats 2 people, one either end of the pew with 2m distance in between. There are three smaller pews each seating 1 person. That is 17 people.

However, if there is a family from the same household, they may sit in a pew together, up to 5 people. 3 max of a family group can sit in the smaller pews.

What do I need to do?

Booking for Mass: Everyone has to ring the parish office to book a seat for Mass  : 01590 676696.

Please don’t register for Mass or enter the church if you or someone in your household has a temperature, a cough, flu-like symptoms or loss of taste or smell.

Stay at home and participate in the Mass via live streaming.


Track & Trace: When you book your seat for Mass you will be asked to leave your contact details for Track and Trace

The details of those attending Mass will be kept securely for 21 days and then destroyed.


How safe will I be when I attend Mass?

-We have completed a thorough risk assessment, following advice from the diocese and from our health and safety advisers. This risk assessment is available to view on our website.

We have signs displayed to remind visitors about social distancing.

-We have cordoned off several pews to give a 2m distance and we have marked the seats where people may sit.

-Alcohol hand gel is provided outside the church and the Stewards on duty ask people to sanitise their hands as they enter and leave the church.

-Weather permitting windows are kept open during masses.

-The Stewards have been trained and have specific jobs.

-Stewards will meet and greet you.

-The entrance & exit to the church is through the main door at OLMSJ & St Anne’s.

At St Francis the entrance is through the main door and the exit is through the side door.

A Steward will check your name from their list and will direct you to the hand sanitizer.

-The next Steward will keep you to a 2m distance and will guide you to the final Steward who will take you to your seat, starting at the front of the church and working to the back.

-At the end of Mass the Stewards will guide you out, starting at the back of the church working forward, keeping to the 2m distance.

-The Steward will direct you to sanitize as you leave.

-The Stewards sanitize the pews after Mass, a funeral, wedding or baptism, and then the church is kept locked for 72hrs.

-The Stewards will also be Fire Wardens should we need to evacuate the church.

What about Mass offerings?

To prevent transmission of the virus the collection basket will not be passed around, but there is a basket available as you enter the church for your offering.


How do I receive Communion?

The priest will take Holy Communion to you in your seat.


Do I have to wear a mask?

As of the 8th August 2020 it is everyone entering a place of worship has to wear a mask. The priest will wear a mask when distributing Holy Communion.


Will the toilets be open?

We are sorry but toilet facilities are not available on site at the present time because of the requirements that would be needed to keeping them clean.

Joseph’s place remains closed.


What time will Mass be celebrated?

OLMSJ           10.30 am Sunday

St Francis: 9am Sunday- once a fortnight

St Anne’s- 6pm Mass Sunday – hopefully starting in September


Will there be a weekday Mass?

There are no publicly celebrated weekday Masses at present.


Will the church be open for private prayer?

Our churches are not open for private prayer at the moment as we have no

available Stewards.


Will I be able to light a candle?

There are no votive candles available at the moment.


Thank you for your patience.

Fr David

Newsletter 9th August 19th Sunday of the[...]
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9th August

Dear Folks,

A little too warm for dogs & some humans.

Although others like it hot, of course!

May we find that still, small voice of Love at the centre of our being and

take refuge there in stormy times.

Peace & every good to all.

Fr David

Newsletter 2nd August 18th Sunday of the[...]
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19th July

Dear Brothers and Sisters

Important stuff attached.

See below for Food Bank plug & prayer request.

After that its all downhill!

A postscript to last’s weeks ramble from Perry, who replied last Sunday:

I too was one of those intrepid swimmers yesterday!

Lymington Triathlon Club, to which both Moz and I belong were doing a charity swim in aid of the Lymington Food Bank.

The aim was to add our combined distances over the weekend to swim the distance of going around the Isle of wight - 90km.

We completed the challenge yesterday and are on our second lap, but having swum 6km yesterday am, I'm having a rest today!

Well, excellent stuff, Perry, but Moz wasn’t resting on his laurels! Come Monday morning he was out again adding to the kms for the Food Bank. And faithful Kay was there too brushing up on her Italian as she shadowed Moz along the shoreline as he nearly disappeared in the direction of Barton.

That reminds me, prayers please for Moz’s father who is in hospital in Italy

recovering from a heart attack, and for his mother who is recovering from a hip operation, at home also in Italy.


You’ve come across the expression “Quit while you’re ahead”! Well it’s even more important to quit when you’ve got no chance of even getting ahead!  Another short-lived wing foiling experience at Milford/Hordle beach

yesterday. A whole day spent vacuuming the house from top to bottom so off I go to the beach. It seemed windy enough.

Some time getting all the kit ready, testing one wing then realising I need a bigger one because the wind was less than expected.

By that time most of the beach dwellers had gone home (less embarrassment for me!). So conditions were tricky, a high tide still running, waves dumping on the shingle, sea very choppy, wind a bit iffy! Managed to launch but not enough wind for me to beat the tide & the drift. So ended up 50yds downwind & just managed to exit without major damage to myself or the kit.

So de-rigged and went for a swim instead, still ended up 50yrds down the beach! So sometimes we have to quit sooner rather than later, stubbornness can be costly!


A day in the life of a dog (or more precisely, Olly, now 10yrs old): snore, wake up, chase ball, sniff & wee (outside , of course), breakfast snack,

more sleep & snoring, breakfast drink, morning tablet, more sleep, chase ball, sniff & wee x number of times, sleep & snore,

lunch titbits, drink water, more sleep, dinner, drink more water, more sleep, more chasing the ball ( a poo somewhere

outside to be bagged up later), barking at neighbours dog who is barking at Olly, more sleep, night time medicine,

last excursion outside, more water, sleep & snoring until tomorrow morning.


As we have finished “The Crown”, we’ve started “Medici” on Netflix. I once spent 3 month in Florence as beautiful city.

Its good to get a little flavour of the history even if it is romanticised.


Well, that was more than I intended!

God bless


Fr David


Newsletter 26th July 17th Sunday of the[...]
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Newsletter 19th July 16th Sunday of the [...]
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Newsletter 12th July 15th Sunday of the [...]
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See below.


Please be assured that you are currently not obliged to attend Sunday Mass, and, out of concern for others, ought not to attend if the following apply:

1)You are sick, for example, if they are experiencing cold or flu like symptoms,

2) You are experiencing symptoms of a serious illness, or if they are in the “vulnerable” category (the elderly, people with weakened immune systems, people with long term conditions such as cancer,diabetes, heart conditions etc.)



Due to the restrictions imposed by the Government and Diocese there are a limited number of seats for Mass




to book a seat at Mass 



At the moment the Mass at St Francis is every alternate Sunday. The next Mass is 9th August at 9am.





6pm Saturday Mass has been cancelled for the foreseeable future

Due to the restrictions imposed by the Government and Diocese there are a limited number of seats for Mass




to book a seat at Mass this Sunday at 10.30am







Due to a lack of Stewards there

will not be a Mass at St Anne’s until, hopefully, the first Sunday in September




Risk assessment opening church july 2020[...]
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12th July 2020


Dear People,

A relatively simple mailing this weekend.

Olly was a happy dog this morning. We got up early to join

Steve Torjussen from St Francis parish, (and one of their stewards)for a SUP session (Stand Up Paddle) at Milford beach.

A lovely sunny morning with a lightoff shore wind. Fish jumping, Olly sat perched on the bow while we gently paddled back & forth trying not to impede those intrepid swimmers who very sensibly pull bright orange floats to alert other seafarers.

We didn’t want the morning to end but I had to get back to work. Steve had his daughter’s family staying so grandad duties beckoned. And that much anticipated & desired breakfast (coffee & bacon butties) from the kiosk at Hordle cliffs car park was not to be! (Boo  whoo!) The kiosk was not open.

But there was ample compensation because one of those intrepid swimmers was none other than Moz Malpiedi from Lymington down with his wife Kay & their daughter Stephanie, her husband Oliver & their two children. I conducted their wedding ceremony at St Anne’s back in 2013. So that was a happy encounter.



Moral of the story: Go to the beach more often!!


Most of you will be continuing your liturgical “travelling” tomorrow,

so God bless, peace & every good.


Fr David


Newsletter 5th July 14th Sunday of the Y[...]
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Newsletter Ss Peter and Paul Yr A 28062[...]
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JULY 2020

Thank you.

Firstly, I must apologise for the lateness of this email regarding the re-opening of churches for Mass. I only received the final recommendations from the Government and the Diocese late on Friday night, with further updates Saturday morning. It has certainly been a challenging and frustrating few weeks.


I am really looking forward to seeing you next Sunday as we open our churches for Mass. I know this is a lot to take in, but I feel I would be failing you as your Parish Priest if I did not explain in advance how the restrictions and requirements have affected our buildings and how we celebrate Mass. It is also important that you feel safe when returning.


I have a 13-page Risk assessment, which we must have by law, with a further 5 pages of guidelines from the Diocese. I know people are moving more freely now, and so will the virus, so I hope you will understand that we must have these restrictions in place for your own safety.


Thank you in advance for your co-operation. I look forward to the restrictions being eased as time goes on so we can get back together as a loving Community once more.


I will outline some of the main points for you here. Please read them carefully.

+ Anyone displaying symptoms that may indicate a COVID-19 virus infection MUST NOT attempt to come to church.

+ Our Bishops remind us that, at this time of pandemic,no one is obliged to go to Mass. Live streaming from many parishes around the world is still available.

+ I am instructed to tell you that those who are especially vulnerable are advised to stay at home and not attend Mass:

• those who are over 70,

• in the shielding group,

• or at especially high risk of infection

If you are in one of these groups you are advised to follow government guidelines and stay at home.

Fr David Quarmby and Fr Peter Ryan are shielding and cannot celebrate Mass with a congregation at this present time.

+ Risk Assessment: We have been instructed by the government to carry out a full risk assessment and to put everything included in the RA into practice. As a result, your church is not the same as you left it.


+ Social distancing – After listening to the science, I have decided to stay with the 2m distancing.


+ Because of the strict guidance on cleaning the church I have cancelled the 6pm Saturday night Mass at Lymington and the weekday Masses in all 3 churches for the time being.


+ The number who can attend a church service has been greatly reduced.

A booking system is now in place If you wish to attend Mass, you must ring the parish office by Saturday at the latest to reserve a seat.

Please do not turn up on the day without booking as you will not be allowed in.

We are not allowed to exceed the number of seats.

There is no overspill into Joseph’s place.

Seats will be allocated on a first come first served basis.

Because we must maintain 2m social distancing which is in front, behind and side to side, several pews are now out of action.

A pew will now seat just 2 people. However, if you are a family from the same household the social distancing has been measured to enable you to sit together in a pew.

The chairs have been removed- only pews are available.

We may have to restrict attendance of individuals to once a month, so that as many people as possible get a chance to attend Mass.


+ Track and Trace. When you book a seat your telephone number will be taken to assist Track and Trace should there be an outbreak of the virus in the church.


+ The church cannot open without Stewards.

It has been made clear that Stewards cannot come from the 70+ & shielding groups.


+ If there are not enough Stewards Mass cannot take place.

Stewards will manage the flow of people into and out of the Church before and after Mass.


They will also evacuate the church in case of an emergency alongside any Fire wardens who are present.

The Stewards will ask you to sanitize your hands on entering and leaving the church.

They will guide people to seats to ensure social distancing is maintained.

Please do not leave your seat unless instructed to do so by a Steward or myself.

Please do not expect to sit in your usual seat.


It is recommended that you wear a face covering/mask.


If you are wearing gloves you will have to remove them to receive Communion.

All cleaning materials and appropriate signage is in place.


Stewards will also ensure essential cleaning will take place before and after Mass to diminish the risk of transmission of the virus.


+ Car parking. Due to the restrictions inside church, for people to sanitize their hands before entering, and waiting for the Stewards to take them to a seat, there will probably be a queue outside the church with people standing 2m apart. Therefore, the car park at OLMSJ, Lymington will be closed for safety reasons.

There may also be queuing outside St Anne’s and St Francis, so please take great care when parking.


+ Toilet Facilities will NOT be available in any of our 3 churches.


+ There will not be any refreshments after Mass in Joseph’s Place, the Maryland room, or the house at St Anne’s.


+ We have a legal obligation to ensure there is no contact between members of different households.

There will be no sign of peace.

Priests have been instructed not to greet parishioners at the door before or after Mass.


+ We are legally obliged to only allow the priest to distribute Communion, taking care to avoid physical contact.

Therefore, Ministers of Holy Communion will have to stand down for the foreseeable future.

Communion is to be distributed under one kind only and will be distributed in the hand.

The priest will wear a face mask when distributing Communion.

The way Communion is be distributed will vary from church to church depending on the social distancing measures which are in place.


+ Deacons, Altar servers, Sacristans and Readers will have to stand down for the time being as only the priest will be present on the sanctuary and in the sacristy.


+ Fire Wardens- You will not have access to your Hi-Viz jackets. If they are worn, they must go into quarantine for 48hrs. However, if you are in

attendance please take your lead from your Lead Fire Warden and assist the Stewards in evacuating the building.


+ Flower arrangers: only the priest will be allowed on the Sanctuary. If flowers can be brought into church already arranged and put on any side altar that would be acceptable, but not anywhere on the Sanctuary.

Flower rooms are not accessible.


+ Candles: only the candles on the main altar will be lit.

Votive candles will not be available.


+ Sunday Collection. We can no longer hand the collection baskets around the congregation. There will be a basket in a visible place for cash donations. The collection must be kept in a sealed bag for 48hrs before opening.

If you wish you can make a direct payment from your bank. Ring the parish office for details.


+ Singing – we will not be singing, or playing an instrument, for some time. The hymn books have all been removed. Recorded music may be played.


Mass times 12th July:

Please only book a seat for the Mass at your parish.

6pm Saturday Mass at OLMSJ has been CANCELLED until further notice.


9am Sunday St Francis of Assisi


10.30am Sunday Our Lady of Mercy & St Joseph


6pm Sunday St Anne’s CANCELLED due to lack of Stewards.

I am hoping some volunteers will come forward so Mass can resume on 19th July.


I would like you to know that the above restrictions and requirements do not sit comfortably with me, but they are in place for the safety of all.

Thank you for your co-operation at this difficult time.

Fr David.


Newsletter 21st June 12th Sunday of the[...]
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21st June

Dear People,


Apologies but this is a more limited communication because there is a lot going on at the moment.






Many people are behaving as if this pandemic is over. So please take care.

The Government says the “virus is in general circulation”. I don’t know if that is meant to be reassuring or not!


Peace & every good.

Fr David






Sunday 21st June




No toilet facilities will be available.

No candles, no kneelers.

No leaflets or hymn books.


There are two pews at the back of the church allocated for private prayer. Please do not move beyond these pews.


A maximum of 4 individuals from separate households at any one time or two couples from separate households.


Don’t be offended that the stewards will be cleaning the pew after you have left. These are Church/Govt. guidelines for everyone’s safety.


You may need to queue outside.


Sanitise your hands as you enter & leave.


Wear your own mask if you wish, but none provided.


2 metre socials distancing applies


Those in an at risk group are advised to stay home.


Lymington is pedestrian access only in case of queuing. Please park elsewhere. There is no direct access from the Cannon St carpark.

The Food Bank is now established in the old school playground and as yet we do not have key access to the Cannon St carpark.


Times of Opening:             Sunday 21st June for 1hour

Watch this space as times may vary depending on availability of Stewards.

Our Lady & St Joseph, Lymington – 11am to 12 noon

St Francis, Milford-on-Sea – 10am – 11am

St Anne’s, Brockenhurst 10-11am

Dear Parishioners,



116 people in total have completed so far - 24 from St Anne's; 41 from St Francis and 51 from OLMSJ


Here is the link again to the survey for anyone else- please copy and paste to your google page.  It takes about five minutes maximum to complete and is completely anonymous.


We will publish the results as soon as we can after the closing date.


Thank you.


Fr David

Newsletter 14th June The Body and Blood [...]
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14th June 


Dear People,

URGENT PRAYERS PLEASE: for Sr Rosaleen, at St Dominic’s Priory, Sway, unfortunately the cancer has spread. But there is a chance she will get a place on an experimental drugs trial at the Royal Marsden. So she very much needs our prayers at this time.


REOPENING OF CHURCHES FOR PRIVATE PRAYER: The Government and the Bishops of England and Wales have agreed strict conditions for the re-opening of our churches for private prayer only. The full details are being circulated in a separate document. Basically, two stewards must be present, social distancing must be maintained and thorough cleaning must be done. We will be actively seeking eligible volunteers & purchasing the necessary cleaning materials etc. We will inform you when we are able to meet the necessary conditions and are ready for a limited re-opening of our churches for private prayer


Bishop Philip has accepted that “There is much to think about and as we have said before we cannot adopt a one size fits all approach. Each place must proceed (in so far) as the support and resources are available”.


Please see the separate attachment (Opening Churches for Private Prayer 120620.pdf) concerning eligibility to volunteer as stewards and the duties involved in stewarding.


There is also an attachment which gives the complete guidelines from the Bishops of England and Wales.


My personal advice, as parish priest, is that those in the at risk categories should remain at home shielding. I also consider the 2 metre distancing rule to be the far safer option & that it should be maintained.


PARISHIONER SURVEY: Very shortly we will be inviting parishioners on email to take part in an online parishioner survey. Participation will be entirely anonymous. Originally intended for St Anne’s parishioners the questions in this survey have been suggested by members of the St Anne’s PPC, edited and compiled by Madeleine Shearer (CEO – Minsted Trust) & member of the St Anne’s PPC and finally approved by myself. However I thought it would be good for all three parishes to be involved in it. Hopefully the internet link will be made available in the coming week.


Fr David’s Ramblings for this weekend will be emailed separately, if & when they get written!


Peace & every good.

Fr David


14th June






Stewards are needed so churches can re-open for private prayer.


Having looked at each of the churches and completed a risk assessment I have decided that our churches can, initially, open for private prayer for 1 hour a week. The timings of these openings depend largely on availability and willingness of volunteer Stewards.


For example

Our Lady of Mercy & St Joseph

St Anne’s

and St Francis

could open for private prayer for 1 hour on Sunday mornings from 10am until 11am, provided Stewards are available & we have the necessary cleaning materials.


The Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession):

This will be by appointment only and only available at Lymington.

Please ring 01590-676696 to speak to Fr David if you need to arrange this.






PLEASE USE THE PUBLIC CAR PARKS. We need to keep the car park closed to ensure non-church users are kept off site.



You must be a parishioner who attends church with some regularity.

You must be under 70 yrs & not in a high -risk category, and not in a household with high-risk occupants.

You must be prepared to calmly direct people as social distancing & safety requires.

You must be prepared to do cleaning & sanitising of certain areas of the church as required.

You must be prepared to wear a face mask & gloves.


Here are some things to consider before you apply to be a Steward


Please do not apply to be a Steward if you are in the Higher risk group:


This group, according to the NHS, includes people who are:

+ aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions)

+ under 70 and instructed to get a flu jab as an adult each year on medical grounds

+ pregnant

And those with:

+ chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis

+ chronic heart disease, such as heart failure

+ chronic kidney disease

+ chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis

+ chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson's disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), a learning disability or cerebral palsy

+ diabetes

+ problems with their spleen, for example sickle cell disease

+ a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medicines such as steroid tablets, chemotherapy or other drugs.


The role of the Steward during private prayer:

+ You must arrive at least 10 minutes early to enable you to prepare and clean door handles.

+ Stewards must work in pairs and there must be 2 Stewards on duty at all times during the private prayer session.

+ Every Steward must wear a face mask while on duty. Masks will be provided but it will help if you can use your own. They must take great care when removing their mask so as not spread any potential virus to themselves. They must wear gloves while cleaning either those provided or they may supply their own.

+ They must cleanse their hands with sanitizer when they enter and as they leave the church.

+ Only 2 people are allowed per pew at any one time. 1 out, 1 in.

+ Cleaning material will be supplied and used items must be placed in the bin provided.

+ They must show the person to the pews designated for private prayer. No one must go beyond this area into the main body of the church.

+ There are no candles available for lighting.

+ Everyone, Stewards included, must stick to the 2 metre distance, even if the government decide on 1 or 1.5 metre distance. Stewards must adhere to this rule themselves even when no one else is in church.

+ The Stewards must be aware of everything that the person who has been in for private prayer has touched and must THOROUGHLY clean everywhere when that person leaves and before the next person enters.

This includes everywhere that person has touched including internal/external doors and door handles. The back and seat of the pew where they have sat etc. The cleaning must be done after every person.

+ The Stewards must keep a log book of number of people who and entered and time and sign to say cleaning has taken place.

+ Kneelers will not be available in the pews.

Toilets will not be open.

If you still feel you would be able to commit to being a Steward please contact your parish priest by:



Phone: 01590-676696

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14th June

Dear People,

You are invited to take part in this parish survey. It is entirely anonymous.


Originally intended for St Anne’s parishioners the questions in this survey have been suggested by members of the St Anne’s PPC,

edited and compiled by Madeleine Shearer (CEO – Minsted Trust) & member of the St Anne’s PPC and finally approved by myself.

However I thought it would be good for all three parishes to be involved in it. Thanks to Madeleine for sorting this so quickly.


Just follow the link below to take part in the survey.



We will let you know the results when we have them.

God bless, keep safe & well.

Fr David


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Newsletter 7th June Trinity Sunday Yr A [...]
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Fr DAVID’S WEEKLY RAMBLE – Saturday 7th June 2020


Quit griping about your church; if it was perfect, you couldn't belong.

If a church wants a better pastor, it only needs to pray for the one it has

(Thanks to Sarah Roch for the above)


Apart from the usual things each day, both sacred duties and secular necessities what have I been up to this week?


Well, Monday was mainly about trying to find wood preserver to treat some garden furniture in need of TLC. A quick visit to Screwfix only to discover they are only doing click & collect. So, sat in car trying to “click” on my mobile only to discover said product is unavailable. A pity because it was half the price of a leading brand I won’t mention. So up to Brock to the hardware shop. New counter arrangement with social distancing so purchased a small quantity of the expensive stuff. Rest of the day running Olly the dog up and down and treating the old garden chairs that had been sanded previously.


Tuesday, first trip to the tip! Only an hour and a half wait. Made bearable by an apple, a can of Heineken Zero, the sun shield awkwardly placed over the side window and Classic FM. I was particularly delighted by the Berlin Philharmonic’s rendition of Wagner’s Tannhauser, all 12 minutes or so played at full volume! Eventually I got rid of 25 bags of garden waste & assorted failed appliances, metal objects & light bulbs etc. Still got 25 more bags to go & more metal stuff!


Wednesday very sad to hear of Eileen’s death. Then went to visit some of the priests of the Pastoral Area to discuss the requirements for opening the churches with reference to specific church buildings – all with appropriate social distancing. Lots of logistical issues and problems as you can imagine. For example, what to do about the toilets? They would need to be thoroughly cleaned after each use. Who could be expected to do this? There are no easy answers.


Thursday, a trip to Poole to pick up a new paddleboard. followed by takeaway croissants and coffee from our own picnic flasks at Branksome Beach. A nice walk for Olly on the beach, then home and time in the garage prepping the board for the water and talking to Eileen’s daughter over the phone about possible funeral arrangements

Friday liaising with Eileen’s family again and forwarding the draft Order of Service, a selection of readings & the prayers. Then I began the newsletter preparation & we also delivered an Easter Egg prize and condolence cards.


Today, Saturday, a day that will be etched on Linda’s memory for the duration I believe! Off I go at 5am for some time on the water. I let Olly out into the yarden and while he is out there I slip back to put the kettle on for a flask. Olly comes back in looking for his morning snack. Olly then goes back upstairs & I go off with my breakfast in a picnic bag blissfully unaware that the door to the yarden was still open!!

Later in the morning I am far way. Linda, still attired in dressing gown, but no slippers, has to rush down to answer the door to the post lady who is delivering parcels. Then deciding to put the rubbish out of the back door, Linda steps out going a bit further because Olly has bounded out as well & perhaps I had left the gates open. Then BANG, the door slams behind her. She is locked out, in a dressing gown, with no slippers, no keys & no mobile phone!!

After futile attempts at forced entry & unable to rouse the neighbours the poor damsel in distress peers anxiously through the gates hoping for a rescuer to appear and ignoring the strange looks from the face masked passers by!

Thanks be to God, Martin from No.133 happens to be passing. The rescue operation begins. A cup of tea & a warm wrap is provided. Martin summons his friends from the yacht club and with worrying but remarkable skill and ingenuity access is gained without any breakages! Linda reported a rather handsome, young “angel” emerging from the building, much to her relief. Why did the door bang shut you may ask? It was that open yarden door – all my fault!!


This is not all, having returned from the water I listen to Linda’s tale of woe. Then needing to retrieve something from the car I nip out with keys in pocket, or so I thought. I had actually put them down on the dining room table. So, lo & behold, I lock myself out!! Thankfully, Linda was inside to answer the door bell and being the kindly and gracious soul that she is, she did not wreak any revenge on me! However, she laughed loudly and said at least you’ve got your warm clothes on!


Finally, on my trip to the water today I went counter to my own advice and paid a heavy price. When paddle boarding one should always do the outward journey into wind and the return journey with the wind behind one. So today after a little bit of wing foiling, I wanted to try my new board on some waves. So not wanting to relocate from Branksome to Bournemouth I decided to paddle down to the pier where the waves are better, wind in my back. It took half an hour to reach the pier. I enjoyed some small waves for a short while then decided to paddle back. By this time the head wind was gusting at 35knots. The distance is 1.62 miles. It took me 1hr and twenty minutes to paddle back. That’s a day I won’t forget in a hurry. Morale of story: don’t ignore your own good advice!


7th June

Dear Parishioners.

We pray for those who have died, remembering especially this week Eileen Griffiths.


We continue to pray for those suffering illness, anxiety or loneliness;

for the vulnerable;

for those who don’t feel valued or respected, or who are made to feel their lives don’t matter;

for those anxious about their financial situation.


We pray for doctors, nurses, hospital staff, care workers, for all those who continue to provide essential services; for volunteers at the New Forest Basics Bank.


We pray for scientists and medical researchers who are working to discover treatments for illnesses & vaccines that can prevent sickness.

We pray for civil servants and politicians who must make difficult decisions.

We pray for religious leaders who must inspire and encourage and help people

to trust in God & follow the right path.


Prayer for the Pandemic

For those who miss going to church

God of the last supper,

who knew real presence: a beloved one

reclining into you, holding dusty feet as you poured water

over them, the tug at the hem of your garment,

touch us now,

unable to receive your risen body in church,

unable to gather as your body

touch us with your word,

handed on from your mouth, from memory,

written down, broken and shared over centuries

from the pulpit, the kitchen table;

touch us with the glimpses we can see of spring,

of our vulnerable brothers and sisters,

of your presence within.


Raymond Friel





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Fr DAVID’S WEEKLY RAMBLE – Saturday, 30th May 2020


Dear People,

I hope you are all keeping safe & well

and continuing to trust in the undeserved

love of God which holds us, everyone and everything in being. Fr David


Many folks want to serve God, but only as advisers.

People are funny; they want the front of the bus, the middle of the road, and the back of the church. (Thanks to Sarah Roche)


The Bishop has been consulting with senior clergy and his Diocesan managers about re-opening the churches. We are due to receive the latest version of the guidelines shortly. A lot may depend on how the easing of the lockdown goes and whether, nationally, we have done enough to prevent a second wave of infections.


Talking of “R” numbers you may be thinking that these ramblings are lengthening at an alarming rate. So I will endeavour to be brief. Olly had his first swims this week which he greatly enjoyed. But he needs to have a ball thrown in the water. Unlike Oscar who just swam for the joy of it. Once again this year the beach is subject to a swathe of algae which has a less than pleasant odour. So Olly was subject to a thorough rinse down when he got back. Not something he exactly enjoys.

Linda has been beavering away at the flower boxes, pruning back on the shrubs & bushes and giving the lesser plants a chance to thrive. Apart from the lack of bedding plants the boxes are looking very fine. She has also been re-painting the yarden shed which now compares favourably to the most colourful beachhut!


It always pays to check the diary. This was something I forgot to do this week. There was I all poised to participate in the St Anne’s PPC meeting via Zoom, patiently waiting to be admitted by the host and chair. The little window on the computer assured me the meeting was set to start at 6.30pm on Thursday, 28/05/2020. The time came and the minutes ticked by with nothing happening. Then a little glance down to the right-hand corner of the screen suddenly caused the penny to drop. Yes, of course, Thursday is tomorrow. Today is Wednesday!! It always pays to check the diary.


I’m really enjoying the swifts when they come swooping and screeching over the car park with rapid wing movements and amazing aerial manoeuvres.


Managed another trip to the water. This time it was not far to Lymington harbour, in fact. The purpose was to acquire the skill of dock starting a foil board. I knew beforehand that this was going to be a difficult and humiliating learning experience. So much like the jumbo jet & the space shuttle I paddled over to the jetty on the other side of the railway bridge with the specially adapted foil board somewhat precariously perched on the deck. Thankfully, any curious onlookers were far enough away. All they would have seen was me launching myself off the jetty& falling into the water about 20 or more times and the foil board flying off in all directions. Thankfully, there was some progress but not of the kind that is visually obvious. Many more training sessions will be necessary no doubt!


Which reminds me of a lovely saying which popped up on Facebook, from the Persian poet, Rumi, (12th cent): You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop!


The plans for reopening the churches are with the Bishop in consultation with the Clergy. The Diocese has to be compliant with Government guidelines. As instructed by Bishop Philip, we are waiting to see the final draft of the guidelines before we can consider opening any of our churches.

When the final draft is submitted by the Bishop, Linda, as our 3 parishes H&S co-ordinator & myself have been asked to do the risk assessments of all 3 churches and work out the possibilities which will be, of course, different for each of our churches.

Therefore, as the person legally liable for the safety of my parishioners I must insist that nothing is done without my express permission. Fr David

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Fr DAVID’S WEEKLY RAMBLE – Saturday, 23rd May 2020

Some people are kind, polite, and sweet-spirited .....

until you try to sit in their pew

The good Lord didn't create anything without a purpose..... but mosquitoes come close.

(Thanks to Sarah Roch for the above)


I’ve just finished the newsletter and I’ve sat down to write my ramble and of course my mind has gone blank! I surely must have done something this past week apart from the usual domestic routines, doing meditation and reflection ( in a kind of free-flowing way) & celebrating Mass, supported by my dutiful server, and taking Olly the dog out.... and back in again... and out... & in again.... and out & in again……


Speaking of Olly, he has been to the groomers this week which means that he is slightly more fragrant than usual but that doesn’t last long, of course! Olly sleeps in my room and what with his snoring and his, what sounds like, hyperventilating it’s a wonder I get any sleep. The combination of dog noise and early morning sunlight means I’m waking up most days fairly early. So, the first job is to let the dog out (can’t risk accidents – Cocker Spaniels have no propriety in that respect). The second job is to let the dog in. Then he must have his breakfast, a few morsels of pilchard. Then of course he’s off to sleep again, while I am wide awake.


My idea of keeping a daily diary never quite materialised. I have a vague idea that there were lots of little fixing, tidying & sorting jobs. And I’ve just remembered the few hours spent pigeonholing all the accumulated emails on the parish address. Then there were the hours reading and digesting the Bishop’s proposals on re-opening the churches (strictly confidential & not for general consumption at this stage) and crafting the requested feed-back. This is a work in progress, and we have just received further material to be mulled over and commented on. And then we delivered some Easter eggs to lucky winners!


I’ve just remembered too the7.30am (yes, I can’t believe it either!!) school governors meeting via Zoom. It was my first experience of this technology which had to be conducted in Linda’s study because she is a governor too and her computer is the only one with a built-in camera and microphone. All in all, it was a very good experience. The pros are: no early morning driving, no sitting in a cold classroom on kiddie’s chairs, having tea or coffee & a snack close by (out of camera!) and being able to nip to the loo without being missed too much. When I can think of some cons, I will let you know. For PPC meetings it would certainly be an advantage in the Winter and would save on the church travel and heating bills.


Managed to have a trip to the water last Tuesday. We went to Branksome Beach. The car park was virtually full but the parking angels (Don’t ask! I can’t explain it either. Just talk respectfully to your parking angels, give them as much notice as possible and usually with a little patience on our part they come up trumps) got us a prime spot looking over the water thanks to the kindness of someone leaving who was happy to wait for me to move the van down from a less ideal spot. Good social distancing on the beach & no dog restrictions so Olly was happy. But I only just managed to avert disaster when he was about to wee on some child. The parent, initially shocked, was then immediately grateful that unpleasantness had been avoided! However, the promenade was a different story: runners, cyclists, walkers, groups of people clearly not all family – social distancing out the window!

Managed to get out on the water (eventually – getting the kit together is a palaver) trying the 6-metre wing with my foil board. The wind was not quite at the ideal speed & so combined with my lack of skill it was a case of 99% winging and 1% foiling with a few graceless falls into the briny. Apparently, the spectacle was quite entertaining to the onlookers and I must have appeared very amateurish compared to the two kite-foilers who were flying backwards and forwards like children on a swing.

The wing came neatly folded & packed in its bag. It went back to the van looking like scrunched up wrapping paper. I appreciate sand under the water but give me grass on the beach every time!


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From Fr David 17th May

First of all, please continue prayers for Eileen Griffiths who, at the time of writing, is receiving end of life care in SGH and being lovingly supported by her two daughters Jacks & Colette and the hospital chaplain, Fr Joe McNerney.

Last Wednesday the Diocese migrated the email system back inhouse. It has absorbed quite a bit of time ensuring everything keeps working. It wasn’t helped by the fact our internet was down for two & a half days. There have been a few minor issues with email addresses & mailing lists so apologies if you get things twice.

Our Bishop is anxious to re-open the churches. As far as I am concerned the first priority is the health and well-being of our parishioners. So, nothing will happen in our parishes until it is absolutely safe to do so. We also must wait and see if the recent Government relaxation of the lockdown has any negative consequences on the rate of infection. The Diocese is considering what kind of measures will be needed. There will be no “one size fits all”, every church and community are different. Everything will have to be carefully considered so there will be no rushing into things. As I am personally liable for Health & Safety in our parishes I will be taking things very seriously.

And now to happier things! Olly the dog is certainly happy this evening. Not only has he been to the beach for the first time in two months, he has also beaten me to the water! Hopefully the paddleboard will be out soon. We saw the local seal too, about 100 yds out, and quite a large creature. He seemed to be hanging around one spot for some reason. Olly doesn’t swim unless its to fetch a ball or if the water is very calm, but he does like to splash about in the shore break.

A little Jenny wren (or was it a Jack wren) came into the yarden (no, that wasn’t a typing error. it’s a yard with over 90 pots in it.) yesterday evening, very vocal! He or she was feeding on the insects on the honeysuckle. Much appreciated!

Some achievements this week: the extractor fan finally got cleaned, thoroughly. I must say I did a pretty good job. Its one of the things I enjoy about the Repair Shop. Those brilliant craftspeople, Rob, Steve, Suzie, Will, Dominic, Kirsten, Lucia, Amanda, Julie, Brenton & others (thankyou Wikipedia!), don’t need to boast but when they’ve done a good job they just acknowledge it in a very matter of fact way - true humility. We still enjoy it even when we’re watching repeats (sad people that we are!). I’ve finally sorted the pile of invoices and generous contributions to the parish & myself (those cheques will finally get cashed!). Frances our ever-patient parish accounts person will be relieved but still anxious for the information. Report on its way, Frances, I promise.

I wore a mask for the first time this week for going into the banks. I didn’t wear my glasses though because they can steam up. It was my first time in Lloyds, lots of space in there. Thankfully my sums were OK, thanks to Excel. It seems most people are not wearing masks at the moment.

A dear friend has been popping by once a week &, observing due social distancing, has been giving us not only the joy of their presence but also leaving a little gift, usually a bottle of something nice. This week our friend brought us something that’s been hard to find & much needed: antibacterial wipes & spray!

One last true story, Linda is acquainted with this family, not Christian. They have a young daughter who is really (& mysteriously) interested in God. She asked her Dad “Where does God live?” He replied: “He lives in heaven.” “No, Daddy,” the daughter replied, “that’s where he works! I want to know where he lives!”

Reading this Sunday’s Gospel we can begin to find out where.

Catholics admitted to Hospitals

It is important when a Catholic is admitted to hospital, the family ensure that the Catholic Chaplaincy is contacted so that appropriate support can be given. As access to the hospital may be restricted, it is suggested that the patient have a note to give to hospital staff on admission notifying staff that they are Catholic and would appreciate the Catholic chaplaincy service. This could be followed up by a telephone call from the family to the ward making the request.


Coronavirus Appeal

Coronavirus (Covid-19) has now spread worldwide, with confirmed cases in several countries where we work. Its spread to countries with poor health systems will be devastating. Our local experts need your support to continue protecting lives.

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10th May

Hello Dear Sisters & Brothers,

(Some of you might want to recall last week’s instruction on how to

side step the trivial ramblings of a parish priest (obviously suffering the effects

of social distancing & who knows what else!) and go straight to the important stuff).


The above punctuation reminds me of a crossword clue I came across in the very difficult and challenging Womens Weekly. The clue was “brackets”. So here I am scratching my head thinking of hinges, corner fixings, shelf mountings and other DIY sundries. This was all to no avail, nothing

seemed to fit. Later, of course, someone, who shall be nameless but whose mind doesn’t naturally turn to artisanship or things mechanical, filled in the answer. Yes, you’ve guessed it already – parenthesis!


Well believe it or not I have established a “new normal” already. The daunting task of spring cleaning my bedroom has finally been completed. There just remains the sorting out and filing of my personal finance records which, much like the parish office paperwork, has been accumulating in a disorderly pile for a couple of years. But at least I can look forward to the joy of discarding (after careful shredding, of course) all those things I’m no longer legally bound to keep for tax purposes. The current year plus six, if I’m not mistaken. I always

find I have to write it out to get it clear in my head. I digress.


The “new normal” involved the opportune re-configuration

of my bedroom furniture. I moved a couple of wardrobes, made easier because they were on casters, and a couple of small cupboards. And voila! more light and usable space. The one thing that couldn’t be moved was an old wardrobe

that was already in the room. For some unknown reason it had been sawn in half and then put back together again in a way that betrayed a serious lack of artisanship. To attempt to move it would be too risky altogether. Thankfully

my dissatisfaction with being unable to do a thorough cleaning job was somewhat assuaged ( I just had to check the meaning of that

word on Google) by the fact that, armed with the appropriate attachment, the vacuum cleaner was able to reach the parts I couldn’t.


And that just reminded me of a rare self-deprecating advertisement many years ago that was a bit too subtle to air for long. You may remember “Heineken, the beer that refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach”. One of those adverts featured a very wealthy man suffering from ennui (Google is working overtime tonight!). Mansions, luxury yachts, fast cars, faster women, nothing could rescue him. So finally, his last hope, a glass of Heineken! Attending servants waited with anxious anticipation, hoping for the joy to return on their master’s face. But, oh no! His listless spirit was left unmoved.

The final blurb was something like: O well, there are some parts even Heineken can’t reach! Thankfully, as Jesus said, it’s impossible for mortals but not for God. For with God all things are possible.


A quick resume of other unimportant stuff: the ducks down at the park still have seven duckling left. They seem to have trebled in size in a matter of days. If it was the same for human babies stretch lycra would have been invented centuries ago!


I’ve failed miserably in my exercise routine. Partly because I missed my slot, in other words Linda got to the bike first! Partly because spring cleaning used up

a good part of my energy reserves. Olly the dog can now safely plead for treats from two humans. But as we are often in different rooms he has to decide who is likely to be the softer touch. This sometimes means I can sneak a biscuit without him knowing, a rare moment of quiet satisfaction. Two shameful confessions!!

Firstly, we must confess that we have now missed the communal expression of gratitude to the NHS staff on two occasions. Sadly that’s what can happens when one gets the cleaning bug, the time flies by. Secondly, we’ve been watching BGT! I know it’s a cynically manipulated exploitation of human emotions & possibly herd immunity: sweet children, octogenarian soloists, scary stunts, painfully untalented no-hopers, genuinely gifted artists (see the £££ signs spinning in Simon’s eye sockets) and this evening DOGGIES (with a laudable but almost unwatchable expose of the cruel dog meat trade)

Finally, one of our dear families in Brockenhurst has been flying the flag recently: the French flag on Wednesday and lots of Union Jacks and the EU flag on Friday. I’m intrigued by the mixed messages.

Well, hopefully you’re asleep by now, which is what I should be doing as its 1.02am!


Keep safe & well and God bless.

Fr David.

from Rev David Adams

For those who persevered to the end of the ramble:

All is revealed about the wonderful commemorations of

historic victory and European accord in Brockenhurst!


Fr D


Dear Fr. David

Thank you for your newsletter and amusing anecdotes.

For a moment I wasn’t sure if it was our flag flying you were referring to in Brockenhurst as it was the Netherlands flag ?? that was flown for their Liberation Day not the French flag ?? which will of course be flown on Bastille Day on July 14.  

The EU flag was flown on Friday as our bunting went up because of course it was Victory in Europe - though the Union flag was properly flown on VE Day. The EU flag was back up the next day on 9 May for Europe Day which marks the Schuman Declaration which put the production of French and West German coal and steel production under the joint management. This peacetime pact led to the creation of the EU on the principal that countries that traded together and had common interests would never go to war against one another again.

Our education of Brockenhurst village on flags of the world continues!


God bless to all!

Madeleine and Paul

Good Shepherd Sunday 3rd May

World Day of Prayer for Vocations

We would normally send out resources (prayer cards and posters) to parishes this weekend, as we join in prayer for Vocations. Despite our lockdown, we can still reflect on Vocations and pray that we all, especially our young people, come to know what God is asking us here & now.

Pope Francis has offered a wonderful reflection for us focused on gratitude, encouragement and courage.  Do try and take some time to read it in full. You will find it under 'The Pope' on the left hand menu.

Good Shepherd Sunday Collection - for Clergy Training

Please consider supporting our Seminarians with a financial donation, especially as we are unable to take this important collection in our parishes.  We are blessed with eleven students this year, with possibly five more starting in September.


by Sara Parvis, a senior lecturer in Patristics at the University of Edinburgh. Published in The Tablet, 30-04-20


Devotion to the Blessed Sacrament is part of the lifeblood of the Catholic faith. A theologian writes of the depth of her grief at being unable to receive the Eucharist – and why we must not allow self-pity to distract us from our responsibility to protect the most vulnerable

The little Catholic chapel in Edinburgh that I normally attend has a glass front, and looks on to a garden. This means that you can still see both the tabernacle and the lit sanctuary lamp next to it from the lane behind the church, even when the back gate is locked.

I was enormously proud of the Church’s prompt response to the coronavirus pandemic, and had little time for those who thought otherwise. It was just the reverse of the child abuse crisis: we saw the institution moving swiftly to protect the vulnerable, showing intelligence and resolve, and swallowing the probable cost to its own status and financial security without hesitation. Led by Pope Francis, who smothered all self-pitying tendencies by directing our gaze to the health workers, bus drivers and supermarket workers daily risking themselves for others, the Church laid down its life, the life of its public Eucharist, for the good of the people, in hope and trust that in due time God would allow it to take it up again.

Our local community of Dominican friars moved quickly to become connected to their people in other ways, broadcasting their celebrations of the Mass on their Facebook page and sending out a daily email with spiritual reflections and jokey video clips intended to keep our spirits up, braving for the common good the risk of inciting volatile responses from pent-up parishioners with frustration in their hearts and too much time on their hands.

I have always had a strong devotion to receiving the Eucharist; praying before the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle and on the altar has also become very dear to me in recent years. We need a tangible sense of Christ’s presence. We need to know that Christ is with us. Of course, you can find Christ in others, in prayer, and clothed in the flesh of Scripture. You can find Christ in your heart, in your memory, understanding and will. But Christ in the Eucharist has a sureness, a concreteness, that is irreplaceable. Yet I knew we had to give that up to safeguard as far as possible the lives of our fellow parishioners and their families.

I was surprised, therefore, at the strength of my reactions to watching from afar the Dominican community celebrating the Triduum without the people. I felt not only terrible desolation but also naked jealousy. It looked like some kind of clericalist fantasy: no lay people, and above all no women. I so missed every lay reader, psalm singer, coffee maker; I missed the thrill of gathering in the fresh, cold night as a raggle-taggle group in the lane for the blessing of the new fire, the dark, excited procession back into the church, the organ and bells at the Gloria, the invocation of the saints and the sloshing of the holy water over us all, ending with sharing the Eucharist together. I missed joining everyone afterwards to share our Easter joy. So many are Vatican II Catholics in their seventies and eighties, my parents’ generation, who had remained faithful and joyful over so many years. These were also the people most in danger from the virus. I thought of what the chances were of going back to normal again next year, and wept.

Instead, we watched other people feast on the risen Christ together while we fasted separately from behind an impregnable online wall. It was meant to comfort, but it felt like being shut out of Paradise. The “Act of Spiritual Communion” said at every Eucharist jarred more than anything. “Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You.” “At least” spiritually! “As if” you were already there! What atrocious theology! St Alphonsus Liguori was bad enough; the suggestion, widely offered by friends both clerical and lay, that being separated from the sacraments might somehow help us appreciate them more was salt on the wound. It seemed to make a mockery of my fast, dictating the terms of my grief, somehow hinting that it was my faith that was lacking.

Yet I also recognised over the successive liturgies the shining witness of the friars to Christ in the quiet dignity of their celebrations, and their care for one another and for us. So I carried on wrestling with it all. I started a series of arguments with different people (over the phone and by email), and did some further reading and thinking. Another Dominican, expert in the theology of sacramental desire, took me to task for misprizing the notion of Spiritual Communion as somehow second best, argued it all out with me, and sent me off to read St Thomas Aquinas on the subject (Summa III.80.1, since you ask). I realised that he was right that physical and Spiritual Communion are equivalent in Thomas’ teaching (much to my surprise). I also saw that, for St Thomas, although the Eucharist heals and feeds us as individuals, just as important is its function of making us into the Church, joining us as Christ’s members to the Head.

At this, it all fell into place, with a bit of help from Mary Magdalene. The deep grief I felt was her grief at the apparent disappearance of Christ’s body, the gathered Church. Only the dry bones, dismembered and deprived of flesh, seemed to remain of the assembly of the people that we had been. But Ezekiel had prophesied to us resurrection as a people, a rejoining of bone to sinew and flesh to flesh. Christ would still raise Lazarus for Martha and Mary, no matter how late his coming seemed, and in the meantime he would weep with them. While we wait and watch and ponder the Crucifixion from afar, or in some cases very close-up, only a truly sacramental desire, continually renewed in our hearts, to be again the re-membered Church, can keep us from oblivion and allow us to see and hear the resurrected Lord once more. It is and has long been the depths of our longing to be the Church, our longing to be the Body of Christ, which is the source of our grief. This is why we mourn, and this is how and why we shall be comforted when Christ shall choose to raise us.

Meanwhile, we must stand at the gate and gaze on Christ until it is opened and we can enter the garden once more.

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          REIMAGINING THE EUCHARIST           

by Professor Thomas O’Loughlin
(an article from The Tablet, Thursday, 26th March 2020)

Masses have been suspended throughout Britain and Ireland. A leading theologian argues that, as well as a time of loss, this might be a moment to broaden our understanding of the Eucharist and to deepen our spirituality beyond the walls of our usual place of worship

“All Masses Cancelled.” That sign went up today outside my local church. Who could have imagined it just a couple of weeks ago? Most Catholics recognise it’s a sensible decision: large gatherings are just what we do not want at the moment. The loving thing right now is to keep our distance, lest we transmit the virus.

There are those who do not like the idea of “missing Mass”. Could they “get Mass”, they ask anxiously, even if they are not able to be physically present at a service? I have heard priests saying that they will not have “the state” – imagined as somehow the enemy of the Church – ordering them to close, and talking of “defending the freedom of religion” by “providing Mass”, even though it would be endangering the very people they are claiming to serve.

But the fact that many regular Massgoers will not be in a church this weekend – and most likely not even over Easter – might actually help us to broaden our understanding of the Eucharist and deepen our spirituality. For too long – some historians would say since the seventh century – Latin Christians have tended to think about the Eucharist as an object (something that happens due to the activity of the priest, which the lay faithful observe rather like the audience at a play or a concert) or as a commodity (with those present behaving as religious consumers). The language we use is the giveaway. We talk about “getting Mass” and “attending a Mass”, of “getting Communion” and “taking Communion”. The image in our minds is that the Eucharist is something “out there”, which we watch or somehow obtain and make our own, as if we were theatregoers or consumers.

But the word “Eucharist” relates to a verb: it is something we, the whole People of God, do. It is the activity of thanking God the Father as a gathered community – and we offer this praise and thanks through Christ our Lord. The focus is on thanking the Father. The access to the Father is provided to us in the Spirit through Jesus Christ – and the prayers are led by the priest. It is our basic activity as Christians, not some “thing” that the priest does for us or makes for us.

So if we cannot gather because of the coronavirus, can we still offer thanks to the Father through Christ? Let’s relearn some basics.

First, Jesus is present with us. Many Catholics treat church buildings as if they were pagan temples: as if God is only “in there”. But God’s presence is everywhere and the risen Christ is not limited by space. This presence of the risen Jesus among the community is captured in this saying preserved in Matthew’s Gospel: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (18:20). Even the smallest gathering – just two people standing two metres apart so as not to spread the virus – has the risen Lord among them. It might be two people in a house together; it might even be two people talking together on their mobile phones or on Skype. This is expressed in another ancient Christian saying – preserved in the Didache (a first-century new disciples’ guide): “Wherever the things of the Lord are spoken about, there the Lord is present” (4:1).

Second, your room is a basic place of prayer. We sometimes think that we are only commanded to pray in a church building – we have grown up with the idea of attendance at Mass on Sunday as a regulation – but it is sobering to recall this instruction by Jesus: “And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the gatherings and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:5-6). We are now being advised not to go to work or use public transport, not to attend church services and to keep our distance from people. It’s a moment for us to rediscover the art of closing the door and praying alone – knowing that the Father will listen to our prayers.

Third, we describe the Eucharist as “the centre and summit of our Christian lives”, which is true, but we often make the mistake of regarding it as the whole of our religious life. This crisis calls on us to build up the surrounding foothills, by caring for one another and thanking God at home and in our place of study or work as well as in church. If we are not thankful for the meals and the friendship we share at home, we are hardly ready to be thankful at the Great Thanksgiving that we call “the Eucharist”.

And finally, every table is a sacred place. Jesus encountered people and taught at their tables: every table is a place where we can encounter the Lord in those with us. We will not be eating together as sisters and brothers in a church for the next few months, so let’s start recalling that whenever we eat, we should be thankful: “You shall eat your fill and bless the Lord your God for the good land that he has given you” (Deuteronomy 8:10). We should always be thankful for the food we eat (saying grace before meals) and for the pleasure of eating and being together (grace after meals).

Most Catholics today can barely remember the time when few of those present at Mass actually ate or drank. This was partly because of fear of condemnation for “unworthy reception” – based on a misreading of 1 Corinthians 11:27 – or for an imagined breach of the fasting regulations. An idea had also taken root that one could gain grace by attending additional Masses (or at least consecrations) – a work of “supererogation” at which one could never “receive” – which led to the development of the notion that one could obtain the spiritual blessings through a mental act of intentional volition without any physical contact. These ideas can be traced, not surprisingly, back to the Cartesian world of seventeenth-century France, and the rarified and cerebral spirituality that flourished in the Jansenist community at Port Royal near Paris. They belong to a world that saw faith as an action of the intellect, and which placed minimal value upon the liturgy as a holistic encounter of the actual body of the Church. (Since we will all be staying in for the next few months, you might want to read the two brilliant and surprisingly entertaining chapters on Jansenism in Ronald Knox’s Enthusiasm.)

Some have been tempted to reach for the idea of “spiritual communion” as a sort of “fix” in this emergency. Better to simply acknowledge that this is a weird time: we cannot meet up, we cannot shake hands, and we are temporarily – for very good reasons – unable to behave in the normal human way. So we cannot behave in a liturgically normal way, gathered as a people, as sisters and brothers, to be together, to sing together, to listen together while sitting in a group, to shake hands with our neighbours as friends (John 15:15) and then to share a loaf and a common cup. Until we can get back to normal, let’s just note its loss, concentrate on what we can do while we are living in isolation from one another, and then, when the restrictions are lifted, rejoice that our fellowship is restored.

We will not be gathered as large groups for the next few months – let’s use this experience to rediscover that we are the Church (it is not a building, or the preserve of the clergy), that we must be eucharistic every day (it is an act of attitude of thankfulness for all the good things of creation, particularly meals, not a performance we “attend” or an object we “get”, “take” or “receive”), and that the risen one is with us, interceding for us with the Father, in these worrying times.

Thomas O’Loughlin is professor of historical theology at the University of Nottingham, and a former president of the Catholic Theological Association of Great Britain. His latest book is Eating Together, Becoming One (Liturgical Press, £23.99; Tablet price, £21.59).