Gracefully by Sister Kate Holmstrom

Image from Freepik

Gracefully is written by Sister Kate Holmstrom, a Holy Child Sister, resident at a care home in Harrogate, who has just turned 85 years old.

Sister Kate has contributed a number of pieces to Growing Old Grace-fully.

Sister Kate introduces Gracefully as follows:

“Many sights, gestures or even sounds may be perceived as graceful. They resonate, perhaps, with an inner grace inhabiting a person – an open, positive attitude attuned to what is good, true, righteous, beautiful. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they are ready to welcome countless riches and enjoy life!”

Gracefully

Growing old gracefully. With grace. Ageing: a grace.
Graceful rhymes with grateful,
And gracefully sounds like: graciously.
Little girls dancing, gymnasts leaping and bounding,
Flying, seemingly without effort, defying gravity.
Why do graceful movements, or the clear song of a blackbird
Strike an almost physical chord of beauty within us?
A smile is a grace, irradiating a tired face
And gracing the recipient.

How is it that an ageing body can seem clumsy, ungainly
Even painful, to the one who inhabits it?
Yet the soul within can be stirring, growing, soaring forward
Borne up by the Spirit, the very breath of her Creator.
Hail Mary, full of grace, pray for us as we are now,
In this moment, (this Moment)
That the hour of our death may be grace-filled,
That final, gracious grace.

Online Event – Learning From Each Other

The third of Growing Old Grace-fully‘s 2024 online sessions is Learning From Each Other: Sharing Experience from Parishes on Thursday 18th July, 7:00-8:00pm. 

This session is about hearing examples of great work already happening, with contributions from:

* Maureen Connolly from Immaculate Heart Parish, Huddersfield 
* Breda Theakston from the Elizabeth Prout Centre, talking about Bereavement support
* Andrew Winfield from St John Vianney Parish, Leeds

There will also be breakout groups to share other experiences and ideas as to how to enhance the spiritual life of older people in your own parish community and lives. The session will start and finish with prayer and reflection led by Rev. Joe Cortis, who is a Growing Old Grace-fully trustee.

The session will start at 7pm and at 8pm, a Zoom link will be circulated to all attendees and the waiting room will be open from 6:55pm.

To reserve your place, please book a free ticket on Eventbrite here.  

Online Event – Reconciling With Our Past

Growing Old Grace-fully is hosting six online sessions in 2024.

The second is Reconciling With Our Past is on Wednesday 12th June, 2:30-3:30pm led by Pippa Bonner and Cath Mahoney.

Cath Mahoney is parishioner of Mother of Unfailing Help, mother and grandmother, with a background in community development, a former Growing Old Grace-fully worker and now a trustee.

Pippa Bonner is a parishioner at St Aelred’s Harrogate, a widow, mother and grandmother, with a background in social work, then running a hospice bereavement service and currently working in pastoral care with older people. Pippa is also a Trustee of Growing Old Grace-fully

Cath and Pippa will lead the session, which will involve breakout groups. 

The session will start at 2:30pm and finish at 3:30pm, a Zoom link will be circulated to all attendees in advance and the waiting room will be open from 2:25pm.

To reserve your place, please book a free ticket on Eventbrite here.  

Online Event – Spirituality in Later Life

Growing Old Grace-fully is hosting six online sessions in 2024.

The first is Spirituality in Later Life: Praying Beyond Words, on Tuesday 14th May, 7:00-8:00pm with Fr Donal Lucey and Paula Shanks. 

The session, with reflections and music, is being led by Father Donal Lucey and Paula Shanks. Fr. Donal is a retired Catholic priest of the Leeds Diocese, he was latterly parish priest in Garforth and in Harrogate and is the Chaplain to Faith and Light. Paula has a background in teaching and is trained in Ignatian spiritual accompaniment.

The session will start at 7pm and finish at 8pm.

To reserve your place, please book a free ticket on Eventbrite here.  

Please do also share this with anyone you think may be interested in this session and the work of Growing Old Grace-fully. 

The next two online sessions will be on these dates:

Wednesday 12th June – 2:30-3:30pm
Thursday 18th July – 7:00-8:00pm

Best wishes,
Carol Burns
On behalf of the Trustees of Growing Old Grace-fully

Easter Prayers

Resurrection Light

Risen Christ, when darkness overwhelms us
may your dawn beckon.

When fear paralyses us 
may your touch release us.

When grief torments us 
may your peace enfold us.

When memories haunt us 
may your presence heal us.

When justice fails us 
may your anger ignite us.

When apathy stagnates us 
may your challenge renew us.

When courage leaves us 
may your spirit inspire us.

When despair grips us 
may your hope restore us. 

And when death threatens us 
may your resurrection light lead us.

Amen.

Annabel Shilson-Thomas/CAFOD

You Are the Resurrection

How wonderful, Lord Jesus, you came back
You suffered death but conquered it
You laid in the tomb but on the third day
You rose again
O joyful day, Lord Jesus, when you returned
You are the resurrection, our hope and our life
O glorious and victorious Redeemer

Help us not to be afraid of death
For we must pass through it to see you face to face
And on the last day we will rise again
For you said so
Let us rejoice and praise you
Our Blessed and triumphant Lord
On this happy, joyful feast.

Amen.

Diana Ng-Sutherland/CAFOD

Stations of the Resurrection

Introduction

It has been a long-standing tradition that especially during Lent, we are encouraged to meditate on and pray the Stations of the Cross. Indeed Stations of the Cross are a prominent feature of any Catholic Church globally.

The Passion and Death of Our Lord needs to be seen equal to the importance of the Resurrection, which is the principal belief of Christianity.

Hence it is appropriate to reflect upon the events, recorded in the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles in the period from the Resurrection of the Lord until Pentecost (the birthday of the Church). This whole period of 50 days is known as Eastertide.

Structure

The devotions of Holy Week are directed to the Resurrection which is, as St. Paul says, the basis of our Faith. If we are united with our Lord in his Passion and death, we share in His Resurrection. If we are with Him in his Holocaust on Calvary, we accompany Him in His glory. (St. Josemaria Escriva)

Opening Prayer:

Father we praise you with joy when Christ became our Paschal Sacrifice. By dying He destroyed our Death; by rising He restored our Life.

Title of the Station:

Please see details below with the appropriate scripture reading, hence you will need access to the New Testament.

V: We adore you Lord and praise you.
R: Because by your death and resurrection you give life to the world.

Scripture Reading:

Spend a short period reflecting on the reading.

Pray: Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be to the Father.

V: Jesus, the Lord is Risen R: Alleluia, Alleluia.   

Titles of Each Station and relevant scripture reading:

First Station: Jesus rises from the dead. (Matthew 28:1-7)

Second Station: The Disciplines find the empty tomb. (John 20:1-9)

Third Station: The Risen Lord appears to Mary Magdalen. (John 20:11-18)

Fourth Station: The Risen Lord appears to two disciples on the Road to Emmaus. (Luke 24:13-19,25-27)

Fifth Station: The Risen Lord reveals himself at the breaking of bread. (Luke 24:28-35)

Sixth Station: The Risen Lord appears to his disciples: (Luke:24:36-43)

Seventh Station: The Risen Lord gives the power to forgive sins. (John:20:19-23)

Eight Station: The Risen Lord confirms the faith of Thomas. (John 20:24-29)

Ninth Station: The Risen Lord meets his disciples on the shore of Galilee. (John 21:1-9,13)

Tenth Station: The Risen Lord confers primacy on Peter. (John 21:15-17)

Eleventh Station: The Risen Lord entrusts to his disciples His mission to the world. (Matthew 28:16-20)

Twelfth Station: The Risen Lord ascends to the Father. (Acts: 1:6-11)

Thirteenth Station: Waiting for the Holy Spirit with Mary the Mother of Jesus. (Acts 1:12-14)

Fourteenth Station: The Risen Lord sends the Holy Spirit to the disciples. (Acts 2:1-6)

Closing prayer After the 14th Station:

Father around your throne the Saints, our brothers and sisters, sing your praise forever.  Their glory fills us with joy and their communion with us in the Church gives us inspiration and strength as we hasten on our pilgrimage of faith, eager to meet them.

Amen.

Rev. Dr. Joseph D Cortis

March 2024

Stations of the Cross, Longford, Ireland – a reflection

Photo courtesy of St. Mel’s Cathedral, Longford (Facebook page)

These beautiful modern Stations of the Cross were sculpted by Ken Thompson for St. Mel’s Cathedral in Longford, County Longford in Ireland, to replace the wooden ones burned in a fire at Christmas 2009.

The Cathedral was badly damaged but the beautiful new sculptures are part of the resurrected Cathedral. (It is the local home Cathedral of Fr. Jim Leavy known to many of us in the Leeds Diocese).

Why show two Stations of the Cross at Easter tide?

13th Station

You may notice that in the 13th Station that the inscription is “Indeed this Man was the Son of God”. (Mk. 15:39.)

And if you look at the foot of the Cross, the Devil, depicted from one old tradition as a mouse, is rushing headlong into the trap!

Christ has overcome evil.

14th Station

In the 14th Station Jesus lies on what is portrayed as an altar, as the Eucharist.

Looking out of the door the Cross is growing green shoots: Life…The inscription: “Why seek you the living among the dead?” was the question the angel put to the women rushing to the Tomb.

The angel proclaims “Gloria”!

The word NIKA above the entrance to the Tomb means VICTORY and the Tomb is no longer dark but full of light.

When Fr. Jim Leavy showed me a book of these amazing sculptures they made an impression on me. The Lenten Practice of making the Stations of the Cross transitions to the Resurrection. Instead of having a 15th Station of the Resurrection, which increasingly occurs in modern Stations, we are visually made aware of Christ’s Resurrection in signs and scripture. Christ rises from the dead, the Cross is transformed to a source of life and we are given the Eucharist.

As an older person who has lived through many Lents and Easters, like many of us, I am aware of the cyclical nature of life and death, death and life. There are many struggles, pain and disappointments but also hope, happiness and life.

After the dark comes the dawn…After Lent comes Easter…

Pippa Bonner, March 2024

Prayers for Lent 2024

Lent is the time when we engage in a period of reflection, repentance, and spiritual renewal in preparation for Easter.

Central to this observance is prayer, which serve as a means of deepening one’s connection with God, seeking forgiveness for shortcomings, and strengthening faith.

Through prayer, we seek to emulate Christ’s forty days of fasting and prayer in the desert, drawing closer to God and embracing a spirit of self-discipline and humility. Lenten prayers are an integral part of the Catholic journey during this sacred season, guiding us toward spiritual growth, transformation, and a deeper understanding of God’s love and mercy.

In this particular Lent, we share the anguish of Jesus in the desert as we view the state of the current world today, its conflicts, anger and hatred, all the antithesis of the message of Christ. We unite our challenges, our ailments and our sufferings with the torment of Jesus over the state of the Earth to help us prepare for Holy Week, the chance of forgiveness, redemption and renewal for us and humanity.

Here are three prayers for Lent. See also our Lent resources page for further reflection and prayers.

The desert waits (an invitation to Lent)

The desert waits,
ready for those who come,
who come obedient to the Spirit’s leading;
or who are driven,
because they will not come the other way.

The desert always waits,
ready to let us know who we are-
the place of self-discovery.

And whilst we fear and rightly,
the loneliness and emptiness and harshness,
we forget the angels,
whom we cannot see because of our blindness,
but who come when God decides.
that we need their help;
when we are ready
for what they can give us

Amen.

Ruth Burgess from ‘Eggs and Ashes’ (1990)

The Beatitudes (inspired by Matthew 5:3-12)

Blessed are the poor…
not the penniless
but those whose heart is free.

Blessed are those who mourn…
not those who whimper
but those who raise their voices.

Blessed are the meek…
not the soft
but those who are patient and tolerant.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice…
not those who whine
but those who struggle.

Blessed are the merciful…
not those who forget
but those who forgive.

Blessed are the pure in heart….
not those who act like angels
but those whose life is transparent.

Blessed are the peacemakers
not those who shun conflict
but those who face it squarely.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for justice…
Not because they suffer
But because they love.

Amen.

P. Jacob in ‘Bread for Tomorrow’.

Cafod Lent Prayer 2024

Loving God,
when our boat is rocked
on the sea of life,
by poverty, illness or disaster,
you quiet the waves,
calm the storm,
and lead us safely to shore.

When we work hard,
for our daily bread,
but at the end of the day go hungry,
you walk alongside us,
calling, “cast out your nets”,
knowing there is enough for all.

When we are lost,
and uncertain of how
to make a change in our world,
your words ring out:
“Come, follow me”,
guiding us to new life with you.

Lead us then, Lord, to play our part
in calming the storm
and sharing your gifts with each other,
so that all people throughout the world
may look to the future with hope.

Amen.

Catherine Gorman/CAFOD

Lent Resources 2024

Pope Francis Lent message 2024

In his message for Lent 2024, Pope Francis invites the faithful to “pause” for prayer and to assist our brothers and sisters in need, in order to change our own lives and the lives of our communities.

Cafod Lent resources 2024

CAFOD have a range of Lent resources including prayers, reflections and an interactive calendar.  Sign up to the calendar and receive daily Lent emails of prayer, reflection and practical actions, offering an opportunity to pause, reflect and pray as we prepare for Easter.

Independent Catholic News resources

Independent Catholic News have published a series of resources for Lent 2024, from books, to apps, online series, email reflections and activities to choose from – listed in alphabetical order.

Personal Reflections on the Synod of Bishops with lay women and men in Rome October 2023

Many of us in our parishes in the Diocese of Leeds had an opportunity before the October Synod 2023 to discuss some of the issues facing the Catholic Church.

Our feedback was sent to the Diocese to be considered, to go forward ultimately to the Synod. So, instead of being a top- down process, it started at the grass roots around the world and responses were synthesised – all brought together – at diocesan, Bishops’ Conference and Continental levels. Our Bishop Marcus Stocks along with John Wilson, the Archbishop of Southwark, represented the Bishops’ Conference at the Synod, and a number of lay people, including Professor Anna Rowlands of Durham University, went to Rome to take part in the Synod. This inclusive approach was promising.

Preparation did not happen in some parishes, but it is not too late to become involved now and encourage others to do so. The Synod Part 2 meets in Rome in October 2024. Inevitably some ideas in October 2023 got diluted or left out during the synodal process, but I think us older people have become accustomed to knowing this is what can happen in all walks of life, and to continue to concentrate on the important things – and not to give up.

I hope that if you read through to the end of this Reflection you might find some aspects to feel engaged and optimistic about…

What relevance does this all have for us older people? I think it is important for us to be involved in this worldwide consideration of the future facing the Church for a number of reasons. 

The Synod Part 2 takes place in October 2024 so there is not much time. There are a number of worthwhile issues to consider that were raised last October – to feed back to Rome in the autumn. The Synodal process has emphasised the importance of priests and people listening, speaking and working together, which is key for the future.

I know many of us acknowledge the future of the Church will be in the hands of younger generations, but we have a voice too…and hugely valuable experience to impart! Older people have years of experience in our families, parishes, charities and church organisations and encouragement to offer to younger people during this synodal process. We are the ones who have experienced the reforms of Vatican 11 in the 1960s and can see what still needs to happen.

A Summary Report of the First Session of the Synod was written, and I quote from its 41 pages below.

Discernment

It was proposed that “each local church equip itself with suitable and trained people to facilitate and accompany processes of ecclesial discernment.” (page 8.) “Among all the baptised there is a genuine equality of dignity and a common responsibility for mission, according to each person’s Vocation. By the anointing of the Spirit who “teaches all things’ (1Jn.2:27) all believers possess an instinct for the truth of the Gospel, called sensus fidei,” (page 9)…which can lead to a consensus of the faithful (consensus fidelium),” as at the Synod, “which is a sure criterion for determining whether a particular doctrine or practice belongs to the apostolic faith “(page 9.) Stated at the beginning of the Report, this potentially allows for inspired thinking at every level from lay people and clergy. It is encouraging for the future but we need to act on it now.

Throughout the Report references are made to more decision making in the future at diocesan level, rather than in Rome. Pope Francis has previously said this e.g. over pastoral decisions being permitted at diocesan level about divorced and remarried Catholics receiving Communion. It seems to me that he has continually been trying to devolve decision making during his papacy. Here it is reiterated and timely for inspired, sensitive to culture, inclusive, localised thinking. In my view we need to encourage our Bishops and people to work together on these ideas.

Women in the Church

It was stated (page 21) that “women constitute the majority of those who attend churches.” However, “clericalism, machismo and inappropriate use of authority continue to scar the face of the Church.” (page 22). There is a hint of considering inclusive language in liturgical texts (Page 23). Research on women deacons is to be continued and hopefully results presented next October.  There have already been two Commissions which have not yet agreed to women deacons. (I know of many women who support women as deacons, while not wanting to clericalise the diaconate.) Women being included on theological programmes, seminary teaching and women judges in canonical trials are proposed. (page 23.) If we agree with these ideas, we can continue to voice them.

Seminary Training

Seminary Training should be more “linked to the daily life of communities,” so there was some mention of reform (page 25.) The Report says compulsory celibacy needs to be further discussed. I have been told that  married priests are mentioned once, in the 41 pages of the Summary Report but I cannot find the reference. 

Clerical abuse

The potential conflicting difficulty in abuse cases where a Bishop is both father and judge was raised (page 28.) However, dealing effectively, promptly and consistently with clerical abuse has to be continually tackled as it is so damaging and is a top priority to people of all denominations and faiths.

Attentive listening

Synodal working and the more transparent and active relationships between the Roman Curia, Cardinals, Bishops ” and more attentive listening to the voice of the local churches” was raised (page 29.)

Formation of all

Education for all, including lay people was mentioned and is a theme that, in my experience, is expressed all the time in meetings. How to listen to each other, especially with complex issues including painful excluding issues, was also raised.

Optics

For me, one of the most promising pointers from the Synod was that Bishops, women and men met in small groups to listen and speak in turn at round tables. This was instead of sitting in serried rows at previous Synods to listen, as spectators. There were some speakers in October, but apparently people remained at tables. This, to me, was a powerful symbol of the Synod.

So, where does this leave us older people? 

A lot of preparatory work, offered to all parishes, but which included some of us, was undertaken, and the feedback we got from the first parish sessions was useful. We didn’t get feedback from our second parish sessions, I understand this was because the administration of it became overwhelming.  However, feedback would have been useful for each of our parishes who took part.

Those who attended the Synod in Rome worked hard at a large number of issues. Christopher Lamb, until recently Rome Correspondent at The Tablet, described it as a consultative rather than a deliberative assembly. This might account for the numerous proposals raised, rather than decisions made. Is there time in our Diocese to come up with draft action plans for some of those proposals by next October for the Synod Part 2?

I think many of us over the years have raised the need for more adult theological and pastoral education locally and globally. There are some courses available but they are expensive, at a distance and few locally. Let us hope this situation changes soon as there are fewer Priests and Religious working in the Diocese, and an ever greater need for more lay people (paid and voluntary) working at all levels.

Mention of the role of women and the presence of around 40 women attenders with voting rights was, personally to me, very welcome. Ideas of how to include more women at all levels were not clear but is happening in some of the Departments in Rome. However, yet again the proposal for women deacons was, for the third time, deferred for more discussion. Deciding how women can be assimilated into the current clerical structures has to be worked out without adding to clericalism, but decisions need to be made soon either way. Many younger women, with this kind of calling, accustomed to equal opportunities in secular life are walking away.

The use of exclusive language about ‘men and brothers’ in liturgical readings to congregations with a majority of women, in my view, has to change now. Many of us already make inclusive language changes but this needs to be approved officially and the sign it would give would be powerful.

To conclude, for many of us these issues have been raised before.  For us older people we have the life experience and some acquired confidence to encourage our parishes and priests to discuss and act on these issues. This can be done formally at diocesan level, Parish Pastoral Councils, parish meetings and in homilies. It can also be raised informally wherever we are at: after Mass at coffee, at prayer groups, with friends and people we don’t yet know around us. We have now been given the opportunity to speak and listen to each other, and to try and give some feedback to parishioners, priests and our Bishop about what we think and feel. 

What do you think?

Pippa Bonner, GOG Trustee January 2024