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

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

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

Prayers for Advent 2023

Journeying with Hope – Advent prayers

Advent, a season of anticipation and preparation, invites us to pause, reflect, and open our hearts to the profound mystery of Christ’s coming at Christmas.

In this special time, we find solace in the promise of hope, the light that pierces through the darkness, illuminating our path towards spiritual renewal and transformation.

At this difficult and distressing time in history, with so much conflict, we pray with the hope of Christ for peace and for justice as we reflect on the true message of Jesus’ birth in an dirty, drafty stable, far from home and material comforts.

As we are surrounded by commercial messages and the fake Christmas of the commercial world, we instead recall and reflect on the difficult, stressful and exhausting journey made by Mary and Joseph as we prepare for true Christmas.

As another year draws to an end, we also reflect on our own lives, our successes and failures, joys and sorrows, challenges and blessings and unite them all with this journey towards the first Christmas, towards hope, joy and the light of Christ.

Here are three Advent prayers to use during December as we prepare, reflect and above all, hope.

Adventus

With expectant waiting
we anticipate your coming.
Come close to us, Lord,
come very close.   

Come, Alpha and Omega,
who is from before the ages.
Come, Son of Joseph and Son of Mary,
who went down to Nazareth to be obedient to them.   

Come, Morning Star,
who named the stars.

Come, carpenter from Nazareth, 
who knows the smell of planed wood.

Come, Beloved Son of God,
who knows the heart of God.

Come, Son of Man,
who knows the hearts of God’s people.

Come, Lord of Life and Prince of Peace.
Come, Dayspring and Rising Sun.
Come, Wonderful Counsellor.
Come Emmanuel, God with us;
God very close to us.

Amen

Ged Johnson/CAFOD

Advent litany: Lord, we look to you

Compassionate God,

As we look to you for judgement, hold out your hand of compassion
that we may be chastened by your show of mercy and reach out to others in reconciliation.

Lord, we look to you
in whom we hope

As we contemplate our end, make us mindful of your promise of a new beginning
that we may share your promise of life and bring hope to those who sit in darkness.

Lord, we look to you
in whom we hope

As we remember Elizabeth in her barrenness, fill us with longing for the birth of a new creation
that we too may be surprised with joy and labour with those who seek to make all things new.

Lord, we look to you
in whom we hope

As John leapt in his mother’s womb, help us so to recognise Christ in friend and stranger
that we may respond in love and learn to serve our neighbour with generosity not judgement.

Lord, we look to you
in whom we hope

As Mary and Elizabeth sought each other, grant us the wisdom to recognise our needs
that we too may seek each other in solidarity and offer strength to the powerless.

Lord, we look to you
in whom we hope

As Mary proclaimed the salvation of the Lord, give us courage to stand alongside the downtrodden
that we may sing of their hopes and join hands to realise their dreams.

Lord, we look to you
in whom we hope
and whom we long to see.

Annabel Shilson-Thomas/CAFOD

God of hope

God of hope,
we cling to you,
for your renew the face of the earth.
Through the gift of your Son,
our Lord Jesus,
we follow you on the path of dawn.
Enlightened by your love and wisdom,
help us to lead each other
and all creatures
back to your open arms.
Amen.

Rachel McCarthy/CAFOD

A message from the Board – December 2023

Dear Friends,

I am writing as we begin the next four weeks of Advent preparing for the gift of God’s son to the world, to announce that our our period of waiting for a new worker for Growing Old Grace-fully is over!

I am very pleased with funding support from the Diocese, the Day for Life fund of the Bishop’s Conference and Holy Child Sisters, we have engaged a freelance worker to support our work.

Welcome to Greg Mulholland who will be working with us part-time for the next year.

Greg is an experienced communications professional and will build on the excellent work of our previous freelance workers, in taking forward the work of Growing Old Grace-fully and delivering our vision and mission.

We have a clear brief to organise Zoom meetings to support parishes to be more Later Life friendly, as well as working with two parishes more intensely to support them in their work with older people. This is of course on top of our communications to our subscribers and supporters.

Greg says, “I’m delighted to be working with Growing Old Grace-fully, to deliver its important vision and mission in our Diocese and I look forward to working with the Board, volunteers and parishes to help older people across the Catholic Diocese of Leeds experience spiritual, emotional and physical wellbeing in positive and inclusive parish communities”.

We are looking for parishes to work with us on this in the next year. Do please contact us at growing.old.gracefully@dioceseofleeds.org.uk if your parish is interested in taking part in this.

This December mailing includes an Advent reflection from a member of our board of trustees, Pippa Bonner and some suggestions for prayers which you may want to use yourself or share with other parishioners

With blessings for Advent,

Best wishes,

Carol Burns and trustees of Growing Old Gracefully

Advent: A Time of Challenge and Hope – A Reflection from Pippa Bonner

When I was a child I was on the verge of tears when I sang the words of the carol “In the Bleak Midwinter” written by Christina G Rossetti (1830-1864.) (1) 

“In the bleak midwinter 
frosty wind made moan, 
earth stood hard as iron, 
water like a stone;” 

 It sounded bleak, hard and cold. I lived in Scotland where I could understand that ”snow had fallen, snow on snow”…. I realised that a Bethlehem birth might be cold and hard, but perhaps little snow. I knew the point was that the Son of God was born in very humble, challenging, drafty circumstances away from family and community. As I grew older, I appreciated more the challenge that Mary and Joseph faced travelling for some uncomfortable days in late pregnancy, on the orders of an occupying regime to register their names. It may be on that journey Mary did not have the understanding and support of some of her extended family. They found it difficult to find accommodation as many others had also travelled to register. The unexpected, miraculous pregnancy perhaps was not accepted by some in the couple’s families. Joseph likely saved Mary’s life from stoning, a punishment for supposed infidelity and pregnancy outside of a betrothal or marriage. Her reputation, and his, may have taken longer to be restored. 

 We know too that they became refugees when Jesus was still very young. It must have been traumatic in a regional massacre to hide their child and make a perilous journey to Egypt.  

As I write, Palestinian refugees are making a treacherous journey amidst bombs and gunfire: women, some pregnant, men, many older people, children, newborn babies are riding on carts and are walking to South Gaza adjoining the Egyptian border. Many Jews support the Palestinians but the fighting between Israeli soldiers and Hamas has brought death, injury, homelessness and fear. The modern refugees are taking a dangerous journey. Did Mary and Joseph find food, water and shelter along the way? Did they have to hide? How long did they have to stay before travelling back to their homeland to Nazareth? Were they welcomed or not when they got to Egypt? Many modern-day refugees encounter danger, hostility, rejection, and a great sense of trauma and loss about what they have left behind. 

The amazing belief we have in preparing for Advent is the Incarnation, the birth of the Messiah, the great hope enfleshed… 

Advent is a time of preparation and above all a time of hope! As an older woman, every year I appreciate more that Advent is a time of hope. Amidst war in the Middle East and Ukraine and around the world the Saviour, a Sign of Hope and Peace is born. 

Christina Rossetti’s poem finishes: 

” What can I give him, 
poor as I am? 
If I were a shepherd 
I would bring a lamb; 
if I were a wise man 
I would do my part; 
yet what can I give him – 
give my heart.” 

As an older woman this last verse still moves me. Whatever our situation: enough money to pay our bills or not; working or retired; living with others or alone; bereaved; with plans for a way forward or not; security, directly affected by war, trauma, grief or poverty or watching it on T.V., we all have ups and downs. During Advent we bring to God ourselves, our spiritual gifts, our time, our life experience… and our hearts. Christmas brings hope. There are hymns, prayers, online Advent Resources from the Jesuits, Franciscans and others, parish and diocesan events and numerous ways in which we can prepare for Christ’s birth, whether individually or communally.  

Christ brings Challenge AND Hope.  

May you have a Blessed Advent and a Happy, Blessed Christmas! 

Pippa Bonner, December 2023

(1) In the Bleak Midwinter by Christina Rossetti.  

(Published by many including Decani Music, Suffolk 1999. No copyright holder given. Laudate Hymnal number 144.) 

A Reflection and Prayer for Pentecost: By Carol Burns

pentecost

Pentecost is a remarkable occasion that holds profound meaning for believers around the world. It encompasses a multitude of themes – a time of renewal, new beginnings, and the courage bestowed upon the first Christian community. In the book of Acts, we witness how Pentecost invigorated the apostles, inspiring them to continue the important work of Jesus.

Described vividly in Acts, the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles in the form of flames of fire and a powerful wind. To better grasp the significance of this divine event, individuals living with dementia were asked to describe the characteristics of wind and fire. Their responses were remarkably insightful:

Uncontrollable. Powerful. Sometimes strong, sometimes gentle. Necessary for life. Always moving things. Always changing.

These descriptions strikingly align with the essence of the Holy Spirit, revealing its dynamic and transformative nature.

However, this year, my thoughts were drawn to the words of Peter as he addressed the crowds, referencing the words of the Prophet Joel (Acts 2:17):

“In the last days,” God says, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young will see visions. Your elders will dream dreams.”

These prophetic words echo the profound truth that the outpouring of God’s Spirit during Pentecost is a resounding declaration that God does not abandon individuals in their old age or forsake them when they are frail and weak. On the contrary, God’s Spirit is poured out on all, irrespective of age or station in life.

This revelation presents a compelling challenge to all of us. It reminds us that we are one community, where young and old can collaborate and contribute in their unique ways. Each generation possesses invaluable insights and gifts that, when shared, foster unity, understanding, and progress.

Let us embrace the teachings of Pentecost, recognising that we are all interconnected in God’s divine plan. As we come together, drawing from the wisdom of the older generation and the vision of the young, we can forge a path towards renewal, revitalisation, and a future brimming with hope.

May Pentecost serve as a constant reminder that we are bound together by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Together, we can create a harmonious symphony, where every voice is heard, valued, and celebrated, leading us towards a world where love, compassion, and understanding prevail.

Carol Burns
Chair, Growing Old Grace-fully

A Prayer at Pentecost

Come Holy Spirit, 
enter our silences.

Come Holy Spirit,
into the depths of our longing.

Come Holy Spirit,
our friend and our lover.

Come Holy Spirit, 
unmask our pretending

Come Holy Spirit, 
sustain our weakness. 

Come Holy Spirit, 
redeem our creation. 

Enter our trusting, 
enter our fearing, 
enter our letting go, 
enter our holding back. 

Flood our barren spaces, 
make fertile our deserts within. 
Break us and heal us, 
liberator of our desires .

Come Holy Spirit. 
Embrace us and free us. 

Amen 

(Neil Thew 1990 from “Bread of Tomorrow”, edited by Janet Morley)

Resources for Lent 2023 featuring the Pope’s Lenten message and Cafod

The Pope’s Message for Lent 2023

“Our Lenten Journey is ‘Synodal'” Click the link to the Pope’s Message For Lent 2023.

Cafod Lenten Resources

Cafod has published a wealth of resources for Lent including reflections on the stations of the cross and many other prayers and resources.

Lenten Webinars

The Tablet is hosting a series of webinars on the three pillars of Lent; fasting, prayer and almsgiving. To register for attendance, click the link below.