Welcome to St Austin's Catholic Parish, Stafford
If you would like to speak to someone about safeguarding and the Church’s work, please call
0121 230 6240. If you would like to speak to someone independent of the Church you can contact the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000.
Message from Archbishop Bernard Longley:
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) has published its report on the Archdiocese of Birmingham.
We apologise to all victims and survivors of child sex abuse. We hope that with this Inquiry they feel that they have been listened to. Even so, words are not enough.
We are committed to continuing to improve our safeguarding procedures and to listen to and learn from victims and survivors. Past failings must never happen again. The diocesan response to the report can be found at
If you have a safeguarding matter to report please contact the Archdiocese safeguarding team on 0121 230 6240 or via email: email@example.com
Listen to this Sunday's Gospel reading by visiting the website www.sundaygospel.co.uk.
29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Many Forms of Prayer
Not everyone is gifted with mystical meditation. The word mysticism is derived from the Greek mystikos, which in early Christianity referred to the biblical, the liturgical and the spiritual or the contemplative. The biblical dimension refers to "hidden" or less obvious meanings within Scripture.
More than a few do not find formal prayer overly attractive. Among the most widely known formal prayers are the ‘Our Father’ and the ‘Hail Mary’. The Nicene Creed is a prayer that formalises our universal belief as Christians. Formal prayer structures can be helpful in launching us into a time of prayer.
Perhaps you have heard the delightful tale of the gifted gymnast with outstanding bodily contortions. The same man found himself quite hapless at prayer. So, when nobody was about, he used to go to the chapel and perform his gymnastic display for the Lord. It was his form of prayer.
There are countless believers, today, who pray through caring for children, for elderly and sick people, through farming, flower-arranging, weaving, woodwork, baking, and suchlike. We can turn whatever we are about, that is in harmony with the will of God, into prayer by an act of our will. But, and there is a ‘but’, prayer requires a conscious, deliberate, offering to God of what we are about on each occasion. Prayer cannot be conducted by a ‘standing order’, as it were.
The Scriptural readings for this 29th Sunday of the Year focus on the offering to God made under the general title of ‘prayer’, with an emphasis on perseverance.
Moses, Aaron and Hur, in the 1st Reading (Exodus 17:8-13), remind us that collaborative prayer is an attractive, strengthening resource when we are threatened by our individual weaknesses. Many forms of collaborative prayer make use of modern communications, bringing the encouragement of real-time visual as well as audio participation. This feature is especially beneficial for immobilised people, as a counter to the negative aspects of isolation, by allowing for family, community or congregational participation.
Today’s Exodus extract also involves the Israelites in a combative encounter. Adversarial combat, in one form or another, is something we all experience. Traditionally, Eve was the first victim of our adversary of adversaries, Satan, who aims to snare us by our weaknesses. How essential it is for us, like Moses, to identify and openly acknowledge our weaknesses. Perhaps, too often, we can be reluctant to do so, preferring ‘a brave face’ for the sake of our public image. Yet, unless we acknowledge that we are ‘recovering sinners’, beset by weakness, we are effectively telling God that ‘we can manage, thank you’, despite plentiful personal experiences to the contrary.
Earlier forms of catechetics often over-emphasised stalwart individualism in prayer, to the detriment perhaps of collaborative forms of prayer. Even when together in church, there could be an over-emphasis on our individual recitation as opposed to our communal participation. The ‘me and my’ took precedence even when we prayed the ‘our’ Father!
How much of the legacy of that emphasis on individualism remains? Probably more than we care to admit. Do we truly value the promise of prayer gifted to us by a person of evident disability, as we would the same promise from, say, an enclosed religious? That is, presuming we understood what the disabled person wished to communicate to us. Yet, who is to say which of the two is the more disabled? Do we value the prayer of people whom we may pity, despise, think less of, regard as outcasts? Jesus did. He listened and responded to each person, be they a Roman soldier, a thief, a Pharisee, a beggar, a scribe, an adulterer, a leprous outcast, a Samaritan, if, in that moment of one-to-oneness with him, they had a righteous disposition of heart.
What might constitute, in Jesus’ eyes, a righteous disposition of heart? St. Paul, in his 2nd Letter to Timothy (3:14-4:2), highlights a person’s constant, unswerving, patient commitment to proclaim God’s Word even in the midst of torment, as per the repentant thief crucified with Jesus (Luke 23:42). When pain or isolation reduces us to silence, it is possible, within our heart, to hallow God’s Word and this, in itself, is a form of prayer.
In today’s Gospel extract (Luke 18:1-8), Jesus’ parable tells of the righteousness of the powerless. A combination of personal persevering application and prayerful supplication brought the appellant the justice, to which her belief clung despite her treatment.
It is Jesus himself who gives us an extended list of the righteous in his Sermon on the Mount (Matt: 5:1-12):
The poor in spirit who, recognising their own spiritual poverty, appeal to God.
The gentle who ask God’s help in resisting the temptation of retaliation.
Those who mourn their spiritual poverty and grieve at their own negligence.
Those whose consuming appetite for universal righteousness is not intimidated by its widespread absence from the world.
Those who extend the mercy of God’s forgiveness to those who treat them unjustly and unmercifully.
Those who, acknowledging that their heart has been petrified, accept Jesus’ invitation to replace it with a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26)
Those who, being trapped in isolation and alienation, accept the Christ’s offer of reconciliation.
Those who, in the defence of righteousness, accept suffering and mistreatment for Jesus’ sake.
The phrase “I’m saying my prayers” may be an all-too-accurate description of the recitation of known-by-heart prayers. It is so easy to find that, while mouthing the words from memory, the mind is focused elsewhere. The Prayer of the Church, also known as The Divine Office, is now used by many lay-folk. It has long been a prayer of obligation for religious and clerics. Even when prayed on one’s own, it is possible to appreciate that, in multiple other locations, the same prayer is being expressed in a wide variety of languages. An even more enhanced appreciation of collaborative prayer comes when we mentally link with and welcome into our prayer those who, though now deprived of the means of collective participation in prayer through persecution or illness, would wish to join with us in their heart. A list of photographs and names is a good backdrop to have in times of prayer.
There are vacancies galore in which to emulate Aaron or Hur, who supported Moses in his prayer during the battle (First Reading), if we stop to think before we pray!
Sunday 20th October 2019. 29th Sunday of the Year newsletter_29th_sunday_in_ordinary_time_yr._c_.pdfRead Now