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.
Please pray with us for all victims of abuse, and for all those involved in the work of this important Inquiry.
The recent Pastoral Letter on this matter can be found on the Archdiocese website
Arrangements for Holy Week: The following are our arrangements for Holy Week.
10.00 a.m. Morning Prayer in Church.
9.00 p.m. Easter Vigil. Mass of the Resurrection.
Easter Sunday: Masses as usual at 10.30 a.m. and 6.00 p.m.
Holy Week Ceremonies at St. Anne’s & St. Patrick’s:
Holy Saturday: Easter Vigil at St. Patrick’s at 8.00 p.m.
Listen to this Sunday's Gospel reading by visiting the website www.sundaygospel.co.uk.
The Long ‘Alleluia’
Easter marks the reinstatement of ‘Alleluia’ in our worship after its Lenten absence. How should we evaluate the significance of this?
‘Alleluia’ is a word recognisable in multiple languages. Conveying a sense of rejoicing, thanksgiving and relief. It is a word that lifts wounded spirits, reinvigorates hope and promotes faith. It also expresses thanksgiving for what is not immediately comprehensible, or even achievable, but which is nevertheless recognisable as a God-given goal.
We need the impact of joyful and abundant renditions of ‘alleluia’ to help sustain us spiritually on our 60-day liturgical pilgrimage from Easter to Pentecost and far beyond. Even when an ‘alleluia’ is not exclaimed – as in Lent or in times of personal or national tragedy – we need its silent reverberations to continue not only within us but also to be transmitted through us into our universally beleaguered world which the power of Evil relentlessly attempts to swamp but, we believe, will not succeed.
Most people experience weariness of either body, mind or spirit, of any two or of all three simultaneously. Persistent weariness can become a slippery slope towards depression. If you check the UK statistics relevant to depression there are, currently, three million UK citizens diagnosed with this (mental) disorder and the number is continually increasing.
There are likely to be many prayerful members of the Catholic Church, worldwide, afflicted presently with a ‘weariness of hope’, a debilitating negative kind of fatigue. It is an affliction with which our enemy continually tries to grind us down in these very troubled times for the Catholic Church because our pain is self-inflicted. As such, it is inescapably more difficult to bear than the pain of persecution. Some Catholics may even be edging towards despair that the Church is incapable of reforming itself. Pope Francis himself made reference to the ‘weariness of hope’ saying that any Church member could be overwhelmed.
On the actual Day of the Jesus’ Resurrection, which we call Easter Sunday, can you imagine hearing celebratory ‘alleluias’, or the Hebrew equivalent - among the relatively small band of apostles and disciples who were greatly outnumbered by the vast surge of Jews who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover? Jesus’ own community had been beset by betrayal, denial and abandonment by close companions. Mary, the Mother of Jesus, held her own counsel though, undoubtedly, she was a faith-filled positive point of reference. Mary of Magdala announced the theft of Jesus’ Body from the tomb. Peter and John confirmed that the Body of Jesus was not where it had been laid, late on the Friday we call ‘Good’.
Those whom we associate most closely with Jesus’ arrest, suffering, crucifixion, death and Resurrection must surely have been overwhelmed with a weariness of hope that did not dissipate on Easter Day. The probable sole exception was Jesus’ Mother, Mary. Catholics who share in daily Mass will realise that all our First Readings, in the immediate post Easter period, come from the Acts of the Apostles which narrates events only from after Pentecost. It is as if weariness, confusion and uncertainty traumatised the founding fathers of our Faith for a substantial period of time immediately following Jesus’ Resurrection.
Looked at from another perspective, the Risen Jesus worked relentlessly, throughout the period we call Easter to Ascension. He spent himself reassembling and resurrecting the badly fractured remains of the initial faith he himself had cultivated in the diverse community that made up his first followers. Somehow, we find it impossible to imagine that Jesus could have drawn a line under their failures and started afresh with a whole new group. For, had he done so, would we be numbered among His adopted family today?
Because our Church is founded on a community of recovering sinners, how can we be surprised that there are sinners among us still in need of recovery. Were the words we learnt to say in primary school (still used by many in their later years) in our childish ‘act of contrition’ really helpful? “O my God, I am sorry that I have sinned against you and with the help of your grace I will not sin again.” Should we have been taught to say: “I will try not to sin again”? Yes, there are multiple interpretations of the words but we were taught to repeat a statement that, as it stood, we had little or no hope of abiding by.
Just as Jesus could not have walked away from his sinful first followers, nor can we walk away from the sinners in our midst today for that would be to leave the Church which is a community of sinners. To do so would also be to abandon not only our fellow sinners but, just as importantly, our victims who continue to suffer from the deep wounds of the experiences they endured. It is a matter of justice that we stay connected no matter how uncomfortable we may feel. In coming to terms with what is our foreseeable reality it is so important to remind ourselves that we are sinners too. And where would we be were our community to disown us … sinners?
Nor should the Baptised allow a ‘weariness of hope’ to offer a false pretext for being distant from the Church as if the apostolic community can be reduced to little more than a scourge of abuse of one sort or another.
There is another path. It might be called the pilgrim way of ‘positive weariness’. Plentiful scriptural instances exist where Jesus’ words and actions manifest the frustration he felt when his chosen and reconstituted recovering-sinner companions failed to grasp the significance of his washing of the feet of the apostles, his gift of himself in the Eucharist and his Resurrection. Then there are his many words of teaching and his personal unwavering example that were not always urgently adopted by the founding fathers of our Church.
The pilgrim way of ‘positive weariness’ is followed by Pope Francis and many members of the Church who have experienced the grief of the present revelations lacerating the community. They live with the uncomfortableness of being divided between their compassion for the victims and their sadness at seeing the reputation of their Church community stained. This pilgrim way of faithfulness is coupled with active participation in the transformation of the Church of which each one of us can feel part of. The Holy Spirit will enable our pilgrim way if we sincerely invoke his help.
‘Positive Weariness’ is a blessed pilgrim way but not one that is necessarily either restful or easy. Sometimes, the ‘alleluias’ will seem very small but at other times they will soar to the heavens.