Weekly Newsletter(click to download PDF)

Solemn Vespers and Benediction – 1 October(click to download PDF)

The Rector writes ...   

Over the past few weeks this newsletter has been reflecting on the obligations we have as Catholics. First and foremost is our attendance at Sunday Mass each week, and allied to that is our commitment to daily prayer, morning and evening. Another basic strand of the practise of the faith we share is that of almsgiving. Of course, we have a responsibility to make adequate provision from  our own resources for the mission of the Church and for those in need and the other charitable causes which engage our sympathy – but we should not lose sight of the truth that almsgiving is primarily an expression of our relationship with God. “Human beings came into existence when the key of love opened God’s hand”. This beautiful phrase, coined by Saint Thomas Aquinas, establishes the context of our existence: everything that we are everything that we have, is gift. The great insight we gain from the creation stories in Genesis is that we are stewards given the responsibility of caring for and developing what has been received.  

The word “charity” has become debased, and is often misinterpreted as the giving of money to a cause. The Catechism provides a fuller definition: “charity is the power by which we, who have been loved first by God, can give ourselves to God so as to be united with him, and can accept our neighbour for God’s sake as unconditionally and sincerely as we accept ourselves”. The generous use of our resources for the good of others is an accurate barometer of the place God has in our lives. Jesus could not be clearer when he declares that love of God and love of neighbour are two sides of a single coin (Matthew 22:40). Almsgiving is the practical outcome of our attempt to live this great commandment. Accepting that “all is grace” (Saint Therese of Lisieux) we see ourselves as God’s surrogates using creatively what we have been given. In this context perhaps we can better understand Jesus’ words: “anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mathew 16:25). In this dispensation selfless generosity is everything.

Almsgiving is not just about putting something into the collection bag at Mass, or even writing a cheque in response to the latest humanitarian appeal, but rather about the acceptance that we do not “own” what we have received at God’s hand. How we use our resources – and that means all our individual gifts, not just money and possessions – should involve decisions which come from the heart and are guided by the Holy Spirit. Our motivation should not be a minimum response to quieten our conscience (how little can I genuinely get away with and still feel good about myself) but an honest and commensurate attempt to return love for love. “By giving himself, he invites us to grow in the power of his love to do what he has done” (Saint Teresa of Calcutta).

No priest likes to talk about money, and we are all too conscious of the regular demands made by second collections, but essentially almsgiving is about so much more than the answering of pragmatic need and goes to the core of who we are before God. In the coming weeks I will share with you something more of our own situation at Spanish Place and our planning to provide for the future, but his weekend every parish in England and Wales is being asked to help towards the development of the National Shrine (recently designated a minor basilica by Pope Francis) of  our Lady at Walsingham. The shrine’s history looks back to a vision in 1061. Destroyed at the Reformation and re-established at the beginning of the 20th century, now under the charismatic leadership of its new rector, Monsignor John Armitage, tremendous things are happening again, and there are exciting plans which will place Walsingham at the heart of the new evangelisation of our country. This weekend’s collection gives an opportunity to demonstrate our love for the Mother of Jesus and to play a personal part in the growth of “England’s Nazareth” as a great centre of pilgrimage.

Christopher Colven