The More Things Change – The More They Stay The Same

This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday. Lent, like most everything else in England, will be different this year.

Saint Peter Roman Catholic Church - Cirencester

We’ve been attending Mass at St. Peter R.C. Church in Cirencester, Gloustershire. It’s quite a departure from St. Joseph in Cottleville, Missouri. First of all, there is only one Sunday Mass – 11:00 a.m. Secondly it is a very small church; my guess is it might hold about 200 hundred people but 150 seems more likely. Thirdly it’s old; not English old but about 120 years old which is more than 100 years older than St. Joseph’s. And finally, it’s poor; the weekly collection is averaging £240.00 – that’s approximately $380.00. St. Joseph usually takes in $40,000.00 weekly. I suppose the numbers tell a story but only part of the story.

We are proudly Catholic here at St. Peter in Cirencester. Perhaps it’s because our numbers are small and our voices are so few. We are clearly in the minority – dwarfed by The Church of England. But there is great joy and there is much hope and there is abundant love. Our priest, Father Michael Davies, works two parishes – ours and St. Michael’s Tetbury.  He’s not a young man but has an indefatigable spirit and a self-deprecating sense of humour. His energy and his wit belie his years. And his gentle approach to our faith is a nice respite from some of the heavy-handed demands being made by our bishops in the U.S.  today – none of the “my way or the highway” mentality. On Sunday he actually ‘invited’ people to fast and abstain on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday – inviting instead of obliging or demanding. Maybe it’s only because of my pride that I prefer to be asked instead of being told what to do; but ‘asking’ instead of ‘telling’ made all the difference to me.

My yes is yes! to a request, an invitation; not an edict. And that’s what Jesus does – He invites us to share in His passion during Lent. He invites us to journey through His pain and suffering. He offers us His sacrifice – we can accept (or not).

Years ago at a retreat in Wisconsin the priest/facilitator suggested that the Church should be in the business of asking, not telling, so that we can all freely say yes to God’s call.

And so here I am twenty years on and the answer is still yes (when I’m asked).

Peace,

Denis

3 thoughts on “The More Things Change – The More They Stay The Same

  1. Great post! It’s been a bad week for Catholics in the U.S. I am becoming more and more embarrassed by the hard line expressed that has little or nothing to do with those of us in the pew. A former colleague died last week and the beautiful funeral liturgy was in the Episcopal Church. It had most of what I love about the Catholic Church but none of the baggage.

  2. I have enjoyed this post most of all!!! I am in Ferdinand Indiana with the Benedictin Nuns and I feel God loving arms around me when I am in the company of these loving compassonate women. This is what our faith ahould be everywhere. Kind, loving,accepting,hospitable,with no demands or expectations. I know that we the catholic people are everywhere. We are just not as loud and vocal as our “superiors”and thats ok because in the end we will all be loud enough in the place that counts. God bless us all.

  3. What a wonderful contemplation! Father Michael sounds like a wonderful man and representative of Christ. Christians around the world join in different celebrations during this Lenten season, and I do believe God is quietly inviting us to set aside our own demands and prepare for a new Easter in our hearts. It’s a challenge anywhere and everywhere. Your words have stirred me! Debra

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