Our church is open all day from dawn till dusk – a little haven of peace in a busy world!
There’s no knowing if the shepherds on that night shift had even heard of Isaiah’s words ‘The Virgin is with child and bears a son and calls his name Emmanuel’, or ‘Look, Jerusalem, your Saviour comes’. Nonetheless, they speed on their way to meet the Holy Family. These despised men are armed to the teeth and to be avoided at all costs They are barred from giving evidence in the Roman courts of Palestine and yet their enthusiastic witness is hailed by all astonished persons of goodwill to this day. God’s ways are not ours. Luke the artist / evangelist is clearly fascinated by the animal shelter because he mentions it three times! We remember that a manger is the eating trough for animals. Luke praises these poorest of the poor ‘who came hurriedly’ to check out ‘this thing that has happened… and the shepherds went back glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard’. In the shanty towns of Peru ‘Los Pastores’ are local children in shepherd-style fancy dress who burst in unannounced to Midnight Mass. They dance their merry way to the crib with traditional steps and religious songs. Next they reverse out as they make off to the nearest crib in the barrio. These ‘Pastores’ never turn their backs on the Nino Jesus. Luke, it seems, had Mary’s version of things – ‘As for Mary, she treasured all these messages and continually pondered over them’. We do well to follow suit. ‘May the light of faith shine in our words and actions.’

Other Birthdays at this time: Kirsty O’Reilly celebrates her *th Birthday today, Christmas Day. Sadly she is not with us. She and Helen are working in a ski resort in the Alps for the next couple of months – lots of snow! And there are two birthdays on Tuesday – Catherine Leach will be 16 and Jacob Wilbourne, one of our altar-servers will be 10. Congratulations to you all. And for all of you facing a birthday remember – ageing is inevitable, maturing is optional. (HL)

Christmas Greetings from Star of the Sea, Sierra Leone: Father Ambrose writes: “Compliments of the season to you and your entire family from Our Lady, Star of the Sea, Juba. Thanks so much for the information concerning the generator. It is indeed a welcomed development that will definitely serve our immediate and future needs in the area of electricity. Do extend our sincere thanks and appreciation to the entire parishioners. May I say that the parishioners of Juba are really looking forward to your visit to the parish. We hope and pray that your future plans will go through. Peace be unto you at Christmas and New Year. The spirit of Christmas is loving and sharing. As you celebrate it, may the Holy Season bring warm gladness of a beautiful Christmas for you all. And may Jesus Christ, whose birth we celebrate, bless you with peace, happiness, long life and prosperity. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and the entire parishioners of Holy Cross Parish.”

Saints of the Week: And here they are, you just might recognise yourself among them! Saints Linda, Pat, Chris, Dominic, Barbara, Jean, Leo, Chris, Margaret, Anne, Geoff, Ray, Chris, David and Sandra. And who exactly were they? The merry band of workers who turned up on Monday morning to give the church a complete ‘makeover’! Two hours of hard graft was all it took, with a tea-break thrown in for a reward! Your reward will be great in Heaven but I hope you also get some blessings from Himself down here as well for what you did. Thanks a million!

“Step in to Limbo.” From a letter to The Times: “Limbo may be a theological hypothesis in Rome but it certainly isn’t in the West Indies. If Limbo is abolished, how long before Morris and Flamenco suffer the same fate? Further, where does the Hokey-Cokey stand in all this?” Dr. David Cook, Dept. of Chemistry, University of Sheffield.

The Christmas Number One? Always a sore point (and by the way, where is Cliff this year?). “Bleak Outlook as Silent Night Slips.” And the Top Ten carols as voted by viewers of Songs of Praise? 1 – In the Bleak Mid-winter. 2 – Silent Night. 3 – Hark, the Herald Angels Sing. 4 – O Holy Night. 5 – O Come all ye Faithful. 6 – It came Upon the Midnight Clear. 7 – O Little Town of Bethlehem. 8 – Once in Royal David’s City. 9 – Away in a Manger. 10 – See Him Lying on a Bed of Straw (Calypso carol). You can hear them all on Songs of Praise this evening.

John Martindale: It was lovely to find people asking of his whereabouts this Christmas. He was released from prison in June and we don’t know where he is. There have been no sightings of him in the locality. But please continue to keep him in your prayers, he’s a sick man, not a bad man. Wherever he is, may he have a lovely Christmas and may there be people to care for him as many of you have done over the years. (I can’t say that I look forward to seeing him again, but…. There, but for the grace of God go I?).

“O Lord Jesus Christ, who enjoyed the comforts and makeshift toys of a poor child, bless, we pray, the parents of children in poor families, and give them all that is needful for their child’s growth and contentment.” (In Durer’s 16th cent. Painting of the Madonna and Child, the infant Jesus is shown clutching a comfort rag.)

Next Week’s Newsletter: If you have any items you’d like including, could you get them to John McNicholas (the assistant editor!) by Wednesday or Thursday. I’m always grateful to him for making sure that the newsletter is produced when I’m away.

Congratulations to Linda Gillard: She has been awarded a Certificate in Higher Education in Religious Studies from York St. John College of the University of Leeds. She is continuing her studies for her degree in Religious Studies part-time and hopefully she’ll be finished in a couple of years. One or two other parishioners are also doing similar courses, part-time. The modules Linda studied included, Gospel and Society, Suffering and Death, Worship and Community, The Old Testament, Christian Mission and Ministry, Christian Ethics plus a practical placement at Dove House as Assistant Chaplain. If you’re fascinated with what she’s doing, why not have a word with her?

Discussion Forum: Looking ahead to Sunday January 15th at the Endsleigh Centre, Fr. Gerard Burns SM will be giving a talk entitled “How can we Christians understand present day Witches and Pagans?” Sounds quite fascinating? 7.30 p.m. start.

Amnesty Spring Concert: For your diary! Tuesday 31st January at The Ferens Art Gallery, Lola Toursunova and Elena Vorotko (Soprano and Piano). The music will include arias in Italian and Russian as well as songs, romances and solo piano compositions. Tickets from Marian, Fr. Tony etc. £10 including refreshments.

A teacher, wanting to explore the notion of God that young children had, began by asking them, “Who is God?” There was silence, but finally one six-year-old boy said, “God is the man who saved the Queen.”

Boris Pasternack once said, “when a great moment knocks on the door of your life, it is often no louder than the beating of your heart, and it’s very easy to miss it.” A great moment has come with the heartbeat of the Christ-child. It is easy to miss. We have to listen for the heartbeat and know the greatness of the moment.

Some thoughts to ponder:
“You may be only one person in the world, but you may also be the world to one person.”
“Ever notice that the people who are late are often much jollier than the people who have to wait for them?”
“Most of us go to our grave with our music still inside of us.”
“Some mistakes are too much fun to make only once.”

Anniversaries this coming week:
Christmas Eve – Winefride Elder (Christine Pike’s mother)
Christmas Day – Tess Houghton (Peter’s mother) and Walter Richardson.
Monday – Tom Durkin (John McNichols’s grandfather), John Stephenson (John’s father) and Charles Taylor.
Tuesday – Arthur Burton, Annie Clery (Joan Watts’s mother) and Wilfred Britton (Pat’s father-in-law).
Thursday – Constance Sowerby (Ron Smith’s step-mother-in-law).
Saturday – George Day and Patrick Clarke (Fr. Pat’s two grandfathers), William Cregan (Joanna Porter’s father) and Mary Udall (John McNicholas’s Aunt/Godmother).
Sunday – John Codd (Eithne’s father-in-law), Denis Valente, Reg Rawson (Peter’s father) and Grace Rawson (Peter’s step-mother).

“Real hospitality is the art of making people feel at home – when you wish they were at home.”

The Birth Date of Jesus: We have no idea of the date of his birth. In fact we are not even sure of the year. This date was chosen for the celebration of his birth in order to replace the pagan feast of the Birthday of the Sun, just after the winter solstice. Solstice literally means the sun standing still, indicating that its journey away from the world stopped and it began to return nearer to us again. Nowadays, of course, we know that it is the earth which moves around the sun rather than the sun moving around us.

Thank you all ever so much for all your gifts, cards and good wishes over this Christmas period. You’re all very busy people and I do appreciate your taking valuable time to think of me, especially as you see me day in and day out! If I don’t see you individually to says thanks, please take it as said!
Mass and Retreat in the Syro-Malabar Rite: This Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 7 – 9 p.m. at St. Wilfrid’s on The Boulevard. The visiting priest is Fr. Matthew Thekkel from India. More details from Fr. Massie on 351012 or the parish website:

Dorothy Hood writes: “On behalf of Chris and myself, can I say a big thank you to everyone at Holy Cross for all the kindness shown to me before and after my operation. Thank you for all your prayers and support.”

Lunch Club Christmas Lunch: On Wednesday, about sixty people sat down to a wonderful Christmas Dinner in The Garden Room. We began with hot punch and ended with mince pies. In between we ate our fill and to help with the digestion we sang carols for half an hour. The raffle and the donations raised over £205 for the Orphanage in Bo, Sierra Leone. A very big thank you to all the helpers and drivers who made it possible. And wasn’t it great to Edna back with us for the lunch. She’s looking a lot better and will be spending Christmas with Patrick up in Malton.

Church Decorations: It’s thanks to our younger parishioners that the church is looking as it is this weekend! They spent Thursday morning cutting, pasting and generally creating mayhem! But all turned out well. And in between we fed them lots of E numbers to keep their spirits up! Thank you also to the mums, dads and grandparents and parishioners who came along to supervise.

Pat Brittain writes: “I would like to thank everyone who donated toiletries etc. for the seafarers over the Christmas period. They were very much appreciated by people a long way from home and families at Christmas.”

The Three Sheep: Amongst the many gifts I received this Christmas were three sheep! Don’t worry, they’re not eating the flowers in the church garden. They are actually at home in Ethiopia being well looked after and bringing a living to a family there. Astir’s Story: She received three sheep last year from ‘Send a Cow Programme’, two ewes and one ram. One of the ewes has since lambed and that lamb is now being passed-on to another member of the group so that they too can benefit from owning livestock. Astir uses her sheep’s manure to make the compost required for her to successfully grow coffee. She is now able to sell enough coffee and coffee seedlings to generate a small income. She has found that the compost has also helped her increase her crop yields and is growing twice the amount of barley that she used to. As a result of her sheep, Astir now finds it easier to feed her family and is able to pay the government the rent for her land. For the future Astir plans to expand her farm, sell more crops and continue to be able to pay her children’s school fees.

Please keep in your prayers over this Christmas period The Ferris Family, Walter Witherwick, father of Janice Barlow who is very ill at the moment with cancer, and a friend of Kevin and Helena whose wife died last week leaving two small children. And also all those from the parish who will be away from families at this time, those in homes and those housebound.

Dom Helder Camara (Brazilian Bishop): “Opening ourselves to ideas, including those with which we disagree, this is what the good traveller should do. Happy are they who understand the words ‘if you disagree with me, you have something to give me… If those who are with you always agree with you before you open your mouth, they are not companions but shadows.'”

Visiting Priests: I’m off home on Tuesday for a break. During the week Communion Services will continue as normal, thanks to the kindness of our Eucharistic Ministers. Amongst the visiting priests will be Canon Michael Loughlin EV. From St. Charles’, Jim O’ Brien from the University Chaplaincy and Mike Coleman from the Marist Community. We had hoped that Fr. Clive from the Marist Community could help out but he really isn’t able at the moment, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Please pray for him as he recovers from his stroke.

The Feast of the Epiphany is on Friday January 6th a Holyday of Obligation. There will only be an evening Mass here on that day, at 7.00 p.m. There are just no priests available to help out. The schools are back and Masses will be celebrated there whenever possible by whatever priests they can get! A taste of things to come? There will be NO Communion Service that morning.

Posted by Father Pat at 12:00 AM