This weekend our schools closed for the Summer vacation. In both primary and secondary schools there are students who have left in order to move-on to the next phase of their education, and we wish them all well in their new institutions; as we wish good exam results for those awaiting them next month! However, and in particular, I would like to highlight the retirement of the Headteacher of our Primary School - Mrs Margaret Sullivan - who departs this month. Mrs Sullivan has been the Head of Our Lady of Lourdes Primary School for the last twelve years and as Deputy for four years prior to that. She has been a teacher in Catholic education for the 39 years of her teaching career. So, we owe her a huge debt of gratitude for all that she has done wherever she has taught, but in particular, here in our own Parish School. Many of our young people who have passed-through Our Lady of Lourdes School will have fond memories of times there and the pivotal role Mrs Sullivan played. As a Leader, she has always been at the centre of the School and, with a very maternal approach, formed and guided all for whom she has had responsibility. Her unique and unequivocal Catholic Faith has been the inspiration that has made our own school the beacon of learning and excellence that it is. I know I speak for the whole Parish Family when I say a heartfelt Thank you! Last Monday, during a school assembly, I was able to present Mrs Sullivan with the Papal Blessing which Pope Francis conferred as a token of divine grace and heavenly blessings, for all that she has done for Catholic Education. We will continue to keep her at the heart of the local Parish here and I know she will continue to follow the progress and success of the School as it enters a new chapter.
We have now entered the high summer month of July, a month in which we honour the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ. Saint Pope John XXIII especially wanted us to have a vibrant devotion to the Precious Blood of Jesus, the price of our redemption, and the pledge of our salvation and eternal life. When we receive Holy Communion from the chalice during this month, let us pray that the Lord will wash away all our sins and forgive and convert those who bring bloodshed and violence to our world. Sometimes, sadly, I have heard people refer to Holy Communion from the chalice as “receiving the wine” - a sorry term and mistake! Let’s never refer to ‘wine’ but only to the Precious Blood. In 1960, Saint Pope John XXIII asked the Congregation of Rites to compose a litany in honour of the Precious Blood. It is a beautiful prayer that you can slowly reflect on. Please pray it often this month. You can find here:
The image of Christ carrying the Cross - consonant with the words of the Gospel this weekend - reminds us that Jesus came to free mankind from our burdens by taking them upon Himself: Come to me all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest…United with Christ always, the difficulties, crosses and sacrifices of this life on earth are bearable and tolerable. The Christian life, when lived in authentic imitation of Christ, allows us to live in such a manner as to relieve others of their burdens. Sometimes this will mean us doing some small acts of service and charity. At times it will mean giving a word of encouragement or hope. At other times it will be to help someone to look at Jesus so that they may see their situation in a clearer perspective, with the light of the Master. We may think too of those aspects of our behaviour with which sometimes, without really meaning to, we make life harder for others…our whims and fancies, our rash judgements, negative criticism, lack of consideration for others, or unkind words. Looking at Jesus carrying the Cross helps us to see our lives always in the perspective of His, and to live knowing He carries us and our burdens, and asks us to do the same for others.
Jesus often speaks to us about the joy that comes from self-denial. In the Gospel of this weekend we hear the well-known words in which Jesus invites us to share His yoke, His burden. It is the Gospel text much related to the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The oft-proclaimed paradox of the Christian life is to be found in this way: accepting the difficulties and contradictions of life so as to be more liberated and also more united with Christ. Our love of God is nourished in prayer and reception of the Sacrament, in the constant struggle against our defects, in the unceasing effort to maintain a living presence of God throughout the whole of our days, in our relationships with others and even in our times of rest. The Blessed Eucharist is, above all, the spring at which our love of God is perpetually refreshed and strengthened.