Our Call to Participate: Pastoral Letter for First Sunday of AdventSunday 27th November 2022
As we embark on the season of Advent, Bishop John has shared a pastoral letter to guide our thoughts as we begin a new Church year.
Bishop John begins his letter by highlighting some of the main challenges people are facing here in our diocese, as well as in communities around the world, and how responding to these crises is a central part of our Catholic faith.
He said: “This new year invites us to consider how we may best express the Gospel values and meet the demands of those most important commandments of the Law, as declared by Jesus Himself: “You must love the Lord Your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and your neighbour as yourself”.”
With this in mind, Bishop John presents two main themes for his Advent pastoral letter, which he invites us to reflect upon as we continue our journey to becoming the Church God is calling us to be.
The first theme is that of synod. After thanking people across the diocese for taking part in the universal synod earlier this year, Bishop John highlights the need for a more localised synod here in our own diocese.
He said: “Building on the good work of the Universal Synod, and our own project Hope in the Future, I believe it is right to continue that “synodal” process here in our own Diocese, by holding our own Diocesan Synod.
“Pope Francis is clear that this way of walking together and listening to each other ‘is what God expects of the Church in the third millennium.
“A Diocesan Synod is an important and solemn event in the life of a Diocese in which Bishop, priests and lay-people come together in a spirit of prayer to discern together what God is asking of His Church in our Diocese and will help us to live out our calling to be Missionary Disciples and Ambassadors for Christ, accompanying each other on the journey of life.
“It is a journey by which we, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, can together set the future direction and priorities of the life and mission of our Diocese.
“It is hoped that the Diocesan Synod will be officially opened at the Chrism Mass in 2023. It is important that we, individually and together, listen to God speaking through the scriptures, through the living tradition of the Church, as well as in our lives and the lives of others, particularly those on the margins of Church and society.
“My prayer for each of us is that we would allow ourselves to be truly open to the presence of the Spirit and His promptings and recognize the crucial part we each play in the Church’s Mission.”
Further details will be shared in the New Year but Bishop John is eager to invite us to prayerfully consider how we might contribute to our diocesan synod – perhaps by becoming a parish or deanery Synod member, by speaking to family and friends about their experience of the Church, or by attending a group discernment sessions.
The letter also includes a simple prayer we might wish to use as we begin our diocesan journey of synod:
“Stay with us, Lord, on our Journey. Help us to listen to each other and to what you are saying to us, so that we may prayerfully discern the way that you wish us to go, and fulfil all that you are asking of us”
The second theme is an invitation to make a small, simple change to our lifestyle to help make a significant impact on the world around us.
A recent study from the University of Cambridge has revealed the incredible effect that meat-free Fridays can have on our planet.
Bishop John explains: “You may have heard of a recent study from the University of Cambridge that estimates that about a quarter of Catholics in the United Kingdom observe abstinence from meat on Fridays, as a penitential act and remembrance on the day of Christ’s suffering and death.
“This is a tradition that has been promoted, as a spiritual exercise since the 9th Century. But the Cambridge study suggests that this “spiritual and penitential” gesture actually prevents 55,000 tonnes of carbon being emitted into the atmosphere every year, equivalent to 82,000 people taking a return flight from London to New York.
“So, such a “spiritual” gesture suddenly has an important practical impact on our carbon emissions, and the environment.
“What if all Catholics were to observe a meat-free Friday? What if Catholics around the world were to adopt this simple, and not demanding, practice? The impact on our environment would be considerable.”
Bishop John reminds us that our fight against climate change cannot simply be left to politicians and industry leaders but must be embraced by each and every one of us in our everyday lives.
He said: Maybe abstaining from meat on Fridays is an important way we can put our faith into practical action?”
As we begin a new Church year, Bishop John invites us to keep these two themes in mind as we navigate our daily lives in these challenging times.
He said: “As Christians, we look forward in hope, asking that we may all be channels of God’s love, in the difficult times we face in today’s world.
“May our daily prayer always include that invitation to Jesus Himself; “Stay with us, Lord, on our journey.”
Read Bishop John’s pastoral letter in full by clicking here.
You can also listen along by clicking here.