Pastoral Letter for LAMP Sunday 6 November 2011
To be read in all churches and chapels of the Archdiocese of Liverpool on LAMP Sunday, 6 November 2011, the Thirty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time.
My dear people,
‘So stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour.’ So suddenly at his parents’ home in Old Roan, Father Michael Williams, with the words, ‘Dear Lord’ became unconscious: he never regained consciousness and died one week later on the Feast of Saint Michael. It is clear Michael was always awake, awaiting, ready for the day, the hour when the Bridegroom arrived to accompany him home. Indeed, blessed are those who are ready to be called to the supper of the Lamb.
At once our hearts burst open to his mother Kathleen, his father, Bill, his sisters Rachel and Jackie and all who mourn him: and he is uniquely mourned by our recently ordained priests. For many he was the minister of reconciliation in confession. And for all who mourn, to me too, Saint Paul today says:
‘We want you to be quite certain, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, to make sure that you do not grieve about them like the other people who have no hope.’ Saint Paul does not say: do not grieve: indeed, hearts where the Holy Spirit dwells love with more warmth, deeper affection: and so we grieve more. And we never forget: Jesus wept when his friend Lazarus died.
But we do not grieve as those who have no hope: and hope does not mean: one day it will all be like it used to be. No: it will be life and a world designed and created out of God’s own fresh possibilities. There all is light and gracious and song; anxiety and distress are no more. Indeed we are a people who ‘await the blessed hope and the coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ’.
Michael was one of the priests who took long turns holding the bleep to summon a priest to patients in the Royal and Broadgreen Hospitals. In all honesty I must share with you a simple fact: it is increasingly difficult to guarantee a priest will always be on call. Allow me to sow a seed and rely on you to share it with others who rarely come to Mass and dangerously live in ignorance of our situation: a month ago someone phoned indignantly complaining that when he phoned a parish none of the priests were in: he did not know: the parish had more than one priest 15 years ago and for the past 5 the one priest is also serving a second parish.
Is it not time for us all to face the fact: Jesus consistently taught: ‘Stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour’. We are not meant to leave it to the last minute: to the five who left it to the last minute Jesus said ‘I tell you solemnly, I do not know you’.
Michael’s sudden death and our grieving but not without hope is a wake up call to us all. It really should not matter if we cannot promise a priest at any time of day or night.
And certainly such a promise is absolutely out of the question in Peru where Father Simon Cadwallader and Father Denis Parry serve thousands of people in huge parishes: but the people die well, at peace, surrounded by the prayer of family and friends. Please pray for Simon Cadwallader and Denis Parry and all whom they serve, sent by all of us here in generosity and commitment. And please, using the Gift Aid envelopes if appropriate in today’s collection, continue to support them in the Liverpool Archdiocesan Missionary Project.
And may the Lord grant Michael, Father Terence McSweeney, a LAMP priest, and all those dear to us ‘who sleep in Christ, a place of refreshment, light and peace’.
Yours devotedly in Christ,
Archbishop of Liverpool