Friday 6th November 2020
Dear brothers and sisters,
We began the month of November with the Solemnity of All Saints (1st Nov). We are blessed to have the souls of these holy brothers and sisters in heaven praying for us and interceding before God on our behalf each and every day, as well as leaving us examples of holy lives that we can aspire to imitate. One such holy soul is Sebastian who is the patron saint of those living with plagues.
Sebastian was born into the Roman Empire at Milan and became a solider under Emperor Diocletian. During his time of service he was struck by the religious fervour of a group known as Christians. They believed in only One God and would worship no others. They refused to offer sacrifices to the Emperor who saw himself as divine because their faith was in the one true Lord, Jesus Christ. In 300A.D Sebastian was moved to see how these Christians were prepared to lay down their lives in the name of Christ and so he converted. He wanted to experience the same God who could motivate people to see beyond the here and now and fill his disciples with genuine peace and joy so that no obstacle or challenge seemed hopeless.
When Diocletian heard about Sebastian’s conversion he was so incensed with anger that he ordered the soldier’s execution at the hands of his archers. Most iconography (see the picture above) and artwork of Sebastian shows him tied to a tree and pierced with several arrows. The miracle is that he survived this execution as the arrows did not hit any major organs or arteries.
Rather that being full of anger and vengeance towards the Emperor, Sebastian was moved with the forgiveness and mercy of Our Lord. He purposefully sought out Diocletian to persuade him to turn to the One God and embrace Jesus Christ as his true Lord. Enraged by the saint’s audacity Diocletian had Sebastian thrown into a rubbish tip and stoned to death.
So why is St. Sebastian the patron saint of plagues? As the arrows did not kill him nor diminish his faith in Jesus so he constantly prays for those brothers and sisters who are having to face the arrows of plagues and pandemics.
‘You will not fear the terror of the night
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the plague that prowls in the darkness
nor the scourge that lays waste at noon…
...His faithfulness is buckler and shield.’ (Psalm 90)
St. Sebastian reminds us of the importance of our faith in Jesus. Current events and situations can seem like impossible mountains to climb and treacherous oceans to cross yet God the Father never stops reaching out and caring for us. As the arrows did not kill Sebastian or his faith but instead moved him to imitate the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness as he reached out to Diocletian, so too Sebastian prays that we do not stop living and practising our faith in Jesus, despite the current Covid-19 pandemic.
Over these next few challenging weeks let us all ask for the intercession of St. Sebastian to help us, our family, friends, community and nation though this Covid-19 pandemic.
St. Sebastian, Pray for us. Amen.
Second Government Lockdown
As you will have seen from the statement given by the Bishops Conference of England and Wales, acts of public worship have now been temporarily suspended following government directives. However churches have been given permission to open for private prayer. Thanks to those parishioners who have generously come forward as volunteer stewards St. Mary’s Church will be open next week for private prayer. Wednesday 11th November 9:30-10:30am and Saturday 14th November 9:30am-10:30am. There will be weekly updates for the times of private prayer on the parish website.
November Souls List
November is traditionally that time when, as Roman Catholics, we pray for those who have died. Over the last two years we have had an All Souls box placed in front of the Altar where people have been able to put the names of their deceased loved ones in. This year because of the Covid-19 pandemic, we are going to dedicate a page of our parish website for people to pray for the repose of the souls of those who have died. Throughout the month of November those names will remain on the website under the ‘November Souls’ box of the homepage. If you would like to submit the names of family and friends who have died please see the parish website www.saintmarysoswaldtwistle.co.uk
and click on the box that says ‘November Souls Remembrance Submissions’. I will be celebrating a number of private Requiem Masses for all those names on the list during November.
Parish Online Advent Calendar
Advent is one of my favourite liturgical seasons. There is a sense of expectancy and a feeling of hope which of course is realised in the birth of Our Lord. There has been the idea that we could do a St. Mary’s Parish Advent Calendar. This would involve each day a reflection/prayer/story/memory etc. being posted on the website. What would make this parish advent calendar unique is that each day the prayer/reflection/thought/story etc. would be from you the parishioners. Everybody in our parish family has words and stories of hope to share that could help others during these difficult winter months. Do not worry about spelling or punctuation – you have all put up with my poor grammar for the last eight months most graciously! You may want to write a poem, retell a story, compose a prayer or recall times past at St. Mary’s etc. There is no exact word limit and if you wish you can remain anonymous. If a theme is needed then I would simply say look to the baby born in the manger who brought the world hope and love. Have a think and do email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
God Bless and keep praying
Our Lady of Oswaldtwistle, pray for us.
Saint Joseph, pray for us.
Saint Sebastian, pray for us.