Almighty and merciful Father,
bestow your grace upon the Diocese of Brentwood.
We give thanks for the witness of past generations and pray for
a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit that we may be ever more
faithful to proclaiming the Gospel of Christ.
Bless our Bishop, the Clergy, Religious and Faithful of our Diocese
as we work together to evangelise our Diocese
and fulfil our Vision, and graciously grant plentiful vocations
to the Priesthood, the Consecrated Life, Single Life and the
Sacrament of Marriage.
Strengthen us in the communion of faith, hope and charity,
united in prayer with our Holy Father the Pope and the Universal Church.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.
Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.
Saints Erconwald, Cedd and Edmund of Canterbury, pray for us.
Our Synodal Journey Information
As the Synodal Pathway of listening and discerning unfolds, we the bishops of England and Wales, are paying particular attention to the hopes and fears, the joys and anxieties of all who are sharing their thoughts and feelings with us.
Longing for our Lord
We are attentive to the experience of the last year or so, when we have lived our faith through the limitations of the pandemic. We have heard of the longing which some express as a “homesickness.” We want to be in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. We yearn to celebrate the sacraments together, especially the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We desire to be nourished by our Lord in Holy Communion. The live streaming of the Mass and the remarkable response of our Catholic communities to those in need, have provided comfort, sustenance and resilience.
The Eucharist, source and summit
The Eucharist is the source and summit of our spiritual and pastoral life. Many people have said to us that they have appreciated the noble simplicity of the Mass at this time, which has allowed the mystery and majesty of our Lord’s sacrificial love to shine through.
The central appeal of the Mass, its beauty and its transcendence, raises our minds and hearts to God in an unambiguous and compelling manner. Our Lord Jesus invites us to receive anew the gift of Sunday as the preeminent day, the day of the Resurrection, when the Church gathers to celebrate the Eucharist. Here we stand together before our heavenly Father, offering our thanksgiving and prayer, through our Saviour in the Holy Spirit. Here we receive Christ in his Word. Here we are nourished by Christ in his precious Body and Blood. This is our primary joy, for which there is no substitute, and from which we draw our strength.
The Gift of the Sunday Eucharist
The Sunday Eucharist is a gift; as God’s holy people we are called to praise and thank God in the most sublime way possible. When the Church speaks of the Sunday obligation, it reminds us that attending Mass is a personal response to the selfless offering of Christ’s love.
At this time, we recognise that for some people there may be certain factors which hinder attendance at Sunday Mass. The pandemic is clearly not over. The risk of infection is still
present. For some, there is legitimate fear in gathering together. As your bishops, we recognise that these prevailing circumstances suggest that not everyone is yet in the position to fulfil the absolute duty to attend freely Sunday Mass.
Responding to the Gift
We now encourage all Catholics to look again at the patterns which they have formed in recent months with regard to going to Mass on Sundays. This would include consideration and reflection about what we might do on Sundays, such as sports or shopping, or other leisure and social activities. This review, and the decisions which arise from it, fall to every Catholic and we trust this will be done with honesty, motivated by a real love for the Lord whom we encounter in the Mass.
The Sunday Mass is the very heartbeat of the Church and of our personal life of faith. We gather on the “first day of the week,” and devote ourselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers (Acts 2:42). The Eucharist sustains us and spurs us on, renewing our gratitude and our hope. When we say “Amen” to Christ in receiving his Body and Blood, we express the love of God which is deep within us, and at the end of Mass, when we are sent forth, we express our love for our neighbour, especially those in need. These two dimensions reveal the full meaning of our faith. We are gathered together and sent out, we pray and are fed, we worship and we adore; these are intrinsic to our lives as those baptised into Christ.
Approved at the Plenary Assembly of Bishops in Leeds Thursday 18th November 2021
Supporting Engaged and Married Couples During COVID-19
At the moment couples
preparing for marriage later this year or even early next year face a great
deal of uncertainty and the prospect of difficult choices which might even be a
test of their relationship. It is important that we maintain contact with
couples whom we are preparing for marriage and accompany them as best we can at
this time. Even if it seems as though a wedding will have to be postponed, the
time ahead can fruitfully be used by a couple to deepen their understanding of
the vocation to marriage, thus it would be beneficial to pursue some form of
marriage preparation with them.
If you follow a formal programme
of marriage preparation in your parish, it may be possible to hold sessions remotely
using a videoconferencing service such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
Alternatively, and this might
be especially helpful for couples looking at a longer engagement, couples could
work through the Smart Loving Engaged programme at their own pace. This
can be done purely online or with the support of a sponsor couple. Using the online
version does not preclude individual sessions with the priest or deacon who is
overseeing their preparation or indeed with another couple, whether remotely or
face-to-face once restrictions are lifted. Even if there is a short window
between the lifting of restrictions and the wedding it should be possible to
arrange a couple of face-to-face meetings, but by following an online course in
the meantime most of the necessary ground will have been covered. There is a
cost but it should not be prohibitive (the online only option is significantly
less than the other options). Couples can register for Smart Loving Engaged at https://smartloving.org/engaged/
(NB: this is an Australian site, so billing is in Australian Dollars!)
Needless to say, it will
still be necessary to satisfy the canonical and civil requirements, including
the requirement to give notice to the local registrar. At the time of writing
it is not possible to give notice but if a couple is hoping to go ahead with a
summer wedding they will need to contact the registry office at the earliest
opportunity if they haven’t done so yet and the urgency of this may need to be
impressed upon them.
Undoubtedly, whilst some
couples may relish the extra time together afforded by the present lockdown
restrictions, for some couples financial and other worries combined with being
stuck indoors may not be conducive to good marital relations. Indeed this time
may bring underlying tensions to the surface – which if handled in the right
way could even be beneficial in the long term. Whilst the media glibly suggests
the coronavirus may lead to either a baby boom or extra business for divorce
lawyers, we should be alert to the need for support so at least the latter can
You might therefore like to
publicise, or at least bear in mind for anyone who contacts you looking for
guidance, that Marriage Care are offering counselling via video
conferencing during the lockdown, and Relate also offer this service.
Couples experiencing stress
in their marriage might also benefit from working through the online Smart
Loving Breakthrough course at https://smartloving.org/breakthrough/
(this is currently offered at a 50% discount).
The particular emotional and
mental health needs of children should not be overlooked, and Brentwood
Catholic Children’s Society continues to provide vital support in these
areas. Information on the current arrangements can be found at https://www.bccs.org.uk/who-we-are/coronavirus-update
Those parishes which are
continuing to circulate a weekly newsletter in some form could include a
regular notice pointing to some of these services. Here is a suggested wording:
SUPPORTING MARRIED COUPLES: If you are
experiencing difficulties in your marriage, whether due to the additional
stresses cause by the coronavirus crisis or other reasons, help is available.
Marriage Care is currently offering remote counselling, or you might find the
Smart LovingBreakthrough course helpful. Visit marriagecare.org.uk or smartloving.org/breakthrough.
Please don’t leave it too late to get help
You might also consider
making use of the weekly Marriage Matters scripture reflections produced by www.twoinoneflesh.org.uk
Information from the Bishop about the proposed changes
Link to Shaping our Future Page
Other Links to.......
News from our Steward of the Gospel, Joseph Foroma
Brentwood Cathedral Website
Brentwood Catholic Children's Society