Fr Croft

July and August                                                                                                                                    

“Summer suns are glowing over land and seas,

Happy light is flowing bountiful and free”

The months of July and August are for most of us the happiest time of the year, particularly for schoolchildren. Exams are over; the prospect of six weeks holiday is on the horizon and hopefully the words of the hymn hold true as we enjoy a glorious summer.

I have fond memories of this part of my schooldays at Gorton Mount School as looking forward to the break we sang heartily “Forty Years On”. Well, those forty years have come and gone as I look back with nostalgia on those wonderful days whether at Scout Camp, at the cinema (on rainy days) or endless hours spent on Mellands Playing Fields; but not forgetting to make time to get to church on Sundays. I was no angel, often I was able to avoid paying at the cinema by slipping in through the fire exit and with pals we were often shouted at by irate neighbours when we rang bells and ran away.

These were innocent times; how society has changed!  The news of today is dominated by stories of fear, selfishness and greed. The church seems to have lost its appeal particularly with the “young in heart”.

However all this negativity obscures the good still being done by kind, decent people. We seldom hear of it as this behaviour does not sell newspapers but we must not despair, alone we can achieve little but together, united in the practice of our Faith we can hope for a brighter future.

Enjoy your summer holiday and look forward to a return, refreshed and invigorated, in September.

God bless.

June                                                  

“Jesus who gave himself for you, Upon the cross to die

Opens to you his Sacred Heart, Oh to that Heart draw nigh.”

We are in the month of the Sacred Heart, flaming June (though sometimes a misnomer in this country), the 21st is Midsummer’s Day.

If we look to the left in church we see the statue of Our Blessed Lord, with arms open wide in a gesture of welcome, showing us His Heart. The heart is the source of love; we give our heart to our partner as we receive the sacrament of matrimony; someone who is selfish and has no love for others is called “heartless”.

We share the devotion to the Sacred Heart with the Roman Catholic tradition – it became established in the 17th Century through a series of visions to St Margaret Mary in a convent in France.

As St Paul said, the most important quality in our lives is Love, without it all else is meaningless, just like the sound of a trumpet that is blaring tunelessly.

We are members of a society and we must follow the example of Jesus in caring for all those around us. We are so lucky in what we have – following the words of the song “count your blessings”. When we compare our blessings to all that is lacking in the lives of others it makes us aware of how much there is a need for unselfish love in our world, not only at the national level where we can do nothing, but in particular in our personal lives where we can have some effect.

I wish you all well for this month, may the sun shine on us all and let us try to bring some sunshine into the life of others.

MAY                                                                      

“Mother of Christ, Mother of Christ, I toss on a stormy sea

Oh lift thy child as a beacon light, to port where I fain would be

Then Mother of Christ, Mother of Christ, this I do ask of thee

When the voyage is o’er and I stand on the shore, do show Him at last to me.”

May is the month of Our Blessed Lady – Queen of the Angels and Queen of the May.

The promise of new life at Easter is now fulfilled as the gardens and meadows burst into bloom; trees are covered in blossom, a promise of the fruit that is to follow.

This is a month of joyous celebration. In keeping with the season we respond to the invitation in the Mass to “Lift up your hearts”

In May we have two of the major feasts in the Church calendar – the Ascension – as Jesus is taken up into heaven where one day we will all hopefully join Him and Pentecost – celebrating the dramatic event of the Holy Spirit appearing as tongues of fire giving the disciples the strength and courage to go forth and preach the Good News.

As members of the Christian Community we should continue this today, carrying the joyful Message to those in need – the sick, those in low spirits, those experiencing problems related to age and those whose faith is being shaken and who are plagued by doubts.

We do not worship Mary but seek her help when in need and follow her example in selfless concern for others.

Let us rejoice in the legacy of the Risen and Ascended Saviour. Our motto at St Hilda’s is “Faith and Fun” and this should be our watchword as we seek to do our best for all those around us but always with a smile, invoking the help of Our Blessed Mother under her title of “ Mary the Queen of Joy”.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

 

APRIL                   

“Oh to be in England now that April’s here”

This well known poem “Home-thoughts from abroad” expresses Robert Brownings nostalgic longing for his homeland and all that is happening there during the glorious season of Spring.

Spring is a time of rebirth as bulbs and seeds that have lain hidden within the earth during the harsh conditions of winter suddenly burst into life and reach up towards the sun.

New life appears among the animals as we see the lambs gambolling in the fields and newly born calves being protected by their proud mothers.

In the church we celebrate rebirth; Our Saviour had been tortured, killed and buried yet here on Easter Sunday we see Him triumph gloriously over death as he rises from the tomb.

Bells have been silent and flowers have not been seen during Lent yet now we come together in a glorious celebration with the gold vestments of the priest, the sound of the choir in full voice, and the church resplendent in a riot of colour of spring flowers. The stone has been rolled away; the message of the empty tomb is that Jesus is no longer there, He is among us!

In our praise we have inherited a word from the earliest days of the church. “Alleluia” is a word that comes from Hebrew meaning “Praise the Lord” and which is sung over and over again as we rejoice in the Resurrection of Our Saviour.

I wish you and your loved ones a happy and holy Easter

March

This is a turbulent month – it is said that “It comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb”

The varied moods of early spring reflect the restlessness and eagerness in our hearts as we emerge from the dark days of winter. It is a month of hope and expectancy and of a new life that is seen and heard in the song of the birds and the sight of lambs in the fields.

We see it as a time of renewal, of “Spring Cleaning”, of making a fresh start. This feeling should be transferred into our spiritual lives as we reflect on where we have gone wrong in the past and resolve to do better.

This is the month in which we celebrate the most significant events in the life of the church as we follow the story of the Passion from Palm Sunday on the 25th through the dramatic story on Maundy Thursday of The Last Supper and all that followed to the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus dying in agony on the Cross on Good Friday. The week then culminates in the glorious celebration of Easter Sunday when Our Saviour rose from the dead to give a meaning to all that we believe in the Christian Faith.

I extend my good wishes to you and your loved ones for a holy and happy Easter

Father Croft

February

“When the lights go on again, all over the world”

This song brings back memories of my childhood in the blacked-out days of the Blitz; making my way with the help of a small torch to cubs and then scouts in the Church Hall.

We are of course at the moment in the dark days of winter but there are signs of change as the days start to lengthen. We start the month of February with the Feast of Candlemas, celebrated on the 4th, when we hold up lighted candles to remind us how Jesus is the Light of the World and through whom darkness is overthrown.

I am reminded of the beautiful painting by Holman Hunt where Jesus is portrayed holding a lantern and knocking at a door. The door has no handle on the outside, it has to be opened from inside. It is choked with weeds and brambles – it has obviously not been opened for a long time.

He is bringing the Light to each one of us but before He can cross the threshold we have to invite Him in.

As we approach the season of Lent that starts with Ash Wednesday on 14th let us pray that when we hear that knock we open the door wide to let the Light flood in to give us the strength to overcome our despair and sorrows as we prepare for the glorious Feast of Easter.

 

January

“Another year is dawning. Dear Master let it be, on earth or else in heaven, another year for Thee”

I wish you all a very happy New Year; full of Peace and Joy. A year of good health for us all!

The aspect of January that is the least popular is its weather as it “brings the snow and makes our feet and fingers glow”. Hopefully 2018 will start mild to help keep our spirits high and heating bills low.

The month starts with the great feast of the Epiphany on 6th which we shall be celebrating in church on Sunday 7th.

Remember the symbolism of the gifts brought by the Wise Men – Gold for the King, Frankincense for His divinity and Myrrh which foreshadowed His suffering and death on the Cross.

Remember that we all have gifts, unique talents  to offer to Our Lord through helping those around us: family, friends and any one else we come into contact with. We have a duty to make use of our God-given talents to help improve in some way the world around us.

We are working on our Mission Plan at St Hilda’s to improve how we communicate with the world outside our little community. Each of us in our own small way can do something to make the world that we come into contact with a better place.

I pray that when we look back on 2018 we will be able to say in all honesty “We did our best”.

December

“Who is he in yonder stall, at whose feet the shepherds fall?   ‘Tis the Lord, the King of Glory.”

Christmas , next to Easter, is the most important festival of the Church’s year. We celebrate the birthday of Our Saviour in a festival of love and fond memories.

Alas in the materialistic world of 2017 the present giving and receiving along with the focus on just having a good time have obscured the true story of Christmas – the birth of a child in a stable in what was an occupied territory.

“God so loved the world that he sent His only Son to be our Saviour.”

We will bend the knee at this point in the Creed at our Mass on Christmas night as at all other Masses to acknowledge how God became man to atone for our sins.

I do hope that you will all find the time in your busy pre-Christmas schedule to go to your own church to join the celebrations.

Here at St Hilda’s our First Mass of Christmas is at 8pm on Christmas Eve and then on Christmas Day itself at 11.00am.

Come and wish the Christ Child a Happy Birthday!

However let us not forget that Christmas can be a very lonely time for the aged and housebound. Is there any way in which we can help to give them the Christmas that we would wish for ourselves?

My best wishes and blessings to you all for Christmas and the New Year.

November

“I remember You!” – a popular song of the 5o’s and 60’s by Frank Ifield

There is a lot more than the 5th to remember in the month of November!

November is the month of Remembrance. The 2nd November is All Souls’ Day when we remember in our prayers the souls of all those who have gone before but whom we still hold dear in our memories.

There is a list on the table at the back of church with the names of St Hilda’s “Faithful Departed”. Please add the names of anyone whom we have missed.

On the day itself there will be Requiem Masses at 11am and at 7pm.

The 11th November is Remembrance Day when we bring to mind the courageous sacrifice of all those who gave their lives for us in war. We, at St Hilda’s, will honour their memory at our service, a Requiem Mass on Sunday 12th at 10.55am.

We will be celebrating St Hilda’s Day on Sunday 19th with a High Mass at 4pm. Our school choir will be joining in our worship.

At this time of year the days are getting shorter and this earlier time will hopefully encourage friends from other churches to attend so that they can help us celebrate in church and afterwards with one of our famous buffets.

For those who prefer the morning there will be a Low Mass at 11am

 

October                                                            

“In the days of thanksgiving one psalm let us offer, for the saints who before us have found their reward ……….

…..These stones that have echoed their praises are holy, and dear is the ground where their feet have once trod.”

Here at St Hilda’s October is a very special month as on the 22nd we celebrate the anniversary of our Dedication.

On 18th October 1904 the Bishop of Manchester consecrated St Hilda’s Church and so in 2017 we shall be celebrating 113 years of God’s praise in Prestwich.

St Hilda’s has stood as a bastion of the Faith through all the years and we are continuing still to provide a place of Welcome and Worship.

A Dedication Festival reminds us of the debt that we owe to those who throughout the intervening years have helped to preserve this wonderful heritage. It is our duty to continue in this tradition.

St Hilda’s is a place where all the Sacraments are celebrated and is a Place of Welcome for anyone in our wider community.

I hope on Sunday 22nd October to celebrate a High Mass, with Father Mark Brackley preaching, to give thanks for all the blessings that we have received.

May St Hilda’s continue to be a Beacon of Light and Praise for many years to come and we pray that St Hilda of Whitby will look after our community, our congregation, our school children and all who live in our Parish.

September

Lift high the Cross, the love of Christ proclaim, ‘til all the world adores His Sacred Name.

September is one of my favourite months.

I came out of the RAF on 13th September 1950.

I went to St Aidan’s College on the Wirral in September 1961 and was ordained on 22nd September 1963 to a Parish in Wythenshawe dedicated to St Michael and All Angels. St Michael’s Feast Day is on 29th September.

I went to my first Living at St Ambrose Oldham on 21st September 1967 and came to St Hilda’s as Vicar on 30th September 1971 – the Feast of St Jerome.

For me 14th September is a very significant day – The Feast of The Holy Cross

The Cross is the symbol of our redemption and our hope.  We were all baptised in this sign and use it every time that we pray.  We bless ourselves with the sign of the cross each time that we enter or leave church and the priest blesses us in this sign as we attend Mass. Our sins are forgiven in the sign of the cross in the Sacrament of Confession.

The Roman Emperor Constantine had a vision of a Cross in the sky before a great battle with the message “In this sign you shall conquer”. His soldiers put crosses on their shields, they won the battle and Constantine converted to Christianity and with him the Roman Empire.

Constantine’s mother Helena discovered what she believed to be fragments of the True Cross on which Jesus died. The miraculous cure of a leper who touched the fragments convinced everyone that the relics were genuine.

This symbol of Jesus’ triumph over death is at the heart of our Faith and I am proud to have a crucifix over my bed and also around my neck.

I hope that you all have at least one crucifix in your home which reminds you, each time that you look at it, of the sufferings and death of Our Saviour who endured it all for our salvation

July and August

“ Hot July brings thunder –showers, Apricots and Gilly Flowers,

August then brings sheaves of corn, and the harvest home is borne.”

I do hope that these summer months really are warm and beautiful.

July sees the end of the school year with many young people experiencing a huge change in their lives as some move from Primary into Secondary School and others take the huge step of launching themselves into the world of work or heading off to further studies at university.

August is the month for holidays, a time for rest and relaxation, recharging our batteries to help us cope with whatever the year ahead might bring.

Each day of the year has its own saint. Certain individuals are proclaimed as saints because in their lives they portrayed qualities that serve as an example for us if we wish to follow them into heaven.

Why don’t we on occasions look to see who the saint of the day is and reflect on the qualities that we should emulate?

July 11th – St Benedict, July 22nd – St Mary Magdalene………..

In many countries as well as celebrating birthdays, cards are also sent on Saints’ Days. Do you know when your Saint’s Day is?

A very significant day during the holiday is 15th August when we celebrate the Assumption of Our Blessed Lady.

Please make the effort to keep up your church attendance while you are on holiday and remember that I shall be thinking of you all and praying for your intentions as I celebrate Holy Mass each day.

God Bless

 

 

June

The flaming month of June opens with the glorious feast of Pentecost on Sunday 4th. This is the day which we celebrate as the launch of the Christian Church; when Mary and the disciples were cowering in a locked room in fear and trembling because of threats from the Jewish authorities.

The Holy Spirit descended upon them, appearing as tongues of flame hovering over their heads, and gave them the strength and courage to open the door, to go out into the streets and to proclaim the Good News to the whole world.

How the celebration of Pentecost (or Whitsuntide) in our city has changed over time! When I was a boy we really looked forward to processing through the streets in our Sunday best in the Whit Walks. How proud we were if we were given the privilege of holding a ribbon attached to the church banner.

The Walks, both the Roman Catholic and the Anglican were the highlight of the holiday weekend.

What a shame that the dwindling numbers have led to the processions being cut back. It should be an opportunity for us all to make a public affirmation of our Faith.

As we head towards the longest day of the year and hopefully plenty of good weather I wish you all a Holy and happy Whitsuntide and may the Holy Spirit bring you the strength and courage to stand up for your Faith if ever it is challenged.

God Bless

 

 

May

“The happy birds Te Deum sing, ‘tis Mary’s month of May”

In this month the world around is bursting into new life, the trees are starting to put on their finery, new-born lambs are seen in the fields, and we honour the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Our Saviour.

There are many churches throughout Manchester dedicated to Mary, among them our Cathedral and closer to home our mother church of St Mary the Virgin in Prestwich.

What an example is set by Mary! Her unquestioning acceptance of the news that came as a bolt from the blue that she was to be the mother of God, her constant support for her Son during his childhood and as a young adult and then the unbearable agony of witnessing his trial, torture and final humiliation on the cross.

We have now celebrated the glorious event of the Resurrection of Jesus and now in the season of Eastertide we are following the story of the final stages of Jesus’ ministry on earth: the meeting on the road to Emmaus, the miraculous draught of fishes, the breakfast at the lakeside, Thomas’ scepticism followed by his glorious affirmation “My Lord and my God” and then the Ascension.

. The message throughout is one of hope and love. Although the earthly ministry came to an end with the Ascension the ministry continued and does so to this day through the intercession of the Holy Spirit

 

April

Snowdrops, crocuses and daffodils are appearing; the days are getting longer; bird song is all around us. Spring is here!

Our world is coming out of a long, cold and dark winter and our spirits are lifted with the promise all around us of a New Life.

Our Easter season starts at the lowest of points with Jesus, who was completely free of all guilt, being nailed to a cross, dying in torment and being sealed in a tomb.

For many this was the end of all hope but imagine the disciples’ amazement when on arriving at the tomb on the Sunday morning they found that the body was no longer there!

It was not long before they realised that the prophecies were being fulfilled and that He had risen from the dead and was once more alive and amongst them.

How they must have all felt on learning the news; Mary in the garden, the apostles, including Thomas, in the upper room.

They realised the truth that we all acknowledge, that Jesus is with us forever and we are never alone in trying to cope with the trials of everyday life.

We should not try to live solely by our own wits but must take the hand of Him who will guide us on the right path.

Easter is the greatest festival in the Church’s year; this is a time when we realise that our faith is one of hope; despite all the gloom and despair that we experience, we can hope and trust in our future united with Jesus and our loved ones in Heaven

March

Fr Croft

“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights”.

We commemorate this incident from St Matthew’s Gospel each year in the forty days and forty nights of Lent; the period of renewal and preparation which leads up to the great feast of Easter.

This year the first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday, is on March 1st. This day takes us in to the long haul towards the celebration of the Resurrection.

Like all periods of waiting Lent can either fly by or be a long slow drag.

We should use this time as a period of reflection, to examine exactly where we are in our Spiritual Journey and by means of a personal resolution give ourselves a helping hand on the way.

In the past we used to focus on giving something up, I wonder whether takings in the pubs decreased during Lent, or sales of chocolate dipped.

This is very good practice but perhaps an alternative might be to do something extra for Lent; possibly a special good deed. Does that older person need a little extra company as a relief from loneliness? Should I put a bit extra into the Porch Box collection?

Let us pray together that through our Lenten Observance we arrive at the glorious celebration of the Resurrection strengthened in our resolve to follow Jesus.

 

We begin the month of November with the beautiful festival of All Saints: on this day we acknowledge all the good people who are now in heaven but who don’t have their own Feast Day.

The following day is All Souls when we remember all our loved ones, friends and family, who have passed away. I consider it a privilege to read out all the names at one of the Requiem Masses held on that day.

On Sunday 13th, the nearest Sunday to the 11th November, we commemorate all those who have given their lives in the two world wars and in the many conflicts since. We wear our poppies with pride!

We celebrate the Feast of our Patroness, St Hilda of Whitby, on Thursday 17th November. Hilda was a towering figure in the history of the church in these islands, ruling a Community of monks and nuns and presiding over the Synod of Whitby when the disagreement between the Celtic and Roman churches over the date of Easter was resolved.

On Sunday 27th we start a new church year with the First Sunday of Advent. A time for New Year resolutions!

November is a dark month but which is brightened with the treats of Bonfire Night celebrations (particularly treacle toffee). However we must not lose sight of the fact that Jesus, the Light of the World, will always be there to guide us safely through the darkest times.