“My House will be a House of Prayer”

October is a special month for St Hilda’s.  In October 1904 the Bishop of Manchester dedicated the newly built church on Whittaker Lane to “the glory of God” and in the name of St Hilda of Whitby.

On the 20th of the month we will be celebrating the anniversary of this Dedication and will be offering prayers of Thanksgiving for 115 years of service in the community in Prestwich.

A church is just a building – the real strength of St Hilda’s is the community of the faithful – the hundreds, and perhaps thousands, who have come into this beautiful building during all those years to worship together in celebration of the Holy Mass.

This continues today as Holy Mass is celebrated every Sunday and on five other days every week.

However, the motto of St Hilda’s is “Faith and Fun” as we come together not only in prayer but also in Friendship in our wide range of social activities.

As we start a month that is scheduled to have a momentous conclusion for the whole country let us pray that those in power receive and act upon the Gift of Wisdom in all their decision making.

God Bless

“Lift High the Cross – the love of Christ proclaim”.

On September 14thwe hold the Feast of the Holy Cross.  A wooden cross – under the oppressive rule of the Romans this was a symbol of a cruel and humiliating death but which in Christian times has become for us a symbol of hope and redemption. 

How often do we see and use this sign?  We are baptized in it, we cross ourselves when we pray, we are blessed with the sign of the cross at Mass and as the priest in the sacrament of confession makes the sign of the cross so we are forgiven for our sins.

The Roman Emperor Constantine, preparing for battle at Milvian Bridge saw a vision of a cross in the sky with the words “In this sign you will conquer”.  He had a cross inscribed on the shields of his army and won a convincing victory. At his command Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire – in other words throughout the known world.

Constantine’s mother, Helena, already a devout Christian, discovered in Jerusalem the remains of the cross on which Jesus had been crucified, the True Cross.  The relics were shown to be genuine as a man’s leprosy was cured when he touched the wood.

We have the cross with us constantly; I have one over my bed and also at my front door and another on a chain around my neck.

Next time that we dip our finger in the Holy Water and trace the sign of the Passion of Jesus on our forehead, chest and shoulders let us take a moment to think about just what we are doing and why we are doing it

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. 

Fr. Croft 

“Glory be to Jesus, who in bitter pains, poured for me the life-blood from his sacred veins.”

July is the month in the Church’s year when we reflect on how Jesus shed his blood for us – allowing himself to suffer a cruel death to atone for all the sins of mankind.

We are now in High Summer, (though it seems difficult to believe with the recent weather), and so many are setting off on holidays. The temptation is, during this time away, to let our spiritual life become less of a priority but we should really make the effort to keep up our observance, to try to get to church at least once a week. We need that contact with the Lord just as much in foreign climes as when we are back home with friends and family at St Hilda’s.

We are so lucky to have such a successful and welcoming school as part of our community. The children will be counting the days to the end of term and the start of the long holiday. At St Hilda’s we look forward to sharing in the celebrations as we say goodbye and wish good luck to all those making the huge step into secondary school.

I wish you all well for the Summer – may the sun shine both in the sky and in our hearts.  This is the time when we take the chance to recharge our batteries as we store up the energy to help us face up to whatever September will bring.

God Bless

“O thou, most light so pure and blest, shine within the inmost breast”.

On Sunday 9thJune we celebrate the lovely Feast of Pentecost. This is the day when we celebrate the founding of the Church – when the Holy Spirit came down on the apostles and gave them the strength to go out and spread the Word.

I remember with nostalgia my younger days, when we walked in procession at Whitsun – if you were privileged you were given the honour of holding one of the ribbons attached to the banner.  This was for the well-behaved; naughty boys had to walk at the back!

I have wonderful memories of those processions; I can picture them still as we paraded through the streets led by Britannia. The city bedecked in yellow and green; the Bishop giving his blessing in the centre of Piccadilly.

I am sad that that so much of that pageantry has disappeared as it served as a reminder to us of the momentous event that occurred in that upper room so long ago.

So, let us all, each one of us, as we go forward into “flaming June” pray that the Holy Spirit will come down into our hearts and kindle in them the desire to serve others. One of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit is Wisdom; let us pray that we will be guided towards and helped to always follow the right path towards our final destination where St Peter will be waiting to welcome us.God Bless                               

Fr Croft

“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

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.

Fr Croft

“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

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

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.

Fr Croft

“February brings the rain, thaws the frozen lake again.”

This is the shortest month of the year but one in which daylight increases and we can save on our electricity bill for lighting.

Although it is still cold and the ground is hard, yet under the soil new life is stirring and as we move on into Spring the green shoots of new life will be bursting forth.

The season of Lent, the time of preparation for the greatest feast of all, Easter, is later than usual this year and so Ash Wednesday is not until March 1st.

This means that over the next few weeks the priest will be wearing, very appropriately for the season, green vestments.

As we witness this process of rebirth and regeneration we reflect on all that God has provided for us; we all experience times of sorrow and loneliness when we feel that we have nowhere to turn but if we put our trust in Jesus we know for certain that he will always be there to help us through from the darkness into the light.

Fr Croft

This is the month that “brings the snow and makes our feet and fingers glow!” I sincerely hope that this does not happen; snow looks lovely on a Christmas Card but it looks and feels different when I am tramping around Whittaker Lane.

My New Year’s wish for 2017 is twelve months of Peace and Racial Harmony and a prayer that more cures may be found for so many dreadful life-threatening ailments.

On 6thJanuary we hear the story of the three wise men who brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Christ Child. At first sight these seem unusual gifts to give a baby but we need to remember that they are symbols – they are gifts for all mankind and represent security and health, worship and a reminder that our time here is limited.

We have a responsibility to take care of ourselves, to give worship to God to thank him for all that he does for us but also to remember that one day our time on this earth will be over and that we must make sure that we are in a fit state to meet our Maker.

Fr Croft

We are now in the season of Advent; we are waiting for the day of celebration of the birth of our Saviour.

Christmas is the second most important festival in the church’s year after Easter. It is a time for fond memories and love. However in our materialistic age the celebration, the making merry and giving and receiving presents for many has obscured the real reason for the celebration – the birth of a child in a humble stable in the occupied territory of Bethlehem.

God so loved the world that he sent his only Son to be our Saviour – as we say the Creed together we affirm that He became truly man and who thirty-three later was to show the depths of His love by accepting to die to atone for our sins.

I hope that you will be able to come and join us at St Hilda’s for one of our services either on Christmas Night or in the morning to wish our Lord a Happy Birthday.

I wish you and your loved ones a happy and peaceful Christmas

Father Croft