Fr Rowland - March 2013

posted 2 Apr 2013, 01:46 by Richard Jones   [ updated 2 Apr 2013, 01:46 ]

My dear friends,

What a lovely feeling it is to know that this will be my last magazine letter that I have to write which I have done for the last 18 months. It is good to be able to hand over the job to Sue as she becomes your new Parish Priest from March 12th. 

This month leads us through Lent and the Passion to Easter, but, there are some very important dates on the way, and I would like to devote my letter to one of them namely March 17th the FEAST of ST PATRICK. a favourite of mine. (one of many) and maybe a saint with a message for Sue and her ministry with you. 

`Jesus said, See I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of the wolves; so be as wise as serpents and innocent as doves.` MATTHEW 10 : 16 

St Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, yet he was born in England. Many of the lives of the old saints come from all sorts of legends some believable some less so. Patricks `Confessions` and `The Letter to Coroticus` are unique in the history of the early Celtic church. They tell in his own words the history of his life as a missionary. He was born somewhere in western England in the fourth century AD, in a Christian family and when about seventeen was kidnapped by slave-traders and taken to Ireland and sold as a cattle-hand. Yet he loved his rough Irish masters, and longed to share with them the Christian faith that he had learnt at home, and of which they knew nothing.

Patrick escaped from Ireland to France where he trained for the priesthood and was ordained. He then took the courageous step to travel back to Ireland as a missionary. There he suffered much opposition, and felt that he was sent by Christ `like a sheep into the midst of wolves.` Patrick wasnt stupid, he knew exactly what he was up against. But he refused to use trickery to gain his own way, and slowly but surely he won supporters with his charm. Christian missionaries often have to be `wise as serpents and harmless as doves`. 

There are some countries today where Christians receive violent opposition for their faith. In most of these, the overseas missionary is not involved in direct evangelism, but in supporting the local Christians in more practical ways, in medicine, agriculture, education and new technology. Any Christian who leaves his or her home to help the Church in another country is a missionary. Jesus knew all about the dangers when a single wolf enters a flock of sheep, so there was a striking ironic humour in his warning that his followers were to go out like a single sheep into a flock of wolves! 

Most of us will never meet violent persecution for our faith; we are more likely to be, dismissed as irrelevant to modern life, and mocked openly or behind our backs for our stupidity in sticking to such an old -fashioned set of beliefs. We must not underestimate the strength of this opposition that is about us today; we must be as wise as serpents. Yet we are still called to be missionaries. 

It is all too easy to shrink into a purely private faith, which we never mention in public so as to avoid being made fun of. Jesus will not allow us to do this, but sends each one of us out as sheep among wolves to bear witness to our faith, and to share the love of God with those who may never have heard that God love them. Yet we shall fail if we become aggressive, nobody wins converts that way; we have to win people by our gentleness and charm, as Patrick did in Ireland.

 May I take this opportunity to wish Gods blessing on Sue as she begins her ministry in the United Benefice of Mellor, Balderstone and Samlesbury and also to wish everyone a Happy and Blessed Easter. 

Fr Roland.