In nine decades the Salesian parish in Cowley has changed from being mainly English, Irish, Scots and Welsh to being a multi-cultural family of worshippers. Whilst our devotions and sacramental practice take up universal traditions, we ensure we respect and enjoy one another’s cultures, in our being fashioned as parish community. It is during Lent that we plan the Pentecost shared table which is our Feast to end Eastertide. We’ll cook and bring our foods, and we’ll share them, and sample them and discover what surprises us. As Pentecost was a Hebrew harvest festival, we gather in the harvest of our relatedness and our nurturing of one another - or should I say, “one and all.”
Lent is that precious season of holy preparation, of planting seeds for growth, of turning over the soil which identifies the ground of our faith. Lent fashions our vision of each other as people who gather and bond together as one faith community.
In parish life, to ‘make a good Lent’ we explore from Ash Wednesday onwards the three-fold practices of giving, fasting and praying, in a deeper and more committed fashion. The ancient tradition of following Jesus for his forty days and forty nights in the desert, invites the Image of Jesus’ renunciation and commitment to mark our commitment. To stamp or authenticate our choice for Christ, our desire to find Christ in one another.
A more contemporary spiritual language might prefer to say Lent is a pattern of conversion and transformation, and this is probably the image I explore when speaking on the scriptures of the Lenten weekdays, on their themes, and where these scriptures lead us. The weeks of the Lenten lectionary have profound teachings in them. The celebrant is called to bring those themes to life. I try to offer encouragement and stimulus that each of us in the parish might pray those Lenten readings. In order that we might allow God’s spirit touch our hearts and really inform our minds. It strikes me more and more with each Lent that I explore, that as a Salesian I’m to offer encouragement during this season. By responding to Lent encouragingly, I hope the beauty and poignancy of those Lenten scriptures, also the prayers within the mass, offer food for the Christian life. Lent expresses the paradox of nourishment rather than starvation. By turning over the soil of our lives, by almsgiving, fasting and prayer, the growth within me and you transforms us into persons who are life-giving to others. So Jesus transforms and shapes us.
The parish is led to Passiontide. The conversions of Lent lead us to view the reality of what we leave behind, and to return to Christ asking forgiveness. These are the days of Reconciliation, of faith in Christ alone to whom we can surrender our failings. “Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest.” Mt 11:28. In celebrating the sacrament of Reconciliation, we offer words of encouragement and hope which are God’s covenant and promise across time.
“Now, now, it is the Lord who speaks, come back to me with all your heart ... turn to the Lord again, for he is all tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in graciousness, and ready to relent.” Joel 2: 12-13.
Our choosing to be reconciled means that we are ready to gather in the parish for Holy Week. Reconciled by the compassion and love of the one who died for our sake.
Fr Graham Forristalle SDB
Assistant Parish Priest
Our Lady Help of Christians, Cowley
Fr Ángel on the Strenna
The holiness of everyday life
The heart of the Salesian spirit, which is our distinguishing feature as a charismatic Family, can be identified by the fact that it thinks of life in a positive way and sees it day by day as the place where we meet God.
This place is traversed by a rich network of relationships, work, joy, relaxation, family life, the development of one’s personal capabilities, giving, service, etc., all lived in the light of God. This is expressed in simple, practical terms in that very Salesian conviction that comes from Don Bosco himself: to be a saint you have to do well what you have to do.
It is the proposal of the holiness of everyday life. If Teresa of Avila found holiness among the dishes in a kitchen, and Francis de Sales shows that a Christian can live in the world amid life’s chores and preoccupations and be a saint, Don Bosco with the simplicity of joy, with the exact fulfilment to one’s duties, and with a life lived all for the love of God, creates with his boys at Valdocco a real school of holiness.
Holiness is the greatest gift that we can offer to the young, and – I add – nowadays adolescents, kids, and their families need the witness of our lives. And, as I have said, this simple holiness will be the most precious gift that we can offer them.
Matthew 6: 16-21
'When you are fasting, do not put on a gloomy look as the hypocrites do: they go about looking unsightly to let people know they are fasting. In truth I tell you, they have had their reward.
But when you fast, put scent on your head and wash your face, so that no one will know you are fasting except your Father who sees all that is done in secret; and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.
'Do not store up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moth and woodworm destroy them and thieves can break in and steal. But store up treasures for yourselves in heaven, where neither moth nor woodworm destroys them and thieves cannot break in and steal. For wherever your treasure is, there will your heart be too.'
We are all different, but we are all human,
and you gave your life for all of us.
You don't judge us by the way we look, or speak, or where we come from.
Bring us together as we think of your sacrifice.
Let us see your light in the people around us.
Guide us as we try to be the best of examples for young people.
Help us find the holiness in our everyday acts,
and to live our faith with others, in simple joy.