Dear Parishioners of Haverfordwest and Narberth,
For some the effect of Coronavirus has been minimal, while for others it has meant a huge amount of upheaval and big changes to daily life. Whichever end of the spectrum we are at though, not one of us has had a normal Easter season: we’ve all had to make adjustments, and each of us has had to get used to a ‘new normal’.
The same is true for clergy and parish life; things are quite different than they were before, and I don’t suppose they will ever go back exactly as they used to be, even when the ‘old normality’ returns. This time could be moment where with think about how the parish needs to change and how things can be both different and better. Maybe some of you already have a few thoughts about what we can do that is fresh and new. Please do share those thoughts with me.
Many of us will have developed a new daily routine. Speaking personally, my own timetable has adjusted in response to the changing circumstances. Many of you will be aware that Mass is now broadcast daily on YouTube and that, as Chaplain to Withybush Hospital, I’m making a daily visit every morning after Mass. I’m not carrying out my general ward rounds anymore, but I am visiting those who request me on both the green (COVID-free) and red (COVID-detected) wards. I have full access to protective equipment so, fret not, I’m keeping safe. It has been a privilege for me to see first-hand the great work that is being carried out in our hospital, and which is being replicated by many others in and around the communities of Pembrokeshire.
Since the start of our containment Fr Matt has not been living in the presbytery – he has temporarily moved to the parish of Tenby. This has the two-fold advantage that if one of us were to fall ill, the other wouldn’t have to self-isolate (thus reducing the clergy staffing in Pembrokeshire by two priests) and it also maintains a priestly presence in Tenby while their priest is away having suffered a bereavement just as the lockdown started. You might think that this would leave me on my own, but the parish currently has a seminarian too. Many of you know Greg Beckett from Hook who studies for the priesthood at Oscott College in Birmingham. When his college closed he was due to move into a parish in Swansea to continue his studies there. Unfortunately the priest of that parish became quite ill, almost certainly with COVID-19, albeit that it wasn’t clinically tested in those first few days of the outbreak. Given that we could accommodate Greg, he moved into Fountain Row and has been living with me since – and I’m pleased to say he’s been a great help. He very good at assisting in the liturgy and, for those who tune in on-line, you cannot have missed his excellent singing and flower arranging skills! He’s been attending lectures via video-link and has had to complete several papers and presentations recently. I really don’t envy him, and it just brings back to me the stresses of student life! His exams start next week with Biblical Greek, Moral Theology and something about the Gospel of John (give me a COVID ward any day!). Please do keep him in your prayers.
It’s a source of pride for all of us that our parish has been so welcoming to students. You may recall last year we had the deacon Rev. Robert Davies come and stay for a month. He was due to be ordained a priest this summer, but that has been postponed. I’m told a new date will be selected for the mid-autumn. Once arrangements have been confirmed I shall let you know the date – and I’ll run bus to the Cathedral so anyone from the parish who wishes can attend.
There are two topics I’m receiving lots of emails and ‘phone calls about. The first is the large number of comments saying thank you for the on-line broadcasts. If you aren’t already aware then you can see daily Mass on YouTube by using this web address: http://m.youtube.com/user/LIFBB Broadcast times are Mon-Friday at 9:00am, Saturday at 12 noon and Sunday morning at 10:00am. Also on Sunday evening at 6:30pm Evening Prayer (Vespers) is broadcast. On weekdays we generally have 50 to 60 families watching on-line and this rises to just over 200 on Sundays. As well as live content there are also some pre-recorded videos for you to watch at your leisure.
The other matter constantly raised is that of finances and several have enquired is the parish doing okay. I’m pleased to say that the parish has good resources and is doing just fine. Some of you have wished to make donation electronically in lieu of the weekly collection, for those who have taken this step then thank you. For those who wish to do this, I can provide you with the needed information if you desire it. However there is no pressure being put on you to give at this time when so many are in need themselves. Some of you may be keeping your envelopes at home. That’s fine, there’s no need to risk posting them to the parish; keep hold of them until all this is over. My primary concern is to make sure that all of us have enough resources to cope at home.
If there are those who are finding it difficult to cope financially, or need to speak with someone to help ease the loneliness, then the parish is here to help. Our SVP group does do, and is continuing to do, some great work. Only this week I had a ‘phone call from Social Services who were delighted with the way our parish has been supporting someone. If you need someone to speak to, or if you are finding yourself short of resources, then please contact Don Phillips on 01437 763711 or Gustavo Falco on 01834 861322. I’m delighted to say that through the SVP charity, and its members’ good work, there are those locally who are being supported in simple and practical ways.
One element of parish life, which is painful for us all, is that the Sacramental Life of the parish has been so badly curtailed. I cannot wait for the church to re-open so that the community can gather again to celebrate the Mass, Funerals, Weddings, Baptisms etc. There were due to be several weddings this summer, all of which have been postponed. We pray for the repose of the soul of Bryn Matthews and Renato Rabaiotti who have died, and for whom we shall gather to honour in the future. We think of those who were to be received in to the Church this Eastertide and are awaiting Baptism and Confirmation. This weekend just past should also have seen the parish celebrate the First Holy Communion Mass of children from Mary Immaculate School and from other schools is our parish. Yet, through all of this, the Church goes on and, as the famous hymn says, “the voice of prayer is never silent and rests not now by day or night.” Our God does not abandon us when we need him the most and he comes to us in our homes and our places of work when we call on his name.
I am not yet sure when our church will re-open, nor do I know how that will happen. What I do know is that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales is working with the government to get our church buildings open as soon as possible and when it is safe. It may be the case that social distancing requires a phased re-opening. This could mean no public worship initially, but only times for private prayer. It could mean that when the church does open, there might be a limit on the number who can attend. We shall have to wait and see and follow the advice which is to be given.
As we wait patiently for the advice to come and for our churches to open, it brings to mind the lives of Mary and the Apostles who gathered in the upper room. They waited there from the time of Christ’s Ascension to the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. During those nine days they were unsure of what was going to happen next, but they were full of hope and expectation of the coming of the Advocate. This Thursday is the Solemnity of the Ascension, and I’m going to propose that every person in the parish makes the most of the nine days from Thursday to Pentecost Sunday by praying together a novena of prayers. The Prayers can be said at any time of the day, but make sure you give yourself a little space to be calm and unhurried. We too are a people of hope and expectation, so be aware that many others will be saying the same prayers as us in their homes, and that we are all acting as one when we come together as brothers and sisters to praise the Lord. Don’t forget to pause at the end of the prayer, and to listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying to you, directly, in your heart.
I look forward to seeing you all again soon. In the mean time Greg, Fr Matt and myself will keep you very much in our hearts and in our prayers. Keep safe and take care and may you be richly blessed in these days.
Fr Liam Bradley VF
We start with the Sign of the Cross, and invite the Holy Spirit to guide us in prayer.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of thy faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth thy Spirit and they shall be created, and thou shalt renew the face of the earth.
O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, didst instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Spirit we may be always truly wise and ever rejoice in his consolation, through Christ, our Lord, Amen.
We pause for a moment of reflection and we bring to mind the different groups of people who make up the parish community: we consider the school and her pupils and staff; those who are engaged in any ministry such as readers and ministers of Holy Communion, some of whom visit the sick. We pray for those who undertake charitable roles such as in the work of the SVP, and for those who would normally come together in parish groups, but presently cannot; we remember epically the rosary group, the scripture group, the Friday lunch club and the over 50s. We treasure those who help the parish celebrate a worthy liturgy – the musicians, flower arrangers, altar servers and cleaners; we pray for the sick and housebound and those who are gravely ill and are dying. We spend a few moments giving thanks for those who care for them, the nurses, social workers, doctors, Paul Sartori staff and volunteers. For all those who are working on the front line in this time of pandemic including fire, police, transport workers etc.; we ask for God’s blessing on those who help administratively in the parish.
Day 1 – 22nd May: that we may value them more.
Day 2 – 23rd May: that they might be given the strength they need in times of trial.
Day 3 – 24th May: that more people may come to join their number.
Day 4 – 25th May: that we might see more clearly how we can contribute to the parish.
Day 5 – 26th May: that our parish may be a place of welcome to all people.
Day 6 – 27th May: that our parish may transform the lives of all in our neighbourhood.
Day 7 – 28th May: that our faith may be deepened so we have the courage to be evangelizers.
Day 8 – 29th May: that we may grow in personal holiness.
Day 9 – 30th May: that we may be open to a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
God our Father, bless the endeavors of our parish as we strive to know you more, and help us to make you more known in our homes, workplaces and schools. Let us never grow tired of doing what is right and let us be faithful witnesses to the Good News you have given us. In the face of adversity give us courage; in the face of rejection, patience; in times of worry, deep peace. Let us praise you in all things so as to find the happiness you desire for each of us. With your grace, let us perfect our virtues so as to grow in holiness. Inspire us with your saints and keep your angels at watch over us. Make us prudent and wise and let us come to know you, through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
We finish with the Lord’s Prayer, Hail Mary and Glory be.
A moral question – if a vaccine is developed for COVID-19 which will save thousands of lives, but which uses material from an aborted foetus in its manufacture, can Catholics use the vaccine or should they boycott it?
There are no formal guidelines from the Magisterium of the Catholic Church on this subject; it is a matter for the personal conscience of an individual when he or she has weighed up their personal circumstances against the actions required to make the vaccine.
However, while there is no definitive answer from our bishops, the Church is not silent on complex issues and she can (and does) have principles to evaluate such predicaments thereby giving some guidance.
Presently there are vaccines for illnesses, other than COVID-19, which are given routinely and which use material from aborted foetal cells. These include the vaccines for, Chickenpox, Rubella, Polio and Hepatitis A.
The material used in production for these vaccines was taken from two abortions which took place in the mid 1960s and early 1970s. Material taken from these abortions has continued to be cultivated in a laboratory since that time, and material from these cells is still being used in the manufacture of these vaccines today.
The Church teaches that it is always wrong to abort the life of a child. Anyone who cooperates directly in this action is guilty of a grave sin. Anyone who doesn’t act directly in procuring the abortion, but still intends this action to be carried out (for themselves or others), is also in a state of grave sin. This intention to want to support a sin, or to actually commit a sin (when you know the act is sinful) is called “formal cooperation”. Formal cooperation with sin is always wrong.
There maybe circumstances whereby a person doesn’t intend to share in the evil intention of a sin, but nevertheless does have some role to play in that sinful act. This is called “material cooperation”.
Material cooperation is wrong, but it must be noted there are additional factors to consider, which colour just how sinful material cooperation may be, and thus culpability may be lessened to a minimum.
One of these factors is our proximity to the sinful act. Another factor is whether or not there are any alternative behaviours which are more morally wholesome.
In the case of vaccines made from an abortion in the 1960s, our closeness to that act is very remote. Most of us had no say in what was happening back then and had no chance of influencing a decision made years ago, in another country, with a different legal jurisdiction.
We don’t condone the sin of abortion. Nevertheless, given that it has happened (and given that one doesn’t condone it) then a person is not formally cooperating with abortion when vaccines made with aborted human tissue are used. We may still be materially cooperating in that sin by using such vaccines, but it would be way of a passive material cooperation. This is not good, but there maybe mitigating factors which reduce our level of culpability to the extent that we can employ these vaccines if no alternative exists.
It must be stated that, if a vaccine can be used which has no ethical problems, then it should always be used as a preference. Our goal should always to develop medicines which have no need to contain aborted foetal tissue.
However, if such a vaccine doesn’t exist, then it is permissible, on a temporary basis, to use that vaccine for the good of saving lives. This is because it is a moral principle that there is no absolute duty to avoid passive material cooperation in sin, if there is a grave inconvenience to a current good.
If there is a good, proportional, reason to use such vaccines, in the face of dangerous illnesses, then vaccines made from aborted foetuses can be used. Where these vaccines are used, there is also an obligation to continue to look for better medicines which have no connection to abortions. i.e. we should also be seeking to end their temporary use by the employment of a better vaccine. Thus using vaccines made from abortions comes with a moral duty for us to put pressure on pharmaceutical companies and governments to want to make better drugs, with no evil connection.
At this time (as at all times) we should, as faithful Catholics, be making our objections to abortion known. We should also be putting pressure on government and healthcare providers to be looking for solutions which avoid the use of cells procured from abortions.
If a vaccine is produced from the current foetal cells, which can prevent us from the potentially fatal effects of COVID-19 then, so long as we continue to strive for better, the vaccine may be used by Catholics.
Whether to take the vaccine or not is a matter for each person to reflect upon, with his or her own conscience, as informed by the principles of the Church’s teaching.
The Pontifical Academy for Life is the part of the Church administration that deals with such issues. A letter from them, available on-line, might be helpful and gives more detail to what I’ve said. You can find the text here: https://www.immunize.org/talking-about-vaccines/vaticandocument.htm
More recently the Catholic Bioethics centre in the UK, the Anscombe Bioethics Centre at Oxford, has produced a document specifically relating to COVID-19. You can read it here: http://www.bioethics.org.uk/images/user/covidbriefing2.pdf
Here’s the Order of Service for Vespers of Sunday, Week 4 of Easter.