Well done and congratulations to all the children and their families who were officially enrolled in the First Holy Communion programme last Sunday at the 11.15 am Mass. Let us please keep them in our prayers during this important journey of formation. Today (Sunday) I am in Rome for the canonisation of Cardinal John Henry Newman. Please do look out for reports on the TV, radio and social media. I promise to pray for the whole parish at the tomb of the apostle Peter. This weekend we welcome back Fr Johnson who has been on retreat in Ars, France. We also welcome Fr Tom Thomas who is helping with celebrating Masses while I am away.

Prayer by Pope Francis for October—Month of Mission
Heavenly Father, when your only begotten Son Jesus Christ rose from the dead, he commissioned his followers to ‘go and make disciples of all nations’ and you remind us that through baptism we are made sharers in the mission of the Church. Empower us by the gifts of the Holy Spirit to be courageous and zealous in bearing witness to the Gospel, so that the mission entrusted to the Church, which is still very far from completion, may find new and efficacious expressions that bring life and light to the world. Help us make it possible for all peoples to experience the saving love and mercy of Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever.

We are very much back into the full swing of autumn term. Today is your last chance to sign up for an appointment for secondary school transfer. Please bring the self-assessment with you to the meeting (if there were no forms left last time, please collect one this weekend from the shop or from the parish office during the week). Today there is a pastoral letter from the Cardinal on a number of events coming our way soon - not least the imminent canonisation. Today we will also hear the autumn talk from our CAFOD reps at Mass, as this coming Friday is Harvest Family Fast Day.

John Henry Newman was born in London in 1801. He was famous during his life as a theologian, a poet, as a convert to Catholicism, and later as a priest and cardinal. As a thinker and writer, he was ahead of his times and made an outstanding contribution to the life of the nation and the Church. He wrote on many aspects of intellectual life but is perhaps most well known for his work of the primacy of a conscience responsive to the truth, Christian doctrine, and on the mission of a university and the philosophy of education. His famous poem, 'The Dream of Gerontius' was set to music by Sir Edward Elgar in 1900. Newman was also much loved by the poor of Birmingham for his work among them as their priest and pastor. He died in 1890. In 2010, he was beatified in Birmingham by Pope Benedict XVI during the papal visit.
On Sunday 13 October, he will be canonised as a saint by Pope Francis during a Mass in St Peter's Square, Rome - the first English saint to be so proclaimed in almost 50 years. A delegation represening the British State will be led by the Prince of Wales, and many groups from Britain will be attending - hopefully including me! May he pray for us in heaven. DR

Today is Home Mission Sunday, and World Mission Sunday follows in a few weeks' time. We are taking a Mission collection for them both today. As those names suggest, the home mission involves the tasks of evangelisation and outreach in our own country. The appeal for the world missions goes to the work of 'Missio' which coordinates the missionary effort throughout the world and especially in developing countries, contributing to evangelisation,  healthcare, education and infrastructure. Today, the Church is growing to its full stature in the world. There are almost 1.3 billion Catholics alive today; there are approximately 5000 bishops, 414,000 priests, and 670,000 professed women religious . The Pope was in Africa last week where there are almost 200 million Catholics but not nearly enough priests to serve the growing churches. But even more important than numbers is the missionary character of our hearts. Whether we can give up our lives to preach the Gospel in far flung lands, or whether our apostolate lies in saying our prayers at home, we are all called to be missionaries who reach out in faith and hope for the common good of all our brothers and sisters.

I would like to repeat the words of welcome written here last weekend - welcome back to school, college and the new term, and welcome back to the parish if you have been away on your summer holidays. We all hope you had a brilliant summer.
Today is known as Education Sunday. This is a special day on which we are invited to reflect on the deeper truths about education and its profound spiritual and theological meaning. We know that education is a God-given right, which is one reason why the Church has always made it part of its primary mission to bring education to children all around the world. Education helps us to make sense of our own identity as children of God, created in his image and likeness, each with a unique calling. It helps equip us for our important mission in life, that of contributing to the building of a true civilisation of love, a civilisation in which each one of us, and together, strive to live the way that Christ shows us. Today we salute the many wonderful teachers, staff, governors, parents and children in our schools. We keep them and their work in our prayers. Perhaps we can also give thanks to God for the education we received ourselves, often given in love from our parents and families, and from all those whose care it was to teach us to pray and to live. God bless you all.

I hope that everyone enjoyed a good summer, whether you were 'home' or 'away'. As you know, I attended two ordinations at the end of July, and then I had holidays. Sadly, my grandmother died in August so I was pleased to be at home with my family and we celebrated her funeral in Northumberland last week. Please pray for the repose of her soul. 

Many thanks to Fr Andrew, Fr Johnson and Fr Michael Quaicoe for their ministry in the parish during August. Fr Michael will be saying some Masses this weekend, followed by some time at the cathedral before he returns to his studies. We wish him well. David Knight will resume his appointment with us at the weekends in two week's time. 

A special mention to all those who are starting or returning to school, college or university shortly. Please pray for all the pupils, students, parents, staff and governors as they return to their places of work or study. I would like to especially mention Mrs. Gillian Hood who joins our parish as the new head of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Primary School next door, and all young people who are starting at a new school or college. As we begin the new academic year, let us pray for and encourage each other.

In our Gospel this weekend, Our Lord is asked, “will there only be few saved?” Jesus doesn’t get into the numbers game but instead says simply, “Try your best to enter by the narrow door.”  The point about the door to heaven being narrow is not that it reduces the number who may enter but rather that it changes the way in which we may enter. To get through a narrow door we have to slow down, there’s no charging the gates of heaven, we must slow down and proceed with care, there’s a certain humility needed to enter through a narrow door.  And we may have to shed some baggage, shed attachments to the things of this life.  And to get through a narrow door we need to be slim, not physically slim, but spiritually slim.  In other words we need those disciplines of prayer and penance and charity that keep us in spiritual shape.   And then we may enter humbly through the narrow door and take our places at the feast in the kingdom of God.

By Manvarca - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

‘I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already!’

Sometimes Jesus can surprise us, even shock us in what he says.  In the Gospel this Sunday he does just that.  He says that he has come to bring fire to the earth, division and not peace.  So what happened to gentle Jesus, meek and mild?   Here’s the point, the fire that Jesus comes to bring to the earth, to our lives, is the fire of love for us which burns in his Sacred Heart.  Jesus is on fire with love for us and he wants us to burn with love for him.  To really love involves making a choice.  To really love Jesus means rejecting anything that gets in the way of that love and choosing him above everything.  This is the division that Jesus brings.  The Sacred Heart of Jesus on fire with love for us invites us to make a radical choice of love.

This Thursday we will celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  
The Assumption of Mary teaches us something very important about our lives as Christians.  Throughout her life, Mary united herself with the mission of Jesus her Son, including and especially in his suffering and death in which she shared with all the compassion of a mother. Because of this, at the end of her life, God ensured that she remained closely joined with her Son in heaven.  From heaven she continues to cooperate with her Son’s saving mission by praying for us.
We must imitate Mary, we must unite ourselves to Jesus, including and especially in pain and suffering.  We can make an offering of any suffering we experience, joining it with that of Jesus for the salvation of souls.  And because it is union with Christ in his saving death that brings about union with him in his resurrection, this is how we will follow where Mary has gone before us, to the eternal bliss of heaven.

The holiday season is very much upon us!  I have just returned from my summer break and now Fr David is off on his.  During August we welcome Fr Michael Quaicoe who is helping us out during his holidays from his studies in Rome.   Whether you are jetting off to somewhere exotic or just having a rest at home, it’s important to have a break.  Holidays are a great opportunity not just to rest our mind and body but also to refresh our souls.  When life is a little quieter we can rediscover simply how to take to delight in the Lord, to enjoy His presence, in the mass, in the tabernacle, in our prayer and in those we meet.  After all, when this life is over and all our plans and frantic activity are finally ended, there will be only one thing to delight in, only one thing to love and that is God.  Learning to delight in Him now helps to ensure that we will be able to enjoy His presence for ever.  Happy holidays!