March’s Parish Letter

As Ian Friars said last month, Easter Sunday is early this year, so we are already a couple of weeks into Lent. There are signs of spring around us but winter is not over yet. Lent is like winter for Christians, a period of fasting, prayer and almsgiving: it is not intended to be easy but it can also give us time to reflect about anything that doesn’t feel quite right in our lives. Things that worry us on a day-to-day level; things we may feel we should be doing more of, or possibly less of; things that hurt, so that we don’t want to think about them too much because they make us feel uncomfortable and we don’t know whether or how they can be put right.  

Lent can provide opportunities to see if we can find a way to heal some of them. For example, even though we may not be able to apologise for something in person we can say to ourselves: ‘I’m really sorry to have said or done this and will do my best never to say or do anything like it again’. Or perhaps: ‘This is not my burden to carry, I shouldn’t feel bad if I can’t fix it’. It’s a kind of ‘spiritual spring-cleaning’ exercise, and you certainly don’t need to be Christian, or of any faith at all, to find it can be helpful.

But the hardest time of all for Christians is Holy Week at the end of Lent as we follow Jesus through the final days of his earthly life. Starting with Palm/Passion Sunday the mood becomes increasingly sombre. On Maundy Thursday we remember the Last Supper, the final meal Jesus took with his disciples, when he shared bread and wine and said ‘… take…eat…drink.’ Then comes Good Friday, with its story of the mounting abuse Jesus suffered before his agonising crucifixion and death. Holy Saturday is the ‘empty day’: Jesus is dead and buried, his followers have run away or hidden (probably fearing the knock on the door and their turn to be arrested) and churches reflect this – no flowers, no bells, no music, in some traditions all statues, altars, crosses etc. are concealed, above all no services of Holy Communion. It is a slow day of grief and mourning.

And then, on Easter Day the worst of times becomes the best of times as we celebrate the Resurrection – bonfires and candles blaze, there are bells and organs and glorious hymns. Jesus who was dead is risen … ‘We are an Easter People and Alleluia is our song!’

Priscilla Barlow


Roman Catholic Diocesan Commission for Dialogue and Unity