The Chi Rho Movement at St C’s

A new movement for lay people is being planned and developed in the Church of England and beyond and we are delighted that St Chrysostom’s will be one of the pilot parishes to help pioneer this encouraging initiative.

The Chi Rho Movement is intended to be a friendly, supportive and inclusive movement with a spirit of Christian joy, welcome and hospitality, and a focus on  the Holy Eucharist, the Mass.

The movement has three principle threads.

Firstly, members encourage and support one another – through regular meetings with discussion, sharing food and praying together. Members are expected to attend all meetings (the exact number being 6 – 10 each year depending on the wishes of the local branch members.)

Secondly, members have a particular focus on the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. They commit to attend Mass regularly. They also plan to spend additional time in prayer with a focus on the Eucharist – say at a weekday Mass each week or month, or in silent prayer before the Reserved Sacrament or in another appropriate way. The name ‘Chi Rho’ comes from the first two Greek letters of Christ and reminds us the movement’s focus on Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thirdly, members agree to do some work of service to others. For example, assisting regularly in church pastoral work, or helping others in some other way. It is expected that members will commit to at least an hour a month of such work. If required local clergy will help members find suitable areas of service.

These three threads weave together in a simple Chi Rho Rule of Life which the member reviews each year as they renew their membership. A priest companion for the branch will help members form their Chi Rho Rule.

Some may wish to support the Chi Rho Movement but feel unable to commit fully to membership, they will be welcome as associate members.

A local church is encouraged to form its own branch. Individuals may join a branch if their own church does not have one. Branches will meet in regions for an annual meeting.

The movement is being initiated and guided by the Society of Catholic Priests (SCP) and will have an ethos similar to SCP albeit being a lay not a clergy group. Members will support the principles of the inclusive church movement.

At St Chrysostom’s we’re launching our branch on Easter Day 2020 at 5pm Benediction and we’re delighted that the Church Council unanimously supports the initiative. Indeed several Church Council members have said they are looking forward to finding out more and to joining. We’re hoping others will follow their lead!

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Spiritual Communion

Sometimes we are not able to be at Church to receive Holy Communion. There may be very good reasons for this. We may be travelling, ill, weather conditions may prevent us, or we may have another good reason for being unable to be there.

Spiritual CommunionWithin the practice of the Christian church is the sometimes overlooked ‘Spiritual Communion.’ Of course presence at Mass is a priority, for ourselves and in order for us to encourage others and to worship God together. For Christians unable to be present at Mass, because of their circumstances (infirmity, locality, unavailability of worship…) Spiritual Communion is encouraged. 

Spiritual Communion is a straightforward devotional practice for anyone. If you cannot physically be present at Mass you can pause, be still, and in imagination and prayer focus on the Mass and express ‘ardent desire’ to receive communion. It is good to take a little time doing this and the time could well include Bible reading (perhaps a Gospel reading), prayer and the Lord’s Prayer.

St Alphonsus Ligouri suggested this prayer be used at Spiritual Communion:

My Jesus, I believe that you are in the Blessed Sacrament. I love you above all things, and I long for you in my soul. Since I cannot now receive you sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. As though you have already come, I embrace you and unite myself entirely to you; never permit me to be separated from you. Amen.

St Teresa of Avila wrote that when you cannot be present at Mass “you can make a spiritual communion, which is a most beneficial practice; by it the love of God will be greatly impressed on you” And that great Patron Saint of Parish Priests, St Jean-Marie Vianney wrote “There are some who make a spiritual communion every day with blessed bread. If we are deprived of Sacramental Communion, let us replace it, as far as we can, by spiritual communion.

This, from a Roman Catholic website, is a helpful summary to making a Spiritual Communion:

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Valentine thoughts

Who was St Valentine? There’s some confusion about that but we can probably say he was a priest of that name martyred in Rome at the time of the Emperor Claudius. (3rd century)

This young priest was subversive and went against the “norms” of the day. In particular he officiated at “illegitimate” marriage ceremonies.

The Emperor thought that married men made poor soldiers and so “outlawed” the marriage of young people. Valentine, however, maintained that marriage was part of God’s plan and purpose for the world. He continued to conduct marriages in secret between young people, sometimes as young as twelve, in the name of love. He also aided persecuted Christians. (This comparatively young age of consent was the case in the UK until the early 20th Century)

This secret activity gained him notoriety and he was jailed and beheaded. However, he also fell in love with his warder’s daughter and on the day of his martyrdom passed on a note to her – “from your Valentine” – which some say started the tradition still observed.

Valentine’s courage in standing up for those on the margins of Roman Society inspires us. .

Marriage as “part of God’s plan and purpose” resonates particularly at this time when our Archbishops are publicly apologising for making crass statements with regard to heterosexual civil partnerships and same gender marriage.

“God is love” (I John 4:8) and none of us knows or experiences the full extent of that Love because it is so immense and wonderful – but, we all glimpse and know what that statement means. Valentine, in breaking the law and officiating at young people’s weddings allowed them to experience and glimpse something of that love. In gently challenging the law he showed courage and determination and is an example to us.

Our Christian faith asks that we do not close our minds and lock God’s Love up so that only the “worthy” can experience it. As an only child I have never experienced the love which exists between siblings – but I see and know that it exists. Marriage and partnership between two people is a public statement of a love and bond which can only be of God.

I feel that Valentine may have sparked a tradition between lovers In challenging unfair laws and conventions he would have something to say to our Church and Society today.

Like him may we seek out and stand up against law and convention which result in people not being able to be true to themselves and before God.

Action: Send an appreciative message or a Valentine on or around St Valentine’s Day (February 14th) to someone.

A Prayer: God of power and might, Thank you for the gift of Love his Valentine’s Day, and for all the people whose love shines in my life. Continue to fill my heart with Your love and let me share that love with the world this Valentine’s Day and always.  Amen.

Fr Chris

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Our Statement on Radical Inclusion

The Bishops of the Church of England recently made an untimely and insensitive statement about civil partnerships, sex, and same gender marriages. Since issuing it the bishops have apologised for the timing, whilst not withdrawing the statement itself. A small number have gone further and dissociated themselves from their statement.

There is an earlier comment on this here on our church blog.

St Chrysostom’s Church Council recently discussed the statement. Council members felt the statement was very insensitive, and extremely unhelpful, not least to the mission of the church and our church in particular.

Several in our congregation are in civil partnerships. We will not consider them in any way different from other worshippers, nor do way say how they should or should not express their love for one another. We felt that some bishops were agreeing to such statements, while saying something very different on a personal level to LGBT people in committed relationships. This, it was felt verged on hypocrisy and certainly greatly lowered the trust we can have in what bishops say. We felt the bishops would have been better being silent on the matter.

In the circumstances the Church Council felt it appropriate to be very clear of St Chrysostom’s Church’s view on this. The churchwardens proposed the following public statement, and the Council unanimously agreed to it:

“The Church Council of St Chrysostom’s, Manchester was very disappointed to read the recently published statement from the House of Bishops following the introduction of Civil Partnerships for heterosexual couples. We have, however, been encouraged to read some of the responses to that statement and in particular that issued by Southwark Cathedral. In response  the Church Council wishes to make this statement:

At St Chrysostom’s we have a long history of radical inclusion, faithful to the generous catholic tradition which we continue to share and celebrate today.  Within this tradition, we wish to  support and encourage couples who freely enter loving, faithful and committed relationships and who wish joyfully to celebrate their love for one another. We will continue to offer a generous pastoral and liturgical response to those who ask for the opportunity to come to church around the time of their Civil Partnership or Marriage.  We wish to state clearly and unequivocally that we believe that all are loved by God regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, ability or sexuality and it is our desire and hope that St Chrysostom’s will continue to shine a light of welcome and hope for all who feel excluded by the church.”

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Blessed Lincoln Wainwright

In 1933 ‘The Revd Clement Humilis M.A.’ published a Supplement to the Missal … in commemoration of the 39 Beati of the Anglican Communion. It is an oscure but none the less interesting work, albeit somewhat dated. The author chooses 39 men and women who were Anglicans and who give an inspiring example. Most were people of the nineteenth century, some were earlier.

‘Clement Humilis’ was the pseudonym of Fr James Tait Plowden-Wardlaw KC, Vicar of St Clement’s, Cambridge. (Whose name is surely worthy of adding to our list of Anglo Catholic clergy with unusual names – see here.)

Clement Humilis’ choice is a personal, yet educative one. In the coming months we’ll be sharing some of his choices here on our church blog on or near the date he suggests the person be commemorated. At the same time we hope reading of his choices will encourage us to reflect on who have inspired us in faith, and how we can be encouraged by their examples.

For February 6th Clement Humilis chose ‘Blessed Lincoln Wainwright’ about whom he writes:

Lincoln Stanhope Wainwright (1848 – 1929) was educated at Radley and Wadham College, Oxford, and was ordained in 1871. For a short time he was at St Peter’s Devizes, but in 1873 came as assistant priest to St Peter’s, London Docks, where he was to spend a lifetime of fifty six years, toiling for the poor and the outcast. He became vicar in 1884.

For forty five years he had no holiday, and throughout his whole ministry he held high the most lofty ideal of service and friendship to the poor, and of whole hearted devotion to God. In the dock strike in the early ‘eighties he refused to eat his daily dinner, because, as he said, hundreds of his people had to go dinnerless; and for forty years he went without, living on toast and tea for breakfast, lunch and tea, and only at supper partaking of a milk pudding. In February, 1929, “Dockland was washed with tears” because (in the words of a sympathetic writer) “this tiny but indomitable figure, toothless, shabby, untiring, spendthrift of love, would not serve them on earth any more.” He was devoted to the Blessed Sacrament, which was his daily power-house. This priest, so comparatively insignificant on earth, looms large in the eyes of heaven and the Church of England can give hearty thanks God’s gift to her of this saintly soul.”

It is well worth reading more about Fr Lincoln Wainwright. There is a memoir of him online here. And, more briefly, an excellent article from The Spectator about him by the Anglican spiritual writer and woman of prayer, Evelyn Underhill, is reproduced here.

As you read of Fr Lincoln Wainwright think of which parish clergy (‘comparatively insignificant on earth’) have inspired you by their faithfulness and dedication to ‘the poor and outcast.’ (You are welcome to share your thoughts by commenting here).

O Lord Jesus Christ, who chose your faithful servant Lincoln to fulfil a ministry of love and kindness among the poor and outcast; make us ever to remember that, inasmuch as we do service to one of the least, we do it to you….

(Collect from the Supplement to the Missal). 

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Bakhita: a shining advocate

Josephine Bakhita (feast day 8th February) was born around 1869 in Darfur, Western Sudan.  She came from a respectable and reasonably affluent loving family.  At the age of seven she was captured by slave traders and sold into slavery a number of times. Such was her trauma, she was unable to remember her name, and so she was named Bakhita meaning ‘the lucky one’.  She was forced to take on the Islamic faith.

As a slave, Bakhita was at the mercy of her owners, often beaten and whipped. As with many other slaves, she was marked with scars and tattooing, involving 114 patterns cut into her body and then filled with salt to ensure the scars were permanent. In 1882, Bakhita was bought by Callisto Legnani, the Italian Vice Consul, who treated her kindly.  When he returned to Italy, Josephine begged to go with him.  She was then given to Turina Michieli, who lived near Venice, spending 3 years as nanny to the Michieli’s daughter.  When Turina went to Sudan to her husband, Bakhita and her young charge were left in the care of the Canossian Sisters.  During this time she encountered the Christian faith and was instructed by the Sisters.  When the time came to go to Sudan with Turina, Bakhita refused to go.  With the assistance of the Sisters, and following a legal challenge in the Italian court, it was ruled that Bakhita had never legally been a slave, and was given her freedom.

Finally free, Bakhita chose to remain with the Canossian Sisters. On 9th January 1890 she was baptised Josephine Margaret Fortunata (Latin for Bakhita), and also confirmed. In 1893, She joined the novitiate and took her final vows in 1896.  Her ministry was characterized by gratitude and love for God.  She was a much loved Sister up until her death on 8th February 1947. At her canonization in 2000, Pope John Paul II said, “In St. Josephine Bakhita we find a shining advocate of genuine emancipation.” Josephine Bakhita is now remembered at the Patron Saint of victims of human trafficking.

Today slavery continues to blight our world, with an estimated 40.3 million people enslaved.

  • 136,000victims are estimated to be in the UK.
  • 6,993potential victims were found in the UK in 2018.
  • The numbers of children referred increased by 48%.
  • Of the victims referred, 2728 were female and 4261 were male; 3856 were adults and 3137 were minors.
  • Around 1,500 criminal investigations are currently live in the UK.

How can we help?

 Pray….

Learn more….. these two websites are a beginning to finding out more

https://www.theclewerinitiative.org/

https://www.unseenuk.org/

 Get involved…. we welcome volunteers for our work with survivors of trafficking at St Chrysostom’s, or contact an organisation near you wherever you are. 

Report…….   Modern Slavery Helpline – call on 08000 121 700 

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Patron Saint of Breast Cancer Patients

AgathaSt Agatha (feast day 5th February) has always been a popular saint among Christians. She was an early Christian saint and martyr. Agatha dedicated her life to God and resisted any men who wanted to marry her or have sex with her. A rich suitor – offended by her rejection – had her tortured to death, including having her breasts cut off.

 In the somewhat macabre fashion of saints being depicted showing the instruments of their death, Agatha is often portrayed carrying her amputated breasts on a plate. She is the patron saint of (amongst other things) bakers and bell-makers, possibly because her severed breasts were mistaken for or likened to loaves of bread and bells.

 More recently, she has been venerated as patron saint of breast cancer patients, and become a saintly companion to stand alongside modern celebrities such as Angelina Jolie, Kathy Bates, Sharon Osbourne and Christina Applegate who have experienced a double mastectomy, offering solidarity and reassurance to women facing radical breast surgery.

 Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK. Around 50,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, and around 12,000 women die of the disease each year.

Dr Bex Lewis, Senior Lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University, has written a very helpful and honest blog about her experiences with breast cancer. We recommend it.

Read more about the Breast Cancer campaign and how to be breast aware (remember it can affect men too) at http://www.breastcancercampaign.org/

(For another blog post on St Agatha click here)
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