The St Alban’s and Oakwood congregations were delighted to welcome Fr John Martin back to the parish this weekend to say all three of the Masses. Fr John joked about finally being able to push Fr Paul off ‘the big chair’ – but Fr Paul was clearly delighted to watch the man he had mentored take the helm with such assurance and natural flair. It was fitting that August 4th would normally be the feast day of St John Vianney, the patron saint of priests. Fr John told us that he had chosen to dedicate his vocation to St John Vianney and the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the happy coincidence helped to remind us all of just how special and important a vocation to the priesthood truly is.
Fr John’s homily centred on the inter-connected messages of all three readings: Ecclesiastes’ famous “Vanity of vanities. All is vanity!” St Paul reminding the Colossians, “Let your thoughts be on heavenly things, not on the things that are on the earth;” and Jesus telling the parable of the rich and foolish man storing up treasures for himself here on earth rather than making himself rich in the sight of God. Fr John acknowledged that these are all hard readings to implement in one’s life, and it is all too easy to let the here and now take over from the greater vision of our future with Christ. Indeed, he commented that Jesus can sometimes be akin to that “difficult friend” – the one who insists on telling us harsh truths we would rather not hear, and who we retaliate against by banishing from our lives. Fr John told the modern parable of the rich man who takes his son on a trip to see the lives of the poor:
“One day, the father of a very wealthy family took his son on a trip to the country with the express purpose of showing him how poor people live.They spent a couple of days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family.
On their return from their trip, the father asked his son, “How was the trip?”
“It was great, Dad.”
“Did you see how poor people live?” the father asked.
“Oh yeah,” said the son.
“So, tell me, what did you learn from the trip?” asked the father.
The son answered:
“I saw that we have one dog and they had four.
We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end.
We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night.
Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon.
We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight.
We have servants who serve us, but they serve others.
We buy our food, but they grow theirs.
We have walls around our property to protect us, they have friends to protect them”
The boy’s father was speechless.
Then his son added, “Thanks Dad for showing me how poor we are.”
A thought-provoking story that says much about the importance of perspective.
Though this has been a weekend of wise words, it must be said that it has also been a weekend filled with cake! We truly have some excellent bakers among our parishioners and they pulled out all the stops for both the Social Evening after the 6.30pm Mass on Saturday and after the 5pm Mass at Oakwood. Without wanting to single out any particular delicious concoction – (though mention must be made of the tirimisu disguised as pot plants!), special thanks go to Susanna Aitchinson who decorated Fr John’s celebration cake in the style of a stained glass window, a truly fabulous work of cake-art.
Of course, we couldn’t let Fr John leave empty-handed – the Social Evening began with a presentation to him by Geoff Rowlands, our Parish Pastoral Council Chairman, of a beautiful stole, with hand-embroidered vine leaves and celtic cross (again, many thanks to Susanna Aitchinson) and a cheque for £600. After Mass at Oakwood, Fr John was given a bottle of champagne and a framed personalised prayer written in calligraphy style by Eileen Rees. The Oakwood congregation also received an individual prayer card that we all said during the prayers of intercession:
“O Lord, please hear my heartfelt
prayers for Father John Martin on
his ordination to the priesthood.
May he not turn away from the
Holy Spirit urging him to explore
this beautiful vocation.
May he take his roles within the
Church very seriously, and
May God bless him on his journey.
We offer our warmest thanks to Fr John for everything he has brought to the parish, it has been a privilege to be his ‘training ground’ for pastoral life. The congregations of St Alban’s Church and The Church on Oakwood, including our fellow Christians from the Morning Congregation, many of whom made the time to attend Mass tonight, pray that John will receive Christ’s guidance, peace and strength as he continues in his priestly vocation.
Some photographs of John’s weekend at St. Alban’s and Oakwood: