Happy Easter to everyone, it was a great relief to finally close the Easter ceremonies at church yesterday morning after 4 straight days of prayer, meditation and thanksgiving. It has been a wonderful weekend of joy and celebration and most importantly of reflection. I’m greatful that I shared it with my wonderful family and my God children. As it says in the Psalm, “The stone that was rejected has become the cornerstone, let it be so, Amen”
As a Altar Server/ master of ceremonies I have served my Parish for nearly 24 years, I have celebrated Masses with Bishops and curates alike. It is very different now than it was 20 years ago, most servers at my parish then were from the scouts, I never joined the scouts, it was something that never really interested or appealed to me, although looking onwards in my future endeavours it might have put me in good stead. I volunteered to become a server, I was 10 years old, the first mass I ever served was on Christmas Day 1995, It is a experience that I still remember to this day. In 1997 sadly the Scouts were dissolved in the Parish.
Altar Servers have existed in my Parish since the current church was completed in September 1905, 3 of them served in the Great War and thankfully came home, however many of the Parishoners, one of them notably a Irish Immigrant called John Glynn, was killed on the opening day of the Somme in July 1916, his body was never recovered and his wife, because she couldnt read or write, asked the Parish Priest at the time, Canon John Hill to write a letter to the officer of which John was under command to find out his whereabouts. A copy of that letter was put on display in the town hall to mark the centenary. It was not until March 1917 when the Germans retreated to the Hindenburg Line when John Glynn was officially noted as missing presumed dead. His decendants still place a poppy cross on the War memorial in church every year in November with reverence. His name is alongside 72,000 others on the Thiepval memorial to the missing.
The Archconfraternity of St Stephen as it is called is celebrated on December 26th, with a Mass dedicated to the First (Proto) Martyr of the Christian faith, Stephen. He is the patron saint for Altar Servers across the world. His martyrdom is documented in the Acts of the Apostles, and led to the conversion of St Paul on the road to Damascus.
Young Servers usually have to serve a full liturgical year on the Altar to become a member of this elite group of people, of which they learn how and understand why mass is celebrated in the way it is. First and foremost servers are there to assist the Priest on the Altar and to help him complete the sacred mystery of the Holy Eucharist. Secondly we are also there to assist the congregation by our actions and our responses of prayer. On the completion of a full liturgical year they are enrolled on the following Boxing Day and recieve the medal of St Stephen as a symbol of completion of their apprenticeship. Every Boxing Day since 1996 I have gone to Mass to renew the vows I made. I said I would do 10 years, its nearly 24 now.
I have been asked on many occasions why I still go to Church, why I celebrate something that mankind now feels at liberty to challenge with the assistance of modern science. My feelings on that particular front is to keep ones belief to oneself and only to be open whenever I am asked, although sometimes you are asked questions that even you are unable to answer yourself. It is now more easier and accessible than ever before to question God and his teachings as a means of sustaining yourself spiritually.
I probably seem very backward to a majority of people in today’s society, and many times I have been ridiculed and looked down upon because of my faith and beliefs. It gets harder and harder every year, I am witnessing the progressive and slow decline of the largest institution of western Europe. I see more and more the empty spaces in the pews as the years have gone by. I feel also that the Catholic Church has to adapt even more and has a moral obligation to relate more to the attitudes of the modern 21st Century, in order to keep alive. However their are elements of the Institution that need to remain and must continue to be sustained, it is what separates it from everything else. The media rightly showed and highlighted the deplorable actions of certain members of the Clergy in Ireland, Spain and in America, which rightly gave a great deal of negativity, not only in my faith but other Christian faiths in general also. It also adds fuel to the Media’s fire to slowly destroy peoples perception of what having a religion actually is, that having a religion is no longer acceptable in the 21st century.
Having Faith in something that happened 2 millenia ago is a greater challenge than it has ever been before. I must admit there have been many occasions where personally out of hate and resentment towards the Churches teaching, I have wanted to throw my medal away and question the point of having faith and beliefs. But that inner voice in my head continues to tell me to stick to it and not to give it up. No one ever said that faith is a walk in the park, it is more like a walk on a pavement with shattered glass with no shoes on, you will get cut but you still keep moving forward.
The Lenten season has come with great blessings for me personally, qualifying and being enrolled to University at Wolverhampton in October has brought so much to look forward to later this year and I am looking forward to finally achieving my potential. I owe it to myself to achieve and complete something that I have been destined to do all my life. Given the opportunity and the chance, I’m determined this time not to fail.
Now I look forward to visiting France in June with Father, Im starting my preparations for the trip to Verdun in earnest, hopefully with a little trip towards the Aisne and the Chemin de Dames if possible. But it is time to further understand a battle that did more damage to a Nation than ever before, the scars still being unable to heal, even to this day, a battle that gave a nation psychological trauma, with greater consequences 20 years later in 1940.
And the Earth Abideth Forever