Thursday 13 June 2024

Extraordinary Time

It seems as though we have been riding on an extraordinary wave of liturgical drama for a few months now. We have followed Our Lord through his Passion, Death, and Resurrection with Holy Week. We have looked up as he goes to prepare a place for us at his Ascension. And Pentecost then found us praying with Mary, his Mother, and the Apostles as the Holy Spirit descended and we were sent forth once more, on fire with the love of God to proclaim the Good News to all peoples. But the fun did not end there! We had the joy, which is ours year after year, to prepare for, and celebrate, the great feast of Our Holy Father Saint Philip ‘choicest of priests’ and then to return to the source and summit of our Christian life with the feast of Corpus Christi and the splendid procession of the Blessed Sacrament through the heart of our city. A few days after we had the glorious feast of the Sacred Heart — that annual reminder that God really does love us, and to commit ourselves again to try each day to love him back. In our parish we have had the baptism and reception of a good number of converts just last Saturday, our second ‘batch’ this year, and with more to come. Looking ahead there is still the feast of St Aloysius, as well as First Holy Communions. But just for now we find ourselves in the not-very-inspiringly-named Ordinary Time: the feasts are memory, albeit living ones, and the future awaits, but it seems just for now we are all of a sudden ‘back to normal’, whatever normal is.

In our city and university too change is afoot. The streets filled no longer with nervous-looking students wearing white carnations and hurriedly reading their notes before heading into their first exams. Now rather, there are only a few red carnations to be seen of the unlucky few who have to wait until the very end of term before the glorious freedom which comes with the much-anticipated final visit to Exam Schools. Now the roads are full of parents dutifully packing away the belongings of those who will always be children for them as the full expanse of summer stretches before us. The students will soon be replaced by the hoards of tourists who come from all over the world to look at their telephone screens in different locations, and so Oxford summer begins…

For us, as Christians, there is really very little in our life that is humdrum and ordinary. Every day is filled with the miracle of God’s grace at work in the sacraments and every time we lift our mind and heart to him in prayer. Every day is filled with nigh-on hundreds of opportunities to learn from the school of God’s love and then for us to be the instruments of his love to all those we meet each and every day. There are opportunities so often for charity, for gratitude, for simple kindness and consideration — as well as the times and moments which test us and help us to become saints, to be people who are patient, and pure, and compassionate, and all those things in which we seek to imitate Christ.

Here at the Oratory each and everyday is filled with the extraordinary — even when the vestments are green. There are the hundreds of people who come each week to receive the miracle of God’s mercy in the confessional. Three times, often more, each day, God himself comes down from Heaven as the Mass is celebrated — so truly, wonderfully, totally amongst us, and thence to feed hundreds with the Bread of Life in Communion. There he dwells, Love awaiting love, in the tabernacle as each day so many people come to him in our open church (7am-7pm each day) seeking consolation, blessings for themselves and for others, or simply to be with him, knowing he IS there. Children and converts are instructed and so the Good News takes root in hearts made new by the hearing of the Word, minds and hearts are nourished with the Truths of the Faith and go out, to our city and beyond with the joy of the Gospel in the School of St Philip to bid others, ‘Come and See’.

So you see, there is never a time that is ordinary for Catholics. It is often repeated (and rightly so because it is true) that we do not pray so much for miracles but for the grace to have the eyes to see them when they come. And here they are, here for each one of us, just waiting for us to see them and experience them and from thence to live each day in the supernatural life and love of God, in whose service all are kings.