Welcome to Saint Mary’s Church, Harborne, Birmingham, UK.

Order of St. Augustine.

Archdiocese of Birmingham

“Before all else, live together in harmony, being of one mind and one heart on the way to God.”  St. Augustine.

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                                       Fr. Bernard O’Connor’s Homily

                                           for Sunday 11th November

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On this Remembrance Day I want to reflect with you on the aftermath of the Second World War from 1945.

It was a time of great idealism, of world-wide determination that never again should such a catastrophe take place.

First of all was not to repeat the mistakes made after 1918, when there were such humiliating and debilitating conditions imposed on a defeated Germany that the conditions were created that would lead to World War II.


It seems to have been recognised that in modern war, given the level of death and destruction, there are no winners.


Immediately in 1945, the United Nations was formed, to provide a forum for international discussion and co-operation, debate of sensitive issues between nations that could be argued out in a debating chamber rather than following a course that would lead to violence.


The United Nations also has many subsidiary bodies, for example to co-ordinate famine relief, response to natural disasters, to provide a peace-keeping force where possible during threats of civil war, and various bodies to promote culture..


Of course, nothing in this life works perfectly and the United Nations will be as effective as we, its members allow it to be.  The Cuban crisis of the early 1960s was the nearest the world has come to nuclear conflict, the crisis concluding in the United Nations, providing a face-saving forum for the nations involved.


The United Nations produced the Declaration of Human Rights.  Even dictatorial states which violate human rights are still embarrassed to be confronted by this declaration.


Meanwhile in Europe, where both conflicts began and were fought out, the French Foreign Minister, Robert Schuman, proposed establishing the Coal and Steel Community, whose purpose was ‘to make future war not only unthinkable but materially impossible.’  He was joined by the nations of the European Western Continent in establishing a common market for coal and steel, so as to neutralise competition over resources, especially in the rich Ruhr valley on the borders of France and Germany.


This little community grew and developed in establishing co-operation among European nations, gradually increasing to 28 nations of today.  Not all are happy with the way it has developed, as we all know only too well – the pros and cons are not for discussion from this privileged forum.

But it is well always to remember the ideal vision of its founders.


At the same time, rather than inflicting crippling reparations on Germany, the Marshall Plan, inspired by the United States, was devised to enable the countries of mid-Europe rebuild their shattered world and re-establish themselves, which they have done so successfully.


The outcome of all the efforts has been over 70 years of peace in Western Europe - a priceless achievement



The operative word to-day is ‘Remember’.

Against the background of the idealism of the post-war years, there are ominous signs and sounds coming from different parts of the world. 

To-day’s world leaders were not involved in wars and need to be reminded.


There are trade wars between some of the major nations, trade wars that can hit where they hurt most, and that can escalate out of proportion.


There is the real problem of mass immigration, different from anything in the past by its very scale, people driven out of their homeland by extreme poverty, by oppression and corruption, seeing a better world on their televisions and prepared to risk everything to improve their lives for themselves and their families.


There are ominous noises coming from several countries of Europe.


Perhaps for many of our younger generation, war is distant history.  Stalin is quoted as saying ‘The death of one person is a tragedy.  The death of millions is a statistic.’  At this distance in time, war can seem remote, pictures on the screen.


We say ‘Remember’.  We see pictures or have witnessed for ourselves of vast acres of tombstones, each one of them a young man, each of them crying out ‘Remember what happened to me.  Make sure it does not happen  to you.’


We read their names on the local memorials, each one a son, a brother, a husband, a father, each with the same message to us all.


On Remembrance day we honour all those millions who died in two world wars.  We honour them best by doing everything we can to ensure that we and our young men, and increasingly young women, may never suffer their fate.  That has been the emphasis in all the ceremonies marking a hundred years since the end of world war I.


There was that remarkable moment yesterday when the leaders of France and Germany embraced one another in a human expression of reconciliation.

‘Never again; never again.’


I always quote on Remembrance Day two occasions that are particularly relevant, and deeply emotional.,


At the conclusion of the Service of Remembrance in Albert Hall last evening, a rain of innumerable poppies fell down as if from the heavens, landing uncomfortably on the smart uniforms and person of the assembled military below, each one of them seemingly the soul of a dead soldier saying to succeeding generation,

‘’Remember.  Do not forget.’




From the graves of the British soldiers buried after the battle of Kohima on the borders of India and Burma, buried thousands of miles from their home and country, there is their haunting epitaph that cries across the thousands of miles and the decades of time, saying

‘When you go home, tell them of us.

For your to-morrow we gave our to-day.’


Yes, Remember.

Do not forget;  do not dare forget.’

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