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 15th September

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The Prodigal Son.

Luke 15: 1-32.

Jesus tells us three stories in his inimitable style, the message he conveys by all three is the joy of God at the repentance of even one sinner.

That leaves some questions in our minds as we absorb the essential message, namely, What about the rest of us?  None of us would regard ourselves as saints but neither as great sinners.  We do our limited best to lead a decent Christian life.  Are we just taken for granted?

The story of the lost sheep helps.  The shepherd satisfies himself that the main flock are safe and secure, and only then notices that one is missing.  But only then does he go in search of it.

A recent autobiography by a Lake District shepherd tells us what a very real story this is.  He tells how after a heavy fall of snow, he gathers his flock into a safe place together.  Then he notices that one is missing – and he knows which one.

He gets on his 4x4 and at some risk to himself drives through the snow until he finds the lost sheep sheltered in a ditch.  Rather than cradling it on his shoulders, he flings it into the back of the 4x4 and drives it to safety.

No doubt he will later describe the whole adventure to his family – the rescue of the lost sheep making a better story than the other one story than the safety of the 99.  He could not afford to lose even one of his sheep, so it is quite a joy have rescued the one who was lost.

Likewise in the story of the Prodigal Son, we can sympathise with the anger of the older brother, as he hears the partying from the house and is told what has happened and how the calf they had been carefully fattening had been slaughtered for the occasion.

But his father assures him that everything is his.  Nothing has been taken from his rights or his property.  But he must try to understand the father’s joy at how wayward son had been lost and is found, was dead to the family but has come back to life.

It is also worth remarking that there seemed to be a trace of envy in the older brother’s attitude, that the younger one had had a hectic social life while he slaved on the farm.

A hectic social life in deed the younger brother had – he had lots of money and lots of friends to help him spend it, and when the money had finally disappeared, so had the circle of friends.


The nearest to friendship was the offer to share their food with the  pigs as he looked after them – sharing  with pigs would have been the lowest of the low for a Jew.

So his final condition was anything but enviable, and he finally staggered home in a pitiable condition.

Incidental to the story of the Prodigal Son is the notion of ‘having a good time’, which is regarded as so desirable by many who have ample leisure time, especially at long weekends.

The example of St Augustine is relevant here.  He was 33 years of age before asking for baptism.  Until then he had tried all sorts of philosophies and had lived a hectic social life.  He very much aimed to have a good time. 

But it is clear from his Confessions that it was a time of inner conflict, realising that the current philosophy and his way of life was not filling that inner vacuum, that search for meaning and truth in his life.

It was only when he found God, and the truth in God, when he managed to accept the implications of the way of God for his way of life, that he began to find inner peace.

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