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 7th October

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Mark 10: 2-16


You may be wondering, perhaps some of you dreading what I am going to say about that Gospel reading, especially the first part on marriage.


The answer is ‘not very much directly’.  We all know what the Catholic Church teaches about marriage how it is the one body that stands uncompromisingly for the sacredness of the marriage vows.


But we also know that the Church, directed by Pope Francis is endeavouring to balance its strong belief against the reality.  The reality is that most marriages survive a lifetime, through the ups and downs, till death eventually does them part.  That needs to be said.  It is the reality.


But some marriages effectively end and we all know people who, after years of unhappiness, sometimes of violence, find peace and happiness in a second marriage.


This is one of the issues to which there are no simple answers.  None of us lives in the ideal world.  We all have to make the best of the real situation in which we find ourselves. 


The big issue here, at the root of all questions is the family.

It is being recognised more and more that many of our social problems, young adults lying homeless at the side of the street, drug addiction,  gangs and street crime, can be traced back to problems at home, in the family.


Whatever effort is made to support the family is worthwhile.  But in the end it comes down to the relationships of all those involved, parents and children.


We are not speaking here of the perfect family.  There is no such thing, no more than there are perfect human beings.

In fact, its very imperfection is the real virtue of the family.  Our home is the one place where we can be our real selves, sometimes our difficult and eccentric selves, knowing that whatever happens, we are still loved.


Its virtue is that here the spouses find mutual support and affection.  It is not necessary to agree about everything all the time.

It is not always sweetness and light.  Life is not like that.  But essentially through all the ups and downs, there is mutual support and affection.


It is here that children can grow up in an atmosphere where they find security..  I heard it said and I thought that it was very wise, especially when I look back on my own family background, it was said that ‘The greatest gift that parents can give their children is their love for one another.’


In that atmosphere children can grow up, feeling safe and secure,,, however they behave.  From infancy through childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, they gradually grow towards independence and self-confidence.

Eventually as they increasingly seek to make their own decisions, they challenge their parents, who probably seek to protect them from making rash decisions, recalling the experience of their own youth.

Parents’ patience can be tested to the limits but children at every level know in their hearts that they still loved.


In the family we learn the real meaning of love.

I do not mean the sweet, soft-centred love of the pop song.

I mean something more like the hard core love as described by St Paul in the First Letter to Corinthians, chapter 13.

That reference may not mean much to you, but I am sure you will recognise its content.

‘Love is patient, is kind,  is not self-seeking, is not resentful or jealous’

and so on listing all those beautiful virtues that perhaps produce an ‘ouch’ reaction in us when we hear them read once again.


The mother nurturing the helpless infant, attending to its every need night and day, and increasingly its every demand, the father working to provide for the children, parents coping with all the stages of growing up into adulthood, sometimes their patience tested to breaking point. 


For the parents it is constant giving, giving life, giving sustenance, giving guidance, and asking nothing in return except the well-being of their children.

That is love – the real thing.


The great challenge to Catholic parents in our day, a challenge that they share with us priests and with the teachers in our Catholic schools, is how to communicate our faith in a way that inspires and guides the young as they grow towards adulthood.

..  We can but persevere., stubbornly in the practice and proclaiming of our faith and our endeavours to live by its values,  never allowing ourselves to be discouraged by our young people rebelling and drifting away from the practice of church-going.

There is the assurance that when they are confronted with the realities of life, perhaps having children of their own, then they have something solid that is always with them, that they have learnt almost in spite of themselves.


I repeat that we are not speaking here of perfection but of doing the best we can in the imperfect world in which we find ourselves, always bolstered by the reality of the love we encounter in our family.



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