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

Order of St. Augustine.

Archdiocese of Birmingham

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

Fr. John Reid’s Homilies

THE  HOLY  FAMILY:  (Colossians 3:12)

“Be clothed in sincere compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, - and above all, in love.”

Joseph is convinced Mary is pregnant by another and sets his mind on divorce. Then he sleeps on it, - and Scripture says it was the Angel of the Lord, - but practically, Joseph wakes and this time listens humbly to her innocence and to her explanation, and is convinced by her explanation. And takes her to his home.

My own family: the parents showed compete loyalty, with lots of irritation and even arguments, but we saw both of them laying down their lives daily, selflessly, for each other and for me and my sister. And many here  in Harborne enjoy solid, stable marriages:  many were married in the Catholic Church, and can look back with gratitude on 30, 50, even 60 plus years of marriage. Often when someone tells me they were married, “Over there, in the old church, Father!” I ask one question: “Did it work?”! And most times it did.

But nearly every family now will be aware of, or actually have, relatives, sons, daughters where separation, divorce, single parenthood or a same-sex relationship has occurred , - despite every intention, initially, for that union to be lasting.

In my previous parish, I was 14 years in the middle of a housing scheme, - where there had been no Church marriages for the previous 6 years, and where in my 14 years there were only 2 Catholic marriages from the locality. The majority of the children had a biological Dad and an actual Dad, or a succession of ‘uncles’ and maybe 2, if not 3, ‘homes’ to go to at the weekend. We were witnessing the disintegration of the family. And this was bringing pain, shame and profound puzzlement to their Catholic parents, priests and teachers.

Amidst this widespread disintegration, I had to remind myself constantly: what would I be like if I’d been born into their family, lived in their skin and walked in their shoes? It was humbling to see how good single mothers were to the two, three or four children they were left with;  and how good the new incoming ‘father’ was to someone else’s children, - before eventually moving  on, leaving her with another child. I remember an unusually tall man, -  who’d once offered me a bag of electric drills for a tenner, knowing I was into DIY, - who would regularly walk through the scheme with one of his small boys carried high on his shoulders.  I actually said to him: “You are a good Dad, whatever else”! Because I remembered the few times our Dad had time to shoulder me.

Over those 14 years I had to be ready to invite all and any that wanted, to come to Mass and to be a full part of the Parish community. And I was surrounded by humble Catholic parishioners who welcomed all comers without any questions or judgements, - while still having the aspiration that their own children would grow up to be permanently committed in marriage to one husband or wife.

The God of love, at the birth of Jesus, showed himself first to the Shepherds, - ‘cuddly,’ quaint and homely to us, - but who were rejected in those times both by the Civil and the Temple authorities, and by good religious people;  and showed himself secondly to ‘wise men from the East’, - glorified in Renaissance Christmas cards, - but who were pagans, astrologers, whom a good Jew of the ‘chosen people’ would have had no dealings with, and would have shaken the dust of their feet after bumping into them.  Jesus today in our world is a light to people whose lives are painful, broken, and who can experience rejection by Church people and priests.

Bless us Lord, your Catholic people and priests, that people might feel welcomed into the holy family of every parish of your Church, no matter what the history or actuality be of their own marriage, union or relationships. Bless us Lord that we might show compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience and above all love, to all, that they might experience You in their pain.

John Reid, OSA