BY ANNA ARCO
IN HIS first pastoral letter the Archbishop of Westminster has said that daily prayer is essential for well-being.
In a letter issued almost exactly four months after his installation, Archbishop Vincent Nichols thanked the faithful in his new diocese for their encouragement and prayers and urged them to partake in the shared life of faith and prayer, “especially as experienced and strengthened in the parish”.
Quoting from the letter of St James he said that “our relationship with Christ, expressed in prayer, is central to the stability and fruitfulness of our lives. “A sound practice of daily prayer is essential for our wellbeing,” he said.
He explained that three people who illustrated the importance of prayer were being held up as examples in the coming weeks and months.
In the letter, read out in churches days after St Thérèse of Lisieux’s relics arrived in Britain, the Archbishop said the 19th century French Carmelite should serve as an example for placing prayer at the heart of daily routine, “knitted into the regular tasks of the day”.
The relics, which arrived on British soil on Tuesday, were brought to Portsmouth Cathedral on Wednesday and will tour the country for a month. St Thérèse’s remains will stop at 28 locations. They will be in the Westminster diocese in October, towards the end of the visit.
The relics will travel around England and Wales from September 16 to October 16. Her bones have travelled to 40 different countries. Organisers expect large crowds.
Archbishop Nichols said: “Many people find that, in her presence, their faith is strengthened, their prayer is deepened and they turn to God afresh, through repentance and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
“I encourage you most earnestly to come to her in these two places during these few days. A plenary indulgence may be gained, in the presence of these relics, under the normal conditions of Reconciliation, Holy Communion and prayers for the Holy Father.” Cardinal John Henry Newman, who is due to be beatified in the early summer of 2010 and will be the first English person in over 600 years to be declared a “Confessor of the Catholic Faith”, was the second example of the importance of prayer that Archbishop Nichols wrote about.
Writing of Cardinal Newman he said: “As you know, he came only gradually to the fullness of Catholic faith. It was a difficult journey for him. Yet, in his own words, he came to recognise our faith as ‘a working religion’, not concerned with ideas or vague generalities, but taking us up into the true worship of Christ himself. At the heart of Newman’s sense of the realism of our faith was the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, ‘as real’, he said ‘as we are real’.
“We can learn from him to reawaken in ourselves this faith in Christ’s real, abiding presence in the Holy Eucharist, reserved in the Tabernacle. When this happens, we behave accordingly in His presence, giving Him our attention and the love of our hearts whenever we are in church.
“In this way we not only build up our own life of prayer but also encourage each other, in church, to give this precious time to Him. After all, He is the only one who can bring lasting peace into our lives.” Archbishop Nichols spoke about Cardinal Newman’s example as a parish priest in Birmingham. At his funeral procession in August 1890 over 20,000 people lined the streets for him, paying tribute “to a fine and devoted parish priest”.
It was providential that John Henry Newman’s beatification would take place during the Year for Priests which was proclaimed last June by the Pope, he said. The Archbishop also said that during the Year for Priests the faithful were asked to pray for priests in a special way, “to thank and encourage them”.
He said: “The life of a priest has its own particular demands and we all know the crucial leadership given by the priest in the parish.
“So, I ask you, cherish your priests and care for them. Remember not only the sacrifice priests have made but also the gift of sacramental life they bring to you through their ministry and the pastoral care they give.” Both St Thérèse and Cardinal Newman were examples during the Year for Priests, he said, Thérèse because of her “special love for priests” and Cardinal Newman because he was “a great example of a faithful, hardworking priest”.
The Archbishop said the third person being held up for the faithful was the Curé of Ars, St John Vianney, whom Pope Benedict XVI declared the patron of the Year for Priests. Archbishop Nichols said: “He is the patron saint of priests. He too reminds us of the centrality of prayer and repentance in our lives, and of the astonishing gift we are given in the Real Presence of the Lord in our churches.
“May these holy men and this holy woman pray for us. May these coming months bring blessings on our families and parishes. And from those sources of strength and encouragement, may we be renewed in our faith and in our generosity towards all in need.”