Cardinal Nichols Issues Pastoral letter on the Synod on the Family

His Eminence Cardinal Vincent Nichols has written a pastoral letter reflecting on the synod and the importance of the family to be read out in parishes this Sunday, the Solemnity of All Saints.

In the letter Cardinal Vincent spoke of the work of the synod which centred around ‘fashioning fresh ways of thinking about the family in the plan of God’.
Of the many images of the family that emerged, the Cardinal noted that it was a ‘reflection of the mystery of love which is the life of God’ and ‘the flesh of the Church’.

He explained that synod participants in small groups ‘shared together what we treasured most about our own family life’. They also spoke about the challenges that are faced by families, such as ‘poverty; an absence of faith; a reluctance to speak of faith at home; the drama of being refugees or migrants; the breakdown of a marriage in the pain of divorce and the fact of people entering a second civil marriage’.

Cardinal Vincent said that the main work of this Synod was to ‘fashion the right response of the Church to many of these situations’, which included ‘a patient accompaniment, a readiness to listen, a gift of time and attention to one another’. He spoke of this as the ‘pathway for us all to take’.

Echoing the call in the First Reading (Jer 31.9) from the previous Sunday’s Mass, the Cardinal said: ‘To all who have left in tears I want to offer a hand of welcome, especially during this coming Year of Mercy.’

He expressed his hope that all ‘may draw from this Synod of Bishops great encouragement for our family life and for the life of the family of the Church’.

Full text of the pastoral letter by His Eminence Cardinal Vincent Nichols can be found below:

Pastoral Letter following the Synod on the Vocation and Mission of the Family

Last Sunday I joined thousands of people in St Peter’s Square waiting to receive the blessing of Pope Francis. I was surrounded by families: babies asleep in prams, young children crawling on the cobbles, older children entertaining each other, teenagers looking studiously bored, fathers surveying the scene protectively, mothers holding up their children and pointing to the Holy Father, groups of families on holiday together, uncles and aunts, three or four generations.

I looked at them with fresh eyes, having just come from the closing Mass of the Synod of Bishops on the Vocation and Mission of the Family. There we had been fashioning fresh ways of thinking about the family in the plan of God. We had agreed that the family is an ‘image and likeness of the Blessed Trinity’, a reflection of the mystery of love which is the life of God. In the families around me I could contemplate that love being expressed in everyday ways, a love which strives so hard to be faithful, to overcome rows and difficulties with forgiveness, a love which gives energy for the day and rest in weariness. In the Synod we had talked of the family as ‘a blessing for the Church’: the place where we learn and share how to live by faith, where we teach and practice family prayer, and the place from which we reach out to others in their need.

All of this was summed up for me in a phrase: the family is the flesh of the Church. In St Peter’s Square, and in every parish, I see in the families around me the very flesh of the Church, the life of Christ taking place before my eyes. It is they who so often show most clearly the work of the Beatitudes which we have just heard in the Gospel reading.

In our Synod discussion group we had shared together what we treasured most about our own family life. Doing this brought us together powerfully, even though we came from five different continents! The challenges faced by families today were in our own stories, too: poverty; an absence of faith; a reluctance to speak of faith at home; the drama of being refugees or migrants; the breakdown of a marriage in the pain of divorce and, of course, the fact of people entering a second civil marriage and finding there a new start, stability, and fruitful love.

Our main work in the Synod, over the last three weeks, has been to fashion the right response of the Church to many of these situations. In our final reflections, we pointed out clearly that this must be a patient accompaniment, a readiness to listen, a gift of time and attention to one another. This is a pathway for us all to take, but especially us bishops and priests who are entrusted with the care of God’s people.

Our final document of the Synod, which we presented to Pope Francis for his consideration, speaks often of this ‘pathway of accompaniment’, of that ‘reverential listening’, which is the first act of mercy, of the work of ‘discernment’, of wanting to come close to the reality of so many lives in their difficulties and trials. During the Synod discussions, many wanted us to express, humbly, a word of regret and apology that this often has not been the path we have taken. I am glad to do so now.

The purpose of this focus of our pastoral work is very clear. It was beautifully expressed in the first reading at Mass last Sunday: ‘They left in tears. But I will comfort them and lead them back; I will guide them to streams of water … For I am a father to Israel and Ephraim is my son’ (Jer. 31.9). To all who have left in tears I want to offer a hand of welcome, especially during this coming Year of Mercy. With time we hope to fashion a clear invitation for you to come to meet the Lord, to ponder His ways in your lives, to sense his mercy and his truth and to grow in strength as his baptised disciples in the family of the Church.

Today we honour all the saints. We see them gathered round the throne of God, praising God in joy and thanksgiving. We hear that in their trials and suffering they clung faithfully to Christ, so closely that ‘they washed their robes white again in the blood of the Lamb.’ They teach us so much.

We all have our favourite or patron saint. Perhaps we were given his or her name at baptism or at confirmation. They have so much to teach us about how to accompany each other through the dilemmas of life and of how to come to a mature understanding of the demands of the Gospel in our lives as the one true path of life. Today we also honour all those who may not be canonized but are surely saints. For so many of these, family life, with all its joy and challenges, was their path to heaven. Think how many saints there may be in your family, still helping you by their example and intercession!

May all the saints encourage and strengthen us today. May we draw from this Synod of Bishops great encouragement for our own family life and for the life of the family of the Church, as we each reach out for the great mercy of God, a mercy that will never fail us once we come, with penitent hearts, seeking its healing and peace.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols
Archbishop of Westminster

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St Michael’s to St Mary’s Sponsored Walk for World Youth Day 2016

Walking is good for the soul, that is what we kept telling ourselves as we trudged through the mud of the fields between Glastonbury and Shepton Mallet. The parish of St Michael’s in Shepton Mallet has three young people who are going to World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland next year. They need to raise £1000 pounds each, so seeing as the parish priest, Fr James Finan has two parishes, Glastonbury and Shepton Mallet, we thought it would be a good idea to walk between them raising money for our three young people.  So on Sunday 22nd November at 12.30 14 people left St Mary’s in Glastonbury and began the walk of just over 11 miles to St Michael’s in Shepton Mallet. The walk was not only good for oubodies but it was great to be able to share experiences, deepen friendships, to pray for our world, our families and friends and of course to breathe in deeply the wonderful fresh air in the Somerset countryside. Arriving in Shepton at 5pm we were greeted by our welcome party with hot food and a good cup of tea, although I know a few of the adults would have appreciated something stronger! We were all quite sore but very glad to be able to get warm and reflect upon what we had just done. Everyone enjoyed the experience and we raised over £1000 towards the three young people going to WYD. We are very grateful for all the sponsorship and although the walk took longer than we thought and it was tougher that we thought we were all very proud of our achievement.

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For more information on World Youth Day click here

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St Michael’s ‘Mini’ Youth Group – Up and running!

Friday 02 October saw the first gathering St Michael’s ‘Mini’ Youth Group. There were lots of fun and games enjoyed by all.  Do come along and join us, all young people aged 6 – 11 years are very welcome.

For those aged 11+ do come along to St Michael’s Youth Group who meet every Friday (term-time) from 6pm – 8pm. 


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St Michael’s celebrate their International Mass

Sunday 27 September saw St Michael’s, Shepton Mallet celebrate a truly International Mass. In total there were ten languages spoken or sung, with the Gospel read in French and the readings and bidding prayers read by parishioners in Slovakian, German, Hindi, Polish, Malayalam and Mandarin (as well as English!). Flags of parishioners native countries were brought up as part of the Offertory, it was great to have the opportunity to celebrate the international make-up of the parish. Some of the younger folk wore their Slovakian national dress and treated the parish to a song as we shared a wonderful array of international cuisine. It is sure to become an annual celebration!

International Mass At St Michael’s

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Pastoral Letter from the Bishops of England and Wales

Pastoral Letter from the Bishops of England and Wales

For Home Mission Sunday 20th September 2015

Today is Home Mission Sunday and to emphasise its importance this pastoral letter comes to you on behalf of all the Bishops of England and Wales together.

This day is the moment when we invite every member of the Catholic community to pray for, participate in and support the work of evangelisation in England and Wales. This is our task of deepening, sharing and proclaiming our faith, sensitively and confidently, wherever we may be.

In July a national conference took place in Birmingham at which representatives of every Diocese looked at this task of spreading the Gospel message. At Proclaim ’15 many practical ideas were explored and exchanged. These are now available for your consideration. Our hope is that every parish will look at these suggestions and take up one or two of them, chosen according to your own circumstances. Our initiative has this theme: building missionary parishes. This is so important as the challenges to faith today are many and deep-rooted.

Pope Francis shows us that the true heart of faith is hugely attractive. He shows us how to let our faith be seen. He does this by making clear the great mercy of God, the mercy that he has received and that he shows to all.

The mercy of God is God’s love in action, reaching out to every person, to each one of us in our weakness. Mercy is God’s tender embrace in lifting us up and inviting us to start again. In the Psalm of our Mass today, we proclaimed God’s mercy with the words: “The Lord upholds my life.” Mercy appears all the more clearly when, recognising our own sinfulness, we rely totally and joyfully on the goodness of God. When Pope Francis was asked to describe himself he said, simply, “I am a sinner.”

As we understand the depth of God’s never-failing mercy towards us, then we are freed to offer the same mercy to those around us. In doing so we show forth the best of our faith.

Our response to Pope Francis is to make the task of proclaiming God’s mercy the priority in our own efforts. This we will strive to do most especially during the Jubilee Year of Mercy, established by Pope Francis, beginning this December. He writes: “How much I desire that the year to come will be steeped in mercy, so that we can go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God! May the balm of mercy reach everyone.” (Misericordiae Vultus 5) So we ask your help. Together let us Proclaim God’s Mercy.

The readings we have heard today speak of the tests and trials of everyday life, the weariness we can feel, the conflicts we face, whether within our own hearts or from those around us. St James invites us to respond to every situation as peacemakers. That is easier said than done! But then he tells us that our way forward is through prayer, asking the Lord for all that we need to get through the day and to let his love be seen.

The Gospel Reading from St Mark puts it very simply. When we live our lives with trust in God as a child trusts his parents, then we will be free of so many burdens. And then our faith will be transparent, evident to others in all its attractiveness. Then we will be proclaiming the Gospel for others to see and hear.

The key, then, to showing our faith in the way we live is to be ready to live constantly in the presence of God, knowing that God never takes his eyes off us, not to catch us out, but because he loves us so much. When we are constantly aware of that loving gaze which is upon us, and of the mercy and encouragement that flows our way, then we are enabled to look on others in the same way.

These are the foundations of evangelisation. On them, other steps can be built: the opportunity to speak about our faith; the expression of that love in programmes of action towards those most in need; a loving care for those who have been hurt by life and hurt within the Church, for whom any return to the practice of their faith is particularly difficult. In this effort for evangelisation we seek out ways of accompanying others, through friendship, through prayer, through conversation, so that they sense in us the welcome that God most certainly extends to them. Our efforts need not be complicated or heroic. As Our Blessed Lady reminds us, through our humble efforts the Lord can do great things!

Finally, we your bishops want to thank each and every one of you for the witness that you already give. Your presence at Mass today is a good example. By coming to Mass you not only give due worship to God but also publicly proclaim your faith to everyone who knows of your commitment and routine. We thank you for your daily efforts in family living, the patterns of family life that you work hard to sustain. The family is the first and best school of faith, of prayer and of virtuous living. Thank you all indeed!

Together let us seek to live out the words of Pope Francis: “The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew… I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelisation marked by this joy.’ (Evangelii Gaudium, 1)

With all good wishes and prayers,


Cardinal Vincent Nichols      Archbishop Peter Smith

President                                  Vice-President

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales

39 Eccleston Square, London, SW1V 1BX

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