At St Anselm’s we’re very lucky. Nobody threatens us for going to Mass, we’re not going to end up unemployed for admitting to being Christians; our church is not in imminent danger of being blown up, we don’t know neighbours or friends who have been abducted or killed by extremists. Unfortunately, in other parts of the world, one or more of these terrifying scenarios has happened – indeed it sometimes happens frequently. Fr Will and the Parish Team have been very kind in enabling me to keep the parish updated with the work I do for the International Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need. Travelling with ACN, I have met young people in Nigeria wounded and blinded during an attack on their church, I have met priests from Iraq who have been kidnapped and tortured, I have spoken to children in Sudan whose schools have been destroyed, I have travelled to eastern India and met tens of thousands of Christians whose villages have been razed to the ground and in China I have met Underground bishops in secret locations. ACN’s late founder, Father Werenfried van Straaten, a man St John Paul II named an “Apostle of Charity”, famously said: “They are being tested in faith; we are being tested in love”. Thanks to your kind acts of charity – prayer, information and giving – ACN fulfils each year 5,000 projects in 140 countries worldwide – with your help, we give food, shelter and medicine for Christians fleeing persecution, we offer Christian education and catechesis to young people, we provide training for seminarians and Sisters, we build and repair churches. For more information about ACN, contact www.acnuk.org or get in contact with me via the parish.
At St Anselm’s, I help Fr Will with the altar servers. I have the rather grand title of ‘Master of Ceremonies’ which in practice often means putting chairs out, checking there are enough altar breads, telling new servers to go left or right and ensuring our priests have what they need on the altar. I have been doing this work off and on at various churches since 1985 when I was 9. It is always a privilege to serve Mass because it is here that we encounter our Blessed Lord – body, soul and divinity. We recognise the apparent paradox of God enfleshed in something as small as a piece of wafer-bread and yet as infinite and inscrutable as a world beyond our imagination. We altar servers try to work efficiently and discreetly. Reverence is our watch word. If we had a ‘mission statement’ it would be to help people grow in love for the Sacramental life of the Church, to help them to pray and to play our small part in building up our community of faith so that it becomes a beacon of hope in an often dark and disillusioned world.
Aid to the Church in Need website: http://www.acnuk.org