Be What You receive

A talk given to parents of first communicants at Our Lady of the Assumption and the English Martyrs, Cambridge by Sr. Tamsin Mary Geach 


In the next few weeks your children will reach the point of making their first Holy Communion.  This era of fortnightly early rising will be over!  Praise the Lord!

So well done.  You have faithfully brought your children to this point.  It’s my job today to remind you why we go through all this – parents, catechists and children.  What is the motivation that makes this worth-while?

Basically, eternal life.In the Gospel of St John, Chapter 6, we read that after the feeding of the 5000 the crowds came back to Jesus hoping for more free food.  He told them not to seek for ‘food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you…which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world.” When they press Him further He tells them  “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst’  Later on He says ‘I am the living bread[c] which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

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What marvels the Lord worked for us; indeed we were glad

Reflection for Vespers during the Easter Octave 2019 by Sr Ann Swailes

Harrowing of Hell
Harrowing of Hell


Famously, Lent lasts for 40 days and 40 nights. Eastertide lasts for 50, and it’s interesting to speculate on the reason for this difference. It’s not, I think, simply that the Church in her kindness and wisdom gives us longer in which to feast than to fast,  though that’s no bad, and -  as we shall see -  no trivial thing. There’s a less comfortable explanation also.   Eastertide is given us so that we can begin to assimilate the marvels the Lord has done for us, to make our peace with a world made new. For that, we need all the time we can get.

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Sorrowful Mysteries and the Joy of the Lord.


by Sr Ann Swailes o.p.

Rosary Plaque from the cloisters at St Dominic's Stone
One of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear,
and forthwith came there out blood and water.

The liturgical calendar can be confusing for children. Friends who have always been Catholic have told me of their puzzlement when, just a couple of months after Christmas, Lent rolled round, and they were encouraged by parents or catechists to give up sweets or try harder to say their prayers in some kind of solidarity with Jesus in his temptations. Baffling indeed: he’d only been born a few weeks ago; how could a baby do battle with Satan in the wilderness?

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The Seven Last Words from the Cross

By Sr. Ann Swailes

Christ Crucified
Christ Crucified

The distress of parting from those we love takes many different forms, ranging from the misery of temporary but still painful physical absence – parting may be such sweet sorrow, but it is sorrow nonetheless – to the anguish of estrangement, misunderstanding or betrayal, where the continued physical presence of the beloved feels like a wound and a mockery, to death itself, coldly shocking even when prepared for.  But any of us – which I’m guessing is all of us – who have experienced any form of leave taking from those for whom we care will know, I suspect, a curious phenomenon common to all such circumstances. Seemingly inevitably, the last conversations we shared with the friends who are lost to us, or whom we fear lost to us, take on a heightened significance. We hoard up our words and theirs, and drag them out for frequent inspection, sometimes almost obsessively, investing them with a significance that we would never think of bestowing on our, or their more everyday utterances. And, frankly, at least at its most extreme, in this practice, madness sometimes lies. “And then I said…and then he said, and then I said”: we can drive ourselves to distraction this way, tearing great gashes out of our peace of mind as we examine the minutiae of our motives, and those of our friends in an attempt to reassure ourselves that all will in the end be well. And of course, we are doomed to frequent disappointment, because no human words, ultimately, can bear that kind of weight. 

Read more: The Seven Last Words from the Cross

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