St Annes Buxton & John Fisher & Thomas More Chapel
Tel Buxton 23777, Chapel-en-le-Frith 813491

Lockdown Homilies

Fr Gerry's Third Lockdown Homilies



Women have been really in the news recently.  "Reclaim the Streets", "Everyone's Invited" is just the latest women’s protest movement.  “Me Too” really hit the headlines a few years ago.  

We meet three women in tonight’s Gospel who are also seeking and looking, - they’re disciples of Jesus – and they think they know where he is.  Mary of Magdala, Mary mother of James, Salome haven’t run away like the 12 apostles and all the men.  They’ve watched the crucifixion and death from a distance, watched where Jesus has been buried and want to do him a final act of tenderness.  They take spices to anoint his dead body. 

The was sun rising, it’s the first day of the week, a new creation is dawning but they didn’t know it.  They just thought Jesus was dead.  They thought they’d find him in the tomb.  They were practical and wondered about the very big stone blocking the entrance.  They would need help.  Someone might turn up.  
Going into the tomb, they were alarmed.  Maybe they were terrified.  Jesus wasn’t there.  There was no body.  They hadn’t found him after all.  He wasn’t where they expected him to be.

They meet a young man in white robes seated on the right.  They meet someone in the know.  Someone ahead of them.  He’s sitting on the right . Wearing a white robe.  He’s a real disciple, a baptised disciple.  He’s someone who understands Jesus has done more than died.  He’s someone who understands he has risen too.  No wonder they are amazed.  No wonder they are alarmed.  They thought they knew where Jesus was – among the dead – but he isn’t – the crucified one is risen.  “He is not here”.  “He is going before you”, they are told, “go to Galilee, you will see him there”.  They haven’t found Jesus yet.  They’re still on the way, They’re still learning more about him.  We’re still amazed by him. Today to we’re still alarmed by his promises and invitations.  

The liturgy tonight speaks a lot about us being “Baptised into his death”.  “We’ve been buried with him.  We’ve gone into the tomb with him”.  St Paul tells us He promises that if we do “we will be raised with him, we’ll walk in newness of life with him”.  Did you catch a glimpse of this holding your Easter candles?  What were you feeling and thinking?    We’re given light.  We’re given guidance and a companion in the dark.  We feel our hearts being touched, while holding the candles.  

In a moment we will bless the water, sprinkle it and renew our baptismal promises.  
We’re still going into the tomb with him in these Covid times.
We’re still being buried with him, letting go of our control, our independence, imagining we know where he is. 
We’re still being raised with him so that he will go ahead of us with Mary Magdala – Mary Mother of James and Salome,  
We’ll go to Galilee, to the people, the situations, the uncertainties of the months ahead.  
We’ll find Jesus taking long strides and find ourselves always stretching to keep up with him. 

Fr Gerry
April 3rd , 2021

Good Friday


“The Night before he died” is how the story of the Eucharist begins.  What do any of us do the night before we die?  What did your parents do?  We all hope to be with our families and friends, our loved ones.  Jesus gathers his family, his disciples, all of them, even Judas who would betray him.  What do we say to them?  What do we do with them? Well, something very similar to Jesus – we tell them we love them – we tell them we’ve always loved them -  we ask forgiveness – we tell them we’ll always love them; forever.  We kiss, we hold hands, we stroke.  But Jesus does more than say the words.  He acts.  He washes our feet and dries them.  He breaks the bread and shares it and tells us “Do this in memory of me”.

We normally wash feet tonight.  We can’t this year because of Covid.  It’s not a job that anyone really fancies!  Our feet are probably some of the most neglected parts of our bodies.  Look where they’ve carried us though, in the past year.  They need a footbath; we need refreshing.  Actually, we’re all tired and we all need refreshing.  We might be wondering if we can keep going until June 21st.  Peter thinks he can.  And on his own.  No need for anyone else and especially no need for a God who is humble enough to wash his feet.  “Jesus”, he says, “You’ll see and touch too much of me.  Maybe you’ll find out more about me than I want you to know”.  It looks as though Peter’s conversion was fairly superficial – he still didn’t really understand.  He’ll deny ever knowing Jesus 3 times later on that same night.  So this invitation to let the Lord wash our feet takes a lifetime opening up.  Keep going!  Keep trusting your whole self to him!

The other characteristic action of Jesus is what he does with the bread.  “He takes it, gives thanks, breaks it and shares it” He’s fully committing himself the night before he dies.  There’s no pulling back, no second thoughts.  Instead, he plunges more deeply into what he’s always been doing.  He takes the fearful, calculating, compromising world we’re all part of.  He gives thanks for it.  Despite all the letdowns and betrayals God’s love and goodness burns at its centre.  Jesus breaks the bread as his body will be most broken on the cross.  There he will entrust himself totally into God’s hands.  Even when he’s in the dark and can’t see the way forward.  Finally, he shares the bread.  “Here – this is the whole of me for the whole of you.  Eat it.  Let it change you.  Let it give you my life and strength.”

So tonight, the night before Jesus died, we do what he did.  We do what everyone does before they die.  But we add Jesus’ distinctive touch, his two special actions, we let him wash our weary feet and misshapen toes.  We ask that this bread, his body, will give us the strength to wash all tired feet of our world.

Fr Gerry
April 1st, 2021



Next Tuesday will mark the first anniversary of our country’s going into the First Lockdown at the end of March last year.  “What a strange year it’s been,” we tell each other.  Some people say it’s been a “lost” year.  “Everything about it has been bad,” they say.  “Has it?” I wonder.  Look at what we have each learnt, I say to myself.  I haven’t shared a meal with anyone since Christmas Day.  I haven’t hugged or kissed anyone for even longer! Absence has made the heart grow fonder.  I’m really looking forward to playing golf with my friends in a week’s time.  
All of our restrictions have been a form of dying.  We have to keep 2 metres apart from each other.     We can’t visit each other.  We can’t touch each other.  Families, friends, neighbours have been forced to keep their distance.  We can only meet each other at arm’s length.  Has it opened your eyes?  Has it opened your heart?  Has it made you realise you’d been worrying about the wrong things – things that didn’t really matter?  Who have you been taking for granted?  What’s most obvious is that we all now realise that “we’re in it together”.  No man or woman is an island.  You can’t pick and choose who you need. N.H.S. and care staff are just the most obvious tip of the iceberg which is our whole society.  Supermarket workers, lorry and bus drivers, cleaners and any number of other “key workers” have now become a part of our horizon.  People we have previously looked down on have now gained our respect.  We need them all.  They need us too.  As St Paul said last week “We are all God’s work of art”.

Jesus gives us the password today about how to become part of this great work of art.  Once again he’s meeting people with questions – good questions.  Last week he told Nicodemus we needed to be “born again”.  This week he tells the Jews who lived in Greece “If you die if you surrender yourself, you will yield a rich harvest”  It might sound like madness at first hearing.  Is it a riddle or just a contradiction?  “Anyone who loves their life, loses it” he continues “Anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life”.  Hear it like poetry.  This is the secret of Jesus’ life.  This is what makes him tick, what makes him get up in the morning, what colours all his relationships, especially those with hurting people.   “You’ve got to die before your death,” He tells us.  Got to die each day to have eternal life.  Surrender yourself!  Trust yourself to the invitation to love and care and heal.  Don’t get hooked on always trying to get what you want, let go of your scheming to get ahead.  Listen to your neighbour and receive from them.  After sharing this secret with the Greeks, St John tells us that Jesus feels “troubled”.  He knows that arrest, passion and death are just around the corner.  No wonder he’s agitated!  He’s tempted to take it all back and try to wiggle his way out.  He realises he would be betraying himself, deserting the love which he calls “Father”.  Surrendering himself to Pilate and Herod will be his hardest, his most scary act of self-surrender, but he knows too that he will be lifted up so as to draw all people into his “new work of art”.  But to be part of this work of art we each have to die.  Die to ourselves.  Then we will yield a rich harvest. 

Fr Gerry
March 20th, 2021




What’s your favourite TV programme at the moment?  Someone was telling me recently they’re addicted to “The Repair Shop”.  Have you seen it?  Currently, it’s on its 6th series and on BBC1 on Mondays at 4.30 p.m.  Furniture Restorer, Jay Blades, is the foreman and he enlists the help of other expert craftspeople to repair old treasures.  Recently they’ve made new a card table, a guitar and a Bookies money bag.  Old treasures which are damaged, faded, worn out and are ready to be thrown away, are brought back to life.  They restore them, cover them, invite owners back and unveil them to looks, aahs and tears.  They remind me of what St Paul tells us today that “we are God’s work of art, created in the likeness of Jesus to live the good life”

Have you ever thought of yourself or your family, or your parish community as “God’s work of art”?  Maybe we’re more inclined to think of a painting, do we make our own works of arts?   
 our own self-portraits?  We imagine it’s all up to us “down to me” we say and we forget that we’re God’s idea, and it’s him making the world, and men and women, in his own image and likeness.  Imagine God as an artist, as a craftsman or woman dreaming us all into existence.
But what about the wear and tear I hear you saying.  What about the fading colours, the breakages, the accidents, the damage to the artwork that is ourselves and our world?  This is probably the question that Nicodemus is wrestling with when he comes to question Jesus at night.  Jesus tells him he needs to be “born again” and Nicodemus wonders out loud how “a grown man or woman can be born again?”  Jesus then tells him “the Spirit blows where it pleases; you cannot hear its sound, you cannot tell where it comes from or goes to.  So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit”.  We all need a visit to the Repair Shop where we’ll be surprised.  We all need to be remade in God’s original image and likeness.

Pope Francis says “the Church is a Repair Shop, a Field Hospital”.  It’s like going back to the painters or craft persons studio or workshop.  What do we find here?  Who do we find here?  Not the condemnation and the judgement we fear!  Instead, we find the acceptance, love and restoration we crave.  Not darkness but light.  Not criticism but mercy and tenderness.  Not a short-term wonder but eternal life. 

Today is Mothering Sunday and I think it throws much light on our Scripture stories.  Which mother doesn’t think their child is “God’s work of art”?  “You’re beautiful” are some of the first words we ever say to our children.  We continue to say them for the rest of their lives, although we do indeed have our moments.  But they pass; we soften; we forgive and reconcile and start again. We refuse to be trapped or paralysed by condemnation and are constantly struggling to be “born again” to let the “spirit blow in us”.  We repeatedly ask God to find us when we are lost so that we can live “eternal life” with him, with each other, and with our world. 

Can I finish again this week with Pope Francis?  He gives us the tools, the music, the words of the repair shop.

He says – 
“Speak kind words not hurting ones
Be filled with gratitude, not sadness
Be patient not angry
Be hopeful and not cynical
Trust in God, don’t fret
Be tolerant, not judgemental
Be compassionate, not hard-hearted
Be reconciled not at odds
Be joyful, not bitter
Be silent and listen.”

Listen to the mothering love of God.  Mother each other.  Remember you are all God’s work of art. 

Fr Gerry
March 13th, 2021




The headline in the Sun last weekend ran “Massive Golden Statue of Donald Trump delights the crowds in Orlando, Florida”.  Did you see it?  It was show-stopping.  The Donald was about to make his first appearance since leaving the White House 6 weeks ago.  Normally ex-Presidents don’t appear in public for at least a year!  He looked really young.  The whole statue was a Bobby Dazzler!  He was wearing a pair of stars and stripes shorts, a suit jacket, a white shirt with the top button undone, a red tie and holding a magic wand in his hand.  His head was made of gold.  If it wasn’t for the golden hair I thought it could have been Elvis.  Lots of people took selfies beside it.  Lots of other people said afterwards it reminded them of the ‘Golden Calf’ in the story of Israel.  Remember Moses came down the mountain after speaking with God only to find the people worshipping the golden calf?  Moses was so angry that he threw the Stones with the 10 Commandments written on them on the ground and broke them. 

We see Jesus doing a similar thing in today’s Gospel. He is so angry at finding the temple turned into a market that he makes a whip out of cord and drove all the traders out of the temple, cattle and sheep as well.  He scattered the money changers coins, knocked their tables over and gave the pigeon sellers a rollicking.  What drama!  This was a story to set the whole city talking.  Who did he think he was?  People thought they were coming with sincere hearts to worship God and Jesus protests that even the Temple had become just another money-making exercise.  Weren’t they doing what God had commanded them to do?  They conveniently ignored the price tags written on the animals.  Who could afford a cow or a bull?  Who could afford a sheep or a lamb?  Who could afford a humble pigeon?  Without realising it they had created a system which assumed that rich people could buy their way into heaven.  Even when you prayed to God your prayers had a price tag on them! 

Jesus “is devoured with zeal” for God.  He knows the first commandment is the most important.   “You shall have no gods except me”.  He knows that we are all tempted to worship golden calves especially the idols of money, status and comfort.  So he promises to destroy not just the merchants, the money changers and the sacrifices but the whole temple.  His enemies tease him.  “What, they say, it took 46 years to build this temple and you will destroy it and raise it up in 3 days?”  Come off it!  St John tells us Jesus was speaking of the temple which was his body.  This whole event is a prelude for his crucifixion and resurrection.  Jesus alerts us to an absolutely dramatic change in Gods relationship with us.  God moves house!  He no longer lives in a physical building but in Jesus, a human person.  God has a new address!  Not in a building but in Jesus of Nazareth.  St Paul will tell us that in baptism we each become part of the Body of Christ and so become temples of the Holy Spirit.  The Church becomes the people of God, his pilgrim people, continuing the life of Jesus in history.

Watch our leader, Pope Francis, this weekend.  Who goes to Iraq on holidays or even on business?  And especially during a pandemic?  We see in Pope Francis the same zeal for God and his people that drove Jesus.  He has a passion for hurting, wounded, sad sorrowful people.  He has a passion to heal, to unite and bring hope to those same grieving people.  Ask God today for a dollop of that courage and clear-sightedness that burned in Jesus and in Pope Francis, so that it burns in us too. 

Fr Gerry
March 6th, 2021

Old Roman road


I’m, delighted for all the residents in our nursing homes and their families that visits are soon going to be possible.  They’re even going to be able to hold hands!  Touch is so important to us and I’m always very struck by last week’s Gospel story of Jesus actually touching the leper.  Touch makes us close to each other at a level deeper than words.  I suppose we’re all waiting and wondering what else is going to be on Boris’s Road Map when he reveals it on Monday.  He’s been meeting with the G7 leaders this week and has been out-boasted by the French President, Emmanuel Macron.  I find it shocking, but predictable, that the richest countries in the world have already bought up the entire market in Corona Vaccines.  I suppose that’s the way it always was?  Apparently, we have almost 7 times the number of doses of vaccine we need to immunise our whole population twice.  It reminds me of “Crumbs from the Master’s table” Mark 7,28  and I find it very uncomfortable to discover that you and I are sitting up there at the top table. 

Maybe this is one of the reasons we need the season of Lent.  It can remind us of uncomfortable truths about ourselves both individually and as groups and nations.  Things that make us squirm and feel embarrassed.  Things we hide from ourselves.  Our blindspots, and our unconscious prejudices.  Those bits of ourselves we manage to avoid even though our families often point them out!  I wonder if this is what St Mark means in today’s Gospel when he says “The Spirit drove Jesus into the desert”. Jesus has just been baptised and he would naturally want to prolong the party of God’s love resting on him.  Instead, we’re told he’s “driven” into the desert.  He didn’t want to go there.  Who would?  The desert is both a scary place but also a state of mind.  It’s where you face yourself as you really are, warts and all, and drop the pretence of your strength and control.  Mark says Jesus was with the “wild animals”.  You imagine the lions and bears about to pounce!  I suspect that Jesus was actually tested by all the shorts cuts and instant solutions his mind could so easily think of.  Stop and think how he must have been tempted to become the popular miracle worker giving people just what they wanted – a superman rather than a servant who suffers.  I imagine him getting carried away with his gifts and thinking he could do it all on his own.  He heard about his friend John the Baptist’s arrest and must have wondered if he himself had the courage to face such suffering and loneliness.  Maybe he should keep his head down a bit more and toe the party line?  This personal agonising must have been a real desert, a time when he doubted whether God’s favour would rest on him for the rest of his life.  Rather comfortingly we’re told “the angels looked after him” while the beasts attacked.  They reminded him of God’s goodness both in times of joy and sorrow. 

Our story finishes with Jesus coming out of the desert and hitting the road.  He’s strengthened, encouraged, determined and confident about what he has to do.  “The time has come”, he says, “the Kingdom of God is close at hand.  Repent and believe the Good News”.  This is what the season of lent is for.  It’s the moment for each of us and our communities to discover the “the time has come”.  We discover a God who is healing and purifying us; helping us face our self-deceptions and our blind spots.  We discover a God wanting us to grow as his sons and daughters right now.  There’s a twist at the end too.  We discover this by “Repenting”, by changing our minds and our ways of seeing and living.  We start to believe the "Good News” about God, about ourselves and about each other.  We let go of the "bad news” of what the wild animals might do to us and instead allow the angels to look after us. 

Fr Gerry
February 20th, 2021

Corbar Cross

Who do you think is suffering the most during our pandemic?  Seeing the figures of more than 1,000 deaths a day in recent weeks has been really chilling.  Watching the number of infections rocket has been shocking.  People in nursing homes have dropped out of the headlines but I suspect they are among the ones who have most suffered in the past year. 
I especially remember being asked to go and pray with someone dying in a nursing home.  His wife had been a daily visitor spending a good portion of the day visiting, talking, feeding and taking her sick husband out for a walk.  All of this was suddenly stopped and when her husband became very poorly she couldn’t visit him at all.  She phoned me when he was put on end of life care and when they were still waiting for the results of a Covid test.  I found myself praying with her and a very sensitive member of staff OUTSIDE her husband’s window.  It was so painful.  Heartbreaking.  Unreal.  We wondered if he could see us. I watched her reaching out her arms to him, unable to touch him.  I went home feeling distressed and very upset thinking we must find a way round it. 

We see Jesus continually finding a way round things for people who the rest of us have given up on.  Lepers were dangerous people.  If you touched them you risked contagion and slow death.  They lived outside the town or village, where we used to make “mad” people live.  This leper had obviously heard about Jesus healing people and it sounds as though he’s giving it one last chance.  He sounds really quite depressed. “If you want to, you can heal me” he says to Jesus.  He doubts that anyone wants to have anything to do with him anymore.  Maybe even God has given up on him?  “Of course, I want to” is an answer that’s meant to jolt him out of his despair.  Jesus’ touching him probably clinched the deal.  Jesus doesn’t just say it, he does it.  He crosses the great chasm between the leper and everybody else, even God.  We’re told that the leper couldn’t stop talking about Jesus afterwards.  I wonder what he said to people.  Maybe “he touched me” were the most amazing, most shocking, 3 words.  Jesus took the risk.  He put himself in danger.  He became intimate, really close to both the lepers’ skin but his heart too.

We’re told at the beginning of the encounter that Jesus “felt sorry” for the leper.  Who are you feeling sorry for at the moment?  I’ve talked about people in nursing homes and care homes and their families but there are lots of people that we’re all feeling for at the moment.  It’s another thing doing something about it.  Contacting then, phoning them, texting them can be something we keep putting off.  Why?  I suspect we know it will take something out of us.  Because we know that they’ll ask us to share their pain, their worry and even their fears.  We suspect contacting them might take it out of us.  The story ends in a curious but hopeful way.  St Mark tells us that Jesus could no longer go openly into any town.  He took the place of the leper.  He became an outsider and felt what it’s like to be excluded.  Mark finishes by telling us that “even so people from all around would still come to him”.  It means that needy, hurting, sick people kept giving Jesus hope when he felt burdened.

That phone call might not be a pain after all.  It might just save us too.

Fr Gerry
February 14th, 2021



Getting the vaccine in Buxton is really convenient.  It’s just around the corner on Temple Road.  All the town medical centres have joined together and it’s a slick operation.  Yesterday I found myself queuing in the car park with about 15 other people.  When I looked around me I thought “do I really look as old as all of these folk?”  There was someone obviously young there too and I wondered if they had sneaked in!  Our physical health has been totally dominating our minds for the past 10 months so it’s striking in today’s Gospel story to be told: “the whole town came crowding round the door and Jesus cured those who were suffering from diseases of one kind or another”.  It’s as though they were queuing up to receive the vaccine!  The longer it’s gone on the more we’ve realised that Covid is more than a physical disease.  Lockdowns and restrictions affect the heart and mind too.  We’re talking so much about our “mental health” now.  I wonder if it’s a way of disguising that we’re lonely, anxious and fed up.  We miss our families, our friends and the variety of life.  It can all feel a bit heavy and colourless.

Today’s Gospel tells us Simon and Andrew take Jesus to their house before work.  They’re opening up to him, introducing him to the family, but worryingly Simon’s mother-in-law is in bed with malaria.  It’s not just a headache!  Jesus’ reaction is revealing.  He doesn’t put her on the long finger but immediately goes to her and takes her by the hand.  He shouldn’t have touched her.  You could only physically touch your own wife and family.  He gets both physically and emotionally close to her.  He breaks through the barriers between them and our translation tells us he “helps” her “up”.  It’s the same word as “raises her up”, and it’s the word used of Jesus’ own resurrection from the dead.  The woman who had been laid low with malaria is raised to life again.  It’s that picture of being down and then Jesus picking her up and restoring her to the fullness of life again.  We’re told the fever left her and she began to “wait” on them.  It doesn’t mean that she made the dinner!  “Waiting on someone” is our translation of “diakonia” – what deacons do – serve people.  When people are healed by Jesus they don’t just go back to life as it was before – they begin a deeper service of others. 

In the midst of all this activity, Jesus gets up early in the morning and goes to pray.  Why?  He needs more than sleep to keep him going – He goes alone – without the support of friends Simon and the companions don’t go to pray with him.  Why not?  They’re very impressed by all the healing miracles but haven’t learnt yet where his power comes from.  They have to go and look for Jesus.  They find him and then the whole party moves on to more healing activity.  It sounds as though busyness is taking them over – they don’t understand that personal prayer is the centre of Jesus’ life.  They’re taken in by all the excitement but overlook an essential part of Jesus’ life.  You will remember that even at the end of Jesus’ life he prays alone – his disciple’s fall asleep in the garden before his crucifixion.  

I suspect that we’re all quite like them. We put so much of our energies into helping people that we can easily forget where our energy, our love comes from.  Daily morning and evening prayer is part of the Catholic tradition and routine.  I think going to Mass is a bit empty without it.  Isn’t this one of the things that Covid is teaching us?  That in the midst of all our busyness we need to pray.  Bishop Patrick has sent us a booklet to remind us to do it in Lent.  In fact, we’re discovering it’s essential for us every day as it was for Jesus.  It’s about reminding our selves of who is our centre.  It’s meeting “the God who heals the brokenhearted.”

Fr Gerry
February 6, 2021

St Anne


This week I discovered there are some privileges of being 70 after all. I got the invitation from the doctors to have the vaccine.  I feel relieved.  I feel privileged being near the front of the queue.  I must admit, though, I find it hard to admit I’m in the vulnerable group – I’m much more likely to catch the virus and die than younger people.  I don’t like being reminded that I’m much nearer the end of my life than many people.  Almost all of us are deeply grateful for the vaccine.  I tell myself that God has been secretly working with our scientists to help them discover these new medicines.  

When Jesus met the man possessed by the unclean spirit it sounds like it was a terrifying occasion.  The man is shouting; he’s thrown into convulsions and shrieking.  All the people in the synagogue must have felt themselves instinctively backing away, wanting to be out of there.  Not Jesus! Instead of running away like Jonah, he engages the very sick man.  Maybe he then felt smacked in the face by the man’s sharp words.  There’s a battle between good and evil that takes place there and then.  The spirit of evil senses it is on the back foot and in retreat and asks Jesus “Have you come to destroy us?”  Jesus claims the victory over this shouting and chaos and orders the spirit “Be quiet and come out of the man”.  The Spirit, the Holy Spirit, which had descended on Jesus at his Baptism, and which had been his strength when he was tested in the desert, defeats and conquers this unclean spirit which possesses the man. 

People watching really sit up.  They’re “astonished” and puzzled and yet hopeful.  “Here is a new teaching”, they say, “and with authority behind it”.  Jesus speaks and it happens.  He says the word and good overcomes evil and a new world begins.  Here in St Marks Gospel Jesus teaches us much by his actions as by his words.  He comes across as a warrior on the side of all that’s good, overcoming all that’s evil, degrading and disheartening. 

Even when Jesus teaches with words earlier on in the story we’re told he made a “deep impression” on his listeners because he taught “with authority”.  We give much more weight to actions than words don’t we?  Stop and think – Who’s making a deep impression on you at the moment.  Who’s teaching you with authority?  Maybe by their actions more than their words?  I was very impressed by the nurse who knelt down by the bedside and said the Our Father with me yesterday as we both prayed with a woman who was dying. 

I was impressed by the wife sitting beside her chronically ill husband patiently feeding him his dinner and talking to him despite rarely getting an answer.  I was impressed by the parents adjusting yet again to homeschooling, altering their work timetables, making sure their children are on the computer ready to start home learning at 9 am on a Monday morning. 

I’m very impressed by all these people who keep reminding us that “Black Lives Matter” even when we think it’s no longer necessary.  
Let’s look around us this week and watch out for all those situations where the Spirit of God is defeating the evil spirits.

It’s all still happening today right under our noses but it’s very ordinarily and normally hidden.  It’s not noisy, but quiet.  Notice all those people getting on with life, loving and caring in difficult circumstances, even when they’re tired, weary, feel like giving up.

What’s impressive is that the Spirit of God helps us all to keep going even when everything around is noisy and chaotic.  Ask this Spirit to bring you quietness and hope. 

Fr Gerry
January 30, 2021

Corbar Cross


Did you watch any of the Inauguration of the new American President last Wednesday and Thursday?  What caught your attention about it?  Can’t Lady Gaga sing?  What about the young black poet, Amanda Gorman?  Her recitation of her poem “The Hill we climb” stole the show.  What about Joe Biden, oldest President ever, 3rd time lucky, and a practicing Catholic – measured, smiling, determined.  Of course, the Donald wasn’t there – he’s still sulking, angry, protesting they had stolen the election from him.  What a contrast between the new one and the old one!  How could they be so different? 

Reading today’s Gospel you could be forgiven for thinking that those first followers of Jesus were the perfect disciples.  When Jesus called them we’re told: “they left their nets and followed him”.  James and his brother John left their father too and they all did it straight away – “at once” is one of St Mark’s favourite words.  What a contrast these followers of Jesus are to the prophet Jonah!  Jonah is probably the nearest thing to Donald Trump in the whole of the Bible.  He’s a nightmare prophet of God.  He always wants his own way.  He’s always right.  When things turn our differently he spits the dummy out.  Let me explain.

Look at today’s First Reading again.  It starts halfway through the book of Jonah.  The one thing we all know about him was that he was swallowed by the whale.  How come? Well, God called him to go East to Nineveh and he fled West to Tarshish.  Why?  Because he thought God was crazy thinking the people of Nineveh could change their ways.  They were bad, evil, unredeemable people for Jonah.  God was wasting his time thinking he could convert them so Jonah thought he could run away from God.  Now Tarshish was in Spain.  Jonah was setting out on a years’ journey by boat – putting as much space as possible between him and God.  Eventually, of course, God found him in the belly of the whale.  Jonah “sort of” repented.  He “kind of” gave in to God.  He said the right words but didn’t really mean them.  He went through the motions and that’s where today’s story starts.  This second time Jonah got the same message and goes East to Nineveh as God tells him.  He gives the message to the Ninevites thinking God was making a terrible mistake.  He still thought these people were undeserving of God’s love and mercy and gets the shock of his life.    They repent!  They change their ways! We’re told, “God relented and didn’t inflict the disaster he had threatened”.  Jonah is furious.  He’s hopping mad.  Complains bitterly to God that he’s done the wrong thing and shown his mercy to these undeserving people. 

The book of Jonah ends up with everybody – the sailors, the pagan Ninevites, their king, all repenting but Jonah himself is left in mid-air – still grumbling against God’s strange ways of showing mercy to these foreigners.  How will he end up? The whole book is only 5 chapters – read it to discover the ending – He reminds me of Donald Trump promising “I’ll be back!”

Simon and Andrew, James and John are a magnificent contrast to Jonah.  They leave their nets, their jobs, their families everything that they’d planned and put their trust in the new thing they saw God doing in the life of Jesus of Nazareth.  But the honeymoon will soon be over and we will see in future weeks they crash.  Just like Jonah.  What about us?  Aren’t we in the middle of another 40 days of God calling us to change our ways?  

“Repenting” is much, much more demanding than what the Government is asking us to do!  What does the story of Jonah remind you of in yourself?  How you trick yourself?  How do you keep thinking you can tell God who to love?  How you can make promises and not really mean them?  The first disciples make us more hopeful about ourselves.  They really did follow Jesus.  They actually left their boats ad their nets and even their families.  They, like us, began to live in the company of Jesus.  Did they put their trust in him because they were fishermen?  Was it because they know there is a world beneath the surface of the water?  A world you can’t see but depend on not just for your living but for all living.  

Here they are beginning to catch not fish but people, beginning to catch not just other people but to catch themselves. 
Fr Gerry
January 23, 2021



It’s late Autumn and the native Americans on a remote reservation in South Dakota ask their new Chief if the coming winter is going to be cold or mild.  Sadly the new leader has never been taught the old secrets of how to read the sky so when he looks up he can find no answer.  But he thinks it wise to be prepared just in case so he tells his tribe it will indeed be a cold winter and they should start collecting firewood immediately.   A few days later he decides to check the weather forecast and it tells him “Yes, it’s gonna be a pretty cold winter.”  So he goes back to his people and tells them “Collect even more firewood”.  A week later he makes another phone call.  This time he’s told it’s going to be a VERY COLD WINTER.  The Chief goes back to his people yet again and orders them to collect every scrap of firewood they can find.  By now the winter is almost upon South Dakota so the chief makes one last phone call. “Are you absolutely sure this winter is going to be really cold?” “Absolutely”, the Weatherman replies.  It’s looking like it’s gonna be one of the coldest winters we’ve ever seen ” How can you be so sure the Chief asks." The Weatherman replies “All the Indians are collecting loads and loads of firewood”.  

We’re going round and round in circles!  It’s the blind leading the blind.  Nobody really knows although they say they do. Remember that slogan we’ve been hearing for the past 10 months “We’re following the science”.  We’ve discovered the science isn’t enough on its own, we also need to know how to read the human heart!  Changing our everyday behaviour and routines is really difficult!  As a result of our confusion we have lots of people saying at the moment “I don’t know who to believe”.

Chris Whittey, the National Chief Medical Officer, stepped up last week to tell us the worst was still to come and that stopping at home is the only solution.  The problem is that it’s something not everyone can afford to do, and it’s not something everyone wants to do. Actually, we all really need to change and that’s a very bumpy journey.

If you read today’s Gospel too literally you can get the impression it’s all straightforward and easy peasy for the first Disciples to follow Jesus.  It wasn’t!  It was demanding!  It required that they turn their lives upside down.  It forced them to ask themselves questions they had been partly avoiding all their lives.  What do you want?  Jesus asks them.  It stops us in our tracks!  It makes us dig deeper and go beneath the surface.  He asks us to search our hearts.  We’re invited to sort our priorities out, to be more clear about what really matters, to put these choices first and not let ourselves get sidetracked by what doesn’t really matter.  Jesus is a reader of the human heart, a spiritual leader and more – “The Lamb of God”. 
In St John’s Gospel, we shall watch him meeting troubled people who are seeking someone to help them read their own divided hearts.  He’ll meet Nicodemis the Pharisee who comes to him at night.  Jesus will tell him he needs to be “born again”. 
He’ll ask the woman at the well, the one who’s had five husbands, for a drink and promises her living water.  He’ll ask the paralysed man who has been ill for 38 years “Do you want to be well again?”
Everyone he meets will get more than a run for their money.  Of course, it’s all worth it because with Jesus they and we find our own hearts’ desire.  We discover where he lives.  We decide to stay with him not just the rest of the day but the rest of our lives.  We come home to God and home to ourselves.  There’s no need to phone the weather forecast.  We’ve learnt to read the sky by listening to the one who shows us how to read our own hearts.
Fr Gerry
January 15, 2021

Lightwood top pond


Schools and exams are in the news again.  They went back to school last Monday, then closed on Tuesday.  It’s online learning now and parents and children are adapting.  The Government decided there will be no GCSEs and A levels once again this year.  This affects the career decisions of many young people.  What am I going to do with my life?  What do I feel drawn to?  You all might be hearing the nervousness and disappointment of your children or Grandchildren wondering about universities or apprenticeships or just a job at the moment.

We are gloriously in the dark about Jesus growing up.  St Mark completely skips it.  There are no birth stories in his gospel, he dives straight into the adult life of Jesus.  He starts his gospel with this story of Jesus making the 3-day journey south to meet John the Baptist to be baptised by him.  I’m struck by Jesus deciding not to stay at home.  The security of the family business obviously didn’t really appeal and he decides to leave home to check out John the Baptist.  I imagine he could have spent 6 months with him, watching him at work, listening to his preaching, asking his advice and that this climaxed in his asking John to Baptise him.  Jesus admired John.  John believed in Jesus.  John told Jesus “Yes you can!”  Jesus took the plunge literally because John said: “You can do it”.  We can all be so hesitant about committing ourselves.  We can put it off for so long and never get round to it.  It makes all the difference having someone behind you, telling you to take the risk, to commit yourself, that you’re ready.  John did this for Jesus.   Some of these will I? won’t I? Questions and struggles are highlighted in the symbolism of Jesus’ baptism. 

I said earlier that Jesus takes the plunge.  He goes into the deep.  John holds his head down in the water long enough for him to experience his own smallness and powerlessness but also when he picks him up Jesus knows the goodness of God rescuing him with the breath of new life. “The heavens are torn apart” “The spirit is given to him”.  Instead of endlessly trying to find his own way the light of God’s love makes its home in him and becomes a permanent compass for him.  He’s no longer lost in doubting himself because he discovers a reliable centre – he’s “the Son, the Beloved, God’s favour rests on him”.

Guess what comes after this story in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew?  You would imagine a story of homecoming where they rolled out the red carpet, wouldn’t you?  No, in both Mark and Matthew this same Spirit, who descended like a dove when the heavens opened, this Spirit drove Jesus into the desert where he was tested for 40 days – about the length of our present lockdown. 

The same is happening to all of us now.  After the comforting, joyful, careful celebrations of Christmas, we’re plonked back into the desert.  Mark says Jesus was with the wild animals – he was in danger of all his commitment collapsing – but the angels looked after him.  Remember your baptism today, remember you experienced the personal affirmation and confirmation that Jesus did.  When we feel attacked by the wild animals call on the angels to minister to you.  

Fr Gerry
January 10th, 2021


Fr Gerry's Second Lockdown Homilies



I’ve been trying to think about modern prophets.  Have we got any?  If so, who are they?  Who are the people in today’s world that might remind us a bit of John the Baptist?  They tend to be edgy, challenging, dreaming of a new world.  John lived in the wilderness, wore the clothes of the prophet Elijah and ate locusts and wild honey.  To say he was different doesn’t begin to describe him but, intriguingly, crowds made their way out of the city to see him, to listen to him, and were so convinced by him, they asked him to baptise them, and joined his mission.
Who is remotely like that today?  The person I most often hear described as a “national treasure” is David Attenborough.  He used to be “cuddly” until he became prophetic and started campaigning about climate change and the need for us to change our lifestyles to save the natural world.  I was really very touched when I saw him hold hands with the young Swedish woman, Greta Thunberg.  It was a reminder for me of the elders Simeon and Anna holding the child Jesus in their arms.  He reached across the generations when he saw his torch being picked up and carried on in new ways by one so young.
The other person that continues to attract and disturb me is Pope Francis.  I’ve been reading his recent letter “Brothers and Sisters all” this week and been inspired by the way he retells the story of St Francis of Assisi.  He’s taken not only Francis’ name but his spirit too.  St Francis felt himself a brother to the sun, the sea and the wind, yet he knew he was even closer to those of his own flesh.  Wherever he went he sowed the seeds of peace and walked alongside the poor, the abandoned, the infirm, the outcast, the least of his brothers and sisters.  Pope Francis tells the story of the Saint going to visit the Muslim Sultan of Egypt during the Crusades “13th Century Inter-religious Dialogue”. The Saint travelled a great distance, with scarce resources, not sharing the same language, nationality or religion but found a love big enough which tried to embrace everyone even his enemies.  The Saint did not wage a war of words, trying to impose Christian doctrines – instead, he approached others so openly he didn’t try to draw them into his own life, but to help them become ever more fully themselves.  He later told his followers if they found themselves among the Muslims or unbelievers not to engage in arguments or disputes but to be subject to every human person for God’s sake.  He freed himself of the desire to wield power over others.  He became one of the poor and sought to live in harmony with all.  The Pope says St Francis inspires him to seek a new society, a new world which is not just for the few and not even for the many, but for all.  “Brothers and Sisters All”.
In recent years the Cafod “Live Simply” Campaign has been a real signpost for me.  Living simply and not extravagantly, Living in Solidarity both at home and abroad.  This is why so many people are angry with the recent Government cuts on our help to those overseas.  An ex-cabinet minister thinks 100,000 people will die as a result.  And finally Living Sustainably so that we don’t use up all the world’s resources and treasures today but pass it on to future generations.
As we approach Christmas this year maybe David Attenborough, Greta Thunberg, Pope Francis and Cafod can be prophets to us like John the Baptism was long ago.  They’re all calling us like him to repent, to live simply, in solidarity with all and sustainably with the natural world.

Fr Gerry
December 5th 2020.

Corbar woods

I love the drive from Buxton to Chapel on the A6 and Long Lane.  The shape of the Peaks, the quirky ups and downs, the ins and outs always engage me in moments of wonder.  The one thing I miss is the trees.
Living in Buxton is the first time I’ve ever lived in a place with so many trees.  They’re everywhere!
Many of the streets and roads are tree-lined.  The Duke of Devonshire’s design really shows.  It makes for a busy time in the autumn sweeping up the fallen leaves!

Here’s a story called “Why some trees are evergreen”.
When the plants and trees were first made the Great Mystery gave a gift to them all.  But first, he set up a contest to determine which gift would be most useful to whom.  “I want you to stay awake and keep watch over the earth for 7 nights,” the Great Mystery told them.
The young trees and plants were so excited to be entrusted with such an important job that the first night they would have found it difficult not to stay awake.  However the second night was not so easy, and just before dawn, a few fell asleep.  On the third night, the trees and plants whispered among themselves in the wind, trying to keep from dropping off, but it was too much work for some of them.  Even more, fell asleep on the fourth night.
By the time the 7th night came the only trees and plants still awake were the cedar, the pine, the spruce, the holly, the ivy and the conifer.
“What wonderful endurance you have!” exclaimed the Great Mystery “You shall be given the gift of remaining green forever.  You shall be the guardians of the forest.  Even in the seeming dead of winter, your brother and sister creatures will find life by being protected in your branches”. 
Ever since then all the other trees and plants lose their leaves and sleep all winter while the evergreens stay awake.
This is a Cherokee Indian Creation Story.  It talks about greenness in the midst of barrenness and links this greenness with the ability to stay awake.  Staying awake is a standard code in all the spiritual traditions.  It means remaining aware of our connection with God even when outer and inner forces fight against it.  Light in the darkness reminds us of this and so does the green-leafed tree in the leafless forest
We all instinctively know this already.  That’s why some people have already put their Christmas Trees up both outside and inside!  We want to remind ourselves of life even in the winter!  That’s a part of what the Advent Wreath is about.  It’s green.  It’s made up of conifer, holly, ivy, green leaves and berries.  It’s showing us how to be green in barrenness, how to be alive in the dark of winter, how to stay awake when everyone else is falling asleep.
There’s one glorious line of poetry in today’s first reading from Isaiah that I really like “Oh that you would tear the heaven open and come down – at your Presence the mountains would melt.”
Well, God has torn the heavens open and has come down. Most of the mountains and peaks haven’t melted but we have!  
We’ve seen him.  We’ve experienced him.  We’re reminded of him each day in this season of Advent. 
Many people have fallen asleep.  We even do so ourselves. This is the season to stay awake.  So we’re invited to Wake up – to the God who became a baby in a stable
Wake up – to the prophet who ate with tax collectors and sinners
Wake up – to Jesus, the Son of Mary who was crucified on the cross
Wake up – to the God who comes to us today looking like bread, and tasting like bread, feeding us with new life
When you look at the trees this next month notice the green leaves on the evergreens.  We’re called to be green, to be awake even when everyone else has gone to sleep.

Fr Gerry
November 28th 2020.

Don Lavery

This week I was redecorating the bathroom. Over the years the mirror had become a bit rusty and dishevelled so we decided to replace it. When I’d hung it on the wall I realised that it wasn’t working properly. When I’d hung the previous one for the first time, that had shown a much younger and more virile man. (Quite handsome actually)

This one only showed a much older man with double chins and wrinkles - I may have to take it back.

The actress and great beauty Audrey Hepburn was once asked how she maintained her beauty into old age.  Her reply, which was read at her funeral is great advice for all women (and for men too) It resonates with echoes of the beatitudes.  And unsurprisingly it also fits with today’s gospel. 

Here are Audrey’s beauty tips.

To have attractive lips, speak kind words.

To have a loving look, look for the good side of people.

To look skinny, share your food with the hungry.

People, even more than objects, need to be fixed, spoiled, awakened, wanted and saved: never give up on anyone.

When you become old, you will discover that you have two hands, one to help yourself, the second to help others.

 The beauty of a woman [or a man] is seen in their eyes because that is the door open to their heart, the source of their love.

Thinking of actresses, cinema and all that led me to think that if there was a movie being made about the church’s year what would you choose as the final climactic scene?

Would you pick the Annunciation when Gabriel proclaims that the promise made to the chosen people thousands of years past is about to be fulfilled? 

Or Christmas?  With the stable and the birth of the Messiah- he has come at last. That might be good…

What about Good Friday when we witness the price being paid for us all - for our redemption – being paid by the innocent one on the cross?  Although I think that that has been done. 

Better maybe, might be Easter Sunday when in the early morning the glory of God spreads out in a golden light as Christ rises from the tomb - proof indeed that our debt has been paid.

But the church doesn’t pick any of these.  Quite deliberately it chooses today as the finale of its year. The last day of the year towards which all the others have been pointing.  The end of the year, the end perhaps of all time - and the end towards which we too point. Christ as King. Christ as head of his kingdom. 

It was not always so. The feast was only introduced by St Pius XI in 1925.  That was just three years after Mussolini became Prime Minister of Italy and his fascist government came to power. The Pope in his encyclical which instituted the Feast of Christ the King said“…chief causes of the difficulties under which mankind is labouring….and the manifold evils in the world, were due to the fact that the majority of men had thrust Jesus… and his holy law out of their lives; that these had no place either in private affairs or in politics:  and long as individuals and states refused to submit to the rule of our Saviour, there would be no real… prospect of a lasting peace among nations. Men must look for the peace of Christ in the Kingdom of Christ…” (Pius XI Quas Primas 1)

For most of the year, we have been reading about and thinking about the coming of the kingdom.  Every day and sometimes several times a day we pray ‘thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ We know that as the kingdom of God is not in the world, not in time, that we enter it by doing God’s will; by walking in the Spirit of God and producing the fruits of the Spirit, such as love, joy, peace, and especially mercy. We enter, by striving every day to a little bit less of my will and a little bit more of his will. 

But it is a most unusual kingdom. The greatest in the Kingdom are the childlike. The weak conquer the strong, the foolish confound the wise and frequently a camel simply pops through the eye of a needle.  We increase our wealth by decreasing ourselves.  We multiply everything that is of value by dividing it among all who are in need.  In the Kingdom of God, there is only one law, the law of love.  And most strange of all the King is the servant of all.

Yes, he is a pretty strange king; he is a crucified King and just in case we should miss the point, he has the words ‘King of the Jews’ pinned above his head. Jesus’ idea of kingship and power is totally opposite to the world’s idea of kingship and power. That is why the preface to the Eucharistic Prayer in today’s Mass describes Jesus’ kingdom as a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace.

The king, not only of the Jews but of all peoples, the universal king, from his royal throne on the cross, extends his invitation to all his subjects:-“If anyone will come after me he must pick up his cross daily and follow me.”

There are no states within this Kingdom that are more perfect than any other.  

No person who is more perfect than any other.  Everyone is called to use the talents that they have been given: to reach their full potential.

 The end of the old year is also the beginning of the new and with it comes the tradition of New Year’s resolutions. Perhaps we could do as Audrey Hepburn suggested and strive to remember that ‘People, even more than objects, need to be fixed, spoiled, awakened, wanted and saved: We must never give up on anyone.

Or perhaps to do as Pope Francis said during his Year of Mercy ‘Small gestures of love, of tenderness, of care, make people feel that the Lord is with us. This is how the door of mercy opens. God has caressed us with His mercy. Let us bring God’s tender caress to others, to those who are in need.’

Then one day, we may hear the Servant King say to each one of us …

Come you who my father has blessed take for your heritage the kingdom prepared for you… for I was hungry and you gave me food:  Thirsty and you gave me drink…

Rev Don Lavery

November 21st, 2020. 



As the days shorten and the nights draw in Radio 4 listeners have been asked to share something that’s been brightening up their days and helping them to get through the lockdown restrictions.

This morning a 92-year-old woman called June Tibby shared her golden daily moment.  She said, “my moment is at half-past 5 every day.  Part of the pleasure is in the ritual which goes like this:-
Slice the lemon
Drop it in a glass with 2 ice cubes
Add a large measure of gin
Listen to the blissful fizz of the tonic then
Light a candle
Sit and sip my drink
Watch the flame of the candle and count my blessings:-
Family, friends, health, and the radio,
Cheers!  Magic.   
Then she giggles.  The radio presenter added “June should be available on prescription to everyone in the country.  She’s better than the vaccine!”

I enjoyed June’s delight in sharing her ritual with us all but she threw me at the end.  I was surprised when she combined it all with “counting her blessings” .  She mentioned her family, friends, health, the radio.

The first two servants in today’s Gospel count their blessings, the Master has entrusted all his property to them.  It’s worth a bomb!  Even the one talent is the equivalent of 20 years salary – half a lifetime’s work.  The servant who received 5 times that really has won the lottery!

These two servants go and trade with their treasures.  It doesn’t mean they start up a new business.  Trading here means they count their blessings, they share their blessings, they risk giving their blessings to everyone both near and far.  They share the trust the Master has in them with those around them.

I felt sad about the servant who dug a hole in the ground and hid his Master’s money.  Maybe he’s afraid of failing and has never been shown how to trust himself?  The meaning of the gift is hidden from him and he buries the treasure and then blames his master for being too demanding.  He could be Donald Trump at the moment, blaming everyone else except himself.  Instead of treasuring the gift he accuses his master of severity.
Do we count our blessings enough?  During this month of November we’re especially deepening our sense of gratitude to God for all the people who have died who have been part of our lives.  What a blessing they are!

I wonder whether June Tibby, 92 years old knows that she’s praying when she lights her candle, sips her gin and counts her blessings every evening at 5.30 pm.  Giving thanks, being grateful, savouring the blessings of life is a golden moment for all of us each day.

It’s funny how the more we do it the more thankful and grateful we become and that spills over onto all the other moments of the day.

Fr Gerry
November 14th, 2020



I once did a wedding at Taddington with the Young Farmers.  Paul was a farmer at Whatstandwell who used to give our Briars students a day’s work experience and he asked me to witness his marriage.   We had a Young Farmers Guard of Honour.  About a dozen of the local young farmers brought their pitchforks and wellies and made an arch for the bride and groom to walk beneath coming out of the church.

We all like going to a wedding.  We like to get involved and share the joy.  We often find the couples love and commitment is contagious and we each catch a little bit of it. Certain people get the important roles, Chief Bridesmaid, Best Man, walking the bride down the aisle, making a speech.

It’s funny that there’s always something that goes wrong at a wedding.  Famously in the Gospel, they run out of wine at Cana in Galilee.  In today’s story, the bride and groom are late coming back to his house for the ceremony.  The story highlights the bridesmaids who form the guard of honour and light their lamps to escort the couple to their home. 
In gospel stories, we are always being invited not just to attend, not even to take important roles like bridesmaids and best man.  No, in these stories more is being asked of us.  We’re being invited to take the main part, to be the centre of attention.  We’re invited to marry Jesus, to pledge our commitment to him, to deepen our falling in love with him and say “’til death do us part”.  There are echoes of the wedding service where we promise “to have and hold each other, from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and cherish each other ‘til death do us part”. 
What a promise!  What an impossible dream!  How could anyone ever live up to it?

The miracle is we do! Slowly, gradually, haltingly, with many mistakes and trials and errors right to the very end.  We put oil in our lamps.  We discover each day that God loves us more deeply, more lavishly than we realised the day before.  We grow and change, we learn and mature.  We learn how to make sure there’s always oil in our lamps, love, compassion and gratitude in our hearts.  We deepen our faith in God’s presence beside us, between us, within us, and beyond us.

During this lockdown, we’ll all make that special time each day to pray.  Light your candle whether you’re alone, together, or with your family.  Put the light you see outside in your candle inside the lamp of your heart.  Remind yourself we’re invited to be on the top table of God’s wedding, invited to be a bride or groom.  Remind yourself of God’s promises to us and of ours to him.  We’ll prepare our lamps, we’ll make sure there’s plenty of oil in our hearts to meet both the everyday and the unexpected demands and challenges of this next month.

Fr Gerry
November 7th, 2020

Fr Gerry's First Lockdown Homilies



Almost every couple I meet these days seems to have met on the internet.  They are like the merchant looking for fine pearls, knowing what they are seeking and then hitting the jackpot.  It’s different when love takes you by surprise.  You’re just going about your business, following your daily routines when someone knocks you off your feet and you bump into hidden treasure. It takes you off guard.  It’s not obvious.  Maybe you don’t know you’re looking for it.  It just taps you on the shoulder and says ‘you’re the one for me!’  I suppose it’s the same with having children and grandchildren.  I’m amazed how in our technological age when we tend to think we can control everything how many babies are an accident. They’re mostly received with great joy and become much loved and wanted children.

Remember the joy you felt when you first met your partner?  Remember the joy you still feel when the treasure they are appears from behind the curtain and reminds you of the bigger love you both share?  Parents purr over their children from birth all the way through school into adulthood.  You keep glimpsing the wonder of the treasure in them that you have helped create and develop.

The hardest part of the experience is the need to sell everything.  Really?  Can’t we do a deal?  Can’t we come to an arrangement?  It’s a real letting go of all our old ways, all our old routines.  It’s allowing them to be transformed by the new love that we’ve found;  by the new love that has found us.  We buy-in.  We commit. “Freely and without reservation”.  We’re transformed by wearing this new pearl, by possessing this new treasure.
Jesus asks his disciples if they understand these parables. “Yes”, they naively say “Sort of” I imagine myself saying.  What about our discovering the hidden treasure of ‘FAITH’ during lockdown?  What became clearer for you that was previously hidden?  Did you find yourself searching for the pearl of great price when you were faced with isolation and fear and separation?  What did you find yourself selling?  What priorities have you let go of to find a new focus?  Are you happier, more peaceful? 

St Matthew is the only evangelist where Jesus tells us we must be like householders who bring out of our storeroom things BOTH OLD AND NEW.  We keep finding new treasure and fine pearls.  They bring great happiness.  Ask God for the courage to let go of some of the old in order to buy it and really make it your own.  

Fr Gerry, July 25th 2020. (No 17. the last)


Weeding can become a full-time job in our gardens and allotments at this time of the year.  The slugs, the snails, the pigeons, the birds, the squirrels and the greenfly all attack and threaten.  Imagine what it’s like when the enemy is so much harder to identify, impossible to spot at first sight.

The farmer in today’s Gospel is presented with such a problem.  You can barely tell the difference between the wheat and darnel by looking at them.  They’re almost identical twins.  You can only tell one from the other when they fruit.  The ear of wheat droops whereas the ear of darnel looks up high!  So the workers come to the farmer and want him to weed the darnel out.  Some people have the compulsion to tidy everything up right away. “Leave the weeds alone”, the farmer says, “if you touch them now I’ll have no crop at all”.  “Wait, let them grow together ‘til the harvest.  Then we can separate them”.  Teachers, Headteachers, parents and grandparents are just like the farmer.  They’re growing people. Selection isn’t possible.  They have to work with who they’re given.  Of course, all communities are a mixture of good and bad people.  The problem is we think we can tell instantly one from the other.  Jesus himself mixed with both the wheat and the darnel – the fishermen, their families, the priests, the tax collectors and sinners.  He said he came to seek out and save the lost.  His biggest enemies were the Pharisees – the word means ‘separated ones’, ‘holier than thou’.  In the end, they weeded Jesus out.  They got him to put on the cross and crucified him.  That’s where the demand for instant judgement can lead “Get rid of them! Kick them out!”.

We know they were terribly wrong about Jesus and we all know too, we can be terribly wrong about each other. “Hang on”, Jesus says, “Let’s wait and see”.  Maybe change can come.  Maybe the good can bring God’s leniency and mercy to the bad?  Maybe they can begin to experience a sense of acceptance they’ve never previously felt?  The one sure thing is that none of us can have the last word on anyone else.  Instead, we all have to wrestle with the scandal of God’s patience and mercy with us all. “Let the wheat and the darnel grow intertwined until the harvest,” he says, “THEN, I will separate them” 

Fr Gerry, July 18th 2020.  (16)


The weather is normally a sure bet to talk about with British people.  I suppose if you live in Spain you have to find other conversation openers but here it’s a safe starter.  Imagine what it’s like for us Buxton people!  Rain, wind, snow and cold, make us a hardy lot!  We know how to defend ourselves when to put the thermals on, and the snow tyres for the winter.

Farmers everywhere are always scanning the sky, they’re on the lookout for what’s coming next, whether it’s a heatwave, a deluge or the snow.  Gardeners are the same.  Defending my fragile plants against the snails and the slugs becomes a full-time job.  Today’s stories are all about God growing us and our world.   God is pictured as a farmer, a gardener sowing the seeds, nurturing the bedding plants.  The stories highlight the obstacles too.  In the Gospel, the birds eat the seed that falls at the edge of the path.  The rocks prevent the plant from taking root.  The thorns choke whatever grows.  But despite all this, Jesus highlights how the rich soil yields a great harvest. 

Jesus is trying to provoke us. “Open your eyes that are half shut”, he says, “your ears that have grown deaf and your hearts which have given up”. He’s trying to get underneath our defences and all the ways we’ve settled for the ways things are. For the ways we are. “Where are the edges of your life”? he asks.  Who are you keeping out there at arm’s length?  Can you give them some time and interest and let them in; Bring them close? What about the rocks that stop your love and concern taking greater root?  What do you keep starting, get distracted, and don’t finish?  Is this the time to plant these whispers more deeply in the soil of our hearts? And finally, the thorns.  Isn’t it a scary picture of them actually choking the growing plants?  Jesus talks about “the worries of the world and the lure of riches choking the word within us”.  All that glitters isn’t gold after all!  

The real miracle in the story is that some seed fell on rich soil and produced 100 fold crop.   As we gather together once again today as his people, as we celebrate Mass together in the flesh, as we listen to his Word and offer ourselves with Jesus to the Father he is going out to sow in us.  We have all been preparing the soil, enriching it, for the past 3 months of lockdown.  Today we receive the Lord personally once again in Holy Communion.  He becomes our food and drink.  He feeds us, strengthens us, reassures us, promises that he is remembering his word to transform us into a rich harvest.  We open ourselves to him once again knowing that his promise will not return empty, the seed of love keeps growing in the gardens of our hearts. 

Fr Gerry, July 11th 2020.  (15)

First Public Mass Service since Lockdown.    


Did anyone go to the hairdressers at midnight on Friday night?  Or maybe the barbers?  Perhaps it was a day out yesterday or even a night out last night? We’re beginning a new phase of going back to normal although all the experts are telling us it isn’t over and we must stay vigilant.  I suspect we are all delighted and thrilled by all the reunions with family and friends we’re having.  It will be easy to forget what we’ve learnt about ourselves in the past 3 months. 

Jesus in today’s Gospel reminds us of something absolutely essential.  “God Hides the Kingdom from the learned and the clever and reveals it to mere children.”  He tells us we can learn from him because he “is gentle and humble in heart”.  Coronavirus has pricked our sense of being clever and learned, we know we are all still in danger.  There is no vaccine yet.  We have all had that sense of being at risk. It could happen to me even though I’m taking all the safety precautions.  We’ve all had that sense of being vulnerable, of being weak, of being exposed.  It’s a precious experience because it’s a keyhole that opens up a new spiritual world.  We have all felt our neediness very acutely.  It’s not something we feel very often.  Normally we think we’re in charge, in control, the masters and mistresses of our world.  Instead of being “learned and clever” we have become like “children”.  Instead of being full and proud, we have felt empty and humble.

This experience is often pictured in our spiritual tradition and learning to come to God with empty hands.  Instead of coming to God full of our good deeds, full of our achievements, we come knowing our neediness, asking God to fill us rather than thinking we can do it for ourselves. 

Look at our hands in front of the altar.  They’re big, they remind me of my uncle Johnny’s hands.  They’re empty.  The fingers are bent so that nothing slips through them.  They’re the hands of people who want to receive, who know that everything they are and have and achieve has been given.  These aren’t the hands of people who are full of themselves.  They’re hands of people who know themselves, who have discovered God’s graciousness and love for them, who know that “every hair on their head has been counted,” who come to God asking Him to fill them with the gifts and graces they need. 

Take this picture, this experience of being empty-handed into the new normal.  This is the foundation stone of all the love and care we’ve each discovered in our families, in our friends and neighbours, in the NHS and in our whole society.  Our self-sufficiency and sense of being in charge have been shaken.  We have been awakened to discovering that if we come with empty hands to God he will fill them.  We “labour” and feel “overburdened” because we think we have to do it all on our own.  We find “rest” and “our burdens are lightened” when we open our hands to God and ask him to fill them. 

Fr Gerry, July 4th 2020.    (14)


All the pundits are pronouncing on the new normal.  Will life be really any different?  Will we just go back to our old ways?  Have we learnt anything during the past 3 months?  Do we want to take it forward into a different future?  BBC Radio has been running 3-minute interviews all week called “Rethink”.  They’ve interviewed some of the famous thinkers of our times.

On this feast of St Peter and St Paul, the feast of the beginnings of the Church, the feast of God’s promise to guide his people through history, I want to read to you Pope Francis’s 3-minute Rethink.  Sometimes I’m massively embarrassed by the history of the Papacy.  Other times I’m very proud.  At the moment we have Pope Francis.  People call him the world’s parish priest.  It’s really worth listening to him.
This is exactly what he said:-

“This crisis has affected everyone, rich and poor alike.  It has shone a spotlight on hypocrisy.  Too many politicians have spoken about facing up to the crisis, of the problem of hunger in the world, but still, they continue to manufacture weapons.  I was surprised to discover that some of the rubber bullets and tear gas used against the demonstrators in the US had been made in Europe.  This is the time to be converted from hypocrisy.  It is the time for integrity.  We need to practice what we preach; to be coherent in our beliefs.  Our words and our actions need to fit together.

Every crisis contains both danger and opportunity.  Today I believe we have to slow down our rate of production and consumption (Laudato Si, 191)  We have to learn to appreciate and understand the natural world as holy.  We need to reconnect with our real surroundings – human, animal and mineral.  This is a chance for conversion. This is the time to take the decisive step, to move from using and misusing nature to appreciating it.  We have forgotten the gift of nature – its holiness – we have to get it back now.

This is also the moment to see the poor.  Jesus says we will have the poor with us always and it’s true.  But the poor are hidden because poverty is shy.  We don’t see them because poverty only whispers.  St Teresa of Calcutta saw them and set out on a journey of conversion.  To “see” the poor means to restore their humanity.  They are not things, not throwaway objects; they are people.  We can’t settle for a welfare policy like one for animal rescue.  It’s not an optional extra!  We are in danger of treating the poor like abandoned dogs and cats.  Many of them live on drugs and alcohol.  We need to see them and remind them of the love their mother once had for them. 

Who will do this? I’m thinking of the saints who live next door to each of us.  They are the heroes of this crisis.  Doctors, Nurses, Volunteers, Shop Workers, Carers, Bus and Lorry Drivers, all performing their duty so that society can keep functioning.  They are all serving us.  We must become aware of this miracle of the next door saints.  If we follow in their tracks, the miracle will end well, for the good of all.  God doesn’t leave things half done, we are the ones who do that.
So finish the miracle you have half begun.  Let’s not let it slip from us now.  Let’s move ahead”.

Isn’t it inspiring to hear these very challenging words spoken to us by the successor of Peter today? 

Fr Gerry, June 27th 2020.    


Did you see that wonderful photo in the media last week?  It was of the Black Lives Matter Protester called Patrick Hutchinson.  Patrick is a personal trainer living in London and was involved in the demonstrations last week.  He looks seriously fit and big.  The two rival groups clashed and some protestors were injured, lying on the road.  Patrick, who is black, saw his rival who was white at risk and scooped him up, slung him over his back and took him to safety.  Patrick said “It’s not white versus black.  It’s everyone against the racists.”  

A modern-day example of the Good Samaritan story in action? 

I’ve also been inspired this week by the actions of two footballers.  A United player and a City idol.  They both earn shed loads of money.  But they both stuck their necks out and went very public about their own upbringing and vulnerabilities.  I suppose Marcus Rashford, the United player, got more headlines.  He plays No 10 for United and made No 10 Downing Street change their policy on free meals for children during the summer holidays.  What especially caught me about Rashford was him telling his personal story about growing up poor in a one-parent family in Manchester.  He’s 22, his mum had 5 children and they qualified for free school meals.  This is often seen as an embarrassing admission but Rashford went public about it and when No 10 said “no” he tweeted “The game’s not over yet!”  Gutsy.  A wealthy footballer sticking up for the poor when he didn’t have to.  He knew “every hair on his head had been counted” and wanted poor children to know that too. 

Raheme Sterling is the goal machine for City.  He’s a London boy, had an unsettled childhood, has made it big in football.  I liked the T-shirt he’s been wearing in public it reads “Black till I die”.  Again he’s discovered that he’s “worth more than hundreds of sparrows”.

Jesus tells the 12 apostles “Do not be afraid” 3 times within 6 verses in today’s Gospel.  Why does he repeat himself?  What does he know about us all and the way we continually doubt ourselves?  We continually worry about failing, about not being able to cope, about not being good enough.  So he tells them and us 3 times!

I especially like what he says about what we hear “in whispers”.  It’s not God shouting at us.  It’s not God banging down the door of our hearts.  It’s God “whispering” so we have to really pay attention to hear it.  Jesus is telling us to listen to our hearts.  To make time, to pay attention to our feelings.  Our God is not screaming at us but whispering.
What’s he whispering? This is the big personal, individual discovery for each one of us.  “Every hair on my head has been counted!”  Maybe not such good news for those who are bald!  What a delightful way of saying God knows me better than I know myself.  God loves me more than I love myself.  He sets me free!  We escape from the prison of fear.  We can be more brave, more bold in how we live and love.


The end of today’s story is about how we declare ourselves for Jesus in the presence of others.  Normally it’s not like Donald Trump holding a copy of the Bible for the photographers.  Maybe Patrick Hutchinson can teach us how to love those people who are very different from us.  Maybe Marcus Rashford can teach us how to tell our personal story in public and stick up for the little people.  Maybe Raheme Sterling can teach us how to delight in being who we are right till we die. 

Fr Gerry, June 21st 2020.    


What have you missed most in the past 3 months of lockdown?  I haven’t been playing golf so there are no speeding fines!  What have you missed most?  Is it your family?  Is it your friends?  Is it your children going to school?  Maybe it’s your job and the sense of achievement it brings?  Maybe you’re missing the sense of being in control and the predictability of life?  We can’t plan anymore!

I was talking to Rose Gould last week and she’s promised to invite us all to her Big Birthday Party in November.  She confessed, “I love meeting my children and grandchildren in the garden but it’s terrible not being able to touch them or hug them”.  Touching and hugging make all the difference.  She’s right.  A hug gets through to us in a way that words or even looks can just bounce off us.  We’re “flesh and blood” people.  We’re physical, bodily people.   That’s the way God has made us, to give and receive through our bodies.

St John keeps reminding us in his Gospel that the Word became Flesh.  He says “Jesus, God’s only Son, pitched his tent in our back garden”  John is having a massive argument with two sets of people.  The Jewish tradition which has thrown the Christians out of the Synagogue and called them heretics because they believe Jesus is the Messiah.  And the Gnostics who are Greek philosophers who think that it’s only the mind that matters and the body just gets in the way and they think that knowledge opens the door to God rather than love.  St John wants to treasure the body as part of the image and likeness of God living within us.  Instead of writing it off as unspiritual, he does the exact opposite.  He raises the body to new heights especially in his understanding of the Eucharist, of the Mass.

What do I mean?  If I asked you what you are most missing about church now what would you say?   The people?  Receiving Holy Communion?  Look what Jesus says in today’s Gospel “I am the living bread which has come down from heaven.  Anyone who eats this bread will live forever”.
You might think, “even if it’s only half true I want to eat some of this bread”.  Then he makes an even bigger claim “If you do not eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood you will not have life in you”.
If you understand this literally it’s shocking and even disgusting.  It could sound like cannibalism.  If you understand it Spiritually you realise that Jesus is offering us his whole self, “flesh and blood” as we say, he’s offering to become part of us, to get inside us, to touch our hearts, to be our “flesh and blood”.

St John uses a special Greek word for EATING.  It literally means CHEWING.  Remember your parents telling you to chew your food?  “Don’t just gobble it down” is what my mum used to say to me.  So Jesus is inviting us to TAKE OUR TIME eating this bread and drinking this cup.  Five years ago I met a man in Nottingham City Hospital who hadn’t been to Mass for 30 years.  I’d like you to give me Holy Communion he told me.  After he received Holy Communion I sat wondering how long I should let the silence last.  I decided to give him control.  I waited for him.  After a good 15 minutes, he asked me to continue with a blessing.  He had really eaten, chewed, the bread.  He made me realise I often receive Holy Communion routinely, automatically, without much thought.
So we’re “flesh and blood” people.  Our love grows through hugs and kisses.  Our faith grows through a flesh and blood personal meeting with Jesus at Mass.  Holy Communion is really receiving the hug and kiss of our God.  

I think Rose Gould was right about missing the hugs and kisses of her family most.  I suspect that what most Catholics are missing most about Church is Holy Communion, the hug and kiss of God.  

Livestreaming Mass is good but it lacks the “flesh and blood” people and the personal meeting of our Lord in Holy Communion.  We’re all longing for this flesh and blood of Mass.  Let’s hope one step leads to another and next month we’ll all be able to gather around the Lord’s table. 

Fr Gerry, June 14th 2020.   


I tried and tried to contact this elderly woman without any success.  I knew she lived in a block of sheltered housing with warden assistance but didn’t know the number of her flat.  So I phoned and phoned to no avail.
I went to see someone else in her block who knew her and that cracked it.  She introduced me.  We phoned her, she answered.  Yes, I was welcome to ring her doorbell today.  I felt a bit anxious and at sea because we’d never met and I knew she had the beginnings of dementia.  I shouldn’t have worried.  She was delightful and pleased to see me.  Before I left I asked her for her phone number and she couldn’t remember.  Instead, she gave me her address book and out slipped a photo of a man.  I held it up to her “My husband” She said.  “He left me for another woman”.  I was puzzled, to say the least, normally these are the photos that get ripped up, thrown out in a fury.  “I always loved him”, she said, “Even when he left me”.  “He was a weak man and I forgave him”. 

Wow, I thought to myself I’ve never met anyone like you, people who love and even when rejected continue to love. 

She reminded me of the story of Moses and the people of Israel in today’s First Reading.  God made a covenant of love with Abraham and Sarah.  It was like a marriage between God and humankind.  They promised each other love and faithfulness.  Israel kept breaking her promises, like an unfaithful sexual partner.  God set her free from the slavery of Egypt, promised her the land of milk and honey and still, she worshipped the golden calf.  Moses has been speaking with God, he’s brought 10 commandments down the mountain and smashed them in anger when he found people worshipping false gods in the Golden Calf, try again, he says to God because you are a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in mercy.”
“They are a headstrong people”, he told God by way of excusing them.  “Please keep trying with them, keep promising them, keep loving them.”

The story of Jesus is essentially a continuation of this.  Of course, there is a massive twist that God sends his only son, and doesn’t work through intermediaries, to show us his tenderness, his compassion,  his mercy. 
We meet Jesus in conversation with Nicodemus.  He’s an influential Pharisee who’s curious and comes at night to find out more.  “You’ve got to be born again”.  Jesus says to him “How can grown men and women be born again?” he asks. “From above, you need to find a new centre outside yourself.  
The wind blows where it pleases, 
Hear its sound, 
Don’t know where it comes from 
Where it goes to. 
“You’ve got to be born of the Spirit”.  How can that be? He asks.  Jesus seems fed up and exasperated by Nicodemus resisting.  “You’re a teacher in Israel and you don’t know! He replies to him.
Then Jesus opens his heart to him “God loved the world so much he gave his only son so that whoever believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life”.

Catholic Theology, at its best, proposes God as a lover.  It’s the most important part of God’s character.  God is the artist who creates a world in all its beauty and majesty and who keeps falling in love with it despite its unfaithfulness and its own ways.  God keeps reaching out in hope through this Spirit of love that refuses to give up.  

For the feast of Trinity this year I’ve discovered God not so much a judge but a saviour and lover. God as the lover who never gives up, who keeps reaching out, who keeps our photographs and treasures them, even when other people would tear them up and throw them out.   

Fr Gerry, June 7th 2020.   

baby bird
I love Spring Watch, Autumn Watch and Winter Watch on BBC TV.  It opens my eyes to the variety, interdependence and mystery of the world.  I’m still horrified when I watch Pine Martin’s and Woodpeckers raiding bird’s nests and eating the chicks.  Nature isn’t as kind as I like to imagine.  Last week was the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’ letter on “Caring for Our Common Home” – Laudato Si. 

I came across this poem by the Jesuit Priest, Scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955).  It suggests the Holy Spirit entered far more than the Apostles and “the people from every nation under heaven and living in Jerusalem” Acts 2,5.


It is done.
Once again the Fire has penetrated the earth.
Not with the sudden crash of thunderbolt,
Riving the mountain tops:
Does the Master break down doors to enter his own home?
Without earthquake, or thunderclap:
The flame has lit up the whole world from within.
All things individually and collectively
Are penetrated and flooded by it,
From the inmost core of the tiniest atom
To the mighty sweep of the most universal laws of being:
So naturally, has it flooded every element, every energy,
Every connecting link in the unity of our cosmos,
That one might suppose the cosmos to have burst
Spontaneously into flame.

Fr Gerry, May 29th 2020.


A couple of you have been asking me about how I’m progressing with the police and my speeding fines.  Well, I’ve paid £100, got 3 points on my licence and am doing a speed awareness course this Thursday.  That costs £90 too!  I’m hoping I’ll be able to mend my ways and drive more safely.

Last Sunday I was talking about Jesus promising to send us “another Advocate”, the Holy Spirit.  That Advocate is normally understood as someone who stands beside you and pleads your case.  Today we meet Jesus himself praying for his original disciples and for all of us who follow them.  What do people traditionally say in their Farewell Speech? 

Imagine yourself talking to your family before you die.  What would you say?  My guess is that you would tell them to stick together, to be united, to remain true. 

This is essentially what Jesus does in this highly poetic, massively intimate prayer to the Father that we have heard today.  He raises his eyes to heaven and opens his heart to God whom he calls Father.  He knows he has an audience and he tries to impress upon them, the night before he dies, what really matters.  He speaks about being given and sharing with them eternal life.  He tells the Father he has glorified him on earth and asks that he himself will be glorified in his passion and death.  He gives an account of his ministry and his shepherding of his disciples.  He prays for them.  That they might be light in a dark world.  That they might be united in a world of division and injustice.  Jesus continues to make this prayer for us the people of the church today.  That we might be one and not divided.  That we might be salt and light in how we live.
We see the early Christians beginning to live this out in today’s First Reading.  After the Ascension, the 11 Apostles go back to the Upper Room.  There they meet with two more groups of disciples, the women from Galilee and also Mary, the Mother of Jesus and his brothers.  These 3 groups of disciples gather into one Community to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit.  Look at all of us gathering today, virtually, from our many homes in Buxton, in Nottingham, wherever we are.  We’re doing what they first did.  We’re overhearing once again the prayer Jesus made to the Father for us.  May we be one. May we be true.  This is what really matters. 

Fr Gerry, May 23rd 2020.    


Well, I am in trouble at the moment.  Not just with my knees but with the Police.  About two months ago I received a speeding fine from the Motorway Safeguarding Unit.  I was half expecting it but had conveniently forgotten!  I was doing 50 miles an hour in a 40 limit.  Hurrying home from golf, trying to miss the forecast snow.  I was still pondering whether to pay the fine and take three points on my driving licence when I received another fine.  A new one!  Speeding on the way to golf this time – by the Waterloo Pub on the A6.  I needed help!  I took advice from a solicitor friend. 

Jesus calls the Holy Spirit “the Advocate” in today’s Gospel Story.  It’s a technical word which describes the one who pleads your case in court.  This is the first of four references to the Holy Spirit in John 14,26: 15,26; 16,7.  He’s also called “The Paraclete” and “counsellor” or “intercessor” in 1Jn 2,1.  I love these pictures of the Holy Spirit – God really pleads my cause even when I make a mess of things.  God is really on my side even when I feel weak or lost or all at sea.  Jesus tells his worrying disciples once again that “I will not leave you, orphans, I shall come to you” verse 18.  He comes not as a fair-minded, objective judge but as ‘the advocate’, the one who is biased towards us and will always find and highlight our redeeming features.  He comes as a parent figure, as a mother and father, for us who often feel let down, all on our own, stood up by our loved ones.  Instead of being orphans, the Holy Spirit invites us to discover ourselves as ‘daughters’ and ‘sons’ of our heavenly Father. 
I’m intrigued by Jesus talking about “I am in my Father and you in me and I in you”.  What do you make of it?  It reminds me of my experience of family, of my experience of a love that makes me who I am.  Jesus has the experience of God (the Father) falling in love with him.  He accepts and responds to that love and lives it out with the tax collectors and sinners.  Don’t we each catch a glimpse of this in our own relationships?  Don’t we experience it in the faithfulness and humour and care of our husbands, wives, partners and close friends?  Could it be that the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, is even pleading our cause with them, especially when we’re in trouble and don’t totally deserve it?

I’m so thankful that people keep “turning up” in my life especially when I’m in trouble.  I have that mysterious sense of “never walking alone”, of not being an orphan of being adopted by the Holy Spirit who lives in me and invites me to live in him and share it with the world. 

Fr Gerry, May 17th 2020.    



Boris Johnson has promised to give us a Road Map into the future this Sunday night.  The whole country has been asking for some guidance about the future for the past few weeks.  If we are over the peak of the epidemic what comes next is the natural question.

This is exactly the question the disciples of Jesus are asking in today’s Gospel.  Jesus has just eaten the Last Supper with them, washed their feet, despite Peter’s protests, and told them to do to each other as he has done to them.  He then tells them he is going to suffer and die and they feel orphaned.  He’s leaving them high and dry.  They can’t manage alone.  They think it’s all been in vain.  That’s why he speaks to their “troubled hearts”. The cure is to trust in God and to trust in him more deeply.  He then goes on to explain his death, resurrection, ascension, and the gift of the Holy Spirit.  He does this poetically.  “I am going to prepare a place for you.  I shall return to take you with me.  Where I am you may be too.”  These are deceptively simple ways of describing the Easter Mystery!

Fortunately, his disciples don’t understand and so we have both Thomas and Philip telling him so and trying to draw him out.  Thomas does not know where Jesus is going, and so doesn’t know the way.  Philip doesn’t understand the mutual “indwelling” of Jesus and the Father and thinks the Father is another God in the sky.  Jesus tells them “I am the way, the Truth and the Life”.  Like the disciples, we might feel none the wiser but stop and think.  They have just had their feet washed by him, their Lord and Master.  They have accompanied him to Lazarus’ funeral and seen him cry before raising Lazarus from the dead.  They had asked him about whether it was the blind man’s fault or his parents that he had been born blind.  They had witnessed Jesus spitting and making a paste and putting it on his eyes and then step by step the blind man coming not just to sight but to faith.  This is the Way of Jesus that they had been walking with him every day.  The way of compassion, the way of service, the way of having not just sight but INSIGHT about life and who Jesus is.  In the face of death, they forgot all this and so we now hear Jesus reminding them of his WAY, which is both the truth (the unveiling of God) and the life.

We tend to imagine that Jesus should have given them and us a detailed Ordnance Survey Map of the future, of the way ahead.  That’s what some people are hoping of Boris tonight and I fear they will be disappointed!  Jesus gives them no map with specific routes clearly arrowed.  Instead, he gives us a compass with himself as the way.  “Remember my ways”.  “Realise to have seen me is to have seen the Father”.  “Receive my Spirit”.  We think we need more detail but actually we don’t.  Instead, we are invited to learn to trust that he has shown us the way and that he will accompany and guide us on ours. 

Fr Gerry, May 8th. 

“Some Questions About The Good Shepherd”
John 10, 1-10

What part of the story most strikes you?  Why?

This shepherd goes ahead of the sheep rather than driving them from behind.  How did Jesus do that?  How does Pope Francis?  Which of his actions or words most inspire you?

Jesus repeats several times that he is “the gate”.  Passing through a gateway is much easier than climbing a wall or fence.  How is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus “the gateway to the fullness of life?”
Presumably, the Scribes and Pharisees are “the thieves and brigands”.  Have you ever experienced Catholic clergy or lay people behaving like them?

Who are the people in our Parish who most inspire you?  How are they like the Good Shepherd?

Who are the good shepherds in our society?  Start with those working for the N.H.S., Nursing Homes and Care Services.

The reputation of Catholic Shepherds has been seriously damaged, if not wiped out, by clergy sexual abuse and cover-up by the Bishops.  We have been personally wounded at St Anne’s. Is there anything you think we should do as a parish community to say sorry and make amends?  

Fr Gerry, May 3rd, 2020.

Yellow wood

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,  

And sorry I could not travel both 

And be one traveller, long I stood 

And looked down one as far as I could 

To where it bent in the undergrowth;


Then took the other, as just as fair

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same;


And both that morning equally lay

In leaves, no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.


I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence;

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –

I took the one less travelled by,

And that has made all the difference. 

Robert Frost 1874-1963

Some Questions

Could the disciples who decided to come back to Jerusalem from Emmaus have written this poem?

What did they see when they “looked down one road as far as they could to where it bent in the undergrowth?”

The second road was grassy and wanted wear.  What was attracting them?  What made their hearts burn?

Is the religious road “the road less travelled by” today?

Does the “breaking of bread” make “all the difference”?

Fr Gerry April 24th 2020. 

Easter garden

The phone is saving me at the moment.  I’ve never spoken to so many old friends.  Never done so much catching up. I got caught out badly by one particular phone call last week.  “Hello,” the woman said, “Happy Easter!” and then she waited. I hesitated and waited for a moment before I said: “Hello Teresa, how are you?” “It’s not Teresa”, she said, “It’s Pauline”.  I got the wrong person! I mistook her for someone else. I didn’t recognise her. This is exactly what happened to the followers of Jesus after his Resurrection. Nobody recognised him. Nobody knew who he was.  They all thought he was somebody else. Mary of Magdala thought he was the gardener. Peter thought someone had stolen his body. The other disciples were so unimpressed by Mary and Peter’s stories that they locked their doors and put the bolts on.  Why did the Risen Jesus appear so hidden and so disguised?

In today’s story, Jesus shows the frightened disciples his hands and side.  Then they knew him and are filled with peace and joy when he breathed on them and calmed their fears.  What’s happening? It’s still the evening of the first day of the week, and the new creation is still breaking out.  Jesus breathes on them first as God breathed life into Adam in the book of Genesis. They look at his side and it’s a reminder of birth and especially the birth of Eve from the side of Adam.  They look at the wounds in his hands and they know he has laid down his life for them. They breathe in his new life and along with Mary of Magdala walk with Jesus in the new Garden of Eden. But, but, Thomas wasn’t there.  “Unless I see the holes, I refuse to believe”, he says. There’s something wonderfully modern about Thomas. He wants to think for himself. He really wants to understand. He doesn’t want to believe second hand. Today we would call him “authentic”.  The problem is that he’s naive. He’s one dimensional. He’s imprisoned by the physical. He thinks he can come to a belief by physically seeing Jesus. Then he suddenly discovers his heart, his soul, his imagination and knows the hands and side of Jesus no longer need to be fingered.  The penny drops. He recognises that Jesus continues to give life even beyond death. He confesses Jesus as ‘My Lord and my God’ maybe the most personal act of faith in the New Testament.

What about us? What about us in this time of Corona Virus? Like Thomas, we’re tempted to settle for the physical dimension of life.  The daily record of so many new deaths and so many new cases. How many more weeks or months, we’re starting to ask ourselves? We’re invited to discover the Risen Jesus showing us his hands and side in the middle of all of these fears and troubles.  He’s telling us to learn to look not just with our physical eyes and ears but with the eyes and ears of our hearts. Discover the love and care and sacrifice that is real. It’s often hidden and unnoticed. It can’t be easily measured or counted. Tune into the spiritual dimension of life like Thomas.  Learn to trust each other more and depend less on yourself. Learn to listen to God speaking to us at this Mass through the people, in the Scriptures, in yourself. Don’t get caught out and simply think the one who’s talking to you is just the gardener. 

Fr Gerry - 19th April 2020


Mary of Magdala

I want to invite you to come on a journey to the back of the church. Imagine we’re going to the tomb with Mary, Peter and John.

We’ve experienced Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday with Jesus. The men had run away but the women had watched it all from a distance. They’ve seen the lifeless corpse of Jesus being placed in the tomb. Mary had gone home late. She probably couldn’t sleep so she came back before daybreak, when it was still dark, preoccupied by her loss.
Here is Mary in the garden, her hands on her chest.
Is she carrying the spices? Look at her eyes. Is she holding back tears?
What is she looking at?
Our story says at the start that she sees the tomb empty. She thinks they’ve stolen the body of Jesus. She tells Peter and John that, and they look inside the tomb themselves.
Today’s gospel leaves out half of the story. Mary stays at the tomb weeping when they leave. She meets the gardener.
‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ he asks. ‘Who are you looking for?’ She repeats her theory. ‘Mary’ the gardener says. Mary answers ‘Rabbuni’.
She knew then that the gardener was Jesus, raised to new life. Look at her face. I don’t think she’s crying, but she might be talking to the gardener. The penny might be about to drop!
Look at her clothes. The rich orange, yellow and gold robe over a purple dress. The fringes of the robe, all embroidered, dance with hope. 
Look at the garden. Start with the green grass at the bottom. 
Notice the trees: dark and light greens, red berries on the left.
Work your way up. See the purple mountain. Dark and light trees stand even higher. This is a really beautiful garden. Why?
It’s a new Garden of Eden. Mary is walking in it with Jesus, replacing God, Adam and Eve. It’s a new creation. The old one has crucified Jesus, the new one will save the world. The story begins by saying “it was very early, still dark, the first day of the week”

We’re now three weeks into lockdown, into self-isolating, into shielding those with serious conditions.
It’s still EARLY, it’s still DARK, but it’s the beginning of the first day of the week. The risen Jesus is meeting us in our gardens, in our homes, at our work: promising hope where there’s despair, smiles where there’s tears,life where there’s death.
Pope John Paul famously said: ‘We are an Easter people; Alleluia is our song’ We return now to the sanctuary to renew the promises of our Baptism, to walk with Mary and all the church, to water and the light of new hope.
“When the lonely find friendship, when the fearful find strength, when the worried find peace, the stone has been rolled away”.

Fr Gerry’s homily: 
12th April 2020, Easter Sunday


Blossom 3

Boris Johnson talked about “green shoots” at the beginning of this week.  It’s hard to believe when almost 700 people in the UK died of the virus yesterday.  Maybe his “it’s going to get worse before it gets better” is much nearer the mark and much harder to swallow?  It’s strange that Holy Week begins with the green shoots but then is totally derailed by Good Friday when things get a lot worse.

There seems to be a party atmosphere about Palm Sunday. The crowds throwing their hats in the air, laying their cloaks on the road.  There’s cheering, noise, jubilation.  They cut branches from the trees to wave-like scarves and shouted “Hosanna to the Son of David, Hosanna in the highest heavens” Hosanna is the Aramaic word meaning “Save us”, “Rescue us”.  When people asked who is he the crowds’ answer “This is the prophet, Jesus, from Nazareth, in Galilee”.  These really were green shoots.  Even if Jesus came from the wrong part of the country, even though he was a northerner, surely there were the beginnings of faith here?  So what went wrong?  How come it turned out so horribly different? 

Before suggesting some answers perhaps we could linger a little on Jesus’ decision to enter the Holy City like this.  Why does he insist on going there?  Why not pull his horns in now and compromise?  He knows, just like we do that prophets are killed there.  Why does he “have” to go there?  The Spirit seems to drive him there just as it once drove him into the desert.  He sticks to his guns!  He knows his anger with the religious authorities is justified and that their greatest talent is inventing new burdens, new regulations.  He chooses to ride a donkey!  How disarming is that?  Pilate could well have passed by the day before, riding his white horse, flanked by an army of soldiers, their armour all glistening in the sun.  Donkeys were a very different sign – a beast of burden; always put upon; the property of the poor.  These were the very people Jesus had set his heart upon from the beginning of his public ministry.  Was he going to pull out now?  No, he had to go to Jerusalem to be true to them, and true to himself.

So where did it all go wrong?  Holy Week is the story of two processions.  One into the City of Jerusalem.  One out of the City, to Golgotha, the place of the Skull.  In the first Jesus is feted by the crowds and his disciples.  But in the procession to Golgotha, he will be on his own, with just soldiers and spectators.  Crowds will dissolve. His disciples will run away.  Judas will betray him with a kiss.  Peter will deny him 3 times.  He will be left alone with his God.  Look at today’s other scripture stories.  Paul tells us that Jesus “did not cling to his equality with God.”  Instead “he emptied himself, and became a slave”. We see this emptying of himself on the cross when Jesus cries out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He let go of everything, even his certainty in God was tested. He had become a “slave”, especially a slave of the poor who were longing for a different God and a new world. 

Does this give us some hints about why the crowds changed their minds and later preferred Barabas to Jesus?  Do we begin to guess why the disciples ran away, betrayed and denied him?  Jesus is a very hard man to follow!

It’s common to call these crowds of his followers “fickle”.  It’s easy to forget that we too are fickle!  We want to follow Jesus, but the easy way without the challenge of the cross.  We have the chance today and this week to follow the story in a new way, at a time when we’re all suffering.  We’re all missing each other; we’re all wanting to hold and touch our grandchildren; we’re all fearful about the future.  This is the time for us to go inside ourselves. Meet yourself deeper down.  Admit you compromise, you hold yourself back, you don’t give all of yourself.  This is the time to meet the “Peter” inside ourselves;  We’re tempted to play safe and avoid risk and danger.  This is the time to admit that yes, we do know him, that he is our strength in this time of threat from the virus. 

Fr Gerry
Friday, 3rd April 2020. 


These words of Boris Johnson have been haunting me this past two weeks.  How timely to find that this is the content of today’s Gospel – 5th Sunday of Lent, Year A.  We read and listen once again to the story of the greatest “sign” of Jesus – the raising of his close friend Lazarus (John, Chapter 11).

Sickness and death are often times of regret and self-reproach – “if only I had done this, said that”.  We tell ourselves off.  We want to bring our loved ones back.  We imagine we could have done something to prevent their passing.  We think we are in charge!  Dying can also be a time of deepening and healing. 

Those conversations we keep putting off can actually happen.  We express our love and gratitude to each other and ask forgiveness for the wrongs and misunderstandings.  We can even dare to broach that very delicate subject of terminal care and funeral arrangements.

Rereading this story of Lazarus I discover how similar I am to Martha and Mary.  Perhaps, more surprisingly, I realise that I am more like Jesus than I thought!  These two women sound like “family” to Jesus.  They’re all really dependent on each other. He “has” to be told that Lazarus is very ill. He is “expected” to come immediately.  He “has” to be there. 

Jesus then arrives four days late and has to listen to their blaming him; realising his own loss of Lazarus, Jesus weeps. 

It’s the shortest and most extraordinary sentence in the whole bible.  Jesus was “distressed”, “sighed straight from the heart” and “wept tears”. 

St John repeats the fact of his being so upset twice, presumably because it’s so important and makes such a difference to us the readers.  He really wants us to know that Jesus is “like us in all things but sin”, and that he grieves, and cries, and feels in his body the loss of his dear friend Lazarus. 

This story nudges me to prepare to face the prospect of personal and parish grief in the coming weeks.  We each ask ourselves “is there anything specifically I need to do to get my family ready?”

The story begins by telling us it is about “a man named Lazarus who lived in the village of Bethany with his two sisters, Mary and Martha”.  Lazarus means “God helps” and Bethany means “the house of the afflicted.”  So this is a story of how God helps all those in the house of the afflicted.  Not just Lazarus and his sisters but as it turns out, gentle reader, you and I too, in this present time of crisis and pandemic.

Fr Gerry
29th March 2020. 

St Annes Parish Priests

From 1837 Mass was celebrated in Buxton by visiting priests each week. A Father O'Farrell was named from 1848, but it was only in 1850 that the first resident priest was appointed.

Father Edward McGreevy 1850 - 1863 (ob. 22 June 1863)
Father William Margison 1863 - 1871
Father Michael O'Driscoll 1871 - 1873
Vacant 1873 - 1875
Father Joseph Reddington 1875
Father John Power 1875 - 1885
Canon John Theodore Hoeben 1885 - 1899 (ob. 11 Aug 1900)
Father Frederick Kind 1900 - 1927 (ob. 31 Mar 1927)
Father Luke A Prendergast 1928 - 1937 (ob. 29 Sept 1937)
Canon Arthur J Bird 1937 - 1941
Father John Toomey 1941 - 1942 (ob. 1 Feb 1942)
Canon Alfred Baldwin 1942 - 1956
Father Philip Morris 1956 - 1957
Father J Paul Klee 1957 - 1959
Father William McEnery 1959 - 1960
Canon David Ryan 1960 - 1967
Father Bernard Doran 1967 (probably only priest in charge)
Father Gerald Collins 1967 - 1971
Father Joseph Duggan 1971 - 1977
Father Andrew Murdoch 1977 - 1978
Father Paul Cullen 1978 - 1987
Father Dennis Higgins 1987 - 2017 
(ob. 20 Jan 2017)
Father Gerry Murphy 2017 - present

History of St Annes (61kb)
Privacy Notice for the Diocese of Nottingham (175kb)


St Anne’s Restoration Work April – June 2019

The story so far ...
. St Anne’s is a beautiful church that was built in 1861
. This means that our church is 158 years old!
. The Quinquennial Report identified work that was necessary in all our buildings; there’s a lot that is needed!
. Digital plans have been drawn up for all our buildings as no plans could be found
. The work that is being carried out in the church has been identified as the highest priority of all the work necessary in order to maintain the fabric of the building
. We are able to carry out this work thanks to Fr Dennis’ generous legacy to St Anne’s Church

So who’s doing the work?

. Graeme Renton, RIBA AABC EASA IMaPS, from Building Design Partnership Ltd. is the architect in charge of the project.
. He has employed the following contractors:
. The fabric repairs will be undertaken by Aura Conservation from Stockport, a specialist contractor involved with the repairs and conservation work to old buildings and churches in particular 
. The stained-glass work will be undertaken by a local firm, Classic Glass High Peak Ltd from Dove Holes, who specialise in stained glass work 

When will the work start?

. The work will start on 08 April.
. It will last for approx. 2 months
. Scaffolding will be erected inside the church at the start of the project
. There will be a cabin in the car park for the use of the contractors.

How much will it cost?

. The value of the work, including contingencies, for the main work is £84,492 inc. VAT.
. Repairs to the stained glass in the Rose 
Window are around £12,240 inc. VAT. 
Architect’s fees are 10%
Total cost of the work £106,405

What’s being done outside the church?

. Essential repairs to the existing main roofs including leadwork, valleys and upstands 
. The reroofing of the north chapel, where the slates are in a very poor condition
. Replacement of several the rainwater downpipes and repairs to the more historic hoppers
. Replacement of some of the gutters
. Repointing /repairs to the stonework throughout

Careful rebedding and work to some of the coping stones
Repairs to window casements
Resealing around some windows
Full refurbishment of the east chancel (Rose) window with the work being undertaken in workshop conditions and being carefully refixed with the assistance of Aura Ltd
The extension of the existing handrail down towards the back of pavement and redecoration of the remainder
Isolated replacement of stone especially close to the porch

What’s being done inside the church?

Repairs to the plaster to remove the efflorescence in the Chapel and Chancel
Redecoration to the walls and ceiling in this area
Redecoration of the ceiling to the Nave 
Security improvements to the main porch door
The Rose Window will be removed after Easter and will have a temporary poly-carbonate covering whilst the work is completed (estimated at 3 to 4 weeks) To see the Rose Window properly, you need to look from the side of the Sanctuary ... See how the bottom half of the middle circle has ‘bowed’ in. The window will be removed, repaired and cleaned.

Have you seen the Sanctuary ceiling and wall?

It will be made good and painted with Keim Ecosil paint.

Look up above ... The ceiling will have loose wallpaper coverings secured and will be re-painted.

Have you noticed outside the door?

Here there will be some:

. replacement of stone
. defrassing and repointing
redecoration of fascia
repointing of ridge tiles
. replacement of lead flashing
. rebedding and repointing of coping stones

Additional security

A new shoot bolt will be fixed 
The handrail will be extended and repainted
We pass this every time we come to Church
In places, the stonework needs:
raking out and repointing
taking out and replacing
rebedding and repointing
and the gutters need taking down and replacing

The front elevation of the church that faces Terrace Road stonework will be defrassed (loose or damaged material removed and taken back to sound stone) and repointed where necessary. 

Windows will be re puttied.

What is needed around the side of the church? 

(Have you ever been round there?)

Replacing downpipes and gutters
Replacing the putty around the windows
Moss removal
Replacing ‘old’ hoppers

Look round the back of church ... there’s a lot of work to be done here!

Refixing slates
Replacing and rebedding coping stones
Some replacement of lead flashing
Raking out and repointing underneath the Rose window and ridge tiles
Removal and replacement of existing cramps
Removal of and making good rusting metal brackets

Around the back of Our Lady’s Chapel
Lots of raking out and repointing
Renovation of the roof
Replacement of all gutters

Link to photos of the church before the builders started

Link to Buxton Advertiser article