A letter from Fr. Alex Garner

A letter from Fr. Alex Garner

Letter to S. Anselm’s, Hayes – 2nd June 2020

To all at S. Anselm’s,

I’m very grateful for Fr Cashmore’s invitation to write to you all.  It’s difficult to believe that it has been over three months since my last visit!  We have all, obviously, been living through unprecedented times since then; and I hope and pray that whatever joys and sorrows these last few months may have brought, they have not broken your spirit as individuals or as a church.  ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble’ (Psalm 46).

We’ve all been adjusting to new ways of living over the last two months.  Sadly, much of my weekly round of school and care home visits has necessarily been suspended.  This has been hard – it is during times of trial that one most wants to be present with a community, and when the Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament is perhaps most valued by those who encounter It.  

Nevertheless, a quieter diary has allowed more time to pray.  I’ve never been a very good ‘pray-er’, which is one reason I value the daily Office and Mass so highly, for giving me the opportunity (and, as a priest, the obligation!) to turn to God several times each day, and offer the prayer of the Church on behalf of my parishioners.  Being able to offer Mass on behalf of our communities, institutions, and individuals – living and departed – and receiving the Body and Blood of Christ regularly is such a privilege, especially at this time when so many Christians are denied It.  I’m sure you are longing for that day when you can join together to celebrate the Eucharist again at S. Anselm’s – God willing, not too long now!

Another positive outcome of lockdown has been the time spent with Roisin and Oliver.  It’s sobering to think that Oliver has been locked down for half of his life, and spent two months interacting exclusively with his mum and dad.  Thank God for video calling, which has at least allowed his grandparents to see him regularly, even if this is nowhere near the same as holding and cuddling him, which I know they are longing to do again – they’ll be surprised how heavy he is!  This time has not been without its challenges – Oliver is not a good sleeper, and I have had frequent resort to the prayers of our Lady and S. Joseph for patience and strength at around 3am many nights!  After all, they know exactly what raising a new-born is like, and their prayers have definitely been effective.  

Raising a baby makes the Incarnation all the more incredible and mind-bending.  That God the Son, Jesus, by Whom all things were created (Colossians 1:16) became human as a real-life baby, utterly dependent and totally vulnerable, is amazing.  Fully human, like Oliver, He too needed to learn how to eat, sleep and interact with the world.  S. Paul writes poetically of the Son’s humility in Philippians 2 (look it up!), one of my favourite passages of Scripture.  That God should stoop so low, becoming one of us in order to raise us up to be one with Him, is an amazing thing to consider.  When I look at Oliver, as I am now, gurgling and playing, and imagine Jesus to have done the same, I am filled with gratitude, love, and awe.

I am very much looking forward to my next visit to S. Anselm’s, whether it’s for Fr Matthew’s licensing in July, or whenever.  I have always enjoyed and looked forward to my visits, and I have been very grateful for your prayers and generosity since getting to know you over the last year.  I will continue to keep you all in my prayers regularly, as you prepare for a new stage in your mission to the people of Hayes.

With love and best wishes,

Fr Alex, Roisin & Oliver