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Birmingham: Archbishop Longley thanks women for their contribution to Church

Archbishop Bernard Longley thanked women for their roles ‘in Christian leadership in schools and parishes, for the irreplaceable witness of Religious Sisters in the life of the Church’ and for women in our families, at the annual Easter Men’s Mass at St Chad’s Cathedral in Birmingham on Monday.

The Archbishop said that men ‘need women of faith’. He said that women are a source of encouragement to men by ‘their example’ and ‘support’ in prayer. He highlighted how it was the women who showed ‘strength’ and ‘steadfastness’ after the moment of Jesus’ arrest.

‘Women help us appreciate our identity as Christian men, at home, at work and in the life of the Church,’ he added. ‘Their achievements, their strengths and their witness of faith are not a threat but an inspiration to us, as we strive to be more faithful in our own witness to the risen Lord.’

He also highlighted how ‘Pope Francis asks us to look into the faces of these women and to recognise how the Lord wants us to respond.’

The Archbishop of Birmingham was the principal celebrant and preacher at the Men’s Mass, promoted and organised by the Catholic Men’s Society. The Mass has taken place each year since 1919. Similar Masses were celebrated by Bishop William Kenney in Coventry and by Bishop David McGough in Stoke on Trent.

The full homily text follows:

EASTER MONDAY MASS 2017
ST CHAD’S CATHEDRAL, BIRMINGHAM
Filled with awe and great joy the women came quickly away from the tomb and ran to tell the disciples.

The annual Easter Men’s Mass offers a wonderful opportunity to witness to our faith in the risen Christ as Catholic men from many different parishes across the Archdiocese. As we meet here at St Chad’s similar Masses are being celebrated by Bishop William Kenney in Coventry and by Bishop David McGough in Stoke on Trent.

We have already celebrated Easter in our home parishes with our families and friends – so what is significant about this particular Mass of Easter week? Its significance arises from its historic origin as a demonstration of faith in the presence of the risen Christ in the Eucharist. It matters to us that our Lord rose from the dead and that he is alive to us and to the whole world today and every day through his real presence in the Blessed Sacrament.

We gather annually to strengthen each other’s faith in the resurrection of our Lord from the dead. The witness of fathers and grandfathers with their sons and grandsons is a sign of the handing-on of faith within our families and of the need to continue doing this, despite the many challenges of contemporary life. Thank you for keeping this tradition within your own families.

But there are also Catholic men here today who have not come with family members: single people, widowers who remember their loved ones, those who are separated or divorced, those who feel called to a celibate way of life. All are welcome at this Mass where we are invited to pray for one another and to encourage each other in our Christian witness here in the city of Birmingham and beyond.

As Catholic men there is much that we can learn from the example of the apostles and from their experience. Peter and the eleven were chosen by the Lord to continue his mission and to witness to him following his resurrection and after his ascension to his Father’s right hand. But from the moment of Jesus’ arrest it would be the chosen men who abandoned the Lord in his hour of need.

Judas betrayed the Lord and although Peter followed our Lord to the High Priest’s house it was there that he denied Christ three times. Only John remained by the cross at Mary’s side – a comfort to our Lord in his last moments. It was instead the women disciples who showed their strength and steadfastness.

During Saturday night’s Easter Vigil at St Peter’s Basilica in Rome Pope Francis said:

Unlike the disciples, the women are present – just as they had been present as the Master breathed his last on the cross, and then, with Joseph of Arimathea, as he was laid in the tomb. Two women who did not run away, who remained steadfast, who faced life as it is and who knew the bitter taste of injustice. We see them there, before the tomb, filled with grief but equally incapable of accepting that things must always end this way.

We need women of faith to encourage us by their example and to support us by their prayers. Women have helped form us in our faith and as Catholic men we give thanks for the courage and faithfulness of Christian women through the centuries. We offer particular thanks for the women in our own families, for women in roles of Christian leadership within our schools and parishes and for the irreplaceable witness of Religious Sisters in the life of the Church.

Women help us appreciate our identity as Christian men, at home, at work and in the life of the Church. Their achievements, their strengths and their witness of faith are not a threat but an inspiration to us, as we strive to be more faithful in our own witness to the risen Lord. In the Gospel it is the women who first see the empty tomb and then run to tell the disciples. Pope Francis asks us to look into the faces of these women and to recognise how the Lord wants us to respond.

We can see in the faces of those women any number of other faces: the faces of mothers and grandmothers, of children and young people who bear the grievous burden of injustice and brutality. In their faces we can see reflected all those who, walking the streets of our cities, feel the pain of dire poverty, the sorrow born of exploitation and human trafficking. We can also see the faces of those who are
greeted with contempt because they are immigrants, deprived of country, house and family.

The Holy Father is asking us to be alert to the reality that is around us and to respond with courage and generosity – to find new ways of bringing the peace and joy of the risen Lord into the lives of those who suffer. Today I thank the members of the Catholic Men’s Society, not only for organising and supporting this Men’s Mass but also for offering opportunities for Catholic men to meet locally, praying together and planning ways of responding to the challenges that our faith in Christ means we can never ignore.

May the risen Lord bless you and all those who are close to you and may the light of his rising shine within your homes throughout the coming year.