As the Year of the Word is extended into 2021, Fr Mark Jarmuz has learned just how warmly appreciated our Scripture resources have been as a focus of prayer and community in parishes during the lock-down:
In early February, at the start of Lent and a little over three weeks before the start of the Coronavirus lock-down, I led a Day of Recollection for a parish in north Leeds. The invitation had come following on from a resource which I had written for this year’s Year of Scripture, offering a simple framework for reflecting both on how scripture speaks to us in our daily lives, and on some of the beautiful reflections – offered mostly by Pope Francis – on our life and our world.
During that Day of Recollection I spoke about some of the difficult times we face and how scripture can be a rock, to be relied upon and reassured by, in times of change.
Little did I know what we would all be facing within weeks.
I had written the resource – which is available on the diocesan website https://www.dioceseofleeds.org.uk/education/our-faith/year-of-the-word/parish/ – to be used flexibly, either by parish or other groups meeting together, or by individuals or the housebound at home, with the sincere hope that they would use it in the way best suited to them.
And then lock-down began, and all our plans – including all our diocesan plans for this Year of Scripture – had to be put aside: we had to remain at home, remain separated from others, and I really thought that my resource would disappear in the anxiety and frustration of the current situation.
And yet, utterly unexpectedly, a few weeks ago, I received the following email, sent by a parishioner of St Joseph’s, Pudsey. It was a delight for me to read and it reminded me that, as we so often say so casually, the Lord moves in mysterious ways: what I thought lost and forgotten was being used very effectively and with great success in a new and different way, with all the limitations we were facing, using the technology and the goodwill of a group of people in one of the parishes.
I’d like to share that email with you, with the kind permission of its author, in the hope that you may find it encouraging and inspiring as we continue to find our way in these strange times:
‘Encounter with the Word of God Series’ by Fr Mark Jarmuz
Thank you so much for writing this series of reflections and for making them freely available.
At the start of lockdown, I felt it was important to find ways to help people connect spiritually, so I set up a Scripture group in my parish. We have been meeting via Zoom every Tuesday evening and your 12 week course has been a fantastic resource for us. I could email a new PDF each week – people could access it easily. We prayed with the first text in the group each week, then used the second text privately during the week, sharing any thoughts at the start of the next session.
People have used the resource in different ways – some have focused solely on the Scripture passages, others have looked at the extra reflections/extracts you included each week. The nature of the resource is flexible so it allows people to use it in the way that suits them wherever they are on their journey with the Lord. Some haven’t come to the meetings but have used the course privately at home. People have joined at different times during the course – and the course is so adaptable that they haven’t felt left behind in any way by not being part of the group from the start. The texts have really spoken to us during this time and it has been a time of real growth. New friendships have developed.
The Year of the Word has not unfolded in the way anyone was expecting, but your resource has been a real gift to us and the Word has been very active at this time.
HE, St Joseph’s, Pudsey
[Photo credit: Iryna Yeroshko https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode]