Middlesbrough Cathedral, 7 June 2008

Here is a list of generous men whose good works have not been forgotten. In their descendants there remains a rich inheritance born of them. Their descendants stand by the covenants and thanks to them, so do their children’s children.

Today we gather to give thanks and praise to Almighty God for the rich inheritance we are now sharing due to the line of generous people who have gone before us and who gathered together in common faith and for mutual support under the banner of the Catenian Association. After thanking God, we honour the memory of our forefathers and we ask blessings on us who have received such a rich inheritance. And may I on behalf of my brother Bishops represented here by Bishop Patrick and Bishop Ambrose, offer our congratulations and prayers for every blessing in the future to prosper your work.

Most of what we have is either gift or inherited, coming from the hands of God our Father.

For our lack of thanksgiving, our lack of appreciation, for our self-centeredness, and for the times we have not been bearers of the Good News, we ask for mercy and pardon.


I was reading through the Catena Magazine in preparation for today’s celebration and indeed for the several events that I will be celebrating with many of you over the next few months. I realise that there has been and still is much discussion as to what the principal purpose of the Association is. Are you purely a social institution, is your main purpose money-raising to help others, or are you a mutual-help society assisting your own members and their families? I have no doubt that all these aims are part of what you do and what you are, but I read in one of the letters of a French brother in Birmingham which I think is especially note-worthy, he said “the Catenian Association opens a space where Faith Hope and Charity can be incarnated in today’s world.”

St Paul tells us all in the first reading today: Make the preaching of the Good News your life’s work in thoroughgoing service. Whatever the aims of the Catenian Association were or are, if you see its birth and origin within the Christian Apostolate, then it has to be intimately connected to the proclamation of the message about which we heard in that same first reading. At our baptism we were consecrated priests, prophets and members of God’s royal people.

As priests, in union with Jesus the great High Priest, we join in the great work of making holy the world which has been placed into our hands. By means of our prayer, our lives and especially our work, we are to re-consecrate this world to the Father which was created by him to reflect his glory and to bring joy to human kind. We are to lift up our world as an offering to the praise and glory of God.

We are called to be prophets who in God’s name announce his word to all peoples – proclaimers and preachers. And as part of God’s royal people we take on the authority of service to play our part in the building up of the Kingdom, taking the lowest place in order to serve our brothers and sisters and support them in whatever way we can.

I have no doubt that many of the high ideals which I have just outlined underpin much of what you believe and put into action in your individual lives and through the Catenian Association. It is indeed a high calling to which we are all invited. If you take it seriously it can be quite daunting. And, brothers and sisters, we are called to take it seriously. The more the Lord has blessed you, the more gifts he has poured into your lives, then the more will be expected of you.

The Gospel we have just heard speaks to us once again in a very radical and a rather disturbing way – if we are offering a gift back to God in thanksgiving for all he has given us, it has to be the total gift of ourselves and everything that we possess. Nothing less will do. Of the widow Jesus says: she from the little she had has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on.

This is the goal, this is the challenge the Lord is placing before each and every one of us. And we need to hear, we need to take it to heart and allow his words to re-shape our lives.

All is grace, all is gift, the most precious things we possess in our lives, generally speaking, are things which we were given in the first place – our very life and being, our most important and sustaining relationships, all that gives meaning and direction to our lives – all gifts beyond our control; gifts, however, that we must appreciate and use by sharing with all.

“…..the Catenian Association opens a space where Faith Hope and Charity can be incarnated in today’s world.”

Brothers and sisters hear what is being said to us today through the Word of God, through the Church, through your own Association. As you celebrate your first centenary be resolved to enter the new era renewed, restored, refreshed and ready to live and preach and en-flesh the virtues of that Kingdom of which you are prophets. In living out your faith, your hope and your love, not only preach the Good News, but become Good News for all who meet you. May the chains of Christ’s love wrap you round tight and draw you closer to him and to one another – “Floreat Catena!”
And we pray:

Father in heaven,
form in us the likeness of your Son
and deepen his life within us.
Send us as witnesses of gospel joy
into a world of fragile peace and broken promises.
Touch the hearts of all with your love
that we may in turn love one another.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.