St. Mary, Help of Christians
Parents are obliged to have their infant children Baptised within the first weeks of life. (In danger of death the infant is to be Baptised without delay) – Godparents: at least one Catholic is required. Christians belonging to other churches can be an Honorary Godparent or a “Christian Witness”. Baptisms are ideally celebrated within Sunday Mass, when the Parish Community can welcome this new member, but this is not always convenient. (A Mass with Baptism is no longer than a normal Mass). Outside Mass, I prefer Baptisms around 12-1pm., usually on Sundays but Saturdays are also possible. A Baptism outside of Mass usually lasts about 20 minutes.
All the Faithful who have reached the age of discretion (8 they say) are bound faithfully to confess all their grave sins which have not already been directly pardoned in Confession, at least once a year. Children will make their First Confession before their First Holy Communion. In many churches, including St. Mary’s, you have the choice in the Confessional of kneeling or sitting, and the choice of speaking unseen through the curtain or face to face. As well as individual Confession, we have a Penitential Service in Lent and Advent, when you make your Confession within a Service. The purpose of the Service is to bring home to us how our sins affect the whole community, the Body of Christ. Annual Confession is the minimum requirement – if we have “Grave Sins”. What’s a ‘Grave Sin’? We used to call it “Mortal Sin”, because it killed the life of the soul; so its pretty serious, like murder and adultery. Not only is serious matter required for grave sin, but one must realise it is serious, and we must be fully aware of what we are doing. Celebrating this Sacrament of Penance/ Reconciliation (Confession) is recommended on a regular basis – some come monthly, some every few months. What about General Absolution? When there are too many people and too few priests, the Church can allow Absolution to be given to all without any individual Confession at the time – but those in grave sin are bound to confess it soon afterwards. General Absolution is rarely given lawfully in this country.
This Sacrament, with Baptism and Holy Communion, is a Sacrament of Initiation, so all who are Baptised are bound to be Confirmed. In some countries, you cannot marry in Church unless you have been Confirmed: that’s the Law of the Church, but its not imposed strictly in this country. For young people, the age for Confirmation varies from Bishop to Bishop, and even from Parish to Parish. Around here 14 years seems the practice; other places its 12 years and in one Diocese its 10 years! The ideal age is often debated, with various answers according to one’s theology. The Bishop comes here every 2 years to Confirm those young people who choose to be Confirmed; in larger parishes its every year. For those entering the Church as adults, Confirmation is normally received at the reception and the priest is delegated by the Archbishop to do this.
(1). Re 1st Holy Communion: it is the duty both of the parents and the parish priest to ensure that children who have reached the age of reason are properly prepared and having made their Sacramental Confession, receive their First Holy Communion as soon as possible – usually in Year 3. (2). Re receiving Holy Communion: (a). We should not eat or drink one hour before the time of Communion (water and medicines don’t count); the elderly and the sick, and those who care for them, do not need to fast at all. (b). We can receive Holy Communion twice on the same day. (c). Each person is free to choose to receive from the Chalice; with children, its up to the parents to judge; re school Masses, parents and staff should discuss the matter. (d). Holy Viaticum (=“Food for a Journey”) is Holy Communion given to those in danger of death from whatever cause.
Parents are reminded of their duty to promote the Catholic Education of their children. This does not end with sending them to a Catholic School, but involves leading their children by instruction and example towards Christian maturity. Where there is no suitable Catholic School, parents should seek help from the Clergy and Catechists of the Parish. We are fortunate at St Mary’s in having St Aidan’s and St Francis’ Schools, and 2 Catechism classes, and the children’s liturgy at the 10:45 Mass in term time.
“A covenant by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of their whole life, and which, of its own very nature, is ordered to the well-being of the spouses, and the procreation and upbringing of children. Between the Baptised, Marriage has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a Sacrament”. Catholics are required to be married in a Catholic Church – otherwise they are not married in the eyes of the Catholic Church. (In certain circumstances, a special dispensation might be obtained to marry in another Christian Church). This requirement of being married in the Catholic Church only applies to a Catholic, so, any marriage between 2 people who are not Catholics is regarded as a true and valid marriage, for life, wherever the marriage was contracted. A Catholic who intends to marry someone who is not Catholic, requires a permission or dispensation. 6 months notice of marriage is normally required, and couples are expected to attend a preparation day where they will be helped to understand the importance of their relationship – communication, listening, re-negotiation, forgiveness and conflict management. A full statement of the Diocesan Policy on Marriage can be found in the current Southwark Directory ( A copy for reference hangs in the porch).
Formerly called “Extreme Unction”, it was mistakenly thought to be for those at the point of death – “In Extremis,” so people were reluctant to call the priest. In fact, Extreme Unction meant the last anointing, after the anointing of Baptism and Confirmation. Now the Church has re-established this Sacrament for those who are seriously ill, and, in the Canon Law of the Church, it is listed after the Sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation, to show it is a Healing Sacrament. Our Lord’s Ministry of healing in the Gospels is continued through the Church. This healing is essentially spiritual healing, bringing peace and strength, but physical healing often follows. A person can be anointed as often as they are ill. How ill? Those who are dangerously ill, due to sickness or old age, including those facing surgery for a serious illness. Old people who are in a weak condition can be anointed. The Communal Celebration of this Sacrament was given a great boost when the Pope visited Britain and led a wonderful ceremony at our Cathedral. Canon Garry Pierce led a similar celebration at St. Mary’s, Croydon. We do the same here once a year. Some people can never get to Mass, but, with a lift, this is a good experience for them. It’s usually in October, on a Saturday with Mass at 3pm, and refreshments in the Hall afterwards. Coordinator: Janis Radford, 01737 553062.
When a person dies, whether expectedly or not, it’s a shock. Before you can come to terms with the loss, you are thrown in the deep end of the whole business of the Funeral. The first thing to do is to get a Death Certificate from the Doctor (G.P. or Hospital). Sometimes, when the death was sudden, a post-mortem is required, but this will not delay the Funeral. Once you have the Death Certificate, you need to phone your Register Office for an appointment to go to register the death. You can then contact your chosen Undertaker/Funeral Director and they will guide you through all the subsequent steps. They will contact the Crematorium or Cemetery to see what time and day is available, and they will liase with the Priest to finalise arrangements. Normally, we have a Funeral Mass at 10am followed by Cremation or Internment. Occasionally a family will chose not to have a Mass, but the Celebration of Christ’s Resurrection in Mass is a source of help and comfort, and allows the Parish Community to be with the deceased’s family and friends. The Priest (or Deacon) will see the family to offer sympathy, and work out the details of the Funeral – Readings, Readers, Hymns and an appreciation of the deceased. The Parish will be invited to pray for the one who has died the Sunday after the death, but we pray for the dead at every Mass, throughout the year. In November, the “Book of the Dead” is available for you to write the names of your deceased relatives and friends. This Book is put on the Altar at each Mass, and the people named in the Book are prayed for.