By Matthew Lau
For the first time in its 63-year history, Maida Vale Parish celebrated the patronal feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi on 6 October 2019.
The usual three Sunday Masses were consolidated into one special 10am Mass, celebrated by Emeritus Archbishop Barry Hickey, and concelebrated by Parish Priest Father Joseph Rathnaraj and Alfonsas Savickis, with Permanent Deacon Trevor Lyra assisting.
St Francis of Assisi was a deacon who considered himself unworthy of being a priest; he was canonised on 16 July 1228 by Pope Gregory IX.
The motion to mark Maida Vale Parish’s patron saint feast day was an initiative of Fr Rathnaraj, who moved from Embleton Parish in January 2019.
“In our Catholic tradition, celebrating the patron of the Parish is supposed to be universal practice,” he told The Record.
“We started a spiritual preparation of a nine-day Novena to St Francis in the lead up to 6 October. The Mass was grand – it was a day to give back to the people to appreciate their generosity.”
An original 60-year-old painting of the patron was mounted outside the Church in Maida Vale for the day, adorned with floral tributes and lights as a centrepiece for reflection and devotion.
In his homily, Archbishop Emeritus Hickey drew an analogy to the many similarities St Francis of Assisi shares with Christ.
Speaking about Matthew’s Gospel, he spoke of all “who labour and are burdened”, and explained that as Catholics we should employ the patron as an example of someone to turn to in times of hardship.
“There are many aspects of St Francis of Assisi that we could speak of. Today I want to speak of his desire to be one with the Almighty God, and to do everything that God wants, to build up His kingdom, conscious that he could only do that if he were one with Jesus,” he began.
Emeritus Archbishop Hickey went on explain that the aforementioned saint’s humility and obedience clearly demonstrated that he was willing to submit himself entirely to Christ.
“[St Francis] wanted to give himself to Christ, especially to suffer with Christ, and in that way he would be one with Jesus and be able to follow Jesus [as] Jesus said: ‘no-one can go to the Father except through me’.
“Francis of Assisi decided that he would follow Christ, literally – and when Jesus says: ‘sell what you have, give it to the poor, and come follow me’ – we would find it hard to do that, but he did it,” Emeritus Archbishop Hickey continued.
“Those of you haven’t been to Assisi, if you are able to one day; please go, because it is an inspiration. After nearly 1000 years, the spirit of Francis is still there. Many people have gone to Assisi and found their faith again.”
The serenely idyllic surroundings of the parish prayer garden, animal farm, and bush environment saw the beautifully manicured grounds provide a perfect natural backdrop for the occasion’s family-friendly luncheon and festivities after Mass on 6 October.
A number of pleasantly surprising impromptu performances by the Archbishop Emeritus and the “Singing Priests” ended what was a most memorable and spirit-filled day of joy and thanksgiving to Maida Vale Parish’s blessed patron.