Person to Person

“Person to Person — P2P”

Letters to the Editor of St Benet’s Beccles Website

One early comment from a reader.

“I think if you are going to open up the discussion then you should decide on a policy re anonymity. I wonder if  people would be more ready to respond if they knew their name wasn’t attatched to it? 

Our policy is now anonymity for all – except for your Editor’s replies and/or comments.  (Well, fair’s fair, isn’t it? I know who you are, after all!)

Person to person 3

07 June

This reply has been received.  Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Terry 

Thank you, again, for the e-news. I think it was Saint John Henry Newman who said that many questions don’t make a single doubt. I had many questions when I was being instructed in the late seventies before I was received, but I have never had a single doubt, DG.

Doubts are the darnel sown by the enemy;  Our Lady had none after her fiat. If we turn to her and Saint Joseph we’ll find answers to all our questions, and we are all part of the Mystical Body of which her Son is the Head.

Very best wishes to you and Barbara for today’s vigil and tomorrow’s celebration of Corpus Christi – with another wonderful sequence.

And if I could just add a note of some other comments made by a good friend (who regularly tries to keep me under control!)  :- 

I can accept that there were doubts in the time of Jesus, but don’t you think we should have learned something in the intervening 2,000 years?

6 June

Below is a copy of my covering note for the E-News for 06 June;  I hope it will stimulate some comment – whether you agree or disagree your thoughts are important and they can be printed anonymously if you wish.

I must say I really  enjoy typing out these little chats on a Saturday forenoon – and even more so when I get responses at Sunday Mass that show some people actually read them.  I should, I suppose, make it clear that my comments and stories are entirely personal recollections of a long and varied life;  they have no validity other than being a sign that I am well advanced in what a friend describes as my “anecdotage”.  He is the one who says any meeting with me always begins with an “organ recital” and ends with a “joint report”.  I’m sure many of you have similar friends.

I must acknowledge that I have been criticised for sharing some of my doubts and uncertainties – but conversely, it has been salutary to hear that others share my concerns and, indeed, find it helpful to know they are not alone in struggling at times to retain their faith and loyalty to the Church.  I don’t mean to upset anyone or knock those who are fortunate enough to have a total faith – but I remember that St Peter (our first Pope!) actually denied Our Lord when He was arrested; St Thomas was a very early doubter until he got physical proof; none of the Disciples managed to support Jesus in Gethsemane and all were astonished when He did appear to them, after having risen from the dead – in spite of actually hearing Him promise to do just that.  Having doubts is not new!

As mentioned before, having spent many night-time hours “staring down the throat of infinity” as the stars circle overhead, I have no doubt that in the whole of creation, there is some much more advanced form of existence who can understand what I can barely conceive of.  And as it says in today’s Gospel – it is mankind and our sins that have “stained the original covenant with God”.  Can any of us look back over history and claim to be proud of the actions of our predecessors?  And if we don’t acknowledge the wrongs, how can we put them right?

Well, that seems to have got a bit serious – but these notes have just evolved, as I always felt it was a bit rude to impose the E-News on you all, without at least a bit of a human voice to go with the formal message.  And if you read my notes, you might also go on to read the E-News and even the Website as well – with the paper Newsletter awaiting you on Sunday.  You can’t criticise Fr M for not trying to communicate with his parishioners!

And, incidentally, we have created a page on the website, called “Person- to – Person” intended to stimulate and provide a forum for this sort of issue– and any other point YOU would like to discuss.  Now I think of it, I will copy this note across, and post any other replies I get; as always these can be anonymous when posted.

Terry and Barbara O’Brien

And to put the notes above in context, here is a copy of the previous email  Terry.

Yes, another week has whizzed by – and LOOK!  It feels like summer.  Doesn’t it do your heart good?

I’ll share a little secret with you all!  As I have advanced in years, my sleep pattern has become a bit dis-jointed!  I blame my time spent watch-keeping at sea –  both RN and yacht cruising, and also as a Shift Manager in a Brewery!   I do notice that I regularly wake up at 03:45 and I’m all ready to “take over the deck” for the Morning Watch, which was always my favourite.  The chill of the night gradually gave way to the warmth of the rising sun; and even when in heavy weather, the seas were never so bad when you could actually see them!  There were often spectacular colour shows in the east, and a  real favourite was seeing the “Morning Star” – Venus – in the East, making her return from being last night’s “Evening Star”, as she set in the west.  I can remember one morning, she was so bright, I assumed she was the masthead light of a large ship, hull down below the horizon – and I altered our yacht’s course to avoid getting too close to her!  I don’t recall how many millions of miles apart we were– but I never admitted to my ship mates that I had had such a “close encounter”!  Better safe than sorry, I suppose.

But that detail aside, I certainly remember thanking God for giving me such pleasures.  (There are no atheists at sea!)  I still wonder at how lucky I was – and indeed still am.  Yes, I do get frustrated that I can’t understand much about the mysteries of life, of creation, of existence beyond the grave – or the crematorium, in my case! When I do get to thinking such “Serious Thoughts”  (the middle watch, midnight to 4:00am, was a favourite time for this)– I took some solace from the fact that every group of humans I have ever heard of has developed some form of “belief system” in another world.  We can’t all be wrong, I assume!  And that reminds me of a character I joined up with who, when asked his religion, replied “Church of Wheelbarrow”, on the basis that he didn’t really believe in any of them, but went where he was pushed.  He was recorded as C of E, as far as the Navy was concerned!

Ah well.  That’s all my chat for this week – remember to look at “Time for a Laugh”  for the next few weeks – I have had a new supply submitted and they keep me amused..  “COO, COO” to you all!

Please remember to look after each other – and to say “Thanks” to all those who work to keep us safe and healthy.

Best wishes,  Terry and Barbara

04 April 2021

Message begins:-

Hi Terry.  Looking for ideas for the Newsletter?   How about short stories? How’s this for a start:

Strange places I have attended Mass!

In my Service life, I was an RAF Engineer in Coastal Command, until I was sent overseas in 1953 to Egypt and Libya.

At an RAF Base called El Adem, 20 miles inland of Tobruk, life was quite “basic”.    As with all RAF Stations at the time, Sunday Morning Church Parade was compulsory unless one was “On Duty”.   During  the Parade, the order was given, “Fall Out Roman Catholics and Jews”.

Every Sunday, four of us Catholics “Fell Out” and stood to the rear of the Parade, while the “C. of E. based” church service continued without us, before we were ordered to “Fall In” again, for the remainder of the Parade and “March Past”.

On one occasion, our C.O. had decided that we should have a Service, too, so he sent an RAF Valetta Aircraft, (twin-engine, 40 seat with two pilots) all the way to Italy, two and a half hours flying time away! There they picked up a Catholic Priest and brought him to El Adem.

He was a short tubby Cleric with a large smile, but he could not speak a word of English – and we had no Italian.  Just as well, because he conducted Mass for us four in Latin!   An Altar had been set up at the side of the airfield in the desert, consisting of two oil empty oil drums topped off by two small builder’s planks. It served the purpose, and all went well..

As we saw him off back to Italy with our thanks, he gave us his Blessing.

Truly an amazing experience – even without the benefit of a sermon!.

02 November

The Two Great Commandments

As part of “A Reader Writes” for “All Saints Day” there was a reference back to the previous Sunday’s message to:-

“Love God … AND thy Neighbour as thy Self.”

And adding the comments:-

  • Okay, loving God is the right thing to do.
  • Yes, we can all love ourselves; who is more deserving?
  • BUT – loving our neighbour?  That is where it gets difficult!

On Monday, I received this reply

Oh, it’s such a pleasure to read the “Reader’s Writing”, thank you.

Though I don’t agree on one thing – just something I wanted to share.

I don’t think it’s easy to love yourself.

I think one of the huge sadnesses in the world is the number of people struggling with low self-esteem, who think they have no value. That makes them less than fully themselves and means that it’s so much more difficult to give love and forgiveness to one’s neighbour.

Jesus came to make us whole, didn’t he?

He came so that we could know how much we are loved by God and how precious we are. So many individuals feel worthless and feel that their lives make no difference. These are the people He wants us to reach out to because knowing God must surely make us value who we are, and give us a sense that we can contribute something?

So, for me the three are equally important (and difficult)

  • Love God,

  • Love your Neighbour,

  • Love your Self.

Editor’s Reply

That is a particularly important point, and very well made.

I know  that I am not a victim of low self-esteem –  I wouldn’t do this if I was! – but you are right that we should all remember that others may not share our good fortune.

I think the Writer addressed that concern – at least in part – by drawing our attention to the Gospel for “All Saints”.

The Writer says,

“The Gospel really sings out with joy as Jesus lists the rewards that will come in the next life, for those who have suffered torments and difficulties in this one.  

What do you think?

Replies to are welcome and, if appropriate, will be published anonymously. 

07 September

A Request that we all “Think of Others”

As editor of the website and E-News, I was approached by two different parishioners last weekend.   Both asked that I put a request into the E-News asking for us all to think of the “at risk” parishioners in these times of Covid-19 restrictions and guidelines. Below, I paraphrase the comments they made, with some of my own added.

We are all delighted to see a good number of regulars now attending our Masses, (and a number of visitors from other locations too,) in spite of – or should that be “because of” – the procedures that have been put in place to ensure the safety of all participants.

However, we do have a large number of parishioners who are in the “at risk” category – either because of age, under-lying medical conditions or other circumstances.  Many of them have been in “Lockdown”, or “Shielding” or “Self-isolation” since the pandemic started and they are extremely nervous about returning to the “new normal” behaviour that the rest of us are enjoying.

The request made was really quite simple.

“Please, can we all take that little bit of extra care and continue to “follow the rules” as fully as possible?”

It is easy for the younger and/or fitter to feel perfectly healthy, and to believe that they will not be badly affected, even if they do contract the virus.  (I must admit that I am arrogant enough to think like that, even though I am pretty close to the “at risk” category, on two counts.)  And I share the view that the frequent changes to the rules do not make adherence exactly easy!

But, it is in our own interests to do everything possible to keep the virus at bay.  And, if we do think of those who are more “at risk”,  we must strive to avoid any chance of passing it on to them.

Our obvious adherence to the rules will help others to take their own cautious steps to return to normality, and I am sure we all wish them well on their journey.

And isn’t it a sad commentary on the situation we are all in, that the best way we can show we “Love Our Neighbour” is to keep at arm’s length from them?

Please, keep safe and look after each other.

Terry O’Brien

28 August

A Personal Message of Love and Support

I wonder if it’s possible to put the link to this song, “Abide With Me”, on the website for Anne Ronald? And to say we are praying for her, knowing she is now walking in the light and out of pain.

She’s the only person I know who didn’t just feel sorry for homeless and marginalised people but actually did something for them. She was a very kind and generous woman who cared for anyone she came into contact with.

Rest happily Anne.

26 August

Copy of Email received – with two queries 


I was pleased with my Missal purchase but was a bit stumped when Fr Martin announced he was using a special Eucharistic Prayer to be found in an appendix in the new Missals.  Sadly my new missal has no such appendix!!. No great matter, that will hopefully be only an occasional situation.


However it would be really helpful to me and every one else returning to missal use after years of being spoon fed with a specific weekly missalette if the chosen Eucharistic prayer and Preface of the day could be included in the bulletin alongside the Sunday number . Any chance you could do that?

Many thanks in anticipation

And my replies as Editor


I share your concern about the use of the “Additional” Eucharistic Prayers – the supplementary ones are not included in my missal, either  – but they are in Barbara’s and both were published in 2011.  And to be honest, I wasn’t even aware such things existed until I found we were about to use one of them last Sunday!

I think the publisher’s choice comes down to giving us something that meets most of our needs, is a realistically portable size, and is at a reasonable price.  And as you say – that isn’t a very frequent problem.

As a personal aside, and as a really simple sort, I sometimes wish we could just have the same prayers for every Mass – but then there are so many wonderful, meaningful, prayers that may be highly relevant to a particular Day, or Mass Intention, or Season of the Church Year.  It would be a shame not to use them, so I just have to use sticky labels on the various pages/sections of my missal.  (If you would like to see my method, just ask – I’ve done it for Barbara’s missal, too.)


This is the first week we have published this information  – and I think we are still learning what is wanted.   At the last minute, – after the Newsletter was printed – I was able to put some of the info you refer to into the E-Bulletin, and I saw that Fr M posted it on the front Hymn Board in St Benet’s – but I agree we all need it, and we will try to get it into the Paper Newsletter as well.

Again, many thanks for the feedback – and I am glad your new missal is helping.

14 August

In this week’s mail bag, I received this message.  As always, it is posted anonymously.  

I totally agree that the website is a great way to get people talking and thinking, doubting and encouraging. That’s a very exciting idea.

God is shaking us all up in these strange times and it is difficult to feel the confidence and comfort we have often looked for in our faith. I actually don’t think faith should be comfortable, I think we should always be ready to look hard at a situation to see the truth in it and the truth might not be comfortable to us.

The problem, of course, is how to discern the truth from the nonsense!  That comes down to prayer.

I think that the attention to constant daily personal prayer is something missing in the Catholic liturgy;  it is all too easy to rely on the Mass to do the job for us. Our faith should be hard work, a daily attention to God and his will – certainly not something I am very good at!

Then we can be ready to take on the difficult situations (and difficult people!) who come our way.

Your comments will be welcome…

10 August

In my email with Sunday’s E-Bulletin, I, as editor, included the following reminiscence: 

I recall when our frigate was in Hong Kong, we were sent to sea to ride out a typhoon that was heading our way – rather than risk being damaged in harbour.  I was on watch at the height of the storm, in tumultuous seas, when we were thrown onto our “beam ends” – and lay over at an angle of 47 degrees.  To stand upright we had to have one foot on the deck and the other on the “vertical” bulkhead.  I was sure we were going under and cried out “God help us!” – not so much in fear or anger but more as a genuine plea for help.  And help we got.  Somehow, the ship seemed to shake herself free of the huge weight of water on deck, come upright and we continued the battle until the storm abated. Two days later, I thanked God, when we made it safely back to harbour.

NO! it was not a miracle.  As my career as a sailor progressed, I learned that it was the operation of the laws of physics.  The Centre of Gravity, the Centre of Buoyancy and the Metacentric Height between them, inter-reacted as they were meant to.

What makes this relevant?  Well, it seems as though I was a bit like St Peter!!  I didn’t understand what was actually happening; I was definitely scared; I did not know what to do; I said a prayer.  And “someone” helped me survive the experience.

I have received two replies, (which, as always, are posted anonymously)

I was moved by the personal story you shared with us with your latest E-bulletin but I feel that the conclusions you came to were somewhat wide of the mark.

You state that your being saved from disaster was NOT a miracle. I beg to differ.

All of our life and being is a miracle of God’s love for us, yet you give credit for being saved from disaster to the fundamentals of natural law (created by God) and not to your faith in Him. Peter made that same mistake and yet he was saved from drowning by God’s love and mercy.

Why did God save him? To show his almighty power to the rest of the disciples but also because he still had work for him to do. 

Same for you! Our parish family is being tossed in the storm of this Corona virus and he has work for you to do to help us ride this storm – as you are currently doing with love for Him and his children.

YOU are a miracle of God’s love, just as is his miracle of creation.

Please have more faith in Him and his love for you and for us all.

With God’s blessing.

And this one:

“I do think that the response you had to your storm prayers was a miracle. I believe we experience miracles often without recognising them for what they are. I have heard so much from my mother, whose home was a sailing barge for the first 7 years of her life. She used to talk of waves higher than the mast and the prayers they all used to say for deliverance and the sense of the ship responding and climbing up the wall of waves. They had such faith, despite the difficult life.”

Many thanks to the two writers.  Their comments certainly gave me me something to think about over the weekend. 

What do you think?

04 July

Many thanks Terry.

Hope all goes well tomorrow. We’ll certainly be thinking of you all as we join the Dominican Sisters for their live stream Mass and we do truly thank you and others of the team for all you have done/are doing to ensure the safety and well-being of those attending Mass at St Benet’s.
We WILL meet again – but until then take care, all of you!
Best wishes
Hilary and Mike

Editors Reply

A lovely message – which, although addressed to your editor, is actually meant for ALL those who have worked so hard behind the scenes to help maintain –  and indeed build – the Community Spirit of St Benet’s, Beccles.

As we reach what is truly a milestone in our “Coping with Corvid”, I think it is only right to draw the attention of ALL parishioners to the huge amount of work and real leadership we have been fortunate to receive from Father Martin.; Deacons Tony and Mike; and our other lay office holders and volunteers.

While it might be a bit tedious to mention them all by name, I think those who are involved DO know who are the ones doing a lot of the less glamorous and more mundane jobs that keep the parish functioning.

My role – which I just LOVE doing, – is primarily for my benefit and it makes me feel good to be recognised for it. But I know I am just a front man!

All  I ask now, is that we all think for a minute to say “Thank You.” to those who clean the Church; set up those beautiful flowers;  keep the accounts; tend the gardens; mend the leaky roof; organise the socials; stimulate the prayers; organise the readers; wash the vestments …..  and so it goes on!!

The list is almost endless – so just THANK YOU ALL.

BUT especially Father Martin!!

01 July

This afternoon, I received this little note from a well-respected member of the Parish.

“We enjoy all your ‘newsy’ e-bulletins and do like the longer ‘Reader Writes’ but would like to know who has written it.  Is there any reason why the author’s name cannot be published – especially as the readers’ names are posted on the website…and we now know it was your own offering last week!”

Editor’s reply… Updated 03 July

I know that initially we offered anonymity to encourage the “shyer” Readers to come forward – and I know I love to see the different views and styles that are expressed.

I have since contacted the “Writers” and the concensus is that, while some don’t mind being named, we should respect the right of others to remain anonymous.

So, “No Names; No Pack Drill!”, it remains!

28 June

As Editor, in my covering email with the E-Bulletin, I wrote:

I‘d had a first look at the readings for the 13th Sunday – and felt really quite sad to be reading the texts and knowing we won’t be meeting and sharing the celebration of Mass and the Sacraments together.  (And the coffee and biscuits and chat afterwards!).

But then I read the entrance antiphon – which I copy for those without a missal close to hand: “All peoples, clap your hands; Cry to God, with shouts of joy”. 

And so I did – and I felt much better for it.   I realised I have nothing to feel sad about – and I thanked God!    STRANGE! – I don’t usually feel the urge to talk to God!

And I received this reply:

“Thank you Terry for your ‘informal note’, as always!”

“Talking to God indeed – who’d have thought it?!  What is prayer, anyway?!”

To which I have no clever answer.  Thank you for that – I thought I’d share your comment!

And the Background to the Person to Person Page

Person to person 3During the present “Lockdown”, a number of parishioners have said they are missing the personal parish contacts that are so important to us all.   We think a “Letters to the Editor” page might help.

Please note that while the message can be published anonymously if you wish – the real name of the author must be supplied to the editor.  (This is just to stop mischievous persons posting spam messages.)

What Sort of Messages Can be Sent?

Messages  could include, for instance, Requests for Prayers; Thanks for Prayers Answered;  Requests for – and Offers of – Help;  Condolences for Bereaved Parishioners;  Reports of Activities and Initiatives in other Churches; Suggestions for Spiritual Opportunities;  Inspiring Messages and Music from the Internet; (and maybe even some “church related” jokes to lighten the mood).

Really, anything to stimulate and build our parish community – and, in turn, make the website more relevant to all our parishioners, – even making it more of a two-way communication.


Below are some examples of what might be published, culled from recent replies to the E-Bulletins, in May 2020.  All are shown anonymously, as they were not written with publication in mind.

St Benet’s Prayers – “Together On Thursday At Three”

Maybe we should have our own St Benet’s Covid-19, clearance prayers at the same time each week, a bit like the Thursday night clap for the NHS. Same time, same day each week. Is Three o’clock a good time?

Excellent stuff and just what we need to hear, during this time. Well done for being brave. We will be joining in on Thursday just as you suggest.

Person To Person

We value the contact and if you feel like giving a homily or pontificating on anything, that is fine by us.

I think it’s a great idea and please feel free to use my email.  We’re in strange times and need to do what we can to help connect people who sadly can’t have personal contact.  God bless and I hope you, your family and everyone in St Benet’s stays well.

So, what do I think? I liked your refreshing honesty. I miss Mass greatly, but through your communications I feel I am still in touch with the Church. A huge thank you.

Spiritual Development

I have been reflecting a bit too (something I don’t usually do) after seeing a programme on TV.  They questioned the idea of transubstantiation among other things. I have often thought about that.

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