This week many teachers and students return to school – and step into the unknown. For some, it is the first return to school since mid March, nearly six months ago. They return to a new world where a Year group is a “Bubble” and teachers move between classrooms to try to keep everyone as safe as possible.

The challenges, questions and concerns are many: Timetabling, cover lessons, how to manage the specialist classrooms for science, and equipment for PE – along with the first concern of every teacher and school, the welfare of their students, rooted in a faith which tells us that everyone is “made in God’s image and likeness”, precious and cherished.

There are worries from teachers, parents and pupils alike about how much schooling has been missed, and we offer particular prayers tonight for those in Year 10, 11, 12 and 13, as well as those about to head to university, or into Apprenticeships and work. We pray too for those who do not have WiFi or a computer at home, those who have had to work in cramped spaces, and those who have witnessed domestic violence. 

At the same time, we know that for others, lockdown has been a very significant time; some have a greater appreciation of family, especially when there has been grave illness, or when mum or dad is now seen as heroic in a key worker or care worker role; some have discovered new gifts and skills in lockdown; some cannot wait to see friends at school once again. 

And all of us might ask ourselves, “What advice would we give to our September 2019 self?” Will we follow that advice in September 2020… ? 

Into all of this comes the figure of St Gregory the Great, whose feast is tomorrow, 3rd September. What can this Saint who died over 1400 years ago, in 604AD, tell us about our lives today? Quite a lot, as it turns out, for he was born into a time of plague and famine, and he is a Saint of new beginnings and new adventures; he sent St Augustine to England, which in many ways was the beginnings of the spread of the Christian faith in our part of the world. He had a special and radical care for the poor. He navigated some tricky diplomatic situations, at a time when much of Italy was immersed in tribal war. He was also a wonderful musician. 

We’ll reflect on that during Mass, and consider how St Gregory would have reacted to Coronavirus, Lockdown, and the easing of Lockdown. Everyone is welcome on Instagram Live (@BrentwoodCYS).