SOME LOVELY MOMENTS THIS CHRISTMAS…

December 31, 2018 by

There were many heart warming moments this Christmas and many times I paused to give thanks for the sheer goodness of people around the world. Amongst some of my favourites were the story of the policewoman in South Wales who spent her own money to buy gifts for a family of three who didn’t have any. Others heard of her kindness and joined in the giving. I was deeply touched by a group of Muslims in a nearby town who prepared a delicious Christmas lunch for their Christian neighbours and I had tears in my eyes watching a video of a little Muslim girl playing ‘Silent Night’ on a violin in Church on Christmas Eve. Meanwhile, I read of people who were busy offering meals  other forms of help for the homeless in many places around the world. These are only a few examples of  many forms of sheer kindness I heard of. No doubt others have many similar examples.  ‘Joy to the World!’ I give thanks for countless acts of kindness…

Welcoming the Holy Family

December 18, 2018 by

Last evening we had a wonderful celebration in one of our FCJ communities on the Wirral, UK. In their parish, each day of Advent a different household welcomes a statue of the Holy Family. Neighbours and friends are invited to the house to join in prayer and to enjoy hospitality.

Our celebration was very simple – recognising the gift of extending and receiving hospitality, and helping us to reflect on how we can respond to those around us who are most in need of our hospitality – our families and friends, those who are lonely, those who are far from home.

May this celebration of Advent lead us to welcome Christ in whatever way He arrives at our door!

holy-family-statue-in-coloured-wood-pulp.jpg

‘EVERYONE IS SPECIAL’ – A WONDERFUL DAY

December 17, 2018 by

The other day Sofi and I took part in an amazing celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation in ‘Kota Baru’, Jesuit Church, Yogyakarta. This was a ceremony especially for children, young people and adults with special needs, two hundred and forty eight in all. The Sacraments were administered to each person individually by Archbishop Robertus Rubiyatmoko. It was a beautiful and deeply touching ceremony as well as an extremely joyful one. This was one of those times when I felt so proud of the Church and so sure that it is alive and well! We had the added joy of seeing the youngest child of our good friends make his First Communion.

 

DAYS OF JOY – FIRST PROFESSION IN YANGON

December 10, 2018 by

CecMar2-525.jpgThe weekend of 7th and 8th of December found the FCJs in Yangon in celebration mode as Cecilia and Maria made their first vows. They are the first two Myanmarese sisters. On the evening of the 7th December the sisters and guests gathered in the community chapel for a prayer of welcome. During this prayer Maria and Cecilia returned the crosses they had worn as novices and Afra, our Area Leader, welcomed them into the FCJ Society as professed members.

The vow ceremony took place in St Augustine’s Church, Yangon. The excitement of the celebration began to build from early morning. There was a buzz of happy conversation in the church as Cecilia and Maria welcomed the guests. Just before 10am the people for the entry procession gathered at the back of the church. It was an impressive group: altar servers; lectors; Maria and her family; Cecilia and her family; Agnes, Barbara and Clare, the FCJ witnesses; Afra, Area Leader, who would receive the vows and Fr Victor Nyan Myint, Parish Priest, the celebrant. Moments before the Mass was due to begin the priest invited the five Jesuit priests who were present to concelebrate. They quickly donned albs and stoles and took their place in the entry procession.

The Mass flowed throughout to a joyful rhythm. It was especially wonderful when Cecilia and Maria made their vows. The FCJs stood and sang the Magnificat, the sound of which resounded throughout the church. A soloist sang beautifully whilst Maria and Cecilia signed the Vows Register. Photos were taken to the rousing tones of Michael Herry’s ‘Light a Fire on the Earth’.  All those present were invited to a delicious lunch in the church hall.

Later that evening the FCJs gathered for the Missioning Ceremony and we blessed our two newest FCJs as they were sent out on mission. During a relaxed meal we enjoyed watching Cecilia and Maria opening cards and gifts and reading greetings sent from FCJs around the world.  It was a day of joy for everyone.

 

ADVENT: WAITING AND PRAYING…

December 4, 2018 by

Whilst I love Advent and find it a time of such hope and expectation, I am aware that for some of us at this moment it might be hard to hold on to hope in the midst of uncertainty and crises of various kinds. This year I want to pray in a special way for anyone who is finding life hard. Please know you are in my prayer. May there be some consolation for all those who really need to see the light of hope at this time.

Leading and Following

November 28, 2018 by

weaving

Think about a leader that you know and admire…. what makes them a leader?

  • Is it that they have a role of leadership that they have been appointed to?
  • Maybe it’s the strengths and capacities they have in relation to a particular set of tasks?
  • Or perhaps it is their personality and charisma that makes it easy for others to go along with them?

In fact it is probably all of these things and more! There are many theories about leadership and many models of leading that people adopt, but perhaps one of the significant ways in which we can gain insight into leadership is by considering how Jesus leads.

I am not going to attempt a scriptural analysis of the leadership of Jesus here but one idea that we could reflect on is how Jesus begins. All of the gospels relate stories of Jesus calling the first disciples. He invites them into relationship, invites them to a task and reassures them…

‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of people’ Mtt 4

‘Follow me’ Mk 2

‘Do not be afraid’ Lk 5

‘Come and see’ Jn 1

Jesus’ leadership takes place within relationship. He is a leader when the disciples willingly enter into the role of following, of discipleship.

Leadership is not a divinely conferred charism, nor does it totally rely on the agreement of the follower, instead it seems to reside somewhere in the relationship that exists between the leader and the follower. A leader doesn’t need agreement from those they are leading, but for leadership to happen there needs to be a willingness to be led.

NOVEMBER’S BURST OF CONSUMERISM…

November 25, 2018 by

This month I have been shocked by recent news of spending patterns around the world. On the 11th of November, Singles Day in China, more than 55 billion dollars were spent in ‘on-line’ shopping. It is said that many of the purchases were beauty products, health supplements and fashion items. Towards the end of the month Black Friday and Cyber Monday have also encouraged vast amounts of money to change hands in exchange for a wide range of consumer goods. Given that discounted goods have been on offer for the whole of November the total amount of money spent is almost beyond imagining. Imagine, Christmas is on its way and another spending boom…I think of how many people are hungry, I think of how many limited resources have been used in the production of so many luxury goods, I think of the waste generated…And I somehow want to live more simply, more generously, more carefully. I hope that enough of us will be part of the flow of change, I hope that compassion will turn back the tide of consumerism.

Connection

November 21, 2018 by

We long for connection. People are often lonely, isolated, divided. And yet we long for connection – to be, as Einstein says, ‘freed from this prison’ of separation.

We easily connect with people we know, or who think and experience life in similar ways to us… its also easy, with just a tiny effort, to make connections with others outside our normal circle.

A human being is part of a whole, called by us the “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. [They] experiences [them]self, [their] thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

Simply smiling at someone on the street, checking if an elderly neighbour is OK, speaking to someone in a cafe or in the supermarket are all tiny ways in which we break down the delusion of separation and open up possibilities for connection.compassion

 

Our FCJ charism is one of companionship – of being present alongside others in day to day life and activity. These tiny connections bring ripples of  companionship into our world, breaking down division and building community.

Choosing happiness (When life gives you lemons…)

November 14, 2018 by

lemons

Life sometimes throws things at us that upset our equilibrium and leave us feeling upset, angry, sad, confused etc… If the situation remains unresolved, or if the hurt lingers, we can find these initial feelings and reactions deepening and solidifying into cynicism, negativity and resentment.

We have a choice in these times as we follow down the route of our feelings – we can allow the feelings of anger and hurt to harden into bitterness, or we can choose to deal with them. Does this mean ignoring the feelings? No! It is simply that we can learn from these feelings; acknowledging the pain caused; making choices from the new insights and learnings of the situation; letting go of some course of action, some dream or even some relationships. Then we can choose to be happy. 

I think Ignatius gives us some pointers for this in his rules for discernment. There is a difference between our emotions and spiritual desolation, but there is also a connection. Ignatius encourages us to notice where consolation not desolation lies, to understand its path and purpose and then to choose to follow the consolation rather than be entrapped by the desolation. We are encouraged to actively seek and choose what gives us life.

Of course, choosing to be happy is not straightforward, (or else we would all do it straight away!) it calls us to a deep awareness of the goodness that is around us, the beauty, the potential. It calls us to let go of the negative in practical ways. It is a choice for what gives us life.

‘I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.’  Deuteronomy 30:15-20

I came across this poem a while back which speaks to me of the time of resting with the difficult emotions and waiting until we can once again choose life.

Trough
There is a trough in waves,
A low spot
Where horizon disappears
And only sky
And water
Are our company.
And there we lose our way
Unless
We rest, knowing the wave will bring us
To its crest again.
There we may drown
If we let fear
Hold us within its grip and shake us
Side to side,
And leave us flailing, torn, disoriented.
But if we rest there
In the trough,
Are silent,
Being with
The low part of the wave,
Keeping
Our energy and
Noticing the shape of things,
The flow,
Then time alone
Will bring us to another
Place
Where we can see
Horizon, see the land again,
Regain our sense
Of where
We are,
And where we need to swim.
~ Judy Brown ~
(The Sea Accepts All Rivers)

A meeting of minds and hearts

November 6, 2018 by

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Last week the FCJ sisters from across Europe gathered for our Assembly – a four day meeting to look at and reflect on our mission and ministry. Sisters gathered from the 9 different European countries in which we minister.

The purpose of this year’s meeting was to have an opportunity to reflect on how we have responded to the outcomes of our last General Chapter and to share our thoughts and reflections as we move forward.

We are a very diverse group working in a wide range of different ministries and contexts. This year we also welcomed some of the staff from our schools, as well as others who work alongside us and some of our Companions in Mission.

As we listened to reports and shared together it was evident that there is a great unity among us and a real desire to be together on mission. We delighted in all the different ways in which FCJ spirituality is being lived out, responding to the thirst of Jesus in the world of today.

We were challenged together to understand how best to respond to the continually changing calls of our times – to welcome the stranger; to respond to the environmental calls and challenges of our times;  to accompany young people. …

As we move forward we ask for the grace and courage to discern faithfully how to truly be Companions of Jesus in these times.