Notre Dame de Paris

April 17, 2019 by

I am sure that the terrible sight of parts of Notre Dame de Paris engulfed in flames was shocking and heartbreaking to billions of people. I wept as I watched the tragic story unfold. Notre Dame is surely one of the world’s most beautiful and treasued places of prayer. For over eight centuries it has stood out majestically against the Paris skyline, a symbol of God’s constant, gentle presence in our world,  a channel of love and a place of peace, consolation and sanctuary for all. We have only to think of Notre Dame to know that Paris; France; the whole world is placed under Mary’s care and protection. As awful as it was to see so much of the building damaged there is a sense of relief and wonder that it was saved in time thanks to the courage and heroism of the firefighters. Suddenly people of good will from all over the world pledge themselves to the mission of restoration. This disaster has also given birth to a miracle. It has shown that love of beauty and love of the sacred can bring us all together. Notre Dame continues to catch our hearts and attract our love. We all want to see her rise again in renewed beauty and dignity. It is like we are embarking on a pilgrimage carved out step by step in stone and wood. I am grateful that I can witness the restoration. This slow and careful work in the hands of the world’s best craftsmen and women will show how many forms love can take. Notre Dame de Paris…Pray for us.


April 10, 2019 by

This week Sofi and I are in taking part in a course on the vows. This course is especially for novices. There are forty two novices from ten religious congregations here. We will live together in community for a full week. Everyone has a part to play. All participants take part in giving presentations, performing role plays, leading prayers and in moderating sessions.  Fr Paul Suparno SJ will give input in the second part of the course. As I watch presentations and engage in lively question and answer sessions I find myself greatly inspired by the enthusiasm and earnestness of the novices. It gives me hope to think that they will all be making vows at some point of this year and moving out to be of service to others. Let us pray for them and indeed for all young people setting out in life in the hope of doing good. May the love of God sustain them and may they spread love and goodness far and wide.




Holiness is charity lived to the full

April 3, 2019 by

Last week we celebrated the funeral Mass for our lovely Sr Victoire. I say ‘celebrated’ because that is what it was – a celebration. Of course we were sad, and we will miss her, but her funeral was testimony to a life well lived.

As we have walked with her over these last months, much of what Pope Francis says about holiness has been in my mind. Holiness is about loving, about becoming more and more caught up in the God who IS love. Its about constantly seeking to express and share that love.

Holiness is nothing other than charity lived to the full. (Gaudete et Exultate 21)

All of us have our ups and downs, our vulnerabilities and sadness. This is what makes us human – and this is what we were created to be! Fully human! We can get very caught up in trying to be perfect. We can feel that one mistake, sin or wrong choice places us beyond reach… but in fact it is human to make mistakes, to feel afraid or doubtful. We are called to be human. Pope Francis suggests that it is in seeing the entirety of someones life that we understand its meaning.

Not everything a saint says is completely faithful to the Gospel; not everything he or she does is authentic or perfect. What we need to contemplate is the totality of their life, their entire journey of growth in holiness, the reflection of Jesus Christ that emerges when we grasp their overall meaning as a person.(Gaudete et Exultate 22)

Our Sr Victoire died peacefully at 91 years of age. She was extraordinary. She allowed herself to be transformed over and over again. She loved deeply and was herself to the very end.


May you come to realize what that word is, the message of Jesus that God wants to speak to the world by your life. Let yourself be transformed. Let yourself be renewed by the Spirit, so that this can happen, lest you fail in your precious mission. (Gaudete et Exultate 23)


March 27, 2019 by

If we are alert to it we become aware that saints are constantly coming into our lives and making a difference to us. Three of those kinds of people died recently. This very day in England it is the funeral and burial of Sr Victoire Finlay FCJ. Victoire was in her nineties. She was one of those larger than life characters who had a heart of gold. In her younger days she was a primary teacher and at one time she was the head of a school in a very poor area. Victoire had a great sense of humour and she had the capacity to make life so much better for others. We will all miss her. Last week some of us went to the funeral of Fr Wiyono, a priest in our diocese. He was also the uncle of one of our sisters. The Mass was celebrated by the bishop and more than fifty priests. The congregation was formed of hundreds of people from all walks of life, a sign of how deeply loved and respected he was. Fr Wiyono really was a man of the people and had served as a priest for more than fifty years. He was an inspiration to all those who met him. Earlier this month Norman Evans was buried in the North East of England. Norman had lived with multiple sclerosis from a young age; however he had never let it diminish his zest for life. A musician, Norman spent much of his life raising funds for charity. Norman collected money by playing the accordion on a street in Redcar. When he was no longer well enough to stay outside he was welcomed into a local supermarket where he continued his playing and fund raising. I got to know Norman in my local parish church. We had some great conversations when I walked beside his motorized wheelchair on the way home from Mass each morning. I remember once wishing him a good day. He replied “Every day is a good day for me.” I was so struck by his answer. I have tried to live by it. Norman was known and loved by thousands of people. He had a tune for everyone. Mine was ‘Amazing Grace’. He played it every time he saw me. Norman was one of life’s genuinely good people. It was a privilege to know him. These three contemporary saints were greatly loved and are greatly missed. I am certain that there are saints all around us and in all of our lives. We just need to stop and look…

Praying for Muslims in New Zealand…and everywhere…

March 16, 2019 by

In the face of the shocking attack on Muslims at prayer in Mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand we pray for all those affected by this terrible violence. All those who died are surely with God. May the injured be healed and may all those hurt in any way by this cruel act eventually find comfort. Let us stand together as people of faith and of good will. Let us pray for peace, work for peace and spread love throughout our world.


February 26, 2019 by

The challenge set out by Jesus in Luke 6: 27 – 38, the Gospel for Sunday February 24th, has never been more relevant. Many countries in the world are trying to answer the question of what to do with nationals who ran away to join terrorist organisations and who now seek to return. After struggling with a mess of mixed feelings, and after much heart searching, reflection and prayer it seems to me that the Christ-like way is to accept those who wish to return. We need to do whatever it takes to bring about healing and reconciliation. While actions sometimes have extremely serious consequences there must be a place for compassion, forgiveness and restoration. I don’t say this naively. I say it because I cannot see we can do otherwise if we are to be true to the Gospel imperative to love. I am saddened to the bottom of my heart by the knowledge that the British woman, Shamina Begum, has had her citizenship revoked. I still hope that she and others like her will be allowed to return. Dr Anna Rowlands argues the point far better than me in her article on Shamina Begum in the Church Times:

“The answer is, then, in the end, presumably uncomfortable, but simple: we do not have an acceptable moral reason to exclude Ms Begum; and, positively expressed, we have an obligation if we are not to be changed ourselves at the hands of the twisted ideologues of our age, to witness to a belief in the possibility of a restoration beyond the brokenness and narcissism that risk, if we are not very careful, shaping both sides of this story.”

I wonder, what shall we use to define and shape ourselves? I hope and pray that our response to the complex questions of our age will be drawn out from the painful depths of Christian love. This is no easy task but let us not avoid it. The violence of recent decades has touched us all. Let us begin to heal the brokenness of polarization and violence through a shockingly radical outpouring of  compassion, mercy and love.

A Place of Welcome

February 23, 2019 by

teapotWe often refer to our community as a place of welcome. It sounds lovely and certainly fits in with our Christian values. We can see welcome in our Chapter Documents and in the Gospels. Its the sort of phrase that gives a warm feeling of goodness and that everything is in its place. ‘A Place of Welcome’ summons up calm images of people visiting, drinking tea and having opportunity for spiritual nourishment.

But the reality can be somewhat different, much more complex and certainly more chaotic!

Over the last week we have welcomed 14 people to stay (all of you are, and were, most welcome by the way!!!!). It means making beds, washing sheets, moving furniture, adjusting our ordinary lives, coming in after work and doing the cleaning or preparing an input, being available to people with all their questions, conversations and crises… it means being willing to adjust times of prayer and to sit later in the evening to play a game or have a conversation. It means opening ourselves up to new ways of doing things and then trying to find where all the crockery has been stowed when everyone has left.


What’s my point?

Welcome is wonderful. It is stretching. And part of the joy comes from the energy that it requires – like the feeling of tiredness after a long walk that makes you know that you are alive!


February 6, 2019 by

I was glad to be very early at the airport this morning. This provided ample opportunity for drinking tea before departing. I was sad to witness the abusive way a customer spoke to a young man at the cafe where I was waiting to be served. The man had ordered a Latte but for some reason he was angry his coffee had milk in it! The young man was so gentle and polite. He offered to make a new coffee but he couldn’t pacify the angry customer. When it came to my turn I complemented him on his customer service. Happily I also saw numerous examples of kind, funny and patient behaviour this morning. I hope all those who pass through or work in the airport today will  make it safely and peacefully to the end of their day.

Listening and being listened to

January 31, 2019 by


I spend a lot of time listening to people in my ministry, and one of the things I have noticed is that speaking, or asking questions, whilst useful at times, are not particularly important.

Mostly people just need to be listened to.

As we express ourselves, share our story, talk through our ups and downs, our fears and joys we feel connected, held and cared for. The wisdom we need is so often to be found simply in the companionship of someone else, the knowledge that we are not on our own.


“I promise to do my best, to be kind and helpful, and to love God…”

January 30, 2019 by

These were the words spoken by my eight year old great-nephew as he made his Beaver promise for the last time before moving up to Cubs. It was bitter cold in my home village last night but it was well worth braving the chill to be present in the Beaver/Cub Hut to witness the simple rite of passage through which my great-nephew said goodbye to one group of friends and joined another. I had tears in my eyes as he donned his Cub shirt and received his new necktie from Akela. I was struck by the simple goodness present in that group and the commitment of the six adults who were present to supervise more than thirty exuberant children. Imagine, all over the world there are similar small groups of children with adults helping them to grow and become their better selves. I am certain there is a little more love in the cosmos because of last night.