The other day I saw the face of a little girl on the news that has haunted me ever since. There was no name with the picture. The child is a refugee. She and her family had only just reached safety after their home in Iraq had been destroyed by ISIS. She looked to be aged about eight or nine. Her clothes were ill-kempt and her hair was bedraggled and coated in dust. Her face was streaked with dirt. She had the most striking brown eyes that seared into mine. Her eyes were clouded with confusion and tears. Two fat tears made their way down her right cheek. My own tears joined hers. I wanted to pick her up and hold her tight and tell her that everything would be alright. But will everything be alright – and when – and what can I do to make this happen? May we never rest in peace and comfort until this world is a safe and happy place for all of God’s children.
Archive for March, 2017
FCJ Sisters from around the world joined in with EARTH HOUR, the global action of solidarity. Here are some messages from sisters in different parts of the world. They are simple messages shared between friends who delighted in the unity of this global gesture:
We had a lovely hour of prayer, song and sharing by candlelight
No need to turn off lights in this land as most people don’t have electricity so I just sat and prayed the rosary.
We’ve also just finished a happy candlelight hour together of sharing, praying and some refreshments! It’s good to have a sense of so many of us joined together in this gesture!
We had just finished our evening snack and simply lit candles and stayed at the table chatting and enjoying each other’s company. A lovely hour flew past!
Dear Friends, we shared this year’s Earth Hour by candle light in our little chapel. We were conscious of being in solidarity with all our FCJ sisters and with all those who have the ‘care of our common home’ at heart.
We had a lovely hour with a prayer – it was a lovely moment of reflection and thanks-giving which ended up with a little celebration. A most enjoyable evening.
… there was a deep sense of union and peace between the group gathered in chapel, in candlelight, a few sisters in their own rooms enjoying the peace of the evening and the light gradually fading, and the whole Society. Thanks to all.
Dear Companions, we had a lovely Holy Hour with Exposition with candle light… several people from the village joined us. Some of our elderly people in the Home told us, that they joined us in our prayer with our Holy Hour which can be transmitted over the television in their rooms. We were very united with all our sisters and all people in the world.
We joined in and prayed in candlelight during that hour at our Retreat for young people.
If you would like to see more about Earth Hour:
In the face of yet another act of wanton violence it is difficult to know how to respond. Words seem so inadequate. I am trying to take time to pray – and reflect on the ways I too contribute to the cycle of violence. My other response is do at least one act of random kindness each day– that to me is the best way to counter random acts of violence. By working together we can keep on investing more love in our world…
As part of my ministry I work as a chaplain to a university. It’s a ministry that has taught me a lot about the importance of contemplative presence and fidelity.
Taking on the chaplaincy in a secular institution has its challenges – there was little faith based activity and no ‘ready made’ chaplaincy community – instead we have had to build it from scratch. Week by week we have turned up, been present, offered opportunities – lunch, prayer, gardening, Mass, charity work and volunteering etc -and slowly a community has formed around us.
It’s a community of students who appreciate the space, who enjoy the calm atmosphere and friendly welcome, who want to be listened to without feeling they must be saying something of life-changing importance, students and staff who need to be able to explore the spiritual side of life without judgement.
This has all been as a result of our simply being faithful and present, witnessing quietly and consistently to our own deep faith and to gospel values.
The other day I misread the reference for the Gospel of the day and instead of praying with Matthew 23:1-12, I mistakenly used Matthew 25:1-12 (The parable of the wise and foolish bridesmaids). I really enjoyed teasing out that Gospel story. I couldn’t help sympathizing with the unfortunate five whose oil supply couldn’t quite last the time spent waiting for that tardy bridegroom. I wondered to myself what happened that they had a less than full supply of oil. Obviously they were partly prepared – being suitably attired for their role as bridesmaids and they did have their lamps and a certain amount of the light-giving liquid. So what went wrong I wondered? Perhaps they were busy beforehand helping with the other preparations, or doing someone a good deed, or even taking care of the bride. They surely hoped they had enough oil till disaster in the form of delay plunged them into gloom and darkness. What a shame all their hopes were gone – and they missed the party! I don’t need to ask myself which of the bridesmaids I would be. I know already. Most likely I too would have been one of those knocking on the closed door. We each of us know what it is that we are lacking. It could be one or more of many things – time, for example, or prayer or rest or? I’m not so sure it is foolishness that causes the lack as much as the sheer pressure of trying to be a decent human being. For me that locked door is not the end of the story. I can’t help believing that the bridegroom is still waiting – for surely the wedding party is not complete without us – oil or no oil!
This year I am trying the TearFund Mean Bean Challenge.
It is a simple idea – eat only rice and beans for a week. As much rice and beans as you want. But ONLY rice and beans (oh and porridge for breakfast!) In our community we had decided to do a rice and bean night once per week, but having tried that for two weeks and read some reflections from others who took up the challenge we have decided to give it a go!
Of course for much of the world it would not seem unusual – many people live every day with an impoverished diet – but for us, surrounded by variety and choice, unused to hunger, it will be difficult!
I will write some updates as I go along, so watch this space!
We are planning to make it a time to:
FAST – obviously, although it’s more about abstaining really
PREPARE – we will be reflecting on the experience, how it affects us and hopefully growing in gratitude for all that we have.
PRAY – for generosity and compassion towards those who live with less
GIVE – the money we save will go to charity
One of our Companions in Mission groups in the UK met together yesterday for a day of walking. It is a group who live in different parts of the UK and so we met in the middle of the country and found a nice route for a walk and a picnic. It was a time to laugh together, to relax, to enjoy nature and to talk about the things that matter to us. We aren’t a group that is able to meet frequently due to distance, ministry and other commitments, but when we do meet we give quality time and presence to each other.
I always come away from our meeting feeling renewed, challenged and inspired!
“…save us by your hand, and help me, who am alone and have no helper but you, O Lord.” Esther:12
I love this line from the book of Esther because it speaks to me of an understanding of God’s presence that goes way beyond feeling and emotion. Esther feels ALONE, and yet she knows that God is her helper. No matter how alone she appears, no matter how hopeless the situation seems, there is an underlying sense of God who is present even in her isolation and helplessness.
Several days ago I read a blog written by one of my friends in which she expressed her hope that this Lent she and her family would declutter in a big way. She was hoping to fill one bag with things to give away each day in Lent! Forty bags in forty days. I liked the spirit of the idea – that I could try and reduce my possessions at the rate of one a day. To my amazement two days ago my niece shared a post from the Salvation Army on Facebook in which they suggested that very thing – fill a bag with forty things that can be given to others. Both the Salvation Army and the St Vincent de Paul are willing to accept and distribute the donations. That’s one of my challenges this Lent. I want to try and go a step further and as well as let go of forty things I am also going to try and let go of something unhelpful each day – like a negative attitude or an angry thought or a selfish impulse…All of a sudden I feel as if this Lent is going to be something of an adventure. I hope you have an adventurous Lent too!