Author Archive

Notre Dame de Paris

April 17, 2019

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.

INSPIRED BY A GROUP OF NOVICES

April 10, 2019

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.

 

 

 

SAINTS COME IN MANY FORMS

March 27, 2019

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

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.

LOVE YOUR ENEMIES:THE TIME IS NOW…

February 26, 2019

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.

SOME INTERESTING MOMENTS WHILE TRAVELLING…

February 6, 2019

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.

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

January 30, 2019

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.

 

GOODNESS IN MANY PLACES: RANDOM ACTS OF TATTOO

January 26, 2019

Goodness exists in many places if only we are open enough to recognise it. I read recently about a tattoo artist who offers to cover up racist/hate inspired tattoos free of charge. This kind of work normally costs hundreds of dollars. He is part of a group called Random Acts of Tattoo. How brilliant. Doing good doesn’t have to be boring!

SOME LOVELY MOMENTS THIS CHRISTMAS…

December 31, 2018

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…

‘EVERYONE IS SPECIAL’ – A WONDERFUL DAY

December 17, 2018

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.