Author Archive

The future’s name is Hope

September 12, 2019

“To Christians, the future does have a name, and its name is Hope. Feeling hopeful does not mean to be optimistically naïve and ignore the tragedy humanity is facing. Hope is the virtue of a heart that doesn’t lock itself into darkness, that doesn’t dwell on the past, does not simply get by in the present, but is able to see a tomorrow.”

Pope Francis 2017

We are surrounded by goodness and beauty, by people striving for the good of others, by a million small gestures of kindness and love. Yet if we listen to the news channels we can easily feel somewhat overwhelmed as we hear story after story of suffering, self-seeking leadership, climate crisis… How then can we find hope and not be paralysed? Perhaps it is by recognising the truth of both – there is much that is suffering in our world, and yet still, in the face of it all people still choose goodness, still strive to do what is right, still forgive, console, love.

Fruitfulness

September 4, 2019

 

rowan-flowers-paul-sterry-NPL

Outside my window a tree full of berries is blowing in the wind. All summer, bees were feeding from the nectar of the flowers, and now, thanks to their efforts, birds are delighting in the rich fruit.

I am at my desk, working – collating information for our General Chapter and planning events for Young Adults. I find myself inspired by the summer bees, who, in gathering what they needed, provided a fruitful space for others. May each of us find meaning and purpose in what we do, and in doing it may we benefit others. berries

A Million Blessings

August 28, 2019

gratitude

The last few days have seen a mini heat wave in the UK (2 days!!) and today the showers are back. I love to watch the leaves dripping in the sunshine after the rain has passed. It makes me feel hopeful. 

Today I realise that the summer has brought a many blessings to me – of laughter, peace, rest and friendship. Space and freedom, joy and reflection….beauty, calm, gratitude… These blessings came quietly, without ceremony or planning: a bud opening on a rose bush, ripe tomatoes on the vine, rain and sunshine on my face, sharing deeply with friends.

Magnificat of Gratitude  – Ann Johnson (adapted)

Count them, my spirit, and be grateful.
Count the wonders one by one,
each drop of rain, each kiss,
each kindly word, each rose and garlic bud.

Observe them, my soul, and give thanks.
How many times have you been redeemed?
How many breezes blew clouds away?
How many seeds burst into life?

For all your universal wonders, we praise you.
For all your showering benefit, we thank you.
For all your daily miracles,
we murmur gratitude.
Generation after generation you continue blessing.

Blessed are you, Giving God,
Benefactor of heaven and earth in every age.
Your name is Generosity.
You convey wonder and miracle
day after day to the earth and its people.
To you we lift our hearts and voices
in this prayer of gratitude.

 

Divine Synchronicity

June 5, 2019

Having just written the previous post about loneliness and isolation, I left my desk and went to a meeting with a group of our FCJ Sixth form students. They wanted to talk about volunteering.

The area they highlighted as a need that they felt they wanted to respond to was loneliness and isolation among elderly people.

God does that.

 

Isolation and fearfulness

June 4, 2019

Yesterday a couple of us spent some time calling round to neighbours on our street who we haven’t ever met. It was quite a challenge to just knock on people’s doors and say hello – it isn’t really usual to do it and so we weren’t sure what sort of a reception we would get.

On the whole the people we met were friendly, if a little surprised, but there was certainly a sense of wariness too, and clearly many people didn’t know others on the street.

One of the difficulties where we live is that not everyone is confident to chat in English, and so people avoid speaking to each other for fear of being misunderstood. Not talking and avoiding each other leads to isolation, and isolation feeds suspicion and fearfulness.

We simply invited people round for a cup of tea – it was a lovely and simple way of reaching out and getting people together!

May is the month of …

May 23, 2019

spring-bird-2295434_1280Last week on the motorway I was driving behind a van which was advertising something. (Actually I have no idea what!!!!) The advertising slogan they had used (and note this was in one of the most Catholic parts of the country) was ‘May is the month of…’ I think the final word might have been ‘money’!

All I can say is that the advertising backfired! The only way I could imagine finishing that sentence was MARY – ‘May is the month of Mary’!

What does that mean for us today? May is certainly a month of beauty in northern Europe – a spring month with long days, blossom and blue skies. A month of change and promise…

As a child I remember crowning a statue of Mary with a crown of blossoms – and in some of our schools the tradition has persisted.

The beauty of may flowers is simple, uncomplicated beauty. The blossoms, seeming fragile can withstand strong winds and storms, they are a lifeline to the emerging insects and so in turn for the nesting birds.

Mary, Kersal Hill FCJ

Perhaps this speaks to us too of Mary – a gentle presence in our life of faith, a beautiful, simple hand on our shoulder, guiding us towards her Son. A strong, nurturing presence – a refuge in the storms.

A traditional FCJ blessing prays:

May Mary,

Mother of God Counsel,

counsel and protect you.

 

Simple Beauty

May 13, 2019

 

garden

Two very different people have taught me about simple beauty today.

The first, a homeless woman who calls periodically to say hello, reminded me of the power of the smallest gesture of welcome and acceptance. I know she went out of her way to call by our house. She didn’t want or ask for anything… just wanted to say hello.

The second, a gardener who saw me picking flowers and pointed out the beauty in weeds – he commented that many people overlook these, but they have their own beauty!

Distracted and half asleep?

May 7, 2019

Christus Vivit

Recently I was listening to an elderly sister talking about her vocation story. In her sharing she said ‘there weren’t as many possibilities back then and I knew this was the thing I should do’.

It struck me that for many of us now, and perhaps even more so for young people, there are countless possibilities of things we might do with our life, and understandably young people want to have a look at the options before making a choice. Choice seems like freedom. But perhaps what Pope Francis writes at the start of the Apostolic Exhortation ‘Christ is Alive!’ reveals something to us. That it is possible to have many experiences but not really experience them! To be so distracted or numbed by all the noise and activity, that it becomes impossible to really be present ;

We can, in fact, spend our youth being distracted, skimming the surface of life, half-asleep, incapable of cultivating meaningful relationships or experiencing the deeper things in life. In this way, we can store up a paltry and unsubstantial future. Or we can spend our youth aspiring to beautiful and great things, and thus store up a future full of life and interior richness.

Christus Vivit #19

Aspiring to BE MORE, to change the world for the better, to make a difference where I am can lead us to a focus and depth that enables us to choose rather than be confounded by possibilities.

How can we cultivate a culture of focus and presence in our lives?

Pilgrimage to Lindisfarne

April 30, 2019

A group of us have just returned from a pilgrimage to Lindisfarne. I have walked this route many times over the last number of years,  stayed in the same Bunkhouse, visited the same churches and holy sites.

What I discovered about pilgrimage this time is that there is a real truth to the idea that we can visit somewhere that we have already been, and yet see it as if for the first time. As we take part in a pilgrimage the external landscape may remain largely unchanged, but the internal landscape of our lives shifts significantly. Who we are with, what is happening in our life, what our purpose is… all of these are what really make up the pilgrimage.

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

T.S. Eliot

Here are some images from our days of walking.

Holiness is charity lived to the full

April 3, 2019

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.

crocus

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)