Author Archive

Some thoughts on discernment – 1

July 1, 2020

I have recently been running a series of online workshops on discernment and thought I might share some of the thinking and concepts. If you are interested in joining this series follow the link to sign up: Online Discernment Workshop

What is Discernment?

It is hard to sum up in just a few paragraphs! There are many books written on the topic and many different perspectives. Within the church the word gets used in a variety of different ways. (We use the language of discernment to mean particular life choices; or sometimes people talk about being ‘in discernment’ as though it is about the process of formation for religious life or priesthood.)

What I am writing about is not that time of choosing a state of life (although that may be part of it), but rather something of the personal relationship between ourselves and God.

This personal relationship with God is a real relationship, and one which brings with it joy, delight, attraction, responsibility and choice as it deepens. This movement or Desire towards God is at the heart of discernment – we are talking about orienting our life towards God in a way that brings us a deep inner sense of connection and joy.

Any re-orientation of our life will involve decisions and choices – perhaps when we are looking at discernment it is important to see the centrality of everyday choices in shaping our lives. We make many choices every day – some we recognise as significant, others seem minor, but we never really know until much later which will prove to be significant – the time I leave the house to go for a walk might determine a chance meeting; the comment I make in a conversation might affect someone else’s decisions. Life is not made up solely of big decisions, but of many everyday occurrences in which God is present.

Entering more deeply into this relationship with God involves the choice to orient my life in such a way that I can respond more freely to God’s prompting. St Ignatius, at the start of the Spiritual Exercises proposes the Principle and Foundation; a recognition that every moment, every conversation, every experience is a gift and an opportunity for encountering God, and I am invited to respond.

The Principle and Foundation

The goal of our life is to live with God forever.

God, who loves us, gave us life.

Our own response of love allows God’s life to flow into us without limit.

All the things in this world are gifts of God, presented to us so that we can know God more easily and make a return of love more readily.

As a result, we appreciate and use all these gifts of God insofar as they help us develop as loving persons. But if any of these gifts become the centre of our lives, they displace God and so hinder our growth toward our goal.

In everyday life, then, we must hold ourselves in balance before all of these created gifts insofar as we have a choice and are not bound by some obligation.

We should not fix our desires on health or sickness, wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or a short one.

For everything has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life in God. Our only desire and our one choice should be this:

I want and I choose what better leads to God’s deepening his life in me.

Every small space is significant, and part of ‘our common home’

May 23, 2020

By Margarita Byron fcJ

A few days ago I was reading the daily email from Richard Rohr where he quoted from the theologian Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam:

“In the second chapter of the Gospel of John, there is a verse that the disciples attribute to Jesus as he drives out money lenders and sellers of sheep and cattle from the temple of Jerusalem: “Zeal for your house will consume me” [John 2:17). Prior to that verse Jesus tells those who are despoiling the holy place: “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” [John 2:16]. . . .

Today, we could, and probably we should, understand this ‘house’ as our common planetary home. ‘ “

Here in London we have just completely renovated our house – literally, the building – so as to make it functional for our new spirituality centre and as a home for the FCJ sisters living and ministering from there.  We have tried to construct with a ‘zeal’ that is economical, apostolic and ecological.

And now we are looking at our very small and very precious garden space.  This small parcel of land is ‘part of our common planetary home’.  How shall we use it and ‘share’ it?

Well, for those who spend time in our retreat centre, it will be available to them – a little haven in our London streets.  Hopefully people walking along the road will be able to see some of its colour and smell various perfumes.  The people living in the flats to our east  will enjoy the contribution we are adding to their efforts or create a flower patch in a corner of their asphalted entrance area.

But, not only will visitors enjoy our garden.  We’re making sure there will be plants that will encourage butterflies and bees to find refuge and safety in the garden.   Water for birds, seed when necessary.  And care that every thing will flourish as far as possible so that we may even have plants that we can give away.

And, of course we ourselves will delight in the beauty we can see, will gather flowers occasionally, will enjoy the herbs that we will grow in raised beds along the side of the building and will rejoice in the peace and creativity that our common home is offering us.

Food, packaging and home-growing

May 22, 2020

by Miriam for the FCJ Young Adult Network

An awareness of the gravity of today’s cultural and ecological crisis must be translated into new habits LS#209

Following EcoMagis last summer, I had begun to think more about the food I was buying in terms of where it came from and how it was packaged. I’d made small steps of making some things which come packaged in plastic, like hummus and bread, and buying lose vegetables and fruit where possible. However, this is easy to do when it is just me.

When lockdown came into force, I was with family. Suddenly my parents went from having three people in their house to five. How could we feed five people when all the major supermarkets had no available delivery slots and how could we avoid the excess of packaging that often comes with deliveries?

On special occasions, before lockdown, we used to buy food from the local farmers market. This involved a break from routine, a special trip, and we saw this as something which was “too hard” to do on a regular basis. Lockdown has prompted us to shift beyond the usual routine, to rethink our habits and find a new solution.

We are thinking carefully each week about what we order, planning meals in advanced, and making more things from scratch. Now it is normal to see sourdough proofing in the kitchen, biscuits baking in the oven, and someone scrubbing soily potatoes.

Lockdown also prompted us to spend more time doing things together and with the sunny weather this has been mainly in the garden. There were a few things that we were finding impossible to get delivered without plastic packaging, like salads and small tomatoes. We investigated how we could grow these ourselves and it turns out that you can repurpose almost any container as a planter so long as you drill holes in the bottom to allow drainage. The salads have been the first to spring up and we have each enjoyed watching them grow from their tiny seeds.

As we look to the future, the next step for us is to begin to make the same change of habit for non-food based items.

LS – Laudato Si’

Ecological Living – Learning new skills

May 22, 2020

by Christine for the FCJ Young Adult Network

In the recent months I have been reflecting on the way living a more ecological lifestyle requires an openness to learning new skills, and to letting our learning shape our previously held (but not very thought-through opinions).

This is most evident to me when I witness my sister-in-law running her cloth nappy business; the model of her business is to be a supplier of many different brands and products and, most importantly, to be available to talk through how the products work, and their various merits. After a good, informative chat what may seem overwhelming, “too gross”, or too burdensome becomes a real option for care-givers.

The insight for me is that the learning we need to do is not just about understanding the different impacts of our actions or how to compare different alternatives for impact. It is also about learning about what it is like to live different, more ecological choices; this kind of learning often makes ecological choices feel much more accessible and realistic.

In order to do this, we need to practice talking about these choices more freely without making others feel judged or shamed. Not every lifestyle change is immediately available to all people for a variety of reasons, so for me the biggest challenge is how to encourage change with the urgency it requires, while being sensitive to this reality. The cloth nappy business model of sharing experience and information, while leaving choice up to the care-givers to find a way that suits them, feels like a good starting point!

 LS #211 A person who could afford to spend and consume more but regularly uses less heating and wears warmer clothes, shows the kind of convictions and attitudes which help to protect the environment. There is a nobility in the duty to care for creation through little daily actions, and it is wonderful how education can bring about real changes in lifestyle. Education in environmental responsibility can encourage ways of acting which directly and significantly affect the world around us, such as avoiding the use of plastic and paper, reducing water consumption, separating refuse, cooking only what can reasonably be consumed, showing care for other living beings, using public transport or car-pooling, planting trees, turning off unnecessary lights, or any number of other practices. All of these reflect a generous and worthy creativity which brings out the best in human beings. Reusing something instead of immediately discarding it, when done for the right reasons, can be an act of love which expresses our own dignity.

LS #212. We must not think that these efforts are not going to change the world. They benefit society, often unbeknown to us, for they call forth a goodness which, albeit unseen, inevitably tends to spread.

LS – Laudato Si’

Time to Heal, Space to Breathe – Laudato Si’

May 21, 2020

by Nicole Piscopo  for the FCJ Young Adult Network

In what simple practical ways are you living with a greater awareness of the environment and our connection to it?

Right now I don’t really feel I’m doing anything in particular for the planet. But I saw a picture a while ago that right now, our planet is breathing. It’s taking a break from all the pollution we throw at it and hopefully taking time to heal.

LS #18. The continued acceleration of changes affecting humanity and the planet is coupled today with a more intensified pace of life and work which might be called “rapidification”. Although change is part of the working of complex systems, the speed with which human activity has developed contrasts with the naturally slow pace of biological evolution. Moreover, the goals of this rapid and constant change are not necessarily geared to the common good or to integral and sustainable human development. Change is something desirable, yet it becomes a source of anxiety when it causes harm to the world and to the quality of life of much of humanity.

Times like these show us that we’re not as in control as we think we are. We’re all vulnerable and at nature’s mercy. And we realise how important the things we take for granted are.

I think it’s especially important to check up on people and their mental health because we’re all going through a tough time, and we have to take care of each other.

LS #147. Authentic development includes efforts to bring about an integral improvement in the quality of human life, and this entails considering the setting in which people live their lives. These settings influence the way we think, feel and act. In our rooms, our homes, our workplaces and neighbourhoods, we use our environment as a way of expressing our identity. We make every effort to adapt to our environment, but when it is disorderly, chaotic or saturated with noise and ugliness, such overstimulation makes it difficult to find ourselves integrated and happy.

LS – Laudato Si’

Practical Ideas for more Sustainable Living

May 20, 2020

Practical Ideas for Ecological Living

Over the last number of years there have been many initiatives to prompt us to adjust our lifestyle and develop more sustainable living habits.  If you have already ditched plastic bottles and started taking a reusable cup to coffee shops, here are some possible next steps, along with my thoughts on how easy or difficult they are to achieve.

1) Ecological Cleaning products

This is really easy to do. there are loads of ecological cleaning products available that are really good – some are available in supermarkets, but you can also buy online. We have tried loads of different brands so if you want insider reviews message me for details!

You can also buy these products in bulk thereby  reducing plastic packaging and the mileage that your products are travelling!

2) Bamboo Toothbrush and Plastic-free toothpaste

Again this is really easy. I have found a really good brand of Bamboo Toothbrush that lasts really well, so although they are more expensive you don’t need to replace them as often. It took a bit of getting used to, but after a week or so it just seemed completely normal.

I have also tried plastic free toothpaste and toothpowder… hhhhmmmm. Ok, but not the same! The paste is better than the powder in my opinion! Now I have found toothtabs – I think they are great – and brill for travelling (not that we are doing that at the moment!!!)

If you don’t feel ready for that, Colgate claim to recycle ALL toothbrushes and toothpaste tubes. (I am sceptical but I guess if you post them back it puts pressure on them!)

3) Home composting

I don’t know why everybody with a garden doesn’t do this. We have a box in our kitchen for all UNCOOKED vegetable waste – peelings, apple cores, flowers etc as well as adding coffee grinds, teabags and eggshells. The box came from Ikea and seals really well so it doesn’t smell or get fruitflies. We empty it into the garden composter and 6 months later we get wonderful nutrient-rich soil.It doesn’t attract rats or cause any problem with smells etc. Just some worms inside! 

4)Ditch throwaway wipes and kitchen paper

Rags are the way forward! Any old sheet, towel, tshirt etc that isn’t good enough for the charity shop. Tear it into smallish rectangles and keep a bag in the kitchen. They are great for taking grease off pans, wiping up spills and doing all the things that wipes would. Then either wash them (if they aren’t greasy) or bin them – at least they had another use before they reached your bin, and they saved you buying more disposable junk!

by Lynne Baron fcJ for the FCJ Young adult Network event Celebrating Laudato Si Week

Eucharistic Shopping – reflections from lockdown

May 20, 2020

Contribution by Helen Jones for ‘Celebrating Laudato Si’ Week

Thinking back to my upbringing, my mother was always very much “in charge” of our household – cooking was her business and the kitchen was her office.  We did not venture into it as she did things her way (she is German!) Perhaps this is why my relationship with the kitchen had been ambivalent at best.

Lockdown has changed me.  The seeds were sown with a talk by Sr Margaret Atkins OSA from Boarbank Hall in Cumbria at Adoremus in 2018.  She held food as central to our understanding of Eucharist.  The more I have reflected on this the deeper it has taken me.  The providence of food – our relationship with nature: factory farming (I was shocked as a primary school child when we had a trip to a battery hen farm), genetically modified grain, tomatoes, rice… where does it all end?; how we prepare food, how we gather to eat, the communication over a meal – a potentially unifying, healing event, inclusivity of all, the gratitude of provision, the strength in companionship, the beauty in sharing of our bounty.

I have two teenage sons at home constant eaters.  Cooking for them when I have a full-time job and unsocial hours was a chore and as such, I had to rely on snacks and ready meals more often than I would have liked. Now in lockdown, we eat together: breakfast, lunch and supper.  We plan our shopping list days in advance for click and collect, we utilise leftovers constantly, the boys cook too. 

Our relationship with food has changed.  We are aware of how precious certain items are – flour, eggs, baking powder, pasta, rice, passata. We are aware of how easily we took things for granted – we didn’t value what we had, we expected everything at all times –seasonal adaptations and tastes had merged as we could get everything anytime from anywhere. Now we use local suppliers, we are more inventive, and we ensure fewer air miles and packaging as a result.

Our recycling has decreased, our food waste is more peelings than the waste of uneaten ready meals and our enjoyment of mealtime has increased – we are in communion with each other at the table, sharing the chores, serving and being served, breaking bread together, happier and healthier.

That relationship between what we have on our doorstep, how it is produced, how we consume it and how it makes us feel must remain as it is now: careful, respectful, giving us time to “be”, giving us our time of gratitude as we experience physical nourishment, spiritual nourishment and healing in coming together in table fellowship knowing our food has been produced with love and care.

by Helen Jones

Pastoral Associate

Liverpool South Pastoral Area

Reducing Plastic Pollution – an urgent cry of the earth

May 19, 2020

Contribution by Rebecca Buckley for the FCJ Young Adult Network

At my school here in the UAE, we have recently spent some time during our PSHE style lessons looking at one of the biggest issues facing the planet and wildlife (especially in our oceans) currently- plastic pollution; so I thought I would focus on this.

Millions of animals are killed by plastics every year, and nearly 700 species, including endangered ones, are known to have been affected by plastics. Most of the deaths to animals are caused by entanglement or starvation but microplastics have also been found in more than 100 aquatic species. Tests have also confirmed liver and cell damage and disruptions to reproductive systems in some species.

I asked all students in my form class to make a ‘plastic pledge’ which involved them suggesting one way that they could reduce their plastic use in their everyday lives, and aiming to follow it.

Here are some of their suggestions:

  • Buy a reusable water bottle instead of buying disposable plastic bottles
  • Stop using cling film and switch to aluminium foil instead
  • Stop using bottled soaps and shower gels and switch to soap bars
  • Buy a reusable coffee cup and take it to coffee shops to fill up instead of buying a disposable one (many outlets here offer a discount if you bring your own reusable cup)
  • Say no to plastic straws when out at restaurants/cafes/bars and only use paper ones at home, if you need to
  • Choose the ‘no cutlery’ option when ordering takeaway so you don’t get disposable plastic cutlery (both of the main delivery providers out here offer this option)
  • Choose the ‘no plastic packaging’ option when ordering groceries (some of the companies out here that offer delivery services for groceries offer this option so that all food items such as fruit/veg come loose
  • If you have to use disposable plastic, recycle it as much as you can (most schools/complexes have recycle bins that you can take your plastic waste to)
  • Stop using plastic earbuds and use either reusable ones or just tissue instead
  • Don’t buy cosmetic products that contain glitter or microbeads (check the packaging or buy from companies that don’t use them in any of their products, e.g. Lush)
  • Buy reusable shopping bags and take them with you to the shops

My own pledge from this list was the coffee cup one, and I have stuck to it! I have also taken on a few of the other pledges, such as switching to soap bars and aluminium foil- even just one small switch like this from every household can make a huge difference. Our school has also recently banned disposable water cups and no longer stocks them at any of the water fountains within the school grounds, so students and staff must bring their own reusable bottles instead.

Laudato Si’ – Canticle of the Sun

May 19, 2020

Contributed by Sr Maria Vittoria fcJ

LAUDATO SI’  is a ‘cantica’ that St Francis of Assisi addressed to God in praise and gratitude for Creation. It is one of the earliest poems of our Italian Literature and just beautiful!

St. Francis of Assisi  wrote the ‘Cantico delle Creature’ i.e. Laudato Si’  in 1224, two years before he died and after being very ill for a few days.

St. Francis had always been a great admirer of nature as reflection of the Creator.  In this composition classified  as rhythmic prose  like the Psalms, he expresses  his great admiration and praise of God through his Creation.

We find a similarity in Scripture, ex. Psalm 148, but also in the song of the two young men in the Book of Daniel and in a few other places.

What is wonderful in Francis though is his use of adjectives and the way he calls the elements brother, mother, and sister.    Ex. ‘messer frate sole …. bellu et radiante cum grand splendore….’      ‘ sir brother sun  beautiful and shining with great splendour…..’

‘Laudato si’ mi’ Signore per sora acqua……’  Laudato si’ for sister water….’   La quale è multo utile  et humile et pretiosa et casta…. ‘    ‘sister water, very useful, humble and chaste.’….

‘Laudato si’ mi’ Signore per sora nostra madre terra la quale ne sustenta et governa, et produce diversi fructi, con coloriti fiori et erba….’       ‘Laudato si’ mi’ Signore for our  mother the earth that supports us and looks after us, and bears different kinds of  fruit, with colourful flowers and grass…..’

Sr. Maria Vittoria FCJ

Canticle of the Sun – Laudato Si’

Most High, all powerful, good Lord,
Yours are the praises, the glory, the honour, and all blessing.

To You alone, Most High, do they belong,
and no one is worthy to mention Your name.

Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and you give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendour!
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
in heaven you formed them clear and precious and beautiful.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind,
and through the air, cloudy and serene,
and every kind of weather through which
You give sustenance to Your creatures.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water,
which is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom you light the night and he is beautiful
and playful and robust and strong.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Mother Earth,
who sustains us and governs us and who produces
varied fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.

Praised be You, my Lord,
through those who give pardon for Your love,
and bear infirmity and tribulation.

Blessed are those who endure in peace
for by You, Most High, they shall be crowned.

Praised be You, my Lord,
through our Sister Bodily Death,
from whom no living person can escape.

Woe to those who die in mortal sin.
Blessed are those whom death will
find in Your most holy will,
for the second death shall do them no harm.

Praise and bless my Lord,
and give Him thanks

Simple actions of everyday life – Laudato Si’

May 18, 2020

A contribution by Tamzin Simmons-Robertson for the FCJ Young Adult Network

In what simple practical ways are you living with a greater awareness of the environment and our connection to it?

‘I am doing more cooking in bulk; making stews where I am flexible about the ingredients; using tinned goods and leftovers and recycling containers and packaging afterwards as far as possible. I also donate to my local foodbank.’

LS#22 “Christian spirituality proposes a growth marked by moderation and the capacity to be happy with little. It is a return to that simplicity which allows us to stop and appreciate the small things, to be grateful for the opportunities which life affords us, to be spiritually detached from what we possess, and not to succumb to sadness for what we lack.”

‘I’m a Work Coach in a job centre – I think/hope a lot will change around the idea of work after coronavirus. I often think of what the Pope has to say about unemployment when I’m doing my job, and Catholic Social Teaching certainly inspires me to think again and remember the dignity of the person in front of me if I’m ever tempted to become too bureaucratic.’

LS #128. “We were created with a vocation to work… Work is a necessity, part of the meaning of life on this earth, a path to growth, human development and personal fulfilment. Helping the poor financially must always be a provisional solution in the face of pressing needs. The broader objective should always be to allow them a dignified life through work.

To stop investing in people, in order to gain greater short-term financial gain, is bad business for society.”

Tamzin Simmons-Robertson

LS – Laudato Si’