Author Archive

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)

A Place of Welcome

February 23, 2019

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.

dirty-laundry.jpg

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!

Listening and being listened to

January 31, 2019

listening-heart

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.

 

Welcoming the Holy Family

December 18, 2018

Last evening we had a wonderful celebration in one of our FCJ communities on the Wirral, UK. In their parish, each day of Advent a different household welcomes a statue of the Holy Family. Neighbours and friends are invited to the house to join in prayer and to enjoy hospitality.

Our celebration was very simple – recognising the gift of extending and receiving hospitality, and helping us to reflect on how we can respond to those around us who are most in need of our hospitality – our families and friends, those who are lonely, those who are far from home.

May this celebration of Advent lead us to welcome Christ in whatever way He arrives at our door!

holy-family-statue-in-coloured-wood-pulp.jpg