Author Archive

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!

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Leading and Following

November 28, 2018

weaving

Think about a leader that you know and admire…. what makes them a leader?

  • Is it that they have a role of leadership that they have been appointed to?
  • Maybe it’s the strengths and capacities they have in relation to a particular set of tasks?
  • Or perhaps it is their personality and charisma that makes it easy for others to go along with them?

In fact it is probably all of these things and more! There are many theories about leadership and many models of leading that people adopt, but perhaps one of the significant ways in which we can gain insight into leadership is by considering how Jesus leads.

I am not going to attempt a scriptural analysis of the leadership of Jesus here but one idea that we could reflect on is how Jesus begins. All of the gospels relate stories of Jesus calling the first disciples. He invites them into relationship, invites them to a task and reassures them…

‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of people’ Mtt 4

‘Follow me’ Mk 2

‘Do not be afraid’ Lk 5

‘Come and see’ Jn 1

Jesus’ leadership takes place within relationship. He is a leader when the disciples willingly enter into the role of following, of discipleship.

Leadership is not a divinely conferred charism, nor does it totally rely on the agreement of the follower, instead it seems to reside somewhere in the relationship that exists between the leader and the follower. A leader doesn’t need agreement from those they are leading, but for leadership to happen there needs to be a willingness to be led.

Connection

November 21, 2018

We long for connection. People are often lonely, isolated, divided. And yet we long for connection – to be, as Einstein says, ‘freed from this prison’ of separation.

We easily connect with people we know, or who think and experience life in similar ways to us… its also easy, with just a tiny effort, to make connections with others outside our normal circle.

A human being is part of a whole, called by us the “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. [They] experiences [them]self, [their] thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

Simply smiling at someone on the street, checking if an elderly neighbour is OK, speaking to someone in a cafe or in the supermarket are all tiny ways in which we break down the delusion of separation and open up possibilities for connection.compassion

 

Our FCJ charism is one of companionship – of being present alongside others in day to day life and activity. These tiny connections bring ripples of  companionship into our world, breaking down division and building community.

Choosing happiness (When life gives you lemons…)

November 14, 2018

lemons

Life sometimes throws things at us that upset our equilibrium and leave us feeling upset, angry, sad, confused etc… If the situation remains unresolved, or if the hurt lingers, we can find these initial feelings and reactions deepening and solidifying into cynicism, negativity and resentment.

We have a choice in these times as we follow down the route of our feelings – we can allow the feelings of anger and hurt to harden into bitterness, or we can choose to deal with them. Does this mean ignoring the feelings? No! It is simply that we can learn from these feelings; acknowledging the pain caused; making choices from the new insights and learnings of the situation; letting go of some course of action, some dream or even some relationships. Then we can choose to be happy. 

I think Ignatius gives us some pointers for this in his rules for discernment. There is a difference between our emotions and spiritual desolation, but there is also a connection. Ignatius encourages us to notice where consolation not desolation lies, to understand its path and purpose and then to choose to follow the consolation rather than be entrapped by the desolation. We are encouraged to actively seek and choose what gives us life.

Of course, choosing to be happy is not straightforward, (or else we would all do it straight away!) it calls us to a deep awareness of the goodness that is around us, the beauty, the potential. It calls us to let go of the negative in practical ways. It is a choice for what gives us life.

‘I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.’  Deuteronomy 30:15-20

I came across this poem a while back which speaks to me of the time of resting with the difficult emotions and waiting until we can once again choose life.

Trough
There is a trough in waves,
A low spot
Where horizon disappears
And only sky
And water
Are our company.
And there we lose our way
Unless
We rest, knowing the wave will bring us
To its crest again.
There we may drown
If we let fear
Hold us within its grip and shake us
Side to side,
And leave us flailing, torn, disoriented.
But if we rest there
In the trough,
Are silent,
Being with
The low part of the wave,
Keeping
Our energy and
Noticing the shape of things,
The flow,
Then time alone
Will bring us to another
Place
Where we can see
Horizon, see the land again,
Regain our sense
Of where
We are,
And where we need to swim.
~ Judy Brown ~
(The Sea Accepts All Rivers)

A meeting of minds and hearts

November 6, 2018

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Last week the FCJ sisters from across Europe gathered for our Assembly – a four day meeting to look at and reflect on our mission and ministry. Sisters gathered from the 9 different European countries in which we minister.

The purpose of this year’s meeting was to have an opportunity to reflect on how we have responded to the outcomes of our last General Chapter and to share our thoughts and reflections as we move forward.

We are a very diverse group working in a wide range of different ministries and contexts. This year we also welcomed some of the staff from our schools, as well as others who work alongside us and some of our Companions in Mission.

As we listened to reports and shared together it was evident that there is a great unity among us and a real desire to be together on mission. We delighted in all the different ways in which FCJ spirituality is being lived out, responding to the thirst of Jesus in the world of today.

We were challenged together to understand how best to respond to the continually changing calls of our times – to welcome the stranger; to respond to the environmental calls and challenges of our times;  to accompany young people. …

As we move forward we ask for the grace and courage to discern faithfully how to truly be Companions of Jesus in these times.

Taking a break

August 17, 2018

This time of year in the northern hemisphere is holiday time for many. The evenings are lengthened and the weather is warm.

Taking holiday – taking a break from our normal routine, from the pressures and decisions that fill our life can be such a renewing and refreshing thing. Recently I have had my own holiday time in a beautiful spot where I was able to enjoy the simple things jesus took napsof life – the beauty of nature, good conversations and relaxed days. Returning now from that time I feel refreshed and excited about what lies ahead.

A holiday, no matter how simple, puts us into a space where we have an opportunity to just be ourselves, to enjoy what is around us, to live in the present moment and to cultivate gratitude.

 

 

Faith and JOY

July 4, 2018

Last weekend I was at the Brightlights Festival in Alton Castle, UK. It is a Catholic Youth Festival held each year. Here are some highlights to give you a flavour! Maybe you would like to come along next year?!

Rejoice and be Glad: Where do you find security?

June 8, 2018

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In reflecting on this beatitude in Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and be glad) Pope Francis asks the question “where do we find our security?”

Building security for ourselves, making our own ground stable gives us the freedom to stop focussing on ourselves and to focus outwards to others, but as with most things it has a flip side – the security itself can become our idol – so that we become so fearful of anyone or anything disturbing our security that we are no longer open to others.

Pope Francis likens the spirit of this beatitude to the Ignatian understanding of Inner Freedom – to become free and not enslaved by wealth, possessions, securities etc so as to be open to the presence of God in our everyday life and experience.

 

Preparing for the Synod – Youth Faith and Vocational Discernment

May 31, 2018

popeYesterday I attended a meeting with Bishop Ralph Heskett, one of the Bishops who will attend the Synod on Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment which takes place this October. The meeting was an opportunity for people involved in youth ministry to reflect together on ways in which the Church can more fully respond to the needs of young people.

There was opportunity to hear something of the research being done by Camino House in collaboration with CYMFED on the attitudes of young Catholics in the UK, as well as hearing from one of the participants in the International Pre-Synodal meeting of young people which took place in March.

This Synod gives us a wonderful opportunity to listen to the experience of young people in our Church, and to formulate with them new ways of being Church.

If you are interested in knowing more about the Synod, or reading the preparatory document from the pre-Synodal meeting of young people, follow the links below:

Webpage for the Synod

Preparatory Document

Welcome

May 22, 2018

I find it interesting that in today’s Gospel reading Jesus is speaking to his disciples about what it is to lead – to be a servant of all. Of all the different ways Jesus could choose to talk about service he chooses to illustrate what he is saying by speaking of welcome.

“If anyone wishes to be first,
they shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”
Taking a child, he placed it in their midst,
and putting his arms around it, he said to them,
“Whoever welcomes a child such as this in my name, welcomes me;
and whoever welcomes me,
welcomes not me but the One who sent me.

Here we are reminded that to to serve is to welcome.

This makes me wonder about the challenge of being welcoming – we can all welcome those who fit easily into our way of thinking, perceiving and acting… but we also all have experience of personalities that we find challenging or even downright odd!

To serve is to welcome. And to lead is to step beyond ourselves, our own comfort and preconceptions and to be a welcome for everyone. The proof of our welcome is not in the number of like-minded friends we have, but in the diversity of those who feel included.

“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

Einstein

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