The truth is not an idea but a person

May 16, 2018 by

…for the truth is not an idea but a person, Jesus Christ, who is also charity, or love.

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Having read Austin Ivereigh’s article “Discernment in a time of tribulation” published in Thinking Faith recently, I was struck particularly by this phrase; ‘the truth is not an idea but a person’. The article presents a reflection on the Pope’s response to the abuse scandal in Chile, but I think the points made can speak into so many situations of desolation.

When we discover despair creeping into a situation, when the only way for us to answer is to produce more and more intellectual argument, leading not to clarity but to anger and division, perhaps then we are called to remember the wisdom of Ignatius and not to follow down a line which leads further into desolation. Instead we are invited to refocus on where the truth lies – not simply in a reasoned argument taken from an (morally good) intellectual standpoint but in the person of Jesus, who is also charity and love.

 

FAITH LEADERS RESPOND TO THE BOMBING IN SURABAYA

May 14, 2018 by

Sunday 13th May was a sad and disturbing day for all of us in Indonesia, regardless of religion.  Fourteen people died and forty one were injured when bombs ripped through three churches in Surabaya. I was deeply impressed by the response quickly given by Faith Leaders: stay calm, do not make rash judgments of others, stay at peace with your neighbours and pray for all those involved in these tragic events. We are all quietly alert, reflective and prayerful. Our Muslim neighbours begin their long fast on Wednesday and we will support them in prayer while giving thanks for their faith and commitment. These are times when all people of faith and good will are called to stand together in the name of peace.

The ordinary becomes extraordinary

May 4, 2018 by

Love shows itself more in deeds rather than words (Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius)

I was being served in a cafe today when suddenly the woman who was serving me added an extra tray and began to prepare cups and cutlery – I realised quickly that it was for an elderly couple who were coming in, who are obviously ‘regulars’. The woman then continued to serve me and I went to sit down. Just a few minutes later an elderly man with Downs syndrome came in, and again the staff in the cafe immediately gave attention to him, joking and chatting as he placed his order. The atmosphere was lovely – clearly this is a place where community is built and friendships are formed.

It made me reflect – sometimes we feel that the big important actions that we do are what is ‘saving the world’… but maybe in reality the world is being saved moment by moment by all the tiny actions of peace, unity and community building. The world is being saved one cup of tea at a time.

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THERE IS NO PRIEST FOR MY PARISH I WONDER WHY?

April 26, 2018 by

I had a lovely experience on Sunday in my small local parish here in England. I arrived early and was able to enjoy listening to the organ as I waited for Mass to begin. The choir led the congregation in enthusiastic singing. The Mass was beautiful, the priest preached well and made his point with a good smattering of humour. I really liked the sign of peace.  We turned to greet one another and strong northern handshakes accompanied the words “peace be with you”. After Mass there was a coffee morning and some of us spent a little more time with each other over cups of tea or coffee. Every Sunday this friendly little church welcomes some five hundred people: adults, children and young people.

Sadly, this church is now partly closed because the diocese cannot provide a parish priest. Yet on the weekdays when there is no Mass a group of people still gather in the church to pray the Rosary. Parishoners still come every week to clean the church and do the flowers. The people are committed, friendly and kind.  The church looks as if it is loved and cared for. It is bright and clean.

There is no priest to live and minister full time in this parish. I wonder why? I wonder why this vibrant parish and faithful people must face an uncertain future? I wonder why it is not possible to find new ways of understanding ordained priesthood in our Church? I live in hope of new answers to my wonderings and questions.

Small Gestures

April 25, 2018 by

“This holiness to which the Lord calls you will grow through small gestures.”

Gaudete et Exsultate

In everyone’s life there are some significant and defining moments. Times of great joy or real pain when our life is changed and we discover something new about ourselves which sets us on a new path.

Most of life, however, is lived in ordinary things, in  being with family or friends, working, shopping, cooking, eating… If we believe that God is to be found in all things and in all aspects of our day, then most frequently God is to be found in these tiny mundane activities. God is to be found in the people around us, in the little (and ususally insignificant) actions, in the small gestures.

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In the recent Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate, Pope Francis reminds us that holiness grows through these little moments, in the attitude we bring to these, in the kindnesses, forgiveness, mercy, tolerance we adopt.

POPE FRANCIS AND HOLINESS…

April 18, 2018 by

When I bought a copy of Pope Francis’s latest Apostolic Exhortation ‘Rejoice and be Glad’ it was so new it wasn’t even logged into the computer of the bookshop. As I read it I am filled with hope that Francis is recognising the holiness in each one of us. To me it is a new telling of Vatican II and a reminder of the innate holiness of all God’s people…If only we touch into it. I am rejoicing that we all are God’s holy people. Let’s fill our struggling world with hope!

Joy that orientates our life

April 16, 2018 by

sunrise

During these weeks of Easter we are invited to understand and experience resurrection, not as an historical moment or a exclusively divine event but as a presence and as joy. The risen Christ is utterly present with us, calls us by name (Jn 20:16), touches and is touched by us (Jn 20:27), walks along side us (Lk 24), heals, strengthens and encourages us (Jn 21). The Gospel stories of resurrection come into our daily lives and reality and we discover, within the ordinary events of our everyday lives, the presence of God.

It is this recognition of the indwelling of God, that now orientates our life.

It isn’t necessarily a bubbly happy joy, but a deep inner certainty that Christ is present and can be found in every encounter – nothing can ever be the same after this realisation – Christ is wholly present.

Michael Ivens in his book Understanding the Spiritual Exercises puts it this way:

..the grace … of the Fourth Week is joy. We are concerned with paschal joy, the joy proper to Easter, the joy which springs from a still more fundamental grace, that of the faith and love that make the risen Christ, though invisible, the very core of the believer’s existence. The prime object of paschal joy, then, is the here-and-now reality of the risen Christ.

Flowing from Christ, this joy has the typical effects of consolation. Consolation always moves a person to God’s service, towards apostolic mission, a source of strength, energy and courage to participate in the work of the Kingdom.

Pilgrimage to Lindisfarne

April 11, 2018 by

A group of FCJs and young adults are just back from a four day walking pilgrimage to Lindisfarne, a tidal island of the North East coast of England.

As we began our pilgrimage we were reminded of some elements of pilgrimage; prayerful preparation; silence and solitude. We prayed each day to remember that ‘although individuals, we travel with others…’ Our time together was full of joy, laughter, new friendships and lots of mud! Northumberland in spring is beautiful but it can be wet, and this year the snow has left the ground soaking and slippy! I don’t think our boots will ever be the same again!

 

Lindisfarne, also known as Holy Island, was a centre of Christianity from the 6th Century AD and the monks of Lindisfarne, including St Aidan and St Cuthbert brought Christianity to the north of England.

Durham Cathedral

Our pilgrimage took us along part of St Cuthbert’s Way, a national walking route, and across the ancient pilgrims causeway to Lindisfarne. At the end of the pilgrimage we travelled to Durham to visit the shrine of St Cuthbert in Durham Cathedral.

The Risen One

April 3, 2018 by

As I read the Resurrection stories from the Gospels I don’t find lots of certainty and immediate clarity, in today’s Gospel  John 20:11-18

christ-is-risen Mary is seeking Jesus who was placed within the tomb, and her confusion and grief when she discovers he is not there are understandable. When she meets the risen Jesus she fails to recognise him, and Jesus poses this question: “Who are you looking for?” Mary is looking for the dead, and yet Jesus is living. She is seeking in the wrong place. It is only when she hears Jesus speak her name that she hears something which calls her out of her old ideas and into a new way of understanding.

Easter, resurrection, challenges us to not look for Jesus simply in our own narrow perspective, but to be willing to meet him where he is now in his risen life. Christ is among the living, Christ brings life and hope where there was death and sorrow.

There is a song by Marty Haugen that I particularly love because it speaks of this shifting of perspective. It’s called ‘Song at the Empty Tomb’ (you can listen to a clip here but it only has the end so you miss the lyrics… )

Song at the Empty Tomb -Marty Haugen

Once you brought the dead into life,
your hands were healing and peace,
your words were fire and light,
your life was promise and feast.

Now you leave us trembling and weak,
no more the sureness of death,
No more the world that I knew,
life that is new with each breath.

Where now is the body you wore?
What is this dark empty hole?
Where is the One that I love?
Where is the fire of my soul?

You who were the truth of my life,
you now my fear and my hope,
Who shatters death and the grave,
who goes before me alone.

You who shake the earth and the stars,
who opens tombs in my soul,
Who knows my weakness and pain,
you tear and rend and make whole.

Here beyond the shadow of death,
here where the day breaks anew,
There is no future, but faith,
there is no promise but you.

Here in the midst of death,
we shall see the birth of life.
Now in the darkest hour,
we shall know the face of God.

Here in the midst of life, here within each fearful heart,
Now in each human form, you shall be the risen one.

Grant to us this day of your life,
when all your people shall see,
When death itself shall have died,
when we your kingdom shall be.
We your Kingdom shall be

PRAYING FOR YOU THIS EASTER

March 31, 2018 by

I have kept all of you very much in my thoughts and prayer these days as we have spent time reflecting deeply on the death and resurrection of Jesus. The last few days have offered much time for thinking of those we love and care for. It has been my practice in recent years to pray, really pray, for all those who have ever been in my life in any way. I also pray as widely as I can for the ever growing needs of our world and indeed for the whole cosmos. I include in my prayer all those who have ever read this blog. I pray for you. Wishing you a happy Easter.