Author Archives: willturnstone

June 15: A faithful Biblical dog.

sam-the-dog

When we were on pilgrimage we always had at least one dog with us, so we adapted parts of the book of Tobit for our midday prayers. Dogs don’t always get a good press in the Bible, but in this book the dog is a faithful companion, as was Sam, seen here. 

Old Tobit was blind and worn out. One day he remembered that his cousin Raguel was looking after some money for him in a town far away. He sent his son Tobias to collect the money. Before he left home, Tobias met the Angel Raphael, who was in disguise.

Raphael says he knows the way across the river, through the desert and over the mountain and agrees to go with Tobias. They say goodbye to Tobit and Anna his wife, and the dog follows behind them.

The first evening they camped beside the River Tigris. Tobias was washing his feet in the river when a monstrous fish leapt out and tried to swallow his foot. He gave a yell and the angel said, ‘Catch the fish; don’t let it get away.’ The boy caught the fish and pulled it onto the bank. Raphael said, ‘Cut it open; take out the gall, heart and liver and throw the rest of the guts away, but the gall and heart and liver make good medicine.’ The rest of the fish they cooked and pickled to eat on the way.

Reflection

Look how the dog is faithful to Tobias! ‘Wherever you are going, I will go.’ he does not know that they are going across the river,  through the desert and over the mountains, for days and days. He just knows Tobias needs him.

And God gives Tobias another companion, a real angel in disguise called Raphael. All Tobias knows about him is that Raphael knows the way across the river, through the desert and over the mountains.

But he knows more than that! He knows how to use part of the fish for medicine, so they save that and eat the rest. Fish and chips tomorrow for us and nobody nibbling out toes.

Let’s thank God for our companions on the journey, for our guardian angels, and our friends and family. May we be as faithful as Tobias and the dog.

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14 June: Consider the flowers

MERMAID ROSE SM

What does the word ‘mermaid’ suggest to you? Andersen and Disney sweet young girl, giving herself to the man she loves? Or else the seal-women of Scotland, or the sirens of Greek legend, luring unloved men to their deaths?

The Mermaid rose is s beautiful as any of those, but has more in common with the sirens. Get too close to her and you won’t escape easily from her sharp, backward-facing thorns. But she’s lovely enough, if handled with leather gloves. She’ll grow 4m plus high and those buds will open to creamy yellow single flowers. The deep red berberis leaves set her off well.

 

rose.mermaid.small

It’s not altogether necessary to go on pilgrimage to appreciate the ‘flowers of the field’. (Matthew 6.26) I think that when Jesus encouraged us to consider them, he wanted us first of all to look about us, to look around our feet, on in Mermaid’s case, at or below eye-level; we have to protect our neighbours from her by careful use of secateurs.

But think of all those patient souls who have bred the varieties we love; their considerations went much further, looking at the future and how this or that rose might perform. Or the men and women working to refine the healing power of plants from around the world for the good of all.

Consider the flowers.

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13 June: Apparent indifference.

 

walk5I was looking for something else when I came across some of the extracts I made from Richard Jefferies’ “The Gamekeeper at Home”, first published in 1878. Ian, a lad I once taught, had an ambition to become a keeper, and enjoyed reading this book together, despite the sometimes old-fashioned language. I hope you enjoy this extract.

He had the capacity to stand and stare that Jefferies describes here.

The book is available at Project Gutenberg.

Often and often, when standing in a meadow gateway partly hidden by the bushes, watching the woodpecker on the ant-hills, of whose eggs, too, the partridges are so fond (so that a good ant year, in which their nests are prolific, is also a good partridge year) you may, if you are still, hear a slight faint rustle in the hedge, and by-and-by a weasel will steal out. Seeing you he instantly pauses, elevates his head, and steadily gazes: move but your eyes and he is back in the hedge; remain quiet, still looking straight before you as if you saw nothing, and he will presently recover confidence, and actually cross the gateway almost under you.

This is the secret of observation: stillness, silence, and apparent indifference.

I made no comment when I published this extract on the ‘Will Turnstone’ blog, perhaps the best sermon or reflection, but ‘if you are still’ you may hear, or see in the corner of your eye, feel a breath on your cheek, smell the breeze that the prophet heeded.

As for apparent indifference to one’s surroundings: by some quirk of my mind’s working I’m put in mind of Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” There are many who seem indifferent to Jesus, but are able to be still and silent, to observe what needs doing, and get on with it without fanfare.

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12 June: Precious green spaces in the city.

venice.secret.garden1 (2)

Although we visited Saint Mark’s Baslica, I’m not sure a trip to Venice counts as a Pilgrimage. And it did not take so much preparation for just the two of us. Mrs T’s reading before going to Venice was the guidebook and Salley Vickers’ Miss Garnet’s Angel. I’m not sure which was better preparation for our visit. My book made more sense once we were in the city, and helped make sense of the city. Ellis Peters, best known for Cadfael and all things Salopian, wrote Holiday with Violence soon after the Second World War, during which Venice escaped bombing but endured great hardship. There are glimpses of that poverty, of the rundown buildings, and also of the precious green spaces:

She saw in the drowned shade of the little waterways, narrow between high palace walls, the occasional green of trees looking out from secret gardens, in a city where all the rest of the spectrum was spilt recklessly, but green was jealously hoarded.

Such a secret garden can be seen on the background to this picture. Some of these plots had walls surmounted with a hedge of Canary Ivy, home to blackbirds which had their singing posts nearby to celebrate the dawn and dusk chorus, all the more audible with the lack of motor traffic.

If we make room for nature, nature will move in!

Laudato Si!

 

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11 June, Pentecost: blowing, blowing, blowing.

 

somers.town. holy spirit

Cardinal Maradiaga is one of Pope Francis’s close advisors. He recently told a Spanish magazine:

“The Holy Spirit continues to blow. It does not take a siesta or go on holiday.”

But perhaps we sometimes need a siesta or holiday to allow the Spirit to blow a few cobwebs off our hearts and minds!

I sometimes pass St Aloysius, Somers Town when going by train via London.

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Praying with Pope Francis for the Church’s Mission

door, Francis, Bangui Advent 2015 (Radio V)

During June we pray with Pope Francis that priests, through the modesty and humility of their lives, commit themselves to an active solidarity with the world’s poorest people.

When disciples of Christ are transparent in heart and sensitive in life, they bring the Lord’s light to the places where they live and work.
– Pope Francis

After an appeal by a Mill Hill missionary, we acquired a Red Box for collecting small change which is sent to help the Church’s mission where our solidarity is needed. We had one when I was growing up, but I hadn’t seen one for years! We received the Missio  magazine this week from which this post is taken. More to follow.

 

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June 10, Our Lord in the Attic III. Pentecost: best gift of God above.

 

amsterdam.attic.dove

Last September I promised to return to the hidden Catholic church – hidden in plain view – in Amsterdam. I didn’t expect it to take so long!

Here is one of its treasures. This dove hovers over the sacristy, just above where the priest would have vested for Mass. In itself the carving is a prayer, raised by the sculptor and whoever placed it here. It also invites those who see it to prayer, especially the priest who would be preparing to proclaim the Word.

Here then is a verse from the Pentecost hymn, Veni Creator Spiritus:

O guide our minds with thy blessed light,
With love our hearts inflame;
And with thy strength, which never decays
Confirm our mortal frame.

We can make those words our own this Pentecost, and pray that all pastors and ministers – ourselves included – may have hearts aflame when they go among God’s people.

 

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June 9: Pentecost, We hear them speak.

somers.town. pentecost

St Aloysius, Somers Town, London.

Two articles came before my eyes on the same day. In one, an English divorce lawyer said that the main cause of marriage breakdown was lack of communication: spouses not speaking to each other.

The other article was in the Columban Fathers’ Far East magazine for September 2018. Father Willie Lee, a Fijian missionary who has worked in Peru described how he was inspired by the missionaries who ‘were always there with the grassroots people, crossing boundaries and cultures and learning another language. It gave them a feeling of belonging.

‘The sacrifices they made in their calling, in their missionary life, amazed me. If these people can leave their family, come this far … and be happy on their mission, why can’t I do this?’

Learning another language is hard work, very few Pentecost morning experiences these days; if people are to hear us speaking their own language, we must first get close to them and learn to listen.

Let us pray for ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.

To read the interview with Fr Lee by Mark Bowling follow this link to Far East Magazine 

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June 8: Above a whisper

samaritans cards 2019

The day after I published the post ‘After all the Shouting’, praising the work of the Samaritans’ listeners, I turned up at Canterbury West Station again. This time there were tables outside the door, and a group of Samaritans, my friend L’s colleagues. Sadly, the electric railway does attract those seeking to end their lives; it’s  a good spot to raise people’s awareness of the Samaritans’ services.

‘Thank you for sharing our work,’ I was told, when I told how I had posted about them here. The woman I spoke to gave me these cards, so feel free to share the telephone number – or whatever your country’s local equivalent might be.

‘And although we have seventy volunteers, we could always use more to maintain our 24 hour service, seven days a week. We can’t manage that at present.’

For myself, I’ve been drawn back into L’Arche  Kent, and could easily find myself involved there 24/7. There’s always something to be done, and a friend or two to do it with, as you’ll appreciate if you’ve followed our recent pilgrimage posts. But where do your gifts and inclinations lie?

Please pray for the Samaritans and for those who turn to them and other helplines in times of need and distress.

 

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June 7: The Poetic Pillar Box.

 

ams.postbox

We see above a pillarbox at Centraal Station in Amsterdam, nicely bringing together two strands of today’s reflection from GK Chesterton’s Heretics. Of course, railway signalmen – and they were men in England a century ago – needed greater vigilance then and could not offload much responsibility onto technology. But both postmen and signalmen had to be men of integrity. Over to GKC:

The word “signal-box” is unpoetical. But the thing signal-box is not unpoetical; it is a place where men, in an agony of vigilance, light blood-red and sea-green fires to keep other men from death. That is the plain, genuine description of what it is; the prose only comes in with what it is called. The word “pillar-box” is unpoetical. But the thing pillar-box is not unpoetical; it is the place to which friends and lovers commit their messages, conscious that when they have done so they are sacred, and not to be touched, not only by others, but even (religious touch!) by themselves. That red turret is one of the last of the temples.

Posting a letter and getting married are among the few things left that are entirely romantic; for to be entirely romantic a thing must be irrevocable. We think a pillar-box prosaic, because there is no rhyme to it. We think a pillar-box unpoetical, because we have never seen it in a poem. But the bold fact is entirely on the side of poetry. A signal-box is only called a signal-box; it is a house of life and death. A pillar-box is only called a pillar-box; it is a sanctuary of human words. 

postbox.clitheroe

Not just an excuse to share two favourite photos! But this 19th Century box (at the top VR means Victoria Regina, or Queen Victoria) is at Sabden, Lancashire. Text from Project Gutenberg. It’s no good imagining the Brownings posting their letters into such a box: they were not introduced for some years, although the penny post was speeding letters around the country from 1840. More from the Brownings soon. ‘Heretics’ is available on Kindle or Project Gutenberg.

 

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