The martyrs living now with ChristIn suffering were tried,Their anguish overcome by loveWhen on his cross they died.Across the centuries they come,In constancy unmoved,Their loving hearts make no complaint,In silence they are proved.No man has ever measured love,Or weighed it in his hand,But God who knows the inmost heartGives them the promised land.Praise Father, Son and Spirit blest,Who guides us through the nightIn ways that reach beyond the starsTo everlasting light.
Author Archives: willturnstone
From a letter to Saint Francis de Sales, 1614. The two correspondents collaborated closely in the area that straddles today’s Franco-Swiss border. We could see Saint Jane’s mental state as pretty precarious from this letter, but she had raised a family, largely after her husband’s death, and founded the Sisters of the Visitation. Today is her feast day; let all who ever feel desperate take heart and hope from her weariness of self: she more than survived. I am sure this XIX Century engraving does her poor justice. Her letters are at Project Gutenburg.
This morning I am more wearisome to myself than usual. My interior state is so gravely defective that, in anguish of spirit, I see myself giving way on every side. Assuredly, my good Father, I am almost overwhelmed by this abyss of misery. The presence of God, which was formerly such a delight to me, now makes me tremble all over and shudder with fear. I bethink myself that the divine eye of Him whom I adore, with entire submission, pierces right through my soul looking with indignation upon all my thoughts, words and works. Death itself, it seems to me, would be less painful to bear than the distress of mind which this occasions, and I feel as if all things had power to harm me. I am afraid of everything; I live in dread, not because of harm to myself, but because I fear to displease God.
Oh, how far away His help seems! thinking of this I spent last night in great bitterness and could utter no other words than these, “My God, my God, alas! why hast Thou forsaken me.”
At daybreak God gave me a little light in the highest part of my soul, yet only there; but it was almost imperceptible; nor did the rest of my soul and its faculties share the enjoyment, which lasted only about the time of half a Hail Mary, then, trouble rushed back upon me with a mighty force, and all was darkness. Notwithstanding the weariness of this dereliction, I said, though in utter dryness, “Do, Lord, whatever is pleasing to Thee, I wish it. Annihilate me, I am content. Overwhelm me, I most sincerely desire it. Tear out, cut, burn, do just as Thou pleasest, I am Thine.”
God has shown me that He does not make much account of faith that comes of sentiment and emotions. This is why, though against my inclination, I never wish for sensible1 devotion. I do not desire it. God is enough for me. Notwithstanding my absolute misery I hope in Him, and I trust He will continue to support me so that His will may be accomplished in me.
Take my feeble heart into your hands, my true Father and Lord, and do what you see to be wisest with it.
The day after tomorrow we publish a contemporary reflection on ‘all ye that labour come to me’ which provides something of a reply to this letter. Tomorrow a Welsh saint who lived through most of the 17th Century.
1Sensible here means ‘that can be felt’. It is possible to be devoted in practice to someone or to a task without feeling any measurable enthusiasm; which may be our calling for a moment or for years.
These are my treasures: just a word, a look,
A chiming sentence from his favourite book,
A large, blue, scented blossom that he found
And plucked for me in some enchanted ground,
A joy he planned for us, a verse he made
Upon a birthday, the increasing shade
Of trees he planted by the waterside,
The echo of a laugh, his tender pride
In those he loved, his hand upon my hair,
The dear voice lifted in his evening prayer.
How safe they must be kept! So dear, so few,
And all I have to last my whole life through.
A silver mesh of loving words entwining,
At every crossing thread a tear-drop shining,
Shall close them in. Yet since my tears may break
The slender thread of brittle words, I’ll make
A safer, humbler hiding-place apart,
And lock them in the fastness of my heart.
Mary Webb reflecting on her Father’s love and her bereavement. Hope to balance the feelings of despair she recorded in yesterday’s poem.
Picture from Brother Chris.
I heard humanity, through all the years,
Wailing, and beating on a dark, vast door
With urgent hands and eyes blinded by tears.
Will none come forth to them for evermore?
Like children at their father’s door, who wait,
Crying ‘Let us in!’ on some bright birthday morn,
Quite sure of joy, they grow disconsolate,
Left in the cold unanswered and forlorn.
Forgetting even their toys in their alarms,
They only long to climb on father’s bed
And cry their terrors out in father’s arms.
And maybe, all the while, their father’s dead.
Here we see that Mary Webb felt the despair that drew the student artist we mentioned yesterday to take her own life. Mary Webb was very close to her father and devastated by his death. Of course there is more than that event here. One reason the Father’s door seems closed to some of God’s children may be that we Christians are not active enough in keeping it open and welcoming.
Time to remember the Doors of Mercy around the world: this one was in Krakow, with the light of the candles welcoming us in. Let us have a light in our smile. ready for anyone who comes our way. Our smile is the Father’s smile, a joyful but tremendous responsibility.
We moved on to Saint Martin’s Church, where our prayer was extempore.
The two walls shown here include plenty of Roman brick as well as a few local flints. There are three blocked off doorways; the central one may be the one Saint Bertha used in 597. The windows and buttress are recent. The ground has risen above the level of the church floor – is that 1400 years of burials?
From the oldest Church in town we went to one of the newest, the chapel of Canterbury Christ Church University. ‘Wow!’ said Caroline. It is a lovely space, but we especially came to see the tapestry.
Dear Lord our Father,
Jesus the Good Shepherd bids us welcome and extends to us the invitation “Come to me”. He knows the troubles we have, our weariness and our failing strength as we try our best to live our lives in keeping with your overarching plan for us and for the world.
Remind us to always turn to him for comfort and restoration whenever we feel life is becoming burdensome.
We are all at times lost sheep, in need of a desire to come back to you.
At this time we remember the artist of the Lost Sheep painting and entrust her soul to your tender care. May all those who find life difficult remember your invitation to come back to you. Amen
The Lost Sheep painting that hung in the chapel was by a former student who was found dead in the Solent.
Before leaving we looked at the Bible, open at Romans:
It is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’
A good verse for pilgrims!
We made our way back to Saint Mildred’s and stopped there to see the Good Shepherd statue, before we sat down, in true L’Arche tradition, to share a meal together.
There are many other places we could visit next time we have a MINI PILGRIMAGE AROUND CANTERBURY. Let’s see what next year brings!
Our first stop was at the Cathedral, seen here from the East in Inez’s fine painting for our pilgrimage from Dover. We visited the West front and the main SW door to see and reflect upon some of the statues on the outside.
Lord God, we have come to the site of the first cathedral in England and think about some of the people who have helped bring us to this day through their faithfulness to your call: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, King Ethelbert and Queen Bertha, and St Augustine.
We thank you that they were able to continue when things became difficult, never losing sight of your plan. Help us like them to be courageous and steadfast, and help us to show our love for you in our dealings with one another, so that we successfully fulfil our role in bringing about your kingdom on earth.
Loving Father, make us loving like you.
We walked on to the pilgrim stone by the South door into the crypt, through which we could hear the organ and choir. We were not thinking of walking to Rome that evening!
Lord, we stand before the stone commemorating the many thousands of pilgrims who have come to Canterbury via the Pilgrims’ Way, as well as those making the long journey on foot from Canterbury to Rome. We are grateful for their witness to us as they walked to find communion with you and seek your will, sharing their journey with companions and sustaining each other along the way.
May we too help and support each other on our journey, sharing with one another our thoughts on you and our experience of your loving care.
Lord, send us forth on our journey through life with hope in our hearts, with love for one another and with a clear vision of your plan for our lives.
We moved on to Queningate (Queen’s gate) where Queen Bertha used to walk from the palace, which stood where the Cathedral now is, on her way to Mass at St Martin’s church, the oldest place of continuing Christian worship in England.
Lord, we come now to Queen Bertha’s gate, through which she passed on her way to your house, one of the very few people in the country who were faithful to Christianity. Make us like her, we pray, conscious of our role as a public witness and as a guide for our families in choosing the right path to take.
As we follow the route she took to your church, make us mindful of the concern she must have had for her husband, and her desire that he would come to know the true God.
Help us, like her, to show daily concern for our nearest and dearest, the people you have entrusted to us.
For the sake of your son, our Lord. Amen
Here is Princess Saint Mildred, holding her church at Minster Abbey, not far from Canterbury. Behind her is her Grandfather, Saint Ethelbert, King of Kent, who welcomed Saint Augustine to Canterbury in 597. Window in Saint Mildred’s Church, Canterbury, where we started our mini pilgrimage.
We are the L’Arche Kent Red Pilgrims group of friends; you may have met us on January 8 this year. We come together a few times a year to pray, enjoy each others’ company and share a meal. Without further ado, please join us on our summer evening pilgrimage, starting with:
Prayers At Saint Mildred’s Church.
Lord God our Father, as we come together this evening in this beautiful church to start our pilgrimage, we thank you for the many years of continued faithfulness among your people to your call to follow you in all our varied ways.
We thank you for each other in our Red Pilgrims Group, for the support and friendship we share and all the activities we do that increase our closeness to you and one another.
Walk with us as we move between the different sites and learn of your love for us all and the faithfulness of people linked to Canterbury. Help us to see them as our models and our inspiration in learning to love you more and more.
We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen
It was time to walk on to Canterbury Cathedral to meet the first of our ancestors in the faith. But first we blessed our feet:
we ask you to bless our feet
and guide them past restful waters,
through green pastures
and along the right paths. Amen.
As a young man I felt ambivalent about Catholic devotion to Mary. I remembered how the Redemptorists who staffed the parish and the teachers in the primary school served up what now seems a sentimental soup of hymns which emphasised the differences between us and the ‘wicked men [who] blaspheme thee.’
My father’s well-thumbed rosary has appeared in these reflections before. His convert’s devotion was not stultifying but I had and have difficulty in seeing the Assumption, today’s feast, as central to my faith. but belief in the Assumption of Mary – he being taken up, bodily to heaven at her death – was required of anyone who sought to become a Catholic Christian. Just as well I was a cradle Catholic!
Walsingham helped reconcile me to some Marian devotion. I think it was to do with the ecumenical nature of the town, with Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox churches in close proximity and, by the time of my second visit with L’Arche Kent in 1976, living in harmony.
Another pilgrimage, a few years later, threw new light on the place of Mary for me. We were visiting Lichfield Cathedral from the Dominicans’ conference centre at nearby Spode House. ‘We’ were a group of children with learning difficulties, their parents and friends. We had a service in the Cathedral and afterwards looked around. I was grabbed by one boy who wanted to show me a snake, carved on a memorial tablet: ‘It’s an obsession of his’, said his father.
We then realised that little Jenny was missing. Jenny had no speech, we did not know what she might do.
We found her, curled up in the Lady Chapel. ‘I should have known!’ said her foster-mother. Jenny preached without words but with an eloquence that reached one who is liable to let his head rule his heart even when it should be the other way around.
One of the residential houses at the lamented Franciscan International Study Centre in Canterbury was called, quite simply, Kolbe. It remembered a Polish Franciscan Saint, whose feast falls today, the day of his death and the eve of the Assumption of Mary.
Brother Maximilian had a lifelong devotion to Mary and encouraged others to follow this way to her son. He set up an organisation the ‘Militia of the Immaculate’
To pursue the conversion to God of all people, be they sinners, or non-Catholics, or unbelievers, in particular the freemasons; and that all become saints, under the patronage and through the mediation of the Immaculate Virgin.
That all become saints! He founded a publishing house and radio station, using technology to preach the Word and ‘pursue the conversion of all people’. Not surprisingly, much of his output was disliked by the Nazis after they invaded Poland. At the same time he was helping refugees, including Jewish people to hide from the Nazis.
His arrest was inevitable, as was his removal to Auschwitz. There he stepped forward to replace a married man with a family who had been picked out to die of starvation. When Brother Maximilian was too long in dying he was given a lethal injection of carbolic acid.
His remains were cremated the following day.
Following his canonisation he has been recognised as a patron saint of drug addicts; I am sure most of us have known, or known of, someone to recommend to his prayers.
Verulam is the other, old name for Saint Alban’s, a city about 30 km to the north of London. Its Cathedral was founded as an abbey in Norman times, and owes its survival to eventually become a cathedral to the people of the town who bought the building in 1553, following the dissolution of the monasteries.
Verulam, or Verulamium had been a Roman city, with baths, theatres, a market and barracks. Alban lived there in the time of Emperor Diocletian, the great persecutor of Christians. He himself was not a Christian but his lodger Amphibalus was a Christian priest. Alban saw how he lived and prayed and was moving towards his own conversion when the authorities came to arrest his guest. By swapping clothes with Alban, Amphibalus escaped.
Alban, though, was arrested and brought before the magistrate who urged him to sacrifice to the Roman gods by burning a few grains of incense, but he refused and declared to the magistrate that he was a Christian, even though he had not been baptised. He was executed in Amphibalus’ place, the first known martyr of England.
Not so long ago I was talking to a parish priest who said that he had been in his parish for years and not been invited to a meal with a family – then two came for the same evening! We don’t need to fear the treatment Saint Alban received if we invite a priest to our homes, so go ahead and ask them round. Just don’t serve them meat on a Friday!
Przemyslaw Sakrajda—Martyrdom of St Alban, window in St Alban’s Cathedral.