Category Archives: Autumn

21 November: A Reflective Walk.

We had gone up North, despite the railway strikes, for an important family funeral. But thanks to the railway strikes, we travelled early and had time to meet family members and to remember Sheila together, as well as to enjoy a few reflective walks. The restored Huddersfield Narrow Canal offers easy, dry-shod walking; we found warm accommodation in Greenfield village. On a day of showers and sunshine we turned a corner to witness this autumn scene: a watery sun shining through the golden leaves of the beech, the hedge behind it still hardly changed. Can spring be far behind?

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13 November: A poet on a poet.

by Atkinson Grimshaw

On this day in 1907 died Francis Thompson, aged 47. He had been in poor health after years of sleeping rough and addiction. Wilfrid and Alice Meynell, writers themselves, took him under their wings, found writing work for him and helped him get published, but TB had already claimed him.

This poem is by W. H. Davies, his younger contemporary, who had himself known life on the streets of London and of American cities. He knew of what he wrote.

Francis Thompson

Thou hadst no home, and thou couldst see
  In every street the windows' light:
  Dragging thy limbs about all night,
No window kept a light for thee.

 However much thou wert distressed,
  Or tired of moving, and felt sick,
  Thy life was on the open deck—
Thou hadst no cabin for thy rest.
 
Thy barque was helpless 'neath the sky,
  No pilot thought thee worth his pains
  To guide for love or money gains—
Like phantom ships the rich sailed by.
 
Thy shadow mocked thee night and day,
  Thy life's companion, it alone;
  It did not sigh, it did not moan,
But mocked thy moves in every way.

In spite of all, the mind had force,
  And, like a stream whose surface flows
  The wrong way when a strong wind blows,
It underneath maintained its course.

Oft didst thou think thy mind would flower
  Too late for good, as some bruised tree
  That blooms in Autumn, and we see
Fruit not worth picking, hard and sour.
 
Some poets feign their wounds and scars.
  If they had known real suffering hours,
  They'd show, in place of Fancy's flowers,
More of Imagination's stars.
 
So, if thy fruits of Poesy
  Are rich, it is at this dear cost—
  That they were nipt by Sorrow's frost,
In nights of homeless misery.

From "Foliage: Various Poems" by W. H. Davies.

See also another Welsh Poet, R. S. Thomas, who also observed the difference between the surface and the depths. 

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Fr Tom Herbst’s funeral arrangements.

Saints Mildred, Domneva and Eadburga of Minster: tapestry in the Abbey Church.

Here are some details about Fr Tom’s death in Pilgrims’ Hospice, Margate and arrangements for his funeral, with thanks to Rob and Bernie Meredith. May Tom Rest In Peace.

Fr Tom passed away peacefully. We had the Minster Sisters and Fr John from the States around his bed with Monica, Sheila, Rob and Bernie. We all prayed and sang one of his favourite hymns – Amazing Grace – it was beautiful.

Thanks to all for the support. I know he greatly appreciated it.

On Monday 14th Fr Tom’s body will be at Minster and may be viewed between 11.00 and Midday. Please contact Rob Meredith if you will be making your way there: 07766 781211 

Fr Tom’s body will be brought into St Thomas’ Church, Canterbury at 18.00 on Friday 25 November. His funeral Mass will be at Midday, the regular parish Mass time, on Saturday 26 November followed by a private cremation. His ashes will be returned to the US.

A celebration of his life will be held on Saturday afternoon after the funeral at a venue to be confirmed. Please let Rob Meredith know if you intend to be at the celebration: 07766 781211 

Please feel free to donate to your favourite charity in Tom’s memory.

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The picture of the good saints with their deer reminded me of a story re-told by Fr Tom in the Agnellus Mirror blog. Enjoy it!

The Galloping Dik-Dik

dik-dik

‘T’ and the Chihuahuas continued to listen raptly to bits and pieces of the story of the Lady Domneva and her dik-dik and, in doing so, were transported back to the vanished world of the wild and woolly seventh century.

It seemed that every monastic foundation required a kind of demesne, or endowment; enough land to ensure peace and quiet and also to raise some hard cash for bee’s wax candles, mason’s wages for the carving, and subsequent maintenance, of gargoyles and stone arabesques, lentils for the nun’s soup, ducks for their eggs and down to stuff the duvets in the guest quarters (the nuns themselves, having taken a vow of poverty, did not use duvets), some cattle for Feast days (as well as a sip of wine) and parchment, and, of course, lots and lots of sheep for lamb chops, mutton stew and wool to make their distinctive black habits (not to mention a large quantity of the rare and expensive beetle carapace used to make the dye). Well, let it simply be said that running a large monastic foundation could be expensive. Land was also needed for orchards of apples, pears, and apricots, wild flowers, and the oddly placed fisherman’s cot. In fact, back in the seventh century, as feudalism came into its first virile wind, well, land meant just about everything.

The Kentish king, encamped with his vast court on the site of the future monastery, was both vexed and perplexed. Since the king was new at founding monasteries, he wasn’t quite sure how much land might be required and the Lady Domneva was also of little help since she had only been a nun for a very short time. It was then that one of the scullery people, noticing the frisk of the Lady’s dik-dik on a particularly cold day, came up with an idea that delighted everyone.

‘Why not leave it up to God?’ the young maid said, rather enigmatically. And when all agreed that that must be a fine idea…another question immediately sprang forward – ‘but how?’ It was then that a wizened hermit emerged from a nearby wood and, approaching the diminutive dik-dik, began to stroke the lovely creature while spoon feeding it some black currant jam. In tones of deepest respect, he asked a beaming Lady Domneva if the tiny deer-like creature had a name. ‘Indeed, he does,’ she cooed, ‘Boanerges.’ And at the sound of his name the tiny dik-dik licked a spot of jam from his nose and rolled a triple somersault on the emerald lawn to everyone’s delight. ‘Surely,’ the hermit intoned, ‘God can speak through a Son of Thunder?’ And, so, it came to be.

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The little dik-dik ran and ran…and ran. Throughout the Isle of Thanet from dawn until dusk. The brisk, late-November chill served as both motivation…and inspiration…as the near-magical creature raced the howling east wind. By royal decree, everywhere it traversed would become the endowment of the monastery and, some say, that if it hadn’t been for the watery barrier of the mighty Wansum, well, the dik-dik might have galloped all the way to Scotland.

TJH


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11 November: The Victory

The grave of a Royal Marine from the Great War, 1914-18.

I was led to Robert Southey’s poem which follows, by this paragraph from one of Charles Lamb’s letters to him. Lamb offers some observations to his friend:

I think you are too apt to conclude faintly, with some cold moral, as in the end of the poem called “The Victory”— “Be thou her comforter, who art the widow’s friend;” a single common-place line of comfort, which bears no proportion in weight or number to the many lines which describe suffering. This is to convert religion into mediocre feelings, which should burn, and glow, and tremble. A moral should be wrought into the body and soul, the matter and tendency, of a poem, not tagged to the end, like a “God send the good ship into harbour,” at the conclusion of our bills of lading.

The Letters of Charles and Mary Lamb

A bill of lading is a list of all a ship’s cargo agreed between the Master of the vessel and the shipping line. A little prayer at the end could be sincere or just a form of words, though there was plenty of peril on the sea in those days. But here is Southey’s The Victory. Lawful violence would be the press gang, a posse of sailors who were allowed to abduct men off the street to serve in the wars against Napoleon and other enemies.

I disagree with Lamb on this. I sense the same anger as in Wilfred Owen’s Dulce et decorum est of a century or so later, with the poem building towards its final ferocious prayer which was meant to change human hearts. What do you think?

The Victory

Hark–how the church-bells thundering harmony
Stuns the glad ear! tidings of joy have come,
Good tidings of great joy! two gallant ships
Met on the element,–they met, they fought
A desperate fight!–good tidings of great joy!
Old England triumphed! yet another day
Of glory for the ruler of the waves!
For those who fell, ’twas in their country’s cause,
They have their passing paragraphs of praise
And are forgotten.
There was one who died
In that day’s glory, whose obscurer name
No proud historian’s page will chronicle.
Peace to his honest soul! I read his name,
‘Twas in the list of slaughter, and blest God
The sound was not familiar to mine ear.
But it was told me after that this man
Was one whom lawful violence had forced
From his own home and wife and little ones,
Who by his labour lived; that he was one
Whose uncorrupted heart could keenly feel
A husband’s love, a father’s anxiousness,
That from the wages of his toil he fed
The distant dear ones, and would talk of them
At midnight when he trod the silent deck
With him he valued, talk of them, of joys
That he had known–oh God! and of the hour
When they should meet again, till his full heart
His manly heart at last would overflow
Even like a child’s with very tenderness.
Peace to his honest spirit! suddenly
It came, and merciful the ball of death,
For it came suddenly and shattered him,
And left no moment’s agonising thought
On those he loved so well.
He ocean deep
Now lies at rest. Be Thou her comforter
Who art the widow’s friend! Man does not know
What a cold sickness made her blood run back
When first she heard the tidings of the fight;
Man does not know with what a dreadful hope
She listened to the names of those who died,
Man does not know, or knowing will not heed,
With what an agony of tenderness
She gazed upon her children, and beheld
His image who was gone. Oh God! be thou
Her comforter who art the widow’s friend!

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9 November: Life and death in deserted places.

A deserted lochside, but for the Church.
A deserted lochside, but for the Church.

Fr Tom Herbst OFM, late of the Franciscan Study Centre here in Canterbury, chaplain to Kent University, and the sisters at Minster Abbey, friend to many in Kent, friend and contributor to this blog, died this evening in Pilgrims’ Hospice, Margate. Please pray for him and all left behind to mourn and celebrate him. Here is a November blog of his from a few years ago.

It seems to me ironic that the Yuletide feast begins, these days, around the middle of November.  Seasons of penitential purple should, in some ways, be hungry affairs; an open reminder that we all stand as beggars at the Lord’s table.

When Jesus fed the five thousand they were, I believe, impressed for two reasons. Obviously the dissolution of the wall, which separates nature from supernature, was something to write home about. What is sometimes overlooked, though, is the very real hunger in that place.

When the Apostle remarked that the multitude had nothing to eat he was, perhaps, saying more than he intended. Certainly the crowd had fasted that day. Many had fasted for their entire lives. Food was a precious commodity in a desert land and no harvest, however bountiful, was proof against starvation. Roman soldiers returning to barracks or out on a foray often simply took everything the people had. And if, by some chance, the strong provider failed? Did anyone ever count the widows and orphans found dead in the roadside ditches of ancient Palestine?

Those listening to Jesus on that long ago day believed that God saw it all. They wanted to believe that God cared. How amazed they must have been when the power of God filled, not only their hearts, but also their bellies. TJH

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2 November: Remembering All Souls

Hales Place Chapel

Canon Anthony Charlton’s reflections on All Souls’ Day.

This feast of the Commemoration of All Souls is not a day of grief and mourning but of hope and prayer that God will deliver all those who may still be suffering in some form and bring them to eternal happiness.

In our parish we have the so called Belvedere Chapel at Hales Place. It is the only remaining building of the large house and estate belonging to the Hales family and was converted from an 18th century’s garden building to a chapel around 1879. The whole site is now in a very sorry state. In 1880 the large house was sold to exiled Jesuits from Lyon and turned into a college. The college was popular with the French nobility who sent their sons there to learn away from political persecution in France. In 1928 the estate was sold and the house was demolished in the following years. Its chapel (originally a dovecote) and the burial ground are all that remain, located by the Tenterden Drive layby. There are twenty people buried in and around the building. Sir Edward Hales, Mary Felicity Hales and Lady Frances Hales all reburied here, along with ten Jesuit priests, two children, one lay teacher, four lay brothers and one Jesuit scholastic.

As we pray for the souls of all the departed today let us remember especially those buried around the Mortuary Chapel.

O God, who willed that your Only Begotten Son, 
having conquered death, 
should pass over into the realm of heaven, 
grant, we pray, to your departed servants that, 
 the mortality of this life overcome, 
they may gaze eternally on you, 
their Creator and Redeemer. 
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, 
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
God, for ever and ever.
AMEN

Image: David Greenhalgh / Belvedere Chapel / CC BY-SA 2.0

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31 October: O Holy Christ.

Memorial to fishermen lost at sea, Mallaig.

This prayer from Alistair Maclean’s ‘Hebridean Altars’ seems the right introduction to November, when we remember all who have died and been guided over the ford to Heaven. Consider, if you will, the phrase, ‘When I shall make an end of living’. Maybe we should do that each night before sleep: ‘The Lord grant us a quiet night and a perfect end. Amen’

O Holy Christ,
bless me with Thy presence
when my days are weary 
and my friends few.
Bless me with Thy presence
when my joy is full,
lest I forget the Giver in the gift.
Bless me with Thy presence
when I shall make an end of living.
Help me in the darkness to find the ford.
And in my going
comfort me with Thy promise
that where Thou art,
There shall Thy servant be.

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October 28: of Starlings and Sparrowhawks.

A late summer flock of Starlings.

Grandson Abel was very pleased when starlings nested under his roof. Of course they did not stay long in town but took off to the countryside for the summer once the chicks were fledged. Mary Webb enjoyed them too, in Shropshire, with their howls and hoots and shrieks and whistlings.

Their enemy in this part of Canterbury is not the owl but the sparrowhawk: one caught a starling right beside me in the back garden a few years ago, and last month I surprised one with a kill just 100 metres away. I also helped the young hawk by frightening off the thieving magpie!

It’s good to witness a previously persecuted bird establishing itself in our city, though the neighbour who generously feeds the little birds might not be too happy about the little piles of feathers that appear near here house from time to time. Enjoy Mary Webb’s poem, and Laudato Si’!

smart

Starlings by Mary Webb

When the blue summer night
Is short and safe and light,
How should the starlings any more remember
The fearful, trembling times of dark December?
They mimic in their glee,
With impudent jocosity,
The terrible ululation of the owls
That prey
On just such folk as they.
‘Tu-whoo!’ And rusty-feathered fledglings, pressed
Close in the nest
Amid the chimney-stacks, are good all day
If their indulgent father will but play
At owls,
With predatory howls
And hoots and shrieks and whistlings wild and dread.
Says one small bird,
With lids drawn up, cosily tucked in bed,
‘Such things were never heard
By me or you.
They are not true.’

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26 October: It was wet

It was wet and so also were the fallen leaves. Perhaps that accounted for the collision between a passing, or turning, vehicle and the sign post. Bent across the pavement, blocking the way for walkers, the post came off worse but the car left behind a big lump of plastic, now in the recycling bin.

Two boys came by on the way to school, and started playing with the post, or so it seemed. They were certainly enjoying swinging on it, but they suddenly stopped and walked off. They had succeeded in swinging the post around so that pedestrians could get by without ducking or walking in the road.

Judge not, and ye shall not be judged! Luke 6:37.

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22 October: Off he goes!

A Stanhope gig.

William Allingham is in the New Forest at Lymington, a small port opposite the Isle of Wight, where he is a senior customs officer. He recorded in his diary on this day in 1868.

Thursday, October 22. — Lymington. Walk to Setley, and find gypsies encamped. Coming back I overtake a little girl carrying with difficulty two bags of sand, and just as I am asking how far she is going, up drives Rev. P. F. in his gig, who offers me a lift. I say, ‘ Help this little girl with her two heavy bags,’ upon which his Reverence reddens and drives off. I carry one of the bags.

Where to start? Of course in 2022 we could be screened from the realities of life for a poor child because we would drive past in a sealed car, and not notice a thing. And we can insulate ourselves in other ways too.

‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Matthew 25:44

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