Category Archives: Christian Unity

8 November: Praying with Pope Francis: Dialogue and Reconciliation

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Pope Francis’s Missionary Intention this month is:

Let us pray that a spirit of dialogue, encounter, and reconciliation may emerge in the Middle East, where diverse religious communities share their lives together.

What can I do with these stones? I could throw them at anyone who got too close to me or my possessions or my part of the beach.

I could use them to make a pathway in my garden, or across country for people to walk over. I could use them as filler in a drystone or concrete wall, providing shelter for people or beasts.

I could go down to the tideline and start a game of ducks and drakes, skimming them across the surface of the sea, splashing over the waves. People would hardly need an invitation to join in, the game is infectious. Like football (soccer) on a smaller scale. Every nation wants to be involved in the football World Cup even if they can barely hope to win one game.

Playing games, playing music, sharing meals together can help bring about a spirit of dialogue, encounter and reconciliation as much as high level talks between politicians who barely trust one another.

But even sport can be tainted by spectators’ hatred and racist abuse, when they could be admiring the beauty of the players’ skills, sharing the thrills of the game.

Is there room for God’s Spirit somewhere in there?

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22 October, Month of Mission : better together.

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In my reading about Archbishop Arthur Hughes there was a story from 1938 about his boss worrying. This priest was a great worrier, as it happened, but he was regional superior for Uganda, and the Superior General insisted he stay in the job.

On this occasion, Arthur Hughes was at the annual scout camp as an assistant county commissioner, not as chaplain, although there was daily Mass.

Father Superior had expected to see a separate Catholic Scout Movement such as still exist in France. It was not like that in Uganda.

Arthur Hughes and other fathers were dining with the leaders, and Father Hughes was wearing not his habit but full scout uniform including his shorts, or ‘petite culotte bombo’, apparently with the local Bishop’s approval. Hughes was ‘Mess President, General Secretary, Man of all work, and chief raconteur’, according to an unidentified newspaper report. No doubt he was enjoying himself, but why were the fathers taking orders from Protestant laymen?

Well, we might ask, why not?

Mr Lameka Sekaboga was appointed Assistant County Commissioner during the camp; even as Father Superior fretted, the organisation was being put into competent lay, Ugandan hands. It was surely better for Catholics to work with others to make this happen, Arthur Hughes could see that, his Superior could not, but concentrated on the differences that appeared to define Catholics, and within the church, to define clergy against lay people.

We now see many ministries working ecumenically: Street Pastors, food banks, refugee care, the list is long. What we can share, we should share. And salute those who made the first steps towards Churches working together.

Arthur Hughes (front, centre) and confreres about to leave for Africa.
Missionaries of Africa Archives.

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Prince Charles on Newman

young newman

Prince Charles represented his mother, the Queen, and the whole United Kingdom at the Canonisation of John Henry Newman. Here is an extract from Prince Charles’s reflection on the occasion; the full text can be found at the Independent Catholic News.

Whatever our own beliefs, and no matter what our own tradition may be, we can only be grateful to Newman for the gifts, rooted in his Catholic faith, which he shared with wider society: his intense and moving spiritual autobiography and his deeply-felt poetry in ‘The Dream of Gerontius’ which, set to music by Sir Edward Elgar – another Catholic of whom all Britons can be proud – gave the musical world one of its most enduring choral masterpieces.

At the climax of ‘The Dream of Gerontius’ the soul, approaching heaven, perceives something of the divine vision:

a grand mysterious harmony:

It floods me, like the deep and solemn sound

Of many waters.

Harmony requires difference. The concept rests at the very heart of Christian theology in the concept of the Trinity. In the same poem, Gerontius says:

Firmly I believe and truly

God is three, and God is One;

As such, difference is not to be feared. Newman not only proved this in his theology and illustrated it in his poetry, but he also demonstrated it in his life. Under his leadership, Catholics became fully part of the wider society, which itself thereby became all the richer as a community of communities.

 

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Relics XX – A Crucial Step

Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew 

Pope Pius XII ordered archaeological investigations under Saint Peter’s basilica in Rome. The diggers found evidence that bones there were indeed those of the Apostle himself. Now Pope Francis has given some of these bones to Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. To read the Patriarch’s reflection on this gift, follow the

link       

PS: This post will be out of sequence for the Relics series. Apologies, but this interview is worth reading while it’s topical.

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September 12. Before the Cross XXIII: above the Altar

st.thomas.reliquary2.Let us read this small crucifix is in the Martyrs’ Chapel at Saint Thomas’ Church, Canterbury. Christ wears an alb – the cord or cincture around his waist makes this clear. Alb, of course, means white, the colour of the baptismal garment, the colour worn by the saints in Heaven in Saint John’s Book of Revelation, the colour worn by the priest at Mass. So this is a Eucharistic Cross. Christ is shown as a priest and a king. his crown a royal one, no longer one of thorns. His hands are raised to heaven, even as they are nailed to the cross, in a gesture familiar from the Mass. his face, like his body, is serene: he looks down to us even as he offers our prayers with his sacrifice to the Father.

But there is another dimension to this particular cross. Do not be completely distracted by it if you visit our church, but beneath the crucifix is a reliquary with Relics of Saint Thomas of Canterbury.

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There are two relics in the reliquary above the altar. That on the right contains a small piece of Saint Thomas’ vestment in which he was buried, and the one on the left one of the Saint’s  finger bones. The bone was brought to Canterbury on 20th December 1953 by Dom Thomas Becquet, a collateral descendant of Saint Thomas and Prior of the Abbey of Chevetogne, Belgium. It is thought that these small relics were removed from Canterbury in 1220 by Cardinals from Rome who came to witness the translation of Thomas’ remains to the new shrine in the Cathedral.

So the statue of Christ can be seen as offering the martyrs’ blood to God with his own: not  just Thomas but three Reformation Martyrs with local connections, Saints Thomas More, John Fisher and John Stone. Nearby is a relic from halfway across the world: a vestment worn by Saint Oscar Romero. In an exchange of gifts, this came to Canterbury for another bone of Saint Thomas sent to the Cathedral of San Salvador. The man who brought about this link between two cities with martyred Archbishops was Fr John Metcalfe, a local priest working in El Salvador. We are all one family.

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August 15: W is for Walsingham, Mary’s town

 

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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.’

rosary.rjbMy 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.

Our Lady of Walsingham by Saracen 78.

 

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22 June: Overheard on a journey

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I had been visiting friends a long way from home, and took a train from Western Ontario back towards Montreal and my plane which I almost missed, but that’s another story.

A conference was finishing in one of the towns we passed through, a conference for church ministers. Two, an older man and one as fresh-faced as I was at the time, came and sat behind me. They would be crossing the border back to the US, changing half an hour later to get their plane or connecting train, so I did not hear the whole of their conversation.

I wished, and still wish I hadn’t heard any of it at all, but occasionally it comes back to haunt me. My apologies to any reader who thinks I ought to have kept it to myself.

I can well understand that the ministers would not be talking Scripture or Theology or Hospital Visiting at the end of the conference, unless there had been a truly inspirational speaker! Sport, family, holidays, gardening, I could understand. But what I could not help overhearing would have put me off if I had been one of their flock or someone inching towards faith.

The older man was congratulating his colleague on his appointment to a church that he knew, but rather than advising him about the congregation, the town and their strengths and needs, it was a monologue on clerical ambition and how to fulfil it. ‘In five years’ time you should be looking to be in a much larger, more prosperous church’, the younger man was told. Making a name for himself in the local newspaper (this was 40 years ago), driving newer, larger cars, the message seemed to be that the prosperity gospel was to be lived by example.

I could not believe my ears; this man clearly felt he was safe on the train, nobody could hear him. Did he believe that Jesus preferred his gospel to that of Saint Francis, or a poor Baptist preacher, supporting a church in a run down suburb or rural settlement? Was he idealistic as a young man? Where did his zeal go?

Lord, send us priests and holy priests!

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8 May: Jean Vanier has died.

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Here is the official announcement of the death of Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche and of  the Faith and Light movement.


l'arche boatDear friends,

We are deeply saddened to announce the passing
of Jean Vanier.
Jean passed away peacefully today Tuesday,
May 7 at 2:10 am in Paris surrounded by some
relatives. In recent days, while remaining very present,
he had quickly declined.
We all know Jean’s place in the history of L’Arche
and Faith and Light and in the personal stories of
a great many of us. Jean’s life has been one of exceptional
fruitfulness. First and foremost we wish
to give thanks for that.
His funeral will take place in his community at
Trosly.
This will be a private ceremony for his community,
close friends and family and representatives
of the Federation of L’Arche as well as of Faith
and Light. All those involved will receive a personal
invitation, but the celebration will be filmed
and broadcast live in order that each one of you
can share this moment.
A second announcement will reach you very
soon, providing more details on how the events
will unfold. You can also find the information on
the website JeanVanier.larche.org, where you
may want to post a message or a testimonial.
In his last message, a few days ago, Jean said :
«I am deeply peaceful and trustful. I’m not sure
what the future will be but God is good and
whatever happens it will be the best. I am happy
and give thanks for everything. My deepest love
to each one of you».

Stephan Posner and Stacy Cates-Carney,
L’Arche International Leaders
Jean Vanier
L’Arche International – 07.05.2019 –



An obituary can be found on The Tablet website.

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Prayer for the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris

A Prayer for Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris

 

The Dean of Canterbury Cathedral’s prayer for the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris

“May God bless and comfort all those who feel pain and sorrow following the fire at Notre Dame de Paris, Our Lady of Paris, and all those in France and throughout the world who look to this beloved place for encouragement in their own lives.

“Grant that the community of Notre Dame finds in the years to come that their present sadness is transformed into a sign of hope which may inspire new vision and creativity in those who witness it, just as Our Lady herself found her pain and sorrow at the Cross transformed into the glory of Resurrection and New Life in her Son Jesus Christ,
Amen.”

Prayers will be said throughout the day and Our Lady Undercroft chapel has been set aside for those who wish to pray or reflect on the sad scenes which unfolded yesterday in Paris. Cathedrals and churches across England will toll their bells for 7 minutes at 19.00hrs on Maundy Thursday.

From the Canterbury Cathedral website.

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29 March. Before the Cross XV: at the bedside of good Pope John XXIII

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The words that follow were attributed to Good Pope John XXIII as he lay dying, by his secretary, Monsignor  (later Cardinal) Loris Capovilla in his memoir ‘The heart and mind of John XXIII’, London, Corgi, 1966. We found a few copies for sale on-line. The shadowy Crucifix above is in the dark chapel of Saint Nicholas at Canterbury Cathedral. During the Second World War the future pope was Apostolic Delegate to Turkey, where Saint Nicholas was Bishop of Myra (Dembre). I imagined Pope John seeing such a shadowy cross during the long nights when he lay dying but later read that it was a white Crucifix. The one below hangs in Christina Chase’s room; here she is holding it for us to see clearly.

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This bed is an altar, and an altar wants a victim. I am ready. I offer my life for the Church, the continuation of the Ecumenical Council, for peace in the world, for the union of Christians.

The secret of my priesthood lies in the crucifix I wanted in front of my bed.

john xxiii Christ looks at me, and I speak to him. In our long and frequent conversations during the night, the thought of the world’s redemption has seemed to me more urgent than ever. ‘And other sheep I have, that are not of this fold.’ (John !0:16).

Those outstretched arms tell us he died for everyone, for everyone. No one is refused his love, his forgiveness. But especially that ‘they may be one’ he entrusted to his church. The sanctification of the clergy and of the people, the union of Christians, the world’s conversion are therefore urgent responsibilities of the Pope and of the bishops.

I had the great fortune to be born in a modest, poor Christian family that feared God, and the fortune to be called to serve. Since childhood I have thought of nothing else, or desired nothing else.

for my own part, I do not think I have offended anyone, but if I have, I ask pardon. And you, if you know someone who has not been edified by my behaviour, ask him to tolerate me and to forgive.

In this last hour, I feel calm and certain that my Lord, through his mercy, will not reject me. Unworthy though I be, I wanted only to serve him … and bear witness to the Gospel. …

My days on earth are ending, but Christ lives, and the Church continues her task. The souls, the souls, ‘may they be one, may they be one.’

 

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