I look upon it as a great grace that in spite of my tepid life Jesus has given me an ardent desire to love Him. I long eagerly to love my Jesus passionately, with an intense ardent love such as the saints had; and yet I remain cold and indifferent with little zeal for His glory.
Fr Willie Doyle S.J. wrote these words during the Fourth Week of the Spiritual Exercises, you can read the full diary entry if you follow this link.
Surely most of us remain ‘cold and indifferent with little zeal’ for much of the time. We talk of getting through the week on autopilot. We cannot all give up four weeks to follow the Exercises of Saint Ignatius. We hardly notice Lent is underway; indeed we go to work, cook the meals, get the children to school, change a nappy. We may be so tired, so tepid, that we cannot feel ardent as we go about our duties, but Jesus says we will be judged on what we did to the little ones, not how passionate our feelings were. Sometimes love demands above all perseverance and faithfulness in little things; sometimes getting on with undesirable or dangerous tasks, at risk of injury, infection or insult. Indeed, sometimes we need to be cold and indifferent to get on with the task in hand.
I came across Fr Doyle when reading about sacrifice in the Great War, 1914-18. Some years after this entry he volunteered as a military chaplain and won a reputation as a brave pastor to the men he served with. He would go out into No Man’s Land to bring back the wounded or give them the sacraments. He is considered a Servant of God, and his cause for canonisation has begun. The link will open within the official website of the cause.
More reflections on vocation tomorrow and the following day when we hear Mary’s ‘yes’ and follow where it led her.
and ceaselessly seek out new paths to international cooperation.
Finding people dedicated to the common good has been difficult when covid got in the way of daily life. In L’Arche UK there was much less international cooperation in the form of young assistants coming from overseas for a year or so. But there was also a mass of protective legislation that severely restricted community life for many months. Imagine assistants having to wear masks all day, unable to eat together with core members, friends from different houses being barred from meeting in person.
Pope Francis’s intention was written more than a year ago; things have changed in that time! We in L’Arche should pray in thanks for all the imaginative ways in which people held the community together, and for the opening up that is now happening, including individual and house holidays.
Let us pray that all the people dedicated to the common good, many of them exhausted, may now have space to pause for a while on holiday or retreat.
I went back to the University of Kent last Sunday to celebrate a requiem for Fr Tom with the students. There was a good attendance and we sang ‘Amazing Grace’ – one of Tom’s favourites.
I announced the details of the funeral Mass and I think some students will attend. Unfortunately I am committed to celebrating at Southwark Cathedral that morning.
I will, though, be present for The Reception the previous night.
Fr Peter Geldard, University of Kent Catholic Chaplain, 1996-2018
Today’s extract from the Wisdom of Fr Tom is from two years ago in Advent. The previous day’s posting had been about arrangements for Advent and Christmas in Local Anglican parishes, where, when and how to hear the Word – and of course, the carols, which were recorded elsewhere before lockdown. Lord that I may see!
Tree of Life window, former Franciscan International Study Centre, Canterbury, which was also the meeting place for Kent University Catholic Chaplaincy.
Yesterday was about hearing, today we are seeing hopefully. Or should I say seeing, hopefully. I’m not talking about taking note of the raindrops and kittens that we see, but about the sense of sight.
I’ve been blessed lately with two cataract operations, and sight is suddenly not to be taken for granted. Suddenly, all is Technicolor, or as my friend Winfried would have argued, Agfacolor. He favoured the German films and prints; we disagreed about the red end of the spectrum.
Seeing hopefully: this new lease of life for my eyes inspires hope. Not quite Mine eyes have seen the coming of the glory of the Lord, but a promise that if human co-operation with creation through science can enlighten my little world, there may be better things to come.
Winfried told me that the German for a cataract in the eye translates as grey star; not a star you would want to follow.
So, I told Fr Tom Herbst (TJH in Agnellus’ Mirror) as well, soon after the first op when one eye was still under the grey star. ‘I imagine’, he said, ‘you can well relate to the ecstasy felt by the blind folks healed by Jesus!!!’
I didn’t need him to point that out, but I was glad he did. I offered this progress report: ‘Till the second eye is done it’s a mixture of ecstasy and ‘I see trees walking’. (Mark 8:24) I hope by next week the eyes will be co-ordinating freely and I’ll recognise more people!’
Tom replied, ‘Good luck with the op. As marvellous as it might be to see trees walking (other than Ents, of course, which are not technically trees), it seems recognition might be the better choice!’
Pray that we may recognise the star we are called to follow this Advent and Christmas. It may all be a little different this year!
Fr Noel O’Neill is a Columban Missionary working in South Korea. He has written about his ‘Emmaus’ ministry with disabled people in Far East Magazine, September-October 2022, pp10-11. Here he tells about the sacramental faith of a group of women residents during challenging times.
‘My Jesus, Come spiritually into my soul’!
Throughout the pandemic we insisted that our people living in group homes refrain from going to the parish church because they were so vulnerable. They watched the Sunday Mass on TV.
There are four very fervent middle-aged women with Down’s Syndrome living in one of Emmaus’ group homes. I am sure that Jesus smiled when He saw them go up to the front of the TV and put out their hands to receive the host as the priest was giving out Holy Communion. Perhaps it was the same kind of smile he gave the two Emmaus disciples who recognised him in the breaking of bread.
Brother Guy Consolmagno was meant to be addressing an astronomy conference recently, but a mild case of covid meant that he had to do so remotely, though he’d already arrived in Scotland, ready, or so he thought, to speak about meteorites. He reflects on his experience:(follow the link for the full text).
I’ve lost track of how many Covid “waves” this has been, but unlike the last waves there has been no uptick in deaths this time. Still, it’s no fun having your travel plans disturbed by disease, even after you’ve taken all the recommended precautions.
Some forty-plus years ago, the brilliant engineer Freeman Dyson wrote a book called Disturbing the Universe and the title alone would make it memorable. (The rest of the book’s pretty good, too.) Each of us has had to endure having our universes disturbed, by causes big or small. And each of us in turn disturbs the universe as well. We can’t help but poke and prod… sometimes with spacecraft, sometimes with prayer. It’s a universe that was created to be disturbed.
Thanks for your continued prayers and support, and know that you also have mine!
We have not all sailed through the pandemic without hurt, illness and loss. These words from Fr Brian D’Arcy offer a chance to reflect on our recent experience and on what comes next in our lives, the decisions we are making day by day.
Time is a non-renewable resource; so, we should spend it wisely by keeping life in a proper perspective. It means making choices about what is essential and what is not.
Covid gave many of us a renewed sense of our own mortality. It made the possibility of death undeniable. It is one of the contradictions of our culture that we do everything in our power to deny our own mortality; yet by denying death we actually give it increased power over us.
As we continue to integrate the lessons Covid taught us, we’ll acknowledge our mortality in wise and healthy ways. We need to give death its rightful place – and there’s nothing morbid about that. It helps us to be aware of how fleeting life is. It makes us more grateful every day for the precious time we have and it makes me humbler about the things I might have achieved. Since I now know my life is brief I ought to reflect long and hard on what I do with it. How I spend my hours determines how I spend my days and how I spend my days is how I spend my life.
So let us reflect together in prayer:
Lord, help me to use the gift of time wisely. “What is life?” St James asks, “For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:15). Guide me to spend less time on social media and more time seeking your truth; less time chasing success and more time seeking your peace.
May I see each day as a special gift from you. I do not know what tomorrow will bring but with your help and guidance, I will become humbler, gentler and more compassionate. Hear and answer this prayer Lord, in your own time. AMEN
Altrincham Market Cross, the 1990 Replica, by Rept0n1x 2013. Notice the small business in the corner! The original Market Cross would have been surrounded by many small businesses. This post comes out a little late to allow us to enjoy in sequence Sister Johanna’s reflections on the rich young man who approached Jesus.
Pope Francis’s prayer intention for August: For small businesses.
We pray for small and medium sized businesses; in the midst of economic and social crisis, may they find ways to continue operating, and serving their communities.
Do you remember when Pope Francis made the headlines for visiting a record shop in Rome to buy a CD? That was support for one small business. I once read that back home in Argentina Cardinal Bergoglio used to take meals in a local family cafe rather than a branch of a big chain. Both those small businesses were serving their local community, rather than anonymous, distant owners.
Some local businesses in our city have closed down in recent times, partly as a result of covid restrictions on trading. Some, of course, were selling cheap souvenirs, something Canterbury was good at from after the death of Saint Thomas until the Reformation led to his shrine being desecrated. No tourists or pilgrims meant no trade.
Well, the continental teenagers are back in town. Let’s hope enough of them like the souvenirs, the ice-creams and refreshments to boost our local businesses. For my part, tomorrow I shall be visiting the street stalls selling fresh local fruit, thereby supporting farmers as well as traders. Not long now till the first Discovery apples appear!
Pope Francis has been proclaiming the important place of old people. The wisdom of his teaching has come home to me – quite literally – recently.
Home. My mother is in her nineties and lives some distance away from us in Canterbury. During the pandemic we did not visit, and local visitors were talking to her from the back door, so it was good for both sides when Mrs T came with me to see her. ‘You will be fed!’ she said, and we were, though she takes a labour-saving approach to shopping and cooking: on-line orders and prepared vegetables. And of course there were conversations until late. Setting the world to rights.
Back to Kent and time to do Mrs E’s garden. Mrs E used to run a guest house, a B&B before Air BnB. It was a true vocation, making strangers welcome. Now widowed, she lives with dementia, is often confused, but always brings me a cup of tea during the morning. Her instinct for hospitality remains strong! So far she remains in her home, with the help of carers, and is able to welcome friends for tea and biscuits.
I used to visit a convent to see one of the sisters on church business, but the sister who answered the door would always raise my spirits. The first time we met she told me, ‘Mostly we look after old people here.’ This from an old lady, walking with two sticks, and bent double. Making the stranger welcome is one of the seven works of mercy, and so is visiting the infirm. One good turn generates another in a virtuous circle.
How can I make someone welcome this week? Who might like a visit from me?
I seldom revisit reflections in Agnellus Mirror but an old friend sent a springtime video with fallen cherry petals, which reminded me of this post from two years ago.
We began with lines from Edward Thomas:
The cherry trees bend over and are shedding On the old road where all that passed are dead, Their petals, strewing the grass as for a wedding This early May morn when there is none to wed.
Two years ago the weddings were put off because of covid-19. In Edward Thomas’s time it was war, and today, it is war once again that darkens the horizons of our hopes and aspirations. But there will be a May wedding at St Mildred’s, and there was one on the last day of April 2022. Kentish men are not being called on to fight, but we can see the horrors of war in Ukraine. It is hard to read Bishop Claude’s words from yesterday without asking, in bewilderment and grief, ‘What is the wise course of action?’ What does a peacemaker do in these times? Please revisit the old post by the link, and then here is Bishop Claude again.
Respect for life does not stop at protecting the unborn, but must include opposing all oppression, all forms of violence and of war. The non-violence advocated by Gandhi has its roots in the Beatitudes, is part of our Gospel heritage: Blessed are the peacemakers, they shall be called the children of God. No war can be counted as legitimate or justified in the name of the Gospel. Non-violence is part and parcel of the creative act of God.
The solemnity of today will be overwhelmed by the joy of Easter, but there were tokens of the coming feast for those with eyes to see.
Before the sun was properly up I was looking into the back garden. What was that hunched figure inspecting the flowerpots? A hedgehog woken from hibernation and going about its business, ridding us of a few pests. That was enough to mark the day.
After the prayerful L’Arche Good Friday service some of us found our way to the Glebe garden, where a shrine had been built of willow wands. If this was intended to be a place of quiet reflection it soon became a meeting place for people who had barely seen each other during covid; another hint of the resurrection to come.
Flitting across the garden was a brimstone butterfly, a caterpillar died but transformed into a creature of beauty no less wondrous for being totally expected.
Then to my task of adorning the church porch. The Easter garden needed the finishing touches, Mary’s jar of ointment and the grave cloths hidden behind the door (a scallop shell to be rolled to one side). What concerned me was the Easter lilies. We had some in flower the last two years, but it had been touch and go this time. Since today was warm, the first flowers were unfurling to be bright and white on Easter Day.
In the evening down to the Cathedral to hear Faure’s Requiem, with its upbeat finish: May the Angels welcome you to Paradise, may the martyrs meet you and lead you to the Holy City of Jerusalem.
Walking home from the Cathedralin the glowing dusk, under the Easter full moon, three blackbirds, singing their hearts out, serenading the new life hatched in their nests. They will be busy tomorrow, as no doubt will I, but by these tokens and by other sure evidence I know that my redeemer liveth.