Category Archives: Daily Reflections

Reflections from friends and associates of the Franciscan International Study Centre.

27 October: Dylan’s birthday

A Tale of Two Singers

Saint Augustine opens his Confessions with these words:

‘To praise you is the desire of man, a little piece of your creation. You stir man to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.’+

Some 1500 years the prologue of Dylan Thomas’s Collected Poems tells how, through his poetic imagination, he would overcome his fears to:

'... build my bellowing ark 
To the best of my love 
As the flood begins, 
Out of the fountainhead 
Of fear, rage, red, manalive. +

Dylan’s work is religious, laid out ‘with as much love and care as the lock of hair of a first love’.* It is confessional, in the meaning Augustine intended: a recounting of his experiences and a praise of God.

Under Milk Wood portrays Llaggerub, Dylan’s imaginary Welsh town with its roots in Laugharne where he and his family were based in the last years of his life. Is it the Chosen Land? Reading the play as a parable, Llaggerub intertwines Dylan’s earthly and heavenly towns. Dylan drank at the same source as Augustine; if philosophy opened the wells for the bishop, poetry served the ‘spinning man’ with a flood to float his cockleshell ark, and, indeed, Dylan’s work gives hope that ‘the flood flowers now’, for him, beyond the ‘breakneck of rocks’ that was his life.

+ Augustine: ‘Confessions’, Tr. Henry Chadwick, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1998, p3.

+ All Dylan Thomas quotations from: ‘Prologue’ to Collected Poems, p1–3.

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26 October, Traherne XXXII

The fly orchid: beauty easily overlooked.

Beauty being a thing consisting of variety, that body could not be one simple being, but must be sweetly tempered of a manifold and delightful mixture of figures and colours: and be some such thing as Ezekiel saw in his vision.

For uniform beauty the Sun is the most delightful, yet … a body more beautiful than it may be made.

Suppose therefore the most beautiful that is possible were created. What would follow? Being a silent and quiet object of the eye, would be no more noted than if it had not a being, The most beautiful object being always present, grows common and despised. Even as a picture is at first admired, but at length no more regarded than the bare wall.

Since therefore the most beautiful thing that is possible, being always continued, would grow into contempt; how do we know, but the world is that body, which the Deity bath assumed to manifest His Beauty and by which He maketh Himself as visible, as it is possible He should?

Century 2.20

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25 October, Traherne XXXI: God leaves room for us.

All things flow from God; all things return to him, and they can do so because he leaves room for us, gives us free will.


They that quarrel at the manner of God’s revealing Himself are troubled because He is invisible. Yet is it expedient that He should be so: for whatsoever is visible is a body; whatsoever is a body excludeth other things out of the place where itself is. If God therefore being infinite were visible He would make it impossible for anything to have a being. Besides, bulk as such in itself is dead. Whatsoever is visible is so in like manner.

That which inspireth bulk with motion, life, and sense is invisible; and in itself distinct from the bulk which it inspireth. Were God therefore pure bulk, He could neither move, nor will, nor desire anything; but being invisible; He leaveth room for and effecteth all things. He filleth nothing with a bodily presence, but includeth all. He is pure Life, Knowledge, and Desire, from which all things flow: pure Wisdom, Goodness, and Love to which all things return.

Century 2.19

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24 October, Traherne XXX: You shall be glorified

You shall be like him when you enjoy the world as he doth.’ And how do we do that? By sharing the task of Creation with wisdom and discernment.

You shall be glorified, you shall live in communion with Him, you shall ascend into the Throne of the highest Heavens; you shall be satisfied, you shall be made greater than the Heavens, you shall be like Him, when you enjoy the world as He doth; you shall converse with His wisdom, goodness, and power above all worlds, and therefore shall know Him. To know Whom is a sublime thing; for it is Life Eternal.

Century 2.17 Continued.

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23 October, Traherne XXIX: you shall see the face of God

Fly orchid – a remainder of Paradise.

By vigorously enjoying this world, we shall turn to God; there’s a thought! The vigour we bring to the task is getting down on our knees to see a flower, or getting dirt under our fingernails, digging, planting, pruning sweeping; taking care of our home, ‘the remainders of Paradise’.


There are many sublime and celestial services which the world doth do. It is a glorious mirror wherein you may see the verity of all religion: enjoy the remainders of Paradise, and talk with the Deity. Apply yourself vigorously to the enjoyment of it, for in it you shall see the face of God, and by enjoying it, be wholly converted to Him.

Century 2.17

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22 October, Traherne XXVIII

Let’s return to our early ecological Christian, Thomas Traherne, meditating on God’s love for each one of us, individually created to enjoy and rejoice in all creation, but also to love and to be loved by our sisters and brothers.

The world serves you, as in serving those cattle which you feed upon, so in serving those men, that build and plough, and plant, and govern for you.

It serves you in those that pray and adore, and praise for you, that fill the world with beauty and virtue; that are made to love and honour you, to please and advance you with all the services that the art of man can devise.

So that you are alone in the world, though there are millions in it beside. You are alone to enjoy and rejoice in all, being the adequate object of His eternal love, and the end of all.

Thus the world serves to promote and advance you.

Century 2.15

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21 October: Prayer at the Door

Oh God,
make the door of this house wide enough
to receive all who need human love and fellowship,
and a heavenly Father’s care;
and narrow enough to shut out all envy, pride and hate.


Make its threshold smooth enough to be no stumbling-block to children,
nor to straying feet,
but rugged enough to turn back the tempter’s power.


Make it a gateway to thy eternal kingdom.


Thomas Ken
Bishop of Bath and Wells under Charles II and James II.

This prayer was on a poster within Saint David’s Cathedral. I don’t recall reading it before, but it is worth returning to on our armchair pilgrimage. I’ve lost track of the groups and individuals that we can invite through our front door right now but look forward to receiving all who knock in the future.

Bishop Ken was ousted from his diocese because, having sworn allegiance to King James, he refused to beak his oath and acknowledge William of Orange. He spent many years in quiet seclusion in Wiltshire.

Image: adapted from the poster of this prayer.

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20 October, Thomas Traherne XXVII: A little spark.

Traherne invites us to put ourselves in Adam and Eve’s position: to reign upon this earth in communion with the God whose love created it all. And that brings with it the need to look, listen, feel; and to respond to God’s gift with thanks and praise. Laudato Si’!

The Sun is but a little spark of His infinite love: the Sea is but one drop of His goodness. But what flames of love ought that spark to kindle in your soul: what seas of affection ought to flow for that drop in your bosom! The heavens are the canopy, and the earth is the footstool of your throne: who reign in communion with God: or at least are called so to do.

How lively should His divine goodness appear unto you; how continually should it rest upon you; how deeply should it be impressed in you! Verily its impressions ought to be so deep, as to be always remaining, always felt, always admired, always seen and rejoiced in.

You are never truly great till all the world is yours: and the goodness of your Donor so much your joy, that you think upon it all day long. Which King David the Royal Man well understood, when he said:

My lips shall be filled with Thy praise, 
and Thy honour all the day. 
I will make mention of Thy loving kindness 
in Thy Holy Temple. (Psalm 78:1) 
Century II:14.

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19 October, Thomas Traherne XXVI: The seas serve you?

In many ways Thomas Traherne anticipates Pope Francis’s Laudato Si’. He grasped the idea of creation as a whole, rather than an assortment of individual entities. He would not have known of the Water Cycle, of the Gulf Stream, and certainly not of human pollution poisoning and clogging up the oceans. But because he saw creation as a loving home for each one of us, but also to be shared in joy: It is more yours than if you had been made alone.

Could the seas serve you, were you alone, more than now they do? Why do you not render thanks for them? They serve you better than if you were in them: everything serving you best in its proper place.

Alone you were lord over all: bound to admire His eternal love who raised you out of nothing into this glorious world which He created for you. To see infinite wisdom, goodness and power making the heavens and the earth, the seas, the air, the sun and stars! What wonder, what joy, what glory, what triumph, what delight should this afford! It is more yours than if you had been made alone. (Century II.13)

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17 October: Night Wanderers

WH Davies was a Welsh poet who knew the hostels and streets of London, and the night wanderers who could not go indoors through the coldest winters. They are back on the streets and in the closed shop doorways of Canterbury as I write. Will.

They hear the bell of midnight toll,
And shiver in their flesh and soul;
They lie on hard, cold wood or stone,
Iron, and ache in every bone;
They hate the night: they see no eyes
Of loved ones in the starlit skies.
They see the cold, dark water near;
They dare not take long looks for fear
They'll fall like those poor birds that see
A snake's eyes staring at their tree.
Some of them laugh, half-mad; and some
All through the chilly night are dumb;
Like poor, weak infants some converse,
And cough like giants, deep and hoarse." 
                                                                            W. H. Davies

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