Category Archives: Daily Reflections

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

9 August, Browning XXII: Above the storms

Rosa Veilchenblau

I realised yesterday that six months and more had gone by with these posts in the drafts box. Much as I love trees, I have to say that the sunshine is reaching the parts of my daughter’s garden where a badly treated one was removed! Here’s an indomitable rose from Mrs O’s garden,

And altogether, I may say that the earth looks the brighter to me in proportion to my own deprivations. The laburnum trees and rose trees are plucked up by the roots—but the sunshine is in their places, and the root of the sunshine is above the storms.
 
What we call Life is a condition of the soul, and the soul must improve in happiness and wisdom, except by its own fault. These tears in our eyes, these faintings of the flesh, will not hinder such improvement.
 
the Letters of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Barrett, Vol. 1 (of 2) 1845-1846
 
 

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8 August, Brownings XXI: Ungrateful Vexation.

I am not selfish?’ to me who never … when I have been deepest asleep and dreaming, … never dreamed of attributing to you any form of such a fault? Promise not to say so again—now promise. Think how it must sound to my ears, when really and truly I have sometimes felt jealous of myself … of my own infirmities, … and thought that you cared for me only because your chivalry touched them with a silver sound—and that, without them, you would pass by on the other side:—why twenty times I have thought that and been vexed—ungrateful vexation!

The Letters of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Barrett, Vol. 1 (of 2) 1845-1846.

It’s not always easy to follow Elizabeth Barrett when she’s writing to Robert. So much is understood between the two of them, but we cannot read between the lines. Nevertheless I am struck by how she had felt that he only cared for her because of her infirmities. After accidents and illness she was treated and acted like an invalid, and Robert was forced to marry her privately before taking her to Italy. It’s difficult at times to believe that we are loved, pure and simple; but we were loved into being by our creator and those who have loved us in this world.

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7 August: praying with Pope Francis, The Maritime World.


We pray for all those who work and live from the sea, among them sailors, fishermen and their families.

noahs-ark-lo-res-shrewsbury-cathedral-window-detail

When he prepared tis month’s prayer intention, Pope Francis cannot have foreseen the hundreds of seafarers who could not get home when their cruise ships were quarantined off shore, passengers gone, wages unpaid, flights home non-existent, welcome on dry land not forthcoming, family contacts eventually by mobile phone, thanks to port chaplains.

But we can pray for them, and for all the sailors and lorry drivers who ferry food and goods around the world and across the Channel, and all those in peril on the sea.

Star of the Sea, Staithes; Shrewsbury Cathedral.

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6 August: Evening thoughts of a gardener





It is evening, and the time for the flowers to close their petals.
Give me leave to sit by your side, and bid my lips to do the work
that can be done in silence and in the dim light of stars.
(from “The Gardener” by Rabindranath Tagore)

I hope all have time to sit in silence under the stars this holiday time, before being driven indoors by the midges and mosquitoes!

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5 August: Passion flowers

Another glimpse of Nineteenth Century Britain: Three passion flower graves seen on a recent walk: the first with the passion flower vine climbing the Cross, mingling with the Crown of Thorns to frame the Monogram, IHS, meaning Jesus, is an explicit Act of Faith; we found it near the entrance to Canterbury Cemetery. The second is nearby: from the end of the Century, the carving more rigid than on other stones we have seen. The passion flower is joined by a morning glory to our left, a rose to the right, and a lily above. The final stone is one we missed earlier in Harbledown churchyard. This is from 1940, a good half century later than anything we’ve spotted so far.

We reflected on the meaning of passion flowers here. It’s an interesting read. I close with the last paragraph of that post.

When you see a passionflower let it remind you that Jesus is real, his death was real, as indeed will ours be – but so, too, will our rising. And when you see a passionflower on a gravestone, send us a picture to put in the blog!

passionflower.real.jpg

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4 August: Samuel Johnson at prayer.

Samuel Johnson was like Dylan Thomas at least in his love for words and for writing the best words he could to convey his meaning. The following prayer was composed by him at the time he was finishing his dictionary. A labour indeed!

O GOD, who hast hitherto supported me, enable me to proceed in this labour, and in the whole task of my present state; that when I shall render up, at the last day, an account of the talent committed to me, I may receive pardon, for the sake of JESUS CHRIST. Amen.

Life of Johnson, Volume 1 1709-1765 by James Boswell

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3 August: Examine all you can by your own senses.

Johnson’s friend, the surgeon Dr Staunton, was about to leave for the West Indies when he received this advice in a letter from Johnson. America here includes the Islands; New England was still a collection of British colonies. I hope you have the chance to enjoy examining something on holiday, a natural or even man-made curiosity.

In America there is little to be observed except natural curiosities. The new world must have many vegetables and animals with which philosophers are but little acquainted. I hope you will furnish yourself with some books of natural history, and some glasses and other instruments of observation. Trust as little as you can to report; examine all you can by your own senses. I do not doubt but you will be able to add much to knowledge, and, perhaps, to medicine. Wild nations trust to simples; and, perhaps, the Peruvian bark is not the only specifick which those extensive regions may afford us.

Life of Johnson, Volume 1 1709-1765 by James Boswell.

Cortex peruvianus study by Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, 1706; better known today as quinine. A simple is a plant-based medicine; a specific is a medicine for a particular disease; in this case malaria.

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2 August: Dr Johnson visits Lichfield.

Dr Johnson statue, Lichfield, Staffordshire.

Last winter I went down to my native town, where I found the streets much narrower and shorter than I thought I had left them, inhabited by a new race of people, to whom I was very little known. My play-fellows were grown old, and forced me to suspect that I was no longer young. My only remaining friend has changed his principles, and was become the tool of the predominant faction. My daughter-in-law, from whom I expected most, and whom I met with sincere benevolence, has lost the beauty and gaiety of youth, without having gained much of the wisdom of age. I wandered about for five days, and took the first convenient opportunity of returning to a place, where, if there is not much happiness, there is, at least, such a diversity of good and evil, that slight vexations do not fix upon the heart. I think in a few weeks to try another excursion; though to what end?

Life of Johnson, Volume 1 1709-1765 by James Boswell

Here speaks the melancholic Samuel Johnson, tired of life but not of London, even if there is not much happiness there.

Image:

Sourcehttps://www.flickr.com/photos/ell-r-brown/3672680073/
AuthorElliot Brown

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1 August, Relics XXIII: An Unmarked Festival

hazel leaves, Crundale, Kent 21.6.20

Alice Meynell regrets having not one relic of its flowers or leaves – ‘it’ being the day she met her Wilfred. These red hazel leaves are a reminder of a walk taken by Mrs T and I a few weeks ago. 1 August today, I hope the weather is good to you this holiday month. May you receive graces ‘Unknown then, but known at last’.

There’s a feast undated yet:
   Both our true lives hold it fast,—
The first day we ever met.
   What a great day came and passed!
   —Unknown then, but known at last.

And we met: You knew not me,
   Mistress of your joys and fears;
Held my hands that held the key
   Of the treasure of your years,
   Of the fountain of your tears.

For you knew not it was I,
    And I knew not it was you.
We have learnt, as days went by.
    But a flower struck root and grew
    Underground, and no one knew.

Days of days!  Unmarked it rose,
   In whose hours we were to meet;
And forgotten passed.  Who knows,
   Was earth cold or sunny, Sweet,
   At the coming of your feet?

One mere day, we thought; the measure
   Of such days the year fulfils.
Now, how dearly would we treasure
   Something from its fields, its rills,
   And its memorable hills;

—But one leaf of oak or lime,
    Or one blossom from its bowers
No one gathered at the time.
    Oh, to keep that day of ours
   By one relic of its flowers!

From 'Poems' by Alice Meynell.





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31 July: poverty, slavery and corona virus.

Oscar Murillo’s Turner prize winning migrants.

Last month more than 1,000 migrant workers in four abattoirs in Germany were diagnosed with the covid-19 virus. Clearly the personal protection systems were at fault. Bishop Ansgar Puff, head of the human trafficking section of the German Catholic bishops conference, sees this as exploiting foreign workers. “Some of us think that exploitation and slave-like practices are a thing of the past or only take place in far-away countries, and yet here in Germany migrants from eastern Europe are being used as cheap labour and put up in housing that is unfit for human beings. Before the corona crisis the appalling conditions in the abattoirs hardly interested anyone. It was simpler just to close one’s eyes to them”. 

We cannot be sure that workers – residents or migrants – who pick fruit or do other basic jobs in Britain are paid and housed properly. And how well is the land, the soil, cared for; the animals reared upon it? How many farmers earn such an epitaph as this?

Bishop Ansgar’s statement from German bishops’ conference, reported in ‘The Tablet’ 27.6.2020.

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