Category Archives: Easter

7 January: How to Help?

Tim Rowden of the Grief Project shares ways to support those left behind when somebody takes their own life. Follow the link for wise words on What suicide loss survivors need most . And do not be afraid!

Tim Rowden
When you’ve lost someone to suicide, one of the hurdles in recovery is the people near you who sympathise but don’t know what to say or do. Worse are those who don’t say anything for fear that mentioning your loved one’s name will hurt you. (Pro tip: Not saying their name hurts more.)To find out what suicide loss survivors needed after their loved one died (and what they still need in the days, weeks, months and years to follow), the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention asked its community to share one way to support someone who’s lost a loved one to suicide.
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23 December: Cracking the Cathedral Code!

Stop there for a moment! Look at what’s in front of you. This is the quire or choir altar in Canterbury Cathedral.

  • It’s decked in purple, code for repentance and waiting. We’ve been waiting for Christmas, we’ve been repenting, trying to change our ways to be ready to meet Jesus.
  • There are four Greek letters, embroidered in gold. Gold for a King. It was one of the gifts brought by the wise men.
  • Ά and ω are the first and last letters in the Greek alphabet. Code for Jesus is before all and comes after all.
  • The two other letters, ϗ and ρ, or Chi and Ro tend to get mixed together in different geometrical ways. This is because they represent the first two letters of Kristos, Greek for Christ. Artistic licence turns the chi into different shaped crosses, to represent the Cross of Christ.
  • (Sometimes we see ICXC, where the ‘I’ is a Greek ‘J’; ‘C’, is ‘S’; ‘X’ is ‘K’ or ‘Ch’; the early Christians liked this sort of code)
  • So the altar frontal tells us to wait for Jesus the king, the first and last.
  • On the altar are a crucifix and candles. Christ, risen from death, is the light of the world.
  • and there is a Christmas tree. Remember how God called to Moses from the burning bush? You stand on Holy Ground, Moses was told. And so do we.
  • At the back, behind the altar, is the chair of Saint Augustine on which Archbishops are seated on their appointment. We stand on Holy Ground. The chair is code for the Communion of Saints, the faith handed down by the shepherds since 597 when Augustine came to Canterbury.

So, call it praying or thinking or day-dreaming, I had a few good minutes in the Cathedral that morning!

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26 November: Jesus was Praying Alone, III.

Jesus realises the truth of his passion and resurrection before meeting the disciples at Easter.

If you are just joining us, I invite you to scroll back to the posts of the last two days. We are looking at Luke 9:18f, and we’re considering the interrelation of the two questions Jesus asks his disciples about his identity. We ended yesterday with the realisation that the crowds’ opinion of Jesus’ identity was much tamer than that of the disciples. Yet, these very crowds would finally prove to be murderous. This is the real issue Jesus is raising here, I believe. He wants the disciples to begin to grasp that following him means that they will be putting their very lives in jeopardy. Would the disciples have the strength for what would come? Would they be able to hang on to their conviction about Jesus’ divinity no matter what the crowds thought and did?

The short answer is no. When Jesus was arrested, tried by a rigged jury and crucified, the disciples, with few exceptions – and those mostly among his female followers – caved in. Jesus already foresaw it. I imagine that this was the subject of Jesus’ prayer on the occasion we are reflecting on. He emerged from prayer knowing that he needed to try to prepare his men for the kind of courage that would be asked of them. We can see Jesus’ delicacy here. They will be asked to undergo their own passion in imitation of him after he has died, risen and ascended. He doesn’t force this information upon them in all its brutal detail yet – it would be far, far too much for them. They cannot yet grasp Jesus’ own passion, much less are they able to contemplate theirs. But he asks them questions which would enable them to, as it were, eventually tumble to the truth. Subsequent events show that it takes the disciples a very long time to reach that truth – and when then do, they do only because Jesus has ascended and sent them the Holy Spirit, the Counsellor, to lead them to all truth.

What can we learn from all this? We can learn that we are invited to be courageous – way beyond what we may imagine. We learn that we need to hold fast to our belief in Jesus’ divine identity. Jesus is the Christ of God. Jesus is God. Like the original twelve disciples, we are doing well if we believe and profess this. But we, like them, stand beside Jesus in this gospel passage as he emerges from his prayer and turns to us with serious eyes and a grave heart to tell us that we will be challenged deeply in our life of discipleship.

Our relationship with ‘the crowds’ will not be a comfortable thing. Now, as ever, there are few members of ‘the crowd’ who really accept Jesus’ divinity, or give full weight to its implications. Popular opinion may think of Jesus as a prophet and a wise man, but such notions do not demand much of those who hold them. We, on the other hand, have committed ourselves to follow Jesus with our whole being, and to accept, in an absolute sense, everything he said and did. There will be plenty of people who will have a platform from which they will speak of their disbelief, elevating it into a sort of alternative theology, and giving it crowd-appeal because of its fine-sounding catch-phrases and use of popular jargon. They will accuse true disciples of being behind the times and of making demands that have been superseded by the demands of the modern world. They may even become murderous towards us.

We see from this episode that Jesus prayed, and then he asked his disciples two interrelated questions of greatest magnitude. We, like Jesus’ first disciples, are asked to see the implications of these questions for our discipleship. Jesus’ solemnity in asking them warns us that it will never be easy to be his disciples “Who do you say that I am” is the most important question we must answer in our life with the Lord. Maintaining our commitment to this answer – no matter what the crowds may think – is the most important thing we will ever do. Are we ready?

Jesus was Praying Alone

Part III


If you are just joining us, I invite you to scroll back to the posts of the last two days. We are looking at Luke 9:18f, and we’re considering the interrelation of the two questions Jesus asks his disciples about his identity. We ended yesterday with the realisation that the crowds’ opinion of Jesus’ identity was much tamer than that of the disciples. Yet, these very crowds would finally prove to be murderous. This is the real issue Jesus is raising here, I believe. He wants the disciples to begin to grasp that following him means that they will be putting their very lives in jeopardy. Would the disciples have the strength for what would come? Would they be able to hang on to their conviction about Jesus’ divinity no matter what the crowds thought and did?


The short answer is no. When Jesus was arrested, tried by a rigged jury and crucified, the disciples, with few exceptions – and those mostly among his female followers – caved in. Jesus already foresaw it. I imagine that this was the subject of Jesus’ prayer on the occasion we are reflecting on. He emerged from prayer knowing that he needed to try to prepare his men for the kind of courage that would be asked of them. We can see Jesus’ delicacy here. They will be asked to undergo their own passion in imitation of him after he has died, risen and ascended. He doesn’t force this information upon them in all its brutal detail yet – it would be far, far too much for them. They cannot yet grasp Jesus’ own passion, much less are they able to contemplate theirs. But he asks them questions which would enable them to, as it were, eventually tumble to the truth. Subsequent events show that it takes the disciples a very long time to reach that truth – and when then do, they do only because Jesus has ascended and sent them the Holy Spirit, the Counsellor, to lead them to all truth.


What can we learn from all this? We can learn that we are invited to be courageous – way beyond what we may imagine. We learn that we need to hold fast to our belief in Jesus’ divine identity. Jesus is the Christ of God. Jesus is God. Like the original twelve disciples, we are doing well if we believe and profess this. But we, like them, stand beside Jesus in this gospel passage as he emerges from his prayer and turns to us with serious eyes and a grave heart to tell us that we will be challenged deeply in our life of discipleship.


Our relationship with ‘the crowds’ will not be a comfortable thing. Now, as ever, there are few members of ‘the crowd’ who really accept Jesus’ divinity, or give full weight to its implications. Popular opinion may think of Jesus as a prophet and a wise man, but such notions do not demand much of those who hold them. We, on the other hand, have committed ourselves to follow Jesus with our whole being, and to accept, in an absolute sense, everything he said and did. There will be plenty of people who will have a platform from which they will speak of their disbelief, elevating it into a sort of alternative theology, and giving it crowd-appeal because of its fine-sounding catch-phrases and use of popular jargon. They will accuse true disciples of being behind the times and of making demands that have been superseded by the demands of the modern world. They may even become

murderous towards us.


We see from this episode that Jesus prayed, and then he asked his disciples two interrelated questions of greatest magnitude. We, like Jesus’ first disciples, are asked to see the implications of these questions for our discipleship. Jesus’ solemnity in asking them warns us that it will never be easy to be his disciples “Who do you say that I am” is the most important question we must answer in our life with the Lord. Maintaining our commitment to this answer – no matter what the crowds may think – is the most important thing we will ever do. Are we ready?

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4 November: Did it rain?

dew.grass

Today we hold the funeral service for our poet, 92 year old Sheila Billingsley, who died last month. May she rest in peace with her husband Reg, and rise in glory! Here is her Easter poem from four years ago. She was fascinated by the physicality of Easter, the renewal of all life through Christ’s resurrection. Pray for her and those she has left behind.

Did it Rain that Morning ?

How did the sun rise that morning? 
Did it roar into the sky? 
Did it dance, throwing its flames across the void? 
Did it rain? 
Surely it rained? 
A penetrating April deluge, 
Short, sweet, cleansing. 
Penetrating like grief, 
Like relief. 
Did the wind blow? 
With no-one to feel it lift the dirt, the dust, 
Sweep clean, 
Prepare the way. 
The sun at darkness’ end. 
The lightning, thunder. 
Fit entrance to a forgiven world. 
Fit entrance for a Prince, a Lord. 
Did the birds and the creatures rejoice together?  
The flowers tremble, 
Their perfume astonish? 
Till all ablaze, 
You stepped forth 
Accompanied by Angels, 
And went your way, about your world. 
Until the women came, 
Looking, 
Peering, 
Anxious, 
Worried. 
All was calm again by then, 
Nothing untoward, 
Except that you had gone to Galilee 
And left a message with an Angel.
easter.tomb.CTcath.18.jpg

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3 November 2022, Praying with Pope Francis: For children who suffer.

Not every child’s pain is visible.

Pope Francis invites us this month to pray for children:

We pray for children who are suffering, especially those who are homeless, orphans, and victims of war; may they be guaranteed access to education and the opportunity to experience family affection.

After years of working with distressed children I could add to Pope Francis’s list: children who are abused or neglected, living with their parents’ addictions, excluded from school for the safety of others, mentally ill, depressed, or simply poor. Here is a prayer we might use or adapt to join the Pope’s invitation.

Prayer for Healing and Reconciliation

Praise to you Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
the source of all consolation and hope.
Be the refuge and guardian of all
who suffer from abuse and violence.
Comfort them and send healing
for their wounds of the body, soul and spirit.
Help us all and make us one with you
in your love for justice
as we deepen our respect for the dignity of every human life.
Giver of peace, make us one in celebrating
your praise, both now and forever.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Prayer from the diocese of Northampton.

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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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22 September: Walking with Jesus

Yesterday, thanks to Sister Johanna Caton OSB we saw Matthew getting up from his desk in the tax office to follow Jesus. Today Canon Anthony Charlton invites us to walk with the two disciples who were making for Emmaus on the first Easter Day. Taken from Saint Thomas’ Canterbury website, which invites us to share its reflections.


The disciples are walking away from Jerusalem. Walking away from the three years they has spent in the company of the one their believed to be the Messiah, the Christ. But he had been crucified and buried and their hope and dreams had been buried with him. No wonder they were downcast. Their belief in Jesus has been shattered. They were walking back to their old way of life. They were leaving behind the new life that they had embraced.

Jesus joined them. They didn’t recognise him. He sensed their sadness and asked them why they were sad. They responded by relating all that had happened and they shared with him their hopes and dreams. “Our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free.” Jesus listened as they opened their hearts to him. Only when he had listened did he respond by going the through the scriptures. “Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself.” These were scriptures they were familiar with. They had learnt these from their youth. Coming from Jesus they seemed to hear them anew almost as of they were hearing them for the first time. They said later: “Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?”

Why not in your mediation and prayer tell Jesus what you are experiencing. Perhaps telling him what is making you sad and unhappy about your calling, your way of life. Share with him your disappointments and then let the Scriptures shed light on what are your concerns. Is the way I see things the only way? “Let Jesus words work on all the thoughts that occur to you today”

Lord help me to understand the sufferings and disappointments that I experience. I believe that you lead me into everything, that God the Father carries me in the palm of his hand. Help me to understand what you are telling me, what you have in mind for me? Show me your way. 

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14 September: then you shall know.

My father’s rosary.

Today we remember the Exaltation, or lifting up, of the Holy Cross. Our reflection is from Canon Anthony Charlton of Canterbury, England.

After the fiery serpents, sent by God, whose bite killed many in Israel, (Numbers 21: 4-9) Moses pleaded with God and he commanded Moses “Make a fiery serpent and put it on a standard. If anyone is bitten and looks at it he shall live.” Anyone bitten who gazed on the bronze serpent, lived.

In the gospel Jesus says that “when you have lifted up the Son of Man then you shall know I am he.” (John 8:28) Just as the bronze serpent gives life so the cross, an instrument of torture and death gives life. In John 12:32 we read “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all people to myself.”

May we grow in wonder at the cross that shows us the extent of Jesus love for us. On the cross he endured every kind of suffering to show his solidarity with us.

May all who are suffering in anyway recognise that Jesus is a companion who has shared their journey. May the cross that was once a cursed thing and transformed by Jesus into a tree of blessing, be a source of comfort and peace to all.

Canon Father Anthony

Canon Father Anthony, Parish Priest, St Thomas’, Canterbury.

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30 August: The Train has come and I’m on my way

Northern Ireland Railways, July 1969.

Here is a recent sermon by Rev Jo Richards of Canterbury, from the texts: Genesis 15:1-6, Hebrews 11.1-3, 8-16. Luke 12:32-40. It makes for another reflection on life, death and what faith means.

Bill’s poem….

The Train has come and I’m on my way, 
I didn’t need a ticket 
And there was nothing to pay. 

My lass will be waiting, on that I am sure 
What a wonderful meeting 
With a future that will endure.

On Thursday I took a funeral of a local man; Bill and he wrote poems; he asked that The Last Poem, be read at his funeral, which was read in full just before the commendation: I have read to you with the family’s permission the opening verses.

I knew Bill, and in his writing, there is such a sense of moving from this mortal life to the next, that is eternal life. For Bill was assured of things hoped, for the conviction of things not seen. Bill had a deep Christian faith

Bill had a sense of the hope, of knowing that one day the train would stop, he would get on board and continue his onward journey to eternal life.

Abraham was also a man of deep faith and also on a journey. Here we have someone in his mid-seventies, who heard a call from God to up sticks with his barren wife Sarah and leave home. Obedient to God’s call they became nomads, setting off from Harran, which is in modern day Iraq, travelling through Syria, down to Egypt, and then up to the land of Canaan, which is in the present-day West Bank, in Palestine.

During this time, directed by God, Abraham gazes at the night sky trying in vain to imagine his descendants as numerous as the stars, whilst Sarah, his wife remains heartbreakingly barren.

I wonder what Abraham and Sarah must have been thinking; surely they must have had doubts along the way, of perhaps being cross with God, who has taken them out of what has been familiar and comfortable and sent them on this journey into the unknown, and then telling them they will have children, but despite this they had faith in what God said and set off and set off.

I want us to think for a moment what does our faith mean to us? Would we have done what Abraham and Sarah did?

Perhaps like Bill and Abraham we are on a journey of faith; assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen; but that is not always easy to describe when asked what your faith means to you.

Some might describe their faith in terms of creeds and as we do when we recite the creed; From a doctrinal or theological perspective. At baptism either the godparents or those who speak for themselves are asked about their faith and what they believe.

How do you describe your faith?

Faith is perhaps turning our heads and looking at the stars that sense of awe and wonder, that sense that there is something far greater than what we can see, feel or hear, yet we are still loved and cherished by God our creator.

Faith is perhaps that sense of knowing deep within ourselves knowing that we are not alone, that there is a greater presence of which we get glimpses of from time to time;

Faith is perhaps that longing for the eternal home – that place of peace, love and joy where there are no more suffering or tears. That place we call heaven, eternal life. That feeling of longing, and desire; for Abraham and Sarah their faith took them on a perilous journey, to take them where God was leading, not that they knew where they were going or how they would get there.

Faith is not a destination, more like a journey, and we often say we are all on a journey of faith, with each of us on a different point of that journey; some are just setting out whilst others more established but we can all sometimes be thrown off course, just as Peter was when he was walking on water. He took his eyes off Jesus and sank in the sea, but Jesus put his arm out and caught him.

But I am sure like Peter and doubting Thomas, our faith may have wobbled, and we may have had doubts. Thomas was with Jesus for three years and yet he doubted that he had been raised from the dead, which perhaps gives us permission to question or even doubt at times.

And perhaps when we do question or doubt then something might happen that reaffirms our faith; just this week I heard of how someone had their faith restored by an act of kindness; it is often the little things that we do or say that can have such a big impact on others. Time and time again we hear of people saying I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have my faith.

Perhaps the opposite of faith is not doubt, but apathy – of not being alert and awake, as our Gospel suggests, of staying put and not willing to journey forth; Faith in a way is a response to an invitation to a journey of adventure; it’s not blind faith. We nurture our faith through worship, scripture, talking to other people, praying and for those small what I call God moments – moments when we sense God’s promptings and act on them.

Twice in this week’s readings we hear the words do not be afraid, by nurturing our faith it gives us the strength to face things that may frighten us or make us anxious. We can draw on these moments of remembering that God is with us in the everyday stuff as well as the ups and downs of life. As did the servants in our gospel reading, who were faithful doing the everyday mundane things, and ended up as the master’s guests at the great celebration.

Faith is perhaps a knowledge of God and a deep rooted heart felt desire to want to know God better – to find out what God is doing and join in, just as Bill did, Abraham and Sarah did, and the master’s slaves did.

So, we venture forward on our journey of faith may we give thanks for what we have already experienced of God’s love for us and what is still to come…and give thanks for the gift of faith, as we reflect upon what our faith means to us.

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