Category Archives: Laudato si’

29 November: Advent Light III: enable us to return!

St Mildred’s Church, Canterbury.
Let us pray,
God and Father, 
to those who go astray you reveal the light of your truth 
and enable them to return to the right path. 

Grant that all who have received the grace of baptism 
may strive to be worthy of their Christian calling 
and reject everything opposed to it. 

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.

We can all, each and every one of us, go astray; indeed, we all do go astray, day by day. Let us consider one miss-step we have made today, and turn again from it back to the path: Repent!

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28 November: Advent Light II, at table.

If you were in church yesterday, no doubt you’ll have seen the Advent wreath with a single candle burning. Do you have one at home? There’s still time to make one, or you could just light a candle. Mrs Turnstone and I have ours on the dining table and we would hold hands around it with the children and sing grace. We now do the same with the grandchildren. We also sing the chorus of the Advent hymn:

Rejoice, Rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to thee, oh Israel!

This story is from Alexander McCall Smith’s ‘The House of Unexpected Sisters’.* Mma Ramotswe is ready to serve the evening meal to her husband and two children. Perhaps we could revive the practice of saying grace this Advent, and be ready to find new forms of grace to remind us that all we have is God’s gift, and the greatest gift is the One that came at Christmas.

‘Dinner is ready now, I think.’

She ladled stew into four plates, and placed these, one by one, on the table. Once seated herself, Mma Ramotswe bowed her head and said grace. ‘We give thanks for the food our country gives us, and we think of those who do not have what we have. We give thanks for Africa and for the good things that Africa gives its children.

‘Amen,’ said Motholeli.

‘Me too,’ said Puso.

*Little, Brown, London 2018, p37-38.

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27 November: Advent Light I.

Stencilled star, Hales Place chapel, Canterbury.

This little star is hidden away in a locked cemetery chapel, all that remains of a French Jesuit community that decamped to Kent when religious persecution was raging at home. Among its members was a young Pierre Teilhard de Chardin who was to become a stretcher-bearer during the Great War.

He was attached to a North African regiment and stayed with the men, refusing promotion that would have afforded him greater personal safety. He was awarded the Legion d’Honneur as ‘an outstanding stretcher-bearer who, during four years of active service, was in every battle and engagement the regiment took part in, applying to remain in the ranks in order that he might be with the men whose dangers and hardships he constantly shared.’ The example of many priest stretcher-bearers helped bring about a reconciliation between state and Church after the war.

He wrote to his cousin Marguerite on Christmas Eve 1915, “I must tell myself, and I think I’ll come to feel it, that no Christmas night will ever have meant more to me than this one I am about to spend on the straw this evening, by the side of men.”

Far from our commercial Christmas, closer to the little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.

Lord, help us to see the star of wonder that will lead us through this Advent to the straw and hay of Bethlehem.

Read more here.

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23 November: Columban Missionary Prayer V: in his own words.

Since we pass through this world
merely as pilgrims
let us keep our sights fixed on the end of the road,
where our real home lies.

Let us strive to please God
who is everywhere present,
so that we can happily pass along the road 
to the home of our heavenly Father.

AMEN.

A prayer of Saint Columban

At the end of a pilgrimage to Saint Edmundsbury is this processional cross. Around the base of the cross are the arrows with which King Edmund was martyred, The cross itself shines as the sun, drawing our eyes up to the crown of thorns – or is it a star? – that calls us to the end of the road that leads us past this little, earthly, devotional pilgrimage to that which Columban evokes: the road to the home of our heavenly Father.

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21 November: A Reflective Walk.

We had gone up North, despite the railway strikes, for an important family funeral. But thanks to the railway strikes, we travelled early and had time to meet family members and to remember Sheila together, as well as to enjoy a few reflective walks. The restored Huddersfield Narrow Canal offers easy, dry-shod walking; we found warm accommodation in Greenfield village. On a day of showers and sunshine we turned a corner to witness this autumn scene: a watery sun shining through the golden leaves of the beech, the hedge behind it still hardly changed. Can spring be far behind?

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20 November: An Ecochurch update from Lichfield.

Will Turnstone: The first orchid of Spring.

Congratulations to Lichfield Cathedral on its award for caring for our home planet!

We’ll let them tell the story which follows naturally our short Franciscan season.


Lichfield Cathedral has been presented with its Silver Eco Church Award.


Lichfield Cathedral won the Bronze Award in 2021 and is working hard to achieve the Gold Eco Church Award.The Cathedral also received A Rocha UK’s Partner in Action Certificate in Environmental Excellence. This certificate acknowledges the Cathedral’s dedication to protecting and enhancing species and habitats, engaging the cathedral community in caring for the land, and developing a sustainable, low carbon approach to energy, food, and water use.

The Revd Canon Dr David Primrose said, “we are on a journey from Bronze to Gold. Tasks ahead include robust action plans to reduce our carbon footprint, and improved communications and engagement with others. There is a growing awareness of the connections between loss of biodiversity, the climate crisis, rising energy prices, and the cost of living.As a Healthy Healing Hub, we know the links between care for creation, the common good, and the wellbeing of those who are vulnerable.”

Click here to out the latest information on Lichfield Cathedral’s work for the Environment, Social Justice, and in the community.

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19 November: A space for prayer and reflection.

From Canon Anthony Charlton’s blog, exploring ways to welcome pilgrims to the shrine of Saints Thomas Becket and Oscar Romero in Canterbury.

It was a delight for me one afternoon recently to have eleven groups of students from the School of Architecture of the University of the Creative arts present to us their projects. They were asked to create in our Martyrs Chapel a space that should contain the relics of St Thomas More and St Oscar Romero. As one submission said the “space is without focus, having collected so many relics and icons over the years there is no order to how they are placed, creating a dissonant space which lacks a clear focal point for prayer and worship.”

I was very moved to see how each group presented their designs. There was much inspiration and it was great to see the different ways they found to create a space for prayer and reflection for pilgrims and those who wished to come and pray. Many of the submissions recognised there was a need for more light. One darkened the chapel and explored the relationship between the dark and the light of the relics. Another submission was bold in creating an outside entrance with an antechamber.

The challenge now is for parishioners to meet and decide the next step in creating a beautiful space for the relics of these two great Martyrs.

We look forward to that meeting and to developing the shrine as an accessible, welcoming space in the heart of Canterbury. Thank you, Canon Anthony! And let’s not sacrifice this window in the present shrine.

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More about Fr Tom Herbst’s funeral rites.

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For Father Tom, the dividing wall is broken down!

We can now share more details of Fr Tom’s funeral arrangements, thanks to the indefatigable Rob Meredith.

Just to confirm, Fr Tom will be brought into church on Friday 25th at 18.00, Helen has kindly agreed to play some music. The Mass will be at 12.00 on 26th to be followed by the celebration of Tom’s life. It will be held in the Kentish barn in Canterbury Cathedral lodge directly after the service, about an 8 minute walk. There will be a condolence book in church. Please feel free to put your thoughts down, we will send this to the mission in San Luis Re afterwards. Finally, regarding flowers. Fr Ton asked that donations in lieu of flowers be sent to Oxfam.

The Mass will be live streamed. Follow this link: https://stthomasofcanterbury.com/livestream/

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Later, in California:

A funeral Mass will be celebrated for Fr Tom by the Provincial on Saturday December 3rd at 10.30 a.m. at Old Mission San Luis Re, 4050 Mission Avenue, Oceanside CA. His ashes will be inurned with his family at San Luis Re Cemetery following the Mass. A reception will be held at the San Luis Re Pavilion after the inurnment.

Here is another reflection by Fr Tom in Agnellus Mirror. This one comes from Pentecost, 15 May, 2016. You can find more at Agnellusmirror.wordpress.com then search for Herbst. But read and enjoy this one!

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Many years ago, in my hometown, I had a powerful experience while riding on a bus. I don’t know why I was taking the bus that day, as at that time I drove a motorcycle, nor do I recall where I was going…but, really, all of that is beside the point. The experience I had, while staring aimlessly out the window, remains fresh in my memory, even decades later.

Now, please, don’t misunderstand what I am about to write – as if it were a claim to some privileged mystical experience. Rather, it came in the form of a daydream; a sparkling thought, caught up with an image, all in an instant…that made me blink then smile and begin the first of many re-plays. What occurred was a kind of visualisation that I have come to call the ‘breakthrough’; a great, shattering, re-arranging, expansive, irresistible, all-encompassing force pulsing through a billion shards of what seemed like brightly coloured stained glass, all rushing forward and constantly re-configured in near-endless patterns of dazzling complexity and creative expression. It was also immediately apparent that the thrusting force was purposeful, even rational, and, above all…exuberant.

I reckoned right away that it must have been a manifestation of the Holy Spirit.

Over the years I have remembered and cherished that image, tried (with varying degrees of success) to represent it in art, and have also discerned it in some others’ experience as well. As I have done so, many different dynamic aspects of the fundamental breakthrough have emerged. The first is scriptural and that is of a Triune God on the move; nearly peripatetic, even mendicant. This has always been obvious in terms of the Second Person of the Trinity, first in terms of the explosive creative agency of the Word and then through the itinerant ministry of the Incarnate Word; preaching and working miracles on the many byroads of Palestine- the foxes have holes and the birds build nests but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. But what of the other Trinitarian Persons? The Holy Spirit blows like the wind, wherever he wills, defying all of our attempts to place God within perceptible perimeters or even (God forbid!) a box. He also dances and flickers like tongues of flame; dead, static religion has no place in that raucous Kingdom. What of the Father? Moving, always moving with his desert people in the great covenantal Ark; a mendicant God for a pilgrim people, sparkling with the guiding light of shekinah even in the dark nights of weakness and despair.

And like Siva in a very different religious tradition, that Spirit of wind and fire, ever moving – siempre adelante – can unmake as well as make. But God being God is necessarily all in all and utterly good. When Love unmakes it is only to pave the way for the exhilaration of renewed freedom. Thus, St. Paul in Ephesians 2:14, For he himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall… I have seen many a wall tumble and, when it is the work of Christ attested by the Holy Spirit, people invariably look up, rubbing weary eyes in wonder at undreamed of promise…fulfilled.

TJH

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16 November, Little Flowers CI: he was much comforted.

Francis’s intuition was indeed a revelation; Madonna Jacopa was in good time to bring him a few treats before saying goodbye. Francis greatly loves her; he is sensitive enough to allow her to show her love for him in such an intimate fashion. She must have been a no-nonsense woman, taking herself straight up to the infirmary which would have been out of bounds to a woman, even the mother of senators.

And, while they continued thus, lo, after a little while, there was a great knocking at the door of the Place, and Saint Francis sent the doorkeeper to open it; and, when he had opened the door, behold, there was Madonna Jacopa, the noblest lady of Rome, with two of her sons, Senators of Rome, and with a great company of men on horseback; and they entered in; and Madonna Jacopa gat her straight to the infirmary, and came unto Saint Francis. Of whose coming St Francis had great joy and consolation, and she likewise, seeing him alive and speaking with him. 

Then she told him how God had revealed unto her in Rome, while she was praying, the short span of his life, and how he would send for her, and ask for those things, all of which she said that she had brought; and she caused them to be brought to Saint Francis and gave him to eat thereof; and, when he had eaten and was much comforted, this Madonna Jacopa kneeled down at the feet of Saint Francis, and took those most holy feet, marked and adorned with the wounds of Christ, and kissed and bathed them with her tears, with such limitless devotion that to the friars which were standing by it seemed that they verily beheld the Magdalene at the feet of Jesus Christ; and on nowise might they draw her away from them. 

And finally, after a long time, they raised her up and drew her aside, and asked her how she had come so duly and so well provided with all those things which were necessary for Saint Francis while yet he was alive, and for his burial. 

Madonna Jacopa replied that, while she was praying one night in Rome, she heard a voice from heaven, which said: “If thou wouldest find Saint Francis alive, get thee to Assisi without delay, and take with thee those things which thou art wont to give him when he is sick, and those things which will be necessary for his burial; and I (said she) have done so”. So the said Madonna Jacopa abode there until Saint Francis passed from this life and was buried; and at his burial she did him very great honour, she and all her company; and she bore all the cost of whatsoever was needed. And thereafter, this noble lady returned to Rome; and there, within a little while, she died a holy death; and for devotion to Saint Francis she commanded that her body should be borne to Santa Maria degli Angeli and buried there; and so was it done. 

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15 November, Little Flowers C: the great love she beareth thee.

This passage made Francis more attractive to me, to see him so close in friendship to Lady Jacopa and asking her for treats as well as the things needed for his burial. As the extract opens, he has just come home to St Mary of the Angels to die, but not before seeing her one last time.

And, when they arrived at Santa Maria degli Angeli, they bore him to the infirmary and there laid him down to rest. Then Saint Francis called unto him one of the companions and spake unto him thus: “Dearest friar, God hath revealed unto me that, of this sickness, on such a day, I shall depart from this life; and thou knowest that the well-beloved Madonna Jacopa di Settensoli, who is devoted to our Order, if she knew of my death and had not been present thereat, would be sore grieved; and therefore do thou send her word that, if she would see me alive, she come hither at once”. The friar made answer: “Father, thou sayest rightly; for in truth, by reason of the great love which she beareth thee, it would be most unseemly if she were not present at thy death”. 

“Go, then,” said Saint Francis, “and bring me inkhorn and paper and pen, and write as I bid thee.” And, when he had brought them, Saint Francis dictated the letter on this wise: “To Madonna Jacopa, the servant of God, Friar Francis, the mendicant of Christ, greeting and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost in our Lord Jesus Christ: Know, well beloved, that Christ the blessed hath, of His grace, revealed unto me that the end of my life is at hand. Therefore, if thou wouldst find me alive, when thou hast seen this letter, arise and come to Santa Maria degli Angell; for, if thou art not come by such a day, thou wilt not find me alive; and bring with thee hair-cloth to wrap my body in, and the wax which is needed for my burial. Also I beseech thee to bring me some of that food which thou wast wont to give me to eat, when I was sick in Rome.” 

And, while this letter was being written, it was revealed of God to Saint Francis that Madonna Jacopa was coming to him and was already nigh unto the place, and brought with her all those things which he was sending to ask for by the letter. Wherefore, when he had had this revelation, Saint Francis told the friar who was writing the letter, not to write further, because there was no need thereof, but to lay aside the letter; whereat the friars marvelled greatly, because he finished not the letter and would not have it sent.

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