Category Archives: PLaces

12 January, Temperance VI: Temperance, Restraint and Anger.

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One of the important aspects of the virtue temperance is that it is not just about our physical appetites. It is about all our appetites, and develops our ability to handle such emotions as intense fear, desire and anger. And so, it complements moderation with something that uses perhaps more ‘muscle’ – and that something is restraint. Restraint is that power of soul whose act is to choose. In so doing, it curbs the desire for immediate gratification by showing us that we may fulfil our being more truly by making a reasoned choice than by gratifying an impulse that is coming (as in the case of anger) from a hidden desire for vengeance.

Restraint has particular relevance to the passion of anger. Anger can be a very strong passion indeed, and it is worth dwelling on it for a moment. St. Thomas grants that some forms of anger are useful: the anger that surfaces in regard to injustice, for example, and any kind of abuse. Anger is a necessary passion in these circumstances. I would go even further and say that there are some situations to which anger is the only healthy response. But, once again, anger must be directed by the light of reason. Intemperate anger can be destructive and abusive itself, and St. Thomas would not allow that it is good to fight violence with violence. This is where restraint comes in. Blind wrath, bitterness of spirit, revengeful resentment: these forms of anger are highlighted by St. Thomas as being the most dangerous aspects of anger and therefore most in need of the curbing powers of restraint. Blind wrath, he says, is anger that is immoderately fierce and destructive. Bitterness of spirit is to do with a state of anger that lasts so long that it becomes a part of one’s very character and personality. In this case the offence remains in one’s memory, and gives rise to what Thomas calls ‘lasting displeasure’ that does not stop until punishment has been inflicted. Revengeful resentment is an aspect of this ongoing bitterness in which the disposition becomes chronically sullen and the mind is endlessly preoccupied with taking revenge.

When these aspects of anger are delineated here in writing, it is easy to see how harmful they can be – to ourselves and to others – but let’s face it: we have all been there and probably done it. I don’t doubt that many of us have at times been swept away by the intensity of our feelings and indulged in precisely the kind of angry behaviour Thomas describes. These temptations are part of the weakness we have as fallen beings. But the virtue of temperance brings good things to bear on this state of affairs. Through gentleness, justice and charity we can restrain the onslaught of anger.

Gentleness, contrary to what we might think, does not mean that we never feel angry, or that if we do, we can get over it almost before we feel the full force of it. Rather, gentleness is what makes a person master of herself, and therefore master of the power of anger, according to St. Thomas – for anger is a power, and as such is capable of accomplishing something good. Gentleness is about channeling that power rightly, dealing with the cause of the anger fairly, addressing the whole situation that gave rise to the anger in such a way as to change it for the better.

In order to do this, of course, we need to enlist the aid of our reason. We are back to the need to think. Our reason then, brings justice and charity to bear upon the situation that has caused our anger. Justice and charity working together with gentleness enables us to focus on something other than our own pain. We become able to focus on the feelings of the one (or ones) who offended us, on seeing the situation from the other side, and on effecting the changes that will lead to the establishment of peace – even if some of those changes are changes that need to take place within our own heart.

SJC

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January 5: Aberdaron IV. Work of Human Hands

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Laurie Lee1 once wrote of craftsmanship that handmade objects keep us human; the Liturgy enshrines a similar thought when, following an ancient Jewish prayer, it describes the bread and wine as ‘work of human hands’. ‘We are a starved society,’ says Lee, ‘living in the midst of plenty. Our possessions are many, our serenities few.’

Lee would have recognised that feeling of serenity about the Church at Aberdaron, a lightening of the shoulders on crossing the threshold. Put that down to imagination if you will, but I was happy to accept the gift.

As in most churches there were beautiful handmade objects around: the very building itself, the doors, the clear glass windows, banners, icons; and much more. Take a pilgrimage to the edge of Wales to see for yourself.

I was glad to find in the church shop this jug, decorated with fish, made by a local potter, at a far from expensive price. Giving it to my mother, I know it will not become a possession so much as something to be shared – something that will let her share the pilgrimage, for she loves Wales and RS Thomas; her treasure for a while that may be given to a grandchild who comes and admires it.

aberdaron fish

Janet found there these little fish which now swim beneath our bathroom mirror. ‘Fishers of men’? Bait for memory, reflection, and prayer.

1On Craftsmen, in Village Christmas and other notes on the English year, London, Penguin Classics, 2015, pp 135-6.

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African Missionaries to Africa

The final stages of becoming a Missionary of Africa priest, or White Father, are to take the  Missionary Oath and Diaconate . This happened just before Christmas in Merrivale, South Africa for 18 young men from many African countries and from India. Follow the link to read an account of the two ceremonies, but here is an extract from Deacon Jean–Baptiste Todjro’s account, appropriate for today’s Feast of the Holy Innocents and Sunday’s of the Holy Family:

One word was echoed strongly throughout the celebration of our Missionary Oath and Diaconate Ordination: FAMILY. Prior to the celebration of the oath, Didier Sawadogo, representing the Superior General, presented to us the message of the General Council by giving to each of us the positive affirmation of our Society which states: ‘Filled with the joy of the Gospel and guided by the Spirit, we are an intercultural missionary society with a family spirit. Sent out to the African world and wherever our charism is needed, for a prophetic mission of encounter and of witness to the love of God’ (Capitular Acts 2016:17). It is with this sense of belonging and willingness that we responded YES to the call of God and the desire of making God’s love known and flourish in the African world. The word FAMILY was at the heart of the homily of Cardinal Wilfrid Napier who in addressing us insisted that we have to participate in the mission of the Church and identify the challenges that families are facing as our primary mission in collaboration with the universal Church. As such one can boldly say we are ordained to be APOSTLES TO FAMILIES, NOTHING BUT APOSTLES TO FAMILIES.

Let’s pray that God will give them all the graces to be just that, apostles to families; and that we, too, may recognise and live out this same vocation.

MMB

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8 December, Aberdaron II: Be Still.

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This tapestry runner is on one of the benches in the church at Aberdaron. The words sound as though they are taken from a psalm but they are the opening words of a hymn, translated from the German of Dorothea von Schlegel. Dig a little further back (the internet is like that beach outside the church that we saw yesterday, full of treasures!) and yes, it is from Psalm 46:10-11:

Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.

And that’s enough from me: be still, listen for the waves outside the church, be still.

(There’s always Matthew 13.44!)

MMB

 

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7 December: Aberdaron I: Treasure in a field.

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We were pilgrims in Aberdaron, R.S. Thomas’s parish. My photo of the church poised on the edge of the sea at the edge of Wales, at the edge of Europe contained this detail of three little ones shovelling sand for all their lives’ worth.

 The kingdom of heaven is like unto a treasure hidden in a field. Which a man having found, hid it, and for joy thereof goeth, and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.  

Matthew 13.44

What treasure, what joy was given to these youngsters, all wrapped up on a misty moisty afternoon?

Think back to the child you once were, still are beneath it all, and enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

No need to buy the beach in Britain. 99% of them belong to the Crown, in trust for us all: dig away to your hearts’ content, children!

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December 6th: Daily Pilgrimage, Saint Nicholas

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We can travel, indeed we have travelled, to places of pilgrimage within the United Kingdom and beyond. I won’t say East, West, home’s best. I would return to Aberdaron, St Maurice, Rome, and many places that I love, yet we have our Cathedral which has many corners that sometimes catch the eye. And just a few minutes’ walk from home.

This Cross is on the altar in the dark Saint Nicholas’ Chapel – his feast is today, December 6th.

Patron of children, the original and best Father Christmas; he makes his annual procession through Canterbury each Advent, allowing frazzled shoppers the chance to make their day a pilgrimage.

Let’s celebrate his generous and imaginative care of his flock, but remember that he drew his inspiration from the one whose Cross is represented here.

Saint Nicholas, pray for children.

Saint Nicholas. pray for parents and grandparents, who have to improvise all the time. May we share your wise approach to child care!

And Let’s pray for a former priest at St Thomas’ Canterbury, Bishop Nicholas Hudson, auxiliary in Westminster.

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1 December: L’Arche in India – newsletter

Dear Friends of Agnellus and Friends of L’Arche,

L’Arche Kent recently shared this newsletter from L’Arche in Bangalore, India.

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I would also like to share this short video from another L’Arche community in India.

Bapi

Enjoy them both and tell us how you feel about them!

God Bless,

Maurice.

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Child Trafficking and Abuse: a Chance to Help.

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In August last year we recorded the death of Fr Patrick Shanahan MAfr, who became fired by the street children he met in Ghana and went on to work with and for them to government and UN Level.patshan2b

The work continues. Street Child Africa is now CHANCE FOR CHILDHOOD. They have written to say that every pound they receive in donations over the next week will be doubled by the Big Give. Over to you. the site is http://www.bit.ly/cfckenya .

MMB.

 

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26 November: Who is a Prisoner in Prison?

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The day I received and edited this post, (13 October) we read about ‘Decisions’ and how this isn’t always a small and cosy world; ending with the exhortation: pray for Wisdom! Unwise decisions have led to some men being in prison, despite the gifts and talents they may be blessed with. Here, then, is a reflection from our own Fr Valentine who works with prisoners.

WT

 

Who is a Prisoner in Prison? By Father Valentine Erhahon 

A prisoner –  in our context – is a man who is legally committed to prison as a punishment for a crime.

Any crime no matter how small affects everyone: the victim, the criminal, the society and the criminals relationship with God. 

A prisoner has hurt someone and may still be hurting someone. He should be sorry.

A prisoner is someone’s son. He is someones Father. He is someones best friend. He is someones brother. He is someones trusted friend. He is someones partner. He is a son of God and loved unconditionally by God.

A prisoner is also a good person. He is a gentleman. He has talents. He has kindness in him. He laughs, he cries, he sings, he argues, he bleeds, he understands, he hurts,  he learns, he fears, he cares, he teaches and he forgives himself, he forgives others, he asks for forgiveness.

The beauty of our Faith as Catholics is that we believe in Redemption. We know and hold as true that we can look into any eye and choose to see goodness. We recognise the difficulties and know we may fail in our quest, but we continue to choose to see goodness regardless.

We know that in the end, God made everyone in his own image and likeness: male and female he created them and saw that we are good the book of Genesis tells us.

It is therefore our duty to show and remind a prisoner that he is a good person. He is a good man.

That is why:

I believe the best way to strike at the conscience of a prisoner is not by constantly reminding him how bad he is: But by respectfully showing a prisoner how much good lies inside of him just waiting to be enhanced; and then, ever so gently, he will  start to believe how good he can become.

A Prisons Week Prayer

Lord, you offer freedom to all people. We pray for those in prison. Break the bonds of fear and isolation that exist. Support with your love prisoners and their families and friends, prison staff and all who care. Heal those who have been wounded by the actions of others, especially the victims of crime. Help us to forgive one another, to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly together with Christ in his strength and in his Spirit, now and every day.

Amen.

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November 19: Prisons Week – A Week of Prayer

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Prisons Week, A Week of Prayer

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. PHILIPPIANS 3 V12 (NIV)

The Apostle Paul here speaks as someone who knows the pain of endurance and hopelessness. Tortured and beaten, in prison many times for his faith, he nonetheless spoke to fellow prisoners about the hope he had found in Jesus. He had started as offender, hurting and maiming others, but found forgiveness and new life in Jesus. Yet life did not magically grow easier; instead he had to learn to live with his past, and face an uncertain present of false accusations and persecution for his faith. He was someone kept alive by hope, who endured and persevered in the face of desperate circumstances.

What better inspiration for all those connected to the criminal justice system, than Paul’s words? For the victims who struggle day by day to live with memories and scars, and hope for a better tomorrow; for the staff, who patiently come alongside broken men and women, and walk with them the slow road towards change; for prisoners themselves, trying to make sense of their lives, fighting against the scars and choices of the past and fear of the future; and for the families and friends of those in prison, faithfully visiting and supporting. Paul encourages all not to give up hope, but keep their eyes on the goal, keep going. Yet this isn’t about making efforts and working harder. It is about recognising that in Jesus, God has already ‘taken hold’ of us. That victims, prisoners, staff and families, are not walking this road alone, but God, who loves them, is ready to walk with them. In Prison Week, we stand in prayer with all who carry on in hope, that they would know they are loved by God and have the faith and courage to press on towards new life.

+ Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury

A Prisons Week Prayer

Please pray for those in prison this week, using this prayer or another.

Lord, you offer freedom to all people. We pray for those in prison. Break the bonds of fear and isolation that exist. Support with your love prisoners and their families and friends, prison staff and all who care. Heal those who have been wounded by the actions of others, especially the victims of crime. Help us to forgive one another, to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly together with Christ in his strength and in his Spirit, now and every day. Amen.

At the end of Prisons Week we will have a further reflection from a priest working with prisoners. Will T.

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