Category Archives: Summer

21 August: Saint Jane Frances de Chantal, Letters I.

chantal bw

 From a letter to Saint Francis de Sales, 1614. The two correspondents collaborated closely in the area that straddles today’s Franco-Swiss border. We could see Saint Jane’s mental state as pretty precarious from this letter, but she had raised a family, largely after her husband’s death, and founded the Sisters of the Visitation. Today is her feast day; let all who ever feel desperate take heart and hope from her weariness of self: she more than survived. I am sure this XIX Century engraving does her poor justice. Her letters are at Project Gutenburg.

This morning I am more wearisome to myself than usual. My interior state is so gravely defective that, in anguish of spirit, I see myself giving way on every side. Assuredly, my good Father, I am almost overwhelmed by this abyss of misery. The presence of God, which was formerly such a delight to me, now makes me tremble all over and shudder with fear. I bethink myself that the divine eye of Him whom I adore, with entire submission, pierces right through my soul looking with indignation upon all my thoughts, words and works. Death itself, it seems to me, would be less painful to bear than the distress of mind which this occasions, and I feel as if all things had power to harm me. I am afraid of everything; I live in dread, not because of harm to myself, but because I fear to displease God.

Oh, how far away His help seems! thinking of this I spent last night in great bitterness and could utter no other words than these, “My God, my God, alas! why hast Thou forsaken me.”

At daybreak God gave me a little light in the highest part of my soul, yet only there; but it was almost imperceptible; nor did the rest of my soul and its faculties share the enjoyment, which lasted only about the time of half a Hail Mary, then, trouble rushed back upon me with a mighty force, and all was darkness. Notwithstanding the weariness of this dereliction, I said, though in utter dryness, “Do, Lord, whatever is pleasing to Thee, I wish it. Annihilate me, I am content. Overwhelm me, I most sincerely desire it. Tear out, cut, burn, do just as Thou pleasest, I am Thine.”

God has shown me that He does not make much account of faith that comes of sentiment and emotions. This is why, though against my inclination, I never wish for sensible1 devotion. I do not desire it. God is enough for me. Notwithstanding my absolute misery I hope in Him, and I trust He will continue to support me so that His will may be accomplished in me.

Take my feeble heart into your hands, my true Father and Lord, and do what you see to be wisest with it.

The day after tomorrow we publish a contemporary reflection on ‘all ye that labour come to me’ which provides something of a reply to this letter. Tomorrow a Welsh saint who lived through most of the 17th Century. 

1Sensible here means ‘that can be felt’. It is possible to be devoted in practice to someone or to a task without feeling any measurable enthusiasm; which may be our calling for a moment or for years.

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18 August: Mini Pilgrimage around Canterbury III.

 

 

We moved on to Saint Martin’s Church, where our prayer was extempore.

The two walls shown here include plenty of Roman brick as well as a few local flints. There are three blocked off doorways; the central one may be the one Saint Bertha used in 597. The windows and buttress are recent. The ground has risen above the level of the church floor – is that 1400 years of burials? 

Saint Martin’s Chancel showing Roman red bricks.

From the oldest Church in town we went to one of the newest, the chapel of Canterbury Christ Church University. ‘Wow!’ said Caroline. It is a lovely space, but we especially came to see the tapestry.

cccu chapel tapistry

Dear Lord our Father,

Jesus the Good Shepherd bids us welcome and extends to us the invitation “Come to me”. He knows the troubles we have, our weariness and our failing strength as we try our best to live our lives in keeping with your overarching plan for us and for the world.

Remind us to always turn to him for comfort and restoration whenever we feel life is becoming burdensome.

We are all at times lost sheep, in need of a desire to come back to you.

At this time we remember the artist of the Lost Sheep painting and entrust her soul to your tender care. May all those who find life difficult remember your invitation to come back to you. Amen

The Lost Sheep painting that hung in the chapel was by a former student who was found dead in the Solent. 

Before leaving we looked at the Bible, open at Romans:

It is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’

A good verse for pilgrims!


We made our way back to Saint Mildred’s and stopped there to see the Good Shepherd statue, before we sat down, in true L’Arche tradition, to share a meal together.

good shepherd s mildred.jpg

There are many other places we could visit next time we have a MINI PILGRIMAGE AROUND CANTERBURY. Let’s see what next year brings!

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17 August: Mini Pilgrimage around Canterbury II.

10.cathedral.ines.smallOur first stop was at the Cathedral, seen here from the East in Inez’s fine painting for our pilgrimage from Dover. We visited the West front and the main SW door to see and reflect upon some of the statues on the outside.

Lord God, we have come to the site of the first cathedral in England and think about some of the people who have helped bring us to this day through their faithfulness to your call: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, King Ethelbert and Queen Bertha, and St Augustine.

We thank you that they were able to continue when things became difficult, never losing sight of your plan. Help us like them to be courageous and steadfast, and help us to show our love for you in our dealings with one another, so that we successfully fulfil our role in bringing about your kingdom on earth.

Loving Father, make us loving like you.

We walked on to the pilgrim stone by the South door into the crypt, through which we could hear the organ and choir. We were not thinking of walking to Rome that evening!

 

pilgrim-stone

Lord, we stand before the stone commemorating the many thousands of pilgrims who have come to Canterbury via the Pilgrims’ Way, as well as those making the long journey on foot from Canterbury to Rome. We are grateful for their witness to us as they walked to find communion with you and seek your will, sharing their journey with companions and sustaining each other along the way.

May we too help and support each other on our journey, sharing with one another our thoughts on you and our experience of your loving care.

Lord, send us forth on our journey through life with hope in our hearts, with love for one another and with a clear vision of your plan for our lives.

We moved on to Queningate (Queen’s gate) where Queen Bertha used to walk from the palace, which stood where the Cathedral now is, on her way to Mass at St Martin’s church, the oldest place of continuing Christian worship in England. 

Lord, we come now to Queen Bertha’s gate, through which she passed on her way to your house, one of the very few people in the country who were faithful to Christianity. Make us like her, we pray, conscious of our role as a public witness and as a guide for our families in choosing the right path to take.

As we follow the route she took to your church, make us mindful of the concern she must have had for her husband, and her desire that he would come to know the true God.

Help us, like her, to show daily concern for our nearest and dearest, the people you have entrusted to us.

For the sake of your son, our Lord. Amen

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16 August: Mini Pilgrimage around Canterbury, 1.

11.mildred

Here is Princess Saint Mildred, holding her church at Minster Abbey, not far from Canterbury. Behind her is her Grandfather, Saint Ethelbert, King of Kent, who welcomed Saint Augustine to Canterbury in 597. Window in Saint Mildred’s Church, Canterbury, where we started our mini pilgrimage.

We are the L’Arche Kent Red Pilgrims group of friends; you may have met us on January 8 this year. We come together a few times a year to pray, enjoy each others’ company and share a meal. Without further ado, please join us on our summer evening pilgrimage, starting with:

Prayers At Saint Mildred’s Church.

Lord God our Father, as we come together this evening in this beautiful church to start our pilgrimage, we thank you for the many years of continued faithfulness among your people to your call to follow you in all our varied ways.

We thank you for each other in our Red Pilgrims Group, for the support and friendship we share and all the activities we do that increase our closeness to you and one another.

Walk with us as we move between the different sites and learn of your love for us all and the faithfulness of people linked to Canterbury. Help us to see them as our models and our inspiration in learning to love you more and more.

We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen

It was time to walk on to Canterbury Cathedral to meet the first of our ancestors in the faith. But first we blessed our feet:

Dear Lord,

we ask you to bless our feet

and guide them past restful waters,

through green pastures

and along the right paths. Amen.

 

 

 

 

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August 1: A Pilgrim.

 

terrible london

Not a view of London any of us will have seen, though the crowded streets are still there. Saint Paul’s too, miraculously remains, but it has been overshadowed by the temples of Mammon. This picture and text are from ‘London Impressions’ by Alice Meynell, illustrated by William Hyde, pub; Archibald Constable, 1898, available on Project Gutenberg.

Now and then a firefly strays from the vineyard into the streets of an Italian city, and goes quenched in the light of the shops. The stray and waif from ‘the very country’ that comes to London is a silver-white seed with silken spokes or sails. There is no depth of the deep town that this visitant does not penetrate in August—going in, going far, going through, by virtue of its indescribable gentleness.

The firefly has only a wall to cross, but the shining seed comes a long way, a careless alien but a mighty traveller. Indestructibly fragile, the most delicate of all the visible signs of the breeze, it goes to town, makes light of the capital, sets at nought the thoroughfares and the omnibuses, especially flouts the Park, one may suppose, where it does not grow. It hovers and leaps at about the height of first-floor windows, by many a mile of dull drawing-rooms, a country creature quite unconverted to London and undismayed. This flâneur makes as little of our London as his ancestor made of Chaucer’s.

Sometimes it takes a flight on a stronger wind, and its whiteness shows dark with slight shadow against bright clouds, as the whiter snow-flake also looks dark from its shadow side. Then it comes down in a tumult of flight upon the city. It is a very strong little seed-pod, set with arms, legs, or sails—so ingeniously set that though all grow from the top of the pod their points together make a globe; on these it turns a ‘cart-wheel’ like a human boy—like many boys, in fact, it must overtake on its way through the less respectable of the suburbs—only better. Every limb, itself so fine, is feathered with little plumes that are as thin as autumn spider-webs. Nothing steps so delicately as that seed, or upon such extreme tiptoe. But it does not walk far; the air bears the charges of the wild journey.

Thistle-seeds—if thistle-seeds they be—make few and brief halts, then roll their wheel on the stones for a while, and then the wheel is a-wing again. You encounter them in the country, setting out for town on a south wind, and in London there is not a street they do not recklessly stray along. For they use our arbitrary streets; it does not seem that they make a bee-line over the top of the houses, and cross London thus. They use the streets which they treat so lightly. They conform, for the time, to human courses, and stroll down Bond Street and turn up Piccadilly, and go to the Bank on a long west wind—their strolling being done at a certain height, in moderate mid-air.

They generally travel wildly alone, but now and then you shall see two of them, as you see butterflies go in couples, flitting at leisure at Charing Cross. The extreme ends of their tender plumes have touched and have lightly caught each other. But singly they go by all day, with long rises and long descents as the breeze may sigh, or more quickly on a high level way of theirs. Nothing wilder comes to town—not even the scent of hay on morning winds at market-time in June; for the hay is for cab-horses, and it is at home in the clattering mews, and has a London habit of its own.

White meteor, lost star, bright as a cloud, the seed has many images of its radiant flight. But there is only one thing really like it—the point of light caught by a diamond, with the regular surrounding rays.

Alice Meynell and her husband Wilfrid were the first to publish Francis Thompson’s poetry, and did much to rescue him from his addiction to opium, welcoming him to share their family life. They would surely have said ‘Laudato Si!’ with Pope Francis, as this observation demonstrates. And the seed could have come from a goatsbeard head, like this one from near Elmstead in Kent. Goatsbeard is a very large dandelion.

goatsbeard.small

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by | August 1, 2019 · 01:18

July 16: Prayer in an Airport

airport prayer

Lord, I know that we always fly
too close to the sun, melt our wax wings
and plummet. I don’t deny it. Still, deign
to give us a safe flight. Let loose great
flocks of your angels, let them range
all around us and let their long hair
stream and their wings be orange, green
and violet. And let their knowledge of
the spheres steer our pilot and keep him
in a state of wonder at the power
you have shared with humans. Show us
that we do not fly by technology alone
but by the grace of spirits who give us
our morsel and cup. And when several tons
of roaring metal and human flesh alight
with a shudder on tarmac, may we thank them,
before we grab our existence back again,
and sprint.

SJC

Another one for the holidays. It’s always good to get down from that plane! Happy Landings to all.                                                                                                                        Will.

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L’Arche mini pilgrimage around Canterbury, I.

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1 July: Into the forest

IMGP4697 - Copy

I don’t think the ancient Israelites were altogether fond of the forest. One of the most vivid forest stories tells how Absalom, David’s rebel son, was caught by the hair as he rode under an oak tree while his mule galloped on without him. Absalom was a sitting duck for Joab and his men, who killed him, bringing David to tears. (2 Samuel 18, 19). Earlier, in Joshua 17, we read how the tribe of Joseph cleared away the forest to have room to settle and farm, a process that continues around the world to this day.

But something is lost as we clear the forest and then build suburbs over the resulting fields. Closeness to creation and the creator. Abel, at 3¾ years has found it at Forest School: he spends a day a week in the woods with his nursery school, getting muddy and enjoying himself among the trees. We would wait forever for him to tell us what he gets up to, but my teachers’ magazine ‘Educate’ tells how children are equal partners in learning and can take over the leadership of such sessions, under the guidance of their teachers.

One teacher, Jen Hawkes, says, ‘It’s about shared experiences and making friendships. They build a bond in the forest that helps them in the classroom. We’ve had lots of children making friendships who have previously struggled with that – which is so important, especially for mental health.’ So what the children do is by no means all that they learn out of doors. They learn to trust each other.

Perhaps the Missionaries of Africa were prophetic in sending us schoolboys into the woods on half-holidays. There would be one or two at least in July; the priest-teachers were probably as sick of lessons as we were, and whatever we may have fancied they were up to in our absence, they no doubt had meetings to discuss our progress and all the routine matters that arise in any school. But we were free for the day. Note the seven pound jam tins, blackened from being used to cook a shared meal on the open fire to the left.  Glamping this was not!

Fifty-odd years after this photograph captured the moment, I am in touch with three of the lads shown. That says something for the bonds built in the forest and other parts of our shared life. Perhaps the Missionaries of Africa were prophetic!

MMB

 

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14 June: Consider the flowers

MERMAID ROSE SM

What does the word ‘mermaid’ suggest to you? Andersen and Disney sweet young girl, giving herself to the man she loves? Or else the seal-women of Scotland, or the sirens of Greek legend, luring unloved men to their deaths?

The Mermaid rose is s beautiful as any of those, but has more in common with the sirens. Get too close to her and you won’t escape easily from her sharp, backward-facing thorns. But she’s lovely enough, if handled with leather gloves. She’ll grow 4m plus high and those buds will open to creamy yellow single flowers. The deep red berberis leaves set her off well.

 

rose.mermaid.small

It’s not altogether necessary to go on pilgrimage to appreciate the ‘flowers of the field’. (Matthew 6.26) I think that when Jesus encouraged us to consider them, he wanted us first of all to look about us, to look around our feet, on in Mermaid’s case, at or below eye-level; we have to protect our neighbours from her by careful use of secateurs.

But think of all those patient souls who have bred the varieties we love; their considerations went much further, looking at the future and how this or that rose might perform. Or the men and women working to refine the healing power of plants from around the world for the good of all.

Consider the flowers.

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13 June: Apparent indifference.

 

walk5I was looking for something else when I came across some of the extracts I made from Richard Jefferies’ “The Gamekeeper at Home”, first published in 1878. Ian, a lad I once taught, had an ambition to become a keeper, and enjoyed reading this book together, despite the sometimes old-fashioned language. I hope you enjoy this extract.

He had the capacity to stand and stare that Jefferies describes here.

The book is available at Project Gutenberg.

Often and often, when standing in a meadow gateway partly hidden by the bushes, watching the woodpecker on the ant-hills, of whose eggs, too, the partridges are so fond (so that a good ant year, in which their nests are prolific, is also a good partridge year) you may, if you are still, hear a slight faint rustle in the hedge, and by-and-by a weasel will steal out. Seeing you he instantly pauses, elevates his head, and steadily gazes: move but your eyes and he is back in the hedge; remain quiet, still looking straight before you as if you saw nothing, and he will presently recover confidence, and actually cross the gateway almost under you.

This is the secret of observation: stillness, silence, and apparent indifference.

I made no comment when I published this extract on the ‘Will Turnstone’ blog, perhaps the best sermon or reflection, but ‘if you are still’ you may hear, or see in the corner of your eye, feel a breath on your cheek, smell the breeze that the prophet heeded.

As for apparent indifference to one’s surroundings: by some quirk of my mind’s working I’m put in mind of Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” There are many who seem indifferent to Jesus, but are able to be still and silent, to observe what needs doing, and get on with it without fanfare.

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