While Jesus was in the Desert, the devil took him to the top of the Temple. I feel somewhat safer in the crypt of the Cathedral: there’s not so far to fall!
And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and he said to him: If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself from hence. For it is written, that He hath given his angels charge over thee, that they keep thee.For it is written, that He hath given his angels charge over thee, that they keep thee. And that in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest perhaps thou dash thy foot against a stone.
And Jesus answering, said to him: It is said: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
I do seem to be dashing my feet against stones quite a lot these days; is that my lack of observation or the lack of footpath maintenance, or perhaps both? Anyway, the Crypt is my go-to desert place in the city. But there are other spots where the desert awaits; even passing through the old orchard grounds for instance, or seeing the hazel catkins in full bloom in various odd spots.
Forty seconds, not forty days, I spend enjoying them, but the resilience of those soft, dangling catkins in this year’s high winds has been an object lesson to me.
May we always have a place in our hearts for those who have no place that they can call their own.
Another of Fr Simon Denton OFM Cap’s words of wisdom. As a Franciscan, he knew the worth of poverty as lived by Saint Francis who renounced wealth and a comfortable home in Assisi to live in a community with Christ at its heart.
These starlings are not in their nesting season but it’s the time when they gather into communities – joining hundreds and thousands of others before bedding down for the night.
As they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head.
I read the other day that the question to ask somebody on being introduced should not be, ‘where are you from?’ rather ‘where do you feel at home?’ The starlings would answer differently in Spring, when they are nesting, to Winter, when they are in flocks; home is where the heart is, the nest or the shared roost. At different times of life where we are at home will change too: family, flatmates, a personal bedsit, community or commune.
Most of us, I guess, will have felt as though we don’t belong for whatever reason, even when friends and family are at hand. Having no place to lay one’s head makes the whole world into a desert.
May we always have a place in our hearts for those who have no place that they can call their own.
And perhaps we could contribute to local groups who provide people with shelter and a path to a secure home of their own.
At L’Arche Kent we cannot let a year go by without some of us joining in the BBC and RSPB’s* annual Big Bird Watch – spending an hour at the Glebe,§ watching to see how many species and how many individuals call in to our feeding stations.
Nothing exotic here! The parakeets have not arrived in Canterbury yet; there must be plenty of pickings in the Thanet seaside towns to encourage them to say.
But we saw seven sparrows at once and a pair of moorhens: as you see, we are at the riverside. We were quite surprised not to spot any wood pigeons, but when our photographer went to speak to someone at the other end of the garden he saw that they had been there all the time, behind the shed and therefore out of sight.
The rats were there all the time too, but then it was the first day of the Chinese Year of the Rat.
As ever, the afternoon ended with a shared meal, in thanks for a shared afternoon enjoying creation, including each other’s company. Laudato Si!
Our little bit of information sent into the national survey may help ensure that these birds are not lost to Britain. The rats, however intelligent they may be, will have to be controlled, for the sake of the garden as well as the birds who will be nesting here. Stewards of Creation we are meant to be, not exploiters, and it was human intervention that enabled rats to conquer the world. This rat retreated in the face of the moorhen’s sharp beak. They generally keep out of our way.
*BBC – British Broadcasting Corpor ation, the radio and tv people; RSPB – Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
§ Glebe: a plot of land for the priest to grow food on: a church allotment.
This link is to the British Museum blog post about ‘the murder that shook the Middle Ages: that of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, in his own Cathedral. In this period of Brexit and withdrawal from Europe, it is as well for us all to realise that:
In death Becket remained a figure of opposition to unbridled power and became seen as the quintessential defender of the rights of the Church. To this end you can find images of his murder in churches across Latin Christendom, from Germany and Spain, to Italy and Norway. Becket was, and remains, a truly European saint.
By no means was Thomas simply an anti-establishment English hero. Let us pray for the grace to discern when to support and when to oppose or challenge authority.
The British Museum will be holding a major exhibition about Becket and his world in the Autumn of 2020.
From 1170 to 1220, Saint Thomas’s remains lay in the Crypt of Canterbury Cathedral.
It is on this day that the people of Greenland have their first glimpse of the sun for the new year.
Place yourself therefore in the midst of the world, as if you were alone, and meditate upon all the services which it doth unto you.
Suppose the Sun were absent; and conceive the world to be a dungeon of darkness and death about you: you will then find his beams more delightful than the approach of Angels: and loath the abomination of that sinful blindness, whereby you see not the glory of so great and bright a creature, because the air is filled with its beams. Then you will think that all its light shineth for you, and confess that God hath manifested Himself indeed, in the preparation of so divine a creature.
You will abhor the madness of those who esteem a purse of gold more than it. Alas, what could a man do with a purse of gold in an everlasting dungeon? And shall we prize the sun less than it, which is the light and fountain of all our pleasures? You will then abhor the preposterous method of those, who in an evil sense are blinded with its beams, and to whom the presence of the light is the greatest darkness. For they who would repine at God without the sun, are unthankful, having it: and therefore only despise it, because it is created.
‘Repine’ here we read as ‘moan’. Better to be grateful for what is given us, and so be happy.
It’s the feast of the Epiphany, the visit of the wise men who travelled from the East to Baby Jesus, so why not celebrate with Traveller’s Joy!
This is the name of a wild clematis that is happy climbing around hedgerows and wasteland, with pale green-tinged flowers in late summer, and in winter seed heads that look white or grey according to the light. Old Man’s Beard it gets called at this stage.
Alongside the railway towards Dover it has spread itself. I arrived at just the right moment this week to catch the few minutes’ sunshine through the beard. Right beside it is the Victorian footbridge, recently decorated by community artists with – Traveller’s Joy!
I can remember being warned, by well-meaning teachers, that there was no time to stop and enjoy the flowers on the journey through life. Perhaps they meant it figuratively, but the worst offender also tried to interest her class in cultivating the strip of sandy soil outside her classroom. And the baby the Wise Men visited grew up to say that the flowers of the field were dressed more magnificently than Solomon in all his glory.
When clothed in a low sunbeam, the wild clematis is quietly magnificent, a true Traveller’s Joy!
A version of this post appeared on Will Turnstone’s blog last year.
A short while before Christmas Janet, John from Uganda and I turned up at the ancient church of Saint Mildred in Canterbury for the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols. L’Arche being L’Arche, we often find ourselves straddling the denominations like this. Saint Mildred’s is a home from home: The L’Arche garden occupies the Glebe here1. We use their kitchen, have refreshments with the ladies on Friday mornings, and help with Harvest Festival; we have barbecues in summer, watch birds in January, and our pilgrimage across Kent finished here last May.
To represent L’Arche, now an important part of the parish, I was invited by the Rector, Jo Richards, to read the Matthew infancy narrative at the service. Saint Mildred’s is a far cry from King’s College Chapel in Cambridge whose Nine Lessons and Carols is world famous. Saint Mildred’s is not beset with Tudor self-justification and aggrandisement, as King’s is, but it looks as good, in its own way, by candlelight.
This old church remembers our little local Saxon princess who did things her own way, which was the Lord’s. She was one of those determined 7th Century princesses who wanted to study and pray in a religious community: her community is now established back at Minster Abbey where our contributor, Sister Johanna lives out her calling.
And if a few more of today’s young women were given their chance to discover, discern and live out their vocation within the church where would we be? And we are most grateful for the faithful witness of friendship extended to us by the ladies of the parish, together with Church warden Mary and Rector Jo. That helps to bring the Church back together; we should not do things apart that we could do together; we can see this maxim working well locally with the shared welcome for homeless people given by the churches.
Here is the statue of the greatest Christian woman of all time with her Son, within Saint Mildred’s church. It was candlelit for the Nine Lessons and Carols.
1A Glebe was land set apart for a parish priest to support himself – an ecclesiastical allotment.
Not long before Christmas I took a railway journey across Manchester on one of the darkest days of the year. Since I was visiting my mother for her birthday, I resisted the temptation to continue towards Blackpool North (Pole), but the signaller’s humour was welcome on a bleak morning.
It was also good to see this note from Sam on behalf of the Samaritans, who are well aware that this season is not festive for everybody. Sadly, the railway is often a suffering soul’s chosen suicide spot. Sam’s message may persuade someone to ring them, as may the message on many train tickets.
By the time I was making my return journey, the weather had turned from a saturated mist to a greasy drizzle. Walking to Greenfield station with bright LED headlights shining in my face was no joy.
But Saddleworth Catholic church of the Sacred Heart already had their crib on display in the porch. A reminder of the hope that is in us.
Christian or not, we are given the virtue of hope to see us through the dark times. Christian or not, a helpless babe is not hopeless. He or she reaches out in trust. For those whose ability to trust has been eroded through others’ inhumanity, a word, a smile may make a difference. Few of us will ever find ourselves stepping in to prevent a suicide at the last moment, but we may, all unknowingly, help to do so before that.
From across the main road, my view of the crib was no better than in the photo, but I knew what I was looking at: even in the darkest, murkiest times, there is hope.