Tag Archives: Abraham Sarah

3 January: Feast of the Holy Family

Holy Family Window, Catholic Church, Saddleworth

Holy Family Window, Catholic Church, Saddleworth

Just recently I watched a video which truly melted my heart. The story was of a married Christian couple in the US who, unable to conceive naturally, and desperately wanting to raise a child, enquired as to the possibility of adopting one of the many thousands of babies (‘embryos’) frozen in time as a result of IVF procedures. The video was in fact narrated by their daughter – now 15 years old – who movingly described her happy childhood and the gradual process of coming to know her early history, beginning with her conception in a laboratory and her being suspended in storage for more than ten years. As she spoke she was radiant with healthy self-love and self-knowledge. She refers to herself as a ‘Snowflake’ child – and her witness and that of others in her situation is giving added momentum to the Snowflake movement, raising awareness of this wonderful way to welcome life previously unwanted.
Adoption is extremely beautiful. For a husband and wife to choose a child as their own with the overriding motivation of showering them with love, of creating a home with them, a place of safety and refuge, peace and joy, is to be celebrated. In a sense, we are all adopted. All adopted into the faith of Abraham, and into the great Reward that was being prepared through his earthly descendants: that reward being Jesus Christ. The true Gift of Christmas, Who comes to raise our earthly identity to that of a heavenly identity.
We all yearn to belong. Whatever our state of life, our duties, gifts and responsibilities, we all need to know and experience that we belong somewhere – and with others.
Today the value of independence and of ‘doing it my way’ is more than ever promoted as the ideal state of life. But the reality of our need to belong cannot simply be brushed aside: because no individual, unique human person is brushed aside by God. God who honours every conception by breathing His own Image into the tiny developing life – even if conceived in a way outside His plan.
Family: is the place, above all, where the growing child knows without question their intrinsic worth; their identity as beloved child of God. Where they hopefully discover that they have, in fact, a heavenly Father and heavenly Mother as well as their earthly parent or parents.
Family is where the Gift of Bethlehem and Nazareth takes flesh here and now. Jesus Christ chose to be born into a family because the family was – and remains – at the heart of His Saving Plan for Humanity. He wanted to belong in a human family – so that in receiving Him into our own hearts and homes we would know our worth, our true identity. God’s taking on our humanity in the infant Jesus not only confirms the goodness of the human family, it directs it to its fulfilment and perfection: that the human family might take-on godliness!
We live, however, and despite our best efforts, in an imperfect world – and Almighty God is well aware of it! He chose to be born into a human family knowing that ‘the family’ would one day suffer the attacks and trials that it is going through right now. Simeon prophesied to Mary and Joseph that their Son Jesus was destined to be rejected – and so it is to be expected that his greatest gifts would also in time be rejected – the priesthood, the family, the Church itself. The answer to the attack against the family is not to abandon it but to deepen our commitment to it. God gives a very special grace and strength to those who do their best to enshrine Jesus Christ in their homes, marriages, and families, especially when circumstances are less than ideal. And in this our models are Mary and Joseph.
At the heart of the Holy Family’s hidden life in Nazareth was Purity, self-sacrifice, hard work, simplicity, joy, humble service, perseverance (and, above all…) prayer and worship.
Although Jesus was God, and so totally incapable of anything other than perfect love, He had to be taught and guided as He learned to show forth that Love in His words, gestures and actions. Imagine: the Son of God being taught to pray, sing and worship God by a humble carpenter and His young wife!
It is the privilege of every Christian parent to endeavour to form their children, over time, to grow in the likeness of Christ. And so prayer and worship have to be at the heart of life if a child’s true destiny is to be fulfilled. Pope Francis has confirmed the Tradition of 2,000 yrs by calling the family the ‘Domestic Church’. And rightly so. We come to Church each Sunday so that Christ’s sacrifice of perfect Love – made present in the Mass – is then made manifest in the home. And the family alive in the love of Jesus is the answer to a society so quickly losing its heart – and is the building-block of the New World of true peace and love.
It is a joyful but not at all easy duty to speak about the family. So many of us are from broken homes, or had traumatic childhoods, or, find ourselves separated or widowed, perhaps with few or no family members. In truth, wherever Jesus Christ is welcomed into a human heart there is family, because there He makes His home, with His Father and the Holy Spirit. In God’s loving plan the Parish and the Home were always meant to reflect and feed each other…whether the home is made up of one soul or a dozen or more.
Abraham’s openness to God resulted in the promise of countless offspring. In a life of prayer and communion with Jesus Christ, He will reveal to each of us our unique call to become generators of spiritual life. For those who live alone that might mean contributing to the life of the parish in a more active way than would otherwise have been possible, or in a life of profound prayer on behalf of the parish family and, indeed, the world. Simeon and Anna are forever held before us as an example to emulate.
Abraham did not live on earth long enough to see the fulfilment of God’s promise in all its glory – but from heaven he rejoices every time a soul comes to discover – or re-discover – God’s love for them.
Whatever our circumstances, let us resolve to welcome the Living Jesus into our hearts, and do all we can to bring his Love to life – at home, in the Parish and in the world.

DW, Fr Daniel Weatherley.


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February 21: Inter-galactic Discoveries XXIV, It’s cold outside.


It was cold, too cold for pseudo-Chihuahuas to do more than put their noses outside the door but they were enjoying people watching from the bay window.


‘Look down there! It’s little Abel on the sands. What is he doing?’ Alfie was half wrapped in his blanket which had become a shared blanket, as so much was shared, freely, by the Ossyrians in dogs’ clothing, almost without their realising it was happening.

T got out his binoculars and soon focussed on the toddler, clad in blue wellington boots and a warm all-in-one suit. ‘Very interesting. We should go join them.’

‘But what is he doing?’ demanded Ajax, who could read the amusement shaking T’s shoulders, but not the reason for it.

‘Come and see,’ said T, shaking the dog leads, and off they went, past the Waste Land shelter and along the prom. Just by the Jubilee Clock, the dogs yanked their leads from T’s hand, turned tail with one accord and refused to go on to greet Will, Abel and his mother. T had to follow. When something made Will look up he just caught a glimpse of the dogs mounting the steps to their front door, with the Director some yards in the rear. He did not realise they were avoiding Abel, and T never told him.

Indoors, Alfie shivered: ‘Abel was wading about in that cold water at the edge of the sea and splashing rocks and laughing! I’ll never understand humans. He was enjoying it and his mother and Will were letting him do it, and they were laughing too.’

‘They can’t help sharing his fun, and they aren’t the sort to stop him doing it completely. Sun, Sand and Sea. That’s why we came to Margate.’

‘But not Sun, Sand, Sea and Splash!’ grumbled Alfie.

‘Lighten up boys,’ said T. ‘Laughter is part of being human. Why the wife of Abraham, mother of the great religions, even laughed at God and called her son ‘laughter’ or Isaac. But I don’t think the humans totally understand it themselves.’


Sunset over T and Alfie and Ajax’s house, Margate, January 2017.

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10 February: From Canterbury to Dallas

From Canterbury to Dallas (event)

As I left the Crypt of Canterbury Cathedral today, I was drawn into the treasury room. Often there is one precious, ancient object to gaze upon. Today it was something old, something new.

The Church of the Incarnation in Dallas has commissioned from the Canterbury Cathedral glaziers, new windows taken from old – eight hundred years  old – windows in Canterbury. A selection is now on display including this panel of the sacrifice of Isaac, the angel risking his hand and wing to withstand the blow Abraham is about to deliver.

The new windows, made using mediaeval techniques, are vibrant and unmarked by the centuries of weather and pollution that have damaged the originals. Unlike the old monks of Canterbury, the ministers at Dallas will be able to bring every detail of the windows to the scrutiny of viewers using modern IT. The monks would have embraced IT, of course, as an aid to spreading the Good News – as Agnellus Mirror does in our own small way.

I shall return more than once before the windows are parcelled up and dispatched to Texas: they are on display here until 22 February, closing at 16.00 each day.



Read and watch more at these links:

Canterbury to Dallas 1

Canterbury to Dallas 2


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November 8: Saint Winifride and the Crutches.

xwinifride.plowden (389x640)
Plowden Church, Shropshire: Saint Winifride with her Holy Well and pilgrims’ crutches.
  • ‘… Why then, do you want a photograph of our Saint Winifride?’
  • ‘Because she has her crutches. I wanted to show them as part of a blog about sacrifice.’
  • ‘I’m still not following you.’

I was at an unfamiliar church in the Border country, Saint Walburga’s in Plowden, discussing the theology of sacrifice and of art with a new acquaintance. Such encounters help to clarify the mind:

  • ‘I was also thinking of Saint Omer, where the tomb of Saint Erkembolde[1] is covered with children’s shoes. He was a missionary who tramped around Northern France and so became patron for people with foot problems. They leave a token of their child as a sign of their prayer. And so with the crutches and Winifride. I wanted to get away from the image of Abraham raising the knife to Isaac, and look at sacrifice in the everyday.’
  • ‘Now you are making sense. I like the idea of the everyday sacrifices.’

The crutches at Saint Winifride’s well represent real, if not everyday events: not everyone is cured at Holywell; nor was everyone cured at Bethesda (John 5). But the crutches represent realities: each of us will need crutches, physical or mental, from time to time; each will need help to walk in the way of the Lord (Psalm 116). For the one who offered a crutch at Holywell it maybe represented a concrete prayer of thanksgiving; for us today it is a sign of everyday needs, physical and spiritual, that we can admit to and offer to the Lord.

For thou hast delivered my soul from death,
mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.
I will walk before the Lord
in the land of the living.

Ps 116: 8-9.

Winifride, of course, was one of those remarkable women leaders of the Church in these Islands in the allegedly ‘Dark Ages’, like Walburga herself, and Eanswythe of Folkestone.[1]

[1] See Blog posts for 22 April 2016, 4 July 2016, 7 July 2016.


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12 September Eid-ul-Adha: The Holy Day of the Sacrifice.

sourate2-196-98b75 Surah II, 196. Al-Baqarah (The Cow)
‘Perform the pilgrimage and the visit (to Mecca) for Allah. And if ye are prevented, then send such gifts as can be obtained with ease, and shave not your heads until the first have reached their destination.

And whoever among you is sick or hath an ailment of the head must pay a ransom of fasting or almsgiving or offering. And if ye are in safety, then whosoever contenteth himself with the visit for the pilgrimage (shall give) such gifts as can be had with ease. And whosoever cannot find (such gifts) then a fast of three days while on the pilgrimage, and of seven when ye have returned, that is, ten in all.

That is for him whose folk are not present at the Inviolable Place of Worship. Observe your duty to Allah, and know that Allah is severe in punishment.’

The Holy Day of the Sacrifice: Aïd al Adha or Aïd el Kébir

Commonly called the ‘Eid-ul-Kabir’ (the Great Festival) in North Africa, it is also called ‘Tabaski’ in West Africa, ‘Tafaska’ among the Berber and ‘Kurban Bayrami’ in Turkey.
Eid-ul-Adha (the Festival of the Sacrifice) is one of the most important Muslim Festivals. Each year, it marks the end of the pilgrimage to Mecca and takes place on the 10th day of the month of Dou Al Hijja, the last month of the Muslim calendar. This year, the Festival is celebrated on the 12th September 2016 (in France). We are in the 1437th year since the Hegira of Mohammed to Medina. It lasts 4 days and is celebrated throughout the world. It is the Great (kabir) Festival of the Muslim world.

This Festival commemorates the submission to God of the Patriarch Abraham, who was ready to sacrifice his son at his command (Ishmael, according to Muslim tradition, or Isaac according to the Bible; the Koran does not make the name of the son explicit.)

On the eve of Eid-ul-Kabir, everything is purified; houses are cleaned from top to bottom; every cloth, down to the smallest duster, is conscientiously laundered.

Every Muslim family according to their means, sacrifice an animal (a ewe, goat, sheep, cow or camel) by slitting its throat while laid on its left flank, the head towards Mecca. A portion of the meat from this sacrifice will benefit the most destitute among the Muslims, thus asserting the solidarity and mutual assistance prescribed by Allah.

It is a day of reconciliation, where each one is invited to pardon whoever wronged him.


The dates listed are subject to a variation of one or two days according to the visibility of the moon in different regions. These festivities may provide the opportunity to our Christian communities to offer their good wishes for the festival to our Muslim neighbours, especially if there is a Muslim place of worship in the same locality.

This post is copied from the Missionaries of Africa’s website , where you can learn more about Islam and Christianity.                                                                                                                                                   MMB.


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April 18, Jerusalem II: No Tame God.

The prophets insisted that the Temple was the place of God’s presence, not just the national shrine of Israel or Judah. Before a stone could be laid upon a stone, Nathan was sent to forbid David from building a house for the Lord (2 Samuel 7). God wanted it clear that he was the one God, and not to be tamed like a Canaanite god by offering sacrifices to force blessings from his hand; nor was he open to trickery like Zeus, who was taken in by Prometheus’ theft of fire;[1] no, he was:

‘Exodus’ terrifying concept of unbearable beauty and power, God known in the thunderstorm on Mount Sinai, God who warns Aaron not to come within the Holy of Holies improperly dressed, lest he die.’[2]


            This God sustained a Covenant relationship with Israel. He it was who took the initiative and sent down fire upon the landmark sacrifices of Abraham’s vigil or Elijah’s watch on Mount Carmel (Genesis 15; 1Kings 18). He would do the same for his fledgling Church at Pentecost, when the disciples were transformed, not destroyed, by fire (Acts 2:3); a few years later the fire of the Spirit was passed to Paul’s ordinand, Timothy, bringing him into the eternal life of the Trinity (2Timothy 1:6–11) .

May our light burn brightly so that our lives may point those we love and those we meet to that eternal life.


[1]    Paul Cartledge: ‘Olympic Self-Sacrifice’, in  ‘History Today’, 50, 10; October 2000,
Paul Cartledge, Olympic Self Sacrifice .
[2]    Mary Douglas: ‘Leviticus as Literature’, Oxford University Press, 1999; p 34.

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April 17: Jerusalem I: Melchizedek and Abraham

peterhouseabraham (473x640)

Jewish tradition holds that the Temple in Jerusalem was built where Abraham once made ready to sacrifice his son, Isaac – or as Muslims believe, Ishmael – to the Lord (Genesis 22). So Jerusalem was already a place of sacrifice before a great city grew up there.

Yet before this event, Melchizedek, who met Abraham after one of his battles with bread and wine to share (Genesis 14: 18-20), was already established as the ‘Peaceful King of Salem’ at, tradition insists, Jerusalem.

The bread and wine he shared with Abraham suggests that this was already an agricultural centre. I ask myself, therefore: where was Melchizedek, Priest and King of Salem, when his esteemed neighbour came to the hill behind his town in order to kill his own son?

Perhaps he had already sat down with Abraham and Isaac, talked through their plan. Perhaps, as High Priest of the Lord and King of Peace (Hebrews 7:1-7), he was the ‘Angel of the Lord’ who stayed Abraham’s hand, restored Isaac to his father (and mother – Sarah seems to have had no part in this), and provided the ram for the offering (Genesis 22:11-14).


The Angel of the Lord who intervenes in people’s lives is more likely to be a flesh and blood human than a being from another universe. Perhaps by sitting down over a cup of tea or a glass of wine, there will be an occasion for you to en-courage a friend or a stranger today.

On the Monday morning I wrote this I was greeted at the railway station by a smiling supporter of the Samaritans. ‘We don’t just hear you, we listen.’ A good motto for each one of us, on Monday or any other day!

The Samaritans


Max Emanuel Ainmiller, Claudius Schraudolph, Heinrich von Hess; Royal School of Glass Painting, Munich,  c1850: chapel window, Peterhouse, Cambridge. ‘Abraham  Sacrificing Isaac’. Photograph  by MMB.

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*22/12 – This Little Light of Mine – II



‘I AM’s stars and galaxies were more clearly to be seen before street lights bathed us in what the astronomers call light pollution: the lesser, man-made light overshadowing the great, created glory in the sky.

And so it happened that, far away and long ago, one night under the stars, Abraham heard the word of the Lord (Genesis 15:5-6) and believed that he was to become the father of a great nation, countless as the stars in the sky.

And today indeed, the children of Abraham, Muslims and Christians as well as Jews, are beyond counting.

Jesus proclaimed, ‘I am the Light of the World’ (John 8:12) and called us to let our light shine so brightly that people might see our good worksadentwreath (684x800) and glorify our father in Heaven. Clearly Jesus was speaking about the inner light of grace which should be shining out from within us.

As a concrete reminder of this, and following Jewish tradition, the Church has long used light in worship: the oil lamp burning perpetually before the tabernacle or aumbry; the Paschal candle, symbolic of the risen Jesus; the candles on the altar during the Eucharist; the votive lights before Mary’s ikon; the four or five candles on the Advent Wreath.

Let us allow the little light of a candle to still us during Advent, and make room for our little light to shine with His Light.


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Showered with Gifts

After a meeting at the Franciscan International Study Centre, I detoured past the chestnut trees on my ride home. A neighbour and his dog chestnuts (640x606)were already foraging, and he was happy to leave her with me and climb up to shake the tree. A great many more nuts cascaded down.

We went home well-laden with totally unearned gifts.

Once Zaccheus climbed a tree and came down to a totally unearned gift – the visit of the Good Lord to his home:

But Zacheus standing, said to the Lord: Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have wronged any man of any thing, I restore him fourfold.

Jesus said to him: This day is salvation come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.    Luke 19:8-10

At least some of my foragings will feed the welcome guests at Christmas, but I found an unexpected challenge in chestnuts: who is my neighbour? Whose house am I to bring salvation to?


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Chad of Lichfield


Chad was a missionary monk from Lindisfarne, who after assorted misadventures became Bishop of Lichfield in 669. His feast has been moved here from 2nd March, his death day, or heavenly birthday. He was a shepherd with the smell of his sheep who was tremendously respected by the people of the Saxon Kingdom of Mercia which formed his diocese. He avoided the luxury his position could have commanded, travelling on foot, not horseback. He would pray for hours at the well that bears his name. The area around his church in Lichfield has many springs which feed the Minster Pool near the Cathedral.

Saint Bede tells how Chad depended on his community life:

He had built himself a retired habitation not far from the church, wherein he was wont to pray and read in private, with a few, it might be seven or eight of the brethren, as often as he had any spare time from the labour and ministry of the Word.

Bede: Ecclesiastical History, IV.3. at  http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/38326?msg=welcome_stranger

Together with his well, Lichfield has another precious reminder of Chad – a carved angel from his vandalised tomb. Birmingham’s St Chad’s Cathedral houses his relics, preserved through difficult times by recusant Catholics.

Through Chad we have a line from the earliest missionary monks forward to the Church of today, and as Bede reminds us, when Chad and his flock died of the plague, God translated the living stones of the Church from their earthly places to the heavenly building. May we be living stones and build each other up!


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