This year we have been challenged not to take water for granted. Long weeks with little or no rain dried up fields and gardens, while rivers’ flow diminished. In one lake nearby many fish died from lack of oxygen.
It was a relief to come to the back of the old Harbledown leper hospital near Canterbury the week before the drought broke and to find the spring flowing in the holy well.
Edward, the Black Prince and Prince of Wales would have been happy, too. He attributed a cure he received to taking the water. He was devoted to Canterbury and was buried in the cathedral in 1376. The well is sometimes called the Black Prince’s Well, sometimes St Thomas’s. This was the last spot to water horses before descending into the city; a chance for riders, too, to take a cold drink and for the hospital to beg for alms.
Notice the Prince of Wales’s feathers carved on the capstone of the arch, an older example of this emblem, more formal than the version on British 2p coins and instantly recognisable to passers-by. The stone appears to be balanced on top of the arch rather than holding all of it together. Perhaps this sign of royal favour was enough to spare the well under the Tudor monarchs’ vandalism.
Let us pray with Saint Francis:
Praised be You my Lord through Sister Water,
So useful, humble, precious and pure.
And let us remember how precious water is, and how impure it has become because we have despised its humility and taken it for granted.
The Franciscans at Alnmouth Friary in Northumberland are supporting L’Arche Kent by finding unusual fund-raising things to do. The number 2.6 comes from the length of the postponed London Marathon run – 26 miles – which is a major fundraising event in the UK. I have to say I’d struggle to make 2.6 skips in shorts and trainers, let alone a habit and sandals. Brother Michal was skipping for 26 minutes! Bravo. Read the full report here. And thanks to all who continue helping L’Arche in any way.
Pope Francis continues his thoughts on relationships as the vital centre of Christian and human life.
The dialogue that God wishes to establish with each of us through the paschal mystery of his Son has nothing to do with empty chatter, like that attributed to the ancient inhabitants of Athens, who “spent their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new” (Acts 17:21). Such chatter, determined by an empty and superficial curiosity, characterizes worldliness in every age; in our own day, it can also result in improper use of the media.
Putting the paschal mystery at the centre of our lives means feeling compassion towards the wounds of the crucified Christ present in the many innocent victims of wars, in attacks on life, from that of the unborn to that of the elderly, and various forms of violence. They are likewise present in environmental disasters, the unequal distribution of the earth’s goods, human trafficking in all its forms, and the unbridled thirst for profit, which is a form of idolatry.
Today too, there is a need to appeal to men and women of good will to share, by almsgiving, their goods with those most in need, as a means of personally participating in the building of a better world. Charitable giving makes us more human, whereas hoarding risks making us less human, imprisoned by our own selfishness. We can and must go even further, and consider the structural aspects of our economic life. As the Church’s magisterium has often repeated, political life represents an eminent form of charity (cf. Pius XI, Address to the Italian Federation of Catholic University Students, 18 December 1927). The same holds true for economic life, which can be approached in the same evangelical spirit, the spirit of the Beatitudes.
I’m sure that like me, you must be worried about the situation with COVID-19 at the moment. CAFOD is very much part of the Catholic family and as with any family, when one of us is unsettled or anxious it affects us all. We pray for all those affected by the virus both here in the UK and overseas, and for all the medical staff who are working so hard to keep us safe.
Although gathering as a church community is paused, it was good to hear that the doors of churches will remain open, to offer us a place to be still in God’s presence.
We are learning new ways to keep spiritually connected and look after ourselves and others, particularly during Lent. Here are some ideas to help to keep us together as a community even though we need to be apart:
To hear about our work, each week we will have a series of live online events you can take part in. These will include opportunities to come together for prayer and chat as well as interviews with staff.
We are working on the different ways our parish volunteers and campaigners can still involve their communities and continue to be a powerful force for good, so please keep in touch with us on Twitter and Instagram as well. Our work in some of the world’s poorest communities continues. There is great concern as this is a fast-moving situation and we are closely monitoring developments in the countries where we work around the world so that we are ready to support our local experts with whatever they need.
Our work with so many in need is only possible because of the generosity and love you show to those around the world. If you wish to donate to our Lent appeal and support the crucial, ongoing work of our local experts like Sister Consilia, we will ensure your gift reaches the poorest and most vulnerable at this uncertain time.
As I’m sure is the case for many of us, I am praying for guidance from the Holy Spirit to help steer us through these difficult times. Thank you for continuing to keep CAFOD in your prayers. Please stay safe as we continue to support one another.
With love and prayers, Christine AllenDirector, CAFOD
Pope Francis, in this final extract from his 2019 Lenten message, tells us that the traditional Lenten disciplines should be teaching us to love creation, not despise it.
Creation urgently needs the revelation of the children of God, who have been made “a new creation”. For “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). The path to Easter demands that we renew our faces and hearts as Christians through repentance, conversion and forgiveness, above all by fasting, prayer and almsgiving.
Fasting, that is, learning to change our attitude towards others and all of creation, turning away from the temptation to “devour” everything and being ready to suffer for love, which can fill the emptiness of our hearts. Prayer, which teaches us to abandon idolatry and the self-sufficiency of our ego, and to acknowledge our need of the Lord and his mercy. Almsgiving, whereby we escape from the insanity of hoarding everything for ourselves in the illusory belief that we can secure a future that does not belong to us. And thus to rediscover the joy of God’s plan for creation and for each of us, which is to love him, our brothers and sisters, and the entire world, and to find in this love our true happiness.
Dear brothers and sisters, the “Lenten” period of forty days spent by the Son of God in the desert of creation had the goal of making it once more that garden of communion with God that it was before original sin (Mark 1:12-13; Is 51:3). May our Lent this year be a journey along that same path, bringing the hope of Christ also to creation, so that it may be “set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Romans 8:21).
Let us not allow this season of grace to pass in vain! Let us ask God to help us set out on a path of true conversion. Let us leave behind our selfishness and self-absorption, and turn to Jesus’ Pasch. Let us stand beside our brothers and sisters in need, sharing our spiritual and material goods with them. In this way, by concretely welcoming Christ’s victory over sin and death into our lives, we will also radiate its transforming power to all of creation.
Laying foundations for an orphanage building in Rwanda.
This post is adapted from the Missionaries of Africa site in the USA, but it is not about them; no it tells of brave Rwandan women seeing a need and working to fill it. Fr Denis P. Pringle introduces them.
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure is this: to care for widows and orphans in their distress . . . .”
James 1: 27
These days, a lot of people seem to be discussing what it means to be “religious” — to have a belief in God that is demonstrated through words and actions. Even those of us who consider ourselves “spiritual, but not religious” search for ways to express our relationship with that which is sacred. Two thousand years ago, things weren’t much different among the first Christians. One of the first followers of Jesus, St. James, wrote a letter in which he offers guidance on what “true religion” is. He felt that few things are more important than caring for those who are less fortunate than ourselves — particularly widows and orphans. That is still the case today.
In societies where there are no government support services for the poor — widows and orphans are among those most urgently in need. Many live without basic necessities such as food, water, medical care and adequate housing.
Recently, one of our missionaries, Fr. Simplice Traore, wrote to ask if there is some way we can help the widows and orphans in Kigali, Rwanda, where he lives and works.
“During the Rwandan genocide in 1994,” Fr. Simplice writes, “a young woman began reaching out to women whose husbands had been killed and little children whose parents had been murdered during that tragic time. This young woman became like a mother to the orphans that she gathered. As time went by, the number of orphans increased tremendously — especially since she was taking good care of them. Unfortunately, though, she did not have the resources needed to continue her work. She was all alone. That was 25 years ago.”
“Since then, more than 100 other women have joined her and they are now officially a congregation of religious Sisters dedicated to serving poor widows and orphans. What a gift these Sisters are!”
“As I write this letter to you, the Sisters are working hard to construct a building where orphan children can live. The need for housing for orphans is critical in this community.
Unfortunately, the Sisters — themselves having little income — do not have the funds to pay any construction costs. They have been able to acquire a piece of land where a building will be constructed and local people are even willing to help with the labour — but still no one has money to pay for the building.
To learn more about the Missionaries of Africa, here are a couple of addresses:
When they drew near unto the courteous gentleman’s house, Saint Francis said to his companion: “Wait here for me a little while, for I fain would first pray to God that He may prosper our journey; that Jesu Christ may be pleased to grant us, weak and poor though we be, the noble prey that we mind to snatch from the world, through the virtue of His most holy passion.”
And this said, he set himself to pray in a place where he could be seen by the said courteous
gentleman; whereby, sith it was the will of God, as he was looking hither and thither, he beheld Saint Francis praying most devoutly before Christ, who with a great brightness appeared to him in the aforesaid prayer and stood before him; and the while he saw Saint Francis for some good space uplifted bodily from the earth. For the which cause he was so touched and inspired of God to leave the world, that incontinent he came forth out of his palace and ran towards Saint Francis, and coming up to him as he was at prayer, he kneeled down at his feet, and with exceeding great fervour and devotion besought him that it would please him to receive him and to do penance together with him.
Then Saint Francis, seeing his prayer was heard of God, and that that which he himself desired, this gentle man was begging for most earnestly, lifted him up, and in fervour and gladness of spirit embraced and kissed him, devoutly giving thanks to God, who had added so worthy a knight unto his company. And quoth that gentleman to Saint Francis: “What dost thou bid me do, my Father? Lo! I am ready to do thy bidding and give to the poor whatsoever I possess, and thus disburdened of all temporal things, to follow Christ with thee.”
And even so he did, according to the counsel of Saint Francis, distributing all that he had to the poor, and entered into the Order, and lived in great penitence and holiness of life and upright conversation.
The Missio magazine, Mission Today, invites us to join Pope Francis and the whole Church in praying for these monthly prayer intentions, particularly on Fridays. Now we’ve found these intentions, we’ll try to share them each month. Here is the Pope’s intention for July.
May those who administer justice work with integrity, and may the injustice present in the world not have the last word.
That seems a mountain of an intention, but Jesus did say something about mountains and faith the size of a mustard seed. (Matthew 13;31-32) Which prompts the question, what can I do to alleviate injustice? Even a few pence in a red box, or a can or two in the food bank basket; these are as much a matter of justice as of charity. It is unjust that some people live in poverty and others have their needs met and more. Using wealth, either of cash or of time, is one way to ‘administer justice with integrity’ towards our brothers and sisters. This does not take away from the wrong of unjust judges, of oppressive regimes, things beyond your influence and mine, but prayer should urge us to do what we can.
During June we pray with Pope Francis that priests, through the modesty and humility of their lives, commit themselves to an active solidarity with the world’s poorest people.
When disciples of Christ are transparent in heart and sensitive in life, they bring the Lord’s light to the places where they live and work.
– Pope Francis
After an appeal by a Mill Hill missionary, we acquired a Red Box for collecting small change which is sent to help the Church’s mission where our solidarity is needed. We had one when I was growing up, but I hadn’t seen one for years! We received the Missio magazine this week from which this post is taken. More to follow.