As a young man I felt ambivalent about Catholic devotion to Mary. I remembered how the Redemptorists who staffed the parish and the teachers in the primary school served up what now seems a sentimental soup of hymns which emphasised the differences between us and the ‘wicked men [who] blaspheme thee.’
My father’s well-thumbed rosary has appeared in these reflections before. His convert’s devotion was not stultifying but I had and have difficulty in seeing the Assumption, today’s feast, as central to my faith. but belief in the Assumption of Mary – he being taken up, bodily to heaven at her death – was required of anyone who sought to become a Catholic Christian. Just as well I was a cradle Catholic!
Walsingham helped reconcile me to some Marian devotion. I think it was to do with the ecumenical nature of the town, with Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox churches in close proximity and, by the time of my second visit with L’Arche Kent in 1976, living in harmony.
Another pilgrimage, a few years later, threw new light on the place of Mary for me. We were visiting Lichfield Cathedral from the Dominicans’ conference centre at nearby Spode House. ‘We’ were a group of children with learning difficulties, their parents and friends. We had a service in the Cathedral and afterwards looked around. I was grabbed by one boy who wanted to show me a snake, carved on a memorial tablet: ‘It’s an obsession of his’, said his father.
We then realised that little Jenny was missing. Jenny had no speech, we did not know what she might do.
We found her, curled up in the Lady Chapel. ‘I should have known!’ said her foster-mother. Jenny preached without words but with an eloquence that reached one who is liable to let his head rule his heart even when it should be the other way around.
A short walk, nearly all downhill, brings us to Barfrestone, a tiny village where L’Arche Kent began life 40-odd years ago. The village church, with its curious carvings of musical canines, is some 800 years older than that. We then tack across country to the miner’s village of Aylesham, walking over the top of the coal fields and taking a breather at St Mary’s church Nonnington.
I’m sorry that the A-Z Tour of Britain has got a bit lost. Yesterday’s post about the local pilgrim must have scratched at the door of my conscience! I was looking for a photo for my piece on Truro in Cornwall when I came across this in a blog called ‘Ship of Fools’. It is part of a report by a mystery worshipper, describing the sermon s/he heard at Truro cathedral, given by the composer James Macmillan on 10/10/10. Forget my effort and read on! WT.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 – James Macmillan is a Roman Catholic, a lay Dominican, a musician and composer of note, not a preacher by trade, but he spoke very well and he was talking about the subject that is his passion. It was a privilege to hear him (and his music!). He had been there to deliver a lecture the previous evening, but sadly I didn’t know that. He had, incidentally, composed some of the music used at services during the recent papal visit.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The gospel reading was Luke 17:11-19 (Jesus heals ten lepers, instructing them to show themselves to the priests). The ten lepers had to show themselves to the priests because the priest could authorise their readmission to the society from which they had been ostracised. But one (a Samaritan, no less) comes back and gives thanks and praise to Jesus on the surface a useless thing to do but Jesus lets him know that it was the right thing to do and wonders why the other nine didn’t bother. The one who gave thanks was more concerned with praising God than with following the prescribed ritual for readmission. Giving praise may baffle the contemporary world because it is perceived to be useless, but when we raise our voices in song it is not about the consequences. The parting of the Red Sea is the prime event in the Old Testament and Jewish history, and out of it comes the Song of Moses. The Song of Songs is the ultimate love song. Sometimes words are not enough. It is love that moves us to sing. The psalms were sung in Old Testament times and the psalter is the original prayer book. Pope Benedict has called music “the sober inebriation of faith”.
Image by Simon Lewis via wikipedia
I read recently of a Christian community that starts the count down to Christmas 100 days out. I can’t help feeling they may lose some of what we should observe and celebrate during those three months. Here in England that includes Harvest and All Saints. For Catholic Christians the discipline of the season’s readings bring us to the final feast of Christ the King.
But there are preparations that do begin in September or October. Mrs T has made but not decorated the cake; N the pudding, while I began the sloe gin which is slowly(!) turning red and fruity.
Sloe gin essentially is foraged sloes – pierced with a fork, sugar and gin sealed in a Kilner jar which has to be shaken frequently; I’ll do it in a minute. If we were Anglicans, we would have been stirred, not shaken, on that last Sunday in November:
Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Plenteous fruit was stirred into many a Christmas pudding that day!
There’s plenteous fruit in our cake and our pudding, and plenty in the sloe gin. Maybe we’ll take a sip at Christmas, while the sloes themselves will make a fine marinade for the family meal.
And may we bring forth plenteous good works this Christmas, whether we are shaken or stirred as we go through Advent!
The WORLD is not this little Cottage of Heaven and Earth. Though this be fair, it is too small a Gift. When God made the World He made the Heavens, and the Heavens of Heavens, and the Angels, and the Celestial Powers. These also are parts of the World: So are all those infinite and eternal Treasures that are to abide for ever, after the Day of Judgement. Neither are these, some here, and some there, but all everywhere, and at once to be enjoyed.
The WORLD is unknown, till the Value and Glory of it is seen: till the Beauty and the Serviceableness of its parts is considered. When you enter into it, it is an illimited field of Variety and Beauty: where you may lose yourself in the multitude of Wonders and Delights. But it is an happy loss to lose oneself in admiration at one’s own Felicity: and to find GOD in exchange for oneself: Which we then do when we see Him in His Gifts, and adore His Glory.
A scientist as well as a poet can happily lose himself or herself in comtemplation.
A VERY noble and tender youth entered the Order of Saint Francis; the which after some days, through the prompting of the devil, began to hold the habit that he bore in such hate, that it seemed unto him he wore a sack most vile; the sleeves he abhorred, he hated the hood, and the length and the roughness thereof were unto him as a load unbearable, A mislike of the religious life increasing more and more, he was purposed to put off the habit and return to the world.
Now already it was his wont, according as his master had taught him, so often as he passed before the altar of the convent, whereon was kept the Body of Christ, to kneel with great reverence, and draw back his hood, and with arms crossed bow himself down. It befell that on the night whereon he was to go away and leave the Order, he must needs pass before the altar of the convent; and as he passed, he kneeled him down as was his wont and did reverence.
And forthwith he was rapt in spirit and God showed unto him a wondrous vision: in that he saw before him as it were a countless multitude of saints, like a procession, two and two, clad in beauteous robes of precious stuffs, and their faces and their hands shone like the sun, and they marched to the songs and chants of angels. Among these saints were twain more nobly clad and adorned than all the rest; and they were wrapt around with so much brightness that they wrought exceeding great amazement in whoso looked on them; and nigh to the end of the procession he saw one adorned with great glory that he seemed a new-made knight, more honoured than they all. The youth beholding the vision aforesaid, marvelled exceedingly and knew not what this procession might portend, and dared not ask, but stood all mazed for very sweetness.
The Blessed Sacrament reserved at Greyfriars, Canterbury.
I wonder, dare I introduce yet another Celtic Princess and Saint?
Endellion was a sister to Tydfil, the South Wales Martyr; their father was King Brychan of South Wales. It seems there was a family-run mission from Wales to Cornwall – the royal family was as busy then as their descendants are today, but more directly evangelising rather than fostering good works.
Even so, Endellion felt the call to a quieter life, spending more time in prayer as a hermit both in Cornwall near the village which bears her name today, and more remote from humanity, on Lundy Island. She had a cow, whose milk was her principal source of nourishment. I like to think of her making cheese as well as drinking the liquid milk, and sharing cheeses with her sister and brother, Saints Dilic and Nectan, who lived nearby.
Quite a family!
The story is that Endellion was martyred by Saxon pirates and buried on a hill-top, where a church in her name stands to this day. The icon was made by John Coleman in 2005; we were glad to see such a peaceful figure in the church. Her cow is there and the symbol of themartyr’s palm, in view of her death at the hands of heathen men.
The Church hosts many concerts and arts events as well as its regular Anglican worship.
This reflection is from Sri Lanka; it challenges us at the most basic level. Do we know that the tea (or coffee) we drink is produced by slave labour or free? The reflection and prayers based on it can be found at the Anglican USPG website on their Pray with the World Church page. Reflection by Fr Lakshman Daniel, of the Church
In the mid-nineteenth century, poor Indian Tamil plantation
workers were brought to Sri Lanka, then called Ceylon, to
sustain the tea industry, mainly in the central hills of Sri Lanka.
Today, this community is held in a modern form of slavery,
facing many socio-cultural and political concerns. The Church
of Ceylon is doing what it can to help children, who are the most
vulnerable group within the tea estate communities.
Our Estate Community Development Mission runs nursery
schools and after-school centres for some of the most vulnerable
children. The children are given a meal and teachers provide
activities which help the children educationally and socially.
This work is helping to change a culture of dependence:
rather than depending on the employment of tea estate owners,
children are being prepared for a formal education. And we
are pleased to report that children from many tea estates
have been supported through A Levels and even provided with
scholarships so they can attend university.
It is not the will of God that anyone should live as slaves. Therefore, we are taking every possible step to support
sustainable development to ensure peace and prosperity in this
community, with both material and spiritual growth.
Afterword from Pope Francis:
Modern forms of slavery … are far more widespread than previously imagined, even – to our scandal and shame – within the most prosperous of our societies …God’s cry to Cain, found in the first pages of the Bible – ‘Where is your brother?’ – challenges us to examine seriously the various forms of complicity by which society tolerates, and encourages, particularly with regard to the sex trade and the exploitation of vulnerable men, women and children.
‘We can’t stop what we can’t see, and once we see it we can’t unsee it.’
We return to USPG for this article by Ruth de Barros, who helps to co-ordinate a USPG funded social action programme in the Diocese of the Amazon. Human trafficking is not a pleasant topic of conversation but we need to become more aware of this insidious exploitation of our sisters and brothers. See posts on October 30 and 31 last year. This is an area where Churches work together around the world.
Human trafficking has been a concern of the Diocese of the Amazon for some time.
One woman was taken to Suriname with promises of a better life. But the traffickers brainwashed her, buying her expensive gifts in exchange for selling her body. In time she had two children – children born in these circumstances are often sold and used for child labour.
Happily, this woman’s uncle managed to find her children and bring them back to Brazil. Later, with help from the church and the police, the uncle also rescued his niece, together with a five-year-old his niece had rescued from a family enslaved in the gold mines.
A common ruse of traffickers is to trick parents into sending their sons to special football schools in the hope that their sons might become wealthy football stars. These families are often living in extreme poverty with low levels of education. They fall for the sweet talk of the criminals. They send their sons, then completely lose contact with them because they have been trafficked for sexual exploitation or child labour. The Anglican Church is raising awareness about trafficking and providing legal support to help.
O God, you have created us all in your own image
to reveal your glory, compassion and love.
Help us to see your face in every human being,
and to work together for the dignity and worth of all.
‘We can’t stop what we can’t see, and once we see it we can’t unsee it.’