“What is theology saying?”8. 01/12: What morality did Jesus teach?9. 08/12: Should we renounce the world or change it?10. 15/12: Is there salvation in other religions?
Tag Archives: Autumn
Near Margate there was a small picturesque village called Minton and at its heart was a very old monastery occupied by Benedictine nuns. ‘T’ thought it might be a good idea to pay a visit in order to both soak up some of the local history and also gain some perspective on what the residents of the place got up to all day long. Plans were made and early one blustery morning what appeared to be two Chihuahuas and a middle-aged man boarded the fast train for St. Pancras at Margate, changed at Ramsgate, and detrained near their destination just a little while later.
As the trio trekked through the quiet streets of the village, each was impressed by the autumnal beauty. ‘I just love the smell of falling leaves!’ Alfie, ever the romantic, exclaimed. ‘T’ gave the Chihuahua a strange look and cocked a half-smile. ‘You know, you’re right, Alfie, but in my human persona I would never have thought to put it that way. People might notice the sweetly musty smell…but it’s the colour, texture, and sight of exuberant movement as the bright leaves swirl in the wind that thrills the eye rather than the nose.’ Both Chihuahuas snorted good-natured derision, marvelling- not for the first (or last) time- at the amazing eccentricities of the human race.
The gate opening to the wonderland of garden that fronted the ancient monastery was invitingly unlocked and the visitors slowly made their way up a narrow tarmacked path heading for a stone chapel where, inside, they could hear faint strains of lyrical chanting. ‘Look!!!’ Alfie’s tone was filled with wonder, ‘a parakeet…and we’re not even on safari!’ It was true. Not one but a pair of iridescent green feathered missiles tipped with ruby red streaked across the wide space above the dewy landscape as the awe-struck travellers looked on until, with a chatter of dismissive squawks, they were gone; most likely to gorge on sunflower seeds in a nearby field.
‘Will they, you know…’ Ajax gulped, remembering the keen sense of rejection felt when the Chihuahuas were denied entrance to Westminster Abbey, ‘allow dogs inside?’ ‘Well, we can only try,’ the Director murmured; attempting to sound soothing, he also had some doubts. As the inter-planetary fact-finders, disguised as a tall man and two very diminutive dogs, tiptoed through the great oak door of the chapel there was no one present to hinder them and soon they were reverently seated and awash in the strange, achingly beautiful harmonies of voices, both plaintive and exultant, raised in chanted prayer. Among the dozen or so nuns situated in their stalls in the sanctuary of the small building one or two did notice the rapt canine presence and a few feminine eye-brows were raised…yet, when all was said and done, and since it was patently obvious that the Chihuahuas were well-behaved, their presence was permitted (if not acknowledged) and the makings of a great convocation of creatures, those with two feet and those with four, was discreetly accomplished without any fuss at all.
To be continued
“What is theology saying?”5. 10/11: Who is Jesus Christ?6. 17/11: What difference does Grace make?7. 24/11: What about Original Sin?8. 01/12: What morality did Jesus teach?9. 08/12: Should we renounce the world or change it?10. 15/12: Is there salvation in other religions?
Godstone, Isle of Wight
R.S. Thomas knew a quiet place to pray, ‘In a country church’.
He … saw love in a dark crown
Of thorns blazing, and a winter tree
Golden with fruit of a man’s body.
I was walking through an apple orchard the day I composed this post, and enjoyed a golden apple left behind by the pickers. In brilliant sunshine it was warm to the taste. Come the winter, that orchard will be muddy and less inviting; the trees bare of all but small and deformed fruit, waiting for the birds to devour them, peck by peck.
Many church crucifixes are golden, from thinking that precious metal should be used to represent the precious death of the Lord. Perhaps R.S. Thomas has some thought of the love of the artists who made the crucifix or glass in his country church, but principally it is the body of the Lord he contemplates.
The physicality of that body came home to me as I bit into that warm golden apple. A man’s warm body growing cold on a winter tree, but a loving heart, crowned with flaming thorns, never growing cold.
The scandal of the cross is that it happened – and yet we adopt this as our Christian symbol, rather than an empty tomb, say, or the star of Bethlehem. Thereby we proclaim ourselves as sinners: the cross is not a good luck charm, it is a true story.
Let us pray that we do not ignore the fruit that is ripe for the picking on that winter (or spring, summer, autumn) tree; may we taste and see that the Lord is good. (Psalm 34:8)
 SP p29
A walk in the woods with Abel, now 16 months old, is another story. I’d greet all the dogs as a matter of course, but he enjoys them to the point of bubbling with laughter; there is disappointment that the brambles are now bare of blackberries, but even so he (and I) appreciate the seasons; puddles are for throwing stones into and exclaiming ‘splash’, or as near as we can get, while a big pine tree is for hide and seek.
Laudato Si’ !
12 October: Tomorrow night at 7.00 is the first of Fr Austin’s talks on
“What is theology saying?”
1.Can the Church’s teaching change?2. What did God really reveal?3. How about Papal infallibility?4. How should we explain the Eucharist?5.Who is Jesus Christ?6. What difference does Grace make?7. What about Original Sin?8. What morality did Jesus teach?9. Should we renounce the world or change it?10. Is there salvation in other religions?
Mercy in the Gospel of Luke
Monica Tobon, who writes for this blog as MLT, has another life, teaching at the Franciscan International Study Centre Canterbury (FISC) and bringing the Centre’s new website to birth.
She has just issued, on behalf of the centre, this invitation to join our community for one or more terms from October 2016 to June 2017. We have welcomed students from all around the world, women and men, religious, priests and lay; some Franciscans in all those groups, others not. We would gladly welcome you.
The Franciscan International Study Centre, Canterbury, is now accepting applications for our Sabbatical Programme 2016-17. We offer a welcoming community, peaceful atmosphere and beautiful hilltop location overlooking the ancient pilgrim city of Canterbury.
For Michaelmas Term the theme is Scripture; for Lent Term, Franciscan Studies, and for Trinity Term, Spirituality. Sabbaticals can last for between one and three terms.
Sabbatical students are also free to attend all modules of our Certificate in Franciscan Studies and most modules of our Certificate in Training for Franciscan Formation.
For more information email Monica Tobon, email@example.com, or call 01227 769349.
Read more about the Centre here: http://www.franciscans.ac.uk/
Autumn view of Canterbury from near FISC, Eleanor Billingsley.
The builder’s dog is staying with us. After days of lethargy, he consented to two long walks today; perhaps the dry weather inspired his enthusiasm.
As the evening fell, gloriously gold in the West, he asked for another turn round the park. Sister Moon began to climb out of the cloud on the eastern horizon. The busy world was hardly hushed, traffic roared on all roads out of the city, but a Japanese student whipped out her phone and braced her arms to film the moonrise.
With no camera handy, I’ll treasure the moment on the inward eye and be thankful for a new creation before my eyes.
And tomorrow, Thursday, is Thanksgiving Day in America.
Writing in today’s i newspaper, Stefano Hatfield finishes an article on the celebration:
For … my health, my friends and family – and the fact that I could put a turkey on the table should I choose to – I give immeasurable thanks, certain that it’s got nothing whatsoever to do with any ‘beneficient Father’.
Who does he think his thanks should be directed to? I’m grateful to the builder’s dog for enabling me to enjoy this evening, but he did not arrange the heavens for the half-dozen or so people who, like me and the student, stopped to enjoy it! Nor did he give us the ability to enjoy it. So whom should we be grateful to?