Tag Archives: Benedictines

25 April, Prudence II: Prudence is Like a Dance.

 

e-d-dancing

Saint Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica (II.II) writes at length on the virtues.  This is an unsurpassed source text for anyone wishing to make a deeper study of them.  About prudence, he says,

Prudence is love discerning rightly that which helps from that which hinders us in tending to God.

And,

Prudence is knowledge of what to seek and what to avoid.

And,

A prudent man is one who sees as it were from afar, for his sight is keen and he foresees the event of uncertainties.

These are wonderful, life-affirming statements.  Imagine for a moment substituting our name for the word prudence in the remarks above: “John is someone whose love discerns rightly that which helps from that which hinders us in tending to God.”  Or, “Amanda has the ability to know what to seek and what to avoid in the complexities of human existence.”  What a wonderful, peace-giving thing it would be to have such an ability.aquinas-carlo_crivelli_007

Saint Thomas Aquinas helps us to understand the virtue of prudence by analysing the “parts” of prudence.  Prudence isn’t simply one thing, existing as a sort of spiritual lump. As a virtue, prudence comprises other abilities.  Prudence, in Saint Thomas’s thinking, is a bit like a dance, then, with a number of different steps.  When learning a dance, we break it down into its steps, practice the steps individually, and then eventually put them all together.   And we’re dancing!  Tomorrow we will begin to learn the steps.

SJC.

Saint Thomas Aquinas by Carlo Crivelli

E.D. Dancing at her First Communion, by MMB.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

24 April: The Virtue of Prudence: I, Worth Striving for.

 

360px-picnic_melocco

We don’t hear much about virtue nowadays.  We hear a lot about public people who seem to have no virtue.  In some cases, they appear to be getting away with it, becoming famous, rich, glamorous people.  Yet, often they leave behind a trail of destruction, from failed relationships, to substance abuse, to the obsessive search for new medical treatments aimed at halting time’s affect on their appearance.  How can such an existence be a happy one?  Or there are others in the media whose lack of virtue leads to behaviours and attitudes that few seem to admire.  The media likes to gloat over that kind of moral failure and condemn it in huge headlines – while adverts in the same publication hypocritically try to sell us another, more glossy, version of the same vice.  We live in confusing times, and to praise someone for his or her virtue, to name the virtues and speak of them in a positive light – to talk about prudence, for example, as a quality worth striving for: well, that wouldn’t sell many newspapers.

Yet, prudence is a beautiful thing, so balanced, discerning and wise.  It is eminently worth striving for.  In the next several posts I hope to say why this is so, and make up a little for some of the silence that seems to surround the virtues in our culture.

First, the virtue of prudence is one of a cluster of four moral virtues, the other three being temperance, fortitude and justice.  As moral virtues, we must understand that these require some work on our part.  But, this is not a hopeless task: God has given us the potential to develop all the virtues through prayer, the commitment of our will, and the follow-up behaviours that are consonant with the virtue.

Before turning to prudence, it is good to reflect for a moment on the notion of virtue itself.  To speak of virtue is not to speak of an occasional good action.  We are talking about a power which the soul acquires.  A virtue is something we must exercise, yes, but in so doing, it becomes part of our very character as persons, part of our personality and nature.  It is not a mere role, or a good trick which we perform on a good day if we’ve got the energy.  Rather, a virtue becomes an outward expression of what has become intrinsic to us and part of our very identity.  It becomes a stable part of us, a habit of goodness.

SJC.

A monument to a picnic that led to the end of the Iron Curtain. The time was right, and people acted with prudence. We’ll learn more on 19 August, the anniversary of the event. Picnic monument by Kaboldy

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

March 20: A Sandwich for Saint Cuthbert

_Cuthbert.Durham

March 20 is the feast of St Cuthbert, who died on this day in 687. There is a story that one Friday, the bishop of Lindisfarne, Saint Cuthbert was welcomed into an isolated farmstead by a woman who offered to feed him and his horse. ‘Stay and eat’, she said, ‘for you won’t reach home tonight.’ But Cuthbert would not break his Friday fast, so he rested a while, let her care for his horse, and pressed on his way. It got dark well before he was in sight of home so he found shelter in a tumbledown, empty, isolated shepherd’s hut.

Here his horse began to pull down the thatch of the roof to have something to eat, but even Cuthbert could not see thatch as food for a man, however hungry he might be. The horse carried on attacking the roof, making the best of what was available in this wild place. As it pulled at the thatch, a packet fell to the floor; when the good bishop opened it he found bread and meat, the meat still warm. He shared the loaf with his beast as he gave thanks to God. How did the meal get there? Was it concealed by the hospitable woman as she tended his horse back at the farm? Cuthbert did not know, but he was happy to eat what was provided after his day of fasting had finished – for like the Muslims at Ramadan today, he would have counted sunset as the day’s end.

In Muslim countries today, many Christians will observe the fast in solidarity with their neighbours. So  let us enjoy our sandwiches – yes, even in this season of Lent – to thank the Lord who provides the food, as Cuthbert did, and to share in the ministry of hospitality, like the woman on the farmstead.

Cuthbert in a wall painting at Durham Cathedral.

Please remember in your prayers Abbot Cuthbert Johnson OSB, sometime Abbot of Quarr, who died on January 16, 2017. He was from Saint Cuthbert’s diocese and was ministering there when he fell sick and died.                         Will T.

Photo from thepelicans.org.uk where you can read Abbot Cuthbert’s obituary and an address he gave for the Missionaries of Africa to whom he remained close. http://thepelicans.org.uk/obituaries/obits24.htm#pjohnson

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

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.

MMB.

 

Read and watch more at these links:

Canterbury to Dallas 1

Canterbury to Dallas 2

Leave a comment

Filed under Interruptions, Reviews

21 January: Saint Agnes

benedictxvi-pallium-442x640

Pope Benedict XVI wearing a pallium, and a mitre  with the Good Shepherd and his sheep.

Catholics will be familiar with Agnes’ name since she is mentioned in the First Eucharistic Prayer as one of the great early martyrs. She suffered death in her early teens. It seems unlikely that we would respect a modern teenager the way the Church has celebrated Agnes for 1700 years; perhaps we have something to learn from our ancestors!

 Agnes was from a noble family who were too prominent to avoid attention in the early fourth century persecutions. When she was arrested, she was steadfast in saying that she was a Christian. It is said that she was desired as a wife or mistress by one of the magistrates. No doubt this would have enabled her to escape execution, but she did not yield.

She was to be burned alive but the wood would not light; instead, Saint Ambrose tells us, she was decapitated with a sword.

There is a special tradition linked to Saint Agnes. On her feast day two lambs are brought from the Abbey of Tre Fontane to be blessed by the pope. When they are shorn later in Spring, the wool is woven by the Benedictine nuns of Saint Caecilia’s Abbey to make Palliums. These special collars are given to new Archbishops by the pope on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. Carrying lambs’ wool on the shoulder reminds the Archbishop that he is to be a good shepherd to his flock.

MMB

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

6 January: Epiphany

 

moon-bow

Even those of little faith are predisposed

on Christmas Eve for wonder, I suppose,

as night grows late and great with child.

Those shepherds of so long ago had trained their eyes

on earth: too much of gazing up at skies

and sheep go missing in the wild.

 

Thus shepherds don’t discourse with angels as a rule.

Nor I.  But I am keen on tidings yule

and probably disqualified.

Still, hear me out: I went about my routine tasks

with eyes on earth before the midnight mass,

expecting bread and wine to hide

 

not less – or more – than mystery.  Outside the door

the night was lit.  I stopped.  I’d not before

known midnight give a bird its note

as though at dawn, but softly as a lullaby –

and earth become all ear, with no reply

but something catching in the throat.

 

But if you think the wonder of the bird and song

the marvellous epiphany, you’re wrong.

It was the sky – no other place.

Susceptibility in me won’t sink so low

as claim a real miracle – oh no.

Yet, as I gazed at outer space,

 

I saw full mother-moon and off-spring aura bright,

and a second aura capture light from light –

with light-years singing in between:

Hosannas heaved.  I heard them.  Not with day-time ears,

but night-ears heard their music, calming fears

of aeons. So: epiphany.

 

I took it back inside with me as I returned

to routine tasks with thoughts of heaven.  I’d learned

to train my eyes on high surprises.

SJC

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, poetry

Mary, Mother and Queen

Dear Friends,

On this feast of the Mother of Our Lord  I pass on this story from the Missionaries of Africa about a new

Benedictine Abbey of sisters in Zambia.

Let us pray for them and our own sisters at Minster.

Mary Queen and Gate of Heaven, pray for them.

Saint Benedict and Saint Scholastica, pray for them.

Saint Mildred, pray for them.

Lord God, we ask you to bless these your servants and keep them dedicated to you. Amen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Interruptions

25 December: Christmas

acrobats 

 Can he who hurls the lightening from the top

and swirls the rain,

disarm us with a baby’s grin and stop

earth’s spin?  Then start again?

Can he be like a jester – on his head –

quite turned around?

Or is it us – bewildered thoughts unsaid –

who’re upside down?

 

Of course, the problem’s us and not with God.

We think we Know.

We think our view is true – and his plain odd.

But he’s below

so far is he above.  He is a mite,

so vast is he,

so full of life as to become finite –

a non-entity:

 

an infant God.  And poor, do not forget.

So strange, this tale.

We hear it year by year and love it, yet

we simply fail

to follow footsteps leading down.  We fall

instead – yes, all –

which is as well because the paradox, recall,

is this: God’s small.

SJC

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, poetry

Interruption: Advent

hlaes-pla-single-star

Sister Johanna sent us her Advent poem a couple of weeks ago. It’s taken me too long to get to work on publishing it, but savour it – and spend a few minutes out in the dark, even if, like me, you can manage that in the evening instead of Before the day breaks.

WT

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

Advent

dawn

that long solemn moment called Before –

Before the dawn, when deepest darkness reigns,

I rise from sleep in blackest night once more

content without sun’s reassuring flames.

 

I like to be awake to see the mild

rays begin – gently – lifting the sleeping night.

Just so, the father lifts the sleeping child.

Just so, their advent fills my sky with light.

SJC

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, poetry