Tag Archives: bridge

August 22: I is for Ironbridge.

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Ironbridge: the name says it. All those glorious structures like the Forth Bridge, Sydney Harbour, the Howrah, the Golden Gate and the bridge at Victoria Falls, owe their ancestry to this iron bridge over the Severn in Shropshire.

A bold venture to build a bridge of cast iron so high above the river in 1779. The beams were cast on site since transporting them would have been difficult. But would it work? Abraham Darby must have been an excellent mathematician, blessed with patience to check each step of his calculations and each stage of the casting, the building of foundations and assembly of the bridge. Here it stands today, carefully maintained, like the Forth Bridge and all those others. My grandfather, a Shropshire lad, took me to see it aged about five; it impresses me more now than it did then, unlike so many things.

Crossing the river here safely was a dream made real by Darby and the men who dug his coal, smelted, transported and cast his iron; masons, surveyors, painters. He and they had to trust in the laws of physics as they understood them. The people who keep the bridge alive –  it is still open to pedestrians – apply the physics and chemistry they understand to prevent rust, metal fatigue and erosion.

The dirt and hard labour of the Industrial Revolution have gone, leaving the Severn Gorge free from dark Satanic Mills. But if we are to build Jerusalem in England’s green and pleasant land we need an understanding of what we are about, and how to ensure dirt, fatigue, rust and erosion do not stop us working together.

God, come to our aid, Lord, make haste to help us!

Laudaato Si’!

MMB.

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July 3; Relics I: Relics and the Altar

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Not long ago, a relic of Saint Thomas Becket was brought back briefly to Canterbury from Hungary, where it had helped the Church resist persecution by the Communist regime. There were many Hungarian martyrs whose names will never be known to the rest of the world. The link that Thomas’s relic represents to the European and world-wide Church, through the past  840 years, was greatly appreciated there. (Another relic was sent to El Salvador following the martyrdom of Saint Oscar Romero.)

This event set me thinking about relics, and I turned first to Monsignor Ronald Knox and his little book The Mass in Slow Motion, published by Sheed & Ward in 1948. We read from pages 14-15.

[The altar] stone has been consecrated long ago, by a bishop; and the bishop in consecrating it fills up some holes in it with – what do you think? Tiny bits of relics of the saints. People used to use relics of that kind rather freely in the Middle Ages; they used to put them into bridges, for instance, so as to be sure that the bridges held up… Even a military chaplain carries round with him an altar stone, with relics let into it, and he must never say Mass without having that stone on the soap-box or whatever it is he is using for an altar.

mercylogoNow, just as he is going to begin the Mass proper, the priest rushes up to the altar, kisses it, and says, “We beseech thee, 0 Lord, by the merits of those saints whose relics are here, and of all the saints, to be indulgent towards my sins “. The saints whose relics are here – why is that so important? Why, because in the very early days, when the Christians at Rome were being persecuted, they used to meet for worship in the catacombs … There the Christians used to bury the poor mangled remains of their friends who had been killed in the persecution; and on the tombstones raised over these bodies of the martyrs the Roman bishop used to say Mass. And when the priest, saying those words, kisses the tiny relics tucked away in the altar-stone, he reminds himself, if he has any sense of history, that by that action he is putting himself in touch, so to speak, with the Universal Church that is in Communion with Rome.

  • Saints of the ancient Church of Rome: pray for us.
  • All saints of this place where I find myself: pray for us.

Here is a story about a long-lost altar stone which tells about the present day policy towards relics as well as the tradition of the last few centuries. Toronto Altar Stone.

Parts of this weeks’ reflections have appeared in the Independent Catholic News website. http://www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=30282

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9 May Monday: Make his paths straight

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Sometimes the Bible seems to contradict itself. For example we read that God wants sacrifice, or else that he insists that he does not. Well, I rather enjoy one minor contradiction, setting:

‘Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough ways plain’ (Isaiah 40:3) against: ‘I have lifted up my eyes to the mountains, from whence help shall come to me.  My help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.’ (Psalm 120:1-2)

Where would the world be without mountains? I don’t want them all bulldozed, though I am glad of the tunnels, cuttings, banks, bridges and viaducts that make a highway or a railway through them: a colossal feat of human ingenuity and hard work to conceive, construct and maintain them. But lest we get above ourselves by taking too much pride in our works, or give in to the self-improvement temptation and set about to construct a self-designed ‘real me’, let us look to the mountain top.

DSC_0309 (373x640)Unlike Moses, we do not need to go up there to see God. And even when we have our moments, like the Apostles with Jesus on the mountain of Transfiguration (Matthew 17), the daily round soon awaits us.

Those special moments are gifts, most of them not obviously religious in nature. Time spent with a loved one, a walk by the sea or in the hills; even the journey home from work: that acquaintance who greeted us, a smile and good news on their lips? Did you hear the thrush? Or notice the rainbow? As Paul tells us, there are diversities of gifts, including that of discernment! (1Corinthians 12).

Let us be thankful for the gifts we have received, and let us look up and pray, every day, for discernment.

MMB.

Buttermere Chapel, English Lake District. Rain outside.

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