Tag Archives: Canada

28 March. Before the Cross XIV, Conform me to your likeness, Lord.

It’s always a joy to receive a post from Christina Chase. Here is her contribution to our season of reflections ‘Before the Cross’.

Meditation upon a crucifix,

remembering an image at Ste. Anne de Beaupré

of Christ with St. Francis of Assisi,

while having my bedroom wall crucifix in sight

Christina.cross1

Conform me to your likeness, Lord.

Arms for work, so strong and sure,

are not dependable

unless they’re open wide in love.

They cannot hold dear wisdom close

or carry souls in need,

they cannot lift the sobbing low to soaring heights of joy,

until they’re held and pinioned fast

by love’s relinquishing embrace.

Conform me to your likeness, Lord.

Legs of strength, so swift and free,

are but weak and purposeless

unless they run the endless race of love’s pursuit

and stand upon the heart of God —

for flight is stronger, swifter, freer, when nailed down

into the power of love.

Conform me to your likeness, Lord!

See me, here, little and lacking,

my own body twisted thin,

limbs immobile, lungs slowly failing.

Teach me, Lord, mould me, shape me,

move me in your stillness

with emulating love,

tell me from the silence

of the Cross that you love me,

and I will be able to go every where that you are.

© 2019 Christina Chase
Christina.cross2

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10 February: Not through vainglory: a response to Virginia Woolf

heart.of.pebbles

Saint Paul never tramped the byways of Palestine with Jesus, but he knew the Jewish Scriptures – to love the Lord your God with your whole being and your neighbour as yourself. He put it this way:

If there is therefore any exhortation in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any tender mercies and compassions, make full my joy, that ye be of the same mind, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind; doing nothing through faction or through vainglory, but in lowliness of mind each counting other better than himself; not looking each of you to his own things, but each of you also to the things of others.

Philippians 2:1-4.

You don’t have to be a Christian believer to look to the things of others, to work towards being of one accord with your neighbours. In a diverse society such as the United Kingdom today, that should be obvious. But that sense of solidarity does not predominate in everybody. I feel that it was what Virginia Woolf missed by trying to live the illusion – her own word – that she was somehow superior to others. Vainglory sums it up precisely.

And realising that it was vainglory to affect such superiority – or so I read her ending – she filled her pockets with stones and waded into the river. Woolf was certainly struggling with despair in her last months. The Hamilton Star recently told how researchers from Canada and Brazil created word clouds from her writings in happier times and those last months.

In the cloud created from her final months, the words include: little, miss, war, nothing, never, can’t and don’t. The researchers write that these “negative words” may indicate Woolf’s “thoughts of lack of efficacy, self-criticism, worthlessness, nostalgia, melancholy and mainly hopelessness.”

This is not to deny the mental illness that blighted Virginia Woolf’s life, which surely contributed to her thoughts of melancholy and hopelessness, despite her many privileges. Nor is it possible to compare her suffering with Paul’s time in chains and prison, nor to deny the power of God’s grace to work in her heart. Suicide is an extreme form of repentance, and Woolf was aware, perhaps morbidly aware, of causing suffering to others, and as her last letter shows, she wanted to end that. Let us, for every one who takes their own life, 

be … confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 1:6.

 

And let us remember, with thanks, that there is now formal and informal help for those in great distress that was not available to Virginia Woolf.

MMB.

 

 

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October 2: What Would You Do? The Beggar, I.

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Our good friend Christina Chase has allowed us to use this story from her own blog, ‘Divine Incarnate.’ It’s always worth reading her reflections; the second half of this will appear tomorrow. And thanks to her father Dan for the picture, which shows Christina’s hands cradling a family heirloom – a tin cup used by her grandfather in logging camps. Thank you for a glimpse into your family’s eternity!

It happened on a chilly September day, a simple moment that’s never left me. I was a young adult with my parents, following my eldest French-Canadian cousin in a tour of old Montréal. I remember the colourful splashes of garden amidst stone buildings, the glassed-in eatery where we had hot chocolate and poutine, and, indelibly, the old man begging outside of Notre Dame Basilica.

When I saw him, I was being pushed in my wheelchair by my father, because the sloping, cobblestone roads had tired me too much to power it myself. The imposing structure of the Basilica came into view from the sidewalk, soaring above us, and there, ahead of us, resting against the thick outer wall, was a man with grizzled gray hair, wearing faded clothes, and holding out a little cup in his hand.

Having lived a fairly sheltered life, I had never seen an actual beggar in person. Homeless people I had seen with their shopping carts downtown, but they were not beggars because they didn’t ask for anything. This man, however, this old bearded man with beautiful, wide-open eyes was holding out a little begging bowl, silently requesting someone, anyone, to help him.

What I Did

My cousin, an inhabitant of Montréal, was walking ahead of us and obviously saw the beggar, but didn’t stop walking and passed right in front of him. My parents followed suit, and so, I did too, literally pushed along with them. Perhaps they were thinking that any money given to the man could be used to buy alcohol or drugs and they didn’t want to take part in enabling his habit, but this thought didn’t occur to me.

In my youthful idealism, the sight of the beggar was a call to action. My immediate impulse was to put something into the old man’s cup, to do something for him, to at least give him my coin-sized care. In order to act on this, however, I would’ve had to stand out from my little group of people: asking my father to stop pushing my wheelchair and to take some money out of my bag to put in the little begging bowl. Easy enough, but thinking about the reactions of my group, I intimidated myself.

Of course I knew that my parents and cousin would think warmly of me if I asked to put money in the beggar’s cup. But that’s precisely what I didn’t want. I felt like a little girl, like any little child who gleefully wants to put money in every donation bucket that she sees. I still looked like a child, and often still felt like a child because I had to be cared for by my parents, but I was supposed to be an adult and I wanted to walk, so to speak, in the company of adults, not sticking out as the child among them.

Giving in to my pride and cowardice, I chose to go along with the crowd—a rather childish thing to do.

As I passed directly in front of the beggar and looked into his sky-blue eyes, it was as if we were both suspended in a chasm of time where I felt, where I knew, that I was about to pass by an irretrievable moment, an irreplaceable something. He did not look down at me, his gaze remaining straight and above me, and perhaps this was what made me look up to him so completely, experiencing the lowness of my place, as though I were down on my knees, dejected there on the pavement.

Broken away from that moment, I squirmed and fought myself to ask to turn back. But I didn’t. I let my childlike desire to help go unspoken, and as the beggar receded further and further into the background, I didn’t experience remorse so much as petulance. Like a petulant child, I thought only about my inabilities, placing fault on the others beside me while really angry with myself.

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March 12: Art and L’Arche.

heart.of.pebbles

The other evening we had a Pilgrims’ shared prayer and meal evening, ten or so of us members of L’Arche Kent. We prayed:

Father in heaven,
May the holy season of Lent
bring us your blessing and your forgiveness
and the gift of your light.

We had hearts printed on card and filled them with light, and pictures and words to represent our homes and the people we wanted to share in God’s blessing and light. Art in L’Arche.

My reflection afterwards was more on the practical details (it’s important to get these right!) so it was good to be recalled to the joys of Art in L’Arche by someone hiding behind the name interwebconvos who has been writing about her/his experience of  art in L’Arche. S/he also shared these blogs:

Here you can read of an  encounter with an artist  at L’Arche Daybreak in Toronto, and here is Debra’s account of making pumpkin pies at L’Arche.

It was good to be reminded of these events, and to remember encounters and conversations in my own life with L’Arche. I won’t start now, I’ve given you enough reading material for one day!

The pebble heart was from another friend, one we ought to introduce to L’Arche some time!

MMB

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10 February: O is for Oswestry

Stoswaldaskingnyplspencer1f89r.jpgThe Empire builders drew a straight line in the sand dividing Syria and Iraq, and all those similarly ruled boundaries in Canada and Australia. Was anyone asked would they rather be in Manitoba or Saskatchewan? Thank God those boundaries cause little friction.

The Welsh border with England has very few straight bits, and the area around Oswestry is a case in point. On the map England seems to have taken a huge bite out of Wales, and place names in English and Welsh turn up on either side of the border. Maesbury is a mishmash of the two, and Welsh Frankton is definitely in England.

The New Saints Football Club play in the Welsh Premier League but have their ground in Oswestry, England, and so it goes on.

The Old Saint of Oswestry was King Oswald of Northumbria who died at Oswald’s Tree – or Oswestry – in the 7th Century, battling against the pagan Mercians and their Welsh allies – who of course were more than capable of going to war against Mercia when the fit was on them. Or of marrying across the border as seems to have happened more than once in my own family.

Let us be grateful for peaceful co-existence along the Marches of England and Wales and pray for peace along the many borders that divide rather than unite people in our world today.

Oswald from a Ms in New York Public Library:
File:Stoswaldaskingnyplspencer1f89r.jpg From Wikipedia

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8 October: Take Care of You.

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Another L’Arche posting, sent by James, Community Leader here in Canterbury, but originating from the community in Bologna, Italy.

L'Arche Comunità L'Arcobaleno

Have you seen this 5 minute video by L’Arche International? It describes the changing nature of relationship between aging father and daughter (with Downs syndrome) beautifully – from L’Arche in Italy. Always brings a lump to my throat and describes really well both the humanity of the ‘cared for’ and the vulnerability and fragility of relationships. Well worth a quick watch with a cup of tea:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tD_DFwlDbXw&list=PL0_C91MnwZxSaSIjfAo3_Inim15dLwIU1&index=7

James Cuming

Community Leader – Director,

L’Arche Kent.

As you might expect, this link will also lead you to other short films about L’Arche around the world. I remember, when I worked in L’Arche Edmonton, meeting a professor who gave me a motto for working with people with disabilities: TRY ANOTHER WAY. L’Arche does just that, and it works.

MMB.

You can find L’Arche Kent on Facebook and at http://www.larche.org.uk/Sites/kent/Pages/about-larche-kent

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5 October: The Will of Saint Francis

This post is by a great friend of Will Turnstone’s blog. Writing at Divine. Incarnate, Christina has a unique vision of Christian Faith and Catholic tradition.Find her here: Christina Chase Thank you Christina for sharing this!

We join Christina in the Canadian Shrine of Sainte Anne de Beaupré.

Francois.Anne. beaupre.1Will T.

In a shadowy recess of the Basilica of Sainte Anne de Beaupré, I caught sight of a dimly lit bas-relief and felt myself drawn to it… and even changed by it.

Before I get to that, shortly – below the carving is a small statue of St. Francis of Assisi taking the body of Jesus off of the Cross. Of course, it is historically inaccurate. But, great art depicts the truth within and beyond facts. The artwork is meant to convey the love and life of Francis, who was so utterly devoted to God-Incarnate suffering in this world that he even developed the Stigmata, signs of Christ’s wounds on his own body. Francis’s arms are therefore shown to be encircling the body of Christ as he is ready to lift up his beloved Savior and catch him in embrace.

Francis is on tippytoe in his innocent eagerness, gazing upward in adoration, his hand curved and held in gentle wonder.

And I ask myself: do I want to embrace Christ this much?

Am I eager to carry the weight of his beaten and bloody body? Do I hold him in wonder and affection close to my heart? I wasn’t there when they crucified my Lord, but I am here, now, when the dying are crying out in pain and loneliness, and the abused are losing hope that anyone will carry them to safety. Is my heart suffering with theirs in true compassion, ready to do whatever I can to help – not to hesitate, but to give generously in love? Whatever I do for the least, I do for Christ.

Francois.Anne. beaupre.2

As I wrote in the beginning of this post, it was the bas-relief above the statue that most deeply moved me. I had to look up at it a long while before I could discern the figures and details. While realizing what I was seeing, I felt the cords of my heart being so sweetly touched that the exquisite song of joy spread all through me. Below is the image, the image which I am taking as my Faith Facilitator for this First Friday:

At first, I saw Jesus with his arms open wide, crucified. And Francis, in front of Jesus like a child, held his arms open wide in imitation, looking back and up at his Savior as though asking, “Like this?” Christ, the patient teacher, and Francis, the willing student. But, then… I saw that there were wings depicted behind Jesus, signifying Christ Resurrected, Christ Glorified and Ascended in Paradise. And I knew that Christ Jesus was teaching his beloved child… with open arms, a living Cross… how to fly….

Prayer:

Oh, my Lord and my God,

teach me to be little,

your little child,

so that I may grow big and strong like you.

Amen.

 

 

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August 30: L’Arche and Care IV: Returning to L’Arche.

Janet and I have a little more time that we can call our own, now that we are semi-retired. Mostly it does not feel like a choice between getting on with something and taking it easy: there is always something to be done!

We find ourselves returning to our local L’Arche Kent Community. There is always something to be done there, but we often find ourselves taking it easy in the doing of it.

l’Arche is a community where people with and without learning disabilities live and work together. At totally different times we have both lived and worked in communities in England and Canada, and we have kept in touch with friends in L’Arche Kent, in my case for forty years. We are getting to know newer core members and assistants as we spend more time with them.

Time: there are moments when any of us can feel it running away, and we take account of how we spend it. As my grandmother used to recite:

How doth the little busy bee

Improve each shining hour?

She gathers honey all the day

And knocks off at half past fower.”

(My Grandmother would not have apologised to Isaac Watts, but maybe I should.)

L’Arche slows us down, reminds us that being with people is as important as doing things for them – think back to my mother’s carers we mentioned the other day. The Corporal Works of Mercy are concerned with presence: visiting the sick and those in prison spring to mind. This is not to suggest that core members of L’Arche should be considered sick or prisoners, though when I first joined to community most of our core members had been incarcerated in what were called subnormality hospitals. The very name was dehumanising. After working in one of these places for a few months, I was glad to find a better way.

MMB

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