There are signs of hope. Here is Francis, Bishop of Rome, receiving a blessing from Justin, Archbishop of Canterbury. No charade, surely? The Pope would not bring about scandal by seeking a blessing from a heretic schismatic. When Bishop Nicholas Hudson joined Bishop Trevor Willmott in blessing the congregation at Canterbury Cathedral, what were we to make of the implied recognition of value in Anglican orders?
The scandal is not that these isolated events happen, but that we lack the courage of our convictions, so they remain isolated. Forty years ago I was assured that, juridically, Anglican orders were all valid since Old Catholic bishops had taken part in enough ordinations to ensure recognition of Anglican Apostolic Succession.
In another church, a good distance from Canterbury, a Catholic bishop was ordained recently, with his friend, co-worker and Anglican bishop, robed on the sanctuary. It was good to see him there, but he was not invited to join the Catholic bishops by laying hands on the ordinand.
And the announcement that day deterring non-Catholics from receiving the Eucharist? If a bishop being ordained is not one of those special occasions when Eucharistic hospitality is to be encouraged, I’m not clear when it may be grudgingly permitted. Put out into the deep!
Well, dear readers, this is the start of the post-FISC Agnellus’ Mirror. The Franciscan International Study Centre is no more. Who knows were the future will take us? Although the Centre kindly adopted us, we were separate enough to feel bereaved but neither divorced nor terminally compromised when its closure was announced. There are still Franciscans on God’s earth and we’ll try to be in that number, even if not all of us count ourselves among the first, second or third orders in all the ecumenical cousinage of the Poor Man’s family. For the present we will continue to be based in Canterbury, but we have contributors across the UK and further afield. Please continue to walk with us and pray with us.
Let’s turn our backs on the removal men and take ourselves to Shropshire with Mary Webb, poet of the early 20th Century. Her reflections this week inspire a Franciscan Exclamation: Laudato Si’ !
John had a degree in chemistry and a job that used his skills and experience. His employers were sympathetic to the needs of their employees, and tried hard to accommodate John’s mental ill-health but they parted company when he became unable to do his work and was in a mental hospital under a section.
Around this time John visited and told us he blamed his plight on past drug misuse that had permanently affected the way his brain worked.
His face comes to mind when I am approached by beggars or homeless people: would giving them money be giving bread or a stone? (Matthew 7:9) Another question: would I give my son money in the near-certain knowledge that it would be spent on mind-altering drugs? (Thank God he has more sense.) But at least I can trust ‘Catching Lives’ to use my donations to provide nourishment, support and shelter.
For example: Catching Lives run Canterbury Community Shelter:
It is open throughout December, January and February, in partnership with 7 churches in Canterbury and provides overnight accommodation for rough sleepers to shelter from the cold weather, and to work with staff and volunteers to find more permanent housing.
A strong team of volunteers carries out a variety of roles:
- Kitchen volunteers to help cook and serve supper for the shelter guests.
- Evening volunteers to welcome the guests in, play board games, chat, etc.
- Overnight volunteers to support the paid staff at the church halls.
- Volunteers to take bedding to and from the church halls in mornings and evenings.
No-one can claim this is the answer to a complex web of problems, but it is bread, not stones.
There were four of us living in the L’Arche house, a couple of kilometres from the community hub, but just by the railway station. Marie and I were cooking ribs and rice with salad. The door bell rang, and rang again. Gwen and Andrew had almost an hour before the next train to Canterbury: come in, sit down, you’ll join us of course.
The bell rang again: three coming off the down train; that made nine, and six friends walking by the top of the road also came down to our door.
I do remember there were eventually fifteen souls – and fifteen spicy ribs: one each! Plenty of rice, even if cooked in relays as none of our pans were big enough; plenty of salad, and there just happened to be a cake and plenty of room on the floor.
Not the meal we’d planned exactly, but we all ate what was placed before us, some with forks, some with spoons, (Luke 10 again) and some of the visitors helped with the washing up!
The photo shows preparations for another shared meal at L’Arche Kent, 30 odd years on. I think Peter, second right, was among us at the spontaneous occasion described above.
Or even ‘H is for Home’. This city has become home as nowhere else in my life, now I’ve spent more than half my days here. Here are the streets where my students have lived, the schools, community centres, libraries and halls where I’ve taught them anything from the basics of maths and English to art, cookery or even simple motor mechanics. Here is the court where I’ve supported students, the chip shop where more than one has greeted me, years after our lessons ceased …
… but here too, closer to my heart, is a family home of thirty years, infused with memories: three generations of Turnstones have made their mark – young Abel too! He had best watch out, though granddad heard about it when felt pen strayed onto the table surface! Remember too that the previous generation, our children’s grandparents were frequent visitors and remain part of the fabric of their growing up in this place.
Canterbury is special, even if the city centre is increasingly given over to big business rather than small, let alone to worship. Even the signposts all through the town are in the corporate style of the Whitefriars’ shopping centre. And despite the continuous noise of traffic, and the fumes that poison the air, it has been a good place to raise a family. There is still green space. And we do have access to the cathedral and the deep silence of centuries of prayer.
We may whinge about the busloads of continental teenagers spilling out of the pound shops, but we’ll miss them when they stop coming. Regimented private schools may be well-behaved, but lack their vitality.
We’ll also miss the Franciscans when they close the Study Centre and leave Greyfriars chapel this summer, but this is home, its churches, shops, level crossings and traffic queues, old friends and acquaintances, and corners unvisited except when friends stop by. I guess we’re here while the next generation are based hereabouts; this is home.
Much is written about St Brendan (whose day it is today) and his epic voyages across the seas to bring the Gospel to others. There is even a myth he may have reached South America. However, I wanted to write about another saint who is lesser known and whose day this is also. John Stone lived at the time of the Reformation which has become an interest of mine due to a series of novels by the historian C J Sansom. The books are about a hunchbacked lawyer called Matthew Shardlake and his adventures during tremendously unstable times for religious thinking and belief in King Henry VIII’s reign.
John Stone was a Doctor of Theology from Canterbury who opposed the King’s wish to divorce his first wife Catherine of Aragon. During the dissolution of the monasteries all religious were expected to sign a document which acknowledged the King as the Head of the church in England – The Act of Supremacy. John Stone refused to sign and was carted off to the Tower where, C J Sansom tells us, torture was inflicted on the prisoners. It was a brutal and grisly time – has the world improved, I wonder? John was returned to Canterbury to be tried. He was found guilty under the Treason’s Act and hung, drawn and quartered, his head and body being left on display for being a traitor.
Sansom’s novels show us the profits and land deals that were made on the back of the sale of religious houses and properties. Of course, the full truth was riddled with complexities and the changing whims of King Henry, yet those who do not follow the tenets of more dictatorial leaders, even in our times, are subject to persecution. Men of principle, such as John Stone, however, shine forth. I do recommend Mr Sansom’s books but beware, once you read one, you will want to read them all. What shall I do when I reach the end of his final book in the series? Sob!
The Contemporary Theology Group convenes lectures at St Peter’s Methodist Church on a monthly basis for the first half of the year. Entry is £3 per person per lecture, and the evening begins at 7:45pm unless stated otherwise.
Wednesday 19th April Robert Willis (Dean of Canterbury Cathedral) – Is the Church in need of a new reformation?
Jesus, arms outstretched, at the start of his earthly life. Statue at Hales Place. The Sacred Heart emblem has been lost from his breast, but the Cross is on his shoulder.
One Sunday after Mass Friends of the Franciscan Study Centre walked to Hales Place Jesuit Chapel in aid of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society’s Big Mile appeal. There we read the following prayer by Père Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, once a student at the Jesuit College, since demolished.
Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.
Ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.
Holy Week must have seemed a long and anxious time for Jesus.
Let us bring before him all the impatience, instability, anxiety and incompleteness felt by ourselves and those we love. I ask you to remember especially all of us connected with the Franciscan Study Centre as its mission here in Canterbury comes to an end.
I trust Sister Johanna will allow me to continue reflecting on human will from another angle. WT.
Litter-picking is one of those fatigues that children in school resent. It’s one thing to pick up your own litter, another when it comes to other people’s. I try not to be resentful when I do my turn around our locality – turning over scraps of paper, bottles and cardboard coffee cups, instead of stones on the beach. But that’s more difficult when it comes to cigarette ends. (GRRRR!)
I tell myself the parable about the son who didn’t want to do what his father asked, while the other just made promises. Well, the first one: ‘afterwards, being moved with repentance, he went’. (Matthew 21:29).
My repentance was less than 100%! But a little reward came my way one day just before Christmas. Shining in a ray of winter sun, a very early snowdrop.
And better, surely, to do the job with a degree of anger than not at all? I was doing what I would have done had I been 100% repentant – and the job got done.
Tomorrow evening at 7.00 Fr Austin McCormack will give the next of his lectures on “The world Jesus sees – Reflections on the Beatitudes”.
At the Franciscan International Study Centre, Giles Lane, Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NA