Tag Archives: Cathedral

18 November, Mercy: Love gives to every power a double power


Bishop John Jukes OFM, when he preached to the children at St Thomas’s Church Canterbury, asked them did baby Jesus have fingernails? He wanted to impress on them that Jesus was truly human, dependent on his mother at a young age.

‘Instructing the ignorant’ is one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy. If Jesus was truly human, Mary and Joseph must have instructed him. He was called the carpenter’s son (Matthew 13:55) and the carpenter (Mark 6:3). It would be wrong to imagine that he just knew what to do without being taught!

He also had to learn how to love, though like any baby he came into this world with every faculty needed to be able to. Look how the artist has made Mary watch her son while he brims with confidence as he blesses the pilgrims to Valencia Cathedral. A Son of God who did not love us would be terrible indeed. Instead he loves:

But love, first learnèd in a lady’s eyes,
Lives not alone immurèd in the brain,
But, with the motion of all elements,
Courses as swift as thought in every power,
And gives to every power a double power,
Above their functions and their offices.

Love’s Labours Lost 4.3

Look again at the statue: see the little photos within the folds? Women present themselves here, before the eyes, as it were, of Mary and Jesus, to ask for help in conceiving, or for the health of their children. Perhaps a mother’s eyes, looking upon Jesus and his mother, absorb blessings to give their power a double power: absorb the love of the Madonna and child, and she can  run with doubled power to her own child.

Pray for all mothers, may they always find the strength and power their children need.



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15 November: Mancunian Mercy, XIX Century Style.

manc.cathedral.Sporch by David Dixon at

Back in England, an old guide book[1] tells how the South Porch of Manchester Cathedral proclaims ‘To the honour and Glory of God and in thankful acknowledgement of many mercies this porch is erected by James Jardine of Manchester and Alderley Edge in the Year of Our Lord MDCCCXCI’. A door of Mercy then?

Jardine built himself a fine villa in the clean air of Alderley Edge a few years later. He had become head of a major cotton spinning firm, Shaw, Jardine and Co, despite humble beginnings. By ‘mercies’ did he mean personal prosperity? Was that God-given or derived in part from the imposition of lower wages in the dangerous spinning mills some years before this porch was built? The owners then showed no mercy to the workers who made them prosperous.

James Jardine provided in his will for two drinking fountains to be installed in Central Manchester. A measure of mercy at least. (Matthew 25:35)

mercy.carving. (328x640)Lest we feel too smug about the attitudes of rich people a century and more ago, we too all carry the taint of Mammon; in particular it is nigh on impossible to clothe oneself without wearing something produced by underpaid workers, if not modern slaves, overseas, where we only see them briefly when their factories collapse. How do we show mercy to them?

[1] Bell’s Cathedrals of England: The Cathedral Church of Manchester by the Rev Thomas Perkins, London, George Bell and Sons, 1901, p16. At http://www.ajhw.co.uk/books/book350/book350x/book350x.html

Manchester Cathedral, S Porch by David Dixon at http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/3870797 . Creative Commons Licence.

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Going through the Holy Door – in Zambia


mercy.carving. (328x640)As you pass through this Holy Door remember that Jesus is the Door who introduces you to God’s Mercy.

This is the Holy Door at Mongu Cathedral in Zambia, and the message that meets your eye as you pass through.

Here is an account of a pilgrimage there by K. C. Mukamba, Secretary, Namushakende Parish, with more pictures of the event, from the Missionaries of Africa.

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26 June: Year of Mercy Season: Doors of Mercy I

 holydoor.doug (373x640)

In Jubilee Years, declared by Popes, Holy Doors (doors of major Roman Basilicas normally sealed with mortar) become Doors of Mercy.  The doors are opened, allowing pilgrims seeking mercylogothe mercy of God to enter through these sacred doors.  This year, by the direction of the Holy Father, other church doors throughout the world, have been designated as Holy Doors to accommodate the faithful who cannot travel to Rome with a means of receiving the mercy of God through this Jubilee tradition.

Doors can be seen as having dual purposes; they can be a means to control or restrict entrance, or a portal of hospitality.

In an ecstatic vision, Saint Catherine of Siena heard God speak of such a restriction when he revealed to her that in the garden, the sin of man “had closed Heaven and bolted the doors of mercy, [which caused] the soul of man [to] produce thorns and brambles…”

Fortunately they would not remain closed.  Through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection they were opened again.  Indeed, all the synoptic gospels note that at the Baptism of our Lord, heaven was once again opened.

In the Jubilee, the Church responds to Psalm 118 by opening the “gate [or door] of the Lord; [so that] the righteous may enter”.  The Holy Doors, now Doors of Mercy, are symbols of Christ, who in John 10:7, proclaims, “I am the door”.

 Jesus, the real Holy Door, promises us (Matthew 7:7), “…knock and it will be opened to you.”


Doug writes: I thought you might enjoy this photo I took at the Mission San Luis Rey historic church …designated by our Bishop as one of six Holy Door churches.

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Interruption: Forthcoming events at Chichester Cathedral

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5th June 2016: Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and the King of glory shall come in.

door, Francis, Bangui Advent 2015 (Radio V)


Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Psalm 24:7

Words of Pope Francis in Bangui when he opened the Holy Door.

mercylogoGod has brought me here among you, in this land, while the universal Church is preparing for the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. I am especially pleased that my pastoral visit coincides with the opening of this Jubilee Year in your country. From this cathedral I reach out, in mind and heart, and with great affection, to all the priests, consecrated men and women, and pastoral workers of the nation, who are spiritually united with us at this moment. Through you, I would greet all the people of the Central African Republic: the sick, the elderly, those who have experienced life’s hurts. Some of them are perhaps despairing and listless, asking only for alms, the alms of bread, the alms of justice, the alms of attention and goodness.

But like the Apostles Peter and John on their way to the Temple, who had neither gold nor silver to give to the paralytic in need, I have come to offer God’s strength and power; for these bring us healing, set us on our feet and enable us to embark on a new life, to “go across to the other side” (cf. Luke 8:22).

Jesus does not make us cross to the other side alone; instead, he asks us to make the crossing with him, as each of us responds to his or her own specific vocation. We need to realize that making this crossing can only be done with him, by freeing ourselves of divisive notions of family and blood in order to build a Church which is God’s family, open to everyone, concerned for those most in need. This presupposes closeness to our brothers and sisters; it implies a spirit of communion. It is not primarily a question of financial means; it is enough just to share in the life of God’s people, in accounting for the hope which is in us (cf. 1 Peter 3:15), in testifying to the infinite mercy of God who is “good [and] instructs sinners in the way” (Psalm 24:8). Jesus teaches us that our heavenly Father “makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good” (Matthew 5:45). Having experienced forgiveness ourselves, we must forgive others in turn. This is our fundamental vocation: “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

One of the essential characteristics of this vocation to perfection is the love of our enemies, which protects us from the temptation to seek revenge and from the spiral of endless retaliation. Jesus placed special emphasis on this aspect of the Christian testimony (cf. Matthew 5:46-47). Those who evangelize must therefore be first and foremost practitioners of forgiveness, specialists in reconciliation, experts in mercy. This is how we can help our brothers and sisters to “cross to the other side” – by showing them the secret of our strength, our hope, and our joy, all of which have their source in God, for they are grounded in the certainty that he is in the boat with us.

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Interruption: Thank you!



Detail from a window at Lincoln Cathedral, MMB.

As editor of this blog, I read each and every post, and the ‘like’s, comments and ‘follow’s that come in from our readers. I don’t worry about the statistics, but I do appreciate the fact that we have faithful readers in different parts of the world – who seem to like different styles of reflection from our different writers.

This is a moment to thank our writers, all associated with the Franciscan International Study Centre in Canterbury, for all the wisdom distilled in their reflections, stories and pictures.  Please keep them coming! And this is also a moment to thank our readers –  our friends – all over the world. Please keep coming to the mirror and maybe sometimes reflect back to us what you see here. Your thoughts on our coming season about the Year of Mercy would be welcome.




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April 21: Jerusalem V: Centre of Creation




William Blake saw angels where others saw none, in and around London. He wrote of mercylogo‘Heaven’s Gate Set in Jerusalem’s Wall’, an image from the Revelation of John, chapter 21, where the New Jerusalem comes down from Heaven, a heavenly city, where God is so palpably present that no temple is needed.

In this world of sin, a Church building can be a place to concentrate awareness of God’s presence alone or in company; to hear God’s Word, to enter his mercy.

Heaven’s gate can be set in any wall, but Jerusalem has always held the imagination. People around 1300 considered it the centre of the whole round world, and if a visitor to Hereford could see this drawn on vellum in the Mappa Mundi. The Christian world saw Jerusalem as the place where salvation happened, but even the far-flung British Isles (at bottom left) were part of the picture. They still are, along with all that Terra Incognita – unknown to those who did not live there, at least: the Americas and Antipodes.

Blake may have been wary of organised religion, but still he resolved to persevere:

‘Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.’

And so should we persevere, building Jerusalem wherever we find ourselves. Maybe you or I will be an angel – a messenger of God – to someone we meet today. Let’s pray that we rise to that challenge when it comes, even if we are not aware of it at the time – or indeed, ever afterwards.



By Unknown – unesco.org.uk, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41201813


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* Tuesday February 2nd The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple – Nunc Dimittis


Simeon as played by MMB.

Down in the crypt of Canterbury Cathedral, the statue of Mary presents her Child to the pilgrim.

You can see and read about the statue and its sculptor, Mother Concordia OSB of Minster Abbey, here: http://www.canterbury-cathedral.org/2014/10/01/our-lady-canterbury/ .

Jesus was in no need of being presented to God, and indeed Mary was well known to her Creator, but they followed faithfully the laws and customs of their Jewish people. Strange to think of Mary or any woman needing purification after giving birth, but that world view knew nothing of modern scientific knowledge and need not detain us.

Consider the Presentation as experienced by Simeon, the just and devout old man who was waiting for the consolation of Israel (Luke 2:25). He cradled Jesus in his arms and prayed aloud: Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word in peace; because my eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples: a light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel (vv29-32).

All his hopes and prayers, focussed on this little person that somehow he picked out from the crowd! But this was no senile sentimentality; he knew Mary would suffer: thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed. (v35) He knew already that Jesus was for all the world, not just Israel.

May we be ready to recognise and speak the truth, and also as ready for death – and heaven! – as Simeon was.


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* Monday 1st February God is not Small-minded – 2

 easter garden MaryM (2) (800x707)

Presence: The Lord meets Mary Magdalene on Easter Morning: York Minster.

David wanted to build a Temple in Jerusalem, no doubt intending to honour God with the best views in the city from a plot just next door to the King’s new palace. But the Lord was not in favour.

I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. (2Samuel7:6)

He is not a God to be domesticated, like the creature whose name is god spelt backwards, always ready to be idolised in a controlled and limited way. We must not idolise our Creator.

We can bring the best of our best to honour him in our church buildings: stained glass, soaring columns, glorious colour. They add nothing to him. But they can add something to us if we use them as doors to contemplation and prayer, and for that we need to move beyond art appreciation and learn to see and enjoy.

Celebrating Galway Cathedral at Fifty years, Fr Michael A. Conway writes:

To be attentive and to wait in such a place, to pray in this sense, is to be shaped by absence, by no-thing, in perfect freedom, beyond any conditions whatsoever; and so, ultimately, it is to be shaped by love. To pray in such a way in this kind of place is simply to enjoy God’s presence.

 In The Furrow, LXVI, 11; November 2015, p580.

May we enjoy that presence wherever we are all through this new month.




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