Tag Archives: child

February 9: N is for Nowhere

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Apologies to Newington, Newport, Nonnington and any other candidates for this spot, but Nowhere came to mind and would not go away.

One person who did go to Nowhere was Noah, taking his little world with him, or being taken by it. How could he steer the Ark with no landmarks and no stars in the sky? John Masefield was a sailor around the turn of the 20th Century; even without GPS, he generally knew where he was and need not be anxious, even when alone at the wheel through the night:

I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

There is no record of Noah being anxious on board; but like many a sailor he relaxed and drank himself into oblivion once on shore. A different sort of Nowhere, not one to visit often. But Jesus and his followers were castigated as drunkards; though no doubt their critics’ stories grew in the telling!

Another Nowhere was the starting point for this reflection. I was privileged to arrive at the maternity unit moments after my grandson was born, and was holding him when his father came into the room and called him, ‘Hello, Abel!’

In all the confusion of that strange place, totally beyond the world he knew from his mother’s womb, he knew that voice, and turned to face his father. Nowhere became Somewhere!

From then on Abel has explored the world. It has become a place, a home, with the house he shares with his parents at its centre.

May we listen for Our Father’s voice and be ready to follow his commands as Noah did, trusting, trusting, when we feel lost.

Ark window, Shrewsbury Cathedral, Margaret Rope.

Sea Fever, John Masefield

 

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January 2, 2018; Father Andrew at Christmas, X: Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore.

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Mary Mother from Hales Place Jesuit Chapel, Canterbury

Our last reading from Father Andrew this Christmastime.

Adoro Te Devote Latens Deitas

Who could refuse the appeal
Of Baby hands stretched out caressingly,
Or patter of Baby feet upon the stair?
It was like Love to deal
So with us in His sweet humility,
To be a little Child amongst us here;
And at the last, when those same hands had borne
The scars of labour and the pierce of sin,
Faithful at eventide as in the morn
Of His first Coming, still to seek to win,
With bleeding hands held wide in mute appeal,
The acceptance of His own unchanging love.

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23 December, Father Andrew at Advent and Christmas, II.

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More from Fr Andrew’s introduction to ‘Carols and Christmas Rhymes’.

Christmas comes but once a year” is the common saying. But to the Catholic Christian Christmas is always here. Every babe born into the world now comes with the authentic claim of a child of God, for did not the Christ say, ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto me one of the least of these, ye have done it unto Me’? The Incarnation of the Son of God has sanctified all life and made the quilted cot in the palace and the poor home-made orange-box cradle in the cottage equally manger-beds of the Babe of Bethlehem.

To the Catholic Christian the Lord comes in the Blessed Sacrament still clothed with the lowliness of long ago, and as in the lifting up of His Sacrifice there is the perpetual memory of His Death and Passion, so in the singing of the Gloria in excelsis and the humility of that Sacrament wherein the great reality of His Presence lies hidden beneath the lowly veils of bread and wine, Bethlehem is set forth beneath the lowly veils of bread and wine, Bethlehem is set forth before us most surely Sunday by Sunday and day by day.

As our young men and old men, matrons and maidens, come to the Holy Mysteries, we may think of the shepherds and folk at Bethlehem, who came with dim wonderment to a Mystery they felt but did not understand, as they peeped at Mary’s Babe at the first Christmastide.

The Blessed Sacrament reserved at the Greyfriars’ chapel, Canterbury.

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17 December, 3rd Sunday of Advent: A reflection from Bangladesh

Article by Sister Gillian Rose, a former USPG mission partner, who oversees the USPG-supported Bollobphur Hospital, which is owned by the Church of Bangladesh.

Despite political unrest that upset the country and horrific terrorist activities, here at Bollobphur we remain a little oasis of peace. Families of different faith backgrounds – Muslim, Hindi and Christian – live and work together in peace and harmony. Indeed, tiny babies of different faith backgrounds share together the warmth and comfort of the incubators.

Our largest incubator often has three babies growing up together. I always say these tiny babies do better if they have a companion – and, indeed, they keep each other warm when a sudden power cut shuts off the electricity supply to the incubator.

During the year, a total of 573 babies were born at Bollobphur. Of these babies, 38 were tiny and premature. The majority are very tiny on arrival, weighing only 800g, 900g or
1kg. Several mothers brought tiny twin babies for us to care for. Our student nurses care for them, feeding them every two hours, day and night – and what a joy it is when the mother is able to take her baby home, weighing over 2kg.
• Your church can directly fund this health programme through USPG’s Partners in Mission scheme. Visit http://www.uspg.org.uk/pim This link leads to an article on Bollophur by Sister Gillian Rose with a picture of her with a mother and baby.

 

O God, whose servant John prepared the way for Jesus’ coming:
we pray for the medical mission of the Church of Bangladesh.
Bless the premature babies there, sharing a common incubator.
May their world become a fair and just home for all.

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December 16. Zechariah: an Unlikely Advent Star: IV.

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Your son will be your joy and delight and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord; he must drink no wine, no strong drink; even from his mother’s womb he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, and he will bring back many of the Israelites to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him to reconcile fathers to their children and the disobedient to the good sense of the upright, preparing for the Lord a people fit for him (1:14-17).

Zechariah and Elizabeth had longed for a child. A child will be born to them, says the angel, but such a child as they could not possibly have imagined. The angel declares that their son will be “great in the sight of the Lord… in the spirit and power of Elijah. Their son will have a mission for all Israel: to bring them back to their God, to prepare for the Lord a people fit for him (cf. 1: 12-17).

This angelic utterance is really a rather long one, containing information that can only have been completely mind-boggling for Zechariah. Perhaps readers of this post have heard this story many times, and through familiarity have lost the sense of its being beyond fathoming – this prophecy from the mouth of a powerful and numinous being. Certainly for Zechariah, it is all too big to absorb. At first he is silent while the angel delivers his astonishing message.

When Zechariah does find power of speech, he comes out with the words that have earned him such criticism through the centuries: “How can I know this? I am an old man and my wife is getting on in years” (1:18). I rather doubt I’d have performed any better than Zechariah, and would probably have done far worse, but note well: this was an angel, after all, and angels generally know what they are talking about. Zechariah, however, seems to think that the angel might not realise how old he and his wife are. Even with my bias in favour of Zechariah, I must confess that I can’t help smiling here. It is almost as though he is asking the angel to check his divine instructions and make sure he has not come to the wrong temple and spoken to the wrong man.

So, what do we see here? Zechariah blurts out a question that is pretty daft in the circumstances. But is he really so bad after all? His question shows at least that he is a stable character, not easily diverted from the path of righteousness. And it has already been established that Zechariah is a good and upright man in the sight of God. He is not someone to curry the favour of men (or angels), or to give his consent, even to an angel, without deep conviction of heart. He is a man of depth. He wants to understand what is happening, but he is out of his depth now. He is used to having his prayer unanswered, we know. But he is not used to that same prayer now being answered.

SJC

John baptising Jesus – Zakopane Basilica of the Holy Family, Poland.

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December 13. Zechariah: an Unlikely Advent Star: I.

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The story of John the Baptist’s father, Zechariah, and his encounter with the archangel Gabriel, has been an important one in the Church’s Advent liturgy. Every year we hear St. Luke’s narrative (1:5-25) on December 19th at Mass, one of those privileged days in the final week before the great Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord.

To be honest, I have often felt a bit sorry for Zechariah. First, his outstanding personality and goodness is mostly eclipsed by his extraordinary son, John. We tend to forget about Zechariah. Then, when Zechariah does figure in sermons, he is often portrayed as the perfect example of how not to act when one is vouchsafed an angelic visitation. He is usually contrasted with Our Lady, who also received an angelic visitation, and who is perfect. Now, I have no problem with Our Lady being perfect. She is. But I contend that Zechariah, although not perfect, is a loveable and heroic man, and should be given credit for getting quite a lot of important things right. I have found that he can be a good companion to have during the season of Advent.

Zechariah’s story comes at the beginning of St. Luke’s gospel in chapter one (all biblical texts in these posts are taken from the New Jerusalem Bible).

In the days of King Herod of Judaea there lived a priest called Zechariah who belonged to the Abijah section of the priesthood, and he had a wife, Elizabeth by name, who was a descendant of Aaron. Both were upright in the sight of God and impeccably carried out all the commandments and observances of the Lord. But they were childless. Elizabeth was barren and they were both advanced in years (1:5-7).

The first thing I notice here is that both Zechariah and Elizabeth are ‘upright in the sight of God.’ To my knowledge, it is a rare thing in the bible to be described as upright in the sight of God. As I linger over this phrase and repeat it slowly to myself, a picture begins to form in my mind of a married couple who pray together every day, who are united both spiritually and physically, and who strive to discern God’s will together. Moreover, we learn from St. Luke that Zechariah and his wife ‘impeccably carried out all the commandments and observances of the Lord.’ Impeccably is a strong word. Who among us can be described in this way with regard to all God’s commands? On the contrary, it is so easy to think, ‘Oh, the Lord didn’t mean me to do that all the time. Surely, I can let myself off this or that practice today. He’ll understand.’ Yet, St. Luke implies that neither Zechariah nor his wife thought in such terms. This is made more impressive by the fact that they were “advanced in years.” Their integrity is not, therefore, a case of the neophyte’s fervour: Zechariah and Elizabeth are an example of long-term, day in and day out faithfulness. They are a holy couple.

Yet, they are childless. This, as verse twenty-five will indicate, was a very deep humiliation for both of them. Barrenness was a cause of shame at that time, and was even seen as God’s punishment. But, what had they done? They were upright in the sight of God; they were innocent, faithful and devout. Yet, their prayers for a child had been unanswered and now it was too late. They are too old.

Perhaps many of us can relate to this. We know that we are not perfect, but at the same time, something painful is happening or has happened to us that we know we do not deserve. What do we do? How do we deal with this? It can be helpful to draw near in prayer to this holy couple, Zechariah and Elizabeth, who had been enduring something painful and humiliating for a very long time. They do not turn away from God in anger. They accept their childlessness, and the unanswered questions they surely had, and they continue faithfully in their life with God, day by day, carrying out his will as they understood it. They are upright in the sight of God. Perhaps they became so precisely through their prayerful acceptance of a sorrow they could not understand.

SJC

Walking together through the desert – Zechariah and Elizabeth.

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27 October: Dylan Day, a personal relationship with God.

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The view from Dylan Thomas’s home in Laugharne.

I never made the chance to ask Fr Austin (our writer AMcC) to expand on what we should understand by a personal relationship with God; now I am casting around for answers, and realising that there are at least as many ways as there are Christian believers.

I think of people who walk around their local church, stopping for a few words at each statue: the saints are part of their family who can lead them in prayer.

If you call them superstitious you must say the same about the Canterbury Cathedral guides who light a candle at the start of their day of welcoming visitors.

Others walk around their church praying the Stations of the Cross, accompanying Jesus (and his mother) on his walk to Calvary; this was my grandmother’s way, one she could also follow seated at home.

Today I invite you to join Dylan Thomas, whose birthday it is today, when as a child, at Christmas day’s end  he

went to bed. Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-colored snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steady falling night. I turned the gas down, I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept.

There was darkness aplenty in Dylan’s life, as there must be in anyone’s. Even in the darkness the holy one is near; a few words will suffice to acknowledge that.

MMB.

 

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October 26:May we find Christ walking with us: III, Walking with a new pair of eyes.

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I mean a pair of eyes seeing things as for the first time because the ears are listening to a very young person. The gutter down the middle of the footpath through the park becomes a ‘track’, and look! the very young person is driving a train. A pink flower at his eye level draws mine down to see properly.

Burns may have prayed: ‘O would some power the giftie gie us to see ourselves as others see us’, which is a good and noble prayer, but perhaps we could also ask for the gift to see the world as others, especially perhaps as inquisitive, two-year-old others see it.

Which might just mean getting down on our knees occasionally.

Laudato Si’!

 

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October 14: As a little child

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One of the last Steam locomotives in Ireland, 1969. John was a highly respected Irish railway modeller.

My sincerest apologies to Ignatius for borrowing the title of this post. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery! Comparing God our Father to a little child was His idea, not a human notion: this is about being a little child, or being as a little child, even if only for a few minutes on the beach, and so coming to a little corner of heaven.

I wrote last year about a friend, John Byrne, who built model railways, each representing a particular era, with trains and buildings in authentic colours, and period advertisements. Exquisite, approaching perfection. A labour of love.

Someone else would smile and patronisingly make remarks about grown men’s toys. Is that bad?

Two year-old Abel took a ride on a special grown men’s toy at the local model engineering club, rather like the one in this picture, and enjoyed it as much as the real train he rode to get there.

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Of course railways strive to be perfect in many areas, including safety above all.

But the other day I played on the beach with Abel. He persuaded me to make a bridge of sand and rocks and then he used pebbles for trains and cars, pushing them across the sand, under and over the archway, lining them up on the far side. It seemed to me that this was as serious as John’s model, or the miniature ride-on trains in the park.

And just as the child’s imagination or the modeller’s patience create new worlds for a few people to enjoy, so the great imagination and patience of God keep on creating a universe for all his creatures to enjoy.

Let us pray for the imagination and patience to see how best we can join in the work of building up and caring for our corner of the universe, and the grace to get on and do it.

Laudato Si’!

 

MMB.

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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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