Tag Archives: children

27 August. Shared Table XXIV: Prue and the Firefighters

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When Abel’s mother was growing up, Prue Leith was advising what was still British Rail on catering for their passengers. Abel’s mother and her sisters really enjoyed Casey Jones milk shakes from Charing Cross station in London, superior to the franchise operators who took over after privatisation.

Ms Leith was writing about meals in the i newspaper recently (June 30). At the same time as she was devising London’s best milk shakes, her company was catering for city firms, But that business has gone. People are eating alone at their desks, as we read recently.

An exception is the Fire Service, where one firefighter on each watch will shop and cook for the crew: breakfast, lunch, dinner. Meals matter to keep the individual firefighters fit and healthy, and to keep the team fit and healthy, knowing each other, looking out for each other, ‘having each other’s backs.’

I share Ms Leith’s sorrow that eating together has been slipping away from work and family life. Let’s turn off the tv or radio and enjoy each other’s fresh news and stale jokes again!

A festive table from the Littlehampton Sisters, who need no lessons from me in eating, living and praying together! WT

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26 August: Behind these doors …

 

On January 23 I shared a picture of a garage door, the entrancing entrance to the Westminster diocesan archive in London. The archive is soon to be renovated, and sadly for the romantic researcher, the deceptive door will be no more. But really it is good news, as the new entrance will be on the flat without thresholds and steps.

Here is an archive that was built from underground up to be accessible. This is the British Library, home to the eighth century Lindisfarne Gospels as well as every book published in Britain in modern times, and much more besides, including hard to find works on Africa and those working there in the first half of last century, my reason for going there.

Under the courtyard are shelves where curators go to find the books readers request. In the courtyard is Sir Isaac Newton, based on a drawing by William Blake by the sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi. Blake was not over impressed by Newton, who he felt turned his back on beauty to measure and record facts, reducing creation to what can be proved and tested. Not altogether fair on Newton, but the statue celebrates both men, and both streams of thought.

In the background can be seen the mid 19th century romantic brickwork of Saint Pancras railway station, my usual arrival point in London. The Library is in the same brick, though in a completely different style. On this site was once the goods (freight) depot for the Midland Railway, built in the same red brick. The crimson on the ventilators evokes the Midland Railway livery.

The goods that leave this spot today are ideas, not physical supplies for shops and trades. This is one of the most important buildings in the world, free to use for research, free to go in and see the displays of rare books. The Harry Potter exhibition was to be paid for and there were at least four parties of school children going in or out as I ate my sandwiches; I think one group had stayed too long eating their lunch as I heard their teacher complaining, ‘And now you’re wasting my time.’ I was off to the Underground, and that deceptive door!

.archivegarage

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29 July: Without thinking?

People were receiving Communion without thinking, the preacher suspected. But how true is that? And does it matter?

I doubt that parents or nurses or carers are always consciously focussed on the task in hand when they change the nappy or soiled sheets of a child or elderly patient, but they will still do the job properly. Doing the job properly is what matters, not having the mind fully focussed or experiencing the ‘right’ emotions.

Lest anyone object to my comparison, I would argue that changing a nappy or soiled sheets could be counted as a work of mercy to rank with the other seven, It is an act of love, and it is life-saving, as any public health worker would tell you.

There are distractions enough at Communion time in church: apart from anything else, I find myself watching whether the person in front of me is going to kneel or genuflect: am I a safe distance from them?

There is though, a chance for all to spend time silently reflecting after Communion. If the priest allows it to happen of course, and to be fair, this preacher does.

In life there are times when the head must lead the heart, and indeed the body or the senses must also lead at times, perhaps when we are dog tired and still need to carry on. It can happen that way at Mass or prayers too: coming to Mass after working a long shift or enduring a broken night may lead to not hearing the readings, missing the consecration and lining up mechanically to receive the sacrament, even to falling fully asleep in the post Communion silence. But you can be there in body and spirit, if not in mind.

MMB

 

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23 July: Shared table XXII, Wedding Cake.

We went to a couple of weddings last year, as I was reminded by the photograph in yesterday’s post. The top of the cake on that day was given to the bridesmaid for her birthday party: wouldn’t you feel special if that happened for your seventh birthday?

A friend of the bride’s mother made the cake; it was a real labour of love, and the love rippled on as the bridesmaid and her friends enjoyed it, as well as we who later ate some at home.

At our wedding, my brother made the traditional fruit cake. The top layer was still good eighteen months later when our firstborn was baptised. Ponder the many connections there, the sharing of our wedding cake, not with our daughter (even I would not offer a newborn a crumb of wedding cake), but with people we had not known when we got married. But soon after the wedding, slices had been posted around the world to people who were unable to be with us on the day. As far as Burkina Faso, Paraguay and Australia.

You don’t have to be in the same room at the same time to share food and drink.

Such sharing points to something very important, don’t you think?

The best willow pattern service accompanied the eating of our slices of wedding cake last year.

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18 July, What is Theology Saying? XVIII: The Eucharist 5: How can a person be food for another?

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What God says is always infallible – and that voice is the sound of the poor! We can and do proclaim: man does not live by bread alone – which is in fact only half true; it needs to be completed with man cannot live without bread. What Jesus brings as Bread of Life is how these two actually fit each other – so much so that we could equally say – what God has joined together let no one break apart…

How can a person be food for another? A strange question when that is how every one of us began life in the womb. Indeed the Bible uses this example to express how God sustains creation. The Mystics speak eloquently of Jesus’ relationship: how often I have longed to gather you children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings – Matthew 23.37. Equally do we sustain each other when rescuing from hopelessness and desperation; like the Apostles on Good Friday night. But now they have been enlivened in a new way – as if they too had been raised from the dead.

Passover acquired a new meaning with the Resurrection – the difference Jesus makes in himself becoming food is linked directly with his death. Our Eucharist of bread and wine must remind us that here we have the Paschal Lamb – a lamb becomes food only when it is killed, not when it dies! Its vocation is to become food for others – to be slaughtered and eaten. When Jesus spoke of becoming food many were scandalised; yet it is in his death that he becomes the bread of life; and it is through our being taken into his death [Baptism] that this food satisfies human hungers.

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Our shared meal is a token piece of food celebrated within an elaborate ritual. God blessed creation making it fruitful. He also blessed the 7th day for us to enjoy what is given. The flood symbolises our complete disregard for what God offers. God blesses Noah with this very same blessing, now with a more explicit covenant. Blessing is a creative act, bringing something new, and making the one blessed a source of blessing for others. It is not only God who blesses – in certain places parents bless their children before they go out. Parental blessing is calling from within another something not yet there, it is an expression of hope for sustaining new life.

AMcC

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23 June: What became of …

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Simon had been a pupil at a school where I had once taught: that’s how we got talking about the disaffected lads I had worked with. Not that sunny Simon, whom I knew before I began teaching, ever had an ounce of disaffection in him in all those forty years.

But Luke did. He was ever ready to pick a fight with another child, then try to pin the blame on them when they gave him as much of a pasting as they could before they were stopped. One day he ran away on an outing to London, but was hiding in full view of the railway station cameras, so was soon rounded up.

‘Do you know what happened to these boys?’ asked Mary.

‘Luke’, I said, hesitating; ‘Luke met a teaching colleague years later, when he was a mental health nurse.

‘And then there was Peter, who broke my ribs, aged 11. He was found to have a severe wheat intolerance and was a changed boy when he cut it out of his diet. He completed secondary school at least.

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‘I was called over to a bench on a major railway station by a young man who introduced himself as Alan West – formerly known by two completely different names. “And this is Jill, we’re getting married soon. But I’m not telling my family. Jill’s my family now – and her family accept me.”‘

prison wall

While it’s good to share these positive stories, not all were doing so well when last I heard. Tony, son of a London prostitute, was moved very much against his will and our advice, from a foster family of a different complexion to one that nearer matched his own. He was soon in a secure unit, not allowed out of the new ‘home’ he was assigned by the court. An abuse victim who came to us at 12 was incarcerated at 18 for abusing other children. A lad who won my heart was murdered by his stepfather.

Please pray for them all; may the Good Shepherd seek each one out and bring him home.

We meet another prisoner tomorrow.

MMB

 

 

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May 31: R is for Rugeley

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Rugeley is a former mining town in Staffordshire, which used to have two coal-fired power stations; the second one closed in June 2017. One step towards cleaner air for the country and the planet.

Rugeley is also where Janet and I married, on this day, more than a few years ago in the Church of Saints Joseph and Etheldreda. One step forward together, and we’re still finding our way.

Unlike Saint Joseph, husband of Mary, but not the father of her child; and unlike Etheldreda (or Audrey) who was a Saxon Princess, Queen and Abbess, we got married in order to be and remain fully married and to accept the blessings of children.

Etheldreda was twice married for political reasons, but in each case she lived as a nun despite her married status – with her kingly husband’s consent each time. Except that her second husband eventually changed his mind.

Etheldreda did not change hers and ran first to Saint Ebba, whose monastery was just north of Berwick, across what is now the Scottish border, and thence to Ely, surrounded by marshes which hindered pursuit enough for her husband to  turn back to Northumberland.

Ely Abbey – for women and men, like Hilda’s Whitby – flourished under her leadership.

Let’s pray for the gift to hear what God is saying in our own hearts and the grace to follow his word.

And let’s pray that today’s church leaders will recognise the leadership gifts that many women have been given; and that innovative communities may flourish.

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1,000 years.

Enjoy this clip. I did.
MMB.

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March 11: Abel’s Pleasant Sunday Afternoon.

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Laetare Sunday: more than halfway through Lent, and it’s time for a breather from the rigours of the season. The fact that God doesn’t get a mention in this story does not mean he didn’t get a look-in. I hope you enjoy our afternoon almost as much as we did. Will.

It began as a walk to post a letter, but once at the postbox we were halfway to the level crossing, so we went there.

There was a train trundling into platform 1, but between the tracks were stop signs and red flashing lights at ground level. No trains towards London today. ‘Red means stop. Train not go past,’ said Abel.

It was as long as it was short to walk home past the station, so we went there.

The train was pulling out of platform 1. In half an hour it would leave from Platform 2, so we stayed to watch the shunting. When that was completed, Abel discovered the metal grids covering the gutters along platform 1. They made good tracks for him to drive his imaginary train along.

By the time we had spoke to the kind station man, who gave Abel half a dozen blank tickets on a roll, there was only ten minutes before the train left. We had enough money for a ride to the next station and back, so we went there.

We had to use the lifts and press the buttons on them and on the train. On the way we saw the other level crossings and some swans and the river, and the moon beginning to shine.

The next station is built across the main road – one platform on one side, one on the other. The road was so busy Abel had to be carried over. A kind man stopped his car and waited for us to cross safely. Just a few minutes before the train left from platform 1, so we went there.

When we got off the train, after more button pressing, the moon was really bright, and an aeroplane went by with its lights on. We were nearly at Grannie and Grandad’s house, so we went there.

But not straight away. In the park the gutter down the middle of the path was waiting to be a railway track again. Abel was ready to run up and down for another half hour, so Grandad found a red bike light to use as a signal. Abel put it by the track like the lights at the station. But when he wanted to move on he said ‘red means stop, yellow means get ready, green means go.’ And off he went.

Eventually we arrived at our destination.

There was one crumpet left, so we had it with Marmite; and Abel ate three-quarters.

It was almost time for Abel’s Dad to collect him, so we played for a bit, then Abel got in the car and went home in the moonlight.

He was asleep when he got there.

Another station, another time … between Belfast and Larne, July 1969.

So Happy Feast Day for Saint Patrick on Saturday!

 

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16 February: Look!

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This is an invitation to look at each other and into our own hearts and behaviour-  an activity well-suited to Lent.

My wife Janet tells the story of a child at the local playground, where she was with our grandson. This other pre-school boy was coming down the slide towards her, but no-one else was watching him.

His mother was on her phone. 

The boy was looking for someone to make eye contact and acknowledge that he’d come down successfully. At least the kind stranger was there …

And this story connected with Pope Francis’s

Amoris Laetitia

In Paragraphs 128 and 129 he says:

The aesthetic experience of love is expressed in that “gaze” which contemplates other persons as ends in themselves, even if they are infirm, elderly or physically unattractive. A look of appreciation has enormous importance, and to begrudge it is usually hurtful. How many things do spouses and children sometimes do in order to be noticed! Much hurt and many problems result when we stop looking at one another. This lies behind the complaints and grievances we often hear in families: “My husband does not look at me; he acts as if I were invisible”. “Please look at me when I am talking to you!”. “My wife no longer looks at me, she only has eyes for our children”. “In my own home nobody cares about me; they do not even see me; it is as if I did not exist”. Love opens our eyes and enables us to see, beyond all else, the great worth of a human being.
129. The joy of this contemplative love needs to be cultivated. Since we were made for love, we know that there is no greater joy than that of sharing good things: “Give, take, and treat yourself well” (Sir 14:16). The most intense joys in life arise when we are able to elicit joy in others, as a foretaste of heaven.

Joy for this little one in being seen and also in a warm brotherly embrace.

 

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