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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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27 January: Another Free Concert in Canterbury!

SAINT THOMAS OF CANTERBURY RECITAL SERIES

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The mediaeval tower of St Mary Magdalene, just in front of St Thomas’s Church.

We never know what to expect of the free promenade recitals of classical music at Saint Thomas’s parish hall Canterbury. ‘All will  be revealed!’ said Fr Daniel this morning. Once again Director of Music Ben Saul discovered a pair of talented young musicians in pianist Greta Åstedt and Lucia Veintimilla on the violin.

Mozart settled the audience into listening mode. One of the toddlers in attendance was transfixed at the sight and sound so close to her. Her face increased my enjoyment of the music.

A piece by Japanese composer Takemitsu evoked an invisible and not necessarily friendly, presence in the room, chased away by de Falla, inviting the little ones to dance. Another contrast from Lutoslawski, by no means going gentle into that dark night, while there was one more chance for the dancers to go with the music thanks to Slavonic dances by Smetana.

Two more names to watch for: the players are just starting their professional careers. And if you are in Canterbury on a Saturday, come to Iron Bar Lane for 10.45. And next week? All will be revealed.  The preschool children were well behaved and in no way diminished anyone’s enjoyment.

A retiring collection goes to pay the musicians and towards the restoration of the church organ.

 

MMB.

 

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Sunday 21 January, 2018. A reflection from Brazil on human trafficking, 4.

 

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‘We can’t stop what we can’t see, and once we see it we can’t unsee it.’

We return to USPG for this article by Ruth de Barros, who helps to co-ordinate a USPG funded social action programme in the Diocese of the Amazon. Human trafficking is not a pleasant topic of conversation but we need to become more aware of this insidious exploitation of our sisters and brothers. See posts on October 30 and 31 last year. This is an area where Churches work together around the world.

Human trafficking has been a concern of the Diocese of the Amazon for some time.

One woman was taken to Suriname with promises of a better life. But the traffickers brainwashed her, buying her expensive gifts in exchange for selling her body. In time she had two children – children born in these circumstances are often sold and used for child labour.

Happily, this woman’s uncle managed to find her children and bring them back to Brazil. Later, with help from the church and the police, the uncle also rescued his niece, together with a five-year-old his niece had rescued from a family enslaved in the gold mines.

A common ruse of traffickers is to trick parents into sending their sons to special football schools in the hope that their sons might become wealthy football stars. These families are often living in extreme poverty with low levels of education. They fall for the sweet talk of the criminals. They send their sons, then completely lose contact with them because they have been trafficked for sexual exploitation or child labour. The Anglican Church is raising awareness about trafficking and providing legal support to help.

O God, you have created us all in your own image
to reveal your glory, compassion and love.
Help us to see your face in every human being,
and to work together for the dignity and worth of all.

‘We can’t stop what we can’t see, and once we see it we can’t unsee it.’

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Free Concerts in Canterbury!

SAINT THOMAS OF CANTERBURY RECITAL SERIES

stMaryMtowerCT (600x800)

The mediaeval tower of St Mary Magdalene, just in front of St Thomas’s Church.

Saint Thomas’s parish in Canterbury has begun a series of free promenade recitals of classical music in the parish hall beside the church from 10.45 to 11.30 on Saturday mornings. Refreshments are offered before the music and a retiring collection goes to pay the musicians and towards the restoration of the church organ.

Many players will be young musicians starting their careers, but the audience will not know who is playing, or what music, until the concert is about to start. So far impressario Ben Saul, who as church organist has every reason to attract his audience, has come up trumps. This week soprano Farah Ghadiali and pianist Paolo Rinaldi offered a selection of operatic arias followed by a portion of Polish melancholy from Frédéric Chopin. They made me listen afresh even to familiar pieces, such as Handel’s ‘O sleep, why dost thou leave me?’’ and Chopin’s Funeral March Piano Sonata.

So look out for those names, and if you are in Canterbury on a Saturday, find your way to Iron Bar Lane for 10.45. As for next week – who knows? But whoever comes will be worth listening to.

I hope we see the dancing little girl again. The preschool children who came appeared to be taken with live music before their eyes and ears, as were their elders. If you are in Canterbury on a Saturday morning, do drop in!

MMB.

 

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January 4: We Listen.

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New Year resolutions are all very well, but what if the new year looks bleak? Really hopeless?

I recently came across Tatiana Ketchum’s blog post, ‘If you have a pulse  God has a plan. She tells how she was helped by a sticker that said “There’s purpose in your pain.”

That particular slogan spoke to her at that moment; here is another, on the back of a train ticket. It’s encouraging that the railway companies are still promoting the services of The Samaritans. They listen. On 116 123. And face to face.

And so should we listen, whether it is someone in trouble calling for help, a fellow passenger or a child.

Perhaps especially we should be less lazy, less fearful of listening to children. A young person has every right to adult care and attention, even if it’s only Abel telling his grandmother that he had his nails cut. If they don’t feel listened to as children, it will take tremendous courage to seek a friendly ear later in life.

WT

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30 December: Father Andrew at Christmas VII. Problems at the Manger

crib, banchory

Photo by CD

We face the same Problems at the Manger as Father Andrew pointed out eighty years ago.

O mighty God, O baby King,
Thyself must teach what welcoming
Thy children, old and young, should bring,
How each should make his offering.

For here are little boys and girls,
With tidy clothes and ordered curls;
A little Scout his flag unfurls,
His mother kneels in lace and pearls.

And here are faces pinched and white,
And men who walked about all night;
A soldier who has lost his sight,
A boy whose sums will not come right.

The young, the middle-aged, the old
Are gathered here, some gay with gold,
Some ragged creatures, starved and cold –
The fat and lean are in Thy fold.

And though our hearts at Christmas glow
With sense of shame that things are so,
Yet how to get the world to go
In Christian ways we do not know.

There’s nothing wrong in tidy boys,
It’s nice to give expensive toys,
It’s natural to make a noise,
And lovely things are perfect joys –

Yet still we kneel before Thy straw
In penitence and puzzling awe –
Show us our system’s vital flaw,
And that strong truth the Wise Men saw.

Love, Thou must teach us, every one,
To toil until Thy will be done;
So never in this world again
Shall child be housed in cattle pen.

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22 December, Christmas 1914. Father Andrew at Christmas, I. The ending of all wars …

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Here is a passage from Fr Andrew’s book, Carols and Christmas Rhymes, Mowbray, 1935.

We have been told that on Christmas Day in the Great War from rival trenches English, French, and German voices were united musically in Christmas hymns. That should have been the end of the war. It should be the ending of all wars, and all slum conditions, and all bad treatment of the childhood that the Christ-Child has blessed. With such practical intention these poor verses are laid in homage before the manger shrine of the Holy Child.

We will share more from the introduction as well as a few of Fr Andrew’s carols during the rest of Advent and Christmastide. Fr Andrew had a great devotion to the Eucharist, expressed in the title of this poem (O Godhead hid, devoutly I adore Thee) as well as its theme.

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.

This slum courtyard in Birmingham has been cleaned and tidied almost out of recognition. Imagine no running water, no sewerage,  thin walls, coal fires amid the industrial fumes, rats, mud, disease…

 

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December 11: Things in the night that monstrous seem

crypt.monster Take far away each hideous dream,

Things in the night that monstrous seem …

Two lines from the compline hymn came to mind when I read about the Christmas TV Ad which shows a boy who has a monster under his bed. Not a lot to do with the real meaning of Christmas, I hear you say.

This monster above has lived in the crypt, or basement of Canterbury Cathedral for many hundreds of years, along with a few more of different kinds, not unlike the imaginary beasts in the margins of ancient manuscripts. This fellow is within sight of Mother Concordia of Minster’s Mary and Child.

Ancient writers imagined the infant Jesus creating living creatures from the mud of the ground. I can imagine him playing with toy monsters and dinosaurs as so many children do today. After all, there were plenty of monsters to be seen among the deities of ancient Egypt where he grew up!

Can we not play, and play fairly, in the world created for us and be grateful? Let’s play fairly by some of our less favoured sisters and brothers this Christmas – we all know several ways of helping. Let’s not be selfish monsters!

 

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