Tag Archives: Church

4 April, Desert XXXVI: Perseverance and Beauty.

A thought from the French singer-songwriter Laurent Voulzy, who put off writing a song to Jesus for 10 years. You can hear him sing it at the link below.

Right now, I am searching, I pray every day, I go into churches and I look at the diversity of faces … and I see wickedness in some of them …

The idea of faith as perseverance, full of humour and beautiful light, is a part of my prayer. It gives me a reason to believe, to feel joy every day, even if our times do not evoke it. My faith consists of questions. God is in all the faces I see, in all the questions that I put to myself. And in my search for answers…

Laurent Voulzy

Door of Mercy, Holy Family Basilica, Zakopane, Poland.

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Going viral IV: a message from CAFOD

from CAFOD
  • A message from CAFOD’s Director, Christine Allen
  • I’m sure that like me, you must be worried about the situation with COVID-19 at the moment. CAFOD is very much part of the Catholic family and as with any family, when one of us is unsettled or anxious it affects us all. We pray for all those affected by the virus both here in the UK and overseas, and for all the medical staff who are working so hard to keep us safe.

    Although gathering as a church community is paused, it was good to hear that the doors of churches will remain open, to offer us a place to be still in God’s presence.

    We are learning new ways to keep spiritually connected and look after ourselves and others, particularly during Lent. Here are some ideas to help to keep us together as a community even though we need to be apart:
    • In a time of isolation, take some time to pause and focus on your wellbeing. We have prayers, liturgies and reflections to support you in your prayer life.
    • While the kids are off school and you’re in need of some fun activities, our education resources pages are packed with great ideas.
    • Join our new Facebook group so that we can gather as an online family and offer you our prayers, online talks and isolation activities in one place, please do share your own ideas too.
    • We are hosting an online children’s liturgy this coming Sunday, you can sign up now.
    • To hear about our work, each week we will have a series of live online events you can take part in. These will include opportunities to come together for prayer and chat as well as interviews with staff.
    • We are working on the different ways our parish volunteers and campaigners can still involve their communities and continue to be a powerful force for good, so please keep in touch with us on Twitter and Instagram as well.
      Our work in some of the world’s poorest communities continues. There is great concern as this is a fast-moving situation and we are closely monitoring developments in the countries where we work around the world so that we are ready to support our local experts with whatever they need.

      Our work with so many in need is only possible because of the generosity and love you show to those around the world. If you wish to donate to our Lent appeal and support the crucial, ongoing work of our local experts like Sister Consilia, we will ensure your gift reaches the poorest and most vulnerable at this uncertain time.

      As I’m sure is the case for many of us, I am praying for guidance from the Holy Spirit to help steer us through these difficult times. Thank you for continuing to keep CAFOD in your prayers. Please stay safe as we continue to support one another.

      With love and prayers, Christine AllenDirector, CAFOD

      The Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) is the official aid agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales and part of Caritas International.  Charity no 1160384 and company no 09387398. © CAFOD 2020

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13March, Desert 16: Surviving the Waste Places of Homelessness

campers s mildreds

The sight above, taken in January, is troubling and it is repeated across Canterbury and indeed elsewhere in Britain: homeless people camping out in all weathers. It’s clear from the picture that people have tried to help them with bedding and the tent that they are using. But talking to someone who is involved with the churches’ work, it is also clear that some people, including these campers, do choose not to accept all the help available to them.

About the same time as I took this photo I was talking to a companion of Emmaus in Dover. I was in an Emmaus community while studying in France many years ago, and it seems many things continue from those days, and indeed from the 1940s, when Abbé Pierre started the organisation near Paris. Working for the community is an important part of regaining one’s self respect.

The man I  spoke to has become a spokesman for the community. He described how, once he was on the street, he too was unable to take the hand reached out to him. It was months later that he was persuaded to give the community life a try, and it was a life saver. Now he is something of an ambassador, better able than many to get alongside those who do – and those who don’t – use the services that the churches and charities, as well as the local council, can provide. ‘And perhaps in a year or two, I’ll move on; I’m not ready yet.’ Meanwhile, practical help to cope with supported or independent living is part of Emmaus’s service; this can include help to work for qualifications that employers will recognise.

Dover logo

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March 9, Desert XII: Our Mission

The Diocese of Nouakchott covers the desert land of Mauretania. The local population is 99% Muslim, but there is a growing expatriate Christian community under the care of Bishop Martin Happe, a Missionary of Africa.

He wrote at the end of last year:

We in the Diocese of Nouakchott had the joy of living through a special moment of grace, culminating in a big feast: the golden jubilee of our Cathedral of Saint Joseph!

The visible sign of this grace are the two side aisles we have added to our cathedral, since it had become too small on Sundays, and also the new altar in Atar stone which I had the privilege of consecrating on Gaudete Sunday, 15 December, with two bishops, many visiting priests and numbers of faithful. Gaudete! an invitation to the whole Church, just  few days before Christmas, to be joyful. We had the grace to live this joy and taste it in an extraordinary way last 14 and 15 December.

But let’s not forget one thing: each time the Lord gives a particular grace to a person, a community, a people … this grace is always bound up in a new mission! Both the Old and New Testaments are full of examples. So we must not forget that the enlarged and refurbished cathedral has as its vocation to be the place of where the Church of Nouakchott gathers together. I recalled in my homily that the Greek word for church ‘ecclesia’  means a people called together. Here in Nouakchott, we are called together every Sunday to receive once more our mission: to be witnesses to the Love of God for every person. For us, this means first and foremost the Mauritanians, the people who make us welcome and to whom the Lord has sent us.

Wherever we are, we can feel like a voice crying in the wilderness; people are indifferent to the Church, or downright hostile, the faults obscuring the graces for them. But whether our desert is in the sand or in the city, our mission is to be witnesses to the Love of God for every person; first and foremost to the people who welcome us into their lives as neighbours, work colleagues or family. To witness to the Love of God rather than seeking conversions.

 

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6 March, Praying with Pope Francis: for Catholics in China. (Desert IX: fear 2 – persecution).

Ricciportrait.jpg

For this month of March, Pope Francis asks us to pray for the Church in China. 

We pray that the Church in China may persevere in its faithfulness to the Gospel and grow in unity.

Although Christianity has existed in China since the first Millennium, it was The Jesuit Matteo Ricci who most famously began missionary work in Imperial Beijing in the 16th and 17th Centuries. Other missionaries followed, including the Columbans who were among those deported by the Communist regime in 1949. They now have new links with the country which you can read about in their Far East Magazine.

For a comprehensive picture of the desert of persecution endured by the Christians of China, this report from Aid to the Church in need makes for sobering Lenten reading.

We pray that the Church in China may persevere in its faithfulness to the Gospel and grow in unity. Lord in your Mercy: hear our prayer.

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11 February: World Day of the Sick

francis.sick.blessing

The Catholic Church marks the Day of the Sick on 11 February, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.  The theme this year is “Come to me, all you who labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28).

In his message, * Pope Francis  says that the mercy and comforting presence of Jesus embraces people in their entirety whatever their health condition, discarding no one, but rather inviting everyone to share in His life and to experience His tender love.

Jesus Himself became frail, endured human suffering and received comfort from His Father.  Only those who personally experience suffering  are able to comfort others. “What is needed is a personalized approach to the sick, not just of curing but also of caring, in view of an integral human healing.”

In addition to therapy and support they expect care and attention – “In a word, love”.  “At the side of every sick person, there is also a family, which itself suffers and is in need of support and comfort.”

Those who are sick, the Pope says, attract the eyes and heart of Jesus. “The Church desires to become more and more the “inn” of the Good Samaritan who is Christ (Luke 10:34), that is, a home where you can encounter His grace, which finds expression in closeness, acceptance and relief.”

As men and women with their own frailties and illnesses, healthcare workers show how true it is that “once Christ’s comfort and rest is received, we are called in turn to become rest and comfort for our brothers and sisters.”

*Follow the link to the original Vatican News article.

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4 February. Brownings XVIII: Rending the garment of Christ.

rembrandt x 1. (2)
Elizabeth writes about her faith, opening herself yet more to her fiancé Robert. The arid, grey Puritanism of her father would force her and Robert to elope, and there was no reconciliation in their earthly life.
“Hating as I do from the roots of my heart all that rending of the garment of Christ, which Christians are so apt to make the daily week-day of this Christianity so called—and caring very little for most dogmas and doxies in themselves—too little, as people say to me sometimes, (when they send me ‘New Testaments’ to learn from, with very kind intentions)—and believing that there is only one church in heaven and earth, with one divine High Priest to it; let exclusive religionists build what walls they please and bring out what chrisms.
But I used to go with my father always, when I was able, to the nearest dissenting chapel of the Congregationalists—from liking the simplicity of that praying and speaking without books—and a little too from disliking the theory of state churches.
There is a narrowness among the dissenters which is wonderful; an arid, grey Puritanism in the clefts of their souls: but it seems to me clear that they know what the ‘liberty of Christ’ means, far better than those do who call themselves ‘churchmen’; and stand altogether, as a body, on higher ground.”
ruined chapel
(from “The Letters of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Barrett, Vol. 1 (of 2) 1845-1846” by Robert Browning)
Rembrandt Crucifixion, out of copyright.
Dissenting Chapel, Bishops Castle, MMB.

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27 January: The murder that shook the Middle Ages.

crypt (640x481)

This link is to the British Museum blog  post about ‘the murder that shook the Middle Ages: that of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, in his own Cathedral.  In this period of Brexit and withdrawal from Europe, it is as well for us all to realise that:

In death Becket remained a figure of opposition to unbridled power and became seen as the quintessential defender of the rights of the Church. To this end you can find images of his murder in churches across Latin Christendom, from Germany and Spain, to Italy and Norway. Becket was, and remains, a truly European saint.

By no means was Thomas simply an anti-establishment English hero. Let us pray for the grace to discern when to support and when to oppose or challenge authority.

The British Museum will be holding a major exhibition about Becket and his world in the Autumn of 2020.

 

From 1170 to 1220, Saint Thomas’s remains lay in the Crypt of Canterbury Cathedral.

 

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21 January: Church UnityWeek, Unusual Kindness IV

misericord.boat.st.davids

This year’s reflections for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity were prepared by the Churches in Malta and Gozo. We are sharing elements of their prayers, but follow the link for the full resources for personal or community prayer.

Naturally, the Maltese Christians draw our attention to the story in Acts 27-28 of how Paul, a prisoner in chains, was among a group who survived being shipwrecked on Malta.

An angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, stood by me this night, saying: Fear not, Paul, thou must be brought before Caesar; and behold, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee. Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer; for I believe God that it shall so be, as it hath been told me.And we must come unto a certain island. (27:23-26)

Adrift

I am floating and at sea

Without direction and fearful of what lies ahead

I come to You, known and yet unknowing

Unfathomable God

Rising and falling

Without bearings

bring me to a safe haven

a place where I can begin

to hope again

to trust again

in You and others.

Prayer

Almighty God, our personal suffering leads us to cry out in pain and we shrink in fear when we experience sickness, anxiety or the death of loved ones.

Teach us to trust You. May the churches we belong to be signs of Your providential care. Make us true disciples of Your Son who taught us to listen to Your word and to serve one  another.

In confidence we ask this in the name of Your Son, and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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17 January, Church Unity week: Rebuild my Church

 

st damiano wall repaired

On the train towards Assisi, a Canadian was singing the praises of the Saskatoon winters, ’40° below, Fahrenheit or Celsius’, then announced to whoever was not listening, ‘In North America we would knock these buildings down and build something bigger; but here they repair and restore them.’

This particular wall is a stiff walk up from the railway station, at San Damiano in Assisi, the place where Saint Francis heard the call from the Crucified to ‘Rebuild my Church, which is falling down.’ That is a story that the Franciscans are living to this day; it was not just the ruinous chapel of San Damiano that needed rebuilding, but the whole of God’s Church, a project that should involve every group of people who claim to be Christian.

Pope Francis is calling us to rebuild the Church for today and tomorrow. What might that look like? A brand new building or a much-loved one, patched, repaired and altered to house a changing mission, and stones which the builders may have rejected in the past?

This wall is hundreds of years old; how many times has it been altered – and drastically altered – to fulfil changing needs or to strengthen it after earthquakes or erosion? For sure the big arch replaced he smaller one, to create a cart shed maybe, but in its turn it was no longer needed, so was filled in with irregular stone, its crest replaced by a horizontal course to support a new floor.

Successive architects could not have foreseen how their wall would become less fit for purpose, but they confidently built what was needed in their own life time. And that too would be rebuilt, centuries later.

Even today repairs and alterations continue around the monastery to make pilgrims welcome: electricity, running water, more even floors and steps, but the core of the church is as it was. The notice on the wall says that this is a Unesco World Heritage Site, not, though, a museum.

Our Faith is more precious than any Unesco heritage site. We will not preserve it as a treasure hidden in a field (or around San Damiano, an olive grove) but by bringing into the open, and using, treasures old and new.

Let us pray during Christian Unity Week, which begins tomorrow, for courage in our daily mission to rebuild Christ’s church together.

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