Tag Archives: community

Awareness?

margatesunset-21-1-17Margate Sunset, as beloved by JWM Turner.

 

My wife’s nursing magazine says this is ‘Sun Awareness Week’. I’m more aware of the cold North Wind today.

However the weather, here is a reflection on the sun, on not taking things for granted – and, appropriately after Christopher’s post yesterday, the Our Father. Click on the link to read Fr James Kurzynski’s post from the Vatican Observatory website.

Sun awareness

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7 April, Shared Table XII: Washing Up is Part of the Meal.

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I’m afraid this posting is well and truly out of sequence! Our Shared Table season will begin at Corpus Christi, June 18 in England, but this follows on from yesterday’s reflection on ‘eat whatever they set before you.’

More than one local miner told me that the men who had been sent down here to Kent to open the new pits were largely the ‘awkward squad’ from mines in Scotland, Wales and Northern England. George was one of the last-named. His reputation lives on, as I discovered maybe twenty years after he left us, when I was working in his village of Aylesham.

George was not awkward for the sake of it. He saw the hardships and injustice his fellow miners endured in the days before the pits were nationalised and did something about it. He often pointed out that landowners whose fields sat over coal measures earned more from selling the concessions than the miners who endured harsh conditions to dig it out. George conquered a stammer to be able to stand up and speak for his fellow workers. He even went back to the mines after spending his War service in the Merchant Navy.

In his ill-health retirement – coal was not always kind to those who worked it – he came to L’Arche from home, working in the garden or the workshop, sharing our meals, and always first at the sink when washing up was to be done. There was always plenty of it, and if George did not cook, he certainly contributed to the meal and to the community in this way.

George was a cheerful giver, and is no doubt cheerful in a happy place now.

MMB.

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29 March: “Is Christianity Dead?”- Our Response to BBB: IV, ‘A mature choice for a life of faith.’

Walking with young people builds up the community.

Dear BBB,

Today I’d like to share some thoughts from the preparation document for the coming Synod of Bishops. You ask: Are we experiencing the decline of faith and church as we know it?  Well, that’s one way of looking at it, but I agree with Doug that hardly means Christianity is dead.

Baptism, the Bishops remind us, is not the same as making a mature choice for a life of faith. Arriving at this point requires a journey which sometimes includes unpredictable paths and uncustomary places which are far removed from ecclesial communities. In this regard, Pope Francis said: “Vocational pastoral ministry is learning the style of Jesus, who passes through the places of daily life, stops without being hurried and, by looking at our brothers with mercy, leads them to encounter God the Father (Address to Participants in the International Conference on Pastoral Work for Vocations, 21 October 2016). Walking with young people builds up the entire Christian community.

Precisely because the proposed message involves the freedom of young people, every community needs to give importance to creative ways of addressing young people in a personal way and supporting personal development. In many cases, the task involves learning to allow for something new and not stifling what is new by attempting to apply a preconceived framework. No seed for vocations can be fruitful if approached with a closed and “complacent pastoral attitude that says: ‘We have always done it this way’” and without people being “bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelisation in their respective communities” (Evangelii gaudium, 33). Three verbs from the Gospel, which describe the way Jesus encountered the people of his time, can be of assistance in adopting this pastoral style: “going out”, “ seeing” and “calling.”

If we want to be seeing young (and older) people in our church buildings, we have to go out to them; only then can we be used to call them.

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28 March: “Is Christianity Dead?”- Our Response to BBB: III – The church should feel like a place of welcome.

 

Dear BBB,

I spend a fair bit of time with teenage boys, and was one myself. Let me return to those lads staring at the ceiling. Part of the answer to their apparent detachment was that they – and the girls – should have been at the door, greeting people, handing out newsletters and hymn books, finding seats for visitors, pointing out the toilets/washrooms. Yes, some of them would feel awkward doing that, but if you are part of the team you are part of the community. Welcoming could be a ministry they undertake as part of the confirmation programme.

Even when no-one is there but the One in the Tabernacle, a Church should feel like a place of welcome. I sometimes feel a little over-welcomed at Canterbury Cathedral when I just want to dive into the dark, quiet crypt for ten minutes. There is a certain nervous zeal amongst the welcomers when I enter wearing my day-glow builder’s jacket for cycling. But no question of turning me away because I look like a manual worker.

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For good reasons the church porch may be the only space open outside service times. Does it speak of the life of the parish? Can the visitor discover what’s going on and who is responsible for different activities? If I’m in town to visit my relative in hospital, can I see the contact details for the chaplains? Is there a written introduction to the church and parish? In more than one language? Can a wheelchair user see the sanctuary and tabernacle if the main church is locked?

This is all part of ‘do these Christians love one another?’ It is the body language of the parish, absorbed before the newcomer has set foot in the church or joined in Mass.

They say body language conveys more than the spoken word, but one Mass when one of my children was really vocal, an old lady looked daggers at us, or so we thought, till she came over after Mass and made a real fuss of her.

She was blessing our marriage and our child.

A visitor to our parish once complained that he could not pray seated near us when one of the children was too enthusiastic for his liking. He could have sat elsewhere. Such attitudes drive people away; there was the parish priest at a seaside town who told us he expected young children (ours would have been two and four years old) to stay in the porch. We stayed in church, they were quiet, and he complimented us afterwards – but we would not have wanted to worship there regularly.

For it must needs be that scandals come: but nevertheless woe to that man by whom the scandal cometh.

Matthew 18:7

WT

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26 March: “Is Christianity Dead?”- Our Response to BBB: I, Christianity cannot die.

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I invited Doug to respond to BBB’s blog, ‘Is Christianity Dead?’ which you’ll find re-blogged here. In the next few days I’ll follow Doug with some reflections on particular points raised by BBB, who is one of our most faithful readers. Over to Doug.

Will.

I recently read the thought provoking lamentations of a concerned Catholic writer who raised the question “Is Christianity dead?”  Despite a litany of bad news ranging from a half empty church at Christmas Midnight Mass, to Pew (no pun intended) Research findings of decreasing church attendance, prayer, and living the faith, she answers her own question with a resounding, yet less than inspiring, “No”.

Her contention is that, “Christianity is not dead. It is alive in our hearts. In our homes. In our prayers.”  But while she concedes Christianity is not dead, she doesn’t seem convinced that it might not be gravely, or even terminally ill.  She sees inviting others to fill the empty parish seats as one way to save Christianity from certain death.

No, Christianity (A.K.A the Church and the Body of Christ) is not dead, nor is it dying.  It cannot, and will not die.  Christ told Peter (Matthew 16:17), the Church was built upon on the rock of Peter’s faith, “and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it”, and as the Prophet foretold about the strength of the Church entrusted to Christ (Isaiah 22:22), “…what he opens, no one will shut, what he shuts, no one will open.”

While evangelizing is the baptismal obligation demanded by God, if we fail at this mission because of our fallen nature, God will still prevail and the Church will not die.  Take comfort in the fact that our heavenly father has “set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed…”  (Daniel 2:44).

DW.

 

Pilgrims in the rain, Krakow, August 2016.

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4 March: Cafe prayer

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I’m waiting for someone in a cafe. I sit there with my coffee. I’m glad of the space between commitments. Around me people are talking and music is playing. Why is it that through my life I have often found cafes to be as fruitful places of meeting with God as churches? Perhaps it’s the fact that I am among other people pausing. There’s no ‘ought’ about being here. I am here to sit for a while, alone or with others and drink coffee and that’s the only ‘task’ for this time. And that is so much like prayer: the simple being with God…and pausing and investing time in doing so.

Perhaps too it is because cafes are places of relationship, conversation and community. Wherever love is present – in the meeting of friends, in the act of listening and sharing – God is present. Much of the time we assume that it’s the other stuff of life – meeting deadlines, planning and delivering work – that matters; and it does. But life without pausing, friendship, sharing, and community is a poor thing. The place to make our investment is not in shares or possessions or achievements but in relationships – whether with God or with other people. Let there be time for sitting in a cafe, time for pausing, time for friendship, time for God.

CC.

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27 February: Full Stop.

trees-reflection-chris

Full stop,

where my sentence ends.

I have run out of words again.

Again my sentence ends

at a full stop.

Will you not take my waiting pen

at this full stop?

Then you and I shall write again.

But all I can give you

is my full stop,

and my waiting pen.

Sometimes life seems to come to a full stop. Something ends and we don’t know what comes next. Or perhaps we just recognise the need for a pause before we set out again

In something written – as with this piece – a full stop marks the end of one line of thought. If we are reading aloud, a full stop allows a breath – a pause – before we begin again. Full stops might seem to oppose the natural flow, but we need that breath. When writing it gives space to consider what it is we want to communicate and the ways we might do so. When reading we gain the time to take in what we have read: what is being said and what is its significance?

Like a piece of writing our life with God will have plenty of full stops. They exist not to impede our activity but to empower it. Some are like the ending of a chapter. We retire or change jobs, or move home, or experience the difficult ending of a relationship. Or perhaps the full stop feels more as if it is inside us: we sense it’s time to stop something that has been significant in our life. It’s time to move on. But to what? The pause invites us to let God in. We might be tempted to rush on to the next sentence – any old sentence – to avoid this uncomfortable halt in progress. But that would be a mistake. We need a deep breath of God; it will help us see where we have been going and where the road might now lead us.

Some full stops are smaller: not the end of a chapter or even a paragraph but a break within the activity of reading or writing. ‘Sometimes’ Etty Hillesum wrote in her journal, ‘the most important thing in our whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths or the turning aside in prayer for five minutes.’ These full stops are the intentional way we abide in Christ and draw life from Christ’s abiding in us. We have space to listen to the events of our day and what has been happening within us. We remember that we move forward together. As on the written page the stops are small but frequent. They help rather than hinder the flow of our activity, giving meaning and shape to what we do.

So as you write, or read, or live this day, put in the necessary punctuation.

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Integrity of Creation – Laudato Si’ in Zambia.

integrity-of-creation-01blog

Follow this link to read how a rural parish in Zambia is working to renew the face of the earth. An interesting post by Benjamin Itungabose, M.Afr.

Laudato Si’ in Zambia

WT.

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18 February: Convivial Grace.

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Where should we look for locations in which we experience Christ’s presence as healing, and thus as overcoming the bewilderment and fears which are too typical of our modern circumstances? Table fellowship, as some call it, table friendship, or the conviviality of a living community, happen better in some Christian settings than others.

This scene is one where barbeques have gone well, summer picnics have lasted for hours, and the spilling out of indoor celebrations have all been excellent occasions for informal interactions, concerned with inner peace and changes of direction. Unthreatening circumstances for sharing fears and bewilderment are essential for moving beyond fantasies and into strong life-affirming relationships.

But in such circumstances we must decide to put our religious self-awareness into convincing words and phrases. Perhaps we want a more sincere account of who we are than we had a month earlier. We alter our choice of adjectives. The novelist David Lodge claims that “the frequency of coincidence in fictional plots… is related to how much the writer feels he can ‘get away with’,” in order to show how vivid certain encounters or events were. Our stories told to friends may be altered also, to show how much God lets us get away with, in terms of kindness and forgiveness. On this point, David Jasper quotes Emily Dickinson: “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant… The Truth must dazzle gradually/ Or every man be blind.”

What is more life-affirming: vivid wickedness admitted, and partly abandoned, or vivid new expressions of compassion taken totally to heart? Grace has multiple versions.

Chris D.

January 2017.

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February 16: the New Creation

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The way we overcome fears is not by coldly reasoning out an alternative. It is by accepting the gift of Christ’s new heaven and new earth, given to us as love. Mary received that gift on our behalf, a vision of new stars and a new sun, the sun of righteousness and integrity. Joy is an aspect of wonder in the Christian outlook of hope, because we look forward to transforming love as a community of joy. We cherish this authentic vision of love in all the layers of our personality.

As Karl Rahner expresses it:

“An authentic vision can probably be explained as a purely spiritual touch of God, affecting the innermost centre of a man, and spreading from there to all of his faculties, his thought and imagination, which transform this touch. Hence, when a ‘vision’ reaches the consciousness of a visionary, it has already passed through the medium of his subjectivity, and therefore also bears his individual characteristics as regards language, interests, theological presuppositions and so forth.”

Does this make our distinct cultures into barriers? Not so.

“The grace of which the Church is the enduring sign is victoriously offered by God even to those who have not yet found the visible Church and who nevertheless already, without realizing it, live by its Spirit, the Holy Spirit in the love and mercy of God.” “Some who would never dream of telling themselves… that they have already received ‘the baptism of the Spirit’ of the radical freedom of love… nevertheless live in a community secretly liberated by God’s grace in the deepest core of their existence.”

ChrisD.

January 2017.

 

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