I had to collect a couple of things from Saint Mildred’s. It was good to see the church all empurpled for Advent, the place is truly beloved.
Rev Jo Richards was in evidence too, alleluia. She has been isolating, even from her family, after a positive test for Covid-19. Sharing meals with the family via Whats App took some getting used to, but the rectory has an annexe that could have been designed just for this.
Not being able to get out and about enabled Rev Jo to spend time preparing for the next few weeks. As she told me: ‘Advent is planned, Christmas is planned!’
Thank God neither Jo nor Jenny, her curate, had many symptoms of the disease, and are both back at work. And let’s pray for all those who continue to be affected by the disease, and all for whom Christmas will mean an empty place at table which cannot be replaced by Whats App.
And may all who have died from the disease rest in peace, Amen.
Our third and – for the present – final borrowing from Eddie’s blog at the London Irish Chaplaincy. Thank you Eddie! Readers may like to visit the chaplaincy’s Prayer Room, see the invitation at the end of the post.
We’re blessed in the UK and Ireland to have four distinct seasons, even occasionally being able to see all of them in a single day, and the transition from Summer to Autumn can be especially evocative.
Each year at the end of August I go through a little period of mourning for the Summer. The holidays have been and gone, the flowers are fading, the long trousers and long sleeves need to be got out, and our Wednesday evening cycling group has to cease due to the rapidly encroaching dark. And yet there are precious treats in store. I always await with eager anticipation the re-appearance of Orion, the constellation visible in the Northern hemisphere only over the winter months. I was at the monastery when the big day came. I happened to have a room on the East side of the Guest Wing and I’d initially been disappointed to be so placed. The West Wing, where I’d been before, overlooks the woods and the lovely old monastery buildings and is especially peaceful. The East side contains a school and a road and consequently a bit of noise. However, waking up in the dark on the first morning of my retreat at 5.40 a.m. to attend the 6 a.m. Vigils service I drew back the curtains to reveal the incredible sight in the sky of Orion and the Winter Triangle. It was like the return of an old and faithful friend. There was also a bright, full Harvest moon in all its glory, and a little later the deepest of red skies as the sun began to rise. Had I been in a room on the West side I would have missed it all!
Autumn is often a time of new beginnings. Another academic year commences, and many people might be embarking on a new course or hobby. The next level of my Korean class has got going and I’ve been enjoying both the study, the interaction with a very nice and very international group of people, and practising some of my new expressions on Yim Soon! The lessons have been quite fun so far and that’s how I like my language learning to be. And then at the start of September there was a much-anticipated event: the meeting of my choir for the first time in over a year and a half. There were fewer people than there used to be. Mansel, who I often sit next to, remarked to me at the start, “You do realise, don’t you, that the reason some people haven’t returned is because they’ve died!” It was a sobering reflection. Nonetheless it has been a great joy to drive off to Whitstable again on a Tuesday evening for rehearsals, a fixed point in my life for many years and much missed during COVID, and it will no doubt be a great joy to perform again.
I relish the first hints of coolness in the air in the early morning or late evening, and being able to give proper observance to those key transition periods in the day, dawn and dusk. I gather and prepare the wood for the winter fires. The garden as well needs to be got ready for its winter slumber and regeneration. There will be a final mowing of the grass; the remains of the summer flowers will be added to the compost heap; the soil will be dug over, taking care not to disturb the Spring bulbs. Perhaps new daffodils or tulips will be planted. Then the garden will be left; the worms will be allowed to do their hidden work of restoration; and the spiders will weave their beautiful webs that glisten so radiantly in the fresh dew of the morning.
October will bring the first frost, and how I marvel on my early morning walk to see the intricate patterns it makes on the car windscreens. That might coincide with another seasonal treat, the first fire. It will be the first of many and how I love to listen to the crackling of the logs and to watch the flames leap and dance. It will be time for the cooking apples to be harvested from the old tree by the shed. There will be the ceremonial first baking of apple crumble; and with a bumper crop, which seems to be every other year, the bulk will be made into chutney. Meanwhile the leaves on that and on the other trees will give their annual display of golden beauty, before they fall and wither.
The cycles of the seasons, the cycles of our lives. And, to paraphrase Keats as the days shorten on another year, may all our fruit be filled with ripeness to the core.
Visit our Prayer Room
We hope this becomes a place to remember loved ones, to mark special events, to be grateful for something happening or to bring a concern and receive blessings and solidarity from each other. Enjoy your time of prayer with us.
More inspired curiosity from Eddie Gilmore at The Irish Chaplaincy.
There are always interesting characters to be found on Glastonbury Tor and my latest visit was no exception.
I was having a few days of retreat at Downside Abbey, the Benedictine monastery in Somerset not far from Glastonbury. On my previous stay at Downside I’d also climbed the Tor, on which occasion there was a large group of women performing some kind of ritual which included a circle dance and various incantations, as well as them laughing a lot and breaking out into the singing of old pop songs in the tower. There had been a nice energy about the group and I’d wished I could be part of it.
On this occasion I’d seized the opportunity of a sunny day on which to drive over and make the steep ascent. The Tor stands at about 180m and commands spectacular views in every direction, even, on such a clear day, all the way across the Bristol Channel to a point on the Welsh coast forty-five miles away. St Michael’s Tower is perched right on the top and I especially love to look through the archways on each side. They provide a pleasant framing of the view beyond. It has been a site of pilgrimage for centuries and the following day, it was explained to me later, it would be especially busy because of the Autumn equinox. The site is said to be on a certain ‘ley line’, believed to be routes of particular sacred energy going in a straight line across the country and linking particular holy places.
On my previous visit to the Tor I’d been reminded of a place on the Camino to Santiago with similarly vast and commanding views from a high point over the surrounding flat countryside and a sense that it was somewhere the ancient Celts might have described as being a ‘thin place’ i.e. there being a thin veil between earth and heaven. This time I was mainly relishing the uncommonly warm day and, like many of those who had made the climb, lying down in the sun. I was also, as I like to do, observing those around me! Of particular interest was a woman who appeared through the archway of the tower with an ivy chain around her head. She was closely followed by a second and then a third woman who were each of them similarly adorned, also carrying armfuls of ivy and other bits and pieces. ‘What’s going on here, then?’ I wondered. They proceeded to set up shop on the grass, creating a circle of ivy and other things and with a vase of flowers at the centre. And one of them was lighting some kind of incense. One or two similarly curious onlookers asked what they were doing and one of the three explained that they were performing a little ceremony for Mother Earth and getting rid of bad things from their lives and welcoming the new. A woman who until then had been sunbathing asked to join them and she was welcomed and crowned with an ivy chain. And then the ritual began, which included the ringing of a bell, the beating of a drum and one of the women moving round the circle spreading the sweet-melling incense. It was a little bit wacky but I suppose to many people these days the liturgies I’d been attending in the Abbey church might seem equally wacky. At any rate, seeing a ritual performed by women was a nice counterpoint to the exclusive maleness of that morning’s monastic Mass. I reflected as well that some of what the women were doing wasn’t too far from what the monks had been doing on the Sunday in their High Mass, at least in terms of the incense, with a deacon having gone round the altar with the thurible; except that the men didn’t have a bunch of pretty flowers in the middle!
It was then that I heard a guitar and singing coming from inside the tower and went to explore. A man was there and he had a lovely, gentle voice which was pleasantly amplified by the acoustics of the tower, and when he finished I clapped in appreciation, along with a couple who were listening as well. He was explaining to the couple in answer to them asking where he came from that he lived in Spain, although I could hear the unmistakable sound of a Dublin accent. After the couple made their leave I got chatting with him and he was interested to hear about my background and about the work of the Irish Chaplaincy. I asked him his name. He replied that he’d been born Denis (and a Roman Catholic) but had changed his name twenty years ago to Ananda. When I later checked the spelling with him he said, “It’s like Amanda but you just change the ‘m’ to an ‘n’!” He told me that the word in Hinduism, as in Buddhism and Jainism, denotes extreme happiness and is one of the highest states of being. He believed in the unity in all religions and as if to demonstrate that he sang to me a self-composed mantra which began, conventionally enough, with the words that had been sung that morning in the monastic Mass, ‘Kyrie eleison’, Lord have mercy. Ananda’s version continued, ‘Maria eleison, Mama eleison, Allah eleison, Buddha eleison’ before ending with another verse of ‘Kyrie eleison’.
He went on to tell me that he’d lived in Glastonbury for four year and had walked up the Tor every single day, rain or shine, with his guitar and it was his personal ministry to sing in the tower and chat to people. He also pointed out to me the Celtic connections with the area. An old legend has it that Patrick came back to Britain as an old man and gathered together some hermits in Glastonbury and became the first Abbot. What’s more, the carved figure of Brigid, patron saint of the Irish Chaplaincy as I explained to Ananda, is carved right there in St Michael’s Tower where we were speaking. Legend has it that she spent two years in Glastonbury in prayer before founding in Kildare her dual monastery, one for women and one for and men and over both of which she ruled as abbess.
Ananda was summoned to go and meet his wife, his ring tone being a nice bit of violin music! As he invited me to “go well” I decided it was time to be brave and engage with the ivy-clad women. I went over and asked if I could take a photo of their circle and one of them said with a smile, “Do you want the models in the picture?” I asked what the incense had been and was told it had been sage and myrrh. “Oh” I said, “sage was used by the native Americans to purify the atmosphere of bad vibes.” I happened to know that because when I’d been in a role at L’Arche that seemed to involve having a lot of tricky 1 to 1 meetings, my counterpart in L’Arche London, an American called Keith, used to tell me about the sprig of sage he kept hanging in his office for such meetings. We’d call one another sometimes and say, “So how much sage did you need to burn today?”
Later I went for a stroll in the town which is a truly fascinating place. On the residential street leading to the centre almost every other house has a statue of the Buddha in the window. Then there is the main street, which is a veritable hot-potch of what used to be called ‘New age mysticism’: tarot card reading, crystals, hypnotherapy, ‘Saturday morning yoga with Andrew’, the ‘Zen Music Shop’. Outside the C of E parish church a wizard had set up a stall, next to a man playing reggae music, and was waving cheerfully to passers-by. Ananda had told me that Glastonbury is home to seventy-three different religions and beliefs, the highest such concentration anywhere on the planet. There was even an RC church. How, I wondered, did they get on in the midst of the seventy-three?
I was kind of relieved to get back to the peace, and monotheism, of the monastery. Interestingly, the book being read that evening in the monastic refectory was by a Benedictine who made the observation that the professed religious life as we know it in the West is in terminal decline. The Downside community is typical in that most of the eight members are in their seventies or older and they are currently planning to leave their home of the last 150 years and move in with another, similarly diminishing, community. I agree with the prognosis of terminal decline and think we, the ever dwindling faithful in the Church need to be honest about that rather than hold our heads in the sand. I think there might not be more than a couple of decades left, in the West at any rate, of a tradition that goes back over 1600 years and which has had such a profoundly positive impact on civilisation, in such areas as healthcare and education, even in the development of champagne, thanks to Dom Pérignon, a French Benedictine monk.
What will take its place? The innate human yearning for meaning will still be there, and a need for ritual. Many of us will continue to seek places of stillness; and a sense of the sacred will be as strong as ever, however that finds its expression. My guess is that things could get even more eclectic and a whole lot more wacky! But I take comfort in the words of one of the spiritual greats (I’m afraid I can’t remember which one): “The good will out.”
We have received this invitation from CAFOD to join them in prayer and reflections through Advent.
Advent is just one week away, and we’d like to invite you to join us as we seek to draw closer to God and our global family, during this meaningful but often busy time.
Each day, in our Advent Calendar, we will be sharing Bible reflections, stories of our global neighbours, prayers and practical ideas for action, as we create a space to prepare for the coming of Christ. The calendar is live now if you’d like to begin to explore the resource.
Join us on this journey by signing up now for our Advent Calendar email reminders. Sign up now Why not also encourage your family and friends to sign up too and share this Advent journey with us?
Wishing you every blessing, as the Church year comes to a close,
For a synodal Church:the contribution of Consecrated Life From 24 to 26 November, the Union of Superiors General (USG) – the international organisation of Superiors General of men’s Religious Institutes or Societies of Apostolic Life – will hold its 96th General Assembly focusing mainly on Consecrated Life and Synodality (see programme).
As we await the results of their discussions, let us invoke the Spirit of the Lord to enlighten their work. Have a good synodal meeting!
“Pray, reflect, discuss and share your experiences, insights and desires. Do it with the freedom of those who piace their trust in God and are thus able to overcome timidity, a sense of inferiority or worse stili, reproaches and complaints, Let it be done in all simplicity, moved by the Holy Spirit, avoiding arrogance, without presumption but always having a sense of co-responsibility”. (Letter of Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, 23 July 2021)
We continue our journey to discover the spirituality of the different religious families, associations and ecclesial movements. Today we invite you to discover theSalesian spirituality.
“Listening, sincere and open dialogue, discernment in the Holy Spirit, prayer, planning and shared formation can foster a journey “together” and the construction of an inclusive “we” in view of the mission.”
The Synod in the world We continue to receive pictures, videos, … from all over the world showing the great creativity of our communities. Be inspired: come and see!“To ensure that the synodal church is not a mirage, but rather a dream to be realized, it is necessary to dream together, to pray together, and to work together ”.
(From the letter of Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, 23 July 2021)Directly from our brothers and sisters in India a nice video (only in English) which explain what is the Synod on Synodality.
Listening to people with disabilities. We need you! We invite you to send materials and good practices for the involvement of people with disabilities in the synodal process to email@example.com ListeningToAll #NobodyExcluded Feel like singing? By popular demand, we offer you the Hymn of the Synodal Way of India with the lyrics so that you too can sing … At the top of your lungs!
The Goose Game: a teamwork Finally, the English version of the Goose Game proposed by the diocese of Palencia (Spain) is now available in French, Italian, Portuguese, and Dutch too thanks to all who have collaborated. Click here to download the game .
Pray for the Synod In order to support the synodal journey and ask for the Spirit’s assistance, together with the World Network of Prayers of the Pope and UISG, we have set up a website in 5 languages: Church on the Way. Pray for the Synod. From 2 November, you too can send your prayer. See how to do it…
Copyright 2021 General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops, All rights reserved.
Our mailing address is: General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops Via della Conciliazione 34, Vatican City 00120, Vatican City State (Holy See)
I thought it was a while since we’d heard from Eddie at the Irish Chaplaincy, but lo and behold, here are three Autumnal posts waiting to appear in Agnellus Mirror. We are grateful to Eddie for allowing us to share his wise words with our readers.
One of the most uplifting images I’ve seen recently was of a 100-year-old religious sister in Dublin looking at and listening to, via a screen, her 90-year-old sister in London.
Mamie, who lives in Archway in North London and who has been supported by the Irish Chaplaincy Seniors’ Project for many years, was one of the first recipients of a pre-programmed Tablet as part of our ‘Keeping Connected’ campaign. Back at the start of the pandemic I’d had a conversation with Paul, the Seniors manager, about how we might be able to use technology to help people who were going to become even more isolated in lockdown. We were both a bit dubious about it initially but it became clear that there was a need for something, with people telling us they would find it a comfort to attend Mass or to listen to their favourite Irish radio station. Along came Joe who had being involved in a project in his native USA whereby senior banking executives who were not very computer literate were enabled to use devices like Tablets. Declan was also instrumental in the project by, amongst many other things, helping us to get around the issue of no wifi facing most of those we were supporting by means of dongles and Giffgaff-activated SIMS!
The key, as with so much of life, is to keep it simple! And that’s precisely what ‘Keeping Connected’ has done. All that’s needed is a swipe or a touch of the screen and somebody can be watching Mass from anywhere in the world, or tuning into the radio, or speaking to a familiar face. Anne told us how she loved listening to her favourite (Drogheda-based) LMFM; and John from Galway told me every week when I called how he loved hearing Galway Bay FM in the evening and how the Tablet had changed his life!
Mamie was equally delighted with her Tablet and was far quicker than me to see the possibilities it offered. She declared that she was going to attend Mass at St Gabriel’s in Archway, as well as in Ireland, and she was going to speak via Google Duo to Fr Ugo, her parish priest. She also, in the event, joined Facebook on her own initiative. And she, a then 89-year-old woman who had never previously used a computer.
Mamie had said as well at the outset, “I’ll be able to speak to my sister in Dublin next September when it’s her 100th birthday.” She was true to her word. Joe was with Mamie in her flat on the big day, and a carer in the home where Sr. Joseph lives was on hand at the other end. I listened to a recording of the call, in which Mamie says to her sister, “I wish I could hold your hand. I love you; I always have, and I always will.” Sr. Noreen in Dublin wrote, “Sr Joseph’s niece and the four Good Shepherd Sisters who celebrated her 100th birthday with her yesterday all agreed that the highlight for Sr. Joseph was the video call which you facilitated with her only living sibling Mamie Williamson. Sr. Joseph (Rita to her family) became more animated when she saw Mamie and though she did not speak it was evident that she was touched.”
Whether it’s supplying phone credit and writing materials to prisoners so they can keep in touch with family in Ireland or by providing seniors with easy-to-use technology like Tablets, I’m so proud of how the Irish Chaplaincy team has, in spite of a pandemic, helped people to keep connected across the Irish Sea.
We’ve received another Newsletter from the Bishops’ Synod Office. Here it is. What did I say a few weeks ago about long words and unusual vocabulary? Still, it’s good to see that they want to use the synod to help make us Christians all one.
In a joint letter of 28 October 2021, Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and Cardinal Mario Grech, General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops, addressed the Bishops responsible for ecumenism in their Episcopal Conferences and Synods of the Oriental Catholic Churches.
The two Cardinals trust that the “ecumenical dimension of the synodal process will promote both synodality and Christian unity so that ‘all may believe’ (John 17,21)”.“Indeed, both synodality and ecumenism are processes of ‘walking together’ ”. In fact, “as ecumenism can be understood as an ‘exchange of gifts’, one of the gifts Catholics can receive from the other Christians is precisely their experience and understanding of synodality”. (From the letter of cardinals Grech and Koch)
The Synod in the world We continue to receive pictures, videos, … from all over the world showing the great creativity of our communities. Be inspired: come and see!
Feel like singing?
Listen to a synod hymn by artist Merlin Dsouza, one of India’s leading music directors, composer and pianist, has a wide range of work in theatre, concerts, films (Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham).
Synod and Synodality: Theological Approaches New Course at the Pontifical Gregorian UniversityThe synodal process also challenges theology to deepen what is a “constitutively synodal Church”, in order to integrate visions and skills, experiences and concerns, tradition and readings to the “signs of the times”.
The Faculty of Theology of the Pontifical Gregorian University is launching a course on “synod” and “synodality”. In 12 meetings, the professors will address the topic from different angles. The aim is to create a wide space for listening and sharing among the participants, both in the classroom and online, thus implementing the synodal process and developing a truly synodal style in theology.
Programme (ONLY IN ITALIAN)Promoting a time of listening and discernment
We continue our journey to discover the spirituality of the different religious families, associations and ecclesial movements. Today we invite you to discover the Benedictine spirituality.
“The practice of listening “with the ear of the heart” sets in motion a pathway to authentic discernment of the will of God.”
Pray for the Synod In order to support the synodal journey and ask for the Spirit’s assistance, together with the World Network of Prayers of the Pope and UISG, we have set up a website in 5 languages: Church on the Way. Pray for the Synod. From 2 November, you too can send your prayer. See how to do it… Copyright 2021 General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops, All rights reserved. You are receiving this email because you opted in via our website.
Our mailing address is: General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops Via della Conciliazione, 34 Vatican City 00120 Vatican City State (Holy See)
Sister Clare Bernadette Knowles shared this appeal for her local Homelessness Charity, Turning Tides. Sister Rose slept out to help fundraise four years ago.
You may wish to help Turning Tides, especially if you live near Worthing, but of course, sadly, there will be a local group near where you live who need your support just as much – and their needs may be slightly different.
L’Arche Kent walking together and exploring who we are.
Do you believe that you could be the change you wish to see in the world?
If you want to build a better world and more human society, then L’Arche is the place to be!
In a world that rewards success and winning, L’Arche Kent community is a place where people with and without learning disabilities can take time to explore who they are, not just what they can do. It is a place of welcome and belonging where everyone is transformed by the experience of community, relationship, disability and difference.
We are inviting applications for the posts of
Support Workers and Night Support Workers(full or part time)
Salary: £20,841 rising to £21,216 per annum (pro rata)
Bank Assistants (casual relief)
Salary: £10.02 per hour; Location: Canterbury
To find out more about this great opportunity or for an informal chat please contact Gunita (Assistants Coordinator) firstname.lastname@example.org; 01227 643025
For further information and an application pack please visit www.larchekent.org.uk > Join our team > Vacancies
Positions are subject to a DBS check at the enhanced level.
Registered Charity No. 264166. Company Limited by guarantee. No. 1055041
We pray that people who suffer from depression or burn-out will find support and a light that opens them up to life. Lord, graciously hear us.
This is the right season to remember people who suffer from depression, especially in the lands that know Autumn and Winter with our shortening, darkling days, with the cold in the bones, and even without covid, enough infections to stockpile tissues against. Light amid th’encircling gloom, indeed.
And burn-out is all too real for many who have kept going with caring for children, the sick, the frail, the elderly, and who have not had enough time to take care of themselves. Let us pray that we might show more consideration for carers, nurses and teachers, and all who have given without counting the cost. We pray that people who suffer from depression or burn-out will find support and a light that opens them up to life. Lord, graciously hear us.