Tag Archives: compassion

13 September: ‘We thought we were set.’ Shared table XXV.

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The BBC Website includes a section on The People’s War, memories of the conflict from all over the world. It is worth visiting to learn how bad and how good people can be in times of stress, conflict and danger.

George Nolan Johnston was in the British army in the Middle East, sent on a long and apparently pointless journey culminating in a crowded train with no opportunity to get food or drink. Did the officer who organised it not know the men could not get food, or did he just not care?

Here is an extract from Mr Nolan Johnston’s story, but do read the rest of it.

We arrived at a way-side station in the sand. A fleet of trucks waited for us, we were transported some miles west into the sun, and dumped on the side of a desert road. Our patch was beside an east-west tarmacadam road bordered to the North and South with sand. The patch was equipped with open ablutions and latrines. We had neither food nor tents.

Shortly after we arrived a dispatch rider arrived on a motorbike. He bore a message from the officer in charge of the next camp, which was a mile up the road. If we cared to walk up, he would supply us with tea and sandwiches, he apparently had been similarly dumped a week prior to us. We were really starving so we queued up with our tummies rumbling and mugs at the ready. The last few yards were torture and when we got a full mug of sweet tea and a large thick corned beef sandwich, we thought we were set. Never before or since have I enjoyed anything better. We were so very much grateful to the unknown officer.

Compassion, imagination and sharing.

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September 2: Another mini pilgrimage

Clock-watching again, trains will not wait for one passenger, I only had time for a quick visit to Manchester’s Hidden Gem, Saint Mary’s Church in the city centre. What a difference since my last visit when it was tired and dirty. All was clean and well-loved.

The Norman Adams Stations of the Cross were new to me – it shows how long since you were here, said NAIB2. I had time for a five minute walk around the Stations before making for Piccadilly Station and the walk home. Another time I feel I could visit just two or three stations here. No need to describe the feelings they awakened in me, except for the word com-passion.

I close with two paragraphs from Friar Austin’s series of posts on the Eucharist. The stations are not a substitute for the Sacrament, but should lead us to it. This post was published on July 20.

The Eucharist is the mystery of God’s graciousness and our salvation. Transubstantiation is a word for something we cannot understand, something beyond the competence of human language; to claim to capture it is to nullify the challenge to attune the way we live so as to address the cry of the poor. Augustine [who used the word Transubstantiation] says we are present not to satisfy personal needs [or commandments] but to be attentive and proactive to the cry of the poor. We cannot appreciate Transubstantiation if we by-pass the challenge for personal change.

The Eucharist is the real presence, not just a memorial ritual. It is Presence there for our presence, so that what is in him can be in us. Jesus does not stand-in for us, but invites us to get involved. We cannot receive the Eucharist in passive ways – the fruit of the Eucharist is one community allowing God’s love to be felt in our world.

For any armchair pilgrims, you can find the stations on the church website. Click on each thumbnail to enlarge it.

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19 July, What is Theology Saying? XIX: The Eucharist 6, A Call to Simplicity

winchester crucifixWhen Jesus began his ministry he didn’t expect it to lead to this – it wasn’t the goal of his mission. What he challenged us with was totally radical – the way of non-violence, of not needing someone to blame. His death reveals both the compassion of God and the reality of sin. Faced with Jesus, his contemporaries, chosen as hearers of the Word – panicked. The Gospels don’t present the leaders as particularly evil; they used arguments we are still using ourselves – prudence, common sense, self-defence… This is why sin is so appalling, showing how our normal and accepted ways of living are so corrupt that they crucify the innocent – legally.

Some would argue for a proper distinction to be made between religion, politics and social living. Jesus didn’t invite people to be poor, but to be poor in spirit – detached enough from whatever possessions to notice the poor man at the door. There is no love for a hungry person which leaves the person still hungry – it is pointless to show how much is being spent here and there – when the poor remain unfed, unclothed and unhoused. The very point of the Eucharist is to free people from the oppression of such evil. It is naïve to think we help poor people simply by becoming poor ourselves. Our call is to simplicity – simple means uncomplicated, and is not synonymous with easy.

We come to the Eucharist to be involved in ways of everyday living that will bring change. We have the gift of the Sacraments to help us do this. It is easy to miss the point of the Sacrament of the Eucharist by seeing it as a very special ceremony celebrated in but distinct from everyday living. There can be no intimacy with God without seeking the well-being of others – we are told the Second Commandment is like the first; which cautions about eating and drinking unworthily – 1Corinthians 11.27.

Grace is not a commodity God has to give to those who do what they are told to do. In fact, it is not something – it is relationship. It is an invitation to intimacy along with the gift of courage to say yes. Grace cannot be seen but gracefulness can, in heightened sensitivity to the needs of others. We can love our own family to the exclusion of others, likewise for one’s country – but such is not love since love knows nothing of exclusions. Love means openness – no matter who no matter where. See this expressed in the way the local folk in Germany turned out to welcome the migrants. This is Eucharist beyond the table. We relate to God as community, because it is only in community [no matter how small] that relationships happen. We have little experience of covenant relationship with God when so many human hungers go unnoticed.

AMcC

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July 15: What is Theology saying today? XV: The Eucharist 2; mystery not magic.

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Gate to Jesus Hospital, Canterbury

The Eucharist is Mystery; mystery is not magic. Magic supposes there is no explanation or understanding – no way of entering-into the reality; whereas mystery invites participation in an encounter. This means a way-in to something greater than we are. Mystery is not something I can’t know anything about – but something can’t know everything about. How ludicrously wrong to say you can’t tell me anything about him – as if I can fit into my tiny mind everything about another person – when I can’t even know all about myself. Interesting to ask ourselves why did Jesus ask – who do people say I am?

To say we enter into something greater – to be with someone who can appropriately say we whereas I can only say I! What is happening for this to become my experience? The basic action of the Eucharist is sharing – not just eating. The experience this addresses in me is my experience of hunger. To be human is to be hungry, in the sense that I need more than myself to live fully – as well as food and drink, I need companionship and compassion… so many human hungers persuade me that I cannot be self-fulfilled. With all possible human hungers in mind – this is what Jesus means by I am the bread of life. Our Western culture persuades us that meal-times are essential and always available. There is no such thing as meal-time for the vast majority, who eat whenever food, affection and compassion are available.

If I am never hungry in any of these human hungers to the point of starving, it is unlikely that I feel for those who are permanently there. Compassion requires me to enter into the suffering of another simply because that is where they are [this makes sense of the ancient discipline of fasting before communion]. The obvious way to know about hunger is to be hungry. Hunger is intrusive; will not allow us to get on with anything else until it is attended to. When God created hunger he created a blessing – opportunity to experience so many good things. God created more than enough ways to satisfy every possible hunger – the fact of so much starvation serves to tell us what we have done with Creation’s good things, enough to make the experience of hunger a curse to be eradicated.

AMcC

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7 April: The Passover Sequence IV. The Evening.

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Saint Mary, Rye, Sussex.

It was darkness

When Nicodemus finally turned up.

With permissions.

With lights,

With tools,

A ladder,

Men.

Helpers so needed.

We had no strength, were exhausted,

Standing for hours

Waiting,

Watching.

It had all been waiting, these past days,

Our conversations muted.

Just being.

And what he seemed to want.

To be.

To be with us.

The love palpable,

Needing.

See …. they have almost released his hands.

When these Romans do a job,

They do it well.

There is no blood left to flow.

These men,

How delicately they support him.

How silent,

The chink of a tool,

A whisper,

As he is laid upon the ground.

So stony,

So blood-soaked

An execution ground.

See …. they remove those thorns,

No blood.

What possessed them to do that to him?

Why ……..?

So near now to Mary’s feet.

She doesn’t stir.

Watching, absorbed within herself,

Gathering her son,

Her pain,

All he has left to her,

Her sorrow.

See …. they clear as best they may

The detritus of the day

And wrap him in the cloth they brought.

They thought of everything!

We can think of nothing,

Except that he is gone

And the great chasm of loneliness we bear.

She moves as he is borne away,

Takes my arm.

Come home,

It will soon be dawn.

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5 April: The Passover Sequence, II. The Soldier.

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Enough, lads!

Leave it,

Go … go … leave it!

Why do they tell us to do these things?

Soldiers of Caesar … are we not human?

They had their fun

Till it sickened

And they laboured.

And I stayed.

Here! Put this back on!

See he shivers in the shock,

Such violence!

Not the usual cursing, angry vagrant,

Shouting, struggling,

Shivering. Yes,

Their bodies react like that,

But his eyes are calm.

He looked at me.

I am ashamed.

Here, let me help you.

Why do they do this?

Why mock the man?

Why strike?

Why spit?

No-one seems to know.

But for their satisfaction

And more to come I hear.

Well, I’ll leave you here … where else?

I’m off duty soon,

My wife will have my meal,

I’m hungry now.

But you!

What for you?

The hordes are ravenous,

Whipped up for blood.

Do you not have friends?

Family?

Who speaks for you?

Defends you?

I must go.

Someone will come for you soon.

But wait here ….

here ….

I’m sorry ….

SPB.

 

 

The Crowning with Thorns, Strasbourg Cathedral, West Front.

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31 October: Christ walking with travellers: Human trafficking 3.

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Local Response to Human Trafficking

Taken from the Santa Marta Group  website   The Santa Marta Group brings the Church and Police together to combat Human trafficking. Here is an example provided by the United Kingdom (UK): Bakhita House.

In the UK today there are around 14,000 people in modern slavery, and over 50% of those people are trafficked through London.

The Catholic Church in England and Wales has put into place a local response to combat the scourge of human trafficking – the Bakhita Initiative. It’s a forward-thinking and influential national anti-trafficking hub.

A collaborative approach, the Bakhita Initiative has focused on strengthening partnerships between law enforcement agencies and those involved in working with those who have been trafficked.

In the UK, this has involving the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, the London Metropolitan Police, Catholic religious communities, and other support agencies.

A key element of the initiative is Caritas Bakhita House – a ‘triage’ centre for the emergency placement of women escaping human trafficking and its function will be to support the beginnings of the restorative process.

Victims of Trafficking

Caritas Bakhita House aims to tackle the devastating consequences of human trafficking by providing those victims who are most vulnerable and traumatised with the safety and support to begin the process of recovery and rehabilitation.

Bakhita House offers emergency support, psychosexual therapy, legal and financial assistance, mentoring, and help with accessing accommodation. Women will also have access to education and employment opportunities.

Women who are supported by Caritas Bakhita House will benefit from these values and principles of action:

Love – expressed in compassionate support and long term commitment

Respect – for the gift and dignity of each individual

Community – a welcome which creates friendship and belonging

Spirituality – nurtured by that Joy in creative activity which lifts the spirit

Caritas Bakhita House is owned by the Archdiocese of Westminster and managed by Caritas Westminster. Bakhita House has been made possible through our partnerships with the Bishops’ Conference, the Metropolitan Police Anti-Trafficking Unit, the Congregation of Adoratrices, local parishes, and victims and survivors of human trafficking.

John Coleby, Director of Caritas Westminster, says:

“Caritas Bakhita House is part of a unique partnership between the Catholic Church and the Metropolitan Police to support victims of trafficking and modern slavery…

“Through working with international, national and local Catholic networks, this project will make visible the universal solidarity which exists among Catholics and other people of goodwill who wish to rid the world of this crime.”

Caritas Bakhita House opened on 30 June 2015.

 

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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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9 February: Unstoppable faith

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(Image from http://markseifried.tumblr.com/post/119022876840/persistence)

Thursday 9th, February, 2017

Gospel: Mark 7:24-30

The woman in the Gospel story today was adamant.  Jesus had described any move to help her as giving the children’s food to house-dogs.  The woman stood her ground and was not discouraged by the strong language used by Jesus.  She felt she deserved a chance and Jesus gave her that chance.

Reflecting on Jesus’ first reaction, it was a total write-off.  She could have easily felt offended and walked away.  If it were me, I could have felt so angry and humiliated that I would not like to have anything to do with him again. It is a big challenge to be nice to somebody who speaks rudely to me.  How open am I to that person or situation I am finding difficult to deal with?  Will I resolve today to give that person another try?

In the midst of my everyday wrong choices, God does not and will not give up on me.  In the same way I am called to imitate God, in being more accommodating and empathetic.   Am I convinced that God can still intervene in every situation, even when it seems hopeless?  Like the woman in the Gospel, I should not give up. God is fully aware of it and taking care of it in his own way.

FMSL

 

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8 February: Freedom in forgiveness, Saint Josephine Bakhita.

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(Image from http://www.jesusmariasite.org)

 

Wednesday February 8th 2017

Today we remember Saint Josephine Bakhita, a woman who found the strength in God’s love to overcome painful memories of cruelty and injustice in her past experience of slavery.  Forgiveness can be a long process of letting go for so many of us, and we too need the help of God’s grace.

Once upon a time, I was caught up with a past hurt.   When I was much younger, somebody told me that I was ugly and wasn’t worth anything.  I went home and wept, looking in the mirror to see if I was really ugly.  The next day, I walked up to the person and announced to her that I was not ugly.  I became really angry and disassociated myself from her. Our parents intervened in the situation but it didn’t make any difference. We became enemies for years.

One day, I went to Mass and the Gospel teaching of forgiving seventy times seven times was read.  It dawned on me that there is no limit to how many times we can forgive one another. When I got home, I gave her a call and she could not believe I did that.  Tears ran down from my eyes and I felt a huge relief. I discovered I was holding myself in bondage all those years.

Sometimes we do things, thinking we want to hurt others and in real sense it is ourselves we are hurting.  From that experience, I realised that it is only in letting go that I am able to forgive myself and others.   It doesn’t matter how many times I have to do this.  As Saint Josephine said, ‘”The Lord has loved me so much: we must love everyone, we must be compassionate.”’

FMSL

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