Tag Archives: conflict

2 July: Praying with Pope Francis

Pope Francis invites us this month to pray for Social Friendship


We pray that, in social, economic and political situations of conflict,

we may be courageous and passionate architects

of dialogue and friendship.

To be friends with all the world is asking the humanly impossible, don’t you think? On the other hand, it’s a statement of intent, a personal mission statement, but one that none of us can accomplish alone. The school football team above played as one, courageous and passionate in the game. They were also ambassadors of dialogue and friendship in their area, representing the Catholic Church in a time when it was still regarded with much suspicion in Britain.

Courageous and passionate footballers helped build respect among men and boys who shared a love of the game even when they cheered the other team. Our gestures of dialogue and friendship need not be grand; a chat on the street corner can add a brick to the bridge. One good neighbour, who came to our street from Northern Ireland some 20 years ago, said I was the first Roman Catholic he’d ever had a conversation with. We have both gained by our acquaintance, and the other day, before we were interrupted, we were talking about ‘the Church’ – not ‘the Churches’ – needing to reform from within. We’ll meet again!

So do try saying good morning. The worst that is likely to happen is being ignored.

The Pelicans Website

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16 May: World Communications Day.

The reader, Zakopane, Poland.

From a homily of Saint Oscar Romero, 1978, as relevant now as then.

Today the universal church celebrates World Communications Day. Let me say a few words to make all Catholics mindful of the importance of using the media of social communication in a critical and conscientious way. Through these marvellous means of communication—such as newspapers, radio, television, cinema—many ideas are communicated to large numbers of people, but often the media serve as tools of confusion. These instruments, as creators of public opinion, are often manipulated by materialist interests and are used to maintain an unjust state of affairs through falsehood and confusion. There is a lack of respect for one of the most sacred rights of the human person, the right to be well informed, the right to the truth. Each person must defend this right for himself or herself by using the media critically. Not everything in the newspapers, not everything in the movies or on television, not everything that is heard on the radio is true. Often it is just the opposite, a lie.


That is why critical people must know how to filter the media to avoid being poisoned with whatever falls into their hands. This is the type of awareness that the church wants to awaken today as we celebrate World Communications Day. We want people to read the newspapers critically and be able to say, «This is a lie! This is not the same thing that was said yesterday! This is a distortion because I have seen the opposite stated!» Being critical is a vital characteristic in our day, and because the church attempts to implant this critical awareness, she is facing some very serious conflicts. The reason is that the dominant interests want to keep people half-asleep. They do not want people who are critical and know how to discern between truth and falsehood. I believe that never before has there existed in the world, especially in a setting like ours, such a struggle—a struggle unto death—between the truth and the lie. The conflict at this time can be reduced to this: either truth or lies. Let us not forget that great saying of Christ: «The truth will set you free» (John 8:32). Let us always seek the truth!

There is a saying of Saint Augustine that I believe is very appropriate for these times: Libenter credimus quod credere volumus, which means, «We gladly believe what we want to believe». That is why it is so difficult to believe the truth: often we don’t want to believe the truth because it disturbs our conscience. But even though the truth may disturb us, we must accept it, and we must want to believe in it so that the Lord will always bless us with the freedom of those who love the truth. We should not be among those who sell the truth or their pens or their voices or their media to the highest bidder or to materialist interests. How sad it is to see so many pens being sold, so many tongues being fed through the slanderous words broadcast on the radio. Often the truth produces not money but only bitterness, yet it is better to be free in the truth than to have great wealth in mendacity.

St Oscar Romero, Ascension of the Lord. 7 May 1978
Read or listen to the homilies of St Oscar Romero at romerotrust.org.uk

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8 January: The Embankment at Night, Before the War.

A stormy London skyline today from Greenwich.

D H Lawrence meant before the Great War, 1914-18. When he is not trying to be over intellectual and convey abstract ideas in poetry, when he is being human, as here, he is a better poet. We can surely all sympathise with his mixed emotions, as Christina and I discussed a while back. The Embankment would be described as a dyke or levee elsewhere; busy roads and broad footpaths run along it, under trees. Let’s not forget those people it is hard to help this Christmas.

By the river
In the black wet night as the furtive rain slinks down,
Dropping and starting from sleep
Alone on a seat
A woman crouches.
 I must go back to her. I want to give her
Some money. Her hand slips out of the breast of  her gown
Asleep. My fingers creep
Carefully over the sweet
Thumb-mound, into the palm’s deep pouches.
 So, the gift! God, how she starts!
And looks at me, and looks in the palm of her hand!
And again at me!
I turn and run
Down the Embankment, run for my life.
 But why?—why? Because of my heart’s
Beating like sobs, I come to myself, and stand
In the street spilled over splendidly
With wet, flat lights. What I’ve done
I know not, my soul is in strife.
 The touch was on the quick. I want to forget.

” (from “New Poems” by D. H. (David Herbert) Lawrence 1885-1930)

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21 June: Intergalactic Explorations XXXIII: reports and spreadsheets and confinement.

We rejoin the alien chihuahuas and Mr T after quite a time when they were collecting data on humanity as seen in Margate, a seaside town in England. The covid lockdown is underway.

The chihuahuas were going cabin crazy, which was a sign of how the last three years had changed them from post-apocalyptic hermits on their home planet of Ossyria to hyperintelligent pseudocanines on Earth. The long Margate horizons, the ever changing sunsets, fish and chips and the joys of chasing the parrots that always got away; these had all got under their skins. A day in Margate, said Ajax, is better than a thousand on Ossyria.

But now they were stuck indoors most of the day due to the corvid19 outbreak. A bit too reminiscent of the latter days of Ossyria. Except that here there was an edge of uncertainty that did not trouble anyone in Ossyria, where life was almost eternal but safe in the pods and, looking back, very boring. Now the chihuahuas could feel the humans’ fear on the street. And neither they nor ‘T’, their director who was disguised as a human, knew how a transformed Ossyrian body would react to the virus if it came their way.

‘I could cut up my blue shirt and sew up some masks,’ said T who travelled around earth in human form but mostly stayed near Margate.

Alfie replied,‘No mask for me, thank you, T; I want to smell things as I go along, not have them drowned out by the smell of washing powder on the cloth.’ And Ajax agreed, or at least he said, ‘I was just going to say that!’ And they were soon rolling about the floor, snapping and snarling. T sighed. ‘No more Superstud Doggynutz for you two.’ An empty threat; the biscuits were delivered every fortnight with his groceries, which he now had to collect from the front doorstep while the driver kept his distance. It was pups’ play for the doglets to distract him when he was checking the shopping list spreadsheet.

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October 26. What is Theology saying, XXXIX: What Morality did Jesus teach?

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The humiliation that we all carry is that we are a mass of contradictions. Yet we are, before all else, a blessing; but we are well aware it is a mixed blessing – Original Sin, a doctrine many dislike – whatever we call it, we do have a sense of being inadequate. The word sin implies culpability, which is not what the doctrine wants to say! The precise meaning is that we are not culpable for it, but that we are wounded by it. It names my inner conflict so that I will not be shocked or surprised when it shows itself.

Paul sees both Adam and Christ as summaries of humanity. What happens in them must happen in all; not just then but always now. If you know you are a mixed blessing, filled with contradictions, a mystery to yourself, you won’t pretend to eliminate all that is unworthy, but heed Jesus’ advice: let them both grow together until harvest time – Matthew 13.30.

Jesus told us not to pull out the weeds – Matthew 13.29 – lest we also pull out the wheat; this is both sound spirituality and psychology. In Genesis 1.26 God says Let us make humanity in our own image – note the use of the plural form, as if intuiting the Trinity, God as relationship, the perfect mystery of total giving and receiving. It is interesting that physicists, molecular biologists and astronomers are more in tune with this universal pattern than Christian believers.

God isn’t looking for servants or contestants to play the game – God is looking simply for images to walk around the earth. This is as if God is saying all I want is some out there who will communicate who I am, what I am about and what is happening in God: You are my witnesses, says the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he – Isaiah 43.10. All morality is simply the imitation of God – not those who do it right go to heaven, but those who live like me are already in heaven.

AMcC

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10 May: What is theology saying? V: Development of doctrine is a work in process

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Life is always in process, and all possible developments cannot be foreseen; there is a time-lag between the first experience of a new way and the discussions of theologians, and then the new way of formulating a doctrine. This means that the practice of the faithful will be in place before official pronouncements; which means that even when the pronouncements are made, life will again have moved beyond that point and the theologians will be trying to follow life.

However, some seem to think that the developments that happened in the past completed everything, save a few minor points. Before Vatican II this was a widely accepted view; but anyone who has taken care to read the documents of Vatican II will see how development of doctrine is very much a work in process; with any issue being revisited for further discussion. As regards the past we can judge what in fact true development was. For the present and the future we must live with risk, not having access to absolute certainty. This means remaining open to truth, no matter from whom or from what it may come. Just another way of saying – we live by faith and not by sight.

Life and growth of the Church, including the development of her teaching, cannot be without conflict; sometimes conflict is painful, but need not involve bitterness or hostility – exclusions and condemnations are not necessary. Those who have most furthered the doctrine of the Church have usually been persons who acted discreetly and patiently, without fearing the truth of their own experience, insight and learning.

AMcC

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Inter-galactic Explorations XXVI: The Black Dog.

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‘You heard that?’ said Alfie, as the dogs, T, Abel and Will walked back to the railway station. ‘Abel said bye bye, black dog.’

‘His language is coming on,’ remarked T, ‘but did you see him scream and kick? He is so pleased when he says something new, but he gets frustrated when he cannot make Will understand.’

‘Even though we can read his thoughts without words,’ flashed Ajax. ‘Why can’t humans just do that?’

‘Sometimes they can. Will knows when Abel is tired and needs picking up. But this afternoon Abel wanted to play on the lift at the gallery, and the gallery is closed. Abel likes the world to be predictable. When he comes to Margate he likes to eat fish and chips with Will, to play in the lift, and to splash in the pool on the beach. He’ll be working the lift at the station right now.’

T realised he was talking to himself. The chihuahuas had put a safe distance between themselves and the pool, and were no longer listening.

‘That was predictable,’ mused T. ‘I guess there’s predictable and predictable. We came to bring peace, but I’m not sure we knew what peace on earth would mean. Some Earthlings would go along with pod life, safely fed and entertained, no quarrels because there’s nothing to quarrel about.

‘Even though he likes working the lift, I don’t think Abel would enjoy being cared for by sensitive robots. But then we’ve not bred for centuries, which has stopped quarrels about mates; so what do we know about children?  It’s there in the libraries, how to love a child and share life with it. That would rock a few of our citizens.

‘Mind you, sharing among ourselves is changing those two, and maybe me as well.
‘Hey, who’s that Alfie’s talking to? I can’t pick up his vibes at all!’

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24 November: Inter-Galactic Discoveries: XVII, A Hagiographical Foray

 

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Though ‘T’ and the Chihuahuas had been all unaware, the day of their visit to the monastery at Minton was the feast of St. Domniva, its foundress. In the course of the various services they attended throughout their stay and by recourse to some fragments of conversation had with a few of the more knowledgeable of the nuns, ‘T’ and the Chihuahuas were able to piece together bits of her fascinating story. It seemed that Domniva (before she became a saint) had been a princess of one of the royal Anglo-Saxon houses and a renowned world traveler. There was a massive amount of (circumstantial) evidence indicating that one of her journeys may have even taken her- along with a sizeable entourage since she was, after all, a princess- to sub-Saharan Africa. It was there that she discovered a rare and wonderful animal in the sprawling market of a nameless and long-vanished city called a dik-dik. Smitten by its elegant grace, the noble Domniva purchased the animal for a magnificent sum and brought it back with her when she returned to the foggy shores of East Kent.

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The dik-dik appeared as a perfectly formed young deer…except that its coat of dense fur was a soft, buff-gray peppered with nearly invisible spots. For all that the magnificent animal resembled a member of any number of herds ranging the length and breadth of the Five Kingdoms, it only stood around six inches tall; a miniature version of its British cousins with ebony hoofs no larger than the tip of its mistress’ forefinger. Used to a much warmer clime in the dense acacia forests of its African homeland, it nevertheless also was able to appreciate the overgrown nature of the English countryside (and nearly all of England was countryside in the late seventh century) and, discovering that a brisk frisk was an excellent way to dodge the chill, it soon began to thrive. Everyone who saw it fell instantly in love. Perhaps, the dik-dik should not be referred to as an ‘it’ since it was a young stag, sporting a full rack of arching antlers, and proudly answered to the name Boanerges, which the Lady Domniva had given it.

At some point in time there was a blood feud, as seemed so common among royalty then and now and, in order to make things right, the king of Kent decided to build a monastery. Fortunately for the king, the Lady Domniva had also become very pious and wished to retire from the tiresome frivolities of life at court. And so it was settled- Domniva would found the monastery and serve as its first abbess. A site was duly chosen on the shore of the mighty Wansum river, which, bisecting a large mass of land, created the Isle of Thanet. It was then that the dik-dik established himself forever in the annals of England and lore of the great southeast.

To be continued

TJH

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26 October: Lest ye be judged II

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I was starting a new job in a tough secondary school. My immediate superior was going through the register for my form. ‘Watch Liam,’ she said, stabbing the page with her finger, he’s a nasty piece of work.’

A few months later I returned to work after an illness. Liam it was who stood up and said, ‘Sir, you should not be here. Go home.’ He was right. He cared enough to stand up and say so. A nice lad, if he let you near enough to find out.

 

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22 August. Reflections on Living Together, II: Shakespeare Broadens the Mind.

 

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Travel is said to broaden the mind. It certainly offers some delicious paradoxes and pairings that challenge presumptions and prejudices that I never knew I had.

On the U-bahn in Berlin I noticed a pale-skinned, brown-eyed German man joking with a Turkish-looking friend, who had dark skin and piercing blue eyes. What amused them I know not, but the pair belonged in Shakespeare! I was shown life through a different lens for a brief moment.

Shakespeare loves odd couples for whom the course of true love does not run smooth. The girls in A Midsummer Night’s Dream are quite unlike each other (one tall, one short; one dark, one fair) yet until Puck interferes in their lives, they and their fiancés are the best of friends. Confusion and insecurity, sown by Puck, lead from bewilderment to the trading of insults between them all and Lysander telling Hermia, his beloved:

Be certain, nothing truer; ’tis no jest
That I do hate thee and love Helena.

And soon, Oberon observes:

These lovers seek a place to fight.

He has Puck provide respite and resolution by undoing his first mischief and allowing the young people to relax and fall asleep together, waking to a new day, and all’s well that ends well with the mortals blessed by the fairies.

Those who would destroy fraternity among us touch our eyes with worse than fairy dust.

Let us pray that we may see God more clearly, and love him more dearly in our sisters and brothers. And that we may see through and renounce all the evil one’s empty promises.

MMB.

 

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