Tag Archives: Corporal Works of Mercy

Going Viral LXXII: Bishop Geoffrey says Thank you.

A letter from the Bishop of Rupert’s Land, based in Winnipeg, Canada, to the faithful people of his diocese, thanking them for all their efforts during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Diocese of Rupert’s Land

The Right Reverend Geoffrey Woodcroft

Bishop of Rupert’s Land

We acknowledge that we meet and work in Treaty 1, 2 and 3 Land, the traditional land of the Anishinaabe, Cree, Dakota, Sioux and Oji-Cree people and the homeland of the Metis Nation.  We are grateful for their stewardship of this land and their hospitality which allows us to live, work and service God the Creator here.
 

March 19, 2021

A message for the Diocese of Rupert’s Land

I write today to express genuine and profound thanks to you. As Christ’s disciples we have learned to answer new calls to serve and be the Body. You and I have endeavored to reduce the risk spreading COVID 19, not just for self, but for the wider communities in which we serve.

For some of us, the lessons we gleaned way back in Sunday School prepared us well for our part in ministering through this pandemic. For those who have come to the Church not as children, your worship, study and fellowship has prepared you to serve compassionately in the world. In so many ways our Church has been preparing us all our lives for the extraordinary times we now navigate.

I am grateful for the parishes and missions who have slowly, carefully and safely begun to return to in-person worship and gatherings. I am grateful for your adherence to safety protocols, healthy education and communication strategies for members, and your zeal for excellence.

I am filled with gratitude for parishes and missions who have continue in dialogue in their communities, weighing risks and information maintaining the suspension of in-person worship. Your careful deliberation and care a fine example of our rich tradition.

I remain indebted to the many members across this diocese and our staff who have offered their expertise, advice/wisdom, their labour, and their love in Christ to me. We are many members, and we are One Body, it takes all of us to be the Church.

Finally, fatigue, grief and feeling like one is constantly on the edge is common amongst us all. Clergy and lay leaders have had steep learning curves in new technology, innovative ways of connecting, and being Church in the wilderness. We grieve the loss of life, relationships, hugs and kisses, we lament that routines have been upended, plans cancelled, and time forgotten, and every day we are hoping for clarity and definition. May we know forgiveness and kindness, and be made to feel less afraid, and raised to that place where we might carefully impart the very same to all who Creator God gives us upon our journey.

In Christ,

+ Geoffrey

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19 March: Pope Francis on Saint Joseph, Going viral LXXII; ordinary, decent people

Holy Family Window, Catholic Church, Saddleworth

Here is an extract from Pope Francis’s letter about Saint Joseph, husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus, ‘Patris corde’.

Now, one hundred and fifty years after his proclamation as Patron of the Catholic Church by Blessed Pius IX, (8 December 1870), I would like to share some personal reflections on Saint Joseph, this extraordinary figure, so close to our own human experience. For, as Jesus says, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34).

My desire to do so increased during these months of pandemic, when we experienced, amid the crisis, how “our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people, people often overlooked. People who do not appear in newspaper and magazine headlines, or on the latest television show, yet in these very days are surely shaping the decisive events of our history. Doctors, nurses, storekeepers and supermarket workers, cleaning personnel, caregivers, transport workers, men and women working to provide essential services and public safety, volunteers, priests, men and women religious, and so very many others. They understood that no one is saved alone…

How many people daily exercise patience and offer hope, taking care to spread not panic, but shared responsibility. How many fathers, mothers, grandparents and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday ways, how to accept and deal with a crisis by adjusting their routines, looking ahead and encouraging the practice of prayer. How many are praying, making sacrifices and interceding for the good of all”.*

Each of us can discover in Joseph – the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence – an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble. Saint Joseph reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation. A word of recognition and of gratitude is due to them all.

* Meditation in the Time of Pandemic (27 March 2020): L’Osservatore Romano, 29 March 2020, p. 10.

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17 March: Saint Patrick’s Day.

On Saint Patrick’s day we visit Zambia, where a former student at the Franciscan International Study Centre, Canterbury, is now Bishop Patrick Chisanga, OFM Conv; a missionary bishop like his namesake. Many of the Health Care facilities in the country owe their existence to the churches.

BISHOP PATRICK CHISANGA HAILS FRONTLINE WORKERS IN CARING FOR THE SICK

In his message to mark the commemoration of World Day for the Sick which falls today, 11th February, Bishop Chisanga has acknowledged the care and love that the frontline workers demonstrate to the sick and has assured them of God’s blessings.

He has pointed out those who sit by the bedside of the sick in health facilities and homes providing care and support to the sick day and night, saying their efforts are not in vain. God is with them and will reward them .

Bishop Chisanga, who is also the Bishops’ Director for Health of the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops, has also commended to the love of God all health workers who in the process of carrying out their duties have contracted the coronavirus and have since died. May they rest in peace.

He has prayed and imparted God’s blessings on all health care givers.

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12 March: Ordinary decent people.

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We looked at Ruth and Naomi yesterday: ordinary, decent women who encountered an ordinary, decent man in Boaz; and the rest is history. That story must have been going through the back of my mind, because my eyes were open to an embodiment of ordinary decency as I saw her pushing her walking aid up the hill towards her parish church.

Margaret stopped to chat to three different acquaintances within 200 metres, in my case just a quick greeting as she was already in conversation with someone else. On other occasions she will be walking Basil her Maltese terrier, or giving him a ride on the trolley; or else sitting outside her favourite cafe on the square with a long coffee and a short cigarette, chatting to any who pass by.

There is a ministry of friendliness which doesn’t exactly fit the Gospel accounts of the Works of Mercy, but has elements of several of them. I can imagine Margaret saying: Lord, when did I see thee and befriend thee?

And the Lord could play back a few scenes from her life and say to her: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me. And upon such rocks I will build my Church.

Then shall the just answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee hungry, and fed thee; thirsty, and gave thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and covered thee?Or when did we see thee sick or in prison, and came to thee?

And the king answering, shall say to them: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me.

Matthew 20:37-40

We should not pass over those all-but invisible, non-charismatic, ministers of the Good News who bring it to people without preaching; who can say ‘I love you, God loves you’ without those words coming anywhere near their lips. And by no means all of them have any church affiliation at all. Let us thank God for them.

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28 February: Blessed William Richardson

You never know what you might find on the Web! I’d never heard of Blessed William Richardson till I saw his name in Hallam News, from the Catholic South Yorkshire diocese. A remarkably brave man to go prison visiting among Catholics, aware that he might be betrayed at any time. The full article from which this is taken can be found here. Remembering him, we also honour Christians of many allegiances, killed for their beliefs, and pray that we may continue to work to bring all our communities together.

Blessed William Richardson grew up close to where the South Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire borders meet.

We know from the Entry Book in the English College in Spain that William was a convert to the Catholic faith and was received into the Church by one of the clergy at Wiesloch, Germany, where at that time he was working.  He was called to the priesthood, attended the English College in Spain, studying Philosophy and Theology, and was ordained priest there in 1594 and then returned to England.

Most of William’s life was spent working in London often with the legal profession in the Inns of Court.  He visited prisons as an ordinary visitor, to take Mass to Catholics imprisoned for their faith, and he was sentenced to death after being betrayed by a priest catcher.  His execution took place on Tyburn Gallows, by the barbaric act of being hung, drawn and quartered on 17 February in 1603.  There is no knowledge of his last resting place, but if we can find a King under a car park, we may one day learn of his last resting place.

William’s death was in the reign of Elizabeth 1 and he was the last priest to be murdered at that time.  Elizabeth 1 died one week later.  Bishop Challoner tells us he accepted his death with such constancy and faith, and praying for the Queen, that impressed his executioners.

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19 November: Unexpected Highland hospitality

The Glenelg inn today has a reputation for finie food but it was different in Doctor Johnson’s time. He and Boswell were on theway to Skye, but had to spend the night at a very poor inn, Their comfort was greatly increased by a random act of kindness.

At last we came to our inn weary and peevish, and began to inquire for meat and beds. Of the provisions the negative catalogue was very copious.  Here was no meat, no milk, no bread, no eggs, no wine.  We did not express much satisfaction.  Here however we were to stay. 

Whisky we might have, and I believe at last they caught a fowl and killed it.  We had some bread, and with that we prepared ourselves to be contented, when we had a very eminent proof of Highland hospitality. 

Along some miles of the way, in the evening, a gentleman’s servant had kept us company on foot with very little notice on our part.  He left us near Glenelg, and we thought on him no more till he came to us again, in about two hours, with a present from his master of rum and sugar.  The man had mentioned his company, and the gentleman, whose name, I think, is Gordon, well knowing the penury of the place, had this attention to two men, whose names perhaps he had not heard, by whom his kindness was not likely to be ever repaid, and who could be recommended to him only by their necessities.

Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland” by Samuel Johnson

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12 October, Going Viral XLVI: in Tafa, Nigeria.

Fr Virgilius Kawama


Here in Tafa in Northern Nigeria people are farmers and many took time to even accept that the pandemic exists, never mind how dangerous it is for humanity. This is because very few of them have access to TV, they cannot read, write or speak English.

Eventually more awareness campaigns were made through radio and in
collaboration with the local religious and community leaders. Even so, it
was very difficult for people to understand the reason for the closure of
interstate borders, shopping malls, cinemas, restaurants, airports, schools
and offices, cancelling games and vacations, no big gatherings, and closing of the places of worship, and even where people were allowed to go, there were temperature checks and obligatory use of hand sanitizers.
Covid-19 changed the whole atmosphere in our social, economical and religious daily life, provoking anxiety and panic. People were worried as to how they would cope with a disease with no cure. Being a new virus, no one is sure of his or her immunity. Nobody anticipated such an infectious disease nor the deaths which seemed to go on and on. The situation in our markets, parks, institutions and social gatherings caused fear and anxiety. However, people were made to understand how we are to behave even though many things about the pandemic are beyond our control, how long it will last is uncertain, and how other peoples’ behaviour cannot be predicted. God alone knows our communities’ future.
Thank God some people are washing hands, covering their mouths etc.
Both Church and Government are caring for Covid-19 affected families
in different ways. They have shown true love and respect for the poor,
the vulnerable and the sick by distributing food items to cushion their
hardships following lockdown. The foodstuffs such as rice, grains, yam,
vegetable oil, beans, semolina are being distributed. Our own parish is
providing facemasks, buckets for hand washing water, sanitizers, temperature checking machines, and first aid boxes. These efforts are going
a long way to helping people to cope with the Covid-19 situation. We are
doing what we can and for the rest we are in the hands of God.

Fr. Virgilius Kawama MAfr is originally from Zambia. He has published a book ‘A Pastoral Approach to Our Modern Pandemics: HIV Aids and Covid 19.

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26 April: None but the brave, 2.

Image result for road signs old people crossing

Of course yesterday’s tale turns out to be a bit more complicated than that, but there is some reassurance in the unfolding story.

Twice more I saw Mrs K in Station Road, once on the arm of a young man, the other escorted by a young woman who was just settling her into her chair as I entered the shop; I had the impression that this was not the first time she’d performed this service. Mrs K once again got her shopping list out, written on a tiny sheet torn from a spiral note pad. A different assistant began quartering the aisles and was soon finding her groceries, while the security man walked across to greet her.

Once again, thank you to the staff of our little local supermarket!

Then a couple of weeks after writing yesterday’s post, I was chatting to a neighbour who is an Anglican, and he asked me what I knew about Jane from our church: was she safe? Jane – with the little dog? I knew that she was ill indoors. Not that Jane – he described Mrs K in a few words and a gesture. ‘I always call her Mrs K, I said, seeing her as the generation before me, and to be addressed formally till asked to do otherwise.’

Neighbour Nick had gone home with her, seen that she was up two flights of stairs, nowhere to keep a walking trolley, no way she could get it upstairs, what did the church know about it?

Plenty, as it happened; I was told by another old lady that Mrs K is fiercely independent, gets a taxi to Mass, attends a few meetings, is in regular contact with her two children and has no intention of moving, thank you all very much indeed.

She is clean, rational (except about her personal safety, perhaps) and feeds herself, is no doubt the despair of her daughters, but living her life and faith as she chooses. Deprived of her own home unnecessarily she would not be happy. It’s not time for that yet.

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August 30: L’Arche and Care IV: Returning to L’Arche.

Janet and I have a little more time that we can call our own, now that we are semi-retired. Mostly it does not feel like a choice between getting on with something and taking it easy: there is always something to be done!

We find ourselves returning to our local L’Arche Kent Community. There is always something to be done there, but we often find ourselves taking it easy in the doing of it.

l’Arche is a community where people with and without learning disabilities live and work together. At totally different times we have both lived and worked in communities in England and Canada, and we have kept in touch with friends in L’Arche Kent, in my case for forty years. We are getting to know newer core members and assistants as we spend more time with them.

Time: there are moments when any of us can feel it running away, and we take account of how we spend it. As my grandmother used to recite:

How doth the little busy bee

Improve each shining hour?

She gathers honey all the day

And knocks off at half past fower.”

(My Grandmother would not have apologised to Isaac Watts, but maybe I should.)

L’Arche slows us down, reminds us that being with people is as important as doing things for them – think back to my mother’s carers we mentioned the other day. The Corporal Works of Mercy are concerned with presence: visiting the sick and those in prison spring to mind. This is not to suggest that core members of L’Arche should be considered sick or prisoners, though when I first joined to community most of our core members had been incarcerated in what were called subnormality hospitals. The very name was dehumanising. After working in one of these places for a few months, I was glad to find a better way.

MMB

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