Tag Archives: desert

16 January: Thomas Traherne XXV, a little Heaven in the creatures.

earthnasa

Entering thus far into the nature of the sun, we may see a little Heaven in the creatures.

Were all the earth filthy mires, or devouring quicksands, firm land would be an unspeakable treasure. Were it all beaten gold it would be of no value. It is a treasure therefore of far greater value to a noble spirit than if the globe of the earth were all gold. A noble spirit being only that which can survey it all, and comprehend its uses.

The air is better being a living miracle as it now is than if it were crammed and filled with crowns and sceptres. The mountains are better than solid diamonds, and those things which scarcity maketh jewels (when you enjoy these) are yours in their places. Why should you not render thanks to God for them all?

You are the Adam or the Eve that enjoy them. Why should you not exult and triumph in His love who hath done so great things for you? Why should you not rejoice and sing His praises? Learn Adam&Eve (391x640)to enjoy what you have first, and covet more if you can afterwards.

Meditations 2:12

Adam and Eve had been given all that was in the garden, except that they might not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, covetable though it was.

How long does the pleasure last when we get hold of the riches or other things we desire? 

We like the idea of the living air, so we’ll return to Thomas Traherne, since his reflections challenge as well as please us; apologies that we left it so long since last time.

Will T

Images: NASA; stone at Dryburgh Abbey, Scottish Borders, MMB.

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5 January: To let go.

snowgapcropped

Here is Thomas Merton in January 1966, writing from his snow-bound hermitage.* A challenge to us all to root our mission in our poverty; having first accepted that innate poverty as the norm.

In all these things I see one central option for me: to let go of all that seems to suggest getting somewhere, being someone, having a name and a voice, following a policy and directing people in ‘my’ ways. What matters is to love, to be in one place in silence, if necessary in suffering, sickness, tribulation, and not try to be anybody outwardly.

Yet daily we are encouraged to ‘get somewhere’ to be someone outwardly. Love can get pushed to the margins. We can get tied to policies, mission statements, and so on. Let go! 

Tomorrow we celebrate the uprooting of the Holy Family to go into suffering and tribulation. Merton had to let go in a different fashion to the man we hardly know: Joseph the carpenter.

  • Learning to Love, Journals Vol 6, Ed Christine M. Bochan, HarperCollins San Francisco 1999  p15

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December 15: A Dedicated Follower of . . .

j baptist venice 1

Last month Venice was a city with both feet in the water, and not for the first time. So perhaps I should not have been surprised to come across so many images of the Advent Saint, John the Baptist, This one is on a tomb monument. A well-dressed young prophet, his camel skin tailored to display a well-turned pair of legs; his coiffure and beard would win praise from today’s London fashionistas.

Coming from an influential priestly family, John could have become a leader of fashionable society in 1st Century Jerusalem. But he seems to have tasted the world of influence and power, finding it thin and bitter. instead he ran away to the desert to find himself and to find God.

That was the result of his flight from the bright city lights, but perhaps when he ran away it was just to escape the life that apparently had been laid down for him: to serve as priest in the Temple according to the rota, while back home, working his allotment to feed his family; meanwhile tight-roping between encouraging the People of God and placating the Romans. Would you blame him for running away?

But then he found himself running to someone. God was in the desert, as Moses discovered in the burning bush. And Gods light shone in him, and people were attracted to him, though his camel skin coat was probably less well tailored than this one here!

Let’s keep in our hearts and prayers those people who find their lives bitter, whose happiness is fragile, who might be tempted towards the desert place from which there is no return. Let us pray that someone may come alongside them when most needed, even if it be you or me.

And let us remember those who do this all the time: Emergency Services, Samaritans, Street Pastors, the Beachy Head Wardens, and so many more.

Lord in your great mercy, hear our prayer.

mercy.carving. (328x640)

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28 August: Saint Augustine on Love I.

Saint_Augustine_and_Saint_Monica

Yesterday we celebrated the mother; today the son, Saint Augustine of Hippo. Here is the opening of his sermon on love, his text being 1John 4:4-12.

Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome [the false spirits]: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

To all the faithful seeking their own country, this world is as the desert was to the people of Israel. They wandered, seeking their own country: but with God for their guide they could not wander astray. Their way was God’s bidding. For where they went about during forty years, the journey itself is made up of a very few stations, and is known to all. They were delayed because they were in training, not because they were forsaken. By temporal work we are exercised, and by the temptations of this present life we are trained.

And so, if you would not die of thirst in this wilderness, drink charity. It is the fountain which God has been pleased to place here lest we faint on the way: and we shall more abundantly drink thereof, when we have come to our own land.

Now to speak of the words of the lesson, what other thing heard ye but concerning charity? For we have made an agreement with our God in prayer that if we would that He should forgive us our sins, we also should forgive the sins which may have been committed against us. [Matthew 6:12.] Now that which forgives is none other than charity. Take away charity from the heart and hatred possesses it, it knows not how to forgive. Let charity be there, and she fearlessly forgives, not being hindered.

As for this whole epistle of Saint John: see whether it commends anything else than this one thing, charity. Nor need we fear lest by much speaking thereof it might come to be hateful. For what is there to love, if charity becomes hateful? It is by charity that other things come to be rightly loved; then how must itself be loved!

 

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20 June, Corpus Christi: Temptation lingers.

 

Our friend Christina Chase recently wrote that ‘Temptation lingers in desert spots‘ – which is perfectly true. It’s so easy to get things out of proportion.

But what did the children of Israel  wish for, out there in the desert? The fleshpots of Egypt, not a closer walk with God.

The children of Israel said, ‘Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’ (Exodus 16:3)

And when they were in Egypt, they were oppressed so hard they could not stand – yet they’d rather go back to slavery than walk as free men and women with God. Of course spiritual slavery is more subtle than that. Who are the false gods we are tempted to put before the true One?

God heard his people, but did not answer their despair with thunderbolts to fulfil their death wish. No, he sent mercy, like the gentle rain from heaven, in the form of manna. He sustained them on their travels.

As we will be sustained:

[They said], Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. (John 6:31-33)

It’s a scandal that Christians are not united at the Lord’s table.

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June 17: A faithful Biblical dog, III.

 

585px-Gaspar_De_Crayer_-_Tobias_and_the_Angel

Tobias and the Angel, Gaspar de Crayar, public domain

We can see the Angel’s wings, but of course Tobias cannot! The dog is already enjoying fresh fish!

The dog followed Tobias and Sarah and the Angel Raphael over the mountains, through the desert, across the river and back to Tobias’s home town.

There were no phones to say they were on the way, so Tobias and company got home before any letter would have arrived. And his parents, Anna and Tobit, were worried, because he had been away so long.

As the travellers drew near home, the dog, who had been with them across the river, through the desert and over the mountains. And then back over the mountains, through the desert, and across the river, could see and smell where he was.

Now the dog ran in front and came home, ‘like one who had news to tell, wagging his tail for joy.’Anna knew that 10.cathedral.ines.small
the dog was faithful to Tobias cried for joy because if the dog was home, so must be Tobias. She
ran out and hugged Tobias. He went in and spread the gall of the fish on his father’s eyes just as Raphael told him to, and Tobit could see again, just in time to welcome Sarah into the family. This time the party lasted for a whole week!

Reflection

Early home tonight, and our barbecue party tomorrow. We won’t have to go across the river, through the desert and over the mountains. And then back over the mountains, through the desert, and across the river. We have slept in our own beds every night. But maybe we have opened our eyes and our ears to each other as we have walked through the Garden of England. Let’s pray that our feet will last another day, and get us to Canterbury, safe and sound.

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30 May, Pilgrimage to Canterbury X: Verses for Pilgrims—I

pilgrim-stone

As well as our Scripture readings I have chosen a verse for each day to help our prayer.

Day 1 began at Dover Beach, with this prayer for a blessing on our feet. It comes from our old friend Fr Andrew.

O dearest Lord, thy sacred feet
with nails were pierced for me;
O pour thy blessing on my feet
that they may follow thee.

Father Andrew SDC

Day 2 led us not through desert but through England’s green and pleasant Land, though we had our dark Satanic mills in the shape of the coal mines at Betteshanger, Tilmanstone and Snowdown, all close by, not to mention the unsuccessful ones we went by yesterday. This verse is from the war poet, Robert Graves.

pithead

May we speak words of grace today, as our late friend and miner George did. Today’s walk ends in his home village of Aylesham.

Christ of His gentleness
Thirsting and hungering,
Walked in the wilderness;
Soft words of grace He spoke
Unto lost desert-folk
That listened wondering.

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March 2: David the Pilgrim again.

second celebration piece for Saint David finds us still in the American West with Brother David, but this is up-to-date reporting by him, though the pictures are from before. Please follow the link to his story near the end of this posting, even if you are a couch potato. And let us be ready for our own desert experience this Lent. (But first, tomorrow’s story is from Wales itself.)

In November last year, a small press magazine got word of my Cuyamaca 100k story and asked to do a short article on me.

I was interviewed for an hour, the writer paused and said, “you need to write a book”, and that was the end of the interview!

I am extremely humbled by the words of the author and that anyone would take interest in the tales of a back-of-the-pack runner like me.

It is an odd experience for me, as it reads like “this story is based on true events”.  It is definitely my story, but someone else told it.  So, a few details aren’t as I would personally have depicted them.  But, I believe the spirit of the story remains true.  The main thing I wish were different is to acknowledge everyone involved, but the article is short and not all of (your and their) names or roles made it to print.

And for that reason, 

I’ve decided as part of my New Year Resolution to tell the story of how I got here and the people and events that altered my life.  It may take me awhile to write, but I’m committing to beginning “today”.

I feel like everyone out there on the trails is more worthy than I am  So, this isn’t about “me”, but I feel obligated to convey to others just how the ordinary people we meet in our lives are all part of an extra-ordinary plan. 

Here’s  the link:  I would be flattered if you take the time to read it and let me or the publisher know what you think. Wishing you peace and all good things in the new year, and thank you sincerely for being a part of my journey to come.

pax,

bro. dave, osf

 

 

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March 1: David in Death Valley

badwater

Dear Friends,

It’s Wales’s National Day: Happy Saint David’s Day! Here is a little celebration piece. I heard recently from David York who in 2015 was getting started in long distance running. Not your average marathon, but as he put it that December 15:

I’m gathering together my things and heading off to Death Valley where I plan to run from Nevada, over the mountain range, down into the valley basin and continue on for 45 miles across the desert.  Please don’t ask “why?” Long story …. I’m facing the reality that I have become an increasingly penitent man (who is having one heck of a mid-life crisis!)  But the desert is a pretty good place to go and bond with the Creator, and I have a lot to offer up.  I swear I’m not insane, I’m just doing what I feel called to do.

And, if I could humbly ask of you, please pray for me and perhaps reflect upon Psalms 23 and 26. 

death valley1

A month later he wrote: 

Death Valley was amazing.  Apparently, I was meant to be there, as something was clearly waiting for me in the middle of Badwater.

I have one hell of a story to tell. Countless things went wrong. But if I had a chance to do it all over again, I would in a heartbeat.  45 Miles across mountains and deserts: for the highlight of my (short) ultra-running life, Death Valley is the pinnacle.

 Death Valley is not about death, but life.  Death Valley is almost always the opposite of what it seems.

Regarding “Badwater”: keep in mind, this was part of the “Old West”. I’ll paraphrase the story:

One day an old man was passing across the desert and he took his horse up to some water.  The horse wouldn’t drink!  So… the old man put up a sign that said, “Bad Water”.  It never changed.

There are actually some tiny fish that live in the Badwater basin pools.  But the entire basin is salt.  For as far as you can see.  You can look a few hundred feet up a mountain wall and see a sign letting you know where Sea Level is located.  In pictures, the salt looks like snow.  When driving alongside it, you experience the illusion of water in a lake.  Again…. Death Valley is not what it seems.

Wishing you peace and all good things,

 bro. dave, ofs 

I don’t remember why this never became a blog post back then, but tomorrow will reveal why it has done now.

Appendix

The following is from Pope Francis’s first address to the young people gathered in Panama on January 24.

With you, we want to rediscover and reawaken the Church’s constant freshness and youth, opening ourselves to a new Pentecost (cf. SYNOD ON YOUNG PEOPLE, Final Document, 60). As we experienced at the Synod, this can only happen if, by our listening and sharing, we encourage each other to keep walking and to bear witness by proclaiming the Lord through service to our brothers and sisters, and concrete service at that.

I know getting here was not easy. I know how much effort and sacrifice was required for you to participate in this Day. Many weeks of work and commitment, and encounters of reflection and prayer, have made the journey itself largely its own reward. A disciple is not merely someone who arrives at a certain place, but one who sets out decisively, who is not afraid to take risks and keeps walking. This is the great joy: to keep walking. You have not been afraid to take risks and to keep journeying. Today we were all able to “get here” because for some time now, in our various communities, we have all been “on the road” together.

WT

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August 28: Cultural Centre bears witness to the “universality” of the Church

Here to mark the feast of Saint Augustine is a story from his native land of Algeria, where the Missionaries of Africa have been present for more than 100 years. Their society is 150 years old this year. 

Precious volumes and photographs testifying to the history of the Christian presence, but also courses in English and French and IT: all this is found at the Cultural Centre of the White Fathers (Missionaries of Africa) in Ouargla, a city in eastern Algeria,  at the service of the local, mainly Muslim, community, in this city of the desert.

The Cultural Centre is rooted in history. In 1875 the first White Father missionaries were sent here to find only a French military garrison and a handful of Berber hovels. Besides providing religious assistance for the soldiers, the White Fathers started to learn the local languages. At the same time they collected ancient books, scrolls and took photographs.

Over the years the missionaries catalogued the growing heritage which becomes a memory for the region and for the whole of Algeria. The photographs in particular bear witness to the different stages of a Christian presence which is ever more closely linked with the local population. “From the early years of colonisation down to our day – says Fr. Aldo Giannasi, a White Father missionary who lived and served in Ouargla – the Algerians viewed the Church as a continuation of the French political and cultural invasion. Today a change is taking place: the majority of priests and other church workers are from Black Africa, which clearly shows that the Church is not connected with France or with the West, or the powerful people of the world. She is Catholic, that is universal, and at the service of all”.

Ouargla too has changed. The military base is now an important Oil hub. The small village has become a city. The Cultural Centre still stands in the qasbah. As the years passed the structure deteriorated. The windows and doors were old and the desert sand was beginning to penetrate the rooms. Shelves, tables, chairs were old and needed to be replaced. The White Fathers thought of moving to the outskirts, but decided to stay in the original place and embark on its refurbishing.

Today the Centre hosts boys and girls, mostly Muslims, who study and use the library. Here they find a patrimony of books: history, geography, sociology, ethnology, religion and Christian spirituality. However the Centre has also become a focal point for the rest of the city because students find help with research and local people take courses in French, English, IT. “Our structure – concludes Fr Giannasi – bears witness to an active presence of Catholics at the service of Algeria, committed to a cultural mission which is a fruit-bearing seed of the Gospel” (Fides 4/4/2018).

The Algerian stamps show St Augustine and a Christian inscription from his time.

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