Tag Archives: desert

23 February: In the Desert

A contrast from the last two posts by Edward Young: Stephen Crane encounters a man, gnawing away at his own heart, self-destroying. Can he hear the word ‘friend’ addressed to him? It appears not. No small talk here!

It seems he has chosen self-centred bitterness over the friendship we have been reading about that would help draw him out of the bitterness of despair. But that risks getting hurt; it’s easier to like, or accept, bitterness than gamble on happiness. Edward Young makes it clear that friendship has to be cultivated; what can you cultivate in the desert?

Let’s pray for those consigned to the desert by the abuse they have suffered from other people’s malice or neglect.

In the Desert

I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter—bitter,” he answered;

“But I like it
“Because it is bitter,
“And because it is my heart.”

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Filed under Daily Reflections, PLaces, poetry

13 February: Reflections for Lent.

It’s not yet Lent, but not too early to share an excellent resource for teaching or personal reflection.

The Global Sisters Report offers, free of charge, six Lenten reflections designed for the secondary school, drawing on the Sunday Gospels and sisters’ experience of ministry in many parts of the world. Teachers or catechists may find these resources valuable and interesting, but other readers will discover aspects of the Good News we were unaware of. Excellent starting points for reflection.

There are more free reflections on many more topics.

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/classroom/lessons/topic/136213

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3 February: Winter Rain

A jolly, hopeful poem from Christina Rossetti. Laudato Si’.

Every valley drinks,
Every dell and hollow:
Where the kind rain sinks and sinks,
Green of Spring will follow.

 Yet a lapse of weeks
Buds will burst their edges,
Strip their wool-coats, glue-coats, streaks,
In the woods and hedges;

 Weave a bower of love
For birds to meet each other,
Weave a canopy above
Nest and egg and mother.

 But for fattening rain
We should have no flowers,
Never a bud or leaf again
But for soaking showers;

 Never a mated bird
In the rocking tree-tops,
Never indeed a flock or herd
To graze upon the lea-crops.

 Lambs so woolly white,
Sheep the sun-bright leas on,
They could have no grass to bite
But for rain in season.
 
We should find no moss
In the shadiest places,
Find no waving meadow-grass
Pied with broad-eyed daisies;

 But miles of barren sand,
With never a son or daughter,
Not a lily on the land,
Or lily on the water.

(from "Poems" by Christina Georgina Rossetti)

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Filed under Daily Reflections, Laudato si', poetry, winter

6 December: The Heart of Advent.

Fr John McCluskey MHM gave this homily at FISC  in December 2015. The call to renew the face of the earth has not grown any the less urgent in that time, so I have kept the topical references.

  • Isaiah 35:1-10
  • Psalm 84
  • Luke 5:17-26

Today’s readings take us to the heart of what Advent is about: longing and preparing for the coming among us of our Saviour, God coming to save us from our sins and their consequences, to restore peace and right order in our world, balance and integrity to creation.

It’s a familiar theme, but one that surely rings out much more clearly and urgently this Advent, coinciding as it does with the crucial international conference on Climate Change currently meeting in Paris. As we reflect on the readings today we can without difficulty recognise how apt and relevant they are to the discussions and negotiations going on there between all the countries of our world, rich and poor.

We share a common concern about our future and the future of our planet. But that concern is expressed and experienced in quite different ways.

  • The meeting in Paris is focussing our attention on the drastic measures needed to save ourselves from the disaster that is waiting for us if we continue to create deserts as a consequence of the way we are misusing the resources of our common home.
  • The Advent readings acknowledge the deserts but hold out the hope and promise of a new creation, or a creation renewed. Isaiah assures us that a time is coming when desert land will be made fertile, wasteland will rejoice, bloom and sing for joy; the blind, deaf, lame and dumb will be healed and strengthened; peace and justice will flourish again (Psalm 84). In a word: our world will become God’s creation again.

What accounts for this difference – the difference between the Hope of Advent and the fear and near despair driving the discussions and negotiations in Paris?

I think today’s Gospel points to the answer, since it clearly shows the difference there is between the way we see our problems and the way Jesus/God sees them.

  • A crippled man’s friends go to no end of trouble to bring him to Jesus, because they believe he can cure him. Jesus does cure him, but not right away. First he does something they hadn’t expected or even thought about. Seeing their faith, he said to the crippled man, ‘My friend, your sins are forgiven you.’
  • They received something they hadn’t thought of asking for, because they had a limited view of what they needed, and equally limited expectations. They simply wanted their friend to walk again. Jesus went much further, freeing him from everything that bound him, healing him through and through. Jesus saw sinfulness as much more deep-rooted that sickness.

I think there is a parallel here with our expectations of what will come out of the Paris meeting. We know that much more is needed than what we are asking for.

  • We need brave decisions, major changes in policy and practice around the world.
  • But we know also that whatever is decided will be limited, not enough – compromises, steps along the way, and there is a long way still to go.

We know that changes of policy will never of themselves be enough. Something much more radical and demanding is required: a recognition of the sinful, wasteful ways of modern living; and not only recognition but repentance and a real change of heart, and of the values by which we live – a conversion.

It is down to us – as individuals, families, communities – to make the changes in our way of living that anticipate and even go beyond what we expect and hope for from Paris. As the CAFOD slogan has it, ‘Live simply, that we may simply live.’

This means seeing with the eyes of faith what is really wrong, and acting accordingly. As Jesus always said, in response to those who asked for healing: It is your faith that has saved you.

It is that faith that he looks for and responds to in each of us; a faith that may begin by our turning to God for help as we experience some specific need, but that grows into something stronger, deeper; grows into a daily awareness of God’s life-giving, healing presence in our lives and in our world.

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Filed under Advent and Christmas, Daily Reflections, Justice and Peace, Laudato si'

2 April: Good Friday

Here is Christina Rossetti’s meditation on Good Friday. The reference to a stone and a rock being struck goes back to Exodus 17; see below.

Good Friday

Am I a stone, and not a sheep,
That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy cross,
To number drop by drop Thy blood’s slow loss,
And yet not weep?

Not so those women loved
Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;
Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;
Not so the thief was moved;

Not so the Sun and Moon
Which hid their faces in a starless sky,
A horror of great darkness at broad noon –
I, only I.

Yet give not o’er,
But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more
And smite a rock.

Christina Rossetti

So the people were thirsty there for want of water, and murmured against Moses, saying: Why didst thou make us go forth out of Egypt, to kill us and our children, and our beasts with thirst? And Moses cried to the Lord, saying: What shall I do to this people? Yet a little more and they will stone me.

And the Lord said to Moses: Go before the people, and take with thee of the ancients of Israel: and take in thy hand the rod wherewith thou didst strike the river, and go. Behold I will stand there before thee, upon the rock Horeb: and thou shalt strike the rock, and water shall come out of it that the people may drink.

Moses did so before the ancients of Israel: And he called the name of that place Temptation, because the chiding of the children of Israel, and for that they tempted the Lord, saying: Is the Lord amongst us or not?

Exodus 17: 3-7

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25 July: Questioning that which was in no need of being questioned.

Father James Kurzynski has been on retreat in the Arizona desert. Here are his reflections on his return to parish duties and the new world(s) he is invited to enter through astronomy, his retreat, and Pope Francis’s Laudato Si’.

After 10 weeks, my prayer has become very physical, meaning paying close attention to both the movements of God in my prayer and the warning signs that the physical waters of my body were getting dry. Am I inserting wry humor at this point? Partially. I am also making a point of one of the greatest gifts this sabbatical has given to me – Prayer is a lot easier when you are well hydrated… or better put, my physical health is intimately and inseparably tied to my spiritual health.

This insight shouldn’t be terribly shocking to the Christian. We often speak of total participation in the celebration of the Eucharist in which every aspect of who we are is brought to prayer. We speak of this odd co-mingling of two different worlds, The Earthly Liturgy and the Heavenly Liturgy, happening simultaneously. This is all well and good and should be at the tip of every Christian’s worshiping tongue.

Do follow the link and read on! Maybe we all need to question that which was in no need of being questioned, in our lives and in our hearts.

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Remembering The Algerian Martyrs.

Bishop Claude Rault M Afr was bishop of the Sahara before retiring. He knew most of the Algerian Martyrs whom we have reflected on before. Their feast day was May 8th, and Bishop Claude preached this homily in Paris. What do you think makes someone a saint?

Here are Vincent Somboro’s reflections on Christian Mission in Algeria today. And here the reflections of Blessed Pierre Claverie, one of the martyrs.

beatification

A banner of the blessed martyrs at the beatification ceremony in Algeria.

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10 April, Good Friday. Desert XL: Love and woe interwound.

poperinge.1

No crown! the woe instead

Is heavy on his head,

Pressing inward on his brain

With a hot and clinging pain

Till all tears are prest away,

And clear and calm his vision may

Peruse the black abyss.

No rod, no sceptre is

Holden in his fingers pale;

They close instead upon the nail,

Concealing the sharp dole,

Never stirring to put by

The fair hair peaked with blood,

Drooping forward from the rood

Helplessly, heavily

On the cheek that waxeth colder,

Whiter ever, and the shoulder

Where the government was laid.

His glory made the heavens afraid;

Will he not unearth this cross from its hole?

His pity makes his piteous state;

Will he be uncompassionate

Alone to his proper soul?

Yea, will he not lift up

His lips from the bitter cup,

His brows from the dreary weight,

His hand from the clenching cross,

Crying, “My Father, give to me

Again the joy I had with thee

Or ere this earth was made for loss?”

No stir, no sound.

The love and woe being interwound

He cleaveth to the woe;

And putteth forth heaven’s strength below,

To bear.

And that creates his anguish now,

Which made his glory there.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

This is the introduction to the first volume of EBB’s Poetical Works. It sees Christ as a second Adam, atoning for the sins of the first Adam and Eve, ‘fallen humanity, as it went forth from Paradise into the wilderness’. And here is Christ in the wilderness, the desert, of the Cross.

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March 29: “Not my will”, Desert XXX.

 Christina Chase has kindly allowed us to share her recent post, ‘Agony’. After reading these opening paragraphs please follow the link to her blog. Christina would have written especially for us this Lent, but she has been busy with her new book, ‘It’s good to be here’, which is available via Amazon or from the publishers, Sophia Institute of New Hampshire. This photograph shows her before the crucifix in her room, taken by her father, Dan Chase.

How many times have I desperately longed for my life of progressive disability to be different? For countless hours upon hours I have agonized, with teenaged hormones raging, wanting a different path, begging to be released from the nevers of my life, from the crippling confines of my disease. Far too weak and dependent for romantic relationships, I deeply desired the possibility of a husband, of children, of a home of my own, painfully frustrated and sad that it could not be.

In sleepless nights even now, I suffer the agony of simply wanting to swing my legs down from the bed and stand up. I don’t want to be dependent upon my aging parents and wake them in the middle of the night for my comfort, no matter how willing they may be to assist me. So I lie still in the dark as my tears sting and burn my eyes, and I can’t wipe them away with my own hands.

I don’t want my disability, this difficult burden of sorrow and painful loss — I don’t want disease to lay upon me and upon the backs and hearts of the people whom I love.

Follow the link to read the rest of Christina’s post and more about her book.

https://authorchristinachase.com/2020/03/06/agony/

Sophia Instiutte Link:

https://www.sophiainstitute.com/products/item/its-good-to-be-here

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26 March: Saint Joseph in the Desert (XXVII)

This image of the Holy Family comes from Africa, though not Egypt, the part where Joseph led his wife and child at such short notice to preserve Jesus’ life. Although his feastday was last week, we did not want to interrupt Pope Francis’s train of thought by posting this reflection on the 19th. And it sits well just after the Annunciation which took place not long before the Flight into Egypt.

Here is Joseph the refugee, suddenly grown to superhero status, protecting his family with wisdom. Cometh the hour, cometh the man, but the man was not acting alone:

Behold an angel of the Lord appeared in sleep to Joseph, saying: Arise, and take the child and his mother, and fly into Egypt: and be there until I shall tell thee. For it will come to pass that Herod will seek the child to destroy him.

Who arose, and took the child and his mother by night, and retired into Egypt. Matthew 2:13-14.

There will be times that we just have to get through, so daunting they may seem before the fact; a truly desert experience. But with God’s grace we become, like Joseph, superheroes for a while, though it may not feel like it, leading our dear ones through the encircling gloom.

I have no doubt that whenever he heard the story of the flight into Egypt, Jesus will have seen his dad as a superhero. Let’s pray for the grace to step up and don the hero’s cloak whenever anyone needs help, even if it’s just a couple of lost souls unsure of how to find their way through town.

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