Bishop Claude Rault, Bishop Emeritus of the Sahara, shared this prayer by an early Muslim mystic, Rabi’a al Adawiyya, (717-801). It is a prayer that anyone could make their own. Bishop Claude has devoted his life to being present in dialogue and neighbourliness with the Muslims of Algeria, and to the study of Islam.
Oh my God,
if it is through fear of hell fire that I adore You,
then burn me in hell fire.
And if it is through hope of Paradise that I adore You,
then chase me out of Paradise.
But if I adore You simply for Yourself,
Do not deprive me of Your eternal beauty.
Oh my God,
all my desire in this world is to remember You
and all my desire for the world to come
is to encounter You.
That is how it is for me
but You: do whatever You will.
+ Claude Rault, Jesus, l’Homme de la Rencontre, Marseille, Publications Chemins de Dialogue, 2020, p31.
#newsletter n.07 – 03/2022 – Available also in FR – PT – ES – IT Celebrating Woman’s Day Women are particularly involved in this synodal process, they are often the driving force behind synodality and have a great desire to “walk together”. On this 8th of March we want to give thanks for all their commitment to the service of synodality …Read more …
Caritas Internationalis and the British Ambassador to the Holy See, Chris Trott, are organizing the event “Church and Society: Women as Builders of Dialogue” on March 8 in Rome, with online streaming. Read more… Sr. Nathalie Becquart, Undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops, offers us a collection of texts dealing with the theme of women in the documents of the last two synods.Read more… Listen to five women speak about their roles within the Synod of Bishops on the Synod on Synodality at this event of last December hosted by the Australian Embassy to the Holy See, La Civiltà Cattolica and Georgetown University.Read more The aim of “Female Doctors of the Church and Patron Saints of Europe in Dialogue with Today’s World” International Interuniversity Conference scheduled for March 7 and 8, 2022 is to focus on the emblematic example of so many women in history to restore momentum and hope to the many challenges that characterize the dynamic contemporary world.Read more… The Dutch Network of Catholic Women (NKV) translated the synod themes to questions specifically meant for women. The project is called ‘She has something to tell’ and Laetitia van der Lans tells us that the responses rate is surprisingly high for a small, secularized country. Among the most important questions are: what gives you joy in the Catholic Church? What are your dreams for the Church?Read more The Maronite Church launched the initiative “Synod of Women” in Bkerké, at the headquarters of the Maronite Patriarchate: a unique ecclesial process and opportunity for shared discernment on the presence and mission of women in the Church and in society.Read more…
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Some people’s vocation goes on past their own lifetime. Think of what we owe to writers from 3,000 years ago and more. This is part of a conversation between Joy Clarkson of Plough magazine and the writer Alan Jacobs, who is speaking here. The whole conversation can be found here, on the Plough website. It is wide-ranging, we could easily have chosen among many other paragraphs as our appetiser. Today the ongoing work of a writer, perhaps long-dead; tomorrow the work of the visual artist.
There is [a] kind of humble generosity to libraries and books. They’re always ready to accommodate themselves to us. We have so much control over our encounters with books. If a book frustrates us, we can walk away. We can never pick it up again. We can take a book and throw it out the door if we want to. We can put it in the trash or we can just put it on the shelf and come back to it later, or we can just devour the whole thing. At times like that, we feel like we’re so caught up that we’re almost not choosing anymore. But we know at the back of our minds that we really do have some control over all of this and, as a result, it lowers our blood pressure.
And it’s a human connection. A book can be an incredibly powerful conversation partner, but it enables us to deal with ideas in our own way and at our own pace. That’s especially important when the ideas are challenging to us or maybe even offensive to us. We can set a book aside, calm down, and come back to it and think about it and think about what our answer is to it.
More inspired curiosity from Eddie Gilmore at The Irish Chaplaincy.
There are always interesting characters to be found on Glastonbury Tor and my latest visit was no exception.
I was having a few days of retreat at Downside Abbey, the Benedictine monastery in Somerset not far from Glastonbury. On my previous stay at Downside I’d also climbed the Tor, on which occasion there was a large group of women performing some kind of ritual which included a circle dance and various incantations, as well as them laughing a lot and breaking out into the singing of old pop songs in the tower. There had been a nice energy about the group and I’d wished I could be part of it.
On this occasion I’d seized the opportunity of a sunny day on which to drive over and make the steep ascent. The Tor stands at about 180m and commands spectacular views in every direction, even, on such a clear day, all the way across the Bristol Channel to a point on the Welsh coast forty-five miles away. St Michael’s Tower is perched right on the top and I especially love to look through the archways on each side. They provide a pleasant framing of the view beyond. It has been a site of pilgrimage for centuries and the following day, it was explained to me later, it would be especially busy because of the Autumn equinox. The site is said to be on a certain ‘ley line’, believed to be routes of particular sacred energy going in a straight line across the country and linking particular holy places.
On my previous visit to the Tor I’d been reminded of a place on the Camino to Santiago with similarly vast and commanding views from a high point over the surrounding flat countryside and a sense that it was somewhere the ancient Celts might have described as being a ‘thin place’ i.e. there being a thin veil between earth and heaven. This time I was mainly relishing the uncommonly warm day and, like many of those who had made the climb, lying down in the sun. I was also, as I like to do, observing those around me! Of particular interest was a woman who appeared through the archway of the tower with an ivy chain around her head. She was closely followed by a second and then a third woman who were each of them similarly adorned, also carrying armfuls of ivy and other bits and pieces. ‘What’s going on here, then?’ I wondered. They proceeded to set up shop on the grass, creating a circle of ivy and other things and with a vase of flowers at the centre. And one of them was lighting some kind of incense. One or two similarly curious onlookers asked what they were doing and one of the three explained that they were performing a little ceremony for Mother Earth and getting rid of bad things from their lives and welcoming the new. A woman who until then had been sunbathing asked to join them and she was welcomed and crowned with an ivy chain. And then the ritual began, which included the ringing of a bell, the beating of a drum and one of the women moving round the circle spreading the sweet-melling incense. It was a little bit wacky but I suppose to many people these days the liturgies I’d been attending in the Abbey church might seem equally wacky. At any rate, seeing a ritual performed by women was a nice counterpoint to the exclusive maleness of that morning’s monastic Mass. I reflected as well that some of what the women were doing wasn’t too far from what the monks had been doing on the Sunday in their High Mass, at least in terms of the incense, with a deacon having gone round the altar with the thurible; except that the men didn’t have a bunch of pretty flowers in the middle!
It was then that I heard a guitar and singing coming from inside the tower and went to explore. A man was there and he had a lovely, gentle voice which was pleasantly amplified by the acoustics of the tower, and when he finished I clapped in appreciation, along with a couple who were listening as well. He was explaining to the couple in answer to them asking where he came from that he lived in Spain, although I could hear the unmistakable sound of a Dublin accent. After the couple made their leave I got chatting with him and he was interested to hear about my background and about the work of the Irish Chaplaincy. I asked him his name. He replied that he’d been born Denis (and a Roman Catholic) but had changed his name twenty years ago to Ananda. When I later checked the spelling with him he said, “It’s like Amanda but you just change the ‘m’ to an ‘n’!” He told me that the word in Hinduism, as in Buddhism and Jainism, denotes extreme happiness and is one of the highest states of being. He believed in the unity in all religions and as if to demonstrate that he sang to me a self-composed mantra which began, conventionally enough, with the words that had been sung that morning in the monastic Mass, ‘Kyrie eleison’, Lord have mercy. Ananda’s version continued, ‘Maria eleison, Mama eleison, Allah eleison, Buddha eleison’ before ending with another verse of ‘Kyrie eleison’.
He went on to tell me that he’d lived in Glastonbury for four year and had walked up the Tor every single day, rain or shine, with his guitar and it was his personal ministry to sing in the tower and chat to people. He also pointed out to me the Celtic connections with the area. An old legend has it that Patrick came back to Britain as an old man and gathered together some hermits in Glastonbury and became the first Abbot. What’s more, the carved figure of Brigid, patron saint of the Irish Chaplaincy as I explained to Ananda, is carved right there in St Michael’s Tower where we were speaking. Legend has it that she spent two years in Glastonbury in prayer before founding in Kildare her dual monastery, one for women and one for and men and over both of which she ruled as abbess.
Ananda was summoned to go and meet his wife, his ring tone being a nice bit of violin music! As he invited me to “go well” I decided it was time to be brave and engage with the ivy-clad women. I went over and asked if I could take a photo of their circle and one of them said with a smile, “Do you want the models in the picture?” I asked what the incense had been and was told it had been sage and myrrh. “Oh” I said, “sage was used by the native Americans to purify the atmosphere of bad vibes.” I happened to know that because when I’d been in a role at L’Arche that seemed to involve having a lot of tricky 1 to 1 meetings, my counterpart in L’Arche London, an American called Keith, used to tell me about the sprig of sage he kept hanging in his office for such meetings. We’d call one another sometimes and say, “So how much sage did you need to burn today?”
Later I went for a stroll in the town which is a truly fascinating place. On the residential street leading to the centre almost every other house has a statue of the Buddha in the window. Then there is the main street, which is a veritable hot-potch of what used to be called ‘New age mysticism’: tarot card reading, crystals, hypnotherapy, ‘Saturday morning yoga with Andrew’, the ‘Zen Music Shop’. Outside the C of E parish church a wizard had set up a stall, next to a man playing reggae music, and was waving cheerfully to passers-by. Ananda had told me that Glastonbury is home to seventy-three different religions and beliefs, the highest such concentration anywhere on the planet. There was even an RC church. How, I wondered, did they get on in the midst of the seventy-three?
I was kind of relieved to get back to the peace, and monotheism, of the monastery. Interestingly, the book being read that evening in the monastic refectory was by a Benedictine who made the observation that the professed religious life as we know it in the West is in terminal decline. The Downside community is typical in that most of the eight members are in their seventies or older and they are currently planning to leave their home of the last 150 years and move in with another, similarly diminishing, community. I agree with the prognosis of terminal decline and think we, the ever dwindling faithful in the Church need to be honest about that rather than hold our heads in the sand. I think there might not be more than a couple of decades left, in the West at any rate, of a tradition that goes back over 1600 years and which has had such a profoundly positive impact on civilisation, in such areas as healthcare and education, even in the development of champagne, thanks to Dom Pérignon, a French Benedictine monk.
What will take its place? The innate human yearning for meaning will still be there, and a need for ritual. Many of us will continue to seek places of stillness; and a sense of the sacred will be as strong as ever, however that finds its expression. My guess is that things could get even more eclectic and a whole lot more wacky! But I take comfort in the words of one of the spiritual greats (I’m afraid I can’t remember which one): “The good will out.”
We’ve received another Newsletter from the Bishops’ Synod Office. Here it is. What did I say a few weeks ago about long words and unusual vocabulary? Still, it’s good to see that they want to use the synod to help make us Christians all one.
In a joint letter of 28 October 2021, Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and Cardinal Mario Grech, General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops, addressed the Bishops responsible for ecumenism in their Episcopal Conferences and Synods of the Oriental Catholic Churches.
The two Cardinals trust that the “ecumenical dimension of the synodal process will promote both synodality and Christian unity so that ‘all may believe’ (John 17,21)”.“Indeed, both synodality and ecumenism are processes of ‘walking together’ ”. In fact, “as ecumenism can be understood as an ‘exchange of gifts’, one of the gifts Catholics can receive from the other Christians is precisely their experience and understanding of synodality”. (From the letter of cardinals Grech and Koch)
The Synod in the world We continue to receive pictures, videos, … from all over the world showing the great creativity of our communities. Be inspired: come and see!
Feel like singing?
Listen to a synod hymn by artist Merlin Dsouza, one of India’s leading music directors, composer and pianist, has a wide range of work in theatre, concerts, films (Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham).
Synod and Synodality: Theological Approaches New Course at the Pontifical Gregorian UniversityThe synodal process also challenges theology to deepen what is a “constitutively synodal Church”, in order to integrate visions and skills, experiences and concerns, tradition and readings to the “signs of the times”.
The Faculty of Theology of the Pontifical Gregorian University is launching a course on “synod” and “synodality”. In 12 meetings, the professors will address the topic from different angles. The aim is to create a wide space for listening and sharing among the participants, both in the classroom and online, thus implementing the synodal process and developing a truly synodal style in theology.
Programme (ONLY IN ITALIAN)Promoting a time of listening and discernment
We continue our journey to discover the spirituality of the different religious families, associations and ecclesial movements. Today we invite you to discover the Benedictine spirituality.
“The practice of listening “with the ear of the heart” sets in motion a pathway to authentic discernment of the will of God.”
Pray for the Synod In order to support the synodal journey and ask for the Spirit’s assistance, together with the World Network of Prayers of the Pope and UISG, we have set up a website in 5 languages: Church on the Way. Pray for the Synod. From 2 November, you too can send your prayer. See how to do it… Copyright 2021 General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops, All rights reserved. You are receiving this email because you opted in via our website.
Our mailing address is: General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops Via della Conciliazione, 34 Vatican City 00120 Vatican City State (Holy See)
We have received this document from the Catholic Bishops of the World, inviting all to two years of listening, dialogue and discernment. We expect to hear more from Rome but also from our own bishops, and let’s hope that plain language is used throughout! We at Agnellus’ Mirror do strive for that, and will do so as we share our reaction to the downloadable documents listed below.
At this early stage, let’s pray that the Holy Spirit will not be prevented from breathing through the Church; but that the breath of each of us may be combined in a harmonious and diverse song of hope: do not let us promote disorder.
The Bishops offer their own prayer from the days of Vatican II: see below.
The Church of God is convened in Synod: a time of listening, dialogue and discernment that the whole Church intends to carry out over the next two years in order to better respond to its mission of proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ to the entire world.
These Litterae communionis (Letters of Communion) of the General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops want to resume the ancient Christian tradition of sending epistolae among the Churches as an instrument of sharing and communion.
Accompanying this journey of the Church in a synodical manner also means informing and sharing the joys, hopes and good practices of our communities.
So: Set out on the road tooand share this newsletter with your friends!
YOUR FELLOW TRAVELLERS Download the Preparatory Document for the synodal journey! Downloadthe guide for listening and discernment.
Each session of the Second Vatican Council began with the prayer Adsumus Sancte Spiritus. As we are called to embrace this synodal journey, this prayer invites the Holy Spirit to work in us so that we can be a community and a people of grace. For Synod 2021-2023, we propose to use this simplified version, so that any group or liturgical assembly can pray it more easily.
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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.
These prayers from the Catholic Greek Melkite Church open a different way of seeing Mary for Westerners like me. Please take this opportunity to pray for all the people of Lebanon, where many Melkite Christians live alongside other Christians, Muslims and Druze, all of whom would earnestly desire to live in peace.
The mystery hidden from all eternity that the angels could not know was revealed to those on earth through you, O Mother of God, when God became incarnate without mixing (of the two natures) and accepted the Cross out of obedience for our sakes and Adam was raised and our souls saved from death.
You gave birth without a father on earth to him who was born without a mother in heaven, a birth beyond understanding and hearing, So intercede, O Mother of God, for our souls.
Two prayers from the Melkite Liturgy, Theotokion for Saturday, 4th mode, and Tuesday morning Theotokion, 1st mode, translated by Kenneth Mortimer and published on The Pelicans website.
Since the First Friday of January is New Year’s Day, we open this year’s reflections with Pope Francis’s Intention for Evangelization:
Human Fraternity May the Lord give us the grace to live in full fellowship with our brothers and sisters of other religions, praying for one another, open to all.
We will continue to offer occasional reflections from people of different faiths or of no faith, but often a picture can say a thousand words. L’Arche in Syria and around the World includes Muslim and Christian, and people of different abilities and needs, coming together to bear living witness to human fraternity. God is patient, he takes his time to lead us home. Let’s pray for patience with each other that we may recognise the sister or brother in our neighbour. Not a bad New Year’s resolution; there’ll still be plenty to work on in 12 months’ time.
‘When I stand before thee at the day’s end thou shalt see my scars and know that I had my wounds and also my healing.’ Tagore
Pere Hamel had worked hard, networked hard, to help his local Muslims integrate and feel welcome in the neighbourhood of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray. But on this morning in 2016 he was cut down while celebrating early morning Mass. Two men of the Islamic State terror group wanted to keep hold of the differences between people rather than celebrate our unity before the God who made us.
May those who bring violence to our streets, homes, churches and schools, have their scars anointed and healed.