Tag Archives: education

August 24: An unexpected challenge.

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Towards the end of last school term, my 13 year-old god-daughter Rose set me the question,

What are the challenges facing religious people today?

A challenge in itself. Here is my brief answer. Now what would you add  from your personal experience?

Maurice.

Hello Rose! I’m delighted to help with your RE homework. As you well know,  I’m a 67 year-old married Catholic with four grown-up children and one grandson. I am, of course, also a godfather to you and your younger sister.

I take it that by religious you mean someone who believes in what the Creeds say and attends church: that description fits me. I’m comfortable with that.

For the last 20 plus years I have worked as a tutor to children and young people who don’t attend school, usually because their behaviour has been dangerous to others – bullying and aggression – or else because they have not been learning and have made it difficult for other people to learn – or teach, or because of a particular set of needs, such as autism.

This often brings me to homes that are chaotic, often filthy, usually loving, sometimes neglectful. Parents and other adults may abuse drugs; they may also abuse their children verbally, physically, even sexually.

So I have dilemmas that would be the same for any other professional working with these people. For example:

  • Is it part of my job to get pupils out of bed when they don’t come to lessons (their phones are usually on silent at 9.00 in the morning).
  • Do I quietly help the parents in little ways, such as giving one family the bed Harry had grown out of, or a packet of tea bags – strictly speaking not allowed.
  • What steps do I take if I think my pupil’s dad beat him up? Even if the boy says he walked into the kitchen door?

But there are other challenges that arise because I’m religious:

  • Do I keep quiet about being religious? Or more accurately, how openly do I claim to be a Catholic at work? When working with other Catholics it is a help. Others may need answers to questions like, ‘Is God going to be angry with me because I did so-and-so? Why did Nan die so young (I could only start from telling the boy what he already knew: she smoked too much.)
  • How much confidentiality is appropriate? – the Father Confessor problem! Example: a year 11 pupil gets a job in a chip shop. Strictly illegal, but not hurting anyone else, and she soon realises that she is being exploited and packs it in. A boy in year 9 was working in Scrap Metal; illegal on any number of accounts: age, no gloves, no safety boots, slave wages and more. I did not want him in trouble, nor his mother, so she and I spoke seriously to him and showed him that he could get her into far more trouble that the measly pay was worth. No more needed to be done in that case but I would have had to put friendship on the line if he hadn’t dropped the scrap dealing. Good job, as the police were soon onto his ‘employer’ who went to prison.

I hope this gives you a taste of the challenges I, as a religious person, can face at work.

Your loving Godfather,

Maurice.

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July 13, 2017: Nuts, nuns and a Saxon princess.

Our local Saint Mildred, a Saxon princess who had a continental education and rejected the St_Mildred,_Preston_next_Wingham,_Kent_-_Window_-_geograph.org.uk_-_325439 (1)idea of a political marriage to become a nun, has her feast today. She reminds me to pray for her sisters, living today at Minster Abbey; and also to forage the walnuts from my favourite tree.

It’s harvest time because right now the nuts have not yet grown their woody shells inside those green carapaces. Off the tree they come to get pricked all over with a fork, then left to steep in brine for a few days before drying off for a few days more.

The juice has stained my fingers to the complexion of a chain-smoker, if only for a few days. But when the nuts are fully dry for pickling they will be as black as the habits of the Benedictine Sisters who live in Saint Mildred’s Abbey at Minster-walnutsgreenin-Thanet. By Christmas the nuts will be sweet-and-sour and spicy.

Only the first and third of those adjectives apply to the sisters at Minster!

Happy foraging!

Saint Mildred, pray for us.

Saint Mildred from a window at Preston-next-Wingham, Kent.  John Salmon

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26 June, Shared Table VIII: Growing in wisdom, and age, and grace.

You may have noticed in these pages a degree of affection for young Abel and rejoicing in his growth in wisdom, and age, and grace; rejoicing as the parents of the Lord did, and no doubt his  grandparents too. (Luke 2:52) It’s always good to remember that Jesus had to grow in all those ways.

Growing up did not happen by magic or instinct with Jesus, nor does it for any child. I was looking through old notes recently and found a teachers’ leader relaying what many of her members observed, that children were coming to school unable to use a knife and fork and these were by no means all living  in poverty. Their parents were simply ‘not prepared to give time and energy doing that most difficult, but essential of jobs – raising children properly.’ (Mary Bousted, Report Magazine, May 2009 p11.)

As Maria Montessori reminded us, children want to grow up and want to co-operate with adults in the process. Feeding oneself is an important instance of this, so is helping grandad make that essential of modern living: flapjack, and again, so is sharing the result.

The shared table is the foundation for so much human goodness, it’s no wonder Jesus chose it as the foundation for sharing divine goodness in the Eucharist. To say that is not to deny that the Eucharist is a sacrifice: just re-read Dr Bousted’s remarks to see that the shared table is a place of sacrifice as well as of enjoyment.

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June 18, Corpus Christi: Shared Table I, ‘Eat Such Things as are Set Before You.’

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Today in England is Corpus Christi, the feast of the Body and Blood of Our Lord. We receive this great gift at the shared table of the Eucharist – or from that table if we are too poorly to attend Mass in person. Jesus chose a meal to give himself to us. This week’s posts reflect on that from different angles. What do you think?

Into whatsoever house you enter, first say: Peace be to this house. And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon him; but if not, it shall return to you. And in the same house, remain, eating and drinking such things as they have: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Remove not from house to house. And into what city soever you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you.

This passage from Luke 10: 5-9 comes back to me time and again. My tutoring work has taken me into many homes, often where no teacher has been before, and in all but two refreshment has been offered. Instinctively, people set a cup of tea and maybe a biscuit or bacon sandwich, before the visitor. (Those two houses where refreshment was not offered, though I visited many times, were definitely not peaceful homes; my inner peace was surely hard-pressed at times.)

Setting a mug of tea before the visitor is indeed a peace offering. So, whether it be builder’s tea, with three sugars I never requested, or a greyish liquid brewed by an eight-year-old boy, keen to please, ‘Thank you! Just what I needed!’

And to be received in peace allows me to do the labour for which I was sent. Teaching English to a school drop-out may not be directly spreading the Gospel, but it is good news when the youngster responds and learns. And all good news is part of The Good News.

MMB.

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4 June, Pentecost: A Young Missionary’s Prayer.

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I’ve been saving this post for months now, but it seemed most appropriate for Pentecost. Patrick Kalonji Kadima is a young Congolese man training to become a Missionary of Africa in Ghana, a long way from home. This post is taken from letters he wrote to his confreres.

Newsletter South Africa No 66  FrDear Brothers and Sisters,

Greetings from Ghana,  where I am appointed for pastoral experience. The aim of these two years is to train me and prepare me for missionary life. These are years when the apostolic and pastoral components (working with youth, community development, various visits to the local people, catechism classes, to mention but a few) are predominant. The main task is for the apostolate, as well as a time of discernment. It will be a time of test to see if I have the necessary qualities to live a missionary life.

My community is made of four members, two confrere-priests, John Amona (Ghana) and Gazena Haile (Ethiopia) and one who is in his second year of pastoral experience, Martial Kedem (Burkina-Faso). The four of us, from different parts of Africa, form a community of Missionaries of Africa in Nyankpala.

I will soon be in the village for the language. Your prayers for this, I will really appreciate. Dagbani, is my first African language that I will sit down and concentrate on learning as such. I wish to speak it like a native speaker. It is not a Bantu language, but I am willing to put much effort into it. May the almighty God, who blew on the Apostles the Holy Spirit to speak in various languages; may He blow in me as He did with them.

I ask for your prayers that I may constantly listen to God’s voice and continue trusting Him in my life. I too, will keep you in my prayers. Happy new month of September! May Christ’s peace be with you all.

Your Brother in Christ.

Patrick Kalonji Kadima.

Read more about how Africans are travelling across their continent to bring the Good News at this link:

A Letter from Africa

And pray that the Spirit may blow through Patrick and all Missionaries; may they be on fire with his love – and may we too remember that we are Missionaries, sent to share the Joy of the Gospel with whomsoever we meet.

MMB.

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26 April: Prudence III: Memory,

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So then, where does St. Thomas begin when he looks at the virtue of prudence?  For him, the first aspect of prudence is memory (see Summa Theologica, II.II: 49:1).  Why?  Because

…it is typical of prudence to be aware of what is true in the majority of cases.  This kind of awareness is fostered and engendered by experience and time, therefore, prudence requires the memory of many things.

Perhaps it is easier to understand this by looking at the opposite quality.  I suspect we all know someone about whom others will roll their eyes and sigh, saying, “Oh dear.  Jack never learns.”  Here, Jack is someone who makes the same big mistakes over and over: the small business person, say, who hires incompetent and dishonest employees out of a desire to help the under-dog.  These employees subsequently harm the business through irresponsibility or theft.  This becomes a pattern, though, in Jack’s business career.  He lets his need to “save” people who have a sob story get in the way of his judgement.  Repeatedly.

It is the repetition of the error that is at issue here.  Memory, says Thomas, is aided by diligence.  With diligence, we make a mental note of what happens, we put conscious effort into noticing how events unfold in matters that are important to us.  We don’t just let life go by, and let the same mistakes happen again and again.  We ask why something keeps happening.  From this, we gain some capacity to predict what is likely to happen if we do the same thing again.  ‘It behoves us to argue about the future from the past; therefore memory of the past is necessary in order to take good counsel for the future,’ says Saint Thomas.

SJC.

Prudence suggests a waterproof in Wales.

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13 March, Human Will IX: Trudging on.

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Yesterday’s reflection seemed incomplete after I’d set it down, though I could not put my finger on why until I found this passage from the pioneering Anglican Franciscan, Father Andrew:

Try to keep a brave will. Minds may wander and hearts feel cold, but if the will is trudging on, however heavily, love is loyal.

The most costly service is really the truest service. it is all part of that spiritual mortification which is part of the inevitable process of the soul’s education.

Mortification is not a word that springs to my mind all that often – this is the first time I’ve tagged it on this blog in 18 months. Maybe I’m just such a big softie that I was rewarded with the snowdrop for the mini-motrification of trudging on with my litter picking. Well, I was glad to see the snowdrop. Laudato Si!

WT

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Faith, Science and Teenagers

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Another gem from the Vatican Observatory’s blog site. Constance L. Martin-Trembley teaches science to teenagers, and has to help her students with the challenges posed when science meets rigidly held beliefs in the literal truth of the Bible. She has panache! Follow the link to read her

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Musings

WT

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20 February, Inter-galactic Exploration, XXIII: Peeeeeeeeeeeep! Peeeeeeeeeeep! part 2.

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‘Well,’ said Ajax after Will and Abel had taken themselves back to the railway station. ‘What do you make of that story?’
‘I liked Callum,’ said Alfie, ‘but he seemed a bit aggressive to start with.’
‘So, my friends,’ aked T. ‘Which was the real Callum? “Nasty piece of work” or “you made my day”?’
‘I guess if someone expects you to be a nasty piece of work, that’s what they’ll see, but I smelt anger coming out of him,’ said Alfie. ‘That was before we heard about him at school.’
‘And what if Will had been stealing you? Surely he’d have been righteously angry on my behalf?’
‘But you would not want Will beaten up by an angry law enforcer,’ countered Ajax.
‘He was never going to be touched by Callum, except for that handshake. Once Callum knew the dogs were OK, then Will was OK. And when Callum recognised Will he stopped being a cop and became just a human being. Mind, I might get Sergeant Callum to have a word about the way Will lets Abel stuff you with treats when you have perfectly balanced K9Krunchees in the bowls here.’
‘Leave Abel alone,’said Alfie. ‘K9Krunchees are better than certain other scientific foods we all remember. Adequate but incomplete, the old six foods and four drinks, but K9Krunchees seem to give me an appetite for more interesting things that you couldn’t sniff out in your human disguise.’
WT.

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19 February: Intergalactic Discoveries XXII: Peeeeeeeeeeeep! Peeeeeeeeeeep!

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Peeeeeeeeeeeep! Peeeeeeeeeeep! Will Turnstone stopped walking across Margate sands and about turned. A policeman was gesturing from the promenade. ‘Are those your dogs, Sir?’ he shouted.
Will called Abel, who was leading the Chihuahuas, or were they leading him?  They all walked towards the Waste Land shelter, where the police sergeant had parked his Land Rover. ‘You should have them on the lead, you know. And surely these are not your dogs. I see them out with a tall guy with glasses. What are you doing with them?’
‘We’re walking them for Mr T while he gets some writing done, aren’t we Abel? Abel’s my grandson. And Abel had them on the lead; no case to answer, tear up your ticket.’
‘Someone said much the same to me once before, Mr Turnstone. You remember me, I’m Callum Waters from Saint Darren’s School; it’s your voice gives you away.’
‘Certainly not my grey hair,’ said Will, ‘but I could hardly forget you and Liam. I guess you’ve given up smoking now?’
‘I need to stay fit, driving round all day. But we didn’t turn out so bad; Liam was in the Marines, saw some terrible things before he left. He’s living in Donegal now.’
‘And you’ve seen your share of trouble, in your job, no doubt. I’m glad we caught up after thirty years. And one thing. Thank you for that day you told me to go home because I was still poorly. You were right. And Miss Everard was totally wrong when she told me you were a nasty piece of work. I wanted to prove her wrong, but it’s you that did that, even if she could not see it.
We’d best get these dogs home and this boy back to his parents. Put it there, Callum, you’ve made my day.’
 
 Will , Ajax and Alfie on another day. Chihuahuas hate rain or water in any form except in bowls for drinking.

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