Tag Archives: Faith

April 13: Feeling the Fire: I

We don’t follow many blogs, but Ignatius’s As a Little Child is one I am always glad to see and occasionally reply to. He put this out a few weeks ago, and has graciously allowed me to use it – and my reply – here. Over to Ignatius; a response tomorrow.

Can I honestly say, that when I look at myself or at my Church, locally or universally, that I recognise followers of Jesus, the Body of Christ, or the Kingdom of Heaven?

‘I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!’ [Lk12:49]

Where is this fire?!

I don’t see it in my life. And I rarely hear it in homilies. And I hardly see it in the Church. I start to wonder if we’ve forgotten Jesus.

There are saints amongst us, though. There are holy bishops and priests and religious and lay people, living the gospel. There are orders, and movements and organisations and just people. There are many people out there who sacrifice themselves with Jesus, living the reckless, radical love of the Father.

I just wish it were the rule. I wish that I heard this fire in every homily, and saw it in every Church activity. I wish that we were obviously so much more than a club, or an NGO. I wish that this fire was burning in all my flesh, down to the marrow. But I’ve read that all that’s needed to become a saint, is to will it. God wills it already; we just need to co-operate, accept His grace, obey His gospel.

And the truth is, there’s no real life apart from Jesus’ life. It’s a choice between life and — far worse than death– not-life. I could perhaps call it half-life, but I think not-life better captures the emptiness I’m thinking of. Or being “lukewarm”. 

 

I hope I’m not alone in feeling this way. Please pray with me, that we will together be set on Jesus-fire.

 

 

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1 April: Did it Rain that Morning ?

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Did it Rain that Morning ?

How did the sun rise that morning?

Did it roar into the sky?

Did it dance, throwing its flames across the void?

Did it rain?

Surely it rained?

A penetrating April deluge,

Short, sweet, cleansing.

Penetrating like grief,

Like relief.

Did the wind blow?

With no-one to feel it lift the dirt, the dust,

Sweep clean,

Prepare the way.

The sun at darkness’ end.

The lightning, thunder.

Fit entrance to a forgiven world.

Fit entrance for a Prince, a Lord.

Did the birds and the creatures rejoice together?

The flowers tremble,

Their perfume astonish?

Till all ablaze,

You stepped forth

Accompanied by Angels,

And went your way, about your world.

Until the women came,

Looking,

Peering,

Anxious,

Worried.

All was calm again by then,

Nothing untoward,

Except that you had gone to Galilee

And left a message with an Angel.

 

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SPB

Sister Johanna insisted, underlined and insisted, that we should publish this today. Of course she was right. Thanks, Mum! Maurice. (And it was raining on Wednesday in Holy Week at Canterbury Cathedral.)

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25 March, Stations of the Cross VIII: Jesus falls a third time.

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Today is Palm Sunday, when Jesus rode triumphant into Jerusalem, yet our station shows him on the way out of town in humiliation. The Feast of the Annunciation has been transferred to Monday 9th April, the first free day after Easter Week.

EIGHTH STATION
JESUS FALLS A THIRD TIME

Many of us in England no longer have a fire at home, and if we do, they are safely confined in a proper hearth. In Jesus’ day, there would have been an open fire, easy to fall into, often with disastrous effect. We hear from the father of the boy who fell into the fire or the lake during his epileptic fits.
(Mark 9:14-29).


I had seen my boy fall time and time again.
He was often badly hurt, burnt or nearly drowned.

He could not hear me or speak to me, it was terrible to see, as if he was taken over by the evil one.

Jesus said that faith could save him.

Lord, I have faith, help the little faith I have!

Yes, Lord, though you are down in the dust, and look as though you can never rise, I still have faith in you.


Let us pray :

Lord, help us always to say, Yes I have faith, help the little faith I have.

Help us to get up every time we fall or are pushed over.

Lord in your mercy.

 

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17th Pilgrimage to the Saints of Africa at St Maurice, Switzerland, Sunday 3 June, 2018

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The courage of a fully lived faith: The Martyrs of Uganda

This pilgrimage will take place at Saint Maurice in Switzerland on June 3 2018. It will focus on Charles Lwanga and his 21 companions, the Martyrs of Uganda, canonised by Pope Paul VI in 1964.

The Abbey of Saint Maurice (which houses the relics of Saint Maurice and his companions of the Theban Legion, Africans who were martyred here in Roman times) invites you to join in this event.

A dozen African choirs from French and German speaking will lead this prayerful gathering.

The Programme will include:

from 9:00: Gather at the Parish Church of Saint Sigismond, in Saint Maurice town.

10:00: Opening of the Pilgrimage by Fr Jean Scarcella, Abbot of Saint Maurice. Address given by Fr Gerard Chabanon, former Superior General of the Missionaries of Africa and former provincial of Uganda.

11:00: Prayer and Praise, Sacrament of Reconciliation.

12:30: Bring-your-own picnic in the dining room of St Maurice’s College.

14:30: Procession to the Basilica of Saint Maurice.

15:00: Marian Prayer, Litany of the Saints, Festive Celebration in the Abbey Basilica.
16:00: Sending forth on Mission

Prayer Vigil in the Basilica, Saturday June 2, from 8.00

http://abbaye-stmaurice.ch

Contacts : Marie-Christine Begey pelerinages@stmaurice.ch
Chanoine M-A Rey reydewer@stmaurice.ch                                                                                     P. Claude Maillard c.maillard@africanum.ch
M. Ferdinand Ilunga, coordination des chorales ilkof2001@yahoo.fr

Posted by MMB.

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14 February, Ash Wednesday: Beware of Bland Faith!

monica9People talk about blind faith, but this Ash Wednesday I want to look at bland faith. Two posts last November 6th used the word: a thought provoking conjunction. Here’s Friar Austin:1

Jesus belongs to anyone struggling with faith – and how to live it truthfully. It is clear that many who would call themselves agnostic or even atheist actually live by values closer to the Gospel than do many Church-goers.

Jesus appeals to the imagination in ways that make official teaching about him seem very bland. What is the reality of Jesus beyond dogma? He was very imaginative, to a degree more suited to story than to doctrine. How would he tell his own story?

There never has been a time when God was not fully involved with Creation. The Book of Genesis states that God takes great pleasure in the creative process – and God saw that it was very good – everything is good because it is of God, good only comes from goodness. With evolution the time came for the break away from our primate ancestors, when God adds a new dimension with the arrival of the human.

And Fr James Kurzynski:2

Something I think theology can learn from science is the inspirational ethos that can be created when faith is not merely approached as an intellectual discipline to be understood, but as an adventure to be lived and explored with deep passion.

Yes, we need high intellects in the Church to further the academic exploration of theology. However, we also need voices in the pastoral field who can take the complexity of the scholar and present it to the people of faith in a way that inspires them to embrace an adventure of faith, hope, and love. Unfortunately, all too often, I encounter a bland faith of practicality in which adventure is lost and is replaced with paying bills, developing programs, and keeping tabs on the number of parishioners in the pews.

My fear is that faith is become so pragmatic that even the idea of pilgrimage, a sacred journey, is being dropped in favor of pressing play on the DVD player to watch the latest series on Catechetical instruction. Put another way, I fear that we are living in the midst of “Living-room Catholicism.”

What set me off about bland faith was this description of a Lutheran minister from Siri Hustvedt:3

He was well-meaning if somewhat narrow in his views and comfortable in his faith without being smug. At the same time, it has always impressed me that in the hands of men like Lund, the strange, bloody and wondrous Christian story inevitably turned rather drab.

Let’s take time this Lent to put a little more colour into our faith and how we live it.

3The Sorrows of an American, London, Sceptre, 2009, p173.

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December 19. Zechariah, an unlikely Advent Star, VI.

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Behold, since you did not believe my words, which will come true at the appointed time, you will be silenced and have no power of speech until this has happened (1:20).

Gabriel’s words are penetrating and packed with meaning. His sees more deeply into Zechariah than Zechariah sees into himself. And so, he first reveals Zechariah’s disbelief to him: “…you did not believe my words…” I suspect that Zechariah is pretty numb by now, and, as it were, unable to get his head around anything that is happening. But Zechariah might still be capable of inwardly assenting to the truth that Gabriel speaks about himself. I see him nodding: yes, he is disbelieving, at the moment. But because we are so often mysteries to ourselves, it can be a relief sometimes to learn a ‘home’ truth. We feel the light that that truth brings and are grateful. I imagine this being so for the upright man, Zechariah.

Then the Archangel Gabriel adds the magisterial phrase “…which will come true at the appointed time….” To my mind, these words are further words of reassurance for Zechariah – and for us. No matter how weak or disbelieving we might be in the face of the unexpected and unfathomable divine command, we cannot interfere with what God ordains. The upright Zechariah desires the fulfilment of God’s word. Gabriel’s prophecy is God’s word, and it will come true at the appointed time, no matter what else is happening in Zechariah or in the world at large. Just wait and see, Zechariah, Gabriel seems to say. God’s word is always an effective word. What God says will happen will indeed happen.

Finally, Gabriel tells Zechariah that he will have no power of speech until God’s word is fulfilled. Now, I believe that the Archangel Gabriel knows exactly what kind of man he is dealing with in Zechariah, and I do not interpret the angel’s words punitively here, either. In yesterday’s post, we were meditating on our need for time and prayer when we are confronted with something from God that we cannot grasp. I therefore see the Angel’s bestowal of silence upon Zechariah as a necessary condition for absorbing what he has experienced – which is so other, so unearthly, so wonderful. This silence can be understood as an expression of God’s mercy to Zechariah. I live monastic life, after all, and monks and nuns know that silence is a privilege not a penance. Silence allows us to live in an environment that is conducive to the deepening of our relationship to God. God knows that this good and upright man needs time now, and protection from the usual trivialising tendencies of speech in order to ponder his word and absorb what has just happened to him in the temple. What’s more, I imagine Zechariah welcoming this silence in the way a thirsting man welcomes a spring.

 

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December 13. Zechariah: an Unlikely Advent Star: I.

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The story of John the Baptist’s father, Zechariah, and his encounter with the archangel Gabriel, has been an important one in the Church’s Advent liturgy. Every year we hear St. Luke’s narrative (1:5-25) on December 19th at Mass, one of those privileged days in the final week before the great Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord.

To be honest, I have often felt a bit sorry for Zechariah. First, his outstanding personality and goodness is mostly eclipsed by his extraordinary son, John. We tend to forget about Zechariah. Then, when Zechariah does figure in sermons, he is often portrayed as the perfect example of how not to act when one is vouchsafed an angelic visitation. He is usually contrasted with Our Lady, who also received an angelic visitation, and who is perfect. Now, I have no problem with Our Lady being perfect. She is. But I contend that Zechariah, although not perfect, is a loveable and heroic man, and should be given credit for getting quite a lot of important things right. I have found that he can be a good companion to have during the season of Advent.

Zechariah’s story comes at the beginning of St. Luke’s gospel in chapter one (all biblical texts in these posts are taken from the New Jerusalem Bible).

In the days of King Herod of Judaea there lived a priest called Zechariah who belonged to the Abijah section of the priesthood, and he had a wife, Elizabeth by name, who was a descendant of Aaron. Both were upright in the sight of God and impeccably carried out all the commandments and observances of the Lord. But they were childless. Elizabeth was barren and they were both advanced in years (1:5-7).

The first thing I notice here is that both Zechariah and Elizabeth are ‘upright in the sight of God.’ To my knowledge, it is a rare thing in the bible to be described as upright in the sight of God. As I linger over this phrase and repeat it slowly to myself, a picture begins to form in my mind of a married couple who pray together every day, who are united both spiritually and physically, and who strive to discern God’s will together. Moreover, we learn from St. Luke that Zechariah and his wife ‘impeccably carried out all the commandments and observances of the Lord.’ Impeccably is a strong word. Who among us can be described in this way with regard to all God’s commands? On the contrary, it is so easy to think, ‘Oh, the Lord didn’t mean me to do that all the time. Surely, I can let myself off this or that practice today. He’ll understand.’ Yet, St. Luke implies that neither Zechariah nor his wife thought in such terms. This is made more impressive by the fact that they were “advanced in years.” Their integrity is not, therefore, a case of the neophyte’s fervour: Zechariah and Elizabeth are an example of long-term, day in and day out faithfulness. They are a holy couple.

Yet, they are childless. This, as verse twenty-five will indicate, was a very deep humiliation for both of them. Barrenness was a cause of shame at that time, and was even seen as God’s punishment. But, what had they done? They were upright in the sight of God; they were innocent, faithful and devout. Yet, their prayers for a child had been unanswered and now it was too late. They are too old.

Perhaps many of us can relate to this. We know that we are not perfect, but at the same time, something painful is happening or has happened to us that we know we do not deserve. What do we do? How do we deal with this? It can be helpful to draw near in prayer to this holy couple, Zechariah and Elizabeth, who had been enduring something painful and humiliating for a very long time. They do not turn away from God in anger. They accept their childlessness, and the unanswered questions they surely had, and they continue faithfully in their life with God, day by day, carrying out his will as they understood it. They are upright in the sight of God. Perhaps they became so precisely through their prayerful acceptance of a sorrow they could not understand.

SJC

Walking together through the desert – Zechariah and Elizabeth.

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26 November: Who is a Prisoner in Prison?

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The day I received and edited this post, (13 October) we read about ‘Decisions’ and how this isn’t always a small and cosy world; ending with the exhortation: pray for Wisdom! Unwise decisions have led to some men being in prison, despite the gifts and talents they may be blessed with. Here, then, is a reflection from our own Fr Valentine who works with prisoners.

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Who is a Prisoner in Prison? By Father Valentine Erhahon 

A prisoner –  in our context – is a man who is legally committed to prison as a punishment for a crime.

Any crime no matter how small affects everyone: the victim, the criminal, the society and the criminals relationship with God. 

A prisoner has hurt someone and may still be hurting someone. He should be sorry.

A prisoner is someone’s son. He is someones Father. He is someones best friend. He is someones brother. He is someones trusted friend. He is someones partner. He is a son of God and loved unconditionally by God.

A prisoner is also a good person. He is a gentleman. He has talents. He has kindness in him. He laughs, he cries, he sings, he argues, he bleeds, he understands, he hurts,  he learns, he fears, he cares, he teaches and he forgives himself, he forgives others, he asks for forgiveness.

The beauty of our Faith as Catholics is that we believe in Redemption. We know and hold as true that we can look into any eye and choose to see goodness. We recognise the difficulties and know we may fail in our quest, but we continue to choose to see goodness regardless.

We know that in the end, God made everyone in his own image and likeness: male and female he created them and saw that we are good the book of Genesis tells us.

It is therefore our duty to show and remind a prisoner that he is a good person. He is a good man.

That is why:

I believe the best way to strike at the conscience of a prisoner is not by constantly reminding him how bad he is: But by respectfully showing a prisoner how much good lies inside of him just waiting to be enhanced; and then, ever so gently, he will  start to believe how good he can become.

A Prisons Week Prayer

Lord, you offer freedom to all people. We pray for those in prison. Break the bonds of fear and isolation that exist. Support with your love prisoners and their families and friends, prison staff and all who care. Heal those who have been wounded by the actions of others, especially the victims of crime. Help us to forgive one another, to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly together with Christ in his strength and in his Spirit, now and every day.

Amen.

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November 21: Jesus Beyond Dogma II: xxi – ‘Challenged to respond unconditionally’.

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NASA

Faith has more to do with getting the right question, not necessarily the right answer. Nature has its own unique way of asking questions. Everything from galaxies to people is gifted in love. This is so because the relating in everything is attracted by goodness. God is unconditional love; don’t waste time trying to persuade God to love – we have always been loved. We tend to seek and offer love with conditions attached – so that unconditional love is unknown territory for us. Jesus is God’s Word that we are loved unconditionally. If I am loved unconditionally, I am being gently challenged to respond unconditionally.

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This was a step too far for the rich young man who went away – sad! This is not a request [command] from God that we must respond in the same way – what matters is that we love whatever unconditionally; there is no real experience of love where there are conditions. Loving God means being one with God in loving without conditions – notice loving, not necessarily loving God. The only way we can co-create our world is by becoming unconditional lovers.

Love changes everything – says the song [Les Miserables]. The major change is that where there is unconditional love there can be no hierarchical living, so we are now living by mutually empowering partnership. Co-dependency based on child/parent modelling has no place where adults relate inter-dependently. See the flowers of the field, the birds in the sky, they trust unconditionally so why can’t I? Love is not something to be performed, love is the unconditional response to unconditional gift.

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November 9, Jesus Beyond Dogma II: ix – ‘Dogma means little to people seeking hope.’

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Reasoned argument seeks to break things down into constituent parts; it is story-telling that shows how the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Reasoned argument draws on things that worked in the past, story-telling offers a new world of possibilities. Could this be why Jesus used parable to communicate truth? Maybe even why he said unless you become as little children… children love stories!

We do well to remember that Jesus was at home in the world of story, because he was born of story, the story of creation and all its tremendous potential. Life looks very different when we set him within story – free of the world of rational argument.

It would never have occurred to anyone to doubt the existence of God if theologians had not tried to prove it. The Creed is a collection of dogmas, deemed to be eternally binding – beginning with the Creator, and ending with today’s guardian of dogmatic truth – the Church. Surely this is more to do with power than faith? The intention is good – to empower people with the gift of faith – but it effectively disempowers by making us passive recipients of truths rather than passionate seekers after Truth.

In the dogmatic system growth in faith is assessed by conformity to religious practice – which can become a form of co-dependence. Without doubt many have broken through these limitations, making commitment of heart and mind – showing how structures need to be assessed as to whether they serve the life or are self-serving. Jesus does not belong within such structures.

A different Jesus emerged, champion of equality, fired by intuition, intent on empowering the powerless and marginalised and inevitably seen as a threat to establishment – bringing down the mighty… raising the lowly – Luke 1.52. Dogma means little to people seeking hope. Preaching Christ carries no lasting impact; being Christ is what matters. This is not a rational option, but an emotional choice rising out of the heart – it is an option for love over truth.

AMcC

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