Tag Archives: Faith

October 28, Month of Mission: the Humble Godparent

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Actually, I’m also a proud godparent: proud to be sked, humble that I’m trusted with an unglamorous task. In the past week or so I’ve seen or heard from three of my godchildren, so I asked myself, what is the mission of the godparent? It’s one may of us undertake, usually out of friendship with a child’s parents.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us:

1253 Baptism is the sacrament of faith, but faith needs the community of believers. It is only within the faith of the Church that each of the faithful can believe. The faith required for Baptism is not a perfect and mature faith, but a beginning that is called to develop. When the catechumen or the godparent is asked: “What do you ask of God’s Church?” the response is: “Faith!”

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1255 For the grace of Baptism to unfold, the parents’ help is important. So too is the role of the godfather and godmother, who must be firm believers, able and ready to help the newly baptized – child or adult – on the road of Christian life. Their task is a truly ecclesial function. The whole ecclesial community bears some responsibility for the development and safeguarding of the grace given at Baptism.

Most of the time I see very little of these young people whose families have moved away from Kent, so I can do nothing much from week to week, or even month to month, except remember their names in my prayers. It’s not for me to tell the Lord what they need in detail, but to raise them up to him, into his care.

Am I to regret that one godson is working part-time developing skincare products? Not when he is doing so, rather than ‘using’ his degree, so that he can share the care of his ailing mother. And after hearing from him, I was able to tell our parish priest who was this person, unknown to him, who is still remembered on our sick list; still part of our ‘ecclesial community’.

Do I miss the god-daughter who is too embarrassed to get in touch, after a broken promise? Of course, but perhaps she’ll believe her brother when he tells her I’d like to see her.

Was I glad to see my other two god-daughters, looking well, and playing nicely with young Abel? Need I ask?

But it’s not about me, except that I must be a firm believer (challenge No 1) able (challenge No 2) and ready (challenge No 3) to help on the road of Christian life.

Let’s ray for all godparents that we may perceive where our help is needed; may we remember our young protegés in our thoughts and prayers.

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17 October: Being practical about Mission

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L’Arche is a worldwide federation of people, with and without learning disabilities, working together for a world where all belong.

This photo was taken in Canterbury Cathedral when L’Arche Kent was celebrating 40 years of life, and L’Arche itself was marking its half century. Making enough space for everyone is vital and the process is on-going. A world where all belong is a challenge: L’Arche lives that challenge, and in doing so witnesses that it is possible.

To remain faithful to the mission the structures of each community, and the federations which link them, are reviewed regularly to give a new mandate for community life. Here are some points from L’Arche UK’s new mandate.

L’ARCHE UK MANDATE July 2019 – July 2025
Partners in Mission, building a more human society

1. Building unity around our Mission
The greatest insight that L’Arche has to offer arises from our emphasis on community and mutually transforming relationships. Therefore we will:
 Create and celebrate new ways to live out our Mission in response to a 21st century call for L’Arche in the UK.
 Partner other organisations to impact on the social and political concerns of wider society and be a beacon for the learning disability sector.
 Deepen our connection to our founding Christian tradition and live out the spirituality of L’Arche more confidently. This spirituality embraces people of all faiths and none and all who are aligned with our Mission.
 Vigorously pursue the four dimensions of community, spirituality, service and outreach through our service to society and through service provision.
2. Partners in the Mission
People with and without learning disabilities are together partners in the Mission. A vital
element in this partnership on the national level is the National Speaking Council. Therefore we will:
 Strengthen the purpose and voice of the National Speaking Council with proper
resources.
 Offer people with learning disabilities opportunities to impact more powerfully on our society through employment and quality day services.
 Become experts in accessible communication, both locally within our communities and nationally.
 Ensure that people with and without learning disabilities engage in outreach together.
3. Resourcing the Mission
We need to be well resourced for the journey. Therefore we will:
 Agree and implement a model of effective governance that truly serves our Mission by ensuring business and financial viability.
 Work towards greater Mission sustainability by increasing our fundraising capability and reviewing our financial management.
 Develop our culture so that all our communities are competent and effective in the four dimensions.
Find out more about L’Arche and its mission here:

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21 August: Saint Jane Frances de Chantal, Letters I.

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 From a letter to Saint Francis de Sales, 1614. The two correspondents collaborated closely in the area that straddles today’s Franco-Swiss border. We could see Saint Jane’s mental state as pretty precarious from this letter, but she had raised a family, largely after her husband’s death, and founded the Sisters of the Visitation. Today is her feast day; let all who ever feel desperate take heart and hope from her weariness of self: she more than survived. I am sure this XIX Century engraving does her poor justice. Her letters are at Project Gutenburg.

This morning I am more wearisome to myself than usual. My interior state is so gravely defective that, in anguish of spirit, I see myself giving way on every side. Assuredly, my good Father, I am almost overwhelmed by this abyss of misery. The presence of God, which was formerly such a delight to me, now makes me tremble all over and shudder with fear. I bethink myself that the divine eye of Him whom I adore, with entire submission, pierces right through my soul looking with indignation upon all my thoughts, words and works. Death itself, it seems to me, would be less painful to bear than the distress of mind which this occasions, and I feel as if all things had power to harm me. I am afraid of everything; I live in dread, not because of harm to myself, but because I fear to displease God.

Oh, how far away His help seems! thinking of this I spent last night in great bitterness and could utter no other words than these, “My God, my God, alas! why hast Thou forsaken me.”

At daybreak God gave me a little light in the highest part of my soul, yet only there; but it was almost imperceptible; nor did the rest of my soul and its faculties share the enjoyment, which lasted only about the time of half a Hail Mary, then, trouble rushed back upon me with a mighty force, and all was darkness. Notwithstanding the weariness of this dereliction, I said, though in utter dryness, “Do, Lord, whatever is pleasing to Thee, I wish it. Annihilate me, I am content. Overwhelm me, I most sincerely desire it. Tear out, cut, burn, do just as Thou pleasest, I am Thine.”

God has shown me that He does not make much account of faith that comes of sentiment and emotions. This is why, though against my inclination, I never wish for sensible1 devotion. I do not desire it. God is enough for me. Notwithstanding my absolute misery I hope in Him, and I trust He will continue to support me so that His will may be accomplished in me.

Take my feeble heart into your hands, my true Father and Lord, and do what you see to be wisest with it.

The day after tomorrow we publish a contemporary reflection on ‘all ye that labour come to me’ which provides something of a reply to this letter. Tomorrow a Welsh saint who lived through most of the 17th Century. 

1Sensible here means ‘that can be felt’. It is possible to be devoted in practice to someone or to a task without feeling any measurable enthusiasm; which may be our calling for a moment or for years.

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6 August, Little Flowers of Saint Francis LVII: Saint Antony and the fish, 3.

anthony and Francis

At these and the like words of Saint Antony, the fishes began to open their mouths and bow their heads, and with these and other signs of reverence in such fashion as best they might, gave praises unto God. Then Saint Antony, beholding this great reverence of the fishes unto God their Creator, rejoiced in spirit, and cried with a loud voice: “Blessed be God eternal, sith the fishes of the waters give Him more honour than do the heretics; and the animals that have no reason pay more heed unto His word than unbelieving men.” And the more Saint Antony preached, the more did the multitude of the fish increase, and no one of them left the place that he had taken. At the which miracle the people of the city began to run together, and among them the heretics aforesaid also drew nigh: the which beholding the miracle so marvellous and so clear, touched to the heart, fell all at the feet of Saint Antony to hear his words.

Thereat Saint Antony began to preach of the catholic faith; and so nobly did he preach that all those heretics were converted, and turned them to the faith of Christ; and all the faithful abode in joy exceeding great, being comforted and strengthened in the faith.

And this done, Saint Antony bade the fishes depart with the blessing of God; and all went thence with marvellous signs of joy, and likewise the people also. And thereafter Saint Antony abode in Rimini many days, preaching and reaping much spiritual fruit of souls.

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26 July: Saints Anne and Joachim; grandparents matter!

 

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Statue of Saint Joachim, Holy Name Church, Manchester.

An extra post today – a Pastoral Letter about grandparents from Bishop Mark O’Toole of Plymouth. 

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

On the 26th July we keep the memory of Jesus’ grandparents, St Joachim and St Ann. It is good to know that Jesus lived within a family and to reflect on the reality that he knew the influence and presence of an older generation. In light of this, I wanted to take this opportunity to write to you about the importance of grandparents, both for us personally and in the life of faith.

I know that many of you have grandchildren and play an important part in their lives. Many of us are grateful for the sacrifice and generosity we experienced in our grandparents and thank God for them, living or dead.

I want also to thank those of you who are grandparents, for what you do in passing on the faith within your own family. As I have visited the Diocese, celebrating the Sacrament of Confirmation these past weeks, it has been good to meet some of our young people and to hear them speak so positively of the importance of their grandparents. They look up to you, and are grateful to you for your support and love for them. They know that for you, our Catholic faith is vital. Many want to deepen that faith, in their own lives.

In his recent letter to young people, titled ‘Christ is Alive’ (Christus Vivit), Pope Francis speaks of the importance of dialogue between the different generations. He reminds us that “helping the young to discover the living richness of the past, to treasure its memory and to make use of it for their choices and opportunities, is a genuine act of love towards them, for the sake of their growth and the decisions they are called to make”.[102]

He says that it is not good if there is “a rupture between generations” (Par 191). This is sometimes presented to us by our society but it is a lie for it would have us believe that only what is new is good and beautiful. Our experience in the Church is much richer. We know there a wisdom passed down from generation to generation, “familiar with human weakness and not deserving to vanish before the novelties of consumer society and the market (Par 190).”

Whilst at the Synod in Rome, for young people, in October, I was reminded of the humorous saying of Pope Saint John XXIII, “The young need to remember that the world existed before them, and those who are older that the world will continue to exist after them!”

So, to our young I say, ‘continue to cherish your grandparents and learn from them what it means to love and to live a life of faith’. To our grandparents, I say, ‘thank you for your fidelity and generosity. Do continue to witness to the Lord, and to the beauty of our faith, both within your own family and to the people around you.’

In the Gospel today, we see in St Mary and St Martha, two essential dimensions of our faith – prayer and action. All of us need to hold on to both of these. In rooting our lives in a personal encounter with Jesus, may we each be of service to our loved ones and to our neighbours. May each of us, young and old, deepen our faith in the Lord, and in the company of the Church, bring others to Him.

Pray for me.

Yours devotedly,

+ Mark, Bishop of Plymouth

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L’Arche mini pilgrimage around Canterbury, I.

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July 5: Praying with Pope Francis.

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The Missio magazine, Mission Today, invites us to join Pope Francis and the whole Church in praying for these monthly prayer intentions, particularly  on Fridays. Now we’ve found these intentions, we’ll try to share them each month. Here is the Pope’s intention for July. 

May those who administer justice work with integrity, and may the injustice present in the world not have the last word.

That seems a mountain of an intention, but Jesus did say something about mountains and faith the size of a mustard seed. (Matthew 13;31-32) Which prompts the question, what can I do to alleviate injustice? Even a few pence in a red box, or a can or two in the food bank basket; these are as much a matter of justice as of charity. It is unjust that some people live in poverty and others have their needs met and more. Using wealth, either of cash or of time, is one way to ‘administer justice with integrity’ towards our brothers and sisters. This does not take away from the wrong of unjust judges, of oppressive regimes, things beyond your influence and mine, but prayer should urge us to do what we can.

 

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June 2: No shadow of doubt in her mind; Brownings XI.

 

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Let’s return to Elizabeth Barrett Barrett (Ba) and Robert Browning’s letters. You’ll recall how they carried on courting under the eye of her tyrannical father until they eloped to Italy. Here is EBB, writing on 30 March 1946. No thought now that his feeling for her was a mere generous impulse; not really, or is she teasing him? Surely she is.

How one writes and writes over and over the same thing!

But day by day the same sun rises, . . over, and over, and nobody is tired. May God bless you, dearest of all, and justify what has been by what shall be, . . and let me be free of spoiling any sun of yours! Shall you ever tell me in your thoughts, I wonder, to get out of your sun?

No–no–Love keeps love too safe! and I have faith, you see, as a grain of mustard-seed!

Your own

Ba.

Say how you are . . mind!

Nobody is tired of the sun rising each day, in fact the Psalms are full of joy and praise for the daily wonder, such as here in Ps 19. Love keeps love safe, indeed: God even provides a metaphorical tent, or tabernacle, for the sun!

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun, Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.

Read more Browning letters here.

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May 16. What is Theology Saying? LIII: Salvation outside the Church II.

 

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austinWhen the first Christians claimed a new covenant, they were aware of how the word new had been interpreted in the prophetic writings. Later generations spoke of old and new covenants – with the presumption the old was past its sell-by date. This is mistaken, the facts of history contradict it. The Jews have been faithful to Covenant in large numbers, even to the point of martyrdom; and Scripture tells us that God does not desert those who are faithful.

Some believe the issue is simple. If the Jews had really been faithful they would have recognised Jesus as Messiah, and have been part of the new covenant. But since they do not recognise Jesus as Messiah, we can assume they are unfaithful to the covenant. For this reason history left them behind as forever lost.

Such a view leaves all kinds of questions unaddressed. Even if it was perfectly clear that Jesus is the Messiah, we must remember that the Jews of the dispersion had never had the gospel preached to them. For example, exactly when did the covenant go out of date? Was it at Pentecost or at the death of the last Apostle? Also, does the Jewish participation in the covenant not remain in date until the end of time?

The only contact many Jews through the centuries had with Christians and the Gospel was that of persecution and victimisation in various forms of anti-Semitism. And many were told to renounce Judaism in favour of Christianity – if you are persecuted on account of your Christian faith and told to recant, would you see this as an act of God? We must accept the possibility that Jews cannot accept Jesus as the expected Messiah because he is not yet Messiah. We who are the presence of Jesus have not yet produced the promised signs of the Messianic presence. We know what these signs are – the Prophets are full of them, and the Gospels have Jesus quoting them.

The signs of Messianic times are: peace among nations and all people; perfect fraternity; justice for the poor and the powerless; no more violence and enmity; and all coming together to praise the one God in their own ways in peace, without hindrance. When Paul writes of these signs he says there is no discrimination in Christ between Jew and Gentile, between cultured Greeks and primitive Barbarians, between men who had all kinds of rights and women who had none. Today we might add: no discrimination between white or black, gay or straight, rich nations and poor – no annexation of the poor by the powerful.

AMcC

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May 15: What is Theology Saying? LII: Salvation outside the Church I.

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austinThe Christian has to ask how to evaluate other religions. We are all engaged in the work of transforming the world alongside people who are striving for the same goal and contributing equally as much for its realisation. Yet many belong to another religion or faith community.

The question: do these people participate in the work and fruits of salvation in spite of their own religious commitment or because of it? Christianity has answered this variously through the ages, but with answers heavily influenced by cultural experiences and national belongings. It is not easy to disentangle Christian tradition from social and cultural theories.

Before reflecting on these, it must be remembered that the Christian understanding of Judaism must be discussed separately; the relationship between Judaism and Christianity is unique, and in fairly recent times the French Biblical scholar Paul Démann has undertaken this in various articles to do with the relationship between Judaism in Christianity. He makes many suggestions, but many questions remain unsolved and a full theology of Christian understanding of Judaism has yet to appear.

It is abundantly clear that there is salvation in Judaism and the coming of Jesus in history did not take this salvation away. Scripture asserts that God made an everlasting covenant with Israel – you shall be my people and I will be your God; and through them all nations on the earth will be blessed. God kept promising a new covenant – not that the old one would pass away to be replaced by another, rather would the old one become new again as each generation made it its own; and written, not on stone, but on hearts of flesh.

All these promises were verified again and again in Judaism. Although Christians have not always been aware of it, Jews have continued to live passionately in fidelity to the covenant. Under tough conditions – exile, dispersion, persecution and holocaust – they continued to make the covenant ever fresh and new in succeeding generations.

AMcC

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