Tag Archives: family

13 June: Today this is my vocation I

walking together

Sister Johanna’s reflection yesterday reminds me of the time when, talking to Philippe, a Missionary of Africa, I described my work with children and teenagers who were excluded from school. His response was, ‘First of all, you have to love them.’

Talking to my colleagues over the years, I came to realise how true this was of all of them, though they would more likely have spoken about ‘getting alongside’ the young people and their families; loving is not a recognised professional activity. Yet some tutors kept a supply of children’s clothes and shoes, either for their pupil or a sibling; I’ve known outgrown bikes and beds to be supplied by tutors, while home-made cakes and preserves showed that we cared without ‘giving charity’.

All this contributed to establishing trust between families on the margin and professional teachers; a trust that could not be taken for granted. The young people and their parents were often Sister Johanna’s

so-called “sinners” … people who were thought to be involved in all sorts of iniquitous practices, whose entire life-style was considered morally dubious at best. I daresay that then as now, there were people relegated to this group who were essentially honest but had fallen on very hard times, people for whom earning a living had proved impossible, and for reasons beyond their control. But many will have been truly as dishonest and even criminal as they were thought to be, and all were deeply wounded people for one reason or another. This is a crowd of seeming failures – if you judge success by the sleek appearance of it. And this is something Jesus never did.

I would not have you see my families as stained glass saints, far from it: in many cases they really were dishonest and criminal, and not necessarily skilled crooks, so they tended to get caught. One father was later murdered by a drug dealer; a dear boy was murdered by his stepfather; assault and theft were not uncommon. More than once I was warned not to visit alone, but then the question ‘What would Jesus do?’ was easy to answer: this is my job today and today this is my vocation.

‘Will, you come and sit here and tell me I’m a good mum. You know I’m not!’

‘That’s not what your children say, is it?’

Her children did not judge her by appearances. Part of my job, my vocation, one of the parts not mentioned in any job description, was to vindicate her children by helping that mother find the good mother in her heart. Perhaps we should dare to remove the masks and let Jesus breathe on us, then take his healing grace to the battered souls crowding around us.


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11 June: Going Viral LXXIX, Summertime

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Westgate Gardens, Canterbury, May 29, 2021

There have been two times this year when I breathed more freely, both occurred when the weather was fine, but that was not the only reason.

We go back, first of all, to the Monday when schools reopened for all pupils. I don’t know if any homework was set that day, but I was walking through the city around 5.00 p.m. and there was a tangible air of joy around the place. It felt as if every teenager had gone home and dressed in their best and now they were gathering in the parks, on the steps of the theatre, in the disused car park – now adopted by skate-boarders, roller-skaters and people too young legally to use the electric scooters scattered around the town.

Everywhere though, the buzz of face to face chatter. It was so good to witness the love and solidarity bubbling up all around the town.

There followed weeks of inclement weather, a cold, dry, April, a cold, wet May. Dedicated walkers ventured out, many people did not seem to. Then the last long weekend in May that came with a bank holiday Monday was endowed with sunshine and warmth. This picture was taken quite early in the Saturday in one of the big city centre parks. The building in the background is Tower House, official residence of the Lord Mayor. The River Stour flows along the left of the picture behind a stone wall. It is liable to flood in wintertime but now entices young and old to look for fish or feed the ducks. When my grandson was 18 months old he ran across the grass to join some Italian students playing rugby. The lawns are also popular for picnics.

I wonder when we will be welcoming language students again, but that weekend it was good to see our own young people and families enjoying each other’s company. Long may it continue.

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4 June: Praying with Pope Francis

Pope Francis’s Intention for Evangelization: – The Beauty Of Marriage


Let us pray for young people who are preparing for marriage with the support of a Christian community: may they grow in love, with generosity, faithfulness and patience.

I think we could pray also for those who do not have the support of a community when preparing to marry or live together. The couple whose wedding these flowers celebrated had family, friends, work colleagues all around them, and still do, now that they are parents. So many people, not all of them claiming to be Christian, gladly did big or little things to make the day go with a swing, but more importantly, they were friends in the times before and after that one day. The couple themselves, as well as their circle, are growing in love, with generosity, faithfulness and patience.

But sometimes growing in love can feel like one step forward and two back. Those virtues will always be needed, so let us pray for all young people who are preparing for marriage!

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3 June: Where did I put my hat?

Where did I put my hat?

Johnson observed, ‘There is a wicked inclination in most people to suppose an old man decayed in his intellects. If a young or middle-aged man, when leaving a company, does not recollect where he laid his hat, it is nothing; but if the same inattention is discovered in an old man, people will shrug up their shoulders, and say, “His memory is going”.’

Life of Johnson, Volume 4 1780-1784, by James Boswell

It must have been 30 years ago that I had a parcel through the letterbox: my hat that I’d taken off on getting into the bishop’s car. So what was my excuse then? And now?

Let’s remind ourselves of Ecclesiasticus 3:12-14.

“My son, help thy father in his age, and grieve him not as long as he liveth. And if his understanding fail, have patience with him; and despise him not when thou art in thy full strength. For the relieving of thy father shall not be forgotten: and instead of sins it shall be added to build thee up.”


Leia mais em: https://www.bibliacatolica.com.br/king-james-version/ecclesiasticus/3/

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21 May: The risk of Gentleness

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From the Church of Our Lord in the Attic, Amsterdam

It’s Mary’s month, I know, and we could have said more about her, so now here is a good, challenging read about motherhood – parenthood, even, but mostly motherhood – and the risks of welcoming a new person into one’s body, home, family. A risk that Mary accepted. This article from The Plough Quarterly, The Risk of Gentleness by Gracy Olmstead, is subtitled: Welcoming the baby I did not want.

But Ms Olmstead found room for her son, and is still adapting and changing to make him welcome.

 It is a shock to see the midwife or doctor hold up a freshly birthed baby, red and crying and real. For all our intimate knowing of each other, this is our first encounter as separate individuals. For the newborn, the reality of our separation is sensed through vulnerability, cold, and brightness – unpleasant sensations to be hushed and soothed by a mother’s arms and breasts. For the mother, however, this meeting is the moment in which we say “hello” to the unique human we’ve, by some miracle, sustained inside of us, yet now fully see and know as other …

Like Mary, we must make space: to accept our feebleness and embrace the mystery, knowing that God is good even – and especially – in our weakness and our poverty. Do read the article! Will.

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30 March: The great feast of Easter will follow.

We turn again to Eddie Gilmore of the Irish Chaplaincy. We are at the end of Lent, and hopefully – say it again, hope-fully – we are nearing the end of a much longer period of penitential living, as the vaccines begin to push the covid virus into the margins.

“Hope is an essential part of being human.”

So said Bishop Richard Harries in a recent ‘Thought for the Day’ and he cited an example of Allied prisoners in the second world war. Those who had something to look forward to, he explained, perhaps a wife and children to eventually return home to, were more likely to survive long years in captivity than those who didn’t.

Many of us will be looking forward to a variety of things, and it can be a way of getting through a challenging current reality. We might be looking forward to being able to meet up with friends and family again, to sharing physical touch, to singing in choirs, to attending live events. Many parents will, I’m sure, have been looking forward to the schools reopening! All of my children are dreaming of going travelling, and I must say that I’m quite keen to jump on a train or plane again too! After the long cold winter we might be looking forward to the coming of warmer weather, and perhaps even fantasising about lying on a tropical beach somewhere! Any beach would do me at the moment, tropical or not. In the Church’s year we may put up with a little self-imposed hardship during Lent, in the knowledge that the great feast of Easter will follow, and we’ll be able to stuff ourselves with chocolate again! The bible is filled with references to hope, often expressed in times of adversity, such as in Isaiah 40: “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they put out wings like eagles, they run and do not grow weary.” In Jeremiah 29 we hear of God promising those exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon, “a future full of hope.” And we are assured in Psalm 9 that, “The hope of the poor is never brought to nothing.”

We need to be careful that in our looking forward we do forget to receive whatever is given in the present moment. I’m sure I’m not alone in spending much of my waking time alternately dwelling on the past or either worrying about or anticipating the future, and missing therefore what’s right in front of my nose. When the Indian Jesuit Anthony de Mello was asked if he believed in life after death he replied, “I believe in life before death.”

During my interview for the Chaplaincy at the end of 2016, I ended my presentation to the panel with the words: ‘Irish Chaplaincy…Looking Ahead with Hope’. I’m not quite sure where those words came from but they seemed to strike a chord and they duly appeared in bold letters on the homepage of our new website. In looking for a name for our upcoming fundraising walks in April we decided on the name ‘Walk with Hope.’

Bishop Harries quotes a line by the poet R.S. Thomas, having noted that much of his poetry could be quite bleak. Thomas apparently wandered into a Welsh village one day and was suddenly filled with an overwhelming sense that, “There is everything to look forward to”.

Harries concludes with a suggestion of how we are to live in the day ahead, the hour ahead: “In the present, but with hope.”

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Going Viral LXXIV: Time for Reflection.

St Mildred’s Church, Canterbury.

It was only late last night that I saw this from Revd. Jo: some prayers, offered for the day of reflection on the effects of Covid-19, from the Church of England:

Reflect

Loving God, 
You hold all our times in your hands, our past, our present, our future. Be close to us now as we remember all the difficulties and disappointments of the past year. Be especially close to all of us who are thinking of someone we loved and knew, but see no longer, whether family, friend, colleague or neighbour. Help us to trust that they are at peace with you, and comfort us with your presence. 

Connect

Loving God, 
You place us in families and communities, and we give you thanks for all those around us who serve us and help us in so many ways. Give wisdom to community leaders, to our schools, hospitals, care homes and other agencies who make a difference to our lives. Help each of us to have the courage to reach out with thanks and kindness to those around us and to speak words of faith as we share the good news of your love.

Hope

Loving God, 
As we journey towards Easter, help us to live as people of hope, knowing that beyond the pain of the cross lies the joy of resurrection. Inspire us in our worship, through our churches and in our homes, that we may bring glory to you and joy to others. Be with those who are struggling in mind, body or spirit, and give courage to those who are facing uncertainty and change ahead. Help each of us to keep our eyes fixed on you, that we may reflect your light to all whom we meet.

Prayers

Dear God,
Be with us as we think about all that has changed this year,
And help us to trust that you are always with us.
Be close to us as we remember those who have died,
And help us to trust they are at peace with you.
Show us how to reach out to others with kindness and care,
So that hope shines out in every heart and home,
Amen
 
God of Love,
As we think about all that has changed this year,
help us to trust that you are always with us.
As we remember those who have died,
help us to trust they are at peace with you.
As we reach out to others with kindness and care,
may hope shine out in every heart and home.
Amen

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22 March: Water Day

Photograph from Sister Johanna

I didn’t know about World Water Day until recently, but it falls on March 22 each year, and gives us a chance to reflect on how we use and abuse this precious element, and how some people do not have enough for drinking, washing, farming. What follows is from CAFOD, the English and Welsh Catholic church’s overseas aid arm. The full article with a video explanation of the filter is available here.

Turning dirty water into clean water

Here at CAFOD, we are trying to turn dirty water into clean water.

For many poor communities, the local water source is a dirty pond or stream. Diarrhoea kills a young child every 90 seconds.

CAFOD’s water filter campaign is helping people who face the risk of fatal disease every time they wash, cook or drink – by providing simple, low-cost water filters for them.  

This water filter is a lifesaver. It transforms dirty water into clean, drinkable water in an hour. A lifeline for families without a clean water source. We’ve made sure that it is simple to put together and uses materials available even in remote communities.

Our water filters use just sand and charcoal. Effective, cheap and easy to maintain, they save lives.

By donating today, you can help more people in developing countries protect their health and their lives.

Donate to CAFOD’s water filter campaign

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19 March: Pope Francis on Saint Joseph, Going viral LXXII; ordinary, decent people

Holy Family Window, Catholic Church, Saddleworth

Here is an extract from Pope Francis’s letter about Saint Joseph, husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus, ‘Patris corde’.

Now, one hundred and fifty years after his proclamation as Patron of the Catholic Church by Blessed Pius IX, (8 December 1870), I would like to share some personal reflections on Saint Joseph, this extraordinary figure, so close to our own human experience. For, as Jesus says, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34).

My desire to do so increased during these months of pandemic, when we experienced, amid the crisis, how “our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people, people often overlooked. People who do not appear in newspaper and magazine headlines, or on the latest television show, yet in these very days are surely shaping the decisive events of our history. Doctors, nurses, storekeepers and supermarket workers, cleaning personnel, caregivers, transport workers, men and women working to provide essential services and public safety, volunteers, priests, men and women religious, and so very many others. They understood that no one is saved alone…

How many people daily exercise patience and offer hope, taking care to spread not panic, but shared responsibility. How many fathers, mothers, grandparents and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday ways, how to accept and deal with a crisis by adjusting their routines, looking ahead and encouraging the practice of prayer. How many are praying, making sacrifices and interceding for the good of all”.*

Each of us can discover in Joseph – the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence – an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble. Saint Joseph reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation. A word of recognition and of gratitude is due to them all.

* Meditation in the Time of Pandemic (27 March 2020): L’Osservatore Romano, 29 March 2020, p. 10.

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March 18, Going Viral LXXI: Keeping each other’s kindness.

Dr Johnson

It is the end of summer 1780, and Dr Johnson and James Boswell have not met together this year. In this time of lockdown and self-isolation, we can appreciate Boswell’s feelings when he writes:


I hope that you will agree to meet me at York, about the end of this month; or if you will come to Carlisle, that would be better still, in case the Dean be there. Please to consider, that to keep each other’s kindness, we should every year have that free and intimate communication of mind which can be had only when we are together. We should have both our solemn and our pleasant talk.

From Boswell’s Life of Johnson

But Johnson had to make his excuses. He was with his sick friend, Mr Thrale, who wanted his company during a stay in Brighthelmston (Brighton). It was then rather more than an hour from London, 60 years before the railway opened. Johnson’s words are worth taking to heart in 2021.

Mr. Thrale … is now going to Brighthelmston, and expects me to go with him; and how long I shall stay, I cannot tell. I do not much like the place, but yet I shall go, and stay while my stay is desired.

We must, therefore, content ourselves with knowing what we know as well as man can know the mind of man, that we love one another, and that we wish each other’s happiness, and that the lapse of a year cannot lessen our mutual kindness.

I was pleased to be told that I accused Mrs. Boswell unjustly, in supposing that she bears me ill-will. I love you so much, that I would be glad to love all that love you, and that you love; and I have love very ready for Mrs. Boswell, if she thinks it worthy of acceptance. I hope all the young ladies and gentlemen are well. I take a great liking to your brother. He tells me that his father received him kindly, but not fondly. Make your father as happy as you can.

You lately told me of your health: I can tell you in return, that my health has been for more than a year past, better than it has been for many years before. Perhaps it may please GOD to give us some time together before we are parted.

I am, dear Sir,
‘Yours most affectionately,
‘SAM. JOHNSON.’
‘October 17, 1780

Who would like to hear from you today to keep the mutual kindness going till you can meet again?

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