Tag Archives: family

Let it snow! By David Powell

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It was snowing and Tommy was really happy. This was the real Christmas scene. It was soft fluffy snow which made really good snowballs. Moreover, it was holidays so perhaps he would be able to go tobogganing with his brothers and sister. Perhaps even Mum and Dad would come too. That would be great. He loved it when they did things together as a family. It filled him with a warm glow. He heard his father singing in the bathroom whilst he stropped his razor.

Then he went down to breakfast and was glad to see it was porridge with honey. His Mum came in and kissed him. She looked very fit and he knew she did exercises every day and went to the pool twice every week so hopefully she would feel OK about tobogganing. ‘I must check my sledge, Mum.’

‘Yes, you should because last year we didn’t have any snow to speak of and you didn’t use it, but it looks fine for tobogganing today. I wish I could come but I have to go Christmas shopping with your Aunt Clara in Canterbury.’

‘You might not be able to get to Canterbury’, said Tommy hopefully.

‘Yes the busses are running. However, your Dad’s not going to work today and he really likes tobogganing. He can use the old tin tray. It’s under the draining board’.

Tommy went to get ready and join his brothers and sister. Dad came down full of merriment and eager to get going. Soon they were all kitted out in their warmest clothes with scarves, winter boots and gloves.

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Outside it was pretty cold but they did not have far to go to the snow covered slopes of the hill behind their house. They met lots of people they knew and when they arrived at the slopes it was packed so they decided to go for a walk first.

They went for a long walk and came back home hungry and cold. Tommy’s sister and brothers prepared some lunch whilst Dad lit the log fire in the lounge. Then feeling a bit drowsy, they all dozed off until Mum returned.

They had tea together and were revived. As they became more animated Tommy’s brother Ralph went outside and said it had stopped snowing and was a beautiful moonlit night. So they all decided to go tobogganing and Tommy was very excited about the prospect of hurtling down the run in the moonlight with all his family all around.

There were still quite a few people about but nothing like as many as in the morning. The run was still smooth and hard because it was beginning to freeze. Tommy watched as his brothers and sister started their runs. He heard his father, who was an engineer say to him: ‘Son, remember it’s all about using your body weight effectively,’ but he knew instinctively what to do and enjoyed his first run down and joked with his brothers and sister at the bottom of the run.

Some people had brought flasks of hot chocolate and buns which were very welcome. Then the younger folk started to organise races in which Tommy did very well. However, his Mum seemed rather anxious and asked Tommy if he had seen his Dad recently. Tommy remembered his Dad’s last remark to him before he set off on his first run. He had not seen him since so he started to ask around but none of his family or friends had seen him for at least half an hour. So they started a serious search at the bottom of the run and in the bushes on the side thinking he might have veered off course.

But there was no sign of Dad and Tommy was very worried. He kept calling, ‘Dad! Dad!’, but there was no response. Suddenly the front door of a house to the side of the run was opened and there was Tommy’s Dad, all merry and bright. Dad described what had happened, somewhat contritely for despite what he told Tommy about weight distribution, his own weight was too much on one side; consequently he slid off course and into the house at the side of the track.

The crowd which had gathered were highly amused by Dad’s account of what had transpired and thought that perhaps they should have a ‘whip round’ to buy him a proper sledge rather than allow him to go sliding on a tin tray virtually into people’s living rooms, with the obvious intention of getting a Christmas drink.

Dad took all the ribaldry in good part and to show his sportsmanship decided to go for one final slide on his tin tray.

Tommy was very proud of his Dad, though the phrase about weight distribution would always be remembered as a reminder of the old adage, ‘practise what you preach’.

DBP.

 

 

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August 27: Caring and L’Arche I – chatting is caring work.

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This first reflection introduces the topic of caring for others – and how the  one cared for can be a carer for her carers. Tomorrow we’ll start a short season about L’Arche.

After a fall that made walking and moving difficult, my mother returned home with help from ‘carers’ – mostly young women with families – who would help her with dressing, bathing and getting back to the shops. They were also able to observe her recovery and how she was getting around the house and to the village shop.

This was an excellent way of getting out of hospital earlier than she otherwise would have done. I’m sure she got better a lot sooner. In fact, she soon found that she was getting most things done for herself before the carers came: ‘I didn’t see why I should stop in bed until they were able to come and get me dressed, so of course I did it myself.’

The carers would then spend a few minutes chatting over a cup of tea. They were still working, noting how she was both physically and mentally. She, in her turn, was caring for them by listening to the news of their families. Those ten minutes were a respite for the carers before the next call, perhaps to someone needing more of their time for those basic needs.

Our family are grateful for the dedication of these lowly-paid workers who bring real loving care to their work, even though their time is micro-managed by desk jockeys at their agency HQ and at County Hall. At the care-face, it is face-to-face work, person to person, loving kindness.

My mother will remain in her own home as long as she possibly can. Tomorrow we’ll read about a caring way of living with people with learning disabilities.

WT.

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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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15 August: The flooding of the Nile

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The Assumption of Mary and the Flooding of the Nile: two feasts on the same day, can we connect them?

The Nile, of course, is life to Egypt, water and fertility. Here is Arthur Hughes, Missionary of Africa, just arrived in Cairo in 1942 after working in Ethiopia, then often called Abyssinia:

The heavy rains of Abyssinia run down from her mountains and hillsides in torrents and go to swell the River Nile as it flows out of Lake Tana. I thought how those Biblical years in the Old Testament – the seven years of thinness and famine in Egypt – were due of course to seven years of slight or no rains in Abyssinia. This year here at Cairo the River is very high: August the 17th is Feast of the Nile and has been for thousands of years, since for thousands of years the month of August brings down to the Nile Delta the torrential rains of Abyssinia and the Nile overflows its banks and waters the lands and forms that green belt of vegetation in the middle of the desert which is Egypt.

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Mary provided an oasis of love where her son could grow into boyhood and manhood, for the first few years in Egypt, traditionally in the Cairo area. Imagine her in the market, buying food grown in the fertile soil of the delta, just as we do – though she would not have bought Egyptian potatoes or tomatoes, as we have done this Spring.

Let us be grateful for the food we receive from Egypt and around the world; let’s pray for true peace in Egypt and the Middle East; and let’s thank God for Mary’s loving care of her Son, and the true peace which he brings.

MMB.

I do not know why we have two slightly different dates for the Nile Feast! MMB.

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August 10: Francis Thompson IX: In Darkest England.

In Darkest England

Thompson, a century ago, saw conditions that needed addressing. Having been homeless, he knew the life from inside. Here he compares the Salvation Army with the Franciscans, lamenting that there are not more of the latter. In view of the closure of the Franciscan Study Centre and the diminishing numbers of professed religious Franciscans, we can learn from the Salvation Army, and stand shoulder to shoulder with them with the Food Banks and other ecumenical ventures. The state of ecumenism, at least, is an advance on Thompson’s day.

Tomorrow is the Feast of Saint Clare, friend of St Francis and founder of the Franciscan sisters known as Poor Clares. Happy Feast to all our sisters!

Consider what the Salvation Army is. It is not merely a sect, it is virtually a Religious Order, but a Religious Order of a peculiar kind. It consists of men and women living in the world the life of the world, pursuing their businesses, marrying, bringing up families; yet united by rule and discipline, and pushing forward active work of charity and religious influence among the forsaken poor. It possesses, moreover, the advantage of numerous recruits from the ranks of the poor, through whom it can obtain intimate knowledge of the condition and requirements of their class.

May it be that here, too, the Salvation Army has studied St Francis? Here, too, the Assisian has left us a weapon which but needs little practice to adapt it to the necessity of the day. Even so… The Franciscan Tertiaries are this army. They are men and women who live in the world the life of the world – though not a worldly life: who marry, rear their families, attend to their worldly vocations; yet they are a Religious Order, with rule and observance.

Not all of us are called to join the Franciscan Tertiaries, but there are many openings for us to ‘meet the necessities of the day’. Something to ponder on.

MMB.

See The Works of Francis Thompson, Prose: Volume III, p57-58. Burns Oates, 1920.

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July 27: Portraits in a Mirror.

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The silence in the lounge continued. No one said a word. They all

seemed to be staring into the distance or searching for something to

gaze upon.

Yves Rivière’s face was depressingly sad. His expression was one of a

person stuck in an empty shell, a person who holds an unfamiliar

sorrow within and a shame unrecognised. Everyone in the lounge

felt it. As if thinking aloud, they revisited the part they played in the

whole issue.

If you were there and could just look at each of their faces, your

heart would be broken. They all exchanged painful glances with

moist eyes. The lounge felt cold with a quality of sadness. Every eye

was tearful. It was a desperately solemn sight to behold and even

more painful to retain in the memory.

Yves kept staring at the portrait of Felix hanging over the

fireplace. To distract himself from his emotions, he reached out to the

book on the walnut tea table next to Florence. The book was entitled:

Portraits in a Mirror. The words on the very first line on the first page

were:

There were four poems …

Yves gently took his eyes off that page and I think he dropped

the book suddenly on the floor, I am not entirely sure. Letting his

gaze fall on the floor, he bowed his head in shame. One feeling was

reawakened in him: guilt.

Meanwhile in the bedroom, tucked in their cot, the twins: Flora

and Felix seem to have stopped crying.

It starts to rain.

The End

VE

raincloudsCaernarfon

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July 18: A walk on the flat side.

swans.stodmarshThe marsh walk was  chosen not because it was flat but because there was a pub at either end. George was home for a few days gardening leave between jobs, his gardening consisting in sunbathing on the lawn that his mother tends with this activity in mind. Stodmarsh feels further from London than 70 miles.

Nonetheless, this is a post-industrial landscape: Chislet colliery lay under here and as land in the Stour valley subsided water and reeds took over. Paths allow dryshod walking from the Red Lion to the Grove Ferry Inn, especially after a dry winter and spring.

Mrs T is shorter than her husband and son, just below the tops of the reeds, so her view was restricted. But she enjoyed the birdsong – including two cuckoos and a booming bittern. The cuckoo is becoming rarer; there were many more when we came to Kent some forty years ago. Bitterns are a different case, no more than birds of passage back then.

Back then the old field fences could be seen from the train, gradually sinking into what was at first seasonal open water but has now become reed beds, favoured home of bitterns. Back then – even just a couple of years ago – we would have expected swallows and martins as well as swifts chasing flies. It cannot be just lack of mud for nest-building that kept them away this year.

Although young Abel will appreciate the birds he gets to know, he may never be familiar with swallows and martins, or even song thrushes. Thank God he has sparrows under his roof.

I don’t need Mr Trump’s climate change denial. I saw how entranced Abel was, aged 18 months, by the song of a robin in a nearby bush. I would like to think that, aged 18, he will enjoy the song of a nightingale from a Kentish bramble patch.

Laudato Si’ – but also – miserere nobis.

George’s picture of the swans -there were two parents and seven cygnets – shows how well the wildlife is hidden out on the marsh.

 

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30 June: Transfigurations

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I didn’t expect

those stars in the wide

black Colorado sky

to be so bright

that ancient night

beauty yes but this

 

 

was bounty

so close

to earth so close

to me marvelling

open mouthed

almost as though

night rained light

almost

as if heaven’s shower

reversed the measure

of black to bright

forever

 

 

and

 

 

I didn’t expect

that little girl’s

first communion

to be so bountiful

that young summer day

sweet yes but this

 

 

was bliss

was heaven so close

to earth so close

to me wordless

and wedded

almost as though

the chapel were

host to glory

almost

as if Tabor

lit everything

evermore

as if Tabor

lit everything

evermore

sun-clouds-golden

SJC

See Matthew 17 for his account of the Transfiguration of Jesus.

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28 June: Shared Table X: Food Banks

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More than a million 3 day emergency food parcels were given out by British food banks in 2015-2016. Read more about it here: what food banks do . This does not include parcels given directly by the Saint Vincent de Paul Society and other organisations.

I know people who have greatly benefited from this service. One mother often seems to have more teabags than she needs, but this means that she is able to share her surplus with others. That feels good!

Another interesting story was in The Observer on 4th December last. A Dublin organisation was able to establish deliveries of fresh food that a supermarket would have dumped to a women’s refuge. This abundance brought the women out of themselves and they began to share: to share food, to share a kitchen (I find that a real challenge!), to share recipes, to be good to each other.

Please pop a few cans into the collection baskets at your supermarket or church and help your local food bank keep going. Summertime, and the living will not be so easy when the children do not get their free school meals!

 

WT.

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27 June, Shared Table IX: The Blessing of Hunger.

 

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I had been ill. Ill enough to give up work and move back home to recover. I’d lost a tremendous amount of weight: an infection had gone crazy, affecting my liver function and leaving me exhausted and without appetite.

Then one day I was sitting at the big kitchen table with my grandmother – Nana to countless young people, by no means all of them her actual grandchildren. Basil and Sam the dogs were keeping us company.

Suddenly I realised that I felt hungry, for the first time in months, and said so to Nana. ‘Feed that hunger’, she said, and put bread on the Aga cooker to toast. Wow! I could taste the good bread, the butter, the marmalade. I was grateful: an informal Eucharist.

As Fr Austin (AMcC who writes here) says, hunger can be a blessing. In this case my body was well enough to feel the need of something outside itself, instead of fighting something inside itself. It took time, but I did get better.

There are other hungers too; hungers for learning, for love, ultimately for God. We need to acknowledge these when we feel them.

But as Austin would also tell us, hunger for many people is a curse; they do not have the luxury of knowing where the next meal is coming from. Perhaps, if you are a child at school in Africa, it will be from Mary’s Meals.

MMB.

 

 

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