Tag Archives: family

7 November: Threading a yarn.

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As part of their Week of Retreat in Daily Life the L’Arche Kent Community asked me to  read a Hans Christian Andersen story: I chose the Darning Needle which you can read by following the link. It’s a story with a few morals to it which we talked about afterwards, including the dangers of pride and the fact that we all need each other.

We also talked about darning and mending rather than throwing away. I had with me a coat that was coming apart at the seams. G and E suggested in Makaton that I could sew it, which I did when the story was told, but the needle had been threaded and passed around during the telling. J showed his tailoring skills and awoke a memory, which I shared, of my mother doing as he did, measuring the working length of thread from nose to extended fingertips.

G suggested using a machine, which led to my telling about my wife’s machine – hand turned, not treadle as he signed. This had been given to her 40 years ago from the community’s surplus. It had belonged to a friend of L’Arche in those early days, who was glad to see it in a good home. She could never use it; it was all that remained of her own home, which was destroyed in the Blitz, her family within it.

When I got home I realised another story could have been told. The yarn J threaded was branded ‘winfield’ – in lower case. It had come from Woolworth’s, via my wife’s mother’s mending basket, purchased perhaps in the 1970s. But thereby would hang yet another tale.

No man, or woman, is an island!

 

 

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29 October, Month of Mission: In Peril on the sea.

This is taken from a news release by Stella Maris, the International Catholic Apostolate to seafarers. It tells not only of the regular day-to-day work of port chaplains, but also of the grave dangers faced by sailors in the course of their duties. I was struck by the picture of crew members not being allowed to land because of visa restrictions. As if they were less than human; yet they endure long months away from their loved ones in order to keep bread on the family table and to educate their children.

Deacon John Archer, Stella Maris port chaplain in Mobile, USA, has spoken of meeting the crew of the cargo ship that was attacked near the port of Douala with eight crew kidnapped.

West African pirates attacked the general cargo ship MarMalaita in the dead of night at anchor near the port of Douala, Cameroon. “It’s shocking to hear that the crew of the MarMalaita are still being held captive after the ship had been attacked.’ said Deacon Archer. ‘The vessel was in Mobile for a few months running between Mexico and Mobile and I got to know the Chief Cook during their short visits to Mobile and I knew they were heading to the coast of Africa. I’d been on board the ship a number of times. On my last visit I did what I usually do, such as asking the crew if they wanted to visit the town, go shopping, or offer to shop for those unable to go ashore due to visa restrictions.’

The International Maritime Bureau recently noted that of the 75 seafarers around the world who were kidnapped and taken hostage for ransom in the first six months of 2019, 62 were kidnapped in the Gulf of Guinea.
Paul Rosenblum, Stella Maris North America regional coordinator said ‘this kidnapping highlights the high price that can be paid by seafarers when things go wrong. This tragedy is a reminder of the dangers seafarers face each day to bring us the various goods and food we rely on’

The abducted crew are from Russia, the Philippines and Ukraine.

John Green, Stella Maris director of development said ‘Today our thoughts and prayers are very much with those who are still being held captive and their families’.

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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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26 October: Let there be light!

Diwali is celebrated in these cold Islands, far from India where it originated. People from the Subcontinent also ended up in Trinidad and Tobago across the Atlantic where this reflection    comes from. Follow the link to an interesting Independent Catholic News article by Leela Ramdeen, who grew up a Hindu father and Catholic mother.

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October 24, Month of Mission: walking and working together.

Nurse

Lawrence Tukamushaba, M.Afr writes from  Kasama, Zambia, about youth work in Saint Anne’s parish. To read his post click here. After describing some of the successes of this ministry in a large parish with many communities, he touches on some challenges.

Family breakdown

A good number of our young people are raised by single parents; others have been orphaned at a young age and were brought up by their grandparents. Some have never met their fathers. Dealing with such young people needs spending time to listen to them and counselling them. Peer counselling is a skill that is needed.

The widening gap between Urban and Rural Youth

There is a growing gap between young people coming from urban and rural setups. In some areas, children have to walk 10 km on foot to reach the nearest primary school. In the rainy season, roads get really bad and some bridges are washed away. Added to that, the grass grows tall so that it becomes risky to walk in the bush and on top of all that some villages are widely scattered. In such areas it is difficult to find someone who has finished secondary school. This poses a challenge of leadership in the Church. It also increases a vicious circle of poverty.

Youth In the year 2017, I baptized 17 adults among whom were 8 school girls aged between 14 and 18 years of age who had dropped out of school. Later I discussed with their parents and church council how to ensure they go back to school. We must be interested in the formal education of our Christians if our ministry is to be transformative.

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22 September: A railway reminder

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I was leaving a railway station when the Samaritans’ placard caught my eye: it was fastened to the railing at the top of the footbridge, so that everyone could see it as they climbed. A mental ‘thumbs-up’ to them from me!

The following day, on the rails again, I turned my tickets over to find two different messages from the Samaritans. Notice the slogan, ‘small talk saves lives.‘ The life of an individual human being is small when set against the whole of Creation, but it is all that that person knows, through their own direct experience or through conversation, reading, viewing or listening: their one life is the big thing for them, with sensations and experiences arriving constantly from all sides, not all of them welcome, some of them overwhelming.

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If a beloved feels overwhelmed, it’s a big thing for those who care for them. So big that they too may feel overwhelmed and not know what to do or say.

So perhaps Jesus was right to tell us to ‘consider the lilies of the field.’ (Matthew 6:28)  Small things, small talk. There was heather encroaching on the Yorkshire station; lovely purple flowers, but too far away on the opposite platform for me to catch the scent and comment on it to a fellow passenger.

On the return journey two sisters and their four teenaged children were on the train, talking about everything and nothing: small talk that meant nothing and everything. Another advert proclaimed that ‘I love you’ is one of the hardest things to say; but every word and gesture in this group announced that message loud and clear.

Even small words are not always needed. I had a profound experience on an underground train soon after a terrorist attack. I found myself standing next to a British Transport policeman. He was very tired, and had seen I know not what. Not a word was spoken, no gesture, no touch, but I prayed in my heart. When he got off he said, Thank You, and disappeared into the night.

 

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17 September: X is for Exeter

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A city that was badly bombed during World War II, that has lost its town centre shipping, though the quays are in demand for filming; a beautiful old cathedral, the river inviting you to follow it down to the sea at Exmouth; the beautiful and fertile Devon countryside … all this you can find in the guide books.

My brother and sister-in-law’s allotment garden is not in the guide books, but you can find it … if you know where to look.

Here they grow their fruit and vegetables. When we visited we were invited to join the harvest, and a couple of hours later to sit down and enjoy the results. Which we gladly did. It helps that both of them are professional chefs, but they are also generous hosts. We don’t see enough of them.

I’m afraid the photograph of their allotment and shed disappeared between computers and memory sticks, so here is a harvest breakfast with Kentish rather than Devon fare. And here below a harvest loaf. Not as good as my brother’s efforts in past years, but I’ve already been asked to make one for this autumn.

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A reminder to pray for the farmers in these uncertain times, to thank God for our families and friends, and to share our blessings.

 

 

 

 

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September 12. Before the Cross XXIII: above the Altar

st.thomas.reliquary2.Let us read this small crucifix is in the Martyrs’ Chapel at Saint Thomas’ Church, Canterbury. Christ wears an alb – the cord or cincture around his waist makes this clear. Alb, of course, means white, the colour of the baptismal garment, the colour worn by the saints in Heaven in Saint John’s Book of Revelation, the colour worn by the priest at Mass. So this is a Eucharistic Cross. Christ is shown as a priest and a king. his crown a royal one, no longer one of thorns. His hands are raised to heaven, even as they are nailed to the cross, in a gesture familiar from the Mass. his face, like his body, is serene: he looks down to us even as he offers our prayers with his sacrifice to the Father.

But there is another dimension to this particular cross. Do not be completely distracted by it if you visit our church, but beneath the crucifix is a reliquary with Relics of Saint Thomas of Canterbury.

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There are two relics in the reliquary above the altar. That on the right contains a small piece of Saint Thomas’ vestment in which he was buried, and the one on the left one of the Saint’s  finger bones. The bone was brought to Canterbury on 20th December 1953 by Dom Thomas Becquet, a collateral descendant of Saint Thomas and Prior of the Abbey of Chevetogne, Belgium. It is thought that these small relics were removed from Canterbury in 1220 by Cardinals from Rome who came to witness the translation of Thomas’ remains to the new shrine in the Cathedral.

So the statue of Christ can be seen as offering the martyrs’ blood to God with his own: not  just Thomas but three Reformation Martyrs with local connections, Saints Thomas More, John Fisher and John Stone. Nearby is a relic from halfway across the world: a vestment worn by Saint Oscar Romero. In an exchange of gifts, this came to Canterbury for another bone of Saint Thomas sent to the Cathedral of San Salvador. The man who brought about this link between two cities with martyred Archbishops was Fr John Metcalfe, a local priest working in El Salvador. We are all one family.

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11 September: You have to help me III

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A Victorian letter box in Sabden, Lancashire.

Last year I wrote about how Abel went with me to post a letter I had written, and he told me, ‘You have to help me.’ He meant I would have to lift him up to reach the slot in the letter box. 15 months on, he can manage that himself.

Today’s post was a party invitation to his uncle; ‘He can’t come without an invitation.’ I wrote out the letters of Uncle George’s name as he looked  on. Then he wrote out ‘G e o r g e’ without referring to my script.

It’s interesting to see how many unspoken helps are going on here, Abel helping me, for example, to remember good manners and invite George properly, then writing his uncle’s name for me in his colour of choice; I helping him to print the sheet, showing him where to write and talking him through each letter in turn.

A network of loving your neighbour (or your grandad or grandson) as yourself. Again, as last year, I’ll not spell out all the possible lessons that occur to me, but we are the Body of Christ, and we build up that body by exercising it. And occasionally reflecting on what we are doing.

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8 September: Mary’s ‘Birthday’ and Education Sunday.

 

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Mary Mother from Hales Place Jesuit Chapel, Canterbury

Of course we have no idea what date Mary’s birthday should be celebrated, she probably didn’t know herself. It was celebrated on this day in the VIth Century as an important stage in Salvation History; nobody is obliged to hold this feast, but we should always be thankful that Mary said ‘Yes’ to God, not just at the Annunciation but also in all those decisions a parent has to take when rearing a child.

Education Sunday is held in England and Wales by many churches. A time to pray for all involved in education, from Nurseries to Universities; indeed today’s writer, Maria Montessori, would have totally agreed with the Catholic Church’s assertion that parents are the first teachers of their children. Read her words and imagine Mary and Joseph’s  parenting.

We must come to a full understanding of the state of being of the newborn child. Only then will the absolute necessity of rendering easy his initiation into life become evident, The newborn child must become the object of knowledgeable care. Even holding him requires the utmost gentleness, and he should not be moved except with great tenderness. We should understand that in the first moment, and even in the first month, he should be kept very quiet.

Maria Montessori, The Child in the Family, London, Pan, 1970, p23.

 

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