Tag Archives: freedom

25 January: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, VIII.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2023

Photo: Mazur/cbcew.org.uk

As we join with other Christians around the world for the Week of Prayer we pray that our hearts will be open to see and hear the many ways in which racism continues to destroy lives, and to discern the steps we can take as individuals and communities to heal the hurts and build a better future for everyone.

Day 8 Restoring hope through the work of justice

Isaiah 40:1-11
Luke 1:46-55

Commentary

In facing up to the harm caused by racial injustice, we hold before us the promise of God’s love and the healing of relationships. The Prophet Isaiah speaks of God gathering and comforting all people who have been lost and have experienced suffering. In the Magnificat, Mary reminds us that God never abandons us and that God’s promise to us is fulfilled in justice.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the murder of Stephen Lawrence. Stephen was a young man growing up in south-east London with big dreams for his future. His life was tragically cut short when, on 22 April 1993, he was murdered in an unprovoked racist attack. The pain of his family and the wider community was compounded by serious failings in the investigation of this crime, which were later exposed in the Macpherson Report. In his memory a foundation has been established to support and inspire young people to have a bright future. Stephen’s mother, (Baroness) Doreen Lawrence, says of this work:

“Justice for Stephen is about all of us, every one of us, in society having justice. There are still too many young people who do not have a sense of hope, who just don’t get the chance to live their dreams. I want all our children and young people to feel inspired, be confident and have hope in their own future. We are building hope, but there is more to do.”

It is easy to feel hopeless as we are time and again reminded that we live in a fractured society that does not fully recognise, honour, and protect the human dignity and freedom of all human beings. An alignment of love of God, love of all our human family and love of justice are deeply needed for hope and healing. God calls us to continually live into hope, trusting that God will be with us in the midst of our individual and communal liminal space – on the threshold of what has been and what is, while yearning for what is yet to be.

Reflection

Fr Bryan Massingale, one of the world’s leading Catholic social ethicists and scholars in racial justice, reminds us of his hope and challenge:
“Social life is made by human beings.
The society we live in is the result of human choices and decisions.
This means that human beings can change things.
What humans break, divide and separate,
we can with God’s help,also heal, unite and restore.
What is now does not have to be.
Therein lies the hope and the challenge.”

Prayer

Creator God, please teach us to go inward 
to be grounded in your loving spirit
so we can go outward in wisdom and courage
to always choose the path of love and justice.

Questions

Many of the global protests that took place after George Floyd’s killing were led by young people, some of whom were connected to the Church. How can we use their ardour for racial justice to bring about change in the Church?

What substantive actions should have taken place after Stephen Lawrence’s killing? Why do you think they did not occur?

How did you respond to the killings of Stephen Lawrence and/or George Floyd? How have these tragedies encouraged you to take a greater interest in racial justice?

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2 December 2022, Praying with Pope Francis: for voluntary organisations.

L’Arche UK entering Canterbury Cathedral on pilgrimage together.

We pray that volunteer non-profit organisations

committed to human development

find people dedicated to the common good

and ceaselessly seek out new paths to international cooperation.

Finding people dedicated to the common good has been difficult when covid got in the way of daily life. In L’Arche UK there was much less international cooperation in the form of young assistants coming from overseas for a year or so. But there was also a mass of protective legislation that severely restricted community life for many months. Imagine assistants having to wear masks all day, unable to eat together with core members, friends from different houses being barred from meeting in person.

Pope Francis’s intention was written more than a year ago; things have changed in that time! We in L’Arche should pray in thanks for all the imaginative ways in which people held the community together, and for the opening up that is now happening, including individual and house holidays.

Let us pray that all the people dedicated to the common good, many of them exhausted, may now have space to pause for a while on holiday or retreat.

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23 October: Liberty the right of every human.

Oscar Murillo’s dehumanised migrant workers.

Yesterday we witnessed child labour in XIX Century England, but exploitation is still with us. I read recently that Garment Workers in England are still receiving no more than a fraction of the National Minimum Wage, legally established since 1999, and exploitation is rife elsewhere in the fashion industry world-wide. Here is John Wesley on slavery and justice. His first sentence sets out with great clarity why slavery is evil. Following on from that realisation, there should be action: give liberty to whom liberty is due … every child of man. The prayer that follows is also a homily that every one of us should reflect upon, for slavery, or near slavery, still exists in different forms and we all benefit from poor people’s suffering.

Liberty is the right of every human creature, as soon as he breathes the vital air; and no human law can deprive him of that right which he derives from the law of nature.

   If, therefore, you have any regard to justice, (to say nothing of mercy, nor the revealed law of God,) render unto all their due. Give liberty to whom liberty is due, that is, to every child of man, to every partaker of human nature. Let none serve you but by his own act and deed, by his own voluntary choice. Away with all whips, all chains, all compulsion! Be gentle toward all men; and see that you invariably do unto every one as you would he should do unto you.

O thou God of love, 
thou who art loving to every man, and whose mercy is over all thy works; 
thou who art the Father of the spirits of all flesh, and who art rich in mercy unto all; 
thou who hast mingled of one blood all the nations upon earth; 
have compassion upon these outcasts of men, who are trodden down as dung upon the earth! 
Arise, and help these that have no helper, whose blood is spilt upon the ground like water! 
Are not these also the work of thine own hands, the purchase of thy Son's blood? 
Stir them up to cry unto thee in the land of their captivity; and let their complaint come up before thee; 
let it enter into thy ears! 
Make even those that lead them away captive to pity them, 
and turn their captivity as the rivers in the south. 
O burst thou all their chains in sunder; more especially the chains of their sins! 
Thou Saviour of all, make them free, that they may be free indeed!

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20 July: Butterfly’s days.

Yesterday we looked at eternity and this world; love being the link between the two. Today school holidays are upon us again in England, and grandparents get to join in these days, keeping the third generation safe and occupied.But perhaps they – and we – should be allowed to experience a few butterfly’s days, ‘without design’, going nowhere ‘In purposeless circumference’, till sundown. If we let go of our business for a day, it’s possible that Another might get a word, idea or image in edgeways.

This red admiral was seen at the L’Arche Kent garden as it basked in the summer sun. Get ready to bask in an ‘audience of idleness.’

Enjoy your holidays and be grateful for moments of idleness!

THE BUTTERFLY’S DAY

From cocoon forth a butterfly
As lady from her door
Emerged — a summer afternoon —
Repairing everywhere,

Without design, that I could trace,
Except to stray abroad
On miscellaneous enterprise
The clovers understood.

Her pretty parasol was seen
Contracting in a field
Where men made hay, then struggling hard
With an opposing cloud,

Where parties, phantom as herself,
To Nowhere seemed to go
In purposeless circumference,
As ‘t were a tropic show.

And notwithstanding bee that worked,
And flower that zealous blew,
This audience of idleness
Disdained them, from the sky,

Till sundown crept, a steady tide,
And men that made the hay,
And afternoon, and butterfly,
Extinguished in its sea.

Emily Dickinson.

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15 July: The Synod and the People of God.

https://www.synod.va/en/highlights/People-of-God.html

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A posting from the Synod Office inviting us to reflect on belonging to the People of God.

We open with an extended thought from Pope Francis, and worth taking to heart, Synod or no Synod. But see the original post.

Christianity is not just an ethic. Yes, it is true, it has moral principles, but one is not Christian with only a vision of ethics. It is more. Christianity is not an elite of people chosen for truth. …Christianity is belonging to a people, a people chosen by God, freely. If we do not have this consciousness of belonging to a people, we will be ideological Christians, with a tiny doctrine for affirming the truth, with an ethic, with a moral code – that’s fine – or with an elite… If we do not have a consciousness of belonging to a people, we are not true Christians.

Pope Francis, Homily Being Christians means belonging to the People of God”, 07.05.2020

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CONTACT

General Secretariat for Synod of Bishops
Via della Conciliazione 34
00120 Città del Vaticano

Tel. (+39) 06 698 84821 / 84324

synodus@synod.va

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2 July: The Good Shepherd

St Mildred’s, Canterbury.

One of the classic Victorian hymns that still speaks to us today.

Souls of men! why will ye scatter 
Like a crowd of frightened sheep?
Foolish hearts! why will ye wander
From a love so true and deep?
Was there ever kindest shepherd
Half so gentle, half so sweet,
As the Saviour who would have us
Come and gather round his feet?

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy
Like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in his justice
Which is more than liberty.

There is welcome for the sinner,
And more graces for the good;
There is mercy with the Saviour;
There is healing in his blood.

But we make his love too narrow
By false limits of our own;
And we lose the tender shepherd
In the judge upon the throne.

For the love of God is broader
Than the measure of man’s mind;
And the heart of the eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.

FW Faber

The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice.

John 10;27.

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20 March: On not reinventing the wheel.

Two young mothers pushing their babies on Margate prom. Their buggies double up as shopping trolleys.

The discussion drifted to mobility and the challenges posed by diminishing powers in later life.

Jane had struggled with herself to adopt a walking stick, and then a walker with a seat and shopping box. ‘But that was silly of me, because now I can get down to the shops and the promenade.’ The thought of not seeing the sea, though living so close, had steeled her to swallow her pride and try the aids.

‘I can do so much more now’, she says.

Reinventing the wheel or even the walking stick seems excessive, but many of us learn the hard way. Jane would tell you how its tempting to be too self-reliant, too independent. In the 1980’s people in big mental hospitals were released into ‘the community’ to live independently; often in a one bedroom flat somewhere completely unknown to the person concerned who would have been incarcerated for decades.

‘The community’ did not exist for them unless someone made an effort to befriend them.

Jane’s first walker trolley was given to her by a fellow member of the exercise group, who had another that suited her better. The group is a little community, even when meeting by zoom.

What can we learn from this little story? To accept help or advice graciously, to admit that no man (or woman) is an island entire of itself, not even me! So we are all responsible for each other, and are diminished if a neighbour suffers; we are, or should be, involved in mankind, conscious of each other’s needs and gifts.

No Man Is An Island by John Donne

No man is an island, 
Entire of itself, 
Every man is a piece of the continent, 
A part of the main. 
If a clod be washed away by the sea, 
Europe is the less. 
As well as if a promontory were. 
As well as if a manor of thy friend's 
Or of thine own were: 
Any man's death diminishes me, 
Because I am involved in mankind, 
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; 
It tolls for thee.

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4 December: The Longest Advent.

Today’s post and tomorrow’s are in part about the Missionaries of Africa. Archbishop Arthur Hughes M Afr, who died in 1949, encouraged the Catholic feminists of Saint Joan’s Alliance. This paragraph is from a talk he gave them during one of his visits home from Egypt during the 1940s. He sees devotion to Mary as totally compatible with feminism, and feminism as an essential part of our Catholic faith. But how much progress has there been in the last 70-odd years?

‘Advent is associated with ideas of worthiness and readiness, and during ‘the longest Advent’ feminists should think things out and read and meditate so that they could speak with ever more conviction.

Full equality, liberty and emancipation is the completion of the Christian ideal.

Our Lord by allowing devotion to Our Lady to become an integral part of our Catholic Faith paved the way for feminism – when he came to earth practically everything had still to be done towards the emancipation of women, not only equality had to be achieved, but something more, therefore external marks of respect towards women should be maintained and expected.

Your crusade is associated with the longest Advent. Pray and work with greater courage! ‘

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3 September, Season of Creation IV: The gift to be simple II.

Today is the feast of Gregory the Great, first pope of that name, who sent Augustine to Canterbury, arriving here in 597. He was inspired to establish the English mission when he came across young Saxons on sale in Rome’s market. Gregory was also a theologian and spiritual writer, here in his book Moralia (XXVIII 47), commenting on the Book of Job (12.4), where Job is answering his critics:

I am one mocked by his friends,
Who called on God, and He answered him,
The just and blameless who is ridiculed.

Window, St Thomas’ church, Canterbury, England.

Worldliness dictates to her followers to seek the high places of honour, to triumph in attaining the vain acquisition of temporal glory; to return manifold the mischiefs that others bring upon us; when the means are with us, to give way to no man’s opposition; when the opportunity of power is lacking, all whatsoever he cannot accomplish in wickedness to represent in the guise of peaceable good nature. 

On the other hand it is the wisdom of the righteous, to pretend nothing in show, to discover the meaning by words; to love the truth as it is, to avoid falsehood; to set forth good deeds for nought, to bear evil more gladly than to do it; to seek no revenging of a wrong, to account opprobrium for the Truth’s sake to be a gain.  But this simplicity of the righteous is ‘laughed to scorn,’ in that the goodness of purity is taken for folly with the wise men of this world.  For doubtless every thing that is done from innocency is accounted foolish by them, and whatever truth sanctions in practice sounds weak to carnal wisdom. 

For what seems worse folly to the world than to shew the mind by the words, to feign nothing by crafty contrivance, to return no abuse for wrong, to pray for them that speak evil of us, to seek after poverty, to forsake our possessions, not to resist him that is robbing us, to offer the other cheek to one that strikes us? 

Much of this passage could serve as a manifesto for Agnellus’ Mirror and for the Season of Creation:

It is the wisdom of the righteous, to pretend nothing in show, to discover the meaning by words; to love the truth as it is, to avoid falsehood; to set forth good deeds for nought.

We hope we live up to that, in the blog and in daily life.

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30 August: Holy Leisure

The American writer Henry Thoreau claimed that we should not judge our wealth by the things we possess but by the amount of free time that we have.

By Eddie Gilmore of the London Irish chaplaincy. Welcome back, Eddie!

By Thoreau’s reckoning I’ve been pretty wealthy during the pandemic due in part to working from home. My working day used to involve three or four hours of commuting and so I’ve had that time for other things. After the first lockdown had eased I was cycling with a guy in my club called Steve who, pre-Covid, I would see from time to time on the train back from London. He said that previously at a quarter to five he would be clearing his desk and getting ready to head to St Pancras to catch the train. “Now,” he explained to me with evident delight, “I walk down the garden path to the shed to get my bike out and I’m off.” It was a bit the same for me last summer: down to the shed at the bottom of the garden, bike out and away. I needed something a bit different this year and the Korean study has filled up a lot of my free time nicely, although I’ve still relished the extra time for a variety of sporting and other pursuits.

St Augustine described the monastic life as otium sanctum, which can be translated as holy leisure. The American Trappist monk Thomas Merton touches on the theme of otium sanctum in his book ‘Spiritual Direction and Meditation’. Business is not the supreme virtue,’ he writes, ‘and sanctity is not measured by the amount of work we accomplish.’ That’s not to say that no work or business is conducted in a monastery. On the contrary, monasteries through the ages have been hives of activity, and you’re also as likely to find workaholics there as anywhere, Merton himself having been one of them! Yet, there’s a structure and a balance to the monastic day that gives time to work, time to pray, time to eat, time to read or study, time to rest, and time just to gaze upon the flowers in the fields. It’s the active in harmony with the contemplative, and a little sign that all of our time, ultimately, is a gift.

Having free time doesn’t necessarily mean doing nothing but being perhaps less driven and more conscious and intentional about what we’re doing in any given moment. I like that the word leisure comes from the Latin licere, meaning ‘to be permitted’ or ‘to be free’. I also like one of the definitions of that Latin word ‘otium’: ‘leisure time in which a person can enjoy eating, playing, resting, contemplation and academic endeavors.’ The key, perhaps, is taking time to enjoy and savour each moment in the day, and to take pleasure in the world and in those around us; to sit on a bench, to smell a rose, to listen to the birds singing. It could even be experienced in the midst of  writing a report or a funding application, or when doing a 100 mile cycle ride! All is given, all is gift.

The key for Thick Naht Hahn, the Vietnamese monk and poet, is mindfulness. He counsels that when eating a tangerine, be aware that you are eating a tangerine! When drinking a cup of tea, be aware that you’re drinking a cup of tea! Just as in a Japanese tea ceremony, each step of the process is important and given the right amount of time and awareness: boiling the kettle, preparing the vessels, warming the pot, pouring the water, waiting for the tea to brew; and then sipping, smelling, savouring. Perhaps even giving a little thought and a blessing to those who grew the tea and picked and dried the leaves.

I’ll shortly have the great gift of two week’s of holiday in which Yim Soon and I will walk the West Highland Way in Scotland followed by Ben Nevis and then a few days on the Isle of Skye. I will consider myself the wealthiest person alive to have such otium sanctum and to be able to spend it in such a place and in such company.

Happy holidays (i.e. holy days) to everyone!

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