Tag Archives: friendship

12 January: Sitting by the fire.

In centrally heated, 21st Century England it’s easy to forget how comforting a fire can be. Not to mention how much work one can entail. This little 1880s house once had three hearths downstairs – one for the kitchen which was to heat the servant girl’s room above. The other two bedrooms each had a fireplace. Plenty of work hauling all that coal up and ashes down the stairs. No more of that, but we can relax around the woodburning stove, or once a year, by this thermally inefficient open fire.

In 1806 Mary Lamb was writing to her younger friend, Sarah Stoddard, who had a few major family and personal matters to sort out at some distance from London, before Rowland Hill’s Penny Post made letter writing cheap and reliable.


Do write soon: though I write all about myself, I am thinking all the while of you, and I am uneasy at the length of time it seems since I heard from you … and this second winter makes me think how cold, damp, and forlorn your solitary house will feel to you. I would your feet were perched up again on our fender.

The fender is a low barrier between the fireplace and the floor of the room, often at a good height for warming the toes.

This story made me wonder how often the one who came to bring fire to the earth sat around an open fire with his disciples, how much of his more intimate teaching was given that way. I shall have to re-imagine some of the Gospel passages next time they come up.

Mary Lamb to Sarah Stoddard, 14 March 1806, The Letters of Charles and Mary Lamb, 1796-1820, edited by E. V. Lucas.

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7 January: How to Help?

Tim Rowden of the Grief Project shares ways to support those left behind when somebody takes their own life. Follow the link for wise words on What suicide loss survivors need most . And do not be afraid!

Tim Rowden
When you’ve lost someone to suicide, one of the hurdles in recovery is the people near you who sympathise but don’t know what to say or do. Worse are those who don’t say anything for fear that mentioning your loved one’s name will hurt you. (Pro tip: Not saying their name hurts more.)To find out what suicide loss survivors needed after their loved one died (and what they still need in the days, weeks, months and years to follow), the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention asked its community to share one way to support someone who’s lost a loved one to suicide.

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Book Review: Hopeful Eddie is looking ahead

Many readers of this blog will recognise the name Eddie Gilmore. We’ve shared a number of his blog posts for the London Irish chaplaincy and it’s good to have a selection of them gathered together in this book, Looking Ahead with Hope.

It’s a teasing title. No human can look ahead without looking back; try it sometime. The important thing is to believe that we – and more to the point, God – can build on the past. If that’s going to happen we need to get down to the bedrock of grace at work in our lives.

That grace often manifests itself in Eddie’s life in the form of music: singing at his mother’s 90th birthday party or a L’Arche retreat in the French Alps – Eddie was with L’Arche before joining the chaplaincy, the lack of singing as church congregations returned as covid retreated.

Eddie revisits those lock-down days, learning to live with people for 24 hours a day, long walks with family members, open-air conversations with passing acquaintances, the pluses and minuses of communicating by Zoom. We got through, but looking ahead, what have we learnt?

There could have been no singing and no party for his mum’s birthday in lockdown time, which put a stop to many of the chaplaincy’s ministries. Music was important in prison ministries too. The old, well-known songs awoke something in the hearts of the captive audience members, giving hope of another life outside prison. Special food on days the chaplaincy team were able to gather people together: it was in HMP Chelmsford that Eddie learnt to enjoy bacon cabbage and potatoes! There, too, Eddie reflected, that ‘for a couple of hours we’d been fellow human beings, enjoying good food and music, and one another’s company.’ And the musicians were changed by the experience (p73).

This book will inspire you to look ahead with hope, because Eddie Gilmore knows how to look back in gratitude. A Christmas present that somebody you know will be grateful for.

Will Turnstone.

Looking Ahead with Hope, Eddie Gilmore, DLT, £9.99. See the DLT site, where there was a good discount offer as we went to press.

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16 November, Little Flowers CI: he was much comforted.

Francis’s intuition was indeed a revelation; Madonna Jacopa was in good time to bring him a few treats before saying goodbye. Francis greatly loves her; he is sensitive enough to allow her to show her love for him in such an intimate fashion. She must have been a no-nonsense woman, taking herself straight up to the infirmary which would have been out of bounds to a woman, even the mother of senators.

And, while they continued thus, lo, after a little while, there was a great knocking at the door of the Place, and Saint Francis sent the doorkeeper to open it; and, when he had opened the door, behold, there was Madonna Jacopa, the noblest lady of Rome, with two of her sons, Senators of Rome, and with a great company of men on horseback; and they entered in; and Madonna Jacopa gat her straight to the infirmary, and came unto Saint Francis. Of whose coming St Francis had great joy and consolation, and she likewise, seeing him alive and speaking with him. 

Then she told him how God had revealed unto her in Rome, while she was praying, the short span of his life, and how he would send for her, and ask for those things, all of which she said that she had brought; and she caused them to be brought to Saint Francis and gave him to eat thereof; and, when he had eaten and was much comforted, this Madonna Jacopa kneeled down at the feet of Saint Francis, and took those most holy feet, marked and adorned with the wounds of Christ, and kissed and bathed them with her tears, with such limitless devotion that to the friars which were standing by it seemed that they verily beheld the Magdalene at the feet of Jesus Christ; and on nowise might they draw her away from them. 

And finally, after a long time, they raised her up and drew her aside, and asked her how she had come so duly and so well provided with all those things which were necessary for Saint Francis while yet he was alive, and for his burial. 

Madonna Jacopa replied that, while she was praying one night in Rome, she heard a voice from heaven, which said: “If thou wouldest find Saint Francis alive, get thee to Assisi without delay, and take with thee those things which thou art wont to give him when he is sick, and those things which will be necessary for his burial; and I (said she) have done so”. So the said Madonna Jacopa abode there until Saint Francis passed from this life and was buried; and at his burial she did him very great honour, she and all her company; and she bore all the cost of whatsoever was needed. And thereafter, this noble lady returned to Rome; and there, within a little while, she died a holy death; and for devotion to Saint Francis she commanded that her body should be borne to Santa Maria degli Angeli and buried there; and so was it done. 

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15 November, Little Flowers C: the great love she beareth thee.

This passage made Francis more attractive to me, to see him so close in friendship to Lady Jacopa and asking her for treats as well as the things needed for his burial. As the extract opens, he has just come home to St Mary of the Angels to die, but not before seeing her one last time.

And, when they arrived at Santa Maria degli Angeli, they bore him to the infirmary and there laid him down to rest. Then Saint Francis called unto him one of the companions and spake unto him thus: “Dearest friar, God hath revealed unto me that, of this sickness, on such a day, I shall depart from this life; and thou knowest that the well-beloved Madonna Jacopa di Settensoli, who is devoted to our Order, if she knew of my death and had not been present thereat, would be sore grieved; and therefore do thou send her word that, if she would see me alive, she come hither at once”. The friar made answer: “Father, thou sayest rightly; for in truth, by reason of the great love which she beareth thee, it would be most unseemly if she were not present at thy death”. 

“Go, then,” said Saint Francis, “and bring me inkhorn and paper and pen, and write as I bid thee.” And, when he had brought them, Saint Francis dictated the letter on this wise: “To Madonna Jacopa, the servant of God, Friar Francis, the mendicant of Christ, greeting and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost in our Lord Jesus Christ: Know, well beloved, that Christ the blessed hath, of His grace, revealed unto me that the end of my life is at hand. Therefore, if thou wouldst find me alive, when thou hast seen this letter, arise and come to Santa Maria degli Angell; for, if thou art not come by such a day, thou wilt not find me alive; and bring with thee hair-cloth to wrap my body in, and the wax which is needed for my burial. Also I beseech thee to bring me some of that food which thou wast wont to give me to eat, when I was sick in Rome.” 

And, while this letter was being written, it was revealed of God to Saint Francis that Madonna Jacopa was coming to him and was already nigh unto the place, and brought with her all those things which he was sending to ask for by the letter. Wherefore, when he had had this revelation, Saint Francis told the friar who was writing the letter, not to write further, because there was no need thereof, but to lay aside the letter; whereat the friars marvelled greatly, because he finished not the letter and would not have it sent.

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8 November: Say you have lost a friend.

To Irushka at the Coming of War by Frank Thompson

If you should hear my name among those killed,
Say you have lost a friend, half man, half boy,
Who, if the years had spared him might have built
Within him courage strength and harmony.
Uncouth and garrulous his tangled mind,
Seething with warm ideas of truth and light,
His help was worthless. Yet had fate been kind
He might have learned to steel himself and fight.
He thought he loved you. By what right could he
Claim such high praise, who only felt his frame
Riddled with burning lead, and failed to see
His own false pride behind the barrel’s flame?
Say you have lost a friend and then forget.
Stronger and truer ones are with you yet.

Frank Thompson went to war as a young man after his first year at university. He ended up with partisan fighters in Bulgaria, where he was captured by the Nazis and murdered together with his Bulgarian comrades. Irushka was Iris Murdoch, his beloved.

The poem is not about Irushka at all, but about himself, ‘Seething with warm ideas of truth and light’, enough to send him to war in the romantic spirit of Rupert Brooke. It hardly mattered that he would be killed, ‘his help was worthless’. No question in this poem of the rights or wrongs of Nations going to war, nor his duty or otherwise to go there and steel himself to fight against physical deprivation as well as the enemy.

War as romantic but empty of meaning, only false pride.

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31 October: O Holy Christ.

Memorial to fishermen lost at sea, Mallaig.

This prayer from Alistair Maclean’s ‘Hebridean Altars’ seems the right introduction to November, when we remember all who have died and been guided over the ford to Heaven. Consider, if you will, the phrase, ‘When I shall make an end of living’. Maybe we should do that each night before sleep: ‘The Lord grant us a quiet night and a perfect end. Amen’

O Holy Christ,
bless me with Thy presence
when my days are weary 
and my friends few.
Bless me with Thy presence
when my joy is full,
lest I forget the Giver in the gift.
Bless me with Thy presence
when I shall make an end of living.
Help me in the darkness to find the ford.
And in my going
comfort me with Thy promise
that where Thou art,
There shall Thy servant be.

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September 11: Do not be afraid of them.

This is part of a post in a series by Sister Johanna Caton that we read back in March. Search Agnellus Mirror for People in their thousands or follow this link to read the whole post and access the series. This is apposite for our series on preventing suicide, but also appropriate for today’s date.

To you, my friends, I say: Do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more (cf. Lk 12:4).

Jesus’ words here are bold words. I imagined myself there, at the scene, part of that huge crowd of thousands. I am hungry for Jesus’ truth. How would I have reacted to his words? Sure, I would have liked well enough being included among those whom Jesus calls his ‘friends’. But I must confess that I would also have felt a subtle resistance to the rest of that sentence, I think. He says, Do not be afraid of those who kill the body, but after that can do no more. I don’t think I would have wanted to hear about killing and being killed.

But Jesus, in this passage, is determined to challenge us, and to make his audience face the deepest of mysteries. He is going straight for what we most fear, straight for the most horrific thing we can imagine: our death. The very subject of death touches the rawest of raw nerves. In the face of death, if we are honest about our feelings, our sense of bewilderment, horror, loss, grief, disorientation, fear and even injustice and outrage surfaces – usually overwhelmingly. And this is the subject Jesus raises. Then, with simplicity, and without a hint of melodrama, he says that we have no reason to fear death, or to fear those who, out of malice, may cause our death. Recall: there are thousands listening to this speech. He wants everybody to know.

Why is Jesus talking about death? It now comes home to me that he does this because he alone, as Son of the Living God, is the only human being – ever – with authoritative knowledge of death. His teaching about death, therefore, is an integral part of his mission – it is his mission. It is even the Good News!

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We must not be afraid of those who kill the body, even if it is their own body they kill. That lack of fear, or that overcoming of fear, enables ordinary people to intervene, as Samaritans, as trained suicide watch workers, or just good neighbours.

Let us pray for the grace to overcome the fear of death sufficiently to comfort the bereaved, and to notice and get alongside a potential suicide who may cross our path.

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19 July: For this world and eternity.

Marriage is for this world, 
but the love and unity between us 
is a participation in God's own love 
and is therefore eternal. 
One day I too will be called to the fuller knowledge of that love 
in our Father's house."

Ruth Reardon.

Ruth Reardon who dies recently aged 92, was an English Catholic married to Martin, an Anglican priest. They founded the Association of Interchurch Families with her husband Martin in 1960’s. They helped make interchurch marriages acceptable to the English Catholic bishops and to the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity in Rome.

Walking together has long been a mark of interchurch marriages, often leading to friendships between fellow parishioners of each spouse. Perhaps they can teach us a lot about synodality?

Read more here in Independent Catholic News.

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24 May: Going viral CVI: A pilgrim feeling very, very exposed.

These pilgrims are somewhat exposed. The woman in the middle at least has long sleeves against the nettles and brambles; the lads behind? Well, they lived to tell the tale. If it’s not nettles or brambles, it will be neck pain or blisters or soakings or sunburn. But pilgrimage can also lead us to friendship, hospitality, service; the discovery of who we are and where we are – eventually – hoping to be.

There seems to be a growing interest in pilgrimage these days, perhaps enhanced by the experience of confinement under covid regulations. Let’s get out of here! i’ll come to Mrs Turnstone’s and my visit to Bury Saint Edmund’s in another post. Here we share a reflection by the designer and tv presenter, Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, one of a group of ‘celebrities’ who travelled across Ireland and the Irish Sea as pilgrims to Iona, for the BBC, and following journey of Saint Columba.

He tells Peter Stanford, “I am of a generation that has been war-free, plague-free, difficulty-free for most of our privileged lives, and suddenly here we are facing a plague [Covid], nuclear war [Ukraine] and gas prices going through the roof. We are literally touching cloth for the first time and we are feeling very, very exposed. We have nothing to believe in and yet we have to make some decisions quite quickly because we are running out of time.” (The well-tailored pilgrim, in The Tablet, 6 April, 2022).

Privileged we have been, but this blog does not accept that we have nothing to believe in.

The well-tailored pilgrim

by Peter Stanford

Pilgrimage: The Road to the Scottish Isles is available on BBC iPlayer for ten months.

https://wordpress.com/post/agnellusmirror.wordpress.com/30684 johnson

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