Here is something unusual. A Congress of nearly 3000 people from 65 countries all over the globe. People of all faiths and beliefs coming together to worship Almighty God each day for 12 days.There is harmony, chatter and energy in every corner. There are families, young people, old people, business people, from all backgrounds people.How do so many of such diverse beliefs become one together and work together? And work they do with many large humanitarian projects and smaller enterprises. The key to this is a gift from God which enables us each day to surrender and await whatever grace He wishes to bestow upon us. There is no dogma, no creed, for all follow their own religious beliefs – something we all recognise are deepened by this harmonious experience of God.Subud has been in the world since 1924, officially from the early 1940s and came to the West from Indonesia in 1957. It was adopted wholeheartedly by the former Gurdjieff movement who recognised the surrender of self to God, within Subud, as the very essence of what they had been searching for but had been unable to attain merely through the human will.I have been a member since 1983 and it forms an undercurrent in my life and faith like a clear flowing river.It is not comparable to any other experiential faith and it is easier to say what it is not rather than what it is.I have another week here before I return and am looking forward to making many new connections with brothers and sisters the world over.Constantina Alexander
Tag Archives: Germany
Today is the Feast of Saint Boniface.
This great Bishop did not omit to encourage the foundation of various male and female monasteries so that they would become like beacons, so as to radiate human and Christian culture and the faith in the territory. He summoned monks and nuns from the Benedictine monastic communities in his homeland who gave him a most effective and invaluable help in proclaiming the Gospel and in disseminating the humanities and the arts among the population. Indeed, he rightly considered that work for the Gospel must also be work for a true human culture. Above all the Monastery of Fulda founded in about 743 was the heart and centre of outreach of religious spirituality and culture: there the monks, in prayer, work and penance, strove to achieve holiness; there they trained in the study of the sacred and profane disciplines and prepared themselves for the proclamation of the Gospel in order to be missionaries. Thus it was to the credit of Boniface, of his monks and nuns – for women too had a very important role in this work of evangelization – that human culture, which is inseparable from faith and reveals its beauty, flourished.
Although he was getting on in years (he was almost 80), he prepared himself for a new evangelizing mission: with about 50 monks he returned to Frisia where he had begun his work. Almost as a prediction of his imminent death, in alluding to the journey of life, he wrote to Bishop Lull, his disciple and successor in the see of Mainz: “I wish to bring to a conclusion the purpose of this journey; in no way can I renounce my desire to set out. The day of my end is near and the time of my death is approaching; having shed my mortal body, I shall rise to the eternal reward. May you, my dear son, ceaselessly call the people from the maze of error, complete the building of the Basilica of Fulda that has already been begun, and in it lay my body, worn out by the long years of life” (Willibald, Vita S. Bonifatii, ed. cit., p. 46). While he was beginning the celebration of Mass at Dokkum (in what today is northern Holland) on 5 June 754, he was assaulted by a band of pagans. Advancing with a serene expression he “forbade his followers from fighting saying, “cease, my sons, from fighting, give up warfare, for the witness of Scripture recommends that we do not give an eye for an eye but rather good for evil. Here is the long awaited day, the time of our end has now come; courage in the Lord!'” (ibid., pp. 49-50). These were his last words before he fell under the blows of his aggressors. The mortal remains of the Martyr Bishop were then taken to the Monastery of Fulda where they received a fitting burial.
Centuries later, what message can we gather today from the teaching and marvelous activity of this great missionary and martyr? For those who approach Boniface, an initial fact stands out: the centrality of the word of God, lived and interpreted in the faith of the Church, a word that he lived, preached and witnessed to until he gave the supreme gift of himself in martyrdom. He was so passionate about the word of God that he felt the urgent need and duty to communicate it to others, even at his own personal risk.
The second most important proof that emerges from the life of Boniface is his faithful communion with the Apostolic See, which was a firm and central reference point of his missionary work; he always preserved this communion as a rule of his mission and left it, as it were, as his will.
Boniface also deserves our attention for a third characteristic: he encouraged the encounter between the Christian-Roman culture and the Germanic culture. Indeed, he knew that humanizing and evangelizing culture was an integral part of his mission as Bishop. In passing on the ancient patrimony of Christian values, he grafted on to the Germanic populations a new, more human lifestyle, thanks to which the inalienable rights of the person were more widely respected. As a true son of St Benedict, he was able to combine prayer and labour (manual and intellectual), pen and plough.
Boniface’s courageous witness is an invitation to us all to welcome God’s word into our lives as an essential reference point, to love the Church passionately, to feel co-responsible for her future, to seek her unity around the Successor of Peter. At the same time, he reminds us that Christianity, by encouraging the dissemination of culture, furthers human progress. It is now up to us to be equal to such a prestigious patrimony and to make it fructify for the benefit of the generations to come.
His ardent zeal for the Gospel never fails to impress me. At the age of 41 he left a beautiful and fruitful monastic life, the life of a monk and teacher, in order to proclaim the Gospel to the simple, to barbarians; once again, at the age of 80, he went to a region in which he foresaw his martyrdom.
By comparing his ardent faith, his zeal for the Gospel, with our own often lukewarm and bureaucratized faith, we see what we must do and how to renew our faith, in order to give the precious pearl of the Gospel as a gift to our time.
These days, I guess most of us think of an indulgence as something we can enjoy but do not really need. Like a slice of cake with your cup of tea. That’s a simnel cake, a sort of English Easter version of the German stollen. A daffodil for the risen Lord and eleven dots for the more-or-less-faithful Apostles.
We know that there were no recriminations from Him in those weeks after Easter. They were forgiven. Full stop.
So how the situation arose where people were selling indulgences, and many more people buying them, is hard to comprehend, except that if you were led to believe that paying down a week’s wages would secure your place in Heaven, well, What price would you pay?
That was an Indulgence in mediaeval times. Follow the link to an interesting article about an Indulgence on show in Manchester. And What price would you pay?
As our contributor Tom points out, you would readily pay a week’s wages for eternal salvation.
Here then is a connection to yesterday’s post, both about wartime, but this is a story of the aftermath of the Second World War.
The same day as I read this article I was in the Archive in Westminster diocese and found a 1947 exchange of letters between Miss Winifred Callaghan, head teacher of English Martyrs’ School in York and Cardinal Griffin in Westminster.
Most Reverend Father,
Kindly accept the enclosed £1 as a small donation to your ‘Children of Europe’ fund, from the children and some of the staff of the above school.
We would have made it more but many local calls kept us collecting. But on Friday we had a quick whip round with ‘your’ box, as we call it, and £1 resulted.
We ask your blessing and a prayer for us all please. May God bless you dear Father, from the children and teachers.
And not an indulgence in sight.
How blest the children of York, to have had such a head teacher! The generosity of many people, rich and poor, can be traced in the correspondence. They were supporting Germans, as well as Poles, Hungarians, Yugoslavians, Estonians: people exiled from their homes across Europe, Germans stranded in the New Poland, many people who could not go home to what were now Communist countries.
Forgiveness freely given towards former enemies, and plain Christian charity.
And not an indulgence in sight.
It’s Saturday, it’s summertime in Europe, it’s a good day for a picnic.
A very good day for a picnic. On this day in 1989 there occurred a mass picnic on the border between the then communist Hungary and democratic Austria. It became known as the Pan-European picnic because the two neighbours agreed to open their borders, allowing citizens of Western and Communist nations to cross borders and mingle without let or hindrance.
Many East Germans took advantage of the open border to leave for West Germany as the border between Hungary and Austria remained open.
Within a few months the Iron Curtain, as it was known, no longer cut Germany in half; many other nations also fulfilled their citizens desire to leave the communist bloc.
It wasn’t all because of the picnic, but that helped maintain momentum for change, thanks to politicians in Austria, Germany and Hungary, and to many brave, ordinary people.
It won’t take a great deal of bravery to hold a picnic for your family today, or just to share fish and chips or a pizza by the sea. But spare a thought and prayer for those brave souls who died trying to cross borders to the West; for the brave souls whose actions made a freer Europe possible, and for those brave souls who still try to cross borders as refugees or migrants.
And as you enjoy your picnic, thank God for the freedom to do so.
Preserved stretch of the Berlin Wall, MMB
World Youth Day Pilgrims about to enjoy a picnic in the Tatra Mountains, Zakopane, Poland. MMB
More than once I had heard the story of a Christmas Truce along the Western Front in 1914, and often as not someone would dismiss the idea. I was glad to find a book, written with the co-operation of the Imperial War Museum that makes clear that the Christmas Truce did occur*
The writers do not see the Truce as an irrelevance, rather a
‘precursor, a portent indeed, of the spirit of reconciliation now powerfully abroad as one century ends and a new age begins. From South Africa to Ireland, and perhaps most noticeably of all in the benevolent arm-in-arm relationship between France and Germany (whose deep-rooted antipathy … made the First World War virtually inevitable.’ p vii.
They tell many stories, using diaries and other records of the time. This was reported in the Daily Telegraph as the account of a wounded French soldier:
‘he said that on the night of December 24th, the French and the Germans came out of their respective trenches and met halfway between them. They not only talked, exchanged cigarettes &c., but also danced together in rings.’ p 79.
There are many other accounts of how ‘we achieved what the pope (Benedict XV) could not do and in the middle of the war we had a merry Christmas.’ p 94.
Which was irrelevant: the Christmas Truce or the Great War?
Let us pray for Peace in this New Year.
*Christmas Truce by Malcolm Brown and Shirley Seaton, Pan, 2001. There are plenty of copies of this and other editions at Abe Books for less than £3.
Here is a link to the European Christmas Truce Tournament . Teenage boys from football clubs across Europe meet to play football, socialise, and visit the trenches, cemeteries and monuments of the Great War.
Our sequence of posts from John Masefield is interrupted by anniversary reflections from another great poet.
We came to Our Lady, Star of the Sea, in Staithes in time for evening Mass six weeks ago. I was rather disappointed that the statue of Mary inside was of Our Lady of Lourdes, but when we passed the church in daylight, there was Mary, Star of the Sea, gliding calm against the storm, reassuring us that despite the tempests that come our way – and the statue feels the full force of the gales, up there on the hilltop – her prayer will lift us up to her Son.
I was reminded of a great storm which hit the Thames Estuary on this date in 1875, causing the Wreck of the Deutschland, rendered immortal by Gerard Manley Hopkins. A powerful prayer, wrestling with the mystery of inescapable death before one’s span is over. Hopkins focuses on five Franciscan sisters, refugees fleeing to exile in England from oppressive laws in Prussia, only to die on a Kentish sandbank. He challenges himself (and the reader) to:
Grasp God, throned behindDeath with a sovereignty that heeds but hides, bodes but abides;With a mercy that outridesThe all of water, an arkFor the listener; for the lingerer with a love glidesLower than death and the dark;A vein for the visiting of the past-prayer, pent in prison,The-last-breath penitent spirits—the uttermost markOur passion-plungèd giant risen,The Christ of the Father compassionate, fetched in the storm of his strides.
Grasp God! Perhaps a little finger or the hem of his garment? But may we be listeners, heart and soul, humble enough to board the ark.
Let us pray for all in peril on the sea, as they did recently in the local Middlesborough Cathedral when they welcomed a Lampedusa Cross, made from timbers of a XXI Century Refugee boat that landed in Italy, remembering those who do not survive the voyage to Europe. Middlesbrough Lampedusa Cross
And here you’ll find the text of the poem, Wreck of the Deutschland .
Middlesborough’s Bishop Terry Drainey commissioned port chaplains on the Feast of the Star of the Sea in September.
Travel is said to broaden the mind. It certainly offers some delicious paradoxes and pairings that challenge presumptions and prejudices that I never knew I had.
On the U-bahn in Berlin I noticed a pale-skinned, brown-eyed German man joking with a Turkish-looking friend, who had dark skin and piercing blue eyes. What amused them I know not, but the pair belonged in Shakespeare! I was shown life through a different lens for a brief moment.
Shakespeare loves odd couples for whom the course of true love does not run smooth. The girls in A Midsummer Night’s Dream are quite unlike each other (one tall, one short; one dark, one fair) yet until Puck interferes in their lives, they and their fiancés are the best of friends. Confusion and insecurity, sown by Puck, lead from bewilderment to the trading of insults between them all and Lysander telling Hermia, his beloved:
Be certain, nothing truer; ’tis no jest
That I do hate thee and love Helena.
And soon, Oberon observes:
These lovers seek a place to fight.
He has Puck provide respite and resolution by undoing his first mischief and allowing the young people to relax and fall asleep together, waking to a new day, and all’s well that ends well with the mortals blessed by the fairies.
Those who would destroy fraternity among us touch our eyes with worse than fairy dust.
Let us pray that we may see God more clearly, and love him more dearly in our sisters and brothers. And that we may see through and renounce all the evil one’s empty promises.
Next week includes the feast of Saint Augustine of Hippo, so we had prepared reflections on Algeria, his homeland. But it would be wrong to offer these while ignoring recent events in Belgium, France and Germany. It would also be wrong to suggest that all is well in Algeria or anywhere else that Muslims and Christians live side by side. All too easily someone can assert the primacy of the ‘true faith’, as they perceive it, over love and mutual respect: it happens within communities as well as between them. Therefore I offer this week’s reflections on recent events as a preface to those on Algeria, prepared weeks ago to celebrate Augustine, recognised by Muslims as well as Christians as a great Algerian.
Tomorrow would be the feast of Saint Boniface if it were not a Sunday. Here in Canterbury, Fr Boniface OFM counts his patron as ‘perhaps the greatest Englishman who ever lived.’ Quite a claim from a German-Scot, but then Saint Boniface is celebrated as the Apostle of Germany. He worked there in the Eighth Century.
This greatest of Englishmen spent much of his working life outside England, as a European, preaching and baptising, dealing with royal houses, journeying to Rome to confer with popes and maintaining correspondence with friends at home and in Ireland as well as on the continent. No insular little Englander!
Boniface was first and foremost a missionary, sharing the Good News, giving faith to others, often in the face of opposition. He died in an ambush by pagan outlaws, and like Jesus in the Garden he refused to let his companions fight. Instead he held aloft the Book of the Gospels in a gesture of prayer. That book, hacked about by the robbers’ swords, can be seen in Fulda, near Boniface’s tomb.
The Good News survives attacks by those who oppose Christianity, and even the damage done by us Christians when our vision is too restricted or we tacitly accept that our faith is private, when it ought to inform all our relationships with God, family and neighbour.