Tag Archives: Good Shepherd

30 December: Father Andrew at Christmas VII. Problems at the Manger

crib, banchory

Photo by CD

We face the same Problems at the Manger as Father Andrew pointed out eighty years ago.

O mighty God, O baby King,
Thyself must teach what welcoming
Thy children, old and young, should bring,
How each should make his offering.

For here are little boys and girls,
With tidy clothes and ordered curls;
A little Scout his flag unfurls,
His mother kneels in lace and pearls.

And here are faces pinched and white,
And men who walked about all night;
A soldier who has lost his sight,
A boy whose sums will not come right.

The young, the middle-aged, the old
Are gathered here, some gay with gold,
Some ragged creatures, starved and cold –
The fat and lean are in Thy fold.

And though our hearts at Christmas glow
With sense of shame that things are so,
Yet how to get the world to go
In Christian ways we do not know.

There’s nothing wrong in tidy boys,
It’s nice to give expensive toys,
It’s natural to make a noise,
And lovely things are perfect joys –

Yet still we kneel before Thy straw
In penitence and puzzling awe –
Show us our system’s vital flaw,
And that strong truth the Wise Men saw.

Love, Thou must teach us, every one,
To toil until Thy will be done;
So never in this world again
Shall child be housed in cattle pen.


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September 18: To see each other as young Christs.

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Another reflection from Constantina which sits well after Austin’s wisdom:

I have been contemplating on reconciliation and ran one of our Franciscan area meetings on this theme. Apart from the discussions in small groups there seemed to be some reconciling going on between people with increasing understanding of each other. The spirit was at work in the most gentle way.

Some days later, sitting quietly at my easel I received a thought about the Apostles and their different natures and how Christ accepted them all as they were, even if frustrating at times.

I wondered then why, when we have groups or organisations, there is often some kind of censure for anyone who does not fit in to the developed ethos of the group. Why is it that we try to limit others to our own viewpoints or remain suspicious of anything or anyone who does not conform? Jesus certainly did not conform to the he established hierarchy of his time.

How can we really learn to let go of own preconceptions and prejudices?


I am not sure why I am wittering on, perhaps it is the pungent Lefranc gold size wafting off my large icon I am in the middle of gilding. I am doing a tall young Christ. There is a power in contemplating the young Christ and even the Christ child as we cannot put on them our adult opinions, we can only gaze in wonder at his wisdom. Perhaps we need to see each other in this way, as young Christs. Will limitless potential and possibilities.


God bless!



Constantina adds:

My young Christ is only in initial stages at the moment and will take most of the summer to complete. So do use the wonderful statue.

Thank you, Constantina, for  this reflection and the chance to contemplate the young Good Shepherd again! It’s good to be reminded that Jesus was not always a Victorian stained-glass, bearded man dressed in white and red, but a young and vigorous teenager, taking Life and his Father’s Will seriously.


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July 28: Canine Sectarianism?



Alfie The Collie.

We had left the roar and rumble of the motorway and were enjoying a sandwich lunch in a Cotswold churchyard, gathered under a spreading yew tree, sheltered from the gentle summer’s rain. A woman came by, in waterproofs, wellingtons and plastic hat, clutching two shopping bags.

“You don’t need to sit out there in the rain, go inside, it’s all right. No, you don’t need to worry about him, take him in, he’s a beautiful dog. What breed is he?

“I never heard of a short-haired collie, but he does have that look about him. An intelligent dog, I can see that. He’d be welcome inside, don’t you worry.

“You are dry there? Where you’re sitting now, that big box tomb, that’s what I calls the glove-maker’s tomb. My grandmother used to make gloves for him. He would send his man round to the cottage to collect the gloves and pay Nan for them. All made at home they were, while she was bringing up the family.

“Good boy! He is well behaved. He would be welcome inside. I takes my little Sam in with me. He’s a little Jack Russell but he’s not with me today, he gets all over-excited if he goes on the bus. No, but he likes to come here and light a candle for Steve and Billy, my two other Jackies that he remembers. He comes in with me either sitting in my bag or else on the lead.

“The first time he came in we got told off but I told them he had every right to be there. He was giving thanks for his good health. When he was a pup he swallowed a fish-hook, playing with the children. The vet said that he wouldn’t pull round, but I came in here, said my prayer and lit my candle: and he got better. The Good Shepherd listened to me and he looked after Sam.

“He’ll listen to your Alfie, too. He is a beautiful dog and he’s welcome to come inside.

“Unless he’s a Catholic of course.

“He is? Oh really? Well, nice meeting you all but it’s time for my bus. Goodbye, now!”




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Wednesday 22nd June: I will search for the lost



Ezekiel 34:16 ‘I will search for the lost and bring back the strays’

Today’s Feast, commemorating the martyrdom of Saints Thomas More and John Fisher, causes us to think of a time when kings had almost unlimited power and would let nothing and no one stand in the way of what they wanted.

mercylogoThe Gospel presents us with a different view of a king, a king who called himself the ‘Good Shepherd’, whom he spoke of as putting himself in danger and enduring hunger, cold, etc. to hunt for and bring back – without chastising them – his lost sheep, by whom he meant his subjects.  Jesus was a King who cared about his subjects and their wellbeing, which he put before his own comfort.

With God in charge, we can rest secure – as the Psalmist said: ‘I will lie down in peace and sleep comes at once, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.’ (Psalm 3)

It is the responsibility of a king to show integrity, and of a human being to be true to the bond of friendship.  Christ the King is the model of human integrity, and even goes so far as to call us his friends.  Although we have sinned, gone astray, sought happiness elsewhere, God never stops seeking us, longing to show us His great mercy.  Following His example, may we have the grace to extend mercy and friendship to our fellow men and women, as God has shown mercy to us.



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March 8: Called to Imitate the Good Shepherd



We become what we eat. And we are called to imitate the Good Shepherd. With this in mind, I would like to appeal to you, dear reader, to spare a thought for how your meat, poultry, milk, cheese, butter, eggs, catfood, leather and so forth are produced. Unless you know otherwise, you can be sure they’re intensively farmed, which means produced in an apparatus ordered towards economies of scale and the maximisation of financial profit in which the creatures themselves are regarded as mere numbers. Welfare regulations notwithstanding, cruelty is endemic in such systems from the beginning of life to its end (see, e.g., www.ciwf.org.uk; http://www.animalaid.org.uk/h/n/CAMPAIGNS/slaughter/ALL) . The sentient creatures upon whom we depend so heavily are reduced to mere commodities for our convenience and the gratification of our appetites irrespective of the good. This attitude owes much to the adoption by the early Church of the anthropocentric utilitarianism of the Stoics but sits uneasily with our vocation to stewardship of the Earth and with the unity of all Creation. Life is a seamless garment, the gift of God who is One and whose face is Mercy, yet we presume to divide it and choose which parts we respect. So please, wherever possible, buy organic/free range. Doing so witnesses to our faith in the only terms the market understands. Organic/free range is not perfect, but it’s way better than the other alternatives. Besides, while it might be more expensive financially, since we become what we eat it’s less expensive spiritually.

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March 7: Leaves from a Martyr’s Journal

hnb.grafToday we celebrate the Feast of SS Perpetua and Felicity, martyred in Carthage on 7 March 203.  Perpetua left a journal describing her conversion, arrest and imprisonment, including four prophetic dreams she had whilst in prison. To it was appended a friend’s eyewitness account of her death. Perpetua was from a wealthy family but Felicity was a slave, thus their shared martyrdom signals Christianity’s revolutionary egalitarianism. In the first of her dreams Perpetua sees a ladder reaching up to heaven, made of bronze and hung with sharp weapons so that anyone climbing carelessly will be mangled. At its foot a great dragon waits to attack anyone who approaches. Warned not to let the dragon bite her, Perpetua replies, He will not harm me, in the name of Christ Jesus, and treading on the dragon’s head as her first step, she ascends.

Then I saw an immense garden, and in it a grey-haired man sat in shepherd’s garb; tall he was, and milking sheep. And standing around were many thousands of people clad in white garments. He raised his head, looked at me, and said: ‘I am glad you have come, my child.’ He called me over to him and gave me, as it were, a mouthful of the milk he was drawing; and I took it into my cupped hands and consumed it. And all those who stood around said: ‘Amen!’ At the  sound of this word I came to, with the taste of something sweet still in my mouth.


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Saturday 13th February: Follow the divine physician!

open hand

Isaiah 59: 9b-14; Psalm 83; Luke 5: 27-32.


mercylogoToday is the fourth day of our forty-day journey through the wilderness of Lent. Today, the prophet Isaiah tells us that God repays each one in kind. When we bless others, especially those who have spiritual, physical and material needs, God in turn blesses us.

When the Pharisees challenge Jesus’ behaviour in eating with public sinners, Jesus’ defence is very simple. A doctor doesn’t treat the healthy, but the sick. A true physician seeks the healing of the whole person- body, mind and spirit. Every one of us is sick in our own way, so Jesus is here for us. What are we waiting for? Let us go to Him as broken and fragile as we are for He will make us whole. Jesus came as a divine physician and as a good shepherd to care for us and restore us through Him to the Father.

St. Paul says all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). We need to thank the Lord for the great mercy that He has shown to us and endeavour to seek the good of all and show them mercy and kindness. If we give our bread to the hungry, and relief to the oppressed then our light will rise in the darkness. The Lord will always guide us and give us relief in desert places. We will be called ”breach-menders”. May we be ready, like Levi, to forsake all things to follow Christ, who calls us every day.

May we receive grace in this Year of Mercy so as to be merciful to ourselves and to our neighbours. May Our Lady Queen of Mercy pray for us. Amen.


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O, that you would tear the heavens open and come down



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From where we stand, the Cave is dark.

We wait in this valley of darkness; this night

of shadows and echoes from the past.


The Father is aware, but silent;

the Watchers are there, mute and still;

the Holy Ghost broods with quiet joy.


Moses is there in a cleft of the rock;

 Plato observes the images thrown on the wall

by the fire outside, near the sheep-fold.


In this silence and darkness is no threat,

for waiting there is right; without signs.

Mary has said her Fiat and it shall be.


 The door pushed open by the shepherds,

casts another shadow on the wall;

image of a cross, for pain is there before birth.


Then, at the breath of a new Creation

uttered by the Father, the Holy Ghost stirs;

 Jesus slips into the waiting world.

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The Father tears open the curtains of heaven,

 beside Himself with the weight of joy

at this first glimpse of His only Son,


Child, you shine at your birth, translucent

   with love of the Father, who sees even now, how

 the veil of the temple will be rent at your death.


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Shepherd’s Tale


A 21st Century Yorkshire Shepherd – with collie and quad bike – better clad but still out in the rain.

You wouldn’t have cared for the night-shift, I can tell you,

not at the year’s end,

with the wind

slashing your face and numbing your aching mind;

and the snow; the bitter reality of it

seeping through the traditional gear,

which was, to say the least, inadequate.

We had it to do, but I think you’d

back us up when we say we would have preferred

to stay at home, in bed with our warm wives,

and a good long sleep in front of us –

for choice.

You realise, I’m sure, that was before,

grumbling all together

in a huddle like the sheep;

before the instant of terror and the withering fear,

the shrapnel-shock, the streams of shell-light.

And when we dared to open our eyes to the skies’ blinding,

suddenly shattered out of our found senses

exploded into another world,

hurled on our ears the singing, singing heavens.

We soon moved off though some cynics were ready

to think we’d misunderstood.

But I knew when they said manger that’s what they meant.


Gathering the flock, near Embrun, France.

We went down into the town.

The party-goers coming home late thought we’d gone mad;

perhaps we had, but by then, there wasn’t a man

would have turned back.

You’ll be wondering how we felt when we knelt there

so near the baby and that young Mary?

Hard for a poor chap like me to express it really.

The light and the singing were gone;

just a smelly stable and the animals munching away.

A bit of an anti-climax in a way.

But you see we knew who it was there, sharing his bed

with the beasts, and we appreciated

our poverty after that;

after God had spoken his own Word

in our language

uncouth and poor. 


A Shepherd’s Tale seems fitting on the day we remember the Holy and Blissful Martyr, Thomas Archbishop of Canterbury, who laid down his life for his sheep on this evening in 1170 at Canterbury Cathedral.



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Christ the King VI

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They call this scene the Harrowing of Hell. When we say in the Creed, ‘he descended into Hell’, this is part of what we mean; Jesus, the Shepherd King, seeks out those that were lost, even after they have passed through the door of Death, the gates of Hell. And not just one lost sheep: he died for them all, he seeks out all.

Here Jesus leads Adam and Eve from Hell’s mouth, leaving behind the frustrated demons.  He has gone to find our parents who are his parents also; and here they are, restored to their noble state of naked innocence: in the prime of their lives, walking hand in hand with God, not touching the hem of his garment, but striding hand in hand: who is in loco parentis here?

He that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he hath let out his own sheep, he goeth before them: and the sheep follow him, because they know his voice.                                        

John 10:2-4.

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