Tag Archives: Grace

2 June: Praying with Pope Francis, For the abolition of torture.

We pray that the international community may commit 
in a concrete way 
to ensuring the abolition of torture 
and guarantee support to victims and their families.

People who have been tortured have to choose how to live when the active part of their ordeal is over. When we were new parents I used to take our baby to the antique and secondhand bookshop of Mr S for morning-long chats about this and that. The Other, rarely mentioned, was the tattooed number on his wrist.

John S had emigrated to Israel but eventually washed up at a rundown English seaside town, selling a few books, welcoming odd bods like me to sit around the fire, and getting by. Israel, for him, had become too bullying towards the Palestinian people living on the same patch of land.

Ensuring the abolition of torture is a big ask. It is underhand, a deed of darkness. It will need long-term, concerted action to come near this goal. Most of all it needs the grace of the Spirit to inspire governments to cease torture done in their name; to press governments to intervene with other nations where torture is practised; to encourage journalists and NGOs to tell the world about torture.

Let us pray that we may be men and women of peace, like John S: Come Holy Spirit, heal our wounds, our strength renew, on our dryness pour thy dew.


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26 May: Prayer to the Holy Spirit for the Synod.

Adsumus, Sancte Spiritus

We are approaching the Feast of Pentecost when the first Church gathered in the Upper Room and received the Holy Spirit with her ‘sevenfold gifts’. Let us pray at this time for the success of the Synod, using the Church’s ancient prayer.

Every session of the Second Vatican Council began with the prayer Adsumus Sancte Spiritus meaning, “We stand before You, Holy Spirit,” which has been used at Councils, Synods and other Church gatherings for hundreds of years. It is attributed to Saint Isidore of Seville (c. 560 – 4 April 636). As we
are called to follow the path of the Synod 2021-2023, this prayer invites the Holy Spirit to operate within us so that we may be a community and a people of grace.

We stand before You, Holy Spirit,
as we gather together in Your name.
With You alone to guide us,
make Yourself at home in our hearts;
Teach us the way we must go
and how we are to pursue it.
We are weak and sinful;
do not let us promote disorder.
Do not let ignorance lead us down the wrong path
nor partiality influence our actions.
Let us find in You our unity
so that we may journey together to eternal life
and not stray from the way of truth
and what is right.
All this we ask of You,
who are at work in every place and time,
in the communion of the Father and the Son,
forever and ever. Amen.

Window, Saint Aloysius, Somers Town, London, England.

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20 May: Our Blessed Lady’s Lullaby, V: the fairest son to see.

Chichester Cathedral

Mary’s thoughts in this section of the poem are a carol based on the infancy narratives in the Gospels.

The shepherds left their keeping sheep,
For joy to see my lamb;
How may I more rejoice to see
Myself to be the dam.

Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
Sing, lullaby, my lives joy.

Three kings their treasures hither brought
Of incense, myrrh, and gold;
The heaven s treasure and the king
That here they might behold.

Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
Sing, lullaby, my lives joy.

One sort an angel did direct,
A star did guide the other,
And all the fairest son to see
That ever had a mother.

Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
Sing, lullaby, my lives joy.

This sight I see, this child I have,
This infant I embrace,
O endless comfort of the earth,
And heaven’s eternal grace.

Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
Sing, lullaby, my lives joy.

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19 May, Our Blessed Lady’s Lullaby, IV: my heart embraced.

Mary and child, St Mildred, Canterbury.

‘A princely palace’ even in the base bower of the stable, because the Prince of Peace is there.

The earth is now a heaven become,
And this base bower of mine,
A princely palace unto me,
My son doth make to shine.

Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
Sing, lullaby, my lives joy.

His sight gives clearness to my sight,
When waking I him see,
And sleeping, his mild countenance
Gives favour unto me.

Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
Sing, lullaby, my lives joy.

When I him in mine arms embrace,
I feel my heart embraced,
Even by the inward grace of his,
Which he in me hath placed.

Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
Sing, lullaby, my lives joy.

And when I kiss his loving lips,
Then his sweet-smelling breath
Doth yield a savour to my soul,
That feeds love, hope, and faith.

Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
Sing, lullaby, my lives joy.

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6 May: the Coronation of King Charles III

All manner of trivial stories have been aired regarding today’s Coronation of King Charles III. Who has not been invited, who has declined their invitation? How were the representatives of the British public in the Abbey chosen? Why is the procession route shorter than last time? (It poured with rain and the Queen of Tonga was not the only one who got drenched.) Do duchesses have to wear tiaras? How much will that souvenir be worth at King Charles’s Silver Jubilee? (Not a lot.) 

This Coronation will be watched live by untold millions of people; in 1953 it was recorded on film and flown to the Dominions with all possible speed. Few people in Britain had television but we watched on a big screen in the Co-op hall, the first TV programme I remember. It was an event that brought people together across the world but laboriously compared to today’s instant global transmission. 

What is this event all about? We had Queen Elizabeth’s funeral last year, with the funeral march from Beethoven’s 3rd symphony still earworming in my head. Not everything can be expressed in words. The music for the coronation will be different; King Charles has commissioned 12 works from British and Commonwealth composers to go with Handel who gave us, ‘Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anointed Solomon king: and all the people rejoiced.’ With such music we are invited, almost compelled to rejoice, 3,000 years after Solomon, when Charles is anointed king.

We rejoice because, by the crazy workings of the hereditary system, we have a king who is one like us, imperfect, a sinner, but – by the grace of God – leader, representative, voice of the people. 

When he visits a school, factory, ship, railway or bus station, theatre, clinic, hospital, theatre or bridge, he is in loco populi, standing in for the people. A friend who accompanied a spouse to an investiture at Buckingham Palace remembers the event as ‘a moment of national affirmation’. The King represents the best of us, that in us that rejoices to see human flourishing. He also represents God’s goodness, blessing the work he is visiting, blessing the teams doing the work, those who benefit from the work.

The people of Israel wanted a king, to be like other nations. Now we have one because a written part of our unwritten Constitution says so. We can wish him well and pray: 

Almighty God, our heavenly Father,

bless Charles our King,

whose Coronation we now celebrate.

Help him to fulfil his responsibilities,

that by his influence

he may maintain unity, goodwill and peace

among his peoples

and that persevering in good works to the end,

he may, by your mercy, come to your everlasting kingdom;

through Jesus Christ our Lord,

who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.


A Prayer for Coronation Day

Eternal God, 

You order and govern our world and all that is therein, 

bless, we pray, Charles and Camilla today 

as they are crowned and anointed, 

that amid the pomp and ritual, 

they may feel your loving presence, 

that they may fulfil the roles prescribed for them, 

and that we may, in this kingdom, be better governed, 

and always reminded of your eternal Kingdom which is to come.  Amen. 

Prayers from the Church in Wales and United Reformed Church.

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2 May, Francis on Joseph I: A beloved father

Image from C.D.

1. A beloved father: Pope Francis tells how Joseph was devoted to Jesus and Mary and is ready to pray for us.

The greatness of Saint Joseph is that he was the spouse of Mary and the father of Jesus. In this way, he placed himself, in the words of Saint John Chrysostom, “at the service of the entire plan of salvation”.[7]

Saint Paul VI pointed out that Joseph concretely expressed his fatherhood “by making his life a sacrificial service to the mystery of the incarnation and its redemptive purpose. He employed his legal authority over the Holy Family to devote himself completely to them in his life and work. He turned his human vocation to domestic love into a superhuman oblation of himself, his heart and all his abilities, a love placed at the service of the Messiah who was growing to maturity in his home”.[8]

Popular trust in Saint Joseph is seen in the expression “Go to Joseph”, which evokes the famine in Egypt, when the Egyptians begged Pharaoh for bread. He in turn replied: “Go to Joseph; what he says to you, do” (Gen 41:55). Pharaoh was referring to Joseph the son of Jacob, who was sold into slavery because of the jealousy of his brothers (cf. Genesis 37:11-28) and who – according to the biblical account – subsequently became viceroy of Egypt (cf. Genesis 41:41-44).

As a descendant of David (cf. Mt 1:16-20), from whose stock Jesus was to spring according to the promise made to David by the prophet Nathan (cf. 2 Samuel 7), and as the spouse of Mary of Nazareth, Saint Joseph stands at the crossroads between the Old and New Testaments.

At the crossroads: each one of us has crossroads moments in our lives. Let’s pray to Our Father that he will give us supernatural grace when we are called to be superheroes for our loved ones.

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14 March: Lenten Pilgrim X: The Accidental Pilgrim.

This poster from Saint David’s Cathedral welcomes the ‘Accidental Pilgrim’. Let us reflect on the times we have become that accidental pilgrim, when a place or person spoke to us unexpectedly. Saint David’s is one of those ‘thin places’ where eternity can feel closer, if not at the Cathedral then by Saint Non’s chapel and well, along the coastal path, or the foundations of the Celtic monastery at Whitesands. The last mile into Canterbury, likewise is downhill from Harbledown with its holy well.

Where will your pilgrimage shrine be today? Are you on holiday? Make space for a holy five minutes. Notice and seize the moment of grace and be sure to reflect in quiet later.

Apologies for the poor focus, especially on the Welsh language leaf! I shall have to go back and retake the photo.

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6 March, Lenten Pilgrimage III: Bring us into your haven.

Give us the mind of Jesus,
something of his brave heart, 
as we sail over the waters of experience.
And days of sunshine.
And favouring winds.
And stars to be our guide when the sun is set.

Yet this is but half our asking.
Lord of pity, 
when trouble rises, as a storm,
turning our trust to fear,
bring us into the quiet place of thy presence
and be our haven.

From Hebridean Altars by Alistair Maclean.

Wherever we are, let us follow the guidance of a star as surely as the fisherman away up in the islands. Let us pray for the grace to be quiet in God's haven, letting him turn our fears into trust.

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News from the African Synod Assembly

Visit addisababa.synod2023.org for more news
Photos available here
The African bishops and other representatives of the African Church are meeting in Addis Abeba, capital of Ethiopia, where Christianity has been alive for longer than in most of Europe.

The African way of ‘walking together’ 
The Synodal Continental Assembly for Africa opened this morning in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) with the Holy Mass presided by Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, Archbishop of Luxembourg and Relator General of the XVI General Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, who reminded that “Synod is not about power. It is not about democracy. It is about the Holy Spirit. It is about a Church which is open to the world. Its mission is to all humanity. It is a Church which knows how to pray. It is a Church in line with the Holy Spirit” (more on his homily here).
The four-day event under the theme: “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission” has gathered 206 participants from across the continent all determined to deliver a document that will represent the true voice of Africa. Among them are nine cardinals, 29 bishops, and 41 priests. The rest are consecrated people and lay people including women, men, and the youth, and representatives of the other faith.
The meeting is being presided by Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo, the newly elected President of the Symposium of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), and attended also by Cardinal Mario Grech, Secretary General of the Synod.
The morning session started with a welcoming address by the SECAM Secretary General, Fr. Rafael Simbine Junior, who urged participants to share the African experience of the Synod on Synodality (more on his address here).

For his part Bishop Lúcio Muandula, SECAM’s first Vice President introducing works through a time of prayer has invited participants “to listen to each other about what the Holy Spirit is commanding the Church Family of God in Africa in order to start a new era of evangelization” (more on his address here).
Work proceeded with the presentation of the «spiritual conversation” method by Fr Giacomo a Consultor of the General Secretariat of the Synod (more on his address here).
The opening ceremony which was scheduled for the morning hours had to be rescheduled to the afternoon hours due to a road blockade that drastically slowed traffic flow in the city of Addis Ababa curtailing delegates’ movement to the venue- as the country celebrated the Adwa Victory Day.

In his greetings to the plenary President of the Ethiopian Bishops’ Conference Cardinal Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel make a call “to listen deeply to the voice of the Holy Spirit and to listen to each other to be instruments of peace”.

The Apostolic Nuncio to Ethiopia  Bishop Antoine Camilleri reminded that “Walking together, which is part of continuity, does not exclude discontinuity, especially for a Church which concerned by paying particular attention to everyone, even beyond the divisions that our societies live and in which we learn to listen to each other. This is why synodality means solidarity, mutual support, attention to others… Therefore, it is not a new structure of the Church: it is a matter of doing   things which have always been done, but in a renewed way inspired by the Gospel” (more on his address here)

Cardinal Fridolin Cardinal Ambongo, SECAM President, expressed gratitude to the Holy Father for this pastoral initiative to call the whole Catholic Church to rediscover the precious value of synodality. “This synodal process, under the sign of communion, participation and mission, constitutes a time of grace and a great moment of ecclesial communion for the Church”, he said, and proceeded “this synodal process confirms the Church’s way of doing things in Africa. Indeed, rooted in African anthropological principles, especially palaver, Ubuntu and Ujamaa, which emphasize community spirit, a sense of family, teamwork, solidarity and conviviality, the Catholic Church in Africa has grown as a Family of God”.

The meeting was also attended by Dr. Monique Nsanzabaganwa, Deputy Chair African Union who represented the Secretary General of the African Union, Dr. Moussa Faki Mahamat. She said that “Synodality is an essential principle of the Catholic Church and its relevance extends beyond religious institutions. Synodality emphasizes the importance of inclusivity and dialogue in decision-making processes. It also has the potential to contribute to addressing the various challenges of the African continent” (more on his address here).
In his greetings, Cardinal Mario Grech, told the participants that “the Church in Africa, Madagascar and the Islands possesses significant resources to contribute to the Universal Church engaged in this process of synodality. An African theology of synodality – he noted – could be a lasting contribution to the development of a synodal church in the Third Millennium”. And he pointed out “when I refer to your distinctive African theology, I’m referring not only to the valid contribution that academics can offer but also to the theology elaborated by the entire people of God considering that the holy people of God are the subject of the theological and pastoral discernment – the holy people of God is the protagonist of this Synodal process. If we need to make theology we must listen to the people of God, even to the people of God in the African continent” (more on his address here).
In tomorrow’s working session, participants will deepen the practice of the spiritual conversation method. A new release will be issued at the end of the day.

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25 February: The Open-handed Missionary III

A teenage girl I used to work with was prone to slashing her arms, but soon after conceiving her daughter she told me, ‘I don’t need that now I’ve got my baby.’ Is it oversimplifying matters to say that loving her baby gave her the freedom to be herself, to love herself? From the way she has surmounted major difficulties since then, I would say that the process of maternal service has indeed enabled her to become a more complete human being.

She is not a churchgoer, but she ponders these things in her heart. Her mustard seed faith enables her to deal with her second daughter’s disability and all the operations that will entail. I take comfort from Pope Francis’s reading of the Angelical Doctor:

37. Saint Thomas Aquinas taught that … What counts above all else is “faith working through love” (Gal 5:6). Works of love directed to one’s neighbour are the most perfect external manifestation of the interior grace of the Spirit: “The foundation of the New Law is in the grace of the Holy Spirit, who is manifested in the faith which works through love”.

My young friend’s unofficial faith works through love: she is not far from the Kingdom of God. That is what Jesus told the Scribe when discussing the two greatest commandments, love of God and love of neighbour.

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