Tag Archives: growth

25 March: The Annunciation of our Lord.

A poem for the Feast of the Annunciation, from Sheila Billingsley, mother in the days before scans and ultrasound, and now grandmother and great-grandmother – and poet.

 

And the Word … 

Sitting before the scan,

An embryo great-grandchild.

Fitting so safely, so securely.

What are you feeling ?

What are you hearing ?

Did you hear your mother singing ?

Her laughter ?

Did you feel in your enveloping nest,

Her touch as she moved ?

The warmth of your sun ?

The deepening silence of your night ?

Oh! Minute yet transparent child,

Complete

With those predestined hands and feet ?

And later, did you feel joy

In your growing infantile strength,

Those fingers that would touch and heal ?

Your limbs so weak, so strong, the skin so soft.

Until the womb could no longer hold you.

Did you hear your angel voices that night ?

Feel your winter’s chill ?

The hands that held you, wrapped you, touched you …

Oh, but your eyes

Opening tentatively in the dim light,

Your eyes, did they seek

The eyes that sought for yours ?

 

 

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3 March: Margaret’s Story – as shared by L’Arche Flintshire.

‘I’ve been a part of the Community in Flintshire for a long time. For the last few years I have represented Flintshire on the L’Arche National Speaking Council. This means that occasionally I get to go off to meet up with other Communities and report back what I find out to the group here in Flintshire. 

Two years ago I went to Belgium on an inclusion course and performed a short presentation. From that I got to go to Belfast for the international [L’Arche] gathering. I came up with a workshop for about twelve people. [They were] all my ideas. We played ‘we’re going on a bear hunt’ but instead it was ‘we’re going on a house hunt’ and it was about all the places I’ve been to with L’Arche.

I’ve really enjoyed getting to meet and know people from the other Communities. I’ve had lots of invitations from people to come and visit– I haven’t managed to go to them all yet, but I’m hoping to. I love L’Arche.

Before L’Arche I was very quiet, although I bet everyone would probably disagree. It’s given me a lot of confidence in myself. I’m a different person. It’s helped me through so much.

L’Arche gives us a chance to feel part of a community. We help each other to grow. We are a friendly group. If we have any sadness or any happiness we all stick together as one. We just lost one of our core members, but everybody is sticking together. We all brought each other up from that.

L’Arche offers the world an awful lot of things. With Jean Vanier doing what he did – just taking two people into his home and from then all of a sudden you go from one Community to 135. It’s a brilliant worldwide thing that we are all in one boat. It doesn’t matter where we come from. We are all one in the boat.’

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5 February. From the Franciscans of Zimbabwe VI: Understand what I feel!

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Another view of Franciscan formation comes from Novice Brother Karabo Emmanuel Leballo.

Pax et Bonum! (Peace and Goodness).

Religious life has always been shaped by a profound realization of the mystery of God and by evaluation of the reality of the times. Throughout the ages, Christ, the Son of God has walked among us and has exercised a real and absolute claim on the lives of human beings. Today, as yesterday and tomorrow, Jesus attracts young men and women inviting them to follow him.

I write this article as a Franciscan Novice who is embracing a vocation to consecrated life. What this means for me is that my life should embrace penance and repentance which St Francis of Assisi expresses as a life of perfect joy.

To be a follower of St Francis can be joyous but very demanding, as it is centred on the values of prayer, fraternity, evangelisation, minority and work. This life becomes meaningful when it is believed, acted and shared. After all, this is a vocation to religious life as Thomas Aquinas explains that “religious life, being founded on Christ’s own advice is a better way to life. And therefore, he says, if someone wants to enter religious life (has a good intention) and does not have any definite obstacles then he should go for it. At first one makes a personal discernment and after there is an approval by the church authorities.

God does not call us to holiness simply as individuals but as members of the church, the mystical body of Christ. It is not suddenly expected that those who enter into religious life will be immediately perfect. What is required is for them to tend to perfection and to embrace the means of growing in perfection. A true vocation is nothing other than a firm and constant will in the one who has been called to serve God in accordance with divine majesty.

Novices on pilgrimage

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16 January 2019: ‘January’.

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Sure as new snow,
below,
believe green leaves hide.

Sure as grey skies
we rise
when first they are spied.

Sharp tips awake:
hearts break –
a pain strange and wide,

as hard earth’s pierced
by fierce
green growth from inside.

As sure as ice
new life’s
leaf shoves death aside.

Sure as chill fear
God’s near:
deep down death’s defied.

SJC

‘Deep down death’s defied.’ Thank you Sister Johanna!

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28 October: Challenges can be productive.

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Challenges can be productive. When I was working with 17 year olds with emotional and learning disabilities we introduced a sticker and reward system, tied to an end of week assembly. Stickers earned chocolate bars, for staff as well as students.

Keith was away when we started the scheme, and stood out against it for a fortnight after his return, branding it ‘babyish’.

His participation followed a number of episodes when we had to challenge his behaviour, while his colleagues were being rewarded for theirs. We said that we expected him to be setting an example of adult behaviour to the others. We reminded him of the loyalty cards and rewards offered by shops and restaurants around the town, which plenty of adults were prepared to accept.

Keith challenged us to think the scheme through and justify it to him as something for adults, not simply childish patronising. We challenged him to stand back and look at his own behaviour and how he wanted to be seen – as one of the group or a perpetual outsider? On many levels he was justified in feeling angry at being sent to a boarding school, miles from home, but every other student was in the same boat. School was not forever. Could he live the rest of his life in perpetual conflict? I hope he has found a way not to!

MMB

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October 22,What is theology Saying? XXIV, Original Sin 3.

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Why are we here? What are we like? What are we here for? Karl Rahner’s explorations went much further, by showing that God is an essential part of our lives and we are all related, whether we realise it or not. God is at the core of every aspect of our experiencing. We are never satisfied. We never reach a point where we know all that there is to know or experience all that there is to experience because we are always open to newer and more fulfilling experiences. Our thirst for knowledge and new experiences is never quenched.

We can always go beyond what we know. But we need to remember that this transcendence includes our knowledge of the finite; we go beyond every finite object thanks to our openness to the infinite, in order to recognise a limit, we must transcend it. Imagine the fence around an area. You might think that when you reach that fence, you don’t need to go beyond it to recognise it as a limit. On a physical level, you’re right. However, in thought you’ve already transcended the fence. You’ve realised that there’s something beyond it but that you can’t go beyond it. In the same way, though we can only take hold of the finite, we aspire to the infinite. In supposing that we’re limited by a finite horizon of questioning, we go beyond this and experience ourselves as able to transcend. So, the fact that we know the finite requires the existence of an infinite.

Original Sin shows us to ourselves. It is natural to assume that my desires are mine! This presumes that I am me before I decide to desire; whereas my desires make me. Something is triggered in me when I experience another person desiring something. I too can begin to desire like this. Eventually and inevitably this leads to rivalry – mine’s better… and then I am set against the other, which is how I experience me as different. This rivalry is simply me against you, the way I establish myself.

Desire has become my desire and what makes it mine is that it is not yours! Some call it friendly rivalry, or competitive spirit. In fact the “me” that is now opposed to the not me is the product of my desiring. Much time and energy is spent on fostering and preserving this artificial self; whereas, as we discover from the Incarnation, real self is total gift. My own sense of self is me in contrast to you, whereas my real self sees other as total gift to me.

Society becomes possible through imitation by keeping humans together while forming individuals psychologically. The infant imitates the adult, reproducing what the adult does; there is no me in the infant independent of the model that fashions it. The adult plays with a toy to get the infant to do the same; eventually this will lead to desire, which tends to detach us from the model and seeks autonomy.

However, much more than imitation is needed to make me. This results in my wanting to be who the other is. This in turn can lead to an unequal rivalry. Rivalry tends to be resolved by the exclusion of the victim, asserting my emerging self against the other. It is the tension set up between my sense of being as given, and my acquiring of it by more or less violent means that is at the heart of theology of Original Sin.

AMcC

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October 21. What is Theology Saying? XXXIV: My “me” is dependent on desires.

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The fact that my way is illusory means that it cannot be natural, a mistake cannot be of the essence of anything. That this is world-wide and world-old cannot make it natural. Revelation has something to tell us about living together; and we must avoid supposing an autonomy of social science, which forgets that modern social theory is formulated specifically against theology. It shares the same illusion of seeing reality as setting one against another. As a consequence of faith in the Incarnation, we receive the awareness that self-awareness comes from seeing self as total gift – no rivalry, as each one is unique.

Why does the infant struggle to repeat words and sounds; a process we take for granted? It isn’t automatic [and often missing in the Autistic]. This pull we feel confronting us as gravity is for the planets. It is a call to imitate, it is repetitive learning. We move into adult life through relating and, like gravity, such imitating both attracts and repels. We are attracted and we imitate, but eventually imitation leads to rivalry, using the same model differently. Our model is now our rival through whom we define ourselves against.

We imitate not just what the model looks like – but also what he/she has; it is this moving towards an object other than the model that we call desire. It pulls us away from the model into a kind of autonomy. But something more is required to fashion me. This involves focussing on the model as being – wanting to be who the model is. It is this imitating that eventually leads to rivalry: an impossible rivalry. Rivalry is resolved by exclusion or marginalising the victim – asserting individual self over the self of the other – I establish me through many victories gained in this way.

Does this mean we are all victimisers? The sense of self is always given – not acquired. It is the tension set in place by my sense of self as given, and as self acquired by violent means – this is the essence of Original Sin. My sense of self is unstable, changeable, other-dependent – the other who is there before me. My “me” is dependent on the desires that gave rise to it. Christian scholars understood the way in which humans relate to God in terms of where we come from, where we are going and how to get there.

AMcC

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14 October: Make Obedience Sweet! John XXIII

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John may have been the pope who began to modernise the Church but he was still using what sounds like archaic language in this passage from Il Tiempo Massimo, on Obedience. But we should still get the message!

Here We address Ourself to those who have duties of direction and responsibility.

Demand a most generous obedience to the rules, but also be understanding of your fellow Sisters. Favor in each of them the development of natural aptitudes. The office of superiors is to make obedience sweet and not to obtain an exterior respect, still less to impose unbearable burdens.

Beloved daughters, We exhort all of you, live according to the spirit of this virtue, which is nourished by deep humility, by absolute disinterestedness and by complete detachment. When obedience has become the program of one’s whole life, one can understand the words of St. Catherine of Siena: “How sweet and glorious is this virtue in which all the other virtues are contained! Oh, obedience, you navigate without effort or danger and reach port safely! You conform to the only-begotten Word . . . you mount the ship of the most holy Cross to sustain the obedience of the Word, to not transgress it or depart from its teachings . . . you are great in unfailing perseverance, and so great is your strength from heaven to earth that you open heaven’s gates” (Dialogue, ch. 155.).

 

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October 10, Traherne XI: His desire is yours.

 

O the nobility of Divine Friendship ! Are not all His treasures yours, and yours His? Is not your very Soul and Body His : is not His life and felicity yours : is not His desire yours? Is not His will yours?

And if His will be yours, the accomplishment of it is yours, and the end of all is your perfection.

You are infinitely rich as He is : being pleased in everything as He is. And if His will be yours, yours is His. For you will what He willeth, which is to be truly wise and good and holy. And when you delight in the same reasons that moved Him to will, you will know it.

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Though perhaps you will know that delight without having the words to express it in Christian language as Thomas Traherne does here. Laudato Si!

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30 August: Gardeners’ Union

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I think most gardeners would line up with the one in Christ’s parable of the barren fig tree:

A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung itAnd if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down. 

Luke 13: 6-9

Four years ago that  I rescued this bench from being demolished by a willow tree falling across it.

Now, the bench would be sittable-on, were it not for the weeds, and the willow is doing its job as part of an informal hedge against the field behind and above it. A change of crop in the field beyond, and fewer rainstorms,  may both have contributed to its not being further undermined, but those vertical shoots are still vertical and almost thick enough to become fence posts if needed.

A good spot to curl up with a book, especially if you bring a scythe along with you!

And a job well done, if I say so myself.

But what happened to the fig tree, I wonder? I can’t help feeling that a few vigorous shoots would spring up from the base – as happened when I had to take out a fig some years back – and it would be inspired to fruit again. Maybe I could use some summer pruning before I enter my autumnal years?

WT

 

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