This month Pope Francis invites us to pray For victims of abuse
We pray for those who have suffered harm from members of the Church;
may they find within the Church herself
a concrete response to their pain and suffering.
We could pray also for all those who accompany survivors of abuse, for however few or however many steps they take together on the long climb out of the pit of suffering. We pray as well for those whose listening and research has guided counsellors in their work, and all who support the carers.
As we join with other Christians around the world for the Week of Prayer we pray that our hearts will be open to see and hear the many ways in which racism continues to destroy lives, and to discern the steps we can take as individuals and communities to heal the hurts and build a better future for everyone.
Day 8 Restoring hope through the work of justice
In facing up to the harm caused by racial injustice, we hold before us the promise of God’s love and the healing of relationships. The Prophet Isaiah speaks of God gathering and comforting all people who have been lost and have experienced suffering. In the Magnificat, Mary reminds us that God never abandons us and that God’s promise to us is fulfilled in justice.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the murder of Stephen Lawrence. Stephen was a young man growing up in south-east London with big dreams for his future. His life was tragically cut short when, on 22 April 1993, he was murdered in an unprovoked racist attack. The pain of his family and the wider community was compounded by serious failings in the investigation of this crime, which were later exposed in the Macpherson Report. In his memory a foundation has been established to support and inspire young people to have a bright future. Stephen’s mother, (Baroness) Doreen Lawrence, says of this work:
“Justice for Stephen is about all of us, every one of us, in society having justice. There are still too many young people who do not have a sense of hope, who just don’t get the chance to live their dreams. I want all our children and young people to feel inspired, be confident and have hope in their own future. We are building hope, but there is more to do.”
It is easy to feel hopeless as we are time and again reminded that we live in a fractured society that does not fully recognise, honour, and protect the human dignity and freedom of all human beings. An alignment of love of God, love of all our human family and love of justice are deeply needed for hope and healing. God calls us to continually live into hope, trusting that God will be with us in the midst of our individual and communal liminal space – on the threshold of what has been and what is, while yearning for what is yet to be.
Fr Bryan Massingale, one of the world’s leading Catholic social ethicists and scholars in racial justice, reminds us of his hope and challenge:
“Social life is made by human beings.
The society we live in is the result of human choices and decisions.
This means that human beings can change things.
What humans break, divide and separate,
we can with God’s help,also heal, unite and restore.
What is now does not have to be.
Therein lies the hope and the challenge.”
Creator God, please teach us to go inward
to be grounded in your loving spirit
so we can go outward in wisdom and courage
to always choose the path of love and justice.
Many of the global protests that took place after George Floyd’s killing were led by young people, some of whom were connected to the Church. How can we use their ardour for racial justice to bring about change in the Church?
What substantive actions should have taken place after Stephen Lawrence’s killing? Why do you think they did not occur?
How did you respond to the killings of Stephen Lawrence and/or George Floyd? How have these tragedies encouraged you to take a greater interest in racial justice?
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is traditionally observed from the 18th to the 25th January – the octave of St. Peter and St. Paul. However, some areas observe it at Pentecost or some other time.
For this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity we are guided by the churches of Minneapolis as we seek to explore how the work of Christian unity can contribute to the promotion of racial justice across all levels of society. Through this resource, the CTBI* writers’ group has also focussed our attention on the 30th anniversary of the murder of Stephen Lawrence, which we mark in 2023. The work of restoring hope through justice undertaken in Stephen’s memory continues to inspire and change lives for the better.
The murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis in May 2020 was described as a watershed moment. There was a sense that the global wave of solidarity that brought people out onto the streets during a pandemic would make it impossible to ignore the deadly consequences of institutional racism and the power imbalances that deny human dignity.
Yet with each passing year we see continued evidence that, across the world, the powerful institutions of the state continue to treat people differently based on race, ethnicity and other facets of identity that are protected in legislation. Those who live in fear are still waiting for their watershed moment.
Despite the heightened awareness of the nature and consequences of racism in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement there is a persistent resistance to dialogue about issues of power and privilege, exclusion and alienation in society. Christians bring to this dialogue a vision of reconciliation grounded in mercy and faithfulness, justice and peace, from which we draw hope for the healing of relationships.
For this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity we are guided by the churches of Minneapolis as we seek to explore how the work of Christian unity can contribute to the promotion of racial justice across all levels of society. Through this resource, the CTBI writers’ group has also focussed our attention on the 30th anniversary of the murder of Stephen Lawrence, which we mark this year. The work of restoring hope through justice undertaken in Stephen’s memory continues to inspire and change lives for the better.
As we join with other Christians around the world for this year’s Week of Prayer we pray that our hearts will be open to see and hear the many ways in which racism continues to destroy lives, and to discern the steps we can take as individuals and communities to heal the hurts and build a better future for everyone.
Dr Nicola Brady, General Secretary, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland
We will be observing each day of the octave here at Agnellus Mirror.
I went back to the University of Kent last Sunday to celebrate a requiem for Fr Tom with the students. There was a good attendance and we sang ‘Amazing Grace’ – one of Tom’s favourites.
I announced the details of the funeral Mass and I think some students will attend. Unfortunately I am committed to celebrating at Southwark Cathedral that morning.
I will, though, be present for The Reception the previous night.
Fr Peter Geldard, University of Kent Catholic Chaplain, 1996-2018
Today’s extract from the Wisdom of Fr Tom is from two years ago in Advent. The previous day’s posting had been about arrangements for Advent and Christmas in Local Anglican parishes, where, when and how to hear the Word – and of course, the carols, which were recorded elsewhere before lockdown. Lord that I may see!
Tree of Life window, former Franciscan International Study Centre, Canterbury, which was also the meeting place for Kent University Catholic Chaplaincy.
Yesterday was about hearing, today we are seeing hopefully. Or should I say seeing, hopefully. I’m not talking about taking note of the raindrops and kittens that we see, but about the sense of sight.
I’ve been blessed lately with two cataract operations, and sight is suddenly not to be taken for granted. Suddenly, all is Technicolor, or as my friend Winfried would have argued, Agfacolor. He favoured the German films and prints; we disagreed about the red end of the spectrum.
Seeing hopefully: this new lease of life for my eyes inspires hope. Not quite Mine eyes have seen the coming of the glory of the Lord, but a promise that if human co-operation with creation through science can enlighten my little world, there may be better things to come.
Winfried told me that the German for a cataract in the eye translates as grey star; not a star you would want to follow.
So, I told Fr Tom Herbst (TJH in Agnellus’ Mirror) as well, soon after the first op when one eye was still under the grey star. ‘I imagine’, he said, ‘you can well relate to the ecstasy felt by the blind folks healed by Jesus!!!’
I didn’t need him to point that out, but I was glad he did. I offered this progress report: ‘Till the second eye is done it’s a mixture of ecstasy and ‘I see trees walking’. (Mark 8:24) I hope by next week the eyes will be co-ordinating freely and I’ll recognise more people!’
Tom replied, ‘Good luck with the op. As marvellous as it might be to see trees walking (other than Ents, of course, which are not technically trees), it seems recognition might be the better choice!’
Pray that we may recognise the star we are called to follow this Advent and Christmas. It may all be a little different this year!
Congratulations to Lichfield Cathedral on its award for caring for our home planet!
We’ll let them tell the story which follows naturally our short Franciscan season.
Lichfield Cathedral has been presented with its Silver Eco Church Award.
Lichfield Cathedral won the Bronze Award in 2021 and is working hard to achieve the Gold Eco Church Award.The Cathedral also received A Rocha UK’s Partner in Action Certificate in Environmental Excellence. This certificate acknowledges the Cathedral’s dedication to protecting and enhancing species and habitats, engaging the cathedral community in caring for the land, and developing a sustainable, low carbon approach to energy, food, and water use.
The Revd Canon Dr David Primrose said, “we are on a journey from Bronze to Gold. Tasks ahead include robust action plans to reduce our carbon footprint, and improved communications and engagement with others. There is a growing awareness of the connections between loss of biodiversity, the climate crisis, rising energy prices, and the cost of living.As a Healthy Healing Hub, we know the links between care for creation, the common good, and the wellbeing of those who are vulnerable.”
Pope Francis invites us this month to pray for children: We pray for children who are suffering, especially those who are homeless, orphans, and victims of war; may they be guaranteed access to education and the opportunity to experience family affection.
After years of working with distressed children I could add to Pope Francis’s list: children who are abused or neglected, living with their parents’ addictions, excluded from school for the safety of others, mentally ill, depressed, or simply poor. Here is a prayer we might use or adapt to join the Pope’s invitation.
Prayer for Healing and Reconciliation
Praise to you Father of our Lord Jesus Christ the source of all consolation and hope. Be the refuge and guardian of all who suffer from abuse and violence. Comfort them and send healing for their wounds of the body, soul and spirit. Help us all and make us one with you in your love for justice as we deepen our respect for the dignity of every human life. Giver of peace, make us one in celebrating your praise, both now and forever. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
All the ‘Little Flowers’ that follow concern events in the last two years of Francis’s life. As this one opens, he is travelling from Mount Alvernia, where he had received the stigmata, back to Assisi, a weakened man. We first read of his encounters on the road, he had to travel in easy stages and might have been forgiven for keeping himself to himself; it did not happen.
Saint Francis went to Città di Castello; and behold, many of the citizens brought to him a woman, who had been possessed of a devil for a long time, and humbly besought him for her deliverance; because, with her dolorous howlings and cruel shrieks and dog-like barkings, she disturbed all the neighbourhood. Then Saint Francis, having first prayed and made over her the sign of the most holy Cross, commanded the demon to depart from her; and he straightway departed, leaving her sane in body and in mind.
And, when this miracle was noised abroad among the people, another woman with great faith brought to him her sick child, who was afflicted with a cruel sore, and besought him devoutly that he would be pleased to make the sign of the Cross upon him with his hands.
Then Saint Francis gave ear unto her prayer, and took the child and loosed the bandage from off his sore and blessed him, making the sign of the most holy Cross over the sore three times, and thereafter with his own hands he replaced the bandage, and gave him back to his mother; and, because it was evening, she forthwith laid him on the bed to sleep.
Thereafter, in the morning, she went to take her child from the bed, and found the bandage unloosed, and looked and saw that he was as perfectly whole as if he had never had any sickness at all; save only that, in the place where the sore had been, the flesh had grown over after the manner of a red rose; and that rather in testimony of the miracle than as a scar left by the sore; because the said rose, remaining during the whole of his lifetime, often moved him to devotion toward Saint Francis who had healed him.
In that city, then, Saint Francis sojourned for a month, at the prayer of the devout citizens, in the which time he wrought many other miracles.
Health was precarious in those days. We should be as grateful as these good people for safe drugs, sterile equipment and the unprecedented blessings of modern surgery and nursing care, never taking these gifts for granted.
We have come to the final element in the encounter between the rich young man and Jesus (Mark 10:17-22). It is significant that Jesus, despite – or because of – his love for the young man, does not make an exception for him, does not say, ‘Okay. I like you. I’ll make you a deal. You can keep all your wealth in reserve somewhere. Follow me anyway.’ No. Following Jesus and hoarding wealth are diametrically opposed. The poor have a claim on our material prosperity, according to Jesus (Mk 10: 21). A complete life-change must be undertaken by the wealthy that accommodates itself to others’ needs before a life lived with Jesus can be undertaken.
So: it looks pretty bad for the rich young man, whom I, too, have now begun to love. In losing Jesus he loses everything worth having, and his previously easy life suddenly becomes drenched in sorrow. Mark tells us that his face falls and he ‘goes away sad.’ I am certain that this is true.
But I still wonder: is it as bad as it looks for the rich young man? Is everything really over for him? I think of him reflecting on what he experienced with Jesus. He will not forget this encounter. He will remember it to the end of his life. And this may be his salvation.
Some final thoughts begin to take shape in my mind as I mentally say good-bye to a much-loved young man. I reflect that, ordinarily, the gospels show that some profound sorrow or disease – or both – is actually what opens people up to receive Jesus’ life, his love, his healing, his teaching about the Kingdom. For them, their woundedness, whether physical or moral or spiritual, is an unexpected blessing that enables them to gain the true treasure, which is Jesus.
But for others, the whole thing works in reverse–or it can. In the case of the rich young man, he comes to Jesus ‘nearly perfect,’ not conscious of woundedness or moral failings. When he leaves Jesus he feels much worse than he did when he arrived. He has been afflicted with a profound wound of sorrow. There are many, many untold stories in the gospels. We do not know exactly what happens to the rich young man after he ‘goes away sad.’ We know only that Jesus gives him the gift of a deep sorrow, the likes of which the young man had probably never known before in his life of wealth, comfort and cheer.
But wait. We know something else, too. Jesus gives him another gift to take away–and just as important: a moment of the most perfect human fulfilment. Jesus had been filled with love for him, and had looked at him with love. We are back to the idea with which we began our reflection: Mark’s insistence on Jesus’ look of love. This is of vital importance to Mark and it is even easier now to see why. We are talking about God-made-man looking at the rich young man with love. This look will be deeper and more profoundly moving than anything else he will ever experience. This combination of sorrow and love, it seems to me, is a combination that, given time, cannot fail to have affected the young man, to have opened him up, to have made him rethink his priorities, reconsider his actions. True, there is nothing in Jesus’ loving look to force the young man into acquiescence: he was free to refuse Jesus and he did. But, let’s note that he refused Jesus’ invitation right then. A door remains open to him; Jesus doesn’t stop loving people. There was still a chance to become a Christian later and to be healed of his sorrow and receive the joy of life in Christ. His life after this experience need not be a complete tragedy.
For those of us who may recognise ourselves in this story, who fear we may have lost the love of Christ forever along with our chance to be his follower, I think we can assume that Mark would hold that it doesn’t work like that. Jesus’ look of love lasts forever. The rich young man was eager, open and willing, but unprepared for the cost involved in following Jesus. He needed to grow up, to grow into Jesus’ love. The gift–the ‘package’–of sorrow and of love is powerful. The young man arrived at Jesus’ feet unprepared, he went away both loved and sorrowing. Through this gift, and over time, preparation for life with Christ was possible to him, as it is for anyone. Let’s hope he made that preparation and returned later, maybe after Jesus’ death, to join the growing community of Christians. Shall we join, too?
Usually we publish this monthly post on the first Friday, but Saint Kevin was already occupying his feast day, while next Friday gives us a peep into someone’s diary entry for the day. So, here we are on Whit Monday with Pope Francis’s monthly prayer.
We pray for Christian families around the world; may they embody and experience unconditional love and advance in holiness in their daily lives.
That is one impossible manifesto. I cannot live up to that. But I don’t have to, not on my own, because my calling is to married life and the graces and gifts I need, or think I need, have to give first place to the graces and gifts of my spouse and family.
Unconditional love is an aspiration which we work towards, mostly without saying so. Earning a living, putting a meal on the table, walking little ones to school, drying up the dishes: there are tasks that parents, children, grandchildren can do without moaning, even gladly, to help in our shared daily lives. We can become better people, or in Catholic jargon, ‘advance in holiness’ in our daily lives, through such co-operation and deeds of kindness, through teaching good manners, please and thank you.
We can reflect on our lives, in Catholic jargon ‘examine our consciences’ and develop what is good, set aside what is no longer appropriate; tend wounds, physical, mental, or of the heart; move on as a family or as a family member, right what is wrong.
All this is ‘advancing in holiness’. All this is prayer.