Tag Archives: hope

1 June: Three humans hanging on in there.

Maynard’s Spittal, alms houses for aged persons, XVI Century, Canterbury.

From Visitation III.

And, hearts heavy with the weight of hope they carry,
Mary, Elisabeth and her good old husband
Go to sit, the three together, on the doorstep,
Filled with shadow and silence, hands on their knees.

Far away, filmy fields fade into filmy sky:
Its crop of golden stars will soon be flowering.
Elisabeth, tired, wonders if she’s feeling pains.
They look at the evening, dream, wait, and wait again.

From Hanging on in there, an essay in meaning.

Selected poems of Marie Noël. p80.

Marie Noel (1883-1967) is new to me. An unmarried provincial French woman, she had the gift of poetry and an incarnational theology, evident here in the last two stanzas of this poem. The story and yesterday’s feast of the Visitation will be for me all the more lively for this image of three tired human beings at the end of their day, sitting in silence under God’s good heaven, watching the stars, maybe watching and waiting for one star in particular.

Waiting, not for Godot who never comes, but for God’s son and his herald; every day let us watch and wait, and prepare the way of the Lord.

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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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12 May: The Universe Provides, A Review.

Finding miracles and inspiration in unexpected places

The new book from our friend and contributor, Eddie Gilmore,

Darton, Longman and Todd, ISBN 978 1 915412 48 5
Paperback 192 pp

Price: £9.99

Cardinal Vincent Nichols got to see this book before we did! He writes:

‘From a faith-filled perspective, and drawing on his own personal, musical and professional experience, Eddie shows us how important it is to have hope in our lives and to be connected with each other and the world in which we live. In this way, we can glimpse the miracles and opportunities that are in our midst and use them for the benefit of all – the universe does indeed provide!’

Eddie’s first book was titled ‘Looking Ahead with Hope’, so there is a theme evident here. Hope is tougher than optimism, it means being with someone when the optimism has run into the sand, when income has gone, the home is in jeopardy, the prison sentence never seems to get any shorter, loneliness is a daily companion, health and vigour are ebbing away. Through his upbringing in an Irish family in Coventry, his education, his work with L’Arche and the Irish Chaplaincy, Eddie knows these realities, made worse by the pandemic.

Now he feels it’s time to encourage us all to recognise the daily miracles of hope and healing that pass before our eyes, the people whose lived hope is rebuilding communities across the world. Eddie takes us through some events of his post-covid year, introducing some of the characters he meets in that time. He reminds us that the Irish are a nation of singers, a gift that holds people together at home or in exile, a Gift from the Universe that he himself exercises for friends, prisoners, elderly people — and delegates to meetings!

It is important for each one of us to recognise the signs of these post-pandemic times and to bring hope to those we meet day by day or just the once, in passing.

Eddie Gilmore may not be your typical Chief Executive Officer, but he has been CEO of the Irish Chaplaincy since 2017, after belonging to L’Arche for 28 years. He writes regularly for a number of publications including Catholic Times, Intercom (the journal of the Irish Catholic Bishops), and Independent Catholic News. Eddie also contributes to BBC Radio’s ‘Pause For Thought’.

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The opening of the Bangkok Synodal Assembly

The Opening Eucharist, the Mass of the Holy Spirit was presided over by Archbishop Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi SVD, Archbishop of Tokyo and Secretary General of the FABC; and concelebrated by Virgílio Cardinal  do Carmo da Silva SDB, Archdiocese of Díli and Louis Cardinal Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, Apostolic Vicar of Vientiane, Laos.
 
In his sharing Archbishop Kikuchi evoked from his pastoral experience as a missionary in Africa, highlighting situations of despair and indifference which destroys the human spirit and the soul of humanity, and situations of hope and love – the magic of Ghana which brings life and joy, that is celebrated in in the spirit of solidarity.
 
The Holy Eucharist concluded with the blessing of Candles given to the moderators of groups to be placed on their tables. These candles, lit during the discussion, symbolize the Light of Christ that inspires and prompts discussions to be a reflection of a Synodal journey.
 
Mario Cardinal Grech, Secretary General of the Secretariat of the Synod, in his opening address, reminded the delegates that ‘we are all learners in Synodality’ – encouraging us to be more attentive to the voices within the Church, especially to those voices which agitate and also to the ones that ‘do not speak’. Cardinal Grech emphasized, “a Synodal Church is a Church of listening” and stressed that the success of the process depended on the active participation of the people of God and the pastors (who are also members of the People of God). Furthermore, he explained that a proper exercise of Synodality never places the people and pastors in competition but maintains them in constant relation, allowing both to fulfil their own roles and responsibilities. Cardinal Grech added, “consultation in Churches has enabled the people of God to implement the right way of participating in the Prophetic function of Christ. “. In conclusion, Cardinal Grech emphasised the  importance of listening.; listening to the Holy Spirit who speaks to the Church and that the phrase ‘a synodal Church is a Church of listening’ must not be reduced to a rhetorical phrase but should portray the truth that it is. Cardinal Grech invoked the Spirit of the Risen Lord to guide the minds of the delegates and to give them the courage to walk the Synodal path, which is the path that the Lord is opening to the Church of the third millennium.

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We are children of the Resurrection,

Closing statement of the continental Synodal Assembly of Catholic Churches in the Middle East
Once again the Catholic Churches of the Middle East remind us of the importance of ecumenism, working and praying together,
(Traduction from Arabic)

We and our praying people thank the Holy Spirit who led us together for a synodal church, and inspired us to pray together in communion, participation and mission through this Continental Synodal Assembly of Catholic Churches in the Middle East that brought together the Catholic family with its seven churches in Bethania – Harissa over a week from 13 to 17 February.

This gathering comes in difficult circumstances in our region, especially the economic and humanitarian ones, particularly the repercussions of the devastating earthquake that struck our brothers in Syria and Turkey. Therefore, the participants in the assembly stopped at this painful and heartbreaking event and raised daily prayers for the victims, wounded and displaced in the affected areas.

And because we are children of the Resurrection, we followed the work of this assembly, which is the continental stage and a link in the continuous synodal journey.

At this point, we would like to thank their Beatitudes, Patriarchs Cardinal Mar Beshara Boutros Al-Rahi, Patriarch of the Maronite Antioch Church, Anba Ibrahim Isaac, Patriarch of the Coptic Catholic Church, Mor Ignatius Youssef III Younan, Patriarch of Antioch for the Syriac Catholics, Youssef Al-Absi, Patriarch of Antioch for the Melkite Roman Catholics, and Cardinal Mar Louis Raphael Sako, Patriarch of Baghdad for the Chaldeans, Raphael Bedros, the 21st Armenian Catholic Patriarch of Cilicia, and Pierrebattista Pizzaballa, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, who were dedicated, along with the participating delegations from Egypt, Syria, Jordan, the Holy Land, Iraq, Lebanon and the Gulf states, to the success of the work of this assembly and to show profound advantages that unite our churches and establish their presence as a church of hope in the countries of the Middle East despite their presence in the heart of the ordeal, as a church that challenges the imposed reality.
 
The participants in the Assembly’s work also extend their thanks to the Secretary General of the Synod, Cardinal Mario Grech, and to the coordinator of the next General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, Archbishop of Luxembourg, and Sister Nathalie Becquart, Deputy Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, for attending the work of the Assembly and living with them this synodal experience that added dynamism especially on the life of the Catholic Church in the Middle East and on its life in the world. All the latter is based on the request of His Holiness Pope Francis from the sons of the Catholic Church in general to review their Christian lives and “walk together” or Journey together in the light of the Gospel and the requirements of the present time in preparation for the Synod that will be held in the Vatican in October 2023 and 2024, entitled: “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission”.

The continental stage, which was held in Bethania – Harissa, focused on prayer, spiritual discernment, thinking together and working for a week about what emerged during the first consultations in local churches in various countries of the Middle East and the Gulf.
 
It has reaffirmed the following basic constants of the Church:  

1. Synodalism is a core of the heritage of our Eastern Churches.
2. Unity in diversity through unity in communion and the mission and testimony of churches.
3. The roots of common churches are the basis of a unified message
4. The presence of seculars and their talents in the service of the Body of Christ. The role of youth, their capabilities, and their expectations for a renewed Church reflect the challenges they face.
5. The importance of the role and mission of women in the church and their participation in decision-making and service.
6. The liturgy is our life, and the call for a liturgical renewal that is compatible with the aspirations of our youth while preserving its essence and symbols.
7. Calling for a creative and renewed ecumenism and stimulating ecumenical dialogue.
8. The Church of openness to others who are ecclesiastically and religiously different, by listening, dialogue, and togetherness, living together, dialogue, cooperation, and mutual respect, in order to show the face of the One God.
9. Fellowship and Hope in Suffering: Towards a Church as humble as a “mustard seed” (Matthew 13/31-32), called to grow and expand amidst the challenge of survival and the rejection of emigration.
10. The mission, witness, and renewed structures of a more synodal Church.
11. Pastorates specialised in dealing with families, women and youth.
12. The importance of media and digital culture as an effective communication tool in the hands of the church to deliver its message in a more comprehensive manner.
13. Continuing the synodal spirit in each Church with the central question: How can each Church be more synodal in the light of the actions of this Continental Assembly of Catholic Churches in the Middle East?
 
Conclusion
The time of holy fasting, which begins next Monday, February 20, is the acceptable and distinguished time to hear what the Spirit says to our churches as we listen to the word of God, pray and repent, and do acts of love and mercy towards our brothers and sisters in their material, spiritual and moral needs, through the intercession of Our Lady of Lebanon, the Mother of the Church and Queen of the Apostles.

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17 February:The Birds Will Sing

I had a few posts left to prepare for February’s blog but lacked inspiration. Mental fog had descended upon me! One afternoon Mrs Turnstone and I had been invited to a wassail party at the Glebe after which we walked home beside the River Stour. Robins, blackbirds, and even I think, a blackcap, were singing their dusk chorus. Mary Webb sprang to mind. Here we find her in melancholy mood.

The birds will sing

The birds will sing when I am gone
To stranger-folk with stranger-ways.
Without a break they’ll whistle on
In close and flowery orchard deeps,
Where once I loved them, nights and days,
And never reck of one that weeps.

The bud that slept within the bark
When I was there, will break her bars–
A small green flame from out the dark–
And round into a world, and spread
Beneath the silver dews and stars,
Nor miss my bent, attentive head.

A close and flowery apple in our two-treed orchard; a few weeks ago both leaf and flower buds were still dormant, along with most trees. Valentine’s day, the birds’ wedding day may not easily lift that Seasonal Affective Disorder, but the small green flame of a bursting bud breaks the bars in the writer’s heart, a heart attentive to the world of Spring.

Laudato si’!

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1 February: An impossible situation

It will soon be a year since the war began in Ukraine. Here is an article from Missio.org.uk describing some of the ways in which the Church supports refugees in the surrounding countries of Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.


UKRAINE UPDATE


In Romania, local parishioners are doing what they can to provide mattresses, bedsheets, pillows, and food, as well as nappies and basic sanitary items.

The National Director for Missio in Romania, Fr Eugen, shared: ‘I recently received two young women with a child. They told me very simply: “We want to stay the three of us in the same room; we do not have any food; we do not have any money; we want to stay until we find a job and get some money to be able to rent a room and to get the basic things for living”. I try to provide what they need, and I also pray for them to get a job to be able to live independently.

‘I try to understand their souls: to understand how hard it is to daily depend on the compassion of others for an undetermined time, to start life from zero and with the family split by the war. May God have compassion on them’.

John* is a Ukrainian currently residing in a Catholic parish house in Romania. When the war broke out in February, John was working overseas. He knows that the government has banned all men aged 18-60 from leaving the country, and fears that he will be forced to join the Ukrainian military if he was to return home. The conflict continues to rage, but John does not want to fight, saying: ‘I don’t want to kill or be killed’. If John was to return now, he fears that he will possibly be arrested, jailed, fined and penalised by having his citizenship stripped. He explained that the conflict is multifaceted; there are political, historical, economic, cultural and social complexities that make a ceasefire almost impossible. He indicated that what we see in the media and the reality of the situation are very different.


‘We don’t know when the war will be stopping. It is very dangerous for everybody… I ask all of the world, for help to stop this war. We need to stop this war so everybody can go back home’.

John is almost completely dependant on the charity of our global Church: ‘I am very grateful to Fr Eugen because he found us this place – to come here and to live here. Not only me, but other Ukrainian refugees have been able to live here. All of us are very, very grateful to the Catholic Church as they have helped us very much, regardless of religion or denomination to which we belong. Really, we cannot forget this experience, this help that we got from the Catholic Church’.


The Catholic Church in Romania and surrounding countries continues to provide accommodation, food and emergency packages containing essential toiletries to those who have arrived with nothing. Trauma counselling, education and employment are also being provided, where possible.

Please continue to pray for peace in Ukraine.


*John’s name has been changed to protect his identity

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25 January: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, VIII.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2023

Photo: Mazur/cbcew.org.uk

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

Isaiah 40:1-11
Luke 1:46-55

Commentary

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.

Reflection

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.”

Prayer

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.

Questions

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?

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24 January: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, VII.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2023

Photo: Mazur/cbcew.org.uk

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 7 Agency

Matthew 5:1–8 
Job 5:1-16

Commentary

Matthew’s account of the Beatitudes begins with Jesus seeing the crowds. In that crowd he must have seen those who were peacemakers, the poor in spirit, the pure in heart, men and women who mourned, and those who hungered for justice. In the Beatitudes Jesus not only names people’s struggles, he names what they will be: the children of God and inheritors of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Howard Thurman, African American theologian and spiritual advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., believed, “the religion that Jesus lived produced the kind of life for Him that identifies with the downtrodden, outcast, broken, and disinherited of the world.” Yet, Thurman also believed that, “It cannot be denied that too often the weight of the Christian movement has been on the side of the strong and the powerful and against the weak and oppressed – this, despite the gospel.”

If we listen hard enough, we will hear a diversity of voices crying out under the weight of oppression. Action is needed today to bring love, hope, justice and liberation for us and others in the future. Oppression of any kind demands that each of us chooses to engage in order to eradicate the injustice(s) that break our hearts open.

In prayer we align our hearts with the heart of God, to love what God loves and to love as God loves. Prayer with integrity therefore aligns and unites us – beyond our divisions – to love what, whom and how God loves, and to express this love in our actions.

Let us all work together with God in our hope and commitment to shut injustice’s mouth and eradicate oppression in all areas of our society.

Reflection

I see you there,
You – blessed ones,
You – poor in spirit,
You – mourners, meek ones and merciful ones.
I hear your stomachs rumble with hunger. 
Is righteousness enough to satisfy your thirst,
like rain upon the earth?
You have had your fill of the schemes of crafty ones,
been force fed so-called wisdom by the wily.
With pure and undivided hearts
you train your eyes upon God’s cause – 
to lift high the perceived lowly,
to bring to safety any who are in danger of being trampled by pride-filled footsteps of trespassers,
or stabbed by weaponised words hell-bent on cutting down and dehumanising.
Shut the mouth of injustice, God,
tear down the strongholds of the power-hungry
and give us the desire and the strength
to rebuild a realm
where all who are wounded are brought comfort,
where the inheritance is shared by all,
where swords and shields are beaten
into tools for sowing peace and reconciliation,
where healing abounds
and mouths open to sing stories of shared blessing and hope.

Prayer

God of justice,
Empower us to be agents of your grace and mercy.
Bless us with the courage to relinquish our power.
Bless us with the humility to stand with the oppressed.
Bless us with the integrity to love our neighbours 
as we ourselves would seek to be loved.

Questions

Can you think of a time when you felt powerless? How would you have liked others to respond?

Think about the ways you might have influence in your local community? How might you use that influence to help those who feel powerless?

Around the world whole communities find themselves powerless as a result of corruption and exploitation. How might the choices we make in our daily lives impact these situations?

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21 January: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, IV.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2023

Photo: Mazur/cbcew.org.uk

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 4 Lament

Psalm 22:1-5 
Matthew 27:45-50

Commentary

Lament requires us to really look and see. A young woman looked and saw the tears of the oppressed. The video she shot on her phone of the murder of George Floyd in May 2020 was seen all around the world and unleashed a holy rage as people witnessed, and finally acknowledged, what African Americans have experienced for centuries: subjugation by oppressive systems in the midst of privileged blind bystanders.In the UK, black men between 18 and 25 years are five times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police and black women are four times more likely to die during childbirth. We have much to lament.

The two passages today speak of lament. Jesus, and David, the brutally honest psalmist, set this example for us of what to do when we’re in pain.

“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” is a pain-filled cry at the very beginning of Psalm 22 that is mirrored by Jesus himself on the cross in Matthew 27.

The pain is not sanitised and polished for us. It is raw and honest.

Lament is a hard practice to embrace. Our society wants us to rush towards positivity and victory. What does it mean to truly lament? To sit with the pain. Lament demands that we open ourselves, it demands from all of us, that we no longer ignore the pain.

Reflection

“Lament is a protest so deep that it must become a prayer, for only God can provide needed hope that justice will prevail and that the future will be different.”

Rachel’s Cry: Prayer of Lament and Rebirth of Hope, Kathleen D Bilman and Daniel L Migliore, The Pilgrim Press 1999

Prayer

God of justice and of grace, 
remove the scales from my eyes 
so I can truly see the oppression around me, 
and give me courage not only to name it, but to fight it 
while providing authentic presence, witness, and compassion to the oppressed.

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