“But to be written to is the chief gladness of course; and with all you say of liking to have my letters (which I like to hear quite enough indeed) you cannot pretend to think that yours are not more to me, most to me! Ask my guardian-angel and hear what he says! Yours will look another way for shame of measuring joys with him! Because as I have said before, and as he says now, you are all to me, all the light, all the life; I am living for you now.And before I knew you, what was I and where? What was the world to me, do you think? and the meaning of life? And now, when you come and go, and write and do not write, all the hours are chequered accordingly in so many squares of white and black, as if for playing at fox and goose … only there is no fox, and I will not agree to be goose for one … that is you perhaps, for being ‘too easily’ satisfied. So my claim is that you are more to me than I can be to you.“
Tag Archives: humour
I trust I’ll be forgiven for using two photos from Amsterdam to accompany GKC’s thoughts on cold showers for the English. These young people were enjoying a public and communal shower-bath in April and sharing their enjoyment with family and friends! And I guess an craftily programmed computer controlled the flow. Social media if not a socialistic institution.
If the Englishman is really fond of cold baths, he ought not to grumble at the English climate for being a cold bath. In these days we are constantly told that we should leave our little special possessions and join in the enjoyment of common social institutions and a common social machinery. I offer the rain as a thoroughly Socialistic institution. It disregards that degraded delicacy which has hitherto led each gentleman to take his shower-bath in private. It is a better shower-bath, because it is public and communal; and, best of all, because somebody else pulls the string.
Baptism is also public and communal, since all Christians are called to be baptised, either as infants or as believing adults and anyone may attend a baptism in a public church. The churches recognise each other’s baptism and do not re-baptise people who were Christened before joining a particular church.
Let’s return to Elizabeth Barrett Barrett (Ba) and Robert Browning’s letters. You’ll recall how they carried on courting under the eye of her tyrannical father until they eloped to Italy. Here is EBB, writing on 30 March 1946. No thought now that his feeling for her was a mere generous impulse; not really, or is she teasing him? Surely she is.
How one writes and writes over and over the same thing!
But day by day the same sun rises, . . over, and over, and nobody is tired. May God bless you, dearest of all, and justify what has been by what shall be, . . and let me be free of spoiling any sun of yours! Shall you ever tell me in your thoughts, I wonder, to get out of your sun?
No–no–Love keeps love too safe! and I have faith, you see, as a grain of mustard-seed!
Say how you are . . mind!
Nobody is tired of the sun rising each day, in fact the Psalms are full of joy and praise for the daily wonder, such as here in Ps 19. Love keeps love safe, indeed: God even provides a metaphorical tent, or tabernacle, for the sun!
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun, Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.
Read more Browning letters here.
On the last day we walk less miles. From Patrixbourne we follow the Pilgrims’ Way back home to Canterbury. Our first stop will be when we first see the Cathedral; we love Ines’s picture.
We’ll cross the city and make for Saint Mildred’s church – here she is with her grandfather, Ethelbert – and then under the arch of hops to the Glebe, the L’Arche garden project. The BBQ can commence! The hops shown here are in St Thomas’s Church, Canterbury, and they stand for all the work of the farmers and their farmhands around the city.
When coming away from my regular visit to one of our Irish Chaplaincy Seniors I was reflecting on how uplifted I felt and how it had to do, in part, by how much we had laughed during the visit. This particular lady is only in her 70s but has fairly advanced dementia, and her sister moved over from Ireland to stay in the one-bedroom flat as a live-in carer. It’s a challenging situation but we always regale one another with funny stories, and we hoot with laughter.
I’ve been enjoying a book by James Martin, the American Jesuit, called ‘Between Heaven and Mirth’ with the sub-title ‘Why joy, humour and laughter are at the heart of the spiritual life’. He speaks of the importance of humour, especially in religious settings, which can easily become terribly serious and joyless. I imagine, sadly, that there are many people who might consider laughter to be incompatible with church or religion. And I was interested to see in a recent survey in the Church of England that people didn’t want their priests to be cracking lots of jokes in their sermons! It’s true that humour doesn’t really come across in the gospels. I fear this is a case of jokes getting lost in translation (besides the notion that religion is a ‘serious business’) because I like to think that the stories of Jesus were filled with humour and hilarity, and that he liked nothing better than to have a good laugh with some of the dodgy characters he hung out with.
I still remember the words of my dear friend Tony (and the jokes he told) in his best man speech at my wedding. He reminded us that the words ‘humour’, ‘humility’ and ‘human’ all come from the Latin word ‘humus’ which means earth and ground, so that when we laugh we are connected in a particular way with the ground we walk upon and with those we walk with. It could be said indeed that a sure sign of a growing connection and intimacy with another person is the ability to laugh together. Physiologically, as well, it’s healthy for us to laugh. A good, hearty laugh can relieve physical tension and stress and leave the muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes. It boosts the immune system, decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, therefore improving resistance to disease. It also reduces blood pressure and releases endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. Laughter is almost as good for the body as going to the gym! And it doesn’t cost a penny in membership! I remember at one time somebody in the NHS having the idea to send comedians into hospitals to help patients to laugh but sadly it doesn’t seem to have caught on.
And talking of funny people, I was tickled to hear what happened when John Cleese met the Dalai Lama. They didn’t say a word to one another but simply broke into spontaneous and prolonged laughter! James Martin tells us in his book that the Trappist monk and prolific spiritual writer Thomas Merton could be identified by visitors to his monastery in Kentucky (at a time, in the 1960s, when there were 200 monks there) because he was the one who was always laughing. And one of the many nice stories in the book concerns Mother Theresa from the time when John Paul II was pope and creating loads of new saints. A young sister asked what she would have to do in her life to achieve sainthood. Mother Theresa replied “die now; this pope’s canonising everyone”!
This season of Lent is perhaps not readily associated with fun and frivolity. Yet, in the scripture readings from Ash Wednesday at the beginning of Lent we have Jesus warning us (Matthew 6) not to look miserable when we fast; and we are reminded of the words from Isaiah 58 of the kind of fast that is pleasing to God:
“Let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke;
Share your bread with the hungry, and shelter the homeless poor”
And I would add, try and have a bit of a laugh with people as well. It’s one of the things that most profoundly binds us together in our common humanity.
You can never get enough of mediæval manuscripts – but sometimes just one can be almost too much.
Follow the link to read how this little Book of Hours is inspiring a Book of Ours in Manchester, thanks to the John Rylands Library of the University of Manchester. The link is to a post on their blog which will interest and move you.
The feast of Saint Joseph the Worker seems a good time to share this story. Joseph, I guess, had his workshop in the house or close by. Not so for many in the world today. And how many of us are less than happy with our work, and with getting there and back? Can we improve things for our colleagues by our attitude towards them?
It’s Wednesday evening and I’m at Canterbury West station, chatting to a railwaywoman while I await my chance to slip onto the platform. Hundreds of people were streaming away from an incoming train.
‘You’d think if they were going home they’d look happy!’ she said, and truly, they did not. ‘I’ll get one smiling’, I said, as I saw M coming into view. To be fair, I’d seen him smiling already. I know he likes his job, and I knew he was not going home for long; he was due to attend the SVP meeting (Saint Vincent de Paul Society) about an hour later on that cold windy night. But he smiled and chatted and went on his way.
‘Now you can start working in the other 451!’ said the railwaywoman. (With a smile.)
So maybe I’ll share one of the staff’s efforts to raise a smile at Christmas with this little plum.
- Why did the bicycle catch the train?
- Because it was two-tyred!
As she was going out to choir practice one evening in February, Mrs T said, ‘While I’m out you can play any music you like.’ Temptation: I can’t usually get away with Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast, for example. Mrs T says that’s fine for the Cathedral, but not for the kitchen or living room. But I was baking and did not want to be changing discs with floury hands, so opted for Through the Night on BBC Sounds.
Brahms was giving me music while I worked when I stopped and listened and paused the music. ‘Our’ blackbird – the one we had last year, with the white chevron on his head – was singing in a neighbour’s fir tree. I left the door open and enjoyed his repertoire until another blackbird’s alarm call silenced him.
I was reminded of my distracted thought at Mass. The image of starlings murmurating, flying in ever changing formation, merged into ‘O filii et filiae’ of Eastertime. Here are the words. As for musical fireworks, I found the recordings below – no need to choose between the blackbird and the choir, enjoy them both! And Happy Easter: Christ is risen, Alleluia!
1. O filii et filiae,
Rex caelestis, Rex gloriae, morte surrexit hodie, alleluia.
2. Et mane prima sabbati,
3. Et Maria Magdalene,
4. In albis sedens Angelus,
5. Et Joannes Apostolus
6. Discipu lis adstantibus,
7. Ut intellexit Didymus,
8. Vide, Thoma, vide latus,
9. Quando Thomas Christi latus,
10. Beati qui non viderunt,
11. In hoc festo sanctissimo
12. De quibus nos humillimas
|1. O sons and daughters of the King, Whom heavenly hosts in glory sing, Today the grave has lost its sting! Alleluia!
2. That Easter morn, at break of day,
The faithful women went their way
To seek the tomb where Jesus lay. Alleluia!
3. And Mary Magdalene,
4. An angel clad in white they see,
5. And the Apostle John
6. That night the apostles met in fear;
7. When Thomas first the tidings heard
8. “My pierced side, O Thomas, see,
9. No longer Thomas then denied;
10. How blest are they who have not seen
11. On this most holy day of days
12. For which we humbly
RSPB recording of blackbird’s song
Choir of Notre Dame de Paris O filii et filiae
Picture from SJC
Sadly, by the end of this month, the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of St Joseph will have left the parish after their presence here of twenty-seven years when Sister Margaret arrived to study at the Franciscan International Study Centre (FISC). From there she moved to St Bonaventure’s University in Upstate New York to study for her Masters in Franciscan Studies returning to teach at FISC where she remained until its closure. During that time, she served as Director of Franciscan Studies and Sabbaticals and the Spiritual Direction Course in which a number of our parishioners took part. Margaret also served as Vice Principal.
For the rest of Canon Anthony’s message, Read on here.
The second part of Rupert’s reflection on the Crucifixion.
The Centurion by Rupert Greville.
Luke’s Gospel records that it was on seeing the signs that followed Jesus’s death that the centurion declared him to be “a righteous man”. It seems likely to me that he might also have witnessed the conversation between the two thieves and Jesus, and that if he had heard it, he would not have been unmoved by Jesus’s extraordinary compassion.
We led him out beyond the city gate
Onto the hill, where women wept for grief,
And mockers jeered and spat with studied hate;
We nailed him there, with either side a thief.
Our dismal task, on raising up the three,
To watch them writhe and die in sickening pain;
But now a thief, bound fast against his tree,
Enrolled himself in this Messiah’s reign.
A merciless morning sun in that place of death
Had welded wounds to wood; scourged back with torn skin
Glued, then prised away each laboured breath;
He spoke as one who knew him, one who cared,
And promised paradise with him that very day;
In shameful death he blessed! I stood and stared,
Seized by the power of what I’d heard him say:
Words of life. But I Rome’s servant sworn –
A lifeless soul, unmoved by death or pain:
That cold indifference died, and hope was born
There on that hill and in this man we’d slain.
Rupert Greville is a member of the L’Arche Kent Community.
The print that illustrates yesterday’s post and today’s can be found in the public domain at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.