Tag Archives: illness

23 October: Readings from Mary Webb XIII: sticky brown hope

horse chestnut bud

As a sick young child I was sent to a prison-like convalescent home in Worcestershire, hoping that fresh air would do me good. My best memories are of celandines and crocus, those early spring flowers; and sticky buds of horse chestnut which the teacher brought in and allowed to open in the classroom. Mary Webb was thinking of these same buds in autumn when they come into prominence.

MMB

Curiosity is awakened by the small brown bud at the end of a chestnut twig in autumn, a little farther on than this year’s fruit. How much of the future form is hidden in that small sphere? How much embryo tree is wrapped in its inner cases of wool and velvet? What hint of next summer’s white chalice and green finger dwells in its innermost recesses?

Long before the unfolding of these buds in April, when the downy leaflets uncurl, you can see, if you open one, the compressed cluster – each yellowish ball about the size of a pinhead – which is the future flower, and the faint dawnings of leaves all wrapped in soft wadding.

The thought of the sap forming itself into these marvels, of the skilful, silent artistry going on without hands at the end of every bough and at the heart of every root makes the world a place of almost unbearable wonder.

Laudato Si’!

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21 October: M is for Merthyr Tydfil

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https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4249407

Readers may get the impression that Agnellus has a slight obsession with Welsh and Saxon Princesses who knew their own minds and hearts. We don’t apologise! Such women may have used their privileged position to be allowed to open their monasteries and run them with minimal male oversight, but in doing so they enabled other women to live in community, to receive an education, to be able to help those who came to the abbeys for help.

Not so Tydfil – or Tudul in the accepted Welsh spelling. She was a martyr, killed, it is said, by a gang of pagans. I once helped tidy up her churchyard in the town, and rescued from the skip an angel from a broken gravestone; he or she watches over our backdoor today.

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Tudful was by no means the last martyr in Merthyr. With iron and coal nearby, the town was a cradle of the Industrial Revolution. People came for work as rural jobs disappeared, as famine struck in Ireland, but they lived in insanitary conditions, many dying of diseases including cholera. Human sacrifices on the altars of capitalism, as so many people around the world are today, living and working in unsafe conditions.

We’ve noted before how we are inescapably implicated in exploitation of our sisters and brothers; for instance it is difficult to avoid buying clothes and shoes produced without misusing people: at least there are Fair Trade bananas, coffee, chocolate and other foods. Their producers look after the land they work.

The old iron and coal masters did not: spoil heaps covered and poisoned fields close to the iron works or pit head; often it was many years before even birch trees would grow there. The ultimate martyrdom from this disregard of God’s creation occurred near Merthyr on October 21,1966 when a spoil heap at Aberfan avalanched down the side of the valley, taking the lives of 116 children and 28 adults, who would not have been born when someone decided to dump rock and soil on a steep slope. I met a policeman who lost his faith in God after living through that afternoon; who can blame him? But this was man’s work.

You may dispute my use of the word martyrdom, but lives were cut short through accident or disease through worship of Mammon.

The Way of Jesus puts people before profit. A good start would be the motto beneath the Saint on the arms: ONLY BROTHERHOOD IS STRONG. Provided, of course, that the sisters are not left out.

Let us grit our teeth in the face of human wickedness, and say Laudato Si’ – and give a care to our own little patches of God’s earth – ours to hand on to others better than we found it. And perhaps find a corner or two we can brighten with a little guerilla gardening or tree planting.

MMB

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Prayers Please!

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Caernarfon in David’s corner of Wales.

Dear Friends,

Please pray for David Powell, our contributor DBP, who is gravely ill.

It was David who invented the Ossyrians for Agnellus Mirror– aliens who disguised themselves as T, a male human and two male chihuahuas, Alfie and Ajax, when they were sent to earth as, in David’s words: ‘a special observation unit established to closely watch the earth and its strange inhabitants.’ 1

Of course they have been learning lessons in life ever since they pitched up in Margate. An inspired vehicle for reflection on all manner of things. Thank you David!

MMB

1See April 26 2016, ‘Peace on Earth I’ and subsequent posts by various writers.

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August 27: Caring and L’Arche I – chatting is caring work.

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This first reflection introduces the topic of caring for others – and how the  one cared for can be a carer for her carers. Tomorrow we’ll start a short season about L’Arche.

After a fall that made walking and moving difficult, my mother returned home with help from ‘carers’ – mostly young women with families – who would help her with dressing, bathing and getting back to the shops. They were also able to observe her recovery and how she was getting around the house and to the village shop.

This was an excellent way of getting out of hospital earlier than she otherwise would have done. I’m sure she got better a lot sooner. In fact, she soon found that she was getting most things done for herself before the carers came: ‘I didn’t see why I should stop in bed until they were able to come and get me dressed, so of course I did it myself.’

The carers would then spend a few minutes chatting over a cup of tea. They were still working, noting how she was both physically and mentally. She, in her turn, was caring for them by listening to the news of their families. Those ten minutes were a respite for the carers before the next call, perhaps to someone needing more of their time for those basic needs.

Our family are grateful for the dedication of these lowly-paid workers who bring real loving care to their work, even though their time is micro-managed by desk jockeys at their agency HQ and at County Hall. At the care-face, it is face-to-face work, person to person, loving kindness.

My mother will remain in her own home as long as she possibly can. Tomorrow we’ll read about a caring way of living with people with learning disabilities.

WT.

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August 18: An Appreciation of Francis Thompson by W.H. Davies.

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Francis Thompson turned up again after I’d put his series to bed, so I’ll share this now. W. H. Davies was another poet who lived on the streets, though he was to find friendship and marriage and a long life span.

In this Davies uses his memories of seafaring and tramping to imagine Thompson’s life before he was welcomed into the life of the Meynell family. The Son of Man had nowhere to lay his head when he was travelling the dusty roads of Palestine. Can we see him in the homeless people we meet in the street? How best to give them bread and not stones?

Francis Thompson by W. H. Davies

Thou hadst no home, and thou couldst see
In every street the windows’ light:
Dragging thy limbs about all night,
No window kept a light for thee.

However much thou wert distressed,
Or tired of moving, and felt sick,
Thy life was on the open deck—
Thou hadst no cabin for thy rest.

Thy barque was helpless ‘neath the sky,
No pilot thought thee worth his pains
To guide for love or money gains—
Like phantom ships the rich sailed by.

Thy shadow mocked thee night and day,
Thy life’s companion, it alone;
It did not sigh, it did not moan,
But mocked thy moves in every way.

In spite of all, the mind had force,
And, like a stream whose surface flows
The wrong way when a strong wind blows,
It underneath maintained its course.

Oft didst thou think thy mind would flower
Too late for good, as some bruised tree
That blooms in Autumn, and we see
Fruit not worth picking, hard and sour.

Some poets feign their wounds and scars.
If they had known real suffering hours,
They’d show, in place of Fancy’s flowers,
More of Imagination’s stars.

So, if thy fruits of Poesy
Are rich, it is at this dear cost—
That they were nipt by Sorrow’s frost,
In nights of homeless misery.

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July 10, 2017: Taking the risk to trust Jesus

 

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Readings: Genesis.28:10-22, Psalm. 90. Gospel Matthew 9:18-26

Each day of our lives we take decisions that could change our lives forever.  Sometimes these decisions may not be right but we take responsibility for the outcome.

The woman in the gospel today decided to make a move, for she told herself ‘even if I could touch the fringe of his cloak, I will be well again’.

It takes me back to so many people I encounter every day, especially those who have been plagued with different illnesses. There are those whom doctors have told they have maybe days, weeks months or years to live. The woman in the gospel had her illness for twelve years. All hope has been lost but when Jesus appeared everything was made new again .It becomes important for me to say that there is no challenge or difficulty in this world that cannot be overcome with the help of Christ. The question is: will I be willing to decide today to hand him over all the activities and events of my life? God says in Genesis28:15 – “be sure that I am with you, I will keep you safe wherever you go…”

FMSL

 

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July 2: Readings from Mary Webb I. Shut in?

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It does not matter how shut in we are. Opportunity for wide experience is of small account in this as in other things; it is depth that brings understanding and life. Dawn, seen through a sick woman’s window, however narrow, pulses with the same fresh wonder as it does over the whole width of the sea. A branch of flushed wild-apple brings the same joy as the mauve trumpet-flower of the tropics. One violet is as sweet as an acre of them. And it often happens – as if by a kindly law of compensation – that those who have only one violet find the way through its narrow, purple gate into the land of God, while many who walk over dewy carpets of them do not so much as know that there is a land or a way.

Mary Webb is drawing from the same spring as William Blake:

To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand 

And Eternity in an hour.

We might remember those last two lines next time we are at Mass.

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July 2: Introduction to Mary Webb

 

Mary_webbMary Webb, 1881 – 1927, the Shropshire poet and novelist, suffered from Grave’s Disease, a thyroid problem that is much better understood and treated today. The introduction to her book, The Spring of Joy reveals:

One to whom life was pain, and death a charnel-house, came under cloudy hollows stained with sunrise into a country pleasant as lilac in the rain. Wandering down aisles of birdsong to the brink of a river, she drank where the ousels and the stars had been before her, and found comfort and joy. So she brought back in the palm of her hand for those in need of healing a few drops of the water which sparkled and held the sky.

Some readers may find her writing sentimental, but it is nevertheless authentic and from the heart, and Franciscan in its living in God’s Nature. An ousel is a water blackbird.

WT.

 

 

 

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27 June, Shared Table IX: The Blessing of Hunger.

 

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I had been ill. Ill enough to give up work and move back home to recover. I’d lost a tremendous amount of weight: an infection had gone crazy, affecting my liver function and leaving me exhausted and without appetite.

Then one day I was sitting at the big kitchen table with my grandmother – Nana to countless young people, by no means all of them her actual grandchildren. Basil and Sam the dogs were keeping us company.

Suddenly I realised that I felt hungry, for the first time in months, and said so to Nana. ‘Feed that hunger’, she said, and put bread on the Aga cooker to toast. Wow! I could taste the good bread, the butter, the marmalade. I was grateful: an informal Eucharist.

As Fr Austin (AMcC who writes here) says, hunger can be a blessing. In this case my body was well enough to feel the need of something outside itself, instead of fighting something inside itself. It took time, but I did get better.

There are other hungers too; hungers for learning, for love, ultimately for God. We need to acknowledge these when we feel them.

But as Austin would also tell us, hunger for many people is a curse; they do not have the luxury of knowing where the next meal is coming from. Perhaps, if you are a child at school in Africa, it will be from Mary’s Meals.

MMB.

 

 

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17 June: Welcome under my roof.

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One Sunday I walked home from Mass with Anna, and accepted her invitation to share a coffee.

I watched as she lit two candles on her mantelpiece then took from under her coat a pyx containing the Blessed Sacrament from the celebration we had just attended.

‘Maggie won’t be up yet, so I always bring the Lord home and make him welcome; that’s what the candles are for, to remind me he’s here and remind him too.

‘Not that he isn’t here all the time, but he’s come all dressed up, so to speak, and he gets the full works.’

And then we sat and chatted for an hour, in His presence, till it was time for Anna to take the Sacrament to Maggie.

MMB.

 

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