Mark Piper rode 100km from Chicago to Michigan City, Indiana in aid of children with brain tumours; the event remembers a small boy of the Chicago parish who died with this disease, Patrick McNamara. The full story is here, together with Piper’s reflections, on the National Catholic Reporter website. Since the pastor who was the race starter dedicated the race to Mary and the finishing line was at one of her churches, it seems an appropriate item for her feast today. She, if anyone, exhibited holiness in the world!
The pastor of the parish reminded us that our coming together, through the prayers and material assistance raised for these families, was community at its best. And he ended his blessing by inviting us all to recite the Hail Mary.
While sitting down at the post-ride party my mind … reflected on my first, but certainly not last, Pat Mac’s 100K ride. Although not draped in piety or devotions, or having any sacraments administered, this ride, by bringing us together and building community, exhibited a holiness in the world that perhaps enlivened Gospel service.
During my six hours on the bike, and a few more under a tent filled with food, stories and friendship, I certainly experienced church, being church and being church for others. May Our Lady, in Italy, Spain, France or Michigan City, Indiana, watch over us, keep us safe and hasten the day when paediatric cancer research brings forth a cure. Until this hopeful prayer is granted, I look forward to this bicycle ride and seeing that mosaic of Mary, at prayer herself, at the finish line.
Francis’s intuition was indeed a revelation; Madonna Jacopa was in good time to bring him a few treats before saying goodbye. Francis greatly loves her; he is sensitive enough to allow her to show her love for him in such an intimate fashion. She must have been a no-nonsense woman, taking herself straight up to the infirmary which would have been out of bounds to a woman, even the mother of senators.
And, while they continued thus, lo, after a little while, there was a great knocking at the door of the Place, and Saint Francis sent the doorkeeper to open it; and, when he had opened the door, behold, there was Madonna Jacopa, the noblest lady of Rome, with two of her sons, Senators of Rome, and with a great company of men on horseback; and they entered in; and Madonna Jacopa gat her straight to the infirmary, and came unto Saint Francis. Of whose coming St Francis had great joy and consolation, and she likewise, seeing him alive and speaking with him.
Then she told him how God had revealed unto her in Rome, while she was praying, the short span of his life, and how he would send for her, and ask for those things, all of which she said that she had brought; and she caused them to be brought to Saint Francis and gave him to eat thereof; and, when he had eaten and was much comforted, this Madonna Jacopa kneeled down at the feet of Saint Francis, and took those most holy feet, marked and adorned with the wounds of Christ, and kissed and bathed them with her tears, with such limitless devotion that to the friars which were standing by it seemed that they verily beheld the Magdalene at the feet of Jesus Christ; and on nowise might they draw her away from them.
And finally, after a long time, they raised her up and drew her aside, and asked her how she had come so duly and so well provided with all those things which were necessary for Saint Francis while yet he was alive, and for his burial.
Madonna Jacopa replied that, while she was praying one night in Rome, she heard a voice from heaven, which said: “If thou wouldest find Saint Francis alive, get thee to Assisi without delay, and take with thee those things which thou art wont to give him when he is sick, and those things which will be necessary for his burial; and I (said she) have done so”. So the said Madonna Jacopa abode there until Saint Francis passed from this life and was buried; and at his burial she did him very great honour, she and all her company; and she bore all the cost of whatsoever was needed. And thereafter, this noble lady returned to Rome; and there, within a little while, she died a holy death; and for devotion to Saint Francis she commanded that her body should be borne to Santa Maria degli Angeli and buried there; and so was it done.
On this day in 1907 died Francis Thompson, aged 47. He had been in poor health after years of sleeping rough and addiction. Wilfrid and Alice Meynell, writers themselves, took him under their wings, found writing work for him and helped him get published, but TB had already claimed him.
This poem is by W. H. Davies, his younger contemporary, who had himself known life on the streets of London and of American cities. He knew of what he wrote.
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.
From "Foliage: Various Poems" by W. H. Davies.
See also another Welsh Poet, R. S. Thomas, who also observed the difference between the surface and the depths.
What is it about prayer that we find so hard to grasp? ‘The raising of the heart and mind to God’ is one definition, easy to remember, but insufficient. What about the image coming to me, unbidden, of someone dear? It certainly wasn’t my conscious mind that brought her there, perhaps it was seeing a head of hair like my friend’s … Or what about the walk down town to Mass, neither mind nor heart actively involved; do I only begin to pray after entering the church or is my body praying as it transports the rest of me to Mass, or to work, or to visit somebody? Pauline Jaricot’s body failed her through illness; what did that do for her prayer life?
For many years, Pauline was passionate about many successful charitable ventures. But serious illness at the age of 35 curtailed her ability to work. Such an impact affected her mental health but through prayer and the Eucharist, Pauline discovered a new spiritual fruitfulness. She would build God’s kingdom with prayer and encourage others to join her in this mission.
Let us pray… Our Father. Hail Mary. Glory be… Blessed Pauline Jaricot, pray for us!
To find out more about Pauline Jaricot, visit: missio.org.uk/Pauline
Hope! You might well think it’s in short supply these days, with climate change and all the storms, with wars and threats of war, and terror and division. We can only do what we can, where we can. The Irish Chaplaincy was established to do what it can, where it is needed in England. Here comes a Hope-full story. As ever, it is told by Eddie Gilmore.
A conversation on a train station platform reminded me of both the power of stories and the power of hope, and it linked as well with a forthcoming campaign of the Irish Chaplaincy.
Francis, who spent his working life as a clinical psychologist in the NHS, told me excitedly that he was reading my book * and I was equally excited to learn that he had bought not just one but three of them (not all for himself)! “I like how you use narrative,” he explained and he recalled how years ago if he had only a short time to get across the details of a ‘case’ with a senior policy-maker he would usually choose to tell a story about the person in question. This was, in his experience, the most effective means by which change might occur.
When I told Francis about our #storiesofhope campaign to be launched in Lent he remarked, “Hope is about the power to make a difference.” Here is the first of those stories of hope. It is Emma’s story, as told by Breda who features strongly in it, and it is told with Emma’s permission.
A Reason to Live
Our wonderful team is currently supporting a 35-year-old woman who in February 2021 just days after her release from prison was airlifted to hospital and put into a medical coma for 28 days. Emma had a rare but serious bacterial infection that affects the tissue beneath the skin and surrounding muscles and organs which resulted in the amputation of her left leg. Her mother was told that her daughter had a 2% chance of survival and was advised to turn off Life Support. She declined! Initially Emma had no use in both arms but this is slowly improving with intensive therapy at a care home; however she struggles with the use of her right leg as it remains severely damaged. Although Emma’s long-term prognosis isn’t yet fully known, what is certain is that she will need lots of care for many months if not years and will have to endure years of skin graft operations.
Thankfully, the team at the Irish Chaplaincy has been able to support both mother and daughter: practically, by advocating on their behalf to statutory bodies; financially, with small donations for telephone credit, travel assistance as well as essential sundries; emotionally, with visits from two of our caseworkers, who are also available at the end of the telephone anytime for either mother or daughter; and spiritually, through prayer. Additionally, with the help of our friends at Caritas, who when they heard Emma’s story provided a mobility scooter, she is now able to get around better, saying, “I feel like I have my legs back.”
Both mother and daughter are extremely remarkable and humbling; truly inspirational and doing their best to stay positive. They are an absolute pleasure to work with and the essence of our Chaplaincy’s purpose. We would be so very grateful for your thoughts and prayers to help them get through this difficult time and to help us continue in the work we love to do in supporting those most in need. Emma said to one of those who came to visit her: “You’ve given me a reason to live.”
The latest chapter in this story is that with the help of the Irish Chaplaincy Emma has managed to secure suitable accommodation where she can live with her mother after her mother is released from an open prison in a few months’ time. Now Emma not only has a reason to live, she also has her own place to live in!
More such stories of hope are coming soon…
* The link is to our review of Eddie’s book, Looking ahead with Hope; Francis was right, it’s a good read!
We pray for health care workers who serve the sick and the elderly, especially in the poorest countries; may they be adequately supported by governments and local communities.
Closed doors at the end of a corridor. Inside consulting rooms, doctors, nurses, therapists still see patients, one-to-one, even if under covid-19 many appointments are on line or over the phone. It’s easy to forget that behind those doors are people working harder than they should, for longer than they should.
Let us be conscious of the sacrifices they are making, day after day, to keep us all safe; also of the stress, exhaustion and burn out they endure; of their families who see less of them and see them at the end of their tether, trying to summon the energy to be a spouse, partner, parent.
This month Pope Francis asks us to pray for a Christian response to bioethical challenges.
We pray for Christians facing new bioethical challenges; may they continue to defend the dignity of all human life with prayer and action.
Of course it’s not as straightforward as pronouncing on the ethics of medical or cosmetic procedures. I had chosen the photo before I absorbed the words ‘ the dignity of all human life’, then wondered whether it was appropriate. I decided that it was. All human life includes the subsistence farmers who find themselves choosing between traditional crops and modern ones that are resistant to disease or insect attack. These are expensive to buy and need their fields to be sprayed with the expensive pesticide they can resist but the pests cannot.
And what of the long-term effects on the land and its ability to produce crops?
Clare Boehmer is a member of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ. She is now retired after 60 years of active ministry, which included teaching English and computer science, serving as a librarian, and developing a computer center for teenage girls living in an emergency shelter.
She reflects on her recent covid-19 infection. Read her whole article in Global Sisters Report. Highly recommended; here’s part of her introduction. Click on the link and enjoy!
I have realised that the entrance of the corona virus into our world has changed that world dramatically. Our pre-COVID-19 “normal” is not something that we can return to completely.
I have been extremely ill of an asthma and dropsy, but received, by the mercy of GOD, sudden and unexpected relief last Thursday, by the discharge of twenty pints of water[11 litres]. Whether I shall continue free, or shall fill again, cannot be told. Pray for me.
Death, my dear, is very dreadful; let us think nothing worth our care but how to prepare for it: what we know amiss in ourselves let us make haste to amend, and put our trust in the mercy of GOD, and the intercession of our Saviour.
I am, dear Madam,
Your most humble servant,
Life of Johnson, Volume 4 1780-1784″ by James Boswell.
Lucy Porter was Johnson’s stepdaughter; he had married her widowed mother but she had died after just a few years. Although he lived and worked in London – the man who is tired of London is tired of life is his saying – he kept in touch with family and friends in Lichfield, his home town, including Lucy. At the time of writing he was an old man and sick; dropsy is now called oedema, a swelling of soft tissue especially in the legs, and may be an indication of heart failure – so carrying 11 kilos of extra weight in fluid was not good. Johnson does not say how his relief was brought about.
But his heartfelt love for his stepdaughter shines through, as well as his apprehension of death and judgement.
Rev Jo RIchards writes about the next stage in the pandemic as numbers locally are high amongst school children, teachers and parents. In the three churches of Saints Dunstan, Mildred and Peter this is the new policy for worship.
Easing of covid restrictions
With the easing of restrictions we must remember that the case numbers of covid are still high. Therefore in our church buildings and hall:
Mask wearing is not mandatory but to be encouraged – I will continue to wear mine; Jenny and I also do a lateral flow test before all services.
Sanitise hands on entry
Remain mindful of social distancing – if you prefer not to be close to someone in church, please put bag/coat on seat next to you
Peace from afar
Communion: we will return to people coming forward and the intincting (dipping) of a consecrated wafer, for those who would like to receive, or just wafer only. If you would prefer to receive in your seat, that is fine and we will come to you.
Please note when coming forward at St Dunstan’s – the service is live streamed and recorded and you will be observed coming forward to receive. If you would prefer to remain off-camera please come receive in the Roper Chapel.
Coffee will be served in the hall after the 10.00 service