Tag Archives: Jesus

29 January, Little flowers CVI: Christ, Francis and many saints

Our final reading from the Little Flowers of Saint Francis. It speaks of the Communion of Saints and of the Good Shepherd granting Saint Francis’s prayer for his Franciscan brothers and sisters.

IN the Province of Rome, a very devout and holy friar saw this marvellous vision.

A certain friar, a very dear companion of his, having died one night, was buried in the morning before the entrance of the chapter-house; and, on the same day, after dinner, that friar betook himself into a corner of the chapter-house, to pray God and St. Francis devoutly for the soul of that dead friar his companion.

And, as he persevered in prayer with supplications and tears, at noon, when all the others were gone away to sleep, he heard a great noise as of one being dragged through the cloister; whereat immediately with great fear he turned his eyes toward the grave of his companion, and saw St. Francis standing there at the entrance of the chapter-house, and behind him a great multitude of friars round about the said grave. He looked beyond, and saw in the midst of the cloister a very great flaming fire, and in the flames was the soul of his companion who was dead.

He looked round the cloister and he saw Jesus Christ walking round the cloister with a great company of angels and of saints. And, while he gazed upon these things and marvelled much, he saw that, when Christ passed before the chapter-house, St. Francis kneeled down with all those friars and spake thus: “I beseech Thee, my dearest Father and Lord, that, through the inestimable charity which Thou didst show to the human race in Thy incarnation, Thou wilt have mercy on the soul of this my friar, who burneth in yonder flame”; and Christ answered him never a word but passed on.

And, when He returned, the second time, and passed before the chapter-house, St. Francis again kneeled him down with his friars, as at the first, and besought Him on this wise: “I pray Thee, merciful Father and Lord, through the boundless charity which Thou didst show to the human race when Thou didst die upon the wood of the cross, that Thou wilt have mercy on the soul of this my friar”; and Christ passed on as before and answered him not.

And going round the cloister He returned the third time and passed before the chapter-house, and then St. Francis, kneeling down as before, showed unto Him his hands and his feet and his side and spake thus: “I beseech Thee, merciful Father and Lord, by that great pain and great consolation which I endured when Thou didst set these Stigmata in my flesh, that Thou wilt have pity on the soul of this my friar that is in that fire of purgatory”.

O wonderful thing! No sooner was Christ prayed that third time by St. Francis in the name of his Stigmata, than He forthwith stayed His steps and, looking upon the stigmata, gave ear unto his prayer and spake thus: “To thee, Francis, I grant the soul of thy friar”. And in this, of a surety, He willed to honour and confirm the glorious Stigmata of St. Francis, and openly to signify that the souls of his friars, which go to Purgatory, can in no way be more easily delivered from their pains and brought to the glory of Paradise, than by virtue of his Stigmata, according unto the words which Christ spake unto St. Francis when He imprinted them upon him. Wherefore, as soon as these words had been spoken, that fire in the cloister vanished, and the dead friar came to St. Francis: and, together with him and with Christ, all that blessed company went up into heaven with their glorious King.

This friar his companion, who had prayed for him, was exceeding glad when he saw him delivered from his pains and taken to paradise; and thereafter he told all that vision in order to the other friars, and together with them gave praise and thanks to God.

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26 January, Little Flowers CIII: a vision of Saint Francis, I.

We return to the Little Flowers of Saint Francis for our last few extracts from this ancient text. It’s clear that the brothers did not know what to make of the stigmata, the marks of the Passion of Jesus seared onto his body, though they recognised it as a holy sign in a holy man. It was his life that was holy before any such marks were imposed on him. We start with a brother at prayer …

A devout and holy friar, while reading of Saint Francis’s most holy Stigmata, began with great travail of spirit to consider what those so secret words could have been, which Saint Francis said that he would not reveal to any one while he lived; which the Seraph had spoken to him. And this friar said within himself: “Saint Francis willed not to speak those words to any one during his lifetime; but now, after his bodily death, perchance he would tell them, if he were prayed devoutly so to do”. Thenceforward, the devout friar began to pray God and Saint Francis that they would reveal those words. 

This friar continuing eight years in this prayer, until one day, after eating, thanks having been given in the church, he was in prayer in a certain part of the church, and was praying to God and Saint Francis touching this matter, more devoutly than he was wont, and with many tears; when he was called by another friar, who commanded him in the name of the Guardian to bear him company to the town for the good of the Place. 

Doubting not that obedience is more meritorious than prayer, as soon as he had heard the commandment of his superior, he left off praying and went with that friar that called him. And, as God willed it, he, by this act of ready obedience, merited that which he had not merited by his long praying. 

As soon as they had gone forth from the gate, they met two strange friars, who appeared to have come from a far country; and one of them seemed a young man and the other old and lean; and, by reason of the bad weather, they were all muddy and wet. Wherefore that obedient friar had great compassion for them, and said unto his companion: “O dearest brother mine, if the business whereon we are going may wait a little, inasmuch as these strange friars have great need to be charitably received, I beseech thee to permit me first to go and wash their feet, and especially those of this aged friar, who hath the greater need thereof; and you will be able to wash those of this younger one; and thereafter we will go about the business of the convent”. 

They went back and received those strange friars very charitably, and took them into the kitchen to the fire to warm and dry themselves; at the which fire eight other friars of the Place were warming themselves. 

To be continued.

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23 January: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, VI.

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 6 Walking humbly in the way

Micah 6:6-8
Philippians 2:5-11

Commentary

Scripture reminds us that we cannot separate our love for God from our love for others. We love God when we feed the hungry, give the thirsty something to drink, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick and visit the prisoner. When we care for and serve “one of the least of these,” we are caring for and serving Christ himself.

But we are called to go beyond giving or serving from a position of power, where we maintain our status above the person to whom we are ministering. How are we to emulate Jesus who, though he was Lord of all, became truly the servant of all? What is power, and how are we to use it and to share it in the work of God?

God calls us to honour the sacredness and dignity of each member of God’s family. Caring for, serving and loving others reveals not who they are, but who we are. As Christians, we must be unified in our responsibility to love and care for others, as we are cared for and loved by God. In so doing, we live out our shared faith through our actions in service to the world and we find our true calling as servants of the Servant King.

Reflection

Yours are the power and the glory. 
Yet we see your greatest greatness when you stoop to serve. 
Creator, give us the power to be powerless 
and bestow on us the dignity
of the servant rich in love.

Prayer

Lord of the power and the glory, 
you became for us the servant of all. 
Show us the power and the glory of servanthood
and enable us to minister to your world
according to its needs and our abilities.

Questions

Where in your personal life could you bring blessing by yielding power?

How could the churches in your community share power to become more effective in service?

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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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18 January: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, I.

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.

Made in the image of God

Genesis 1:26-28

Revelation 7:9-12

Commentary

In the first book of the Bible, we are told that we are made in the image of God, not just individually but corporately. All of humanity, people of all ethnicities, cultures, languages and religions, together represent the image of the Creator. This means that to deny that image in any one race, indeed in any one person, is to reject God’s presence in the whole of humanity.

As society becomes more indifferent to the needs of others, we, as the children of God, must learn to take up the cause of our oppressed brothers and sisters by speaking truth to power and if necessary, plead their case so that they may live in peace with justice. In doing this we will always do the right thing, will always be recognising God’s image in all of us.

Our commitment to eradicate and to be healed of the sin of racism requires us to be prepared and willing to be in relationship with our Christian sisters and brothers. That will be a sign of unity for the whole world.

Reflection

We give them names: 
refugees, asylum seekers, 
migrants, 
economic migrants, 
some more welcome than others. 
But you know their human names because they are your kin, 
stamped with your image, 
divinely human.

Prayer

You made us, God, in your own image, 
and then became one of us, 
proud of those you have made.
Make us proud of being part of that worldwide family, 
and eager to discover and celebrate your image 
in every person, every culture, every nation 
that we are privileged to encounter.

Questions

How does your church welcome those new to your community?

How can we see the image of God in people we find difficult to love?

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17 January: Introduction to the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2023

Photo: Mazur/cbcew.org.uk

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.

Introduction

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.

Welcome

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.

_____________________________________________________________________________

* Churches Together in Britain and Ireland. We will be using resources provided by CTBI as will groups around the British Isles.

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12 January: Sitting by the fire.

In centrally heated, 21st Century England it’s easy to forget how comforting a fire can be. Not to mention how much work one can entail. This little 1880s house once had three hearths downstairs – one for the kitchen which was to heat the servant girl’s room above. The other two bedrooms each had a fireplace. Plenty of work hauling all that coal up and ashes down the stairs. No more of that, but we can relax around the woodburning stove, or once a year, by this thermally inefficient open fire.

In 1806 Mary Lamb was writing to her younger friend, Sarah Stoddard, who had a few major family and personal matters to sort out at some distance from London, before Rowland Hill’s Penny Post made letter writing cheap and reliable.


Do write soon: though I write all about myself, I am thinking all the while of you, and I am uneasy at the length of time it seems since I heard from you … and this second winter makes me think how cold, damp, and forlorn your solitary house will feel to you. I would your feet were perched up again on our fender.

The fender is a low barrier between the fireplace and the floor of the room, often at a good height for warming the toes.

This story made me wonder how often the one who came to bring fire to the earth sat around an open fire with his disciples, how much of his more intimate teaching was given that way. I shall have to re-imagine some of the Gospel passages next time they come up.

Mary Lamb to Sarah Stoddard, 14 March 1806, The Letters of Charles and Mary Lamb, 1796-1820, edited by E. V. Lucas.

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9 January: Praying with Pope Francis: Educators.

Brocagh School, Leitrim, 1969

This January Pope Francis asks us to pray for Educators

We pray that educators may be credible witnesses, 
teaching fraternity rather than competition  
and helping the youngest and most vulnerable above all. 

I shared this picture on the Pelicans Website in 2011. It shows the children of Brocagh School, Co. Leitrim in 1969, with their educators, head teacher Mrs McCormack, to the right, and her assistant teacher, then, I think, called Miss Byrne, but wearing an engagement ring.

Sometime after this, in 1970-72 the little local 2 classroom schools were all closed down and a new central school built in Glenfarne village. We students at nearby Saint Augustine's College visited the little schools to deliver an RE lesson each Wednesday morning.

It was Mrs McCormack who gave me a valuable lesson, in the qualities Pope Francis proclaims. This was thanks to Joe McHugh, down there in the front row wearing a green jacket. During the time after Easter we had John's story of the barbecue by the lake after the miraculous catch of fish, and Peter's final declaration of faith. 

I think the lesson went well. The children drew some remarkable pictures, but Mrs McCormack drew my attention to Joe's in particular: come here now, Joe, what's this in the corner? - It's Saint Peter's lorry, Miss, come to carry away the fish. I'd missed the lorry completely; I'd not interpreted the shapes he'd drawn in 20th Century terms.

What Mrs McCormack knew, but I did not, was that Joe's family had recently acquired a lorry which was Joe's pride and joy, so of course St Peter would have had his lorry ready to take the fish to market. The story made sense to Joe, and had always made more sense to me as a consequence; thank you Joe, wherever you are. And thank you to Mrs McCormack, that credible witness!You used Joe's lorry to teach him and me that fraternity between the generations means allowing the child to teach himself, and his (or her) teachers.

Olivia O'Dolan and other local people managed to identify many of the children whose names appear on the Pelicans Website.

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8 January: As it was.

It has to be as it was,
Of course I didn't understand!
It has to be as it was,
Well, almost:
Dark, cold, restless, waiting 
And lonely.

It has to do with loneliness,
And I am rarely lonely.
But, yes, 
It has to be as it was ...
Waiting, cold,
Dark in my warm, well lighted room.

That's not as it was,
No renaissance nativity,
No Christmas card crib,
Just loneliness and the need for warmth and preparation.
Wondering what tomorrow might bring,
Stars and rest and the smell and placid breath
Of animals.

But shelter,
That's as it was!
                                                                                                        Sheila Billingsley.

'Dark in my warm, well lighted room'. Who has not felt that way? How many will be feeling that way this Christmas, how many more are without even the warm, well-lighted room? Let us pray for all who are exiled and homeless this Christmas time, and support those who are organising shelter for them. Our first photograph was taken by volunteers seeking out homeless people on the streets of Canterbury, in order to offer shelter.
Winter and warm, well lighted rooms.

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6 January, Epiphany: Recognising God’s presence.

The Cross as shining star; do we recognise Jesus in our suffering? Saint Edmundsbury Cathedral.

Here is an extract from an Epiphany sermon by Rev Bruce Bryant-Scott. He makes no direct mention of the Wise Men here, but they travelled West to Jerusalem and on to Bethlehem because they recognised the new-born King of the Jews. May we, too, recognise him at work in our hearts.

Epiphany means showing forth… Think of the unveiling of a plaque or a statue – that is an apocalypse, a revelation. Blessing is like that. We bless food, houses, people, and sneezes, but we also bless God – the psalmist sings, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless God’s holy name”. So blessing is not about adding something to a situation. It is about recognising God’s action in a situation.

The Eucharist, this great Thanksgiving in which we take bread and wine and bless it, is an epiphany and a revelation of God working here among us. It is not magic, it is not hocus pocus, but recognising the spiritual reality of God’s presence. When I bless a marriage, I am not adding something to the relationship, but simply recognising on behalf of the church that God is acting in the couple.

There is this thing called prevenient grace, a major point in both ancient Catholic theology and the more recent Methodism of John and Charles Wesley. It is the belief that God is acting in us and for us before we are aware of it. Prevenient or preceding grace prepares in our hearts a place for God – it’s what makes that God shaped hole in our souls that only God can fill, that desire that only the divine can satisfy.

My hope and my prayer is that we become aware of how the God in Christ is working in us by the Holy Spirit, that we do not pack it all away now that Christmas is over, but see it. May we join with the psalmist and say,

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
who alone does wondrous things.
Blessed be his glorious name for ever;
may his glory fill the whole earth.

Amen and Amen.

Bruce Bryant-Scott is an Anglican priest working on the Island of Crete. His blog is theislandparson.com and this post comes from there.

Here is the inscription on the High Altar Cross of St Edmundsbury Cathedral; not the one shown here:

”And life is eternal and love is immortal and death is only the horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight.”

The High Altar Cross is both beautiful and poignant. It was given by the parents of Pauline Greene who died in 1921 aged 3 years old. We can offer to God our deepest pain and loss. The cross of Jesus shows how God transforms suffering into new life.

http://www.stedscathedral.org.

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