Tag Archives: Jesus

7 June: Reflections on the Mass III: Fed by God’s Word.

Image from the Missionaries of Africa: Sister Revocate proclaims the Word

Father Anthony considers the importance of the Liturgy of the Word.

Some years ago, in my last parish, we had the task of reordering the sanctuary. We needed to replace the temporary wooden altar and ambo (lectern) with permanent structures. The artist we employed went abroad and chose pieces of Mocha Stone from which to create the altar and the ambo. From this one stone he created two tables, the table of the Word and the table of Sacrifice. We are fed at both tables when we celebrate Mass.

Today I want to reflect on the Liturgy of the Word. This is when we are nourished or fed by God’s Word. For us, this is a time of listening. In order to be fed, we need to give our full and undivided attention to Christ who speaks to us. Pope Benedict wrote: ‘Word and sacrament are so deeply bound together that we cannot understand one without the other.’ We are being asked to listen in faith and, in order to do this, we need to be aware that it is Christ himself who is speaking to us, as the reader (or deacon or priest) proclaims the Word from the ambo, the table of the Word.

When Theodore Gillick, the sculptor, was building the ambo, I asked that he should create an image from the story of Martha and Mary that is told in Luke’s Gospel. As you look at the ambo, you see Jesus sitting on the edge of the table and Mary at his feet listening intently. We remember how Martha said to Jesus: ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself? Please tell her to help me.’ Jesus replied:

‘Martha, Martha, you worry and fret about many things and yet few are needed, indeed only one. It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her.’

Fr Jim McManus points out: ‘The better part was that Mary had chosen to listen to the Lord as a disciple. The disciple sits at the Master’s feet.’ Eugene LaVerdiere says in his book Dining in the Kingdom of God: ‘Being at the Lord’s feet doesn’t mean Mary was not working. It does mean that she was not distracted by the ministry, or worried and fretting about many things. Her attention was fixed on the word of the Lord, the one thing necessary, which gives meaning to every other aspect of ministry.’

We are asked to do one thing: to be a disciple and listen. We need not let ourselves be distracted. It is not easy to listen at Mass. There can be distractions; we might have worries and anxieties, and the reader might be difficult to hear; what we hear might not be easy for us to understand. As we listen, why not say: ‘Speak Lord, your servant is listening.’

Lord give me the grace at Mass to see myself being fed and nourished by your word. Help me to listen in faith, and to welcome your word into my heart.

Canon Father Anthony

Canon Father Anthony Parish Priest

Help Spread the Word……


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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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30 May: A Letter to our 2023 Confirmation Candidates

A Letter to our 2023 Confirmation Candidates

My dear Confirmandi,
Thank you for coming forward to make this preparation to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. You are doing the right thing. I believe so much in you.
Please God, on Pentecost Sunday, 28 May 2023 at the 11am Mass, you will be sealed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The practice of virtue, enabled by the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, will bring you to the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit. During the Confirmation, the Bishop (or in our case, the Archbishop’s Vicar for the Southeast Area of our Archdiocese) will say this prayer: 

All-powerful God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, by water and the Holy Spirit
you freed your sons and daughters from sin and gave them new life. Send your Holy Spirit upon them to be their helper and guide. Give them the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgement and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence. Fill them with the spirit of wonder and awe in your presence. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

This prayer begins the new life in Christ which you are invited to lead.

There is the impression that after Confirmation a number of young Catholics, at least here in this country, make an exodus from the Church in large numbers. Simply put: they stop attending Mass, no longer participating in the life of the Church or identifying themselves as Catholics. Some lose their faith and only a reduced number return when it is time to start a family. I pray that this may not be the case with you. Amen.

This is why you will notice your catechism formation programme was focused on rebuilding a solid foundation where you encounter Jesus Christ and experience him in a transforming way in your life. I have gone through all your coursework and I must say I am impressed. Each of you, in your own unique way, has expressed great Faith. Well done. Your formation is meant to ensure you live the very Faith experience and be prepared to take up the role of discipleship in whatever community you find yourself. The preparation to become a disciple of the Lord takes a life time, the confirmation process is meant to open your eyes to a new world of Faith. This has been your journey in Faith. You have experienced the Sacred Scripture and the tradition of the Church. You now know, or know where to
get the teachings of the church; our unadulterated deposit of faith han ded down by our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ.

You now know, or know where to find what we believe and why we believe them. I kindly encourage you: Do not choose to go through life seeking the next sin that will complicate your life, keeping
you in chains. Set yourself free from the grip of the world, and open yourself to Jesus by drawing closer to him in prayer. Be a good boy and a good girl that will grow up finely into a good man and a good woman of God.

The most important part of everything you have learnt is to attend Mass. Remember, Prayer is like Oxygen to us. Without prayer we can do nothing. You have nurtured a friendship with Jesus and I hope enables you to speak freely with him as your dear friend in a heart to heart conversation. I hope prayer becomes something you enjoy doing.

I trust you will come to appreciate that it is a very positive thing to be a Catholic and a person of Faith. I pray that you are never conflicted in life; and when you are, you are able to change and fix your belief so that you do not go through life confused and conflicted, which always leads to a crisis. G.K. Chesterton said: ‘When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.’ My prayer for you is that, from today, the song that will echo in your heart will be: I rejoiced when I heard them say: “let us go to God’s house”. Psalms 121 [122] v. 1
God bless
Your Parish Priest,
Father Valentine Erhahon
Thursday 11th May 2023

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29 May: I found myself in the centre of Kyiv

A homily given by Bishop Erik Varden to Confirmation candidates on 14 May 2023 at Kristiansund.

Acts 8:5-17: Many were delivered.
1 Peter 3:15-18: Always be ready to give an account.
John 14:15-21: So he can give you the Spirit of Truth.

Dear candidates for confirmation, 

A couple of days ago I found myself standing in the centre of Kyiv. There was lovely spring weather there as here. The chestnut trees were in bloom. The city was bustling. I walked past a snazzy café with the same complex assortment we’d expect at Starbucks. I could have been on a long-weekend city holiday. But I wasn’t.

I was, with Cardinal Arborelius, conducting a visit of solidarity in the name of our Bishops’ Conference. And even if Ukraine has a rare ability to live normally in extreme conditions, not to let itself be brutalised, the country remains in the throes of a terrible war. The front has lain frighteningly near Kyiv. The night before we arrived, missiles rained down over the city. We visited Irpin and Bucha, names familiar from the news, names associated with terrible massacres. The towns are only about 30 km from the capital. There’s a straight road from there into Kyiv.

That the occupying force was never allowed to pass that way is a strategic miracle. It is also a testimony to Ukraine’s power of resistance. This power manifests itself courageously still, at the eastern front. We honour it, and do so rightly. But let’s not forget the cost.

While we were strolling in the spring sunshine, in Kyiv, we passed the wall of the monastery of St Michael. The wall is covered with photographs of victims of the war, men and women, many of them barely three or four years older than you are today. I found myself thinking of a reportage I heard on the BBC World Service in March last year, a couple of weeks after the invasion. Jeremy Bowen stood at the station in Kyiv, where the cardinal and I had arrived, and saw youngsters go to war. He described two lads: ‘They were dressed for a camping weekend or a festival, except they were carrying newly issued Kalashnikov assault rifles. One had brand new white trainers. Another had a yoga mat to sleep on’ (see my Notebook for 5 March 2022).

There was something heart-rending about the details. The word ‘soldier’ is so anonymous. We think of faceless, greenclad extras in war films we have seen. Here one caught a personal glimpse of two fellows one might come across in a coffee shop. Are they still alive, the two of them? Or are their faces among the thousands of others on the wall by Kyiv’s Blue Church?

The thought of a major war between European nations seemed absurd until not long ago. With so much binding us together, political and economic alliances, war seemed preshistoric. My generation is heir to the 60s slogan, ‘Make love, not war’. Little by little politics itself has become strange to us. Many can’t be bothered, now, to vote in elections, or see no point in voting. What we want is to be left tranquil, have a good salary and at the same time plenty of leisure to do as we please, and access to 5G internet browsing.

But then a massive crisis can, in a trice, turn reality upside down. Suddenly we stand there, with our new trainers and our yoga mat, faced with existential choices. ‘Fight for what is dear to you, die if need be’, we sing in a song almost everyone in this country knows by heart. Is there something that dear to me? What do I live for, in fact? What stars do I navigate by when night falls and my iPhone is dead? What do I do when others’ future depends on choices I make?

Many are bewildered before such questions. Not so you, my friends. Today you declare yourselves to be Catholic Christians. In the name of Jesus, you stake out a clear direction for your lives. In the sacrament of confirmation you are sealed with the gift of the Spirit. The Spirit of Jesus, the Gospel tells us, is ‘the Spirit of Truth’. Truth is more than theory. We cannot always think our way to truth — even if the ability to think clearly is of inestimable worth. Circumstances may arise that simply give us no time to weigh alternatives. Then we must know how to act. The sense of what is true must be alive in us and form our judgement.

The Spirit of Jesus helps us to judge rightly. To receive the Spirit is not to be varnished with magic; it is to enter a friendship, to become aware of God’s presence in our lives as a light, a source of consolation, living wisdom. In this way we are freed from fear, freed to act.

The world needs women and men who see clearly, who are not taken in by lies, who recognise sincerity and radiate goodness. This is the task for which you are prepared today. None of us knows what awaits us. With all my heart I wish you a safe and prosperous future. I wish that you may use your gifts fully, that your lives will be fruitful, that you will know love and genuine friendship.

Still I ask you to be prepared to fight for what is good and true. A world order that only yesterday appeared unshakeable is collapsing. This fact places demands on all of us. Simple pragmatism, the attitude that leans back to wait and see, is inadequate in the long run.

‘What is truth?’, Pilate asked Jesus. Jesus answered by giving his life for his friends. He went through death in order to vanquish death.

The power inherent in Jesus’s Paschal sacrifice manifests itself again when ordinary people, people like you and me, transcend themselves and display the boundlessness of the Gospel: when those who have known injustice refuse to give in to hatred, when those who have lost all still rise up to help others, when weakness is transformed into strength. In Ukraine I saw proof of such transformation. That is why I wanted to share this experience with you.

As Christians we are called to live in a new way. We don’t want to merely be spectators of life; we want to enter life consciously, whole-heartedly, as agents. Thank you for saying Yes to this call. Let us help one another to be worthy of it.

In the name of Christ! Amen

Erik Varden

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28 May, Pentecost: What indeed if they do?

A little conversation about prayer.

This dove hovers over the place where the priest vested for Mass in the Catholic Church of Our Lord in the Attic, Amsterdam, hidden away in plain view, in the centre of town. Illegal but tolerated.

Our friend Christina Chase set off this little conversation, speculating ‘What good are my prayers, really?’ Her original post follows this introduction.

Christina Chase April 20

Have you ever wondered if your prayers for others have any real beneficial effect at all? I have. I still am wondering sometimes.

Sacred Scripture tells us that praying for others is important. Jesus did not only say “Love your enemies,” but also “pray for those who persecute you.” Jesus Himself prayed for His disciples during the time of His earthly life. St. Paul continually asked the people to whom he addressed his letters to pray for him.

Praying for others seems to be the right thing to do. And I sincerely try to do it. Although, of course, I could try harder and do it better. I am merely human, after all. Life is busy and … well … praying can sometimes feel like tedious work. When I think of the many prayers that I could raise to God on behalf of countless others, it feels rather daunting. And I wonder if it’s really necessary. Even when I put in the time and effort to pray deeply for someone I know or someone who has asked me to pray for them, I still wonder.

What good are my prayers, really? Doesn’t God love all the people for whom I pray even more than I do? How does it work? I wonder as if I could actually discover the answer and understand a profound mystery of God. And then, yes, I doubt, and wonder if it works at all.

”But what if it does…?” a little voice in my heart said recently.

Maybe my prayers for other people don’t make a difference.…But what if they do?

 Christina Chase

I could not leave those questions hanging in the air, even if I couldn’t answer them properly. So here are my first thoughts.

A first response, late at night

Dear Christina,

you lay out the arguments effectively (I shall copy this post to my blog, if I may!?)

In this world there is always room for doubt, but have you never felt support from people’s prayers? Of course, you can tell yourself that that feeling could just be your imagination, but if knowing that prayer has been offered by someone else for your benefit boosts your confidence, your courage, perhaps the Spirit is at work in you, and linked to your friend that was inspired to pray for you. I think the Spirit is the missing link here.

And I’m too tired to think straight for one more sentence.



Only God knows

Christina Chase commented in response to willturnstone:What indeed if they do?

So good to hear from you! You are in my prayers, my friend. And yes, you may copy this post in any way that you like.

I do believe, like you said, that I have benefited from people’s prayers. Their prayers may not have been answered exactly the way they intended, but only God knows what is truly best.

The Holy Spirit at work within us, among us, and between us is perhaps exactly the key in understanding how intercessory prayer “works.” Perhaps our guardian angels in communication as well? I’ve been trying to be more open to the presence of angels.

God works in mysterious ways.

With much love,
Pax Christi

Pentecost! The Church of 120 believers are already on the way to being transformed. They wanted to be together – whether they were all sleeping where they met or they returned to lodgings at night, we are not told, but for sure, the Upper Room was hardly the Savoy. How did they keep the place clean?

We know that the risen Jesus appeared there at least twice, which made it a special place. His presence must have been felt in the very air of the Upper Room. It was a place of prayer; talking to Jesus, they were coming to realise, was and is prayer, ‘My Lord and my God’.

The group were praying to the Father. Just sitting around, talking about Jesus, was prayer, the Spirit at work in the disciples as they spoke and listened to each other. We too are called to open our hearts to the Spirit and to live within the Communion of Saints. Praying for others is part of this, but so too is opening our hearts to each other. Listening to each other (perhaps through e.mails) helps focus our prayer when we pray for each other but as Christina reminds us, God knows what is truly best.

And what about the gardening Morgan and I do for Mrs A? More often than I would like, as a conscientious gardener, to pull more weeds than I can when she wants, or needs, to talk, to be reassured. Mrs A has dementia and needs to make connections with her garden (among other things) because that helps to put her on her feet metaphorically. She helped create this garden with her late husband. Through pulling up a few weeds and chatting she connects with her own history and the many blessings she has received through her married life.

Laborare est Orare: to work is to pray; we can pray without being conscious of doing so. We can pray for others without being conscious of doing so, as in my working for and with Mrs A. But examining what happens shows that my work-prayer provides her with grace here and now. We can trust that a prayer mention of a distant person is also a ‘channel of thy peace’ though less obvious to mere mortals.

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Pentecost: This Gift of Love

Canterbury cathedral’s collected Paschal Candles: this year’s special Easter candles will be lit in churches today, the Church’s Birthday.

Reflections from Fr Anthony Charlton of St Thomas’, Canterbury.

In my previous parishes, on this feast of Pentecost the children released helium-filled red balloons, at the end of Mass, to celebrate the great feast. The feast is sometimes referred to as the birthday of the church, hence the balloons. Pentecost ushers in the age of the Church. Now Jesus lives and acts in, and with, the Church.

We are not merely remembering a past event, when those in the Upper Room were transformed and changed. For us, the Holy Spirit is not just a help for the mission of the church. He is salvation; he is life itself. We celebrate today that we are all filled with that Spirit — just as Mary, the women and the apostles were transformed.

Today we celebrate the gift that is given to all of us, this gift of love. We are all immersed in the ‘ocean of the Father’s love’, Cardinal Ranerio Cantalamassa wrote. ‘They discovered for the first time what the love of the Father was, this love that Jesus spoke to them about for so long and in vain. They discovered the tenderness that is in the name Abba which they had heard their Master share about many times.’

A great Pentecost hymn is Come down O Love divine, seek thou this soul of mine.

Because of the gift of speech, all were able to understand the apostles. It was the reversal of Babel. At the building of the tower of Babel, the people said, ‘Let us make a name for ourselves.’ Their focus was on themselves and not on God. At Pentecost, instead everyone understood each other, because they had forgotten about themselves. There was unity, harmony and communication. The apostles did not want to make a name for themselves, but for God. They were no longer discussing among themselves who was the greatest.

We need in our prayer to put the accent on praise. We no longer want to live for ourselves but for the Lord. ‘Praise is what best helps us to decentralise and to recentralise on God.’ We need to rediscover this living Christ, whom only the Spirit can stir up in us. Let us rediscover this personal experience of Jesus — who died and was raised for me.

We need to have the same burning experience that Paul had on the road to Damascus, when he asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ (Acts 9:5). From that moment on, Paul considered everything as worthless, so that he might gain Christ.

At this time some of the people of the parish are joining with others, throughout the Diocese, participating in the Life in the Spirit seminars. It is a seven-week course of renewal, and yesterday they went to St George’s Cathedral, for a day when they asked for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit, sometimes referred to as ‘Baptism in the Holy Spirit’.

Let us all pray on this Pentecost Sunday:

Lord Jesus I open my heart to the Holy Spirit so that I may rediscover and proclaim you as Lord.

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23 May: Gloriosa

From the Project Gutenberg EBook of The Martyrs' Idyl, by Louise Imogen Guiney.

Virgo Gloriosa,

Mater Amantissima

by Louise Imogen Guiney

Glorious Virgin, Most Loving Mother

VINES branching stilly

Shade the open door,

In the house of Zion’s Lily,

Cleanly and poor.

O brighter than wild laurel

The Babe bounds in her hand,

The King, who for apparel

Hath but a swaddling-band,

And sees her heavenlier smiling than stars in His command!

Soon, mystic changes

Part Him from her breast,

Yet there awhile He ranges

Gardens of rest:

Yea, she the first to ponder

Our ransom and recall,

Awhile may rock Him under

Her young curls’ fall,

Against that only sinless love-loyal heart of all.

What shall inure Him

Unto the deadly dream

When the tetrarch shall abjure Him,

The thief blaspheme,

And scribe and soldier jostle

About the shameful Tree,

And even an Apostle

Demand to touch and see?—

But she hath kissed her Flower where the Wounds are to be.

Louisa Imogen Guiney was an American Poet who migrated to England towards the end of the XIX Century. What nightmares she imagines for baby Jesus! But no doubt frightening dreams came his way; I heard only yesterday that for two nights running my baby grandson had woken inconsolable despite enjoying the previous days, eating well, no sign of teething or pain, and getting off to sleep easily enough at bedtime. Parents have to kiss where the wounds shall be and have been. A God-given duty and grace.

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21 May; Our Blessed Lady’s Lullaby, VI: the ensuing blessed race.

Thee sanctity herself doth serve,
Thee goodness doth attend,
Thee blessedness doth wait upon,
And virtues all commend.

Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
Sing, lullaby, my lives joy.

Great kings and prophets wished have
To see that I possess,
Yet wish I never thee to see,
If not in thankfulness.

Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
Sing, lullaby, my lives joy.

Let heaven and earth, and saints and men,
Assistance give to me,
That all their most occurring aid
Augment my thanks to thee.

Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
Sing, lullaby, my lives joy.

And let the ensuing blessed race,
Thou wilt succeeding raise,
Join all their praises unto mine,
To multiply thy praise.

Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
Sing, lullaby, my lives joy.

And take my service well in worth,
And Joseph’s here with me,
Who of my husband bears the name,
Thy servant for to be.

Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
Sing, lullaby, my lives joy.

‘The ensuing blessed race’, that means us! We succeed to Mary’s generation on this earth, as Charles III succeeds, not just to his mother but to ancestors going back to Alfred and beyond. If Rawlings could use such words, living in exile, then the more should we join our praises unto Mary’s, and assist her in proclaiming the joy of her life, her little boy.

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20 May: Our Blessed Lady’s Lullaby, V: the fairest son to see.

Chichester Cathedral

Mary’s thoughts in this section of the poem are a carol based on the infancy narratives in the Gospels.

The shepherds left their keeping sheep,
For joy to see my lamb;
How may I more rejoice to see
Myself to be the dam.

Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
Sing, lullaby, my lives joy.

Three kings their treasures hither brought
Of incense, myrrh, and gold;
The heaven s treasure and the king
That here they might behold.

Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
Sing, lullaby, my lives joy.

One sort an angel did direct,
A star did guide the other,
And all the fairest son to see
That ever had a mother.

Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
Sing, lullaby, my lives joy.

This sight I see, this child I have,
This infant I embrace,
O endless comfort of the earth,
And heaven’s eternal grace.

Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
Sing, lullaby, my lives joy.

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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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