Tag Archives: journey

17 March, Desert XX: travelling with Pope Francis.

We invite you to read a few extracts from Pope Francis’s Lenten Messages for 2019 and 2020, because each year he recalls the desert. In this first extract from last year’s message, he talks about redeeming creation, since through avarice and neglect we are making deserts where there ought to be forest of farmland.

1. The Redemption of Creation

The celebration of the Paschal Triduum of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection calls us yearly to undertake a journey of preparation, in the knowledge that our being conformed to Christ (Romans 8:29) is a priceless gift of God’s mercy.

When we live as children of God, redeemed, led by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:14) and capable of acknowledging and obeying God’s law, beginning with the law written on our hearts and in nature, we also benefit creation by cooperating in its redemption. That is why Saint Paul says that creation eagerly longs for the revelation of the children of God; in other words, that all those who enjoy the grace of Jesus’ paschal mystery may experience its fulfilment in the redemption of the human body itself.

When the love of Christ transfigures the lives of the saints in spirit, body and soul, they give praise to God. Through prayer, contemplation and art, they also include other creatures in that praise, as we see admirably expressed in the “Canticle of the Creatures” by Saint Francis of Assisi (Laudato Si’ 87). Yet in this world, the harmony generated by redemption is constantly threatened by the negative power of sin and death.

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10 March. Desert XIII: Wilderness.

City dweller Robert MacFarlane wondered if there were any wild places left in the British Isles, and he set out to find them. Often enough early Christian monks and hermits had been there before him; to islands and other inaccessible spots.

But what did he mean by wildness? Early in the book he discusses the idea:

Wildness … is an expression of independence from human direction, and wild land can be said to be self-willed land.  Land that proceeds according to its own laws and principles, land whose habits — the growth of its trees, the free descent of its streams through its rocks — are of its own devising and own execution. Land that … acts or moves freely without restraint; is unconfined, unrestricted.’*

Town and city dwellers live in human directed lands, concrete, brick and glass, but also most of the British countryside is farmed, drained, controlled. Can we find wilderness, to use the old Biblical world, without travelling to distant places?

We have to look for it nearer to home, in pockets and cracks. There are the weeds that devise and execute their own growth and spread, like traveller’s joy rooted on railway land. Or there are remnants of countryside, like the plum tree that Abel likes to hide behind; it is surely a sucker from a rootstock left behind when the orchard was grubbed up for housing in the 1960s, since its fruit is insignificant and unpalatable. There are overgrown cemeteries, like that in Mile End, full of life that is quite unexpected in London’s East End.

The wild tries to return, perhaps we should salute it and follow its example to revisit the corner of our heart that moves freely, without restraint: that is open to love, growth and renewal.

*Robert MacFarlane, The Wild Places, London, Granta, 2007, p30.

 

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18 February, Little Flowers LXV: Brother John’s journey 1.

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Brother John’s earthly pilgrimage held a few surprises; it certainly turned out to be a much longer journey than he expected, but what boy can comprehend an adult life? This bridge is said to have been crossed by Saint Francis himself; it is at Gap, not many miles from Provence; perhaps Brother John crossed it too!

Brother John of La Penna was a boy in the Province of the March and still living the secular life, there appeared unto him one night a child exceeding beautiful, and called him, saying: “John, go unto Saint Stephen’s, where is preaching one of the Brothers Minor, give heed unto his words, seeing that I have sent him thither, and this done, thou hast a long journey to take, and then shalt thou come unto me.”

Straightway he arose and felt a great change within his soul. And coming to Saint Stephen’s, he found there a great multitude gathered to hear the preaching, He that was to preach was Brother Philip, and he preached exceeding devoutly, not with words of human wisdom, but by virtue of the Spirit of Christ, making known the kingdom of eternal life.

The boy went to Brother Philip, and said unto him: “Father, if it please thee to receive me into the Order, I would do penance willingly and serve our Lord Jesu Christ.” Brother Philip recognizing in the boy a right marvellous innocence and ready will to serve God,
said unto him: “Thou shalt come to me on such a day at Recanati, and I will have thee received”.
The boy, being very pure in heart, thought that this would be the long journey that he was to take, according to the revelation that he had had, and that thereafter he would go to Paradise; and so he thought to do straightway after he had been received into the Order. So he went and was received: but perceiving that his thoughts were not fulfilled at that time, and the Minister in Chapter saying that whoso desired to go into the province of Provence, for the merit of holy obedience, would have leave granted to him willingly, there came to him a great desire to go there, thinking in his heart that that would be the long journey that he must take, before he went to Paradise.

He besought Brother Philip tenderly that he would obtain for him this favour of going to the province of Provence. Then Brother Philip, seeing his purity and his holy purpose, obtained for him leave: so Brother John, with great joy, set out upon his way, bethinking him that, done this journey, he would go to Paradise.

But sith it pleased God, he abode in the said province five and twenty years in that expectation and desire, shewing himself a pattern of holy life, increasing always in virtue and favour with God and the people, and was exceeding much beloved by the brothers and by those in the world.

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6 January: Traveller’s Joy

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It’s the feast of the Epiphany, the visit of the wise men who travelled from the East to Baby Jesus, so why not celebrate with Traveller’s Joy!

This is the name of a wild clematis that is happy climbing around hedgerows and wasteland, with pale green-tinged flowers in late summer, and in winter seed heads that look white or grey according to the light. Old Man’s Beard it gets called at this stage.

 

travellers joy1smAlongside the railway towards Dover it has spread itself. I arrived at just the right moment this week to catch the few minutes’ sunshine through the beard. Right beside it is the Victorian footbridge, recently decorated by community artists with – Traveller’s Joy!

 

I can remember being warned, by well-meaning teachers, that there was no time to stop and enjoy the flowers on the journey through life. Perhaps they meant it figuratively, but the worst offender also tried to interest her class in cultivating the strip of sandy soil outside her classroom. And the baby the Wise Men visited grew up  to say that the flowers of the field were dressed more magnificently than Solomon in all his glory.

When clothed in a low sunbeam, the wild clematis is quietly magnificent, a true Traveller’s Joy!

A version of this post appeared on Will Turnstone’s blog last year.

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November 30: Saint Andrew; and those in peril on the sea.

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These mariners are all at sea, one of them in great distress, seasick, transfixed by the waves. It puts me in mind of two things: when the apostles were in peril on the Sea of Galilee and Jesus came to them over the water: this is almost a ‘Jesus’ eye view of them as he approaches!

And in the fourth watch of the night, he came to them walking upon the sea.  And they seeing him walk upon the sea, were troubled, saying: It is an apparition. And they cried out for fear.  And immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying: Be of good heart: it is I, fear ye not.

(Matthew 14:23-34)

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The second thought that springs to mind is the unfortunate group of people who died in the back of a lorry on their way to what they hoped would be a new life in Britain. These were not hundreds of miles away on the Mediterranean Sea, but in a car park a few miles from London, dying from cold and suffocation, while those who drove by them on the Continent or in England were completely unaware they were there.

Nor we dare forget the thousands in peril on that Mediterranean Sea, crammed into small, unseaworthy boats, hoping to reach Europe and a new life. And the many awaiting their chance to embark on this perilous voyage in North Africa or Turkey or on their way through Africa or Asia, after paying vast sums to people smugglers, human traffickers.

Over the years many migrants have brought great gifts to their host countries; they and their children have settled and become good neighbours. Perhaps you can number immigrants among your ancestors?

Let’s pray that we might have a “Jesus’ eye view” of today’s migrants, as Pope Francis urges us.

And let us pray that the distressed may have an Andrew’s eye view of the Saviour approaching, either to be welcomed to a dignified life in a new land, or opening his arms to lead them eternal life with him, after all their trials here below.

 

 

 

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by | November 30, 2019 · 01:00

October 9: Month of Mission: Pilgrims or Missionaries?

pilgrims way

When we planned this year’s L’Arche Kent pilgrimage, we did not see it as a missionary enterprise. It was a chance for the community to spend time together, which is not going to happen unless we make space for it, as we now number more than 100 people with and without learning disabilities, living and working together in a mosaic of different ways, but sometimes not seeing a friend for weeks or months at a time.

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There was a fairly simple shape to the pilgrims’ day: pray, walk, eat; pray, walk, eat being the plan. Looking back, it seems to me it was a missionary journey. We began at Dover beach, with prayers in the open air; but most of our formal praying took place in churches we visited on our way. The invasion of upwards of fifty walkers was out of the ordinary for each church we visited. We were made welcome everywhere.

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‘It’s so good that our church is being prayed in,’ was one reaction to our visit. Other congregations laid on refreshments. Another asked that we sign the visitors’ book, which we gladly did wherever we found one. ‘It will help us to get grants and permission for toilets if we can show that we are welcoming pilgrims.’

Toilets as a missionary activity? We would say so, based on our experience. At one point on our journey maybe 20 people used the facilities in the home of a centenarian friend (or should we say member) of the community.

Saint Paul does not go into such details!

We came to each church to pray and refresh the outer man or woman as well as the inner. We came to visit the Lord, but we, and our dogs, visited the body of Christ that Paul did talk about, and, I believe we helped to build it up wherever we called.

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So it was a missionary journey in many ways that I at least did not foresee. Mutually building up the body of Christ in our L’Arche and parish communities. Perhaps we will be more aware of that next year!

MMB.

L’Arche Kent, 18a St Radigunds St, Canterbury, Kent CT1 2AA.  Telephone 01227 643025

www.larchekent.org.uk

 

 

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23 September: Riding the rails

 

train.steaam. bettws

Now four years old, Abel was enchanted when he came to the miniature railway at Bettws-y-coed.* Since he was tiny, unable to walk or speak in words, his fascination with trains has been clear. He would lean in the direction of his local station when being pushed home in his pram, hoping to direct his mother thither.

Full sized trains go places and can be sorted by colour and shape, but they are formidably big. One day a train that grandfather cannot sit upright in turned out to be the right size for Abel. Most of the elements of a railway were in evidence: rails, steam and diesel locos, signals, points, level crossings and bells. Abel felt aggrieved when the signal was red as he passed it, but relaxed when he observed the next light change from green to red as the locomotive pulled the carriages by. I can remember my father explaining this very phenomenon to me on the approach to Birmingham New Street!

Abel was quite right to be concerned. Partly because he likes things to be correct, but also he is aware of the dangers of level crossings and other parts of the railway. His toy trains often crash and rescue services swiftly descend upon the scene.

Despite the inherent dangers, a well-run railway is safe; disciplined staff know their jobs and do them well, thoughtfully rather than mechanically.

A disciplined life is open to the grace that gets us through many dangers, toils and snares, and grace will lead us safely home.  All Aboard!

*http://www.conwyrailwaymuseum.co.uk/

 

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28 August: Saint Augustine on Love I.

Saint_Augustine_and_Saint_Monica

Yesterday we celebrated the mother; today the son, Saint Augustine of Hippo. Here is the opening of his sermon on love, his text being 1John 4:4-12.

Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome [the false spirits]: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

To all the faithful seeking their own country, this world is as the desert was to the people of Israel. They wandered, seeking their own country: but with God for their guide they could not wander astray. Their way was God’s bidding. For where they went about during forty years, the journey itself is made up of a very few stations, and is known to all. They were delayed because they were in training, not because they were forsaken. By temporal work we are exercised, and by the temptations of this present life we are trained.

And so, if you would not die of thirst in this wilderness, drink charity. It is the fountain which God has been pleased to place here lest we faint on the way: and we shall more abundantly drink thereof, when we have come to our own land.

Now to speak of the words of the lesson, what other thing heard ye but concerning charity? For we have made an agreement with our God in prayer that if we would that He should forgive us our sins, we also should forgive the sins which may have been committed against us. [Matthew 6:12.] Now that which forgives is none other than charity. Take away charity from the heart and hatred possesses it, it knows not how to forgive. Let charity be there, and she fearlessly forgives, not being hindered.

As for this whole epistle of Saint John: see whether it commends anything else than this one thing, charity. Nor need we fear lest by much speaking thereof it might come to be hateful. For what is there to love, if charity becomes hateful? It is by charity that other things come to be rightly loved; then how must itself be loved!

 

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3 August, Pilgrimage to Canterbury : The Bells, the Bells!

canterbury bells

Canterbury Bells are a flower in the Campanula family, happy to grow on the chalk, or in this case, on top of an old wall built with soft lime mortar. They are traditionally associated with pilgrimage to Canterbury, growing as they do along the lines of the different Pilgrims’ Way routes making for the shrine of Saint Thomas, including the railway cuttings that were driven through the chalk in the 19th Century.

I should have taken a picture while we were walking our L’Arche pilgrimage but then I should have taken a great many that I didn’t! This silhouette against a grey sky cannot really give us the purple-blue of the flowers, but we can see that the leaves are brown, no doubt due to drought. 2½ metres above the ground is not the most promising habitat when the weather turns dry, but the plants are concentrating their efforts into flowering and seeding themselves.

As we pass by we hear, not Bell Harry or Great Dunstan or the other cathedral bells, but the background roar of the main road. Not a problem for Chaucer’s pilgrims! Nor were they wandering through Kent with earphones blotting out the sounds of the birds, the bells. ‘And I shal clinken yow so mery a belle’, says Chaucer’s Shipman, praising his tale before he tells it. 

Mrs Turnstone first heard a cuckoo this year as June was drawing to a close; we heard a nightingale in the woods on one Pilgrim’s Way – in the daytime, but still as lovely. And the blackbirds of Canterbury or London, or even that city of cities, Venice, would be inaudible wearing headphones.

If, as the catechism says, God made us to know him, love him and serve him in this world, we should take each phrase seriously. Out of body experiences are all very well, but Saint Francis, who received them. was also the author of the Canticle of Creation, in which everything created is called to ‘lift up your voice and with us sing, Alleluiah!’ We can only know, love and serve God in this world.

Laudato Si!’

 

 

 

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29 July: Saint Martha

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Looking ahead to Pilgrimage 2020, Vincent lent me a guide to the Pilgrims’ Way from Winchester to Canterbury, which claims that the Church of Saint Martha near Guildford is the only one dedicated to this friend of the Lord. There’s one nearby, but it’s Catholic, so doesn’t count for this writer! But then he also notes the Reformation loss of Saint Peter’s in Winchester without mentioning that the beautiful Catholic church nearby bears that Apostle’s name. No doubt Simon Peter was welcome to the home in Bethany of Martha, Mary and Lazarus.

Martha is the welcomer, just as much as Mary.

Here in Canterbury we are well into the swing of summer, which means visitors, tourists and pilgrims, most people a bit of both: hundreds of continental school students every day; Americans, Japanese and Chinese on package tours, and some travelling independently; families feeling the heat – altogether more varied than the crew who travelled with Chaucer. Some of them produce questionnaires testing my knowledge of Canterbury history – by no means A*; or asking which shops I use most often – I could not identify ten from the list, even if I found five I never visit with consummate ease.

Like Martha, we must be welcomers, some hidden in the kitchen, some paid to serve visitors, all of us readily pointing out directions or speaking a few phrases of whatever language we picked up at school. Is it my inner Martha or my inner Mary who answers the questionnaire, points out the way to the cathedral coach park, or railway station? Peu importe, as they say; does it matter?

It was Martha who went out to meet her Lord after her brother died. Perhaps she’s the one to look to when a visitor to our church has not heard of Saint Thomas, or at the other extreme, wants to reverence the relic; when two coachloads, that is 100+ teenagers, are crossing the road in an orderly (German) or ragged (French) line and holding up traffic, meaning me on my bike.

Welcoming visitors, even when I don’t want anything to do with them, is welcoming the Lord. The day after writing this I sat in the crypt at Canterbury Cathedral; at first the two coachloads were very intrusive, but that gave way to quiet. Some of them stopped to light candles; they were being shepherded along, so could not stay to pray; they let their little light shine though!

 

 

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