Tag Archives: joy

July 28: St Francis and the Slugs – a modern legend, II

One wet morning, St. Francis entered a garden, sat down on a bird bath and prayed silently. Then, looking up, he saw those creatures in the garden and he called, “My sister slugs, come here to me and listen to a word from God. A group of them immediately made their way towards him and came up to his feet. At this, the saint said, “Sister slugs, I command you to stop”, and they stopped and pricked up their eye stalks eagerly. Saint Francis addressed the creatures thus:

“Blessed are you, my sister slugs because you are models of true humility. You do not try to be high fliers like other creatures but cling to the earth. You do not try to be anything other than what you are. You do not protect yourselves with hard shells like your cousins the snails, but leave yourselves vulnerable in the open and offer yourselves as food to other creatures. You are despised by cleverer creatures because you are simple and so, rejoice, since God who made you loves you greatly.”

FMSL

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22 July: A kerfuffle in Canterbury

We were about to sit down to a family lunch in the garden, with all the furniture arranged for social distancing, when there was a mighty clamour from the roof of next-door-but-one. That roof has a hole, some 20cm square, where a tile has fallen. This has been a godsend to the sparrows who seem to be on the increase locally; they’ve moved back into a hole under our eaves which was abandoned for a few years and found a new spot at the back of our house. Two sparrows in particular are tame enough to come near to our al fresco table and suggest that we might spare a crumb. How could we say no?

It turned out that the racket on the roof was from the combined forces of sparrows and starlings, combining to chase away a pair of magpies who were taking too close an interest in the hole in the roof. The magpies left the scene, apparently empty-beaked, and life seemed to return to normal for the little birds.

Except that there was a little chick, still flightless, struggling at the edge of the garden pond. With wet feathers it was becoming more difficult to get out, till Mrs T stretched out her arm and pulled the sorry sodden sparrowlet to safety. The little fellow seemed to know that safety lay in camouflage, hiding in the herbaceous border, but loud ‘feed me’ chirps told us he was still around. The danger from cats has diminished.

I think the sparrow may have been involved in the magpie incident, perhaps pulled out of the nest but dropped to the ground as the bigger birds fled. Let’s hope his devoted parents’ efforts to feed him in hiding were enough to bring him to the joys of flight!

And may we find ways to bring joy to those who have been hiding away from the Corona Virus.


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5 June, Praying with Pope Francis: The Way of the Heart.

Pope Francis’s prayer intention for this month is:

May all those who suffer find their calling in life and allow themselves to be touched by the heart of Jesus.

I invited Christina Chase to share this reflection; Thank you Christina for offering it to Agnellus’ Mirror. Will.

Suffering is something that people complain about far and wide. As a Catholic, however, I have heard people speak about the gift of suffering. Those people look at me, a faithful, joyful, uncomplaining person crippled and crumpled in my wheelchair, and they believe that I have been given this gift by God. I am a believing and practicing Catholic, through and through, but I don’t believe what those well-meaning, goodhearted people seem to believe.

I don’t believe in the gift of suffering.

I believe in the gift of life.

I believe profoundly and unconditionally in the absolute and terribly beautiful gift of life.

Life naturally includes limitations, imperfections, and hardships — life naturally includes suffering. Everyone who has received the gift of life will suffer at one time or another, or even chronically.

But we don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, do we?

© 2019 Christina Chase

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10 May, Little Flowers of Saint Francis LXXV: Run, John, run!

All the thoughts of visions and dreams and crazy, uninhibited rushing about, and along came a poem. Run John, run!

It might have been dancing, like Zorba, or David before the Ark
But with you it was running: mad, measureless marathons of joy;
Crazed careering for Christ’s sake, labyrinthine, loving loping.
Your feet refreshed by the dry old novice-master’s words.


And the darkened day when the glad joy vanished from your veins,
What did you do but run and shout and cry; and run and cry: ‘My
God, why? Why have you forsaken me, oh why God, why?’
For why? To learn true wisdom, to learn how, not knowing God’s grace,


(Though it be quietly working in their thought, deed and word)
So many carry on, living as best they can, loving their fellows,
Stepping aside on the narrow path to let the stranger pass.
No stranger he, the silent one, who smiled as he walked by


Without a word. But not ignoring you, no fear; he wanted you
To follow to the log-bench, warm beneath the crabtree
At the corner: you can see it now, his piercéd feet cradled
In your hands. What then he taught you no dry novice-master
Ever could impart, but kings, bishops, country folk and friars
All received it from your heart. So run John, run! Run John, run!
MMB

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28 April: In sure and certain hope.

Our constitutional today led us to Harbledown, once home to Canterbury’s lepers, but we took an old sunken road that led us to the parish church, not the lepers’ one – which is now an almshouse. We spent a few minutes checking the gravestones for passion flowers. I would have said no joy, but these modern carvings were little joys, and each of them an Easter image.

The daffodils are often part of an Easter garden, and then the salmon: didn’t the risen Jesus accept a piece of grilled fish, since he was no ghost, but still human, still able to fancy food. And didn’t he barbecue fish for the disciples up North in Galilee? I don’t suppose they have salmon in the Jordan, cut off as it is from the ocean but surely he’d have caught the best in the lake? That would be salmon in England.

As for the boat (a Mirror dinghy if Agnellus is not mistaken) let it remind us of that lakeside morning, the shared meal, the reconciliation, the commission: feed my lambs, feed my sheep, feed my ewes. Let us share our Easter joy in this lockdown time!

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23 April: Looking After Jesus

stmaurice.pilgrims

Sister Johanna finds treasure in Luke’s Gospel when she spots her own name and investigates further.

With Jesus went Mary, surnamed the Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their own resources.                                                                                                                                      Luke 8: 2-3

This short passage from the Gospel of Luke is one that I have not really thought much about, until now. Today I was taken by the reference to Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and wondered why Chuza was mentioned, and what light this might shed on the text. After a bit or research, I discovered that this is the only reference to Chuza in the New Testament, and nothing is known about him except what is said here in this passage. But, surely, at the time Luke’s gospel was written, his name must have meant something. No one, not even St. Luke, name-drops without wanting to impress. And if I think about it, I can see what is probably being implied here.

Herod was not a man to be trusted. He was no friend of Jesus, and the term, ‘that fox’, was used by Jesus of Herod (Lk 13:32) as a put-down, and a bold one, for Herod was an important man and held power over Jesus – or at least, he held a certain kind of worldly power over him. He could, and eventually did, collude with the powers that crucified Jesus.

And Chuza was ‘that fox’s’ steward. As steward, Chuza was also rather important. Scripture scholars say that the exact nature of a steward’s job is no longer known, but it is thought that Chuza was probably a kind of chief administrator of Herod’s entire establishment, and not a mere domestic manager. He was in some way the man who made all the practical decisions at the palace and was responsible for its smooth running. The fact that Chuza’s name is dropped into this text would suggest that his name was well known by Luke’s audience. Eyebrows might rise on hearing that Joanna, wife of the famous Chuza, was known to be both a disciple of Jesus and one of his benefactors.

The text also suggests that Joanna was taking a risk, both on her own behalf and that of her husband, in publicly following this upstart Jesus – ever a controversial figure to those without faith, who had not yet learned to love and revere him. Herod would not approve. But, neither Joanna nor Chuza seem to be bothered by that. Jesus is worth the risk. What eventually happened to Chuza? The text doesn’t say. But we have established that his relative fame would not have been an advantage for Joanna. She carries on anyway, despite the risk.

What else do we know about Joanna? Joanna had been healed by Jesus. She is now dedicated to caring for Jesus and is one of those who provide for him and his companions. She gladly associates with Mary Magdalene, who had been freed from seven devils. Reputations linger, and surely Mary Magdalene was still regarded by many as a highly dubious character. Joanna doesn’t care about that either. Mary Magdalene had been healed, and so had Joanna. They were companions. Joanna was for Jesus and no one would stop her. Caring for Jesus was much more important than playing it safe. Caring for Jesus more important than caring for herself. She and the other women are loyal to Jesus and courageous.

What does Jesus think of their dedication? Does he thank them? Oh, yes. St. Luke’s gospel tells us later that Joanna and the other women received a reward from Jesus. In fact, we see that Jesus expresses his gratitude in the most profound way possible. After Jesus’ crucifixion, Joanna appears again; with her are Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James. They are the first visitors to the tomb of Jesus. They go there intending to carry out the ritual anointing the body. What actually happens to them there is that they become the privileged three who converse with angels. They – these women who took risks for Jesus, who were loyal to him, who provided for his material needs – they are the first recipients of the astounding news that Jesus was alive, risen from the dead. They are the first to know, the first ones to experience the joy of knowing. And not only that, St Luke tells us that they are the first ones who actually remembered Jesus’ own words about his resurrection which he spoke when he was alive. They are the first to understand those words.

And this tells us something else about Joanna and the other women: they were attuned to Jesus’ teaching all along. This understanding they have after his death will be the carry-over from their profound grasp of his teaching before his death. They are, therefore, well chosen to be the first messengers of the Good News to the Eleven. This is Jesus’ way of thanking them, honouring them, showing his love for them and healing them of the deep sorrow his death would have caused. He reaches the most profound places in their hearts with the reality of his resurrection. This is indeed a gift.

This short text, one that I had not really pondered before, has messages of joy. It tells us that Jesus sees everything we do for him, sees our loyalty, sees the risks we take for him, sees the understanding we have of his teaching, sees the way we remember his words. He is grateful every time we embrace his word, every time we give generously to him and his followers. He will repay in ways we cannot imagine now, any more than the women imagined that they would see angels when they went to the tomb. Jesus will repay with currency from his risen life and reach us, raise us up on the deepest possible level of our being.

SJC

Image: Missionaries of Africa.

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4 April, Desert XXXVI: Perseverance and Beauty.

A thought from the French singer-songwriter Laurent Voulzy, who put off writing a song to Jesus for 10 years. You can hear him sing it at the link below.

Right now, I am searching, I pray every day, I go into churches and I look at the diversity of faces … and I see wickedness in some of them …

The idea of faith as perseverance, full of humour and beautiful light, is a part of my prayer. It gives me a reason to believe, to feel joy every day, even if our times do not evoke it. My faith consists of questions. God is in all the faces I see, in all the questions that I put to myself. And in my search for answers…

Laurent Voulzy

Door of Mercy, Holy Family Basilica, Zakopane, Poland.

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31 March, Desert XXXIII: It’s good to be here.

Christina has kindly allowed us to use an extract from her book, which we thoroughly recommend; find it on Amazon or through the publisher’s link below. But for now, take a step into her personal desert.

The yearly losses of strength and abilities – lifting up my arms, feeding myself, brushing my own teeth, breathing without labour – these are the hardest things to bear … The circumstances of my life altered my childhood, undermined my teenage years, and rendered me into an adult who is completely dependent upon others for everyday survival. My body has been wracked with the pain of angry weeping, my bones crying out with shuddering grief, and my mind seized with the heartache of my life. And yet …

I am not bitter.

I pine for independence, for a family of my own, and I mourn the physical losses, the sickness, the shortened lifespan. And yet … I am very glad to be here.

Why am I glad? I ask myself. Even I wonder at how I can be the generally content, grateful and joyful person that I am. Over and over I have asked myself why I, cripple that I am, continue to have a deep love for life.

Why?

Because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.*

* See Psalm 139:14.

Christina Chase, It’s Good to be here, Sophia Institute Press, 2019, pp6-7.
https://www.sophiainstitute.com/products/item/its-good-to-be-here – to order the book from the publisher.

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March 25: Rejoice!

 –

Rejoice, you who enjoy God’s favour!

Luke 1:28

These are the words spoken by the Archangel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary when he first appears to her at the annunciation. He commands: “Rejoice!” In a fallen world, where her holy Child will suffer, where he will die, in a world which will never easily or fully accept the story now beginning to unfold before the young woman’s eyes, and in which her own role will be very nearly as dangerous, crucial and sorrowful as the Messiah’s own role, in this circumstance Mary is commanded by a heavenly messenger to rejoice.

Doesn’t this raise an important issue for us, the faithful? It is easy to dismiss these words, and not allow their full impact to echo in our mind. It is easy to see them as applying to the Mother of Jesus, but not to us. But her joy should be ours. Why isn’t it?

There is a rather punitive undertow to received spirituality that is suspicious of joy, that labels Christian joy out of touch with reality, insufficiently engaged with the world’s suffering victims of poverty, disease, hunger, disaster, war, injustice. That says accusingly, ‘The Messiah has not eliminated any sufferings. What good is he? Why rejoice?’

Yet the angel commands the young Mary to rejoice. He doesn’t merely invite, or suggest. His words are much stronger than that. He utters a divine injunction, a non-negotiable absolute. He is an angel, after all. He can’t be wrong about this. He knows what he is doing and saying. Let this fact settle for a moment or two.

Doesn’t this divine imperative to rejoice, therefore, release something in the heart? Isn’t this truly Good News? The Angel Gabriel not only commands that Mary rejoice, he commands us to do so, also. And in so doing, He gives us permission to release that joy which is hidden in our heart, always just below the surface, always wanting to come out, and which our lugubrious self is always scolding back into hiding. But, just for a moment now, allow this joy to surface. Now, see where it takes you.

SJC

Sister Johanna has returned like a breath of fresh air! Can we whisper an alleluia in Lent? REJOICE anyway!

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26 February, Ash Wednesday. The Desert, I: This Space

cold-grey-sea

This Lent we will offer daily reflection on the Desert. We begin with a few lines from the Canadian poet, Kate Braid, which set the scene admirably.

This space is not emptiness,

This space is not, as you would say, Nothing there.

It is a space of fullness, open

to possibility. You would say, A foolish space.

Perhaps.

This is not denial. This is joy,

an empty palette waiting, bone

against the sky.

We are so afraid of the larger space.

Kate Braid, Inward to the Bones, Victoria BC, Polestar Book Publishers, 1998. The book explores the life and work of the artist and desert dweller, Georgia O’keeffe.

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