Tag Archives: listening

6 April: Hanging On

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He taught in the temple every day 

(Luke. 19:47)

More wisdom from Sister Johanna, who today looks at what Jesus was doing in Holy Week.

I am often amazed at how much insight can be derived from a very few words of scripture. I sometimes take a short sentence and explore the words one by one to see what comes. The Holy Spirit never disappoints. Here we have a mere seven words from the Gospel of Luke (19:47). Let’s see what treasures can be found in He taught in the temple every day.

  • He. Who is he? We are dealing with Jesus, the Lord, here, and not just anyone. He is not a news broadcaster, an entertainer, a politician canvassing for votes and whose promises are dubious. He is not someone who should be tuned out and only half-heard while we do other things. He is not someone whose agenda is self-serving. He is the one – the only one – who deserves our full and undivided attention. He is the only one whose words are directed toward fulfilling our deepest needs, and not to furthering his own ambition; his words and deeds feed our most profound hungers – our hunger for truth, our thirst for love, our desire for eternal life. That is who ‘He’ is.

  • Taught. For all these reasons, and more, he is the teacher par excellence. Jesus’ mind is clear, beautiful, and deep – much deeper than we can imagine. He always lives on a deeper level of reality than we do, and every word of his teaching, his every observation or comment comes from the place of wisdom and deepest truth. He is never someone who just talks to fill in an awkward silence, or whose words are coming from nervousness, who is babbling. Every word he utters is full of meaning. Nor is he on the level of our peers, that we should critically examine his words for flaws, prejudices, hang-ups. We may need to study his words closely, in order to make them our own. This is the task of a good student. But he is greater than we are; we are not his equal, and in debate he will always win. The Pharisees soon discovered this when they tried to trip him up in discourse. They could never trick him, or catch him out.

We have a lot of people spewing words at us through the media nowadays. So many words that we can’t, and don’t even need to, take them all in. We can entertain ourselves and others by mocking these media people, because they have little of value to say, or if they do say something important, the program has run and re-run so many times that we are sick of it. But that is emphatically not the case with Jesus. His words are life. They are living words, always revelatory, always fresh, even if we have heard them many times before. He always has something new to teach us.

  • In the temple. Jesus is IN the temple – he is in this most sacred of places. Jesus is everywhere, granted, and teaches everywhere. But the temple is a privileged place of encounter, set aside to honour God. It is a place over which, as God and Lord, Jesus rightly has ownership, it is a place where he is entitled to preside – even to reign. He claims this pre-eminent role in the absolute sense when he cleanses the temple of the vendors who had set up their booths in it. The temple is not to be turned into a profit-making venue for business people, he teaches. But the act of temple-cleansing is not merely about him. It is about us, too. In cleansing the temple Jesus is defending our right to use it as a place, above all, for prayer, against those whose avarice and insensitivity would make it noisy, irreverent, chaotic – make it a place where they make a profit for themselves rather than offer themselves lovingly to God. We have a right to a sacrosanct place set aside for encountering God. The temple is so important that Jesus is famously fierce about this and demonstrates a violence in cleansing the temple that he does not show at any other time. In this way he teaches that we must ensure that the temple is always conducive to prayer – silent, reverent, empty of all other kinds of pursuits. We need this place – perhaps much more than we realise. And Jesus defends this need. He is IN this place. This is the place where Jesus can be found.

  • Every day. This is something reliable. Jesus is there every day. He does not skip any days, or take a holiday. Jesus does not need a day off. Moreover, every day the truth is truth. Jesus, as teacher, does not have good days and bad days – perhaps like an athlete whose game is just off sometimes. Jesus is never shallow, silly or foolish. Jesus is always there, every moment of every day, ready to teach us. He never leaves us alone, never leaves us without his help.

And now, what is my response to these assertions? It is easy. St Luke shows me in the following sentence: ‘…the whole people hung on his words (19:48) [emphasis mine]. To ‘hang on’ Jesus’ words. This is the only appropriate response.

SJC

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Going viral X: listen to the flowers!

It sounded like something Bottom would say in A Midsummer Night’s Dream: ‘Listen’, said our daughter, ‘and you’ll hear the daffodils open’. Was she going virally stir-crazy? No, we listened, and we heard a pop as one of these daffodils burst the brown sheaf of the bud as the petals expanded. Another Laudato Si moment!

I was reminded of sitting in the sunshine, waiting for a tube train at the then beautifully tended Boston Manor tube station, well above ground at this point, and hearing, in the quieter moments between Trident jets descending to Heathrow, the sound of broom pods clicking open in the sunshine. I must have been on my way to see her future mother on a Friday evening after work.

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March 23, Desert XXV: Open our hearts to hear God’s call

Mary Mother from Hales Place Jesuit Chapel, Canterbury

If you look at the chest of the Infant Jesus you will see a hole where a decorative heart was fixed when the Jesuits were here. A baby loves his parents and family without words. We can have an loving and sincere dialogue with God without words also – unless you become as little children, you cannot enter the Kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3)

Pope Francis ends his Lent Message 2020, by insisting again on the Easter, or Paschal reason for Lent, and by asking Mary within the Communion of Saints to pray for us to open our hearts.

I ask Mary Most Holy to pray that our Lenten celebration will open our hearts to hear God’s call to be reconciled to himself, to fix our gaze on the paschal mystery, and to be converted to an open and sincere dialogue with him. In this way, we will become what Christ asks his disciples to be: the salt of the earth and the light of the world (cf. Matthew 5:13-14).

FRANCIS

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15 March, Desert XVIII, Rabindranath Tagore: Where is my desert?

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At midnight the would-be ascetic announced:
“This is the time to give up my home and seek for God. Ah, who has held me so long in delusion here?”
God whispered, “I,” but the ears of the man were stopped.
With a baby asleep at her breast lay his wife, peacefully sleeping on one side of the bed.
The man said, “Who are ye that have fooled me so long?”
The voice said again, “They are God,” but he heard it not.
The baby cried out in its dream, nestling close to its mother.
God commanded, “Stop, fool, leave not thy home,” but still he heard not.
God sighed and complained, “Why does my servant wander to seek me, forsaking me?””
(from “The Gardener” by Rabindranath Tagore)
 Life can seem a little too comfortable at times; a cosy house by the sea, a spouse, a child … is this too easy? Am I making time for God? Maybe God has made this time for me, with all its comforts and consolations.
Who knows what tomorrow, or the next twenty years will bring? But for now, love those given to you to be loved as if they were divine, for they are in the image and likeness of God. They are your vocation today. Accept them with joy.

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13March, Desert 16: Surviving the Waste Places of Homelessness

campers s mildreds

The sight above, taken in January, is troubling and it is repeated across Canterbury and indeed elsewhere in Britain: homeless people camping out in all weathers. It’s clear from the picture that people have tried to help them with bedding and the tent that they are using. But talking to someone who is involved with the churches’ work, it is also clear that some people, including these campers, do choose not to accept all the help available to them.

About the same time as I took this photo I was talking to a companion of Emmaus in Dover. I was in an Emmaus community while studying in France many years ago, and it seems many things continue from those days, and indeed from the 1940s, when Abbé Pierre started the organisation near Paris. Working for the community is an important part of regaining one’s self respect.

The man I  spoke to has become a spokesman for the community. He described how, once he was on the street, he too was unable to take the hand reached out to him. It was months later that he was persuaded to give the community life a try, and it was a life saver. Now he is something of an ambassador, better able than many to get alongside those who do – and those who don’t – use the services that the churches and charities, as well as the local council, can provide. ‘And perhaps in a year or two, I’ll move on; I’m not ready yet.’ Meanwhile, practical help to cope with supported or independent living is part of Emmaus’s service; this can include help to work for qualifications that employers will recognise.

Dover logo

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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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17 February: Volunteer of the Year

sr moira

This year the winner of Irish in Britain’s Individual Volunteer Award was our very own Sister Moira Keane. Moira has been a Mercy religious sister for 60 years, working on the margins of our society.  Her work over many years, in particular as a prison Chaplain for 12 years, brought her into contact with the Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas, where she has been a volunteer since 2012.  


Moira has an extensive and exceptional resume of volunteering, described as “a natural carer” with “boundless energy”. She gives invaluable hours to assist with prison visits, advice, advocacy, suicide attempt prevention, pastoral care as well as providing much needed support for distressed family members. 


Moira has worked on a number of ICPO projects as well as relieving caseworkers of admin and telephone duties when she’s in the office.  This is crucial respite for staff who oftentimes are dealing with a backlog.

Moira just keeps giving; she visits prisons if and when needed and often in her own time outside of her office hours.   Moira also puts herself forward as a resource for ICPO staff and volunteers, providing a listening ear and practical support where appropriate.  She has facilitated staff away days and also on occasion has opened her door to provide staff with much needed respite and even a break away. 


As ICPO provide a support service to Irish prisoners and their families, we are extremely fortunate to have a volunteer who has remained with us for more than seven years; and someone who has more than 12 years’ experience within the prison service as a Chaplain.


Moira’s wealth of knowledge is vast and we know what a difference she makes in the lives of Irish prisoners and their families; and how her expert support can lead to a healthier Irish prisoner community and aid rehabilitation.  For this reason we couldn’t think of a more fitting winner of IIB individual volunteer Award, than Sr. Moira Keane.
Moira’s undoubtedly impressive and endless resume of experience, skills and knowledge come even second to her wonderful gifts of loyalty and trust.  She has boundless energy and a magnificent sense of humour that keeps her and those around her going and going.  Her honesty, which she makes no apology for, is second to none.  Moreover, it is doubtful there is anything in the world that Moira wouldn’t help a vulnerable person with if in their best interest.  She has proved this time and again, leaving those working with her in awe.  


The impact of Moira’s voluntary work can be summed up as: improving the emotional and material well-being of Irish people in prison; and helping to reduce isolation for them and their families while supporting staff in a practical and pastoral way.
All in all a worthy winner of this prestigious award.

Breda Power, London Prisons’ Visitor

Are you Interested in Volunteering for the Irish Chaplaincy….
We have many opportunities, including: befriending, prison visiting, answering the phone, casework, admin, fundraising, comms.
Contact Declan Ganly:  declan.ganly@irishchaplaincy.org.uk  

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24 December: What the Choir Master’s Back Knows.

What the Choir Master’s Back Knows

adam.canterbury
Dear Friends,
We have today a Christmas poem from Sister Johanna,  called  What the choir master’s back knows  . It’s set in Canterbury Cathedral, where this ancient picture of our father Adam is in the great west window. Follow the link to a pdf version that preserves the layout and punctuation of Sister’s original.
I have to admit to saluting Adam when facing the west window. He himself is facing east, towards the dawn, the new day, and working as he waits. What do you make of Adam, sister, brother? He is a reminder that we humans are united in one complex family tree with our first parents at the root.
Today is the Feast of Adam and Eve – no, I did not know about it either -and tomorrow is the Birthday of the Second Adam. It is good to know, both from the feast day and from the message of the window artist, that the Church believes Adam is with the Lord. Happy Feast Day, and Happy Christmas for tomorrow! 
Will and the team.

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October 25, Month of Mission: Beachy Head Chaplains

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William Blake lived near Beachy Head in Sussex, part of the range of chalk cliffs he drew as a background for this verse.

Virginia Woolf was to drown herself in the nearby River Ouse a century and a half later, but today it is the cliffs themselves that attract the lonely, depressed and overwhelmed who are tempted to take their lives.

The Beachy Head Chaplaincy team are Christians from local churches ‘and although we reach out with the love of God, we never impose our faith on the people we seek to help.

‘We believe that by receiving skilled crisis intervention support at their time of crisis, people in suicidal distress can be awakened to the hope that there are other ways forward to address the problems they face.’judas

The Apostle Judas went out and hanged himself after seeing Jesus arrested and condemned, but the artist of Strasbourg Cathedral’s west front shows us the Lamb of God coming to release him from his noose and away from the mouth of Hell to go in at Heaven’s Gate.

In their different ways, the well-to-do and well-connected Virginia Woolf, and the disciple who was trusted by Jesus, were both privileged, yet both knew despair. It is not for us to condemn them, or any other suicide; rather let us support with prayer and alms brave good neighbours like the Samaritans and the Beachy Head Chaplains, not forgetting the official first responders, Police, Ambulance, Fire, Coastguard and Lifeboats.

And may we be ready with small talk or even a just a smile for anyone we meet.  Lead, Kindly Light!

 

 

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October 24, Month of Mission: walking and working together.

Nurse

Lawrence Tukamushaba, M.Afr writes from  Kasama, Zambia, about youth work in Saint Anne’s parish. To read his post click here. After describing some of the successes of this ministry in a large parish with many communities, he touches on some challenges.

Family breakdown

A good number of our young people are raised by single parents; others have been orphaned at a young age and were brought up by their grandparents. Some have never met their fathers. Dealing with such young people needs spending time to listen to them and counselling them. Peer counselling is a skill that is needed.

The widening gap between Urban and Rural Youth

There is a growing gap between young people coming from urban and rural setups. In some areas, children have to walk 10 km on foot to reach the nearest primary school. In the rainy season, roads get really bad and some bridges are washed away. Added to that, the grass grows tall so that it becomes risky to walk in the bush and on top of all that some villages are widely scattered. In such areas it is difficult to find someone who has finished secondary school. This poses a challenge of leadership in the Church. It also increases a vicious circle of poverty.

Youth In the year 2017, I baptized 17 adults among whom were 8 school girls aged between 14 and 18 years of age who had dropped out of school. Later I discussed with their parents and church council how to ensure they go back to school. We must be interested in the formal education of our Christians if our ministry is to be transformative.

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