Tag Archives: love

16 February: Look!

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This is an invitation to look at each other and into our own hearts and behaviour-  an activity well-suited to Lent.

My wife Janet tells the story of a child at the local playground, where she was with our grandson. This other pre-school boy was coming down the slide towards her, but no-one else was watching him.

His mother was on her phone. 

The boy was looking for someone to make eye contact and acknowledge that he’d come down successfully. At least the kind stranger was there …

And this story connected with Pope Francis’s

Amoris Laetitia

In Paragraphs 128 and 129 he says:

The aesthetic experience of love is expressed in that “gaze” which contemplates other persons as ends in themselves, even if they are infirm, elderly or physically unattractive. A look of appreciation has enormous importance, and to begrudge it is usually hurtful. How many things do spouses and children sometimes do in order to be noticed! Much hurt and many problems result when we stop looking at one another. This lies behind the complaints and grievances we often hear in families: “My husband does not look at me; he acts as if I were invisible”. “Please look at me when I am talking to you!”. “My wife no longer looks at me, she only has eyes for our children”. “In my own home nobody cares about me; they do not even see me; it is as if I did not exist”. Love opens our eyes and enables us to see, beyond all else, the great worth of a human being.
129. The joy of this contemplative love needs to be cultivated. Since we were made for love, we know that there is no greater joy than that of sharing good things: “Give, take, and treat yourself well” (Sir 14:16). The most intense joys in life arise when we are able to elicit joy in others, as a foretaste of heaven.

Joy for this little one in being seen and also in a warm brotherly embrace.

 

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February 13: Have your ELECTRIC BLANKET serviced … II

electricblanket

Here’s that bookmark, mentioned yesterday. Anyone who lived through the seventies will recognise the spiky typeface.

I cannot resist a simple take on the message though, combining Valentine’s and Lent in one post.

Winter warmth and safety – winter will come, in various forms, to any relationship. The other side of the bookmark has a few ideas on how to keep a blanket going. ‘Never use if overheating’ is one that applies to tongues as well as electric blankets. You might also like, ‘Return to the maker for checking at least once in two years.’

Lent, they used to tell us, means Spring, so let’s return to our maker for checking and servicing. Let’s pray that we have a fruitful Lent: not so strange an idea as it first sounds, for it’s time for the blackthorn to flower, and the fruit will be ready in Autumn. Let’s sow now for a future harvest.

We hope we can walk with you through Lent.

 

MMB.

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February 12: Have your ELECTRIC BLANKET serviced … I

blackthorn

It’s a good headline isn’t it! Poor Saint Valentine gets supplanted by Ash Wednesday this year. Let’s remember him in advance!

One day last October we were out foraging for sloes, those sharp, purple little wild plums, the fruit of the blackthorn, one of the earliest spring flowers. Something reminded Janet of this passage in the old ‘Dutch Catechism’ which was part of her journey into the Church. Appropriate reading for Saint Valentine.

People begin to suspect that they are meant for each other when they experience the marvel of falling in love. A young man and a young woman discover something in each other that no outsider can fully see. The hope and the need of giving themselves to each other completely take over and grow and grow.

The heart has its reasons which the reason does not quite know, according to Pascal, nor is it necessary that it should. But if one is to give oneself to another totally and for ever, one must make a decision with one’s whole person. Hence reason and conscience cannot be left out. The enchantment of love opens the eyes to the uniqueness of the other, but it can also be blind if it remains a superficially sensual or romantic attachment.

A New Catechism, Catholic Faith for Adults, London, Search Press, 8th impression, 1978, p 385

And that headline was on the bookmark Janet was using all those years ago.

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11 February: Today’s Lodging House Fires

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Eliot wrote in this seaside shelter in Margate, Kent.

Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind
Cannot bear very much reality.
Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.

T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets

Go, go, go!’ is one of two-year-old Abel’s slogans for living. He still needs his daytime sleep but is not inclined or programmed to torpor. He has been ‘always present’ until recently, but he can now talk about time past, telling his mother what he has seen, and can grasp that something is going to happen ‘later’ or ‘tomorrow, after your sleep.’

What sort of reality could he not bear? It’s certainly difficult when Things don’t work as he thinks they should, and he can perceive intervention as interference – helping him has to be done discreetly and sensitively. But Amor Vincit Omnia – love conquers all. He can forgive our heavyhandedness.

And the realities that the lodging house inmates could not bear? Or the men drinking at 8.30 in the morning? Or the self-harming teenager? People with no ‘go, go, go’? Or you or me? Is giving money to beggars helping or not?

Amor Vincit Omnia. But how?

As the blind John Milton reminds us, ‘They also serve who only stand and wait.’ (And listen, like the librarians.) Letting  a smile loose might also help. But the reality of others’ suffering can seem more than we can bear. The one end which is always present: death, or Omega, Christ’s eternal life?

Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to render to every man according to his works. I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.

Revelation 22:13-14.

 

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January 31, Aberdaron IX: Fire.

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Sometimes a candle can speak where words cannot.

As here in Canterbury Cathedral, on a cake, or at a memorial site.

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12 January, Temperance VI: Temperance, Restraint and Anger.

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One of the important aspects of the virtue temperance is that it is not just about our physical appetites. It is about all our appetites, and develops our ability to handle such emotions as intense fear, desire and anger. And so, it complements moderation with something that uses perhaps more ‘muscle’ – and that something is restraint. Restraint is that power of soul whose act is to choose. In so doing, it curbs the desire for immediate gratification by showing us that we may fulfil our being more truly by making a reasoned choice than by gratifying an impulse that is coming (as in the case of anger) from a hidden desire for vengeance.

Restraint has particular relevance to the passion of anger. Anger can be a very strong passion indeed, and it is worth dwelling on it for a moment. St. Thomas grants that some forms of anger are useful: the anger that surfaces in regard to injustice, for example, and any kind of abuse. Anger is a necessary passion in these circumstances. I would go even further and say that there are some situations to which anger is the only healthy response. But, once again, anger must be directed by the light of reason. Intemperate anger can be destructive and abusive itself, and St. Thomas would not allow that it is good to fight violence with violence. This is where restraint comes in. Blind wrath, bitterness of spirit, revengeful resentment: these forms of anger are highlighted by St. Thomas as being the most dangerous aspects of anger and therefore most in need of the curbing powers of restraint. Blind wrath, he says, is anger that is immoderately fierce and destructive. Bitterness of spirit is to do with a state of anger that lasts so long that it becomes a part of one’s very character and personality. In this case the offence remains in one’s memory, and gives rise to what Thomas calls ‘lasting displeasure’ that does not stop until punishment has been inflicted. Revengeful resentment is an aspect of this ongoing bitterness in which the disposition becomes chronically sullen and the mind is endlessly preoccupied with taking revenge.

When these aspects of anger are delineated here in writing, it is easy to see how harmful they can be – to ourselves and to others – but let’s face it: we have all been there and probably done it. I don’t doubt that many of us have at times been swept away by the intensity of our feelings and indulged in precisely the kind of angry behaviour Thomas describes. These temptations are part of the weakness we have as fallen beings. But the virtue of temperance brings good things to bear on this state of affairs. Through gentleness, justice and charity we can restrain the onslaught of anger.

Gentleness, contrary to what we might think, does not mean that we never feel angry, or that if we do, we can get over it almost before we feel the full force of it. Rather, gentleness is what makes a person master of herself, and therefore master of the power of anger, according to St. Thomas – for anger is a power, and as such is capable of accomplishing something good. Gentleness is about channeling that power rightly, dealing with the cause of the anger fairly, addressing the whole situation that gave rise to the anger in such a way as to change it for the better.

In order to do this, of course, we need to enlist the aid of our reason. We are back to the need to think. Our reason then, brings justice and charity to bear upon the situation that has caused our anger. Justice and charity working together with gentleness enables us to focus on something other than our own pain. We become able to focus on the feelings of the one (or ones) who offended us, on seeing the situation from the other side, and on effecting the changes that will lead to the establishment of peace – even if some of those changes are changes that need to take place within our own heart.

SJC

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January 11: Temperance V: The Gift of Shame

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The virtue of temperance does not require the stoic abstention from all physical pleasures. Temperance is the virtue by which we are strengthened in the ability to decide how much is good for us, and to follow through on that decision on the level of behaviour. What helps us in our decision?

St. Thomas teaches that the spontaneous reaction of shame that surfaces when we have over-indulged in the physical pleasures is both healthy and helpful to us. At first this might be hard to believe: shame is such a miserable, intensely uncomfortable feeling. We don’t like it, and often try to suppress it, or to defend against it by laughing it off and telling ourselves not to be so morbid. Yet, it is better for us to face our feeling of shame. It is a useful reaction whereby we recoil psychologically from the disgrace that comes from intemperance.

Excesses on the level of our physical appetites give us a feeling shame that is usually more intense than the shame we feel over our other moral failings and sins. St Thomas explains that this is because our bodily appetites are what we share with animals, and when we over-indulge them we feel deep down that we have lost something of our innate dignity as human beings.

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Shame, again, surfaces spontaneously. In the masterful book Love and Responsibility, written by Karol Wojtyla*1 in the 1960s, the phenomenon of shame is one of the topics he studies in depth. Here is a brief passage from his book:

Shame is a tendency, uniquely characteristic of the human person, to conceal sexual values sufficiently to prevent them from obscuring the value of the person as such. The purposes of this tendency is self-defence of the person, which does not wish to be an object to be used by another… but does wish to be an object of love (Chapter III).

Perhaps this requires some unpacking. First Wojtyla affirms that shame is part of our in-built moral equipment, as it were – uniquely characteristic of the human person. As such, it is a gift, and it has an importance and a purpose in our spiritual and human lives. Then, he speaks of ‘sexual values.’ Again, an important notion. We see here that he is not trying to say that our sexuality is bad. Then why does he talk about ‘concealing’ this value? Simply because this value has a tendency to loom larger than it should, so much so that it can ‘obscure the value of the person.’ There is a hierarchy of values here, he is saying: the person is of greater value than sexual values. Through shame we actually protect ourselves as persons, so that we do not become an object of “use”. According to Wojtyla, then, shame is not the result of prudish conditioning by repressive religious teachings, or over-strict authority figures. It is inherent in our nature, and surfaces spontaneously with a message for us. That message is that we are created to be loved and to give love in a manner that always affirms the unique beauty and dignity of the person – both our own person and that of the beloved.

This beautiful insight by Karol Wojtyla shows us something that helps us to moderate our physical appetites, by reminding us that we were created to love and be loved. This is the fulfilment we crave most deeply. But we must love and be loved rightly, with great respect for ourselves as persons and for the unique personhood of our loved one.

1 Karol Wojtyla was elected pope in 1978, and was known as Pope John Paul II. His papacy lasted until his death, twenty-five years later.

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January 7, The Virtue of Temperance: Introduction – Temperance renders the human being beautiful

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Good Afternoon friends! Sister Johanna has sent her latest series of posts on the virtues, this time Temperance. A good source of reflection for those of us who set unrealistic New year Resolutions; may your temperate resolutions nurture the beauty in you this year!

As always, Sister is well worth reading. God Bless, WT.

The virtue of temperance comes last in the line-up of the four cardinal virtues. We have already considered the other three virtues – prudence, justice and fortitude – in previous posts. These four virtues are called cardinal because they are of cardinal importance in our human life. They help us to live moral lives – they are also called the four moral virtues. They are concerned not only with our superficial behaviour, but with our deepest inner processes: our thoughts, feelings, our very reason. They help us to negotiate reality, to approach it with integrity, to see things as they are. The virtues confer power – that is what the Latin root means: virtus means power. We are dealing here not with political power though, but with a much more important kind of power: power over ourselves. The virtues help us to live in the truth of things, and to act in ways that are good, fair, true and loving. I will not recap here what we have already looked at in other posts. Those wishing to catch up with what was said on the virtues may find these posts through the search function of this website.

I have based this study on the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas, whose thirteenth century texts on the human person still ring with truth and power today. Although his famous work, the Summa Theologica, does not make for easy reading, St. Thomas’s insights are well worth the effort it might take to become familiar with his ideas, especially those aquinas-carlo_crivelli_007presented in the second part of his Summa. I am also relying on the work of the great Catholic philosopher from the twentieth century, Josef Pieper, whose book, The Four Cardinal Virtues, is both an inspiring read and a luminous interpretation of St. Thomas.

I would like to begin the reflections on the virtue of temperance by a quotation from Pieper’s book, in which he says:

To the virtue of temperance as the preserving and defending realization of our inner order, the gift of beauty is particularly coordinated. Not only is temperance beautiful in itself, it also renders [the human being] beautiful. Beauty, however, must here be understood in its original meaning: as the glow of the true and the good irradiating from every ordered state of being….

I realise that in presenting that quotation in the beginning of this reflection, I may be throwing my readers in at the deep end. If you stay with me over the next few days, I hope gradually to make this statement intelligible.

SJC

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3 January: Feast of the Holy Family

Holy Family Window, Catholic Church, Saddleworth

Holy Family Window, Catholic Church, Saddleworth

Just recently I watched a video which truly melted my heart. The story was of a married Christian couple in the US who, unable to conceive naturally, and desperately wanting to raise a child, enquired as to the possibility of adopting one of the many thousands of babies (‘embryos’) frozen in time as a result of IVF procedures. The video was in fact narrated by their daughter – now 15 years old – who movingly described her happy childhood and the gradual process of coming to know her early history, beginning with her conception in a laboratory and her being suspended in storage for more than ten years. As she spoke she was radiant with healthy self-love and self-knowledge. She refers to herself as a ‘Snowflake’ child – and her witness and that of others in her situation is giving added momentum to the Snowflake movement, raising awareness of this wonderful way to welcome life previously unwanted.
Adoption is extremely beautiful. For a husband and wife to choose a child as their own with the overriding motivation of showering them with love, of creating a home with them, a place of safety and refuge, peace and joy, is to be celebrated. In a sense, we are all adopted. All adopted into the faith of Abraham, and into the great Reward that was being prepared through his earthly descendants: that reward being Jesus Christ. The true Gift of Christmas, Who comes to raise our earthly identity to that of a heavenly identity.
We all yearn to belong. Whatever our state of life, our duties, gifts and responsibilities, we all need to know and experience that we belong somewhere – and with others.
Today the value of independence and of ‘doing it my way’ is more than ever promoted as the ideal state of life. But the reality of our need to belong cannot simply be brushed aside: because no individual, unique human person is brushed aside by God. God who honours every conception by breathing His own Image into the tiny developing life – even if conceived in a way outside His plan.
Family: is the place, above all, where the growing child knows without question their intrinsic worth; their identity as beloved child of God. Where they hopefully discover that they have, in fact, a heavenly Father and heavenly Mother as well as their earthly parent or parents.
Family is where the Gift of Bethlehem and Nazareth takes flesh here and now. Jesus Christ chose to be born into a family because the family was – and remains – at the heart of His Saving Plan for Humanity. He wanted to belong in a human family – so that in receiving Him into our own hearts and homes we would know our worth, our true identity. God’s taking on our humanity in the infant Jesus not only confirms the goodness of the human family, it directs it to its fulfilment and perfection: that the human family might take-on godliness!
We live, however, and despite our best efforts, in an imperfect world – and Almighty God is well aware of it! He chose to be born into a human family knowing that ‘the family’ would one day suffer the attacks and trials that it is going through right now. Simeon prophesied to Mary and Joseph that their Son Jesus was destined to be rejected – and so it is to be expected that his greatest gifts would also in time be rejected – the priesthood, the family, the Church itself. The answer to the attack against the family is not to abandon it but to deepen our commitment to it. God gives a very special grace and strength to those who do their best to enshrine Jesus Christ in their homes, marriages, and families, especially when circumstances are less than ideal. And in this our models are Mary and Joseph.
At the heart of the Holy Family’s hidden life in Nazareth was Purity, self-sacrifice, hard work, simplicity, joy, humble service, perseverance (and, above all…) prayer and worship.
Although Jesus was God, and so totally incapable of anything other than perfect love, He had to be taught and guided as He learned to show forth that Love in His words, gestures and actions. Imagine: the Son of God being taught to pray, sing and worship God by a humble carpenter and His young wife!
It is the privilege of every Christian parent to endeavour to form their children, over time, to grow in the likeness of Christ. And so prayer and worship have to be at the heart of life if a child’s true destiny is to be fulfilled. Pope Francis has confirmed the Tradition of 2,000 yrs by calling the family the ‘Domestic Church’. And rightly so. We come to Church each Sunday so that Christ’s sacrifice of perfect Love – made present in the Mass – is then made manifest in the home. And the family alive in the love of Jesus is the answer to a society so quickly losing its heart – and is the building-block of the New World of true peace and love.
It is a joyful but not at all easy duty to speak about the family. So many of us are from broken homes, or had traumatic childhoods, or, find ourselves separated or widowed, perhaps with few or no family members. In truth, wherever Jesus Christ is welcomed into a human heart there is family, because there He makes His home, with His Father and the Holy Spirit. In God’s loving plan the Parish and the Home were always meant to reflect and feed each other…whether the home is made up of one soul or a dozen or more.
Abraham’s openness to God resulted in the promise of countless offspring. In a life of prayer and communion with Jesus Christ, He will reveal to each of us our unique call to become generators of spiritual life. For those who live alone that might mean contributing to the life of the parish in a more active way than would otherwise have been possible, or in a life of profound prayer on behalf of the parish family and, indeed, the world. Simeon and Anna are forever held before us as an example to emulate.
Abraham did not live on earth long enough to see the fulfilment of God’s promise in all its glory – but from heaven he rejoices every time a soul comes to discover – or re-discover – God’s love for them.
Whatever our circumstances, let us resolve to welcome the Living Jesus into our hearts, and do all we can to bring his Love to life – at home, in the Parish and in the world.

DW, Fr Daniel Weatherley.

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January 2, 2018; Father Andrew at Christmas, X: Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore.

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Mary Mother from Hales Place Jesuit Chapel, Canterbury

Our last reading from Father Andrew this Christmastime.

Adoro Te Devote Latens Deitas

Who could refuse the appeal
Of Baby hands stretched out caressingly,
Or patter of Baby feet upon the stair?
It was like Love to deal
So with us in His sweet humility,
To be a little Child amongst us here;
And at the last, when those same hands had borne
The scars of labour and the pierce of sin,
Faithful at eventide as in the morn
Of His first Coming, still to seek to win,
With bleeding hands held wide in mute appeal,
The acceptance of His own unchanging love.

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