Tag Archives: Marriage

8 April: Edward Thomas’ Anniversary

The Cherry Trees

The cherry trees bend over and are shedding,

On the old road where all that passed are dead,

Their petals, strewing the grass as for a wedding,

This early May morn when there is none to wed. 

The photograph shows an orchard of new cherry trees at Amery Court, Canterbury. They will spend their spring-times protected from ravages of wind, rain, and birds and squirrels by nets rolled out on frames overhead. Few petals will reach the old road, now part of Cycle Route 1 from Dover to Scotland. But the farmer trusts that the expense of planting these trees will be repaid with many a harvest.

Edward Thomas and so many like him trusted that they were putting their lives on the line to help save England and bring about the end of War…

Also tomorrow we remember the Prince of Peace coming into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, not a tank or armoured car. And it is still not too late to pray and strive for Peace, starting by sowing a seed of love and peace in our own hearts.

And may Edward Thomas and all who fell in War, through the mercy of God, rest in Peace. Amen.


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28 March: “Is Christianity Dead?”- Our Response to BBB: III – The church should feel like a place of welcome.


Dear BBB,

I spend a fair bit of time with teenage boys, and was one myself. Let me return to those lads staring at the ceiling. Part of the answer to their apparent detachment was that they – and the girls – should have been at the door, greeting people, handing out newsletters and hymn books, finding seats for visitors, pointing out the toilets/washrooms. Yes, some of them would feel awkward doing that, but if you are part of the team you are part of the community. Welcoming could be a ministry they undertake as part of the confirmation programme.

Even when no-one is there but the One in the Tabernacle, a Church should feel like a place of welcome. I sometimes feel a little over-welcomed at Canterbury Cathedral when I just want to dive into the dark, quiet crypt for ten minutes. There is a certain nervous zeal amongst the welcomers when I enter wearing my day-glow builder’s jacket for cycling. But no question of turning me away because I look like a manual worker.

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For good reasons the church porch may be the only space open outside service times. Does it speak of the life of the parish? Can the visitor discover what’s going on and who is responsible for different activities? If I’m in town to visit my relative in hospital, can I see the contact details for the chaplains? Is there a written introduction to the church and parish? In more than one language? Can a wheelchair user see the sanctuary and tabernacle if the main church is locked?

This is all part of ‘do these Christians love one another?’ It is the body language of the parish, absorbed before the newcomer has set foot in the church or joined in Mass.

They say body language conveys more than the spoken word, but one Mass when one of my children was really vocal, an old lady looked daggers at us, or so we thought, till she came over after Mass and made a real fuss of her.

She was blessing our marriage and our child.

A visitor to our parish once complained that he could not pray seated near us when one of the children was too enthusiastic for his liking. He could have sat elsewhere. Such attitudes drive people away; there was the parish priest at a seaside town who told us he expected young children (ours would have been two and four years old) to stay in the porch. We stayed in church, they were quiet, and he complimented us afterwards – but we would not have wanted to worship there regularly.

For it must needs be that scandals come: but nevertheless woe to that man by whom the scandal cometh.

Matthew 18:7


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21 March: Where she may lay her young.


As we crossed the cloister at the Baptist College in Manchester, Luther King House, we heard a chuckle from the top of a leafless tree. A pair of magpies were building their nest in a fork of the upper branches. The structure was at an early stage, just a few twigs, but if they decide to finish the nest it will have a dome and provide good shelter for the young ‘pies as they grow quickly into adulthood.

the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O LORD of hosts, my King, and my God.

Psalm 84:3

It was Mrs T who made the connection that it was Valentine’s Day, the day the birds are said to marry.

There was a blackbird’s nest on top of a short brick pillar along the cloister. That hen bird must have found her place just above head level on this busy, sheltered corridor to be very safe.

In nearby Whitworth Park we saw parakeets who clearly considered themselves wild members of the local fauna. We’re used to them in Kent but did not expect to spot them so far North!

Magpie photo

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Mirror, mirror II


This Chinese paper and ink picture of a dragonfly I gave to the future Mrs T, with a thought by Marie Curie. The writing has faded but the idea is imperishable, so I’ll type it out here:

The present moment must be enjoyed. It is a precious gift, comparable to a state of grace.

It’s worth taking that idea of one of the greatest research scientists as a vade mecum for today! Repeat it to yourself when you come to one of those quiet pauses between tasks, when you are in a supermarket queue, or waiting for a coffee to cool down, or the traffic lights to change, or the shower to warm up. Then consider why this fleeting moment is a gift, a state of grace, and, make half a second to, as they say in France, ‘rendre grace’ – to give thanks.


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Mirror, mirror, on the wall … I

mirror (643x800)Agnellus’ Mirror this week is borrowing someone else’s mirror – Mrs Turnstone’s. It is decorated with beads, cards and pictures, a few of which you are invited to reflect upon, as we do from time to time.


This card was our souvenir that we gave to all who came to our wedding. It was printed by people with learning disabilities in Yorkshire. The verse is from the Jerusalem Bible – an interesting translation, said Sister Benedict at Minster Abbey when we gave her one. But it’s a good motto to (try to) live up to: make your home in me, as I make mine in you.


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1 August: Work, work, work, the whole day through?



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I invite you to share Fr Austin’s homily on Martha and Mary: a good thought for the holidays. WT.

Luke 10:38 – 42.

What kinds of things frustrate you? The phone rings as you are about to leave – you run back in, and find someone sitting there near the phone. And the answer you get – it won’t be for me!  I think today’s Gospel is all about this.

There are dangers in overwork, no matter how good the work and no matter how noble the motivation for doing it. Spiritual guides, beginning with Jesus, have always warned of the dangers of becoming too taken-up in our work. Many are the spouses in a marriage, many are the children in a family, many are the friends, and many are churches, who wish that someone they love and need more attention from was less busy.

Generally too our society supports us in this escapism. With virtually every other addiction, we are eventually sent off to a clinic, but if we are addicted to our work, we are generally admired for our disease and praised for our selflessness: If I drink too much, or eat too much, or become dependent on a drug, I am frowned upon and pitied; but if I overwork to the point of neglecting huge and important imperatives in my life, they say this of me: “Isn’t he wonderful! He’s so dedicated!” Workaholism is the one addiction for which we get praised.

Beyond providing us with an unhealthy escape from some important issues with which we need to be dealing, overwork brings with it a second major danger: The more we over-invest in our work and daily routine, the greater the danger of taking too much of our meaning from our work rather than from our relationships.

As we become more and more immersed in our work and the things that interest us, to the detriment of our relationships, we will naturally begin too to draw more and more of our meaning and value from our work and, as numerous spiritual writers have pointed out, the dangers in this are many, not least among these is the danger that we will eventually find it harder and harder to find meaning in anything outside of our work and daily routine.

Old habits are hard to break. If we spend years drawing our identity from working hard and being loved for being anything from a professional athlete to a dedicated mum, it will not be easy to simply shift gears and draw our meaning from something else.

Classical spiritual writers are unanimous in warning about the danger of overwork and of becoming over-preoccupied with our work; with on-line interests; with anything that excludes others; when using hospitality becomes abusing. This is in fact what Jesus warns Martha about in the famous passage in scripture where she, consumed with the very necessary work of preparing a meal, complains to Jesus that her sister, Mary, is not carrying her share of the load.

 Jesus, instead of chastising Mary for her idleness and praising Martha for her dedication, tells Martha that Mary has chosen the better part, that, at this moment and in this circumstance, Mary’s idleness trumps Martha’s busyness. Why?

Because sometimes there are more important things in life than work, and what I prefer to be doing; even the noble and necessary work of tending to hospitality and preparing a meal for others. Idleness may well be the devil’s workshop, but busyness is not always a virtue.


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July 5, Relics III: Domestic Relics

Holy Family Window, Catholic Church, SaddleworthThere are objects round our house and garden that remind me to pray for people. Outdoors we have Siberian iris, given to us by the Dominican friar who blessed our wedding, Aidan Deane. A couple of years ago we were able to give a crown to the Dominicans in Edinburgh for the garden around their new chapel.

I like Bro Guy Consolmagno’s comment, linking such things to our pre-Christian roots:

Our knick-knacks define home to us; they are, echoing the practice of ancient Rome, our ‘household gods.’ [1]

I recently had an exchange in verse with Frank Solanki about this. He wrote:


Without you here
This ain’t a home
Not even a house
They’re just walls

(See more of Frank’s work here: https://franksolanki.wordpress.com/ )

My reply may tell you that my mind is more cluttered than Frank’s – or is it just my house?

Walls and crannies.

But now, reflect, all these years on,
Each room still breathes my girls, my son,
Though from our home they all have gone.
Photos stand among my books,
Seaside shells in little nooks;
Serving spoons on kitchen wall,
And, dear friend, that is not all.
Stored for years in the loft above
Are things they need not but can’t shove:
Toys that whisper words of love.

What objects might the holy family have kept around the house? I expect the Magi’s gold was used to set up home in Egypt. Is that where they are in this picture? Mary has a rose around the window to help make the house a home.

We can pray to the Holy Family, that our home may be a safe Ark for all our family:

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I give you my heart and my soul, I give you my family and loved ones.

Holy Family Window, Catholic Church, Saddleworth.

[1] http://www.vofoundation.org/blog/across-universe-moving-experience/


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29 June, Mates in a very real sense: I



There was news recently of a man dying in an accident in a potash mine in Yorkshire; a reminder of  the dangers faced by men and women at work the world over. in these two posts David remembers the community of comrades as well as the dangers of the work. (WT)

From the moment I arrived at the Beeston Pit I was in a totally strange world, full of strangers. Apart from the local Nottinghamshire men there were Welsh, Irish, Scots, Poles and Czechs. At first every aspect of mining seemed full of menace and every day there were accidents, some fatal. But despite the obvious dangers and the darkness of the pit, there was a sense of triumph in that men would descend into the bowels of the earth to extract this then vital raw material without which many industries could not function.

The first time I went down, after being kitted out with a helmet, a lamp, a whistle and a pick, I was paired off with a tough young Welshman, one Tommy Jones, who came from the same part of the Principality as myself, the hill country around Caernarfon. I was under Tommy’s wing: he would look after me, instruct me in my duties, and I would obey all his instructions to the letter, and would back him up at all times. We were mates in a very real sense and all the other men on the shift had similar relationships with those they worked with. Moreover, it was stressed that all the men on the shift were mates. It was run like a military operation under the direction of the ‘overman’ who was the ‘officer in charge’ and his sergeants the ‘leading hands’.

The pit was worked on the ‘room and pillar’ system, with one shift who would drill all around the coal face to create a room but would leave a pillar of coal in the centre to support the roof which would be reinforced by steel supports with pneumatic extensions. The cutting shift and the shift which prepared the next part of the coal face for cutting had all the most experienced miners, whilst the loading and clearing out shift was left to the younger miners like Tommy.

It was still a pretty tough job and in the first few weeks I was exhausted at the end of the shift when we would head for the newly built pit baths, a benefit of post-war nationalisation.

Generally speaking, the older miners preferred to have their wives wash away the dirt in the traditional way, in a tin tub placed before the range in their kitchen. I was in digs with one of the older miners, Ron Pritchard, and it was obvious when you saw his wife bathing him (and they were not at all shy about this ablution) how deep was their affection for each other. Ron had the ‘Dust’[1] and had been offered a job ‘up top’ for the same money as an underground miner but had refused as a matter of pride. As he put it he would be separated from his mates and would not feel like a miner, so he struggled on, coughing and wheezing.

After our bath Tommy and most of our shift would head for the very well-appointed and commodious miners’ club, which had a full-sized restaurant and bar, a large dance floor and stage, and a separate snooker room and lounge area. After working underground for six hours we were ready for a few ‘bevvies’ because we were totally dehydrated and would think nothing of downing five or six pints fairly quickly. But in over three years working at Beeston I never saw a miner drunk; it was not considered manly. However, I did on occasion see some of the miners’ wives and girlfriends get a bit wobbly on the club’s subsidised cherry brandy although this did not inhibit some pretty neat jiving.


[1] ‘The Dust’ or ‘Miner’s Lung’, is a respiratory disease clinically called pneumoconiosis, which left many miners unable to work due to irreversible lung impairment. In later years Ron would not have been allowed to continue underground.

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12 June, Year of Mercy: Falsified Mercy

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It is not unusual to let spiritual curiosity lead us. We may drift fairly casually through what seems like a new religious doorway, assuming that we are well equipped to sort out the genuine advice from delusions. We talk cheerfully with ‘Christian Scientists’ about quirky theories of healing which have little genuinely prayerful support to offer. Here is an even more extreme example, a shop just across the road from Forest Gate Station in East London.

There is something alarming about the calm assurance of the message spelling out a way of life on which the owner will give advice. Preparing for marriage is indicated as an available service, requiring consultation with an astrologer and ‘new age’ remedies against whatever might go wrong.

Most troubling, though, is the overriding motto: “Only Luck is Powerful – Neither Education nor Hard Work”. What place does this fatalism have, in an area of London where the cultural mix of recent arrivals, many with a poor grasp of English, will severely stretch the abilities of any teacher to guide their children towards educated competence? This outlook struck me as both sadly lacking in the advantages of faith and irresponsible. Promises of emotional ambiguity and mental failure are being promoted as ancient wisdom.

What chance would a couple have, of setting children out on a life of creative achievements, or even sympathetic and supportive friendships, if they trusted only horoscopes? Prayers for the floundering youth of East London are sorely needed!


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June 1st – Home is where the Hospitality is.


Whenever my train runs by the flat where Andy and Jenny used to live, darkening the guest room as it passes, I am reminded of their hospitality. They were just starting married life but generously offered me a place to eat well, to crash out, to talk or not to talk, to sing or to watch television together, when too much was going on inside my head and my heart.

There was room in their happiness for other people, embraced by their friendship, their hospitality and their singing. Such love is part of the creative outpouring that the Trinity cannot help but generate. It is indeed like singing or dancing, where you never know quite how the performance is going to unfold. Spontaneous descants and cadenzas flowed from Andy and Jenny’s interpretations of folk and sacred song. So too with creation: no two of us are the same, and even twins grow up different, like the rest of us continually recreated through everyday life experiences.

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