Tag Archives: martyr

6 February: God with us

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Monday of Week 5

Mark 7:1-13

Jesus allows people afflicted by sickness to touch Him, even lepers, who are shunned because of the fear of contagion.  He shares His company and teaching with those whose sins make them social outcasts.  ‘It is not the healthy who need the doctor’, he says ‘but the sick’(Mark 2:17).

For Jesus, sin is a form of sickness.  It moves His heart to be with the afflicted person, to reach out with acceptance, forgiveness and healing wisdom.  Whether the sick respond to the doctor with co-operation or hostility, this does not affect Jesus’ commitment to be among those who need him.

Although He could have hidden or run away from those who wanted to kill Him, Jesus instead ‘set His face towards Jerusalem’ (Luke 9:51).  His teaching by example in the Passion reached out to the many people around Him in need of wisdom and forgiveness.  His compassionate mercy extended to the people who crucified Him, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’(Luke 23:34), and to the man dying beside Him, ‘Indeed I promise you, today you will be with me in paradise’(Luke 23:43).  This desperate man was saved on Good Friday because of Jesus’ commitment to be among His enemies as a healer.

I thank our Saviour for always remaining with me in my spiritual blindness, to guide me back to the right path.  The martyrs, like Paul Miki and companions whom we remember today, follow Jesus in His mission to witness to God’s indestructible love among those who need it most, regardless of the cost to themselves.

I pray today for the same courage, strength and trust in God to love my enemies as they did.

FMSL

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21 January: Saint Agnes

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Pope Benedict XVI wearing a pallium, and a mitre  with the Good Shepherd and his sheep.

Catholics will be familiar with Agnes’ name since she is mentioned in the First Eucharistic Prayer as one of the great early martyrs. She suffered death in her early teens. It seems unlikely that we would respect a modern teenager the way the Church has celebrated Agnes for 1700 years; perhaps we have something to learn from our ancestors!

 Agnes was from a noble family who were too prominent to avoid attention in the early fourth century persecutions. When she was arrested, she was steadfast in saying that she was a Christian. It is said that she was desired as a wife or mistress by one of the magistrates. No doubt this would have enabled her to escape execution, but she did not yield.

She was to be burned alive but the wood would not light; instead, Saint Ambrose tells us, she was decapitated with a sword.

There is a special tradition linked to Saint Agnes. On her feast day two lambs are brought from the Abbey of Tre Fontane to be blessed by the pope. When they are shorn later in Spring, the wool is woven by the Benedictine nuns of Saint Caecilia’s Abbey to make Palliums. These special collars are given to new Archbishops by the pope on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. Carrying lambs’ wool on the shoulder reminds the Archbishop that he is to be a good shepherd to his flock.

MMB

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18 January: Relics VIII- Some stare with bewilderment.

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Fr Daniel Weatherley, a Kentish Man, is assistant priest at Saint Thomas’ parish in Canterbury. We welcome him to our team and look forward to more posts from him. He resumes our occasional series reflecting upon relics.

The stream of pilgrims and tourists to see the place of Thomas’ martyrdom continues – becketcarvingburgateand many come into our Church to see his relics. Some stare with bewilderment as to why we should pay honour to a piece of finger-bone! But let us think just what a finger that was! The finger of a hand which was extended in peace to friend and foreigner, to kings and serfs; which held the sacred texts of psalms chanted in long hours of pray; the hand raised in admonition and correction – even unto the King; which was raised in blessing and in the absolution of sins; the hands which offered to the Eternal Father the Body and Blood of His Son, whom Thomas served with such zeal and devotion.

May those who visit us here at St. Thomas’ own parish witness the invisible yet real testimony of lives lived every more consciously and deeply-immersed in the light of God’s Word, revealed in Scripture and explained in the teaching of the Church, and wonderfully strengthened in us by the Holy Spirit and humble participation in the Sacred Mysteries. And then might the earthly realm be seen in its true context: as the willing servant of and, ultimately, reflection of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Canterbury Cathedral, Eleanor Billingsley
Carving of St Thomas at his church, MMB

 

DWY

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29 December: Thomas Becket 1170, Oscar Romero, 1980.

 

 

becketcarvingburgateFile:Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez.jpg

 

 

On the evening of this day in 1170, Thomas, Archbishop of Canterbury was hacked to death in his Cathedral. In March 1980, Oscar, Archbishop of San Salvador was gunned down while celebrating the Eucharist.

Two big names from the recent and distant past, both remembered as saints: but what of the thousands suffering persecution and death for their faith today? Not just ‘professional Christians’ like the two archbishops but men, women and children, starved, beaten, exiled, murdered.

Let us pray for those suffering persecution and those trying to help them, including the Franciscans of the Holy Land in Syria. Let us pray, too, for a change of heart among those who are persecuting their brothers and sisters, choosing hatred and fear over love as their way of life. And let us pray that our own hearts be changed, our eyes opened to see what our part might be in this mess: cheap bananas, means low wages, means workers repressed; or cheap petrol,leading to  invasion of Iraq, leading to persecution of allegedly ‘West-sympathising’ Christians.

And we can ask for the support of the martyrs as we pray:

  • Holy and blissful martyr, Thomas of Canterbury: pray for us
  • Blessed Oscar Romero: pray for us
  • All holy martyrs: pray for us.
  • Mary mother of the Church: pray for us.

MB

 

 

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10 December: By Mercy and by Martyrdom.

hlaes-pla-single-star

We bid goodbye to John Masefield this Advent, remembering that the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light (Isaiah 9.2). And that’s us! Every star is a great light, even if we see no more than a pinprick, since we are far off. And when we look closely at this world, how many stars shine in people’s smiles, in a robin’s eye, a drop of rain? Laudato si’.

robinangel-2

By mercy and by martyrdom,

And many ways, God leads us home;

            And many darknesses there are.

By darkness and by light he leads,

He gives according to our needs,

            And in his darkness is a star.                                       (pp46-47)

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Let us pray that we may be instruments of mercy; may be stars in other people’s dark times, and that God’s merciful grace will lead us all home. May we follow his star and seeing the star rejoice with exceeding great joy. (Matthew 2:10)

WT.

 

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9 December: Mercy, a Tentmaker of Tarsus.

PAULCONVERSION (206x800)

Let’s take another snapshot from Masefield’s Coming of Christ.

And also there was Paul, receiving mercy, proclaiming mercy:

A tentmaker of Tarsus,

Who will deny you and denounce your followers

To torment and to death; and then will see

Your truth by sudden lightning of the mind,

And then go through the world, telling your truth,

Through scourgings, stoning, bonds, beating with rods,

The wild beasts in the ring, worse beasts in men;

To the sharp sword outside the city gates,

Glad beyond words to drink of your sweet cup,

Lifted and lit by you, christened by you,

Made spirit by you, I who slew your saints.

(P14)

Jesus told James and John: My chalice indeed you shall drink; but to sit on my right or left hand, is not mine to give to you, but to them for whom it is prepared by my Father. Matthew (20:23) We shall drink of his cup – whether sweet or bitter; we will be lifted and lit by him and strengthened to be tellers of his truth and sharers of his mercy.

WT.

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8 December: Through Ills past Curing a Life Divine.

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John Masefield, in the moments before Christ’s birth, has the angels sing:

No friends await him

To celebrate him,

But foes to hate him

And nails to pierce.

 

Yet from their hating

And desecrating,

To mankind waiting

A star shall shine;

A star assuring

To men enduring

Through ills past curing

A life divine.

(The Coming of Christ, pp 17-18)

 

The world needs Mercy, loving kindness, even if people are greedy for riches, as we saw in the second of these posts. A star shall shine through their hatred and de-sacred actions.

While we can think of someone like Franciscan Saint Maximilian Kolbe as a star in a time of hatred, giving his life for another prisoner in Auchwitz, there will be times that we may never be aware of in this world, when each of us assures a life divine to a sister or brother.

Maximilian Kolbe was devoted to Mary, mother of mercy, and died on her feast of the Assumption in 1941; today we remember him on another of her feasts, the Immaculate Conception.

WT.

 

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October 20: Bitter Fruit, Bitter Seed

blackthorn

Blackthorn opens at the end of Winter, but never one flower alone, always a constellation of Hope. 

… waiting, as at the end

of a hard winter

for one flower to open

on the mind’s tree of thorns.[1]

I could not shake off yesterday’s image of a fleshly body, hanging on that tree. Waiting for a flower to open in my mind, I recalled this tree of thorns, the lynchings of black men in America: Strange Fruit:

Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant south,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

Abel Meeropol

Strange Fruit

While the song was written in response to lynchings in America, we are more than aware that the sudden smell of burning flesh could appear on any breeze, anywhere in the world.

Bitter crops come from bitter seeds. Let us pray for the insight to see how to relieve whatever bitterness we encounter in our neighbours, and the courage to reach out to do so.

MMB.

 

 

[1] Waiting SP p137

 

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September 3: Algeria VII: Testament of Dom Christian

This is a long post, but I could not see how to shorten the Last Testament of Christian de Cherge, the martyred Prior of Notre Dame d’Atlas. Every word counts. Islam is not islamism. Muslims are God’s children, our sisters and brothers.

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Window at Llanthony, Brecon, Wales. 

When an “A-Dieu” takes on a face.

If it should happen one day—and it could be today—

that I become a victim of the terrorism which now seems ready to engulf

all the foreigners living in Algeria,

I would like my community, my Church, my family,

to remember that my life was given to God and to this country.

I ask them to accept that the Sole Master of all life

was not a stranger to this brutal departure.

I ask them to pray for me—

for how could I be found worthy of such an offering?

I ask them to be able to link this death with the many other deaths which were just as violent, but forgotten through indifference and anonymity.

My life has no more value than any other.

Nor any less value.

In any case it has not the innocence of childhood.

I have lived long enough to know that I am an accomplice in the evil

which seems, alas, to prevail in the world,

even in that which would strike me blindly.

I should like, when the time comes, to have the moment of lucidity

which would allow me to beg forgiveness of God

and of my fellow human beings,

and at the same time to forgive with all my heart the one who would strike me down.

I could not desire such a death.

It seems to me important to state this.

I do not see, in fact, how I could rejoice

if the people I love were to be accused indiscriminately of my murder.

To owe it to an Algerian, whoever he may be,

would be too high a price to pay for what will, perhaps, be called, the “grace of martyrdom,”

especially if he says he is acting in fidelity to what he believes to be Islam.

I am aware of the scorn which can be heaped on Algerians indiscriminately.

I am also aware of the caricatures of Islam which a certain islamism encourages.

It is too easy to salve one’s conscience

by identifying this religious way with the fundamentalist ideologies of the extremists.

For me, Algeria and Islam are something different: they are a body and a soul.

I have proclaimed this often enough, I believe, in the sure knowledge of what I have received from it,

finding there so often that true strand of the Gospel,

learnt at my mother’s knee, my very first Church,

already in Algeria itself, in the respect of believing Muslims.

My death, clearly, will appear to justify

those who hastily judged me naive, or idealistic:

“Let him tell us now what he thinks of it!”

But these people must realise that my avid curiosity will then be satisfied.

This is what I shall be able to do, if God wills—

immerse my gaze in that of the Father,

and contemplate with him his children of Islam just as he sees them,

all shining with the glory of Christ,

the fruit of His Passion, and filled with the Gift of the Spirit,

whose secret joy will always be to establish communion

and to refashion the likeness, playfully delighting in the differences.

For this life lost, totally mine and totally theirs,

I thank God who seems to have willed it entirely

for the sake of that joy in everything and in spite of everything.

In this thank you, which sums up my whole life to this moment,

I certainly include you, friends of yesterday and today,

and you, my friends of this place,

along with my mother and father, my sisters and brothers and their families,

the hundredfold granted as was promised!

And also you, the friend of my final moment, who would not be aware of what you were doing.

Yes, I also say this Thank You and this A-Dieu to you, in whom I see the face of God.

And may we find each other, happy good thieves, in Paradise, if it pleases God, the Father of us both. Amen. (In sha ‘Allah).

Algiers, December 1, 1993—Tibhirine, January 1, 1994.

Christian.

Testament of Dom Christian

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30 August: Algeria III: Muslim martyrs for their Christian brothers.

 

The great doors to the ancient Abbey of St Maurice in Switzerland, celebrating its 1500th year in 2015, bear the names of Christian martyrs. There are the Apostles; there are the Africans of the Theban Legion, led by Maurice himself, martyred on this spot. Becket and Boniface represent England.

door st Maurice

From Saint Maurice’s home continent of Africa, among the martyrs of Algeria, next to the name of Bishop Pierre Claverie we read that of Mohamed Bouchikhi, his driver, assassinated with him. After them come the monks (moines) of Notre Dame d’Atlas at Tibhirine. Christian de Chergé, martyred Prior of the monastery, told how his friend, an Algerian policeman also named Mohamed, had been killed after intervening to protect him from aggressors in the street.

These two Mohameds gave their lives for their Christian friends – as de Chergé said, the greatest token of love a man could give. They accepted the gift of quiet presence and service offered by the Church in post-Colonial Algeria. Countless other Muslims continue to do so and to make Christians welcome in their communities.

MMB.

Monastery of Notre Dame d’Atlas, Tibhirine: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Monastere_de_tibhirine.jpg by Gamecult

 

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