Tag Archives: Mary

5 April, Palm Sunday

Today we’d put out the flags, as Caernarfon did to welcome us (and thousands more tourists) a few years ago. 2,000 years ago it was palms and cloaks that were actively waved – not just left out in all weathers – as Jesus came to town. But by the following Friday nobody would have wanted the Romans to see the national flags and emblems on their buildings. Jesus had become dangerous to know.

The Plantagenet Kings whose castle commands this view would have looked askance at the scene, and their spies would have filled the castle governor’s ear with more or less factual accounts of the latest prince to arise to rally the Welsh. Pilate would have heard about Jesus before Palm Sunday but the parade of the King of the Jews did not lead to his immediate arrest. Pilate thought he could contain this uprising before it got very far.

By Friday festival fever was worrying a hypersensitive elite who valued the shaky Pax Romana as it applied in Judea, offering them status and privilege and allowing the Temple worship to continue according to the Law. Verses from the Psalms and the Prophets that challenged the idea of sacrifice were dismissed in their turn by the priests of the Temple.

For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

Ps 51: 16-17

 

Jesus’s heart was broken, his body too, though not his spirit. His death completed his lifelong passion. It is all of a piece, as the Pieta tells us – the baby we saw Mary cuddling at Christmas is the One she cradles briefly before his burial. But today, knowing he is riding into difficult times, he is the King the crowd were waiting for.

Image from Missionaries of Africa
Strasbourg Cathedral

So let’s put out the flags in our hearts, and wave our palms for our King! And let’s hope we can distribute palms from the backs of our churches should we be banned from gathering to celebrate Holy Week and Easter.

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26 March: Saint Joseph in the Desert (XXVII)

This image of the Holy Family comes from Africa, though not Egypt, the part where Joseph led his wife and child at such short notice to preserve Jesus’ life. Although his feastday was last week, we did not want to interrupt Pope Francis’s train of thought by posting this reflection on the 19th. And it sits well just after the Annunciation which took place not long before the Flight into Egypt.

Here is Joseph the refugee, suddenly grown to superhero status, protecting his family with wisdom. Cometh the hour, cometh the man, but the man was not acting alone:

Behold an angel of the Lord appeared in sleep to Joseph, saying: Arise, and take the child and his mother, and fly into Egypt: and be there until I shall tell thee. For it will come to pass that Herod will seek the child to destroy him.

Who arose, and took the child and his mother by night, and retired into Egypt. Matthew 2:13-14.

There will be times that we just have to get through, so daunting they may seem before the fact; a truly desert experience. But with God’s grace we become, like Joseph, superheroes for a while, though it may not feel like it, leading our dear ones through the encircling gloom.

I have no doubt that whenever he heard the story of the flight into Egypt, Jesus will have seen his dad as a superhero. Let’s pray for the grace to step up and don the hero’s cloak whenever anyone needs help, even if it’s just a couple of lost souls unsure of how to find their way through town.

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March 25: Rejoice!

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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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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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25 February: Cardinal Lavigerie’s Campaign against Slavery, 4.

wed-feb-8-bakhita

We know about the lives of some liberated slaves. Lavigerie had opened orphanages for ransomed children in Algeria, and a college in Malta to train ‘medical catechists’ to work alongside the missionaries. From there Adrien Atimen became a medical missionary in Congo from 1889 to his death in 1956, often working in very difficult circumstances, refusing to accept the salary to which he would have been entitled, but recognised by popes and civil governments for his selfless devotion.

Another, Bakhita, was taken to Italy after being sold to the Italian consul in Sudan. In Genoa she was given to the Michieli family who planned to take her back to their hotel in Sudan, as their children’s nanny. In 1889 it took a court case for Bakhita to prove her right to refuse to return to where she had been cruelly treated by her previous owners.

With her right to make her own free choices established, Bakhita sought baptism as Josephine Margaret Fortunata (her Arabic name Bakhita means Fortunate), and entered the convent of the Canossian Sisters, and lived happily in community until her death in 1947. She was greatly respected by the local people near her convent in Schio in Northern Italy, who considered her a saint, a judgment recognised by the Church Universal in 2000.

We hardly need such demonstrations that no people are inferior; all of us are sisters and brothers in God’s family. Yet despite all the dedicated hard work since 1888, slavery continues in other forms. Human trafficking brings people to the shores of the Mediterranean or the Channel. Many girls and women especially find themselves condemned to be used as underpaid domestic servants or in the sex industry, a crime that the Church is tackling through the dedicated work of religious sisters and their collaborators in the police and civil society.

It is sobering to read Cardinal Lavigerie’s 1888 prayer to Our Lady and realise that we can recite it with just as much urgency today:

Mary Queen of Africa at Bobo diolasso from MAfr W Africa

Mary Queen of Africa at Bobo diolasso from MAfr W Africa

Mary, we proclaimed you Queen of Africa here twenty-five years ago and Africa relies on your protection. What have you done for Africa? Again, how can you still bear such horrors to continue? Are you to be just a Queen of corpses? Are you a mother just to forget her children? There must be an end to this!’

MMB

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10 February: What was it you went out to see – at Lourdes.

mary petitions pix venice

This statue in Venice is very like that of Mary at Lourdes, and as we see, it is surrounded by passport photos and little notes, petitions and thank-yous. We saw a similar crop of photographs around the statue of Our Lady of Valencia.  The Basilica of Our Lady of Africa in Algiers also receives photos and notes from Muslims as well as Christians.

Prayer, we were taught at school, is the raising of the heart and mind to God, but it is also a physical activity. Sitting, kneeling, bowing, walking or riding on pilgrimage, even the physical act of going to the parish church of a Sunday; any of these can enable us to raise our hearts and minds to God.

So prayer can be going to church and leaving a prayer request  on a board or in a basket. Or leaving a prayer request before the tomb of a saint, or in this case a statue. We can ask for the prayers of the Church,  not just the Church on earth today but also the saints triumphant who have all the time in eternity to pray for us: Mary included.

Tomorrow is the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. What are people seeking there? Can it be put into words? Perhaps peace and healing of the heart and mind, if not of the body, is what I hear most often as the gift of the pilgrimage. An on-going process, not always to be rushed.

Those who leave photos or candles in front of Mary’s statue commend their loved ones to our prayers as well as Mary’s: let us pray then for all who will make the Lourdes pilgrimage this year, as sick pilgrims or helpers, and for all who ask our prayers, directly or through such gestures as we see in this photograph.

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2 February: A meeting in the Cloister

simeon.2

Anna and Simeon, the old people forever in the Temple cloister, were blessed to see and to caress the Baby who was the Salvation of the Lord, the Light of the nations and the Glory of Israel.

Simeon knew this, and he was at peace. But he broke off his song of praise, lapsing into prose to warn Mary of the sword that would pierce her heart; as sharp a sword as any parent feels who sees a child die early or run off the rails through addiction, avarice or broken relationships.

But every child should be a sign of hope. By now, 40 days old, Jesus would be taking notice of the world he is being carried through by his loving parents. He will have felt safe in Simeon’s hands, but he would have registered the sudden emotional switch between the old man’s prayer and his warning advice to Mary; he would have been glad to return to her. She, too, would have been disturbed, but she surely made the effort to be positive for her son.

flight.egypt

She stored all these things in her heart; Joseph, meanwhile, was about to receive another dream, pick up his tools, and lead the family to safety in Cairo, because this child was a sign of hope in dark times.

2nd Image from Missionaries of Africa.

 

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22 December: the hidden work of incarnation.

attic.mary

The process by which the human personality is formed is the hidden work of incarnation.

The helpless infant is an enigma. The only thing we know about him is that he is an enigma, but nobody knows what he will be or what he will do. His helpless body contains the most complex mechanism of any living creature, but it is distinctly his own.

Man belongs to himself, and his special will furthers the work of incarnation. 

Maria Montessori, The Child in the Family, London, Pan, 1970, pp32-33.

Do we accept that there is more to being human than flesh and blood? That there is a will, soul or spirit animating each one of us?

We could say that parents, grandparents, siblings, teachers are charged with enabling the work of incarnation to take place in the child; not to break the child’s will but to provide a fertile ground for it to grow.

Of course we refer to the Incarnation especially in regard to Jesus. His humanity was shaped in his relationship with Mary and Joseph; we have to thank them for their part in his development, his incarnation.

In this statue from the church of Our Lord in the Attic, Amsterdam, Mary is supporting her Son as he reaches out into the world, to you and to me. Let us pray for the grace to perceive how to support the children we live and work with.

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20 December, Simon says II: In her.

She said those words, ‘Thy will be done’.

In her God’s gracious will had won.

Simon’s couplet sent me to this painting from Plowden Catholic Church in Shropshire. Mary seems to be having a moment of weariness, such as any parent will have undergone, and her Child seems anxious to comfort her.

Here they are, far from home in Egypt. Is Joseph his own boss, self employed as he had been in Nazareth, or is he out all day, at the beck and call of an employer, who might expect him to work extra at short notice? Does Mary sew or launder to help make ends meet in the big city?

At any point after she said those words, Mary’s life will have had problems. There were many more difficult years after the Holy Family returned to Galilee; if Mary thought her troubles were over, they had only just begun.

Most of her appearances in the Gospels are challenging. Even heartbreaking. She was not mentioned on the day the mob tried to throw Jesus off a cliff near Nazareth, but she must have been there. And so it went on until Good Friday.

Thy will be done: giving birth in the stable probably also meant Mary didn’t have her little home-made layette with her. All her preparations apparently wasted; no doubt some other family  benefited, but she and Joseph had to start from scratch: that gold the Wise Man brought must have come in useful!

Thy will be done: it will be, but it probably won’t be done smoothly!

More from Simon soon!

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7 December: Passion flower III, close to home.

passion.flower.st.dunstan

We reflected on the passion flower story back in June and in November last year, after we’d spotted gravestones in Chartham with carvings of them, and again on the capital of a column at a doorway in St Thomas’ church, Canterbury. This one, well, let’s say it’s very close to home, but I only found it thanks to Chartham.

A few weeks ago the L’Arche  Kent community, with friends and relations on weekend vacations, did a 3 mile sponsored walk – we sponsored ourselves – from Chartham to Canterbury, in particular from Saint Mary’s church, Chartham to Saint Dunstan’s church in Canterbury. My companion and I had time for a coffee on arrival before joining the others, so I had my eyes open walking through the graveyard. And:

Here’s a passion flower, flanked by a daffodil and a rose, with blooms above that I’ve not yet identified. The rose for Saint George and England, the daffodil for Saint David and Wales, and the passion flower? This is how we concluded last year’s post:

When you see a passionflower let it remind you that Jesus is real, his death was real, as indeed will ours be – but so, too, will our rising. And when you see a passionflower on a gravestone, send us a picture to put in the blog!

The rest of that post, describing the story told  by the passion flower, can be found here.

Thank you for following Agnellus Mirror or just looking in and reflecting with us.

Will Turnstone and Co.

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