Tag Archives: Mission

September 19: The reality that is proclaimed


Austin’s reflections, Constantina’s art, the Zambian Poor Clares’ dance that we saw on St Clare’s Day; these reflections too: all are intended to bear witness to – what exactly? I think we need to remind ourselves often what is the Gospel we proclaim. I was about to throw out a scrap of paper this afternoon, but held off till I’d copied this.

When preaching takes place, the ‘reality’ that is proclaimed, the crucified and risen Christ, is made present for the preacher and the hearer alike and is imparted to those who hear the preaching with faith.

Thus writes Fr Gerald O’Collins.*

He is developing an idea in Ad Gentes 9 the Vatican Council’s Decree on the Missionary Activity of the Church.

By the preaching of the word and by the celebration of the sacraments, the centre and summit of which is the most holy Eucharist, He (God) brings about the presence of Christ, the author of salvation. But whatever truth and grace are to be found among the nations, as a sort of secret presence of God, He frees from all taint of evil and restores to Christ its maker.

‘A sort of secret presence of God’ – it sounds almost like Francis Thompson! (see post on August 9th)


Tis ye, tis your estrangèd faces,
That miss the many-splendoured thing.

But (when so sad thou canst not sadder)
Cry—and upon thy so sore loss
Shall shine the traffic of Jacob’s ladder
Pitched betwixt Heaven and Charing Cross.

Let’s pray for the wisdom to know how to share the many-splendoured thing, and the humility to perceive Jacob’s ladder pitched on our own pavements – and the unlikely characters shining as they ascend!


*Vatican II and the Liturgical Presence of Christ in irish Theological Quarterly, 2/2012.


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19 July: G is for Valley Gardens


Since I was small, I had always loved gardening, so when the chance came of a holiday job at the parks in Castleford, I seized it. The town council took a pride in their parks, lung-savers in an industrial landscape. As well as the mines there were glassworks, a  factory producing chemicals such as wood preservers, a coke oven and a maltings: the least offensive smell. In a heat wave the fumes gathered in the valley where the town was built on the ford. The rivers ran black. Breathing was a challenge.

Valley Gardens was our nearest park: a good park with a crown bowling green, playground for the children, lawns and lots of traditional bedding, the plants grown in the council’s own nursery. There was also raised bedding with scented plants for blind people to enjoy. And so they did.

I’m ever grateful for the skills learnt at Valley Gardens but also for the attitude to work imbibed from the older guys I worked alongside. Many had been miners and knew how to pace themselves to be productive over the whole day. They were also humble enough to put themselves through the City and Guilds Certificate training: men who knew how to handle tools, being ‘taught’ how to dig or prune before taking on specialised skills such as caring for the greens.

mermaidrose (542x408)

Recently I read that Valley Gardens, for many years the responsibility of Wakefield City council, is run-down and the play area no longer safe. A committee has been formed to revive this park. When I was there, people knew the decision makers in town. Now they are in Wakefield and need never go near Valley Gardens.

I hope the committee is supported by the community and Wakefield council so that the gardens return to their former glory.

There are parallels in church life. We need to trust people, even  those who shun responsibilities, with a mission they may fail at. Apart from Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, who were members of the Sanhedrin, Jesus chose women and misfits for his first generation of leaders. I don’t recall his disciples sitting exams.

Since writing this post I read an article describing how the people who use the parks the most are poorer people, people without gardens of their own. So it is poor people who take the brunt of government spending cuts in this area of life, as in so many others.

Our beds were every bit as lovely – and more so – than this semiformal planting in Berlin’s Charlottenberg Park. The Roses were a feature of Valley Gardens: the older gardeners taught me how to prune them. This is ‘Mermaid’, who needs very careful handling with her vicious thorns. But she’s lovely!



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Wednesday 12th July, 2017: Instruments of Peace


L’Arche Syria

By virtue of my Baptism, I am called to participate in the mission of Christ here on earth. That mission is to love and to serve. To be a true witness in a world whose values are different from those of the gospel is an uphill task, yet I am called to do it. By following the example of Christ, I will be ready to give up everything, including my life if demand is made for it because of the gospel.

I am called to be an agent of reconciliation in word and in deed; to be an ambassador of mercy and love.

I had the privilege of meeting a person who had been disappointed by someone whom she trusted. Every time we had the opportunity of meeting and talking, she kept mentioning that she would never forgive the person. When I saw I could not convince her to change her mind, I prayed to the Holy Spirit to intervene in the situation.

When we met again after some time; she said the unforgiving spirit she had been carrying all these years has been lifted. I couldn’t but be happy for her.

From this experience, I learned there could be so many people hurting but with no one to unload their burden onto because of fear of being judged. It challenges me to be more sensitive to my environment, to love unconditionally, to try to share peace and joy wherever I find myself.




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17 April, Easter Monday: “Do not be afraid…Go and tell…”

Easter Monday

Image from http://breakopenword.blogspot.co.uk/

“Do not be afraid…Go and tell…”

Matthew 28:8-15

These are usually God’s instructions to the prophets. Jesus is giving the women a mission as the first prophets of the Resurrection. These women looked after him in Galilee and followed him to Judea to continue caring for him. They were the ones who stayed closest to Jesus in His darkest hour and even prepared him for burial. Now, by God’s design, they are the first to see Jesus after his Resurrection.

In the Garden of Eden, the serpent taught the woman a lesson that she passed on to the man – to trust her own will more than her Creator. That message caused both man and woman to separate themselves from God. So, from Genesis onward, generations of people blamed woman for the Fall of humanity. She was treated as inferior to man, who dominated her.

In the garden of the Resurrection, God entrusts to women a message for men that will save all humans and reunite us with our Creator: Jesus has undone death and is coming to be with you again.

Later, Jesus will have to reproach the apostles for refusing to believe his chosen messengers.

I pray that I, like those women, may remain faithful to Jesus, trusting in his will and eager to carry it out.


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An Ash Wednesday message from Bishop Patrick Chisanga OFM Conv, former student at FISC.



From the Missionaries of Africa Website.

Bishop Patrick leads the diocese of Mansa in Zambia and was recently a student at FISC.

Spiritual Warfare against Evil Intensified: Ba Minshioni Ba Lelo Nifwe.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

  1. On 1st March we begin the Season of Lent – the intensive 40 days’ spiritual journey towards that great summit of our Christian faith and worship: the annual celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus from the Dead, the ultimate victory of good over evil.
  2. The Word of God that is proclaimed during the liturgical celebrations of the subsequent five Sundays (Year A) have a particularly rich pedagogical character that guides catechumens towards the waters of baptism and general Christian Initiation on the Easter Vigil. All the faithful must equally endeavour to draw maximum benefit from the wealth of these carefully selected passages, in view of their own solemn renewal of the baptism promises during the same Easter Vigil and in order to be spiritually recharged for the ongoing battle against temptations and sin.

The Sunday Gospel passages that will lead the way during this Lenten itinerary include: (1) The Temptations of Jesus – Matthew 4;7-17, (2) The Transfiguration of Jesus – Matthew 17:1-9, (3) Jesus’ Encounter with the Samaritan Woman at the Well – John 4:5-42, (4) Jesus’ Healing of the Man who was Born Blind – John 9:1-42 and (5) Jesus’ Raising of Lazarus from Death – John 11:1-45.

As you may notice, the last three passages from the Gospel according to John are quite lengthy. However, with adequate preparation, these Readings may be proclaimed using the role-play format, as is done on Palm Sunday and Good Friday. The priest and selected faithful could take the respective roles of Jesus and other individuals in the passage. By so doing and, when done diligently, this manner of proclamation enables the congregation to follow with greater attention.

I invite all priests to carefully meditate upon these Readings during this whole period of grace so as to be able to deliver a fitting message to the faithful during the celebration of the Eucharist. Furthermore, in view of the so many Centres that still do not have priests on Sundays, I ask all parish priests to ensure that there is sufficient prior preparation of the prayer leaders and/or catechists who are selected to comment on the Word of God during the Sunday worship in their respective outstations.

In addition, I enclose, with this letter, the Lenten homily notes that the JCTR has graciously shared with us. Let them be further distributed to the Small Christian Communities (SCC), Lay Groups as well as individuals for further reflection and appropriate action that is inspired by the Word of God.

  1. This year’s Lent coincides with the Pastoral Theme in our Diocese according to which we celebrate the ministry of the pioneer missionaries and declare that “We are the Missionaries of Today” (Ba Minshioni ba Lelo, Nifwe). Let us recall the sacrifice, availability and pastoral zeal of our gallant pioneer missionaries and in turn make a commitment to the effect that their works will live on through each one of us. Indeed, the Church, in Mansa Diocese, shall continue to announce the Good News to all creation, in obedience to the great commission of our Lord Jesus (Mark L6: 15).
  2. To rekindle this missionary zeal, the Lenten Season offers us the instruments of Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving according to the guidance of Jesus, as proclaimed in the Gospel passage of Ash Wednesday (Matthew 6:1-6,16-18). These three pillars of Lent, when taken seriously, have the capacity to bring about lasting positive change in our lives, especially in overcoming the sinful habits that we repeatedly struggle with. I invite each one of you to pray, fast and give alms with the intention of being liberated from any such demeaning slavery.

Furthermore, in order to intensify our spiritual warfare against evil through combined effort and, in response to the appeals made during the Pastoral Council Meeting last October, I again invite the faithful in all our parishes to observe the “24 hours for the Lord” on the Friday to Saturday of the 3rd Week of Lent (24 – 25 March). Let this day be flooded with prayers, songs, Eucharistic adoration, catechesis and actual celebration of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist. lt would be fitting that this special day concludes with the joyful Eucharistic celebration of the solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord on Saturday, 25th March.

I implore you, my dear brothers and sisters in the Diocese, to take the invitation seriously and spare this ’24 hours’ exclusively for the Lord. Bring to this special period of intense prayer the needs of our society and individual members for healing from anger, guilt, unforgiving heart, drunkenness, sexual immoralities, pride, selfishness, etc. Through this prayer, let us also invoke Divine intervention to end the ongoing violence against the sanctity of human life, the values of marriage and family as well as the integrity of God’s creation.

  1. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you. I wish you a fruitful and grace-filled Lenten Season 2017.

Given on this First Day of March in the Year of the Lord 2017, the Ash Wednesday

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Algeria IV: 31 August: The Eucharist in Algeria.


Piroird (548x684)

The Eucharist in Algeria: Gabriel Piroird, Bishop of Constantine, at the Synod of Bishops, 2005.

We are unique churches, very much in the minority in a world where Islam has stamped its mark on the culture. Our communities are dispersed across the vast spaces of our dioceses, and it is unavoidable that many live far from any sort of priestly presence, so that they can only participate in the Liturgy very infrequently. This situation has led us to deepen the link between the Eucharist and Mission:

– Our thanksgiving is joined to that of our Muslim friends who also praise God for his work of creation and mercy. Spiritually we incorporate their prayers into our Eucharist.
– We are filled with wonder at times to witness that our Muslim friends are somehow associated with the Paschal Mystery. Whenever we come to add our lives to the offering of Christ, we also add, in a certain way, the lives of our friends.

– In so far as they cannot participate in the Eucharist celebration very often, certain Christians give more time to Eucharistic Adoration where they rediscover a palpably real presence that strengthens their daily lives.
– Our Eucharistic celebrations, all unseen, gather in a people who are yet absent: those who seek God in the honesty of their hearts.

Any particular Church must find a way to live out the Eucharist that is not divorced from its history among the people to whom it has been given by the Lord.

Original French text on Vatican website

Photo by Fabrice Blaudin de Thé

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Inter-Galactic Discoveries: Epilogue


margatesands (640x387)

A few in Margate – mainly taxi drivers and some pensioners with a lot of time on their hands and a penchant for gazing out of their bay windows – eventually noticed the absence of the unobtrusive middle aged man with his pair of Chihuahuas. Certainly the junkie living on the dole next door to the now-empty flat would remember the trio and treasure the odd memento given to him one day by ‘T’.

tokenWhen asked for some money, ‘T’ had shrugged and, rummaging in the pocket of his tweed jacket, produced a transit token from the home world of the Confederation and gave it to the bemused petitioner in lieu of ‘spare change’. For his part, the dolester, who also played a kind of part-time shamanistic role among others of his kind, had a keen eye for an exotic commodity and accepted the gift with a knowing wink.

ossyrianship (640x287)

The fact-finding mission had been deemed – at least by the three embedded Ossyrian agents – as a great success. Immediately upon entering the massive ship that would ferry them across the vast gulf of space separating Earth from the planets of the Ossyrian Confederation, ‘T’ and the two Chihuahuas, Alfie and Ajax, had (almost reluctantly) reverted to their natural forms – long necks, short legs, thick waists, and large domed heads. Each now sat in expensive, hugely comfortable swivel chairs upholstered with state-of-the-art synthetic Kamu leather (hunting another creature would have been unthinkable in the Confederation), pale green flagons of lightly chilled Gola Squash raised in a triumphant toast. ‘To Earth and her intrepid inhabitants!’ the Director intoned. ‘To EARTH!!!’ echoed Droghmirrxz and Bogmerl, and each beamed with bright smiles that seemed to stretch from ear to pointed ear.

+   +   +


Four and a half (terrestrial) years later the sleepy, somewhat tattered, East Kentish seaside town of Margate made world news. As talking heads jostled for perfect sound bites and the gobsmacked population of the planet looked on in unison (thanks to that technological marvel known as television), ‘first contact’ with an alien species was finally achieved as a formal Ossyrian delegation touched down in Cecil Square. Nothing would ever be the same again; certainly for the raucous, often fractious, inhabitants of Earth…but also in, perhaps, subtle but also quite powerful, ways for the Ossyrians as well.

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May 17: Inter-Galactic Discoveries II



‘My esteemed colleagues,’ the Director’s tone held all of the stilted pomposity, promising a dull time indeed, that much of Ossyrian formal conversation was famous for. His opening remark, however, told a very different story, ‘the hugely expensive mission to Earth, assiduously prepared for over several circumnavigations of the inner sun, was…a dismal failure.’ The assembled party of formerly grinning astronauts greeted the statement with stony silence. No one, of course, was fearful of any personal criticism; a social taboo of immense strength, to single out another in Ossyrian society in order to voice anything crude or unpleasant was simply unthinkable. But there was more than one way to make the point.

Without mentioning any names, either corporate or personal, the Director continued, ‘The inhabitants of the planet called Earth – as noted from intercepted radio and video broadcasts –  had seemed to possess a quality of vitality, of humour, of irrepressible energy and a boundless measure of what the philosophers mysteriously define as hope that was deemed essential for further study.’ The silence grew ever more uncomfortable. ‘This mandate – to discover hope’s source and catalogue its manifestations – seems to have been side-tracked by other considerations.’ No one needed to be told what those ‘other considerations’ had been and, even if they had, words like ‘patronising’, ‘arrogant’, and even ‘cowardly’ had long ago vanished from the Ossyrian language and only existed in dusty volumes of literature often recorded in an archaic digital script that only a few could read.

‘Sir,’ Droghmirrxz timidly spoke up, ‘I…I would like to volunteer for a return mission, one that will not fail!’ ‘So would I, sir,’ Bogmerlg added and, as the Director nodded assent, even indicating that he would also personally accompany them on the new outreach to Earth, the two old friends broke into broad smiles, restoring the harmonious balance of the Xgi in the hitherto tense conference room, to everyone’s evident relief.


The location selected for the new mission was a sleazy East Kentish beach town in the grip of an endless economic recession, not far from the original site at Canterbury, called Margate. The place had definitely known better days and a splash of crumbling grandeur bore eloquent, if melancholic, testimony to happier, more prosperous times. The Council was dominated by a racist/isolationist party called UKIP, though the great mass of (non-voting) inhabitants of the medium sized municipality seemed to possess every shade of skin colour and speak half of the languages known to the human race. Vitality was clearly had in abundance; the kind celebrated throughout human history, though all too often in retrospect –  of hard scrabble, elbow rubbing diversity and an irrepressible hope that things could only get better. A perfect place for the newly launched Ossyrian study!

Alfie and Ajax 2

The Director and his two subordinates were safely beamed into a pre-rented flat directly across the street from the sea that would serve as field HDQ for the duration of the mission. The boss had cleverly assumed human form and passed as a tall male with scruffy beard, salt and pepper hair, and glasses, known simply as ‘T’. His cover was as an academic at some nameless school several miles away. Bogmerlg and Droghmirrxz reassumed canine disguises, this time as a frisky pair of Chihuahuas; Droghmirrxz, as team captain, became the dominant male; a black, white and russet tricolour with adorable ‘racoon’ mask called Alfie, while Bogmerlg, as second, became the beta male – white with brown spots called Ajax. When all was organised to ‘T’s satisfaction, some possible courses of initial action (and encounter!) were explored.

+   +   +

The animal shelter had, at first, seemed an odd choice as the locale of the initial foray into human society. It was, after all, an animal shelter…but as Alfie had wisely pointed out, the place was run by and for humans and the fact that it was filled with abandoned and often abused former pets and half-feral strays made it a sure-fire litmus against which the virtue of hope might be tested (and possibly discredited). ‘T’ had arranged for the two Chihuahuas to accompany him inside the shelter in order, as he put it, ‘to see if they would get along with a possible new addition to the pack.’

‘This places sure stinks!’ Ajax crinkled his nose, reacting to the potent mix of caustic disinfectant, musky fur, urine and excrement, processed animal food…and fear. The three Ossyrian agents, appearing as a human male accompanied by two Chihuahuas, were, of course, able to communicate telepathically, thus preserving the integrity of their respective disguises. ‘And it’s kind of scary and…depressing,’ Ajax’s tail dipped to half-mast as his courage wavered. ‘Oh, stop being…’ Alfie’s pert rebuke (unthinkable if they had been back on the home world) was interrupted by a roar of canine rage as a huge Mastiff, reddened eyes glinting with only a shred of sanity, threw itself against the mesh of its enclosure in an attempt to maul the tiny Chihuahua. Alfie, with hackles raised, threw it all back at the bucking Mastiff (safe in the knowledge that the enclosure was sturdily built) and returned the abuse bark for bark. ‘So much for the practice of virtue,’ ‘T’ communicated with disgust. ‘Come on, let’s get out of here.’ ‘Wait!!!’ Ajax was humming with barely repressed excitement, ‘Look over there!’


(to be continued)


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Sunday 7th February: Isaiah: Call and Conversion


isaiah coal

              (Image from gwdm.org)

‘What a wretched state I am in!’

Isaiah clearly underwent a conversion in between: ‘What a wretched state I am in!’ and ‘Here I am, send me’.

In Biblical stories of the human response to God’s call, elements of this conversion process recur.  These find echoes at times in my own life when I am asked to undertake something new for God.

Facing the contrasts between divine power and my weakness; God’s holiness and my deceitful, destructive ego, my impulse is to step away from involvement in God’s plan, as Peter did: ‘”Leave me, Lord; I am a sinful man”’ (Luke 5).  I talk to myself in this way: ‘Who do you think you are to undertake this mission for God?  There must be many other people who would be better and more suitable for it’.

Then, I am given to understand that it would not be myself doing this work but ‘rather the grace of God that is with me’ (1 Cor 15).  So, God’s power would make me capable of accomplishing it.

‘”See now, this has touched your lips, your sin is taken away, your iniquity is purged.”’

My part is only to become a willing instrument for God’s purposes.  With Peter, I am also brought to understand that the plan God has in mind is much greater than my little fears,

‘”Do not be afraid…” (Luke 5)

-since it is for the benefit of all people,

…from now on it is men you will catch.”’ (Luke 5)

My mind now performs a U-turn so that my original question:

“Who do you think you are to undertake this mission for God?” becomes,

“Who do you think you are not to undertake this mission for God?”

That is to say, will you let self-centred anxieties prevent God’s life-giving message from reaching others through you?  Who are you to obstruct God’s salvific plan by not doing the little part for which you were made?

And God’s grace enables me to answer:

‘“Here I am, send me.”’


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