Tag Archives: mother

23 December, Father Andrew at Advent and Christmas, II.

greyfriarsaumbry (639x800)

More from Fr Andrew’s introduction to ‘Carols and Christmas Rhymes’.

Christmas comes but once a year” is the common saying. But to the Catholic Christian Christmas is always here. Every babe born into the world now comes with the authentic claim of a child of God, for did not the Christ say, ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto me one of the least of these, ye have done it unto Me’? The Incarnation of the Son of God has sanctified all life and made the quilted cot in the palace and the poor home-made orange-box cradle in the cottage equally manger-beds of the Babe of Bethlehem.

To the Catholic Christian the Lord comes in the Blessed Sacrament still clothed with the lowliness of long ago, and as in the lifting up of His Sacrifice there is the perpetual memory of His Death and Passion, so in the singing of the Gloria in excelsis and the humility of that Sacrament wherein the great reality of His Presence lies hidden beneath the lowly veils of bread and wine, Bethlehem is set forth beneath the lowly veils of bread and wine, Bethlehem is set forth before us most surely Sunday by Sunday and day by day.

As our young men and old men, matrons and maidens, come to the Holy Mysteries, we may think of the shepherds and folk at Bethlehem, who came with dim wonderment to a Mystery they felt but did not understand, as they peeped at Mary’s Babe at the first Christmastide.

The Blessed Sacrament reserved at the Greyfriars’ chapel, Canterbury.

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17 December, 3rd Sunday of Advent: A reflection from Bangladesh

Article by Sister Gillian Rose, a former USPG mission partner, who oversees the USPG-supported Bollobphur Hospital, which is owned by the Church of Bangladesh.

Despite political unrest that upset the country and horrific terrorist activities, here at Bollobphur we remain a little oasis of peace. Families of different faith backgrounds – Muslim, Hindi and Christian – live and work together in peace and harmony. Indeed, tiny babies of different faith backgrounds share together the warmth and comfort of the incubators.

Our largest incubator often has three babies growing up together. I always say these tiny babies do better if they have a companion – and, indeed, they keep each other warm when a sudden power cut shuts off the electricity supply to the incubator.

During the year, a total of 573 babies were born at Bollobphur. Of these babies, 38 were tiny and premature. The majority are very tiny on arrival, weighing only 800g, 900g or
1kg. Several mothers brought tiny twin babies for us to care for. Our student nurses care for them, feeding them every two hours, day and night – and what a joy it is when the mother is able to take her baby home, weighing over 2kg.
• Your church can directly fund this health programme through USPG’s Partners in Mission scheme. Visit http://www.uspg.org.uk/pim This link leads to an article on Bollophur by Sister Gillian Rose with a picture of her with a mother and baby.


O God, whose servant John prepared the way for Jesus’ coming:
we pray for the medical mission of the Church of Bangladesh.
Bless the premature babies there, sharing a common incubator.
May their world become a fair and just home for all.

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10 December, 2nd Sunday of Advent: A reflection from Ghana

Continuing our Advent reflections from USPG looking at how the church is reaching out to mothers and babies, we visit an Anglican programme they support in Ghana that has helped to eradicate cholera in parts of the Cape Coast. One beneficiary tells her story.
My name is Gloria. I have two children, aged three and one-and-a-half years old.

The health programme has helped me and my family. Before, I didn’t know I needed to wash my children’s hands with soap and water before they eat. They would be playing, but I wasn’t washing their hands afterwards. But now, because of the programme, I make sure I wash their hands. Also, before the programme, whenever I bought fruit and
vegetables from the market, I wasn’t washing them. But now I wash them with a soap and salt solution before I use them to prepare food.

Another thing I learned was that before breast-feeding my baby I first needed to wash my breasts. I learned that a child can contract diseases if I do not wash in this way.
Before the programme, I was not putting these things into practice and my children, in fact the whole family, would visit the hospital a lot because of diarrhoea and sickness. But now it is five months since we went to hospital.

O God, who spoke through the prophets:
we pray for mothers in Ghana protecting their children
from sickness. Bless those who bring life-saving knowledge
and give thanks for children now healthy and full of life.

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3 December, 1st Sunday of Advent: A reflection from Tanzania.


For the Sundays of Advent this year, we are sharing reflections from the USPG, the Anglican Society of Partners in the Gospel who invite us to look at how the church around the world is reaching out to mothers and babies.

This article is from the USPG-supported PMTCT (Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission) HIV programme run by the Church of Tanzania.

In 2000, Sophia left the village of Mzula and moved to the capital Dar es Salaam in search of a better life. She found work as a waitress, then met a young man with whom she started a family. Sophia had two children, but illness claimed their lives while they were very young. Then Sophia became sick, developing partial paralysis, and the couple separated.

In 2015, Sophia met another partner. But when she became pregnant, he abandoned her. Unable to cope, Sophia returned to her mother in Mzula. When a mobile clinic from Mvumi Hospital visited the village, Sophia was found to be HIV-positive. She started attending the hospital’s PMTCT services, which showed Sophia how to care
for herself and her unborn baby.

In June 2016, Sophia gave birth to a baby boy, Shedrack, who was free from HIV. Sophia was overjoyed! She reported: ‘Without the support of this project, I would never have been tested or received support. I have regained the happiness I lost.

O God, whose promises to faithful Abraham and Sarai
were fulfilled in the birth of Isaac:
bless all expectant mothers in Tanzania,
and bring their children to fullness of life.

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31 May: The Visitation: Mary, Mother of God.


360px-Church_of_the_Visitation_IMG_0637On the feast of the Visitation, here is Fr Austin’s reflection on Mary, mother of God, and what that means for us.

When God chose to become part of Creation through the Incarnation, the motherhood of Mary was already implied. The Church says nothing about the course of her life from the day it began until the Annunciation. What happened during that time, what it meant to start life full of Grace we don’t know. It will have been ordinary, if only because ostentation and grace do not belong together.

Scripture does not primarily tell us of the dignity of Mary by recounting facts about her physical motherhood of Jesus, or say that Mary is Mother of God as a consequence of a physical event. It tells us what Mary did, and this shows her importance and dignity. Luke shows us Mary, becoming through free consent one who is blessed. Because the divine motherhood is described from the start, not simply as a biological event, but as taking place through a free, personal and grace-inspired act of faith, Mary is seen not simply with a private relationship to Jesus, but as inserting her into the wider story of redemption. She appears as a figure in history, like Abraham and other characters in the historical dialogue between God and Israel. We are simply told that this person was asked, and replied: be it done… Because of her consent, the Word became flesh, and Mary is Mother of God.

God created the world, and so everything belongs. But this creation can stand forever distant, or it can belong. Which of the two possibilities is actually realised is not finally decided by the fact of creation; it is only decided in the course of history. God created a world of free persons, and so a drama develops between God and the world. For God is not the only one who is active, producing the drama as though through puppets. God creates in freedom, so there actually does arise a dialogue between a free God and free human beings. From God’s point of view it is a dialogue always open; we can act freely as long as our history lasts, we can freely choose to respond in any way we like.

From a natural point of view God is free to choose to respond in whatever way; we do not know God will act in our regard. God could dissociate from us, or invite us closer. Happily, everything is very different from that. God has spoken clearly, definitively and irrevocably. This word has been spoken into creation, and it will not return to the Father without achieving its purpose. God’s intention has become flesh in our world. God has determined that the world itself shall be taken into eternal mercy, and that it now has a destiny that transcends its own natural one. Judgement is not God’s last word, but compassion; not isolation but intimacy.

The Word was made flesh because a girl of our race, listened, was apprehensive but cooperative and said yes, freely. This is the way God chose to become part of creation. Of course, Mary’s consent her willingness freely given is itself the fruit of grace. Yet though all this is the fruit of grace, yet it remains Mary’s own freely given consent. When God gives gifts they become precisely what is our own, completely identified with us. God gifts me with the ability to love worthily, yet with a love that is truly mine! It is as much mine as my life – since it is gifted from the same source.

Mary’s motherhood is by the grace of God alone, and her own free act, inseparably; and since this belongs intrinsically to the story of Redemption, it gives Mary a real relationship with us, since we are living within the history of redemption. To praise her motherhood is not to honour something belonging to her private life, but in the light of the context of the Incarnation, she is also mother to us.

Saint Francis tells us we are all mothers of the Lord – we have conceived through word and sacrament, now bring him to birth by the way you live.



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Thank you all once again!


I noticed recently that there are more than a hundred people following this blog, and we know there are others who dip in and out.

Time to say another ‘thank you’ to all our readers and supporters! A ‘like’ or a comment can only be encouraging to our contributors and to me as editor.

Please drop us the occasional line to let us know what you enjoy or what challenges you’d like us to take up. Coming soon is a set of posts responding to one of our readers who posted recently on her own blog about the possible imminent death of the Catholic Church. Not yet, BBB, not yet!

Have a good end to Lent, and if you are a mother, happy Mother’s Day on Sunday!

Karin arranged these flowers for us when we visited her and Winfried over the summer. Thank you again for your welcome!

God Bless us, every one!

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Review: The Methodist Art Collection comes to town.


When we were first married we worshipped in a village Methodist Church near Margate; an austere little chapel it was, whitewashed walls and uncomfortable benches. Thank God we did not have to sit under hour long nineteenth century non-conformist sermons, but were fed with wise words from Fr Martin Symonds, of Ramsgate Abbey.

That was more than a few years ago, but the austere image of Methodism is fixed in my mind, which expects churches to be bathed in coloured light from stained glass windows and peopled by statues of the saints who have gone before us.

Not all windows or statues in English Catholic churches would merit inclusion in a travelling art exhibition.

The Methodist Church has built up a collection of modern art, largely looking at Jesus, in one way or another. You can view the works here: http://www.methodist.org.uk/prayer-and-worship/mmac/index . The website will lead you to videos and other resources around these images.

Instead of hanging on church walls, the collection is sent out to proclaim the Good News in its own way; through exhibitions around the UK and in the future to Dublin, Rome and beyond. Until Saint George’s Day 2017 it is in Canterbury’s Beaney Museum.

Not all the images inspire me to ‘prayer and worship’, but I am hard-wired to David Jones, represented here by a delicate woodblock of The Three Kings, passing a David Jones signature passion-resurrection image: a war-blasted tree-cum-cross, sprouting new growth. The Magi approach a starlit Bethlehem amid Welsh hills that bring to mind a woman’s torso and raised knees at the moment of childbirth: the star’s rays beam down like a searchlight upon the haven where the Child lies, under the hill within his Mother’s womb.


Next to Jones’s tiny, monochrome image hangs The Dalit Madonna, a big, bright work by Jyoti Sahi. While this glorious work picks up themes from Eastern and Western European tradition, such as the sun and moon in the sky, and the Babe blessing from the womb, the artist integrates these with his own Indian culture. The sun is represented by a marigold; the moon by a crescent, including Hinduism and Islam in this birth. Then the Infant is seated within an oval reminiscent of the traditional mandala of Eastern icons, yet despite his foetal position and naturalistic drawing, he is clearly blessing the viewer; he is strong but clearly dependent on his mother, who bends her body in worship and protection, her breast ready to comfort and nurture. Many Catholic preachers would tell you that Mary, who conceived Jesus before her marriage, would have been considered an outcast; an untouchable like this Dalit mother, a radiant human being who clearly loves her son, the centre of her world and being. And how many unwed mothers were condemned by the Catholic Church in recent times?

The one Old Testament story on view here is that of Cain and Abel. We could be among Jones’s Welsh hills, or the Lake District, or even the Downs of the Isle of Wight where John Reilly lived and worked. Cain is a stocky, almost Calibanesque figure, at work within the pale he has set around his neat, well-ordered, smallholding. He pauses in his digging to stare up at his brother, a slim, radiant type of the Good Shepherd, who like Abel would be killed by his own. Suddenly that spade looks menacing: a ploughshare about to become a sword. And yet one cannot help a twinge of sympathy for one who wants his world to be under control, without any disturbing incursions from his brother’s nomadic flocks; that brother who stands nearby with eyes for the far horizon, not for him.

The Lord’s eyes, too, are on a far horizon in Christ writes in the dust – the woman taken in adultery by Clive Hicks Jenkins. In a nightmare of blues, Jesus is almost cartwheeling as, with arms outstretched as on the Cross, he looks away from the scene, away from the woman and her accusers, away from us bystanders looking on. The woman, with her Magdalenesque red hair, high heels and little black dress, is bound, as Christ soon would be, a halter around her throat.The light that glows upon her skin is reflected from Christ, apart from the tiny white triangle of her underwear, visible beneath her skirt which she cannot pull down with her hands tied behind her back. It takes a few moments to see that her accusers already have rocks in their hands, awaiting the moment when Christ’s assent to her killing is given. A moment that never comes. Would we back these men up, if we were there? Were these the men who stoned Stephen? Was Paul among them? Was this the first step on the road to Damascus?

Go and sin no more, Jesus told that woman. A good motto for the Christian life.

Even in the first two pictures reviewed here, the effects of sin creep in: the tree from Flanders, the outcast mother. We see the sin in Cain’s illusory self-sufficiency and his inherent jealousy; loud and clear in those shadowy, self-righteous stones, poised for murder. But like Jones’s three kings, each of us can follow the star, which leads us to a fleshly, humble place. The damage of our sinfulness will not prevent the Cross from being the tree of Life.

If you get the chance to see this exhibition on its travels, do spend some time with a few of the works. Others among them may speak to you louder than these four have done to me. Stop, look, listen.


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18 November, Mercy: Love gives to every power a double power


Bishop John Jukes OFM, when he preached to the children at St Thomas’s Church Canterbury, asked them did baby Jesus have fingernails? He wanted to impress on them that Jesus was truly human, dependent on his mother at a young age.

‘Instructing the ignorant’ is one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy. If Jesus was truly human, Mary and Joseph must have instructed him. He was called the carpenter’s son (Matthew 13:55) and the carpenter (Mark 6:3). It would be wrong to imagine that he just knew what to do without being taught!

He also had to learn how to love, though like any baby he came into this world with every faculty needed to be able to. Look how the artist has made Mary watch her son while he brims with confidence as he blesses the pilgrims to Valencia Cathedral. A Son of God who did not love us would be terrible indeed. Instead he loves:

But love, first learnèd in a lady’s eyes,
Lives not alone immurèd in the brain,
But, with the motion of all elements,
Courses as swift as thought in every power,
And gives to every power a double power,
Above their functions and their offices.

Love’s Labours Lost 4.3

Look again at the statue: see the little photos within the folds? Women present themselves here, before the eyes, as it were, of Mary and Jesus, to ask for help in conceiving, or for the health of their children. Perhaps a mother’s eyes, looking upon Jesus and his mother, absorb blessings to give their power a double power: absorb the love of the Madonna and child, and she can  run with doubled power to her own child.

Pray for all mothers, may they always find the strength and power their children need.



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6 November 2016: Sacrifice in War I.



Fallen Willow, Chichester; NAIB

It puzzled my ten year old self why Dad would not allow war comics into the house, but Robert Fisk’s army officer father did likewise.

Fisk, a war correspondent, now sees the wisdom of this and wonders if the stereotypes evident in such comics have affected today’s military dictators and juntas.[1] Cartoons might seem too crude to influence attitudes to war or foreigners, but my scepticism was shaken listening to two mothers of teenage sons. The boys watch ‘all the old war films’ and play sniper computer games. One remarked to me in all seriousness that ‘everybody hates the Germans’; no shades of opinion for him.

The mothers are concerned that their sons want to join the army ‘to kill a few Afghans’, when, as one put it, ‘he should be aiming to fight to make the world a better place’. Her comments point what makes industrial war possible: the dehumanising of the enemy and the individual soldier’s risking his life. The latter could be described as self-sacrifice; the former identifies the dehumanised enemy as a sacrificial victim.

What sacrifices have been offered in modern industrial war and to what deities?


[1]           Robert Fisk, ‘Battlefield Stereotypes that were Fed to Young Minds’ in The Independent, 28/8/2010

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27 October: Lest ye be judged III


‘Eleven, twelve, eighteen, fourteen, TWENTY!’ The 4 year old boy was climbing the railway steps in front of me, his little sister in tow. Did mother correct him? Did she try to count with him, to be sure he got it right? Did she tell a white lie and suggest his counting was accurate? No, and none of the above. What she did was add an emphatic ‘Hurray’ at the top. (Counting to twenty seemed as important as getting the counting process right.)

Will that little boy be able to count accurately within a few months? Of course he will. His mother’s encouragement of all the bits of counting he was getting right (the numbers were just in the wrong order) is one to bear in mind.

Just by giving us a new day in the morning our Creator offers us encouragement. He gives us a lifetime to get things wrong, or partly right, and to hone all those skills of Faith, Hope and Love that will lead us up to the gates of Heaven.

And now there remain faith, hope, and charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity.

1 Corinthians 13:13


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