Tag Archives: parents

29 April: The deaths of Gerontius and others

Passion flowers speak of the resurrection

A little while ago on BBC Radio the composer, Sir James MacMillan, was discussing Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius, based on Saint John Henry Newman’s poem. In his exploration of the oratorio he recalled his experiences as a young altar server, experiences I could share. Gerontius, he said, lays out the Catholic attitude to death and the world to come in ‘most beautiful music’.

He and I, in Scotland and England, served at funerals where there were many mourners, and in a few cases where there were one or two, even none; so many of our fellow Catholics then had left home and family to come to the United Kingdom. (Thank God for today’s regular parish midday Mass in Canterbury, where there is always a good-sized congregation to support the bereaved!)

Most of the people Sir James and I helped to bury would have been hurt by the Second World War, and knew suffering and death intimately. Loss of faith and friends, great sorrow, compounded in this new bereavement. The First World War had undermined Elgar’s faith, said MacMillan, yet he still composed this searingly beautiful music, giving form to the feelings of mourners.

Children had been more aware of death, even in the 1950s and 1960s. I can see myself, holding the processional cross beside an open grave, as a red-headed Irishman, tears streaming down his face, laid to rest the tiny coffin of his twin babies.

It’s no use saying I should have been protected, prevented from witnessing that. I disagree: I am sure Fr MacDermott was wise to ask me to serve, to represent the Church, the body of the second Adam, the Crucified whose image I was carrying. Far rather having to cope with that intimate vision than the callous slaughter of the innocent of Ukraine.

The hymn ‘Praise to the Holiest in the height’ is taken from the Dream of Gerontius; the oratorio can be found on Youtube.

1 Praise to the Holiest in the height,
and in the depth be praise:
in all his words most wonderful,
most sure in all his ways.

2 O loving wisdom of our God!
When all was sin and shame,
a second Adam to the fight
and to the rescue came.

3 O wisest love! that flesh and blood,
which did in Adam fail,
should strive afresh against the foe,
should strive and should prevail;

4 And that a higher gift than grace
should flesh and blood refine,
God’s presence and his very self,
and essence all-divine.

5 O generous love! that he, who smote
in Man for man the foe,
the double agony in Man
for man should undergo;

6 And in the garden secretly,
and on the cross on high,
should teach his brethren, and inspire
to suffer and to die.

7 Praise to the Holiest in the height,
and in the depth be praise:
in all his words most wonderful,
most sure in all his ways.

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Filed under Daily Reflections, Easter, Mission, poetry

14 August: Things that have changed my life II.

The second half of the teenagers’ reflections on things that changed their lives. I have avoided analysing their contributions or sermonising on them; I hope each reader can do so for themselves. I do remember that when I pinned up copies of these thoughts on the classroom display boards they were pleased, far more so than I had expected. Clearly these events DID change their lives.

Let us be aware in our dealings with young people, that we can change their lives for good or ill. For the most part, power lives with adults: let us pray for wisdom to use it well.

When my parents got a divorce and I was fostered for a year.

When I got my dog, because I have always wanted a dog.

My brother leaving home. I had to get used to being without him, and I don’ have anybody to help me with my homework.(This was written by a girl.)

Parents treating me differently as I got older, and getting more protective because I am a girl.

My mum getting married again because we had another person to tell us what to do and where to go and when to do it.

My little brother was born when I was ten.

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22 July: A kerfuffle in Canterbury

We were about to sit down to a family lunch in the garden, with all the furniture arranged for social distancing, when there was a mighty clamour from the roof of next-door-but-one. That roof has a hole, some 20cm square, where a tile has fallen. This has been a godsend to the sparrows who seem to be on the increase locally; they’ve moved back into a hole under our eaves which was abandoned for a few years and found a new spot at the back of our house. Two sparrows in particular are tame enough to come near to our al fresco table and suggest that we might spare a crumb. How could we say no?

It turned out that the racket on the roof was from the combined forces of sparrows and starlings, combining to chase away a pair of magpies who were taking too close an interest in the hole in the roof. The magpies left the scene, apparently empty-beaked, and life seemed to return to normal for the little birds.

Except that there was a little chick, still flightless, struggling at the edge of the garden pond. With wet feathers it was becoming more difficult to get out, till Mrs T stretched out her arm and pulled the sorry sodden sparrowlet to safety. The little fellow seemed to know that safety lay in camouflage, hiding in the herbaceous border, but loud ‘feed me’ chirps told us he was still around. The danger from cats has diminished.

I think the sparrow may have been involved in the magpie incident, perhaps pulled out of the nest but dropped to the ground as the bigger birds fled. Let’s hope his devoted parents’ efforts to feed him in hiding were enough to bring him to the joys of flight!

And may we find ways to bring joy to those who have been hiding away from the Corona Virus.


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Filed under corona virus, Daily Reflections, Summer

3 July: Praying with Pope Francis: Our Families.

Adrian and Carolyn get married

 

We pray that today’s families may be accompanied with love, respect and guidance.

Mrs Turnstone and I took pride in being around for our children. Then they started to grow up, and we had to as well! Actually, it was often the children who accompanied their parents with love, respect and guidance.

Love: how about breakfast in bed sometime before 6.00 a.m. – dry cereal in a sardine can, because the pre-schoolers could not heave the milk down from the fridge, and the can did duty for various games, usually as a doll’s bed.

Respect: as in wanting to go to work, gardening with one or the other parent, doing as we did.

Guidance: for example, shaking their father, guilty of falling asleep while reading bedtime stories, or dictating a dress code: If you ever come to school in that coat again …

Trivial examples which point to the love, respect and guidance there should be within the family. Sometimes it’s difficult: ‘Will,’ one mother said to me, ‘Annie is the first of my four kids to do exams. I can’t help her because I never did them either.’ Such families are often honestly doing their best and need support, not condemnation.

Let us remember them this month. Perhaps it’s as well exams were scrapped this year because of the corona virus!

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Filed under corona virus, Daily Reflections, Mission, Summer