We pray that the death penalty,
which attacks the dignity of the human person,
may be legally abolished in every country.
Jesus was crucified between two thieves. These willow crosses were used to make Easter Gardens for Saint Mildred’s church in Canterbury and for our community houses, but they do not convey the torturous death of crucifixion. The ivory figures on the crosses in Winchester Cathedral express the attack on the dignity of the three condemned men, each one unable to lift a finger to ease his suffering. The only way to alleviate the pain is for the overseeing centurion to intervene with a leg-breaking, death-dealing blow.
When today someone is killed by firing squad, hanging, electric shock or lethal drugs, there is not the three hours’ agony endured by Jesus, but there is a lifetime of sorrow for the criminal’s relatives, while ‘closure’ for the victim’s family may still be elusive. It is well-known that the greater number of violent offenders have experienced violence themselves; are their lives to be terminated in violence?
We could add to Pope Francis’s intention a prayer for the children who are subjected to violence, that through the love, care and respect of adults who work with them, they may come to live in peace with themselves, with other people and with God.
And let us remember Jesus’ promise to the repentant thief: this day you will be with me in Paradise.
Altrincham Market Cross, the 1990 Replica, by Rept0n1x 2013. Notice the small business in the corner! The original Market Cross would have been surrounded by many small businesses. This post comes out a little late to allow us to enjoy in sequence Sister Johanna’s reflections on the rich young man who approached Jesus.
Pope Francis’s prayer intention for August: For small businesses.
We pray for small and medium sized businesses; in the midst of economic and social crisis, may they find ways to continue operating, and serving their communities.
Do you remember when Pope Francis made the headlines for visiting a record shop in Rome to buy a CD? That was support for one small business. I once read that back home in Argentina Cardinal Bergoglio used to take meals in a local family cafe rather than a branch of a big chain. Both those small businesses were serving their local community, rather than anonymous, distant owners.
Some local businesses in our city have closed down in recent times, partly as a result of covid restrictions on trading. Some, of course, were selling cheap souvenirs, something Canterbury was good at from after the death of Saint Thomas until the Reformation led to his shrine being desecrated. No tourists or pilgrims meant no trade.
Well, the continental teenagers are back in town. Let’s hope enough of them like the souvenirs, the ice-creams and refreshments to boost our local businesses. For my part, tomorrow I shall be visiting the street stalls selling fresh local fruit, thereby supporting farmers as well as traders. Not long now till the first Discovery apples appear!
Pope Francis has been proclaiming the important place of old people. The wisdom of his teaching has come home to me – quite literally – recently.
Home. My mother is in her nineties and lives some distance away from us in Canterbury. During the pandemic we did not visit, and local visitors were talking to her from the back door, so it was good for both sides when Mrs T came with me to see her. ‘You will be fed!’ she said, and we were, though she takes a labour-saving approach to shopping and cooking: on-line orders and prepared vegetables. And of course there were conversations until late. Setting the world to rights.
Back to Kent and time to do Mrs E’s garden. Mrs E used to run a guest house, a B&B before Air BnB. It was a true vocation, making strangers welcome. Now widowed, she lives with dementia, is often confused, but always brings me a cup of tea during the morning. Her instinct for hospitality remains strong! So far she remains in her home, with the help of carers, and is able to welcome friends for tea and biscuits.
I used to visit a convent to see one of the sisters on church business, but the sister who answered the door would always raise my spirits. The first time we met she told me, ‘Mostly we look after old people here.’ This from an old lady, walking with two sticks, and bent double. Making the stranger welcome is one of the seven works of mercy, and so is visiting the infirm. One good turn generates another in a virtuous circle.
How can I make someone welcome this week? Who might like a visit from me?
Christianity is not just an ethic. Yes, it is true, it has moral principles, but one is not Christian with only a vision of ethics. It is more. Christianity is not an elite of people chosen for truth. …Christianity is belonging to a people, a people chosen by God, freely. If we do not have this consciousness of belonging to a people, we will be ideological Christians, with a tiny doctrine for affirming the truth, with an ethic, with a moral code – that’s fine – or with an elite… If we do not have a consciousness of belonging to a people, we are not true Christians.
Pope Francis, Homily “Being Christians means belonging to the People of God”, 07.05.2020
General Secretariat for Synod of Bishops Via della Conciliazione 34 00120 Città del Vaticano
Here are a couple of paragraphs from Pope Francis’s Laudato si’, his teaching on the environment, and how we can care for it or destroy it. Humankind, he warns, has abandoned trust in God, in each other, and in the earth we inhabit. We need to acknowledge the harm we have done and continue to do, although we are much more aware of it than just a few years ago.
Sadly, the pandemic over, it seems people are scrambling to ‘get back to normal’ when our previous way of life was definitely not normal. It lacked respect: for God and his laws, which are the laws of true human living; for our neighbours, and for our mother earth and all that lives on her. But let’s read Francis’s own words. (The footnote links lead to the original document.)
66. The creation accounts in the book of Genesis contain, in their own symbolic and narrative language, profound teachings about human existence and its historical reality. They suggest that human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbour and with the earth itself. According to the Bible, these three vital relationships have been broken, both outwardly and within us. This rupture is sin. The harmony between the Creator, humanity and creation as a whole was disrupted by our presuming to take the place of God and refusing to acknowledge our creaturely limitations. This in turn distorted our mandate to “have dominion” over the earth (cf. Gen 1:28), to “till it and keep it” (Gen 2:15). As a result, the originally harmonious relationship between human beings and nature became conflictual (cf. Gen 3:17-19). It is significant that the harmony which Saint Francis of Assisi experienced with all creatures was seen as a healing of that rupture. Saint Bonaventure held that, through universal reconciliation with every creature, Saint Francis in some way returned to the state of original innocence. This is a far cry from our situation today, where sin is manifest in all its destructive power in wars, the various forms of violence and abuse, the abandonment of the most vulnerable, and attacks on nature.Ex 23:12). Clearly, the Bible has no place for a tyrannical anthropocentrism unconcerned for other creatures.
69. Together with our obligation to use the earth’s goods responsibly, we are called to recognize that other living beings have a value of their own in God’s eyes: “by their mere existence they bless him and give him glory”, and indeed, “the Lord rejoices in all his works” (Ps 104:31). By virtue of our unique dignity and our gift of intelligence, we are called to respect creation and its inherent laws, for “the Lord by wisdom founded the earth” (Prov 3:19). In our time, the Church does not simply state that other creatures are completely subordinated to the good of human beings, as if they have no worth in themselves and can be treated as we wish. The German bishops have taught that, where other creatures are concerned, “we can speak of the priority of being over that of being useful”. The Catechism clearly and forcefully criticizes a distorted anthropocentrism: “Each creature possesses its own particular goodness and perfection… Each of the various creatures, willed in its own being, reflects in its own way a ray of God’s infinite wisdom and goodness. Man must therefore respect the particular goodness of every creature, to avoid any disordered use of things”.
We pray for the elderly,
who represent the roots and memory of a people;
may their experience and wisdom
help young people to look towards the future
with hope and responsibility.
Pope Francis has been speaking quite a lot about old age recently. Representing the roots and memory of a people is a quite responsibility for us oldies. It’s more important than you might think, until you realise that only two or three people remember events that were important at the time and helped shape our community or family today. And as for important people!
A couple of years ago a story popped into my head about a woman from Canada who helped shape our L’Arche community, back in 1975. I tracked down her brother who shared the story with her daughter – my friend had died between times. He wrote back, sharing his niece’s reaction, overjoyed to read about her mother, and a story hitherto unknown to her. ‘What a gift!’ she had said.
Yes, memory is a gift, not only for old persons but for those who are energised by the stories of beginnings and growth, prosperity and hardship. Maybe this July could be a month of sharing memories, sharing experiences and hope. Praying for the elderly might well include listening to them and recording their wisdom.
Follow this link to Independent Catholic News and Pope Francis’s video message for today.
A second post about John the Baptist, whose feast we marked yesterday. This is from Pope Francis’s Audience, 13.12.2021.
Pope Francis reflected on John the Baptist responding to those asking how to change their lives for the better, since their hearts were touched by the Lord. It reflects an enthusiasm for the Lord’s coming and a desire to prepare themselves concretely for this joyous, life-changing experience. In the same way, we too should ask ourselves what we should do within our own lives, the Pope suggested, and reflect on what we are called to do and become.
The question of what we are to do reminds us that “life has a task for us”, the Pope said. It is not something left to chance, but rather, “It is a gift that the Lord grants us,” since He asks to discover ourselves and “to work hard to make the dream that is your life come true.” We all have a mission to accomplish, he explained, and we should not be afraid to ask the Lord this question often: What can we do for the Lord, and what can we for ourselves, our brothers and sisters and how can this be translated concretely into contributing to the good of the Church and society?
John the Baptist, in responding to those who ask him “what should we do?”, gives each person a very concrete reply to their life situation. And this offers a precious teaching, the Pope said, that “faith is incarnated in concrete life,” touching us personally and transforming our lives.
In conclusion, he encouraged everyone to think concretely about what we can do, small or big, in our own lives as we prepare for Christmas. This could mean visiting someone who is alone, helping the elderly or the ill, or serving the poor or someone in need. It may also mean asking for forgiveness for our mistakes, paying a debt, clarifying a misunderstanding, or praying more. We can all find something concrete to do, the Pope emphasised, adding, “May the Blessed Mother help us!”
Pope Benedict XVI set this Feast on the Thursday after Pentecost ten years ago. It has only just crossed my radar, and I wondered whether this was a feast for clericalism, that non-synodal view of the Church that Pope Francis wants to leave behind. My suspicions were not placated when I saw the reading in the Divine Office was from Pope Pius XII, but I read on, and was reminded that he had made important changes to the celebration of the Eucharist, such as allowing people – including priests – to take a drink of water without breaking their fast. For anyone travelling a distance, or whose circumstances meant they attended a late Mass, he made it more possible to participate and receive Communion.
This extract from Mediator Dei insists that every Christian is called to be a priest ‘as far as is humanly possible’; today we might remember that we are each anointed at Baptism to serve as priest, prophet, and king. But Pope Pius was exploring these ideas before Vatican II. The language is perhaps unfamiliar, but the message is clear enough.
Christ is a Priest indeed; however, he is a Priest not for himself but for us, since, in the name of the whole human race, he brings our prayers and religious dispositions to the eternal Father; he is also a victim, but a victim for us, since he substitutes himself for sinners. Now the exhortation of the Apostle, ‘Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,’ demands that all Christians should possess, as far as is humanly possible, the same dispositions as those which the divine Redeemer had when he offered himself in sacrifice: that is to say, they should with a humble attitude of mind, offer adoration, honour, praise and thanksgiving to the supreme majesty of God. Moreover, it demands that they must assume in some way the condition of a victim, that they deny themselves as the Gospel commands, that freely and of their own accord they do penance and that each detests and makes satisfaction for his sins. It demands, in a word, that we must all undergo with Christ a mystical death on the Cross so that we can apply to ourselves the words of St. Paul, ‘I have been crucified with Christ’ (Galatians 2:19).
Usually we publish this monthly post on the first Friday, but Saint Kevin was already occupying his feast day, while next Friday gives us a peep into someone’s diary entry for the day. So, here we are on Whit Monday with Pope Francis’s monthly prayer.
We pray for Christian families around the world; may they embody and experience unconditional love and advance in holiness in their daily lives.
That is one impossible manifesto. I cannot live up to that. But I don’t have to, not on my own, because my calling is to married life and the graces and gifts I need, or think I need, have to give first place to the graces and gifts of my spouse and family.
Unconditional love is an aspiration which we work towards, mostly without saying so. Earning a living, putting a meal on the table, walking little ones to school, drying up the dishes: there are tasks that parents, children, grandchildren can do without moaning, even gladly, to help in our shared daily lives. We can become better people, or in Catholic jargon, ‘advance in holiness’ in our daily lives, through such co-operation and deeds of kindness, through teaching good manners, please and thank you.
We can reflect on our lives, in Catholic jargon ‘examine our consciences’ and develop what is good, set aside what is no longer appropriate; tend wounds, physical, mental, or of the heart; move on as a family or as a family member, right what is wrong.
All this is ‘advancing in holiness’. All this is prayer.
A thoughtful greeting from Pope Francis to Queen Elizabeth.
Yesterday saw the start of a weekend of celebrations across the United Kingdom on the occasion of Queen Elizabeth II’s 70 years on the throne.
Marking this milestone, Pope Francis has sent a telegram to the Queen offering his prayers and good wishes. In it, he says: “On this joyful occasion of your Majesty’s birthday, and as you celebrate this Platinum Jubilee year, I send cordial greetings and good wishes, together with the renewed assurance of my prayers that Almighty God will bestow upon you, the members of the Royal Family and all the people of the nation blessings of unity, prosperity and peace.”
In recognition of the monarch’s commitment to the care of God’s creation, Pope Francis is donating a Cedar of Lebanon to the Queen’s Green Canopy project. He expressed the hope that this tree, “which in the Bible symbolises the flourishing of fortitude, justice and prosperity, would be a pledge of abundant divine blessings” upon her realm.
The project invites people from across the United Kingdom to “Plant a Tree for the Jubilee”. As well as inviting the planting of new trees, The Queen’s Green Canopy will dedicate a network of 70 Ancient Woodlands across the United Kingdom and identify 70 Ancient Trees to celebrate Her Majesty’s 70 years of service.
We invite readers to pray for the Queen and the people of her realm, and especially for unity, prosperity and peace. Let us pray, too, for the people of Lebanon to recover these same gifts.