Pope Francis has asked for special prayers for Pope Emeritus Benedict. He is 95 years old and suffering other symptoms.
This photo shows Benedict presiding at a Christmas meal for poor people and their supporters. Before this there was a protocol that the Pope never ate in public let alone with poor people. This excused a Pope from state banquets but other faithful were not deemed worthy to share a meal with him. No longer so, thanks to Pope Benedict.
This dusty angel is in York Minster with his improbably long-chained censer. Strength to your arm, Angel!
The winter night knows many a star, But the Angels have found one brighter far Than any that ever has shone before; They float and fall through the silent snow Like birds of God, to settle below; To find our earth the Angels go.
A poor little planet, a poor little town, A poor little cradle, not lined with down, A particular absence of all renown; Angels must be peculiar things, Who float and fall with wheeling wings To seek in such for the King of kings.
If we were heaven-taught we should know That what we think high God might yet think low, And straight to Bethlehem singing go; For this earth of ours is still the Star Whither the Angels flew from far, Where the Christ-child and His Mother are.
More bright than the star that Wisdom led, To Angels’ eyes shone the cattle-shed, Where the little Christ once laid His head; And ‘twixt the tapers, just the same As when to Bethlehem once they came, To Angels’ eyes must the altar flame.
Advent is a continuous call to hope: It reminds us that God is present in history to lead it to its ultimate goal and to its fullness, which is the Lord Jesus Christ. – Pope Francis Welcome from the CEO
Welcome to the re-launched CSAN newsletter. To all our subscribers, thank you for your patience. It has been a time of transition in the team, but we’re now good to go again and we’re hoping to bring you a newsletter at least quarterly. Your feedback is always welcome. If you have any suggestions for the newsletter, or stories of social action in the Catholic community you think we should feature, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with Newsletter in the subject box.
We are now in the season of Advent, the season of hope. It can be difficult in the face of hardship and struggle to believe in hope. It can sound like a pious cliché, if it is only some vague aspiration that somehow things will get better. Christian hope is rooted in the reality of the Incarnation, the Word of God made flesh in the poverty of a manger in Bethlehem. Our hope is in the Good News of Jesus, a vision for a new way of being human and belonging, a vision of a kingdom of love, justice and peace. As Christians we don’t just sit around waiting for that to happen. We are part of making it happen. We are ambassadors for that Good News.
May God bless all your work for the kingdom this Advent.
What has been exposed by the pandemic and the cost of living crisis is what was there all along, hidden in plain sight. Vast inequality between the most wealthy and the poorest, public services in a state of collapse after years of underinvestment (despite the brief springtime of appreciation during lockdown), millions of people living in poverty and isolation. We were not in a strong position when the situation worsened. We can see this all too clearly now as the UK is the slowest of the developed countries to recover from the pandemic. Our member charities know this reality. They work on the front line of disadvantage every day and report steeply rising levels of need for the basics of life, as well as more and more need for mental health support.
So what can we do, what should we do? Christians have always responded to need, since the very first days of the Church. People in parishes all over England and Wales are mobilising to meet the humanitarian crisis in our country. Our charities are always looking for volunteers. If you’d like to find out more about the inspiring range of work they do, please visit our website: https://www.csan.org.uk/member/. A major part of our work in the coming months will be sharing stories form our members, case studies of the work they do and the impact they have. We will feature testimonies from volunteers and project workers as well as the voices of lived experience, glimpses into the reality of what it is like to live without access to the basics for a dignified life.
The Catholic tradition has always insisted on justice as well as charity. In September of this year, the Bishops’ Conference Department for Social Justice published a Briefing Paper on the cost of living crisis. The paper included specific ‘asks’ of the government. You can read the full paper here: https://www.cbcew.org.uk/briefing-cost-of-living-crisis/. In our Cost of Living campaign we invite the Catholic community to write to their MPs with a version of these ‘asks’ modified in the light of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement on 17 November. You will find more about how to get involved in our campaign here: https://www.csan.org.uk/cost-of-living-crisis/.
Homes for Ukraine
The other major initiative we are involved in this winter is the Homes for Ukraine matching service. This is a partnership between CSAN member St John of God Hospitaller Services and CSAN. The service brings together those in this country who are willing to host and those Ukrainian families who are looking for a home to live in, having been displaced by the brutal war in their homeland. Not everyone at this difficult time will have the means to host a visiting family, but for those who do, we would urge you to consider this opportunity to put faith into action by welcoming the stranger.
In June of this year, the first cohort of CSAN’s new ‘Aspiring Leaders’ programme gathered at the Royal Foundation of St Katharine’s in London for their first residential. The programme is designed for those who aspire to a leadership role in a Catholic setting. There were twenty participants in total drawn from a range of CSAN member organisations, and one participant from Caritas Europa. They were supported in learning groups by four facilitators, all experienced CEOs and Directors from the CSAN network.
Clifton Diocese is the Catholic diocese covering the West of England and includes the City and County of Bristol, the counties of Gloucestershire, Somerset, Wiltshire, North Somerset, South Gloucestershire and Bath and Northeast Somerset.We spoke with Jason Charewicz, Caritas and Environmental Officer to find out more about their work. Read More Caritas Salford on the Cost of Living Crisis
Find out about what Caritas Salford are observing and how they are responding to the situation in the Northwest of England, including details on their #BeeThere campaign this Advent. Caritas Salford is seeing significantly increased demand for support across its services, as it responds to people facing acute crisis this winter. Read More
Pact wins new contracts Pact is a national Catholic charity that supports prisoners, people with convictions, and their children and families, by providing caring and life-changing services at every stage of the criminal justice process: in court, in prison, on release, and in the community. Read More
Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski, Bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of the Holy Family of London, talks about the devastating impact of the war but also the solidarity and welcome many people have shown throughout our lands to Ukrainians fleeing the war.
It’s a year since the tragic deaths of 27 migrants in the English Channel – the worst-ever migrant tragedy in that body of water. Bishop Paul McAleenan has offered his prayers for the victims and their families, stressing that we have a “collective responsibility” to uphold the human dignity of migrants and refugees.
03 December 2022 International Day of Persons with Disabilities
10 December 2022 Human Rights Day, the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
20 December 2022 International Human Solidarity Day
28 December 2022 Feast of the Holy Innocents
01 January 2023 World Day of Peace
08 February 2023 Feast day of St Josephine Bakhita, World Day of Prayer, Reflection and Action Against Human Trafficking.
2022 Caritas Social Action Network. All rights reserved.
On this day in 1907 died Francis Thompson, aged 47. He had been in poor health after years of sleeping rough and addiction. Wilfrid and Alice Meynell, writers themselves, took him under their wings, found writing work for him and helped him get published, but TB had already claimed him.
This poem is by W. H. Davies, his younger contemporary, who had himself known life on the streets of London and of American cities. He knew of what he wrote.
Thou hadst no home, and thou couldst see
In every street the windows' light:
Dragging thy limbs about all night,
No window kept a light for thee.
However much thou wert distressed,
Or tired of moving, and felt sick,
Thy life was on the open deck—
Thou hadst no cabin for thy rest.
Thy barque was helpless 'neath the sky,
No pilot thought thee worth his pains
To guide for love or money gains—
Like phantom ships the rich sailed by.
Thy shadow mocked thee night and day,
Thy life's companion, it alone;
It did not sigh, it did not moan,
But mocked thy moves in every way.
In spite of all, the mind had force,
And, like a stream whose surface flows
The wrong way when a strong wind blows,
It underneath maintained its course.
Oft didst thou think thy mind would flower
Too late for good, as some bruised tree
That blooms in Autumn, and we see
Fruit not worth picking, hard and sour.
Some poets feign their wounds and scars.
If they had known real suffering hours,
They'd show, in place of Fancy's flowers,
More of Imagination's stars.
So, if thy fruits of Poesy
Are rich, it is at this dear cost—
That they were nipt by Sorrow's frost,
In nights of homeless misery.
From "Foliage: Various Poems" by W. H. Davies.
See also another Welsh Poet, R. S. Thomas, who also observed the difference between the surface and the depths.
I was led to Robert Southey’s poem which follows, by this paragraph from one of Charles Lamb’s letters to him. Lamb offers some observations to his friend:
I think you are too apt to conclude faintly, with some cold moral, as in the end of the poem called “The Victory”— “Be thou her comforter, who art the widow’s friend;” a single common-place line of comfort, which bears no proportion in weight or number to the many lines which describe suffering. This is to convert religion into mediocre feelings, which should burn, and glow, and tremble. A moral should be wrought into the body and soul, the matter and tendency, of a poem, not tagged to the end, like a “God send the good ship into harbour,” at the conclusion of our bills of lading.
The Letters of Charles and Mary Lamb
A bill of lading is a list of all a ship’s cargo agreed between the Master of the vessel and the shipping line. A little prayer at the end could be sincere or just a form of words, though there was plenty of peril on the sea in those days. But here is Southey’s The Victory. Lawful violence would be the press gang, a posse of sailors who were allowed to abduct men off the street to serve in the wars against Napoleon and other enemies.
I disagree with Lamb on this. I sense the same anger as in Wilfred Owen’s Dulce et decorum est of a century or so later, with the poem building towards its final ferocious prayer which was meant to change human hearts. What do you think?
Hark–how the church-bells thundering harmony Stuns the glad ear! tidings of joy have come, Good tidings of great joy! two gallant ships Met on the element,–they met, they fought A desperate fight!–good tidings of great joy! Old England triumphed! yet another day Of glory for the ruler of the waves! For those who fell, ’twas in their country’s cause, They have their passing paragraphs of praise And are forgotten. There was one who died In that day’s glory, whose obscurer name No proud historian’s page will chronicle. Peace to his honest soul! I read his name, ‘Twas in the list of slaughter, and blest God The sound was not familiar to mine ear. But it was told me after that this man Was one whom lawful violence had forced From his own home and wife and little ones, Who by his labour lived; that he was one Whose uncorrupted heart could keenly feel A husband’s love, a father’s anxiousness, That from the wages of his toil he fed The distant dear ones, and would talk of them At midnight when he trod the silent deck With him he valued, talk of them, of joys That he had known–oh God! and of the hour When they should meet again, till his full heart His manly heart at last would overflow Even like a child’s with very tenderness. Peace to his honest spirit! suddenly It came, and merciful the ball of death, For it came suddenly and shattered him, And left no moment’s agonising thought On those he loved so well. He ocean deep Now lies at rest. Be Thou her comforter Who art the widow’s friend! Man does not know What a cold sickness made her blood run back When first she heard the tidings of the fight; Man does not know with what a dreadful hope She listened to the names of those who died, Man does not know, or knowing will not heed, With what an agony of tenderness She gazed upon her children, and beheld His image who was gone. Oh God! be thou Her comforter who art the widow’s friend!
When Doctor Johnson travelled to Scotland in 1773, the 1745 campaign of Bonnie Prince Charlie to regain the throne and the subsequent reprisals from George II were still remembered by those who had been affected. Here is some of what Johnson found.
There was perhaps never any change of national manners so quick, so great, and so general, as that which has operated in the Highlands, by the last conquest, and the subsequent laws. We came thither too late to see what we expected, a people of peculiar appearance, and a system of antiquated life. The clans retain little now of their original character, their ferocity of temper is softened, their military ardour is extinguished, their dignity of independence is depressed, their contempt of government subdued, and the reverence for their chiefs abated. Of what they had before the late conquest of their country, there remain only their language and their poverty.
Their language is attacked on every side. Schools are erected, in which English only is taught, and there were lately some who thought it reasonable to refuse them a version of the holy scriptures, that they might have no monument of their mother-tongue. That their poverty is gradually abated, cannot be mentioned among the unpleasing consequences of subjection.
Johnson had given his support to those working for a full Scots Gaelic translation of Scripture; the Gospels and Psalms had come first, used in public and private worship every day.
Nineteenth and Twentieth Century foreign missionaries made sure to translate the Bible as soon as they could, but imagine learning to render Latin, Hebrew and Greek into a language not previously written down! It is not just word for word, but idea for idea, a different way of thinking. Not respecting those differences would have been unacceptable bullying. The same is even more true of trying to attack a mother-tongue and deprive people of the Bible in their own language. Whatever mistakes those early missionaries made, they were made in good faith and in service of the local people, to whom they were happy to hand over responsibility as soon as possible.
from “Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland” by Samuel Johnson)
Pope Francis invites us this month to pray for children: We pray for children who are suffering, especially those who are homeless, orphans, and victims of war; may they be guaranteed access to education and the opportunity to experience family affection.
After years of working with distressed children I could add to Pope Francis’s list: children who are abused or neglected, living with their parents’ addictions, excluded from school for the safety of others, mentally ill, depressed, or simply poor. Here is a prayer we might use or adapt to join the Pope’s invitation.
Prayer for Healing and Reconciliation
Praise to you Father of our Lord Jesus Christ the source of all consolation and hope. Be the refuge and guardian of all who suffer from abuse and violence. Comfort them and send healing for their wounds of the body, soul and spirit. Help us all and make us one with you in your love for justice as we deepen our respect for the dignity of every human life. Giver of peace, make us one in celebrating your praise, both now and forever. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
William Allingham is in the New Forest at Lymington, a small port opposite the Isle of Wight, where he is a senior customs officer. He recorded in his diary on this day in 1868.
Thursday, October 22. — Lymington. Walk to Setley, and find gypsies encamped. Coming back I overtake a little girl carrying with difficulty two bags of sand, and just as I am asking how far she is going, up drives Rev. P. F. in his gig, who offers me a lift. I say, ‘ Help this little girl with her two heavy bags,’ upon which his Reverence reddens and drives off. I carry one of the bags.
Where to start? Of course in 2022 we could be screened from the realities of life for a poor child because we would drive past in a sealed car, and not notice a thing. And we can insulate ourselves in other ways too.
‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Matthew 25:44
It’s too easy to sugar coat any of the saints to make the medicine they offer us more palatable. Stories we’ve read in the Little Flowers tempt us to do the same to Saint Francis. Here’s a corrective from GKC. Happy Feast Day to all Franciscans!
I ask the reader to remember and realise what the story really looked like, when thus seen from the outside. Given a critic of rather coarse common sense, with no feeling about the incident except annoyance, and how would the story seem to stand?
A young fool or rascal is caught robbing his father and selling goods which he ought to guard; and the only explanation he will offer is that a loud voice from nowhere spoke in his ear and told him to mend the cracks and holes in a particular wall. He then declared himself naturally independent of all powers corresponding to the police or magistrates, and takes refuge with an amiable bishop who is forced to remonstrate with him and tell him he is wrong. He then proceeds to take off his clothes in public and practically throw them at his father; announcing at the same time that his father is not his father at all. He then runs about the town asking everybody he meets to give him fragments of buildings or building materials, apparently with reference to his old monomania about mending the wall.
It may be an excellent thing that cracks should be filled up, but preferably not by somebody who is himself cracked; and architectural restoration like other things is not best performed by builders who, as we should say, have a tile loose. Finally the wretched youth relapses into rags and squalor and practically crawls away into the gutter. That is the spectacle that Francis must have presented to a very large number of his neighbours and friends. How he lived at all must have seemed to them dubious; but presumably he already begged for bread as he had begged for building materials.
From “Saint Francis of Assisi: The Life and Times of St. Francis, by G. K. Chesterton.
Here are Fr Anthony Charlton’s reflections on meeting an extreme pilgrim.
Being in the centre of the city we inevitable get many callers at the door.
Someone looking for help with their electric, a person needing their house blessed because they are hearing voices, or a homeless person looking for a cup of tea and a sandwich.
On Sunday afternoon just as I was ready for a nap after lunch, the doorbell rang and there was a young man dressed in black who was looking for a place to stay the night. He announced himself as Br Nathaniel and was a member of the comparative new order of young men founded in 2002 in the States and called the Servants of Jesus Christ. Each Servant takes a month-long poverty pilgrimage bringing along only one change of clothes and a bible.
Brother Nathanael was making his way through the UK. He has come from London and after staying in Canterbury was moving on to Aylesford. I was struck by how little he possessed and that he had to rely on the generosity of those he met.
The spirituality of the Servants of Jesus Christ is based on St Ignatius’s spiritual exercises. St Ignatius encourages those doing the exercises to live like the poor. He encourages us to embrace “poverty as opposed to affluence” and also to embrace “insults or contempt as opposed to the prestige of this world”. He saw this as preparing the ground to receive the virtue of humility as opposed to pride.
Lord help me to let go of anything that hinders my relationship with your Son.
Canon Father Anthony Parish Priest,
Saint Thomas', Canterbury.