Tag Archives: prayer

November 10: Remembering

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I came across this little Staffordshire souvenir figure under a church war memorial last November. A hundred years on, it’s difficult to understand who would design such an ornament, or who would have bought it. As boys I remember us getting more run-of-the-mill designs for my mother’s collection, but we once gave her a Great War tank model, not thinking of the loss of life and all the human suffering it represented.

But what does this figure represent, other than a present from Bishop’s Stortford? Is the soldier a killer or a victim? Brave or resigned, or hoping for a ‘Blighty’ wound to get himself sent home for a month or two? Did it remind its first owner of a loved one lost? And how did it feel to see it if you were a returned front-line soldier, after the War? Pure white was not very often seen amid Flanders mud.

Caught in that moment when he goes Over The Top to kill or be killed: how do we bring this to God? This is not man-for-man fighting – the machine gun that may get him will be many yards away, and unless it comes to bayonets he won’t see the one he kills.

Perhaps it is fitting to put him down, as the parishioners did, in front of the Cross on the War Memorial; without a word, with the poppies around him.

What can we say? With our current weaponry we have no right to feel morally superior. Piloting deadly drones from hundreds of miles away or threatening to press the red button; or indeed having others do so in our name: lives on ‘our side’ are not at risk as those going over the top were.

Father forgive us for we do not want to know what we do.

 

 

 

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November 4: Praying to – or through – the Saints

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We Catholics say the words at every Mass: ‘Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof.’ We know the Centurion of the lakeside garrison at Capernaum addressed them to Jesus, and they are a timely reminder of our unworthiness and sinfulness. But when Father Anthony read the passage from Luke 7 recently, I heard a subplot that I found interesting.

A certain centurion’s servant, who was dear to him, was sick and ready to die. So when he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to Him, pleading with Him to come and heal his servant.

The Centurion does not address Jesus directly, but trusts his Jewish friends to present his plea, which they do, earnestly. The Centurion sends a second group of friends with the message:

I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be healed.

It is not clear that Jesus ever entered the Centurion’s house, or met him outside. But the intercession of the Centurion’s friends to Jesus was prayer enough. The servant was healed.

At All Saints’ tide I take three lessons I take from this story: firstly, to pray for others, as the Centurion’s friends do; secondly, to be open to praying to the saints, and thirdly, to put this text before any evangelical friends who shy away from doing so as ‘un-Biblical’.

You don’t have to pray to the saints ( although the standard prayer in the Litany is ‘Saint N., pray for us’) – but it may help!

MMB

 

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15 October: Women as Apostles, by Saint John XXIII

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John XXIII’s opening paragraph really applies to any baptised Christian, and so does much of this extract. John concludes by reminding us that women were there from the beginning of the Church, and perhaps he challenges us all to act as one in what he calls a fusion of souls.

No soul consecrated to the Lord is dispensed from the sublime duty of continuing the saving mission of the Divine Redeemer.

The Church expects much from those who live in the silence of the cloister, and especially from there. They, like Moses, have their arms raised in prayer, conscious that in this prayerful attitude one obtains victory.

ther3So important is the contribution of women religious of the contemplative life to the apostolate that Pius XI wished to have as co-patron of the missions—and a rival therefore of St. Francis Xavier—not a Sister of the active life, but a Carmelite, St. Theresa of the Child Jesus.

May the Church militant feel that you are present wherever your spiritual contribution is needed for the good of souls, as well as for real human progress and human peace.

May those who are dedicated to the active life … strive in obedience to study and obtain the degrees which will allow you to surmount every difficulty. Thus, in addition to your merited and proven capability, you may be better appreciated also for your spirit of dedication, patience and sacrifice.

There is, moreover, the presage of further demands in the new countries which have entered the community of free nations. Without lessening one’s love for his own country, the world has become more than ever before a common fatherland. Many Sisters have already felt this call. The field is immense.

Not even the Sisters dedicated to contemplation are exempt from this duty. The people in certain regions of Africa and the Far East feel a greater attraction to contemplative life, which is more congenial to the development of their civilization.

The consecrated souls in the new secular institutes should know also that their work is appreciated and that they are encouraged to contribute toward making the Gospel penetrate every facet of the modern world.

 May the spirit of Pentecost prevail over your chosen families and may it unite them in that fusion of souls which was seen in the cenacle where, together with the Mother of God and the Apostles, several pious women were to be found (Acts 1:14).

We thank God for the families we have been given, but also for our friends who are sisters, especially the Littlehampton Sisters, the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Saint Joseph and the  Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood, who were all part of the community at the Franciscan International Study Centre.

 

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13 October: Saint John XXIII, ‘Radiate Chastity!’

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‘Radiation’ may not be the first concept that comes to mind when thinking of chastity, but Pope John shows that chastity is not sterile egotism but a social virtue – in a similar way to  how faithfulness in marriage provides stability in the family and society.

The Gospel tells us of all that Jesus suffered, of the insults that fell upon Him. But, from Bethlehem to Calvary, the brilliance that radiates from His divine purity spread more and more and won over the crowds. So great was the austerity and the enchantment of His conduct.

So may it be with you, beloved daughters. Blessed be the discretion, the mortifications and the renouncements with which you seek to render this virtue more brilliant.

Pius XII wrote about them in a memorable encyclical letter (Sacra Virginitas). Live its teachings. May your conduct prove to all that chastity is not only a possible virtue but a social virtue, which must be strongly defended through prayer, vigilance and the mortification of the senses.

May your example show that the heart has not shut itself up in sterile egoism, but that it has chosen the condition which is necessary for it to open itself solicitously to its neighbour.

For this purpose We urge you to cultivate the rules of good conduct—We repeat it—cultivate and apply them, without giving ear to anyone who would wish to introduce into your life a conduct less befitting the thoughtfulness and reserve to which you are bound.

May each of us, whatever our state in life, open our hearts to our neighbour, and not close in on ourselves.

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11 October: Feast of Saint John XXIII

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I thought we would celebrate the Feast of Good Pope John with an extract from his writings. In 1962 He wrote to women religious – sisters in other words – a letter called ‘Il Tiempo Massimo’. Here he talks about prayer. 

The Church will always encourage its daughters who, in order to conform more perfectly to the call of the Divine Master, give themselves in the contemplative life.

May all of you meditate on this truth, beloved daughters, who are justly called “quasi apes argumentosae” (like industrious bees), because you are in the constant practice of the fourteen works of mercy in sisterly community with your other fellow Sisters. You also who are consecrated to God in the secular institutes must derive all the efficacy of your undertakings from prayer.

The life offered to the Lord entails difficulties and sacrifices like any other form of coexistence. Only prayer gives the gift of happy perseverance in it. The good works to which you dedicate yourselves are not always crowned with success. You meet with disappointments, misunderstanding and ingratitude.

Without the help of prayer you could not continue along on this hard road. And do not forget that a wrongly understood dynamism could lead you to fall into that “heresy of action” which was reproved by our predecessors. Having overcome this danger, you can be confident that you are definitely co-operators in the salvation of souls, and you will add merits to your crown.

All of you, whether dedicated to a contemplative or an active life, should understand the expression “life of prayer.” It entails not a mechanical repetition of formulas but is rather the irreplaceable means by which one enters into intimacy with the Lord, to better understand the dignity of being daughters of God and spouses of the Holy Spirit, the “sweet guest of the soul” Who speaks to those who know how to listen in recollection.

May we all learn how to listen to the Holy Spirit in the silence of our soul. And let’s be grateful for the prayer and work of all the sisters upholding the Church throughout the world.

 

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October 9: Traherne X: you must be Heir of the World

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Love has a marvellous property of feeling in another It can enjoy in another, as well as enjoy him. Love is an infinite treasure to its object, and its object is so to it. God is Love, and you are His object. You are created to be His Love : and He is yours. He is happy in you, when you are happy : as parents in their children. He is afflicted in all your afflictions.

And whosoever toucheth you, toucheth the apple of His eye.

Will not you be happy in all His enjoyments ? He feeleth in you ; will not you feel in Him? He hath obliged you to love Him. And if you love Him, you must of necessity be Heir of the World, for you are happy in Him. All His praises are your joys, all His enjoyments are your treasures, all His pleasures are your enjoyments. In God you are crowned, in God you are concerned. In Him you feel, in Him you live, and move, and have your being, in Him yon are blessed. Whatsoever therefore serveth Him, serveth you and in Him you inherit all things.

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September 24: He knows what He is about. (Feast of John Henry Newman)

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There have been times of great perplexity, when I could have done with the following young newmanprayer from Cardinal Newman. Something of an antidote to ambition! Retirement is as much a time of discernment as when leaving school or college, and it may well be that Newman’s Kindly Light will lead into unexpected corners!

God created me to do Him some definite service
He has committed some work to me, 
which He has not committed to another. 
I have a mission. 
I am a link in a chain, 
a bond of connection between persons.

Therefore I will trust Him. 
Whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. 
If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; 
if I am perplexed, my perplexity may serve Him; 
if I am in joy, my joy may serve Him; 
if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve him. 
He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about.
Amen.

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September 16: What is Theology Saying? XXVI: What is Grace and what does it do?

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We live in secular times – in the course of the ages we have taken more and more possession of the earth and all it contains; we control much more than people of ages past. We also have better self-awareness – realising that customs, rules and ideas of order and beauty are not always shared by other societies. Customs and traditions are not the inevitable and only right way of doing things.

When we understood less we tended to see the transcendent God as the all-powerful organiser. This God made thunder when he was angry, sent plagues and disasters to punish and redressed everything that had gone wrong. God worked in unseen ways. Outwardly a man might seem good and virtuous, inwardly he could have lost God’s grace and be out of sorts with God and living in darkness. Lost God’s Grace – outwardly, before and after baptism there might be no difference in a person – inwardly there can be all the difference between night and day in that realm where God is active and inaccessible to our experience. As we began to take more control of the world, we also took more responsibility for what was going on – in the external world. We have lightening conductors replacing the sign of the cross; we have air traffic control instead of prayers for travellers; we have learned to seed clouds from the air instead of novenas for rain.

This has also made its way into the inner world of our spiritual life. We are starting to distrust ritual ways of obtaining God’s favour. We have reasoned that a person can’t receive additional charity unless we are really loving more and more. Accounts of the spiritual life, the redemptive work of Christ and the service of the Church are now sounding more like common sense psychology than strictly Christian teaching. Some are even doing away with the idea of Grace.

AMcC

Mosaic from S Aloysius, Somers Town, London, (near Euston, St Pancras and King’s Cross). While I know trains are very safe, I like to make a pilgrim’s prayer if I find this church open. MMB.

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14 September, Relics XIII: in Memory of Joan

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Joan was a loving wife, mother and grandmother, and a friend to many in Saint Thomas’ parish, On her birthday we share the remembrance card her family gave out to those attending her funeral. It is a passage from the Pilgrim’s Progress, where, facing death, Mr Valiant-for-truth says:

I am going to my Father’s, and tho’ with great difficulty I am got hither, yet now I do not repent me of all the Trouble I have been at to arrive where I am. My Sword I give to him that shall succeed me in my Pilgrimage, and my Courage and Skill to him that can get it. My Marks and Scars I carry with me, to be a witness for me that I have fought his Battles who now will be my Rewarder.

The passage concludes:

 So he passed over, and all the Trumpets sounded for him on the other side.

As, in sure and certain hope, we can say they did for Joan.

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12 September: Some thoughts on my experience in Freiburg at the 15th Subud World Congress.

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It’s a while since we heard from Constantina. I should think moving house was reason enough for that. However she has sent a message from Freiburg where she has been attending the Subud World Congress. You’ll find more about Subud on the internet, but it is a form of spiritual exercise that many find helpful. Over to Constantina.
Here is something unusual. A Congress of nearly 3000 people from 65 countries all over the globe. People of all faiths and beliefs coming together to worship Almighty God each day for 12 days.
There is harmony, chatter and energy in every corner. There are families, young people, old people, business people, from all backgrounds people. 
How do so many of such diverse beliefs become one together and work together? And work they do with many large humanitarian projects and smaller enterprises. The key to this is a gift from God which enables us each day to surrender and await whatever grace He wishes to bestow upon us. There is no dogma, no creed, for all follow their own religious beliefs – something we all recognise are deepened by this harmonious experience of God.
Subud has been in the world since 1924, officially from the early 1940s and came to the West from Indonesia in 1957. It was adopted wholeheartedly by the former Gurdjieff movement who recognised the surrender of self to God, within Subud, as the very essence of what they had been searching for but had been unable to attain merely through the human will. 
I have been a member since 1983 and it forms an undercurrent in my life and faith like a clear flowing river. 
It is not comparable to any other experiential faith and it is easier to say what it is not rather than what it is. 
I have another week here before I return and am looking forward to making many new connections with brothers and sisters the world over.
Constantina Alexander

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