Tag Archives: reflection

10 June: What do the Saints know? I, Introduction

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Welcome back to Sister Johanna OSB of Minster Abbey. Today we resume the Sundays in Ordinary Time after Easter, Pentecost, Trinity and Corpus Christi. And what gets us through ordinary time but the great virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity, also called the Theological Virtues because they tell us about God, each one in its own way. Over to you, Sister Johanna!

St. Thomas Aquinas, Connaturality and the Theological Virtues

Part I

  1. Introduction

I was recently asked to give a talk to a group of retreatants visiting my monastery. This was a group with a particular interest in exploring the relationship between theology and prayer. The leader of the group had proposed ahead of time that we all reflect on the question, “What do the Saints Know?” and prepare a talk on this subject.

I was delighted with the question, and loved pondering it. It intrigued me to imagine the kind of knowledge of God enjoyed by the saints – I mean living saints who are walking about now on this earth and have not yet entered into eternal life with God – the ones who have struggled with the complexities of existence; the ones who desire to know God but feel that they have a long way to go. How do such strugglers arrive at sanctity? Do they develop a special ability to ‘know’ God, I wondered?

This thought led me back to something I discovered when studying the Summa Theologica of St Thomas Aquinas several years ago. St. Thomas is not always the easiest theologian to read and understand, but I have learned an enormous amount from him. I have presented some of my findings in previous posts. I think Thomas has something to offer now as we seek to understand what the saints know. This may be found in his teaching on the gift of connaturality with divine things – indeed, with God himself. This rather overlooked theme in the Summa of St Thomas underlies much of his teaching on human growth in divine grace. The reflections which will follow in the posts this week are based on Part II of the Second Part of the Summa Theologica. And they represent my personal dialogue with the text as I have read and pondered his words for my lectio divina.

Photo: On a journey. MMB.

 

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28 May: Happy Monday!

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What are some of the surprises that God has blessed you with today? Pray with this question and, together, let us allow our hearts to be open to being surprised by God’s grace!

Happy Monday!

Those few lines are by Father James Kurzynski, writing on the Vatican Observatory Website about a day full of good surprises. Do take up his challenge before bedtime, but also  follow this link to his surprising day. He was like a kid in an Astronomical Candy Store, he tells us, finishing with a shared meal with a friend and family.

Laudato Si’!

MMB

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12 April: A response to Christina Chase’s An Eve in Winter.

 

Dear Christina,

It’s an editor’s privilege to respond or comment on contributions sometimes: bear with me!

Your poem connects. It reminds me of  John Betjeman, writing in prose:

“Many people, when they enter a quiet room, automatically – even before shutting the door – rush to turn on the wireless as though quiet were as unhealthy as a cold draught.”

And there is Dylan Thomas’s ‘Bible-black night’ in Under Milk Wood, which is a time of creation, as is the dark you reference in Genesis. ‘Let there be light’ indeed, ‘Kindly Light, amid th’encircling gloom, Lead thou me on.’ (Newman, of course.)

Your light that is poor for hearing secrets is from the same well as Shakespeare’s,

The eye
of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not
seen, hand is not able to taste, his tongue
to conceive, nor his heart to report, what my dream
was.

(Midsummer Night’s Dream, IV:2).

These lines are not slap-stick comic, however slap-stick Bottom is elsewhere. When we are challenged, do we admit it and explore it, or turn on the bright lights or loud music?

A lighthouse cannot lead if the captain is dazzled by floodlights.

I mentioned R.S. Thomas in my introduction. We read how he prayed at his holy well on 17 October 2016:

 Ignoring my image I peer down

to the quiet roots of it, where

the coins lie, the tarnished offerings

of the people to the pure spirit

that lives there.

 

Connections! Thank you again, for an offering by no means tarnished!

Will.

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11 April: An Eve in Winter

 

 

bluemoon

Firstly, a poem from Christina. Although she has given it the Title ‘An Eve in Winter’, its theme of light, of gentle light not consumed by the darkness, resonates with our heroes RS Thomas and Dylan Thomas, poets from opposite ends of Wales. A response tomorrow.

 

 

When you enter a darkened room

and see a pool of moonlight on the floor,

do you wait to turn the lights on

so you can step into the glow?

 

I do.

 

For brightness can scare away the paler shades.

Though it is good for seeing definitions clearly and

avoiding stray furniture, it is poor for

hearing and keeping the secret

that’s whispered through tender starlight

 to waiting earth of snow.

 

When I say, “let there be light,”

smugly snapping on devices,

I cannot see beyond my own reflection

blinded to that of the Divine.

 

© 2018 Christina Chase

 

Christina can be found at: https://divineincarnate.com

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16 March: Stone Angel

angel.dusty.york
Stone Angel
Peacefully residing within the enclaves of Worcester Cathedral:
the Stone Angel wrapped in white, marble, marzipan folds
centring and guiding rivers flowing towards clasped hands
grasped earnestly together
holding onto prayer
and contemplation
of mysteries beyond
rational thinking.
An inanimate idol?
Or a reminder of the joy
And peace to be found in
transendance.
A nexus of matter:
hinting, suggesting, reminding
us
to save a place in our day
to consider the inconsiderable.
Constantina Alexander
19 February, 2018
Thank you Constantina, for reminding us to consider the inconsiderable, the infinity in a grain of sand or piece of stone.
This stone angel is in York Minster, a little dusty when its photo was taken, but still a reminder.

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March 4: Little Flowers of Saint Francis XVI: The Spinning Friar’s Spinning Thoughts.

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Brother Masseo went by the way murmuring within himself, saying: “What is this that this good man hath done? Me he made to turn round and round like a little child, and to the bishop who hath done him such honour, he hath said not even a word, nor given him thanks withal ”; and to Brother Masseo it seemed that Saint Francis had borne himself therein without discretion.

But anon by divine inspiration coming to himself again, and chiding himself within his heart, Brother Masseo said: “Thou art too proud, who dost judge the works of God, and art worthy of hell for thy undiscerning pride; for yesterday did Brother Francis work such mighty works that, if the Angel of God had wrought them, they had not been more marvellous : wherefore, if he had bidden thee throw stones, thou shouldst have done it and obeyed: for what he did upon the way proceeded forth of God’s own working, as was set forth by the good ending that followed thereon; for had he not made peace between those that were at strife with each other, not only many bodies would have been stabbed to death, as had indeed begun to be, but many souls also the devil would have dragged to hell: wherefore most foolish art thou and proud that murmurest at that which manifestly cometh forth from out the will of God.”

And all these things that Brother Masseo spake within his heart, going on in front, were revealed of God unto Saint Francis. Wherefore Saint Francis, coming close up to him, spake thus: “Hold fast the things that now are in thy thoughts, for they are good and useful and inspired of God ; but thy first murmuring was blind and vain and proud, and by the devil set within thy mind.”

Thereby did Brother Masseo clearly see that Saint Francis knew the secrets of his heart, and for a surety understand that the spirit of divine wisdom did guide the holy father in all his acts.

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3 March. Little Flowers of Saint Francis, XV: Francis the Peacemaker

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Now as they went along this way, Brother Masseo marvelled within himself, wherefore Saint Francis had made him do as do the children, before the worldly folk that passed that way: howbeit for reverence sake he dared say naught to the holy father.

As they drew nigh unto Sienna, the people of the city heard of the coming of the saint and hied them out to meet him ; and of their devotion bore him and his companion right to the bishop’s house, in such wise that they touched not the ground at all with their feet.

Now at that same hour certain folk of Sienna were at strife with one another, and already two of them lay dead. Saint Francis having won there preached to them in so devout and saintly a fashion, that he brought them one and all to peace and close unity and concord together. For the which cause the bishop of Sienna, hearing of the holy work that Saint Francis had wrought, bade him to his house and received him with high honour that day, and eke the night.

And the next morn Saint Francis, who with true humility sought naught in all his works save only the glory of God, rose up betimes with his companion, and without the bishop’s knowledge was away. Whereat the said Brother Masseo went by the way murmuring within himself.

 

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February 13: Have your ELECTRIC BLANKET serviced … II

electricblanket

Here’s that bookmark, mentioned yesterday. Anyone who lived through the seventies will recognise the spiky typeface.

I cannot resist a simple take on the message though, combining Valentine’s and Lent in one post.

Winter warmth and safety – winter will come, in various forms, to any relationship. The other side of the bookmark has a few ideas on how to keep a blanket going. ‘Never use if overheating’ is one that applies to tongues as well as electric blankets. You might also like, ‘Return to the maker for checking at least once in two years.’

Lent, they used to tell us, means Spring, so let’s return to our maker for checking and servicing. Let’s pray that we have a fruitful Lent: not so strange an idea as it first sounds, for it’s time for the blackthorn to flower, and the fruit will be ready in Autumn. Let’s sow now for a future harvest.

We hope we can walk with you through Lent.

 

MMB.

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February 2, Aberdaron XI: Air.

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Words on the air? Heard, half-heard?

The same words speaking a different truth on a different day.

The toddler’s joy in words.

The venom of trolls who would not dare speak their words on the air.

 

We will return to R. S. Thomas, and after tomorrow, we will no doubt return to Aberdaron. Meantime, let us speak words of peace.

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Please support Sister Rose for her sleep-out in Littlehampton on Saturday 24th February to raise funds for Worthing Churches Homeless Project. Sister now has a website for donations:

https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/rosearden-close1

Thank you, Maurice.

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January 8, The Virtue of Temperance: II. What is Temperance?

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The word temperance, like the word fortitude, is perhaps another of those words that aren’t used much in ordinary conversation. But, the idea of temperance is suggested in some words that are used in every-day speech. Balance is one of those words, I think. We speak of wanting to lead ‘balanced’ lives, of wanting our judgments to be ‘balanced’, our big decisions in life to be the result of ‘balanced reflections.’ We speak of a person being unbalanced. We speak of balanced diets. We try to balance our professional lives with our personal lives. We know what people mean when we hear these phrases. Balance is something like the virtue of temperance. Something like it, but not identical to it.

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Temperance ‘…has a wider significance and higher rank,’ according to Pieper. ‘It is one of the four hinges on which swings the gate of life’ (see The Four Cardinal Virtues, 4,1). This is high praise, indeed. We wouldn’t usually think of ‘balance’ in such lofty terms. Temperance, however, delivers a greater reward than does mere emotional balance. Emotional balance is concerned mostly with making our lives run smoothly in this world. Temperance, however has a broader reach, encompassing our mind, extending to the very soul of the human being, and reaching up to heaven. Temperance seeks to order our earthly existence in such a way as to fit us for eternal life with God. We shall look at this more closely in our next post.

SJC

The door of Mercy, the Gate of Life.

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