Canterbury had a railway link to London before 1850, engineered along the Stour Valley from Ashford, a relatively flat line which needed few road bridges, over or under. However, there are a number of level crossings, two of them in central Canterbury, capable of holding up road traffic for minutes at a time in queues 100m and more long.
Sad to say, most cars and motor vehicles (but not the local buses) have their engines left on at this time, wasting the drivers’ money in fuel burning uselessly. That we might say is their problem, but it’s everyone’s problem when the air on St Dunstan’s Street is so often polluted above safe levels; it’s everyone’s problem when greenhouse gases are unnecessarily emitted into the atmosphere to add to global warming.
Please think about switching off your engine when traffic grinds to a halt at a crossing or other hold up.
Pope Francis invites us to join him this month in praying for women who are victims of violence, that they may be protected by society and have their sufferings considered and heeded.
Sadly, many women suffer in silence and their neighbours are unaware of the situation. Saint Josephine Bakhita, who died in 1947, had 144 scars of physical abuse over her body when she was released from slavery.
Things have hardly improved since her time, but the diocese of Westminster has established a refuge in her name. Read more about it here. Sometimes it is important to offer open ended help to someone who is suffering, it needs energy as well as confidence to be able to move on. That energy grows out of the love the women are enwrapped in at Bakhita House.
Saint Bakhita’s feast is 8th February, and you can read previous reflections by entering Bakhita into the search box on this post. We have a few more postings on slavery over the next few days.
“Stay Awake” is a good Advent Motto and it comes from the mouth of Jesus. We are not simply waiting for a warm, safe commemoration of his birth, though warmth and safety would be welcome this year, but we are preparing for when He comes for us in death. Over to the clear-sighted Sister Johanna.
You may be quite sure of this, that if the householder had known at what time of the night the burglar would come, he would have stayed awake and would not have allowed anyone to break through the wall of his house.
I have never been happy with the notion of heaven as sleep nor taken much comfort in the prayer, “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.” Paradise as a place of eternal rest makes me think irreverently of mattress advertisements. I sometimes wonder why the idea of rest has settled so firmly into the collection of metaphors we use to refer to eternal life.
These are thoughts I’ve been revisiting as I meditated recently on the text of Matthew quoted at the beginning of this post. When we think of death – if we think of death (mostly we try to avoid doing so) – it is hard to view it with anything other than dread: that moment when we are wrenched out of this painful, but familiar, existence where we are at home, and bundled into the next life – a life of which we have no first-hand knowledge. In this parable, the Lord himself brings up that subject we would rather avoid and refers to himself as the “burglar.” He can only be doing this to try to help us to view our death in another light. What is he trying to tell us?
If we are frequent readers of the gospels, this burglar image may have lost some of its freshness and originality for us. But think about it. That the eternally sinless Son of God should use the metaphor of a thief to describe himself is, along with being slightly humorous, also very unconventional. But, if we decide to take his word for it and think of him for a moment as the thief, then what – or who – is the loot? Well, us. We are what he wants to ‘steal’. And his desire for us is so intense that he likens himself to the lawless burglar, who just wants what he wants what he wants, and whose method is therefore to snatch and run with the goods.
But, if we had been awake, the parable implies, we might have prevented this ‘theft.’ I think the Lord may be employing the literary device of irony here. We cannot, in this life, be ‘awake’ enough to prevent this robbery. He will come. We will die. That is a certainty. But, in light of this parable, in no way is death to be seen as a descent into ‘sleep’. On the contrary, the parable makes me think of my death in terms of a diamond heist, with the Lord as its great mastermind, and maybe ending with a thrilling chase scene, in which he gets away with me, his diamond. One can hardly sleep through that.
The Lord’s words about staying awake, then, encourage us to think about what ‘being awake’ actually means. It strikes me that being awake, as we experience it in this life, has degrees. Awake as the mere opposite of being asleep is perhaps the lowest degree. A bit higher is the idea of conscience: keeping our conscience always ‘awake’ so that we never depart from the way of virtue. Better. But not the best. How about this as the highest level: the experience of love? Don’t we feel most deeply ‘awake’ when we love deeply? This deep love awakens parts of our being that had previously been ‘asleep’ and that we didn’t even realise we had. This must be the key to understanding heaven’s type of awake-ness. So, for me, the Lord’s words about being awake are inseparable from the experience of love. Love will ‘open us up’ as it wakes us up in heaven when God surrounds us and we are filled with his loving life, when we see with his eyes and love with our hearts perfectly attuned to his own heart. We do not know the hour when the ‘burglar’ will break in, snatch us, and wake us up to eternal love. Indeed, we cannot know when. But we can know something about what, about heaven’s fulfilment. We can know something – not everything, but something. We know it, even now, when we are awake in love.
Thank you Sister Johanna, I do agree that ‘resting in peace’ does not reconcile me to Eternity and even playing frisbee with golden crowns would pall after a couple of centuries. Let’s wait in hope and see! Will.
And the feast of the Assumption being now come, Saint Francis began the holy fast with great abstinence and severity, mortifying his body and comforting his spirit with fervent prayers, vigils, and scourglngs ; and in these prayers ever growing from virtue to virtue he made ready his soul to receive the divine mysteries and the divine splendours, and his body to endure the cruel assaults of the demons, with whom he oftentimes fought in sensible form.
It befell on a time during that fast, that Saint Francis leaving his cell one day in fervour of spirit and going aside a little to pray in a hollow of the rock, from the which down to the ground is an exceeding deep descent and a horrible and fearful precipice, suddenly the devil came in terrible shape, with a tempest and exceeding loud roar, and struck at him for to push him down thence. Saint Francis, not having where to flee, and not being able to endure the grim aspect of the demon, he turned him quickly with hands and face and all his body pressed to the rock, commending himself to God, and groping with his hands, if perchance he might find aught to cling to. But as it pleased God, who suffereth not His servants to be tempted above that they are able to bear, suddenly by a miracle the rock to which he clung hollowed itself out in fashion as the shape of his body, and so received him into itself, and like as if he had put his hands and face in melted wax, even so was the form of the face and hands of Saint Francis imprinted on the rock; and thuswise helped of God he escaped out of the hands of the demon.
But that which the demon could not then do unto Saint Francis, to wit, push him down thence, he did a good while after the death of Saint Francis, unto one of his dear and pious brothers, who was setting in order some pieces of wood in the selfsame place, to the end that it might be possible to win there without peril, out of devotion to Saint Francis and the miracle that was wrought there, on a day the demon pushed him, while he had on his head a great log that he wished to set there, and made him fall down thence with the log upon his head. But God that had preserved and delivered Saint Francis from falling, through his merits delivered and preserved his pious brother from the peril of his fall; for the brother, as he fell, with exceeding great devotion commended himself in a loud voice unto Saint Francis; and straightway he appeared unto him, and catching him, set him down upon the rocks, without suffering him to feel or shock or any hurt.
Then the other brothers having heard his cry as he fell, and deeming him dead and dashed in pieces by reason of his fall from such a height upon the sharp rocks, with great sorrow and weeping took up the bier and came from the other side of the mountain for to gather up the fragments of his body and bury them. When they were come down from the mountain, that brother that had fallen met them with the log upon his head wherewith he had fallen, and he was singing Te Deum laudamus1 in a loud voice.
Sign outside the betting shop: STAY SAFE! KEEP YOUR DISTANCE! Sounds like excellent advise to me!
These last few weeks we may seem to have forgotten and foregone our response to the corona corvid viral pest, but we are still here and safe and healthy. This sighting was worth sharing. We hope you’ve had an excellent summer with plenty of free vitamin D from the sunshine. Happy Autumn; keep safe and keep praying!
Rev Jo is back from her short break and she and her church wardens have their hands full preparing to open their churches.
We had a lovely time away in the beautiful Lake District. The scenery was absolutely stunning, and we managed three lovely walks, along with reading, and playing more board games. The government and CofE have issued further guidelines about wearing facemasks in places of worship: “We strongly advise that face coverings should be worn by all those attending a place of worship, including ministers, worshippers, staff, volunteers, contractors and visitors, where there may be other people present; remembering that they are mainly intended to protect other people, not the wearer, from coronavirus COVID-19 and that they are not a replacement for physical distancing and regular hand washing.” As we prepare to open St Dunstan’s for Sunday worship on Sunday 2nd August for both an 8.00 and 10.00 Eucharist, just to give us some idea on numbers, if you could indicate if you plan to come; thank you in anticipation. If you are unsure right up till the last moment that is absolutely fine. I know many of you are uncertain and or shielding but we plan to live stream the service at 10.00 on FaceBook Live, then upload to YouTube. Towards the end of the week, we will have photos and advice re ‘what to expect’, but if you do have any queries please don’t hesitate to ask. In the meantime, I look forward to taking a wedding at St Dunstan’s later today for a lovely local couple. To have our first service back being a wedding is very special.
Street Pastor Coordinator: We have uploaded onto our website an advert and information for a Street Pastor Coordinator for Canterbury, do look up under resources if this interests you. Bishop Rose’s sermon from yesterday: https://youtu.be/BrOu39ra5gs
Every week Bishop Rose and the three archdeacons for our diocese, along with other members of the senior team have invited us throughout lockdown to join them for a discussion, as to how things are going, with a theme each week – and today we focused on ‘safe places’ – places where we go where we feel safe, where we can be open to God – often in the quietness we hear that voice. For some it is sitting on a beach, or being in a garden or going on a walk; for others it is delving into a book – or a hobby in which we feel safe and secure. For many it is their homes, and very local environment, and the thought of venturing further afield, especially as lockdown eases is itself quite daunting; though one must remain ever mindful that with domestic abuse (and other abuse) the home has not always proven to be that safe place. My ‘bolt hole’ is the Quiet View at Kingston, somewhere where one can be still in the presence of the Lord; and it is important to identify these places – even during the course of the day, to have that Quiet Time. I use a free App: Pray as you Go – which has the gospel reading for the day, prayer and reflection, and is an excellent start to the day, but we are all different and God speaks to each and everyone of us in different ways. St Thomas More: On Monday we would have had our service in St Dunstan’s Church for St Thomas More, but like so many other things, that wasn’t to be; however Rev. Brian McHenry, who is part of our St Thomas More Committee will be leading a short service 7.00 Monday evening,. Medieval Pageant: This weekend was also going to have seen our Medieval Pageant pass through the streets, with the focus on Becket 2020 (so much was planned for this year!) However, the team who put it together are doing so virtually, and if interested please follow here: https://www.facebook.com/canterburymedievalpageant/
The weather vane on St Peter’s Church Canterbury shows his Cross Keys.
A few hundred yards from St Mildred’s, Canon Anthony Charlton’s team are facing simiar dilemmas.
I am delighted we were able to open the church for private prayer this week. Many thanks to all the volunteers who have made this possible. For the moment we are not opening for Mass. We need to organise stewards and a “Track & Trace” system to meet with current obligations. Practically we can only accommodate about 30% of our usual Mass attendance for social distancing compliance & organising is to be agreed. The obligation to attend Sunday Mass is still suspended and, when we do open, people will be encouraged to attend Mass during the week rather than Sunday to help manage attendance numbers. Sunday Mass, when we offer it, will be shorter. We are asked to keep the homily brief, no intercessions and no singing. Be assured—Mass will be available soon!
Edward Thomas wrote ‘Out in the dark’ when he knew he was about to leave for the front during the Great War. No wonder fear drummed on his ear. Like Dylan Thomas, who admired him and claimed him as a Welsh poet, he was aware of the creative nature of night, but he was also often downcast.
We have to love the night, the dark, which is safe for the fallow deer, but does not feel safe to Thomas. Always remember that Jesus was afraid that Thursday night in the garden. Feeling fear is no sin or weakness but we must face our fears.
Out in the Dark
Out in the dark over the snow
The fallow fawns invisible go
With the fallow doe;
And the winds blow
Fast as the stars are slow.
Stealthily the dark haunts round
And, when a lamp goes, without sound
At a swifter bound
Than the swiftest hound,
Arrives, and all else is drowned;
And I and star and wind and deer,
Are in the dark together, — near,
Yet far, — and fear
Drums on my ear
In that sage company drear.
How weak and little is the light,
All the universe of sight,
Love and delight,
Before the might,
If you love it not, of night.
Pope Francis’s mission prayer for February is: We pray that the cries of our migrant brothers and sisters, victims of criminal trafficking, may be heard and considered.
Pope Francis made a point of visiting Lampedusa within days of becoming Pope. That is the Italian island, close to the North African shore, where many migrant ships and boats have landed. The cross is one fashioned by an Italian artist from the timbers of such a boat, stranded on the island, its battered paint reminding us of the dangers of even such a short crossing.
The Colombian artist Oscar Murillo created this scene of waiting migrants for the 2019 Turner Prize exhibition in Magate, Kent. In a darkened room that would overlook the sea if a blackout curtain was not there, they sit in rows, waiting. Is it a church they are in, with its wooden benches, or a run-down station waiting room? Either should be a safe place, but it’s clear that this is not: the benches have been hacked about, and that only recently.
The three men on the right hand end of the benches seem to be listening: listening to someone or listening for someone? Are they waiting for a foreman’s call to work, one day at a time, or for the train to take them where they can earn for their families back home? Imagine your own stories.
The two women on the front row have been eviscerated, their wombs and vital organs replaced by lengths of what looks like stainless steel waste gas ducting.
Hands pressed hard against the bench, the figures are ready to move, but where to? Each one is isolated in his or her own suffering, yet they form a group in our eyes. But let us remember that they stand for individual human beings with families and loved ones who may be anxious over them, hearing no news from the waiting room, the salle des pas perdus as the French have it, the place of lost footsteps. Abandon hope, all ye who enter here?