Tag Archives: Saint John

9 January: Praying with Pope Francis: Educators.

Brocagh School, Leitrim, 1969

This January Pope Francis asks us to pray for Educators

We pray that educators may be credible witnesses, 
teaching fraternity rather than competition  
and helping the youngest and most vulnerable above all. 

I shared this picture on the Pelicans Website in 2011. It shows the children of Brocagh School, Co. Leitrim in 1969, with their educators, head teacher Mrs McCormack, to the right, and her assistant teacher, then, I think, called Miss Byrne, but wearing an engagement ring.

Sometime after this, in 1970-72 the little local 2 classroom schools were all closed down and a new central school built in Glenfarne village. We students at nearby Saint Augustine's College visited the little schools to deliver an RE lesson each Wednesday morning.

It was Mrs McCormack who gave me a valuable lesson, in the qualities Pope Francis proclaims. This was thanks to Joe McHugh, down there in the front row wearing a green jacket. During the time after Easter we had John's story of the barbecue by the lake after the miraculous catch of fish, and Peter's final declaration of faith. 

I think the lesson went well. The children drew some remarkable pictures, but Mrs McCormack drew my attention to Joe's in particular: come here now, Joe, what's this in the corner? - It's Saint Peter's lorry, Miss, come to carry away the fish. I'd missed the lorry completely; I'd not interpreted the shapes he'd drawn in 20th Century terms.

What Mrs McCormack knew, but I did not, was that Joe's family had recently acquired a lorry which was Joe's pride and joy, so of course St Peter would have had his lorry ready to take the fish to market. The story made sense to Joe, and had always made more sense to me as a consequence; thank you Joe, wherever you are. And thank you to Mrs McCormack, that credible witness!You used Joe's lorry to teach him and me that fraternity between the generations means allowing the child to teach himself, and his (or her) teachers.

Olivia O'Dolan and other local people managed to identify many of the children whose names appear on the Pelicans Website.
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27 December: Saint John the Apostle

Undiluted Christmas cheer does not last long for Christians, at least we are soon shaken out of our liturgical high spirits. Yesterday we had the feast of the first Christian Deacon Stephen; today the long-suffering, beloved disciple John, imprisoned on the Island of Patmos, ‘for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.’ (Revelation 1:9)

Let’s hear from Eddie Gilmore of the London Irish chaplaincy talking about supporting the families of prisoners today. Here is one paragraph, you’ll find the full blog post here. Thank you, Eddie.

I’m always incredibly touched to meet people who have a loved one in prison. We often say that the family members also serve a kind of sentence, and there are all kinds of difficult feelings that they live with like shame and guilt. This was acknowledged by our excellent morning speaker, Mary from Accord, the marriage care organisation. She spoke of the importance of self-care, looking after oneself, and we all need to be reminded of that sometimes. I could have listened to Mary all day. There was then time to chat with those on our table about any issues. I was sitting next to a lovely woman from Co. Clare whose son is in prison in Devon. “He did something stupid,” she explained. I reassured her that each and every one of us in the room had done something stupid in our life but by the grace of God we hadn’t ended up in prison because of it. She went on to say that he had been lucky to get enrolled in a workshop each day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. that repairs old bikes for sale on eBay, and for which he earns £12 a week. He is indeed one of the lucky ones, since many prisons in England and Wales are still enforcing ‘bang up’ of up to 23 ½ hours per day, partly due to a chronic shortage of prison officers. This young man is lucky as well in that his mother, in spite of the distance and the expense, will be making regular visits to him. It is this maintenance of family contact that has been shown to be the single most significant factor in eventual successful rehabilitation.

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22 December, Advent Light XXII: A Great Story.

Jesus told stories. His disciples kept some of them alive, as we do to this day. They also told stories about him and his travels through Palestine, but, as John’s Gospel tells us (21.25) there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen. Stories – or ‘Salvation’s Story’ – are the basis of Christian belief, not the writings of scholars. St Paul refers back to the message he had received even as he tries to put the meaning of it into words that satisfy the mind as well as the heart.

A 20th Century writer of theology and of stories puts it like this:

Story – or at least a great Story of the mythical type – gives us an experience of something not as an abstraction but as a concrete reality. We don’t ‘understand the meaning’ when we read a myth, we actually encounter the thing itself. Once we try to grasp it with the discursive reason, it fails.

CS Lewis, in Humphrey Carpenter, The Inklings,  George Allen & Unwin, London, 1978, p143.

Or we could turn to a poet, one who dithered, kneeling at the threshold of belief in his ‘Christmas’, but stressing the tangible, not just tissued fripperies, but the Baby in an ox’s stall, and God alive in Bread and Wine. A concrete reality.

And is it true? And is it true,
    This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window’s hue,
    A Baby in an ox’s stall?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me ?

And is it true? For if it is,
    No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
    The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,

No love that in a family dwells,
    No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
    Can with this single Truth compare –
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.

John Betjeman, Christmas.

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14 September: then you shall know.

My father’s rosary.

Today we remember the Exaltation, or lifting up, of the Holy Cross. Our reflection is from Canon Anthony Charlton of Canterbury, England.

After the fiery serpents, sent by God, whose bite killed many in Israel, (Numbers 21: 4-9) Moses pleaded with God and he commanded Moses “Make a fiery serpent and put it on a standard. If anyone is bitten and looks at it he shall live.” Anyone bitten who gazed on the bronze serpent, lived.

In the gospel Jesus says that “when you have lifted up the Son of Man then you shall know I am he.” (John 8:28) Just as the bronze serpent gives life so the cross, an instrument of torture and death gives life. In John 12:32 we read “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all people to myself.”

May we grow in wonder at the cross that shows us the extent of Jesus love for us. On the cross he endured every kind of suffering to show his solidarity with us.

May all who are suffering in anyway recognise that Jesus is a companion who has shared their journey. May the cross that was once a cursed thing and transformed by Jesus into a tree of blessing, be a source of comfort and peace to all.

Canon Father Anthony

Canon Father Anthony, Parish Priest, St Thomas’, Canterbury.

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13 September. Augustine: A Kingdom without Justice is Robbery.


“How like kingdoms without justice are to robberies. Justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies? For what are robberies themselves, but little kingdoms? The band itself is made up of men; it is ruled by the authority of a prince, it is knit together by the pact of the confederacy; the booty is divided by the law agreed on.

“If, by the admittance of abandoned men, this evil increases to such a degree that it holds places, fixes abodes, takes possession of cities, and subdues peoples, it assumes the more plainly the name of a kingdom, because the reality is now manifestly conferred on it, not by the removal of covetousness, but by the addition of impunity.

“Indeed, that was an apt and true reply which was given to Alexander the Great by a pirate who had been seized. For when that king had asked the man what he meant by keeping hostile possession of the sea, he answered with bold pride, “What thou meanest by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, whilst thou who dost it with a great fleet art styled emperor.”

City of God by Saint Augustine via Kindle.

Hundreds of years later, France occupied Augustine’s homeland, which we know as Algeria, to get rid of the Barbary pirates, and less officially, to occupy the fertile land ‘by the addition of impunity’. Brute force. Alexander’s pirate was right to say that the Emperor was another hostile pirate, while the French occupation of Algeria would descend into bloody conflict during the 1960s.

Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 5:3.

My kingdom is not of this world. John 18:36.

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3 September: Gregory the Great on rulers, and the Good Samaritan

Saint Gregory at the Roman slave market, Saint Thomas’ church, Canterbury, Kent.

Pope Saint Gregory I, who sent Saint Augustine to Canterbury in 597, was concerned to bring Benedictine discipline to the church, so wrote his Pastoral Care to help bishops and leaders. Here he is reflecting on how those in authority should relate to the people who answer to them. Whether we are in authority or under it, we can all relate to what he says. He calls Jesus ‘the Truth’, a name he gives himself in John’s Gospel, (14:6).

There ought to be in rulers towards their subjects both compassion justly considerate, and discipline affectionately severe.

Hence, as the Truth teaches (Luke x. 34), the man is brought by the care of the Samaritan half dead into the inn, and both wine and oil are applied to his wounds; the wine to make them smart, the oil to soothe them. For whosoever superintends the healing of wounds must needs administer in wine the smart of pain, and in oil the softness of loving-kindness, to the end that through wine what is festering may be purged, and through oil what is curable may be soothed.

Gentleness, then, is to be mingled with severity; a sort of compound is to be made of both; so that subjects be neither exasperated by too much asperity, nor relaxed by too great kindness.

From “Pastoral Care” by Pope Gregory I.

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15 August: Stay awake!

Just like most of Europe, Kent is baking under a heat wave but as we know, mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun; starting from an early age. My two-and-a-half year old grandson was called in by his mother, who was ready for her siesta. ‘I can’t come in for a nap, the sky’s awake!’

I don’t doubt that a nap would have done good to both parent and child, but being awake and watchful can be good too!

Surely it was a day like this when the fiery chariot swung low to collect the Prophet Elijah. Elisha was certainly watching carefully, as were 50 other prophets. (2 Kings 2)

Tradition has it that on this day John and fellow disciples watched together when Mary was taken up to heaven in her turn at the end of her life on earth.

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10 August: Living in the light II

From a Pax Christi prayer car

This is a second extract from Archbishop Wester’s pastoral letter on nuclear weapons. He is Scriptural and concretely contemporary, challenging us to think, pray and act.

It is interesting to note that shortly after Jesus commanded His disciples to love their enemies, according to Luke’s account (9:54-55), they asked if they could kill their enemies. They wanted to call down hellfire from heaven on their enemies, as Elijah did. This passage is particularly important for us here in New Mexico . . .

One Samaritan village refused to welcome Jesus because He was heading toward Jerusalem where their enemies, the Judeans, lived. When James and John heard this, they asked Jesus, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” (Luke 9:54). Jesus had just commanded them to practice universal love and creative nonviolence, to love even their enemies, yet here they were—ready to kill their enemies. They preferred the teachings of the prophet Elijah, who called down fire from heaven and killed his enemies. 

Luke says simply, “Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village,” (9:55). 

Jesus rebuked the disciples because they wanted to call down fire from heaven. He absolutely forbids even the thought of it. He rejects violence of all kinds, including retaliation and warfare. He will not tolerate it among His followers. Jesus wants us to be as nonviolent and loving as He is, come what may. We are not allowed to kill people. 

Two thousand years later, here in New Mexico, we not only want to call down hellfire from heaven, but we have also actually built the most destructive weapons in history to do it, and then we used them to kill hundreds of thousands of sisters and brothers in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Since then, we have built tens of thousands of more nuclear weapons that can destroy the entire human race. We have surpassed James and John, who wanted to call down hellfire from heaven. We have done this and continue to prepare to do this.

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24 July: Teach us how to pray

Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. A moment of prayer with the Lord.

Jesus did not confine his mission to his own Jewish people. The woman at the well is just one example that we know about; she spoke to him face to face, undergoing a radical examination of conscience, and putting her faith in the Messiah who was calling her.

Today’s Gospel reading is from Luke 11:1-13, the Lord’s Prayer. The link leads to the Bishops of England and Wales’ page of the Lord’s prayer recited in different languages. A reminder that the Gospel is for every nation, every citizen, every human being.

Prayer too is universal. We can pray by listening as well as speaking. You can select the language you want to hear the Lord’s Prayer prayed in using the playlist on the web page. Maybe the next time you go to Mass abroad, you’ll be able to let these words flow over you even if you can’t join in reciting them!

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2 July: The Good Shepherd

St Mildred’s, Canterbury.

One of the classic Victorian hymns that still speaks to us today.

Souls of men! why will ye scatter 
Like a crowd of frightened sheep?
Foolish hearts! why will ye wander
From a love so true and deep?
Was there ever kindest shepherd
Half so gentle, half so sweet,
As the Saviour who would have us
Come and gather round his feet?

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy
Like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in his justice
Which is more than liberty.

There is welcome for the sinner,
And more graces for the good;
There is mercy with the Saviour;
There is healing in his blood.

But we make his love too narrow
By false limits of our own;
And we lose the tender shepherd
In the judge upon the throne.

For the love of God is broader
Than the measure of man’s mind;
And the heart of the eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.

FW Faber

The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice.

John 10;27.

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