Tag Archives: Saint Luke

10 December, Advent Light X: Look up in hope

DSC_0309 (373x640)

From Bishop Erik Varden’s ‘Coram Fratribus’ website. He is addressing an audience of monks in a French abbey, looking at Luke 21:5-19, when the disciples are admiring the temple but Jesus tells them it will all be destroyed. They should rather look to heavenly, eternal realities, manifest in our world of time. The full text is here.

If we lose the habit of considering what is temporal in the light of what is eternal, we shall seek the purpose of our life in view of an horizon that grows ever narrower, full of menacing shadows. We shall be at the mercy of false prophets who manipulate these shadows as puppets to inspire fear and to keep us submitted to the power of their rhetoric. We see this tendency at work often enough in our anxious Europe today. The Christian’s remedy is to raise his eyes serenely in search of a vaster comprehension, animated by hope, remembering that creation doesn’t exist for its own sake, that it indicates a purpose that transcends it.

If we accomplish our earthly pilgrimage in this way, our life will not be any less sweet or precious. On the contrary. Hope will bestow on constrained existence an opening towards eternity. By following this hope, we shall give to others, too, the courage to hope.

The quality which the Gospel proposes to learn to live in this way is perseverance: perseverance in directing our thoughts and acts according to the mind of God; perseverance in listening and patience (the two presuppose one another); perseverance in friendship with Jesus, by which grace will also instil our others friendships, which otherwise might tend towards superficiality, informed by self-love and self-interest.

By building our lives thus on what is true and real, we shall not need to fear the day of the Lord, burning like a furnace. Let fire consume the chaff and withered branches! For the Children of the Kingdom, who live according to the logic of their baptism, the day of the Lord will bring healing in its wings. Let us, then, give ourselves faithfully to our daily tasks, as St Paul would have it, for the good of others and for our delight, but without forgetting that our today points towards God’s tomorrow. Our present condition, even in its moments of ecstasy, is but a noviciate preparing us for a life of eternal abundance. Amen.

In my family there were times when there was a lack of temporal abundance. I have memories of a Christmas when my mother made a Christmas tree of green woollen yarn, stretched over drawing pins on her bedroom wall. From each branch she had hung a sweet, one for each of us for a few days. It was frugal but sweet and precious.

Let us prepare Christmas ‘for the good of others and for our delight.’

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25 November: Jesus was Praying Alone, Part II

Yesterday we were reflecting on Luke 9:18f. If you weren’t here, please scroll back and have a look the reflections so that today’s will make more sense to you.

In Luke 9: 18 and following Jesus was praying, and when he stops, he asks the disciples who the crowds think he is. We’re pondering this in light of the fact that in this question Jesus probably wants the disciples to articulate an answer – mainly for their own instruction, rather than his. Given yesterday’s reflections, I now imagine that Jesus already had a pretty good idea of the opinions that were in circulation about him, but let’s listen to what the disciples tell Jesus: ‘Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, others again, one of the ancient prophets come back to life’ (Lk 9:19). Did the disciples give an accurate report? Who knows. The disciples only tell Jesus the opinions that were favourable. Were less favourable opinions being circulated as well? Almost certainly. But, even if the disciples had perceived Jesus’ crowd-appeal correctly, crowds are notoriously fickle; maintaining popularity for any length of time is nearly impossible, as subsequent events would overwhelmingly demonstrate. This was something Jesus knew far better than the disciples did. But the disciples have answered Jesus’ question, and now he has another for them – a question which is more closely linked to his first question than I had previously realised.

‘And you, who do you say that I am?’ Peter speaks for all in his answer. “You are the Christ.” That this opinion was shared by the Twelve is borne out by the fact that not one of the Twelve contradicts Peter – and other gospel passages show that the disciples were certainly capable of breaking into an argument, even at the most solemn moments, had they disagreed with Peter. So: excellent. They have grasped Jesus’ true identity. Perhaps it was only in that very moment that this truth comes home to all of them, we don’t know. But it does come home, and Peter voices this for all. Jesus, in other gospel accounts of this episode, is moved by Peter’s courage and perception, and praises him. But more is at stake here even than Peter’s superb answer to Jesus’ question.

In other gospels, Jesus moves quickly into a prophecy of his passion – and Peter, voicing what all the disciples would feel, is horrified, and tries to talk Jesus out of the whole thing. We know how Jesus responds to Peter: he seems shaken, and very sternly calls Peter ‘Satan,’ and commands him to ‘get behind’ him. But, once again, this is about the disciples – indeed, it is about discipleship. We just heard what the Twelve think the crowd thinks of Jesus. Now, the question that is of supreme importance for them is this: are they capable of being faithful to this astonishing truth of Jesus’ divinity in the face of a public whose opinion about Jesus’ identity is favourable enough, but nowhere near as radical as their own? The disciples had sussed the un-heard-of and shocking, even frightening truth about Jesus himself – that he, a man, was the Christ of God. It is now possible to see that there is yet another question that Jesus doesn’t ask, but that hangs in the air over everyone’s head, which is this: “What would the crowds say about you if they knew what you thought of me?”

We’re not quite finished with this passage, but this seems to be a good place to stop and pray. Tomorrow we will conclude our reflection.


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15 September: Familial sacrifices, Our Lady of Sorrows.

from CD.

Good Morning! We make a big mistake if we say that the sacrifice of Christ was what happened on Calvary Hill and leave it at that. As Rowan Williams said, he lived a life-long passion. A passion caught from his parents, Mary and Joseph.

We know that Jesus suffered hardship on the road, but he kept going. As an infant seeking emergency refuge in Egypt, he still had what he most needed, the intimate love of Mary and Joseph. As an adult itinerant preacher, the Son of Man had nowhere to lay his head.

As an infant he went where his parents chose in order to preserve his life, while for his sake they accepted exile, anxiety, pain, and a double dose of the exhaustion that every new parent knows. No doubt the magi’s gold ran out soon enough, spent on wayside inns, renting a place in Cairo, buying new tools for Joseph. Meagre rations until Joseph had an income.

Every parent can relate to these sacrifices, though many would not recognise their own daily grind as sacrificial, but it is a grind at times, and so it was for the Holy Family too. For some of us exile is leaving, if only for a while, an enjoyable job with interesting and funny colleagues and customers. It is a sacrifice, as is accepting the waves of tiredness, boredom, loneliness, depression that can knock a new father as well as a mother off-balance.

Jesus learned about sacrifice from the sacrificial love of his parents. They prepared him to be about his Father’s business even if they did not realise what it meant in practice to a 12 year old boy, let alone the man he grew into.

And a sword will pierce your heart.

Let it be done to me according to your word.

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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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30 August: The Train has come and I’m on my way

Northern Ireland Railways, July 1969.

Here is a recent sermon by Rev Jo Richards of Canterbury, from the texts: Genesis 15:1-6, Hebrews 11.1-3, 8-16. Luke 12:32-40. It makes for another reflection on life, death and what faith means.

Bill’s poem….

The Train has come and I’m on my way, 
I didn’t need a ticket 
And there was nothing to pay. 

My lass will be waiting, on that I am sure 
What a wonderful meeting 
With a future that will endure.

On Thursday I took a funeral of a local man; Bill and he wrote poems; he asked that The Last Poem, be read at his funeral, which was read in full just before the commendation: I have read to you with the family’s permission the opening verses.

I knew Bill, and in his writing, there is such a sense of moving from this mortal life to the next, that is eternal life. For Bill was assured of things hoped, for the conviction of things not seen. Bill had a deep Christian faith

Bill had a sense of the hope, of knowing that one day the train would stop, he would get on board and continue his onward journey to eternal life.

Abraham was also a man of deep faith and also on a journey. Here we have someone in his mid-seventies, who heard a call from God to up sticks with his barren wife Sarah and leave home. Obedient to God’s call they became nomads, setting off from Harran, which is in modern day Iraq, travelling through Syria, down to Egypt, and then up to the land of Canaan, which is in the present-day West Bank, in Palestine.

During this time, directed by God, Abraham gazes at the night sky trying in vain to imagine his descendants as numerous as the stars, whilst Sarah, his wife remains heartbreakingly barren.

I wonder what Abraham and Sarah must have been thinking; surely they must have had doubts along the way, of perhaps being cross with God, who has taken them out of what has been familiar and comfortable and sent them on this journey into the unknown, and then telling them they will have children, but despite this they had faith in what God said and set off and set off.

I want us to think for a moment what does our faith mean to us? Would we have done what Abraham and Sarah did?

Perhaps like Bill and Abraham we are on a journey of faith; assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen; but that is not always easy to describe when asked what your faith means to you.

Some might describe their faith in terms of creeds and as we do when we recite the creed; From a doctrinal or theological perspective. At baptism either the godparents or those who speak for themselves are asked about their faith and what they believe.

How do you describe your faith?

Faith is perhaps turning our heads and looking at the stars that sense of awe and wonder, that sense that there is something far greater than what we can see, feel or hear, yet we are still loved and cherished by God our creator.

Faith is perhaps that sense of knowing deep within ourselves knowing that we are not alone, that there is a greater presence of which we get glimpses of from time to time;

Faith is perhaps that longing for the eternal home – that place of peace, love and joy where there are no more suffering or tears. That place we call heaven, eternal life. That feeling of longing, and desire; for Abraham and Sarah their faith took them on a perilous journey, to take them where God was leading, not that they knew where they were going or how they would get there.

Faith is not a destination, more like a journey, and we often say we are all on a journey of faith, with each of us on a different point of that journey; some are just setting out whilst others more established but we can all sometimes be thrown off course, just as Peter was when he was walking on water. He took his eyes off Jesus and sank in the sea, but Jesus put his arm out and caught him.

But I am sure like Peter and doubting Thomas, our faith may have wobbled, and we may have had doubts. Thomas was with Jesus for three years and yet he doubted that he had been raised from the dead, which perhaps gives us permission to question or even doubt at times.

And perhaps when we do question or doubt then something might happen that reaffirms our faith; just this week I heard of how someone had their faith restored by an act of kindness; it is often the little things that we do or say that can have such a big impact on others. Time and time again we hear of people saying I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have my faith.

Perhaps the opposite of faith is not doubt, but apathy – of not being alert and awake, as our Gospel suggests, of staying put and not willing to journey forth; Faith in a way is a response to an invitation to a journey of adventure; it’s not blind faith. We nurture our faith through worship, scripture, talking to other people, praying and for those small what I call God moments – moments when we sense God’s promptings and act on them.

Twice in this week’s readings we hear the words do not be afraid, by nurturing our faith it gives us the strength to face things that may frighten us or make us anxious. We can draw on these moments of remembering that God is with us in the everyday stuff as well as the ups and downs of life. As did the servants in our gospel reading, who were faithful doing the everyday mundane things, and ended up as the master’s guests at the great celebration.

Faith is perhaps a knowledge of God and a deep rooted heart felt desire to want to know God better – to find out what God is doing and join in, just as Bill did, Abraham and Sarah did, and the master’s slaves did.

So, we venture forward on our journey of faith may we give thanks for what we have already experienced of God’s love for us and what is still to come…and give thanks for the gift of faith, as we reflect upon what our faith means to us.

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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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23 July: Time, illusion, dream.

We at Agnellus Mirror do not claim to agree totally with everything we publish, but we hope that somebody out there finds it interesting. We questioned, no, disagreed with Tagore at the beginning of the month, and today we find him interesting but writing from a privileged point of view. Perhaps we should, each of us, stand outside the current of time, occasionally. But who stands beside us and shares our inner world? We offer a response to Tagore at the end of the post. What are your feelings?

SHELIDAH, 24th June 1894.

I have been only four days here, but, having lost count of the hours, it seems such a long while, I feel that if I were to return to Calcutta to-day I should find much of it changed—as if I alone had been standing still outside the current of time, unconscious of the gradually changing position of the rest of the world. The fact is that here, away from Calcutta, I live in my own inner world, where the clocks do not keep ordinary time; where duration is measured only by the intensity of the feelings; where, as the outside world does not count the minutes, moments change into hours and hours into moments. So it seems to me that the subdivisions of time and space are only mental illusions. Every atom is immeasurable and every moment infinite.

There is a Persian story which I was greatly taken with when I read it as a boy—I think I understood, even then, something of the underlying idea, though I was a mere child. To show the illusory character of time, a faquir put some magic water into a tub and asked the King to take a dip. The King no sooner dipped his head in than he found himself in a strange country by the sea, where he spent a good long time going through a variety of happenings and doings. He married, had children, his wife and children died, he lost all his wealth, and as he writhed under his sufferings he suddenly found himself back in the room, surrounded by his courtiers. On his proceeding to revile the faquir for his misfortunes, they said: “But, Sire, you have only just dipped your head in, and raised it out of the water!”

The whole of our life with its pleasures and pains is in the same way enclosed in one moment of time. However long or intense we may feel it to be while it lasts, as soon as we have finished our dip in the tub of the world, we shall find how like a slight, momentary dream the whole thing has been.

Glimpses of Bengal Selected from the Letters of Sir Rabindranath Tagore

We are not simply writhing under our sufferings in this life, dipping into the rub of the world. Eighty years of life are indeed as nothing compared to the light years of the Universe’s existence, but they are years of responsibility to each other, to creation, and to the Creator.

Then shall the king say to them that shall be on his right hand: Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 

For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in: naked, and you covered me: sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me. 

Then shall the just answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee hungry, and fed thee; thirsty, and gave thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and covered thee? Or when did we see thee sick or in prison, and came to thee? 

And the king answering, shall say to them: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me.

Luke 24: 34-40.

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25 June: What is your name?

This was Rev Jo Richards’ Sermon at the Canterbury benefice of Saints Dunstan, Mildred and Peter, for the first Sunday after Trinity 19 June 2022. We share it with her permission. Thank you, Jo! 19 June was the start of Refugee Week, it closes today. Recently we must all have become more aware of the allied challenges of Exile and Homelessness, which Jo addresses here; the picture shows a camp of homeless people beside Saint Mildred’s church. Rev Jo’s text is Luke 8: 26-39.

May I speak in the name of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit.

Welcome! Young people who are here today, welcome, old people, also those who may be students, welcome, married people and divorced people, welcome; gay people, trans people, welcome; happy people and sad people welcome, every kind of family, welcome. Welcome to those of all faiths and those without, welcome and welcome to agnostics, saints & pilgrims.

Those are the words on our welcome board that you would have passed as you came in today. It says that we seek to be an inclusive community and we care about issues including homelessness, poverty, disability, mental health, the environment, racial justice and lgbtqia+ issues. Those on-line and here in person, welcome; this church is for you.

As this is also refugee Sunday, marking the beginning of refugee week, welcome to all refugees past and present. As Jesus himself was once a refugee fleeing persecution to a safe country.

As we set our sights on Jesus and follow his example, today’s gospel reading gives us insight of Jesus’ inclusive welcome to all.

There is a lot that is unclean in this story; first the man himself. People with mental illness in pre-scientific days, were considered to be demon-possessed. They were condemned and cast out from society and had to take refuge. As they were considered dead and useless to society they were banished as outcasts to live amongst the dead in tombs. This man was homeless, and had no friends not wanted or loved; he was lonely and pitiful. He was surrounded by the pigs, caked in mud, who were also considered to be unclean by Jewish society.

But this man recognises who Jesus is, recognising him as the son of God. Jesus saw this man for who he was; he stops and asks that very natural question. What is your name? He may have been unclothed, alone, tied up and beaten like a mad dog, but once he would have had a name, and Jesus wants to know.

Jesus identifies this person as a human being and by asking him that basic question, what is your name, he is restoring this man’s humanity, this is the beginning of his healing.

Consider the homeless of our cities, who are often outcast with no homes to go to; those who also have issues concerning their mental health; those who live in the tombs of our city, amongst the rubbish; those we pass by who might live in the door way of Poundland, or outside Wilko’s, those who live in the tents at St Mildred’s; those who sleep outside VegBox every night, and those who sit at Westgate Towers, picture them for a moment.

These people are our parishioners, for they live in our Benefice, albeit on the streets, often through no fault of their own. When I was licenced to the Benefice, I was given the cure of souls of all those who live in our Benefice, including the homeless, so I often stop and chat, and ask them their name.

It is often through stopping and listening that you get to hear the back story. To give someone the time of day is the biggest gift we can give, sometimes I buy a coffee, rarely money, but time and conversation doesn’t cost a penny. What is your name?

The other day I was chatting to a chap, someone who wanted to know when St Mildred’s was open as he wanted some quiet time, so I said it was unfortunately shut, but St Dunstan’s was open for prayer. He had with him a beautiful leather holdall. I asked him about it, his mum had given it to him for his tools. He had done his BA in art, then his masters and woodwork was his passion and in it he carried his precious tools and all his worldly goods.

What is your name asks Jesus? Jesus recognises this person as a human being and can see beyond the squalor in which the man in our reading lives. He sees beyond his mental health, he sees a human being with a name, a human being that was once loved, and Jesus heals him.

Consider the bystanders who witnessed this event, who saw this miracle. I wonder why they are afraid, and they beg Jesus to go and the healed man wants to go too with Jesus; but no, instead Jesus commissions this man, who was this homeless down and out, as an evangelist. He tells him to go home and tell others how much God has done for him. Jesus expects him to be a messenger of the good news. I wonder who would listen to him; those who had known him before and their preconceived ideas of what this homeless man can offer, but Jesus knows, sees him for who he really is and commissions him.

On my prayer walk the other day I met this man who was homeless, and he was lying on the wall, so I stopped and had a chat. I asked him his name; he replied, I can’t remember the last time someone stopped me and asked me my name, and said see me as a human being – my name he said is Matthew, as in Matthew Mark, Luke and John.

Paul reminds us there is no longer Jew or Greek, no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus .

So going back to our welcome poster. This church is for you, with our inclusive welcome for all. So perhaps a challenge for us all this refugee week, is to perhaps stop and ask that life changing question, what is your name. Be it to someone over coffee in the hall or someone who sits in the tombs of our city. Amen.


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4 June: Make your home in me.

Some years again when reflecting the story of Zacchaeus, the tax collector, I imagined, in my prayer,
that I was Zacchaeus in the tree and Jesus stood looking up at me and saying to me “I want to stay at
your house”. My reply to him was “I have no home”.

It is true that as a priest I have moved from presbytery to presbytery, from place to place. The last place I called home was when I lived with my Mum and Dad and brothers and sister in Clapham, before I went away to school. I was part of a family. I had a sense of belonging.

Many people in life move many times, because of their job or perhaps they have traveller blood in them and are always on the move.

‘If anyone loves me he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our home with him.” The loving Father, Jesus our brother and the Advocate, the Spirit desires to
make their home with us. They wish to abide or live in us. Home is a relationship of love. Am I willing
and ready to welcome God into my home, that is into my heart.? Am I prepared to allow God to live or
abide in me?

We are very familiar with the Holman Hunt’s painting “The Light of the World.” A copy can be seen in St. Paul’s Cathedral. It shows the figure of Jesus preparing to knock on an overgrown and long-unopened door, illustrating Revelation 3:20 “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will eat with him, and he with Me”. The door in the painting has no handle, and can therefore be opened only from the inside. Jesus might be persistent in his knocking at the door of our heart but will come in when invited. We need to open the door.
Before he returned to the Father, Jesus promised that the disciples would receive the power of the Holy Spirit. This is an ideal time to invite the Father, Son and Spirit into us so that they make a home in us.

You could pray this prayer of St Augustine to the Holy Spirit.


Breathe into me, Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy.
Move in me, Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy.
Attract my heart, Holy Spirit, that I may love only what is holy.
Strengthen me, Holy Spirit, that I may defend all that is holy.
Protect me, Holy Spirit, that I may be holy.

From Canon Anthony Charlton, St Thomas’, Canterbury.

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