Tag Archives: Saint Mary Magdalene

August 31: L’Arche and Care V – So who is helping whom to achieve what?

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I’ve had a ‘portfolio’ of teaching jobs over the last twenty years, since I became unable to work full-time in classrooms, so it was easy enough to ease into the current L’Arche approach to work and leisure activities where people commit to a weekly portfolio of activities that might include candle-making, gardening, brewing beer, swimming and the weekly grocery shop.

That’s when we meet our friends, often enough. Our local metro supermarket can seem very crowded when three or four people stop to chat in the narrow aisles! We’ve also joined an informal leisure gardening group that includes core members, assistants and their families.

Jobs can take a little longer … for example, setting up a core member to saw wood safely, despite physical challenges. (I’m grateful for the training I received in task analysis as a young man!) but then three eight-year-old girls want to join in, so it’s time to set up the other saw bench and provide them, too, with encouragement rather than hands-on help.

So who is helping whom to achieve what?

Dear reader, I’ll let you puzzle that one out.

But working with core members and children makes me stand and stare and chat. Stand and let others work, stare at the problem of how to let them work safely. Chat while the job is done, encouraging, praising, suggesting, sharing the satisfaction of a job done, a skill acquired.

Let us be ready to receive from others. Didn’t Jesus get the idea of foot washing, that James talked about on Tuesday, from a couple of women?

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22 July: “Day Break into Song”: Mary Magdalene.


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One time I thought it was my brain
That made the songs I sing;
But now I know it is a heart
That loveth every thing.

And while his heart’s blood feeds his brain.
To keep it warm and young
A man can live a hundred years,
And day break into song.

Here, for Mary Magdalene, are two more stanzas from The Song of Love by W.H. Davies.

Which sit well with three verses from Psalm 119 (145-147):

With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O Lord!
 I will keep your statutes.
I call to you; save me,
that I may observe your testimonies.
I rise before dawn and cry for help;
I hope in your words.

Mary rose before dawn – but was there hope in her heart that Easter morning? She did not give in to despair, but rose before dawn to make her way with her women friends to observe the laws and anoint the body of their Beloved.

Their hearts were still full of love and that daybreak her brain caught up with her heart and hope rose within her. ‘Rabboni!’ (John 20:16).

We celebrate that moment in song to this day:

Dic nobis, Maria.
Quid vidisti in via?
Sepulchrum Christi viventis
Et gloriam vidi resurgentis.

Angelicos testes.
Sudarium et vestes.
Surrexit Christus spes mea;
Praecedet suos in Galilaeam.

 
Or
 
Tell us Mary Magdalene, say, what you saw when on your way.
I saw the tomb where Christ had lain; I saw his glory as he rose again;
Napkin and linen clothes, and Angels twain.
Yes, Christ my hope is risen, and he will go before you into Galilee.
MB.

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October 16: He would have smiled

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I remember an Anglican priest shaken by a parishioner’s claim never to have suffered, wondering what life this man had lived. R.S. Thomas was an Anglican priest himself of course, and met such men from time to time, perhaps with a wry shake of the head.

The title of this poem, ‘The Fisherman’, evokes images of Peter the Apostle, embarrassing in his stuttering faith. Instead we meet a man who takes a fish or glass of water ‘as though they owed it to him’. How to evangelise such a one?

I could have told of the living water

That springs pure.

He would have smiled then,

Dancing his speckled fly in the shallows,

Not understanding.

Perhaps this man cannot see the depths of other people and cares only for what he can get from them, dancing the lure of his charm, not realising that he does not understand, not seeing how he hurts them. He would always have smiled. That lesson he’d learnt well.

Judas must have had charm, but he could not understand the loving gift of Mary, anointing the feet of Jesus with precious ointment and wiping them with her hair – even though Jesus had raised her dead brother to life! (John 12) After the death of Jesus, Judas saw clearly his petty betrayals – like stealing from the common purse – as well as the one they led up to. He could not cope with this view of himself.

There is a tradition that when he ‘descended into Hell’, Jesus took the opportunity to save Judas, as expressed by this carving at Strasbourg cathedral, where the Lamb of God is untying him from the tree of suicide.

How to evangelise such a one?

MMB

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Notes from a Pilgrimage: Bastia San Paolo and San Damiano

 

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This morning we went to San Paolo in Bastia, where Clare went, accompanied by some of the friars, after they had received her into their fraternity at the Porziuncola. History does not record what the Benedictines felt or thought when she turned up at 2 or 3 in the morning with a bunch of scruffy young men, and in fact they did not take her into the enclosure but possibly into the guest house, or even the servants’ quarters. This becomes quite clear when you are there as the chapel with the altar which scholars seem certain is the one to which she clung when the family accosted her, is obviously not a big monastic choir and would never have had rooms for all the nuns. So it must have been some sort of outside chapel. It is quite little, perhaps three times as big as our chapel in Hollington.

The sister who always used to bring over the Mass things for us from their monastery in Bastia was called Sister Noemi. But about two years ago she was elected abbess so we have not seen her. So it was a lovely aurprise when she came over herself together with the previous abbess, Madre Cecilia, who had been abbess when we had the Poor Clare pilgrimage and had gone to their monastery as they are the descendants of San Paolo. We had a nice chat, she told me that they had a profession last week but have also taken in six elderly sisters from two monasteries which have had to close. The protomonastery have done the same, so it looks as if there have been several closures over the last year or so. I asked her if there was really nothing in their archives (which is what they had told me earlier) about the incident with Clare and her family, and she replied that she had been thinking about it too and thinks it possible that there is something on the archives of San Giuseppe in Assisi. When the monastery was invaded, the sisters grabbed what they could and fled, but went back late to collect other stuff. Some sisters went to Bastia but some also went into Assisi to the monastery of San Giuseppe. So I will write to them (sometime) and see if there is anything there.

We had a beautiful Mass and we three Poor Clares renewed our vows. The other two are both from the Philippines originally but now in different monasteries in USA. They are having a wonderful time, bowled over almost every day! They will go home exhausted but topped up for a long while to come.

So back to the Casa for pranzo and a minimal reposo since we were back in taxis at 3.45 to go to San Damiano for Clare, These are the Clare days. There were crowds of people there and since nobody is allowed to talk inside the monastery, I had to do all the input outside. Murray is on good terms with the Irish friars there, and asked the reason for this new prohibition which makes things very difficult. He said that there had been some incidents and friars leading groups had been very confrontational with the resident friars so the whole community in chapter had decided to insist on silence throughout the monastery. Understandable since it is not only their home but also their novitiate but hard on those who come for a once in a lifetime visit. One our way back through the Piazza Commune, there was a concert going on to raise money for those whose homes were damaged in the earthquake. This includes some of the Poor Clares, mainly those in Camerino as you probably know. I had a couple of letters to translate about it which Cortona were going to circulate.

We closed our visit to San Damiano by going into their small conference room where we had a Ritual of Healing. Murray had found a little bottle of nard so we used that, the scent was wonderful and lingered. It was especially appropriate as at Bastia we had used the gospel about Mary anointing Jesus’ feet with costly ointment, pure nard. People really gave themselves to the ceremony and it was very moving. As it is a small group we both anointed everyone and then Murray and I anointed each other. Then we hopped back into taxis and up to the Casa where their day was not finished since they had a lecture at 6 on the Office of the Passion in preparation to La Verna tomorrow and after supper Murray had a poetry reading. Everyone was tired but as he got into his stride they all got caught up in it and woke up and entered into the poems. He does it so well and the poems he uses are very accessible and he introduces them well, so it is always a good experience.

A long day but a good one. Tomorrow off to the mountain, two hours nearly each way by bus; early start, 6.45 breakfast, never my favourite moment, watch this space.

Love to all and prayers in each place ft

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26 August. Reflections on Living Together, VI: Enough to Communicate.

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Mary meets the Lord: York Minster

The distance imposed by not sharing a common language does not excuse acting as if the French virtue of Fraternity is not our vocation. In Psalm 133 David extols Fraternity: ‘How good and pleasant it is, brothers dwelling in unity.’ He compares it to the extravagance of precious oil running down the head and beard. We can think of sun tan lotion applied to hot, cracked, dry skin. In David’s time olive oil was precious: it represented hours of physical labour by man and beast to harvest and press the fruit.

Think, too, of the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with precious ointment (Luke 7: 36-49) or Mary Magdalene with her spiced oil, hurrying to the tomb on Easter Morning (Luke 24:1-10). Jesus greeted her (John 20:15) and she knew her Lord; he gave her her mission and filled her with joy.

While on holiday I knocked on a door for directions. My ‘dzien dobry’ and ‘djien kuje’ – ‘good day’ and ‘thank you’ – led the elderly gentleman who answered the door to commend my few words of Polish as ‘enough to communicate’. His English was impeccable; his encouragement of my stumble into his tongue both humbled me and lifted my spirit after a long day’s travelling.

Let’s pray that the Spirit of Pentecost may be on our lips when we need to speak.

MMB

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22 July: INTERRUPTION: The Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene.

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Mary meets the Lord: York Minster

I’m sure Sister Johanna will not mind my interruption on this Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene; she too, is using her column to share the Good News with us, according to her own gifts and calling. WT.

Pope Francis has changed the General Roman Calendar to make today the Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene, not a Memorial. This means she is as important to the  Church on Earth as the Apostles themselves, indeed Thomas Aquinas gives her the title Apostle to the Apostles, for Mary was the first witness to the Resurrection, and was sent to them with the Good News on Easter Morning, enabling them to bring the Good News to us.

Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship Archbishop Arthur Roche, writes that we “should reflect more deeply on the dignity of women, the New Evangelization, and the greatness of the mystery of Divine Mercy. Saint Mary Magdalene is an example of true and authentic evangelisation; she is an evangelist who announces the joyful central message of Easter.

“The Holy Father Francis took this decision precisely in the context of the Jubilee of Mercy to signify the importance of this woman who showed a great love for Christ and was much loved by Christ.

“Therefore it is right that the liturgical celebration of this woman  shines a light on her special mission, she is an example and model for every woman in the Church.”

Click here for the  Vatican Radio article

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7 June: Year of Mercy: the Divine Mercy, is a GIVEN.

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Strasbourg Cathedral: Thomas, Peter, et al.

mercylogoGod is love. The unconditional love of God, the Divine Mercy, is a GIVEN. It is always available. The one unforgivable sin is to think that our sin is too great for the mercy of God. As we see during Holy Week this was the sin of Judas: not that he betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver but that he denied the Divine Mercy. He thought that his sin was too great to be forgiven. He could have been forgiven just as Simon Peter was forgiven.

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Mary Magdalene, with her pot of ointment, meets the Lord on Easter Morning. York Minster.

See the lesson in this piece of verse – author unknown [to me].

St. Peter was a liar

St. Dismas was a thief

Mary Magdalene a party girl

and Tom without belief.

 

but there they are in Heaven

smiling down upon us now

as each wears a tilted halo

on a badly battered brow.

 

so the sin of all you sinners

doesn’t definitely damn

for your “wasness” doesn’t matter

if your “isness” really am.

Mercy does not come from the attributes of the God nor from the fruits of philosophical speculation – as the manuals suggested – but solely from the historical self-revelation of God in Jesus. Dogma has difficulty with a compassionate God. As God is total fullness of being – such perfection does not allow for God to suffer! So mercy became pity – God not suffering, but being with his people who do! God has no connection with life as we know it, which is why God has become irrelevant.

The manuals associated mercy with justice – as we know it – you get what you deserve. God rewards the good and punishes the bad – if this wasn’t so how could God be just? The answer often given was God is merciful to those who repent [conditions apply!] – And punishes those who do not. The relationship between justice and mercy divided the Church in the 16th Century. With the dialogue between Catholic and Lutheran in the 20th Century it was realised that God’s justice is God’s mercy. Now, mercy is no longer a Cinderella no way is there a saccharine God, but one who takes wholeness/holiness seriously. Mercy is out of place if it is not social.

 

AMcC.

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May 1: Door of Mercy

door, Francis, Bangui Advent 2015 (Radio V)

Door of Mercy

 

The singing throngs of angels crowd this place

And how can we be shielded from His rays

While winged awe bows low before His Face

Thus ravished by the arrow of His gaze?

But see! The Book is opened, and they run;

Mary with her nard; dear Peter with his tears.

The Prodigal, the bitter elder son,

The poor rich man; the thief grown hard with years.

O let the angels take us by the hand

And lead us through the ante room of grief

Where Mary, sinners’ refuge takes her stand

Beneath the Cross to share her First-born’s death.

With wounded Heart He is the Holy Door;

His Father’s Loved One, whence all mercies pour.

SMS.

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Wednesday 30 March: Seeing that Consists in Not Seeing

 

For Gregory of Nyssa, the cloud into which God calls Moses on Mount Sinai symbolises the unknown and unknowable place in which we meet God:

‘Leaving behind everything that is observed, not only what sense comprehends but also what the intelligence thinks it sees, Moses keeps on penetrating deeper until by the intelligence’s yearning for understanding he gains access to the invisible and incomprehensible, and there he sees God.’

In today’s Gospel, (Luke 24: 13-33) the women tell the apostles about the empty tomb and the angels they encountered there, but the men dismiss their testimony. Peter goes and checks the tomb for himself, but what he finds still does not persuade him of the women’s veracity.

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The disciples set off for Emmaus. As they walk, Jesus joins them. When they fail to recognise him, he chides them for their folly. ‘Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.’ Still they do not recognise him. It is only he when breaks bread with them that they finally see. As soon as they do so he vanishes from their sight.

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Gregory’s description of the ascent continues,

‘This is the true knowledge of what is sought; this is the seeing that consists in not seeing, because that which is sought transcends all knowledge, being separated on all sides by incomprehensibility as by a kind of darkness.’

Stiperstones, Shropshire: MMB; FMSL; 

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Tuesday 29 March

 

Plato describes how the prisoner who escapes from the darkness of the cave into the sunlight is at first dazzled by the unaccustomed brightness. Gradually his eyes adjust to it, but when he returns to the cave to rescue his fellows he must learn to see in darkness again.

In today’s gospel we read of how Mary Magdalene sees the risen Jesus but fails to recognise him. When he asks why she is weeping and who she is looking for, she mistakes him for the gardener. Only when he addresses her by name does she recognise him.

Why did she not do so before? One reason would assuredly have been that he was the very last person she expected to see standing there. But perhaps the main reason was the state of utter shock, grief and exhaustion she would have been in. She probably barely recognised herself any more. It took the familiar voice speaking her name to bring her back to reality. Or rather, to bring her forward to reality.

For this is not the reality she knew before. It is something wholly new, yet more real than anything she has ever known before. She has awoken to find herself outside the cave. The air is limpid, the early morning light catches the myriad pearls of dew and tiny spiders’ webs that adorn the fragrant grass, a gossamer bridal gown for the new earth.

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