Tag Archives: Saint Paul

28 March: Pius V on Lenten Fasting.

Photo by CD.

Here is a prayer attributed to Pope Saint Pius V to bring us back to Lenten observances.


Lord, look with favour
on your household.
Grant that,
though our flesh be humbled
by abstinence from food,
our souls, hungering for you,
may be resplendent in your sight.

I found this prayer in Scott Hahn’s Lenten Cookbook p34; see our review on 12 February.

The idea of humbling our flesh suggests that it may have become too proud, rather like the various parts of the Body of Christ saying they don’t need each other (1 Corinthians 12). When all is going well we can have such delusions of grandeur and importance, but we can be brought low by disease, such as covid-19 happening to ourselves or to dear ones; by circumstances beyond our control; accepting these can be one way of humbling our flesh. And so too can little sacrifices in food and drink. And let’s remember that we are all members of the one body of Christ: any savings from fasting and abstinence could be shared with others through CAFOD, SVP or any other agency.

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22 March: Excuses for what we know to be wrong.

It’s the eighteenth century, and Dr Johnson and James Boswell’s tour around the Hebrides has been curtailed by the weather. Boswell had enjoyed more than one glass of his host’s hospitality on Saturday evening, and woke up with a hangover, barely conscious. No minister, so no Sunday service, but conscience was to catch up with him, though he tried to wriggle out of it. But finally he was honest with himself and the reader.

I took my host’s advice, and drank some brandy, which I found an effectual cure for my head-ach. When I rose, I went into Dr Johnson’s room, and taking up Mrs M’Kinnon’s prayer-book, I opened it at the twentieth Sunday after Trinity, in the epistle for which I read, ‘And be not drunk with wine, wherein there is excess.’ Some would have taken this as a divine interposition.

This was another day of wind and rain; but good cheer and good society helped to beguile the time. I felt myself comfortable enough in the afternoon. I then thought that my last night’s riot was no more than such a social excess as may happen without much moral blame; and recollected that some physicians maintained, that a fever produced by it was, upon the whole, good for health: so different are our reflections on the same subject, at different periods; and such the excuses with which we palliate what we know to be wrong.

From “The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides with Samuel Johnson, LL.D.” by James Boswell.

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15 March: People in their thousands, IV.

The risen Jesus leading Adam and Eve to heaven, with the Cross and the Tree of Life.

Part IV

We are looking at Jesus’ words in Luke 12: 4, where he says, To you, my friends, I say: Do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. He is telling us more than we may at first realise.

I’d like to ask us to consider under what heading we usually think of Jesus. Maybe we think of him most often as a teacher, or a miracle-worker, or a prophet. Maybe we think of him most often as the one who rose from the dead. Maybe we focus on him as God and the Son of God; maybe we turn to the Creed, with full acceptance of everything that the Creed says about him. All of these ways of thinking of Jesus are wonderful and true. But perhaps we forget that he is also a lover. He is a different sort of lover, granted, to the ones that are celebrated in novels and films, but he is nevertheless a lover. And the authentic lover, who loves the beloved more than himself, wants to protect the beloved from pain and suffering – indeed, wants to remove it entirely.

The human person’s deepest suffering is in the knowledge that we must die one day. Jesus wants not only to deprive this suffering of its ‘sting’, to use St. Paul’s expression (cf. 1 Cor. 15: 55-57), but also to reassure us about the entire experience. He tells us in John’s gospel that when we die, he will take us to himself and we go to the place he has prepared for us in the Father’s house (cf. Jn 14:3). As God, Jesus is actually capable of doing this. He does not overturn the laws of nature by taking death away. Except in the case of the miracles he works, nature’s processes remain the same. But what happens after our death is something new – it is Jesus’ ‘territory’, you might say. That is what he knows about. And because of this knowledge he tells us not to be afraid.

Let’s take a day to reflect on some of the ways in which Jesus talks about our death. Tomorrow, we’ll be back for our final reflection.

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8 February: Reactionary Pope Condemns Slavery!

Slaves are evident in this triumphal procession from a Methodist children’s book contemporary with Gregory XVI. The grooms leading the horses, but also the crowd of captives following the chariot, are all slaves, or about to become slaves.

Each year about the feast of Saint Bakhita, we turn our thoughts to those caught up in slave trade, which we know all too well has not gone away.

Gregory XVI was not the most liberal of Popes. He condemned railways as ‘chemins d’enfer’, roads to hell, because they encouraged the rise of the culture of trade and increased the power and influence of the middle classes, upsetting the social order. For all that he followed a number of rprevious popes in recognising that the slave trade was indefensible. His 1839 encyclical ‘In Supremo Apostolatus’ cited Saint Paul to the Ephesians (6:5ff) and Colossians (3:22ff, 4:1) as signs of the early Church demonstrating a new attitude to slavery. Slave and Master were both human, both answerable to one Lord, both to be treated with respect. Gregory’s language is not that of Pope Francis, but sadly, Francis and today’s Church must still address the issues of modern slavery. First Pope Gregory, followed by Sisters in Zambia today, who are working to address these issues.

We have judged that it belonged to Our pastoral solicitude to exert Ourselves to turn away the Faithful from the inhuman slave trade in Negroes and all other men. … Desiring to remove such a shame from all the Christian nations, having fully reflected over the whole question and having taken the advice of many of Our Venerable Brothers the Cardinals, and walking in the footsteps of Our Predecessors, We warn and adjure earnestly in the Lord faithful Christians of every condition that no one in the future dare to use violence against anyone, despoil him of his possessions, reduce to servitude, or lend aid and favour to those who give themselves up to these practices, or exercise that inhuman traffic by which the Blacks, as if they were not men but rather animals, having been brought into servitude, in no matter what way, are, without any distinction, in contempt of the rights of justice and humanity, bought, sold, and devoted sometimes to the hardest labour.

We reprove, then, by virtue of Our Apostolic Authority, all the practices mentioned above as absolutely unworthy of the Christian name. By the same Authority We prohibit and strictly forbid any Ecclesiastic or lay person from presuming to defend as permissible this traffic in Blacks under no matter what pretext or excuse, or from publishing or teaching in any manner whatsoever, in public or privately, opinions contrary to what We have set forth in this Apostolic Letter.

The following photograph is from Global Sisters Report, it introduces an article by Sister Eucharia Madueke about how Sisters in Zambia are organising to combat human trafficking. ‘Open your eyes’ is a call to us as well. Read the full article here.

Sisters from across Zambia attended a workshop in November 2021 in Makeni, Lusaka, on advocacy against human trafficking. The sisters stand with the signs they made as part of their awareness-raising efforts. (Sr. Eucharia Madueke)

Sisters from across Zambia attended a workshop in November 2021 in Makeni, Lusaka, on advocacy against human trafficking. The sisters stand with the signs they made as part of their awareness-raising efforts. (Sr. Eucharia Madueke)

Note froom the Editor of Global Sisters Report: In observance of the Feb. 8 feast day of Sr. Josephine Bakhita, the patron saint of human trafficking survivors, which is also the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking, Global Sisters Report is publishing two special columns about a workshop held in Zambia by the Africa Faith and Justice Network to raise awareness among sisters about modern-day slavery and train them as advocates against it. (Read the other column here.) This is an example of efforts across the globe that sisters are undertaking to help stop human trafficking. Learn more at Talitha Kum; the U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking, and through Global Sisters Report’s extensive coverage.

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10 December: Christianity means Stories, not Mechanical Rules.

Flowers and candles left after a bombing

Phil Klay is a young American war veteran. His 2020 novel Missionaries was selected by former president Barack Obama last December as one of his “favorite books of 2020” and was named one of the “The 10 Best Books of 2020” by the Wall Street Journal.

In the address Klay delivered upon receiving the Hunt Prize in 2018, he elaborated on the connection between the violence of the world around us and the life of faith. “Paul tells us ‘the Kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.’ And, at times, I think I can feel that power around me. Catholicism is not, or should not be, a religion of force. Not of hard mechanical rules, but of stories and paradoxes and enigmatic parables.

It is an invitation to mystery, not mastery, to communion, not control. It is a religion that fits with what I know of reality, that helps me live honestly, and that helps me set aside my dreams of a less atavistic world in which men follow rational orders and never rebel. Perfect obedience, after all, comes not from men, but machines. Fantasies of control are fantasies of ruling over the dead. And my tortured God is not a God of death, but of new life.

This post is abridged and adapted from an article in America magazine October 2021. Follow the link to read it all. ‘My tortured God is not a God of death, but of new life’: Christmas is part of that paradox.

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28 May. Going Viral XXXVII: Where? In me. Corona virus and sin.

SPB sent us a link to tis talk given by Fr Mark Scott to the Cistercian Community at New Mellary Abbey, Iowa, USA. This is a short extract from a thought provoking talk; do follow the ink and read it all. It may help understand Romans as well as the virus!

There may be a virus sitting there on the fork or on the elevator button or on the door handle, and if it just stays there it is harmless. It cannot move on its own, it doesn’t reproduce on its own or through mating, it doesn’t do anything. A virus becomes active when it has something like us to enter and attach to … your cell structure has fully to cooperate with the virus so that, in biblical language, the two almost become one, and baby viruses are born. And then the virus goes viral within you and all around the world …

I think of what Saint Paul says about sin “finding an opportunity in the commandment” and so “producing every kind” of sin of the same genus and species. Like a virus, “apart from the Law sin is dead . . . but when the commandment came sin became alive” (Rom 7:8, 9). Where? “In me.”

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April 20, Emmaus VIII: Opening the book

farewell-zambia-feb-2017-17

The disciples did not know that it was Jesus walking with them. They told him how sad they were that Jesus had been killed.

They did not understand that Jesus had risen.Then Jesus said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have declared! The Messiah had to suffer these things and then enter into his glory.’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he opened up to them the things the Bible told about himself.

It’s a bit difficult to open up the Bible if you never open the Bible! But I don’t think it’s fair to accuse these two disciples of never opening the Bible, no! Jesus knows that they do read the words in the Bible, but he wants to open their hearts and their minds to understand the Bible in a new way.

Open hearts and open minds lead to open ears and open eyes. Open to read the Bible in what we see and hear around us. Let us listen today to our fellow walkers; can we have a laugh with them? Dennis was laughing and joining in when we saw the ducks on Tuesday and joined in with my quacking at them. That was more fun with two.

It is foolish playing at ducks, perhaps, but the disciples’ foolishness is the way in to their hearts that works for Jesus. I think he wants us in L’Arche to be like the prophets. They often did silly things that made people think about their lives. Some of the things we do may seem silly to other people, but we know they are important.

Is it foolish to spend four days walking from Dover to Canterbury? Saint Paul said, ‘We are fools for Christ’s sake.’(1 Corinthians 4:10)

MMB

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25 January, Church Unity Week. Unusual Kindness VIII.

harvest18.1

Receiving and giving

And it happened that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever, and of a bloody flux. To whom Paul entered in; and when he had prayed, and laid his hands on him, he healed him. Which being done, all that had diseases in the island, came and were healed: Who also honoured us with many honours, and when we were to set sail, they laded us with such things as were necessary.(28:8-10)

Reflection

I thank the stranger for privileging me to receive You.

I thank the Samaritan for making me accept Your care and the love I thought wasn’t in You to give.

I thank Jesus for drawing me to Your precious death to receive Your poverty  as riches that outweigh the world.

I thank the others all who gave to me so much to give.

Prayer

God, giver of life, we thank You for the gift of Your compassionate love which soothes and strengthens us.

We pray that our churches may be always open to receive Your gifts from one another.

Grant us a spirit of generosity to all as we journey together in the path of Christian unity.

We ask this in the name of Your Son who reigns with You and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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24 January, Church Unity Week: Unusual Kindness VII.

paul.viper.png

This year’s reflections for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity were prepared by the Churches in Malta and Gozo. We are sharing elements of their prayers, but follow the link for the full resources for personal or community prayer.

Naturally, the Maltese Christians draw our attention to the story in Acts 27-28 of how Paul, a prisoner in chains, was among a group who survived being shipwrecked on Malta.

Changing our hearts and minds

And when Paul had gathered together a bundle of sticks, and had laid them on the fire, a viper coming out of the heat, fastened on his hand. And when the barbarians saw the beast hanging on his hand, they said one to another: Undoubtedly this man is a murderer, who though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance doth not suffer him to live. And he indeed shaking off the beast into the fire, suffered no harm. But they supposed that he would begin to swell up, and that he would suddenly fall down and die. But expecting long, and seeing that there came no harm to him, changing their minds, they said that he was a god. (28:3-6)

Reflection

Monster! The headlines tear like shards of glass through ripped reputations and tainted talents, to be heard no more.

Hordes! Names, stories, lives, compacted into an anonymised mass.  Contempt for care, rejection made righteous.

When will we turn and dare to see the sister in the surge of displaced existence, and the brother in the monster’s shame?

Prayer

Almighty God, we turn to You with repentant hearts. In our sincere quest for Your truth, purify us from our unjust opinions of others and lead the churches to grow in communion.

Help us let go of our fears, and so better understand each other and the stranger in our midst, and dare to love the rejected.

We ask this in the name of the Just One, Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

The ancient painting of Saint Paul shaking off the viper can be found, though not by the casual viewer, in Saint Anselm’s Chapel, Canterbury Cathedral. MMB.

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22 January: Church Unity Week: Unusual kindness V.

sjc. big wave

This year’s reflections for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity were prepared by the Churches in Malta and Gozo. We are sharing elements of their prayers, but follow the link for the full resources for personal or community prayer.

Naturally, the Maltese Christians draw our attention to the story in Acts 27-28 of how Paul, a prisoner in chains, was among a group who survived being shipwrecked on Malta.

Keep Your Strength Up

“Just before daybreak, Paul urged all of them to take some food, saying, ‘Today is the fourteenth day that you have been in suspense and remaining without food, having eaten nothing. Therefore I urge you to take some food, for it will help you survive; for none of you will lose a hair from your heads.’ After he had said this, he took bread; and giving thanks to God in the presence of all, he broke it and began to eat. Then all of them were encouraged and took food for themselves.” (27:33-36)

I love coffee but lost my appetite for it.

I love a good read of the bulky weekend paper but my brain had no space for it, too busy processing and preparing, harnessing the little energy reserves I had to face cannulas and PICC lines and nauseating chemo.

Every hair from my head would be lost but I’d be rescued from the storm, hopefully.

And when you can’t eat to keep your strength up because the chemo makes you sick on a Wednesday, you chew on the words that those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength, they’ll rise up on wings like eagles, run and not grow weary, trusting that one day this broken body might rise again strong and supple scarred and scared.

Every hair of my head was lost but I’d be rescued from the storm, hopefully.

And as I look back these ten years hence, there wasn’t one set of footprints; there were hundreds of the friends and loved ones who visited, listened, cried, prayed and carried the body of Christ strengthening me. Every hair of my head was lost but I was rescued from the storm, thankfully.

Prayer

Loving God, Your Son Jesus Christ broke bread and shared the cup with His friends. May we grow in closer communion when we share our pain and suffering. Encouraged by St Paul and the early Christians, give us strength to build bridges of compassion, solidarity and harmony.

In the power of the Holy Spirit, we ask this in the name of Your Son, who gives His life that we might live. Amen.

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