Saint Francis was very conscious of himself as a sinner: perhaps I should be more so. The trouble is that dwelling on personal sinfulness can be crippling: ‘I’ll never get out of this mess!’ Of course, on my own, I won’t. So who can get me out of the mess?
Canterbury’s Father Daniel Weatherley challenges us to ponder the last times in preparation for our death and resurrection, when the secrets of hearts will be laid bare. He offers us three steps on our journey through Lent.
The Cosmic Courtroom is a truly awesome scene. When Jesus comes in glory every single one of us – and everyone who has already passed through the first death – will stand before Him as one great sea of humanity. Each one willed into being by God, each one loved totally and uniquely by Him. But this is a courtroom with a difference. Not only are there no attorneys, no advocates, but there is no trial! The verdict upon each has already been decided. The proceedings consist only of the sentencing. And the pronouncement, comes as a surprise for everyone: whether it be punishment or paradise. Only then is the summing-up offered.
There are, however, witnesses. Firstly, each of us will witness the judgement of each other, as our hidden motives and acts of love (or otherwise) are laid bare. And then there is the vast array of angels, all of whom made their decision to serve, to love (or not), in the first instant of their creation. Since that moment those angels who rejected God have persistently laboured to tempt men and women to do the same – usually so subtly that it goes unnoticed. And then there are the holy angels – thankfully in the majority – who have spent their existence urging us on to lives of perfect love and selfless service, to conform ourselves to Jesus Christ. And at the same moment each of us will behold that angel which has been given to us alone as our guardian.
Jesus’ own account of how this scene will unfold is, in Matthew’s Gospel, magnificently constructed. The Lord’s authority is depicted in a rapid succession of 6 action verbs: He comes; He sits; He separates, He sets on His right and left; He speaks out and declares blessed; He commands to approach and inherit. And then comes the stunning revelation: 6 conditions of wretchedness in which He has been anonymously present with us all the time, just as He promised: hungry; thirsty; stranger; naked; sick; in prison.
Hearing this Saint Francis, all overjoyed in spirit, lifting up his face unto heaven, stood for a great while with his mind uplifted in God; anon returning to himself again, he knelt him down and rendered thanks and praises unto God: and then with great fervour of spirit turned him to Brother Masseo and said: “Wilt thou know why after me? wilt thou know why after me? wilt thou know why after me? that the whole world doth run? This cometh unto me from the eyes of the most high God, which behold at all time the evil and the good: for those most holy eyes have seen among sinners none more vile, none more lacking, no greater sinner than am I: wherefore to do this marvellous work the which He purposeth to do, He hath not found upon the earth a creature more vile, and therefore hath He chosen me to confound the nobleness and the greatness and the strength and the beauty and wisdom of the world: to
the intent that men may know that all virtue and all goodness come from Him, and not from the creature, and that no man may glory in himself; but whoso will glory, may glory in the Lord, unto whom is honour and glory for ever. and ever.”
Then Brother Masseo, at so humble a reply uttered with so great fervour, was afraid, and knew of a surety that Saint Francis was rooted and grounded in humility.
The Empire builders drew a straight line in the sand dividing Syria and Iraq, and all those similarly ruled boundaries in Canada and Australia. Was anyone asked would they rather be in Manitoba or Saskatchewan? Thank God those boundaries cause little friction.
The Welsh border with England has very few straight bits, and the area around Oswestry is a case in point. On the map England seems to have taken a huge bite out of Wales, and place names in English and Welsh turn up on either side of the border. Maesbury is a mishmash of the two, and Welsh Frankton is definitely in England.
The New Saints Football Club play in the Welsh Premier League but have their ground in Oswestry, England, and so it goes on.
The Old Saint of Oswestry was King Oswald of Northumbria who died at Oswald’s Tree – or Oswestry – in the 7th Century, battling against the pagan Mercians and their Welsh allies – who of course were more than capable of going to war against Mercia when the fit was on them. Or of marrying across the border as seems to have happened more than once in my own family.
Let us be grateful for peaceful co-existence along the Marches of England and Wales and pray for peace along the many borders that divide rather than unite people in our world today.
Oswald from a Ms in New York Public Library:
File:Stoswaldaskingnyplspencer1f89r.jpg From Wikipedia
Saint Josephine Bakhita
Saint Josephine was born in Sudan in 1869 where she was kidnapped and sold into slavery as a child. She was a modern slave: in servitude despite laws forbidding it. After changing hands many times, she was sold to an Italian diplomat and taken to Italy, where slavery was indeed illegal, but it was only through the help of some sisters, the Canossian Daughters of Charity, that she gained her freedom from his family. She learned about God from the sisters and entered the congregation where she lived a life of love and service until her death in 1947.
Josephine Bakhita was canonised by John Paul II on October 1, 2000. He spoke of Josephine Bakhita as ‘a shining advocate of genuine emancipation. The history of her life inspires not passive acceptance but the firm resolve to work effectively to free girls and women from oppression and violence, and to return them to their dignity in the full exercise of their rights’.
Let us pray for all people caught up in modern slavery and those working to release them, often in grave personal danger to themselves.
You may also like to return to the Littlehampton Sisters’ reflection from last year.
This is the back cover of the Aberdaron leaflet we looked at yesterday. I guess they knew, when they put it together, that people would read the back before opening it.
The evening I posted this, we had family around looking at the flames of our front room fire; earlier in the day Abel had me stop by the river for a few moments of staring.
A time to be thankful.
I had to go to the far end of Wales to learn that the English word ‘saunter’ comes from the French for the Holy Land.
In Mediæval times most would have gone on foot and by sea: to Jerusalem or to Bardsey, the island off the coast where many Welsh saints lived or came to be buried; sauntering, in the modern understanding, implies an expansive, carefree, relaxed gait, a readiness to stop and stare, as the Welsh poet W.H. Davies reminds us, and a readiness to greet other people.
Your holiday for this summer may be at the planning stage, where will you go, who will be in your party, what will you get up to? Wherever you go, make time for sauntering!
And wherever you go today, make time for sauntering! And be ready to greet other people – and their dogs and cats!
More posts from Aberdaron to follow: the parish invite readers to copy this leaflet freely, so we will share it page by page and urge you to make the pilgrimage to Aberdaron, in person as well as by proxy, and possibly travel on to Bardsey, weather permitting.
We can travel, indeed we have travelled, to places of pilgrimage within the United Kingdom and beyond. I won’t say East, West, home’s best. I would return to Aberdaron, St Maurice, Rome, and many places that I love, yet we have our Cathedral which has many corners that sometimes catch the eye. And just a few minutes’ walk from home.
This Cross is on the altar in the dark Saint Nicholas’ Chapel – his feast is today, December 6th.
Patron of children, the original and best Father Christmas; he makes his annual procession through Canterbury each Advent, allowing frazzled shoppers the chance to make their day a pilgrimage.
Let’s celebrate his generous and imaginative care of his flock, but remember that he drew his inspiration from the one whose Cross is represented here.
Saint Nicholas, pray for children.
Saint Nicholas. pray for parents and grandparents, who have to improvise all the time. May we share your wise approach to child care!
And Let’s pray for a former priest at St Thomas’ Canterbury, Bishop Nicholas Hudson, auxiliary in Westminster.
A reminder of the evening of music, dance, narration and art at Minster Abbey on Sunday November 12, interpreting the revelations of Julian of Norwich.
It’s easy to get to Minster: the Abbey is a short walk from Minster railway station with hourly trains from London, Ashford, Canterbury and Ramsgate.
Follow this link to see the poster:
Julian of Norwich at the Abbey 121117
Good Evening Friends,
Back we come from Wales to find a note from our contributor Monica (MT), inviting us to an evening of music, dance, narration and art at Minster Abbey on Sunday November 12, interpreting the revelations of Julian of Norwich.
It sounds interesting! Minster Abbey is a short walk from Minster railway station with hourly trains from London, Ashford, Canterbury and Ramsgate.
Follow this link to see the poster:
Julian of Norwich at the Abbey 121117
The view from Dylan Thomas’s home in Laugharne.
I never made the chance to ask Fr Austin (our writer AMcC) to expand on what we should understand by a personal relationship with God; now I am casting around for answers, and realising that there are at least as many ways as there are Christian believers.
I think of people who walk around their local church, stopping for a few words at each statue: the saints are part of their family who can lead them in prayer.
If you call them superstitious you must say the same about the Canterbury Cathedral guides who light a candle at the start of their day of welcoming visitors.
Others walk around their church praying the Stations of the Cross, accompanying Jesus (and his mother) on his walk to Calvary; this was my grandmother’s way, one she could also follow seated at home.
Today I invite you to join Dylan Thomas, whose birthday it is today, when as a child, at Christmas day’s end he
went to bed. Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-colored snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steady falling night. I turned the gas down, I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept.
There was darkness aplenty in Dylan’s life, as there must be in anyone’s. Even in the darkness the holy one is near; a few words will suffice to acknowledge that.