Tag Archives: saints

28 May, Pentecost: What indeed if they do?

A little conversation about prayer.

This dove hovers over the place where the priest vested for Mass in the Catholic Church of Our Lord in the Attic, Amsterdam, hidden away in plain view, in the centre of town. Illegal but tolerated.

Our friend Christina Chase set off this little conversation, speculating ‘What good are my prayers, really?’ Her original post follows this introduction.

Christina Chase April 20

Have you ever wondered if your prayers for others have any real beneficial effect at all? I have. I still am wondering sometimes.

Sacred Scripture tells us that praying for others is important. Jesus did not only say “Love your enemies,” but also “pray for those who persecute you.” Jesus Himself prayed for His disciples during the time of His earthly life. St. Paul continually asked the people to whom he addressed his letters to pray for him.

Praying for others seems to be the right thing to do. And I sincerely try to do it. Although, of course, I could try harder and do it better. I am merely human, after all. Life is busy and … well … praying can sometimes feel like tedious work. When I think of the many prayers that I could raise to God on behalf of countless others, it feels rather daunting. And I wonder if it’s really necessary. Even when I put in the time and effort to pray deeply for someone I know or someone who has asked me to pray for them, I still wonder.

What good are my prayers, really? Doesn’t God love all the people for whom I pray even more than I do? How does it work? I wonder as if I could actually discover the answer and understand a profound mystery of God. And then, yes, I doubt, and wonder if it works at all.

”But what if it does…?” a little voice in my heart said recently.

Maybe my prayers for other people don’t make a difference.…But what if they do?

 Christina Chase

I could not leave those questions hanging in the air, even if I couldn’t answer them properly. So here are my first thoughts.

A first response, late at night

Dear Christina,

you lay out the arguments effectively (I shall copy this post to my blog, if I may!?)

In this world there is always room for doubt, but have you never felt support from people’s prayers? Of course, you can tell yourself that that feeling could just be your imagination, but if knowing that prayer has been offered by someone else for your benefit boosts your confidence, your courage, perhaps the Spirit is at work in you, and linked to your friend that was inspired to pray for you. I think the Spirit is the missing link here.

And I’m too tired to think straight for one more sentence.



Only God knows

Christina Chase commented in response to willturnstone:What indeed if they do?

So good to hear from you! You are in my prayers, my friend. And yes, you may copy this post in any way that you like.

I do believe, like you said, that I have benefited from people’s prayers. Their prayers may not have been answered exactly the way they intended, but only God knows what is truly best.

The Holy Spirit at work within us, among us, and between us is perhaps exactly the key in understanding how intercessory prayer “works.” Perhaps our guardian angels in communication as well? I’ve been trying to be more open to the presence of angels.

God works in mysterious ways.

With much love,
Pax Christi

Pentecost! The Church of 120 believers are already on the way to being transformed. They wanted to be together – whether they were all sleeping where they met or they returned to lodgings at night, we are not told, but for sure, the Upper Room was hardly the Savoy. How did they keep the place clean?

We know that the risen Jesus appeared there at least twice, which made it a special place. His presence must have been felt in the very air of the Upper Room. It was a place of prayer; talking to Jesus, they were coming to realise, was and is prayer, ‘My Lord and my God’.

The group were praying to the Father. Just sitting around, talking about Jesus, was prayer, the Spirit at work in the disciples as they spoke and listened to each other. We too are called to open our hearts to the Spirit and to live within the Communion of Saints. Praying for others is part of this, but so too is opening our hearts to each other. Listening to each other (perhaps through e.mails) helps focus our prayer when we pray for each other but as Christina reminds us, God knows what is truly best.

And what about the gardening Morgan and I do for Mrs A? More often than I would like, as a conscientious gardener, to pull more weeds than I can when she wants, or needs, to talk, to be reassured. Mrs A has dementia and needs to make connections with her garden (among other things) because that helps to put her on her feet metaphorically. She helped create this garden with her late husband. Through pulling up a few weeds and chatting she connects with her own history and the many blessings she has received through her married life.

Laborare est Orare: to work is to pray; we can pray without being conscious of doing so. We can pray for others without being conscious of doing so, as in my working for and with Mrs A. But examining what happens shows that my work-prayer provides her with grace here and now. We can trust that a prayer mention of a distant person is also a ‘channel of thy peace’ though less obvious to mere mortals.


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25 May: Bede’s decisive NO!

The Venerable Bede is often shown at work on his English translation of Saint John’s Gospel, which he brought to a close almost on his dying breath, dictating to a student. This post for his feast is a link to an article by Patrick Heren from The Article website in 2019.

Heren tells us about Bede’s life in Northumbria and his influence across Europe. A fascinating example is a Bible, written by hand at Monkwearmouth to be given to the Pope Gregory II by Abbot Ceolfrith.

Ceolfrith died on the way but the Bible survives to this day in Florence. Read Heren’s article to learn about Bede’s opinion on a matter of Biblical scholarship. We still have such controversies today!

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21 May; Our Blessed Lady’s Lullaby, VI: the ensuing blessed race.

Thee sanctity herself doth serve,
Thee goodness doth attend,
Thee blessedness doth wait upon,
And virtues all commend.

Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
Sing, lullaby, my lives joy.

Great kings and prophets wished have
To see that I possess,
Yet wish I never thee to see,
If not in thankfulness.

Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
Sing, lullaby, my lives joy.

Let heaven and earth, and saints and men,
Assistance give to me,
That all their most occurring aid
Augment my thanks to thee.

Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
Sing, lullaby, my lives joy.

And let the ensuing blessed race,
Thou wilt succeeding raise,
Join all their praises unto mine,
To multiply thy praise.

Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
Sing, lullaby, my lives joy.

And take my service well in worth,
And Joseph’s here with me,
Who of my husband bears the name,
Thy servant for to be.

Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
Sing, lullaby, my lives joy.

‘The ensuing blessed race’, that means us! We succeed to Mary’s generation on this earth, as Charles III succeeds, not just to his mother but to ancestors going back to Alfred and beyond. If Rawlings could use such words, living in exile, then the more should we join our praises unto Mary’s, and assist her in proclaiming the joy of her life, her little boy.

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14 May: Before the paling of the stars.


Before the paling of the stars,
  Before the winter morn,
Before the earliest cockcrow
  Jesus Christ was born:
Born in a stable,
  Cradled in a manger,
In the world His hands had made
  Born a stranger.

Priest and king lay fast asleep
  In Jerusalem,
Young and old lay fast asleep
  In crowded Bethlehem:
Saint and Angel, ox and ass,
  Kept a watch together,
Before the Christmas daybreak
  In the winter weather.

Jesus on His Mother’s breast
  In the stable cold,
Spotless Lamb of God was He,
  Shepherd of the fold:
Let us kneel with Mary maid,
  With Joseph bent and hoary,
With Saint and Angel, ox and ass,
  To hail the King of Glory.

Mary cannot have known what the cockcrow would represent thirty years on from this morning. . . A few hours of half-sleeping, and now it is time to face the rest of her life. Before long she will be tossed about emotionally, Jesus’ glory hidden, Joseph urging all haste down to Egypt. The poem is by Christina Rossetti.

Photograph by Constantina.

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11 May, Francis on Joseph VIII: Get up!

“Get up, take the child and his mother” (Mt 2:13), God told Saint Joseph.

The aim of this Apostolic Letter is to increase our love for this great saint, to encourage us to implore his intercession and to imitate his virtues and his zeal.

Indeed, the proper mission of the saints is not only to obtain miracles and graces, but to intercede for us before God, like Abraham[26] and Moses[27], and like Jesus, the “one mediator” (1 Tim 2:5), who is our “advocate” with the Father (1 Jn 2:1) and who “always lives to make intercession for [us]” (Heb 7:25; cf. Rom 8:34).

The saints help all the faithful “to strive for the holiness and the perfection of their particular state of life”.[28] Their lives are concrete proof that it is possible to put the Gospel into practice.

Jesus told us: “Learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart” (Mt 11:29). The lives of the saints too are examples to be imitated. Saint Paul explicitly says this: “Be imitators of me!” (1 Cor 4:16).[29] By his eloquent silence, Saint Joseph says the same.

Before the example of so many holy men and women, Saint Augustine asked himself: “What they could do, can you not also do?” And so he drew closer to his definitive conversion, when he could exclaim: “Late have I loved you, Beauty ever ancient, ever new!”[30]

We need only ask Saint Joseph for the grace of graces: our conversion.

Let us now make our prayer to him:

Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer,
Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
To you God entrusted his only Son;
in you Mary placed her trust;
with you Christ became man.

Blessed Joseph, to us too,
show yourself a father
and guide us in the path of life.
Obtain for us grace, mercy and courage,
and defend us from every evil. Amen.

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8 May, Francis on Joseph V: A creatively courageous father.

Joseph, in this image of the Holy Family, is the strong man, supporting and protecting his beloved wife and baby with ‘creative courage’. We continue learning from Pope Francis about Saint Joseph, foster father of Jesus, husband of Mary.

If the first stage of all true interior healing is to accept our personal history and embrace even the things in life that we did not choose, we must now add another important element: creative courage. This emerges especially in the way we deal with difficulties. In the face of difficulty, we can either give up and walk away, or somehow engage with it. At times, difficulties bring out resources we did not even think we had.

As we read the infancy narratives, we may often wonder why God did not act in a more direct and clear way. Yet God acts through events and people.  Joseph was the man chosen by God to guide the beginnings of the history of redemption. He was the true “miracle” by which God saves the child and his mother. God acted by trusting in Joseph’s creative courage. Arriving in Bethlehem and finding no lodging where Mary could give birth, Joseph took a stable and, as best he could, turned it into a welcoming home for the Son of God come into the world (cf. Lk 2:6-7). Faced with imminent danger from Herod, who wanted to kill the child, Joseph was warned once again in a dream to protect the child, and rose in the middle of the night to prepare the flight into Egypt (cf. Mt 2:13-14).

A superficial reading of these stories can often give the impression that the world is at the mercy of the strong and mighty, but the “good news” of the Gospel consists in showing that, for all the arrogance and violence of worldly powers, God always finds a way to carry out his saving plan. So too, our lives may at times seem to be at the mercy of the powerful, but the Gospel shows us what counts. God always finds a way to save us, provided we show the same creative courage as the carpenter of Nazareth, who was able to turn a problem into a possibility by trusting always in divine providence.

If at times God seems not to help us, surely this does not mean that we have been abandoned, but instead are being trusted to plan, to be creative, and to find solutions ourselves.

The Gospel does not tell us how long Mary, Joseph and the child remained in Egypt. Yet they certainly needed to eat, to find a home and employment. It does not take much imagination to fill in those details. The Holy Family had to face concrete problems like every other family, like so many of our migrant brothers and sisters who, today too, risk their lives to escape misfortune and hunger. In this regard, I consider Saint Joseph the special patron of all those forced to leave their native lands because of war, hatred, persecution and poverty.

At the end of every account in which Joseph plays a role, the Gospel tells us that he gets up, takes the child and his mother, and does what God commanded him (cf. Mt 1:24; 2:14.21). Indeed, Jesus and Mary his Mother are the most precious treasure of our faith.[21]

In the divine plan of salvation, the Son is inseparable from his Mother, from Mary, who “advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son until she stood at the cross”.[22]

We should always consider whether we ourselves are protecting Jesus and Mary, for they are also mysteriously entrusted to our own responsibility, care and safekeeping. The Son of the Almighty came into our world in a state of great vulnerability. He needed to be defended, protected, cared for and raised by Joseph. God trusted Joseph, as did Mary, who found in him someone who would not only save her life, but would always provide for her and her child. In this sense, Saint Joseph could not be other than the Guardian of the Church, for the Church is the continuation of the Body of Christ in history, even as Mary’s motherhood is reflected in the motherhood of the Church.[23] In his continued protection of the Church, Joseph continues to protect the child and his mother, and we too, by our love for the Church, continue to love the child and his mother.

That child would go on to say: “As you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40).  Consequently, every poor, needy, suffering or dying person, every stranger, every prisoner, every infirm person is “the child” whom Joseph continues to protect. For this reason, Saint Joseph is invoked as protector of the unfortunate, the needy, exiles, the afflicted, the poor and the dying.  Consequently, the Church cannot fail to show a special love for the least of our brothers and sisters, for Jesus showed a particular concern for them and personally identified with them. From Saint Joseph, we must learn that same care and responsibility. We must learn to love the child and his mother, to love the sacraments and charity, to love the Church and the poor. Each of these realities is always the child and his mother.

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1 May, Francis on Joseph, Introduction: the man who goes unnoticed.

Pope Francis set last year aside as the Year of Saint Joseph; we are just catching up with the idea!

Today is the feast of Saint Joseph the Worker as well as the first day of his wife, Mary’s month. All too often the worker is the man or woman who goes unnoticed, undeservedly so.

Let’s open our eyes, ears and hearts to those who make life possible for the rest of us, and where we can, let us thank them for their service,.

The following paragraphs are from the introduction to Pope Francis’s letter about Saint Joseph, ‘Patris Corde’, or ‘With a Father’s heart’.

After Mary, the Mother of God, no saint is mentioned more frequently in the papal magisterium than Joseph, her spouse. My Predecessors reflected on the message contained in the limited information handed down by the Gospels in order to appreciate more fully his central role in the history of salvation. Blessed Pius IX declared him “Patron of the Catholic Church”,[2] Venerable Pius XII proposed him as “Patron of Workers”[3] and Saint John Paul II as “Guardian of the Redeemer”.[4] Saint Joseph is universally invoked as the “patron of a happy death”.[5]

Now, one hundred and fifty years after his proclamation as Patron of the Catholic Church by Blessed Pius IX (8 December 1870), I would like to share some personal reflections on this extraordinary figure, so close to our own human experience. For, as Jesus says, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Mt 12:34). My desire to do so increased during these months of pandemic, when we experienced, amid the crisis, how “our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people, people often overlooked. People who do not appear in newspaper and magazine headlines, or on the latest television show, yet in these very days are surely shaping the decisive events of our history. Doctors, nurses, storekeepers and supermarket workers, cleaning personnel, caregivers, transport workers, men and women working to provide essential services and public safety, volunteers, priests, men and women religious, and so very many others. They understood that no one is saved alone…

How many people daily exercise patience and offer hope, taking care to spread not panic, but shared responsibility. How many fathers, mothers, grandparents and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday ways, how to accept and deal with a crisis by adjusting their routines, looking ahead and encouraging the practice of prayer. How many are praying, making sacrifices and interceding for the good of all”.[6] Each of us can discover in Joseph – the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence – an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble. Saint Joseph reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation. A word of recognition and of gratitude is due to them all.

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24 April: ‘I’m going fishing’, V The Mission.

A hard road lies ahead for Peter and the disciples; and for us!

The Mission

Jesus is not about to let Simon Peter indulge in unproductive introspection, but he has picked up Peter’s conflicted feelings about being an individual follower of Jesus and being part of the group. His first question poses this challenge: “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?”

Peter in answering does not compare himself with his companions. This is between him and Jesus, though Jesus has made sure that John and the rest are within earshot and will grasp the meaning of this conversation for Peter and themselves. ‘Yes Lord, you know that I love you.’ ‘Feed my lambs.’ This command from the Lord who has just fed Peter and his companions, setting an example to be pondered for centuries.

Jesus returns to his probing of Peter: ‘Simon Son of Jonah, do you love me?’ No comparison with the others, Peter has passed that test.  ‘Yes, Lord, you know I love you.‘ ‘Tend my sheep.’ Peter is upset when Jesus asks again: “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ ‘Feed my sheep.’

Then comes the crunch: the description of how Peter will face trial, brutality, lack of earthly freedom; and execution. But then the note of complete confidence in this new Peter: Follow me!

Not that it is all so simple. Peter sees his fishing partner John standing nearby. What about him, Peter asks, and is told that’s not for him to know. And again, the call to be single-minded: ‘follow me!’

John and his editors assure us that this story and the rest of the Gospel are true and Good news for us all. The Lord will come for each of us in his own time; Let us use our time wisely, and follow him. May we be blest fishers of men, witnessing to our loving God through the way we live our lives. 

Blest Fishers

For so our Lord was pleased when 

He Fishers made Fishers of men; 

Where (which is in no other game) 

A man may fish and praise his name. 

The first men that our Saviour dear 

Did chuse to wait upon him here, 

Blest Fishers were; and fish the last 

Food was, that he on earth did taste. 

I therefore strive to follow those, 

Whom he to follow him hath chose. 

by Izaak Walton, the Compleat Angler 1653

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23 April, ‘I’m going fishing’, IV: The Barbecue

Ironically, this freshly caught fish was drawn to mark a station on a L’Arche pilgrimage a few years ago, at the Church of Saint Andrew in Buckland, Dover. Andrew was conspicuous by his absence from John 21, which we are reflecting upon in this series of posts.

The Barbecue

Now Jesus takes charge. It’s a fish feast, though with very simple ingredients: bread, which they had possibly all learnt to make on the open fire as they tramped the countryside, and the freshest possible fish. Add to that a ravenous hunger, an overwhelming sense of wonder, and the love of the cook for his seven friends. Was there ever such a breakfast? 

I can vouch for the wonderful taste of fish when freshly caught and simply cooked, straight off the boat if not caught with rod and line, and how else to taste pike or wild salmon.

And here is Jesus, Son of Man and Son of God, serving them, the friends who had betrayed him just a few days ago. They can hardly believe it is himself and that he has chosen to seek them out, although he had told them to wait for him in Galilee.  Even Thomas does not dare ask if Jesus really is Jesus. The bread and fish are real enough, the full bellies are no illusion.

Do they remember his injunction when he sent them out two by two, to eat whatever was put before them? There was no difficulty in eating what Jesus offered them, good food, good company. The powerful sensation of fellowship is not  illusory: it feels like the old times on the road, but transformed. They are beginning to understand how everything has changed, but Peter needs more headroom again! 

Please pray for another fisherman called Peter who died last year.

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20 April,‘I’m going fishing’ I: The Group of Seven

trout (27K)

A Gallant Trout from The Compleat Angler.

I The Group of Seven

Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We are going with you also.”  John 21:2-3.

We are in that period of forty days between Easter and the Ascension of the Lord. The reality of Easter has not yet struck the disciples – has it fully struck me yet? They have got one thing right by obeying the angel’s command, given through the women: go to Galilee and I will see you there. This group of seven disciples, led by Peter, seem to have come together by the Lake in solidarity. They are still shaken up.

I wonder if Peter wanted to go fishing by himself? I used to fish when I was at college by Lough Macnean in Ireland. Sometimes a group of us would spend a day together fishing. Other times I wandered down to the shore alone, and then the routine of casting a bait and watching for the float to bob was hypnotic; thoughts would slow down, I would be refreshed whether or not I caught anything. 

I see Peter rooting in a compost heap and filling the First Century equivalent of a plastic tub with worms, thinking, ‘I need some headroom, I’ll have a night on the boat, just me and my rod.’ He had too many thoughts running through his head, processing all that had happened since Palm Sunday. Crowds cheering, a quiet, solemn meal, silence in the garden. That kiss. Cock crow. Betrayal, rigged trials, Death on a Cross, Judas’s suicide, the appearances in Jerusalem. 

Now the apostles were waiting by the lake, as the women’s message had told them to, but nothing was happening. Except that they were getting under each others’ skin: ‘I need some headroom.’ 

But they said to him, “We are going with you also.” 

That would be a totally different experience to going alone, yet Peter could hardly tell the others to get lost, he was supposed to be their leader. As well as respecting that, I wonder if they were not a little anxious about Peter’s safety in the dark on the lake, alone with his thoughts.

So he went to fetch the nets, still thinking, ‘I need some headroom.’ But he stood scant chance of getting it. Andrew, Peter’s brother, seems to have made himself scarce already; he is not mentioned in this story. Perhaps the brothers were wary of each other’s company, knowing they could set each other off. Perhaps Andrew was the last person on earth who could comfort or counsel Simon Peter.

How often do we find the precious ‘five minutes’ peace’ we had contrived for ourselves – over coffee, in the garden, even working in the kitchen – invaded by our dearest, dragging us back to the realities of daily life. How do we cope when we need headroom and are denied it? Peter accepted that other people needed him and went to get the nets.

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