Tag Archives: saints

27 January, Little Flowers CIV: A vision of St Francis, II.

We left our two friars welcoming two journeying friars to their monastery, to the kitchen, the warmest place in the house, where eight friars were already enjoying the fire.

After they had been a little while at the fire, they took the visitors aside to wash their feet, even as they had agreed together. And while that obedient and devout friar was washing the feet of the older friar, and removing the mud therefrom, for they were very muddy, he looked and saw that his feet were marked with the most holy Stigmata; and anon, for joy and wonder he embraced them closely, and began to cry aloud: “Either thou art Christ, or thou art Saint Francis”. 

At that cry and at those words, the friars, which were at the fire, arose and came thither with great fear and reverence to see those glorious stigmata. And then, at their prayer, this ancient friar permitted them clearly to see and touch and kiss them. And, while they marvelled yet more for joy, he said unto them: “Doubt not and fear not, dearest friars and sons; I am your father Friar Francis, who, according to the will of God, founded three Orders. And seeing that, for eight years, I have been entreated by this friar, who is washing my feet, and to-day more fervently than ever before, that I would reveal unto him those secret words which the Seraph spake unto me when He gave me the stigmata, the which words I resolved never to reveal in my lifetime, to-day, by the commandment of God, by reason of his perseverance and the ready obedience with which he left the sweetness of contemplation, I am sent by God to reveal unto him, before you all, that which he asks.”

St Francis said: ” Know, most beloved brothers, that being on the mountain of Alvernia, wholly absorbed in the contemplation of the Passion of Christ, in that seraphic vision I was thus stigmatised in my own body by Christ Himself; and He said to me : “Knowest thou what I have done to thee ? I have given thee the marks of My Passion that thou mayest be My standard bearer. And as I, on the day of My death, descended into Limbo, and, by virtue of My stigmas, liberated all the souls I found there and conducted them to paradise, so also I grant to thee in this hour, in order that thou mayest be conformed to Me in thy death even as thou hast been in thy life, that when thou shalt have passed away from this life, every year on the anniversary of thy death thou shalt go into purgatory, and, by virtue of these stigmas which I have given thee, shalt liberate all the souls thou shalt find there belonging to thy three orders, Friars Minor, sisters and virgins, and over and above these all who have been devout to thee, and shalt lead them to paradise.’ These words of Christ I never revealed whilst I lived in this world.”

And having thus spoken St Francis and his companion suddenly disappeared. And many brothers afterwards heard these things from the eight brothers who were present during the vision and had heard the words of St Francis. 

There was no doubt in the minds of the ten friars as to who had visited them. But contemplate for a moment the spontaneous decision of the two friars that we read yesterday, to wash the feet of their visitors, though they were very muddy. Love in action!

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11 December, Advent Light XI: Changing our outlook

John the Baptist is naturally despondent in today’s Gospel reading. He’s in prison and unable to pursue his vocation of prophet, reminding people that being God’s chosen nation means living as if they really believed it, calling them to repent and offering them the dramatic sign of baptism – full immersion, not just a sprinkling! But now John needs reassurance and turns to the one man who can provide it.

Look what’s happening, replies Jesus. People are being helped and healed, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.

Today the Good News still has to be proclaimed to the poor, and we still need to hear the call to repentance, to take a new direction. Baptised we may have been, but we still need healing. Ponder this extract from an article about the Church in South Sudan, a Church scarred by decades of war and hunger. Fr Michael Heap MAfr goes on to challenge his British readers:

All of us need to be reminded from time to time 
that our Baptism, our taking on the name “Christian”, 
means much more than just living like everyone else, 
apart from some prayers and Sunday Mass. 

We have taken on a new direction in life. 

We don’t go looking for suffering and rejection, 
but if it comes because of our commitment to Jesus Christ, 
we accept it without fear.

This is so in South Sudan. 
It is so in UK. 
It is true in each of our lives. 
To live as baptised followers of Jesus 
means changing our outlook on everything, 
no matter how small.

From: Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) Magazine, August 2022 p3.

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December 1, A new saint: Charles de Foucauld

Click on the heading above to read about this man of the desert who lived and died among the Muslims of Algeria. Bishop Claude Rault, former Bishop of the Sahara, traces how St Charles sought to follow the hidden life of Jesus in Nazareth in a little corner of his diocese, and shows how important those years were both to Jesus and to his follower Charles.

From the Missionaries of Africa website.

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30 November: 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.  

W. B. (from "The Complete Angler 1653" by Izaak Walton)

Today is the feast of Saint Andrew, fisher, Apostle, missionary, martyr, patron of Scotland. Izaak Walton was the first biographer of George Herbert, whose poetry we read yesterday. Jesus also chose a civil servant in the person of Saint Matthew, and he 'hath chose' you and me as well, so let's enjoy the light-heartedness of this verse!

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24 November: Jesus was Praying Alone, I.

Part I

Welcome back to Sister Johanna for three reflections on Luke 9:18ff

Jesus was praying alone, and his disciples came to him and he put this question to them, ‘Who do the crowds say that I am?’ (Luke 9:18; New Jerusalem Bible, Study Edition)

We know how this passage goes on. After Jesus asks his disciples who the crowds say he is, he asks his disciples who they think he is – and Peter comes out with the magisterial statement, “You are the Christ of God.”

There is no way of calculating the number of times in my life I’ve read this passage, but as I was reading it today, I realised that I always pass over the line about Jesus at prayer, which I have quoted here, without thinking very much about it, because the lines that come after it seem so much more important. But today something about verse eighteen of Luke’s ninth chapter was tugging at me as I read it, and so I lingered over the line, repeating it to myself. As I did so, it became apparent to me that all this time I’ve been separating Jesus’ prayer from Jesus’ questions, as though their juxtaposition in the text was a mere accident; I’ve failed to note that Jesus’ questions flow out of his prayer. This made me begin to consider his questions in a different light – more as outward expressions of Jesus’ prayer and less as requests on Jesus’ part for information from his disciples.

So I returned to line eighteen, and the image of Jesus, alone with the Father, at prayer. At first it was the sheer mystery of it that filled my mind. It is not possible to get anyone’s prayer and see what it is like. Even less is it possible to imagine what the prayer of the Son of God was like. But then I thought that perhaps I might imagine, without being guilty of presumption, some of the effects of Jesus’ prayer. We know from all the gospels that Jesus would often go off by himself to pray, so, clearly, prayer gave Jesus something that he could not receive by any other means. We can assume that when Jesus emerged from prayer, he felt that he had been deeply nourished by the Father. I think we can also assume that he would come out of his prayer with a clearer mind about what he needed to do and how he should go about doing it.

As I went on to the next lines of this passage, I began to wonder, for the first time, why Jesus even needed to ask the questions he asks in this episode? It occurred to me that Jesus could have had his questions answered through prayer itself, and in solitude – but instead his prayer seems to have directed him to involve the disciples in these questions. This can only be because Jesus felt that these questions were questions of supreme importance for them – perhaps even more so for them than for him. I thought to myself: Jesus is not enquiring about something he doesn’t know here. He is teaching.

And so, Jesus’ first question – ‘Who do the crowds say that I am?’ – seemed now to have a different trajectory to the one I’d always given it. It occurred to me now that this would merely be second-hand information – of what use is that to Jesus? It’s rarely accurate, as Jesus would certainly realise. Also, it seemed hard to believe that Jesus didn’t already know what the crowds thought of him. He was too perceptive not to be aware of his audiences’ general opinion of himself. But Jesus does want to know something: he wants to know how the disciples perceive the crowds’ understanding of himself. He wanted to explore, with his disciples, what the disciples thought the crowds thought of him. This was really a question about his disciples, then, and not the crowd. Yes, he was teaching them something, I thought.  

What was it?

We can pause here, and ponder these things until tomorrow, when we will resume our study.

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23 November: Columban Missionary Prayer V: in his own words.

Since we pass through this world
merely as pilgrims
let us keep our sights fixed on the end of the road,
where our real home lies.

Let us strive to please God
who is everywhere present,
so that we can happily pass along the road 
to the home of our heavenly Father.

AMEN.

A prayer of Saint Columban

At the end of a pilgrimage to Saint Edmundsbury is this processional cross. Around the base of the cross are the arrows with which King Edmund was martyred, The cross itself shines as the sun, drawing our eyes up to the crown of thorns – or is it a star? – that calls us to the end of the road that leads us past this little, earthly, devotional pilgrimage to that which Columban evokes: the road to the home of our heavenly Father.

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19 November: A space for prayer and reflection.

From Canon Anthony Charlton’s blog, exploring ways to welcome pilgrims to the shrine of Saints Thomas Becket and Oscar Romero in Canterbury.

It was a delight for me one afternoon recently to have eleven groups of students from the School of Architecture of the University of the Creative arts present to us their projects. They were asked to create in our Martyrs Chapel a space that should contain the relics of St Thomas More and St Oscar Romero. As one submission said the “space is without focus, having collected so many relics and icons over the years there is no order to how they are placed, creating a dissonant space which lacks a clear focal point for prayer and worship.”

I was very moved to see how each group presented their designs. There was much inspiration and it was great to see the different ways they found to create a space for prayer and reflection for pilgrims and those who wished to come and pray. Many of the submissions recognised there was a need for more light. One darkened the chapel and explored the relationship between the dark and the light of the relics. Another submission was bold in creating an outside entrance with an antechamber.

The challenge now is for parishioners to meet and decide the next step in creating a beautiful space for the relics of these two great Martyrs.

We look forward to that meeting and to developing the shrine as an accessible, welcoming space in the heart of Canterbury. Thank you, Canon Anthony! And let’s not sacrifice this window in the present shrine.

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14 November, Little Flowers XCIX: Turn me towards the city

We are now reading of Francis’s last days, after his epic journey to Assisi by donkey. The donkey and its master had gone back home and Francis could not have made his way down the hill from the bishop’s palace with its armed guards, to Santa Maria degli Angeli so the brothers carried him. It would have been a long way to carry him in their arms as the book tells us they did.

Then the friars took him up in their arms and so carried him; and many of the citizens accompanied them. And, coming to a hospice, which was by the way, Saint Francis said unto those who carried him: “Set me down on the ground, and turn me toward the city”. And, when he was set with his face toward Assisi, he blessed the city with many blessings, saying: “Blessed be thou of God, O holy city, for through thee many souls shall be saved, and in thee shall dwell many servants of God, and from thee many shall be chosen unto the Kingdom of Life Eternal”. And, when he had said these words, he caused them to carry him on to Santa Maria degli Angeli. 

And, when they arrived at Santa Maria degli Angeli, they bore him to the infirmary and there laid him down to rest.

The photograph is not Assisi, of course, but the city of London, seen from Greenwich Park. If you know where to look on the left hand horizon you can make out Saint Paul’s Cathedral. It’s hard to imagine pronouncing a blessing like Francis’s over the capital of Mammon, but nevertheless, we can learn from Francis, for the Spirit blows where she will. So perhaps we should bless our home town whenever we enter it, walking down the hill, stepping off the train, sitting in a traffic jam.

Blessed be thou of God, O holy city!

And remembering Francis’s early escapades, let us build the Church and build the city of God.

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9 November: Life and death in deserted places.

A deserted lochside, but for the Church.
A deserted lochside, but for the Church.

Fr Tom Herbst OFM, late of the Franciscan Study Centre here in Canterbury, chaplain to Kent University, and the sisters at Minster Abbey, friend to many in Kent, friend and contributor to this blog, died this evening in Pilgrims’ Hospice, Margate. Please pray for him and all left behind to mourn and celebrate him. Here is a November blog of his from a few years ago.

It seems to me ironic that the Yuletide feast begins, these days, around the middle of November.  Seasons of penitential purple should, in some ways, be hungry affairs; an open reminder that we all stand as beggars at the Lord’s table.

When Jesus fed the five thousand they were, I believe, impressed for two reasons. Obviously the dissolution of the wall, which separates nature from supernature, was something to write home about. What is sometimes overlooked, though, is the very real hunger in that place.

When the Apostle remarked that the multitude had nothing to eat he was, perhaps, saying more than he intended. Certainly the crowd had fasted that day. Many had fasted for their entire lives. Food was a precious commodity in a desert land and no harvest, however bountiful, was proof against starvation. Roman soldiers returning to barracks or out on a foray often simply took everything the people had. And if, by some chance, the strong provider failed? Did anyone ever count the widows and orphans found dead in the roadside ditches of ancient Palestine?

Those listening to Jesus on that long ago day believed that God saw it all. They wanted to believe that God cared. How amazed they must have been when the power of God filled, not only their hearts, but also their bellies. TJH

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1 November: All Saints, Martyr Sisters of Africa.

Photograph from Missionaries of Africa.

Sisters have helped the Church in Africa flourish. They are teachers, doctors, nurses, community leaders and much more. Some have been killed for their faith.The Christian Church will always have martyrs, but not all of them will be known about, except very locally to their place of work. Gail DeGeorge, editor of the Global Sisters Report website, tells how GSR are committed to honouring these martyrs. She gives the example of two sisters from South Sudan, shot down a year ago. (Click the link above for the full story.)

Members of the Archdiocese of Juba, South Sudan, attend the Aug. 20, 2021, burial of Srs. Mary Daniel Abut and Regina Roba, Sisters of the Sacred Heart who were killed when their bus was attacked Aug. 16. (Courtesy of Christy John)

Members of the Archdiocese of Juba, South Sudan, attend the Aug. 20, 2021, burial of Srs. Mary Daniel Abut and Regina Roba, Sisters of the Sacred Heart who were killed when their bus was attacked Aug. 16. (Courtesy of Christy John)

The brutal killing of Srs. Mary Daniel Abut and Regina Luate Roba in South Sudan on Aug. 16, 2021, shook me and so many others. It was an act so blatantly evil it was hard to comprehend.

They had travelled with other Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in Loa, where the congregation was founded. As they travelled home the next day, their van was ambushed by armed men who threatened the passengers. Some of the sisters and the male passengers left the van, hoping to divert the assailants and spare other passengers. Abut and Roba were hunted down, shot and killed, along with three other passengers.

Abut was the head teacher of a primary school and Roba, a tutor and administrator at the Catholic Health Training Institute. Both lived out their faith by working to improve the lives of others in the young and troubled nation of South Sudan. No one has been arrested in their killings.

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