Tag Archives: saints

22 September: Walking with Jesus

Yesterday, thanks to Sister Johanna Caton OSB we saw Matthew getting up from his desk in the tax office to follow Jesus. Today Canon Anthony Charlton invites us to walk with the two disciples who were making for Emmaus on the first Easter Day. Taken from Saint Thomas’ Canterbury website, which invites us to share its reflections.


The disciples are walking away from Jerusalem. Walking away from the three years they has spent in the company of the one their believed to be the Messiah, the Christ. But he had been crucified and buried and their hope and dreams had been buried with him. No wonder they were downcast. Their belief in Jesus has been shattered. They were walking back to their old way of life. They were leaving behind the new life that they had embraced.

Jesus joined them. They didn’t recognise him. He sensed their sadness and asked them why they were sad. They responded by relating all that had happened and they shared with him their hopes and dreams. “Our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free.” Jesus listened as they opened their hearts to him. Only when he had listened did he respond by going the through the scriptures. “Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself.” These were scriptures they were familiar with. They had learnt these from their youth. Coming from Jesus they seemed to hear them anew almost as of they were hearing them for the first time. They said later: “Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?”

Why not in your mediation and prayer tell Jesus what you are experiencing. Perhaps telling him what is making you sad and unhappy about your calling, your way of life. Share with him your disappointments and then let the Scriptures shed light on what are your concerns. Is the way I see things the only way? “Let Jesus words work on all the thoughts that occur to you today”

Lord help me to understand the sufferings and disappointments that I experience. I believe that you lead me into everything, that God the Father carries me in the palm of his hand. Help me to understand what you are telling me, what you have in mind for me? Show me your way. 

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21 September: Matthew’s call, IV.

One way, no looking back!


I feel that this lectio period is reaching its end. If you are just joining this blog today, I hope you will scroll back three days to the beginning of these posts and catch up with our reflection on Matthew’s call. This post will be asking what Matthew’s response to Jesus’ call teaches.

Matthew has emerged in an entirely new light for me through this lectio experience. He didn’t have much personality for me before; now I see him as a dynamic man, capable of great insight and of quickly understanding the core truth in a situation. I see that he grasped the fact that this invitation from Jesus was not going to be offered twice. He grasped that the opportunity to associate himself with Jesus was more important than anything else. Matthew saw that to fail to respond to the invitation issued by Jesus would be to consign himself to the deepest misery. It would mean losing Jesus, letting him pass right out of his life. This, Matthew realises instantly, was unthinkable – it would be tragedy. I see that Matthew wants Jesus to lead. He starts off in his discipleship seeing Jesus’ back and he knows he must keep it in view – the metaphor perhaps for all the unknowns which are an integral part of the experience of every disciple of Jesus.

What else has happened here? I turn to my own life and look into my heart. I am struck anew by the fact that it’s important not to play with Jesus. Matthew doesn’t. Jesus’ invitation to Matthew and the way Jesus handles the entire encounter show clearly that when he calls, it is not a game. It is the privilege of a lifetime. Matthew saw this. Jesus will not tolerate shilly-shallying; he is God, and he expects a life-commitment.

As I look at my life now, I realise again that each day my discipleship will be tested. Am I really ready to drop whatever I’m doing, leave whatever Jesus asks me to leave today, and put my whole heart into following him, without looking back? I see that I cannot rest on yesterday’s good deeds (if there were any) or skate along on yesterday’s momentum. Every day I must push off afresh, keeping Jesus’ ‘back’ in view – or, in other words, accepting all the unknowns that exist in my life with him. Every day I must be like Matthew. And the alternative? The alternative is to lose Jesus, to see his back receding into the distance. He moves quickly.

I return to the thought with which I opened this reflection. Matthew was sitting down in the beginning of the story. But now? He is hurrying along the road, following Jesus. He is never pictured in the gospel as sitting down again. And I realise that discipleship is simply not a sit-down job. Not for Matthew, not for me. Oh, sure – we’re talking metaphor now, and not body language. The Lord may ask one to spend time at a desk job working for the kingdom. But on the most fundamental level, the disciple is always rising up from the inertia of the past – even if the past is only yesterday – the true disciple is always moving quickly to obey the Lord, ready to respond to the Lord’s exciting invitation, “Follow me” – today.

Thank you, Sister Johanna! It’s been good to spend these four days with you and Matthew. Thank you especially for encouraging us to listen out for our call, and to be ready to follow Jesus, today!


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20 September: Matthew’s call, III

A hand of welcome or of exclusion – most people reject him, but what is Jesus saying to Matthew? We continue with Sister Johanna’s reflection on the calling of Matthew.

And Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” And Matthew got up and followed him. (See Matthew 9:9).

Jesus’ sure-footedness here takes my breath away. What a thrilling moment in Matthew’s life. I find myself entering into Matthew’s thoughts, seeing him in my imagination. He’s not adding up figures; he is sitting absolutely still. He’s just heard Jesus speak to him. Jesus said, “Follow me.” Matthew suddenly has a huge amount of emotion to process in no time at all. His head’s in a whirl. Matthew, the despised tax collector, finds that Jesus – this radiantly good and kind man – has noticed him, really seen him, even ‘read’ him.

Matthew feels confused and flustered by this affirmation – he’s not used to it. People rarely even look at him, and now this! From a holy man! He doesn’t quite know what to think. He habitually kept his defences up in order to shield himself from the hostility that was directed against him every working day of his life, but now, this Jesus actually wanted Matthew to be around. Most people couldn’t see too little of Matthew, but Jesus had just said, “Follow me.” ‘Follow him where?’ Matthew thinks. ‘Why? To do what? Nothing is adding up,’ Matthew thinks. But then, in an overwhelming flash of insight in which he sees his entire life in an utterly new way, he realises that things don’t have to ‘add up’ anymore – and Jesus was getting away! Jesus was walking down the road. Hurry, Matthew! Matthew rises from his seat, he stands. He walks, he runs – runs right out of his hated tax office and races down the street following Jesus.

And Jesus? Jesus’ methods are always surprising. Here, Jesus actually gives Matthew an instant ‘open door’ into discipleship. Jesus does not coddle, coax, explain or make lavish promises, but he wastes no time in realising his plans. He says ‘Follow me,’ and then he gives Matthew himself to follow. He turns. He walks. What was important for Jesus was to determine whether Matthew could really leave his chains. Any hesitation on Matthew’s part would have signalled an addiction to his sad situation, a perverse liking for its misery and loneliness – perhaps because of the pseudo-importance it conferred. And Matthew comes through the test brilliantly. He was ready. He follows as soon as he can scramble through the doorway. He becomes a disciple. Nowhere in the New Testament is it suggested that Matthew ever looks back.

Tomorrow, we’ll see what conclusions we can draw from these reflections.

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19 September: Matthew’s call, Part II.

The taxman is needed in civil society. These tokens were issued by German cities between the two World Wars. Money had lost its value and something had to be done to allow people to buy and sell and the city councils to provide the services they needed. We continue reading Sister Johanna’s reflection on the calling of Matthew the taxman.


And Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” And Matthew got up and followed him.
(See Matthew 9:9).

Something must have been going on in Matthew’s head that day that was different, that prepared him for Jesus’ summons. Maybe he wasn’t as preoccupied as he seemed to be. We’re not told what was in his mind, but I continue to reflect on the short text from Matthew 9:9.

We can assume that tax collectors were part of a crowd that could be generally relied upon to be cynically dismissive of Jesus – this idealistic rabbi who talked about a ‘kingdom’ of his own and travelled around with a group of scruffy, uneducated men. But Matthew was different – or at least, he had the potential to be different, and Jesus saw this. What did Jesus see in Matthew? Looking at Matthew from the outside, as it were, and objectively, anyone might have seen a capable man who was good with numbers. Matthew was, most likely, rather dishonest in the way most tax collectors were dishonest – raising the tax fees in order to skim off the extra for himself. But, with unerring judgement, Jesus intuited that this man, Matthew – Levi, as he was known at the time – wasn’t just a hard-boiled money-grabber. He was inwardly ready for precisely the summons he received. How do we know? We don’t know yet, if we are taking this story step by step. But in a few minutes we will see something astonishing. Let’s wait for it, asking the Holy Spirit to inspire our imagination. Jesus is just coming up to the tax office now.

Jesus knows that Matthew’s professional life did not make a promising statement about Matthew’s personal qualities, but Jesus tells us in precisely this context (see Mt.9:12-13) that he came for people like Matthew – the ‘sick’, who needed the doctor. Jesus also knows the power of his own personality to bring about a change of heart in those who are truly ready to surrender themselves to him. There is no false modesty in Jesus. Again and again Jesus offers himself – he knows who he is, knows that he himself is the pearl of great price. He knows he is the Son, the Son of God and very God. Jesus sees what is good in Matthew.

Let’s come back to Matthew. It’s quite possible that Matthew hated his job. But did he have an exit route? That is highly doubtful. No one liked tax collectors or trusted them Even if he quit his job, who else would have hired him? Matthew was trapped in a trap of his own devising. But is that all? Surely, there were a lot of trapped people around then, just as there are a lot of trapped people around now. Jesus didn’t call them. He called Matthew. Why? Matthew’s unique readiness must have been apparent to Jesus, even though it was almost certainly hidden from everyone else.

I’m beginning to answer my question as to Matthew’s back-story – at least to some extent. Matthew was ready for change, fed up to the back-teeth with his life. But let’s think: don’t we all know people who spend their life complaining about their situation and looking woebegone, but should the opportunity to make a change for the better actually be given to them, suddenly they are eloquent with excuses. In fact, such people love their chains and cannot handle freedom and its responsibilities. Jesus wanted to give Matthew the chance to show that he was emphatically not one of those.


Now, Jesus is standing there in front of Matthew. By the power of his mere presence, he gains Matthew’s attention. Matthew looks up from his task of adding columns of figures. He’s looking at Jesus now, waiting for what Jesus will say. Jesus utters the famous words, “Follow me.” Let’s watch. The text indicates that Jesus, after issuing his invitation to Matthew, does not hang around to chat or talk him into the idea. He is abrupt. (Even Peter had been given a small sales pitch by Jesus: “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men”.) Jesus doesn’t even call Matthew by name. Or not yet. By implication, we can be pretty sure that what Jesus does next is turn and begin to walk, giving Matthew the perfect view of his back.


Let’s leave Matthew here till tomorrow. If you had been in his place, what would you have thought?

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18 September: Matthew’s Call I.


We now have a little series of four reflections from Sister Johanna of Minster Abbey, this time on Jesus’ calling of Matthew the tax collector. It is his feastday at the end.

The picture shows two of the tools of the trade. They were brought home by a retiring taxman in England. By the time he retired, IT had replaced flimsy paper and Stationery Office wooden rulers, he dug them out from the bottom of the drawer and brought them home. Over to you, Sister!

And Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” And Matthew got up and followed him. (See Matthew 9:9).

The writers of the synoptic Gospels rarely relate the same episode in the same way. One notable exception is the account of the calling of Matthew. The three synoptic writers, Matthew, Mark and Luke, all tell the story in the briefest way possible. Jesus just turned up at Matthew’s tax office one day, said two words, “Follow me,” (or the Aramaic equivalent) and Matthew did. Immediately.

We know this text so well that its power to astonish us may have worn off. I, in fact, have always found this text a bit skimpy on description, rather un-dramatic and a little flat. I want to know more about the back-story, about Matthew’s state of mind on that day. Consequently, I probably haven’t given the story enough of a chance to talk to me. So I resolve today to slow way down and try to look at this text as though I’ve never seen it before. This is what lectio divina is about: diving down into a text’s deep pool and, through the grace of the Holy Spirit at work, both within the text and within my mind and heart, finding the story’s hidden meaning – and, yes, even its drama. The exercise never disappoints me. I begin, asking for the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

The first thing I notice, then, is that Matthew, the tax collector was “sitting” in the tax office. We don’t usually get descriptions of body-language in the New Testament, but a quick flip through the pages of my New Testament confirms what I suspected: in all three synoptic gospels, Matthew’s physical position is given. It must be important I think, but why? Who cares that Mathew’s sitting down?

As I pray about this seemingly insignificant detail, it occurs to me that a sitting person is not only stationary but apt to be quite engaged on the interior level – more so, anyway, than when charging around busily, focusing on accomplishing tasks. Matthew was sitting because his work usually required it; he’d have been at a desk or table, writing, counting money, adding up columns of figures, absorbed in his intellectual work. He was occupied, even preoccupied – presumably not in the mood for a spiritual event of life-changing proportions. He was also doing things that would have been distasteful to a decent human being. Was he a decent human being? Many of the townspeople would have denied it roundly. He was, after all, taking the tax money from his own people who could ill afford to pay it, pocketing a certain percentage of the proceeds, giving the rest to the Romans, and, even more scandalously, turning the screws on those who did not, or could not, pay. But it was part of the job; he had to do it and he did do it. I see him now, sitting, head down, counting, adding up, writing, not making eye contact with anyone, not smiling, brow furrowed in concentration.

I wonder what this was like for Matthew. Matthew was a Jew in the employment of the Romans – the occupying political power. He, like all the Jews, was in a difficult situation. Matthew, however, had figured out how to manipulate the situation to his financial advantage. But at what emotional and social price? Of what use to him, he may well have wondered, was his financial security when he had no friends? For any friend of the Romans, anyone who voluntarily did their dirty business for them – and particularly, any Jew who did the Romans’ dirty business – was doubly scorned by the other Jews. Matthew was a traitor. No one liked the tax collectors. In Matthew’s case, he was probably intensely hated. But this was a normal working day for Matthew, differing little from every other working day. He was sitting down, adding up figures, getting on with it. Or was it really a normal day for him?

Those who’ve read my posts before know I’m apt to leave certain things dangling for twenty-four hours so that the reader has time to pray over the text and perhaps ask questions of the Holy Spirit. I hope you will come back tomorrow for the continuation of our meditation.

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12 September: the fragments that remain to us.

A defaced carving of St Mark with his lion, Canterbury.

This XIX Century passage captures a moment when attitudes to relics and pilgrimages were beginning to change. Since then the sites of many saints’ shrines have been refurbished to welcome visitors, who may be bemused, but are not as scornful as our writer feared. The modern loving inscriptions on seaside or park benches are in direct line to the shrines of saints, not to mention the verses and flower symbols carved into grave markers.

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It is not, perhaps, a difficult matter for an age which has lost all faith in saints, and almost all in the possibility of saintliness, to find ground for scornful derision in the devotion of the men of old, to the tombs of the hallowed dead; but it is, at least, open to question whether such a method of raising funds for religious purposes was not quite as legitimate and consistent as the modern fancy for the frivolity of a “Bazaar”, or the feebleness of an amateur concert.

Alas! That in speaking of the English shrines, one should have to speak always of what has been, or of the fragments, the shadows, the dry records only, that remain to us. If the veneration of centuries, if the glories of art, had no voice that could be heard against the clamorous cupidity of the despoiler, surely one might have hoped that the presence of the holy dead would have availed to arrest the royal tyrant and the puritan  bigot in their career of sacrilege and crime.

Some English Shrines by the Rev. Geo. S. Tyack, B.A. in Curious Church Gleanings, ed William Andrews, F.R.S.H., Hull, William Andrews & Co, 1896.

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Her Majesty the Queen

Her Majesty the Queen
Her Majesty the Queen 
Elizabeth Alexandra Mary
21 April 1926 – 8 September 2022

The people of St Thomas of Canterbury parish community join with the rest of the nation in mourning the death of Her Majesty the Queen. Confident in the gift of everlasting life given at baptism we now pray for her.

Incline your ear, O Lord, to our prayers by which we humbly entreat your mercy, that as you graciously numbered your servant Elizabeth, among your people in this world, you may now set her in a place of peace and light and grant her a share in the company of your Saints. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.

Here is a message from Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster.

Canon Anthony Charlton

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9 September: Augustine and Anon on the Suicide of Judas

Tomorrow is World Suicide Prevention Day. Whenever I think about suicide, I have this image before my inward eye: the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, undoing the knot by which Judas hanged himself, ready to remove him from the influence of the mocking demons at Hell’s Gate. The Gospels tell us that Judas betrayed Jesus to the collaboration rulers of the Jewish people, which led to the crucifixion on Good Friday. Augustine says that Judas’ suicide did not wipe away his guilt for Jesus’ death but added another wrong to that overwhelming transgression. Yet there would still have been room for healing penitence if he had been open to it.

The anonymous mediaeval sculptor of Strasbourg Cathedral clearly believed that Judas was forgiven, even after his suicide; sometimes the artist can convey the message more clearly than the philosopher!

But here is Augustine*:

Do we justly execrate the deed of Judas, and does truth itself pronounce that by hanging himself he rather aggravated than expiated the guilt of that most iniquitous betrayal, since, by despairing of God’s mercy in his sorrow that wrought death, he left to himself no place for a healing penitence?

How much more ought he to abstain from laying violent hands on himself who has done nothing worthy of such a punishment! For Judas, when he killed himself, killed a wicked man; but he passed from this life chargeable not only with the death of Christ, but with his own: for though he killed himself on account of his crime, his killing himself was another crime.

Why, then, should a man who has done no ill do ill to himself, and by killing himself kill the innocent?

We are still asking the same question today. Part of the answer is there in Matthew’s Gospel; Judas felt he was on his own and past redemption:

 When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”

“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”

So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.

Matthew 27:3-5

Judas was alone when he most needed a friend. The disciples were too immersed in their own grief to look out for him. The Councillors made it perfectly clear that Judas was no longer of use to them and dissociate themselves from him. With no-one at hand to help, he went away and hanged himself. Tomorrow we visit the Grief Project, aiming to strengthen and comfort those bereaved by suicide, and to prevent its occurring in the first place.

*City of God by Saint Augustine, Marcus Dods.

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4 September, Relics XXXIII: Precious Gifts.

It’s good to hear from Fr Valentine Erhanon in his new parish in Streatham Hill, South London. These three stories speak of relics: books given in memory of a late friend; sacred vessels that unite Streatham Hill today with the dioceses that used Wonersh over more than a century and in the future; and the saint of Lourdes whose bones will soon be visiting Britain on pilgrimage, a saint who did not have to travel to encounter grace through the Mother of God, though millions now make their way to the spot where their meetings took place. This post comes from Fr Valentine’s parish newsletter.

Gifts – Books from Oxfordshire:
I would like to thank Rita Davies from Oxfordshire, a good friend, and now a friend of the parish, that has donated 12 boxes of books of theology, instruction, practice, Catholic biography and missals plus devotional leaflets and prayer cards, all of which will be a good foundation for our Parish library. We receive these books in honour of her beloved husband: Twiston. May he continue to rest in Peace, and rise in Glory. Amen.


Gifts – Chalice and Ciborium from Saint John’s Seminary Wonersh:
I would like to thank Canon Luke Smith for offering us the gift of a Chalice and Ciborium from my Alma Mater, Saints John’s Seminary Wonersh. You may know that Saint John’s Seminary closed last year, after 130 years of forming men for the priesthood; and the items of the seminary are finding a good home around the world. I signified interest that our parish would like to have a thing or two and we were gifted these most sacred items of historical value. It is an honour and treasure to have a part of the seminary in our parish.

Whenever we say Mass with them, we will remember to pray for vocations to the priesthood.


St Bernadette Relic Tour

In September and October this year, the relics of St Bernadette will journey on pilgrimage to England, Scotland, and Wales for the very first time. This very special once in a lifetime event will provide an opportunity for people of all ages and backgrounds to experience the special gifts and charisms of Lourdes, in a church or cathedral near them. For your information, the relics are due to visit St George’s Cathedral from the morning of Wednesday 19 October until the morning of Friday 21 October 2022; they will also visit Aylesford from Monday 24 October until Friday 28 October 2022. Please consult the website of each venue for further details.

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3 September: Gregory the Great on rulers, and the Good Samaritan

Saint Gregory at the Roman slave market, Saint Thomas’ church, Canterbury, Kent.

Pope Saint Gregory I, who sent Saint Augustine to Canterbury in 597, was concerned to bring Benedictine discipline to the church, so wrote his Pastoral Care to help bishops and leaders. Here he is reflecting on how those in authority should relate to the people who answer to them. Whether we are in authority or under it, we can all relate to what he says. He calls Jesus ‘the Truth’, a name he gives himself in John’s Gospel, (14:6).

There ought to be in rulers towards their subjects both compassion justly considerate, and discipline affectionately severe.

Hence, as the Truth teaches (Luke x. 34), the man is brought by the care of the Samaritan half dead into the inn, and both wine and oil are applied to his wounds; the wine to make them smart, the oil to soothe them. For whosoever superintends the healing of wounds must needs administer in wine the smart of pain, and in oil the softness of loving-kindness, to the end that through wine what is festering may be purged, and through oil what is curable may be soothed.

Gentleness, then, is to be mingled with severity; a sort of compound is to be made of both; so that subjects be neither exasperated by too much asperity, nor relaxed by too great kindness.

From “Pastoral Care” by Pope Gregory I.

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