We will soon be celebrating Saint Francis’s feast day. His motto was Pax et Bonum, Peace and Goodness be with you. What does this mean? Not shallow sweetness; it means hard work, following Jesus in prayer, community and service.
For Saint Francis it also meant working for peace, each one in his or her own heart and their local community, as well as looking at the bigger picture, as when he went to meet the sultan. The American Franciscan bishop John Stowe recently celebrated the half century of Pax Christi in the USA with this challenging article from National Catholic Reporter. Do follow the link to read it. Here is a short extract.
As we observe this golden jubilee of Pax Christi USA, we continue to long for the realization of Isaiah’s vision of swords and spears becoming instruments for cultivation of food. But we do not wait idly, we contribute to the building of that peaceable kingdom which Jesus inaugurated with his death and resurrection. We cultivate inwardly and demonstrate outwardly that peace which was breathed by the Risen Christ upon the apostles.
Altrincham Market Cross, the 1990 Replica, by Rept0n1x 2013. Notice the small business in the corner! The original Market Cross would have been surrounded by many small businesses. This post comes out a little late to allow us to enjoy in sequence Sister Johanna’s reflections on the rich young man who approached Jesus.
Pope Francis’s prayer intention for August: For small businesses.
We pray for small and medium sized businesses; in the midst of economic and social crisis, may they find ways to continue operating, and serving their communities.
Do you remember when Pope Francis made the headlines for visiting a record shop in Rome to buy a CD? That was support for one small business. I once read that back home in Argentina Cardinal Bergoglio used to take meals in a local family cafe rather than a branch of a big chain. Both those small businesses were serving their local community, rather than anonymous, distant owners.
Some local businesses in our city have closed down in recent times, partly as a result of covid restrictions on trading. Some, of course, were selling cheap souvenirs, something Canterbury was good at from after the death of Saint Thomas until the Reformation led to his shrine being desecrated. No tourists or pilgrims meant no trade.
Well, the continental teenagers are back in town. Let’s hope enough of them like the souvenirs, the ice-creams and refreshments to boost our local businesses. For my part, tomorrow I shall be visiting the street stalls selling fresh local fruit, thereby supporting farmers as well as traders. Not long now till the first Discovery apples appear!
A further reflection on the working out of Blessed Pauline Jaricot’s vocation. To find out more about Pauline Jaricot, visit: missio.org.uk/Pauline
Every missionary disciple walks in the footsteps of Jesus. Pauline Jaricot developed the spirituality of the laity; not in founding a Religious community, but a Marian association of women at the service of the poor. Pauline invites us to value the vocation of each baptised person. God’s plan for Pauline was to follow Christ step- by-step: ‘As the Father sent me, so I am sending you too!’ Let us pray that we, baptised and sent, fulfill our calling as missionary disciples.
This Month Pope Francis urges us missionaries to pray for faith-filled young people. The Polish Pope, St John-Paul II, was well-known for his devotion to the Mother of Jesus. The Argentinian Pope spells out the practical virtues that the real-life Mary embodied. May all young people receive and exercise the gift of these virtues for themselves and all around them.
We pray for all young people, called to live life to the fullest; may they see in Mary’s life the way to listen, the depth of discernment, the courage that faith generates, and the dedication to service. AMEN.
A different thought for Easter day. What is the meaning of the feast for us, who live in a very different world to the first century Palestine of Jesus and his disciples? What does it mean to be a disciple today. This Scottish Island farmer from early last century has an answer that can encourage us in our faith and our daily Christian life.
Seven times a day, as I work upon this hungry farm,
I say to Thee, 'Lord, why am I here?
What is there here to stir my gifts into life?
What great things can I do for others --
I who am captive to this dreary soil?'
And seven times a day, Thou answerest,
'I cannot do without thee.
Once did My Son live thy life,
and by his faithfulness did show My mind,
and my truth to men.
But now He is come to My Side,
and thou must take His place.'
The Covid-19 global pandemic; the economic crisis that has followed and the failure of political, economic and social structures to protect the weakest and most vulnerable; and the racism that blights our communities have underlined the global need for a light to shine in the darkness. The star that shone in the East, (the Middle East), two thousand years ago still leads us to the manger, to where Christ was born. It draws us to where the Spirit of God is alive and active.
After encountering the Saviour and worshipping him together, the Magi return to their countries by a different way, having been warned in a dream. The communion we share in our prayer together must inspire us to return to ourselves, our churches and our world by new ways. But what does this mean in practice?
Serving the Gospel today requires a commitment to humankind, especially the poorest, the weakest and those marginalised. It requires from the churches transparency and accountability in dealing with the world, and with each other. This means churches need to cooperate to provide relief to the afflicted, to welcome the displaced, to relieve the burdened, and to build a just and honest society.
This is a call for churches to work together so that we can all build a good future according to God’s heart, a future in which all human beings can experience life, peace, justice, and love.
Jesus came into the world as each child comes into the world, weak and vulnerable, so that we can learn to accept our weaknesses with tender love. And to discover something important. As he did in Bethlehem, so too with us, God loves to work wonders through our poverty.
God came among us in poverty and need, to tell us that in serving the poor, we will show our love for him.
Was the Lord right in giving us so much? Is he right still to trust us? Does he not overestimate us? Of course, he overestimates us, and he does this because he is madly in love with us. He cannot help but love us.
Jesus, you are the Child who makes me a child. You love me as I am, not as I imagine myself to be. In embracing you, the Child of the manger, I once more embrace my life. In welcoming you, the Bread of life, I too desire to give my life. You, my Saviour, teach me to serve. You who did not leave me alone, help me to comfort your brothers and sisters, for from this night forward, all are my brothers and sisters.
Talking of trees as we were yesterday: the L’Arche garden where we were listening and looking for the robin was blessed and opened by the then Bishop of Dover, Trevor Willmott. I found this quotation from Bishop Trevor the other day.
‘If I knew the world was to end tomorrow, I would plant a tree today’. Of all that Martin Luther wrote and said, these words resonate strongly with me and, I would hope, with the whole Christian Church as we continue to seek and to bear out witness to Jesus Christ and to serve the needs of His world.
A world that badly needs trees! At the Glebe the other day we saw a squirrel planting nuts – or storing them for future use. Squirrel won’t remember them all. Some may well germinate and grow, in which case we gardeners will pot them on and think about where to plant them. If you don’t know where to plant yours, the Woodland Trust will do that for you in the UK; other charities will help people plant trees overseas and make sure they are watered and survive. Last December we met the Happy Man Tree in Hackney, London, which did not survive despite local pressure to keep it and build around it. It was felled earlier this year to make way for housing.
It is the feast of Saint Francis, so here is the story of a Franciscan vocation, beneath a model of a Franciscan parish in South America, sent in by Brother Chris. The story is that of Brother Martin, a Capuchin Franciscan: we share the first paragraph, the rest can be read here.
The Lord calls people in various ways and I heard His invitation when I was 17. Few years prior to that I became seriously ill and in search of treatment. I ended up moving from my home country of Poland to England. Dreams of studying languages changed into the hope of studying medicine. During my preparations for A’ levels, however, another event occurred that made me set out on a totally different course in life – I came across a person known to the world as Padre Pio, a Capuchin saint. Through his intercession I was partially cured of my illness and a desire was born within me to be a religious. I had no idea what that would entail, but I thought it cool to wear the habit, have a long beard, do penance whilst living conscious of the presence of God all the time!
No rainbow without sunshine! The Skye bridge is a new gateway to the isles.
Over the coming weeks, we will be introducing prayers and reflections from Alistair Maclean’s Hebridean Altars, pearls he harvested from the people of the Isles, a hundred years and more ago. This Island Girl’s prayer fits neatly into our sideways look at vocation in the everyday, as well as belonging in this month’s postings.
This day, I say to myself,
is Thy love-gift to me.
White with the purity of Thy mind,
I take it, Lord, from Thy hand,
and, for the wonder of it,
I give Thee thanks.
Make me busy in Thy service
throughout its hours,
yet not so busy that I cannot sing
a happy song.
And may the South wind
blow its tenderness through my heart
so that I may bear myself gently to all.
And may the sunshine of it
pass into my thoughts,
so that each shall be
a picture of Thy thought,
and noble and right.