Father Peter shared this story in Missio magazine, Autumn 2022.
I was driving slowly in the countryside on one of Kenya’s dusty, gravelly roads.
Just ahead of me I saw a young girl walking by the side of the road carrying a chicken. As I drove past, the chicken jumped out of her hands and flew into the side of my car and was killed.
I stopped the car, got out, and apologised to the girl – although it was not my fault. The poor girl was distraught, looking down at her dead chicken lying on the road which would now not lay any eggs for the family.
Seeing her distress, I gave her 10 shillings. Her eyes lit up and a smile crossed her face. With that money she could go back to the market and buy not just one but two egg-laying chickens! Not only that, but she could also take the dead chicken home and she and her family could have a tasty meal. Best of all – she would not face the wrath of her parents!
To live a Christ-like life, one does not need to perform heroic acts of self–sacrifice! Small everyday acts of kindness, compassion and caring can turn sadness into joy and make us channels of God’s love.
FATHER PETER You can write to Fr Peter at: 41 Victoria Road, Formby, Liverpool L37 1LW
Mission Today Autumn 2022 published bu Missio -England and Wales Build a vibrant Catholic Church for the future
FATHER PETER You can write to Fr Peter at: 41 Victoria Road, Formby, Liverpool L37 1LW
Pope Francis has asked for special prayers for Pope Emeritus Benedict. He is 95 years old and suffering other symptoms.
This photo shows Benedict presiding at a Christmas meal for poor people and their supporters. Before this there was a protocol that the Pope never ate in public let alone with poor people. This excused a Pope from state banquets but other faithful were not deemed worthy to share a meal with him. No longer so, thanks to Pope Benedict.
They like bikes in Belgium! Not that they are always the most appropriate means of transport. This is the story of an overloaded bike in Canterbury and what happened next.
We begin with Will parking his bike against a rack where there was already a red lady’s Dutch style bike, not unlike the one outside the shop above. When Will had finished his shopping, the Dutch bike had gone, but there was a red purse on the ground. It had an address in it, a few minutes’ ride away, so off he went. It was shortly before Christmas.
The door was opened by an older lady, dressed in red, pleased to have her purse back: ‘My basket was too full, I am silly!’ now she was ready to press me to take tea in her winter-wonderland front room. A red settee and armchair, flashing lights and a glorious fake tree, a few copies of the Watchtower. The Watchtower magazine of Jehovah’s Witnesses? The same.
Yes, Mrs S was a Witness. Will had always believed that Jehovah’s Witnesses stood at a distance from Christmas and all things Yule. There had been the time when our regular witness missioner, Joe, had knocked on our door at 1.00 p.m. on December 25th with a personal delivery of the magazine. Obviously Christmas day was nothing to him. There had been more than one year when Witnesses expected a Christmas tree, given by a family, to be removed from a shared bay of the hospice where Mrs Turnstone worked. No surrender to other people’s sensibilities there, even when the other people were dying.
‘I came late to the Witnesses through my late husband,’ she explained. ‘But I like to put up something for Christmas to welcome my friends and neighbours. And the lights are a lovely, comforting sight at this time.’
‘What does Joe have to say about it?’ I asked. ‘He knows I take round my share of leaflets. He doesn’t have to know that I have a Christmas tree!’
And perhaps her Christmas tree and hospitality were as powerful a witness as her magazine.
Bruno is a babe in arms, still dependent on milk from his mother, as is to be expected in one so young. But Bruno has other ideas. He sits, he watches, he thinks about what he sees. He thinks about his hands and feet, moving them around and sucking them. His mouth and eyes bring him plenty to think about.
The holiday cottage had no dining table so Bruno was sitting on his mother’s knee as she ate her pasta with tomato sauce, a delicate balancing act. Bruno sat, watched, thought about what he saw. He saw Mummy eating off a plate, he saw Daddy eating off a plate; he saw Granny and Grandad and Aunty eating off their plates. He saw hands moving to mouths. He thought, I can do that. So he did.
In very short order, his hands were smeared with pasta sauce, his mouth was smeared with pasta sauce and Mummy was shunting the pasta swirls out of Bruno’s reach. Bruno carried on smearing and sucking his fingers, very pleased with himself.
There’s no going back: Mummy and Daddy, you have to help me to eat solid food!
I am reminded of a previous post in this series where Chico, a young sparrow, was sitting, watching, and thinking about what he saw. And almost coming to grief.
We have to be ready to feed each other and keep each other safe from choking or from hurting ourselves. It may be offering someone hospitality or a taste of this or that, supporting the local food bank or international charities like Mary’s Meals or Water Aid.
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!
If you were in church yesterday, no doubt you’ll have seen the Advent wreath with a single candle burning. Do you have one at home? There’s still time to make one, or you could just light a candle. Mrs Turnstone and I have ours on the dining table and we would hold hands around it with the children and sing grace. We now do the same with the grandchildren. We also sing the chorus of the Advent hymn:
Rejoice, Rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to thee, oh Israel!
This story is from Alexander McCall Smith’s ‘The House of Unexpected Sisters’.* Mma Ramotswe is ready to serve the evening meal to her husband and two children. Perhaps we could revive the practice of saying grace this Advent, and be ready to find new forms of grace to remind us that all we have is God’s gift, and the greatest gift is the One that came at Christmas.
‘Dinner is ready now, I think.’
She ladled stew into four plates, and placed these, one by one, on the table. Once seated herself, Mma Ramotswe bowed her head and said grace. ‘We give thanks for the food our country gives us, and we think of those who do not have what we have. We give thanks for Africa and for the good things that Africa gives its children.
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.
I was wondering why I had heard nothing from Eddie Gilmore for a while. Well, he has been to Korea with Yim Soon, to mark their thirty years of marriage. Congratulations!
Eddie posted this account of his holiday, which got off to an inauspicious start in and around various European airports, but turned into a great treat for the soul. Let’s rejoice with Eddie and Yim Soon, and before the memories fade, be grateful for the blessings of the summer that has now brought us to autumn, a time of reflection and new beginnings. At L’Arche Kent we’ll be planting bulbs for a start!
Here’s an extract from Eddie’s story:
Having left home on the Friday I finally landed in Seoul on the Monday. It was hot and humid, the monsoon season had just begun, and I was exhausted: hungry too, since you don’t get fed on planes the way you used to. After a couple of nights with Yim Soon’s eldest sister Son Ja, whose apartment was mercifully close to a mini-mountain with wonderful views over the city, we were picked up by Son Ja’s daughter Son Young for the three-hour (if there’s no traffic, otherwise it’s seven hours!) drive East to the Sorak national park. It’s a place that holds special memories for me: good walking, beautiful waterfalls, also its close proximity to the East Sea, where we had some fun times on the beach, partly due to the mountains being closed to the public due to the heavy rain. Thankfully they were reopened for our day to Daechongbong and Yim Soon and I were on the trail at 8 a.m. having dropped our bags at the temple where we would be spending the night. We were on the top at just after 2 p.m., having almost given up a couple of times on what seemed impossibly steep sections. I’m glad we pressed on and we were rewarded with stunning views over the lower peaks and all the way to the sea. We made it back down to the temple just in time for the final check-in at 6.30 p.m. but having missed dinner! No matter, we were both too tired to eat but what a good fatigue it is that comes from extreme physical exertion. There was a ‘full Korean breakfast’ on offer at 6.30 a.m., the only condition being that we had to wear the ‘temple robes’ that had been assigned to us on arrival which were grey trousers and a yellow jacket. I’ll wear anything for a good meal!
The elderly lady that Arthur and I garden for now lives alone in the house that was her bed and breakfast business. She constantly gave of herself to her family and guests with beautiful food, but now relies on carers to put her meals on the table, because sometimes she forgets important things like eating.
Today we were talking about this experience of giving back to God some of our faculties in old age and being cared for. ‘That is true,’ she said, ‘but we can still sit around the table and enjoy a cup of tea and good company. That is good, thank you for coming to see me.’
Thank you for the world so sweet,
Thank you for the food we eat,
Thank you for the birds that sing,
Thank you God, for everything.
in 1937 Ernest Claxton published a photograph album by Harold Burdekin based on this grace, all six verses illustrated by scenes from childhood in soft photogravure.* He wrote: ‘This simple grace … is so full of praise, so beautiful, that it at once brings home the joyful message of the Giver of all good things.
‘Natural and happy hours in a child’s life may be linked up with the realisation of God’s love. If this is done at an early age, children will learn to know that He is a loving Father.’
Two years on, children were being evacuated to the countryside from London and other cities; similar scenes were played out across Europe. The war in Ukraine is by no means the first since then with families forced into refuge away from home, away from their native land.
At this holiday time, let us pray for the wisdom to know how to bring natural and happy hours to the lives of children in our families, among our neighbours, at home and across the world.
*E. E. Claxton, H Burdekin (photographer), A Child’s Grace, London, Dent, 1937;