Tag Archives: shared table

7 April, Shared Table XII: Washing Up is Part of the Meal.

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I’m afraid this posting is well and truly out of sequence! Our Shared Table season will begin at Corpus Christi, June 18 in England, but this follows on from yesterday’s reflection on ‘eat whatever they set before you.’

More than one local miner told me that the men who had been sent down here to Kent to open the new pits were largely the ‘awkward squad’ from mines in Scotland, Wales and Northern England. George was one of the last-named. His reputation lives on, as I discovered maybe twenty years after he left us, when I was working in his village of Aylesham.

George was not awkward for the sake of it. He saw the hardships and injustice his fellow miners endured in the days before the pits were nationalised and did something about it. He often pointed out that landowners whose fields sat over coal measures earned more from selling the concessions than the miners who endured harsh conditions to dig it out. George conquered a stammer to be able to stand up and speak for his fellow workers. He even went back to the mines after spending his War service in the Merchant Navy.

In his ill-health retirement – coal was not always kind to those who worked it – he came to L’Arche from home, working in the garden or the workshop, sharing our meals, and always first at the sink when washing up was to be done. There was always plenty of it, and if George did not cook, he certainly contributed to the meal and to the community in this way.

George was a cheerful giver, and is no doubt cheerful in a happy place now.

MMB.

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6 April, Advice to Missionaries: Eat whatever they set before you.

 

Meet Jean-Marie Vianney K. Cishugi who is a student with the Missionaries of Africa, White Fathers. Here he is writing of his early days in Zambia, learning two languages to be able to work with the local people.

“Nitabile hahulu kuli nakona kubulela silozi.”

“I am very happy to speak Silozi.”

« Je suis très content de parler le lozi. »

By Jean-Marie Vianney K. Cishugi, stagiaire.

I came to Zambia in July 2016 to follow the “Welcome to Zambia” introductory course in Lusaka. It was not easy for me to communicate efficiently in English. I made an effort to learn and to practise with people who were willing to help me to improve my English. In fact, I got some help from my brothers who were patient enough to correct my mistakes while speaking.

Then, I came in Barotse Land in Western Zambia on the third week of August 2016 in order to start my apostolic training in Saint Gabriel Parish. I was sent to learn the local language Silozi which is a beautiful one with all its grammatical formulations and verbal richness. While learning it, I was also getting acquainted with the Lozi culture. Amazingly, one must clap his hands (ku bulela niitumezi ni kukambelela) to say ‘thank you’. We were four learners to follow the language course at Limulunda for three months.

I came to realise that I have to humble myself if I want to learn a new language.  It took me few weeks to be able to speak a bit. I struggled a lot with my intonation and it took me a lot of courage. Once in a while, l would join my community at Namushakende on Sunday and visit an outstation of our Parish. Initially, l was afraid and shy to speak but I managed to communicate.

I went to Nanjuca, one of our outstations, for my immersion into the language and the culture. I was nicely welcomed in this village. Some people thought that I was there to interact only with Catholics. Slowly, they discovered that I was there for everyone. Children were happy to be with me. I was eating everything they offered me except tortoise (kubu).

I led the service prayer on Sundays. Everybody, children and parents alike, were praying with me though the majority belong to the United Church of Zambia (UCZ) and the New Apostolic Church. I had the trust of Parents who helped me to practise the Silozi language.

I seized this opportunity to deliver a message from Father Venerato Babaine encouraging parents to send their children to school and live together in peace and harmony with other religions.

I had a very fruitful experience and l owe the people a huge debt of gratitude. During my last days in the village, l was really touched by the generosity of the people who came to bid me farewell. Regardless who they are or where they come from, they offered me few presents. People were sad and some burst into tears when Father Christian Muhineza came to pick me up. I felt sad as I had to go.

I am happy to be with the Lozi people and they are pleased when I speak their language.

Niitumezi kaufela a mina (Thank you all) mi mulimu amitohonolofaze (and God bless you)!

 

The Lord appointed also other seventy-two: and he sent them two and two before his face into every city and place whither he himself was to come. And he said to them: The harvest indeed is great, but the labourers are few. Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he send labourers into his harvest. Go: Behold I send you as lambs among wolves. Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes; and salute no man by the way. Into whatsoever house you enter, first say: Peace be to this house. And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon him; but if not, it shall return to you. And in the same house, remain, eating and drinking such things as they have: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Remove not from house to house.  And into what city soever you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you. And heal the sick that are therein, and say to them: The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.

Luke 10: 1-10.

And what feast is set before us next Thursday!

Here is the link to Jean-Marie’s post on the Missionaries of Africa Blog.Speaking the Language

It is important to speak the local language, (including clapping hands and smiling) and humbling indeed to learn. I must return to my neglected Polish!

MMB.

 

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27 March: “Is Christianity Dead?”- Our Response to BBB: II, Look up!

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Dear BBB,

Will continues our reply to your lament.

Today I’ll start with your question: I couldn’t help but ask myself, as I looked around and saw several dozen teenage boys counting the ceiling tiles, looking as though they wanted to die…is our faith on life support?

My faith is on life support all the time. It’s called Grace. God’s breath within me. As Doug was describing yesterday, Grace cannot be defeated.

But as for the lads looking at the ceiling: I too sometimes switch off, especially from ‘cut and paste’ sermons, and compose my own thoughts. Not that that’s needed with Franciscan sermons!

I feel it’s a shame if all there is on the ceiling is tiles. Our ancestors decorated churches in more or less good taste, but there was always something to look at! I read this morning that one of the gifts the Church has given the world is colour. Maybe our ceilings should be colourful so that drifting eyes have something to look upon; the one above is from Zakopane in Poland.

Christopher M. Graney, professor of physics and astronomy  in Louisville Kentucky reminds us: It is funny how we learn about our surroundings when we start looking carefully for something.  Scientists have this experience a lot. He’s right, of course, but he would agree that Christians should look and learn about the beauty that surrounds us.

Seeing, noticing, beauty is part of Laudato Si’ – Pope Francis’s letter named after Saint Francis’s hymn of praise – bringing Creation into our prayer. Pictures are concrete prayer. Better to have something good to look at than bare ceilings and walls. We are body and soul: the body is called to worship by standing, kneeling, signing with the Cross, but also by receiving God’s gifts.

We should have something for each sense. A sermon and hymns for the ears, but please go easy on piped music when the Church is quiet; some of us like quiet. A handshake of welcome as well as the sign of peace for touch; an open and a warm building if it can possibly be afforded. Eye-to-eye contact at the welcome; the readers, Eucharistic ministers and priest looking at the people they are addressing. For taste: a genuine welcome to approach the altar, and communion under both kinds; then refreshments after Mass – we have a tradition of English mince pies and mulled wine after Midnight Mass. Maybe even some incense for the nose, but flowers make a difference too – and so does their absence in Lent.

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All this is part of the welcome. But I have been in Catholic churches where I would hesitate to bring any non-churched friend to what I know would be a less than joyful and welcoming gathering. As Catholic Christians we are not called to worship in an 18th Century Lecture theatre, and not with our minds only.

Zakopane Ceiling by MMB; flowers by Karin.

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March 20: A Sandwich for Saint Cuthbert

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March 20 is the feast of St Cuthbert, who died on this day in 687. There is a story that one Friday, the bishop of Lindisfarne, Saint Cuthbert was welcomed into an isolated farmstead by a woman who offered to feed him and his horse. ‘Stay and eat’, she said, ‘for you won’t reach home tonight.’ But Cuthbert would not break his Friday fast, so he rested a while, let her care for his horse, and pressed on his way. It got dark well before he was in sight of home so he found shelter in a tumbledown, empty, isolated shepherd’s hut.

Here his horse began to pull down the thatch of the roof to have something to eat, but even Cuthbert could not see thatch as food for a man, however hungry he might be. The horse carried on attacking the roof, making the best of what was available in this wild place. As it pulled at the thatch, a packet fell to the floor; when the good bishop opened it he found bread and meat, the meat still warm. He shared the loaf with his beast as he gave thanks to God. How did the meal get there? Was it concealed by the hospitable woman as she tended his horse back at the farm? Cuthbert did not know, but he was happy to eat what was provided after his day of fasting had finished – for like the Muslims at Ramadan today, he would have counted sunset as the day’s end.

In Muslim countries today, many Christians will observe the fast in solidarity with their neighbours. So  let us enjoy our sandwiches – yes, even in this season of Lent – to thank the Lord who provides the food, as Cuthbert did, and to share in the ministry of hospitality, like the woman on the farmstead.

Cuthbert in a wall painting at Durham Cathedral.

Please remember in your prayers Abbot Cuthbert Johnson OSB, sometime Abbot of Quarr, who died on January 16, 2017. He was from Saint Cuthbert’s diocese and was ministering there when he fell sick and died.                         Will T.

Photo from thepelicans.org.uk where you can read Abbot Cuthbert’s obituary and an address he gave for the Missionaries of Africa to whom he remained close. http://thepelicans.org.uk/obituaries/obits24.htm#pjohnson

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4 March: Cafe prayer

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I’m waiting for someone in a cafe. I sit there with my coffee. I’m glad of the space between commitments. Around me people are talking and music is playing. Why is it that through my life I have often found cafes to be as fruitful places of meeting with God as churches? Perhaps it’s the fact that I am among other people pausing. There’s no ‘ought’ about being here. I am here to sit for a while, alone or with others and drink coffee and that’s the only ‘task’ for this time. And that is so much like prayer: the simple being with God…and pausing and investing time in doing so.

Perhaps too it is because cafes are places of relationship, conversation and community. Wherever love is present – in the meeting of friends, in the act of listening and sharing – God is present. Much of the time we assume that it’s the other stuff of life – meeting deadlines, planning and delivering work – that matters; and it does. But life without pausing, friendship, sharing, and community is a poor thing. The place to make our investment is not in shares or possessions or achievements but in relationships – whether with God or with other people. Let there be time for sitting in a cafe, time for pausing, time for friendship, time for God.

CC.

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18 February: Convivial Grace.

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Where should we look for locations in which we experience Christ’s presence as healing, and thus as overcoming the bewilderment and fears which are too typical of our modern circumstances? Table fellowship, as some call it, table friendship, or the conviviality of a living community, happen better in some Christian settings than others.

This scene is one where barbeques have gone well, summer picnics have lasted for hours, and the spilling out of indoor celebrations have all been excellent occasions for informal interactions, concerned with inner peace and changes of direction. Unthreatening circumstances for sharing fears and bewilderment are essential for moving beyond fantasies and into strong life-affirming relationships.

But in such circumstances we must decide to put our religious self-awareness into convincing words and phrases. Perhaps we want a more sincere account of who we are than we had a month earlier. We alter our choice of adjectives. The novelist David Lodge claims that “the frequency of coincidence in fictional plots… is related to how much the writer feels he can ‘get away with’,” in order to show how vivid certain encounters or events were. Our stories told to friends may be altered also, to show how much God lets us get away with, in terms of kindness and forgiveness. On this point, David Jasper quotes Emily Dickinson: “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant… The Truth must dazzle gradually/ Or every man be blind.”

What is more life-affirming: vivid wickedness admitted, and partly abandoned, or vivid new expressions of compassion taken totally to heart? Grace has multiple versions.

Chris D.

January 2017.

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20 January: Inter-galactic Discoveries, XXI.

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The misdirected Thank-you.

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She was about two years old and exuberant with it, dancing near the door of Canterbury’s Goods Shed market and enjoying the sound of her own voice.

When I came back from Enzo’s bakery, there she was still, but a little quieter as her mother was readying her to face the cold outdoors again. Mother and I exchanged a few words, but it was clear that the little one was eyeing my warm loaf. I broke off a corner for her – not enough to spoil her appetite, of course.

‘Say thank-you,’ mother said, and looking at mother, the child said her thank-you.

You might call it a misdirected thank-you, as it was not mother who gave her the bread. And yet, mother is her reference point, and mother had agreed to let her take the bread. Every thank-you at this age is a thank-you to her parents.

Perhaps we can see something here about praying to Mary or other saints. Many would argue that praying to them, or thanking them would be misdirected thanks or prayers, but at our age the beatific vision is embryonic; we see Christ in our fellow humans, including those saints whose stories touch our imagination.

The little girl’s thank-you was relayed by a glance from her mother; prayers to the saints will be relayed by a glance at the beatific vision. God is no more insulted than I was.

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10 January: Intergalactic Explorations XX: Land of Plenty.

fish-chips-margate1-360x640‘Do you ever’, asked Alfie, gulping another morsel of battered haddock from the fish and chip shop, ‘Do you ever miss the old menu popping through the hatch in the pod? Those six foods and the same old four drinks?’

‘Nothing as tasty as batter, fish and vinegar ever passed my lips in Ossyria’, replied Ajax.

‘Perhaps not’, beamed the Director, known to his human friends as ‘T’, ‘but there is no need to half-choke yourself eating so fast. There’s plenty here for the three of us, and no scientifically controlled portions either.’

‘There was always plenty back home, but scientific protein bangers and extruded bread sticks! If I may say so Boss, everything tasted grey.’

‘Of course it did, but creatures died to feed us here on earth, fish, wheat, potatoes. We cannot escape that, even if we go vegetarian.’

‘Never suggest that again! We have canine appetites along with our canine shapes,’ flashed Ajax.

‘Well I was thinking that come Lent in March next year, I might copy some of these humans and stop eating meat for a few weeks,’ said T, ‘And try to work out why they do it. If you care to join me …’

The chihuahuas made clear that T was on his own for this project. ‘It’s utterly uncanine, it’s unossyrian, it’s unnatural; dogs eat meat,’ asserted Ajax.

‘And sitting in a grey, submarine pod, watching arm-wrestling octopi on the screens, drinking a cocktail of two parts red juice and one of green with warm ice is natural? Come on boys, here in Margate we’re learning that we have appetites and appetites are natural, and all the better for being sharpened.’

‘And some appetites are sharper than others,’ growled Ajax.

Photo by NAIB3

MMB

The appetite for learning is sharpened when the appetite for food is satisfied. You can help Mary’s Meals feed schoolchildren in Africa if you follow this link here.

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8 January: Open Heart, Open Mind, I: Judging according to God.

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A reflection from Fr Andrew SDC 1869-1946. Fr Andrew was a pioneering Anglican Franciscan in the East End of London; more of his reflections will appear during the year.

Whereas the world judges people by their actions, and on the  whole is right to do so, God judges the actions by the people who do them. The world would have said of the widow, ‘She only gave two mites’; Our Lord said of the two mites, ‘They were given by a widow who had nothing else, they are worth millions.’ The world was shocked when Mary Magdalene kissed our Lord’s feet. The world said, ‘He let a woman kiss him.’ Our Lord said, ‘The kiss came from a penitent, and had more love in it than all the banquets of the rich Pharisees put together.’

Saint Luke records Jesus’ words:

All these have of their abundance cast into the offerings of God: but she of her want, hath cast in all the living that she had.  Luke 21:4

Thou gavest me no kiss; but she, since she came in, hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint; but she with ointment hath anointed my feet. Wherefore I say to thee: Many sins are forgiven her, because she hath loved much. But to whom less is forgiven, he loveth less. And he said to her: Thy sins are forgiven thee.                Luke 7:45-48

Mary Magdalene Washing Christ’s Feet, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Image released for non-commercial use. 

WT

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