Jean Vanier recently spoke by video link to young people gather in London for a ‘Flame’ conference. This link leads to the text of his speech at ICN.
God’s goodness has provided ample food and fresh water to sustain life for all and yet many people lack these necessities. Human greed frequently leads to corruption, injustice, poverty and hunger. Jesus teaches us not to be concerned about accumulating more material things than we need. We should, rather, be concerned with proclaiming the Kingdom of equity and announcing God’s reign of justice. Christians are called to live lives which enable the waters of justice to flow.
I scrape together
the crumbs of my excess,
perhaps enough to feed the sparrows?
I soak up
the spilling over of my cup,
perhaps enough to drown my sorrows?
I ask myself,
when is enough
ever going to be enough?
You ask me
if I can spare any change
and I worry
that I do not have enough
enough good reason
enough good will
to make the change that is sorely needed.
God of the seasons,
whether in bountiful harvest,
or when there is no yield for what we have sown;
let us be content,
that your grace is sufficient.
Help us to have the generosity of spirit,
to share what we have
with those who have not.
May we all be blessed
with love, grace, compassion and mercy,
as we seek to walk humbly
and do justly,
for your name’s sake. Amen.
Share a story of a time when you did not have enough – how did you feel?
What do you find the most difficult thing to share?
What do you find the most difficult thing to receive?
Pay attention to the advertising messages you receive, on buses, billboards, TV, newspapers, online. Reflect on the messages that we are absorbing everyday about what we supposedly need.
Reflect on your identity as a consumer and consider the steps we can take as individuals and as a community of churches to live simply so others can simply live?
Plan a Lent journey between the churches in your area that involves a fast from buying and how we might count and share our blessings instead. Visit Go and do to find out more.
Christians in Indonesia recognize that in their land there are people who passionately try to practise their faith, but who oppress those of other beliefs. In the prophecy of Amos, God rejects the worship of those who neglect justice. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus reminds us that the outward sign of true worship of God is acting justly. Christians can sometimes be very committed to prayer and worship, but less concerned for the poor and the marginalized. When, as Christians, we work together on justice issues we grow closer to one another and to God.
At the table
empty plates, but for a few crumbs.
Everyone’s had their fill again,
at least for now.
Turning on the taps
we fill our bowls,
in the hope that the stains will disappear.
The water cascades
of any sign of human contact,
as if there had never been a meal.
In our polite conversation
and edgy discourse,
we fool ourselves
into thinking we are making a difference.
We faithfully gather,
but are we just acting,
for the others to speak up
as we wash our hands?
God of all,
you have shown us the path of justice.
You are the father of the orphan.
You are the constant companion of the widow.
You are the friend of the stranger.
In each of these,
may we meet you
and recognize the wind of your Spirit,
moving us toward the need for justice.
In all that we do,
may we know your grace and mercy
and offer healing and justice in your name.
How would you describe justice?
Where have you recognized justice in action?
Can we have unity without justice?
A few days ago David wrote of L’Arche: ‘As a Community we do celebrations very well, and for me, being involved gives me a sense of belonging which deepens my passion for L’Arche.’ And I began to consider the celebrations that have taken place lately.
The Annual Advent Celebration brings hundreds of friends and family to share our preparations for Christmas in songs and sketches, sales and refreshments. The Christmas market in Saint Peter’s church was as much a celebration as a day of work. There were Christmas parties for the different work activities groups, for the half-barrels gardening club, and of course in the houses. Some of us squeezed into the Cathedral carol service.
And before that … birthdays, community gatherings, the Harvest Festival, the funerals of Emma and Denise … and that’s not all, not by any means.
Any occasion can be celebrated. My wife recalls her first arrival in the community and finding on her bed a card welcoming her by name. My first weekend was marked by the teeth incident. A core member had been sick and had flushed her teeth away down the toilet with everything else. Every manhole and inspection cover was lifted, every toilet flushed. I was poised by the last one before the cesspit, with Leo, a crazy Canadian, singing ‘Teeth are flowing like a river, flowing out to you and me-e-e.’ We didn’t catch the teeth, (and nor did anyone else) but I caught the L’Arche sense of belonging that David mentions. It has never left me.
The last-mentioned celebration was not about teeth or sewage, but about the joys of being alive among sisters and brothers on a Spring morning. I hope I can continue to bring this sense of celebration to all areas of my life, and invite all readers to do likewise! Here is a morning offering that a Christian or a non-Christian could use to start the day:
‘Good Morning Life, and all things glad and beautiful!
Let’s return to the Little Flowers of Saint Francis with a story that illustrates his insight into his companions’ feelings. We might be tempted to label Brother Ruffino’s temptation as a mental illness, but the thought of being on the road to eternal perdition is enough to unhinge anybody. At the end of the story we will see that Brother Ruffino was an exceptional person – and so of course was Francis, who saw his need and guided him through it.
BROTHER RUFFINO, one of the most noble citizens of Assisi and a companion of Saint Francis, a man of great sanctity, was on a time most grievously assailed and tempted in his soul, in respect of predestination; whereby he became altogether melancholy and sad; for the devil put it into his heart that he was damned and was not of those predestined to eternal life; and that all that he did in the Order was lost. And this temptation continuing day by day, he for shame told it not to Saint Francis, yet ceased not to observe the wonted prayers and fasts: wherefore the enemy began to heap on him sorrow upon sorrow, over and above the battle within, assaulting him also from without with lying apparitions.
Wherefore on a time he appeared to him in the form of the Crucified, and said to him: O
Brother Rufiino, why dost thou afflict thyself in penance and in prayer, seeing that thou art not among those predestined to eternal life? and believe me that I know whom I have elected and predestined, and believe not the son of Peter Bernardoni,1 if he tell thee the contrary, nor question him concerning this matter, for neither he nor any others know, save I alone, who am the Son of God: Brother therefore believe me of a surety that thou art of the number of the damned: and the son of Peter Bernardoni, thy Father, and also his father are damned, and whoso follows him is led astray.”
And said these words, Brother Ruffino began to be so overshadowed by the prince of darkness that he lost all the faith and love he had had for Saint Francis, and took no care to tell him aught thereof. But that which Brother Ruffino did not tell the holy father, the Holy Spirit revealed to him: wherefore Saint Francis, seeing in spirit the great danger of the said brother, sent Brother Masseo to call him; whom Brother Ruffino answered chidingly: “What have I to do with Brother Francis?” Then Brother Masseo, all filled with divine wisdom, perceiving the deception of the devil, said : “O Brother Ruffino, knowest thou not that Brother Francis is as an angel of God, who hath enlightened so many souls in the world, and through whom we have received the grace of God? wherefore I will that thou by all means come with me to him; for I clearly see that thou art deceived by the devil.”
David came to L’Arche after belonging to an Emmaus Community. The gifts he received and developed there will be good for us and help us grow, but it is also good for us to be reminded of what our gifts and strengths are as a community. I can vouch for friendships that have lasted forty years and more!
The year 2018 is drawing to a close and it has been a year of change. We have had assistants go back to their home countries after a year with us, taking with them a piece of L’Arche Kent in their hearts and creating friendships that continue.
Sadly, we have had Core Members die this year, Emma and Denise.
We have seen long term assistants move on to a new chapter in their lives, which has meant that they have finished as employees but not as members of our Community.
When Core Members and assistants who have been our friends and companions change their roles or move away I sense and share a feeling of loss within the Community and a period of reflection about our relationships with them. There is a time to recognise what we have learnt from each other, the joy and laughter that we shared together.
As part of these times of reflection there comes a time when we are able to recognise that we need to prepare ourselves for welcoming new community members, new assistants and new core members. I feel these two celebrations, departing and arriving, are embraced by our Community and I see the effort and care that goes into them. As a Community we do celebrations very well, and for me, being involved gives me a sense of belonging which deepens my passion for L’Arche.
We may not always realise it but we do cope with change really well. We allow time for it to happen, we talk about it, we reflect upon it and we share our emotions about it. These traditions within L’Arche help us to be a Community, to be strong, to be able to care and have the confidence to show that we care. These traditions, these behaviours are often talked about in the world around us, but from what I see rarely practised in such a meaningful way as can be found in our Community and L’Arche as a whole.
Christmas is a time of change, a time of hope, a time when the deepest part of winter has been reached, when we look forward to brighter and lighter days. As a Community we have lots to look forward to, such as our newly arrived assistants and the ones to come, bringing with them the gifts of new relationships. I see our Community in the future having many opportunities to be a role model to those around us. We are a vibrant Community with lots of ideas, creativity and kindness.
I see all of you playing a vital role in L’Arche Kent, in showing to the world around us what Community can look like. Thank you for what you do for each other and for the Community. Thank you for the acts of kindness and caring and being wonderful role models.
I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Doubtless Agnellus and Company wobble sometimes, we may not be pedalling, squeezing an accordion, helping balance a bike, wearing a funny hat and a false moustache while keeping time with the rest of the band, all at the same time. But we hope we provide something interesting, enjoyable and challenging day by day.
It is enjoyable looking out for thoughts to share. We hope that when we offer a sample of a writer’s work that some readers feel inspired to seek out more. If we can give web links we will continue to do so.
But for today, you saints in the making,
And please do stick around.
Here is a thought for November and Winter from Mary Webb – about time she appeared here again!
Though winter may wear a sad-coloured garment, it is shot with bright threads of reminiscence and prophecy. Orange oak leaves, lingering seed-vessels on ash and lime, crimson blackberry trails, are recollections of past splendour. The sere and broken reeds and rushes – golden and russet – are like the piled trophies of some fairy warfare; spear and sword and bulrush-banner recall the time when conquering summer led forth his legions. There are dreams and dawnings of another summer also. The twigs that look so lifeless have minute buds on them, vivid points of colour.
Reminiscence and prophecy – that is our calling: to go back to our roots and to speak out as the Spirit moves us. Let us read and interpret the signs of the times: Laudato Si!
Mary Webb, The Spring of Joy
I thought we would celebrate the Feast of Good Pope John with an extract from his writings. In 1962 He wrote to women religious – sisters in other words – a letter called ‘Il Tiempo Massimo’. Here he talks about prayer.
The Church will always encourage its daughters who, in order to conform more perfectly to the call of the Divine Master, give themselves in the contemplative life.
May all of you meditate on this truth, beloved daughters, who are justly called “quasi apes argumentosae” (like industrious bees), because you are in the constant practice of the fourteen works of mercy in sisterly community with your other fellow Sisters. You also who are consecrated to God in the secular institutes must derive all the efficacy of your undertakings from prayer.
The life offered to the Lord entails difficulties and sacrifices like any other form of coexistence. Only prayer gives the gift of happy perseverance in it. The good works to which you dedicate yourselves are not always crowned with success. You meet with disappointments, misunderstanding and ingratitude.
Without the help of prayer you could not continue along on this hard road. And do not forget that a wrongly understood dynamism could lead you to fall into that “heresy of action” which was reproved by our predecessors. Having overcome this danger, you can be confident that you are definitely co-operators in the salvation of souls, and you will add merits to your crown.
All of you, whether dedicated to a contemplative or an active life, should understand the expression “life of prayer.” It entails not a mechanical repetition of formulas but is rather the irreplaceable means by which one enters into intimacy with the Lord, to better understand the dignity of being daughters of God and spouses of the Holy Spirit, the “sweet guest of the soul” Who speaks to those who know how to listen in recollection.
May we all learn how to listen to the Holy Spirit in the silence of our soul. And let’s be grateful for the prayer and work of all the sisters upholding the Church throughout the world.
The Glebe at Saint Mildred’s Church in Canterbury is where L’Arche Kent have their garden, and this year we were able to contribute some produce to the church for Harvest Festival. Then some of us joined the congregation for the Festival Eucharist and lunch.
Rev Jo Richards, the Rector, has quickly become a friend to L’Arche, looking in to say hello. She kindly agreed to our publishing the bare bones of her sermon, and with it her photos from the day. Thank you Jo, and welcome to Agnellus Mirror. (Blessed Agnellus would have been a member of one of the city centre parishes when he lived in Canterbury, so on Jo’s patch!)
Julian of Norwich was born in 1342, We do not know Julian’s actual name but her name is taken from St. Julian’s Church in Norwich where she lived as an anchoress for most of her life. An anchoress, that is someone who lives in a cell attached to a church, and leads a prayer focused life.
When she was 30 years old, Julian contracted a grave illness and came so near death they gave her last rites. At the end of her illness, she had a series of 16 visions, or showings, that she understood to have come from God. She spent the next 20 years reflecting on these visions and writing down what she had learned from them. Perhaps, the most famous of those showings is this one, which I felt was particularly adapt for today:
“And in this he showed me a little thing, the quantity of a hazel nut, lying in the palm of my hand, as it seemed. And it was as round as any ball. I looked upon it with the eye of my understanding, and thought, ‘What may this be?’ And it was answered generally thus, ‘It is all that is made.’ I marveled how it might last, for I thought it might suddenly have fallen to nothing for littleness. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasts and ever shall, for God loves it. And so have all things their beginning by the love of God.”
Julian made three reflections relating to this vision:
The first that God created us and all creation. However big or small everything throughout the universe and beyond is created by God. As we look at the conker in our hand, we acknowledge that God created this – the tree from which it fell, and the sun that made it grow, and the rain that encouraged it to grow.
The second observation was that God loves everything that God created; and that is unconditional love, everything and everyone, and that includes you and me, whatever our background, what ever our colour; ability or disability, as it says in 1 John “God is love”.
The third observation that Julian made is that God keeps and sustains – not just us but all of creation.
These reflections raise the question of God’s omnipresence, that is the understanding that God is everywhere, nothing is without the presence and activity of God; God is present with us, here and now; in all that we are and all that we do; in the incarnation the Holy Child; in the Eucharist and the bread and the wine.
Consider these lilies – created by God, loved by God and sustained by God….they neither toil or spin.
Consider God’s harvest – to share – the word share is found in harvest; as these gifts are given to Catching Lives (Canterbury’s homeless charity) may we remain ever mindful of those whose circumstances are such that they do not have anywhere to call home, other than the pavement of our city streets.
You just have to look in our shops bursting with the autumn range of clothing – subliming telling us what we need to be wearing and what colours are in – without which we might be felt to feel inadequate ; perhaps we should draw on our text from our second reading – it is the love of money (not money, but the love of money, that is at the root of all evil.
But look again at your conker, and feel it beautifully created, loved and sustained by God.
Now take your hand in the other, this too is beautifully created, loved and sustained by God.
You and me are beautifully created, loved and sustained by God, for this day and for ever more.
Brexit or no Brexit, the European day of Languages deserves a mention. After all, the Church was multilingual from the day of Pentecost. Remember Acts Chapter II:
The multitude came together, and were confounded in mind, because that every man heard them speak in his own tongue. And they were all amazed, and wondered, saying: Behold, are not all these, that speak, Galileans? And how have we heard, every man our own tongue wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, Egypt, and the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews also, and proselytes, Cretes, and Arabians: we have heard them speak in our own tongues the wonderful works of God. And they were all astonished and wondered, saying to one another: What meaneth this?
Two groups of Europeans there – Romans and Cretans.
There were centuries when the Latin Church tried to be exactly that, a Latin church, from Poland (where the reader in the picture is sitting) to Patagonia, but people want to hear in their own tongues the wonderful works of God. Not for nothing did the XIX Century missionaries translate the Scriptures as soon as they understood the languages where they were working.
Unless we have opportunities to use languages we will struggle to learn them. However, we can make visitors and strangers welcome with just a few words of English. And a multilingual smile and handshake. Let’s make sure we do.
Peace be with you!