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June 16: A faithful Biblical dog, II

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Part 2 of our gallop through the Book of Tobit. We did not have time to examine all Sarah’s past troubles, so we made no mention of them at all.

basil-dogThe dog followed Tobias and the Angel across the river, through the desert and over the mountains, all the way to Tobit’s Cousin Raguel’s house. When they got there, Tobias fell in love with Raguel’s daughter Sarah, and straightaway they got married! Of course there was a big party, and no doubt the dog was busy scrounging scraps all the while, especially because the party went on for two weeks!

The dog must have been quite fat when Tobias set off for home with Raphael, the dog, all Tobit’s money and a big surprise for his parents: Sarah, his new wife. They went over the mountains, through the desert, across the river and back to Tobias’s home town.

Reflection

I can imagine how tired Tobias was, with two weeks of partying on top of walking across the river, through the desert and over the mountains. And now he has to do it all over again, with Sarah, and the fish’s gall, and the money, and the wedding presents on the back of the donkeys from her dad. It’s a good job he has the dog and Raphael, to go over the mountains, through the desert and across the river till they get home.

We are made to enjoy life on earth as in heaven. We are meant to enjoy it together with our family and friends and so this walk we are on is a good idea, and we don’t have to go across the river, through the desert and over the mountains. But we are walking through Kent, the Garden of England – aren’t we blessed! And aren’t we blessed to have Tyndale the terrier with us! 

Basil, above, was Sam the dog’s sidekick.

 

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June 8: Above a whisper

samaritans cards 2019

The day after I published the post ‘After all the Shouting’, praising the work of the Samaritans’ listeners, I turned up at Canterbury West Station again. This time there were tables outside the door, and a group of Samaritans, my friend L’s colleagues. Sadly, the electric railway does attract those seeking to end their lives; it’s  a good spot to raise people’s awareness of the Samaritans’ services.

‘Thank you for sharing our work,’ I was told, when I told how I had posted about them here. The woman I spoke to gave me these cards, so feel free to share the telephone number – or whatever your country’s local equivalent might be.

‘And although we have seventy volunteers, we could always use more to maintain our 24 hour service, seven days a week. We can’t manage that at present.’

For myself, I’ve been drawn back into L’Arche  Kent, and could easily find myself involved there 24/7. There’s always something to be done, and a friend or two to do it with, as you’ll appreciate if you’ve followed our recent pilgrimage posts. But where do your gifts and inclinations lie?

Please pray for the Samaritans and for those who turn to them and other helplines in times of need and distress.

 

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May 6: Ramadan begins.

Ramadan 1440 H (2019)

A post from the Missionaries of Africa

6 May 2019

Who among you sees the new moon appear will fast the whole month.
(Koran, 2 -The Cow-185)

The obligation of fasting is one of the major expressions of Muslim belief. Whoever fasts detaches from food, need for which seems to go without saying. He thus brings into his lived experience the conviction that it is not his to own, but something given to him. He emphasises that there is another dimension to human life than basic needs. Fasting reveals the fundamental relativity of man in relation to God and the ensuing obligation to give thanks.

For the whole of the month of Ramadan, the Muslim neither eats nor drinks from sunrise to sunset. The pace of work is slowed and the daily timetable is completely disrupted. The whole family gathers at sunset to break their fast and they go out for part of the night.

Clearly it is very difficult to sustain such a pace in Europe. As society at large does not provide for this practice, the Muslim will look for support in family and neighbourhood reunions for ‘the celebration of the nights of Ramadan.’

The greatest charity is the one accomplished in Ramadan. (Anthology of Tirmidy)

During this month, the Muslim pays a tenth of what he owns in solidarity, ((Zakat). This ‘legal almsgiving’ is one of the pillars of Islam.

How is the date of the first day of Ramadan determined?
Ramadan is indicated by one of the following events:

1 – When the number of days in the month of Shaban, preceding Ramadan, reaches 30 days. The 31st is incontestably the first of Ramadan.
2 – When the new moon is visible on the eve of the 30th Shaban, it is the beginning of Ramadan and the fast must begin.

There is therefore a degree of uncertainty concerning the exact date, depending on the region. It underscores the relative nature of human certainties.

Let us try to understand others who differ in the expression of their beliefs and in kindness let us make this fundamental expression of their way of life easy for them. Uniting our thanksgiving with the prayer of other believers would be a sign that we are all children of the same God.

To see also:

1st October 2008 End of Ramadan Fête de l’Aïd El Fitr
Ashura

The Hegira
Aïd el Kabîr 2007
* The Moon, the Calendar of Muslim Feasts.
* ISLAM and its MOVEMENTS
*
Holy Day of the Sacrifice: Aïd al Adha or Aïd el Kébir

 

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1 May: The happy commuter

steamtrainNI

The feast of Saint Joseph the Worker seems a good time to share this story. Joseph, I guess, had his workshop in the house or close by. Not so for many in the world today. And how many of us are less than happy with our work, and with getting there and back? Can we improve things for our colleagues by our attitude towards them?

It’s Wednesday evening and I’m at Canterbury West station, chatting to a railwaywoman while I await my chance to slip onto the platform. Hundreds of people were streaming away from an incoming train.

‘You’d think if they were going home they’d look happy!’ she said, and truly, they did not. ‘I’ll get one smiling’, I said, as I saw M coming into view. To be fair, I’d seen him smiling already. I know he likes his job, and I knew he was not going home for long; he was due to attend the SVP meeting (Saint Vincent de Paul Society) about an hour later on that cold windy night. But he smiled and chatted and went on his way.

‘Now you can start working in the other 451!’ said the railwaywoman. (With a smile.)

So maybe I’ll share one of the staff’s efforts to raise a smile at Christmas with this little plum.

  • Why did the bicycle catch the train?
  • Because it was two-tyred!

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7 March. Jean Vanier speaks to the ‘Flame’ conference.

jean.v.letter

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.

https://www.indcatholicnews.com/news/36658

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21 January: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Day 4: Be content with what you have

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Be content with what you have (Hebrews 13:5)

  • Hebrews 13:1-5

  • Matthew 6:25-34

Starting point

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.

Reflection

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

enough compassion

enough empathy

enough humanity

enough energy

enough desire

enough courage

to make the change that is sorely needed.

Prayer

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.

Questions

  • 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?

Go and Do

(see www.ctbi.org.uk/goanddo)

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.

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January 18: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: 1 Let justice roll down like waters.

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Let justice roll down like waters (Amos 5:24)

  • Amos 5:22-25

  • Luke 11:37-44

Starting point

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.

Reflection

At the table

we sit,

empty plates, but for a few crumbs.

Everyone’s had their fill again,

satiated,

at least for now.

Turning on the taps

we fill our bowls,

in the hope that the stains will disappear.

The water cascades

over cup

and plate,

cleansing it

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,

waiting,

for the others to speak up

as we wash our hands?

Prayer

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.

Questions

  • How would you describe justice?

  • Where have you recognized justice in action?

  • Can we have unity without justice?

Go and Do

(see www.ctbi.org.uk/goanddo)

‘Charity is no substitute for justice withheld’.

Take time to reflect and remember campaign successes of the recent and distant past, e.g. the abolition of transatlantic slavery and the end of apartheid in South Africa. Visit Go and Do to read about recent successes in the campaign for tax justice.

Celebrate the successes and get together to discuss what action your community of churches could take to challenge injustice that is happening now. Visit Go and Do for some creative activism ideas.

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15 January: We do celebrations very well.

 

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! 

W.H.Davies.

Celebration of the half-barrels group; our decoration for the Harvest Festival at St Mildred’s, Canterbury.

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10 January: Little Flowers of Saint Francis XLIV: The Temptations of Brother Ruffino, 1.

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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.”

1That is Saint Francis.
Image: Strasbourg Cathedral, the Last Judgement. MMB.

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January 5: Some Gifts of Community Life.

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A LETTER FROM DAVID BEX, COMMUNITY LEADER, L’ARCHE KENT.

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! 

MMB.

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, creativitydavid bex 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.

 

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