Tag Archives: sheep

13 May: Mary, whom his lips caress

Mary Mother from Hales Place Jesuit Chapel, Canterbury

A Carol by Christina Rossetti

Lo! newborn Jesus,
Soft and weak and small,
Wrapped in baby’s bands
By His Mother’s hands,
Lord God of all.

Lord God of Mary,
Whom His Lips caress
While He rocks to rest
On her milky breast
In helplessness.

Lord God of shepherds
Flocking through the cold,
Flocking through the dark
To the only Ark,
The only Fold.

Lord God of all things,
Be they near or far,
Be they high or low;
Lord of storm and snow,
Angel and star.

Lord God of all men,–
My Lord and my God!
Thou who lovest me,
Keep me close to Thee
By staff and rod.

Lo! newborn Jesus,
Loving great and small,
Love’s free Sacrifice,
Opening Arms and Eyes
To one and all.

It’s May but we have not celebrated Mary yet, except in the company of her husband, Joseph. We have also been neglecting poetry, so let’s turn to Christina Rossetti. Childless herself, she captures the sensuous intimacy of the helpless baby, caressing his mother with his kisses. As a baby he opens his eyes and hands to the one he can see clearly; As Saviour he will look with love on each of us; as Good Shepherd he will gather the lost sheep into his arms.

May we follow him, even through the valley of darkness, into the fold that he has made ready for us.


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24 April: ‘I’m going fishing’, V The Mission.

A hard road lies ahead for Peter and the disciples; and for us!

The Mission

Jesus is not about to let Simon Peter indulge in unproductive introspection, but he has picked up Peter’s conflicted feelings about being an individual follower of Jesus and being part of the group. His first question poses this challenge: “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?”

Peter in answering does not compare himself with his companions. This is between him and Jesus, though Jesus has made sure that John and the rest are within earshot and will grasp the meaning of this conversation for Peter and themselves. ‘Yes Lord, you know that I love you.’ ‘Feed my lambs.’ This command from the Lord who has just fed Peter and his companions, setting an example to be pondered for centuries.

Jesus returns to his probing of Peter: ‘Simon Son of Jonah, do you love me?’ No comparison with the others, Peter has passed that test.  ‘Yes, Lord, you know I love you.‘ ‘Tend my sheep.’ Peter is upset when Jesus asks again: “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ ‘Feed my sheep.’

Then comes the crunch: the description of how Peter will face trial, brutality, lack of earthly freedom; and execution. But then the note of complete confidence in this new Peter: Follow me!

Not that it is all so simple. Peter sees his fishing partner John standing nearby. What about him, Peter asks, and is told that’s not for him to know. And again, the call to be single-minded: ‘follow me!’

John and his editors assure us that this story and the rest of the Gospel are true and Good news for us all. The Lord will come for each of us in his own time; Let us use our time wisely, and follow him. May we be blest fishers of men, witnessing to our loving God through the way we live our lives. 

Blest Fishers

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. 

by Izaak Walton, the Compleat Angler 1653

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Filed under Daily Reflections, Easter, Justice and Peace, Laudato si', Mission, PLaces

9 April: Did it Rain that Morning?

Did it Rain that Morning ?

How did the sun rise that morning?
Did it roar into the sky?
Did it dance, throwing its flames across the void?
Did it rain?
Surely it rained?
A penetrating April deluge,
Short, sweet, cleansing.
Penetrating like grief,
Like relief.
Did the wind blow?
With no-one to feel it lift the dirt, the dust,
Sweep clean,
Prepare the way.
The sun at darkness’ end.
The lightning, thunder.
Fit entrance to a forgiven world.

Fit entrance for a Prince, a Lord.

Did the birds and the creatures rejoice together?
The flowers tremble,
Their perfume astonish?
Till all ablaze,
You stepped forth
Accompanied by Angels,
And went your way, about your world.
Until the women came,Looking,Peering,Anxious,Worried.
All was calm again by then,
Nothing untoward,
Except that you had gone to Galilee

And left a message with an Angel.



I make no apology for republishing this Easter poem from our dearly departed poet, Sheila Billingsley who died last October. It is full of Easter hope, joy and wonder.

The Easter garden was at Canterbury Cathedral before the masons took over this site.

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Filed under Daily Reflections, Easter, Laudato si', Lent, On this day, PLaces, poetry, Spring

29 November: Advent Light III: enable us to return!

St Mildred’s Church, Canterbury.
Let us pray,
God and Father, 
to those who go astray you reveal the light of your truth 
and enable them to return to the right path. 

Grant that all who have received the grace of baptism 
may strive to be worthy of their Christian calling 
and reject everything opposed to it. 

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, 
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
God, for ever and ever.

We can all, each and every one of us, go astray; indeed, we all do go astray, day by day. Let us consider one miss-step we have made today, and turn again from it back to the path: Repent!

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3 February: Winter Rain

A jolly, hopeful poem from Christina Rossetti. Laudato Si’.

Every valley drinks,
Every dell and hollow:
Where the kind rain sinks and sinks,
Green of Spring will follow.

 Yet a lapse of weeks
Buds will burst their edges,
Strip their wool-coats, glue-coats, streaks,
In the woods and hedges;

 Weave a bower of love
For birds to meet each other,
Weave a canopy above
Nest and egg and mother.

 But for fattening rain
We should have no flowers,
Never a bud or leaf again
But for soaking showers;

 Never a mated bird
In the rocking tree-tops,
Never indeed a flock or herd
To graze upon the lea-crops.

 Lambs so woolly white,
Sheep the sun-bright leas on,
They could have no grass to bite
But for rain in season.
We should find no moss
In the shadiest places,
Find no waving meadow-grass
Pied with broad-eyed daisies;

 But miles of barren sand,
With never a son or daughter,
Not a lily on the land,
Or lily on the water.

(from "Poems" by Christina Georgina Rossetti)

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29 May: A May morning

Red Sussex Cow
The sky is clear,
  The sun is bright;
The cows are red,
  The sheep are white;
Trees in the meadows
Make happy shadows.

 Birds in the hedge
  Are perched and sing;
Swallows and larks
  Are on the wing:
Two merry cuckoos
Are making echoes.

 Bird and the beast
  Have the dew yet;
My road shines dry,
  Theirs bright and wet:
Death gives no warning,
On this May morning.

 I see no Christ
  Nailed on a tree,
Dying for sin;
  No sin I see:
No thoughts for sadness,
All thoughts for gladness. 

(from Foliage: Various Poems by W. H. Davies.

Sometimes Davies says it all in sheer simplicity: Christ is risen, No sin I see!

Image by Charles Drake Public domain

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Autumn Skies

A partly new walk from home took us uphill and under autumn skies. We also foraged for chestnuts but that’s another story.

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And there were sheep, grazing against an autumnal backdrop. A good sabbath day’s walk. Look about you and Laudato si!

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2 October, Praying with Pope Francis: The Laity’s Mission

door.zakopane (514x640)
The Pope’s intention for October is: We pray that by virtue of baptism, the laity, especially women, may participate more in areas of responsibility in the Church.

Having been dismissed summarily from a post of responsibility in my parish by a newly ordained curate, I realise that it is not always ‘by virtue of baptism’ that ‘the laity’ participate in the Church, but by the favour of the clergy. Something’s wrong when a priest abuses the power that rightly goes with the responsibility of leading a parish community. As Pope Francis says, the pastor should smell of his sheep.

Do you remember the Doors of Mercy that were set up during Pope Francis’s Year of Mercy? This one was in Zakopane,  Poland. Through God’s mercy we can enter what we rather inadequately call ‘The House of God’ — if there is a way to avoid crippling steps, put there by history but not needed for today’s church, which seems to be called to be much more lay-led in the near future.

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23 April: Not a mere generous impulse; Brownings X.

Here is Elizabeth Barrett, writing to Robert Browning a few months before the extract in our last post.
I thought too, at first, that the feeling on your part was a mere generous impulse, likely to expend itself in a week perhaps.
It affects me and has affected me, very deeply, more than I dare attempt to say, that you should persist so—and if sometimes I have felt, by a sort of instinct, that after all you would not go on to persist, and that (being a man, you know) you might mistake, a little unconsciously, the strength of your own feeling; you ought not to be surprised; when I felt it was more advantageous and happier for you that it should be so. In any case, I shall never regret my own share in the events of this summer, and your friendship will be dear to me to the last. You know I told you so—not long since.
from “The Letters of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Barrett, Vol. 1 (of 2) 1845-1846″ by Robert Browning, available on Kindle and online. 

It can be hard to accept that we are loved, whether by God or another human being. Surely we have experienced those ‘mere generous impulses’ which come to nothing but scratch a few scars on the heart in the process.

Jesus – in this world, in his time – stayed long enough to reassure his disciples that their friendship was dear to him to the last. And while Peter (the past master of generous impulses) may always have regretted his share in the events of that spring, he received the grace to feed the Lord’s sheep and be faithful to the last.

The clasped hands of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, cast by Harriet Hosmer, Metropolitan Museum of Art. This file is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.


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23 April: The Holy of Holies.


The Holy of Holies refers of course to the innermost chamber of the Temple in Jerusalem – and before that in the tent that went through the desert with the Israelites. Blake reminded us that God is present in a grain of sand; here is Chesterton meeting him on a Spring morning. This follows on from yesterday’s posting because these cowslips are growing in pastureland, where sheep will safely graze later in the year. We were told that the farmer seeded the field with wild flowers. Thank you to him! And Chesterton was rather fond of Saint George, whose feast falls today.

‘Elder father, though thine eyes
Shine with hoary mysteries,
Canst thou tell what in the heart
Of a cowslip blossom lies?

‘Smaller than all lives that be,
Secret as the deepest sea,
Stands a little house of seeds,
Like an elfin’s granary,

‘Speller of the stones and weeds,
Skilled in Nature’s crafts and creeds,
Tell me what is in the heart
Of the smallest of the seeds.’

‘God Almighty, and with Him
Cherubim and Seraphim,
Filling all eternity—
Adonai Elohim.’

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