Tag Archives: silence

26 May: The Builder’s Dog without the Ossyrians, II. Silence amid the Noise.

Silence amid the Noise.4canal (10) (640x362)

From Will Turnstone’s personal blog.

Between 7.30 and 9.00 in the morning must be the noisiest time of day but most people have to filter out the noise, just to do what we have to. Young Abel often draws our attention to sirens, trains and loud machinery, but I did not need his advice this morning.

The Builder’s Dog is with us and needed his morning walk. Today he was sniffling round a shrub when I heard a woodpecker drumming somewhere nearby. Not that I saw him, but it’s a pleasure to hear him. Trying to place him – somewhere in the treetops – without binoculars was futile, but it made me aware of the din around me, even though I was some yards from the nearest road. The school playing field was being mown with a tractor and a mower; the main roads and inner ring road were still very busy, but a motorbike and ambulance stood out. There were trains and planes, and children winding down to go indoors for the morning.

But I could still hear the woodpecker. And the chaffinch and the blackcap … and the herring gulls and rooks overhead.

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Sometimes we must dive into whatever silence is around, even if no-one else can hear it, even if only for a moment. Oh, still small voice of calm.

But now it’s back to work! 1 Kings 19.12.

 

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8 May: In the place of God’s presence

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Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it

…this is the house of God, the gate of heaven.

Genesis 28: 16-17

Every place is the house of God, the gate of heaven. Often, when pushed and pulled by noise and movement, it seems God is nowhere – but break the word open and you have the truth: God is now – here.

How do we become awake and receptive to this presence? We might try two things:

The first: To find or create a physical space in our home or environment where we purposefully [and regularly] go to be open to God.

This is likely to be somewhere where we feel at home or comfortable. It could be a corner of a room in the house, where a chair waits, a candle just sitting there invites you to light it and a bible rests ready to restore your soul. Such a space works in a similar way that a church building does. A church is made of bricks and mortar like so many other buildings but you know when you enter why you are going there. Walking in, sitting down, you become open to God who is in that place. The dedicated space in your home becomes your ‘church’; through daily practice you have only to go there to begin the act of prayer.

Your ‘holy’ place could also be a garden shed, a bench in the park where you sit in your lunchbreak, or a place where you regularly walk. What helps is to make your going to whatever space you choose intentional, in just the same way that you choose to visit a friend or family member.

The second: Each day to purposefully seek God in a place that up to now we have found uncomfortable and that seems to work against any sense of God’s presence.

I can think of a few: For example, I rarely enjoy walking along Borough High Street, near London Bridge, where I sometimes work. There is no green of tree or plant to soften the concrete. The pavements are thronged with people walking against the flow of wherever it is I want to get to. The traffic is noisy. Why even try to seek God here? Because God is here and now. So as I walk along I breathe out my hurry and worry, and breathe in God with me. I pause long enough to see the faces that pass me, the cars moving by, the sky framed by the buildings and ask the Lord to help me see well, with an open mind and heart. Perhaps I will hold the line of a psalm as I walk along, dodging those who cannot see because their eyes are trained on the screen of their mobiles.

Where is such a place for you – somewhere that is a regular part of your life? Or perhaps it will be a time of day more than a physical place: perhaps the time when you first get in from work and all the emails are awaiting you, or the commute home on a busy train.

Seek God there, and you will find. It may not be anything dramatic or immediate. God inhabits the ordinary, and moves within the waiting heart.

CC.

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28 March: “Is Christianity Dead?”- Our Response to BBB: III – The church should feel like a place of welcome.

 

Dear BBB,

I spend a fair bit of time with teenage boys, and was one myself. Let me return to those lads staring at the ceiling. Part of the answer to their apparent detachment was that they – and the girls – should have been at the door, greeting people, handing out newsletters and hymn books, finding seats for visitors, pointing out the toilets/washrooms. Yes, some of them would feel awkward doing that, but if you are part of the team you are part of the community. Welcoming could be a ministry they undertake as part of the confirmation programme.

Even when no-one is there but the One in the Tabernacle, a Church should feel like a place of welcome. I sometimes feel a little over-welcomed at Canterbury Cathedral when I just want to dive into the dark, quiet crypt for ten minutes. There is a certain nervous zeal amongst the welcomers when I enter wearing my day-glow builder’s jacket for cycling. But no question of turning me away because I look like a manual worker.

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For good reasons the church porch may be the only space open outside service times. Does it speak of the life of the parish? Can the visitor discover what’s going on and who is responsible for different activities? If I’m in town to visit my relative in hospital, can I see the contact details for the chaplains? Is there a written introduction to the church and parish? In more than one language? Can a wheelchair user see the sanctuary and tabernacle if the main church is locked?

This is all part of ‘do these Christians love one another?’ It is the body language of the parish, absorbed before the newcomer has set foot in the church or joined in Mass.

They say body language conveys more than the spoken word, but one Mass when one of my children was really vocal, an old lady looked daggers at us, or so we thought, till she came over after Mass and made a real fuss of her.

She was blessing our marriage and our child.

A visitor to our parish once complained that he could not pray seated near us when one of the children was too enthusiastic for his liking. He could have sat elsewhere. Such attitudes drive people away; there was the parish priest at a seaside town who told us he expected young children (ours would have been two and four years old) to stay in the porch. We stayed in church, they were quiet, and he complimented us afterwards – but we would not have wanted to worship there regularly.

For it must needs be that scandals come: but nevertheless woe to that man by whom the scandal cometh.

Matthew 18:7

WT

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24 March: THE PRAYER

madonna-closeup-hales-plTHE PRAYER

There stood beside the road a shrine,
In whose quaint, vaulted shadow smiled
With eyes of tenderness divine,
The Blessed Virgin and Her Child.
And I, who wandered all alone,
Along a rough and weary way,
Felt that a great desire had grown
Within my heart, to kneel and pray.
But lo! my voice had lost the power
To utter words so deep and sweet,
And so, I breathed them in a flower,
And left it, at the Virgin’s feet.
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There are times when a prayer, a candle, can say what words cannot. We can leave flowers or candles at the site of disasters, or as here, murderous attacks. The Lord does not need our words, he is The Word.
From ‘Twixt Earth and Stars’ by Marguerite Radclyffe-Hall, London 1906.
The writer was a parishioner at Saint Anthony of Padua, Rye, Sussex

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27 February: Full Stop.

trees-reflection-chris

Full stop,

where my sentence ends.

I have run out of words again.

Again my sentence ends

at a full stop.

Will you not take my waiting pen

at this full stop?

Then you and I shall write again.

But all I can give you

is my full stop,

and my waiting pen.

Sometimes life seems to come to a full stop. Something ends and we don’t know what comes next. Or perhaps we just recognise the need for a pause before we set out again

In something written – as with this piece – a full stop marks the end of one line of thought. If we are reading aloud, a full stop allows a breath – a pause – before we begin again. Full stops might seem to oppose the natural flow, but we need that breath. When writing it gives space to consider what it is we want to communicate and the ways we might do so. When reading we gain the time to take in what we have read: what is being said and what is its significance?

Like a piece of writing our life with God will have plenty of full stops. They exist not to impede our activity but to empower it. Some are like the ending of a chapter. We retire or change jobs, or move home, or experience the difficult ending of a relationship. Or perhaps the full stop feels more as if it is inside us: we sense it’s time to stop something that has been significant in our life. It’s time to move on. But to what? The pause invites us to let God in. We might be tempted to rush on to the next sentence – any old sentence – to avoid this uncomfortable halt in progress. But that would be a mistake. We need a deep breath of God; it will help us see where we have been going and where the road might now lead us.

Some full stops are smaller: not the end of a chapter or even a paragraph but a break within the activity of reading or writing. ‘Sometimes’ Etty Hillesum wrote in her journal, ‘the most important thing in our whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths or the turning aside in prayer for five minutes.’ These full stops are the intentional way we abide in Christ and draw life from Christ’s abiding in us. We have space to listen to the events of our day and what has been happening within us. We remember that we move forward together. As on the written page the stops are small but frequent. They help rather than hinder the flow of our activity, giving meaning and shape to what we do.

So as you write, or read, or live this day, put in the necessary punctuation.

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15 January: Laudato Si – for Robin!

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After a big Christmas meal among a crowd of adults, some of them unknown to him, 18 month-old Abel was getting restless so he went and found his wellington boots. It was time for some fresh air.

By the corner of the park he stopped. He pointed at the lilac tree and shook his finger – a gesture he uses if he hears a loud noise like a siren – or grandad sneezing. Grandad’s sinuses were not challenged on this occasion; the noise was coming from the tree: Robin playing his part in the dusk chorus.

Abel watched and listened till Robin changed his perch, then said, bye bye. Off he went into the park and straight up onto the old abandoned railway line. At the top he paused again, listening. Singing close by were a thrush and blackbird as well as another robin. After listening for a while, it was bye-bye to these birds too. We were unable to see them.

We did see the gulls flying below the clouds on their way to the coast: bye-bye to them too.

It was dark when we said bye-bye to Abel, but he pointed from his car-seat to our own robin, still singing, still patrolling his boundaries by street-light. Bye-bye Abel, thank you for listening with me!

Laudato si!

WT

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14 December: Recognising God in the world.

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Today is Wednesday in the third week of Advent, .and also the Memorial of Saint John of the Cross Priest and Doctor of the Church. He was a Carmelite friar who was outstanding in his holiness and knowledge, as his many spiritual writings testify.

The first reading from Isaiah 45: 6-8; 18, 21-26 is telling us that “Apart from me, (God) all is nothing. I am the Lord unrivalled. There is no other god besides me, a God of integrity and saviour;… Turn to me and be saved. From the Lord alone comes victory and strength”. As we are in this Advent period of waiting for Christ, how open I am to receive him? How prepared am I to welcome him and accept him and His good work in me? Am I ready to recognise him in my daily life?

In the Gospel, John the Baptist sends his disciples to go and ask Christ if he is the Messiah, or are they to wait for another? (Luke 7: 19-23) God comes to me in my daily activities and in the people that I meet each day. I meet God in creation, in the stillness of the lonely valleys…flowing with fresh water’… as St John of the Cross says in his Spiritual Canticle. I pray through the intercession of St John of the cross, that God will give me the grace to be strengthened, and rooted in the Love of God, that I may have the power to comprehend with the saints the breath, and length, and height and depth of the Love of Christ which surpasses all knowledge (cf.Ephesians 3:18). Amen.

FMSL

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December 4: Mercy is a star to steer by.

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There is an angel  called ‘The Mercy’ in Masefield’s play, who says:

I bring the Mercy of God as peace, as balm,

            As loving–kindness between soul and soul.

In the world’s storm I am the central calm,

            In the world’s sky my brightness is the Pole. (p4)

 

God’s Mercy as the fixed, dependable Pole Star that helps us find the way; our loving-kindness to each other as the day-to-day expression of Mercy; here are two ideas worth holding onto. We need Mercy as a star to steer by: Mercy needs us to bring it to where it has to be.

As Masefield wrote elsewhere:

All I ask is a tall ship

And a Star to steer her by.

‘Sea Fever’.

WT

Polaris is the bright start to the left of this NASA image.

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December 2, Jacopone da Todi 6: The Life of Jesus is the Mirror of the Soul

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Acquiring a few virtues that might make us better friends to the wandering crowds seems to many a very drawn-out process. But Jesus stays close to our half-hearted attempts. It is he who makes us capable of a thankful life caught up within the immensity of God’s goodness.

“To see my deformities in the mirror of truth,

The life of Jesus Christ,

To see them, Lord,

In that blinding light!

Once I looked upon myself as a person of some importance

And my self-esteem helped to brighten my days.

I saw my charity – Love half-spoiled;

One look and my world dissolved

In dizzying, turbulent confusion.

In that mirror I saw my notion of justice –

A denial of true virtue, robbing God of his honour.

Though outwardly orderly and composed,

The heart, ever bolder, coveted all;

Its flood waters had submerged reason,

The reason it was meant to serve.

In your light, O Lord, I have seen my nothingness,

My less than nothingness. The vision compels humility.

….I cannot be reborn unless I first die to myself.

O glorious state, in the quiet centre of the void,

The intellect and emotions at rest!

I cannot swim in that ocean of fathomless depths,

I will sink beneath the waves, a man drowned.

Overwhelmed by… my sweet Lord,

I settle into the sands at the bottom of the sea.”              (Laud 39)

 

 

Gratitude for recognising Christ as Lord within the vastness of God is the fullest art of celebration.

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Reminder: Advent Retreat, Waiting, Watching, Awakening Saturday December 3.

Dear Friends,

We would like to invite you to the Advent Retreat on Saturday  December 3. Please reply to Christopher Chapman directly at the email address below.

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Waiting, Watching, Awakening

A retreat day for Advent

Saturday December 3rd, 10 am to 3 pm

At the Franciscan International Study Centre, Giles Lane, Canterbury, CT2 7NA

The Christian year begins not with the great feasts of Christmas, Easter or Pentecost but with waiting. Advent is in many ways a stark season – a time to be in touch with our deepest desires and needs. It is a season of longing directed towards Christ, revealed as God-with-us, Emmanuel. Advent is a season of waiting, but in hope and in expectation.

The day will be led by Christopher Chapman, an experienced retreat leader and spiritual guide. He is the author of Seeing in the Dark [Canterbury Press 2013].

Programme for the day

Coffee and tea will be available from 9.30am

10am               Introduction to the day

10.15am          Waiting with Creation

10.45am          Quiet space with prayer exercises provided

11.30am          Watching with the Prophets

12 noon          Quiet space with prayer exercises provided

12.30pm          Lunch [please bring your own]

1.15pm            The awakening of Christ within

2pm                Quiet space with prayer exercises provided

2.40pm            Gathering and prayer

3pm                 Tea and depart

Suggested donation for the day £10, or what you can afford.

To help with the organisation of the day please let us know that you intend to come.

Contact Christopher Chapman: chapmans314@btinternet.com      01227 479498

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