Tag Archives: spirituality

5 January: Sweet singing in the choir

Today’s post is an extract from a longer article from the Hermit of Saint Bruno. Worth reading in full, I’m sure much in there will resonate with you, especially if we cannot sing together this Christmastide!

Carthusian monks spend a lot of time singing in choir and cell. They gather to sing the Mass in the morning, then to sing the Office of Vespers at the end of the day, and at night for the long Office of Readings and Lauds. It is the common activity that takes the most time in the life of the monks.

Not only is Gregorian chant inseparable from the liturgy – it is not an ornament – but it is considered an essential spiritual instrument. The Statutes specify it thus:

“Let us observe this manner of chanting, singing in the sight of the most Holy Trinity and the holy angels, penetrated with fear of God and aflame with a deep desire. May the songs we sing raise our minds to the contemplation of eternal realities, and our voices blend into one cry of jubilation before God our Creator.” (Statutes book VI, §52:25)

The Statutes state precisely that singing can elevate the spirit to contemplation of God, that is, to the highest one can expect here below.

To round off this reflection, may I send you back three years to this video from the Poor Clares of Lilongwe, singing and dancing their prayers.

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16 March, Desert XIX: Detached lives

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In the hands of the wicked

Revisiting ‘The Imitation of Christ’ after many years, in my Grandmother’s 1936 edition, I realise that it is very self-centred. Here Thomas A Kempis takes the Desert Fathers and Mothers as examples of the Christian life; ‘They hated their lives on earth that they might have life in eternity. ‘ Is that what the Lord asks of us? Do we have to be strangers to the world in order to be intimate friends of God? I think not. Walking in charity and patience surely demands that we live in the world, and love the people in it and indeed the whole of creation, and our own life in it. Loving God’s creation which we can see, is to love the God we cannot see. Love of creation, rather than contempt for it, will bring us back from the brink of destruction. But here is The Imitation: I hope the time spent reading it is profitable!

Consider the lively examples set us by the saints, who possessed the light of true perfection and religion, and you will see how little, how nearly nothing, we do. What, alas, is our life, compared with theirs?

The saints and friends of Christ served the Lord in hunger and thirst, in cold and nakedness, in work and fatigue, in vigils and fasts, in prayers and holy meditations, in persecutions and many afflictions. How many and severe were the trials they suffered — the Apostles, martyrs, confessors, virgins, and all the rest who willed to follow in the footsteps of Christ! They hated their lives on earth that they might have life in eternity.

How strict and detached were the lives the holy hermits led in the desert! …  They used all their time profitably; every hour seemed too short for serving God, and in the great sweetness of contemplation, they forgot even their bodily needs …

Strangers to the world, they were close and intimate friends of God. To themselves they seemed as nothing, and they were despised by the world, but in the eyes of God they were precious and beloved. They lived in true humility and simple obedience; they walked in charity and patience, making progress daily on the pathway of spiritual life and obtaining great favour with God. They were given as an example for all religious, and their power to stimulate us to perfection ought to be greater than that of the lukewarm to tempt us to laxity.

Taken from the translation by Aloysius Croft and Harold Bolton, Digitized by Harry Plantinga, planting@cs.pitt.edu, 1994. This etext is in the public domain.

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7 December: Not a pious pastime.

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I have been reading Abbot Erik Varden’s new book ‘The Shattering of Loneliness, on Christian Rememrance’, and will review it in the next few months. I wanted to share this insight as we come towards Christmas. It follows nicely from Pope Benedict’s ‘sober inebriation’ remark about music, which certainly sustained his spiritual life. On p129.

The Spiritual Life is not, cannot be, a pious pastime. It is premised on a total surrender to the promise and demands of the Gospel. it bears the imprint of the Cross and is charged with the spirit of the risen Jesus.

 

 

 

 

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July 31: Traherne I: We love we know not what

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The preacher deplored how some people claim to be ‘spiritual but not religious’; when looking at religion with something of an outsider’s eye  – as an often alienated Catholic – I have more sympathy than Father was expressing! We have to leave room for the Spirit to blow where s/he will and try not to get in the way.

Edward Thomas pointed me towards Thomas Traherne not long ago. This Meditation of his goes some way to defending the ‘spiritual but not religious’ soul. We surely cannot maintain that atheists and agnostics do not love.

Though it be a maxim in the schools that there is no Love of a thing unknown, yet I have found that things unknown have a secret influence on the soul, and like the centre of the earth unseen violently attract it.

We love we know not what, and therefore everything allures us.

As iron at a distance is drawn by the loadstone, there being some invisible communications between them, so is there in us a world of Love to somewhat, though we know not what in the world that should be. There are invisible ways of conveyance by which some great thing doth touch our souls, and by which we tend to it. Do you not feel yourself drawn by the expectation and desire of some Great Thing?

Surely the spiritual but not religious person feels so drawn? And if we church-goers are honest, at both institutional and personal levels, we have sometimes, often even, got in the way of the Spirit. Thomas Traherne’s theology of Joy seems a good way to enter the holiday month of August. Laudato Si!

WT

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What happened next? The Franciscan spirit after FISC.

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November 5, Jesus Beyond Dogma II: v – ‘the danger of reducing God-in-Jesus to our own image and likeness’.

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It is far from true to say that the majority of thoughtful young adults today have abandoned religion. My experience is that it is the denominational that is the issue. They want spiritual relevance and ethical responsibility, but cannot see it in any us-and-them ideology that has accompanied so much institutional religion. While formal religion seems to be on the wane, there is certainly a resurgence of interest in things spiritual.

For many, spiritual realities do not happen apart from some kind of formal belief; whereas human experience suggests otherwise. But how do we recognise these signs, and what are they telling us? Is it possible for a genuinely spiritual person to see institutional religion as irrelevant? We have inherited formal structures which seem to suggest they are a sine qua non – monogamous marriage, the nuclear family, formal work place and religious institutions with dogmatic boundaries. These boundaries translate as rules and regulations controlling personal behaviour. On the one hand, without these boundaries there would be anarchy; on the other hand, leaving such boundaries unquestioned is a prescription for disintegration.

Personal relationship with Jesus is regarded by spiritual guides as the ultimate criterion of genuine spirituality. I have experienced the closeness of God when walking in the countryside, or meandering along the coastline, or sitting quietly in chapel. I hesitate to use a human analogy to explain this experience, because it feels as if something greater, more profound is here. My hesitancy is the possible danger of reducing God-in-Jesus to our own image and likeness, and in some way alien to the freedom of the children of God.

Does this sound a little pagan, worshipping the elements as in primitive times? Such statements seem to carry an element of certitude and clarity of faith – we know what is right and this isn’t it. We are so much part of the system that we easily adopt its labels. Take the word pagan. It is used frequently to denote not just opposition to formal religion, but devoting one’s time and energy to worshipping what are seen as replacements for the real God. Jesus said: do not be like pagans, those who make their authority felt – Mark.10.42.

It alleges that ancient worship of sun, moon and stars is primitive when seen from our civilised times. True worship of God is only possible in a civilised world, and is monotheistic. The ability and freedom to see our past in a more favourable light is one of the spiritual challenges facing us. It is not exonerating the past, but widening our horizons and seeing the unity in creation in ever new light.

AMcC

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31 October: Christ walking with travellers: Human trafficking 3.

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Local Response to Human Trafficking

Taken from the Santa Marta Group  website   The Santa Marta Group brings the Church and Police together to combat Human trafficking. Here is an example provided by the United Kingdom (UK): Bakhita House.

In the UK today there are around 14,000 people in modern slavery, and over 50% of those people are trafficked through London.

The Catholic Church in England and Wales has put into place a local response to combat the scourge of human trafficking – the Bakhita Initiative. It’s a forward-thinking and influential national anti-trafficking hub.

A collaborative approach, the Bakhita Initiative has focused on strengthening partnerships between law enforcement agencies and those involved in working with those who have been trafficked.

In the UK, this has involving the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, the London Metropolitan Police, Catholic religious communities, and other support agencies.

A key element of the initiative is Caritas Bakhita House – a ‘triage’ centre for the emergency placement of women escaping human trafficking and its function will be to support the beginnings of the restorative process.

Victims of Trafficking

Caritas Bakhita House aims to tackle the devastating consequences of human trafficking by providing those victims who are most vulnerable and traumatised with the safety and support to begin the process of recovery and rehabilitation.

Bakhita House offers emergency support, psychosexual therapy, legal and financial assistance, mentoring, and help with accessing accommodation. Women will also have access to education and employment opportunities.

Women who are supported by Caritas Bakhita House will benefit from these values and principles of action:

Love – expressed in compassionate support and long term commitment

Respect – for the gift and dignity of each individual

Community – a welcome which creates friendship and belonging

Spirituality – nurtured by that Joy in creative activity which lifts the spirit

Caritas Bakhita House is owned by the Archdiocese of Westminster and managed by Caritas Westminster. Bakhita House has been made possible through our partnerships with the Bishops’ Conference, the Metropolitan Police Anti-Trafficking Unit, the Congregation of Adoratrices, local parishes, and victims and survivors of human trafficking.

John Coleby, Director of Caritas Westminster, says:

“Caritas Bakhita House is part of a unique partnership between the Catholic Church and the Metropolitan Police to support victims of trafficking and modern slavery…

“Through working with international, national and local Catholic networks, this project will make visible the universal solidarity which exists among Catholics and other people of goodwill who wish to rid the world of this crime.”

Caritas Bakhita House opened on 30 June 2015.

 

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