Phil Klay is a young American war veteran. His 2020 novel Missionaries was selected by former president Barack Obama last December as one of his “favorite books of 2020” and was named one of the “The 10 Best Books of 2020” by the Wall Street Journal.
In the address Klay delivered upon receiving the Hunt Prize in 2018, he elaborated on the connection between the violence of the world around us and the life of faith. “Paul tells us ‘the Kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.’ And, at times, I think I can feel that power around me. Catholicism is not, or should not be, a religion of force. Not of hard mechanical rules, but of stories and paradoxes and enigmatic parables.
It is an invitation to mystery, not mastery, to communion, not control. It is a religion that fits with what I know of reality, that helps me live honestly, and that helps me set aside my dreams of a less atavistic world in which men follow rational orders and never rebel. Perfect obedience, after all, comes not from men, but machines. Fantasies of control are fantasies of ruling over the dead. And my tortured God is not a God of death, but of new life.
This post is abridged and adapted from an article in America magazine October 2021. Follow the link to read it all. ‘My tortured God is not a God of death, but of new life’: Christmas is part of that paradox.
We have received this invitation from CAFOD to join them in prayer and reflections through Advent.
Advent is just one week away, and we’d like to invite you to join us as we seek to draw closer to God and our global family, during this meaningful but often busy time.
Each day, in our Advent Calendar, we will be sharing Bible reflections, stories of our global neighbours, prayers and practical ideas for action, as we create a space to prepare for the coming of Christ. The calendar is live now if you’d like to begin to explore the resource.
Join us on this journey by signing up now for our Advent Calendar email reminders. Sign up now Why not also encourage your family and friends to sign up too and share this Advent journey with us?
Wishing you every blessing, as the Church year comes to a close,
In recent years Mrs T and I have only seen Peterborough Cathedral from the train. Modern ticketing make it difficult to break a journey for a minipilgrimage or just to stretch your legs. So let’s join Cathedral guide Ann Reynolds as she tells the story of Saint Kyneburgha, who helped found the monastery on this site in AD 653. England and Wales had many redoubtable women church leaders in those times: surely the DNA is still in our women’s veins?
One part of St David’s Cathedral did not feature in our armchair pilgrimage – the Treasury. Strange, that, since we do like things that help tell the Story of Creation and Salvation, but thanks to Crispin Paine who visited for Religion & Collections, we can put that right now.
What story do your treasures tell? This cushion is not in the Treasury, but like so many of St David’s treasures is just doing its job in the Cathedral. But it invites us to sit and be comfortable in God’s presence and reminds us of the heavenly Jerusalem to which we are bound, a country as lovely as Wales but with better weather for camping! Can someone identify the tune, perhaps?
A note about the Charter mentioned by Dr Paine: ‘the City status of St Davids, while having ecclesiastical roots going back for centuries, was granted to all of St Davids by HM the Queen by Royal Charter on 1st June 1995’, according to the City Council. This charter put things to rights after it was discovered that there was no record of a city charter ever being granted. Rochester in Kent, however, lost its city status in 1998, when the city council was merged with Gillingham, and does not look like getting it back any time soon. Yet Rochester was the second English city, founded by St Justus in 604.
One wet morning, St. Francis entered a garden, sat down on a bird bath and prayed silently. Then, looking up, he saw those creatures in the garden and he called, “My sister slugs, come here to me and listen to a word from God. A group of them immediately made their way towards him and came up to his feet. At this, the saint said, “Sister slugs, I command you to stop”, and they stopped and pricked up their eye stalks eagerly. Saint Francis addressed the creatures thus:
“Blessed are you, my sister slugs because you are models of true humility. You do not try to be high fliers like other creatures but cling to the earth. You do not try to be anything other than what you are. You do not protect yourselves with hard shells like your cousins the snails, but leave yourselves vulnerable in the open and offer yourselves as food to other creatures. You are despised by cleverer creatures because you are simple and so, rejoice, since God who made you loves you greatly.”
We pray that today’s families may be accompanied with love, respect and guidance.
Mrs Turnstone and I took pride in being around for our children. Then they started to grow up, and we had to as well! Actually, it was often the children who accompanied their parents with love, respect and guidance.
Love: how about breakfast in bed sometime before 6.00 a.m. – dry cereal in a sardine can, because the pre-schoolers could not heave the milk down from the fridge, and the can did duty for various games, usually as a doll’s bed.
Respect: as in wanting to go to work, gardening with one or the other parent, doing as we did.
Guidance: for example, shaking their father, guilty of falling asleep while reading bedtime stories, or dictating a dress code: If you ever come to school in that coat again …
Trivial examples which point to the love, respect and guidance there should be within the family. Sometimes it’s difficult: ‘Will,’ one mother said to me, ‘Annie is the first of my four kids to do exams. I can’t help her because I never did them either.’ Such families are often honestly doing their best and need support, not condemnation.
Let us remember them this month. Perhaps it’s as well exams were scrapped this year because of the corona virus!
The following day found the three of them walking under the trees in the park, escaping some of the evening wind and keeping a weather eye open for parrots and squirrels. At least Ajax and Alfie were thus occupied, T’s face lit up when he saw a familiar face, Greta from the coffee shop in the old bus near the railway station. She’d been out of work and out of sight for weeks and now here she was, striding around the park in black leotard and pink floral tights with matching trainers.
‘Hello Mr T’, she said, slightly out of breath. ‘I thought you’d disappeared off the face of the earth.’
– ‘What does she mean?’ Alfie flashed. ‘Does she know we are aliens?’ ‘Even more alien than Asian sailors,’ growled Alfie. ‘How can she know?’ ‘Maybe she’s an alien too.’
Greta glanced at her wrist. ‘9, 563 steps so far on this walk. That means I can get my 10,000 before I get home. I have to be there for 5.30 this evening. I’ve been doing at least 10,000 steps a day ever since we were closed.’
– ‘No alien would be walking 10,000 steps, Alfie.’ ‘No? What about the treadmill and weights in the pod?’ – ‘Will you two be quiet!’ flashed T, then let them off the lead.
‘A delivery coming?’ he asked Greta.
‘No, we have an appointment to read bedtime stories to our grandchildren in Gibraltar. We haven’t seen them for months, and we don’t know when we will see them, so three nights a week we read their stories. 5.30 here is 6.30 there, time for bed. I’d better keep moving!’
‘She’s got to be human. No alien that I’ve ever known would obsess about getting 10,000 steps in, and then sit down to read bedtime stories to faraway grandchildren,’ T said to himself.
We rejoin the alien chihuahuas and Mr T after quite a time when they were collecting data on humanity as seen in Margate, a seaside town in England.The covid lockdown is underway.
The chihuahuas were going cabin crazy, which was a sign of how the last three years had changed them from post-apocalyptic hermits on their home planet of Ossyria to hyperintelligent pseudocanines on Earth. The long Margate horizons, the ever changing sunsets, fish and chips and the joys of chasing the parrots that always got away; these had all got under their skins. A day in Margate, said Ajax, is better than a thousand on Ossyria.
But now they were stuck indoors most of the day due to the corvid19 outbreak. A bit too reminiscent of the latter days of Ossyria. Except that here there was an edge of uncertainty that did not trouble anyone in Ossyria, where life was almost eternal but safe in the pods and, looking back, very boring. Now the chihuahuas could feel the humans’ fear on the street. And neither they nor ‘T’, their director who was disguised as a human, knew how a transformed Ossyrian body would react to the virus if it came their way.
‘I could cut up my blue shirt and sew up some masks,’ said T who travelled around earth in human form but mostly stayed near Margate.
Alfie replied,‘No mask for me, thank you, T; I want to smell things as I go along, not have them drowned out by the smell of washing powder on the cloth.’ And Ajax agreed, or at least he said, ‘I was just going to say that!’ And they were soon rolling about the floor, snapping and snarling. T sighed. ‘No more Superstud Doggynutz for you two.’ An empty threat; the biscuits were delivered every fortnight with his groceries, which he now had to collect from the front doorstep while the driver kept his distance. It was pups’ play for the doglets to distract him when he was checking the shopping list spreadsheet.
Stuart Perkins has shared a story in his blog, Storyshucker. It’s about what I’ve been calling relics in a few articles in the Mirror over the years. Here is a link to Alexandria Living Magazine where it was published. Thank you Stuart!
In this odd era Mrs Turnstone is threatening an unsentimental bonfire of the relics, keepsakes, mathoms around the house. But she likes the fish too much!
There was once a little boy named Duncan who couldn’t see very well. The funny thing about it was that he didn’t know it. Duncan thought that everything in the world had fuzzy edges because that is the way things looked to him.
When Duncan finally got glasses – WOW! The world looked so different.
You may not have trouble with your eyesight, but all of us have difficulty seeing and understanding things at times. Our reading today takes place just days after Jesus was crucified and shows how some of Jesus’ disciples had trouble understanding what they had seen.
Sometimes we feel confused and don’t see things clearly. When that happens, we need help understanding our lives more clearly. Jesus is with us to help us to do that. He helps us to understand that God loves us and that there is nothing to fear.
Father, we are thankful that as we travel along life’s road, Jesus is walking with us and that he will help us see and understand the things that happen in our life. Amen.
Reflection from Anne Holiday, L’Arche Kent.
This is one of a series of reflections from members of L’Arche Kent on the Emmaus journey in Luke 24: 13-35, which was the main text for our Pilgrimage last year.