We pray for the elderly,
who represent the roots and memory of a people;
may their experience and wisdom
help young people to look towards the future
with hope and responsibility.
Pope Francis has been speaking quite a lot about old age recently. Representing the roots and memory of a people is a quite responsibility for us oldies. It’s more important than you might think, until you realise that only two or three people remember events that were important at the time and helped shape our community or family today. And as for important people!
A couple of years ago a story popped into my head about a woman from Canada who helped shape our L’Arche community, back in 1975. I tracked down her brother who shared the story with her daughter – my friend had died between times. He wrote back, sharing his niece’s reaction, overjoyed to read about her mother, and a story hitherto unknown to her. ‘What a gift!’ she had said.
Yes, memory is a gift, not only for old persons but for those who are energised by the stories of beginnings and growth, prosperity and hardship. Maybe this July could be a month of sharing memories, sharing experiences and hope. Praying for the elderly might well include listening to them and recording their wisdom.
Follow this link to Independent Catholic News and Pope Francis’s video message for today.
Hope! You might well think it’s in short supply these days, with climate change and all the storms, with wars and threats of war, and terror and division. We can only do what we can, where we can. The Irish Chaplaincy was established to do what it can, where it is needed in England. Here comes a Hope-full story. As ever, it is told by Eddie Gilmore.
A conversation on a train station platform reminded me of both the power of stories and the power of hope, and it linked as well with a forthcoming campaign of the Irish Chaplaincy.
Francis, who spent his working life as a clinical psychologist in the NHS, told me excitedly that he was reading my book * and I was equally excited to learn that he had bought not just one but three of them (not all for himself)! “I like how you use narrative,” he explained and he recalled how years ago if he had only a short time to get across the details of a ‘case’ with a senior policy-maker he would usually choose to tell a story about the person in question. This was, in his experience, the most effective means by which change might occur.
When I told Francis about our #storiesofhope campaign to be launched in Lent he remarked, “Hope is about the power to make a difference.” Here is the first of those stories of hope. It is Emma’s story, as told by Breda who features strongly in it, and it is told with Emma’s permission.
A Reason to Live
Our wonderful team is currently supporting a 35-year-old woman who in February 2021 just days after her release from prison was airlifted to hospital and put into a medical coma for 28 days. Emma had a rare but serious bacterial infection that affects the tissue beneath the skin and surrounding muscles and organs which resulted in the amputation of her left leg. Her mother was told that her daughter had a 2% chance of survival and was advised to turn off Life Support. She declined! Initially Emma had no use in both arms but this is slowly improving with intensive therapy at a care home; however she struggles with the use of her right leg as it remains severely damaged. Although Emma’s long-term prognosis isn’t yet fully known, what is certain is that she will need lots of care for many months if not years and will have to endure years of skin graft operations.
Thankfully, the team at the Irish Chaplaincy has been able to support both mother and daughter: practically, by advocating on their behalf to statutory bodies; financially, with small donations for telephone credit, travel assistance as well as essential sundries; emotionally, with visits from two of our caseworkers, who are also available at the end of the telephone anytime for either mother or daughter; and spiritually, through prayer. Additionally, with the help of our friends at Caritas, who when they heard Emma’s story provided a mobility scooter, she is now able to get around better, saying, “I feel like I have my legs back.”
Both mother and daughter are extremely remarkable and humbling; truly inspirational and doing their best to stay positive. They are an absolute pleasure to work with and the essence of our Chaplaincy’s purpose. We would be so very grateful for your thoughts and prayers to help them get through this difficult time and to help us continue in the work we love to do in supporting those most in need. Emma said to one of those who came to visit her: “You’ve given me a reason to live.”
The latest chapter in this story is that with the help of the Irish Chaplaincy Emma has managed to secure suitable accommodation where she can live with her mother after her mother is released from an open prison in a few months’ time. Now Emma not only has a reason to live, she also has her own place to live in!
More such stories of hope are coming soon…
* The link is to our review of Eddie’s book, Looking ahead with Hope; Francis was right, it’s a good read!
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.