Tag Archives: study

20 October: Realities that are Unseen, IV.

Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of realities that are unseen (Hebrews 11: 1-2).

As I ponder this wonderful line from the Letter to the Hebrews and dwell with it, I begin to relearn what faith is about, what the word means.  I think back to the time in my life when faith came alive for me.  It happened over a period of some months when I was a very young adult.  There were stages to this, and the first was that it gradually came home to me that I didn’t know whether I believed in God or not – indeed, I wasn’t even sure what it meant to say that I was a Christian.  I saw that although I was attending church on Sundays I did so only because as an infant I had been carried to church, and ever since then I had not been given a choice in the matter.  But I could see clearly by that time that this was not good enough.  ‘Either figure out what this church business is all about,’ I said to myself, ‘or give it up.  But don’t go on like this, going to church as if you were a believer when you are actually clueless.’   So I decided to give my religion one last chance.  (Actually, I had never even given it a first chance, but in my habitual arrogance I was not really thinking clearly).  Thus the second stage in my relationship to faith began: I undertook to study the tenets of Catholic belief and to find out what it really meant to be a Christian.  

I can see now that this undertaking was itself prompted by God because otherwise it wouldn’t even have occurred to me: there was little true religious belief present in my heart.  Indeed, my ‘faith’ at that time, was faith in the mores and (false) promises of fulfilment offered by our secular culture.  My faith was also faith in myself, rather than in God.  But there was at least a pinch of true faith mixed in with the false; I did, after all, give some sort of homage to the idea that ‘this church business’ might have something worthwhile to offer and I would do well to have a look and see if I could find it.  But, at bottom, I must confess, I thought that my study would end with me dusting off my hands and becoming a completely secular non-believer, pursuing, as did so many of my peers, the allurements of pleasure and materialism which popular culture’s media-driven propaganda constantly advertised.  

But the Lord had something else in mind, clearly, and he who takes the initiative in love, also responds to our smallest overture (and my overture was extremely small) with an overwhelming display of love.   As my study of Christianity continued, some of my smug self-reliance began to give way.  I began to face how deeply needy I was on the spiritual level, and how much I needed God.  And this, in turn, led me into to a deep interior relationship with the Lord.  A whole world was opening up.  I found that ‘the existence of realities that are unseen’ were beginning – most wonderfully – to be proved to me.  The God, whom I barely knew, treated me like the prodigal daughter and ran to meet me with lavish experiences of joy.  At length, not only did I begin to practice my faith with conviction, I also developed an intense desire to give myself to the Lord fully.  And that was the genesis of my vocation to be Benedictine nun.  Decades have passed since I professed vows as a nun, and it is even more obvious to me today than on my profession day that the unseen realities are the most real realities that exist.  

My lectio questions were quickly turning into reasons for joy by now.  These reflections reaffirmed that faith – this love-relationship with the unseen God – does indeed guarantee the deepest blessings.  Faith is not merely a default setting for the times when the great mysteries of religion loom large.  Faith is an all-the-time setting.  Faith has positive content: it is the up-and-running relationship between God the Father and me – God, who is wholly mysterious in essence, but who is infinitely and infallibly real, infinitely and infallibly “there,” holding out the blessings that we hope for.   

Through this lectio journey, I rediscovered that faith is also the word we use to talk about our relationship with God’s Son, Jesus Christ, who really was seen in his lifetime and now, through the Gospel, shows me the way to the Father and challenges me to see him, that I may see the Father; faith is the word used to talk about the mission of the Church as the mediator of Christ to me in her teaching authority, in the sacraments, and in the union of believers when they gather in his name and among whom Jesus promises to be – and is – present.  Finally, faith is something for which I thank God because the word means that God has me and I have him in a relationship of love.  Faith, inseparable from love, does guarantee all blessings; it is about the unseen realities, it reveals the existence of them, and has proved to me that they are real.  

Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of realities that are unseen (Hebrews 11: 1-2).

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6 March, Proverbs 11.1: a just weight is his delight.

scaales
Just and true measurements

Let us continue raising our consciousness this Lent! Our Proverb takes up an idea from yesterday’s prayer from Eastern Vespers.

A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight.” Proverbs 11.1.

This Nineteenth Century kitchen balance was an heirloom from our next-door neighbour, Kay; it would have been interesting to hear the story of how she came to have it! It came with an incomplete set of iron wights, each one marked underneath with a crown and ‘VR’ to tell that they were trustworthy because they had been tested by officials representing Queen Victoria. Grandson Abel and I use them quite often. Abel takes delight in these just weights, because we get good results when we follow a recipe to cook using them –  and I take delight in his delight. A false balance is an abomination to society for obvious reasons. You can read here how Channel Island farmers used big stones chipped down to useful weights to measure produce for sale.

Their old French quintal weights would be no use to Abel and me, and nor would the few pounds and ounces that came with the scales, since he will think in grams and kilos – though his mother and auntie speak about their children’s weights in stones!

Just weights are a form of speaking the truth; the different British, Jersey-French and Metric systems may differ, but by carefully comparing them and using them consistently, we can always get delightful results.

And where Bible texts differ, as in the two versions of the Lord’s Prayer,* we can enjoy carefully and prayerfully puzzling out the differences and so take delight in them.

  • Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4.

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Apprenticeships with L’Arche



Find out more at our webinars on 16th February

In partnership with Springpod
 L’Arche Apprenticeships (Health and Social Care) offer a unique opportunity to learn new skills, build friendships and receive valuable health and social care training – all while experiencing the fun and joy of sharing life with adults who have learning disabilities. We’re partnering with careers platform ‘Springpod’ to present a virtual insight event where members of the L’Arche team will share their experiences.

We would love to invite you to come along and hear for yourself what makes L’Arche such a special place to learn and grow.   
On Wednesday 16th February,
we’ll be hosting two live webinars*: 

 *recordings of the sessions will be available online for one year  
Session #1 From care to community: what people with learning disability really want | 11am 
Community not institutions! That’s what people with a learning disability have demanded. But how do you create inclusive communities where one of the most under-represented groups in the country really belong? Discover what L’Arche is doing and why it’s so important.  

 Session #2 Become a community-builder – while getting an apprenticeship! | 12pm 
L’Arche is a movement with 11 communities across the UK and more than 150 worldwide. You don’t need to choose between developing your career and contributing to a life-changing cause. Discover how you could get a Health and Social Care apprenticeship while sharing life in community with people who have a learning disability.  
You can sign up to attend our virtual insight event here: Sign me up! We know that you have a busy few months ahead as you get ready to leave school…

Apprenticeship Weeks are happening around the UK (England and Wales 7-13 February; Scotland 7-11 March), packed with events and resources to give you the low-down on apprenticeships and help you as you make your next steps. We’ve decided to host our webinars outside of these weeks, on Wednesday 16th February, to give you the opportunity to attend as many events as seem relevant to you. For many students, this date falls in the half term break.

If you’re not able to join us live, the recorded event will be available online for a year.   Who are the webinars for? 

Anyone considering an apprenticeship is welcome to attend our webinars.
Those we take on at L’Arche are proactive, friendly people who enjoy getting stuck in and building community.
We think an apprenticeship at L’Arche could appeal to Psychology, Sociology or Health and Social Care students.
However, we’re much more concerned about taking on apprentices who will embrace a new challenge with enthusiasm, than we are about what courses you’ve been studying at school or college. 
 What will the webinars be like? Each of our two webinars will be around 45 minutes in length.
During that time, we’ll introduce you to L’Arche and its culture, as well as some of the people who are enjoying working with L’Arche at the moment.
We’ll make the sessions interactive, so you’ll have a chance to ask questions and get involved!
The event will be recorded and available to view online for a year. 
 What will happen after the webinars? We appreciate the time taken by everyone who applies to be a L’Arche Apprentice. That’s why we are committed to offering a guaranteed interview to all applicants who attend our webinars. Once the webinars are live, we’ll direct you to the application process.   We hope to see you there! Sign me up!

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4 December: The Longest Advent.

Today’s post and tomorrow’s are in part about the Missionaries of Africa. Archbishop Arthur Hughes M Afr, who died in 1949, encouraged the Catholic feminists of Saint Joan’s Alliance. This paragraph is from a talk he gave them during one of his visits home from Egypt during the 1940s. He sees devotion to Mary as totally compatible with feminism, and feminism as an essential part of our Catholic faith. But how much progress has there been in the last 70-odd years?

‘Advent is associated with ideas of worthiness and readiness, and during ‘the longest Advent’ feminists should think things out and read and meditate so that they could speak with ever more conviction.

Full equality, liberty and emancipation is the completion of the Christian ideal.

Our Lord by allowing devotion to Our Lady to become an integral part of our Catholic Faith paved the way for feminism – when he came to earth practically everything had still to be done towards the emancipation of women, not only equality had to be achieved, but something more, therefore external marks of respect towards women should be maintained and expected.

Your crusade is associated with the longest Advent. Pray and work with greater courage! ‘

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23 November: Season of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness.

Our third and – for the present – final borrowing from Eddie’s blog at the London Irish Chaplaincy. Thank you Eddie! Readers may like to visit the chaplaincy’s Prayer Room, see the invitation at the end of the post.

Eddie’s book, Looking ahead with Hope, is now on sale, price £9.99. See his account of a launch event here. WT.

We’re blessed in the UK and Ireland to have four distinct seasons, even occasionally being able to see all of them in a single day, and the transition from Summer to Autumn can be especially evocative.

Each year at the end of August I go through a little period of mourning for the Summer. The holidays have been and gone, the flowers are fading, the long trousers and long sleeves need to be got out, and our Wednesday evening cycling group has to cease due to the rapidly encroaching dark. And yet there are precious treats in store. I always await with eager anticipation the re-appearance of Orion, the constellation visible in the Northern hemisphere only over the winter months. I was at the monastery when the big day came. I happened to have a room on the East side of the Guest Wing and I’d initially been disappointed to be so placed. The West Wing, where I’d been before, overlooks the woods and the lovely old monastery buildings and is especially peaceful. The East side contains a school and a road and consequently a bit of noise. However, waking up in the dark on the first morning of my retreat at 5.40 a.m. to attend the 6 a.m. Vigils service I drew back the curtains to reveal the incredible sight in the sky of Orion and the Winter Triangle. It was like the return of an old and faithful friend. There was also a bright, full Harvest moon in all its glory, and a little later the deepest of red skies as the sun began to rise. Had I been in a room on the West side I would have missed it all!

Autumn is often a time of new beginnings. Another academic year commences, and many people might be embarking on a new course or hobby. The next level of my Korean class has got going and I’ve been enjoying both the study, the interaction with a very nice and very international group of people, and practising some of my new expressions on Yim Soon! The lessons have been quite fun so far and that’s how I like my language learning to be. And then at the start of September there was a much-anticipated event: the meeting of my choir for the first time in over a year and a half. There were fewer people than there used to be. Mansel, who I often sit next to, remarked to me at the start, “You do realise, don’t you, that the reason some people haven’t returned is because they’ve died!” It was a sobering reflection. Nonetheless it has been a great joy to drive off to Whitstable again on a Tuesday evening for rehearsals, a fixed point in my life for many years and much missed during COVID, and it will no doubt be a great joy to perform again.

I relish the first hints of coolness in the air in the early morning or late evening, and being able to give proper observance to those key transition periods in the day, dawn and dusk. I gather and prepare the wood for the winter fires. The garden as well needs to be got ready for its winter slumber and regeneration. There will be a final mowing of the grass; the remains of the summer flowers will be added to the compost heap; the soil will be dug over, taking care not to disturb the Spring bulbs. Perhaps new daffodils or tulips will be planted. Then the garden will be left; the worms will be allowed to do their hidden work of restoration; and the spiders will weave their beautiful webs that glisten so radiantly in the fresh dew of the morning.

October will bring the first frost, and how I marvel on my early morning walk to see the intricate patterns it makes on the car windscreens. That might coincide with another seasonal treat, the first fire. It will be the first of many and how I love to listen to the crackling of the logs and to watch the flames leap and dance. It will be time for the cooking apples to be harvested from the old tree by the shed. There will be the ceremonial first baking of apple crumble; and with a bumper crop, which seems to be every other year, the bulk will be made into chutney. Meanwhile the leaves on that and on the other trees will give their annual display of golden beauty, before they fall and wither.

The cycles of the seasons, the cycles of our lives. And, to paraphrase Keats as the days shorten on another year, may all our fruit be filled with ripeness to the core.

Eddie Gilmore

Visit our Prayer Room

We hope this becomes a place to remember loved ones, to mark special events, to be grateful for something happening or to bring a concern and receive blessings and solidarity from each other. Enjoy your time of prayer with us.

Go mbeannai Dia duit.

May God bless you.

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8 November: Duns Scotus’s Oxford.

Towery city and branchy between towers;
Cuckoo-echoing, bell-swarmèd, lark charmèd, rook racked, river-rounded;
The dapple-eared lily below thee; that country and town did
Once encounter in, here coped & poisèd powers;

Thou hast a base and brickish skirt there, sours
That neighbour-nature thy grey beauty is grounded
Best in; graceless growth, thou hast confounded
Rural, rural keeping — folk, flocks, and flowers.

Yet ah! this air I gather and I release
He lived on; these weeds and waters, these walls are what
He haunted who of all men most sways my spirits to peace;

Of realty the rarest-veinèd unraveller; a not
Rivalled insight, be rival Italy or Greece;
Who fired France for Mary without spot.

from “Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins Now First Published” by Gerard Manley Hopkins, Ed. Robert Bridges.

Blessed John Duns Scotus (1266-1308) was one of those remarkable Franciscans – the first of them was our patron, Agnellus of Pisa (1195-1236 – who helped make the early Oxford University into one of the great European centres of learning. Hopkins, the 19th Century Jesuit priest and scholar, admired Scotus, who died on this day in 1308, in Cologne. How European we were in those times!

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4 October: A Franciscan Vocation

model of a favela township, CD.

It is the feast of Saint Francis, so here is the story of a Franciscan vocation, beneath a model of a Franciscan parish in South America, sent in by Brother Chris. The story is that of Brother Martin, a Capuchin Franciscan: we share the first paragraph, the rest can be read here.

The Lord calls people in various ways and I heard His invitation when I was 17. Few years prior to that I became seriously ill and in search of treatment. I ended up moving from my home country of Poland to England. Dreams of studying languages changed into the hope of studying medicine. During my preparations for A’ levels, however, another event occurred that made me set out on a totally different course in life – I came across a person known to the world as Padre Pio, a Capuchin saint. Through his intercession I was partially cured of my illness and a desire was born within me to be a religious. I had no idea what that would entail, but I thought it cool to wear the habit, have a long beard, do penance whilst living conscious of the presence of God all the time!

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11 September: Vague religion versus Theology, Season of Creation XIII.

Times were hard in 1944. A religion that could not attempt some sort of explanation of the war that was still ongoing was no use to CS Lewis. In this extract he makes clear why. Much as Pope Francis did with Laudato Si’. There are good Christian reasons for studying the ways we are invited to prepare for the future without burning carbon, it’s not an add-on, it’s part of our share in creation, and it’s serious hard work.

A vague religion – all about feeling God in nature and so on – is so attractive. It’s all thrills and no work; like watching the waves from the beach. But you won’t get to Newfoundland by studying the Atlantic that way, and you won’t get to eternal life by just feeling the presence of God in flowers or music. Neither will you get anywhere by looking at maps without going to sea. And you won’t be very safe if you go to sea without a map.

In other words, Theology is practical … if you don’t listen to theology, that won’t mean you have no ideas about God. It’ll mean that you’ll have a lot of wrong ones.

C.S. Lewis, Beyond Personality, Geoffrey Bles, 1944.

Thomas Merton felt that more listening to Scripture was also part of the picture. He congratulated Ernesto Cardenal on his translation of the Psalms into Spanish, at a time when the Divine Office was recited in Latin: ‘These are the versions we should really be chanting in choir. How few monks think of the real meaning of the Psalms. If priests knew what they are reciting every day.’

Thomas Merton & Ernesto Cardenal, From the Monastery to the World, Berkeley, Counterpoint, 2017

Here is the link to Sister Johanna’s Psalm reflection for today.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

Psalms

What is it like to use the psalms for prayer every day and many times a day?  By God’s grace, my experience of praying the psalms daily now stretches over nearly four decades.  I shall try to say a little about what I have learned during this time.

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Season of Creation I: Study Days


Photo by Bill Oxford on Unsplash

Fr Adrian Graffy writes: During the 2021 Season of Creation, from 1st September to the feast of St Francis on 4th October, thousands of Christians on six continents will unite to pray and take action in defence of our common home.

From the parish of Gidea Park in Brentwood Diocese, we have organised two study days – on Saturday 4th September and Saturday 2nd October from 11.00 to 12.30 BST – to explore the teaching of Pope Francis on ‘care for our common home’ (Laudato si’), and the promotion of global solidarity (Fratelli Tutti).

These study days, ‘The Cry of Creation’ and ‘The Cry of the Poor’ will be given by Fr Ashley Beck, associate professor at St Mary’s University, Twickenham. For access to these free live stream events go to: www.whatgoodnews.org

No registration needed. Talks will be available subsequently on the same website. Please spread the word on social media.

Photo by Bill Oxford on Unsplash

LINK

Season of Creation – www.seasonofcreation.org

We are happy to spread the word about these study days, which we learnt about from Independent Catholic News.

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25 July: Honest labour

Boswell read Doctor Johnson's papers after his death:

I select from his private register the following passage:

 'July 25, 1776. 
O GOD, 
who hast ordained that whatever is to be desired should be sought by labour, 
and who, by thy blessing, bringest honest labour to good effect, 
look with mercy upon my studies and endeavours. 
Grant me, O LORD, to design only what is lawful and right; 
and afford me calmness of mind, 
and steadiness of purpose, 
that I may so do thy will in this short life, 
as to obtain happiness in the world to come, 
for the sake of JESUS CHRIST our Lord. Amen.

Boswell comments: This was composed when he 'purposed to apply vigorously to study, particularly of the Greek and Italian tongues.' Such a purpose, so expressed, at the age of sixty-seven, is admirable and encouraging; and it must impress all the thinking part of my readers with a consolatory confidence in habitual devotion, when they see a man of such enlarged intellectual powers as Johnson, thus in the genuine earnestness of secrecy, imploring the aid of that Supreme Being, 'from whom cometh down every good and every perfect gift.

Let us all have confidence in habitual devotion!

Life of Johnson by James Boswell, via Kindle.

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