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Pam Dodds RIP

Pamela in 1981 at Faith House by Cathy Davis

Zoom calls have quickly become a part of the ‘new normal’, and I’ve even now participated in my first zoom remembrance service.

Pam Dodds was born in Canterbury in 1958 and she came, in 1981, to live at Faith House, the newly-opened L’Arche house in Canterbury. I moved into Faith House at the start of 1989 and in May of that year, there came L’Arche UK’s first ever Korean assistant and the woman who was to become my wife, Yim Soon.

Pam sadly died alone flat on March 22nd, and there were 37 of her friends gathered for the service, some from L’Arche, some from St Thomas’, the Catholic church in Canterbury where Pam was a well-known and well-loved member. Indeed there were about 40 people present as some of the zoom windows had two people in them. How Pam would have been touched by so many people coming together to sing, to pray and to share memories of her. It was lovely to see old faces, all of us brought together by Pam.

When it got to my turn I explained how my bedroom at Faith House had been directly underneath Pam’s and mentioned, rather diplomatically, that I knew well what Pam’s favourite records were. The reality was that Pam would play the same 3 records very loudly: and not just the same 3 records but the same bits of the same 3 records: very loudly! I liked Pam, and I wasn’t really bothered by her ‘feistiness’, and I suppose I must have found a way to cope with the noise coming from above (human beings are very adaptable, which we are finding at the current time of coronavirus).

Pam didn’t find it easy to live with others and in the early 90s she announced that she wanted to leave L’Arche and was supported to move into her own flat. She retreated somewhat into her own (rather troubled) world in the ensuing years and I was delighted when in recent years L’Arche was approached by social services to see if Pam could be given a bit of support again. It was decided that Pam would spend a couple of hours each week with Yim Soon, so Pam came to our house on Tuesday afternoons and she and Yim Soon would drink tea and eat cake and chat and watch a few episodes of  ‘Last of the Summer Wine’. And Ian, one of those at the service, told of how excited Pam was when she visited him in Yorkshire and he took her to Holmfirth where the show was filmed and how they had tea in ‘Sid’s café’.

Occasionally I would be working from home on a Tuesday and it was special to connect again with Pam and she always asked how my mum was and she always gave me the latest news from her old friends Janet and Maurice. And I would enjoy hearing the raucous chuckles coming from the living-room as Pam watched her favourite sit-com.

Pam counted many Catholic priests amongst her circle of acquaintances, and was in regular correspondence with several bishops. I was once chatting with her outside Canterbury Cathedral following a big ecumenical service and she spotted Derek Warlock, then Catholic Archbishop of Liverpool. Pam grabbed me and pulled me over to introduce me to her old friend Derek! And she was so happy when another old friend Nick Hudson, who had been an assistant priest in Canterbury in the late 80s, was made a bishop.

I ended my sharing about Pam with a favourite memory, also on a clerical theme. My friend Richard arrived at L’Arche as an 18-year-old in April 1989 and was living at Little Ewell, another of the houses of L’Arche Kent. His House Leader Maria sent him over to Faith House one day for a visit. Richard was in the middle of his Goth phase, and so this young guy turned up wearing black jeans, a black shirt, large black winkle-picker boots, hair standing up, and around his neck a huge cross. Pam didn’t always take kindly to new people but she was all over Richard: the reason, it turned out later; she thought he was a priest!

Thank you Pam. Your life was a gift. May God bless you.

Eddie Gilmore

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12 March, Deserts XV: Avoiding future deserts.

earthnasa

Yes, we are thinking about climate change. In the vanguard of Church thinking on this concern are the Columbans, an international community of priests, sisters and volunteers who often work in places vulnerable to the effects of climate change. They can see it happening while it is still possible to dismiss the concerns as scaremongering in western cities.

Fr Sean McDonagh writes: (follow the link for the full article)

Despite the promise made at the Paris Agreement in 2015, countries will have to increase their level of ambition for the sake of the future of humankind and all other species.

Researchers writing in the prestigious journal Nature questioned whether planet Earth had passed a series of tipping points on climate change. Tipping points are reached when the impacts of global heating become unstoppable in terms of the runaway loss of ice sheets, destruction of forests or rising ocean levels. Until recently, scientists believed that it would take a rise of 5 degree Celsius about the pre-industrial level, to breach tipping points. Recent research suggests that this could happen …

The good news is that we now have technologies such as renewable energy and electric vehicles which could enable us to make serious cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. Inger Andersen, the executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme warns that “that the world’s fate would be sealed in the next few years as carbon would rise to such a level as to make dangerous levels of heating inevitable.”

We may feel we can do nothing useful, or we can actually do lots of little things: litter picking, tree planting, travelling by public transport or walking … none of it makes much difference on its own, but if we see, judge and act as though God has put a new heart within us, a heart that loves the planet we are given for our home, we will be faithful in those little things. Do read Fr MacDonagh’s article.

NASA photograph.

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8 March, Desert XI: Fear 4.

mercy.ruin

Thomas Merton is living through the hotter part of the Cold War; the Cuban Missile Crisis would blow up a year later; he had cause to be afraid. In the days before this diary entry,* bombers had been flying low over the Monastery of Gethsemane, his home. Thinking about US and world politics aroused:

… my own fear, my own desperate desire to survive, even if only as a voice uttering an angry protest, while the waters of death close over the whole continent.

Why am I so willing to believe that the country will be destroyed? It is certainly possible, and in some sense it may even be likely. But this is a case where, in spite of evidence, one must continue to hope. One must not give in to defeatism and despair, just as one must hope for life in a mortal illness which has been declared incurable.

This is the point. This weakness and petulancy, rooted in egoism. 

Defeatism and despair are rooted in egoism, and they are not necessarily good survival tactics. Let us ask the Lord for a taste of the perfect love that casts out fear and despair

Thomas Merton, Turning towards the World, HarperSanFrancisco, 1996, p162.

Image from CD.

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7 March, Desert X: Fear 3.

pilgrimsindunes (2) (800x342)

From The Life of Saint Teresa*

It must be carefully noted – and I say this because I know it by experience – that the soul which begins to walk resolutely in the way of mental prayer and can persuade itself to set little store by consolations and tenderness in devotion, and neither to be elated when the Lord gives them, nor disconsolate when he withholds them, has already travelled a great part of its journey. However often it may stumble, it need not fear a relapse, for its building has been begun on a firm foundation.

Yes, love for God does not consist in shedding tears, in enjoying those consolations and that tenderness which for the most part we desire and in which we find comfort, but in serving him with righteousness, fortitude and humility. The other seems to me to be receiving rather than giving anything.

As for poor women like myself, who are weak and lack fortitude, I think it fitting that we should be led by means of favours: this is the way that God is leading me now, so that I may be able to suffer certain trials which it has pleased his majesty to give me.

I have to admit to lacking fortitude at times, but Saint Teresa admits the same weakness, so I am in good company! But amid the circling gloom ‘God is leading me now.’ 

* In ‘The Complete Works of Saint Teresa of Jesus, Tr E. Allison Peters, London, Sheed & Ward, 1944, p68.

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3 March. Desert VI: praying and working together.

abbey Xt desert

Life for the Benedictine monks of Christ in the Desert is based on prayer – ‘Opus Dei’ or God’s work – and the work that earns their daily bread. This article by Jonathan Malesic  explores how these two activities can sit well together or clash and so undermine community life. When does work become too demanding for the good of the community or its members?

Make yourself a cup of tea or coffee and enjoy reading this long essay slowly: it challenges our view of the work we do, efficiency and all. It was published by Commonweal magazine on 2nd February 2019.

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23 February: Cardinal Lavigerie’s Campaign against Slavery, 2.

Pope Leo XIII

Fr Lourdel became influential at the royal court of Buganda, the main kingdom of what would shortly become the British protectorate of Uganda. He and the other missionaries, including the Protestant Alexander Mackay, would successfully lobby King Mwanga to have the abolition of slavery and freedom of religion enshrined in the treaty he signed with Great Britain in 1890.

Slavery was not a matter of abstract theology. Pope and cardinal were well aware of the real flesh and blood suffering and determined to bring it to an end. Lavigerie therefore left his diocese of Algiers and travelled through Europe, stirring up support for justice towards the victims of violence and abuse.

Instead of returning to Africa, I am going to Paris, not to ask for funds, but rather to finally tell what I know about the crimes without name which are destroying the interior of our Africa, and then to let out a great cry, one of those cries which shakes up to the bottom of the soul, of all that is still worthy the name of man and Christian in the world. What I have to do is nothing other than bringing into the light what Leo XIII has just written about African slavery.”

In his encyclical In Plurimis of 1888, Pope Leo welcomed the abolition of slavery in Brazil. He reiterated how Jesus had come to set the captives free, and how the popes, from Saint Gregory the Great onwards had urged the breaking of the chains of slavery to restore all men and women to the dignity God intended. Leo made clear that, ‘The system [of slavery] is one which is wholly opposed to that which was originally ordained by God and by nature.’ He rejected outright the theory that some people were born inferior and so could be legally and morally enslaved.

This excuse had been used down the centuries from pre-Christian times to the conquistadores in Latin America; it was how the Portuguese had justified slavery in Brazil and the Spanish in the rest of the continent, and its poison can still be felt in racist attitudes today. Pope Leo made clear that from Saint Paul onwards the Church had striven to put an end to slavery. However, human greed, as well as war had caused it to linger in Christian as well as Muslim lands until the 19th century when the successors of Columbus were still avariciously abusing Africans as well as Indians in the Caribbean and Central and South America.

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February 14, Little Flowers LXIV: a Reflection on Brother Conrad’s prayers.

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We read yesterday how the prayers of Brother Conrad, an early Franciscan, opened the gates of heaven for a dead brother through his prayers. It was tempting to miss out this story from the Little Flowers, because the soul of that young brother who died went to Paradise through the merits of Jesus Christ, according to the Theology I was taught. I wasn’t looking for an argument! It comes naturally to Catholics to pray for the dead, but even so, where does Brother Conrad come in?

Firstly, it was his young friend who sought out Brother Conrad and asked him, not just to pray but to pray the Pater Noster – the Our Father – given to us by the Lord

‘forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,          and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’

It is as members of Christ’s body, the Communion of Saints, that the two Franciscan brothers come together in Conrad’s vision. It is as members of Christ’s body that they pray together: if the young brother requested that Conrad should say the Lord’s prayer for him, then that same prayer was at the front of his mind and heart: he was praying it himself, alongside Conrad; and where two or more are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them. So the youth, Brother Conrad, and the Lord himself were praying together to the Father.

Conrad had a gift of being able to encourage the lad and help him to fit into the earthly community where he had chosen – and been called – to live. Perhaps, then, that same gift exercised by 100 Pater Nosters recited within the Communion of Saints, helped the brother to free himself from his remaining pains of fear and guilt to be fit for heaven.

Conrad’s merits? I’m still not sure, but if you suggested that Conrad’s gifts as mentor on earth to this young man were still effective after the young man’s death, I would not argue with you. Let’s place before Jesus all those who relied on us in this life, and would ask for our sympathetic prayers, could they speak to us now; and with Jesus let us pray:

OUR FATHER …

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8 February: The Attempted Abduction of Jemma

A longer posting than usual for the Feast of Saint Josephine Bakhita, the saint saved from slavery. Fr. Shay Cullen, who wrote this, works in the Philippines, alongside other Christians who care for the ravaged environment, and also for children ravaged by the sex industry. Both ministries are part of the bigger picture of the Church’s mission.

It’s a case of child abuse and human trafficking that has caught much media attention. It is being held in the court of Honorable Judge Maria Angelica T. Paras-Quiambao, Regional Trial Court Branch 59, Angeles City, a judge of known integrity. It concerns a US national, John R. He is accused of sexually abusing two young girls, call them Sybil and Jemma (not their real names).The younger Jemma is 13 and Sybil is 14 years old. John R. allegedly paid his pimp CM to recruit them and bring to his apartment where he sexually abused them many times.

The two children were rescued by the social workers of Mabalacat, Pampanga and of the Preda Foundation. The children were brought to the Preda home for girls in Zambales where they were successfully undergoing recovery.

The US investigative service at the US Embassy has taken a serious interest in the case and they have already interviewed Jemma and Sybil. They will eventually file charges against John R. in the USA under the US extra-territorial jurisdiction law and perhaps his supporter, Lilian May Zimmer. He is presently in hiding and Philippine arrest warrants have been issued against him.

Last March 6, there was a large rescue operation in Mabalacat and twenty children were rescued from the Golden Victory Hotel and another resort. There, the twenty children had been lured and recruited to engage in sexual relations with local and foreign sex tourists. The twenty girls were referred to the Preda home for girls where they were welcomed and assisted in every way with kindness and understanding. They were given emotional support, shelter, clothes, and personal needs. Their parents were invited over to be with them. There were many emotional scenes as the parents embraced their rescued children and they were reunited.

In the days and weeks that followed, they slowly recovered and began to realize how they had been exploited and abused and that it was detrimental to their lives. Their futures were being destroyed and their chances of finishing school were dashed.

In the Preda Foundation home for girls, they had group dynamics, art and crafts, training sessions, games, sports, karate, dance and counseling. Above all and most importantly, they had the Emotional Release Therapy. In the padded therapy room away from the central house, they shouted, screamed and punched and pounded the cushions in releasing their anger, hatred and anguish at what had been done to them by the sex tourists, recruiters and pimps. Some even blamed their parents for neglecting them and not showing them love and care. In the Preda home, not all were happy at being taken from the life of exploitation and abuse. There were three girls that wanted to go back to the sex industry placed there by corrupt parents.

Preda respects the dignity and rights of the youth and children and it is an open center. There are no high walls, fences or guards. Most of the children go to a regular school in the community and many activities are conducted outside. The children are not prisoners and confined. They are there by free choice.

The three girls were hostile, one of them, call her Martha (not her real name), recruited Sybil to leave and join her on sex strip known as Fields Avenue in Angeles City where there are dozens of sex bars and foreign sex tourists paying money to have sex with young girls. Some are caught like John R. It is an open slave trading market on the streets and in the sex bars. They operate with city permits and inside is a fiery fiesta of young flesh, a sex carnival for cash.

Sybil left with Martha and fell under the power and influence of the family of Martha and the mother of CM. Jemma was happy at the Preda Home. One day, when Jemma was at the school sports parade, the mother of CM, the father and the aunt of Jemma and Sybil, rushed into the parade and grabbed Jemma, the key witness, to abduct her and carry her away to a waiting car. Jemma broke away and the Preda social worker was there to embrace and hold her safely from them. They ran away when the barangay tanods came over. The entire incident was caught on CCTV.

The attempted abduction was well-organized and funded as the participants are penniless. It must be presumed that John R., the American, is paying large sums of money for the abduction and prevent the witnesses from testifying in court. Then, the charges of human trafficking against CM might be dismissed against her. It’s an evil plan to thwart justice. The Preda Foundation filed charges of grave coercion against the father and aunt of Sybil and the mother of CM.

Supporting this sex mafia in Angeles City online from the USA is the alleged child sexual abuser, Lilian May Thompson Zimmer, a US national that is constantly criticizing the good work of Preda and making baseless allegations. In 2014, Preda reported Zimmer for child neglect and abuse done by her against five small children held by Zimmer in her house in Subic, Zambales. She has retaliated ever since.

They have testified that she tortured them and burnt one with cigarettes. They said Zimmer brought them to sex perverts on Baloy Beach, in Trader Ric’s, where they were sexually abused. A hateful, violent person, Zimmer attacked police and social workers when they came to rescue the children. She spent a year in jail but allegedly bribed her way out and escaped to the USA. She is now allegedly promoting the abduction of Jemma and supporting the abusers who are keeping Sybil from testifying in the court of Judge Paras-Quiambao.

More development are expected soon as the US authorities have been asked to investigate Lilian May Zimmer under the extra-territorial jurisdiction law where child trafficking for sexual abuse is a serious offense. One day, justice will be done to address her evil abuse of the children and CM and John R. will go to jail.

This and much more about the Preda foundation can be found here.

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5 February. Brownings XIX: struggling to communicate.

amsterdam.attic.dove

Elizabeth again, on the process of writing. Where does the idea come from, how does the writer express it? Kathleen Raine would argue that certain poets, at least, had access to eternal springs that provided the light that led to their words. EBB has the same idea

“Yes, I quite believe as you do that what is called the ‘creative process’ in works of Art, is just inspiration and no less—which made somebody say to me not long since; And so you think that Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’ was of the effluence of the Holy Ghost?’—rather a startling deduction, … only not quite as final as might appear to somebodies perhaps. At least it does not prevent my going on to agree with the saying of Spiridion, … do you remember?… ‘Tout ce que l’homme appelle inspiration, je l’appelle aussi revelation*,’ … if there is not something too self-evident in it after all—my sole objection!

And is it not true that your inability to analyse the mental process in question, is one of the proofs of the fact of inspiration?—as the gods were known of old by not being seen to move their feet,—coming and going in an equal sweep of radiance.—And still more wonderful than the first transient great light you speak of, … and far beyond any work of reflection, except in the pure analytical sense in which you use the word, … appears that gathering of light on light upon particular points, as you go (in composition) step by step, till you get intimately near to things, and see them in a fullness and clearness, and an intense trust in the truth of them which you have not in any sunshine of noon (called real!) but which you have then … and struggle to communicate.”

  • Whatever people call Inspiration, I also call Revelation.
(from “The Letters of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Barrett, Vol. 1 (of 2) 1845-1846” by 8Robert Browning)

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5 January: To let go.

snowgapcropped

Here is Thomas Merton in January 1966, writing from his snow-bound hermitage.* A challenge to us all to root our mission in our poverty; having first accepted that innate poverty as the norm.

In all these things I see one central option for me: to let go of all that seems to suggest getting somewhere, being someone, having a name and a voice, following a policy and directing people in ‘my’ ways. What matters is to love, to be in one place in silence, if necessary in suffering, sickness, tribulation, and not try to be anybody outwardly.

Yet daily we are encouraged to ‘get somewhere’ to be someone outwardly. Love can get pushed to the margins. We can get tied to policies, mission statements, and so on. Let go! 

Tomorrow we celebrate the uprooting of the Holy Family to go into suffering and tribulation. Merton had to let go in a different fashion to the man we hardly know: Joseph the carpenter.

  • Learning to Love, Journals Vol 6, Ed Christine M. Bochan, HarperCollins San Francisco 1999  p15

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