Tag Archives: United Nations

17 January, Church Unity week: Rebuild my Church

 

st damiano wall repaired

On the train towards Assisi, a Canadian was singing the praises of the Saskatoon winters, ’40° below, Fahrenheit or Celsius’, then announced to whoever was not listening, ‘In North America we would knock these buildings down and build something bigger; but here they repair and restore them.’

This particular wall is a stiff walk up from the railway station, at San Damiano in Assisi, the place where Saint Francis heard the call from the Crucified to ‘Rebuild my Church, which is falling down.’ That is a story that the Franciscans are living to this day; it was not just the ruinous chapel of San Damiano that needed rebuilding, but the whole of God’s Church, a project that should involve every group of people who claim to be Christian.

Pope Francis is calling us to rebuild the Church for today and tomorrow. What might that look like? A brand new building or a much-loved one, patched, repaired and altered to house a changing mission, and stones which the builders may have rejected in the past?

This wall is hundreds of years old; how many times has it been altered – and drastically altered – to fulfil changing needs or to strengthen it after earthquakes or erosion? For sure the big arch replaced he smaller one, to create a cart shed maybe, but in its turn it was no longer needed, so was filled in with irregular stone, its crest replaced by a horizontal course to support a new floor.

Successive architects could not have foreseen how their wall would become less fit for purpose, but they confidently built what was needed in their own life time. And that too would be rebuilt, centuries later.

Even today repairs and alterations continue around the monastery to make pilgrims welcome: electricity, running water, more even floors and steps, but the core of the church is as it was. The notice on the wall says that this is a Unesco World Heritage Site, not, though, a museum.

Our Faith is more precious than any Unesco heritage site. We will not preserve it as a treasure hidden in a field (or around San Damiano, an olive grove) but by bringing into the open, and using, treasures old and new.

Let us pray during Christian Unity Week, which begins tomorrow, for courage in our daily mission to rebuild Christ’s church together.

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20 October: Sustainable development.

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Planting out a young coffee bush in Peru.

Another story from USPG, demonstrating once again that we are vessels of clay, and depend on the health of our planet to survive and thrive, as one people around the world.

The Revd Bonnie Evans-Hills has worked with USPG promoting the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN in the UK and beyond.

The nature of crises in the world has changed significantly in recent generations. We have reached a point where natural disasters and violent conflict present long-term concerns. Those currently displaced from their homes remain so for an average of 17 years or longer.

Environmental disaster demands longer term solutions in which the whole world must engage. We cannot clean our oceans of plastic unless nations work together. This affects fishing and other industries on which whole populations depend. When these livelihoods disappear, they won’t easily return.

The breadth of challenge facing us is unprecedented, and the choices we make today affect not only our present but generations to come. The Sustainable Development Goals seek to bring together a range of expertise working in collaboration. But while solutions to much of our environmental and social challenges are developed, it will come to nothing if we haven’t the will to implement them, which is why each nation is asked to commit to taking action.

Self-giving God, who in Christ gave yourself for our salvation, thank you that you call us into your mission for the world.
Inspire us, who are partners in the gospel, to follow in your steps, in the way that leads to fullness of life in you. Amen.

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28 June: Bernadette and the Sacraments.

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Let’s continue talking about the Eucharist. I was reading about Saint Bernadette, the young girl who saw ‘la bonne Mère’ – the good mother – in the little grotto by the river in Lourdes, France, in 1858. This reflection  is not about those apparitions, nor the shrine that has grown up there, but about something we can take for granted: the opportunity to take a full part in the Eucharist, not just by being present at Mass but by receiving the Sacrament that unites us in Christ’s body and blood.

Bernadette grew up speaking the local dialect and playing a full part in the family’s economy, working as a shepherd, running errands for neighbours, to earn money to put bread on the table. She left school early to do so, and never learnt French which was the language of the catechism she had to absorb to be allowed to receive Communion. Yet in her heart she understood as well as anyone what the Eucharist meant. Eventually she was taken into a boarding school as a poor scholar, mastered French and received the Sacrament with joy.

Image result for streicher ugandaThis is Henri Streicher, a Missionary of Africa who became Bishop of Uganda from 1897 to 1933. He and his Anglican counterpart, Bishop Tucker – acting more as rivals than fellow workers, it has to be said – made it a priority to translate the Bible and catechisms into the local languages and to print these texts so that all could read them. They also made sure that there were basic schools in the villages where young and old could learn to read and write, which they were very keen to do.

During the 1980s, helped by an impetus from the UN Year of Disabled People in 1981, a great effort was made to make all aspects of Church life, including the Sacraments, available to disabled people. Away with ‘he cannot understand’, or ‘she’s innocent, she doesn’t need the Sacraments’. The Sacraments are for all.

New ways of presenting the Faith came into being. We looked more at the fellowship of believers, not just individual sin and salvation. L’Arche communities are one expression of this inclusive attitude.

The UN’s reflection on the year states:

A major lesson of the Year was that the image of persons with disabilities depends to an important extent on social attitudes; these were a major barrier to the realization of the goal of full participation and equality in society by persons with disabilities.

This was true in the Church as well. I know that more can and should be done, but let us rejoice that few people now will be refused the Sacraments on grounds of disability. We should make sure to welcome all, as Jesus did.

Saint Bernadette as a child, public domain, via Wikipedia

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12 May. What is Theology Saying? XLIX: Church and World are not mutually exclusive.

 

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With our Lenten season we have set aside our long-running series from Traherne, the Little Flowers of Francis, and from Brother Austin. Let’s remedy that last one! There’s a challenge at the end: ‘I know that I can cope with the past because I am still here! So why risk the unknown?’

austinWe cannot contrast Church and World. They are not mutually exclusive. The Church is supposed to be the community that makes God’s promises already present. When we celebrate the sacraments this is a pledge to what we have committed ourselves as community. There is no work blueprint, we are called to be creative through the possibilities everyday life presents. The Church cannot hand-out a programme to us telling us exactly what to do, how to do it and where. The Bible has no such blueprint. We learn more about the future when we respond to what we already know and are presenting solutions accordingly.

The early Church, seen through Paul’s writing, took slavery for granted as a feature of society – while insisting that the slave-owner respect their human dignity. Centuries later we began to realise that we must abolish slavery itself, because slavery as such is opposed to human dignity. We are also coming to realise that what we often call works of charity can be more crushing than poverty itself, that we can eliminate poverty simply by providing jobs and incomes for all. In the same way war was seen as inevitable, and not only killing but torture was therefore justified. With the formation of the UN we are starting to glimpse that war is not inevitable – Paul VI said to the UN with powerful conviction no more war, war never again.

The truth is that the “signs of the times” are those offering the church ever new opportunities to go out and meet others. Individuals may well set out believing they are going to teach, but they will end up learning, as did Paul. The church is given endless opportunities to rediscover itself in ever new light, but they do not happen every day. At certain moments of privilege, the Spirit summons the church to risk: “During the night a vision came to Paul: a Macedonian stood there appealing to him: Cross over to Macedonia and help us”. Acts.16.9.

The “signs of the times” are the external evidence of this call to Discipleship of Christ. Reasoned observation and rational planning have a place. Reason is able to perceive certain things that suggest there are changes requiring further and new steps to be taken. Different moments of time have their own signs. Not everyone sees them. Jesus criticised the Pharisees because their wisdom in this regard was deficient: “It is a wicked and Godless generation that asks for a sign; and the only sign it will be given is the sign of Jonah” – Mt.12.39. There are insensitive people in every age, unable [unwilling] to see the call for something new. To them mission is no more than simply repeating what has already been achieved. This is the fear principle, prompted by the fact that I know that I can cope with the past because I am still here! So why risk the unknown?

Reading  the Word and the World, Zakopane, Poland.

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30 October, Christ walking with travellers: A journey to Hell.

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Here is part of an address given to the United Nations General Assembly on behalf of Pope Francis by Archbishop Paul Gallagher; here he treats human trafficking where people, often children, are sold into modern slavery.

Mr. President,

Another great challenge facing the international community is trafficking in persons. At the root of this and other contemporary forms of slavery are wars and conflicts, extreme poverty, underdevelopment and exclusion, lack of education, lack of employment opportunities and environmental catastrophes. But we ought to recognize that on the demand side of such criminal trafficking there is also a crass selfishness, which reaches unimaginable levels of moral irresponsibility in the case of the trafficking of children, organs, tissues and embryos and in the so-called transplant tourism. Such execrable trade is exacerbated by corruption on the part of public officers and common people willing to do anything for financial gain. Indeed, the migration and refugee crises are facilitating an increase in trafficking in persons and other contemporary forms of slavery.

The Holy See and the Catholic Church have long spoken out against the evil of trafficking in persons and through the dedicated work of so many individuals and institutions, they have sought to fight its root causes, to care for the victims, to raise awareness about it, and to work with anyone and everyone to try to eliminate it. Pope Francis calls trafficking in persons an “open wound on the body of contemporary society”[18] and an “atrocious scourge that is present throughout the world on a broad scale.”[19]

At the heart of this evil, however, is the utter loss of respect for human dignity and the total indifference to the sufferings of fellow human beings. Modern slavery happens when “people are treated as objects,” which leads to their being “deceived, raped, often sold and resold for various purposes, and in the end either killed or left devastated in mind and body, only to be finally thrown away or abandoned.”[20] Refocusing on people, putting people first in the overall work of this Organization ought unhesitatingly to support the fight against trafficking in persons and other contemporary forms of slavery.

Pope Francis calls on all, in particular the competent authorities, to address such a heinous crime through effective juridical instruments, to punish those who profit from it, to assist the healing and the reintegration of its victims, and to eradicate its root causes. Our response must be commensurate to this great evil of our time.

It is part of the Church’s mission, is option for the poor, to fight the root causes of trafficking, to care for the victims, to raise awareness about it, and to work with anyone and everyone to try to eliminate it. Tomorrow we will look at one example of this.

 

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