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June 24, Intergalactic Explorations XXXVI: I didn’t know I was bored.

This gull lives in Folkestone, near Margate.

There were not many humans or dogs about the gardens, so their favourite bench, warm in the noonday sun, was ready to receive them. No social distancing for dogs, though T felt there should be, No social chitchat either, as all three ate in silence, their morning’s conversation making them glad once again that they had joined the Expedition to Earth.

‘That was good!’ said T, fending off the gull who seemed to think the fish wrapper was his due. ‘And so is field-work, but we didn’t know that when we started. Why did you two decide to come down to earth?’

NASA Image

‘To be honest’, said Ajax, ‘I do believe I was bored. Not that I knew the word then. But there were no fish and chips, no smells to interpret, no Melba and Noreen. I didn’t know about love or joy but somehow I hoped to find them.’

Alfie was pensive; he had noticed another white hair on his muzzle when he looked into the mirror that morning. ‘I’m getting old, at least about the face. I hadn’t counted on that. Age and death we never gave a thought to; my emotions were almost non-existent. But the expedition sounded like a chance to get out of the pod, fill out a few spreadsheets whilst feeling the sun on my skin, even if it is covered in greasy short hair!’

‘You can have a bath anytime you like,’ suggested T. ‘The tidal pool is not too far away. I’ve a towel and trunks in my bag.’

‘We’ll guard the bag while you swim!’ protested the chihuahuas.

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3 May, Little Flowers of Saint Francis, LXVIII: a tale of two brothers.

We have not gathered the Little Flowers of Saint Francis for a while. This week’s selection are stories of dreams and visions of certain brothers of the early years of the Order. I knew someone who had a clear dream of angels coming to welcome a dear friend of hers into Paradise; it is perhaps a commoner experience than we imagine that a dream has a message for us; maybe even a dream that barely registers on our conscious mind.

There were two brothers in the Order; the one named Brother Humble and the other Brother Peaceful, the which were men of exceeding great sanctity and perfection; Brother Humble, abode in the House of Soffiano, and there died; and the other belonged to another community at some distance therefrom. Now it pleased God that as Brother Peaceful was at prayer one day in a lonely place, he was rapt in ecstasy, and saw the soul of his brother, Brother Humble, that had just then left the body, going straight up into heaven without either let or hindrance. Many years after, Brother Peaceful was sent to the community in the House of Soffiano, where his brother had died.

About this time the brothers, at the request of the lords of Bruforte, exchanged the said House for another; wherefore, among other things, they carried with them the relics of the holy brothers that had died in that House, and coming to the grave of Brother Humble, his brother, Brother Peaceful took up his bones, and washed them with good wine and wrapped them in a while napkin, and with great reverence and devotion kissed them and wept over them; whereat the other brothers marvelled, and deemed he set them no good example in that it seemed that, albeit a man of so great sanctity, he mourned for his brother, with a carnal and a worldly love; and that he showed more devotion to his relics than to those of the other brothers that had been of no less sanctity than Brother Humble, and whose relics were worthy of as much reverence as his.
Brother Peaceful knowing the evil imaginings of the brothers, humbly said unto them: “My brothers most dear, marvel not that 1 have done for the bones of my brother what I have not done for the others for, blessed be God, I was not moved thereto, as ye deem, by carnal love; but so have I done, for that, when my brother passed away from this life, praying in a lonely place and distant far from him, beheld his soul rise straight to heaven, whereby I am assured that his bones are holy and should be in Paradise. And if God had granted me such surety touching the other brothers, then would I have paid the self same reverence unto their bones.” For the which cause, the brothers, seeing his holy and devout intent, were through him well edified, and gave praise unto God, that doeth such marvellous things unto His holy ones, the brothers minor.

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31 March, Desert XXXIII: It’s good to be here.

Christina has kindly allowed us to use an extract from her book, which we thoroughly recommend; find it on Amazon or through the publisher’s link below. But for now, take a step into her personal desert.

The yearly losses of strength and abilities – lifting up my arms, feeding myself, brushing my own teeth, breathing without labour – these are the hardest things to bear … The circumstances of my life altered my childhood, undermined my teenage years, and rendered me into an adult who is completely dependent upon others for everyday survival. My body has been wracked with the pain of angry weeping, my bones crying out with shuddering grief, and my mind seized with the heartache of my life. And yet …

I am not bitter.

I pine for independence, for a family of my own, and I mourn the physical losses, the sickness, the shortened lifespan. And yet … I am very glad to be here.

Why am I glad? I ask myself. Even I wonder at how I can be the generally content, grateful and joyful person that I am. Over and over I have asked myself why I, cripple that I am, continue to have a deep love for life.

Why?

Because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.*

* See Psalm 139:14.

Christina Chase, It’s Good to be here, Sophia Institute Press, 2019, pp6-7.
https://www.sophiainstitute.com/products/item/its-good-to-be-here – to order the book from the publisher.

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Going Viral XIV: A just man speaks

It’s a temptation to take stray verses from the Bible and use them to justify almost any course of action. Try arguing with a doorstep evangelist who has his text to expound, and does not want to engage with verses a little further on! So I’ll offer you this verse from Job (17:9) and invite you to persevere in adversity as Job did, and to remember to wash your hands! And maybe enjoy a read in Job, Esther, or Ruth.

And the just man shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger. Job 17:9

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September 20: Guests of the house.

footwash

I took advantage of a family holiday in North Wales to read ‘The Summer of the Danes’ by Ellis Peters in the area where the action takes place. Here Brothers Cadfael and Mark arrive at Saint Asaph to be greeted and shown to a room.

‘I’ll send someone with water,’ said their guide … and he was gone.

‘Water?’ said Mark, pondering this first and apparently essential courtesy. ‘Is that by way of taking salt, here in Wales?’

‘No, lad. A people that goes mostly afoot knows the value of feet and the dust and aches of travel. They bring water for us to bathe our feet. It is a graceful way of asking: Are you meaning to bide overnight? If we refuse it, we intend only a brief visit in courtesy. If we accept it, we are guests of the house from that moment.’

Helleth, who comes to do this service, is almost the only woman but a central character in the story of power and piracy, secular and ecclesiastical. Ellis Peters uses 13th Century Wales to explore the role of women in society, love and marriage; war- and peace-making; marriage of the clergy; feudal authority and loyalty; and Welsh identity, all within a page-turning mystery. As so often the book is better than the TV programme. You’ll find it for sale on-line.

The Welsh did not initiate this rite, of course, but I believe it was a Welshman, Archbishop Rowan Williams, who reintroduced the Maundy Thursday ceremony to Canterbury Cathedral. You can read about a participant’s experience of the washing of feet in Canterbury here. and about an updated response to this tradition here. This is Rev Jo Richards’ reflection on Holy Week. This reflection links the Station of Veronica to Jesus washing Peter’s feet.

One evening on holiday I ended up giving Abel a bit more than a foot wash after he slipped on slimy mud at the seashore, a service gladly given! There are many such little occasions to provide for each others needs.

 

 

 

 

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September 5: In praise of rain IV.

ams.fountain1

I trust I’ll be forgiven for using two photos from Amsterdam to accompany GKC’s thoughts on cold showers for the English. These young people were enjoying a public and communal shower-bath in April and sharing their enjoyment with family and friends! And I guess an craftily programmed computer controlled the flow. Social media if not a socialistic institution.

If the Englishman is really fond of cold baths, he ought not to grumble at the English climate for being a cold bath. In these days we are constantly told that we should leave our little special possessions and join in the enjoyment of common social institutions and a common social machinery. I offer the rain as a thoroughly Socialistic institution. It disregards that degraded delicacy which has hitherto led each gentleman to take his shower-bath in private. It is a better shower-bath, because it is public and communal; and, best of all, because somebody else pulls the string.

Baptism is also public and communal, since all Christians are called to be baptised, either as infants or as believing adults and anyone may attend a baptism in a public church. The churches recognise each other’s baptism and do not re-baptise people who were Christened before joining a particular church.

ams.fountain2

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August 8: Another man with dirty hands and clean heart.

handwash

I’ve just been scrubbing my hands after a spot of bicycle maintenance; that and the story of the classic car enthusiast removing every speck of grime from his hands to attend an ordination reminded me of another tale that I heard on the radio a few years ago, before the days of ubiquitous thin rubber gloves.

An Anglican priest, non-stipendiary, meaning he earned his living at another job, as Saint Paul did, was the speaker. I don’t know what his other job was, but it involved getting his hands dirty, the sort of dirt that lodges in the fingerprint whorls and cracks and resists the scrubbing brush. Printer’s ink maybe?

Every Saturday evening this good man would hold his hands in a strong solution of bleach until the residual grime disappeared, ready for Sunday Eucharist. However the result was not good news for his skin.

As I recall the story, his wife intervened, concerned for his health. His hands, she told him, were clean enough to eat with, despite the last ingrained stains, and he was preparing to celebrate the Lord’s Last Supper, a meal with God’s people in his parish; people who knew about his work. They would not be put off by unwashoffable dirt, nor would they expect their priest to contract dermatitis in order to lead them in worship.

He stopped using the bleach. The congregation did not stop coming to Sunday Eucharist. Surely Jesus chose fishermen and a tentmaker as his ministers, but he also chose a man with very dirty hands, the extortionate tax-collector, the future Saint Matthew.

 

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August 7: He that hath dirty hands and a clean heart.

batts.cravan.morris.minor

My friend’s husband was of course invited to his sister-in-law’s ordination as an Anglican priest and so was I.

Years had flown, stomachs sagged, hair gone beyond blond, but our handshake was as firm as ever. I looked down at his hand, unnaturally clean, for him. Much of his leisure time before retirement was spent restoring 1950s cars to drive for a while, then sell on. He probably earned about £1 an hour in profit, but he took great pride in his work, which demanded a great deal of practical knowledge not to be learned from books, even the Haynes manuals.

I once spent an afternoon with him, touring the scrapyards of South Staffordshire, looking for a couple of small parts. A manufacturer had tried to  save money by substituting plastic for brass in a moving part of the wiper motors. It must have seemed like a good idea at the time. My friend was reluctant to buy new motors when he could salvage what he needed for next to nothing.

You see why the clean hand was unnatural. But there are preparations to work into the hands and nails and fingerprints, leaving them looking respectably clean. Half an hour rubbing in green gunge the evening before the ordination and husband and wife were ready to go.

 Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart. Ps 24, 3-4.

Not that he was any less welcome on the mountain of the Lord before applying the heavy duty hand cleaner, but since he was dressed in his best, he had to go the whole hog.


Somehow the original idea for this post slipped away. It was the importance of that small part; important enough for the car to be dangerously incomplete without it. While we should not inflate our sense of self importance, we should remember that the Good Shepherd leaves 99 behind while he looks for the lost one.

Two lessons in one reflection. That’s Agnellus’ Mirror for you!

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11 April: Stations for Peter V: Veronica wipes Jesus’ face.

footwash

You shall not wash my feet!

Scripture references: Washing Peter’s feet, John 13:1-11; Do you love me? John 21:15-17.

When Jesus washed the feet of his friends, Peter had protested.

I didn’t want you to wash my feet. Was I too proud? I know I did not understand what you were doing – but I wanted to be part of you.

Veronica washes your face with a cool damp towel. A few seconds’ relief, that’s all, but you know she loves you. She’s there.

I’m not.

But you know that I love you – why did you have to ask?

 

Lord, we remember everyone near death, and all those who care for them. May the dying, their carers, and all who are close to them know that you are indeed walking with them.

Jesus, remember me, when you come into your Kingdom!

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10 July, Little Flowers of Saint Francis XXVIII: He is called to preach and pray, II.

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So Brother Masseo departed, and according to the bidding of Saint Francis carried his message first unto Saint Clare and then unto Brother Silvester.

Who, when he had heard thereof, forthwith fell on his knees in prayer, and as he prayed received answer from God, and turned to Brother Masseo, and bespake him thus: “Thus saith the Lord: Say unto Brother Francis that God has not called to gain to this estate for himself alone, but to the souls’ end that he may gain fruit of souls, and that many through him may be saved.”

footwashWith this reply Brother Masseo returned to Saint Clare to learn what she had received of God, and she answered that God had sent to her and her companions the same reply as He had given to Brother Silvester. Whereat Brother Masseo hied him back again to Saint Francis; and Saint Francis received him with exceeding great love, washing his feet and making ready for him the meal, and after he had eaten, Saint Francis called Brother Masseo into the wood ; and there kneeled down before him and drew back his hood, stretching out his arms in the shape of a cross, and asked him: What has my Lord Jesu Christ commanded that I should do?

Replied Brother Masseo : “As unto Brother Silvester, so likewise unto Sister Clare and her sisters, has Christ made answer and revealed; that it is His will that thou go throughout the world to preach, since He hath chosen thee not for thyself alone, but also for the salvation of others.”

And then Saint Francis, when he had heard this answer and known thereby the will of Jesu Christ, rose up with fervour exceeding great, and said : “ Let us be going in the name of God”; and he took for his companions Brother Masseo and Brother Agnolo, holy men.

Illustration from an old edition of the Little Flowers from which this text is taken.

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