and contemplation is charity drawn inward to its own divine source.
Action is the stream and contemplation is the spring.
Thomas Merton, No man is an Island, 1957, p84.
Another view of ordinary saintliness at work.
We can discover the water of life at work in us through listening, watching, being open to the Spirit.
Jesus said to the woman at the well:
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again. But whoever drinks the water that I will give him will never be thirsty. The water that I will give him will become a spring of water within him welling up to eternal life.”
PS: Since Merton was writing in 1957 we must forgive his use of ‘man’ to cover both sexes, and the translators, too!
By Eddie Gilmore of the London Irish Chaplaincy, always happy to share his wisdom with us.
Having now attended, in person, my first hybrid conference I had a chance to compare the experience of attending virtually and attending in the flesh.
It was the AGM and annual conference of CCA, Community Chaplaincy Association, of which Irish Chaplaincy is an associate member, and it was being held at the Royal Foundation of St Katherine, a charity founded in East London in 1147 and described on its website as ‘an extraordinary urban oasis’. It truly is! There is an immediate sense of calm upon entering, with lots and lots of lovely, tranquil spaces, both inside and out. I had a little explore before joining the group and found in the grounds the old chapel which was reconfigured so that a huge floor to ceiling window was created in one of the side walls giving a view of the beautiful garden and a giant oak tree. And right outside the chapel is a little enclosed terrace with fountains. It really was my kind of place, somewhere where I could just sit in peace for hours.
One of the most valuable elements of conferences for me has always been the informal conversations that take place in between the formal sessions. This one was no disappointment in that respect, and the conversations were well fuelled by mid-morning coffee and pastries, a tasty lunch, and tea and cakes in the afternoon. You just don’t get any of that when you attend ‘virtually’, which many people did. There they were on a large screen, and they even got a bit of gentle teasing from Jackie, the Chair: “Sorry, we’ve got to leave you now to go for our coffee and pastries!”
There was yet another little treat in store, with an opportunity to go to the chapel for a mid-day prayer at 12.45. I was the only one who went and the man there lighting the candles as I arrived seemed pleased that he wouldn’t be conducting the service on his own. We got chatting after the prayer, and my ears pricked up at the clear trace of a Belfast accent. He had heard of the Irish Chaplaincy and said how much he liked our website. “How do you know about us?” I asked, pleasantly surprised. His wife, it turned out, was Debby, CEO of London Gypsies and Travellers, with whom I’d had some contact. Kevin told me that she spoke very highly of our work. We could have talked all day but I had to go for lunch where I ended up sitting next to Jackie who, it emerged, had once worked as an actress and had appeared in Casualty!
Those encounters with Kevin and Jackie and everyone else during the day; so too simply going to a different place and observing people and life on the way: it was so stimulating. It was a very different experience to attending virtually, which I have done several times over the last eighteen months. I sit there in my chair on my own and I really do try to concentrate but I end up turning the camera off and checking and sending emails; and then I get fidgety and walk around the room; and then I lie on the floor to listen; and then invariably I fall asleep! How many virtual conferences have ended for me in sleep! And I feel a bit rubbish come the end of the day.
By contrast, I was still buzzing the day after the CCA conference as I travelled up to London again for our first hybrid team meeting at the Irish Chaplaincy! There were six of us there in the flesh and three people on my laptop screen and it worked just fine and there was plenty of good-natured banter and laughter. All were agreed that we would all come together once a month for an in-person meeting followed by lunch together. And we’ll continue to do certain other meetings via zoom. One of those who had been on the screen came in to the office a little later and the seven of us headed over to Temptation Café for lunch to mark Fiona’s birthday. Dessert was taken back in the office in the form of chocolate cake, and it was a welcome return to an old Irish Chaplaincy tradition. Several people contacted me the day after to say how much they had enjoyed it. I also had found it immensely uplifting and energising.
And then the week after that there was the CSAN Directors conference, which had been due to be in Rome but because of continuing Covid uncertainties took place at Hinsley Hall in Leeds. As said already, I find immense pleasure and value in the informal encounters that take place between sessions. And I was delighted with the reunion in the evening of Sean (whistles), Jim (bodhrán) and myself (guitar). We were in fine form, and we were joined at one point by Jo and Andrew of CJM music who had given us such fantastic musical input during the conference.
In the middle of one tune I noticed a woman enter the bar who wasn’t part of the CSAN group. I gave her a little smile and she explained to me later that it had encouraged her to come in and stay. She had been up in her bedroom, the sole person there that night who was not part of the group, and had hear the music from below and had felt drawn to it. She stayed right to the end and sang a couple of old Irish songs herself, beautifully, and told a bit of her story. Amongst several various or potential things in common, she and I knew somebody at Taizé where she’d once spent a couple of years. I told her that she would be getting a mention in my latest blog, which would be making the point that some things just aren’t possible via a zoom screen: things which may be considered dispensable but which are in fact vital to our innate human need for connection. And so Sorcha becomes the second person living in London but born in Belfast to appear in this particular piece!
It will be interesting to see how the hybrid working culture develops. Zoom is here to stay and we couldn’t put that genie back in the bottle even if we wanted to. And indeed it makes certain things possible that we never could have imagined, for example people in different countries or cities being able to meet together without having to hop on planes or trains. Mind you, in-person can be hard to beat, especially if it involves live music, coffee and pastries or chocolate cake!
The value of water: in 2017 Pope Francis had the Vatican fountains turned off when months of unexpectedly dry weather threatened the water supply from the hills to the citizens of Rome.
Today we remember Saint Chad, bishop of Lichfield, who used to stand in cold water to say his prayers. The River Trent and its tributaries were clean then. This post is an extract from an article by Shamus Khan in The Hedgehog Review, Summer 2021. Khan helps us understand entrenched social inequality as well as the power of advertising, product placement and influencing. This paragraph shows that economists don’t always speak the same language as the rest of us, and don’t always value things according to their usefulness. A pause for reflection: how much does it matter to me that children in some parts of our world die because they do not have safe water?
Meanwhile, Fiji water – water imported from Fiji, sells at around £2.00 per litre.
Born to Norwegian immigrants in 1857, Thorstein Veblen was one of several academically inclined children in his family. He studied economics at Carleton College, largely under the tutelage of John Bates Clark, a pioneer of what has become an almost axiomatic concept in economics, “marginal utility.” Veblen would build on Clark’s approach—understanding that the value of an object lies not simply in its “total utility,” that is, its usefulness to the world, but also in its “marginal utility,” the subjective satisfaction it gives to its consumer. If an object’s value were determined by its total utility, water might be the most expensive object in the world, since none of us could survive without it. Yet it is not, in part because there is a lot of it, but also because it provides us with little marginal utility. Companies today that charge a lot for bottled water seek, through marketing, to increase water’s marginal utility, which is to say the sense that we are consuming, with our Fiji water, something special.
And what about the marginal utility of a factory worker who actually makes something useful, but is on the minimum wage?
41. In tropical and subtropical seas, we find coral reefs comparable to the great forests on dry land, for they shelter approximately a million species, including fish, crabs, molluscs, sponges and algae. Many of the world’s coral reefs are already barren or in a state of constant decline. “Who turned the wonderworld of the seas into underwater cemeteries bereft of colour and life?” This phenomenon is due largely to pollution which reaches the sea as the result of deforestation, agricultural monocultures, industrial waste and destructive fishing methods, especially those using cyanide and dynamite. It is aggravated by the rise in temperature of the oceans. All of this helps us to see that every intervention in nature can have consequences which are not immediately evident, and that certain ways of exploiting resources prove costly in terms of degradation which ultimately reaches the ocean bed itself.
42. Greater investment needs to be made in research aimed at understanding more fully the functioning of ecosystems and adequately analysing the different variables associated with any significant modification of the environment. Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another. Each area is responsible for the care of this family. This will require undertaking a careful inventory of the species which it hosts, with a view to developing programmes and strategies of protection with particular care for safeguarding species heading towards extinction.
All Creatures are dependent on one another, but humans can consciously care for this family. Francis is strongly supporting the scientists here.
In 2017 Pope Francis had this fountain disconnected because of a water shortage in Rome. In this section of Laudato Si he tackles the problems of water poverty.
28. Fresh drinking water is an issue of primary importance, since it is indispensable for human life and for supporting terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Sources of fresh water are necessary for health care, agriculture and industry. Water supplies used to be relatively constant, but now in many places demand exceeds the sustainable supply, with dramatic consequences in the short and long term. Large cities dependent on significant supplies of water have experienced periods of shortage, and at critical moments these have not always been administered with sufficient oversight and impartiality. Water poverty especially affects Africa where large sectors of the population have no access to safe drinking water or experience droughts which impede agricultural production.
29. One particularly serious problem is the quality of water available to the poor. Every day, unsafe water results in many deaths and the spread of water-related diseases, including those caused by microorganisms and chemical substances. Dysentery and cholera, linked to inadequate hygiene and water supplies, are a significant cause of suffering and of infant mortality. Underground water sources in many places are threatened by the pollution produced in certain mining, farming and industrial activities, especially in countries lacking adequate regulation or controls.
Detergents and chemical products continue to pour into our rivers, lakes and seas.
30. In some places there is a growing tendency to privatise this resource, turning it into a commodity subject to the laws of the market. Yet access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights. Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity. This debt can be paid partly by an increase in funding to provide clean water and sanitary services among the poor. But water continues to be wasted, not only in the developed world but also in developing countries which possess it in abundance. This shows that the problem of water is partly an educational and cultural issue, since there is little awareness of the seriousness of such behaviour within a context of great inequality.
31. Greater scarcity of water will lead to an increase in the cost of food and the various products which depend on its use. Some studies warn that an acute water shortage may occur within a few decades unless urgent action is taken. The environmental repercussions could affect billions of people; it is also conceivable that the control of water by large multinational businesses may become a major source of conflict in this century.
We wanted to keep yesterday’s post simple for it needs no introduction, no explanation. Dr Maclean gave his own afterword to today’s prayer, so no more from your editors today.
Be Thou Thyself the guiding star above me,
Lighthouse be thou for every reef and shoal,
Pilot my barque upon the crest of sea-wave
To where the waters make no moan or roll.
Oh the restful haven of the wandering soul!
This, is it not a matchless prayer for fishers of every race and age? The Hebridean, with but a plank between him and the seabed, murmured it a thousand times. As he did so, his vision bore him to some still port far from the breaking seas, some secret haven where the green swell is dumb, and children play on the pearl-white sand.
Here is Christina Rossetti’s meditation on Good Friday. The reference to a stone and a rock being struck goes back to Exodus 17; see below.
Am I a stone, and not a sheep, That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy cross, To number drop by drop Thy blood’s slow loss, And yet not weep?
Not so those women loved Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee; Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly; Not so the thief was moved;
Not so the Sun and Moon Which hid their faces in a starless sky, A horror of great darkness at broad noon – I, only I.
Yet give not o’er, But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock; Greater than Moses, turn and look once more And smite a rock.
So the people were thirsty there for want of water, and murmured against Moses, saying: Why didst thou make us go forth out of Egypt, to kill us and our children, and our beasts with thirst? And Moses cried to the Lord, saying: What shall I do to this people? Yet a little more and they will stone me.
And the Lord said to Moses: Go before the people, and take with thee of the ancients of Israel: and take in thy hand the rod wherewith thou didst strike the river, and go. Behold I will stand there before thee, upon the rock Horeb: and thou shalt strike the rock, and water shall come out of it that the people may drink.
Moses did so before the ancients of Israel: And he called the name of that place Temptation, because the chiding of the children of Israel, and for that they tempted the Lord, saying: Is the Lord amongst us or not?
I didn’t know about World Water Day until recently, but it falls on March 22 each year, and gives us a chance to reflect on how we use and abuse this precious element, and how some people do not have enough for drinking, washing, farming. What follows is from CAFOD, the English and Welsh Catholic church’s overseas aid arm. The full article with a video explanation of the filter is available here.
Turning dirty water into clean water
Here at CAFOD, we are trying to turn dirty water into clean water.
For many poor communities, the local water source is a dirty pond or stream. Diarrhoea kills a young child every 90 seconds.
CAFOD’s water filter campaign is helping people who face the risk of fatal disease every time they wash, cook or drink – by providing simple, low-cost water filters for them.
This water filter is a lifesaver. It transforms dirty water into clean, drinkable water in an hour. A lifeline for families without a clean water source. We’ve made sure that it is simple to put together and uses materials available even in remote communities.
Our water filters use just sand and charcoal. Effective, cheap and easy to maintain, they save lives.
By donating today, you can help more people in developing countries protect their health and their lives.
Good morning to you all on a rather cold and frosty morning; and I hope this finds you all well, as we are here. Yesterday I headed over to Ramsgate for my vaccination – what a well organised and slick operation it was- hats off to all those who organised it – arm feeling achy though which is to be expected! It was strange driving to Ramsgate as I realised it was the furthest I have been in the car for about six months!
Today, 8th March 2021 is International Women’s Day, and the Mother’s Union has asked that we pray for women around the world between today and Mothering Sunday (14th March), we remember today that around the world there are women who are marginalised and oppressed or abused for just being female. who don’t have the access to opportunities for education, a safe place to live, clean water, or some days don’t have enough food to feed their children. We give thanks for organisations such as the Mothers Union who support and encourage women both nationally and internationally.
Morning Prayer: https://youtu.be/ATUIE7sODHk God Bless you all and have a good day Jo Rev Jo Richards, Rector of the Benefice of St Dunstan, St Mildred and St Peter, Canterbury
Another chance to feel smug and virtuous: both of us gardeners at St Mildred’s Glebe this morning were using metal flasks for our breaktime drinks, and no worries about water quality or quantity. Polish that halo before the cobwebs take over again!