Tag Archives: water

5 September: On looking inside the window.

For more than thirty years we have resisted hanging net curtains in the bay window of our front room. We all, from visiting grandchildren to the oldest inhabitant, like to look out and wave to our neighbours and friends. Only yesterday Melvyn told me he always looks in case I’m there to exchange waves. But the other day brought something different. We spotted this damselfly on a loosely woven blanket by the window. The colours did not make for a good photograph, but black and white enhanced it all, especially the veins of the wings.

I wonder if the creature came from our pond? We soon opened the window and gently sent her on her way to snap up a few mosquitoes. It was encouraging to see a big dragonfly this morning by the river, but too high for a photo unless we get a drone! We would almost certainly crash it into the trees if we did.

Are dragonflies or damselflies mentioned by name in the Bible? I fancy not, but just look at Genesis 1:22, almost an exact description! And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. That sounds like a dragonfly or damselfly to me, coming forth from the waters to fly above the earth in the open firmamnet of heaven. LAUDATO SI!

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31 August: A moment with … Tim Hollis by Maurice Billingsley

River Waveney and boats at Beccles, By David Medcalf.

The challenge was to describe a moment spent with another L’Arche community member, and it was issued days after news of Tim Hollis’s death, so this is what came to mind. Tim’s funeral is today, 31 August. MB.

We got to know Tim and Marion Hollis quite well in those early days of L’Arche; they were almost part of the furniture, they came so often. It was good to witness how greatly they respected every core member and assistant, an example to us all. When we went on pilgrimage to Walsingham, they welcomed us to their home in Beccles, with its little oratory in the attic, lit by a custom-made glass roofing tile.

Two or three years after leaving L’Arche I was working in a London adult training centre and was asked to accompany  a small group on holiday quite close to Beccles, so I wrote to ask if we might visit Tim and Marion; of course a warm welcome was extended.

After tea and visiting the oratory, Tim invited us for a voyage on the River Waveney, the southern end of the Norfolk Broads. Tim, Geoffrey Morgan and Jean had been in the Royal Navy together, and Tim now had his own boat, big enough to take us all.

Everyone was comfortably enjoying the trip when Tim asked the student beside him, ‘Mervyn, would you like to steer?’ Mervyn proudly took the wheel and soon grasped how to use landmarks to steer by. Everyone else got a turn, even Maurice.

I expected Tim to be wary of Eric, who spent all day head bent, looking down. Could he possibly steer a boat with eight people on board? Tim felt my tension, but said simply, ‘watch’. I watched. Eric stood at the wheel, hardly raising his head, but plying the course that Tim set him. Eric did not have the speech to say how he felt, but the pleasure and recognition he experienced were palpable.

That moment has informed so much of my work with people with learning and behaviour difficulties: so often they are not trusted and respected, even by those entrusted with their care, education and well-being.

It’s a bit late to tell Tim how much that one moment means to me still, but never too late to share such good news. Thank you Tim, and thank you, Eric.

God Bless,

Maurice.

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24 July: Teach us how to pray

Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. A moment of prayer with the Lord.

Jesus did not confine his mission to his own Jewish people. The woman at the well is just one example that we know about; she spoke to him face to face, undergoing a radical examination of conscience, and putting her faith in the Messiah who was calling her.

Today’s Gospel reading is from Luke 11:1-13, the Lord’s Prayer. The link leads to the Bishops of England and Wales’ page of the Lord’s prayer recited in different languages. A reminder that the Gospel is for every nation, every citizen, every human being.

Prayer too is universal. We can pray by listening as well as speaking. You can select the language you want to hear the Lord’s Prayer prayed in using the playlist on the web page. Maybe the next time you go to Mass abroad, you’ll be able to let these words flow over you even if you can’t join in reciting them!

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9 June: A newish feast.

Rood, Our Lady and English Martyrs, Cambridge.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest

Pope Benedict XVI set this Feast on the Thursday after Pentecost ten years ago. It has only just crossed my radar, and I wondered whether this was a feast for clericalism, that non-synodal view of the Church that Pope Francis wants to leave behind. My suspicions were not placated when I saw the reading in the Divine Office was from Pope Pius XII, but I read on, and was reminded that he had made important changes to the celebration of the Eucharist, such as allowing people – including priests – to take a drink of water without breaking their fast. For anyone travelling a distance, or whose circumstances meant they attended a late Mass, he made it more possible to participate and receive Communion.

This extract from Mediator Dei insists that every Christian is called to be  a priest ‘as far as is humanly possible’; today we might remember that we are each anointed at Baptism to serve as priestprophet, and king. But Pope Pius was exploring these ideas before Vatican II. The language is perhaps unfamiliar, but the message is clear enough.


Christ is a Priest indeed; however, he is a Priest not for himself but for us, since, in the name of
the whole human race, he brings our prayers and religious dispositions to the eternal Father; he
is also a victim, but a victim for us, since he substitutes himself for sinners.
Now the exhortation of the Apostle, ‘Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,’
demands that all Christians should possess, as far as is humanly possible, the same dispositions
as those which the divine Redeemer had when he offered himself in sacrifice: that is to say, they
should with a humble attitude of mind, offer adoration, honour, praise and thanksgiving to the
supreme majesty of God.
Moreover, it demands that they must assume in some way the condition of a victim, that they
deny themselves as the Gospel commands, that freely and of their own accord they do penance
and that each detests and makes satisfaction for his sins.
It demands, in a word, that we must all undergo with Christ a mystical death on the Cross so
that we can apply to ourselves the words of St. Paul, ‘I have been crucified with Christ’ (Galatians
2:19).

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28 April: THE SHOWER

Waters above! eternal springs! 
The dew that silvers the Dove's wings! 
O welcome, welcome to the sad! 
Give dry dust drink; drink that makes glad! 
Many fair ev'nings, many flow'rs 
Sweeten'd with rich and gentle showers, 
Have I enjoy'd, and down have run 
Many a fine and shining sun; 
But never, till this happy hour, 
Was blest with such an evening-shower! 

                                                  From "Poems of Henry Vaughan, Silurist, Volume II.

This was not an April shower, but a March one; a morning but not an evening shower yet I'm sure Henry Vaughan would have appreciated it, as I did, seeing the raindrops on the willows shining on the osiers. Laudato Si'!

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22 April: A Promise

2009-05-04 20.01.43 (800x532)

Part of me wants Genesis 9:8-15, God’s Covenant with Noah, to be an Easter Vigil reading, when in fact it comes at the beginning of Lent in Year B. Nevertheless, it does speak of salvation, and water bringing Noah’s family to new life; it’s a little taste of Easter as Lent starts. The rainbow still tastes of Easter if we celebrate it in Easter week, with the curate of Selborne, Gilbert White. Our picture is of the rainbow seen over our friend Mrs O’s house on the day of her funeral. White was a pioneer of natural history, and here the scientist and theologian are one with the poet: ‘Lovely refraction!’ ‘Maker Omnipotent.’ Happy Easter!

ON THE RAINBOW by Gilbert White of Selborne.

” Look upon the Rainbow, and praise him that made it: very beautiful is it in the brightness thereof.” Ecclesiastes, 18:11.

On morning or on evening cloud impress'd, 
Bent in vast curve, the watery meteor shines 
Delightfully, to th' levell'd sun opposed: 
Lovely refraction ! while the vivid brede 
In listed colours glows, th' unconscious swain, 
With vacant eye, gazes on the divine 
Phenomenon, gleaming o'er the illumined fields, 
Or runs to catch the treasures which it sheds. 
Not so the sage: inspired with pious awe, 
He hails the federal arch ; and looking up, 
Adores that God, whose fingers form'd this bow 
Magnificent, compassing heaven about
With a resplendent verge, " Thou mad'st the cloud, 
Maker omnipotent, and thou the bow
And by that covenant graciously hast sworn 
Never to drown the world again: henceforth, 
Till time shall be no more, in ceaseless round, 
Season shall follow season: day to night,
Summer to winter, harvest to seed time,
Heat shall to cold in regular array
Succeed. — Heav'n taught, so sang the Hebrew bard." 

(from “The Natural History of Selborne” by Gilbert White)

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9 April: The Tree of Life.

Tree of Life window by Dom Charles Norris at the former Franciscan Study Centre, Canterbury.

Saint Thomas’ Parish, Canterbury invites readers to ‘please share’ items from their website. As we approach Holy Week, here are reflections by Canon Anthony Charlton on the Tree of Life as found in Psalm 1 and the events we remember on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Day.

There is a small stained glass window within the Church of the Good Shepherd, New Addington, created by a Buckfast Abbey monk, Dom Charles Norris. It depicts the image that is presented to us in Psalm 1. “Happy the man who has placed his trust in the Lord. He is like a tree that is planted beside the flowing waters, that yields its fruit in due season and whose leaves shall never fade; and all that he does shall prosper.”

Dom Charles employed a technique known as dalles-de-verre in which ‘tiles’ of coloured glass are chipped into shape and laid, mosaic-fashion, in a matrix of resin. As I sat in the presidential chair during Mass I was able to gaze on it while listening to the readings at Mass. The tree planted near running water reminded me of the only way to live my life fruitfully is to have deep roots that receive nourishment from the living water which is the Holy Spirit given to all of us.

In our life we can either trust in our own position, what others think of us, our status, our wealth, what we own or acquire in order to experience happiness or we listen to the way of Jesus. He shows us an alternative way of happiness. Yet this way will lead to a clash of values that will lead us to suffer for our commitment of bringing about God’s kingdom.

What Jesus is presenting to us is a radical choice that will put us at odds with the society in which we live. The extraordinary thing about the way of Christ is that is will lead to happiness but it will be by means of the Cross. We choose this way every time we come together to celebrate Mass and unite ourselves with the death and resurrection of Jesus. As the poor, the hungry, the sorrowing, the despised and the excluded, we embrace this way of happiness. We do this because we trust in the Lord. We are like a tree that is planted beside flowing water.

O God, 
who alone can satisfy our deepest hungers,  
protect us from the lure of wealth and power; 
move our hearts to seek first your kingdom,  
that ours may be the security and joy of those  
who place their trust in you. AMEN.

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25 February: Columban Missionary prayer II.

From Columban Missionaries in the USA.
God of grace and glory,
you call us with your voice of flame
to be your people, 
faithful and courageous.

As your beloved Son embraced his mission
in the waters of baptism, inspire us with the fire of your Spirit
to join in his transforming work.
Amen.

I’ve pointed out before how the windows in Saint Aloysius, near Euston Station in London, show clearly the world that the people of the parish are sent to. Repeat this prayer when you switch on the computer at different times today. May this blog contribute to the Son’s transforming work, Amen.

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28 January: Praise creation, praise the Creator.

Another reflection from Chesterton on Saint Francis*, who among many other things, could be called a Performance Poet today.

Saint Francis hails the elements with an old familiarity that is almost an old frivolity. He calls them his Brother Fire and his Sister Water. So arises out of this almost nihilistic abyss the noble thing that is called Praise; which no one will ever understand while he identifies it with nature-worship or pantheistic optimism.

When we say that a poet praises the whole creation, we commonly mean only that he praises the whole cosmos. But this sort of poet does really praise creation, in the sense of the act of creation. He praises the passage or transition from nonentity to entity; there falls here also the shadow of that archetypal image of the bridge, which has given to the priest his archaic and mysterious name.

We in the West may be over-familiar with stories of Francis calling up his Brother Fire and his Sister Water, and this partly because we have lost touch with fire and water. How many households are all-electric and possibly only light candles on birthday cakes? Many have nowhere to light a fire, keeping warm and cooking without a flame, at the touch of a switch.

In our everyday lives water is tamed to flow through pipes, to be heated in a closed boiler, disposed of when dirty through more pipes; not the way to treat a sister. Still less the pollution in rivers and the ocean. Maybe we need to listen again.

We praise you, Lord, for all your creatures,
especially for Brother Sun,
who is the day through whom you give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour,
of you Most High, he bears your likeness.
We praise you, Lord, for Sister Water,
so useful, humble, precious and pure.

*Saint Francis of Assisi: The Life and Times of St. Francis” by G. K. Chesterton

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3 November: Action and contemplation.

Action is charity looking out to other men,

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.”

John 4:13-14

PS: Since Merton was writing in 1957 we must forgive his use of ‘man’ to cover both sexes, and the translators, too!

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