Tag Archives: welcome

3 November: A place to reflect

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I was surprised to be welcomed at the North Door into the Crypt at Canterbury Cathedral and to have a leaflet thrust into my hand. I barely glanced at it – ‘a place to reflect’ sums up Agnellus’ Mirror’s feelings about this ancient part of the Cathedral – and put it safely in my bag. Reflection is our business in the Mirror, so I promised myself to read it later.

As always, the silence of the Crypt needed to be filtered out of the background noises. Hear each one, Will, then set it aside. Bangings, sawing noises, crane engines and hydraulic lifts: the army of masons, paviours and other tradesmen were about their work, as they always are. Have  I ever seen the building without scaffolding somewhere?

Young voices behind me, coming from the nave. School children? Do they whoop and yell? I remembered that at least two little Turnstone chicks, when babes in arms, discovered the acoustics of the nave, and allowed their happy screams to roll around the space, but they were a choir leader’s nightmare. Worth a smile and a prayer for all the younger Turnstones. At least I’d put aside the whoopers, and found silence, undisturbed by comings and goings around me.

When I got up to climb the stairs to the nave, a solid oak door barred the way. I heard an amplified voice speaking, and remembered seeing a young man in academic dress in the street: I realised it must have been a degree ceremony occupying the nave. Whoops and yells are fair enough under the circumstances.

Let’s pray that the graduands enjoyed their day, and always have room in their lives for reflection and silence.

Oh, the leaflet: it is an excellent guide to the crypt. I learnt that there is a Baptismal Font down there in the Holy Innocents’ Chapel which is encouraging: the main font in the Nave has the Royal Coat of Arms over it, which has always seemed inappropriate to me.

 

 

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October 9: Month of Mission: Pilgrims or Missionaries?

pilgrims way

When we planned this year’s L’Arche Kent pilgrimage, we did not see it as a missionary enterprise. It was a chance for the community to spend time together, which is not going to happen unless we make space for it, as we now number more than 100 people with and without learning disabilities, living and working together in a mosaic of different ways, but sometimes not seeing a friend for weeks or months at a time.

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There was a fairly simple shape to the pilgrims’ day: pray, walk, eat; pray, walk, eat being the plan. Looking back, it seems to me it was a missionary journey. We began at Dover beach, with prayers in the open air; but most of our formal praying took place in churches we visited on our way. The invasion of upwards of fifty walkers was out of the ordinary for each church we visited. We were made welcome everywhere.

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‘It’s so good that our church is being prayed in,’ was one reaction to our visit. Other congregations laid on refreshments. Another asked that we sign the visitors’ book, which we gladly did wherever we found one. ‘It will help us to get grants and permission for toilets if we can show that we are welcoming pilgrims.’

Toilets as a missionary activity? We would say so, based on our experience. At one point on our journey maybe 20 people used the facilities in the home of a centenarian friend (or should we say member) of the community.

Saint Paul does not go into such details!

We came to each church to pray and refresh the outer man or woman as well as the inner. We came to visit the Lord, but we, and our dogs, visited the body of Christ that Paul did talk about, and, I believe we helped to build it up wherever we called.

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So it was a missionary journey in many ways that I at least did not foresee. Mutually building up the body of Christ in our L’Arche and parish communities. Perhaps we will be more aware of that next year!

MMB.

L’Arche Kent, 18a St Radigunds St, Canterbury, Kent CT1 2AA.  Telephone 01227 643025

www.larchekent.org.uk

 

 

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17 September: X is for Exeter

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A city that was badly bombed during World War II, that has lost its town centre shipping, though the quays are in demand for filming; a beautiful old cathedral, the river inviting you to follow it down to the sea at Exmouth; the beautiful and fertile Devon countryside … all this you can find in the guide books.

My brother and sister-in-law’s allotment garden is not in the guide books, but you can find it … if you know where to look.

Here they grow their fruit and vegetables. When we visited we were invited to join the harvest, and a couple of hours later to sit down and enjoy the results. Which we gladly did. It helps that both of them are professional chefs, but they are also generous hosts. We don’t see enough of them.

I’m afraid the photograph of their allotment and shed disappeared between computers and memory sticks, so here is a harvest breakfast with Kentish rather than Devon fare. And here below a harvest loaf. Not as good as my brother’s efforts in past years, but I’ve already been asked to make one for this autumn.

harvest18.2 loaf

A reminder to pray for the farmers in these uncertain times, to thank God for our families and friends, and to share our blessings.

 

 

 

 

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9 September: A Pilgrim from a distant land.

 

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Another extract from Maria Montessori’s ‘The Child in the Family’. Mary and Joseph had to treat Jesus in a less than ideal way, born in a stable, then a quick flight into Egypt. Parents should not feel too guilty if all is not ideal when the baby is born. But we should all feel guilty that we do too little to help and receive so many babies, such as those born every day,to start their lives as refugees.

At birth [the infant] is ejected from his home [in the womb] to live in the air. Without the least transition, he is pushed from perfect repose to the exhausting work of being born. His body is crushed almost as if he had passed between two millstones, and he comes to us wounded, like a pilgrim who has journeyed from a distant land.

Death, like birth, is a law of nature, and one to which we must all submit. Why do we seek to ease that terrible moment of death in every possible way? Why, knowing that we cannot conquer death, do we at least want to render it less painful? Yet we never think to alleviate the suffering of birth. But what do we do to help and receive him?

Maria Montessori, ‘The Child in the Family, London, Pan, 1970, pp20-21.

 

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

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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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Family and neighbours.

We thought readers would appreciate this homily from Bishop Nicholas Hudson, sometime assistant priest here in Canterbury. Text via Independent Catholic News. Bishop Nicholas talks lovingly about his father’s example of humility and service.

 

 

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29 July: Saint Martha

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Looking ahead to Pilgrimage 2020, Vincent lent me a guide to the Pilgrims’ Way from Winchester to Canterbury, which claims that the Church of Saint Martha near Guildford is the only one dedicated to this friend of the Lord. There’s one nearby, but it’s Catholic, so doesn’t count for this writer! But then he also notes the Reformation loss of Saint Peter’s in Winchester without mentioning that the beautiful Catholic church nearby bears that Apostle’s name. No doubt Simon Peter was welcome to the home in Bethany of Martha, Mary and Lazarus.

Martha is the welcomer, just as much as Mary.

Here in Canterbury we are well into the swing of summer, which means visitors, tourists and pilgrims, most people a bit of both: hundreds of continental school students every day; Americans, Japanese and Chinese on package tours, and some travelling independently; families feeling the heat – altogether more varied than the crew who travelled with Chaucer. Some of them produce questionnaires testing my knowledge of Canterbury history – by no means A*; or asking which shops I use most often – I could not identify ten from the list, even if I found five I never visit with consummate ease.

Like Martha, we must be welcomers, some hidden in the kitchen, some paid to serve visitors, all of us readily pointing out directions or speaking a few phrases of whatever language we picked up at school. Is it my inner Martha or my inner Mary who answers the questionnaire, points out the way to the cathedral coach park, or railway station? Peu importe, as they say; does it matter?

It was Martha who went out to meet her Lord after her brother died. Perhaps she’s the one to look to when a visitor to our church has not heard of Saint Thomas, or at the other extreme, wants to reverence the relic; when two coachloads, that is 100+ teenagers, are crossing the road in an orderly (German) or ragged (French) line and holding up traffic, meaning me on my bike.

Welcoming visitors, even when I don’t want anything to do with them, is welcoming the Lord. The day after writing this I sat in the crypt at Canterbury Cathedral; at first the two coachloads were very intrusive, but that gave way to quiet. Some of them stopped to light candles; they were being shepherded along, so could not stay to pray; they let their little light shine though!

 

 

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24 July, Little Flowers of Saint Francis LII: the courteous gentleman, 1.

 

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How Jesu Christ, the blessed One, at the prayer of St Francis, let convert a rich and gentle knight and become a brother, the which had shewn great honour and liberality unto Saint Francis

Saint Francis, the servant of Christ, coming late one evening to the house of a great gentleman and powerful, was received of him to lodge therein, both he and his companion, as if they were angels of God, with exceeding great courtesy and devotion: for the which cause Saint Francis was greatly touched with love for him, bethinking him how at their coming into the house he had embraced and kissed them lovingly, and then had washed their feet and wiped and humbly kissed them, and had kindled a great fire and made ready the table with much good food, and whilst they ate, he served them always with a joyful countenance. 

Now, when that Saint Francis and his companion had eaten, this gentle man said: “Behold, my father, I offer to thee myself and all my goods; so oft as ye have need of tunic or mantle or aught beside, buy them and I will pay for them; and behold, I am ready to provide your every need, since by the grace of God am I able, seeing that I abound in all temporal goods; and therefore, for the love of God, that hath given them me, I do good unto His poor right willingly.”

Whereby Saint Francis, seeing in him such gentle courtesy and friendliness, and so liberal an offering, conceived in his heart great love towards him.

To be continued.

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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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22 May: Pilgrimage to Canterbury MMXIX. 2 Out of earshot.

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I left you at the top of Dover, only too glad to get out of the sight and sound of the main roads.

Singledge Lane is part of the North Downs Way. Asphalt all the way these days but in the years before the Great War, it was often impassible in winter. This was disappointing for the owners of Guildford Colliery. They had to suspend operations every winter, and never succeeded in digging down to the coal that awaited them.

Our friend George,1 a L’Arche community member and ex-miner, told me that a truck load of coal was brought to the surface when some potential investors inspected, but that truck had been sent down the shaft full of coal from another nearby mine. The investors lost out, the mine was closed, and what remains is now a private house and farm buildings beside the Lane. The story reminds me of the man wanting to build a tower, and making sound plans. A mine is a much more complicated venture, and a pilgrimage much less so, but we need to anticipate, if you’ll forgive me, the pitfalls, before we gather the walkers on Dover Beach. Hence my ride past the mine that never was.

Which of you having a mind to build a tower, doth not first sit down, and reckon the charges that are necessary, whether he have wherewithal to finish it: lest, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that see it begin to mock him, saying: This man began to build, and was not able to finish.                                                                                                                 Luke 14:28-30

We’ve barely started reckoning our wherewithals.

My Brompton and I bowled along to Coldred church, where I sat in the porch with sandwiches and coffee before turning right towards Eythorne. Here the L’Arche house called Cana made me welcome and plied me with a welcome cup of tea.

Cana was the planned end point for Day 1. Some of the community members seemed to be looking forward to the pilgrimage, but could they manage The Hill? They would be able to walk the first section of Day 2 – to Barfrestone, where L’Arche Kent began.

Coldred Church of St Pancras

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