On the First Friday in March every year a service is held where a chosen country produces materials for the world to worship. As the materials are written the World Day of Prayer motto INFORMED PRAYER, PRAYERFUL ACTION is set in motion.
World Day of Prayer is a prayer movement, not for just one day a year but throughout the year. World Day of Prayer, a worldwide, women-led, ecumenical Prayer Movement.
A new year has dawned
We are on the countdown to World Day of Prayer 2023, on Friday 3 March – we hope you will join with us in the huge wave of prayer for Taiwan which will encircle the earth for at least 38 hours. It will be awesome to be part of something so huge! Services will be held the length and breadth of England, Wales and Northern Ireland and we will share in stories of faith of Taiwanese women.
Over the past year, we, and our faith, have been tested and challenged. As 2023 stretches before us, it will certainly have its challenges as well as opportunities, so let us resolve to refocus our faith and trust in God anew. Let us bring everything to Him in prayer – our hope and fears, our dreams and tears – and walk through the unknown year, with what it will bring, with our hand securely held in His. For there is no better place to be.
From Together in Prayer: I have heard about your faith by Jacqui Keenan, 2023
Lord of all, today with your people around the world, we pray:
for faith to believe that you rule the world in truth and righteousness;
for faith to believe in the power of your love to melt our hard hearts and lovingly to forgive our sin;
for faith to see your purposes of love unfolding in the happenings of today;
for faith to believe that if we seek first your Kingdom and righteousness, you will provide for all our needs;
for faith to take no anxious thought for tomorrow but to believe that you will be with us in the future as you have been in the past;
for faith to be calm and trusting in the face of challenges and difficulties as we seek obediently to follow you knowing that in your power alone we are made strong and that your love will never fail us;
for faith to leave in your hands the care of all those whose lives are intertwined with ours.
Thank you for the blessings you have given us and grant us strength to walk in the ways you lead us. May we know your deep peace through Jesus Christ our loving Lord. Amen
Happy 2023! We resume our journey with our regular newsletters. 2023 will be a rich and particularly important year for the synodal conversion of the Church. Next October will see the first session of the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (4-29 October 2023). In this Sunday’s Angelus, Pope Francis wished to remind us of the eminently spiritual character of this assembly, announcing the Ecumenical Prayer Vigil in which he invites each of us to join. Indeed, as we prepare to celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity on the theme “Learn to do good, seek justice”, (Isaiah 1:17), the Holy Father reminds us that “The path of synodality … is and must be ecumenical, just as the ecumenical path is synodal” (Audience to His Holiness Mar Awa III, 19.11.2022).
But let us not be too hasty. In this second stage of the synodal process – the Continental Stage concerning the dialogue between the Churches of the same region, we are all called to continue the exercise of listening and discernment with the help of the Working Document for the Continental Stage, which you can find in several languages on our website synod.va By the way, to keep you updated on the Continental Assemblies, I invite you to visit our websites synod.va and synodresources.org periodically. Some journalists from Vatican Media are preparing to cover and inform you about these meetings. You can also follow them through vaticannews.va
But that is not all. There are a number of initiatives underway aimed at your formation such as the Sophia University Institute course and the Mooc organised by a number of theologians from the Theology Commission of the General Secretariat of the Synod, or even a Press Conference to learn a little more about the synod process in Africa, next 17 January.
However, the New Year opened with the sad news of the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who was also the former President of the General Secretariat of the Synod, and who, as a theologian, had also addressed the topic of Synodality. We would like to remember this man of God with the homily at the Mass in suffrage that Cardinal Grech addressed to the faithful gathered in Gozo Cathedral. I’m getting too long…. I leave it to you to discover the rest. Enjoy the reading
Thierry Bonaventura Communication Manager SAVE THE DATES The synodal process in Africa On Tuesday 17 January 2023 at 12 noon in Rome (GMT +1) there will be a press conference to present the synodal process in Africa during which some of the general secretaries of the sub-regional Episcopal bodies of the Continent will speak. It will be possible to follow the press conference on the Synod’s Facebook channel (facebook.com/synod.va). To access the press conference, journalists must….Read more here
Training Course on SynodalityOn 17 January at 6 p.m. Rome time (GTM +1) with addresses by Cardinal Mario Grech, Secretary General of the Synod, and Monsignor Piero Coda, Secretary General of the International Theological Commission, the multilingual Formation Course on Synodality promoted by the Sophia University Institute – Evangelii Gaudium Centre will be opened…
Read more here New Intensive Course (MOOC) on Synodality Following the success of the previous edition that was attended by no less than 90,000 people, this second intercontinental online course will focus on the history, theology and practice of synodality. The MOOC, which is completely free of charge, will take place online starting in February with lectures available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian and German.Read more here
Ecumenical Vigil Prayer In this Sunday’s after Angelus and on the eve of the celebration of the traditional Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Pope Francis recalled how “the path to Christian unity and the Church’s path of synodal conversion are linked”. To underline this close link, the announcement of an Ecumenical Prayer Vigil, next 30 September in St. Peter’s Square to which he invites “brothers and sisters of all Christian denominations” and with which “we will entrust to God the work of the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops”. To the young people who will come to Rome to participate in the ecumenical vigil Prayer, the Pope announced that there will be “a special programme throughout that weekend organized by the Taizé community”.Read more Ratzinger’s choice In his homily at the Mass in suffrage of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Cardinal Mario Grech, Secretary General of the Synod, dwells on the figure of this giant of the faith in constant search of Truth.Go to the Homily
World Women’s Observatory launches a survey The World Women’s Observatory (WWO), a project of the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations (WUCWO), has created a survey for women in positions of leadership in the 2021-2024 Synod. The survey is in response to concerns regarding the role of women in the Church expressed in the WDCS (Working Document for the Continental Stage). The survey is anonymous, very brief and in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Arabic. The first deadline for the Survey is February 1, 2023
Pray for the Synod In order to support the synodal journey and ask for the Spirit’s assistance, together with the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network and UISG, we have set up a website in 5 languages: Church on the Way. Pray for the Synod. You too can send your prayer. See how to do it…
Today we hold the funeral service for our poet, 92 year old Sheila Billingsley, who died last month. May she rest in peace with her husband Reg, and rise in glory! Here is her Easter poem from four years ago. She was fascinated by the physicality of Easter, the renewal of all life through Christ’s resurrection. Pray for her and those she has left behind.
Did it Rain that Morning ?
How did the sun rise that morning?Did it roar into the sky?Did it dance, throwing its flames across the void?Did it rain?Surely it rained?A penetrating April deluge,Short, sweet, cleansing. Penetrating like grief,Like relief.Did the wind blow?With no-one to feel it lift the dirt, the dust,Sweep clean,Prepare the way.The sun at darkness’ end.The lightning, thunder.Fit entrance to a forgiven world.Fit entrance for a Prince, a Lord.Did the birds and the creatures rejoice together? The flowers tremble,Their perfume astonish?Till all ablaze,You stepped forthAccompanied by Angels,And went your way, about your world.Until the women came,Looking,Peering,Anxious,Worried.All was calm again by then,Nothing untoward, Except that you had gone to GalileeAnd left a message with an Angel.
A further reflection on the working out of Blessed Pauline Jaricot’s vocation. To find out more about Pauline Jaricot, visit: missio.org.uk/Pauline
Every missionary disciple walks in the footsteps of Jesus. Pauline Jaricot developed the spirituality of the laity; not in founding a Religious community, but a Marian association of women at the service of the poor. Pauline invites us to value the vocation of each baptised person. God’s plan for Pauline was to follow Christ step- by-step: ‘As the Father sent me, so I am sending you too!’ Let us pray that we, baptised and sent, fulfill our calling as missionary disciples.
A press release from the General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops Cardinal Grech highlighted some of the dangers facing refugees from Ukraine during his visit to Poland on behalf of Pope Francis.
Ukrainian women and children at risk from traffickers – 20.03.2022
Ukrainian women and children at risk from traffickers “Ukrainian women and children must be ‘protected’ from human traffickers when they arrive in our countries from Ukraine”. This is the alarm launched by Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, whilst meeting journalists on the sidelines of a visit to two Centres for refugees run by the Diocese of Warsaw.
Accompanied by Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz and Mgr Piotr Jarecki, Cardinal Grech visited on the afternoon of Saturday 19 March Cardinal Grech visited the centre of St Margaret’s parish in Łomianki, a small town just outside Warsaw with 15,000 inhabitants, where 2300 refugees, especially women and children, are hosted by families from the parish, and the centre of “Dobre Miejsce”, the diocesan house for spiritual exercises transformed for the occasion into a home for 100 refugees. There, Card. Grech spent time there, especially with the children, listening to their stories and witnessing to them the closeness of Pope Francis. These meetings with the Ukrainian refugees took place during a four-day visit in which the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops is meeting with clergy and parish contacts for the synod of the Warsaw archdiocese to discuss the synod process with them. Addressing the more than 500 priests gathered at the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Warsaw, Card. Grech reiterated how the success of the synodal process “depends very much on the bishops and priests”. On the day of the release of the Letter to Priests (signed jointly with the Prefect of the Vatican’s dicastery for the clergy), Grech recalled the fear that arises among many priests that “excessive insistence on the importance of the People of God may cause us to lose sight of the importance of priestly service in the Church”. Instead, the Synod Secretary reiterated that “it is not a question of opposing priests to the People of God, because priests are also part of the People of God, by virtue of their baptism.” The action of Pope Francis is aimed, instead, at grasping ever more fully the ecclesiology of the People of God, that is, at understanding the Church as the People of God, with the conviction that the “flock” has a sensum fidei to discern the new ways of proclaiming the Gospel that God suggests to the Church. The meeting concluded with the celebration of the Eucharist presided over by Card. Grech (homily in Italian).
This morning, the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops will meet the parish referents to dialogue with them on the role of the laity in the process. On Monday 21st, Card. Grech will travel to Częstochowa to entrust the synodal path to Our Lady.
#newsletter n.07 – 03/2022 – Available also in FR – PT – ES – IT Celebrating Woman’s Day Women are particularly involved in this synodal process, they are often the driving force behind synodality and have a great desire to “walk together”. On this 8th of March we want to give thanks for all their commitment to the service of synodality …Read more …
Caritas Internationalis and the British Ambassador to the Holy See, Chris Trott, are organizing the event “Church and Society: Women as Builders of Dialogue” on March 8 in Rome, with online streaming. Read more… Sr. Nathalie Becquart, Undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops, offers us a collection of texts dealing with the theme of women in the documents of the last two synods.Read more… Listen to five women speak about their roles within the Synod of Bishops on the Synod on Synodality at this event of last December hosted by the Australian Embassy to the Holy See, La Civiltà Cattolica and Georgetown University.Read more The aim of “Female Doctors of the Church and Patron Saints of Europe in Dialogue with Today’s World” International Interuniversity Conference scheduled for March 7 and 8, 2022 is to focus on the emblematic example of so many women in history to restore momentum and hope to the many challenges that characterize the dynamic contemporary world.Read more… The Dutch Network of Catholic Women (NKV) translated the synod themes to questions specifically meant for women. The project is called ‘She has something to tell’ and Laetitia van der Lans tells us that the responses rate is surprisingly high for a small, secularized country. Among the most important questions are: what gives you joy in the Catholic Church? What are your dreams for the Church?Read more The Maronite Church launched the initiative “Synod of Women” in Bkerké, at the headquarters of the Maronite Patriarchate: a unique ecclesial process and opportunity for shared discernment on the presence and mission of women in the Church and in society.Read more…
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Moses set the laver between the tent of the congregation and the altar, and put water there, to wash withal. And Moses and Aaron and his sons washed their hands and their feet thereat: When they went into the tent of the congregation, and when they came near unto the altar, they washed; as the Lord commanded Moses.
And he reared up the court round about the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the hanging of the court gate. So Moses finished the work.
Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And when the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys: But if the cloud were not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up.
There is a connection between the picture and the reading from Exodus! The passage comes at the end of a long, detailed description of how the Tabernacle (the mobile Temple of the Lord) was to be designed and built, according to a divine blueprint. When almost all the construction was complete, Moses finished the work by hanging a veil over the gateway. With all the other hangings and curtains, nobody could see inside and very few people were allowed inside.
Yesterday we looked at the Cross as the gate to Heaven; today we take that idea forward a step. Matthew tells of the veil of the Temple torn from top to bottom, and an earthquake – another dreadful night in that dreadful place – and the appearance ‘of the saints that had slept’, surely good news to those who loved them, to see them alive.
This happened, Matthew tells us, after Jesus’s resurrection; he is setting the scene for Easter morning, and Mary Magdalene and the other women making their way to the tomb, realising there that the stone is rolled away, the veil is irrevocably torn, Jacob’s seed has opened the gate of Heaven.
Jesus again crying with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.
And behold the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top even to the bottom, and the earth quaked, and the rocks were rent.
And the graves were opened: and many bodies of the saints that had slept arose, And coming out of the tombs after his resurrection, came into the holy city, and appeared to many. Now the centurion and they that were with him watching Jesus, having seen the earthquake, and the things that were done, were sore afraid, saying: Indeed this was the Son of God.
And there were there many women afar off, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him: Among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
Sister Johanna was not thinking solely of the Annunciation when she composed this reflection, but the whole relationship between Jesus and Mary is there, as a newly germinated seed.
The woman who engages Jesus in this story receives his attention, respect, and a challenge. Our picture from the Baptistry of the Abbey of St Maurice, Switzerland, shows another encounter between Jesus and a woman – the Samaritan at the Well. Jesus is shown as the Word, his book showing Alpha and Omega, symbols to be engraved upon the Paschal Candle in ten days from now.
As Jesus was Speaking (Luke 11:27-28)
It happened that as Jesus was speaking, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said, ‘Blessed the womb that bore you and the breasts that fed you!’ But he replied, ‘More blessed still are those who hear the word of God and keep it!’ (see Luke 11:27-28).
Jesus’ behaviour to women is a study that goes far beyond what I can do in a short reflection. But I think it might be safe to say that in his conduct toward women Jesus is both straightforward and courteous. At times he is more the first than the second, and becomes surprisingly frank – but only with those women who reveal in the course of the conversation that they are capable of dealing with his frankness – and he seems to be unerring in knowing who they are ahead of time. Something in their glance, maybe? Or the way they stand? I don’t know. But in this instance, recorded by St Luke (11:27-28), Jesus takes the other approach. He is very gentle here in the way he corrects this woman’s words.
She is clearly a well-meaning person, but nonetheless, she only gets it partially right and Jesus is not really happy with what she says. This passage has often puzzled me; at first glance, I couldn’t find anything really wrong with her words. I wondered why Jesus found it necessary to add his bit. Why couldn’t he just let it go? After all, his mother was blessed. As I was pondering this seemingly small exchange and asking the Lord to enlighten me about it, it occurred to me for the first time that the words the woman uses in praise of Jesus’ mother may very well have been an expression that was common among pious Jewish women at that time – almost formulaic. A bit of research revealed that my hunch was correct.* It’s likely that these words were a saying used when it was clear that some woman’s grown son had turned out well. Even so, what is wrong with it?
As I pondered, the matter began to clarify. First I realised that, yes, Jesus’ mother deserves praise, always and everywhere, but Jesus was not content to let his mother be praised in words that failed to take in the full scope of her blessedness. She was not blessed merely because she bore Jesus and fed him. Such a blessing could apply to every mother who succeeds in bearing and feeding her child. But Jesus knew well and truly that no one had ever been or would ever be like his mother. Such faith as hers was unprecedented in religious history. The archangel Gabriel visited her, proclaimed her ‘full of grace,’ and gave her God’s message. She, in turn, gave her entire being, body and soul, to God in her response to the angel’s words, and she conceived Jesus miraculously, not by sexual intercourse, but by the power of the Holy Spirit. In every sense, and throughout her entire life, Jesus’ mother lived her faith in a way that was beyond the power of ordinary words to praise. And yet, here she was, being praised in a mere commonplace. Jesus knew he needed somehow to adjust the inadequate words that were cried out by this well-meaning woman – and without hurting her.
But even more needed to be said. (I wonder if Jesus groaned a bit inwardly on first hearing the woman’s words.) Although the words were mainly about Jesus’ mother, Jesus himself was misrepresented by them. He – unlike us in our wandering life-journey – never lost sight of his identity as Son, and of his mission to the world. Therefore, anything implying that he could be properly understood as, say, his mother’s ‘pride and joy,’ was so wide of the mark that it could not be allowed at all. It would confuse matters, not so much for Jesus, but for his followers. Because of who Jesus and Mary are, they had a unique relationship in an absolute sense. Jesus did not live in such a way as to fulfil an ordinary mother’s ordinary expectations – the episode of finding Jesus in the temple when he was twelve years old makes that clear (see Luke 2: 41-50) – if any clarity was needed after the extraordinary revelations of glory surrounding Jesus’ birth. Jesus loved his mother – and provided for her care with his last breath as he died on the Cross (see John 19:26-27) – but he is not the doting son in any common sense. And surely, by this time in Jesus’ adult life, his mother will have grasped – somehow – the unfathomable truth that her son was the Father’s Beloved Son, and that his mission as saviour of the world superseded all other claims, hers included. So, as I reflect, I become aware that we are not meant to pigeon-hole Jesus as this woman’s words seem to do. His identity and mission, as well as his mother’s identity and mission, are matters for deepest contemplation. We will never plumb their depths – certainly not in this life. Therefore Jesus and Mary exist, then and now, as a challenge to our cultural mores, our family customs, and even some of our religious categories. These woman’s words of praise unwittingly “shrink” both Jesus and Mary down to a size that seems more manageable, but, in doing so, she also makes Jesus and Mary too small even to recognise.
What was Jesus to do in this awkward situation? How to respond?
Masterfully, brilliantly, Jesus, in one sentence, managed to achieve everything. First, he was able to use some of the woman’s words, as if to tell her, ‘Yes, what you say is good. But together we can make it even better.’ (Few of us would object to that.) So Jesus keeps hold of her desire to give a blessing (thereby affirming her) and says, ‘More blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it.’ In these words, Jesus praises his mother rightly, for she alone of all women heard the word of God through the Angel Gabriel’s message and opened her heart and body to a depth that was and remains unprecedented. She ‘kept’ the word of God by literally giving birth to the word of God. Jesus does not want to give a theology lesson to the woman here, but he leaves us with words of such profundity that they are still yielding treasures to us two millennia later. Second, Jesus opens up this blessing to apply it to all people, men and women alike – even the hapless speaker in our text. The motherhood of Mary is, in fact, a vocation open to every person who hears the word of God and keeps it. Jesus had, after all, been speaking to a crowd of people. (‘As he was speaking,’ the text says, ‘a woman in the crowd’ cried out.) Jesus is always keen to invite all people into the state of blessedness and joy that is one of the signs of the presence of the kingdom now, on earth. This situation gave Jesus the opportunity to teach a deep truth about the kingdom and invite everyone in. And lastly, there is an implication about Jesus himself contained in his words. Jesus is the word of God. To ‘hear’ the word of God and ‘keep’ it is to be in a dynamic relationship not merely with a biblical text, but with the person of Jesus. There is no greater joy, no greater blessing than that.
This is a biblical text of only two lines. Look at it closely and it tells a story, which, had it happened to anyone else, would doubtless have ended rather awkwardly. But it happened to Jesus, and without distressing any well-meaning actor in this story, he broadens its message to praise his mother rightly, and include all men, all women, and all time in a salvific blessedness that will endure even in heaven. Blessed be He!
In recent years Mrs T and I have only seen Peterborough Cathedral from the train. Modern ticketing make it difficult to break a journey for a minipilgrimage or just to stretch your legs. So let’s join Cathedral guide Ann Reynolds as she tells the story of Saint Kyneburgha, who helped found the monastery on this site in AD 653. England and Wales had many redoubtable women church leaders in those times: surely the DNA is still in our women’s veins?