Tag Archives: work

February 7, Praying with Pope Francis: Listen to the Migrants’ Cries.

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Pope Francis’s mission prayer for February is: We pray that the cries of our migrant brothers and sisters, victims of criminal trafficking, may be heard and considered.

Pope Francis made a point of visiting Lampedusa within days of becoming Pope. That is the Italian island, close to the North African shore, where many migrant ships and boats have landed. The cross is one fashioned by an Italian artist from the timbers of such a boat, stranded on the island, its battered paint reminding us of the dangers of even such a short crossing.

The Colombian artist Oscar Murillo created this scene of waiting migrants for the 2019 Turner Prize exhibition in Magate, Kent. In a darkened room that would overlook the sea if a blackout curtain was not there, they sit in rows, waiting. Is it a church they are in, with its wooden benches, or a run-down station waiting room? Either should be a safe place, but it’s clear that this is not: the benches have been hacked about, and that only recently.

The three men on the right hand end of the benches seem to be listening: listening to someone or listening for someone? Are they waiting for a foreman’s call to work, one day at a time, or for the train to take them where they can earn for their families back home? Imagine your own stories.

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The two women on the front row have been eviscerated, their wombs and vital organs replaced by lengths of what looks like stainless steel waste gas ducting.

Hands pressed hard against the bench, the figures are ready to move, but where to? Each one is isolated in his or her own suffering, yet they form a group in our eyes. But let us remember that they stand for individual human beings with families and loved ones who may be anxious over them, hearing no news from the waiting room, the salle des pas perdus as the French have it, the place of lost footsteps. Abandon hope, all ye who enter here?

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2 February: A meeting in the Cloister

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Anna and Simeon, the old people forever in the Temple cloister, were blessed to see and to caress the Baby who was the Salvation of the Lord, the Light of the nations and the Glory of Israel.

Simeon knew this, and he was at peace. But he broke off his song of praise, lapsing into prose to warn Mary of the sword that would pierce her heart; as sharp a sword as any parent feels who sees a child die early or run off the rails through addiction, avarice or broken relationships.

But every child should be a sign of hope. By now, 40 days old, Jesus would be taking notice of the world he is being carried through by his loving parents. He will have felt safe in Simeon’s hands, but he would have registered the sudden emotional switch between the old man’s prayer and his warning advice to Mary; he would have been glad to return to her. She, too, would have been disturbed, but she surely made the effort to be positive for her son.

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She stored all these things in her heart; Joseph, meanwhile, was about to receive another dream, pick up his tools, and lead the family to safety in Cairo, because this child was a sign of hope in dark times.

2nd Image from Missionaries of Africa.

 

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31 January: O if we but knew what we do

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We follow Alice Meynell’s reflection on felled poplars with Gerard Manley Hopkins’. Rightly he cries, ‘O if we but knew what we do’: and we ought to know more about the role of trees than he did 150 years ago. But he knew beauty; perhaps if we spent less time in brick or metal boxes, and got out and walked, then so might we know beauty at first hand. Corot again: his poplars do look vulnerable.

Binsey Poplars felled 1879

MY aspens dear, whose airy cages quelled,
Quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun,
All felled, felled, are all felled;
  Of a fresh and following folded rank
              Not spared, not one
              That dandled a sandalled
          Shadow that swam or sank
On meadow and river and wind-wandering weed-winding bank.
O if we but knew what we do
      When we delve or hew—
Hack and rack the growing green!
      Since country is so tender
To touch, her being só slender,
That, like this sleek and seeing ball
But a prick will make no eye at all,
Where we, even where we mean
          To mend her we end her,
      When we hew or delve:
After-comers cannot guess the beauty been.
  Ten or twelve, only ten or twelve
      Strokes of havoc únselve
          The sweet especial scene,
      Rural scene, a rural scene,
      Sweet especial rural scene.”
(from “Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins Now First Published” by Gerard Manley Hopkins, Robert Bridges)

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31 December: And a Happy New year!

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I was very taken with this challenge outside one of the local charity shops.

Pope Francis is forever challenging us to ‘live to express’ the love of God for each human being and for all his creation.

So what is your New Year’s resolution? Apply within yourself to find a personal challenge, and give it a go! You might put a smile on your face – or someone else’s.

Happy New Year.

 

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29 December: The Holy Family

 

Holy Family Window, Catholic Church, Saddleworth

Holy Family Window, Catholic Church, Saddleworth

There always seems to be a romantic air to images of the Holy Family, at least when baby Jesus has become a boy. Here He seems to be concentrating hard, learning poetry by heart – a Psalm, perhaps Ps 22/3, since the shepherd and his sheep are within sight, making for quiet waters. The style of this window suggests it was created before 1967, when the building was acquired by the Catholic community from Ebenezer chapel. 

There are traditional representations of Mary as a girl with her mother, reading together; since we have no Scriptural reference to Mary before her Annunciation, such an image would not have appeared in a Congregational chapel. Mary surely taught Jesus in many ways. and perhaps the artist was sending a message that parents should be teaching their children to read the Bible and learn some verses.

… That is as far as my thoughts had taken me when I went to a funeral of Theresa, someone I probably knew by sight – Saint Thomas’ in Canterbury has the excellent tradition of holding funerals at the daily noontime Mass, so there is always some silent support for the family. At the end her grandson said a few words, describing how she had taken great pride in her role as home-maker: that was her job, she said. She always had time for her grandchildren, hosting them for the summer holidays, walking through the orchards or into the city. Time and good meals! Love was her way.

We parents and grandparents may need lessons from Scripture and stained glass, but – is not this the carpenter’s son? The Gospel writers suggest that Jesus and his family did not stand out as specially different in Nazareth. As the window suggests, Joseph and Mary both played their part in making a home in Cairo and in Nazareth; we talk about those times as ‘the Hidden Life’. Our families’ lives are, mercifully, hidden most of the time; may they be Holy Families and grow in holiness.

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24 December: What the Choir Master’s Back Knows.

What the Choir Master’s Back Knows

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Dear Friends,
We have today a Christmas poem from Sister Johanna,  called  What the choir master’s back knows  . It’s set in Canterbury Cathedral, where this ancient picture of our father Adam is in the great west window. Follow the link to a pdf version that preserves the layout and punctuation of Sister’s original.
I have to admit to saluting Adam when facing the west window. He himself is facing east, towards the dawn, the new day, and working as he waits. What do you make of Adam, sister, brother? He is a reminder that we humans are united in one complex family tree with our first parents at the root.
Today is the Feast of Adam and Eve – no, I did not know about it either -and tomorrow is the Birthday of the Second Adam. It is good to know, both from the feast day and from the message of the window artist, that the Church believes Adam is with the Lord. Happy Feast Day, and Happy Christmas for tomorrow! 
Will and the team.

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23 December: Remember the Christmas workers!

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Abel’s mother and grandmother were both off work on Christmas day, which does not happen every year. Nurses are needed!

Abel was more interested in some other Christmas workers: the Orange Army of railway engineers. Far more interesting than whatever the grown-ups were doing indoors. There were twenty or more workers near his grandparents’ house, renewing track and the level crossing. They had a big crane and an assortment of other machines. After lunch he took grandad out to investigate. One of the men came and talked to us; railway workers are often friendly to youngsters who take an interest in their work.

The man was guarding the level crossing and two machines, including this one, caught in the last of the sun. Let it stand for all those working this Christmas, on the railway or in other ways, to make life better for the rest of us.

Thanks to them, all of them!

May they soon enjoy time with their dear ones!

 

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14 December, Alice Meynell: a child’s imaginative life.

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Another Advent look at children, showing us adults how to receive the Kingdom of God.

“As to intelligence—a little intelligence is sufficiently dramatic, if it is single.  A child doing one thing at a time and doing it completely, produces to the eye a better impression of mental life than one receives from—well, from a lecturer.”

Alice Meynell

One might add a word on the spontaneous co-operation between children seen on this photograph. ‘It’s only play, not serious’, you may say. But Someone said “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” (Mark 10)

Lecturers, teachers, preachers*: beware of self-importance!

from “The Colour of Life; and other essays on things seen and heard”, 1898

*(Not to mention politicians! 14.12.2019).

Children at Aberdaron Beach, Wales.

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3 December: Whose sacrifice? Francis and his Father.

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Here, as promised, is Francis as a young man giving back to his father the fine clothes he had earned or been given in the course of the family business. During Mass at the Upper Basilica in Assisi, we found ourselves seated next to this Giotto fresco. A rather worried looking bishop is covering Francis’s nakedness with a towel. I can’t help but wonder what is going through the episcopal mind: this is not an everyday scene. Was he trying to keep the peace between father and son?

Many families have moments of truth, if less dramatic. We don’t expect our children to turn their backs so determinedly on all that we parents have worked for, worked hard for in the case of the prosperous merchant: his long days of travelling, hours of hard bargaining and of learning to appreciate the skill of the weavers and embroiderers who supplied him. Perhaps the bishop’s own vestments were cut from Mr Bernadone’s cloth, but he saw that it was good, and so was the comfortable family life it brought.

Francis is not turning his back on his father and on riches, but in a gesture of prayer, he offers them to his Creator. He is learning how to be a creature, rather than a self-made man.

So who is called to sacrifice here? Francis has made his decision and by this gesture he makes it public. He will live openly dependent on God, utterly crazy in the eyes of his father who has constructed a secure home with every mod con, including servants. Peter Bernadone can see poverty any time he cares to look for it and he shuns it, the cold, filth, hunger poor people endured then.

Letting his son go must have been a wrenching, tremendous sacrifice; so I wonder who needed the bishop most, once this scene was over, the son or the father?

Abraham was called, challenged, to sacrifice his son, only for Isaac to be restored and redeemed, sent back to become a patriarch, an ancestor of God’s people. Francis was to live largely under the family’s eye, dying at the bottom of the hill on which Assisi is built, a daily challenge to his former circle.

Let us pray for the wisdom  to handle moments of truth without antagonising any of the parties involved, and for the grace to be close to our families in times of trial and times of joy.

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Image from Wikipedia

 

 

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7 November: Threading a yarn.

See the source image

 

As part of their Week of Retreat in Daily Life the L’Arche Kent Community asked me to  read a Hans Christian Andersen story: I chose the Darning Needle which you can read by following the link. It’s a story with a few morals to it which we talked about afterwards, including the dangers of pride and the fact that we all need each other.

We also talked about darning and mending rather than throwing away. I had with me a coat that was coming apart at the seams. G and E suggested in Makaton that I could sew it, which I did when the story was told, but the needle had been threaded and passed around during the telling. J showed his tailoring skills and awoke a memory, which I shared, of my mother doing as he did, measuring the working length of thread from nose to extended fingertips.

G suggested using a machine, which led to my telling about my wife’s machine – hand turned, not treadle as he signed. This had been given to her 40 years ago from the community’s surplus. It had belonged to a friend of L’Arche in those early days, who was glad to see it in a good home. She could never use it; it was all that remained of her own home, which was destroyed in the Blitz, her family within it.

When I got home I realised another story could have been told. The yarn J threaded was branded ‘winfield’ – in lower case. It had come from Woolworth’s, via my wife’s mother’s mending basket, purchased perhaps in the 1970s. But thereby would hang yet another tale.

No man, or woman, is an island!

 

 

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