George is working from home, keyboard steaming away, but still time to observe the birds in Mile End, London. This morning at 7.30 our street in Canterbury should have been busy with drivers off to work but the only traffic was a pair of pigeons and two magpies, pecking at discarded takeaway food.
Tag Archives: work
Continuing our reflections on life under the corona virus, this is an extract from a letter to customers of a Seed Merchant, Suttons.
Yesterday in conversation with an enthusiastic gardening journalist we were discussing how gardeners are generally an optimistic bunch of people. We take tiny seeds, put them into the ground, hoping they will germinate and flourish. Many of us have planted trees that we don’t even expect to see fully mature in our lifetimes. Our plants are blissfully unaware of the troubles of the world and caring for our gardens, patios and windowboxes also gives us the chance to escape for a while.
Gardening is a wonderful hobby where in a large garden or even a balcony a few plants can provide months or even years of pleasure. We recognise how important this hobby is to our customers so I can assure you that we will continue to do all that we can to help you to enjoy your outdoor (or indoor) spaces.
We will publish occasional reflections on the corona virus’s effect on our lives.
Four and a half year old Abel received the news about school closures level-headedly. He’s looking forward to donning his Hi-Viz vest and using the litter-picker, as well as gardening again.
Life for the Benedictine monks of Christ in the Desert is based on prayer – ‘Opus Dei’ or God’s work – and the work that earns their daily bread. This article by Jonathan Malesic explores how these two activities can sit well together or clash and so undermine community life. When does work become too demanding for the good of the community or its members?
Make yourself a cup of tea or coffee and enjoy reading this long essay slowly: it challenges our view of the work we do, efficiency and all. It was published by Commonweal magazine on 2nd February 2019.
This is not about Margate, as pictured, but a sandy-beached resort in the North of England. And it is not a neat, uplifting story, like yesterday’s blessed solitude. No, it’s one that should shake our complacency, and it happened last summer.
My niece Jo was there for a sand-painting event: we saw the project she was part of in Folkestone on Remembrance Sunday 2018.
As the team were finishing their work in August. there were two minibuses full of school children from districts of the town just a couple of miles away. Their leaders told the artists that some of these children had never been to the beach. Jo heard one of the boys say, ‘This has been the best day of my life.’
Gratifying for the leaders, perhaps, but, as Abel’s mother said, ‘You’d put them in the buggy and walk that distance.’ Why are their parents unable to do so? No-one is charged to play on the beaches in England.
Thank God for play leaders, but forgive us all that these deserts of deprivation exist – financial, material, psychological, spiritual – in a rich land like ours. This is one sort of desert that should not exist.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
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.