Tag Archives: Works of Mercy

25 November: Taken by Surprise, I.

Sister Johanna is back! With Advent just around the corner, we find Jesus and the disciples looking for peace and quiet to absorb the news about the prophet of Advent, John the Baptist.

Jesus and the disciples withdrew by boat to a lonely place…. But the crowds heard and went after him on foot. So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them and healed their sick (Mt.14:13f.).

Jesus and the disciples are taken by surprise here – several surprises. The first surprise is a shattering piece of news: they had just heard of the death of John the Baptist – that’s why they wanted to go off by themselves. It’s easy to forget that Jesus and his disciples were like us, and the death of Jesus’ cousin John, who had been a profound spiritual force in their lives, was as traumatic for them as such a thing would be to us. Jesus knew that they all needed some space in order to come to terms with their grief – to some extent anyway. So Jesus organises a boat, and they go by sea to what they hoped would be a place of solitude. They needed to talk about John together, to weep, to pray.

But no solitude was given. Second surprise: a large crowd met them as they got out of the boat. Jesus was grief-stricken, but he saw the faith-filled, needy crowd, and was filled with pity. It’s possible, in fact, that their great faith strengthened Jesus, and enabled him to heal their sick. As I read this, however, I found myself thinking about the disciples, rather than the miraculous healing of the crowd. The disciples don’t seem able to draw energy from the crowd. What happens to them? The text doesn’t say, but during the time when Jesus is healing the crowd, the disciples seem to have disappeared. They are still overwhelmed by grief, surely; I imagine them creeping away, out of sight of all the people who are focused on Jesus. They try to watch the action from a safe distance maybe. As I read on, I realise that Jesus also remembers his disciples, even while he is taken up with the needs of the crowd. He knows that his sorrowing disciples need healing, too.

At length, a further situation develops. Evening comes. Those whom Jesus had healed need to eat. The disciples materialise now, finally, and suggest that Jesus draw the event to a close so that they can all find some food somewhere. Jesus has a different idea. ‘There is no need for the people to go,’ Jesus tells the disciples. ‘Give them something to eat yourselves.’ They must have groaned inwardly at Jesus’ words, and wondered what madness had possessed him. They only had the provisions they had brought with them: five loaves and two fish – barely enough for their own meal. There are over five thousand people to feed. Jesus, always good at registering unspoken words, reads the disciples’ stunned and tired faces and doesn’t even try to dialogue further with them, in Matthew’s account. Jesus simply tells the disciples to bring him their food. Jesus himself instructs the people to sit down on the grass. Then, quietly blessing the food and breaking the five loaves, he gives the bread and fish to the disciples to distribute to the five-thousand-plus people. We know how this story ends. Everybody eats – and well. Third surprise for them.

Why does Jesus do this? The people could probably have managed to get home without expiring, picking up some food as they went through different villages on the way. This miracle of feeding doesn’t seem to be one that addressed a desperate need, as did the physical healings Jesus had performed for them earlier in that day. But Jesus has a message here. He seems to be saying: “I do not fulfil only the minimum requirements of a needy situation, and I do not address only the most obvious and most desperate troubles of my people. I am willing to do more – so much more than you have asked or think you need. Or rather, I show you that you need more than you think. The healing that you sought from me is not complete without the food that I alone can give you.” That was perhaps Jesus’ primary message, and it was addressed both to the crowd and to the disciples. And now to us. But something more was involved here for the disciples. I would like to explore this tomorrow in a second reflection on this story.

SJC

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23 October, Going viral L: there are other killer diseases.

More parish life news from Rev Jo Richards.

Good morning to you all on this beautiful autumnal morning, and hope this finds you all well, as we are here.

St Dunstan’s turn’s purple! Martin Ward from Canterbury Rotary Club has written the following….

“Two of Canterbury’s Rotary Clubs will be lighting up St Dunstan’s Church this Saturday evening (24th) to mark World Polio Day.  The Canterbury and Canterbury Sunrise clubs will be bathing the walls of the ancient building in purple light between around 7.00pm and 9.00pm to help highlight this crucial worldwide health program.  Rotary throughout the world has been at the forefront at battling this crippling and life threatening disease through mass immunisation programs and health education.  The campaign is bolstered by the generosity of Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, who matches every pound raised by Rotary with two of his.  Such is the success of the project there are only two pockets; one in Afghanistan and the other in Pakistan, where the disease is still active.

Earlier on Saturday, around midday, members of the Rotary Club of Canterbury, will be planting purple crocus corms on the corner of St Dunstan’s and London Road to create an annual swathe of purple as a reminder of the End Polio Now campaign.”

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16 October: In Prison and you came to visit me

It’s a while since we heard from the Irish Chaplaincy in London, but they’ve been busy. Here Eddie tells us about work for prisoners that continues out of sight and mind of most of us.

Jesus was speaking in a time long before the coronavirus came along and put a stop to prison visiting.

During the pandemic many prisoners have been banged-up (confined to their cells) for up to 23 ½ hours per day, and with activities and education cancelled. Most work too has been suspended, and with it the chance to earn a little bit of money with which to purchase basic necessities or make a phone call. One of the letters we received showed the unenviable choice about how to spend the daily half an hour of ‘freedom’: to take a shower; to join the queue for the phone (assuming you have the means to make a call); or to go into the exercise yard, where there may be a distinct lack of social distancing. Travellers have been perhaps particularly affected by this confinement in a tiny space for large periods of time.

The fantastic team at the Irish Chaplaincy has been unable to make the usual regular visits to the hundreds of Irish and Irish traveller prisoners in England & Wales, but has been as busy as ever, supporting people in other ways. There have been many phone calls, including to the families of prisoners (often back in Ireland), and to various prison staff; and at Easter over 1,000 people were contacted via ‘e-mail a prisoner’ with an individual message of hope and a special prayer written by our Fr Gerry. Phone credit has been provided to many people, so they can keep in touch with loved ones. And it is this maintenance of family contact which is said to be the single most crucial factor in eventual successful rehabilitation.

The team has supplied in-cell resources to about 500 people, which have included books, CDs, mindful-colouring, pens, puzzles, games and hobby equipment. And 103 Irish women in custody were sent a special pack (seen in the above picture). One recipient wrote from HMP Bronzefield:

The colouring book is so lovely, means so much, made me cry. I love felt tip pens also, really helps me with mental health side.”

There have been many other messages of thanks, including this recent one:

Yous are lovely people and if I ever get out I’d like to volunteer if of course you need any help with anything as I think yous do amazing service to people in difficult situations.”

The team is now assembling and sending out ‘Keeping Connected’ packs, comprising: notepad, a pack of envelopes, greetings cards, nice pens, credit for stamps, and a prayer card. Again, this will facilitate the crucial contact with family at a time when visits are not happening.

The team will be much in demand for their visiting, at such time as they can resume. For the time being, the amazing service continues.

By Eddie Gilmore

October 11th-17th 2020 is Prisons Week

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7 August: praying with Pope Francis, The Maritime World.


We pray for all those who work and live from the sea, among them sailors, fishermen and their families.

noahs-ark-lo-res-shrewsbury-cathedral-window-detail

When he prepared tis month’s prayer intention, Pope Francis cannot have foreseen the hundreds of seafarers who could not get home when their cruise ships were quarantined off shore, passengers gone, wages unpaid, flights home non-existent, welcome on dry land not forthcoming, family contacts eventually by mobile phone, thanks to port chaplains.

But we can pray for them, and for all the sailors and lorry drivers who ferry food and goods around the world and across the Channel, and all those in peril on the sea.

Star of the Sea, Staithes; Shrewsbury Cathedral.

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3 April, Desert XXXV, Praying with Pope Francis: Freedom from Addiction.

door, Francis, Bangui Advent 2015 (Radio V)

Pope Francis this month asks us to pray:

that those suffering from addiction may be helped and accompanied.

Here we see Pope Francis opening wide the Door of Mercy  at the cathedral of Bangui, in his words as “a sign of faith and hope” for the people of the Central African Republic and “symbolically for the whole African population who are most in need of rescue and comfort.”’

Jack Lonnen Meadows in costume 1

My great-great grandfather, an actor, is seen here with a gin bottle, then a cheap source of alcohol and oblivion – not what Francis meant by comfort. Mother’s ruin, it was called. Many were addicted to it, and attracted the attention of the forces of law and order; here, it seems, the gin itself is under arrest.

I’m not sure what Grandfather would have made of the rough sleepers and street drinkers of today. Many seem to avoid the people who might be willing and able to help, stuck in their personal deserts. We saw that with Ruby, eighteen months ago. I don’t think she was addicted to any substances, but she most definitely was refusing to have anything to do with me. I hope she’s accepted help and is making  her way somewhere.

The illegal drugs for sale on our streets have taken the place of 19th Century cheap alcohol. As well as those who are addicted, we should be praying for a change of heart along the supply chain. How do we support young people who are vulnerable to the suppliers? I first met Ruby when she was in care but lost touch when I left that job; she more than likely went overnight from being well accompanied in a residential home to almost no support ‘in the community’. If our society were merciful, that would not happen but Francis called us to be merciful like the Father during the Year of Mercy. We should not stop being merciful!

Pope Francis’s prayer needs to be consolidated with action to accompany, not only those already addicted, but also those most obviously at danger of becoming addicted. The very least any of us could do is to have a smile or a ‘good morning’ for whoever we meet. They may need it today! If you do it to one of these little ones, you do it to me.

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Going Viral VIII: local angels.

This story appeared in the Independent Catholic News. For the full text see the link.

https://www.indcatholicnews.com/news/39178

A flyer popped through our door offering help if we were isolated, elderly or lonely. We are not, but I was incredibly touched by the kindness of the two strangers who gave their phone numbers to contact should we need them. I texted to thank them for their care and concern.

In the face of disaster, uncertainty and, for some despair, there is charity, unconditional love and hope. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this initiative carried on once life gets back to normality – communities pulling together and looking out for the most vulnerable in their midst. Scrolling through the link my ‘angels’ sent me, the local help group had offers of shopping, gardening, dog walking and students whose courses were now cancelled who wanted to help with children off school – so many different people volunteering for one or two streets’ worth of help.

Yesterday I discovered a host of angels in my community and now I know their names.

Anne O’Connor

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Going viral IV: a message from CAFOD

from CAFOD
  • A message from CAFOD’s Director, Christine Allen
  • I’m sure that like me, you must be worried about the situation with COVID-19 at the moment. CAFOD is very much part of the Catholic family and as with any family, when one of us is unsettled or anxious it affects us all. We pray for all those affected by the virus both here in the UK and overseas, and for all the medical staff who are working so hard to keep us safe.

    Although gathering as a church community is paused, it was good to hear that the doors of churches will remain open, to offer us a place to be still in God’s presence.

    We are learning new ways to keep spiritually connected and look after ourselves and others, particularly during Lent. Here are some ideas to help to keep us together as a community even though we need to be apart:
    • In a time of isolation, take some time to pause and focus on your wellbeing. We have prayers, liturgies and reflections to support you in your prayer life.
    • While the kids are off school and you’re in need of some fun activities, our education resources pages are packed with great ideas.
    • Join our new Facebook group so that we can gather as an online family and offer you our prayers, online talks and isolation activities in one place, please do share your own ideas too.
    • We are hosting an online children’s liturgy this coming Sunday, you can sign up now.
    • To hear about our work, each week we will have a series of live online events you can take part in. These will include opportunities to come together for prayer and chat as well as interviews with staff.
    • We are working on the different ways our parish volunteers and campaigners can still involve their communities and continue to be a powerful force for good, so please keep in touch with us on Twitter and Instagram as well.
      Our work in some of the world’s poorest communities continues. There is great concern as this is a fast-moving situation and we are closely monitoring developments in the countries where we work around the world so that we are ready to support our local experts with whatever they need.

      Our work with so many in need is only possible because of the generosity and love you show to those around the world. If you wish to donate to our Lent appeal and support the crucial, ongoing work of our local experts like Sister Consilia, we will ensure your gift reaches the poorest and most vulnerable at this uncertain time.

      As I’m sure is the case for many of us, I am praying for guidance from the Holy Spirit to help steer us through these difficult times. Thank you for continuing to keep CAFOD in your prayers. Please stay safe as we continue to support one another.

      With love and prayers, Christine AllenDirector, CAFOD

      The Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) is the official aid agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales and part of Caritas International.  Charity no 1160384 and company no 09387398. © CAFOD 2020

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December 6, Praying with Pope Francis: The Future of the Very Young

barf.4.st.nicholasPope Francis’s Missionary Intention for December is:

That every country take the measures necessary to prioritise the future of the very young, especially those who are suffering.

Today is the Feast Day of Saint Nicholas, an early Greek Christian bishop who is counted as patron of children. Here he is with three little boys he is said to have rescued, his cope decorated with gold coins for the dowries he paid to protect three girls from human trafficking. He is holding an image of Barfrestone church in Kent; the Latin says ‘St Nicholas, patron of this church.’

Nicholas was a popular saint because he did what he could for children. Pope Francis is not thinking merely of governments looking after the children in their own countries, but of our care – we as members of our nations – doing what we can for the children in our own countries and elsewhere in the world. Even a packet of biscuits in the food bank, or a few pounds or euros to an education or health charity can provide for the future – perhaps the immediate future – of a child in danger.

On the feast of the patron of children, let us pray for children everywhere, and for all those who care for them, parents, teachers, health workers.

  • Saint Nicholas, pray for us.
  •  Come Lord Jesus, Emmanuel.

 

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11 August, Little Flowers of Saint Francis: XLVII: Saint Clare blesses the bread.

 

ST. CLARE, most devout disciple of the Cross of Christ and sweet flower of St. Francis, was of such great sanctity that not only bishops and cardinals, but also the Pope was filled with great longing to see her and to hear her, and oftentimes visited her in person.

Once the holy father went to her convent to hear her speak of things celestial and Divine; and, while they thus reasoned together of divers matters, St. Clare caused the tables to be made ready and bread to be set thereon, that the holy father might bless it. Wherefore, when their spiritual discourse was ended, St. Clare kneeled down with great reverence and besought him to vouchsafe to bless the bread which was upon the table.

The holy father made answer: “Most faithful Sister Clare, I desire that thou bless this bread and make thereover the sign of the most holy Cross of Christ, unto whom thou hast wholly given thyself”. St. Clare said: “Most holy father, I pray thee have me excused, for I should be deserving of great blame, if, before the Vicar of Christ, I, who am but a vile and worthless woman, should presume to give this blessing”.

And the Pope made answer: “To the end that this be not imputed to presumption but to merit of obedience, I command thee by holy obedience that thou make the sign of the most holy Cross over this bread and bless it in the name of God”. Then St. Clare, as a true daughter of obedience, blessed those loaves most devoutly with the sign of the most holy Cross.

O marvellous thing! On all those loaves there instantly appeared the sign of the holy Cross most fairly cut; thereafter of those loaves part were eaten and part were preserved in record of the miracle. And the holy father, when he had beheld the miracle, departed, taking some of the said bread with him, giving thanks to God and leaving St. Clare with his blessing.

There dwelt in the Convent Sister Ortolana, the mother of St. Clare, and Sister Agnes, her sister, both of them like St. Clare full of virtue and of the Holy Ghost, with many other holy nuns and brides of Christ; to whom St. Francis was wont to send much sick folk; and they by their prayers and by the sign of the most holy Cross restored health  to them all.

Almost as an afterthought we learn of the sisters’ work with sick people! My grandfather was a baker, and his practice was to make three cuts in a long loaf, or even a little mince pie, saying ‘In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.’ Round Soda bread would be cut into four pieces with a cross and we still have hot cross buns! This post is out of sequence to mark Saint Clare’s feast day.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/lff/lff036.htm

 

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9 May: Jean Vanier: a welcome for all.

jean.v.letter

As our friend and contributor Rupert Greville says, ‘there’ll be a great deal of reflection to read over the coming days on Jean Vanier’s life and work.’ Here is a short memory from Laurent de Cherisey, founder of the Fondation Simon de Cyrene, which develops and animates shared homes on a human scale. These welcome abled bodied people and those who have become disabled during the course of their lives. He shared a platform as a speaker with Jean and they co-wrote a book,  “Tous intouchables ?” (All of them Untouchable?) with Philippe Pozzo di Borgo.

He challenged us to live fraternally, as brother and sister with the most fragile, to go beyond our private fears and build a world that welcomes everyone. He was one of those prophets who bear witness to a possible way forward for humanity, at a time when it shows itself to be extremely disturbed and anxious about living with one’s neighbour.

On the contrary, the experience of Jean Vanier and L’Arche demonstrates that when we pull down the ‘walls of fear’, as he called them, we can become co-creators of that common home where there is a fulfilling place for each one of us. 

From La Croix Newspaper

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