Please take time to read the weekly and daily prayers which can be found on the Prayers page.
The weekly Spiritual Communion Service documents as well as other documents you might find useful are posted on the Services page.
Also, notices are updated on the Weekly Notices each Sunday and, sometimes, extra notices are posted during the week. There is a lot of useful information on the Weekly Notices. Please use thislinkto access the page.
We advise you to follow the 'Pray as you Go' website daily, for each day's short service.The service is reflective, quiet and aims to help you to become more aware of God’s presence in your life, listen to and reflect on God’s word and grow in your relationship with God. (link below). You need only click on the date and follow the service which you can pause at any time. There is the option, if you wish, to download specific parts of the short service, such as the reading, prayer or music. Having used this site regularly I enjoy just following the service. Try it. https://pray-as-you-go.org
DAILY BREAD (26th September)
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honour him. (Psalm 91:14-15)
OUR BIBLE READINGS FOR 20th SEPTEMBER
You can follow the whole Spiritual Communion Service which you will find on the Services page of the website:
God, who in generous mercy sent the Holy Spirit upon your Church in the burning fire of your love: grant that your people may be fervent in the fellowship of the gospel that, always abiding in you, they may be found steadfast in faith and active in service; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen
First Reading Philippians 1:21-30
For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labour for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again. Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God's doing. For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well — since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
Gospel Reading Matthew 20:1-16 For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the labourers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o'clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, "You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o'clock, he did the same. And about five o'clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, "Why are you standing here idle all day?” They said to him, "Because no one has hired us.” He said to them, "You also go into the vineyard.”
When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, "Call the labourers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.” When those hired about five o'clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, "These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” But he replied to one of them, "Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous? So the last will be first, and the first will be last."
Reflection on Sunday 20th September
(Refer to the Bible Readings above.)
An arrow that falls short of the mark and a candle that smokes but gives no light is a waste. So, too, the life of a Christian whose commitment to the Lord is not total is also a waste. The test of true commitment is not how much we give to the Lord but how much we don’t give him.
Saint Paul, who wrote our first reading, was a totally committed apostle. He could assure those he spoke with beyond any doubt that, “Christ will be glorified in my body, whether by my life or by my death.” This kind of total commitment and abandonment to God’s will is reflected in our gospel reading today, Jesus tells a parable about the labourers in the vineyard. The parable tells us of a landowner paying his hard-working labourers, who sweated and toiled all day long, nothing more than those who had worked but a short while. This seems very unfair and unjust. Were they not right to expect more, for they had worked longer hours? What this teaches us is just how extravagant God’s love and mercy can be.
John Henry Newman once wrote: “God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission.”
Go and share God’s love and remember … Bring hope in these challenging times.
OUR BIBLE READINGS FOR 13th SEPTEMBER
You can follow the whole Spiritual Communion Service which you will find on the Services page of the website:
“Almighty God,whose only Son has opened for us a new and living way into your presence: give us pure hearts and steadfast wills to worship you in spirit and in truth; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you,in the unity of the Holy Spirit,one God, now and for ever. Amen”
First Reading Romans 14:1-12
Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarrelling over opinions. Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand. Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. Those who observe the day, observe it in honour of the Lord. Also, those who eat, eat in honour of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honour of the Lord and give thanks to God. We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living. Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God." So then, each of us will be accountable to God.
Gospel Reading Matthew 18:21-35 Then Peter came and said to him, "Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "Not seven times, but I tell you, seventy-seven times. "For this reason, the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So, the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, "Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, "Pay what you owe.” Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, "Have patience with me, and I will pay you.” But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, "You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?” And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So, my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart."
REFLECTION ON SUNDAY 13th SEPTEMBER
In our Gospel reading today, we are reminded of the power of forgiveness. Forgiveness, however, must be followed by repentance. This is a change of mind that arises from us being truly sorry over the sins that we have committed. God is forgiving but it must lead to a transformation in our life.
Perhaps you can take some time to sit down in God’s presence and recall how much and how often God has forgiven you, in spite of the magnitude of the wounds and hurts inflicted on others. God forgives you … BUT how do you need to change?
And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again."
Go and share God’s love and remember… Bring hope in these challenging times!
Reflection as we enter another period of lockdown - Saturday 12th September
Following the news yesterday that Sandwell, Birmingham and Solihull will be in lockdown from Tuesday 15th September, we hope and pray that everybody in our borough of Sandwell abides by those rules. Many people from our town and the rest of the borough have been isolating since the beginning of March because of their age and/or vulnerability due to illness (and not just the elderly). The new local lockdown restrictions will ban residents from socialising with people from outside their own households. Whilst it’s understandable that there is confusion about the rules because people can go to restaurants, work and school - the new lockdown measures will be enforced to stop social gatherings between families and friends. Visiting, for example, a restaurant with people you live with is fine - other people in the restaurant will be socially distanced because that establishment will have been regulated to open up safely. Our vicar has conducted many funerals during the height of the pandemic and continues to do so. Whilst not all of those funerals were as a result of the virus, many were. At one point funeral directors did not have the capacity to hold the bodies of the deceased on their premises and many bodies were taken to other areas of the Midlands until the funerals. Is that what you would want for a member of your family? We have all seen, and many of us have experienced, the limitations on funerals such as reduced numbers attending the funeral; no funeral cars other than the hearse; socially distanced seating in crematoriums; ‘virtual’ funerals because we couldn’t attend the funeral of our dearly loved relatives or friends.
Please do what is right to protect all of us – our families, our friends, our neighbourhood.
A reminder of the rules in case you have not seen the news. If you live in Sandwell, Birmingham or Solihull, the rules mean:
You cannot meet people you do not live with in your home or garden, unless they are in your support bubble.
You cannot meet people you do not live with in their home or garden, regardless of whether it is in Sandwell, Birmingham, Solihull.
You can still visit shops, restaurants and other venues but not with people from other households.
“Lord our God, in so many ways we do not know what to do: our efforts seem so small in the face of so much illness and death; our prayers sound so feeble in the face of an invisible enemy. But you are God and Lord, Maker and Majesty. We look to you, for you alone can save us. Keep us attentive to watching you, and then, as Jesus did, to do what you are doing. Amen” “God, you are always king. You are sovereign over this world you have made. In a time when we groan with uncertainty, when we are overwhelmed by the invisible flood of pandemic and panic, we look to you to be king over nations and governments; over sickness and death; over communities and families. Amen”
“God,who called your Church to bear witnessthat you were in Christ reconciling the world to yourself: help us to proclaim the good news of your love,that all who hear it may be drawn to you;through him who was lifted up on the cross and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,one God, now and for ever. Amen”
FIRST READING ROMANS 13:8-14 Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet’; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, "Love your neighbour as yourself." Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law. Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light; let us live honourably as in the day, not in revelling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarrelling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
GOSPEL READING MATTHEW 18:15-20 "If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you lose on earth will be lost in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them."
REFLECTION ON SUNDAY 6th SEPTEMBER
In our Gospel reading, above, Jesus promises us that, 'if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven'. Significant changes take place when two or three Christians strive to work together to achieve the same goal. When Christians pray together magnificent things can happen. When prayers are strongest … miracles are near.
In the Church there is a long tradition of praying a novena. A novena (from the Latin word novem meaning 'nine') is an ancient tradition of praying for nine successive days. The nine days between the Feast of the Ascension and Pentecost, when the disciples gathered in the upper room and devoted themselves to prayer, is often considered to be the first novena.
At this difficult time for all churches please consider praying the following prayer as a novena for Saint Bartholomew’s. Let us all pray with the same intention so that our Father's will be done.
God our Creator and Redeemer, Help your church to grow in holiness, unity, effectiveness and numbers. Draw us closer to you and to those around us. Give us enthusiasm in our faith and wisdom in sharing it. Open our eyes to new opportunities, our lips to sing and to speak of you and our hearts to welcome all those we are yet to meet. Grow your Kingdom in us and in the world. We make this prayer through the intercession of our Lord Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Go and share God’s love and remember … Bring hope in these challenging times!
RETURNING TO SCHOOL AFTER LOCKDOWN
What is it like to return to school after a crisis? Schools have been preparing for this time when they can welcome back their pupils and students. There is still a lot of uncertainty about how schools are going to manage the transition.
Staff, of course, continued to work during the lockdown and some children studied at home if they were fortunate to have supportive families. Some children were lucky enough to have online facilities to connect with the schools. Other children have not been so blessed and their families may have struggled financially, even to feed their children. Recovery from the many lost hours of learning and the change in all our lives due to the coronavirus pandemic has brought uncertainty to all our lives.
As children return to school over this week and next week they, their parents and indeed the teachers may be anxious about what lies ahead. How will the children be after many months? How will they cope? Parents will be worried that their children might not be safe and/or that they will be carriers of the virus and bring it into their homes.
The staff and children need to feel physically and psychologically safe and grounded. No doubt schools will have planned a comprehensive way of returning to school life and will probably have a period of settling in and catching up before the move to lessons for the current year.
The Mental Health Foundation mentions the concerns over children’s mental and physical problems. Some children may have experienced their loved ones suffering the effects of the Covid-19 virus. Some may have lost members of their families. Some children may have had to endure cruelty in what should be a safe environment. They may have suffered abuse or neglect, family conflict, financial concerns, worry about relatives especially those key workers who continued to work during the peak of the pandemic. Some children may even have had to care for family members. They may have experienced hunger and lack of nutrition and insecure housing. When schools open the need for pastoral support, safeguarding and wellbeing services will be high.
We can help our children and grandchildren at home. Three important ways we can help them – talking, listening and understanding. Give children the chance to talk through – if they’re able – the complex emotions that will have built up over the past few months. It is possible many children had a wonderful experience during lockdown but on returning to school they may experience many thoughts and emotions. Children manage their emotions often quite differently to adults, and it’s important to keep them talking, to try to comfort and calm them as well as acknowledging what they have been through as very real.
As a church we pray that you will all stay safe.
“Dear Heavenly Father, we pray for all children returning to school. We ask that you send your Holy Spirit as their guide and protector. Keep them free from danger and unnecessary harm. Put our children and grandchildren in the right place, at the right time, to receive your grace. We pray you will bless every family and all teachers too. We entrust them to your care. Amen.”
The 5 Marks of Mission - Church Society
To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
To teach, baptise and nurture new believers
To respond to human need by loving service
To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to seek peace and reconciliation
To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and renew the life of the earth.
We pray that all of our congregation and the people in our parish may find this uplifting. We pray that God will be with our PCC members over the coming months. It has been a difficult 6 months so far and we hope that the they will be able to meet soon to discuss matters prior to the Annual Parochial Church Meeting.
OUR BIBLE READINGS FOR 30th AUGUST
First Reading Romans 12:9-21 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." No, "if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Gospel Reading Matthew 16:21-28 From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, "God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you." But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things." Then Jesus told his disciples, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? "For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom."
Titian, Carrying of the Cross, c. 1565
DAILY REFLECTION ON 30th AUGUST
In the lives of each of us there may be something painful, big or small, something that we wish to be different. In the lives of each of us there is a cross. The cross can be caused by somebody else or we may bring a cross on ourselves due to our choices. Sometimes the cross is neither the fault of others nor ourselves but because of the accidents of life or simply because we are human and do not have the perfection of God. In our Gospel reading above, we are reminded that as long as we live in an imperfect world, we will have to carry our daily crosses.
However, there can be something holy about our cross. It keeps us close to God. When there is some pain in our lives, when we have to carry a cross we depend more on God. This could be part of God’s mysterious plan that we carry a cross because it keeps us close to Him.
Then Jesus told his disciples, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life?
What cross are you carrying?
How can your cross bring you closer to God?
Go and share God’s love and remember:
Bring hope in these challenging times!
DAILY REFLECTION ON 29th AUGUST LOVE He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39) What does love look like? Some people find it hard to say “I love you” but it can also be too easy to say the words without really knowing what they mean. Perhaps they just mean a nice warm feeling inside? Real love – for God or others – is visible in what we do and how we live. How is your love visible to others? Faith is good for mental health. It brings lots of things that research has shown to be important – relationships, social networks and lifestyle amongst others – but faith is not primarily about what I can get out of it. The really important reasons for believing are summed up by Jesus in just two commandments – loving God and loving those around us. These are not so much commandments (things we must do, because we are told to) as principles for getting to the heart of what really matters most. They are the basis of human flourishing – in body, mind and spirit. Love is good for mental wellbeing. God is love. The 5 steps to mental wellbeing have a lot to do with love: • Connect • Be Active • Keep learning • Give to others • Be mindful. Which of the above do you need to take a look at? If you feel lonely and isolated, follow the ‘Five Top Tips’ produced by the Church of England. Use this link to and then click on the link to a pdf document you can download: https://www.churchofengland.org/…/dealing-loneliness-and-is… Take some time today to learn more about someone you love: whether it is God or a neighbour, or perhaps the work of a charity expressing love in practical ways. Psalm 107:8 “thank the Lord for his steadfast love”. Can you give thanks today for God’s love and then pass it on in giving to others? Love looks like something … maybe like giving a kind word or two, or an offering of help?
FORGIVENESS “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial but rescue us from the evil one. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:12-15) Forgiveness makes good business for self-help books. How do I forgive? How can I let go? We often hear that forgiveness is good for you. It makes you feel better. All easy to say. But what do you do when hurt and pain keep coming back when you least want to think about them? When resentment is eating at you and you can think of nothing else? Maybe we can all forgive little things, but what about the big things, the things that break up part of who you are? Or what about forgiving ourselves? – sometimes that is the hardest task of them all. Forgiveness is sometimes humanly impossible. I might not want to forgive. I might not even be able to think of forgiving, and yet holding on to the anger hurts me more than the offender. The person who hurt me may not want to be forgiven. It is tempting to opt for ‘forgiveness light’, hiding from the enormity of what has happened and cutting to a quick solution, trying to ignore or diminish what has happened. Sometimes, all that we can do is say, “I want to forgive.” Or maybe, “I want to want to forgive!” and see where the journey takes us. Offer the whole thing to God in prayer: a willingness to be changed, or an honest admission that we simply cannot forgive. God can multiply the little that we bring, just as Jesus multiplied a few loaves and fishes to feed thousands. Forgiveness takes time, but God is patient. And has our best interest at heart: God knows that in forgiveness, we will always find healing and freedom, however long and painful the road to get there. Read Psalm 51:2 ‘Wash me thoroughly … and cleanse me from my sin’. Repeat these words to yourself throughout the day. Use The Lord’s Prayer. Repeat slowly … forgiving as we are forgiven is a daily habit not a one-off act.
THE DIVIDED SELF "I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin." (Romans 7:15-25)
Have you ever said, “I’m in two minds about that!”?
Sometimes we find ourselves torn between what we’d like to do and what we think we should do. Most of us can remember times when we made the wrong choice. We were selfish, and others paid the price; or we went for short term gains, knowing full well that we would regret it long term.
Human beings have a unique capacity to reflect upon their own actions and to wish that they were other than they find themselves to be. Members of Alcoholics Anonymous are told: you cannot do this on your own, we need a 'higher power' to rescue us from ourselves. As Christians, this is foundational to our faith. St Paul found this help in the grace of God that he encountered in Jesus.
Being a Christian does not mean that the struggle is over. In a sense, we are all addicted, and we all need this grace; we all struggle within ourselves against the 'evil that lies close at hand'. Being a Christian is about recognising our need for that grace, about seeking it out, and welcoming it into our lives. God wants to be partners with us in rescuing us from ourselves.
• Write down one thing that you really like about yourself, and one thing that you dislike. Sometimes it can be hard to accept that we are not perfect. Ask God to help you to develop your strengths and to find ways to overcome your weaknesses. • Use Psalm 103:1 “Bless the Lord Oh my soul and all that is within me bless His Holy name” to offer God all that is within you.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7)
“Don’t worry!” Easy to say, and hard to do. If only we had a “worry switch”, so that we could simply turn off our worries! I wonder if that would help, though? If I am worried about my friend who is ill, I worry because I am concerned. What kind of person would I be if I didn’t worry, if I wasn’t concerned?
Paul’s teaching to the Philippian Christians was probably based on what he had heard of Jesus’s teaching (Matthew 5:25-34), so it came on good authority. Paul wrote from bitter experience and knew how hard it can be to find peace. He wrote of the anxiety that he felt in his daily concern for the churches for which he was responsible (2 Corinthians 11:28). Like Jesus, who knew distress and agitation in Gethsemane, Paul did not sail through life on a perpetual wave of joy and peace. Despite this, many Christians reading this passage have felt condemned.
St Paul can appear to be telling them that they do not have enough faith. In fact, anxiety and worry are good indicators of what we care about. In this sense, they are very much like prayer. The essential difference is that Jesus and Paul turned their worries into prayer by bringing them into the presence of God and enfolding them in His peace. The problems begin when we think we can find our own peace, outside of this context. It is impossible to get through life without worrying, unless we care for nothing and no-one. It is what we worry about, and what we do with our anxiety, that matters in God’s kingdom.
Choose a meditation phrase for this week from a Psalm of your choice … something good and true, eg Psalm 18:1 “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer …”. Write it down and keep it with you. Make it your constant ‘go to’ thought whenever you catch yourself worrying. Chew it over, breathe it in, walk it out.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)
‘Count your blessings’ is one of those unhelpful things that people say when they really mean ‘You shouldn’t feel the way you do’. It can be one of the least helpful things to say to someone who is feeling low. So, what does Jesus mean? Is he another one of those unhelpful people, who know just how to say the wrong thing?
We often think that ‘blessed’ means ‘happy’, but how can those who are unhappy (because they are mourning) be happy? Blessedness is not exactly happiness. It is not helpful to tell people who have been recently bereaved that they should be happy, even if this is based upon a hope of heaven or life after death. But this isn’t really what Jesus is saying. The context of that passage is one just like ours – in which war and terror place people in exile and captivity, and in which the present reality is anything but happy.
Pain and trauma can easily lead us to struggle with our mental health – quite rightly. Bad things do, and should, affect us. But what Jesus is promising is different; more a promise that God is always with us even – perhaps especially – when it seems otherwise. God walks with us to help us find meaning and new hope. God also calls his people to comfort one another, so that this comfort isn’t some distant concept, but a reality for today. We are called to provide comfort and allow ourselves to be comforted by the love of those around us.
There is, however, a paradox to reflect upon. We often do not fully realise the depth of God’s love when we are content and self-satisfied. Sometimes, only when we mourn over the loss of the people and things that we love the most do we fully appreciate what really matters.
Picture being in that crowd and Jesus catching your eye, knowing your feelings and circumstances and saying directly to you “you are blessed”.
Have a go at breathing in the word ‘blessed’. Repeat it slowly.
A bad day, a deep hole? Look at Psalm 40. God lifts you, God sets your feet on a rock, God puts a song in your heart.
EAT, REST, SLEEP “Then he was afraid; he got up and fled for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah; he left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die; ‘It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” (1Kings 19:3-4)
Have you ever been busy with work or a task and, having got through it all, then found the anti-climax afterwards even harder to deal with?
Following a dramatic confrontation with the prophets of Baal, Elijah found himself in a literal and spiritual wilderness. None of us are immune to bodily, emotional and spiritual tiredness. The threats of those who seek to do us harm, get to us. We feel negative about ourselves, about our circumstances, and about what might happen in the future. We get depressed.
We doubt God, and feel that we have failed God. We might even feel that our lives are no longer worth living. Life seems both dark and hopeless. This is not about lack of faith.
Elijah’s response is honest and leads him to meet with God not in dramatic events, but in a place of sheer silence. However active and enthusiastic we may be in God’s service, we all have our limits. When we reach these limits, are we able to encounter God in the silence to which they lead us?
If you read the rest of Elijah’s story, you will see that he needed sleep and food and something to drink. Are you getting enough sleep and eating well?
Use a meditation phrase from the psalms. “I will both lie down and sleep in peace; for you alone, O Lod, make me lie down in safety.” (Psalm 4:8) Repeating this as you go to sleep may help.
Practise the ancient prayer of Examen* at the end of each day.
Thank God for signs of his love and beauty. Let go of things that were not lovely and beautiful. Be forgiven and try to forgive. Bless yourself with peace as you ‘drop off’.
* St Ignatius Loyola's Examen is an opportunity for peaceful daily reflective prayer. It invites us to find the movement of God in all the people and events of our day. The Examen is simply a set of introspective prompts for you to follow or adapt to your own character and spirit. (https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-examen/)
REFLECTION ON 23rd AUGUST
"And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven …”
All of us have a role to play in the building of the Kingdom. The building of the Kingdom was not only entrusted to Saint Peter when he was given the keys to the Kingdom. We all must play a part. Popes and Archbishops cannot run the Church on their own! They need YOU and ME. And so, we must all thank God for entrusting us with the work of building up His Kingdom. But, let us ask ourselves, what part are we all playing in the building of that Kingdom? Be Thou My Vision https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiukM6WHQEQ As you listen to the above song, perhaps reflect upon the following: are you helping to build the Kingdom … or dismantle it? Go and share God’s love and remember …
Bring hope in these challenging times!
BIBLE READINGS ON 23rd AUGUST
First Reading Romans 12:1-8
I appeal to you, therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God — what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.
Gospel Reading Matthew 16:13-20
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you lose on earth will be lost in heaven." Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
Reflection for Thursday-Saturday, 20th-22nd August
And when Jesus had been baptised, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” (Matthew 3:16-4:3)
Where did that ‘thought’ come from? We’ve all had the experience of thinking something strange and wondering where the idea came from. If it’s a good thought, we might say “I would never have thought something like that! It must be God.” If it’s a bad thought, we may feel that it reflects badly on us – or that it must have been the devil that put it there.
Our inner voices are a vital part of our conscious experience. They are also the fabric of our prayers. If we are wise, we learn to discern which ones are to be listened to. Jesus was obedient to the Spirit, who led him into the wilderness, but then he heard the voice of the tempter. This voice questioned what the voice from heaven had said at his baptism. Indirectly, it helped him because, in his dialogue with this voice, he clarified what his vocation as Son of God was to be. It would not be about self-serving miracles, about human glory, or avoidance of suffering. It would be a life of service and self-giving.
We know now that many people hear voices (out loud) who are not mentally ill. It is not the hearing of voices that we need to be afraid of. We all hear voices. We need courage to listen, and wisdom to discern what they mean. Centring prayer
Sit still in a chair whilst you drink your cup of tea or coffee today.
Repeat and breathe in the words of Psalm 85:8 “I will listen for what the Lord says for He will speak peace.”
A reminder of yesterday’s reading: "Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself. Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things there is need of only thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’" (Luke 10:38-42)
Life sometimes feels like one long to-do list. It always seems like someone else manages it better than we do. There is nothing new in frenetic activity and the longing for space, for time to think and just catch our breath, particularly at this difficult time.
In our story, Mary is lovingly devoted to Jesus. She hangs on his every word. We might ask – What if Martha had been like this too? Who would have cooked dinner? Presumably – eventually – someone would have had to call for a break and the work would have been shared?
Jesus validates Mary’s choice. She is sitting, listening, taking time to reflect, to learn, and to be with God. Of course, Mary would need to work too. But Jesus here reminds Martha that all of us need a balance between activity and rest, between doing and being, between throwing ourselves into work and responding to demands, and proactively looking after our deeper selves. It may be you can only carve out a minute or two at a time – but those are precious already. Find time today to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen - to him, to yourself, to the deeper, quieter voices of life.
• Now you are practising your ‘Martha’ habit with your cup, sitting at Jesus’s feet. Try a ‘Mary’ make over: pick any household task such as boiling a kettle. • As you do the chore slow down, see Jesus there while you take a little longer … try not to multi-task … breathe deeply and be aware of Jesus near you. • Repeat Psalm 16:8 “I keep the Lord always before me” … whatever chore or task imagine doing it with and for Jesus.
“Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’’ (Luke 10:38-42)
“What is the passion in your life? Do you spend a lot of time wishing you could do something else, particularly at this moment of global crisis?”
Martha welcomes Jesus, and she serves Jesus in practical ways. She wants to do the right things. How can this be wrong? Somehow, amidst the mental activity and busy routine, she risks losing the one thing that is needful. She is understandably cross with her sister. Perhaps she is jealous? Does she really want to be at Jesus’s feet too – or is the activity a way of avoiding that? Our passions to do what is right are vital to society and human wellbeing, and we cannot do without them, but they easily become an end in themselves. They lead us away from other priorities. They master us and consume us. Mental and spiritual wellbeing require that we keep them in context.
To help with the ‘one thing” ... being with Jesus ... attach your daily habit of sitting with Jesus for a few minutes to an object eg a mug or cup and a certain chair or seat.
Sit still before the day gets going and hold a cup in both hands ... know you are held.
Repeat, breathe in or meditate on Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God!”
Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until day-break. (Genesis 32:24)
It has been said that if you cannot stand your own company when alone, you should not impose it on other people! Perhaps this is unfair? Some of us (especially the extroverts) only really get to know ourselves in company with others. However, isolation does have a way of confronting us with some of the things that we try to avoid. We say that our ‘demons’ haunt us in a sleepless night, but sometimes it is God who haunts us in our solitude.
Jacob, fleeing from one set of problems, in the family of his in-laws, is returning to another set of problems back in his own family in Canaan. He is not really alone, he has a large family of his own, with many maids and servants. Despite this, as home gets closer so does the reality of the family conflict that he has avoided for so long, and so does the weight of the burden that he alone carries.
In the solitude of a sleepless night he finds himself wrestling with a man who will not disclose his name. Given his fears, we might conclude this man represented Jacob’s demons, but Jacob comes to a very different conclusion. “I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved” (verse 30). Judging by Jacob’s experience, seeing God may sometimes be a real struggle, but it is nonetheless a blessing. In the light of the following day, Jacob is reconciled with his brother.
We may not want solitude, but sometimes life forces it upon us. It is easy to focus on the loss of companionship and loss of opportunities that isolation brings. Sometimes, however, what we really fear are the reminders of the things that companionship and activity usually help us to avoid. Scary though these things may be, God may well be in our midst, waiting to bless us.
Praying in solitude
Make a list of all the good things – and people – that you miss when you are on your own. Give thanks to God for all the opportunities that life has afforded to enjoy these things, and for all the people through whom he has blessed you.
Digging up our deepest fears may not be a good idea when we are on our own and have no one to turn to. However, if they come your way, avoiding them may also not be a good idea. Simple prayers can become a means of finding God as we wrestle with these fears. For example, the Lord’s Prayer or the Jesus Prayer (Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner), can be said over and over again. Lighting a candle can also be a helpful prayer, asking God to bless us as we struggle in the dark. If the struggle is hard, then do reach out to others for help (using the internet or telephone if you are in strict isolation).
Bible Readings for Sunday 16th August Reading Romans 1-2, 29-32 I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew, for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all. Gospel Reading Matthew 15:21-28 Jesus went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, "Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon." But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, "Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us." He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." But she came and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, help me." He answered, "It is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs." She said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table. "Then Jesus answered her, "Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish." And her daughter was healed instantly.
Reflection on Sunday 16th August
Take some time to reflect upon the painting below:
But she came and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, help me."
In this life, we face hardships and in those times it can seem that our prayers are unanswered. It feels like, despite our prayers, everything is getting worse rather than being better and that a sense of defeat is staring us right in the face. When we are confronted with problems, what should our attitude be? How should we respond and more importantly, do we have the faith to trust God with all our hearts that His purpose will be fulfilled in our lives?
Though our prayers may not be answered immediately and there are more trials that will beset us, remember the story of the Canaanite woman and how she overcame trial in her life. Know that every time we pray for something, the answer is ALREADY ON ITS WAY before we even ask God. We just need to trust God’s timetable and infinite wisdom that he will answer us according to His will and purpose.
Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart and bring me out of my distress. Consider my affliction and my trouble and forgive all my sins. (Psalm 25:16-18)
Loneliness is an experience that we can all relate to, but almost 1 in 5 people in the UK often or always feel lonely. The figures are higher for the elderly and for young people. If you are lonely, it would seem, you are not alone but that is unlikely to provide much comfort. We are social creatures. We need to feel connected to others.
It is possible to feel lonely in a crowd, or in a marriage. It is equally possible to be alone and not to feel lonely. Feeling lonely and being alone are different things. Loneliness is more about the company that we would like to have and do not have, the discrepancy between the way things are and the way we would like them to be.
Enduring loneliness can be both a cause and a consequence of mental ill health. The Psalmist is lonely and afflicted, distressed, and troubled. In Psalm 25, loneliness is associated with troubles of the heart or, as we might say, depression and anxiety. Pain and trauma can create, and perpetuate, our feelings of loneliness. We can feel abandoned even when others are trying to show that they care. We may feel that others do not understand what we are going through.
The Psalmist turns to God for help and asks that God will turn to him. Prayer is not a magic solution for loneliness. Nonetheless, like the Psalmist, we can be honest before God; there is no need to pretend. We turn to God for God’s sake, not simply to ask him to fix things. God is always there, even if it does feel as though he has turned away. When feeling lonely, turning to God, and asking God to turn to you, is not a bad place to start.
Photos of family and friends, and other reminders around the home, can trigger feelings of loneliness, but they can also be good prompts for prayer. They can remind us to write, or send a message, or make a telephone call. Imagine that God also gets a copy of the letter/message, so that it becomes a part of your prayer.
Pray for God’s creation (and that we might all look after it better). Make use of TV, internet and other media to provide points of contact with the outside world. Use these things as reminders to pray for others.
Try writing a letter to God – what do you want to say? What would you point to in your life? What would you ask, and what kind of answer would you like back?
Maximilian Kolbe was born at Zdunska Wola near Lodz in Poland in 1894. His parents were admirers of Saint Francis of Assisi and influenced by them he became a priest and joined the Franciscans in 1910. He studied at Rome but, suffering from tuberculosis, he returned to Poland and became a lecturer in church history. After suffering a severe illness, he resolved to publish a magazine for Christian readers and this soon gained a huge circulation. Soon his community was producing daily and weekly journals. After the Nazi invasion of Poland, Maximilian was arrested as an 'intellectual' and taken to Auschwitz in May 1941. There he continued his priestly ministry, secretly celebrating the Eucharist.
When, after an escape, a prisoner was chosen to forfeit his life as an example, Maximilian stepped forward to take his place. He stepped forward and said, “I would like to take that man’s place. He has a wife and children.” Maximilian, along with nine other prisoners, was sent to the ‘block of death’. There, they were ordered to strip naked, and their slow starvation began in darkness. Two weeks later he was injected with poison and died on this day in 1941. Maximilian was declared a saint in 1982.
Prayer of the day O God, who filled the Priest and Martyr Saint Maximilian Kolbe with a burning love of neighbour, graciously grant, through his intercession, that striving for your glory by eagerly serving others, we may be conformed, even until death, to your Son. Who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Florence Nightingale (13th August)
Although not a saint, today we remember the life and witness of Florence Nightingale. Florence was born in 1820 into a wealthy family. In the face of their opposition, she insisted that she wished to train in nursing. In 1853, she finally achieved her wish and headed her own private nursing institute in London. Her efforts at improving conditions for the wounded during the Crimean War won her great acclaim and she devoted the rest of her life to reforming nursing care. Her school at St Thomas's Hospital became significant in helping to elevate nursing into a profession. An Anglican, she remained committed to a personal mystical religion which sustained her through many years of poor health. Florence was awarded the Royal Red Cross in 1883, appointed a Lady of Grace of the Order of St John in 1904, and in 1907 became the first woman to be awarded the Order of Merit. She died at the age of 90 on 13th August 1910.
Lo! in that house of misery, A lady with a lamp I see, Pass through the glimmering gloom, And flit from room to room. (by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)
Saint Jane Frances de Chantal (Wednesday 12th August)
Jane Frances was a wife, mother, nun and the founder of a religious community. Her mother died when she was just 18 months old, and her father, head of parliament at Dijon, France, became the main influence in her life.
At the age of 21, she married Baron de Chantal, by whom she had six children. Tragically, Jane’s husband was killed after seven years of marriage, and she sank into deep dejection for four months at her family home.
When she was 32, Jane met Saint Francis de Sales who became her spiritual director. She confided in him that she wanted to become a nun and a few years later he helped her to form The Congregation of the Visitation. This was a religious order that accepted women who were rejected by other orders because of poor health or age. When Jane was 45, she underwent great sufferings: her spiritual director Francis de Sales died; her son was killed; a plague ravaged France and her daughter-in-law and son-in-law died. She encouraged the local authorities to make great efforts for the victims of the plague, and she put all of her convent’s resources at the disposal of the sick.
During a part of her religious life, Jane Frances had to undergo great trials of the spirit —interior anguish, darkness, and spiritual dryness. She died on 13th December 1641 while visiting convents of the community she founded. She was declared a saint in 1767.
Saint Clare (Tuesday 11th August)
Clare was born in Assisi in 1193. Although she was born into a wealthy family, she was caught by the joy of Saint Francis's preaching. Clare was so moved that they became lifelong friends and Francis her spiritual guide. She left home and after spending some time in a convent, she chose to live a deeply contemplative way of life and founded her own community.
Clare became the first woman to write a religious Rule for women and throughout his life and ministry she supported Saint Francis through her own and through the prayers of her community. Her last words were: "Blessèd be God, for having created me."
Prayer of the day God of peace, who in the poverty of the blessèd Clare gave us a clear light to shine in the darkness of this world: give us grace so to follow in her footsteps that we may, at the last, rejoice with her in your eternal glory; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Although the Church holds Saint Lawrence in great esteem, we know very little about his life. However, a well-known legend has persisted from earliest times. Lawrence was given the responsibility of looking after the material goods of the Church along with the distribution of money to the poor. When Lawrence knew that he was to be persecuted by the Romans, he sought out the poor, widows, and orphans of Rome and gave them all of the money he had on hand.
When the prefect of Rome heard of this, he sent for Lawrence and said, “You Christians say we are cruel to you, but that is not what I have in mind. I am told that your priests offer in gold, that the sacred blood is received in silver cups, that you have golden candlesticks at your evening services. Now, your teachings says you must render to Caesar what is his. Bring these treasures — the emperor needs them to maintain his forces. God does not cause money to be counted: He brought none of it into the world with him — only words. Give me the money, therefore, and be rich in words.”
Lawrence replied that the Church was indeed rich. “I will show you a valuable part. But give me time to set everything in order and make an inventory.” After three days he gathered a great number of blind, lame, maimed, leprous, orphaned, and widowed persons and put them in rows. When the prefect arrived, Lawrence simply said, “These are the treasures of the Church.”
The prefect was so angry he told Lawrence that he would die —but it would be by inches. He had a great gridiron prepared with coals beneath it, and had Lawrence’s body placed on it. After the martyr had suffered the pain for a long time, the legend concludes, he made his famous cheerful remark, “It is well done. Turn me over!” He died on this day in the year 258.
Prayer of the day
Almighty God, who made Laurence a loving servant of your people and a wise steward of the treasures of your Church: fire us with his example to love as he loved and to walk in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
Bible Readings for Sunday 9th August
First Reading Romans 10:5-15 Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that ‘the person who does these things will live by them’. But the righteousness that comes from faith says, ‘Do not say in your heart, "Who will ascend into heaven?"’ (that is, to bring Christ down) ‘or "Who will descend into the abyss?"’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"
Gospel Reading Matthew 14:22-33 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, "Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid." Peter answered him, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." He said, "Come." So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!" Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."
Reflection on Sunday 9th August
Take some time to reflect upon the painting below:
Jesus and Peter on the water, 1863 - Gustave Brion, 1824 - 1877
Whatever stage we are at in our lives, there will be challenges. We will have our moments when we will have to walk on water, and there will be moments when we will feel like we are sinking. But even then, the hand of grace will be there to save us, to hold us, to comfort us, and challenge us again.
The thing is, it's only when we step out of the boat that the words trust and faith really means anything at all. If we don't step out of the boat, trust and faith are merely hollow words.
May we all, therefore, reflect upon what it is that prevents us from stepping out from the safety of our boats. Remember … if you want to walk on water … you have to step out of the boat!
What can you achieve if you step out of your boat?
What potential lies within YOU?
Jesus and Peter on the water - Alexandre Bida
Jesus said, "Come." So Peter got out of the boat and started walking on the water towards Jesus …
Go and share God’s love and remember - bring hope in these challenging times.
Saint Dominic (Saturday 8th August)
Born at Calaruega in Castile in 1170, Dominic became an Augustinian Friar and led a disciplined life of prayer. Dominic was trained for the priesthood by a priest-uncle, he studied the arts and theology and became a canon of the cathedral at Osma. Whilst on a trip to Denmark he passed through France and came across Christians who held unorthodox beliefs. Dominic formed an Order of Preachers to combat this belief. His fellow preachers gradually became a community, and in 1215 Dominic founded a religious house at Toulouse, the beginning of the Order of Preachers or Dominicans.
Dominic’s ideal, and that of his Order, was to organically link a life with God, study, and prayer in all forms, with a ministry of salvation to people by the word of God. His ideal was: contemplata tradere: ‘to pass on the fruits of contemplation’ or ‘to speak only of God or with God’.
The Dominican Order spread to many countries in just a few years and did much to maintain the credibility of the orthodox faith in late-mediæval Europe. Dominic died on this day at Bologna in 1221.
Prayer of the day
Almighty God, whose servant Dominic grew in the knowledge of your truth and formed an order of preachers to proclaim the faith of Christ: by your grace give to all your people a love for your word and a longing to share the gospel, so that the whole world may come to know you and your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Alone Together (Friday 7th August)
Resources are available at the ‘Alone Together’ website that offer support and to help people live through the coronavirus pandemic.
Their special quality is that they don’t come from theories; they all come from those with experience of social distancing or isolation, people who have lived this reality either intentionally like monks and nuns or against their will like hostages or the housebound. This is a new and difficult journey for most people but experienced guides give us hope along the way.
The Feast of The Transfiguration of Our Lord Thursday 6th August)
The story of the Transfiguration of Jesus on the mount is told in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, and Peter refers to it in his Second Epistle. Each time, it is made clear that that is not only the messenger but also the message: God's salvation is for all and Christ is that Saviour. The testimony of the law and the prophets to Jesus are given by the presence of Moses and Elijah and the event also pre-figures the resurrection, giving a foretaste of the life of glory. Prayer of the day
Father in heaven, whose Son Jesus Christ was wonderfully transfigured before chosen witnesses upon the holy mountain, and spoke of the exodus he would accomplish at Jerusalem: give us strength so to hear his voice and bear our cross that in the world to come we may see him as he is; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Centring Prayer (Wednesday 5th August)
Centring Prayer is a method of silent prayer that prepares us to receive the gift of contemplative prayer, prayer in which we experience God's presence within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than consciousness itself. This method of prayer is both a relationship with God and a discipline to foster that relationship.
Centring Prayer is not meant to replace other kinds of prayer. Rather, it adds depth of meaning to all prayer and facilitates the movement from more active modes of prayer — verbal, mental or effective prayer — into a receptive prayer of resting in God. Centring Prayer emphasises prayer as a personal relationship with God and as a movement beyond conversation with Christ to communion with Him.
The source of Centring Prayer, as in all methods leading to contemplative prayer, is the Indwelling Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The focus of Centring Prayer is the deepening of our relationship with the living Christ. The effects of Centring Prayer are ecclesial, as the prayer tends to build communities of faith and bond the members together in mutual friendship and love.
You’ll find a treasure of rich resources for learning, spiritual enrichment and support on your contemplative journey, including free videos, newsletters, subscriptions and volunteer resources at the following website: https://www.contemplativeoutreach.org/resources/
Saint John Vianney (Tuesday 4th August)
Jean-Baptist Marie Vianney was born in Dardilly near Lyons in 1786. He was the son of a farmer and he spent much of his childhood working as a shepherd on his father's farm. He had little formal education but, at the age of twenty, he began studying for the priesthood.
He struggled with his studies and found them extremely difficult. However, despite his poor academic performance, he was ordained a priest in 1815, mainly because of his devotion and holiness. He served as assistant priest at Ecully and, in 1818, was appointed curé, or parish priest, of the remote, unimportant village of Ars-en-Dombes. From this backwater, his fame was to spread world-wide. His skills in preaching and spiritual counsel earned him a reputation as a discerning and wise priest. Those who visited him soon numbered three hundred a day. He would preach at eleven o' clock each morning and then spend up to sixteen hours in the confessional.
His compassion and understanding of human weakness often brought him to tears. His love of God and his people ensured that he remained in Ars the rest of his life, despite a call to the religious life and many offers of promotion in the Church. He died on this day in the year 1859.
Prayer of the day
Almighty and merciful God, who made the Priest Saint John Vianney wonderful in his pastoral zeal, grant we pray, that through his intercession and example we may in charity win brothers and sisters for Christ and attain with them eternal glory. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The Peace Prayer of Saint Francis (Monday 3rd August)
Though written in simple language, Saint Francis' Peace Prayer provides rich material for spiritual reflection. The following are some thoughts on the Peace Prayer inspired by the lines of this prayer and by the example of Francis.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Like that of Christ, our mission on earth is to bring to others God’s peace — God’s state of ‘perfect well-being’ and completeness. Shalom is the Hebrew word for this rich concept of ‘peace’. Often used as a greeting of peace, Shalom is a wish that those so greeted will find healing and fullness of life.
Saint Francis saw this as his mission, too. In Chapter 3 of his Rule of 1223, he advised his followers that in going about the world “they should not be quarrelsome or take part in disputes with words … or criticise others; but they should be gentle, peaceful and unassuming, courteous and humble, speaking respectfully to everyone ... Whatever house they enter, they should first say, Peace to this house.” (Luke 10:5). Surely, Francis was an instrument of peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
In his 9th Admonition, called Charity, Saint Francis tells his followers, “Our Lord says in the Gospel, Love your enemies (Matthew 5:44). A man really loves his enemy when he is not offended by the injury done to himself, but for love of God feels burning sorrow for the sin his enemy has brought on his own soul, and proves his love in a practical way.” Where there is injury, pardon
During the violence-ridden Crusades, Francis discovered a path of peace, pardon and non-violence. The ‘little poor man’ went to Egypt to engage in a peaceful dialogue with the sultan (head of the Muslim forces), a meeting in which a spirit of forgiveness, respect and understanding prevailed. Francis would have the same message for those in our times who are so quick to see violence as the only cure for terrorism. Where there is doubt, faith
When, as a young man, Francis found himself in a fog of doubt as to the nature of God’s care for him, he sought the face of God through prayer in solitary places. God opened Francis’ eyes of faith. The saint saw a vision of Christ gazing at him from the Cross with such a look of love that Francis’s ‘soul melted’, to use the words of his biographer, Saint Bonaventure. The fog of doubt lifted for Francis, and he went through the world setting others free from their own burdens of doubt. Where there is despair, hope/Where there is darkness, light
Think of Francis embracing lepers and lovingly washing their sores. Surely, many of those suffering souls felt an inner surge of hope and human dignity when they experienced Francis’ care. And where there is sadness, joy
The secret of Francis’s joyful spirit was his vibrant belief in a God of overflowing goodness and love. Francis was so in love with God that at times he would pick up two sticks from the ground, tuck one under his chin like a violin and move the other over it like a bow. Then, in an ecstasy of joy he would sing, in French, songs of love and praise to God. Francis used to say that he wanted his followers to go about the world like strolling minstrels, “to inspire the hearts of people and stir them to spiritual joy.” They give us an example to follow in our own day!
Bible Readings for Sunday 2nd August First Reading Romans 9:1-5 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit— I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.
Gospel Reading Matthew 14:13-21 Now Jesus withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, "This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves." Jesus said to them, "They need not go away; you give them something to eat." They replied, "We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish." And Jesus said, "Bring them here to me." Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
Reflection on Sunday 2nd August
The Gospel this Sunday celebrates the love that God has for us in the Eucharist. In the Gospel reading today from the Gospel according to Saint Matthew, we are reminded that the Eucharist reveals God’s enduring love for us all.
Jesus is in the Eucharist as our Bread of Life, feeding us with his own body, yes; but he hopes that we in turn will go out and feed the hungry.
He is there as our water of life, satisfying our eternal thirst, yes; but he hopes that we in turn will go out and quench the thirst of others.
God cares for us and He hopes that we in turn will go out and care for others, the poor, the needy, the anxious, those who are afraid.
We all have something to give …
"We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish." And Jesus said, "Bring them here to me."
Go and share God’s love and remember … Bring hope in these challenging times.
Saint Alphonsus Liguori (Saturday 1st August)
Alphonsus born in 1696, was the son of an ancient Neapolitan family. He studied at the University of Naples and received a doctorate at the age of just 16. Although he intended to be a lawyer, he gave this up and was ordained a priest. He founded a religious order, the Redemptorist Congregation in 1732. It was an association of priests and brothers working mainly with the poor in rural areas.
Alphonsus was renowned for his great kindness and for 26 years he travelled widely preaching and he was made bishop at age 66 after trying to reject the honour.
At 71, Alphonsus was afflicted with rheumatic pains that left him with an incurable bending of his neck. He was known above all as a practical man and his life is indeed a model for the everyday Christian who has difficulty recognising the dignity of Christian life amid the swirl of problems, pain, misunderstanding and failure.
Prayer of the day
O God, who constantly raise up in your Church new examples of virtue, grant that we may follow so closely in the footsteps of the Bishop Saint Alphonsus in his zeal for souls as to attain the same rewards that are his in heaven. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola (Friday 31st July)
Saint Ignatius was born in 1491. He was the son of a Basque nobleman and served as a soldier. He was wounded at the siege of Pamplona in 1521 and this marked the beginning of his conversion. Whilst recovering from his injuries he read a book called The Life of Christ, was converted and lived a life of prayer and penance, during which he wrote the first draft of his Spiritual Exercises.
He gathered six disciples, and together they took vows and promised to serve the Church. By the year 1540, the Society of Jesus was born. For the next sixteen years, Ignatius directed the work of the Jesuits as it spread around the world, until his sudden death on this day in 1556.
Prayer of the day O God, who raised up Saint Ignatius of Loyola in your Church to further the greater glory of your name, grant that by his help we may imitate him in fighting the good fight on earth and merit to receive with him a crown in heaven. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Saint Peter Chrysologus (Thursday 30th July)
Pause for thought …
The name ‘Chrysologus’ translates as ‘of the Golden Words’.
Saint Peter was called this because of his exceptional eloquence and the beauty of his speech and preaching. What words do you speak? Do you speak ‘golden’ words?
Prayer of the day
O God, who made the Bishop Saint Peter Chrysologus an outstanding preacher of your incarnate Word, grant, through his intercession, that we may constantly ponder in our hearts the mysteries of your salvation and faithfully express them in what we do. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Saint Martha (Wednesday 29th July)
The gospels describe how Mary, Martha and their brother Lazarus gave Jesus hospitality in their home at Bethany outside Jerusalem. They were evidently close friends of Jesus and he came to their home simply as a welcomed guest. Jesus gently reproved Martha for her complaint that her sister did not help her sufficiently as she prepared the meal for Jesus and possibly his fellow guests. The words of Jesus were traditionally represented as indicating the excellence of the contemplative life over the cares of the active life.
Martha’s great glory is her simple and strong statement of faith in Jesus after her brother’s death. “Jesus told her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world’” (John 11:25-27). Prayer of the day
God our Father, whose Son enjoyed the love and hospitality of his friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus: may we so rejoice in your love that the world may come to know the depths of your wisdom, the wonder of your compassion, and your power to bring life out of death; through the merits of Jesus Christ,our friend and brother, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Our Daily Reflection (Tuesday 28th July)
Brooke Foss Westcott, Bishop of Durham (Monday 27th July)
Born in 1825, Brooke Foss Westcott was ordained a priest and then became a master at Harrow School. Whilst there, he published a series of scholarly works on the Bible, his expertise eventually leading to his election as Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Cambridge in 1870. He led a revival in British biblical studies and theology and he became influential too in the field of Anglican social thought and was significant in the founding of the Clergy Training School in Cambridge (later renamed Westcott House in his memory). In 1890, he was consecrated Bishop of Durham, where he died on this day in 1901.
Prayer of the day
Almighty God, who enlightened your Church by the teaching of your servantBrooke Foss Westcott: enrich it evermore with your heavenly grace and raise up faithful witnesses who, by their life and teaching, may proclaim the truth of your salvation; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
You might need to click on each of the following images to see them fully:
Daily Reflection on Sunday 26th July
The Gospel this Sunday (below) celebrates the treasure we receive in the teaching that comes from God. Our reading, from the chapter in which Matthew has collected many parables of Jesus, offers us three separate parables. Two of these, the treasure hidden in the field and the pearl of great price, provide rich images of the teaching of Jesus and what a great gift it is. The final parable, the net cast into the sea, has similarities to the parable of the darnel in the field, which we had last Sunday. The harvest from the sea contains both good and bad and these will only be separated at the judgement. Once again Matthew reminds us of the ‘blazing furnace’, symbolising the place where God can no longer be found. The anguish of the loss of God is expressed by the image of fire and in the phrase, ‘there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’. The parable comes to an end with the question ‘Have you understood?’
Do YOU consider the gospel preached by Jesus to be a unique treasure? Do YOU seek wisdom and understanding as God’s greatest gifts? Do YOU pray for the wisdom truly to embrace and live the Gospel of Jesus?
Go and share God’s love and remember … Bring hope in these challenging times.
Bible Readings for Sunday 26th July
Prayers are on a separate page and the Spiritual Communion Sheet for today can be found on the Services page of the website. You can use this link.
First Reading Romans 8:26-39 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Gospel Reading Matthew 13:31-33,44-52 Jesus put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.” “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.” Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. "Have you understood all this?" They answered, "Yes." And he said to them, "Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old."
Saint James (Saturday 25th July)
James, often called 'the Great', was a Galilean fisherman who, with his brother John, was one of the first apostles called by Jesus to follow him. The two brothers were with Jesus at his Transfiguration and with him again in the garden of Gethsemane. They annoyed the other followers of Jesus by asking to sit one on his left and the other on his right when he came into his glory and they were present for the appearances of Christ after the resurrection. James was put to death by the sword on the order of Herod Agrippa, who hoped in vain that, by disposing of the Christian leaders, he could stem the flow of those hearing the good news and becoming followers in the Way. James' martyrdom is believed to have taken place in the year 44.
Prayer of the day
Merciful God, whose holy apostle Saint James, leaving his father and all that he had, was obedient to the calling of your Son Jesus Christ and followed him even to death: help us, forsaking the false attractions of the world, to be ready at all times to answer your call without delay; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Saint Charbel Makhlouf -1828-1898 (Friday 24th July)
Although this saint never travelled far from the Lebanese village of Beka-Kafra in northern Lebanon where he was born, his influence has spread widely.
In 1828, Charbel (sometimes called Sharbel) Makhlouf was born Joseph Zaroun Maklouf. His father died when Saint Charbel was three years old, and he was raised by his uncle. Charbel was very devout, even as a child, but his uncle did not approve of his pious behaviour. At the age of 23 he joined the Monastery of St Maron at Annaya, Lebanon, and took the name Charbel. He took his final vows in 1853 and was ordained in 1859. For 23 years, from 1875 until his death in 1898, Saint Charbel fulfilled his dream of living as a prayerful hermit. He gained a reputation for profound holiness, and pilgrims regularly visited him to receive a blessing and to be remembered in his prayers. One of his favourite sayings was ‘pray without ceasing’. Saint Charbel regularly and gladly travelled to nearby villages to administer the Sacraments. He was canonized in 1977 by Pope Paul VI. He died in the late afternoon on Christmas Eve. Christians and non-Christians soon made his tomb a place of pilgrimage and of cures. Reflection ...
John Paul II often said that the Church has two lungs — East and West — and it must learn to breathe using both of them. Remembering saints like Charbel helps the Church to appreciate both the diversity and unity present. As Christians, we are often focused on our actions and how our actions will or can produce results. We tend to assess the quality of our time by the degree to which it was effective, successful and productive. Like all the saints, Charbel points us to God and invites us to co-operate generously with God’s grace, no matter what our situation in life may be. Saint Charbel Makhlouf reminds us of the importance of prayer and solitude for the development of holiness. Prayer and solitude can, as they did for Saint Charbel, deepen our relationship with God and help us to become better people. Can you regularly set aside some time in your day as a respite from your busy schedule, a time for prayer and solitude with God? Prayer
Christ, my redeemer, I want to follow you. Enable me to be disciplined in my prayer life and my Scripture reflection so that I may be a faithful follower. Amen.
Saint Bridget of Sweden (Thursday 23rd July)
Bridget's father was governor of Uppland when she was born in about the year 1303. She married a young prince at the age of fourteen, had eight children and often attended the royal court, where she continued to experience the mystical revelations she had known since childhood. These increased in intensity after her husband's death and, three years later, she responded by founding a monastery for nuns and monks at Vadstena in 1346. Bridget's daughter Catherine was the first abbess of the so-called Brigettine Order, which became very influential in northern Europe. After travelling to Rome to obtain the pope's approval for her plans, Bridget never returned to Sweden but spent the rest of her life as a pilgrim, an adviser to rulers and church leaders, and a minister to all in need. Her Revelations were recorded by her confessors before her death, which occurred on this day in 1373.
Prayer of the day O God, who guided Saint Bridget of Sweden along different paths of life and wondrously taught her the wisdom of the Cross as she contemplated the Passion of your Son, grant us, we pray, that, walking worthily in our vocation, we may seek you in all things. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Saint Mary Magdalene (Wednesday 22nd July)
All four gospels give Mary Magdalene a unique place among Jesus' followers. Probably from Magdala by the Sea of Galilee, she is described as having been healed by Jesus before accompanying him during his ministry. Along with other faithful women, she stayed beside the cross during the crucifixion and was the first disciple to discover the empty tomb on Easter morning. She was privileged with the first appearance of the risen Lord, who sent her to take the good news of the resurrection to the other disciples. This commission earned her the title 'Apostle to the Apostles' in the early Church.
Prayer of the day
Almighty God, whose Son restored Mary Magdalene to health of mind and body and called her to be a witness to his resurrection: forgive our sins and heal us by your grace, that we may serve you in the power of his risen life; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Saint Lawrence of Brindisi (Tuesday 21st July)
Lawrence was born on 22nd July, 1559, and died exactly 60 years later on his birthday in 1619. His parents William and Elizabeth Russo gave him the name of Julius Caesar, Caesare in Italian. After the early death of his parents, he was educated by his uncle at the College of St Mark in Venice.
When he was just 16, he entered the Capuchin Franciscan Order in Venice and received the name of Lawrence. He completed his studies of philosophy and theology at the University of Padua and was ordained a priest at 23. Lawrence was able to speak many languages and so he was therefore able to study the Bible in its original texts. At the request of Pope Clement VIII, he spent much time preaching to the Jews in Italy. So excellent was his knowledge of Hebrew, the rabbis felt sure he was a Jew who had become a Christian.
Lawrence’s sensitivity to the needs of people — a character trait perhaps unexpected in such a talented scholar — began to surface. He was elected major superior of the Capuchin Franciscan province of Tuscany at the age of 31. He had the combination of brilliance, human compassion, and administrative skill needed to carry out his duties. In rapid succession he was promoted by his fellow Capuchins and was elected minister general of the Capuchins in 1602. In this position he was responsible for great growth and geographical expansion of the Order.
Lawrence was appointed to a post that took him to a number of foreign countries. An effort to achieve peace in his native kingdom of Naples took him on a journey to Lisbon to visit the king of Spain. Serious illness in Lisbon took his life in 1619.
Prayer of the day O God, who for the glory of your name and the salvation of souls bestowed on the Priest Saint Lawrence of Brindisi a spirit of counsel and fortitude, grant, we pray, that in the same spirit, we may know what must be done and, through his intercession, bring it to completion. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
A Contemplative Path Through the Crisis (Monday 20th July)
Since the coronavirus crisis hit the world, many faith communities have provided help, support, guidance and above all hope. One such Christian Community is the World Community for Christian Meditation. WCCM have reflected deeply and have offered a contemplative path through the crisis and continue to do so as we emerge from it.
Meditation will not instantly solve all problems. But it changes how we view and deal with the challenges that we face. It helps us to ‘set our troubled minds at rest’ and to find the authentic, interior peace that stabilises us when we are in turmoil.
The Spiritual Communion Sheet for today can be found on the Services page of the website. You can use this link.
First Reading Romans 8:12-25 So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh — for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, "Abba! Father!" it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ — if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Gospel Reading Matthew 13:24-30,36-43 He put before them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, "Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?' He answered, "An enemy has done this.' The slaves said to him, "Then do you want us to go and gather them?' But he replied, "No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.' " Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field." He answered, "The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!
Daily Reflection (Sunday 19th July)
A time of reflection… how do the above readings speak to you?
In our parable today, Jesus tells a second parable about sowing seeds, this time about two sowers - one who sows good seed to grow wheat, and the enemy who sows weeds among the wheat and he uses a familiar agricultural reality to illustrate his point. The weeds to which Jesus referred to were, in all likelihood, a kind of grass known as darnel. Not only was darnel poisonous, but also early in its life it is indistinguishable from wheat. Thus a farmer couldn't get rid of the darnel until the time of harvest, when wheat and darnel would finally look different from each other.
The seeds are followers of Christ who will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven, while the enemy and his weeds are evildoers who will be thrown into, ‘the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth’. And so,
Are you a good seed or are you a weed?
How do you think others see you?
Do you promote justice and righteousness?
Do you live a life where you strive to show God’s love to all?
Or, does your life, your actions or inaction damage your Christian community and beyond?
Prayer for Pandemic (Saturday 18th July)
May we who are merely inconvenienced Remember those whose lives are at stake. May we who have no risk factors Remember those most vulnerable. May we who have the luxury of working from home Remember those who must choose between preserving their health or paying their rent. May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close Remember those who have no options. May we who have to cancel our trips Remember those who have no safe place to go. May we who are losing our money in the tumult of the economic market Remember those who have no money at all. May we who settle in for a quarantine at home Remember those who have no home. As fear continues to grip our country, let us choose love. During this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other, Let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbours.
Saint Francis Solano (Friday 17th July)
Francis came from a wealthy family in Andalusia, Spain. He entered the Franciscans in 1570 and was ordained a priest. After his ordination he enthusiastically gave himself in ministry to others. His care for the sick during an epidemic drew much admiration. He was sent to South America in 1589 and ministered in what is now Argentina, Bolivia, and Paraguay. Francis quickly learned the local languages and was well received by the indigenous peoples. His visits to the sick often included playing a song to them on his violin.
Around 1601, he was called to Lima, Peru, where he worked hard to defend the indigenous peoples from oppression. Francis lived an exemplary life himself and he urged all of his fellow Christians to make their lives worthy examples of the Christian faith. He died in Lima in 1610 and was made a saint in 1726.
A contemplative path through the crisis (Thursday 16th July)
We find it in all the great religious traditions of the human family. Meditation takes us to the depths of our being, to our true self. It opens up the common ground that lies at the heart of our humanity and all traditions. In Christianity this tradition of contemplation, the prayer of the heart or ‘apophatic prayer’, became marginalised and often even sometimes suspect. But in recent times a major recovery of the contemplative dimension of Christian faith - and prayer - has been happening. This is transforming the different faces of the Church and revealing the way the Gospel integrates the mystical and the social. Central to this process now is the rediscovery of how to pray in this dimension and at this depth: finding a practice of meditation in the Christian tradition.
The World Community teaches a practice derived from the Gospel teaching of Jesus and the advice of early Christian monks. The Desert Fathers and Mothers teach a Christian spirituality of powerful relevance for those today who want to live their discipleship to Jesus in a radical and simple way. John Main and the community he inspired has had a major role in this contemporary renewal of the contemplative tradition. His own introduction to meditation came to him from the universal wisdom but led him to recognise and then go on to teach it as a way of prayer rooted in the Gospels and the Christian mystical tradition.
How to Meditate?
Sit down. Sit stillwith your back straight. Close your eyes lightly. Then interiorly, silently begin to recite a single word – a prayer word or mantra. We recommend the ancient Christian prayer-word “Maranatha”. Say it as four equal syllables. Breathe normally and give your full attention to the word as you say it, silently, gently, faithfully and – above all – simply.
The essence of meditation is simplicity. Stay with the same word during the whole meditation and in each meditation day to day. Don’t visualise but listen to the word, as you say it. Let go of all thoughts (even good thoughts), images and other words. Don’t fight your distractions: let them go by saying your word faithfully, gently and attentively and returning to it as soon as you realise you have stopped saying or it or when your attention wanders.
Meditate twice a day, morning and evening, for between 20 and 30 minutes. It may take a time to develop this discipline and the support of a tradition and community is always helpful.
Saint Bonaventure (Wednesday 15th July)
Born in 1221, Saint Bonaventure was baptised John. He received the name Bonaventure when he became a Franciscan friar at the age of 22. Very little is known about his childhood, but his father was a doctor and a man of wealth.
Saint Bonaventure played an important role in the medieval Church. He studied under Alexander of Hales and upon completing his studies he taught at the University of Paris. He was much admired and loved by his students because of his academic skills and insights. But more importantly, he captured their hearts through his love for Jesus and the Church.
Like his inspiration, Saint Francis, Jesus was at the centre of everything for Bonaventure - his teaching, his studies, his writing and his life.
Saint Bonaventure’s teaching career, however, came to a halt when the Franciscan Order elected him to serve as their General Minister. His 17 years of service were not easy as the Order was embroiled in conflicts. But because he was a man of prayer and a good administrator, Saint Bonaventure managed to structure the Order through effective legislation. But more importantly, he offered the Franciscans an organised spirituality based on the vision and insights of Saint Francis.
Always a Franciscan at heart and a mystical writer, Bonaventure managed to unite the pastoral, practical aspects of life with the teachings of the Church. Thus, there is a noticeable warmth to his teachings and writings that make him very appealing.
Shortly before he ended his service as General Minister, Bonaventure was appointed as Bishop of Albano. But a little over a year later, Saint Bonaventure suddenly died on 15th July, 1274 but he left behind him a structured and renewed Franciscan Order and a body of work all of which glorifies his major love — Jesus.
When he was made a saint, Pope Sixtus IV said of Saint Bonaventure, “Bonaventure was great in learning, but no less great in humility and holiness. His innocence and dove-like simplicity were such that Alexander of Hales, the renowned doctor whose disciple Saint Bonaventure became, used to say of him that it seemed as though Adam had never sinned in him.”
Prayer of the day
Grant, we pray, almighty God, that, just as we celebrate the heavenly birthday of the Bishop Saint Bonaventure, we may benefit from his great learning and constantly imitate his charity. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Saint Camillus de Lellis (Tuesday 14th July)
Camillus was not a likely candidate for sainthood. His mother died when he was a child, his father neglected him and he grew up with an excessive love for gambling. At the age of just 17, he was afflicted with a disease that affected his legs and that remained with him for the rest of his life. He went into a hospital as a patient but was told to leave because of his arguments with other patients. After this, he even served in the army for three years.
Then in the winter of 1574, when he was 24, Camillus gambled away everything that he owned. His savings, his weapons, even his shirt was gone. Penniless, he accepted work at a monastery. It was there that he heard a sermon that was to change his life. After hearing the superior speak, he decided to change his life and become a monk. Because of his leg, however, he was not accepted and returned to the hospital that he had been asked to leave before and dedicated himself to caring for the sick.
Camillus devoted the rest of his life to the care of the sick. He studied for the priesthood, was ordained a priest at the age of 34 and went on to found his own religious order dedicated to caring for the sick. As superior of the order, he devoted much of his own time to the care of the sick, prisoners and persons infected by the plague. Camillus himself suffered the disease of his leg through his life. In his last illness, he left his own bed to see if other patients in the hospital needed help.
Prayer of the day Lord, You inspired Saint Camillus, to show love and to care for those who suffer. May those who take care of the sick be generous and lovingly dedicated. May your protection comfort the sick and their families and encourage them to live together in love. Bless those who dedicate themselves to the care of the sick. And may all be blessed with peace and hope. Amen.
Saint Henry II (Monday 13th July 2020)
On July 13th, the Church celebrates the memory of Saint Henry II. Saint Henry was born in 972 to Duke Henry of Bavaria and Princess Gisela of Burgundy. During his youth, Henry received both an education and spiritual guidance from a bishop who went on to become a saint himself, Saint Wolfgang.
Henry was a very intelligent and devout student and Saint Wolfgang's lessons left a lasting mark on Henry. Henry went on to become the Duke of Bavaria in 995 and then the King of Germany in 1002.
As king, Henry is said to have brought peace during his reign and built both a cathedral and a monastery. He donated so much of his wealth to the Church that his relatives complained that he was behaving irresponsibly. But Henry was far from irresponsible; as king he was a great patron of the poor, making enormous contributions for their relief.
For the last several years of his life, Henry had to deal with serious illness and an additional ailment that crippled his left leg. He found support in prayer during these trials and seriously considered resigning his throne in order to become a monk. After several years of illness, Saint Henry II died in July of 1024. The public mourned sincerely for the monarch who had managed to lead his earthly kingdom so responsibly without losing sight of the Kingdom of God. Above all, he demonstrated that holiness is possible whilst living a busy secular life. He was made a saint in 1146.
Prayer of the day Lord, you filled Saint Henry with your love and raised him from the cares of an earthly kingdom to eternal happiness in heaven. In the midst of the changes of this world, may his prayers keep us free from sin and help us on our way towards you. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Bible Readings on Sunday 12th July
Prayers are on a separate Note and the Spiritual Communion Sheet for today can be found on the Services page of the website. You can use this link.
First Reading Romans 8:1-11 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.
Gospel Reading Matthew 13:1-9,18-23 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: "Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!" "Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty."
Vincent Van Gogh, “The Sower” (November 1888) One of the most recognisable artists, because of the stunning vivid colours that he always used, is Vincent Van Gogh. An example of this is perhaps his most recognisable painting, one simply called sunflowers. Most people know very little about his life. For some of us, what we do know comes from the hit song Vincent that was written by Don McLean.
Its lyrics tell us of the tragedy surrounding Van Gogh’s life and how most of his short life, he only lived to reach the age of 37, was spent wrestling with failure, rejection and depression. When he died tragically young, Vincent had been an artist for less than 10 years but in that time he had managed to complete a staggering 900 paintings and a further 1100 drawings. However, out of all these works of art, he sold only one during his lifetime. Just one! Ironically, today his paintings fetch tens of millions of pounds. Vincent first went to work at an art dealers at the age of just 16, but it soon became apparent to all that he had no flair for business. He then wanted to be a Christian missionary but was dismissed because his views were not orthodox. Then, at the age of 27, his ever loyal brother Theo suggested that he should try to become an artist.
Initially Vincent was self-taught and his work was dark and grim but as he developed as an artist so did his use of colour and themes. This can be seen in the painting above, The Sower. He had over 30 attempts at painting this beautiful work of art in an attempt to grasp and describe what the Parable of the Sower in the Gospels really meant.
Now, the finished painting is one that is dominated by a dead tree stump. But when you look closer there are green shoots too. Out of darkness comes light. In the painting there is also a sad looking Sower who devotedly keeps on sowing even though he cannot see any result of his work. Yet way behind him there is a rising sun and a golden harvest. He keeps on working, even when all seems hopeless.
We can all take great hope from that picture. If we keep on doing whatever good we can, God will bless it in God’s own way and in God’s own time.
Even amidst his suffering and all the dark times in his life, Van Gogh had an enlightened moment. He wrote the following:
“God sends us works of art so that we might see ourselves in them.”
Then he added,
“The greatest artist of all is Jesus who doesn’t work with canvas but works with human flesh.” Let us all reflect upon that. It means that all of us are all beautiful, precious works of art. We are all God’s canvas. All unique. All beautiful.
Our task as Christians is to preach the Gospel, to preach the Gospel to all those that we meet. We need to help others release themselves from the weeds of the world.
Those weeds that bind and choke … in other words sin.
Therefore, be a sower … sow good seed … sow God’s love and remember … we are all beautiful, precious works of art.
“The greatest artist of all is Jesus who doesn’t work with canvas but works with human flesh.”
Saint Benedict (Saturday 11th July 2020)
Benedict was born into a wealthy and distinguished family in Nursia, central Italy, around the year 480. As a young man he was sent to study in Rome, but was soon appalled by the corruption in society that he found there and he withdrew from society to live as a hermit.
Through the holiness of his life he quickly attracted disciples and began to establish small monasteries in the neighbourhood. Around the year 525, however, Benedict had an idea of gathering various families of monks into one ‘Grand Monastery’ to give them the benefit of unity, fraternity and permanent worship in one community. Finally he began to build what was to become one of the most famous monasteries in the world — Monte Cassino.
Later in life Benedict wrote his Rule for Monks, known as the Rule of Saint Benedict. This Rule prescribed a life of prayer, worship, study, manual labour and guidance for those living together in community. In the course of the Middle Ages, all monasteries in the West were gradually brought under the Rule of Saint Benedict. Today the Benedictine family is represented by two main branches: the Benedictines of the Order of Saint Benedict and the Cistercian Order. The Benedictine way of life is known for its moderation and those living the Benedictine life are renowned for their hospitality and for their concern of others’ welfare. Saint Benedict died at his monastery in Monte Cassino in about the year 550.
The Church has been blessed in so many ways and continues to be blessed through the Benedictine way of life. In fact, the Church of England itself can be seen as being strongly “Benedictine”, most likely because of England having such a strong historical Benedictine presence and The Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer gives great significance to the daily office as prescribed by Benedict. Indeed, the Book of Common Prayer can be understood as being an attempt to bring a Benedictine prayer life to the laity with the prayers of the faithful ringing out morning and evening in every parish church throughout the realm. The genius of Saint Benedict cannot, therefore, be confined within the walls of Monte Cassino or any other monastery and can play a part in ALL of our lives. In his Rule, Saint Benedict writes about eight times of prayer throughout the day: Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline … and so:
How often do you pray?
Are you able to set aside times each day for prayer?
The Benedictine practice of hospitality is radical … how do you offer hospitality to others and welcome them as Christ?
The first word of the Rule of Benedict is “Listen”. The Benedictine practice of listening is at the heart of Benedictine spirituality and so:
Are you able to set aside a time each day to spend in silence and listen to God? If you’re not listening, how do you know what God is saying?
Prayer of the day
Eternal God, who made Benedict a wise master in the school of your service and a guide to many called into community to follow the rule of Christ: grant that we may put your love before all else and seek with joy the way of your commandments; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Do we talk too much? (Friday 10th July 2020)
A true danger to the interior life of communion with God is an excessive need to talk. There are times when being too talkative is a hindrance to the Mercy of God. The goal is to form our words in accord with the mind and will of God. We must see the words we speak as a sacred tool to bring forth truth and to manifest God’s love. Excessive words, or words that do not flow from our love of God or others, can do more damage than we may realise.
Do you talk a lot? Do you talk too little? It’s not about how many words we say, it’s about saying the right words at the right time in the right way. Our words can cause much hurt, but they can also bring the healing balm of God’s Mercy. Reflect upon the conversations you have had over this past week. Were they pleasing to God? Reflect, also, upon any ways that you neglected to say what the Lord wanted you to say. These omissions of silence can also be the cause of hurt.
Lord, I love you and I offer you my love, this day, through a consecration of my words to you. You are the Eternal Word spoken from the Father. You are the truth that sets all people free. Give me wisdom, temperance, and courage to speak only what you call me to speak and to listen only to that which you speak. May my tongue be a sword piercing through the darkness of this world and my ear be a sponge for your mercy. Jesus, I trust in you.
Saint Augustine Zhao Rong (Thursday 9th July)
(A stained glass window of Saint Augustine Zhao Rong and his companions in the Hong Kong Cathedral.)
Christianity arrived in China in the 600s and over the centuries Christians have been either able to worship freely or have had to worship in secret depending upon China’s relationship with the outside world.
Augustine Zhao Rong worked at a prison. During the persecution of Christians in the 1700s, he was moved by the ministry of a priest who was a prisoner and who spoke words of comfort to those imprisoned with him. So moved by this was Augustine that he became a Christian and later became a priest.
When another time of persecution broke out, he was arrested, tortured and died of the ill treatment he received. Augustine was declared a saint on 1st October 2000.
Saint Gregory Grassi and Companions (Wednesday 8th July)
Gregory Grassi was born in Italy on 3rd December 1833. At the age of just 15, on 2nd November in the year 1848, he became a Franciscan Friar. He became a priest in 1856 and was then sent to Rome for further training to prepare for being a missionary in China. After being in China for 5 years, Gregory then became a Bishop.
When the short but bloody Boxer Rebellion broke out in Peking in June 1900, a decree was issued against any foreigners living in China to leave the country. Gregory was urged to flee but decided to stay to help those Christians that he cared for. St Gregory was arrested along with many other European and Chinese missionaries. He was imprisoned, tortured, put on public display and then marched through the surrounding villages. The next day, along with other European missionaries, he was martyred and in the year 2000, Gregory along with all those who lost their lives were made saints.
Prayer of the day
Almighty God, by whose grace Gregory, kindled with the fire of your love, became a burning and a shining light in the Church: inflame us with the same spirit of discipline and love, that we may ever walk before you as children of light; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Blessed Emmanuel Ruiz and his Companions (Tuesday 7th July 2020)
Not much is known of the early life of Emmanuel Ruiz, but details of his heroic death in defence of the Christian faith have come down to us. He was born in San Martín, Spain, on 5th May in 1804. He was born into a humble family and he became a member of the Franciscan Order. He became a priest and served as a missionary in Damascus. This was at a difficult time when riots were taking place in Syria and thousands lost their lives. Among these were Emmanuel, who at the time was the superior of the Franciscan monastery, and seven other friars. When a menacing crowd came looking for the men, they refused to renounce their Christian faith and were murdered. The Church acknowledged the heroism of Blessed Emmanuel Ruiz and Companions when in 1926, the title of Blessed was conferred upon them. Prayer of the day
Almighty God, by whose grace and power your holy martyr Emmanuel and his companions triumphed over suffering and was faithful unto death: strengthen us with your grace, that we may endure reproach and persecution and faithfully bear witness to the name of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Saint Maria Goretti (Monday 6th July)
Maria Teresa Goretti was born on 16th October in 1890. She was born to an Italian farming family and her father died when she was just nine. Maria and her family lived with another family and whilst her mother, brothers and sisters worked on the farm, Maria kept herself busy with household duties. One afternoon, Maria was sitting at the top of the stairs of her house, mending a shirt. She was not quite 12 years old when the son of the family who owned the house where she lived attacked her. When she tried to fight him off he stabbed her. Maria was taken to a hospital and her last hours were full of her usual concern and compassion for others. She was typically concerned for her family and also for her murderer and she died forgiving him. She died on 6th July, 1902, at the age of eleven. Her murderer was arrested, convicted and imprisoned. During imprisonment, he had a dream of Maria gathering flowers and offering them to him. His life changed immediately. When he was released after 27 years, his first act was to visit Maria’s mother and to beg her forgiveness, which she granted.
Maria was made the youngest saint in the Church in 1950 and a crowd of 250,000 gathered to witness how her simple story of faith had touched their lives. Amongst the crowd were her 82 year old mother, two sisters, her brother and a 66 year old Alessandro Serenelli, the man who had taken her life. He knelt among the quarter million people and cried tears of joy. Maria was the daughter of a poor Italian farmer who never went to school and who never learned to read or write. She lived in a complex world but her faith was simple … she loved God and she loved others.
Prayer of the day O God, grant, we pray, that, as you gave a crown of steadfastness, to your handmaid, Saint Maria Goretti, in her youth so we, too, may be firm in obeying your commandments. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Bible Readings on 5th July
Prayers are on a separate Note and the Spiritual Communion Sheet for today can be found on the Services page of the website. You can use this link.
First Reading Romans 7:15-25 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that does it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that does it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.
Gospel Reading Matthew 11:16-19,25-30 “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: “We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn. For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.” At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Saint Elizabeth of Portugal (Saturday 4th July 2020)
Saint Elizabeth of Portugal was born in 1271 and she is usually depicted in works of art as wearing the clothes of a royal and holding a dove or an olive branch. At the age of 12, she was given in marriage to Denis, the king of Portugal. She lived a holy life, devoting herself to prayer and acts of charity. She befriended and helped pilgrims, strangers, the sick, the poor and all who came to her for help. She remained devoted to her husband until his death and throughout her life she was known as the ‘peacemaker’ because of her humble disposition, devotion to God, her life of virtue and her ability to bring peace between warring individuals or nations.
Later in life she became a member of the Franciscans and continued to demonstrate a deep and sincere love and sympathy for humankind, an almost total lack of concern for herself, and an abiding confidence in God. She died peacefully in 1336, urging all to strive for love, holiness and peace.
Prayer of the day
Father of peace and love, you gave Saint Elizabeth the gift of reconciling enemies. Give us the courage to work for peace among all, that we may be called the children of God. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Saint Thomas (Friday 3rd July 2020)
Thomas is mentioned among the number of the apostles in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke but it is in John's Gospel that his significance is truly revealed. He was the apostle who was unconvinced by reports of the resurrection of Jesus and it was this unbelief that caused Jesus to show him the marks of the crucifixion in his hands, feet and side. Upon seeing the wounds, Thomas then proclaims the words that are certainly the most explicit statement of faith in the New Testament: “My Lord and My God!” It is this unbelief that has led Thomas to be branded as “Doubting Thomas” but if he doubted, he also believed and the words he uttered, in so expressing his faith, gave Christians a prayer that will be said till the end of time.
Thomas is also mentioned as being present at another resurrection appearance of Jesus when a miraculous catch of fish occurred at Lake Tiberias. Tradition says that at the dispersal of the apostles after Pentecost, Thomas went to evangelize to the Parthians, Medes, and Persians. He ultimately reached India, carrying the Christian faith to the Malabar coast which still boasts a large native population calling themselves “Christians of Saint Thomas”.
Prayer of the day
Almighty and eternal God, who, for the firmer foundation of our faith, allowed your holy apostle Thomas to doubt the resurrection of your Son till word and sight convinced him: grant to us, who have not seen, that we also may believe and so confess Christ as our Lord and our God; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
John Main OSB (Thursday 2nd July 2020)
Yesterday we took a look at how Ignatian Spirituality can help us cope during these difficult times. Today, we take a look at another Christian Spiritual tradition, that of Christian meditation.
The World Community of Christian Meditation teaches a meditation method that involves the repetition of a single word faithfully and lovingly during the time of meditation. This is a very ancient Christian way of prayer that was recovered for modern Christians by the Benedictine monk John Main (1926 -1982).
John Main recovered this way of bringing the mind to rest in the heart through his study of the teachings of the first Christian monks, the Desert Fathers, and of John Cassian (4th century AD). It is in the same tradition as The Cloud of Unknowing, written in England in the 14th century.
John Main's legacy inspired the formation of the World Community for Christian Meditation (WCCM), and his work is being carried on by Father Laurence Freeman, also a Benedictine monk.
The WCCM continues John Main’s vision of restoring the contemplative dimension to the common life of Christians and engaging in the common ground shared with the secular world and other religions.
The Community has, since the coronavirus crisis began, offered help that meets many needs in different ways and has a whole host of resources that can be accessed freely from their website.
Meditation will not instantly solve all problems. But it changes how we view and deal with the challenges we face. It helps us to ‘set our troubled minds at rest’ and to find the authentic, interior peace that stabilises us when we are in turmoil.
An Ignatian Way of Coping with Lockdown (Wednesday 1st July 2020)
Although lockdown is now being eased and our communities are showing signs of ‘normality’ once again, there are still many who, for a number of reasons are having to remain in varying degrees of lockdown and isolation. This is a prayer, taken from the website www.pathwaystogod.org that helps us to reflect on how we’re living in lock-down and how we might live more fully.
I begin by relaxing and settling into stillness. I notice the natural rythmn of my breath and gives thanks for the life it gives me. I am in God’s presence.
I imagine that today I am meeting Jesus to reflect on what lock-down has been like for me. I visualise where we meet.
Jesus joins me.
What is this like?
He asks me to share my experience of lock-down so far with him.
He listens attentively and lovingly as I let memories, experiences and feelings surface without censoring or judging.
Jesus tells me what he has noticed about me in lock-down.
What am I grateful for?
What has given me life?
When have I been the person I would love to be?
What shows glimpses of me living my life that would delight Jesus?
If there is one moment of lock-down so far that I could relive, what would this be?
I also share difficult times and moments of regret.
Is there anything I wished I had done differently?
I speak with Jesus as a good and trusted friend about all that arises.
I sense Jesus’ love for me as he holds with kindness my moments of greatest life and gratitude and my moments of struggle and regret.
Next, Jesus asks me to imagine my hopes, longings and dreams are for the next days of lock-down. I allow myself to imagine how would I love to be?
We imagine, talk and dream about things I do or don’t do, things I know and don’t know; we speak about what I would love to change or explore.
What do I want for myself?
What do I want in my relationships with others?
I hear him say, ‘I know the plans I have in mind for you; plans for peace, not disaster, reserving a future full of hope and life for you.’
I listen as Jesus shares his life-filled hopes and desires for me for this next period of lockdown.
How do I respond to his words?
What do I want to ask Jesus for as I go into these next days? I ask Jesus what he wants for me.
I give thanks for what I have experienced and bring my prayer to a close in whatever way feels right to me.
Then, perhaps with a cup of tea, I spend some time reflecting on my prayer. The following questions might be helpful:
How do I feel now?
What feels important?
What do I love about my life?
How do I want to live differently?
Please take time now to read the Daily Prayers which can be found on the Prayers page.
Martyrdom of Saint Paul (Tuesday 30th June 2020)
Paul, known as Saul before his conversion, was born at Tarsus in the Roman province of Cilicia. He was the son of Jewish parents and was raised according to the strict religious beliefs of the Pharisees. As a young man he went to Jerusalem to become immersed in the study of the Jewish Law and had as a teacher the celebrated Gamaliel. He also acquired skills as a tent-maker, a work he continued even as an apostle.
Paul did not see Jesus during His earthly-life but he became a bitter opponent of the Christian Church and with his fiery personality he would lead the persecution of Christians. It was whilst he was breathing threats of slaughter against the disciples of Jesus, when he was hurrying to Damascus, that the grace of God brought about his conversion. Saul took some time to become Paul and some time to begin to understand that his call to preach -- to Jew and to Gentile -- the saving power of Jesus, the Son of God, was something that was a whole life's journey for him.
The last years of the Saint Paul's life were devoted to missionary journeys and in the year 66 he returned to Rome. It was here that he was taken prisoner and a year later, according to tradition, he was granted the right of a Roman citizen to be beheaded by a sword. His fourteen letters are a precious legacy; they afford a deep insight into a great soul.
The Martyrdom of Saint Paul Mattia Preti (1654)
Saints Peter and Paul (Monday 29th June 2020)
Today the Church remembers and celebrates the feast of Saints Peter and Paul. Veneration of the two great apostles has its roots in the very foundations of the Church. They are the solid rock on which the Church is built with Saint Peter representing the faith of the Church and Saint Paul representing its mission.
Peter has often been called the 'Prince of the Apostles' because of Jesus renaming him from Simon to Cephas, Cephas being the Aramaic form of the Greek word Peter, which means 'rock'. Jesus said that on this rock he would build his Church. But both Peter and Paul came to be seen as having different roles to play within the leadership of the Church.
The New Testament clearly shows Peter as the leader of the apostles, chosen by Jesus to have a special relationship with him. With James and John he was privileged to witness the Transfiguration and the agony of Jesus in the garden in Gethsemane. His mother-in-law was cured by Jesus and he was sent with John to prepare for the last Passover before Jesus’ death.
Paul’s experience of the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus was the driving force that made him one of the most dynamic and courageous ambassadors of Christ the Church has ever seen. His central conviction was simple and absolute: Only God can save us. No human effort—not even the most scrupulous observance of law—can save us. The lives of Saint Peter and Saint Paul offer us examples and guidance for our lives today in a world that desperately needs witnesses to the life and love of God. Although Peter and Paul disagreed about the Christian mission their common commitment to Christ and their proclamation of his gospel proved stronger than their differences. Perhaps they offer us an image of unity in diversity.
Prayer of the day
Almighty God, whose blessèd apostles Peter and Paul glorified you in their death as in their life: grant that your Church, inspired by their teaching and example, and made one by your Spirit, may ever stand firm upon the one foundation, Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Jusepe de Ribera (1616)
Bible Readings on Sunday 28th June
First Reading Romans 6:12-23
Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification. When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Gospel Reading Matthew 10:40-43
Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet's reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple — truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.
Josemaria Escriva (Friday 26th June 2020)
Josemaria Escriva was made a saint on 6th October, 2002. An estimated 300,000 people filled Saint Peter’s Square in Rome to witness this and his canonization came only 27 years after his death, one of the shortest waiting periods in Church history.
Born in Spain, Josemaria sensed early in his life that he had a vocation to the priesthood. Following his ordination in 1925, he briefly ministered in a rural parish. He then moved to Madrid where he studied Law eventually earning a doctorate. At the same time he was beginning to envision a movement that would offer ordinary people help in seeking holiness through their everyday activities. Josemaria founded a religious order called Opus Dei, which means ‘Work of God’ and throughout his life he continually emphasised that all of us can become holy by performing our daily duties with a Christian spirit. Opus Dei was officially founded in 1928.
As Opus Dei grew, Josemaria continued his studies and his priestly work among the poor and sick. During the Civil War in Spain he had to exercise his ministry secretly and move from place to place. He later moved to Rome and obtained a second doctorate in theology.
When Josemaria died in 1975, his religious movement Opus Dei could be found in dozens of places around the globe. Today its membership includes approximately 83,000 laypersons and 1,800 priests in 60 countries. Saint Josemaria is a good example of what one person with great conviction can do. Granted, we all have differing personalities and talents, but still each of us can do great things with the grace of God.
O God, you granted your priest Saint Josemaria countless graces, choosing him as a most faithful instrument and as a way of sanctification in daily work and in the fulfillment of the Christian’s ordinary duties. Grant that I too may learn to turn all the circumstances and events of my life into occasions of loving you and serving you with joy and simplicity, lighting up the pathways of this earth with faith and love. Amen.
To see the following images clearly, please click on them:
Jutta of Thuringia (Thursday 25th June 2020)
Jutta, which is Judith in English, was born in the year 1184 into a wealthy and noble family. After marrying, she and her husband were to make a pilgrimage together to Jerusalem to visit its holy places; sadly her husband died on the way.
After the death of her husband, and after first taking care to provide for her children, Jutta resolved to live in a manner she felt was utterly pleasing to God. She gave away all of her fine and expensive clothes, jewels, and furniture befitting a noble woman of her rank and became a Franciscan, taking on the simple garment of a religious person.
From that point her life was utterly devoted to others: caring for the sick, particularly lepers; tending to the poor, whom she visited; helping the crippled and blind with whom she shared her own home. Many of the townspeople laughed at how the once-distinguished lady now spent all her time. But Jutta saw the face of God in the poor and felt honoured to give to them whatever services she could.
Many people laughed at Jutta, once a distinguished lady, who made herself the servant of the poorest. But she recognised in the poor her Lord and deemed herself happy and highly honoured that she could be of service to others. For the last few years of her life she lived a life of great holiness and died in 1264. Thirteen priests were present at her funeral, a great number at that time, and she was buried in the Church of the Holy Trinity. Fifteen years afterwards, steps were taken for her to be made a saint.
Birth of John the Baptist (Wednesday 24th June 2020)
The story of John the Baptist, the son of Elizabeth and Zechariah, begins even before his birth. When Mary visits his mother Elizabeth, we are told that John leapt in his mother’s womb. This leaping is seen as being in great anticipation of the birth of his Redeemer.
John spent time in the desert as an ascetic. Emerging from the desert he then began to announce the coming of the Kingdom, and to call everyone to a fundamental reformation of life. His purpose was to be Christ’s forerunner and to prepare the way for Jesus. The baptism that he was able to give, he said, was for repentance but John spoke of the one who would come after him who would baptise with the Holy Spirit and fire.
The attractiveness as well as the austerity of John, his fierce courage in denouncing evil — all stem from his fundamental and total placing of his life within the will of God. John seemed to have a predestined role akin to that of the Old Testament prophets, particularly in encouraging the people of God to live lives worthy of their calling and the Church has always kept the celebration of this day with greater solemnity than that of his death.
Prayer of the day Almighty God, by whose providence your servant John the Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of your Son our Saviour by the preaching of repentance: lead us to repent according to his preaching and, after his example, constantly to speak the truth, boldly to rebuke vice, and patiently to suffer for the truth's sake; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Young Saint John the Baptist by Mattia Preti (1613-1699)
Saint Etheldreda (Tuesday 23rd June 2020)
Etheldreda was born in Suffolk in the seventh century and was a daughter of a king. Despite being born into royalty, she desired above all else to commit her life to prayer. After two arranged marriages, she was finally able to live the life that she so desired and went on to found a religious community at Ely for both men and women, over which she ruled as Abbess.
At her death on this day in the year 678, she was respected as a woman of austerity, prayer and prophecy. For centuries, Etheldreda's shrine was the focus for vast numbers of medieval pilgrims. It was, however, destroyed in 1541, but a slate in Ely Cathedral marks the spot where it originally stood.
Prayer of the day Eternal God, who bestowed such grace upon your servant Etheldreda that she gave herself wholly to the life of prayer and to the service of your true religion: grant that we, like her, may so live our lives on earth seeking your kingdom that by your guiding we may be joined to the glorious fellowship of your saints; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Saint Alban (Monday 22nd June 2020)
Alban was a soldier in the Roman city of Verulamium, which is now Saint Albans in Hertfordshire. During a time when Christians were being persecuted, Alban who was himself a pagan, hid a priest in his house for several days.
In the time that they spent together, the priest made such a great impression on him that Alban received instruction and became a Christian himself. When the priest's hiding-place was discovered, Alban dressed himself in the priest's cloak and allowed himself to be arrested in his place. He was tortured by the Roman authorities but Alban refused to renounce his Christian faith. He was martyred around the year 250, and so became the first British martyr.
Alban is honoured as Britain’s first saint and his grave on a hillside quickly became a place of pilgrimage. This story of an ordinary man, doing an extraordinary thing has endured and continues to inspire to this day and his shrine stands today as a place of pilgrimage in the Cathedral and Abbey Church of Saint Alban.
Alban spent only a short time in the company of a Christian and yet, he was so impressed with this individual’s life that he converted and became a Christian himself, even giving his life in martyrdom. What impression do you give to others? Would your faith and the example of your life convert others? Prayer of the day Eternal Father, when the gospel of Christ first came to our land you gloriously confirmed the faith of Alban by making him the first to win a martyr's crown: grant that, following his example, in the fellowship of the saints we may worship you, the living God, and give true witness to Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen
Bible Readings on Sunday 21st June 2020
First Reading Romans 6:1-11 Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Gospel Reading Matthew 10:24-39 A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household! So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one's foes will be members of one's own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
Saint Paulinus of Nola (Saturday 20th June 2020)
Paulinus was born to a wealthy Roman family in France. He received a good education and became a well known lawyer. He became the prefect of Rome, married a Spanish noble lady, Therasia and led a luxury filled life. However, following the tragic death of his son he retreated from the world and became a Christian.
In the year 393 he was ordained a priest and soon after he moved to Naples in Italy, where he helped to establish a community of monks. He also helped to build a church and a hospital.
In 409, he was elected bishop of Nola and guided that diocese for 21 years, serving in that office with great distinction until his death. He was a friend and correspondent of virtually all of the leading figures of his day, including Saints Augustine, Jerome, Ambrose, Martin of Tours and Gregory the Great and he is praised in the letters of many of these saints for his extraordinary character.
Paulinus was also a gifted poet, earning the distinction of being one of the foremost Christian poets of the time. He is the author of many works including letters and poems in addition to several other works. Prayer of the day O God whose Bishop Saint Paulinus of Nola was outstanding for love of poverty and for pastoral care, graciously grant that, as we celebrate his merits, we may imitate the example of his charity. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Saint Romuald (Friday 19th June 2020)
Saint Romuald was born at Ravenna, Northern Italy in 951. When he was just a youth, Romuald watched his father kill a relative in a fight over property. In horror Romuald fled to the safety of a monastery. After three years, however, some of the monks found him to be far too pious and holy for their liking and as a result they forced him out.
Romuald then spent the next 30 years travelling about Italy and he acquired a great reputation as an ascetic* and master of prayer and so founded, or reformed, various monasteries which sought his assistance. Finally, in 1012, he settled down in Tuscany and established the most famous of the monasteries Romuald founded; that of the Camaldoli in Tuscany. Here began the Order of the Camaldolese Benedictines. The Order still exists in several countries today and continues to attract those few men and women drawn to a radical life of prayer and isolation. After a long life, he died in the monastery which he had founded, on 19th June about the year 1027.
* Ascetic - characterised by severe self-discipline and abstention from all forms of indulgence, typically for religious reasons.
Prayer of the day O God, who through Saint Romuald renewed the manner of life of hermits in your Church, grant that, denying ourselves and following Christ, we may merit to reach the heavenly realms on high. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Something to do … Saint Romuald taught, "Sit in your cell as in paradise. Put the whole world behind you and forget it. Watch your thoughts like a good fisherman watching for fish. The path you must follow is in the Psalms—never leave it." Why not spend some time reading the Psalms in silence as Saint Romuald recommended. For more information regarding the Order that Saint Romuald founded, please visit: https://www.camaldolese.org
Ignatian Reflection (Thursday 18th June 2020)
Ignatian wisdom for Covid-19
As the Covid-19 virus tragically continues to cause chaos and concern around the world, Belgian Jesuit and author Nikolaas Sintobin SJ has been reflecting on what wisdom Saint Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuits born in 1491, might want to share with us regarding our response to this pandemic. Read below what Nikolaas thinks the founder of his order would write in a letter which contains down-to-earth advice.
I see you’re having a hard time finding the right attitude to the coronavirus. That’s not strange. Over the past few decades, science has made such progress that you have come to believe that a solution to every problem can be found in no time. Now it’s becoming clear all over the world that this is an illusion. For many of you this is quite confusing.
I myself have been struggling with chronic illness for over thirty years. As Superior General of the rapidly growing Jesuit order, I was confronted with all possible and impossible problems day in and day out for fifteen years. I would like to give you five tips through these difficult times. They are taken from my own experience.
At the time of this coronavirus, listen to the doctors, the scientists, and the competent authorities. Even if you do not understand them well, have the humility to accept that it is worth relying on their knowledge and experience. It will give you a clear conscience and allow you to make your contribution to the solution of the crisis.
Beware of fear. Fear never comes from God and does not lead to God. Fear often suggests to you all possible reasons why you should be afraid. Much of it is true. Only, you don’t have to be afraid of it. The Lord takes care of you now, too. I know that from a well-informed celestial source. Experience has shown that he can write straight on the curved earthly lines. Dare to believe in them.
In times of crisis you do not benefit less, but more from prayer. Grant it to yourself to indulge in His love. It is the best antidote to fear.
In my Spiritual Exercises I wrote, “Love ought to manifest itself more by deeds than by words.” Look after one another in whatever way you safely can, especially remembering the poor and the vulnerable.
Finally do not forget to live and enjoy life in all this. Whatever happens, every second you are given is a unique and precious gift. There’s nothing the coronavirus can do to change that.
United with you in everlasting prayer,
Saint Botolph (Wednesday 17th June 2020)
Saint Botolph was one of the earliest and most revered of East Anglian saints. Botolph and his brother Adolph were young Saxon nobles living in the 7th century, and were sent for their education to a Benedictine Abbey in France.
Adolph went on to be a Dutch Bishop whilst Botolph came back to his native East Anglia. Upon his return he was given a piece of land on which to build a monastery. This land was at the present Boston (Botolph's Town) in Lincolnshire.
Saint Botolph died after a long life of Christian prayer and teaching in the year 680. The monastery that he had helped to found lived on for another two centuries but in 870 it was destroyed by Danish invaders. King Edgar ordered that the remains of the saint be removed from the monastery ruins and taken to Westminster Abbey. The relics were brought to London through various towns and eventually through the four City gates of Aldersgate, Bishopsgate, Aldgate and Billingsgate. The churches at the entrances to these gates were named after him. The first three remain, but the one at Billingsgate was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666 and never rebuilt. It seems that as his relics were conveyed from place to place, his name became associated with wayfarers and travellers.
Over 70 churches, along with five towns and villages, are dedicated to him, and he is remembered on this day, 17th June.
Saint Richard of Chichester (Tuesday 16th June 2020)
Saint Richard was born in Droitwich in the year 1197. He and his elder brother were left orphans when young Richard gave up the studies, which he loved, to help farm his brother’s impoverished estate. Once able, however, he went on to study for the priesthood at Oxford.
After becoming a priest he went on to be made Chancellor of Oxford and eventually Chancellor to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Edmund of Abingdon. When Richard eventually became Bishop of Chichester, he was seen as a model diocesan bishop: travelling around his diocese on foot, visiting and caring for his clergy and people, generally being accessible to all who needed his ministry.
Whilst at Dover he became ill and died there on 3rd April 1253. His body was later moved to Chichester on this day in the year 1276.
The prayer of the day Most merciful Redeemer, who gave to your bishop Richard a love of learning, a zeal for souls and a devotion to the poor: grant that, encouraged by his example, we may know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, day by day, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit are alive and reign, one God, now and for ever. Amen
Evelyn Underhill (Monday 15th June 2020)
Evelyn Underhill was born in Wolverhampton on 6th December, 1875. She was the only child of Sir Arthur Underhill, who was a Justice of the Peace for Wolverhampton and his wife Alice. Evelyn was educated at home and later went to King’s College for Women, London, where she studied history and botany. Evelyn was in her thirties before she began to explore religion. At first, she wrote on the mystics, most notably in her book Mysticism, published in 1911. Her spiritual journey brought her in 1921 back to the Church of England, in which she had been baptised and confirmed.
From the mid-1920s, she became highly regarded as a retreat conductor and an influential Spiritual Director. Of her many books, Worship, published in 1936, embodied her approach to what she saw as the mystery of faith. Evelyn was the first woman to lecture on religion at Oxford University. She was a leader in promoting retreats as a Spiritual practice for lay people in her time. Indeed, one of the Archbishops of Canterbury said that Evelyn Underhill was the most important figure in Anglican Spirituality between the two world wars. Not only did she go on to become one of the most important Christian mystics of the 20th century, but she also influenced a number of key figures who came after her, including C S Lewis and Thomas Merton.
She left behind an impressive literary legacy, including Mysticism, Practical Mysticism, Mystics of the Church, and Worship. Her letters are also of great importance. She died on 15th June, 1941 after suffering a stroke.
Prayer of the day O God, Origin, Sustainer, and End of all your creatures: Grant that your Church, taught by your servant Evelyn Underhill, guarded evermore by your power, and guided by your Spirit into the light of truth, may continually offer to you all glory and thanksgiving and attain with your saints to the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have promised by our Saviour Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Bible Readings on Sunday 14th June (First Sunday after Trinity)
First Reading Romans 5:1-8
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.
Gospel Reading Matthew 9:35-10:23
Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest." Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him. These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.' Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.”
Saint Gregory the Great (Sunday 14th June 2020)
Gregory was born in the year 540 and he was the son of a Roman senator. As a young man he pursued a career in the government and in 573 he was made Prefect of the city of Rome.
Following the death of his father, however, he resigned his office, sold his inheritance and became a Benedictine monk. He went on to found several monasteries but then, at a time of great political turmoil he was elected Pope in 590. Despite the difficulties of the time he proved himself to be an astute administrator and diplomat. He was responsible for sending Saint Augustine and forty monks on a mission to England to help re-found the English Church. He cared for persecuted Jews and the victims of plague and famine and raised ransom money to free prisoners.
In his own down-to-earth preaching, Gregory was skilled at applying the daily Gospel to the needs of his listeners. He is called “the Great,” and he has been given a place with Augustine, Ambrose, and Jerome, as one of the four key doctors of the Western Church. He died in the year 604. An Anglican historian has written of Gregory: “It is impossible to conceive what would have been the confusion, the lawlessness, the chaotic state of the Middle Ages without the medieval papacy; and of the medieval papacy, the real father is Gregory the Great.”
Gregory the Great shared with honesty, words that could certainly apply to our own time. He wrote, "It is indeed regrettable that the harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few. There is no shortage of people to hear the Good news. What is missing are people to spread it!"
We are all baptised into Christ and enlisted to participate in the saving mission of His Church and so … how are you spreading the good news? How are you showing the love of Christ to others?
Go and share God’s love and remember … Bring hope in these challenging times!
Saint Anthony of Padua (Saturday 13th June 2020)
Saint Anthony of Padua was born on 15th August in the year 1195. He was born and raised by a wealthy family in Lisbon, Portugal and his journey as the servant of God began as a very young man when he decided to give up his future of wealth and power and join a religious order instead. He initially joined the Augustinians in Lisbon but after he met some Franciscan friars he was filled with a sense of intense longing to be a Franciscan and so he entered the Franciscan Order.
He initially wanted to go and preach as a missionary but an illness prevented him from achieving that goal. He went instead to Italy and was stationed in a small hermitage where he spent most of his time praying, reading the Scriptures and doing humble tasks.
He came to be recognised as a great preacher, as a man of prayer and a great Scripture and theology scholar; and so Anthony became the first Franciscan friar to teach theology to other friars of the Franciscan Order. After this, he made his home in the city of Padua. It was there that he preached and began writing sermon notes to help other preachers. Like all saints, Anthony was a perfect example of turning one’s life completely over to God and the holiness of his life still attracts admiration today. In the year 1231 Anthony withdrew to a friary at Camposampiero where he had a hermitage built. On June 13th, he became very ill and asked to be taken back to Padua, where he died. Anthony was made a saint less than a year later. In 1946 he was named a Doctor of the Church; that is, one of the great Christian teachers of all time — and a renowned preacher of God’s word.
The prayer of the day Almighty ever-living God, who gave Saint Anthony of Padua to your people as an outstanding preacher and an intercessor in their need, grant that, with his assistance, as we follow the teachings of the Christian life, we may know your help in every trial. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Making space for God at home (Friday 12th June 2020)
In this article, taken from the ‘Pathways to God’ website, Audrey Hamilton, a Spiritual Director who runs courses in parishes to help people with their prayer life, reflects on how we can make space for prayer at home.
Iread a tweet recently that said ‘This has been the Lentiest Lent ever’ which amused me at the time though I find myself agreeing with it more and more. As the sheer scale of the Coronavirus crisis has become apparent, normal life has been severely impacted. The death toll and figures for those infected increases daily and none of us are unaffected. ‘Self-isolation’ has impacted our mobility and family connections and, as Christians, we are also now faced not only with the absence of our regular liturgies but also find our churches locked, even for private prayer.
An invitation to meet God
In these difficult new times, we find the Gospel we heard at the beginning of Lent, on Ash Wednesday, taking on even more significance – “When you pray, go to your private room and, when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in that secret place…” (Mt 6:6). There is both invitation and promise in those words – an invitation to meet God as and where we are, in our homes, with the assurance that God is indeed with us. We may already have a time and space when we do pray at home – in the morning or evening perhaps – but now we might want to make this more intentional and really try to recognise the sacredness of the space in which we find our ourselves, seeing it indeed as ‘holy ground’.
A space for prayer
A candle on a window-sill, or on a small table in a quiet corner, can mark out a sacred space – with perhaps a Bible or prayer book, a small icon or image, or something from the natural world to recall God’s beauty such as a flower, a pebble from the seaside, a pinecone (perhaps brought back from your ‘socially distanced’ daily walk). It need not be elaborate - just something that serves to remind you that God is indeed with you and looks on you with great love.
God looking at you with love And this awareness of God looking at you with love is how St Ignatius advocates we come to our prayer space – just spend a few moments pondering that love, receiving that love and then entering into it as we pray. May your domestic prayer space be, during these challenging times, a place of rich encounter between you and the God who loves you.
Saint Barnabas is described as being a Levite from Cyprus and although he was not named among the twelve apostles, he emerges in the Acts of the Apostles as one of the most significant of their number. He sold his property and gave the money to the Church, since all things were to be held in common and he emerged as a significant leader in the early Church.
He was closely associated with Saint Paul and it was Barnabas who introduced Paul to Peter and the other apostles. It was because of his Jewish background that Barnabas was able to serve as a kind of mediator between Paul and the Jewish Christians.
Barnabas was sent to Antioch to help guide the Christians there in their relations with non-Jewish converts, promoting the concept of all being one in Christ and he is described as being ‘one who dedicated his life to the Lord’. He parted with Paul to go to Cyprus and tradition has it that he was martyred there in the year 61.
The prayer of the day Bountiful God, giver of all gifts, who poured your Spirit upon your servant Barnabas and gave him grace to encourage others: help us, by his example, to be generous in our judgements and unselfish in our service; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Where have you found God today? (Wednesday 10th June 2020)
There are a selection of short reflections shared by people who are seeking God; who have been surprised by what they find as they travel their pathways. The following extracts are taken from the website ‘Pathways To God’ and it is highly recommended as a source of both inspiration and resources to help you in your daily life as you seek to find God in all things. Fr Mark asks you to please visit the website and advises you to read all of the reflections: https://www.pathwaystogod.org
... In the queue for the supermarket
Many of us are now getting used to waiting patiently in queues at supermarkets and other shops. This is one of the many changes in our lifestyles and, like others, means that we slow down and have time to look, think and discern. One of the thoughts I have is the nature of waiting; and of the waiting that the apostles experienced. First, there was the wait after the crucifixion when they must have felt abandoned and uncertain but perhaps sensing that something was to happen.
Then there was the wait after the Ascension and what a difference. Jesus had spent time preparing them for the fact that he would be leaving them but with the promise and hope that things would be all right with the arrival of the Holy Spirit. During this wait the apostles were together, just as they had been after the crucifixion, but the atmosphere and the feelings must have been entirely different.
And now we are all in a further period of waiting for the next coming. How are we feeling? How are we preparing?
Come Holy Spirit: help me transform my life ready for the next coming of the Lord. … In social distancing
I live in a densely populated area so, in order to enjoy my exercise safely, I have taken to walking out early in the morning. I am fortunate to live near the Thames estuary and at this time of the year, it has been a joy to experience the sunlight breaking over the mudflats and to witness the changing colours.
Being almost an ‘outpost’ of London and a commuter belt, however, one of the disadvantages is that our community seems to have inherited the ‘disconnection’ of the city. People appear to live in solitary bubbles. Strangers rarely greet others along the road or lift their heads - any social interaction is regarded as suspicious and headphones are commonly used as a protection against any unwanted conversation. My daughter-in-law from the Midlands found it all very alarming when she first visited.
Since lockdown, however, I have witnessed a subtle change. As we zig-zag our slalom route down the promenade (even at this time of day there are many people out walking, cycling or jogging), I have noticed that more people return my smile or even answer my morning greeting.
Even if they don’t respond, they are compelled to acknowledge my existence by our need to avoid each other! So I have found myself grateful for this by-product of social distancing. I know the Lord will always bring good out of difficult circumstances and here now, we are at least a little more aware of each other.
It was crowned with a lovely experience this morning. As I walked enjoying the stunning light and scenery, a dishevelled rough sleeper passed me, grinned at me with a wide smile and responded to my “Good morning” with, “Yes, thank you and what a beautiful one it is too.”
This is where I found God today. … The emptying of the rubbish bins
My black bin was emptied today.
Recently a news presenter was roundly criticised for referring to people who do that kind of work as unskilled workers. This term implies that they lack something, or, even worse, that they have failed to learn something. Looking out of my window it strikes me that refuse collectors work quite skilfully. Long practice at collecting the bins and loading them onto the lorry, which must move on at just the right time, makes the whole operation look like a dance.
What is skill? Why do we admire it? Why do we pay so much to people who have certain skills but look down on people who do work that we think we could do, too?
Maybe when all this is over, we will have learned to value the people who do what needs to be done all day, every day. That is real skill!
Saint Columba (Tuesday 9th June 2020) Saint Columba was born in Ireland in about the year 521. He was trained as a monk by another saint, Saint Finnian, and then spent 15 years setting up and founding several monasteries. At the age of 42 he left Ireland to settle on Iona, an island off the coast of Scotland, where he and his disciples built a monastery which was to become world famous.
Columba seems to have been an austere and, at times, harsh man who reputedly mellowed with age. He is credited with developing a monastic rule of life which was followed in many places until Saint Benedict’s Rule of life was introduced and became more common. He was concerned with building up both the monastery and its life and of enabling them to be instruments of mission.
He converted kings and built churches, Iona becoming a starting point for the expansion of Christianity throughout Scotland. In the last four years of his life, when his health had failed, he spent the time transcribing books of the gospels for them to be taken out and used. He died on this day in the year 597.
The prayer of the day Almighty God, who filled the heart of Columba with the joy of the Holy Spirit and with deep love for those in his care: may your pilgrim people follow him, strong in faith, sustained by hope, and one in the love that binds us to you; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen
Thomas Ken, Bishop of Bath and Wells (Monday 8th June 2020)
Today the Church of England remembers Thomas Ken. Thomas was born at Berkhampstead in the year 1637 and he was educated at New College Oxford. After being ordained a priest in 1662, he first worked in a poor parish in Winchester and then moved to Winchester College for ten years where he served as chaplain to King Charles II for two years.
He was then consecrated as Bishop of Bath and Wells but this was at a time of great upheaval for both the Church and the country. Thomas found himself unable in good conscience to agree to changes that were being made, and in the course of his lifetime was both rewarded and punished for his firm adherence to his principles, even suffering imprisonment such was his integrity.
Thomas became a private tutor and spent the rest of his life in quiet retirement, anxious to avoid trouble. He renounced his rights of being a bishop and he wrote many hymns, still much used, and died on 19th March in 1711.
The prayer of the day O God, from whom all blessings flow, by whose providence we are kept and by whose grace we are directed: help us, through the example of your servant Thomas Ken, faithfully to keep your word, humbly to accept adversity and steadfastly to worship you; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Bible Readings on Trinity Sunday (7th June 2020)
Message from Fr Mark
Trinity Sunday reminds us of our interconnectedness and our dependability upon each other. I hope and pray that you are continuing to both receive and give support at this time. This is perhaps more critical than at any other time in recent history as these times continue to be challenging for so many. Perhaps it is also a time to remember the words of John Wesley who said, “There is no such thing as a solitary Christian.” Take care, keep safe and well and let your love of Christ be evident to all. My prayers are with you all. God bless Fr Mark
First Reading: 2 Corinthians 13:11-13 Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. Gospel Reading: Matthew 28:16-20 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
Rublev’s Icon (Trinity Sunday - 7th June 2020)
The above is one of the most famous of all Christian icons. It was ‘written’ (icons aren’t painted) in the late 14th century by Andrei Rublev, a monk at the monastery of Zagorsk, near Moscow. It’s called ‘The Hospitality of Abraham’ and it is based upon the story in Genesis chapter 18 about the three mysterious figures who are entertained by Abraham and Sarah who announce to them the birth of Isaac. But what do YOU suppose this icon is really all about?
The icon’s more common name is – ‘The Trinity’ and it is probably the most famous attempt at a depiction of the Holy Trinity. It shows the three figures all seated around a table but at that same table there is a space, a space that awaits another person. It is suggested that the idea behind this is that each one of us is being invited to sit at the table with them.
We are called and invited to be part of the life-changing and life-giving reality that is the Holy Trinity. We are all invited to be part of the powerful relationship that flows between God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. The Trinity is a matter of love, not logic; it is a matter of friendship, not facts.
In John’s Gospel, we are told that Jesus said to his disciples, “I still have many things to say to you.” Finally, perhaps the most suitable and appropriate way then to end a reflection on this icon, is to reflect upon this question: if you were to sit in that place that awaits you, what would Jesus say to you?
"All sorts of people are fond of repeating the Christian statement that ‘God is love.’ But they seem not to notice that the words 'God is love' have no real meaning unless God contains at least two persons. Love is something that one person has for another person. If God was a single person, then before the world was made, God was not love." (C S Lewis)
Saint Norbert (6th June 2020)
Saint Norbert was born in Germany in the year 1080. He was born into a noble family and he lived a comfortable life avoiding all hardships and seeking any opportunity that came his way to enjoy himself. He even accepted a post as a Canon in the church because of the financial benefits that came with it and his increased standing in the courts of the day. He did, however, hesitate at becoming a priest and the responsibilities and workload that came with that particular vocation.
It was whilst he was riding a horse, however, that his life was to change forever. A thunderstorm suddenly arose and a sudden flash of lightning split the dark and his horse threw Norbert to the ground. For almost an hour, Norbert lay motionless and even the rain soaking his clothes and the thunder did not bring him back to consciousness. When he awoke his first words were, "Lord, what do you want me to do?" These are the words that Saint Paul had spoken on the road to Damascus prior to his conversion. In response to his question, Norbert heard in his heart, "Turn from evil and do good. Seek peace and pursue it."
This experience humbled Norbert and he renounced his life at court and, at the age of 35, he became a priest. Reluctantly, Norbert went on to become an Archbishop and worked hard to bring about reform in the Church and to bring about peace and reconciliation among enemies. Through his example and preaching, he worked tirelessly to bring about religious and moral reforms. He worked diligently and courageously continued his work to bring about reform until his early death at the age of just 53 on 6th June 1134.
Prayer of the day Father, O God, who made the Bishop Saint Norbert a servant of your Church outstanding in his prayer and pastoral zeal, grant, we ask, that by the help of his intercession, the flock of the faithful may always find shepherds after your own heart and be fed in the pastures of salvation. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Saint Boniface (5th June 2020)
Boniface was born at Crediton in Devon in about the year 675. He was given the name Winfrith at birth but he took the name Boniface when he entered the monastery in Exeter as a young man. He became a Latin scholar and poet and was ordained a priest when he was thirty years old.
He rejected a safe and comfortable life in the monastery and instead gave up being elected abbot to devote his life to the conversion of the Germanic tribes. He became a missionary to Germany in the year 716 where Paganism was a way of life. He also founded a number of Benedictine monasteries across southern Germany and they became houses of prayer and places of great learning.
It is often thought that the life of a missionary is thought of solely in terms of bringing new persons to Christ. For Boniface, however, his greatest challenges lay not only in physical suffering or death, but in the painful, thankless, bewildering task of reforming the Church. Boniface successfully achieved this and managed to restore the obedience of the clergy to their bishops and also successfully managed to organise the whole German Church.
He became known as the Apostle of the Germans and it is said of Boniface that he had a deeper influence upon European history than any other Englishman. He died on this day in the year 754.
Prayer of the day God our Redeemer, who called your servant Boniface to preach the gospel among the German people and to build up your Church in holiness: grant that we may preserve in our hearts that faith which he taught with his words and sealed with his blood, and profess it in lives dedicated to your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
You might need to click on the following images to see them fully and then use the arrows to move on to the next one.
Saint Francis Caracciolo (4th June 2020)
Francis Caracciolo was born on 13th October in the year 1563. A medical crisis changed his life forever when he developed a skin condition that he thought was leprosy — one of the most dreaded diseases of the day. He vowed that if he recovered he would go on to devote his life to God. The skin condition proved to be a false alarm and it cleared up completely. Convinced his recovery was miraculous, Francis kept his promise to God and entered the religious life at the age of 22. Francis studied for the priesthood in Naples and during this time he met a man who wanted to establish a new religious community that would focus on both the active and the contemplative life. Francis helped draw up Rules for the new Order of the Minor Clerks Regular. Members of the Order agreed among themselves never to seek leadership within the group, though Francis was elected many times to serve in such positions.
In spite of his high position in his order, he put his hand to the most ordinary tasks. Even though he held the position of Superior of the Order, he welcomed opportunities to pitch in with tasks that lacked status or glamour and he insisted on sharing simple tasks: sweeping rooms, making beds, washing dishes. As a priest, Francis spent many hours listening to those who sought him out for guidance. He gave away most of his possessions to the needy and he was also known to beg in the streets for the poor. He died on this day in the year 1608.
Prayer of the day O God, You adorned blessed Francis, the founder of a new Order, with a zeal for prayer and a love of penance; grant that your servants may make such progress in the imitation of his virtues, that by constant prayer and bringing their bodies into subjection, they may deserve to attain heavenly glory. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who being God, lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.
Saint Charles Lwanga and his Companions (3rd June 2020)
Today, the Church remembers twenty-two Ugandan martyrs. We remember Saint Charles Lwanga and his young companions. Charles protected, encouraged and taught the Christian faith to young men during the time they were imprisoned for refusing the ruler of Uganda’s demands. It is said that during their imprisonment Charles’s courage and belief in God inspired them to be faithful and they sang hymns on the way to their place of execution. Charles and his companions were burned to death on 3rd June 1886. Barely a century later, the peoples of the same land were once again persecuted by a tyrant who put many of the Christian leaders and followers of Christ to death. Anglicans and Roman Catholics unite on this day to remember those who witnessed in Uganda for Christ, even unto death.
Pause for thought Like Charles Lwanga, we are all called to be teachers and witnesses to Christian living by the examples of our own lives. As Christians, we are also called upon to spread the word of God, whether by word or through deed. Do we remain courageous and unshakable in our lives as we live our faith during times of great difficulty? Do we live as Christ lived?
Prayer of the day O God, who has made the blood of Martyrs the seed of Christians, mercifully grant that the field which is your Church, watered by the blood shed by Saint Charles Lwanga and his companions, may be fertile and always yield you an abundant harvest. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Saints Marcellinus and Peter (2nd June 2020)
Marcellinus was a priest who lived in Rome in about the year 300. One day he was approached by Peter, who was in prison because of his Christian faith and asked to baptise one of the prison guards whom Peter had converted to Christianity. When the prison governor learned that Marcellinus had baptised Peter’s converts, both men were taken to court.
This all took place during the persecution of Emperor Diocletian and both Marcellinus and Peter were severely rebuked. During their hearing they were threatened that unless they would deny Christ, they would be executed. When they both refused to make an offering to false gods they were tortured and then killed. Several years later, Constantine, the new Christian Emperor, had a church built over the place where these martyrs were buried.
Prayer of the day O God, who surrounds us with protection through the glorious confession of the Martyrs Saints Marcellinus and Peter, grant that we may profit by imitating them and be upheld by their prayer. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Saint Justin Martyr (1st June 2020)
Justin was born into a pagan family at the beginning of the second century in Palestine. As a young man he explored many different philosophies but at the age of thirty he became a Christian. Justin never ended his quest for the truth and even after he had converted to Christianity he continued to wear the distinctive dress of a professional philosopher.
As a young man, he was principally attracted to the philosophical school of Plato. However, he found that the Christian religion answered all of the great questions that he had about life and existence better than any of the philosophers.
After this realisation and after years of studying various pagan philosophies he taught Christianity first in Ephesus and later in Rome. He became an outstanding defender of the Christian faith and always sought to reconcile the claims of faith and reason. He is considered to be the first Christian thinker to enter into serious dialogue with the other intellectual disciplines of his day.
It was at Rome in the year 165 that he and some of his disciples were condemned for their staunch adherence to the Christian faith and were martyred.
Prior to his death, and surrounded by his disciples, he was asked, “Do you think that by dying you will enter heaven and be rewarded by God?” “I do not think,” was Justin’s answer; “I know.” Traditionally, Justin is often surnamed 'Martyr' because of his two-fold witness to Christ, through both his writings and his manner of death.
The prayer for the day God our Redeemer, who through the folly of the cross taught your martyr Justin the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ: remove from us every kind of error that we, like him, may be firmly grounded in the faith, and make your name known to all peoples; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Bible Readings on Pentecost Sunday (31st May 2020)
First Reading Acts 2:1-21 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God's deeds of power." All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "What does this mean?" But others sneered and said, "They are filled with new wine." But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, "Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o'clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: "In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord's great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.' Gospel Reading John 20:19-23 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."
Reflection for Pentecost
The story of the first Christian Pentecost is told in Acts 2. The believers – not many of them, as they could all fit in one house – experienced a strong wind blowing through the place, they saw tongues of fire alighting on each one of them and they talked in 'other languages'. In the next section, where Peter speaks to the crowds from all over the known world, he appears to speak in just one language, but everyone understands what he says. This passage is loaded with symbolic meanings. One of them goes all the way back to one of the earliest chapters of the Bible, Genesis 11. That's where we read the story of the Tower of Babel: human beings decide to build a tower 'that reaches the sky, so that we can make a name for ourselves and not be scattered all over the earth'.
In the story, God stops the building, saying: 'Soon they will be able to do anything they want! Let us go down and mix up their language so that they will not understand one another'. In other words, their potential for boundless achievement is closed down because they no longer speak the same language. At Pentecost, though, this ancient limitation is reversed so that 'all of us hear them speaking in our own languages about the great things that God has done!' The Holy Spirit brings together Christians from different races, tribes, languages and nations and makes them into one people who speak the same language. All over the world, Christians are praying 'Thy Kingdom Come'. All over the world, we are praying to the same God in the name of his son Jesus Christ in the power of the same Holy Spirit.
The Spirit releases the boundless potential of human beings as God erases the barriers between us. Pentecost marks the beginning of a new way of living and working together for the glory of God.
Question . . . What potential lies dormant within you?
Go and share God’s love and remember:
Bring hope in these challenging times!
Saint Joan of Arc (30th May 2020) Joan of Arc was born in 1412. She was born to pious parents of the French peasant class in the obscure village of Domremy. At the age of 14, she was said to have heard the voices of particular saints telling her to save France. At that time France had been caught up in the Hundred Years War with England. Though at first she was dismissed, her credibility increased and she led troops into battle and they were successful. This victory increased the morale of the army and enhanced the reputation of Joan.
After some failures in battle, she lost favour and was eventually sold by the Duke of Burgundy to the English, tried in a court for heresy and on this day in 1431, Joan was burned at the stake in Rouen, and her ashes were scattered in the Seine River. Twenty-five years later, the pope at the time formally declared her innocent.
Remembered by most people for her military exploits, Joan was a deeply spiritual person and has been the subject of many books, plays, operas and movies. She was canonized and made a saint in 1920.
Sacred Space is a prayer website which has achieved considerable fame since its foundation in 1999. It is an online prayer community which helps bring Ignatian Spirituality into our daily lives. At the Sacred Space website (https://www.sacredspace.ie/coronavirus) a whole host of resources are being offered to help us during these uncertain times. The following reflection is taken from their website:
Coronavirus – a reflection
The Coronavirus has come as a huge shock to us and, within a very short time, it has challenged our attitudes and behaviours radically. Here in Sacred Space, during these uncertain times, we want to reassure you of our continued prayers for all our worldwide community.
In one sense, life continues as normal – and yet it’s not normal at all. Should I take the bus? Can I safely go out for a walk? Should I visit my neighbour or my friend? That cough I notice, could it be the virus? What of the children’s education? What if I lose my job? Are we going to have a recession? How long will this last? Will we ever get back to real normality again?
Sometimes, the anxiety surrounding the publicity is as contagious as the virus itself, spreading fear and nervousness among the community. In the developed world, in particular, we are in a state of shock. In many ways, we have come to believe that we are in control of our lives, that we have a cure for every disease, that we can fend off all the dangers that threaten our securities. We have built up solid walls to protect us against every unwanted guest, but now our walls have been breached, and the unwanted guest is here. Our securities no longer seem so secure, something in our world is out of our control and many don’t know where to turn.
We hope and pray, that we will soon find a vaccine for this disease, and that it will be made widely available for everyone who needs it, rich or poor. But in the meantime, we can reflect on our shock. It’s a reminder to us that we are never in total control of our lives, that we can never eliminate every misfortune or heal every illness. Ultimately, our trust has to be in something more solid than we can ever find here on earth. Ultimately, God alone is our security. ‘God is our refuge and our strength, a helper close at hand in times of distress’ (Ps.46:1). Trust Him.
Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury (28th May 2020)
Lanfranc was born in Italy around the year 1005. At the age of thirty-five, he became a monk in Normandy. In 1062 William of Normandy appointed him an Abbot and then in 1070 he was appointed as Archbishop of Canterbury.
Lanfranc was a great statesman but he never forgot his humble monastic roots and during his time as Archbishop he embarked upon a successful reform and reorganisation of the English Church. He was an outstanding individual in every way, as a scholar, an author, a politician and as an Archbishop. He constantly exhibited sound sense, rare tact and wisdom that marked this great man amongst his fellows, and that gained for him a memory enduring through eight centuries even to our own day.
Sadly, efforts for Lanfranc to receive the status of saint never seem to have got very far. He was, however, honoured in 1931 when the Archbishop Lanfranc School was opened in Croydon and various buildings and roads are named after him. He died in the year 1089.
The Prayer of The Day Almighty God, by whose grace Lanfranc, kindled with the fire of your love, became a burning and shining light in the Church; inflame us with the same spirit of discipline and love, that we may ever walk before you as children of light. Amen.
Saint Augustine of Canterbury (27th May 2020)
When Gregory became pope, his desire to convert the English to Christianity led him to commission a group of monks to take the Gospel message to England. To lead the mission, Gregory chose a man for whom he had gained respect when he had spent time at a monastery in Rome, a monk named Augustine. At the instigation of Pope Gregory the Great in the year 596, Augustine was sent from Rome as the leader of a group of monks to re-evangelise the English Church. Augustine appears not to have been a very confident person and he wanted to turn back, but Pope Gregory's firm resolution held the group to their mission.
Until this time Augustine had followed the quiet and disciplined monastic life of work, prayer and study of Scriptures. Out of a sense of duty he responded to Pope Gregory's directive and left the peace of the monastery with a contingent of monks and headed for England. Augustine and his band of monks finally landed in Ebbsfleet, East Kent in the summer of 597.
Upon landing they were well received by King Ethelbert. The King was impressed by Augustine's courage and within a year, at Christmas of 597, Ethelbert agreed to accept Baptism and became a Christian himself. Ten thousand of his people followed his example, giving Augustine a base out of which to operate. King Ethelbert built Augustine a monastery and encouraged him to make his headquarters at Canterbury in Kent rather than London. Once established Augustine became the first Archbishop of Canterbury. Augustine died sometime between 604 and 609.
The Prayer of The Day Almighty God, whose servant Augustine was sent as the apostle of the English people: grant that as he laboured in the Spirit to preach Christ's gospel in this land so all who hear the good news may strive to make your truth known in all the world; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Saint Philip Neri (26th May 2020)
Saint Philip Neri was born into a wealthy family in Florence on 21st July 1515. When he was 18 he had a religious experience and from then onward, he no longer cared for things of the world. Instead, he went to live in Rome and decided to give his life entirely to serving God. He studied hard and lived a simple and austere life. He lived the life of a virtual hermit in the Roman catacombs beneath the city. He was ordained in 1551 and he soon became a popular priest and spiritual guide.
It is said that he had a magnetic personality and many would come to hear him speak and over time many other priests were attracted to his teaching and in 1575 the Congregation of the Oratory was founded. Philip wasn’t content only to discuss holiness, but he was keen that he and his companions live a holy life. He was especially conscious of the needs of the sick, and he and his companions would visit them in hospital. At this time, conditions in hospitals were grim and patients relied on volunteers to nurse them.
Saint Philip was noted for his deep spirituality and his playful sense of humour. He believed that Christians should strive to be joyful and he wrote that, "A joyful heart is more easily made perfect than a downcast one." Philip was so popular and respected that he was treated almost like a living saint. This kind and gentle priest gave his life to serving others and died on this day in the year 1595. He was made a saint on 12th March 1622.
Pause for thought Saint Philip wrote that, ‘we should not let a day pass without doing some good in it.’ During these times, which are difficult times for so many, what good will you do today?
Saint Bede the Venerable (25th May 2020)
The Venerable Bede, also known as Saint Bede, is widely regarded as the greatest of all the Anglo-Saxon scholars and almost everything that we know of his life is from his own writings, from the final chapter of his book Ecclesiastical History of the English People. He was born in Northumbria around the year 670 and when he was just seven years old, his family gave him to the Benedictine monastery of Saint Peter and Saint Paul at Wearmouth. He then moved to Jarrow, where he lived as a monk for the rest of his life. His natural talents along with the instruction of scholarly, saintly monks, produced a saint and an extraordinary scholar, perhaps the most outstanding of his day.
Bede was deeply versed in all of the sciences of his times: natural philosophy, the philosophical writings of Aristotle, astronomy, mathematics, grammar, history, the lives of the saints and especially, Holy Scripture. He is one of the few saints to be honoured as such during his lifetime. Bede devoted himself entirely to learning, writing and teaching and besides the many books that he copied he wrote 45 of his own with his book, Ecclesiastical History of the English, being considered his most important and his greatest legacy to us. Because of this particular work, he is often referred to as ‘The Father of English History.’ In fact, his writings were filled with such faith and learning that even during his own lifetime, a Church council ordered them to be read publicly in churches.
Although eagerly sought by kings and other notables for his wisdom and guidance, Bede managed to remain in his own monastery until his death. Only once did he leave for a few months in order to teach in the school of the Archbishop of York. Bede was renowned for his monastic faithfulness and his love of teaching. He died peacefully in 735 and in 1899 he was declared a Doctor of the Church. He is the only native of Great Britain to achieve this title.
The Prayer of The Day "God our Maker, whose Son Jesus Christ gave to your servant Bede grace to drink in with joy the Word that leads us to know you and to love you: in your goodness grant that we also may come at length to you, the source of all wisdom, and stand before your face; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen"
"The Venerable Bede Translates John" by James Doyle Penrose (1862-1932)
Bible Readings on 24th May 2020 Please refer to the Weekly prayers on the Prayers link shown above, as well as the Spiritual Communion Service sheet for today which is on the Services page.
First Reading Acts 1:6-14 So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?" He replied, "It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven." Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey away. When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers. Gospel Reading John 17:1-11 After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed. "I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.
Saint Petroc (23rd May 2020)
Saint Petroc is often referred to as the ‘captain of Cornish saints'. Petroc is thought to have been the son of a Welsh king who became a monk and went to Ireland to study. He made a pilgrimage to Rome and Jerusalem and during his life he founded a monastery at Padstow, a name derived from Petroc's Stow, and later another at Bodmin. Most of his life, however, seems to have been lived in solitude and silence as a hermit, though he travelled regularly to visit monasteries. He died at Treravel and was buried at Padstow. A great deal is known about the life of Saint Petroc and two books were written in the middle ages about him and recently discovered in a library in Paris. Along with Saint Piran and Saint Michael, he is one of the patron saints of Cornwall and many churches in Devon and Cornwall are dedicated to his memory.
Ignatian Examen Prayer (22nd May 2020)
The Examen is a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day. It is used to detect God’s presence and discern His direction for us and it is a method described by Saint Ignatius of Loyola in his classic text, the Spiritual Exercises.
Although the Examen is an ancient practice in the Church, the Ignatian Solidarity Network have taken this traditional method of prayerful awareness and have adapted it to the new set of circumstances many of us find ourselves in at the moment with the coronavirus pandemic. It is a short, easy way to reflect on your day and become more mindful about where you are experiencing grace or goodness and where there is room in your actions and life for growth. Especially in times of uncertainty and rapid change, taking time to reflect becomes essential.
O Christ Jesus, when all is darkness and we feel our weakness and helplessness, give us the sense of Your presence, Your love, and Your strength. Help us to have perfect trust in Your protecting love and strengthening power, so that nothing may frighten or worry us, for, living close to You, we shall see Your hand, Your purpose, Your will through all things. Amen. (Saint Ignatius of Loyola)
You are all in my prayers at this time. Fr Mark
Feast of The Ascension of The Lord (21st May 2020)
The Ascension of the Lord is today. We are invited to join in with a time of intercessory prayer lead by Archbishop Justin Welby, Archbishop Sentamu and Cardinal Vincent Nichols today (Thursday 21st May), on the Feast of The Ascension at 10:30-11:00 am. If you would like to join – please register here TKC Intercessory Prayer Webinar
The Feast of the Ascension is celebrated on the 40th day after Easter Sunday and is the day upon which Christians commemorate Jesus’s ascension into heaven as according to Saint Mark (16:19), Saint Luke (24:51) and in the Book of Acts (1:2).
Jesus promised the disciples that they would soon receive the Holy Spirit and asked them to remain in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit had come. As he blessed them he began to ascend into heaven to take his seat at the right hand of God. The Ascension is meaningful to Christians as it signifies the end of his redemptive work on Earth and allowed him to prepare a place for followers in heaven. The Ascension has been a popular subject in Christian art for many centuries and the ascending Christ is often seen carrying a banner or making a blessing gesture towards the earthly group below him. This signifies that he is blessing the entire Church.
The Prayer For The Day Grant, we pray, almighty God, that as we believe your only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into the heavens, so we in heart and mind may also ascend and with him continually dwell; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen
Saint Bernadine of Siena (20th May 2020)
Bernadine was born in Italy, in September 1380. At the age of 22 he entered the Franciscan Order and became a priest two years later. For almost a dozen years he lived in solitude and prayer, but his gifts ultimately caused him to be sent to preach. He devoted his life to living the Christian faith following the example of the great Saint Francis of Assisi and was a missionary and a renowned preacher. For more than 30 years, he preached all over Italy and became so popular that he was considered the greatest preacher in all of Italy and would attract crowds of up to 30,000 who would gather to hear his elegant and captivating sermons. As well as preaching, he travelled widely and sought to bring peace wherever he went.
Bernardine was very aware of the needs of the people at the time and when the plague struck his hometown of Siena, with the help of other friars he nursed patients there for four months. He himself managed to escape the plague, but was so exhausted afterwards that a fever confined him to bed for several months.
Bernardine was renowned for his holiness and his intelligence and he strongly emphasised learning and further study. He returned to preaching for the last two years of his life and died whilst travelling on 20th May, 1444.
An early painting of St Bernardine, c 1444, by Pietro di Giovanni d'Ambrogio.
Saint Dunstan (19th May 2020)
Yesterday we celebrated the life and witness of an Italian saint. Today, however, we celebrate an English saint, Saint Dunstan. Dunstan was born in Baltonsborough, Somerset, just a few miles south of Glastonbury, around 910. He was raised in a noble family and was educated by monks. He went on to become a Benedictine monk himself and later a priest after being ordained by his uncle, Saint Alphege, the Bishop of Winchester.
Dunstan lived a solitary life as a hermit for a short time until he was made Abbot of Glastonbury by the king. As Abbot, he made the abbey a centre of learning and a respected school that housed many scholars of the time. He himself was a gifted individual who was a musician, a composer, a metal worker and also a manuscript illuminator.
Dunstan helped to launch a great revival of monastic life in England. Starting with Glastonbury, Dunstan restored discipline to several monasteries and promoted study and teaching. He went on to achieve great political power and he rose to Bishop of Worcester and London before finally being appointed as Archbishop of Canterbury by the king.
When he died in the year 988, Dunstan was buried in Canterbury Cathedral, where his tomb was a popular place of pilgrimage throughout the Middle Ages. Until Thomas a Becket later eclipsed Dunstan's fame. he was the most popular English saint.
The Prayer for today Almighty God, who raised up Dunstan to be a true shepherd of the flock, a restorer of monastic life and a faithful counsellor to those in authority: give to all pastors the same gifts of your Holy Spirit that they may be true servants of Christ and of all his people; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Pope Saint John I (18th May 2020)
John was born in Tuscany, Italy, and following the death of the pope in the year 523 AD, John was elected to follow him. He became pope at an extremely difficult time for the Church. It was a time when the Church was under attack from what became known as the Arian Heresy, this being an idea that denied the Divinity of Christ. It was also a time when Christians were barely tolerated by the Emperor of the time.
When the Emperor began to impose measures on the Church, John was called to head a delegation to resolve the issue. Very little is known about the outcome of the negotiations but on his way home from them John was imprisoned. Shortly after his imprisonment, he died, apparently from the treatment he received during his time in prison. His body was taken back to Rome for burial and he was laid to rest in the Basilica of Saint Peter.
John’s witness was that he suffered because of a power-seeking Emperor. Jesus suffered because of the suspicions of those who were threatened by his freedom, openness, and powerlessness.
Let us hope that we will also have the strength to stand for what is right.
Bible Readings on 17th May 2020
First Reading Acts 17:22-31 Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, "Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, "To an unknown god.' What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For "In him we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your own poets have said, "For we too are his offspring.' Since we are God's offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead."
Gospel Reading John 14:15-21 "If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. "I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them."
Praying With Nature (16th May 2020) Almost everyone that I speak to at the moment is spending time in their garden. This reminded me of a poem that I read many years ago called ‘God’s Garden’ and it was written by Dorothy Frances Gurney, an English poet and hymn writer:
God's Garden The Lord God planted a garden In the first white days of the world, And He set there an angel warden In a garment of light enfurled. So near to the peace of Heaven, That the hawk might nest with the wren, For there in the cool of the even God walked with the first of men. And I dream that these garden-closes With their shade and their sun-flecked sod And their lilies and bowers of roses, Were laid by the hand of God. The kiss of the sun for pardon, The song of the birds for mirth, One is nearer God's heart in a garden Than anywhere else on earth. For He broke it for us in a garden Under the olive-trees Where the angel of strength was the warden And the soul of the world found ease. (Dorothy Frances Gurney)
It’s perhaps the lines from the last but one verse that are most familiar as these words are often seen on signs and garden ornaments at garden centres:
One is nearer God's heart in a garden than anywhere else on earth.
Perhaps you would like to try the following method of prayer either during your time in the garden, after gardening or from the comfort of your home. It’s based on the Ignatian method of prayer and it’s taken from the Pathways to God website which has many wonderful resources to help you in your Spiritual journey: https://www.pathwaystogod.org/resources
Praying With Nature
Praying with a ‘Piece of Nature’ - this is a prayer of noticing and of imagination:
A ‘piece of nature’ might be a pot plant, a bunch of flowers, something in your garden (if you have one) the contents of a window box or plant hanger, a bird feeder, something you see on your walk (such as a dandelion growing in a crack in the pavement), a shell, pine cone, or any other natural thing. Or, I might see something outside on a walk (a flower, leaf or stone) and take it home or take a photo of it. Alternatively, I might choose to pray with something I see online, eg on social media such as a photo or video of wildlife. In this reflection, I use what is helpful and leave the rest. If my attention strays, I quietly return to my piece of nature. I take my time. Prayer
I take the piece of nature I have selected to pray with and find a space where I can be alone and get comfortable. I do whatever helps me to become still. I ask God to draw me into this experience with an open heart and to guide me. I gaze on my piece of nature and let go of other things around it. I take time over this. I sense how God is gazing on me as I gaze on God’s piece of nature; God’s creation. Where does my eye first focus when I look at it? Then where does my eye travel to? I take in the whole of the piece of nature. I notice colours, forms, textures, patterns, light, shade, contrasts, movement …what words or phrases would I use to describe what I see? What does my piece of nature smell of? Or, if I’m sitting with a photo, can I imagine a smell? Does my piece of nature have a sound? Can I imagine a sound? If possible, I touch it. If I can’t, a memory might come to mind of touching, or being touched by, nature? I notice this memory. I use my imagination to place myself in my piece of nature, as it were. I become different forms or parts of it and I sense where I am most comfortable. Where do I find rest? What is it like to ‘journey’ in my piece of nature? I imagine this piece of nature can speak. I listen to it. What does it say to me? I stay with what most ‘affects’ me; what most invites me. I speak to God present in me. I try to name what is emerging. I listen to God. I rest in God’s loving presence. I gently withdraw from this prayer. Review
After my time of prayer I reflect on my prayer, maybe over a cup of tea, using the questions below if they are helpful:
What is staying with me as I reflect on my prayer?
What do I want to give thanks for?
How am I drawn to respond to God?
Might I write, draw or make something?
Fr Mark (Acknowledgement: Praying with a ‘Piece of Nature’ - Pathways to God.)
‘And the People Stayed Home’ by Kitty O'Meara (15th May 2020)
"And the people stayed home. And they listened, and read books, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And they listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently. And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal. And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed."
Today the Church celebrates the life and witness of Saint Matthias. After the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot, the apostles brought their number back to twelve by choosing Matthias to replace him. He was chosen by lot from amongst the disciples and in the Book of Acts we are told that the apostles prayed and then said, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry which Judas left to go where he belongs.” Acts (1:24)after which they drew lots and chose Matthias. This had to take place as the number of twelve had to be restored so that they might, ‘sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel’. The point of being chosen by lot, rather than by some democratic method, indicated the election or choosing by God, rather than by some human reasoning. Matthias is not mentioned by name anywhere else in the New Testament; however, according to tradition he preached the Christian faith in Cappadocia and in regions bordering the Caspian Sea. Tradition tells us he suffered martyrdom in present day Ethiopia, where he was stoned and then beheaded.
The Apostles cast lots to choose the replacement for Judas.
Prayer of the day Almighty God, who in the place of the Judas chose your faithful servant Matthias to be of the number of the Twelve: preserve your Church from false apostles and, by the ministry of faithful pastors and teachers, keep us steadfast in your truth; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Saint John the Silent (13th May 2020)
Saint John was born in the year 452 AD and is revered as a saint in both the Orthodox Church and in the Eastern Catholic Church. John was unusually devout even from childhood but he did not pursue the career path that his family had intended. At the age of just 18 both of his parents died and he went on to build a monastery where he was joined by ten other men living like monks. Under his leadership, they lived a life of work and prayer and he developed a reputation for his holiness. At the age of 28 he was made a Bishop and this was a post he held for 9 years. He decided to step down from his responsibilities, however, so that he could return to a solitary life of prayer and silence. At 38 years of age he joined a monastery in Jerusalem and for the rest of his life he constantly strove to live a life of obscurity and humility. Above all, he devoted his life to prayer and speaking with God and found only bitterness and emptiness in anything else. It is said that Saint John died in 558 AD at the age of one hundred and four having lived in solitude for seventy six years interrupted only for the nine years that he was a bishop.
Saint Leopold Mandic (12th May 2020)
Saint Leopold was born on 12th May in the year 1866. He was born in what is now modern-day Montenegro. Although he suffered from several health problems, Leopold joined the Franciscans and was ordained a priest. Although he had wanted to be a missionary, because of his ill health, this was not possible and he spent most of his life in Italy, living in Padua from 1906 until the end of his life. For many years he suffered from severe arthritis, poor eyesight and stomach problems. Despite this, however, he developed tremendous Spiritual strength and many, including Bishops, would visit him for Spiritual Direction and to benefit from his wisdom. He was known to spend hours in prayer and would visit the sick in nursing homes, hospitals and homes giving words of advice, encouragement and reminding them to have faith. In addition, he worked tirelessly for the unity of Christians and the cause for unity were constantly in his prayers. Leopold died on 30th July 1942, and was made a saint in 1982.
“Anything done without compassion, without a spirit of forgiveness, without love, is not Christian”(Saint Leopold Mandic)
An Inspiring Story (11th May 2020)
Image of six year old boy praying on his knees in the street for the end of the Coronavirus, goes viral.
This story happened on Junin Street in the town of Guadalupe, in north western Peru. It was in this place that the image of a child, kneeling alone in the middle of the street, managed to move the heart of entire social networks because deep down he was humbly asking God for an end to this oppression that is shaking the entire world: the coronavirus pandemic. Claudia Alejandra Mora Abanto, who took the photograph of this young boy’s special moment on the street, says, “Today in the neighborhood we came together to pray and ask God for help with the emergency situation we are living, so that in this way we could share hope and faith. I took advantage of the minutes before the people went out to their doors to pray, to take a photo of all the candles. It was a satisfying moment when I found this boy and, taking advantage of his concentration, I took the picture. Then I asked him what he was doing, and he answered in his innocence that he was asking God for a wish on his own, and that he went out because there was a lot of noise in his house, so otherwise his wish would not be fulfilled.” She continued, “I was left with a smile on my face, with my faith and hope at 1000%, but above all I was delighted to be a witness of the love and trust of that child towards God. How beautiful it is that these virtues are instilled in them, even in difficult times.” Sourced from: https://aleteia.org/2020/04/17/six-year-old-boy-praying-on-his-knees-in-the-street-for-the-end-of-the-coronavirus-goes-viral/
Bible Readings for Sunday 10th May 2020
Please refer to the Weekly prayers on the Prayer page using this link. Also, the Spiritual Communion Service sheet for today is on the Services page using this link.
First Reading Acts 7:55-60
Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. "Look," he said, "I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!" But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he died.
Gospel Reading John 14:1-14
Jesus said, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going." Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him." Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.”
Saint John of Avila (9th May 2020)
Today we remember Saint John of Avila. John was born in Spain and at the age of just 14 he was sent to university to study Law. His life, however, went in a different direction and he went on to study philosophy and theology before being ordained as a priest. After both of his parents died, John was left with a great fortune but instead of having the wealth himself, he sold his family home and instead gave his inheritance away to the poor. In 1527, he became a missionary in the southernmost region of Spain, in Andalusia, and during his time there he developed a reputation as a wise Spiritual Director and priest. Throughout his ministry, he wrote many letters of guidance and his mystical writings have been translated into several languages. He was declared a Saint in 1970 and a Doctor of the Church on 7th October, 2012. This being a title given to certain saints indicating that the Church believes that their writings are useful to Christians, "in any age of the Church". Almighty and eternal God, who gave your holy Church blessed John of Avila as Doctor, grant that what he taught when moved by the divine Spirit may always stay firm in our hearts; and, as by your gift we embrace him as our patron, may we also have him as our defender to entreat your mercy. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen
Saint Peter of Tarentaise (8th May 2020)
Today we remember and celebrate the life of Saint Peter of Tarentaise. Coincidentally, there have been two Saint Peter(s) of Tarentaise throughout history; one was a pope and the other, the one that we remember today, a monk from the 12th century. Peter was born in the year 1102. He was born not far from the beautiful Cistercian Abbey of Bonnevaux. His father often offered hospitality to monks in his home if they had to leave the monastery on business and as a consequence the young Peter met many monks. In 1122, at the age of 20, he joined the Cistercians at Bonnevaux. He rose to be abbot of the monastery and in 1142 he was appointed Archbishop of Tarentaise. Peter brought reform to the region and tackled many issues that raged at that time. He promoted education, built a hospice and also founded a charity that distributed food to the poor and needy. After about a decade serving as bishop, Peter ‘disappeared’ for a year and lived quietly at an abbey in Switzerland where no one knew his true identity as a bishop. When he was eventually found out, he reluctantly left his life of silence and prayer and returned to his post as bishop where he again focused many of his energies on the poor. Because of the respect in which he was held, he was asked to assist in negotiations between kings in an attempt to prevent war. It was whilst he was undertaking this duty that he died on 14th September 1174. Reflection Saint Peter of Tarentaise was revered as a saint during his lifetime; such was his humility and devotion to the care of others. I’m certain that we all know someone who craves power, authority and honour. However, we are always reminded by outstanding individuals like Peter, that humility and the avoidance of glory is the true way of the Gospel.
VE Day 75th Anniversary Celebrations (A reflection - then, now and our faith.) (8th May 2020)
This year’s Bank Holiday forms part of a three-day weekend of commemorative events. We come together today to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe, when the sounds of war fell silent on this continent. We are conscious of our need for God’s forgiveness for the sin and the desire to dominate others that leads to conflict between people and war between nations.
Today we remember those who contributed to the war effort and safeguarded the Home Front - the many soldiers, sailors, and airmen who paid the ultimate price and gave their lives; restraining evil and opposing tyranny. As we remember those who gathered on that first Victory day, glad of each other’s company and grateful for the laughter and love that would follow times of sadness and loss, we give thanksgiving for the years of peace that the nations of Europe have enjoyed since the Second World War. On this day, as well as marking the Allies’ victory in 1945, the bank holiday serves as an opportunity to pay tribute to those who have not only served in the past but those who continue to serve in the UK Armed Forces. On VE Day we remember the radio announcement by Prime Minister Winson Churchill on 8th May 1945 at 3 pm when he said that the war in Europe had come to an end, following Germany’s surrender the day before. It must have been an emotional day but one that the millions of people had been waiting for. In his announcement, Winston Churchill said, "We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing, but let us not forget for a moment the toil and efforts that lie ahead."
This photo shows Winston Churchill on the balcony of Buckingham Palace alongside the Royal Family.
Huge numbers of people surged down The Mall to Buckingham Palace and lots of people were dressed in red, white and blue. They cheered as King George VI and his family, including Princess Elizabeth (the current queen) and Princess Margaret, came out onto the balcony to greet everybody. In total, the King and Queen made eight appearances on the balcony, and at one point were joined by Winston Churchill. On the last occasion the King and Queen were waving to the crowds, Princess Elizabeth and her sister were allowed to leave the palace and celebrate with crowds outside (although they had to do it secretly). They stood outside and shouted with the crowds, "We want the King.” The future Queen described it as, "one of the most memorable nights of my life.”
A national holiday was declared in Britain on 8th May 1945, after 6 years of hardship and loss. In the morning, Churchill had gained assurances from the Ministry of Food that there would be enough beer supplies in the capital and the Board of Trade announced that people could purchase red, white and blue bunting without using ration coupons. Some restaurants had special ‘victory’ menus, too. Various events were organised to mark the occasion, including parades, thanksgiving services and street parties. Communities came together to share the moment. This year we are asked to have a ‘Stay at Home street party’ and people in some streets will be sitting outside their homes with their own food and drink, with bunting around them. (During rationing people improvised to provide sandwiches eg a popular sandwich filling was ‘mock banana’ using boiled parsnip mashed with banana flavouring.) At least we don’t need to improvise to that extent even though some foodstuffs are difficult to come by. Some of us will watch events on the TV. The Queen's pre-recorded address will be broadcast on the BBC at 9 pm - the exact moment when her father, King George VI, gave a radio address 75 years ago.
Many people attended church services to thank God for the victory. London's St Paul's Cathedral held 10 services which were attended by thousands of people. Church bells peeled for the first time since 1940. (Due to the time difference, VE Day in New Zealand was officially held on 9th May. In the Soviet Union, too, VE Day was on 9th May due to the different time zones.)
During this current lockdown, our church bells cannot be rung because social distancing cannot be followed in the bell tower. Once the lockdown is lifted our Bell Tower Captain and team will visit the church to ring the bells. For many people in the area, this will be a joyous moment. We cannot attend churches at the moment because of the lockdown but that doesn’t stop them doing podcasts, videos, posting on social media, etc.
VE Day was, however, a moment of great sadness and reflection too, as millions of people had lost their lives, and families had lost loved ones in the conflict. Amidst the street parties and rejoicing, many people mourned the death of a friend or relative, or were worried about those who were still serving overseas. For many of the widows the war had produced, the noise and jubilation as people celebrated VE Day, was too much to bear and it was not something they wanted to take part in. Many people had to continue fighting in other battles and lots of people were being kept as prisoners of war abroad. Even though VE Day marked victory for Europe over Germany, it did not mark the end of World War Two because many soldiers, sailors and pilots were sent to the east to fight against the Japanese, who had not surrendered.
Now, each day, we remember the numbers of people who have been affected by Covid-19; particularly the NHS staff and all key workers. We especially remember those people who have contracted the virus (confirmed cases are 201,000) and, sadly, those who have lost their lives (over 30,000). The O2 Arena can accommodate 20,000 people. Imagine it being full 1½ times and it puts those numbers into perspective. So, whilst we will celebrate with the rest of the UK, we will be reminded of the current pandemic and how it has affected us all.
In 1945 there was an air of anti-climax. The hardships of the war years had taken their toll on many people and left them with little energy for rejoicing. In Britain, the strain of air raids, the restrictions of wartime life and the impact of rationing had left their mark on a weary population who knew there were more difficulties yet to endure. Just prior to this current lockdown, we saw panic buying in the shops and supermarkets especially for items such as antiseptic gels, sprays and toilet rolls as well as pasta, flour and several other foods. This meant, of course, that many of us could not get those items and even now some are still not in the shops. We are still more fortunate than our ancestors were during rationing. For that we should be thankful. Like previous generations we are probably wondering what is going to happen. We are certainly living in unprecedented times with uncertainty about our future. Many of us worry about the likely possibility of a recession.
Due to Coronavirus, the 75th anniversary today will not be the joyous celebration that it deserves. Nevertheless, even in lockdown, the nation will give thanks to Winston Churchill and the wartime generation he led. Although official VE Day events have been scaled back and Westminster Abbey can no longer hold a service as originally planned, we are invited to honour the Second World War generation and to celebrate the anniversary. A special edition of the Abbey’s podcast, ‘Abbeycast’, will be released at 9.00 am. I presume the podcast will be available on this page of the website: https://www.westminster-abbey.org/podcast. The podcast will include an address, prayers, music from the Abbey choir and a reflection from 95-year-old veteran Barbara Weatherill (with her memories of celebrating the end of war). In 1943, at the age of just 17, Barbara was accepted into The Auxiliary Territorial Service and became a driver with the anti-aircraft command of the Royal Artillery. She later drove ambulances with the Royal Army Medical Corps and became an instructor at an army driving school before being demobilised in 1946.
‘Lockdown’ is not a technical term but is increasingly used to describe anything from a mandatory full quarantine, to non-mandatory recommendations halting businesses and events or telling people to stay home. Many of us are struggling with the isolation we are currently experiencing and our daily and weekly prayers remember those people who are finding it difficult. Marilyn from church sent me this reflection on Wednesday (she doesn’t know who wrote it) and I thought it was perfect to share with you at this time in our lives. It would have been true during WW2, also: Do not look forward in fear to the changes in life; rather look forward to them with full hope that as they arise, God, whose very own you are, will lead you safely through all things and when you cannot stand it, God will carry you in His arms. Do not fear what may happen tomorrow. The same understanding the Father who cares for you today, will take care of you then and every day. Be at peace and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations and say continually, “The Lord is my strength and shield; my heart has trusted in Him and I am helped. He is not only with me but in me and I in Him.” Teresa of Avila (Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada, also called Saint Teresa of Jesus, who was born on 28th March 1515 and died on 4th October 1582) said, “Let nothing disturb you, let nothing frighten you, everything will pass, only God remains, only God suffices.”(Thank you to Janis for passing that on to me.) When life gives you a hundred reasons to break down and cry, show life that you have a thousand reasons to smile and laugh.(Positive Energy) If you feel like you’re losing everything, remember that trees lose their leaves every year and they still stay tall and wait for better days to come.(Positive Outlooks) Every situation in life is temporary. So, when life is good, make sure you enjoy and receive it fully. And when life is not so good, remember that it will not last forever and better days are on the way. (Jenni Young)
Many good things have come out of the lockdown. In many places we have seen community projects and people endeavouring to help the vulnerable in society (a modern equivalent of neighbour helping neighbour during the war years). We have witnessed such things as Captain Tom Moore’s walk for NHS charities before his 100th birthday which has, todate, raised £32,796,365 (6559% more than he had set out to raise). What a fantastic achievement and I believe he has made the honours shortlist after an outpouring of support to get him a knighthood. General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith, the head of the Army, has appointed Tom Moore as the first Honorary Colonel of the Army Foundation College, Harrogate, in recognition of his incredible NHS fundraising feat.
Another positive is that the Coronavirus UK lockdown has caused a big drop in air pollution. Nature has carried on as normal and it’s great to hear the birds singing and the plants and flowers flourishing. Also, it’s been wonderful to see all the rainbows on people’s windows (as well as soft toys for children on their daily walks). I have had my grandchildren’s soft toys and a rainbow in my window since the start of lockdown and, now, I have some bunting and images such as flags and cupcakes on the windows for VE Day. Positive behaviour has been evidenced with people being inventive in engaging their postmen and women with games and so on to do during their rounds. On my door window by the letterbox I have a thank you note and rainbow, for delivering our post. On the windows and on the dustbins I have a thank you note with a rainbow for all key workers. Rainbows are a symbol of hope. In the Bible, in Genesis, after God floods the earth, he gives a sign of a Rainbow as a promise to never flood the earth again. It was a symbol of hope that whenever they would look at the sky they could trust in God's promises.
During the war years people did not have the technology at their disposal that we have today. We are able to communicate in many ways - WhatsApp, Messenger, Facebook, Zoom, Skype, text, phone call, to name just a few. Many of us are in groups on those Apps so that we can communicate in words or by having video calls. So, whilst we are isolated from our family and friends physically, we can still speak to them one way or another.
Apart from people whose partners are in the armed forces, most of us are able to see members of our families if we live with them. It must have been very lonely and stressful for women during the war when their partners were abroad. Other than people in their own communities they had few other people to talk to. They didn’t have mobile phones. Making a telephone call was difficult. I can remember, as a child, we did not have a telephone in the house and had to walk a distance to the telephone box. Sometimes there was a queue waiting to make a call. How times have changed. You see we are not completely isolated, are we?
Perhaps as we reflect on the reasons for today’s celebrations, we should think about:
our sorrows for the atrocities of war;
that former enemies may be forgiven;
that we may be freed from feelings of fear, revenge and prejudice;
that we may be thankful for times of peace and find joy in the company of one another (albeit it using technology in many cases).
The following prayer is taken from the Church of England’s website: A prayer for VE Day (From the Act of Commitment for Peace) “Lord God our Father, we pledge ourselves to serve you and all humankind, in the cause of peace, for the relief of want and suffering, and for the praise of your name. Guide us by your Spirit; give us wisdom; give us courage; give us hope; and keep us faithful now and always. Amen”
The following reading from the Bible is relevant today as it was during wartime: A Time for Everything (Ecclesiastes 3) “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace."
To end I would like to share with you some quotes:
“But above all things, let us pray that God’s will may be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
“Every day may not be good, but there’s something good in every day.” (Alice Morse Earle)
“Obstacles don’t block the path. They are the path.” (Zen proverb). So let us try not to think about this lockdown as an obstacle but as the way forward to perhaps a different path in the future.
“Circle us, Lord, keep protection near and danger afar. Circle us, Lord, keep light near and darkness afar. Circle us, Lord, keep peace within; keep evil out. The peace of all peace be ours this night. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen” “Lord, help us now to unclutter our lives, to organise ourselves in the direction of simplicity. Lord, teach us to listen to our hearts; teach us to welcome change, instead of fearing it. Lord, we give You these stirrings inside us. We give You our discontent. We give You our restlessness. We give you our doubts. We give you our despair. We give you all the longings we hold inside. Help us to listen to these signs of change, of growth to listen seriously and follow where they lead through the breathtaking empty space of an open door. Amen.”
Rose Venerini was born on 9th February 1656. According to her first biographer, Rose made a promise at the age of just 7 years of age that she would not marry but instead devote her life to God.
On the advice of her father, Rose entered a convent but she remained there for only a few months. Sadly her father died and his death meant that she had to leave and go home to care for her mother. Rose remained at home and she began to slowly gather girls and women of the area in her own home to pray together. She devoted herself to the Spirituality of Saint Ignatius of Loyola and under the guidance of her Spiritual Director, Rose dedicated herself to the teaching and Christian formation of the young. This became so successful that in 1865 Rose opened the first school in Italy for girls. As Rose’s reputation grew, she was called upon to organise schools in many parts of Italy, including Rome. Her disposition was right for the task as well, for she very often met with considerable opposition but was never deterred. At the time of her death, on the evening of 7thMay 1728, she had opened more than 40 schools. It was said that wherever a new school of hers opened, even in a short space of time, a huge moral improvement could be seen in the youth of the area. It was not until sometime after her death that Rose's school teachers became acknowledged as a religious order known as the Venerini Sisters. The Sisters have continued their ministry of teaching and in addition to working in Italy they have served in places all over the world including Albania, Brazil, Chile, Switzerland, and Venezuela.
Saint Job of Pochaev (6th May 2020)
Today we celebrate the life of a Saint revered in the Russian Orthodox Church, that of Saint Job of Pochaev. He was born in the year 1551 near the city of Kolomyia, which was in the region that is now Poland. He was born into a deeply devout Christian family and at the age of just 10 he left his family to live in a monastery. That was the Ugornitsky Monastery of Our Saviour located in the Carpathian Mountains. After two years he was professed as a monk and later, in about the year 1580, he was ordained a priest.
He was a quiet man, renowned for his meekness and humility and on account of his growing popularity he decided to leave the monastery and withdraw from the world to live as a hermit. In 1600, at the insistence of his fellow monks he became the Abbot of the Monastery of the Dormition of the Theotokos. He accepted and during his time as Abbot, the monastery flourished and grew in numbers. Through his efforts, a large printing works was founded at Pochaev and this greatly assisted in the teaching and nurturing of the Christian faith in his local region. His monastery became the centre of the Orthodox Church in the Western Ukraine and it is said that Job died at the age of 100.
Job of Pochayev (1551-1651)
Saint Hilary of Arles (5th May 2020)
Hilary of Arles, who is also known by his Latin name Hilarius, was born in France in the year 403. He came from a wealthy background, received a traditional aristocratic education but in his early youth he abandoned worldly pursuits for the sake of following Christ and joined a monastery. When the Bishop of Arles died in 429, Hilary succeeded him as Bishop. During his lifetime Hilary had a great reputation for being learned and wise. He was renowned for his eloquence as well as for living a life of holiness. In addition to these qualities he was also known for his austere way of life. He travelled everywhere on foot, always wearing simple clothing. He helped the poor and even sold Church property in order to pay the ransoms of those who had been kidnapped. Hilary's sanctity and honesty brought him great veneration with a favorite motto of his being, “Ministros veritatis decet vera proferre”, or "Servants of the truth ought speak the truth." He died on this day in 449. Today he is recognised as a saint in both the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church.
A song by ‘UK Blessing’ to lift everybody’s spirits
At this unique and challenging time in the United Kingdom over 65 churches and movements, representing hundreds of others, have come together online to sing a blessing over our land. Standing together as one, their desire is that this song will fill you with hope and encourage you. Many of the churches included in this song have assisted with supplying over 400,000 meals to the most vulnerable and isolated in our nation since COVID-19 lockdown began. Also, they have made phone calls to the isolated, done pharmacy delivery drops and delivered hot meals to the NHS frontline hospital staff. As they say on the website: Church buildings may be closed but ‘the church’ is very much alive! Use this link to enable you to listen to the song on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUtll3mNj5U&fbclid=IwAR0zS5ZHGsfOkoxhemq8syU37tspIAGmhwnS5bOKbz4UMiPlFcJHbtUPZOw&app=desktop There are a number of churches involved from across the UK including Birmingham, Solihull and Coventry.
Original Song ‘The Blessing’ by Cody Carnes, Kari Jobe and Elevation Worship.
Written by Chris Brown, Cody Carnes, Kari Jobe and Steven Furtick
Audio produced by Trevor Michael Video edited by Level Creative
For our daily and weekly prayers please go to the Prayer page. You can use this link. To follow the Spiritual Communion Service sheet please go to the Services page.
English Saints and Martyrs (Monday 4th May 2020)
On this day we remember all those who witnessed to their Christian faith during the conflicts in church and state in England. This period lasted between the years 1535 and 1679 but was at its most intense during the sixteenth century. It was during this time that many Christian men and women, even monks and priests, suffered for their allegiance to what they believed to be the truth of the Gospel. Their deaths were a result of either group believing that they were the keepers of the truth and that all others were therefore at least in a state of ignorance or at worst heretical. In recent decades, ecumenical links have drawn churches closer to each other in faith and in worship and all now recognise both the good and evil that evolved from the Reformation Era. 1 Corinthians 1:10 Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose. Pause for thought ... Just as Saint Paul challenged the early Christians in Corinth to strive for unity and to live in harmony and love with each other with a common purpose, he also reminds us that all men and women of faith have a need to communicate with others, to overcome difficulties in seeking for the truth and to realise more fully the unity that we all have in Christ. Prayer "Merciful God, who, when your Church on earth was torn apart by the ravages of sin, raised up men and women in this land who witnessed to their faith with courage and constancy: give to your Church that peace which is your will, and grant that those who have been divided on earth may be reconciled in heaven, and share together in the vision of your glory; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen"
Bible Readings for Sunday 3rd May 2020
First Reading Acts 2:42-47 They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
Gospel Reading John 10:1-10 "Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers." Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So again Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
Saint Athanasius (2nd May 2020)
Saint Athanasius was born Egypt in about the year 296. He was the son of Christian parents and from a young age he immersed himself in the study of scripture and sacred writings. In 325 he was chosen by his Bishop to go with him to the Council of Nicaea. The council brought together bishops from all over Christendom in order to resolve some divisive issues and Athanasius impressed all through his learning and knowledge. Athanasius himself became the Bishop of Alexandria, and for forty-six years he held the post and wrote and firmly taught the doctrines of the Church. He was even removed - and returned to his post - on several occasions because of his uncompromising faith and his reluctance to water-down versions of it. He spent 17 years of his life in exile and whether in or out of exile, Athanasius continued his writings and though he was firm in his defence of the Christian Faith, he was meek, humble and gentle of character. He was much loved by those he ministered to. The last years of his life were peaceful and he died on this day in the year 373. He left behind a collection of writings that are rich in thought and learning and he is honoured as one of the greatest of the Doctors of the Church.
The prayer for today Ever living God, whose servant Athanasius testified to the mystery of the Word made flesh for our salvation: help us, with all your saints, to contend for the truth and to grow into the likeness of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen
Painting of 'Childhood of Christ' by Gerard van Honthorst (1620)
Saint Joseph the Worker (1st May 2020)
In the Gospel of Saint Matthew we are told that Joseph was a ‘good man’, that he was a carpenter and the foster father of Jesus. He listened to God’s messenger who spoke of God's will for him and for Mary and he listened and trusted in God.
Luke's Gospel describes how Joseph took the new born Jesus as if he were his own child and this adoption of Jesus by Joseph fulfilled the prophecy that Israel's deliverer would be of the House and lineage of David. Jesus, too, was a carpenter and he would have learnt the trade from Saint Joseph and spent his early adult years working side-by-side with him. Beginning in the Book of Genesis, the dignity of human work has long been celebrated as a participation in the creative work of God and Saint Joseph is held up as a model of such work. In the humility of his shop in Nazareth and through the work of his own hands, Joseph provided support for his family. Saint Joseph is the patron saint of workers on account of his trade as a carpenter and his humble and modest life, and this silent saint who was given the noble task of caring and watching over the Virgin Mary and Jesus, is now a wonderful model to us all of the dignity of human work and the sanctity that can be attached to work, provided that all one’s work is done in prayerful dedication to God. God our Father, who from the family of your servant David raised up Joseph the carpenter to be the guardian of your incarnate Son and husband of the Blessèd Virgin Mary: give us grace to follow him in faithful obedience to your commands; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen
Pope St Pius V (30th April 2020)
Pope Pius V was born Antonio Ghislieri in Bosco, Italy, to a poor family. In his childhood he worked as a shepherd to help support his family but at the age of just 14 he joined the Dominican Order. He was ordained a priest in 1528 and then taught theology and philosophy for sixteen years before being elected pope on 7th January, 1566. During his time as pope (1566-1572), he was faced with the almost impossible responsibility of getting a shattered and scattered Church back on its feet. He ordered the founding of seminaries for the proper training of priests, published new prayer books and was wholeheartedly devoted to the religious life. He was a model of total commitment to his duties and spent many long hours in prayer, fasted rigorously and deprived himself of many luxuries normally enjoyed by popes of the time. In addition, he patiently served the sick and the poor by building hospitals, providing food for the hungry and giving money intended for the banquets to the poor.
Saint Catherine of Siena (29th April 2020)
Catherine was born in the year 1347 and she was the second youngest of twenty-five children. From her youth, Catherine was of a deeply religious nature and at the age of just 18 she became a member of the Dominican Order. Instead of living in a convent, however, instead she joined the Third Order of Saint Dominic, which allowed her to associate with a religious society while still living at home. She remained, therefore, at home and lived quietly; living a life of contemplative prayer and visiting hospitals and homes where the poor and sick were to be found. Fellow Dominican sisters taught Catherine how to read and write and she became involved in the politics of the Church. She became increasingly sought after as an adviser on many matters, both political and religious. Catherine eventually began to travel and on one occasion she helped bring peace between opposing Italian states. She wrote on the Spiritual life and also established a convent for women just outside of Siena. She wrote over 400 letters and her Dialogue, which is her definitive work. Catherine’s writings were so influential that she would later be declared a Doctor of the Church, this being a title given to saints who have been recognised as making a significant contribution through their teachings or writing, and she is one of the most influential and popular saints in the Church. She died in the year 1380 on 29th April following a stroke. Amongst other things she is the patron saint of nurses and was made the patron saint of nurses because of her remarkable resilience and the care and love that she gave to others. And so, today, we give thanks for the life and example of Saint Catherine and for nurses the world over who continue to show resilience at this difficult time and also continue to show love and care to all those whom they treat. The prayer for this day God of compassion, who gave your servant Catherine of Siena a wondrous love of the passion of Christ: grant that your people may be united to him in his majesty and rejoice for ever in the revelation of his glory; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen
Why should we trust God? (28th April 2020)
A PERSONAL REFLECTION Six reasons we should trust in God:
He knows you by name. (Isaiah 43:1)
He will fight for you. (Exodus 14:14)
He thinks about you. (Psalm 139:17)
He has plans for you. (Jeremiah 29:11)
He is your refuge. (Psalm 62:6-8)
He is always with you. (Matthew 28:20)
There are times when God and the things He does or allows, just don’t make sense. People often wonder - why would He allow somebody you love to die; yet let a hardened criminal avoid prison on a technicality? It’s hard to trust a God who, at times, seems unpredictable. The Bible tells us that we can trust Him and below are a few quotes from people, some more known to you than others:
“Pray, and let God worry.” Martin Luther (16th-century German friar, church reformer and theologian.)
“Let your life reflect the faith you have in God. Fear nothing and pray about everything. Be strong, trust God's word, and trust the process.” Germany Kent (An American print and broadcast journalist.)
“Trusting God does not mean believing he will do what you want, but rather believing he will do everything he knows is good.” Ken Sande (An Attorney and President of Peacemaker Ministries. He regularly conciliates business, family and church disputes and serves as a consultant to pastors and attorneys as they work to resolve conflicts outside the courtroom.)
"Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God." Corrie Ten Boom (A Dutch Christian watchmaker and later a writer who worked with her father, Casper ten Boom, her sister Betsie ten Boom and other family members to help many Jews escape the Nazis from the Holocaust during World War II by hiding them in her home.)
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6
"Faith isn't the ability to believe long and far into the misty future. It's simply taking God at His Word and taking the next step.” Joni Erickson Tada (An evangelical Christian author.)
“When God takes out the trash, don't go digging back through it. Trust Him.” Amaka Imani Nkosazana (Author)
Maybe you’re still not be convinced? Very often we want proof or a guarantee that if we put our faith and trust in God, He won’t let us down. It’s difficult to think that God might disappoint us.
I remember struggling with my faith many years ago when our eldest daughter stopped breathing at about 18 months of age. Thankfully, we managed to get her breathing again and rushed her to hospital where she had a lumbar puncture. Thankfully, she didn’t have Meningitis and was treated for an infection. When a local secondary school’s minibus was involved in an accident in 1984 in which a teacher and 4 students were killed, once more I questioned my faith. My faith was tested again a few years ago when 3 local people from the same family were killed in Tunisia. I doubted there could be a God if He could take 3 members of one family at the same time. In between those incidents I have experienced personal tragedies when it was difficult to hold onto my faith. Our eldest daughter lost a baby and she almost died when we had to rush her to hospital as she was haemorrhaging. A few years later our youngest daughter lost a baby who had severe problems which, if he had lived, would have required 24/7 care for the rest of his life. On each occasion my faith was tested and it would have been so easy to turn my back on God. There have been many other times when my faith was tested but I still hold on to my faith. It gives me strength; it encourages me; it consoles me; it gives me peace. I may not proclaim it loudly but I still believe.
I don’t have the answers as to why God allows awful things to happen, such as the incidents mentioned above. All I can say is that God doesn’t control every individual’s behaviour and actions but He can give those who remain behind, the strength to cope.
For centuries people have had problems in trusting God. We question everything, grasp for anything, only to get nothing especially when faced with stressful circumstances. Many people experience this struggle but we can find encouragement from the words of people throughout history.
All I can say, is that we should be strong and trust God's word. However, trusting God does not mean He will do what we want; He will do everything He knows is good. For example, when somebody we love is very ill we often turn to prayer, praying for our loved one to be made well. When that person dies it is very easy to think that God didn’t answer our prayers. However, I believe that God allows people to die so that they are no longer in pain.
Complete Trust In God (by Saint Francis de Sales, 1567-1622) “Do not look forward to the changes and chances of this life in fear; rather look to them with full hope that, as they arise God, whose you are, will deliver you out of them. He has kept you hitherto, - do you but hold fast to His dear hand, and He will lead you safely through all things; and, when you cannot stand, He will bear you in His arms. Do not look forward to what may happen; the same everlasting Father who cares for you today, will take care of you tomorrow and every day. Either He will shield you from suffering, or He will give you unfailing strength to bearit. Be at peace then and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.”
“Either He will shield you from suffering, or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it.” I believe God has done that for me over the years so, when I have been faced with awful, emotional and heart-breaking situations, He has given me the strength to cope. Psalm 31:14 sums up what I believe (image above).
During these unprecedented times, when we are unsure of the future during the Covid-19 pandemic, it is crucial we trust in God. This is not the first time people have been faced with a crisis. History repeats itself. The following poem, written in 1869 by Kathleen O’Mara, was reprinted during the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic: And people stayed at home And read books And listened And they rested And did exercises And made art and played And learned new ways of being And stopped and listened More deeply. Someone meditated, someone prayed Someone met their shadow And people began to think differently And people healed. And in the absence of people who Lived in ignorant ways Dangerous, meaningless and heartless, The earth also began to heal. And when the danger ended and People found themselves They grieved for the dead And made new choices And dreamed of new visions And created new ways of living And completely healed the earth Just as they were healed.
Those words could easily have been written during this lockdown we are experiencing.
Photo taken during Spanish flu Pandemic, 1918
Jim Denison, Christian Post Columnist wrote an article and said that in light of coronavirus and other pandemics, we should think about how our enemy (Satan) might use our commitment to God against us. He quotes 4 people in the Bible, who suffered awful things but still they trusted in God, as follows:
Joseph was given dreams of great leadership and authority (Genesis 37:5–9) but found himself in slavery and then in prison before he rose to power.
Daniel went from being “distinguished above all the other high officials and rulers” to being thrown into the lions’ den (Daniel 6:3, 16).
Peter went from preaching at Pentecost (Acts 2) to being arrested (Acts 4:3) and beaten (Acts 5:40).
Paul went from founding a church in Philippi to being beaten and jailed there (Acts 16:15, 23).
Clearly, God’s people are as susceptible to pandemics and other suffering as anyone else. Jim Denison went on to say that, “he assumed we are praying for protection from the coronavirus for ourselves, our loved ones and friends but that we commit the sin of presumption when we assume that our faith obligates God to answer these prayers as we wish. It is a cunning strategy of Satan to lead us to trust our prayers more than the One to whom we pray. We should ‘pray without ceasing’ (1 Thessalonians 5:17) but then trust our Father for what he knows is best.” “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
I hope you are all well at this time. Stay safe.
Carmelite Order - Day of Retreat
Dear All, please see below something which I hope and pray will not only be of interest, but will also be of Spiritual worth to you at this time. Please be assured of my prayers at this time. May God bless you all. Fr Mark
“Let nothing disturb you, let nothing frighten you, everything will pass, only God remains, only God suffices.” (Saint Teresa of Avila) Teresa of Ávila, born Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada, also called Saint Teresa of Jesus, was a Spanish noblewoman who felt called to monastic life. Over several posts we have looked at what we can learn from the Christian monastic traditions and how we can benefit from them during this time. In these previous posts we have drawn upon the wisdom of a Dominican nun, a Benedictine monk and a Cistercian monk.
Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint John of The Cross
On this occasion we once again take a look at the wisdom of the Christian religious orders, that of the Carmelite Order, but on this occasion we are given the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the wisdom of two outstanding figures from its past, Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint John of The Cross, in the form of a day retreat. This opportunity is given to us by the Los Olivos Retreat Centre in Spain. The centre normally offers guided retreats to those who visit but in these times they are, instead, giving us the benefit of being able to undertake a day retreat in our own homes. The Quiet Day at Home retreat was first broadcast on Easter Monday 2020, during the Coronovirus lockdown and we are invited to complete the retreat at our own pace. Their website includes all of the resources required, eg a Day Planner, Morning and Evening Prayer and the two talks, "Teresa of Avila & John of the Cross: bringing light into a dark world" and "Navigating times of crisis today". All of these can be accessed from the centre’s website at: https://www.losolivosretreats.co.uk/quietday From the website, here are ten tips from an enclosed nun to help us through this time of self isolation and confinement:
Embrace this new situation from a place of freedom. We choose to stay at home freely for the greater good, not just because we’ve been forced to do it. In doing so, we also find a deeper freedom, an inner freedom that no one can take from us. This is about our mental attitude.
Search for an inner peace that will enlarge your soul. In other words, look inside yourself for inner resources, for peace and creativity that you didn’t know were there before because we live lives that are too busy to allow those things to flourish from inside out.
Take time to know yourself. Pay attention to your inner movements and moods, and how you respond to pressure, affirmation, encouragement, or broken expectations. Do not let fear, or sadness, or pessimism take the best of you. Instead, when a particular thought is not life-giving, get rid of it. Instead, try to hold onto those things that give you peace, joy and life. Remind yourself of the bigger picture and that this too will pass. Consider the words of Teresa of Avila who wrote, “Let nothing disturb you, let nothing frighten you, everything will pass, only God remains, only God suffices.”
Practise kindness, patience, love and self-control with those you share your space with. The great test of these times of confinement is how we live with others without treading on each other’s feet or getting on each other’s nerves. At times like this we all become more touchy, maybe more irritable. Be aware of this and try to share your space with generosity, don’t be hard on others or on yourself. Don’t get too worked up about petty things. Live and let live with those around you.
Use your time wisely. This is one of the most important tips for those not able to work. Given the lack of structure, try and create a daily plan that works for you in your own family context, to give you a sense of rhythm and purpose. This can include time for activities, for being creative, for cooking – maybe even try slow cooking –, time for eating, for exercising, even time for leisure.
Expand your horizons. A few weeks ago we used to complain that we had no time to do the things we really wanted: to catch up with reading, or to do an online course, or to listen to music ... Maybe this time is a gift to help you enlarge your music taste by listening to new artists, or to help you learn new skills, or simply to stimulate your mind by learning about other countries, maybe an exotic country you’ve always wanted to visit. Plan that journey, even if you don’t ever go. Or try something new in your own spiritual journey, maybe follow the liturgy of the hours, or have a quiet day at home.
If you are particularly sensitive, try to avoid listening to the news all the time, especially now that all news seems overwhelmingly bad news, and avoid having conversations which enter into a negative spiral. Do not spend too much time in front of a screen – we tend to think about teenagers as suffering from screenitis or addiction to their mobile phones, tablets or computers. But sometimes, we adults can fall into the same pattern. Instead, try and play some happy music, even when you’re cooking, and let your body move with it ... even if you make a fool of yourself, dancing is a deeply healing activity.
You are not isolated. You may be on your own, but you are not alone. Our friends and families may not be physically with us, but we can stay in touch with them in many different ways: picking up the phone, or FaceTiming or Whatsapp video calling, through social media. We may also find time to sit down and write an old fashion letter to someone who’s been in our hearts recently. If you live with others, try to communicate practising the skill of intentional listening; that is, being fully present to them and paying attention both to their words and to their mood and body language. Know that you are connected with others, and also with God. You are not alone.
Take time to reflect and connect with God. Within your daily rhythm, make sure to include a bit of time to reflect and meditate on your life, on what you are learning about yourself through this new situation. Think about how you can improve as a human being, how God may be doing something new in your own life, so that when this crisis and confinement is over, you will emerge as a stronger, happier, kinder, better person. And every so many days, if you’re able, you may feel like taking a Quiet Day, just like this, to be in silence, to reflect, to think, to meditate. Times to be spiritually nourished and refreshed.
Pray. Prayer underpins all the above. Let prayer sustain who you are and what you do during these challenging times. Take time to be in God’s presence, to hear God’s voice in the silence of your hearts, in the reading of the scriptures, in your own breathing – the breathing that reminds you that you are alive, the breathing that reminds you that God’s ruah, God’s breath, God’s life, dwells deep within you; that God’s love fills every bone, muscle and cell in your body. And in that place of prayer, also open your heart to God, bring to God the needs of the world around you and of people you care for, and of those who are in greatest need. Take time to pray.
Christina Rossetti (27th April 2020)
Although she is not a saint, today the Church of England remembers someone who, although you may not recognise the name, you are almost certain to have sung words written by her. Christina Rossetti was born in London in December 1830 and she was the youngest child in a family of truly gifted artists. She had two brothers, Dante and William, and a sister Maria. Her brother Dante became an influential artist and poet, her other brother William and her sister Maria both became writers. Christina, growing up in a household overflowing with artistic talent soon began to show promise as a poet herself. By the age of twelve she had written her first book of poetry, and by eighteen she had published her first two poems, (Death’s Chill Between and Heart’s Chill Between). Her father was an Italian poet and her mother, whilst not artistic herself, was the sister of John William Polidori who was the author of one of the first English vampire stories, The Vampyre. Christina’s elder sister became an Anglican nun but Christina's own fame rests upon her poetry, which dealt mainly with religion and love. She also wrote the Christmas carol, ‘In the bleak mid-winter’. She died on this day in the year 1894. A Prayer to the Holy Spirit By Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) O God the Holy Ghost Who art light unto thine elect Evermore enlighten us. Thou who art fire of love Evermore enkindle us. Thou who art Lord and Giver of Life, Evermore live in us. Thou who bestowest sevenfold grace, Evermore replenish us. As the wind is thy symbol, So forward our goings. As the dove, so launch us heavenwards. As water, so purify our spirits. As a cloud, so abate our temptations. As dew, so revive our languor. As fire, so purge our dross. Prayer of the Day "O God, whom heaven cannot hold, you inspired Christina Rossetti to express the mystery of the Incarnation through her poems: help us to follow her example in giving our hearts to Christ, who is love; and who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen"
Bibles Readings for 26th April 2020
First Reading Acts 2:14,36-41 Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, "Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified." Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, "Brothers, what should we do?" Peter said to them, "Repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him." And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." So those who welcomed his message were baptised, and that day about three thousand persons were added.
Gospel Reading Luke 24:13-35 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognising him. And he said to them, "What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?" They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, "Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?" He asked them, "What things?" They replied, "The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him." Then he said to them, "Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?" Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, "Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over." So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognised him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?" That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, "The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!" Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
Feast of Saint Mark the Evangelist (24th April 2020)
Much of what is known about Saint Mark comes to us from what is written about him in the Acts of the Apostles. The Book of Acts is found in the New Testament and tells us of the history of the early Church. Mark the Evangelist is believed to be the 'John Mark' that is referred to in the Book of Acts and we are told that he is the son of a woman named Mary whose home became a meeting place for early Christians. He is also thought to be the cousin of Saint Barnabas and it was Barnabas that Mark joined along with Saint Paul on their first missionary journey. The Gospel of Saint Mark was written between 60 and 70 AD and it is regarded as being the earliest of the Gospels being most likely written whilst Mark was in Rome. Although Mark was not one of the twelve apostles, Mark had a close relationship with Saint Peter, who referred to Mark as 'his son'. Mark’s Gospel is most likely, therefore, based as much on Peter's preaching of the good news as on Mark's own experiences and memories. Saint Mark lived for years in Alexandria and it is believed that he was the founder of the church there and its first Bishop. In the year 68 AD, pagans began to persecute Christians and Mark was captured and tortured. After Mark's death, his remains were taken to Venice in Italy and were enshrined in a beautiful cathedral dedicated to the Saint. Saint Mark is often shown in artwork as either writing or holding his Gospel. He is the Patron Saint of Venice and his feast day is celebrated each year on this day, 25th April. The prayer for the Feast of Saint Mark the Evangelist: “Almighty God, who enlightened your holy Church through the inspired witness of your evangelist Saint Mark: grant that we, being firmly grounded in the truth of the gospel, may be faithful to its teaching both in word and deed; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen"
On this day we pray for our neighbouring parish, the Parish of Saint Mark’s, Ocker Hill. We pray for its congregation and its priests, Fr Mark Liddell and Fr Gary Hartill.
Julian of Norwich (24th April 2020) In recent days we have looked at what can be learnt from the Christian monastic traditions and how we can benefit from their way of life. We have looked at the life of a Dominican nun, a Benedictine monk and a Cistercian monk. Today we go back in time, to the late medieval times to look at the life of a woman who is widely regarded as writing one of the great classics of the Christian Spiritual life and who is also thought to have been the first woman to write a book in English that has survived to this day. That woman is Julian of Norwich (1342-1416). What we know of Julian is almost entirely from her book, ‘The Revelations of Divine Love’. In fact, Julian was not her actual name, her real name is not known and the name that is used is taken from Saint Julian's Church in Norwich where she lived for most of her life. Julian was an anchorite, which meant that she lived in religious seclusion, in her case in a small cell linked to a church. She was regarded as a wise counsellor and many would visit her to seek her advice and guidance. For those who are self-isolating because of Coronavirus, Julian of Norwich is someone that can be turned to for help during these times. The coronavirus pandemic is often called “unprecedented” and for so many people cooped up in their homes, the experience is both unparalleled and challenging but in late-medieval times, individuals self-isolated professionally. Some people, just like Julian, permanently withdrew from society to live alone in a single room normally attached to a church. In a recent BBC documentary on the life of Julian, historian Dr Janina Ramirez said that she believes that since self-isolating because of coronavirus symptoms, she has come to have a new understanding of Julian of Norwich and believes that she has never been, "more relevant". So what can this medieval woman teach us about how to cope with self-isolation? Julian lived at a time of great turmoil, instability and anxiety. During her lifetime, Norwich suffered from plague, poverty and famine and yet, despite this, Julian managed to find calm and her writings are full of hope. Dr Ramirez goes on to say that she believes that Julian herself was self-isolating and protecting herself from the plague, "I think she was self-isolating. The other anchorites would have understood that by removing themselves from life this would not only give them a chance of preserving their own life but also of finding calm and quiet and focus in a chaotic world.” She goes on to say, "I have never felt she was more relevant." Dr Ramirez believes that in Julian’s writings, her kindness and positive vision for the future shine through. She goes on to say that these times are a “journey many of us will take and I want to show positivity comes out the other side.” If there is just one thing then to be taken from the life of Julian of Norwich, then perhaps it is her positivity. Julian was an ordinary woman who lived at a time of great difficulties and challenges, but despite the difficulties, she also lived a life of hope. In the silence of her isolation she had a sense of God saying to her that, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well”. All of us need to share Julian’s positivity, a positivity founded in her faith and trust in God and know that this time will pass and a stronger, kinder society will emerge. “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”
Saint George (23rd April 2020)
Saint George is the Patron Saint of England but actually he wasn’t English and very little, if anything, is known about the real Saint George. He was probably a soldier living in Palestine at the beginning of the fourth century. He died for his Christian faith in about the year 304 and became known throughout the East as 'The Great Martyr'. There were churches in England dedicated to Saint George before the Norman conquest and the story of his slaying the dragon is probably due to his being mistaken in iconography for Saint Michael the Archangel. George replaced Edward the Confessor as the Patron Saint of England following the Crusades, when returning soldiers brought back with them stories of Saint George. Saint George is identified with England and the English ideals of honour, bravery and gallantry. In 1940 King George VI inaugurated the George Cross for 'acts of the greatest heroism or of the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger'. This award is awarded to civilians and the image of Saint George slaying the dragon is depicted on the silver cross.
Facts in brief: Everything about Saint George is dubious, so the information below should be taken as mythical rather than real:
Born in Cappadocia, an area which is now in Turkey
Lived in 3rd century AD
His parents were Christian
Later lived in Palestine
Became a Roman soldier
Protested against Rome's persecution of Christians
Imprisoned and tortured, but stayed true to his faith
Beheaded at Lydda in Palestine
23rd April was named as Saint George's day in 1222
The Prayer for Saint George’s Day God of hosts, who so kindled the flame of love in the heart of your servant George that he bore witness to the risen Lord by his life and by his death: give us the same faith and power of love that we who rejoice in his triumphs may come to share with him the fullness of the resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen
Pause for thought ... When George was made a saint, so little was actually known of his life that the Pope said that George is one of those saints, "whose names are rightly reverenced among us, but whose actions are known only to God." As Christians we believe that God knows all that we do … what would God think of your actions?
The Apostles Persecuted (22nd April 2020)
Acts 5:17-26 “Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out.“Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.” At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people. When the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin — the full assembly of the elders of Israel — and sent to the jail for the apostles. But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. So they went back and reported, “We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were at a loss, wondering what this might lead to. Then someone came and said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.” At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them.” John 3:16-21 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God." Pause for thought ... Looking at the 2 readings we can see that, after being arrested and imprisoned, the apostles had complete trust in God. They returned to the temple precincts from where they had been arrested but did not fear being arrested again. They realised that it was God’s will they should preach the Good News and continue the ministry of Jesus, even if that meant they would most likely be arrested and persecuted again. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, they were given hope and encouragement. In the Gospel reading, we hear the often quoted passage of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” If we wish to proclaim the good news then we should have the hope and encouragement that the first apostles had. There are people today suffering for their Christian faith. Most people nowadays, when released from prison, do not want to return there and, therefore, don’t perform the same actions which led to their original arrest. We would not advise you do anything illegal but never be afraid to proclaim your faith.
Saint Anselm (21st April)
Anselm was born in northern Italy in the year 1033. As a young man he wanted to become a monk. At just fifteen years of age, however, he was refused. It was to be twelve years later when he finally fulfilled his desire to be a monk. He entered a monastery in Normandy and just fifteen years later he was unanimously chosen to be abbot. Anselm became one of the Church’s greatest theologians and leaders and was admired deeply for his patience, gentleness, and teaching skills. Under his leadership, his monastery became a great centre of learning and it was during this time that Anselm began to publish some of his writings with perhaps his best known book being Cur Deus Homo (‘Why God Became Man’). Against his will, Anselm was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury in 1093, at the age of sixty. It was during his time as Archbishop that he had to leave the country twice and seek exile because of him speaking out and championing the rights of the Church against the authority of the king. Anselm faced much opposition and criticism especially from those in political control. Though personally a mild and gentle man and a lover of peace, he would not back off from conflict and persecution when principles were at stake. His care and concern extended to the very poorest of people in society and he opposed the slave trade and the sale of human beings. Anselm was very much respected for his intellectual rigour and his personal austerity as well as loved and admired by his monks. He died in on 21st April in the year 1109. Pause for thought ... Anselm, naturally a man of peace and gentleness was, however, not afraid to stand up for the rights of others when principles were at stake. What is it that we stand up for today? As Christians we should remember that, like Saint Anselm, whoever fights for what is right, they fight on the side of God. Whose side do you fight on? The Prayer for Today Eternal God, who gave great gifts to your servant Anselm as a pastor and teacher: grant that we, like him, may desire you our whole heart and, so desiring, may seek you and, seeking, may find you; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen
(Monday 19th April 2020)
Jesus teaches Nicodemus (John 3:1-8) Second week of Easter
Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus, who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again’.The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:1-8)
In the Gospel, Nicodemus (one of the religious leaders, a Pharisee) comes to Jesus at night. Nicodemus recognises the holiness and specialness of Jesus; that Jesus is from God. Jesus then speaks about the importance of being born ἄνωθεν (anothen), if one wants to be part of the Reign of GOD. (The word ‘anothen’ has 3 meanings: ‘from above, especially heaven’; ‘again, as in a second time’ and ‘for a long time, from the beginning’.)Jesus takes it to mean the first, whereas Nicodemus interprets to be the second. Jesus clarifies Nicodemus’ misunderstanding by saying that it is necessary to be born from above, that is, by water and the Spirit. When one is born spiritually, (possessed spiritually of the Holy Spirit), one is empowered by the Spirit and great things happen. When people have the Spirit of God blowing into and through them, they are energised to do God’s will. We cannot see the Spirit but we can see the effect caused by the Spirit. It’s like the wind around us - we can’t see it but we can see the effects of it. Not only has Jesus brought us healing, wholeness, forgiveness and salvation, He continues to empower us by the Holy Spirit to further His GOoD News. The Holy Spirit was not just given to the disciples of Jesus in a one-time event (Pentecost). The Holy Spirit came upon them frequently and the Holy Spirit continues to come upon the disciples of Jesus today. The Holy Spirit of the Risen Lord is still very active in the world. We may not always realise how the Spirit is working in our lives. Yet, the more we are aware of our being born from above, the more the Spirit of God can work in us. And even if those who are opposed to God’s plans work against Him and us (as disciples of the Lord Jesus), we must realise that God’s Spirit within us is more powerful than the force that is driving those who work against God. Are we open to being ‘born again’? Are we at a stage for a new beginning in our journey of faith? How can we help others to realise the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives? Are you a spirited individual? We talk about ‘team spirit’ in sport but more important than team spirit is having the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit inspires us – breathes life into us – so that we live out our lives as disciples of the risen Lord Jesus. With the Spirit active in our lives, we can proclaim the GOoD News of the Lord. We must constantly pray for, and be open to, the Spirit’s activity in our lives. May we continue to allow the Spirit of the Risen Lord to be with us to strengthen us and empower us to be an example of God’s presence in the world.
God did not leave us alone, He sent His Spirit to be with us always.
“Blessed are You, Lord God, ever loving and powerful. Through Your goodness, You have given us a share in Your Spirit when we have been born again. You continue to empower us to go out in the name of Your Son, Jesus, and proclaim His GOoD news to those with whom we come in contact. Renew our awareness of Your Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives. Amen”
(Sunday 19th April 2020)
To follow the Spiritual Communion for today, please download the pdf document from the Services/Activities page. You can use this link. There is, also, a ‘Prayers for the long haul’ document which can be used in addition if you wish. The prayers taken from the Spiritual Communion document can be found on the Prayers page, as well as the Weekly prayers.
First Reading - Acts 2:14,22-32 Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, "Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know — this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power. For David says concerning him, ‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will live in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One experience corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ "Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne. Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying, "He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh experience corruption.” This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses.
Gospel Reading - John 20:19-31 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." But Thomas (who was called the Twin ), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe." A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe." Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
(Saturday 18th April 2020)
Faith, Hope and Love
I once read a quote that said, “When you can’t control what is happening around, challenge the way in which you respond. That is where your true power lies.” I don’t remember who wrote it but during this time of lockdown when we can’t control what is happening and the majority of us are having to self-isolate, it is too easy to allow ourselves to fall into a depressive state. Some of us may even have thought, “What is the purpose of my life?” There are days when we all have our ‘down times’, especially if we live alone. There are times when we cry, sometimes for no reason. We might feel that the world has lost its colours or that we think the rest of the world is happy and we are not. There will be times when problems will seem so hard. The way we conduct ourselves says a lot about who we are, what we believe in and what matters most to us. In life, actions always speak louder than words. So, try to turn any negative into a positive and aim to help somebody. Of course, at the moment, most of us are unable to go out but that shouldn’t stop us reaching out to somebody who might be struggling with the loneliness of isolation. Pick up the phone or contact that person in other ways we now have these days, such as a text. For those of us who have up-to-date devices you could have a video call. There are many ways that we can connect with other people.
Many of us will know of this Bible verse: “. . .And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”(1 Corinthians 13:13) This short verse contains so much wisdom for our world that it can be held up like a diamond and studied from several facets.
Why faith, hope and love? These three are at the heart of Christian discipleship. They are the height, length, breadth and depth of our relationship with God. They describe the development of God’s life within us through the Spirit. The Bible states that love is greater than both faith and hope. Love is greater than faith and hope because it endures forever. We couldn't live our lives without faith or hope: without faith, we cannot know the God of love; without hope, we would not endure in our faith until we meet him face to face. And love is greater because without it, acts of faith and hope are empty and fruitless. In spite of the importance of faith and hope, love is even more crucial. For the believer, love is the foundation for every good thing in our lives. Without love, nothing else matters.
Sharing our love by contacting somebody who needs support, who needs that hope we can give them (if only for a few minutes every few days) it will help them. It will give them faith to carry on. Maybe it will strengthen their faith in God. It will give them hope. Life’s precious moments don’t have value unless they are shared.
(Friday 17th April 2020)
Compassion, friendship, forgiveness, respect, trust and perserverance
I came across this logo the other day (ironically for St Bartholomew’s C of E School in Stourport-on-Severn). It occurred to me that the words of the slogan around the logo are, in these uncertain days, very relevant to all of us. We all need to remind ourselves of those words - compassion, friendship, forgiveness, respect, trust and perserverance. The rainbow in the logo is so relevant today, too. An idea that’s thought to have started in Italy after the lockdown in March, it has captured imagination across Europe and the US and rainbows can be seen on the windows of flats and houses around the world. The rainbow is a symbol of hope.
COMPASSION The dictionary meaning of this word is 'sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others’. That compassion is so greatly needed today. Each day we post our daily prayers on Facebook and the website and we remember all those who are affected by the current Coronavirus pandemic. We pray for NHS workers (and that includes porters and cleaners etc, not just the doctors and nurses). We think also of all key workers; people making judgements for us regarding the lockdown; and people who are suffering either from the virus or from loneliness because of isolation. “Lord, please open our eyes. Let us see those around us who are in need of our compassion. Compel us to listen to them, to hear their needs. Give us hearts to be interested in their troubles and provide us with the means to help them. We want to be like you who had so much compassion for the world that you sacrificed your Son on a cross for us. We want to have that kind of heart for the world; to do all we can to be a voice for the oppressed, a giver to the poor and encouragement for the disabled. Amen” FRIENDSHIP Never before have we needed contact with our friends (and, of course, our families) so much. Thankfully, these days, we have technology to help us keep in touch with friends and family - such as by text, phone calls, WhatsApp, Messenger, FaceTime, Skype, Zoom and so on. If you could endeavour to make contact with at least one person from the congregation or in your neighbourhood each day that would be great. The knowledge of knowing someone cares will help a great deal of people at this time. Even our friends and family may not be coping with the isolation from lockdown or they may live on their own. Perhaps, through this testing time, we will be able to forge stronger friendships and build upon our sense of community. “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Galatians 6:10 FORGIVENESS Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a ‘conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness’. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean condoning or excusing offences. God says we ‘should be kind to one another, be tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as He, in Christ, forgave us’. In the Gospel of Mark Chapter 11 verse 25 it says that ‘whenever we pray we should forgive, if we have anything against anyone, so that our Father in heaven may also forgive us our trespasses’(our sins or offences). Whether we are seeking forgiveness for our own sins or asking God to help us forgive others, prayer is the first place to start when seeking restoration and healing. It’s a big step to ask for forgiveness and means we take a bold step in faith. To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in us. “Merciful Lord, thank you for your gift of forgiveness. Your only Son loved us enough to come to earth and experience the worst pain imaginable so that we could be forgiven. Help us to demonstrate unconditional love today, even to those who hurt us. Amen”
Do you remember this image of children running away from a napalm attack during the Vietnam War? One of those children (who was naked), Kim Phuc, became known as the ‘Napalm Girl.’ You can read about her in the Premier Christianity Magazine on Facebook and on the website. The report is headed ‘Kim Phuc Phan Thi: How the bombs led me to Christ’. In the article, Kim explains why forgiveness can be transformational. Jesus worked in Kim’s life; she had been saved from the brink of death after three days lying injured, hungry and cold in a hospital morgue. She suffered burns at 2,760 degrees Centigrade which melted Kim’s skin like wax. She was left with painful and life-limiting scarring, that made her feel ‘unfit to be loved’. Kim grew up in the Vietnamese Cao Dai religion but encountered God after coming across a New Testament book. She believes her miracle recovery can be attributed wholly to the power of God to do ‘impossible things’. She remembers reading John 14:6 where Jesus says: “I am the way, the truth and the life”. She prayed and the more she prayed, the more she had peace. She prayed for joy, for wisdom and, more than anything, for forgiveness. Even up to this point in her life she doesn’t know who the pilot was who dropped the bomb. In her prayers she hopes that he is alive and that if he is, that she could hug him and tell him “I love you. I pray for you. I forgive you.” Kim says we have to show love, hope and forgiveness because every person needs that, whether rich or poor. You can read her story using one of the links below: https://www.facebook.com/pg/christianitymag/posts/?ref=page_internal https://www.premierchristianity.com/Past-Issues/2020/April-2020/Kim-Phuc-Phan-Thi-How-the-bombs-led-me-to-Christ?fbclid=IwAR11Kd9WTssbFonEINVmF8I_etwT8iP6IC07vrFs2BPgkMU9XXdg0_q0RO4 There are many Bible passages that refer to forgiveness, such as:
Matthew 6:14-15 - “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
1 John 1:9 -“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
Mark 11:25 - "And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
Colossians 3:13 -“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
Ephesians 4:31-32 - “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
RESPECT Respect is a way of treating or thinking about something or someone. We can show respect by being polite and kind. When people are insulted or treated badly, they feel they haven't been treated with respect. Sadly, even during these uncertain times in our lives, there are people who do not respect people, property or belongings. We read about people hurting others, of burglaries in homes and the stealing of possessions. We hear about car break-ins and theft from those vehicles, even theft of the vehicles. There are, however, more good people on this earth than bad but it is hard, at times, to remember that. It is also difficult to understand the actions, quite recently, of people spitting at the police or coughing over an elderly person and saying they have Coronavirus, as if it is something to be laughed at. Those people do not respect others. To keep this in perspective, though, we need to remember all the good things that have happened during this crisis such as people delivering food parcels to the elderly and vulnerable, as well as people volunteering to do other work and so on. Those actions far outweigh the actions of some mindless thugs and the lack of respect for other people by not social distancing as we have all been advised. “God of life and love, you created us in your image and sent your Son to bring us life. Instil in us a respect for all life, from conception to natural death. Empower us to work for justice for the poor. Nourish us that we may bring food to the hungry. Inspire us to cherish the fragile life of the unborn. Strengthen us to bring comfort to the chronically ill. Teach us to treat the elderly with dignity and respect. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen” “Dear God, We thank you for each day. Please help us to respect and tolerate everyone, including those who are different to us. Help us to be kind and patient with one another and always show respect. Amen” TRUST To believe in the reliability, truth or ability of another person is sometimes difficult. Trust takes years to build, seconds to break and forever to repair. Trust has to be earned. Below are some quotes about trust:
“Trust starts with truth and ends with truth.” – Santosh Kalwar (Born in 1982, Santos is a poet, writer and researcher. He is a self-published Nepalese writer who writes in English about truth, love, and relationships.)
“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” – Ernest Hemingway (Ernest Miller Hemingway was an American journalist, novelist, short-story writer and sportsman. He had a strong influence on 20th-century fiction.)
“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.”– Albert Einstein (Albert Einstein was known for his theory of relativity. His work is also known for its influence on the philosophy of science.)
“Trust yourself, you know more than you think you do.” – Dr Benjamin Spock (Benjamin McLane Spock was an American paediatrician whose book ‘Baby and Child Care’ is one of the best-selling volumes in history. The book's proposition to mothers is that ‘you know more than you think you do’.
“Trust is that rare and priceless treasure that wins us the affection of our heavenly Father.” – Brennan Manning (Richard Francis Xavier Manning, known as Brennan Manning, was an American author, public speaker and was once a priest.)
Faith in Christianity is often discussed in terms of believing God's promises, although unproven, trusting in his faithfulness and relying on God's character and faithfulness to act. Trusting is what we do because of the faith we have been given. Trusting is believing in the promises of God in all circumstances, even in those where the evidence seems to be to the contrary. The practical consequence of faith in God is trust, which we prove by living out our full acceptance of God’s promises day by day. His Word is trustworthy (such as can be seen in Psalm 93:5; 111:7; Titus 1:9). At baptisms we are asked 3 questions when we are asked to profess together the faith of the Church:
Do you believe and trust in God the Father?
Do you believe and trust in his Son Jesus Christ?
Do you believe and trust in the Holy Spirit?
In Mark’s gospel, Chapter 11 verse 24 it says, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” PERSEVERANCE Perseverance means ‘not giving up’. It is persistence and tenacity; the effort required to do something even when it’s difficult. The Brazilian retired professional footballer Pelé once said, “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” Marie Curie (Marie Skłodowska Curie, born Maria Salomea Skłodowska), was a Polish and naturalised-French physicist and chemist who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity. She said, “Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.”
Pope Francis recently said prayers for those who are feeling the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and called on believers to show ‘faith, perseverance and courage’. The Biblical definition of perseverance is ‘continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition’. Persevering means to keep going through a hard time without giving up. The Bible tells us about a man named Nehemiah. God gave him a big job to do. The wall around the city of Jerusalem had been broken down by enemies. Nehemiah was in charge of getting the huge wall rebuilt. As Nehemiah began the work, many problems came along. Nehemiah faced fear and discouragement but Nehemiah persevered until the wall was finished. There will be hard times in our lives when we might be tempted to ‘quit’. We might feel sorry for ourselves and think it's too hard to be a Christian, but God can give us perseverance. God has wonderful plans for us; He just wants us to trust Him. So, don’t get discouraged; don't be a quitter. God says,"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9). In other words, we will be rewarded.
(Thursday 16th April 2020)
The wisdom of the Christian monastic tradition (Apologies from Fr Mark for the lateness in producing today’s reflection. Sadly, he is currently very busy organising funerals.) With the news that the lockdown is to be extended for another 3 weeks, we can once again turn to the wisdom of the Christian monastic tradition to offer some degree of help to those who are struggling to adjust to this way of living. We have already heard from a Dominican nun and a Benedictine monk and on this occasion we turn to a Cistercian monk for wisdom and advice.
Fr Aelred Magee of the Cistercian community of Our Lady of Bethlehem Abbey in Ireland says, "Like other communities and families we are seeking to come to terms with social isolation in these days, but we do have the great comfort and support of the community in which we, as monks, already live." This advice of seeking support from a ‘community’ is especially relevant for those families at home together in this period of lockdown. Fr Aelred says, "Perhaps for many families today what they are being called to do is reclaim their lives together as a family, in terms of shared meals and prayer, what they can undertake together, how to give one another space when it so easy to live on top of each other." Fr Aelred also recommends having a daily structure in your life, having a daily rhythm. Cistercian life is carefully and thoughtfully structured. There are the regular rounds of prayer punctuating the entire day at regular intervals until Night Prayer; there is work, both alone and with others in the monastic community, in service of the community members; and time for personal reading and prayer - all this tries to ensure that Cistercian monastics can enjoy community life and their own solitude while still being in community - that experience of being by oneself but never alone. Having a routine in your daily life is not just something recommended by a monk following a tradition that started in 1098; it is also something highly recommended by mental health experts today. According to Mind, having a structured daily routine is vital in taking care of your mental health and wellbeing. Here are some of their recommendations:
Plan how you'll spend your time. It might help to write this down on paper and put it on the wall.
Try to follow your ordinary routine as much as possible. Get up at the same time as normal, follow your usual morning routines and go to bed at your usual time. Set alarms to remind you of your new schedule if that helps.
If you aren't happy with your usual routine, this might be a chance to do things differently. For example, you could go to bed earlier, spend more time cooking or do other things you don't usually have time for.
Think about how you'll spend time by yourself at home. For example, plan activities to do on different days or habits you want to start or keep up.
If you live with other people, it may help to do the following:
Agree on a household routine. Try to give everyone you live with a say in this agreement.
Try to respect each other's privacy and give each other space. For example, some people might want to discuss everything they're doing while others won't.
Fr Aelred feels that in addition to a routine, we should take advantage of this time that we now have and make this an opportunity to appreciate both silence and stillness. He goes on to say that, “The lack of traffic, both on the roads and in the skies, can contribute to a sense of stillness” and that there is now a possibility to live quieter lives, with less noise demanding our attention. And, it is that sense of external peace that, if we allow it to, can lead to a real sense of inner stillness and peace and reduce those interior noises which so often fuel our worries and anxieties. For more information regarding mental health issues please visit: https://www.mind.org.uk
(Wednesday 15th April 2020)
Fr CHRISTOPER JAMISON
We have previously looked at the advice given by a Dominican nun, Sister Mary Catharine Perry, on how the monastic traditions can help us all cope with the anxieties caused by the isolation of the lockdown. Today, we turn to another member of a religious order, Fr Christopher Jamison.
Fr Christopher is a Benedictine monk. He was the Abbot of Worth Abbey, a Benedictine Monastery in West Sussex, and he came into the public eye in the excellent BBC series, The Monastery. This series followed the progress of six ordinary people who committed themselves to staying at his monastery to see if the wisdom of the monastic tradition could make a difference in their modern lives. He is also the author of two excellent books, ‘Finding Sanctuary: Monastic steps for Everyday Life’ and ‘Finding Happiness: Monastic Steps For A Fulfilling Life’. Regarding the lockdown, Fr Christopher says, “The whole country is going through waves of different feelings, one that came up most in the early stages was anger. People were angry with people in supermarkets; angry with people who were stockpiling; angry with people who didn’t stay at home. There is also a lot of fear around and, later, people will feel lonely and bored.” He goes on to talk of how the monastic tradition can help counter such feelings, “If you just leave the day undifferentiated, it can get on top of you. But if you create your own rhythm, you’ll find that the day is more sustainable, bearable and enjoyable.” Fr Christopher draws a distinction between boredom and lethargy. “Boredom is when there is absolutely nothing to do. Lethargy is when there are things to do that you can’t be bothered doing. Most people suffer the latter, but they call it the former because it lets them off the hook. In the monastery, people are always ringing bells telling you what to do next, so you don’t have time to be bored.” He also feels that positivity is the key. “Do not begin the day by rehearsing your grievances. Begin by remembering you’re alive and there are good things still. You may have to do tough things later, but take it one step at a time. Begin with gratitude; then ask for the grace to face the day and its difficulties. Then go and address the difficulties.” Fr Christopher is also involved in a project to provide online resources to help people throughout the coronavirus pandemic. The special quality of these resources is that they come not from theories but from those with experience of social distancing or isolation; people who have lived this reality either intentionally, like monks and nuns, or against their will, like hostages or the housebound. Isolation is a new and difficult journey for most people but experienced guides can give us hope along the way. To access these resources, please visit: https://www.alonetogether.org.uk
OUR REFLECTION TODAY (Tuesday 14th April 2020)
Regular daily reflections in our lives are a positive habit, like any other healthy and beneficial habit, from exercising to reading and being grateful. The following quotes are from people, some more known to you than others:
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” Søren Kierkegaard(Søren Aabye Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher, theologian, poet, social critic and religious author who is widely considered to be the first existentialist philosopher. (If something is existential, it has to do with human existence.) “Reflect upon your present blessings of which every man has many not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” Charles Dickens(You are more than likely aware that Charles John Huffam Dickens FRSA was an English writer and social critic. He created some of the world's best-known fictional characters and is regarded by many as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era.) “Living in a way that reflects one's values is not just about what you do, it is also about how you do things.” Deborah Day(Deborah Day has been working as a clinician in the mental health field since 1989. She offers a broad array of creative tools to help her clients achieve their greatest potential.) “Learning without reflection is a waste. Reflection without learning is dangerous.” Confucius(Confucius was a Chinese philosopher and politician of the Spring and Autumn period. The philosophy of Confucius, also known as Confucianism, emphasised personal and governmental morality, correctness of social relationships, justice, kindness, and sincerity.) “Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.” Peter Drucker(Peter Ferdinand Drucker was an Austrian-born American management consultant, educator and author, whose writings contributed to the philosophical and practical foundations of the modern business corporation.) “Without deep reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people.” Albert Einstein . ((Most of us have heard of Albert Einstein. He was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics. His work is also known for its influence on the philosophy of science.)
For Christian believers spiritual reflection is the process of thinking, pondering, or reflecting on biblical teachings, Scripture, and/or sermons. Spiritual reflectiontransforms our spiritual life, matures our faith, and improves practice by applying God's Word.
Psalm 23 (NIV) There are a number of versions of the Bible and, hence, Psalm 23’s text may differ.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
David describes God's providential care in providing refreshment, guidance, protection, and abundance. Christ's relation to His people is often represented by the figure of a shepherd (and this can be found in passages such as John 10:14, Hebrews 13:20 and 1 Peter 2:25). Green pastures not in respect to food but as places of cool and refreshing rest. The still waters are, literally, ‘waters of stillness’, inviting a state of rest, sleep or tranquillity. To refresh the soul is to revive or quicken it (eg Psalm 19:7) or relieve it. The right paths are those of safety, as directed by God, and pleasing to Him. For his name's sake is with regard to His perfections, pledged for His people's welfare. In the darkest and most trying hour God is near. The darkest valley (in some versions it is the ‘valley of the shadow of death’) is a ravine overhung by high precipitous cliffs, filled with dense forests and well calculated to inspire dread to the timid. While expressive of any great danger or cause of terror, it does not exclude the greatest of all, to which it is most popularly applied and which its terms suggest, thy rod and thy staff are symbols of a shepherd's office. By them, he guides his sheep and expresses God's provided care. A table is a table of food. Oil is the symbol of gladness. My cup overflows (which represents abundance). This beautiful Psalm sets before us, in its chief figure - that of a shepherd - the gentle, kind and sure care extended to God's people, who, as a shepherd, both rules and feeds them. The closing verse shows that the blessings mentioned are spiritual.
MONDAY WITHIN THE OCTAVE OF EASTER (13th April 2020)
With the Coronavirus now officially a pandemic, which the World Health Organisation (WHO) defines as being, “the worldwide spread of a new disease”, so many are understandably worried about the potential impact of this disease on their own health and on the health of their loved ones. And, on top of the disease itself, there is also huge concern regarding the economic impact it is having on both a worldwide scale and on an individual scale. To help us, we have all received and should all be following, the guidelines that we have been given regarding dealing with the coronavirus, which include:
Washing hands frequently
Maintaining social distance
Avoiding touching face, eyes, nose, and mouth
Practising good respiratory hygiene
Following guidelines on self-isolation
Seeking medical advice if we have potentially come into contact with the virus or have symptoms
All of this advice, however, helps us with the physical aspect of avoiding the virus but what can we do regarding the anxiety that so many feel at this time? To help deal with the anxiety, especially that caused by the lockdown, we could do a lot worse than turn to the Christian monastic traditions. Over the coming days, we shall look at how the monastic traditions to be found within Christianity can provide us with different means of reducing our anxieties and to also help cope with the isolation of the lockdown.
One such person who has offered advice is Sister Mary Catharine Perry, a nun who has lived a ‘cloistered’ life, mostly in silence and solitude for 29 years. She hardly ever leaves her convent except for occasional doctor’s visits and says that she often goes for months without leaving the convent. According to Sister Catharine, who has “lived a life of separation”, this is what individuals, struggling in their homes in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus, should do to help themselves:
Establish a routine
Sister Catharine is far from the first person to urge people to establish a routine, as numerous experts have found that routines can help people bring some stability to periods of uncertainty. She does, however, acknowledge that it may take some time to get used to; for Sister Catharine, her routine consists of planned time for prayer, worship, work, meals and socialising with other Sisters. For her, routines allow for a “peaceful rhythm”.
Reach out and love others
According to Sister Catharine, times of uncertainty such as these mean it is “easy to get caught up in making sure you and your loved ones are safe and your needs are met”. However, she encourages people to reach out to those outside of their immediate circle to see if they need help.
Spend quality time with loved ones and friends
Sister Catharine also suggests that the lockdown is a good opportunity for us all to strengthen bonds of family and friendship with those you live with, through spending quality time together. A small part of her day is spent with her fellow Sisters enjoying each other’s company and sharing each other’s joys and difficulties.
Live a more quiet, simple life
Sister Catharine’s final piece of advice is to take this time to allow ourselves to have a, “more quiet, simple life”. According to her, she and her fellow nuns take a 90-minute break each day where they don’t speak or move about, a period they refer to as “profound silence”. She thinks such an activity would be useful for everyone currently practising social distancing, as it allows you an opportunity to be alone - which Perry believes most people are not comfortable doing. “People say they want peace and quiet. Then when they have it, they panic. They don’t know how to be alone.” However, according to Perry, life “isn’t meant to be rushed” and this time can be used to “get to know yourself”.
Prayer for Peace and Calm Dear Lord and Father of humankind, Forgive our foolish ways; Re-clothe us in our rightful mind, In purer lives Thy service find, In deeper reverence, praise. Drop Thy still dews of quietness, Till all our strivings cease; Take from our souls the strain and stress, And let our ordered lives confess The beauty of Thy peace. Breathe through the heats of our desire Thy coolness and Thy balm; Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire; Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire, O still, small voice of calm. Amen.
I hope that this selection of resources will offer you a means of incorporating prayer into your daily life. In addition to the above links to prayer resources, you can find a booklet called ‘Prayers for The Long Haul’ on the Services page of the website. This is a booklet containing set prayers that can be used throughout the day to add structure to your daily prayer life.
In our cycle of prayer we continue to pray for all who work in our National Health Service and especially those working in our local hospitals. We pray for their safety and for the safety of their own families.
Finally, as Christians, please remember that prayer should be an integral part of our daily life as we reflect upon these words from the booklet’s preface:
‘With 24-hour news coverage of the pandemic, comes anxiety and fear as well as shared experience. Into this situation St Paul says, ‘Do not be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’ (Phil 4.6–7).’
May God bless you all at this time and please be assured of my humble prayers. Fr Mark
For Fr Mark's message to you today, go to the Home page. The Spiritual Communion for Easter Sunday (which includes today's Bible Readings and Prayers) can be found on the Services/Activities page along with other links you may wish to follow. Our Weekly Prayers are on the Prayers page. Please also refer to the Weekly Notices page for other information you may need.
Please also read the Holy Saturday Easter Vigil (including Bible readings, Reflection and Prayers) which can be found on the Services/Activities page. Today is Holy Saturday, the 11th of April. Holy Saturday is a long empty day in the Christian calendar, when we wait outside the tomb, wondering what will happen. In a normal year, we should hear at midnight mass Matthew’s account of the brave women coming to the tomb in the early dawn. But this is not a normal year, because of the virus that has hit us all. To help us throughout these difficult times, a number of resources have been kindly made available to assist us in our prayer life and private devotions. One such resource you might like to consider using is Pray-as-you-go:https://pray-as-you-go.org Please go to https://pray-as-you-go.org/player/prayer/2020-04-11 to listen to today’s reflection as you sit and pray during the empty silence of this day. This is a wonderfully quiet and reflective video.
Good Friday Reading and Reflection from Fr Mark
For all the relevant readings for today, please refer to the Service sheet which you can find on the Services/Activities page.
After the following reading there is a Reflection from Fr Mark.
Gospel Reading - John 19:1-42 Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar's friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgement seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews’, but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfil the Scripture which says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” So the soldiers did these things, but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfil the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished”, and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.” After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.
Reflection: In the space of one month, March 1865, Archibald Tait the Dean of Carlisle, who was to later become Archbishop of Canterbury, watched as five of his daughters died in an epidemic of scarlet fever. The poet David Scott describes Tait and his wife as ‘at their prayers each day in a borrowed house, ... testing the Bible texts against a silent nursery.’ There are times when the blunt cruelty of a situation is so overwhelming that our faith in the goodness of God is tested beyond any casual speculation, ‘they tested the Bible texts against a silent nursery.’ As we stand in spirit with Mary and John today on Calvary’s lonely hill we discover that God has taken upon himself all the pain that bedevils the human condition. Sometimes we are faced with suffering that appears to be pointless, absurd, meaningless. We might have faced such moments in our lives already: someone we love might be taken from us, family life might fall apart, or we might have to watch the suffering of one who is dear. Across the world the devastating effects of Covid–19 are all too apparent in huge loss of life, and anxiety stalks us as we watch the disease gripping our own country. In the face of this pain some will ask us “Why? Why? Where is your God now?” We might be terrified we have nothing to say that won’t sound platitudinous. Rationalists (Christians amongst them) will look for an explanation of why this is happening to us. Romantics (Christians amongst them) want to be given a sigh of relief. Good Friday calls us to set aside dodgy speculations and false piety and go to Calvary, and trust that because of the cross, God shares in the suffering of his world. That he is with us in what we suffer too. If that was all today told us we might feel warmly disposed to the God who shares our pain, but it wouldn’t take us much further than that. John’s gospel, though, presents his passion as something that Jesus does, rather than as something done to him. He cries ‘It is finished’ as he dies, not ‘I am finished’, and the cross is but part of that journey in which Jesus has been showing us the indestructibility of God’s love. On Good Friday two things are inseparable: Jesus is lifted up in the pain of the cross, displaying God’s solidarity with a suffering world; and at the same time, he is lifted up in triumph to show pain does not have the last word and that sin and death are ultimately dealt with. So, of all days this is one on which we dare to hope: God hasn’t come with a glib, easy answer to the question of suffering, but on the cross he has entered into the question himself to show that he is with us. So doing, the horizon has opened beyond our imagining – our lives have become places where his healing love can dwell.
Please now read the Prayers to be found on the Prayers page. You can use this link.
Good Friday Readings
For all the relevant readings for today please download the Good Friday service document (available from the Services/Activities page - you can use this link).
The document is about the The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christaccording to the Gospel of John starting at Chapter 18 verse 1 and ending at Chapter 19 verse 42. Those readings are broken down into: The arrest of Jesus 18: 1-11 The burial 19: 38-42 Jesus before Annas and Caiaphas 18: 12-27 Jesus before Pilate 18: 28-19:11 Jesus is condemned to death 19: 12-16 The crucifixion 19: 17-22 Jesus’ garments divided 19: 23-24 Jesus and his mother 19: 25-27 The death of Jesus 19: 28-30 The pierced Christ 19: 31-37 The burial 19: 38-42
As the Eucharist on this day is offered in the evening in remembrance of the Last Supper you might like to offer this act of worship towards the end of the day. This is a night that is rich in meaning: we recall Jesus giving himself to us through his body and blood – even as we yearn to share that gift together in church once more; we recall his invitation to follow his pattern of service of others – even as we pray for those putting themselves at risk through their ministry to those suffering with COVID–19; and we recall Jesus giving himself into the hands of his enemies to die on the cross – even as we hold in our hearts the suffering of others tonight.
First Reading on Maundy Thursday
1 Corinthians 11: 23-26 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for[e] you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
Second Reading on Maundy Thursday
John 13:1-15 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it round his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped round him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterwards you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.” When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.
Reflection (1) on Maundy Thursday ‘Jesus knew his hour had come’. That’s how St John opens his account of the Last Supper. This is the beginning of Jesus’ hour, ‘his time had come’ we might say, and the goal that the whole of his ministry had been building towards was finally nigh. What’s striking in both John’s telling of the events of the Last Supper, as well as in the other gospels, is that this is something Jesus has been looking towards with eager anticipation. St Luke says that Jesus spoke of his “earnest desire” to “eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” That puts it even stronger still. Jesus approaches this hour with earnest desire. In his heart he looks forward to the moment when he will give himself to his own through bread and wine, and with those gifts inaugurate the transformation of the world that his body broken and blood poured out will accomplish on the morrow. Jesus at the Last Supper is the mirror of the earnest desire of God for us. ‘Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end’ John tells us of the Lord. This is a love that wants to draw all of creation to itself, that draws us out of the limits of this world to the Divine. Jesus desires us, he awaits us. One of the great saints of the sixteenth century is St Teresa of Avila, who wrote of her own experiences of God in a very straight-forward and down to earth way. In one of her reflections she’s thinking about that phrase of the Lord’s Prayer ‘Give us this day our daily bread’. She says that in an obvious way it’s praying that our needs be met; but more than that, she recalls that Jesus speaks of himself as ‘living bread come down from heaven’, and that he gives himself away in bread at the Last Supper. Praying for ‘daily bread’ she says is a prayer to receive Jesus himself; and more than that, she says it tells us that Jesus wants us to want him, he wants us to go on praying that he be sent for our good. On this night when we recall how Jesus left the means by which he would go on ‘being sent for our good’ our hearts are filled with earnest desire too. We would expect to be together tonight sharing in Holy Communion, but instead the circumstances necessitated by the terrible coronavirus means we are apart and that we are unable to receive the Sacrament. Might we allow this time to grow desire within us? To cultivate an eagerness to encounter him, to become one with him, to receive the gifts he offers us in the Holy Eucharist? The eager desire of the hour of Jesus is to offer a gift – his body broken, his blood shed, forgiveness, reconciliation, life. At the same time as the gift is made a task is set – service. The one who calls us to himself is the one who calls us to service, and whose total self-giving is set before us as the pattern to follow. Jesus washes the feet of his disciples not just in order to be humble, but to be loving. His washing is the sign of the unity, of the bond, between him and his disciples. They are seen not to be servants but friends. The earnest love of the Lord makes us one with him, and that love working in us, should overflow in our love for one another. Tonight we thank Jesus who earnest seeks our company, we yearn for that spiritual nourishment once more, and we pray for the grace to be better imitators of him in our daily lives. Prayers Father, on this, the night he was betrayed, your Son Jesus Christ washed his disciples’ feet. Strengthen us to walk in his way of love and service: Lord, hear us. On this night, he prayed for those who were to believe through his disciples’ message. Guide your Church in her mission, and make her one: Lord, hear us. On this night, he commanded his disciples to love. Be with those who at this time risk their lives to care for others. Keep them strong yet loving, and when their work is done, be with them in their weariness and in their tears. Lord, hear us. On this night, he accepted the cup of death and looked forward to the new wine of the kingdom. We pray for those who have died in the peace of Christ. Lord, hear us. Our Father …
Reflection (2) on Maundy Thursday
Today is Maundy Thursday and a great deal takes place on Maundy Thursday. It is the day upon which we are with Jesus at the Last Supper. This being the meal that Jesus had with His disciples on the evening before his crucifixion and death. It is the day upon which we remember when Jesus washed the feet of His disciples and when He ordains His first priests. It is the day upon which we commemorate the institution of the Eucharist and it is from the Last Supper that He makes His way to the Garden of Gethsemane to suffer torment and anguish of what the next day would bring. And, Maundy Thursday marks the beginning of the Easter Triduum (“triduum” is Latin for “three days”) of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Pause for thought ... Now the word 'Maundy' actually comes from the Latin word meaning 'commandment' and Jesus himself used the word 'commandment' that evening after washing the disciples' feet. He said to them, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” Jesus washing the feet of his disciples demonstrated love. Their feet would have been hot, tired and very dirty and to wash them was usually a task reserved for servants. Jesus, however, did this task himself. He humbled Himself and demonstrated love and care for others and we should humble ourselves too. This difficult time that we are all passing through presents us all with unique ways in which we are able to serve others. There are so many ways in which all of us can, in one way or another, perform acts of unconditional love and kindness to others. And so, with so many opportunities all around us to share love, kindness and support to so many … how will you serve others? “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another”.
Wednesday in Holy Week
First reading on Holy Wednesday:
Yesterday, the second reading was taken from John’s Gospel. Today we look at the account from Matthew’s Gospel. Matthew 26:14-25 Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, "What will you give me if I betray him to you?" They paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him. On the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?" He said, "Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, "The Teacher says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples." So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover meal. When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve; and while they were eating, he said, "Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me." And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, "Surely not I, Lord?" He answered, "The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born." Judas, who betrayed him, said, "Surely not I, Rabbi?" He replied, "You have said so." Pause for thought ... This day, the Wednesday in Holy Week, is often referred to as ‘Spy Wednesday’, as on this day we once again meet Judas and we remember his great act of treachery. At a Bob Dylan concert in Manchester in 1966, a man reacted loudly to what he perceived was an act of treachery and he cried out from the crowd, “Judas” at the star. The reason for this outburst? Dylan had abandoned his acoustic guitar for an electric one, thus infuriating huge numbers of his fans. Fifty years on, in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Dylan was still seething and smarting at having been compared to Judas. Judas, however, brings to the fore a profound truth about the Church. This truth is that from its very beginning there have always been difficult times and difficult characters in its midst. Indeed, the history of the Church is full of individuals and groups of individuals who have acted in a way abhorrent to the Christian faith. Saint John Henry Newman, a saint who spent much of his life in Birmingham, said that one of the signs of the Church’s sacredness is that it has been able to endure scandal and betrayal throughout its life. Indeed, any other human organisation subject to the betrayals and scandal the Church has known over two thousand years would surely not have survived. Unable to gather for acts of public worship, unable to join together for this holiest season of the Christian calendar, the Church is once again going through difficult times. However, just like a cork in the sea: the Christian Church can be submerged for a time weighed down by difficulties but the weight of these difficulties and challenges will not sink it. Another saint, Saint Theresa of Avila caused a stir many centuries ago when she prayed for Judas’s soul. To those who criticised her for doing this, she simply said that no one, not even Judas, was beyond God’s saving mercy and love. And so, as we continue to walk through Holy Week, let us all reflect upon the times when we have fallen short in our Christian lives and in the example that we should set. And let us ask God for the strength to do better. ‘O my Jesus! Forgive us our sins. Save us from ourselves and our own way of thinking and lead all souls to heaven, especially those most in need of your mercy and love.”
Second reading on Holy Wednesday: Matthew 27: 33-54 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God’.” And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way. Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared too many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
Reflection on Holy Wednesday: (Please refer to today’s 2nd Bible Reading above.) “And when they had crucified him.” One of the striking things in all four Gospels is how simply they deal with the actual moment of the crucifixion of Jesus. There’s an almost disconcerting brevity in the narration. Matthew wants to draw our attention not so much to the agony of how Jesus died, but to the way his death fulfils the prophecies of the Old Testament. This section of the passion narrative begins with Jesus being offered wine mixed with gall, an echo of a verse from Psalm 69: “For my food you gave me gall, and in my thirst sour wine to drink.” The mockery that Jesus is subjected to draws our minds to Psalm 22: “All who see me scoff at me; they deride me … He trusted in the Lord; let him deliver him.” Even Jesus’s cry “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani” is to be found in Psalm 22, and we see him in the utter agony of feeling forsaken as he faces a terrible death. For those with eyes to see and ears to hear, Matthew is telling us, this self-giving death of the Son of God was always going to be how draws a humanity that is distracted and turned to falsehood back to himself. When Jesus entered Jerusalem the city quake in turmoil; now the very earth itself quakes and the sky is darkened (reminding us of the Old Testament prophet Amos who foretells of a darkened sky at noon on the Day of the Lord, when God would visit the earth to establish his kingship; or of the darkness at noon of the ninth plague in Egypt when God led his people to freedom). Christ is “no tame lion” who has things done unto him. This is the earth shattering event by which God has visited his people and changed things for ever, the definitive moment of the conquest of evil. Pray for those suffering at this time, especially for those driven to despair, that they may see God’s love. Pray for those approaching death, especially those approaching it with fear. Pray that your own approach to dying may be nourished and informed by Christ’s having died for us.
Tuesday in Holy Week Reading 1 - Gospel Reading Matthew 27: 26-32 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor's headquarters and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spat on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him. As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross.
Reflection - Tuesday in Holy Week (Please refer to today’s Bible Reading 1 in a separate Note.)
There seems to be a deeply ingrained trait in the human condition of mocking which we don’t understand. The soldiers are merely dealing with yet another difficult prisoner who has been handed over for execution; in their minds Jesus is inconvenient, making an already volatile situation more complicated through the claims he makes about himself, and so, confident of the status of the unshakable power of the Roman Empire they dress Jesus up as a king and mock and abuse him. Unwittingly they highlight an eternal truth that the whole sweep of Matthew’s gospel has been leading us to: This is the coronation of Christ as King, and all that has gone before has been telling us of how God in Jesus has been establishing his kingdom. The coronation is not the offering of those who honour him, but the sport of those who will murder him, and yet here the eternal God is subverting and unsettling human power. Mockery seeks to undermine faith and truth, but faith and trust is precisely what Matthew’s Gospel has been kindling in our hearts. In the face of the lies and the taunts and the opposition we are invited to see the Son of God and believe. ‘The universal Lord is he,’ says the sixth century hymn writer Venantius Fortunatus ‘who reigns and triumphs from the tree.’ The irony is that those who mock make it clear that Jesus is King for ever, for the death that they prepare him for is the gateway to the resurrection. Intriguingly, perhaps Simon from Cyrene grasps something of that. He comes from an outpost on the trading routes in North Africa, and he is in Jerusalem for the Passover Festival. Mark’s Gospel gives us the detail that he is “the father of Alexander and Rufus”, the inference being these two are known to the readers of his gospel. Perhaps they were members of the Church for which Mark wrote? (But that Matthew is writing for a different Christian community so omits that detail.) Perhaps Simon was a passer-by, drawn by accident of time and place to an encounter with Jesus, in which he came to faith, and so his sons also became believers? The point is, some passers-by get it. They are drawn in to see and believe, and they pass on the message so that others believe through their word. There is a contrast that chimes in our own experience: maybe in the face of the present appalling suffering the COVID–19 virus has brought to so many, you have had people say to you “where is your God now?” This passage shows us that those with a mistaken notion of God and power always mock, but the suffering of Christ places God with the victim, and that makes faith possible even in the teeth of suffering and ridicule. Pray for all who are victims of the mockery and humiliation of others, and those who find themselves stripped of their human dignity as part of their position in life. Remember all who have helped you to bear burdens, and pray for all those whose work brings them alongside people who are carrying a heavy load.
Tuesday in Holy Week Reading 2 - John 13:21-33,36-38
Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, "Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me." The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, "Lord, who is it?" Jesus answered, "It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish." So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, "Do quickly what you are going to do." Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, "Buy what we need for the festival"; or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night. When he had gone out, Jesus said, "Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, "Where I am going, you cannot come.” Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, where are you going?" Jesus answered, "Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterward." Peter said to him, "Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you." Jesus answered, "Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.” Pause for thought ... I am certain that you have heard someone described as being a ‘bad apple’. In our reading for today, taken from the Gospel of Saint John, Judas was a kind of ‘bad apple’: he clearly knew that he had gone astray – he was a thief and he betrayed Jesus for money. In fact, the name ‘Judas’ has become a by-word to describe any and every act of betrayal. Judas was tempted by the lure of money and betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. At today’s exchange rate thirty pieces of silver is approximately equivalent to £160.00. Of course, Judas ended up regretting it and returned the money but his act of betrayal will forever live on throughout history. In a recent article in the Independent, Hugo Dixon writes that this current situation in which we all find ourselves is making us all reflect upon what it is that is important to us and I’m sure that this won’t come as a surprise but it’s not money! He writes that people are now realising what truly matters in life and this, ‘marks a welcome change from the materialism and hedonism that dominates our culture’. He claims that we are now beginning to realise what it is that really matters and what it is that truly matters is not dependent upon people having money. This crisis is for so many, ‘bringing home how much we rely on friends and family for our sanity and meaning in life’. It’s also making us realise that, ‘ we need to care for others – and to be cared for by them.’ And so, as we continue to take these first steps through the Church’s holiest of weeks, let us all take time to reflect upon what it is that is important in our lives. Perhaps we could take time throughout the week that is to come to reflect upon the following questions:
What is it in life that is truly important to me?
What is it that I am tempted by?
All of us are very well aware of what Judas will be remembered for, and so,
What will you be remembered for?
What do the ways in which you answer the above questions say about you
Monday of Holy Week: Gospel Reading Matthew 27:11-26 Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.” But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed. Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. Besides, while he was sitting on the judgement seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” And he said, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!” So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves.” And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified. Reflection ... We noted yesterday the turmoil that Jesus causes. The ground, physically and metaphorically, quakes in his presence. This section of the passion narrative in Matthew’s Gospel continues that theme. Christ is on trial before the High Priest and the religious authorities, and is then brought before Pilate. They are the ones who think they have power and who think that they know the mind of God. But the ground shifts beneath them. The wisdom of God revealed in Jesus Christ reorganises what they think they know in unpredictable ways. In the trial of Jesus the language of faith is used as a defence and a weapon by the authorities, and so we see they are blind to the truth that stands before them. Their exclusion of Jesus is the refusal of their own life and wholeness, and the fantasy of power has drawn them away from the path of truth and sincerity. One of the striking things about Matthew’s telling of the passion and death of Christ is how he draws out the way that Jesus dies in order to fulfil the Scriptures. Jesus is not killed as the result of a series of unfortunate circumstances, but his death is a self-gift that displays the redemptive, unstoppable love of God. The disturbing truth that Jesus is showing us in his trial is that this is where the world is turned on its head. God chose to be in the condemned and isolated Christ. God is not where the religious authorities thought he was. God is in this mortal man who is helpless and about to suffer a terrible death. Pray for the condemned in our time: those unjustly condemned, and others whose sentence we may think deserved – but would we if we knew their whole story? Pray too for those who administer justice, that they may have the wisdom for their task.
Monday of Holy Week - Reflection:
Even amid these unprecedented times, we begin our journey through the Church’s holiest of seasons. Historical documents tell us that as early as the fourth century the Church celebrated this week with a feeling of profound sanctity and despite not being able to gather publicly to worship, and unable to journey physically together through the week that is to come, Christian’s all over the world are still commemorating and remembering the last week of Jesus' earthly life. There will be many enduring images that will emerge from this time but perhaps, for Christians the world over, one such enduring image will be that of Pope Francis praying alone in an empty Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican. In a square that has held more than 300,000 people, the image of Pope Francis praying for the world is a powerful one. “The pandemic,” Pope Francis said, “has exposed our vulnerability and uncovers those false and superfluous certainties around which we have constructed our daily schedules, our projects, our habits and priorities.” Time is perhaps the most precious of all commodities. In the ‘normal’ fast paced lives that we all live, we never seem to have enough time and the time that we do have we fill with ‘superfluous’ tasks. This Holy Week, however, we have an opportunity like never before to be clear of unnecessary activities and to have the space and time that we need to ask ourselves questions that normally go unasked. What questions do we need to ask ourselves? What are the unnecessary and superfluous things that we normally fill our lives with? Is it perhaps time to choose a different lifestyle and to get your life back on track? And so this Holy Week, may we all take time to stop and reflect upon our own lives and may we all be blessed as we journey through Holy Week.
The steeples of Saint Mary’s and Saint Bartholomew’s.
Brothers and sisters in Christ praying for each other, our communities and our world. May God bless us all abundantly at this time.
Palm Sunday Reflection:
(Please refer to the service of Spiritual Communion for Palm Sunday in addition to this reflection, for Palm Sunday readings and prayers - on the Services/Activities page. Also refer to this week's prayers on the Prayers page.)
The C S Lewis story 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ is the story of four children who, whilst evacuated to the country home of a strange professor, discover a new world called Narnia. This new world is entered through a wardrobe, and the children enter and become participants in re-establishing the reign of the great lion Aslan. C S Lewis, a man of deep Christian faith, wrote the story as a way of communicating the truths of the gospel in an imaginative way. When he describes Aslan he uses his creativity to tell us something about what the experience of God is like. ‘Is he – quite safe?’ one of the children asks a talking beaver about Aslan at one point. The beaver replies, ‘Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe, but he’s good’. As the story unfolds the unsafeness of Aslan is referred to again and again. Aslan returns to a self-contained world that has been frozen in winter to turn over the tyranny that has held it captive with his uncontainable freedom. He turns things upside down with a disturbing power. He is, as is said of him in another of the Narnia books ‘no tame lion’. This image of disturbing, un-tameable power is one to hold in our minds as we read Matthew’s account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. “The whole city was stirred up” as Jesus enters on the donkey, he says. “The whole city quaked” is another way of translating it. The point is clear: this is not the arrival of someone tame, someone safe. It is the arrival of someone who has come to turn the self-contained world upside down with uncontainable freedom: The King riding the donkey, redefining what power looks like; the Messiah who accomplishes God’s providential plan in self-giving love. “Who is this?” the crowds ask, and we are given a picture of a city that is in turmoil at his procession, quaking indeed, with their expectations heightened that the Messiah was at hand. “Who is this?” The answer to the question of the crowd on the first Palm Sunday is shattering in its power. Jerusalem quaked when Jesus entered it, the earth would quake as Jesus died, and there was a strong earthquake as the angel descended onto the empty tomb. The impact of Christ’s life, death and resurrection is without precedent. As we make our way through the events of this week as all around us seems to quake and be in turmoil, we discover that the good news of salvation is not to be tamed. It makes all the difference to everyone and everything.
Friday in the Fifth week of Lent (3rd April 2020)
St Richard of Chichester Today we remember another ‘local’ saint, Saint Richard of Wyche, also known as Richard of Chichester. Richard was born in Burford, near Droitwich, Worcestershire in 1197. He studied at Oxford, also in France and was ordained as a priest in 1243. After spending time as a parish priest he went on to be appointed as Bishop of Chichester in 1245. The remaining eight years of Richard's life were spent ministering to his flock and constantly demonstrated generosity to the poor and the needy. He died aged just 56 on this day in 1253 at a house for poor priests in Dover. He was declared a saint in 1262 and his tomb in Chichester Cathedral became a popular place of pilgrimage. Richard is widely remembered today for the following prayer that is ascribed to him: “Thanks be to Thee, my Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits Thou hast given me, for all the pains and insults Thou hast borne for me. O most merciful Redeemer, friend and brother, may I know Thee more clearly, love Thee more dearly, follow Thee more nearly. Amen” Pause for thought ... Today we celebrate the life of another ‘local’ saint, an outstanding individual who was born just a relatively short journey from Wednesbury. Richard led a life of generosity, of caring for others, of holiness and virtue BUT it must be remembered that he was not born a saint. In fact, no one is born a saint! Someone once wrote, “Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future!” We all have the capacity to be a saint and so, why don’t you be a saint? Pope Francis recently said that, “To be saints is not the privilege of the few, but a vocation for everyone.” At this time then, perhaps more so than ever before in recent history, the world, our communities, need saints. Saints are those who truly love their neighbour and so be a saint … be that person that God has created you to be and love your neighbour … no matter who that neighbour may be!
Thursday in the Fifth week of Lent (2nd April 2020)
Saint Francis of Paola Our saint today was a man who longed for silence and solitude and who strove to live a humble life. Saint Francis of Paola was born in the town of Paola, which lies in southern Italy. After travelling with his parents to Rome and Assisi at the age of 14, he began to live alone as a hermit in a remote cave near Paola. Before he was 20, however, his life of solitude was interrupted and he received the first followers who had come to imitate his way of life. Seventeen years later in 1474, when his disciples had grown in number, Francis established a community who were given the name the Hermits of St Francis of Assisi. In 1492, Francis changed the name of his community to ‘Minims’, which means ‘the least’ as he wanted humility to be the hallmark of his followers life. Francis was a man who wished only to be the, “least in the household of God” and yet, whenever he was called upon to be active in the world and to leave the solitude of his hermitage, his wisdom helped so many and even influenced the course of nations. On one occasion he was asked by the pope to visit the King of France and to help him as he neared the end of his life. Whilst ministering to the king, Francis was able to influence the course of national politics and he helped to restore peace in France and bring an end to war. Francis died on this day in the year 1507 and was made a saint in 1519. Pause for thought ... It was Francis’s desire to live a life of silence and solitude and yet despite this, he was often called to emerge from his life of solitude and prayer and to go out into the world on active ministry. For some, this may seem a life of tension, a life torn between solitude and action. Yet, in Francis’s life it was a productive tension, for he clearly utilised the fruits of silence and solitude in his ministry and the wisdom that came from his solitude was put to good use helping others. He responded so readily and so well to the call to go into the world and help others and this active ministry was only possible because it was grounded in a life of silence and of prayer. When he did go out into the world, it was not he who worked but Christ working through him. Are we able to look upon this time of isolation as preparation for when we emerge once again into the world? Are we preparing ourselves through prayer to God’s will in the world?
Wednesday in the Fifth week of Lent (1st April 2020)
Saint Hugh of Grenoble (Saint of the Day for 1st April) Today’s saint is Saint Hugh of Grenoble. Saint Hugh was born in France in the year 1053 and it is said that he had many gifts but was also incredibly shy. He became a Bishop’s secretary and later on went on to hold a senior post at a cathedral and then became the Bishop of Grenoble. Hugh served as a Bishop in France for 52 years and during this time he set about reforming the diocese and attempted to bring to an end the financial irregularities that had been going on and the abuse of church funds.Ironically, despite his shy nature Hugh was incredibly effective in his reforms and this was due to his Christian faith and because of his strong character. Hugh was very much loved by the poor but disliked by the rich and during his time as Bishop he had a bridge built; he started a marketplace to help with the supply and distribution of food to the poor. He had three hospitals built for the people in his care and he also restored a church and cathedral. In addition to these, Saint Hugh is especially remembered as being instrumental in helping to found the Carthusian order. Hugh gave Saint Bruno the land on which the first Carthusian monastery, the Grande Chartreuse, was built thus starting the Carthusians. Hugh spent a great deal of time at the monastery himself and even asked the Pope for permission to resign from being a Bishop so that he could live as a monk. His request was always refused. Hugh died on this day in the year 1132 and he was made a saint only two years later. Pause for thought ... Saint Hugh could be described as being a Patron Saint for all those of us who feel so overwhelmed by the current difficulties that we are all facing. Hugh himself lived through some incredibly difficult times and he saw many challenges in his life. Throughout all of his own personal difficulties and challenges however, he always sought to do good for all. It was this care of others, along with his steadfast faith in God that saw him through all of these challenges. In the midst of these confusing and difficult times for us all, let us all pray for the strength that we need to see us through this difficult time and, also, to have the strength to persevere despite the challenges placed before us. And, may we always be mindful of others and be there for them in their own suffering.
Tuesday in the Fifth week of Lent (31st March 2020)
John Donne, Priest and Poet Today we commemorate the life of John Donne. He was born some time between 24th January and 19th June in the year 1572. He was born in London and brought up as a Roman Catholic. He was a great-great nephew of Thomas More, although this seems to have had little influence on him, as he was extremely sceptical about all religion. He went to study at Oxford when he was fourteen and later at Cambridge and during this time he discovered his Christian faith in the Church of England. After much heart-searching, he accepted ordination and on 23rd January 1615 he became a priest. He went on later to hold a senior post at St Paul's Cathedral. The people of London flocked to hear his sermons and the power and eloquence of his sermons soon secured for him a reputation as the foremost preacher in England and he became a favourite of both Kings James I and Charles I. Interest in his poetry and religious poems took on a renewed life in the twentieth century and his place, both as a scholar and as a theologian, are confirmed by his prolific writings and the publication of his sermons. He died on this day in the year 1631. Pause for thought ... John Donne wrote the poem ‘No Man Is An Island’. In that work of poetry he wrote: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” Perhaps there is no greater time than the present to reflect upon these words for we are all passing through this time of difficulty and challenge together. It is through supporting each other, showing care and through all of us doing what is asked of us that this time will pass and we shall once again have a glimpse of normality in our lives. Although Donne’s words were intended to illustrate the unity of all Christians in the Church, they also serve to remind us today that this is a collective crisis that we are all experiencing and it needs a collective response. John Donne’s words remind us all of our interdependence and that we are all in this together and that we can emerge from this time with a renewed sense of community. It is therefore a good time to re-evaluate our lives and our attitudes and to ask ourselves are we striving to be an island at the moment or are we, through our care and love of others, part of a greater continent? None of us is an island … To see the images clearly you may need to click on them.
Monday in the Fifth week of Lent (30th March 2020)
Today the church remembers another truly outstanding individual, Saint John Climacus. He is honoured as a great writer; he wrote a renowned Spiritual book called The Ladder, and as a person who lived a holy life. Saint John of the Ladder (“of the ladder” means Climacus) was born in Constantinople around the year 570 ad. At the age of just sixteen he went off into the desert to find himself a teacher and guide. He found one in a wise old monk called Martyrius. After four years, John himself became a monk and it was predicted that he would go on to become someone who would do great things. For nineteen years Saint John lived as a monk guided by his teacher. After the death of Martyrius, John lived a solitary life, living a life of silence, fasting and prayer. His humility was remarkable and through his studies he became renowned for his Spiritual wisdom with many visiting him seeking guidance for their own Spiritual journey. Knowing of the wisdom and Spiritual gifts of Saint John, an Abbot of a monastery asked him to write down whatever advice he could give to help those who lived the monastic life. Although John felt that such a task was beyond his ability, out of obedience he wrote the book and although the book was written initially for monks, any Christian will find it a sure and helpful guide for their journey through life and towards God. Pause for thought … Saint John Climacus wrote these words,“The friend of silence comes close to God.” We live in a loud and distracting world, where silence is increasingly difficult to come by ― and that may be negatively affecting our health. In fact, a 2011 World Health Organization report called noise pollution a “modern plague,” concluding that, “there is overwhelming evidence that exposure to environmental noise has adverse effects on the health of the population.” Although we continue to live in very difficult and challenging times, we may want to consider what positives could emerge from these long periods of isolation that some of us are undergoing. One such positive would be to perhaps consider building times of silence into our daily lives. All of the great religious traditions believe in the benefit that can be derived from having periods of silence and stillness in our daily routine. And the benefits that can be derived are not just Spiritual. In 2006, a study published in the journal Heart found two minutes of silence to be more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music, based on changes in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain. Not all of us can live lives of solitude like Saint John Climacus, but we should all consider his advice because silence not only helps us in our relationship with God, but it has also been proven that even short periods of silence each day can yield positive results for our physical and mental wellbeing … try it … you have nothing to lose!
READINGS FOR TODAY (29th March 2020)
First Reading Romans 8:6-11 To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you. Gospel Reading John 11:1-45 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, "Lord, he whom you love is ill." But when Jesus heard it, he said, "This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God's glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it." Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, "Let us go to Judea again." The disciples said to him, "Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?" Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them." After saying this, he told them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him." The disciples said to him, "Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right." Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him." Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him." When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him." Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" She said to him, "Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world." When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, "The Teacher is here and is calling for you." And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Lord, come and see." Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?" Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, "Take away the stone." Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, "Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days." Jesus said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, "Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me." When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go." Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.
Saturday in the Fourth week of Lent (28th March 2020)
“If you are being taught the Christian message, you should share all the good things you have . . .” The above verse is taken from Saint Paul’s Letter to the Galatians and is a reading that can be read today for prayers that are said in the afternoon. Traditionally, this service is known as None(*) and it is a short service that is said around 3 pm. The above words teach us that we should, “share all the good things you have.” Sharing, however, does not always mean the sharing of material things with others. A precious commodity, perhaps the most precious of all that we can share with others is our time. In these difficult times for us all, we need to be generous in sharing our time. We can do this by contacting those who we know are vulnerable, those who are struggling with loneliness. We should all strive to be generous with our time … we have so much of it to be generous with at the moment. We can also be generous through listening. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German theologian in the last century and he wrote that the first service that we owe to others is to listen to them. Finally, as Christians, we can also share that most precious gift of our faith. Tell someone that you will pray for them at this difficult time. Let them know that you will pray for them and for their loves ones. It’s a comforting thing to know that someone is praying for you! (*) If you want more information regarding this word, use the following link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nones_(liturgy)
Saint John of Egypt Friday in the Fourth week of Lent (27th March 2020)
Today we remember and celebrate the life of another saint who, although he lived 1700 years ago, is still someone that we can learn from in these present times … perhaps now more than ever. St John of Egypt was born in the year 214. He was born in Lycopolis which is now Egypt and he worked with his father who was a carpenter. At a young age he felt a calling from God to live a solitary life of prayer. He went into the desert and for ten years he was the disciple of an elderly hermit. When his teacher died, John chose to live in various monasteries to learn the life of a monk. Eventually, John decided to leave the monastery and he went to live in a cave he had found in the desert. The cave had three rooms; a living room, a workroom and a chapel. He had a single window through which he would talk with people who came to him for his advice. He devoted himself to a life of prayer and meditation as a hermit and would spend five days of the week in solitude with God, but on Saturday and Sunday he would listen to and give advice to people who sought it. People brought him food and necessities and he attracted many followers who became his disciples. In spite of his growing fame, St John remained humble and lived a very frugal life. In his old age he was visited by the historian Palladius and his account of their meeting still exists to this very day. He died at the age of 90 from natural causes and he was found on his knees as if in prayer. Pause for thought … There are some people who never struggle at all with solitude. St John of Egypt was one such person for he, along with many others from the world’s monastic traditions over the centuries, longed for silence and solitude. There are those, however, who find it difficult to be alone. There are those who struggle with silence. We are fortunate to live in an age where we no longer have to be alone. We are fortunate to have telephones, mobile phones and computers that allow us to see those we talk to no matter where they are in the world. No-one at this time needs to feel isolated and vulnerable. Just like those who came to see St John for wisdom and out of compassion brought him food and supplies, let us too show that same care and concern for others by contacting friends and family each day. No-one needs be alone! And, St John spent hours in prayer … there’s no need for you to spend hours … but consider saying this prayer for those you love: "Keep us, good Lord, under the shadow of your mercy. Sustain and support the anxious, be with those who care for the sick and lift up all who are brought low; that we may find comfort knowing that nothing can separate us from your love in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen" For those who are finding these challenging times difficult, the Church of England has published resources to help those who seek hope, reassurance and comfort at this time. They can be accessed at: https://www.churchofengland.org/faith-action/mental-health-resources/supporting-good-mental-health/supporting-good-mental-health Additional help and advice is also available from the Mental Health Foundation website at: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/
Harriet Monsell Thursday in the Fourth week of Lent (26th March 2020) It’s not every day in the life of the Church that we have a huge celebration where we celebrate the life of a well-known saint, someone like Saint Francis, for example. But, nonetheless, we are able, almost every day of the year, to look back at the life of an outstanding individual who has made such a difference in the lives of others. Today is a perfect example of that! How many of you have heard of Harriet Monsell? Not many I would think. Harriet O'Brien was born in 1811 and married Charles Monsell. Sadly, Charles was to die in 1850 but Harriet, a devout Christian, decided after his death to give her life to God and to devote her life to the care of others. She founded a religious community for women, the Community of Saint John the Baptist, on 30th November 1852. She became Mother Superior and under her care, the community grew rapidly and undertook a range of social work in a variety of locations, with communities helping the poor in India and America by the 1880s. The sisters cared for orphans, ran schools and hospitals and opened mission houses in parishes. Harriet died on this day 26th March in 1883. The community still exists today and in 2012 the Community moved to new purpose-built accommodation, Harriet Monsell House, at Ripon College, Cuddesdon in Oxfordshire. Pause for thought … In the Collect, the special prayer said for Harriet today, we have these words: (please see the Prayers for today for the remainder of the Collect) Gracious God, who led your servant Harriet Monsell through grief to a new vocation; ... Harriet is a perfect example of someone who, despite knowing difficulty in her life, went on to do amazing things. Her vision of starting a religious community was realised and through those women who served God under her care, the lives of literally 1000s were touched. Because of her, orphans knew what love was, children knew the gift of an education and the sick were cared for. All of us are, in one way or another, going through a difficult time at the moment; tragically, some more so than others. Let us all then reflect and pray that we too, just like Harriet, may emerge from this time of difficulty and be able to bring joy into the lives of others through acts of love, kindness and care.
The Annunciation of Our Lord (25th March 2020) Today is an important day for Christians all over the world. It is a day that has been celebrated in the Church since at least the fourth century and it is the day upon which we remember the Archangel Gabriel’s visit to Mary to tell her that she was going to be the mother of God’s Son, Jesus. Despite having questions and fears herself, Mary had the courage to answer ‘yes’ to God. It is also a day upon which we remember that we too are called on to say ‘yes’ to God every day of our lives and to trust in His goodness as completely as did Mary. The Story of the Annunciation The story is found in Luke 1:26-38: In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no husband?” And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. Pause for thought … The Annunciation celebrates Mary’s courage to say “Yes” and to allow God into her life in the most amazing of ways. That plan and hope that God had for her is announced to her by the Angel Gabriel. We are told that after the initial greeting the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid”. Mary simply trusted that God had her best interests in mind. The future gave both joys and hardships for her but Mary trusted, she had the willingness and the courage to say, “Yes” as long as it meant following what God wanted. Angels still visit us today; the question is, “Who is your angel?” Who are the angels in our society at the moment? Are the angels the carers who visit and sit with others throughout the day to ensure that they are given dignity and care? Are the angels the nurses or doctors risking themselves and caring for others at this time? Are the angels midwives who will bring new life into this world today? Are the angels friends who telephone to see if others are okay? Are the angels those? Who are your angels? The fact is, we are all called to be angels. WHO ARE YOU BEING CALLED TO BE AN ANGEL FOR?
Saint Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador (24th March 2020)
Today we remember someone who has only been made a saint in recent times. Oscar Romero was born on 15th August 1917 in El Salvador and he was one of eight children. His father taught him carpentry as he knew that having an education in El Salvador did not always mean that people could find employment. At a young age Oscar also felt a calling to become a priest and was ordained in April 1942. He was known as being a quiet and unassuming priest and he embraced a simple lifestyle. He was a popular priest who responded with real compassion to the plight of the poor and gave dedicated pastoral care to all. In February 1977 he was made the Archbishop of San Salvador. Courageously, amidst the political and social unrest at the time in his country, he began to speak out against the injustices in society and he called for more support for the poor and for social justice. Despite threats, he refused to be silenced and on 24th March 1980, whilst celebrating mass in church, he was assassinated by a gunman. He fell at the foot of a huge crucifix. Oscar Romero’s memory is a source of strength and encouragement for millions of people throughout the world. He was canonized a saint on 14th October 2018 and he is now recognised as Saint Oscar Romero. Reflection: Oscar Romero devoted his life to the care of others. Today, we remember and pray for all those who care for the elderly and vulnerable in our society today. We especially pray for those who work in care homes and nursing homes in our parish. Today, they have all been held in prayer and we give thanks to God for their devotion to the care of others. We pray for their safety and for their own loved ones. "Aspire not to have more, but to be more." Saint Oscar Romero
Monday in the 4th week of Lent (23rd March 2020)
Amongst our readings for today we have Psalm 30 and in that particular psalm the psalmist writes these words: At night there are tears, but joy comes with dawn. There is no doubt that these are difficult times for everyone. They are especially difficult for those who are either suffering themselves or have loved ones who are suffering. But, just as each night has a dawn, a coming of a new day, so then will this night through which we are all passing also end and a new day begin. Instead of sleeping throughout this night, however, we all need to be awake and aware of either putting ourselves, our loved ones or anyone else in danger for that matter. If we observe all of the guidelines and all act responsibly, then the quicker this night will pass . . . and the sooner joy will come with the dawn. Let us all reflect and pray perhaps upon the words of Saint Julian of Norwich: All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.
Fourth Sunday of Lent … Mothering Sunday
Today is Mothering Sunday. Mothering Sunday is always on the fourth Sunday of Lent and on this special day we give thanks to, and for, our mothers. It is a day that offers us all an opportunity to express both love and thanks for the work that they do. This year however, Mothering Sunday will be different for almost everyone. Despite wanting to be with our loved ones, we have to keep them safe too. At a time when we have been told to avoid ‘non-essential travel’ and gatherings with friends and family, the likelihood is that so many will not see their mothers. This is however, a sacrifice that needs to be made. If we look at the life of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, she too made a sacrifice. She said “Yes” to God and became the mother of our Lord. She placed her life in God’s hands and she trusted in God. Can you imagine what dreams she must have had as a young girl? The moment she said “Yes” to God, however, she knew those dreams would have to wait. Sacrifice is the surest sign of love. And so, perhaps Mothering Sunday is a day to realise that too often, we take others’ sacrifices for granted. Once there was a young boy who hated how twisted and ugly his mother’s hands looked. And then one day she finally explained why her hands looked that way: because of the countless jobs she’d had to clothe, feed and put a roof over his head. In short, her hands looked that way because she loved him. So then, let us, on this Mothering Sunday, give thanks to God for His love for us, for mother’s everywhere, and for all those women who have touched and influenced our lives, in one way or another. And, as we remember mothers everywhere, perhaps you would like to quietly pray the prayer of the Mother’s Union. “Loving Lord, We thank you for your love so freely given to us all. We pray for families around the world. Bless the work of the Mothers' Union as we seek to share your love through the encouragement, strengthening and support of marriage and family life. Empowered by your Spirit, may we be united in prayer and worship, and in love and service reach out as your hands across the world. In Jesus' name. Amen” This night, the steeple of Saint Bartholomew’s will be lit on this National Day of Prayer. It will be a visible symbol of the light of life, Jesus Christ, our source and hope in prayer. People all over the country are being encouraged to light a candle and place it in their window at 7 pm. We are asked to, "join in prayerful solidarity with this witness". Please see the website of the Churches Together in England for further details: https://www.cte.org.uk/Publisher/Article.aspx?ID=569010 The following prayer can be used when lighting your candle: “For all that is good in life, thank you; for the love of family and friends, thank you; for the kindness of good neighbour and Samaritan stranger, thank you. May those who are vulnerable, hungry or homeless, experience support; may those who are sick, know healing; may those who are anxious or bereaved, sense comfort. Bless and guide political leaders and decision-makers, with wisdom; bless and guide health workers and key workers, with strength and well-being; bless and guide each one of us, as we adapt to a new way of living. And may the light shining from our windows, across road and wynd, glen and ben, kyle and isle, be reflected in our hearts and hands and hopes. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen”
For all that is good in life, thank you, For God bless you all
“Cast all your anxiety on Him, because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5.7
BIBLE READINGS FOR TODAY (Sunday 22nd March 2020)
Now that we cannot attend church for public services, Father Mark will provide service sheets with the Bible readings for each Sunday, if you are able to pop into church between 9 am and 11 am each Sunday for private prayer. Today’s readings: First Reading - 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are abundant for us, so also our consolation is abundant through Christ. If we are being afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation; if we are being consoled, it is for your consolation, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we are also suffering. Our hope for you is unshaken; for we know that as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our consolation. Gospel Reading - John 19:25-27 Standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, "Woman, here is your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Here is your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
St Enda (21st March 2020)
Today, as well as being Saturday in the third week of Lent, it is also the day upon which the church remembers Saint Enda. When we think of saints, we tend to think of them as hailing from distant lands. Saint Enda, though, is one that hails from a little closer to home. Enda was a warrior-king from Ireland who lived in the fifth century. According to legend, he was a military man known for his great feats in battle. He was, however, converted to the Christian faith by his sister, Saint Fanchea. Enda went on to establish the first Irish monastery and is described as being the, "patriarch of Irish monasticism". He led an austere life and his holy way of life attracted many followers and each day in the monastery that he founded, as is the case with all monastic communities now, was divided into times for prayer, work and sacred study. In this time of self-imposed isolation, perhaps we could also look to the monastic life for inspiration and comfort. Below is a short article entitled, ‘An Unexpected Sabbath’ written by a Benedictine nun at Howton Grove Priory here in the UK that speaks of the positive that can be found in the experience of social distancing and self-isolation. May God bless you all, keep you safe and may Saint Enda pray for us.
Having already written posts about social distancing and self-isolation and the importance of maintaining a welcome attitude in times of pandemic, you would think I had said quite enough COVID-19. Probably I have, but yesterday I was struck by the number of people who are troubled about the prospect of being cut off from everyone and everything familiar and they are struggling to make sense of what, at the moment, looks like total negativity. Perhaps that is the problem: seeing everything as negative. Would it help to look upon the limitations imposed by the spread of this new kind of coronavirus as providing us with an unexpected sabbath? The cessation of travel, the staying home, the curtailment of work to what is strictly necessary, the rediscovery of the joys of solitude and family life — aren’t these elements of sabbath we can find positive? For us in the monastery the increased physical silence caused by less traffic on the road is already a blessing, reinforcing as it does the inner silence we cultivate as a means to prayer. Not everyone experiences silence as a blessing, of course, not at first anyway. It has to be learned, but perhaps the new circumstances in which we find ourselves will provide us all with an opportunity to discover why silence matters and to practise it in a way we’ve not had time for before. Call it an unexpected sabbath or making a cloister of the heart and we reclaim all that is positive about the experience of social distancing and self-isolation. At the beginning of Lent we were invited to go into the desert with Jesus. The desert is a place of silence, demons, strange contests, immensely important to the monastic tradition as an image of the spiritual quest on which we are engaged. It is the place where Israel learned to love the Lord, where the Covenant was made, where the sabbath was given and where Jesus triumphed over temptation. The ‘new normal’ of COVID-19 takes many of us further into the desert than we ever expected. Let us go into it with faith, hope and joy, knowing that where we go, the Lord has gone before. Available from: https://www.ibenedictines.org/tag/covid-19-coronavirus/
Blessed Francis Palau y Quer Friday of the 3rd week of Lent (20th March 2020) (1811-1872) Not all of the saints are as well known as Saint Francis of Assisi. There are so, so many outstanding men and women who although ordinary have lived ‘extra-ordinary’ lives but aren’t as well known as him. Today, we remember one such individual and another Francis, Francis Palau y Quer. Francis was born in 1811 in Spain and became a priest in 1836. His life was a combination of times spent living alone as a hermit and also times spent as an outstanding preacher. He wrote three books on living the solitary life and he encouraged others to seek solitude. Perhaps, it is those like Francis that we need to learn from in these days. Many look upon being isolated and solitary as being some form of punishment. However, if we look at how Francis lived his life we, too, can perhaps take something from his example. He used periods of isolation to prepare himself before going out into the world and preaching. His solitude helped prepare him for what was to come and he used that time wisely in study, prayer and reflection. In these difficult times, a time when so many face the prospect of being isolated, perhaps we too could reflect upon how we could use this time wisely. In addition, in our current situation, we’re also able to take something from the bible reading for today. The reading is taken from the Gospel of Mark (Mark 12:28-34): One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, "Which commandment is the first of all?" Jesus answered, "The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.’ Then the scribe said to him, "You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one's neighbour as oneself,’ — this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices." When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." After that no one dared to ask him any question. In this particular reading, Jesus stresses again the importance of loving our neighbour and in addition, he adds one more commandment: that we should love the Lord our God with all our mind! Please, do think of your neighbour, whoever that neighbour may be at this difficult time, phone and ask a friend if they need anything, make sure that those who perhaps haven’t been well recently are okay. Just calling someone may make all the difference to someone who lives alone. Finally, we are told to love God with all our mind. God has gifted us all with intellect and the capacity to think. With so many of us having time now and perhaps wondering what to do, use that gift and spend some time reflecting upon the BIG questions in life. You could sit and perhaps read a passage from the bible, or a book that you’ve always wanted to read. Whatever you do, just like Francis Palau y Quer, spend your time wisely. Use your time to do that which makes the world a better place … love your neighbour and use your mind! God bless Fr Mark
Joseph of Nazareth (19th March 2020) The first item from Mark is as follows and it includes relevant prayers: Today we remember Saint Joseph who was the foster-father of Jesus and the husband of Mary. In the Gospel of Matthew, Joseph is depicted as being a good man, a working carpenter and a humble man who trusted in God. Joseph was a simple village carpenter who became the guardian of the child Jesus. From the very beginning, Joseph took loving care of Mary and gladly dedicated himself to Jesus’ upbringing. He was entrusted with the care of God’s greatest gift to us, Jesus, and he proved himself worthy. We too can learn from the example of Saint Joseph today. For just as he cared for the child Jesus and his wife, we too, especially in these difficult and challenging times also need to care for others. Let the example of Saint Joseph, therefore, prompt you to reach out to someone you know and care for and ensure that they are safe. Saint Joseph is also the Patron Saint of Workers. With this in mind, let us pray for all those who are at work this day, for those whose future seems uncertain and especially for those who work in our National Health Service. We pray for their safety and we give thanks to God for them and the care that they provide. God our Father, who from the family of your servant David raised up Joseph the carpenter to be the guardian of your incarnate Son and husband of the Blessèd Virgin Mary: give us grace to follow him in faithful obedience to your commands; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen Lord Jesus Christ, you taught us to love our neighbour and to care for those in need as if we were caring for you. In this time of anxiety, give us strength to comfort the fearful, to tend the sick, and to assure the isolated of our love, and your love, for your name’s sake. Amen