Sunday, November 30, 2008

Finishing an era

You have probably noticed that, over the past few months, I have had to change the frequency of the refelctions that I have been both sending as an e-mail and also putting up on my blogspots 'Pause for Prayer'.
The reason is simple: I am doing a considerable amount of writing as part of my normal daily work for the Pontifical Mission Societies and there is a limit to the amount of writing that I can do in one day.
As a result, I have had to come to the decision to bring 'Pause for Prayer' to an end, although I will try to maintain the website 'Pause and Pray' ( for a while longer.
I am sorry that this should be so. During the past four years, I very grateful to God for the number of people who have written to say that they have appreciated and even shared my efforts. There have been many times when I have been privileged to accompany others, even unknowingly, on their journey towards God.
There have been many times when you have taught and enriched me.
Thank you so much for all your support during the past four years.
I will continue to post prayer requests on the Pause and Pray Prayer Board and will also update 'Monastic Meditations'.
Hopefully, from time to time, I will also update the site in other ways.
May God bless and protect you and yours,
Sr Janet

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

‘A better offer’

Just back from the funeral of a priest who died suddenly last week… There were 75 concelebrants plus the bishop, with several priests not concelebrating, standing amongst the congregation in a church in which even standing room was at a premium.

It seems to me that death can be a wonderful time for demonstrating an amazing degree of solidarity and faith. Death is not the end. It is only the beginning. As Bishop Brain said in his homily, “Death is a sign that God has given ‘a better offer’ than life and has taken God up on that offer, which is to spend the rest of eternity in a loving relationship with him.”

As November draws towards its close, we remember in a special way, all those who have died. May they rest in peace and may those who are left behind be filled with all the comfort and strength that they need.

God bless,
Sr Janet

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Back from Nigeria

Well, here I am, back from Nigeria, to find trees that have, in the meantime, turned from green to many shades of gold, from their abundance to their late-Autumn dress of fewer and fewer leaves as the wind blows. By contrast, I have left behind cloudless blue skies, high temperatures and the dust of the harmattan season that carries sand from the Sahara…

It was a wonderful experience and in many different ways. Thirty years have passed since my first visit to Nigeria, so many things have changed and many remain unchanged.

As we checked in online, the day before departure, printing out boarding passes for the plane, there was a sense of amazement that such is entirely possible today (admittedly painfully slowly), something undreamed even a few years ago.

Also, with the collapse of landline telephones, mobile phones are everywhere. Who would ever have imagined that a young man strolling through a remote village would also be speaking into his mobile phone? As the nomadic Fulani herd their cattle through the drying grass towards the rivers for grazing, who could ever have envisaged his phone and a radio accompanying the small bundle of possessions strapped to one of the animals?

In the past 30 years, Islamisation has become an increasingly important factor for the Church to consider in any of its activities. Yet, in spite of visiting churches in the process of rebuilding after their destruction by ‘activists’, there was also the memorable visit, escorted by Bishop Matthew Audu of Lafia, to the Emir where, within the palace, we prayed over the Emir and his court. In return, one of his entourage prayed over us. It was a 2008 re-enactment of the visit of St Francis of Assisi to the Sultan 800 years ago, precious and full of hope for the future.

There was Mass offered in the prison in Lafia, where the innocent and great criminals were herded together and, outside the chapel, a man was shackled, naked, in the hot sun, as punishment for his escape attempt. Yet that Liturgy followed a steady stream of inmates going to Confession and was filled with a deeply-moving mixture of joy and pain. One man wore a light blue t-shirt with a line-drawing of Jesus carrying the Cross. It said it all. Many of the prisoners were there only because they had no money to pay a lawyer. How many years will it be before they come to trial…if ever?

Yet there were also the children, full of smiles, showing off their ability to read, too young to realise that, since time began, they are the first from their villages ever to enjoy that skill…

God bless,
Sr Janet

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

On the move

Just to let you know that there will probably be no new reflections coming out until after 11th November, as I am to travel to Nigeria on Thursday 23rd October.

The Pontifical Mission Societies helps to support 194,855 schools, 5,246 hospitals, 17,530 dispensaries and 577 leprosy centres and 80,560 social and pastoral projects in the younger Church across the world.

As a result, two representatives from the Scottish office and I are to visit some of the projects in Nigeria that are supported by the people of England, Wales and Scotland.

Many of the places where we'll be travelling will have electricity only if and when a generator is switched on, usually at night, and will have a slow Internet connection at best. As a result, although there will be the potential for many 'traveller's tales', the possibility of transferring them to the outside world will be very few.

Please pray for us as we travel, that our work might be of great benefit and support to a rapidly-growing and developing Church.
God bless,
Sr Janet

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

An act of resistance

At a time when Zimbabwe is in the news, there is also the true story...
Below is something I received this morning.
God bless,
Sr Janet

The genuine poor do not mob you and try to twist your arm. They come up to you very quietly, shyly, embarrassed that they have to bother you, as those three women did who stopped me after the evening service on Monday night, “Father, we have not eaten anything last night. We went to the (black) market, but we came back with nothing. Those prices! We just did not have the money…….”
These were not the usual destitutes, e.g. old widows with orphaned grandchildren to look after who are on our list of needy people and get regular hand-outs of mealie meal, beans and cooking oil.
These were people who are normally self-supporting, even moderately prosperous by Mbare standards.
Afonso is an old Mozambican whose wife has died long ago and whose children too have either died or have vanished somewhere looking for work. He is left with eight orphaned grandchildren. What we give him is eaten by that hungry crowd in a few days, and he asks for more.
Normally he is a very cheerful, humorous old gentleman with a friendly smile, full of little jokes and laughter.
When I shake his hand I am aware that that paw in his day inflicted a lot of damage on anyone foolish enough to argue with him. Afonso is a retired boxer. He used to be known, and feared, as “Tar Baby”. Now he could not hurt a fly.
But today his smile is gone. Those grandchildren and their hungry bellies are a really worry him.

Oskar Wermter SJ

Sunday, October 19, 2008


The old lady has been washing clothes in a wooden tub, balanced precariously on a 3-legged stool. Soap-suds overflow the tub, dripping onto the stone floor beneath. Yet there is no peace. Three small grandchildren, with china mgs and clay pipes have decided that this is the ideal time for blowing bubbles. For a short while, old and young share laughter, conversation and an otherwise boring, mundane job.

Sooner, rather than later, the little girl’s mug has been dipped into the washtub a few too many times. It is time to drive her away. Her grandmother picks up a wet cloth and tries to whack her giggling granddaughter as the little girl runs away. The distraction is just too good an opportunity to miss. Her brother dips his mug into the soapsuds whilst his grandmother momentarily looks away…

It is a beautiful family picture, capturing a moment of intimacy between an elderly lady and three small children. It also happens to be one of my favourites.

Lord, watch over families and allow them to grow in warmth and understanding. Let children feel safe and protected. Grant that the elderly might be a focus of love, wisdom and experience for the younger family members. May parents know the love of their children and be themselves loving and generous towards each other and towards those whom God has given them.

God bless,
Sr Janet

(Washtub … Arthur John Elsley)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Save life!

October 22nd is the date when the proposed amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill go before the House of Lords. They could become law unless our actions and a miracle happen.Follow this link for a range of pro-life videos produced by the Christian lawyers' group, Christian Concern for our Nation (ccfon).

God bless,
Sr Janet