Sunday, August 31, 2008

Anger into peace

In some ways, Assisi has changed very little from the days of Francis. Walk up from the station, through the fields and, for a moment, forget the large churches built to celebrate the lives of its great saints, Francis and Clare. Listen to the birds. See the nodding grasses and the brilliant colours of the wild flowers under the deep blue, cloudless sky of Umbria. This was the very path that ‘The Little Poor Man of Assisi’ strode towards the city of his birth. These dark green pines and the grey-green olive groves probably knew him. Perhaps as a child, he played hide-and-seek with his friends. These cobbled roads of Assisi, the ancient walls and the towering height of the Rocca Maggiore were his. He helped to repair the walls of the castle, preparing for battle, preparing to protect the people of Assisi.

Look downwards towards the Rivo Torto. Tradition has it that the stable which served as a shelter for Francis and his early followers actually stood on land that belonged to his father, so Pietro Bernadone knew that he still provided a home for his son, even if they were no longer on speaking terms. He did not drive him from the land. A poor man and a donkey did that. Pietro remained a father even if, when they met in the streets of Assisi, he could only curse Francis and curse the day when, in front of the bishop, the mayor and the curious townsfolk, his son declared, “Henceforth I will no longer call Pietro Bernadone my father. I have only one Father, and that is God.”

Pietro would neither forgive nor forget that day. Perhaps he was justified. In deciding to reject everything that his parents had planned for him, Francis had been thoughtless and cruel. He made little effort to explain his conversion and his vocation to rebuild the Church. Pietro and Pica were justified in feeling ashamed as their son, of whom they had been so enormously proud, changed his fine clothes for a robe of rough sacking and walked the streets begging for food and for stones to rebuild the ruined church of San Damiano. They would have done anything for Francis, but he shattered their dreams. Did he apologise? We do not know.

In a town as small as Assisi, it was inevitable that Francis, Pietro and Pica would see each other and would hear of each other’s activities. Pica would have been torn apart by her love for her husband and her son. To whom should she be sympathetic? What could she say or do to heal the rift? Pica was both a wife and a mother. How could she act in this situation?

What would have happened if Pietro, instead of nursing his anger and pain, had tried to replace them with peace? What would it have been like for him if he had told God that, yes, he was angry and felt justified in his reaction, but that he wanted to place his feelings in God’s hands, so that, instead, there could be forgiveness and peace?

I cannot change another person, however much I might disapprove of their actions. It is not my responsibility to change them, although I might have responsibility for creating the situation in which change, for better or for worse, is possible.

Neither do I have the right to condemn someone because I do not like their words or actions. For sure, I can condemn the words or the actions, but not the person, who is made in the image and likeness of God. God always leaves space for someone to turn to him and say “Sorry”. There is no wrong that God cannot forgive. Why, then, do I make myself more judgemental than God, saying, in effect, “God might forgive so-and-so, but I will not”? By taking such a stance, am I, in effect, putting myself I partnership with God, but making him the junior partner, giving myself the last word?

If I nurse anger, I create a hard knot of bitterness inside myself, excluding God from my heart, for he is love, not anger.

When Clare followed Francis, her family members were furious. Yet they managed to replace anger with peace, so that Clare’s mother, her sisters and several relatives all joined her, thereby becoming founder members of the Poor Clares, as they are known today.

Pietro Bernadone was furious and did not replace anger with peace. His family was divided to the end of his days even though one of his sons was also one of the greatest saints this world has ever known.

‘Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me bring love.’

God bless,
Sr Janet

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Together in peace

Some of the world’s bravest individuals are together in my home town of Liverpool for the next few days as the World Firefighters’ Championships take place. It is a privilege to host the representatives of many lands, of many groups of individuals who risk their lives for the sake of others.

Any one of us does not need to think for too long in order to recall acts of incredible courage.

For my part, I can remember, as a small child, seeing a fireman swing down the outside of a ladder as a burning wall collapsed at the end of the road where I lived. Fortunately, he was unhurt, but that is not always the case. Fire can be a good friend, but it is also a deadly enemy. Nobody, even the most seasoned firefighter, can face a blaze without at least a faint tremor of fear. It is for that reason that, in any team, there is not only teamwork, but also an absolute trust that colleagues will give their own lives in order to preserve each other’s safety. As one man remarked, “I cannot go into a fire without knowing, in the back of my mind, that if I find myself in trouble, the others will do their best to save me.”

That sort of courage has nothing to do with nationality, colour, creed or gender.

Perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, the Edinburgh Royal Military Tattoo has been taking place, this year, representing the military of Scotland, Norway, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, America, Singapore and Nepal in a magnificent extravaganza of brass bands, marching drill and dancing, with even the golden lion of Singapore dancing before a packed crowd of spectators, thanks to the island’s police band.

As the evening drew to a close and the last strains of the ‘Evening Hymn’ accompanied the nocturnal unfastening of the flags from their poles, a lone piper played a haunting tribute to all those who have given their lives in battle during, as, the commentator noted, “a century of war, sometimes marked by peace”.

In our lifetimes, we are unlikely never to need a fire brigade because fire will always be a part of our civilisation. Sadly, our military will sometimes be needed for duties other than marching and making music.

May God grant us peace. May he keep us safe. May he watch over, protect and bless those who work for the emergency services, who risk their lives in peacetime on our behalf. May he be with the military, that they might only be deployed in the cause of truth and justice, that no shot might ever be fired in anger and that human rights might never be abused.

God bless,
Sr Janet

Monday, August 25, 2008

True riches

There is an American expression, ‘bait and switch’, or something to that effect, that describes the business practice used to tempt prospective customers to buy a product, only for there to be a ‘sting in the tail’, some unexpected complication that will inevitably cost money, to the disadvantage of the customer and the advantage of the company.

A spyware programme on my computer, the free accompaniment to a free programme that I temporarily required, pointed out that I had not scanned the computer for the past few days. I agreed. With an excellent, free, regularly-updated programme provided by several universities, I rarely have problems with viruses, especially as I do not open ‘spam’.

Out of curiosity, I allowed the programme (now removed from my computer) to do a scan and examined the results. I do not believe that I had 56 infected files, complete with seven potentially disastrous viruses that could only be removed if I were to pay $19.95 for the full version of the programme. That message sounded the death knell for the newly-imported wonder worker, condemned to wander aimlessly around cyberspace, but not my laptop! Yet I was left wondering why, in the search for money, some people and businesses resort to untruth?

Recently, a man stopped me, claiming to be the victim of muggers who had stolen his money and mobile phone. Apparently he belonged to a wonderful charity that works tirelessly for those who are contemplating suicide. That immediately made me suspicious. The incredibly self-sacrificing, generous volunteers who give up countless hours of their own time would have been there immediately to help one of their own. The man’s story of needing money for his bus fare rang hollow, so he received nothing on that occasion… but did he have to use for his own dishonest ends some of society’s uncanonised saints?

Waiting in a shop the other evening I watched four gypsies sharing out the money they had gained from knocking on the windows of cars that stopped when the traffic lights changed colour. I presume that the women told of their hunger and need to provide food for their families, because this is the usual story, and yet the money that changed hands appeared to be substantial. Each woman held a baby. One also had two small children accompanying her begging. What sort of lessons is she teaching? Will those children grow up with any idea of ‘honest labour’? Will they look beyond begging to some sort of skill that could be usefully employed to benefit others?

There was a morning when I was in Zambia when a man asked for money. On that occasion it happened that even a search of pockets and bags brought forth only enough money to buy one, very small, bread roll that would have been eaten in two bites. He went down on his knees to say thank you.

There were also times when I encountered families with not an iota of food in the house, where, in one home, a full day of trying to sell six tiny bottles of sunflower oil brought in less than $1 with which to feed six children and their desperately ill mother.

Often, those who are in most need do not ask for help, or do so only when they have exhausted every possibility.

There is nothing glamorous about poverty or about working with the truly poor. It is hard, unrelenting and tragic, accompanied by frequent feelings of helplessness in the face of difficulties beyond the normal coping.

In this country, when we speak of the poor and disadvantaged, the children are still able to attend school. Their parents often manage to buy cigarettes and alcohol and go on holiday, perhaps even to another country. There are ways and means of obtaining practical help, admittedly sometimes limited and limiting, but starvation is not usually an alternative.

All the dice seem to be loaded against the truly poor in many countries outside this one, who yearn for education, who long to do a day’s work, but are so weakened by starvation that they become flesh-covered, living skeletons, where ‘poor’ means that children cannot go to school because without their labour, the family would starve. ‘Poor’ means clothes worn until they fall to pieces. ‘Poor’ means having absolutely no food whatsoever in the house, no money to buy any, and with begging, theft or death the only remaining options. Yet these are the very people who are exploited by the unscrupulous, by the multi-nationals and by those who look to their own advantage even if it means trampling on others.

Yet, look at the ‘truly poor’, and in their hardship, they somehow laugh and sing. Are they not the truly rich? They have nothing left to lose apart from their self-respect, and in clinging to that, they find God and make him the source of their wealth, the sustainer of their daily lives.

Perhaps, sometimes, the rich in the eyes of the world are the ones who are the most impoverished.

God bless,
Sr Janet

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Lord of the Harvest

Once upon a time, I knew nothing about farming, the result of being born in a city. Then, in my teens, I had the opportunity of a Saturday and holiday job on a friend's farm. It was an eye-opener and ever since, the needs of the farming community have been very close to my heart.

Walking along the road this morning, seeing the fields 'white for the harvest' and knowing that the farmers desperately need a few days without rain if they are to bring in the harvest, it seems to be important, at this time of year, to pray for farmers everywhere, especially those who are facing adverse weather conditions of whatever sort.

May God bless the farmers, their essential work and their crops. May the Lord of the Harvest grant an abundance of all those crops that feed us. May there be enough and to spare.

May God also bless the work of those who depend on their gardens and allotments for food supplies.

...and may God bless each of us.
Sr Janet

Thursday, August 21, 2008

“The “displaced” want to be “placed” again

Driving from Lusaka in Zambia down to the amazing Kariba Dam used to be a journey of contrasts. Flat, dry savannah where goats roamed searching for the non-existent grass of Zambia’s Southern Province made way for hills, sometimes steep, through which the road wound in steep curves and traffic jams behind stalled and slow-moving, heavily-laden trucks of goods bound for Zimbabwe and South Africa. Potholes and frequent stretches of gravel roads gave way, at Kariba, to excellent tarmac and the impression of silky-smooth roads; such was the least, that is, before the increased hardships of the past ten years. Now, the Zambian roads surpass those of Zimbabwe, because where there is no money for food, road maintenance becomes an insignificant priority.

However, the roads of Zimbabwe told their own story. A wide grass verge and high wire fences did more than merely keep wild animals away from the road: often, they told stories of the struggle for independence during the apartheid era, when the Government’s antagonists were described as ‘guerrillas’ or ‘freedom fighters’ depending on one’s point of view. There were occasional discoveries of mass graves, many of them hastily covered over and their finders sworn to silence.

More positively, from time to time, amidst the tall grass, there is still evidence of the ‘strip road’, two parallel tracks of tarmac, just sufficiently far apart as to permit a small pick-up, a tractor or a lorry to drive through the bush. Yet a basic road, in itself, is only a small help to peasant farmers, who, even today, depend on a donkey, a hand-held plough, hoes and relatives in order to cultivate poorly-irrigated land which is continually raided by birds, baboons and, sadly, by other hungry people.

For huge numbers of villages in Zimbabwe, their occupants are totally dependent on seasonal rivers where they dig ever-deeper holes in the river bed in an attempt to find water for themselves and their animals. Water is such an incredibly precious commodity in the seemingly endless years of drought that it is ‘normal’ to see, in a small waterhole, a woman filling her pots with water to carry home whilst using the same pool to bath her children and wash the family’s clothes whilst, a couple of yards away, sheep and goats slake their thirst ... and, of course, water means snakes and, during the rainy season, crocodiles, which regularly claim their victims.

A few minutes ago, I received the following from a friend in Zimbabwe, whose name I withhold:

“This morning two women came to our parish house seeking help, rural women from a village about 70 km out of town. They have been homeless and living rough since April. That is when they were severely beaten up for having voted “wrongly” and had their houses burnt down. They showed me their scars. The elder has not seen her husband and children since then, does not know where they are, and indeed if they are still alive.

For a time they stayed at Harvest House where the police were harassing them, took them to Ruwa, evicted them….They look and smell like street people, have not had a wash for days. They know it and are embarrassed.

Now they want to go home, to see if their families are still there, to resume their old lives if at all possible. But it will not be possible, life never be the same again. These scars and the memories of these last few months cannot be erased. Some human relationships may have been broken once and for all: most victims, I have found, know at least some of their assailants. How can you ever chat casually again and laugh with a neighbour who screamed for your blood?

Some of those who come for help will not take a NO for an answer. They know what they want and they want it NOW! No good explaining that it may take a day or two to get them the help they need. Cash is scarce and hard to come by. Food runs out very quickly, the demand is so high. The helpers and volunteers are only human and can take just so much. Tension rises quickly and nerves are frayed, soon something snaps, and there is an ugly scene. You wanted to be kind and you feel awful you were not….

You had better not read the papers. Do the people who so desperately hang on to power have the slightest idea of all the suffering they have caused, are still causing? Do they care? They have even the cheek to demand amnesty and impunity for the terrible things they have done to this ragged, dishevelled, dirty bit of humanity that lines up at our doorsteps. Better not think about those people too much while you are trying to sort out the mess they are responsible for. Your blood may just boil over.

And yet you wanted to be so kind……”

God bless, and may God also bless the people of Zimbabwe,
Sr Janet

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A different path

Was it some sort of musical preconditioning? I do not know. All that I know for certain is that when I joined the Sisters for Morning Prayer during my recent retreat, my reaction was one of surprise. “That sounds like sunrise!” At that point, my thoughts moved away from the written psalm in front of me and I simply luxuriated in the beauty of the same words as sung by the Poor Clare Colettine community of Ty Mam Duw in Hawarden, North Wales. That reverie, too, was prayer.

This is the time of year when most Religious manage to escape for a while in order to enjoy their annual ‘holiday with the Lord’, as a Retreat is sometimes called. Not that it is much of a holiday in one sense, because having the opportunity to spend several hours in prayer every day for one week, in silent solitude, has its own demands. It is an opportunity, not only to come face-to-face with the Lord, but also to take a closer look inside one’s own heart, a heart that is his, true, but is still one which, in the course of life’s daily busy-ness, can digress a little from ‘the straight and narrow’. Thus a Retreat is a time for reflection, assessment and redirection.

This year I managed to achieve something that has been a long-held wish and headed to Ty Mam Duw. The Poor Clare Colettines spend approximately one third of their day in ‘formal’ prayer, about four hours of which are taken up with the recitation of the Divine Office, starting at 06.30 in the morning and finishing somewhere around midnight…and then there is Mass, the Rosary and private prayer. Life becomes totally orientated around prayer, totally God-centred.

Such an intensive life of prayer is a special vocation in itself. Not everybody could do it. It means that prayer is the priority of the day, with other tasks, even such things as cooking, washing, ironing…and eating, necessarily relegated to places of lesser importance.

Yet, as St Teresa of Avila declared, “God is found even amongst the pots and pans!” As a Sister remarked in an interview I did for Vatican Radio, “With spending so much time in prayer every day, it is never quite possible to make ends meet as a result of one’s own work.”

Of course, this state of affairs suits the Poor Clare lifestyle to perfection. St Clare pestered the Pope until she was given the ‘Privilege of Poverty’, a document granting that request arriving, literally, as Clare lay dying. It is the privilege of Clare’s followers to throw themselves in utter dependence on God’s generosity … even for their next meal!

Yet speak to any of the Sisters and their sense of joy is real, their inner freedom tangible. There is no sense that the long hours spent in prayer are burdensome. The Sister I interviewed After all, these are the very moments when they can be close to the sick, the dying, those in any kind of need, as one story goes to show…

Not long ago, late at night, the dog started to bark, without any obvious cause. There was a feeling that someone was dying and so the Sisters immediately sprang into action, praying throughout the night hours on that person’s behalf. The dog continued to bark into the early hours of the morning and then, suddenly, stopped, allowing the Sisters a few hours of sleep. Next morning, they learned that the moment of the dog’s silence was the very time at which the mother of a nearby camper, died. Thanks to the dog, the Sisters and a good dollop of Divine Inspiration, the old lady did not die alone… and they have many stories just like that, when they have somehow known that there was somebody in urgent need of their prayerful companionship at a crisis point in their life.

St Francis had a dilemma, solved for him by St Clare. He wanted to spend his life as a hermit, lost in prayer in the wonderful forests of Umbria, but, at the same time, he felt that God was calling him back into the marketplace of the world at large. Which road should he take? Clare, after praying for him, was adamant that Francis’ vocation was not that of a solitary hermit. Yet, to the end of his days, Francis felt the tension between the two ways of life. It was difficult for him, and it is, quite frankly, something that I personally find hard. Coming to Ty Mam Duw, there is part of me that never wants to leave, but there is also part of me that declares that the life of a Poor Clare Colettine is not my calling. Like Francis, I am called to the highways and byways, and, just like him, am called to ‘spread the Gospel and, when necessary, use words’. Perhaps the tension between the dual calls of Francis and Clare is a necessary, and sometimes uncomfortable, part of the Franciscan way of life: the two distinct vocations are only two sides of the one coin. Just as Francis never really overcame the yearning to be a hermit, so also Clare and her ‘Poor Ladies’ shared in the call of Francis and his ‘Lesser Brothers’ and were conscious that their part was to support each other through a path that was, at once, both the same and yet different.

We each have a vocation in life. Each is a unique path to God, a way that will unfold during the course of each day. None of us can see the details of our journey, but we do know that, at every step of the way, God is there, beckoning. That someone else’s vocation is different from mine does not make mine second best. Difference is not a matter of good or better: each of us is called by God. What is important is the way in which I respond to my calling. As the catechism used to say ‘God made me to know him, love him and serve him in this world and to be happy with him forever in the next.’

God bless,
Sr Janet

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Prayer Board

I receive regular prayer requests, which I place on the Prayer Board at, where your special intentions become ours.

You might be interested to know that if you also send those requests to the newly-launched Pontifical Mission Societies’ website at , you can also be guaranteed that your intentions will be remembered at every Mass celebrated in the chapel here in the centre of London.

For the sake of the website, we’ve asked that each petition be no longer than 100 words, so if you have multiple intentions, then send multiple requests as there is no limit to the number of people for whom we can pray!

Simply click on or and send your prayer intention.

It makes me think that we are enormously blessed in being able to count on the prayers of complete strangers and form a praying community with people we might never meet in this life.

God is good!

God bless,
Sr Janet

Monday, August 18, 2008

Looking at life differently

She is really very ill and could die at any time, and yet she went to Lourdes last week. Her daughter, who accompanied her, thought that her mother went to pray for herself, for health and, perhaps a cure. No. After bathing in the grotto, she said that she wanted to give thanks for having lived longer than she had expected. Life is not something to dread, or to complain about its pains and difficulties: it is something to cherish and celebrate with gratitude even with that pain.

May God bless her and all those who, in their sickness, provide such a wonderful example of faith to those of us who are lagging behind them. When death comes, may it be a peaceful, pain-free and joyful transition into the fullness of life, for surely, one who is dying and yet is full of gratitude is already very close to God.

God bless,
Sr Janet

Thursday, August 14, 2008

As God pleases. As God wills

Just a little thought amidst the anxiety that so many are facing at this time…

This week we celebrated the feast of St Clare, but I’ve been thinking about her successor, St Colette, and in particular, have been reflecting on some of her words.

We hear much about mantras and of the way in which the constant, steady repetition of a few words helps to calm the mind and heart. Some people travel the world to find their guru and a mantra that will help them to face the ups and downs of life.

Yet, think for a moment. Is not the Rosary a type of mantra? Then, too, try using St Colette’s refrain, “As God pleases. As God wills” as you breathe in and breathe out. After repeating these words even for as short a time as ten breaths, you will find yourself gradually becoming more calm, more peaceful, more disposed to hear what the will of God might be, more prepared to listen than to object.

So little in exchange for so much! As God pleases. As God wills. His plans might not always be comfortable in the short term, but the long term rewards are heavenly!

God bless,
Sr. Janet

Monday, August 11, 2008

Even more website updates....

There have been many additions to the website at since Friday, so check them out.
Also, I have a contact travelling to Lourdes next week. Please may I have any requests to be placed in the Grotto by Tuesday 19th August at the latest.

God bless,
Sr Janet

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Song of Clare

A song! The song of troubadour
has touched my woman’s heart
within its depths, awakening
response of yearning eagerness.

Oh Francis, sing again your song.
Repeat the words you sang along
the pebbled paths you trod. I heard
an echo borne so sweet upon
a zephyred breeze, I thought my heart
to burst in raptured joy. Beneath
its measured pulse an angel song
in silence whispered praise
for God alone to hear. Repeat
the song addressed to her
for whom your life is melody
of faithfulness and ardent love.
Your song is mine and mine is yours.
The poor, the chaste, the simple Christ,
the goal of all our waking hours,
who trod the roads of Galilee
and died on hill of Calvary,
who rose from borrowed grave to fill
the world with Easter joy, is Lord
of every single breath I take,
of every beat of loving heart.

Oh Francis, sing again your song.
Before my Lord, I lay my heart
and soul. The jewels I wear are nought
beside the gems of Poverty.
The gowns that clothe my maiden form
are heavy burden, sadly borne.
My ancient name is honoured sign
of great and loyal ancestry,
but greater far is holy name
of gracious Lord I long to serve.

Oh Francis, sing again your song.
The mantle of the poor, the gems
of love for Crucified, the couch
of penance, prayerful vigils kept
beneath the star-bespangled skies-
your prayer is echo of my own.

I cast aside my earthly gold.
The simple life of troubadour
is mine, whate’er the cost. The song
you sing is also mine to raise
for all the waiting world to hear;
a song of love that cannot end,
the music of Eternity.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Fools for Christ

Once upon a time, I was unwisely obedient to a teacher. Twenty-six miles, two lost toenails, several blisters and aching limbs afterwards, I realised that he had not intended me to wear my brand new (3 days old) walking boots when we embarked on a sponsored walk. Next morning, as I took a full quarter of an hour to sit up in bed and ease my way to standing, followed by painfully sitting and slowly sliding down the fourteen stairs to breakfast, I wished that I had used my commonsense and had worn sensible, comfortable, shoes.

That image came to mind as I gazed admiringly at a beautiful booklet* I recently received from the Shrewsbury diocese. Amongst the abundant pieces of information on the life of St. Paul, lovingly set out as their preparation for the Year of St. Paul, which starts this month, there are also several small maps showing the journeys made by Paul during the course of his ministry as Apostle of the Gentiles. I’m not intending to be facetious, but if he did so much walking, he was not wearing new boots! He covered an incredible distance which, today, we would think difficult using modern transport, but as Paul, just like everybody else at that time, was limited to feet, a horse, mule or donkey and a ship, he just HAD to be fit!

I wonder if Paul ever regretted setting out on any of his travels? Were there mornings when he would have preferred to roll over and go back to sleep? Were there any days when he felt sick to his stomach at the things he knew he might have to face? It was all very well arguing his case for Jesus and the Gospel before groups of new Christians, but what about his meeting with the learned scholars of Judaism who had so eagerly supported Saul’s vendetta against the followers of Jesus of Nazareth? Did he think he might win any of his fellow Pharisees to his new cause, or did he know he was probably fighting a losing battle from the start?

Paul appears to have been someone who was very sure of himself. There never seem to have been any half-measures with him. When he set himself against the Christians, he did not hold back from persecuting them. As a Christian himself, even torture, shipwrecks, confrontation and death threats were challenges, rather than obstacles, on his path. He was a hard man to beat, but he was overcome by love. If he really did experience mornings when he would have preferred to stay in bed, Paul was also a driven man who would not settle for second best. He had given his heart to Jesus and that meant that, for him, to live was Christ.

Was Paul humble? Why did he appeal to Caesar? Did he think he might gain liberty in Rome instead of accepting execution in Jerusalem? Paul was the opposite of Peter, the uneducated fisherman who blustered his way through life, quick to follow Jesus, boasting that he would never desert him and then denying his Lord.

Peter became humble. It is said that he wept until the end of his life for his betrayal of Jesus. He refused the ‘normal’ crucifixion and, instead, requested to be nailed upside-down because he did not deserve to die in the same manner as Jesus. Yet, I challenge you when you next go to bed: dangle your head downwards over the edge of the bed for a few minutes and the experience is horrible. Once his request was granted, Peter could not escape a blinding headache in addition to all his other agonies, but was it not typical of his whole-hearted enthusiasm that he not only died, he did so with a refinement that even his executioners might not have considered had Peter himself not suggested it.

Peter and Paul. Peter is represented carrying the keys of Heaven. Paul bears a double-edged sword. They were both great men of courage. They had their faults, but they succeeded because they were wholehearted once they encountered Jesus. When they donned their equivalent of their new walking boots of Christianity, they did so with open eyes, knowing that they would suffer during the course of their journey. They had truly become ‘Fools for Christ’.

*Saint Paul: A Companion Booklet for the Year of St. Paul … available from the Diocese of Shrewsbury, Cathedral House, 11 Belmont, Shrewsbury, SY1 1TE. Cost £3.00

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Gift of Time

I went out, Lord.
People were coming and going, Walking and running.

Everything was rushing:
Cars, trucks, the street, the whole town.
People were rushing not to waste time.
They were rushing after time,
To catch up with time.
To gain time.

Good-bye, Sir, excuse me, I haven't time.
I'll come back.
I can't wait.
I haven't time.
I must end this letter--I haven't time.
I'd love to help you, but I haven't time.
I can't accept, having no time.
I can't think,
I can't read,
I'm swamped,
I haven't time.
I'd like to pray, but I haven't time.

You understand, Lord,
They simply haven't the time.
The child is playing,
He hasn't time right now...
Later on...
The schoolboy has his homework to do,
He hasn't time...
Later on...
The student has his courses,
And so much work...
Later on...
The young married man has his new house;
He has to fix it up...
He hasn't time...
Later on...
The grandparents have their grandchildren.
They haven't time...
Later on...
They are ill,
they have their treatments,
They haven't time...
Later on...
They are dying, they have no...
Too late!...
They have no more time!

And so all people run after time, Lord.
They pass through life running--
Hurried, jostled, overburdened, frantic,
And they never get there.
They haven't time.
In spite of all their efforts
They're still short of time,
Of a great deal of time.
Lord, you must have made a mistake in your calculations,
There is a big mistake somewhere.
The hours are too short.
Our lives are too short.

You who are beyond time,
Lord, You smile to see us fighting it.
And you know what you are doing.
You make no mistakes in your distribution of time to men.
You give each one time to do what you want him to do.
But we must not lose time,
waste time,
kill time,
For it is a gift that you give us,
But a perishable gift,
A gift that does not keep.

Lord, I have time,
I have plenty of time,
All the time that you give me,
The years of my life,
The days of my life,
The days of my years,
The hours of my days,
They are all mine.
Mine to fill, quietly, calmly,
But to fill completely, up to the brim,
To offer them to you,
that of their insipid water You may make a rich wine
Such as you made once in Cana of Galilee.
I am not asking you tonight, Lord,
For time to do this and then that,
But for your grace to do conscientiously,
In the time that you give me,
What you want me to do.

Michel Quoist

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Petitions to Our Lady of Lourdes

Just to let you know that all the petitions on the Prayer Board at will be placed in the grotto in Lourdes tomorrow.
God bless,
Sr. Janet

Monday, August 04, 2008

Flying lessons

Was it the baby’s first flight? It was a very young gull, dark grey against the gathering gloom, perched on the rooftop. It should not stay there throughout the night as it would be too dangerous. The young bird was hungry and, every so often, would open its beak and utter a plaintive note very unlike any sound from its attendant mother, For her part, she was anxiously trying to encourage her offspring to make the effort to fly, but the baby was too scared. For sure, it did open its wings and extend them a little, but no wider than as for a practice, something it would have done in the nest.

The mother perched a short distance along the roof, uttering encouraging sounds, repeating the same noises again and again. She tried to give flying lessons, launching herself from the roof and circling around her obstinate and frightened chick. When that did not work, she moved to the other end of the roof and once again attempted to give instructions in a quiet, gentle tone, but her offspring would have none of her teaching.

The young bird stubbornly refused to do anything other than cry a strange, squeaky cry. It, too, knew that it must move. A rooftop, even that of the chapel, was not a good place for a nocturnal roosting place.

The mother became increasingly agitated. There was so little that she could do. Her watchful head moved ceaselessly, looking out for danger. At this time of evening, none of the local hawks would attempt to tackle a young gull, especially with its mother standing guard, but might an owl try something? Was it still early enough for a crow to have a snack?

Squealing plaintively, the youngster decided to stand up, rather than crouch against the roof tiles. That was progress! It flexed its left wing, extending it almost to its full span. Standing one-legged for a moment on its left leg, the chick shook it slightly, but, stubbornly, it intended to do that and nothing further. Within seconds, it was motionless once more.

The mother gull stood patiently, still encouraging her youngster with a quiet twittering sound. Suddenly the young bird stretched out both wings and began flapping them once or twice, but still with no serious intention of moving. Yet it was a step in the right direction. Once or twice, it looked down the roof and made as if to launch itself into the air, but no. The youngster was still too scared…and with every minute that passed, the evening was drawing in.

The adult was beginning to lose patience. She flew off, leaving her chick alone. It nearly did the trick. The youngster fluttered its wings again, but still would not fly.

Time ticked on. The young gull had been standing on the chapel roof for three-quarters of an hour. It started to call its parent, but she did not reappear. Other gulls soared overhead and continued on their way towards Liverpool Bay, only a few miles away. The youngster stood almost motionless, looking very lonely as the darkness deepened.

Yet, as night drew closer, the mother reappeared. She perched herself a couple of yards away from her offspring and stayed there throughout the night. It was only as the sun began to appear over the horizon that she left… and this time, with her child.

There was a curious fascination in watching the two birds in what was an unfolding parable. Was not the female gull behaving like God, staying close, encouraging, not forcing, teaching and, finally, liberating? Are not you and I the youngster, timid, stubborn, testing, independent and yet also terribly in need of support, fragile and yet with an inner strength? With a little help and support, the baby could fly.

With God’s help, so can I…

God bless,
Sr. Janet