Tuesday, September 30, 2008

God’s work habits

Why is it that some people’s work is never convenient to others? There are some battles that are never won even though they must be fought, mountains of work to one person that might seem like molehills to another. The tasks that might appear insurmountable to one, might, to someone else, be something that could be left until the tomorrow that never comes….and so the pile of ironing grows until the point when it becomes a late night necessity if there is to be something to wear the following day…

There is, of course, the saying, ‘Make hay while the sun shines’ and ‘Never put off until tomorrow that which could be done today’. It is easier said than done! The theory is much simpler than the practice… There is always a good excuse that can be found to delay the dreadful moment of tackling an unpleasant job.

Yet think, for a moment, of the chiselling away that God does in my life. He does not always mould me into the person he wants me to be at a time that is convenient to my own schedule. He works according to his own unique timetable, which seems interminable on some occasions and then rather too rapid at others. The trouble is that he is dealing with eternity, which is rather different from our concepts, which are limited to time.

And so, God will work steadily and unendingly until I have become exactly who he knew me to be from all eternity. He does not sleep, even if I need to do so!

God bless,
Sr. Janet

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Our Lady and the Martyrs

Lourdes is only one shrine where there is a long-established tradition of healing. For centuries, pilgrims travelled to the shrine of Our Lady and the English Martyrs at Fernyhalgh in Lancashire. The miraculous cures through the waters at Ladyewell date back to at least the fourteenth century…Of course, then the dedication of the chapel had nothing to do with martyrs.

For many, many years, old and young, men and women, sick and healthy, strode across the open fields of Lancashire, enjoying, perhaps, a brief rest on the banks of the River Ribble which then, as now, flowed through Preston. Even the Romans used this beautiful river, flowing through both Yorkshire and Lancashire and, at one time, forming the natural border of the ancient Kingdom of Mercia.

Time passed and the day dawned, in 1536, when Henry VIII ordered the stripping and destruction of monasteries and chapels across England and Wales. Some of the more remote chapels managed to survive unscathed, but not so Ladyewell. In 1547, it was destroyed.

…and yet it was not gone forever. The tiny shrine survived, secretly cherished by those who needed to keep their commitment hidden from the rest of the world, offering an easy escape across the fells and dark forests of the Trough of Bowland. Risking their lives, heavily-disguised priests, travelling around the country, would make their way to Fernyhalgh and secretly pray there with the beleaguered Catholics of the area.

Secret messages would have been sent around before the priest appeared on the scene: perhaps only an arrangement of washing hung out to dry would be the pre-arranged signal. There was always the danger of spies and blood-money.

The penalties for going to Mass were heavy: fines were the least of the people’s worries. The real threat was the charge of treason, for that incurred the terrible penalty of being hanged, drawn and quartered. There was no problem with being a Catholic. The problem was with practising Catholicism, for that was seen, in those days, as adherence to a foreign power: that of Rome.

The days of the Reformation are past, but the memory lingers on. The shrine of Our Lady has been rebuilt and reinstated, but with an ‘added extra’. Some of those priests of days gone by were subsequently martyred. In their honour, the shrine at Ladyewell is now known as that of Our Lady and the Martyrs.

Around the walls of the church are the names of some of the many Reformation martyrs of England and Wales, some of them probably secret visitors to this tiny shrine ‘in the middle of nowhere’.

Mary, Queen and Mother, grant that your children may be as ready to dedicate their lives to your Son as were our ancestors. However small we might be in the eyes of the world, we know that we are important to him. Help us to live our lives in his presence.

God bless,
Sr Janet

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Dowry of Our Lady

‘Our Lady’s dowry’. This used to be the description that England applied to itself and that other countries also used of the country that had dedicated itself to Our Blessed Mother. That is why the Feast of Our Lady of Walsingham, celebrated in England on 24th September, is so important: it recalls a time when, throughout the land, there were shrines dedicated to Our Lady. Every county had its own place of pilgrimage in her honour. Even today, the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham is also known as ‘England’s Nazareth’.

The feast of Our Lady of Walsingham dates back to 1061, before the Norman Conquest, when Mary appeared in a vision to Richeldis de Faverches, a devout Saxon noblewoman, in 1061 in the Norfolk village of Walsingham. Richeldis was asked to build a wooden replica of the house in Nazareth in which the Annunciation took place. Today, after more than 1000 years, archaeologists have discovered the approximate location of that little shrine which became, not only a place of national pilgrimage, especially during the times of the Crusades when travelling to Rome, the Holy Land and Compostella were highly dangerous, but also the world’s third most important Catholic shrine. Records still exist of the visits of seven English kings, including (perhaps surprisingly) Henry VIII, who also ordered its destruction in 1538.

The original statue of Our Lady of Walsingham was burnt in a bonfire in London, but enough miniatures remained for us to know that Mary was seated on a throne, wearing a simple Saxon crown, carrying a lily in her right hand and bearing Jesus, also wearing a crown, on her knee. This was sufficient to reconstruct the familiar image seen today, commissioned in honour of the declaration of the Dogma of the Assumption in 1950, ‘solemnly crowned near the site of the original Shrine on behalf of Pope Pius XII by his Apostolic Delegate’ and installed in the Slipper Chapel in 1954.

‘Our Lady, as she is venerated at Walsingham, is depicted as a simple woman, a mother. She is seated on the throne of Wisdom, in the midst of the Church which is represented by the two pillars symbolic of the Gate of Heaven, with seven rings to signify the seven sacraments and the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. The arched back of the throne reminds us of the rainbow which was set as a sign of God’s fidelity to his creation. Our Lady is clothed in the blue of divinity, the white of motherhood and the red of virginity. In her hand she holds a lily-sceptre with three blooms because she was virginal before, during and after the Saviour’s birth. As the Woman of the New Creation, the New Eve, she crushes beneath her feet a toadstone, symbolic of the power of evil. As the Queen of Heaven and of England, her Dowry, she is crowned with a Saxon crown. On his mother’s knee is the child Jesus who, as the Word of God made Flesh, holds the book of the Gospels. He extends his right arm in a double gesture of blessing and protection of his mother.’

Exquisitely, the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham is, yet again, a symbol of unity, where Anglicans, as well as Catholics venerate our mother, all of us praying for the day when Mary will, once again, be our Queen, bringing us together in her Son. The tradition has never died out that it is through praying to Our Lady of Walsingham, that unity will be restored. As the hymn says: ‘Be England thy dowry as in days of yore.’

God bless,
Sr Janet

Monday, September 22, 2008


I could neither count nor identify all the flags, fluttering bravely in the strengthening breeze, representing most, if not all of the nations of the world.

Certainly, the International Maritime Organisation offered an impressive sight this evening, situated as it is on the banks of the Thames, almost opposite the splendour of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben.

The intriguing thing was that, as the flags of so many nations hung in parallel honour, there was no disharmony of colours, not one flag that dominated over another. Each was given equal respect.

Does that not say something about the way this world should be?

What right does a country have to assume superiority over another?

Why should one country be regarded as ‘superior’ and another ‘inferior’?

Who has the greater right to land … a human being who holds the title deeds or the bird that claims its territory by song, or an animal that marks its borders by its own unique scent? What would happen if the dog or the bird were to tell the human population that the piece of paper that grants title to a piece of land is worthless, for it is only paper that can rot or be blown away by the wind?

Sometimes the shape of a national border is purely arbitrary, and yet it is coveted and protected.

Why have we made it so difficult for some people to move from one place to another? There was a time when there was no need for passport or visa, ID cards or bio-data. People had dignity and status by virtue of their very existence, by virtue of their humanity.

Why do we fight to protect one little corner of land and not see the whole earth as a gift of God to be cherished and shared?

When God looks at the world, does he see the divisions that we recognise, or does he see the harmony of many flags caressed by the same breeze?

God bless,
Sr Janet

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sadness turned to joy

There are times when, if we pay attention to the media, it would seem that the world is full of nothing other than tragedy and despair… and yet…

On Sunday night a 19 year-old was stabbed and killed in London … and his parents forgave the murderer. “I forgive them. My son is with Jesus because he was baptised”, his mother said on camera.

This evening, a friend sent me such deeply disturbing photographs of the violence recently perpetrated in Orissa in India that I’ve been able to think of little else, holding both Christian and Hindu in prayer … and a Poor Clare Colettine friend sent me the following story of an event that happened in 2002, that, as with the parents of the murdered teenager, show that God exists for nobody could show such love were there not an even more loving God…

YEAR 2002- a Catholic nun has gone to a prison to tie a thread around the wrist of a Hindu man who is a murderer OF HER OWN BLOOD SISTER. Her unusual deed symbolically declares she accepts him as her brother. Even more remarkably, she did it for the person who murdered her sister.

Franciscan Clarist Sister Selmy Paul tied a silver-colored "rakhi," lace thread, on the wrist of Samandar Singh on Aug. 13, the hindu festival of siblings known as "Rakshabandan" (knot of protection between brother and sister). During the festival, Hindu women perform the ritual on male siblings to seek their protection and blessings. Singh is serving a life term in a federal prison for the 1995 murder of Rani Maria, the nun's older sister. Rani Maria, also a Franciscan Clarist, joined the congregation in 1980 and inspired her younger sister to follow. The prison is in Indore, Madhya Pradesh state, about 800 kilometers south of New Delhi.

Sister Maria was 40 when Singh stabbed her more than 50 times. He began plunging his knife into her while she was on a bus to Indore from Udainagar-Mirzapur, a village in the state's Dewas district. She was then to continue her vacation journey by train to Kerala, her home state in southern India. Sister Maria jumped off the bus as soon as Singh began stabbing, but he followed and continued to stab her, even after she fell to the roadside.

In those years, Sister Maria was working among landless people in Udainagar-Mirzapur. Upper caste landlords who opposed her work reportedly hired Singh to kill her. A court handed him the life sentence one year after the murder. Singh, now 33, addresses Sister Paul as "didi," elder sister, and the nun, who teaches in a school on the outskirts of Indore and is in her late 30s, calls him "chhota bhai," younger brother.

Sister Paul told UCA News on Aug. 17 she forgave Singh "the moment I touched the severely gashed body of my elder sister." Meditating on the crucifix, she added, "further strengthened me" eventually to "adopt him as my brother."She earlier told reporters she wanted to meet Singh after she overcomes her grief, but she did not know how and when that would happen. Someone suggested that Rakshabandan is the best time to make such an approach, so she decided to meet her sister's killer during last year's Rakshabandan festival.
Singh, a primary school dropout from a poor family, told UCA News he regrets his act. Some Hindu fundamentalists "misled" him to believe, he explained, that his victim was involved in converting Hindus to Christianity and that she was asking her converts to desecrate "Bhagwad Gita," a Hindu holy book.

When "Selmy Didi" came to meet Singh the first time, the prisoner said he experienced inexplicable happiness. As he displays the silver "rakhi" she tied on his wrist this year, he says, "I am short of words to express my feelings. One gets this heavenly feeling when one's sister ties 'rakhi.'"

Sister Paul says her family's seven members have accepted Singh as their own. "Though the death of my sister is an irreparable loss to us," Sister Paul remarked, "we have gained one more member" in Singh.

Earlier this year, Sister Paul accompanied her mother and a brother on a 2,000-kilometer trip to Indore, to meet and show Singh that the family has forgiven him. In a gesture of forgiveness, the nun recalled, her 72-year-old mother kissed Singh's hands, "which were once soaked by the blood of her own daughter." Witnessing that, the nun added, was an "unforgettable experience."

Sister Paul also remembers seeing Singh sob uncontrollably last year when she tied "rakhi" on him. She said he looks happier this year. "He prostrated before me and affectionately welcomed me," she said.

Singh said he feels bad that he can offer Sister Paul nothing in return for her gesture of love and forgiveness. Traditionally, brothers give gifts to sisters on Rakshabandan. "I am a convict and have nothing to offer," he said. "Besides, what could I give her when I am indebted to them for my life?"

Sister Paul said that after she first met Singh, he wrote "an emotional letter" begging for the family's pardon. Since then, he "has metamorphosed into another human being," she said.

Singh says he wants to serve society once he is released from prison. Every day, he looks at a passport-size photo of his victim and begs "her to pardon me." Only now, he said, does he "realize I committed the most reprehensible sin by taking the life of an angel who worked for the poor."

Sister Paul's gesture of forgiveness has won admirers, including Divine Word Bishop George M. Anathil of Indore. He says that she has "upheld the Church principles of forgiveness and reconciliation" and has chosen the occasion well, since Rakshabandan stands for "sisterhood and brotherhood".

God bless,

Sr Janet

Monday, September 15, 2008

Crunching credit

It seems to be one sad story after another. The news this evening began with an announcement of 4,000 jobs finishing in London because of the bankruptcy of a major bank in America.

Of course, there will be the knock-on effect: jobs that are dependent on other people’s work will be affected. One economic crisis will lead to another, and so on around the globe.

But there is a wider angle that does not always hit the news. Four thousand jobs mean a very large number of families that are dependent on a breadwinner. It means a very large number of individuals who, this evening, are probably feeling lost and wondering where to go. Perhaps, because the end of their employment has come like a bolt from the blue, they are feeling stunned this evening, with no idea of what the future holds for themselves or their families. There will be those with mortgages, school fees, bills and other essential expenditure…

We pray for all those who are unexpectedly faced with uncertainty and unemployment. May God be with them at this time, offering the support and strength that they need. May he accompany those families who are suddenly left without a breadwinner and do not know where to turn for help in their sudden need.

God bless,
Sr Janet

Sunday, September 14, 2008

On Work

The poet Kahlil Gibran had a wonderful way of describing even the most mundane aspects of life and breathing into them fresh meaning and beauty. Take work, for instance. 'Work is love made visible.' If I stop for a moment and think of the job I dislike most, of the task that I find the most boring, of that which gives a sparkle to my day and a song in my heart, have I ever approached that work, seeing it as 'love made visible'? What a diference it makes!

God bless,
Sr Janet

Then a ploughman said, "Speak to us of Work."
And he answered, saying:
You work that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth.
For to be idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons,
and to step out of life's procession,
that marches in majesty and proud submission towards the infinite.

When you work you are a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music.
Which of you would be a reed, dumb and silent, when all else sings together in unison?

Always you have been told that work is a curse and labour a misfortune.
But I say to you that when you work you fulfil a part of earth's furthest dream,
assigned to you when that dream was born,
And in keeping yourself with labour you are in truth loving life,
And to love life through labour is to be intimate with life's inmost secret.

But if you in your pain call birth an affliction and the support of the flesh a curse written upon your brow,
then I answer that naught but the sweat of your brow shall wash away that which is written.
You have been told also life is darkness,
and in your weariness you echo what was said by the weary.
And I say that life is indeed darkness save when there is urge,
And all urge is blind save when there is knowledge,
And all knowledge is vain save when there is work,
And all work is empty save when there is love;
And when you work with love you bind yourself to yourself,
and to one another,
and to God.
And what is it to work with love?
It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart,
even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth.
It is to build a house with affection,
even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house.
It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy,
even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit.
It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit,
And to know that all the blessed dead are standing about you and watching.

Often have I heard you say, as if speaking in sleep,
"he who works in marble, and finds the shape of his own soul in the stone,
is nobler than he who ploughs the soil.
And he who seizes the rainbow to lay it on a cloth in the likeness of man,
is more than he who makes the sandals for our feet."
But I say, not in sleep but in the over-wakefulness of noontide,
that the wind speaks not more sweetly to the giant oaks than to the least of all the blades of grass;
And he alone is great who turns the voice of the wind into a song made sweeter by his own loving.

Work is love made visible.
And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste,
it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.
For if you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feeds but half man's hunger.
And if you grudge the crushing of the grapes, your grudge distils a poison in the wine.
And if you sing though as angels, and love not the singing,
you muffle man's ears to the voices of the day and the voices of the night.

Kahlil Gibran

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Children and adults

Some time ago, just as I sat down on a train and looked out of the window, a thud beside me announced the arrival of a little girl who turned out to be seven years old. “Hello. Can I sit beside you? My name is Georgia.” So much for a previously planned peaceful, reflective journey!

The child was delightful. Our half-hour together was fascinating as one question followed another with the beautifully simple curiosity that is unique to the very young.

Knowing that Georgia’s mother was sitting on the seat behind, I suddenly realised, with deep regret, that my own enquiries could, these days, be misconstrued. “Where are you going? What are you going to do? Which are your favourite rides on the fairground?”

The absolutely normal questions that an adult puts to a small child, excited at the prospect of a family day out, are not always as innocent as they might seem. I rapidly altered my conversation and began to describe my own childhood experiences on the Ghost Train, but however much I continued to enjoy Georgia’s conversation, some of my own pleasure had disappeared.

The journey reminded me of an afternoon when I chatted with an elderly man who was passing the time before he could collect his grand-daughter from school. “I used to love to stand by the school playground and watch the children playing”, he said. “It gave me so much pleasure and gave meaning to my day. Now I can’t. I’m afraid that people will think that I’m up to something. I still collect my grand-daughter from school, but I go for a walk first and only approach the school when I know it is time for the children to come out. We don’t hang around….but something has gone from my life, something really precious.”

Certainly, children are to be loved and protected. Any normal person is horrified by the thought of their spontaneity and innocence being damaged in any way.

Yet those who would hurt children have also hurt those of us who love them. In order to ensure safety for the youngest and most vulnerable amongst us, so many adults have been obliged to step backwards and deny ourselves the opportunity of sharing in the joy of childhood for a few moments. Especially those of us who do not have children and who do not work with children are enriched by the freshness and novelty of their outlook. They somehow manage to bring newness into even the most mundane events. How many of us have found ourselves laughing at a comment made in all seriousness by a small child who has succeeded, in a few words, in turning the adult world upside-down?

May children everywhere be filled with freedom and joy...but may they also spread a little of their happiness around them in ever-increasing circles, surrounding those of us who might be bystanders, but who would also like to be participants in their wonder and celebration.

God bless,
Sr Janet

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The lost lamb

I really did not know where to go. The thorns were very high and I was tired of being scratched and torn, tired of being hurt. There was nobody around to offer any sympathy and so the harder I tried to extricate myself from the mess in which I found myself, the more tangled I became.

It was tough going.

Recent heavy rain had turned the ground into a marsh, even up on the hillside. As I struggled to free myself from the thorns, my feet sank into the mud. Every time I managed to pull one hoof free, the other three sank in more deeply. It was cold, wet and miserable. I knew that I was becoming filthy dirty, but there was absolutely nothing more that I could do.

I really wish that I had listened to advice.

I wish that I had paid attention when others tried to guide me! Perhaps if I had listened to them, I would not be in this mess. If ever I can escape, I promise that life will be different. I will change my ways. I will not think that I have all the answers. I will become humble… I promise I will change.

But what is the point of making all these promises when I know that they will not be kept? It is all very well to make resolutions in times of difficulty, but things are different when life returns to normality.

Life was becoming unbearable. I could cope no longer. In my exhaustion, my struggles became weaker, but only because I had no energy left to continue the fight.

Just as I was on the point of giving up, he came and found me. I heard his footsteps before I saw him and felt him reach down to the thorns that trapped me. The thorns scratched his hands, drawing blood, but he did not seem to mind. He did not even mind that I was dirty, because he lifted me onto his shoulders and carried me home.

I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now, I see.

God bless,
Sr Janet

Monday, September 08, 2008

God was with him

In recent days, we have heard stories of the terrible killings that have taken place in Orissa in India, in which Hindu extremists have murdered both Christians and some Hindus, often with horrific brutality.

Below is a first-hand account, forwarded to me by e-mail, of one of the latest of these attacks, when a Divine Word Missionary priest was almost killed. Whilst indicating some of the suffering that some people are facing at this moment, I think it also shows that God is there in the midst of all that is happening. (I have done some correcting of the English, but otherwise, the account is unchanged.)

Let us join Pope Benedict and the Bishops’ conference of India in praying for a cessation of violence.

God bless,
Sr Janet

Dear Friends
I met Fr. Edward Sequeira (my classmate all through the seminary life) this morning and was consoled to see him in good spirits. Earlier when people used to ask him “how are you?” he used to say jokingly, “I am well in the hell”. But now when the same question is asked to him he says, “I am safe in the hands of God”. He shared with me personally the events that took place on 25th August. What I want to share with you in this mail is his spiritual experience during that time.

It was one o’clock in the afternoon. He came back to his residence to have lunch, after being out on the construction site. He was about to take the first gulp of food when some people came to see him, and asked him, “Who is the priest here”? Fr. Edward thought they must have come for some help, for instance for somebody who was sick and needed to be taken to the hospital. So he said, “I am the one”.

When he looked outside he saw there were about 20 people with sticks, iron bars, shovels, and spades. He realized what was going to happen. So he tried to close the door. But their sticks and iron bars came in between. He could not close the door and bolt it. Whilst this was happening, one of the men shouted, “You twenty people cannot manage one?”

They managed to pull Fr. Edward out and then started beating him all over. With all the instruments they had, they beat him on the back of the head, on the backs of his shoulders and on his hands, fracturing both of his shoulders, his right hand and the back of his skull.

From the front, they punched him all over, including where it hurts most. They slapped him on the face. This went on for 45 minutes and then Fr. Edward collapsed.

Meanwhile others had entered and looted the house. They took away cash, and whatever was useful to them. They piled together everything in the office and in the bed room, including clothes, in order to burn them, spreading chemicals on the floor so that the whole place would catch fire easily. These chemicals made the floor very slippery. They then set the place on fire and came out. The house was full of smoke.

They held Fr. Edward and pushed him inside the house and bolted the door from outside.

Remember Fr. Edward has lost his strength and had collapsed. But at this moment when he was alone inside the burning house he realized he was not alone. There was Jesus with him. He experienced tremendous strength at this moment. He experienced Jesus not as a separate entity from him, but “He in me and I in him”. He experienced Jesus suffering in him.

The floor was slippery, and he could not see anything because the house was full of smoke. The fire had not yet spread to where he was. He held on to the wall and windows on the wall and found his way to the bathroom.

He saw wild flames of fire in his bedroom and in his office. He collected half a bucket of water and went and threw it in his bedroom and the fire went off.

Was this a MIRACLE?

He filled another half bucket of water and threw it in the office and the same result. The fire in the office was put out.

He had a deep sense that God was with him.

He went back to the bathroom and locked himself inside, but all the rooms were filled with smoke and breathing was difficult.

Somehow he managed to remain in the bathroom. The people who attacked him were outside. They wanted to know what had happened to him. They tried to break the window, and managed to make a hole in the glass. Their job became difficult as smoke was gushing out through the hole, but somehow they managed to break open part of the window. They tried to see inside. Fr. Edward was still in a corner. They could not see him and concluded that he was dead, but, wanting to make sure, they went to the roof and broke through to a different room.

Meanwhile Rajani Majhi, 19 years of age, a student and a helper at the orphanage (for the children of the leprosy patients) came to the scene. Fr. Edward could only hear the cry of Rajani, “Father, they are going to burn me”. Then he lost consciousness.

Rajani was burnt alive. Fr. Edward came to know about it only two days later. Rajani was a Hindu girl, very committed and hard working. She was an all-rounder in the orphanage. In the morning she used to go to college, come back around 1.30 p.m. and then help out in the orphanage.

Fr. Edward believes that it is because of the efforts of Dr. Mary Kutty, H.M., and Dr. Rajnesh Samal, a Baptist missionary, he is saved otherwise he would have been suffocated to death. When these two heard the news of what had happened to Fr. Edward they mobilized help though some influential people. The ambulance, fire brigade and police arrived at around 5.30p.m. and Fr. Edward was admitted in the Sub-divisional Hospital at Padampur. His brother, Commodore Valentine Sequeira joined in to help at this stage. From there he was shifted to Burla Medical College, Sambalpur. He says, the Doctors there were extremely good to him.

Fr. Edward is now recuperating in a hospital in Mumbai and is given good treatment and care.

When people come and tell him, “we are praying for you”, he says, “Do not pray for me, I am in the safe hands of God, you go and work for the rights of the minorities”. Fr. Edward believes that God has saved him miraculously and has a purpose for him.Jesus is alive.

Yours in Christ
Fr. Edwin Vas SVD.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

God knew what he was doing

It was an interesting experience of community, regardless of our racial and cultural backgrounds.

I am English and white, but it was an Indian who helped me carry two heavy cases as far as the ticket barrier in the station, an African who, a few minutes later, picked up the heavier of the two and took it to the top of a long flight of steps, a Japanese, who then lifted it on and off my connecting train… This spontaneous kindness came, unrequested, from complete strangers as we travelled our separate journeys on the London Underground.

Those who insist on associating with people of one particular skin colour or racial background are unfortunate. They lose the opportunity to discover that goodness is everywhere and is independent of culture.

Courtesy and kindness are treasures that enrich the whole of the human race. Often they are in short supply. They are to be celebrated wherever they are found and, when they occur across cultures, languages and creeds, there are few things that do more to build bridges and establish a community of understanding.

God knew what he was doing when he made us all different!

God bless,
Sr. Janet

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The grain of wheat

I am just a small seed in the basket of the sower as he walks up and down the field, dropping my brothers and sisters as he moves. You do things differently in your time. You have machines which plant seeds at regular intervals in straight lines. That is not the way in which farmers work in my time.

You see, my brothers and sisters and I all grew up in the same field and were harvested at the same time. Some of us were kept back for planting for the next crop. It is exciting to think of being reborn, so to speak, as a plant just like my mother. A field of wheat looks so lovely and brings so much hope and life.

It is strange to think that, in a way, I am going to die. If I am to grow, then I will no longer be a seed, so the only way in which I can describe all that will happen to me is that I will die as a seed and will be reborn, first as a tiny shoot, and then into a proud stem. You will not notice my flowers, but the insects will see them and so will the wind. Pollen will fertilise their stamens and there will be new seed formed, for that is the way of life for wheat.

If I die as a seed, I will produce a harvest.

Life is a gift. If I decide to be selfish, I will remain a seed, but I will not experience life. In fact, as I lie in the ground, I will rot. Nobody will regret my passing for nobody will know that I have been around.

If I am unselfish and stretch forth the embryo root and shoot held within me, I become a thing of beauty, weak and tender at first, but growing in strength as time goes by. The more I reach up to the heavens, then all the more do I become a sign of hope and promise. If I open up, dying to myself as a seed, then will I bear flowers. Then will I be fruitful. Then will I bear a harvest.

Life is a gift to be shared!

God bless,
Sr Janet